Bye, Negativity

Happy Wednesday, loves!

How many negative thoughts have you had this morning? Hazard a guess. I’ve probably had dozens already, and it’s first thing in the morning. Honestly, it’s so hard not to find negative thoughts creeping in these days. Any day, really, but these days it’s almost impossible not to feel negative more often than you’re accustomed to.

Let’s face it; the world is an ugly place. No matter your personal beliefs, your political affiliation, your stance on current events in the world, it’s an ugly place right now. Most people are in a mood…and it’s not a good one. You already know I’m not that much of a people person, but I’m so much less of a people person these days. It seems everywhere I go, more and more of the people I encounter are in a bad mood.

The news is filled with negativity. Newsfeeds are filled with negativity. I’ve taken to using social media to post my photos to share with my grandmother and other family members, and then I’m out. I haven’t scrolled my own Facebook feed since the beginning of July. I can’t. It’s so negative. People can’t have their political beliefs without shoving them down the throats of everyone else. People who don’t speak up about current events are suddenly the problem. People who don’t speak up soon enough about current events are the problem. People who speak up about current events but not in a timely fashion are the problem. People who speak up about current events but disagree with your opinions about current events are the problem.

April Stock Photo

You guys…we have enough problems. What’s with all the negativity? Everything is so negative anymore, and you know that this kind of negative consumption is feeding our brains and our hearts nothing but garbage. I’m done with it. I am so careful in so many areas of my life to choose positive people, positive influences, things and people that bright me joy and happiness, and I’m not about to let the fake, fear-mongering news and social media and everyone else’s opinions ruin all that hard work I put into leading a happy life.

To quote that one woman that one time (can someone remind me of the exact event, please?), “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

So, how do we stop these negative thoughts from sinking in and becoming our prevalent thoughts? It’s not easy. We are hardwired to have negative thoughts simply because we are more sensitive to negativity. But, it’s possible to (I’m sure I’m quoting my mother, here) ‘turn that frown upside down,’ and have positive thoughts.

2

Get Rid of the Phone

Social media, the news, our emails, all of it. It’s killing us a moment at a time. How many times a day do you dread checking your email because you know that you’re going to get an email or a text from a client, a coworker, a friend, a family member, a company, someone who needs a favor, wants to add something else to your plate? How many times do you check social media and find yourself annoyed by the posts you’re reading?

Get off the phone. Stop checking. Turn off your notifications. Set aside a few minutes a day to check the important stuff, and stay off social media and the news sites you’re so accustomed to inhaling and absorbing each and every day. This is especially important in the morning when you wake up. Don’t start your day with that nonsense.

1

Write Down Your Feelings of Gratitude

You already know that this is helpful, but let’s start actually doing it, okay? Pick up a notebook today while you’re out. Write down three to five things first thing in the morning that you are grateful for and that are good in your life. They can be big, small, whatever. Just write them down, then read the list. Then add a few more things to that list at the end of the day that are specific to that day. Keep this up. You’ll be amazed how quickly you are able to turn your negative thoughts into less frequent visitors. For example, this morning I am grateful for these things:

  • Watching the sunrise over our backyard from my spot on the lanai while it’s still quiet at home
  • Being able to be home with my kids to make memories and be present in their lives
  • Listening to my sweet twins read books to me out loud
  • Family dinners and game nights
  • A whole cup of coffee consumed in absolute silence while the sun rises
  • Front porch rocking
  • Being married to a man who kisses me every single time he walks by me

4

Shut Down Your Thoughts

When negative thoughts come to mind, make it a habit to literally tell them to stop. Literally, say it aloud. Say, “Stop, right now. Stop this train of thought, right now,” and keep that going. Every single time a negative thought comes to mind, tell yourself to stop. Out loud. Where you can hear it. It’ll help.

1

Write Down Your Negative Thoughts

Okay, Tiffany, tell us again how we are writing down things we are happy for and then telling ourselves to physically stop thinking negative thoughts, yet you have us writing down our negative feelings and thoughts on a piece of paper?

I realize it seems counterproductive, but it’s not. Now that you are working on getting rid of negative thoughts, take a moment to write down what bring you these thoughts. Your negative beliefs. Your negative feelings, etc. For example, if I were writing down my own negative beliefs right now, my list would look like this:

  • People are so negative
  • No one bothers to use their common sense anymore
  • The world is so divided
  • Kindness suddenly seems gone from the world
  • All I see are bad things all day, every day

But, that’s not true, now is it? People aren’t all negative. Some are, but not everyone in the world is negative. Some people lack a lot of common sense, but most don’t. The world is not as divided as the mainstream media wants us to believe. Kindness is everywhere; it’s just not as visible because it’s not nearly as newsworthy. All I see are bad things everyday because I’m seeing news stories and opinions online, and I’m not focused on the good things that surround me all the time.

You see? I just debunked – to borrow a term from mainstream media – all the negative thoughts in my mind. They look a little silly when they’re on paper, don’t they?

1

Just Relax

What’s going to happen is going to happen, and worrying about it and thinking about it and feeding it your constant negative attention is not going to make a difference. Let life unfold before you, and don’t perpetuate fear and uncertainty in your own mind. It’s not helpful.

13

Detox Your Digital Life

I’m not an advocate for unfollowing people or pages that don’t fit your narrative or simply because you don’t agree with their outlook, but sometimes you have to do it. Let me be very clear; don’t go unfollowing people because they have different beliefs than you. Do unfollow them if they bring negativity to your life or your feed. For example, unfollow someone who name calls or belittles or says hurtful things. Or, even more simply, detox your pages so you’re only seeing things that bring you joy and happiness, even if that means unfriending your mom and only following pages filled with kittens and puppies and donuts.

1

Take Care of You

I feel like a broken record because I say this all the time, but that should really make it obvious how important this is. Take care of you. Don’t put yourself last. Don’t tell me you don’t have time to work out or eat healthy – nothing is further from the truth. I see you – and I hear you – saying you’re so busy and overwhelmed and you don’t have time to go to the gym or work out or eat a healthy diet, but I also see you sharing dozens of memes and articles and commenting on every political post on the internet each and every day and talking about binging your favorite shows every evening when the kids are in bed. You have time; you don’t have the right priorities.

Get up. Take a walk. Go a quick breathing exercise. Work out at home. Download a workout app. Go for a quick run. Do some squats or crunches during commercial breaks. You have time, but you have to make it a priority. Meal prep. Or, if you’re like me and you cannot fathom the idea of eating leftovers (I cannot eat anything that’s been put in the fridge and then taken back out to reheat), order a meal service so the hard work is done. We love Hello Fresh. We love their calorie smart and vegetarian meals, ironically (we are not vegetarian). They’re quick, flavorful, and so easy.

Drink more water while you’re at it. If you’re not hydrated, you’re not living your best life. It’s really that easy. Take care of yourself. Eat right, make yourself a priority. It’s easier to feel good when you actually feel good, you know?

1

Focus on the Good in Your Life

The best things in life really are those small moments. Of course, you’ll always remember the big ones and the amazing ones, but those little ones are what make up your entire complex system of happiness and fulfillment. You find your joy in those little moments. Focus on those. Look around you. Focus on what little things you do each and every day that bring you so much joy.

For me, it’s when the kids laugh and giggle and climb all over us in the pool. It’s doing cannonballs and letting down my hair – literally – to jump in the pool in the pouring rain not caring how I look. It’s simple Saturdays talking about life and laughing about every-damn-thing with the people we love most. It’s Saturday nights laughing nonstop with some of the most hilarious people around. It’s the excitement on the kids’ faces when someone rolls a Yahtzee during game night. It’s the moment my husband makes eye contact with me during the eyeroll-inducing 3908 questions Carter asks during every. Single. Movie. Night. Ever. It’s his excitement when we watch a movie about tornadoes. It’s mornings when my husband’s alarm goes off and he snoozes it for 9 minutes so he can cuddle with me a little longer. It’s Wednesday night traditions. It’s sitting on the lanai with my coffee in the morning. It’s Sunday dinners. It’s the way Addison is so sweet with her sisters and her brother. It’s Ava’s quick wit and smart mouth. It’s Charlotte’s sugar-sweet kindness and love for everyone. It’s Carter’s quick laugh and sweet “I love you, mommy,” and the feeling I get when my husband reaches for my hand when we are walking anywhere.

It is so many small moments that, when you put them together, create such a beautiful life. Even when the world is a shitshow of WTF all around us, it’s those moments you can turn to and know that you are living your best life even if you momentarily forgot all about it.

Monday Motivation: Learning to Master Self-Discipline

Through self-discipline comes freedom

  • Aristotle

When you take a moment to let that sink in, it really hits hard because it’s about so much more than the usual things that come to mind. When you ask someone about self-discipline, they often joke that they have no self-control (um, yeah, I said that last night as I inhaled a(nother) fried Oreo). The first thing that comes to mind is almost always eating healthy. The second is the gym. Other things that often come to mind when people hear self-discipline are the un-fun things like going to bed with a clean house, or keeping the laundry at bay, or doing anything that seems boring or unenjoyable.

