Monday, December 31, 2012

The 2012 EFF YEAH! list

Anyone who has been around a long time knows that at the end of every year I like to make an EFF YEAH list that celebrates accomplishments big or small, and anything worth celebrating. It's fun to look back at the year and think DUDE. I DID ALL THIS.

In no particular order and with links to more details included where possible, here is the 2012 EFF YEAH list:

Moving to Washington DC
Starting a wildly neurotic and detailed life planning system that I love
Beginning to learn French
Beginning my Life List
Living alone in a bad ass apartment in DC
Incorporating my gutsy wedding photography business
Shooting four weddings and numerous portrait shoots.
Traveling to California, Texas, and Arkansas to see family and friends
Learning to say 'no' and to stand up for myself
Finishing the Joy Juice prompts and feeling AWESOME because of them - I highly recommend them!*
Writing my personal manifesto
Finishing the 101 in 1001 list
Buying a 50 mm lens
Doing a crazy but awesome juice cleanse and starting to take my health seriously
Donating my hair 

Working a random job for a few months
Managing to learn some really cute but fake calligraphy
Sending cards/presents for birthdays, holidays, etc.
Becoming a barista, then starting to teach others to be good baristas
Realizing that I want to be a teacher or professor someday
Deciding to go back to grad school, though it will take me a long time to get there
Meeting internet friends in real life
Reading countless numbers of fantastic books
Starting to save money to go backpacking 

Did I accomplish everything I wanted to in 2012? In short: No. Do I regret that? Eh, some of them. For instance, I really want to go bungee jumping but I'm TOO FREAKIN' SCARED to even book it! I signed up for a 5k, trained for it, then was too sick on race day to get out of bed. But what I did accomplish? Totally worth all the things I missed.

But for the most part, I like where 2012 has gotten me. And I think it's okay to say that. If you were around last January, you know that what comes next in my crazy life planning bucket list system is my goal-setting for 2013. But that's for another post.

Happy New Years, everyone! Have a wonderful, fun, crazy (and safe) night tonight! See you all in January.

*Affiliate link. Just saying. Don't hate lawyer peoples. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

the idea of scheduling, of free-form versus no-form, and making excellence a habit.

I've said it before and I may say it again: 2012 has been the single most challenging year of my life. I pushed myself past my emotional, physical, and mental limits more than probably ever before, and I came out of it not a different person, but a stronger and more resilient version of myself. 

Two of the things that were hardest for me in 2012 were related to plans: Plans that weren't well thought out so didn't come to fruition, and things that happened that I couldn't have planned for. When I sat up late one night after graduation making my 2012 Goal to be Furiously Proud, I never imagined both my grandmothers would be diagnosed with late-stage cancer during 2012. I didn't dream that the boyfriend I had then would stop being wonderful and become a huge toxin in my life. I also didn't account for the fact that my internship I was excited for would make me less passionate and want out of my field, rather than inspire me to work harder. I didn't know I would take a huge departure from politics and non-profits and rediscover my passion for teaching by training baristas.

On the one hand, that's life after college. All that is the beauty of not knowing. And it teaches you that strength and resilience.

But on the other, I realized that when I made that list in 2012, I hadn't left room for self-renewal, for a support system, for time to absorb and grieve and really take care of myself. So when January through June was really hard, July through November because months of nothingness. Of work, and sleep, and watching Friends or Sex and the City every night. I spread myself so thin that when I couldn't do it all, I made the choice to do none of it.

And maybe that's okay - maybe we all need a time to sort of lay fallow. But after a field lays fallow for a season, a good farmer plants it again. 

When I picked myself up in November and said to myself, "Okay, something has to change," I realized what needed to change was me. Since then, I've been reading about success, and effectiveness, and excellence. What turns normal people into effective people, what separates leaders from good leaders. In all this obsessive reading, I've come to believe in three big things: that obsession is a prerequisite for success; that there is a such thing as "too much" and therefore there is value in asking "Why the fuck?" then prioritizing your life from there; and that building positive habits is one of the most effective ways to get shit done.

I thought for a long time that to be artistic (which I am) meant to be free-form, to not have schedules, to just go with the flow. And while there are absolutely merits to being able to go with the flow, I realized that the way I was living was not free-form, it was no-form. It was waiting for inspiration to strike and motivation to appear and thinking that creativity doesn't happen on a schedule. In going with the flow, I was letting the flow just take me where it wanted to and that left me eating in bed watching reruns of no-longer-running TV shows, without WiFi in my apartment, not writing, not taking my camera out, and feeling very lonely and estranged from my friends and family.

When I started 2012 I spread myself too thin, I gave myself too much to do, no schedule to do it on, and no room for recovery when things went wrong. Now as I'm planning for 2013, I'm not searching for balance, I'm not going to try to DO ALL THE THINGS like I did in 2012 - I'm going to be doing a few things a lot, and one of them is making self-renewal a habit. Scheduling self-renewal and recovery. Planting seeds for habits that more success and better habits can grow out of. (You knew I wouldn't leave you hanging with that farmer analogy.)

The only balance then will be balancing obsession with habits. I'll be talking about all this more with the new blog coming soon, and as I wrap up 2012 and starting thinking a lot more about my goals for 2013.  Until then, what are some of your favorite good habits, or - my favorite question - what are you obsessed with right now?

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle.

Monday, December 17, 2012

tales from a recovering approval addict.

Truth be told, I hesitated to write (and then to post) this. In a lot of ways, I didn't want to acknowledge that it's already December 17, 2012. That I graduated from Texas A&M a year ago today. It was a silly fear that held me back - Oh, I'm not where I thought I would be! I'm not who I thought I would be! I'm not with the guy I was then! I'm not, I'm not, I'm not...

I thought to myself: Am I ashamed? Afraid to admit that that I decided not to work in politics? Do I wish I was doing more or doing something different? Am I embarrassed? Why am I so hesitant to talk about it? 

Then I realized the weird truth, the truth that is only weird because it's not the truth anyone else wants to hear - the truth that I'm okay with where my life is right now. I enjoy being a barista and training other baristas. I enjoy photographing gutsy couples in love, and I like not knowing if I'll still be doing all this next month, let alone next year. I like studying French in my spare time, and I enjoy thinking about the grad school I'm applying to for fall 2014 - a program so perfect for me, I couldn't have designed it better myself. 

Yes, my life can be stressful. Making ends meet... well, it doesn't always happen. I live paycheck to paycheck every month, hand to mouth some days. The status of my savings account can be up for debate, which is rough when I'm trying to apply for grad school, and I -- in the name of honesty -- I am not super happy every day, sometimes not every week. 

