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Your summer reading (or listening) list

June 30, 2017

Four years ago I made a promise to myself. No longer would I be the girl at the party just nodding politely when the conversation turned to books and the like. No longer would I only pretend to be well-versed in trending literature while others rejoiced in the entertaining pages of the latest best seller. The Gone Girls and the Hunger Games and the 50 Shades of Sex Reading would elude me no more.

There was just one little problem … time. And the fact that I didn’t have any. And I was even one child down at the time!

It was then I discovered the true beauty of the audiobook. All the pleasure of reading without the pressure of carving out additional down time. I play those puppies while I’m in my car and make my commute, long or short, a delicious dose of indulgent me time.

Before you get all Audible crazy, there are a few risks you should be aware of. First, the narrator has an unfortunate amount of clout in this situation. A bad reader can ruin a perfectly acceptable book. I once suffered through an entire series (cough, cough, The Mazerunner) – three books – with a gentleman whose lisp made me daydream about a fictional man with a 3-year-old’s face. Conversely, I’ve been carried away to Australia, England and the inner depths of the soul by masterful, enchanting voices, too. It’s a roll of the dice.

Second, you still have an obligation to not drive like an asshole. I’ve had books both mesmerize and infuriate me while I was behind the wheel. I finished Gone Girl going 70 mph down the highway. That’s living dangerously, my friends.

These books are some of my favorites ever, of all time. Almost all of them are available on audiobook, but the good old fashioned bound versions are just as worthy of your time. I hope this summer is filled with stories that move you, change you and keep you entertained.

FICTION FAVES

The Shack by William Paul Young

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

Crazy Rich Asians AND China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Looking for Alaska by John Green

The Walk Series by Richard Paul Evans

TRUTH TELLERS

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed AND Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

Rising Strong AND Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

10% Happier by Dan Harris

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

FOR SHITS AND GIGGLES

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

When I become obsessed with a book …
Want to read more about some of these beauties? Check out these posts from the past:

Falling Hard for Amy Poehler
10% Happier Ain’t Too Bad
Go Get You Some Big Magic
Little JoJo and the Case of the First Grade Burdens
Working on my Core
Warrior in Training

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Yes ma’am

August 4, 2016

“Losing yourself does not happen all at once. Losing yourself happens one no at a time.”

Books are great. They really are. All the letters and the smell of fresh print and the way a bookshelf looks when it’s crowded with interesting titles. But for someone who despises paper and would gladly speak for the trees, I think an amazing audio book is where it’s really at. A captivating voice – all the better if it’s the author’s – orchestrating rich characters and delivering slivers of dialogue that widen your eyes and sing to your soul … Yeah, that’s my jam.

Going into “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person,” one would anticipate a good show. I mean, the woman (Shonda Rhimes, of course) fashioned the twisted minds and friendship of Meredith Grey and Christina Yang for McSteamy’s sakes. As if grandstanding, she then gave us the quivering, lavish lip and firm-but-passionate prose of white-hat-wearing Olivia Pope. She claimed a land and a night of the week and an acronym and a hashtag. I would expect the woman to be able to write a book. But she didn’t.

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She didn’t just write a book. She wrote her cliff’s notes for self-improvement and true satisfaction. She, herself, is not a specimen of human perfection. You don’t begin the book thinking she is and, even after following her through 365+ days of extending and challenging herself, you don’t end the book thinking she is. That’s not the point. Perfection is not the end game. Happiness is.

Once she gave herself permission to be uncomfortable and bold and a tiny bit selfish, that’s when she met the best parts of herself and her life. Let’s face it, we all take comfort in the layers. We cover the raw truths with whatever it takes … food, sarcasm, passive aggressive quips, makeup, clothes, work, Netflix, wine, excuses. It all works the same. It all creates a barrier between the yucky bits of our true selves and the perception of our true selves. I know what my layers are made of. You can probably figure yours out as well. For Shonda, it was predominately food and social sheepishness. She was hiding behind an unhealthy weight and choosing evenings on her couch over once-in-a-lifetime galas and interviews.

