Category Archives: Brainpower

My Julie/Julia Theory

Have you ever read the book Julie and Julia: My Years of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell? Or seen the movie version starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep?

In it, the eponymous Julie embarks on a daring project. She vows to prepare ALL 524 recipes in Julia Childs’ landmark cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” She then sets up a blog to document her successes and failures along the way that becomes wildly popular as her audience becomes increasingly invested in the project.

It’s a great book (and a great movie!) and ever since reading it years ago…I’ve had this theory. My Julie/Julia Theory, if you will.

I believe EVERYONE has a Julie/Julia project inside of them. Some sort of challenge they could take on and be uniquely suited for. Some journey folks would follow and find fascinating.

What do you think? WHAT WOULD YOURS BE?

Would you snap a pic of every building on the historic register in your town? Knit 100 little projects? Read all the books on the Rory Gilmore reading list?

Kind of a fun thought exercise, huh? The possibilities are endless!

While your Julie/Julia challenge may never happen…figuring out what it would be is a fun way to help identify your passions, blog niche, or a hobby worth investing in. And, if nothing else, is a neat topic of conversation for a Friday afternoon! (Go ahead…go ask your friends/co-workers what they would do!!)

What would your Julie/Julia challenge be? Do you have any fun thought experiments or theories we could explore on this lovely afternoon? Spill the beans below! 

P.S. If you enjoyed this content and would like to support my sweet blog (thank you!)–click HERE.

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Great YouTube Channel for Practicing Spanish (lifelong learning FTW!)

You KNOW I’m a huge proponent of lifelong learning. Well, living in Miami these last few years offered an amazing perk in that department. I got to practice Spanish pretty much every day! Now that we’ve moved to Alabama, these daily conversations in my non-native tongue are one of the things I miss most!

While I’d love to explore other options, I know that YouTube is an amazing (and FREE) resource for language learning. I recently stumbled upon the Spanish language channel Superholly (and the accompanying Superholly English).

If you’re interested in working on your Spanish skills, I HIGHLY recommend checking out Holly’s videos.

I especially love this recent video about her upbringing across countries and languages…

(Here it is in English…)

…because my childhood also included learning foreign languages and living in foreign countries. 🙂 And I have my parents to thank for that, too.

I also really enjoyed binge watching this series about Nahuatl…

How do you practice foreign languages as an adult? Do you ever use YouTube for immersion purposes? I’d love to hear!

P.S. YouTube channels for travel inspo and lifelong ballerinas!

How to Make Time for Books

After a book binge on the topic of polygamy (I know…I’m weird), I’m currently reading Honeymoon in Purdah by Alison Wearing.

WHAT ARE YOU READING?

If the answer is nothing…that’s ok. I’m here to provide some gentle encouragement that if you want to start making more time for books, you CAN! With all the back-to-school vibes hanging out in the air, I totally believe now is a great time to recommit yourself to lifelong learning. Reading books is such an important part of that.

So, you’re on board. (Woohoo!) But how can we make more time for books in our busy, busy lives? Here are a few ideas…

1. Schedule Reading Time

I am one of those people who has lots of aspirations but not a lot of follow-through. (See also: this post.) So I can saaaaay I wanna finish a book a week, but if I don’t actually set aside dedicated time to do said reading…it’s probably not gonna happen. That rogue 30 minutes in my day will go *poof* and I’ll still be sitting at my computer clicking around on pointless stuff.

INSTEAD! I really study my planner (I use this one) for those free pockets of time and schedule in the stuff I want to do.

I’ve also written a post about how you can “set and forget” self-care that you can check out HERE. If hunting down reading time doesn’t sound like your bag, no worries! Pick a recurring time slot and stick to it.

2. Read Books You Like

This might be a no-brainer but I think it’s important to point out. If you want to make reading a habit that you’ll stick with, then you’ve gotta read books that interest you! After all, you want reading to be something you look forward to.

