The Ultimate National Park Travel Guide

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” 
― John Muir

The Ultimate National Park travel guide.jpg

Living in the West — Colorado in particular — sometimes makes me feel like everyone is a master outdoors-person. That everyone has been to more National Parks than me (and I’ve been to 47 on my own just in the US!), everyone has an SUV crammed with gear, and everyone is on top of some mountain right at this moment, probably looking down at me and laughing. But, alas, apparently that is not so. 

While National Parks visitors have generally increased each year (318 million in 2018!) they are still mostly concentrated in the top 5 parks, with the bottom 5 only receiving between 10-20,000 visitors a year.

For comparison sake (and math!) Disneyworld averages over 52 million visitors a year — nearly five times the number of visitors of the most visited National Park — Great Smoky Mountains — which sees just over 11 million. The second-most visited park — Grand Canyon — only had 6.3 million visitors last year.

So, while social media may make it seem like everyone already knows everything about National Parks — don’t worry, they don’t. With the start of National Park Week (and a fee free day April 20) and summer vacation season gearing up, hopefully you are planning a trip to one or two of America’s best idea. To assuage any anxiety you may have, here are my answers to the most common questions I get about National Park Travel:


which parks should i visit

This is the by far the question I get asked the most! Which parks are “the best” or my favorite. Well, here’s the thing, it doesn’t really matter what my favorites are — because my motivations for visiting might be different than yours or your family’s.

I always tell people to consider their motivations when planning a National Park trip. What do you want to do while you’re there? Because while you may think a parks trip is all hiking and wildlife — there is so much more to do at many (most, even) of the parks.

Some parks are great for a drive (with lots of photo worthy overlooks), some parks are great to bike in, some parks are on water or have a lot of water inside, some parks are better for families, and some parks have entire towns inside. The point: understand your motivation for the trip and how it matches up to where you are going. 

If you want to stay in a cool lodge and play mini-golf in the afternoons — don’t go to the Petrified Forest. On the flip side, if you want to hike in solitude (you know, become one with nature, kumbaya, namaste) then maybe don’t hit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon or Yosemite Village. 

There are a lot of different atmospheres within parks, and also outside of them. Big parks generally have towns outside that cater to tourists and families (Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain) while other parks are literally in the middle of nowhere (Guadalupe Mountains, Pinnacles, Theodore Roosevelt) and some are nearby to medium to large cities (Channel Islands, Saguaro). 

It’s important to take all of this into account and also to understand what you/your friends/family actually like to do. If you only want to walk 3/4 of a mile (or less) to see some natural wonders — that’s awesome and totally possible. Don’t try to backpack for three days just because you think that’s the thing to do.

when is the best time to visit

Again, the “best” time might be different for everyone. I go to a lot of parks in the off or shoulder season to get away from crowds (and it’s cheaper), but I also miss some things that way. That being said, there are some “rules” to consider when planning a trip.

If you aren’t from a mountainous or higher elevation place, you may not realize how long “winter” lasts. Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier, North Cascades, Mt. Rainier, and Crater Lake are just a handful of parks that will have snow well into Spring. In many cases the roads won’t even all be open until much later than you might expect. So unless your motivation is to see the snow, check each park individually to see when roads will be open and when you can expect the snow to be melted.

Similarly, there are a few parks that you really don’t want to be in after the spring. Death Valley, Saguaro, and Joshua Tree all have extremely high, uncomfortable, and even dangerous heat in the summer months.

Other things to consider: is there a certain ecological event you’d like to witness? Many parks are known for spring blooms and fall foliage. While the parks will be more crowded during those times, it is for good reason, and might be worth the trip.

Bugs/Wildlife: There are definitely certain seasons that are better for seeing wildlife and worse for certain bugs. If these things concern you, look up that park specifically.

where do i stay?

Not to sound like a broken record here but, this depends on what you want/like to do. You don’t have to camp! But if you want to, that’s definitely the best option in my opinion. Many times any other lodging options are 1+ hour away, which takes time away from your experience in the park.

There are also beautiful lodges in many parks. These are often booked well in advance, so if this is the route you want to go — book early.

Gateway towns often have chain hotels, but I find that they are often overpriced for what you get. If I’m not camping I generally will spring for an Airbnb. There are almost always an abundance of interesting Airbnb listings near the larger and more remote parks.

how do i plan my route?

When visiting a National Park, you’re going to need a car. While there are shuttle buses within many parks (and I recommend using them!), the parks themselves are generally remote. Luckily, a lot of National Parks are (relatively) close to other parks — especially in the West. And remember, they’re also mostly all in the middle of nowhere anyways, so if you’re going to spend the time to drive to one, you might as well add in another one. Or four (looking at you California). 

I’ve taken advantage of proximity on most trips. Grand Tetons and Yellowstone are obvious groupings, but Theodore Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain National Park aren’t too far from them either. Wind Cave and Badlands are near each other, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, and Black  Canyon of the Gunnison are all within somewhat short distances of each other, and I even went to Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains, and Big Bend all in one big loop. 

Then of course there are the obvious: California, Washington, and Utah are all packed with National Parks — it would be a crime against Ken Burns to only visit one. 

what do i pack?

National Parks are great because they cater to all sorts of people. You can hike the back-country for days and climb a 14er, or you can stay in a luxurious lodge in a park with it’s own grocery store. There are certain things you need, sure, but if you plan on doing the normal things, no need to spend your entire vacation budget at REI. 

That being said, there are some things I have with me no matter what:

Water — in a water bottle and a gallon or two in my trunk (although many parks have water stations for fill ups)
Sunscreen -- even though I always forget to put it on (just having it makes me feel mature and prepared haha)
Snacks — usually mixed nuts and dried fruit (no melted mess)
Book -- (related to the place I am in if possible! - check the visitors center)
Camera — DSLR or just iPhone (make sure they are charged!)
America the Beautiful Pass - $80 to get into all the parks for a year, as well as tons of other National Park sites (GREAT DEAL I use it all the time)
Pepper spray/knife -- cause hey, I'm alone (and I guess the type of badass who carries a knife) 

and…. that’s it. That’s really all you need. Probably more than what you need, actually. I have other boots, backpack, first aid, poncho, hiking poles etc, but generally use those mostly at non-National Parks.

what do i wear

Again, this isn’t as complicated as you might think. What would you wear to go to a park in your town? You can probably wear that. I usually wear leggings, Tevas, and some kind of t-shirt or tank. If it’s hot I’ll wear some denim or athletic shorts. I usually keep a flannel nearby if it get’s cold.

Think about breathable fabrics, layers, and comfortable shoes. You’d be shocked at how many people try to hike down into the Grand Canyon in totally inappropriate dress shoes and even heels.

Just use common sense :)

In the Park

what do i do there

Again, this depends on what you like to do. There is no “right way” to visit or experience a National Park. But, if you have no idea or are looking for new experiences I always recommend visiting the visitors center first. And don’t just walk in and out. Talk to the Rangers! Get specific! They want to help you have the best experience. I say some version of this: “I like to _______, I have ______ time, I’d like to see _______, what do you recommend?” Always works. They know the secret spots. 

And then let go of any expectation. You’re there to enjoy yourself, so if you get sidetracked and miss a spot or two on your list — it’s okay.

what if its crowded

If you’re visiting some of the more well-known parks in season, they’re going to be crowded. It’s just the way it is. And in many ways it’s great to see the parks being appreciated. But, if you’re like me, the crowds can make the experience a little… annoying. Luckily, I’ve spent enough time in the popular parks to come up with a game plan for crowds.

Get there early. Always. The early mornings are always going to be less crowded. Parking lots may not be full yet, popular trails aren’t congested, and you also get the best views.

Venture off the main “attractions”. While I would never say to skip something like Old Faithful or the Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone (they’re worth fighting a crowd) remember that there is SO MUCH more to do and see at Yellowstone. And this is true for all of the parks. If you’re not sure where to find a hidden gem, ask a ranger, but then also ask someone else. I usually ask a gift shop or restaurant worker. Maybe someone you met in town. The key is to find someone who lives and works in the area — they know the spots.

Another option is to travel in the off season. When I post pictures in a park I always get comments that I went at the wrong time, or should really come back for ______ season. But, like I’ve said about 50 times, my motivations are different than theirs, so I might be perfectly fine missing that season or event in a park in exchange for less people overall. You might be too.

what if i dont want to hike

Then don’t! Like I mentioned above, there are so many options in each park. You can bike, drive, boat, swim, canoe, snorkel, and all kinds of other activities depending on where you go. Think about that before you plan your trip so you’re not stuck doing something you’re not interested in.

what if i'm tired

Then take a break! Seriously, don’t burn yourself out. That is definitely not the point of a vacation. I see so many people at parks who seem totally beat down from trying to see and do it all. Families are bickering and no one seems to be having any fun.

I spend a lot of time relaxing. Sitting on a rock somewhere and reading a book. Or just sitting. Listening. Meditating. Taking a nap. Allow yourself to do the things that make you feel good. That give you energy and fill you with joy. If that’s going hard for 12 straight hours, that’s great. If it’s sitting at a lookout for 12 straight hours, also great. It doesn’t make your experience any more or less.

am i safe

One of the reasons I started traveling to National Parks was because they felt safe. I wanted to spend time outdoors, but wasn’t ready to go off the grid completely. While National Parks are often very large and remote, they are also generally full of people — and park rangers!

If you’re concerned about safety camping, or encountering wildlife, stop by the visitors center and talk to a ranger. Maybe even go on a guided hike. Remember that you are surrounded by like-minded people — who would help you if you needed.

how do i care for environment

This might seem obvious, but according to what I’ve seen at parks apparently it isn’t. There might be a few areas for trash in some parks, but they are few and far between. Anything you bring in, you need to take out. Park rangers are not custodians, and more importantly — there are bears hanging around! Wildlife does not need your skittles wrapper/you are actually endangering people on top of ruining the very thing you are here to see. 

Actually, aim to leave a place even better than you found it! If you see some trash, pick it up. 

And it should go without saying, but don’t write on, deface, carve etc anything into anything (yes, people still do this)

For more information, check out the Leave No Trace Seven Principles.

what's trail etiquette?

