It’s all progress. And progress is messy.
In eighth grade, I was the new kid in town. One of my most vivid memories from that whole year was the incessant amount of very serious foursquare competition. I’m not talking about the location-based social media app. I’m talking about the ole schoolyard game in four squares chalked out on pavement played with a bouncy kickball and four youngsters in squares A through D.
My classmates took foursquare very seriously. We played every day at recess (RIP) and discussed strategy in the halls between classes. The line to play was always quite long, with only the best of the best maintaining squares A through C on a consistent basis.
Foursquare is not a team sport but soon enough, alliances formed. Forming a secret pact with classmates via whispers before lunchtime meant that once in the squares, you’d have someone on your side. Someone to team up with against the others. If you stepped in square D without an alliance, you’d be a goner in no time.
Alliances came and went but the best became legends of sorts. I still smile when I think about some of the unruly alliances of our class – power duos and trios with sick moves, wicked skill and undying determination to take everyone else down.
I haven’t played foursquare since 8th grade, but just today I realized, life is like one big foursquare game. Maybe the real world is just a lesson in foursquare alliances.
How do you become successful? The same way you get to square A. Hard work, determination and a few damn good alliances on your way up the ladder.
If you want to make it past square D, you rely on alliances to have your back and help bounce the others out.
If you want to be a badass, you surround yourself with fellow badasses.
Life is navigating one big giant network, building alliances and support systems as you go. If we’re smart, we find partners/co-workers/friends/mentors who excel in all the areas we lack. Just like in foursquare.
Whether it’s career-related or personal, alliances are the only way to make it through this crazy thing called life. At the end of any day, good or bad, we all need someone on our side who has our back and can mitigate our obstacles with a soft little bounce-out in the outside corner.
Here’s to strong, wonderful, badass alliances.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us have seen, heard or pinned something related to gratitude. Whether it’s advice pointing out that grateful people are happier people, an article listing everyday things we should be thankful for, or just a simple reminder to consider gratitude more frequently in our own lives.
I’ve pinned quotes out the wazoo, keep a jar of things I’m thankful for, and try my best not to take too much for granted. It wasn’t until recently though that gratitude took a new (awe-inspiring) role in my life.
About a month ago, I was sitting in a regular ole Toastmasters meeting (If you’ve never heard of Toastmasters, look it up. Or let’s talk more. It’s awesome. I’m kind of a super fan.) when one of my fellow members whom I’d never met before stepped up to perform his 10th speech, known to dedicated Toastmasters as the Inspirational Speech. In this case, his speech was titled “Attitude of Gratitude” and was not nearly as cheesy as I expected.
He began by challenging the audience to stop every time we say “I have to do something…” and change it to “I get to do something…” For example, “I have to go to work” becomes “I get to go to work because I have a cool job that pays me to do cool things” and “I have to work-out” becomes “I get to work-out because I’m a healthy human who has the luxury of being able to participate in physical activity.” “I have to pay my bills” becomes “I get to pay my bills because I’m a fully functioning adult who can afford to pay Time Warner for an obscene amount of sports channels…” and, well you get the point.
I was intrigued. At the end of his speech, the speaker asked if anyone would be his gratitude partner for one week, a commitment that would include communicating three things you’re grateful for to each other every single day for seven days.
Needless to say, by the end of that day, I was in. And now here we are, a month later, and I’ve been texting my deepest, darkest gratitudes to someone who was nearly a perfect stranger every single day for the past month. I’m addicted.
Considering what I’m grateful for has become a habitual part of my life and I love it. I stop and think about it often and I couldn’t imagine falling asleep without sending that quick text of three things I’m grateful for that day. Lately, gratitude has become my solace for the not-so-awesome parts of life. I’ve caught myself thinking “I’m grateful for getting stuck behind this school bus because it reminded me I shouldn’t always be in such a hurry.” Or “I’m grateful for over-sleeping because it motivated me not to hit snooze tomorrow!”
And the cool part? Despite naming three things every day, I don’t think I’ve ever repeated a single thing I’m grateful for more than once in the past month. THAT’s how much I have to be thankful for. So cool.
I know we’ve all heard it. But seriously, be grateful. Say it out loud. Tell your mom, friend, neighbor, new plant named Bella, whomever. It will change you, I promise.
I’m grateful for heated blankets. I’m grateful for the cute old lady working at GNC today who was hilarious and also let me sample half the gummy vitamins. I’m grateful for Toastmasters, and also for strangers that change our lives.
