2017: The Best Year Ever

Before you gag because of a cheesy title, it comes from one of my absolute favorite guides to authentic living, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.

The full quote is:

Be your best, do your best, demand the best, expect the best, receive the best, and put your best out into the world so everyone can receive your best too.

If that isn’t a quote that is perfect for the start of a new year, then I don’t know what is!

Here’s the update on where I am with all of my challenges. I plan to post every Sunday for these from now on.

 

ACCOMPLISHED SINCE LAST TIME WE MET
  • Start on your 401(k) – WW

After doing additional research on how crucial it is to save for retirement, plus realizing I was throwing away money if I didn’t do the full match with my company, I started doing the 3% deduction for my 401(k). Since my company will match, that will be 6% every month headed into my retirement fund. I kind of hate losing out on that money since I would love to use it to pay off credit card debt or go on a trip, but I am trying to think long-term here.

  • Create a capsule wardrobe – Me

This one is partially completed, in the sense that I realized I was trying to fit into a box that wasn’t made for me. Instead of a regular capsule wardrobe, I’ve created a wardrobe that makes sense for my lifestyle. I’ve bought a ton of basic tees (from tanks to long sleeved, mostly from Pact, Everlane (though their quality was meh), and Target.

Minus the Target tops, I have also worked hard to keep last year’s New Years Resolution, which was to only buy clothing that met one (or more) of the following criteria:

(1) Sustainably made (fair trade, etc.)

(2) Eco-friendly (organic cotton, etc.)

(3) From a small business (and locally created – not ordered from overseas)

(4) Gives back in some way (think Toms, or my new favorite, Francis & Benedict)

My favorite buy has been the Nau long coat I bought when it was marked down (briefly) to $160. It’s already come in handy on cold New England mornings!

  • Make a dream board – MB

The amazing Sarah Robinson came to visit and we both cerated Mind Maps for the year. Not quite a dream board, but it worked well enough that I feel like I have my head on straight to focus on what I want to do this year.

 

BEGUN SINCE LAST TIME WE MET
  • Try something this year that scares you, something you could never see yourself doing! – AK, YA

This is one that I am starting next month, and making the hubby try it out with me! We are going to try out fencing.

I’ve always been fascinated with the sport, but it wasn’t until I saw the stories of Ibtihaj Muhammad and Dagmara Wozniak (I miss my purple hair!) during the Summer Olympics that I got the fire in my belly to really try it out. Be sure to check out my Instagram to follow along with the craziness.

  • Get another dog – Me

I am working on convincing the hubby on this one. I think a second dog would complete our little family, but he is resistant. I will update on the wearing down of him over the next few months. LOL.

 

BUCKLING DOWN
Many of these challenges will look familiar, as they are ones that I have been working on basically since we began. With the deadline of my 30th birthday coming quickly, I am getting serious and buckling down to get these accomplished.
  • My challenge for you is to do 5 minutes of planks a day in some combination of straight arm, forearm, all fours and side planks. – KQ [Started on 7-24-16; Restarted 1-16-17]
  • Attend yoga classes for a month. Being consistent with your practice. Feel the difference. Post postures in your FB feed – PL [Started on 7-24-16; Restarted 1-16-17]
  • Be physically active – AM [Started on 7-24-16; Restarted 1-16-17]

It seems super #basic to take on these challenges right at the turn of the new year, but they are all ones that I know I need in my life. I know that I feel SO MUCH better when I do yoga and take care of myself, and I need to make time and force myself into making this a habit.

  • Do one nice thing for yourself every week 🙂self care, yo! – AK
  • Relax and spend some quality time with yourself at least one hour every week – JCT 

I often try to do this, but my problem is not enjoying it as fully as I should. I start to feel guilty about all of the things that AREN’T getting done. What I need to do is truly focus on enjoying moments for myself.

  • Learning to meditate (even if you decide not to keep it as a practice) might be an interesting one. – KI-S [Working on it as of 6-1-16]

In this new year, my goal is to meditate every morning before I do anything. I am attempting to do that now, but will share more as I go.

  • Get up earlier and use that time to focus on something you love – DBQ [Working on it as of 6-1-16]

See above lol

  • Strengthen relationships formed throughout your life. – KBH
  • Send a card to someone (as many different someones) every day. – MA [Working on it as of 6-25-16]

I am combining these two and working to send out (very belated) Year in Review cards to all of my friends and family. I am also making it a point to reach out more just to say hi.

  • Get story published by a major magazine under your own name – Me

I submitted my article to Real Simple at the end of last year. They were supposed to let us know if we won this past week, so seeing as how I haven’t heard from them, I am going to assume I didn’t win. However, I plan on submitting my piece to other magazines soon.

