A Fond Farewell and Happy Hello

I looked in the rearview mirror with tears in my eyes as we crossed the county line heading north. At just 18 years old, I felt small yet confident in my decision to head to the University of Georgia. A few days later my parents would pull away and leave me in a one room dorm filled with stillness, expectation, and a little fear. My journey in Athens was just beginning, and I had no idea that nine years later I would be sitting in the same town in my own home with a husband, a cute little puppy, and a beautiful baby at my side. I never expected to put down roots in Athens, but that is exactly what has happened over the past few years. I’ve struggled and healed and blossomed in this place. I’ve felt the most lonely and the most loved while here. I’ve experienced loss and unbelievable blessings. And, of all things, this will always be the town where my sweet little boy came into this world. I write this with much nostalgia, with tears, and with a smile on my face. I truly feel all of the emotions as we prepare to say goodbye to a town that has sheltered me and allowed me to grow from a fearful teenager to a young woman and mother.

I fully believe that Jesus cares about place and our geographic location. 

I’ve lived in only two places in my life, Douglas and Athens. In just a week, I will add a third place to the list. It feels absolutely wild to move with a newborn, to pack up the home I’ve spent the last two years creating and building. Yet, this a change we have earnestly prayed for and it’s happening in God’s perfect timing. You better believe I would have arranged the timing completely different, but every step of this journey has his divine hand upon it. Instead of being afraid…instead of packing up my house with resentment…instead of worrying about tomorrow…I feel fearless. That’s right. Little ole worrying me feels bold and without fear.

We’re coming for you Jacksonville! 

When I met Jarred, he was carrying around two surf boards…in Atlanta. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I have a lifelong love for the ocean, and here I was dating a guy with surfboards in his downtown apartment in Atlanta. It doesn’t get much better than that. While dating, we always said that one day we would move closer to the coast. It was a dream we tucked away in our pockets for the right timing. Jarred was eventually transferred to an army unit in Jacksonville, making us sure that a move there would happen soon. It didn’t. He has spent a year and a half driving the six hours once a month. And when we found out we were having a baby? Well, we decided to put our house for sell and even looked at homes in Jacksonville. Yet, it didn’t happen and the pieces were in no way falling into place. We decided to remain content in Athens if this was the place the Lord had for us. At the beginning of August, Jarred was connected with a job opportunity in Jacksonville (in the most miraculous way), interviewed for the position, graduated from college, became a father, and accepted the job. It was the sweetest surprise and just in time. It all happened within two weeks!

Proverbs 24:3-4: “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

Everyday we are packing up little by little and dreaming about the days ahead of us. I am selling many of our belongings and purchasing new items that truly inspire us. We will soon leave our 2,500 square foot house in the country and move to an apartment just over 1,000 square feet in the city. We have intentionally decided to live small for at least the next year and part with items that we do not need. This is a cause we have both felt passionate about for the past two years, and we are so excited to move to a smaller physical space. I have felt increasingly convicted about spending money on stuff, and we want to instead focus on experiences, adventures, and pouring into others. While life in our house has been comfortable, it has not challenged us. We have felt isolated from community and causes that we are both passionate about. We have truly felt like we were living for ourselves only. As we step out into this new adventure, we are excited to refocus, take on new experiences, and carry the name of Jesus to a new city. I have no doubt that the Lord has been preparing our hearts for this transition for the past two years.

I plan to share our journey of downsizing with you, including the organization and decorating of our new space as well as the spiritual aspect of the changes we are making. Jarred has even agreed to write and share as well (he’s secretly an even better writer than I am, but don’t tell him that).

I will always carry the memories of Athens with me and never forget the wonderful people that are now part of my story. I feel like I’ve been waiting a lifetime for the Lord to move me to a new city, and it’s here. It’s finally here!! As we transition, we could use your prayers for a few things: that our house will sell very soon, that my autoimmune disorder will take under control in a new climate, and that we find the community the Lord has waiting for us in Jacksonville. If you need me, I will probably be on the beach. Praise the Lord!

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My Top 10 Must-Haves for Pregnancy

I’m a first time mom and, while I’ve seen countless pregnancies, I had no idea what to expect, how I would feel, or what information was actually relevant. As I’ve gone through the past almost 9 month (we’re so close), I’ve found some items more useful than others. So, here are my top 10 must-have items for making it through both the good and challenging days of becoming a mother.

