The Truth about Adulting with Chad Seewald

This week’s guest blog is brought to you by my favorite chocolate guru and one of my dearest kitchen mentors, Chad Seewald (check out his bakery’s Instagram and Facebook).

“Congratulations! You’re officially an adult! You know how to cope with all the things now!” said no one ever.

Adult. Ha! I’m nearing forty and in my head I still feel like a teenager, continuously unsure about all things, afraid to say the wrong things, playing it all by ear and making it up as I go along. But, to the rest of the world I’m a full-fledged adult. Heck, I even have people that look to me for advice, mentorship, and help.

So, I guess it’s all about perspective.

A little bit of background…

I’m a husband of an amazingly supportive woman whom I don’t believe I deserve, but I’m never going to let go. We both work ridiculous hours. We own a dessert shop that does everything from geek-themed chocolates to custom cakes that require power tools, homemade ice creams with flavors like Droid Tracks and Avocado Strawberry to plated desserts like Crème Brûlée and Piecakens. On top of that my wife works a fulltime job as a mental health counselor and I created a non-profit to assist other small business owners. We have two kids, one entering high school, one nearly in middle school. At the end of our work days we seek the refuge of the couch and comfort, and try and balance quality time and relaxation, cleaning house and recharging our batteries.

And we’re tired. Pretty much all the time.

No, seriously, like ALL THE TIME.

But, and this is the key to it all, we’re happy.

No matter how tired we are, we’re pretty much one of the happier couples I know.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have more time to spend with the kids, have more money in the bank, take more vacations, lose 10 more pounds (okay, maybe more than 10), spend more time volunteering, doing more things to change the face of our town, our state, our country, the world…

But, I’ve learned that while the desire for “more” is real and acceptable, it’s what you give up in the struggle for it that matters.

I see friends and family post about how “adulting” is hard, how it’s horribly difficult to try and keep your house immaculate, how there’s never enough time after running one child to band and another to drama, or how there’s never enough time to do the things they want to do. And then, two hours later they post about how they’re relaxing and watching the latest series on Netflix or reading a book, or posting a picture of an incredible meal they either made or are enjoying at a restaurant, or they’re out with friends at a concert or bar.

And it becomes clear that the issue isn’t about how hard it is to be an adult, but rather the fact that we now live in an age where we all realize that there isn’t a point where you are mystically taken aside and told that you’re now an adult. We all grow up seeing our parents navigate the world we’re now a part of and we don’t remember the conversations that happened with lines like “Honey, did you pay the electric bill?” or “Dear, did you pick up the milk like I asked?” But those conversations have happened forever. The first couples in caves probably had talks about whether they remembered to go hunting or who’s turn was it to tend the fire.

What’s changed is the perspective. We’re now able to see people having the lives we wish we had 24-7 and we assume that they MUST know something we don’t. We can see our childhood friends post about the great things their children are doing, our neighbors posting about their trip to Aruba, or our friends posting about self-care or going out to eat every night of the week, and we think, they must have it so much easier than I do.

But, the truth is that, as a whole, we have it easier than any other generation. Sure, we have challenges that have never existed before, but we have more options and activities in our lives than ever before as well, and more freedoms and choices opening before us every day.

So, why is being an adult considered harder than ever? Because we lose perspective. Rather than focusing on the little moments that matter with family and friends, we are constantly seeking “more.”

Want the key to “adulting?”

First, stop referring to it as “adulting.” It’s being an adult. And that means taking responsibility. Don’t be afraid to make the big decisions that matter, like ordering a pizza because you’re far too busy to make a full meal. And an adult won’t feel guilty about it.

Second, feel free to let some things go by the wayside. I’m a firm believer that a messy home means a loved family. Sometimes it’s more important to spend some quality time together and make some memories rather than worry about the little details.