If you don’t spend a lot of time on trails, you may not know trail etiquette is even a thing. So here’s a quick rundown (of the stuff that bothers me):

Right of way - The hiker going uphill has the right of way. It takes more energy and flow to ascend so the hiker going down should step to the side. 

Noise - Keep it down. I've actually been on many hikes where someone was playing music loudly from their iPhone. No earbuds. That is NOT why people go into nature. Keep it to yourself. 

Groups - Hike single-file unless you are truly the only people on the trail and can see ahead/hear behind! Sorry, but you can still talk that way. At least stay on the right half of trail space, and stay on the actual trail. 

Don’t take it with you - Don't take the rocks/branches/whatever. Leave it for others to look at. :)

Traveling Alone

As much as I’d like to think that traveling alone isn’t any different than in a group — it is. Especially as a woman. So while all of the above information still applies, there are some special concerns I’ll try to address here. For more information on solo travel and safety check out my posts here, here, and here.

what if i'm scared

Fear is a natural emotion. It makes sense to be afraid of something when you don’t know what to expect/haven’t experienced it before. But you can’t let the fear stop you. Real courage is acknowledging fear and continuing. Easier said than done though right?

Here are some things that can help to face fears:

 Gradual exposure – Identify your fears and then gradually expose yourself to them. If the idea of going on a week long off the grid hike is scary – start with a solo hike on a busy trail for a couple of hours. Work your way up to the thing you are afraid of. Practice is key – the more you expose yourself to the source of your fear the less of a hold it will have on you.

Acknowledge and accept – There’s always a point at the beginning of a trip where my mind is working overtime with fear. Did I remember to turn off the oven, did I pack my phone charger, what if the Airbnb is sketchy, what if what if what if. I have learned to acknowledge my fears and then accept that I can’t do anything more. I feel the fear and let it pass. This is a practice of mindfulness. Imagine you are watching cars drive by on a street. You acknowledge they are there and let them pass. Do this with your fear – acknowledge it and let the thoughts pass.

Think positively – A generally positive attitude is key. Assume things will go well. Assume it will all work out. Look to the past and remember the times when your fears were unfounded and assume they will be again.

Practical Tips: I always carry a pocket knife, pepper spray (or bear spray), and when staying in a hotel or Airbnb I have a doorstop alarm and/or an add a lock. Much more here.

how do i get photos?

Every day people ask me how I get photos of myself if I am traveling alone. Some people seem to think that I am lying, and have some secret boyfriend or photographer in tow. But, nope, 99% of my photos I take on my iPhone with the camera timer. The other 1% are taken by strangers I ask to take a photo of me if I’m in a crowded area. For many years I just set my phone up on a ledge, wall, or ground, but now I use this inexpensive tripod that fits in my day pack.

Here are a few tips:

Basics: Set the timer on your phone camera to 10 seconds and either set up the tripod or find something to prop your phone up against. It could be a wall, a fence, your water bottle – I’ve found some crazy stuff that works.

If you can help it, don’t use the selfie camera – you won’t be able to see yourself but the quality of the photo is much better.

Set your phone up as high as you can. Sometimes a pic from the ground can look cool but generally closer to eye level makes a better photo.

If you have an Apple Watch - set your phone somewhere farther away and use the watch to cue the photo — or use a remote (most tripods will include one)

Camera timers are the secret to the cartwheel/active shots – the timer takes a burst of photos so you have a few to choose from.

Take a bunch! Haha but seriously – take one, look at it, and then make adjustments as necessary.

And then post them all over the internet. (duh)

how do i let people know where i am

I tell at least one or two people what my hiking area is, and I share my location from my phone with my parents and two of my friends. I don’t know how that works when you don’t have service, but it makes me feel better that if they don’t hear from me, they can see my location. It’s also important to check in with others when you have service.

On the other side of that, it’s important not to post where you are! I’ve seen people post photos of their exact campsite while they are at it — not a good idea.

I still have questions!

You’re going to be okay! At some point you have to stop planning and start doing. Just go. Talk to rangers. Make friends with others in the park. Learn by doing. You’re going to have a great time :)

If you have specific questions about any of the parks I’ve been to, leave me a comment below!

My 7 Favorite Roadside Art Installations

“The key to understanding any people is in its art: its writing, painting, sculpture.” 
Louis L'Amour

Whoa sign outside of Big Basin National Park in Baker, Nevada (pop. 68)

Whoa sign outside of Big Basin National Park in Baker, Nevada (pop. 68)

When I’m on the road, I always make time to stop at interesting roadside attractions. Sometimes I get lucky and find something right off the highway, while other times I’ve had to venture into backroads and follow handwritten directions from a local to find my destination.

Either way, it’s always exciting to to find art in the outdoors. Wide open spaces are inspiring, and provide a backdrop unlike any art museum.

Here are my 7 favorites so far:

Galleta Meadows Estate — Borrego Springs, CA

Galleta Meadows Estate is in Borrego Springs, California — a town completely surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It is also the home to over 130 metal sculptures along the sides of the roads. A philanthropist, Dennis Avery, owned the land, and commissioned artist Ricardo Breceda to create the historic, prehistoric, and fanciful creatures all over his property.

They are massive, and awe inspiring. You can find most of them off of Borrego Springs Rd, through a seemingly never-ending network of dirt roads. There are maps available in town, but I’d argue finding them is part of the fun.

On the way: visit Anza Borrego Desert State Park! Spend some time in Borrego Springs, stop at Kesling’s Kitchen for lunch, or take a picnic to Christmas Circle.

More information can be found here.

Seven Magic Mountains — outside Las Vegas, NV

7 magic mountains

No, it’s not a theme park, but the crowds might rival one. I’m sure you’ve seen photos of Seven Magic Mountains scrolling through Instagram. But you might not realize that the installation is right outside of Las Vegas — off I-15. Meant to be a two-year installation created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, the 30 foot neon rocks are still standing almost three years on.

And still bringing in crowds. I’d try to visit at sunrise or sunset, and on a weekday if possible to avoid the crowds.

On the road: Las Vegas :) It’s also a good spot to stop and take a break between a trip from Zion National Park to Joshua Tree.

More info can be found here.

Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum — Joshua Tree, CA

During one of my first trips to Joshua Tree, I stayed in an eclectic artist owned camper in the desert. My plan was to spend my days in the park, but my airbnb host highly recommended that I take a detour — to the Noah Purifoy Desert Art Musuem. I am SO glad I did. The Desert Art Museum is made up of several acres of land displaying Purifoy’s assemblage sculptures. He created them all on site from 1989-2004 using all sorts of materials.

There are brochures at the entrance with names and story of each piece that I definitely encourage you to read when visiting. Then meander through the thoughtful and political sculptures, likely without a crowd. This art is meant to be walked in/on — Purifoy was interested in the role the environment would play in the pieces. It is truly unlike anywhere I have ever been.

On the road: Joshua Tree National Park is just a stones throw away.

Read more here.

Cadillac Ranch — Amarillo, TX


This is arguably the most famous roadside art installation of all — Cadillac Ranch. Sitting, er, buried on a cow pasture with an unlocked gate (actually it’s second location), Cadillac Ranch is an ode to the changing Cadillac tailfin. It was created by the San Francisco art group Ant Farm, with funding from local millionaire patron Stanley Marsh 3.

Cadillac Ranch was crowded and strewn with empty spray paint bottles on my visit — but I was still glad I stopped. The interactive nature of the art is inspiring — reading and admiring what others have created on the cars.

On the road: Cadillac Ranch can be found right off I-40 outside of Amarillo between Oklahoma City and Albuquerque. It’s also a stop along the historic Route 66.

Read more here.

Prada Marfa — Valentine, TX

Another famous Instagram location — Prada Marfa. Prada Marfa is not actually in Marfa, but a mile or so outside of Valentine, Texas (pop. 134) and 26 from Marfa. This is one of the rare destinations that is actually more remote than it seems in photos. It is truly in the middle of nowhere, which is the point. Conceived by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, and supported by Miuccia Prada (she hand selected handbags and shoes to be displayed inside), the store is obviously non-functional, and meant to be permanent without repairs.

You find it directly on Highway 90, south of I-10 towards Marfa.

On the road: Marfa is an amazing city full of art and oddities. Visit Food Shark, the Chinati Foundation, and attempt to get a glimpse of the Marfa lights. It’s also a great stopping point on the way to or from Big Bend National Park.

More info here.

World’s Smallest Target — Marathon, TX

There isn’t much known about this one, as no one has ever claimed responsibility. Located 40ish miles east of Marfa on US 90, it is surrounded by… basically nothing. I visited after Prada Marfa and if nothing else it made me chuckle. My kind of tiny store indeed.

On the road: it is outside of Marfa, and about 2 hours North of Big Bend National Park.

Read more here.

Carhenge — Alliance, NE

I spend a lot of time driving through Nebraska, and like their new slogan explains — “it’s not for everyone”. I saw the signs for Carhenge multiple times, but it’s location 2 hours north of the Interstate wasn’t exactly appealing. I took the scenic route to visit Scottsbluff National Monument on a recent trip, so it was the perfect time to stop.

Carhenge is just what it sounds like — a Stonehenge replica made with cars. Built by Jim Reinders in 1987, the site has a visitors center, parking, and other artwork on site. While I don’t know if I would go two hours out of my way to visit, it is an interesting and eclectic stop if you’re in the area.

On the road: Scottsbluff National Monument is about an hour west

Read more here.

This list doesn’t even scratch the surface on roadside art installations, but I hope it inspired you to add one or two to your list.

