stratejoy Archives - Stratejoy


It’s the start of new blogging goodness here at Stratejoy!

We’re bringing back real time stories from real life women.

This time I’m tapping the incredible ladies of my Elevate Mastermind group to share their dreams, fears, successes and failures with the Tribe.  Not all of them will be writing (since it’s totally not a requirement of Elevate!), but as I found out at our retreat — over half of them identify as writers!  And after getting to known their sassy selves and incredible stories over 4 days in Ojai, I knew we’d all benefit from hearing the ups and downs of their year of ELEVATING!

We’re going on a introduction binge this week — getting you familiar with with the ladies you’ll be hearing from this year.

After that, I’ll be writing early in the week and we’ll be featuring an Elevate Writer each Thursday.

Please join me in lovingly welcoming each of these brave souls!

They are going to be cracking their hearts wide open for us, to remind our entire Tribe that we are never alone.



ECurlettElevate (1)WITH LOVE FROM

Erin, Adventurer, Storyteller, and Army Wife

Erin grew up in three different countries, leading her to embrace her role as a third culture kid: she loves airports, hates small talk, and feels more at home in a book than in any specific place. Lover of peppermint tea, alpine slides, Stephen King novels, hot yoga, Cadbury chocolate, and karaoke; devoted yet sometimes reluctant follower of Jesus; she lives with her husband, Tim, and their crazy ragamuffin cat, Opal, in a charming blue house in Tacoma, WA. Watch out: she’s bitey (the cat, not Erin).



“In short, I was lonely. I was afraid. I worried I might have made a mistake.”


In the spring of 2010, I packed up all of my belongings and jumped into my trusty Honda to start a new chapter in my life.

I had spent the last 5 years in Seattle, Washington, a beautiful, quirky, wonderful city which had begun to feel more like home than any place I’d ever lived. Now, I was leaving, heading to Bethesda, Maryland, to join my boyfriend, Tim, who was in his second year of medical school.We were serious about each other, and sensed a beautiful future stirring somewhere off on the horizon. Tim and I had been together for over a year, but the decision to move came quickly.

Within three weeks of asking my boss if I could telecommute from the East Coast, I hit Highway 90 with Tim by my side, ready to drive cross-country and spend the largest number of consecutive days we’d ever spent together.

It was one of the bravest, scariest, most authentic choices I’d ever made. I knew it was the right move, but it happened so quickly I didn’t realize how much confusion would follow me.

Three months into my new life in Maryland, much had changed.

I had an apartment much lovelier than I’d ever had before – and could hardly afford the rent.

I lived a 10-minute drive away from my amazing boyfriend, but, knee-deep in his second year of medical school, he hardly had one or two evenings to share with me each week.

I was reconnecting with old friends from college who lived in DC, but my Metro stop was a 15 minute drive from my apartment and a 30-minute ride into the city.

I felt freedom and a great deal of grown-up responsibility as a full-time teleworker, but put pressure on myself to be constantly on-call.

The more time I spent with Tim, the more I was convinced I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life, but the demands of medical school made him unable to make the leap just yet.

In short, I was lonely. I was afraid. I worried I might have made a mistake.

Enter Stratejoy and the Joy Equation. . That summer I woke every morning to journal about my fears, my hopes, my dreams, and desires – with no censorship. I visualized myself, 5 years into the future, married to Tim and expecting his child, working for myself, blogging in the mornings, maybe working on a book, and spending my afternoons meeting with friends in coffee shops, having heartfelt conversations.

I was fearless in these journal entries, allowing myself the space to dream, to seek, to yearn. I began slowly putting my goals into action, practicing gratitude, and honoring my core values. I had big, hard, beautiful conversations with Tim. We began dreaming together of the future and all that it held for us, together.

Fast forward three years to October 2013. Tim and I, married 2 years, had just moved back to the Pacific Northwest, into our first house, in Tacoma, WA. It had been 6 months since I had quit my full-time job. After a lovely sabbatical full of travel, adventure, reading, and self-reflection, I was working part-time as a marketing communications manager for an old friend. And I was once again dreaming of the future.

Tim and I had been talking about starting a family sometime in the next year, and for months it’s all I could think of.

The extra room in our new house? A future nursery.

The hot yoga studio down the street I had been so excited to try? Can’t do it – might make it harder to conceive.

Drinks out with friends? Sushi? Training for a new race? Might be too risky.

So each month I’d have a couple weeks of freedom followed by a few weeks of legalism and terror. I was getting tired of the dance. It was causing strain in our marriage, and stress on my body.

I thought what I wanted most, over everything else, was a baby. But in quiet, honest moments, it became clear to me it’s not all I wanted.

I wanted passion and purpose.

I wanted to be writing creatively.

I wanted to go back to school and learn how to help people in emotional pain.

I wanted to go back to school and learn how to talk to people about God in a way that is helpful and healing.

I wanted to begin developing a better relationship with my body, to celebrate my design and womanhood and treat my body with the love and respect it deserves.

I wanted to be fully, unabashedly ME.

I was meeting new friends, getting connected at church, already involved in my community, but I knew it would take time to develop the kind of trust needed to gain true accountability with these new friendships. Then I remembered the clarity and empowerment I gained that Joy Equation summer…and promptly began lurking on the Statejoy website. When I saw the advertisement for Elevate Mastermind, I knew I wanted to apply.

Accountability? Sisterhood? Champagne? Dance parties? Yes, please.

The night Molly announced her call for applications, I stayed up until midnight, typing and typing, fervently wishing and hoping and praying that come January, I’d be sitting in a yurt with 13 other women, risking vulnerability and dreaming big.

When Molly called to tell me I was in, I hung up the phone and prayed. And prayed. And prayed. This was going to be a huge investment – time, energy, money – and I needed to be sure I wasn’t just blindly signing up for something because it was shiny and sparkly and sounded so fun.

And the more I prayed, the more it became clear to me that Elevate was exactly what I needed to do this year. It was so clear I laughed out loud. My prayers aren’t always answered so specifically (or so quickly), but that day they were: I knew in my heart, with utmost confidence, that I needed these women who would make up the tribe. I needed to hear their stories and get to know them and learn from them. And I needed to boldly offer myself – in all my beautiful, messy vulnerability – and learn how to practice being exactly who I am and who I was created to be. And maybe, just maybe, they’d learn something from me, too.

It’s crazy to think back now, because so much has changed since that night in October. So much has changed since that magical, champagne bubbly, yurt-loving weekend in January.

I’m excited to see what comes next.

I wanted this year to be a big year, and beautiful year, a year of creation and joy and purpose. I am confident it will be, even if it looks slightly different than the way I dreamed it would be.


ECurlettElevate (1)WITH LOVE FROM

Erin, Adventurer, Storyteller, and Army Wife

Erin grew up in three different countries, leading her to embrace her role as a third culture kid: she loves airports, hates small talk, and feels more at home in a book than in any specific place. Lover of peppermint tea, alpine slides, Stephen King novels, hot yoga, Cadbury chocolate, and karaoke; devoted yet sometimes reluctant follower of Jesus; she lives with her husband, Tim, and their crazy ragamuffin cat, Opal, in a charming blue house in Tacoma, WA. Watch out: she’s bitey (the cat, not Erin).


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 have some great news. Like life-changing news. I’m kind of surprised and giddy – and definitely ecstatic as I’m writing this.

You know how we’ve all been searching for purpose – spending our time journaling, blogging, reading and thinking about these big transitions in our lives?

Some of us have put it into words and others have just implied it, but we’re all searching for an “ah-ha” moment – the kind where we see a light shining through the fog of uncertainty. Where choirs of angels sing hallelujah and we suddenly have a whole life plan planted in our brains by some divine intervention.

Well that may be a tad dramatic, but hey if you didn’t already know this about me – I kind of have a flair for the dramatic. {Don’t judge me!}

Anywho, I’ve very recently had one of those coveted “ah-ha” moments. And now that I’m past it, I can’t even believe I didn’t see this sooner.

I’m not sure I would have gotten here if it weren’t for doing all the wrong things leading up to it. So now I can celebrate those things instead of regretting mistakes and missteps in my path thus far. I can’t tell you what that does for my sanity.

I feel lighter. I feel happier. I feel a little less lost in the big world with no idea where to go.

I’d been feeling like I was on the verge of this since I’d started blogging here at Stratejoy – I even told Molly so when we were discussing Elevate. It was so close I could almost taste it, but then it simultaneously seemed like I was never going to get there.

And then I did. And no choirs sang or lights shone. No secret life plan magically appeared. But with this clarity came peace.

Leading up to this, I’d spent a ton of time thinking about things that make me light up. The things I really enjoy doing that I could possibly turn into a career. It ended up being a decent sized list, but many of them aren’t things I actually want to pursue for one reason or another.

Next I made a list of the things I want out of life – I know I want to travel, have flexible work hours, possibly work for myself at some point, and I want to feel like I’m helping others. I want to empower someone else to improve their own life, especially women and young girls.

I feel really strongly about this particular demographic because I grew up with low self-esteem. I know what it feels like to feel bad about yourself, how hard it is to change when you don’t have a positive female role model who you really relate to.

Even into adulthood I’ve struggled with knowing who I am, what I want and how to love myself even when I don’t know the answers to these things.

I’ve longed to be a woman who felt she belonged in the world and had some positive contribution to the world. I want to change lives – and not because I want some glory or admiration for myself. This isn’t about me.

I want to show young girls and other women that their lives matter. That being comfortable in their own skin and taking good care of themselves is far better than chasing the latest trend and trying to be someone else.

I want to be a model of a woman who loves herself, who finds joy in ordinary places, who celebrates her individuality – and I want to pay it forward.

So what exactly was this “ah-ha” moment, you ask? Because I know I’ve been leading you on a little bit. And that is somewhat intentional and somewhat not. I’m not holding back for dramatic effect, but rather I’m indulging my natural tendency for storytelling.

I never realized this about myself until I was writing on a fairly regular basis. I’m not usually someone who can write informally and just pour out my thoughts. I’m a storyteller. I can see it when I look back over my posts thus far on Stratejoy, and on my personal blog. So this post will be no different.

I remember being in nursing school and absolutely hating it. I am completely enthralled with the human body and all that it is capable of. I could read for hours about the intricacies of each system and how they are all so interconnected. The problem, for me, arises when the focus turns to treating disease in the human body.

After I finished my bachelor’s in nursing, I thought that public health would be a good fit for me. It was less focused on the patient lying in the bed and more on the population as a whole. Public health focuses on preventing disease or restoring health after disease, but again it is on a broad scale – focusing on improving the health of the population.

This was better than nursing for me, but it still didn’t feel quite right.

After all this soul searching, talking to close friends, sharing with all of you and journaling my little rear end off – it clicked.

I’m passionate about wellness. I want to help individuals prevent diseases caused by poor diet, lack of exercise and high stress levels. I want to help young girls make health a priority and develop habits that will carry into adulthood.

I’m never more impassioned that when I’m discussing my latest workout regimen, sharing how to eat a cleaner diet, or thinking up ways to alleviate stress.

I haven’t settled on a specific job yet, but I have a ton of ideas.

Maybe I’ll work in corporate wellness – designing programs to encourage wellness behaviors and working with individual employees to achieve them. Maybe I’ll open my own gym or wellness center in the future. Maybe I’ll start a running group in my city. Maybe I’ll found a non-profit that focuses on the health of younger girls and gets them moving.

Who knows. But I’m excited to explore all these options, set some goals and get started.

Cue the angels, please!

Image via: Flickr

I’ve always been a pretty private person. As I’ve matured and gained some confidence, I’ve become less of the shy introvert of my childhood.

Many people in my life would be surprised to learn that I still consider myself a private person. I will readily talk about myself in the company of others, sometimes to the point of over sharing.

But I’m selective about the things I share.

Many of my innermost thoughts have never been voiced. To anyone. 

I’ve held back because I’m terrified of failure and rejection. I don’t want to be viewed as different, or display my weaknesses to others. I don’t think anyone will relate to my issues. I don’t want to burden others with my problems.

At some point, I have to choose between continuing to let my fears rule my life, or taking a risk that other people will accept me and all my self-percieved flaws.

Since I’ve found myself at a major transition point in my life, I think now is as good a time as any to take that risk.

I have the opportunity to reinvent myself – to shed the layers of my thought process that haven’t been working for me and find what does work for me.

Maybe it’s the benefit {or burden} of maturity, maybe it’s my aging parents and my increased awareness of our mortality -whatever it is, I’m more concerned about living a life that I’m proud of than I’ve ever been.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I’ve spent all my precious time trying to make everyone else happy while neglecting myself. Surely I can find a better balance between the two.

I want to create a life that honors my authentic self. 

I’m so thankful to have found Molly and Stratejoy. Each time I visit the site, I find myself immersed in a culture of positivity, courage and unconditional support.

You wonderful women of the tribe are so brave – many of you working to overcome much larger obstacles than I am – yet you share your struggles freely and help to build each other up.

I am in awe of you. I’m honored to be able to share my journey with you.

I cannot put into words the relief I feel knowing that I’m not the only person to have felt this lost. Seeing that other women have faced these same fears head on and found a way to overcome them gives me hope that I can too.

Recently, I’ve worked my way through Fierce Love, and would highly recommend it to anyone who needs to kick their self-love into gear. I’ve learned amazing things about myself through the weekly challenges and felt so empowered by Molly’s genuine compassion and unfailing encouragement. {I heart you, Molly!}

I’m still struggling to regularly practice self-love because it doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s really hard to overcome 32 years of bad habits and negative self-thinking – but I’m going to do it! I deserve to treat myself better than I’ve been doing pretty much my whole life.

I still don’t know what shape my dreams will take in my life, but that’s ok. I’ve taken a huge step by giving myself permission to discover what makes me thrive. I’m confident the manifestations will come in time.

Image via flickr


“I’ve done most things the hard way.”


I’m not one of those people who feels like she did everything right.

In fact, I’ve done most things the hard way.

I chose a college based on proximity to my {then} boyfriend, dropped out after the first year {again to be with the aforementioned boyfriend}, accrued unnecessary debt, got married too young {to a different boyfriend} because I was desperate to be grown up, and chose a career based on the intense need to garner my father’s approval.

Clearly sound logic wasn’t in my repertoire.

Looking back on my life, I feel sad. I drifted through without much forethought into what I was doing. I had no plan, no ultimate goal, spent no time soul searching on how to find fulfillment. There was no hint of living with intention.

I now realize that my entire life has been spent either trying to please others {namely my divorced parents}, or reacting to the curveballs we are all thrown in life. While I know I’m not alone in this type of approach to life, I know it, damn well, isn’t the recipe for living a life of passion and authenticity – which is what I crave more than anything!

Since I became a mom, I’ve found my approach to life has altered, but not in a positive direction. When you stay at home with a child on a full-time basis, your life can easily be consumed by said little person. At first it’s the natural response to being a parent, but I believe it can become detrimental to your sanity as the “all little person, all the time” mentality continues.

As I began to feel increasingly unsatisfied with my life, I also had immense guilt for having those feelings. I mean, on the outside my life looked pretty good. Husband, daughter, friends, college degree, health insurance, house, car, disposable income – check mark for each category. How could I possibly be unhappy when I had so many of the things people strive for?

The shame I felt was almost unbearable.

When I finally found the courage to voice these feelings, a wise friend pointed out that I was pinning all my self-esteem and happiness on my role as a mother. While being a parent is very rewarding, everyone needs balance in their lives. Our children cannot be everything to us.

I wasn’t sure I believed that, but gave me a glimmer of hope that I might not be as bad a mother as I feared. Maybe, just maybe, I didn’t need to feel guilty for taking care of myself sometimes. I wish I could say that conversation with my friend was an “ah ha” moment and that everything has fallen into place since then.

But it hasn’t.

At all. 

What did happen is I started to notice things about my behavior or thinking that needed to change. I did things for myself – with less guilt. These, for me, were monumental steps.

Fast forward a couple years, and I’m still wading through what I now know is a quarterlife crisis – at 32 years old. As I’m writing this, I’ve just returned from taking my baby to kindergarten the first time. I cried. I worried. I hoped she was having fun. I contemplated going to peek in her classroom window {because apparently I’m THAT mom}.

Thankfully common sense won out, and I didn’t stalk her at school.

Today marked the end of an era in my life. My little person is growing up, and I’m nearly overcome with the realization that our time together these last five years has ended. But I’m also excited for the prospect of having time to reflect, to be introspective, and to unearth the best version of myself.

This is my chance to write the story of my life – a life filled with the passion and authenticity that I crave.

I know I have the capacity for self-acceptance and fierce self-love {thanks to the Fierce Love course here at Stratejoy!}. I’m committed to doing the work and finding joy and passion in my life.

The icing on the cake {and, man, do I love icing!} is that my journey – my struggles and the courage to overcome them – will set a powerful example for my daughter, both as a woman and a mother.

When I got Molly’s email notifying me I was a finalist in the Season 6 Stratejoy Blogger search, I was getting ready to board a plane to the Blissdom blogging conference.  It was late February, and I was just starting to come down from a bad winter.  I was down and out, depressed, anxious, and suffering from esphagitus.

It was a bad state of affairs.

After I hit send and sent in my Stratejoy blogger application, I forced it out of my mind, assuming I would never earn one of those blogger spots.  So as I sat in the sweaty seating area at Dulles waiting for my plane to Nashville for the conference, tears pricked my eyes as I read Molly’s email.

She liked my stuff?




I felt illegitimate in the blog world, suffered from a bad case of not-good-enough, crippled confidence.  So the thought that I made it to the final round of Stratejoy blogger contenders emotionally set me over the edge.

As I sat on the plane, I worked up my answers to Molly’s final questions, and sent them off to her the minute I landed.

Molly’s email said she’d give us a call with the results.  So when Sunday rolled around, and I hadn’t heard, I assumed I didn’t make it.  Then Monday came, and I was sure I didn’t earn a spot.  Around 5 p.m. on the East coast, my cell phone rang.  It was a number I didn’t recognize.  For a second I let myself get excited that it could be Molly.  But things like that don’t happen to me.

When I answered and heard Molly’s voice, I started thanking her for this opportunity, and I appreciate her consideration.  She stopped me and said, “Sarah, we want you, do you still want to blog for me?”



I tell this story to show how broken I felt.  It hurts to think back on that girl.  So sad and without faith in anything about herself.

I also tell this story to show how I am not that girl anymore.

She’s barely recognizeable to me now.  Not that I’m “cured” of life crises.  I’m sure something will come up that will poke and prod at my anxiety.  But I don’t feel so feeble that I can’t stare a bad situation in the face and strangle it with both hands to show who’s in charge.

There’s a difference between feeling anxiety about life stuff but knowing you can make it through because you’ve so been there before and letting anxiety eat you alive until life becomes dull and sad.


Where does that leave me?

I bulldozed my way through this quarterlife crisis by trusting myself as a mother, succeeding in becoming a group fitness instructor, setting up my own freelance writing business, and overcoming my anxieties about travleing.  Part of me can’t believe all I accomplished over the past fives months.

But the other part of me?  She sees challenges and says of courseI accept that challenge.  Why not me?  Why can’t I succeed?

Thank you for letting me share my story with you.  And thank you to my fellow Stratejoy bloggers for never failing to make me feel ooey gooey special; your kind comments made me feel all warm inside.  For more Sarah, you can find me at my personal blog Sunny Side Up and on Twitter for more self reflection, goal making, and oh, and of course, pudding painting.


**A Note From Katie: Oh, Sarah. You’re so great! Reading your posts and seeing pictures of your little one never fail to make me smile. While I’m sad that this is THE LAST POST of the ENTIRE SEASON 6 (which explains why it’s late being posted. I didn’t want to face it!) I’m extremely excited for the journey you’ve made over the last 5 months, and inevitably where you’re going.

You’re an amazing woman and an incredible momma and I’ll be following your journey close behind, being your cheerleader whenever you need it. I wish you so much luck and love and everything you need/want in life, dear!


]Two nights ago I watched the moon die, it’s vermillion body stretching itself across the black sky and sinking into the cityscape’s sea of man made stars. I find myself moving towards the setting of these vast bodies, of moon, of sun, and of my old being watching them as they give way to new beginnings. Sometimes we must shed the old layers. They help us grew, they help us become who we are, but we are forever changing, taking remnants of our journey with us as we become our present selves.

