personal

Where I've Been and Lessons in Self Care

I'm back.  I didn't post for all of October.  I'll say that the story today starts with back pain, and lots of it.

My x-ray photo above is from 2009.  I have scoliosis, and while it was not severe enough to warrant any medical care 5 or 6 years ago, you can clearly see that the health of my spine is pretty compromised.  You can also see that my shoulders in the x-ray are not set squarely over my hips.

The consequences of having even a minor spinal curvature can be pretty detrimental to everyday life and activities.  This is where the story starts today.

Driving an hour to work and back each day for the past two years definitely took a toll on my back.  That was apparent during that time, but I didn't really start to feel any pain until late September.  I was waking up with severe back and chest pain, feeling a limited range of motion, and I couldn't do anything to help it.  I didn't like to take any over the counter pain meds, just because more damage can be done to areas in pain when you can't feel the pain.  But I didn't have a clear solution for what to do about the pain itself, or how to make it go away.  I also felt sad that I had let it happen for so long, and not done anything about it.  Why bother now?


Enter, my boss and coworkers.

Our shop happens to be located next door to a chiropractor's office.  While I had never been to a chiropractor, Chris has been before, and loved it.  This was years ago, before I met him.  Nobody in my life had ever suggested going to a chiropractor for help, and I never really explored it as an option,  But there came a day where I was having trouble just standing.  It hurt a lot, to say the least.  I was desperate, and told to just go next door, that he'd fit me in and to take my time coming back.

And it was awesome.  I go for an adjustment once a week, and am completely pain and discomfort free.  The nerves in my spine were being crunched, and my muscles and organs were (and kind of still are) out of whack.  But it's better and doesn't hurt anymore.  And it's amazing.

Self-care.  It's important.  And it's important to maintain.  It's not necessarily enough to leave a situation that makes you unhappy.  Sometimes there are other things you've been ignoring, and other areas of your life that are also unhealthy, but in a more covert way than not eating enough vegetables.  I ignored an uncomfortable medical issue, very successfully, for two years.  Two years!  But I had learned to ignore it, and just be complacent in it.

Not long after going to the chiropractor, I went to the dentist.  And what an adventure that was.

I am not a fan of the dentist.  As a child, I had a bad experience with a dental hygienist, and I still feel nervous about getting my teeth cleaned.  As it turns out, I had three cavities.  Ugh.  Not what I was hoping for, for my dental situation and wallet.  Yet another area I had been neglecting.  But I do not want to repeat it, so my habits have changed.

There are some other changes we've made here too, but I mostly just wanted to talk about where I've been.  But I am really happy that I feel like writing again!  I'm not even sure who reads this, but I appreciate it regardless.

Take care of yourself today.  I think that's what I'm getting at.  Take care of yourself today and every day.

Love and light,

Alyssa

When I Am Ready, I'll Know

Let's get ready to ramble.

Feelings of inadequacy are really hard to get rid of.  The worst thing about those feelings are that they're kind of self imposed at this point.  I look at the those folks who have attained some level of notoriety in the design and floral community, and I think, "They're about 30 years old.  What do I need to do to get to that point in five years?"

I talked about this with my boss on Sunday, when the two of us banged out one wedding in the morning for that afternoon.  She is one of the most real embodiments of the notion that if you put a lot of positivity and generosity into the world around you, it'll come back to you tenfold.  She's a great role model in that sense.  I shared my thoughts with her, and she completely understood where I was coming from - no matter who you are or how successful you've been, it's hard to push away the negative self talk sometimes.


She said that it's a matter of deciding what you really want in life.  What is really important for you, and your definition of success.  And how it fits in with the rest of the things that you want in life.  

I think the hard part for me right now is that I can't imagine having anything more in life than what I already have.  I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am right now.  Aside from student loans being the worst thing ever, I have what I need.  I was able to make a change in career while making minor lifestyle changes.  I married my best friend.  He is healthy.  I am healthy.  We want for nothing.

So what do I want in the future?  I don't know if I want to have kids, I don't know where we want to live, I don't know if I want to open a brick and mortar flower shop, and I don't know what changes are just going to get thrown at us out of nowhere, out of life itself.

Today I'll be working through some of the information that I received at Making Things Happen as an attendee back in April.  If you're interested at gaining some clarity into yourself, check out this link to go along with me.

Love and light,

Alyssa

Carry On

Sigh.

Between working at the flower shop (I opened the store all by myself yesterday!) and doing fun things in my personal life, like cooking delicious soup and relaxing with my husband, it's been a good time around here of late.

Despite all the goodness, I've been feeling either stagnant or deterred in the journey to one day being a florist under my own management.  I suppose the stagnant feeling can stem from routine, any routine.  But I like routine.  It just takes me a moment to remind myself that the routine of my hours at the flower shop is important to my growth as a florist and as a future business owner.  And then I instantly remember why I made the change.  And I'm happy again.

Deterred.  This one came on big time the other day.