What outdoor art installations do you recommend? Let me know in the comments :)

Why? (why, why, why, why)

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” 
Friedrich Nietzsche


Do you think you have a calling in life? Something you were just meant for? I think about this a lot. I think there are certain professions where people tend to say a lot of things like “it takes a special person” — and teaching is one of them. As if there are these certain jobs that are “a calling” or more important than others in some way. ⁣

You know what though, I don’t think teaching is my calling. Like, at all actually. But, I do think I have a calling — I’m just using teaching math to express it right now. ⁣

There’s this thing I’ve heard about a lot “The 5 Whys” where you ask why to yourself or someone else 5 times — to really get to the core of the, well, why. And it’s so interesting to actually do. ⁣

I’m a teacher. Why? Because I want to do something that affects the next generation. Why? Because I care about the future of our world. Why? Because I believe that people are good and deserve an equal and just society. Why? Because I’ve seen and experienced both sides, and the devastation inequality creates. Why? Because I care about inequality. I care about others. ⁣

So, why am I a teacher? CliffNotes version — because I care about inequality, because I care about others. Not because I’m called to teach. I can live my calling in so many different ways. In my work and outside of it. But for now this is one of the ways.⁣

Big question, I know, but what do you feel called to do?

If you want to change your mind

“I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that's your responsibility as a person, as a human being – to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don't contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you're not thinking.” 
Malcolm Gladwell

yoga handstand

So obviously I haven’t stuck to my “every day in November blogging challenge”, but it’s not because I’m just lazy. Hear me out.

I decided not to blog on the weekends. Weekends, for me, are for rest. Whether that’s travel, or cleaning, spending time with friends, maybe even just watching movies or reading books — it’s all things I choose to do because they make me feel good. While I enjoy blogging, I don’t like the pressure of having to do it on a weekend. That’s not what a weekend is about for me.

So I changed my mind. Changed the rules. Because, um, I made all of this up — and so I can. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of changing your mind. My mind. My opinions. And you know, it’s okay. Really.

I always hear people say that they are the type of person that, when they “make up their mind they never go back” or that “no means no and yes means yes — no going back” as if this is a good thing. And if it’s something you really believe in, yes, of course. Don’t waver. But what if you are presented with more information? What if the circumstances change? Then what?

It can feel like you’re betraying yourself and everyone who knows you once believed or said ______ if you change your mind. It takes courage to say that you’ve changed your mind. That yes, once I thought _____, but now I don’t. And it’s okay.

It reminds me of those facebook posts where a zealot from one political party will post a video from 15+ years ago of someone from the other party saying something that doesn’t align with what they are saying now. I always just want to comment (but don’t because dude, facebook is not the time) “hey, isn’t it okay to change your mind? To be presented with new information? To learn?”

If I can’t change my mind, then imagine how terrifying it would be to ever take a stand on anything. Because what if I’m wrong? Then what? Well, then I can change my mind, that’s what. And how amazing that is. How lucky we are. To be able to grow. To learn. To experience new things. To be influenced by them. And make decisions based on them.

I mean, isn’t this all the definition of “open-minded”? What is something that you once believed and then changed your mind on? When presented with new information?

Friday Favorites -- 11.9.18

One of the strangest things about the internet, to me, is how many people want to know what _____ I am wearing in photos. haha. I mean I get it, I think that too when I’m scrolling — I just never thought people would wonder those things about me. But here we are. So here are some of the things I’m wearing, and some of the things I’m really loving this week. :)

MVMT Sunglasses

I LOVE these glasses. I got the matte black, which is really striking — I’ve gotten tons of compliments. It’s also my first pair of polarized sunglasses — and wow, what was I thinking not buying these before?? Especially in Colorado. I drive into the sunrise every morning for work, and these are truly amazing. They’re a little pricier than sunglasses I’ve had in the past, but I can say after a few weeks of wear, they are totally worth it. Check them out here. And use my code: emilyventures15 for $15 off your order :)

Fireplace channel

If you watch my Instagram stories, first — sorry haha, and second — you’ve probably seen my love of the fireplace channel. I don’t have a fireplace of my own, but this honestly does the trick. I looked it up on demand one day and never looked back. I’m the type of person that likes a little background noise so the cackling sounds are perfect. I can clean, read, whatever, and have a little ambiance. It’s especially great on a snowy day. Making the most of what you have. :)

outdoor voices 1

Outdoor Voices Set

Everyone is hip to Outdoor Voices now right? I can’t tell if it’s everywhere, or if I just think that because I spend so much time on their website that all of my ads are targeted towards them. Hmm. Well if you aren’t, you gotta get on it. Outdoor Voices is a woman founded company that has a great mission, doesn’t airbrush, and has the coolest gear. The fabrics are awesome, the styles are original (although now often cheaply imitated) and they honestly just feel good to wear. I’m not in any way sponsored by them (although, hey call me :) haha) I just really love my pieces, and want everyone to know. My leggings are here, and crop is here.


Christmas movies

Gosh, I’m really into a lot of sitting on the couch this week aren’t I? Haha… but seriously I kind of am. The time change hit me hard, and then a cold hit me even harder. This week has mostly been about getting home from work, putting on something cozy, and going to sleep early. In between there somewhere I have watched two Hallmark Christmas Movies. A little early, I know, but I can’t help it. If you need an escape of any kind, this is the way to do it. They are so unrealistic, and so predictable — but I love that about them. It transports you to a different state, you don’t have to pay too close of attention, and it just makes me feel good. Everything doesn’t have to be so serious. What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

the dream

The Dream Podcast

I’ve just caught up on this podcast, and it is really interesting — basically just the topic. It’s about MLMs (multi-level marketing) companies and it really is fascinating. I won’t give too much away, but if you’re wondering about all the things your friends are selling on Facebook, and/or need a new podcast to binge, give this one a shot.

Thanks for reading :)


“Be happy in the moment, that's enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” 
Mother Teresa

jasper alberta

Sometimes I get comments and messages from people who give me a hard time about why I’m posting places “when I’m not even there”. This really bothers me. One — if you don’t like it don’t follow me (and definitely don’t take the time to write a comment/message) and two — who says something is important or interesting or worthy of being shared just because it’s happening now? Where did this come from? I actually think it’s so odd when people post when they are actually doing something. That must be really annoying to everyone else. Being stuck behind a phone. Trying to write a caption and edit a photo instead of enjoying the moment that is worthy of being shared.

I wrote a little about it on Instagram today:

“This photo wasn’t taken this morning. It’s a #tbt of course. Like many of my photos, I don’t aim to post in the moment. For safety reasons first, but more to stay present. In the moment. I take my phone out to capture a scene and then I put it away. I don’t want to spend any time editing or coming up with some caption. ⁣

Photos, to me, have a life beyond the moment. Isn’t that like.. the point of a photo? It’s an artistic expression. So why would I ever feel that it couldn’t be shared again? Later? That a picture isn’t relevant if it wasn’t happening in this moment? ⁣

I think about the life of art sometimes. The picture on the wall. Where it’s been. What it’s seen. The people who have interacted with this same piece over the years. The meaning they ascribed to it. ⁣

Because if there’s one thing that frustrates me about social media, it’s the disposability of it. The fleeting nature. That a moment in time is only interesting for a moment. Before something better comes along. Memories don’t work that way. Art doesn’t work that way. Neither are disposable. They have a life beyond the moment. A life I want to continue to remember. To reminisce. To make meaning from. I hope that’s alright :) “

Because a photo isn’t a beautiful photo because it was taken right at that moment. A story isn’t moving because it just happened. We live in an instant gratification culture, where we want to know it all now. Take the time to step away from it. Wait a little. Experience things first. You’ll be glad you did.

On the 7th day...

I rested. Here are better words than mine.

Excerpt from Rising Strong by Brene Brown:

It's the same with life: We can't chart a new course until we find out where we are, how we came to that point and where we want to go. Reckon comes from the Old English recenian, meaning "to narrate." When you reckon with emotion, you can change your narrative. You have to acknowledge your feelings and get curious about the story behind them. Then you can challenge those confabulations and get to the truth. 

I'll walk you through it. The next time you're in a situation that pushes your buttons—from a breakup to a setback at work—and you're overwhelmed by anger, disappointment or embarrassment, try this practice. 

Engage with your feelings. 

Your body may offer the first clue that you're having an emotional reaction: for instance, your boss assigns the project you wanted to a colleague, and your face begins to feel hot. Or your response may involve racing thoughts or replaying the event in slow motion. You don't need to know exactly where the feelings are coming from: you just have to acknowledge them. 

My stomach is in knots. 
I want to punch a wall. 
I need Oreos. Lots of them.

Get curious about the story behind the feelings. 

Now you're going to ask yourself a few questions. Again, it's not necessary to answer them right off the bat. 

Why am I being so hard on everyone? 
What happened right before this Oreo craving set in? 
I'm obsessing over what my sister said. Why?

This step can be surprisingly difficult. You're furious because Todd got the project, but it may feel easier to steamroll over your anger with contempt: Todd's a brownnoser. This company's a joke. Getting curious about your feelings may lead to some discoveries: What if you're more hurt than you realized? Or what if your attitude could have played a part? But pushing through discomfort is how we get to the truth. 

Write it down. 

The most effective way to become truly aware of our stories is to write them down, so get your thoughts on paper. Nothing fancy—you can just finish these sentences: 

The story I'm making up... 
My emotions... 
My thinking... 
My body... 
My beliefs... 
My actions...

For instance, you might write, I'm so peeved. I feel like I'm having a heatstroke. She thinks I'm incapable. I want to hurl a stapler. 

You can be mad, self-righteous, confused. A story driven by emotion and self-protection probably doesn't involve accuracy, logic or civility. If your story contains those things, it's likely that you're not being fully honest. 

Get ready to rumble. 

It's time to poke and prod at your findings, exploring the ins and outs. The first questions may be the simplest: 

1. What are the facts, and what are my assumptions? 

I really don't know why my boss picked Todd. And I didn't tell her I was interested in the project—I figured she knew.

2. What do I need to know about the others involved? 

Maybe Todd has some special skill or she has me in mind for something else.

Now we get to the more difficult questions: 

3. What am I really feeling? What part did I play? 

I feel so worthless. I'm failing in my career. And I don't want to ask for anything because someone might say no.

You may learn that you've been masking shame with cynicism, or that being vulnerable and asking for what you want is preferable to stewing in resentment. These truths may be uncomfortable, but they can be the basis of meaningful change. 

Figuring out your own story could take 20 minutes or 20 years. And you may not make one big transformation; maybe it's a series of incremental changes. You just have to feel your way through. 