A few months ago, I mentioned that I’m yearning to make this move from Connecticut to Oregon because I’ll have time to think and create what I want from life in my mind’s eye. Writing this first draft I’m sitting on my friend’s couch in Columbus, Ohio, and now I’m by the poolside at my mom’s house in Santa Fe my mind reeling around lessons that have delivered themselves to me.

I’ve been blogging for Stratejoy for several months now and it’s been a great experience. I’m so grateful for being surrounded by Arielle, Caiti, Jill, Rachel,  Cassie, and Sarah and for their gorgeous thoughts gracing the interweb and storing themselves in the crevices of my mind. I’m thankful for Molly and Katie for sharing this incredible opportunity and for all the ridiculously hard work they’ve done and the support they’ve given that has been unending. Thank you all.

I regret not being as consistent with my blogging in the last month as I was in the first few. It looks like I still need to find a better balance with my life and making sure I can do everything I want to the best of my abilities. I admit, I applied to be a Stratejoy blogger on a whim and I’m glad that I did. I’ve learned that there are other folks out there like me who are still figuring out how we shall exist in this vast universe. I’ve learned that I have the support of others and honestly, I think that’s one of the most critical elements in getting through life. I’ve discovered that I still have a ways to go before I’ve shifted from my chaotic pseudo-organization to just being organized. I’ve realized how much I love women spaces. Being a part of Stratejoy and being surrounded by women’s voices is absolutely stunning. Once upon a time a couple of years ago, I worked at a place called The Pink House, a women’s space alive with talk of what it meant to be a women, having consignment clothes and hats galore to try on, and being in a space where it was comfortable to be female. Sometimes I need that. When I move up to Portland, I need to find a place where I can make girlfriends and just hang out.

I’m scared to be moving though. I admit it. I don’t know where Geoffrey and I will be staying or what type of job I’ll end up getting. This completely new experience terrifies and excites me. The past several months have been leading to this moment… to moving west, to getting married (which will happen on Saturday), to dealing with stress, fears, love, family, caring for others and myself, and developing even more as a person which is really just a continual process. I’m worried that I’ve taken Portland to be some sort of Eden and that everything will be perfect there. I know it won’t be, it’ll just be what I make of it but who knows if I’ll be sorely disappointed.

I’m looking forward to the wedding. All the festivities really begin today as families and friends arrive, dinners with my family and Geoffrey’s family commence, and as the final pieces are woven together with all the love that everyone has shown. Seeing so many people come together and be supportive is riveting and though I already consider myself as being married to Geoff, it’ll be nice to have other people join us in celebrating us as a couple.

Then of course the other thoughts stirring around in my little noggin come in the form of lessons I’ve learned that just keep emerging.

That man is the rain which is me: Once upon a time I was sitting with my friend on the Plaza in Santa Fe watching people strolling about and it began to rain. Our middle school selves were talking about life and the world and she said that she believed that in essence, the man walking by us was also the rain, which in turn was us. Everything is interconnected and sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’re all part of this same universe breathing and existing… each of us with our own thoughts. It goes along with the whole theory of Ubuntu- I am because you are. We depend on one another and exist because of everyone else.

That is very well said Candace, now let us cultivate our garden: In the town of Amarillo, there are many quirky signs making their appearances in backyards and on street corners. This has always been my favorite. It’s how my grandfather essentially responded when my father came out to him as being transgendered. He said “I’ll always love you Peter, now let’s go bale some hay”. To me it speaks of how life moves on. Regardless of the circumstances, we can’t stop things, we can’t pause them, we can only move forward with the momentum that exists. Life happens and you work with it.

You have to love yourself before you can love others: My mom always used to say this to me. To have a healthy relationship you need to cherish who you are and understand yourself. You need to have a relationship with yourself. It has been difficult for me at times to love myself and treat myself  right, it still is sometimes, but it has to be done. That’s why I love introspection and journaling because that’s where a good chunk of my revelations come in. I remember in high school sitting in English class and thinking you know, the only thing I can ever be best at being is myself.

So here’s to new beginnings, to dying and being reborn, to allowing my skin to shed being changed by the past and growing into the present. Here’s to life.

**A Note From Katie: Oh, Camila, you gorgeous girl you. I know it’s been a hectic few months for you. Life isn’t always easy to keep up with. You’ve done an incredible job of learning how to balance life and everything else.

The next chapter of your life is just beginning and I know you’re going to take it one step and a time and everything is going to work out just the way it should be. I have no doubt you’re going to make a drop dead beautiful bride. (Don’t forget to send photos!)

I wish you the absolute best in everything, and don’t forget to take time out for yourself. Also? Keep on breathing.


Last month I participated in a psych study at Columbia University. The study involved, among other things, taking a survey every morning that asked me about my mood. On a scale of 1 to 7, “Not at all” to “All the time,” I had to rate things like:

I feel sad/blue

I am worried/anxious

I feel angry/irritable

Every morning I would take out my pen, circle a whole bunch of “Not at all”s, and send the survey off.

5 months ago I don’t think my answers would have been so cheery. And Stratejoy is largely to thank for that.

When Molly called to tell me I was accepted as a season 6 blogger, I said, “I feel like I’m going to throw up.” I barely slept the night before my first post went live. I was nervous about coming clean to the world about my insecurities and putting myself out there because I was a sad, unconfident person and why would anyone care and WHAT DID I SIGN UP FOR OMG CAN I CANCEL.

When I started reading the comments on that first post, I was overwhelmed. The Stratejoy community is so wonderful and supportive that I can’t believe I was reluctant to share my story here. Mondays quickly became my favorite day of the week (which, admittedly, is easier to have happen when you don’t have a job). Between the Fierce Love course and the ridiculous outpouring of amazingness I received each week, my mental health vastly improved. I can honestly say that while my quarterlife crisis may not be over, the worst of it absolutely is.

So to all of you – Molly, Katie, my 6 amazing co-bloggers, commenters, my “real life” friends who reached out to me with support – thank you. Your kind words and cheerleading have been invaluable, and I don’t know how I could have made myself so vulnerable every week without you.

In a way, it feels like my time at Stratejoy is ending prematurely. Not because I deserve to be here longer than anyone else, but because in the last 5 months I kind of haven’t done anything. My fellow bloggers are becoming fitness instructors, starting businesses, moving across the country, learning to say “YES” to more opportunities, pursuing their passions and finding more fulfilling jobs.

They are accomplishing shit and kicking ass and I feel inadequate.

What I think, though, is that maybe it isn’t the time for me to be doing those huge things. 2012 doesn’t have to be a year full of action if that’s not where I am in life. Maybe the changes that I needed were more quiet ones – learning to look in the mirror and be happy with what I see even if what I see isn’t a size 2, standing up for myself more, and being able to go out to a bar at night, not get a single lick of attention from any men, and just not give a fuck because I can know that I’m awesome without validation from some drunk, handsy dude (though I do like the occasional drunk handsy dude, of course).

So even though I’m not doing big things like Caiti, Jill, Rachel, Camilla, Cassie and Sarah, I’m okay with that. It’s not so much my life that’s in transition as it is my attitude. Which, I realize now, was totally necessary.

Seriously though, sidebar to fellow bloggers – YOU GUYS ARE SO AWESOME. Please move to New York immediately. I am completely inspired by all of your courage, smarts, and hotness. I’m humbled by the fact that I was allowed to blog with you and I wish you all 7 minutes in heaven with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. SEASON 6, BABY.

This sounds like goodbye, and in many ways it is. But really, I’m not going anywhere. I will always be involved with Stratejoy in any way that I can, and of course I still have an internet presence. I would love to stay in contact with this community, so if you should feel so inclined, you can reach out to me at:

–       Email me

–       @NotTheMermaid

–       Facebook

–       My personal blog, Not the Mermaid. I’m implementing a series which I am giving the very original name of “Stratejoy Monday,” where I’m going to continue writing posts just like the ones I write on Stratejoy right now. It’s a way of continuing the amazing journey that I’ve started here and interspersing introspection and self-love with posts about dining in the dark or why I hated 50 Shades of Grey.

Over the last week, I’ve encountered not one, but two quotes that really sum up some of the lessons that I’ve learned from my time at Stratejoy. Since I can’t decide between them, as my parting gift I’ll give you both.

The first is from Anthem, by Ayn Rand.

“For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth. And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end.”

The second comes, interestingly enough, from Salt of Salt-n-Pepa. They were giving a free concert in Brooklyn last week, and while I knew it was going to be awesome, I hardly expected it to be inspirational (unless I were to lift a few pickup lines from Shoop. You know, like “If looks could kill you would be an uzi.” OKAY BAD JOKE OVER). During some between-songs banter, Salt started talking about how important it is to express yourself. She said:

“Don’t be afraid to express yourself. Because the real you is more fabulous than the fake anybody else.”

Thank you all again. Blogging here has been one of the most scarily liberating things I’ve ever done. I will miss this more than I can adequately express in 1,000 words. I know that this experience will help shape the next phase of my journey, because even if I don’t know where I’m going, I know now that I have the tools to get me there.

(Photo: This is from my friend’s bachelorette party in 2010. I don’t 100% know why I thought a pole dancing picture was an appropriate one for my last post aside from maybe the fact that I’m exhibiting a level of confidence in this picture that was lost to me before I started blogging for Stratejoy. So there you are.)


***Note from Katie:

Arielle – You have grown so much in the last 5 months.  I noticed a change in you within the first few weeks, but anxiously waited for the moment in which you could see them. While maybe your changes aren’t the same as everyone else’s, they’re yours, and now you can see them. Everyone is on their own journey, and girl, you have rocked yours!

You truly are an inspiration to so many women out there who are learning to love themselves. It’s been an honor to watch you flourish, and I cannot wait to see where you go from here. I’ll be holding you to Stratejoy Mondays. Expect reminder emails. 🙂

“20 years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”Mark Twain


How has your perspective shifted over the past five months? How have you grown?  I wasn’t convinced I had it in me to reach my goals.  I had a tough winter before coming on as a Stratejoy blogger, and I lost faith in myself and my abilities.  Five months later, the stuff that used to plague me doesn’t haunt me any more.

What do you wish you’d known before you started your QLC journey?  That it’s supposed to be challenging.  That this part of my life is difficult, and it doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong, or I’m an incapable person.  I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

What are you going to continue to work on after Season 6?  Living with less anxiety, less stress, less worry.  Remebering I am enough, just as I am.

What little things in life right now make your toes curl with happiness?  Big things?  My big thing: teaching BodyStep.  I love that job.  My only complaint about my group fitness career is I can’t do it enough.  I want to teach all the time.  Little thing: spontaneous dinners out with friends, my new Grind and Brew coffee maker, that bowl of ice cream I scoop out after I teach two classes in one day.

In the movie of your life, who would you want to play YOU?  Hmm….I’d have to go with myself.  There’s no one better to be me than me, right?

What goodies (books/music/travel/quotes/ideas…) have you found over the past few months that are helping your inspiration and creativity?  Getting out of town with our trip to Sedona gave me a break from the same-old, same-old, which left me more inspired and less burnt out.  I am definitely feeling more interested in taking vacations (mini breaks or bigger breaks), so get rid of that blah feeling.  I’ve also been reading Tara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance, and Kristin Neff’s Self Compassion, which have stopped me from going down that self-loathing path that is so destructive to creativity.

If you were able to start over and start blogging for Stratejoy right now, what would your “Goals” post look like? What do you hope to accomplish by the end of 2012? How is it the same/different from your “Goals” post from earlier this year?  Everything I initially set out to do, I did, in some way or another, so I would keep those goals the same.  Through the end of this year, I hope to continue growing as a group fitness instructor, challenge myself as a writer and as a blogger, and keep those feelings of unworthiness at bay.

Name 5 things you absolutely positively could not live without.  Group fitness, blogging, coffee, iPhone, and the Internet.

Who are your top 3 celebrity crushes of the moment?  Hmmm…Okay, so I am not really into celebrities that much.  I’m that person who hasn’t heard of X, Y, or Z when Emmy and Oscar time rolls around.  But!  I recently watched the HBO show, Girls, (late to the game on this – this show has been out for a while), and I think Lena Dunham is a riot.  Not only that, but she also stars, directs, and produces the show.  And she also created it.  I just think that’s pretty cool.  Hmm…I also love The Today Show, so I’d have to go with Natalie Morales and Matt Laurer.

If you had to dedicate your life to one cause for your life, what would it be?  Why?  Inspiring people to live a healthy, active life through group fitness.  So many people tell me they want to get fit, they need to get fit, they feel unattractive, overweight, uninspired.  And they want to do something about it but don’t know how.  I see so many people try all these different workouts and diets, and nothing sticks.  They try to force themselves to be runners or cyclists or whatever.  When they could get fit and healthy doing something they love.  It just takes time to find that thing.  I find there are a lot of unhealthy thoughts about weight loss, and I’d like to change that, so everyone can live healthfully and happy, instead of being hungry and hating excercise.

What is one of your favorite memories?  My dad teaching me to ride a bike.  It’s so funny to me now because I love cycling – I even have special shoes that clip into the bike.  I am – quite literally – attached to my bike.  Yet, I swore I’d never learn because I was too scared.  I’m glad my Dad forced me to keep trying.  Thanks, Dad!

What’s your hidden talent?  I am a pro at backing in cars to parking spaces.  I only back in.  Never pull in front ways.  My Dad spent hours with me to hone this “talent,” and now I am an excellent parker.

What was the last book you read that made an impact on you, and what effect did it have?  I love Gretchen Rubin and her book, The Happiness Project.  I read this book a while ago, but it’s something I think about everyday, and I create happiness intentions each month.

What quote best represents you or motivates you in your current place in life?  I’ve always go back to the Serenity Prayer:  God, grant me the serenity to accept those things I cannot change, change those things I can, and wisdom to the know the difference.  This mantra has been part of my life for years and years, probably because it’s applicable throughout every stage of life.

What are three things that you are totally obsessed with right now?  Anything in the color orange, YouTube beauty gurus, and drug store makeup.

What is one thing you’d like to change about the world?  I don’t like when people are mean to each other.  Nice is best.  More nice.

If there is one gift you could give to a stranger, what would it be?  A favor.  I love helping people out.  I was talking with a bunch of my girlfriends the other day about how afraid we are to ask for help.  And not because we don’t want to seem weak, but because we don’t want to be pushy or put other people out.  But, in reality, I think people like helping other people.  I love helping others.  So, please, ask me for a favor.  I’ll help you out.

If super heroes are real (and they are), what super power would you have?  Endless energy would be good, so I can keep up with my two year old.

What do you see when you look into your own eyes?  Strength and a kind heart.

What songs are you loving right now? I know all the words to The Fresh Beat Band’s album, so I am very popular with the toddler set.  When I have a minute to listen to non-toddler tunes, I am usually listening to my group fitness playlist, so I can memorize the songs.  If I’m not listening to my group fitness stuff, I jump from country to top 40 with wild abandon.

What 3 lessons will you take with you from over the last 5 months?  1) Worry is not preventative; 2) I’m enough as I am; 3) I do not need to explain my boundaries.

What’s turning you on right now?  I’m looking forward to what’s next for me.  I’ve got more up my sleeve with group fitness, exciting stuff for my personal blog, and growing our family.  I love challenges, so I’m all jazzed up thinking about what’s next.


(I took this picture of the Grand Canyon while on my Sedona vacation.  Looking at this massive and awe-inspiring structure drummed up a lot of my feelings about faith, spirituality, life, and death.)

There’s something I think about a lot.  But I never want to talk about it outloud.  Something that sets my stomach churning in that I’m-about-to-vomit way.  My mind goes into hyperoverdrive.  I want to squeeze my eyes shut and pull myself into a ball and try not to move.

That thing?

That thing is death.

I just shuddered as I typed that.

Death.  Dying.  The deceased.

I don’t do well with death.

Maybe because I don’t have that much experience with death.  I’m one of those fortunate people who didn’t loose grandparents or other relatives or anyone else close to me until I was in my midtwenties.  I haven’t known sadness in that way.  And for that I am grateful.

And maybe I’m also wigged out because I’m a parent.  Of a young child.  A child that needs her mother for a long, long time to come.  And the thought of not being there for her?

That sets me into a panic attack.

If you’ve noticed anything about me while I’ve been a Season 6 blogger, it’s probably that I don’t do well with uncertainy.  I like things to be known.  What is known is far less intimidating and scary to me.  If I know something, well, then I know it.  I can prepare, think through the scenario, be at my best.

But the unknown?

There’s nothing I can do about that.

And that makes me uncomfortable.

To me, death is the ultimate unknown.  What happens?  Why?  How?

And while there are faiths and religions and ways of thinking that get at these questions, no one can say for sure.

That’s my other death hang up.  I don’t claim any sort of religion or faith as my own.  Probably because, to me, religion feels uncertain.  Intangible, if you will.  A believe-without-seeing thing that I don’t do well or willingly.

But I’m finding myself wanting some answers.  Something.  Anything that I can hold onto when I’m riding those waves of uncertainty.  Because while I plan and strategize and try to put my movements into neatly written boxes in my planner, I’m not in total control over what happens to me.

In a way, that feels kind of freeing.  If I am not in control of every little thing in my life, that frees me up.  Since the world is not relying on me to hold it up and carry all the worries to prevent bad things from happening, I can spend more time affecting change on what I can control.

I do this thing where I believe that if I worry just enough, nothing bad will happen.  It’s magical thinking.  And it doesn’t work.  So I can’t worry just enough about death so it won’t befall me or anyone I know.  It just makes me crazy.

So what can I do?

I’ve been reading some literature about mindfulness and radical acceptance.  Learning about Buddhism.  And thinking about how accepting life (and death) just as it is (messy, exciting, unknown) could be the path to freedom.

It’s interview week here at Stratejoy! Here is everything you never knew you wanted to know about me.

How has your perspective shifted over the past five months? How have you grown?
I think I’ve grown into a more confident person because I’ve really tried to take the unofficial Stratejoy mantra of “I am enough” to heart. I’m no longer imprisoned by this feeling that I have to wait until I’m thinner/richer/whatever-er to truly start living my life.

What do you wish you’d known before you started your QLC journey?
I wish I had known it was coming! I’m usually so even-keeled and un-emotional that I felt completely blindsided by this period of time where I felt like all I was doing was crying 24/7.

What little things in life right now make your toes curl with happiness?  Big things?
Little things
: the delicious cherries that my mom sent me home from New Jersey with, rediscovering a pair of funky earrings from years ago, finally rocking that fedora in public, getting pumped for a Barenaked Ladies/Blues Traveler concert next month.
Big things: one of my best friend’s upcoming bachelorette party (and later, her wedding), my super relaxing trip to Martha’s Vineyard this past week, and the fact that after a mostly silent summer, I’m finally starting to get some responses to my job applications again.

In the movie of your life, who would you want to play YOU?
I’d want someone who has a girl-next-door kind of look as opposed to a candidate for Maxim’s Hot 100. Someone like Drew Barrymore.

What goodies (books/music/travel/quotes/ideas…) have you found over the past few months that are helping your inspiration and creativity?
I address some of this in later questions, but I wanted to give a special shout to my girl Cassie. Cassie and I have struggled with some of the same issues and we’ve had some chats about them (that have been too few and far between!). She’s come so far since we started blogging and has such a great attitude about herself and the world around her that I both envy and am inspired by her.

If you were able to start over and start blogging for Stratejoy right now, what would your “Goals” post look like? What do you hope to accomplish by the end of 2012? How is it the same/different from your “Goals” post from earlier this year?
First off, I want to apologize to my fellow bloggers because I wrote this question and it’s like 600 questions rolled into one. Oops. A lot of my goals from 5 months ago still stand. They were:

– Volunteer twice a month. I’ve been doing that and definitely want to continue.

– Be more proactive about my love life. I’ve made minimal improvements here by going on one scary date and joining another online dating site. But I need to stop pre-judging all the guys and actually go out with some.

– Develop healthier habits. I am totally kicking ass at this – working out more and eating better, but still allowing myself to indulge. I am very happy with the admittedly slow pace at which I’m getting in shape.

– Get a job. Uhhh yeah, still need one. Anyone in NYC looking for an awesome Operations/Project Manager? =)

– Learn the Single Ladies dance. I learned about 45 seconds and then lost interest because it is a REALLY hard dance to learn by trying to mirror Youtube videos.