A great way to find MORE books you like is by talking about books. Share your favorite reads with friends and family and get their recommendations. I like to keep a list of book recommendations I’ve gathered from folks I know and cool reviews I come across on the internet.

Then, bring that book you like with you wherever you go! If you get stuck waiting somewhere you can pull out the book instead of your phone. It’s amazing how a random 10 minutes at the pharmacy here and a 15 minutes in a parking lot because you’re chronically early to stuff (just me?) there really starts to add up.

Oh and, NOTE: If you don’t end up liking a book? GUESS WHAT!? You don’t have to finish it! I had a weird aversion to ditching books until like really recently and I gotta say…this way is much better. Frees up a lot of time for the books you’re actually going to enjoy. So, there ya go–I grant you my permission, for what it is worth.

3. SHARE!

Sharing is WHAT? Accountability! 

I love, love, love posting about what I’m reading (and what I’ve just finished reading) on social media. I’m sure it’s not the most thrilling of content but it holds me accountable with my reading goals. (I also enjoy tracking my reading privately which you can read more about HERE.)

Other fun ways to share about books include joining a book club, reading a book with a friend, or tracking on the Goodreads app. Find what is fun for you!

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about kicking off an email-based book club in January 2019. Would anyone be interested in that!? Let me know below and subscribe to my email list so you’ll be in the loop!

Ok, over to you! How do you make time for books? Share your secrets (and stuff I missed) below. 

 

P.S. If you’re basically blind but also wanna double down on reading time by adding in a dose of self-care…you’ll have to wear your glasses over top of your face masks. It’s a LEWK! 🙂

The Broken Places

ernest hemingway quote - the broken places

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” -Ernest Hemingway

How you fill those spaces created by life’s hardships is up to you. Maybe you grow fiercer. Maybe you grow braver. Maybe you simply learn something new.

To me, believing I’ll grow strong in the broken places is what gives me the audacity to TRY. Try again, keep going, choose joy, fail gracefully, repeat and repeat and repeat.

Vulnerability is a measurement of courage, not weakness.

I choose to fill those spaces inside myself that Hemingway calls broken with pluck…a little bit of determination…memories, happiness…and the knowledge that the sun always rises again in the morning.

What about you? How do you fill in those spaces that the world breaks open? Chat in the comments!

This one small thing helped curb my procrastination…

Dearest reader – I must confess something to you. My whole life I have fallen victim to a pretty bad habit. PROCRASTINATION. I just love putting stuff off. Maybe you do too? Well today I thought I’d share something that has helped me drastically reduce my procrastination practice…

how to stop procrastinating

I started timing myself. Doing, like…all types of things. Things I didn’t want to do. (Like chores and lengthy email responses to clients.) Things I did want to do. (Like read a couple chapters of a book.) Stuff for work and stuff for this very blog.

I would start the timer. Do the task. Stop the timer.

Ok, ok. I know that sounds a little quirky…or maybe downright weird. Maybe you’re picturing me at my desk dressed like a high school gym teacher with an old school stop watch hanging around my neck. Well, a) phones and computers have timers so no need for a stop watch, and b) STAY WITH ME…

When I decided I wanted to curb my procrastination, I tried to identify what was causing me to put stuff off in the first place. And I found that usually it was because, in my brain, whatever I needed to do would just take too long. It would be a whole thing…an ORDEAL.

“Why start now? What if I can’t finish?”
“I’ll just edit this copy tomorrow when I have more time…”
“Oof, do a load of laundry?! That’s gonna have to wait until the weekend.”

For whatever reason, my conception of time was on the long side.  Like, for EVERYTHING. Mostly for things that didn’t sound appealing…but sometimes for things that did! (I’m lookin’ at YOU self-care!)

So I thought – “Let’s nip this temporal uncertainty in the bud once and for all!”

