The Dating Equation

One of the blessings of having lived in different states is that I have friends all over the country—and, that the rare times when I get to catch up with them face-to-face is so much sweeter! Last week, I had the pleasure of catching up with a few of my girlfriends—some closer than others in proximity, but all close in spirit. And, though we’re not all in the same life stages, “relationships” is a theme that’s consistently woven into the fabric of our conversations.

Relationships are tough to write about. They’re personal. They’re messy. And that’s why, to this point, I haven’t. But there are some things that have been on my heart for a bit, and I think it’s time to share them. From high school prom dates to the dating landscape of our 20’s—and marriage, for a few of us—our relationships have shaped our lives and the women that we are today. The boys and the men that have entered our lives have had enormous power to leave their mark on our hearts—and, our hearts continue to grow and shift in light of these interactions.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand that. I thought the equation was “me + him = 100%”. My heart, though I didn’t know it, was looking for someone to come along and complete it. That meant that, through the tumultuous world of dating, it was constantly shifting—who I was was constantly shifting—as I sought to be the someone worthy of completing.

That’s no way to live and, candidly, isn’t a fair expectation within any relationship. Nobody can take the pressure of being who they are, and completing someone else. What the equation should be, I’ve learned, is “me + him + God = 200%. or 250%. or 400%.” It should be the addition of two people who are wholly comfortable in themselves to create something greater than themselves, not two people coming together to create one whole person.

Does this mean that, when we realize the right equation, our hearts are impervious to the words and actions that others speak to them? No. So gentlemen – please do understand the privilege of having access to a girl’s heart. And ladies – be careful who you allow to hold your heart. The right relationship should not complete you, it should add to you both. Know who you are, so someone else someday can know how to add their 100% to yours.

 

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In other news – Kenzi-Caudill.com has a new Instagram account! Follow along at caudill.kenzi on Insta daily inspiration. (Honestly, I’m about 10425 times better at updating my Insta vs. the blog. BUT – hopefully that’ll change! In the meantime, I’d love to continue the conversation with you on social media 🙂 )

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Living loved.

Listen up, lovelies. It’s almost Valentine’s Day.

The day in the year, second only to Christmas and Thanksgiving, that’s all about being with the one(s) you love. Or like a lot. Or like a little.

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, Galentine’s Day—or both! —I think there’s something even more important to this day that we often miss. February 14th is all about enjoying someone and celebrating them—their strength, their character, their passions, and their beauty—and so often the focus is shifted onto a significant other (or lack thereof) that we forget to celebrate another important person: ourselves.

She who so often gets overlooked.

Not overlooked by others, mind you, but by herself.

It’s not just about the “#treatyoself” mentality—but it’s about taking a moment to step back, breathe, and reflect on the lovely and kind, yet strong and fierce, woman that you are. And that confidence in who you are, that loving acceptance of yourself, will empower you to more powerfully love those that you’re in relationship with—whether sig o’s, friends, or family.

You see, when we don’t understand or believe in our own value, we make it impossible for others to fully see it, too! We unknowingly cheapen and sabotage our own relationships because we see them as something needed to complete us, rather than an addition to us. And, that need to “complete” drives a sentiment of desperation and a need for approval that others will never be able to fulfill. They weren’t meant to fulfill it.

“You can’t rely on me to make you happy.”

That’s what my dad told my mom back when they started dating. At first glance, it sounds extreme.

Isn’t that the point of relationships? you ask. Don’t they make you happy? Being with someone else and loved by someone else makes you happy?

Yes, it absolutely can. But, what my dad was wise enough to have caught onto here was the fact that if you rely on other people to make you happy—even the very best people—there will always be some day, some point that you’ll still feel…something missing.

Think of a gorgeous, handcrafted clay jar. And, the jar needs to be filled—it’s meant to be filled—but, if you always look to others to fill it for you, then your jar often be missing what’s needed to top it off. They don’t have enough to entirely fill your jar and theirs—and they weren’t meant to.

100% + 100% = 200%.

When we see our own value, and look for other people to add to us instead of complete us, we will always get more—happiness, fulfillment from our relationships, confidence in our jobs, and so on.

So, here’s what you need to hear loud and clear: you are worth loving.

And, this Valentine’s Day, it’s you who needs to realize that. Live loved, and you will be able to more fully love the life you live.

Cheers, dears! xoxo

P.S. If you’re in Fort Wayne…

I went to a really fabulous event last week at Jane Ford Art Studio that was all about celebrating women, sharing their stories, and empowering them to live in a way that makes the most of their strength and beauty each day. The event was sponsored by Hill Image Consulting, Kristine Logan Photography, and Solutions Skin Care—all experts in their field, excited about what they do, and all about empowering their clients and crafting styles, looks, and shoots that inspire confidence. If you’re looking to discover and share who you are—your personal brand—I’d highly recommend you stop in & see these ladies!

Review: La La Land

“It’s pretty strange that we keep running into each other.”

“Maybe it means something.”

 

So begins one of cinema’s most brilliant romances. A love story sparked through happenstance encounters that kindles a passionate relationship and an enduring flame—and takes audiences on a journey of reflection through loves desired, loves lost, and love shared.