– Go to one adult gymnastics class. EPIC FAIL. Gotta get on that.

To this list, I would also add: start writing personal essays that would go into my book if I were to hypothetically write one (life goal life goal!), and work on getting more freelance writing assignments. So in general, write more.

Name 5 things you absolutely positively could not live without.
1. Cold beer on a hot day
2. My Brooklyn Public Library card
3. Cheesy top 40 music
4. Hoodies
5. My journal

Who are your top 3 celebrity crushes of the moment?
Jon Hamm, Paul Rudd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And in case you were wondering, I would totally switch teams for Kendra Wilkinson, Nicole Scherzinger, or Christina Hendricks.

If you had to dedicate your life to one cause, what would it be? Why?
I would love to work for Planned Parenthood. I think they’re an organization with an amazing mission and I fully support all the services they offer to women. I believe that reproductive health is extremely important, as is a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body.

What is one of your favorite memories?
I turned 18 in October of my freshman year of college, right at the point in the semester when you stop obsessively trying to hang out with any and everyone and start figuring out who your actual friends are. I was pretty upset because I hadn’t yet solidified a group of friends and thought I might be celebrating alone. The morning of my birthday, I found a huge chalk drawing outside my dorm in my honor. I got tons of AIM messages (remember those?!?), phone calls and notes on my white board, and a big group of people surprised me in my dorm room with a cake. It was one of only two times I can remember crying because I was so happy (the other was the day I found out I got into Tufts. An hour later I was still so excited that I locked myself out of my car with the keys still in the ignition and the motor running).

What’s your hidden talent?
This is a pretty lame talent, but I’m really good at functioning on little to no sleep. I’m also great at making t-shirts for events using iron-on letters, I can do a perfect cartwheel, and I’m excellent at finding free stuff in New York.

What was the last book you read that made an impact on you, and what effect did it have?
I recently read The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – And How to Make the Most of Them Now, by Meg Jay. I would recommend it to anyone, male or female, going through a quarterlife crisis or other period of uncertainty. The driving point of this book is about not wasting away your twenties with an attitude of “Oh, I can just get started on my adult life in my thirties.” It’s about pursuing passion and fulfillment now, setting a jumping off point for the rest of your life.

What quote best represents you or motivates you in your current place in life?
I think the Linkin Park quote that I mentioned in my post about quitting therapy has been pretty representative of most my adult life: “I will never know myself until I do this on my own.”

What are three things that you are totally obsessed with right now?
At present, I’m devouring The Girl Who Played With Fire, absolutely adoring the MTV show Awkward (seriously, watch it), and getting so insanely excited to participate in The Color Run next month!

What is one thing you’d like to change about the world?
I’d get rid of the “Keeping up with the Joneses” attitude that so many people have (myself totally included). We spend so much time comparing and contrasting and judging that we lose focus on who we are at the core.

If there is one gift you could give to a stranger, what would it be?
I’d give a confidence boost to a stranger that needed one. All the self-exploration I’ve been doing over the last few months have made me realize that confidence is a huge component of finding happiness in nearly every aspect of life.

If super heroes are real (and they are), what super power would you have?
Flying. Easy.

What do you see when you look into your own eyes?
I see a weird combination of blue and green with a zig-zag circle of yellow going through it (wait, was I not supposed to take that literally? Ha!).

What songs are you loving right now?
I’m pretty obsessed with Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals album, which I shamefully didn’t own until about a month ago. And I can’t forget my Shut Up and Be Happy playlist.

What 3 lessons will you take with you from over the last 5 months?
1. If you can cut negativity from your life, do it. No one is obligated to keep anyone or anything around if it doesn’t make them happy.
2. You are enough. If there are areas in your life in which you want to grow, by all means work on them. But don’t change yourself to fit anyone else’s standards.
3. Life is better when you make yourself vulnerable. There are more ups and downs, but it’s so much more fulfilling to put your true self out there for others to see.

We all have those places that, for one reason or another, positive or negative, mean a lot to us.

The 3 most significant places in my life are, without a doubt: New York, the town in New Jersey where I grew up, and Boston.

Boston is an extremely polarizing place for me.

I first experienced Boston as a college student. I cannot imagine a school better suited to me than my alma mater, Tufts University.

I graduated and moved to New York, but spent three years making regular trips back to Boston. First it was just to visit friends, and then later it was because I was dating someone who lived there. While I wouldn’t have traded my life in New York for anything, I loved these weekend excursions.

In 2008, I moved back to Boston for business school. I moved a month before classes started, so I spent this free time wandering the city and lamenting the fact that everything reminded me of the boyfriend I was newly broken up with.

A few months later, our breakup went from good to trying-not-to-cry-in-the-middle-of-class bad. I was miserable. Constantly.

Shortly after that I almost got kicked out of school for writing an unfavorable (yet truthful) blog post about something that happened in my program.

And that was just my first year.

By the time I graduated in 2010, I was OVER IT. Though I loved business school, Boston had become associated with too many painful memories and I needed a separation. I came back to New York, swearing that if I never returned to Boston again it would be too soon.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since then.

I was never once tempted to go back, choosing to harbor my resentment from afar. It isn’t even a quiet bitterness – anytime anyone mentions Boston, I can’t help but go on a rant about how much I hate it.

By the time this post goes up, I’ll be in Martha’s Vineyard, a cute little island off of Massachusetts. As I planned how I would get there, I realized that instead of going straight up from New York, it made so much more sense for me to go to Boston first for a few days.

I put out some feelers to see who would be around, found a couch to crash on and booked a bus. It was official. I was going back to Boston. Ack.

As I started scheduling my weekend, I realized something: I was excited. Overjoyed, in fact. I’m writing this post and a few days from now I will be back in Boston and I CANNOT WAIT.

This is kind of not the reaction I expected. I thought that if I ever went back, I’d have this blasé attitude of “FIIIINE I’ll go but only because you’re making me.” But I have a list of places I want to go, restaurants I want to eat at and people I want to see and I am so insanely pumped that I’m almost shaking and I kind of just want to get there and skip up and down Newbury Street while showering the ground with daisies.


For good or for bad, I can’t deny that Boston is a huge part of me. The 6 years I spent there helped shape who I am today, and I will never be able to even think about going there without becoming emotional.

It may not make a lot of sense, but there’s a feeling of comfort that comes with the thought of a familiar place, even if the memories affiliated with that place aren’t always happy. I still know Boston really well, so the excitement I feel about going there isn’t the feeling I get before visiting a new city. It’s like I’m going to see a good friend I haven’t spoken to in a while; I know we’ll pick up right where we left off.

Maybe it’s the passage of time that makes me feel more sentimental towards Boston than I ever thought possible. All the stuff that bothered me – the breakup, the scary disciplinary hearing, the blood, sweat and tears that went into my MBA – has long since ceased to upset me. And what’s left is a city that gave me some amazing things – like some of my closest friends and two degrees, to name a few.

I’m happy that this trip got sort-of-accidentally planned, because otherwise I have no idea when I’d go back. And if I never went back, I don’t think I ever would have realized how much stronger I am now.

Because of Boston, I know I can bounce back from heartbreak. I can defend myself in front of a room of people who clearly despise me. I can make ends meet by taking on a full-time catering job while also being a full-time student. I can completely forget what I’m supposed to say during a presentation and somehow recover despite a full 30 seconds of clueless silence. I can, I can, I can.

It’s fitting that this Boston trip comes toward the end of my Stratejoy journey. Thinking about the fact that I’ve spent so much time and energy outwardly hating Boston yet coming around to be excited about visiting makes me realize that I may one day feel similarly about my quarterlife crisis. I’ll look back and think, “Sure, that period of joblessness and confidencelessness (take that, dictionary) got me down, but it never knocked me out.

It took me a few weeks to realize the good that not drinking for a month did for me, and it took me two years to realize the good that all those lows I hit during my time in Boston did for me, Similarly, I know one day I’ll be able to reflect on my QLC and think about how it changed me for the better. And just like Boston is right up there on my list of significant places, I’ll think of this last year or so as one of the more formative periods in my life. Because our lives are shaped not just by the good, but by the bad. We need a few shitty experiences in order to grow, and we need the memories of those shitty experiences to see how we’ve grown.

So in a few days, I’ll head back to Boston. I’m not sure how I’ll react, honestly. Maybe I’ll get creeped out by how familiar everything is and how it feels like I never left. Maybe I’ll yell, “OH GOD I AM SO OLD” when standing in front of my old sorority house. Maybe I’ll walk around where I went to business school and feel like punching something. I really think it’ll be a positive experience, though. Because no matter what, Boston is a part of me. And that part of me, despite everything, made me better.

Photo: One of many awesome nights in Boston

We talk about self-love quite a bit ‘round these parts. My last few months here at Stratejoy have been rife with trying out new rituals for being more present in my life, sitting in cafes working on the Fierce Love course, and commenting on my wonderful fellow bloggers’ posts telling them how absolutely IN AWE I AM of their newfound self-love.

If you had asked me earlier what I expected to get out of all this exploration, I probably would have said, “Confidence? Being a little nicer to myself? Uhh…some other stuff, maybe?”

What I never realized is how much a few months dedicated to self-love could really result in a huge bump in my other-people-love. Struggling to embrace my own flaws has made me so much more cognizant of all the negative projecting and [insert other psychology term here]ing that I’ve been doing with regard to everyone else.

Learning to be a little bit kinder to myself has made me see just how unkind I’ve been to others – not to their faces, necessarily, but in my own head. I have a tendency to assign motivations without knowing the full story and otherwise just think the worst.

I’m not even referring to silly situations, like silently judging the woman walking down the street for wearing some kind of hideous/tacky/revealing outfit (I still do this, but I’m trying reallllly hard to stop). But even when it comes to my own friends, I’ll think, “This person just wants attention,” or, “That person doesn’t care about anyone but herself.”

No one can look objectively into his or her own life and I’m certainly no exception, but I have a strong feeling that all the ugly motivations I’m attributing to others are manifestations of my own insecurities. Maybe I’m just jealous that someone is getting more attention than I am, or maybe someone wrote that Facebook post because they’re happy, not because they’re trying to boast and shove something in everyone else’s faces.

When Sarah wrote her post about radical acceptance, she mentioned how we’re often so much harsher with ourselves than we are with others.  And it’s completely true. I often beat myself up over the fact that I’m going on 7 months of being unemployed, despite the fact that I’m trying REALLY FUCKING HARD to get a job. But if I saw a friend down in the dumps over the same thing? I would be as reassuring as possible, reminding her that the job market sucks and it’s not a function of her inadequacy.

It’s so strange, then, that I can have so much compassion for my close friends in some circumstances, but lack that same compassion in others.

But this is all changing, slowly but surely.

The process of accepting my flaws hasn’t so much made me accept the flaws in others as it has made me realize that sometimes those flaws don’t even exist. Opening myself up to that vulnerability thing I keep talking about and embracing who I am, imperfections and all, has made me be more open towards others as well.

And you know what? People have surprised me. Not in a way that means they were acting out of character, but in a way that made me realize that the people I know and love have kind of always been even more awesome than I thought they were.

Like when I assumed one friend wouldn’t be receptive to listening to me vent about a problem I was having. But instead, she was not only supportive, but insanely helpful. And afterwards I wondered why I ever doubted her in the first place.

There have been countless examples like this over the last few months.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons over my time blogging for Stratejoy (which you’ll hear about in a few short weeks because our time here is almost over and NO PLEASE DO NOT MAKE IT END ACK CUE PANIC FREAKOUT SADNESS), but this has definitely been one of the best. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the interplay between self-love and love for others, seeing as, you know, we interact with others throughout most of our daily lives, but somehow it caught me off guard.

I always expected – or at least hoped – that I would come away from this time in my life with a new appreciation for the things that make me ME. You know, like the weird way I eat Lucky Charms or the fact that I sometimes like to listen to the Jock Jams Megamix while working out (remember that, 1995?). But I’ve also gained a new appreciation for others, because I’ve been able to see that if I withhold my judgments, especially the pre-judgments, people can be so much more amazing than I thought they were.

So from now on, I’m going to focus on looking at others as I want them to look at me – free of judgment, open to whatever awesomeness they have to offer the world.

The self-love has kind of turned into everyone-love. And I’m totally infatuated.


Photo credit: kk+


I loved school.  It was so easy to know I did the best.  Either I got an A, or I didn’t.  Either I set the curve, or I didn’t.  Either I did well, or I didn’t.

As a gold-star lover, school fed my desire for outside reassurance.  If I worked hard and dedicated myself to my studies, I earned that A.  Not only that, but I earned my teacher’s respect and gold star, something I clung to and used to bouy my self esteem.

I was addicted to good grades.

Every B felt like a kick in the stomach, knocking all the air out of my lungs.  A B?  Bs are so…average.  Bs mean satisfactory.  I never wanted to be satisfactory.  Where’s the accomplishment in that?

I remember my complete and total meltdown after my freshman year of high school when one solitary B+ marred my perfect A record.  I went into a funk, lying on the floor of my bedroom, listening to Matchbox 20 blare out of my stereo speakers, wondering where I went oh, so, wrong in World Civilizations 1 that resulted in a B+.

Another time I was so hellbent on showing my teacher how much I learned that instead of answering the question as posed on my history final, I proceeded to write an essay explaining and analyzing everything from that year in minute detail.  When I finished scribbling page after page of wisdom, I reveled in my academic prowess.  So when all I got back on that paper was the dreaded SEE ME, I just about died.

Why didn’t you just answer the question? my teacher – my favorite teacher – asked me.

Why?  Why did I go above and beyond?  HAVE YOU MET ME?

I don’t just do anything.  I do it big and crazy and above average.

Of all my high school memories, those two incidents stand out more than awkward dances and pointless fights with friends over stupid stuff.  And that makes me sad.

I don’t have many memories of fun, teenager times of sillness.  Because I spent all my time trying to be the best.  And it cost me nothing but heartache.

In some ways, as a toddler-mom, I feel I’m getting the chance to re-do that child part of myself that got lost in seeking As and perfection.  My boss, a three-foot-tall, animal cracker eating tyrant, doesn’t give out many sparkling reviews.  And she gives me no time to make anything perfect.  She only gives me 10 seconds to figure out what I’m going to do and act accordingly.  I make mistakes often, and I make up everything as I go along.

And we also just have fun.  Fun without an agenda.  We do stuff for the heck of it.  Not because it’s in a parenting handbook or approved by the Academy of Pediatrics.  Just about nothing in my day turns out perfectly.

I struggled as a mother when Kate was a newborn because I kept searching for someone to give me that A at the end of the day.  To prove I was the best parent.  But in parenting, there are no As.  And, really, just keeping that kid alive and living to see another day is as close to 100% as one can get.

It’s tough for me to let go of those gold stars.  Perfection.  Striving for 100%.  Staying as above average as possible.  But what’s average, anyway?  And what’s wrong with doing just enough?  Just good enough could be just perfect.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen a lot of bloggers write mantras, manifestos, and anything else that essentially describes who they are and what kind of lives they want to lead. I’ve always been tempted to write one but never knew quite how to start. Despite the fact that writing is really the only form of expression I have, the task of summing up ME has always been daunting.

Every so often I go back and reread this one particular Joy Juice journal entry (yup, I’m talking Joy Juice again, this journal is a wealth of introspective goodness!) that I wrote earlier this year before I started blogging for Stratejoy. It’s an entry from the month on Freedom, which has been one of my favorite topics to explore thus far. In rereading this entry recently, I realized that while I didn’t intend it as such, it definitely serves as a manifesto of sorts.

I was a bit put off when I reread it for the first time, which was about a month after I initially wrote it. This entry is so indulgent and makes no mention of how I want to live my life in relation to others; It doesn’t talk about being a good friend or a good daughter or a good worker. In a way, however, I’m glad I went the selfish route with it. The whole point of this crazy exercise is to focus on me, and I need to take care of my own happiness before I can take care of anyone else’s.

I’m posting what I wrote here not only because I wanted to share what freedom looks like to me, but to remind myself of these things that I hold to be so important. Even though I’m the one who wrote this, I realize that I’m not always great at upholding my own values and rules, and I can never have too many refreshers. So here goes.

The prompt was:

What are the personal rights I want to honor in my life? What do I know I deserve as a lovable, unique woman in this world?

My entry, edited only occasionally to make my stream-of-consciousness grammar less atrocious:

I am committed to the freedom of expression – to speak my mind even if my opinions may be unpopular, and to stand up for myself. Timidity has no place here.

I will live without judgment by others. Anyone who feels the need to look down on me does not need to be in my life. On that note – I have the freedom to surround myself by people who make me better – and ONLY those people.

I have the freedom to occasionally decide to be lazy – to spend a rare day doing absolutely nothing productive, just because I feel like it, just because I want to recharge my batteries.

I am free to do things that are silly – to wear costumes, to get excited about nerdy things like Harry Potter Festathon, and to embrace and hold onto my youth for as long as I can. Because once it’s gone, I will never have it back.

I will never apologize for who I am at my core – only for not being the absolute best version of myself.

I have the freedom to indulge – to decide that I want a beer or a cupcake without needing to feel like I “deserve” them.

Freedom to me is the right to have unabashed love for Lady Gaga, young adult dystopian novels, and reality TV. To not have to want marriage and kids just because I’m “supposed” to. To not be ashamed of acknowledging that drunkenly kissing strangers is REALLY FUN. To ask for what I want. To control my life instead of letting it control me. To always learn, always explore, always be curious. To sleep in, indulge in drunk brunch, and to continue my quest for the best burger in NYC. To fill my life with things I love and am passionate about, to pursue my interests, and to start putting myself first more often. To look out for #1 with regards to pleasure, emotional stability and overall life satisfaction. To never settle for anything that doesn’t make me ridiculously, obscenely, blithely happy.

Photo credit: tim geers


How do you be a mom while also being someone’s daughter?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, as Kate just turned twoMy grandma needs mothering and is no longer able to be a mother or a grandmother.  I’m growing older and so are my parents.

My parents are part of that sandwich generation, that set of people who are parents to their parents and still the parents of of their young adult/grown children.  Where does that leave them?  Caretaking and caregiving.  And also grandparents.  A weird mashup of generations.

Where does that leave me in our family dynamic?

In some ways, I’m still in need of mothering.  I don’t always know what to do about toddlers running a fever or what to do when my garbage disposal won’t run or choosing matte or eggshell finish for my walls or finding myself in a relationship dilemma only a mother can help me through.

But I’m also a mother.  I tend to the boo-boos and make daily parenting decisions and do all those adult things like pay bills and call the insurance company.

And what about my mother?  Who takes care of her?

As a child and a teenager, my relationship with my mom was mostly one-sided.  I needed her for emotional support and guidance.  She provided.  She didn’t share her struggles, her challenges.  As her child, I probably couldn’t have understood or maybe it would have been too much of a heavy burden.

But now I’m an adult, her adult child.  And our relationship has changed and needs to change.  I can take it now, the heavy stuff.  And she needs to share.

We had a conversation recently about communication, as adult child to parent, how sometimes I need her to check in with me and sometimes I need her to let me be.  And how she needs to share with me how she feels frustrated dealing with an aging parent, challenging issues at work, how she and my dad plan to go about retirement.

Part of me feels itchy and uncomfortable, seeing my mom as a person with her own struggles and challenges.  Part of me only wants to view her and my Dad as Parents.  Those People Who Know Everything.  Seeing her as someone apart from my mother is a strange realization.

It feels a little scary.  When I’m in a scrape, I always think my mom will know what to do.  But seeing her as a fellow woman and mother and wife makes me wonder what if she doesn’t?  What then?  Who will offer me advice and tell me everything’s going to work out?

But over this past year, as I’ve found myself more comfortable with motherhood and settled into accepting that the dementia taking over my grandmother’s mind isn’t going to change, I’ve morphed from my parent’s child to a companion down the road of life challenges.  When I was a child, we couldn’t really be friends.  But now, as adults, we are confidants, partners and allies in support of each other.

My Mom might not always have the magic words for me.  And I won’t always know how to help her.  But we can be there for each other.  Support each other.  And no matter what, she’ll always be my mom.

Negative triggers, I’ve got them a plenty.

A toddler temper tantrum.  Argument with Dan.  Family trama drama.  Issue with a friend.  Northern Virginia traffic.  Endless loads of laundry.

These things set me on edge.  And when a couple of them collide, well, I’m a gonner.