How long did it actually take to do the dishes and compile monthly analytics reports for clients and post fun Instagram stories? *Spoiler alert* Way less time than I initially thought! Suddenly there was less of a foreboding excuse looming nearby when I needed to get something done. I didn’t need to wait for that mythical 3 hour chunk of free-time later in the week. I had 10 minutes NOW.

how to stop procrastinating

Recently, I was doing some work for a client as I waited for a flight in the Lexington airport (free WiFi yay!). The gate agent came on the PA and announced that boarding was about to begin. A quick wave of panic washed over me because I still needed to create and schedule an email to go out to my client’s email list. My brain immediately tried to shift the work to later. “I’ll just have to buy WiFi at my layover airport, ” I thought. When I realized…WAIT. I know this will take me twenty minutes, at most! I’m in boarding Section 4… Let’s DO THIS!

Because I KNEW I could get it done in the allotted amount of time, I had no reason to procrastinate. I just banged it out and boarded the plane when I was done. (And subsequently spent my whole layover reading an awesome novel!)

Will this work for everyone? Maybe not. Your procrastination might be caused by a completely different thought-spiral than mine. But just in case you find yourself pushing things back in your calendar (and back…and back again…)–GIVE IT A TRY! The results may surprise you. Now, go be productive! You’ve got time.

How do you deal with procrastination? Tell us in the comments!

P.S. The one small thing I do every day to put myself in a good mood…

 

Act Locally: 5 Ways to Make a Difference in Your Neighborhood

how to make a difference in your neighborhood*This post may contain affiliate links.*

Have you ever heard the phrase THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY? I’m a big believer in the idea that making changes on a global scale can (and should) start close to home. Do you agree?

Because we moved this summer, I have a whole new town to get to know. And with that, comes some responsibility.

I want to make a difference at this NEW local level…but how do I get started? 

You might be in a similar boat. Lately, I’ve been brainstorming ways I can “act locally” to make a difference in my new community. So I thought I’d share some of my ideas and I hope you’ll share yours in the comments below!

5 ways to make a difference in your neighborhood…

Support a Local Nonprofit

Do your research about local nonprofits who are working to make your community a better place. If you find one that supports a cause close to your heart, look into ways you can support the organization. Send in a donation or volunteer your time. Be sure to sign up for their mailing lists (or add them on social media) so you can stay in the know about their upcoming events and new ways to participate/show your support!

Volunteer Your Time

Along with volunteering for those nonprofits, you could also volunteer your time to help a local community service. There might be quite a few in your neighborhood that can’t afford to employ full-time staff and rely on the help of volunteers. Think: Staffing for your local library’s book sale, eating lunch with students at the neighborhood elementary school, or maintaining the walking trail at the park up the street. Whether you can offer an hour of your time or an entire day, the community will be grateful for your service.

Work FOR the Community, Not Just IN It

Re-frame your professional relationship with your neighborhood. Your community shouldn’t just be a location. Consider ways you can make the community a better place through your work. Network with other local businesses and professionals and brainstorm ways to lift up this place you all call HOME.

If you’re looking for a new career or are just starting out — there are lots of jobs and careers that focus on helping your community and the people who reside their. Social work, teaching, working in healthcare, and first-responders are all great options to explore. 

[Related: Wilfrid Laurier University now offers an online master of social work that you can work towards at home. Check it out!]

Be a Good Neighbor

Like it or not, you are in a relationship with your neighbors. So it’s best to do what you can to make that relationship a good one. Respect their property (and, honestly, their view of your property; ie. don’t leave your outdoor space lookin’ like a hot mess!), help them out when you can (without expecting anything in return), and treat them how you’d like to be treated (as in, don’t mow your lawn at 6am on a Saturday if you don’t wanna listen to their loud music at 1am on a Thursday–ya dig?). Also, check in on elderly neighbors and keep an eye on kiddos playing outside. It takes a village and all that.

