The Long Distance Survival Guide

Monday, August 21, 2017

As I was growing up and growing interested in guys, I always vowed to never ever get stuck in a long-distance relationship. I thought they were doomed from the outset. Then, after a twist and turn of events, my boyfriend of almost 4 years moved to Iowa. He would be there April to the end of August. 137 days we would be apart. I refused to become the stereotype I had built inside my head. After surviving the distance, I wanted to put together a guide of how we conquered the odds.

Get Tech-y with it.

We are lucky to be working with 21st-century resources when it comes to long-distance relationships. Honestly, I don't know how people did it before cell phones and computers. My man and I had at least one Skype date a week. Skype is amazing because it allows us to see each other instead of just hearing our voices. The one downside is the connection problems that Skype is constantly dealing with. So, make sure you're close to your router!

If you want to video chat while simultaneously Netflixing together, there's You log in, and your S.O. the link to your private chat room, and then you're able to pull up any kind of streaming site you'd like! Who said LDR means no movie dates?

If you're losing track of days, download an app like Dreamdays, that counts down to when you and your S.O. are together again! You can to personalize each countdown with background photos and recorded voice memos. Seeing that "Days Until" number go down helped me a lot with surviving LD.

Even if you aren't a high schooler, I recommend using Snapchat. It lets you send fun pictures to each other and then they disappear. You can use the silly filters to send videos, reminding your S.O. why they love you. Plus, it's always nice to pull out your phone to see their face smiling back at you.

Find a Schedule. 
One of the hardest things with Long Distance is knowing each other's schedule. If the partner who moved is starting a new job, you have to work around the flux of job training schedules. You have to work with class schedules if you're a student. If someone moved to help with family, you have to work with a schedule of family events. It can feel overwhelming. So take the first two-three weeks to see what patterns develop in your daily/weekly lives.

Does your S.O. go to the gym every Tues. and Thurs. evening? Do they have class from 8 to 3 on Monday? Sit down and figure it out and then choose spots of free time for each other. For me, Taylor and I usually skyped in the Evening once he was home from work or the gym and we knew family wouldn't interrupt us.

It won't be perfect. Some weeks will be wonky and change, but something is better than nothing when it comes to quality time.

This may seem like an obvious one, but you'd be amazed at how quickly couples forget to really talk to each other - especially when there is a great distance between them. Talk about everything. Talk about your day, even if it was as boring as work and home. Talk about how you're feeling and coping with distance. Joke around and be silly. Talk about the future. Plan your next time together. This can be a phone call or a text but do it.

Go Old-School
In this generation of technology, we have more or less forgotten about snail mail. The programs I listed above are amazing, but they lack the personal touches. Break out the pen and paper for your S.O.

Pinterest has some amazing care package ideas, too. Grab a box and fill it with goodies! Props if your box has a theme! I bought an adorable set of pun-filled postcards on Etsy:  ONE, TWO, THREE.

Give each other the right amount of space. 
This one is the hardest. You have to give each other enough space to grow as an individual human being. If you are sitting on the brink of being codependent, like I used to be, this is horrendously difficult. You have to talk to each other but also sit back and know that sometimes you won't be able to talk because your S.O. is at work, an internship, school, or out with friends and family. You have to let them, even if you feel the need to stay connected all day to compensate for the distance. Let them find themselves outside of you. When they're with you later, you will both be better and stronger for your time apart.

Surround yourself with friends and stay busy. 
Your S.O. can't be the only one using their day to find themselves. Fill up your schedule with the things and people you love. Make brunch dates, beach days, and movie nights with your friends. Have you been wanting to teach yourself to paint but not had the time? Well - here you go! Hit the store and pick up some supplies, so that when the loneliness hits you have something to do. I think this summer apart from my boyfriend would have been 100x harder without all my girlfriends at the ready to keep me busy.

There will be days when the world wants to tell you that you can't do it. That it's not worth it. Your brain may try to play with you, convince you the other person is cheating or could get hurt and you won't know. There will be days where you panic. Just breathe.

My go-to is diaphragmatic breathing: breathe in through your nose with your hand on your stomach so that you feel it rise with your breath. Breathe in with a count of 5. Hold for 5. Breathe out through your mouth to a count of 5. Repeat until you feel calm.