So I’ve got a bunch of negative triggers, things that make me burn up with frustration.  Things that make me SO PISSED OFF I want to scream and yell and punch someone in the throat.

Recently I’ve felt completely bowled over with these negative triggers.  And I let myself get swept away along the angry river of annoyance.  I got all caught up in the negativity.

Living in negativity is gross.  It makes me feel all icky.

But getting out from under that cloud of negativity isn’t easy for me.  Especially with challenging issues with toddlers and family members and friends and money and this and that don’t stop their assault just because I’m feeling weighed down.

So I’ve been thinking lately, what’s a girl to do?  I clearly can’t go on like this lest I drown under the sea of my own suffering.  Since I like to keep things sunny side up, I decided to work to find positive triggers to help assuage those negative triggers.  Here’s some things that work for me:

Work it out.  You already know I’m crazy in love with group fitness.  And I also love cycling and walking.  And most anything else that gets me moving and grooving.  I’ve never said, gosh, I regreted that workout.  I always find my mood lighter, a little sparkly-er, and a lot whole less angry.  Even if working out doesn’t solve anything, it takes me mind off of the current state of affairs and often gives me a fresh perspective.

Talk it out.  Especially when I want to avoid talking about my issues is when I know I need to talk.  Sometimes it helps me to just vent it out.  Pro tip: if you want to vent to your spouse/support person (and that spouse/support person is a man/engineer/problem solver person), I suggest warning that person that you just want to talk and aren’t looking for a solution.  Talking makes my problem worse when Dan (or my mom) try to solve things when I just want them to let me whine and complain for a few minutes.  I also tell Dan (or my mom) to let me fuss about it only a certain amount of time.  There seems to be a magic number of minutes I can complain for before I feel worse.  But when I let it all out (for an appropriate amount of time), I feel a heck of a lot better.

Make something.  When I’m under my shroud of negativity, I find it best to step away from the computer and the land of blogs and the ye old comparison game.  It’s so tough to step away because when I’m in a negative mood, I feel like a slug.  It takes every ounce of energy I can muster to step back and do something with my hands.  Sometimes I bake.  Sometimes I make a scrapbook or art journal layout.  Or maybe I’ll paint my nails.  Or string a necklace.  Something that’s active but not overly stimulating.  Just challenging enough to keep my mind occupied.

Find some peace.  Sometimes my angst lies in how loud my world can feel.  Barking dogs, whining toddlers, my phone beeping in email and text messages.  It can seem like I’m drowning noise.  Noise only fuels my bad mood and makes those negative triggers seem more awful than they are.  So I seek out quiet moments.  After I put Kate down to nap, I sneak away and cuddle up with a book and drink some tea.  Or sometimes I sit on my back deck and just sit in silence.  Sometime I pull out my yoga mat and do a couple downward dogs or crow poses.  Anything that feels still is incredibly soothing.

It’s tough for me to take a break from thinking through the Issue of the Day and to back off the negativity train.  But when I take some time out, I always feel refreshed.  I know my troubles will still be there when I’m ready to return.  And I can come back to them with a lightier spirit.




I’m the mother of a two-year-old.

How’d that happen?

I feel like just yesterday I was crying at breastfeeding support group and wondering when I’d ever sleep again.

Hmm…I’m still wondering about that sleep thing.

I always wanted to be a mother.  No should-I or shouldn’t-I feelings.  But what I wasn’t prepared for was how emotionally frazzled I’d feel.

I tried taking everyone else’s advice before I learned to listen to my heartLost and found myself and lost again and re-found my identity.

Parenting challenged everything I thought I knew about myself, my beliefs, how I saw my every day life.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s been the most rewarding and frightening job I’ve ever held.

So tomorrow I am the mother of a two-year-old.  An opinated, boots-wearing-in-80-degree-weather, applesauce loving, dancing enthusiast two-year-old with the fierest giggle I’ve ever heard.

The other day as I watched Kate put together a puzzle and name all the animal pieces complete with sound effects, I wondered, what have I learned this year?

Everything.  And absolutely nothing.

Kids are tricky like that.

Okay, I’ve wised up in a couple ways.  Here’s what I’ve learned about myself, parenting, and life over the past 12 months:

1.  Messes are so not a big deal.  I let Kate do all sorts of stuff in the name of fun.  I never thought I’d be that kind of mother.  Let my child paint with pudding?  Why yes, why not?  We rip up magazines, paint and douse her creations with glitter.  She refuses to wear bibs, and I don’t fight it.  Sometimes I have to change her outfit after every meal.  And I don’t care.  And sometimes I let it go and don’t care that we trapse around town with blueberry guts and ketchup smeared shirts.  She’s a kid.

2. Go with the resistance.  She wants to wear long johns and boots.  And it’s 80 degrees?  Fine.  She wants to wear purple shorts and a sparkly red shirt?  Cool.  She wants to eat applesauce for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Great.  I let her wear pajamas to the park, watch The Fresh Beat Band two times in a row so I can go to the bathroom alone and shove something to eat down my throat, and let her help me put the laundry away even though it takes me twice as long.  I save my efforts for things that matter to me: holding my hand in the parking lot, getting in her carseat, saying “please” and “thank you.”  The other stuff just isn’t worth it.

3. Every day is a new day.  When I worked camp, I passed on this piece of advice to my fellow counselors.  Don’t hold a grudge against any kid.  No matter what they did the day before.  Treat each day as a new day.  Give them another chance.  And another.  And another.  Treat every day with them as a clean slate.

4. Take each day hour to hour (or minute to minute).  I’m a total planner.  My idea of a good time is sitting down with my paper planner and Google calendar/tasks and organizing my days with no room for any variations.  Toddlers barrel right through those neatly organized plans with a fistful of cheezey puffs and furry.  It’s okay to make plans.  But leave room for error.  And even more room to allow for all those unexpected things that are just part of being a member of this world.

As the mom of a two-year-old, I’ve learned not to take myself so seriously.  It can be fun to do the unexpected, be silly, and eat apple sauce for dinner.  Why not?


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.


As I adjusted the microphone on my head and snapped my tunebelt around my waist, my body started to shake with nervous energy.  My mind screamed at me.  I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this.

I’ve been preparing for this moment for weeks and weeks.  Months even.  I went into my BodyStep training strong, having memorized all the tracks and presented my heart out.  I got a five, the highest score possible.  My gym hired me on as a group fitness instructor.  I spent afternoons going over and over my choreography, watching the instructional DVD, checking my notes.

By all accounts, I had prepared to the fullest.

Yet my palms sweated, my knees knocked together, my heart thumped in my ears as I stared out at the 35 people waiting for me to present.

This was my first time on stage in front of an actual class.  My Step mentor and friend, Kim, invited me to team teach with her during her Saturday morning 8 a.m. class, a class I’ve been attending for years.  The final steps towards my certification requires team teaching and a video assessment, so Kim took me under her wing and suggested I teach half the class and she teach the other half in preparation.

It seemed like a good idea on Thursday.

But by Saturday morning, I almost panicked and ran off stage.

But as soon as I heard the music, my body started to move as if on autopilot.  I smiled through my nervousness and worked to stay present in the workout.  That was the toughest 55 minutes I’ve experiences in a long time.  During parts of the workout I felt exhilarated and strong.  And other parts I was pretty sure I was going to keel over.

After that first class, part of me felt proud for pushing past my fears and presenting the tracks with all the confidence I could muster for my very first time.

But that other part of me, that judgy part, felt I could have done better.  I didn’t have the straighest arm lines.  My jumps could have been better.  Sometimes I didn’t pre-cue fast enough.  At times my personality fell flat.

Even though I felt a rush for being on stage, part of me never wanted to do it again.  I decided I wasn’t the best.  So why bother?

But the following Tuesday, I had another chance to get back on stage when another instructor offered me the opportunity to teach again.  Again, part of me couldn’t wait.  And other other part of me wanted to run scared.  But my love for group fitness won out, and I told her I’d do it.

While I still felt some jitters in the pit of my stomach, that morning I felt more centered.  I remembered to take some deep breathes, remind myself this is just group fitness, not brain surgery, and I let my body lead me through.

My performance was 800x better than my first.  Not a little bit better.  A lot better.

And another instructor offered me a chance to practice again.

And that performance was 1000x better than the second time.

And soon I had another opportunity and another.  Each time better than the last.

Then one day I got a call from the group fitness manager asking me to fill in for another instructor.  In two hours.  And I had to do the entire class by myself.

I wanted to say no.  No, I couldn’t.  I’ve never taught a class all by myself.  Surely, I’m not the one to do this.  I’m still learning.  I’m not good enough.

But that stronger part of me knew I could do it, that this was my chance to show myself what I can do when pushed to my max.  So I agreed.

I did feel those nervous shakes.  I worried I would make a mistake.  But I chose to push those thoughts out of my mind and remember all the improvements I’ve made, how far I’ve come.

I delivered that class with all my heart.  Yes, I made a few choreography mistakes.  At times I felt myself start to fall flat.  But I dug as deep into my heart and pushed myself to the end.

Two years ago, I would have never thought I could be strong enough, determined enough, fit enough to lead a group fitness class.  At during my training, I doubted myself, wondered if I had what it takes, felt my confidence fall to an all-time low.

But after teaching that class – all by myself – I knew I had the confidence I needed all along.  It was in there, waiting for me to have the courage to let it out.


Have you heard? The Stratejoy Book Club has officially launched!

We’ll be holding our first LIVE chat discussion.  May 21st, 2012. Grab your girlfriends, some drinks, some snacks, and jam with Molly about this month’s book, MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche.

Find out about the book, the live chat discussion, and how to host an event or attend an event right over here on the page with all of the juicy details.

We had been seeing each other for a few months. He was smart and had really nice eyes.

I talked to him about everything: my family, my friends, stressing out over not having a job. I even told him my dreams (the ones I have when I’m asleep, not my lofty life goals because I still don’t know what those are WHAT UP QUARTERLIFE CRISIS). He was always empathetic. Sometimes he made me laugh.

But something didn’t feel quite right. I had a really good time every time I saw him, but then I would reflect on it afterward and realize that a piece was missing. It’s not supposed to be like this.

I always do my best thinking when I’m walking through the city. I knew the end was nigh when, on one of my recent walks, I found myself mentally composing a breakup email.

For nearly an hour I ran test sentences through my head. How much of it should be about me? How much of it should be about him? Should I go into a lengthy explanation? Should it be super brief?

When I got home from my errands, I wrote and sent the email. He tried to get me to reconsider, but I stuck to my instincts. After two back-and-forths, it was finished.

That’s how I ended things with my therapist.


Hey, I didn’t know you were in therapy,” said everyone reading this blog post.

“That’s because I never told you,” I reply to this imaginary and weird conversation.

I didn’t hide the fact that I was in therapy because I was embarrassed. I didn’t even hide it because I wanted to – in fact, I hated that no one knew about it, because it was so NOT a big deal that keeping it a secret felt silly. But I never felt comfortable just kind of dropping a “my therapist says…” in passing, and I’m pretty much always bad at making grand life announcements. So up until this moment, the only people who knew I was in therapy were me, my therapist and the woman who did my intake. But it’s over now, so I guess I can let the crazy out of the bag.

The first time I seriously thought about getting therapy was sometime in September. I did the research and then completely chickened out of making the necessary phone calls. After I lost my job and had an epic meltdown in December, I found the courage to start calling. I selected a program, went in for nearly a month of preliminary questions, and finally started seeing my therapist sometime in February.

I really liked therapy, actually. My therapist helped me hash out my feelings on different parts of my life, and validated that those feelings were legitimate. When he said to me, “Wow, some of those things would drive me to drink too,” it made me feel…good. Normal.

After awhile, though, I realized that it wasn’t enough. Having someone to talk to is wonderful but between two blogs and two journals, I’m pretty good at sorting through my thoughts on my own. The initial validation of my feelings was great too, but if the last 2 months at Stratejoy have taught me anything, it’s that I AM ENOUGH. And I extend this to mean that my feelings are enough. I don’t need anyone to tell me that it’s okay to go through what I’m going through. The fact that I have feelings in the first place is all the validation I ever need.

On top of this, I was booze-free for almost 2 weeks when I decided to quit therapy (I ended up starting No Alcohol May in the last week of Aprll), and in just that short time, my emotions really seemed to stabilize. It might be coincidental. Or it might not be.

Therapy was great, but it was great for reasons that never included “helping me with my problems.” And so I called it quits.

I hate quoting song lyrics because there’s something about it that reeks of emo teenagers with misspelled tattoos and poorly-lit Myspace pictures, but there’s a line from the Linkin Park song Somewhere I Belong that has stuck with me ever since I first heard it in 2003.

“I will never know myself until I do this on my own.”

This one simple line has been the mantra of my entire adult life. It might seem sad, but as someone who values her independence over pretty much everything else, I find it empowering. It means that I can always find it within myself to conquer the obstacles that lay in my path. I may lean on others or employ different tools to help at times (hello, Stratejoy and everyone here who has been so insanely wonderful), but in the end, if it’s my life, it’s ultimately my problem.

So I’ll proceed from here. I don’t have a therapist in my corner anymore, but the drastic upswing in the overall mood of my last few Stratejoy posts makes me realize that I’m doing just fine on my own. I may be outnumbered, but in the battle of Arielle vs. QLC, my money is on me.


Photo credit: My friend took this picture of me when we went camping last summer and I insisted on spending way too long trying to climb this not-very-high pillar.

Have you heard? The Stratejoy Book Club has officially launched!

We’ll be holding our first LIVE chat discussion.  May 21st, 2012. Grab your girlfriends, some drinks, some snacks, and jam with Molly about this month’s book, MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche.

Find out about the book, the live chat discussion, and how to host an event or attend an event right over here on the page with all of the juicy details.

Radical acceptance has a best friend.  And that best friend is self compassion.

While I’m all about my newfound appreciation for radical acceptance, I’m still finding it doesn’t quite get me in the frame of mind I need to be in to accomplish my goals and feel good about myself.

This is how I think:

Ugh, Kate won’t stop fussing.

I’m getting annoyed.

It’s only 8:45 a.m.

Today is not going well.

I don’t like today.

Today makes me want to rip all my hair out and scream so loud the people in the next town hear me.

She’s still fussing.

I’m getting beyond frustrated.

Why isn’t today going right?

Wait, wasn’t yesterday kind of like this, too?

I think it was.

And now today seems worse that yesterday.

So every day is getting worse?


Everyday is worse than the day before!

It’s because I’m the world’s most terrible and horrible mother.

That has to be why.

Not only that, but I’m a terrible person, too.

I never accomplish anything worthwhile.


That book I want to write?  That didn’t happen yesterday.  I should have written an entire book during Kate’s nap time.

But instead I went through Google Reader, cleaned up the chicken nugget debris off Kate’s high chair, and thought about replying to emails.

That proves it.  I never accomplish anything.

I am a worthless person.

And there you have it: The Sarah Dispair Cycle.

If I don’t accomplish a certain number of things I decided are worthwhile, then, therefore, I am worthless.  As one could imagine, my list of approved accomplishments are far and away more than any person could accomplish in one day.  Especially a person who cares for a toddler 12 hours a day.  And accomplishing anything with a toddler is akin to trying to operate a motor vehicle while blindfolded and one arm tied behind your back while Elmo’s World plays at peak volume.

So why am I so hard on myself’?

I think it’s because that’s all I know.

When I was a student, being hard on myself served me real well.  It made me motivated, encouraged me to do better and be better.  Set the curve.  Collect those As.  I told myself you can do better and I could because it was between me and my textbook.  That’s it.

Now, there’s miles and miles of life stuff between me and what I want to do.  There’s the toddler and the husband and the dog and the 1958 rambler.  It’s not just me.  Life’s much more complicated and messy.  My time is not my own.

But even though Logical Sarah knows this, that working within the confines of my current life stage doesn’t allow me to write a poignent memoir in a day, Emotional Sarah comes swooping in with the judgements.

Oh, how Emotional Sarah can beat herself up.  You didn’t use your time effectively today.  What’s that, you needed a mental health break after playing at the park for three hours?  Pshhh!  Please.  You don’t deserve a break.  Every minute you aren’t spending with Kate, you must devote to your writing/making something from Pinterest/all that email.  And if you don’t do it all?  Well, then you’d better be ready to accept a big fat zero for today!

That’s kind of rough, huh?

But that’s how I think!  And it’s so wearing.  It doesn’t make me want to do better.  It makes me want to hide in my bedroom under the covers and hope Emotional Sarah can’t find me.

When I told this to my mom, she asked me if I would say those things to a friend of mine.  Would I tell a good friend of mine that she wasn’t doing enough?  That she wasn’t worthwhile because she didn’t accomplish a major life goal in a day?

Absolutely not.  I’d tell my friend she’s doing the best she can.  That not everyday can be filled with major accomplishments.

And I do tell my friends just that.  Seeing as I am the Type-A type, I’ve got heaps of Type-A friends who are also judging themselves by their To Accomplish lists.  I tell them all the time: be gentle with yourself.

So maybe it’s about time I turn that self compassion inwards.

Maybe it’s time I work on some fierce love.

If being mean to myself hasn’t made me feel like a more accomplished woman, then maybe it’s not the answer.  But being kind and loving towards myself?  I think that could be just the ticket.


Have you heard? The Stratejoy Book Club has officially launched!

We’ll be holding our first LIVE chat discussion.  May 21st, 2012. Grab your girlfriends, some drinks, some snacks, and jam with Molly about this month’s book, MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche.

Find out about the book, the live chat discussion, and how to host an event or attend an event right over here on the page with all of the juicy details.

October 24, 2007. My 24th birthday.

I was walking home from work when my cell phone rang. “Hi, I have a delivery for apartment 20. I’m downstairs in your building.”

A delivery? For me? HOORAY BIRTHDAY PRESENTS! I ran the remaining 2 blocks to my building, grabbed the massive, unwieldy package from the man’s arms, and hoofed it up my 5 flights of stairs.

I set the package down on the kitchen table. It was a huge basket from Edible Arrangements with tons of fruit shaped into flowers, resembling an actual bouquet. I hunted around for a card so I could figure out who sent this awesome present. I finally found it but I didn’t see any “From” field on it. I flipped it over – nothing on the other side either. I decided to just read the card and go from there.

My eyes scanned the words. And then again. And again. There were only 6 little words on this card but it took what seemed like hours to process what I was reading, for my brain to finally kick in. Yes, Arielle. It really does say what you think it says.

“Eat some fruit, you’re getting fat.”

That’s what the card said. The card on my BIRTHDAY PRESENT. I immediately knew which of my friends had sent it, and that this was his idea of a joke. I knew he didn’t mean to offend me, but, well, he had.

I ran to my room and cried into my pillow. At some point I cleaned myself up and went downtown to the birthday dinner I had planned with a few friends. I acted like nothing was wrong, too hurt to even think about retelling the story. I came home from dinner and continued crying until I fell asleep.


I still hate that story. I cringe thinking about how one of my closest friends thought he was making an innocent joke and instead ended up going for the jugular (we are no longer friends, though not because of this incident). It was like someone cut to the core of everything I’ve ever hated about myself and summed it up in the world’s most painful 6 word memoir.

I now live a few short blocks from an Edible Arrangements store in Brooklyn. I pass it on my way to the gym, and every time I see it I think of that birthday and how miserable that stupid fruit bouquet made me feel. I recently decided that in order to stop feeling hurt and rage every time I walked by, I needed to replace that terrible memory with a better one.

I went to the Edible Arrangements website to pick something out for myself. I wanted to buy the exact flower arrangement that I had received in 2007, but my friend had apparently shelled out way too much money in his quest to give me a hurtful birthday present, so I settled on something more affordable – a small box of truffles, tiny pieces of fruit that were half coated in chocolate.

Then came the hard part: writing the card. Lots of vengeful phrases came to mind, fighting words that I had never used against the friend who made me feel so awful.

Fuck you, asshole!

At least I’m not a miserable human being like you.

You’re probably going to die alone, douchebag.

For some reason this didn’t seem productive. I shouldn’t focus my energy on being bitter, I should focus on me, right? Suddenly, I knew what I had to do.


During week 1 of the Stratejoy Fierce Love course, there’s an assignment to write a love letter to yourself. After reading my love letter aloud to Molly, Katie and my fellow season 6 bloggers on a Google+ hangout a few weeks ago, Molly challenged me to read the letter every day for a few weeks.