What she reveals in the book is that, by saying yes to her body and yes to her peers and yes to her accolades, she was able to shed those security layers and uncover a happier version of herself; one that felt more fulfilled and appreciated and alive. Relieving yourself of that weight – both literally and figuratively – frees up all this space for joy and adventure and self-acceptance. It’s beautiful really.

I recommend this book because it’s masterfully written. I recommend it because she reveals which Grey’s Anatomy cast member is in her ride-or-die group of friends. I recommend it because you’ll see yourself in it somewhere. I recommend it because it’s clever and honest and she was about as transparent as she could be without compromising herself or her relationships. And I recommend it because it makes you want to say yes, or at least consider it.

Welcome to the church of Shonda …

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This is everything, but it’s even more than everything from 16:20 on:

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Inspired in an Insta

May 11, 2016

I’m a total sap for a good quote, and aside from Pinterest and those sweet little boutiques that sell bacon gum and hilarious greeting cards, Instagram is the best place to spot the really good ones. Here are 17 of my favorites from the past few months. Pin ’em, make them your wallpaper, or just take a moment to consider them.

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Admitting I can’t be a screamfree parent

March 18, 2016

I locked eyes on her, like a famished lion stalking a tired antelope. She returned the glare.
We both knew someone had to blink. Someone had to release their shoulders and concede. But it wasn’t happening in this moment. Oh hell no.
She sat on the ground, her untied shoelaces mocking me. The contents of her bookbag strewn about as carnage from a furious storm.
If she would only get her crap together so we could catch the mother lovin’ school bus … I thought.
If she would only let me go get my darn stuffed puppy and markers … she thought.
And thus we found ourselves on the brink of a bubbling, violent volcano.

These are the moments you don’t see on Instagram. The ugly, infuriating, truthful snapshots of a messy life where little people have opinions, grownups have crammed agendas and no one is on the same clock. While I find these occasions overshadowing the sunny times more and more as my children age, I think moms speak about them less and less. I’m just as guilty! I put the good out into the universe because it’s cute and I want to remember my girls like that. I think we all want to view the time that’s passed through a clean, filtered lens, editing out all the untidy down days. But if I’m really being honest, the frequency at which I post to Instagram is way down, and the standoffs are way up.

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After losing my shit to a particularly hot degree one night a few weeks back, I decided to checkout the book Screamfree Parenting, by Hal Edward Runkel. I am a yeller. I have a small, whisper of a wick of patience that, once lit, dissipates very quickly. It’s disappointing, too, because in my mind I’m this peaceful, supportive Mother Earth type. But outwardly, I’m more of the hell hath no fury type it turns out.

But can we be real for second? They want us to yell, right? Every time they ignore you, snap at you, spill their water by trying to drink it with no hands, fight with each other, express their distaste for the dinner you prepared after working 8 hours, ask the same question 20 times, hit each other, leave their clothes on the floor, splash water out of the tub, scream when you comb their hair, knock folded laundry off the bed, speak to you while you’re in corpse pose, refuse to get ready for school, or just act like wild, farting baboons,they are essentially filling out the card, licking the stamp and sending an invitation to go 100 percent ape shit on them. What really gets me is, depending on the day, the same things that make me want to freak the frick out on them, are the same things I get nostalgic about. (Being a woman is wild ride, man.)

But if Hal had a front row seat to my screaming, he would tell me that all of the negative noise is halting my efforts to create the well-rounded ladies I so desperately want to send out into the big world. The concepts of the book are reasonable and simple: 1) Take a pause and calm yourself down before interacting with your children, and 2) respect their space and place. There’s a lot more to the book but for the sake of this post, these principles pretty much sum it up.

When I lose it on my kids based on something they did, I am actually telling them they need to, “Calm me down,” according to Hal. I am holding them responsible for my mood, which is way too heavy for a 4 or 6 year old. And also, the author asks, what does that say about your self control? [Insert feelings of inadequacy.] It’s essential that you let your little one have their meltdown while you go to a happy place in your mind. You can’t react to their frustration. It’s theirs. Let them feel it and have it.