And that, my friends, is the problem. Why does everyone look at self-discipline in such a negative light? It’s not negative. Self-discipline is so important because it’s the long-term way you feel; which is essentially the way you live your life. If you’re not making self-disciplined enough to make positive choices now, you’re never going to live your best life.

I’m going to use my husband as an example (love you, handsome!). Before our gym closed down due to COVID last year, my husband woke up every morning at 4:30 am and quietly got dressed and went to work out. He was home by 6:30, in the shower, eating a quick breakfast, and ready to take our oldest daughter to school by 7:15 while I simultaneously worked and got the three little ones and myself ready so I could take them to school an hour and-a-half later. He never complained. He loved it.

Then came COVID. The gym closed for about 6 weeks, but it was also right at the time change part of the year, and it’s just plain dark in the morning. He could have gotten up and gone for a long run around 7:30, but he always liked to go to the gym early so he could come home and shower before taking Addy to school so that by the time he got home, he could be at his desk by 8 freshly showered and ready to work. It was too dark for him to run in the mornings, but we are also so busy during the evenings that he wasn’t doing it then, either.

The gym opened back up, but not until much later than 5 am. It took months for them to open early enough for him to be able to go and get in a good workout and still come home and shower before needing to be at his desk by 8 am. Long story short…he’s no longer going every single morning, but he’s continuously frustrated with himself on the days he doesn’t go.

I give him a hard time about it and tease him relentlessly because I just don’t relate. I love to work out, and I always have. He does, too, but he’s more about getting the extra hour of sleep or quiet time before the kids wake up and he makes them breakfast. The difference is that working out is an integral part of my own self-discipline practice, but it isn’t his; and that’s all right.

My point is this: He’s more of a think about the moment kind of guy, and I’m more of a think about the future type. What’s that mean? Well, when he has the option to sleep in rather than head to the gym, he feels the moment and sleeps in and doesn’t think about the fact that he’s not going to be happy with himself later. When I don’t feel like working out on a particularly busy day, my mind immediately goes to, “You are going to be in such a bad mood later, and you’re going to be disappointed in yourself,” and I just workout. It’s easier for me to reconcile just doing it now than it is to be upset later.

without self-discipline, success is impossible – lou holtz

Everyone is different. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it mastering self-discipline is so much simpler than people think. Whatever it is you feel you’re unable to do or control in your life is really just a mind trick. It’s a notion that you don’t have time or you can’t, or perhaps you don’t know where to start, but it really comes down to how you’re thinking about things. Are you thinking about now or later?

Figure out your weakness

For me, my weakness often relates to a good book. When the kids are at school and I’m finished with my deadlines for the day, I want to do nothing more than grab a book, lay by the pool, and get lost in a story. But…I can’t always do that if I want to be happy with every other aspect of my life. Once you know your weakness, you can work from there. For example, my husband wants to get a little more sleep in the mornings, so he could try going to bed earlier at night and getting the extra sleep (too bad he has a very cuddly wife who wants his attention at night….sorry not sorry, babe!).

Keep track of how you feel

self-discipline is about controlling your desires and impulses while staying focused on what needs to get done to achieve your goal – adam sicinski

Start reminding yourself how you feel when you lack self-discipline. For example, if you find yourself constantly ignoring laundry and dishes and things around the house, ask yourself how you feel going to bed at night with a messy house? How do you feel waking up to a messy house? How do you feel coming home to one? I can’t sleep if there’s a mess (I think I got that from my mom growing up and it became a habit in my own life). So, if you feel overwhelmed and stressed and frustrated with that, start making some changes. Clean things up and then jot down a quick note about how good you felt going to bed with a clean house and waking up to one. Let tracking your feeling motivate you to become more self-disciplined.

Reward yourself

This is how I manage my own self-discipline virtually every single day of my life. I work for myself. I don’t have to be anywhere at any certain time (other than the school drop off line before 9:10). I could sleep late. I could be more leisurely in the mornings, but then I have to think about everything I have to do all day, and I don’t like that feeling. I prefer waking early and working, and I like to be done working before 11 am at the latest so I can work out and be finished with my entire day by noon. When I meet that goal every day, I give myself at least a half hour (longer when the other things that need doing are already done) to sit outside on the front porch or by the pool and read. I live for that kind of quiet time and that kind of peace, so it motivates me to be disciplined each day.

discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most – abraham lincoln

What do you love? Figure out a way to reward yourself with it on days you are disciplined enough to meet your goals and do what needs doing. Honestly, it helps so much to create positive habits.

Don’t Compare

It’s hard for some people to forgo comparison, but it’s so important you remember that it’s the thief of joy. You’ll never become more self-disciplined in your own life if you’re worried about how much more self-disciplined someone else is. You’re more likely to give up because no two people are in the same place. Remember – we are not all on the same timeline. Some people do things sooner than others, and some people take a slightly longer route before they get to a certain place. I call it the scenic route, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

only a disciplined person can control his thoughts and emotions – nitin namdeo

For example, I might be the most self-disciplined person on the planet when it comes to keeping a clean house and working out, but I cannot master the art of not biting my nails off regularly. I try so hard, and I do so well, and then I fail, and I let myself fail big, get mad at myself, and then start over. I try so hard not to have exceedingly embarrassing road rage and people rage. I cannot master that. I’ve been working on my self-discipline regarding my reactions and my patience, and I struggle. Some things are so much easier than others, and we won’t all become masters of all self-discipline in a day.

Practice makes perfect

The thing about discipline is that you have to keep practicing even when you feel you’re failing at it or you have room for improvement. It’s a habit, and habits are easily changed or lost when you don’t, well, make them a habit. Do it. Do it again. Do it again and again. Self-discipline becomes so much easier the more you practice, and you will get there.

we do today what they won’t, so tomorrow we can accomplish what they can’t – dwayne johnson

Because it’s Monday, and it is the first, and it is a new month, it seems like a perfect day to learn a little more self-discipline (like…fold the laundry and put it away when you see it finished in the dryer instead of finding an imaginary still damp item in the dryer and turning it back on to buy yourself more time before doing that…my self-discipline goal for the day). Since not one of us is perfect and perfection doesn’t exist (well, except for those fried Oreos Shawna made…), we could all use a little refresher on being more disciplined. Today’s discipline is tomorrow’s freedom, after all. And that, my friends, sounds pretty good.

Weekend Check-in Challenge: Your Diet is About More Than What You Eat

That Friday feeling is a good one. Time to rest, relax, recharge, and re-energize our bodies, and time to un-do all the good we did this week (hello, red wine and less than stellar meals). There. I said it. While I’m not a fan of dieting, I do live a relatively healthy lifestyle, but it’s a little harder on the weekends. One thing I think we can all control on the weekends, however, is the stuff that many people forget are so important to their diet.

It’s not just about what you eat.

It’s not just about how much you move your body.

It’s about so much more than that.

  • It’s about everything you consume unrelated to food. Think music and television and conversations: What you see and hear.
  • It’s about your mindfulness
  • It’s about your well-being
  • It’s about the people you choose to spend your time with
  • It’s about intentionality

It’s Friday, so I’ll do my best to keep this short. But, going into the weekend, don’t forget to be mindful and intentional and give yourself some grace. Be more mindful of how you feel and what brings you joy. Be more intentional about who you are giving your time to – do the people you are spending time with bring joy and peace or do they bring nothing but complaints and excuses and unhappiness into your life?

Take the time to check in with yourself. How’s your physical body feeling? What about your mind? Are you emotionally well, or are you feeling drained? If you aren’t satisfied with the answers you’re giving yourself to any of these questions, it’s time to make some changes.

Challenge yourself this weekend to take quick notes – write down what brough you joy. Write down what brought you peace. Write down what made you feel less than ideal. Write down what angered you or caused you to lose your temper. Write down your favorite parts of the weekend and then your least favorite parts.

Read your notes on Monday.

Make changes where necessary.

Happy weekend, friends. Make it a good one.

Best Casual Sneakers Worth the Splurge

Three years ago, anyone who knows me would have laughed hysterically if I said I was wearing sneakers anywhere other than to work out. Honestly, I was the Manolos-to-the-grocery-store, always dressed up, never casual kind of gal (and there is nothing wrong with that!). But, in the past few years, I’ve become a little more casual – even before quarantine casual was cool.

Call it mom life. Call it almost 40. Call it whatever you want, but there was suddenly a day when I realized that wearing heels running Home Alone style through the airport kind of sucked. There was a moment when I realized a 9-hour flight to Hawaii in espadrilles and a dress wasn’t the most comfortable. There was a time when I realized walking from our hotel on 52nd and 5th to 72nd and 5th and then into Central Park to have brunch at The Boathouse in 4-inch Loubs really just hurts.

