Issue 14: marriage | keep clutter at bay | learn from her: Ally Dorrough View in browser
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Issue 14: January 15, 2020
marriage | keep clutter at bay | learn from her: Ally Dorrough

[6-minute read]

Dear Sisters,

My husband Scott and I celebrated eight years of marriage yesterday! I’m not incredibly sentimental about anniversaries, but I do like to reflect about the years we’ve spent together, how we’ve grown and what we’ve learned. This year, I’m feeling especially nostalgic about our first six months together in Wisconsin, so I thought I’d share them with you along with a few thoughts on marriage. 🥰

Scott and I were incredibly young when we got married—22 and 23—right as Pinterest was born and before hashtags and videography became wedding staples. The ceremony was at a tiny church in my hometown and was performed by one of my favorite college professors who also happened to be a Methodist minister and the stadium announcer at Auburn. We took communion together, sang “In Christ Alone” and walked across the street to our reception venue, where we danced and ate dessert.

We graduated college six months before, and we didn’t have money for a proper honeymoon (whatever that is), so we took a roadtrip instead. After our wedding reception, we loaded everything we owned into our 1995 Land Rover Discovery and set off for La Crosse, Wisconsin, where Scott was scheduled for six months of intensive training for his new job.

We spent the first week of marriage trekking north, stopping for a few days in Nashville to see the sights and hear some music. This was before Nashville was invaded by 20-something hipsters, before the murals and coffee shops and hip restaurants came to town. We ate pancakes, walked around in the rain, toured the Ryman and visited the Bluebird Cafe. I’ve been back many times since then, and it’s a completely different place.

We planned to spend a night in Chicago, but it was January and there was a blizzard, so we spent that night at a Holiday Inn Express in Merrillville, Indiana instead. We swung through Chicago for deep dish pizza the next day and finally arrived at our tiny first apartment (which we had not even seen photos of) that evening.

That apartment was $400/month and offered zero frills—uncomfortable furniture, community laundry and a tiny galley kitchen. But the memories we made there still make us smile. Life was so simple and fun. We learned to cook from Jacques Pépin reruns on PBS, walked to the grocery store across the street and constantly listened to the best “soft oldies” radio station ever (every time I hear “Radar Love” or “Mellow Yellow” I am instantly transported back to that apartment). We paid off thousands of dollars of student loan debt. We stumbled into a wonderful little church and were adopted into a precious small group, and I was able to find a nanny job and some freelance writing work.

Every morning, I dropped Scott off at school and drove to my nanny job in a neighboring town, where I did phone interviews and wrote articles during nap time. I created a food blog to document our culinary journey, and Scott participated in a Polar Plunge in the just-thawed Mississippi River that year on his birthday. There is a story involving him consuming a tad too much alcohol with friends that day that lives on in INFAMY, even eight years later. It was a fun time.

I asked Scott the other day if he could remember a time in his life when he was most happy, carefree and satisfied, and he immediately said the time we spent in Wisconsin.

Eight years and 1.5 kids later, we’re kind of reliving that season of life, but in a new city—tiny apartment, one car, me caring for kids and freelancing, Scott confidently doing the job he was trained to do all those years ago. We’ve returned to simplicity, which suits us so well.

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What I’ve learned about the DNA of our little family over the past eight years is we thrive on the simple lifestyle we lived those first six months of our marriage. We aren’t built for the hustle. We aren’t built to be on-the-go all the time. We are 9 p.m. bedtime people. Breakfast together at 6:30 a.m. people. Walk together for miles and miles people. A few really close friends people. Location over square footage people. Routine people.

A lot of those words I just used to describe our family's values would’ve scared me at the beginning of our marriage. Much of who we are today I resisted for years because it clashed with my individual personality. Without my family, I would run myself into the ground with workaholism, social obligations, endless volunteering, over scheduling and a technology addiction. My relationships with Scott and Julia have truly saved me from some of my more self-destructive tendencies. I’m sure Scott would say the same is true for him. During our time in Wisconsin, I’ll never forget him saying, “Without you, I’d just stay in my little box all the time and never venture out of it. Without me, you wouldn’t have a box.” That’s proven to be so true throughout our marriage.

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This union of two people for life is all about creating that shared family DNA—taking two people with different upbringings, different habits, different preferences—and creating a lifestyle and identity that works for both. It requires some sacrifice and compromise on each person’s part. The goal should never be to change our spouse to adjust to the way we think life should be lived—or to forfeit our preferences completely to appease our spouse. No one should go through marriage unchanged. Over the years, both spouses will ideally move toward each other, letting go of some of their preferences and enlightening their spouse about others. 😉 We are on the same team. And just like any great team, we thrive when we are rooting for each other while also pushing the other person to improve and grow. Marriage shines a light on our dark places and forces us to address them, yielding healthier, more well-rounded individuals who have come together to create a beautiful new thing.

