I wasn’t planning on falling in love.

Three years ago today, I made the biggest commitment of my life so far.

I pledged a lifetime of care and love to this little nugget.

  
Now, at 23 and still living at home, I hadn’t been planning on becoming a fur mom. But after welcoming this little scared momma and her pups into my home, I couldn’t let her go.

Two months after I started volunteering with Eleventh Hour Rescue, I spent the better half of my mom’s birthday volunteering at an adoption event. It was unreasonably hot and sunny for mid-October, so I returned to the kennel to grab a pop-up tent for some much-needed shade. I was greeted by a large crate in the back of a van with four tiny little squirmy pups vying for attention at the front and a timid, shaking momma hiding in the back. I approached and looped my fingers through the bars, delighting in the tiny puppy kisses and cooing at the cute little faces. I spoke softly and momma slowly approached to tentatively sniff at my hand before turning back to her safe spot.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this little family, so when I received an email plea for a foster the next day, I immediately jumped at the chance (before even asking my mom). A bevy of promised favors and chores later, she agreed they could stay for a few days until another foster was found.

My best friend Renee joined me to pick them up from the kennel and the pups were so excited to get out of their cramped crate. Momma was more fearful than I realized and wouldn’t even walk on a leash, so I had to carry her out.

  
We arrived at my house and proceeded to settle everyone in my mom’s finished basement. I had clearly not done a lot of preparing or thinking – I had some newspaper in a corner and a single bowl for water. About five minutes into romping around the room, getting stuck under the couch, and chewing the table, the puppies conducted a simultaneously orchestrated poop explosion all over my mother’s carpet.

Lesson learned. Plastic sheeting was put down.

  
The puppies tired themselves out and I could tell momma needed a break. I put them in the crate with extra blankets for a nap and tried to get this shy girl to settle down. She was so exhausted, but scared to relax. Eventually she laid down, still keeping a weary eye on her surroundings before she finally fell into a light sleep. It was then I noticed how skinny she was, ribs protruding as her body had struggled to nurse four growing pups.

  
The pups were about 5 weeks old and I knew my first task would be to choose names and take photos so they could be posted online for adoption. I brainstormed ideas, knowing I wanted to stick with a theme. Momma awoke and I attempted to get her to walk up the stairs on her leash with no luck. I scooped her up and carried her outside for a quick pee before carrying her back down. 

“It’s okay, Honey,” I coaxed her each time I was near, determined to help her feel comfortable in this strange new place. I wanted her to trust me and feel safe for herself and her babies.

  
I thought of going with “H” names and naming momma Honey. But as I watched her care for her pups, giving up her food for them, constantly cleaning up after them, I thought about how she was a truly amazing mother.

  
And that’s when I named her Truly.

 I went with a “T” theme for the puppies: Tucker, Tori, Teddy, and Tanner. 

 I loved their silly antics and they were quick to fall asleep in my lap or on my shoe, but I was drawn to Truly. She should have been so broken. I could see evidence of past abuse and neglect – her skittering away at noises, fear of enclosed spaces, and shaking. I continued to do everything I could to put her at ease.

  
I began the weaning process by bringing Truly upstairs with me. She loved cuddling on the couch and started following me around like a little shadow. She even got along with Kirby who is notorious for hating all new dogs.

  
We were making slow, but steady progress. Truly walked up the stairs for the first time and found comfort in jumping on the couch to escape the increasingly crazy puppies. But then Hurricane Sandy hit.

We were plunged into two weeks of darkness. Caring for 6 dogs with no electricity, refrigerator, or heat is no picnic. Luckily, the basement stayed warm and the puppies made it through a health scare. Truly and I took to sleeping on the pullout couch since my bedroom was freezing.

  
Once the power finally returned, the next couple weeks were a whirlwind as all the puppies got adopted. Each adoption was more difficult than the last; I dreaded saying goodbye to each little pup. A knot started forming in my heart as I pictured the day I would say goodbye to Truly.

  
I had fallen head over heels for this scared, six year old dog. I began campaigning for my mom to allow me to adopt her, but as I snuck more foster dogs into her house and ruined more carpeting, my chances disintegrated.