Call it what you want, but I discovered sneakers in a casual fashion. It happened by accident, honestly. I was a tried and true Nike/Adidas sneaker girl. I wore them to run and to the gym, and that was it. Unfortunately, I developed shin splints running in them. I did my research, and I found that a sneaker company called APL (athletic propulsion labs) made a really great running shoe – and it was cute.

That was 2019. I developed a major love of APL sneakers, and I haven’t looked back. I began wearing them on long flights. I began wearing them on road trips. I was wearing them regularly, and loving them. My shin splints were better. My regular workouts were better.

From there, my love of a cute athletic show grew. Who knew that you could dress up a pair of cute sneakers and still feel good? I didn’t…but I do now. On that note, I thought I’d share my favorite casual, but stylish, sneakers. The world has caught on to the sneaker trend, and I want to share my favorite sneaker splurges. They’re absolutely worth the price.

APL Techloom Bliss

These are the best for working out, but also for casual wear. They’re so soft, so comfortable, and I am so in love with them that I actually buy them for all four kids, now, too. They’re that cute, that comfortable, and that stylish. The kids love their APLs (and the kids’ versions are like half the price of the adults!). Totally worth the splurge. They are long-lasting and so good.

APL Techloom Phantom

These are also great for a workout, but they’re also really cute with casual leggings and an oversized sweater. I don’t buy these for the kids because laces and tying, but I love them and find myself often wearing these to the golf course.

Gucci Ace

My hands-down favorite sneakers. I probably wear these 6 days a week, and have since I bought them at the beginning of 2020. I love them. They’re so cute, and they pair well with everything from a dress to Spanx leggings to shorts. If I want to dress them up a bit, I’ll wear a dress or throw a blazer over a cute tee with Spanx leggings. They’re so versatile. They’re so easy to clean, and they are so comfortable.

Golden Goose Pure Star Sneakers

Before you say a word – I cannot get into the dirty sneaker trend, but I do love the GG pure stars because they’re the same cute sneaker look without the deliberately dirty design. I love my Gucci Aces, but I wanted something I could wear a little more during spring. My closet is filled with Lilly Pulitzer, and my Aces don’t go with any of those…I love that these are solid white with a hint of color and sparkle (I went with the white and silver). They have a little bit of a platform look to them, but they’re both cute and casual, and they pair so well with a fun, colorful LP dress or romper.

I want to hear all about your favorite casual sneakers if you have a great recommendation, too!

How will the world remember you when you’re gone?

What will people say about me when I’m gone?

Morbid, I know; but also such a deep question I’ve been asking myself often over the course of the past 5ish weeks. I lost my grandmother in January just two weeks shy of hopping on a plane for Texas to celebrate her 100th birthday for the 3rd time.

Before anyone asks, she did not die from COVID. She was perfectly healthy – in fact, her doctors often stated she was healthier than almost all their patients half her age. Katherine was a dynamo. She was my best friend. I had her for more than 37 years. The first 18 of which she lived not far from us, and we were so blessed to spend our weekends with her. She walked us to school in the mornings because we didn’t like to go to school with our mom that early. We had weekend dinners with her. Sleepovers all the time. She gave us all the most amazing memories.

Katherine wasn’t your average grandmother. She did all the grandmotherly things – she baked us cookies and we went for walks and played with her Great Dane – but she was so much more than that. She was an artist, a farmer, an avid gardener, a reader. We discussed books, and she taught me to tend to a garden (and failed miserably because my thumb is the antithesis of green). She painted. She walked miles every single day. She drove fast and with a lot of impatience for the other drivers on the road (that I did inherit with ease). She told the best stories. She laughed all the time. She was quick with a smile and a smartass comment. She danced. She had fun.

Katherine was the life of the party. She was 86 when my husband and I got married 16 years ago, and she was the one on the dance floor all night long. She went through the groomsmen, the guests, the groom himself – she danced all night. Fast songs. Slow songs. All the songs. We call her the prom queen of our wedding night.

The simple thing to say about Katherine is this: Anyone who knew her for even a brief time in their own life was a far better person for knowing her. She was a leader. She was so active. At her age, she ran circles around all of us. She and I text daily, though most of the time she wanted to text our middle daughter, Ava; our little artist – and her namesake. Ava Cathryn is her great-grandmother, and the world will be so much better for that, too.

My grandmother was my role model, my mentor, my favorite person. I often said when I grow up, I want to be Katherine. And, that, my friends, has never been truer.

Naively, I never saw her death coming. I guess I just thought someone so healthy and vibrant and full of life would be here forever. Even at her age, it never occurred to me that the news my parents called me with would be that she died peacefully in her sleep overnight. To say I was shocked is an understatement. I just…didn’t think the world would ever not include her. Losing my grandmother has been difficult on me. I still cry when I think about her. I can’t listen to certain songs. I can’t smell certain things. I haven’t baked anything since she passed because she’s the one who taught me to bake and showed me that it’s less about precise measurements than it is about your instinct and the flavors.

I’ve thought so much about her in the past five weeks. One thing that really stands out to me is all the kind words that came from all the people so fortunate to have known her. Everyone has a Katherine story, and each one is more beautiful than the next. At the end of the day, everyone remembers her as being hilarious, active, so impressive, so intelligent, and so kind. She’d do anything for anyone. She’d take over anything that needed direction. She’d light up every room she walked into with her personality and her beauty. She always had a story to tell or a lesson to share, and her legacy is beautiful.

It makes me wonder what people will say about me when I’m gone, and it makes me realize that if I want to grow up to be Katherine, I need to start now. I’m late. I’m so much like her, yet nothing like her at all. Stubborn? Okay, yes. I’ll take it. Is someone constantly muttering under their breath while in the car with me that there should be stricter rules on who gets to have a license? Also, yes…yes, they are. Do I tell a good story? I really do. I have a great smile, too. It’s hers…that’s why.

But…I just worry that the other things people will have to say about me when I’m gone are less than flattering.

“Tiffany? Oh, yeah. She said fuck a lot. She hated everyone. She had no patience. She literally could not stand stupidity. She was a terrible cook. The fire alarm went off almost every single time she was in the kitchen doing anything but baking. She was competitive. She liked to work out. She liked to read. She wasn’t super likable until you really got to know her. She wasn’t very open with people. Her husband was the better parent…” I know my best friend would tell you that she sees right through me and that for as ‘tough’ and ‘impatient’ as I appear, I wear my heart on my sleeve and I feel so deeply and so much and things affect me on a level so much more than most.

While all true, those aren’t all the things I want to leave in the hearts of others when I’m gone. I’ve been thinking about what I would like people to say about me one day (and probably new people because I’ll outlive everyone I know right now if I’m like my grandmother).

I think I’d like them to say that I carried on an intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, inquisitive conversation. I’d like them to say I was a good listener. I’d like them to say that I made them laugh, that they enjoyed spending time with me, that I was a great mom and wife. I’d like them to say that I was a great friend. I want people to look back and remember me for being someone who brought joy into their lives, who was always there for them, who celebrated their wins and their triumphs. I want people to remember me as being someone they loved hard because I loved them hard right back.

Don’t get me wrong…I really like myself. I could probably watch my language a little. I could probably practice a little more patience. But, I can tell you that while I can be so many of the things that my grandmother was, I probably won’t become the person who opens up to just anyone or the person who becomes instantly likable.

The past few weeks have been spent thinking about what I want to leave the world with – the little pieces of me that are most important. It’s made me realize that there’s always room for improvement, and that there is always a place in my heart where I can do and be better. That’s my goal this year. Katherine was always learning, taking classes, educating herself, doing more. Why not me?

My goal from now on is to use every opportunity to learn something new. To try something new. To be myself, but the best possible version – and maybe to practice patience. To help others as often as possible, even when it’s small or seemingly insignificant.

I leave you with this question….what do you want the world to say about you when you’re gone? It’s important because this is your only chance to create the legacy you want for yourself, your family, and your life.

Living Your Best Life in 2021 Part Two: Make Time Each Day for Simple Pleasures

Happy Wednesday!

We are well into our second week of a brand-new year, and it seems that 2021 has taken on a ‘hold my beer,’ persona. You know what? It’s fine. We are all fine. You know why? Because the only person who can make or break your day is you. If you’re focused on your fear and living in your negative space, you just have to find the power to stop. New habits take 21 days to manifest, and we’re already 13 days into the new year, so we’re more than halfway there.

Today, on our second part of the stop living in fear series, we are discussing just how important it is to find time for the simplest pleasures in life. I’m fully aware that what makes me happy may not be what makes you happy and vice versa, but there are plenty of small things, gestures, habits you can invite into your everyday life that make your life so much better…and you don’t even need to put much effort into any of it.

