A Little Bit of Everything

We’ve got lists, we’ve got advice, we’ve got, well, a little bit of everything.

10 More Newsletters You Should Add to Your Inbox

A couple years ago I posted this blog about the newsletters you might want to consider adding to your inbox. And since I am a (self proclaimed) newsletter addict, I thought I’d do another round.

I am always on the hunt for a good newsletter. I love the short format, the concise information, and the often thought-provoking content.

They add some happy things to my inbox, and perhaps give me the smallest freedom to *curate* it.

So, if you’re looking for something new, here are a few suggestions:

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1) Half Baked Harvest

Frequency: Depends on which emails you sign up for

I am subscribed to both her new recipe posts (which come a few times a week), and her “Nine Favorite Things” post that comes in on Sundays. Her recipes are easy to follow and the pictures she posts alongside them are GORGEOUS. I can also confirm that her food is delicious. I made these cauliflower pizzas and loved them. Her “Nine Favorite Things” post is a fun assortment of beauty, clothing, travel and podcast recommendations. I love both!

Find it here.

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2) The Art of Noticing

Frequency: Every Monday

I mentioned this one is a previous favorites post, but I had to include it on this list too. It encourages you—just likes the name implies—to notice the world around you. Both the big things and the small things. I love this one and I always set aside time to read and absorb it each week.

Find it here.

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3) More to That

Frequency: Sporadic

This is another one previously recommended but again, it is worth re-mentioning. This is not so much a newsletter as it is an occasional, long form blog. Each issue has a specific theme and message, along with cute and informative animations that act as visual aids. These posts always leave me thoughtful and reflective and I feel better having read them.

Find it here.

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4) Book Freak

Frequency: About every other week

This newsletter chooses one self help book per issue and gives you quotes and/or advice from that particular book. I like it because it gives you a glimpse into what you will get if you choose to read that book, and it gives you access to some meaningful quotes that, alone, might leave you filled up and inspired.

Find it here.

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5)  What’s in my…?

Frequency: Weekly

This one is for everyone out there (like me) who is NOSEY. Each week someone sends a list of things that they have in their purse/on their desk/in their office/in their refrigerator, etc., and I love it. I feel like people are letting me peek into their lives without feeling intrusive, and I am always up for a product recommendation or two.

Find it here.

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6) A Thing or Two

Frequency: Every Monday

Speaking of product recommendations, this newsletter always has me opening up 15 internet tabs, as it’s full of everything you could imagine. There are recommendations ranging from art, home décor, podcasts, albums, plants, flowers, jewelry, clothing, anything and everything Clare and Erica (the writers) are loving that week. Big fan.

Find it here.

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7) We Like L.A.

Frequency: Mondays & Thursdays

This one unfortunately only applies to my friends who live in the LA area, but that’s not to say there isn’t one out there for your city too. Each week and weekend it sends a list of activities, opportunities, etc. going on in the area, and while I don’t always have time to check everything (or, at times, anything) out, I like being in the know. I like hearing about all the fun things people are planning and doing, especially after going through two years when neither of those things were happening.

Find it here.

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8) USPS Informed Delivery

Frequency: Everyday (except Sunday)

For all of my US friends, you might already know this, but I did not until a couple years ago. You can sign up to have the post office send you a digital preview of your mail each day! It doesn’t show you what is in the envelope, obviously, but it shows you the front of the envelope so you can get an idea of who it’s from and whether or not you have to make a trip to the mailbox that day. This can be especially helpful if you live in an apartment or condo and your mailbox isn’t right outside your door.

Find it here.

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9) Vulture Crossword

Frequency: Every weekday

This is my most recent find and I have been loving it. I have always loved crossword puzzles and this is a super fun, relatively easy daily puzzle that is based in pop culture trivia. It’s been a fun addition to my morning routine and helps wake my brain up.

Find it here.