  
A few days after Thanksgivjng, I got an email. Truly had an approved adoption application. My heart broke.

The family was perfect: a pastor, his wife, and three grown boys. Truly would take daily walks to commute to church where she’d spend the day in the pastor’s office. I knew this was the best place for her. I was still living at home, trying to figure out my own life. No way could I care for another creature when I could barely take care of myself.

But I took one look at her curled up on the couch, finally letting her guard down, and I knew that none of that mattered.

  
Maybe I didn’t have my life together, but I knew in my heart that I could guarantee true love for this girl. I wanted to be a better person so I could take care of her. I didn’t want her to ever feel scared again. I didn’t want her to think I had abandoned her.

  
And so I let the pastor know someone else was adopting her (yes, I’m going straight to hell). I figured I could secretly adopt Truly and maybe my mom would eventually stop asking when she was leaving. A few days later, as I worked to gather the money for her adoption fee, Truly was spayed. I set up a huge crate with pillows and blankets where she could recover. I carried her in, and saw a big red bow on the crate. My mom was letting me keep her. This was the single happiest moment of my life.

  
Over the past three years, I have been blessed to have Truly by my side. She is my best friend, my adventure buddy, my confidant, and my shoulder to cry on. She celebrates with a wagging tail when I’m happy, and lays her head on my lap when I cry. 

  
Truly has been with me through so much: broken hearts, new jobs, moving out, struggling to pay bills, and especially my ongoing battle with anxiety and depression. She never judges me. She’s always there, no matter how deep and dark a hole I dig myself.

  
I am forever grateful for that fateful day when our paths crossed. She has taught me so much and given me the inspiration I needed to take control of and love my life.

Thank you for everything, Roo. You’re my favorite muffin.

Truly’s 1st Christmas:   
   
Our first apartment:

   
    
   
Cuddle bug:

   
    
    
 
Adventure buddy:

   
   
Waiting for me to come home:

  

I’m truly blessed to have you in my life.

7 Branding Tips from the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

 

It’s the most wonderful night of the year. The Victoria’s Secret Angels are taking to the runway for their annual show, but there’s a lot more to this highly-anticipated spectacle than barely-there bustiers and impossibly gorgeous models. Victoria’s Secret is a branding machine and one of the few apparel brands to see steady brick and mortar success. Take note of how Victoria’s Secret steals the show with some must-follow branding tips:

  1. Flaunt your assets. No one is tuning in tonight because of quality stitching. VS is all about beautiful lingerie that makes women feel sexy and confident. Showcase your brand doing what it does best and the world will take notice.url-10
  2. Use your best people. Becoming an angel is no easy task and it’s a high honor for those who make the cut. By only giving out wings to the cream of the crop, VS is able to control their messaging. Be picky about who you choose to be the face of your brand and make sure they’re capable of capturing your audience in a measurable way.url-6
  3. Go behind the scenes. There’s a reason why Candice Swanepoel has 7 million Instagram followers. People love seeing how the sausage gets made. This year, VS gave fans a 7-part video sneak peak leading up to the show while models posted photos of fittings, make-up, and prep. Giving your audience a behind-the-scenes look helps you tell your story in a real and relatable way. Picture 73
  4. Build up the hype. The actual VS show was filmed weeks ago. Media teasers, interviews with the models and creative team, and digital content all whet America’s appetite before the main event. Tease new product launches, exclusive sales, and big news to build excitement around your brand. 
  5. Tie into trends. Kendall Jenner makes her debut tonight amidst one of the most Kardashian-krazy years yet. Pay attention to what people are talking about and how your brand can authentically ride the media wave. url-7
  6. Dare to be different. VS does a great job drawing clear lines between its collections during the show. PINK gets its own playful segment while the VS angels are more glam. Focus on your differentiators when you strut into the spotlight. url-8
  7. Push-up the limits. VS doesn’t put countless hours of work into their much-hyped fantasy bra because they think it’s going to be a big seller. On the contrary, the fantasy bra is more like a piece of art that gives the audience a look at ultimate luxury. Consider dedicating time and resources to a crazy project that will get people talking. url-9

 

 

Sunday Social

Linking up on this wonderfully lazy Sunday.

