Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year

2011 was a character building year. I learned so much about myself: who I am, what I want, what I don't want, where I want to be, etc...

2012 is going to test that character. There are a lot of challenges ahead, and I'm going to need to work to stick to what I feel is right to make it through.

2013 is the year that I will be rewarded for everything I went/will go through in 2011 and 2012.

So, cheers! To a year that I'm not expecting to be any easier than the last, but equally educational with wonderful memories and amazing people. Here's to living my life for me! :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Back to The Basics

I've had some rough months. There have been a lot of fun moments and great memories involved, but I've also made some choices I'm not proud of. Looking back, there are far too many times when I don't even recognize the girl that lived my life between July and November.

So I'm here to say...I'm going to back to being me. I'm going back to the person that I'm proud, happy and comfortable being.

What does this mean? Well, for some people, they won't even notice a change. If that's the case, I probably didn't see that person very often in the last few months. Others will be so happy to see the real Crystal back. And some...well, some people aren't going to like it. Because this means that some people can't be in my life. Not right now at least, and maybe not ever.

These are hard decisions to come to, but I need to get my life back.

I've been in this place before, this place that requires me to hurt some people in order to take control of my own life. It sucked then, and it sucks now. But what I learned from that situation is that there are times in your life when it is ok to be selfish, to do what you feel is right in your heart and not worry what other people are going to think. That situation called for me to do it, and so does this one.

I find it funny (maybe not the right word...) that so many things were made clear to me in such a short period of time. I'm not sure what the catalyst was, or if there was only one, but something happened that set this all in motion. And while I'm grateful for it, I wish it would have happened in smaller pieces!

I'm going to back to the basics. It is going to hurt, it won't be fun, but it could be worse...it could be raining. And it will be worth it. I know it. I need me back.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Is my life a baseball game?

Sometimes life throws you curve balls when you're anticipating a fast ball. You have two choices: let it fly by you and risk missing a great hit or swing and hope you make contact. I've been doing a lot of swinging, hoping to make contact with these curve balls in my life. No big hits, but I've learned a lot about my swing. I've also learned to be less worried when a curve ball comes my way. I've learned to take it all in stride and keep moving forward. Yes, my life is a baseball game.

It's almost the new year, so I figure I should look back on the goals I had for this year and start making new ones.

Here were my goals for the summer:

  • Move downtown. Currently, I live right in the heart of the valley (seriously, I'm a mix of Darboy, Kaukauna, Kimberly, Appleton, and Buchanan). I live in an 1,100 sq.ft. 2 bedroom apartment...alone. It is 2.6 miles to Target, Festival, and MotoMart, 6.3 miles to Copper Rock, and 6.6 miles to work. Add that all up...and it just doesn't make sense for me to live there anymore. So, first goal: find a rental unit within walking/biking distance to downtown and work.  UPDATE: This goal is unofficially complete! I signed a lease today! Just a few blocks from downtown and less than 2 miles from work. SO excited.
  • Buy local. I feel that I am fairly conscious about buying local already, but moving downtown will further enhance this practice as I will be closer to the local shops I already frequent and to the shops I'd like to frequent. Here is a link from Appleton Downtown, Inc's website about shopping local: Give Your Community a Reason to Shop Local. Another part of this goal includes the farmer's market in downtown Appleton. I want to make an effort to go to the market every Saturday that I am available. My fun spin-off on that goal: try a new local-made salsa every week. YUM.
  • Get involved. I've already started the process of achieving this goal. The way I see it, if I'm going to live in this community and enjoy all the benefits and activities that it has to offer, I better be doing my part. I currently have three potential opportunities lined up: I have attended 2 Appleton Fox Cities Kiwanis Club meetings and have now been invited to apply for membership, I am in the process of joining the Appleton Downtown Rotary Club, and I have expressed interest in volunteering with Appleton Downtown, Inc (for their Thursday concert series, and also possibly on a committee). Kiwanis and Rotary will provide excellent opportunities to get involved in service projects in the community and volunteering with ADI is my way of giving back to the organization that provides much of my summer fun in Appleton.
These were great goals. Where am I now? Well, I don't live downtown. I miss it. I miss the atmosphere, the noise, the convenience. But I am in a great living situation that is probably healthier for me. I am a local-shopping nut. If I went back and looked at my bank statements from the last 6 months, I'd be willing to bet that 75% of my money stayed local. I didn't try a different salsa every week (there weren't enough to try)...but I did buy cheese curds pretty close to every week. Win. I think it is safe to say that I'm involved. I'm a Kiwanian, Rotarian, PEO, regular ADI volunteer, and active AFP member. What am I getting out of all of these silly titles and acronyms? Confidence. Friendships. Leadership skills. Community involvement. Inspiration. Mentors. A good life.

Those were my first goals. Nothing too deep or difficult, but they've added to my core. I'm happy I made them, and I'm happy to have followed them.