If you're thinking this sounds too hard, I get it. The reckoning can feel dangerous because you're confronting yourself—the fear, aggression, shame and blame. Facing our stories takes courage. But owning our stories is the only way we get to write a brave new ending. 

Read more here.


“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” 
Albert Einstein

I heard Seth Godin say once that one shouldn’t always strive for authenticity. That sometimes professionalism is more important. That sometimes you may not want to do something — it’s not authentic in that moment — but to not do it would hurt others (or yourself).

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And I have to agree. While I think some is semantics, the idea that you should be fully “yourself” at all times isn’t appealing to me. I mean, myself isn’t always great. I don’t always have the best intentions. My first thought isn’t always kind. I don’t necessarily make all the best choices — do any of us? So while I want to be “myself” I also always want to self-monitor.

Let me explain. Self-monitoring is just a process of understanding myself. Regulating myself in certain situations. Things we all do. If someone asks me how I feel about something, my first authentic thought might not be helpful, so I monitor myself and share something else for the greater good. To keep a friendship. To not get fired.

So while I am striving for authenticity in my life — I’m not in all situations. I may not always authentically want to wash the dishes, or go to work, or show up to a friends house. But I’ll do it anyway. Because what we want isn’t always what’s best. Being myself isn’t always a good thing.

What do you think? Should you be authentic and risk hurting others? Yourself? Do you practice radical honesty and authenticity, or do you self-monitor?

Under the weather

“If we are creating ourselves all the time, then it is never too late to begin creating the bodies we want instead of the ones we mistakenly assume we are stuck with.” 
Deepak Chopra

yoga salt flats 1

With the end of daylight savings time comes the beginning of another season: sickness. I seem to always get a low level — but hard to shake — cold this time of year. I’m tired and achy. And it would be easy to write it off as “just that time of year” — but I also know I haven’t been taking care of myself as well as I normally do.

I haven’t been eating as clean. Drinking as much water. I haven’t been going to yoga as much, or hiking as much. So I’m going to do something about it. I don’t want to be tired.

yoga salt flats 2

I’ve been meal prepping my lunches all year, but I haven’t been as careful about snacking and dinners. So my first goal is to get back into cooking healthy dinners, and cut out snacking.

Second, I need to drink more water. So… I’m just going to drink more haha. I am going to track my glasses of water in my planner. I did this last year and it really helped.

yoga salt flats 3

Third — more yoga. I got a little burnt out on yoga during teacher training, to be honest. And like anything in life — especially workouts — it’s hard to get back on a schedule. So I’m setting myself up with some goals. If I go to yoga ___ times this week, I will _____. I write this in the margins of my planner each week, deciding in advance what classes to go to, and if I hit the goal I reward myself. This week I will probably reward myself with a new book.

Because intrinsic motivation starts extrinsically. And I want to feel better. What do you do when you’re feeling unhealthy or blah?

Day of rest

“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” 
Maya Angelou

fireplace bear rug

I thought about making this blogging challenge a “every day in November except Sunday’s” challenge — but that didn’t exactly roll off the tongue (er.. keyboard). Because Sunday’s aren’t a day I want to make commitments. I want to rest. Practice self-care.

And self-care isn’t just sitting in front of fireplaces or taking bubble baths (although I did just get out of one) — it’s setting myself up for success every other day. I meal prep my lunches. Pick out my outfits for work. Spend time outside. Read books. Don’t respond to emails, messages, or even look at my phone if I don’t have to.

Because anything can wait. We aren’t that important. The world won’t stop if we do. So stop sometime. Take care of yourself.

I have more to say, but I’d rather go start my new book. I hope you’ll take some time to rest today. To take care of yourself.

It’s not for everyone...

I’m in Nebraska tonight. I spent the afternoon at a beautiful winery and the night playing board games at the hotel. I took a walk through a garden and admired the sun set over the prairie. It’s not the shocking and vast mountains of the west, but it has a charm. Like the recently announced new Nebraska tourism slogan says, “it’s not for everyone”

junto winery

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about place. What it means to be in one place over another. I’m lucky to live in the mountains, but the people of Nebraska are lucky too. Because life is what you make it. If you’re bored, you’re boring.  

When I lived in Louisiana I remember all my friends complaining that there was nothing to do. I was always shocked because I had more events than I could handle. Because life is what you make it. Busy people stay busy. Curious people find things that are interesting. Boring people are bored. 

the mill lincoln ne

I have more to say, but I’m enjoying my night in Nebraska, so I’ll leave you with this:

 “Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.” — Eleanor Roosevelt 





Friday Favorites -- November 2, 2018

People ask me a lot of questions about my favorite “x, y, and z”. Unfortunately, I am not always the best at responding to messages and questions. So here are a few of my favorites today:

Favorite New Jacket — Eddie Bauer MicroTherm 2.0

Full disclosure, Eddie Bauer sent me this for free, but I am under no obligation to write about it. I just want to! It is the perfect fit, color, and weight. It also goes perfectly with my pink/purple jacket collection :)

Favorite Book — Lost Connections

I just finished reading this book. I am no expert, but I really enjoyed it. This is one of my favorite authors, and despite being full of information I read it in just a few days. Definitely recommend.

Favorite Food — Butternut Squash Soup

I am so into my Butternut Squash Soup recipe! I have shared it in my stories once, and gotten tons of good feedback. I’ve already made this 4+ times this fall, each time making enough for several days. I top it with mushroom brie from Trader Joes, chives, and pecans. Grab a glass of wine and you’re set.

Favorite Beauty Product — The Ordinary Caffeine Solution

I’ve talked about this before, but I honestly think this has changed my life. It is one of the only beauty products I have completely used up and bought more of (generally I want to try new things) It is THAT GOOD. I use it on my eyes every morning and see a marked difference when I don’t.

Favorite Game — Trekking the National Parks

Again, full disclosure, I was sent this for free. But again, so fun! I am not obligated to write about it, but I have had so much interest in it I knew I needed to link to it here. It is the perfect game for families, game night, and National Park enthusiasts.

Begin Again

Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”
― Paulo Coelho
yoga club 1.JPG

I love blogging. I do. Buuut….. you might have noticed that this blog was last updated almost a year ago. Yikes. Like many blogs I’ve come across, I just let it go. It’s a lot of work. I have to be in “the zone” — or do I?

I don’t think so. Creativity takes work. Blogging takes work. Writing takes work. Inspiration takes work. It’s not just magically there.

So I’m going to work on it. I’m going to blog every day this month. I wrote several sentences and deleted them just now in this space with excuses. If I don’t do it. That I might not make it every day. That things might come up. It might be hard. But nope, not letting myself out that easy. I’m going to blog every day this month.

Even if it’s short. Even if it’s just a photo. I’m committed.

See ya tomorrow.

17 in 17 - Podcasts

“We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally.” 
― Susan Cain

teton view

Some of the questions I get asked the most are: how do you handle long road trips alone? Aren't you bored? What do you listen to? And, while I'm honestly perfectly happy sometimes to listen to the same 4 songs for 7 hours straight (what? I like what I like) -- more often than not I will listen to tons of podcasts. They make the time fly, and I get to learn something new. Win win. 

I've written about my favorite podcasts before, but thought an update was in order (there are SO MANY podcasts now) So whether you are driving, flying, or just listening in the shower, here are 17 of my favorite podcasts of 2017: 

1. Bitch Sesh

bitch sesh

Maybe I should be embarrassed that this is my can’t miss weekly podcast? Nah :) Casey Wilson (of snl, Happy Endings etc) and Danielle Schneider discuss all things Real Housewives each week. They (and their guests) are hilarious, and give me another reason (as if I needed one) to watch some trashy Bravo shows. 

2. The Limit Does Not Exist

the limit does not exist

This is a podcast centering around the intersections of STEM and art — right up my alley. They interview innovative creatives each episode, and offer really interesting insights on being a multi-hyphenate or “human venn diagram”. 

3. Dirty John

This is the perfect road trip podcast. Like Serial, it presents a true crime (ish) saga through several episodes. I listened while driving from Colorado to Vegas, and it made the trip super enjoyable. 

4. Goal Digger

goal digger

This is a podcast that may seem cheesy to most people (and some of it is) — but it’s definitely helped to motivate me into a different direction creatively. Host Jenna Kutcher is super likable, and has some great guests that I admire (like Lara Casey) in the archives that I would recommend listening to if you are in any way interested in creative entrepreneurship. 

5. Dear Sugars

dear sugars

This is an old favorite, but with good reason. Hosted by my idol Cheryl Strayed (along with Steve Almond — both former Dear Sugar columnists on The Rumpus) — each episode presents letters from listeners and then the hosts gives them advice/talk to authors about their situation. If you liked Tiny Beautiful Things (and who didn’t) give it a shot!

6. Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations

oprahs supersoul

Duh. Oprah. But really, she has some great interviews in the archives. I recommend Brene Brown (obviously), Sebastian Junger, Glennon Doyle Melton, as well as basically all the other episodes. :) 

7. Women on the Road

women on the road

I was on this podcast! Reason enough! (haha episode 4 for like 5 seconds :)) The other 99.9% of this podcast is also super inspiring — hosted by my amazing internet friend Laura Hughes, it profiles Women on the Road (duh). I love them all (seriously)

8. She Explores 

she explores

I’ve been listening to this podcast since the very first episode — and it is so very me. Each episode centers around a theme or an interview with a woman who is in the outdoors in some capacity. There are 50 episodes currently and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. 

9. Girl Boss Radio

girl boss radio

This is one that I don’t listen to weekly (if that is even when they are released?), but that I have found some good content on. Maybe an unpopular opinion, but I really like Sophia Amoruso (host, founder of Nasty Gal, author of Girl Boss, etc..) and she interviews other entrepreneurial women who are, like her, kind of controversial/not universally loved. If anything it’s interesting and will give you something to think about. 

10. Embedded


This is another fav I’ve written about before. It’s popular so you may have already listened, but if not, I’d recommend going back to season 1 to listen to “The House”, “We Found Joy” and “The School”. 