Married folks—your relationship is worth the work it takes to make it great. Friends, jobs, houses, churches, reputations, vacations, material possessions and just about everything else will fade away eventually. Those things are important and worthy of our time and attention, but the relationships we have with our spouse and kids are for life. They deserve to occupy that No. 1 priority spot. They deserve our respectful words, our acts of kindness and our time.

It’s worth the investment and the sacrifice to make those relationships sources of joy, comfort and peace rather than conflict and hurt. It’s worth it to choose them over all the other things that compete for our attention and affection. It’s worth it to go to therapy. It’s worth it to have those hard conversations when something isn’t working for you. It’s worth it to pray for your spouse. There’s not a marriage on the planet that thrives without intentional investment.

I’m so grateful to be on this journey with Scott and that we’ve fought to create a life we both love. It hasn’t always been easy, this merging of two into one. But it’s so worth it.

So here’s to eight years of marriage. Here’s to embracing our shared identity and a return to simplicity. Here’s to raising our babies, enjoying good food, exploring cities and mountains and rivers, rich friendships and stubborn authenticity. Here’s to us—we’re so much better together.

Love, Jill

Guest Happy: How to keep clutter at bay (by professional organizer Kandy Negus)

This week's Guest Happy comes to you from my friend Kandy Negus of Order Your Spaces.

Kandy is a professional organizer and owner of Order Your Spaces in Mobile, AL. She has taught me SO much about organizing, decluttering and having a healthy relationship with the things in my home. 

Order Your Spaces offers in-home and virtual organizing sessions, so reach out no matter where you are if you need help bringing some order to your home! 

P.S. I designed Kandy's website! It's my favorite ever. Check it out at OrderYourSpaces.com. You can sign up for her newsletter to continue receiving tips like these! 


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Do you ever wonder why some women can keep clutter from taking over their homes? I know what you are thinking... "They were just born organized!"

Yes, yes, some do have that natural skill set. But let me tell you one hard and fast guideline they all live by:

Find a home for every single item that enters the front door. 

That's right. Organizers find homes quickly for new stuff. And that takes some time on the front end. Maybe even some brainstorming, Pinterest browsing, social media stalking....you get the idea. 

What did you get for Christmas that is still laying around waiting for you to find its new home? Maybe you received a new candle and you actually have a shelf for it.. .but wait! There are already 19 candles in the space and your new one will just not fit. Now what? 

Let go of the candles you do not like, will never use (ugly color/weird smell) and make space. 

DO NOT delay your decision making. That is how clutter piles build up. Go ahead—you have my permission to let go of what you do not enjoy to make room for what brings a smile to your face. 

Happy home finding! 

Youtube Yoga for kids and adults
For adults: Lesley Fightmaster

I've been inconsistently practicing yoga off and on since college. I always feel so much better when I do it! I've never done an in-person class consistently, but I've spent a lot of time checking out different Youtube yoga teachers!

My favorite for adults is Lesley Fightmaster. She has a 90-day and a 30-day series in addition to a ton of individual videos. The end of the 90 days gets a little too advanced for me (sorry, I'll never be able to do a headstand), but I like the first 30-40 days a lot!

Check it out
For kids: Cosmic Kids Yoga

We're trying to slowly introduce Julia to yoga, too! She loves Cosmic Kids Yoga! She only does about 10 percent of the moves right now, but the way the host, Jamie, makes it into a story is super fun and captivating! And yesterday I heard her saying "sit down... bottom!" Which I know came from watching yoga. She's definitely into it!

This kids' yoga would work great for kids all the way through elementary school. The videos are generally about 10-15 minutes long—great for a brain break at school if you're a teacher! 

Check it out
Recipe: Dragon Noodles

We looooove these spicy, easy, cheap noodles for dinner! You can decrease the spice level by eliminating the red pepper flakes and decreasing the amount of sriracha. 

Dragon Noodles

Start-to-finish: 20 minutes

  • 8 ounces Asian noodle of your choice (lo main, udon, whatever you like—just a nice, hearty noodle)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha 
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Begin to boil water for the noodles. Once the water reaches a full boil, add the noodles and cook according to the package directions.

While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl stir together the brown sugar, soy sauce, and sriracha.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add the red pepper flakes to the butter as it melts. Whisk eggs in a bowl and then add to the melted butter. Stir gently and cook through. Turn off heat. 

When the noodles are tender, drain the water and add them to the skillet with the cooked egg. Add the prepared sauce. Turn the heat on to low to evaporate excess moisture, and stir until everything is coated well with the sauce. Sprinkle the sliced green onions and cilantro on top.

    Julia's favorite toy right now!
    Kinetic Sand Folding Sandbox

    My mom bought this for Julia for Christmas, and we have been having so much fun with it! Unlike so many kid toys, I actually really enjoy playing with this, too. It's kind of soothing. 🤣 If you've never played with kinetic sand—don't worry! It's not as messy as regular sand. It comes with several tools, but we also put little animals in it, rocks and other stuff! So great!

    $29.99
    Get it

    This week's Learn from Her is about dealing with grief and childhood trauma. My friend Ally, who I met in college, has always inspired me with the joyful way she lives despite surviving the incredibly tragic loss of her sweet mom. For Ally, her faith is what has allowed her to process her grief and use her story for good. 