  1. Comfy T-Shirts

    I’ve tried several different maternity brands throughout my pregnancy and the t-shirt winner is….A Pea in the Pod. Sure, you may have to dish out a little extra cash for their shirts, but they are so worth it! My shirts from A Pea in the Pod have grown with my belly and held up despite countless washes. I also found several of mine on Poshmark for really affordable prices. My personal favorite is the A-line Maternity Tee.

  2. Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Stretch Oil

    This oil is my favorite, especially for the price point. I’ve used it since day one of pregnancy, and I currently do not have any stretch marks on my belly. Now, that could change over night, but my belly is stretch-mark free as I write this. I like to think that the oil helped. Regardless, it’s super moisturizing and contains safe ingredients. Skip out on the drugstore brands and make sure you’re using a lotion that is safe for mom and baby.

  3. Stretchy Wedding Band

    It took a while for my rings to become too small. When it did finally happened, I instantly took them off and ordered a silicon band set. I am slightly terrified of having rings stuck on my fingers. You can get an assortment of silicon bands for around $10. It’s worth the money, and they come in super fun colors. I am going to continue wearing mine after I have the baby to prevent scratching the little guy.

  4. Snoogle Pillow

    I was determined that I would not need a giant pregnancy pillow for sleeping. I honestly thought they looked silly, and I sure was not about to pay for one. As the third trimester rolled around, I started to grow desperate. I finally picked up the phone and asked my sister if I could have her Snoogle for a while. She brought it to me and I was finally able to get some much needed rest. Don’t be hardheaded like me! Get the pillow.

  5. Exercise Ball

    If you’re pregnant and do not have an exercise ball, stop what you’re doing and get one now. This is my seat of choice lately. I sit on mine to get ready in the mornings…everything from blowdrying my hair to putting on makeup. I sit on it to do computer work. I use it for exercising. We also will likely take ours to the hospital with us. It’s a worthy investment for sure!

  6. Water Bottle 

    Hydration is such an important part of pregnancy. I knew it would be necessary to keep a functional water bottle on me at all times to help me keep my water intake at appropriate levels. It’s so hard for me! My favorite bottle, hands down, is the Swell water bottle. It’s easy to clean, stays cool, and has a functional design. Best of all, it’s not plastic! I’ve been able to carry the same one throughout my pregnancy.

  7. Prenatal Petite Mini-Tab Multivitamin by Rainbow Light
    Anyone else struggle to gulp down giant vitamins? That’s me! And, I refuse to put myself through the torture. I love Rainbow Light and I love the fact that they have a petite prenatal vitamin. Sure, you have to take it more times in a day, but it’s worth it to me. My autoimmune disorder also makes me super sensitive to certain vitamins. I’ve been able to take this one without any issues!
  8. Magnesium Lotion
    I was very happy to have my doctor tell me to continue using my magnesium lotion at night. It helped with some of my join pain prior to becoming pregnant. I now use it at night to help with the leg aches and cramps I’ve experienced while being pregnant. I can definitely tell a difference when I forget to put it on. I personally like the Ancient Minerals brand, but there are several different options out there. You can accomplish a similar therapy by taking Epsom salt baths, which I also do. Just be careful not to get the tub too hot.
  9. Diffuser and Essential Oils
    There are countless options and companies for you to pick from when it comes to diffusers and essential oils. I’ve found essential oils to help with the sinus issues I’ve experienced while pregnant and they also help me rest. My favorites are peppermint, eucalyptus, and lavender. Oh, I also love lemon! I’ve been obsessed with citrus while pregnant. Note: I do not ingest or apply any of them topically.
  10. Comfy Dresses
    I saved my favorite for last. Dresses are the real MVP of pregnancy. You can typically wear the same dresses throughout your pregnancy, while this has not been the case with pants (at least for me) and a lot of shirts. My favorite place for comfy dresses is Loft. It was that way before pregnancy and has remained during pregnancy. I recommend getting a few basic colors and changing up the outfits with shoes and jewelry. I also think I’m going to be able to wear several of my Loft dresses after pregnancy!

