Lessons to my High School Self

We have had the pleasure and good fortune to begin leading high school small groups at our church. Our groups consist of freshman girls and guys from around Gwinnett County and we have LOVED getting to spend time with them and getting to know these awesome students. For me, I have also been prompted to reflect and think about the things that I have learned since my days as a Hoya at Harrison High School.

CW for life

Lots of people will tell you stories about how much they hated high school. It’s an awkward time in our lives and many people just can’t wait to move on to college. My high school years were not without a good dose of drama, bullying, self-doubt, and adjustment just like everyone else. When I look back though, I really enjoyed high school overall.

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I made some awesome friends that I still get to stay in touch with to this day. Oliver is still my best friend and we talk at least weekly. I’m still in the same fantasy football league with my friends from high school. I’m lucky to have found a great group of friends that continues to stay in contact over the years.

Not every thing was sunshine and rainbows either. Each of us has our own set of regrets and desires to go back and do things differently. I can’t say that I would, necessarily, because I value the lessons learned and wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. However the following is a list of lessons to my high school self that I wish I had known then.

  1. Life is better when you are having fun, not when it looks like you are having fun – I get embarrassed really easily and there is no feeling I hate worse. Throughout high school, the desire to fit in and avoid being embarrassed at all cost added so much unnecessary stress to my life. Who cares if you are wearing a Gap shirt when Abercrombie is popular right now? Why is being a bad dancer stopping you from enjoying a good time with your friends? I still struggle with this now sometimes, but I have found that as long as I’m having fun, life is much better. It’s awesome to be able to let loose, look silly at times, and really enjoy the things going on rather than be saddled with the pressure of what everyone else will think.
  2. Don’t get caught up in the details. Is this really important in the grand scheme of things? – I remember fights with my friends, my parents, and fights in my own mind that were over absolutely nothing. I would get caught up in the tiniest little things and let it consume me. Take a step back when you are evaluating situations and make sure that it’s worth it. This fight could escalate and you could ruin a really strong friendship. You might say things in the heat of the moment that you can’t take back. Is it really worth it? For me, a lot of times the answer was “no” and I should have let it slide.
  3. Take care of your body and use it the way God intended – I was a wrestler in high school and I miss being a part of the sport almost every day. I learned so many great lessons during those four years and the wrestling team was where I always fit in. However, the one element of the sport that I regret was the way I mistreated my body. Let me be clear – we were taught how to cut weight properly and safely, but I ignored all of that advice. The first couple of years I cut weight correctly through exercise and eating properly. After that? No way. My junior year I once lost 20 pounds in 4 days. I would go on 4 day fasts and would dehydrate myself to the point that I passed out in the middle of class once. Ironically, it was in Health. I took dangerous and drastic measures to make weight and it absolutely ruined my metabolism. Is it a wonder to anyone else that within three years of graduating high school I had ballooned to over 255 pounds? God wants us to use our bodies as a temple to Him and mine was more like a temple to Wendy’s, chocolate chip cookies (remember the ones they served in the Harrison cafeteria for $1?), and Waffle House.
  4. The decisions you make today affect the man you will be tomorrow – This is one of the core values that Mike and I have tried to ingrain in the minds of our high school small group guys. Due to the struggles that I have had to endure – many of which had their genesis when I was in high school – this one weighs heavy on my 26-year-old heart. It’s easy to be carefree and reckless when you are 15 because even serious trouble gets wiped away later for the most part. You feel invincible. But you will have a wife one day. You will have to tell of your experiences to your children down the road. You will have to apply for jobs in a world where the things that go online are harder and harder to erase. The decisions that you make during that transition from freshman to senior and beyond will shape the man that you will be afterwards. The habits that you form don’t go away when you leave for college. There are a ton of changes that happen in high school, but the person that you decide to be then is the foundation that the person you will be later is built upon. Is this the person you want your future wife or kids to come to know?

What lessons would you go back and tell your high school self? I would love to hear in the comments what advice you wish you would have taken, or better yet, what advice you think we need to be telling our current small group students.

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Savannah Birthday Recap

I love birthdays. I love to celebrate and make the guest of honor feel special. I love to spend hours planning out the details that will make the birthday boy/girl feel like the day was crafted just for them. This is why party planning is my love language.

While I love on people in this way, it doesn’t come as naturally for others and therefore I tend to not feel as “loved” on my birthday. I know that probably comes off as harsh or makes me sound like I am the only one who knows how to plan well, but sometimes when you are a planner, it is hard for others to plan for you. To my surprise, Conner celebrated me in just this way last week. While I had many sweet calls, texts, and Facebook messages wishing me Happy Birthday, Conner planned some fun activities to enjoy throughout the day. I couldn’t be more excited!!

