motivation

17 Goals for 2021 (List-cember #8)

In 2017, I made my first list of 17 goals. They were bold—crazy even—and they were hard, but they also pushed me to do things I never thought I’d do. Since then, I’ve figured out a rhythm to goal setting. I’ve made sure to set goals that I want to accomplish rather than those I think will impress people, and I’ve set goals that are a good balance of challenging and achievable, rather than outlandish and impossible. After all, it’s easy to make big proclamations about all that you’re going to do after that New Year’s clock strikes midnight, but it’s very difficult to stick to those promises in the 365 days that follow.

Plus, some years you set goals and then a global pandemic happens, making most of them literally impossible. So you gotta work with what you’ve got. And you’ve gotta give yourself goals for you—goals that will inspire you, challenge you, and/or just make you proud you put your mind to something.

With that being said, these are the goals I’m setting for 2021:

1) Volunteer 5 times

This is a staple on my list of goals and one that I always look forward to. With COVID restrictions still in place, I might have to get creative with this one, but no matter what’s going on in the world, there is always a way to lend a helping hand, so hopefully I can find where I am best able to serve.

2) Watch the sunrise

I have watched many a sunset in my life, but far too few sunrises. And if I’m asking myself for one. One early morning. One day out of 365. One drive before dawn to a good spot where I can watch a new day begin, I think I can handle it.

3) Raise my VO2 Max score to 40

In late October, I came across a statistic on my FitBit called “VO2 Max”, which is essentially how efficiently your body uses oxygen during exercise. At the time, my score was a 35, which was marked as “average” for a woman my age. And even though I’d never previously heard of this measure of health, or had anyone telling me I needed to improve it, I instantly decided that I could no longer live a satisfying life unless my score was in the “good” range—which is a minimum of 36.5. As of now, my score is a 37, making me cleanly and wholly in the “good” range, so naturally I am now striving for the “great” range. Great is marked by a minimum score of 40.7, but for this year I’m going to start with a goal of 40.

4) Get published

Last year I made it a goal to take a writing class, and in looking for a class to take I found an entire Creative Writing Capstone through UCLA Extension that I am now in the process of completing. In doing so, my writing brain has been kicked in to overdrive and I have started to write about things I may have never had the courage or drive to write about before. So it is my hope that I can continue to write, submit and have something published in the next year.

5) Donate blood or plasma

This is another goal that I’m going to try to make an annual thing—even if it’s a little nerve-wracking and involves needles—because it’s an easy way to help those in need, and you get free snacks at the end. I’m not sure what the world of donations will look like in 2021, so I’m leaving the goal at a single donation, but if I’m brave enough, I’m going to try and do more!

6) Reduce screen time to 3 hours/day (or less)

If you have an iPhone, you might get those weekly reports on the average amount of time you spent on your phone each day. I will admit, in quarantine, my numbers skyrocketed, and I have been trying desperately to bring that number down ever since. So for this year, I want my weekly report to average 3 hours or less every week. Preferably less and less as the weeks go on.

7) Finish this writing prompt book

In September, I bought this little book of writing prompts as a fun way to get my creative mind working. For a little while, I got into a good routine of doing a handful of prompts per day, but I have since fallen off that schedule, and admittedly haven’t opened the book for a couple of months. So I’m hoping that this year I can get back into it and even finish it. Who knows, maybe one of the prompts will inspire a future blog post. (find the book here)

8) See one WLRA

A couple years back I made this list of the World’s Largest Roadside Attractions and I set out to see as many as I could. I have crossed out a good handful since then and I am hoping to cross off another one this year.

9) Read 5 books on this list

After I came across this list of inspirational books I decided to make reading through the list an item on my bucket list. So, in order to start working towards that goal, I’m setting out to read five of those books this year.

10) Cook 1 new recipe every month

I am a big creature of habit. And while a few years ago I got really into cookbooks and trying new recipes, most of the time I make what I know and what I love, or what I know I’ll love. So I’m hoping to branch out a bit this year. Nothing too crazy, just one recipe I’ve never tried each month.

11) See all the movies nominated for Best Picture (and maybe even predict the winner!)

