Thursday, May 5, 2016

A New Chapter

Hey y'all!  It's hard to believe it's been over seven months since I've last written a blog post.  So much has happened since October.  Let's catch up!

In November, I was accepted to the University of North Georgia for the Fall 2016 semester and I couldn't be more grateful or excited.  I am now officially enrolled as a Night Hawk in the Corps of Cadets and will begin my journey in Dahlonega this August.

In February, I graduated from AIT at Ft. Gordon.  I became an official American soldier and claimed the title 25B, Information Technology Specialist.  I headed back home on February 10 to re-start my life as a civilian.

Upon returning home, I got a job as a barista at Starbucks.  I have fallen in love with the people and culture of Starbucks and couldn't be happier.  Oh, and now I know all the best additions and modifications to my favorite drinks-- it's a win-win!

I'm in a really great place right now, and I'm so thankful to be where I am, doing what I do.  Now that I am back to a regular lifestyle, I am anxious to return to the world of blogging and share my ideas with the world.  I'm grateful to have been able to do that via Stay Fabulous for the last four years and I have come such a long way from the undecided sophomore in high school who started this blog as a completely different outlet one summer afternoon.  I have met so many inspiring people and have made so many unforgettable connections.  Getting emails and comments from all of y'all over the years and seeing the impressions that I made brought me such joy.  It has been a blessing to say the least.

That being said, blogging is definitely not something I want to give up.  In fact, I want to make it an even larger part of my life.  Stay Fabulous has been great to me, but I'm ready for a fresh start. 

On May 5, I'll be launching my new blog: Lilly & Lattes.  It will have content very similar to that posted on Stay Fabulous, with a little more of a personal touch.  I've been working hard to make it into something great, and I hope you'll consider reading along as I continue my journey.

Thank you again to everyone who has read Stay Fabulous over the years.  I know some of the content, especially the tutorials, is still very frequently referenced.  For that reason, I'll be leaving Stay Fabulous up until further notice.  You can still contact me with the email address posted on the contact page, and I'll still do my best to help with any tutorial or general questions.

See y'all May 5 on Lilly & Lattes and as always, stay fabulous!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Southern Style

We made it y'all, it's Saturday!  After an insanely long week, nothing felt more relaxing than sitting down to a big cup of coffee, some Taylor Swift, and a little blogging.  Enjoy!

Last Saturday was the day I'd been waiting for since I arrived at Ft. Gordon... I finally got to wear civilian clothes!  Being in nothing except for military uniform since June was getting complacent, so as you can imagine, I was pretty excited to finally get back in "proper uniform".  I ordered a new Shep Shirt the week prior, and couldn't wait to finally pull out my long awaited navy Norts, Jacks, monogrammed baseball hat and {of course} pearls and monogram necklace!  I did my hair in the cutest little side braid, got dressed, and headed out feeling absolutely incredible.

It didn't take very long before it all changed.  I realized that something felt different.   It all of a sudden hit me that the vast majority of people here have never seen gym shorts and a baseball hat paired with pearls and Jacks.  Sure I was in Georgia, but everyone else here was from all over the world.  What would be the perfect outfit for a fall afternoon in South Carolina now felt very out of place, almost tacky.  Almost everyone else was in the typical jeans and a t-shirt, but there I was, standing proud in my bright green Shep Shirt and my "initials" all over everything.  In a place where uniformity was everything, how did I manage to look so unique?

Then, it hit me.  That's the beauty of it all.  I love where I come from, and I love the lifestyle I have there.  I love my Norts and I love my pearls, and having my monogram on everything is what makes my style mine.  I love how we wear gym shorts with preppy designer sweaters, and I love how my one pair of silver sandals can match literally anything.  

I'm out in the real world now, not just in my home sweet home of the Palmetto State.  You can take me out of South Carolina, but you can never take South Carolina out of me.  In all of this diversity, I am the representation of the place that I love so much.  From my friendly personality to my prestigious manners to the accent I never knew I had, I'm showing the rest of the world what SC is, and that includes our unique sense of style.  And I absolutely love it.

So I encourage y'all, each & every one of you, to show the world who you are.  Show them where you come from, and show them what you're made of.  You're not going to stay in your home town forever, because you're destined for bigger and better things.  So wherever you go, go glowing with confidence and dressed to the nines, and never, ever, ever lose sight of who you are or where you come from, because that's what makes you you.