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1. Favorite Scent

It all depends on the season. In fall, I love anything pumpkin. My house is filled with pumpkin candles just waiting to be lit. There’s nothing like fresh pine needles and gingerbread cookies at Christmas. And in spring/summer I love fresh flowers and fruit.

pumpkin-candle

In terms of perfume, I have a super embarrassing confession to make. Six years ago, my friend Jen and I conducted a blind smell test at the Macy’s beauty counter in an effort to find our signature scents. We paid no attention to brand names, celebrity endorsements, or pretty bottles. After countless spritzes, I ended up picking the Paris Hilton perfume. And yes, I still wear it. I’m ashamed in my heart.

PARIS-HILTON-MUGSHOT

 

2. Favorite Food

For real? Of the things I can eat, right now I am loving sweet potatoes. Slow baked in the oven and topped with a teaspoon of coconut butter.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes; The Neelys
3. Favorite Sound

My dog’s bark. Nothing makes me happier than hearing her adorable “roo roo” when I come home.

DOG
4. Favorite Picture currently on your phone

Best furiends.

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5. Best memory of the year so far

I’ve had a lot of great moments this year. Top ones include getting the keys to my first place, getting promoted, and spending an awesome night reunited with my two childhood best friends.

house

Today is September 11th, 2001.

I can’t believe it’s been 13 years. It seems like just yesterday I was tucked tight under my covers at the end of a long, confusing day, scribbling desperately in my journal as I tried to make sense of what was going on. It still doesn’t make sense. The least I can do is remember and honor their memories with service to make our country a tiny bit better than it was yesterday.

 

Today is September 11th, 2001.  This morning, two planes crashed into the World Trade Center and both buildings collapsed, killing thousands of people.  Another plane crashed into the Pentagon and another crashed in Pennsylvania, they think they were trying to keep the plane from killing more people.  I was in math class and there was an announcement over the loud speaker that there had been an attack in New York City.  Everyone was scared, we live close to New York and no one would tell us anything and kids kept getting called out of class.  In Science class Mrs. Hastings turned on the radio and let us listen and the broadcaster just kept saying that people had jumped out of the windows of the top floors.  Both towers fell and not everyone got out in time.  We heard that Bush was on a plane to New Orleans and I was mad that he was leaving in the middle of this.  I came home alone cause my mom and dad were still at work and Michael was still at school.  I was so scared that something would happen to me?  What if there are bombs?  I don’t think it’s over I think we could die.  I turned on the tv and watched the planes hit the towers over and over.  You could see people jump.  They interviewed a woman and she was covered in dust.  I still had dance class and when I went we kept talking about how 9/11 is 9-1-1.  Marissa wasn’t there.  Her dad works in one of the towers.  I came home and our neighbor still hasn’t heard from her husband.  He works a few blocks from the towers.  I wanted to write everything down because I know this is going to be important someday.  I’m so sad I don’t want this to be real.

 

 

Transit umbra, lux permanet. KAZ.

Hey you.

Hey you. Yeah, you. You’re pretty wonderful. Maybe you haven’t heard that lately, but you are. You are smart, beautiful, capable, and most importantly, strong. Do you know how amazing you are?

Maybe the words you hear every day are cruel. They might come from crowded hallways or from behind a keyboard. Sometimes they get so loud, so incessant, they’re hard to ignore. Sometimes they build up so much that you feel trapped beneath their weight. They push you down, forcing you to bend to their will and believe in them.

Maybe those words come from your own mind. Passing thoughts turn persistent until there’s no doubt that you’ll never escape that dark place. You conceal the pain behind a glued-together exterior, all the while yearning for an escape.

There is so much stigma around suicide. We don’t talk about mental illness. People still think if you can’t see something, it must not exist. Bullying is still brushed off by many as harmless. But that doesn’t make it any less real or any less painful.

