Mental Health Awareness Month: Improving Your Mental Health

Hello friends!

Even those without mental illnesses can improve their mental health.  Daily stresses are detrimental to everyone’s mental health.  Here are some ways to make yours a priority and always feel your best.

Treat yourself kindly.  Don’t beat yourself up over small mistakes and focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses.  Taking time to do the things you love to do and are good at is also a huge part of this that will improve your general happiness.

Sleep well.  The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.  Also, make sure that your sleep is restful.  Turn off your devices, put away other distractions and do your best to destress before heading to bed.  Being well rested is extremely important for keeping stress at bay.  People with chronic insomnia are 15-20% more likely to develop clinical depression (click here to read more).

Fuel your body.  Eating a balanced diet is as important for your mental health as it is your physical health.  Specifically, omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to effect dopamine and serotonin levels (two hormones known to control mood).  You can get your share of omega-3s from supplements or the old-fashioned way by eating eggs, yogurt, soy milk, flaxseed, peanut butter, oatmeal and seafood such as Tuna, Halibut, Herring, Sardines, Oysters, Salmon and Trout.

Stay hydrated.  The general rule of thumb for adults is to drink 8 cups of water per day.  Because the brain is 75% water, dehydration severely effects the brain.  Even slight dehydration puts a stress on the brain and therefore can effect your mood.  A simple and easy way to make sure your mental health is at its best is to drink water throughout the day.

Give to others.  Whether you donate money and possessions or volunteer your time and energy, giving to those in need is a sure fire way to feel good.

Be realistic.  It is easy to feel down on yourself especially if you are not achieving the things you want to be.  Make sure that your goals are realistic.  If you set small goals that have realistic time periods, you will feel accomplished more often and even have more energy to reach for your bigger goals.

Make time to quiet your mind.  Whether it is prayer, meditation or just simply clearing your mind and relaxing, taking a timeout from the things that you stress over is important.  Make it a point to find a quiet place to just breathe a few times a week.

Have some fun in the sun.  There is a reason why depression rates spike in the winter.  Sunlight is important for your mental health.  The sun supplies you with Vitamin D, which is extremely important for balancing mood.  While summer lasts, take advantage of the sun and be outside whenever possible.  During the darker, gloomier months, you can take Vitamin D supplements.

Get moving.  There is a reason you get a “high” after working out or simply being active with friends.  Exercise promotes mood boosting chemicals in your brain, so if you make being active a part of your routine you will definitely see an improvement in your overall mood.

Set aside time to stress.  This one might seem a little counterintuitive, but set aside a time in your day specifically for worrying.  That way you get it out and the stress doesn’t loom over you all day long.  Make sure you set a time limit for your stressing and also practice coping skills such as deep breathing or physically picturing your worries as an object (ex. balloons) floating away.

 


 

My goal for this summer is to focus on these goals to improve my mental health!  Who’s with me?!

Mental Health Awareness Month: Signs of Depression

Hi everyone!  Thanks for stopping by!

Unfortunately, those who are struggling with depression will often not ask for help.  Because of this, it is important that we are educated on what depression looks like in order to offer help without being asked.

Signs of depression include:

  1. Sleeping too little or too much
  2. Poor appetite or extremely overeating consistantly
  3. Little interest or energy put into in his or her appearance
  4. Withdrawal from social activities and general conversation
  5. General loss of interest or motivation to do activities that usually interest them
  6. Beating him or herself up over small things
  7. Difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness
  8. Lack of emotion towards both positive and negative experiences (numbness)
  9. Mentions of harming themselves or thoughts about death (which often may seem like jokes)
  10. Reckless behaviors such as participating in dangerous activities, excessive drinking or drug use
  11. Restlessness and fidgeting or moving extremely slowly

If you are noticing a change in someone you care about that follow these signs, reach out to them.  Your help may not be accepted right away, but make it clear that you are concerned because you care about them and that you are there for them.  You will most likely need to continuously reach out.  Try spending time with them in ways that don’t directly bring up your concern, as well.  That way they will know that you are sincerely interested in spending time with them because you care for them.

