Friday Thoughts: Growth and Confidence

Happy Friday, loves!

Funny story – I did not have a blog post scheduled for today. I’m writing this on Thursday, scheduling it for Friday morning because it’s currently on my mind and I’m feeling a bit passionate about it.

If you’ve been following along the past few years, you already know my family and I have what we call Wednesday Night Dinners. It’s a looooooong tradition that began before we even had kids. As a matter of fact, it all began in 2008 when I was pregnant with our first child. My husband and I had been married three years and our friends, Corinna and Geremy, were married for two years at the time. They weren’t parents yet, either, but they were working on that.

My husband and I always went out to dinner on Wednesday nights to our favorite local restaurant. It was like our halfway through the week celebration, and we began inviting our friends. They joined us for the better part of two or three years every Wednesday night for dinner. Addison came along in the late summer of 2008 and their first child, Geremy Jr., came along in the spring of 2009. Somewhere in 2010, we made the decision to stop going out to dinner on Wednesday nights and start hosting our dinners at home.

We’d host one Wednesday, they’d host the next. And we’ve been doing that ever since. We’ve also added a total of 5 additional kids for a grand total of 7 little people. Wednesday nights are loud, fun, and something we all look forward to every week. We laugh – a lot.

(Fun Fact: Craig and Corinna are the same person, and Geremy and I are the same person. In fact, we are so much alike in our mannerisms and the way we think and act that we’re POSITIVE that somewhere along the line, we share some familial DNA and we are FOR SURE related in some way, shape, or form.)

These kids have grown up together, but so have the adults.

And that’s where this post actually begins now that you’ll never get the past two minutes of your life back. My bad – but not really.

During our #wednesdaynighttradition this week, Geremy mentioned he read my New Year blog post, and that he just had to tell me that he feels that I’ve changed so much in the past year – for the good. I’ve become more confident in myself and who I am, unapologetic, and very much a badass motherfucker – language situation, y’all (maybe I should mention that the four of us use BAMF regularly in our vocab to describe our current life situations and the things we’ve accomplished in the past few years…).

Anyway, he’s not wrong. I have changed a lot in the past year. I have become so much more self-aware and confident. I know what I bring to the table, and I don’t make apologies for who I am and where I stand.

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And that made me realize something – when the three people you look up to and admire and respect most in the world all think you’ve grown so much in the past year, you take a look at what they’re talking about. I spent some time this morning reflecting on the conversation the four of us had about that, and it makes me want to share some of what I think helped me to grow in my confidence and my success over the course of the past year – their love, support, and sarcastic comments aside.

I’m always learning

At some point, it occurred to me that my failures are just learning curves. Perfection is overrated and unattainable, but perfectly imperfect is pretty darn awesome. I make mistakes, but you won’t hear much about them because they’re nothing more than a notation on the list of “things that taught me to do better,” in the future. If I make a mistake, believe me when I tell you that I’m owning that mistake. I don’t place blame. I don’t pretend that everyone else is wrong and I’m right, and I never assume I know everything. I make the mistake, I own the mistake, and I move on from the mistake with a newfound lesson in life that will help me grow and become better the next time around. And I apologize when I’m wrong.

If I’m happy, I don’t care if anyone else is happy

I recognize the harshness in that statement, but I don’t apologize for it. What I mean by this is being happy with myself is far more important to me than making other people happy. It’s important for me to like myself, but it’s not important for me to have others like me. I live by two mottos in life – the first is that what other people think of me is none of my business, and the second is that I just don’t care what other people think. It’s a waste of time and energy. If I cared what others thought of me, I’d spend my life very sad. Trust me – I’ve written well over 100,000 articles over the past 11 years since I began my business, and they’re posted online on dozens of client websites in which I have millions of monthly views. And with that comes the comments. The emails. The Facebook messages. The Instagram messages. The Pinterest messages. And most people aren’t nice.

