love Archives - Stratejoy



Well I’ve mostly recovered from being sick, and the Elevate retreat is inching closer {ohhellyes!!}. I’ve started working on some of my goals I set for the year and I’ve continued working on my 26 Acts project.

It really is amazing how good it can make you feel to do something nice for someone else – even if you don’t get any credit or even know the person you’ve helped.

So while I’ve been feeling incredibly happy and peaceful about everything I have planned for 2013, I have this other side of me that isn’t even close to happy and peaceful.

It is the strangest feeling to have these conflicting emotions running through me. 

This week my little one started back to school after her winter break. She was home most of the week before break with the plague that we’ve been fighting off so I was pretty used to her being here again.

She’s only been going to 3/4 day kindergarten up til this point because she just wasn’t ready for the full day. We chose Christmas as the deadline and have been psyching her up for starting full days after winter break.

I knew it would be hard on both of us, but I want her to be ready for first grade next year.

I wrote before about how the events in Connecticut affected me, and I’m definitely still feeling the effects. To add insult to injury, our school district has had two situations now where ammunition found in the school or on the property has caused the schools to lockdown for all or part of the day.

If you have never experienced this with your child, let me tell you it is pure hell.

You are not allowed to pick up your child until the “all clear” is given so you sit helpless and worried that something terrible is happening or that your baby is scared and confused and wants her mommy.

Either way it consumes your time and thoughts until you can see that sweet face at the end of the day.

After the Sandy Hook event, I gave some serious consideration to homeschooling, but I’m just not sure if I’m cut out for homeschooling all on my own. I have spent five years at home with my daughter and I feel like she needs to have time away from me to experience the world through the eyes of her friends and teachers.

She needs to develop the ability to problem solve without me there to fix things, she needs to make friends and frenemies and play schoolyard games. She would miss out on so many experiences if I chose homeschool her.

But is that choice at the cost of her safety? I can’t answer that with any certainty.

There are no guarantees in life.

There are always risks.

But it seems that more and more places we once believed carried an acceptable level of risk are now outright danger zones. Of course, this is concerning for every person who frequents public places, but it is magnified times a million when you are a parent.

If someone had warned me that having a child was so anxiety-provoking, I may have chosen to be a crazy cat lady. Seriously.

Of course, I would never take it back now because I absolutely adore my little person. But it’s one of the reasons I’ve chosen not to have any more children.

Some of you who read this may think I’m off my rocker {and trust me, I wonder that sometimes too!} but this is an honest struggle for me. I’m scared and confused and worried that I’ll make the wrong decision.

Since I’ve been sitting down and writing about my life on a weekly basis, I’ve learned so much about myself.

I’ve seen little bits of my authentic self shining out amidst the guilt and confusion.

I really am proud of my journey to this point. I feel like I’ve come so far.

But that other side of me feels like I’m still stuck in the same place. I’m still a mom who feels like she has to choose between pursuing her own dreams and being the best mom she can.

I don’t really know how to reconcile these two sides of me.

Maybe I need to go to therapy.

Maybe Molly and my wonderful Elevate girls {who I also adore!!} can help me find better balance in my life.

I guess we’ll see as the year unfolds.

For now I’m taking it one day at a time and hoping I have more days where I feel happy and peaceful than days where I feel fearful and guilty.


Image via: Flickr


What a week this has been. Last week I was riding high on endorphins and inspiration. I was feeling like I could tackle anything that came my way. But if I’m being honest, a tiny part in the back of my mind was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I know that sounds pretty negative, but that’s kind of how my luck goes.

And just as I expected, the other shoe dropped.

I was excited and nervous about my post last Friday. It was pretty personal. It felt like baring my soul to all of you, but I was feeling so good that I couldn’t help but share all the good stuff that was surging through me.

Then the horrific tragedy in Connecticut happened. Any thoughts of myself evaporated in an instant. I spent most of the day Friday crying and counting down the minutes until I could pick up my baby girl from school.

If my twitter and facebook feeds are any indication, I think every parent in America was thinking along the same lines as I was.

Now I know there are highly divisive issues swirling around this tragedy, but this is hardly the appropriate place to discuss those so I will stay far away from them.

I will, however, tell you that I was affected in a major way. Maybe it’s because my daughter about the same age as the children who were killed. Maybe it’s because the town I live in is a similarly affluent community where there isn’t much crime. And suddenly this awful thing happened in a place that could easily have been my town.

Whatever the reason, I’ve had a hard time focusing on anything else.

I purposely limit my exposure to news in these kinds of situations because it doesn’t do me any good to sit and watch the interviews and the scared faces and all of that. Even with limited exposure, I’ve been having nightmares. I’ve been hyper-vigilant every time I’ve left the house.

I’ve been terrified that something will happen to my daughter.

By some stroke of luck {well lucky for my anxiety level}, my baby girl ended up being sick this week. She missed school on Monday and then Wednesday and Thursday.

She did go to school Tuesday before her fever came back and I literally had to force myself to drive out of the parking lot after I walked her to class.

The school district has tried to reassure the parents that they have safeguards in place that will keep our children safe, but it is really hard to leave your child somewhere when you feel like they are vulnerable.

School should be a safe place – where kids play and learn and make friends.

But now it’s not.

That illusion is shattered forever.

As the week has dragged on, I’ve considered homeschooling. I’ve talked about starting a homeschooling co-op with other moms. I’ve considered transferring my daughter to a small private school.

None of these options are the perfect solution so I will continue to struggle with the decisions until I can find some clarity on the topic.

While I’ve had a difficult time processing all my overwhelming emotions this past week, I’ve been trying to continue practicing gratitude. I’m thankful to have a {relatively} healthy child who fills my life with joy.

I have great sorrow for the families who can no longer say the same thing, and I feel compelled to do something to honor their short little lives. 

I stumbled upon a movement that Ann Curry of the Today Show proposed, and I immediately knew I had to take part in it. It’s called 26 Acts of Kindness, and is exactly what it sounds like. Twenty-six random acts of kindness, acts of any size, that demonstrate to others that there are still many good people living in the world.

It is so easy to become absorbed in our own lives, or to become overwhelmed with all the negativity that spews from the news channels all hours of the day. But there are still good people in the world. If you need proof of that, check out the facebook page or twitter hashtag for the 26 Acts movement.

It brings tears to my eyes to see all the photos and descriptions of the acts of kindness.

I know I didn’t lose my daughter in the tragedy, but I lost a little more of my faith in humanity. I’m hopeful that by continuing to be grateful for the good things in my own life, and sharing that goodness with {at least} 26 others, I can honor the 26 amazing lives that were taken in a senseless, evil act.

I’m not usually one to ask others to do things for me, but if you find yourself reading this post – I very politely ask you to consider joining the 26 Acts movement in any way that would fit into your life. The more of us who pay it forward, the more we can restore a little of that faith in the inherent goodness of humanity. 


Image via : Flickr

The last few weeks I’ve experienced quite a range of emotions – from soul-aching sadness to heart-melting happiness. It has been quite a ride, but I’ve never felt more alive than I do right now.

I would imagine some of you watched Danielle LaPorte’s Goals with Soul video this week {if you haven’t, please DO IT!}. I couldn’t watch live, but I watched the recording the next day.

I cried through much of it. It spoke to my soul. It moved me. It inspired me.

This video she plays of women from all over the world sharing how they want to feel is powerful. Pure, raw emotion. So many beautiful, strong women who just want to feel good. Whatever their version of “good” is. And so many of us aren’t feeling these things that we crave on the most basic level.

I’m so incredibly grateful that we have such beautiful souls in Danielle LaPorte and Molly Mahar to share this gift they have with the world – I honestly believe they are changing the world, one woman at a time. I know my life is forever changed because of them and I’m willing to bet many of you reading can say the same.

Last week I was listening to Molly’s first Holiday Council call and she was talking about releasing the bad things from 2012. We did a visualization where we let the list of bad things go. I had tears streaming down my face. I was so overcome by the pain and sadness I felt in that moment.

But also, I could almost taste the freedom as I was watching the tiny pieces of paper soar down over the edge of the cliff in my mind.

I cried the next day too – some because the pain and hurt from this year were still lingering with me. And some because thinking about my year brought up those raw feelings from losing my sweet puppy, Emma. I laid in my bed and sobbed and sobbed until I had no tears left. I honestly lost track of time.

Instead of feeling weak or silly for crying, I let myself off the hook. I felt my feelings and they made my soul ache.

Since that day I’ve been feeling happy. Unshakably happy. I can’t explain why exactly, but I just feel more confident, more secure in the knowledge that I’m going to get there. Wherever I’m meant to be.

Of course, this was Molly’s intent in having us do such a visualization – we released the bad to make space for the good. I just didn’t expect it to affect me this much.

I was still feeling that happiness and sense of peace as I sat down to watch Danielle’s recording. Then my world was rocked in a major way.

After I finished watching, I jumped in the shower, my mind definitely still reeling. I put Boyce Avenue’s version of Just the Way You Are on repeat because it has been inspiring me this week – I thought it was because I’m a hopeless romantic and it speaks to that kind of overwhelming love I‘m enamored with.

But as I was standing in the shower thinking about my life, my desires, how I’ve gotten to this point in my life –  I began to weep {again!}. I had tears streaming down my face in this deep soul-cleansing crying. I vaguely remember hearing Alejandro Manzano’s voice  amping up – saying:

“Girl you’re amazing. Just the way you are. The way you are. The way you are. ‘Cause girl you’re amazing. Just the way you are.”

In that moment it came to me – I finally believed it. I am amazing. Not because someone loves me so much. Not because I’m beautiful and my hair is perfect. Not because my laugh is sexy, but because I’m me.

I’m amazing. Just the way I am. 

This is one of those life-changing revelations. I’ve been hearing Molly say this for months – on the Fierce Love recordings, the Holiday Council recordings and several other videos I’ve watched. She always says some version of “You aren’t broken. Nothing is wrong with you. You are enough.”

Each time it moves me {usually to tears}. It’s like she’s speaking right to my soul. I’ve tried like hell to believe it. I’ve hoped and prayed that it would sink in. It just hadn’t yet.

But today it did. I stood there in the shower, crying and smiling and dreaming about all the ways I could make this amazing light I have inside of me shine out into the world.

Much like the women in Danielle’s video, I have these cravings for my life.  When I imagine my ideal life or my ideal self – I want to be self-assured. Comfortable in my own skin.

I want to feel beautiful and feminine and sexy no matter what my pant size is or whether I straightened my hair or put on mascara.

I want to delight in the little things. I want to be present in the moments of my life. Connect deeply with my friends and family and truly enjoy the few precious moments we all have on this earth.

I want to feel vibrant and alive and like a life force that can’t be extinguished.

I want to feel powerful. Competent. Courageous. Like I can do anything I want to do.

I want to be spiritual – and not the way I grew up. I need fresh spirituality. A kind that fits into my life and the person that I am now.

I want to take adventures. Stand at the foot of mountains and marvel at the beauty and the massive size of them. I want to experience things that are bigger than myself.

I want to visit places, partake in experiences, engage in spiritual practices that make me realize I’m but a small part of the greater world around me. I want to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the world.

I want to be inspired and then inspire others.

I want to be a force for good. For health. For balance. 

I want to help my daughter grow into a confident, passionate woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. The best chance she has at living that life is if I model it for her.

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Image via: derekskey

I kind of didn’t want to talk about love and relationships and dating in this whole Stratejoy blogging adventure, but I’ve reached a point where if I talk about fitness and running for one more post, I might be sick of myself, so here goes…

I have a sort of big problem in the dating world, and that problem is this:

 I really want to get married and have kids at some point in my life. In theory, I would like this to be sooner rather than later, as I loved having young parents, and I don’t want to be taking my kids to preschool when I’m in my forties.

I also want my life to feel settled in some way, and in the back of my mind, I always have this feeling that my life is in this weird holding pattern until my “real” adult life starts. I don’t know if this is coming from me or society or the endless barrage of wedding and baby pictures on Facebook, but it is the feeling I have that I can’t seem to get rid of.

I also, in a way, want to get married because I feel like it’s the one thing in my life I can’t control or plan, and that once I get that “out of the way” so to speak, I will be much better able to craft the life I want.

Also, all that love, commitment, someone to share my life and start a family with stuff….but that kind of goes without saying.

The other side of this problem is that I really love being single. Not because I can date around and make-out with strangers, as I rarely do either of these things, but because I’m an incredibly independent person. Last year, I lived alone, and after two weeks of checking my door to make sure it was locked six times each night, I came to love it. Like really love it. I loved that my DVR was filled with only my shows. I loved that I could get up at any time of day and know that I could get in the shower, because I didn’t have to contend with anyone else’s schedule. I loved that I could dance around my room to cheesy pop music without judgment from anyone, and I loved that all the food remained in my fridge until I personally ate it.

These two ideas are slightly difficult to live with simultaneously. They have made dating lately pretty tricky, as I rarely feel like making time for people I don’t know already. I have enough to occupy me – between work/school, running, TV, yoga, and time with my friends, I’m not hurting for activity. Thus, it is hard to make time to go on dates with guys from OKcupid or even deal with OKcupid at all, as most of the time, I’m thinking I’d rather be in yoga or at the library with my friends or reading blogs. It just rarely feels worth my time.

People tell me that I need to make sacrifices to find someone. I need to put in the time and the work, and that when I’m in a relationship, I will need to, you know, spend time with that person, and I get that. I get it, because I’ve done that and done it happily.

When I was in the only actual adult relationship I’ve ever been in, I made the time. I was happy to do things with my ex and rarely thought about how I’d rather be at the gym when we were together, and in that sense, I guess my “I’d rather be at yoga” mindset might actually be a helpful tool: If I’m thinking I’d rather be somewhere else when I’m spending time with someone, then that person isn’t a person I should be with. Someone should make me want to drop everything (or at least, some things) and spend time with them. I should be excited when I get texts from people, not annoyed or stressed.

And, in that way, I guess this mindset gives me hope that when I find the right person, none of this will be an issue. I’ll be happy to make the time. I just don’t know how to find that person without making the time. Because of this, I think I might give up on the online dating thing for a while and just be happy being single while I’m in New York, as I’m going to move in June (most likely) anyway, so if I did end up in a relationship, it would be messy come June not matter what. And if I do find someone randomly, well, then I will be happy to make the time for that conversation should the time come.

Photo: Source

I could talk all day long about how much I love my dog, Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, and the “Oops! I did it again” era of Britney Spears’ career. But when it comes to talking about love love, I get a little weird. I’ve just always felt like people who need to talk about how much they love their significant others all the time are just trying to convince themselves that they’re in love. Or that they are so infatuated with someone, that they are mistaking it for love. I don’t know, I feel like I’m a pretty open person (poop jokes for dayssss), but talking about love makes me squirm a little.

BUT! My first wedding anniversary was yesterday (yes, I was an 11/11/11 bride. I’m cool.) and I feel like talking about love just a liiiiittle.

Andy and I are not outwardly very romantic. We were friends first for many years, so our relationship was built on a friendship rather than romance. We talk about new movies, hilarious YouTube videos of people falling, our Fantasy Football teams…and sometimes, we kiss. I feel like we show affection more through the random nice things we will do for each other rather than saying “I love you” every two seconds (though we do make sure to say that every day).

Our wedding day was awesome because I set absolutely no expectations. I told myself that as long as I ended the day married, I succeeded. The result was one of the best days of my life. I know every bride says that, but it’s true. Imagine being in a room full of everyone you care about in your life and they are all celebrating you and your love. It’s a crazy awesome feeling.

It’s funny because I’ve talked before about how I try to plan everything. I obviously had to plan my wedding, but I wasn’t anal about it and I just did what I had to do. I left the rest up to the universe. I try to remind myself how great things turned out the one time in my life that I ditched my control freak tendencies and just went with the flow. I highly recommend it.

I think I’m a kind of at a loss for words right now. My birthday was Saturday, so it’s definitely been a long, wonderful weekend. Instead of trying to write any more from my tired brain, I will let this video do the talking. This is me dancing at my wedding to a Britney Spears mega mix. I couldn’t decide which Britney songs I wanted the DJ to play at my wedding, so I asked him to play this since it combined a million songs in to one. Pretty much my best idea ever.



I’ve noticed something since my little person started kindergarten. At first I was emotionally overwhelmed. I couldn’t stand the fact that she was going to be away from me for the better part of the day. I’m used to being with her pretty much all the time.

Once I got over the initial OHMYGOD, MY BABY IS IN KINDERGARTEN shock, I’ve settled into a more relaxed acceptance of the whole situation. I think all the time we were spending together was making us both a little crazy. {Well me, for sure!}

I have a tendency to be overly emotional, I have impossibly high standards and I know I expect too much from others. When my expectations aren’t met, I can be kind of a pain in the ass.

I work really hard to remain calm and fair with the little person, but that is exhausting! I didn’t realize how much energy it was using up to control my natural tendencies.

Now that we have less time to spend together, I’m enjoying it so much more!

I know that sounds terrible, and before you start judging me – just hear me out. I love my little person more than I could ever articulate to you. I love to see her discovering all about the world – she’s so full of pure joy and delight.

But {yes, BUT!} we had gotten to the point where we weren’t filling our days with joy and delight. I was having all these feelings about what my life was missing and how that could affect her or my parenting. I would worry and berate myself for being selfish and then spiral down into general ickiness.

Mixing an overly sensitive, anxious momma who fears she is royally screwing up her child with a little person who is opinionated, independent and learning to push the limits to the very edge can make for some really difficult days.

Add in the long, cold days of winter or the long, hot days of summer and we spent quite a bit of time in the house. Together. Alone.

We got stir crazy. We got bored, We got sick of each other. And then I felt guilty for feeling like I needed a break from her.

Aren’t moms supposed to be wonderful, nurturing caretakers who always find joy in attending to the needs of their children? I can assure you that not every day looked like that at my house.

Since we’ve settled into the school routine, we’ve rediscovered that joy and relaxed play time that we had been struggling with the past year or so. I have less anxiety about her being away from me all day and I’m less worried about making sure she knows enough to start school.

Her teacher tells me she is right on target for her grade level and I’ve noticed her language, writing and drawing have accelerated dramatically since she started school.

I can’t help but feel a little sad and sentimental when I can see my baby growing up right before my eyes, but I’m so proud of the sweet, enthusiastic little person she is.

I have to admit that I’ve felt guilty for not talking about her more in my posts. I was chosen for Season 7, at least in part, because I was transitioning from full-time momma to the next phase. Naturally, that should include talking about said little person some of the time.

But I crave things that are mine alone. I don’t want being a mom to completely define me. I want to figure myself out so I can be the focused, passionate, fun-loving momma she deserves. {Hopefully you don’t think I’m rude for making this more about me!}

When I was thinking about how much Kaitlyn has grown up in such a short time, it struck me that I’ve had a transformation of my own. I’m nowhere near done with my journey of self-discovery, but having time apart seems to have benefitted us both immensely.

I can’t even express how excited I am about all my recent discoveries. I really hope I can continue on this path because I finally feel like I’m on the right one. Such a great feeling!

I’m still working on losing the guilt. I don’t know how I got to this place where I feel guilty about the way I behave. I’m a good momma to the little person. She is well taken care of, she knows she is loved. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me or maybe I’m letting perceived societal pressure get to me – whatever the reason, I really want to stop with the guilt already.

I would much rather set an example of a strong woman who boldly chased her dreams instead of hiding my authentic self away in favor of being a stepford mom.

Image via: ME!

A couple weeks ago I crossed an item off of my life list – I traveled my happy little rear end to Chicago and ran in the Color Run  – well actually I walked because of my whole chest pain saga, but that’s just a minor detail. My color walk was still so freaking awesome!

What made it even better is that my brother flew in from Texas and my sister and her husband drove up with me to pick him up. We all stayed the night and then got up bright and early Sunday morning to join all the other color runners for the most amazing organized run I’ve ever done.

It really is the Happiest 5K on the Planet!

It had rained the entire night before the 5K, and the ground was seriously wet in the morning. But for those couple of hours we were wandering around downtown Chicago – the weather couldn’t have been much better.

Going through the color zones was just fun – you couldn’t help but smile and get caught up in the moment. We were covered in color from head to toe {even inside of our clothes and shoes we discovered!}, but we were like little kids in a sprinkler or something. So carefree and joy-filled.

Of course there were parts of the trip that didn’t go as well – like the near constant rain, the insane tsunami-like storm that hit while we were lost in downtown Chicago, my annoying chest pain and subsequent 8pm bedtime after we arrived. But those minor hiccups were offset by the many more good parts of the trip.

I can’t begin to express to you how much I love my siblings – they are awesome!