Third, and perhaps this is most important, stop seeking the “more.” That doesn’t mean to settle for what you have. That doesn’t mean to stop trying to make the world better. It means that if you take a moment, look around you, and take in all the things in your life, you’ll probably be overwhelmed with the “amazing” happening in your life already. Finding those moments in your life will allow you to find your center and truly be happy with where you are. Once you’ve found that happiness, then you can recognize the things in life that do need attention and even try and change them.

You know, like an adult.

Interested in writing a guest blog for The Newbie Nesters? Contact me at thenewbienesters@gmail.com!

 

 

Riding with Cars in the Windy City

Over the past few months, I have missed driving my car.

And when I say this to local Chicago people, they laugh at me. “Why would you want to drive a car when you can jump on public transportation? Trains and buses all at your fingertips with the help of a CTA pass!”

Public transportation is amazing, don’t get me wrong. It allows me to people watch and get to know my new city better – without all the hassle of traffic and jay-walking pedestrians and crazy Chicago drivers. But as a Midwestern girl who’s been driving a car from here to there for over 10 years now, there are certain elements of the driving experience that I miss now in the Windy City.

Today’s topic, therefore: THE PROS AND CONS OF CARS IN THE CITY

  1. Parking: I never realized how much I took free parking for granted until it was gone. Back home in Indiana, public parking is usually in abundance, and if it does cost anything, the charge is minimal. Here in Chicago, a personal parking spot will often come with a price tag of $100 or more a month. Otherwise, street parking is available where you can find it. Just watch out for pedestrian cross-walks, parking too close to stop signs, bus routes, snow plow routes, street cleaning days, fire hydrants, and zoned parking ordinances.
  2. Personal space: This is one of the things I miss the most about driving my own car. When you are driving in your own car, you get to pick the temperature, the level of noise, what kind of noise, who’s traveling with you. You can throw your purse in the backseat with the clothes you still need to return to Old Navy. You’re allowed to have food with you. You don’t have to worry about the body odor of the person sitting next to you or whether or not you might take out someone’s eye with your backpack as you try to maneuver onto a train. In the midst of a hectic city landscape, a car can be your own personal bubble that helps you find some serenity.
  3. Radio time: You can tell me radio is a dying art, but there will always be something so right about combining radio and time in my car. I only lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while I was going to college there, but in those four years, my car dashboard was personalized with my favorite radio stations for my driving time. Since I drive so rarely in Chicago, I still have yet to really get to know the Windy City’s radio waves. From NPR to big pop hits, even to the random Spanish mariachi channel, I miss flipping from station to station in my car.
  4. Cost: Then again, because street parking is a more risky investment for car insurers, my insurance has over doubled in cost since moving to Chicago. Plus gas costs are pretty high in comparison to other areas of America. An unlimited all-month CTA pass costs $100, and I know I get more for my dollar with public transportation. But public buses just don’t have that broken-in car smell…
  5. Flexible schedule: As great as public transportation is, it runs on a schedule. This means I now plan my morning commute around when the right bus will arrive at my street corner, instead of jumping into my car and getting somewhere whenever I want. It adds a level of dependency to my traveling experience that can sometimes get rather frustrating.
  6. Going home: At the end of the day, this is the real reason why I keep my car around. There will always be Greyhound buses or Amtrak trains for me to catch, but I love the freedom and ease of being able to jump in my car and head home whenever I want. Over holidays, in the midst of family emergencies, or just because I want a break from Chicago, it has been so enjoyable to be able to just jump in my car and go.

As is true with all adult processes, there is no one easy answer. I have come to appreciate time in my car as an unexpected treat instead of an underappreciated privilege, and riding the CTA always comes with its own set of adventures. But at the end of the day, I hope more and more for a life that allows me time in Galinda the Car, instead of the unknowns of a Red Line CTA train.

Kitchen Love with Suzy Rumsey

This week’s guest blog is brought to you by my former professor and dear mentor, Suzanne Rumsey.