In addition to that, I recognize how I look, the things I love, the way I speak and the way I behave – and I know it’s not for everyone. I get it – and I like it. I like me – a lot. If you don’t…that’s okay. You don’t have to. I don’t mind. The caveat here is that you have to stop worrying about other people, too. How other people live their lives is none of my business, and it’s not my concern other than to be happy for them when they’re happy.

I know the kind of person I want to be

I might like myself now, but I’m always looking to evolve, change, and grow as a person. I can always find something about myself I could improve upon. For example, 2018 was one of those years I learned a little bit about how easy it is to backslide into habits I thought I gave up in high school. Gossip, judgment, negativity. They can creep into your life in a quick second, and it took me a little longer than that to realize that I needed to get that in check and reel that in fast. I’m imperfect, but I can fix those things when I realize they’re a problem.

I know who I want to be, and that’s a good person. I love giving back. I love doing for others. I love people who do the same. I surround myself with the best of the best. Kind, humble, hardworking, successful, generous, hilarious, wonderful people who I’m so fortunate to call my own – because you become like the people you spend the most time with.

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And, you guys, I don’t want to be a petty, reactive, overdramatic, loud 4-year-old. Cute as they are, I spend most of my time with tiny humans who suck the soul right out of me when they’re not being sweet and cute and reminding me to let my inner child out (does she come with that inner child metabolism if I let her out? Because my kids have been doing nothing but snacking every 2.4 second this Christmas break and I could use some of their never-gain-a-pound situation).

I choose people who mimic the traits and qualities I love and admire the most, and then I learn from them every single day. I want to be more like them because they are the best of the best – and anyone who knows them will tell you the same. From my husband to our friends – I can honestly say that I have the best people in the world, and I know who I want to be is more like the kind of amazing people they are.

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I embrace whatever

My confidence is growing daily, and it’s because I embrace myself. I don’t mind being overdressed. I don’t mind being materialistic in many aspects of my life. I’m good because I embrace my situation. I don’t mind being a bitch, because I get stuff done. I don’t mind that I’m not ‘traditional’ in many aspects of my life. I don’t really cook or do laundry, but my husband is so good at it that it doesn’t matter. I embrace that. I embrace that my life doesn’t look a lot like everyone else’s. I embrace that my husband and I don’t have traditional careers or that I’m not much of a housewife.

I embrace that I have OCD tendencies that might make people raise their eyebrows. I embrace that I like things my way, all the time, and I’m not all that lenient about wanting it my way. I embrace that I like certain things, certain places, and certain creature comforts, and I’m okay with that. I embrace whatever I am, whoever I am, and whatever makes me happy. I have high expectations, and I don’t view that as a problem.

I choose to be happy

Life is not perfect, y’all. But it’s pretty damn great. While we sat at Wednesday night dinner this week, we were discussing our goals for the new year. None of us make resolutions, but we always have new goals – though we don’t just make goals in the new year. We make them all year, work on meeting them, exceeding them, and then working on new goals. It’s a thing (BAMF, anyone?). When my sweet friend, Corinna, made a comment about seeing all these people on social media making new year resolutions this week, she said she has a long list of goals to meet this year, but she doesn’t have resolutions because she likes how she looks, she likes how she feels, she likes her marriage, she likes her life, and she’s really happy where she is and she’s not looking to change any of that.

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It’s like she took the words right out of my mouth – probably why we are so close. But she’s right. When you choose to be happy where you are and with what you’re doing, it’s okay to not want to change your life. It’s okay to say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m good where I am. I like me. I like who I am,” and then make some goals and let it go. I like that.

In a nutshell, if you’re not surrounding yourself with people who are just so badass and awesome and you don’t respect them or admire them and they don’t respect and admire you in return, you might want to make it your goal this year to surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you every single day. It’s like I tell my kids – a friend is a person who will never utter a negative word about you when you get up and walk away from the table…they’ll walk with you.

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It’s not hard. 

Growth is not optional – it’s a requirement. If you’re not changing every single day to embrace a stronger, more confident, better you by auditing your life and spending less time with those things that don’t bring out the good in you and more time with the things and people who do, now is as good a time as any to get started. If you aren’t good with yourself right now, make a change. The most difficult part is getting started – once you realize the kind of freedom you have when you don’t worry about how other people feel about you and you stop focusing on other people instead of focusing on yourself, life is much sweeter.