My point here, and the whole reason I'm writing this post at all, is to say that I almost didn't write this because I thought people wouldn't approve that my degree is "going to waste." As the days went by, I noticed that the thought people might not approve bothered me more than my own feelings on the subject. Then one day I realized how ridiculous that is - of course there are people that don't approve. But you know what? Fuck 'em.

There will always be people that don't approve of something you're doing. Always. Because if you're pleasing everyone, you're doing something wrong - you're not staying true to yourself. And so you (read: I) have to decide - are you going to ruin your happiness and your life to seek and gain their approval, or are you going to work toward being happy without everyone's approval? 

This has been a startling transition, one that I didn't quite know how to digest immediately. As I've moved into this stage of life, I've found myself starting to feel like I've outgrown Simply, Valorie. So starting in January, I'll be blogging at a new location, which will focus on my new lifestyle as a recovering approval addict. I'll post the new link soon to make it easy for you to update your RSS feeds. 


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

doing things that scare you, growth, and the tricky concept of bravery

The first time I heard the phrase "Fake it 'til you make it," I was 17 and giving my first speech in my high school speech class. Since my complete paralyzing fear of talking in front of my peers was obvious to anyone with eyes or ears, that was basically what my speech was about - that I was shaking and my face was a disturbingly tomato-like shade of red and I hated this and I never wanted to do this again ohmygodgoodbyeforeverhyperventilate.

When I was done, my friend (bless him) raised his hand, lied to my face, and said he couldn't tell I was nervous. "Fake it 'til you make it," my teacher said, and winked. I sat down, was baffled that I got an A on that speech, and promptly shook during every speech I gave after (and to this day).

But I tremble less now, and my face only turns pink instead of that-girl-is-going-to-explode-red. And that's only true because I've had to speak in public since then. A lot more than I'd like, and just enough to be starting to get used to it. And all those talks forced me to face the fact that public speaking isn't as bad as I built it up to be in my head. Yes, really.

I never would have described myself as brave. I still probably wouldn't now, but I learned when I was 17 that we shouldn't be so afraid of half of the things that scare us. That really we've just built them up in our heads as these unconquerable, terrifying things when they're probably not.

When I left for China, I was scared. I cried on the plane -- twice. When I first moved to DC, I think I trembled for approximately two weeks straight. Hell, I used to be completely neurotic and freaked out about talking to a guy I liked. That scene in Friends when Monica asked Chandler what's the worst that could happen if he asked a girl out and he replied, "I could die!" -- yeah, I've believed that.*

But I've done all of those things anyway, and as terrified as I was, I enjoyed them. Being forced into uncomfortable situations gave me two options: Freak out and give up, or do it anyway and get over it along the way. Fake it 'til I made it. And now that I've done them, they don't seem so scary. By extension, a whole lot of other things don't seem so scary -- things like going backpacking, continuing with grad school, moving abroad permanently.

I don't know if this makes me brave, but I know those things aren't unconquerable. Little is, really. And if this shy, quiet, still-turns-red-when-more-than-two-people-look-at-her-girl can conquer living in China, moving across the country, and asking out a cute guy, then maybe there's hope for everything else too.

*In case you've never watched that scene, here's a clip, which is hilarious:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

i'm just saying.

{mine, taken in College Station on a super short visit there this last weekend.}

A lot of the things I've blogged about recently have been of a fairly serious strain -- deciding our feelings, super vulgar but productive questions, and that whole relationship hangover thing -- and I just wanted to take a day to have a more relaxed, happy post.

Life is pretty good guys. I'm happy. And that is good.

Monday, November 12, 2012

eleanor roosevelt quotes and the belief that we actually can decide our feelings


Eleanor Roosevelt once very famously wrote, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." 

She meant that your emotions are just that - yours. You get to decide to feel them or not, and when someone makes you feel inferior, it's not because of something they did, it's because you're letting them make you feel that way. I've been living this philosophy hard the past few months (along with the Why the fuck...? philosophy) and Big Damn Surprise: The woman was right. And not just about feeling inferior.

During this past summer, when I basically spent every second I was at home with my ex anxious or despondent or downright angry, I tried everything to avoid feeling that way. I tried not going home except to sleep, I tried reconciliation with him, I tried dating other people, I tried complete celibacy (really), and I tried just making sure I had plenty of alcohol if I knew I was going to be home. When all those options didn't work (anyone surprised?), I came back to Eleanor's idea - to just fucking decide that I wasn't going to feel anxious or despondent or angry anymore.

And you know what? It worked.

Because here's the thing about emotions (and I mean emotions, not mental illness - let's get that distinction clear): After our initial reaction to a situation, we get to decide how we're going to continue to feel about it. Being angry that my ex still lived with me didn't do anything except make me miserable, so I just stopped caring. Now, when I stumble across a photographer whose portfolio gives me all sorts of jealousies, I feel that jealousy (and inferiority)... for about a second. And then I decide that instead of feeling jealous, I'm going to use it as inspiration to become a better photographer myself.

I'll be real: It isn't always easy. When my boss at my day job is yelling at me, it's really hard not to feel angry or stressed. But then I think, "You know what? I'm a barista. I refuse to feel stressed out/angry about this because, well, why the fuck would I do that?"

How much better of a place would the world be if people were less stressed out and angry about the small things? If we could all just decide to literally keep calm and carry on?

So the next time you're thinking "My job is stressing me out..." or "My boyfriend/husband is making me so angry..." Ask yourself: can they really make you feel that, or are you just letting them? Then act accordingly. And I promise to keep doing that too.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

five hours a day and the most vulgar but productive question ever

You know how sometimes we get so busy with the day-to-day things of life, we forget the big picture? It's that whole seeing the forest through the trees thing, right? Somewhere in the mire of daily life, we forget that our lives are supposed to be building toward something, toward happiness or fulfillment or accomplishment or, you know, something outside of complete abject misery.

I went through this recently and it was incredibly frustrating. As someone who is almost a year out of undergrad (ugh, it's already been almost a year?), it was annoying to already see my priorities falling out of order and my life dictated by silly daily tasks that weren't actually getting me anywhere. I still don't know how to get to happiness or fulfillment or accomplishment, but I have started to figure out how to not get lost in the chaos.

This is something that is so hard to keep in mind: A lot of these things we think we "have" to do are things that don't actually put us any closer to our dreams, they're just time wasters. And we don't even realize they're time wasters until we think about the amount of time we actually have.

We have to start by accepting that our time is limited. If we go to work 8 hours a day and need another 8 hours of sleep, that only leaves us with 8 hours to do things not work and sleep related. You have to eat and bathe during that time (right, guys?), and if you live in DC you should probably allow for a minimum of one hour of your time that WMATA will waste.