I have found that one of the main challenges of adulting is feeding myself and my husband at regular, repetitive, annoyingly predictable intervals. At first, you could probably exist on Hot Pockets, Lean Cuisine (for the “health conscious”), the ever-present ramen noodles, and eating out. But you’re a real grown up now, right? At some point quick, packaged foods leave you hungry for more, literally and figuratively. So what do you do? You learn to cook. And just as important, although for most not nearly as interesting, you learn to plan.

For learning to cook, I advise beginning small and simple. Even though I knew the basics and could follow a recipe, most of my cooking experience leaned toward, well, cookies and coffee cakes. Chicken, wild rice, and a vegetable were kind of a mystery. And fish? Clueless. And there was no Google. And we walked up hill both ways. When I was first on my own, in (gulp) the late 90s, I found a great little cookbook called Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook by Kevin Wells and Nancy Wells. It got my over the first hurdles in my tiny first apartment in college.

Then in graduate school, I was completely on my own in an even tinier apartment. I had no one to eat the food I prepared but me, so I began to experiment a lot more. Only one dish ended up in the outside garbage can (it smelled too bad to throw away inside). I also lived on a verrrry tight budget. That is when I began meal planning.

Meal planning, for me, is based on a few foundational premises. First, I have a financial budget to follow. Second, I don’t like to waste food. And third, I try to eat healthy, when, let’s be honest, pre-packaged foods are often cheaper.

First, planning for me is key. I make a list (I loooove lists) in my bullet journal (see also Carrie Crista’s “Beginner’s Guide to Bullet Journaling” for a great how to videos) of the menu for the week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My husband and I typically eat the same things for breakfasts and lunches during the work week. Dinners are varied, and then we have leftovers and meals out sometimes on weekends. Here is what my bullet journal list looks like for this week:

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Next to my plan of what to eat, I make a list for shopping and a list for cooking. Shopping with a list is crucial to sticking to my foundational premises of budget, low waste, and healthy. If I shop without it, I tend to splurge on shmancy oils, blue cheese stuffed olives, or something from the bakery. My cooking list is one that helps me plan ahead for the work week. I cook and prep for 2 or 3 hours over the weekend so that feeding my face is simplified when I’m tired and grumpy during the week.

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A simplified menu is one that will likely be less expensive because you buy more of one thing. It will also tend to be less wasteful. And it is easy to make it healthy. You could, for example, buy lentils, brown rice, eggs, sweet potatoes, and frozen vegetables and live extremely, vegetarian-ly, frugally. Add to that a bag of frozen chicken breasts, canned crushed tomatoes and other staples, and you’ve got yourself a lean, mean, budgeted machine. Each week splurge on a new spice blend, infused oil, or other “flavor punch” and the possibilities of your menu are simple, but endless (e.g. one week get Garam Masala or basic curry powder  and enjoy chicken, sweet potato, and cauliflower Indian curry over brown rice, or get fresh ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and fish sauce and escape to Thailand).

Another trick I use is “rolling forward” with food prep. For example, if I’m using sweet potatoes in two dishes, I’ll cook extra the first night and save the others for the next meal. Or on my prep day, I’ll chop all the onions (while weeping… and singing My Heart Will Go On, of course), carrots etc. for several meals. Chicken, when cooked simply with salt and pepper, can go in just about anything.

Another thing I do is bulk cooking. During my prep times, sometimes I prep for much further in advance than just the following week. I might cook a double batch of brown rice then portion it into plastic baggies, flatten them, and freeze them in a stack. Or I might make a monster batch of chili (really, is there any other kind?) and portion it into freezable containers so I’ve got quick meals some week when things are crazy. This past week, my bulk cooking looked like this.

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Also, buying in bulk, when things are on sale, helps stretch a buck. Your freezer and your crockpot are your friends.

So there you have it. Feeding yourself like an adult doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. But planning really is key to doing so. Plus, when you plan ahead and have real food your body will thank you, your wallet will thank you, and your friends will be totally jealous and confounded by your supreme adulting prowess.

 

Interested in writing a guest blog for The Newbie Nesters? Contact me at thenewbienesters@gmail.com!