What about the more serious goals I made?

  • Impress Yourself. Sometimes I say yes, when I really want to say no. Sometimes I go out when I'd rather stay in. Why? Because I've fallen into a pattern of doing almost anything to make others happy, to impress others. I can think back to a specific time in my life where I literally did not think of anyone but myself. I don't mean that in a bad way - I was not hurting anyone, I was just so focused on my own happiness, that there was no room for me to care about what others thought about it. I miss that. So it's time to make my way back to that, to at least find a better balance.
  • Tidy Up/Declutter. I am a messy person. Not to be confused with a dirty person - that I am not. But I am messy. And disorganized. I've been this way for as long as I can remember. My mom and I have spent countless hours, and far too much money, on organizational tools to try to teach me to be less messy, but none of it has ever really stuck. But I'm going to try again. Differently. I know that when my house is organized and presentable, I am much less stressed and definitely happier. So I need to make it a priority to have my house in that condition more often. Thanks to another optimist in the Happiness Project Meetup, I have a great new resource...flylady.net. The website gives babystep instructions on how to declutter and tidy up your house. By taking the babysteps and turning them in to  habit, I really have a chance at changing my lifestyle and becoming more organized. I like it.
  • Spend Right, Save Better. Like many others, money is one of the biggest stressors in my life. I know that money can't buy happiness, but being financially stable and healthy definitely has an impact on my happiness. I need to find a way to create a budget and really stick to it. I'm also going to create a calendar with all of the due dates for my bills, their average amount due, and whether it is an auto-withdrawal or manual payment. I hope that this will help lessen the stress I tend to feel between paychecks.
Alright. This is a little more difficult.  Impress yourself. The last few months have been an adventure. I made some decisions I'm not proud of and I came close to losing myself. But again, a curve ball came my way...I swung. I'd like to say I hit it out of the park, but that isn't true. Instead the ball hit me and I walked on to first. What did I learn? I'm in control of me, my happiness, and my future. The last few months have taught me more about what I want out of life, out of my friendships and relationships. I learned how to communicate those things and not be ashamed of how I felt. I'm developing.

Declutter? Well...maybe. I moved from a two bedroom house to a single bedroom. I'd say I did some decluttering. My room is still less than perfect though. I have still-to-be-unpacked boxes and unfinished projects tucked away in the corner. However, it feels better. I make a point to pick up my room every few days. Having it clean more often has made it more difficult to bear it when it gets out of control. Progress.

Spend right, save better. I put money into my savings account this month for the first time since I don't know when. I may have over-shot just a little bit because I did need to transfer a small amount back to checking, but at least it was something. I've started to take cash out of the bank at the beginning of the week and trying to only spend that. I have my bills calendar at work and it has definitely helped! More progress.

So what is next? Obviously I want to keep working on all of the goals I have set for myself, but I also think I need some new ones to keep me engaged. So here's my goal-making goal: finish out the holiday season with at least 2 goals in place for the new year. Here goes nothing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Falling Behind

Well...this is embarrassing. I'm apparently not a blogging pro. But I'll try to get back on track!

Let's start from the beginning. I moved! I'm officially in my new house, and loving it...well, mostly. I've dealt with more icky-gross-headache inducing responsibilities in the last 6 weeks than I did in my 13 months in Kaukauna. First, I had maggots. After an afternoon of scrubbing and gagging, the maggots were gone (or so I thought). Within the next week I had flies. Not just a few here and there. Hundreds. All very attracted to my kitchen window, with a few exploring other areas of the house. Fly paper and a few sprays of Raid got rid of those. Then a few weeks of quiet before...the mouse. I had friends over grilling and while in the kitchen, one tells me that I have mice. In complete denial and naivete,  I respond with, "No, I don't." Well, the droppings on my stove top said differently and I really couldn't deny it. So with two friends and the help of a YouTube video, I got two traps set up - one on each side of my stove. By 10pm that night, I had a mouse. Now what? No one would answer their phone so I put on my big girl pants (which were perfectly happy hanging in the closet, thank you very much) and 'took care' of that mouse. A couple coworkers have also had encounters with mice recently so we all pitched in to buy a 4-pack of Ultrasonic Rodent Repellent. All seemed well. Until Sunday morning (430am, to be exact) when I heard a quiet scurry and not so quiet clamor. My fresh mouse trap and caught a mouse... by his leg. Thankfully (seriously, more than I can even explain) my friend Matt woke up to my frantic text and talked me through bringing the mouse (with trap attached) outside to release him. It didn't help that I had already been up since 3am thanks to my bike tipping over and a group of unruly guys walking through my yard before peeing on the side of the house. But yes, I love this place. I still loved it when later that very same morning my bathroom ceiling turned into a shower and soaked a full box of kleenex and "cleaned" my toilet. I almost feel ready for home ownership after all of this. Almost.

