Life is a Journey

The last four weeks of the challenge seemed to fly by.  I noticed that I was working harder, eating just as well but the weight was slower to come off.  I suppose that’s normal.  When you’re bigger like me, it’s “easy” to lose those first 5-10lbs.  (I use the term easy EXTREMELY loosely here) But after that, it requires more hard work, and more dedication.  Add to that the slower metabolism that comes with age and you have the double whammy of weight-loss efforts!

Please don’t mistake my musings for complaints.  They aren’t, they are just the facts I found to be true in my journey.  In away, I appreciate this time even more, because I know every pound I lose was earned.  It wasn’t just a by product of exterior situations…it was caused by conscious eating and steady will to strengthen my body.

There was however a lesson I learned through out the entire journey – but was able to focus on more for that final four weeks.  I have been surrounded by some absolutely wonderful people in my life.  My friends have stepped up during this journey and continued to support and encourage me.  My family has made an effort to tell me they are proud of my efforts and that they are seeing the difference.  If ever I vocalized I was ready to quit – each and every one of these people would remind me what I really wanted.  So let me take this time right now to send out a giant THANK YOU to all of the people.  Whether you are reading now or not – I hope you know how appreciated you are.

Along with the people that were already in my life, this journey brought new friends into my world.  I have found a kindred connection with the women that were part of this journey with me.  They can understand what I went through in a way no one else really can.  When I tell people about my experience, and the fact that it’s more emotional than it is physical – I can see that they don’t really get it.  And to be honest, I can’t really explain it.  I even feel with my blog posts about this journey, I didn’t do it justice.  I can’t fully explain the transformation that happened with in me.  I can barely comprehend the changes myself.  But one look at these women, and a statement of “I just feel it” and they get me.  They understand because they’ve experienced it themselves.

I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by these women weekly.  To be supported by these women daily.  I have developed relationships with the instructors at MBB that helps me to feel that much more accountable to the classes.  Makes me want to push myself that much harder to be the best me I can be.  Physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I can genuinely say when I walk into that studio, I feel energized.  I feel strong.  I feel capable.  I feel thankful.

At the end of the challenge, I had lost a total of 14 pounds.  I had lost an inch in my chest, an inch in my waist, and grown muscle in my calves, thighs, and biceps.  I physically could SEE the differences.  But most importantly I could FEEL the differences.

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Day 1

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Day 60

I mentioned back in my very first post that this 8 week journey was just the beginning to a much longer one.  That could not be truer.  I will continue to have my ups, my downs, my cheats, my commitment.  This journey does not end here.  This journey has become the journey that is my life.

Emotional Weight

As Valentine’s Day approached, I warned Dave that he better be prepared. We are typically low key for V-Day. Married or Single, to me the day represents a lot of falsities about love. Sure, I love flowers and chocolate just as much as the next girl…but tell me you love me every day, not just one day a year. If Dave only showed me or told me he loved me once a year, Valentines Day wouldn’t mean nearly as much.

This year was no different…except it was. See, my emotional moments of the first month of the challenge had led to a lot of soul searching. And frankly, it had led to a lot of tension between Dave and I. I talk about how amazing my man is – and he is – but we are just like every other couple out there…and we have had our share of struggles. This first month of the challenge had brought a lot of awareness to the both of us. There were things we each needed from the other that weren’t being addressed. They weren’t even being communicated. As the date of my first official weigh-in for the challenge approached (Feb 14, 2014), my emotions ran high. The stress and anxiety was causing me a ton of turmoil, and the inability to binge eat these emotions was forcing me to feel them. Dave and I ended one evening in an all out war. Words were said, tears were cried, and time was taken. By the time we went to bed that evening, we had both decided one thing – we were in this for the long haul and wanted it to work. In the words of one my best friends “marriage isn’t about being happy, it’s about being committed.” Yes, you want to be happy in your marriage, but you can’t base your entire marriage on your FEELINGS of happiness. That’s a part of the reason divorce rates are so high these days. You aren’t always going to be happy. Some days it’s all about the commitment. I take pride in the fact that Dave and I have agreed to this fact. And when we look back in 20 years on our 23 years of marriage we’ll be able to say there were times that were happier than others, but we made it through those times. I’m proud to say that we are now back into the happiness that we’ve had the majority of our marriage – but to anyone that may be in that not so happy place right now…please, try to push through it. There is happiness, intimacy and strength on the other side. Growth hurts.