 

Mental Health Awareness Month: My Story

Hello friends!

May is mental health awareness month!  This month I will be doing a three part series about mental health.  This is the first: my story.  I am somewhat weary of sharing this, and I am only sharing a snippet.  However, I feel that it is important to share in order to help others.

To end the stigma we must be educated on what mental illnesses truly are.  First off, mental illnesses are ILLNESSES.  They are conditions that should be taken seriously and given our attention and resources in order to help.  They have symptoms and treatments like any other illness, and they are not a joke.

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I personally have suffered from anxiety disorders and clinical depression throughout my life.  I will stick to talking about these because it is what I have knowledge about.


ANXIETY DISORDERS

There are several different anxiety disorders which include panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, specific phobias and generalized anxiety disorder.  People may often suffer from a combination of a few anxiety disorders.  Symptoms of anxiety vary from disorder to disorder, but generally anxiety disorders cause people to feel panicked, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, inability to remain still, nausea, digestion issues, shaking and hyperventilation.

In my personal experience, anxiety can be crippling.   It has often times kept me from enjoying my life.  Avoidance goes hand in hand with anxiety, and avoiding has kept me from achieving my goals and has made doing day to day activities extremely difficult.

However, more often than not, my anxiety was not necessary, and remembering that fact makes it easier for me to push through my anxiety in order to live my life.  My advice?  Take a deep breath, count down from 3 and do whatever it is that you need to do.  Once you get going, you’ll begin to forget your anxious thoughts.  It also helps to identify the anxiety as soon as you feel it.  Telling yourself “this is anxiety” helps you realize that it is irrational and there really isn’t that much to worry about.  The more that you stop avoiding and do the things that make you anxious, the easier it will be to continue to live your life.


DEPRESSION

Symptoms of clinical depression include chronic lack of energy, irritability, loss of interest, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty sleeping or extreme fatigue and oversleeping, restlessness or moving very slowly, significant weight loss or gain and thoughts of suicide.  Not all symptoms are felt by everyone that suffers from depression and a lot of the symptoms obviously contradict each other, so not every case of depression looks the same.

I’ve experienced every symptom listed above.  In one bout of depression, I was unable to sleep or eat.  I lost a lot of weight and slept an average of 2-4 hours per day (even though I spent 99% of my time in bed).  In another bout, I over ate and could not stop sleeping.  I was sleeping about 12-18 hours per day.  Obviously this left little time for me to do anything else like go to school or have a social life.  I had very little interest in doing anything, anyway.

I pushed away the people I cared about and that cared about me, which pushed me deeper into a depression.  I had no motivation to do anything which kept me from working toward my goals.  All of these things created a vicious cycle that kept me feeling horrible.  I was terrified for my future (because of the anxiety), didn’t think I could achieve anything in my future (because of the depression), and therefore did not want to even have a future.


HOW I GOT HELP

At first, I didn’t want help, but my family forced me into therapy.  The first therapist I went to was not the right fit for me.  I sugarcoated everything and pretended to be perfectly happy, and before I knew it both my therapist and I stopped scheduling appointments.

I then tried to make myself happy by avoiding my problems and covering them up with exciting experiences and material items.  While that worked for a month or two, it didn’t fix anything, and when it came back to the surface it was worse than ever.

Eventually, I sought out help myself.  I went to a therapist that I had researched and thought would be good for me.  (It is important that your therapist is the right fit for you.  If you don’t find her or him on your first try, keep looking.)  This therapist really helped me.  She saw through my sugarcoating and asked questions in a way to get to what was really bothering me.  Most importantly she gave me tools and goals that helped me work through my issues in and out of her office.

