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What a Welch MBA Gets You

March 18, 2019

A Reflection on Greatness, Humility & Success

By: Shannon Kaschak

Nearly a decade ago, I walked into Management 101 with a red book in one hand and black and white composition notebook in the other. My professor was video conferenced in from Austria, and I sat down beyond confused by what was happening: why didn’t I have an in person teacher, and why had he sent me to Barnes & Noble for a book instead of making me buy a textbook? As we worked through Jim Collins’ Good to Greatand began to dive deeper into what makes a leader stand out from the rest, taking a company well beyond good and into the realm of great, I began to understand that my professor was setting me up for a lifelong journey of becoming the best that I could possibly be, rather than just making me memorize definitions for a midterm and final exam. 

It is fitting then, that as my business school career comes to a close, it is ending with me thumbing through a well worn book- dog eared pages reminding me of the things that really stood out and margins so covered in scribbles it’s probably time for a new copy. As I finish up the work to earn an MBA from Sacred Heart University, I feel that my education has come full circle from those first days of deciding if I even wanted to be a business major. Now, more than ever, I know that I have chosen a field that is not only one known for success, but also has the potential to impact the world in a profound way. 

As I think back on all of the things I have learned in the MBA program, I can see how each of my classes will become the cornerstones for the foundation of a great manager, bringing me through the various stages of becoming a Level 5 Leader. The first level is that of the Highly Capable Individual. From Accounting and Finance, to Microeconomics and Business Law, I refreshed my memory on skills I would need to be successful moving forward. Furthermore, I established strong work habits right out the gate- focusing on time management, goal setting, and acknowledging both my personal strengths and weaknesses when it came to the world of business. The second level is that of the Contributing Team Member. After completing the pre-requisite courses, I began to truly dive into becoming a better leader. Through rousing debates, role-playing and team building projects, I began to see how working with people from all different backgrounds and personality types could create both a strong working dynamic, and also could cause large problems amongst teammates. We focused on integrity, and humility, looking at how we could influence people without the use of force or rudeness, and learned to think critically about the environment in which I was working. 

The third level is that of the Competent Manager. As I dove into the Dynamic Business Management courses, it was time to put my money where my mouth was. I had relearned what a balance sheet looked like, was able to put together a decent budget, and had learned how to work in short bursts with people who didn’t work in the same way as myself. But for six months, I would find myself challenged to my core, as I truly began to learn what it meant to be a competent manager. With the end goal of creating a product from start to finish, my teammates and I dove headfirst into the course. What I hadn’t expected was to have teammates who functioned so vastly differently from myself. Deadlines were a thing that came and went, and often we would go long stretches of time without hearing from multiple people on the team. There is a saying that communication happens 7×7 ways, and it was here that I truly learned the meaning of this. In order to effectively lead a team, I had to be able to meet everyone where they were at, and often spent hours on various social media sites to be able to help other teammates with work that needed to be done. We were given a new teammate at the start of the second semester, adding yet another personality and now needing to bring him up to speed. Looking back on this process, I can say that I was not going anywhere past the Competent Manager level any time soon. I worked always for the sake of efficiency, making sure everyone hit deadlines, and kept lines of communication constantly open. When work didn’t get completed, I just plowed through making sure it got done and could be handed in, letting resentment settle into the back of my mind, and slowly beginning to show my teammates less and less understanding. By the time I had finished the courses, I felt like I had survived a small war, and started to think deeply about what had worked, and what hadn’t worked in helping with the team. Setting clear deadlines, asking for confirmation from teammates and being open to communication in any form had worked really well. But what hadn’t worked so well was my lack of empathy towards outside situations. I had made it clear that the fraternity formal wasn’t as important to me as this project was, and that if my grade suffered at the expense of the fun of senior week, I would be fairly upset. I was standing too close to the trees to see the forest. There is more to life than  passing a class, no matter how important that 3.7 GPA looks on paper. I knew going forward that this was something I was going to have to work on, making sure that I didn’t use my INTJ, Type A personality as a crutch to excuse less than stellar managerial behavior. 

When I started the capstone of the MBA program, my goal was to take all of the positives I had learned from the Dynamic Business Management courses and apply them to my new team. I also wanted to focus on keeping things in perspective, and being more understanding to the things going on in the lives of my teammates. There had to be a healthy balance between making sure everything got done, and still showing respect to someone else’s life. For my final semester of the MBA program, I wanted to work on becoming a level four leader. The fourth level is that of the Effective Leader. Keeping in mind everything I have learned over the past three years, I have intentionally spent this time keeping lines of communication open, rallying everyone towards final goals, and mediating spats caused by miscommunication. Rather than getting myself riled up over every little thing, I have tried to take a step back to look at the big picture. Everyone has a life and a job outside of school, and while this project is incredibly important, it probably didn’t need to feel like life or death at all times. Imagine my surprise when this attitude served me far better in helping the team to work well together, and accomplish goals that we had all set together. Sure there have been hiccups along the way: complete lack of communication, missed deadlines, and scrambling to make sure things have looked just right before handing them in. But with a deep breath and a reality check, these things were not the end of the world, merely things that needed to be addressed in a timely fashion. With a more gentle tone and the use of reason, it was easier to convince everyone that the team would be better off if we all worked together, rather than demanding everything be in by a set deadline. There were other classes, jobs, vacations and family events that needed to take precedence, and somehow, almost all of the deadlines were still met. Though there were still personality clashes, I focused on building bridges, openly communicating problems that I was having, and asking for real solutions from the whole team, rather than just isolating myself and working with the people that thought just like me. 

