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.

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.

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.

Quick Tips When You’re In A Funk

Happy Friday, loves!

Do you ever find yourself in a total funk? It’s like a weird place where you’re present in life, but you feel almost as if you’re looking at your life unfolding before you from up above; almost like a dream, if I’m putting it into a tangible concept. You can’t put your finger on the issue that’s causing your funk because you don’t really have anything to complain about. You don’t really have any issues, but yet you don’t know what the problem is that’s got you feeling as if you’re watching life unfold before you.

I spent the better part of the end of June/beginning of July in a funk. Some might say it’s because it was almost ‘that time,’ (ladies, you know), and I won’t disagree. Some months are just more difficult in that specific timeframe than others. However, it’s just not uncommon for me to find myself in a funk more often than not in the summer months.

You guys, I don’t like being hot. Rich, I know, coming from a Floridian. In all honesty, I feel as if I go through bouts of seasonal depression this time of year. it might not be truly ‘depression,’ so much as it is bouts of just blah feelings that don’t bring me much joy. I certainly don’t want to minimize the severity of seasonal depression, but I do want to bring attention to the fact that much like those who do go through that feeling in the cold winter months (not in Florida!), I feel some of the same things on a much less serious level in the summer. Why?

  • The long days are not my favorite
  • The afternoon sunlight – from about 1 pm to dusk – during summer is such an unattractive color that bothers me endlessly
  • The heat is stifling
  • The humidity is nothing short of oppressive
  • The way it feels so sticky following the rain is so gross
  • I hate sweat
  • I don’t like to feel hot
  • I don’t like that it’s just so gross outside the kids can’t even play outdoors and enjoy themselves because it’s miserably hot and dangerously humid

I know it’s the unpopular opinion, but I’m simply not a summer fan. Don’t get me wrong – I love summer in that it’s such a time of freedom and relaxation. I love that there is no responsibility in summer. I love the feeling of easiness and slow enjoyment summer brings. I love that the kids are so relaxed. I love afternoon thunderstorms – they give me so much life and so much joy – and river house days and pool days and summer nights. I love the Fourth of July. I love so much about summer except for summer itself. I love the summer mornings and the way the morning sun looks pouring in our doors and windows. I love the mornings in summer. It’s just that darn afternoon sunlight that brings me down. I can’t explain it. I just feel blah in the afternoons during summer, and sometimes I find myself in a funk if we have endless days of sunshine. My funk immediately disappears when the sun is gone and the rain comes in the afternoon. Which, I believe, is why the end of June and beginning of July were funk weeks for me – too much sunshine and weeks without a cloud in the sky.

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I’ve already got my countdown to the official fall season (which begins September 1st in my house). It brings me life and endless good moods until June rolls around again. Honestly, I might as well be useless for three months from June through the end of August. But, in in all honestly, I want to be transparent and honest. This is not a good time of year for my attitude, and I know that. I know it every year. I don’t know how to change that, so I just do my very best to focus on finding small ways to help improve my blasé attitude in the afternoons throughout summer.

Maybe this will help someone who has the same issue. Maybe it will help someone who really doesn’t live their best life too often. Maybe it will help someone who has the same guilt and feelings of ‘what is wrong with me?’ that I deal with off and on for the three longest months of the year. I know I have nothing to complain about. I know I have nothing to worry about. I know I have nothing to stress me out. Yet, I find myself really down sometimes for a few hours in the afternoon.

So, here’s what I’ve been implementing this year. I’ve asked my doctor for suggestions, I’ve asked around, I’ve done my research, and there are a few things that have really minimized my ‘summer afternoon seasonal down-ness’ significantly this summer.

I check in with myself

At the beginning of the week, I do a quick check-in with myself. I do this Monday morning prior to doing anything else (save for hitting snooze once or twice and then making a cup of coffee and meandering into my office). I sit down with my journal and write down the following:

  • My priority for the week
  • What I want to do less of this week
  • What I want to do more of this week
  • How I want to feel this week
  • How I can make sure I feel this way this week
  • What I’d like to remember in moments of ‘down-ness’

Throughout the week, I check on that list to make sure I’m doing what I can to make it as realistic as possible. It’s important for me to remember that this is not a list of major goals. It’s a simple priority list. What I need the most that week is my priority, and it doesn’t matter if it’s big, small, minor, simple, life-changing, etc. It’s just the priority I need to focus on any given week.

Change negative thinking

I’m not immune to negative thoughts. No one is, if we are being honest. However, I try hard to make sure they don’t linger. I try to stop them in their tracks. It’s not always easy for me since I’m a creative person by nature, and my mind tends to run away quickly and efficiently a thousand miles a minute (writer’s hazard, I suppose). I don’t even notice when my mind turns to the negative until it’s been there a few moments, but I’m learning to recognize, realize, and refocus quickly.