After the math, we're working with about five hours. (That's all?) We've got five-ish hours a week day to accomplish the things that matter to us. So we have to build our lives in a way that allows us to maximize those five hours with the things that matter the absolute most. We have to prioritize - and by that I mean, actually prioritize, not the kind of prioritize where we convince ourselves that everything is a priority and we can DO ALL THE THINGS.

It isn't easy, by any means. My first list of "priorities" was approximately eleventy-billion things long, and included things that aren't really priorities, but things I thought I should be doing, or just kind sorta want to do. So I pared it down one by one, asking myself over and over again "Okay, why the fuck is this on the list?"

I started asking this awesome question after I read this wildly fantastic article. I learned that getting things done isn't about being busy, because being busy is kind of bullshit. The kind of "busy" I was was just procrastination, it didn't move me anywhere. As Francisco Dao writes, "the key is honesty;" you have to be honest about your priorities, or this won't work.

What's left on my list today covers 5 things that are extremely important to me. They're things that when I ask the question "Why the fuck...?" I have a solid answer, because they're fundamental to my happiness. After those five things, there are some things that are Tier Two - important but not necessary, then everything else that just happens when it can. And the beauty of this system is it allows room for values - my answers are never going to be the same as anyone elses'. Sometimes my answer to the question is "Well, because my dad wants me to." And while that may not be a good enough reason for some people, it is for me. And that's totally okay because they're my priorities, no one else's. 

These days, I use this question for every decision I make, and I'm radically more productive because of it. And, frankly, I'm radically happier because of it. I'm less stressed. I've removed the crap from my life that's not a priority, that didn't have a good answer to the "Why the fuck...?" question, and all that's left are the things that really do matter. And I can use those five hours in a way that allows me to see both the forest and the trees.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

relationship hangovers, geology class, and the concept of waste.

I spent my summer single. I didn't go on dates, I didn't do much of anything except work, read, drink and -- unfortunately -- come home to The Ex every night.

That's right - we broke up in May, but he didn't move out until September 30.

It's a long story why, but I'll save you the head scratching and just say that yes, it was terrible and awkward and basically felt like one really long hangover. You know the hangover I'm talking about - the one where you wake up and think "Jesus, why did I think making out with him/riding that mechanical bull/taking eleventy billion tequila shots was a good idea?" Except it was a person, and I was looking him in the face every day and wondering, "Jesus, how did we ever get along well enough to date? For over a year? To move in together?"

But I suppose those answers are neither here nor there. 

The weird thing about living alone now is not that I suddenly miss him - I don't - it's that I feel this weird sense of confusion, like I've wasted a lot of time, somehow.

The thing about dating someone for a long time is that it's like taking a course in another human being. You learn their likes and dislikes, what makes them tick, what they dream about, where they're going, and what they're afraid of. You learn all these little details, their ins and outs so to speak. When you're together, it's great - you feel like the only person in the world who could know this much about them, who can speak with authority on them - but when it's over, it feels useless, and part of you doesn't want it to be.

Ending a serious relationship with someone feels like getting an A in a geology class when your major is English.

When it's over, you're left wondering: Was it a waste? Wasn't it? You got the experience, you learned a lot, but to what end? Was it worth it? 

What I'm trying to say is: What do you do with all that knowledge about your ex? You can't use it in your next relationship, but you can't just forget it either. No one else wants to hear about it, and I wouldn't share it with anyone anyway. No matter how badly the relationship ended, I just think there are some things that should be left sacred, between the two.

So what do you do?

Monday, October 1, 2012

emotional upheavals, re-prioritizing, and a promise of return.

It's been a Tough Couple Months, guys.

Putting that in writing - capitalized, at that! - made me realize how true it was. How true it is. Seeing that here, in the Compose a Post screen made it real, more than I cared to admit up until now. Admitting it is both the hardest and most relaxing thing I've done in the past few months.

Because, here's the thing: It hasn't all been bad, though there's been more bad than good during these Tough Couple Months. It's just been one emotional upheaval over another. There's been the realization that several members of my family are aging and sick, and I might lose them soon. There's been The Grad School Decision, personal life crises, serious financial crises, living with The Ex, a job that demands more than I ever expected it to, losses of friends and gaining new ones, big and little disappointments, total failures, and trying to learn French. There's been too much alcohol, moratoriums on alcohol, bitter fights with myself about everything, and attempts to just be nice to myself as I try to navigate these waters.

This is just how life goes. Sometimes, things are simple - you don't have much going on, it feels easy. And sometimes, you think the Universe is testing to see how much weight you can carry before you collapse.

I didn't collapse, but the Tough Couple Months aren't over yet. There have been times when I thought I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, only for it to be extinguished again. This time, it seems like the light is real, but I'm frankly exhausted and afraid of getting my hopes up too far.

Right now, I'm doing a lot of general re-prioritizing in my life, which typically happens third when I'm going through tough times, right after alcohol and sleep. (Which, really, need to be re-prioritized too.) And with that, I'm hoping that I'll be returning to this blog. Posting has been sporadic (at best) during the Tough Couple Months, and while I know the general vibe over here includes a lot of snark, it doesn't generally include a lot of whining.

So that's where I am. I know it's not an "excuse" or even much of an explanation for my absence, but I am alive still, and I'll be back for real soon.

At the moment though, what I really want is to hear from you guys - what have you been up to the past few months? I've been out of touch with everyone and everything online, unfortunately. So, where have your lives taken you?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

running away, the desire for clean slates, and the impossibility of that.

I think about running away a lot.

I don't have a bad life; I have good friends and a job I like. I eat brunch almost every Sunday, I live in an apartment in the District, and I read good literature. I indulge in amusing past times, like watching Friends eleventy billion times, and I have passions like writing, photography, and learning. I have plans for my future like grad school, a fulfilling job, and a lifestyle that allows me to travel. As far as material needs go, I have nothing to complain about, and therefore try not to.

For all intents and purposes, I could be categorized as happy.

Yet, I find myself thinking about running away from everything and everyone I've ever known or cared for. I think of living somewhere no one knows my name or my past, and they never have to. I'd erase this blog and delete my Facebook and throw my iPhone in a river. I think I could be happy living quietly and anonymously somewhere else in the world. I could write every day, I could live and eat simply. 

You might think it was lonely, and maybe it would be, but it doesn't seem that way from where I'm sitting. It seems peaceful, easy.

Of course, I know it would never work because one of the things I value more than anything else in my life is my relationships with my family and friends. I could never abandon them. Naturally, as long as I have them there will always be people who know my name, and I'll never truly be anonymous.

But sometimes, today especially, I am tempted by the idea of a clean slate in a place where no one knows who I am, and so I can be anyone I want.

Monday, September 3, 2012

here's your proof that there is a such thing as dumb questions.

Since I graduated from college, opened my wedding photography biz, and started working as a barista to get a little extra cash, there's been one question I've gotten from people quite frequently. 

