Our Mission

Here’s a look at the non-profit I am fortunate enough to work with and what they are doing to impact the lives of women in their community.

A few months ago we stumbled upon a Wall Street Journal article on a study which found that companies with at least 3 women on the board for at least 4-5 years outperformed their counterparts by nearly 5%, had 84% better return on their sales, 60% better return on invested capital and 46% better return on equity. As a group, this began several discussions on the advantages of working with and promoting the financial literacy of women. We decided that if this is the result of investing in women in the corporate world, how much better would our community be if we invested in the success of women from all backgrounds, and offered ourselves a resource throughout many of the life changes that women face?

This thought sparked several hours of discussion and research into how to best articulate our message, as well as exactly what we wanted to accomplish…

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Life Update and Latest Projects

I have been absent from the blogging world the past few months, and I apologize for that.  With two jobs, being a full time student, and figuring out life as a newlywed it’s easy to forget to make time for the things you love to do.  However, my semester has come to a close and I am looking forward to a summer that is going to be packed with some fun trips and a couple new projects I am working on.

First things first, I promise to blog more often this summer.  However, I am probably going to start focusing in more on living a happy, healthy lifestyle.  It’s been done a number of times, I know.  The thing is thought that I am not a certified trainer, fitness model, pro chef, or anything else you might picture when you think of someone who runs a health blog.  I am someone who has lost 20 pounds since the new year entirely on their own without any fad diets or intense workout schedules.  So my blog would focus primarily on helping others who have busy lives similar to mine and showing them how to stay healthy and happy in spite of the madness.

Second, I am VERY excited to announce that I have been asked to be part of a new, local nonprofit called W.E.L.L., which stands for Women’s Education Leadership League.  I will be running their social media, and am looking forward to watching them grow.  When I say we are a new nonprofit, I mean we just started this past Monday.  So please check out our webpage at well4women.org.  You can also find us on Facebook, twitter, and instagram @well4women.  I will be re-blogging their recent post explaining who they are and what their mission is, so please give that a read and let me know what you think!

I’m excited for all of these changes and hope that you all are gearing up for an incredible summer as well!

-SM

These Four Things

My name is Stephanie Maria Martin.

I was born on June 11, 1994.

I have brown eyes and brown hair.

These are facts.  These are the things that I have always known to be true about myself and that will never change.  But beyond this, there is so much I have left to discover about who I am.

I don’t know what I will have for dinner next Tuesday.

I don’t know what my strengths are.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I don’t know what my purpose in life is.

I don’t know when I’ll take my last breath.

There have been many days that I have found myself in tears over some of these facts.  I have a love-hate relationship with surprises, and uncertainty drains me.  One day I will think I have it all figured out, and then a split second later I realize how wrong I am.

It hasn’t taken me long to learn that I can do all the planning and worrying  that I want, but none of it will matter.  I can plan for the worst and hope for the best, but what good does that really do?  Realizing how little is under my control has been one of the hardest things for me to swallow.  I like to think that I live in present, yet sleepless nights and constant doubts prove otherwise.

There is indeed so much I don’t know about myself, and about the future. But there are some really important truths that, after a lot of time, I now know.

I am unique.

I have a purpose.

I am not a mistake.

I am so, so loved.

It took me far too long to realize these four things, and I’m not so sure that I always believe them to be true.  However, I know that while there is very little I can control, I can always choose to be happy.  I can choose to believe these things.  And that’s exactly what I will do.

I will repeat these truths to myself every day for as long as it takes for me to believe them, even if that means I will be doing it until the day I die.

And I hope that if you read this, you will do the same.

Because in a world that is constantly telling us who we should be, and as we constantly struggle to put the pieces together to figure out who we actually are, these four things will remain the same.

You are so loved.

-SM

Falling For Myself

I have never been the type to be fully comfortable in my own skin.  There has always been a laundry list of things that I would love to change about my appearance tucked away in the back of my mind.  Whenever I’m having a rough day I can recite the things I dislike about myself as readily as if I were being asked to recite the alphabet.  My almost non-existent shoulders, my lazy eye, my nose, my not-so-white teeth, my round face, my thick and often unmanageable hair….

The list goes on and on.