It all started with a trip to Savannah. We love Savannah for the memories it has in our relationship. It was where we got engaged, where we journey to when we need to get away for a quick weekend, and where Conner spent weekends with his buddies celebrating St. Patrick’s day. Conner had a work trip planned to the southern town that happened to fall over my birthday so I jumped in the car and journeyed down to where the trees hang over the streets and the streets have uneven pavers. (Note to self, don’t wear heels on River Street)

Since we were in Savannah, Conner chose a restaurant for breakfast that we had been to earlier in the year. He knew I loved the hipster vibe at BW Matthews and the food was awesome the last time we were there. The experience did not disappoint this time either!

Conner then informed me that we had to walk to our lunch spot. I thought it was crazy since it was only 9am in the morning. But as we were walking he informed me that the line for this place started forming early and if we weren’t inline by 9:30, then we would never get to eat. So we walked to the lunch spot, arrived to find ourselves as #3 and #4 in line and settled in for 1 ½ hours of waiting. Luckily there was a sweet couple to talk with to pass the time. They conveniently were celebrating their 27th wedding anniversary so we instantly bonded over our love for Savannah and how it is frequently the site for celebrating in our lives.

As we are sitting there talking, my phone rings from my mom. I answer to receive her well wishes of happy birthday. She then asks me what I am up to and if my dad would like the place we are going for lunch. It was a weird question and made me go “Um, are you joining us?!?!”.Mrs. Wilkes House

Conner had worked to get them to drive down to Savannah (a 5 hour drive for them) to spend my birthday with me. Oh, and then they would drive back to spend dinner with my twin sister. They are such a good example of loving well and going to great lengths to be with their children. I love them dearly. I love that Conner had them involved in such a wonderful surprise.

Of course lunch at the southern style family diner was delicious but it was made even better by the presence of my parents. Mead Tasting

For the afternoon, Conner planned some shopping, chocolate tasting, and Mead Tasting. Mead is a type of wine made from honey. It was delicious but the chocolate was by far my favorite. We picked out a few truffles that looked the best and then tried them to compare which ones were the best. My favorite was the habanero caramel truffle. Spicy and sweet. I want 10 more right now.Chocolate Tasting

For dinner Conner found a cool restaurant for us to try with a cool vibe followed by cocktails at a new roof top bar. The surprises continued as he had a friend who lived in Savannah join us for the evening.

I tell you, this birthday was such a fun memory and filled with so many fun details and people that I am so thankful for how Conner chose to celebrate me. I feel so loved by the amount of planning that went in to this day and the little moments of togetherness that filled the afternoon. I tell you all of this because you should find ways to celebrate the ones in your life and make them feel special, especially on their birthday. Thank you Conner for making my birthday so special!

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Football Season: The Wife’s Perspective

I didn’t grow up in a family where football was a thing. Football only existed in my family for the opportunity to see the band play. For Conner that was not the case. He lived and breathed football. He went to Georgia Tech where he worked for the football team, so as if merely attending an ACC school didn’t foster his passion enough, he also spent long days and hours helping the team get ready for each game. Football has come in the way of our relationship and I often joke that I agree with the southern phrase “We interrupt this marriage to bring you football season“.

For the love of Conner, I have grown to like football. I now enjoy tailgating, going to the games, and rooting for the home team. I mean, the Ramblin’ Reck did drive us away from our reception and all. More than just tolerate the game, I have learned a lot about marriage and relationships from the ole game of pigskin.

Football Season Volpe Style

Celebrate little wins. Every 1st and ten gets closer to a touch down.  Every touch down gets to the end goal of winning the game. You will find people cheer at each of those little wins. Same is true for your relationship. Celebrate when your significant other hears you or helps you take care of things around the house. Or celebrate that you had one date night this month rather than beating yourself up for not having them every week. Celebrate a little win today!

Be on the same team. You must communicate the game plan and know that in the end you are on the same team. Communication is always key, but sometimes can be hard to verbalize exactly what your needs are. I find it hard to ask for help sometimes, but it saves my sanity when I can just relinquish control. Instead of getting mad that he may be sitting on the couch watching TV I have to remind myself to ask for help and say “Conner, please unload the dishwasher” while I am busy putting away the groceries. This saves me from harboring anger, and Conner from having to guess my needs. We are on the same team and he just needs to be coached a little to know what his team mate needs.

Practice makes you good. It takes practice to get good at the game. Your not going to step out on day one and be a superstar. Read books that challenge you to be a better spouse. Listen to a podcast that gives you ideas for how to tell your spouse you love them. Never stop learning.

Who’s on your team? It takes a lot of people to create a winning team. Personal trainers, coaches, team mates, and equipment managers. Surround yourself with a team that will encourage you, be a sounding board, give you a pep talk, and help you work through difficult decisions when you need an outside perspective from someone who has already won the battle you may be facing.