So how do I move into the realm of the Level Five Leader? The fifth level is that of Executive. Jim Collins spends a lot of time talking about the importance of humility when it comes to becoming a great leader that can take a company from good to great as well. Humility is a trait that will take a lifetime to fully understand. There is always a way to become a better version of oneself, and there is always a way to practice humility even further. I believe that true humility is seeing myself exactly as I am- nothing more, and nothing less. I hope with each experience I have, I will find many opportunities for deep personal growth, which will lead me to be the best leader I can possibly be. 

One of my final assignments in my capstone course was to read an article by Clayton Christiansen, called How Will You Measure Your Life? This seemingly small assignment packed a powerful punch and brought me back to my very first semester of college when I was trying to figure out what direction I was going to take as I started my adult life. In five hundred words or less I had to pick something that stood out to me in this article, and what stood out the most was that this man who teaches at the Harvard Business School takes time to ask his students what they will be able to look back on and be proud of. He talks about balance between work and life, and keeping everything in perspective. Christiansen also points to the stark reality that if there is not something that you are striving towards, you end up chasing after a fleeting form of happiness and instant gratification. This idea resonates with me deeply- because at the end of the day, it’s not really about bringing home lots of money (though that is of course, a nice bonus!). At the end of my life, I should be able to look back and see that my career was a time in my life where I effected great change, made the world a better place, and became the best person that I can possibly become. 

In the next ten years, I would like to continue to broaden my horizons, and gain as many experiences in both leadership and marketing as I can, while also raising a family. In the immediate future, this will be working with The Barnum Festival to build a strong Social Media Campaign and Digital Marketing Plan. I want to continue to utilize everything that I have learned, and become even more proficient in my chosen field. I want to continue to foster strong communication, and build connections with the many amazing people that I get to interact with on a day-to-day basis. I would like to continue to work from home, building a portfolio of work that is both powerful and creative, and brings about impressive results, and a strong return on investment for any company that I work for. I never want to forget the strong work ethic that got me through this program: always making sure to give everything my most sincere effort, and never being afraid to ask for help if I didn’t know how to do something. I want to be quick to apologize if I make a mistake, and make sure I always find a way to make things better than when I started a project. I hope that at each place I work, I make an impact, and make the lives of the people I work with better and brighter. I want to continue to foster strong communication skills, not be afraid of conflict, and be a voice of reason when seeking a resolution. I want to be a role model for other young women, who also want to work in the field of business and raise a family, proving that there are no limits on success when you put your mind to it and give it your all. Most of all, I want to make sure that I always remember what is important in life, balancing work and family and overall not just doing well, but, doing good. 

Beyond these first ten years, I want to take all of the things that I have learned and will learn, and apply them to being a great leader. I want to be the leader that encourages people to keep things in perspective, to look at the big picture and to gauge success not just on numbers and dollar signs, but also on happiness, and overall life satisfaction. I will achieve this by taking all of the things I have learned, and all of the things I will continue to learn with each passing year, and make sure I live a life of greatness. I will foster a strong corporate culture that cares for its employees, and will think of others before myself. 

If I can achieve these things, I will be able to look back on my life and feel that I was not only successful in my business career, but also that I had made an impact on the world. 

All of these people deserve hand written cards all over again, but a special thanks goes out to:

Dr. Ruesch, for confirming that business was the right choice after all, and never letting me forget it.

Professor Rankin for your advising for all those years, and for celebrating all the small victories with me along the way.

The international business program of Spring 2013- you reminded me to take life a little less seriously, and to enjoy each moment as it came.

Linda, for the chocolate, as I sat, sobbing in your office begging you to help me understand the accounting ( I promise to bring you chocolate once the baby is here so you can eat chocolate and see a cute baby!).

Mary for staying with me that night till 11PM, and telling me I could do it, no matter what, and for putting me in touch with Grace.

Grace- where would I be without you? Your calm, level headed analysis of my transcript, and recommendations for which classes to take next were invaluable. I doubt I would have made it through the program without you.

Ian- for continuously inspiring me, and reminding me why I had fallen in love with not only business, but marketing in general.

Val- your steadfast direction and take no shit attitude is inspiring, and you are truly one of the greatest professors I have ever had.

My Family- for the many nights of tears, glasses of chardonnay and reminders that my self worth was not found in a spreadsheet.

