July 21, 2015

21 Things I Learned in 21 Years

You may have seen on Instagram, but Saturday was my 21st birthday.. and I wasn't even in the US to celebrate it! That's the weirdest thing about living in Trinidad half the year: all the big America-important moments are usually spent at home, where they don't even matter. I mean, yes, my birthday mattered. But 21 in Trinidad is just another birthday - I've been legal since 18 here, so it wasn't really that big of a deal. I still celebrated like it was though, because come August I'm officially a free woman who gets to hit up all the local bars and clubs (legally), and I couldn't be more excited!

I was thinking about my 21 years, and realized I've learned a lot more lessons than I even realized, so I started writing a list of things I learned throughout the years. I didn't mean to share this at all, just started scribbling in a notebook one night, and next thing you know, I'm here typing it all up. Funny how life works sometimes.

1 // it's okay to make mistakes. I think that's the biggest misconception of our generation: we strive to be perfect and we think of mistakes as failures. Mistakes are only failures if you don't learn anything from them.

2 // being lonely might terrify you, but it might also make you so much stronger, make you leave your comfort zone, and make you fall completely in love with the experience around you.  

3 // take risks - i can't say this one enough, but what's the point of living life if you don't actually live it.

4 // not every job you take is going to be "the job", sometimes the best thing you can take away from a job is that it's just not for you - there's no greater gift than that.

5 // don't just discover your strengths, learn your weaknesses too - and try to find a way to fix them.

6 // it's okay to be single. Quite frankly, it's when you're single that you learn the most about yourself. You should never depend on someone else to be your happiness.. find that happiness yourself. And hold onto good friends who will never make you feel lonely a day in your life.

7 // know when to ask for help, and more importantly, know when to accept help. Accepting help isn't defeat, it's just smart.

8 // if you're mad at somebody, tell them. Any friendship worth saving deserves open and honest communication. Passive-aggressive texts and sub-tweets aren't going to get you anywhere.

9 // time heals all: you're not going to be crying about that heartbreak or that one friend you lost a year from now. It gets better!

10 // (on that note) it's okay to cry! Anytime, anywhere, everywhere. On a train, on a plane, all alone or with your friends. (I've done them all, whoops!)

11 // always make time for family - and cherish every moment with them while you can. And family doesn't always refer to blood, friends can become family in an instant - never take them for granted just because you don't share the same last name.

12 // don't under-estimate the power of a little black dress and a big smile. Even in your worst of days, fake it til you make it!

13 // if you have to lie about it, then it's probably not a good idea. Listen to your gut.. it knows you better than you do!

14 // going through a tough time will show you who's really there for you - take note. Don't ignore this or make excuses for them. Find those that are there for you and hold onto them.

15 // if you use it regularly, it's not a waste of money. No matter the price, if you're going to use it at least once a week, it's worth the investment. I say this about a $50 scarf, a $200 pair of shoes or splurging on a fancy camera. Know yourself. If you won't use it more than once, you just spent $200 on a pair of shoes. If you use it 200 times, you spent $1.

16 // learn how to say thank you and keep saying it. Nothing is more important than showing your gratitude - to your family, friends, and to the stranger who held the door for you.

17 // never regret anything if it once made you happy, no matter how bad the break up or how terrible the outcome turned out to be.

18 // a great idea is just an idea until you follow through with it. It's the implementation that makes it great, not the idea.

19 // never apologize unless you mean it: there's nothing worse than an insincere apology.

20 // how someone treats you says a lot about that person, how you react says even more about you.

21 // never be afraid to laugh at yourself. Or with some friends. Laughter truly is the best medicine.. #cliche but true!

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July 14, 2015

DIY Lilly Letters

If you've been around for a while, you'll know that I've been known to craft a time or two. While in the past, I've only shown mason jars that I've decorated (what, they're simple, look good, and pretty cheap to make!), I've also done other things.
As you know, I took two littles in my sorority this year, and when searching for something to make for little #1, I decided to make Lilly-inspired letters. But I'm honest with myself. I know my skills. I can't paint for shit. Wish I was kidding, but I literally can't. I have no skills. I scroll through the cooler connection group wishing one day I'll be able to create a masterpiece for a formal date, but I know it's never gonna happen.

So I decided to do the next best thing: fake it. Although I haven't used a Lilly planner for a few years now (ever since my discovery of Erin Condren planners aka life), I was smart enough to save the prints from each month's page. Smart freshman-year Caroline move, I'm not going to lie. I had about 10 or so usable prints that weren't completely ruined by my doodling - (dumb freshman-year Caroline move), so I pulled aside a few and got to work. I made a set of letters for my little - i did LITB because a) it means something so yay #sisterhood, and b) there were literally no X's available at any craft store within a 20 mile radius of my campus - the result of having AXO and XO on campus and it being formal recruitment season.

She loved it so much that I decided to make one for myself, cause why the hell not.. You may remember seeing Lilly print letters hanging above my bed in my room, spelling out CARO. Well, it was a lot more simple than it looks, and literally takes barely any time!

It's literally a three step process.. and can be done for next to nothing.

