fancy seeing you here!

Friday, August 18, 2017

First of all...

Oh, hello!

I realize it's been months since I've blogged. :/  Real talk: I have been 100 %, totally, completely uninspired. Between juggling work, family, a social life, and ya know, sleeping and what not, I really feel like I kind of lost my touch. I took a step back once I realized that I was sitting at my computer for an hour without a single letter typed on my screen, stressed out by the number of likes my last post on Instagram got...or didn't get. Sometimes, motivation can come and go in waves for me. Apparently, this last wave was a big one. Like, knock ya down and pull you under the current kinda big.

There's a huge part of me that really beat myself up for not sticking to my goals, especially after publicly declaring my commitment to them. But after taking some time to myself, I learned to accept something: there's just no forcing it with me. When I'm not feeling something, I reeeeally don't feel it. I'll never be able to truly fake a smile. Or a blog post.

With that being said, let's go for round two, shall we? NO PROMISES! I'm taking this at my own pace. The overdrive mentality on Instagram and trying to gain likes and followers on Facebook is gonna have to take a backseat for awhile. Let's do this old school. 😉

Do you ever feel so tired, the slightest bit of human interaction can wipe you out?

I'm not talking about depression here. I'm talking about heavy eyes, tense muscles, oh-lawd-no-amount-of-caffeine-can-help-me-now kind of EXHAUSTED. On average, I get about 6-7 hours of sleep a night. Not the recommended amount but not pitiful either. So why am I, consistently, without fail, so tired that I sometimes have to muster up every last bit of strength just to hold a conversation?

Sometimes in life, I think we let ourselves settle. Not just with the people who surround us but with our environment, our routine and our thought process. Where's the excitement? The spark? The passion? I have a pretty dang anal/OCD personality about some things so everything has to be in it's place. (Sorry, babe.) I'm a creature of habit and I follow the same little routine every morning. Turn on the kitchen light, let the dog out, turn off the porch lights, wash my face, slap on some moisturizer, get dressed in the outfit I laid out the night before...okay yeah, don't judge me, but it saves me time and y'all already know I sleep until literally the last second possible.

After that, I quickly do my hair and make up (again, ain't nobody got time for that whole looking-super-put-together-at-work thing) and fix my breakfast shake before hauling hiney out the door. Aside from weekends, there's no varying from this routine. I've been wondering lately if changing things up would put a little pep in my step and "freshen up" the way I've been seeing things lately.

For example, 10 cups of coffee may not do a thing to me but you know what will? Re-arranging my living room or painting the bathroom wall a new, brighter color. Just the slightest little renovation can be like a jolt to your system. This goes so far beyond the home, too. Deviating from your day-to-day norm can be like a breath of fresh air. Literally. Go outside, take a walk around the block, pop in your earbuds and try to see things from someone else's eyes. I totally get that our country runs on caffiene (and/or Dunkins) and let's face it, this blog is literally centered around a morning cup of coffee. But honestly, I think there's nothing more refreshing than a change of scenery, a new layout in your kitchen, or just a walk in the park.

Plus, admittedly, I think dancing around the living room to 2000's Pop Radio on full-blast is better than 6 Red Bulls and a cold shower. Try it sometime.

What are ways you like to change things up?

step-mom monday {vol. 2}

Monday, May 1, 2017

The 5 biggest mistakes a step-parent can make
 and what to do instead:

Like the wise old adage goes, "mommin' ain't easy." This doesn't just apply to birth parents, (and ohhh, how it does!) but it can also be directly applied to step-parenthood, as well.

When I first began dating my husband, exactly 4 and a half years ago to the day, I was walking into the "single dad situation" with eyes wide open. At the time, Faith was 12 and Ethan was 10. As I've mentioned before, I had never dated a guy with kids, much less ones that were on the, well, older end. As an only child, my own experience with children had been fairly limited, aside from a brief stint in college working at a day care and a period of time spent as a dance and gymnastics instructor for 3 and 4 year-olds. (Coincidentally, this is where I was working when Taylor and I met.) I didn't learn how to change a diaper until I was 19 years old. How on earth was I going to become a solid, respected parent to two pre-teens?

Here are a few things I've learned along the way. Please let me preface this by saying that by no means has this been a difficult journey due in any part to the kids! Far from it. I happen to have been really blessed with two kind, loving step-children and I think I'd like to keep it that way. ;)

1. You try too hard.
This is one fiiiiine line, y'all. You aren't their mother or father. It isn't up to you to enforce all of the rules and dole out the punishments. So what is your role? A {much older} friend? I happen to think it's important to truly like and respect your child, and vice versa, so where do the boundaries lie on becoming friendly with your step-kid and trying too hard to be "the cool one?"

Remember that you cannot and do not undermine the decisions and expectations of mom and dad. You aren't the rebellious older sister or even the ever-so-popular "fun aunt." As a step-parent, you are still a parent. It's right there in your title.  Sure, you're lucky--you don't have to dish out the groundings or be the one to take their phone away. But by becoming too friendly and too hands off, you leave room for a lot of confusion and possibly even disrespect. Sit down and discuss this with your spouse. I think it's totally okay to be there when mom/dad has to discipline, and you may even voice your opinion along the way, but make sure that it's the biological parent that sets the tone and has the final say. Family meetings are a great way to establish this; show the kids that you stand in solidarity with your partner but you do not stand alone.

 2. You allow the children to talk down to you.
This is part dos of that first point. Friends fight. Depending on their age, they may fight, like, a lot. If you lead your step-children to believe that you are merely a mature, more experienced friend, they may see this as an open door to walk all over you. I know for a fact that whenever I was upset with a friend on the playground back in the day, I made sure to let 'em know about it. There was always an ongoing power struggle among us catty little 9-year-olds and lo and behold, your bonus babies may feel the same way! If they fail to see you as a parental figure, you could essentially become a mental-punching-bag. You don't exist for them to take their frustrations out; rather, you can serve as a reminder that you are an additional, loving soul to confide in. When they want to have a heart-to-heart with someone they know and trust, but is maybe a little less daunting than mom or dad, you can be that ear and that shoulder to lean on. But, remember, again, you ARE a parent. 