Growth hurts.

I’ll say it again, growth hurts.

That might be the biggest lesson I learned through this portion of my journey. It sucks, it hurts, but it’s so worth it. I wasn’t just hurting in my marriage, I was hurting in my life. With the ability to be honest with Dave about my feelings and my emotions I was able to be more honest with myself. I was able to admit the areas I had allowed to fall to the wayside. The areas of my life I had just accepted to be what they were. And with that acceptance and acknowledgement came release. I was able to decide what I wanted to do about it. What I wanted to change. What I NEEDED to change. Just as I was promising Dave to work harder and be better, I was promising myself, and God that I would work harder and be better. It’s what we all deserved.

I can’t explain to you why or how, but it was as if when I released these feelings and acknowledged the new expectations, I felt lighter. Similar to when I allowed myself to forgive the person I referenced in the previous post. I knew at that moment I had nothing to be anxious of when it came to my weigh-in. I was going to be ok. And I truly believed at that moment, regardless of what the scale read, or the measurements told me – I was changing. And it was good. Even if only emotionally I was losing weight.
So, when Valentine’s day rolled around, and it was time to go – I was ready. I walked into Mind Body Barre dare I say it, excited! I was ready to see how my physical body would be registering all the emotional changes I was feeling. As Kayla invited me to the back room she made a comment about me looking good. She expanded by saying “I can see it in your face, you look brighter, happier.” Little did she know, she had hit the nail on the head. It’s exactly how I was feeling. I wanted to be a light in the world, not another spot of darkness. So, I stood for the picture, happy with what it might show, even if the only difference was the smile on my face. I then made my way to the scale, this was the first time I had stepped on the scale since the first week in. So to my knowledge I had lost nothing. Imagine my surprise when it read minus 10lbs! To say I was thrilled would be an understatement. I was ecstatic! The measurements read a gain, but I saw that as a positive considering the number on the scale had gone down. I would take muscle growth!

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After my weigh-in I decided to take advantage of some one on one time and get a lesson on proper form for some of the exercises we do in class, I then decided I deserved a celebration treat for all my hard work, and figured a pedicure would be a healthier option than donuts. It was about time I had pretty toes while working out (the workouts we do there are all done barefoot or in socks, so this completely made sense). As I pulled into my driveway from my well deserved pedicure I saw a floating chocolate covered strawberry on my front porch. Despite our argument earlier in the week, Dave had sent me an edible arrangement of chocolate covered strawberries…and the card simply read that he was proud of me, and he loved me. That was all I needed to hear. I love that he loves me unconditionally. I love that in moments of doubt he’s able to find pride for me. It was the perfect way for me to come home from such an amazing morning. I was finally starting to feel good about myself. And I still had four more weeks in the challenge to go!

Hangryness – it’s real

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Every journey has its ups and downs.

The first week and a half of the Challenge was tough for me. As I mentioned in my previous post, when the challenge began Dave and I also decided to give the Paleo lifestyle a chance. We decided if we were going to do it, we were going all the way. So we grabed our reusable grocery bags and cleared out our pantry of all food that was considered contriband. We did the same to our refridgerator and then took everything over to Dave’s parents house so we couldn’t dip into the bag at any point.

I like most people, will experience waves of hangryness when I am first starting a diet. (wow…did you know that hangry and hangryness are legitimate words according to spellcheck?!) This first week of Paleo was no different. I wanted chips, I wanted cookies, and I wanted cheese. All of which are off limits if you’ve gone Paleo. I was emotional, I was hangry, and no amount of fruit was going to solve my problem.

Add to that the fact that Dave seemed to never have ANY cravings which just acted as lighter fluid to my hangryness fire. I couldn’t comprehend how he was able to avoid all the cravings I was having myself. I couldn’t understand how in the heck he wasn’t HUNGRY?! It was during this time, that I started to coorelate the incredible hunger I had, with the emotions I was feeling. I felt a little bit like they explain a transistioning vampire in the CWs hit show Vampire Diaries “Everything’s heightened, you (feel) just a little bit more intensely, love more powerfully. Anger becomes rage. When you’re sad, you’re in despair. Grief. Loss. It can cripple you. That’s why so many of us turn our emotions off. It just becomes…too overwhelming.” That was indeed how I was feeling. Every emotion I had was being elevated to an extreme. And the only thing I wanted to comfort it was food. Much like the only way the vampires heal those feelings is through feeding themselves. And I wanted nothing more than to have a switch that would just flip off these human emotions I was feeling.