// Lilly prints (or really whatever print you like, it doesn't have to be Lilly): you can get them online and print them, or rip some out from old planners like I did #thrifty
// Mod Podge: the glue of the Gods - no lie. I don't have a preference of the kind I used, and I didn't buy any especially for this.. just used whatever I had in my craft bag.
// Wooden letters: I also did this craft on cardboard letters for my second little, and it didn't really have the same glossy effect as wooden letters - so if you have a choice, I'd go for those.
// Scissors: for the cutting, duh.


I placed the letter on the print I wanted, and used a pencil to just outline the shape of the letter. I then cut out the shape and matched it to the wooden letters.

After ensuring that the cutout fit the letters properly and trimming whatever excess shape I may have had (you'll probably have some excess, because you're tracing around the letter), I took a sponge brush and coated the letter with mod podge, and placed the cutout onto the letter. I smoothed it out as evenly as possible to avoid air bubbles, but if you have, you can always straighten it out with a ruler.

If you want the glossy look, wait until it's completely dry and put another layer of mod podge on top of the dried letters. Once that's dry, you'll get the glossy look and it'll look great. These pictures don't do it justice cause #iphone, but I promise once I'm back with my stuff I'll share some good pictures.

Liked this tutorial? Share it on Pinterest!

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July 06, 2015

it's a marathon (not a sprint)

You know the quote that says "it's not a sprint, it's a marathon"? I always took that literally, thinking it only applied to actually running a marathon. In case you didn't realize, I was wrong.

When you run 5 miles, you tend to go for it. To the experienced runner (ie: not me), five miles is a walk in the park. When you run a marathon (or as my NYC roommate would say, "26 f--king miles"), you pace yourself. 26 miles is a long haul. If you run at the pace you would for a 2 mile run or a 5 mile run, you'd burn out pretty quickly and I'm no runner but I'm pretty sure that would suck. 

Back in February, I found a lump. It was in my neck and it was a solid lump. Now I know enough about my body to know it was a lymph node that was inflamed. I discovered it one morning and didn't think too much of it, and mentioned it in passing to my staff mate Brent while we were walking back from duty check-in one night. He assured me that I was probably just getting sick and my lymph nodes were flaring up to protect my body. And I was fine with that answer and left it at that. And I waited to get sick. And waited. And I never got sick. 

I didn't think too much of it though: I was super busy and it was smack dab in the middle of the school year. Once spring break came around and I had free time, the WebMD-ing started and I called home in tears. 

One of the hardest parts of going to school in a different country is not being home for the big stuff: weddings, funerals, and everything in between. Luckily, I was going home the week after SB for my sister's engagement party, so I didn't have to wait too long to see my doctors and figure out once and for all what was going on. I flew in on a Thursday, saw my doctor within a couple hours and was in the hospital running blood tests and an ultrasound only a few hours later. Now if you ask anyone who knows me, I hate being sick: I hate doctor's appointments, I hate blood tests and needles and I hate medication. So my willingness to do these things showed how confused I was. My doctor (who happens to be my aunt) wasn't too concerned with the lump, just, like me, confused at why it was there. 

We found nothing. So we treated it with antibiotics. Now to make a long story short: it didn't help. Several months, several doctors in my college town, and wayyyy too many doctors visits, needles and scans and tests later, we were back where we started: we weren't too concerned but we weren't exactly sure what was going on. During a particularly stressful time in school and life, and while struggling with a bout of homesickness, one of the doctors I saw threw out a word I never wanted to hear. Not sure if you know it, it starts with a C. He didn't know anything for sure but he wanted me to be aware that it may take a turn for the worse. I left his office in tears. Thankfully it didn't. 

When people ask me how this semester was, the only answer I can think of is draining. This semester ran me down and proved to be the hardest semester for me thus far (which is shocking after the semester I had in the fall!). So I was overjoyed once May came around and I packed my bags to go home - a decision I figured was the right one with the way my doctors and I had left my health issues: up in the air. I came home, ran even more tests and was given a clean bill of health. Miraculously, all of the nodes that were inflamed (there were several at this point) had gone down to a normal size and I was set for the summer! 

But my body wasn't having that: a couple weeks later, a few weeks ago, more popped up and they were larger and more aggressive than the last and it was time to do something. 

I had surgery last week to remove and run some tests. And while I was very weak and scared, I know it was the right choice. And now, I wait. This week was a really frustrating and painful one, especially as my surgeon told me that running tests might not even give us an answer as to why all of this was happening, but I endured, sucked it up, and hypothetically put on my marathon shoes.

I don't like to be out of my comfort zone often: that's why I moved to New York or made my 101 in 1001 list, to challenge myself. I was looking for the perfect challenge with Maggie, my freshman roommate and one of the only people from school that I confided in during the health debacle, and we found a half marathon in her hometown, only 20 minutes from our campus. It's beautiful, along the Connecticut coastline and it's three months away. 

The aunt who's also my doctor is ALSO a marathon runner (I know, she's remarkable!) and her determination towards everything she does inspired me to attempt to do the same. I'm not a runner. I've never been and I probably never will be. But I'm determined to do this for myself. I'm not trying to compete, I'm trying to complete, no matter how long it takes me. 

In life, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. This refers to your health, any friendship or relationship, running a race, everything. The focus should be on getting and doing better regardless of how long it takes. It's taken me six months, but I'm finally here and I'm on my way to getting better. 

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