My Husband, Sean. I would be nowhere without you. From coffee to dinner, sacrificing time with me and listening to my woes, you are the real MVP. I promise that over the next year, I will be here to take the night time change before your final, buy your favorite beer, and listen to everything you hate about being back in school.

And finally, my Dad. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a good man in a storm. For being my ultimate role model and for reminding me to never give up. Thank you for the shoulder to cry on, the ear to rant at, and for the laugh always just when I needed it.

These have been the hardest and most exhausting three years. Until my sweet daughter is here, this is the thing I am most proud of in my life. In 9 days, I will present my thesis and hand Val her long awaited thank you card. In 54 days, my sleeves will be a little longer, my hood a little more drab, and that coveted piece of paper will be mine.

And this whole thing will be over- a distant dream as I welcome tiny girlfriend into the world.

To the young woman wondering if she should do this: do it. Give it your all and never give up. You are strong, and you are more powerful than you realize. I believe in you.

Lifestyle

And Ode to The Changing Table

March 11, 2019

I have been a big sister for a lot of years. In fact, I consider myself very lucky to have had siblings that are 6 and 7 years younger than me. It was like having a living baby doll, and my sister right below me and I had so much fun dressing them up and helping my mom feed them or get things like pacifiers or diapers.

I have also been a babysitter in some capacity for over half my life. I have changed many diapers, in many strange situations (child in the dirty diaper, standing up, in the mall parking lot anyone?). I have picked a pacifier up off the ground, popped it in my own mouth and given it back. I have potty trained and dealt with more poop than I ever wanted to deal with. I have fed baby purees, cut food into strips for baby led weaning, mixed formula and warmed breastmilk under my armpit when the power went out. I have worn a baby in a long stretchy piece of fabric tied around my body, and would not have survived the croup episode of 2018 without an Ergo baby. I learned how to swaddle, the right amount of shushing, and that a baby is like a dog and can smell your fear. Just take a deep breath so they feel the same zen vibes you’re feeling (thanks Fred- I still owe you for that trick!).

But something that I had never considered was a changing table. Some of the families I babysat for had a changing table. Some didn’t. And a lot of my friends deem changing tables unnecessary, as you’ll have to change your baby in all sorts of places and you won’t want to have to walk all the way upstairs just to change a baby.

Before I got pregnant, I had these really grand ideas of how I would be as a mom. I was gonna be the most low key, trendiest, minimalist instagram worthy mom that ever existed. I would only have certain pacifiers, and my kid would be dressed in all gender neutral clothes and I was NOT gonna buy a changing table. Because I would be changing my baby all over the house and who needs more furniture?

Then I babysat for a family that had a changing table. And since I babysat long hours, I got to know the beauty of the changing table. Any time I had to change the baby, I marched my butt up those stairs, and put him on the changing table. My back didn’t hurt. He was at my height. The diapers and wipes were already there, in a nice stack and I just had to reach over to grab one.

Slowly, in the deep recesses of my heart, I decided if I ever was lucky enough to have a baby, I was going to buy a damn changing table. Because I sincerely appreciated changing someone else’s baby on the changing table.

Then I found out I was having a baby! And I asked all my mom friends something they could do without… and you guessed it! Everyone said a changing table!! Imagine my internal conflict, I had already decided I was going to get one. I did a little more digging, and again realized that people didn’t want to have to go to one certain part of the house every time they needed to change the baby.

What was I to do? I’ll tell you what. I put a changing table on both floors of my house. One is more of a topper for a dresser that will be the kids dresser for many years to come. And one is an actual changing table, from IKEA that matches the rest of my espresso colored IKEA furniture that I already have and fits in a tiny alcove by my steps that usually is just a collection of my purses sitting on the floor (honestly a conversation for another day… I am a bag lady HARDCORE). I also installed the changing attachment on the pack and play so in the middle of the night I can just change the baby in my bedroom but not on my bed. I apparently really like changing tables.

I have carefully stacked a few diapers and a package of wipes at each station. I know I will need hundreds and hundreds more, but I think I have enough for about 8 days currently open and waiting for baby girl’s big arrival.

I think this is probably a really good look at all of the ways I am going to not be the parent I thought I was going to be a mere four years ago. I think I have like… 4 gender neutral outfits. Everything else has ruffles, bows, glitter and flowers. And there is a LOT of pink involved. I am not going to be one of those cool hipster instagram moms. My kid is going to look like every other baby girl for all of history because those tiny pink outfits bring me so much happiness and pretty soon she will be dressing herself and I won’t get a say.

I have no idea what kind of pacifier my child will take. And you know what? If the thing won’t match the nonexistent hipster outfits, that is A-OK (but no wub a nubs. those things get grimy and freak me right the heck out lol).

I’m not buying glass bottles and I probably won’t give her ceramic plates till she is a little older. Look how Montessori I am now.

