A look designed by Gracious & Grateful Founder- Kassidy Owen

The Floral Mini Dress from Gracious & Grateful The Shop is a staple for your closet. The variety of colors we offer allows for a dress for every season! Not to mention if you’ve caught the travel bug- it’s an easy dress to roll up and fit in a suitcase! Dress it up or down, depending on shoes and accessories! I paired it with my matching Moon-Shaped Handbag and my beach boho statement earrings from Gracious & Grateful The Shop! My shoes are from a couple years back from Target– but I’ve linked some similar ones!

Floral Mini Dress

Moon Shaped Women’s Bag

Statement Earrings – Beach Boho

Women’s Espadrille Sandals

Photographer – @piperariellephotography

I started Gracious & Grateful The Shop to show young women that you have the choice to chase your dreams. It’s all on you girlfriend– your dreams are on you!

*Please be advised that Gracious & Grateful The Shop has a shipment duration of about 2 weeks. To make sure your packages arrive on time please account for the shipping time*

Is perfection really freedom?

Sometimes I get anxious to write my blogs. Not because of my anxiety but because of my fear that they will lack perfection.

There is probably something in your life that creates anxious feelings within your body- mostly because you’re craving perfection.

Here’s an unpopular thing to say as a bloggerI don’t have an answer for you about perfection. lol – no but really, blogs were designed to help make your life easier. “This recipe will help you make dinner in under 20 minutes!”, “6-pack abs, in 5 minutes or less!”, “Childbirth… it will be easy if you read this blog!”
My blog however, I hope never gives you the answers. I hope my blog leaves you with deep questions that only you can dive in and answer.

So lets tackle perfection- why do we strive for perfection in a world where perfection is unachievable?
Why do we expect perfection when it’s physically impossible to be perfect?

per·fec·tion/pərˈfekSH(ə)n/

  1. the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.

The definition of perfection is interesting because it is described as being ‘free’ of all defects. But I do not believe that NOT having defects will allow you to be free. If I lived a “perfect” life that had no flaws- a story that didn’t involve my brother dying and running for my life in a shooting- I would not be free, I would be shackled. I would be restrained to a life without lessons.

A life without lessons, is not a free life- it is a broken life.

A life full of lessons is a life well spent- it is a life full of stories that taught you and allowed you to grow.
I would choose growth over perfection every time.

Every time I choose to open my computer and write, I am allowing myself to grow. To grow as a writer, a blogger, and as a person.
And every time I write a blog that is not perfect, I am freed.
Freed of the very thing that causes me to grow.

I am grateful that I am not perfect.
I am grateful that I am incapable of writing a perfect blog post, or a perfect Instagram post, or buying the perfect items for my shop.
I am grateful that every time I choose to be imperfect, I am choosing to allow myself to be free.

What things in your life are you forcing to be perfect, when you could allow yourself to instead- be free?

This Monday, I ask you to free yourself.
It’s going to be a challenge, because if you’re anything like me you have several things you try to be perfect at- but just remember, a perfect life is a life without experience, without joy, without adventure.
A life tethered to perfection, and one I personally, do not want to live.

How will you choose to be free today?

Shop This Look: Women Floral A Line Skirt

Lets talk animal print

Animal print is 150% trending going into the fall season. Specially mid-length animal print skirts! You can wear it with a t-shirt tied, like I styled it below or you can get a fancy top and pair it with heels for work or a night out. I don’t see this trend ending anytime soon, so I would hop on the animal print train and get yourself the perfect skirt for the season!
This skirt is so comfortable, the main reason I added it to the shop!
It allows me to look fashionable while still feeling comfortable!

Jurassic Park Graphic T-Shirt

Casual Slip Style Skirt

Tassel Earrings

Make a Break for it Platform Sneaker

Check out Gracious & Grateful The Shop to shop further!

*Please be advised that Gracious & Grateful The Shop has a shipment duration of about 2 weeks. To make sure your packages arrive on time please account for the shipping time*

My People

Remember when you dreamed for the life you currently have?

4 years ago I came home from my very first trip to Naples and said, “One day I’m moving there!” Today I live in Florida. The dream came true! Yet I am the first one to crave the next dream I have lined up instead of basking in the one I’ve accomplished.

I wish my blog was bigger.
I wish I had a bigger following.
I wish I could create more content.

All things that will happen organically as I choose consistency over the easy way out. But, if I keep chasing the “next great thing” or “the next 1,000 followers” I miss out on what’s right in front of me. The opportunity to serve the people who are already at my table. The followers and readers I already have, the people who support me day in and day out.

For so long I served the people in the crowd, the people who I wanted to be at my table, supporting me. The whole time I was ignoring the people behind me, the people already sitting at my table, waiting for me to serve them.
Whether there are 10 people at that table or 9,000, they are at my table because they believe in me, those are the people I need to focus on.

I focus on the people I wish loved me- and I know I’m not the only one.

I spend so much energy focusing on the people I wish loved me, the people I wish approved of me, the people I wish wanted to be apart of my life.

I recently discovered that me spending time WISHING they would accept me is just wasted energy. I am wasting so much energy on the 1% of people who don’t care to be apart of my life. AND, why would I want them to be apart of my life if they don’t even want to be apart of it?

Jay Shetty states, “Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth”

When we start to see the value in ourselves, we start to discover the people around us who see value in us.