 

But most of all, the movie dares to ask the question: what if?

 

What if you run into each other again? What if you wander through that door? What if you say yes? What if you dare to dream? What happens if it doesn’t work—or, what happens if it does?

 

It’s no exaggeration to say that La La Land ran away with my heart—from the stunning cinematography to a soundtrack that soars beyond all others this decade, its epic storyline to its wistful ending. Through it all, though, the film accomplishes the feat of feeling incredibly genuine and authentic—and perhaps that’s why we let it take the liberty of asking such bold questions. Because we reflect on those questions ourselves in our most personal, intimate moments. Because life and love are all about risk.

 

What happens in life is, at a basic level, the result of our decisions and the way we experience the decisions others make. It’s comprised of crossroads and choices. If we choose to give our heart away, do we ever really get all of it back? What if we choose to go? What if we choose to stay?

 

“That’s the dream! It’s conflict and compromise, and it’s very very exciting.”

 

As much as I protest, I did leave part of my heart in New York. And La La Land’s swanky jazz clubs, crowded concert halls, classic movie theaters, and brilliant views—all of it pulls me back into that romance until, before I can even stop myself, I’m transported to a different place and time.

 

Honestly, it is exhilarating. They don’t make films like this anymore—with the artistry, scale, and skill. It takes me back to those West Village weekend nights, with the sounds of jazz softly coming from the clubs as one walks by. Or, to those Lincoln Center midnights, with the lone saxophonist serenading the City under my window.

 

La La Land captures all of those scenes and sentiments—in West Coast form, of course. It leaves you wanting more.

 

It encourages you to follow your heart and pursue your passions. “Are you doing all that you’re meant to do?” it asks. “What if you went after it with all of your heart?”

 

The characters are both aspirational and inspirational—and ultimately, it’s their relationship with each other that inspires both to brilliance. The film beautifully conveys the centrality of that romantic relationship—of having that person, your person—in the crowd cheering you on, delighting your heart when you least expect it, carrying the dream for you when you falter, and going to incredible lengths to show you that someone believes.

 

It’s a story of true, enduring love that captures the heart and captivates the mind.

 

And, turns to the future with the question, “What if?”

4 epic dates for days when going outside is just too much

With the holidays officially wrapped and New Year’s here & gone, we’ve officially entered that time in Winter that seems like a struggle. Rain tumbles down like a monsoon, the melting snow takes on a grayish hue, and the cold weather permeates your coat, gloves – and even your soul.

It may seem a bit overdramatic, until you’re walking 25 minutes home from work in NYC, jostled by all the people, annoyed by the traffic and, when you finally reach your apartment, it feels like a fortress away from all of the cold & craziness below.

Midwesterners, we feel the pain too – that trudge to the car, blowing on your hands as you wait for your car heater to warm up, & shivering as you make a run for it into work.

Long story short – wherever you are, there are days — and dates — that you just want to stay inside.

So, here’s 4 must-try ideas for epic stay-at-home dates.

These are pure gold, & a few of my all-time favorites. Try them – or put your own spin on them – and let me know how it goes!

Pillow fort movie night

Movie night is awesome. Movie night in a pillow fort is better.

Step 1: Choose your location – the living room is always a classic.

Step 2: Lay your foundation. Decide if you’ll want something to lean up against – like a wall or a couch. Spread out a down comforter or cushy blanket, & pull out all the pillows to make chilling with bae as comfy as possible!

Step 3: Top it off! This isn’t just child’s play – there’s real engineering involved! Get creative for how you create the roof of your tent – pull in chairs, couches & other pieces of furniture to create your ideal tent. Secure sheets & blankets with things that will be easy to remove – like laundry clips, rubber bands, and string.

Step 4: Get cozy. Pull your favorite blankets & pillows in the fort – even experiment with different colors / textures. String up some LED lights for maximum ambiance / instal-potential.

Step 5: Line up your refreshments. Who ever heard of movie night without popcorn? For something out of the ordinary, try Skinny Pop (LOVE the Naturally Sweet kind) or Poptique Gourmet Popcorn (a Ft. Wayne favorite!). & pro-tip: use a dining tray to keep everything neat & tidier.

Step 6: Lean back & enjoy the movie on your TV or a computer – whichever best fits your fort.

v dope. v chic. #ki date night in.

Cozy living room campfire

Spread out a faux sheepskin rug (like this one for $24), get your coziest blankets that make you feel like you’re at a lodge in colorado, and cuddle up in the living room. A fireplace is always a great option here, but if you don’t have one, here’s a fabulous little-known (and perhaps even better!) secret – a hibachi grill ($12). (Fuel is usually available at a local home improvement store.) Kabob skewers work well for roasting sticks – so get chocolate, graham crackers, marshmallows & make your own s’mores.

Transport yourselves to an exotic location

Choose a country you’ve both been dying to visit. Set out a few trinkets reminiscent of that destination, or transform your apartment for the night – it’s up to you! Find a favorite recipe from the region, and make dinner / dessert together. Pop open a beverage or bottle of wine from that country, cue up a film about the country, and settle in next to each other for a brilliant evening staycation.