I have also never been the type to like to admit that I have insecurities.  But then I guess no one is.  I hide my insecurities under a smile and makeup, hoping that if I do it just right it will somehow imitate the confidence I seem to have lost so long ago.  It’s gone on this way for a few years now, and it could probably go on for a few years longer.  But what way is that to live?  Who wants to live in fear of mirrors and transparency their entire life?  I make money telling young adults that they cannot live this way, yet I have made it a habit myself.  I have become a hypocrite, and coming to that realization was so incredibly hard to swallow.

I have been my greatest enemy, constantly letting the whispers and expectations of society fill my ears until they get to my head and the lies dance around in my mind.  I let myself lose control over my self image, and in doing so I let the idea of confidence fade away until it was nothing but a nice yet unattainable concept.

It was time to go to war with myself.

When I look in the mirror and feel the urge to look away, I stare myself down instead.  I dare myself to think a negative thought so that I can shut it down and replace it with the truth I have been denying myself: that I am enough.  When I am afraid to look someone in the eye for the fear that they might see right through me, I instead silently dare them to look away first and make sure that I flash them a smile (after all, I’ve always had a brilliant smile).

It isn’t easy to reverse the negative, false image of myself that my mind has so generously created for me.  But it’s something I have to do, and something I will continue to strive to do every day of my life.  I owe it to myself.  If I choose to wear lipstick, it is for myself.  If I decide to wear no makeup and wear clothes that are dangerously on the border of not matching, I will smile because I know I’m doing it for me.  Maybe it’s selfish, and that’s okay.  Because if I can’t be happy with who I am, if I can’t look in the mirror and like what I see, then I’m doing something wrong.

If we as individuals cannot learn to be kind to ourselves and appreciate the things that make us unique, if we are unable to fall in love with ourselves all over again every day, then how could we ever ask or expect that of anyone else?  Or even more importantly, how can we give that kind of love and acceptance to someone else if we deny ourselves it?

Treat others the way you would want to be treated, but also remember to treat yourself the way you would want others to treat you.

-SM

Finding Your Tuesday

It started with the usual suspects: a few glances at the time only to roll back over for a few more minutes of sleep, the joy of knowing I did not have to work, and the inevitable surge of shame as I realized it was almost ten and I was still in bed.

Until today this has been my typical Tuesday morning routine, except usually I can be found sleeping in long past ten.  I’m the type of person who likes to think they can do everything until eventually the exhaustion catches up to me and I just want to go into hibernation  for the next few months.  After taking on two jobs, school, and various Bible study group it became clear to me that I needed more free time.  This realization resulted in me deciding to take Tuesday’s off (unless I get called in to one of my jobs) and spending those Tuesday’s sleeping well into the afternoon and then loafing around the apartment not doing much of anything.

This brings us to this morning, which started off the same was as the past weeks have.  Yet, as I prepared to snooze a little longer I couldn’t help but think that this was not what I should be doing.  Somewhere between my hectic schedule and weekly snoozefests I lost myself.  I was going through the motions of life without really doing anything unique.  In taking on everything I should be doing, I gave up ever doing any of the things I wanted to be doing.  Tuesdays are the one day out of the entire week that I have to myself  to do whatever I desire, and here I’ve been letting them slip by.  This morning as I lied among some dangerously comfortable pillows with the promise of a new, beautiful day hiding behind my curtains I knew that it was time for a change.  I lost myself somewhere between the craziness of everyday life, and I was determined to find myself again.

I decided that I wanted to spend today doing all of the things I always tell myself I don’t have time to do.  I put on an extremely cute outfit for no particular reason.  I gathered my belongings and headed to my local Barnes & Noble for a change of weekday scenery.  It was there with the help of Taylor Swift and a delicious, free nonfat pumpkin spice latte (thanks Brittany!) that I was able to finish a lot of homework that would have otherwise ended up getting done at the last possible minute.  I could have done more, but I was determined to make today about doing what  I wanted to, not what I needed to.

I went to Target and bought new leggings, for no occasion or reason other than the fact that I wanted leggings.  Well, that and they were only eight dollars.  I came home, changed, put on more Taylor Swift, and decided to bake pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies for no particular reason (they taste better than they look, I promise).photo(2)

You better believe that I was singing and dancing around my kitchen in the process.