Start your day with sex

Because what’s better than being woken up by the person you love who wants to show you first and foremost before the day starts that he or she loves you? My husband is a big fan; and so am I. It’s impossible to have a bad day when you start your day this way.

Read a book

You don’t have to read an entire book, but why not sit down with a good book and designate 20-30 minutes to reading? It’s such a pleasurable escape, and it’s good for your brain. I’m convinced that the reason I became a writer and I can spell anything correctly (damn autocorrect, though, am I right?) is because I’m a reader. I’ve been an avid reader my entire life, and it’s just plain good for your brain and your soul. On the flip side; I also know it’s next to impossible to only read for 20-30 minutes. I swear I’m going to every single time and before you know it, it’s been hours.

Get Outside

Yoga on the pool deck. A walk with my husband and the kids. Lunch on the lanai. A glass of wine on the front porch rockers when the sun is setting. It’s all good. Trust me.

Move your body

Y’all already know that exercise is so good for you, but it doesn’t have to feel like exercise. Move. Dance. Have sex (again…because more than once a day is my other favorite). Take a walk. Do yoga. Whatever. Just move your body.

Get in the kitchen

Try a fancy new recipe. Bake something amazing. Get into the kitchen and focus on the task at hand. It’s such a welcome distraction, and the end result will always bring you pleasure (or take out, if we are being honest).

Play a game

Our kids love playing games, and we have the best time with them. What’s more fun that playing games with little people you can beat? Really…it’s good.

Organize something

As a self-proclaimed OCD neat freak over here, nothing is more amazing than something clean. Since everything in my house and cars are always clean, I find my pleasure in organizing things. Okay, okay…I take my pleasure in throwing things away and getting rid of stuff. The running joke in my family is that if you can’t find it, Tiffany/mommy probably threw it away. #andiprobablydid

Break routine

I’m also a self-aware routine-oriented schedule lover, and I’m not ashamed of that. But, there’s also something so innately powerful and exciting about breaking schedule and routines and doing something spontaneous. Lunch with a friend. A spur-of-the-moment date night. Whatever it is, do it.

Do something for someone else

We make a lot of happy memories in our household, but one of my favorite annual memories is not a vacation or a big deal or a huge accomplishment. It’s our annual Friday-before-Christmas date night with our best friends. We might not remember how many years we’ve been doing it, but we always go to the same restaurant. My husband picks up a stack of gift cards for the restaurant and we pass them out to people as they dine to cover their dinner checks. It’s SUCH a good feeling to see their excitement when they realize someone did something for them. We have our waiter/waitress pass them out for us so we remain anonymous. Our best friends spend the entire dinner making offers on the Christmas headband our waitress wears, upping the offer every single time until she gives in and lets them buy it (you should see the Christmas headband collection…). On top of leaving with an exceptionally large Christmas tip from all of us, our waitress leaves every single year with an empty head and another $100 profit on her headband. Doing something for someone else that makes them smile, brings them peace, or makes their life a little easier is always a good feeling – you can’t live in fear if you’re busy making people smile, you guys.

Wake up earlier

There is something very special about being awake before anyone else. You get to enjoy the quiet, you get to take some time for yourself. A quiet, relaxed start to the day is always the best start to the day.

Get dressed

If 2020 gave the world one thing collectively, it was the lack of desire to put on real clothes, wash your hair, or apply makeup. Sure, that can be nice, but guys…no one ever feels their happiest and best when they look like shit. Wake up. Take a shower. Shave something – at least your armpits by also your legs if you’re really feeling good. Put on some makeup. Wear some killer outfit that makes you feel like a million dollars. It makes a difference. Trust me.

You’re never going to feel capable of letting go of the fear you’re living in if you don’t find time in the day to do things that bring you joy and happiness. Find the time. These are just suggestions; you can do anything you want to bring joy to your own life. Just do it. It’s easier than you think.

Living Your Best Life in 2021 Part One: Learning to Recognize and Minimize Your Fears

Happy Thursday!

Scrolling through social media is eye-opening. I have so many thoughts as I scroll through my feed and read the posts of those around me. While it can be fun and enjoyable, a fun way to connect with loved ones far away and to keep in touch with people who were part of your life at some point, it’s also a place where there’s a lot of sadness. It’s hard, sometimes, to scroll through my feed and see the negativity. The complaints. The fear. The people who are constantly complaining. The people who live in the past all the time. The people who feel the need to tell us all about how they don’t live in the past yet that’s all they talk about in a way that conveys the saddest need for attention. The people who are going though something and share every aspect of it. The people who are just plain miserable.

Social media can be draining. I don’t even watch the news or listen to the news and deleted every news app I have more than six months ago, and I can’t even imagine how I might feel if I read the MSM’s doom and gloom in addition to every couch-reporter’s rendition of ‘the world is a dark and ugly place,’ on a daily basis. Honestly.

My point is this: Fear comes in all shapes and sizes, and it is evident almost everywhere you look. It’s evident in the subtle cries for attention or help people post on social media. It’s evident in the eyes of those whose smiles never quite reach them. It’s evident everywhere in our world right now, and it all plays into my January theme of living your best life in 2021 by no longer living in fear. You see the fear in Americans terrified of what might happen politically following the 2020 election. You see the fear in those who feel they’ll catch COVID and die (according to stoppneumonia.org, 2.5 million people died worldwide of pneumonia in 2019 and according to Wikipedia, 3 million people died of pneumonia in 2016 officially making it the 4th leading cause of death in the world, yet no one ever walks around talking about how terrified they are of pneumonia, do they?).

We get it. The media, politicians, your mom, your neighbor’s mailman’s sister…they tell people to be afraid, and they’re conditioned to be afraid. I’m not here to judge anyone for feeling how they feel. I feel how I feel, you feel how you feel, and no one will ever be shamed for their feelings by me. Teased relentlessly, yes…but never mocked or made to feel shameful (at least not intentionally). What I am here to do is remind you tha you cannot live in fear. What kind of life is it to live in such a constant state of fear that you lose out on everything good in life?

For example, those fearful of leaving their home have now spent nearly a year locked up, not seeing their families, not enjoying the time that they have with loved ones, not living…for the better part of a year. I, personally, don’t know anyone who has passed from COVID (and I’m thankful for that) nor do I know anyone who has social distanced or changed their way of living since it all started. I’m here to tell you that I’ve spent every single holiday with my parents and my in-laws, my friend’s and their parents, friends, friends of friends, etc. While we know plenty of people who have tested positive for it, almost none had symptoms and those who did had very minor symptoms and would have assumed they had the same common cold they’ve had a million times had it not been for the test. In fact, I know several people who have tested positive for COVID despite never actually going and getting tested for COVID.

One such person who recently tested positive and exhibited symptoms felt like they had they flu, and they have every single underlying health condition possible. They have cancer, they have had multiple open-heart surgeries, they have high blood pressure and cholesterol…you name it, they have it. And they haven’t stopped living their life because they understand that life is meant to be lived freely and with open arms and not in fear.

Will I feel guilty if someone close to me is affected by COVID because we spend time together? No, because every single person who chooses to spend time with us knows the risks and they accept them as their own.

My point is this: We cannot live in fear because it is not living. My grandmother was born in the midst of a pandemic, so she’s been around a century or so, and she is one of the strongest, most agile, most intelligent people anyone has ever had the pleasure of knowing. Her thoughts on living in fear of a virus? I’ll quote a text message she sent me recently. “I’d rather spend my days with my family and know that at the end of my life I got every hug, kiss, and cuddle I could than to be isolated to the point I die of loneliness. That’s not life and fear is a wasted emotion,” and she’s not wrong.

**I am not a medical professional, and I believe you should what makes you most comfortable, what makes you feel safest, and what makes you feel as if you are doing the right thing for you and those you love**

Today, we’re going to talk about how you can take your first steps to overcoming your fear and no longer living in it – whether it’s fear of the unknown, fear of being uncomfortable, fear of rejection or failure or anything else – you can overcome it.

Write down your fears

It’s a small thing, really, but it’s helpful. It won’t work overnight, but it’s the first step in overcoming your crippling anxiety caused by fear. Write it down. Write down what has you afraid. Just make a list. No matter how big or small the fear is, write them down. Write until you cannot think of anything else that you fear.

When I was pregnant with our second daughter, I lived in a state of crippling anxiety. I’d already lost two babies, she was diagnosed at 20 weeks with an echogenic intracardiac focus and we were given paperwork outlining a late pregnancy termination because it was most likely Downs Syndrome and we ‘had another baby at home to think about,” according to the medical professionals we met with. It was three long weeks until we were scheduled to have a level 2 ultrasound at Shands, and it lasted 200 years. Thankfully, she was perfectly perfect and it was just a little calcium buildup. But, it was too late. I just knew something terrible would happen. I knew it. I was horrified, terrified, scared, and in fear every single day the rest of my pregnancy.