The things I did outside of therapy were equally as important to my recovery.  My brother dragged me to church repeatedly hoping that I would find help there.  At first I was resistant, but finally I heard something that hit home, opened myself up to it and let God into my life.  During the sermon that changed my outlook, the pastor used a metaphor comparing Gods word to a seed.  He said that you cannot expect good things to happen to you just by going to church.  You have to work on it just like you’d water and care for a seed in order to grow a garden.  It all clicked in that moment for me and I realized that I could not sit back and wait to feel better any longer.  I had to help myself.  No matter your beliefs, that is a valuable lesson and finding a reason bigger than yourself to live is important.  I got a tattoo of a part my favorite Bible verses, Psalm 40: 1-3, as a reminder that the depression eventually ended and I was happy again so that I can find hope if I ever feel that hopeless again.  The full three verses read, “I waited patiently for the Lordhe inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

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“He drew me up from the pit of destruction”

A big reason I felt so hopeless was that I had no clue what I wanted my future to look like, so as part of my healing I did a lot of exploring and “finding myself” and eventually settled on something that felt right.  Once I was able to start working towards the life I wanted, everything began to turn around.

Also, very importantly, I surrounded myself with people who care about me and make me feel good about myself.  There were countless toxic people in my life that kept me from feeling better.  I finally stopped letting people make me feel horrible and focused on the people who made me happy.


My hope is that sharing some of my story will help those of you who are suffering and do not know how to get help.  Hopefully, you will realize that you are not alone and you will get the energy and determination that it takes to help yourself.

If you are feeling at all hopeless or depressed, first of all know that this is not permanent.  Time will heal you.  I was depressed for about two years and severely depressed for about 11 months.  It felt never-ending, but eventually it did end.  However, time wasn’t the only thing that healed me.  I needed to reconnect with those that I pushed away, and I needed to accept the help.  If you’re feeling depressed, please listen to the people that are trying to help you.  It is hard to talk, but it is necessary.

Never be afraid to ask for help.  If you need someone to talk to, there is always someone willing to listen.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Intervention HopeLine: Call or Text 919-231-4525 or 1-877-235-4525

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

 

Alana at the Moment: April 2018

I’m watching…

The Handmaid’s Tale – The social commentary based on the book written by Margaret Atwood is chilling.  In a world where the constitution has been suspended along with the rights of all women, June Osborn still manages to have a sense of humor.  Warning: it is graphic and twisted and you will ignore all responsibilities until you’ve watched all that Hulu has to offer.

I’m wearing…

I have a new found obsession with Vans ever since getting this rose colored pair of Old Skools.

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Photo from DSW.com

Bonus – they’re usually $55 at Vans and other retailers, but they are on sale at Pacsun right now for $42! (click here!)

I’m wanting…

The new Nudie Patootie palette by Laura Lee Los Angeles.

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Photo from lauraleelosangeles.com

$45 for 14 large sized pans of nude (yes please) eyeshadows.  Plus I love Laura Lee, so I’m convinced they will be amazing.  Click here to watch her video introducing the palette!

Click here to shop the palette.

Actually, I just bought it when I looked up that link.  Oops.


Well, that’s all I’ve got for this month!  I’ve been busy finishing up the semester, but summer is finally within reach!  Thank you as always for stopping buy!  Leave your recommendations in the comments below or on Instagram (@allthingsalanab)!

12 Things I Wish I Would’ve Learned by 12th Grade

 