11. Slate Political Gabfest

slate political gabfest

When I’m feeling like I need an extra dose of politics or debate, I listen to this weekly podcast. It can be a little grating at times, but I do generally enjoy the perspectives and feel like I come away with a better understanding of current events than I do from many other information sources.

12. Radiolab


This is another super classic podcast I’m sure most of us have listened to, but I couldn’t make a podcast list without it. It’s science, philosophy, sound, storytelling — everything really. The longer ones are my favorite, but try any!

13. Pantsuit Politics

pantsuit politics

I’ve been listening to this podcast since the very beginning, and I still really enjoy the interaction between the two hosts — friends from Kentucky who are on different sides of the political spectrum. They have a balanced and nuanced approach to their debates, and bring an interesting perspective to things that are happening in the news. 

14. Invisibilia


One of my favorites for the last few years, Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) uses storytelling and science to explain how the invisible forces around us shape who we are. I’m not eloquent enough to expound, but if that sounds interesting (and how could it not), then try it out. 

15. The Dirtbag Diaries

dirtbag diaries

This is the ultimate in outdoor podcasts. It has been around for something like 10 years, and it shows in the storytelling. There are so many great episodes I don’t even know where to start. So just start. 

16. The Tim Ferriss Show

tim ferriss

Another polarizing figure — Tim Ferriss (of The 4-Hour Workweek) interviews inspirational people from all walks of life. I really like any podcast set up in this format as long as the interviewer is entertaining and knowledgeable — and I think Ferriss is. There are tons of episodes so scroll through the archives and find a guest that you like — there are sure to be many. 

17. Joe Rogan Experience

joe rogan

I dated a guy earlier this year who told me about this podcast. I listened so we would have something to talk about (we needed it haha) but it ended up being a good move. I had seen it before (it’s always in the top charts on itunes) but really had no idea what it was and only knew Joe Rogan from Fear Factor. Again, I don’t listen to every episode of this one, but I have found some good interviews that work really well for road trips — they’re like three hours long! Like the Tim Ferris Show, find someone interesting in the archives and give it a shot. 


Happy listening!

My Insignificance

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

grand canyon 1

Insignificance. It’s a word (but more of a feeling) that I’ve been thinking about a lot. That I’d argue we all think about a lot. Constantly even. We are all living our lives in a constant quest for some sort of significance. In our work and in our relationships. We all want to be seen. Valued. Significant in something or to someone. We live in a culture that values fame. Likes. Achievement. Be the best. The smartest, richest, happiest, and best looking person. But in our quest for significance, we constantly fall short. Of course. We aren’t the smartest, richest, happiest, or best looking person. Annnnnnd cue existential crisis. 

But is insignificance really something to be feared? 

grand canyon 2

When visiting National Parks, one of the things I value most is the scale of it all. Driving across vast open spaces, hiking in the midst of tall trees, with huge mountain ranges towering over me. I feel my own insignificance. It’s visceral. I am a small part of a huge and beautiful world — one that’s existed before me and will exist after me. 

I’m not (obviously) the only one who feels this way. Reminders of our own insignificance are a big part of why anyone goes into nature. To remember our place in the world. So why is insignificance seen as a negative in all other situations? 

We live in a world that is more connected than ever before. I can have a conversation with a friend on another continent after reading an article posted one minute ago about a story that is unfolding across the country in real time. We have access to everything. We are constantly bombarded with notifications of the rich and famous. Those achieving things we’ve never even let ourselves dream of. And by the way they’re like, probably 12. We can’t compete.

So the downside to this fame obsessed culture is that we see the best of everything. The smartest, richest, happiest, and best looking people are constantly in our feeds. And we compare our own achievements to theirs. The big fish in a small pond analogy doesn’t really exist anymore. We are all small fish in the huge pond of life. And while we innately know that on some level — we now have the added existential challenge of seeing it. Constantly. 

And when we compare ourselves against the most significant our fear of insignificance is only strengthened.

grand canyon 3

You know those 2 types of people memes? You’re either a  _____ or a _____ person. You set one alarm or fifteen. You put your ketchup on the side or on top of your french fries. You use a bookmark or you dog ear the pages. You pick a side consistently. While I generally think there is a huge amount of nuance and gray area in almost everything — I do think there is a consistency when it comes to the fear of insignificance: those who embrace it, and those who don’t.

The people who are afraid of their own insignificance are in a constant state of anxiety. They’re comparing. They conflate their sense of purpose with their rank in absolutes. If they aren’t the smartest, richest, or best looking then they aren’t anything. Second place is the first loser. Of course, these people aren’t totally delusional and upon recognizing that there is even one person better than them at anything — they shut down. Become disillusioned. Identity crisis. Existential angst. Whatever buzzword that’s currently being used to describe the dread that is taking over a good portion of our entire generation. 

And this realization leads to another bifurcation: you either give up, or you lash out. You believe you never deserved anything and are actually the worst at everything, or you still feel entitled to the best, feel like anyone who disagrees is a cheater, and then bully anyone who says otherwise. And hey guys guess what? Neither one of these people is likable (just fyi). 

Happy and content people are those who recognize and even embrace their insignificance in the world. They aren’t afraid of it. Don’t stay up at night because someone else got more Instagram likes. They know that they can’t be fully there or supportive of anyone else if they think they are the center of the universe.

They know the world doesn’t revolve around them. 

grand canyon 4

When I think about the fear of insignificance, I think of fear in general. Some is healthy and serves an important purpose, but too much is dangerous. We should care about our lives. Do our best. Set goals and achieve them. Contribute something meaningful in our work and in our relationships — but we shouldn’t wreck ourselves in the attempt to achieve unrealistic absolutes. 

As a teacher I spend a lot of time differentiating. Because not every kid is the same. They don’t come in with the same skills or brains or attitudes. They are interested in different things. They process differently and the entry is different for everyone. An A+ isn’t the only way to master a skill. It’s the same in our lives. Our goals and achievements will look different than everyone else’s. And that doesn’t make one better or worse, or more or less significant than another.

Our ultimate insignificance leads to freedom. Really. There are so many people, places, things — I will never see it all, be it all, or the best at literally anything! (and if I am at some moment in time, chances are that will eventually be forgotten) That frees me up to so much. 

There are so many things you will never do or ever be or even see — we are insignificant in the grand show of life — a small part of a big and beautiful universe — so why do we care so much about these other — also insignificant — things? Why are we so convinced that in order to be anything we have to be the best at everything?

You are not the center of the universe. At all. And holy crap thank goodness — otherwise your bad day would throw everything out of orbit. 

Let me explain.

Earlier this week I was super sick and was forced to call in to work at the last minute. As a teacher, (and someone who has a tendency to think they are the center of the universe) I was super stressed about what would happen while I was gone. Who I would disappoint, what would get lost, and how would this one day off irrevocably ruin 150+ children’s lives (and my own). As I reluctantly opened my email the next day with one eye closed and a grimace anticipating what I was sure would be hoards of mean, disapproving, and urgent emails… I was surprised (somehow still, after all these years) to have not even one email regarding my absence. No one needed anything. I didn’t ruin anyone’s life. I didn’t miss any meetings or make anyone mad. The world kept turning. 

Shocking. I know. 

grand canyon 5

In fact, generally, I’m pretty sure no one even notices when I’m gone (maybe not even all of the kids in my actual classes) — and once I get past my own ego I’ve realized that’s a great thing. It means I’m doing my job well, not the opposite. Things can — and do — go on without me. 

We are so conditioned to see the best and worst extremes that we miss the value in the middle. Significance is like anything in life — it’s relative. Things that are significant or insignificant to you are just that — to you. Everyone’s problems are more significant, their experiences more meaningful and the quality of their work more professional — to themselves.

It’s okay to just be okay at something. Humans have limitations. You can’t actually hack every area of your life for “unlimited productivity” or “crush all the obstacles in your path”. And that’s okay. It makes room for the things that, well, the things you still probably won’t ever be the best at — but the things in which you enjoy the attempt. 

While insignificance can lead to feelings of disassociation and loss of identity — it also can make us feel more connected. Our own awareness of our place in the world has the ability to shift our focus from our self to the greater good. In fact, feeling insignificant has actually been shown to increase altruism. When I realize I’m not the absolute in anything, I can spend more time using my abilities to strengthen others. I mean, there’s no I in team right? 

So the next time you start to doubt your significance in the world please remember that yes, you are insignificant. In a big and beautiful world. On a scale we cannot comprehend. And that’s a good thing. It gives you room for the significance that matters — in personal relationships and the smaller scale, but ultimately more important parts of life. 

Your purpose in life isn’t rated on a scale of absolutes. It’s all relative. You aren’t the best at anything — but is anyone really? 

So just be you.

The Waiting

“Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if
he is able to think, if he is able to wait...” 

― Hermann Hesse

banff 1

If you ever went to a church youth group, undoubtedly you’ve heard a lot about “seasons”  in life. Season of waiting, season of singleness, season of scarcity, season of abundance, season of blah blah buzzword blah blah whatever. I've always hated this phrase -- specifically the waiting part. Let me explain. 

A season of waiting implies the world is happening to you. That God, fate, the universe, whatever, controls you in some kind of Westworld VR simulation. And that’s just not true. Obviously. We have free will. We make our own choices. Things may come to us from up above, sure, but we have the power to respond to it. So what are we waiting for?

banff 4

When I’m sharing online — a blog post, Facebook share, or an Instagram photo — I always post after the fact — not in the moment. For safety reasons, mindfulness, but mostly just to let it sink in. To react to it fully. To better understand what the experience means to me and why I think it’s worthy of sharing. Like everything in life (online and off), the learning comes later and through the experience. In the in betweens. 

In the waiting. 

Waiting. It’s important. But the big question of life, and something I think about constantly is — when do we stop waiting and start doing?

So like every high schooler who doesn’t know how to begin their essay, let’s start with some definitions. Waiting is defined as “the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.” 

Uh, no. This is not what I want to be known for. I don't want to stay in the same spot or delay anything. 