It’s amazing that we get along as well as we do, really. I’m 32 and they are 21 and 22, but somehow it works. We laugh at inappropriate things, act completely ridiculous, make fun of each other nonstop and just generally have a good time.

During the week after the trip, I got to thinking about the weekend and it hit me – these are the moments that I have been missing in my life. I don’t plan many of these trips because I inevitably feel guilty leaving the little person at home, or tell myself I shouldn’t spend too much money on selfish things.

Even though I had been trying to do more things for myself, I was still allowing myself feel guilty about them – like I didn’t deserve to have fun if she wasn’t with me. But not this time! I can honestly say that I had a fabulous time in Chicago – sans guilt!

If only you could see me right now – doing my little happy dance. Granted, it would probably look more like reckless limb flailing, but I assure you it’s dancing!

I’m so excited to discover that I’m giving myself permission to be myself. To have fun and enjoy my life for me and not solely as a momma. I make plenty of memories with my little person – exploring the world, sailing off to far-away make believe lands, and doctoring up more sick stuffed animals than I could ever count.

But the Color Run was for me. Every powdery, colorful, skin-staining minute of it!

I feel like I’ve inched ever so slightly closer to living a life I love. I hope I can continue moving in this direction!

 Image via: ME!

On January 28, 2006 I packed up my green ’99 Dodge Caravan with a few of my belongings, picked up my best friend and drove from my home in Rhode Island all the way to Los Angeles. One of the boxes in my van held dozens of bound spec scripts that I was convinced would play an integral part in me becoming the next Tina Fey.

On July 1, 2006 my mini van crossed the Rhode Island border, still filled with my worldly possessions, my best friend and my box of scripts. We weren’t there to visit; we were there to stay.

We didn’t get in a fight, we didn’t go broke and there was no family emergency back home…so why did we leave?



We had both become romantically involved with two guys right before we were leaving for LA. My friend started dating her dude a couple months before we left. My boy? Oh, it was just the guy I had been obsessed with since high school and thought I had NO CHANCE IN HELL WITH EVER. Seriously. He was that guy – the one you have to build up courage to talk to and when you finally do, you say something really awkward that you regret for days afterward. So yeah, that guy finally decided he liked me back…ONE WEEK before I moved across the country. Perfect timing, Andy. Truly impeccable.

My friend and I didn’t really date many people before that point, so we weren’t just going to ditch our LA plans for a couple of guys we liked. We were strong independent women and we were going to do something awesome!

…Yeah, that mentality lasted approximately two seconds and then for t/he entire time we were in California, we just missed our men folk. It was really exciting and really annoying all at the same time. Going to Los Angeles was my plan…I was going to move out there and write for sitcoms. That was all I cared about and I never considered love or starting a family or anything “boring” like that.

Well, I have a funny thing to tell you, kids: Love always wins.

Not only did my friend and I move back home for love, we both ended up marrying those guys. My friend has two beautiful children and I have a 10-year-old stepson and an insane dog that I cradle like a baby. Things have a weird way of working out.

Let me preface my next statement by saying that if I had to go back and make the decision again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I am a wife and stepmother and I honestly never really knew that was going to be in the cards for me. However, that little twist that life threw my way really confused the heck out of me for the next few years.

The issue? I still wanted to be a comedy writer. A real, big-time comedy writer for a movie or a TV show or something really rad. It all seemed so possible and so within my reach when I was living in Los Angeles. Settling down in Rhode Island made me feel like I had to give up entirely on that vision…and it sucked.

Let’s be honest…it still sucks.

“But, Mary – won’t your husband move to California with you? Doesn’t he support your dreams?”

Yes, my husband would actually love to move to California. He lived there until he was 12 years old and all he talks about is going back. One slight issue, though – he has a son. And his son has a mother that lives in Rhode Island. And his son isn’t going to move across the country because daddy’s wife wants to write funny things. So we stay here because my stepson is actually really cool and my husband loves his son more than California.

I’m doing what I know needs to be done, but it doesn’t mean I have to be thrilled about it. I have just had a lot of trouble translating my dreams in to something that the smallest state in the Union can actually offer me. My quarter life crisis has stemmed from me trying to find something as fulfilling career-wise that I felt comedy writing was going to be for me.

It’s been a long road of failed jobs and total confusion, but you know where those last six years of craziness have led me? Back to being a writer. Go figure. Not a comedy writer, mind you, but at least I think I’m finally headed back in the right direction. You can’t fight against doing what you’re meant to do…it has a sneaky way of finding you again when you least expect it.

{Image via Fotopedia}

“Ain’t gonna hang my hat

Ain’t gonna take off my boots

Ain’t nothing gonna stop me in my pursuit

My stage, time to rehearse

Gonna see all the wonders of the universe”

         ~Imani Coppola

Don’t think that just because we all blogged here for 5 months, our lives are magically just amazeballs. This is not the end of a romantic comedy (unfortunately – I honestly have the worst bedhead EVA and dream of waking up all shiny and coiffed!) I still procrastinate, over-think most dilemmas, am trying to get the ball rolling faster on my business, and freak out when Mr. Paul Child says “I have an idea…” or “I think this model car would look great over here with your ::fill in the blank::” (Seriously, when will the plethora of model cars end?! They multiply like flipping bunnies!) . My point is, that being apart of Stratejoy has been a blessing I never could have imagined, but it’s not a magic cure, it is a way of life.

Changing your thinking and getting out of the negative is hard. We all put up defenses and try to battle the anger and resentment, that we usually have for ourselves. We aren’t perfect, though, (I just heard my fellow type-A’s ever where sigh in pain) and trying to be is pointless.

Over the past few months we have lived this way of life because we had to come here, to you, our tribe, and report on how we were applying it. Good, bad and ugly. It’s hard sometimes to be positive and to show up every week. And my crying face is really ugly. But the good times, the moments when we have a revelation or something good happens, or we eat an awesome cookie and drink some wine with best friends, those are becoming more important, more cherished, and happily, more often.

With each week of writing here, I got stronger. I became a better version of myself, because I started to love myself and value my talents. My mother always tells me to “change my thought,” when there is something that I don’t want to do or if I’m stuck in a negative way of thinking. Every week, my thought started to change, coming here to a community of support and encouragement. All our readers are amazing and hopefully, we gave you something new to think about or a sister in QLC to relate to.

I would be nothing without the support of Mr. Paul Child, my friends & family, and my new family (my Stratejoy loves)!

Molly – I never dreamed when I first started reading Stratejoy, that I would be a Stratejoy alum. I love that this is a positive and inclusive site. We are beaten down every day with ideas and images that make us feel less and this is a place where we leave feeling whole and happy. I am so honored to have been selected to grow in front of the tribe and let them see everything that happened, even my terrible camping trip.

Katie- The right hand of Stratejoy. The lovely lady who has to edit my at the last minute posts and never once complained. THANK YOU! If we haven’t said it enough, you are amazeballs at what you do! Scrapple date soon?!

Arielle – The first person to post on everyone’s blog posts! Fedora wearing awesome cheerleader! I have a feeling that you are going to create your own career. I just see all the amazeballs-ness of your energy concentrating into a beautiful bang. And I’ll be there to celebrate with you, drinking wine and eating graham crackers.

Caiti – Your sweet honesty and hope made me weep with you, and want the world for you and your husband. I look forward to seeing you build your family and the career that you are so focused on creating, on your terms. Please smuggle Irish butter back for me. ;o)

Jill- You are so flipping funny. Love that you have talked about sex, your vagina, and picking your nose. It’s honest and truthful and we all can relate. I hope that your strength and humor will continue in a blog, so that I can laugh and nod and think “damn! I feel the same way!” Kick life in the nuts and be the brave biotch I know you are!

Camila – I want to sit and drink a cup of tea and talk about natural health with you so badly! I am so excited for you to have an incredible wedding and build an amazing life in Portland with your lovely new hubby! Will you be my doula someday?

Cassie- You are sunshine on a cloudy day! Your joy for life sparkles through your posts. I’m hope that I get to go to a Pixar movie someday that is inspired and/or written/drawn (I know it’s mostly computer now, but you could go retro and draw it!) by you! Please keep me up to date on the new boy and all your art/illustration/writing. ;o)

Sarah- Motherhood scares me, but you have taken a lot of my fear regarding it, away. All of the awesome steps you took for yourself, lets me know that being a mom, doesn’t mean you aren’t an incredible person who is still growing individually too.

I feel so blessed. I feel so strong. I feel so happy. And I thank you all for reading, supporting, commenting, laughing and loving with me.

I’ll be blogging on my own site, writing about food and living in a small town again, running a farm bakery, starting my own pastry business on the side, and traveling with my love Mr. Paul Child. Is it cheesy to write KIT on our yearbooks?

My coming soon pastry business

Twitter: @CroissantITC


**A Note From Katie: Rachel, you gorgeous, awesome, amazing woman, you! It started off to where I wanted to meet you because of what I’m sure are amazing cooking skills. But, as I got to know you more and more through your posts, I’m all but 100% certain that we’d be incredible friends. I mean, people who actually LIKE Scrapple? Come on. It’s a no brainer.

I’ve loved all of your posts this season. Seriously. Every. Single. One. I’ve loved hearing about your past, about what you’re going through now, and what you’re going to be planning on in the future. You’ve been completely honest, even when the honesty wasn’t pretty and glittery. 

I adore every hair on your pretty head, and can’t wait for our Scrapple date.

























Remember how I said I wouldn’t travel?  Because I get all antsy about my routine and picky about how I like my coffee and fussy about pillows?

Well.  I did it.  I threw my fears about traveling off a cliff.  And not just any cliff.  The cliff of the Grand Canyon.

Dan and I’ve been contemplating a get away for just us.  Meaning, we’d leave our toddler at home.  Without the two of us for the first time.  In the capable hands of her grandparents.  But without us for the first time, nonetheless.

Did I experience panic attacks about this situation?

Of course!

Did I lay in bed the night before our trip, starring at the ceiling and thinking up ways to get out of this trip?

Why, yes!

Did I anxiously jitter my legs up and down on the plane before take off and probably start to frighten the fellow passengers?


But I didn’t let the fear strangle me.  When I felt anxiety start to tighten around my neck, I’d carefully pry it off finger by finger and repeat “this is going to be fun, this is good for everyone, this is going to be fun.”

Three nights.  That’s the longest time I’ve been away from Kate.  And while Dan’s been on week-long business trips, this was the first time we’ve both left together.  I worried she’d think we abandoned her.  That were never coming back.  That those four days were an eternity in her mind.

It turned out she couldn’t care less.

When I called my mom to check in, I heard my mom say: “Mama’s on the phone, Kate.  Do you want to talk to Mama?”

And you know what that kid said?


I’d squeeze a few “hi, mamas,” and “I love you, mamas,” out of her before she’d toss the phone and proceed to run around my parent’s house, teasing the dogs, eating fistfulls of mini marshmellows, and dancing to The Fresh Beat Band.

I guess I didn’t need to worry about her missing me too much.

After I heard all the fun she was having, I started to relax.  Dan and I toured the Grand Canyon on bikes, I let a giraffe kiss me at the Out of Africa wildlife park, and screamed as our Pink Jeep driver bounded over steep inclines of the Sedona Red Rocks.

It’s been a long while since Dan and I did anything, together, alone.  Like, I can’t remember the last time.  Neither of us even gets to pee alone with a toddler and dog underfoot.  So just showering without having to turn on Elmo’s World and pray a short person doesn’t flush my favorite Cover Girl eyeshadow quad down the toilet felt like the ultimate luxery.

And something else happened.  I discoverd maybe I do like to travel.  Seeing new places is fun.  Who knew?  I’d never seen anything like the landscape of Sedona.  I never believed I’d let a camel eat out of the palm of my hand or get frenched by a giraffe.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never climbed to the top of anything.  I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever bike a 21 mile loop while breathing in the air above the Grand Canyon.

Traveling can certainly be stressful.  And, no, it wasn’t like home.  But I felt my anxieties and fears and all the tension I carry at home slide off my shoulders as my arms widened to embrace all there is to see and do and feel.

“Home is the dearest spot on earth. It is the center though not the boundary of the affection.” ~M.B.Eddy

This is a quote my mom always said to us as kids. Basically, my parents taught us to not view just one place, one physical structure, as our home.

When I went off to college, my mother handed me a note, jotted on a piece of notebook paper, with this quote and a note about how proud she was. She urged me to find home, even so far away from family. That’s just what I did, creating a family of friends. We would have potluck dinners at my shared apartment, eating a delicious hodge-podge dinner and then playing charades. It was simple, but we made it our home.


I’ve been struggling lately. Feeling a little lost and not knowing which way to step in my life. I have the most amazing boyfriend, who I am madly in love with. I have a business that I’m working on getting off the ground. But I’m in a constant state of discomfort and unknown. I live out of suitcases on the road.

My conversations of late are peppered with the word “home.” Where is home and how do I get home? Currently, I’m in this place I like to call “So Unknown.” I realize that this is most of life, being unknown, but right now it feels more edgy for me. With Mr. Paul Child looking for a new job, we don’t know where we will end up. I look at houses all over Phoenix-area, unsure if we will even end up here. I’ve committed, to moving where he finds a great job. We want to be in Phoenix, but we don’t know where we will land.

I’m anxious. I want to get my business rolling, but now it’s in this so unknown place, because what if we have to move? I can’t keep uprooting my business to different areas. It’s not impossible to move my business, it’s internet-based, but to move it is still a challenge, so I’ve been holding off. In the same stroke, we could be waiting a year before Mr. Paul Child is able to find a job in the Phoenix-area. Can I really put my dreams on hold?

It’s frustrating living between two cities. We are constantly on the go. We cram a life together into a weekend. Planning our lives so far in advance doesn’t leave a lot of freedom for when our friends call with last minute plans.

I feel unsettled, not knowing where our home will be. It’s frustrating knowing that this hinges on his job. We wait, anxiously, for an interview, and when he gets one, we wait for days, for a phone call to give us the outcome. Lately, he’s always too over-qualified for the job. One after another, they trickle through our hope. I try to stay positive for both of us, keeping up the morale, and looping strands of hope and promise, around us.

I recently discussed with Mr. Paul Child, moving to his small Arizona town of Yuma, after he asked me to stay with him. I searched all over town for a restaurant job for myself. It seemed that there was nowhere except for chain restaurants that I could work…I started to feel really depressed about my options. Finally I found a place that wouldn’t hire me till September, but that was basically the nicest restaurant in town.

Proud and excited, I came home to tell Mr. Paul Child, who didn’t like that I would be working the exact opposite schedule as him, and that I wouldn’t be off work till at least 10 pm at night. I appreciate that he loves me so much, that the thought of not seeing me when he gets home from work, upsets him, but honestly, it made me upset that he wasn’t immediately excited at this potentially good career opportunity for me. I have never hidden who I am, and what I want from life. I love working in restaurants. I’m a chef, and this is the life. I have dreams. Big fat dreams!

After so much encouraging of his career, I was a little hurt, and wanted to pose the question, “what about mine?” After me pounding the words, “choose a job you love” into his head over the past few months, I felt empty. Guilty for wanting a job that I love, that would end up keeping me away for long hours from the man that I love. He is very supportive of my pastry business, but after his dismay at the restaurant hours I would have to work, I worry that he doesn’t fully understand the time and dedication that goes into a business, let alone a food business, and that scares me. On that note, I harken back to my first blog post

I’m not waiting on his job anymore. I can’t wait for us to get into one city. It would be perfect if the stars would align, and we would end up in the same city, amazeball jobs, and found the perfect house…but life doesn’t work like that. Mr. Paul Child is the love of my life, but I’m going ahead with my plans, and creating the business that I want. Remember my first Stratejoy post? I am not waiting! I love Mr. Paul Child, but I want to create a career I enjoy, and I never want to resent my lovely boyfriend! Someday, we will find our home together, but for now…so unknown.



Dan and I were the first of our group of cohorts to get married.  I was 23.  He was 24.

We were young.  Plenty of people liked to inform me of this fact, as if I didn’t know.

Between the two of us, we’d been to exactly three weddings.  Dan, for his aunt and cousin.  Me for my aunt.  Years and years ago.

So, really, we had no wedding experience.

And most said not enough life experience.

But Dan and I were (are) old souls.  We met as undergrads at the University of Virginia while working for the school’s independent newspaper, The Cavalier Daily.  He was the Operations Manager and I was the News Editor.  As News Editor, I got to the office earlier and stayed later than any other editor.  So we spent a lot of time together.  A lot.

We talked about our families, how funny it was we both had these much-younger-than-us sisters.  How he and I both loved diet Coke and Law and Order.  The night he found me trying to quietly hide my tears when my mom called down to the newsroom to tell me my sick dog wasn’t going to make it much longer.

Over countless dining hall dinners and trips to the local Harris Teeter, we became not only boyfriend and girlfriend but best friends.

After we graduated we both moved back home to Northern Virginia, spent the next nine months working our first jobs and wishing we were back at U.Va. instead, and decided to get married.

On June 28, 2008, Dan and I pledged our love for each other on a sweltering summer afternoon.  After our ceremony we stopped at the local 7-11 for water and slurpees.  And I knew I made the best choice.

While everyone had an opinion on how I should get married, no one offered up their feelings on how to stay married.  And for me (a total non bride, if there ever was), that first year we spent together mattered more than all the tulle on Earth.

It’s not enough to be in love, I don’t think.  Love is part of it, as love is for any relationship.  But I don’t think love is enough to sustain a marriage for years and years.  If all you needed was love, well that would be easy.

But marriage is hard.  Marriage is work.  Everyday.  Not some of the time, when you feel like it.  But everyday.

And some of that work is fun work.  Planning a trip together.  Date nights.  Even just running errands to Target.

And some of that work is tough work.  Having a baby.  Buying a house.  Deciding how to spend and save money.

Marriage is as much about fun and sex and love as it is about having those tough conversations that neither of you really wants to talk about.

As a newlywed, at first I wanted to shy away from those hard-to-talk-about things.  Maybe we can just shove that giant issue under our bed with all that stemware we received as gifts and have no room for.

But the tricky thing about those issues is they keep rearing their ugly heads.

Several of our friends just got engaged and several more are getting married this year.  I have zero opinions on their wedding.  They should have the wedding they so desire.  And I cannot wait to honor them on their day.

On marriage, though, I have one piece of wisdom they can choose to accept or reject.

Choose kindness.

Oh, it’s so much easier to be mean and say NO I WANT TO DO IT MY WAY/I ASKED YOU TO UNLOAD THE DISHWASHER AND YOU NEVER DO ANYTHING AROUND HERE.  Yes, that is the easy way.  I’ve done things that way a time or two.  And I can save you the trouble of wondering how that goes.  People’s feelings are hurt and words better left unsaid are exchanged.

To be kind is, at first, the harder way.  Since marriage, by definition, requires two people (whoever they may be), then two people have to work something out, together.  That’s where stuff gets tricky.  But when I want to get mad and just have it my way, I pause, breathe, and think kindnessBe kind.  Talk kindly.

I love being married.  I love being married to Dan.  Because I love him.  But, to me, it’s more than that.  Our marriage is more than love.  It’s about a promise I made to him to kindly work it out.


Outdoorswoman is not a descriptor that is normally attached to my name. My family never camped, and I never learned how to pee in the woods, nor developed an affinity for sleeping in a tent in a bug and spider laden thrush of grass. I love creature comforts, and I have trouble forgoing them in the spirit of camping fun.

When my friends invited us camping, Mr. Paul Child and I accepted, planning my first camp out, and our first camping outing together. I have a new thought about camping, since my first trip with Mr. Paul Child…If you can survive a camping trip with the one you love, then you can survive anything.

We decided to take a more primitive trail out to the campsite. The 2-hour drive, turned into 4 hours, as the road became a constant rumble over rocks. We kept stopping mid-trail, to attempt to regain some sense of calm for our shaken bodies. Then we’d continue on again, bumping and rattling along.
Frustrated and jostled, we actually had quite a few moments of laughter, when we realized we’d only gone 4 miles in 45minutes. As we arrived at a river we knew we would have to drive the Jeep across, I volunteered to put on my cheese making boots, that I had thrown in the back, last minute, and waded across the river to find the right path for the Jeep to traverse. As I almost fell in the current, stumbling over the rocky river bed, Mr. Paul Child stood on the river bank behind me, snapping pictures of my shaky walk.

We continued on the trail, looking down from the cliff we were traversing, we saw our campsite, then promptly arrived at a locked gate. Quickly agreeing that we would not be traveling the 4 hours back on the rocky road, to go around, we went to work, attempting to find a way through or around the gate.