  1. Those “friends” your mom says aren’t your real friends, really aren’t your real friends.  You will realize this eventually, but believe me, your mom can tell a fake friend the moment she sees one.
  2. Pick the school that is right for you.  Pick the one that will do the best things for your future, not the one your friend or that cute boy is going to.  Pick the one that made you excited when you first toured it, not the one that sounds cooler in your Instagram bio.
  3. Only do what you feel is right.  Peer pressure goes much farther than parties and sex.  If your friends are gossiping or speaking poorly about people, you don’t need to participate in those conversations, and more often than not you’ll wish you hadn’t sooner rather than later.
  4. Not all relationship abuse is physical.  It is possible that your boyfriend, girlfriend or your friend’s boyfriend or girlfriend is being abusive without laying a finger on you or her/him!  Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse.  Click here and here for more information and warning signs of emotional abuse.
  5. Don’t say mean things to/about your parents.  The teen years are tough and 90% of the time it feels like your mom “doesn’t get it”, but she does.  She might not completely understand what it is like to be in a group chat with all of her friends or have to keep up snap streaks, but really, the high school experience doesn’t fundamentally change that much over time.  She is looking out for you and your happiness.  Even if you don’t always agree, you have to at least give her credit.
  6. Form good relationships with your teachers. If not for the good advice (and a place to hangout at lunch when you are fighting with your friends–sometimes with candy), at least do it for the letters of recommendation.
  7. Eat. Food is amazing and diets suck and you really aren’t fat at all, so just eat.  (Especially in high school because soon you’ll live in a dorm and have to eat food from the cafeteria for every meal.)
  8. Go to all of those “lame” end of the year senior activities.  You might actually not want to go, or you might be saying that you don’t want to because everyone else is, but just go.  Senior prom is the last chance you’ll get for a while to get all dressed up and hangout with all of your friends.  The bonfires and banquets and class trip will be come memories that you and your fellow classmates will reminisce on for years to come.  Even if you don’t stay close with the people you graduate with, you’ll have great memories of high school to finish it off.  (And you’ll regret it if you don’t.)
  9. Stop comparing yourself to what you see on social media.  I honestly still struggle with this from time to time.  You don’t post photos of yourself on social media at the times when you don’t feel beautiful.  Neither does anyone else.  You cannot compare your Sunday afternoon messy bun and residue from last night’s makeup to someone else’s Friday night full makeup, hair done and heels on (plus probably SO much editing and filters).  Also, realize that you don’t have to do the same things as everyone else.  Everyone else your age might post about going out all the time or their perfect relationship.  However, things you see online are not always exactly what they seem.  The girl who’s profile you check incessantly might actually fight with her friends and her boyfriend daily.  Just because it isn’t on Instagram, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen to her just like it does to you.
  10. It’s okay to feel lost. You don’t have to have it all figured out.  You don’t have to know what you want to be when you grow up or even know what you want to do this weekend.  If you feel lost, read this post about my experience finding my way.
  11. Your high school GPA will not matter after graduation.  I bent over backwards trying for a 4.0, and in the end I still only managed to pull off a 3.9987.  But the worst part?  After high school, no one gave a shit.  Then I had to start all over stressing and trying to be perfect again in college 3 weeks later.  However, I was so burnt out from trying so hard in high school that college was even more difficult than it would usually be.  On the other end of the spectrum, if school just isn’t your thing, you can rest easy knowing that no one will care after these four years are over.  Moral of the story: work hard but don’t burn yourself out in the process.  Let yourself breathe.
  12. This is only temporary.  You might love high school or you might hate high school.  Either way, you need to remember that it will be over soon.  Four years go by quickly.  If you are having the worst time of your life, remember that it will be over soon and you can go off and live your life the way you want to.  If you are loving every minute of it, savor the moments.  If you are thriving in your captain spot on the varsity sport team, start thinking about what is next because these 4 years will fly by and that is when your life will really start.

Lastly enjoy these awkward photos of me in high school…

SENIOR YEAR

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The day I got accepted to my dream school…. and then I went somewhere else so I could be close to a boy (SEE #2!!!)

 

JUNIOR YEAR

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Why did no one ever teach me about filling in my brows???
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My go to outfit for every thing: plain tee and a scarf (and probably jeans with sparkly pockets)

SOPHOMORE YEAR

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The dark hair phase

FRESHMAN YEAR

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I promise “scrunching” your hair and wearing this much eyeliner was cool.
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The most cringey of them all…

How I Found My Path and Why You Will Too

When I was in high school, I was extremely driven.  I got straight A’s, studied like crazy, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life… or so I thought.