The Search for Balance

There was a point in my life when I was overwhelmed.

I was a full-time high school teacher, part-time nanny and English language tutor, part-time graduate student…while also trying to function as a dog owner, sister, daughter, friend, mentor…not to mention keeping up with social media, finding time to grocery shop, or doing anything outside of my apartment. I thought I was happy because I was always so busy, but in reality, I was exhausted and lonely and overwhelmed.

It wasn’t until I agreed to talk with a therapist for a while that I realized how much my life had fallen out of a healthy alignment. We began to have weekly discussions about what I was doing for myself, what time I had taken to actually breathe and refresh throughout the day.

Maybe you’re not an extrovert like me, and maybe you don’t have a problem with saying no to people. But it took me almost 25 years before I learned that I had to take care of myself before I could actually be energized and excited enough to be around other people.

So here’s a little “self-care” list for you this week, some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way that have helped me remember to breathe in and out repeatedly through even the hardest of days.

Keep a gratefulness journal – This comes in many forms for me, but I know it can be easy to fall into the language of negativity when you are just tired at the end of a long day. Studies have shown that happiness is practiced, not a natural feeling. So write yourself a post-it with a list of at least three things you didn’t hate during your day. Leave it on your mirror so it’s the first thing you see when you get up in the morning. That way, you begin the work of beginning and ending your day with a reason to smile.

Schedule friend chats – The older I get, the more I realize that the friends worth keeping around are the ones who make time for you. Even when schedules get crazy, the internet can now help you have a wine date with a friend who is miles away. Grab a cup of coffee before work with someone who helps give you perspective. Or set a calendar reminder to pick up the phone and call one of your favorite people. Don’t do anything else while you’re catching up. Just give yourself that time to unwind.

Go for a walk – I learned this lesson from my dog, Rory. She is a three-year-old Australian Shepherd, which means she has high levels of cute and energy. When I started to go for a walk every morning and evening with Rory, I began to notice I had better posture throughout the day. I was calmer walking into my apartment to make dinner. I had managed to walk off a lot of the anxieties and frustrations I’d been carrying around on my shoulders all day. It doesn’t have to be a long way, but year round, a few steps and fresh air can do anyone a lot of good.

Make something – I am a firm believer that working with one’s hands is the best kind of therapy. Bake some cookies to take in to your coworkers (here’s one of my favorite recipes). Buy some Play-dough (or make your own), and build yourself a clay garden. Take some time to paint something you can put on your walls (here’s an idea). The act of creation gives you power and control over something you can manage, and it gives your brain a break from trying to figure out world hunger for a while.

YouTube workouts – They’re judgment free. They don’t cost a dime. And you can do them from the comfort of your own living room. My personal favorites are any of the workouts on DoYouYoga’s channel, but take some time to explore and find something you can enjoy doing for yourself.

Life balance is not found overnight. But I can promise you that self-care made a huge difference in the way my world fit together. It took me a while to realize that it doesn’t make you selfish to take time for yourself.

It actually just might make you a better person.

Budgeting 101 with Sarah

This week’s guest blog is brought to you by my good friend and fellow blogger Sarah Styf (you can check out her blog here):

I grew up in a lower middle class household  with a father who is a church worker (and believe me, the average church worker doesn’t make much money) and a mother who stayed at home until all four of us girls were in school. That means I didn’t grow up with much. I watched friends get Cabbage Patch Dolls and little pink boomboxes and Barbies galore and I had to be happy with my two Barbies and the Barbie pool I received from my young and childless (at the time) aunt and uncle. What little money I did get in the form of an allowance I hoarded like a mini-Scrooge, and from middle school on, any and every job I worked slowly contributed to a growing savings account that rarely, if ever, saw a withdrawal. A natural saver, the first time I ever allowed myself a spending spree was the fall semester of my junior year of college. After months of saving every penny from my job serving tables at a local upscale restaurant (or at least upscale for southwest Michigan), I spent it all traveling around western Europe while attending classes in London. But besides that one semester, I continued to save, only spending what I had and only when necessary, all while watching my boyfriend, and then fiance, spending slightly more than he was making.