**NOTE: I am NOT dirty, and my house really isn't either. The maggots came from a chicken tray that didn't get taken out quick enough. The flies obviously followed that because some things just can't be seen. The mice are inevitable in a 130 year old house. However, after the scrub-down of my stove, I'm thinking they'll be less happy to come in.

Here is my favorite room in the house:

What else is new? Well, I have a few more goals (actually, resolutions) set. The Happiness Project Meetup that I'm co-organizing is up and running and we had our first official meeting on Friday.

In no particular order, and still lacking a few details, here is what I'm focusing on:
  • Impress Yourself. Sometimes I say yes, when I really want to say no. Sometimes I go out when I'd rather stay in. Why? Because I've fallen into a pattern of doing almost anything to make others happy, to impress others. I can think back to a specific time in my life where I literally did not think of anyone but myself. I don't mean that in a bad way - I was not hurting anyone, I was just so focused on my own happiness, that there was no room for me to care about what others thought about it. I miss that. So it's time to make my way back to that, to at least find a better balance.
  • Tidy Up/Declutter. I am a messy person. Not to be confused with a dirty person - that I am not. But I am messy. And disorganized. I've been this way for as long as I can remember. My mom and I have spent countless hours, and far too much money, on organizational tools to try to teach me to be less messy, but none of it has ever really stuck. But I'm going to try again. Differently. I know that when my house is organized and presentable, I am much less stressed and definitely happier. So I need to make it a priority to have my house in that condition more often. Thanks to another optimist in the Happiness Project Meetup, I have a great new resource...flylady.net. The website gives babystep instructions on how to declutter and tidy up your house. By taking the babysteps and turning them in to  habit, I really have a chance at changing my lifestyle and becoming more organized. I like it.
  • Spend Right, Save Better. Like many others, money is one of the biggest stressors in my life. I know that money can't buy happiness, but being financially stable and healthy definitely has an impact on my happiness. I need to find a way to create a budget and really stick to it. I'm also going to create a calendar with all of the due dates for my bills, their average amount due, and whether it is an auto-withdrawal or manual payment. I hope that this will help lessen the stress I tend to feel between paychecks
There are a few others, but these are the first resolutions I'd like to focus on. I'm very excited about them and the positive changes that they can potentially bring to my life!

This has truly been one of the best summers I can remember. I love where I am in life and I love the people in my life. The last few weeks I have literally had something on my calendar every single night. My mom asked me the other day if I was happy with that, and I can honestly say that I am. Yes, it makes it difficult to have any impromptu plans or to schedule things with people I don't necessarily see that often...but I love having such a busy life. I enjoy being out in the community and being surrounded by such fantastic people.

I'll try not to go so long between updates again!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In transition

Something about change always makes me feel melancholy and reflective. Tomorrow I move out of my first real apartment. The apartment where I spent my first year out of college and first year in my job. I moved into this apartment just about three weeks after moving home last May. I remember calling my mom as I was on my way to sign the lease asking her if I was making a mistake. Ultimate buyer's remorse - always gets me. She calmed me down and said that I could live anywhere for a year. Well, roughly thirteen months later, I can say she was right.

This apartment has been a really nice first place, but I'm looking forward to what lies ahead. Although the situation with my new apartment is far more stressful and anxiety-causing that I'd like, I really do love the apartment. I love the character of it, the location, and just the general feel of it. Hopefully circumstances don't prevent me from enjoying those things.

What I'm not looking forward to is living in limbo. I don't have a move in date for my new apartment. All of my furniture and boxes will be in a garage in Kimberly while myself and my clothes will be at my mom's house in Appleton. Luckily, I do not have any sort of strong attachment to my "things" so I won't have separation anxiety or anything, but it will be a strange adjustment to live in a place not full of my stuff. This also means that in a few days, weeks, whatever it happens to be I will need to move. Again. I'm paying Two Men & a Truck to move my furniture this time around (I had a nightmare that two of my friends were carrying my big leather sofa down the stairs of my apartment and fell. Broke the couch and themselves. Two Men & a Truck carry insurance for that. I do not.) However, come moving day #2, my absolutely fantastic friends have assured me that they'll be there for me with extra strong muscles and a few open-bed trucks to transport from one ground floor garage to my ground floor apartment (up 2 or 3 porch steps).

I don't generally do well with change. I get very stressed, anxious, and a bit moody. And that's when I know what is coming next. Here I am now, in the midst of change, with no end in sight. Talk about heightened stress, increased anxiety, and terribly moodiness. Monthly hormones aren't helping this situation any either.

Basically, I'm in transition. I'm leaving behind of a lot of memories, good and bad, in this apartment. I threw away some memories last night while packing. And a few came up that I wasn't expecting, but they've been packed away because I wasn't ready to throw them away yet.  So tomorrow starts my "in transition journey." I'll move back home and wait. I'm so incredibly grateful that my mom and Ginny are opening the house up to me, so even though my inside feelings may not agree, I am happy to be able to go home. I'm also excited for the next step in the journey, and the memories that I will create.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Focus on What You Know

**NOTE: I drop the f*bomb in this post. Multiple times. My apologies to my mother, and others offended, but you've been warned!

