2016 Reflections

Undeniably, this year has been a big one for all of us for many reasons. I mean, come one, the Cubs won! Overall, though, this year has turned me into a big ball of crazy stress. Through it all, I have learned a lot and I am ready to share my experiences and lessons with all of you. So get ready because I’m about to pour my heart out a little bit (my advice is to find yourself some snacks before you commit to this).

I learned a lot of lessons that I didn’t think I needed to learn this year, but God has a way of working on us all, huh?

I Learned to Trust Other People and Accept Help

Big Little Reveal!

This makes my heart smile just thinking about. I have made and strengthened some of the most beautiful relationships that I didn’t even know were possible. I made more friends this year who love and care about me than I ever have before. Proving once again that God always gives us the people we need.  (Shout out to all of my friends teaching me about love, patience, genorosity, resilience, and fun!) And, I got my little this year which was one of the best days of my entire life.

I Do My Best

Cat Cafe Love!


I like to say I have high standards, so I push myself. While that is true, I know that beyond that I pressure myself far more than necessary. Towards the end of this year, I have been trying to accept that whatever I have done, I gave it my all, and I tried my hardest. Rather than being discouraged, the priority is trying to be content with wherever I am at. Even though I have anxiety and depression, they do not make me who I am and sometimes, they make me a little less productive. It is my job to be respectful and kind to myself in light of all of this. Go Leah!

Food Does Not Define Me

POTATOES


2016 has been the year that I developed an eating disorder. I am working through it, and every day brings a new challenge. I have had body image issues for a long time. Just like all of the lessons, I learn this one more every day. This lesson is nowhere near finished, but taking a step is crazy. At first I learned that food is an enemy. Food has controlled my life. It keeps me from appreciating the joy of food. Food brings people together. Food nourishes my body to allow it to do amazing things. I fight my mind every day, but I made the monumental decision to acknowledge that food does not define me.

I am Beautiful

I promise this one is short. I am learning that I am beautiful on the inside and the outside!

 

I am positive I could come up with many more lessons I’ve learned this year, but these are the biggest ones that I see. Thanks for sticking with me, and I am looking forward to more lessons and joyful surprises in the year to come! I hope the new year brings you all love and peace, and I would love to hear all of your thoughts and reflections!

 

Global Prayer Gathering 2016

On Wednesday April 20th, 2016, I had the immense honor of traveling to Washington D.C. to participate in the Global Prayer Gathering, a two day conference on April 22nd and 23rd. This yearly conference highlights the accomplishments of the International Justice Mission, a Christian organization fighting on the front lines for the end of human trafficking.


As an active member of an IJM chapter on my college campus, I happily agreed to take the 14 hour trek to Washington D.C. for the weekend. Plus, let’s be real, anything to get out of a day of classes. (Shoutout to the ladies who drove all of us there, you rock!) The trip itself began by listening to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and was uneventful other than a weird time at Steak and Shake. It was still delicious and we got free fries. 10/10


Thursday evening, we arrived at our hotel in College Park, Maryland and spent our evening exploring the college campus. It’s odd how, as a college student, being on a college campus is a rather comforting feeling because even if it’s not your own campus, you still feel a sense of peace and belonging in the environment. The beautiful campus was lined in trees and filled with picturesque buildings and gorgeous people. Yes, all of those students were extremely well dressed and I’m pretty sure there was a formal event that night, but I would like to believe that they would attend class looking that classy. We wandered campus discussing life and trying to find the arts building and figuring out if there was a chapter of my sorority. (There is!) And, after we’d had our fill of the campus and dinner, we headed home to prepare for the early morning ahead of us.


We left early Friday morning to take the metro into the conference area. Like very early. Like I can’t function at that hour early. Alas, we made it safe a sound and were ready to learn. We checked in, very eager, and eventually made our way to the large conference room filled with chairs surrounding a stage occupied by a band. Each large group session opened and closed in worship songs and meaningful prayer. This intimate prayer several times a day was such an inspiration to my own prayer-life and I am so grateful for that.