After I quit my teaching job, I went on one other teaching interview.  I did this to just give it a go, and to appease several friends who were still pulling for me to stay in the classroom.  They made great arguments about why I should stay in education, and I truly see where they are coming from.  So, off to the interview I went.

In short, I did not receive an offer for that job, due to politics between charter schools.  But they still to this date need a teacher.  So they've been courting me to take a job with them.  While their interest in me is kind of flattering, I will be sending their CEO an email today stating while the offer is competitive, I will not be taking the job.

Normally, I wouldn't really care about turning down a job offer.  I have a job, and having two full-time jobs wouldn't work in this situation.  I left teaching for a reason.  But the hard part in this, is that it feels like the offering school is trying to stomp their feet all over my happiness in my current place.

In our conversation (I'm really way too accommodating - I shouldn't have agreed to talk to them yet again.), they attempted to sway me with a big salary, benefits, and other "perks" to the teaching job.  One of these being a cell phone to be reached at.  Presumably any time.  No.  Thanks.

I was told over and over again of the great purpose that the CEO felt in working with students.  Of the groundbreaking change that is the result of teaching.  And of how I could join with them and do that noble work.

But is the work I'm doing now so self-indulgent and petty?

I'm trying to achieve a dream.  I'm learning about small business ownership and about plants and flowers.  I'm happier than I've been in two years.  I'm helping to make someone's wedding day/birthday/just-because-day beautiful.  I'm effectively helping to make magic happen, as in the case of a seven wedding weekend we just pulled off.

In the end, nobody can force me to do anything I don't want to do.  But I suppose that my thick skin will just have to toughen up some more.  I am not apologizing for my choices.  Mostly because it wouldn't change anyone's mind anyway, but also because my happiness and well-being is essential to my life.  And since I only get to do this once, I'm going to choose the best way for me and my family.

And that is with flowers.  Always, with flowers.



Love and light,

Alyssa

Ten Things I Never Want to Do


The lily pads at Longwood Gardens are amazing and wondrous.

Ten Things I Never Want to Do

1) Complain about house renovations/changes/expenses.  When Chris and I are fortunate enough to purchase a house and land, we'll be among those who are lucky enough to purchase a home.  That in itself is a huge dream for us.  The fact that other folks complain relentlessly about home renovations and how irritating those upgrades are does not change the fact that they are incredibly lucky to have said home to renovate and make their own.  We will never be so ungrateful.  That construction dust is truly a lucky thing.

2) Wear white pants.  They just aren't for me.

3) Have minor surgery at the podiatrist again.  Most painful thing I've ever experienced.  However, he was an excellent podiatrist.  If you need a recommendation, I have the hook up.

4) Forget to buy toilet paper.  

5)  Be involved in a car accident.  They seem preventable, for the most part.  This isn't always the case, but this is the reason why I am a careful and attentive driver.

6)  Take what I have for granted.  This includes clean drinking water, my pets, my husband, and my family and friends. 

7)  Opt out of renewing my AAA membership.

8)  Forget that I am a person of value.

9)  Pass up the chance to hold a baby.

10)  Pass up the chance to eat another slice of pecan pie.  Or another cookie.  Or any homemade thing.

Love and light,

Alyssa

Is Marriage Really All That Difficult?

To answer the title of this post, I suppose the answer is a resounding "no."  And truly, it's not.  All you truly have to do to be married is sign some paperwork, and then mail or hand in the paperwork to the nice man at the desk of the Register of Wills at City Hall.  Or whatever municipal building is relevant to your place of residence.

All over the internet, especially on other blogs of newlyweds, I've noticed a trend of people stating that marriage is so difficult, in a seemingly surprised way.  Or, they're simply repeating a sentiment told to them by a well-meaning relative or acquaintance, usually followed by some sort of advice from that person, such as the never-go-to-bed-angry trope.  (My unsolicited advice?  Eat something with some protein, like a PB&J.  Or just go to bed angry.  You are probably tired or hungry.)

I don't think it's that difficult.  And I'm definitely not seeing my husband (or the world, for that matter) through the rose tinted spectacles from newlywed land.  We were engaged for four years, and together for two years before that.  The new-ness has been worn off for quite some time.  And I'm hoping that this is the case for lots of people.  The act and idea of being a couple, being together, should not be a novel feeling upon signing that marriage license.  Yes, the titles have changed a bit, but assuming that you've been together for a bit of time, there's nothing all that new about your coupledom.  Not really, anyway.

And I love marriage!  It totally rocks.  Being able to be Mrs. Rainville is super cool, and getting a discount on my car insurance is pretty neat.  The joint checking account is practical, and we still do the same things all the time.  I bake cookies, Chris makes awesome chicken pot pie.  He feeds the cats in the morning, and I try to figure out how to sign my new name, still being thrown off by the capital R of my last name where there used to be a Y.

I'm thinking that the main issues that make marriage "difficult" are communication and/or feelings.  When I say feelings, I mean the way that people are blinded by emotion when they take things personally which are not actually intended as an attack on their personality, character, or general self.