There you have it! 10 items that I’ve found completely necessary for pregnancy. If you have questions about anything on the list, please let me know! I wish you a happy and healthy pregnancy and baby!

-Jess

Thoughts on Storytelling

I was sitting in the line at Starbucks this morning scratching my head to remember a quote from a James Baldwin book. My inability to remember the book title left me nostalgic for the days of academia, reading handfuls of books each week, and tucking away beautiful lines in my little sketchbook. The effort to remember the James Baldwin title reminded me of the effort it takes these days to discipline myself to read. I never want to lose sight of the importance of stories, but lately I’ve felt my love for stories slipping away. I’ve wrestled to find my  answers to this shifting dynamic, and I’ve spent time contemplating the impact of technology and social media on the storytelling landscape. Storytelling has evolved over time from oral traditions, to chapter books, to the overwhelming collection of stories housed on the web through news sites, blogs, or social media. There are stories all around us, buzzing by as fast as our fingers can click. Yet, in the midst of so many stories, I find myself jaded and growing increasingly uninterested in the stories of others and, unfortunately, my own story.

Eventually, with a little help from my pal Google, I was able to find the lost book title, Sonny’s Blues, and the quote I was searching to remember.

For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness. -James Baldwin, Sonny’s Blues

Stories. Baldwin equates our “tales” to light in the darkness. I’ve always believe this to be true regardless of story context. Even tales of suffering can bring light to others perhaps wrestling in the same darkness. Stories of triumph can help snatch others from even darker places. That ability to connect with each other and to know that one is not alone is a spark of light in the darkness that surrounds us in this world. The stories are never new. We, as humans, are creatures of the same sins, the same loves, and the same desires as our ancestors. As new generations grow and change the landscape of storytelling, should we fight for older days or embrace the changes for the sake of stories?

Fear. I have no doubt that my life story should be told. I have no doubt that it would bring light into dark places of suffering. I have no doubt that my story would help others, and I bet that yours would as well. I thought on these ideas, the quote by Baldwin, and my own history as I sipped my latte and ventured into the day. I kept coming back to this concept of fear and how it relates to our ability or inability to tell stories. I reasoned that it is indeed fear that has hampered by love for storytelling and left me frozen in my tracks. I’m daily working through my tendency to balk when it comes to storytelling, standing on the mound pretending to throw the ball only to retract it back to its home in my hand. The truth is, I worry too much about the reader’s perception right now to dive deep into the stories of my life. And, while I so badly want to let my stories be known, I feel that I must wait until I can do so with confidence and without being crushed by negative feedback. On the same hand, I must also be able to do so without puffing up with pride.

So, I wait. For now I am making an effort to read books instead of constantly browsing the internet or social media. I hope to return to the simplicity of words on the pages without advertisements flashing in my face, emails popping up, and a world of comments (people say some absolutely crazy stuff) streaming down the page. The world needs stories, all of our stories, but I am yet to a place in this modern era where I am ready to dive deeper. I’m circling back to reading memoirs and even fiction books, and I am slowly feeling my heart swell once again for the stories on the pages. I’m not sure what the storytelling landscape will look like in the years to come or what my own journey with storytelling will become. What I do know is that within each of us, we must not let the joy of storytelling die and, in a way, my storytelling adventure is currently in ICU.

Safer Beauty Spotlight

I became a consultant with Beautycounter in April, and it has been an amazing experience. The company continues to roll out new products and push forward in the personal care and cosmetic industry. I want to update you all on a few products and provide some reviews. I honestly don’t use many non-Beautycounter products these days. This has helped simplify my routines and saves me much time and money. Without dragging on any longer, here are a few new products I want to share!

Ocean & Pacific Palette 

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Anyone else love the connivence of a makeup palette? I do! Beautycounter occasionally decides to give customers a treat and roll out a limited edition palette. The most recent one speaks to all my heart strings. I was a little nervous about the blue tones at first, but they actually were great for my eye color. The blush? Beautiful! I also appreciate that the palette includes a highlighter and bronzer. It’s a one stop shop! Lately, I’ve been wearing just the Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer and the selection in the palette. They will not restock once it sells out, so I recommend grabbing one ASAP! Click here!