3. You expect to be the Brady Bunch.
This is real life, not a bouncy, cheesy, heavily-patterned sitcom. Relationships take time to grow. Always. Please don't beat yourself up if your step-kids don't immediately fall in love with you! Sure, you always greet them with a smile, you let them stay up 30 minutes past their bedtime last night and you bought the 5-year-old her favorite toy. As hard as it may be to accept, kids, especially younger ones, simply need time to warm up. I'm a 27-year-old woman and often times, I'm the same way!

When mom or dad enters into a new relationship, it has the potential to be a really scary, confusing situation for the kiddos. Don't forget, this isn't all about your new man, ladies. This time, there's children involved. Your relationship is not just between the two of you all the time. There are now school activities, carpools and homework to consider into your evening plans and this whole thing just kinda popped up overnight for you. You didn't have the years of preparation to get you to this point. This is all brand new and coming at ya lightening-fast. Whoa.

Questions may arise from the kids, too. Does this mean their momma is getting replaced? "Is daddy gonna love his new girlfriend more than he loves me?" Even though you know the answer to this, it's very likely they don't. Be patient, understanding and accepting. Give it time and I promise you that with a little love and an open mind, a beautiful family dynamic can form.

4. You disagree with mom or dad's parenting style. 
I'll be straight up--in some ways, I'm likely going to be a stricter parent than my husband. I'm a believer of no cell phones at the dinner table, monitoring social media use and all the things I SWORE I'd never do when I had kids of my own. (Here's looking at you, dad!) Okay, I don't believe in being as invasive as some parents. I won't check your texts unless you give me a legit reason to! But in a lot of ways, I see how well Taylor's more laid-back approach has worked for Faith and Ethan (again, I couldn't have gotten much luckier than I did with those two) and I find myself thinking about any future struggles or balancing acts we may be faced with in the future.

Okay, it's time for the harsh part. These aren't your kids. It's not fair for you to blab on and on to your partner about how YOU would have done things if the ball was in your court. Guess what? It's not. It'll never be. Respect your spouse, respect the ex, just respect. Faith and Ethan have two really good parents and hey, they have two really good step-parents, too! I'm sure there have been (or will be) times when not all 4 of us are going to wholeheartedly agree on the same thing. The beauty of it all? We don't have to. Mom and dad know what works for their own flesh and blood and while I'm always willing to offer up my opinion if asked, I sure don't expect it to be taken as gospel.  You know that whole "momma/daddy knows best" thing? It's true. And until you have babies of your own, just let it be.

**Side note: If mom or dad isn't involved or in the picture very much, obviously a lot of these don't necessarily apply. This is strictly coming from my standpoint, where mom and dad are both very much a part of the kids' lives and I am not a primary caregiver. Alright. Carry on.

5. You take things personally.
Possibly the single most difficult thing about step-parenthood, no matter how much you respect and admire your spouse, their ex and everyone involved, is accepting that there was a life (and a family) in place before you ever even came along. My husband was previously married--for some, their step-kids may be the result of a union that was over before it ever began but for others, there was a whole other world that existed before they entered the picture. Remind yourself: every present has a past and every past has a future. This is simply part of your (and everyone else involved's) evolution.

I know that my step-children have a mother and that mother isn't me. In a time of crisis, it's not me they're gonna call, it's her. She signs the permission slips, she makes the doctor's appointments and she kissed all the boo-boos. Nothing can replace the years of experiences, memories and love between them and that is something I can never, ever touch. Honestly? I wouldn't have it any other way.

As close as I am with Faith and Ethan, that singular bond between a mother and their child is something sacred between them and them alone. Someday, I'll have it. When the time is right, I'll get to nurture, guide and protect some little ones of my own. But for the time being, I am so proud to love, support and encourage my two bonus kids, the greatest gifts of my life. We have so many memories of laughter and love between us and there's only more to come. No matter what, they are the ones to first make me a mother. I credit them for that. They have opened up a whole new world of experiences for me and because of that, I've been able to grow attuned with my maternal side, a connection unlike any I've ever known.

My heart will never forget that.

 As a step-parent, you may not have been actively looking to become a mom. Chances are, you weren't. I fell for Taylor before I ever met his kids. Before we began dating, I had zero intention of having children at that point in my life, and I certainly didn't know I had the capacity to love another's. Turns out, I do and then some.

 I don't think blood is what defines a family. It's all about the love. And man, those two sure have a lot of it. I know they have all of mine.

dorito dust

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Okay, first things first, I have been so absent from this blog the past couple of weeks and I really, really hate that. I've been working overtime at the paper, juggling social activities with the family, my step-daughter had her junior prom last weekend (!!!) and we're in the middle of a backyard renovation that I, admittedly, haven't been super helpful with but it's still happening.

That being said, I found the time to post this so, whew, sigh of *slightly stressed* relief.

Anyways, guys, I have to admit something. As the title of this post implies...

My hands were covered in Dorito dust last night. 

I guess you could say I was caught orange-handed.

Anyone that knows me has probably noticed how obnoxiously consistent I've tried to be with my health grind since the beginning of the year. Like so many others, I made a promise to myself to improve my eating habits, find time to hit the gym and finally get my act together as part of my New Years resolution. Miraculously, I've actually stuck to it! At the risk of sounding like your stereotypical gym-douche, *cringe* I've lost 12 pounds since making the commitment, which equates to a total loss of 20 pounds since I hit my heaviest weight in late 2015. I've been able to stay at this consistent weight ever since I reached it and I'm honestly pretty dang proud. For the first time. Like, ever.

Ok, hold the eye rolls. I've said it before and I'll say it again--no, my number on the scale has never been high. However, I have never, in my life, been "fit." Lanky? Yes. In shape? No. In high school, while some people had major self-esteem issues because of the weight they were putting on, I had a major lack of self-confidence because of the weight I wasn't. I still long to have curves just as much as I did back then. Let's be real here, I think any teenage girl would rather look like a woman over a 10-year-old boy, but hey, genes are genes and you get dealt what you're dealt. FYI, I look about 16 now, so things are looking up! ;)

Never forget that what looks right for one person, doesn't necessarily work for the other. My "normal weight" on some would look downright sickly. As in, wheel-her-to-the-ER-and-force-feed-her-a-cheeseburger-while-you-do-it sick. On that same note, what looks healthy, attractive and normal on most would likely be considered "overweight" on someone as short and lanky as me. And I promise you, this isn't me trying to brag because chances are, I'd love to trade places with you. And when I sit on my husband's lap and my non-existent booty causes pained discomfort because of the sheer lack of cushion, I'm sure he would readily agree with me. 😉

Alright, so back to last night. I had mentally patted myself on the back just that afternoon. For breakfast, I had my usual multi-grain bars. For lunch? A strawberry-walnut salad. I actually went out to eat, at a sports bar, and GOT. A. SALAD. The fact that I can consciously turn down fried pickles, onion rings and a frosty mug of beer is still a big deal to me. Mind you, I did still drink but I chose a 100 calorie skinny margarita instead, so golf claps for me!