  • Read all of the books I own – Me 

As per usual, this one you can always catch up on over under the Bitchin Books section. You can see my ratings and which books I loved or hated, and why. I need to update this and will do so this week, I promise!

 

Stay tuned for the ride, ya’ll! Love you <3

Two Months Later . . .

Raise your hand if sometimes you let life get in the way of what you really want to do . . .

I know I’m not the only one who’s let this happen, so I won’t stress (too much) over it.

However, I did want to get back on track and keep kicking ass when it comes to these challenges!

First, I had to share a quote from my current read, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You by Kelly Cutrone:

If you don’t let what you don’t know stop you from doing your best in every situation, you will surprise yourself over and over in life

All I could think after reading that was

 

preach

 

After the complete collapse of everything in my life last year, I started just going for things, regardless of whether I knew 100% about what I was doing or not. Working your ass off and doing your best will get you far. A perfect example of this is my current job. First of all, the job description said the person should have 5 years of agency experience. I had zero. On top of that, while I understood Facebook ads a little and SEO slightly more, I would in no way say I was anywhere near an expert. But, thankfully, my now bosses could tell that I was willing to do all I could to learn and that I would work my tail off.

 

So just because you might not have a perfect pedigree, or a perfect knowledge of something, don’t be afraid to just TRY. What’s the worst that will happen? If it doesn’t work out – you’re no worse off.

 

That’s my Amanda tip for today. Now, here’s my update on the Challenges:

 

THIS WEEK
  • My challenge for you is to do 5 minutes of planks a day in some combination of straight arm, forearm, all fours and side planks. – KQ  
  • Attend yoga classes for a month. Being consistent with your practice. Feel the difference. Post postures in your FB feed – PL [Started on 7-24-16]
  • Be physically active – AM [Started on 7-24-16]

These are all things I have been struggling to be consistent with over the past few months. However, I’ve realized just how much better I feel when I actually do yoga and take care of myself. There’s really nothing more important than having your health, so I plan to buckle down this month and really set aside time to get these challenges crossed off.

 

  • Volunteer 30 hours at your local shelter before you turn 30 – AK

It hasn’t technically been a shelter, but I have been volunteering around 15 hours a week for the amazing Balance and Wellness Studio that opened up in my office building. Because this group is just as dedicated to helping women take care of themselves and be independent as a shelter might  be, I consider this challenge completed! Doing these volunteer hours has shown me how much I love to help when I fully support the mission of an organization.

 

  • Do one nice thing for yourself every week 🙂self care, yo! – AK

This week, I plan to do exactly that! There is a journaling class and a women’s night out event at the Wellness Studio I volunteer for, and I plan on attending both this week. (Not to mention, attending more of their offerings each week so I can do something for myself consistently.)

 

STILL WORKING ON:

  • Learning to meditate (even if you decide not to keep it as a practice) might be an interesting one. – KI-S [Working on it as of 6-1-16]

I’ve found myself working hard to be more mindful and trying to not always reach for my phone every time I’m bored. So many times we just pick up the phone instead of being present and I am working each day to try and train myself out of that.

 

  • Get up earlier and use that time to focus on something you love – DBQ [Working on it as of 6-1-16]

I will be getting back to doing this so that I can focus on my yoga and taking care of myself.

 

  • Strengthen relationships formed throughout your life. – KBH

I have been doing this off and on, but it’s something that I am going to redouble my efforts on as the holidays are approaching.

 

  • Send a card to someone (as many different someones) every day. – MA [Working on it as of 6-25-16]

I was doing this consistently, but then I realized all of the addresses I had were old (from the holidays last year) and a lot of people have moved. Needless to say, I need NEW addresses! So if you would like to receive a letter or card from me just because, please fill out here so I can send you some joy!

 

  • Relax and spend some quality time with yourself at least one hour every week – JCT 

I actually did this yesterday, for the first time in a long time. My hubby went for a hike with some friends, so I did a big, fat NOTHING. And it was glorious. Taking time for myself needs to be a MUCH bigger priority.

 

  • Get story published by a major magazine under your own name – Me

I submitted my article to Real Simple, so we shall find out in January whether this will be happening or not. I’m also looking for other opportunities to contribute to magazines as well. And a HUGE thanks to those that edited my story for me, including Sandra R. and the fabulous author, Sarah Robinson.

