My Scar of Grace: How I Feel About My Achilles Tendon Rupture

Things are about to get a little personal around here, friends. In some of my photos on the blog, you might have noticed that one of my calves is smaller than the other. What many of you might not know is that I underwent a major surgery that left me a long, "ugly" scar on the back of my right heel. After a lot of reflection, I've finally mustered up the courage to share my story of pain, grace, and hope here on The Bella Insider.

To give you a quickie version of the story, I ruptured my Achilles tendon when I was 12 years old. As many of you know, I was highly involved in competitive gymnastics for many of my childhood years. Though I loved the sport, I realized after a while that it wasn't what I wanted to do anymore. The pressure of performing well overshadowed my love for the sport, and I soon detested going to the gym. Like many young gymnasts, I got burned out. So, I quit.

Shortly after, I realized how much I missed tumbling. As a former gymnast, there's this addicting feeling of having blood rush to your brain when you're upside down, flying through the air. So, I soon joined a cheerleading gym. During one of my practices, I attempted to perform one of my old tumbling passes - one that, at the time, I could perform by muscle memory.

Somehow, I never made it to my feet.

I layed on the floor until one of the coaches came over. "It's probably just a sprain", one of them said. I couldn't walk at all though. I've had a few minor injuries before, and I knew this was more than just a sprain.

After visiting a doctor, it was confirmed that I tore my Achilles tendon, and I would need to undergo major surgery to repair it. If you're familiar with sports, you probably know that many consider this injury to be one of the injuries that ends careers. (Note: NBA players.) The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the human body, and ruptures are most common among men in their mid-40s. I was nowhere near 40, and I'm not a guy either, so even doctors were surprised how this happened to me.

Surprisingly and thankfully, I don't remember feeling any pain during the accidents or even through surgery and recovery. They went over really well. But, I was eager to get back on my feet again. I popped in an exercise DVD and followed along with the workout while I was still in my recovery boot, and guess what happened? I tore it again. And this time, I actually heard the dreaded "pop" sound. I tore my Achilles tendon not once, but twice. All I could think during the time was, "Why Lord, why?!!"

Confused and scared, I was nervous I would never have the ability to walk again. There was no way they could perform another surgery - there was no skin left to stretch! I was put in a pointed cast in hopes the tendon would heal, but I needed about one year to get back on my feet again.

I felt completely useless during this time of my life. I went from working out 20 hours a week to not even knowing how to walk. Plus, I started gaining weight. My body was changing, I was disabled, and I hated feeling like I couldn't do anything without feeling inconvenienced by my foot. I even went to the point of just wishing for a prosthetic foot. Dramatic, I know. But, I really was not in a good place. Every doctors visit I had was just another reason to cry, and I so wished this accident didn't happen to me.

I soon regained the ability to walk again. I danced in high school, hiked mountains, and did lots of things I didn't think I would be able to do anymore. I knew my ability wasn't the same though. The leg muscle from my injured foot formed differently, and I knew I was overcompensating with other muscles. I knew something wasn't quite right. So, we scheduled appointments with another specialist a few years later.

Here's the crazy thing. After visiting with this doctor and undergoing my last MRI, I learned that my tendon is actually only 10% attached right now. In other words, it's just like a string being hugged by lots of scar tissue. Even the doctor said it's a miracle I can do the things I can do. From that point forward, I knew there was nothing more I needed to know. The Lord is faithfully taking care of me in ways I don't see or know.

To sum up how I feel about my Achilles tendon now, it's still inconvenient. I used to dislike running, but now I hate it. It tires me to walk for more than a few miles, and I limp after a long day on my feet. Not to mention, the scar and the deformed calf can be an eye sore. They're things I'm still self-conscious about to this day! Nonethless, I am eternally grateful that I can do everything I need to do for my daily necessities. I have a greater purpose to fulfill in this life, and I now understand my physical capabilities don't define me.

For any of you who feel disabled in any way, do not be disheartened. The Lord provides and He is sufficient for our needs when we continue to strive to do what He wills. This scar reminds me to continue to count my blessings even in difficult times, be thankful for what I have, and never take anything I own for granted. No doubt it's painful when we suffer, but there is a great plan for each one of us. And sometimes, we're given a scar of grace to remember just that.