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10) All the -rdle’s

Frequency: Daily

And finally, this one isn’t a newsletter but can act like one if you work it into your morning routine. You may or may not have heard of Wordle, the word game that asks you to guess a five letter word each day, and always sets Twitter on fire after a particularly hard one. Well, after Wordle, came a world of other “rdle’s” that tried to generate the same kind of hype. And in my case, they did. I like to do the Wordle first, then I play Quordle, which asks you to guess four five letter words simultaneously, and then I play Heardle, which asks you to guess a song based on the first 15 seconds. I usually try to do these each day, but I have also noticed that I come and go in streaks. I will do them every day for a week and then completely forget they exist for two weeks. But hey, it’s all about balance. And I like that there is an online code of sorts—you never reveal the answer (especially to the Wordle) so no one accidentally runs into a spoiler before they’ve had time to do it.

You can find Wordle here. Quordle here. And Heardle here.


Have any newsletters that you would recommend?

You can also check out my initial list of recommendations here.

How to Pray for Other People When You Don’t Know What to Say

Prayer, to me, is very special, but it’s also something that I’m still learning a lot about.

I am not that comfortable with praying in front of other people, and so I mostly do it in private. Sometimes I will pray aloud and other times I like to write out my prayers, both in a journal and in word documents on the computer—sometimes I feel like I can better get my thoughts out that way.

Even so, sometimes I feel like I’m not saying everything I want to—everything I need to. And when it comes to praying for other people, I have often felt completely unqualified. I have heard prayers (spoken both over me and others) that seem to have just the right words. They hit all the right marks, speak to all the important issues, and leave everyone feeling filled up with hope.

So even though I’ve grown comfortable with my own style of prayer, I have wanted to improve upon my prayers for others. And lately, I have come across a lot of people to pray for. People I know directly, people I know through others, and people I have seen on tv or read about online. There has seemingly been this big sign everywhere I look saying: PRAY FOR THEM! And so naturally I have been throwing my arms up in the air and saying, “I DON’T KNOW HOW.”

In the past, I might have just let the prayer requests pass me by. But this year I have felt the pull to pray stronger than ever before.

So, I started making a list.

Whenever someone asked for prayer, or when I saw a friend or acquaintance or complete stranger that I thought needed prayer, I would put their name on a list on my iPhone, and then, occasionally, I’d glance at it.

This counts, I thought to myself.

I was intentionally keeping their names at the front of my mind, I was making God a checklist that he could run down, and thus, I was praying for people.

While I don’t necessarily think this is incorrect, I quickly began to feel like it wasn’t enough. I was being called to do more. To pray more.

So, I started reading their names out loud.

I would say a name and then mention the reasons that person needed prayer. But then, like before, I felt self-conscious that I wasn’t saying enough or that I wasn’t praying the “right” prayer.

But then I realized that God already knows the right prayer. He knows exactly what that person needs, and he knows exactly why I put their name on my list. I don’t have to know or say the “perfect” prayer for it to be a meaningful one. And I can’t let the fear of not saying the “right” words keep me from saying any at all.

So, I wrote “the name prayer.”

It is not the only prayer I pray, but it is one that I pray often. It helps me stick to a prayer routine, and it cuts out a lot of the self-consciousness that I’ve previously felt while trying to pray for other people. When I find a moment of stillness and silence—which for me is often right before bed—I will read this prayer aloud, followed by the names on my list.

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Dear God,

I lift up each person on this list. They are all on here for different reasons and all need different prayers. So I pray that as I say their names you would hear the prayer they need. I pray that you would comfort those who need comforting, heal those who need healing, and draw close those who feel lost. I pray that you meet each and every person where they are, where they need you most, and that you would fill them with hope and surround them with love.

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If you need prayer today, I’d be happy to pray for you. You don’t have to explain why, or know how to express the exact prayer you need, just simply leave a comment with your name and I will add you to my list.