It was the Friday of the second week in, and I hadn’t lost any weight according to my scale at home. I had signed up for a 6:00AM class at the studio, but my alarm hadn’t gone off and I had slept right through it. I decided that instead of derailing myself and writing off the whole day, I would attend the 9:30AM class that day. It turned out that the instructor that usually teaches that class was out, and one of the other instructors was subbing. The instructor that subbed that morning (Heather) is also a meditation coach. And that day, as class was drawing to a close, after our cool down Heather had us all focus on a meditation. This meditation is called Long Time Sun. As we started Heather asked for us to listen to the words of the first verse and apply it to ourselves “May the long time sun shine upon you, Oh love, surround you, and the pur light, within you, guide you on your way” I felt myself listening to the words and claiming the safe space they brought me to. All the while praying that God would help me find the energy and peace I needed to walk away from this hangryness.

The second first (same as the first) started and Heather encouraged us to think of someone that we needed to forgive and send the same message of comfort and peace that we had just received for ourselves out to them. This, my friends, is where the tears began to flow and I couldn’t fight them back. Thinking of someone that I was so resentful of, and sending them love and peace is exactly what we should do. But seeing this persons face so vividly in mind, to the point where she was practically standing in front of me, hurt. It felt like all the pain was hitting me all over again. And it took all I had within me to open up and genuinely attempt to forgive, send love and peace to this person.

The third verse started, and I was still reeling from the second. I paid attention to the words, listened carefully to what they were saying, and prayed that I’d believe them. Heather wrapped things up, and I wiped my eyes. To this day, I don’t know if it was because I pushed myself hard in class, or if it was because I was struggling so much with the diet, or if I was overwhelmed by the emotions I felt when I thought about this person – but whatever it was, I needed chocolate to fix it and knew I couldn’t have it.

As I made my way out of the room and to the cubbies I was still reeling from the emotional finish to class. I smiled at a few of my fellow challenge members and decided to stick around to ask Heather a couple questions about meditation. Growing up in a Christian household, I was taught to focus on prayer, not really meditation. If I’m being honest, meditation has always felt a bit occultish to me. But there was something about this particular moment, and the moments leading up to this day that had started to make me think that there may be something to this meditation thing. I explained this to Heather, and as I started asking questions the emotions of the morning and the weeks leading up to this morning hit me again. As I sat on the bench tying my shoes and asking Heather about meditation, I started to cry again. I apologized and Heather ran to my side and said there was no need to apologize. That one of the aspects of the challenge was definitely spiritual and emotional. And sometimes we “just have to feel our shit.”

Y’all…that’s exactly what I was doing. I was feeling my shit. And it felt like a giant rock sitting on my shoulders. I almost felt smothered by the intense emotions I was experiencing. But I was also feeling a tad bit of relief with every tear that was dropped. It took a few days, and LOTS of patience from Dave (seriously, have I mentioned how awesome he is?), but eventually I was back to being myself. Only this time my “normal” didn’t feel so heavy. I was feeling lighter emotionally. I was praying more regularly again, and I was trusting that being a forgiving person is who I wanted to be. I no longer wanted to hang on to bitterness and hurtfulness. I wanted to let it go, truly let it go. I wanted to spend my energy on being the best wife, the best friend, the best daughter I could be. I wanted to be positive, and be surrounded by positive people. I knew this now more than ever. It was at this moment I believed this 8 Week Wellness Challenge I had embarked on would be more than just a physical change for me and I was truly excited to see who would come out of this.

A Retreat from the Fries

The week leading up to the retreat I spent trying to stay alive.  I had been struck by the cold from hell and it took all the energy I had to just tell my lungs that they could hold enough air.  I was coughing, and wheezing, and all around had lost all energy.  When the initial notice of the retreat had come, I had intentionally signed up for the weigh-in/measurements to be done the hour prior to the retreat starting.  Initially my thought had been, what need is there to go one day, then go another, when I can do it all in one shot.  However, the morning of, I was immediately regretting this decision…I wasn’t sure how the measurements and such would go, but one thing I did know was that I wasn’t sure I had the lung capacity to workout for the day at this all day retreat.  And I didn’t want the others be afraid that I was infecting them.