Spoiler: This question makes me effing STABBY. 

The conversation normally goes this way: 
Them: "What did you study in college?"
Me: "International Politics and Diplomacy."
Them: "Oh, how interesting! So what do you do now?"
Me: "Ha, a few things. I own my own kickass wedding photography business, part time I act as a social media coordinator for a small nonprofit, and I'm a barista."*
Them: "Oh, how interesting. So like uh... What are you doing with your degree? Wasn't that kind of a waste?"

You know what I do with my bachelor's degree, Every Asshole That's Ever Asked Me This Question? I use my degree to be a well educated human being. I use it to speak intelligently (and with my own carefully-formed opinions backed by numbers and facts) on subjects like human trafficking, Chinese-American relations, and why (barring all catastrophes) Obama is going to win the 2012 election. I use my degree to understand Shakespearean literature, to dissect political rhetoric, and to know what the actual fuck an Oxford comma is. My college degree is useful every morning when I wake and review French vocabulary, and every night when I go to sleep after reading Wordsworth or Howard Zinn, or noting the subtle influences of John Stuart Mill's political philosophy on classic movies like Dead Poets' Society. My college degree is useful because I know who great thinkers like Mill, Wordsworth, Zinn, Machiavelli, Thoreau, and Orwell were, and I know what I think of them, not what someone else told me to think of them.

Basically, I use my bachelor's degree to not be a huge effing douchebag. What do you use yours for? 

*(If their next question after I say this to them isn't a loud "GIRL, when do you find time to sleep?!" I know we won't be friends.) 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

my only regret, and the thing that anyone who has ever spoken to me in real life probably already knows.

I think it's been pretty obvious for a while now that all I can think about anymore is traveling. My biggest regret from high school/college is not taking a year off to backpack, or not studying abroad more than once. I think I spend 50% of my time thinking about traveling these days, and the other 50% hoping someone will bring up traveling so I can talk about it. I'm a woman possessed.

Normally, here is where I'd say I need to make my mind up about whether or not I'm actually going to get on a plane and go, but I've started using the word "when" to refer to going abroad, not "if," so I guess I already did. 

A lot of my time has been spent researching where I'd like to go and do and see. There are so many options I can't nail down anything close to resembling an itinerary, but I do know that I want to start in Paris. 

So, naturally, I feel like the Universe is screaming FRANCE at me right now. I don't know if it's just that I'm listening for it, and so I'm noticing it more, or if this really is a sign from the Universe, but I swear someone talks about France or the Eiffel Tower or speaks French within earshot of me every day. I wish I could say that I don't check prices for flights to Paris almost daily, but that would be a damn lie.

My only real plan these days, only real goal, is to make this happen. I can't see past it, I can't plan anything else in my life. I have vague ideas and thoughts of what I might do after I get back, but for the first time in a long time, I want something so badly that I will do almost anything to make it happen, and I can't ignore that.

When you want something so badly it physically hurts, you're a coward not to chase it.

Image creds: Signs from the Universe in the forms of secrets mailed into PostSecret.

Monday, August 6, 2012

i mean, let's just be nicer to ourselves, okay? we cool, self?

In case you couldn't guess it, there is a downside to being a FURIOUSLY OBSESSIVE LIFE PLANNER. When you want to live your life in SHOUTY EXCITED CAPITALS as much as possible, you start to think every day needs to be SHOUTY EXCITED CAPITALS and so sometimes go a little overboard with the pressure on yourself.

I experienced this most with my desire to write every day. Being published is something that has been my dream since I was that weird misunderstood girl in sixth grade who would rather write in the cafeteria than discuss whether or not boys still had cooties or if we were allowed to like them yet. (Yes, really.) I've had so many stories bottled up inside me, waiting to be told, that I decided that 2012 would be the year I started trying to make that happen. Screw the fear of rejection.

And so every month of 2012 that passed without me waking up every morning and writing first thing was a month of COMPLETE AND UTTER FAILURE. It didn't matter what else I accomplished, if I had fun, or what was on my plate that day or week or month, I was totally unforgiving about the fact that I didn't write. And being hard on myself made it harder to want to try again the next day.

What I didn't realize was that just because I wasn't working on the same project every day didn't mean I wasn't writing. In fact, if I think about it, I've probably done some sort of creative writing every single day this year, I just didn't always notice it. Then, in the middle of berating myself for sleeping in because I was mothereffing exhausted instead of getting up and writing like I "should," I realized it. I realized that I had written every single day I could consciously remember, it just wasn't always on the same project.

Blogging can be creative writing too, dumbass Valorie.

So what happened right after I realized that? I relaxed. I sat down, I shut up, I stopped harassing myself, and then I wrote every day for another month. Creatively. On the same two projects. I wrote furiously and obsessively and actually got somewhere.


So, you know. Relax. Let's all just be a little nicer to ourselves, and maybe we'll actually get somewhere for once. We cool, self? 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

this. always, forever, this.

"There is nothing like riding a bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge or seeing the Coliseum at sunset. I wish I could paint a picture for you of how incredible the Guatemalan mountains are or what a rush it is to appear on Italian TV. Even the amazing photographs I have of Niagara Falls and the American Midwest countryside do not do these experiences justice. I can’t tell you how beautiful southern Spain is from the vantage point of a train; you have to experience it yourself. The only way you can relate is by seeing them.

"While you’re young, you should travel. You should take the time to see the world and taste the fullness of life. Spend an afternoon sitting in front of the Michelangelo. Walk the streets of Paris. Climb Kilimanjaro. Hike the Appalachian trail. See the Great Wall of China. Get your heart broken by the “killing fields” of Cambodia. Swim through the Great Barrier Reef. These are the moments that define the rest of your life; they’re the experiences that stick with you forever.

"Traveling will change you like little else can. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you. You will begin to understand that the world is both very large and very small. You will have a newfound respect for pain and suffering, having seen that two-thirds of humanity struggle to simply get a meal each day.

"While you’re still young, get cultured. Get to know the world and the magnificent people that fill it. The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. See it.

"You won’t always be young. And life won’t always be just about you. So travel, young person. Experience the world for all it’s worth. Become a person of culture, adventure, and compassion. While you still can."

I couldn't say it better, so all was quoted directly from Why You Should Travel Young by Jeff Goins for Converge Magazine. The full article is here. 

  Soon. Soon.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

lovely august sponsors

Hey there! Starting today, I'm taking sponsors for August! Hooray!

I offer a variety of packages, but all include these basics: your button in the right column of the blog, and a spot in the sponsor spotlight in the middle of each month. I'm also ridiculously active on social media, so I try to promote my sponsors on twitter as much as possible. :) Prices are based on 2,000+ page views every month. 
Please understand that I will only work with bloggers/shops that I feel match the aesthetic of Simply, Valorie. That said, anyone who is a little adventurous, a little gutsy, and believes in having fun is welcome!