It has always been a goal of mine to see every movie nominated for Best Picture before the Academy Awards, but somehow I have never managed to accomplish this. I want to feel like I have a real opinion on the matter, rather than just rooting for the one movie I happened to see. So, this year, the moment that list comes out, I’m filling the gap between what I have and haven’t seen and I am making a prediction!

12) Finish my Dodger Stadium cross stitch

One of my favorite quarantine projects has been a counted cross-stitch of Dodger Stadium that I designed myself. Some weeks I work on it a lot, others I forget it exists. As of now I’d say I’m about 70% done with it, but I have a feeling that last 30% might take me a long time. So while I think this is an easy goal, it’s also one that I want to hold myself accountable for. I want to get this project finished and show it off!

13) Learn to curl my hair

I am embarrassingly uneducated in all things hair. About five years ago I cut my hair short for the first time since I was a kid, and it was at that time that I first learned to properly blow-dry my hair. And as of now, that’s about all I know how to do. So, with a new straightener in tow that I got for Christmas—one that I allegedly can use to curl my hair as well—I am aiming to get a little more educated in the hairstyling department, and more or less emerge as a hair goddess.

14) Try acupuncture

My mom tried acupuncture for the first time this year and has become a firm believer. I followed her lead this past year on trying out the chiropractor, so I’m going to continue following in her footsteps and give acupuncture a go!

15) Read 12 books of the Bible

I often get overwhelmed by daily devotionals or reading plans, because I always fall behind, and then I fall so far behind that I give up and stop reading all together—which is very much not the point. So my sister suggested this goal, which I like because it gives me room to read more if I’m in a good groove, and it gives me room to catch up if I fall behind.

16) Keep my plant alive

One of the cutest gifts I got for Christmas was a little succulent in a ceramic dinosaur plant pot that my sister gave me. If you know anything about me, I deeply struggle with keeping plants alive, so she got me this in the hopes that I might, you know, not kill it. And I am so dedicated to this new plant child—that I have named “Bronto”, like brontosaurus—that I have made his well being one of my goals for this year. #prayersforBronto (find the plant pot here)

17) The Tuesdays of 2021

My final goal of the year is a little photography project. In years past I have done a one photo per day project and I have done a one second per day project. And while they were both fun and turned out really cool, they were also stressful and hard to remember to do every. single. day. So this year, I thought, why not choose one day a week to take a picture or record a short video? And why not make it a random day like Tuesday? There are 52 Tuesdays in 2021, most of which might otherwise have been relatively forgettable, but this year I’m going to have a little memory of each and every one, and to be honest, I’m already excited to see them!

Did you set any goals for 2021?


You can also check out my previous lists of goals here: 2020201920182017

17 Things that Inspired Me This Year (List-cember #5)

No matter the year, no matter the season, there are always going to be things that inspire us. Things that make us want and dream or fight and persevere, things that make us laugh or dance or cheer or all of the above. My personal favorite are the things that spark your interest, perhaps in a way you don’t quite understand yet, and then simmer in your mind until their full understanding comes to light. This year, there were many things that inspired me, both as a writer, a woman, a daughter, a sister, a dreamer and just as a human.

Here are some of those things:

1) These podcast episodes

I listened to a lot of great podcasts this year (many of which I listed on my rec roundup) but there were a couple episodes that particularly stood out and had me feeling all the feels.

  • Rachel Hollis Podcast, Episode #151: Reclaim Your Magic w/ Elizabeth Gilbert (which inspired this blog)
  • Heavyweight, Episode #32: Vivian
  • Straight Up with Trent Shelton, Episode #46: Three Things You Need to Disarm to Bring Your Greatness to the World

2) This quote from Untamed

“Being fully human is not about feeling happy, it’s about feeling everything.” – Glennon Doyle

3) I Left the House Today by Cassandra Calin

I saw this book at Target and more or less impulse bought it because I liked the title and the first few comics I saw inside. Once I brought it home, I then proceeded to read the entire book in one sitting. It is relatable, honest, heartfelt, clever and so funny. Highly recommend!

4) @carrychalk on Instagram

5) Yoga with Adriene

Yoga was an absolute lifesaver for me this year. It gave me a sense of calm when the entire world was in chaos, and it helped me find a routine when I didn’t have motivation to do much of anything. Yoga with Adriene in particular was such a blessing as she became not only a teacher, but a friend during such a lonely time. I would recommend her to anyone and everyone, no matter your yoga level or experience. She is wonderful!