Express your needs. 

Don't be afraid to tell your S.O. what you need. This may be that you need emotional support when you're missing them, pep when you're getting ready for the day, Snapchats of their face to make you smile, a "home safe and sound" text when they get home for the day, or space. Try your best not to bottle everything up inside you, afraid they won't respect your needs. If they don't want to be there for you, ditch 'em. You deserve only those who can be there for you without hesitation. 

Do you have tips or tricks that I didn't mention that worked for you? Share them below! 

Find more resources here: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Life Updates || 1

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Right now, I am curled up in front of the TV watching Impractical Jokers - my current favorite show. If you haven't watched these hilarious guys embarrass each other, you are missing out! 

I'm also entering my 3rd full week of unemployment. It's been so rough - I never realized how much I needed a job to keep myself going and feeling productive. The first few days were great. Then, I ran out of money and things to do. Now, it's just miserable. I'm doing my best not to touch my savings account, but I'm starting to get antsy. I don't want to (again) throw myself into a job I don't want just to make money. 

I do get to start substitute teaching for Charleston and Berkely County schools on Thursday. My assignments are pretty cool - AP Psychology, Health, 6th Grade General, and English. I even have a cute little binder filled with everything I will need. 

I'm also 8 days away from being DONE with Long Distance. After 137 days apart, I'm going to go bring my boyfriend home from Iowa. We're going to drive out of Des Moines and over to D.C. for a few days. We've got some fun stuff planned - but I'm hardcore stressing over the parking/transport prices. Like, I just wanna park for free, Universe. 

Have you been to D.C.? What was your favorite thing to do/see/eat? 

Little Letters to My Freshman Self

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

This past Spring, I graduated from college with a BA in Creative Writing, something I wasn't always sure I would be able to do. If I could go back to myself 4 years ago, or if I could help any incoming freshman, this is what I'd share:

1. Mental Health is your top priority. If you feel depressed/scared/alone/angry/overwhelmed/etc, then you need to take the steps to make yourself feel like you again. Know when you need to take a break for "me time". The College of Charleston had a free counseling program just across the street from my dorm and it helped me incredibly during my first semester.

2. I know it's easier said than done, but don't skip class. I didn't miss a single class until late in my first semester and then it became a regular habit for me to skip out on class because I just couldn't make myself get out of bed. Honestly, this did me more harm than good. It'll do the same for you. This counts for homework too. Do it. Please. You will appreciate it later.

3. Communicate with everyone. Your professors, classmates, roommate, family, and such are your support group and it will benefit you so much to communicate with each of them. Go to office hours, grab coffee with a classmate, make an effort to be the best roommate you can, and remember to call home. I went through a lot during my final semester as a Senior, my Capstone professor let me sit in her office and cry - while also offering me extensions and help whenever I would need it. All you have to do is communicate.

4. Get involved. I feel mildly hypocritical saying this since I did so little on campus but that's exactly why I say it. One semester, I did get two paintings into a school gallery and was a prominent role in the W&GS' production of The Vagina Monologues. Both experiences were unforgettable and create wonderful relationships. Do stuff. You won't regret it. Join your schools Quidditch team, book club, volleyball team, or attend events (like movie nights, socials, themed-parties, etc.).

5. It's going to be okay. Your first year of college is going to be intense. You're going to be thrown into a whole new world of countless strangers and more homework and issues than you can believe. Create a routine and stick to it. It will help bring calm into the crazy. No ship captain got to be good by sailing only smooth waters.

6. Buy a planner and use it. It may seem like a trivial thing but I would have been so screwed had I not had a good planner that let me keep track of classwork, big deadlines, job shifts, social events, etc. I recommend The Happy Planner.

7. Get to know your campus. Most freshmen forget that, on the first day of class, they need to know where their classrooms are. What floor? What building? What street? Does it even exist!? Find a map of your campus or walk around before classes begin and note where you need to be for each class. Know how long it'll take you to get from building to building. It'll help when you hit snooze too many times and have to haul ass to class.

8. Find a place where you love to study. For me, it was the huge library on campus. The atmosphere was calm and seeing all the other hard-working students made me feel like I could actually get my work done. Maybe yours is the same, or a coffee house, or your common room.