The Feature --- $12
Only one spot available per month! The feature blogger/shop will get a 200x200 ad spot on the right side of the blog, a spot in the monthly sponsor spotlight, me promoting your blog/shop on twitter, pinterest, and facebook, and an individual feature post. This fills fast, so get in touch quickly!

The Large Spot -- $8
Four available per month. This level will get a 200x200 ad spot on the right side of the blog, a spot in the monthly sponsor spotlight, and a few tweets/pins to promote your blog/shop throughout the month. 

The Small Spot -- $5
Five available per month. This level is simple and sweet: A 200x125 ad spot on the right side of the blog and a spot in the monthly sponsor spotlight. 
I'm also thinking of adding in something new - on Fridays I tend to do a "weekly roundup" of things I've done on the internet that week. Since I also tend to make this a "link up" post as well on another blog (typically High Five for Friday or Fill in the Blank Friday), these posts tend to get a lot of pageviews. I'm considering adding an option to sponsor that post for $12 - sponsoring it will also get you a 200x200 button on the right side of the blog, a spot in the monthly sponsor spotlight, and me posting about you on other networks where I'm active.
If you're interested, shoot met an email at valorielovely {at} gmail {dot} com!

Payments are made through PayPal - get in touch with me to reserve your spot! All ads will go up on the 1st of the month and run throughout that month.

Friday, July 27, 2012

high five for Friday!

I've been coming out of my funk that I was in for the past couple weeks, and with that I'm actually blogging and present on the internets again, so you know, let's all celebrate for that. You know what else we should celebrate? The fact that it's Friday. Because, really, that's the best ever, ever, ever.

Also, because I keep randomly skipping weeks, this week's high five for Friday (inspired by Lauren of My Grey Desk) is actually for about two weeks. Sorry, not sorry

1. During a trip to J Crew (40% off sale last weekend - hell yeah!) I picked this up and devoured it. I loooove J Crew.

2. Last night, I had dinner at Graffiato, Mike Isabella's Italian style restaurant here in DC. My experience can be summed up with this tweet: "If I had to pick between sex and eating Mike Isabella's food, I'd pick the food. No hesitation." I might hesitate only if it was Rupert Grint. And I'd still try to find a way to have both. (Pictured: Pepperoni flatbread, White House pizza, and a Hit the Road, Jack.)

3. Yes, this is a photo of a condom. I went to the zoo with a friend from college. When I got a headache, I tried to buy Advil from the machine in the bathroom and this is what it gave me. NOT THE SOLUTION I WAS LOOKING FOR.

4. About a week ago I also had dinner at Ripple with my friend Liane. Ripple is home of the now kind of famous Grilled Cheese Bar, which is basically the best thing to ever happen to my life. (Pictured: Winnimere and comté cheese on ciabatta bread with garlic aioli and bacon. Also, their wine is insanely good.)

5. For my birthday, my parents gave me a new pair of Nike Frees. This is from my first run in them. Since, you know, apparently the only other thing I do is EAT CHEESE so I need the running. NOT SORRY.

Also, the weekly round up is about two weeks long. There's a lot of good stuff in here you're going to want to check out though, so I don't think you'll mind. Right? RIGHT?!

Things You Missed Here on Simply, Valorie
Things I Did Everywhere Else on the Internet
  • Guest Post: Childhood Summer Vacations -- Becks wrote for me, and I wrote for her. The best! Also, Becks is just pretty cool in general, so you should stick around her site for a while and love her posts. 
  • {Guest Post} I've Left My Heart in Many Places -- Amy is moving, so I wrote a little bit for her about moving to DC and leaving your heart everywhere you travel. Amy is also cool, so you should probably stick around her site and leave her some love too. 
  • Thursday Thoughts -- On the 100 most creative people in business. 
Things I Didn't Come Up With, But LOVE

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

20sb Blog Swap - Childhood Vacation featuring Becks!

Howdee!  I'm Becks from Crunchy Can Feel Good.  I'm terrifically excited to be writing for Valorie today.  Even though my childhood summer vacations weren't fabulous and all over the world like Valorie's, I have travelled all over my British Columbia and Alberta, so I guess that counts for something?
You know those roadside community museums, or interactive centres  full of local history that you drive by on the side of the highway while wondering "who the hell goes to those?"  The answer is simple:  My father.

My dad is a delightful man who wanders around the house on a regular basis saying "meow meow meow" under his breath while he subconsciously talks to the cat who may, or may not be in the vicinity.  His favourite things are secretly feeding his children shredded turnips, hoarding Christmas chocolates from decades gone by, having heated debates about contentious subjects, and embarrassing my sister by showing her boyfriend whale pictures that he had taken on vacation.  He has recently purchased a "man bag" insisting that it is not a purse because it's "not that big."  He has also enjoyed proposing to my mum by putting her engagement ring in a bag of bananas, and as I mentioned before, single-handedly keeping all small businesses and museums in business by forcing his family to have an educational experience while on holiday.

So there we were.  On the road somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, driving without any destination in mind other than "how far can half of our budget take us before we have to turn around and use the other half to get back home?"  And this is what we saw.

Torrington's Gopher Hole Museum

Vegans and PETA supporters look away.  Yes, those are gophers.  Yes, they are dead.  And yes, they are dressed up in cute little outfits, posed and have speech bubbles stabbed into their head to create funny, endearing and sometimes poignant vignettes of gopher life.  This museum exists, and my family has been to it twice.  I have the 1998 and 2008 calendars to prove it.  I'm serious, this is a real place.  It's in Alberta, and was created as a solution to increase tourism and decrease the gopher population.  It even gets five stars on yelp.  This place is magical.

O'Keefe Family Ranch

I have been to historically re-enacted and dramatized "school" more than anyone else I know.  None so hardcore as my fifteen minute long "day" at the O'Keefe Ranch in Vernon British Columbia.  Boys were given caps, and girls were handed bonnets. We had to line up girls first, then boys, and from tallest to shortest.  We practiced our cursive on slate boards.  We had to address our teacher as "yes ma'am" or "no ma'am".  My dad sat behind my sister in "school" and took her then long braids and dipped them into his inkwell.  After my sister yelped and told on my dad to our teacher, my dad was lightly rapped on the hands with a stick and sent into the corner for misbehaving.   Then we ate grilled cheese sandwiches, which are irrelevant to the story, but delicious nonetheless.*

Anywhere there is Ice Cream

Imagine another 1/2 scoop, and you have the single scoop at Summerland Sweets as I remember it.*

One summer my mum and dad asked us three kids where we wanted to go for our summer vacation.  We had to pick somewhere in either British Columbia or Washington State.  Almost at the exact same time all three of us said "We want to go to Summerland for an ice cream."  Summerland Sweets has the largest ice cream single scoop that my family has ever been able to find anywhere.  Even the advertised "Largest single scoop in British Columbia" about 25 minutes out in the middle of nowhere in some rinky dink gas station does not compare to the glorious magnitude that is a Summerland Sweets Single Scoop.  But that does not deter us from trying to find one bigger!  Every sign for ice cream, we have to stop and get a scoop.  It's a rule.