After spending the afternoon with my parents, I drove straight to my nephews' little league game. There, I ate a basket of chili cheese nachos. Alright, that's cool, I thought to myself. I did really good today and, well, with the exception of all those chicken wings and french fries that one night last week...and the McDonald's burger that same day... I've done really, really good on this "get healthy" thing as a whole. I'm allowed to do this. Right?

So, next comes dinner. I got home late from the game, ran to Walmart to pick up some necessities and immediately started folding laundry and cleaning up the house when I walked through the door. By the time I was done, it was 11 PM and I. Was. Exhausted. Not wanting to take the time to prepare anything to eat, I told myself I would just lay down and munch on some of my healthy snacks until I felt full.

Apparently, what my brain meant by that was Doritos and candy bars.

Y'all know that feeling you get when you realize what you're doing is definitely not what you're supposed to be doing but you really don't care because it just feels so right and/or delicious? neither...

No, seriously, as soon as I finished off the bag, instant guilt set in. I even woke up this morning feeling like everything I've been working so hard for was a total waste of time. I disappointed myself, (mind you, I had those other big cheat meals recently, too) and felt like I was totally losing my grasp on the dedication and commitment I've been priding myself on. Here I've been, helping to motivate others to improve their health, and I go home and eat a Snickers?  I could feel myself taking those steps backward and I know how it usually goes for me-- as soon as I start to give up, I throw my hands up and let it happen. I mean, I've had a pretty inconsistent few weeks, might as well just stop trying and indulge myself, right?

Not this time.

If you're struggling to stay on the path of your own fitness journey, remind yourself that a few minor setbacks ain't crap in the long-run. Don't let it get the best of you like it almost did me. In fact, I'd even say go for it. Have those cheat days. It's okay. Don't deny yourself those pleasures in life. Just don't let it become habit. Don't lose sight of your end game. Don't rob yourself of your health.

What it boils down to is this-- I'll always have a sweet tooth, I'll forever love anything fried and oh sweet jeebus, carbs are bae. I'll allow myself those beautiful, sinful, occasional cheat meals but I won't let it define me. I won't be deterred. I refuse to let my setbacks become my new normal. When you commit yourself to your health, it's truly a lifestyle change. Blah, blah, blah, I know, but it's not gonna come for free.  I'd rather re-dedicate myself, recognize I've gotten off track and dig a little deeper for that motivation than lose it altogether.

At the end of the day, I am still proud. 

This isn't easy. Honestly, it really sucks sometimes. I smell melted cheese and pepperoni and the thought of the stationary bike becomes laughable. Is it really that important to feel good in that new bikini by summer? Can't I just go one more year without caring? What's it gonna hurt? I'll just try again next year. I mean, I've been doing that for the past decade, right?

That's a hard, solid NO.

This is my year and my time. Cue the "Rocky" theme song. I may not own much, but my body? That's all mine. Every inch of it. Even the ones I wish weren't there.

So bring on the temptation. It'll be hard. I'll give in on occasion. I'll even do it with a smile on my face because in the end, I know I'm still in control.  I may crave ice cream but I crave good health even more.

Now, if you need me, I'll be shamelessly stalking Instagram fitness models in the meantime.

kiss and makeup {with your self-esteem}

Thursday, April 13, 2017

So you know that thing that girls do when they post a picture of themselves and they like everything about it except maybe that one tiny little hair that's out of place or the way their arm looks from that particular angle so they add a passive-aggressive caption along with the photo that says "ugh, excuse my gross face" or "please don't pay attention to how fat I look"? (Wooo, that was a mouth full!)

I've been there. Many times. I'd be willing to bet that at some point, we all have. In fact, I think my entire high school experience was one giant "PLEASE DON'T ZOOM IN ON MY MYSPACE PIC, MY PORES ARE HUGE!"

Ladies, I'ma be blunt. You need to stop. I need to stop. We all need to stop. That vision you have in your head of what defines beauty is society's ideal, not yours. We've been trained, brainwashed and conditioned to adhere to a certain look; whether it's the way you style your hair or the thickness of your brows, we buy into these standards until we've all lost all originality, all sense of reality and above all else, our individuality. Don't make excuses for being you.

Now please don't get me wrong; I love a cute dress and a pedicure as much as the next girl. There's absolutely nothing wrong with taking pride in your appearance, (in fact, I encourage it) carrying yourself with confidence and rockin' that new pair of jeans. I've always been into fashion {while ballin' on a budget, mind you} and I'll forever love me a good pair of shoes.

But in all honesty, lawwwd help me if I don't really, really love my worn-out yoga pants, baggy t-shirt and a messy, frizz-inclined bun on the top of my head, too. 


Since I started wearing makeup around the age of 14, the mere thought of being photographed without it is enough to send me into a tailspin. In fact, I genuinely have a reputation with friends and family as being the fastest Facebook un-tagger there is. Taking pictures with me can be an ordeal; I promise you, I'll likely find something I hate about the way I look, whether it's the shininess of my forehead, the size of my two front teeth or the way my shirt clings a little too tight to the pooch of my belly. It. Is. Exhausting. Why do I continuously do this to myself? Why am I so preoccupied with ensuring a flattering angle on my latest Instagram post when there's so many more important things going on in my life and the world at large?

Wanna know something even harder for me to admit? Even when just lounging around the house by myself, I occasionally catch a glimpse of myself makeup-free and will put on a touch of foundation or a swipe of mascara just to keep myself from cringing. The amount of unhealthy in that sentence is astounding.

