2018 Prescribed Reading List

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Part of my healing process has been reading words of wisdom from other people that have either gone through grief or divorce or researched it. Counseling has been great with helping me understand my emotions, but sometimes you just need more insight and something to help you continue to process your thoughts. So, most weekends and weeknights you'll find me curled up on this blue velvet couch in my favorite Natori jams reading, crying, laughing, and reading some more.

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We are two weeks into our first month of 2018, and I already have five books on my list. Some wonderful women that have gone through hard things have given me books telling me emphatically, "You have to read this!" The books below have just showed up in my home whether it's someone handing them to me or mailing them to me. I've given myself the task of reading one book a month. 

  1. Rising Strong by Brene Brown
  2. Of Mess & Moxie by Jen Hatmaker
  3. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
  4. Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussen
  5. Tiny Beautiful Things; Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

I need seven more recommendations. What are some other books that you would recommend in this season of life? 

Photos by Rennai Hoefer

A Brave New World

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I was married at 22 years old. Other than four years of college living in apartments with roommates, seasonal jobs and internships, I never really experienced independence. I married Ryan a year after graduating ASU, and together we divided and conquered adulthood.

We essentially grew up together, and I took a lot of the domestic responsibilities. He did a lot of the finances, yard work and home maintenance. I did the cooking, shopping, decorating, children, etc. You can guess where I'm going with this...Well, now I'm alone, single and taking care of a home and kids and a job all by myself. There's a LOT of first that comes with this new life. 

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I've often thought to myself this must be how my grandmother felt when my grandfather died. Lost, confused, scared of the unknown...But the good thing is that I'm 33 and not 80. Things make more sense to me than an 80 year old woman, and I still have a lot of life left to live. So, darn it, I'm going to figure this out for myself. This is my real life DIY project. RIGHT?!

Some new things I have done since I have been single are.....(PROMISE NOT TO LAUGH)...But seriously, though...

1. Set up my own budget. I use Mint to help keep track of everything
2. Set up auto-pay on all my bills. I was really overwhelmed by this, and I was so scared I was going to miss a payment. Thank goodness for technology and auto-pay. 
3. Did a drive-thru car wash. Oh my gosh, I'm so embarrassed to admit this, but I have been scared of them for a long time. For some reason I was just scared I would miss the track or do something wrong. It was so easy. I have no idea why I was scared.
4. Used a leaf blower. They are actually pretty fun.
5. Cleaned my pool and pump
6. Painted and taped a wall by myself
7. Changed the air filters
8. Set up my health insurance and benefits
9. Set up a router
10. Lit the fireplace. Almost burned my eyebrows, but I did it. Hahaha!

Cheers to many more new things! It's a great feeling conquer your fears. It's liberating and it's empowering. What's a fear you have that you would like to conquer? 

Family Room Update

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With divorce comes dividing assets. A lot of the rooms that I finally completed are now incomplete once again. My family room has gone through some changes since I made it over with Home Depot. My blue velvet sofa is now my main sofa, and my animal skin rug is gone. My chairs are also gone. So, a lot of the furniture from my the formal sitting area is now my family room furniture. I kept the bleached jute rug, but I added a blue traditional rug from Natural Area rugs to layer over it. It ties the blue sofa in nicely. 

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Area rugs can be a challenge, but I really like layering because it's cost effective. Jute area rugs can cover more square feet for less, and then you can splurge on a colorful traditional rug if you want. The great thing is that Natural Area Rugs have affordable prices on all kinds of rugs. No need to hold back. 

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Though it has been sad to see so much change, it has also been good to slowly rebuild and make things my own. New memories in new spaces. If you are looking for affordable area rug options, definitely check out Natural Area Rugs. 

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Photos by Rennai Hoefer

 

TIPS FOR SURVIVING: FIRST WEEKS OF SEPARATION

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As I have been sharing about my journey of my sudden separation and divorce, women have come out of the wood work in similar places unsure of what to do. Many of them have written to me in the first days and weeks of their husbands sitting them down and telling them they are leaving. I remember that day all too well, and I remember the days and weeks following were the hardest of my life thus far. I was dealing with shock and trauma, and I had no clue what to do. So, this post is for those women, future women who will find themselves in this spot and for the friends that are walking with them through it. I hope it helps...

It was July 3rd. Our kids happened to sleep over at their grandparents the night before, and we were having a lazy morning just the two of us. I sat down at the kitchen table to make some day plans for our day off, and Ryan sat down across from me. I asked where he wanted to go, and he said he didn't want to go anywhere that day. He then proceeded to tell me had been doing a lot of thinking, and then the words came that he was really unhappy in our marriage. He told me he didn't have fun with me anymore, that he didn't enjoy spending time with me, and that he felt we were incompatible. He felt that we would both be happier and our kids would be happier if we were apart. He told me reconciliation is not an option, and his mind was made up. Of course, I had so many words and I was shocked and confused, especially after recently celebrating our 10 year anniversary. Granted, we had been in marriage counseling for almost three years prior to this moment, but I had been doing very well in my personal counseling.I asked him to help me understand more, and he agreed to go to counseling to help me understand, but again, not to reconcile. 

Those initial couple of days were incredibly difficult. I had to entertain family for 4th of July and pretend everything was okay with a gun shot wound to my heart. I cried so much those days, but I had to be strong for my kids when they were around and not show there was any concern or reason to worry. 

When we got to the counseling office he proceeded to explain again his feelings and decision. The counselor recommended that we meet with a family therapist to help learn what we best for our kids for separation and how to talk to them. We did that a week later. Our counselor also recommended separation at that time since Ryan had already chosen, so he moved in with his parents and I stayed in our home. The kids stayed with me during the week to keep routine, and on the weekends went over to his house so that I could have time to grieve and recoup. There's more to the story, but those are the logistics of what happened in the first couple of weeks.