Tyrell Museum in Drumheller

Drumheller has single-handedly ruined every subsequent dinosaur exhibit I have seen anywhere.  There are so many dinosaurs.  And everyone knows that dinosaurs are the best.  This is one museum that we didn't hate.  But I had to include it because ...


*Image sources: O'Keefe Family Ranch, Summerland Sweets, Tyrell Museum,

Monday, July 23, 2012

happy monday and some internet lovin'

Hey there everyone! To start this week off, my lovely sponsor Jamie is taking over the blog. She's a 24-year-old who lives in Seattle with her hubby and their three furbabies. Enjoy!

1. So, tell us about yourself. What are the need-to-knows?
I'm Jamie and I'm 24.  I'm a CMA and live in Seattle with my hubby and three fur babies :)  I LOVE to organize things.  It's a sickness, really.  I love photography and card making.  I'm usually not very adventurous but I did just open my own Etsy shop as well as become a Scentsy consultatnt.  So I'm trying to get out there :)

2. How did you get into blogging?
I was looking through Pinterest one day and came across Kate's blog, The Small Things Blog.  It got me interested.  I had never heard of blogging like this before.  Sot it was fun to see all the wonderful blogs out there.  I decided to start my own one day and here I am now!

3. Do you have a favorite post(s) you've ever written? (link to it here!)

My Dear Jamie post is my favorite!  It challenged me to look back on my life and give advice to my younger self.  Oh how I wish I knew back then what I know now :)

4. Who are your favorite bloggers to read?

O my!  It's so hard to choose :)  I will pick five!

5. Now, my go-to Getting To Know Someone question: What are you obsessed with right now?
My new silhouette!! I can't wait to make tons and tons of cards:)
...and Mad Men!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

288 ounces of juice that changed my definition of normal. asshole juice.

Call me crazy, but I recently invested in something called the BluePrintCleanse. I know, I know, "A JUICE CLEANSE, VALORIE? WHAT THE ACTUAL?" I know, everyone said this to me. Here's why I finally did it:

I had spent months feeling lethargic and getting a little sick frequently. At first I thought it was all psychological, just reactions to all the stress and the new environment in DC, but the more I did research into the symptoms I realized it might just be my body holding on to a lot of toxins and not getting rid of them well. I was also spending a lot of time just sleepy... for no reason. I'd sleep 8 hours a night and still be tired the next day. I did a lot of reading and concluded that a fast or cleanse could help my body do a sort of 'reset' that might help end all that.

I considered going at a juice cleanse myself - I researched how much DIYing it would cost but, I realized that a) that would all be hard, and I wouldn't have the patience and I probably wouldn't make the recipes well, and that b) I would never ever actually fucking do it if I didn't have to pay someone to make me do it. I don't have the motivation to stick to it all on my own. The fact that I would pay an arm and a leg and MY WHOLE ENTIRE FACE, BASICALLY in order to do this cleanse would make me stick to it.


I'll admit it - I was nervous going into this. I was vaguely afraid my body would go into shock because I rarely eat my vegetables (sorry, Mom and Dad!). I was approximately TERRIFIED that I'd be hungry the whole time, or not have enough energy for work. But I wasn't hungry because, oh hey, you're drinking six 16 oz juices a day, plus a whole lot of water and guess what? THAT'S A LOT OF LIQUID TO PUT IN YOUR BELLY. Luckily, they mostly actually taste okay.


#1: Green juice. Basically, it smells and tastes like a liquid salad, but with notes of apple and lemon that make it a little sweet. I was afraid it would take thick and leafy, but it has a really nice thin consistency. This was the one I was most afraid of, but ended up being my second favorite (which is good because you drink it twice a day). 

#2: P.A.M.: Pineapple, apple, mint. This one was my favorite! I actually looked forward to drinking it on the second day and on the third I was sad when I was done with it. The initial taste is very fruity, kind of tropical, but it has a minty aftertaste. Of course, this one made me really cocky, so I started thinking that if all the other juices were this delicious, I was going to be the mothereffing juicing CHAMPION which, well, was false.

#3: See #1.

#4: Spicy Lemonade: Water, lemon, agave nectar, cayenne. This one is basically the lemon cayenne detox, just not 60 oz of that a day. Good, but the bite of cayenne lingered a little too long for me. I had this one at 4 pm the first day (I started around 11 am), so I expected to be STARVING by this point, but I wasn't.

#5: If you don't like the taste of beets, you will hate this. I'm just saying that up front. Turns out I don't mind the taste of beets (who knew?) so I thought it was okay. That said, I can see why Nicole said it tasted like dirt - in a way it kind of smells like soil after rain. You're so not wanting to try this right now are you?

#6: Cashew Milk. GUYS, I WAS SO EXCITED FOR THIS ONE. I mean, Nicole said it tasted a mothereffing liquid cookie. How can liquid cookie be bad?! But, I hated it. It was kind of thick and left my mouth feeling really fuzzy, which made me gag. The scheduling of this means I started trying to drink it around 10 pm the first day, thinking I'd down it and be asleep by 12:15. Turns out, THERE'S NO DOWNING THESE JUICES. On the first day, it took me so long to try to drink it that I started watching a movie to keep me company and then fell asleep before I finished it. When I woke up, I assumed that seven hours without refrigeration was too long and had to throw it out. Same happened the second day. The third day, I finally discovered that if I mixed half of it in the morning with 1/2 cup (measured) of coffee, and did the same at night, I could handle it. I have a feeling it would also taste okay as a smoothie, but I never tried that.

The sixth one was when I finally thought "WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO? I CAN'T DO THIS. ABORT, ABORT, ABORT." 

Me, day one, juice one.
Was I hungry?
Yes. Not the whole time - the first day not at all. The second day a little in the evening, and the third day just yes for the first half of the day.  That was mostly my fault though - the way the cleanse is designed you shouldn't be hungry. Calorically, it's a step down for anyone - all six juices have a combined 1070 calories, but somehow you don't feel like you're missing much. Plus, you end up drinking ALL THE WATER too, so your stomach feels comfortably full frequently. However, because I didn't once finish the cashew milk, where all the protein and fats are, I was consuming down somewhere around 850 calories, which did leave me pretty hungry at times. Again though, the whole PAID MY FACE FOR THIS made it easy not to break it.

