April 8, 2015

10 Things to Prioritize in Your 20s

For roughly the past week or so, M and I were busy celebrating birthdays. I started off the celebration by turning 26 and he concluded the birthday week when he turned 31.

Our shuffle toward middle age got me thinking about everything I'm experiencing in my 20s. I love figuring out adulthood, even if I'm not perfect at it. I still struggle with breaking promises to people, choosing sleeping in over working out and wearing TOMs instead of heels to work. But, by combining the things I'm trying to prioritize with M's sage 30-something insights, this manifesto for my 20s came together.

In no particular order, here's what we considered our top ten priorities:

1. Build your integrity.
Understanding your level of integrity starts with honestly answering this question: how do people view you? If your actions don't reflect how you want to be viewed, figure out what you need to change. Work on being proactive and responsive. Show up for the commitments you make. Or, if you're forced to break a commitment, make sure you let someone know beforehand or follow up immediately afterward.

2. Take your finances seriously.
Because the earlier you start funding your 401(k) or understanding investments, the better off you'll be in the long run. A good book that helped me better understand the basics of finances is The Elements of Investing. I recommend it to anyone interested in going beyond simply a checking and savings account.

3. Enjoy your job/career.
Easier said than done, right? I'm grateful for the job I have, but I didn't always feel happy with where I was or what I was doing. Most people transition so quickly from high school to college to "real life" that I think it's easy to forget to take the time to really think about why we're doing what we're doing. Determine for yourself what inspires you to feel significant and find a way to incorporate it into your work.

4. Take yourself seriously.
I love finding the humor in all situations, so I never imagined that I would prioritize being taken seriously. But, I really believe it's so integral to growing personally and professionally because when you take yourself seriously, others notice and will do the same. Think about the way you dress, the way you act, and the impact and influence you have on others and take the steps to make your actions (and your voice) matter.

5. Be kind to your body.
Cut back on late nights. Drink more water. Find a workout that fits your interests. Reading this article really made me aware of the day-to-day health decisions I make and their long-term impact on my life.

6. Find someone who believes in you.
This can be hard because it goes beyond friendship or romance. Someone who believes in you will see you make big mistakes; but, they'll know that you are more than a summation of your failures. This person will recognize your potential and supports you as you work at embracing it.

7. Take action on what you care about. 
This might mean putting your money towards a cause or finding some other way to make a meaningful impact on your community, city or world. Change doesn't happen when individuals choose to sit back and let others call the shots.

8. Prioritize travel.
Take advantage of this period of your life. Michael and I love exploring new places together and our ability to get up and go is made easier by our lack of kids or big commitments. I don't think travel needs to be limited to expensive trips to far off places  we're always trying to find ways to take more time for short trips around the Midwest. Map out a few destinations within five hours of your location and start there.

9. Be OK with your past mistakes.
If you're not quite to this point, at least try and make amends with them and understand how they shape who you are.

10. Start learning.
Better yet, never stop learning. Subscribe to The Economist, New Yorker, Atlantic or any kind of publication (or podcast) that will expand your worldview and explore topics you don't yet understand.

March 16, 2015

Smart & Funny: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt


This weekend I finished Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

I started watching it the first weekend it came out then begged Michael to catch up and join me so I could continue to spout the show's inside jokes at him and he would actually understand them. I rewatched a few of the episodes with him and it was worth it; the second time around, I noticed twice as many jokes. Jokes upon jokes upon jokes!

Everyone in Unbreakable is trying to define normal in their own way; from Kimmy recovering from 15 years as a "mole woman" to Titus exploring life as a werewolf, each character is busy looking for the acceptance of their stories and pasts. I think that this theme of "we're all different and all our stories matter" is partially why the show resonated so strongly with me. That and every reference to the 90s.

What to look out for: under-the-surface humor (think rapid-fire cultural references that cover anything from Friends to O.J. Simpson's infamous murder trial) and laugh-out-loud scenes.

My least favorite character: Randy. Bumbling, painfully dumb characters are hard for me to watch.

One of my favorite jokes from the season: Daddy's boy. I hope the writers find a way to bring this back in a future episode.

What are your current favorite shows on Netflix? I'm open to adding suggestions to our queue.

November 20, 2014

Ways to Give Back in St. Louis

This year is flying by  it's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only a week away! I'm looking forward to the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, because those weeks feel particularly special, since they usually involve spending time with family and celebrating with friends.

I'm also working on being more mindful of my consumption habits this year. It's easy to overindulge (on food, spending, or both!) during the holidays, and I hope to be more intentional about the decisions I make by avoiding unnecessary purchases and instead finding ways to support families who are in need. 

Want to join me and give back with your family, book club, or roommates? Here's a few suggestions for gathering loved ones together and making a difference in the St. Louis community:

Sort and box food at the St. Louis Area Food Bank
The St. Louis Area Food Bank always needs help with donations and November through December is a busy time for them. Spend a few hours during the weekend sorting new items or shopping for food they need (you can call to ask about certain items). Children are welcome, too, so bring along a niece or nephew!

Become a birthday buddy for a child in foster care
I've learned a lot about foster care through my work at United Way and I think it is so important to serve the people and children who are a part of this system. The Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition in St. Louis is a great organization that runs a birthday buddy program year-round to help the children they serve receive birthday gifts. It's an impactful program, and any individual or group can participate by choosing a child to sponsor.