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35 Things You Don’t Know About My Husband (The Man Behind the Scenes of Every Instagram Photo and Blog Post) in Honor of His 35th Birthday

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A Thursday blog post must mean something special is going on.

It is.

It’s the eve of the very handsome Mr. Raiford’s 35th birthday, and I love celebrating his birthday. He’s the best person I know, and I have no shame celebrating him daily. He’s the kind of man you can’t help but love, and everyone does. I’m almost positive they tolerate me only because they want more of him!

Tomorrow Craig turns 35, and this will be the 17th birthday I’ve had the good fortune to celebrate with him. We met on a kind-of blind date when we were 18. He was a freshman in college, and I was a senior in high school. I went home and broke up with my boyfriend that night because I knew this guy was The One.

And if you ask Raiford, I’m always right. Except when I’m not.

Turns out, I was right. We were engaged a year and-a-half later, married two years after that, planned our wedding, went to school, and built our first house all at the same time. We got married in 2005, and we’re going to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary this year. We have four beautiful but sometimes annoying kids, some bad days, a lot of really good days, and some serious magic. And I wouldn’t trade a second.

Craig is the man behind our family, the man who will do anything for anyone, and he is the man behind the camera and my blog. I talk about him a lot (well, we have fun together so why not?) and I thought I’d share 35 things you didn’t know about the man who is always happy to stand behind the scenes of not just me but our four kids and cheer us on, support us, and take care of us. But be careful because you’ll end up falling just a little bit in love with him, too.

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  1. He is an amazing cook, and he really loves to spend time in the kitchen. He loves to try new recipes and make new things – and he’s really, really good in the kitchen.
  2. He’s cuddly. When the alarm goes off at 5 am, he grabs me and pulls me as close as he can to him and won’t let me up until he’s had a few moments like that. It’s my favorite part of the day.
  3. He’s the one who wanted kids. I wasn’t sure. I like them, but I wasn’t sure I really wanted them. To be mostly honest, I still feel that way four deep! (Jokes, people, jokes)
  4. He went to every single doctor appointment I had during all three of my pregnancies. He never missed one and refused to miss one even when I told him he didn’t have to go. He wanted to.
  5. He never left my side in the hospital when any of our four kids were born unless I sent him out for something to eat when our visitors were gone for the night

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  1. He will do anyone for anything. Whatever you need, he’s going to help you no matter what. Sometimes this makes me a little crazy because he’s so bad at saying no, but it’s just who he is at the core of things.
  2. He’s funny. This man makes me laugh regularly.
  3. He’s the best daddy. I can talk about this forever and ever. He is the bath-giver, the diaper changer, the boo-boo fixer, the homework helper, the best hugger. The kids love him so much more than they love me, but I can’t even be mad about it because he’s just so good with them.
  4. Nothing irritates him as much as hearing another father call it “babysitting” when his wife goes somewhere and leaves him home with the kids. He believes that’s called parenting. And he’s right.
  5. He might hear half of what I say. But I’m long-winded, and only about half of what I have to say is even remotely interesting or halfway intelligent the way I ramble – so he’s good.

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  1. He always brings me flowers. Even though I buy three or four dozen flowers a week to keep in our house, he still brings me flowers every time he goes out, and he still sends me flowers periodically even though we have so many all the time.
  2. He dates me regularly. He plans a sitter, makes dinner reservations, and he takes me out. He even makes sure the kids don’t come into the bathroom and interrupt me while I get ready so it feels like a real date.
  3. He always opens the door for me and any other woman or child.
  4. He’s a serious gentleman.
  5. He doesn’t yell. Like…ever. He talks loudly when he gets excited or when we’re watching football, but I can’t get this man to engage with me when I’m in a total bitch mode no matter how hard I try. He just doesn’t yell.