My friend, JB, and I think. A lot. Too much. We're over-thinkers. We analyze everything. During one of our many spill sessions with each other, JB called it think fucking. We are think fuckers. Later in the conversation, I said that we just need to focus on what we know, because we're always playing the "what if" game and the "but maybe..." game. And so, our new life mantra was created: stop think fucking and focus on what you know.

Well, that's a lot harder than you may realize. Since we came up with this mantra, I've done much better. However, what happens in a situation when what you know is...nothing? Then all there is to do is think. And wonder. And analyze. I've had a few days like that lately. Today being one of them. The last time it happened, I caught myself and repeated "stop thinking fucking. focus on what you know." in my head. And then I acted. Because I didn't know what I needed to know. So I took the steps that needed to be taken to gain that knowledge. And felt a whole lot better afterwards.

What I've learned in the last few months is that some people will like me, and some won't. Some want similar things that I do, and some don't. Some are easy to get a long with and to be with and I just feel connected with them. Others...nothing. But in either situation, I've learned that instead of over analyzing how I'm feeling or trying to over think what has happened or could happen, I need to just act. Say what I feel. Say what I want. Because otherwise I'm wasting time. Mine and theirs. And life is too short to do that.

So I've gotten pretty honest. With myself, and with others. Now, don't take this the wrong way - I'm not going around telling people I don't like them and why. I'm just not holding on to my feelings if something doesn't feel right...or if it feels darn near perfect. And that is liberating. To not hold on to feelings and to just let myself be honest with myself. It's really great.

I still over think. A lot. But I've learned to become more aware of it, and I've learned that sometimes I just need to take the risk and say how I'm feeling. That is so much healthier than holding it in. And even if the consequence isn't great, I'm happier knowing that I've said what I wanted to say.

Monday, May 30, 2011

What I Learned From the Time 100

 
Sting has mesmerizing eyes. Seriously. Just look at those bad boys. I could get lost in them.

 
Paul Ryan is a cocky looking SOB. (had to be said) His whole look just says, "I don't care that my ideals screw over the lower classes - they didn't work hard enough anyhow." You don't see that in his face? Well, I may be a bit cynical. But just wait a few years. If Ryan has his way, you'll see it the way I do, but then it will be too late.







Colin Firth is about as close to perfect as a man can get. And it isn't just about that profile. It also isn't just about his phenomenal ability to act in a multitude of roles and capture audiences of all ages around the world. What else is there? Well, he was named Philanthropist of the Year from Oxfam for his work on the Make Trade Fair campaign which focuses on global trade issues. He and his wife also launched Brightwide, a political activism site that offers free films.





 

Glee may be a cheesy show, but it is making a difference. I know. A show about a high school show choir and all of the drama that goes along with it. But Glee is also doing something that not many other shows have been able to do. It is telling high schoolers (or any age group for that matter) that it is ok to be who you are. Take the 'Born This Way' episode. By the end of it, the majority of the characters had confronted the one thing they are most self-conscious about, and learned to accept it. And then there's the reason that this one made it on the blog in the first place: Chris Colfer's "pitch-perfect portrayal of a gay teen" put him on the Time 100 list. If you know me, you know that this is an incredibly important issue for me. To see a gay teen as the star of a show - as well as in multiple supporting roles - is fantastic. Hopefully once being gay becomes less 'taboo' in our culture,  the bullying, the gut-wrenching stories of people not being able to live their life as they were meant to, and the heart breaking suicides will come to an end.

The world will (unfortunately) always be at war.  There is not one single picture to represent this one. I just did a rough count, and of the 100 most influential people of 2011, 17 had some connection to a current world conflict. Some were influential because they started conflicts, some fed the conflicts, some tried to stop them, and some provided aid after the conflict. But nonetheless, there were (roughly) 17 influential people involved in conflict. I don't mean to be a pessimist, but unless our race evolves in a way the makes power and control less desirable, war is inevitable.

Our future depends on true education reform. Here's where two of the most inspirational people in my life come in. Geoffrey Canada and Michelle Rhee. They are proving that true education reform needs to be child-focused. That means we need to get down and dirty and fire some teachers, close schools, and make some generally tough decisions. But the thing is, the research supports their actions. Change is never easy. But if we want to see future generations succeed, and if we want the United States to have an education system that we can actually be proud of, then we need to start looking at the research and focusing on the kids.


    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    A Learning Experience

    Yesterday I had the opportunity to hear two phenomenal speakers lecture on two very different topics. I am officially looking into graduate school...again.