Truth be told, I love Valentine’s Day. But this year (and every other year), I was appalled at the extent of bitterness the average person I know feels toward this innocent Hallmark holiday. In fact, I’ve seen quite a bit of hater-ade on the topic of love in general over the past month. So much so that I’ve been tempted to shout “LOVE IS BEAUTIFUL, YOU GUYS!” from the rooftops on more than one occasion. Love is quite literally all around us in one form or another. It doesn’t matter if you’re single, heartbroken, married, building your empire, too busy eating cheese fries to date anyone or otherwise, get over yourself and appreciate the love that is around you. (Disclaimer: I’m allowed to say this because I’m as single as single gets and proud of it.)
This past Valentine’s weekend, I spent time with different friends all from different aspects of my life, all whom I’ve known for varying lengths of time and in varying ways. I had an amazing time with all of them and made memories I’ll remember forever. I received Valentine’s mail from my wonderful family and I teared up at Kroger when I witnessed an elderly man picking out flowers for his gal. Let’s just say I was feeling the love this year. You can, too. The mushy stuff doesn’t have to come from a significant other. Take a good look around and appreciate all the people that care about you. Hallmark’s right, that’s something to celebrate, people.
In the same vein as love, it’s easy to be bitter that you’re not “living the dream” when it seems like everyone you know has it all together. Well first of all, nobody has it together. And second of all, let’s redefine “living the dream”…
The other day I was pondering the quintessence of life while trying for the umpteenth time to successfully make an omelet when it hit me. I am a fully functional grown-ass woman (sorry, mom) with a job who mostly pays bills on time, usually gets enough sleep and generally succeeds at other adult tasks such as laundry, ironing, grocery shopping and not burning the house down. I AM LIVING THE DREAM.
But seriously, you don’t have to be CEO of a well-known company, the founder of a wickedly successful start-up, the wife of last year’s World Series MVP or any other possibly unattainable, probably over-rated, superbly ambitious thing in order to be living the dream.
We live in a world where we watch everyone we know have their biggest moments on social media. We drown in a sea of Facebook posts about what cool thing everyone else is doing next. We see our friends and loved ones attain life milestones through Instagram filters and 10-second snaps.
In 2016, it’s easy to feel like our little moments pale in comparison to everyone’s big moments. Stop it. We can choose to go through life feeling the love and living the dream. I know I am.
PSA: We are perpetuating our own worst enemy.
I recently got to spend one-on-one time with my favorite seven-year-old. After an invigorating conversation about her expertise on the monkey bars, she said something that shocked me.
“I wish I was as skinny as Emily.”
Taken aback and tempted to plead with her to never say such a thing again, my only response was “Don’t be silly. You’re skinny and beautiful as you are.”
Later that night, I pondered her statement again. As a fit seven-year-old, free from the harm of sitting at a desk all day and still energized with a fast metabolism, what on earth could have caused her to say such a thing? How does she even know the concept of being “skinnier”? How could she have already adopted the miserable habit of comparing herself to others?
Then it hit me. It’s our fault. All of ours.
By negatively talking about wanting to be skinnier, healthier, prettier, more “put together”, we, as a society, have unconsciously created mini versions of ourselves that will only perpetuate this negative self-talk, critical body image and pressure to compare ourselves to others.
Though I tend to be less concerned with body image than many people, I do catch myself saying things like “I really need to get my act together and eat better this week” or “Wow, my arms look huge in that picture” or “No, I’ll buy new jeans once I lose a few more pounds”.
As adults, we should be concerned about our health and there’s nothing wrong with keeping track of what we eat or setting goals to be more active. But when saying these things in a negative light, we forget who is listening – younger people who learn from our self-talk and the connotations we express.
The answer? We need to change the way we talk about our health, our fitness, our bodies. We need to say things like “I’ll have one cookie, but not until I eat some veggies.” or “Let’s go outside and ride bikes.” instead of things like “I haven’t gone to the gym yet today, but I’m being a ‘fattie’ so I’ll have a cookie” or “Gosh, I wish I had skinny arms like so-and-so.”
I don’t know about you, but I think seven-year-olds should be more concerned with jumping on trampolines and eating ice cream with rainbow sprinkles instead of worrying about how “skinny” they are.
The only way to affect the future is to change the now. May we be stronger, more positive and less critical both for ourselves and all those who look up to us. Our family, friends and loved ones learn from what we say and do. Let’s teach them something positive.
The number of different types of insurance I have as a single person in America is slightly unreasonable. Car insurance, health insurance, renter’s insurance, accidental death by business travel (whatever that is) insurance and so on and so on. But the most important thing in the world to me – my memory – is not insured. And I’m terrified.