 

  • Make a dream board – MB

This is one I am going to work on this week. With the help of my Passion Planner, my Powersheets, and my latest read – 5: Where Will You Be Five Years from Today?, I am going to figure out exactly where I want to go. Which will, in turn, help me to create my dream board.

 

  • Read all of the books I own – Me 

As per usual, this one you can always catch up on over under the Bitchin Books section. You can see my ratings and which books I loved or hated, and why.

 

Alright, I think that’s enough for this week. Any of these spark your interest? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time, my loves.

“Fortune Favors Action”

I’ve been on a roll with the quotes from my books lately, so why stop now?

I’m currently reading #GIRLBOSS and a whopping 14 pages in, Sophia Amoruso smacked me upside the head with a killer paragraph (emphasis my own).

 

Abandon anything about your life and habits that might be holding you back.

Learn to create your own opportunities.

Know that there is no finish line; fortune favors action.

Race balls-out toward the extraordinary life that you’ve always dreamed of, or still haven’t had the time to dream up.

And prepare to have a hell of a lot of fun along the way.

 

I mean, how can you read that and NOT want to just take on the world?!

So here’s my update on how things are going with the Challenges:

  • Relax and spend some quality time with yourself at least one hour every week – JCT & Take an online class and learn to make your own greeting cards! – TH.

I have started painting watercolors, and I am officially obsessed! I have taken a shine to painting pineapples and it has been a joy watching them blossom under my paintbrush. I finally understand why people love to paint!

You can see pictures of my creations over on Instagram. I’m even thinking about getting super serious and painting some to sell!

 

  • Get story published by a major magazine under your own name – Me

I spend the past two hours working on this, so we shall see what comes of it. I plan to submit it to Real Simple, and perhaps see where else I could send it if I don’t win their competition.

 

  • Take a trip somewhere you have never been – alone. – MPM, DA, IS combined with
  • Visit California – SM

Sadly, this one is going to have to be put on hold. I had wanted to do this in September, but unfortunately, our car needed new brakes, rotors, and a bunch of other items. The travel budget got moved into the car budget, and thus no Cali anytime soon.

 

  • Make a dream board – MB

This is one I am going to work on this week. With the help of my Passion Planner, my Powersheets, and my latest read – 5: Where Will You Be Five Years from Today?, I am going to figure out exactly where I want to go. Which will, in turn, help me to create my dream board.

 

  • Read all of the books I own – Me 

As per usual, this one you can always catch up on over under the Bitchin Books section. You can see my ratings and which books I loved or hated, and why.

 

  • Read a classic book that you’ve always thought about reading but never took the time. – SYM

And finally, for the upcoming week at least, I plan to accomplish this challenge. The book I have chosen is How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

Considering this book was first published before World War II (1937, to be exact), I would definitely make consider it a classic! And yet, despite the fact that it was first printed almost 80 years ago, it still ranks as one of the top books in the world.

I am curious as to what makes it such an enduring book and whether it can actually help me do what the title says 😛

 

And on that note, I bid you adieu! I am off to get started on this week’s challenges, plus watch a little Olympics while I’m at it!

Always,

Amanda

 

 

“You Need To Have The Audacity To Be Honest About What You Really Want To Do”

Another post, and another quote from the brilliance that is You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.

The full quote goes like this (emphasis my own):

If you’re going to push through major obstacles to reach your goal,

you can’t just want to want to;

you need to be in a full-on tizzy of excitement about what it is you’re going after and hold on to it like a pitbull.

In order to do this, you need to have the audacity to be honest about what you really what to do, not what you should do,

believe it’s available to you regardless of any evidence otherwise,

and go for it.

So much of what I have been challenged to are things that I want to want to do, but haven’t really been focused on accomplishing. Every weekend that arrives, I look back at the week and realize how much I didn’t get done when it comes to my own personal goals. I get caught up in my work goals, and spouse goals, and let my personal goals fall by the wayside.

I know I’m not original in this. Nor is this the first time I am even complaining about myself in this way. But in the same way that sometimes you have to fall down ten times to get back up on that eleventh and win, I am needing this reminder today.

Much of it also stems from the fact that there are things in my challenges that I don’t want to do, though I know I should do them.

Exhibit A: be better about my yoga and meditation practices.

I also want to write my book that I have been working on (very slowly) since last fall.

No one is holding me back from these things except myself. If I truly pushed myself, I could do it. But I end up giving in to being lazy, or letting others take over. I need to demand that I have time for my needs and focus on accomplishing those as well.

Sorry if you came here to read about how I am accomplishing so much, but I do have plans for the upcoming week that should bring with it some actual goal completion.