Was it hard? 
No, but it was complicated. 16 ounces of juice is a lot of liquid and in between each juice you're supposed to drink water or herbal tea. You have to leave 1-2 hours between juices, and have to finish the day's juices at least 2 hours before going to sleep. It was also tough because I had to work all three days I was juicin', so I had a hard time sticking to the schedule perfectly.

Okay that was a ton of information; how was it and was it worth it? 
Overall, I'd say yes. I mean, I spent three days going to the restroom 2-4 times an hour which was ludicrously inconvenient, but it was worth it. I felt like I had more energy while I was drinking the juices and even exercised two of the three days I was juicin', which surprised me.

I also was in a better mood than normal the whole time, which also surprised me because I mothereffing love food and I mainline coffee so I expected to be THE FUSSIEST EVER.

I had fussy moments - I think on three separate occasions I told one of my coworkers that if I didn't have the cleanest colon ever and mothereffing laser eye vision by the end of the three days, it wasn't worth it (hint: I don't, but it was). These moments normally happened while I was making coffee or serving gelato to customers, which was the worst kind of temptation ever.

NOTE TO YOU GUYS: If you work as a barista/in the food industry, don't torture yourself by going to work while you're doing a juice cleanse.

BluePrintCleanse does send you a nice little tote and ice packs so you can take your juices to work though. :)

Even though they say it's a three day cleanse, it's actually like a week long undertaking because before the cleanse you have to cut back on coffee, alcohol, and meat, then AFTER you have to reintroduce those foods again slowly, so you know, don't make plans to go out with your friends the whole time you're on it. Unless they're juicin' too. ALL THE JUICIN'.

Starting the first night, I had the most vivid and awkward dreams ever - I'm talking WOULDN'T DETAIL THEM ON THIS BLOG awkward. Apparently that and increased creativity (which I also felt) are totally normal symptoms of doing something like this though - probably the change in chemicals and routine.

While not why I did the cleanse, it was also nice to see myself drop a few pounds. Of course, I gained back most of the weight when I started eating you know, REAL SOLID FOOD again, but I permanently lost a couple pounds during the whole week I was prepping and reintroducing foods. I'm not mad about that.

I was a little afraid that, like Andrea, I'd discover I had a terrible food allergy like gluten or sugar, but the cleanse just reinforced that 'OH HEY VALORIE STOP DRINKING MILK YOU'RE LACTOSE INTOLERANT YOU DUMBASS.' So, that's fine, I guess.

Most importantly, the three days of juicing helped me to break a lot of bad food habits I have. Like I've mentioned, I've never been a healthy eater, per se - I didn't eat lots of fried foods or junk food, but I had too much bread and fatty things like Nutella in my diet and not enough fruits and vegetables. By the end of the second day (June 27th - here's PHOTO EVIDENCE) I was actually craving solid fruits and vegetables and made a list of things that sounded appealing so I'd remember them when I could have solids again. This change of diet has helped me keep some of the weight I lost during the cleanse off. It's also helping keep my mood up and making me feel like I have more energy, so that's been wonderful.

But, really, the best and worst thing about doing three days of BluePrintCleanse? It showed me how effing bad I was feeling before and how good I'm SUPPOSED to feel. It turned my sense of normal upside down and now my life will never be the same. It's probably a good thing, but for now I'm still a little angry.

Me, with my skin all glowy and pretty the day after the cleanse ended. Also, I swear I'm wearing clothes in this photo. Probably something I should never have to clarify, huh? One shoulder shirts for the win!

Monday, July 16, 2012

the plans that used to matter, the ones that do now, and the thing about having 365 opportunities to change.

I turned 22 on Friday. Yes, it was Friday the 13th. Yes, I was also born on a Friday the 13th. Honey badger doesn't care.  In fact, I didn't care. I mean, it's 22. So what?

My gift to myself was sleeping in. In fact, I slept for 12 hours straight, and it was the best ever. My gift from my parents was a new running skirt and a pair of new running shoes. Because apparently all I can think about these days when I'm not running is running.

On my 21st birthday, if you'd suggested that I'd be overjoyed to be buying running shoes on my 22nd birthday, I would have laughed in your face. But then I guess in one year, those 365 days are actually 365 opportunities for change.

365 days are 365 opportunities to change. Change something, change anything. If there's something you want to do, something you want to change, every morning you wake up is an opportunity to do so.

Three hundred and sixty-five opportunities to change.

The thing about birthdays is that they force you to stop and think - even if you don't care about your birthday, you still have to adjust at least long enough to say, "I'm twenty-one, er, twenty-two." They're milestones that creep up regularly and you're forced to acknowledge. For me, birthdays always make me reflective. I think about where those last 365 days took me - the changes I made, and the changes I didn't. The plans that came to fruition, the plans that got thrown to the wayside. The chances I took, and the chances I was too damn scared to take.

Hindsight is 20/20, and as I look back I can see that the feelings and convictions I have now started to grow their roots in my time in China, in having my birthday dinner overlooking The Bund in Shanghai.

A year ago, my plans went like this: I wanted to start having kids when I was about 28. Of course, I wanted to be married for at least three years first, so I'd get married at 25. I'd need a year to plan the wedding, so that meant getting engaged at 24. I wanted to date the guy for at least two years first, so that meant he already had to be a part of my life by...  22.

Today, that math is out the window. Where I see my life one year from today is far from those plans; other-side-of-the-world far away. Marriage and kids are so far in the future that I'm not even sure I see them anymore. It wasn't one single day changed that, but 365.

On July 13, 2011, I didn't know that I would wake up on July 13, 2012 in an apartment in DC and go running before going to work. I don't know where I'll wake up on July 13, 2013, but I would be surprised if it's in DC. I would be very surprised if it's in North America.

That's the thing about recognizing 365 days as 365 chances to do and change anything. It suddenly seems like anything is possible because you've got 365 opportunities to make it happen. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

It's the first Friday? OF JULY?


Whoa, starting posts off with all caps. Probably not a good sign.

(Mellower.) It's July. And I find that strange because that means I'm about to be 22 in less than two weeks and people are going to actually start taking me seriously.

Pfft. Okay, even I couldn't make it through that sentence without laughing. No one will be taking me seriously for a long time, and that's good because they probably shouldn't be. Because, you know, I spend my time looking at crap wonderful mothereffing things on the internet like this:

(Mmm, fresh GIFs via How Do I Put This Gently?

But anyway. High five for Friday! It's the weekend! Hooray! If you've never linked up with Lauren for High Five for Friday, you should probably do it stat. My high points were kind of lame (like sleeping for eight hours two days in a row...)  but here's the best I could come up with. 