And I bought the changing table. Because there will be plenty of situations where I have to change her on a park bench, or in my car trunk, or hell, maybe even standing up in a mall parking lot. And if the changing table makes my life a little easier while I am at home, I am not gonna be a hero.

Its crazy to think that in 5-8 weeks all of my preconceived notions are going to go out the window. I am going to be staring at a tiny person who needs me for everything, and I am going to have to make decisions on the fly because I will be just trying to survive the newborn weeks.

But at least I’ll be able to change her while standing up ;).

Lifestyle

Smash The Snow Globe

March 4, 2019

Honestly, not even gonna lie to you- the Monday following a retreat is actually the worst kind of day you will every encounter. As a kid, it usually means you didn’t shower for a whole weekend and ate too many Doritos and now have to go sit in a desk all day and listen to your teachers talk about The Battle of the Bulge. #TooReal am I right?

But the Monday after a retreat as an adult is a whole different ball game. Your back probably hurts from sleeping over on an ice cold gym floor, your stomach is probably all messed up from aforementioned Doritos and you find yourself trying to keep your eyes open as you stare at a computer screen all day responding to whatever crisis hits that day.

I’ll take it even a step further and tell you that after hosting a weekend 30 weeks pregnant I feel like I may have been hit by a truck. My feet are sore. My body is physically exhausted. My stomach is all jacked up from tater tots and tacos.

But I wouldn’t trade it. There is something immensely beautiful about interacting with people who are seeking something more.

More often then not, we live in our own small universes, that in my mind equate to snow globes. We all have our own scenes, and we all like to see the glitter fall down in front of us and everything is cozy and pretty in our own little scenes.

But there comes a point in our existence, where these isolated little worlds (as pretty and comfortable as they are), cease to be enough. We realize there is more to life because when the glitter settles, we can see that there is something beyond the curved glass. There is something there that would be better than what we have here.

With immense courage, we find the strength to knock over our snow globes in the hope that our world’s will be opened just a little bit bigger.

But sometimes, what we don’t anticipate is just how big the world around us is. After we have lost the comfort of our own universe, the real world can be a little bit scary. Our opinions are challenged, and our lives can be completely turned upside down in a matter of seconds.

It takes a deep and profound courage to press forward anyways. To move out of our comfort zones and look to make ourselves better people.

Every time I attend a retreat weekend, I find myself meeting people from all different walks of life who are trying to do just this thing. And as exhausted as I am from this weekend, I am also so very grateful to have found more people striving to live a more real and more authentic life.

This journey is not easy, but it is far better when you don’t have to go it alone.

And if this weekend reminded me of anything (aside from the fact that… you know I’m pregnant and probably shouldn’t be on my feet for 12 hours in a day) its that you are never alone on this journey.

Be brave. Smash your snow globe. Things are infinitely better on this side of the glass.

The world is a big and beautiful place, just waiting for you to make your mark.

Lifestyle

On Transitions Big & Small

February 18, 2019

Hey there friend. It’s been a while, and for that I am sorry. The past few months have flown by without me even realizing it, and I can’t really even begin to fathom where the time has gone.

My life has been one giant series of transitions. I am about to no longer be a student. I have been a student for nearly a decade! That’s nearly 1/3 of my life. But more importantly, I am about to become a mom. And that is something I can’t even begin to fathom.

Pregnancy has changed me in a radical way. I am probably one of the most Type A people there ever was. I do not feel a sense of calm unless things are in order, my planner is full of carefully scribbled out to- do lists and I have accomplished a vast multitude of things in any given day.

I was the queen of multi-tasking. I could talk to a friend while simultaneously taking care of emails for school, and could do homework while watching Netflix (okay that one still happens =p). I could read three books at once, work three different jobs, go to school in the evenings, volunteer at the parish youth group and also play holy hours at any parish that asked me to. I was able to schedule times to see all sorts of people- for coffee, for drinks, a quick dinner here, or a target run there.

You know what else I was able to do? Drink 7 cups of fully caffeinated cups of coffee a day. Sleep less. Drink wine. I was burning the candle at both ends, and living on fumes.

These days, things move a little slower, and priorities shift a little bit. I have my half caf, and if I really want to treat myself, I have an extra cup of decaf (more for the concept of drinking coffee than for the caffeine intake- sometimes I just miss having a long drawn out morning) later in the day. I eat every few hours because there’s not too much room left in there with tiny girl getting bigger.

Between doctors appointments, and school meetings, and individual assignments and internship meetings and nesting, and a deep need for sleep, my communication with friends has pretty much dwindled to what can happen on my phone in the fleeting moments that aren’t being eaten up by all of the things I need to get done. Text messages, and Marco Polo and Instagram have become an awesome way to check in and let people know I still love them.

And though there’s a part of me that feels like this isn’t enough and this doesn’t live up to the me of seven months ago, there’s a bigger part of me that is embracing this new phase of life. As school wraps up, and we get closer to baby girl’s arrival, I am starting to settle into a little bit slower pace of life around here.