After surveying the trail once more, we found that one part of the chain-link fence was held together by 7 thin strands of metal, looped and twisted together. Despite our reservations at disturbing property, we had no choice and set to work, untwisting the strands to allow the Jeep to pass through. I guided Mr. Paul Child, in the Jeep carefully through the narrow pass, and then we began to re-twist the fence back into place. Sweating under the hot sun, Mr. Paul Child stopped mid-twist and looked at me. “This is good team-work. I guess we don’t really need to go to pre-marital counseling!” I laughed.

This is what I’m grateful for in our relationship. Laughter. We have so much fun together, even in the uncomfortable moments. I had a few moments during our camping trip where I was so uncomfortable, that I lashed out and acted bitchy. I immediately felt terrible about it. Honestly, I think that the fact that our lives are currently in a state of constant discomfort is making me crave every drop of comfort I can.

Camping strips away everything. It makes it impossible to hide anything. You are exposed. There’s no cell service, no technology, no light except stars, no sounds except the rushing water of the river and bullfrogs groans. It is peaceful and dis-concerning all in one.

We hiked out, later in the evening, to the hot springs. Two, natural hot springs in the middle of the woods, bubbling up at the perfect temperature. This was the high moment of the trip. Floating in the hot springs with my love, looking up at a sky filled with thousands of bright stars.

Snuggling into the tent after a 5-hour dip in the hot springs, with wet hair, I shivered up next to Mr. Paul Child. It was so quite and dark. I frankly, found it unnerving for the first hour. I had a hard time falling asleep, because without any sound, my mind just raced around. I lay there and thought about how miserable I would be the next morning when I would have to say goodbye to Mr. Paul Child, as he headed back to Southern Arizona, for the week.

I think for the longest time, I thought that once I found the guy that everything in my life would click together. Even though I know that’s nuts, I think deep in my mind somewhere, probably behind all the Friends trivia, I thought that life would get easier with him. In many ways, it has, but there are things that I’m seriously struggling with, especially our current long-distance, and my own frustration with the speed at which it is taking my business to launch. I’m tired of being frustrated. I’m tired of missing my boyfriend, and living so far apart. I’m tired. My mind churned over all these thoughts for a longtime. Finally I drifted off to a restless sleep.


Camping is challenging to me. It lets me simmer in my difficult thoughts, without a break from them. Mr. Paul Child told me that he loves it because it is peaceful, and it makes him appreciate all the comforts he has even more. Maybe, once some of the crazy of our lives calms, I will be able to enjoy the peace of camping. I can understand why Mr. Paul Child loves camping, and while I won’t become an amazeballs outdoorswoman anytime soon, I stuck my pinkie toe into camping, and I came out the next morning with an exhausted mind, a loving boyfriend I know even better, and hot crispy bacon.

P.S. I also peed like a champ in the woods. Where’s my merit badge?!


My husband and I have been a couple for almost nine years and married for almost four. Yet, ask me if I believe in soul mates, or the idea of Mr. Perfect, or “The One,” and I’ll tell you no.

I don’t believe in “The One,” but I DO believe my husband is the one I’ve chosen to love and continue to choose to love everyday. He’s wonderful, but he doesn’t complete me or fill some insatiable void.

This doesn’t seem like a popular opinion in a world where we’re surrounded by The Bachelor(ette), Edward and Bella fantasies, and rom-coms that conclude with a fairytale wedding to Prince Charming but don’t depict the day-to-day marriage that comes after it.

That’s because what comes after the wedding isn’t always romantic. It’s work– sometimes fun work, sometimes hard and emotional. Contrary to Jerry Maguire’s “you complete me” attitude, I believe that marriage is a process of taking two separate people with two different set of personalities, quirks, and ideologies and figuring out how to make it work, side by side.

Recently, I’ve been deeply inspired by a video by sex and relationship columnist Dan Savage called “The Price of Admission” — required viewing for anyone in or wanting to be in a relationship, in my humble opinion. Dan describes the price of admission as “the personal sacrifices, large and small, that make long-term relationships possible.” He suggests that we consider the perceived flaws and annoyances of the other person and assess whether they are truly dealbreakers, or whether they are just the price you might have to pay to be in a relationship with that otherwise great person.

“There’s no settling down without some settling for.” ~ Dan Savage

Mark has no shortage of flaws (sorry, Mister… but I’ll get to me in a second!). He plays a lot of video games, and often spends entire weekends away at disc golf tournaments. He leaves the cabinet doors open in the kitchen all the time (WHY??). He can be so laid-back that it sometimes comes across as indifference. He often doesn’t do his share of the chores until I ask him to, which drives me cah-razy.

And I’m no picnic either. I require a ridiculous number of backrubs on a weekly basis. I’m hella indecisive and too insecure. I’m much less athletic and outdoorsy than Mark. I sometimes complain about going to visit my in-laws. I’m less patient and have a much shorter– and more colorful– fuse than Mark.

At one slightly-less-evolved point in time, these may have been dealbreakers for us in relationships (heck, I’ve had roommate relationships go sour for less than that!). I might have been so focused on the idea of Mr. Right that anything less than perfect would scare me away. In fact, the first few months after our wedding three and a half years ago was a really hard time as we adjusted to each other as husband and wife and as I came around to the idea that marital bliss was not a given, but something we had to work for continuously.

Now I accept our flaws and challenges as the prices of admission. While I still admit to being triggered by Mark’s actions on occassion, I don’t let them build up into animosity or score-keeping. The value I get from our relationship is so much greater than being right in an argument. As people, we are so much greater than our flaws, and we recognize that in each other. We still get angry or annoyed, but we’ve established a rule of respectful, open communication about any topic to alleviates tensions, and the humility to say we’re sorry. Conflict makes us better, not bitter.

Lately, I’ve been taking the price of admission idea one step further and have been trying to use my marriage as a mirror. When I feel the frustration start to rise towards some aspect of our relationship, I turn inward and ask myself what that feeling says about me. Sometimes (often?), it shows me that I’m trying to be controlling. And I then remember that the only thing I can ever control is myself and my reactions, which helps foster kindness, politeness, patience and acceptance within me– a much better approach than anger.

My favorite trick for a quick attitude adjustment is to replace “I have to” statements with “I get to.” If I end up doing something Mark was supposed to do and find myself mentally grumbling, “I have to pick up after you,” I’ll correct myself to say, “I get to pick up after you.” I get to pick up his stuff– I have a husband who is a part of my life and the “stuff” is all evidence of our life together. I am not burdened, but lucky. I do believe this is some sort of reverse psychology jedi-mind trick that I’m performing on myself, but, hey, it (usually) works– or at least makes it less annoying to deal with!

I wrote in my wedding vows to Mark that he has inspired me to be a better person. That still holds true today. Marriage has a lot to teach me about myself and others. I have so much to learn about vulnerability, forgiveness, generosity, teamwork, intimacy, and love… Notice that perfection is nowhere near that list.

“That’s the only way you become The One. Is because somebody is willing to pretend you are.” ~ Dan Savage

To admit that we aren’t a perfect match might sound sad and unromantic to some people. But we’re two people who commit to working on the relationship everyday, learning and growing as a team, and choosing to love each other in spite of our flaws. That couldn’t be more romantic to me.

{Photo by Olivia Leigh Photographie}

When I look at the goals I set out for myself 2 months ago, I’m quite pleased with my progress on a lot of them. I started exercising more regularly, I volunteer every so often, and I’ve learned about 45 seconds of the Single Ladies dance.

There’s one goal, however, that I’m completely failing on – the one about taking control of my love life.

I’m not someone who gets asked out ever, so if I don’t actually try to have some semblance of a love life, I won’t have one. To combat the stagnancy in the romance department, I decided to start taking OK Cupid seriously. I’ve had a profile for over 6 months, but for the bulk of that time I barely ever logged in let alone went on any dates. I needed to change that.

A few weeks ago, I got a message from a guy who was not only nice and normal, but who had clearly mastered the difference between “your” and “you’re” (crucial, obviously). We traded emails until the inevitable happened – he suggested we meet.

While a normal woman might look forward to this date, I went into panic mode. I started taking several days to respond to his messages, to the point where we could no longer meet up on the days he suggested because those days had passed. I made up lame excuses as to why I wasn’t available. Every so often I would snap out of the weird frenzy I had worked myself into, force myself to respond and legitimately try to meet up because I knew I should, and then my heart would race because I was afraid of going on this date. As I write this post, we’re still in scheduling limbo.

This story, combined with all the introspection that I’ve been doing as a result of deciding, “Hey, I think I’d like to write a Stratejoy post about love or sex or whatever,” has made me realize something:

I have no greater neurosis than the one I have about men.

It may have taken me 28 years to get to this point, and there’s something cruel and ironic about gaining clarity regarding how fucked up you are, but it explains a lot. Here’s another example:

When I was sophomore in college, I had a crush on a guy friend of mine. Not a fleeting crush – a serious, I’ve-thought-about-you-every-day-for-over-a-year crush.

One Saturday night, a posse of girls and I went to a party at his fraternity. When he came to say hello to us, it was immediately apparent that something was different. He would touch the small of my back, or find a way to hold my hand while he was talking to me. This wasn’t normal.

My friends picked up on what was going on and kept whispering to me excitedly. “You guys are totally going to hook up tonight!”

What happened then is obvious, right?

Sexy time!

No, that’s not what happened. What happened is that I freaked out and left the party, to a chorus of my friends’ confusion.

Fast forward to senior year. Different guy, different group of friends, different fraternity. He made moves, I bolted, my friends were baffled.

I loved hanging out with both of those guys and I was happy to have them as friends. And because it was college, I was no stranger to getting my drunken frat-party makeout on. But for some reason, when faced with the possibility of having a union between the emotional and the physical, my body should have chosen Fight when instead it chose Flight.

Remember when I briefly mentioned having gone bungee jumping? I got to watch probably 30 people jump that day. Personally, I was so excited that I dove off that platform the moment the instructor counted to three. Most people hesitated before they found the courage to jump. One girl stood there looking down, paralyzed with fear. Everyone tried to encourage her, but she wouldn’t budge. After 10 minutes, she backed off the platform. She never jumped.

In the world of romance, it seems that most people are like I was that day – diving unabashedly into new relationships. A few are more hesitant, calculating before they leap. But me? I’m the girl who, despite all the positive encouragement in the world, can’t find it within herself to jump.

This issue has plagued me throughout my entire adult life (the fact that I managed to get myself into the one relationship I’ve ever been in was nothing short of a miracle, believe me). I get stuck in my comfort zone of admiring someone from afar, and when it comes down to actually doing something about it, I freeze.

I really want to understand what’s going on here. Am I afraid of commitment? I don’t think so. Am I afraid of emotional intimacy? I might not be good at it, but I’m not scared of it. Am I afraid of physical intimacy? Clearly not, because the hookups that originated in frat houses now just originate in bars (infrequently, but I’ve already acknowledged that I have very little game).

So what is it? What part of going on a date with an OK Cupid guy freaks me out? Why do I feel like I would be super happy if I had one guy around for deep, emotional lovey stuff and another guy around for meaningless sex and never the twain shall meet? THAT’S NOT NORMAL.

Part of me wonders if maybe I’m being a bit overzealous. I’m trying to find a job, live on virtually no money, devote more time to hitting the gym, get my Fierce Love on, and actually submit my blog posts on time. Maybe I have too much else going on to also be working on my love life.

Who am I kidding? That’s just another excuse in justifying why I’m not really trying. Is anyone ever really too busy for a relationship? When the right person comes along don’t we just naturally find a way to squeeze them in to our already crowded lives?

What am I trying to make excuses for?

I can’t help but reflect on this stuff and think, “Girl, cancel my subscription because I don’t need your issues!” Except I can’t do that. I don’t have the option of getting out of my own head.

I wonder if maybe I shouldn’t have broken up with my therapist after all.


Photo credit: elycefeliz

I used to be scared that I would get lost in a relationship, and that I would have to be the one constantly compromising my dreams. I don’t know where this fear came from, yet I held so steadfastly to the fact that I had to be in control, to make sure I didn’t lose my way or have my dreams derailed. It has taken me 30 years to really figure out who I am and what I want. In the past few years, I have found my calling and comfort in my skin. I don’t want to lose that or the momentum for the big dreams I have.

One of the biggest hurdles that I had to get over to be with Mr. Paul Child, was learning that I won’t get lost in OUR relationship. He’s great about keeping me on track and sitting me down in front of my computer to write, or work on each aspect for my business. He values who I am as an individual, and is willing to support me in all my endeavors. I spent so much time worrying about getting lost, but the funny thing is, I don’t feel lost, and if anything, I feel more myself. I also feel supported and cheered on, at every turn and set-back. And there are a lot of set-backs.

In turn, I’ve had to make sure that I’m supporting his dreams and desires. Embracing the things that he loves to do. Which currently includes searching for a new job for him in a yet unknown location. Building his career. Camping. Jeeping. Off-roading. Traveling to all the national parks. Cue compromise.

This weekend, Mr. Paul Child and I went to the sporting goods store to look at tents and air mattresses. He loves to camp and well, I don’t. My idea of camping is Hampton Inn (no room service? Shut the front door!). It’s great that he wants to include me in the decision of the tent, but honestly, the only opinions I can offer is, “It’s cute” or “I love these little pockets inside.” While he chatted with the sales guy, I ran around the massive store, playing with camo vests, fishing nets, and duck calls.


Mr. Paul Child picked out a tent and an air mattress, and we arrived back at my house. With two camping trips on the books, he set it up in my living room for us to sleep in, to ease me into camping. Oh, dear. I stuffed the tent with pillows and made Mr. Paul Child angle the tent so I could see the tv (Pretty sure that’s not going to happen in the woods.). We slept two nights in there, and it wasn’t too bad. I know the woods will be different, but at least it will be reasonably comfortable. I’m accepting this probably won’t be my dream way to spend a weekend, but I will be with the love of my life and it will definitely be a new experience (Plus, excellent time to roast up some of my delicious homemade s’mores).

I’ve been trying to be as giving and open to new things as possible. How do you balance taking care of your needs and continuing to be open and giving to your partner? I honestly don’t know the answer to this. It’s something I think about and I’m pretty sure it’s not formulaic.

Our weekend ended back in a comfortable bed (YES!) watching one of my favorite reality shows. Mr. Paul Child hates these kinds of shows, but he did lay there watching many episodes with me (thank you Netflix streaming!), and didn’t complain. Compromises are little and big. We’re trying to find a balance that makes US both happy.


Here’s a bit of Life Math:
• I’m 29 years old, and my husband is 30.
• We have stable finances and we own a condo.
• We have been married for almost four years now, cohabitating for six, and annoying lovebirds for eight and a half.

Love + marriage… Yet there is something missing from the equation, per the infamous playground rhyme.


And as if I hadn’t noticed this fact, we have had many a well-meaning relative or overly-nosy acquaintance (tomato, tomahto) inquire when we’re having kids. We’ve been told that a grandchild would make the perfect birthday/Christmas present, and one particularly prolific cousin suggested we take over the childbearing duties so she could take a rest. A few more even predicted that we will be coming home from Ireland with quite a bit more than new passport stamps.

But what people don’t see are the hidden parts of the equation. The vast majority don’t know that I have an endocrine disorder called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which comes with a host of fun symptoms including hormonal imbalances, difficulty losing weight, acne, hair growth issues, and it possibly puts me at a greater risk for heart disease, uterine cancer, and diabetes later in life. PCOS also happens to be a very common cause of infertility.

Last year, I sat in a flimsy paper gown in a cold examination room, staring at my feet while a doctor told me that my 40-50 day cycles and irregular blood panel most likely mean that I will not be able to get pregnant without medical intervention. I think you could probably hear the sound of my sinking heart in that moment. All those years I was on birth control pills? Those pills did a better job hiding my PCOS symptoms than actually preventing me from getting pregnant. And now the doctor just wanted to put me on a different pill to try and make it happen.

We don’t have enough evidence to label ourselves “infertile” yet. We’re not actively trying to have a baby right now in that ovulation-testing/temperature-taking/legs-up-the-wall-post-sex kind of way, but we’re not NOT trying. So I’ve found myself in this odd land of limbo, where I feel too much and know too little.

At this stage of life, I seem to know more people who are pregnant or have kids than that are childless/child-free. The internet only amplifies this; it seems like everyday I see a new “We’re expecting!” Facebook status or blog post. While I smile and congratulate with genuine joy and love, I do start to long for what they have. They make it seem so… easy.

It sucks to feel frustrated by your own body. I mean, we’re talking about one of life’s most basic biological functions. And I feel sort of broken. The best I can do right now is adjust my diet and exercise (or turn to hormone drugs, but I’m personally not ready to go there yet, if at all) and then wait and see if that takes care of the symptoms to give me at least a glimmer of hope. But hope is scary in itself, because it makes me vulnerable to the disappointment that might come after it.

It’s taken me a LONG time to reach this point where I know I want a family someday. I fought through baby ambivalence a few years ago, and it almost brought Mark and me to an impasse. With a little space and some serious self-exploration, I discovered that my apprehension was actually insecurity and a fear of parenting stemming from my experiences as a child of divorce and a tenuous relationship with my father.

Now, with a wonderful man beside me as we stand on the secure foundation of our partnership, I do dream of a family. Mark does as well. Every now and again, he’ll utter the most heartfelt sentiments, like when he told me that he hopes we have a daughter someday so that he can be the kind of dad to her that so many of the women in his life didn’t have. I want us to have that. I want to be able to give him that.

Deep down, I know we will have a family one day. Even if it means a less traditional route to parenting such as adoption, which is a no less worthy path to creating a family. But if we choose adoption, I know I will still go through my own grieving process for our inability to create life and experience pregnancy and childbirth firsthand.

Until very recently, I’ve been very tight-lipped about my health condition and our potential struggles– after all, it seems so personal and intimate. At first, I shrugged off our family’s prodding about babies. But the more I learn about my condition, the more their casual comments hurt me (but of course they had no idea, since I wasn’t talking about it). It’s often too easy to take pregnancy and childbirth for granted and assume that everyone wants to or is able to have a child. Once you hear a couple is expecting, you don’t think about what may have preceded that point– and for some couples (probably more than we realize), it may have meant tears, confusion, treatments, heartbreak, and pain.

I’d like to be a part of the dialog of people who opens up about the fertility struggle as we face it– and I don’t just mean anonymously on PCOS or infertility message boards. If this is going to be a part of my life journey, then I don’t want to hide it. I don’t plan on over-sharing, but I think there would be a lot of value in saying, “I’m going through this hard thing, and I could use your support.” I’ve been so inspired by the openness of other women in similar positions (even some that are a part of the Stratejoy community), and I hope that my own honesty will help make others feel less alone and help with awareness of fertility issues among those who haven’t experienced it.

I suppose it’s appropriate that I’m thinking about this issue as we approach Mother’s Day. I not only think about all the wonderful mothers out there in the world, but also acknowledge and honor all the women who dream of having a child someday. I think about all the ways we nurture each other as women, regardless of offspring.

So I say, Happy Mother’s Day to ALL the women who have mothered, mentored, nurtured, consoled, and supported another person, regardless of whether they themselves are mamas or not. You all inspire me to remain open and loving as I face the journey ahead.

{Images via and DazT}

“O Julia, Julia, cook and nifty wench,

Whose unsurpassed quenelles and hot souffles,

Whose English, Norse and German, and whose French,

Are all beyond my piteous powers to praise —

Whose sweetly rounded bottom and whose legs,

Whose gracious face, whose nature temperate,

Are only equalled by her scrambled eggs:

Accept from me, your ever-loving mate,

This acclamation shaped in fourteen lines

Whose inner truth belies its outer sight;

For never were there foods, nor were there wines

Whose flavor equals yours for sheer delight.

O luscious dish! O gustatory pleasure!

You satisfy my taste buds beyond measure.”



My boyfriend, Mr. Paul Child*, should have come with a release form, like the ones you have to sign before you go sky diving or zip-lining. It would probably read something like this: Every barrier in your heart will be broken down like a Tonka truck smashing into a Lego wall. You will be loved unconditionally, supported no matter how bizarre and nutball-y the idea, and you will become best friends. Prepare to be challenged, in a good way, and ready to laugh constantly. You will have to learn to not be such a city girl, embracing camping and off-roading, plus figure out how to pee in the woods. 

He knew on the first date we would be amazing together. I apparently eat paste, because I was a whole hell of a lot slower in arriving at what he had known from date 1.  We worked through quite a bit of issues, especially the +3 hour distance between us. I personally, had to figure out a lot of things, and let go of a lot of drama in my life, before I was able to get on the same page as him. Mr. Paul Child was patient and understanding through it all.  At this point in our relationship, life feels like a perfectly happy storm of chaos (traveling back and forth with horrible gas prices, and balancing two careers plus my soon-to-be business…ahhh!). We’re both head-over-heels in love, and figuring out how to make us work.