We gathered together to learn about all of the work being done on large scales where the founder/CEO and other representatives from IJM worldwide would share their experiences in all fields of work with IJM and human trafficking. These large group sessions provided a lot on insight, hope, and inspiration. In addition to these, we were also given very official name badges that displayed when we needed to go to our assigned prayer rooms.


These prayer rooms contained a representative from the designated country. They told us stories of the country and what has been happening there. They also gave us a list of specific prayer requests for that area. I personally learned so much about the areas and how much is actually happening that we don’t hear about. I had so many wonderful encounters in those prayer rooms, praying with others and feeling the love of God for me and the hearts for justice that surrounded me.


I was so deeply touched by this experience and it’s uniqueness is something that could never be recreated, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn about faith and justice. For more information, you can read this book by the founder of IJM or learn more on their website.


And finally, what’s trip to Washington D.C. without checking out the monuments and having deep conversations with  new friends?


What do you like in Washington D.C? Are there any other activist organizations you like? Feel free to comment below!

Leah

The Magic of Dr. Bronner’s

After nearly a year of using Dr. Bronner’s (peppermint scent, yum!), I finally got my family hooked on it too. My mother and younger brother jumped on the bandwagon after trying mine for a while and noticing how gentle it was on their skin. Their sensitive skins chaps nearly every year in the cold, dry Wisconsin winters, and that was the first year it didn’t that they could remember. I soon started trying it in different scents and different uses. 

1. Face wash- I put a few drops on a warm washcloth and gently rub!

2. Shampoo- Be Extremely cautious and use conditioner. My experiences have been mixed, and I know this will dry out most people’s hair. However, in a pinch or when traveling, I’ve been able to use it with ease as it lathers well and smells fantastic!

3. Shaving Cream- A few drops on each leg should do the trick; just slather it around!

4. After shave- Again, a few drops on each leg has worked well for me. It doesn’t burn like most after cutting myself. Avoid peppermint for this, though.

5. Body wash- I think that speaks for itself, but be sure to dilute it.

6. Dishwashing soap-I’ve only used this to hand wash dishes and to soak my Diva Cup, but it has worked wonderfully every time.

 

In addition to having so many uses, great packaging, no harmful chemicals (and scents, I’m addicted to the rose right now), they are also philanthropists in support of fair trade, organic products, animal rights, and more! Their website is very helpful and full of ideas and different products that are harder to find elsewhere. Just remember, their soap is HIGHLY concentrated so don’t forget to dilute it! Remember, what works for me, may not always work for you, don’t be afraid to experiment with it!

What ways have you used Dr. Bronner’s products?

 

ANAD Week 2016

Friends, ANAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) Week with Delta Phi Epsilon is back! With the week coming to a close, I thought now would be a wonderful time for some reflection. As philanthropy chair, this week has been my baby. Through all the stress and passion, we’ve had some wonderful experiences!

1. No Makeup Monday

Monday was a day to celebrate natural beauty and own your care-free sexy!

 

2. Tasty Tuesday

Tasty Tuesday is for eating well (wether that means a healthy meal or a splurge)! I broke out my favorite flavor of vegan ice cream: Mocha Almond Fudge with almond milk.

3. Wellness Wednesday

Wellness Wednesday is for honoring your wellness, both mental and physical. I trashed my insecurities and feel empowered.

7 Resolutions for 2017

I don’t normally make any New Years resolutions, but for the sake of my blog and my lovely readers, (and the fact that I made a comment in my 2016 Reflection post alluding to this), I’m going to say a few of my goals for the new year. I think New Years resolutions are beautiful. They get a lot of hate, but, honestly, why not take advantage of a special time each year to have a new start? Most of these have already been works in progress, and I’m using the new year as motivation to really get it in gear! This list is very incomplete, but here is my start for myself for a better year!

1. Drink More Water 


Water is literally the most important thing, and I’m pretty sure I’m dehydrated all the time. This is in a big effort to be kinder to my body, why not start simple?

2. Pet More Dogs

Enough said. I love dogs.