    The first was Sara Quandt at Lawrence University's Honors Convocation. Quandt has a doctorate degree in anthropology and spoke about health disparities in the United States, with a focus on migrant workers. Her stories were, first and foremost, sad, but also inspiring. She discussed the situations of three migrant workers: one working in tobacco fields that develops green tobacco sickness, one that picks cherry tomatoes and eventually gives birth to a child without arms or legs due to her exposure to pesticides, and one very poor mother who is paradoxically obese and struggling to put food on the table. Those are the sad parts. The inspiring part is what Dr. Quandt is doing with these stories. The topic of her talk was "It Takes a Community: Collaborating to Reduce Health Disparities in the U.S." Her argument was that if the communities of academics (scientists, anthropologists, statiticians, etc) and citizens (community organizations, individuals) worked together, health disparities could be recognized, researched, and reduced. As someone working in a nonprofit, I can definitely agree with this proposition. Collaboration is key in solving (or even reducing) major social issues. No one person, organization, or community of persons can solve a problem.

    The next speaker was Dr. Richard Davidson, a renowned University of Wisconsin brain researcher. He spoke at the Compassion Project event at the Performing Arts Center last night. I am no neuroscientist, but what this man said made sense. And made me wish I could be a neuroscientist so I could join his lab. Dr. Davidson has conducted studies and research that show how happiness and acting compassionately affect the brain. And he's able to show that these skills can be taught. One of the most fascinating things he said last night was that, although we are born with a set DNA structure, we are not held hostage to our genes. Through behavior therapy, we can be changed. While the details of this concept are far, far above anything I will ever understand, the basic principal can be grasped, and in my opinion...celebrated. I am one of those people that thinks everyone can learn to be happier than they are, and that each person I meet is inherently good. And now I have a neuroscientist telling me that I may just be right!

    So what do these two speakers have to do with me looking into graduate school? Well, aside from the fact that I got goosebumps during the faculty processional at Lawrence, and was literally anxious waiting for Dr. Davidson to continue his talk after the musical interludes, the speakers sparked a bit of jealousy in me. Sure, I do a lot of good in my community already. I'm very early in my career, and people already know me. But am I really making a substantial difference? Did I bring light to an illness (green tobacco sickness) that affects thousands of people in the world? Am I researching a topic that could bridge Eastern thought and American education? No, no and no. But I could. Maybe (ok, definitely) not either of those topics, but there are certainly other areas of study that I have an interest in, and also a decent amount of knowledge. But a decent amount isn't enough to make any ground breaking revelations. I need more knowledge, more training, more inspiration.

    Plus, learning makes me happy. And happiness is exactly what I'm after.

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Another Goal and a New Tattoo

    I have another goal to add to my list of summer goals:
    • Be Thrifty. I used to be so much better at this. Through high school and into college, I was a pro at shopping at thrift stores and garage sales. I'm not exactly sure what changed, but my thrifty turned into shopping at outlet malls, which is not nearly the same. What I remember about shopping at thrift stores and garage sales is how much effort you sometimes need to put in to find what you're looking for, but that once you do find it: pure joy. I'm excited to feel that sense of accomplishment again. Starting today: multi-family garage sale in Sherwood with the girls. Time to be a deal hunter!
     And now...the moment we've all been waiting for: the tattoo.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Rocks, Pebbles, Sand...and Beer.

    I can't even count how many times professors used this as a lesson in class while I was in school. It is definitely over-used. But really, the underlying message is a good one, and I always laugh a little bit at the end, so why not share?

    A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, rocks about 2" in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full. 
    They agreed that it was.
    So the professor picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.
    They agreed it was. The students laughed.
    The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
    "Now," said the professor, "I want you to recognize this is your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children - things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else, the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."
    But then... a student then took the jar which the other students and the professor agreed was full, and proceeded to pour in a glass of beer. Of course the beer filled the remaining space within the jar making the jar truly full.
    The moral of this tale is: no matter how full your life is, there is always room for BEER.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    The First Set of Goals

    I may not have the structure of my Happiness Project figured out yet, but that doesn't mean I should wait to write down my goals. In Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project, she has a theme for each month and then makes related goals for that month. Ideally, that is what my Happiness Project will look like too. However, because I haven't laid that structure out yet, I will start with my theme for the summer, and the corresponding goals.

    Resolution: Enjoy my surroundings.