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  1. He hates to read. His one flaw.
  2. He doesn’t snore, but he breathes loudly when he sleeps. So I guess that’s two flaws.
  3. He cleans his ears every single day. I think this is weird. Is this weird? Or am I weird? Anyone?
  4. I think he might think I’m a little bit crazy with my obsessive need for total cleanliness in our home and in my car all the time, but he never says a word about it. He just grabs the vacuum every night and runs it over all the rugs, and he grabs the ShopVac and vacuums out my car anytime we take the kids anywhere.
  5. He loves to stick Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the freezer and share them with me when they freeze.
  1. He doesn’t love it when I use too many tomatoes in any recipe.
  2. The twins love the go upstairs at bedtime and hide from daddy every single night in the exact same places. He waits patiently downstairs until they’ve had time to hide, walks up, pretends he can’t see them, and feigns sheer terror when they jump out and scream boo. They giggle like crazy every single time, and he never lets them down.
  3. He packs all the school lunches.
  4. He is the calm, cool, collected person in our marriage.
  5. He drives slow, he’s not aggressive, and 90% of our arguments start in the car when he won’t pass someone or tailgate them or he stops me from leaning over him to lay on the horn and make obscene gestures at them.

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  1. He has such amazing work ethic. He is dedicated to his job, and he loves what he does. He spent 15 years with a bank, and he fell out of love with his job when the bank merged with another. He was offered a new job almost 2 years ago allowing him to work 100% from home from a company he had business dealings with for many years, and he took it. I’ve never seen this man as happy as he’s been since he began working with this company. He is so good at what he does, and he never lets a problem go until he’s able to fix it for his customers.
  2. He’s so book smart. Sometimes his common sense takes a quick vacation, though. Don’t worry – I utilize every possible opportunity to give him a hard time and make fun of him when he does things like wonder why we are standing in a long line of people to take the stairs from the 11th floor of a hotel rather than the empty elevator when the fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night. 😊
  3. He’d prefer to be outside 100% of the time whenever possible, especially if it’s with the kids.
  4. He and I have the exact same travel taste, and he’s the best person to travel with.
  5. He is the man behind the phrase, “Never marry a man unless you’d be proud to have a son just like him,”. He is the most amazing example to our son, and to our daughters. He’s kind, loving, patient, generous, respectful. He’s such a good role model.
  1. He rarely gets dressed. He wore a shirt and tie for 15 years with the bank. Now he’s in an Under Armour shirt and shorts all day everyday unless we leave the house. It’s his favorite part of life.
  2. He does all the laundry in our house.
  3. He makes the best filet mignon ever. We have filet Friday in our house (unless we have plans Friday and it’s Filet Sunday) and he does the most spectacular job. I can’t even order filet when we go anywhere anymore because it’s always a disappointment in comparison.
  4. He is a diehard Florida Gator. He’s never missed a game, win, lose, out of the continental United States 6 hours behind in Hawaii watching a 3 pm game at 9 am…when we’re good, when we are bad, he’s a diehard.
  5. He has to buy all of his own shoes. His feet are like 8 different sizes depending on what brand, what type, and what style shoe he’s wearing. Even he can’t figure out size he wears without trying things on.

Now you know my sweet husband a little better. If you’re still not sure who he is, just know he is the nicest person you’ll ever meet. He’s the guy who stands outside in the freezing cold in shorts and a tee shirt and no shoes to get the perfect OOTD picture for my Instagram feed. He’s the guy who never misses an opportunity to throw the football with our son and our daughters or sit down and watch Wheel of Fortune with our two oldest while letting them solve the puzzles first because they get so excited.

That’s the guy I married – and I love every sweet, kind, annoying, frustrating, funny, strange, amazing thing about him. Happy Birthday, love. Thank you for picking me to be the girl you spend all your birthdays with.

Three Insanely Motivational Podcasts that Will Change Your Life

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I have this serious thing with sarcasm, wit, and intelligence. A good mixture of all three really brings me such joy and entertainment, and I find it applies to every aspect of my life. I don’t particularly care to spend time with people who don’t appreciate all three – not that there’s anything wrong with people who don’t care for the same things as I. If you’re a little sarcastic, very witty, and you’re smart – you’re my people.