Writing this card was the first real test of whether or not my attitude toward myself had changed since I started Fierce Love. Was I truly starting to love myself for who I was, or was I going to continue letting external negativity bring me down?

On April 24th, the day I turned 28 and a half, I walked into the Edible Arrangements store and picked up my truffles. I came home, ignored the fruit, and even though I had written it myself, went straight for the card. It contained a teeny excerpt from my love letter.

“You are amazing. You might still be waiting for a few of your doors to open, but I have no doubt that they will, eventually. You have so many wonderful, exciting things in store for you, and I can’t wait to be there with you, watching you kick ass. I love you. And don’t ever forget it.


The best part about this whole thing is that I really believe it. I still have insecurities and still need to work on my confidence, but I truly believe that I’ll get there. Because I am amazing, and I am going to start kicking ass one day soon.

Now, walking past the Edible Arrangements store just makes me smile.


Photo credit: QuinnDombrowski

Have you heard? The Stratejoy Book Club has officially launched!

We’ll be holding our first LIVE chat discussion.  May 21st, 2012. Grab your girlfriends, some drinks, some snacks, and jam with Molly about this month’s book, MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche.

Find out about the book, the live chat discussion, and how to host an event or attend an event right over here on the page with all of the juicy details.


 Me in London.  (Please note, I’m pregnant in this picture.  I did not in fact eat too many crumpets.)

















Me in Capri.



I do lots of stuff other people tell me they’d never do.

Start my own writing business.

Become a group fitness instructor.

Take on motherhood.

I lead a group of over 400 members for my local moms group.  Spill my guts here on Stratejoy and on my own blogGo to blog conferences alone, without knowing anyone, rooming by myself and have every bad thing I thought would happen to me, happen to me.

It’s true, I get nervous and anxious about those things.  But blinded by determination, I just hold my nose and jump in the deep end.

You would think I’m sort of adventurous.

But I’m not.

I’ll strap on a mic and lead a group of 25 people through a step class and go right up and introduce myself to moms I meet at the park without thinking twice.

But I won’t travel.

I’ve never been much of a traveler.  I prefer my own bed and my own house and my own coffee maker and my own routine.  As much as I like to change things up and take on new challenges in my life, I don’t like to mess up my schedule.

Dan loves to travel.

Since he travels for work on a regular basis, nothing about traveling phases Dan.  He’s an expert packer, moves through security like he’s preforming a graceful dance, rents cars and sleeps through the night easily in any hotel room.

Not me.

After Dan and I got married, he planned this elaborate honeymoon with stops in Capri, Rome, and the South of France.  I didn’t participate in any part of the planning.  I didn’t want to know about it because I knew it would freak me out.  So I laid out my stuff and let Dan pack it all away and tried not to think about it.

Once we got to Capri, I did a little better.  I took pictures, tried to relax, eventually was able to sleep even though the bed wasn’t anything like my bed at home.

But when we arrived in Rome, I wanted to go home.  We’d been gone a couple of days, and the spontaneity of travel wore on me.  I got tired of finding places to get a reliable dinner, sick of living out of a suitcase, craving my routine.

Since I knew I couldn’t just go home – and I really should enjoy the wonder that is Italy – I stuck it out and made it through the rest of the trip.  I absolutely enjoyed myself.  But there was a part of me that felt relieved to get home.

Dan’s tried to get me to accompany him on various business trips, get me to plan weekend get aways.  But I won’t do it.  The only other time he got me to go away was two years ago when he bribed me with an iPod Touch if I agreed to go to London and Paris with him.

What kind of a girl needs a bribe to take a fun trip with her husband?

Me.  Miss Routine.

Anyway, this lack of adventurous spirit is not good for me.  While I usually subscribe to the do what’s best for you and don’t force yourself mentality, I think this issue deserves an astrisk.  There’s a difference between a genuine feeling of concern and an unwillingness to go anywhere because you prefer your own coffee.

Travel feels scary spontaneous to me.  I’m don’t do stuff on a whim.  I prefer to know how things are going to go.  With travel, planes are delayed, hotel rooms get mixed up, and for someone who is directionally challenged, not know where I am, specifically, gets to me.

So while I can’t change who I am at my core, being more adventurous is on my list of Things To Do.  I want to get away because, really, my everyday mommy routine can border on the mundane.  Everyday is starting to look the same.  Like my own personal Groundhog’s Day.

The thing about travel that I do like is the feeling of freshness.  No matter how much I dreaded the trip, I always come back feeling renewed and inspired.  But since I won’t make travel part of life, I don’t get out enough, and those feel-good feelings wash away fast.

I promised Dan I’d help him plan a weekend get away.  Like, soon.  I don’t know the when or where.  But I do know why.  Every so often I need to get away from what I know, get a new perspective, change up my view so I can come back to my every day life with renewed zeal.

Have you heard? The Stratejoy Book Club has officially launched!

We’ll be holding our first LIVE chat discussion.  May 21st, 2012. Grab your girlfriends, some drinks, some snacks, and jam with Molly about this month’s book, MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche.

Find out about the book, the live chat discussion, and how to host an event or attend an event right over here on the page with all of the juicy details.

I never pictured myself the entreprenurial type.  The idea of striking out and doing anything on my own felt painfully uncomfortable.  I don’t know anything about running a business.  How could any take me seriously?

I’m a super rule follower.  That’s probably why I ended up with a government major and a government job.  The government provides tons of manuals and rules and requirements.  You don’t have to come up with anything yourself.  In fact, it would best if you didn’t.

But it turns out I wasn’t so well suited to cubicle work.

After Kate was born and Dan and I decided I’d stay home with her, I not-so-secretly found myself gleeful over getting to leave the workforce.  Not that motherhood doesn’t offer it’s own set of challenges.  Really, it should come with combat pay.  But motherhood wouldn’t require me to input data into spreadsheets that I didn’t understand or care about.

So I quit my job and made motherhood my full time job.  But that didn’t feel that great either.  I needed something else, something more to get back to my identity and the Sarah I knew before she was a wife and a mother.

In the height of the loneliness and identityless feelings, I looked back on all my previous jobs.  Did I want to go back to work full time?  Where?  Back to a job like all the other jobs I left?

When I thought back to my employment history, it read like a textbook case of a misplaced girl with a liberal arts BA and public policy Masters.  And nothing about those jobs said “Sarah.”  They only said “traditional path.”

Since I’m a rule follower, I assumed that traditional path was the only path.  The only right path.  There could be no other way.  You don’t just make your own way!  That would break about 565,598,716,894 rules in my Good Girl Playbook.

But I finally saw what all those jobs didn’t have in common.  Anything I loved doing.

It was all rote, paperworking stuff, Excel-filled, jammed printer trauma drama.  Nothing I did felt important or meaningful.  I’m pretty sure no one was interested in my thoughts and ideas.

Writing, sharing, storytelling.  That’s the stuff I love.  I started my blog because work crushed my soul.  So after I left the traditional work force, I wanted to more with my writing.

But I was scared.

I didn’t get a degree in writing.  Or blogging.  Or social media.  Or creative endeavors.

Who was I to call myself a writer?

But I knew I didn’t want to go back to anything I’ve done before.  So maybe it was time to do my own thing.

Coming up with something I loved to do while still being Kate’s mom presented a challenge.  I still wanted to stay home with her.  But I needed something outside motherhood that made me feel good about myself.

So I started toying with the idea of freelancing.  Freelancing is a tough road.  One just doesn’t decide to be a freelancer and sit back while publications vie for one’s writing.  It would require putting myself out there and selling myself, two things I don’t find particularly comfortable.

I almost quit when I realized I would need to write pitches and send them to editors.  Unsolicited.  And say I’m the best writer to take on that pitch.

Oftentimes I find myself falling back into these old constructs where I decide I can’t fully embrace this newer, stronger version of myself because that’s not how I’ve always seen myself.  I’ve fallen all over the less-than-confident spectrum throughout my life.  I’ve told myself, oh I could never do that, for no reason other than I just decided I could never be good enough.

Owning my talents and skills is not my best thing.  And telling other people about my skills and talents?  No, thanks.

But after becomming part of the Stratejoy community, I saw these other young women who admitted, yes, it’s scary to put yourself out there and do new things, but what they have to give is meaningful and valueable and so worth celebrating.

So I decided to take a risk and pursue freelancing with everything I had.  I made a website.  Contacted publications.  Pitched articles.

Sometimes I heard a thanks, but no thanks.  Sometimes the editors didn’t email me back at all.  But one time I got back a yes.  And that one yes was all I needed to start owning my new path.

My first article came out in Washington Parent Magazine this month.  Seeing my name in print just about blows my mind.

When people used to ask me what I did, I used to mumble and fumble around for words and say oh, I’m just a stay at home mom.  But now when people ask me about myself, I say with confidence, I’m a writer.  I blog.  I freelance.  And I’m a mom, too.

Setting up my own rule book?  Yeah, it feels pretty good.

“How did you do this?  How did you entertain me for hours on end and not got crazy?  I won’t be mad if you said sometimes hid in the bathroom.”

My mom’s laugh comes through the phone as I press speaker and redirect Kate’s crayon-filled hands from my walls to her Elmo coloring book.

“I don’t know, toddlers are tough,” she said.  “This is the time when you need to practice some radical acceptance.”

Radical acceptance.

She’s said that before.

And each time I’ve wanted to throw myself on the floor like my toddler and kick and scream because I don’t want to accept.

I want to change things.

I want motherhood to be easier so I can get things done.  I want more time to myself to think.  I want to ward off temper tantrums.  I want Kate to nap in the afternoon, so I can pursue things that are important to me.  I want some space.  I want her to eat her dinner instead of throwing it to the dog.  I want to come up with bunches of stuff for her to do instead of millions of boring trips to the same park.

But in this moment in my life, there are just things I can’t change.  I can’t change how long she naps or temper tantrums.  I can’t change the little time I get to myself.  I can’t change her age or my age or where we are in life right now.

So it seems the only thing to do is accept.

Acceptance is my achilles heel.  My arch nemisis.  For a girl like me who likes to change and do and be better, acceptance is not something I take to kindly.

Because acceptance feels like giving up.

Like if I accepted my life stage just how it is, that I would die inside from a lack of ambition.  All my gumption would dry up.  And then there’d be nothing left.

The thing I like most about myself also ends up making me an enemy of myself.  This insistance on doing more and being more keeps me motivated.  But it also drives me crazy when circumstances force me to slow down.

But railing against my life isn’t working.  I’m not a nice friend or parent or spouse.  I feel disjoined, irritable, unhappy for no particular reason.  Like there’s some invisible irritant poking and proding me until I can’t bear the weight of the frustration another moment.

So ruminating and fixating on how I want to change things isn’t working.  There has to be a better way.

And maybe that way is radical acceptance.

And maybe it’s not about giving up.

Maybe it’s about being okay with what is in this moment.

It’s not acquiescence.  Or a tacit agreement with myself to live in mediocrity because that’s easier.  But rather acknowledging those feelings of frustrations in my life and allowing myself to lean into the frustrations.  Instead of spending all my energy pummeling my frustrations until they bounce back in my face, I accept those feelings and let them wash over me.

I don’t have to like every moment of everyday.  But I also don’t have to spend every moment of everyday fighting myself.

In a way, radical acceptance is freedom.  I can’t be doing more or being more.  Because much of my day is out of my hands.  I acknowledge I feel thwarted.  But I don’t let that feeling carry me away.

I radically accept that I have a toddler who’s wishes and demands are unpredictable.

I radically accept that I might not get time for myself today.

I radically accept that my days don’t always go as planned.

I radically accept that the things I want to accomplish might take days or weeks or months.

I radically accept that this season of my life is a challenging one.

And I radically accept those sweet hugs and kisses from my toddler, any time together Dan and I have to be a couple instead of a couple of parents, and for all those times when I release the frustrations and set myself free.

Here, let me be completely honest.  This whole writing-about-my-true-feelings thing is frightening.  The only thing more frightening is admitting that I know what sex is.

With a friend I met while doing comedy in Chicago, we author a blog that is meant to be a collection of our views as female humorists.  It started out being based around life, sex, and dating, but all I really wrote about was comedy and good/bad hair days.  I used an Alias because not only is it cool, but no one would ever know it was me.  Silly me used my real last name but with my middle name as my first which fooled no one… So a week before our Stratejoy posts went live, I sucked up my fear and stopped using my Alias on our blog.

It’s time for me to be able to stand behind my words.  After all, they’re a representation of me!


My biggest worry was that my parents would read these things.  I honestly am afraid to write a collection of essays because then they’ll realize what a dirty mind I have.  They’ll know that I started writing Adult Fiction at one point because I was sexually frustrated and wanted to hone it into something creative.   It’s better than running off and having sex with the entire town, right?

Really, sexuality is one of those things that I feel was never completely covered in my education.  Even more so, all of the emotions that whirlwind around it! I have grown close to mine by writing through my feelings and identifying why I feel a certain way around a certain someone.  It allows me to make clear decisions and not act brashly.  No one will ever find peace by throwing themselves at someone to fill a void or to self-medicate.

Don’t think that I consider sexuality to be the devil’s work!  I have a friend that gets embarrassed any time I or any of our friends make dirty jokes.  He feels that its a part of his being to be looked down upon.  I’m not sure if he got this through parents or religion but… I mean, every aspect of ourselves should be embraced.  Embraced in a smart  and safe way- physically and emotionally.

I have been told that I have unrealistic expectations for my future husband, but I don’t wake up feeling used.  I haven’t had that scary moment when I see the little pink plus sign and then wonder which of my “partners” it belongs to.  I haven’t had that scary moment when I realize it belongs to the idiot I’ve been shacking up with for months because I was bored.  I have luckily never had to live through those moments because these are roads I chose not to take.  Though, it was a hard decision to make with an overactive libido shoving me around.  Having purposefully sat down and written out qualities of a man that I deem worthy of “my gift” (go ahead, call me old fashioned…) has made it very easy to walk away from less than savory opportunities during dry spells.  I feel complete and whole on my own and I’ve never regretted saying “No, Thank you.” to sex and “Here’s a cupcake. Now leave.”

There were a few months between when I graduated college and before I moved out to California for my internship where I worked a terrible call center job and directed a wonderfully talented cast in a sketch revue.  My days were pretty balanced with hate at work and immense love during rehearsals at night.  This was a weird time for me, also, because I was grieving over losing my step mother to pancreatic cancer therefore was super depressed gaining back all the 75 lbs I had lost the year before, couldn’t understand why my dream jobs weren’t hiring me, and my new best friends were bed bugs that I carried home from this shit call center I worked at.  Through all of this stress, this was also the time that not one, but three guys started trying to get with me.  I didn’t ask for it.  I didn’t flirt with any of them.  It came out of nowhere.

It would’ve been so easy to “get some”, but it’s just not what I wanted.  What I really wanted was to smack them all with my red, itchy bed bug bitten arms because I didn’t have time for their stupid game.  I guess metaphorically, I did smack them with rejection.  I was a very unhappy person during these few months but I am very proud of myself that given my extreme low, I didn’t give in to temptation that I wasn’t even tempted to in the first place.  It was also when I realized that I don’t have to settle with what stumbles in front of me.  There will be more.  There’s no need to be desperate!  I need to have and know what my standards are.  I am enough and I am worth more than one night stands.

Mark this date on your calendars, everyone.  Today is the day that I admitted to having dirty thoughts and sexual urges, wrote the word “Penis” knowing people would read it, and fully resigned to ever winning “The Most Innocent Adult Ever” Award.

(Mom and Dad, you should have seen this coming when you stored your dirty Valentine’s day card with all those love notes in my closet when I was 10.  I read them.  You guys are sick.  But I love you.)



One of the truly amazing things about life is that you never know when inspiration is going to smack you upside the head.

In early March, I received a Facebook message from someone I didn’t know. Lee Anne was a fellow Stratejoy tribe member and Brooklyn resident, and wanted to introduce herself when she saw that I was part of the next season of bloggers.

A few weeks later, she posted the following status: “Anyone up for this Mad Men viewing party at the Roosevelt tonight?”

As it turns out, I had been planning on going to that same party but my viewing buddy had taken ill (read: hangover) and was no longer able to make it. I told her I was down.

During one of the commercial breaks, as we were standing amidst a sea of dapper men, whiskey cocktails and candy cigarettes, Lee Anne asked me, “So, what do you do? I know you’re a writer, but what else do you do?”

I was flustered. “Oh…um. I’m not really a writer, outside of Stratejoy. I mean I like writing, but no one pays me to do it or anything.”**

She looked at me like I was stupid. “So? I’m an actor. I don’t get paid to do it every day, but it doesn’t mean I’m not one. It doesn’t matter if no one pays you, you’re still a writer.”

I was completely floored. I had never met this person before, and all she knew about me was whatever one could glean from two Stratejoy posts. But her words were powerful.

Ever since that conversation, bits and pieces from my memory will pop up at random as I go about my day.

Writing “books” when I was young and covering the front with clear tape to make them look fancy and laminated.

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of my very first blog post (March 18, 2002).

Journaling. ”This is what I did today” journaling to Joy Juice journaling to journaling as a method of escape during a rough patch I went through while studying abroad in Australia.

Finding joy even in writing insignificant “come with me to this random event!” emails to friends.

Taking a course this past fall called, “Career Changing In Your 20s and 30s,” and doing an exercise where we had to reflect about different stages of our lives, and at those times, what we wanted to be when we grew up. “Author” appeared in every stage up until adulthood.

My whole life was flashing before my eyes. Only I wasn’t dying, I was living.

When Lee Anne referred to me as a writer, something I’ve never thought to call myself, it resonated with me because I was just beginning to rediscover my love of writing. You see, despite the fact that I’ve churned out hundreds of blog posts and thousands of pages of academic papers over the years, the times I felt truly alive while writing were unfortunately few and far between.

Until, that is, I started writing for Stratejoy.

All of a sudden, because of how deeply I care about each of these posts, the effort I started putting in far surpassed my average. Even in just those first 2 posts, I put in so many hours of writing and rewriting and “holy shit, when did it become 2am?” situations.

I felt a mixed sense of relief, excitement and achievement when I had an idea about my 2nd post that turned it from my crap excuse for a first draft to what ended up here. I am insanely proud of that piece, not necessarily because it’s all that amazing, but because never before had I transformed my writing from something I hated to something that so accurately reflected what I wanted it to be. It was the most gratifying, fulfilling experience I’ve had in a long time.

Writing has been staring me in the face since I was old enough to string words together, and it seems ludicrous that it took some innocuous words from a near-stranger to bring me this moment of clarity like DUH OBVIOUSLY I WANT TO WRITE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE AND PROBABLY EVEN IN THE AFTERLIFE AS LONG AS THERE ARE LAPTOPS IN HEAVEN (or wherever I’m going to end up, which is up for debate).

Only now comes the hard part: the questions laced with doubt.

Am I good enough?

How do I get started?

What would I even write?

I could never make a career out of writing, could I?

Does anyone care about what I have to say?

Perhaps the most pressing question of all is, “What about life after Stratejoy?” When I no longer have quarterlife crisis blogging to keep me happy, how do I keep my passion alive without reverting back to mindless blog posts about my weekends?

When the well of inspiration runs dry, how do I find a new well?

As long as I figure out how to answer this last question, I know I can be happy. Sure, I would love to get paid for my writing – to have the kind of job where I’m consumed not with corporate jargon but with the best way to phrase a sentence. But I accept that if this isn’t in the cards for me, as long as I can foray the “YES” feeling I get when I write Stratejoy posts into something else, I’ll be okay.

All I need to do now is figure out where to go from here.


** In college I actually made $300 by successfully submitting a story to Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV. It’s so cheesy that I am fully and completely embarrassed by it.

(Photo credit: CC Chapman)












My Grandma, me, and Kate at three months.














My sister, Megan, Kate at twelve months, and my Grandma.

For the third time that evening she asked me where I live.

You know where I live, Grandma.  Same place I’ve lived for a long time now.  With Dan and Kate.  The house with the black shutters?  Remember how my daffodils are coming up?  We talked about that.

My family moved to Virginia the summer before my 8th grade year.  We picked a house five minutes down the road from my Grandma.  She’d been a widower for a while by then, still living in a house much too big for one person.  But she kept herself busy, worked a couple of hours a week.