We recently went up to Northern Arizona to celebrate his birthday. He tossed an off-roading trail guidebook in my lap and told me to pick a trail near where we were. Apparently my trail picking skills are amazing because we ended up on a snowy mountain trail, plowing through 1 foot of snow, sliding around, teetering closely to the edge of sheer drops. He was in heaven. I clamped my hand so tightly to the “oh shit” bar that I had to pry it off a finger at a time, when we reached the end of the trail.

I don’t do very well relinquishing control. Allowing someone else to ferry me down a dangerous trail on a snowy narrow road…that’s the ultimate surrender of control for me. As I was bouncing along, clutching the “oh shit” bar, and looking out over the muddy trail, clumped with snow, I realized that while I was afraid at certain points (hello, adrenaline rush), the fear I’d felt when relinquishing control, wasn’t as panicking as it has been in the past. It was almost like that trust test where you are supposed to fall backwards and allow someone to catch you, just believing that they will be there. Scary, but you have placed your trust in that person.

I always used to find it suspect when people would say, “my partner makes me a better version of myself…” In fact, Mr. Paul Child even said to me that he feels like I make him more active, because I’m always on the go, doing something, dreaming something up. For me, he makes me calmer. “Spaz” is an adjective that is sometimes tagged to my name, but with him, I just feel relaxed. His tranquil presence has mellowed me in all aspects of my life, which is something I’ve never really experienced before. I’ve let go of the need to always control a situation.

While I didn’t totally enjoy the ride that day, the next morning, we went to Sedona and rode all over the red rocks. Climbing and bouncing along, we traveled to spots with sweeping red vistas and amazing photographic moments, I never would have seen from the road or the overlook points. Mr. Paul Child smiled knowingly, and I ate crow, admitting how much I was enjoying the off- roading that day. 

Letting go, is my current experiment, which is why I’ve agreed to go camping and to go on more off-roading trips. Mr. Paul Child is already planning our next adventure, and I’m slowly coming around. I’ve even asked him to give me a lesson in off-road driving…oh, Lord, I may become outdoorsy! Coming to a camp site, and blog post soon!


*Pseudonym for my boyfriend. Based on Julia Child’s amazingly supportive and loving husband. I always have told my girlfriends that this is what I’m looking for in a guy, and I finally found him!





Everyone has that friend who knows exactly how to push your buttons and set you off to the brink of wanting to rip your hair out, strand by strand (Wait, do you not? What’s that like?). For me, this person is my best guy friend. Each time I hang out with him is a new adventure in testing the limits of my patience.

Recently, we were having dinner and somehow got on a subject we’ve talked about many times before: how I want to marry someone who, like me, is Jewish.

He looked at me and said, “That’s kind of racist, don’t you think?”

Enter my frantic ranting and a level of frustration that, if I were at a computer, would manifest itself as mashing my fingers on the keyboard.

I know that his use of such an extreme word was specifically meant to drive me crazy (mission: accomplished) but now that I’ve calmed down, I understand what he was getting at.

In theory, you should date someone with whom you have chemistry…right? Religion doesn’t play into natural attraction. If it did, I wouldn’t have gone 28 years without ever being remotely involved with a Jewish guy.

Despite the fact that it plays almost no role in my daily life, Judaism is obscenely important to me. In a Venn diagram of adjectives I use to describe myself, the “Jewish” circle wouldn’t just be slightly overlapping with some of the other circles; it would encompass all of them. Judaism is not a part of me, it is me.

Blame it on my parents, who still to this day show me the joy of partaking in the rich, cultural traditions of Jewish holidays. Blame it on the private school I went to for 8 years, which taught me the Hebrew language and the nuances of biblical texts. Blame it on the fact that my grandmother and late grandfather spent years in concentration camps, and while they survived and established happy lives for themselves after the Holocaust, they always carried with them the knowledge that so many of their family and friends didn’t make it. Because they were Jewish.

For all these reasons, and probably others, my religion is a badge I wear proudly.

But back to the dating thing. I admit that if I met someone who treated me well and made me happy yet happened to not be Jewish, I would be a fool to end things on those grounds alone. So I wouldn’t.

In this way, Judaism ranks as a really-nice-to-have on the list of qualities I would love in a future husband. You know, somewhere below a must-have like an awesome sense of humor, and above a must-not-have like being a smoker. I would even rank Judaism above just a regular nice-to-have, like someone having the same last name as me (you may laugh, but come on, how awesome and convenient would this be?).

Despite the fact that it prompted someone to call me racist (even if just in hyperbole), I’m not ashamed to admit that I hope to marry someone Jewish. Why shouldn’t I want someone who also sees Judaism as an important part of his identity?

This issue raises a few key questions for me:

1. How much of dating should be based on chemistry alone, and how much should be based on preferences? Some preferences, such as my stated minimum height requirement (5’10”, FYI), get thrown out the window pretty easily if I have feelings for someone who doesn’t measure up (pun intended, booyah). But this isn’t always the case. When do I just let go of the qualities I thought I wanted and when do I use those qualities to evaluate whether someone is truly right for me?

2. Am I really being small-minded by wanting to date within my religion? Do I have misguided notions about the tolerant person I thought I was?

3. As someone who loves cheeseburgers and participates in an annual debacle called Santacon, should I maybe stop focusing on the religion of my nonexistent boyfriend and start strengthening my own connection with Judaism?

Seeing as I haven’t even been on a date in a few years, I probably have more pressing things to worry about than the above questions. But I still wonder about them. Maybe I’ll know I’ve met the right person when someone is so amazing that I just don’t care about the answers anymore.

(Photo credit: This is my actual bedroom door. My roommate took the inside photo when we were in high school. I was reacting to a very strong mint).

*This post is an entry in the 1st Annual Stratejoy Essay Contest.  Each day throughout the month of February, we will be featuring one of the 20 finalists writing their answer to the question: How do you live life on your own terms? On February 29th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.*


A thousand tiny mirrors were flickering at me. The silver-dollar sized mirrors were connected to clear wires hanging from the ceiling in the lobby of the Detroit Institute of Art. I felt like I was standing in the middle of a stadium and hundreds of cameras were going off all around me.

“I feel like I’m in the middle of something huge.”

I hadn’t said anything out loud to my boyfriend, Steve, who was sitting next to me. His hand was resting on my leg that had been bouncing while I was busy staring.

“Oh, sorry for my leg. I just—”“I know. It’s okay. You were bouncing your leg because you think [the mirrors] are beautiful.”

Steve and I had only been dating for two months when we decided to take this day trip to the D.I.A. Even in the infancy of our relationship I knew something about him was different but it wasn’t until that moment when I figured out what it was: he knew me. Steve innately knew things about me that I wasn’t even aware I was communicating. I didn’t have to spell it out for him; he just picked up on what I was feeling.

Fast forward three months. After traipsing all across the county to find a power adapter for my upcoming trip to Holland, we sat victorious in my car in the parking lot of the mall across town. We had been talking for about ten minutes when the conversation came to a lull. I glanced over
at Steve when I saw his lips twitch.

“I saw your lips twitch. What were you going to say?”

“Oh. You weren’t supposed to see that…”

“Well, what were you going to say?”

“I was going to wait until you came back from Holland before telling you this but… I love you.”

My heart burst to pieces. “I love you, too.”

I was crazy about him. The time I spent with him was full of bliss. I was completely myself when I was around him. He expanded my horizons, laughed at my dumb puns, and we communicated more openly than anyone else. He made me laugh more than almost anyone I knew and every time I left our Friday lunch dates I felt like we had so much still to talk about.

Three weeks later we decided that we wanted to get married. But there was one problem: I looked crazy to my family. Not only did this decision seem sudden but I was young for wanting to get married and Steve was a bit older than me. This threw my relationship with my family into chaos. But I love him. I tried to explain, they tried to listen, but somewhere ours words got lost.

Their reaction confused me and made me doubt myself. My family and I fought constantly for the next year. Wrestle, fight, cry, wrestle some more. They couldn’t see this incredible person who had stolen my heart and had shown me a new love that I didn’t know even know existed. All they could see was a guy they didn’t like who didn’t like to eat his corn mixed with other food and who didn’t ask to help my mom in the kitchen.

The doubt consumed me. I felt like I was being pressured to choose either him or my family. Eventually, I became too tired and I succumbed to the pressure.

I broke up with Steve in April.

After much crying and talking he and I decided to not talk for the next month to clear our heads.

The first thing I had to deal with after the breakup was that my schedule was glaringly empty since we weren’t eating chicken and rice dinners or watching “Lost” together most evenings.

After class one day I got the urge to text Steve about my conspiracy theory-riddled accounting professor before I was reminded about the silent rule. I tried quoting Mitch Hedburg (our favorite comedian to quote to each other) to my other friends but they just gave me blank looks.

My relationship with my family was hanging by a thread, I no longer had a boyfriend, and school was out. I could go anywhere. I could move to Alaska, I could go to school in Texas. I could be a bird, I could fly a plane! What did I want to do? What, in my heart of hearts, did I actually want?

At the end of the month I watched an episode of the TV show “Fringe” where the main character has a brush with death. At the end of the episode he went home and crawled in bed with his wife. She, being blissfully asleep, had no idea what happened. He pulled her close and fell asleep.

That episode hit me like a cold sandwich to the face. Even with the opportunity to find a new life, I still wanted Steve to be the guy I crawled into bed with in my future. He had my heart. He was what I wanted.

We got back together and a year and a half later we were married in a maritime museum overlooking the Detroit River. By the time the wedding rolled around my family started to see what I saw in Steve. It still wasn’t easy with them, and I fought tooth and nail through the months prior to my wedding, but the difference this time was that I knew exactly what I wanted and who I wanted to be with.

The way I live life on my own terms is by fighting for what (and who) I love. It wasn’t easy, but after being happily married for two years and counting, I wouldn’t exchange my life for anything. Because when I roll over in the middle of the night after a bad dream and find Steve’s warm skin next to mine, it reminds me that it was all worth it.



Deanna Ogle (@deannaogle) is a writer and web designer from the greater Detroit area where she works at a small software firm.

A few of her favorite things are carnations, hair dye, peanut butter, and bluegrass.

When she is not working she can usually be found curled up with her husband watching movies.

She blogs at Soul like a Spider and writes for Provoketive Magazine.




*This post is an entry in the 1st Annual Stratejoy Essay Contest.  Each day throughout the month of February, we will be featuring one of the 20 finalists writing their answer to the question: How do you live life on your own terms? On February 29th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.*

My friend Rebecca* and I decided that we’re going to implement a new test to determine whether we should be dating someone. The name of the test is still in the works, but that doesn’t matter. The point is that we think it’s going to be really useful.

It’s a simple test, really. All you have to do is give someone a zerbert (or raspberry – you know, where you put your mouth against their arm or belly and blow, and it makes a funny sound) and see how they react. Because let’s be honest: if someone can’t handle a zerbert, they’re not cut out for a long-term relationship, at least not one with Rebecca or me.

I haven’t decided at what point I will perform the test, though I suppose I’ll know when the situation arises. It doesn’t seem like first date material; however, I can’t remember the last time I had a typical first date, so maybe it could be. I could ask the basic questions – job (He should have one, and possibly like it.), last book he read (It needs to be something more recent than The Very Hungry Caterpillar, unless he spends a lot of time around two-year-olds.), favorite place he’s traveled (If he doesn’t travel, he gets the boot.), how often he calls his mom (Three times a day is not an acceptable answer.) – and follow them up with a zerbert.

…okay, maybe I should come up with an alternate plan.

I think the most practical application for me will be in bed. Now, naturally, I don’t want to have sex with someone before performing the zerbert test. If they can’t handle a zerbert, why would I want to go all the way with them? I’m thinking that perhaps the first time we find ourselves moving in that direction, I’ll lift up my date’s shirt and attack his belly. If he laughs, we can get it on. If he stares at me like I have three heads, I’ll have to hightail it out of that situation. Because if he thinks that’s weird, he probably won’t be able to cope with my penchant for having Spice Girls dance parties while I cook.

You see what I mean? It’s the perfect test.

This whole conversation started because over the course of my travels, I slept with someone new. Now, I tend to keep this sort of thing to myself – or at least a limited group of close friends, because let’s be honest, we all love talking about sex. I wanted to talk about this hookup in particular because, over the course of analyzing every detail, I realized something: I hadn’t enjoyed myself in bed that much since…2005? 2006?

Over years of worrying whether I look good enough naked, or being pushed away by my ex, or hooking up with inappropriate men, I forgot how much fun sex could be. I forgot what it was like to spend the day in bed wrapped up in each other. I forgot the electricity that can happen when a guy runs his fingers up my arms with fingertips barely grazing my skin. I forgot how good it can feel to get into a tickle war and shriek and laugh. I forgot that we can be silly in bed and that it doesn’t have to be so serious.

I think this guy would have passed the zerbert test.

Now, I do see one flaw with this new plan: someone could pass and still not be a good long-term partner for me. I’ll still have to ask those first (and second and third) date questions, think about whether he’d be a good father to our potential future children, know that he doesn’t hate my tattoos, and so on.

Chemistry and silliness – and the ability to appreciate the unexpected – are good steps in the right direction, though.

*Name has been changed!

[photo credit: me!]

Nine years ago, I stepped off a train in Prague and proceeded to get scammed by a taxi driver. He charged me over three times what I should have paid – and I knew it – but there was nothing I could do at the time. I was a 21-year-old girl who didn’t speak a word of Czech, and I was trying to bargain with burly men who knew that. The alternative, though, was attempting to maneuver my large, unwieldy suitcase on an unfamiliar tram system, though, and that didn’t feel like much of an option.

I was already regretting my decision to spend four months living in this city. When I chose to go there, I didn’t really know anything about the city or the country. I only knew that it was in Eastern Europe, close to my family’s homeland of Poland. (And when I arrived, I found out that it was actually in Central Europe, so I hadn’t really known anything.) Colleagues from my internship who had been to Prague told me that it was incredibly beautiful, and that I would love my time there.

I arrived in Central Europe two weeks after devastating floods. I flew into Berlin with my ex-boyfriend, who was studying there for the semester, and then I took the train to Prague. After hours of riding in silence, the man sitting next to me told me that we were nearly there. I looked out the window and I wanted to cry. It was ugly. All I saw were tall, concrete apartment buildings – panelaks, built when the former Czechoslovakia was under Soviet rule – and I couldn’t believe it. Where was the beautiful architecture? Where were the charming cobblestone streets? What the fuck had I gotten myself into?

I don’t remember the drive through the city to my dormitory, which was up on top of the hill past the castle. Later, I would notice all of the incredible details on the buildings, the orange tile rooftops, the stunning towers and churches, and the cobblestone streets – things that would become fixtures of my daily commute to my university. Later, I would see all of the damage caused by the floods: the crumbled walls of buildings near the Vltava River, the piles of garbage by metro stations, the closed streets and trams running irregular routes. That afternoon, though, I didn’t process any of that. I arrived at Kolej Komenského, my home for the next four months, and wondered what I was going to do.

That night, I met all of my fellow students as we went to dinner a few blocks away at a Czech pub. I ate smažený sýr (fried cheese) and palačinky (Czech pancakes, which are like crepes) while having introductory conversations with the people I’d grow to know well over the next four months. When things started winding down, I left the restaurant with my roommate and two of our classmates. We walked to the top of the hill – a route we would grow to know well over the coming months – and when we got to the top, something caught our attention.

There was chanting. After a minute, we realized that it was coming from the monastery. It was entrancing. We walked around the building, trying to see where it was coming from, but we couldn’t see anyone inside. While we stood there, listening, I turned around and looked down the hill.

Prague was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.

As I gazed over the glowing city – especially the domes and spires of churches lit up at night – I was certain that by the end of the semester, I’d take that view for granted. I figured that once things became routine, the city wouldn’t feel so incredible anymore. That never happened. Prague’s beauty and magic stayed with me that semester, and my creativity soared during that time. Something about being there feels electric to me, inspiring and powerful. If you can fall in love with a city, I did so with Prague that night near the monastery.

* * * * * * * * * *

Three weeks ago, I stepped off a plane at Ruzyně airport in Prague, and I bought a transit pass. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and hopped on a bus to the metro. I listened to the announcements in Czech, catching a few words and phrases that I remembered. When I exited the metro, I easily navigated familiar streets and headed to a favorite cafe to meet some friends.

This was my fourth visit back, and it still – always – feels like home. Each time I’ve visited, I’ve returned with my roommate from that semester abroad, and we have a list of old favorites that we try to be sure to see. This time, we spent a day walking through Petřín Park, a place where I spent many hours wandering, reading, and writing nine years ago. As we exited the park near the top of the hill, we passed that same monastery that gave us pause our first night there. Dusk was settling over the city, and looking out over the church tops and orange tile roofs, I fell in love all over again. As my friends and I walked down the hill toward the restaurant where I spent my first night in Prague nine years ago, I knew that the magic of the city will stay with me.

Though this last visit was entirely too brief, I’m not worried; I know that I’ll keep going back. We may have started off on the wrong foot, but Prague and I, we’re connected.

Have you ever fallen in love with a city, or visited a place that took your breath away?

[photo credit: me!]

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I saw the new Muppet Movie with my parents and brother. It was a fun family outing not just because as a family we love the Muppets, but also because it was the first time in over a decade the four of us went to a movie together (we think that last one was Disney’s Tarzan, which was in 1999).

I’ll reserve my thoughts on the movie for another forum (though I will say while I love Kermit the Frog with much affinity, that my other favorite Rolf, the dog, was not featured as much as I would have liked), but I will say it was great fun to go out with my immediate family.

I am so incredibly blessed that I have an amazingly awesome family– not just my parents and brother, but my grandmother, aunts and uncle, and a tight group of family friends that are closer to me than any of my extended blood family. I love spending time with these people- some of my best memories are hours that were spent playing games, going on vacations, and having awesome conversations with these people. I have some really remarkable human beings in my life.

The immediate Costa clan is filled with such a fierce love and concern for each other that for some outsiders, I can see it could be construed as overbearing and that we are all in each other’s business. And I will admit that at times, we are. And I can also admit that as much as I love my parents and have an immense closeness with them, that there are times when I’d like for them to back off too. But it’s a learning process for everyone about where the boundaries are as life changes and we grow up.

But if there is anything the Costa Family is, it is amazingly loving and loyal.

Family time was a sacred thing growing up, an example set by our weekly Sunday dinners with my parents, brother, and my paternal grandparents. It was a time for us to take out of the week to be together and talk about all that was going on, laugh and tell stories, and often reminiscence about favorite memories.

My brother, parents, and I ate dinner together every single night of the week when my brother and I lived at home, with maybe only Friday or Saturday night being exceptions as we got older and went out with friends. It didn’t matter what time band practice was or Little League started, my parents made the active effort every single day for us to have that time together. It was abnormal to a lot of my peers and I think sometimes how crazy the scheduling must have been for my mother to get us all fed at the same time ( thank goodness for mac and cheese!), but those nightly dinners together made our family a powerhouse.

The summer in between my sophomore and junior years of college I was working at my first museum internship in Newport and I was paid a stipend for the position, but not until the end of the summer. I spent a good deal of my free time that summer with my parents because of my lack of available funds and it was the first time that I really got to know and enjoy them as adults, as Patricia and Dave, not just Mom and Dad. If it wasn’t for that summer at home with them, I do not think I would have been able to live with them for five years after graduating from college. All through grad school, they were immensely supportive in many ways and I am so proud to call them my best friends.

As I think about my life and what I want moving forward, I think a lot about family. I spend some time on future thinking and what I want out of life next- job, love, and living situation wiseI often think about moving away and going somewhere new.I think about moving close to my aunt in California too because of my great relationship with her.

To move anywhere would have to be driven by a really awesome career or life opportunity at this point, but I’m open to the idea. It is hard to think about not having Sunday dinners with my parents, brother, and grandmother, random games of Scrabble with my brother and parents, or summer nights on my parents’ back porch with family friends, wine, and laughter.

Those moments have become really important aspects of my life and what I would miss the most if I left the immediate area. I know my family will visit me gladly anywhere I might go ( my mother once told me she didn’t care where I went as long as it was reasonably accessible via airport), but it’s the random moments of laughter and fun that would be the biggest void to fill.

I think a lot about a family of my own- and I don’t know exactly what that means yet. There are days I cannot wait to have my own family and coo over precocious toddlers in little man suits. Then there are days that the thought of caring for a child seems incredibly daunting—I’m just learning to take care of myself; however could I take on an infant at this stage? Needless to say, I’m not sure yet what my fate is with babies. And I am fully aware that my family unit may resemble something very different than what my reality growing up was- that I could have a partnership with a man that isn’t marriage, or that includes only children of the furry variety and the two of us. I know that families are not made by blood alone- my close knit group of family friends who we spend holidays, frequent weekends, and go on vacation with are evidence of that.