Everything hurts. You feel broken, like you’re drowning in black waters and you just want it to end. Even breathing feels impossible: making the conscious decision to allow that air to rush into your lungs feels like more than you can possibly stand.

Worst of all, it feels like a terribly dirty secret. People might be able to see it on you, so you swallow it down deeper and let it grow. It grows and grows, until it bursts.

When you get to that point, just try to remember one thing. You’re worth it. You’re worth that next breath. You’re worth a tomorrow. You’re worth another chance. It might not feel like it, but you are. Even if you think no one cares, that’d they’d all be better off if you were gone – there will always be one person who cares and that’s all that matters. You care. You matter. You’re worth it.

All these things you’re feeling – they’re part of you. The anger and the pain, the hopelessness and the sorrow – they belong to you. Don’t let anyone diminish your experiences, your thoughts, or your feelings. It’s not going to be easy, but you are worth it.

You’re worth that next step. Whether it’s admitting to a friend, family member, teacher, doctor, or anyone that you are struggling or it’s calling a hotline like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

You’re worth helping. Take care of yourself. Reach out – people want to help. Don’t go it alone.

You’re worth the fight. Depression and suicidal thoughts are an every day struggle. Some days are harder than others. You have to choose to live every single day. I promise the choice is worth it.

 

No-ga.

Where oh where is my motivation? I started off this week so gung-ho with plans to kick some butt. Lo and behold, it’s only Tuesday and I’m already crashing. Early morning walk with Truly? Didn’t happen. Even with the amazing inspiration I attached to my alarm:

photo

Standing half the day at work? Fail. I powered through on my makeshift standing desk (aka a cardboard box) for 2 hours in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, but didn’t hit my four hour minimum target.

I figured I could redeem myself with yoga tonight. I have one class left in my pack and can hopefully purchase a new pack after my next paycheck. Instead, I let myself hide behind my workload and other excuses.

So here I am, continuing my Netflix marathon of The Office while half-heartedly trying to get some things done, regretting my inactivity today. The effects are physical too: I feel a lot of tension in my jaw, neck, and shoulders as well as general restlessness. If I had just gotten myself to yoga, I would be feeling relaxed and accomplished and ready to sleep.

The good news is I have been staying pretty on track with my other two September goals. My savings plan is off to a good start – the only somewhat extraneous purchases in the past week have been a new hairbrush and a single sunflower. I need to revamp my Mint budget and find more places to cut back so I can open another savings account specifically for travel.

My food goal is also progressing. Prepping meals on Sunday really helped – I have baked sweet potatoes and roasted veggies to last me for lunch through tomorrow. Instead of being crazy strict with what I’m eating for dinner every day, I wrote down 10 choices I can choose from for which I have ingredients on hand. I need to get over my fear of eating and reacting poorly to certain foods. Eating lunch every day this week will be a huge step in the right direction. I know the lack of nutrients and stress are big contributors to my exhaustion and fueling myself with whole foods will hopefully help both issues.

Here’s to practicing progress, not perfection.

Better.

We-Are-What-We-Repeatedly-Do-Excellence-Therefore-Is-Not-An-Act-But-A-Habit-Aristotle-553x600

Excellence is a habit. Habits take 21 days to make. So in my mind, if I can be perfect for 21 days, I’ll have it in the bag.

Life totally does not work that way. It’s high time for me to find that place between complacency and crazy.

I don’t want to settle for being plain old good. I don’t want to pressure myself to always be the best. But I do want to strive to be better.

There are so many things I want to accomplish. I need to stop spreading myself so thin and focus on a couple important goals at a time. Three things, to be exact.

  1. Eat real food.
  2. Save money.
  3. Sweat.

Simple, right? Hopefully. September is about going back to basics for me. I don’t need a fancy diet or a fancy gym subscription or fancy pants (although, I would really love a pair of fancy pants TBH).

Eat real food.

Eat the things my nutritionist tells me to eat. Don’t skip meals. Buy whole, yummy foods and have fun exploring new tastes and recipes.

get-real-wichita-what-is-real-food

 

Save money.