Hair Care Collection

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The most challenging part of my transition over the past few years has been the search for safer hair products. I’ve tried countless cleaner and safer brands, but I always go back to products I was using before. It has been extremely frustrating. My husband also deals with eczema, and we’ve struggled to find solid shampoo options for him. I was beyond excited for Beautycounter to launch their hair collection. We’ve been using it for a few weeks now. It definitely performs as well if not better than top salon brands. There are three different lines & all are safe for color treated hair. You can also mix and match between the different lines. I highly recommend giving these products a try if you are in the market for some new shampoo, conditioner, or styling products!

  • Repair & Nourish
    • For dry and/or damaged hair
    • Shampoo + Conditioner + Split End Serum
    • My take – Love this line! It’s the one I use most often. My hair is usually on the oily side, so I make sure to apply the conditioner just to the ends.
  • Smooth & Control
    • For taming frizz and/or hard to manage hair
    • Shampoo + Conditioner + Hair Oil
    • My take – My second favorite line in the collection. The hair oil is definitely worth investing in. I like to use it just at night on the ends of my hair. If you have more dry hair, you can definitely use it after/during styling.
  • Volume & Shape
    • For fine hair
    • Shampoo (currently out of stock) + Conditioner + Volumizing Mist
    • My take – This is my least favorite shampoo and conditioner in the collection, but I also do not have fine hair. Someone with fine hair would love it. I do use the Volumizing Mist before blowdrying my hair, and it definitely helps add some poof!

There you have it! Those are my two most exciting updates on the beauty front. I’m always happy to help connect you to Beautycounter products or answer any questions you have. You can shop via my link by clicking here or feel free to email me at beautycounterwithjess@gmail.com.

Hidden Paths

“Still round the corner there may wait

A new road or a secret gate

And though I oft have passed them by

A day will come at last when I

Shall take the hidden paths that run

West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

I grew up filled with wanderlust, dreams the size of the moon, and my imaginary bags packed for a life on the coast. There was nothing I felt like I couldn’t accomplish and, if you asked me then, I would’ve had no problem telling you that I was going to “be someone someday.” I’ve thought long and hard about that girl—retracing my steps, counting backwards, spinning in circles to find my own line of demarcation. Where did I leave those imaginary bags? At what point did the moon begin to feel so far away? When did taking risks begin to feel so unsafe?

College.

I bounced out of my dorm the first day of school my freshman year. Super short blonde hair, a pair of blue and white shorts, an oversized Guy Harvey t-shirt with some sort of fishing scene on the back, and a sparkling white North Face backpack. Welcome to 2008. I felt a sense of panic as I walked down the sidewalk to my first class. I regretted my outfit choice, my short hair, and even the decision to come to this school. This was not south Georgia…no one knew my name or my high school GPA. I was determined to just survive and make good grades so I could get the degree and move on. I truly loved learning and school, but I did not find college life very rewarding or inspiring. There were bright moments of adventure scattered here and there but, overall, the moon was beginning to disappear and the coast was too far of a drive. I swerved into the far right lane, cruise set at 55. Safe and sound and waving at cars passing me by.

Safe and sound. 

I’ve followed what many would consider a “golden path,” and I’ve had a successful career in the event world. I’ve worked hard, led teams, put on countless events. I’ve done everything you feel like you should do after college and as a young adult. I’ve always loved my work, and I never imagined a day when I would step away from my identity as a young, professional woman. Then, I became pregnant and everything about my life took on new meaning. Safe and sound suddenly didn’t feel so right.

Change is here. 

Today I swerved out of the right hand lane and took the car off cruise control. It was my last day in my full time professional role, and the beginning of a brand new chapter: The Mom Chapter. I’ve decided to stay home with our little one which, while it may seem perfectly normal to most, is a huge step in a new direction for me. My success will no longer be defined by the type of report I put together or the feedback I get on my work. My days will be filled with a new routine, new challenges, and new fears. I’ve cried and slobbered and joked about eating ham sandwiches for the next few years. Nothing about this feels safe to me, not financially and not in terms of knowing what is next. We are taking this step in true faith and looking to my main man Jesus for guidance. Sadly, it has been a very long time since I gave Jesus a chance to step in and completely guide me along his path. It’s time to give him back the show and allow him to guide me in a way like never before.

Dreaming Again. 