Whatever my future family looks like, if it’s just me and future man, or a brood of kids, I know my awesome people will be there supporting me.

[Photo Credit: I could not find a decent family photo to save my life! So the Muppets it is via here]

When I was a little girl and imagined myself in a happy relationship with my future boyfriend, it never occurred to me that we might not live in the same city. Or even the same country.

I was under the impression that I would meet my husband in college and we would get married after we both graduated. We would find steady jobs that we both enjoyed and then create a family together a few years later. Oh, little Ashley, you were so naive.

Obviously, that is not how things happened. Here I am, a fresh 27 years old, living in a one bedroom apartment in my hometown, while my boyfriend is over 2,600 miles away in freakin’ Canada. Not cool, universe. Not cool.

Our story begins back in early 2008 when I first began blogging. Somehow, he and I ended up reading the same blogs and “running in the same circle”. Occasionally we commented on each other’s blogs ( and That Super Awesome Blog, if you’re interested). Once in a while there would be an email exchange back and forth. But it wasn’t until June 2010 that things began to move forward.

I remember reading his blog and thinking, “Geez, I wish I could find a guy who treated me like this! I totally deserve someone like him!”

Yeah, it might seem narcissistic, but in the relationship department I was completely aware of how awesome I am and wasn’t willing to settle for anything less. I believe that is called self-confidence and knowing your worth.

So, June 2010. We’re emailing, every day, constantly. This is a full-on, mind-consuming, butterfly-inducing crush.

Over the next few months we started talking on the phone and soon graduated to Skype.

Looking back, we probably should have discussed it sooner, but it wasn’t until late 2010 that we began seriously talking about the distance. I guess we wanted to be sure that this was for real and not just some internet romance.

We knew the distance was a huge obstacle (hello, 12-hour day of traveling and goodbye, huge chunk of a pay check), but we were determined.

The first time we saw each other June 2011. It was beautiful, awkward, so much fun, a learning experience, and it felt like home. Within the first two minutes, we knew this was only the “first” visit. Since then we spent five glorious days together in August, have another trip planned for October, and are hoping we will be able to spend New Years together for the first time.

It takes a lot of work, but I don’t always mind that most of our conversations are through video cameras and microphones. It makes us put in the effort as we build our foundation. We are actually talking, learning how to solve misunderstandings, and are continuously getting to know each other.

In case it’s not already blatantly obvious, let me put this out there: I love him. I love his kind heart, how he is always thinking of others, how he is the most thoughtful person I’ve ever met. I love that he is incredibly smart, that his interests include sports, astronomy, writing fiction, and his adorably cute niece. I love that he talks about our future and isn’t afraid to share his feelings. I love that he makes me feel like I’m part of the best team out there.

Naturally, my friends and family have concerns. They worry that we “met online” and that perhaps, “he isn’t really who he says he is”. I hope I put that fear to rest with the first visit, when he was, in fact, himself. They worry that I will decide to move to Canada and in the process will be giving up part of myself for a man.

And this is where it ties into my biggest battle of trusting myself and figuring out what I want MY life to be.

I don’t want to create a riff in my relationship with my family because I am trying to follow my heart. I don’t want to disappoint them, but I also have to remember that I am an intelligent, strong, independent woman and I don’t want to disappoint myself either. I don’t want them to think I am giving anything up because, honestly, I feel like I would be gaining so much more than anything I might lose.

I would be gaining closeness with the man I love. I would be pulling that trust, loyalty, humor, respect, and love so much closer.  And to me, that is what life is about.

Sure, the idea of moving to another country freaks me out a little bit (and of course there are visas, and jobs, and living situations, and other crap to figure out), but when the end result is him? It seems totally worth it.


[photo credit: beyondbeauty]

The universe is trying to tell me something. I’m convinced.

After a summer of stressing over getting someone to rent to me, I applied to a random Craigslist housing ad. I found a nice two bedroom within my budget. It was a little further out than I wanted, but there was no application fee – which *fingers crossed* meant no credit/rental check.

It’s like the universe wrapped its arms around me and gave me a hug. She rented based on character, not background. And she was one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met! You just don’t meet people like that anymore.

Then came the cherry on top – the best writing gig EVER lands in my inbox. Cue me dancing a jig! I can’t give details yet, but it’s with a company I would sell my left boob to work with long term.

A place to live and steady income. Did I just achieve some stability? Why, yes, I think I did. Count this as me exiting fight or flight mode. Unless I’m crazy, that should mean I make better decisions for a while.

At the end of this five months, I’ll be ready to pop. As in, the brand new baby boy will be making his arrival like a soda can exploding in the freezer. I’m so excited for him, but I’m afraid for me. My doctor said I have a high likelihood of getting extreme PPD again.

Last time, it destroyed my life. This time, I have a much better support network. I have a wonderful doula, and I’m not in a relationship with someone I can’t stand – progress, right? (In fact, he makes me quite happy. And makes trips out when I get cravings. Yep – he’s a keeper.)

The next several months are going to be jam-packed full of goodness. But, it’s also just jam-packed – you know, crappy airline style where the seats are too close together kind of packed. I’m not crazy enough to hope for balance, but I am dreaming of joy. Even when things go bonkers, I want to feel the deep joy of knowing I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be doing what I’m meant to be doing. To commit to joy, I’m making three goals for my time here at Stratejoy.

My three goals for the next five months are:

To prepare as much as I can for the new baby. Mentally, this means making sure I have a network of wonderful women to connect with. I think Stratejoy is going to help with that a TON. Physically, it means yoga and setting up the nursery. (Because you KNOW it’s fun.)

To write my manifesto. Because I can’t write it until I understand all of the in’s and out’s of what I think. This is me committing to self exploration in away I haven’t before.

To open as many doorways as I can for my writing career. This means getting coaching, applying to grad school, working with amazing clients, and doing whatever I can to propel my writing to the next level.

It’s a good thing I like challenges, because this one is going to be one tough mother.


The relationship that I ended last summer left me in a fragile state. It had been unhealthy for me for a long time; when I look back at things honestly, there were warning signs that I ignored from the very beginning. Because I’d spent a lot of that relationship quashing my dreams and trying to make myself something that he would love, I hadn’t noticed how it was destroying my self-esteem little by little. By the time he delivered some soul-crushing blows during our breakup—I think it’s the only time anyone’s ever called me boring and no fun, and those were far from the worst of it—I believed some of the awful things he said about me.

It probably goes without saying that I wasn’t doing particularly well last August. I recall telling friends that I wasn’t sure how I got out of bed every day, that I did it because it seemed like the only thing to do. I feel pretty confident stating that it was the worst month of my (then) 29 years. I’d realized that I needed to end the relationship, I’d told him to move out, and after that, I had no idea how to pick up the pieces of my life. I wasn’t sure who I was and how to feel like that person again.

Right around that time, I saw someone post on twitter about The Joy Equation, so I thought I’d give it a try. I wanted a way to start connecting with myself again. I think the most telling thing for me was completing the section about my values; it finally clicked that I hadn’t been happy for so long because the life I’d been leading for the previous two years wasn’t in line with any of my values. No wonder I’d been feeling so awful, frustrated, and angry! I stayed in a relationship at first because I hadn’t wanted to be alone, and later because I’d been so torn down by my ex that I didn’t have the confidence to leave. How could that possibly have made me feel anything other than terrible?

I’d love to say that things magically transformed then. Though they didn’t, I slowly began to heal. Things started feeling normal again; I did some traveling. By December, I was ready to make a decision that would dramatically change my life for the better: I enrolled in a 200-hour yoga teacher training.

It’s funny, because I think a lot of people expect yoga teacher training to be about learning to teach yoga. It is, of course, but there’s so much more than that. The teaching part is easier: you need to know the poses, how to adjustment them, and how to sequence them. The biggest—and hardest—part is knowing yourself. How can you hold space for others in a class if you aren’t taking care of you? I had to face some of the scary things that I’d been hiding deep within me for months and even years. There were nights when we’d be practicing together and suddenly, I couldn’t stop crying. I had to learn to let go.

Halfway through teacher training, someone I knew commented that it seemed like I was discovering a lot of things about myself. I replied that I wasn’t finding them—I was remembering. That’s the moment that things started coming together for me; it all started to make sense, and I knew I was ready to make some big changes and work toward living in line with my values.

It’s hard to look back at the past year and see the things that I’ve learned, because I wish I hadn’t needed to conquer those lessons. I’m able to see a lot more clearly now how staying and justifying that relationship was unhealthy for me. I have a much better idea of what is important to me in a relationship; I’ll never again stand for someone who judges my tattoos, someone who wants to stop me from doing things that I love, or someone who wants to change integral parts of my personality. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve remembered how to be alone, and the good that can come of being present with myself.

And in case you’re wondering about those core values that were a wakeup call last summer, they are: connection, bliss, abundance, trust, adventure, courage, magic, and strength. I expect I’ll be exploring those a lot more in this space over the next five months. Though I’ve begun to realign my life to reflect what matters most to me, I’ve got more to learn—and remember.

[photo credit:  me!]


 “I know I can’t just sit here hoping that life will one day make me happy. It doesn’t work like that. “

An over-sized mug warmed one hand while the other gently tucked a stubborn strand of hair behind my ear, fighting the persistent breeze. I slid a foot out of my well-worn shoe and tapped it against the cool sidewalk, as if slowly counting the undeniable stars in the sky.

My 22nd birthday was spent sipping hot chocolate in front of the Eiffel Tower. That evening I realized how alive I was. An unforgettable moment accented by the twinkling lights around and above. That moment.

Somewhere over the past two years, I lost sight of my dreams, my moments, and began to settle into a “normal” routine.

And that is not okay with me.

The first 18 years of my life were relatively uneventful and the definition of by-the-book. I graduated at the top of my high school class and attended a medium-size, private university because I thought that’s what you did. Four years later I was left with a fancy piece of paper, but no set plan for the future.

So, on a whim I accepted a teaching assistantship in France. The experience was full of culture, self-exploration, and travel. I wandered through tiny European towns and I ate gelato like it was my job. I learned that I adore red wine, that I’m happier with friends close by, and that I can push myself further than I ever thought possible. Through all of this soul-searching, I also discovered my passion for counseling children. You know that feeling when fireworks are exploding inside you and you can’t wait to share that energy with everyone around you? That’s how I felt about this discovery. I applied to graduate school feeling confident that I had my life perfectly mapped out.

That fall I packed up three suitcases and moved to New York City to begin working on my master’s degree in Psychological Counseling. I felt like I was stretching myself, in a good way. I traveled through Europe, was on the right track professionally, living in the most vibrant city, and my relationship with my then-boyfriend of five years was becoming more serious. It seemed like the pieces were falling into place.

And then all of the sudden my life began to crumble.

In 2008 my dad passed away. Four months later, my boyfriend and I broke up. When I graduated in May 2009 and could not find a job, I moved back home and into my childhood bedroom, unemployed.

Now, I’m no expert, but I believe this is what they call your Quarter Life Crisis.


Slowly I began picking up the pieces and putting together a life that wasn’t part luck, part shame, and part embarrassment. I wasn’t creating a life I was in love with, but one I could live with.

For now.

I found a job in my field that barely pays the bills and have settled into that unfulfilled routine over the past two years. Last July I began dating an amazing guy who makes my heart smile, but with over 2,600 miles between us, it can be challenging. A few months ago I signed a lease on my very first solo apartment and am learning that I’m pretty good at cleaning the bathroom, but will do anything to avoid taking out the trash.

Considering where I was two years ago, my life doesn’t seem so bad today. It’s perfectly fine by many standards, but it’s still not full of that audacious joy I’ve heard so much about.

I have big goals, things I want to accomplish and memories I want to leave a mark on my life, but I realize I can’t keep waiting for these next steps to just happen. I’ve had some curve balls thrown my way, and I know I can’t just sit here hoping that life will one day make me happy. It doesn’t work like that.

This is MY life.

I need to be brave, take ownership, and start living on my own terms.

This is the year I create my own happiness and make my own dreams come true.

I think I’ll start by making some hot chocolate.


“Life never gives you the same chance twice and destinations never stay the same.  Get going now because you are missing out on the world out there, not the world where you are.”

The decision of staying in Australia or moving to Taiwan wasn’t easy.  I couldn’t just flip a coin and let that be it.  I had to really think about what exactly it was that I wanted right now and in the future.

I’m incredibly happy in Australia and I’m not sure I’m ready to give that up just yet.

When it comes down to it, it’s all about regret.  Life is about living with as little regret as possible. Will I regret not moving to Taiwan or will I regret not staying in Australia?  Will I regret not pursuing my career or will I regret not pursuing a relationship?

I knew which decision would reap the least regret, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself.  Maybe because I never thought I would actually be one of ‘those’ people.

I’m staying in Australia and taking a chance on love.

There’s a lot at stake here.  For me and for him.  We’re both young – 27 and 26 respectively – from two different countries, backgrounds, and lifestyles.  Yet, we have similar hopes, dreams, and passions for life.  Me choosing to stay for this relationship certainly puts some added pressure on him.  My tourist visa expires on August 25th, at which point I’ll have to leave the country (unless I leave sooner to renew my tourist visa) and apply for a working visa so I can return to Australia to live and work for one year and continue to make things work between us.

And then there are the emotional risks.  I’m falling hard and fast for this man.  Maybe it’s his Australian accent (swoon) or maybe it’s because I haven’t been in a relationship in a while and everything is still in that ‘honeymoon’ phase, but it’s starting to get more challenging to keep my heart protected.

But as scary as it is knowing that I’m willing to make big sacrifices for a man without a guarantee of this relationship working out, I realized that I’m finally ready to be in a mature, committed relationship.  Eventually you reach a point in your life when you’re no longer afraid to get hurt. That’s exactly where I am right now.  I’m terrified of falling in love again, but I want to give this relationship – and this man – everything I have because I believe it’s the only way to live passionately and with intention.

I’m finally ready to love again.

I know it sounds crazy – to sacrifice a job opportunity for a relationship that might not work out – but what if it does work?  What if this is it? I want to take this chance.  I finally found a genuine man who doesn’t play games and knows what he wants and I can’t let myself walk away from him yet.  I’ve already met his parents, brothers, and closest friends (I told you things move faster when you live abroad).  This is the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in and after all I’ve been through, I deserve this.

{photo credit: weheartit}

I’ve been thinking about marriage lately. Bri’s taking her first steps into married life (with a gorgeous little baby on the way). Laura’s planning her wedding. Juliana’s been married for seven months. I recently celebrated six years with Mike, with our third wedding anniversary on the horizon for August.

Elizabeth Gilbert has been trying to get the masses to drink her Kool-Aid again. After the overwhelming success of Eat, Pray, Love — PrivLit’s golden achievement — Ms (or is it Mrs?) Gilbert has published her thoughts on marriage in a book called “Committed“. I must admit, at first I was intrigued.

Marriage in all of its polarizing dichotomies is something that’s near and dear to my heart. I find the “institution of marriage” fascinating, especially considering all of its controversy. So while the rest of the world contemplates what Real Marriage looks like, I’m going to riff a bit on what marriage — between two people, same-sex or not — means to me.

Shortly before my 21st birthday, Mike surprised me with a platinum engagement ring from his grandmother, bent on one knee in a soccer field at the local high school. He had gone to see my parents earlier that day, to ask my father for permission to marry me. I’d insisted that he ask my parents. Why? Because at 20.75 years old (even at 24), my parents’ approval still meant the world to me. When he asked, I was shocked into tears. Joyful tears. Joyful tears are something that I’d never experienced before. I relished them.

Moments are so fleeting.

Those joyful tears weren’t the result of “OMGWEDDING”. Those joyful tears represented three years of hard struggle on both our parts. From the time I met Mike in 2005 up until about a year into our marriage, I was a COLOSSAL fuck-up. I don’t say that lightly, either. Between the emotional turbulence of bipolar and the fear of my own nature coupled with complete and utter job dissatisfaction, we had ourselves a perfect storm for a break-up. There were a few times (more than a few times, really) when it would’ve been easier for me to just walk out and find something else.

But we stuck together. We screamed at one another. We said hateful, hurtful things in the middle of our anger. I would throw things in the heat of the moment, usually with the intention of maiming. He would grow cold and distant. We would have angry, make-up sex because it was easier to do that than talk to one another about the real issues in our relationship. Our communication SUCKED and I was a major part of that problem.

When Mike asked me to marry him, I knew that we could weather the storms that would accompany the long years of our lives. When I walked down that aisle in that pretty blue dress, blonde streaked hair in soft ringlets, I knew that when we said, “Forever”, we would mean it. Would I say that my wedding was the best day of my life? No, I wouldn’t. I would say that my wedding was fun and memorable. I would say that standing up in front of my friends and family and celebrating my unyielding love for Mike was absolutely brilliant.

But the best? Nah.

Over the last few years, I’ve watched as friends got married, divorced, and tried all over again. It’s hard to sit on the sidelines when things like that go awry. I want to be comforting. I want to be able to rush in and tell them that it will be okay and they’ll be able to pick up the pieces before they know it.

For all of my distaste for Elizabeth Gilbert, she did have a point when she said, “Marriage is not a game for the young.

However, “young” is a state of mind. I know plenty of fortysomethings that wouldn’t have a hope in Hades if someone asked them to be emotionally or fiscally responsible. Just as I know a fair few twentysomethings that are changing the world and turning entire schools of thought upside down.

Success in marriage shouldn’t be us flipping a coin and becoming a statistic. Success in marriage needs to be more than a monetary investment; it’s a lifelong emotional and psychological investment.

One day in a white dress ain’t gonna cut it.

Weddings are giant, expensive cocktail parties. And my-oh-my are we a wedding obsessed culture. Anytime you turn on TLC, there’s another episode of “Say Yes to the Dress” or “Four Weddings” or some other reality show centred around planning (and experiencing) the Big Party.

Here’s an interesting thought: why not skip the marriage — the lifelong commitment that you’re pledging to this one person — and have the cocktail party? Why not invite a bunch of your closest friends and family to a big party with lots of booze and beautiful dresses to dance the night away?

Using marriage as an excuse to throw a big party is not only a waste of money, it’s a waste of time.

You don’t need a good excuse to have a big party, really. We used to do it all the time when there was this crazy thing called the aristocracy.

You will not be left out in the cold if you don’t have a big wedding. What I can guarantee is this: if you get married without fully knowing yourself and your partner, you will end up on the wrong side of the 50/50 statistic. Divorce is an ugly thing — ask anyone that’s either gone through one or witnessed it. As the years go by, you and your partner will change.

Sometimes, these changes will be positive.

Mike is now able to entertain a room full of people, smiling and laughing whereas six years ago, he could barely stomach it. I’m now able to sit quietly and contemplate, whereas six years ago, it would’ve made me insane.

Sometimes, these changes will be negative. We may find ourselves in ruts. We may find that MONTHS have gone by without a decent bout of sex (seriously, that’s the worst part of being pregnant).

Six years ago, I might’ve wanted my wedding to be the most important event in my life. Hell, up until I actually started planning the damn thing, I envisioned it being this magical, blissful event. In actuality, it was a special day. Nothing more.

Life is made up of a handful of fleeting moments. Some moments are very important and deserve to be cherished and treasured; things like weddings and babies and graduations and your first kiss. When you place too much emphasis on any given moment — say, a wedding — unrealistic expectations arise where you’re suddenly faced with the awful reality that marriage is, in fact, not a fairy tale.

You’re faced with a horrible choice: you can either stick it out because you refuse to give up on a relationship that wasn’t working in the first place or you can admit defeat and cut your losses. Neither seems particularly palatable.

Shit, right? Rock, meet hard place. Hard place, meet cliff edge.

So yes, Ms. Gilbert, marriage is not a game for the young. Instead, marriage is a mixture of heady romance and cool-headed resolve that, when coupled together, create an atmosphere of understanding, mutual growth, and el-oh-vee-ee LOVE.

And while you may not think marriage is a game at all, I say, “Game on.

But, that’s a whole other post.


Image is my own.

One of the significant benefits I get from blogging is the ability to look back and clearly be able to see where I’ve been.  My blog marks my life completely.  It also keeps me accountable for better or for worse.  There is a record of every New Year Resolution, Birthday Dream, or Life List I’ve made since I started blogging almost 4 years ago.

Yesterday, Laura wrote a kickass post about New Beginnings and Self Care Habits.  (Go ahead and check it out, I’ll wait….) I am so inspired by people claiming their lives and making plans.  It makes me want to join them.  I have always been a planner and I make goals and create mantras twice a year, once in the beginning of the year and once on my birthday (June 7th in case you wanted to send me flowers).  It’s time to check in with myself.