People see me every day in person. They know what I look like. They know what I don't. Why am I so quick to try and change that perception on social media?

Comparing yourself to others is a dangerous thing. You can't change your height, you can't choose the skin you're in. Sure, you can lose weight. Do it. You can cut your hair. That's great! Go for it! But you can never become someone else. I have spent so many hours of my life looking at girls with better skin, bigger boobs and brighter eyes, wondering how they could have possibly been born so graceful, so beautiful, and with all the knowledge and skill in the world to do their hair and makeup so perfectly when I legit struggle with getting my eyeliner on even remotely straight.

I guarantee you, they're thinking the exact same thing.

You are you, are you, are you. There is a reason for that. You can be nobody else. Why would you want to be? The Lord above gave you this life for a reason. Find your purpose and be proud. And for goodness sake, stop calling yourself ugly, gross or unworthy--on Twitter or in private. You are what you believe you are. By speaking of yourself negatively, you portray someone who is unconfident, vulnerable and insecure. This will become how other people see you as well. You know how you are what you eat? You're also what you think.

Let's be honest. I'll always be a firm believer that makeup is pretty awesome. But man, I really need to start accepting myself without all that. I'm still me underneath. I have a good heart, an incredible family and I'm in a really good place in my life. I am surrounded by so much love. Is it really the end of the world if someone sees me without concealer on my face? Or if my hair looks like I just took my finger to an electrical outlet?

Remember: you are beautifully and wonderfully made. On purpose. Your natural self is authentic, original and pure. There was not a single mistake made on you, gorgeous girl. There's nothing wrong with getting dolled up. Just don't lose your sense of worth with each swipe of your makeup wipe.

Consider this my public promise to live life and start loving myself. My true self. After all, my bathroom mirror doesn't come with a Snapchat filter.


step mom monday {vol 1}

Monday, April 10, 2017

Happy Monday, y'all! The past couple weeks have been an absolute whirlwind at Casa de Kaley and Co. I've been battling some sinus issues straight from Hades the past 2 weeks which has totally thrown off my blogging/gym/life in general game. Because of this, I admittedly haven't been keeping up with ACWK nearly as much as I have it in my heart to.

Last week though, inspiration hit me and it hit me hard, guys. I found myself joining a massive amount of blogger groups on Facebook, I've been listening to grow-your-blog podcasts AND I even launched brand new Instagram and Pinterest accounts, @acupwithkaley! Please bear with me, ladies. I know it's been a slow-as-molasses process but I'm totally committing myself to building up this little community and {fingers crossed} spreading a lil' love and happiness with a side of strong coffee along the way. :)

One of the things I've recently learned, and can't wait to apply, is choosing one day a week to blog about a certain topic. Sooo, without further ado...

 Introducing: Step Mom Monday! 

There are so many amazing mom-blogs out there and I've been so inspired by each and every one I've read; however, I've noticed a definite lack in the market for blogs geared specifically towards those of us who haven't been blessed with our own kids but still get the privilege of being a momma. I've been a legal, legit step-mom for just over a year now but have spent the last 4 and a half years of my life falling deeper and deeper in love with my two beautiful bonuses, Faith and Ethan.

{Not only did I recently gain two step-children, I gained two TEENAGE step-children! Faith just turned 17 last week and E is 14. Wuuuut?}

For any other bonus moms out there, you know good and well how freakin' mind-blowing it is to go from being kidless to having your heart completely fulfilled by human beings you didn't even know existed not long before. These two have brought me so much joy and I've been introduced to this deeply maternal side of me that I had never gotten the chance to explore before.

   My question for you is this:

When do you know you're ready for your own littles? How do you make that leap from not just step-mom, but "full-time, full-blown" momma of more?

That's not to say I don't consider myself a full-time parental figure already. I do. Just because the kids don't live with us full-time by no means translates to feeling like a partial mom. I love those kids like they were my own, [although I certainly don't try to take anyone's place] and I've recently found myself faced with issues that never even crossed my little mind before--for example, Faith got her driver's license last week. That's right, MY STEP-DAUGHTER CAN DRIVE.  I definitely never expected to be a 27-year-old worried sick over teen auto accident statistics but hey, here I am!

My husband and I know we eventually want kids together and let's face it, the closer I get to 30, the more I start to feel like I'm finally ready. Besides that, within my close group of girlfriends, 3 of us have little ones ages 2 and under and my best friend is expecting her first in August. But how does a parent balance and evenly divide their time and affection between existing kiddos and a new baby on the block? How do I, as a step-mother, make sure to demonstrate the fact that even if I may have a child of my own, F & E are no less my kids-by-heart than they were before? This goes for all mommas, not just ones by marriage. How have YOU helped a sibling scenario thrive without allowing your child(ren) to feel overlooked or replaced?

Sound off in the comments below +  be sure to help a girl out and share, share, share!

i peaked in the year 2000

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The 2000s were a glorious time, y'all. We had Britney Spears' pleather pants and Pepsi commercials, Justin Timberlake's frosted ramen head, synchronized dance moves, body jewels and inordinate amounts of glitter and butterfly hair clips.

There was also the spawn of the devil, Furbies, those little robot dogs that broke within a month, (RIP dog-I-probably-named-Lance-Bass) power beads that would apparently bring you strength and/or romance, inflatable furniture, Gigapets and AIM profiles decked out in hot pink ImPaCt FoNt. (Shout out to my BFFEAEAE and NOT my crush, bcuz he sux.)

To celebrate this little wave of millennium nostalgia, I present you with a really attractive collection of me at roughly 10 years old aka Y2Kaley, if you will. Gummy Bear body spray by Juice Bar and pants that zip into capris that zip into shorts not included.

This is technically late 90's but I'm including it anyway because LOOK AT THAT CHILI BOWL HAIRCUT. It looks like I cut it myself with a jackhammer. The same jackhammer I used on my teeth, apparently. I'm also rocking what appears to be a nice watermelon-inspired dress with some sort of...cape? Did...did this dress come with a cape collar? Was I a springtime superhero? If so, my superpower must have been blinding beauty because I mean, obviously. Anyways, the star of this photo, besides the Grand Canyon-sized gap in my mouth, is the vast collection of Mary-Kate and Ashley videos I've very casually positioned myself with. I mean, come on, y'all know you remember To Grandmother's House We Go, the one where they had a sleepover and put egg foo yung on their pizza and all the really puzzling capers they solved by singing and dancing as the infamous Trenchcoat Twins. Side note: I had an imaginary twin sister named Mary at one point that may have been inspired by all of this. Side side note: I also had a lot of friends.