9. Caffeine is now your best friend. Learn to love some form of coffee, espresso, or caffeinated tea. You will need it. Especially when Finals start to roll in.

10. Invest in good gear. Don't buy a $20 backpack from Walmart that is going to rip 3 weeks into the semester under the weight of your textbooks. Buy a good rain jacket. There are things that you're going to need for the next few years of your life and it's worth it to buy a really good item once than having to replace it every semester.

11. The Freshman 15 is not a joke. I went to college thinking that the F15 was an exaggeration or a joke. It's not. Watch what you're putting into your body. Chick-Fil-A should not be consumed 5 times a week. The cafeteria isn't as healthy as you think. You don't need 4 plates just because you can. If your college has a gym for students, use it! This will also help with maintaining strong mental and physical health.

12. It is, in fact, okay to not know what you want to do with your life. I went into CofC with a Psychology major and a theatre minor. Two months in, I changed to an Elementary Education major. Then it was Secondary Education with an English concentrate. I graduated with a B.A. in Creative Writing. You don't have to know the exact path of your life the moment you step onto campus. Take time to find yourself.

I'll be wishing all you kids a wonderful year as you start an exciting new chapter in your life. Go out there and live a beautiful life.

The Busy Girl's Guide to Managing Life

Friday, August 4, 2017

Adulthood absolutely insane. You have to learn how to balance work, school, endless finances, self-care, and maintain some semblance of a social life...without crying (too much). It took me much too long to realize you don't have to constantly run around like a chicken with its head cut off every time you have a busy schedule. Being organized in all aspects of your life is significantly easier than you'd think. Though, it's not a walk in the park easier.

Below are some of the best methods of managing real life that I've learned first hand.

General Life Planning 

Introducing my favorite thing in the world: The Happy Planner.

It features a weekly spread that has each day separated into Morning / Afternoon / Night, so I'm always aware of what needs to be done and when. There's also a full calendar spread and lined-paper inserts you can add. The regular planners have add-ons you can purchase like Fitness, Home Management, Budgeting, and Wedding Planning.

I recently upgraded to the larger of their planners, which allows me to fit everything inside my week - including "To-Do" lists and random thoughts. Get a good planner and use it every day. Just leave it open on your desk.

TIP: One helpful thing I do with my planner is color coordinating specific things. Work is written in red, class assignments in green, bills in blue, plans with friends in purple, etc. That way you know what's up the second you glance at your day.

Finances & Budgeting 

I am absolutely awful with saving money. Or just with money in general. I am slowly getting better as I get older and realize that, oh shit, I now have $700 to pay off from a credit card and I die a little every time I look at my account. Then I also have my regular weekly expenses, while also maintaining a halfway decent savings account. It's not easy balancing every aspect of your finances, folks. Especially when you're new to this whole "Adult" thing.

If you don't want to wallow in pain when you realize there's something important to save for, use my favorite go-to: The Jar System.

How much do you need to save? 
How long do you have to save it? 

Now divide those two numbers to see how much you need to put into the jar per week and stick to it. (( Ex. 27 weeks to save $500 would be 500/27 to get $18.50 per week ))

TIP: Get a good sized mason jar and some mod podge, if you want to personalize your budget jar.

I find this works better (for me) than keeping money in a savings account because if you find something you want to spend money on, you can digitally transfer it out of those savings with just a few clicks on your phone - all while internally justifying the purchase. When it's "locked up" in a jar, you're less tempted to spend it and it's not readily available when you're online or away from home.

Another great go-to is Pinterest. Do you need a weekly budget form? Monthly? Tips to get out of debt in 7 weeks? How-to's on saving money on bills? Just search for a pin! These are some of my favorites: ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR.

Self Care

Self Care. We hear this everywhere now. It's always been a thing, but the Millenial Generation is striving more and more to take care of themselves. Self Care doesn't have to be time-consuming, difficult, or even expensive. It is anything and everything that makes you feel like your best self, safe, happy, healthy, and peaceful. Please note: there is always time for taking care of yourself.