Middle school was a rough time for me.  I was the new girl with a mouth full of braces and curvier than my narrow-hipped friends.  And my parents and I got into it with the usual teenage angst stuff that ended with me slamming my door and it coming off the hinges as punishment.

But I had an ally.

My Grandma Rosemary, my mom’s mom, and for whom I get the Rosemary in Sarah Rosemary, became my confidant.

I’d call her up when my mom refused to buy me the latest and greatest jeans, and she’d drive on over in her white Subaru and take me shopping and out to lunch.

After school I’d walk over and she’d pour me a diet Coke and offer me her signature, baked-to-a-crisp, chocolate oatmeal cookies while I whinned about mean middle school girls and how my parents didn’t understand me.

When I got my driver’s license, she let me drive her all over town.  Whenever my parents said no because they were in a hurry, I knew I could count on my Grandma.  She’d hand over her keys without me asking and away we’d go.  She never cared where we went, hasseled me over my following distance, or braced herself when approaching a stop sign.

One time my parents were out of town, so my sister and I spent the night at my Grandma’s.  I needed to get up early for my morning shift at the vet, so I jumped into my parent’s van at the top of my Grandma’s curvy driveway.

It was dark.  I was a new driver.  Backing up was not my best thing.

Misjudging the path down the driveway, I veered too far to the left, smashing into a fire hydrant.

I slammed the van into park and got out to assess the damage.  I broke the tail light.  Bits and pieces of reflective red plastic littered the grass.

My Grandma padded down the driveway in her dog-chewed slippers and picked up the largest piece of tail light.  Maybe we can glue it back together she said.

She told me she’d take care of it, just to get back in the car and go onto work.  I spent the day in knots, wondering just how my parents planned to kill me.  When I got back to my Grandma’s house she said she had a plan.

This is how it’s going to go she said.  I’m going to call your dad and say I did it.

I was pretty sure letting my Grandma take the fall for me would rank me up there as one of the Worst Grandchildren in History, so I told her thanks, but no thanks, to let me face my parent’s wrath myself.

She nodded and started dialing my Dad’s number.  When he answered she put on her best gruff voice and said now Michael, Sarah has something to tell you, and you better not yell at her.  It’s not her fault.  She’s only 16.

I got in pretty big trouble for that broken tail light.  And I shelled $80 for the repair.  But my Grandma softened the blow.

But now, when I look into her eyes, I see symptons of the disease taking over her mind, her thoughts.  I repeat the same answers over and over again.  Calmly explain remember, we had to sell your car when she calls me up and asks what happened to her Subaru.  Print out a list of family members and friend’s names, phone numbers, and birthdays in size 100 font to tape up on her fridge.

My Grandmother’s 85.  But it feels like she left me years ago.  She gets frustrated and angry.  Upset with herself, my mother, me, the cashier at CVS.  Doesn’t understand this world we live in.

When I suffered through my mini-teenage crisis, my Grandma came to my rescue.  Now, at this quarterlife crisis stage, I can’t call her up to moan about feeling lonely in motherhood or complain about Dan’s travel schedule because I’d have to remind her who Dan is.

It’s almost as if we’re both moving through a life crisis, her at the end of her life and me, in so many ways, just beginning.  When I brace her for a hug, I wish her mind would come back and she’d be my confidant, help me through my QLC with her sage-y grandma-isms.  But I know she won’t.  So I’ll help her.  I’ll keep reminding her, repeating answers, filling those gaps in her memory to keep her spirit alive.

“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!







I didn’t take any parenting classes.  No birthing classes, breastfeeding classes, taking care of infants classes.

As I sat in front of my computer around 30 weeks pregnant, one hand scrolling through the hospital’s class listings and the other hand feeling my daughter punch and kick through my round belly, I decided we’d wing it.

I didn’t want to tour the hospital.  What could I learn about nursing before I had a baby to nurse?  Spending an entire Saturday and Sunday talking about birthing a baby when no one could say with certainty how she’d arrive felt like a waste.

I had a copy of What To Expect (also known as Start Freaking Out Now), that I’d thumb through and immediately put down when it started to verge into the this probably won’t happen to you but let’s get you all nervous anyway territory.

So I gave up parenting books.  And parenting classes.  Parenting websites.  Growing baby newsletter updates.  I dutifully checked in with my OB at our scheduled appointments, peed in numerous cups, drank nasty orange glucose-checking serums, slathered up in blue goo for ultrasound appointments.  I listened to my OB and my OB only.

When labor came on out of nowhere, I felt calm.  My OB would be there.  This was happening. Everything would be okay.

Kate delivered just fine.  No issues.  Healthy baby, healthy mama.

And then she had jaundice and I completely melted down.

Now I know that jaundice is no big deal, as a first time mom, it threw me for a loop.  How did this happen?  I bet they covered this in those stupid parenting classes.  Clearly I am a bad mother.

And so it began.

I’m a bad mother became my refrain.

Whatever bouts of confidence in myself I had before Kate vanished once I held that jaundiced-yellow baby in my arms.  I cried every single day.  Multiple times a day.  Slept with my face next to hers.  With one eye open.  Until I just about ran myself ragged.

Why did I think I could do this?  Clearly, I wasn’t meant to be a mother.  I second-guessed myself from minute to minute.  Should I let her cry or go get her?  Hmm…does she have a cold or something worse?  Should I force her to drink from the bottle?  How much tummy time have I done today?  She’s getting too much sun.  Or not enough.  Isn’t there something I’m supposed to be doing about Vitamin D?

I tormented myself.  Then I got caught up in what every other mother was doing.  What book is she reading?  Well then I better read that, too.  Oh wait, maybe I should read this book as well.  Wait.  Those books contradict each other.  Aren’t you people supposed to be experts?  What am I supposed to do?

Somewhere around six months, I gave up all parenting stuff.  No more books.  No more advice.  No more parenting websites.  All that stuff just served to make me distrust myself.  I kept searching for answers that weren’t there.  Because all that advice was about some fictional baby.  And my baby was Kate.

So I started listening to my instincts instead.  When I thought Kate was hungry, I fed her.  When I thought she was sleepy, I put her down for a nap.  When I thought her cries were really whines, I let her go.  When I thought her cries meant she needed mama, I went to her.

And I started doing better.  And Kate became less fussy.

Now, as Kate is almost two, I feel I’m back at that newborn stage again.  While we’re past breastfeeding and swaddling, issues like very public displays of tantrums, “no,” and refusal to eat anything besides goldfish have become my new battle grounds.

And, of course, there are all sorts of books and advice on how to deal with these Terrible Twos.

Everyone has a theory.  And there’s is best.  So when I listen to moms debate when and how to potty train, I get that anxious feeling in my stomach.  Is that what I should do?  Gosh, I don’t have a plan for that yet.  I better do that.  Like yesterday.

There’s nothing like parenting to make you feel like a failure.

But there’s also nothing like parenting that makes you feel empowered to grow and nurture and support your baby in a way that only you know how.

The other day at the park a mom and I were talking about parenting toddlers.  I was telling her some stuff that seems to work for me – at least for now.  She eagerly took my advice and asked what book I was using.  I laughed and said I came up with this stuff on my own.  From being Kate’s mom.

The thing about kids is, there’s always something.  And I know parents like me worry every day, hoping they said and did the right things.  But maybe there is no right thing.  And while sometimes I watch Kate run across the playground, and I think I don’t know what tomorrow will bring or if I’m ready for it, I figure I’ll just do the best I can.  And perhaps wing it.



Some days I do well.

I take care of the house.  Put away all the laundry.  Plan dinner.  Keep Kate happy.  Take time to blog.  Write.  Think about me and my path.

And some days I don’t do well.

I’m fed up with motherhood by 10:00 a.m.  Don’t go to the grocery or plan a dinner for several nights in a row.  I can’t keep up with the house, my wood floors speckled with goldfish cracker crumbs, crayon wrappers, sippy cups.  There’s no time for me.  No thinking space.  No self-care.  No writing, socializing, centering.

Those days are my dark days.  When I enter the what-am-I-doing and I’m-a-terrible-mother-wife-dog owner-person spiral.

But I know I can do better.  It’s just going to require a lot of putting myself out there, a good deal of faith in the process, and a whole lot of self love.

I’m taking small steps here and there to get back to the Sarah I knew before marriage and motherhood and grown up responsibilities that came on fast and furious.

I thought back to what I love to do, pre-everything.




And how I could put all those parts together into something that was workable for me as a mother, me as a wife, and me, as, well, me.

So I started putting a little plan into motion that got me back to my writing roots.  In January I started pitching publications with story ideas.  I started taking my writing craft seriously.  Got deeper into blogging.  Went to my first blogging conference.

I also want to work on this part of me that longs to connect, share with others.  Motherhood, while a lot of things, is a lonely enterprise.  So I thought about what else I loved, and realized it was right in front of me.  I’ve been taking group fitness classes for years.  But I never thought about actually teaching group fitness.  When the thought first crept into my mind, I thought, no way, no way could I get up in front of a group of people and lead a class.

But then I thought, why not me?  So without giving myself time to think too hard, I signed up for a step aerobics training, spent a weekend stepping my heart out, and received the highest score possible, advancing myself onto the next round in the process.

All these things are wins.  The writing.  The conferences.  The training.  The tiny plan I had that snowballed into more than I thought I could ever acheive at this phase in my life.

But even when I feel I’m making strides, that crisis feeling pervades my thoughts.

Is this path finally the right path?

How will I know?

I think I am figuring things out…but am I really?

What if things don’t work out?

What if all this is a big mistake?

What if I fail?

What if, what if, what if?

Even though I’ve created a plan and set the wheels in motion to get back to my identity and myself, I still feel cautious, timid about where I’m headed.  I’m not completely confident in myself and what I need to do.  And I struggle to even share and rejoice in what I’ve accomplished so far.  I barely manged to squeak out this post because I hesitate to put my big goals and acheivements out there for fear I’ll end up on my face the next day.

But then I thought, hey, isn’t that why I’m here, at Stratejoy?  To share and learn and be supported through this quarterlife crisis?  So I can share all those good things I’m working on and get support when I’m feeling stuck and low on confidence.

Over the next five months, I’ll share those good things and those not-so-good things.  How I’m managing to take care of myself admist motherhood and marriage.  My progress on my writing goals.  And my process of becoming a group fitness instructor.  But above all, I hope to find that confidence I lost when all my major life transitions landed me in unfamiliar and often uncomfortable territory.

I’m really into fresh starts.  And I believe we can all have a fresh start anytime we want it.  So I’m declaring a fresh start.  And I hope you’ll join me.



sarah bagley

I started my career in county government as a camp counselor.  Charged with a dozen five-year-olds, I spent my summer leading sing-a-longs, helping chubby fingers hold paint brushes, and making sure no one drowned at the local pool.

I loved everything about that job.  The kids ate me up, vying to sit in my lap, wanting to know if I could move in with them and their families.  After that summer I knew I had to get serious about a profession, so I lapped in all that goodness and tried to hold onto the fun and responsibility of my summer camp career.

Soon enough I found myself on the verge of graduating and an uncertain future.  So I did what any good undergrad from U.Va. did.   I entered a Masters program.  I powered my way through my Masters in Public Policy while balancing my second job with the county: working at a teen and community center.

I adored working with the teens.  Sure, they were surly and kind of rude.  And forever making trouble.  (Here’s a tip: when you see a group of teenage boys walk into a bathroom with pool balls from a billiard table, call a plumber right away.)  But they were also full of energy and spunk and challenged me to constantly think of new ways to entertain them.

As I wrapped up my Masters degree, I knew it was time to move on.  Obviously I couldn’t stay.  I got my Masters in Public Policy to, well, write and analyze policy.  Not run a teen center and help 8th graders with math homework.  So I applied for a job at the county’s budget office.

And I got that job.  I looked just like every one of those analysts in the office.  A BA in government and a MA in public policy/administration.  I could write, analyze, and use Excel.  It would seem I fit right in.

Right away I felt underwater.  Everything was complicated.  I tried and tried and tried but nothing clicked.  And the more it felt like I didn’t get what was going on, the worse I felt about myself.  I clunked around the budgeting computer system, trying to find the missing hundreds of thousands of dollars I mis-entered.  The agency budgets read like Chinese.

I felt defeated.  Wasn’t I supposed to be good at this?  This office was the next logical step.  It was in the plan.  Why am I so bad at this?

Tears stung behind my eyes most days.  I wanted to do a good job.  And I so wasn’t.  I tried my best, always giving everything I had.  But each day felt like I was jamming myself in a hole that didn’t fit.

About a year into my job, I found out I was pregnant.  I assumed I’d go back to work after my daughter was born.  I never thought I’d be stay-at-home-mom.  But as her due date approached and still no child care on the horizon, my husband and I decided to tighten our budget and for me to stay home.

Since I knew I wasn’t the world’s best budget analyst, I didn’t feel sad about leaving my job.  I assumed it was for the best.  But a couple months into my stay-at-home gig, I realized I wasn’t all that good at this staying at home thing either.

Then everything started to blow up.  I felt alone, isolated, like I was the only one in the world feeling all misshapen and out of place.  Clearly, I wasn’t built to be a budget analyst.  But I wasn’t doing so great at mothering all day either.  This signaled to me that I’d never be good at anything.

Around this time, I happened to find the Stratejoy blog.  I’m not exactly sure how I got here.  I think amongst the Twitter and Facebook and blogging rabbit hole, I found the Stratejoy community and thought to myself these people are my people.  I think they get me.

It seemed I wasn’t the only one struggling.  Whether it was motherhood or marriage or being a single girl or divorced or whatever, there was a lot of struggling going on.  But also a lot of earnest.  A sense of grasping for joy, a happier life.

That resonated with me.  Yes, I am struggling.  True, I am feeling identity-less.  No, I’m not sure where I’m going.  But, absolutely yes, do I want to live my best life.  My blog is called Sunny Side Up.  Because no matter how down and out I’ve been (or will be), I am certain there’s a path to a better way.

So here I am at Stratejoy, sharing my story in the hopes that something will resonate with you.  So you won’t feel alone.  And I won’t feel alone.  And together we can come to terms with struggle and instead of letting it eat us up, we can work through it to live a life on our terms.

I have a tendency to make wishes on the night’s first star, birthday candles, eyelashes, and coins tossed into fountains.

One particular evening in high school, meandering through downtown Santa Fe with my friends, I came across a large fountain. Of course, I threw a penny in, bestowing my wish for love into it’s being. It bounced out. So I tried yet again, making the same wish, and again it missed the waters tumbling over the ceramic rim and onto the flagstone nearby. I tried one last time casually wishing “please let me have an interesting life” and my coin went plunging quickly to the bottom.

That whole “interesting life” plan has worked out so far. As my siblings can attest to, it’s been one hell of a life. One “interesting” thing after another comes and taps me on the shoulder. Some of these taps have been difficult. I dealt with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety and Depression throughout much of high school and I still have my moments trying to push them away. I’ve lived in at least 12 homes, attended 9 schools, and my parents divorced when I was 19 so I don’t really have a permanent home base unless you count my family’s ranch (and trust me, I do). My father came out as being transgendered when I was 19. That was perfectly fine. What made it difficult was keeping it a secret for so long. And then there’s living in poverty for the past two years trying to pay off bills, student loans, and still finding a way to have fun with very little money.

Then of course there are the wonderfully “interesting” instances like journeying with my whole family throughout the country,  being kidnapped into being a bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding in Ireland, meeting several Nobel Peace Prize Winners, travel ling in Italy solo, visiting Haiti to do independent research on folk art, and having the first person I met in Connecticut become my fiance.

Now though, I’m beginning to realize that it’s not so much this “interesting” life I want. It gets utterly exhausting having obstacles confronting me at every other turn. I’d rather have more of those lusciously interesting moments amidst a continuous stream of joy. That would be my best life.

I mean, I don’t mind a sprinkling of difficult moments every now and then because I’ve grown from the ones I’ve encountered. I just want to appreciate life more without craving the drama. I want to dance to Ace of Base in the kitchen with my kitten. I want to sit in the same room with a friend reading a good book and sipping tea. I want to embrace the moments I have before work waking up next to my love. This is what it means for me to live life authentically.

Being in the moment is just something I have difficulty with. Sometimes I’m just thinking about what my next step is going to be or how I’m going to get everything I need to get done in the day. While it’s important for me to keep my life plan (or lack thereof) in mind, I need to focus more on fully taking part in every second of the day.

So why now? Why do I now feel so compelled to live this kind of life, embracing the little moments? Right now I feel like I’m in my life’s first big intermission. I’m no longer in school. I have no obligations to stay at my job a specific amount of time.

I feel like I’m in a ropes course and I can vaguely see the platform I’m trying to reach, I just can’t quite figure out how I’m going to get there and it’s scary.

When I first heard about Stratejoy a couple of years ago from my friend I was pretty content with my work but I was unsure of where I was headed next. Sure I would have the occasional wine drinking, hookah smoking, life planning nights with my roomie but it wasn’t until I was introduced to Stratejoy and the begin reading the words of the Bloggers that I began to realize that this was a fairly common issue for people my age, and that I was not alone.

That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m sharing my life and this tricky labyrinth of my Quarter Life Crisis; because I’m trying to make sense of it all myself and frankly it helps knowing that you’re not the only one who doesn’t know what the hell you’re doing.



Sandwich Heart“Be gentle with yourself.”

This was the last bit of advice that a friend gave me after a recent break up.

I barged into her room, covered in that gross mascara face you get when you cry too much.  I gave her the tween girl chapter book version of the events that had occurred, and explained just how furious I was that it didn’t work out.  It was supposed to be perfect, goddammit!

Then came the self-blame.  I should have done this; if only I did that differently; WHY AREN’T MY BOOBS BIGGER?!

Be gentle with myself?  Sorry, friend, I can’t right now – I’m way to busy being a bitch to myself.

When I got home, I tried to do those typical, post break up things.  I turned on Sex & the City, but, seriously, Carrie, who orgasms that quickly?  Get off of my television before I start yelling at you like you’re really here.  I tried to pull off a good old-fashioned chocolate binge, but my stomach was knotted up like a balloon animal and wouldn’t allow it.  I tried to just sit down and break out an intense “Leave-Britney-Alone” cry, but my tear ducts were all dried up.  At this point, I was too angry to be sad.  Fuck – I couldn’t even do a freakin’ break up right!

Hm.  This was starting to seem mighty self-destructive.  Maybe I would try this gentle thing out…

So, I decided to take a nap.  Naturally.  I argued with myself that better choices would include going for a run or writing a strongly worded letter to Sarah Jessica Parker.  A nap seemed… gentle.  I lay down, tapped into my inner yogi, and counted sheep until I fell asleep.

I woke up about twenty minutes later in one of those where- am-I moments.  When I figured it out, an embarrassingly long amount of time later, I felt fine.  In my sleepy stupor, I wasn’t angry anymore.  I didn’t hate fictional characters.  I wanted…a sandwich.

What a simple thing to want.  Oh, how quickly simple can get complicated.  The more I woke up, the more that inner critic who was mad at me for failing at love weighed in on my food choices.  “Peanut butter means calories, lady.”  “You didn’t work out today.”  “Let’s start a cellulite club!”

My goodness.  Calm down, self.  This situation is tricky enough without drowning in a pool of creamy self-deprecation.  Why is it so hard to be gentle with myself?

Granted, my post-break up mindset is a little more fragile than normal, but I felt it was a little over the top that I couldn’t make a sandwich without thinking I was the worst.

I’ve gotta tell you, kids, noticing this was quite the blessing.  I was being my own Regina George.  It finally clicked that I needed to do something to fix it, but it’s not like you can Google, “How To Make A Sandwich Without Guilt And Get Over An Ex Boyfriend And Love Yourself In The Process And Also Where Is The Closest Red Box?”

Fortunately, in an out-of-character act of perfect timing, I stumbled upon a Stratejoy Fierce Love promo article a few days later.  Unlike a lot of the “Get Your Life Together!” sites I had been searching around, Fierce Love was all about loving yourself the way you are.

Well, that’s impossible, I thought.  I’m not a millionaire and I have a weird neck.  It’s not going to work for me.

Did you notice that bitchy inner critic pop up again?  Yeah, I me too!  So, I rebelled against myself and opened the article.

It took about three sentences to get me hooked.  It wasn’t talking about ways to be perfect, or to organize your life, or to get ahead in your career (although I hear the Joy Equation does a wonderful job of exploring that).  It was all about self-love, and being “deliciously kind” to your self.  Don’t you love that phrase? Deliciously kind, or gentle.