6) This song by Riley Clemmons

7) Fortitude by Dan Crenshaw

“In entertaining failure, you will embrace it.”

“You have a purpose in this life. God has you here for a reason. You may not know it, but He does. Your job is to find it. No one else can. You need to understand that your purpose may be great in the eyes of the world, or it may be commonplace and seemingly small.”

“The pursuit is the purpose.”

Also check out this blog post inspired by a story in the book.

8) @drawings_for_my_grandchildren on Instagram

This account is run by a husband and wife who are using social media to leave behind stories and lessons for their grandchildren. Often there are drawings that go along with stories and they are so sweet and creative and emotional. I am always excited to see a new post from them.

9) Gerald Stratford

This is truly the most delightful, wholesome Twitter account that exists. Gerald doesn’t want to talk politics, he doesn’t want to yell and scream, he just wants to show you the vegetables he is growing and I am HERE FOR IT GERALD.

10) Little Women

I saw this movie in theaters early this year, and even though most days from March to now are a blur, I can still vividly remember sitting beside my best friend in the movie theater, our cheeks wet from crying, unable to move even as the lights came on and people started to leave. I love this movie and often watch it whenever I’m looking for a spark of inspiration—or a good cry.

11) Kobe

Growing up in Los Angeles, Kobe always had a special place in my heart, but it was truly remarkable to see the impact he had on so many lives, worldwide. In the weeks and months that followed his tragic passing, I marveled at the widespread unity that came with the grief. I read and watched so many stories, including this one, which I can still barely watch without crying, but I have loved to see the term #girldad come to life in its wake.

12) The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

“What you’re thinking about can be what you become.”

“But even beginnings have beginnings.”

“As life goes on, you will join other bands, some through friendship, some through romance, some through neighborhoods, school, an army. Maybe you will all dress the same, or laugh at your own private vocabulary. Maybe you will flop on couches backstage, or share a boardroom table, or crowd around a galley inside a ship. But in each band you join, you will play a distinct part, and it will affect you as much as you affect it.”

13) folklore & evermore by Taylor Swift

I mean, how dare she? But also, thank goodness.

My favorites on folklore are peace, my tears ricochet & invisible string.

My (early) favorites on evermore are ivy, marjorie & gold rush.

14) This story

Please take the time to read the whole thing. It will make your day, I promise.

15) Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen

“When we listen to lies about our worth, we naturally back away from others. In many cases, our distancing behavior succeeds in pushing people away, reinforcing our fear of rejection. This is a classic mind trap, a self-fulfilling thought pattern in which our insecurity feeds our isolation, which in turn feeds the lie that we are worthless and nobody really gets us or cares to. We feel unseen and unloved, and to protect ourselves from further rejection, we won’t let anyone close enough to change our perception.”

16) Some Good News on Youtube

I LOVED this series started by John Krasinski on Youtube and often ugly cried throughout. This episode was particularly amazing because, well, HAMILTON.

17) The Monday Club

I’ve been subscribed to this weekly newsletter by Hannah Brencher for a while now and it is the perfect way to start my week. She never fails to speak to my heart and inspire me, and I have many an email from her saved and starred in my inbox.


Check out more List-cember posts here.

Things I’m Excited to See Again (List-cember #4)

While things are very much still tough, and the approach of the new year doesn’t have so much magic as it does desperate hope for something better, I am trying my best to think about the good things. It’s unclear when life will go completely back to “normal” or when we will be able to do all that we love and miss again, but we will get there one day. And when we do, these are some of the things I’m excited to see:

1) People walking to school

I’m excited see young kids, with backpacks hanging low on their shoulders, almost shadowing their entire frame, holding the hands of their parent or grandparent or older sibling as they make their way across the street towards the gates of their school. I’m excited to see high schoolers, walking in groups laughing or alone thinking, sitting in their cars wondering or opening up their lockers hoping that today will be a good day. And I’m excited to see college students, walking both lazily and with purpose, in sweatpants and suits, barely making it to class or betting their entire future on it.