Here are some of my favorite forms of self care: 

  • A hot bath with salts (or a bath bomb), candles, and a good Spotify playlist
  • Meeting a girlfriend to laugh and gossip over cocktails
  • Taking a fitness class 
  • An adorable manicure/pedicure 
  • Browsing the aisles of a bookstore with a coffee in hand
  • A 45-minute nap in total silence
  • Journaling (Letters, gratitude, happy lists, etc.)
  • A full hour session with my therapist to expel all stress 
  • Binge watch a new (or old) Netflix series 
  • Take yourself to the movies 
  • Drink a hot cup of tea 
  • Spend a few minutes doing diaphragmatic breathing 
  • Use Youtube to do a guided Full Body Scan 
  • Sit outside. Just let the sun soak into your skin and be. 
  • Learn a new skill - I'm working on hand-lettering right now! 
  • Set down all your technology and walk away for an hour

Work & College 

If you are currently both a full-time student and a full-time employee, the most important thing to remember is balance. There just isn't a way to succeed in both aspects of life if you can't manage your time. You have to be able to work enough hours to support yourself and pay bills/eat/etc - but you also have to leave yourself plenty of time to be in class and get assignments done at home.

When you get your exam or project dates, request the night before off at work to give yourself the time to study and get a full night's sleep. I failed to do this a few times and it killed me the next morning when I was wholly unprepared.

Eat breakfast every morning before class or work. Do not say you don't have time. Wake up 20 minutes earlier. You have to allow yourself time to wake up comfortably. Not in an "Oh shit, there's my alarm! Where's the poptarts!?" kind of way. Drink some water, make yourself a whole wheat bagel with fresh fruit. Relax.

Make the time to get to know your Managers, coworkers, fellow students, and Professors. These people are in the same boat as you and want to help you succeed. Go to office hours - talk to your Manager if something is wrong. Use your voice.

If you are not happy - get out. This could be something like changing your major or quitting your job. I can't stress enough how important it is to be doing something you genuinely enjoy. If you hate waking up every day because your job is a nightmare, find something else. Get yourself out and into a healthier situation. You deserve it.

Social Life

It's okay to say NO! Believe it or not, you don't have to go out every time someone asks. Do you have to study? Are you tired? Have you been at work since 6:30 am and all you can think about is collapsing? Then it is absolutely acceptable to politely decline your invite and/or reschedule.

Make time for yourself. Don't forget that you can make dates with yourself. Take yourself out for a manicure after a hard week, wake up early to go to that Zumba class you love, or take the perfect bubble bath. Your life can get insane and it's important to remember to schedule time (even if it's only half an hour) to do something for YOU.

Make time for your friends. While you're allowed to say "NO" to plans when it's not the best for you, don't cut your friends off altogether. This could be anything from text messages checking up on each other to skype calls to coffee dates between classes. My personal favorite is cocktails in the evening. If you have the time, make it a Beach Day or spend a whole afternoon binging Netflix and baking cookies!

Do you have any go-to tips for managing this crazy life? Share them below! 

Nashville, TN, USA

48 Hours in Nashville, TN

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

After spending the weekend in Nashville with my sister, I've got a fun guide to 48 hours in the city! Let's go! 

During our trip, we stayed at Hyatt Place Downtown Nashville. It was in a pretty decent spot - 5 minutes walking to Broadway and the Pedestrian Bridge. It was definitely nice and very clean. The staff was great and didn't hesitate to help either me or my sister during our stay. I definitely recommend the Valet parking since it's only $2 more than self parking and you feel fancy. 

We arrived in Nashville around 5:30pm and pretty much crashed for half an hour before deciding to wonder around before grabbing dinner. We walked down to get a glimpse of the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. I honestly wish Charleston had one of these. It was beautiful and a great installation for walkers/bikers/runners to move through the city. 

Broadway was....something else. It was obviously a huge tourist area - just exploding with people. And it was a Sunday night. Every 3rd person was wearing cowboy boots and if you weren't wearing any, there was a store every 25 feet. There was also NO shortage of live music. Most places had open doors or windows and you could hear bands jamming out to classic country tunes.

We did dinner at Otaku Ramen. My sister and I are Asian food fanatics and this place had top ratings for ramen. Now, I think we may have enjoyed it more had we not horrendously underestimated the walk and had it not been 300 degrees outside. We got in, soaking up the air conditioning, and then they seated us outside. The food itself was wonderful. Massive portions and solid flavors. On a cooler day, the patio is lovely.

