Flourish Flock Feature | Carly Totten

Happy Thursday, dears! Wow, what a week- it's been good but lots of different moving parts and appointments, etc to get us as ready as we can be for baby boy's arrival! I am most definitely looking forward to this weekend as it should have a fairly slow pace, unless of course I go into labor ;)

Today, Carly Totten of Carly is Inspired is sharing with us and I have to say I just love her big heart + perspective and pray that her words are encouraging to you! 

I love her reminder for all of us here- it's something I can relate to personally and is also something that has definitely come up with various clients:

I’m definitely someone who has learned to allow myself to truly feel every emotion that’s on my heart. I think that comes from years of battling anxiety. I try to give myself a lot of grace because I try not to suppress anything. It’s better to sit and cry than hold it in.

Enjoy reading all of her interview below and have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Self Care Self Love Loss Intentional Living

Share where you currently live:

Bucks County, Pennsylvania – I live about 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia.

Share where you grew up:

Same place! I moved five minutes away from my childhood home last year.

Share about your family/your job/living situation:

I am an only child, but when many people meet me they think I have a brother. I think the fact that many think I have a sibling is a testament to how I was raised by my parents. They always made me feel special, and they always encouraged my every interest (I’ve tried nearly every sport!), but they made sure I remained grounded. To this day, my parents are my best friends.

At 29, my favorite days are most often the ones I spend with them. My mom is my favorite travel companion because she’s up for everything, and my dad is one of my fiercest believers and also one of the key people who calms me down when I am too stressed or hard on myself. I am definitely blessed in the parents’ department. : )

I think the other key thing about my parents and how they have always treated me is they have encouraged me to make life moves at my own pace. Most of my friends live on their own or are celebrating new marriages and babies. However, I have carefully chosen to continue to live at home. Because of my choice (and my parents support!), I have been able to pour into my savings account and find success in my copywriting and event planning business, Carly is Inspired. My greatest goal is to not live in an apartment (or do so by choice) and instead purchase a home. My financial security and mindset are two of the things that make me feel truly proud of the fact that I have always followed my own path.

Headshot was taken by  Renee Nicolo Photography

Headshot was taken by Renee Nicolo Photography

Share your favorite book and/or podcast:

I love anything by Emily Giffin or Elin Hilderbrand. “Where We Belong” by Emily Giffin was one of my favorite books I read last year. Reading is a major hobby of mine!

Share your favorite quote and/or Bible verse:

“This too shall pass” is one my dad started saying to me years ago, and it’s something I have come to believe is whole-heartedly true.

I also love 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. The verse was read at my grandparents’ funerals, and I also have a painting by Simply Jessica Marie that hangs over my bed to honor them. My grandparents are my heroes, and the three of us adored each other. They were married for over 70 years, and they lived this verse to their cores. It’s my greatest wish to carry it with me and act as they did in their honor.

Share your favorite beverage:

Sprite Zero is a treat. I also love drinking tea. When I was growing up, my Nana and Poppy always said, “Put the kettle on!” They were English, so tea was at the center of my family. My aunt said, “Put the kettle on!” recently, and I wanted to cry. I hadn’t heard it in a while, and I realized how much I missed hearing my Nana or Poppy say those words.

Share one of the biggest losses you’ve experienced:

When I was little, I lived under the incorrect assumption that those closest to me would live forever, not because I was not taught otherwise but because I was so fortunate to never experience the loss of a close friend or family member. I never took anyone for granted though. Instead, I was always so keenly aware of the time we spent together; I treasured it.

I mentioned earlier that my Nana and Poppy are my heroes. How they treated others, how they treated each other in their marriage, and how they lived their lives has always been a major benchmark for me. I’ve always wanted to be just like them. They supported me endlessly. I couldn’t wait to share my grades, or a completed project, or an award with my Nana. If I had said I wanted to go to Mars, she would have asked when we were leaving. My Poppy was the same way, perhaps with a little more questioning.

Just before I started my senior year of college, my Nana was diagnosed with dementia. It crushed me in every way because my best friend was going to forget almost everything. I missed our long phone calls, our complete conversations, and our trips to go shopping together. But, what I missed most was her presence when I graduated from college.

She was unable to graduate from high school or attend college, so education was always very important to her. I always pushed myself to achieve the highest grades I could because I loved sharing my achievements with her. After my freshman year, I remember sitting in Admissions where I worked as a tour guide, and Googling the highest honors one could achieve at graduation. Summa cum laude came up, and summa cum laude is what I achieved. After years spent writing papers and taking tests, I was exhausted by my final semester as a senior. I remember walking outside after I picked up my cap and gown with more finals and papers to complete and saying, “Do it for Nana.”I finished, and I met my goal.

As I walked across the stage at graduation, I was thrilled to not only graduate but also to have my Poppy, parents, aunt and uncle, and cousin in attendance. My Nana could no longer walk in May 2011, and it would have been too confusing and far too stressful for her to attend. I missed my Nana and her full mind the most that day because she would have loved it.

After graduation, we still had many more laughs together, and I watched my Poppy live out his wedding vows to their fullest extent as he selflessly cared for Nana with guidance from my mom and aunt until she passed away in May 2015. I still miss her in a way that aches.