I’m a relatively young human, yet I’ve already noticed my memory isn’t what it used to be. I can remember that I once saw Princess Diaries 2 in the movie theatre during a hurricane, but I can’t at all remember the name of the theatre, where it was, or what it looked like. I’ve lived in nine places, but I only remember five addresses. I’ve forgotten to pay my rent twice in the last four months and just last week, I had to Google the name of my own church. I can remember the color of eyeliner I wore the day my first high school boyfriend broke up with me, yet I now refer to where I had quite a few college classes as “that building on the corner with all the trees, I think it starts with an H, maybe a K”. The things I can remember are weird and random and the things I can’t remember are also weird and random.
What I’m saying is…I’m scared. We all should be. If my house burns down and melts my laptop, renter’s insurance allows me to go get a new one. But if I also lose the baseball Barry Larkin signed that one year we road-tripped to Spring Training, what will I have to remind me of such a wonderful family memory? Renter’s insurance can’t save that. It also can’t bring back the pictures my siblings colored for me at school or the Santa Claus candy dish my crafty mom and I made before Pinterest was cool. How can I insure my memory?
This has been keeping me up at night lately. Years go by as we make the memories of a lifetime, but there’s no guarantee that we’ll remember it all. Can we fix this? If I eat grapefruit and always sleep eight hours and floss every day, will my brain be healthy enough to keep track of everything I want it to? Everything I need it to?
Our fate only gets worse. Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease – the ultimate saboteur of the brain. Do you know what Alzheimer’s is? Allow me to demonstrate.
- Last year, my grandma drove herself to Macy’s. She picked out a food chopper that she thought I would like and she had Macy’s ship it to me, carefully telling the associate my address. She typed my number into her phone and called me later that week to see if I got her package. She came to visit me a month or two later, bringing tiny little containers of her infamous barbecue with her.
- Last month, my grandma called me. We talked about the Reds and her tomato plants in the backyard. Even though I had to remind her of a few things – my cousin’s name, the season, what time the game came on – she was correct in knowing her birthday was coming up.
- Last week, my grandma didn’t know my name but thought we had just taken a plane trip together. She sat in a chair in the house she’s lived in for 45 years and told us she wasn’t at home. She tried to iron the newspaper.
Alzheimer’s is ugly. And it destroys not only memories, but also lives. Until it impacted my life, I took my own memories for granted. Now I’m tempted to frantically write down everything I ever experience or want to remember, fearful that one day I won’t be able to.
I’ve been personally battling with this a lot lately. But it is a battle we all face. If you have a brain, you are at risk for Alzheimer’s. And no one has ever survived it.
I don’t know what to do, other than help increase awareness of the dire state of our brain health and the horrific effects of Alzheimer’s. We desperately have to do something to preserve our mental states, our brain health, our memories. I don’t know what the answer is, but together, I am hopeful we can make positive progress. In the meantime, I’ll be eating blueberries and drinking water and staying active and doing yoga and anything else to help keep my brain healthy. How else can I try to insure my memories?
In a world where the “struggle is real” and people are aboard the “struggle bus” more often than they drive their cars, it’s easy to fall in a rut with the rest of “struggling” humanity. But are we really?
Truth be told, I, too, am struggling with this whole “struggling” thing. More days than not, some of the first words I think/say/text involve some conjugation of the word combined with a series of wide-eyed smiley faces and about 17 coffee emojis. I’ve been “struggling” about as long as I can remember, but I’m not positive I really remember why. As a society, how did we get so attached to the struggle, what does it even mean, how did it get so “real”?
A week or two ago, I was out on a trail communing with nature and pondering all the areas I’m “struggling” in (oh, let me count the ways) when, somewhere between reprimanding myself for hitting snooze 12 times and fully regretting skipping half of last week’s workouts, I stopped dead in my tracks. For there, right in front of me, on the same trail I’ve run hundreds of times, was a sign from the universe that I need to cool it with this struggle nonsense.
The sign read “Life was never meant to be a struggle, just a gentle progression from one point to another, much like walking through a valley on a sunny day.”
Weird. That definitely hit home.
We live in a world where “struggling” has become a competition. If I’m “struggling” because I accidentally ate my entire lunch before lunchtime and spilled coffee in a meeting, but my co-worker is “struggling” because she barely slept the night before and has her shirt on backward, for whom is the “struggle” more real?
The sign in the park taught me a couple of things. Mainly, that life is meant to be lived and appreciated. Struggling and thinking about struggling and beating yourself up for struggling isn’t living. It’s sad and it’s depressing. Secondly, struggling is part of living and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you. That’s the cold, hard truth and the sooner we realize it, and start appreciating living for what it is, the better. Don’t beat yourself up so much, the struggle isn’t THAT real.