It was the most fitting solution to get me back to that simplistic, after-nap state, were whatever I wanted was just whatever I wanted, and that was okay.

The article didn’t cure my broken heart; don’t get me wrong.  I feel like I’ve already covered that the only cure to a broken heart is a nap and a sandwich. Fierce Love stepped in at the perfect time to help rebuild myself, to get me back to a place of self-love and acceptance, and to create a foundation for all those wonderful goals I’ve yet to accomplish.

So, I’m boxing up doubts and selling them at a garage sale.  I’m breaking the lease I have in Apartment #NotGoodEnough, and I’m moving on up into the gated community of Fierce Love (it has a pool!).  The tenants inform me that it’s a much nicer neighborhood to live in than the ghettos of self-hate.  (Three cheers for that metaphor, right?!)


[Photo Credit:]


Introducing: Sarah

“Here I am, 27, married for almost four years, mother of a toddler, home owner.  All these quick transitions broke me down.”

I dreamed of attending the University of Virginia.  It was the University.  The brass ring.  The arbiter of good, better, and best.  The day I received my acceptance letter will forever live in my mind.  Finally, a release.  Finally, I am good enough.  I made it.

Soon, though, I learned I’d never be good enough.

My first year at U.Va. broke me down.  Everyone was better than me.  Smarter than me.  Prettier than me.  Wealthier than me.  Funnier than me.  I was a nothing.  And each C, D, F I received that first year reminded me.

I never struggled in school.  I was the best.  The curve setter, the straight A student.  Who was this girl who botched tests, received back papers with more red marks than printed words?  Who was this failure?

College felt lonely and disappointing.  The biggest lesson I learned was I would never again be the best.

I graduated in three years and moved onto graduate school and my first job, eager to escape from those less-than feelings.  I hoped I’d find some worthiness in graduate school and in the working world.  But instead of feeling better about myself and my life, I felt more lost, worried I chose the wrong path, decided it’s too late to change directions.

At the same time, I was a newly-engaged young woman, navigating this idea of what it means to be married.  I barely focused on my wedding with work and school and life getting in the way.  I completely checked out of the process, refusing to go try on dresses, having my mom order me dresses online, decide on flowers, colors.  Everything felt like too much.

After the wedding, our house hunt began.  In between, I changed jobs, Dan changed jobs.  We spent weekends looking at open houses and week days prowling the listings online.  Got preapproved, got more serious about finding a place.  We decided on a house the first weekend out with our realtor, sent in our offer, closed 30 days later.

It wasn’t more than two months into our new house that I found out I was pregnant.  Good thing we sprang for the three bedrooms.  That nine months blasted by, and we welcomed Kate into our lives June 4, 2010, a couple of weeks before our third wedding anniversary.

We weighed all the options – full time work, part time work, quitting my job – and decided it would be best for our family for me to leave my job and stay home with Kate.  So I quit my job and began my life as a stay-at-home mom, both the most rewarding and most frightening job I’ve ever had.

Here I am, 27, married for almost four years, mother of a toddler, home owner.  All these quick transitions broke me down.  I tumbled around, feeling misplaced and identity-less, wondering how I got here.

Yet my life is everything I’ve always wanted, and yet so completely overwhelming and scary.  I’m still feeling the aftershocks of all these transitions, like I’m not fully caught up to what’s happening.  I question who I am, my identity, how I got here.  And, more scary than all that, why am I supposed to do now?

Processing all these major life transitions added up to a whopping quarterlife crisis.  As if life smacked me in the face all at once, and I’m still processing the wreckage.  But even amidst the emotional seesaw of past few years, I see the my gifts and my tenacity and my hope that I will find the answers – my answers – and the courage to live life on my terms.

I don’t know what’s next.  It’s uncertain.  And uncertainty is not something I do well.  I prefer to function in a world where I know not only my next move, but my move after that and after that, the path nicely paved and ready for me.  But since that path does not exist, I need to make it for myself.  And while I’m not sure where I’m going, I’m ready to find out.

And I know I’m not alone.  I know there are other girls out there, struggling in the same ways.  I want to share my story, be that support, let them know I totally get you.  It’s okay to say you’re struggling.  Let’s make our way through together.


Team StratejoyThis post is long overdue, but it’s no less important now than it was a week ago when I wanted to post it. For those of you who don’t know, I’m Katie, and I’m the Communications *slash* Community Manager of Stratejoy. Although, I’m researching new cute titles like “Happiness Advocate” and things of the like.

Anyway, this is totally not about me, but I do have the wonderful privilege to introduce you to a special group of gorgeous girls who have been doing extreme behind-the-scene magic for Stratejoy. Not only are they working to make current products and designs more functional and fun, but they’re diving head first with Molly, creating new products too.

Something I’ve learned over the last year of working with Molly is that running a business isn’t easy. While Molly has done a spectacular job running the ship herself, sometimes you need someone to be your lookout while you take the wheel and steer. Or, in this case, five someones.

Those lovely faces up there are  Nicole, Michelle, Kahea, Morgan and Whitney. They are Team Stratejoy. They’ve been “officially” on the Team for a few months now, but we’ve all been busy little bees trying to get some super cool stuff ready to go for your guys.

You can learn tons more about these ladies right here.  


Sidenote: Today is the. last. day. to sign up for the Council: Holiday Edition. It’s officially LIVE right now,  but if you really quick signup, we’ll get you access to the Facebook group immediately and you can dive right on in and join us as we wave goodbye to 2011, and welcome 2012 with a new outlook and kick-ass attitude. This is it – This is your year, love. Let’s make sure of it. 

Whew! So much goodness going on… We’re in full on work mode getting things ready for Season 5 over here.  I’m absolutely loving the chance to hear more of your story. Have you sent in your application to be a Season 5 blogger yet? Deadline is this Friday, August 12th.

And though I’m in the middle of Adventures in Flourishing, we’re doing a little something different, but incredibly awesome, today. We’re teaming up for a super-big world-dominating mission with Love Bomb to change, brighten, or even save someone’s life.

What is this Love Bomb thing?

Love Bomb was started by Nate St. Pierre to go along with his life mission to “Change the World”.

Fun Fact: Nate writes “Change the World” on his palm every single day.  Just as a reminder.  Which is funny because lots of days I write “Do Good” or “Believe” or “Spread Joy” on my wrist or palm…   Sharpies and Passion. Quite the combo.

Love Bomb has one sole mission: To save lives.

Members of the Love Bomb team nominate people that they know (who blog) to receive a Love Bomb. Whether someone is facing depression, loss of a parent, loss of a child, financial difficulty, suicide recovery, even the Quarterlife Crisis (which we all know can rock the hell out of your world) they’re eligible to receive one of these bursts of love. If they’re having a hard time dealing with this crazy thing called life, and need a pick me up?  Then Love Bomb wants to know about it.

Each week (from hundreds of nominations) someone is chosen and the Love Bomb Team gets their mission delivered to them, which simply consists of taking five minutes, visiting the person’s blog indicated, and leaving a comment of support.

Yep. That’s it.

But it does amazing things.

So, where do Stratejoy and YOU come in?

This week, we’re part of the Love Bomb Team. They’re asking YOU to nominate someone who you know that could really use a little jolt of joy, a burst of beauty, a whole lot of love and hugs.  We get the amazing chance to DELIVER A LOVE BOMB to someone in our Tribe.

KAPOW!!  I’m so excited.

The only requirement? The person you nominate has a blog, that they use it semi-frequently, and that we can comment on their blog. (Make sure comments aren’t closed, turned off, etc.)  And you have to get your nominations in TODAY!

On Thursday, check out the Love Bomb Blog or the Stratejoy Facebook Page — we’ll be announcing the Love Bomb recipient.

To nominate someone you think really needs a little love in the form of hundreds or thousands of words of support, shoot an e-mail to dropalovebomb |at| gmail |dot| com.  Like, now.

Wanna do this awesome mission every week with Love Bomb?  Head on over to the Love Bomb Website and subscribe to receive Love Bomb Mission e-mails.  They only come once a week and it gives you a chance to truly brighten someone’s world.

And because I promised I’d be checking in…

  1. Stop Drinking: 2 days Sober.
  2. Stop  2 days TV free.
  3. Write in the Morning: 2 days complete.  (Joy Juice today!  I love writing the journal prompts, knowing loads of you will be using them to connect to yourself.)

In some ways, I can’t believe six months have gone by.  In other ways, I can’t believe it’s only been six months. It’s a similar feeling when you’re in love and you realize you’ve been together for a year, but it feels both shorter and longer than that. I don’t mean that I’m in love with my other Stratejoy ladies (though they are pretty awesome) but rather that the richness of our collective experience here has totally messed with my sense of time.  We’ve fallen in love, changed careers, changed countries, become parents, planned weddings and learned so much about ourselves. Wow.

Six months ago, my primary state of being was exhaustion.  I was listless, bored, sluggish, and had lost a lot of the “spark” that I used to be known for. I felt defeated. There was also a part of me that was angry:  Angry at myself for letting it get to this point, and angry that I seemed to be resigning to it. Through a lot of reflection (and some of the exercises in The Joy Equation) I was able to get back in touch with myself and what I really wanted.  I filled out an application for Season 4 and this crazy journey began.

 My goals…

My goals for this half of the year were to get my energy back & understand my health more, to work on becoming a creativity coach and foster my music career, and to learn to love myself enough to remember and reconnect with the things that light me up.

How’d I do?

I have learned so much about my own body in these last six months.  Though I’m still a long way away from my goals, I am feeling so much healthier.  I’m taking naps when I can, eating the right stuff, and being much more active.  “Tired” is no longer my default feeling.  I’ve had a poem published, gone on tour and am almost finished with a creativity coaching certification program (just have to take an exam!) and I’ve spent four weeks in Nashville, TN exploring the possibility of a songwriting career there.

As far as reconnecting with delight, I’ve gotten to swim in the ocean, paint, play with my baby niece, learn more about cooking, hang out with old friends and make some new ones, see a whole bunch of live shows, and go on regular dates with the hubs.  I cannot even begin to express how much happier I am now than I was at the start of February, and it’s not because great things have happened to me, but because I’ve learned how to cultivate and care for my own happiness.

 The Most Important Thing…

As I leave to become part of the Stratejoy Alumni, the most important thing I’d like to leave you with is that, no matter how extraordinary all of our journeys have seemed to you, they are achieved by ordinary means. All of us have taken small steps, made tiny changes, that have added up to big, huge leaps and results. Yes, some of those changes seem to come on fast – but there have been lots of little things going on in the background to lead to those things.  We are not “special” in the sense that we are different and somehow more able than you are – you are just as capable of changing your life for the better.  In fact, I highly recommend you apply for Season 5 if you’re feeling stuck in a QLC or in need of some changes in your life.

I have changed a lot and I continue to evolve, and slowly but surely I’m becoming the woman I want to be. Being a Stratejoy blogger gave me a container to explore that process, and I am so blessed to have been able to share it with my fellow bloggers, and share in your stories through comments and emails.  I hope you’ll keep in touch with me at my own blog, my music website, and on Twitter (@writeplayrepeat) so we can keep this conversation going.


I can’t believe how fast six months have flown by.  It seems like just a little while ago that I was jumping up and down while listening to a voicemail from Molly welcoming me to this season…and now, here I am, about to answer interview questions from my fellow Season 4 contributors. If I think about it too much, it’ll make my head spin a bit, so I’m just going to dive right in.

What are you most proud of from the last 6 months?

I’ve spent a LOT of time in the last few months getting to know myself better, and getting clearer about my values and goals. As a result, I am really proud of how my sense of self has grown and solidified. I have always seemed to be a fairly confident person, but it was often a “fake it ’til you make it” strategy. These days, I feel a sense of inner confidence that is stable and not dependent on the reactions of others. It’s that little seed of self-knowledge and self-assurance that enables me to stick with my goals even if they seem a little wacky to others.

What is your favorite meal memory?

Oh, man. This question is WAY too hard for a person like me to answer with one meal. I love  food. I mean, I LOVE food, and I love the whole experience of a meal, from the atmosphere to the appetizers to the after-dinner mints. So, I know I can’t pick one meal as my favorite. A particularly fabulous memory is from the first time I took G. to one of my favorite places, Asheville, NC. We met several of my dear friends for tapas at Zambra and had a long, lingering dinner sharing bites, laughter, and lots of wine. I don’t remember what we ate (though everything there is fabulous) as much as I remember feeling full of joy and satisfaction.

What’s the best piece of advice you have for someone struggling with a QLC?  Spend time with yourself when you’re going through it. Really think about what you need and want, and what makes you happy. If you aren’t sure about the “big stuff”, just spend time doing things that delight you and they will point the way.  Journaling helps a ton, too (and guided journaling is awesome if you don’t know what questions to ask yourself!)

Post a picture of your happy self over the last six months – Where were you, what were you doing and who were you with? This picture is from last weekend, when I was playing a house concert for some buddies in Virginia. I’m cuddling with my trusty guitar, Josephine. I put 3000 miles on my car in two weeks, playing shows and visiting friends all up and down the East Coast. My friend Steve took this shot before I played in his backyard to some people I usually only get to see once a year. I like this picture because it reminds me of the things that make me happiest.

What’s the best piece of advice someone has ever given you? Once, after some kids at school had said some mean things to me, my mom told me not to take it personally, and to “consider the source.”  I’ve carried those words with me in so many situations and I can’t even begin to tell you how often it pops into my head…and not just in negative situations. When someone is reacting to a situation in a way I can’t understand, I try to consider the source: What kind of person is this? Where are they coming from? What might their motivation be for reacting this way?  And a bonus tip – it works both ways. When I have a super emotional (and possibly irrational) reaction to something, I take a few minutes to consider my own motivation.

What’s your killer music mix? Give me some old New Orleans soul, some Motown, some Ray Charles and a dash of Bonnie Raitt and I will be shaking my butt around the house all day long.

Three biggest obsessions right now…Learning to cook nutritious stuff that my body likes, working on my first book, and re-watching every season of the X-Files.

What has happened in your time as a Stratejoy blogger that you would never have imagined for yourself in January?  I never imagined that I would spend a month in Nashville and love it. I was scared to take that step in my career for a long time, and even more scared that I’d hate the city once I spent time there, but now we’re talking about moving there one day. That’s something I couldn’t have predicted.

What’s something you learned from each of the other ladies of Season 4?

I think what I’ve learned from each of my fellow bloggers has to do with what I’ve watched them learn about themselves over these past few months…

Katharine:  Bold adventure is an incredible way to meet yourself.

Bri: Opening yourself up to love creates radical, beautiful changes.

Laura: Even someone who is capable of doing it all doesn’t have to do it all alone.

Amanda: Surrendering to the big stuff doesn’t mean giving up your identity.

Dee: Zest for life and joy are totally contagious and worth spreading around.

I’m humbled and honored to be in such awesome company.

What’s your Dream Job? Facilitator of creative inspiration, emotional catharsis, and uncontrollable giggles.

Dream Vacation? Following Anthony Bourdain around on some cultural and culinary adventures.

Dream Home? Lots of windows, views of the Blue Ridge, a big deck with a pool, an open space for entertaining, and one helluva kitchen.

What’s currently turning you on? The way my hubs supports my dreams and keeps pushing me to go for it. Rrrar.

How are you going to change the world? I hope I can change the world by inspiring people, one relationship at a time. I’d like to remind everyone I meet of their own creative force and their ability to use it.

[photo credit]

As a loyal Stratejoy follower, a central message that I’ve taken away from this community is that joy is within our reach. Every single one of us. The catch is that we’ve got some self-exploration and investigation to do before we can grab it and make it our own.

And, I know, I know. I’m always raving about Molly, her programs, and her generally awesome approach to life and rocking it right now.

The reason is not that I’m some psycho-obsessed fangirl (only a little), but because I’ve learned tangible, applicable, concrete, proven skills that I’ve applied to my individual quest for joy, authenticity, bubbles, laughter, and everything juicy good.

The point isn’t that my life took a turn overnight when I put these skills to work. Of course not. But, the point is that with the strategies I’ve learned through my course in Deliberate Living, jotted down in my journal, and let Molly burn into my brain, I’ve been applying them at my own speed, at a rate that’s healthy for me and works in my own day to day. I’ve tailored them to my own needs. Created systems of my very own.

We can think and talk and write all day long about how we want joy in our lives, but unless we go get it, we’ll never have it. Here’s how I go get it.

My Seven Systems for Growth

Sabotaging Unproductive Habits- It’s about identifying the habits I have that lead me down paths that don’t serve my best self. At first, it seemed as though I was tricking myself and that felt…wrong. Well, I was. “Wasn’t my willpower enough?” I thought. No. It wasn’t. And, I’d been giving myself concrete evidence for years that my willpower and desire were just not enough to prevent myself from falling into cycles of laziness, mindlessness, etc. For instance, I realized that an aspect of my life that was preventing me from moving forward was my habit of walking into my apartment after a long day or stressful event and straight to the TV remote. On. Trashy TV. Mindless. Numb. Day Over. Instead, now I trick myself! Amazing! I keep the remote waaaaay back in a corner of my closet. If I want to watch TV, fine, but it’s going to be a conscious, aware decision, by golly.

Putting Fierce Self-Love Within Eyeshot- It’s about channeling my creativity in a way that builds reminders of the woman I am and want to continue to be. If you came to my apartment, you’d see positive sticky-notes on my bathroom mirror, colorful hand-made collages on my refrigerator, a framed picture of a hula-hooping 80-year old woman on my dresser, photos of my near and dear, books that inspire, and art I’ve created. Because sometimes we just plain forget, lose focus of our goals, and need elementary reminders in plain sight.

Maintaining A Detailed Health Journal- It’s about taking the precious time to sit, breathe, put pen to paper, and focus on how I really feel. I do know that time is precious, trust me. Which is why it is a gift I’ve focused on giving to myself. I have a pretty, pretty journal, some bright markers and pens, and a calendar. I sit down and I track how I’m feeling from day to day. My body (sluggish, bloated, achy, energetic, rested?), my mind (clear, cluttered, racing, numb?), my heart (full, guilty, lonely, hopeful?). It doesn’t only give me an opportunity to clear my head, this practice has helped me identify two of the most significant triggers to my mood swings. I was able to see, right there in my calendar, that I’ve got a classic case of the winter blues and am in need of steady Vitamin D and that the week after my…ahem…menstrual cycle was hell for me. My hormones were sending me into a crippling depression that I was spending the other three weeks of the month trying to clean up after. Because I’d realized this, I was able to discuss options with my doctor and reach a conclusion that I’m not a headcase! I’ve got PMDD!

Establishing Self-Serving Routines- It’s about honoring who I want to become by giving myself a chance to find inspiration, check-in with myself, clear my headspace, and realign. What works for me is getting up early in the morning in order to prepare myself for the day ahead. Shower. Walk dog. Coffee. Makeup. Outfit. Breakfast. News. Hair. Twitter. Dishes in sink. Out Door. And even though I have an equally if not more strong urge to stay in bed until the last possible second, I know that my whole day will follow suit if I don’t put my feet on the floor and give myself what I need- that routine. The same goes for the evening. Computer off. Books for class put away. Bag prepped for next day. Lamps on at bedside. Makeup off. Inbox cleared. A little lotion on my hands. Something soothing on pandora. A quiet prayer. My journals, a book I’m reading for leisure or a favorite magazine in bed with me. The rest of my days allow for spontaneity, but those routines ground me. I need them. I know that.

Eliminating Toxicity- It’s about lifting the weight from my shoulders so that I can move forward. A really effective challenge that Molly presented me was to make a list, no matter how long, of the elements in my life that were creating a cloud of dread. Big stuff to little stuff. Debt to that dress I need to have dry-cleaned. And yes, setting aside a whole day or longer, if needed to tackle it. That conversation I needed to have with my parents. The appointments I needed to make. Cards I wanted to send and drawers I wanted to clean. And when I made the list, WHOA! It felt so doable. Everything that I had been letting eat at me took one good afternoon to eliminate, essentially. Toxic crap comes up all the time. The trick I’m using it to give myself a scheduled block of time each week (really, only about an hour), to just do it and be done with it. Bills, errands, phone calls, whatever. I know that for me, that’s what I do on my free Tuesday afternoons. Always fueled by caffeine and with a happy hour with friends as a treat for taking care of it, obviously.