And so in our early 20’s a spender married a saver and lived happily ever after. Kind of. It is fair to say that the spender and saver are still happily married in-spite of the money mistakes that we made all through our 20’s. Some of those mistakes we made together, some of those we made separately, but both are having a lasting impact in our late 30’s.

Unfortunately, when I got married and graduated from college, those saver habits started to change. At my core I was a saver, so every unnecessary penny spent hurt, but I found that buying things could also be fun. Once I had a full time job and some disposable income, I found myself buying things that I didn’t really need. This was especially true of items that I felt I had been robbed of owning all through my childhood. One of those things were collectors items, particularly collector’s edition Barbie dolls, most of which I still own.

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These Barbies have won a display position in the guest room.

To this day I still don’t know a good way to display them and several of them are hiding in a closet in our guest room.

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These Barbies have been relegated to the closet.

Immediately after we got married I had an apartment to furnish, so I would buy fun decorative items on sale to cover for all the hand-me-down furniture. I needed a new teaching wardrobe so I would buy various clothing items that I really liked, as long as they were on sale. Sales became my friends and I learned the hard way that habitually shopping sales can actually lead to more spending than saving. Over the last fifteen years post-college graduation I don’t know how many unused or barely used items I have donated or sold at garage sales. Now I don’t buy something unless I know exactly how I am going to use it or where it is going to go in our house. While I’m not ready to get rid of all of our books and movies and other items, I am slowly learning that less is more, a lesson that slapped us in the face a year and a half ago when we lived for six weeks in our 30 foot camper. I am also trying to do a better job of spending my hard earned money on a few quality items over many junky items. I relearned that particular difficult lesson this past year when I decided that I needed a much better camera that I could use in my yearbook adviser work. My husband had tried to encourage me to do just that two years ago when I bought our last camera. At the time I was too cheap to buy the SLR camera I desperately wanted so I just bought a nice standard digital camera. So instead of a single purchase two years ago I ended up spending much more money overall, eventually buying the camera I really wanted.

Another 20’s financial failure was dining out, way too much. While dining out (or dining in if you’re the take-out type) can also destroy one’s waistline (as it did for us), it also did a number on our budget. But dining out was so easy. For the first three years we were married my husband was working in Michigan, I was working in Illinois, and we were living in Indiana. By the time both of us got home from work we were too exhausted to cook. And that’s ignoring the fact that when we were first married, my cooking skills were embarrassing, to say the least. I once screwed up a box meal. You know, one of those “just add water and mix” meals. When we moved to Indianapolis and we were both living and working in the same city, the situation improved some. We both starting learning how to cook more and I found that I sometimes enjoyed it. But I was also teaching English and directing the high school theatre program at the same time. There were times during the school year when Chinese take-out and wings nights at Buffalo Wild Wings was just way easier. When we moved one more time and I was only working part time, we discovered that it was financially essential to eat at home. In the last seven years since that move we have learned that cooking at home is way more affordable, tastes significantly better (seriously, the only thing we haven’t been able to “perfect” has been certain pasta sauces), and is way healthier. During those rare weeks when we don’t cook much at home, my husband and I both feel gross and more often than not, we regret our decisions. If I could go back and do my early 20’s over again, I would force myself to learn how to cook something better than Hamburger Helper.