He also spoke about places and spaces. Now, to be fair, I was multitasking and tired during these chapters, so I’m a little fuzzy on the differences between the two, but he spoke at great length about a child’s bedroom. We tell them it’s “their room” but then we dictate how they should clean it , arrange it, maintain it, and on and on and on. Hal suggests resisting all urges to take a trash bag in and pitch everything out of  a fit of rage (my words) and instead offer to help your child clean should they feel so inclined. You should also knock and ask them if you can come in. If they say, “no,” then you will have to come back at a later time. This spacial theory goes for all decisions. You have to let your kids fail so that they can learn how to make decisions and live with the consequences, good or bad. You should always listen and offer to help, but never hover and never micromanage. Inspire your children to motivate themselves. This goes for homework, friends and social engagements, volunteering, and all of the other 8 trillion tiny decisions we want to just go ahead and make for our children so they can be as amazing as we, their parents, are.

And finally, Hal reminds his readers that you must put on your own oxygen mask first. You can’t help someone else when you’re gasping for air.St Bernard of Clairvaux, a French monk and notable thinker, had a theory about the different degrees of love. The first degree was love for self’s sake. The second, was loving another for self’s sake. The third was loving another for another’s sake, and the fourth degree was loving self for another’s sake. Hal suggests that we must adopt the fourth degree of love. We must care for ourselves and make time for ourselves so that our children don’t feel the pressure or responsibility to do it. We must make ourselves a top priority to show our children how much we love and respect them.

And that’s it, basically. Those are his secrets. I must admit the room thing had me like whoa, but there is some really good stuff to work with here.

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So, what would a Screamfree Parenting scenario look like?

Say, for example, your child won’t tie her shoes. She knows how to tie her shoes, which makes the entire situation baffling, and, for a little mustard on top of that shit sandwich, you have 3 minutes to get to the bus stop. As she cry/screams that she just can’t get the laces right and her sock feels funny and she’s tired and she didn’t want Fruit Loops for breakfast and all of the other world-ending dilemmas she’s facing, you should simply make noise, like an ‘uh huh” to acknowledge that she’s speaking, all the while repeating Adele lyrics to sooth the flames in your soul.  Then say something calm and supportive like, “Gee, I hate it when my sock feels funny. What are you going to do about that?” And then stand back and watch her magically work through the situation. When she sees you aren’t reacting and she’s distracted with working through the problem in her mind, forward progress will be achieved. Thank you, Hal.

Now, I’m about 2 days off the book, and I would put my success rate at about a 15 on a 100-point scale. The problem is that this book assumes you’re working with rationale children and rationale adults. But there are just certain scenarios where no one is being rationale and the clock is ticking and you’re dealing with a room of punks. Practice makes progress, I suppose, but we’ve been on a roll with Titanic-size tantrums around these parts lately and I might need something a bit stronger than the Screamfree protocol.

Any other great parenting books out there?

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Go get you some Big Magic

January 14, 2016

Admittedly, I was not a huge fan of the book “Eat. Pray. Love.” I actually, and this never happens with me, preferred the movie to the book. [gasp!] I also didn’t make it all the way through the paperback, so that might have had something to do with it. But her latest work, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” really resonated with me.

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True, I’m very lucky. My job, and jobs to this point, have allowed me to use that wacky, wonderful creative sphere of my brain in a capacity that brings both a general sense of satisfaction and suitable income. But the majority of folks have to find a way to interject creative beats into their work. I have a friend who’s a dental hygienist, for example. I don’t imagine that, on a routine day, plague and floss do much to lube up the creative wheels in the cranium. I could be wrong. My folks sell insurance. I don’t see those creative sectors of their message center lighting up on the regular. But again, I could be wrong.

But what Liz is saying with her book is that you don’t have to make a living from whatever medium you like to play at. You don’t have to torture your hobby to manipulate it into what defines you. But you do have to entertain it. You do have to create. paint. draw. write. act. sing. garden. cook. sew. knit. bake. sculpt. storytell. Something that lights up that part of your soul often enough that it doesn’t extinguish entirely.