And if you are looking for an easy way to start praying for other people, this might be a great place to start. Open a note on your iPhone and make a list, look (and listen) for people who need prayer, and simply speak their name alongside this prayer. God will know what they need. God will do the rest. ❤

My Google Search History (Part 6)

If I’m being honest, I truly thought I was “getting better” at not hoarding internet windows on my phone. I don’t know what gave me this impression—aside from perhaps blind optimism—but when I lost an internet window I was looking at because it got shuffled into the 67 other open windows, it was clear that I was mistaken.

*sigh*

Oh well.

Here are some notable searches from this round of hoarding:

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1) How many currencies are there in circulation?

Why I Googled this: Sometimes questions just pop into your head for no reason and you have to know the answer—which in this case is 180.

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2) How many earthquakes happen every day?

Why I Googled this:  My family has felt way more earthquakes than usual over the last few months and we weren’t sure if this is because more are happening or if quarantine’s sedentary nature has simply made us more aware of them. As a result, both my mom and sister have download earthquake tracking apps, and consistently update me on what’s happening in Southern California and around the world. It should also be noted that my sister seems to have developed what I have started referring to as “quake-sense,” as she can seemingly feel an every earthquake, no matter how small it is. So I guess if 2020 brought us anything, it’s a sixth sense for my sister.

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3) Canceled or cancelled?

Why I Googled this: While driving one day I saw a sign stating that an upcoming concert had been canceled, but canceled was spelled “cancelled”, and I made a passing comment about the editor’s clear lack of spellcheck. But then when I started to think about it, both seemed correct, and when I did a Google search, I found that both are correct. Apparently “canceled” is more common in American English while “cancelled” is more common in British English. While typing this, I honestly can’t decide which one looks more correct and I honestly have no idea how I’ve written it for my entire American life, especially when “cancellation” has two L’s. So excuse me while I have a minor identity crisis.

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4) Birds in clothes

Why I Googled this: It was late. A couple friends and I were talking about my sister’s fear of birds and the question came up of whether birds would be more or less scary in clothes. You can decide for yourself:

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5) Knock you naked brownies

Why I Googled this: Because once you hear about this recipe in passing, you have to find out what all the fuss is about. In my case, I just copied the link and politely sent it to my sister because she is the baker in the family. And while I can truthfully say that I did remain clothed while consuming these brownies, they were in fact delicious.

You can find the recipe here.

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6) Stefan Tiger King meme

Why I Googled this: After weeks of refusing to watch the widely talked about documentary Tiger King, my sister and I eventually gave in. Shortly after we finished, I came across this meme, which not only called on one of my favorite SNL characters of all time, but gave a hilariously accurate summary of the chaos we had just witnessed.

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7) Which “character” are you personality quiz

Why I Googled this: My sister heard about this quiz that compares your personality to characters found in popular movies and television shows and then gives you your closest match. Obviously, I had to know.

You can find the quiz here.

You can also find more personality tests in this blog post from last week.

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8) “Shitting the old block”

Why I Googled this: While on a zoom call, my cousin told me a story that included this phrase, which she used as a hybrid of “making something up” and “talking shit.” I immediately flinched and asked her to repeat it because 1) I was 99% sure this wasn’t a phrase and 2) if it was a phrase, I wanted to get on board. As of now, the internet claims it doesn’t exist, though everything has to start somewhere.

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9) Rocking chair

Why I Googled this: I have absolutely no idea. Did I want a rocking chair? Was I curious of how much they cost? Had I temporarily forgot what a rocking chair was? The world may never know.

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10) Stodgy

Why I Googled this: My sister and I have recently gotten into a British cooking show on Netflix called “The Big Family Cookoff,” and sometimes the judges make comments regarding the dishes using words we’ve never heard before. “Stodgy” is defined as “heavy, filling and high in carbohydrates”—or what I would probably describe as “dense.”