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Struggling To Give Myself Grace

Sometimes I beat myself up when I can’t have a “perfect workout”. I used to be proud of myself for working out for 20 minutes or walking 1 mile. Now I feel like that is a “lite day”. As exercise becomes a part of our routine, our bodies change and crave a different challenge. Starting out, 20 minutes or a 1 mile walk was a challenge last summer when we first started working out. Now I desire more. But, time isn’t always on my side. I woke up with the best intentions this morning to work out for an hour. I was going to crush some cardio followed by 20 minutes of weight training.Fitting in Fitness

Well then the perfect storm began. I woke up 4 minutes late.

Decided breakfast sounded good before heading to the gym because I knew when I returned it would be time to hop on my team call.

Then I got on Instagram.

Then I read the latest chapter of my devotional book.

Then my breakfast was done, and my hour workout had now dwindled down to 40 minutes.

Hop in my car, ran in to Conner on the way out the door (He was just returning from an early morning meeting) so stopped to chat.

Drove and arrived. Grabbed some lite weights, hopped on a spin bike (hoping to kill two birds with one stone) and started to pedal.

Luckily the Today Show was on showing me the time while I listened to a Podcast. Clearly this workout should have been called “The Multi-task”.

I got in 21 minutes. Not 40, not 60, but 21. That is all I could fit in according to the Today Show time clock and my packed schedule. I got in the car discouraged by the lackluster workout and frustrated that there would be no more time in the rest of the day to work out.

It wasn’t until the afternoon when I finally allowed myself to be proud. Proud that I accomplished a work out despite the busy day. Proud that I could have easily stayed home but instead made it a priority to get some cardio in. And then I felt proud that I DID work out when I could have easily skipped it. 21 minutes may not be “perfect” according to my plan, but every little step gets me to my goal so I have to accept the progress over perfection. Done is better than perfect and I will choose to be proud. Fitting in fitness, no matter how long it lasts, should always be celebrated. What are you beating yourself up over today? Did you mark off 3 items on your 10-item to-do list? Did you have lunch around the table but it was of the frozen variety? Be proud that you got those three items done! Be Proud that you sat at a table with a warm meal rather than in a drive thru in your car. Be proud of the little win’s because they ultimately lead to bigger wins. It just takes time. Give yourself some grace today.

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Ahh Sugar Sugar: 4 Replacement Ideas

Today we have a special guest blogger for you! One of my dear friends, Elizabeth Dixon from Bite an Elephant, is sharing her best advice on combatting the never ending sweet tooth. She always has great advice when I reach out to her with the “I’m about to eat a whole cake” texts and always responds back with suggestions that are doable.

“Is sugar toxic?” the headline asked back in 2012. I wanted the answer to be a quick and confident “no”, because let’s be honest – sugar is delightful! The sneaky thing about sugar is that it is in much more than we would expect. A cake, we would assume has sugar, but ketchup? Salad dressings? Peanut butter? Chips?

The trouble identified in the 2012 research from Sanjay Gupta is that sugar is linked to diseases including Obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Does that hit you like it hit me? A sweet, fluffy innocent cupcake could contribute to obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension and heart disease?

That is serious business.

I believe it is important for us to understand the reality of the situation and be responsible. Being responsible doesn’t necessarily mean that we should hand out carrots at our child’s next birthday party, but it does mean that we should be aware of how much we currently consume on a daily basis and identify how we can best improve.

  1. Identify where you are: A recommendation to be able to responsibly know where you are is to download an app like My Fitness Pal and track your eating for a week (but don’t suddenly be super healthy because you are tracking it. The goal is to identify where you really are currently so you can make small changes that will yield a significant return).
  2. Once you know where you are, here are two tips for improving:
    1. Moderate
    2. Replace

In order to feel great energy and avoid the life taking diseases of obesity, hypertension, heart disease and type II diabetes, here are some tips to think about for both moderation and replacement:

  • Moderate: During pregnancy I had a motto “moderation now, deprivation later”. By that I meant – I could give in to my “cravings” and eat junk now (which is so funny because of all times to be healthy it would be when there is a precious life growing and developing inside) and then have to pay for it after the baby comes by being very restrictive on what I ate in order to lose the “baby weight”. I prefer to avoid the deprivation category because it is like someone saying, “don’t think about a polka dot elephant” – suddenly all you can do is think about a polka dot elephant!
  • Replace: There was a season of life where I needed to eliminate two foods from my lifestyle: Honey Nut Cherrios and Cracker Barrel biscuits. I did not have the self discipline with those foods to eat a healthy / moderate portion size. I wanted four biscuits in a meal, not one. I wanted to use the big cereal bowl for those delicious O’s, not the normal one. For me, it was the best plan to temporarily eliminate those items from my lifestyle by replacing them with something else so that I could get to the place of being able to moderate. In order to successfully eliminate them I found that it was much easier to replace. Back to the polka dot elephant example – if I said “I can’t have…” then that is all I want. Instead it is about finding an alternative that is more healthful but that we can still enjoy.