Those plans are:

UPCOMING CHALLENGES

  • Relax and spend some quality time with yourself at least one hour every week – JCT

To do this, I am going to work on completing the other challenge of Take an online class and learn to make your own greeting cards! – TH.

I mentioned this in my previous post, but I have a watercolor set and I want to get better at painting with it.

Therefore, I am going to spend an hour today watching YouTube tutorials and painting.

I plan on doing the same thing on Friday. That way, I can start and cap my week with painting, and work towards completing one of the challenges.

  • Get story published by a major magazine under your own name – Me

I have ghostwritten stories that have ended up in major publications, but never had one published under my own name. There is a writing competition by Real Simple, with the challenge to answer “What was the most dramatic change you ever had to make?”

Considering that my life for the last year has been a series of dramatic changes, I thought this was a perfect place to start. And if my essay doesn’t win, then perhaps I can submit it elsewhere, and repurpose it to share the knowledge I learned from last year.

No matter what though, by May of 2017, I want to have a story published in a major magazine under my own name.

To accomplish this, I am going to start reviewing what I have written for my book and seeing where I can go from there. By this time next week, I am giving myself the goal of having a strong outline to write from.

  • Take a trip somewhere you have never been – alone. – MPM, DA, IS combined with
  • Visit California – SM

So this one will have to wait until pay day, but I am hoping to set in motion a plan to visit Cali at the end of September.

Not only do I want to attend the Re:Make Summit & Festival by Brit + Co, but I also want to visit the numerous friends I have on the West Coast.

As I have never traveled further West than St. Louis, I am ecstatic to (hopefully) finally see what all the California fuss is about.

 

ONGOING CHALLENGES

  • Send a card to someone (as many different someones) every day. – MA

I am continuing this challenge and have thoroughly enjoyed sending these postcards so far. Almost nothing brings me more joy than sending little bits of happiness out into the world!

  • Attend yoga classes for a month. Being consistent with your practice. Feel the difference. Post postures in your FB feed – PL

I know I have said previously that I have started this one, but now I am “in a full-on tizzy of excitement” about going to yoga, and plan on holding “on to it like a pitbull.”

I have got to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. Starting with tomorrow morning. I will be at yoga, come hell or high water.

  • Read all of the books I own – Me 

This one you can always catch up on over under the Bitchin Books section. You can see my ratings and which books I loved or hated, and why.

 

Hope this is enough excitement to keep you intrigued! Either way, I’m off to get my shit together and start working on my water color skills!

Always,

Amanda

“Be Grateful For All You Are”

That quote comes from my favorite guide (You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life) and is highly appropriate coming off of the week of no complaints.

To ensure that I complained as little as possible, I hung notes for myself all around the house reminding myself it was no complaint week, as well as hanging it on my computer at work, and getting my coworkers to help call me out (which they found to be HIGHLY enjoyable hahaha).

CHALLENGE: Have at least one full week, 7 days, where you just allow yourself to be happy, not complain about anything, but relish on all the good in your life and around you – JEB

To be 100% honest, there were a few complaints in there (hey, it happens). However, they mostly had to do with (1) feeling ill on Tuesday, and (2) minor annoyances in daily life.

I did learn though that bitching about things is basically worthless talk. I mean really – how much does complaining REALLY get us? Unless you are complaining to a company about a service or something with a direct result, it mostly just hinders us. It drags down our mood.

The biggest realization has been that not complaining helps me to stay focused and happier than complaining ever did.

Maybe this seems obvious to ya’ll – but you should actually TRY to go a week without complaining. It will really have an impact then.

One of my close family friends, who runs a page called “Happy Sunday Ya’ll” put it perfectly:

FullSizeRender

It’s something we have all heard, but rarely sit and think about.

You get back what you put out into the world. So why not put happiness out there? Why not be grateful for all that you have been blessed with?

Yes, we all have our problems and issues in life – but if you’re reading this, you can’t be totally destitute.

So the next time you want to bitch, take a second and turn it around. Be grateful that that might be the worst thing going on in your life at that moment.

 

As for the other challenges, here’s how those are going:

COMPLETED

Get the haircut you’ve always wanted, but never thought you could pull off (you can!) – MM

This one I am altering slightly. I have no fear when it comes to getting my hair cut or colored – as evidenced by the pictures below.

hair color

However, I never thought that I would cut my hair myself.

That is, until a few weekends ago. I was just frustrated in my hair, it was bugging me with its length and weight, so I grabbed a pair of scissors and just cut off about 4-5 inches.

Lord, I wish I had had a camera to capture my husband’s face when he came into the bathroom! It takes a lot to shock my easy-going hubby, and his face was priceless!