As for me and my crazy southern style, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing, and I'm going to do it with pride.  Today's outfit plans include my favorite Carolina spirit jersey, leggings, riding boots, and {of course} pearls and the monogram.  That's my southern style, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Gratitude, Humility, & a Revelation

Hey y'all!  When I imagined sitting down to write my first post after returning home from Basic Training, I honestly did not imagine that it would be anything like this.  It's taken me about a month, but I've finally got all my thoughts down and in one place, and I think the end result is incredible.  I usually don't write posts like this, but this is something that I really, really, really want to share with you all.  Enjoy!


When I left home for Basic Training, I though I had an insuperable sense of gratitude.  I knew that God had blessed me so incredibly with unconditionally loving and encouraging family and friends, a lifestyle that I truly loved, and the privilege of serving my country, the career of my dreams.  What I learned, however, was that these things were just the beginning of a never-ending list of things we all have to be thankful for.  My father raised me to never take anything for granted, but I was always focused on thanking God for the big things {everything I listed above}.  I never fully realized that even the smallest, seemingly negligible things that I think we all so often overlook were such incredible blessings.  

Long and warm showers, my own bed with thick sheets and a fluffy pillow, a little mascara, coffee in the mornings, sleeping in, wearing comfortable clothes, manicured fingernails, name-brand shampoo and body wash, contacts, umbrellas, perfume, being able to call your family and friends, feeling important, being able to freely express myself, sleeping peacefully and uninterrupted, personal space, ... the list goes on and on.  

Before Basic Training, I just considered all these things a part of everyday life.  They weren't anything special to me, and they were almost meaningless.  I almost considered them rights, things that I should never be denied or deprived of. When I had to give them up, I soon realized how truly blessed I was to have all of them when I did, and that they were surely not entitlements.  Basic Training taught me to appreciate every single thing that I could, because finding something to appreciate, even in undesirable conditions, got me through.  It got me home.  

Laying in a hole I dug in the ground with nothing but my uniform, my rifle, and my sleeping mat, pulling security on a dark, rainy night, exhausted, wet, hungry, and feeling defeated, I looked over at my battle buddy, smiled, and thought to myself "at least I'm not alone."  This thought led to more: "at least I'm not under fire", "at least I'm not overseas", and "at least I know that at the end of it all, I'm going home a soldier".  This became a way of thinking for me: analyzing each and every situation that I was put in and looking for anything positive I could possibly draw out of it, and that's what made me realize how truly blessed I was and how much of a privilege it really was to be there.  It helped me develop an invincible sense of optimism that I rely on even today to get me through the difficult times I am faced with.  Not only am I now able to keep my own spirits up, but I am able to encourage and motivate my battle buddies too, and that is probably the greatest and most rewarding part of it all.

On my first Sunday at Ft. Jackson, I found Philippians 4: 4-9, which states "Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and see in me.  Then the God of peace will be with you."  As y'all can imagine, that's exactly what I needed to hear, and that was just the first of many times over those nine weeks that He would guide me right to what I needed.


In a place where strength and determination are everything, it is so important to remember that ultimately, our strength comes from God.  Basic Training was the hardest thing I ever did, and it was where I learned that God did not give me this life to go through alone.  Through all the trails and tribulations, I finally realized that when we are at our breaking point, when we feel defeated, and when we finally admit that we can not do it alone, that is where we find our strength.  It is in that moment when we step aside and let Him take over.  In humility, we learn to seek God's wisdom and knowledge.  It is then that He picks up all our burdens and carries us to the finish line.  It is then that we become strong, because we are no longer in it alone.  We have the best battle buddy in the world, the one that will never leave us behind, never put Himself before us, and never let us fail.  It is when we give God full control that we become invincible.  2 Corinthians 12: 10 reminds us of this, stating "Therefore, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong."  And trust me, this could not have proven to be more true.  It wasn't easy to admit that I couldn't do everything alone, that I wasn't capable of completing the mission by myself.  However, once I submitted to His grace and generosity just one time, I finally realized what I was missing.  Physical strength carried me a long way, but it was spiritual strength that carried me to the end, and spiritual strength that brought me home a soldier.  