I won’t lie to you- somedays, its hard to imagine. A schedule that revolves only around my own child. A schedule where I just have to put dinner in the crockpot and take care of the baby all day simultaneously sounds like the best thing to happen to me in years, and also like I might blow a micro chip since I have been running past full capacity for so many years.

But I am learning how to take a deep breath, and find peace in the simplicity. To find joy in having time to go to the post office, or putting together an actual dinner that tastes good and is well balanced. I am learning to find profound satisfaction in accomplishing things like washing clothes and sorting them by size. This means that my little love has awesome clothes for the next year, and she won’t be cold. I am learning the joy of going through all my t-shirts from college and clothes that will not fit me again and packing them up to go live a life that will bring someone else joy. This process has helped me to find out what I think my style is, and has helped me to better define who I am, and what I want out of life. I am rejoicing in simplifying our life, and making room for all of the great and wonderful things that come with having a little baby.

Old me would have been totally freaked out by the magnitude of these transitions. But current me is taking it all one day at a time. Holding myself to a more gentle standard, and allowing myself the wiggle room to not only be imperfect, but to be okay with this imperfection, and not care what other people think of me.

Cheers to new phases of life, to the friends that stick around when your life changes, and the people near and far who love you always.

They say it takes a village, and man am I grateful for the incredible village that I have. If you’re reading this- thanks for being a part of mine. Your love and support mean the world to me.

Lifestyle

A Seemingly Insurmountable Five Minutes

January 29, 2019

Hey There Friend!

How are you doing? Gosh it’s been a long time since I’ve stopped by this neck of the woods. I really miss being here, and always have these great plans to get back on my schedule. And then you know what happens? I have a paper to write. Or I run out of clean underwear and I so desperately need to do laundry that I put the blog on the back burner.

I have been learning a lot about myself lately, and not gonna lie, I have really had to take a deep look at the way I view time.

Those of you who know me in real life, know that I live by my planner. If the appointment/chore/coffee date/ homework assignment/ [insert any number of items here] is not on one of those clean lines in my planner, it may as well not exist at all. You may also know that I have ADHD and that my planner is my main coping mechanism, that has long helped me to be successful in keeping on task.

These things aren’t so bad in and of itself. I have really learned how to manage my time and plan carefully to get everything done. With a major caveat- I severely overestimate how long it will take me to do something. To the point that I won’t take the trash out because for whatever reason I think it is going to take me 25 minutes to do that. Logically I know that this isn’t the case. But small tasks sometimes seem insurmountable to me when they pop up and aren’t in my carefully planned day.

I am currently working on this mental hiccup in a really big way. With baby girl set to arrive in 14 weeks, I know I need to learn how to just take care of things as they come up, because she is not going to fit into a schedule. She is going to BE the schedule. Whatever she needs, she is going to get. And taking out the trash, or sweeping the floor, or putting away my coat are things that will take 10 seconds out of my day, and should be completed as they come up, rather than letting them sit for days or weeks just looming in the background.

But can I also be honest with you? Winter makes all these tasks seem even worse! You mean I have to go out in the cold to take out the trash?! Can’t I just drink a bottomless cup of coffee and read and watch LIVE with Kelly and Ryan? And as I sit there accomplishing some tasks (hey! I did my homework, I wrote those letters, I emailed these people, I took care of those bills) I continuously put off the small chores (emptying the trash, clearing the table, putting away dishes, wiping down counters) that will make my life feel more calm and peaceful because “they can wait till tomorrow”.

The first month of 2019 is coming to a close. I stuck to some of my resolutions. I have completely abandoned others (as is always the case). But as we enter deep into winter and the cold and snow loom heavy in the forecast, I am trying to recommit to self care in the things that aren’t a ton of fun, but bring me deep inner peace.

And I think that I will be having to recommit to these things every day in the hopes that these small tasks will become strong habits in my life. I am going to keep trying to remind myself that 5 minutes now, equals a more peaceful rest of the day.

Cheers to continuing personal growth, to surviving the cold grey winter, and to becoming the best version of ourselves that we can be!

Lifestyle

Hello, Dreary Winter. Nice To See You Again.

January 7, 2019

It’s officially winter, my least favorite time of year. Hours of sunlight dwindle and temperatures drop to levels that people like me with circulation issues do not tolerate very well. The air smells cold, and my eyes tear up when I step out my front door.

The fun parts of winter are over. Gone are the twinkly lights and cheery music. No one is handing me cookies and theres no glitter to be found anywhere. No, this part of winter is stark and sometimes seems endless.

This is not to say that this period of the year does not have it’s own beauty, but that in my experience, this is the longest and sometimes bleakest part of my year.

This is when self care becomes one of the most important things I have ever done for ME. And no, I’m not talking about fancy bath bombs and facials (though those things are certainly fun!). No this is when I have to really look deep into my soul and check myself. Am I really caring for myself? Am I giving myself space to breathe when I need it? Am I making sure that I am nourishing my mind, body and soul?