Take Care of the Environment

No one likes a litter-bug! If your local area has a litter problem, consider organizing a clean-up or litter pick. Round up a few of those neighbors (who all love you thanks to the tips mentioned above) and head out with the aim of clearing up some of the mess. You could also lead the charge on setting up a community compost. Composting not only transforms waste into soil (which you could use for a community garden!), but it also cuts greenhouse gas emissions from the breakdown of organic matter in landfills. 

Other ideas for taking care of the environment in your ‘hood:
* Grow or make your own food and organize swaps with your neighbors.
* Advocate to make your community more walkable and bikeable.
* Shop local and join a CSA.
* Plant trees.
* Keep your lawn-care eco-friendly.
* Team up with local officials to create more green spaces (or preserve those that already exist).

Alright babes. What would you add? I’m all ears. How do you make a difference in YOUR neighborhood? What are the ways you act locally to impact the world? Tell us!

The 10 Most Recent Additions to My Reading List

what to add to your reading list summer 2018

I’ve talked before about my stupidly long reading list, so today I thought I’d share some books I’ve recently added!

Whenever I hear about a cool book on a podcast, read a great author review, or a friend recommends a page-turner they just finished; I’m quick to jot the title and author down. Now, if only there were a few more hours in the day that I could devote to tackling my list!

Here are the latest additions…

1. The Year They Tried to Kill Me: Surviving a Surgical Internship…Even if the Patients Don’t by Salvatore Iaquinta, MD
A follow-up read to my binge watch of ER.

2. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Seems right up my Downton Abbey alley!

3. Unshattered: Overcoming Tragedy and Choosing a Beautiful Life by Carol Decker with Stacey L. Nash
 The author’s interview on this blog post really struck a chord. 

4. The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
Another addition thanks to an author interview. This time on a podcast

5. Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski, PhD
Always down for a good pop-sci read and this one’s cover is especially cheeky. 

6. Night Moves by Jessica Hopper
Recently devoured a couple novels by Emma Straub and she recommended this book/author!

7. Educated by Tara Westover
EVERYONE is talking about this book.

8. The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale
The way this story is structured sounded interesting to me. 

9. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Feels like an important read given the current state of things. 

10. Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith
This book is the most ME sounding thing ever and it is set in Kentucky!

[ Plus, just for fun, here are 10 non-book things I’ve recently added to my Amazon Wish List:

An air purifier,
This pillow,
Slouchy denim jacket,
A-line denim skirt,
Reusable straws,
This gorgeous blanket,
A cruelty free mascara,
Magnesium supplement that tastes like watermelon,
Handy-dandy water purifier,
and a straightening brush. ]

Where do you get your book recommendations? Any blogs or podcasts that clue you in to the best reads? (A Cup of Jo and Call Your Girlfriend usually knock it out of the park for me.) 

6 Reasons You Should Be Sleeping More

6 ways lack of sleep damages your personal and professional life*This post may contain affiliate links.*

Sleep is a lot like money; we all want it, it can help in so many ways, but it can be difficult to get. 

It almost seems like everyone I talk to is tired. A few years ago I put the kibosh on making small talk with co-workers about being tired because it felt so non-unique. After all, we’re ALL tired! Right? So much so that it’s weird when you see someone that isn’t yawning every other second.

Not getting enough sleep once or twice per week isn’t that much of an issue, but consistently sleeping under 6 or 7 hours per night will start to take its toll on your life.