    Goals:
    • Move downtown. Currently, I live right in the heart of the valley (seriously, I'm a mix of Darboy, Kaukauna, Kimberly, Appleton, and Buchanan). I live in an 1,100 sq.ft. 2 bedroom apartment...alone. It is 2.6 miles to Target, Festival, and MotoMart, 6.3 miles to Copper Rock, and 6.6 miles to work. Add that all up...and it just doesn't make sense for me to live there anymore. So, first goal: find a rental unit within walking/biking distance to downtown and work.  UPDATE: This goal is unofficially complete! I signed a lease today! Just a few blocks from downtown and less than 2 miles from work. SO excited.
    • Buy local. I feel that I am fairly conscious about buying local already, but moving downtown will further enhance this practice as I will be closer to the local shops I already frequent and to the shops I'd like to frequent. Here is a link from Appleton Downtown, Inc's website about shopping local: Give Your Community a Reason to Shop Local. Another part of this goal includes the farmer's market in downtown Appleton. I want to make an effort to go to the market every Saturday that I am available. My fun spin-off on that goal: try a new local-made salsa every week. YUM.
    • Get involved. I've already started the process of achieving this goal. The way I see it, if I'm going to live in this community and enjoy all the benefits and activities that it has to offer, I better be doing my part. I currently have three potential opportunities lined up: I have attended 2 Appleton Fox Cities Kiwanis Club meetings and have now been invited to apply for membership, I am in the process of joining the Appleton Downtown Rotary Club, and I have expressed interest in volunteering with Appleton Downtown, Inc (for their Thursday concert series, and also possibly on a committee). Kiwanis and Rotary will provide excellent opportunities to get involved in service projects in the community and volunteering with ADI is my way of giving back to the organization that provides much of my summer fun in Appleton.
    So there it is. My first set of goals. Are they extraordinary? No. But will they lead to a greater sense of happiness in my life? Absolutely. And that is, after all, the point of this project. I'm sure I will add more as I define the structure of my Happiness Project in the coming weeks. But let me tell you, just getting these down on paper (side note: are there 21st century colloquialisms? Because I keep using paper/pencil phrases, when in actuality - I am typing.) feels amazing.

      Monday, May 2, 2011

      Good Friends and Tattoos

      The last week has been... awesome, emotional, stressful, busy, exciting, a growing experience. I have basically practiced Jim Valvano's wisdom all week:
      "To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."
      Well, audience, I must have had something special. When thinking about this little nugget of wisdom, I realize how grateful I am that I have friends, family, and coworkers that really do make it possible (and very likely) that I will laugh. Every. Single. Day. How great is that?! Here are some facts about laughter:
      • Laughter lowers the levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol suppresses the immune system. Lowering these levels enhances the work of the immune system and may prevent disease.
      • You can stimulate your heart and lungs, elevate your blood pressure and improve breathing capacity by laughing.
      • In terms of exercise, you can get the same benefits from laughing 100 times a day, as you can from 10 minutes of rowing.
      • 15 minutes of laughter equals the benefit of 2 hours sleep.
      • One good belly laugh burns off 3 1/2 calories.
      But that's not all Jim talked about. Thinking. Thinking every day. Well, of course I do this. But in the last week, I've done some excessive thinking, both good and bad. I spent a decent chunk of a day thinking about whether a relationship was working for me. Good thinking to do, yes. Happy-thoughts-producing? Not so much. I then spent an evening talking with some friends after a volleyball game. I did some thinking there too - my friends sure know how to bring up topics that require deep thinking! But we also laughed. A whole lot.

      But my favorite thinking memory from the last week? Spending 1:30pm-midnight on Friday (with just a brief two hour break) with a great friend. We were supposed to be planning our Happiness Project group. We did get a few goals jotted down, but we spent most of the day and night just talking, reliving experiences, comparing pasts, analyzing ourselves...thinking about what our lives have taught us. It truly is an incredible feeling to have a friend that I can do that with. A little freaky at times with how similar we are, but I feel so, so lucky.

      And then, the third thing Jim thinks we should all do every day: cry. Honestly, why did that have to be on this list? Is it really necessary to cry to have a full day? Well, let me tell you. I think I cried almost every day this last week. A mix of happy tears (from all that laughing, you see) and not so happy tears (from the thinking, of course). I also cried on my first real bike ride in probably 4 years. But I don't want to talk about that! But all of those other cries? Awesome. I've found that crying, like blogging, is an incredible release. I can just let out all of my stress, fears, pain and feel a new breath when I've finished. And being moved to tears from laughter? If you haven't experienced that, I hope someday you do.

      I think this was a great week. I had quite a few amazing nights with the people that I am lucky enough to call my friends. And even though not everything went the way I would want it to, I felt pain, and I was very stressed, I ended the week thinking: life goes on.

      And that brings me to the second part of this post's title. As long as everything goes as planned, I will be getting inked on Friday afternoon. The outer edge of my right foot will have an addition: life goes on. What a great reminder to see every single day for the rest of my life!

      "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." -Robert Frost

      Thursday, April 28, 2011

      An Important Conclusion

      Quick preface: Can I just say...I've never journaled before. But after just these few blog posts, I see why people do it. It is an amazing release to be able to just put your thoughts down on paper (or type them on a screen).  