2) Full cars

I’m excited to see cars full of families, silhouetted heads moving this way and that, with suitcases piled high on the roof, bikes strapped to the back, or a trailer being pulled behind. I’m excited to wonder where they’re going, if it’s a weekend getaway, a cross country road trip, or perhaps a new house, to start a new life in a new city. 

3) Smiles

I’m excited to see the big, face changing smiles, the small, polite ones, the unexpected, undeniable ones, the shy, nervous ones, and the ones that connect you to a stranger as you both shake your head as a way to say, can you believe this guy? I’m excited to see smiles freshly whitened, smiles made of braces, and smiles with teeth missing and awaiting reward from the tooth fairy. Most of all I’m excited to stop avoiding eye contact simply because I’m afraid my mask will hide my smile and my sunglasses will hide my eyes, making it impossible for me to let someone know that I hope they have a good day.

4) Sports fans jumping from their seats

I’m excited to see stadiums packed with people, sitting side by side, on the edge of their seats, hoping for a big play, a big moment, and doing their best to cheer and rally their fellow fans. I’m excited to see them stand, and to stand with them, clapping and chanting and tapping their team’s name across the fronts of their jerseys. I’m excited to see that big moment happen, and to hear the gasps and excitement and energy rip through the entire stadium, bringing everyone to their feet, hugging and high fiving.

5) My whole family—up close and personal

I’m excited to be able to stand with my arm around a cousin or my head on the shoulder of an aunt, or to sit right next to my grandpa and watch a baseball game. I’m excited to eat chips from the same bowl and dip them in our family’s homemade guacamole, to swap Christmas cookies and cheers late night drinks. I’m excited to plan each and every annual family gathering, to catch up and share stories, take group pictures and spend way too long hugging each other as we try to say goodbye.

6) Movie previews

I’m excited to walk into a theater right before the room goes dark, and to look over at my sister and guess how many previews are going to play before the movie—I always guess four. I’m excited to whisper things like, “that looks good” or “I’ve been waiting for this!” or “what on earth is that?” And I’m excited to finish whatever snack I brought or bought before the previews even end, and not feel mad or sad, but content and prepared to sink into my seat and watch a movie on the big screen.

7) “OPEN” signs

I’m excited to drive around town, hungry or bored, or just in the mood to explore and see all the restaurants and stores and gyms and parks and churches and salons and bookstores and museums open and ready for business. Ready to welcome customers and families and people looking to try something new or return to something they love. I’m ready to watch people hold the door for each other, to eavesdrop on what other people are buying or ordering or talking about, to spy on the cute boy at the gym or look over at the person typing furiously on their keyboard in a coffee shop. I’m excited for the world to open back up, for people to open back up, and for the hope and unity we’ve been struggling to find over this last year to finally, truly, bring us together into the new normal.  


Check out more List-cember posts here.

30 Good Things that Happened in November

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.

Let’s dive right in.

1) This whale sculpture in the Netherlands caught a metro train that went off track.

2) This woman shared her incredibly detailed sleepover plans

3) Vice released a list of things to do besides stress about the election—that I think could help in the aftermath as well.

4) This dog played with its ball

5) Veteran combat divers helped restore ocean health.

6) These two brothers put together a beautiful shot

7) Business Insider made this fun video to show how cranberries are harvested in preparation for the holidays

8) This man made an incredible mashup

9) SpaceX’s Crew-1 successfully made it to the International Space Station

10) And they brought Baby Yoda

11) Veteran’s Day

12) This lost hiker was brought back to life in the ER.

13) This photography group existed

14) This restaurant in the Bronx turned into a soup kitchen to help the poor.

15) Ziggy took his turn

16) The International Landscape Photographer of the year was named.

17) This cat did its civic duty

18) Immigrant families paid tribute to Alex Trebek for helping them learn English.

19) This man hid a short story inside signed copies of his book

20) Zippia released this list of the most popular Thanksgiving sides by US state.

21) This:

22) The Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng as the first female MLB general manager.

23) This 8 year old stayed prepared

24) This compilation of funny moments from Leta Powell Drake interviews went viral

25) This 21 year old became the first man with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon.

26) Thanksgiving

27) Missy Elliot paid for a fan’s wedding dress in full.

28) This owl was rescued from the Rockefeller center Christmas tree.