I learned that humility is necessary to be a faithful follower of Jesus and that we must lead by example as Jesus did.  I learned that I should compare myself to nobody but Jesus, because He is all that I need.  I learned that God will give me whatever I need if I ask humbly, acknowledging His power and strength.  I realized that Jesus didn't want recognition and that it wasn't about Him.  It was about God, and that is how I need to serve my country.  

The uniform that I wear each and every day represents the fact that I am a part of something much larger than myself, and that's what it's all about.  It's not about what the Army can do for me, it's not about me being comfortable or things working to my advantage.  It's about selfless service, my brothers and sisters to my left and to my right, and about the American values of freedom, liberty, and justice.  And most importantly, it's about doing it all for the glory of God.  Without my battle buddies and without my God, I am nothing.

And at the end of it all, I had an amazing REVELATION:

Not only did Basic Training transform me into a soldier of the United States Army, but it transformed me into a soldier of Christ.  I have embraced the fact that I am called to a mission of serving the Lord and that prayer, reflection, and receiving the Eucharist provide the world-class training I need to execute my mission of living each day in accordance with the Gospel and going out in faith to share His glory with the world.  

Galatians 5:13 {my new signature verse} reminds me of my purpose, stating "For you were called for freedom, brothers.  But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love."  To me, this verse reaffirms my belief that part of living in the Land of the Free is understanding how blessed we are as Americans.  It reminds me that our freedom is our divine right, but that we must use this blessing responsibly, remembering that God has given it to us to share with the rest of the world.  It commands me to use this freedom as an opportunity to serve my country selflessly, with the best interest of my fellow Americans and my brothers and sisters in arms in mind.

Not only has he assured me that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing in life, but He has fully armed me with everything that I need to complete my mission.  Romans 8:28 states "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."  This tells us that as we serve the Lord, He is always with us, watching over us, protecting us, and guiding us in the right direction.  This has allowed me to have one hundred percent confidence in the belief that my military career is teamwork between God and I.  I am serving Him through serving His nation and His people, and He is with me constantly.  He will NOT let me fail, because I am not in this alone.  Part of having faith in Him is having faith in the way that He works within me, and I am learning to understand and have come to truly believe that through Christ, I am invincible.  If I come to Him humbly asking for help, doing everything for the glory of  God, I will be successful.  When He is within me, I will not fail.

On my last Sunday at Ft. Jackson, I heard the Lord speak to me through Sunday Mass before He sent me off, my mission of becoming a soldier nearly complete.  I was reminded of the importance of living from within and allowing the Gospel to work inside of me.  The Gospel that day reinforced the importance of caring for one another, encouraging one another, and making it a daily commitment to recognize the need for God's strength within us.  It directed us to let the Spirit shine forth through us, and that's what I am encouraging each and every one of you to do today.  

Take it from someone who knows, there is no feeling more incredible than allowing the Spirit of God to overcome you, opening your heart and allowing the Lord to work through you.  It's the simplest thing that you will ever do that will change your life entirely.  

It's too easy battle, hooah.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer Uniform

As much as I love my chino shorts, striped shirts, and monogram & pearl necklaces, I'd be lying if I said I didn't spend the majority of my summer dressed in a more comfortable, relaxed way.  Here are a few of my must haves for everyday wear in the summer.

If it's sunny outside, I won't leave the house with a pair of wayfarer style sunglasses on a set of sunglasses straps, and Lilly Pulitzer is always my go-to.

I bought my navy monogrammed baseball hat from Marley Lilly last year and have worn it constantly since.  I love not having to do my hair in the summer and it matches perfectly with my favorite pair of navy Norts.

I'm absolutely obsessed with pocket t-shirts, and I have one in just about every color there is.  From coral to green to periwinkle to Carolina blue, you'll find me in a frocket nine times out of ten.

I've always said that there are two types of people in this world: people who think Jacks and Norts are an acceptable combination, and people who don't.  I'm proud to say that I wear these together all the time.  Judge me.

Finally, I had to throw in my pearl earrings.  You won't find me without them on, no matter what the occasion.

And then there are my two favorite summer accessories: a trustworthy sunscreen and my skinny vanilla latte... couldn't survive the South Carolina heat without them!