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11) Hummingbird mating ritual

Why I Googled this: My mom had mentioned to me that a hummingbird kept showing up in the backyard and flying in these big, sweeping patterns and so we took to Google to figure out why. According to this article, when courting a female, a male hummingbird will do “insane aerial moves to show her how strong, controlled, and just general fantastic he is.” So, go off, Mr. Hummingbird. Get your girl.

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12) Would You Rather questions

Why I Googled this: It’s summer now, which means (at least in my family) there will be a lot of barbecuing in the backyard while talking, drinking and watching the sun go down. And sometimes it’s fun to throw curveballs into the conversation. One night I scrolled through this list of questions and my family and I spoke animatedly about how we would answer them. Our favorite (and most dividing) question: Would you rather find your true love or a suitcase with five million dollars inside?

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13) How to water a prayer plant?

Why I Googled this: My dad gifted me a prayer plant a few months back and I have been desperately trying to keep it alive. Though, if you read this post from a few weeks back, you’ll know this is not necessarily my specialty. Nonetheless, I’m trying my best.

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14) Trapper Keeper

Why I Googled this: Some friends and I were talking about school supplies and someone mentioned having a “trapper keeper.” The name didn’t sound familiar and instead sent me on a tangent thinking about “tracker jackers,” which are genetically engineered wasps mentioned in the Hunger Games trilogy. Upon seeing pictures, I realized I did know what they were, however, I had no idea that is what they are called.

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15) Corfu

Why I Googled this: Because nothing makes you want to travel more than being temporarily banned from traveling. And because the pictures are pretty and when I close my eyes I can almost pretend I’m there instead of at work.

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And just like that, all my internet windows were closed again.

Until next time.

Because let’s be honest there will probably always be a next time.


 

You can read the previous episode of this series here. 

If You Have Time to Kill, Take These Personality Tests (Part Two)

One of my favorite ways to kill time—quarantine or not—is to take personality tests. I love unlocking new sections of my mind, gaining a new understanding of my psyche and defending myself against results that seem too dead on to be possible.

So, if you are looking to get to know yourself (or your friends and family, your dog or maybe a houseplant you’ve started openly talking to at this point) a little better, and start arguments that are sure to expedite the time between sleep and snacks, take these tests for a spin.

You can also check out this post from last year with even more personality tests, including one that tells you what kind of potato you are, which I personally think is a VERY important thing to know.

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1) What character are you?

This will tell you which fictional character you are most like.

My Result: Rosalind Walker

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Also, if you scroll down and click “show all” next to full match list, it gives you 800 other characters that you bear some resemblance to. I highlighted a few of my favorite top matches:

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And a few that I was very glad to be very dissimilar to:

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Find the test here.

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2) Visual DNA Test

This test uses images in the place of text for you to choose from to answer each question. (And to be honest gives you scary accurate results.)

My Result: The Olympian

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Find the test here.

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3) Color Personality Test

This test asks you to select colors first based on your most favorite to least favorite, and then least favorite to most favorite. I have absolutely no idea how it calculates your personality from this, but science is weird.

My Result:

Color test results

Find the test here.

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4) See My Personality IQ Test

This test will make you feel like you are back in school again, which for me was not extremely enjoyable, but it was fun to stretch my brain a little.

My Result: 119

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Find the test here.

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5) Which artificial flavor are you?

This test gives an answer you’ve clearly been looking for.

My Result: Blue raspberry

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Find the test here.

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Once again, I cannot and will not claim any responsibility for any emotional confusion/identity crises that may result in the taking of these quizzes. However, it is worth stating that blue raspberry is the best flavor of Jolly Rancher without any competition at all. So I personally I am walking away feeling pretty good today.

Some Haikus Written By All the Plants I’ve Killed

I have a terrible track record when it comes to plants—especially house plants.

I don’t know if it is where I put them (probably not), the hot environment I live in (eh), how I water them (maybe), or if it’s just me (definitely), but I just kill them left and right. Even the “low maintenance”, “hearty”, “unkillable” plants. Once I get my hands on them, they die. It might not be immediate, but it also isn’t a long, drawn out process. I will consistently have a strong first week—or longer—in which I have time to get cocky and brag about my incredible plant child and how I am keeping it alive with my bare hands (and water), and then everything goes downhill very fast.