I love it and it’s the perfect length for summer now – so I would say cutting my hair myself, on the spur of the moment, qualifies to complete this challenge!

 

ONGOING

Send a card to someone (as many different someones) every day. – MA [Working on it as of 6-25-16]

Still continuing to do this. Still sending postcards and letters to loved ones and friends 🙂 I love the thought of them getting little bits of love from me randomly.

 

PLANNING

Learn ASL (Learn a New Language) – SR, MK

Working on this one. I have a friend who is going to Skype with me to help me work on it, and I also plan on attending local meetups to practice.

I know the alphabet already, but I want to get much better!

 

Take an online class and learn to make your own greeting cards! – TH

Instead of just taking an online class (although I do have my eye on this one and this one from Brit + Co), I am also going to scour YouTube to help me with this.

I have a watercolor set and canvases that have been sitting in a drawer for a long time. It used to be that I would paint to get out my frustrations at one of my previous jobs. However, since I love my job now and things have been relatively happy – I haven’t felt the need to angry paint in awhile.

Therefore, I want to put those tools to good use and really learn to paint watercolor paintings (and maybe, eventually, greeting cards for the holidays?). I will be sharing pictures of these escapades on social media – so feel free to follow along 🙂

 

Read all of the books I own – Me [Working on it as of 6-20-16]

I have been on a reading SPREE lately. To the detriment of my sleep (oops) and cleaning (double oops). But it’s worth it to actually just enjoy the pleasure of a good book.

Since I will be continuing this challenge throughout the year, I have decided to make a page for my book reviews. I will also be sharing them on Goodreads and Litsy, if you want to join me over there.

I likely could spend every post just discussing the books I read, so to make things easier, I will give them their own section 🙂 Feel free to join me under Bitchin’ Books for all the highlights.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS ON ONE OTHER CHALLENGE

Strengthen relationships formed throughout your life. – KBH

This challenge is something I am working on today! One of my good friends from college, with whom I had drifted apart from post-graduation, had a reunion of sorts last year.

When I was going through my own personal hell, she reached out and helped me in a myriad of ways – despite us not having talked in years.

That compassion and caring are proof of the good people in this world, and I am ECSTATIC that her and I are about to be reunited today at a sporting event!

This is a challenge I am going to work to cultivate as the entire year of challenges goes on. However, it is one that is so important in today’s ever-evolving, digitized world.

We all have people that we wish we had kept in contact with. That meant a lot to us when we were close. And we likely have the means to be reunited with them again if we wanted.

Chances are, you could reach out to them on Facebook or via text. So why not do it?

You may think it’s been too long. Or they won’t want to hear from you. Or that you’ll have nothing to say.

But why let that hold you back?

Last year, my friend could have easily thought those things. And yet, she still reached out to me and it meant the world. It made a horrible time in my life less awful to know that she cared, even after all this time.

Do that for someone. Be that for someone.

Everyone could use a kind word or a little extra love in their life. Go ahead and spread a little bit of happiness today. It will cost you nothing and will only send good out into the world.

Until next time!

Always,

Amanda

 

Going Balls To The Wall

baseballs-to-the-wall

My mother is going to be appalled by this title, but I always love using that phrase. Mostly to see the shocked looks people give me. hahaha.

It’s really so easy to fall  into a routine. You get up, you do your usually morning bit, you go to work, you come home, you eat dinner, you go to bed. And you get up and do it all over again the next day.

FOOD INSPIRED REFLECTION

Randomly, what made me think of this was making my hubby and I’s favorite buffalo chicken dip this past holiday weekend. Yes, buffalo chicken dip inspired deep introspection. Because food = life.

But I digress. The introspection began when I realized that we always make this dip for holidays or get togethers. Mostly because it’s SUPER easy to make, plus it’s unreasonably delicious.

And that makes sense – with busy lives, you don’t want to have to worry about crafting some ridiculously hard dip. This one is hardly any work and it’s always a crowd pleaser.

But that is where being convenient sometimes gets in the way. I began to wonder – did I even really WANT this dip? Or was I making it because that’s what we always did?

And that led me to realize why I have had such a hard time getting my challenges truly started.

BREAKING OUT OF ROUTINE

Because it’s so much easier to follow my routine instead of making the  harder effort to break out of it and actually DO all the things I asked people to challenge me to.

And that was why I wanted to do these challenges in the first place. Because after being made so ridiculously uncomfortable during the shitastic year I had last year, it ended up leading me to finding out who I really was.