Example – Italy. I love to make a delicious focaccia, open a bottle of red, light my stone pillar candlesticks from Italy, and curl up in front of Cinema Paradiso.

Bond over nostalgia

Pick a decade – whether the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s. Go to the local music store and grab a few vinyl albums / cd’s of your favorite bands from that era. On the way home, stop by a local vintage store & choose outfits for each other so that you’re style matches the night’s theme. If it’s your thing, you can even look up the most popular drinks of the decade & take your hand at making / mixing them together! Have a dance party to the decade’s greatest hits. Then settle in the living room with a board game from “back in the day”, or a TV show about the “good times”. A few ideas – check out Netflix’s new series about the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s, That 70’s Show for – obviously – the 70’s, Stranger Things for the 80’s and, Friends for the 90’s!

The Secret to Happiness Is…. (cue drumroll)

Surprise + delight = the secret to moments of happiness.

Intentionality = the secret to a lifetime of happiness.

To borrow the phrase overused by rappers everywhere, “Let’s break it down now.”

Surprise + Delight

When I was growing up, my parents never told me that my life couldn’t turn out just like the movies. They never said I was incapable of accomplishing anything, never scoffed at my dreams or told me to “be more realistic.”

In fact, my childhood was a dream. My parents were the BEST at surprises. They taught my brother and I early on that “just because” gifts, spontaneous train trips to Chicago, or a new puppy were wonderful things and that surprises were a part of life – not just something meant for the movies. I’d come home to find a favorite type of ice cream in the freezer, or jump in the car after school with my mom and she would say, “Close your eyes and hold out your hands. I got something for you today!” I learned to bask in the joy of receiving surprises, and loved these unexpected acts of fun and kindness.

 

I remember one Christmas, when my dad gave me one of the most amazing surprises I’ve ever received. He handed my mom and I beautifully embroidered clutch bags, and stayed quiet as we looked them over assuming that was our (only) gift from him that year. Only when we opened the bags did we find the Broadway tickets inside – I had two tickets to Wicked, and my mom had two to The Phantom of the Opera. We noticed that the dates on the tickets were only one day apart…at which point my dad brought out this fabulous book that he had created that outlined an entire, week-long trip to NYC. Our plane tickets were in the front, followed by hotel reservations, MORE Broadway tickets (to five shows!), restaurant reviews, subway maps – everything! My 16 year-old heart was bursting!

Sometime around that point, I decided I wanted to be like my dad. I’d been the recipient of joy, but I wanted to give the joy, too! So I started to buy my mom earrings or flowers just because, or look into sending our family to a hotel in Warsaw for the night (because at the time, that was all I could afford and Warsaw, IN sounded exotic and exciting. lolz.).

Fast-forward for a few years, and I started dating. (I’m sure you’re knowingly nodding now if you’ve dated more than one person in your lifetime. You’re like, “Here it is. Here’s the reality.”) I’ve dated a couple people that approached things very intentionally, and things just didn’t work out because they weren’t meant to. But, I’ve also had the dating horror stories where he would “ghost” (e.g., not respond) for week(s), then show up on my doorstep with a box of chocolates. Those one-off moments may have made me happy momentarily but wouldn’t indicate to me that he really valued or appreciated me. I’d still be left in the following days or weeks, questioning what he really felt about me – and, questioning is the FASTEST way to suck the happiness out of anything.

And, to be honest, I’d rather have cupcakes than chocolate. Clearly guys like that didn’t understand my heart. 😉

 

Intentionality

Happiness comes with intentionality. One of the most certain ways to tell how someone feels about you is to pay attention to how intentional their actions are towards you.

 

That’s why I’ve never questioned how my parents, or even my closest friends, feel about me. We’re intentional in how we give gifts to and surprise each other. We all also ensure that the sentiment behind the gifts we give to each other lives on / continues to be proven through our daily actions – affirming the other person and showing he / she that they are cherished, loved, and valued. That their heart is understood. That they are unquestionably worth the time and sacrifice it took to make something happen. That’s a wonderful feeling.

 

My best friends might stop by my house announced spontaneously just to say “hi!” (the gift of presence), or drive 30 minutes to bring me Starbucks first thing before a big event. I might drop off a $5 gift card with a note at their house to surprise them when they get home, or ship my mom roses hand-picked from volcanoes in South America just to say, “I love you.” (Check out Bouqs.com. This is a real & amazing thing. Your mom / friend / girlfriend will love you forever.)

 

Intentionality doesn’t have to mean big, expensive, extravagant surprises. It isn’t measured by how much money you spend – just by how consistently you take time to say / do something that shows, “Hey, I value you.”

Maybe it’s doing the dishes, writing a quick note, or stopping by someone’s office on your lunch hour. Maybe it IS buying flowers or driving an hour to say “Hi!” or giving a year-long sock subscription. (Cai, my brother, you’re welcome.)

Whatever it is, happiness – in life, in relationships, in anything – comes from being intentional.

Let me know your thoughts below 🙂