Eventually I’m knee deep in Google articles all telling me the yellowing of my leaves is caused by something different, and then I start putting my plant in different corners of the room, watering it more, watering it less, whispering sweet nothings to it, apologizing to it, giving up on it, finding a second wind and dedicating my entire life to it, deciding I need to approach it from different angles, occasionally lifting it up so the pot it’s in can “stretch its legs”, panicking as all the leaves start to wither, smothering it with even more water, sunlight and attention until ultimately, it meets the fate of all of its brothers and sisters that came before.

So, to remember and honor those that have been murdered by me fallen, I decided to give them a voice. To allow them to express themselves and their woes about having me as a plant mom. I am also hoping this might impress my current houseplant (who I’ve named Esther) and encourage her to stay alive.

Please, E, I’m trying my best.

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I am new, alive

Ready to grow, blossom, bloom

Wow, you killed me quick

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I need more sunlight

My leaves, my soil, they are parched

Scorched, drowned, I am dead

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Your words, they are kind

Your efforts, they are noble

But you suck at this

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Some have thumbs dipped green

Some have hands purposed for soil

You have neither, dear

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I have slipped your mind

Unwatered for days and days

I die, you TikTok

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Water, a life force

Water, a true source of hope

Waterboarded: me

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Maybe leave me be

Give me time and space to grow

Helicopter mom

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Fate has many paths

With you, it seems mine is set

Do plants go to heaven?

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Leaves, water, pots, dirt

Sunlight, temperature, food

What? I am a plant.

Why Finding Your Own Voice Can Help Everyone

Not too long ago, I did a thorough cleaning of my house in which I gave away things I didn’t use, threw away things that were broken, and, more than anything, found things I forgot I had. One such thing was a book called “Music Listography,” which I’m pretty sure I impulse bought from Target, and seeing as its copyright is from 2009, it’s safe to say I bought it a while ago.

The point of the book is to flip through the pages and fill in the music related prompts with lists of songs, bands, concerts, albums, etc, until you have a kind of music autobiography (or listography) of your life. It’s a cool idea, and the creator, Lisa Nola, has a whole series of “listography” books to help you create a simplified, listified story of your life.

Looking at it now, I have no doubt why I bought. And to be honest, there is a part of me tempted to add the rest of the series to my Amazon cart as I write this. For as a writer, it is not only important, but vital to me to constantly get to know myself—what I like, what I dislike, what I’m working towards, and what I believe in—because it helps me continue to write, which in turn helps me understand myself, the world around me, and where I fit in it.

Perhaps one of the most important things we can do with our lives is understand it. Not understand the who’s and how’s of everything and everyone around us, but the what’s and why’s of our own personalities, beliefs, behaviors, and dreams. It is important to know where we stand, and to discern and feel confident about our opinions, from music to politics to religion, and everywhere in between.

We are all born into different families and different circumstances, in different environments with different obstacles. That gives us each a unique perspective. We all have our own reasons to believe in what we believe in, and different motivations to fight for what we fight for. So it is crucial to get to know ourselves and accept ourselves, so that we may be better equipped to know and accept others. In knowing where we stand and what we believe, we are given the opportunity to talk to other people from a place of confidence and grace, rather than fear and defensiveness. It also gives us the opportunity to see a new side of things, to explore a new avenue of thinking, and perhaps even change our mind.

So as our world continues to demand change, I have made it a mission of mine to learn all that I can about the world I live in, about all the sides of it that I know and all the sides I don’t. I’m looking at different perspectives, listening to different stories, and hearing different voices. In doing so, I am getting a better idea of who I am, what I believe and how my unique voice can help advocate for this much needed change.