I repainted my nails.  I did the dishes.  I did all of the things I wanted to do but often found myself convinced that it just wasn’t a good use of my time.  Somewhere in all of this I found myself.  I found the joy in simplicity that I used to pride myself on.  Needless to say, I’m going to make an effort to make sure this is not a one time thing.

I think that it is so easy for us to get caught up in routine.  Don’t get me wrong, I love working and value my education, but I feel like when we let our schedules dictate our happiness we have forgotten what joy really is.  Especially for us ladies, there is so much preasure on us to be perfect.  Whether we strive to be the perfect wife, the perfect mom, or maybe just the perfect person, we are all facing expectations placed on us by the world and even by ourselves.  It’s imporatnt that we allow ourselves time to simply do the things we want to do.  Because of today, I do believe that I am starting fall for a new favorite day of the week.

I realize that not everyone can take a day out of their work week to dedicate to themselves, but that’s okay.  Maybe it could be during the weekend. Perhaps it could even be half of a day per week, or a few days a month.

Regardless, I challenge you to do something this week that you have been wanting to do but have been telling yourself you are too busy to do.  It doesn’t have to be something big.  It can be something as simple as sipping a latte with your favorite music playing in the background.  Whatever it is though, I hope you are able to do it with happiness and contentment, knowing there is nothing else you want to do.

I hope that in this crazy journey called life, you are able to find your Tuesday.

Tasty Tuesday

Today is all about two of my favorite ‘S’ words: smoothies and salmon!

With two jobs, school, and Bible study two nights a week I have a lot of appreciation for easy, yet delicious recipes.  My husband and I are three months into our marriage and until this past weekend still have had yet to use the blender my mother gifted to us at my bridal shower.  I was so excited when I got it, because it was the same Ninja that my parents have at their home so I knew exactly how easy yet effective it was to use.  So after months of collecting dust on our shelf, I finally took it down and decided to try some smoothie recipes I had found on Pinterest.

I knew that making homemade healthy smoothies would mean they wouldn’t taste like Jamba Juice, but I was still very disappointed after my first smoothie making attempt.  The second day I did a little better, but it wasn’t today until I decided to try to make my own recipe on the spot and hope for better results than the past two attempts.  I was so happy with the results that I actually felt myself break out into a huge smile.

This recipe isn’t anything special, but I figured if I posted it I would never lose it, and also it might help anyone who is new to the art of the smoothie like I am.  The measurements I used were for one serving.

Breakfast Smoothie: (I couldn’t think of a more creative name on the spot)

  • 3/4 cup milk (I used 2% since it’s all I had, but any kind would do)
  • 1 Tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 of a fresh banana
  • 1 handful frozen strawberries
  • 1 handful frozen pineapple
  • Chia Seed (however much you like)

Since I used frozen fruit, I didn’t feel the need to add ice cubes, but feel free to add ice or anything else to achieve the desired consistency.

Finding a smoothie I really like is a big deal to me because I am one of those people who have fallen into the horrible habit of skipping breakfast on a daily basis.  I don’t have enough time in the morning to make myself much of anything, and I typically don’t even feel hungry in the mornings.  However, as soon as I sit at my desk at work I instantly regret skipping the most important meal of the day.

In addition to a quick breakfast, I also appreciate a quick dinner recipe.  My favorite at the moment (and my husband’s favorite as well) as a quick salmon recipe.  This particular recipe only calls for two seasonings and takes no longer than 25 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • salmon fillets (2-4 depending on how many people you are feeding)
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  While the oven is preheating, place the salmon on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle the chili powder and salt evenly over the meat side of the salmon (if you prefer skinless salmon as I do, simply sprinkle over whichever side is facing up).
  2. Once oven is preheated, bake the salmon for 20 minutes.
  3. Once salmon is finished, place a few paper towels on a plate and transfer the salmon from the baking sheet on top of the paper towels to remove any extra oil.
  4. Serve with a side of choice.

As with the smoothie recipe, experienced cooks who are used to dealing with salmon probably wouldn’t even glance at this recipe.  However, for someone like myself who doesn’t have a lot of cooking experience or a lot of time to make gourmet meals, this recipe is perfect.  Also, it tastes absolutely amazing.  When I’m in a hurry I usually make frozen veggies to go with it, but it goes well with almost any side!

This is my first “Tasty Tuesday” post, but as I continue to come across or come up with quick and yummy recipes, I will definitely be sharing them.  Enjoy!