I couldn’t look in the mirror without feeling like I was a failure and keep a baby healthy and growing inside me without traumatic situations – it never once occurred to me I’d already done just that with our oldest. I couldn’t feel my baby kick without wondering if it was the last time I’d feel it. I couldn’t think about welcoming her into my life without thinking of everything that could go wrong instead. I perpetuated my own fear on the internet googling things and reading about the experiences of others.

I did the same thing two years ago when our son had an unprovoked grand mal seizure. I lay awake night after night for damn near a year paralyzed with fear that he’d be gone in the morning. It’s impossible to live in that kind of fear. I enjoyed nothing in my life. How could I when I was terrified I’d lose my son? I derived no pleasure in anything for a year despite my best efforts as faking it til I made it.

You know what helped? What helped was sitting down and writing it out. What was I afraid of? Well, I was afraid I’d lose a baby or my son? Why? Because things weren’t perfect. What was the likelihood in all reasonable manners of speaking that this fear would come true? Well, no more likely than it happening to anyone else at any given time. Why was I still afraid?

Write what you’re afraid will happen as a result of your fear

Now that you can see your fears in a tangible situation, what is the point of being afraid of them? What are you worried about? What will happen? Most likely, your fear is not reasonable. It’s blown out of proportion and made to feel much worse than it is. However, if there is some validity to your fear, make a list of what you can do to minimize it.

For example, if you are afraid of dying, ask yourself what you can do to minimize your chance of that happening. You can get healthy. Being active and eating well and getting fit all minimize your risk of developing health issues, it builds and strengthens your immune system to better fight of things like a virus, and it improves your overall quality of life – and prolongs it. There’s literally nothing better you can do for yourself.

You can do this with literally anything, anytime, for the rest of your life. By taking your fears and making them tangible, you can figure out what it is you’re afraid of, how reasonable a fear it is, and you can work on overcoming it by seeing in writing just what is going through your mind. Try it.

Living Your Best Life in 2021 Part One: No More Living in Fear

Happy New Year!

It’s the first week of a brand-new year, and I think I speak for many (if the statuses I saw all morning on social media are any indication of how people feel) when I say that it was nice to begin the new year on a Thursday evening so that it all turned into one long weekend. That week between Christmas and New Year when the world is literally just a blur of sleeping late, being very lazy, organizing your life, saying goodbye to Christmas, and just trying to figure out why there is always so much new stuff to open/assemble/put away is a lot. We are all exhausted from the five months prior. Honestly, though; it’s hectic non-stop from the time the kids go back to school and fall sports begin to the Halloween celebrations and the Thanksgiving celebrations and the Christmas celebrations. Try as we might, we never have a free evening or weekend from August to January due to all the fun that we have going on in our lives.

I’m not complaining about that, of course, but I will say that it’s exhausting. By the time January 1 is here, my body is in shutdown mode. I’m run down, tired, exhausted, running on fumes…you name it. It’s a lot. Thankfully, January is the slowest (read: most blissfully boring) month of the year, and also the time I like to keep my calendar clear and my plate empty. February starts our other season of so busy we can’t breathe (all the way to June), and I like to take this month to just be. Relax. Sit. Sleep a little late. Read some books. Recharge my creative juices. It’s a good month.

January is such a great month to look back, too, over the course of the last year. 2021 is my 38th year on earth, and I’m still amazed at how much can change without anyone even noticing in the course of one year. So much can change – and does change – and it’s such a good time to point out just how simple it is to change your life 180 in a year. On that note, I won’t pretend 2020 was a bad year for us. It was a delightful year. I’m sorry for those who didn’t have a good year, but people have bad years all the time and that shouldn’t stop anyone from feeling guilty about not having a bad year. It doesn’t dull my sparkle, you know? Perhaps that sounds callous, but I also don’t like to dwell in negatively or borrow trouble. Sure, my heart is sad for those who lost someone in 2020 (just as it is sad for those who lost someone any year of their lives, ever). My heart hurts for those who are without jobs, without income, those who are unable to open their own businesses back up, those who are struggling. My heart always hurts for those in trouble.

2020 wasn’t a normal year. At times, it sucked. But, I can promise you that I can look back on 38 other years and tell you that while there were times each and every year that sucked, the sucky parts are far overshadowed by the many good things that happened. I’m a Floridian. With the exception of the first few months of the pandemic when the world was terrifying and scary and we didn’t know what was happening and everything shut down and the future seemed very uncertain, life has been pretty normal around here, and that’s nothing I take for granted.

That said, I know a lot of people are currently living in fear – and I’m here to tell you that you cannot do it. You cannot live with a dark heart and a dark mind and negative thoughts. Fear is your imagination running wild, and it’s no way to live. In fact, the term living in fear is nothing but an oxymoron because you aren’t living if you are in fear. That’s no way of life. Perhaps you don’t realize it, but choosing to live a life of fear is the same thing as choosing to life an unhealthy life. Fear affects more than you realize, and it’s bad, bad, bad for your body, your mind, your soul, your quality of life.

Aside from missing out on living a happy, fulfilled life of abundance, here’s what you’re doing to yourself by choosing to live in fear.

You’re weakening your immune system

If ever there was a time in which you want your immune system to work at its highest capacity, it’s now. However, you’re weakening it by living in fear. Fear causes an increased chance of cardiovascular issues, gastrointestinal problems, ulcers, IBS, fertility issues, and you age faster. Honestly, you’re making yourself sick living in fear.

You’re causing mental health issues

No one wants to suffer from mental health issues, but living in a chronic state of fear does just that. Your fear can increase your chance of developing depression, and it can even cause PTSD.

You’re killing your sleep schedule

Everyone knows by now that you need a good night of sleep to function at full capacity the next day. If your fear is keeping you up at night, you’re killing yourself. You’re making your metabolism work slower, you’re causing fatigue, you’re lacking energy, you’re in a bad mood, and you’re brain isn’t functioning properly.

You’re ruining your brain’s ability to process and react

I’m a chronic over-reactor. I react, then I think about it (I apologize a lot). Chronic fear, however, takes your brain’s ability to process new information and form appropriate reactions and messes it all up. Your brain then fails to regulate your emotions. You lose the ability to take social cues and other non-verbal cues. You no longer make logical decisions, and you’re more likely to react impulsively.

You’re ruining your own relationships with others

At the end of the day, you’re not really doing a good job of maintaining relationships and healthy boundaries when you live in fear. You’re more likely in a bad mood all the time. You’re probably negative. You probably react without thinking first. You probably come across as irrational and out of control more often than not. Essentially, you’re pushing people away from you. You’re alienating yourself, you’re becoming lonely, and you’re left wondering what’s wrong with you. Now you’re stressed, and we all know what chronic stress does to the body.

You cannot live in fear

You cannot do it. You cannot allow fear to control your life. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious or that you should ignore danger when it’s present, but it does mean that you must stop living in a place of fear. Take back your own health and your own mental stability and stop. I’m not a medical professional (there isn’t enough money in the world to make me ever want to work in public heath or education, to be honest), but I know that there are people you can talk to if you’re feeling overwhelmed, fearful, or you’re not sure how to get over these feelings of fear. What I also know is that you have to make it a priority this year. Your health, your life, your quality of living, and everything in between is counting on you ending your fear and living your best life.

Happiness Does Start at Home

Happy Tuesday!

It’s election day in the United States, and it’s the day millions of people will flock to the polls to cast their vote…and it’s a day that will go down in history. This is one of the most important presidential elections in history – and I mean all of history. It’s a big day, and I hope everyone with the ability to vote does just that before I get on with my story here.

Good advice is not hard to come by, but people who take good advice and recognize it for what it is does seem to be the problem. Perhaps the simple truth is that what’s good advice for one person simply doesn’t work the same way for another. For example, just last week I text my very sweet friend, Andre, who is a trainer. He isn’t my trainer, though sometimes I do workout with him because he trains my husband’s and my best friends. They’ve all been on me forever and always about how bad my squat form is. I hate squats. I do them, but I hate them. I can never get it right. It never feels right. Andre, Geremy, Corinna, all of them…they’ve spent forever trying to give me the best advice on how to do it right so it’s not a pain in my ass (I mean, squats are literally like a pain in the ass, but you know what I mean).

Last week, I was taking one of my OBE fitness classes (God, I love those classes) and the trainer mentioned that I need to keep my weight on my heels while doing squats.

Wait, what?

That was the first time I’d heard that. It changed the game. Here I am with a professional trainer, two exceptionally fit friends, and not one person told me to put my weight in my heels. But, they did give me a load of other excellent advice…it just didn’t resonate. I immediately text Andre to tell him this groundbreaking information (that he graciously thanked me for sharing when I thought I could help him with future clients even though he already knew this advice). The moral of my story is that sometimes great advice works for one person but doesn’t work for another. It takes a slightly different perspective to work for another (that would be me, guys).