Communication is something that Chris and I pride ourselves on, and it has been instrumental in our relationship since the beginning.  Say what you are thinking, and think (or talk) about why you are thinking it.  Analyze what you are feeling.  Analyze why you want something, or why you want something to happen.  Is it true, or is your perspective just skewed?  Are you being selfish?  Are you ignoring how your significant other is feeling?  Are you being mean or insensitive?

Read body language.  This might look different for everyone out there, but I'm willing to bet that if you've been together for awhile, you can tell when something is off because of how your person is carrying themselves.  If you aren't sure, start reading that body language now!  Ask questions.  Ask how they're feeling.  Talk about feelings.  If that's hard, start small.

Any thoughts from folks out there?  Is marriage really all that difficult for you?

Love and light,

Alyssa

Why Being Unapologetic is Actually a Really Good Thing

First and foremost, the title of this blog post makes me sound really rude, right?  The context of this post will clarify what I actually mean by "unapologetic."  I do not mean being mean and rude to others and not atoning and apologizing for your actions.  I mean being unapologetic in the sense that you value what you are doing as a business owner and a professional.

I recently read an article on the Flirty Fleurs blog that was a question and answer post polling readers about their shop locations.  The person inquiring about shop locations had a studio based out of her home, where she created her designs and dealt with the day to day work in her business.  Her problem was that potential clients and other folks that she knew generally regarded her home studio as something subpar to a storefront or a dedicated floral only space.

Folks who answered her question met her frustration with support and motivation.  They told her to not apologize for doing business and design the way she does it, and to show others that her work was valuable by treating it as valuable herself.

Can I just say how awesome it was to read that on a blog for florists and floral designers?!


Small urn arrangement for a weekly shop client.

Sometimes, I feel like there will never be a time where I have a dedicated floral space for me, just me, in my world.  Yes, I work at a flower shop, but I am not the proprietor.  I am an employee - which is an amazing thing in itself!  But my personal space for floral design is at the studio apartment I share with my husband and our two cats.

That doesn't exactly sound like a recipe for floral amazingness and success in my own business ventures.

But why not?


A tray of cocktail table arrangements in antiqued julep cups.

I will do wonderful work for clients in any space that I am located.  It is a duty to your customer, someone who is putting confidence in YOU, to do beautiful work of a high quality.

But it is a duty to myself to value what I do, regardless of where I am at.  

Having a floral design studio is a dream of mine.  Maybe a shop one day.  I don't know yet.  But, I do know that having those things does not happen overnight.  I often her people talking about seasons of waiting in their lives.  I'm not quite sure if I'm actively waiting for a studio.  I'm not sure if I'm actively waiting for many clients right now either, though I would welcome them gladly!  I think I'm in a season of learning and honing skills, but I am there gladly.

So, I will not apologize for the season I am in.  I will not apologize for using my kitchen counter as my flower space.  And I will not apologize for changing my life to learn from the best.  The people who would require an apology are not on my team anyway.

Who wants to join the unapologetic team?  We might need to get shirts.

Love and light,

Alyssa

Ten Things I Know to Be True


Inspired by the wonderful poet Sarah Kay and her TED Talk, "If I Should Have a Daughter."

Ten Things I Know to be True

1) I deeply struggle with giving grace to other people.

2) My husband would do anything in the world for me, and I am unimaginably lucky to be his wife.

3) In a large group of women, I will almost always feel inadequate in some way.

4) Traveling alone makes me feel most capable of my own potential to navigate my life on my own terms.

5) Television commercials are intensely insulting to the intelligence of the viewers who understand how pedantic the commercials truly are.

6) A good doctor will let you cry and scream when it's necessary.  A great doctor won't make you feel guilty for having a nonexistent emotional filter.

7) New office supplies will make you feel like you can take on the world, one well constructed plan at a time.

8) You don't always have great options, but you always have a choice.

9) Most people are terrible listeners.

10) Few things are as blissful as a good night's sleep, a big cozy hug, or a seat on a bench in the perfect mix of sunlight and shade.

...what ten things do you know to be true?

Love and light,

Alyssa

Too Many Hats

If you did all of the things that you've wanted to do, would you feel like you'd be spreading yourself too thin?  Or do you already feel like you're spread too thin between all of your daily activities?

How do you make sure that you take care of yourself, in the midst of all the things that you have to do for others?  Do you have that kind of time, or do you feel like there's not enough time to do the things that recharge you?

Been there, done that.  And I've decided I'm done with it.  I took care of that by taking care of myself and changing career tracks from something that I was actually really good at and really liked but where I was not appreciated or valued, to something that I am refining with new skills that I'm learning on the job where I feel very valued and like I'm part of a small flower SWAT team.  In the best way.  And with dahlias.


If I could wear all of the hats, I would wear all of the hats.  If I could have been a middle school teacher and a florist at the same time, I might have tried to do it.  Logistically, it was impossible to do so.  Let's examine the schedules of both of those jobs for a moment so you can see exactly why.  Since today is Friday, we're going to look at a Friday schedule for both jobs, from my experience.