Tonight as I write, there is a gentle breeze blowing against my cheek and the sound of crickets getting ready to welcome the night. My heart feels open and ready for this next chapter. I feel excited to let go of control. Sure, it will not always be easy. There will be trials and things to walk through, but I know that he will always be with me just like so many years ago when I started college. I walked on that campus in 2008 and left many dreams behind. Today, I walked off that campus, almost ten years later, thankful for my journey but excited to open a new page. I’ve decided to take the hidden path that will fill my life with wanderlust, dreams the size of the moon, and my bags packed for a life on the coast. Only this time, I hope they’re not imaginary.

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Maternity Fashion Favorites

Maternity clothing has been more fun than expected. I’ve looked at my former wardrobe with sad eyes a few times, but I’ve been able to find great replacements for those pieces and even experiment with a few new styles while pregnant. There are several options out there and, like anything these days, sifting through the options can be overwhelming and expensive. It’s also a little more challenging for me because I am petite (which is just a nice word for short). Here are my favorite places to shop for cute, affordable, and, most importantly, comfortable maternity clothing!

LOFT: Prior to becoming pregnant, most of my closet was filled with items from Loft. I LOVE their maternity selection, too. New styles are added constantly, and you can pretty much always find a deal. The pieces are timeless and fit well. The shorts and white shirt pictured above are from the maternity line. Shop Here!

Stitch Fix: I order this clothing subscription box from time to time, and I recently discovered their maternity service. I was super excited to have a few surprise pieces arrive at my door. It’s always so much fun…like receiving a birthday gift every month! My favorite items from the boxes have been the shorts and pants. It’s definitely worth a try for a few months while pregnant. The jeans pictured above are from a Stitch Fix. Shop Here!

ASOS: This is a great option for super trendy maternity clothes. I hop on their website when I want a wardrobe shakeup. They also have petite (amen!) and tall sizing options for several of their items. I have a few new fun pieces on the way that I can’t wait to try! Shop Here! 

Poshmark: If you don’t know about Poshmark, you should grab your phone now and download the app. If you don’t mind gently used maternity clothes, then this is an awesome resource. It has also been a useful way for me to clean out several clothing items that I know I will not use after having the baby. I will also post several of my maternity pieces once I do not need them anymore. If you signup with the code “GFNED” you will get a $5 credit. Shop Here!

I also have a few great pieces from Old Navy, Motherhood, and a few items that aren’t maternity at all (although those are quickly coming to an end). I encourage you to shop around and checkout a few of the places mentioned above.

Where are your favorite places to shop for maternity clothing? I would love to hear what works for you!

Saying Goodbye to Throw Pillows

Time and time again as I would sit on our couch, my sinuses would completely shutdown…leaving me struggling for oxygen. This was a brand new problem for me and left me scratching my head for answers. We finally put two and two together. The down decorative pillows on the couch had turned into allergy provoking pests, an unexpected development of pregnancy.  Naturally, I proceeded to go on a cleaning rampage throughout the entire house, stripping pillow cases off every pillow we owned until all the feathered ones rested in a pile out in the garage. I walked back in to access the damage. By damage, I mean accessing just how many pillows I had left without feathers. I knew I didn’t want to spend money on new decorative pillows with our baby on the way.

In true Marie Kondo* fashion, I decided to evaluate my need for the countless pillows. We had pillows all over the couch, the bed (which typically means on the floor), and backup pillows stuffed in closets. Who told me I needed to fill every flat surface in our home with pillows? Did I see it in a magazine? Are the pillows functional/necessary?

As I looked around our newly de-feathered home, everything felt more spacious and open. So, I decided not to replace them. My nightly question of where to pile the throw pillows while we slept had been solved. Making the bed the next day was easy and less dreadful than before. The couch now felt inviting rather than off limits. I could actually sit on it without having to move pillows to the floor. It was a nice, unexpected change.

Now, let me explain before I lose you. I am in no way saying that it’s wrong or unacceptable to have throw pillows. They do add color, style, and functionality (sometimes) to our homes. You best believe I kept the ones I love the most!

Unnecessary complications and expectations.