3. Write Every Day


Not just blogging: I want to start a real journal. I’m hoping my semester abroad will give more inspiration to keep up with it for a long time!

4. Volunteer More

I love doing community service work! One of my goals for the year is to find an organization to volunteer with regularly. (Hello, Girl Scouts?) Feel free to send any recommendations my way!

5. Start My Day Slowly


This is surprisingly one of my biggest goals for the year. I want to start waking up a little earlier and starting my day slowly instead of rushing. I intend to create a nice morning routine to have more productive and peaceful days. This routine includes yoga, meditation, and tea.

6. Be Kind to Myself

This includes a lot of elements: accepting my body, stopping negative self talk, allowing myself to relax. Unlike most people, from what I hear, “relaxing” is an anxiety inducing activity for me. I am trying to allow myself to do things for fun without guilt.

7. Make The Most of Each Day


I want to make the most of my new year, and that means making the most of each moment! I cannot wait to see where 2017 takes me, and I know it’s going to be incredible.

Like I said, definitely an incomplete list, but just a few ideas to help myself and hopefully inspire others. What else do you have on your list? Does anyone have any tips? Feel free to shoot me off an email or share in the comments below!

Leah

Red, White, and Smoothie

Happy 4th of July, America!

While this day is often full of grilled food and chips, I’m taking a different approach. There’s no reason to give up delicious taste to eat healthy! Here’s my recipe for a clean and patriotic smoothies that’s perfect for a day on the boat or an evening under the fireworks.


Ingredients:

  • Pineapple Juice
  • 1 Banana
  • Frozen Strawberries
  • Frozen Blueberries
  • Chia Seeds

In your blender, mix pineapple juice with the frozen blueberries to create your blue base. Put that at the bottom of your mason jar or other clear container. Rinse out your blender and put in the banana with a little pineapple juice (you shouldn’t need much pineapple juice with the banana). Pour this mixture on top of the blueberry smoothie, and give one last quick rinse to your blender. Blend the frozen strawberries with a little more pineapple juice and put it on top of your banana blend. Sprinkle chia seeds between layers or on top as desired. Remember that the more pineapple juice you add, the thinner your smoothie will be. You won’t need to add ice or yogurt to the smoothie because the frozen fruit makes it thick enough as is, but the recipe is easy enough to modify however you’d like!

Now go take an artsy photo for your Instagram, and have a fun and safe 4th of July!

Café des Chats: Montréal

The craze that swept Asia has finally hit the western hemisphere: cat cafes. As a dog person, I’ll admit I was skeptical. As an animal person, I was overjoyed. Café des Chats is a beautiful location with a beautiful concept. The have many cats romping about the café, interacting with their human counterparts. The cafe has a partnership with a local animal shelter from which they adopted the eight cats that live at the cafe. They are all up to date on vaccinations, have regular vet visits, and more, just like beloved pets. There is also a separate room for rest and for litter, so the cats have all the privacy and options for socialization.

As a customer, you can also enjoy cafe sweets (including vegan options from local vegan bakery, Sophie Sucrée) while enjoying the company of frolicking felines. They also have food (vegetarian and otherwise) as well as standard cafe drinks. The adorable menu indicates the rules for interacting with the cats (in English and in French) and the peaceful sleeping cats are the perfect way to get your animal-fix in a safe and loving way for all involved. For full info, head over to http://www.cafedeschats.ca

 Have you been to a cat cafe? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Lush: One Stop Shop for Host Gifts

The beginning of summer, for us, means the beginning of new adventures. New opportunities for new finding fun and excitement. Meredith and I kicked off this summer with a trip to the Mall of America. Debit cards in hand, we trekked across the border to shop for clothes without sales tax (thanks, Minnesota!) and at my favorite store, Lush. The shopping trip benefitted not only our wardrobes, but also my travel life.