I started the year in a hot tub with a handful of amazing bloggers and as the countdown began we all yelled what we wanted in 2011.  When my turn came I exclaimed that I wanted to be bold.

I wanted to live a vibrant life without fear.
I wanted to meet challenges head on.
I wanted to feel in love with my life, not because I’ve been lucky but because I’d gone out and claimed what I wanted.

My life has been bold since then.  That’s for sure.  I fell in love.  I am growing a little human in my belly.  Last Friday I got married.  Saying that I had no way of knowing all of this was coming my way is true in that you can never really know what hand you’ll be dealt, but I believed it could happen.  I believed that my life could change at anytime.  Anyone I meet has the ability to alter my life if I let them in.

There is no way to control when you’ll meet the person you’re meant to be with but what would have happened if, when I met Mr. A, I was closed off and afraid?  Nothing.  Nothing would have happened.  I would have fled at the first sign of intensity.  I would have been unable to trust that sometimes love rushes in like a lightening bolt.  You have to believe that magic is possible or you might miss it. You have to risk it, whatever it is: your heart, your comfort, your bold dreams.

As the second half of the year begins I am making some new goals.  My mantra is joy.  I want to exude joy.

The rest of 2011 is going to be amazing.  What do you want out of it?  What forms of goal setting work for you?  How do you keep yourself accountable?


I’ve been doing some thinking about love lately.

I’m in the midst of planning my wedding, first of all. But then, I’m also supporting a friend through a break up; the death of a love once cherished.

I’m one of the few people who didn’t set my alarm way early on April 29 to witness the most anticipated and obsessed-over wedding to happen in my lifetime. We all just celebrated Mother’s Day – in whatever way that looks like for us – the one day dedicated to the most primal kind of love there is: that between a mother and her offspring. And to top it off, I’m reading Brene Brown’s The Gift of Imperfection, a book about loving yourself (and therefore, others) with your whole heart.

Yes, there’s alotta fuss about love happening in my life these days. Embracing it, celebrating it, honouring it, resenting it, learning from it, discovering it.

Love is one of the most complex, magical, subjective, and indescribable human conditions. It has the potential to bring us the most joy and the most grief we will ever experience in our lives. It’s presence, or its absence, can leave us speechless.

What is love? What does it feel like, look like, sound like?

Tough questions, right? Here’s my take. I’d be honoured if you’d share yours.

“Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.”
– Gordon B Hinckley

Love is a verb, not an adjective. Love is being attentive. Love is listening and looking – into eyes, into souls, into possibilities, and into unspoken words. Love is choosing your battles. Love is having the clarity to decipher things that deserve discussion from those that ought to be brushed off. Love is forgiveness. Love is cutting yourself some slack. Love is having perspective. Love is looking inward. Love is taking care of yourself first, so you can better take care of others. Love is being, rather than striving. Love is trusting, rather than wondering.

“You may only be someone in the world, but to someone else, you may be the world.”

Love is cooking dinner, even if its only Kraft Dinner. Love is getting me a drink of water. Love is passing the Kleenex. Love is tucking me in at night. Love is a kiss on the forehead. Love is going to pharmacy, for something that will fix what ails me. Love is not taking it personal. Love is letting it go. Love is coming along to the vet, because going to the vet sucks the big one. Love is cleaning up the cat puke, this time. Love is middle-of-the-night cuddles. Love is offering suggestions, even when criticisms might be more obvious. Love is smiling or shutting up, even when scowling or scoffing are easy options.

“Do you love me because I am beautiful, or am I beautiful because you love me?”
– Cinderella

Love is seeing beauty over flaws. Love is celebrating the good and accepting the not-so-good. Love is allowing for differences. Love is finding comfort, even in the gray areas. Sometimes, love is biting your tongue. Other times, it’s speaking up and holding your ground. Love is compromising. Love is remembering. It is also forgetting. Love is commitment. It is also flexibility. Love is co-dependence. It is also independence. Love is about teaching some things, while learning others. Love is being vulnerable, rather than defensive.

“All you need is love.”
– John Lennon & Paul McCartney

Love is kindness, generosity, and compassion. Love is touch. Love is laughter. Love is admiration. Love is saying thank you. Love is asking for help. Love is dancing. Love is being silly. Love lacks judgment. Love is believing you’re worthy. Love is sharing. Love is small gestures. Love is a bouquet of flowers. Love is surprises. Love is humouring. Love is returning the favour. Love lacks ego. Love is respect. Love is worth making sacrifices for and investing in.

Love is whatever you need it to be. What is love for you?

{Photo credit}

Confession:  I’m terrified of falling in love.  Again.

I have avoided serious relationships over the last three years for exactly this reason.

I fall hard and fast.  I put myself out there because I believe it’s the only way to truly be loved by someone.

But when you give someone your heart and they rip it out and shatter it into a million tiny pieces, it forces you to never want to fall in love again.

It’s been almost three years since a man, who I was convinced was my soul mate, shattered my heart.  I spent nearly two years trying to mend it back together, trying to convince myself that we could be friends, and trying to pretend like I was just fine.  Except, we couldn’t be friends, and I wasn’t ‘just fine.’  I was damaged and broken and it was [mostly] his fault.  It took me a long time to finally realize what I’m worth, what I deserve, and how toxic that relationship was. 

Are we ever really ‘just friends’ with our exes?

Over time, I stitched the wounds back together and I gave myself the chance to get back in the [dating] game.  But sometimes dating in a big city, like Philadelphia, just downright sucks.  Not only are you competing for a man’s affection, but you’re competing against the other single ladies in the city.

I gave it a shot, though.  I put myself out there, balls to the face wall, and dated [another] man I met through hockey.  After a month and a half of dating, I got burned.  I allowed myself to become vulnerable to a man – telling him my darkest secrets and my deepest fears – and he still managed to get the best of me.  He pushed me into that infamous ‘friend zone’ and I felt like someone had punched me in the ovaries repeatedly, as hard as they could.

It wasn’t his fault; his intentions were genuine.  In fact, looking back on it now, he did the right thing by being brutally honest with me about his dating trend because we’ve built a better friendship around it, but that experience still left a scar.

I moved out of the country because I was tired of the crappy dating experiences.  I was tired of the games, the rejections, the lies, and getting burned over and over.  I was tired of dating someone and having them run away the second I mentioned I had cervical cancer.  I was sick of the constant pity party when I confessed that my parents are deceased.

I came to Prague in search of a way to find inner peace and resolution, but a bigger part of me moved out of the country because I need to find a way to love myself before I can allow a man to love me.

I gave this a shot.  I spent five weeks living in Prague, trying to find answers to those painful questions I’ve been avoiding.  Am I really happier here?  Did I really do this for the right reasons? I even grew a crush on a boy man while I was here – and perhaps it has potential – but I just can’t stay.  Because if I stay in Prague, I’m staying for all of the wrong reasons, and I owe it to myself to do this right – to discover what it means to live passionately and to find a way to really fall in love with my life.

My intention was to stay in Prague for a year, but in a couple weeks I’ll be heading to Thailand to teach English to students at a summer school.  Six months ago, I never imagined I’d be living in Prague, getting certified to teach English.  One month ago, I never even considered teaching in Asia so soon.  Right now, I can’t believe that I’ll soon be living and teaching in a third world country.

As Cee Lo Green would sing, “Ain’t that some shit.”

Life is so crazy sometimes.


I knew that first weekend that I was going to marry Mr. A. (But don’t tell him that) 36 hours after our first kiss, I was laying in bed unable to sleep because my brain was racing and dancing thinking about the guy.  He seemed to good to be true.  He spoiled me and made me feel adored; being with him was as easy as breathing.  I am proud of the person he is and aspires to be.    He is going to be a fantastic husband, and I will never worry about his commitment to me.

It came suddenly and it came on strong.  There have definitely been points when we’ve been scared, but largely it has felt freeing.  He wrote in an email once:

I think as we get more tangled up in each other we’ll somehow get even more free.  Real love is about accepting someone because you like their whole person, then you make concessions and adjustments as needed because you like them so much.  Too many folks do things in reverse.  I like your whole person, Bri, and I look forward to molding to your idiosyncrasies.

At first I thought I was not ready for it, but then again, maybe this is where every heartache and lonely night has been leading to the whole time.

From the beginning, we knew that from the outside we looked crazy; but as a participant it felt perfect, natural, safe, and amazing.  It took less than a week before we admitted we wanted to be exclusive-boyfriend-girlfriend-kisses.  Every step we’ve been trying to give ourselves the best foundation we can: honesty, grace, patience.  Those three things are hard sometimes, but being truly vulnerable with someone has been wonderful; big bold love.  That’s what I wished for as this year started and sometimes the universe gives you exactly what you ask for.

So last week when Mr. A asked me to marry him I said “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes”.  This is, without a doubt, the person I want to spend my life with.  I cannot wait to be married to Mr. A.

So now, tribe.  What advice do you have for me?  If you’re married, what was the best advice you received?  If you’re not married, think of a relationship that really WORKS and tell me why you think it does.  What are the qualities of good marriages?


I believe that people who have really loved anybody will fall in love over and over again.  They’re the people who can have their hearts broken and find that though anything, their hearts are resilient.   It seems that, lately, heartbreak has been going around the internet.

Beautiful, vivacious, passionate women have been finding themselves let down and devastated.  This weekend, one of my heartbroken friends wrote that her heart “couldn’t take anymore rejection”.  I say it can.  It can and it will.  She’s a lover, I have no doubt she’ll love again; none.   I believe in love.

I am a person who is prone to falling in love and when I fall it is generally hard and fast.  Chalk it up to my highly trained intuition, but I meet people and know I want them around forever.  My best friend and I have been best friends LITERALLY since the first day of seventh grade.  One day; done.

I have never been good at walls and barriers, once you’re in you’re in; I am an all in kind of a girl.  I am sure sometimes this propensity to trust and love has bitten me in the butt, but I know no other way to do it.

It’s not that shocking that I have fallen in love with Mr. A as quickly as I have.

It should also not a surprise that there are some people who have raised their eyebrows at how quickly I’ve jumped in.

I get it.  If the roles were reversed, I would be weary too.  I would caution them to go slowly…. I get it.

But I have to trust myself.  I can’t let someone else’s fear scare me into not trusting my heart on this one.

The honest truth  is that there is something different here with Mr. A.  Sure, there is a chance it could end poorly in a few months, and the haters can practice their “I told you so’s” for that moment.

But what if they’re wrong?

What if I really have met the person I am going to spend the rest of my life with? This person who makes me feel instantly at ease, immeasurably cherished, and breathtakingly beautiful.   What if he is the man I am gong to marry?  I am going to go out on a limb and say that I believe that more than I believe this is going to end badly.  For the time being I think I will be enjoying my time on the “this is it” side of the fence practicing my own “I told you so” song.  I told you so, I told you so, I told you so. It will feel good to say someday.

“Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”  Erica Jong

[photo credit: weheartit]

Girls… I, uh ….met a boy.
Oh, the difference a week makes.

Last week was The Loneliness… this week it is butterflies and boldness.  A whirlwind story lifted out of some sort of movie; the kind of movie that makes people roll their eyes from the sappy-romantic-mess.

It feels like a story that’s been told before: boy and girl meet and months go by until one night something clicks.  Sparks that light a would-be-normal-night on fire.  Cue the montage of flowers, kisses, cuddles, and declarations of “intense feelings”.

Suddenly, I find myself 48 hours into this; dizzy and out of breath.  It’s too early to tell you much, but in the spirit of Stratejoy and sharing my story with you all–

I am going to tell you that I am smitten.  Hardcore smitten.

I used to think that falling for someone required an abandonment of self to make the jump.  I’ve been known to jump too soon into things, recklessly leaping without making sure the other person is with me.  The result is times when I am IN IT,  looking up at the person I just jumped for, as they fumble around at the top refusing to jump for me.  Not ideal.

This feels entirely different.  This weekend is teaching me what bold is supposed to feel like in the beginning of a relationship that  has the potential to be life changing.  Bold doesn’t mean reckless.  Instead, I’m figuring out that boldness is taking intentional steps toward something that is simultaneously exhilarating and frightening.

I am fighting the urge to spend every minute of my day with him AND fighting the urge to run hard and fast in the other direction.  I am NOT running though.  Boldness is letting someone new enter your world, but slowly and thoughtfully.  Letting them in when it’s right not because I am forcing intimacy.

Everyone carries stories and baggage with them and feeling like I want him to know all of it, when the time is right, FEELS braver than I’ve ever felt.

So, that’s where I am.  Smitten, unable to think of anything else.  Baby-stepping into something feels HUGE and SCARY but also ELECTRIC and EASY. Things can change in an instant.  Wow.

As badly as I want it, being authentic is hard. I struggle with putting it into action. For me, it means forgetting rules, ignoring norms and daring to be different. That’s trickier than going with the flow, sticking with tradition and accepting the status quo. It takes more effort.

Mostly, my itch to be so not-so-normal intensifies when I’m marking a milestone or playing a role that has high expectations tied to it. Examples? Graduating from high school. Graduating from university. Getting married. Being an employee.

While I’m fine these concepts – I did graduate high school, I did get a degree, I am engaged to be married, I was a great employee – I’m not fine with the pressure for standardization that come with them.

In the past, I’ve begrudgingly given into it a lot. I didn’t take a year off after high school, I didn’t apply to a fine arts college, I didn’t travel after university, I didn’t pause to breathe before diving into my career. I wanted to do those things, but because of family, friends, fear, and circumstance, I gave in and made easy, conventional choices. I don’t regret them, but I’m ready to not play by the rules anymore. I’m ready to listen to what my heart wants.

Luckily, I have two huge opportunities to do just that: I’m planning my wedding and I’m building a business. I have free reign to do things my way, challenge whatever assumptions I want and make choices with bold, authentic passion. What’s funny is that as much as the path is cleared, I’m still having a hard time taking it.

When we first decided to get married, before I gave any thought to possibilities, budget or family expectations, my instinct was to say things like:

“I want something really different! Like, let’s go somewhere that isn’t even used for weddings.”

“I want to sleep in on my wedding day! Let’s do a night time thing. None of this get my hair done at 9 a.m. stuff.”

“I just want to have a party! Wouldn’t it be cool if it could feel like a nightclub or something?”

“Do we need to have a sit down meal? I don’t want four courses and chicken stuffed with fucking goat cheese.”

“I’m picturing colours! Games, balloons, candy! It’ll be fun and laid back, nothing formal or stuffy.”

“I want it to be kinda ballsy. Not everyone can pull off lollipops in a vase instead of flowers. It needs to be really youthful, without feeling like a toddler threw up everywhere.”

“I hate the whole we’ll stand here and you’ll look at us. And the we’ll dance and you’ll look at us. And the we’ll sit at a special table and you’ll look at us. Why does everybody have to be staring at us?!”

I said all of those things. And I meant them. But then we looked at a hotel as a venue option and I faltered. I came up with a couple of plated meals I could live with. I believed that with the right touches, I could make a white rectangular room feel like us. I gave up on my ideas for a buffet of homemade cookies and having guests paint a canvas. I started leaning towards convenience over creativity, and towards standard over really damn special.

After viewing one common option, I was reminded of all of the tradition and expectations surrounding weddings that just don’t feel like me. Or like us. And I was willing to let them win. I was annoyed as hell, but I was going to let them win.

Then 48 hours ago, the world called me out. Hunny and I looked at a place that is as distinct, playful, informal, cool, and urban as I could’ve imagined. It WOW-ed us both and quite simply, it felt like us. It’s a place where we can incorporate all of those things I instinctively said and every creative idea I have – every single one of them.

But it’s taken me a full 48 hours to embrace it and get excited about its authenticity. Because I had already talked myself into settling. I had already given up on this place even existing.

That’s a little scary, isn’t it? That it’s that easy to celebrate your uniqueness or lose it altogether. All it takes is one option, one decision, one crossroad.

To live a life that feels like YOU, you really need to consciously choose that every day, every time. It’s a hard thing to do, especially because they’re likely to be bold, brave, unique, uncertain, effort-y, unfamiliar choices.

But for me? It’s about damn time.

Sure, the hotel would work. But when faced with an alternative that feels like it was created from my imagination, I’d be crazy to pass it up. It doesn’t have free parking, or round tables with white linens, or full service staff, or accommodations in the same building, or chandeliers. Those things might matter to someone else, but they don’t matter to me.

So instead of living someone else’s life, I’m going to live mine. Instead of choosing something that would work, I’m going to choose something that kicks ass. I’m making the authentic choice, rather than the easy, convenient one. I’m learning how to trust myself and what I want. And you know what? It feels ridiculous good!

{Photo credit: My wedding vision board}

A year ago, I would’ve choked at the thought of having a baby before buying a house, establishing a brick and mortar hideaway for my web design biz, and getting a bit more travel under my belt. A year ago, I was struggling to make a living.

Given, I was a very, very different person even a year ago. My priorities were ego-centric, driven by ambition and a need to positively contribute to the life I was creating with The Husband (otherwise known as Tall Blonde Guy and, y’know, Mike).

A number of years ago, the thought of having children terrified me. Paralyzed me. It made having any sort of normal sex life virtually impossible. An allergy to latex coupled with an aversion to birth control pills? Fuhgeddaboudit, sexy-time. This just got far more complicated than it needed to be. Sadly, it stayed madly complicated far longer than it should have.

All the while I was wrapped up in my own hangups, Mike had always wanted to be a dad.

It was one of those things that he knew. Both of his sisters had children by the time we were married in 2008. And as the eldest of four, it was a source of frustration for him. The wedding cupcakes were barely in the fridge before we talked about babies. It became a conversation that extended to include various people with the same sentiment of “When are you two going to have babies?”

It became an expectation that hung like a precarious dagger over my head.

Still, I’d always planned on being a mama.

Y’know, at some point.

Forty-eight hours into my twenty-fourth year brought a game-changing epiphany to my original state-of-mind (and the terror that clasped its nasty little claws around my libido). What if, just for this once, I made peace with the idea of having kids before everything was perfect? What if I allowed myself to be a little scared without letting it take control? What if I do what my tattoo says and Just Breathe? Because, just as with creative pursuits, baby-having is never something that’s convenient.

And so, I did. I relaxed. I enjoyed myself. I loved without reserve. It was a Big Moment before the Little Stick.

Living a life of convenience is ultimately conforming to the rules of the reality that the masses buy into. There’s nothing personal, joyful, or authentic to living life by everyone else’s rules. It’s certainly not the kind of lifestyle that I’d like to share with Mystery Baby when s/he arrives in June. I want our little family (and my little biznez) to evolve from a place of honesty and happiness. And while grappling with my own impending mamahood, there’s the question of, “How the in the hell can I make the rest of my life work?” Seeing as I’ve been in the throws of my Quarter-Life Crisis for the better part of four years, I not only have to find a way to define what that looks like but I have to wrangle it to fit.

The only way I can possibly accomplish all of this madness is to create some accountability between me, you, and something resembling a handful of goals.

I, Amanda, hereby resolve myself to:

  1. Immerse myself in Nesting without succumbing to outside expectations of what a nursery and/or home should be. I plan on doing this by indulging in literature on creating a happy, healthy nursery while breaking all the rules of genderization.
  2. Get my biz to a place where I can hand over the keys to the kingdom to a team for a few months while I adjust to being a new mama. How? Affluence and influence, baby.
  3. Give myself permission to fail. Often. Ain’t no shame in falling as long as there’s a getting up.

over the next six months.

Lock ‘n load, lovelies. This is gonna be a bumpy ride. But hey, that’s why we’re all here.

[Note from Coach Molly: And I, Molly, hereby resolve myself to supporting you, Amanda, with your sweet handful of goals as your prepare for life and business with a new tiny person.  Through failure and success, through learning and casting aside genderization, through being YOU and rediscovering what that may mean in this new life step. Sounds like we’re taking vows….  OX]

Image by wilderdom.


I used to be afraid of what people would think if they really knew how broken I have been.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” -Hemingway

How do you explain to a new friend how having parents who battle addiction has shaped you?  How do you talk about the times you let your guard down and ended up heartbroken and devastated?  My Quarterlife Crisis hit hard when my live-in boyfriend of 3.5 years walked out a week before I defended my masters thesis (talk about timing, eh?).  My best laid plans for my future came tumbling down and 5 weeks later I was living on my own for the very first time, in a new place, in a new job; totally alone. The quarterlife crisis suckerpunched me. Hard.