If you have found your self in this devastating turn of events this is what you need to know. This is traumatic. This is similar to experiencing the sudden death of a family member. The situation is out of your control because the decision is controlled by another, and yet their heart is beating. It is extreme rejection. It is life altering. it is shocking. It is traumatic. Therefore, your body and mind are going to go into survival mode and experience a trauma response. This is how it felt:

- I was numb. I was like a ghost and then I would full on break down when I knew it was safe to let go (no kids around, no people around).
- I started having panic attacks. I started hyperventilating to where I couldn't control my breathing for 5 minutes or so. Scariest shit of my life. I thought I was having a heart-attack and dying. They would come on when I would see Ryan and be in close proximity. 
- My hair started falling out in clumps. (I also have autoimmune disorders and stress aggravates them)
- I couldn't eat. I was physically ill. I started throwing up, and I couldn't eat. I went from 128 to 118 and I'm 5'7". That's waaaaay too thin. 
- I couldn't sleep. I was exhausted from so many sleepless nights. I would fall asleep fine, but I couldn't stay asleep. As soon as 2:30am or 3:30am rolled around I would wake up suddenly. Truthfully, it still happens every night. More about that below...

If you are experiencing these symptoms. You are normal, but here is what I did to combat them.

1. I got a counselor. Part of your panic is that you don't know what to do. They will help you figure out what you need. 
2. Told my best friends and my family. They needed to know to encourage me with phone calls, text messages, to come and sit with me, etc. Don't keep it a secret from close, trustworthy peple that can help you and are for your marriage. Don't share with people that are going to be divisive. 
3. Made an appointment with my primary care doctor. I shared with my doctor what had happened, and she prescribed Zophran for nausea. It helped me have more of an appetite. I also got anti-anxiety meds to use as needed. I actually haven't taken them at all, but it was a comfort to have. I honestly should have taken them when I knew I was going to see Ryan because I would have avoided some serious panic attacks that scared my children. I would also recommend getting an STD test if that's applicable to your situation.
4. Ate liquid foods. Peanut butter, banana and chocolate smoothies were the only thing I could eat. I think I survived on a week of those. 
5. Got childcare. Babysitters and family chipped in to help give me some self-care time and kept the kids having fun. 
6. Went to church - My faith is what sustained and continues to sustain me. It puts my fears at ease and gives me wisdom. 
7. Wrote out my feelings in a journal a LOT. You'll want to text and talk to your spouse, but I would advise only doing that when you are stable to avoid more damage and hurt.
8. Avoid oversharing to kids. Sought out advice from therapists specializing in childhood development. Don't wing talking to your kids. Seek wisdom from professionals that will help your kids adjust the best through this process. Make sure both parents go together. 
9. No need to make lawyer calls right away. Don't panic! Divorce proceedings can't happen without you. Ask for a month of time to catch your breath, sort your emotions and feelings and needs. 
10. Avoid triggers. I only watched happy sitcoms for a long time. The airport was a hard place to be for me because it was a lot of happy couples and families. Avoid places and things that are going to send you into panic. 
11. Exercise. Let your stress out through exercise. It's good for your mind and body. 

More resources to come. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. alexandra@avestyles.com

2018 Home Projects

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This post is sponsored by Home Depot.

A new year has dawned. I’m being gentle with myself this year by not trying to makeover a gazillion spaces, but, rather, focus on three main rooms of my home. My master bathroom, my kids’ bathroom, and my laundry room. (Okay, I may have a guest room in the mix too, but that’s icing on the cake). In 2017, Home Depot helped me create the guest bathroom of my dreams and the family room of my dreams, so, naturally, Home Depot is my source of quality tile, decor and fixtures for my upcoming projects. I already have some ideas. You want to see?

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MASTER BATH:

For my master bathroom, I want to echo the design elements of my master bedroom by creating a luxurious escape from the world. Long hot showers and baths always feel better when you are in a space you enjoy. After this year, especially, I want to feel like I’m on an exotic vacation when I have 15 minutes of alone time. To create that space, I want to combine some southwest elements, some glam elements and some natural elements.

I’m currently loving terracotta tile and clay tiles overall. You see that style a lot in Arizona and California. Living in Arizona and being a lover of Spanish architecture, I would like to incorporate the southwest essence into my bathroom. Teal is a hot color right now and complementary to the warmth of the terracotta. It also just so happens to be the color of my bedroom wall. This beautiful penny tile and ceramic patterned tile is the perfect touch of teal. Wouldn’t you agree?  

The bathroom vanity and fixtures, however, would be where I would bring in the modern design. With a teak vanity, white counter tops, a clean white stand-alone tub and chrome faucets. I think it creates a beautiful juxtaposition and eclectic feel for the space.

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KID BATHROOM:

I’m not going to lie...This bathroom is currently ooooogly. We’re talking old linoleum that is curling and an almond colored tub. Yikes! A renovation is long overdue.

This bathroom will need to have two sinks to suit Elle and Levi. Home Depot has some beautiful vanity options. I fell in love with this white one that even comes with a large framed mirror. It has plenty of storage for each kid, and even a spot to place baskets underneath.

I chose white black and blue as the color palette because it’s gender neutral. I also chose patterns to play with to make it feel more like a space for kids. This black and white watercolor gingham wallpaper feel masculine so I balanced it with a blue and white floral ceramic tile for the floors. The white geometric tile with black grout will be perfect for the bathtub and shower.

I am still loving gold and brass fixtures for bathrooms. Aren’t you? Home Depot has so many cool options. I particularly love the industrial look with black and brass. I thought this industrial metal and wood shelving unit would be great to further tie in that theme and provide storage.

Which bathroom do you think I should do first and what bathroom trends are you loving right now?