-SM

You Are Enough

Dear Son/Daughter,

You are enough.

Plain and simple.

We live in a world that wants you to feel worthless.  Our society will constantly tell you that if you reach a little bit further or try a little harder you might finally reach the illusion of perfection.

Please believe me when I tell you that perfection is not something that can be attained.  We are imperfect people living in an flawed world.  But also believe me when I tell you that life does not have to be flawless to be wonderful.

If you are female you are constantly being fed the lies that you are not pretty enough, not feminine enough, not thin enough, not tall enough.  If you are male you are being told that you are not masculine enough, not tough enough, not strong enough.  Regardless of who you are you will be told that you are not smart enough, not cool enough, not outgoing enough.

You will be told that you are not enough.

One of my biggest fears is that you will believe these vile, loathsome lies.  However, I know that everyone will feel that they are not enough at some point.  It’s inevitable, and it absolutely breaks my heart to know that there will come a time when you will start to believe that you are less than enough.

You are enough. You are more than enough.  I want to speak this truth into your veins so that it flows throughout your being and is as real to you as the air that you breathe.

You are so worth loving simply because you exist.  You are beautiful because you are you.  There is no one else like you, and there never will be.  You can spend your whole life chasing after a perfect image that you will never reach.  Some people waste their days away trying to be something that they are told they should be but they never will be.  That kind of life can drive you mad.

The truth is that there are days when I feel that I’m not enough.  And there will be days when you feel that way too.  On those days we have two options.   We can choose to give in to society’s demands and make ourselves miserable trying to be something we simply were not made to be, or we can choose joy.

I hope you remember that nothing is worth it if you are not happy.

I hope you choose joy.

I hope you know that you are enough.  Because you will always be enough for me.

-SM

No Matter What You’ve Heard, High School Will Not Be The Best 4 Years Of You Life

I have a long list of absolute truths that I want my children to know.  I do not have children, nor do I know when or if I will ever have children.  However, I do know that we live in a very deceiving world that will try to fill my currently nonexistent child’s mind with a lot of garbage.  Despite my best efforts, I will not be able to protect my children from everything.  I know this, because my parents were phenomenal, yet the world still got its evil messages through their barriers and into my eyes and ears.  How could they not?  With the way technology has taken off and the way the media tries to control our lives, it’s nearly impossible to shelter your child without becoming a hermit.  However, I can still do my best.

 With that in mind, this is the first of what I’m sure will become a series of posts about the truths and values I would like my children to know.  This particular is definitely not one of the more vital ones, but it is something that has been on my mind as my sister along with so many others are getting ready for the school year to start up in a couple weeks.

 

Dear son and/or daughter,

I have heard it a dozen times, and as you grow older and enter into your teen years, I am sure that you will too.  “High school is the best four years of your life! You better enjoy it while you can!”  The movies and shows starring individuals obviously way too old to be in high school make it look as though these four years make up the most exciting time of your life.

 Don’t get me wrong, high school is a lot of fun.  You get out of life what you put into it, and that is absolutely true when it comes to school.  However, it is not the most fun you will ever have.  In fact, I pray that it isn’t the most fun you will ever have, because to do so would be to imply that you have a whole lifetime of boredom to look forward to.

 I want to make it clear right now that I thoroughly enjoyed high school.  I earned good grades, I stayed involved, I went to dances, etc.  I did all of the things that you are told you’re supposed to do, and I had a good time while doing them.

 But did I have the time of my life?

 No, I didn’t.

 The summer following my senior year was ten times more fun than every year of high school put together.  I enjoyed working way more than I enjoyed sitting in class, or even going to practice or some club meeting.  After high school, you meet people that will change your life.  Sure, some people marry their high school sweethearts, and maybe you will too.  But it isn’t until you are out in the real world that you really start to grow together.

 Winning our homecoming football game was fun, but it doesn’t compare to the weekends I get to spend with family.  Prom was a great time, but it doesn’t come close to the joy I felt the day I married your father.  Graduating high school was a great accomplishment, but I am willing to bet that it will not compare to the pride I know I will feel the day see you walk that stage to receive your diploma.

 High school is not the real world.  The real world is hard, and sometimes you will look back and wish those days hadn’t gone by so fast.  But then you will see how far you have come and you will be glad that they had.