My friends called me brave: moving to a new place and making a new life.  I didn’t feel brave. I felt like I was in survival-mode.  It took months before I let myself feel much of anything, and when I did let myself feel I was overwhelmed with the pain.  I didn’t know how to be sad. I was supposed to be “the happy one”.  I ran from the loneliness and dove into new experiences hoping to find something to numb the pain.  Eventually, I couldn’t run anymore and I had to deal with the pain.  I had to learn that to be truly happy, I had to learn to be sad as well. I had to learn to embrace the quarterlife crisis not just as a crisis, but as a way to embrace new chances.

This past year has been transformative and hard.  I focused on fixing my heart.  I learned how to be alone.  I had to learn the basics of who I was all over again.  I created community.  I began to fall in love with my life.

Here is some of what I learned:

Despite the scars of pain  I am hopelessly romantic and optimistic. (Sickeningly so.)  I am not just open to new people, loves, experiences… I am SO EXCITED for what’s to come I can hardly stand it.

I don’t have to do it alone. I went from knowing no one to having a friend-family in what seemed to be 3-seconds.  The creation of a community that I love is the source of a gratuitous amount of laughter and they are who carry me through the hardest times.  I am not only talking about my local friends, I am including my blogger friends in my community-of-love.  Friendships built over blogs, google talk, Skype, and phone calls; just as real, intentional, powerful, and important as my local community.  I am surrounded by love and friendship in a way that boggles my mind.  My community is the proof that I am doing something right.

I chose happiness. I’ve been told that my happiness is infectious and I can find beauty everywhere.  I think that every single hard day makes these two qualities more beautiful; my happiness is not naive.. My happiness is my truth. I know the world is full of more happiness, love, and beauty than you can even imagine.

So, what’s next?  I can feel that big things are coming; huge, momentous things.

This is the year I am going to decide what I want to be defined by. I know I am not defined by my quarterlife crisis.  I know what I am not defined by: heartbreak, parents with addictions, or that really awful outfit I wore the first day of school years ago.

This is the year for really figuring out what I want and need and then GOING AND GETTING IT.  No more waiting.  This is the year I take ownership of my life and make it spectacular.


It was time to get out. I wasn’t sure where the road was going to take us but we needed a fresh start, like, yesterday.

I sat down in the passenger-side seat of my silver Toyota, desperately fighting back tears and failing miserably. I clutched at the box that held my officely possessions and just… stared. My then-fiancé placed a comforting hand on mine. In 2008, at twenty-two and twenty-six, we’d both been terminated from our positions as programmers for our rather boisterous opinions regarding unpaid overtime and the slave-labour hours we felt that we were working.

“We hated working there anyway,” he said, turning the engine on and gently pulling out of the parking lot. “It’s better this way. Now we can move to Vancouver, just like you wanted.”

I didn’t have the courage to say that I had no idea what it was that I wanted; all I knew was that it was no longer an option to stay. Our hometown had gotten too small. Our career options as programmers were limited to three major arteries within the city. It was time to get out. I wasn’t sure where the road was going to take us but we needed a fresh start, like, yesterday.

Fast-forward to a year later, just before my twenty-third birthday.

I glanced down at the wedding rings on my left hand but my resolve didn’t waver. If he was determined to find himself then so was I. I packed the final load into the $600 Honda Accord that I’d bought from some dude in North Vancouver before hugging my husband goodbye. He was on the path to becoming a police officer. I wasn’t really on a path at that point but I didn’t have the courage to tell him that the last eight months had been a waste. I’d been toying with the option of becoming a Real Designer, possibly of the Industrial variety; I’d always been interested in how products are designed. Sadly, the “education” left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

And so, I was returning to the city that had reared me in the first place.

I’d taken a job in a career centre. It paid well, I liked my work, and I enjoyed the people I worked with. As I worked with clients, I found my entrepreneurial spirit to be alive and ass-kicking; I began to daydream about opening up a business and actually doing web design for money. By the time July 2009 had hit, the husband had put his police quest aside so that I could come back home. By January 2010, I had established myself as a WordPress designer and developer with a party-time demeanour and a “sure can” attitude. People from all around the globe were asking for my services and I was flying high.

For a time, anyway.

Transitioning in and out of love with my business, I decided to dive head-first into a moonlighting career as a game journalist. I attended conventions, conducted interviews with developers and designers, and wrote my little heart out. Life was the best it could have been for the fleeting months when I was able to focus my fire on writing. When the money stopped rolling in for my business, I rolled over and attempted to reconnect.

Burn out hit me. Rock-bottom came next. I fumbled around, looking for signs of the end of this intellectual and emotional purgatory. The little stick – yes that little stick – said a mouthful when I found out that rock-bottom had actually just been a kink in the cycle. Mine, to be precise.

As I claw my way out of a Quarter-Life Crisis, I’m also grappling with the implications of “mama-to-be” without letting on that I’m just as panicked as excited. Weaving my way through the intertwining (and seemingly disparate) paths of “entrepreneur” meets “mama” meets “twentysomething” is a journey that I’m looking forward to sharing with all of you.

Dear Alisha,

I know you are having the time of your life right now.  You feel as though the world is in the palm of your hands.  And right now, you think you’ve got it all figured out: graduate from high school; go to Wake Forest; become a doctor; get married at 26 and have a kid at 28.  I hate to burst your giant bubble–and I do this out of love–but life isn’t going to work out this way.  It won’t be all bad.  But it’s going to be very different.  If you remember these few things, I think you’ll be just fine.

Yes, you’re going to go to the school of your dreams.  You will join a sorority, make life-long friends, drink your first beer and kiss a few boys.  You will have no idea why you suddenly morph into an unrecognizable version of yourself until a year later, at the age of 19, when a short Indian man tells you that you have Bipolar II.  This will forever change you life, but it will not definie it.  Through all of the ups and downs, the migraines and medications, you will learn that you are stronger than you think you are.

You spend so much energy stuffing down those emotions.  It’s okay, girl.  You are human.  You get emotional.  You don’t spend hours reading bridal magazines for no reason.  You’re a true romantic at heart.  You believe in love at first sight and fairy-tale romances.  Chick-flicks make you cry.  Don’t be afraid to show that side of yourself.  Love openly, love honestly, pour out your heart.  It may break a few times, but it’s worth it.  Love.  Love a lot.

Oh–and trust your gut, young lady.  Life is a series of gut-checks.  Remember when you were little and you thought you were psychic?  Well, you weren’t too far off.  It will take you a few more years to rediscover this, but you have a high level of intuition.  It’s why people come to you and tell you their fears and secrets.  It’s why you avoid some people like the plague and it’s why you’re drawn to others like a moth to the flame.  This is your gift.  Use it.

Dream on Dreamer.  You’ll get suckered into believing that the American Dream is the only dream.  They will tell you that you can’t be an artist and be succesfful in this life.  But deep down you know what kind of life you really want to live.  There will be some detours along the way, but don’t give up.  There is an old wooden desk, pen and paper waiting for you.  Go write some books.

Above all else, though.  Love yourself.  Please, please remember to love yourself.  Learn how to graciously accept compliments.  Never make yourself smaller than you are.  Because you are grand–and totally worthy of praise.  Love your shyness; it’s okay to be quiet.  Love your intelligence;  it will get you far.  Love your body; you only have one so please treat it with respect.

Get ready for a wild ride, my friend.


You in 10 Years

I spent a lot of my free time in high school and college spending my Thanksgivings feeding the homeless, reading to children and dunking my sorority sisters to collect money for various organizations.  But the reality now is that I am short on two things: time and money.  And I know my situation is not unique.  Now that the holidays are over and the toy and food drives are coming to an end, here are 5 ways you can continue to give–and they won’t cost you a dime.

Surf the web.  You probably spend a good portion of your week online searching for random things so why not use the search engine which donates 50% of its advertising revenues for every search conducted through its website.

Sell your stuff. I am constantly purging my drawers and closets to create more space in our small home.  I usually try to dump everything on Craigslist, but next time I think I’ll try Ebay’s Giving Works.  This special portion of their site allows you to sell your items and choose how much of your profit you would like to donate to charity.  Win-win.

Tweet and blog about your favorite causes.  The best way to generate interest in anything is by word of mouth.  Tweet or blog about your favorite charities and how they change the world.  If you inspire at least one person to donate some money, that can make a big difference.

Do You.  Are you a web or graphic designer?  Offer a free site or logo makeover to your favorite local charity.  Love to paint or draw?  Create a piece of work to be used in their next fundraising campaign.  Maybe you’re a master pianist.  Why not offer to teach a few piano lessons at the local children’s home?

Be You.  Hold open the door for the old lady behind you.  Shovel your neighbor’s walk.  Pay for the coffee of the person in front of you.  Smile at passersby.  Send a nice text or email to someone you haven’t talked to in a long time.  Just be your kind, generous, compassionate self.

Giving doesn’t have to be done with grand gestures and fanfare.  It is as much about the little things as it is about the big things.  What really matters is the love and intention inside of your heart and how you share the pieces of you.  Believe me, that is what truly makes the world a better place.

(photo credit)

It’s about to be a new year, y’all, and I’m ready.  I have loved this last year, loved every frightening thrilling minute of it and I haven’t forgotten the lessons it taught me: trust, be patient, plans may change & get busted up & that’s ok.  But I feel a calmness & an energy that I haven’t felt in a long time; I know some of the major things I want in life, and I’m ready to take steps toward them.  Some may be missteps; I might fumble; I might fail.  I’m ok with that.  I’m taking action this year.

I am a superhero in 2011.  I am action-girl, Nikki of new ideas, make-it-happen-momma.

I am going to put myself out there & trust that good things come of it.  I am going to tell people what I want, even if I have no idea how to get it or what form it will take.  So here goes:  I want a creative job; it might be a career, it might just be a job, but I want to make money doing something I enjoy.  I want a serious relationship; it’s been a long time & I’m ready.  I want a home that feels like mine; it’ll be a while before I can own one, but I want a place that feels like my own.  I want financial stability; I want adventures and a savings account to be equal priorities.  These may sound like little things, but they’re big things to me.  After a long time wandering & wondering, I’m feeling clarity.

I feel like I’m on the cusp of an explosion of awesomeness in my life.  Bring it, baby.

I’ve already told you my intentions for 2011, now here are some of the seemingly-innocent-but-totally-superhero actions I’m gonna take:

I’m making it a habit to write every day.  POW!

I’m launching and developing my new, improved personal website, The Grateful Sparrow (follow me!).  ZOOM!

I’m paying off all my credit card debt by my 30th birthday (May).  BLAM!

I’m learning to edit video on my computer.  SMACK!

I’m honest in all my relationships and not letting fear of vulnerability get to me.  BOOM!

I’m finding a living situation that better suits me.  ZIP!

I’m saying yes to opportunities for new adventures that come my way.  CRUNCH!

I’m expressing my authentic self, everyday, and following my joy.  BAM!

I’m making a profit from my art & creativity – writing, acting, blogging, sculpture, design, etc.  ZAP!

I’m taking time for myself, treating myself with respect, but NOT accepting excuses.  I’m better than laziness & ambivalence.  CRASH!

I’m living to the full extent of my fabulousness this year, and I’m not letting fear get in my way; in 2011, I’m trying.  I’m giving myself a fighting chance.  It can’t be harder than what I’ve already been through, in fact, I know things are only getting better.  2011 is going to be amazing; a year from now, I’ll hardly be able to believe how far I’ve come.

Cheers to a new year.  Let’s do this.

[WonderWoman photo source]


This one is for you.   Yes, you.

I know that life can be frustrating and scary and overwhelming sometimes.  I know that pulling up the covers, or numbing the pain with one too many glasses of wine, or distracting ourselves by always being busy doing insignificant shit, is tempting.  I know that rousing ourselves to believe that we are enough and deserving of love can seem exhausting.  I know that having big, bold, audacious dreams can seem lonely sometimes.

Believe me, I know.

The thing is, gorgeous, that this is our life.  This is our shot.  This is our chance at being kind and brilliant and compassionate.  Our time to love hard, and kick our heels up, and create art, and change lives.  Our time to nurture family, and believe in the underdog, and dance naked in the moonlight.

You don’t have to be perfect.  You don’t have to be right. You just have to be as fully YOU as you can be, because that is your gift to share with the rest of us.

Just you.  You all of the time: in celebration, in pain, in joy, in acceptance.

And on that note, I’d like to share 30 tips to help you lead an extraordinary life by embracing YOU in all your glory. Get ready to glow, sunshine!

  1. Practice radical acceptance towards yourself and others.
  2. Stop trying to control everything.
  3. Laugh.  A lot.
  4. Balance your input (reading, watching, learning) with your output (creating, giving, leading).
  5. Take amazing care of your body: eat clean, floss, practice yoga, don’t smoke, breathe deeply, be mindful of alcohol, visit the doctor, eat less, move more, sleep 8 hours, get massages, and learn to listen to your inner signals.
  6. Celebrate your successes. Celebrate others’ successes.
  7. Embrace your strengths and stop worrying so much about your weaknesses.
  8. Tell the truth.  Even at work.  Especially with those you love. Most importantly, with yourself.
  9. Set boundaries with your time, energy and money.  Respect them.
  10. Be colorful.
  11. Create meaningful connections and nurture the heck out of them.
  12. Save a chunk of your money and give away another chunk. Use the rest on things, adventures, treats, and necessities that truly please you.  Be a conscious consumer.
  13. Stop freakin’ comparing yourself to others.
  14. Speak up, sing loudly, and raise your voice if something needs saying.
  15. Don’t be afraid to love with abandon.  Love is a renewable resource and yes, your heart is resilient.
  16. Go outside and play.
  17. Ignore the haters. It’s your life, your legacy, your choice.
  18. Explore your spirituality.  Connect with something larger than yourself.
  19. Share your story.
  20. Get clear on your top 8 values.  Honor them daily.
  21. Find your balance of deliberate action and spontaneous fun.
  22. Challenge the status quo.
  23. Be a hero to someone.
  24. Practice kindness.
  25. Stop taking yourself so seriously.
  26. Take your dreams very seriously.
  27. Act with personal integrity and be quick to admit mistakes.  Clean up your own messes.
  28. Cultivate mindfulness.
  29. Seek and spread inspiration.
  30. Fall in love with yourself a little more each day: treat yourself kindly, protect your passions, allow yourself space to grow, believe in your gifts, tend your gardens. Fierce love, baby, fierce love.



I can’t remember ever being pee-in-my-pants excited about Christmas.  In our home, there was no decorating except for the tree.  There were no stockings hung over the fireplace.  We didn’t bake Christmas cookies or send Christmas cards.  And after the 7th grade, Christmas became this seemingly obligatory gift of money with which my brother and I used to purchase our gifts during the weeks after Christmas.  This was mostly a result of my mother’s conversion to a Jehovah Witness.  Jehovah Witnesses do not celebrate holidays because they believe that they originated from Pagan rituals, not fundamental Christian beliefs.  I actually happened to agree with them, but that didn’t stop me from begging for a Christmas tree each year.

Though winter is my least favorite season, Christmas is magical for me.  I drink hot chocolate and chai while watching the flames dance in the fireplace.  Apple and cinnamon candles burn, extra blankets cover the couches and my Clay Aiken Christmas album plays in the background.  (Yes, that’s right.  Clay Aiken.  Don’t hate.)  Christmas time means warm socks, flannel pajamas, hearty breakfasts and sugar cookies.  What’s not to love about that?

And maybe it is because during this one time of year, my faith in humanity is restored.  People hold open doors and say “Merry Christmas” to strangers on the street.  They dig around for spare change in their pockets and drop a few coins into the Salvation Army cans.  They collect cans of food for the hungry and serve warm meals to the homeless.  We see through the Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays, crowded malls and maxed out credit cards, and remember that this time of the year is really all about Love.

As a mother, my challenge now is to figure out to marry the whimsy and magic of the Christmases I never had with the values and morals that I wish to cultivate in my children.  But it is hard when I don’t really know exactly what to do.  I could always ask my mother-in-law.  So this week I will be scrambling to find holiday craft projects; learning how to make my own Advent Calendar; reading about St. Nicholas; and attempting to buy presents.  (As a result of my childhood, I am a horrible gift-giver.  Not to mention I have serious issues with the wasteful, consumerist and materialist elements of the holiday season so I abhor shopping for presents.) Oh, and I am supposed to make “Christmas Pants” for my husband and son.

This should be an exciting and joyous time for me.  But it’s not.  So far, this year’s holiday season has agitated my insecurities.  I have walked into Target about 35 times in the past 2 weeks determined to deck my halls.  Yet each trip ended with my head down, dejected, embarrassed and upset that I lack the skills to create my Christmas fantasy.  Ok, I did manage to buy some stockings for myself and the kids, but that was all.

I know it sounds a little silly.  I shouldn’t let this bother me so much.  But you know, deep down, it’s not really just about Christmas.  It’s about me trying to give my children the childhood I wish I had.  And maybe that’s what bothers me: I can’t give them what I never had.  That won’t keep me from trying though.  I have time on my side, right?  And my kids will still love me, even if I pick sucky stocking stuffers and forget to bake cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.  Because, like I said: this season is really just about Love.  Life is about Love.  I don’t have to save it all for Christmas.

(photo credit)

I am 10 years old and it’s 4am.  After hours spent imagining my Christmas tree’s bounty, laying with eyes wide open straining for the sound of reindeer on the roof  to prove classmates wrong (please, please let it be real!), I finally giggled myself to sleep and now wake with a start.  It’s Christmas.  The air is cold and my anticipation is electric, buzzing in my chest.  My bare feet smack the wood floor and then calm themselves and pad quietly to the door, around the corner.  I must be the first one up; I am afraid to breathe, nervous that someone else will be awake & ruin the magic, worried Santa might’ve forgotten us & the tree will be depressingly bare.  My heart pounds.

I silently, stealthily turn the corner, and there it is, our tree in all her glory, filling the room with her warm glow, presents spilling out from under her like candy from a too-full bag, doubled in the window and the dark early morning sky.  My eyes widen and I slowly inhale as if trying to drink it all in – this beauty, this stillness, this moment that is all mine.  I am reverent, awed by the childhood sacredness of the lights, branches, brightly-patterned paper and half-eaten cookies.

Then the excitement hits.  I quench a rising laugh and slide manically over the floorboards to my brother’s room.  I whisper, “Alex, Alex, wake up,” I get my face right next to the pillow and his 4 year old chubby cheeks, “it’s Christmas.”  Immediately he’s awake.

“He came?”  His little blue eyes are filled with wonder and trust, reflecting my joy.

“He came.”  Alex shrieks as he disentangles himself from the sheets and crawls out of bed.  We giggle unchecked to the presents, where we can’t help but pause, drawn to inspect every one – which ones are mine? – but are overwhelmed by their giddy promises and have to move on for fear we’ll rip them all open in a delicious frenzy.  We burst into my parent’s room, a cannon of screaming confetti, and clamber up on top of their no-longer-sleeping forms; they groan but smile.

The most wonderful day of the year has begun.

Last year was the first time in my life I wasn’t with family for Christmas.  I can’t really complain; I was in Australia, eating pig roasted on a spit, drinking in the sunshine, swinging in a hammock, swimming under the stars.  But it didn’t feel like the holidays; I just felt like it was some summer party, a fourth of July maybe, until I skyped with my family and realized what I was missing.  My cousins lovely in holiday sweaters, my aunt & uncle’s festive house, my grandma, who cried at the shock of seeing me, knowing I was half the world away.  My heart broke a little.

But it’s inevitable.  One Christmas had to be the first on my own.  Things change as you get older; there was a first Christmas my brother woke up before me, a first Christmas our parents had to wake us both up, and a first Christmas we started opening presents after getting coffee.  This year, my brother’s girlfriend will probably be there & my dad probably won’t.  Things change.  It’s bittersweet.

My family will never again be what it was when I was 10 and awestruck by the beauty of the Christmas tree.  It makes me sad (there are actually tears as I write this), but I know this is just the nature of life.  There are no endings, just an ebb and flow of people growing and circumstances changing.  I know my family is tied together by the strong bond of love, no matter where each of is us.  And I know I carry that love with me, every day, not just on Christmas.

Last year, as I made our family’s traditional Christmas Eve pierogies for the first time on my own & from scratch, in a hot Aussie hostel kitchen, surrounded by strangers & 2-week old friendship, I felt a new kind of Christmas spirit.  Not the childhood magic, not the teenage celebration or the adult anxiety, but a personal sense of Christmas.  Much like standing in the stillness of the lit tree’s early morning glory, I felt a light calmness that was mine.

There will come a first Christmas where my brother stays with his new family and a first Christmas I stay with mine.  There will be first Christmases in new cities and first Christmases without loved ones.  That’s life.  Through it all, I will carry my calmness and my joy; I will carry my family’s love and my childhood wonder.