So, when I woke up and told Dave I wasn’t sure what I was going to do – he told me to go prepared and make the decision when I got there.  So that’s what I did.  I was one of the first to arrive for the initial measurements and after the weigh-in/measure/picture moment, and the instructors telling me that I would be fine and could modify anytime I felt I needed, I decided to stick around.  But, since the weigh-in portion of the morning only took 10 minutes I ended up with an hour to kill.  So, I did what every fat kid does before going on the diet they hope will be a lifestyle change does…I went to Burger King and stuffed my face with a tasty breakfast sandwich and cinnabons.  Yep, I started things off juuuuust right.

I’m the picture of health, right?  Would it help if I told you that that was the last time I had fast food?  Aside from the occasional Dunkin Donuts coffee, and two breakfast Wake Up Wraps with no cheese in the past 9 weeks, I Brittney Lemieux, have not had fast food since that morning.

Dave and I had already decided that on the day after the retreat we would be going Paleo.  Now, before you start to comment how silly the Paleo diet is, or how bad it is for us, believe that we’ve heard it all.  And if it’s not your bag, that’s fine – don’t eat that way.  It’s working for us.  We’ve learned to modify in some areas and stick to it in others.  One thing I can state for fact, the no dairy part of this lifestyle has really made me feel a TON better.  I have found now that if I eat dairy, I really feel awful.  I do however, still allow myself a grilled english muffin every Sunday morning at our favorite local breakfast place (Cackleberries – if you are a local…TRY THIS PLACE OUT! Seriously, you won’t be disappointed!).

After I gorged myself on fast food breakfast, I swung over to the Shaws near by to pick up a healthy lunch to have during the retreat.  I couldn’t let people see the real me, after all.  I would have much rather run down the street to Burger King again for lunch, and helped myself to a Whopper with Cheese Combo, and a large Dr. Pepper.  But what kind of dedication does that show on the first day of a Wellness Retreat. At shaws I tracked down an apple, and some almonds and two giant bottles of water and called it a day.  As I made my way back to the studio for the start of the retreat, I scarfed down the rest of my tater tot hashbrowns and prayed I would make it through the day.

As the day began, we were told several times that this journey we were embarking on was more than the physical aspect.  I shrugged that off.  I said to myself “yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m in this to lose weight…I can’t see how this will impact my emotional self.”  The retreat day was amazing though.  We had moments for introspection, and LOTS of working out.  But the best part of the day was getting to meet some of the amazing women I would be doing this challenge with.  Some of these challengers were newbies like me, and some were veterans.  But we all brought to the circle an energy and dedication of hope, and change.  I will never forget one of my fellow challengers who was standing in front of me through all of our work-outs had a tattoo on her right shoulder.  Her shoulder was telling me “Stay Positive” and I hung onto that when every fiber of my being wanted to stop.

I pushed through the pain that day.  Miraculously I made it through the whole day without coughing, even once!  I promised myself I would push myself harder than I ever had before and that I would stay open minded through the day.  And I succeeded.  I took away from that day a confidence that I COULD do this.  I could CHOSE to be healthy, and committed.  I called Dave on my drive home, and told him how refreshed I felt.  That I was ready to take on the world.  And I couldn’t wait to see where this was going to lead.  I had perma smile, and couldn’t help it.  I didn’t even care that I had a long way to go.  For the first time in my life – I actually felt like I could do this!!!  I could change.

Day 1 - Pre-Burger King

Day 1 – Pre-Burger King

Sweet Taste of Defeat

**WOW, I’m so humbled and thankful that so many people took the time to read my blog post yesterday. That was just the beginning, so if you found it interesting and want to hear more about my journey – or chime in with thoughts on your own – I would love for you to follow my blog or post a comment. Again, thank you so much for your interest and support!**

For the months of October and November I had found an exercise I truly enjoyed. I was getting to know instructors, and I was finding it easier and easier to do the routines. I was even on a “smile-greet” basis with some of the regulars – you know, the “I’m to shy to say actual words, but I recognize you so I’ll smile” hello. Sure, I had to modify frequently – heck, I still do! – but I was getting better, stronger, and falling more in love with this form of exercise than I could have ever imagined. And then…I had to go on vacation. Okay, I shouldn’t say had, I should say I GOT to go. It was December, and Dave and I had planned to visit my family in Tennessee for the holiday. We had a week and a half scheduled away, and I was more than ready for a break with life. We had worked it all out, Duke was to be boarded at his favorite place, doggie daycare, and my marvelous in-laws were to check in on their fur-grandbabies (the cats) while we were gone. But I found myself realizing that I was disappointed. Disappointed that I was going to have to go without my new routine of 3 workouts a week at the studio. Fearful that I would fall off the wagon and never again find this magical momentum that had made its way into my brain. But for my Papaw’s 80th birthday, and the first Christmas with my mom’s side of the family in I can’t remember how long – it was worth the sacrifice.