During this season self care truly looks like making a manageable to do list, and actually getting out to do it. That library book isn’t going to return itself, after all. It’s scheduling an hour of my morning to tidy my kitchen, and throw on the two loads of laundry that need to be done so that I have clean underwear for the week. It’s sitting down on a Sunday night to talk to my husband and see what his schedule is for the upcoming week and scratching out a quick meal plan and matching grocery list, and then planning a part of my day to stop by the grocery store on my way home from work. It’s waking up a few minutes earlier to read the bible, and staying up a few minutes later to journal before turning in for the night. It’s eating three square meals a day, and making sure there are vegetables in at least one of those meals.

And what I have really come to realize is that self care is ultimately saying NO to certain things in order to say yes to the things that I need for my mental sanity. I kind of glossed over this fact when listening to my favorite podcast the other day thinking yeah, yeah thats something alright. But the more I think about it, the more it haunts me.

I am not Wonder Woman (no matter how much I would like to be). I am not capable of being all things to all people, and that my friends is okay. I do not need to be all things to all people. I merely need to be the best version of me, for myself. Because if I am taking care of myself, I am better able to take care of my family. And if my family is more peaceful, there is more space to be a better friend. But none of these things can be done if I don’t start saying no to the things I just cannot be right now.

And honestly? That’s okay. It is not out of malice or anger. It is out of a deep and profoundly needed self care that I am practicing my NO to say YES to the things that make me a better wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend.

I’m also planning to fix the no cookie thing by picking up the ingredients to make cookies for myself because, honestly? I just want warm buttery chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven and I am totally okay with letting myself have that one thing on this cold day 😉

As we come into the second week of January and already can see our resolutions slipping away from us, let’s dive back in and really try to take care of our selves for the year ahead.

Lifestyle

2019: The Year of the Simple Resolution

December 31, 2018

Today is the day! The day that the new calendars are busted open, empty pages just waiting to be filled with all of the new dreams, plans and adventures ahead. Today is the day we scribble down lists of our hopes and dreams, things we want to eliminate and things we want to be better about. Frantically we wonder- is there something else I should be doing? Is there something out there that will make me better?

For a long time I railed against resolutions. No one ever seems to keep them, and they always seem to center around losing weight, eating differently, or forcing oneself to become something completely different. These are not intrinsically bad things to do- but those things always put a lot of pressure on me, and when I couldn’t keep up made me feel like a failure.

2018 was a crazy year. I nearly finished my Masters Degree (just three more months to go… hollah at ya girl!). I spent time with family in Texas during Fiesta, soaking in the beautiful culture and eating the best bean and cheese tacos I have ever experienced. I spent time with family on a boat, celebrating 30 years of marriage with crazy awesome food and wine, and some of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen. I successfully threw a surprise 30th birthday party… and a few days later received the greatest gift of my life- the news that I would be having a baby in May of 2019. I celebrated weddings. I spent time with my grandparents. I found a community in a cherished podcast. I took up spin class. I dealt with morning sickness and extreme fatigue. I finished my fall semester with a 4.0. I got an internship with a local non-profit organization.

But by far the biggest news of all was learning I was having a daughter. I know that if I was having a baby boy, my life would have been utterly changed for the better as well, but knowing I will be bringing a girl into this world shook me to my core. I have so many dreams for her- dreams of a world where she is treated equally to her male counterparts, dreams of a world where she is loved and cherished just the way she is, dreams of a world where the comparison and shaming stop, and dreams of a world where she makes a difference.

Two weeks ago I learned I would be having a daughter, and I realized that all those dreams, start with me. In order to make those dreams a reality, I need to start seeing them to fruition in my own life. I don’t need to compare myself to others, because where I am right now is the best place I have ever been. I don’t need to be ashamed of my body because it is healthy, and works the way it should, and even if I never did get rid of my love handles before I got pregnant, and the stretch marks would indicate they are only getting larger, my body is perfect because it is giving my beautiful little girl the nourishment she needs, and a safe place to call home until I welcome her into my home on this side of the universe. I can make a difference by sharing joy, opening my heart and home to foster community, and trying to make the world a little better each day that I get to exist in it. I can embrace the quirks that make me, me and stop apologizing for being exactly who I am.

As 2019 rolls around, I am making a resolution this year, that I truly hope to stick to. I am going to embrace the things that make me unapologetically me, and make sure I am making time to foster those things. I want my daughter to know that she is loved and supported, and that even just 10 minutes out of her day spent for her is well worth it. This year, I am going to make sure I make time every morning for my morning meditation- carving out the time to read the daily readings, and to thank God for another day to do good in this world. I am going to spend a few minutes each night reflecting on the day, and recording it in the beautiful journal my sister bought me for Christmas, so that I can start and end my day with gratitude. And finally, I am going to come back to the blog for real. I have made so many excuses of late- oh but school, work, the pregnancy… but I miss this space and this community more than I realized. And it is important to me that I can be here to share in your lives and your experiences because they make me a better person.