And that applies to everything, especially when it comes to my self-development. This year has really been a year of self-development and growth for me. I’m taking the business I’ve grown over the past 9 years and expanding it into territories that make me nervous (my personal blog and openness with the world, for instance), growing my client base even though I don’t have the time for that, and really taking things even bigger and better than they are; at least, that’s the plan.

One thing I made the decision to do this year is focus on personal development. It occurred to me that all the little people in my house are all growing, and growing with them is something I really wanted to try. More focused time with the kids. More personal time with my husband. More free time to make spontaneous decisions. More deliberate choices so we aren’t missing out on the things we really want to do with our lives.

Personal growth – for me – has certainly meant spending more time with God, saying extra prayers, and really putting a focus on myself. What don’t I like about me? What can I change about myself to grow and set a better example for my kids? If I were to meet me tomorrow, what would I think of myself? Overall, I like me – I mean, shouldn’t we all like ourselves? But there are a few minor tweaks I’d like to make, and I’ve been working on those this year.

That said, I’ve found spending time with me each day has been imperative to that change. I can’t do it alone – and things like yoga, quiet time, and listening to some serious killer (hashtag) bossbabes and women I really find inspirational, powerful, and kick-ass have all been so good to me this year.

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I’ve finally learned about the Podcast. It’s nothing new – but it’s new to me. I’ve been listening for a few months to a few podcasts, and I’m loving them. Listen, I get to laugh, learn, and listen, and I always leave a podcast with a new sense of inspiration, motivation, and purpose – and I love that.

Also, it helps to throw in my earbuds in the car to drown out the endless, insufferable, torturous sounds of Anna and Elsa and Olaf and Kristoff, and that irritating little bastard Prince Hans. I mean, the movie is spectacularly adorable, but listening to it play on a loop in my car for the past 700 years will be the death of me.

If you are dying for something new and witty and sarcastic and straight intelligent to listen to in order to drown out the sounds of torturous children’s movies grow personally, let me recommend my favorite podcasts. You won’t find better.

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Becoming Fearless Podcast – Style Collective by Annie Spano

This is my favorite to date. Annie is so open, so much like me in terms of her Type-A, plan it out, think it through, and work hard to make it happen kind of personality. She interviews some of the most inspirational and amazing women imaginable. They’re from all walks of life, with different backgrounds, and different educational paths, thoughts, and insights – and they’re all total badasses. You can’t help but listen and leave inspired.

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Skinny Confidential Him & Her Podcast – by Lauryn Evarts Bosstick

Lauryn is so unapologetically herself. She wants what she wants, and she’s not afraid to get it. She’s fab, and I love her podcast. She and her husband talk to guests, they talk to one another, and they have so much insight into the world of business and motivation, and their repartee is always entertaining. There is always something to take away from every podcast episode – but it’s not always what you assume you’ll take away.

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She Did it Her Way – by Amanda Boleyn 

This is such a good podcast for anyone who is looking for inspiration and motivation. Each of the guests is able to provide a unique outlook on the world of entrepreneurship and business, and the lessons you take from each episode are so unique, yet they apply to every aspect of your own life. How can you even beat that?

What are you listening to, reading, or using to develop your own personal growth and mindset this year? I’d love to hear some recommendations!

To-Do List Disaster: Handling Life When the To-Do List is Too Long for Comfort

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I love a checklist of things to do. I crush the art of crossing things out and checking them off. I feel a little like superwoman every time I do it. In all honesty, if I’m feeling unmotivated, behind, or even as if my list is too short on any given day, I’ll start throwing extras on there just so I can check them off and feel a little bit more like a badass.

  • Brush my teeth – CHECK
  • Put on pants – CHECK
  • Kiss my husband good morning – CHECK
  • Drive the kids to school – DONE

I have issues, I know.