Waiting seems to be all passive — but I’m realizing that sometimes not only is it not passive, but it’s necessary. The important part is understanding that I make the choice either way. It's the ACTION of delaying action. Trippy. If I choose to wait, and be still — great. But I know that I made the active choice for a greater purpose. I trusted myself enough.

But what if I’m just scared of the unknown? What if I'm waiting around out of fear? When should I wait? When should I act? And how do I know the difference?

banff 6

When to wait

Guess what? Some things DO only happen over time. They can’t be rushed. They take not only time, but great effort, skill, and patience that -- guess what -- can only be accumulated through time. And yeah, this is one of those things that seem really obvious, but I think we need to remind ourselves of it.

I often feel like I’m forcing things. The ol' square peg in a round hole problem. In work, relationships, money — I sometimes try to force things. I’m very controlling. I rush. I want to be active, and doing all of the time. It makes waiting hard. I feel like the things I want are passing me by.

As I'm sure you've noticed (and been annoyed by), I start at least one sentence in all my blog posts with “The older I get,” which sounds kind of (a lot) obnoxious as a 31 year old, but it’s true. I know so much more now than I did 5 years ago. Even one year ago, yesterday, or even this morning. It’s the natural cycle of life. Even when I rush things, I look back over time and learn from that experience. It’s in the waiting that the learning and growing occurs. In the quiet. When I'm not rushing and striving and doing. 

It's the reason you get the best ideas in the shower -- your brain is freed up from it's normal focus. It can free associate and wander through the stillness. And come up with something great. 

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When to act

Your life is NOW — be active. Hustle. Sleep when you're dead.

We’ve all read a version of this on some fitspo instagram girls feed — but it’s not just an empty #motivationalmonday sentiment.

Don’t wait around for some possible future date. It’s not coming. There is never a perfect time for anything (except ordering a pizza — it is always the perfect time).

We miss out on so much by constantly waiting for something more, better, etc. If something isn’t working — you have power. You can change your circumstances. Quit playing the victim. We have agency — and how cool is that? 

A lot of the road trips I go on are last minute. Which prompts a lot of questions. “Why did you go to ______” “You mean you just casually drove ____ hours?” “But why?” etc. To any of these questions, my answer is always the same: I just wanted to go. There’s no perfect time, so that was as good of a time as any. It’s that simple. Really. 

So often we think in terms of, when _____, _____, or _____ happens I will _______. No! You can do it now. And let’s be honest, if you're waiting for x, y, or z to happen, you probably won’t do The Thing when they do anyways. Instead you’ll just come up with another list of if’s and when’s. Shoulda coulda woulda.

“The Thing” — whatever that may be for you in this moment — may not be easy (hey, nothing worth having is), but you can do it. Waiting around begets more waiting around which — lets be honest — leads to inaction.  

If you're making excuses, or putting something off until some future boxes are checked -- you're doing it wrong. Don't wait. 

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How to know the difference

So I've told you to be still and wait. But also to stop waiting around. To realize learning and growth happens in time, but also that there's never a perfect time — yeah I'm confused too. How do I know when to wait and when to act? 

I used to work with a new teacher who was always complaining. Everyone complains sometimes, I know. But this was different (and way more annoying) because it was always about things in her control. At every meeting, when anyone would give her a new suggestion she had “already tried it”, and “it didn’t work” — not realizing that doing things once, especially with 12 year olds, isn’t enough (let's be real, 50 times is not enough but I digress).

Did she do her due diligence? Execute the suggestions correctly? Over time? With buy in? Probably (definitely) not. And not only was she frustrated, but we all were listening to it. 

In this situation, she would have benefited from the waiting. Giving the situation time. Not jumping to conclusions about what works, what doesn’t, or making spurious connections between her abilities as a teacher and the problems in her classroom. Be still. Learn in the in between's. Understand that that's where growth happens. 

So as I constantly tell the kids in my class, “just chill out for a second”. Seriously. Just chill. Then put in your due diligence. But after that, don’t be afraid to stop waiting for change and make it yourself. 

And most importantly: trust yourself and your intuition to know the difference. 

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Fear of making the wrong choice 

If you're constantly afraid of doing the wrong thing, or making the wrong choice then you don't trust yourself. But this isn't something you can just start doing. Again, it's a process that happens, you guessed it -- over time. 

I tell the kids in my class a lot — there are a lot of ways to get to the same answer. It might take longer, slower, more work, or less — but we all get there. So maybe you will make the wrong choice. Maybe you wait for something that's never coming. Maybe you rush into something you shouldn’t. But, ultimately, the awareness of this dichotomy puts you in a better place than most people. 

Self-awareness. Mindfulness. The examined life yada yada whatever you want to call it — just think about what you think about. Think about what you do. Ideally before you do it. Then trust yourself. 


Taking a Side

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

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If you know me (or read this blog much) you know I’m into motivational quotes. Quotes in general. I know the trope of quote posting Instagram girl, but whatever I don’t care (and could find you a quote to back me up). One of the quotes I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is from Elie Wiesel, when he says that: 

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.”

Could. Not. Agree. More. Taking sides is important. Essential, even. I have had a blog draft titled “Taking Sides” sitting in my queue for probably a year now, but I’ve been hesitant to take a side and finish it. It’s scary. But, I’ve come to realize, it’s scarier not to. I don’t want to be on the side of the oppressor just because, I, like, didn’t have time or whatever. Didn’t want to ruffle feathers. Wanted to be well liked. Friends with everyone. A beige piece of carpet that everyone walks on without another thought. Because that’s really what I was doing. Letting people make assumptions on what I believe — whatever suits their fancy — so that they would still like me/follow me on Instagram/want to hang out with me. 

I write a lot about inclusion — grey areas, how all viewpoints are valid and that two or more things can be true at the same time. But guess what -- you can believe everyone has a right to their own viewpoints while still holding firmly to your own. You can respect someones right to their opinion without agreeing with them or even actually respecting their opinion. It’s okay to not be okay with things. I don’t respect the views (or the person) of anyone with a racist viewpoint, but I respect the fact that in America (and within humanity in general) there are views that exist other than my own. These are two different things. 


Opinions are like you know whats — and everybody has one. And that’s good right? That’s what makes life interesting. And in many situations you can have a respectful conversation about differences while still remaining respectful of each other. But sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to be black and white. You’re with me or you’re against me — and while it’s your right to be against me, it’s my right not to be with you. 

For example: I have alluded to some “batshit insane twilight zone level cray” in my life over the past year. The tl;dr version of it is: this time last year I had a boyfriend here and a best friend across the country — both the longest chosen relationships of my adult life — and this time this year they are engaged to each other. So, as to be expected, since then I have had some problems with trust. But, as crappy as that all was, my real problem is with our mutual friends. Let me explain. 

When this totally unforeseen situation came at me with no warning, my friends immediately gathered around. Agreed with me that this was completely against all girl code/human code and cut ties with the person after they showed their true character and completely ghosted out of my life with no warning. They took a side. Stopped talking to this girl who, despite being a part of my daily life for 8 years, was not a true friend. They unfollowed her on social media. Didn’t text her for her side of the story knowing that she never responded to my attempts to reach out. They took a side. 

And then there were a lot of people who didn’t. For most people it makes sense. They don’t really know the whole story — I get it. But, there are a few people who knew it all. And wouldn’t take a side. They had extremely shallow relationships with this person, and yet they continued the friendship. Told me that she didn’t do anything to them personally. Ummmm.. what? 

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You’ve heard the phrase, “actions speak louder than words”, but what I think about more is how loud inaction speaks. The things that are unsaid. Undone. When someone I believe to be a close friend refuses to take a side in something that, to me, is so obviously wrong, I have a hard time with it. I have a hard time believing that my friendship with that person is based on anything real. If you care about me, how can you care about someone who hurts me with no regard? And why would I want to continue a relationship with someone that is so cavalier with my feelings?

Obviously, in many situations there are two valid sides, but in some -- see above -- there aren’t. One is right. One is wrong. As humans we have the power to make the choice between the two — just like we have the choice to support one or the other. The in between in these cases is just cowardice. 

I’m tired of the wishy washy, lets all get along, play both sides stuff. It’s inauthentic. When I was researching for this post, I found plenty of articles on how to remain neutral, but a sadly small amount on how not to. But that’s what I want! I don’t want to be neutral and I don’t want to surround myself with people who do. 

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I dated a guy through college (oh what a surprise another story that comes back to some random guy yikes) who differed with me politically in some important ways. I remember talking to my mom about it and she told me that I had to “have an open mind” and “not be so black and white”. But, I’m a smart person, very politically informed — especially then in the thick of a political science major — and I wasn’t okay with it. What he believed went against my core values. And not only that, but his inability in my mind to be intelligent enough to understand (and accept) my point of view was a deal breaker. So I broke up with him. And I’m so glad I did. I cannot imagine spending life with someone who I am so diametrically opposed to on anything — even just one thing. If it’s important enough you have to take a side. Stand up for what you know to be true. 

I’m a teacher, so I’m always in a weird power position. Obviously, I can’t take sides on any political or religious front in the classroom. But, in everything else — that’s basically what my job boils down to. I tell kids (I mean, um, model for kids :)) how to be decent humans. It’s literally my job to tell them what is appropriate behavior. What is right. What is wrong. But, again, politically I must remain neutral in the classroom. 

So when another teacher recently posted something online with the preface that “Now that I’m a teacher I don’t want to be too political” I couldn’t help but be disheartened. I mean, I get it. As a new teacher I felt that way too. But what I realize now is that, outside of the classroom, teachers are on the frontlines. We are forming the next generation so God help us I hope we are informed ourselves. I hope we are passionate in our beliefs. I hope we take sides. 

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I’ve always had strong opinions. And I haven’t always had the greatest reactions to them. Despite that, I can easily point to parts of my life when I felt free to express opinions and those when I didn’t. And the correlation between those times of free expression and my happiness are super strong and direct. I feel a constant need to speak out. Constantly. And I — more often than not — repress it to keep up the status quo. 