So, there you have it. Everything you need to know about that scar behind my right foot. Thank you all for letting me pour out my heart to you. Talk to you all next week with exciting news coming soon!

Thanks to Joyce Tong Photography for beautifully capturing the above photo. 

5 Simple Tips For a Better Night of Sleep

It's no surprise that most college students don't sleep enough. I recently conducted a small survey amongst my engineering friends, and the results didn't surprise me. We engineering students sleep around five to six hours per night on average. Clinical studies show that young adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep a night, so obviously, we have some improvement to do. Though I also fall under the category of students who don't get enough sleep, I surprisingly still love my mornings and feel excited to start the day again. Below are five simple ways I've been getting a better, more restful sleep.

Tip #1: Get clean.
I've always been a "night shower-er". Washing off the day's worries with a hot shower is something I look forward to every night, and nothing compares to that cozy post-wash feeling. This habit of getting squeaky clean and slipping into my favorite pair of pajamas before bed makes me feel super relaxed. Plus, I love knowing I have a few extra minutes to sleep in.

Tip #2: Set the mood for sleeping.
I recently posted an Instagram picture of my dorm room at night. When I come to a close on my schoolwork, I do everything I can to my dorm room to make it feel as cozy as possible. I like to put away my phone, dim the lights, leave on my favorite string lights, and plug in my sugar cookie scent warmer. A few days a week, I'll even drink a cup of warm tea and put on a good face mask. (I'm currently loving this TULA Exfoliating Treatment Mask.) The warm and cozy ambiance of the room lets my brain know it's time for me to wind down and sleep soon.

Tip #3: Get tasks off your mind and on paper. 
Sometimes my mind is still racing with things to do before I sleep. Whether it's as simple as doing laundry the next day or printing out class notes, I keep a pen and stack of Post-It notes within close reach of my bed, so I get things off my mind and on a piece of paper. I like knowing I can go to bed with a clear mind, and I can just go to my checklist of things to do when I wake up in the morning.

Tip #4: Exercise.
I grew up working out in a gymnastics gym every day after school. To this day, I find that getting in a sweaty workout in the early evening is one of the best ways I get myself a longer, well-rested sleep. Studies show that times of physical activity for a restful sleep vary for the individual, but I can prove exercising works for sure. I love me a good evening Zumba class! 

Tip #5: Lay out everything you need for the next day the night before.
I'll take any time I can get to sleep in a few extra minutes in the morning. For this reason, I like to lay out my clothes, shoes, and put my laptop, notebooks, and assignments I need in my backpack for the next day. It's nice when I can sleep knowing I won't forget anything in the morning.

Y'all, I love hearing your requests about tips for college. If you have anything specific you want me to share about, send me an email at or leave me a comment below! Thank you so much for making me a part of your day. See y'all again on Friday!

An Evening on South Congress

When I think of quintessential Austin, I think South Congress Avenue. Also lovingly known as "SoCo", this exciting part of town was once just a rural country road up until the 19th century. Since then, it has slowly transformed into what it is today: an eclectic street lined with unique stores, boutique hotels, delicious eats, music venues, and lots of photo ops. If one were to stay for just 24 hours in Austin, I always recommend going to South Congress first as the best way to experience this lively city! 
Tobi blue top South Congress Austin

Tobi blue top SoCo Austin

Tobi blue top SoCo Austin

One thing I kick myself in the shin for is not visiting South Congress enough! As a student at The University of Texas, this fun street is just a couple miles away from campus and easily accessible by public transportation. While some might think of South Congress as "touristy" or "pretentious", I think there are some special spots that mostly definitely deserve a visit! Some of my favorite places to visit are the classic and original Hopdoddy Burger Bar (ahi tuna burger...YUM), Perla's for its beautiful patio and delicious seafood, and Café No Sé for its variety of breakfast options and drool-worthy interior. I also love visiting Heritage Boot for their beautiful, vintage-inspired boot designs and ByGeorge for a lovely selection of homeware and gifts. There are still a plethora of restaurants I want try, so I'll be sure to share pictures and my thoughts on those with you soon!