THEM SHOES THOUGH. Here I am, thoroughly inspired by the Spice Girls on my lower half and a tropical waterfall on my top half. To class things up, I tucked my shirt into my skort because that's naturally what one does when wearing a skort, I guess. Also, I'm wearing scrunchie socks AND a scrunchie in my hair so bonus points to me for being sOooO new millennium, baybay.

Okay, if this isn't the embodiment of my childhood, I don't know what is. Here I am before the Britney Spears concert, looking so much like her, it's unreal. Not only am I rocking the questionable 10 year-old version of the catholic schoolgirl outfit, but I'm also wearing a CLUELESS VOICE- CHANGING HEADSET PHONE. This was not just a prop to look like a microphone, guys. I routinely used this to prank call people by myself. Also, those shoes weren't part of the costume, I actually wore those. Good looking out, mom.

I have to take a deep breath and clear my mind before I can fully comprehend the amount of millennial going on in this photo. For starters, there's the Brit calendar in the back. Do I sense a theme here? Also, glitter lava lamp and regular type lava lamp for the win. I also spy with my little rose-tinted aviator wearing eyes, a tye dye lamp with matching bedding and a fully functioning CD player plus boom box. And wait. Holy Nick Carter, is that a see-through neon green desk lamp mysteriously on the floor?! And Beanie Babies on the shelves?! And an incredibly awkward pose I must have thought I'd seen boy bands do on the cover of J-14? AND THE PORTABLE KIDS KEYBOARD THAT I WROTE SONGS LIKE "MUSIC MANIA" COMPLETE WITH MULTIPLE DANCE BREAKS ON?!?! I have to take a break and re-apply my Dr.Pepper Lipsmackers to recover from all this nostalgia, y'all.

Oh, man. Here's me and Renee before the Aaron Carter concert in the 5th grade. Please take special notice of the super futuristic sunglasses, crimped hair before mermaids were cool, Limited Too sparkle pants and matching shirt that went a little too heavy on the sequins and geometric designs. Also, I am wearing a Squeeze Breeze around my neck. I repeat, I AM WEARING A FREAKING SQUEEZE BREEZE AS A NECKLACE. I mean, when you're that hot, you gotta keep cool somehow, amirite?! Fun fact: my poster originally said "I HEART AARON" but I added on "...'s music" to the end so my dad wouldn't get mad and Renee totally judged me for it. Yeah, the girl with the pigtails and metallic shirt tied around her waist thought that it would be okay to pass judgement.

Finally, here I am, roughly 12 years old, hanging out in beautiful star-filled California and making the conscious decision to wear shirt-jeans. Because why would I wear high-waisted jeans when I could WEAR A SHIRT THAT GAVE THE ILLUSION OF HIGH-WAISTED JEANS?! I'm practically the David Blaine of denim. It's like I actually wanted the very trendy people of Hollywood to see me walking down Sunset Blvd. and ask themselves "Is that girl wearing jeans? No, she's wearing shirt-jeans!" Also, this was literally made of silk and I think those are Chinese symbols in the middle. They probably stood for peace, tranquility and fashion.

Anyways, consider this my away message, guys! Until then, turn on TRL and take it easy on the body glitter.

XoXoXo, <3~~HoLLiSterHaWti28

the kathryn effect

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

  Is it not the weirdest thing in the world when a certain smell jogs a thousand and one memories? It happened to me just earlier today. I was walking through a parking lot on our little town square when the strong scent of a familiar perfume washed over me with the weight of a breaking wave. I had to catch my breath, it was so unexpected. It was like I went back in time for a fraction of a second and my grandma Kathryn was right by my side again.

  In actuality, it's been over 10 years since I've heard that contagious laugh, been flashed that beautiful smile or was enveloped in one of her sweet hugs, that trademark perfume, Pheronome, leaving its mark on everything she owned. My mom's mom was the quintessential Southern woman, y'all. A kind, compassionate, Jesus lovin', iced tea chuggin' lady with sass to spare. I know it sounds cliche but Miss Kathryn Louise wasn't just my grandmother, she was my rock. Sometimes, I still don't know how I stay anchored without her.

   I'm an incredibly lucky girl in the fact that every single one of my grandparents were and are shining examples of the kind of person I wish to be. My grandpa Johnson was strong, protective and loved nothing more than a good practical joke and rough-housing with his grandkids. My grandma Betty Grace was sweet, quiet and gentle with a heart made of absolute gold. My mother's dad, my Granddaddy, Murray, was intelligent, honest, soft-spoken and kind. The sweetest bonus in my life, my dad's step-mom, grandma Floy, continues to be a beacon of compassion, warmth and love. Because my grandpa Johnson and grandma Floy lived in Omaha, Nebraska and Granny B.G. was in California, I often get a little heartsick at the amount of memories I missed out on living so far away in Texas. Those cherished times when they made the trip here or we trekked out to see them, however, are forever ingrained in my heart.

 If your grandparents are still living, soak that in. Ask them their story. Get to know who they were before they became parents, much less grandparents. Bust out the old family photo albums and reminisce with them. My last memory of my Grandmama was the night before she passed. She was so weak and sick with the cancer attacking her body. It was so sudden. She had been diagnosed just a couple weeks before and planned to start chemotherapy the day she left us. A few days prior, her and I sat at her storied kitchen table, the table where we once shared so many meals and countless family game nights. As I helped her spread peanut butter onto Saltine crackers, a go-to snack, and at this point, one of the only things she could keep down, I was hit with the realization that these precious little moments wouldn't last forever.

  Later that afternoon, she settled into her recliner and turned the TV on to one of her beloved soap operas. I sat nearby in the next room, curled up in a chair and flipping through some old scrapbooks. I could feel her eyes watching me and when I looked up, she seemed so wistful, like she longed for time she knew she didn't have. That night, as my mother and I tucked her fragile body into bed, she gently wrapped her arms around my neck and whispered "I love you, baby." As we walked out of the front door and into the dark night, I stole one final glance behind me. She looked so small in that big ol' bed. I blew her a kiss and off we went. I had no idea it would be the last time I'd ever see her.