What is your summer uniform?  Do we have any pieces in common?  Let me know!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2015-2016 Lilly Pulitzer Agendas: Large & Jumbo

It's that time of year again, y'all!  Lilly Pulitzer has released their new 2015-2016 agendas, available now for pre-order online.  Throughout my high school career, my Lilly agendas have been a huge part of my life. They have played an integral part in my academic success and year after year, my agenda has undeniably been the most important item in my back pack.  There's no better way to stay organized or to remember everything in my busy schedule than with a color-coded agenda; and the bright prints, adorable stickers, and cute cover pages are among the many signature Lilly touches that make my agenda my go-to for just about everything.  Here are the large & jumbo options for this year!



I am so satisfied with the print choices this year!  Right now, my favorite is Wild Confetti, but I really do love them all!

Everything else on the inside seems to be the same, except for the adorable addition of trip planning pages!  I can already tell these will come in handy because of the packing list column, which is absolutely essential for everything from a day trip to a week long vacation.  

What prints are you loving this year?  What size is the best?  Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Some Gave All

I don't think it's possible to put into words everything that comes to mind when I think about Memorial Day, but I think grateful is a good place to start.  In America, we are so fortunate.  We are blessed with guaranteed freedom, undeniable liberty, and a quality of life that cannot be surpassed, all which come at a cost.  Some understand this concept better than others.  Today we remember the gracious men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to support and defend our great nation and everything we stand for.  It is not just today, but every day that we should honor these heroes and thank God that such men and women lived.  

These men and women gave up their lives for something larger than themselves: for the United States of America, for their brothers and sisters to the left and to the right of them, for their families at home, and for you and I.  We owe it to these heroes to not only honor them, but to honor what they stood for.  It's time to set aside the politics of it all and honor our fallen heroes with gratitude and respect.  Regardless of your views on foreign policy, your opinion of war, or your level of satisfaction with our government today, choosing not to support the men and women of our armed forces or to not honor their motives is unacceptable.  

In an age when freedom of speech and freedom of expression are so liberally interpreted and frequently taken advantage of, it's time to stand up and do what would make our fallen heroes proud.  Fly the flag righteously and with respect, be fiercely and courageously patriotic, and never be afraid to stand up for what is right.  Freedom isn't free, and we owe it to those who understand this concept the best to do everything we can to preserve and promote what they have fought to guarantee us.  

It is with the deepest gratitude that I say thank you to our fallen heroes.  It's hard to articulate how truly thankful I am to live in the greatest nation on Earth and for those who have fought to defend it.  I encourage you all to join me in participating in the #GoSilent campaign, during which we will observe a moment of silence at 12:01 pm dedicated in memory of a fallen service member.

Some gave all, so we can all give some.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

When You're the One Not Going to College

As I mentioned in my last post, my senior year hasn't exactly been your cookie-cutter experience.   I didn't go on any college visits, nor did I go through the process of applying for and selecting a college to attend.  I didn't apply for any scholarships, I didn't check the mail every day for acceptance letters, and I didn't even write a single essay.  I didn't stress out about my class rank or GPA.  I didn't apply for housing, try to find a room mate, or choose a major.  It's because this fall, I'm not going to college.

I think that after high school, college is just the expectation.  In fact, I know it is, especially as a high honors graduate.  I've heard it hundreds and hundreds of times this year.  "Oh, you're a senior!  How exciting!  Are you ready to graduate?  ... and where are you going to school?"

My response is always prideful, but somewhat shy:  "Well, actually... I'm headed to Ft. Jackson for Basic Training.  I enlisted in the Army Reserve.  I'll go to Ft. Gordon for AIT after that and then who knows where I'll end up."  And then, nine times out of ten, it's right back to where we started "Oh, you're going to get your school paid for!  Nice!"

Ya don't even know how much this one gets to me because for me, joining the military is about so much more than the money, so much more than the benefits, and so much more than the pay.  It's about serving a country that I love with my whole heart and her people.  It's about promoting freedom, liberty, and everything that is America.  It's about defending what I love and working for something greater than myself, and I love every aspect of it.  When I raised my right hand and swore to support & defend the Constitution, the Montgomery GI Bill was the last thing on my mind.  For some reason, I always throw in the "I'll be earning college credit while at AIT" bit.  I shouldn't feel like I need to, but I do, and that's part of the problem.

And then occasionally, there's the one that gets me the most: an empathetic smile with a "that's okay".  Why does it get me?  Because I know it's okay.  In fact, it's more than okay.  It's absolutely fabulous.  I don't need affirmation that my decision not to head straight to college is okay, because I know it is.  I'm confident that what I'm doing is right for me, and at the end of it all, that's what's important.