So, back to good advice. It’s not hard to come by, but it seems hard to focus on anymore. I see so much anger and so much frustration and so much ugliness anymore. I’ve had to turn off social media more than once. I’ve had to stop watching the news and reading the news. I’ve had to stop reading the comments on things (which is usually my favorite part of any article). I’ve had to take myself away from the reality the world tells me to live by and live in my own reality.

You guys, my own personal little world is a lot better than the actual world. You know why? Because I fill my own little bubble world with people who have kind, generous, gracious hearts. People who will make you laugh harder than you’ve ever laughed. People who challenge you to be the best version of yourself. People who are unafraid to live big and live their best lives. People who fill you with joy and happiness and a full heart. People who think you are the most amazing person alive, but who will be the first to tell you (with love and a smartass attitude) when you’ve being ridiculous. People who inspire you and people who love hard. They are optimistic and fulfilled, they don’t compare or judge. They don’t blame anyone else for things. Best of all, though, I surround myself with people who might not always share my feelings and opinions, but who can sit down and listen to me when I want to talk about something and really hear what I’m trying to say. They don’t become defensive or make me feel stupid if my opinion differs from theirs. We can have differences, talk about them like mature adults, and still be best friends at the end of the day. I like my world.

It makes me want to share some advice with people who aren’t living in their best world. So many people are so filled with hate, envy, judgment, anger, and so many ugly emotions. It’s so disheartening to see people who will tear down another person because they don’t agree with them, and then turn around and praise another person for doing the exact same thing. It’s so disheartening to see people tell others that they are horrible people because of their beliefs simply because they are different than others.

As a proud republican, I don’t expect everyone else to vote the same way that I vote. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I don’t expect everyone to prioritize the things that I prioritize as important in my own life. However, that also doesn’t mean that I don’t support other issues – they may not be as important to me and my own life as certain issues, but I also don’t expect the things that I consider the most important issues to be the same things everyone else considers the most important issues. Unfortunately, we are living in a world where so many people have been raised to believe that their own opinion is the right opinion and anyone who disagrees is not a good person.

The truth of the matter is that opinions are just that. They are opinions. My opinion might differ from your opinion of what’s most important in life, but my life is also much different than the lives others are living. What is a reality for me might not be a reality for someone else, and that is all right.

I try to ignore the hatred and focus on those who get it. Those who know that you can think differently, live differently, and still respect one another. But, I do want to offer some advice. It’s not going to be the right advice for everyone, but it will – hopefully – be the best advice for some people. I just find that these reminders are so good for the soul and the heart.

Live Big

Don’t be afraid to live big. It’s a beautiful thing. If something makes you happy or proud or is important to you, celebrate it and be proud of it, and shout it from the rooftops. It’s your life, and you should live it as boldly and big and beautifully as you want. If you’re happy about it, I’m happy for you (and if anyone is not happy for you, then they probably need to work on their own hearts a little). The point is that you shouldn’t minimize your life just because other people might not care or might not get it or because other people aren’t living the same life.

Fix Your Heart

Remember when the pandemic started and people were being forced to stay home and inside for weeks – some people in some states and some countries have been inside their homes for months at a time without leaving – and the world was changing? I remember reading some arbitrary article that popped up on my timeline on Facebook about a celebrity or an influencer complaining about being stuck at home nonstop for weeks – they were talking about missing things, and places, and people, etc. I also remember reading the comments, and I was horrified.

The comments were overwhelmingly negative talking about how celebrities and ‘rich’ people don’t get to complain about quarantining in their big house with their big pool and their big yard because some people don’t have the luxury of quarantining in a big house, and they’re stuck in a small house or apartment. So. What. I’m not typically a fan of people who complain all the time, but let’s be real here. You can dislike being stuck at home in a cramped studio apartment just as much as you can dislike being stuck at home in a mansion on the beach in paradise.

The world was changing, lives were put on hold, people miss their families, kids are annoying sometimes, and staring at the same four walls – no matter how far apart they may be – sucks. So, let’s stop telling people their feelings are ‘wrong’ because they are have more than you do. Get over yourself. The simple fact of the matter is that you need to fix your heart. If you find yourself having thoughts and feelings like that, you need to fix your heart. What makes you feel like this? Fix it. Why are you bitter? Fix it. Is it because you don’t have what other people have? Fix it. You have every single opportunity in the world to fix your life and make it what you want, but only if you’re willing to fix your heart, do the work, and be patient while you work hard. End of discussion.

Be Nice

It’s not hard. I mean, sometimes, it’s hard. Sometimes, people make you angry. They drive slow in the left lane and you can’t get around them. It’s hard to be nice when people do that. I get it. But, it’s not that hard, as a rule, to just be a nice person. Smile. Be nice.

Don’t Shrink Yourself

Never, ever shrink to fit into someone else’s life. If you’re too big for them to fit into their life as you are, you aren’t meant to be there. Shine, my friend. Be you. Have your opinions, say what’s on your heart, and be yourself. Don’t make yourself smaller to fit in with someone you may have outgrown. If you ever feel the need to change your opinion or not be your bold, beautiful self so that you can be friendly or fit in with someone, that is not your someone, my friend. That is not your someone. Call me. I’ll be your someone. I like people who are big and bold and proud of it.

Make Priorities

I don’t think many people prioritize the way they should. I think the world has collectively told people that they should prioritize things a certain way, and that’s simply not true. Being busy is not a goal. Never being home is not a goal. Having plans every single weekend without a break to just relax is not a goal. Doing too much is not a goal. Always working is not a goal.

Making time for your loved ones is a goal. Making time to exercise is a goal. Making time to take care of you is a goal. Making time to be present and enjoy life is a goal. Making time to do the things that bring you joy is a goal. Working hard and playing harder is a goal. Your goals are your goals, whatever they are. Make priorities out of the things that matter the most, and don’t worry if they don’t fit the ‘norm’ or the ‘mold’ anymore. Who wants to be just like everyone else to the point of sheer exhaustion, anyway?

Laugh More than You Complain

If, at the end of the day, you have laughed more than you have complained, you are living a good life. Don’t forget that or take that for granted. If you aren’t laughing as much as you are complaining, it’s time to start figuring out where to make healthy changes in your life so you can live happy.

Own It

Whatever you are, whoever you are, whatever you believe, whatever you want, whatever makes you happy and smile and feel good – own it. If you don’t own who you are, you aren’t being your authentic self. Own it.

Do Good Things

The one surefire way to feel good in life is to be good in life. Give back. You don’t have to give money or items or anything grand. Giving your time is just as important and just as meaningful. When you give back to the world, you get what you put into it. Do good things. Be a good person. Respect others, agree to disagree, and learn to live and let live. The great thing about life is that we all get to be whomever we want to be, and we get to do this life on our own.

Don’t Worry About Anyone Else

Trust me when I tell you that no one else is worried about you. And, if they are worried about how you’re living your life, they’re not focused on living their own. It’s a vicious cycle. Worry about yourself, and you’ll see such a dramatic improvement in your life. Imagine making your life decisions based on what makes you feel good and not what looks good or what other people think looks good. Imagine how happy you’ll be living your life, your way, on your terms. Now, go do it.

The world is such a beautiful place if you stop focusing on all the things you don’t like. Try to make that a habit. Try to change your thoughts, and try to remember that bashing other people and being a negative complainer or a judgmental person is uncool. You can have your thoughts and opinions without worrying about what anyone else is doing in their lives, and you can live a very happy life.

Today is a day that will go down in history. Whatever happens, remember that you can be the difference you want to see in the world. When you make a difference in even one life, that person will then go on to make a difference in the life of another. And that person will do the same. Imagine what one small act of kindness or grace can do, and then go do it.

Life Update

Happy Wednesday, loves!

It’s been three long, lovely months since my last post, and it was a much-needed break for me and my creative mind. The truth is that sometimes I feel relatively uninspired, and I don’t have much to say. If you want to dig further down to the root of that truth – and you should – it’s really because I’ve been in a less-than-stellar mood for most of the past three months, and it doesn’t feel authentic to on my end to sit down and publish a blog post that I hope will help even one person with even one aspect of their day.

There. I said it. I have been in a shitty mood for like three months now. It’s my own fault, and I recognize that the reason I’ve been in a shitty mood for three months is not one that holds a lot of validity or even weight. I recognize it is absolutely a first world problem and I have very little to complain about. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s not a problem.

I’m the problem.

I own that. I’m a very Type-A personality, and that means I like things done a certain way (mine), when I say, how I say, and to my standards. I’m not easy on myself, and I have high expectations because I know how I would handle a situation, and I tend to hold the same high expectations for everyone else…which I know is a recipe for instant disaster.