 That memory is still so vibrant in my mind, I can literally see the shadow the light from the TV cast onto the shape of her in that bed. I long to have her back on this earth with me. When I got married, almost exactly one year ago, I wanted nothing more than to have 4 of those chairs filled by my beloved grandparents, Kathryn, Murray, Richard and Betty. Instead, we set up a little table with a candle and flowers beside a framed photo of each of them and a sign that read "This candle burns in loving memory of those forever in our hearts."

That they are.

 My soul was made complete by my 5 grandparents. There is so much to be learned from those who have lived a long, full life. Experiences, regrets, whatever the memory, it can be used as fuel for your fire. Ask those questions while you have the chance. They were born and raised in a much different time and place than we were, an era I often wish I could have experienced myself. Put down your iPhone, unplug the laptop and try a different kind of connection--one with your parents, your grandparents, your great-aunt, your father's cousin, whomever. You never know when their voice will be silent and you have to rely on your own memories of them to get you through.

  I continually ask myself, "By doing this, would my grandma brag on me to her friends at church? Would my granddaddy approve of the words I'm about to speak?" Even years after their deaths, they continue to ground me. I can only hope that I continue to make them proud.

 Love one another, never take anything for granted and be kind, y'all. It's what your grandmother would want you to do. :)

fitness (whole slice of pizza in my mouth)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Let me be reeeeal honest right now. I’m one of the most gym-challenged people out there. I pretty much have sticks for arms so there goes any powerlifting on the horizon and my favorite form of cardio is walking through the Dollar Spot at Target 23 times in a row. I never really played any sports growing up and I admit that it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for me to hit up fast food spots 3 times a day. My average meal plan in high school consisted of an occasional quick run through McDonald’s for an iced mocha (extra whip) and a McMuffin meal in the AM, a full order of Pizza Hut breadsticks and a huge slice or two of pepperoni for lunch and two Cheesy Gordita Crunches and a large order of nachos ala Taco Bell for dinner. Aaand probably a Dr. Pepper or two at each meal. Not to mention the chips, candy bar and additional soda from the vending machines for a midday snack.

This kind of eating was pretty consistent for me as a kid. My sweet mom would try to cook for me but guess who wouldn’t DREAM of eating grilled chicken or, Lord help us, vegetables that weren’t drenched in Big Mac sauce? This girl. I lived off of French fries and inordinate amounts of sugar for years and at the time, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I don’t gain any weight, this is great, I can just eat like this forever, now can I supersize that?!”

Fast forward 10 years later uh, that thought process didn’t hold up. Hello, slower metabolism! I’ve always had a slight build–in fact, I was so boney, I was constantly teased about having an eating disorder. {that’s another blog post for another time.} This led me to falsely believe genetics would be on my side forever. Can you guess what started changing right after high school? 🙄

This year, I’ve finally committed to making a change and maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Y'all, this is so far beyond just changing the way you look. I admit that’s part of it–dreams of working a bikini with rock hard abs on a beach with my husband tend to dance through my head from time to time. But for me, it’s more about the way I FEEL. Over the past 3 months, I’ve become way more energetic, light on my feet, improved my skin and overall “glow”, and, lets face it, I’m less moody! Endorphins are a beautiful thing.

Since hitting my heaviest weight just over a year ago, I’m officially down almost 20 pounds. It may not sound like a lot but man, I sure feel it! No more sluggishness, no more feeling…well, for lack of a better word, gross. I think there’s a lot to be said for that. When you feel good, you look good. The self-esteem boost and sense of empowerment is real.

That’s not to say any of this has been easy. There are days the thought of the elliptical makes my head spin. I’m often tired, sore, not in the right mindset or just plain over it. Let’s be real, a bucket of fried chicken will always sound better than a salad. Occasionally, I literally have to force myself off the couch, suck down a few cups of coffee and remind myself that I’m worth it. There’s really nothing more important than your health, y'all. {But seriously, aIl you have to do is look at a few pictures of peak Britney Spears’ bod and that’s the little extra push you need.}

My whole point in all this is that I sincerely hope I can help inspire others to make the changes they need, no matter how small, to improving their overall health and well-being. Please ladies, do NOT be intimidated by change. Don’t feel embarrassed to be seen at the gym. You’re supposed to sweat. You’re supposed to look like a hot mess. You only have ONE body. Take care of it. It’s the only place you have to live. Seriously. Let that sink in. This is your HEALTH. Your LIFE. It’s not just about the size of your jeans. This isn’t about what other people think of you. This isn’t about fitting into a new dress or looking like that photoshopped actress on the cover of Cosmo. This is literally about your quality of life. For some, this could be a matter of life or death. You won’t ever be as young again as you are today. Why are we so quick to stop caring about ourselves? The body you’re in right now is the only vessel you have.

You CAN do this. You CAN change. You ARE worth it. Confidence and well-being are so, so important. Again, your health is so, so important! Take a look at yourself. Right now. Run to a mirror and look. If you can say you are 100 % happy with where you’re at, I applaud and admire you. If you don’t feel like you are the best version of yourself, become it. Start the process. At the risk of sounding way too harsh, only you are responsible for you. If you’re miserable, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. Get moving. No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everybody on the couch. And no matter how many times you said you were going to stop eating junk food and ended up at Burger King the next day…so what? It’s never too late to start now. You can’t get the butt you want by sitting on it. ;) Exercise that will-power. Prove to yourself that you can. Heck, if you don’t feel like you can, prove yourself wrong!

I don’t work out because I hate my body. I work out because I love it. I love me. I love my life. I’m no beast in the gym. I’m uncoordinated, I have shockingly weak legs and I’m slower than molasses on the treadmill. But I’m trying. I’m changing. I’m improving. I’m exceeding my goals. I’m feeling better about myself each day. And I am so, so happy.