Using Gratitude As A Counter-Action For Stress- It’s about reminding myself of what I have (so much) in order to eliminate feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. My nasty, all-to-common tendency to dwell on the bad and forget the good. To think about the obligations, the rain, tests and papers due rather than the beauty of nature, my upcoming plans, my health, my fortune to be in school at all. When a walk my dog up the block, I try to memtally list as many things that I’m grateful for as I possibly can (the pretty color of that lady’s dress, the smell from the restaurant, my mom’s phone call earlier that day, all the plans I have that weekend, the lunch I fixed, etc). The walk helps to clear my head and by the time I’ve returned home, I’m a new woman. I also often jot down similar blessings in a journal that I’ve designated as my special Gratitude Journal. After a stressful day or period in my life, even if I think I can’t muster a single thing to offer thanks for, I can look to that journal and remember that there is so much that makes me fortunate.

Making The Mundane Special- It’s about stuff I’ve gotta do anyway and how to make it lovely. When I know it’s going to suck, I’ve got to incorporate an aspect of pleasant or I just won’t do it. Sad but true. Dishes to do? Light a candle. Gobs of homework? Film Scores radio on repeat. Toilet to scrub? Wear that sassy dew rag I tie-dyed in Austin. Dreaded phone call to make? Hot cup of tea. I find it really fun to think of ways that I can make what would otherwise be terrible into a chance for beauty. There are so many opportunities for joyful simplicity that we can marry with our obligations and life suddenly becomes a string of delight, with some responsibility mixed in. Paying bills is way better whilst wearing incredible lipstick, you know?

Certainly, those aren’t the only systems I’ve been exploring. I am also working to incorporating a regular mindfulness practice, acknowledging those in my corner, practicing self-expression, and learning to ask for what I want among many, many other tactics. The point is that I’m learning what works for me. I’m putting in the  time, thought, and effort, because, damn it, I deserve it. I deserve all the joy I can scoop up. And I’m working to build my own, individual definition of joy. And, finally, I’m getting a return on my investment in myself.

It’s crazy to me that just within the last year, I’ve become so very aware of what I really want, made such progress in actually going after it, built so many supportive relationships. I’m so thankful that this community has given me the strength to dive right into exploring what I could do to make my life better. It’s given me a place to take my temperature, so to speak, know how I’m feeling, and not be afraid to think about how I can both maintain what works and improve what doesn’t.

It’s given me a place to share all that. Now, that’s a system that really works.

You guys!  It feels like it’s been ages since I wrote a personal post and updated you on what’s actually going on in my life.  HELLO LOVELY!!

So, to really get caught up- we’re going to have to resume the update after my whirlwind time conference hopping in November!  I wrote a bit about how I was recommitting to the trip and then seriously, 2 weeks later, I decided I needed a break from living out of Stella (our lovely car/home).  Not happy!  Not having fun!  Missing quiet time to work!  The final decision came in Florida after a miserable night of being eaten alive by invisible bugs and getting zero sleep and then having to take a cold shower.

I know it doesn’t sound completely tragic, but I was done.

The Big Man wasn’t done however…  With employees helping him keep his business running, he had found a better balance between traveling/playing/working than I had managed, and was having a blast on the trip!  So, although the trip was partly a “honeymoon”, we decided when we flew home to Index (1.5 hours outside of Seattle) for the holidays, I would just stay until I felt caught up and ready to rejoin him.

Why Index?  We don’t have a place in Seattle anymore, so it’s the only real home base we have right now!

Going Home

We had some magical snow and family time in the cabin, and then on January 12th, the Big Man flew back to Miami to rescue Stella from the slightly sketchy garage and head West. I flew off the next day to Big Sky to visit my parents and go skiing.  And then I cozied up in the Index cabin, launched the Season 4 Bloggers, started new coaching groups, got creative with my personal theme and goddess book, began working with 5 new one-on-one clients, and made some substantial progress on my new journaling program.  (Joy Juice!  Coming soonish!)

I also drank green smoothies every morning, meditated, and caught up with my pals and sister in Seattle over dinner parties, coffee dates, and hikes.

Did I get lonely without my husband in a cabin in the middle of nowhere?  Yes.

Did I feel like I got a handle on my business, my plans for 2011, sober January, and my friendships?  Yes.

Back on the Road

So where am I now? Well, at this exact moment, I’m typing this from our Best Man’s pool cabana in San Diego!  I flew down on Thursday to meet the Big Man and Stella and continue the West Coast portion of our trip.  It’s been gorgeous here.  I’ve eaten a million fish tacos, caught up with another sorority sister and her family (Hi Ang!), met all sorts of adorable kids, and cruised Pacific, Ocean, Solana, and Del Mar Beach.

Also, I absolutely love conducing coaching calls poolside.  Win.

What’s next? After being on the road for 3 months, I was “home” a bit over a month and a half, and now it’s looking like we’ve got another month ahead of us!  And then what?  Honestly, I have no idea.  With the flexibility we’ve both built for ourselves (hello location independence!) we could go anywhere…

Do YOU Live on the West Coast? I’m super looking forward to meet-ups in Los Angeles (probably this Thursday!), the Bay Area, and Portland in the next month.  Sorting out details now, but if you’d like to be on the invite list- just shoot me an email (molly (@) stratejoy (.) com) with your phone number so I can text out the plan!

And now…. The Photo Update you’ve been waiting for!

Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  A favorite place, for sure.

I’m a stationary whore.  Letterpress shops are my heaven.

As Fisherman and Geisha, we spent Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts in the middle of the madness.

Eating a block of Tea from 1773 (?) on our walking tour of Boston.

You know where…  Obligatory White House Photo Op!

On the water, just outside of Charleston.  And look!  Short sleeves!

Long Key State Park in the Florida Keys.  This is the Big Man’s version of heaven… Killer campsite, eh?

Good thing we like Long Key…. Got stuck there for 3 more days while Stella went to the “hospital”.

South Beach!  Sunshine! Art Deco everywhere!  Men who still catcall!

From the beach to our cabin in Index.  Shock to the system for sure!

Walking to the Post Office to mail Joy Equation Workbooks!  One of the exciting moments in my day…  🙂

Chilling in Pacific Beach with my honey on Friday. And yes, a month was a long time to be apart!

Sunset at Solana Beach.  Love me some West Coast.

p.s.  I’m putting together a hand-picked Get It Off the Ground Group for Tuesday evenings (maybe 7 pm PST), starting in a month.  If you’re interested in applying – I’m doing intake calls this week and next.  I want the right group- really motivated, positive women.  You?  Get in touch.

Regardless of the fact that I make my living on the internet (or maybe because I do), I’ve always been hesitant about sharing my life online. Sure, I do the obligatory Facebook albums and try to “be myself” by swearing up a storm, but I have never ever ever actually shared my Big Bad Fears with complete strangers.

And then Stratejoy came along. Looking back, I definitely started tentatively. I was so used to blogging to help people, to teach things, to build up My Brand. And that’s when something funny happened… I slowly (s-l-o-w-l-y) started opening up. Sharing things I didn’t particularly want to share. Being more honest with myself – and with you – than I’ve ever been. And you guys were awesome. Like, I knew the Stratejoy community was absurdly cool, but this cool? Nuh-uh.

Every time I admitted a dirty secret or talked about my life and where it’s headed in a way that wasn’t comfortable, you guys shared your stories, cheered me on and pretty much blew me away with all  the support.

And here’s what I learned in the six months here: We are sooo all in this together.

How many of us know 20-30somethings who really and truly know their path? That aren’t riddled with guilt or anxiety about choosing one “life option” over another?

Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded with people similar to myself, but because of Stratejoy, I see it everywhere now: People just want to be happy. Authentically. We hunt for that perfect job because we want to be passionate. We get married and have babies because we think these things will fulfill us. Not that they don’t, I can’t wait to have some crazy kids running around the joint, but my point is that this entire Life thing is this amazing shared experience and the whole, what-the-hell-do-I-do-with-it is even more shared.

Boyfriend Sam and I go around in circles having the same conversations: What should I do with my life? Should I study? Should I get a real job? Should we travel? Should we settle? Knowing that this older, more mature, more experienced guy was going through the same things as me has been a huge weight off my shoulders. We could be 28 or 88 and it wouldn’t make a damn difference.

Knowing that the women (and men) who read this site feel just as lost, but also just as passionate about the journey, is one of the most uplifting and comforting experiences of my professional life.

You guys are wonderful. This site is wonderful.

But six months after starting, it’s suddenly over. I have no freaking idea how that happened. I have no clue how six months of my life just flew by.

Granted, the past six months have been a bit of a whirlwind. Last April I was single and living with my parents in Connecticut. Now it’s summer in New Zealand (in January) and I’m living with the love of my life on a completely new adventure.

I’m also completely in the middle of my quarterlife crisis. Six months ago I really didn’t understand what that meant. Now I still may have no idea what I’m doing, but there are two HUGE things I’ve learned about dealing the QLC:

  1. Do something. You don’t have to know what The Big Life Plan is, but taking one little step at a time is perfectly okay. Just make a decision. Today. Do something. Go somewhere.
  2. You are not alone. Really, you’re not. That girl you graduated with who seems crazy successful or that relative who’s super passionate about x,  y or z? They’re probably just as confused and wound up as you are. And at the end of the day? You have this amazing community to fall back on.

These six months may be over, but you can be sure I’ll be sticking around.

[Note from the Coach: Marian, you are a force to be reckoned with and I mean that in the very best way possible…. I absolutely adored having you share a slice of the real Marian without worrying about teaching or clients or the uberforces of Social Media judging you.  We got YOU.  And I am so, so grateful for that.  I always forget that you’re 23 because of your wisdom, your ability to push convention, and the gorgeous faith you have that things will work out.

Thank you, gorgeous girl, for being here.  For showing up on the good days and bad.  For sharing fancy Italian veggies and prosecco with me and introducing me to your beau on the streets of NYC.  For being such a pr0Stratejoy force and  making me feel like we’re doing something right over here.  I’m such a fan of you and seriously can’t wait to see where your journey leads.  Wherever that may be!  Kisses to you and mutual wise laughter at all the assholes in the world.   Love, Molly]

[photo credit:  sakanami]

Last week I finally realized that I am worthy of good things in my life.  In light of  this new realization I have dreamed up some goals for 2011.  I hesistate to use the word “resolution.”  Resolutions sound so absolute and are hard to keep-in fact I think they almost set you up for failure.  But goals, goals are measurable.  I can do goals.  Goals motivate and inspire me.  Here is what I am working on in 2011:

Real Life

Work It

Lovers and Friends

With Sprinkles on Top

So bring it on, 2011.  I have a feeling this is going to be my year.

I think I peaked at the age of 21.  This is why post-graduation was so difficult.  I was on top of the world senior year.  The Clinton campaign was utilizing me; I drove Chelsea in her father’s motorcade on a Polish political holiday, I drove Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings, The Goonies, Rudy) to my high school for a Hillary rally, and when I ran into Chelsea a few weeks later, she remembered the dress I had been wearing the first time we met and thanked me over and over again for my help.  On top of that, my relationship with my boyfriend was far surpassing any other relationship I had ever had and we started talking about marriage.  (Little did I know, he bought my engagement ring that semester, but held onto it for another six months!)  That last semester of college, I starred in a musical, I wrote my senior thesis, I commanded an hour-long presentation on my thesis, and I secured a connection that would land me a job in real-world politics.

I had the world in my pocket and nothing was going to get me down.  Or so I thought.

We all know what happened next.  Being campaign staff for the 2008 election meant working 7 days a week, commuting an hour, ten hour days.  Election results meant a staff position in January, commuting even longer, no lunch breaks, conference calls during hair appointments.  I thought it would be so glamorous, that it would make me so professional.  I admit I loved my .gov email address.  But I just wasn’t ready for it.  I never settled into this lifestyle.  I had a fiancé at home, a cat who felt neglected, an apartment that was always cluttered, and shoulders so full of stress that it hurt to lay down. I was unhappy, overwhelmed, and yes, underpaid.

Some may say there is no such thing as the Quarter Life Crisis. Those people should be grateful it never happened to them.  But I think if we all looked a little deeper, we’ll recognize a little QLC in all of us.  It’s there.  It’s the not-living-up-to-expectations, the life-isn’t-following-my-plan, the what-is-my-plan?, the plans-are-for-sissies, the this-lifestyle-completely-sucks, the why-the-fuck-am-I-so-sad?, the can-someone-get-me-a-road-map?, the so-this-is-adulthood, and the overwhelming feeling of disappointment in what life was supposed to be but just isn’t. (Or what life is and isn’t supposed to be.)

I mean, why should reality fail in comparison to our dreams?

And it’s okay to feel that way. Really.  It takes lots of soul-searching, lots of quiet time, lots of long drives, and lots of your favorite beverage to truly redefine success to match YOUR expectations, your hopes and dreams, your soul.  Together, we can work through our quarter-life crises. That’s what Stratejoy is for, you guys.

I’ve never had a home.  I have lived in 7 states and 14 cities.  I have lived in condos, apartments, townhomes and big suburban houses.  Yet, I have never felt like I had a home. Even now, as I settle into my third year in Chicago, it still does not feel like “home.”  So last year, what I set out to do, via the wonderful world wide web, was try to find my community.  I knew that if I could just create one, build one,  or simply find one, then maybe I would feel a little more settled–I would feel connected.

It is so easy to  get caught up in the minutea of our lives.  We allow ourselves to be so wrapped up that at times it feels as though you are the only one suffering.  Yet, that’s not true.  Through this experience with Stratejoy, I realized that although the details in each blog post are different, the themes are the same.  Ultimately, it is not My Story.  It is not Doniree’s Story.  It’s not Renee’s Story, or Lindsey’s Story, or Marian’s Story, or Nikki’s Story.  It is not Your Story.  It is Our Story.  It is the Human Story.  We are navigating through this life together.

One thing I have learned over the past few years is that the more I share my past, the more I release its power over me. I have many scars that bleed, but each time I recount a story–relive the injuries–a cut closes.  A wound heals.  I move on.  Each time I share a dream, the more vivid and attainable it becomes.  I become inspired.

While I have yet to figure out what I really want to do with my life–besides write–I know that whatever work I do must be centered around community, connection and healing.  Blogging for Molly and Stratejoy has given me that opportunity to do just that: find a community, connect and heal. When you read my words, we connect.  And as we connect with one another, I connect more with myself.  And it has helped me to heal.

(photo: free woman holding bunch of pink budded twigs by pink sherbet photography)

Hi, this is Kristy — Molly’s intern. Molly is over in Indonesia right now (having the time of her life, I’m sure) so she asked me if I minded writing a little something about my own experiences. I took her up on the offer in a heartbeat.

wrong-wayBack in March, when I first stumbled upon Stratejoy in my department’s internship & job listings, I was looking for a paid, full-time job, preferably to begin in the summer and continue indefinitely. Stratejoy wasn’t that — it was a 10-hour-a-week unpaid internship that would start right away. It was completely “wrong,” — something my head told me I shouldn’t do. But there was a reason Stratejoy caught my eye, and why my heart told me that this was actually completely right.

When I was in high school I was the youngest person to go through a workshop series that was very similar to Stratejoy’ Lifestyle Design with a company called HeartSpark in Portland, OR. It completely inspired me and changed the way I think about my life. So when I read up on Stratejoy and the workshops Molly offers I knew instantly that I was behind what she did and wanted to help out in any way I could.

So I jumped in — I interviewed and landed the internship (although I did get a slight scolding / helpful tip from Molly who reminded her three new interns that it’s bad form not to send thank you letters — apparently no one she interviewed did). Molly put me right to work on developing her new online course based on Lifestyle Design. I was thrilled.

I worked hard throughout the spring and summer to create a fantastic online course — something that retained the authenticity and success of the in-person month-long workshop while giving participants the flexibility of time and distance from Seattle. To toot my own horn: I think I succeeded. I’ll take credit for crafting such a great version of Molly’s course, but the real shiny gold stars go to her for developing such an amazing program to begin with. Let’s just say I had fabulous material and enthusiasm to work with.

And through the creation of the course, as well as actually going through the in-person version, I actually took the time to think about what it truly was that I wanted and what success looked like to me. I had done this years ago in high school, but on the verge of graduation from college I realized it was very important for me to think about it again. Especially since everything — everything — has changed in these years since high school. Haha.

Through this unpaid internship that I randomly stumbled upon and which wasn’t ideally what I had been looking for, I gained experience in a kind of work I’d never done before, defined what it truly was that I wanted from the next couple years of my life, and I ended up actually landing that job I’d been looking for 6 months before, with Molly’s boyfriend Ken, who owns & runs an email marketing company. He was impressed with my hard work, enthusiasm and creativity and wanted me on board. It kind of just fell in my lap — like, I’m realizing, most things eventually do for people.

What are some things that have changed? Well the biggest one is that instead of going straight on to get my PhD in Communication Studies like I’d been planning for a couple years, I’m now considering getting an MA in Sustainable Communities or Sustainable Leadership, something I realized I’m passionate about, first — and taking a few years off beforehand.

Graduating is scary — I do that next June after I write my 40-page Honors Thesis, eep! — but it’s become a little less scary because of the events of these past 6 months. And I’m hoping by the time it happens it won’t be that scary at all.

The online course has just launched and you can still get it for our introductory price, which is 33% off. See this page for The Joy Equation: a 30-Day Guide to Living Life on Purpose.

photo credit: limonada

Taking a quick break from the 4 Part Series today to bring you some date changes & testimonials.

First, the March Tune In, Turn Up Workshop has changed from Mondays to TUESDAYS, due to popular demand.  If Monday was holding you back, this is your call to action to register before the spots fill!

The dates will be March 3, 10, 17 & 24 from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Other updates: Registration for the February Workshop (starting this Wednesday the 4th) will close Tuesday morning, so I can prep for the group!  I’ve got lots of goodies & tools to get ready, so if you’re been hemming and hawing- time to step up to the plate!  The workshop will make a world of difference in focusing forward movement towards your big, thrilling, scary, sacred goals.

Need to hear it from someone other than me?  Testimonial from a past participant…


Taking a quick break from the 4 Part Series today to bring you some date changes & testimonials.

First, the March Tune In, Turn Up Workshop has changed from Mondays to TUESDAYS, due to popular demand.  If Monday was holding you back, this is your call to action to register before the spots fill!

The dates will be March 3, 10, 17 & 24 from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Other updates: Registration for the February Workshop (starting this Wednesday the 4th) will close Tuesday morning, so I can prep for the group!  I’ve got lots of goodies & tools to get ready, so if you’re been hemming and hawing- time to step up to the plate!  The workshop will make a world of difference in focusing forward movement towards your big, thrilling, scary, sacred goals.

Need to hear it from someone other than me?  Testimonial from a past participant…


[Welcome to a 4 part Blog Post on the philosophy behind Stratejoy.  We’ll hit the 4 Pillars of Inspiration, Clarity, Accountability & Camaraderie over the next 2 weeks. Stay tuned & if you like–share with a friend or two!]

After you’ve entered the magical land of Inspiration, the next thing you need to do is seek Clarity.  What do you actually want?  And is that response your true authentic answer or a programmed reflex?  This pillar calls for a great level of self reflection and honesty.  And it takes some work.  But I think it’s the most exciting, fabulous, mind bending, doors opening part of the process!  Ladies, start your engines…

Second Step:  Get Clear

Here’s the million dollar question: “What does your best life look like?”

Quick, gut check: What are you feeling when you read that question?  Are you excited imagining all the possibilities?  Are you jazzed, though slightly overwhelmed? Does it remind you to take some action to move forward on your journey?


[Welcome to a 4 part Blog Post on the philosophy behind Stratejoy.  We’ll hit Inspiration, Clarity, Accountability & Camaraderie over the next 2 weeks. Stay tuned & if you like–share with a friend or two!]

First a nod, a salute & whooping cheer for the inspirational speech delivered today.

“In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”  -President Barack Obama

Are you ready to be that risk-taker?  That doer? To earn your greatness in the world?

First step:  Get Inspired

Before you can start any new task, especially one as grand as designing and living an authentic life, you’ll need a whole suitcase full of inspiration & motivation to carry you through.  These emotions are what give you the kick in the butt to get started, keep you going when the going gets tough & remind you why you’re striving.