I have this friend who’s an actress out in L.A. She comes home almost every December to spend some time with friends and family over the holidays and, it never fails, someone always asks her about her backup plan. “What will you do if you don’t make it?” they ask. “The thing people don’t get,” she explained over whiskey and ginger beer on New Year’s Eve, “is that I’m doing what I love. I have made it. I’m making a living acting and creating art and work that I’m proud of and that’s all I ever wanted. You may not see me on TV, but that’s not what it’s about for me.” The sentiment aligns so beautifully with this line from Big Magic: “You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”

Liz doesn’t demand that you quit your desk job and pursue your long-hidden aspiration of painting a scene from the top of Mt. Everest or anything (unless you want to), but she does plant the seed and water it a little.

“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”

She also offers a bit of caution. Ideas are fleeting and can often be fickle. If we don’t nurture that grand invention or storyline or project that whispers in our ear, it might just pack up and move onto a soul that will listen.

“ideas are alive, that ideas do seek the most available human collaborator, that ideas do have a conscious will, that ideas do move from soul to soul, that ideas will always try to seek the swiftest and most efficient conduit to the earth (just as lightning does).”

It’s a quick read and I’d encourage you check it out so you can at least entertain the notion that a a little creativity can bring a great deal to your days. You don’t have to write a book, but start a journal. You don’t have to open a bakery, but maybe try decorating a birthday cake yourself. Plot out a killer garden. Put together a play with the kids. Just play.

Here are some more of my favorite excerpts from the book.

“Creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that—merely by being here—you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.”

“Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.” (1)

“So whenever that brittle voice of dissatisfaction emerges within me, I can say ‘Ah, my ego! There you are, old friend!’ It’s the same thing when I’m being criticized and I notice myself reaching with outrage, heartache, or defensiveness. It’s just my ego, flaring up and testing its power. In such circumstances, I have learned to watch my heated emotions carefully, but I try not to take them too seriously, because I know that it’s merely my ego that has been wounded–never my soul It is merely my ego that wants revenge, or to win the biggest prize. It is merely my ego that wants to start a Twitter war against a hater, or to sulk at an insult or to quit in righteous indignation because I didn’t get the outcome I wanted. At such times, I can always steady my life one more by returning to my soul. I ask it, ‘And what is it that you want, dear one?’ The answer is always the same: ‘More wonder, please.’ As long as I’m still moving in that direction–toward wonder–then I know I will always be fine in my soul, which is where it counts. And since creativity is still the most effective way for me to access wonder, I choose it.”

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”

“But to yell at your creativity, saying, ‘You must earn money for me!’ is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”.

“Because the truth is, I believe that creativity is a force of enchantment—not entirely human in its origins.”

“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

“I have a friend, an aspiring musician, whose sister said to her one day, quite reasonably, ‘What happens if you never get anything out of this? What happens if you pursue your passion forever, but success never comes? How will you feel then, having wasted your entire life for nothing?’ My friend, with equal reason, replied, ‘If you can’t see what I’m already getting out of this, then I’ll never be able to explain it to you.’ When it’s for love, you will always do it anyhow.”

Big Magic (1)

“Pure creativity is magnificent expressly because it is the opposite of everything else in life that’s essential or inescapable (food, shelter, medicine, rule of law, social order, community and familial responsibility, sickness, loss, death, taxes, etc.). Pure creativity is something better than a necessity; it’s a gift. It’s the frosting. Our creativity is a wild and unexpected bonus from the universe.”

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”

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I hope I’ve made it

December 15, 2015

“Honey, go upstairs and see if there’s anything you want to take home before we have that all torn apart,” Mom said. Every couple of years my folks get the bug to overhaul some section of their farmhouse. The long-vacated second level seems like as good a place as any to slap on some fresh paint and throw down some new vinyl. The rooms that once held my sister and me have been a warm ghost town for my parents’ puppy to defecate and grandchildren to Crayola the walls for years now.