After graduating, I got very lost.  I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I didn’t know where I wanted to go to school.  I didn’t know what I wanted to major in.  I didn’t even know what I was interested in or wanted to spend my free time doing anymore.  Ages 18 to 20 were very rough years for me.  I lost a lot of friends, and my grades suffered, which eventually lead to me losing a lot of self confidence and overall happiness.

I had always wanted to be a doctor, lawyer or CEO.  I wanted to do something impressive and powerful.  I wanted to do something that I felt used my intelligence, something that not everyone could do.  I wanted to be a successful woman.

I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself.  Nothing I do is ever good enough in my own mind unless it is absolutely perfect (which is something that I’m working on).  I just want to make my family proud.

I also was (and am) a feminist.  I didn’t want a career that my gender confined me to.  However, always, deep down, I knew that I want a family and that I love children.  When I was very little I wanted to be a teacher (if not a princess or something), but even though I still frequently thought about how much I would enjoy teaching, by high school I looked down on the girls that wanted to be teachers.  I thought that they were settling for what society expected of them rather than reaching their full potential.

After spending about a year and a half pretty depressed, I realized that I frequently relied on my little niece, nephew and cousins to cheer me up.  I had always wanted to make a difference in society.  I could do it by breaking the mold and becoming a part of the “boys club” as a doctor, lawyer or CEO, or I could do it by teaching little kiddos that all humans on earth are equal no matter their race, religion, social class or sexual identity and that they all should be treated equally.  I realized that I want to educate students not only about math, reading and history but also about how to treat others, the world and themselves.

However, I still often felt like I was settling.  I thought that by changing my major from Biology with a Pre-Medicine emphasis to Elementary Education I was saying that I wasn’t smart enough to become a doctor, but that is not true at all.  I could become a doctor, but I don’t think I would be the best doctor because I wouldn’t like it.  It is not what I am meant to do.  I know for a fact that I would hate the hours.  I want more than anything to have a family of my own someday, and being a doctor would not allow me to be the kind of mother I want to be.  However, I think that I will make a very good teacher someday (at least I hope) because I am passionate about it and I honestly think that I will enjoy it.

Eventually, I felt confident in my choice and became more and more excited about my future.  I realized that I felt lost because I was never pursuing the career that was really right for me, and now that I have chosen my path, I’ve never been happier or more motivated.  However, I’m grateful for the time I spend lost.  Because of how much I resisted teaching, I feel more confident in my choice.  I chose my career path despite my many reasons not to, and it feels right.

I hope that if you’re reading this and you feel lost, you know that you will find your way.  If you feel like you know what you want to do but are resisting it, give in.  Do what you love no matter the pay or status that comes with it.  If you don’t have a single clue, that is okay.  You’ll be okay.  Explore.  If you don’t find what is right for you right away, at least you’ll find out what you don’t want to do.

– ♥ Alana

21 in 21

Now that I’m 21 years old, there is almost nothing that I cannot legally do (besides rent a car).  In honor of that fact, here are 21 things I want to experience and accomplish in my next 21 years of life (before I am 42):

  1. Go on a girls trip
  2. Ride in a hot air balloon
  3. Invest
  4. Take a cross-country road trip
  5. Read the whole Bible
  6. Pay for a stranger’s meal at a restaraunt
  7. Go backpacking
  8. Attend a black tie event
  9. Volunteer
  10. Build my dream house (or a version of it)
  11. Pay off my student debt
  12. Learn how to fly a plane
  13. Travel alone
  14. Campaign for a politician
  15. Flip a house
  16. Spoil my mom
  17. Host family Christmas
  18. Write a book
  19. Be a mom
  20. Fundraise for a good cause
  21. Travel to all 6 inhabited continents

I hope to keep updating this list with the dates that I accomplished each goal and add links to posts about each one if applicable.  Stay tuned!