Now is a good time for a side note – I love my friends and family here in New England, but I MISSSSSS my southern roots. There is something about a sweet tea delivered by an exceptionally friendly person with a dainty southern accent that just puts me right at home. Growing up in Nashville I was spoiled by the communities of likeminded individuals, and easy access to live music. I miss it. So. Much.

Anywho, back to my wellness journey. While we were in TN for our trip, I received an email – MBB would be hosting a contest for their next Journey to Wellness session, to start in January. This contest required an email submission of why you deserved to win a FREE spot. That was an over $400 value, and I’m all about anything free. I am, after all, that girl at any hockey game/football game/basketball game throwing my arms up in the air for that free t-shirt that probably will only fit my littlest nephew as a night shirt, and I would never wear in public. But hey, it’s free. You better believe I spent the next five days mentally drafting a winning letter. I thought of all the reason’s I deserved this prize. How it would help Dave and I for me to not have to pay for it, how it would help get me back on track after my month away from the gym. How I had such a compelling story that they couldn’t deny it! So the first night we were home, and I had regular access to email again, I typed up my petition and hit send. And then, you know what, I didn’t win. Wah, wah.

Now…I want to make sure you read my next words, seriously don’t skim over these, LOSING that freebie is probably the BEST thing that could have happened to me. For one, it allowed for 2 beautiful women to have the ability to participate in a challenge they may have otherwise not been able to afford, and two, it forced me to make the most of every minute I had. Afterall, if I’m gonna pay $400 for something, I’m gonna squeeze out every penny I can!! Without knowing it, the ladies at Mind Body Barre in their selection had just given me the momentum I needed to get back and create not just a routine, but a habit! When I received the alert that I had in-fact not been chosen to hold one of the free spots in the challenge, Dave and I had a decision to make. Y’all, this is where my husband shines! He truly truly wants what’s best for me. There was no hesitation, only “we’ll make it work.” He has been so supportive through this process. And he truly wants for us to be healthy together. And that to me shows long term commitment more than anything else. He wants us to be around together for a long time. Swoon.

So with the decision made, I logged onto MBB’s website and paid my dues – then anxiously awaited further instruction. I was eventually added to an exclusive FB group created specifically for those who were part of the 8 week Journey to Wellness Challenge and informed of a kick-off retreat for all challenge members. And that is where my journey officially begins.

An Exercise Miracle

I should have been doing this the whole time. In eight weeks I have seen my body change a little, but my mindset change a bunch. I wish that I had started journaling that change like they suggested when I started my journey at Mind Body Barre. Oh well, this journey is just beginning, and I can start it now.

What better use of a blog than to track the journey I’m on. Sure, it’s just a way to journal my thoughts, and sure, there may not be many people interested. But hey, if it even helps one person, then YAY – my journey and struggles are worth it. Even if that one person is ME.

Let’s start back at the beginning, January 15 to be exact. Actually, I’d say it starts even earlier than that, October of 2013 to be exact. It all started with a harmless Groupon deal that I purchased on a “I really want to get healthy and have heard really good things about Barre, oh look here’s a Groupon for a Barre studio” whim. I could never have imagined how that one $25 purchase would impact my life. Enticed by the promise of toner/leaner muscles and a connection of the mind and body in a cool down at the end of class, I figured it was worth a shot. I knew nothing of Reiki at the time, and nothing of the power of the mind when it comes to physical fitness. Sure, I knew that you had to have mentally decided it was time to get fit to stay committed. And I knew that it would take a mental willpower to stay committed. But one thing I learned in my journey over the past month, is that it is so much more than that.