My throw pillow incident brought this idea back to the forefront of my life. Yes, they were just throw pillows, but by eliminating a large portion of them I was able to simplify a few aspects of our life. On a broader scale, I realized that there were several areas in my life still filled with unnecessary complications and striving to meet unnecessary expectations. It often comes in the form of social media, well-meaning advice, or even self-imposed habits.

So, here are my questions for you. What areas of your life are filled with unnecessary complications and expectations? How can you simplify those areas and give your mind and heart more room to breathe? What are the “throw pillows” in your life?

As I simplify my life more and more, I am finding more time for my faith to grow, less distractions invading my time, and the ability to focus on what is truly important. I invite you to do the same and pick just one area to simplify. I promise it will make a huge difference!

*Side Note: If you’re not sure who Marie Kondo is then you should click here and read about her book. We went through her method of decluttering over a year ago, and it changed our life. 

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal Yoga has been such a blessing during my pregnancy. We are fortunate enough to have an instructor in Athens who works with moms to be and holds a class once a week for expectant mothers. I was very early in my pregnancy when I walked into the door for the first time, but I was determined to give my body the best care possible from the beginning. As the baby grows and my body changes, I am more thankful than ever for yoga and the difference it makes for my overall health and wellness. I don’t get to attend the class every week, but I have found many great online resources for prenatal yoga. I would just make sure you attend a class to understand proper technique before taking on a practice of your own from home!

Here are five ways I have personally benefitted from yoga while pregnant: 

  1. I get to connect with other expectant mothers at various stages in pregnancy. 
  2. I feel strong and empowered even as my body shifts and changes. 
  3. I get to have time to myself without any distractions (like the phone! Can I get an amen?). 
  4. It’s equipping me with techniques to use during labor. 
  5. And, most importantly, it helps me feel great both physically and emotionally. 

If you are a mom to be, I highly recommend checking your local area for prenatal yoga classes or even exploring online resources. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made during this pregnancy, and I think everyone (as long as your doctor gives you approval) can benefit from an hour focusing on you and baby!

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My favorite little yoga partner…Chewy Man!

When Natural Beauty Fails

I was sifting through old pictures on my phone a few days ago. I found a few pictures from my early days of switching to natural beauty products, and they gave me a good laugh. They reminded me of the phase I went through in elementary school of using hairspray to spray down every single flyaway in my hair. I seriously looked like a greaser. In all fairness, there was no reasoning with me so my mom just let me go at it every morning. My youngest sister also went through this phase a few years back…hair slicked right down to her head. I guess it just runs in the family! It’s a wonder all of my hair didn’t fall out during that period.

As I experimented with natural products, there were definitely items that did not work for me. I thought I looked good but the fact that I did not continue to use those products and the photographic evidence prove otherwise. And, it wasn’t just makeup. I remember my skin feeling like a seashell from the natural body wash I was using. My hair also returned to early greaser days as I switched to natural hair products. Then, there were my attempts at making homemade laundry detergent, which my husband eventually (and so kindly) asked me to step away from. The entire process ended up being wildly disappointing. I looked older and worse than ever and our clothes felt dirty. Great.

Sometimes natural products do not work. 

Like everything in life, we often have to work to find a great fit. What may work for one person may be a total misfit for another. I had to learn to step away from reviews and start trusting my gut on certain products and, for a while, I did go back to my less than natural favorites. I went back to my trusted products that I had used for years because at least I looked okay while using them. I came back around, though, and was determined to discover new favorites that were also safer and without completely breaking the bank. I also had to accept a few things about myself. Like the fact that I am not a maker of products. There are plenty of laundry detergents out there that are safe and do not require me to spend time grating soap. You may be very skilled at that, but it just wasn’t for me.

Sometimes you find a wonderful natural product that you just can’t live without!

I decided to really use samples to my advantage, and that is one of the best pieces of advice I can give to anyone making a transition with their beauty products. I quickly learned that there are a few brands that I love and that work for me. I try to stick with those companies rather than spending all of my time trying new brands and products. Along the way, I’ve discovered some really awful products. Some really disappointing brands. I’ve also discovered that what may be awful for me may be your absolute favorite and that is perfectly okay.

What works for me? 