1. This is what my morning runs look like, and that makes me so happy.
2. For the first time ever, the people at Starbucks spelled my name right without me saying anything first. I was very impressed.
3&3.5. I had to rent a BMW yesterday because I needed to get to Target and buy a bunch of crap pretty much immediately. It was the only Zipcar left, and I didn't hate it.
4. My new lamp! Between buying this and renting a BMW yesterday, I really spoiled myself. Any ideas what I should put in the bottom of it?
5. A couple weeks ago, my phone was autocorrecting "God" to "Gosling." It's still doing that, and it makes me laugh every time. iPhone, you da, you da best.

And with that, it's time for the weekly round up. Except basically I've been really MIA, internet-wise, so this is mostly a round up of things I found other places on the internet that are great.

The Only Thing I've Written Here at Simply, Valorie or anywhere else on the internet: 
Things I Didn't Come Up With but Are AWESOME:
  • "Fear isn't the enemy. Fear just wants to protect you. It may look like an oxygen-sucking demon, but the fear loves you and wants to keep you safe. That's its job. So gently remind it that you are safe and its job is done. " - via Random Love Punches. My current favorite thing on the internet. Thank Amber Adrian and Robert Calise for this.

Happy weekend! If you have any ideas of how I should celebrate the anticlimactic birthday that is 22, leave them in the comments. :) 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

the half year review, because hell yeah!

Apparently it's July. This month snuck up on me real quick - one minute it was May, and the next my July 1st "DO YOUR MID YEAR REVIEW" alarm was going off.

Because I mean, yes, I did spend an hour in January programming alarms into my phone to remind me to set goals at the beginning of every month. And in July I wanted to do a mid-year review to see how I'm doing so far.

(If you're unfamiliar with my furiously obsessive life planning system, now might be a good time to back away from this post slowly. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. If, on the other hand, you too are an obsessive life planner and want in on this addiction, HERE YOU GO, FRIEND.)

Here's the thing about how 2012 has gone so far - It's been the second most life changing year ever. I moved to Washington DC, I moved in with a boy and will live alone again soon, I've held a Grown Ass Woman job, started my own business, and fallen in love with being a barista. The things I've learned about myself this year have been ridiculously empowering and encouraging. And I've, more than ever, been enamored with the love and support of the blogging community and made friends with people that I never could have without the internet helping us out. In short: 2012 has been awesome.

The Half Point EFF YEAH list:

Successfully finishing the BluePrintCleanse! (More on this soon!)

Bought a bike (and have been riding it places)

Was an assistant photographer for a beautiful beach wedding

Got *my* wedding photography business officially incorporated (finally)!

Bought this lens I've been dying for (and started saving up for another!) 

Donated my hair!

Signed up for the Color Run and started training for it.
Met internet friends in real life. 
Worked a totally bizarre job, became a barista, and got hired as a social media coordinator for a small non-profit 
Wrote everyday for a month

It's been a good year. Here's to the next six months. Cheers!

Oh, and Happy Fourth of July, everyone! :) 


Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday everyone! Sometime this weekend (or week off, for those of you skipping Monday and Tuesday to celebrate July 4th!) you should check out at least one of these lovely ladies. I love them to bits and pieces and not just because they sponsor this blog (and so my wine habit) but also because they're fabulous and wonderful.

What could be better? I mean, really.

This is Alex of Ifs, Ands, & Butts. She's a fellow Texan who has up and moved to Germany. Her life and story are just so cool - you have to check her out!
Selected reading:

This is Amy, of Crazy, Random Happenstances. She's ANOTHER fellow Texan who writes a lot about life, marriage, and awesome things to do in the best state in the US. Just sayin'. 
Selected reading: 
Beat the Heat: 5 Ways to Enjoy Austin in the Summer
Just a regular Thursday...
It's my birthday week! 

And this is dear Jamie of Awesomely Awkward. She is funny and often posts great hair tutorials - I mean, how could she not? She's got gorgeous hair, right?
Selected reading:

There you go! You can already tell these ladies are awesome, can't you? 

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! And since I probably won't be back before the 4th (I'm visiting family, myself) have a happy Fourth of July! Shoot off some fireworks for me. :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

our lives are a series of thunderstorms.

On Friday night, I sat in my kitchen and listened to a storm. For DC, it was a pretty bad storm, the worst I've seen since moving out here. But as a lover of rain, I threw open my backdoor, locked the screen into place, and watched the sky open up and the rain pour down in sheets. I listened to the sound of the rain hitting the concrete on the patio, and liked the way the booming thunder rattled the coffee cup I was sipping out of. Eventually, the storm passed on and the smell of fresh rain, wet dirt, and clean wood from the patio filled my kitchen.

It was beautiful. It was serene. I smiled widely, and long enough for my face to hurt.

Then the sirens started - the rain had come so suddenly, people lost visibility on the road and a lot of accidents happened in a short time. I got a text from my upstairs neighbors/housemates that a branch had fallen and damaged the property a little. The 25+ mph gusts of wind had messed up part of the porch.

The storm, wonderful a few minutes before, now seemed like a bad thing. An unfortunate incident that we would gripe about for weeks to come. Even though just days before, we'd been commenting on how what DC needed was some serious rain. And in a few weeks again, I knew we'd be thinking that DC was in serious need of rain.

Because that's how it always goes. We talk about how we need rain until we have it. The storm hits, we think it's okay until the damage is revealed. We hate the storm and complain about it.  Then we do it all again.

In a way, isn't this how we do everything in our lives?

We think we need something - a hair cut, a new relationship, a night out on the town. While it's going on we fall into it and love it - the new hair cut makes us feel so sexy. The new relationship is all excitement and butterflies. The night out on the town is the most fun you've had in ages.

And then it goes wrong. We realize the new cut looks bad curly, or the fun part of the relationship fades, or we have a terrible headache the next morning.

We get angry: I'm never cutting my hair this short again! I'm so done with guys that play guitar! I'm never effing drinking again! We bitch about it until the hair grows out or we're over the break up or the next Friday night.

Then before we know it, we're back to thinking: IT'S BEEN SO LONG SINCE... Wouldn't it be fun to get my hair cut short? That guy singing karaoke is cute. Let's go out tonight!

The events in our lives are a series of thunderstorms. Thunderstorms that make us throw open the doors to revel in the power, hate the mess when it's done, complain about it for a while, and want it all over again. Events that make us smile, force ourselves to get over them, and crave them all over again.

As for me - I'm at the in-between, the point where I'm done complaining about the storm and I'm starting to crave another one. Maybe not the same storm - not another relationship, not another guy in my life. But another storm all the same. I can foresee the consequences in the not-too-distant future; the things I'll hate about it when the beauty of the storm is over. But for now, I want the storm.

Where are you? Are you right in the middle of the thunderstorm, cleaning up the mess, or craving the next?