Getting adequate sleep every night is high on my priority list but I know there are folks out there who balk at the idea of making it a priority. If you’re unconvinced, here are just a few of the ways your life can be negatively impacted by a lack of sleep:

how does lack of sleep affect professional life

You become forgetful

Are you falling victim to the mind-blank? This forgetfulness could stem from not getting enough sleep for the previous few nights. By not getting enough rest you’re working your brain too hard, and you start to forget things. The science speaks for itself

You start turning up late every morning

What happens when you wake up every morning feeling more and more tired? You turn off your alarms and go back to sleep because your body literally can’t wake itself up. As a result, you oversleep and show up late. You don’t need me to tell you that lateness isn’t a quality most bosses welcome. Hell, even if you own your own business, waking up late can cause you to spend your whole day trying to catch up! Falling out of love with your job is one thing, but persistent tardiness, even at a job you DO love, sends a message to your superiors and clients that you’re not fully committed. 

why you need to sleep more

You lose confidence

Not sleeping? Look out for the dreaded panda eyes. You know what I’m talking about, the dark patches of skin under your eyes that cause even random strangers to start remarking that you “look tired.” (Which, even when well-intentioned, can kinda sting!) Dark circles can leave you feeling pretty down about the way you look. Thankfully, the antidote is pretty simple (SLEEP, girl. Sleep!) and there are even things like the SiO smoothing patches to help counteract the damage that’s already been done!

Your concentration goes out the window

Have you ever tried concentrating on something when you’re tired? Honestly, it’s one of the hardest things you can do. All your brain is telling you is to close your eyes and get some sleep. (Or, you’re just thinking about how tired you are, which takes your focus away from everything else that you should be doing!)

This has consequences in your professional life, but also in your personal life. In a workplace, you can’t afford to switch off and lose concentration. A momentary lapse of concentration is all it takes to do something potentially catastrophic at work. (Not to be hyperbolic but f’real. Sometimes poorly worded emails are a catastrophe in MY book!) On a personal level, your relationships can suffer if you’re unable to pay attention during conversations because you’re so dang drowsy.

You become emotional

Another consequence of not sleeping enough is that you become more stressed and mentally drained. When you’re stressed, it’s almost like you’re living your life on a tightrope and any little thing can cause you to lose your balance. Alongside upping your nightly intake of sleep, work on relaxation techniques every morning and evening, and make time for meditation and deep breathing sessions to keep calm and centered.

You start exhibiting risk-taking behavior

Here’s an article that looks at sleep deprivation and how it affects risk-taking behavior. While the study discusses teen sleeping habits specifically, I think it’s an interesting look at the cause and effect lack of sleep can have on one’s life. Unfortunately, turning to stimulants, like caffeine, to get through a rough day, is certainly not a uniquely teenage behavior. Worth a read!

Convinced you should be sleeping more but not sure HOW? Here are some helpful tips from the article mentioned above:

  • Set regular bedtime hours.
  • Create a peaceful and device-free environment (screens off about an hour prior to turning in).
  • Take a warm bath or shower, not too hot though as that raises the body temperature and it can take a while to cool back down.
  • Keep the routine going throughout the week and weekend.
  • Both physical activity and eating healthy foods has been linked to a more zzz’s.
    From How Teen Sleep Deprivation Leads to Risk-Taking Behaviors, Psychology Today (Jun 1, 2018)

I’m curious, how many hours of sleep do you normally get each night? Do you find yourself falling victim to any of these issues when you start to sleep less? Or do you function just fine without a lot of zzz’s? Let me know! 

What Will Happen When You Start Reading More Non-Fiction

*This post may contain affiliate links.*

I’m a big believer that everyone should be reading more. Did you know, 1 in 4 Americans didn’t read a single book last year? For someone who has always considered myself a bookworm…this blows. MY. MIND.

Of the books out there, I think non-fiction gets an especially bad rap. They’re all like those school text books that put you straight to sleep, right?

WRONG!

In fact, besides the multitude of non-fiction books that are just as page-turner-friendly as their fictitious cousins, reading non-fiction can come with a lot of benefits…

You’ll Learn Valuable Lessons

When you read non-fiction, you can learn a ton of valuable life lessons. You could read about a specific time in history or read the biographies of interesting folk, giving you insight into both tragedies and triumphs. Reading non-fiction can help guide you when new opportunities come your way. They can offer you a powerful lens through which to view the world around you.