From experience, one of the hardest things to bear witness to is a spouse who loses his best friend of more than 70 years. As much grief as I knew I carried, I knew my Poppy’s grief was far more and far worse than I was experiencing. But, he rallied because he never believed in giving up. And, his rallying was a major blessing for my family.

At 94, Poppy started playing cards consistently again with his friends. He went back to church – somewhere he could rarely go while caring for my Nana – and he was reintroduced to opera. He even went to an opera at the MET in New York City with his friends. He came over to my house nearly every Sunday for dinner, and I often drove and picked him up from his house where he still lived independently.

My Poppy and I started a tradition of planting a garden together every May in the planters he always kept on his deck. I also started going on opera dates with him. We would go out to dinner, and then we would watch an opera at his church. He was always surprised when I would choose a night out with him instead of a night out with friends my age, but I could never answer him truthfully. I adored him, and I knew our nights together would be limited.

Although losing my Nana was crushing, in some ways I felt it was a blessing because I felt I got to know my Poppy in a way I hadn’t while she was alive. We spent so much time together, whether we were gardening in the summer, tending to the orchids we shared together throughout the year, watching tennis and chatting about the players, or splitting an Italian hoagie for lunch. I loved telling Poppy about the weddings I worked or planned, and I loved delivering flowers to his friends as a “thank you” for always treating him well. I treasured our time together; I treasured the way he called me “my Carly”; I treasured him.

Over Labor Day weekend in 2016, Poppy and I watched tennis player Stan Wawrinka play in the finals of the U.S Open. We cheered for him because he was known as “Stan the Man” just like Poppy. He won, and I wondered how many more U.S Opens Poppy and I would watch together when he hugged me tightly goodbye that night. That U.S Open was the final one. Poppy’s health declined throughout September 2016, and he passed away on September 30.

He was 95 when he passed away, but no amount of time with him would ever be considered “enough”. I miss his laugh, his bright blue eyes, his support, and his hugs. To know Poppy was to experience magic. Even though I miss him terribly, I’m so lucky to have been his granddaughter for 27 years.

Self Care Self Love Loss Intentional Living

Share some of the choices that have been most helpful in continuing to move you forward and supporting you while you are healing:

I have learned that grief never completely goes away. Instead, you just learn to live differently. I think this realization has been the most helpful while dealing with the loss of my grandparents. Time is a great healer, but there are still moments even a few years later when their losses feel completely new again.

I’m definitely someone who has learned to allow myself to truly feel every emotion that’s on my heart. I think that comes from years of battling anxiety. I try to give myself a lot of grace because I try not to suppress anything. It’s better to sit and cry than hold it in.

I have also taken many opportunities to honor my Nana and Poppy. I inherited a few pieces of jewelry from them, and I wear them constantly. Two of the pieces are rings, and I love wearing them at the same time. I tend to wear one ring on each hand, especially when I am particularly nervous to do something, because it feels as though they are on either side of me throughout the day.

I also had Simply Jessica Marie paint 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 surrounded by red roses for my Nana, petunias and orchids for Poppy, and a duck because they both always called me “Ducks” when I was little. It will always hang prominently in any home where I live.

In 2017, I ran the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston. It was a 10K race, and for every mile I ran during training and on race day, I donated $5 to Macula Vision Research Foundation. I asked others to join me in attempting to raise $1,000 for macular degeneration research (we did it!) because Poppy suffered for years from the disease. I loved running the race, but I loved having a way to honor my Poppy and his blue eyes even more.

I try to treat others the way they treated others. They were always (or almost always!) kind. I try to extend that as often as possible, and I always pray before a wedding that the couple I am serving will have a marriage as long and full of devotion as theirs. I honestly want to be just like my grandparents, or my own version that’s close to how they were.

Share some ways you have tried to incorporate laughter and fun in the midst of the hurt:

My mom and I say my grandparents were the “glue” of our family. Together with my dad, aunt, and uncle, we would laugh until we cried together. My Nana called us “the famous seven” when we gathered for dinner for birthdays, holidays, or a weekend night just because. We still get together for all of the same nights. We also have carried on their tradition of calling each other on our birthdays. There is one rule and one rule only: you must sing “Happy Birthday”. My aunt always wins the award for funniest rendition. : )

I learned I love gardening, so I have continued to plant a garden in May on Memorial Day Weekend when my Poppy and I would plant ours. I love buying flowers and watering them throughout the spring and summer just as I know Poppy did for our garden. Reading a book outside is such a treat, and I feel like Poppy would approve of the garden I designed last year. I hope I never stop this and it continues to grow with my family in the future.

My grandparents were always so full of life. My mom, aunt, and I took Poppy to a waterpark when he was in his 80s, so I truly believe you’re never too old to do anything. I try to choose adventure and traveling as much as possible because my grandparents loved experiencing everything. There are so many times when I think, “They would love this!” I hope that feeling never leaves me.

Nana and Poppy are with me every day, and I think it’s because of them that I treasure others and love to laugh.

Share any social media + website links so we can cheer you on!

W: Carly is Inspired - stay tuned for the upcoming update!

IG: @carlyisinspired

FB: Facebook page

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