While eating at home more would have helped our checkbook, we also should have been smarter about where that home was located. This is probably the one area of our finances on which my husband and I still disagree. We spent the first year and a half of marriage living in apartments and then decided, before we were 25, that we were ready for home ownership. At the ripe old age of 24, we bought our first house. Now we both loved our first house. It was a nice starter home, it was fun to paint and decorate, and it allowed us to get our first puppy, but in terms of our finances, we had no idea what we were doing. We bought a house with more property than I think we intended and ended up spending significantly more on property taxes than originally thought. Or maybe we were just ignoring the extra property taxes because we had stars in our eyes. I had fun decorating but didn’t really consider how much money I was spending trying to emulate the interior designers on TLC (before HGTV became the place all things home design). And we stupidly fell for a buyers club pitch thinking that we would be buying so many things for our new house that the club would help us save significant amounts of money, only to discover that it was over $1000 that we would never see again. My husband wouldn’t change a thing about THAT home purchase, but if I could do it over again, I would have found a house to rent before buying, at least to give us a home-ownership test run. A complete rundown of our other home ownership issues can be found here. Let’s just say our experience has been a mixed bag.

But all of the above mistakes could have been avoided if we had just learned how to budget when we were in our early 20’s. For the first twelve years of our marriage we never knew how much we were spending, living on faith that we wouldn’t bounce a check between deposits. Our debt increased, our spending never decreased, and it was a constant potential for conflict in our marriage. We took a finance class three years ago and while we are far from perfect and still have a lot to work through, we finally learned the why and how of budgeting.

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Now I regularly use the website You Need a Budget (which has free plans for students) for all my budgeting needs and we are constantly working on a plan for becoming debt free. It isn’t easy, but I wish we had started doing it before we got married. It would have eliminated many a fight and helped us learn the above lessons much sooner. Not only that, but our retirement savings (which are OK but not great) would be significantly better.

No one ever REALLY wants to talk about money, especially when they are young and don’t have much of it, but I would count my lack of financial literacy one of the greatest regrets of my 20’s. Do a better job of spending and planning in your 20’s and then you’ll be able to really enjoy your 30’s and beyond. Trust me. It will be worth it.

Interested in writing a guest blog for The Newbie Nesters? Contact me at thenewbienesters@gmail.com!

Adulting As I Go…

There are some mornings when I wake up and feel I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to put on pants or which side is the front of my favorite shirt. Oftentimes, that’s what being an adult is all about. I have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing, but hey – I’m moving forward. I take every day as an adventure, and sometimes I just have to figure it out as I go.

My goal with this blog is to alter that feeling. If the point of the internet today is to develop community, why not create a space where we can all feel a little less overwhelmed and uncertain on this path toward growing up? That is exactly what “The Newbie Nesters” is all about.

Below is a dump list of lessons I’ve learned over the past 10 years of my life, from my first months as a college freshman to now. As I continue to develop and shift this blog toward a communal platform, I’d love to interact with you, my readers, a little more. So we’re going to try something new this week. In the comment section at the bottom of this blog, please tell me which, of the “adulting” topics listed below, you’d like to hear more about. And hey, if any of you have experiences you’d like to share in response to my lessons, let’s talk. Maybe there’s an opportunity for a guest blog post in the making!

Here’s the list:

  • Follow your dreams, but get the bills paid.
  • Always take the time to gut-check the balance of your life. If one thing is eating away at the rest of your investments, it just might not be worth it.
  • Homemade food is the best love language, hands down.
  • You’re never too old to ask your parents for help.
  • In fact, the most successful people are never afraid to ask for help with anything.
  • Sometimes it’s good to unplug.
  • Post-its and to-do lists are good for you.
  • You’re not a failure if you pay someone to do your taxes.
  • Send snail mail to people you love.
  • Furry children can save your life.
  • Always be on the look-out for your personal favorite hole-in-the-wall. It will be worth the search.
  • Budgeting is not evil. It is necessary and relieves stress at the end of the day.
  • Self-love comes in many forms and doesn’t have to break the bank.
  • Find a hobby that can offer you small joys without consuming you.
  • Square footage is far less important than attitude when it comes to making a home.
  • It’s normal to feel tired, but we all still need to wake up at some point.
  • The language of thankfulness is crucial to a full life.
  • Travel is the best investment you can make.
  • Your bucket list doesn’t have to be impossible.
  • The moment you are too old to be a student is the moment you stop fully living.
  • Social media should be for pictures of food, cats, and babies – not for passive-aggressive ranting.
  • You are not alone. It is crucial you don’t forget that.