The sweet girl who teaches math. The pretty girl who likes to hike. The smart girl who reads books. Not the opinionated, liberal, kind of aggressive and happy to debate girl that I am. It’s scary. Taking a side alienates you from, like, an entire side haha. That’s a lot of people. Remaining neutral seems to be a good idea. Smooth things over. Peacemaker. Low maintenance. Easier to get a date. But, in reality, to anyone who is interesting, educated, or matters — neutral people are just boring people. You are the beige carpet. 

I don’t have to get into politics for anyone to see the similarities between what I’m thinking and what is happening in America. In a time where the President of the United States calls white supremacists “very fine people” and black athletes who are exercising their right to peaceful protest “sons of bitches” — it is time to take a side. When that same man insists that “many sides” are to blame for racially motivated violence — it is time to take a side. It is time to take a knee, write a Facebook post, or resist in any way you resonate with. But it is not a time to remain silent. Silence is neutrality and neutrality = complicity. 

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You can’t have it both ways. It’s hypocrisy wrapped in some kind of peacekeeping lie. Brene Brown talks about this in her new book. She says that: 

“Here’s what I believe:

1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May.

2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.”

3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman.

4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?”

5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed.

There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.” 

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be upset at one injustice and not another. You can’t take a side on one thing and remain neutral on another. You have to go all in. You have to take a side. That’s how change happens. In politics, and relationships, and in ourselves. 

When we are neutral — even in small things — this is how it reads: “this affects people I care about, but it doesn’t effect me, so I will remain neutral” —> “I only care about me” 

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Neutrality seems like an easy way out. You’re not hurting either side. But you’re actually hurting both — and yourself (your self respect anyways). It’s the bystander effect — people are less likely to offer a victim help when others are present. We feel like there are other people to take up this cause (I mean, your old college roommate posts enough on fb for us all) but that just exacerbates the problem. Everything starts with care. If I cared enough about _______ I would ________. And if you don’t you won’t. It’s that simple. 

Well, I don’t want to be someone who stands on the sidelines. I don’t want to surround myself with sideline people. I don’t want to be so afraid of possible personal consequences that I desert those who are hurting and need people on their side. Injustices continue when good people do nothing. I’m a good person. Who refuses to do nothing. 

I care. And I will take a side. 

Choosing Ignorance

“I don't know." That was typical Sajaki; like all the genuinely clever people Sylveste had met he knew better than to feign understanding where none existed.” 
― Alastair Reynolds, Revelation Space


¨Ignorance is bliss¨

We hear it all the time. But often in a way that's lighthearted or directed towards anyone BUT us. Ignorance may be bliss -- for the people who are ignorant. But that's not me. I am smart. I would never choose to be ignorant of anything. Right?

One of my core values is intelligence. It’s the one thing I’ve defined myself by more than anything else. I was always the smart kid in school, graduating high school when I was just 15. I used to annoyingly tell everyone that yes, I was a teacher, but I didn’t like, major in education or anything. I majored in a real subject, where students had high ACT scores, and didn't get easy A’s (how anyone could stand me, I don’t know). But, as college moves further into the past (10 years since graduation — yikes), I can’t define myself by the same metrics. And the older I get, the less I care about those metrics. In fact, the older I get, the less I want to know. Let me explain.

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I used to "care" about everything. I’d read about everything, whether it interested me or not — so that I could have something interesting to say. And I still do that — but with really selective things. For example, I have a friend working on a film about Hunter S. Thompson. We went to brunch and I had nothing interesting to add — so I read two of his books this week. Extreme? Obsessive? Yes, all of the above of course. But I was interested in him! I still am. (and I’m scouting book three now)

It’s who I am. I am obsessive with knowledge. I naturally want to know everything. But like any obsession, it can take me to extremes. Unhealthy ones. Which is why I’ve decided to actively keep myself from “knowing it all”. 

Selective ignorance.

It’s something I think about a lot. Ignorance to the things that I don’t need or want to know. The things that fill up my brain unnecessarily. Mental clutter. TMI. Whatever you want to call it -- the information that really isn't necessary for happiness unless you're a professional bar trivia player. 

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So what do I mean exactly? Well, of course, like most things in the zeitgeist, it comes back to Facebook (ha -- I wish I was joking). I read that something like 90% of people on Facebook “stalk” their ex or their ex’s ex or future ex — whatever. We don’t need data (although there is plenty), to tell us that this isn’t going to help anyone get over anything — and yet it’s become a normal part of the relationship cycle. Something that, allegedly, “we all do”. Well, I don’t. I used to, sure, but I haven’t in years. 

I unfollow anyone I’ve dated (sometimes even when we are still dating) on Facebook so I don’t see all their updates, tagged photos, events they’re interested in, and pretty girls they become friends with. I don’t want to know. And I actually don’t. So I don’t look. Selective ignorance. I don’t have the mental bandwidth to make assumptions (that are probably wrong) about anyone. Seek and you will find — and I don’t have the energy to find. I am too old, and too busy (reading HST books, apparently) for that. 

I also don’t look at the following page on Instagram. I haven’t seen it in — literally — years. I don’t want to know what pictures the guy who hasn’t text me back is liking. Not only does knowing not change anything, but it takes up precious mental energy that I don't have to give. 

I don’t look at most people’s Instagram stories (even though I constantly post them myself whoops), I don’t have Snapchat, and I don’t check Facebook messages. Ever. 

People always tell me, I just HAVE to get Snapchat, or I HAVE to check my messages or whatever and I just tell them the truth — I already have too many internet things. I don’t have the time, or the desire to fill my brain up with any more. I am ignorant to a lot of it — and that is fine. 

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And it’s not just social media (there’s more to life, did you know? :)) I don’t check my work email outside of work. I don’t read all of the group texts. I don’t finish books that I don’t love. I don’t watch anything but the local news. I don't read trashy magazines (except on a plane duh). I just don’t care. I don’t have the time. I’m fine with not knowing about the new I-can’t-even-think-of-a-pop-star-because-I’m-that-out-of-touches album. I’m fine with not knowing that any of the summer blockbusters are even movies much less care that I haven't seen them. I’d rather spend my time on the things I truly love. And no one can do it all. 

We all have those friends that have an opinion on everything. Or, at least, are fast Googlers to make it appear in the group text that they do. My natural tendency is to be this way ("this way" = annoying know it all). Ask me what I think about ______ thing I don't know and I immediately feel a little (a lot) ashamed. I should know everything, damnit!

I have a lot of interests. A lot of hobbies. I read a lot of books. A lot of articles. Blogs. I watch documentaries. I listen to podcasts. It’s a lot. But it’s still a minuscule amount of the information that is out there. We live in a world of constant media. You could stay up all night every night following every link that’s posted on Facebook or Twitter and still not have enough information to intelligently discuss all of them.

But what I've come to realize is: why would you want to? To make it clear that you are a smart person? Because it sort of indicates the opposite, in my opinion. 

I had this friend once who would always use semicolons in text messages. Like, every message. In a way that was not natural or made sense at all. I am (obviously) not one to criticize anyones grammar, but I remember wondering what they thought they had to prove. Do you want me, your friend for years, to know that you understand that punctuation exists? Oh okay. It’s like a Napoleon Complex — what are you trying to overcompensate for? I mean, obviously she can use whatever punctuation she wants if that's something she values, but I could care less about any kind of punctuation, capitalization etc in a text. I have better things to do, and no one to impress with a weird semicolon. 

That’s the key to selective ignorance — I’m not actually ignorant. I am just choosing the information that I care about. I’m giving my mind the space to read a bunch of gonzo journalism for a few weeks for no reason other than I’m interested in it if I choose to. That’s reason enough. 

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So how do you decide what to remain ignorant to? And how do you actually do it? 

Like everything else in life, it comes down to your values. I value intelligence, but I also value my time, my hobbies, and rest. And what don’t you value? I don’t value being the know it all, the jack of all trades (but master of none), or the Facebook creeper. 

Maybe you value semicolons in text messages -- that´s fine. You do you, boo. Just make sure what you are doing is for the right reasons. (i.e. reasons other than feeling better or smarter or one upping others)

Think about the small things you do and the information you absorb in the same way you might track your health in a food journal. After I read/see/talk to/etc _________ I feel _______. If it´s not a good feeling, or it causes you to spiral into unhealthy time wasting -- cut it out of your life. 

If something isn't enriching you it's depleting you. Get it out. 

But how do you remain selectively ignorant in a world of constant information overload?

Just don’t do stuff. I mean, really. I put restrictions on myself. When I realized I was getting upset over what I was seeing on someones Instagram story, I stopped watching their story. And as stupid (and immature and tweenish yikes I hope you still respect me) as that sounds, I think there are a lot of small things like that that really affect our days. Things that we think “everyone does” or are just a reflex, but really have a power to change our mood. So just don’t do them. Easier said than done, sure. But we are adults here. We are powerful and capable and in control. The more you do the more you can do, remember. 

I think it´s natural to care less about the noise as we get older. When you start working you are forced to continually narrow your focus and become an expert in one field. But realize that it´s okay to be the beginner in most of the others. To not know. To not be the weird semicolon girl. To say you don't know something. To ask for help -- or not. It's okay to be okay with not knowing. 


Learning to Share... on the Internet

“It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.” 
― Amy Poehler

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I share a lot on the internet. I’m sure, in some people’s minds, too much. I post an Instagram photo just about every day, I post Facebook statuses, share articles, and then — of course — this blog. And I have mixed feelings about it. 

There are thousands of people who look at my blog and Instagram posts. The great majority who I don’t know. And it’s weird. And wonderful. But weird for sure that a blog I wrote after three glasses of rosé from some notes I scrawled down on a napkin is seen by anyone. 

That weirdness has got me thinking lately about why I do any of this. What’s the purpose? Am I just a narcissist? Out of touch? Did I believe my parents when they told me I was the most special, beautiful, and unique girl in the world? I mean, yeah maybe to some of those (haha yikes) but, I think there’s more to it. A lot more. 

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So I recently somehow have acquired over 1,000 followers on Instagram. This is extremely small potatoes in the Instagram world, I know. The interesting part, to me, is that I don’t know at least 75% of these people, who are indeed real people, and not people who I even follow back. The thought that over 1,000 people want to see anything that I do is kind of a shocking thought. And again, while this isn’t a lot compared to pretty much every other person on the internet, it struck me as an opportunity. 