29) This woman shared a heartwarming story about comedian John Mulaney

30) And finally, these kids left messages for their dads deployed overseas

Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what December brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

Let Us All Give Thanks to Our Grey Sweatshirt

If you look at almost any picture of me from high school, I am wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt.

It was nothing special. Just a plain, thin, cotton hoodie that was probably from Target, and did absolutely nothing for my figure or for fashion. But somehow, for some reason, I wore it every. single. day. Even when it got frayed and old. Even when there was a slight toothpaste stain on the pocket. Even when it had been washed so many times and the inside had been so stripped that it was barely comfortable.

I wore it and I loved it and I hid all of my insecurities beneath its thinning, grey fabric.

You might have had something similar in your own life. A pair of jeans, a headband, bright eye shadow, a daring haircut, shoes you wore with every outfit, a jacket you wore far past its prime, an accessory that people knew you by, etc., and if you’re like me, pictures of this thing might make you cringe now. They might make you wonder, WHY? Why did I think that was a good idea?

But then if you look deeper at those pictures, and at yourself, and at all the things they can only show you, you might feel a little different. You might remember what you were going through, what you were worried about, what felt like the biggest deal in the world. You might see the insecurities trying to be hidden, the confusion of self identity, the immaturity, the loneliness, the trial and error of being genuine, the safety net that this thing provided, and how, for some reason, the day, the outfit, the moment, the you at that time just didn’t seem right unless you were wearing or carrying or within reach of this one thing.

I don’t have that sweatshirt anymore. But sometimes I look for it when I’m shuffling through the hoodies in my closet for something to cozy up in. And while I’m glad I grew up, grew into myself, grew out of the part of my life where I’d rather cover up and hide than be seen and known, I’m thankful to have had that sweatshirt to give me time to get here.

So today, on a day when we often talk about all things we’re thankful for, I wanted to say thank you to you, grey sweatshirt, for all that you did for me in those hard four years of high school (and probably a few too many after.)

Thank you for acting as my security blanket. As something that I could put on and not think about, even when I felt so insecure in my skin that I wished I was invisible or thought I wasn’t worth looking at.

Thank you for staying together, for surviving the hundreds of washes, both late at night and early in the morning; and for those times I probably washed you on the wrong setting and rolled you around in the drier over and over when I was too lazy to take my clothes out and fold them.

Thanks for giving me time to develop my own sense of style. For allowing me to buffer inside your thin cotton lining and hide inside your loose-fitting hood.

In many ways, I am as far removed from that hoodie as I am from who I was in high school. I have grown and changed so much since then. I have learned to appreciate myself, learned about myself, learned to accept where I’ve come from and how to work towards where I want to go. But I could never have gotten here if I hadn’t started there. None of us could.

So let’s all give thanks to the awkwardness, the confusion, the struggle, the WHY, and the things that helped us get from there to here. It might not be easy over here on the other side of those struggles, but it’s comforting to realize how far we’ve come, and inspiring to think about how much more we have ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Keep Hold of Your Elephant

I recently read former SEAL and current Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s book, Fortitude, which talks a lot about how to live a more balanced and controlled emotional life, especially in this age of “outrage culture.” In one chapter, I found a metaphor that really stuck with me and I wanted to share.

It comes from psychologist Dr. Jonathan Haidt, who described the human mind as a rider on an elephant. The conscious or logical mind is represented by the rider, and the unconscious or emotional mind is represented by the elephant. By all accounts, it would seem that the rider is (and should be) in control, but in certain situations, that elephant can pull and steer the rider in a direction they didn’t expect to go, and that won’t benefit them in the way they hope.

I loved this visual, partially because elephants are my favorite animal, but mostly because I felt like I’ve experienced this pull or sudden loss of logical mindedness in favor of a larger, more overpowering emotional response. And the harder I’ve tried to pull back and fight against that emotional reaction, the harder it’s fought its own fight, leaving me either frozen and at war with myself, or headed in a direction I don’t want to go. So the advice here is to realize that you are still in control. Your logical mind will always be that rider that can calm the elephant and steer her forward. But it is up to that logical mind to decipher—not ignore or belittle or wish away—whichever emotional reaction is trying to lead, and weed out what is true about it and what is not. What will benefit you (i.e. dealing with grief, mourning failure or rejection, etc.) and what won’t (i.e. worrying about things you can’t control, spiraling into self hate, tossing blame/anger onto other people).