Like I said before, chase that happiness, girl. You deserve it. You are so much stronger than you realize. You have self-control. Use it. Defy peoples opinions of you. Defy the opinion you have of yourself. Push harder than you did yesterday if you want a different tomorrow. When you feel like quitting, remember why you started in the first place. Repeat it to yourself until it’s drilled into your brain. Tape a picture of that bikini to the mirror if you need to. Good health is the most obvious sign of your self-respect, self-love and self-worth. If you don’t show it to yourself, how can you expect others to show it to you? Love yourself. Respect the body that has been given to you because this is the ONLY life you have. Today is another chance to get it right.

Kick that booty into gear, sister.

chasin' dreams

It’s not always easy to take a leap of faith when you can’t quite see where you’ll land. For me, I know I’m usually a creature of habit. I get up around the same time every morning, let the dog out, turn off the porch lights, fix my breakfast, let Dixie back inside to eat and make the bed. Riveting stuff. For the longest time, there was no variation to this ritual. Then…life happened.

Y’all, I am so BEYOND happy to announce {or repeat, for those of you who haven’t seen me freaking out all over social media already} that your girl here has a brand new career and a brand new outlook on life. :) Last month, I accepted a position as a staff reporter for our local newspaper. If there’s a job out there that’s more tailor-made for me, I certainly haven’t found it and truth be told, I don’t want to.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of a being a writer and reporter. When I was about 8 or so, I “published” my own little paper called the Kaley Khronicles…shout out to my parents for being the only people that read it. Also, I only made one copy of each paper so there’s that, too.
 **My groundbreaking articles included the classic “Dad loses his sock” and the very hard-hitting “Mom went to work today.”**

After high school, I briefly attended college for a few semesters and majored in journalism with an emphasis in broadcasting. As time went by, I came to the realization that maybe, just maybe, school isn’t for everyone and maybe, just maybe, I was one of those people. I left college and took a lot of time to travel, work, and quite simply, grow. A few years later, I got married, moved to a small town and have been happily wifing it up ever since.

Sometimes though, an opportunity presents itself that you simply never saw coming. I happened to see a friend had re-posted an ad on Facebook for the job opening at the paper and immediately, I was reworking my resume and printing off examples of my work. Although to some, it’s just a small-town paper, to me, it’s a reminder that passion is important. As cliche as it sounds, work isn’t really work when you love what you do. Taking chances, as scary and imposing as they may seem, can pay off tenfold. You never know unless you try. Truly. If you had told 18 year-old me that I’d be writing for a living one day, I wouldn’t have believed you. I foolishly convinced myself that because I never finished my degree, my dream job was unattainable. Now, I start off each morning with two cups of coffee and a smile on my face.

If things aren’t going the way you’d planned, if you wake up with a sense of dread washing over you and a heaviness on your shoulders, remind yourself–you are the master of your fate, girl. Work hard. Bust yo butt. Cling to positivity and never, ever settle for less than what you’re worth. Because trust me; you’re worth so much more than you know.

And if you ever find yourself in a position where you can chase that little bit of happiness, chase it. Feed your soul. Take the freakin’ chance. Yes, you don’t know what’s on the other end of that hurdle. Jump anyway. Even if this specific opportunity doesn’t work out, it may bring you to the one that does. Experiences count. You live them, you learn from them and then you grow with them. If you don’t take that shot, you may end up with a few missed chances and a lifetime of regret. Remember, not everyone’s dreams look the same. What works for Suzie won’t always work for Bobby. Do YOU. You are your own person and you have your own aspirations. Shake off whatever is holding you back. Silence the negativity. If you pray, pray hard. If you don’t, remind yourself that your destiny is still yours. Only you can make it happen.

I’m a firm believer that personal happiness is important. It won’t always last. Bad days are inevitable. I just know I’d rather have my bad days while in a good place in my life than experience those same highs while remaining stagnate.

When it comes down to it, you just gotta close your eyes, take a deep breath, and get on your path. The only thing that’s left to do is run.

treat yo man (with respect)

*This one’s for the ladies but it can easily be flipped for the opposite gender. Just don’t start a bathroom debate.

So call me crazy, but I think supporting and appreciating your husband is kinda cool. Way too often, I see women complaining about their husband’s long hours, chastising them for their failures, putting unreasonable demands on them like white on rice. Now first, let me put this out there– I’m the wife of a salesman. He works for a Chevrolet dealership. His hours are endless, his days are stressful, he has sales goals to meet and a sea of people to talk to. I am SO guilty of getting upset when he comes through the door at 9 PM, wishing we had time for some Netflix and couch cuddlin’ but instead eating a late dinner and going straight to bed. There are days he stays hours after closing, only to have the deal fall through at the last minute. Do I really need to complain about how tired I am? Or how we missed the chance to sit down and watch a movie together? Or hit him with one of my good ol’ fired up rants the second he walks in the door? (Or maybe like, ever?)

My husband is, hands down, the hardest working, most multi-talented guy I know. He works his job, cooks INCREDIBLY good, gourmet restaurant-worthy meals, single-handedly completes renovations on the house, makes sure his kids are where they’re supposed to be with everything they need, and keeps our lights on, our water running and a roof over our heads. He does this BY. HIM. SELF. I may contribute a little every week from my job, but this man is the main provider. I mean, I’m in awe of the dude. I may keep the kitchen counters clean but he’s the one that built ‘em.

It’s so easy to sometimes overlook the sacrifices your spouse is making and instead focus your energy on the why nots and coulda-beens. Without the hours my husband spends on his feet all day, we wouldn’t have food on our table. Without the insane amount of time and labor he’s put into the house, we wouldn’t have the counter-tops, back splash, flooring, Chip-and-Joanna- approved-wood-accent-wall, none of it. I mean, he remodeled an entire bathroom by himself in addition to juggling all that and then some. The most I knew how to do was slap some paint on the walls and call it a day.

Always keep in mind that if you have a good, solid man in your life, he will provide in any way he can, not just financially. He will go above and beyond to meet the needs of your family. He will put time and effort into making sure your life together runs as smoothly as possible. This isn’t to say that you as a woman can’t do that, too. DANG RIGHT YA CAN! Until we decided to pack up and move to our small town, I had a good career, money in my pocket, the whole shebang. When we embarked on our new journey, I happily became a stay-at-home-wife for almost a year. I saw just how much heart and soul Taylor puts into everything he does and for that, I will forever be indebted.