I’m excited to see where this goes! Let me know what you’re thinking 🙂

 

A Different Kind of Post

I know this is a little different from other blogs I’ve written here. But as I work on some big changes for this site, and in the context of life and adulting, I thought this would still work as a good post for this week.

I wrote this piece during one of my hour-long commutes on the CTA to work one morning. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

Inner City Travelogue

While on my way to work this morning,

Riding a train that slips between this world and my old one,

I looked down to find the memory of Iowa tattooed on a person’s wrist

Not the whole state to be exact,

But rather the symbol of its location,

The block letter word that reminded this person of home

 

And so I thought back to last weekend

When I met a man with a map of St. Paul, Minnesota, on his forearm,

Of weeks-old Michigan mittens branded along a shoulder and upper thigh

Months ago there was a girl with Chicago’s flag wrapped around her ankle,

Four six-pointed stars guiding her with every step of her feet

 

I suppose we are all walking maps like these people

With travel logs that we carry along our heartstrings

Of where we are

Where we wish to be

Where we’ve left pieces of our souls along the way

Politics and 2017

I think we’ve all had enough of rants this year – and it’s only February.

So consider this an encouraging “how to” guide in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election.

I know many of us are scared and angry and uncertain as we slowly step into 2017. But no matter what side we’ve all ended up on, I hope we can still remember how to treat each other as humans.

And that doesn’t mean calling out shame on people for expressing their opinions.

It doesn’t mean using words like “conservative” and “liberal” as if they are swears.

It doesn’t mean assuming the worst of people because they use words like “Muslim” or “Christian” or (dare I say it) “Caucasian” to describe themselves.

It DOES mean we should all remember how to log into social media without an agenda – unless that agenda is sharing the latest photo of your cat.

It DOES mean admitting that even Canada has a divided political system, and nothing was ever solved by running away from problems.

It DOES mean that sometimes the world makes sense, and those are the most important moments to remember where you stashed the chocolate.

2017 does not need to mean blocking people left and right or losing track of how to have a civil conversation as soon as someone says “Trump.” Just as it has for every year of life up to this point, all it has to mean is a new opportunity to love and challenge others to do the same every day.

We can do this together – promise.

 

YouTube Binging 101

My best friend started me down this rabbit hole, and now I can’t stop. Why isn’t there an “Enter at own risk” sign on the YouTube homepage?

It began with a topic.The hobby of makeup and beauty products was knocking at our door, but we weren’t sure what we needed to buy to get off the ground. Thanks to YouTube, we got to watch someone else demo the experience before weput any money down! And this is how together we started binging on beauty vloggers, DIY crafters, and professional bakers. There has been more than one afternoon that I’ve sat in front of my computer screen with a pen and paper, taking notes for my next shopping trip to try something new (of course while also sending messages back and forth with you to hear your thoughts).

What I love most about the YouTube community is the constant positivity. No matter how these people’s days are going, no matter what some stupid viewer said in the comments section yesterday about their hair, quality YouTubers choose to share messages of kindness and goodness in everything they produce. And that is what I want to share with you today. I got into YouTube when I was down and out and going through a rather rough patch in my life. My best friend and I would watch our favorite YouTubers together, and it gave us just one more thing to giggle over and chat about. But more than anything, my favorite vloggers shared with me a daily uplifting, thought-provoking experience that kept my brain engaged and helped me bring focus back to my hectic life.

So where should you start in your YouTube vlogger experience? To answer that, I’ll have to take you through the journey of how I got started down this path this past summer.

It started with Zoella, a British beauty vlogger who harbors a love for all things Disney and enjoys spending time in the kitchen and taking her pug Nala for long walks around her hometown of Brighton, England. Her channel has given me some great beauty tips and some really great recipes for me to try in my future, but it is her honest, open battle with crippling anxiety, her open support of friends in time of need, and her love of what she does that keeps me watching. Zoe Sugg is a human, and she doesn’t try to hide that in her work.