See we need to transition our thinking to focusing less on the people who don’t care and more on the people who already care. The people who want to cheer us on. The people who are already in our corners.
The people sitting at our table, listening intently as we announce our next big dream.
And once we speak that dream into fruition, they are the ones sitting at the table helping us plan, execute, all while screaming in support of YOU.

Friends, THOSE ARE YOUR PEOPLE!
The people that want your dreams to work so badly that they will do anything to keep you from talking yourself out of it.
The people who keep you accountable and never let you quit.
The people who show up, even when you don’t want them too- those are your people.

So start showing up to your table, start looking around at who’s sitting there ready to listen, and then start serving your people.

Melissa

How is it that time passes so quickly?

When you’re young you never notice life passing by you, I remember the day that I realized time flies.
The day Cooper died.
Three and a half years fighting, days that seemed to never end, yet I blinked and there he was, dead, on the hospital bed.
Time flew.
But it also sat completely still- and I wish I could still be in that stillness.

Some people will not experience the death of someone they loved deeply until they are much older, to them I have so much wisdom to offer. But most of it they will never be able to apply until that moment comes.
Other people, like me, like my sisters, like my family. Have experienced what I would say, is too much death.

But I truly believe God gives his strongest soldiers the hardest battles.
And that’s my family, full of strong soldiers.

A year ago, I woke up and was avidly getting ready to go to church.
I had just moved to Naples, so I was anxious for my car to arrive later that week. I remember waking up and thinking, “Today is going to be a GREAT day!”

Then it happened.
The moment that happens every single time I receive bad news.
I know this moment, I can see it coming before it hits me- my therapist calls it my superpower.
The moment of horrific news.
The moment of the unspeakable.

My phone rang, it was my Mom and I thought I would call her after my shower, but Nicole insisted I picked up the phone- that’s the moment right there.
See, every single time I’ve received horrific news, someone has INSISTED I take the call, or I be at home, or I listen to the voicemail.
This demand to respond to whatever is going on around me, immediately alerts me that bad news is coming.
But this time I could not picture what it could be- Cooper’s dead so it’s not him? Could it be my sisters? My dad?

Then, as soon as I heard my Moms voice one name popped into my head, my Mom hadn’t even said what happened.
I saw the name ‘Melissa’ flash before my eyes.
Sure enough, my Mom was calling to tell me my sweet cousin Melissa had passed away.

In a morbid way, I knew someone had died.
It was almost as if I was wondering, who’s next?
But by the same token, I NEVER would have thought my young beautiful 18 year old cousin would leave… at the same age my young handsome brother would leave me.

But she did.
She left us and entered Heaven to be at peace, to be healed, to be hugged by her FAVORITE human, Cooper.
In all honestly, if there was one human I know Cooper would want to hang out with ALL THE TIME, it would be Melissa.
They had a special bond no one understood and now, they get to be together for the rest of eternity.

Death is hard.
Explaining death is even harder.
See, my family and I boarded planes, met in the airport, and sat around a coffee table well before we went to visit my Aunt and Uncle.
And I looked around at my sisters, my dad, my mom, and I could hear them sigh.
Unfortunately, they were not sighing because of Melissa’s death, they were sighing because they knew what my Aunt and Uncles family was about to experience NEXT.

Death, that’s the easy part.
The funeral, a breeze.
It’s what happens next that is the hardest part of death.
Going home and spending a year without the person you love in the room next to you? Torture.
Wondering every day when the loss will get easier? Difficult beyond words.
Realizing that death is permanent, that your person is gone, that this is now how your life works- with one less human.

I struggled writing what I would say to Melissa if she were still here with us. But what I realized was that Melissa did not want me to write to her, she wanted me to write to her family, and if you knew Melissa, YOU ALWAYS DO WHAT SHE ASKS! So here we go.

To My Ricciardi Family,

I love you. I am so sorry that you are experiencing the most dreadful part of life, so early on. But, I know God built you for this even on the days you don’t believe he did. Even on the days you cannot breathe because the loss has taken over your entire body. Even on the days where you cannot get out of bed because Melissa is not there and it feels like it’s not worth getting up without her…. God built you strong, courageous, and full of hope. I want you to know that the days will not get easier. The moments will not be simple. Every day new challenges will arise because one less person is physically on this earth with you. But, notice I said physically. See, Melissa & Cooper are physically gone- but like the quote says, “People die only when we forget them. If you can remember someone; they will be with you always.”
Melissa was NEVER EVER going to be someone you could forget.
She was extraordinary, powerful, successful, and loved.
She was hilarious, kind, and would overwhelm you with her infectious personality.
You cannot forget Melissa, because she is unforgettable.
She is with you, in good days and bad.
You just have to keep searching.
Some people believe that after years of someone passing they stop showing you signs that they are with you. But that’s the biggest lie I’ve ever been told.
Cooper sends me enough pennies from Heaven, I’m going to need a bigger wallet. He sends me 11:11 to tell me I’m doing just fine.
And he always whispers to me, I love you big sister.
The people we love never leave us, they just move to a place where they can spend more time protecting us.
That’s why they call them angels.

I love you my sweet family.

In Memory of the world’s one and only Melissa Ricciardi- my cousin, my friend, my sister- I love you.