I’m always amazed at how even now, 15 years since I technically lived under Mom and Dad’s roof exclusively (Hank and I did spend a year back in the nest in 2010-11 when we moved back to town) these relics of my younger years still remain. A high school phone directory with pager numbers written on the back. My cheerleading jacket and an “it’s a cheer thing” t-shirt. Pictures dimmed by a centimeter of pasty dust. A vase keepsake from prom that reads, “Oh what a night”. (Which I believe it really was.)

I’ve come and left with a carful of boxes at least three times, and these are the memories that didn’t make the cut. There just wasn’t a place to put them in my grownup life. Not that I wanted to lose them forever, but I didn’t want them on my suburban mantel, either. You just assume your folks’ place is your evergreen locker. A vault you can crack open at your leisure. Until they tell you to get your shit and throw it in your own dang attic so they can have a designer come in and punch up the color scheme.

My most recent sweep turned up a stack of notebook pages torn from the spiral binding nestled in my old vanity drawer. At first I thought they were just pieces of my typical written ramblings about teenage angst and pimpled pipe dreams, but then it came back to me. They were assignments from my …maybe junior … English class. The teacher, Mr. Rusk, would begin some of our sessions by proposing a question or topic. He would give us a few minutes to consider it and then encourage us to free write our thoughts. At the time, I don’t remember thinking this was anything particularly motivating or inspiring. But to read them from where I sit at the table now … gold. Pure gold. There are some real nuggets here.

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Rusk’s Topic: Insignificance 

2000 Courtney: “There are so many things in our world that we find insignificant; people, emotions, litter, time and pennies. I see these things trashed day after day. Throwing bags of litter out of the car window or spending a gorgeous April day on the couch watching a movie you’ve seen 8.000 times. Pennies are everywhere. People are always seeming to drop them, leave them, or simply just misplace them. They’re found stuck to drive through windows and clinging to car floor mats. People see them as 1 cent, and well, meaningless. Each penny is worth something. Saved, it can add up to a small fortune. Greed has led to the demise of the copper piece. Everyone wants a quarter instead. But those who save and don’t waste will pull ahead in the long run.”

Rusk’s Topic: What does it mean to be fearless?

2000 Courtney: “How many people can honestly say that they are fearlessly themselves? Maybe it only happens when we’re older. Maybe it’s impossible to fearlessly be yourself in high school, a time when most people don’t even know who they are. What holds people back from being themselves? Is it insecurity? Is it doubt? Or do people simply not know how to be themselves? I believe society drives people to be like everyone else because that is socially acceptable. I think that people should live by that statement. Fearlessly be yourself. After all, it’s only showing the sides of yourself that we usually hide away. It can’t be all bad.”

Rusk’s Topic: If you could invent something, what would it be?

2000 Courtney: “Warning labels for human beings. I would be able to read what I’m getting myself into before I was in too deep. For instance, I would probably avoid a person wearing a sign saying, ‘I am on a path to complete selfishness and you’re in my way.’ Perhaps maybe I would even be wise enough to notice a sign saying, ‘I say what you want to hear and do what you want me to do … until you leave.’ Boys would be another area of my life which would greatly benefit from these signs. Hearbreak is an inevitable part of dating. They go toegether like peanut butter and jelly. The warning label might read ‘I’ll give you the best 3 weeks of your life. It’s the three months after that you have to worry about.’ But, as helpful as these would be, I’d rather take the bad with the good and experience life’s lessons.”

Rusk’s Topic: Purpose

2000 Courtney: “A predestination given by God which is usually realized and achieved by a human being. That is purpose. I find different purposes in different ways. For example, after a month-long relationship that my friend assumed would be a lifetime, her heart was broken when he ran back to his ex girlfriend. i learned of the news when my friend showed up on my doorstep with nothing but a handful of tears and a broken heart. We stayed up late that night and I listened to her cry and gave her my advice. And right then, for one night, my purpose was to be there for my friend.”