A way to think about moderation is the 80/20 rule. 80% of your day eat healthful, whole foods and 20% of the day enjoy a treat of processed foods. When grocery shopping you will find the healthy and whole foods typically on the perimeter of the grocery store – you just have to hop past the bakery. Sugar Replacement

Here are some practical replacement ideas based on what type of sweet tooth you have:

  • Cookies & Milk – a small handful of chocolate chips, almonds and some milk
  • Oatmeal with sugar – use a half of a banana mashed instead of the sugar
  • Icecream – Greek Yogurt (be very careful to choose a flavor that is not filled with sugar – Chobani and Trader Joes have some good options)
  • Sweet tea – split your cup half and half with sweet and unsweet tea

Remember the battle is fought at the cash register – whether that is in the grocery store or in a restaurant. If we don’t buy it we can’t eat it. If we bring it in our home, all bets are off – the battle has already been lost.

Are you in a place to be a moderator or a replacer? It is worth it so you have energy today and you don’t have life cut short by disease tomorrow.

In 2012 Sanjay Gupta reported on sugar and the serious toll it takes on the body. For more info, check out the 60 minutes video or various articles written on the topic.

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Are we there yet? 10 Road Trip Questions

There comes a point in a road trip where the roads are straight and boring. All the podcasts have been listened to, the road-trip playlist has already circulated through a time or two, and the cell phone batteries are depleted from scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest. We found ourselves in this exact situation this weekend on the way back from a birthday adventure so we decided to play a little game of Q&A.

Road Trip Questions to Pass the TimeIf you find yourself in the same situation, pop out these interesting questions to spice up the road trip:

  1. What state do you want to visit in the US that you haven’t been to yet?
  2. Name 3 road-trip “must-have’s”?
  3. What type of food have you yet to taste, but want to try?
  4. Favorite childhood road trip memory?
  5. When you see a cop, do you slam on the brakes and clinch the steering wheel at 10 & 2, maintain speed, or speed up while waving as you pass the po po?
  6. What are you most looking forward to during the trip over the next few days?
  7. What is an outdoor activity you want to go try together?
  8. What is your favorite road trip snack?
  9. What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened to you on vacation?
  10. Name 5 songs on your road trip play list?

We had a little too much fun with these questions and I must say the answer to #1 has left me spending my afternoon googling fun things to do in Seattle. I want to hear your answers to #5!

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5 Ways to Surprise Your Husband

We all need a little element of surprise to spice up our days and our relationships. I started to think of ways that I try to surprise Conner or things he has done recently to remind me he was thinking of me. Our Anniversary was a few weeks ago and I knew Conner had planned an overnight trip to a hotel in Atlanta. I was pleasantly surprised to arrive and find that he had already taken my bag inside and had wine + flowers waiting for me in the room. Love that man of mine. It reminded me that a little surprise here and there spices things up! Here are a few ways we have tried to surprise each other and I hope you will find an idea or two to add an element of surprise to your relationship!

Surprise Flowers

  1. Playlist: Make a playlist or Cd and share it with your husband. Conner was traveling recently so I hacked into his Spotify Account (I’m a Pandora girl myself) and created a “get shredded” play list. I added songs that made me think of him or ones that I thought would pump him up during a work out. I then sent it to him right before I knew he was heading to the gym so that he would have a new playlist.
  2. Date Night Sneak Attack. We try to schedule out our date nights but this past weekend I got home late (as in 10pm) from being out of town. I called Conner and told him to make sure he had pants on and to meet me outside in 10 minutes. We then drove over to a local taco shop where they had live music going on. It was a fun little surprise date.
  3. Candle: I remember we were at a friends house last fall and I LOVED the way their home smelled. They told me it was a specific candle from Bath and Body works. I mentioned it to Conner, because I am always trying to figure out which candles smell the best. He agreed he liked the smell and that was it. A few days later I returned from work and my house smelled just like that luxurious smell from my friends house! Conner had gone out and purchased the candle and had it lit when I arrived home. Such a surprise! Find a candle you like, or your partner likes, and get them one.
  4. Make one of your Pins! We all know our Pinterest boards are filled with yummy goodies but rarely do they actually make it off the boards and onto our plates. Challenge yourself to actually make one of the recipes you have pinned. Whether you choose a healthy dinner casserole or splurge on a post work bean brownie, make something that will leave your hubby feeling special because you thought enough about him to make him a surprise recipe.
  5. DVR: Scan upcoming shows or movies that are coming on TV. See if you can spot one that you think your spouse would enjoy watching. Then record it for them and let them know it is on the DVR for them to watch. You could even make it a date night by popping some popcorn and pressing play on the show together.
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