And the little girl inside me, still believing, wide-eyed, in magic, will always seek out those early Christmas morning moments in life, to stand awed by something beautiful.

[photo source]

The day this post goes live I’ll be 30,000 feet in the air en route to New Zealand.

Could someone please tell me how the hell that happened? Because I could have sworn I was just posting about my decision to move to England. Then there was 5 months in London, a 3 week pit-stop at the family home in Connecticut, and then New Zealand. Is it totally lame if I say something like, “Boy! Does time fly!” Seeing as, you know, it really really does.

For now though, I write this at home. I’m sitting in (one of) the local Starbucks, working away. Outside are fall leaves and Greenwich lives shopping for Thanksgiving dinner at the way-too-expensive grocery store. Everyone who walks into this Starbucks is wearing some variation of the jogging pants and pearls uniform of the Greenwich housewife (as I write this there’s a girl my age in this outfit. Perhaps she is a Mrs-in-training?).

This, my friends, is Greenwich, Connecticut.

I’ve always hated it here. Everyone is white, rich and a little pretentious. I hated my high school. Mostly because I was a hermit with an asshat boyfriend so people tended to not like me, but I also thought the people I went to school with cared about the wrong things. Alcohol and an ivy league education being the main two.

Yes, I have always hated this place, but during that last month in London I found myself missing it like nobody’s business.

Now that I’m back, I’m revealing in the colors of autumn and taking long walks at Tod’s Point, the local (and of course, private) beach. I’m playing with my dog and going on dates with my mom. I’m enjoying my childhood room with a huge wicker bed I painted myself the year I moved into my first apartment.

I’m taking full advantage of the huge kitchen, functional washer and dryer, heating, back yard and and full refrigerator.

I also forgot, after having lived in both Manhattan and London during this past year, that people are actually nice to each other here. Sure, it’s the cliche of a small town, and Old Greenwich is by no means the home of Southern Hospitality, but people do occasionally say hi to you on the street. And I do know the guys by name at various shops on our little Main Street (actually called Sound Beach Ave, but whatever).

My point is, I didn’t appreciate the community I grew up in until I really and truly left it. College didn’t count. I hated coming home during summers only to be under my parents thumb again, where none of my real friends were in the area.

This time though, it’s different. I’m here with my favorite person on earth, spending time with my family before I jet off for God knows how long. I get to visit with my closest friends and, because I’m here with a non-American, I can to treat home like a tourist. I take him to Tod’s Point (image above) and see it with new eyes. I get to show him the face my dog makes when you try to take her toy away from her. It’s hilarious. But also sad. Mostly hilarious.

Basically, being home for Thanksgiving is the perfect time because I realize how lucky I am to have had a childhood here. I am grateful for my family and my big ramshackle house and the woods in our back yard.

I’m from a small community outside of New York and of course the week I leave is the week I appreciate it the most.

[photo credit: Vin Crosbie]

Dear Nikki aka Lauren aka Nikki-Lauren aka Lauren-Nikki aka Niklecha,

Happy sweet 16!  It’s a milestone birthday and you did it up right; you’ll never forget that party.  Remember when Amanda & Victor chugged those sodas, and the cake fight?  You slow-danced to “your song” with your first real boyfriend.  You feel like life is just beginning, and it is.

I’m writing to you from the edge of another milestone birthday – your 30th.  I know!!  You got old!! Those 14 years are an unfathomable gap to you, but they’ve given me a lot of insight that I’d like to share with you.

I know you feel like you don’t fit in with the cool kids and your best friend does, and it makes you feel self-conscious and dorky.  Bad news, love, you’ll never fit in with the cool kids.  You’re a dork.  Own it.  You being yourself, in all your crazy clothes, artsy-fartsy tendencies, and cheesy jokes, is going to get you some of the very best friends you could ever hope for. Don’t underestimate these friendships, don’t discount yourself by saying you don’t know why they like you – these people love you for you.  Know it, believe it, and hold onto it.  They will give you strength when you need it.

There will come a day when you think it’s time to “grow up” and get “adult clothes” and take things seriously, because you think someone you love expects it of you – he doesn’t.  Twenty-three is not old, and trust me, you’re going to regret giving away that vintage gingham dress.  And yes, I said “he” and “love” in the same sentence; we’ll get back to that.

Don’t hate your body, and don’t feel guilty about hating your body.  You are beautiful; stop standing in front of the mirror criticising.  It’s a waste of energy.  No one is perfect, even if they seem like they are.  In a few years, a guy will tell you you’re “stunning” every day for two months; believe it when it happens & believe it now.  Treat your body with respect, it deserves it.

You either just went to Austria or are about to go…?  Oops, spoiler alert.  🙂  Either way, it instills in you a love of travel that feels desperate sometimes.  Don’t worry, you’ll travel again.  A lot.  Don’t let people tell you you’re being selfish or wasteful by traveling; it’s going to teach you invaluable lessons about yourself.  And don’t be scared; you’ll learn you’re a lot stronger than you’ve ever been given credit for.  Even if it seems like no one else sees this, know it yourself: you are strong.  You can get through whatever is put in front of you.  You’re going to need that knowledge later, big time.  Oh, and in Rome, I know the “resort” with a pool seems nice but trust me, it’s an Italian trailer park in the middle of nowhere.  Spring for a hostel.

Be nice to your brother.  He’s going through a tough time & I know you’re busy with classes and friends and theatre, but try to show him that you love him more often.  I know he annoys you right now, but he grows into a really great person that you’re proud to call your brother; get started on that early.  Your family’s going to go through some rocky times; remember that they all love you and let yourself feel what you need to feel.  Don’t worry about this now, but just know, it’s ok to be sad and angry and to need to talk to someone about it.

When you get to college, call Sara Ruffner.  She needs a friend.  It won’t change anything, but just do it.  It will make you feel better.

You want to fall in love, so badly.  You think unrequited love is the most romantic thing ever – why??? – and you’re about to find out how very not true that is.  Over and over.  Do yourself a favor & stop thinking about it; daydream about a real relationship instead.  You have a bumpy road ahead of you, where love is concerned; your first love letter comes in a really sad form, but don’t let that inform all your relationships.  It’s not your fault, it’s not your responsibility, and he’s fine now, honestly, so let it go.

You will fall in love, hard.  It will feel just as wonderful as you imagine and more terrible than you ever thought.  It will be like at first sight, and yes, he likes you back, it just takes him a while to let you know.  You won’t say “I love you” until you mean it, and you’ll take things at your own pace; I’m proud of you for that.   You will make a lot of sacrifices for him, and most of them will feel worth it, but listen to your gut and tell him what you need from him.  I know it’s really hard; you’ve never had to talk about emotional stuff before, but learn how to be honest, and be honest with yourself, too.  There will come a time when you pray and pray about what to do; don’t ignore what your gut is telling you just because it’s not what you want to hear.  This is the time to be strong and do what’s best for you, even if it feels like your heart is breaking – and will be breaking – you will be better for it.  Oh, and when the apartment becomes an issue, just break the lease; don’t play martyr.  You’ll understand when it happens.

You are allowed to change your mind.  It is ok to not do what everyone expects of you.  Drama is temporary, always; don’t get caught up in it.  There will come a time when you feel like your whole world is falling down around you, and it is, but remember it’s only making way for a new, better life.  Trust how you feel and give yourself a break.  You’re going to get a lot of grief about decisions you make; remember it’s your life, and just keep in mind it all brings you here, where I am, which is pretty good.

Remember that time you watched that show where the girl was like, “I hated who I was at 16; I wish I could just erase her” and you said to mom that you hoped you’d never feel that way & that you like the person you are & you think you’d want to be friends with her?  I still like the person you are, and I like the person you become.  Love yourself on this crazy journey, and be patient with yourself.  Don’t worry when it doesn’t look how you thought it would; believe me, you have an incredible life.

I love you, I love you, I love you.


[photo: me on my 16th birthday]

I don’t know how to have this conversation without offending someone.  (Aren’t religion and politics like, the top two things you shouldn’t talk about if you want to keep your friends?) If this were my personal blog, it would be a different story.  But it’s not.  And though I take pride in telling my truth, my whole truth, and nothing but my truth, I’m afraid that this post will fall short.  And so this is what I have to give.




Love is my religion.  Compassion is my religion.  Connection, Openness, Tolerance, Graciousness are my religion.


I have faith that as long as I try my best to be loving to all in this life, then I will either:

1.  Become something other than a dung beetle in my next life

2.  Read peacefully in heaven

3. Die knowing I was a good person

I believe that the world is my church.  That the mountains are my altar, the ground is my pew and the raindrops are my angels.  And each of you sing in the choir.

(photo credit)

Love is…

…agreeing to be a Mathlete for Halloween.
…bringing me peppermint tea in bed when I don’t feel well.
…encouraging me when I feel I’m doomed to fail.
…kitchen dancing.
…listening to me carry on about nothing forever.

Love is …

…reminding me to stick to my guns.
… not judging when I watch too many episodes of Weeds in one sitting.
…hugging me when I walk through the door after another 14-hour day at school.
…leaving love notes for no reason.

Love is…

…understanding what I mean when I’m too embarrassed to say what I mean.
… knowing which drink I’ll like best.
…saying you’re sorry and meaning it.

Love is…

…establishing new traditions and introducing one another to old ones.
…singing too loud to songs only we know.
…cleaning the litter box twice a week because the smell makes me gag.
…eating my cooking when even I won’t.

Love is…

…calling the kitty to bed because I like when he walks on my back.
…pushing me to try harder.
… getting up early every Saturday to go to breakfast.
…washing the dishes.

Love is…

…updating my iPhone because he knows I never get around to doing it myself.
…having patience when I’m flying off the handle over something silly.
…reaching for my hand in the parking lot.
…cultivating extreme nerdiness.

Love is…

…telling me I look cute when I’m in my pajamas.
…discovering something new about one another all the time.
…letting me warm my feet on his legs.
… surprising me with a Schwinn cruiser.

Love is…

…watching our favorite shows together.
…ruining good pictures with silly faces and creating even better pictures.
…making up cheesy songs about one another.

Love is…

…attempting to fix my problems whether I want him to or not.
…believing in me.
…supporting even my craziest decisions… and then pouring me another glass of wine.
Love is being grateful for every phone call, every kiss, and every day.

half moonI asked Chelsea what came to mind when I said the word “halfway” or “half,” seeing as we’re now halfway through this third guest blogging season here at Stratejoy.  Her response?


Ok… so maybe that’s not the idea I was going for.  I was thinking halfway points, halftime shows, even Halfway, Oregon (yes, that’s really a city – I checked).  But halfway?  As in, I’ve written half the amount of posts I’ll write here this season?  That’s exciting and a little sad – I don’t want it to end!

Chelsea and I started ruminating a bit on the general idea of “halfway,” and she suggested that the existence of a halfway point signifies an end – which, in the case of my contributions to this blog – there is an end.  We’ve committed to so many weeks and that has a number and we’re halfway to that number.  But, in general – in life – we’re in a constant state of movement, moving forward, transition even.  Yeah, there’s technically an “end date” (morbid, yeah), but we don’t know it and so “halfway” is kind of arbitrary in the great big scheme of things.

However, when there is an end date or time, or a goal with numbers and steps that can be defined – halfway is kind of a big deal.  Halfway through my workout motivates me to keep working, to push a little harder until I reach my goal.  Halfway through a task on my to-do list ramps me up and makes me want to just blaze through the rest.  It’s motivating.  It’s exciting.

In this case, it’s crazy.  Really?!  Halfway?!  It’s motivating and energizing yes, but I don’t want it to end!

Blogging for Stratejoy this season has been an incredible commitment and experience.  Commitment, yes because even when I’m not keeping up with my own blog, I’ve committed to being here and showing up for you.  And I’ve loved to share my stories and hear from amazing new voices and hearts that have offered some really awesome insight along the way.  It’s been awesome to have a writing commitment that’s focused (we have topics! and deadlines!), but that’s personal.  It’s wonderful to share my stories and find so many kindred spirits who relate to thoughts and ideas I’ve shared.

So… halfway through, let me just say THANK YOU for listening and for showing up here with me.  I’m excited for the second half, the next part, and for learning more about myself along the way.  We’ve covered a lot in the first half, haven’t we?

I mean, we met way back in August and I talked about the overwhelming confusion that comes with realizing I could actually have and do anything I wanted… so then what was I supposed to do?  Hello, Quarter-Life Crisis.

It’s helpful to have a little background, so I spent the next couple of weeks talking about my history with ad agencies and media buying, move to freelancing and contract work, and my move across the country from Minnesota to Colorado.

Digging a little deeper, I talked about how I fell in love when I wasn’t expecting to and how I believe that relationships in our life are on a collision course – we find who we need when we need them, right?  Honestly, this was one of my favorite posts so far this season.

I explained how my background in homeschooling helped teach me to teach myself and be one of those self-starter kind of people that – as a freelancer – not only appreciates being able to work on her own schedule, but is learning that the same model in school of “work til you’re done” holds true in the working world.  That lesson was born out of learning that when you can work anytime, it’s sometimes easy to work all the time and I finally started to explore finding that balance.

I talked about debt and money issues and how our tastes and interests change over time, covered friendships and the rituals that surround those, and talked about brilliant joy and its presence in my life.  More recently, I talked about fear and subsequently what might happen when you throw that fear out the window.

Today, I’m reflecting.  Looking back at how much I’ve shared and excited about the second half – about peeling back another layer and moving forward.  Halfway.  Can you believe that?

I’m just curious… what’s been your favorite post so far?  What else do you want to know about me?  What can I keep in mind moving forward into the second half of this season?

{photo credit}

What do you think of when you hear the word “family”?

For most of you, you think of your own family. But which one? Your husband and kids? Your mom, dad, and siblings? Your aunts, uncles, and grandparents?

Do you have a big, boisterous family? Are holidays loud and overwhelming? Or is your unit in the lower digits? Is the time spent with them full of quiet conversation?

The word “family” is loaded for me. It holds multiple definitions. I am an only child. My parents divorced when I was 12. For a long time, it was just me and my mom. When someone would ask, “What’s your family like?” my only answer was, “Well, my mom’s cool.” Was I supposed to tell them about my aunts, uncles, and cousins? Did they want to know about the step-family I rarely see? Should I make up siblings or just talk about my cats?

Last week, my husband made a big decision. When we talked about, he pressed the importance of what is best for our family. And he didn’t mean his parents or my parents. He said, “My family is more important to me,” and he meant me (okay, and probably our cat). Even though it’s just the two of us, we are a unit. This was the first time I had though of our marriage this way. I don’t know why I had been unconsciously thinking, “When we have kids, we’ll be a family.” Why? I had been a two-person family for half of my life.

The truth is, I don’t understand the word “family.” I try to fit it into the box that defines it as a mommy, daddy, 2.5 kids, a dog, a cat and a yard with a picket fence.

…But it’s never been that way. And I don’t think I ever want it to look that way. My point is that no matter what your unit might be, as long as there are people in your life who support you, who include you in Big Decisions, who you care about, who cultivate love in your life… it doesn’t need to fit a definition. Family just is. And that’s what’s important.

{photo via Tomi Tapio}

I am the MacGyver of travel.

I have cobbled together the last 6 weeks from one spider-legged plane ticket, reinforced steel beams of friendship, and found-just-in-the-nick-of-time trust, all tied together with a string of selfless giving by amazing people.

I spent two weeks in Alexandria, Virginia and DC with some of my family, reconnecting with who I came from, appreciating with new eyes places that I long ago stopped actually seeing.

I stepped into my best friend’s life in Denver, Colorado as comfortably as though we hadn’t lived in different states for the past 11 years.  She got married & graduated med school just over a year ago, and it was strange to see her all grown up with a husband and a house and a dog, as a doctor with life-and-death responsibilities.  This is the same skinny girl I met at 13, the same girl I double-dated to prom with, the same girl who held my hair back at college parties; this is the girl that is just as oddball cheesy and silly as I am, still.  She shopped apartments for me, hoping to convince me to move to Denver, and just to live close to her again makes that a very lucrative thought.

I dropped in on Boston, Massachusetts last-minute.  A friend I don’t know very well came through for me; she got my Facebook message on her way home from work and detoured to meet me on the T, taking me to dinner and letting me stay at her house.  Just the first of so many people that amazed me on this trip with their unexpected hospitality.

Portland, Oregon cleaned up all nice & pretty for me.  Out of the four days I was there, three were uncharacteristically sunny and warm.  It was gorgeous.  Once again, someone I don’t know very well went above and beyond for me; a friend of a friend who I’d literally hung out with for about 3 hours a year ago, not only let me stay with her, but took me out and showed me her favorite spots.  We got along like we’d known each other for years, convincing me that we were meant to be friends and will be, for a long time.

An LA friend and New York local went exuberantly out of his way to meet me in NYC and fill my 24 hours there with the entire island of Manhattan.  As he played tourist in his own town, I got to try my first street dog, first NYC pizza & bagel, hail my first yellow cab, and scurry through my first NYC rain day.  We went to the top of the Empire State Building and got lost in Central Park; we buzzed around Times Square, tipsy, and gazed at the Brooklyn Bridge lights like stars in the dark sky.

I slept in JFK airport one night, reeling and teary with exhausted frustration from cancelled and delayed flights.  Not fun, but I survived, of course.  Yet another affirmation that no matter how bad things seem at the time, they will always turn out OK and what is now a terrible experience will, very soon, simply be a good story.

Because of those delays, I spent less than a day with some college girl friends in Charlotte, North Carolina, drinking sweet tea and having a pajama pizza-making party.  True to form in their constant good-natured acceptance and generosity, they picked me up from the airport, took me back to the airport, and in-between, blew up an air mattress in their living room to giggle at silly movies and drift into much-needed naps.

My best college guy friend showed me Houston, Texas nightlife, his musician’s schedule rendering me incapable of going to bed before 4am for the rest of the trip.  We wandered museums and parks, enjoying our shared stupid sense of humor and the just-cooled-down lovely weather.  I watched his show at the dueling piano bar he works at – the first time I’ve seen him play live in 7 years! – and he was just incredible.

He and I drove to Austin, Texas late one night after his show; we left at 3am, not knowing where we’d stay when we got there, crashing at his buddy’s house at 7am and sleeping till 2.  We have the same by-the-seat-of-our-pants travel attitude.  Austin’s natural beauty surprised me.  We spent two absolutely perfect days outside; one in City Park practicing cartwheels and spinning till we were dizzy, laying in the grass people-watching, and the other kayaking the lake, swinging on found rope & tire swings, swimming out beyond tree roots like fingers in the water, and drifting with the current in the sun.  I met up with a friend from high school who I haven’t seen in 11 years (!!) and enjoyed every drink with a live blues soundtrack.

My trip was bookended by two weddings, both in Raleigh, North Carolina and both beautiful examples of people who’ve found their match.  Also both kick-ass parties.  I drank, I danced, I cheered and I didn’t sleep much.  Again, people were just so kind, offering rides and sharing food.  When I was there for the second wedding, the couple from the first wedding let me stay with them two nights, even inviting me to dinner at their family’s house (which was SO fun – amiable family bickering and hula hoop competitions!) and driving me to the airport at 4:30am.

As I write this, I’m on the plane back to LA, not sure what’s next for me, returning to a new home, a borrowed bed and a temporary job.  I feel a little disappointed, not only because this amazing adventure is now just a memory, but because I (subconsciously) was hoping for some realizations from this trip and none have really come.  I keep expecting a lightning bolt – Bam! I know what I want to do & where I want to live!  Bam! – to electrify me into action, but maybe this is just the stage of my life to trust and be patient.  And enjoy.

One thing I have learned from this month and a half is how truly selfless and wonderful my friends and acquaintances are; I am such a lucky girl.  I hope that I can be as giving to them as they have been to me.  The more I experience this love, the more important I realize it is; I want to surround myself with it and give it out in fistfuls.  I know the world is a pretty small place – when I can fly all these spots in a month and Skype with those I missed – but still, I hope that someday soon I can be simply a car ride from all the people I love the most.

Maybe that’s enough of a lesson to learn; maybe that IS the realization I needed.

I can’t even express to y’all how grateful I am for this experience.  To all of you who gave me your time, love, friendship, and hospitality: thank you.  Thank you bucketfuls.  I hope to see you all again soon.

Ok, Los Angeles, I’m coming back to you refreshed and bolstered.  Whatever you’ve got in store for me, I’m ready and I know I have the support I need to take it or leave it, and I have the strength and presence of mind to tell which is best for me.  Bring it on.

*title is paraphrased from a MacGyver Season 1 quote (haha!): “The bag’s not for what I take, Colson, it’s for what I find along the way.”

[photo: me at Lake Travis, just outside Austin, TX]