I should note that I am not the owner of the flower shop, or even a seasoned employee with additional responsibilities.  I am at the bottom of the chain, and still learning about what we do there.  If I were the owner of the shop, my schedule would look different.  If I were only a freelance florist, the schedule would look different.  But I'm talking about what is happening to me now, as an assistant designer in a flower shop.

Teacher: Get up at 5:30am.  Be on the road to your school at 6:00am.  Arrive at school at 6:45am, because if the building is empty, you can get more work done before work actually starts.  Be downstairs for breakfast duty to cover for someone who is late at 7:20am.  Students arrive at 7:25am. Be with students all day, since you don't have your own classroom.  Teach, of course, but the details of that aren't important for this post right now.  Pick up students from their last class for PM homeroom at ~3:40pm.  Stay in PM homeroom for an inordinately long amount of time, for what it entails.  Proctor dismissal (mayhem) for ~20 minutes.  Staff is permitted to leave at 4:15pm.  Sit in rush hour traffic from New Jersey to Philadelphia for over an hour.  Get home anytime between 5:30 and 6:00pm.  Feel tired, sad, ineffective, unappreciated, and like you're a bad fiancée to your sweet man who made dinner for you, because you haven't got the energy to do anything fun ever, or stay awake during a movie.  Worry all weekend about things that you still need to do, despite using time effectively all week.  It's never enough time anyway.

Florist: Get up at ~5:30am, because husband likes to go to work early still.  See him off to work, and eat breakfast after he leaves around 6:10am.  Pack lunch for the day.  Prep food for dinner, or even cook parts of dinner so it's ready for later.  Some days, make muffins, bread, or something else after breakfast.  Arrive at work at 10:00am.  Put out inventory for the shop, check the communications log for any notes from my boss, check for any orders that need to be delivered today.  Process any flowers that came in overnight, chop and drop them and then process them an hour later.  If no orders came in, work on various projects for events this weekend that still need completed, such as personal flowers for the bridal party.  Everyone stops for lunch around 1:00pm.  We sit down, we eat food together, and we relax for a little bit.  It's important for us to take a break so we are ready for the rest of the day.  We tackle the rest of event and shop duties until 6:00pm.  There may be deliveries before then, pickups throughout the day for Friday weddings, and drop-offs after then.  This provides an opportunity to work overtime on event days.  Living 3.4 miles from the shop lets me get home in 10 minutes.  I eat dinner with my husband, and we read or talk, make grocery lists, watch a movie, play with our cats.

See the difference?  And this is why doing both is impossible.

Love and light,

Alyssa

Being a Highly Sensitive Person

In my quest to read as much as possible this summer, I've been downloading book previews several times per week onto my kindle.  I love the preview feature, so I can make better decisions about purchasing books, and so I can try texts out without committing to the whole thing.  The preview feature also gives me the chance to have a pretty large "to read" list right on my device.

One book that I read this summer (and plan to re-read soon) is The Highly Sensitive Person.  What does highly sensitive mean, you wonder?  A highly sensitive person has a very responsive nervous system, notices subtleties in their surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed by a highly stimulating environment.  Let's break this down a bit.

According to the book's author, Dr. Elaine N. Aron, there are several misconceptions about highly sensitive people.  From her website, here's an excerpt.
Dr. Aron explains that in the past HSPs have been called “shy,” “timid,” “inhibited,” or “introverted,” but these labels completely miss the nature of the trait. Thirty percent of HSPs are actually extraverts. HSPs only appear inhibited because they are so aware of all the possibilities in a situation. They pause before acting, reflecting on their past experiences. If these were mostly bad experiences, then yes, they will be truly shy. But in a culture that prefers confident, “bold” extraverts, it is harmful as well as mistaken to stigmatize all HSPs as shy when many are not. In The Highly Sensitive Person, Dr. Aron reframes these stereotyping words and their common application to the HSP in a more positive light and helps HSPs use and view these aspects of their personality as strengths rather than weaknesses. 
This is not to say that all HSPs are introverts, or that they cannot be extraverts.  More than anything else, it seems that what constitutes a person as being a HSP is an incredibly analytical mind and a strong perception for the feelings and the effects of stimuli on self and others.

What this basically means is that as a HSP, I'm constantly noticing things that are happening around me, and how those things happening around me affect the other folks in the room.  It means that I tend to feel emotions at a higher level, and that I can emotionally read others pretty well.

In my previous job, this was a recipe for disaster, as I was also extremely driven to be an all-star at my job.  It meant I was constantly being bombarded with the noises from other rooms, jolted by people yelling, and feeling extremely uncomfortable about it.  It also means that I noticed the emotions of my students and how they were reacting to their peers and surroundings.  It meant that I knew what needed to be changed (in my humble opinion), but lacking the ability to do so, was distraught.  Feeling and noticing these things was literally constant, for the entire day, as I shared a room and was basically in charge of my homeroom as well.  I needed time alone to recharge after being the main facilitator, and I was unable to get that in any convenient form.  It was also challenging to understand the emotions of others, and notice the limited regard that other people had for those feelings.