One of the aspects that kept me coming back for more for Mind Body Barre is their focus on the Mind/Body connection. Before taking my first class I decided to look into the studio I had just purchased this pass for. I was immediately impressed by the first sentence of their mission statement where they state “you are not just a client, you are part of our community of learning and whole living through mind, body and spirit.” Impressed, but skeptical. I wasn’t sure that I would really find what I was looking for. See, I’m a bigger person. I’ve struggled with weight challenges for what seems like my whole life. And I was a bit intimidated to go into a fitness boutique studio with all the girls I imagined would be in great shape and judge me for my lack of wellness. Oh, and did I mention that during the exploration of this studio I found out it was owned and taught by a former NFL cheerleader – yeah, not intimidating at all….

As I made the 30 minute trek to the studio for the first time, I had in my head several thoughts of what I expected:

  1. I HATE exercise, what really makes me think this will be better?
  2. I’m going to run into the mean girls, I just know it. (I blame this on too many ABC Family shows)
  3. I hope there is a spot in the back, I don’t think anyone needs to see all this in their face the whole time.
  4. Man, it’s early. (my first class was scheduled for 8AM on a Saturday Morning)

What I found:

  1. A very friendly purple haired woman (also a former NFL cheerleader, and sister to aforementioned owner).
  2. I was an hour early, and there for the wrong class!
  3. NO Judgment.
  4. Other women my size.
  5. A love for exercise that was ignited.

All it took was one class and I was hooked. As I mentioned above in my list, I actually showed up way to early, and for the wrong class, but Kayla (the very friendly purple haired woman) was so nice about it. Made me feel better by saying lots of people show up super early for their first class. And then said I could just join the first class instead of waiting for the second. She made me feel so comfortable I immediately agreed – plus, I was thirty minutes from home…just far enough to make driving home not worth it as I would have had to turn right back around. So, I grabbed a mat and a set of drum sticks and parked my behind right up front. For the next 45 minutes I rocked it in Pound, and didn’t even realize I was exercising. Sure I felt out of breath, and I had to modify EVERYTHING, but I was having genuine fun. Who’d have thunk it? I was sweaty and sore and felt so good about myself. It was at that point that Kayla said we could lay back and enjoy the hard earned cool down.

That first class was epic, but it was after my second class there that I started to feel the true mind/body connection they encourage. As the instructor went around giving a brief massage and filling the room with the scent of lavender during our cool down, she said words that I try to remind myself of every day “honor your body for what it did for you today. Even if it wasn’t everything you were hoping for, you are here and that is what matters.”

Make Me Up

Man – I’m sorry.  I have very little excuse for being so absent from this here blog.  It’s almost as if moving into the house took about 5 months to start to feel settled and back to a normal routine.  But here I am, and I’m going to try my hardest to stay regular – and not in the prune juice kinda way, although, that is important too.

Many requests have come in for the before and after views of the house, so I figured what better way to do a “back on the band wagon” kick-off than a good ‘ol before and after post!  So without further adieu – Welcome to our home.

Let’s start with the differences here.  As you can see we ripped up the carpet and had the hardwoods that were hidden below, refinished.  We went with the Minwax-Provential as our stain option.  We wanted something that would be darker, but still match with the existing stain on the stairs.  We also knew we wanted lighter paint colors, so the darker wood floor was really something we were shooting for.  Oh, and the front door got a face lift too – I needed my “L” to stand out after all.  ;-)

As you make your way in, you’ll notice a huge difference with the stairs.

We decided to be daring, and add a little spice to our life and took the banisters down.  We actually really loved the wrought iron banisters.  They were a bonus factor when we purchased the house.  However, when we got in and started painting the ceiling and walls and such, we had to take them down.  And we decided we really liked how it opened up the place.  This “opening up” may be more of a “you have to be there and see it in person thing” but just trust me.  It does.

Also, I painted that awful paneling in Benjamin Moore’s – Gray Cashmere.  It’s the color we chose for all of the hallways in the house.  Originally I thought it would be more grey and less green, but I actually like the sea glass look that it adds to the house.  Oh, and that’s Sassy there on the stairs, making a cameo.  She and her sister have adjusted well to the new digs.  (**Update:  We just added a dog to the mix, so they are readjusting, but doing well all things considered)

One other element you can really see here is the hallway on the main level.  I added the horizontal stripes to add some length into the hallway.  I. LOVE. IT.  It was actually an idea I originally saw on Pinterest.  Dave wasn’t so sold at first, but I’m pretty sure he loves it just as much as I do now.  It really does give a little more interest to a smaller hallway.

If you look directly to your left in the house you will be welcomed into our living room.