We are putting in a pool. And it’s been a journey.

I’ll spare you all the details, but it turns out I’m not a fan of contractors (something I’d not forgotten, but perhaps minimized in my mind in the 16 years since we built our first home), subcontractors, or people in general – though I never forget the latter.

It’s been a ride since day one. It began with needing approval from our HOA because we have some setback issues thanks to the way our house was situated on our property when it was built (corner lot, house sits in the back corner at an angle with the front of the house facing the front corner where our two streets meet. Our driveway is off to the side of our house along the garage on the secondary street, which is also our home address street).

Several years ago, we decided to add a pool to our yard. Our house sits on a small hill, the lower end of the hill in the back, and we have a wooden deck that was approximately 1,100-square feet with three different levels. Our lanai was screened in and opened to the deck, and we have two doors in the family room that opened onto the deck as well. We love the deck.

Okay, I love the deck. My husband loved it less. It’s a lot of maintenance. However, that’s not the point. The point is that we knew a pool in the backyard was not in the cards for us because the setbacks did not allow it. We need 25-feet from the structure (the pool screen) to the edge of our property line and because our house sits at a strange angle, the side of the house closest to the property line is only 35 feet. We can’t do anything with 10 feet (our deck was clearly constructed without any permission or HOA approval or whatever).

Anyway, we had pool companies come and tell us over and over we cannot fit a pool in the backyard due to setback issues, but that we could fit one on the side yard. We thought about it. We decided to pass. We didn’t want a pool sitting in the middle of the side yard with no easy accessibility to our kitchen or home, and that is sitting there in plain view of everyone who drives by our house on one of our streets. We decided to forgo a pool.

My long stories are never short, are they? Okay, I’ll try to wrap it up here. Long story shorter than it might be if I don’t wrap it up, my husband found a caveat in the HOA handbook back in May that stated that pools constructed in a side yard need only a 15-foot setback. We didn’t think much of it at the time because that’s not what he was looking through the handbook to find. But, a week or so later, he had an epiphany.

Our house sits at an angle. Our backyard, if you go by our address, is technically our side yard.

Hold. The. Phone.

So, we could angle our pool deck and have 20-feet on the small side and finagle a pool into the backyard and still have some gorgeous space to entertain? Cue the calling of all the pool companies in our county.

We met with four companies. Maybe five? I cannot even remember. We knew immediately upon meeting our pool guy he was the one for us. He had the best personality, the most amazing references, and he was good (and we maintain he’s been amazing). Of all the companies we’d called, we’d heard mixed reviews on all of them, but we heard not one negative comment about this guy and his company…and it is very easy to see why no one has anything negative to say. He does what he says, he gets the job done, his subs LOVE and adore him and speak so highly of him, and I cannot say enough nice things. He wasn’t the cheapest, but he had the best design and the best ideas, and he’s quick.

We spent weeks – and by weeks, I mean almost two months – nitpicking our design to ensure we maximized our space (and submitting designs to the HOA for approval while also fighting them to prove our backyard is actually our side yard and we can, in fact, fit a pool). We could fit a pool, but we still have setbacks that need to be met, which means we had to get creative in fitting it and still getting what we wanted. We also have a roofline that’s about 870384 different heights and angles because each side of the first floor is apparently it’s own entity roof-wise, and then there’s the second floor and the second floor terrace to think about when putting up a screen. There was also the issue of having a house that sits a good four-five feet above the ground in terms of door location, etc.

Basically, we didn’t get to do the easy thing and just add a pool to the back of the house. We needed 7 thousand loads of dirt, we needed to remove the screen to the lanai and incorporate the lanai into the new pool deck. That meant adding stairs there and adding a set of stairs to each of the family room doors off the entertaining side of the new pool deck. It meant needing stucco work and super gutters and all kinds of things.

Actually, our best friends had the beautiful idea that we have the lanai filled with concrete and pavered to match the pavers on the pool deck when we did the work (which was the best idea ever – a total game changer – but it also meant tweaking the plan and redoing the contract and ordering more pavers and adding to the total cost).

Long story short (you know I’m lying about my long story being short by now, right?), we finalized our plans, signed our final contract, and broke ground August 10 to construct our gorgeous backyard escape. It went by so fast and so well at first, but we did have a few hiccups along the way, including our first set of pavers being totally destroyed by a bad board during the creation of them. It added over two weeks to the timeframe because they had to make brand-new pavers and apparently both COVID and the fires and the hurricanes and all the things happening the world are putting a hold on a lot of construction supplies – and that meant we had to wait for the paver company to order good wood to press the pavers with. Before that we had a solid 10 days of nonstop rain. I mean nonstop rain. That was already an issue, but we lost a total of 25 days in that time because of the rain and the paver issues. Then the screen guy’s main man fell off a ladder and broke his back, and he ended up being behind on his work.

Anyway, long story short (I can’t stop saying it)…everything is going well and beautifully and I have nothing to complain about. However, Type-A Tiffany is a control freak, and she hates all the things messy and out of order. Add to the pool the fact that we were ripping up the first floor flooring and adding LVP flooring to the mix, and we had a LOT going on at one time. A lot.

It was a mess. Even when the floors were finished and it was just the pool, I’ve been living in a constant state of “OMG,” about everything. The yard was a mess. The grass was all torn up. The removal of the deck also meant the re-homing of every scorpion and wolf spider in the world that were apparently living under the deck all these years, and they’ve all come to our beautiful front porch – which was the only outdoor living space we had for a few weeks while the deck was gone and the lanai’s wood floors were ripped up – and gross. Just….gross. We have contractors using power tools outside our bedroom window at 6 am many mornings. There are always people in my yard, and I’ve been forced to wear pants around my own house for months now – y’all know I’m not a fan.

The mess. All the new furniture sitting in the garage taking up all the space and giving me anxiety. The lanai’s sectional cushions all lined up on top of the shelves and the cabinets in the laundry room to the ceiling made me feel gross about the mess. The piles of dirt in the back yard. The lack of cohesiveness. The mess. Did I mention the mess?

So, there you go. I’ve been living in a mess, even if it’s just the outdoors. I can’t handle it. I don’t like it, and it makes me feel all gross and anxious and lacking control of my own life. It’s put me in a bad mood even when I know I have no reason to have a bad mood. I don’t do disarray.

To summarize…I’ve been out of sorts. I definitely have more good days than bad, but I find myself obsessing over things being done and back in order and things not being as organized or tidy as I like them, and the yard not being super usable at the moment for the kids. It puts me in a funk. I don’t like the undone. I’m a do-er. I like a project started, completed, and cleaned up as quickly as possible…as in, I won’t stop a project to eat or sleep if I’m in charge of it until it’s done.

Seriously…when we bought this house six years ago, I woke up early on Saturday morning and came to the new house while my husband and our friends and family packed all the already organized and finished boxes and furniture into the moving truck and I painted all four of the kids’ rooms the colors we wanted in the morning. Our beloved friends and family helped us move everything into the house and unpack things like the kitchen and the bathrooms and bedrooms and whatnot. Meanwhile, after everyone left the night, I hung every single piece of art, unpacked every last box, and organized every last closet, drawer, and room in this house so that we could wake up Sunday morning and pour a cup of coffee, sit on our deck, and have nothing to do on our first full day in our new house.

Yes, I know. I’m insane. I did the same thing the day we got back from our honeymoon and moved into the house we built. I’m crazy. I get it.

So, I took a break. I needed it.

This space is one I want to mean something to me and to anyone who takes the time to come here and read. I want it to be a space that has a little of everything. Maybe a little inspiration when you’re not feeling it, or a little advice where you need it, or some insight where it’s helpful. I want you to laugh, to really think, and I want everyone who visits to take a little something with you when you go. When I don’t feel like myself, I don’t feel it’s authentic to sit down and offer up anything that isn’t coming from my heart. I don’t force my writing. I never have, and I never will.

However, as we round out the last little bit of work on the pool, I find myself feeling a lot lighter and more myself. The grading company came and flattened all the dirt. They put our plant beds back together, re-organized our yard and got rid of all the empty paver boxes and pallets and dirt and debris. The pavers are done and all the new furniture is assembled and out of the garage. We can use our space again, and I’m happy. Electric was done yesterday, the screen is going up this week, and the finish will be done following that.

But, the point is that it’s all clean, and there is no more mess. I feel like myself again. I feel in control and good and happy, and it’s my favorite time of the year.

This space is important to me. I write every day, but this is the space I write what I want, how I want, when I want, and without boundaries, and that’s important to me. I want it to be a happy space that’s open and realistic, honest, and not a place filled with bad attitudes and complaints.