Trust me – it’s a habit that takes time to develop.

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Breathing is what helps me most. I learned in my favorite yoga class to try five count breathing when I need to slow down my racing mind (and heart) and refocus myself. Sit quietly, close your eyes, count to five slowly while inhaling, hold your breath for a count of five, exhale slowly for a count of five. Repeat until you find yourself at peace. It helps rearrange your thoughts and refocus your feelings. Trust me, it’s effective.

Write down happy thoughts. This is another helpful tool. Writing down a few things that bring me joy is a quick and simple way to change my pattern of thought. Again, this doesn’t have to be a long list of beautiful things that make you happy. It can be the simplest thing. The only rule is that it must be something that brings you joy.

Stop and do something else

There are times when I’m feeling myself in a funk, and I just need to stop what I’m doing in that moment. Sometimes this means putting things to the side and leaving the house. Maybe a family dinner out. Maybe a family walk. Maybe a quick game of cards or Yahtzee with the kids. A second workout for the day. A conversation with someone I love. Sometimes, the best thing I do for myself is put down what I’m doing and make my way into the office to sit down on my husband’s lap and interrupt his work for a long hug. I mean, what’s better?

Write

You don’t even want to know how many rambling thoughts I have written down. In notebooks. On pieces of paper I find in my desk. On my computer. On my iPad. On the notes section of my phone. In email drafts. The best therapy is a writing session. Don’t worry about grammar or form or function or readability. Just write. Write what’s on your mind, what’s on your heart, what’s in your life. You don’t even have to know what you are writing. The simple fact that you’re able to take those thoughts and put them somewhere outside your brain is a kind of release that is literally freeing.

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Remember that it’s okay to feel less than perfect

It’s hard, I know, to fully comprehend that everyone goes through down days. It’s not easy to remember that you are not alone. It’s not easy to remember that most people keep their bad days to themselves. You are not alone. You are not by yourself in this. Everyone has off days. Just look at me – I have off weeks during the summer because it’s just hot and miserable and not my favorite. But, the good news is that you can change that. You can easily turn a blah day around, get out of a funk, and focus on far better things. It’s easier said than done, but it’s going to become habit to quickly turn your thoughts around.

***Also, please remember that while a funk might occasionally be a normal thing to feel, and having a bad day or a grouchy day, or a PMS-y week might be totally normal, feelings of absolute darkness, despair, dangerous or harmful thoughts, and the inability to find the joy in anything are indicative of a major health concern; please call your doctor if you experience any of these feelings. He or she can help you figure out what’s going on, run tests to see if there is anything going on in your body you cannot see, and they can help you work through this. I am not a doctor, I do not have experience with serious mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, and my suggestions are not medically based in any capacity.

Our Kids Aren’t Going Back to School: And We Couldn’t Be Happier

Happy Wednesday!

How is everyone on day 38 of the social distancing situation (in Florida, anyway)? Honestly speaking, I have to say I am impressed with my own handling of this situation. I thought for certain that by now I’d be a mess. I figured my patience would have exited the building weeks ago, I’d be overwhelmed and uptight, and my attitude would suck.

It doesn’t. I’m thriving. And, I think that it’s because our kids are thriving. All the things that I thought they’d miss aren’t having nearly the effect on them that I thought they’d have. We spend so much time running them from this activity to that activity to this practice from that practice to this and that and everything in between, and our kids haven’t asked once about their extracurricular activities or mentioned missing them; but, they have repeatedly said how much they love being home in the evenings and playing games, and having family dinners, and taking walks.

You know what else they comment about missing? Their friends. They miss their friends in class. They miss their teachers. They miss their grandparents. The twins miss giving their teacher a hug in the morning when they get to her class (she’s one of the loveliest people we’ve had the pleasure of meeting, so we get that). They all miss things like their art classes in school, and their media time, and their PE time. They miss connection. They don’t miss being busy. What a thing to process, right?

Governor DeSantis made the announcement Saturday afternoon that our schools would continue to remain closed the rest of the school year. What was initially a month-long closing turned into six weeks, and we were meant to go back at the beginning of May. Now we are out until August; and they will return to school going into seventh, fourth, and first grades. Some parents are really upset by this. I’ll be honest; there was a time when I would have been downright furious.

My husband and I both work from home – not because of COVID-19 but because I’ve worked for myself for 12 years and my husband has been working home for his company for almost four years now – and having the kids home on school breaks and summer is hard on our schedules. Mine a little less so since my schedule is my doing – not that I like it interrupted.

But, we’ve created a new schedule having them home, and we – sit down for this one – like it. The kids like it. We like it. We like having them home. They can be over-the-top and annoying at times – Monday was a rough day for us with the kids. But, I think they’ve been 95% pretty good about this (with the cute exception of the fact that Ava and Carter seem to butt heads more than ever right now). They’ve adapted well, and I’m glad they aren’t going back. Why? Well, for a few reasons.