gold leaf earrings asos oversize sunglasses

austin motel tobi blue top

nordstrom black strap heels tobi blue top south congress austin

TOP cross front blue top c/o TOBI | SHORTS high waist black shorts (old, similar linked) | SHOES black strap sandals (similar linked 15% off) | SUNGLASSES asos oversized round glasses (on sale $15) | EARRINGS gold leaf statement earrings (old, similar linked) | WRISTLET black leather wristlet (old, similar linked)

Thank goodness for this cross front blue top, too. Easy, breezy, comfortable, and flowy - exactly what I want in a top any day! It's absolute perfection for a night out tucked into some shorts with a pair of black strap sandals that make my legs look so much longer! My secret, y'all. Though this navy top works well at night, I can't wait to throw a blanket scarf on top and wear it with a pair of riding boots during the day once the weather gets cooler.

If you're interested in finding out the best spots in Austin to eat and shop or even a good photo op, let me know! I'd be so excited to show you more around my town. What are you up to this weekend? I'll actually be heading back to my hometown of Houston for the first time since I left for school in August. I am so excited to hang out with my sweet family and family friends. Excited is actually an understatement! If you're interested, I'll be keeping up on my whereabouts via my Instagram stories @sarah_thebella! Thank you so much for stopping by today. Much love.  

Photography by Kelly Rice


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My Favorite Snacks | H-E-B

My Favorite Snacks from H-E-B

Here's what usually goes down in my dorm room in the afternoons: I come home around 4 p.m. from a long day of classes, drop my backpack on the ground, kick off my shoes, and walk straight to my mini fridge and basket of snacks. Please tell me I'm not alone - I'm always in need of food mid-afternoon! I typically get super hungry before dinner, and eating afternoon snacks while studying has been a consistent habit of mine since elementary school. In my "What I Eat in a Day" post last summer, I told y'all that I try my best to keep fruits and vegetables around, and while that's still the case, there are just a few yummy things that I really can't pass up. So, I've teamed up with my favorite local Texas grocery store, H-E-B, to show you some of my favorite snacks for the school year! If you're curious to know what I'm munching on while studying or need some new snacks to write down on your grocery list, hopefully this post will give you some fresh ideas!

Cheese and Crackers from H-E-B

Wafer Thin Crackers | Cubed Jalapeno Pepper Jack | Brie Cheese

Since I can remember, cheese and crackers have consistently been my all-time favorite go-to snack. I love these wafer thin crackers, because they're super light, crispy, and go well with anything and everything! I also typically have two types of cheeses in the fridge: a cubed sort for the convenience of grabbing a few at a time in the afternoon with my crackers, as well as a wedge of brie when I'm feeling indulgent at night. My favorite after-dinner treat, y'all.

Crudites and Hummus H-E-B

Fresh fruits and veggies are the things I reach for most when it comes to snacking! They're easy to carry along in portable containers, and they're just downright yummy, in my opinion! I love veggies with lots of color, so baby carrots are a must-have in my mini fridge. And what makes them even better? The Mediterranean Chef's "grandma's humus". It's a game-changer. I'm only ever able to find it at H-E-B, and I do a little happy dance every time I see it and put it in my shopping cart!

Skinny Pop Popcorn | The Bella Insider

When I'm craving something crunchy, and I can't justify eating a bag of chips, popcorn is my answer! I love that the store carries individual portions of Skinny Pop, because let's be honest. I get so carried away studying that I just mindlessly munch for a long while! I love that these individual bags act as built-in portion control, and I'm forced to stop once I reach the bottom.

Daelmans Stroopwafels The Bella Insider

I was so, so excited the first time I found these little caramel guys in stores, because I'm not kidding, they're so good. They're soft, chewy, and the perfect amount of sweetness! Plus, they do something a little bit surprising when you put 'em over a hot coffee or tea. I won't ruin the surprise, and I'll let you experience it for yourself. I promise they're some of the best store-bought cookies ever!