The day I bought that “Music Listography” book I know it was from a place of longing. I wanted to fill the book out, but I wanted to do it in a way that would be impressive to others. While I was curious about “who I was” I was more concerned with whether that person was cool. Today, as I flip through the pages, I have a much clearer idea of how I would actually fill them out, and I might even go through and cross out the answers that were so clearly reaching. For now I know the music that moves me, and I know the reasons why. And though a small part of me will always want to be “cool” I don’t want it at the expense of being honest—not just in the context of this book but in every aspect of my life.

I truly want to know and be known, so I will keep learning, keep growing, and keep listening. I will keep asking questions, not only to get an answer, but to hear the many answers until I find one that aligns with who I am and what I believe in. I will share the things that give me comfort in the hopes it can comfort others, and I will share the things that make me uncomfortable to find out why, and to see if I can help change them.

I also think it’s important to note that we all fight on different stages and at different volumes. So as we work to figure out who we are and where we stand, let us also discover how we were made to stand. It might not be in the same place, in the same spotlight, or in the same style as those we know—even those we share beliefs with. And that is okay. We all have a unique voice and a unique way to share it, and so long as we keep working to find that voice, find the honesty in it, the fight behind it, and how we can best use it, we will find our way to not only stand, but create lasting change.

A Little Miyagi Reminder

To continue off of Monday’s post a little…

My mom recently sent me a video of my brother from a few years back when he was speaking at our church. I wrote about it shortly after it happened in this post, but it struck a chord with me as I watched it again and thought it was worth bringing back up.

In his message, my brother talks about The Karate Kid—the original, not the remake, he makes sure to specify—and about the familiar scenes of Mr. Miyagi “training Daniel to fight” by making him wax the car, paint the fence and scrub the floor. And about how, when Daniel blows his top and demands Mr. Miyagi actually teach him how to fight, he realizes, he already had.

Applying this lesson to present day, for a few months now our lives have felt like they were essentially on hold. Many goals we had set for ourselves, dreams we were working towards and plans we had in motion were brought almost to a complete halt. And for many of us, this has not only been discouraging, but at times completely defeating.

I know I feel like I’ve lost a lot of momentum in certain areas of my life, and maybe even taken a few fearful steps backwards when I’d previously been trying to courageously move forward. Sometimes I worry that these months of doing what feels like nothing, learning what feels like nothing, and going what feels like nowhere, have put me on a path I can’t recover from. Like I’ve wasted my time, lost my way, and won’t find my way back in time do what I need to do in order to live a good and successful life.

But then, what if the things I’m doing or places I’m going or things I’m learning, maybe in books, movies, television shows, crafts, yoga, walks around the neighborhood, quiet mornings to myself, YouTube videos, late night talks with my sister, long, honest text conversations with close friends, anything and everything that I’ve been doing over these last few months—maybe it is those things that are shaping me and molding me and teaching me everything I need to know in order to move forward. In order to find that momentum again—maybe in a direction I wouldn’t have gone before, with a perspective I’ve never had before.

There are struggles to be had, both now and in the months to come, but there are benefits to that struggle. There are things we will learn that will help us become who we were meant to be and live the lives we were meant to live.

We are all being Miyagi-ed, even if we can’t see it yet.

A Little Prayer for You (And Me)

Praying has never been my strong suit.

Ever since I was little I have been taught the value, importance, and power in praying, but I have never been a “good” (eloquent, confident, etc.) prayer, especially out loud or in front of other people.

But lately I have been feeling like I want to pray, for those who have faith, for those who don’t, for those who have a different faith or any degree of spirituality, anyone and everyone who might be reading this, or even those who aren’t.

Ironically, after starting this post about a week ago and then getting too nervous to post it, the pastor of my church gave a sermon all about praying. I was caught off guard listening to him, noting how some points he made seemed to directly address the fears I was having, but I was also encouraged to take a step out of my comfort zone, which brings me here today. So, if you, or anyone you know might need prayer, this is for you, and for me, and for all of us trying to find our way through this trying time.