Next time you’re on a struggle submarine gunning for the bottom of the ocean, try jumping ship. There’s life to be lived, after all.
I realize I’m a little late to the party on this whole “New Year” thing, but with tomorrow being March 1, I figured now was the perfect opportunity to share my thoughts on 2015. (Time flies when you’re having fun, right?)
I’ve never quite loved the idea of New Year’s resolutions on account of the fact that I think it’s silly (and limiting) to wait for one time of year to reset goals, refresh your lifestyle, quit a bad habit or start something new.
New Year’s resolutions aside, I’m also not onboard with this whole “New Year, New Me” idea that rears its ugly head every January. I mean, why do we need to reinvent ourselves every year? Why should we focus on becoming something totally new? Why is the “me” I was before so horrific that I need to become something totally different?
In my own personal experience, I’ve found that more often than not I stray away from the things I want to be or the things I want to do. Doesn’t this mean, then, that we should focus on returning to our old selves, not totally dumping the old to begin anew?
I absolutely appreciate the wonderful feeling that comes with a fresh slate, a new beginning or slamming a door to the past, but I don’t think that means we have to entirely remake ourselves to accomplish something.
In 2015, I’ve resigned to focus on getting back to the things I love, to make time for the things that make me happy and to truly, 100 percent, absolutely be the person I am or strive to be. It might be a new year, but I’m striving to be more like the old me.
Tomorrow isn’t January 1, it’s March 1. But March 1 is as good a time as any to start something. This year, let’s focus less on being “new”, and more on just being awesome.
Cheers to a brand new, happy year, y’all.
Right before we rang in 2013 with champagne and guacamole (as Wattersons do every year), back when gratitude jars were all the rage, I joined the movement. After a quick trip to Michaels, I mod-podged a Mason jar with scrapbook paper and jumped right into the new year.
Tentative at first, I was diligent to write a quick note every time something wonderful, memorable or downright hilarious happened in my life. I tossed ’em all in the jar and by years end, I had a mountain of memories. On Dec. 31, 2013, right before we turned the calendar year over again, I dumped my jar out in a pile on the living room floor and for the first time, read all the notes I had taken care to tediously document over the previous 365 days.
The result was glorious. Reading through all the notes made me so incredibly grateful for everything that happened in the craziness of 2013. Before I knew it, I found myself in tears of all kinds: laughter, nostalgia, pride.
Fueled by “jar” days, I decided to do it all over again in 2014. The days have flown by, but I’ve scribbled down notes here and there and put them routinely in their place. As we near the end of possibly the busiest, craziest year ever, I can’t wait to dump out my jar and revel in the sweet sentiments I’ve tucked carefully into the glass canister throughout the year.
Lately though, as I crack open the jar to add another memory, I’ve been pausing to ponder what made that day “jar-worthy”. For me, it can be anything. Something hilarious, something I’m grateful for, something that I felt proud of.
As we count down to 2015, I can’t help but think “Why can’t there be something about every day that makes it worth remembering?”
What if we made every day a “jar” day?
First time I’ve blogged in a year (exactly one year actually, weird how that happens) and I bounce back naming my first post after a Demi Lovato song. Bold, right? I know, I like to keep it interesting.
So much has happened over the past year. I’ve changed a lot, I’ve grown a lot and I’ve made some super, amazing, incredible memories. I can’t possibly put it all into words, which is actually kind of the best part. Life, man, I’ve been living it. But…to sort of recap:
A Handful of Ways My Life Has Changed:
- I’ve got a new gig now. I spend my days doing meaningful, challenging stuff to manage the people side of change with a team that inspires me. At night, I do whatever I want. Which usually consists of some combination of running, reading and sports.
- I wear heels on purpose. Crazy, right? Remember this? Yeah. I rock those bad boys at least twice a week now.
- I firmly believe a good night of sleep is pretty much the greatest thing ever. And I protect those eight hours with every ounce of my being. Well-rested is a thing guys, a pretty necessary thing in fact.
- I’m just simple, uninhibited me. No longer defined by people, things, hobbies, ideas or traits. I’m happy and I’m just me.
A Handful of Ways My Life Hasn’t Changed One Bit:
- I still have zero pets. Who has time for those things anyways?
- I still kill plants despite my best efforts. I still adopt more plants anyways.
- I still listen to an unhealthy amount of country music, annoy my neighbors by screaming about baseball and eat way too much guacamole.
- As always, my family and friends are the absolute greatest. I live for them.
It’s been a whirlwind of year, but if there’s one (okay, two) things I’ve learned, it’s that a) life is one hell of a beautiful ride and b) life goes on.
Well there you have it. I’m back. Let’s do this blog thing more often.