I kind of enjoy talking about introversion/extraversion and emotional perceptions of people.

If you're interested in learning more about HSPs, check out the preview of the book (you can download a free Kindle app from Amazon to read previews and any books you purchase).

Love and light,

Alyssa

Leaving, Two Places


As most of you know.  I was off getting married to the handsome man in the picture above.  We'd been engaged for almost 4 years by the wedding date, and living together through moves/grad school/relocations for longer than that.  Things have changed, and things have not changed.  But, it is a sweet thing to be able to call him my husband now.

Our lovely wedding (which I'll share more photos of soon) is the main reason why I have been so absent.  Social media and the internet was the first thing that I left, albeit for a short time.  While I was away, we were spending a short time in a majestic old-growth forest in western Pennsylvania, and we are so excited to return, hopefully soon.  If you are in need of a getaway, look no further than Cook Forest State Park.  Perhaps a post about our forest accommodations will appear on the blog.

The second thing that I left was my teaching job.  I know I've told you all about my qualms with my job before.  My reasons for leaving deserve a blog post all their own.  Perhaps that post will appear as well.  I know that I don't owe anyone a justification of why I left my job, except for my sweet husband (though he's been the eyewitness to my distress for the past two years, and this change was hardly a surprise).  But in the spirit of transparency, I think I'd like to share my rationale soon.

What I can tell you right now, is that I've taken a new job with a local flower shop.  My first day is today and I'm sure I will have a lot to say in the next coming days, but what I can tell you right now is the following; I feel more valued in my interactions with my new employer (who I've known for only 4 weeks) than I did in my two years as a member of instructional staff.  This isn't to say that old coworkers/supervisors didn't EVER make me feel valued, but this is an amalgamation of the objective data that my mind has gathered.  Take it for what it's worth.  

Wish me luck, and if you're interested in following along, I'll be here.

Love and light,

Alyssa

Rainville Wedding Inspiration

Happy Monday, all!

It's been some time since I posted.  This is for a few reasons, but I did want to bounce on here for a moment today to share some of what I've been working on in this absence.

My fiancé, Chris, and I are preparing for our wedding.  We will be married on August 2, which is only 19 days away.  Just typing that is seriously amazing!  We will have been engaged for almost four years by the time the wedding date hits, so the fact that it is so close is amazing and really wonderful.

Lots of folks have been asking to see pictures or asking questions about the things that are ready, to get a better visual of how things will look.  I can't give everything away, because there's no fun in ruining the surprise.  But I wanted to share some images of inspiration for the wedding that Chris and I are excited about.

Image found here.

The color palette above is some inspiration for the flowers for the wedding.  There's going to be the normal array of flowers; bridal bouquet, bridesmaid bouquets, corsages for moms and grandmothers, boutonnières for groom and groomsmen and dads.  Centerpieces.  But there will also be some ridiculously gorg ceremony flowers that we're really excited to see.

Image found here.

It's hard for me to envision a wedding without some garden roses.  Just saying.

Image found here.

Another flower we love is lavender.  Place cards will look pretty much exactly like this, but with a different variety of lavender.

Image found here.

The table numbers are already ordered, but I am so worried that they won't arrive in time.  We have 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7, but the rest have been backordered at various points in time.  So, we're still waiting for some of these to arrive.  However, they are a great quality and will look really nice on our tables for dinner.

Image found here.

We also ordered these vow journals already, and they are very small and simple.  I thought that it might be nice to have something more refined than a piece of loose leaf paper to read vows from during the ceremony.  I also happen to be a sucker for fine paper products.  So there it is.

Image found here.

These are my shoes!  Very comfortable.  Very sparkly.  Totally fancy for a fancy day.

Image found here.

Our wedding and reception are both happening at The Hyeholde Restaurant in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.  The restaurant has a fascinating history and a beautiful exterior.  It is situated near the Pittsburgh airport and a nice hotel that we have a group rate at, which is making travel accommodations quite simple for our friends and family.

Image found here.

The only thing nicer than the outside of the Hyeholde is the inside!  The Round Room is the reception area.  There are twinkle lights on beams and rafters, a large entrance staircase, room for ten tables, a dance floor space, and one side is completely covered in floor to ceiling windows.  It is just lovely.

So there we have it!  That's just the first peek at what's been going on around here for the wedding.  I will be posting another preview in the next week or so.  There are so many small details for this wedding, and we are so excited to see our loved ones in 19 days.  There's really no other time (other than your funeral) that you can really get everyone you love in a room at the same time, so we are very excited to welcome everyone on our special day.

Love and light,

Alyssa

Wade Through the Water

It is morning, and my name is confusion.

In the past week, working at my full-time job as a middle school teacher, I have been closing out for the year.  The last day with students is Tuesday, and so far, I've taken all of my classroom materials home, cleared off my work computer's desktop, and lots of other clerical tasks to be set for the end of the year.  The transitionary period at the end of the school year has always set me up to be reflective.  Change is coming, or at least it already was.  Change is, really, already here.