Cheers to 2019 sweet friends! I want to hear all of your goals, hopes and dreams for this new year, and I want to know what your game plan is for accomplishing it.

Lifestyle

Don’t Wait to Love Yourself

November 6, 2018

This one goes out to all my girlfriends out there. In the spirit of keeping it real I want to dive right into a sensitive subject. Let’s talk about body image. Gosh even just typing those words sent a shiver down my spine.

You know, most women that I know could instantly point out the things about their body that they don’t like. My hair is too stratight. My hair is too curly. My teeth are not white enough. My face is covered in acne. My butt is too flat. What abs? If I work out a little extra, if I go on this special diet… the list goes on and on.

I was not immune to these lines of thought. As I started learning how to have a better relationship with food- viewing it as fuel for my body, and not something to just munch on when I was bored, or something to avoid to lose weight, I began to appreciate my body a little more. Then I started to work out, and I began to appreciate how strong my body actually was- I was capable of so much more than I thought I was! I was spinning three days a week, I was eating a mostly Paleo diet and I was feeling strong, confident and beautiful.

Right around this time I started gaining this confidence, my husband and I started talking about what it would be like to have a baby (SPOILER: I am writing this post nearly 14 weeks pregnant =p ). I have always known I was made to be a mother. I have known since I was a little girl, pushing bitty twins in a double jogging stroller that I wanted to be just like my mom, raising strong and good people to make this world a better place. So after nearly three years of marriage, this conversation seemed only natural.

But as we started having that conversation, those thoughts that I just had overcome started to come back. What if I gain too much weight? What if all the weight goes to my love handles? What if I get stretch marks? What if I get grey hairs? What if my hair texture changes completely? What if I get acne? OMG what if I get stray hairs on my chin that I have to pluck?

Then we got pregnant. And the first three months were no walk in the park. I was sick every night. I had dark circles under my eyes. I couldn’t use face wash because it turned my face as red as a tomato. I was now going to be doomed to acne (insert major dread here). I was bloated and none of pants fit. I found three grey hairs. AND there definitely are stray hairs on my chin that I have to pluck (LOL). WHAT IF I GET STRETCHMARKS?!

As we’ve gotten further along in the pregnancy, I am carrying all my weight in my love handles and backside. I stopped wearing pants because I couldn’t bear to keep buying bigger sizes. I had to buy all new undergarments because my body is growing in ways I didn’t know it could. I just recently had to take a break from the workout I love so much because the muscles that hold everything together are stretching so much and so rapidly that they hurt when I stand up too quickly.

And you know what the most surprising thing is to me? I am the happiest I have ever been. I could absolutely care less about gaining weight, unruly pimples on my upper lip and the side of my nose or those stray hairs I have to pluck. I haven’t found any stretchmarks yet, but I am sure they are coming, and I am ready to welcome them with open arms.

My body is physically housing another human right now. It not only created a human from scratch, but is now letting it have the space for the next 5 months to grow and get stronger and come into this world as a little human that we can hold and love.

My body is now the body of a superhero. Seriously. It is ridiculously awesome that I am actually growing another person inside of me right now. And if it takes gaining weight, and earning some tiger stripes along the way, I am happy to do that.

I am in awe of my body and all of the ways it is growing and changing. It’s amazing that it took me all these years and a completely life altering event to finally truly appreciate this body that I have been given. I only wish I could have loved and appreciated my body sooner.

If you’re reading this and you’re in the phase of wanting to change something about your body, I want to encourage you to look in the mirror and find one thing about your amazing body that you can love right now. Loving yourself is a life long process, but start today! Don’t wait.

You are amazing. If I am the only person to tell you that today, I hope it sinks in. You are truly, utterly, amazing.

Lifestyle

Happy Halloween! We are Having a Baby!

October 31, 2018

Wow! I cannot believe today is finally here. I feel like I have been waiting for this day for ages.

In August, I threw Sean a surprise 30th birthday party. If you know me in real life, you know that secrets are NOT my forte. I can’t even keep a Christmas present a surprise for very long. But I planned a big ole party and people flew in from across the country, all to celebrate and love Sean! It was a great success, and that love is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

Not long after his party, we found out we were going to have a baby! I wish I could tell you that this was all romantic and involved us sitting together waiting for the countdown to end like you see in all those commercials. But actually, I really didn’t think I was pregnant, and the Frontier guy was at my house fixing something for my TV when I took the test (I can see the story now- Once Upon a Time, while a nice stranger was making sure I could watch Grey’s Anatomy, I found out you existed… you know, maybe I’ll actually write that story some day =p). Imagine my surprise when It came up with that tiny life changing word: pregnant. That ain’t no etcha sketch…That’s one doodle that can’t be undid home slice! A side note- due to the fact that I have been charting my cycle for 4.5 years, we knew about this little babe 2-4 weeks sooner than most people even find out they’re pregnant. If you want to know more about this really cool process, message me, and I can put you in touch with some incredible people who really know what they are talking about!