The Transition Period

The worst thing about a schedule change is the transition period. When school was first closed, it wasn’t so bad because we were only a week away from spring break, and we were traveling the weekend it was announced, so we came home tired and exhausted and we had three little ones with birthdays. We welcomed the extra week. Then, it was spring break. That worked out for us, too. But, the week after was the first week of distance learning, and that’s a transition week. We had two free weeks and then we had to find a new schedule doing something we’ve never done before, and we all had to adapt. That was a stressful week. But, the following week was better. The third week was even better. Week four, which we are in now, is a seamless and organized machine.

The transition of going back to school at the beginning of May for all of three weeks would have been a mess, in my opinion. Transitioning back to a school schedule that involves a 6 am wakeup for our oldest, transitioning back to the classroom after more than six weeks away; I could see the mess from a mile away. Everyone would be tired and cranky, they’d have to learn to readjust – this wasn’t a week off for spring break, after all. They’d have to learn to readjust to a school schedule, and they’d all be cranky and tired for the week. For what? For three weeks? Then, we’d have to readjust to a new summer schedule? It’s a lot of change and adjustment in the span of two months, and kids – especially the Raiford kids – thrive on routine and structure. It’s too much to ask them to make so many confusing changes.

The Fear

Right now, our kids aren’t worried about the virus. Why should they be? They are safe at home with their mom and dad having fun. They are swimming every weekend, they are busy having fun, they are loving family walks and tending to their new little garden Craig helped them plant. They are having more takeout than ever from their favorite restaurants, they are getting so much time outside to play, and the weather is gorgeous. They have unlimited access to Amazon to order new games and toys and crafts, and they’ve been taking full advantage of that. They’re loving this, and they feel safe at home. But, imagine the fear of going back to school right now when part of the world is still shut down, and so many people have so many different opinions. Their friends would have things to say, they would be fearful, and it wouldn’t help. I’m glad they don’t have to face that fear and that they get to stay home with us and feel safe and comfortable.

We’d Miss Them

Who are we?! In all seriousness, the person who will have the hardest time when they go back to school in August is myself. I like having them here. I like being able to leave my phone in the master bedroom and not look at it all day long if I don’t want to – I can’t do that when they’re at school because what if they call and something has happened? I like knowing that they are safe all day long and never worrying when I see the school’s name scroll across my screen. There are so many horrible things in the world that might happen, but our kids aren’t there, and I’m not worried anymore. I love having them home where I know they are safe. That’s everything to me. And, I can tell you that I’ll have anxiety and panic a bit when I no longer have them in my protective custody again.

We like distance learning. I’d even go out on a limb and tell you that homeschool wouldn’t be out of the question for us if the kids would be willing to do it. I think Ava would, and would excel at doing it. But, I know Addison, Charlotte, and Carter would never go for it being the social butterflies and school-lovers that they are. Ava, on the other hand, is me. She doesn’t care for people she doesn’t hand pick, and she only wants to socialize with those she loves and respects. She’d be a hermit if we let her – which is exactly how I am.

This Time is Really Nice

I know that this is not a nice time for so many people in the world right now, and my heart aches for those who aren’t able to work, who are ill, who have lost a loved one, who are struggling financially and who aren’t sure what tomorrow brings. My heart hurts. I don’t want to look past that or make it seem that I am ambivalent in any capacity. However, I am thoroughly enjoying this time. I love the slow days, the new schedule, the time that we are getting to spend with our kids. We are finally NOT busy, and we needed it. We needed more movie nights and more Friday night date nights in the to-go parking spots at our favorite restaurants versus Fridays spent packing to travel every single weekend for a month, stay home for a weekend, and repeat (But, OMG do I miss travel and the places and trips we are no longer taking because we just don’t know when we even can anymore). We needed more sleep until 8 am weekdays, more time to make creative pancakes, go for a run, and focus on school work for only a few hours versus all day. We needed less nights where we are out until 8 pm, tired, hungry, and cranky when we get home. We needed more time with people we love rather than people who drain us.

We needed more game nights. We needed more family dinners around the tables. One night a week wasn’t enough for that. We need to slow down, and we needed to continue this a little longer. The days are getting longer, the nights are still cool and beautiful, and we are finally living our best life free of all the things that stress us out and make us rigid and inflexible and tired. Our kids are doing so well, and so are we with having them home.

It’s simple. Simple, as it turns out, is quite nice. Don’t take that for granted. I hope you are all enjoying your time as much as we are. We’ve had five uninterrupted weeks with our kids, and we get another 16 weeks. That is, even if you’re struggling, a gift. Use it wisely.