As I've attended several wonderful classes and workshops this year, I've been constantly pushed to think about my place in the event and design world.  Determining where I lie in that realm is a struggle.  I am a great planner and coordinator, due to my Type A nature with a lot of flexibility thrown into the mix.

I'm also a diligent student, learning how to become the best flower-wrangler I can be.  I love floral design.  I get so pumped up to see unprocessed blooms in buckets.  I love the tools, I love the smell of greens, and I feel rewarded by creating something beautiful and appealing.

How many hats can one girl wear?

Thinking about where to draw the lines, and where to settle myself in the wedding world is a real challenge, but I think I'm reluctant to make a decision that might limit me.  Putting yourself into a box as someone who strictly does calligraphy, or planning, or florals, or whatever seems scary to me mostly because I see many people out there doing it all.  At least, that's what their information says on their website, and that's what social media would have me believe.  How can anyone compete with someone who is doing it all?  Viewing such things through a lens of caution is important, and something I must remind myself to do daily.  I read somewhere out there, to not compare my life to someone's highlight reel.  There's a lot of truth in that.

I need to place myself where my passion is, and where my happiness is.  I want to settle comfortably in that place, growing and refining and absorbing as much from others as possible.  I am under construction but in this time of change, the construction crew can work faster, with one less distraction.

Where am I the happiest?

Photo credit to Bradley James Photography.

Love and light,

Alyssa


A Gift

I’d like to talk to you all today about a gift.  This gift is something that people appreciate and often need desperately, but it’s something that lots of people are really forgetful at giving.  This gift is free to obtain, and takes up no space on the recipient’s shelf or desk.  This gift can be re-gifted without the new recipient even knowing that it was re-gifted, since it requires no new packaging.

What is this wonderful gift?

Listening.

In my recent month of attending workshops and classes for creative folks with small businesses, the only thing that I’ve really felt to be a challenge is reaching out and getting to know the people.  The wedding industry seems to thrive on collaboration and networking.  Making the connections to other people and having a mutually beneficial relationship seems to be the desire of many.  Building a friendship with someone who understands the challenges and the awesomeness of the business you’re in is a great way to surround yourself with a  supportive community of people who will push and encourage you.

As an introverted person, I love to listen.  I love to observe.  Not all introverts, or extroverts, are the same.  I can only speak for myself – and for myself, I prefer really focused, deep, meaningful discussions, with mutual respect and reverence for all individuals involved, and for all words said. 

The challenge lies within the conversation and the individuals – productive conversations and meaningful conversations are only such when all parties and words are respected and treated kindly.  I’ve had trouble finding this at times, inside and outside of the wedding industry. 

Another challenge in building relationships with others in the industry is that I am bringing less experience to the table than many other people.  Logistically and strategically, why would anyone want to hear my words?  As defeatist as that sounds, it does not appear from the outside that I have as much to offer someone else as an individual who is more established.  Despite the fact that I’m smart and capable, it’s hard to show that if I cannot get started on that relationship.  How would I start that connection? 

By talking, probably.  I don’t like to interrupt others, but sometimes that seems to be the only way to get a word in.  Lots of people interrupt me as I’m carefully stating my words, thinking about their meaning.

This post is definitely coming out of some weeks of thinking.  I also just wanted to examine this issue a little bit, and throw it out there to the Internet.  I can’t be the only person who feels this way.  Goodness knows I’m not the only person who gets interrupted.  And of course I’m not the only person out there with something to offer, in terms of friendship and business.

Some might say that this issue is tied to confidence.  I can hear them already.  Telling me to get out there and just make more friends, fake it until you make it, show them how confident you are by reaching out first, and how hard can it really be?

But sometimes it is hard.  It’s hard when that wonderful gift, listening, is not freely given.  Even if I have all the confidence in the world, I can’t make anyone do anything they don’t really want to do.  I also can’t make anyone realize that listening in itself is a gift.  And it’s also not a gift if you have to ask for it. 

What does everyone out there think?  Where are you on the listening scale?

Love and light,

Alyssa

Leave it Behind

I know you've heard that little saying.

"Less is more."

I'm writing this from a perspective of wanting more positive change in my life.  Positive in what way?  I believe that when things are organized and easy to understand or complete, then I can focus more on the things that I really want to spend time on.  That I'll have more time to make what truly matters happen.  That I can focus more on the people that I love and the things that I love to do.

I've been feeling pretty inspired recently by several people out there on the internet (who are also real life people that I may one day be fortunate enough to meet) who are living life while operating under a minimalist philosophy.  They might still have lots of clothes in their wardrobe, but perhaps they've pared down on their work obligations.  Maybe their closet was completely cleaned out, but now that they have just the basics that they need, they are able to focus more on internal things, about themselves and others, than on the external of what we usually see.