The real goal of today’s mission was to find a host gift for my host mom during my time in Montreal. We popped into Lush because busy moms deserve a lot of rest and relaxation, and let’s be real: what better way is there to relax and smell AH-mazing than to settle into a tub with some Lush products? After a great chat with one of the men, he enthusiastically told Meredith and I that he just got back from Montreal, and after a quick lap around the room, came back with the Bee Happy gift set. The set contains “It’s Raining Men Shower Gel,” “Honey Bee Bath Bomb,” and “Helping Hand Hand Cream.” These crowd favorites are mild enough for most people’s taste, which makes them perfect gifts! Even though they are rather mild, each one has an incredible smell that you’ll want your entire life to smell like.


You can read my reviews of some of my favorite Lush products here!

Lush’s Jungle Solid Conditioner to Tame Jungle Manes

In light of my upcoming trip to Montreal, I decided I needed new conditioner. Probably a little strange, I know, but bear with me. So what is a girl, in the spirit of light packing and TSA regulations, to do? Head to the nearest Lush store, of course! If you’re not familiar with Lush, it is an all natural cosmetics store known for their handmade soaps, minimal packaging, and overwhelmingly sweet and delicious smell at malls. Fortunately, my local Lush store isn’t too far away from me: just a hop across the Wisconsin/Minnesota border and off to the Mall of America we go.


My newest Lush conditioner favorite is called Jungle. I gave it a chance when I was home for spring break in March with no suitable toiletries. Normally, I’m a huge fan of Yes To brand products, but I was at Lush and needed something right away! I love everything about Lush and customer service lives up to that love completely. A wonderful woman asked me about my thick, long, and tangled hair type and after a lovely chat, she pointed me in the direction of a pile of adorable green pucks with animals printed in it.

The woman informed me that I should use it by running it over my hands to create a layer of the conditioner and then rub that through my hair. I tried this, and it did not work at all. Not ready to give up, I stroked the bar lightly through my hair as I do with the solid shampoo bar and had great success! After my hair dried, it was the softest it had been in a very long time. Not to mention, I got lots of compliments about how fresh, clean, and yummy my hair smelt. I’m a sucker for compliments so that’s enough for me!


My hair is normally snarly and full of knots. I wish I was joking. Thankfully my Jungle conditioner keeps my hair silky-smooth and knot-free. My last bar lasted me for about six weeks, which will be the perfect amount for my trip! I will always support solid toiletries for travel as they are much simpler to travel with. No worries about plastic bags, TSA guidelines, leaks, and more space in your bag for souvenirs!

What are your preferred cosmetic brands? Share in the comments below!

Leah

ANAD Week With Delta Phi Epsilon!

It’s true; I am a sorority girl, a happy member of Delta Phi Epsilon, and a prancing baby unicorn.  A “baby” unicorn because I just started my first full semester as an active “Deepher” a few weeks ago.  Having had nothing but positive experiences in my sorority, I have turned into one of “those” sorority girls.  You know them; we’re the ones who walk alongside girls on the way to class asking, “So have you ever thought about Greek life? Joining a sorority, perhaps?”

However, I am not just here to shamelessly brag about the wonderful treasure that is Delta Phi Epsilon.  This is actually my shameless plug for one of our philanthropies; ANAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders).  Although I am unable to speak from my own experience about eating disorders, it is a topic everyone can relate to as everyone has their own insecurities, no matter how small.  Some of the ladies in our sororities have been incredibly inspirational in speaking from their experiences, and we are all so proud of them for their courage.  This week, it is important to remember that eating disorders begin for many different personal reasons (and not all of them have to do with “society”).  Every woman is beautiful.  No body type is any more “real” than another.  I am well aware that this is something that is reiterated over and over again, but I have no problem jumping on the bandwagon that has the potential of helping people reach a state of better self love and appreciation.

This week is ANAD week with DPhiE, and we are encouraging open dialogue on the reality and severity of eating disorders.  Eating disorders are not something to be glorified, but rather, something to be open and understanding to in discussion and in promoting positive progress, no matter how small it may seem.  One of our campaigns includes “Trash Your Insecurities” (writing down insecurities and literally throwing them away in our pretty decorated garbage can).  We’re throwing away the negative and focusing on our good qualities and urging everyone else to do the same!

If you are looking for more information, help, or ways to get involved, click your way over to anad.org

Leah