In today’s society, we are told to react instantly. To immediately know our opinion, and, especially, to immediately be offended, angry, hurt, afraid, ecstatic, etc. I know I’ve felt the pressure to know exactly how I feel in only a matter of seconds—even if I’m not exactly familiar with what I’m seeing or talking about, and even if I don’t have all the facts or context that might help me form my own opinion. I know I’ve reacted to things based solely on the pressure to react, and the fear that if I didn’t, I’d be rejected, cast out, or left behind. I’ve looked on from my metaphorical elephant as a herd went running in one direction, and worried about the fact that we were still standing here, processing.

But the point is: that is okay. It is okay to process. It is okay to take your time. It is okay to go in the direction of the rest of the herd and it is okay to go in your own direction, as long as the rider is in control.

Don’t let hate steer you.

Don’t let fear steer you.

Don’t let doubt or greed or jealousy steer you.

Feel your feelings, listen to your feelings and then take the time to figure out which are telling you the truth and which are lying to you. Lead that elephant forward and do it on your own terms.

31 Good Things that Happened in October

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.

Let’s dive right in.

1) Twitter held an unflattering dog photo challenge contest…

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2) …and an unflattering cat contest.

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3) This dog shelter found a clever way to help its older dogs get adopted.

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4) This man shared his cousin’s hilarious misstep

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5) Mental Floss released this fun list of lesser known inventions.

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6) This Twitter prompt made for some hilarious fake 2020 slogans.

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7) This 2350 pound pumpkin won a California pumpkin contest.

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8) This man drew terrible portraits of people’s pets and raised money for charity.

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9) This boy made a great shot.

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10) Tasmanian devils were reintroduced into the Australian wild for the first time in 3,000 years.

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11) This elephant had a snack.

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12) This dad made desks for students still schooling at home.

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13) This couple was reunited after 200 days.

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14) This girl shared her unique love story

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15) This boy was admitted into the English National Ballet School after only four years of training.

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16) This veteran saved a couple from a fire.

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17) This man sheltered 300 dogs from Hurricane Delta.

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18) This woman shared her incredible Halloween costume.

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19) This engineering student built a giant water slide to break a world record.

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20) This:

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21) This couple found a clever way to get married.

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22) These ballerinas put on an incredible show.

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23) This story was published about an epic tale of man who lost his surfboard and the man who found it 5,000 miles away.

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24) This man donated his baseball card collection to a 9 year old who lost all of hers in a fire.

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25) Harry Styles left a superfan a nice note—and fed her fish

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26) IKEA announced its “Buy Back” program which is aimed to promote recycling.

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27) This boy taught us the ABC’s.

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28) The Dodgers won the World Series (I realize this isn’t good news for everyone, but being a Dodger fan myself, I couldn’t help but share it!)

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29) Buzzfeed collected a bunch of good things that happened to people during quarantine.

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30) This man started a master’s program

View this post on Instagram

You got this 💪🏼

A post shared by Good News (@tanksgoodnews) on

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31) And this boy danced with Jack Skellington

View this post on Instagram

Killed it

A post shared by FUCKJERRY (@fuckjerry) on

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what November brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

Finding Focus with Your Senses

With so much going on and so many reasons to both worry about the future and get lost thinking about the past, it is easy to lose sight of the present.

I know I have a tendency of focusing on the if/when’s of the future or the “if only’s” of the past, and at times I can think and worry about them until I spiral down to a point of near paralysis. As a result, I often look for ways to reconnect to the present moment, as it’s the only thing I have any control over.

Recently, on an episode of the podcast The Next Right Thing, host Emily P. Freeman shared an exercise geared to get you back into the present moment by focusing on the senses. She said, “senses bring us back to the present moment, reminding us what is rather than what we are afraid could be.”