Sean had coincidentally forgotten something he needed at work, so I ran to TJ Maxx and got the cutest little honest company diapers, and the most hipster onesie I could find and I drove down to where he works and told him I had one last birthday gift for him. The look on his face when he saw the diapers is not one I will soon forget.

Every moment has just been such a beautiful blessing so far. Now look, don’t get me wrong- I have been feeling awful. I easily sleep 10-12 hours a night. I was having pretty rough “morning sickness” (ummm hello that’s a really awful misnomer because I didn’t get sick until the late night which made sleeping really hard lol). But thank God for modern medicine, and for the very kind nursing staff at Candlewoood Medical Group. I swear I call them at least once a week with the dumbest questions ever and they do not ever miss a beat and even thank me for calling them. Makes me feel awesome rather than stupid for calling.

As we’ve told family and friends our wonderful news, I have been incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of LOVE that already exists for this tiny peanut that is growing inside of me. My mind is blown. We have had nothing but hugs and tears and big cheers of congrats. Everyone deserves this kind of love every single day.

We were so excited when we found out that we were going to be pregnant during Halloween season because it was on my bucket list to dress up as Juno while being pregnant. Imagine my surprise when Sean actually suggested we announce like that! I was thrilled!

This baby is everthing we have hoped for, dreamed for, worked for and prayed for. Three years ago when we said I do, we knew that this is where our life was heading, and I could not be more honored or excited to start this journey.

Quick stats:

  • Baby has already been to TWO concerts: Sir Elton John and the amazing Joe Pug.
  • Starting at around 5Pm the baby gets all jumpy and when I lay down I swear I can feel he or she moving because something is definitely tickling my completely empty bladder.
  • I have completely given up on pants. They just aren’t worth it. Leggings are my absolute best friend, and thank God it’s fall and I get to wear them with tunics and swearters and scarves and boots. It’s glorious.
  • My first craving was for egg rolls. My second craving was cinnamon dolce coffee. I am currently drinking peppermint mocha coffee and it’s honestly delicious. This is a far departure from my usual dark coffee with plain half and half in it lol.

I am so looking forward to this advent season- to share with Mary the quiet excitement of being pregnant and having a tiny soul to cherish.

If you read all of this, thank you for walking this journey with me. I have missed writing, and now that the secret is out, I can’t wait to start again. And I can’t wait to see how becoming a mom helps me to grow and change into the person I was always meant to be.

 

(Still looking normal)

 

(YES! I still spin- leaving for morning workout here)

 

(Grow baby Grow! I can’t believe I have changed even since this picture just one week ago!)

 

 

 

Lifestyle

A Broken Yet Beautiful World

October 9, 2018

Man. What a time to be alive. I have recently taken to watching Good Morning America every morning as I drink my coffee and do my morning meditation. Depending on what my day looks like, I may fold a basket of laundry while watching live with Kelly and Ryan afterwards.

This new routine helps me to start my day on a little bit of a slower pace, and often points be toward the one or two hopeful news stories that are floating around in the world. Boy do I feel like I need that right now.

All day, every day, my newsfeed is full of people battling each other over incredibly important issues. There is a deep, dark beauty in these feuds as I watch people stand up for what they believe in at all costs. I think there is something really beautiful about seeing the need for change, and the raw, unbridled power that it unleashes in people’s hearts. The storm of change is brewing, and ready or not, this world we live in is going to undergo a radical reconstruction.

But so often in the heated discussions and one terrible headline after another, I begin to lose sight of the fact that this world, though broken and desolate, is still beautiful.

I find it so easy to forget that this world, though scary and imbalanced at times also breeds goodness and hope. I can focus on the negative. It would be easy. Or I can dig my heels in a little deeper and look for the goodness, beauty and truth that lies there just below the surface.

I choose to see the people in my newsfeed as warriors against injustice; injustice that runs ramapant in our society. I choose only to engage when it is something that I truly have taken the time to research and have an educated opinion about. I try always to use kind and non attacking language.

I take heated conversations out of the ring of the newsfeed and in to a real life conversation- over coffee, or dinner or in a private message if only a virtual friend. I keep an open mind, and an open heart, listening for the full story when talking. I am always searching for the truth and when someone has clear eveidence towards the truth that contradicts what I know, I thank them for opening my eyes. It is only in being willing to learn that any change actually happens.

And in each of these encounters, I have become a better person. I have seen the light, beauty and goodness that my friends have to offer. I have grown into a person that I am proud to be. Open, willing to change, willing to learn and constantly striving for a better baseline.

And this, sweet friends is a beautiful thing. Even the darkness and destruction of our current society can give birth to something good. I just need to remember not to forget it.

Keep on fighting the good fight. The world needs more people like you.