Strawberries and Homemade Vanilla Blue Bell Ice Cream The Bella Insider

And to end everything, let's not forget the ice cream. I usually try to salvage one pint for every 10 days, but last week was a rough one. Three exams and late night study sessions call for lots of ice cream. My favorite flavors are the ones above, but have y'all tried the new Cookie Two Step Flavor? It's a mix of chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate crème filled cookies, and y'all, I don't know what they did to that flavor, but I think it's topped my list of favorite Blue Bell flavors! Thank goodness I can always find it when I visit H-E-B.

I hope this gave y'all an idea of what's typical in my snack basket and mini fridge. I forgot to mention, I also have a jar of Vegemite around when I'm craving some buttered toast, but that might just be the Australian in me. I hope y'all have some new snack ideas to try! I'm so curious: what do you buy yourself for snacks, and is there anything I need to try? I'm all ears for new snack recommendations!

Thank you to H-E-B for sponsoring this post and making The Bella Insider possible. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

September Favorites

October, here we are! We welcome you with open arms! And if you're new around here, welcome! My "Monthly Favorites" series is where I take the opportunity to get a little more personal with each one of you by sharing what's going on in my little life in Austin as well as some of my favorite sights/snaps/eats. I warn you now! Be prepared for the long life recap below!

J. Crew at Nordstrom Red Striped Top

A classic, feminine outfit in my favorite new J. Crew for Nordstrom top!
TOP lace embroidered stripe top | JEANS j. brand high rise skinnies | SHOES black strap sandals (old, similar linked) | SUNNIES miu miu cat eye | BELT red skinny belt (old, similar linked) | LIPSTICK mac ruby woo  

James Turrell Skyspace at UT

The prettiest view at the UT James Turrell "The Color Inside" Skyspace 

The Bella Insider Dorm Room

Quiet Saturday nights spent in. Face masks and all.

Sticky Buns and Fruit and Cheese Plate at Hotel Ella

The yummiest sticky buns (balanced out?) with a fruit and cheese plate at Goodall's Kitchen inside Hotel Ella

Neiman Marcus Event in Austin, Texas

The perfect fall Neiman Marcus set-up for the Pre-ACL Party at The Domain Mall in Austin, TX

The month of September was absolute craziness. The school work load picked up really fast, and the upperclassmen weren't kidding. This year has proven to be the most difficult yet! I haven't exactly found a healthy rhythm or balance yet, but I have learned quite a few lessons about my relationship with my school work that I want to share with you:

1. I don't study well alone in my room.
I don't know why I haven't learned this earlier, but there are too many things to distract me when I study and do homework alone in my room. Everyone has different study habits, and I might just be the odd one out, but really. Studying inside my room by myself in complete silence just doesn't work for me! I've always known this about myself, but I'm glad I'm finally coming to terms with it early on this semester.

2. You really can push your body too hard.
There really is such thing as too little sleep. Y'all, I thought I could do it. I thought I was Superwoman, but I'm not. When your body gets used to sleeping just 4-5 hours a night, it really does take a toll on you. My answers aren't as sharp, I'm slower to respond, and let's not even talk about what it's been doing to my skin. Sleep is so important, and I need to remember that, so I don't get sick every other week like I did this month. (Yeah, it's totally possible!)

3. Breaks are very necessary. They're good for the brain. They're good for the body.
One of the best things I did in September was take bike rides after dinner. The sun has been setting around 7:15 pm here in Austin, so after I eat, I hop on my bike and take a leisurely ride around campus at sunset. No destination, no time limit. It's such a refreshing break from studying and homework, and it's been a very reflective way to end the day with the crisp air and open Texas sky in front of me. If you've never taken a bike ride at sunset, I highly recommend it.

I don't have an exact plan to improve my current school situation, but I do know I want to follow my planned hourly schedule more consistently. I need to start my days earlier. Of course, that means I have to get into bed earlier. I need to exercise. Overall, I just need to be kind to my body. I hope this is a reminder for both you and me! And hey, if you have any tips to get you on track for your work days, let me know! If you ever want to ask about anything at all, email me at I'd be so happy to chat with you!

Lastly, I want to tell you how appreciative I am of each and every one of you who take the time to scroll through and check in with me from time to time. Even you boys in my engineering classes! I so appreciate you for caring enough to read up on my life happenings. Thank you for making me a part of your day!