Social media, to me, is a way to connect. Connect with the people you don’t see often, or with the people you have never or would ever meet irl. And the fact that anyone wants to connect with me is kind of incredible. 

The fact that anyone wants to read my blog posts is also kind of incredible. Shocking, really. I mean, even if it’s just out of curiosity or to make fun of my grammar errors, there are hundreds, usually thousands, of people who are interested in what I have to say. Who take time out of their day to read it. You guys, that’s crazy.

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I read a blog post a few weeks ago about blog reach. The author said something about the importance of continuing on even if you only have one reader — because that’s one persons life you have the opportunity to influence — and that’s enough. As a teacher that really resonated with me. After a bad day, someone inevitably will mention that “if you helped even just one kid it was worth it” — and it is! It’s an amazing privilege. 

Creativity, and life, I think, work the same way. If I can have a positive affect on even just one person’s day, that’s a privilege. 

So back to social media. It may seem really frivolous, mindless, or even self-centered, but social media is how a lot of us have that influence. It’s what we share. What people see. The way we put ourselves out and show up in the world. 

It may seem ridiculous to post a picture of a mountain and a motivational quote on Instagram, but it’s not so ridiculous when you realize that 1,000 or more people could see it. That it could give them the sort of hope and joy that it gives me. Even if it’s just a relief and respite from the normal daily grind, it's something. There's a reason people follow and like and scroll through constantly — and it’s not because they all think the quote you paired with that sunset is #basic. 


But I don’t just want to share pictures and quotes, I want to share real, #authentic parts of my life. Without feeling like an oversharer or a freak. I want to show the vulnerability that allows us to connect. The flawless Brene Brown wrote in Daring Greatly that, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” And she’s right. It’s not comfortable to put anything out into the world. To open yourself up to criticism and grammar nazis, but what’s the alternative?

I listened to an Oprah podcast on a road trip recently, and Glennon Doyle Melton was the guest. I’m not a big Oprah podcast listener (shocking, I’m sure) but their conversation was so illuminating. Glennon spoke a lot about truth. About how her success has been a direct result of saying the things that she had always been afraid to before. The things that resonate with others, but that they keep a secret. The truth. 

She said that, “Every time you tell the truth it clears the field for other people to tell the truth.” and that, “Truth telling unlocks people”. I love that. I love the idea of clearing the field for others. The power of your story. 

But what about all the studies/anecdotes of people who feel more jealous/lonely/unhappy because of social media? Well, I feel that too sometimes, I get it. But that’s where the authenticity piece comes in. If I’m sharing my truths and being vulnerable in my life, it creates a bridge, not a wall. Those people who still feel left out, jealous, or unhappy due to authentic stories and moments on social media are either just haters (and who’s got time for that), or have deeper problems that they need to work out. Instagram cannot save us all, after all.

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So why do I share? Well, I want to connect. I want to be vulnerable, to show authenticity, yadda yadda. But, let’s be real, I’m not good at that. I’m good at standing in front of mountains and taking a picture with my camera timer. But I’m trying. And that picture of my back looking at something is better than not sharing at all. I think. 

I do almost everything alone. But not necessarily by choice. I want to share my experiences. That’s where joy and meaning comes from — connection. And in 2017, a lot of connection comes from the internet — for better or worse. So I’m choosing to embrace it. This isn’t to say I’m forgoing real life connection and experiences — I want more of that too! But my reach is limited in real life. I connect with a bunch of kids every day, and that’s powerful, but it’s different. 

I don’t think I’m special or unique. No one is actually special or unique. That’s the real story of social media. We all share the same struggles, stories, and hashtags. I can find thousands of girls who do all the same things as I do, but with better quality photos, thousands more likes, and captions that read like the great American novel. But that’s a good thing! There’s room for us all. I share to connect with all those people who are like me — from the superficial solo mountain girl side to the math dress wearing side to the writing about well, who knows what I write about really. But I’m telling my truth. I’m clearing the field.

My Morning Routine

"Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you'll start to see a big difference in your life." Yoko Ono


It's somehow already September (whaaat) and even if you aren't going back to school/work, fall is a time of new beginnings. And anxieties. I read an article recently about adults experiencing back to school anxiety. Psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow said that, “Summer is about nostalgia and represents for so many of us a time when things were much more carefree,” he explained. The start of school “signals a time to go back to work. It signals that time is passing us. Kids are getting older, life picks back up.” -- and these feelings create stress!

Something that I make sure to do every fall is check in with my habits and routines. I see what's working, what's not, and make changes where necessary. Deliberately and consciously streamlining my life through habits and routines has been one of the most life changing "hacks" of my adult life. Mornings especially. 

mancos sunrise

The early morning is my favorite time of day. But it wasn't always that way.

When I first started teaching -- like the first 4-5 years -- I was always rushing. I woke up tired and frazzled every day, rushed to get ready and out the door -- still feeling unprepared and still always tired. And the worst part: I didn't make an effort to change it -- I thought that's just what happened when you had to be at work before 7am. A part of the job.

When I started working at a new school I decided to change my habits. I had been reading about morning routines a lot (Ben Franklin's especially) and knew that I needed a change. Those rare days when I got up extra early were always the best, and I wanted more like that. 

So I made small changes. I started getting the coffee in the coffeemaker at night. I picked out my outfits in advance. I got up a little earlier. And immediately my days were better. Immediately. I had more energy, felt happier, less stressed, and more productive. 

And It's Science!

There is a lot of science behind the "larks" vs "owls" binary, but they can -- and do -- shift. I'm sure we've all heard of chronotypes -- basically, it's the time that your body is set up to sleep. Your circadian rhythms. A lark is someone who enjoys the mornings and an owl is someone who works better at night. Most studies show that, despite nearly everyone you meet claiming to be one or the other, most people lie in between. 

While chronotypes are genetically based, they are still on a spectrum and can shift. The data shows that chronotypes are likely to evolve with age in the way that you would expect -- people generally need less sleep as they get older, and their sleep patterns shift more towards a lark. 

But you can also make the change yourself. And although a lot of people talk about having the goal of "being a morning person", it doesn't seem like a lot of those same people actually do much to change their habits. 

I mean, I don't think I'm a natural morning person, but I've made myself be one for so many reasons: it fits with my career, I like sunrises, I get more done in the mornings, feel more accomplished, and happier (and I'm not the only one). I forced myself. 

There are articles outlining the morning routines of successful people all over (here, here, and here), and I don't claim to do anything different or better than anyone else (or be a successful person worth emulating for that matter). But, I am surprised when I hear coworkers and friends consistently talk about their rushed mornings. The mornings I used to have. So here are a few super simple and no duh things that I do to help get my day off on a good start. 

sunrise airstream

Get Up Earlier (duh)

I wake up about 30 minutes earlier than the time I "need" to be up. At least. I generally wake up before my alarm, but it's set to give me that extra time. Of course, to do this successfully, you also have to go to sleep earlier :) I get at least 7-8 hours of sleep on a normal night, and the feeling of being well rested (and the way my skin looks haha) is way better than almost anything I would have stayed up for in the past. 

When I wake up I immediately make my bed. This is SO IMPORTANT. I wrote about it before, but it truly does start your day off on a positive, productive note. I've already made my bed -- I can handle anything. Just try it if you're not convinced.


Routinize Daily Tasks

After my bed is made and I'm already feeling productive, I start the coffee, feed the cats, put on some makeup and curl my hair. Always in that order. This is important. While novelty is important in life -- it's not important for daily tasks. In fact, the less decisions you have to make on these things the better (remember decision fatigue?)

avocado toast


After my boring but necessary tasks are done, I start making breakfast. I eat the most in the morning because I know I always have a big day ahead. I generally eat avocado toast or a bagel with berries. The research on breakfast actually being "the most important meal of the day" is mixed -- but I know it's important for me. If you aren't a big breakfast person, try it for a week. See how you feel. When I started making breakfast (beyond a granola bar) a priority, I felt more energized, less hungry throughout the day, was less likely to snack, and actually lost weight. 

morning routine

Create Margin

I've written about margin before -- the time you intentionally schedule with no specific task. For the overflow. The things you don't have to do -- but want to do. I've scheduled this into my morning. Sometimes I will sit down to read a few articles or do some work for this site -- but no work emails until I am at work. I repeat -- do not use this time for work if you are not currently at work. 

I also use this time to look over my planner, to do lists, and gratitude journal. 

morning routine

Catch up and prepare

When the coffee and breakfast is ready I will sit down to watch the news and browse the blogs that I follow with my breakfast. I make sure I have at least 20 minutes in the morning for this. At least. If I don't have this time I feel very off balance. Reading random fashion blogs is mindless, but makes me feel like I am doing something just for myself, while watching the news makes me feel prepared for the day. I have time to wake up, to enjoy my breakfast, and to mentally get in the right head-space for the rest of my day. 

Then I get dressed (in the outfit I picked out the night before), get my bag and lunch (packed the night before) and head out the door. I usually stop at Starbucks because I like the human interaction and feeling of normalcy that comes from spending time with adults that aren't coworkers (and the baristas always compliment my outfits haha). I always get to work at least 30 minutes earlier than necessary in case anything comes up at the last minute and I don't check any work email until I am actually at work. Then I start my long day. Feeling prepared, refreshed, and accomplished -- all before 8 am. 

Beyond the nuts and bolts, a morning routine is important for mindset. Mindfulness. Goal setting. All those words we hear a lot but can't quite pin down. When I take time for myself in the mornings, to really enjoy my time, and be present -- the rest of the day just feels better.

I'm less anxious. Less tired. Less rushed. 

Of course, this isn't important for everyone. If you don't need to be at work at 7am (lucky), or are super productive between 8pm and 12am then go for it. But, many of us are not. Many of us want to be the early bird. And routines help. They may seem boring, but they actually give us back more time to be less boring. The better and more consistently my day starts, the more creative and exciting it can be later. So give it a try (if you don't already). What would you add to my routine?