  • Beautycounter: Seriously my favorite brand at this time. I use so many of their products. Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, facial oil, foundation, lipstick, etc. I LOVE that I can get all of these products in one place. My husband even uses it and loves it. I also love that I get to work as a consultant and connect friends and family directly with items I believe in! Let me know if you’re interested in any samples by emailing prettywellblog@gmail.com. 
  • One Love Organics:  I haven’t used anything by One Love that I haven’t loved. Everything is made in small batches and you can really tell that they put a lot of thought into the quality. LOVE!
  • Indie Lee: I love their glass bottles and I love their products even more. Only one product from them has not worked for me. Everything else has been a dream!
  • Vapour Organic Beauty: I would call Vapour the Cadillac of natural beauty. It’s luxurious plus they offer samples so you can try it before diving right in!

Of course, there are very popular companies that have not worked for me & are not on my list. There are also a ton of companies I have not tried at this point. My best advice: find what works for you slowly but surely. And, for goodness’ sake, do not turn into a greaser! If it’s not working, move on!

-Jess

Finding Simplicity

Around this time last year, I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Well, in all honesty I read it aloud to my husband within the course of a day. I was instantly hooked as a lifelong organizer of stuff and seeker of simplicity. As a kid, I would regularly clean-out and organize my mom’s entire kitchen over a Saturday or Sunday. Seeing a space clean and organized brings me much joy and a feeling of accomplishment. We took Marie Kondo’s words to heart and started cleaning out our belongings little by little. I must admit that we did not follow the book perfectly, but we did take away the larger concepts and put them into practice. We hauled probably 30 trash bags out of our home over the course of a weekend, and we didn’t even have that much stuff to begin with! We were left feeling refreshed and energized. It was truly a wonderful feeling.

I think everyone should read the book. If for nothing else, it will make you more aware of your relationship with stuff and personal belongings. It’s something I struggle with on a daily basis. I see shiny new things, and I want them! And, everything around me is telling me I have to have them, too. On the other hand, I like simplicity. I like having just enough of what I need instead of filling my home with excess. I constantly find myself in this battle and, as time has passed, I am finding that simplicity is beginning to win out over new stuff again and again.

I keep a laundry basket in the back of my car. As I find things in the house no longer of use or value, I take them out to that laundry. Eventually, when the basket is full, I stop by the local Goodwill and donate those items. This past weekend was a major clean out session of our home decor items to make room for our baby, and I currently have a new stack of unused and unneeded items to drop off. I looked at the pile and thought, “Why did I even buy that? I don’t like it! It doesn’t even fit my style.” And, yet again, I remind myself to do better. To shop less. To give myself some grace while undoing the desire for new stuff.

Last night, instead of wandering around the outdoor mall while my husband played around in Guitar Center, I decided to sit in the car instead. I felt exhausted by all of the stuff for sale. All of the shiny items that I could take home in exchange for my money. I felt even more exhausted as I scrolled through Instagram. Feeling overwhelmed and struggling with some larger philosophical questions, I went and sat there and just waited for him to come out. I thought about the impact that social media has on us as consumers. I thought about how we are being urged to purchase. I thought about my own blog and intentions. I thought about other blogs I follow and the constant advertisements and beautiful pictures. I thought about integrity and honesty when it comes to the items we promote, and the seemingly lack of accountability. I thought about the difference between reality and fiction.

I don’t have answers on this topic. Just thoughts.

Simplicity. I am still trying to find the balance. I am still carrying items out of my home, decluttering my physical space, and taking the time to sift through what is most important. I think it’s just as important for me to do this with my digital life as well. Declutter, simplify, remove any pressure to be a certain person or have certain things.

I want to connect you to awesome and safe beauty products. Why? Because it’s something I believe in. If I never make a dime for this mission, that is okay. I never want to promote a product I have not tired myself, and I always want you to feel a sense of peace and simplicity when you come to Pretty + Well. I only want to direct you to companies I believe in and who are doing great work.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has definitely altered my life perspective, and I am grateful to Marie Kondo and her mission to help us simplify life. I’m still trying to find a balance. I am still trying to understand where we draw the line. And I am still trying to make sense of the blogging world and eCommerce and affiliate marketing. To be honest, I am not sure how I feel about it. To be honest, sometimes it discourages me. And, I am learning that sometimes it’s best to just sit in the car. No phone. No noise. Just alone with my heart doing some soul searching.