From there, I moved on to Pointless Blog Vlogs. This one is a time commitment, but it can be so much fun. Alfie Deyes, the YouTuber behind this channel, is Zoella’s boyfriend, which is how I first discovered him. Because he has devoted himself to the act of daily vlogging, his videos function more as a life diary sometimes. Viewers travel with him all over the world on vacations, try new foods as he visits new restaurants and samples new candy, cheer for Alfie as he tries out new self-set challenges, and smile a little wider every day as he expresses his love for his and Zoe’s two-year-old dog Nala.

Maybe it’s because I’m an anglophile at heart, but from there I wandered into the world of Dan is Not on Fire and Amazing Phil. These two vloggers are roommates who live in London, and who have been together making videos since the days of MySpace. Each takes his own spin on turning everyday events into comedic sketches, from unabashed Tumblr addictions, to existential crises, to writing fanfiction about themselves. They also have a BBC radio show—who knew?

Jeffree Star can completely be blamed on my best friend. Known originally for his punk rock sound with artists like Hollywood Undead, he started his YouTube channel to show off his skills as a self-taught makeup artist and to feature his self-named beauty product line. You can’t help but adore him for his love of facial highlighters and his neon pink hair, but I think I love him most for the way his face lights up when he sees anything Louis Vuitton.

You might recognize at least one of the Vlog Brothers for their work outside of YouTube. John Green is known around the world for his young adult dramas like The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, but did you also know that he and his brother made YouTube videos together? Originating from a year-long dare to talk to each other only through online videos, these two Indiana natives have proudly developed a community for nerd fighters, crash course videos about classic literature and all things educational, and conversations about international current events. If you don’t want to feel like your brain is melting while you’re binging on YouTube, you’ll be in good hands with John and Hank Green.

And there we have it. To dive into the deep end of YouTube can be scary and overwhelming, but you constantly remind me of three important things through all of our viewing together:

  • First, YouTube is not going away, so starting in the shallow end is very okay.
  • Second, you are not alone through any of your viewing; that’s the blessing and the curse of the internet.
  • Third, you just might like what you find if you’re willing to give it a chance.

 

The Importance of Sizing the Ladies

Women have all had to wear bras through our adult life. And even though they’re stupid and sweaty and can cause all sorts of pain, I never knew that wearing the right bra size could be so life-changing. Seriously, after getting my first ever bra sizing, I am wearing a properly fitted bra for the first time in maybe 10 years.  And not only do I feel more comfortable with my whole upper body, but did you know that at least 65% of women are wearing the wrong bra size?

So then I started looking into this topic some more, and I am floored at some of the facts that no one tells you about why it’s so important to wear a properly sized bra. For example:

Posture – We don’t have to go too far into the fact that a properly fitted bra makes your overall shape look less like a sack of potatoes. But women who don’t wear properly fitted bras regularly experience back pain and are more prone to slouching than those women who do.

Pain –  Too often, the pain isn’t limited to your spine. You could also be experiencing breast and skin irritation all because your not wearing the right bra size. Unexplained stomach pain and headaches can also sometimes be traced back to an ill-fitted bra.

Lymph Node Health –  Lymph nodes are a crucial element of your immune system, and lymphatic vessels run through a woman’s breasts. If you’re wearing the wrong bra size, you could be squishing your lymph valves and therefore preventing them from working properly.

What can we do about this? Make sure you are getting fitted regularly. Any drastic change in weight or lifestyle (having a baby or picking up running, for example) should lead to another bra sizing as soon as possible. And don’t break the bank doing it! Thanks to the internet, you can figure out your size in the comfort of your own home. Or you can go to a store that will do it for free like Victoria’s Secret. Remember you should try on a new bra for looks, comfort, and fit under clothing.

No matter what, don’t be like me. I didn’t even know the discomfort I was brushing aside until I took the time to get fitted. And now I’m never looking back.