Package donated toys and gifts at The Salvation Army
A partner with the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program, The Salvation Army serves as the distribution agency for the St. Louis region. Throughout November and December you can help the organization by donating new toys or sorting donations for distribution. Children under 16 are also welcome but must have adult supervision.

Donate clothes and household items to St. Vincent de Paul
If you don't have the time to volunteer, assessing what you have and what you can donate is another way you can contribute to the community. St. Vincent de Paul accepts gently used furniture, household items and clothing for their thrift stores, which raise money to address unmet needs in the region. Best of all, they offer home pick-up.

Serve the homeless population through St. Patrick’s Center
Winter weather is particularly hard on people who are currently homeless or facing homelessness. St. Patrick's Center provides housing, employment and health opportunities for those in need and creates opportunities for individuals to achieve sustainable independence. If you’re interested in serving our city's homeless population, St. Patrick's Center has many ways you can give back as an individual or with a group.

Adopt a family through 100 Neediest Cases
100 Neediest Cases began in the early 1900s and continues today as a way to give local families a brighter holiday. Through 100 Neediest Cases, thousands of needy families in St. Louis are identified and helped through donations of money and household goods. It's easy to adopt a family, and you can contribute as an individual or with friends.

picture via thinkstock

August 29, 2014

A Much Needed Update

The short version: I'm alive. So is Michael. Our house is livable (unlike what you saw in this post), and I'm listening to Murder in the City by The Avett Brothers on repeat.

The long version: It's been more than four months since I showed up to this space. It's harder for me to show up online during the summerfriends are visiting, the sun is shining and the last thing I want to do with my free time is spend it staring at a glowing screen. I also had so many changes happening in my life and I never thought to record them here. Here's a quick rundown of what's gone down in the last four months:

  • A freelancing job I had for five months ended in May. It was a blessing to have this job on the side, because the income from it played a huge role in offsetting house costs. Believe it when people tell you that spending money on a house doesn't stop once you buy it. The freelancing gig took up a lot of my time, and forced me to work every weeknight evening and on weekends. I loved working with the organization and was grateful for the opportunity, but I definitely do not miss it.
  • I've been busy working on other house projects. Once my freelance gig ended, I was able to fully embrace being a homeowner. Up until this point, I hadn't had any time to work on house projects, let alone clean the place (this didn't bode well with my clutter-hating husband). Met with summer's warm weather and excited about having my evenings and weekends back, I threw myself into cleaning our house and tackling the mess of weeds that is our yard.
  • I quit my job to start a new one! This happened in June, and was a turning point for me. Although I grew professionally while working at the creative agency, it was time for me to make a change for my career. I was contacted by United Way of Greater St. Louis to interview for a newly-created position in their marketing department and was offered the position a few weeks later. The job change was exciting for Michael and I in many ways, and I'm happy to be involved in the nonprofit community in St. Louis once again.

I put a lot of ideas for this space on the backburner during my break, but I can't wait to jump in with posts on freelancing, house updates, living conscientiously and AirBnB. I hope you'll join me!

April 16, 2014

Keep the Momentum Going + Giveaway

You can take my medal, but leave me my complimentary snacks and swag.
I am a race junkie.

I live for those five minutes before each race, when the sun is just beginning to rise and I'm jumping in place trying to stay warm. I love reading the signs that fans make for their loved ones—signs that inspire me, make me laugh and push me to keep my legs moving when I'm feeling sluggish. I love passing people (rarely happens). I love being passed (always happens). Most of all, I love the buzz that comes from preparing for and running in a race—it's a feeling that doesn't wear off when your legs cramp or your ankles buckle from stiffness. It's a buzz that keeps you going even when the last race you ran was one of your worst.

It's why, coming off my slowest half-marathon yet, I still want to tie up my shoes and get ready for another next race.

I'm easing up on the mileage this time, and just signed up for a 10K in Creve Coeur on June 7. I consider 10Ks to be the perfect length for a race—they offer enough mileage for both beginning and seasoned runners to feel accomplished when they cross that finish line. I've never competed in the summer, and am looking forward to the challenge of the wet heat of Saint Louis (at least I'm telling myself that). I'm also excited about what this race means for the community of Creve Coeur. Though I'm not a Creve Coeur resident, I still nerd out when an event engages a community and provides funding for future city-wide events.

If you're trying to stick to your own fitness goals and live in Saint Louis, you should check the race out. If you're not a Saint Louis resident, Alicia is brainstorming a Midwest "Run Blogger Run" event that will hopefully happen later this year. She talks about it here.

Most importantly, I want YOU to join me on June 7 for the Heart to Heart run! Seriously. I'm giving away a free entry for the Heart to Heart 5K or 10K (your preference) and want to see you there.

Want to enter? Just comment on this blog post with your fitness goals for this year and how I can reach you if you win (leave a Twitter handle, email address, etc.). Everyone is eligible to enter—shoot, if you don't live in St. Louis and can't visit for the race I still want to hear about your fitness goals.

The race entry giveaway ends Monday, April 21 and I will contact the winner on Tuesday, April 22.