The exercise asks you to notice and/or write down the following:

Five things you can see

Four things you can hear

Three things you can feel

Two things you can smell

One thing you can taste

As I write this blog in a low sitting chair on the beach, this is how I would go through the exercise:

Five things I can see

  1. The waves moving in and out
  2. A ship far off in the distance
  3. My brother’s sandy feet
  4. The freckles on my knees
  5. A feather stuck in the sand

Four things I can hear

  1. The ocean
  2. Kids playing and laughing
  3. An airplane overhead
  4. A seagull squawking

Three things I can feel

  1. A slight breeze
  2. The sand between my toes
  3. The heat of the late morning sun

Two things I can smell

  1. The ocean
  2. Fresh (non smoky) air

One thing I can taste

  1. The bagel I ate for breakfast

What I love about this exercise is that it can bring you into the present both to diffuse a stressful or anxious situation, or to magnify a good one. It can bring good things into focus so you can appreciate them and it can bring negative things into focus so you can move away from them. It can also act as a good distraction from intrusive or anxious thoughts, and give you something to do for a few minutes besides just breathe—which sometimes just doesn’t cut it.

This exercise can be a great go-to on anxious days, long trips to the DMV, stressful family gatherings, slow moving traffic, mornings when it’s hard to get out of bed, nights when it’s hard to fall asleep—really any time when your mind needs something to focus on…other than what it’s currently focusing on. Or, on good days, it can be used to focus and perhaps memorize the things around you that make this moment perfect so that you can remember it forever.

My 500th Blog Post

Almost seven years ago, on a random Sunday night, I posted a rambling blog post, which to this day has only been viewed eight times. I didn’t tell anyone I posted it, and I didn’t know what to expect from it. I wrote it because I could—because I couldn’t seem not to—and because I wanted to know what it felt like to click publish. More than anything, that post was a dare to myself, fueled by late night confidence, to give blogging a shot. And even though I didn’t post another blog until almost seven months later, this dare hung in the air, it crawled into my thoughts and it wiggled out the tips of my fingers. Write, it said. Until eventually, I did.

Thinking back to the beginning, I won’t deny that I was dreaming big. Fresh off a semester abroad, during which I wrote weekly posts (on a different website) to update those back home, I had a pocketful of compliments from friends and family that gave me a big head and an expectation to turn my talents into a career—fast. You can hear it in my early blog posts. The I am so funny tone. I am so casually hilarious and knowledgeable and relatable. Feel free to make me famous.

Reading through some of my old posts, I cringe at the way I wrote, the way I rambled, the way I *clearly* didn’t proofread as well as I should have. I didn’t have a schedule, didn’t have a direction or a defined voice. I was very much just posting to gain a following, to get attention, to get numbers, and to move forward into what was sure to be a lucrative career. I spoke as a knower, as someone who was here to teach you something or to make you laugh or to change your life because of things I could tell you.

But then, little by little, I started to shake off that identity—as it didn’t fit very well—and started to write from the much more honest perspective of a learner. As someone who doesn’t know it all. As someone who is just trying her best and learning what she can along the way. And in finding that authentic voice, I found a much more comfortable, fun, and co-beneficial blogging process and experience, and grew a very genuine and caring audience that allows me to write without a defined theme—something every blogging advice columns suggests you find (#rulebreaker)—and who learns and grows right alongside me.

So as I write this post, my 500th post if you can believe it, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me thus far and who is strapping in to see where we go from here! This blog is a safe place for me, something that is consistently fulfilling and comforting—even amongst the craziest and scariest of times. So thank you for helping me create this space! And if you’re new, welcome to this space! We’re happy to have you.

To celebrate the big 5-0-0, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite blog posts, but first, in case there are any other data nerds out there, here are some fun facts:

  • I have posted a blog on every single day of the week, the most on Monday (178) and the least on Saturday (9).
  • My total word count (including this post) is: 390,606 words, which is the equivalent of almost five books.
  • My blog has been read in 165 countries
  • My best day ever for views was December 15, 2015, when I posted this blog about Gina Rodriguez and she shared it on social media.
  • My most viewed blog of all time is this one about How to Recreate the Princes Diaries Painting.
  • The most used search terms that helped people find my blog was “things that happened in 2018” which led them to my All the Good Things series.
  • The first post I ever had published on another website was this one.

Now to name a few favorites. This was nearly an impossible task, because narrowing it down to a reasonable number leaves so many behind. But in a quick scroll down the list, these ones jumped out at me:

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1) The Mt. Whitney series

This is slightly cheating, since it refers to five posts that cover my experience of hiking Mt. Whitney, but this was the first series I ever wrote for my blog and the first thing that made me feel like a “blogger“. I was so thankful to have a place where I could document what turned out to be a big turning point in my life.