I've been whittling down my closet, getting rid of some things that I don't wear, or that really weren't my style in the first place.  I've been saying "NO" to more obligations that I can take on, in work and in my personal life.  These changes have been small, but I've felt more free now than I have in a long time.  I think that focusing on what matters most, and constantly reminding myself of what that really is, has made me more conscientious of the words that I'm saying, the interactions I am purposefully making, and the actions that I take and others notice.

Fortunately, my kind fiancé Chris is, by his very utilitarian and practical nature, a minimalist in his own regard.  It's nice to find some company in even minor lifestyle changes.  Take a look at the links below for some more information and inspiration, from people who encourage me to be more focused and have less clutter: mentally and physically.


I've never been a person who shares a lot about clothing or style, but I truly believe that simplification can make life easier, and if I can always like how I'm dressed, all the better!  For some reason, when I was a bit younger, I think I was resigned to thinking that even if I didn't like something in my closet, I had to continue to wear it.  It sounds really simple, but making definitive decisions in a closet is not a daunting task - but it really was for some time!  I've been gradually cutting down and refining, and I feel more me than ever before.  That's a huge step in my growth, and in my happiness.

It is also crucial for my personal style, image, and voice to be consistent throughout my brand and my life.  There's a lot of spill-over from career to personal life, but when can make image seamless across the board, my personality and my personal aesthetic can influence my business in a very positive way, and vice-versa.

Feeling like myself in my current job is something that I really truly struggle with.  I feel like I go to work and have a face there, and I come home and have a different face here.  It's not even truly the face that I'm talking about - it's the clothes, the mannerisms, the conversation, the tone, the everything and anything that makes me myself.  This is something that is a great source of stress for me, and I am working on changing the tone and the circumstances.  But change is slow and small, so for now, this is where I start.

Love and light,

Alyssa

MTH Recap Part 3: I am here to ____________.

Core.  Core values.  Core of an apple?  The middle.  Definition below.

core /kôr/ 
     noun
     noun: core; plural noun: cores
     1. the tough central part of various fruits, containing the seeds.
     2. the central or most important part of something, in particular.
         the part of something that is central to its existence or character

See?  It fits.  Your core is intrinsic to you, and while it may change depending on the stage of life you are in, it is solidly in place as a foundation in your life.  At Making Things Happen, we were encouraged to define this for ourselves and to solidify the meaning.

So, Alyssa.  What exactly is your core?

I believe that awareness, education, and preparation can defeat disorder.

I believe that devotion and dedication are fundamental to a fruitful marriage.

I am here to clarify any process that you find to be an obstacle.

I am someone who strives to focus on meaningful essentials.

...and I am revising this as needed.  But I am happy with the current statements, and satisfied by the many revisions it took me to get to this point.

What is your core?

(Sneak peek from the Trouvaille Workshop that I just returned from!)

MTH Recap Part 2: Authenticity Is Key

In creating a business, in creating a brand, making something tangible and easy to explain, it is so hard to not look to others and straight up copy them.  Seeing success, or at least what looks like success, and wanting it so badly stifles the creativity that I had when I began dreaming up Demure Birch Design.  Not only would it be poor form to copy anyone's anything, but it would be a lie to myself and to prospective clients.  It would be a disservice to those who are pushing me and cheering me on to be anything but myself.

Authenticity is key - one of the many things that was discussed at Making Things Happen.  Once again, Lara Casey said it succinctly and well:

"Consider the opportunities that you are losing by not being authentic to the world."

This one hit me in the gut.  Showing my true self, being authentic and sharing what matters most to me with my clients and with my loved ones is a scary and dangerous move.  The thoughts immediately play out in my head.  What if they don't like me?  What if they change their minds?  What if they disagree with my thoughts?  What if they are not accepting?

And that is where the real human connection is made - in the vulnerability of authentic interaction.  Getting a true glimpse of who a person is, sharing what drives you, communicating your core to others.  This is the heart of true interaction that is authentic.  But it takes a leap of faith and some real courage.

As a person who truly detests small talk, the point of being authentic really rang true to my core.  As an introverted person, I thrive on deep conversations about ideas and things that people think about.  Small talk bores me.  It gives me nothing to latch on to, and it does nothing to spark my thoughts about how I relate to others in this wide world.  But deep conversations, about life and love and the things that you hate and adore, and what changes you think should be made to the world?  Those are just the best.  Those talks tell me who you are.  Those talks develop me as a person.

This is what being authentic is all about.  Sure, small talk is never going to disappear.  But I can't help but think that sometimes the small talk is really just nervousness about judgement from others coming out in word form.  If we stick to the insignificant, we don't necessarily open ourselves up to the criticism or scrutiny of others.  We stay safe.  And the vulnerability of authenticity is so scary!  Why would we venture there?

I need to venture there, and stay there because it feeds my heart and soul and lights my mind on fire.  Authenticity and the deepness of people is amazing territory and I want to explore it all.  