– ♥ Alana

For Your Next Netflix (or Hulu) Marathon…

I’m a self-proclaimed professional binge-watcher and napper.  Basically, I really know how to spend a lazy day.  Below are my favorite shows to watch for hours on end.


ON NETFLIX:

Grey’s Anatomy: The earlier seasons are better.

The Office: Everyone’s favorite.  I’m a Kelly.  Sad, but true.

Gossip Girl: S&B forever.  XOXO.

Friends: My all-time fav.

Terms of Endearment: Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove is secretly a softy.

Parks and Recreation: The world needs more Leslie Knopes.

Big Mouth: For those with a darker sense of humor.

Mindhunter: Because who doesn’t wonder what goes on in the mind of a killer?

Scandal: Shonda can do no wrong.

Gilmore Girls: A childhood (& adulthood) favorite.

The Magicians: Leaves you wanting more.  Good thing the next season is coming soon!


ON HULU:

One Tree Hill: Calling all Nathan Scotts.

UnREAL: Manipulation and murder all behind the scenes of your favorite reality show.

This is Us: Wear waterproof mascara or watch alone.

The Mindy Project: Remember when I said I’m a Kelly?  I’m also a Mindy.

America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway: Guilty pleasures.

Also Project Runway All-Stars: Making it work for 6 more seasons (and counting).

Rick and Morty: If Big Sean likes it, I like it.


WHAT I’M WATCHING NEXT:

Broad City

The Handmaid’s Tale

The End of the F***ing World

 

 

 

 

Alana at the Moment

Hey, guys!

In this series I will share what I am currently obsessing over, from music and TV shows, to quotes, products and other blogs and Instagram pages!

I will do my best to post these monthly, probably usually around the middle of the month.  So here it goes.


MARCH 2018


I’m listening to…

Corrine Bailey Rae

She is by no means a new artist, and she has a few popular hits like Put Your Records On and Like A Star.  However, I’ve just discovered her as an artist and downloaded almost everything she has.  Some of my favorites?  Breathless, Trouble Sleeping, Is This Love?, Closer and Stop Where You Are.  Her mellow bluesy vibes have gotten me through many a study sessions this semester!


I’m reading…

Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay

Okay, I’ll be honest, I bought this book in Greece this summer for the plane ride and I just now finished it on my spring break, but in my defense, who has time for leisure reading in college?!

This book is a compilation of essays by Roxanne Gay, a New York Times best seller and former professor of Creative Writing.  In the book, Gay humorously criticizes herself and others alike in telling the story of what it was like coming into her own as a Haitian-American woman in Nebraska.  I highly recommend it.  It is easy reading, quick moving and witty–all of the markers of the perfect book to grab on a lazy Sunday.

My mom also gave me a book called How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk.  I have yet to open it, but I really probably should.


I can’t stop wearing…

L’oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise mascara and Voluminous Base lash primer

First of all, I just have to say that I am obsessed with lash primers in general.  I’m a firm believer that you could use the crappiest mascara of all time and your lashes would still look like a million bucks if you use a good primer, and this one is definitely a good one!

With that being said, I have worn the Lash Paradise mascara on its own and it does an amazing job.  The color is very black and applies easily and the want really does lengthen and thicken your eyelashes.  Also, I love the packaging, the wand slides in and out so easily!


I’m watching…

Parks and Recreation

I know this is a tried and true favorite of probably everyone reading this already, but I finally jumped on the bandwagon.  The first night I started binge watching I watched 2 whole seasons.  Whoops.

Queer Eye

A fresh new version of the early 2000’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, this Netflix original strives to get acceptance for the gay community while the new fab five (consisting of Bobby Berk, Jonathan van Ness, Antoni Porowski, Tan France and Karamo Brown) help men across the deep south remake their lives and confront relevant social issues.  I can’t lie, I may have teared up a time or two, but I am a softie.