My to-list is my favorite thing on my desk. It keeps me organized. It keeps me sane. It allows me to sort out the millions of things going on in my brain that my body cannot seem to keep up with otherwise. I need my check list, my agenda, my calendars, and my schedule. The make me happy. Probably happier than things like this should make me, but there’s no shame in my game, friends.

My favorite part of my day comes at 3 pm when I shut down for the day (most days). I turn off my computer and iPad, I close up shop in my home office, and I take out my agenda, calendar, and to-do list. I create my plan for the following day so when I get started at 5 am, my A-game is strong.

Now that I see this in writing, I know I have issues; and I’m probably a bit of a nerd. Oh, well.

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Sometimes, though, my to-do list and calendar get a little bit too crazy. May is one of those months. It’s been crazy. Four weekends in a row out of town living in hotels meant three weekends of packing and unpacking and being off-schedule. The last week of school means too many activities to handle, another trip out-of-state and one weekend at home this month has made me feel a little overwhelmed. My client list is longer than ever – and it’s long in general – and my deadlines are tighter than ever.

The other day I sat down on the floor in my master bedroom and cried my eyes out. Not because I’m upset or unhappy, but because I’m overwhelmed. It’s a good overwhelmed. Health, well, and happiness are abundant in my house, so I’m not complaining. But sometimes I do this thing where I overextend myself and a good cry is what I need.

I felt good when I got it all out, washed my face, and reapplied my makeup (that’ll happen when you catch a glimpse of yourself and your makeup after a good cry). Now I’m back on my A-game, crushing things left and right, and feeling as though I don’t celebrate my successes nearly enough (more on that another day, though). It reminded me that sometimes we all get a little overwhelmed, a little out-of-sorts, and sometimes we just need a gentle reminder from someone who knows all too well how that feels how to get back on track.

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Take A Break

You aren’t getting anything done when you’re all aflutter with stress and feelings of being overwhelmed, so take a break. My go-to is either a trip to the gym, a lunch date with the handsome man I married, or a half hour sitting on my back deck in the hot sun pretending to get a tan and reading a book. I cannot tell you how much more relaxed I feel after I spend a little time doing something for me.

Cry It Out

Y’all, crying is a good thing. What’s that Pinterest saying? Something about how crying helps you see things more clearly or something to that effect. Anyway, it’s true. When I am overwhelmed, I sit down on the floor (because it’s more dramatic and Oscar-worthy) and cry it out. When I’m done, I feel much better. Word of advice – bypass the mirror when you’re done.

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Break Down Your To-Do List

Mine gets crazy sometimes, so I’ll break it down into smaller tasks that are easier to accomplish. The more I check off, the more badass I feel. The more badass I feel, the more I get done. The less time I have to do things when I set a goal, the more I actually get done.

Don’t Stop

I like my schedule. I love it, honestly. I love working for me and only me, creating my own schedule, and really just not answering to anyone else. It’s my jam. I always dreamed of being my own boss so I’d never miss a school performance, a holiday, a moment with the kids, or anything else important in their lives or even my own. But sometimes, I have to make myself work a little harder a little longer.

I might like to end my day at 3 pm so I can get my kids from school and spend the rest of the day doing the mom/wife thing, but it’s not always possible. A few days a month, I find myself back in the office when they’re home and in bed handling a few more things. Sometimes a longer day is necessary, and not stopping is what it takes. I have to remind myself that if I make today long and arduous, tomorrow I’ll thank myself for it – because if there is one sacrifice I am not ever willing to make, it’s spending time on the weekends working in my office. Weekends are for my family, and that’s not something I’m willing to sacrifice.

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Laugh it Out

Truth be told, sometimes I don’t get over it when I cry. Sometimes I don’t get it all done. I know my limits, and I know that I have some amazing people in my life. I make sure there’s always a fun friends event or date night on the calendar every week so I know I have an evening of serious laughter and good times ahead. Even when I’m not in the mood, it’s exactly what I always need to inspire me and motivate me to get back to badass.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed or like your to-do list is too long? Do you let it get to you, or do you handle it like a boss?