No unnecessary purchases. Yes, that means no new nail polish (excuse me while I cry myself to sleep). So when Zoya posts crazy BOGO deals, I must resist.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 9.52.22 PM

Sweat.

Get out there and move. Stop moping on the couch when I feel sick and go for a walk. Go to yoga. Run. Stretch every morning and every night.

Enlightenment in nature

 

I have the tools to be better. I’ve made the choice to be better. All that’s left is to do.

 

Sleeping beauty.

I came into this 3 day weekend with plans of grandeur. A clean car! Garden! Work out! Cook 100 meals from scratch to freeze!

Via Hyperbole and a Half
Via Hyperbole and a Half

My lofty expectations have fallen flat. Sleeping in! Multiple naps! Disney channel! Another nap!

little-mermaid-sleep

The past two days have seen me not move more than a 5 foot radius from my mom’s couch. That’s right, I’m not even being lazy on my own as an adult, I’m doing it from my childhood home.

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I get that exhaustion is a side effect of all my crazy health stuff, but this is getting ridiculous. Friday night, I had plans with my best friend. I got to my mom’s later than expected and asked if we could push back our meeting time so I could unwind. Unwinding turned into an episode of Girl Meets World which turned into a nap. I considered asking for a rain check. But I made myself get up, wash my face, and be a real person. 10 minutes later, my fellow sleep-deprived friend calls feeling sick and I get the free pass I wanted to spend the rest of the evening laying on the floor under the guise of “stretching”.

post-30797-tuxedo-cat-kitten-toe-stretch-ImiR

I know I’m still getting back into the swing of things and learning to balance everything – but at some point my will to get out and DO needs to overcome my constant yearning for a nap.

lets-do-this

So lovely friends, I need your help. What are your tips for fighting fatigue? I’m up for anything!

I believe that we will all win.

Now I’m not going to pretend to be a soccer superfan. I’ve yet to tune into the World Cup. It’s not just my cable-less #adulting status – I usually love these crazy sports events. Things have just been so busy between my move and my body rejecting food as poison that it hasn’t been high on my priority list.

However, I did happen to catch a clip of Team USA’s signature “I believe that we will win” chant while waiting in yet another waiting room last week and I couldn’t help but feel proud and riled up. There’s something about hearing a crowd put all their passion and support into a team and its victory.

This got me thinking – what if we believed we could win every day? What if we adopted this mantra and used it to propel ourselves to our own victories? What if we shouted these words to ourselves, a personal battle cry as we tackle life’s challenges?

I think we do ourselves a disservice by not believing we will win. How many times have you just assumed someone else is going to get that promotion or you won’t be the one picked for the team? If you’re setting yourself up to lose in your mind, how will you ever win? I think having that true belief can push us forward – even if we don’t win, we will end up closer. There’s something to be said for that confidence, knowing you have what it takes to win and you will work to get to where you want to be.

I believe that we will win.

I believe that we will all win.

 

The smallest things that can ruin your day

I am so tired of listicles. First of all, listicle is hands-down the worst word ever created. I would rather read Kimye wedding blogs for all eternity than see the word listicle ever again. So in the spirit of smalls things that drive us crazy, I present:

The smallest things that can ruin your day

(This is not a listicle)

((Ok it kind of is but I won’t tell if you don’t))

1. Perpetual hangnails.

2. That John Legend song.

3. Not having enough space on your phone to take one measly picture, but then when you delete one picture in an eye-for-an-eye fashion, there is still not enough room. 107 deleted pictures and a trashed app later, you’re finally golden.

4. People who turn left.

5. The stress of assembling exact change.

6. Salad dressing spills.

7. The extreme, burning heat generated by your laptop when atop your lap.

8. Non-Halloween incarnations of candy corn.

9. Vindictive parking tickets.

10. Expired links.

11. Nail polish chips.

12. Alternate spellings.

13. Running out of hot water mid-shampoo.

14. That point between spring and summer when it’s too early for air conditioning.

15. Sneaky dryer sheets.

16. Missed calls from an unknown number with no voicemail.

17. Unexpected turbulence.