A Plastic Ocean

I actually had to watch this documentary for my Environmental Geoscience class, but it really made me think.  The doc explores why plastic is such a problem in our world and how it affects both the environment and human health.  Watch the trailer here.  Warning: you’ll probably feel really awful for at least a few minutes afterward, but that’s how you grow, right?


I’m inspired by…

“Being different isn’t a bad thing.  It means you’re brave enough to be yourself.”                  — Luna Lovegood


 

Thanks for stopping by!  Let me know your recommendations for everything under the sun, so I can check them out!

– ♥ Alana

Life & Love Advice from My Grandma

Growing up, I only ever had one grandparent that I remember, my dad’s mom, Pat.  She is a interesting lady with a great story.  She’s also always given me the best and funniest advice.  For instance, almost every time I’ve seen her since turning 14, she has told me “when he goes for the zipper, get out of the car,” and who doesn’t need to learn that lesson?!  My grandparents had a very strong 51 year long marriage, so I figured she probably has a lot of great relationship and life advice.  Over my spring break I went to visit my grandma, who is turning 85 in a few months, and got to know her life story a little bit better.  Here are some of her stories and some of her best advice.


HER STORY

My grandma was born in Mauston, WI on May 13, 1933 into a lower class family who already had a son, and daughter.  A few years later, her mother gave birth to another son, and soon after that her parents split up.  She spent her summers working at the fair selling food from her grandparents’ food stand.  That is where she learned to speak what she calls “carnie talk”, which is the carnival workers’ version of pig latin.

Her mother gave piano lessons and played the piano at parties around the state.  Since she couldn’t afford a babysitter, she brought her kids with her to gigs.  My grandma credits her mother’s gigs to starting her love for music.  Although one of my favorite memories of my grandma is her singing along to Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl (even though grandma’s singing has always been more of a hum), her favorite musician is by far Elvis.  Her house features several portraits of the king of rock and roll, and she even owns one of his scarves from a concert she went to back in the day, sweat and all.  She always said she was going to clone him someday.

When she was 15, she met my grandpa, Richard, who was 18 at the time.  The next year the two were married.  She was kicked out of high school once the school administrators found out that she had been married.  The excuse was that married people had sex and they didn’t want her telling anyone about sex.  She says that the thing she regrets most is not finishing school.  She loves to read.  Her closet is like a library, if libraries were filled with 90% Danielle Steel books.  Her dream was to become a flight attendant.  However, since she couldn’t finish school that was impossible.

Instead, she was a house wife for quite some time.  She watched over the household while my grandpa stayed in an apartment in Madison during the week to do work at the capital.  Eventually she helped my grandpa and dad run their car restoration shop.  Her job in the office was essential to the business:

“I had to know where and when every single part was made, and I had to make sure everything was paid for.  I had a lot of fun there!  Your grandpa and dad were there everyday and some women from town that also worked in the office.  I used to take smoke breaks with the other ladies that worked there, but I never told your grandpa.  He definitely smelled it, but we never talked about it.”  

She did, however, find some way to fulfill her airborne dreams.  Both she and my grandpa got their pilots licenses.  She says, “I could land just perfect,” and she could go on for an hour about the Mooney airplane that she and my grandpa would take out flying on Sundays.

Before ever having kids, Mr. and Mrs. Braund were married for about 10 years.  She said that this allowed them to spend a lot of time as just husband and wife before adding kids into the mix.  She attributes much of their strong marriage to this.  “Don’t rush,” she says.  My grandparents had two children.  My aunt, Susan, and my father, also Richard, weren’t their only babies, though.  They also had several interesting pets.  They had a poodle named Suzie (who they actually decided to name my aunt after), three St. Bernards named Bourbon, Brandy and Sasha, two peacocks Pete and Perky, a macaw named Chandler (named after the shoe store they bought him in) and a cat named Venus (who my sister used to call Penis because she couldn’t pronounce her ‘v’s).  Now, she has a cat named Honey Girl, but St. Bernards are her true love.  They are right up there on her favorite-things list with Elvis and the Green Bay Packers.  (Note: She is the biggest Packer fan in the state of Wisconsin.  She has a book of every score of every game she has ever watched.  I dated a Bears fan in high school, and she still brings it up.)