I could offer you some advice now about how I handled living through feelings like this or how I dealt with the chaos and the noise, but I didn’t handle it well. I was negative and eye-rolly, and annoyed, and I drank too much wine, and I complained a lot more than I am proud of. Ask my husband…he’ll tell you what a delight I was. Advice is inauthentic here because I have no honest advice for dealing with that. I suppose I could have figured out a way to get my head out of my tight ass, but I did not. I can, however, tell you which ABC has the best sangiovese. Otherwise, I’ve got nothing other than the honesty that sometimes, I’m not my best self…and that’s all right.

“She Makes It Look So Easy…”

Happy Wednesday!

Being a parent is hard work, y’all. Hard work. I can’t think of one thing – other than the actual loving them part – that is effortless and easy. My husband and I have been doing this parenting thing now for over 12 years, and we still don’t have a clue what we are doing half the time (and by half, I obviously mean 99.9% of the time…I do bad math).

That’s why it’s funny to me when people ask me how we do it. How do I always look put together? How is our house always clean? How are the kids so well-behaved? How come we make it look so easy? How do we find time for one another?

We aren’t trying to make anything look easy. Some things are easy. Doing my hair and makeup and putting together an outfit that makes me feel pretty and confident is easy. Finding time for a date night is easy. Keeping the house clean is easy.

Lying awake in bed at night wondering if all the good memories are enough to make the kids forget that I yelled at them? That’s not easy. Fearing something terrible has happened every single time they’re at school or with their grandparents and the person caring for them calls? That’s not easy. Wondering if they really do know just how much I love them or if they just think I say that 100 times a day out of habit? That’s not easy. Wondering if we are giving them too much or teaching them enough or instilling a love of learning and knowledge and kindness with just enough sarcasm and wit to make them funny and relatable? That’s not easy.

So much of being a parent is not easy; most of it, honestly. We don’t know if we are doing it right. In fact, we question ourselves regularly, but we feel pretty confident (most days) that we are all right. A short story before I get to the point of today’s post: We took the kids out of virtual school and enrolled them in brick and mortar last week. Not just back to their old school, either. We enrolled them in a brand-new school. They’re the new kids a month into the school year; that’s not easy. For us or for them.

your greatest contribution to the universe may not be something you do, but someone you raise

someone wise

Fortunately, Carter and Charlotte are in the same class, and Charlotte’s best friend is in their class because her mom works for the school, as does another close friend of ours, and Carter’s little bestie is also in their class and was able to start school the same day. Ava’s best friend started as the new girl there on the first day of school, and they are also in the same class. So, there are some things about their new kid situation that are easy – and no, the good fortune we have to say those things is not lost on me.

We made it through four weeks of virtual school. I say that very, very loosely. We struggled. I cried more than once every single day of virtual school. I’m not a teacher; I can’t teach my kids. I don’t know how to help them learn and retain information and make things fun. I also don’t have the kind of time it requires of us to spend sitting down with them throughout the day to learn these things. I just don’t.

I went to bed at night sad and frustrated and in tears because I spent all day snapping at the kids. I had my own deadlines, and then hours of work with them, and my husband couldn’t help much during the day. He has hours. He’s home with me working, but he has to actually sit down for specific hours throughout the day and work. I don’t. I can make my own hours.

He wanted to help, but that means from 5 pm on. That means we aren’t cooking dinner together. It means everyone takes late baths and goes to bed late, and it’s not quality time. No family walks or ice cream dates or impromptu basketball games or cards or Yahtzee games. It was all work, work, work. He begged me to help, but I didn’t want to. I’d rather suffer personally and make myself insane all day long so that he when is done with work for the day, we can have some quality time as a family.

We are so busy, and that’s something that I know my kids will remember. You know what I remember? I remember how much my dad worked when I was growing up. I remember we barely had any time with him. I remember wishing he could come to more of my games or be home to play games or spend time with us on movie night, or anything. Craig? His dad didn’t even live in the same state (or country for a time) when he was growing up. His dad worked and lived in California, North Carolina, Saudi Arabia…and his mom lived with him at their Florida home so that he could go to the same school and have the same friends and play sports and all those things instead of moving around all his life.

You know what he remembers? He remembers wishing his dad was home to go to his games and to be with them, to go to dinner with them or to hang out with him and his friends and play ball with them. Neither one of us wants to miss out on the quality time that we are so fortunate to have.

So, I’d lay down at night and feel guilty because I want help, but I can’t accept help because my family’s quality time is more important than my own sanity. Such a mom thing to say, right? I don’t know if I’m explaining myself well, but I know that it wasn’t what we wanted. To get to the point – when I emailed the kids’ virtual teachers to tell them that we were taking them back to school, the twins’ teacher was so gracious (so was Ava’s, of course). She said, “This entire time I thought you were just breezing right through this with no issues, and I had no idea. You made it look so effortless and easy,” and that stuck with me.

live so that when your children think of love, truth, and integrity, they think of you

someone wise

I didn’t ask for help. I will never ask for help. Their work was all turned in on time. Their work was thoughtful and done well and correctly, and everything was done on time, turned in, and I didn’t email her with excuses or with questions or with problems. Here she was thinking it was easy breezy when, in fact, I cried every single night and often throughout the day for weeks.

And that’s what makes me feel compelled to write this post. I don’t care how I – or we – make it look. It’s not easy. Being a parent is hard, but I’ve learned a few things over the years about being one, and sometimes it helps to remember.

Kids Don’t Need Much

time is non-refundable, use it with intention

unknown

Trust me. We’ve spent eleventy billion dollars on elaborate vacations and trips and beautiful toys and games and theme park tickets and meals and everything in between. You know what our kids love the most about life? When we get in the pool with them. Yeah, that’s right. When we get into the pool with our kids, that is their favorite thing in the world. They really don’t need much. They just need us.

There’s A Simple Way to Know if You’re Showing Enough Love

let motherhood be more about what you do with your children instead of what you do for them

mamie l. pack

It never occurred to me until someone recently mentioned how darling they think it is that the kids are so freely open and able to say, “Mommy, daddy, I love you,” without any thought or without being prompted or without it being a goodbye, see you later kind of thing. I never noticed it. But, they do. Our son is especially sweet about it. He will randomly just come up to us and tell us he loves us. Saturday, in fact, he was playing outside with daddy when he ran into the house and yelled over his shoulder, “I’ll be right back, daddy! I just want to tell mommy I love her so much!” as he popped his head in the door, yelled to me he loves me, and ran back out. I think that’s a great way of knowing if you’re showing them enough love and affection.

They Don’t Miss You…(they do miss you)

the greatest legacy we can leave our children is happy memories

someone wise

When we travel without our kids, they don’t miss us…except they do miss us. They are just so excited to have some time with their grandparents that they don’t really miss us that much. They love that time spent with their loved ones, and they are so excited about it. They don’t cry when we leave. They don’t cry when we talk to them. They miss us, but they’re so confident in our love for them and the love their grandparents have for them that they really don’t miss us.

Their Confidence is Inspiring

happiness is not a goal. it’s a by-product of a life well lived

eleanor roosevelt

When I grow up, I want to be my own kids. I want to be a part of each one of them.

I want to be as wise and independent as Ava. She is quiet. She observes. She listens. She is wise beyond her years, and I aspire to be as wise as she is at the tender age of 9. She needs no one, but she chooses to be with them.

I long to be as curious as Carter. He asks a million questions a day (ask anyone who knows him and they’ll tell you I’m not exaggerating). He wants to know every single thing there is to know, and there is no limit to his desire to learn.

I want to be as kind and graceful as Addison. She has more class at 12 than anyone else I know in the world save for my own grandmother. Lovely. The word I’d use to describe her is simply lovely. She’s always kind, she always helps, she always has a soft heart, and she’s always so gracious.

I would love to be as confident as Charlotte. She might only be 6, but she never worries that things will not go exactly her way. She walks into a classroom as the new student on the first day of school and automatically assumes that everyone will end the day as her new friend. She doesn’t lack confidence in anything. She naturally assumes everyone loves her, that she looks like a superstar, that she has the best personality, and that she is overall amazing. It has never occurred her to otherwise. I love that, and I hope that never changes.

What does this all mean?

embrace uncertainty. some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later

someone wise

To me, this means that we must be doing something right. Nothing in life worth having is easy, but that doesn’t mean we are messing it up as much as we like to torture ourselves imagining. Can we really be failing that much at being parents if our kids are confident and happy and filled with grace and curiosity and independence and intelligence? No.

So, while we all have our strengths and our weaknesses, and while some things might appear easier than others, we are all just hanging out in life wondering if we are fucking our kids up or if we suck at something or if we are really shitty parents at times. You’re not alone. We are not alone. If ever I’m making something look so easy that it’s bringing you anything other than joy or laughter, let me know. I’ll happily share some behind-the-scenes realities for you that will have you feeling like writing your parent of the year acceptance speech right away, or else I’ll share something I’ve learned along the way that might just make something easier for you.

I want to see everyone win. I like winning.