So I thought that if after a few horrible experiences that made me uncomfortable, I was able to grow so much – then what would happen if I had a ton of uncomfortable experiences, one after the other?

PROMISE & PARTING THOUGHTS

Here’s my promise to myself – I will create a schedule for these challenges, so I can truly plan them out and get them done.

And even better, I found some  inspiration in one of my favorite book: You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero.

I have read this book through so many times that I have tabbed it to death, and filled it with highlighting and notes.

Whenever I am in need of a good kick in the ass, I open the book up to one of those tabs, and it always gives me an excellent nugget of truth.

When I did that today, I got this:

When you make a no-nonsense decision, you sign up fully and keep moving forward toward your goal, regardless of what’s flung in your path. And stuff will most definitely get flung, which is why making the decision is so crucial–this shit is not for sissies. The moment it gets hard or expensive or puts you at risk of looking like a moron, if you haven’t made the decision, you’ll quit. If it wasn’t uncomfortable, everyone would be out there all in love with their fabulous lives.

There you go folks. How perfectly fitting.

I am signing up fully for this journey, here and now!

Catch ya’ll on the flip side.

Always,

Amanda

Don’t Hate Evil More Than You Love Good

 

What a week it has been.

I know this blog is supposed to be about my journey through my challenges, but I cannot act like my life is happening in isolation from what is going on in the rest of our country.

I spent yesterday crying on and off for the families of all those slain this week. For both the officers and Mr. Castile and Mr. Sterling.

There were so many times over the past few days that I typed out a visceral, angry response to what has happened. Where I cast blame and threw barbs and pointed fingers.

And while I may still feel upset, I realized that immediately throwing hate back at hate isn’t going to fix this.

People are always shocked that I can discuss highly controversial issues without getting truly angry – at least in person. Some of my absolute best friends in the world live on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Even my father and I have passionate disagreements.

These five women and I have had discussions ranging from everything from gay marriage, to abortion, to the Bible and more. And yet, as you can tell, we have a close-knit bond.

10658984_812627141772_9069801345888943687_o

I realized though that when I went online, it was different. Instead of bringing to bear the same passion and respect that I had in person, I would just go on tirades. And while many agreed with me, there were many who would immediately be turned off. Not because what I said was wrong. But because of how I said it.

Discussions about issues such as race should be thoughtful and nuanced. Instead, we are so ready for that soundbite. So ready for that one thing we can take and run with and point to on social media. And none of that is going to get us anywhere.

Race is an issue that has been woven into the fabric of our country since it began. Even Lin-Manuel Miranda discusses it in Hamilton. In the song Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down), the lyrics read (emphasis is mine):

[HAMILTON]
After a week of fighting, a young man in a red coat stands on a parapet

[LAFAYETTE]
We lower our guns as he frantically waves a white handkerchief

[MULLIGAN]
And just like that, it’s over. We tend to our wounded, we count our dead

[LAURENS]
Black and white soldiers wonder alike if this really means freedom

[WASHINGTON]
Not. Yet.

Another one of my best friends and I have had numerous discussions on race. And yes, he is black. I know the tired trope about “But my best friend is black!” But he really is one my of best friends, so it is what it is.

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Something that stuck with me last year when he and I had a discussion about the entire Rachel Dolezal nonsense was that he identifies first as black, before any other qualifiers. That is something that is woven into his being, as it is in so many others, because of the way we have continued to treat anyone of color in our country.

Another good friend of mine often posts about his experiences being treated differently and disrespectfully, despite the fact that he owns his own law practice and is generally one of the most stand-up guys I know. (Honestly, I was sometimes annoyed with him in law school because he just seemed so GOOD at everything hahaha).

The reason I point these things out though is because all of these discussions have come about – be it about race, sexual orientation, abortion, guns – because my friends and I were willing to actually sit and talk.

Without taking things personally. Without being accusatory. Without mocking the other side, or saying that they are “sheep,” or that they just hate all LGBT/black/pro-choice/whatever people.

We didn’t degrade each other’s intelligence. We didn’t call each other names. We actually listened.

And yes, sometimes it’s hard. Growing and learning can be painful. How many times do you fall down when you’re a child learning to walk? But that doesn’t mean you give up and never try to walk again. It means you take what you learned and move forward.

When I first heard about white privilege, I got defensive. It’s a fairly common reaction amongst white people. Because, of course, no one’s life is without suffering. So many mistake white privilege to mean that white people have everything handed to them or have it so easy. Obviously, that is not the case. All of us suffer in our own way.

But at the same time, yes, the color of your skin DOES offer you advantages in treatment and in life. It is an immutable fact, backed up by evidence.