Rusk’s Topic: Some book we must have read

2000 Courtney: “In the story, the wolf makes the brave decision to take freedom and independence over stability. As a 17 year old preparing to graduate from high school, I am surrounded by stability. I know I am alive and I know I’ve lived fro almost 18 years. But have I really lived? Have I ever been in a situation where I could only rely on myself and my personal strength? So, hopefully, come Ausgust 2001, I will be heading off to college. Somewhere far away from my 3 dogs, my flowered bedspread, and the goose cookie jar in the kitchen that always seems to be full. And when I am alone and searching for my future, it is then I will walk away from my collar. I will find my freedom. My independence. Myself.”

Rusk’s Topic: What would you do with 30 minutes of air time?

2000 Courtney: “I would sell it to the highest bidder and take my girlfriends to Cancun for our senior year spring break.”

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Rusk’s Topic: Change

2000 Courtney: “In this world, there are always things we want to change. But the 7 girls I call my second family are just ‘cool’ the way they are. We couldn’t be more different. There’s the funny one, the crazy one, the moody one, the responsible one, the supportive one … However, it was only when I got all mixed up in the diverse group that I found myself. I know time will move us all in different directions. We will settle down and watch our children make their own friends. But time will never erase the campouts, the deep talks while everyone else was sleeping, or moments crowding in front of a mirror trying to fix our  hair. It’s always been said that time would pass and then I would write a movie script about our relationships. I don’t know about that, but I value their optimism in my future. The ladies who have shown me strength, hope and love, my second family, I hope will never change.”

Rusk’s Topic: If you had a dinner party with 3 people, alive or dead, who would they be?

2000 Courtney: “I would have my maternal grandmother, Garth Brooks and God.”

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Rusk’s Topic: What lesson would you share with your younger self?

2000 Courtney: “Never hurt others to make yourself feel cooler. Popularity, i have found, is like a game. The finish line being popularity, whatever that is, and the starting point being your first day, and everything in between is just scandals and drama and gossip. People get pushed around and stepped on simply so others can feel good about their social status in the end. Never give up on the human race. Just when you think it’s too ugly, someone will shine through. Never sacrifice parts of yourself to satisfy someone else.”

Rusk’s Topic: Write a letter to your future self.

2000 Courtney: “Dear Courtney, There’s probably a smile and surprised look on your face right now. My friends at the prsent time are Jenn, Kim, Kelly, Molly, Ashley, Jill, Jackie and Haley. News just broke that Jackie is pregnant and I see her less and less every day. I am awaiting my senior year of high school and thinking about going off the college. I hope that I am reading this while sitting with my dream husband, in my dream house, doing my dream job. I hope I actually went away to college and stuck with it. I hope I have an amazing job at Rolling Stone or a couple movie scripts on the screen. There’s a possibility I even pursued acting. Overall, I hope I lived the last 10 years the most I could have. i hope I took big risks and some even paid off. I hope I’m not sitting somewhere reading this with a heart full of regret and a mind filled with unfulfilled promises to myself. I hope I’ve made it and most of all, that I am happy.”

DreamLife

If these excerpts tell me anything, it’s that I was an over-analyzing, cheeseball of a teenager who had incredibly ambitious thoughts about what could be smushed into a decade. The crazy thing about this last one is the fact that our friend Jackie’s little girl is about to start driving and is one of the most beautiful, balanced young women I’ve ever seen. I still consider these girls my second family and I still value pennies, kinda. Really pissed that Rolling Stone thing didn’t work out though.

 

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10% Happier ain’t too bad

September 30, 2015

I just finished 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story by Dan Harris, and it was a game changer. Like the majority of people seeking calm and clarity, meditation is certainly on my radar. I even tried to do it for 30 days straight, remember? While my initial attempt was a weak, failed effort for sure, this book rekindled my respect for the practice.

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I love the fact that Dan comes at the topic from a hater’s perspective. He isn’t a Buddhist or a zen master. He’s actually a bit of a self-absorbed prick. As a popular newscaster, he ends up covering a series of intense stories, which had a more severe impact than he realized and led to an infamous panic attack during a live news broadcast.