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Dear God,

I know these last few months have been difficult for most of us, some of us more than others. And I know that I am among so many when I say that I am not just scared of what is happening now, but what could happen, tomorrow or the next day or the next—all the days ahead of us that seem so scary and unknown. There is still so much we have to learn, so far we have to go until we can regain a sense of normalcy, and the imposed limitations have begun to feel suffocating. And so, I pray that we can find a sense of peace. A calmness that doesn’t blind us or numb us to the challenges ahead, but keeps us encouraged to work through them and help one another along the way.

I pray for a peace that abides on the frontlines, bringing confidence and endurance to our nurses, doctors, and frontline workers, helping them find strength and encouragement in their work.

I pray for a peace that reaches those struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction, or any number of mental health struggles that may be exacerbated by this pandemic and its side effects.

I pray for a peace that can overshadow the panic and fears associated with losing a job or being unable to do one’s job efficiently, and can provide courage to those who need to ask for help.

I pray for a peace that can heal the hearts of those who have lost a loved one or who don’t get to see their loved ones for fear of putting them at risk.

I pray for a peace that can keep us united, even as we step further into the unknown. And I pray that we can find compassion and strength alongside each other rather than at odds with one another.

I pray for a peace that can illuminate good moments of mundane days. Whether it be a phone call, a successful pastry bake in the kitchen, a sunset, a smile, or a cool breeze.

I pray for a peace that can give us each a long, deep breath, and encourage us to keep going, along with a confidence that there is not only goodness to be found up ahead, but even right here, where we are.

Amen.

In Case You’re Looking for Some Happy

These days I think we should all be on the lookout for things that bring us joy, peace, happiness, or just a break from everything else, and then share those things with our friends, family, or online acquaintances, so that they too can get a little piece of that peace, you know?

So, if you’re in the market for some happy, here are a few places I’ve found some.

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My Puzzle

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Yes, that puzzle that I wrote a fake article about last week. Sure, it brings me moments of great frustration and devastation, but for the most part I absolutely love sitting on the couch on putting it together. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something, and it lets me think about nothing for a while.

I’m not sure if my specific puzzle is still available for purchase, but there is an entire section on Amazon of the same brand and they all look great!

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Spring

My sister and I have been trying to go on walks at least once a week, especially now that the weather has been warmer. We’ve walked a different route each time, discovering different parts of our neighborhood and finding all of the pretty houses, gardens, and trees they have to offer. I’ve taken pictures on every walk we’ve gone on and forwarded our findings to our family, these are a few of my favorites:

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This Podcast

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I would recommend this podcast in general because the concept is so simple and so enjoyable to listen to, but this episode in particular is a true DELIGHT. It involves comedian and host Jo Firestone calling her grandparents and asking them to tell her about their day from start to finish, and it is just so wonderful and wholesome and I loved every minute of it.

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This List of Drinks

One of my goals last year was to try every drink on this list of “most iconic drinks in every state.” Sadly, with a busy schedule and, you know, just forgetting, I ended last year having only tried ONE. However, seeing as this is the perfect time to try new things, I pulled the list back out for my sister and I to work through at home. As of now, we’ve tried the “Copperhead” from West Virginia and the “Whiskey Ditch” from Montana, and I look forward to making our way around the rest of the 50 states!

If you’re interested in trying any (or all!) of these drinks, I typed them up in a list you can check out here.

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This Yoga Series

Before all of this, I was a very consistent yoga class attendee, usually trying to make at least one class a week. So when the gyms closed and that option was taken away, I quickly began searching for alternatives. Finding this channel and specifically this 30-Day series (ironically titled “Home”) on YouTube has been such a blessing. The teacher is super sweet and encouraging, and she always has her adorable dog close by. I’ve been doing one or two “classes” per week and it has greatly helped manage my stress and anxiety, and given me a reason to move my body off the couch.