Christianity has also played a huge role in my grandmas life.  Growing up she attended a Baptist church every Sunday as well as a Baptist school.  After marrying my grandfather, they went to the local Methodist church which is the same church were my parents were married, I was baptized and confirmed in.  She still goes as much as she can, which can be difficult at her age, but I remember she never missed a Sunday when I was growing up.  She always sat in the same pew and wore her Green Bay Packer broach.  Whenever my family went, we sat by her, and she would give me tootsie pops to eat while I scribbled on my church bulletin.  She attributes Jesus for getting her through her long life.  She says, “church has made me happy when times were bad, and you know, because of God, they were never that bad.”  She would always tell me when I was very young that every star in the sky is someone in heaven, so whenever I missed my grandpa to look up and there he was.  It was a beautiful way to think of our loved ones passing on and remembering that they are still looking over us.

My grandpa died in 2000 of an aneurysm and left my grandma a widow after 51 years of marriage.  However, before that they had an incredibly strong relationship.  She had several ideas when I asked her why she thought that their marriage was so successful.  Most simply, she said “we really loved each other.”  She also pointed out that they never fought over things that “didn’t matter” because “it was just a fight then, and it was never even important”.  My grandpa was a very serious and accomplished man.  He was a Brigadier General in the National Guard, ran a business and wrote a book.  However, she said that, unlike his colleagues and their wives, he was never embarrassed of her.  He always took her to work parties and car shows.  She says, “I loved going out to fancy parties with your grandpa because I got to dress up and wear my shoes.  It made me feel really special.  And he always danced with me even if he didn’t want to because he knew how much I loved to dance.”

Since the death of my grandpa almost two decades ago, she has had a few suitors, but she hasn’t really been all that interested.  “They come and knock on my door, but I pretend not to be home,” she says, (which may be the most I’ve ever related to my grandma).  She has had love in her life, and she says now that she has enough love from her kids and grandkids and that she doesn’t need anyone to “put their shoes under [her] bed”.

She does have a loooot of friends though.  Going out and about in my hometown with my grandma is like going out with a Kardashian.  Everyone stops you and wants to say hi, so I asked what she does to be such a good friend.  She says that she always cheers her friends up when they’ve had a bad day, she doesn’t gossip and she doesn’t care what others think.  “A lot of people didn’t really like [one of my friends], but I didn’t care.  I liked her, so who gives a shit?!” she says.  More people need to think like Pat.

HER ADVICE

“Dress up, it’ll make you feel special”

“Stay close to your family and call whenever you can” (this might’ve been a hint which I most definitely will be taking)

“Don’t rush.”

“Always pay for at least some of the meal when men take you out.  It’s only fair.  You can take care of your self, and you don’t need anyone else to feed you.”

“Don’t holler!  Most things aren’t worth fighting over.”

“Finish school and become whatever you want to be before settling down and getting married.”

“Don’t be jealous of people, be happy for them.”

“If you ever miss someone who has passed away, look up.”

And last but not least, something that is very important to my grandma… “it’s called ‘supper’, not ‘dinner'”


I hope that this post inspires you to get to know your grandparents a little better.  While writing this, I learned a lot about my grandma and got to spend a few quality hours with her.  I think that it also really made her day that I was so curious about her life and wanted her advice, so call up your grandma or grandpa and take them out to lunch.  You might learn something, and you’ll definitely have a great time.

– ♥ Alana

Here are some photos I took at my grandma’s that I think really capture what she is all about:

 

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Grandma and her Mooney airplane

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Grandma is a little bit different than your typical “have you eaten” grandma.  Instead she offers me Oreos, but I’m not complainin’.
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An old newspaper article showcasing my grandpa’s business building Duesenberg IIs.