      Starting a blog entry is always a little bit odd. How do I address an audience that I'm blind to? I have no idea who I am writing to on here! So, whoever you are, thanks for stopping by. Now, if you know me, you'll know that I have not been single for more than a few weeks at a time in the last eight years. For the first seven of those years, it was one relationship. While I heard a bit of grief and was sometimes judged for that decision, I did not really start feeling pressure until that relationship ended and I began seeing other people. All of a sudden, I was a needy girl that had to be in a relationship to be happy (not my thinking - what was being pushed on me).

      First, I had a fairly short lived (but still very important) relationship that taught me a huge lesson: relationships are between two people. Yes, you can share with others when you're happy or when things are a little rough, but have some control over what you disclose. You don't need to tell anyone everything that your significant other says - good or bad. In fact, you shouldn't. Not even your best friend. This isn't fair to you, your partner, or your friends. You're not giving yourself enough credit to be able to work through situations on your own, you're not giving your partner any sort of confidentiality, and you're dragging your friends into a situation where they will likely be biased and not make sound decisions. Well, I learned that one the hard way.

      My next relationship lasted a bit longer - 7 months. This one taught me more lessons that I even realized I needed to learn. And quite frankly, some of which I would have preferred not to learn. To maintain some confidentiality about the details, and out of respect for this person, I am just going to use a quote to sum up the main lesson I learned here:
      "Relationships, of all kinds, are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost." 
      Despite the fact that I was the sand being held too tightly, the end of this relationship brought incredible hurt. But the end of this relationship is also what gave me the kick in the butt to really look at myself and see what I liked, and what maybe wasn't working. It was then that I decided that the two things I really needed to be working on were patience and giving up control. But we'll get into that in a later post.

      Once I decided that I needed to let go of that pain, a new person came into my life, totally catching me by surprise. One thing that was missing in my previous relationship was stimulating conversation. Well, within our first 3 'dates,' this new person and I logged probably 10 hours of (amazing, intelligent, revealing, honest, fulfilling....) conversation. Wow. Again, out of respect for this person, I'm going to stay pretty vague - especially because I will most likely end up in his novel/memoir some day! ;-) What I will say, is that the end of this relationship gave me the courage to really reach the conclusion that I am about to share with you. And not just to reach it, but to accept it.

      So here it is: I am a relationship person. And proud. Do I need to be in a relationship to feel fulfilled? Yes. But am I needy? No. Do I prefer to have a companion to share my hopes, dreams, fears, and just general day to day feelings with? Yes.

      Some people may still see this as needy. But I don't, at all. My personality is such that I prefer to have someone to have an intimate relationship with, to have someone to take care of, and to have someone that will inspire personal growth. I believe this means I am an extrovert - I get my energy from other people. 

      I don't go into relationships with a lot of "me" centered thoughts -  obviously I will benefit from the relationship (hopefully), but the way that I receive the fulfillment is by nurturing someone else. I am caring, almost to a fault. I want to devote my time to making someone else happy. In the still very few relationships that I have had, this has yielded mixed results. I've experienced a good balance of give and take, I've also given until it hurt, and in the relationship that was being held too tightly - I stopped giving all together.

      So what does this mean for my Happiness Project? Well...I haven't figured that out quite yet! I want my Happiness Project to be for me, not for anyone else. But I also fully believe that in making others happy, I become happier.


      I'll leave you with a song that I happen to love:

      Sunday, April 17, 2011

      Full Disclosure

      As I start this blog, and my happiness project, I realize that my thoughts are being put out there for anyone and everyone to see. I am not nearly as worried about what a stranger passing through will think as I am about what certain people closer to me will think. I have many different social circles that I associate with, and they're each exposed to varying levels of detail in my life. Because I am using this blog as a way to document my thoughts and feelings while I formulate, and eventually live out, my happiness project I will probably be tending to the side of more detail. Some readers will not see anything different in this exposure as it is what they are used to getting from me; however, others may read things that they did not expect. Thus, my full disclosure note.

      So, as a way to hopefully avoid any uncomfortable encounters with people as I write, I will be sure to label posts that include more intimate details or 'controversial' topics as TMI (too much information). This way,  you, as the reader, have the choice about whether or not you continue reading. The title of the post will also give you an idea about what will be disclosed.

      Monday, April 11, 2011

      My Happiness Project

      Those of you that know me at all, even just a little bit, know that I love to read. Those of you that know me even better know that books tend to inspire me and that it seems to be a regular occurrence that I pick up a book that will have some deep impact on me in the time that I read it. Some people would call this a coincidence, but I like to think there's more at work.

      In spring of 2009, I read Eat, Pray, Love while on a beach in Mexico. Life was great - I was happy with where I was, where I was going, and the people I had beside me. In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert owns her unhappiness, confronts the causes, attempts to change her life, and eventually leaves for a one year, multi-country, soul-searching expedition. While reading the book, deep down I felt a longing for that sort of freedom - not to take a year off to travel, but to devote a significant amount of time to my own happiness.  However, I was laying on a beach in sunny Puerto Vallarta; I didn't let my thoughts go too far, but the seed was planted.