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2) The Simplest Kind of Happy

This post gives me the warm fuzzies. It was such a simple moment of an ordinary day, but it was pure and it was happy and the song I mention in the post can still take me back to that day.

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3) A Literally Sick Rap Song

I wrote this post when I was on day 3 or 4 of being home sick with the flu and it was one of the only things that made me feel better. I spent almost an entire fever filled day rewriting the lyrics to Tupac & Dr. Dre’s “California Love”, renaming it “Day&NyQuil Love” and I laughed so incredibly hard. I will never not think of this post when I’m sick.

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4) To My Fellow Tough Eggs

Some of the hardest blogs to post are the ones that feel like I’m sharing my journal or the innermost workings of my brain. This post was meant to be encouraging to all but especially to myself. It also stands out because shortly after posting it someone mentioned it to me by name and thanked me for posting it and that meant the world to me.

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5) A Lesson in Love from Mr. & Mrs. Day

This is not only one of my favorite posts on my blog, but one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. In 2015, my Grammie was moved into a nursing home, where we met Mr. Day and his wife, Mrs. Day, who was in the bed next to my Grammie. Their love story will inspire me always.

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6) The Year of Give

This was the start of a series I do at the end of every year where I recap the word that defined my year. It put me out of my comfort zone to post, but I’m so glad to have shared it because I love having a place to go back and read what I’ve learned from each year and each word.

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7) The Butterfly

In late 2015, my Grammie passed away, and I wrote this post, which ended up being distributed at her funeral. I felt very lucky to be able to honor her, and I think about this post often.

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8) I Ran a Damn Marathon

This had to be on this list because I still can’t believe it actually happened.

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9) This Blog Was Written By My Dog

This was such a fun, silly post I wrote from the perspective of our family dog, Laycee, who was the cutest, most loving dog I’ve ever known. Unfortunately, only about a year after I posted it, Laycee passed away, but I’m so thankful to have this encapsulation of what an important, special member of our family she was and always will be.

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10) Just Live the Day

I have written many posts describing a struggle of staying present, but I feel like this one really hit straight to the point. It was inspired by The Grapes of Wrath, and offers advice that I try to carry with me at all times.

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Thank you again for all your support through these 500 posts, here’s to 500 more!

30 Good Things that Happened in September

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.

Let’s dive right in.

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1) This Kroger employee helped a woman turn her life around

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2) This rat won an award for detecting landmines in Cambodia

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3) This man helped save a baby swan

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4) A treatment that slows the spread of ALS (and was partially funded by the Ice Bucket challenge) was announced.

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5) This:

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6) This rescue dog adopted three rescue kittens.

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7) Steve Martin solved a pressing problem

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8) The founder of Jelly Belly announced a Willy Wonka type treasure hunt.

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9) This man raised money to give a huge tip to his favorite 89-year old pizza delivery man.

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10) This cartoon:

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11) The finalists for the comedy wildlife photography awards were announced.

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12) Zendaya’s costar on Euphoria had an amazing reaction to her Emmy win.

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13) This incredible story was shared about 9/11

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14) This man got an amazing surprise

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15) This fourth grader’s drawing about kindness won the Google Doodle contest

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16) And the winners from other states and territories showed some seriously impressive work.

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17) This five year old gave a special gift to hardworking firefighters

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18) This Wisconsin farmer planted 2 million sunflowers to spread some happiness to his customers.

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19) The 6th annual Fat Bear Week began.

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20) Dodgers infielder Justin Turner got his cleats decorated by a very special artist

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21) This postcard was finally delivered, 100 years after it was sent.

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22) This man was able to play the piano for the first time in 20 years

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23) This boy got a huge surprise from his favorite garbage truck drivers on his third birthday.

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24) This:

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25) This man played music on a speed bag

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26) This nun ran a marathon on a treadmill in her basement to raise money for the poor.

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27) This dog gave out hugs

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28) This girl swam with a guide dog to help her prepare for the Tokyo Paralympic Games

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29) This kid made solved a math problem

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30) And finally, this toddler made a new best friend: a five foot tall skeleton.

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what October brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

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