You’ll Improve Your Concentration

Reading requires a ton of focus. Increasing the amount of time you spend reading non-fiction each day can drastically help with concentration and productivity levels. I have found reading for 15 minutes before tackling a task that requires a lot of focus preps my brain to concentrate. Other times this may be of benefit to you? On a public transit commute, before you go to bed, or while you’re waiting for an appointment. 

You’ll Master New Communication Skills

Did you know that reading non-fiction can improve your communication skills as well? Your vocabulary will certainly expand, but you’ll also be able to begin mirroring how accomplished authors formulate their thoughts into words with the greatest efficacy. This can help you look more professional in the workplace and it can also help you gain confidence when expressing yourself.  You’ll find that many language learners practice English by reading aloud. Even as a native speaker you can take a page from their book (pun intended!) and brush up on your skills with a little at-home oration!

You’ll Gain General Knowledge

When you read non-fiction, you can easily boost your level of general knowledge as well as your intellectual level. (And if you’re still in school, actually doing the assigned reading will make sure you’re better prepared for those quizzes as well.) Regularly reading non-fiction will help you to better answer questions on the spot and give you fantastic talking points when you meet people who have similar interests to you.

If you’re convinced, here’s a reading list of some of my favorites to get you started —

A Few Non-Fiction Faves:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Kitty Genovese by Kevin Cook (I blogged about this one HERE.)

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (I blogged about this one HERE.)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky (I blogged about this one HERE.)

* * *

At the end of the day, non-fiction will expand your knowledge and increase your intellectual confidence. When you put the work in and set time aside for reading, you can easily reap these benefits. Reading non-fiction is such a wonderful way to learn more about new subjects and expand your interests! So go do it!!!

 

On the most beautiful work of all

Have you ever read the book Just Kid’s by Patti Smith? I read it years ago but it’s one of those books that sticks with you long after you’ve closed the back cover. In it, the renowned artist recounts her exceptional relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe as they navigate New York City, specifically the Chelsea Hotel, in the 60’s and 70’s.  It is one of the most beautiful depictions of friendship I have ever read.

While the couple parted romantically, they remained close friends and it is clear they understood each other and each other’s art more than anyone else could. Truly artistic soul mates.

Recently, I stumbled upon the letter Patti wrote to Robert days before his untimely passing – a letter he was never able to read. It made my breath catch just as it had the first time I read it.

Dear Robert,

Often as I lie awake I wonder if you are also lying awake. Are you in pain, or feeling alone? You drew me from the darkest period of my young life, sharing with me the sacred mystery of what it is to be an artist. I learned to see through you and never compose a line or draw a curve that does not come from the knowledge I derived in our precious time together. Your work, coming from a fluid source, can be traced to the naked song of your youth. You spoke then of holding hands with God. Remember, through everything, you have always held that hand. Grip it hard, Robert, and don’t let it go.

The other afternoon, when you fell asleep on my shoulder, I drifted off, too. But before I did, it occurred to me looking around at all of your things and your work and going through years of your work in my mind, that of all your work, you are still your most beautiful. The most beautiful work of all.

Patti

Isn’t that so heartbreaking and extraordinary? What a lovely reminder to us all – amidst the pressures we encounter every day to do good and beautiful work, to create, and to leave something behind that’s bigger than us – that we can be the most beautiful work of all. That people will remember a smile or a kind ear or our unfaltering friendship before anything else.

Just something I’m sitting with and thinking about and wanted to share. xoxo

Beautiful Work:

If you’ve never read Just Kids, I HIGHLY recommend picking it up.

Here’s a great interview Patti Smith did about Robert Mapplethorpe.

Looking for another great read? I recently finished Some Girls by Jillian Lauren and it’s a really fun and fascinating memoir. In it, Jillian Lauren often asks herself, “What would Patti Smith do?”

What do you think? What does Patti’s letter bring up for you? Let’s chat in the comments below. Love y’all!