      In winter/spring of 2010, I read American Wife and Committed. My life was nearing a crossroads at this point - I was on schedule to graduate, move to Milwaukee for grad school, and get married. On the outside, I was happy. I had everything going for me. But that happiness was not reflected on the inside, where fear, doubt, and insecurity were growing. I picked up American Wife at Barnes & Noble because I enjoy reading books that are somehow tied to a real person. American Wife is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush. I wasn't expecting anything more than a fun, interesting book. However, very early on I started finding my own self in the book. Alice, the main character, is questioning herself and her relationships. What are her motives for being in this relationship? Does she want her life to go in this direction? I recognized these questions, and was then brought back to that seed that was planted while reading Eat, Pray, Love and I found myself confronting my own feelings. Reading Committed was an interesting choice. It is the sequel to Eat, Pray, Love and Gilbert uses it to explore the history and social meaning of marriage. Did part of me want to read this book to get my life (and feelings) back on the track everyone expected it to take? Or did I read it because I wanted affirmation that I was not ready for this commitment? I'd say a little bit of both. What this book did for me is give my subconscious reason to look for happiness. When I found it, I knew my decision was made. I did not get married. I did not move to Milwaukee.

      This is all old news to you if you know me. However, I bought a new book on Friday and started reading it this weekend. I immediately felt a connection to the book. I don't think it's a coincidence that in the last few months I've been reading the blogs of friends, acquaintances, and strangers wishing I could make my life sound like theirs and then finally decided to give it a try...and then I buy The Happiness Project.

      The Happiness Project is the story of Gretchen Rubin and her 12-month dedication to finding more happiness in her life. I am a happy person, anybody that knows me knows that and I wouldn't ever say otherwise. However, my life has changed drastically in the last year and I haven't really sat down to take inventory of what I have now. Rubin used all sorts of studies on happiness to begin her happiness project. I'll use some of those studies too. But what came to my mind in the first 25 pages of the book was Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs. I studied, dissected, and analyzed this pyramid about half a dozen times in college and always came to the same conclusion: this guy knows his shit. So my happiness project will be centered around Maslow's pyramid. That's all I really know right now. I want my happiness project to have meaning and purpose, so I'm going to take my time formulating what it will look like. But for now, I at least know where I'm starting.

      Saturday, April 9, 2011

      And so it begins...

       Aside from the obligatory stint with Xanga as a middle schooler, this is my first attempt at blogging. We'll see how it goes.

      Let's start with the basics:

      A. Age: Twenty two. 

      B. Bed size: Queen.  

      C. Chore you dislike: Taking out the garbage and recycling. 

      D. Dogs: Love. I can't wait to own one. Or two. Hopefully my next dwelling will allow dogs, and I will get either a King Charles Spaniel or a Yorkie. However, once I have a house and a yard - I'll move up to the bigger breeds. Preferably a Golden Doodle. 
      Credit: http://meg-land.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html
      E. Essential start to your day:  Brushing my teeth. Even on the weekend when I have nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to see, I need to brush my teeth in order to start my day. 

      F. Favorite color: Pink. 

      G. Gold or silver: White gold. 

      H. Height: 5'0". In the morning. Height most people see me as, thanks to heels: 5'2". 

      I. Instruments you play(ed): Violin. For about 12 weeks, in fourth grade. 

      J. Job title: Public Relations/Development Director. 

      K. Kids: None. But I hope to have a house full when the time comes! 

      L. Live: In the Fox Cities. I never really imagined myself moving back here, but Appleton is very different as a 22 year old, and I'm glad I'm here. 
      Credit: http://www.jefflindsay.com/aplshots.shtml
      M. Mom’s name: Laurie. 

      N. Nicknames: Pickle is my most common nickname. My parents and other family members use it, sometimes Pickle Ann. 

      O. Overnight hospital stays: None.  Knock on wood. 

      P. Pet peeves: Chewing on ice. I can't stand the sound.  

      Q. Quote from a movie: "I think I'd miss you, even if we'd never met." The Wedding Date 

      R. Righty or lefty:  Righty. 

      S. Siblings: Ben, 20. Justin, 25. 

      T. Time you wake up: Sometime between 5:45 and 6:45 during the week. No later than 8:30 on the weekend. 

      U. Underwear: I wear it. 

      V. Vegetables you don't like: Peas, and most beans. 

      W. What makes you run late: Not having my workout bag packed and ready to go, figuring out what to wear, pressing snooze too many times. 

      X. X-rays you’ve had: Ankle, knees, back/shoulders/neck, teeth. 

      Y. Yummy food you make: I make amazing oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. 
      Credit: http://www.glutenfreehelp.info/recipes/desserts/only-oats-inspired-gluten-free-recipes/
      Z. Zoo animal favorites: All of them!