That is not to say that you don’t work hard. I know most people do (especially Millennials, but that’s another post for another day). But you are given inherent advantages.

Accepting this is just one part of the discussion, though.

All sides need to be able to sit down and discuss ways to change, grow, and move forward.

I hate that I have to offer this caveat, but no, I do not think all cops are racist – but are there some racist cops and others with inherent biases? Yes.

And no, not all #BlackLivesMatter members want police killed. Do I think there are a few militant members? Probably. But they are not the majority.

We MUST stop living in extremes and look instead at what unites us. We need to find that middle ground, that so often seems to get lost in the “us” vs. “them” discussions on social media.

And in some small part, I am going to do the very best I can to offer only thoughtful, articulate, and non-accusatory and non-inflammatory statements on the issues we face as a country.

I have been given much in my life. That’s not to say I haven’t suffered (last year will attest to that), but I have been blessed to present as white, and I will use that basis from which to speak for those whose voices have been silenced for too long.

Lastly, to keep this as part of my challenges, I am also going to take on the challenge of not complaining for a week. If this past week has shown me anything, it’s to love my family and friends as much as possible and be grateful for all that I have been blessed with.

So starting today, I am going to only focus on the positive and attempt to go a week without complaining in the slightest.

I leave you with one of the best quotes I have heard all week: “Don’t hate evil more than you love good.”

 

Always,

Amanda

 

Yeah, About That

So basically I let life get in the way recently and haven’t posted.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. It just that I have written so much, and then something else happens, and then I am unsure what to actually post.

It started with Saturday, June 11th.

  • I wrote a piece about what it’s like to grow up female. I wanted to explain how hard it can be sometimes for men to understand the little and pervasive ways that women deal with society’s expectations every single day.

Sunday, June 12th

  • Then I woke up Sunday morning to the horrific and devastating news about the Orlando shooting. I didn’t want to post the piece about growing up female after that because it paled in comparison to what others were dealing with and the shared pain that we all were feeling.
  • Again, I sat down and wrote out my feelings about the terror in Orlando and how hard it can be to even express these feelings after something like that.

Monday, June 13th

  • But before I could even get that post published, a shitstorm of politics rained down about gun control, and Donald Trump just generally being an asshole.
  • At which point I AGAIN wrote out my views on the current shitshow of our gun laws and the presumptive Republican nominee.

The Rest Of That Week

  • And for the third time, before I could publish anything, something got in the way. This time, I got so fed up with everyone being hateful to each other on Facebook that I just took myself off the social media channel and took a break from the internet.

Just in case you were wondering where I have been these past few weeks, there you go. Plus a visit from my baby sister was thrown in there, so obviously I was showing her around my new city instead of sitting inside and writing.

Luckily (or unluckily) for you, I am back at it!

I may still post my writings from the past few weeks in the upcoming one, but we shall see.

The important thing is that I am writing again, and that is what I need to be doing.

Not to mention – THE CHALLENGES!

 

(1) MEDITATION

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I am currently reading Secular Meditation: 32 Practices for Cultivating Inner Peace, Compassion, and Joy by Rick Heller.

(And by currently reading, I mean I started it last night)

However, I am already highlighting away and learning a lot about the overall practice of meditation, as well as how to use it for myself.

I will definitely be sharing what I’ve learned and how my practice is going in the upcoming posts.

 

(2) GETTING UP EARLIER

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In an effort to follow this challenge (Get up earlier and use that time to focus on something you love – DBQ) I have been getting up a half an hour earlier.

I have been using that time to read my magazines and just luxuriate in being awake before the rest of the world. It has also meant that I have been getting to work before everyone else, which has been really nice as well. I can use that time to get my brain sorted, go through emails, and get on top of any writing I need to do, before the world comes crashing in.

I will definitely be continuing this throughout the challenge year.

 

(3) WRITING TO SOMEONE, ANYONE

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The challenge was this: Send a card to someone (as many different someones) every day. – MA

And last year, I had asked for a bunch of #Skimmbassador’s addresses to write them Holiday cards. Sadly, I didn’t get through all of them, and I wanted to make it write.

Which is where this comes in! I am pulling that list back out and writing each of them a postcard or letter to share the love. I plan on sending at least 7 a week, and hopefully many more.

 

(4) READING IS MY SPORT

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But seriously. If it was an Olympic sport, I would get gold. One of the challenges was: Read all of the books I own – Me

In an effort to do that, read The General’s Mistress by Jo Graham over the weekend.

My assessment?