For my business, my authenticity is crucial to offering clients a person who cares deeply about their experience, and not just a person making a buck.  Authenticity is where the love story comes out, the details spill forth, and the day is reflected back to you as, well, you.  Not the perfect painting, but the imperfectly perfect reflection of love.



Love and Light,

Alyssa

MTH Recap Part 1: Filter the Noise

After attending the Making Things Happen Workshop in lovely Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I took several days to process what I had learned and what I heard others say.  Making Things Happen was an emotionally intense goal setting seminar, and attendees were encouraged to stay in focused head space throughout the daily talks from various creatives and also throughout meal times.  The primary focus of this workshop was really diving in and getting to the core of what matters, and harnessing your core to put changes and plans into action.

The quote from the gracious and open founder of the workshop, Lara Casey, particularly resonated with me.  The quote states;


"Don't fall into the trap of seeking approval.  
Do the thing things that you want to do, and then tell people."

This quote hit me because I feel like it relates strongly to my personal life.  I proposed to Chris because I wanted to, and we celebrated with family via webcam on Thanksgiving way back in 2010.  We continued our engagement despite the hard and downright cruel things that came our way and we came through happy and together on the other side, despite the hurtful advice that people gave.  Me, learning to say "I'm not happy about _______" to others, and subsequently trying to change my circumstances, even though it may be considered a foolish decision to those with their eye on the compensation rather than the quality of life.

Living life unapologetically is something I will be doing more of.  I will resist the impulse to apologize for decisions that I make for my benefit and the benefit of those I love.  It is simply nobody's concern whether I make the "right" choices.  Who is anyone else to know what is right for another person?  

We were charged by Lara with the task of filtering the "noise" of distractions and negative influences in our lives.  Many people started by committing to clearing out their social media feeds of those who spread negativity.  Personally, I was amongst this group regarding Facebook and Instagram.  I also proceeded to unsubscribe from an embarrassing amount of listservs and store newsletters.  

In terms of business, acknowledging that seeking approval of others often comes from comparison.  Comparison can kill your heart, and make you squander your creative talents on the already-done.  If I spend hours on social media and I see that the internet has collectively deemed something as interesting and successful in that moment, it's harder to be willing to take the leap into crazy-awesome creative.  Being innovative is harder when little voices in your mind say to just give it up, that's not what the people want.  But we should give the previously un-done a try.  

This is what brings light to the world.



Want to hear more?  Just wait for Part 2: Authenticity to come later this week.

Love and Light,

Alyssa

P.S. Already feel inspired to attend?  Check our the fall registration for this intensive and get the earlybird pricing!  It is worth it, I promise you.

Making Things Happen - Prelude

As I write this post, I am on my layover in the airport in Atlanta, Georgia, waiting for my connecting flight to Raleigh-Durham.  If you had told me a year ago that I would be sitting here, waiting to arrive in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for the Making Things Happen Intensive, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.  I say “probably” because it’s really hard to think back to where I was a year ago, and what I was doing, how I was feeling, and what I wanted to do.

I bought my ticket for Making Things Happen on December 12, 2013, which wasn’t really all that long ago.  I’ve known and been prepared to attend for about 3.5 months, but I still don’t actually know what to expect.  I’ve read some wonderful recap blog posts from various attendees from last year and years before, but nobody has the exact same experience in anything in life, so it’s pointless to compare.  The only constant that has appeared across the anecdotes and reflections that I’ve read, is that transformational change occurs in some way.

In terms of goals and outcomes from MTH, I have no idea what I am wanting.  I also don’t know about making friends at thing conference – large groups of adults are generally discomforting to me, for whatever reason.

Things that I do know: our hotel, The Carolina Inn, is going to be absolutely homey and comfortable, my roommate is sweet and kind already, and that this will be an event like I’ve never experienced before. 

I’m looking ahead and looking to grow, and I’m looking forward to telling you all how the conference went.  Stay tuned later this week for a recap about the entire MTH experience!  Wish me luck.

Love and Light,

Alyssa

Grateful


There are a few things that are getting me through this week, and a few overdue notes of thanks that are due to some sweet friends out there.
  • Getting kind and encouraging texts from a college friend on a Monday morning was just what I needed to relax at the beginning of a busy work week.  The students in my classes were pretty great all day, but it is hard for non teachers to really "get" the daily stressors in a teacher's life.  
  • My roommate at work is the first non-Chris interaction I have each morning, and seeing her hard at work for our students, pushing them constantly, and having the same sense of distaste and humor that I do about lots of things makes for a pretty awesome work day.  Especially on the hard days.
  • Another friend at work told me that she had a dream that I was running a flower stand at a convention center, wearing a yellow dress, busy helping a long line of customers.  I'll take that as a premonition! 
  • Cute pictures that my mother sends me from the barn can really make me smile big.  Goats and horses are kind of adorable.
  • All of the encouragement that the women who are soon attending the Making Things Happen intensive just blows my socks off.  It makes me ready to put in some hard work at the conference, knowing that I will find the support that I'll need.
What is making your days sweeter?

Love and Light,

Alyssa