What followed, over the course of several years, was his pursuit of a little bit of peace, patience and control. He was trying to be less of a prick. The prescription that seemed to deliver – much to his shock – was meditation. Following the progression of his practice and facts from the perspectives of some of the most recognizable figures in that sphere was fascinating. Along with mindful pauses, the idea is to stop living for fruitless, empty endeavors, and be in the beauty and absoluteness of the present. I’m so guilty of this: I wake up at 5:40 so I can shower, so I can get the girls ready, so I can get JoJo on the bus, so I can  pull analytics before the 8:30 meeting, so I can write the article, so I can get lunch in time for the next meeting, so I can … It’s a hamster wheel that leads to exhaustion and frustration, with no satisfied conclusion or feelings of attainable joy. The people turn into a blur in your peripheral rather than the beautiful objects of purpose they are. This book is a convincing proposal for a more intentional life.

But by the last chapter, Dan, while undoubtedly a devoted champion for the practice, doesn’t make any unreasonable claims. Meditation isn’t a magic pill or fountain of youth. It does, however, make him about 10% happier, he decides. But think about what the world would be like if everyone was just 10% happier. Seems like it’s worth a closer look.

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Here are some of my favorite quotes, but don’t cheat yourself. Read the whole thing:

“But it was in this moment, lying in bed late at night, that I first realized that the voice in my head—the running commentary that had dominated my field of consciousness since I could remember—was kind of an asshole.”

“Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment. And imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one. That is continuous stress.”

“If you stay in the moment, you’ll have what is called spontaneous right action, which is intuitive, which is creative, which is visionary, which eavesdrops on the mind of the universe.”

“Striving is fine, as long as it’s tempered by the realization that, in an entropic universe, the final outcome is out of your control. If you don’t waste your energy on variables you cannot influence, you can focus much more effectively on those you can. When you are wisely ambitious, you do everything you can to succeed, but you are not attached to the outcome—so that if you fail, you will be maximally resilient, able to get up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fray. That, to use a loaded term, is enlightened self-interest.”

“The ego is never satisfied. No matter how much stuff we buy, no matter how many arguments we win or delicious meals we consume, the ego never feels complete.”

“What mindfulness does is create some space in your head so you can, as the Buddhists say, ‘respond’ rather than simply ‘react.’ In the Buddhist view, you can’t control what comes up in your head; it all arises out of a mysterious void. We spend a lot of time judging ourselves harshly for feelings that we had no role in summoning. The only thing you can control is how you handle it.”

“Marturano recommended something radical: do only one thing at a time. When you’re on the phone, be on the phone. When you’re in a meeting, be there. Set aside an hour to check your email, and then shut off your computer monitor and focus on the task at hand. Another tip: take short mindfulness breaks throughout the day. She called them ‘purposeful pauses.’ So, for example, instead of fidgeting or tapping your fingers while your computer boots up, try to watch your breath for a few minutes. When driving, turn off the radio and feel your hands on the wheel. Or when walking between meetings, leave your phone in your pocket and just notice the sensations of your legs moving. ‘If I’m a corporate samurai,’ I said, ‘I’d be a little worried about taking all these pauses that you recommend because I’d be thinking, ‘Well, my rivals aren’t pausing. They’re working all the time.’’ ‘Yeah, but that assumes that those pauses aren’t helping you. Those pauses are the ways to make you a more clear thinker and for you to be more focused on what’s important.”

“The ego is never satisfied. No matter how much stuff we buy, no matter how many arguments we win or delicious meals we consume, the ego never feels complete.” (2)

“Everything in the world is ultimately unsatisfying and unreliable because it won’t last.”

“May you be happy. May you be safe and protected from harm. May you be healthy and strong. May you live with ease.”