And y'all, I'm not undermining the importance of education.  I'm a firm believer in the fact that working hard and learning as much as you can is the way to get the most out of life.  I admire every single one of my peers who has made the decision to engage in some form of post-secondary education.  In fact, it's a part of my plan sometime in the future too.  I know it's become the expectation for this generation, and I know it has it's benefits.  But there's so much more to life after high school than heading straight for a four year degree.

We're all unique, so our futures should be too.  How boring would life be if we all did the same thing?  Please always remember that expectations are not boundaries.  I know first hand that doing something different can make your feel inferior.  Trust me, I get it.  But don't let it stop you from doing what you want to do.  Remember that.

I'd like to end by saying that I'm also indescribably blessed with amazingly supportive family & friends.  For every person that has critiqued my decision, another has stood by me 100%, and it's those people who remind me why I'm doing what I am.  I'll never forget when my dad told me to "never tap out in life", and I think part of tapping out is giving in and conforming to someone else's idea of right.  I'll always fight on for what I stand for, what I do, and who I am, and that just reaffirms that what I've decided to do is the right thing for me.

I hope you make your future everything you want, and I hope you never let someone else set your path.  The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams, and the path less traveled will make all the difference.  Go get 'em.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Invalid Excuses

Here's a little Sunday afternoon moitvation for ya...

As my senior year is coming to an end, I've been thinking a lot about the kind of future that I want for myself.  Granted, I haven't exactly been partaking in the typical senior year activities of choosing a college, applying for scholarships, weighing the differences of different majors, or even planning an exciting senior week trip.  Instead, I've been doing lots of PT, going to training, and doing everything I can to prepare myself for the journey of a lifetime that is Basic Training.  Trust me, it's still a lot of work.  A different kind of work, but work.

Throughout the past four years, I've come to realize what it really takes to be successful.  Thanks to my dad, I've understood the principle of hard work since I was very young.  I've come to know that a sense of entitlement will get you nowhere, good work ethic is a must, and that hard work pays off.  There's no substitution for a job well done, and a good effort will produce promising results.  Those are just the facts.

As I prepare to take on the real world, I have compiled a list of invalid excuses that I think we all use a little too often.  I encourage you to mark these off your list.  It's easier said than done, but it's definitely rewarding.

No matter what the mission is, the best way to do it is to do it right.  If we set aside everything that we think is holding us back, we can most definitely achieve whatever we set our minds to.

Best of luck on whatever your journey may be.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

4 / 5 / 2015

Happy Easter!  I hope each & every one of you had an excellent day!

Oh... and welcome back seersucker.  You've been missed.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Anything's Possible

A little motivation for ya today...

-Lilly Pulitzer, duh!

It's almost unreal that it's already April.  We're down to the second half of second semester, the most stressful time of the year.  In all honesty, I think I'm more stressed than I have ever been right now.  This past month, I've been waking up in the middle of the night, my mind racing with my never ending to-do list and worried constantly about not getting everything done right.  

I've come to accept the fact that that's just the kind of person I am, and I think that's a good thing.  There's nothing wrong with being 100% focused on finishing strong, doing things right, and having the satisfaction that you've done your absolute best on something.  But of course, that's easier said than done.

It's so easy during this time of the year to lose focus, take the easy way out, or just plain quit before the race is even over.  But it's not worth it, because at the end of the day, nothing's going to make you feel better than doing the work.  The sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing strong is greater than the relief of taking a break, and the best way to do it is to do it right.

As I flipped my Lilly agenda to the month of April, there it was, plain as day: Anything is possible with sunshine and a little pink.  Anything.  Not "anything easy", not "anything simple", not "anything fast".  Anything.  So I took that and ran with it, and here's what I figured out.

Sunshine is energy.  Sunshine is a spark of enthusiasm, an internal "I can" that motivates us to just get it done.  Pink is elegance.  It's that little personal touch, the perfect finish, the icing on the cake, the extra bit of desire to succeed that sets our work apart from the others.  

Yes Lilly, you're right.  Anything is possible with sunshine and a little pink.  There's a reward in working hard and there's a satisfaction in finishing strong.  So ladies, brew your coffee, take a deep breath, and work hard until it's not only done, but done right.  And when it's all over, put on your big sunglasses and bask in the sunlight of success.