 I hope your high school years treat you well.  I hope that you make memories that last a lifetime and that you remember to savor every moment.  However, I hope that you don’t have the time of your life.  Those days are still yet to come.

-SM

Rotisserie Chicken Salad Recipe

So, a few months ago I was looking for a quick and relatively healthy dinner recipe when I came across a recipe for the greatest salad I have ever had. Fast forward to this morning. As I sat on my couch trying to plan out dinners for the next couple weeks, this particular salad came to mine. I knew I had found it on Pinterest, but apparently I didn’t have the sense to “pin” or “like” it. My husband and I both remembered most of the ingredients and were able to recreate it. I’m not going to take credit for this recipe, but I am going to post it. Mostly so that I don’t lose it again, and also so that any fellow salad lovers have something new to try.

Anyone that reads my blog regularly knows that it is far from a cooking blog. I have never written out a recipe before, and while making this salad tonight we eyed the ingredients as opposed to taking exact measurements. So I apologize ahead of time if my estimates are off, but chances are that as long as you know how many people you are trying to feed you’ll be able to judge how much of each ingredient to put in.

Ingredients:
3 romaine lettuce hearts
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 rotisserie chicken
6 strips turkey bacon
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic (or to taste)
crushed black pepper to taste
Croutons

Prep:
Wash, dry, and tear lettuce hearts into smaller pieces.
Wash both grape tomatoes and sliced mushrooms and cut into halves to make bite sized pieces.
Cook bacon and then cut the strips into small bits.
For the rotisserie chicken, pull the chicken off of the bone, and then tear the meat apart until you reach a desired size.
Combine the lettuce, chicken, bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms in a large bowl. Add in the garlic, pepper, and croutons. (It’s up to you what kind of croutons you use, or if you use them at all. I personally prefer the butter & garlic flavored ones. )
Toss salad until it is thoroughly mixed. Add dressing if you would like to, although I personally prefer this particular salad without dressing.
Serve with garlic bread, sourdough, or whatever you like!

These are the approximate measurements we used for our dinner tonight (keep in mind it was just the two of us) and we ended up with plenty of leftovers. Like I said, I’m new to all of this cooking and recipe business, so I apologize if this recipe and it’s instructions don’t make much sense. But mostly, I just wanted to make sure I had it written down somewhere that I could be sure not to lose it again.
If you do end up trying this recipe, and I really hope you do, let me know what you think or if there is anything you did differently!

Cheers!
SM

I’m Not Ready

Tomorrow I get to marry my best friend. Tomorrow a new chapter will begin to unfold. Tomorrow I will get a new last name. Tomorrow everything changes.

This year-long engagement has been a a blessed one, a journey that the two of us will always look back on with nothing but smiles. The question we have been getting the most lately is “are you ready?”. We know that when they ask this they are asking about whether our favors are done, his tux is picked up, etc. We smile and nod and tell them everything they want to hear.

But you know what the truth is?
We aren’t ready. Not even close.

Marriage isn’t something that you just gear up for. Marriage isn’t about one day, it’s about a lifetime. You can do all the premarital counseling and read all the books in the world, but you still will never be ready. One moment you’re cutting cake and dancing with your friends and family, and the next you find yourselves alone in a new home asking yourself what you’re supposed to do now.

As strange as it sounds, that “what now” moment is probably what I’m most excited for. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. There will be ups and downs, good days and bad days. But the beauty of it is that you get to embark on this imperfect journey together. This man I’m marrying is God’s provision for me. How special is that? Probably one of the most wonderful gifts there is. Today’s society sets so many standards for the “perfect marriage” and tells us that if we aren’t happy we probably married the wrong person. Society tells us that divorce is an easy fix. Society is wrong.

There will be arguments and disappointment, but from that will come learning and growth. Of course I’m not ready to be married. How can I ever be ready for something I haven’t experienced? That being said, what I am ready for is to see God’s plan for us start to unfold one day at a time. Our prayer for our marriage is that we always remember to keep God at the center of it, and that others will be able to see His love in us.

I’m excited,nervous, anxious, and overjoyed all at once. The one thing I’m not is ready. The cool thing about that is that it means I still have so much to learn, and tomorrow I get to start learning with my best friend. Knowing that is what will make tomorrow the best day of my life.