Whew, what a difference huh??

I love the two after pictures above because they show how the color we chose (Benjamin Moore’s Sea Haze) looks completely different in different lights.  I took these pictures at the same time – but the lamp causes the lighting in the pic to change a hair.  Which really gives you a taste of the grey to green grey that the color portrays.  We took down the window valances and have yet to agree on curtains for the room, so we’ve added only blinds for the time being.  The TV is hanging on the wall where the closet used to live.  My hubby and Father-in-Law removed the door, closet framing and innards.  They then put up new drywall and I helped to do the putty and sand process, as well as remove the chair rail and plaster up the holes left from that.  What that left us with was a beautiful wall with room enough for our 55″ TV and entertainment center.  We purchased the sectional from Ikea, it’s the Karlstad.  The entertainment center, coffee table and end table are all from Ikea as well.

I love how homey and cozy the living room feels.  It’s not too crowded, just warm.  The lighter color on the wall really helps to keep it feeling open as well.  Now, take a seat on the couch, and take a look to your right.  There you will see our dining room

Remember how I mentioned that a lot of people thought we were making the wrong decision in terms of room picks.  They all (including Dave) wondered why in the world I wanted the smaller room for the living room and the larger room for the dining room.  Well, take a look – What do you think?

Doesn’t that table just fill the space so nicely?  And that’s not even with all of the leaves in the table!  That beauty seats 10 comfortably.  The area rug was a housewarming gift from my mom and really adds a warmth to the room.  Here’s another view for you.

One of my favorite parts is that white under the chair-rail.  I feel like it really opens up the room and makes the room feel that much bigger.  Also, it helps to differentiate the two sides.  For this room I chose Benjamin Moore’s Gray Timber Wolf.  Something that really helps in my opinion make a house a home, is definitely hanging stuff on the walls.  We chose to display our art work in the dining room.  The sailing picture is from our honeymoon, and the other two were gifts from my mom.

As you move further into the house, you get to the two biggest changes that we made.  Lets start in the Master Bedroom.  Look at that closet!!

My handy husband and Father-in-Law put their skills to work when closing up the closet in the living room, and extended the closet in the bedroom.  We decided to use a curtain instead of a door to allow the space to feel more open.  Also, I just like curtains.  I’m hoping to pull in the orange from the bedspread into a possible chevron pattern onto the curtains, to add a little more umph to the room.  :)  Oh, and just in case you like the color in here – we used Benjamin Moore’s Bonne Nuit.  We LOVE it.  It feels so warm and romantic.  Just want you want in a master bedroom *wink, wink*.

And now, for the largest renovation project we did when moving in.  After a month with no kitchen, several additional pounds put on due to frequent fast food runs, and lots and lots of lost sleep, our kitchen was complete!  And boy was it worth it!

Whew, what a change.  When I look at the before and after picture of this room especially it makes me giddy, as if you have just presented me with the worlds largest bag of Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish COMBINED!  I mean, the white cabinets, the navy paint (Benjamin Moore’s Newburyport Blue), and those butcher block counter tops, I die!!!  Oh, and definitely do NOT overlook that sink.  That MARVELOUS double bowl farmer’s apron sink!  I’m in love.

What a change.  The fridge in the old layout was in such an odd position, I really believe where it lives now makes way more sense.  It completes the kitchen triangle that you should really strive to have for the most efficient use of your kitchen space.  This kitchen is the heart and soul of our home.  We love to entertain, and I love that when we do I have PLENTY of room to spread out and make a mess to clean up after the party has dispersed.

Our house really feels like a home to us, and I believe it’s because we put so much into it to get it to be what we want.  All of those cabinets were put together by me, Dave and my grandparents and installed by our friend and my husband.  I helped to build all of the drawers and perks of the insides and Dave and I picked out those appliances and the entire kitchen together.  We built it online and to see it in reality is still breathtaking.  As I look around our house I’m able to see all the elements that we have been able to accomplish together.  It was a family project.  My in-laws helped more than words can express, my dad and brother helped to demo the walls in the kitchen and remove the cabinets, and my husband showed me he had more skills than I could have ever imagined.

I am so excited to see what else Dave and I can do together to make this home even more full of love, laughter, and DIY goodness!

So, what do you think?  What’s your favorite part?  I feel it should also be mentioned that I wish I could have you all over for coffee, or tea, or an adult beverage!