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Dance Church

Speaking of moving my body off the couch: THIS. Dance church is a one hour dance class that you can stream to your living room. And seeing as dancing spastically around my house has always been one of my favorite pastimes, adding minor choreography and dance based strength-training exercises has easily made Dance Church of my favorite parts of the week. Classes stream online every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. (except for this week, the Wednesday class was postponed until Friday @ 5:00 p.m.) and Sundays at 10:00 a.m. Check it out here!

Things to Do with Alexa in Quarantine

Since we live in a time that is full of technological companions (e.g. Alexa, Siri, Google Home, etc.) and many of us might be finding ourselves with little more than their company these days, I think it’s about time we start utilizing them to their full potential.

This past weekend, as my sister and I were sitting on the couch eating donuts we ordered from our local shop, we decided to talk to Alexa. After buying our Amazon Echo about three years ago, I started getting weekly emails from Amazon that provide a list of fun prompts that you can give Alexa, but I’ve more or less ignored them—until now.

Note: if you have a Google Home, check out both this article and this one for prompts. If you have Siri, check out both this article and this one, and if you have neither, I’d recommend Facetime, Zoom, or, if all else fails, this:

No judgment, times are weird.

Anyway, here are some of our favorite things you can do with Alexa:

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Play Jeopardy

Say: “Alexa, play Jeopardy.”

Each day you are given 12 trivia questions that you have to answer Jeopardy style (what is, where is, who is, etc.) Weekdays you are given extra questions from the same categories showcased in that day’s televised episode, and then Saturdays are College Jeopardy and Sundays (my favorite!) are Sports Jeopardy.

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Play Puzzle of the Day

Say: “Alexa, open Puzzle of the day.”

This is a crossword puzzle that you play in the style of a word game since you don’t have a paper in front of you. Alexa gives you a clue and the number of letters in the answer, and then you try to guess it. If you have trouble, you are able to ask for a letter, but you lose points by doing so—which may not matter to you, or may matter more than anything. I land somewhere in the middle.

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Make Fart Noises

Say: “Alexa, make a fart noise.”

I will just leave this one here.

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Look up the Spelling and/or Definition of a word

Say: “Alexa, spell ______” or “Alexa, what is the definition of _______”

Sure, I could Google it, but she does it faster, and asking almost makes me feel like I’m back in high school with no responsibilities or pandemics to speak of.

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Set a Reminder

Say: “Alexa, remind me to______.”

If you’re working from home, it might be hard to find a good routine, which makes it easy to forget to do things like drink enough water, or take necessary medications, or stop looking at Instagram. That’s where Alexa can come in as an accountability partner. Set reminders, as many as you want, about anything you want. Maybe it’s to put on pants, maybe it’s to refill your water bottle, maybe it’s to go outside, maybe it’s to move to a different section of the couch so you can blob evenly. Whatever you need, she’s there to remind you.

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Use Announce and/or Simon Says

Both of these functions make Alexa repeat something that is being said.

If you say, “Alexa, announce it is time for lunch,” she will play back a recording of you saying, “it’s time for lunch.”

But if you say, “Alexa, simon says it’s time for lunch,” Alexa will say, “it’s time for lunch.”

So it’s really your preference on that one. If you’ve ever wanted to actually hear yourself talk to yourself, now is your chance. Or if you’re someone who lives alone and needs a voice other than your own to whip you into shape, Alexa can do that for you. Again, no judgment.

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Learn Something Weird

Say, “Alexa, tell me something weird.”

Then strap in.

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Hear a 20-second song

Say, “Alexa, sing a song for twenty seconds.”

It has been a widely spread recommendation to (constantly) wash your hands for (at least) twenty seconds. In an effort to make that easier, people have been on the hunt for songs and choruses of songs that are approximately that long so we can get a better idea of the timing. But please look no further than your Alexa, who will sing you a song that (at least when I’ve asked) rhymes and lasts exactly 20 seconds. Also, good luck not having that song stuck in your head.