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    Hey, y'all! My name is Ally Dorrough. My husband, Dan, and I have been married since 2012, and we live in Foley, AL with our two wild little ones - Olivia (4) and Davis (2) - and a super laid back black lab mix, Bear. I practice public relations full-time with Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism and Sports Commission, and some of my loves are cooking, road tripping, all things Auburn University (War Eagle!) and binge-watching TV shows.

    Q: You lost your mom at a very young age in a very traumatic way. Can you share your story with us?
    On my 7th birthday - Aug. 20, 1997 - a man broke into our home in Montgomery, AL, and threatened my dad at knife point to leave and get him money or he would hurt our family. My four-months-pregnant mom asked my dad to leave so he wouldn't hurt me or my siblings, Hannah (3) and Andrew (1), who were asleep in bed. My dad drove frantically to the grocery store down the road to call the police and withdraw as much money out of an ATM as possible. When he returned, the man was raping my mom. My dad pleaded for him to stop, and he forced my dad to leave again. After my dad left the second time, Hannah and I woke up, and fear immediately fell over me. We walked hand-in-hand down the dark hall to see my mom in the shadows gasping for air. The man had stabbed her several times. Shortly after, the police and paramedics arrived at the scene, but her injuries were too severe, and she passed away.

    The man, Renaldo Adams, was 17 years old. Originally, he was sentenced to the death penalty, but in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to sentence minors to the death penalty (Roper v. Simmons), so he was retroactively given life without parole. In 2015, Miller v. Alabama determined minors could not be automatically sentenced to life without parole, so all affected cases are slowly being re-sentenced. We are (im)patiently awaiting Adams' re-sentencing.

    It's been 22 years since my sweet, soft-spoken, stay-at-home mom left for Heaven, and I can't wait to see her again. My dad is the epitome of strength and has dedicated his life to raising us while demonstrating unwavering support, hard work and perseverance.

    Q: What have you learned about grief through losing your mom? How do you manage your grief?
    Grief is tricky and comes in stages. Since I lost my mom at such a young age, I feel I harbored a lot of anger and resentment for assuming mother-like responsibility with my siblings (much of which came naturally, and I put on myself). Fortunately, I've always been able to talk about my mom and what happened, but I wish I was in counseling for longer, and I could benefit from counseling now.
    I have certainly grieved her at milestones, like prom, high school graduation, college graduation, marriage and the birth of my children. I yearned for my mom to be there, but the Lord gave me peace in different ways through each of these situations and placed people in my life to fill that motherly void from friends' moms to aunts and a dear cousin (shout out to Tracy) to my mother-in-love, Linda.

    Q: Talk to us about anger—how do you deal with anger toward the man who killed your mother, and has this helped you manage that emotion in other areas of your life?
    A friend told me recently that we lose the "right" to be angry when we surrender and follow God. We should be giving all our anger to the Lord for Him to deal with...dying to self and laying everything down at the foot of the cross. When I allow anger and bitterness to creep into my life, it's crippling and contradictory to the Gospel. I forgave the man who murdered my mom and unborn sibling my freshman year of college, which was incredibly freeing. I can't tell you how many times people have asked me how I could forgive such a heinous crime. Here's the truth - I didn't forgive to have a relationship with a killer; I chose to forgive to remove the wall between me and a relationship with a holy God.
    Do we forget when we choose to forgive? No. Will forgiveness solve everything? NO. We live in a fallen world with broken people, but if I believe anyone can come to the Father and ask forgiveness, I must believe any heart can change. It's not my place to judge.

    Q: What advice would you have for parents with a child who has experienced a traumatic event? What helped you process your experience as a child, and what was not helpful?
    Talk to your children. We all process trauma differently, and my dad couldn't talk in depth with us about what happened or my mom in general for a long time. He still has a difficult time talking about it from time to time. I can't forget what I saw and how I felt. Fortunately for me, I have always been able to articulate my feelings, but my siblings processed it differently and were both younger than me. They have little to no memory of our mom, which in some ways is even harder. Case in point - everyone processes trauma differently, and open communication is vital.

    Q: Do you struggle with fear of the evil in this world having experienced something so horrible, or has your experience had the opposite effect? How do you trust people, and what would you say to others who struggle with anxiety about something horrible happening to them or their family?
    While I know from a very real experience that evil exists, I have seen so much good come from an unfathomable situation. It may sound cliche, but everything happens for a reason, and God didn't cause my mom's murder...sin did.

    I am called to love God and love people no matter their circumstances, including Renaldo Adams. I have faith in humanity and know His love transcends all evil. My dad, siblings and I have been able to share the Gospel and relate to others because of what we've been through. Even though I don't wish our past on anyone, I know it's part of my story the Lord is writing for me, and He uses all evil for His good and truth.

    Anxiety? I can totally relate and am still trying to figure it out. Find people you trust, and don't hold onto your fear and struggles; share your heart and let people in.

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