I am internally about 85 years old, so I go to bed around 9:30/10pm most nights. Ashley, on the other hand, will stay up into the wee hours of any night. So I passed out early and she apparently went and found pizza on the street. I started the morning at The Daily Juice, which was a whopping 1 minute walk from the hotel. 

The first morning, I got The Aloha Bowl with acai, pineapple, mango, goji berry, granola, honey, and coconut. I did mine with strawberries instead of bananas too. Allergies.
Morning #2, I had a Marigold smoothie with mango, peach, orange, and mint!

Once my sister woke up - we started shopping. First stop was the much-talked about Nashville Farmer's Market. The outside was set with with local produce vendors and a nursery. Inside was several little eateries - including the amazing ice cream place Jeni's - and shops.

The coolest spot inside was BATCH. It featured an array of goodies from the area and all of them were too cute. I especially loved their cocktail wall.

Next, we attempted some thrift shopping. And by this I mean my sister went into a Goodwill while I walked over to Barista Parlor for an iced tea. It was a huge space filled with motorcycle and race-car items. They also had a lovely selection of pastries - including a homemade poptart!

In East Nashville, there are so many great spots to shop. Local Honey doubles as a boutique and a hair salon! The clothing weren't my style or in my budget but the earrings they carrying are a dream!

One thing you must know about Nashville: A LOT of places aren't open on Monday. The Idea Hatchery is a little set-up of locally owned shops like East Side Story, Crescent Moon, Fat Crow Press, and more.

When you hit the Shoppes at Fatherland, make sure to grab a bite to eat at The Local Taco. Their Baja Shrimp Tacos are killer and I easily could have eaten 5 of them. They have outdoor seating that's tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the street.

If you check Pinterest, there are plenty of bloggers who will share the must-see murals of Nashville. I could not resist snapping a photo at the What Lifts You piece by Kelsey Montague. No joke, there was a line to stand in front of the wings. It was well worth it though.

Our final shop of the day was one that I refused to miss: Parnassus Books. If you even sort of like books, you have to see this place. There was no lack of books and their themed set-ups were on point. They even have a children's section you get to by crawling through a little door. How can you not love that? I would go back here in a heart beat.

For dinner, my sister and I hit The Butcher and The Bee. The original Bee opened here in Charleston and owns the coffee shop I work at. So the employee discount may have motivated us a bit to pick this spot. However - we were drowning in incredible food. My phone didn't save the photos but we had whipped feta with fresh pita, sweet corn, fire roasted carrots, fried Okra, and a Summer Risotto.

I also got a cocktail made with vodka, lime, house-made soda and fresh cherry juice. They make all their sodas and cocktail mixers right there in the Bee! No big store labels. And it was beyond delicious.

After passing out from the mass food consumption - we woke to our final morning in Nashville. Again, Ashley slept in and I went to get my Daily Juice smoothie. The weather was absolutely beautiful, so I decided to walk back over to the Pedestrian Bridge.

Like many cities, Nashville has a bike rental system called B-Cycle. You sign up at the kiosk and can get your bike for only $5 for an hour. Each half our after that is $1.50. It was a fun and easy way to see the downtown area. You can also return them at any station!

After the bridge and bike ride, I wandered into this nifty looking tower called The Diner. It was a cool mix of retro and fancy, with multiple floors to check out. I, naturally, just wanted to try their coffees. I got a salted caramel mocha for my walk back to the Hyatt.

Now, despite having had coffee and a smoothie, I still wanted breakfast. Everyone kept saying I needed to hit Biscuit Love. Keep in mind, I went around 10am on a Tuesday. The line was out the door and heading down the block. A local girl said this is pretty normal and on weekends, it will wrap down the street. For biscuits!!

The verdict? Worth the wait. I got The Lily, which are french toast biscuits with lemon cream and a blackberry compote. Yes, this is a real thing. I almost cried over how beautiful they were.

After biscuits, we hit the road. Before the long haul to Charleston, we stopped for a hike at Cummins Falls. Please note that this is not a simple or easy hike like the internet may say. Ashley and I were highly unprepared for the 3.2 miles through rocks, mud, and water to the falls. There is a big swimming hole to relax in and you can stand up on the falls. Just be careful, it's slippery!

Have you been to Music City? What was your favorite part?

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