 

 

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Tips and tricks for eating clean

July 30, 2015

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No matter how far I fall down the digital rabbit hole, there’s still just something about seeing your name in a byline in print. So, it was a sweet treat when kit asked me back to pen another editorial piece for their latest issue. (It’s always nice when someone calls for a second date, right?) I love the look of kit, and I’m all in for anything by women, for women.

Last time, I compiled a list of plants for the landscaping novice. But this article was all about the body. Specifically, what we put in it. The pros at Living with Intention Inc. were so great to work with and the pointers are like CliffsNotes for feeding your family food that’s perfect in its pure, clean simplicity. Dig in and start making small shifts to benefit those little faces around the dinner table.

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You down with F.P.P.?

May 19, 2015

Since officially releasing my blog baby into the world, it’s been brought to my attention that most [normal] people don’t know how to follow such a thing. Now, of course you can add me to your Bookmarks or subscribe to the RSS feed, but if you want a system … if you want to truly let yourself fall down the blogosphere rabbit hole (trust me, you do), then I’m going to let you in on my secret.

Every morning, around 7:05, I settle in for a little personal F.P.P.: Feedly, Pocket, Pinterest. Three apps, more than 100 blogs, and just a mild addiction.

First things first, you need to treat yo self to a trip to the app store. Get Feedly, Pocket and the Pocket bookmarklet, and Pinterest and the Pinterest bookmarklet. (God bless the bookmarklet, man.) Once all the players are at the table, you can really play the game.

Go crazy. Start adding any and all of the crazy-awesome blogs out there to your Feedly roll. Suggestions? Oh, I have a few:

Yes and Yes – Great tips on bringing it as a human.
Dishing Up Dirt – My couple crush. Follow their adventures on Tumbleweed Farms.
Ivanka Trump – As far as brands go, this one has a creative dream team.
Enjoying the Small Things – Family stories that will rip your heart out. (In a good way.)
Blog Society – My jam for writing and creative inspiration.
Free People – When I want to tap into my inner hippie.
REI – They truly bridge the gap between selling product and selling an aspirational lifestyle. I’m buying everything they’re selling. Except, really not because I don’t have the money.

Basically, if you have an interest, someone has the blog. Mommy blogs, stay-at-home-mommy blogs, fitness blogs, blogs for lazy people, clean eating, natural eating, farm-to-table eating, fast food eating, crafting, knitting, scrapbooking, stationery collecting, dating, designing, meditating, running, running a scrapbooking store where people date … it’s out there. Just waiting to fill your Feedly. So fill ‘er up!

As I scroll through my Feedly, I give myself three options, none of which require a lot of thought. I either pass by, put it in my Pocket (to read later) or Pin it (to reference later). That’s it! I go on instinct, and I move fast. My Pocket is full of great articles for those rare occasions when I find 20 minutes to read. And my Pinterest boards are full of a trillion recipes, gardening tips and hair tutorials. It’s all there; roads and rives on my Superwoman road map.

I know I went through that pretty quickly, so I created this handy graph, using my pathetic Photoshop skills, for reference:

FPPDo yourself a favor. Get a system and get down with F.P.P. There are a billion bloggers out there just waiting to blow your mind. But start with mine, of course (winky face).

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Back to print, with plants

May 14, 2015

A van full of offspring and three pants sizes ago, I majored in magazine journalism. You see, people used to actually go and buy printed pieces of paper with words and pictures – which made stories –  and they would turn pages and, well, the whole thing made for a good time. But now we swipe and scroll and what’s tangible isn’t as trendy, and …. I digress.

My first job out of college was working on a bimonthly food magazine with my college roommate. I wrote, she designed, and we drank at Howl at the Moon on Tuesday nights. It was such an exciting time. So, when she reached out for some freelance help a few months back, the 23 year old deep inside me danced like the rhythm-having, club-going, cool kid she once was.

Kit is a charming bimonthly magazine out of Indianapolis that offers fashion and lifestyle pieces for women. I was recruited to write a 2-page spread on picking the perfect plants for your spring landscaping. It’s great information and this lady can’t wait to get a tomato/potato hybrid going in my beds.

Check out Kit’s blog for more fun stuff for spring.