  • Loved the historical aspect of early in Napoleon’s military campaigns and reign
  • Loved that she took ownership of her life
  • Felt meh about some of the “romance” aspect. Sometimes I felt like the author threw it in there just to have it
  • Great beach read, wouldn’t read it if you want something intellectual
  • Overall, I would give it a 3.5 out of 5

I plan on doing this with all the books I’m reading, so feel free to check them out (literally! #librarypun)

 

There you go, folks! Where I’ve been and where I’m going – at least for now.

Catch ya on the flip side!

Always,

Amanda

Sometimes, Nothing Is Harder Than Just Starting

Well, it’s been a week of good and bad in terms of following my challenges.

The Good:

  • Got up and went to yoga on Wednesday and felt amazing for it
  • Meditated Monday – Wednesday
  • Did planks Monday & Tuesday
  • Got up earlier than normal all week long (minus today)

As you can see, it’s the after Wednesday portion where I cracked like a woman on a Target spree.

 

The Bad:

  • Stayed up WAY too late reading on Wednesday night and skipped meditating and planks on Thursday
  • Ditto Thursday night (plus used the excuse of a dentist’s appointment on Friday to avoid it)

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Willpower Fail

Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of research that shows that as the week goes on, we basically suck at willpower. We deplete ourselves with the 9383948184 decisions we make throughout the day, and by the end of the week, we are just exhausted.

The same actually goes for each day, too. That’s why you’re more likely to binge late at night and/or later in the week – your willpower has been used up.

That’s also why I HAVE to go to yoga in the morning. Otherwise, I can talk myself out of it.

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So, how do I get back on track?

That’s a good question. And it’s partly why I’m recording my failures here.

I need your help. Please push me (even if I get annoyed) and remind me of my commitment! Text me, post on my Instagram, tweet me, post on my Facebook page, comment here.

I don’t care how you do it, but I could use some help in motivating myself! And let’s be honest, we feel a lot worse (usually) letting someone else down who is expecting something from us, than letting ourselves down.

So expect more from me so I can expect more from myself!

THIS WEEKEND’S CHALLENGES

In addition to continuing to work on the above challenges, I will be taking on new challenges as I go.

 

(1) The “send a card to someone (as many different someones) every day” challenge.

With all of the craziness of work and life and the commitment to the challenges above, I don’t think it’s feasible to write one every day.

BUT, I am going to modify this challenge to be, “write at least 7 cards a week to as many different someones as you can.”

That way, whether I do them all at once each week, or one each day, I am still embodying the spirit of the challenge 🙂

And if you would like for me to write you a card, I’ve made a handy little Google Form to do so! Just click here and I will happily write you a letter!

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(Obviously, butterflies land as I write my letters using an old fashioned pen.)

 

(2) The “try one brand new (to you) food item from a different country per month” challenge.

This one, I can’t wait to do! Randomly, (in the sense that I didn’t know this when we moved here) we ended up in a heavily Brazilian area of our town.

Which means there are some awesomely authentic Brazilian restaurants within walking distance of our place.

Thus, since I’ve never had Brazilian food, I figured tonight is the time to try it! I will absolutely update you on how it goes.

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So there you have it, folks! My honest assessment of this first week of challenges, and the two I plan on completing this weekend.

Let me know any thoughts or comments on all  of this in the comments below!

Until next time!

 

Always,

Amanda

Yoga To Be Kidding Me

I know, I know. I’m just so punny.

Today’s challenge was bestowed upon me by my former yoga instructor back in Alabama. This woman changed my life over a year ago by showing me that I was not too ADHD, Type-A, unflexible enough to do yoga.

  • Attend yoga classes for a month. Being consistent with your practice. Feel the difference. Post postures in your FB feed – PL

For almost a year, I was a solid devotee to the yoga lifestyle. Then my life crashed in around me, and going to yoga slipped to the bottom of the list.

So to honor and thank my former yoga instructor and to bring myself back to where I was in my yoga journey, I’m jumping back on the bandwagon!

There’s a 6am class that I have decided to commit to attending at least three days a week to start. If I can handle that for awhile, I will move to doing it every day.

And to keep with what I have been challenged, I will also post pictures on my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. So you are welcome to follow along there if you would like.

 

UPDATE ON PREVIOUS CHALLENGES:

Well, Tuesday’s challenges seem to be off to a pretty decent start.

I can definitely tell you the planks have left me feeling sore, but I kind of enjoy that in a weird way. It makes me feel stronger and that helps boost my self-confidence.

I’m only on my second day of meditating, so I can’t tell you if it’s made me more zen yet, but I’m trying!

 

See all ya’ll tomorrow!

Always,

Amanda