Knowing he enjoys making a good life for his wife and children is a quality I truly respect and admire. I’m all about an independent woman (and highly recommend making sure a girl can stand on her own two feet, come what may) but there’s something innately comforting about a true man’s man that revels in his role as a provider. It hasn’t always been easy for us. Sometimes, it still isn’t. The pressure is high and his shoulders are heavy. He carries that load on his own. But I promise to always uplift him, tell him how appreciated he is and lend a hand wherever possible. Don’t worry, I swear I’ll get that whole cooking thing down soon. I’ll continue to bite my tongue on those late nights. I’ll keep making sure the floors are swept and the toilets are clean. (No, seriously, I will. I’m one of those super neurotic Monica Gellers that actually enjoys cleaning and organizing. :/ ) I’ll continue to use my husband as my personal motivation to work as hard in my day-to-day life as he does. And I will try to harness every negative emotion, every ounce of stress, every “I-wish-we-could” and turn it into a “because of him, we can.”

Girls, you deserve to be loved. You deserve to have your needs met. You deserve the help. You deserve the hand. You deserve a good man. And he deserves a good woman. Keep it positive, show him he’s loved, take time to truly see and appreciate everything he does for you and your family. Be his shoulder to cry on, his ear to talk to, his best friend and his built-in support system. It goes both ways. And don’t forget to hold on for dear life, because you found yourself a good one.

Now, go sing “I don't want no scrubs” at the top of your lungs and appreciate that he ain’t always talkin’ ‘bout what he wants and just sits on his broke a**.


*Originally posted September 8th, 2016.

I first met my now husband, Taylor, in late 2012. Before we began dating, I knew he had two kids from a previous marriage and he was like any other proud dad, regaling me with stories of soon-to-be 10 year-old Ethan and 12 year-old Faith. I’ll be honest; I had never dated a guy with kids before, much less ones that were on the “older” end of the spectrum. Before I met them, I remember thinking to myself “Okay. I know I’m good with little ones but how am I going to connect with adolescents? What will we talk about? Will they like me? Will they try to?” I spent days worrying about making a good impression and crossing my fingers that they weren’t going to hate my guts because let’s be honest, they didn’t know me from the man in the moon and they had every right to be weary!

Y’all, I swear I’m not being biased when I say that these are two of the sweetest, most polite, bright and endearing young people I could have ever hoped to have in my life. Upon meeting them, I instantly felt all of my worries melt away. Over the 4 years that have followed, I’ve been blessed with a strong bond with each of them and can truly say that some of the best moments of my life have been watching them grow into the resilient, intelligent and kind-hearted 16 and 13 year-olds they are today.

Being a step-parent doesn’t mean you’re a replacement. I can only imagine the conflict a birth mother or father must feel when their former partner enters into a new relationship and a family dynamic begins to form. I’m one of the lucky ones. I truly respect the kids’ mom (and her husband) and we’ve never had any moment where we spoke with any negativity towards one another. But as a step-parent, you have to accept this truth– you can love them, you can guide them, and you can always try your best to uplift them but you can never try to “win” them. You are a wonderful bonus to their lives; assuming that both parents are involved, you aren’t the one making all of the decisions, doling out punishments and picking out their clothes. That’s a tricky situation. You can have your heart absolutely filled to the brim for your step-kids, and rightfully so, but you have to know your role and embrace it. Be a supporter, a mentor, an ear that listens and a heart that loves. But remember–it is not your job to be their parent. It is not your job to be their disciplinarian. It is not your job to dictate.

Step-parenthood can be incredibly overwhelming, trying to navigate where you fit in and where the boundaries lie. You have to find a way to create a healthy, positive environment in which they thrive without infringing on the rights and beliefs of their mother or father. You may desire a close bond right away and feel like you’re doing something wrong if that doesn’t immediately happen but keep in mind– relationships need time to grow and this is no different. Never forget the importance of communicating with your spouse when it comes to their children. Opinions are fine and dandy but it’s not up to you to enforce all the rules.

When you invest yourself so completely in a child, you may find it difficult to not steer that ship. But I know in my case, these kids have a great father, a loving mother  and two step-parents that would move mountains for them. We’ve become like 4 points of a square with the children in the middle. Respecting each other’s positions in that square is essential and when you find a way to make it work, it’s rewarding beyond belief.

If you’re a step-parent, I respect, admire and applaud you. It isn’t an easy path to journey down and I commend anyone who steps up to the plate and opens their heart to another’s child. I came into Faith and Ethan’s lives at a delicate time– I didn’t witness any first steps or the first day of school, I missed getting to chase them around the playground, (heck, I jumped right into the pre-teen/teenage stage!) and I’ve never experienced the incredibly beautiful, irreplaceable bond of childbirth. But I have gotten to know two amazing souls, been lucky enough to watch them grow, and will continue to love, support and encourage them until the end of my days. Being a step-mom is the title I’m most proud to wear and the two of them have already taught me so much about myself. This may be a crash-course in parenting of sorts (one that, thankfully, helps to prepare me for my own journey into motherhood one day) but it’s a ride I consider myself lucky to be on.

Here’s to the many years worth of memories, laughs, tears, and fears to come. Kids, I’m so happy to have you in my life and I will never stop being a momma-in-love.

hello again, world

**I orginally hosted this blog through Tumblr but since switching to Blogger, I'm re-posting all of my old posts first. Carry on.**

Originally posted September 7th, 2016.

The name of this blog is A Cup With Kaley: Coffee and Conversation. Some of my favorite things in life include a warm drink, a good book and a true heart-to-heart. By starting this blog, I hope to create a little piece of home for anyone looking for something to talk about, a slice of encouragement, or total overkill when it comes to pictures of pumpkins/fall leaves/and rustic settings because let’s face it, I’m as basic as they come.

Throughout this journey, I’ll also be ATTEMPTING TO COOK FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER (and blogging every burnt piece of chicken and failed recipe in the process. I’m sure my husband is thrilled), exploring my passion for photography and sharing my random musings of balancing a brand new marriage, step-mommahood and  attempts at homemaking in a way that is hopefully fun, relate-able and maybe even a little uplifting.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram @ kaleybranch or e-mail me at with any ideas, questions, or stories of your own.
Here we goooo!