On this day…

On this day, four years ago, my life changed forever. Three instances of happenstance and serendipity led me to the love of my life.

She said he was known as “Mr. Sriracha.”

“There is this very sweet boy who comes into Lisa’s a couple of times a week. He and his buddy work for Shaw and they always order the fish tacos. But what’s really funny is that he got tired of having to request the bottle of sriracha for his tacos, so he started bringing his own bottle. I’m not sure how old he is, but he’s cute as a button.”

My Nana, with whom I had lived for two years since graduating high school, was trying to set me up with one of her customers from Lisa’s Cafe in Downtown Dalton. I thought it was cute that my grandmother was trying to fix me up with someone, and playfully rolled my eyes when she brought it up. I sometimes bussed and waited tables at Lisa’s during my Christmas break or holiday weekends, and had never seen a “Mr. Sriracha.” So life went on.

The day was May 14, 2013. I had just finished my sophomore year of college at Dalton State. I was on summer break, but I also had a part-time job working as a student assistant in the Derrell C. Roberts Library on campus, where I spent 19.5 hours a week re-shelving books and scanning in newspaper articles to be archived for the college.

This day, however, I got a text message from a former classmate from my Humor Communication class, Taelar, asking if I wanted to grab lunch. So…I did what any 19-year-old would do during the summer…I played hooky and went to grab a bite! (Sorry, DSC!)

Taelar and I went to Lisa’s Cafe for lunch and decided to spend the rest of the day hanging out. We went to  Civitan Park to soak up some sun and blow bubbles for a few hours. Then it was time to stop by her house to take her dog for a walk.

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This picture was taken on May 14, 2013.

Taelar lived in an adorable loft in Downtown Dalton, right across the street from the Depot restaurant. As we were walking in, her neighbor Garrett was leaving. After Taelar introduced me to him, he asked if we would be going to trivia at the Depot later that evening. Having never been, I was excited to go! So after hanging out for a few more hours at Taelar’s, we all made our way across the street to play trivia.

I had been to the restaurant side of the Depot, but never the bar. I walked in, taking in the atmosphere, very aware that I was 19 years old and being watched like a hawk by the wait staff. Taelar saw a few of her buddies who normally competed on their trivia team, and we walked over. I was introduced to a handful of people, one of which was a charming, witty, somewhat lanky fellow named Billy.

After swapping some puns and coy smiles, I decided he was alright. This was a guy who was not afraid to laugh, sing, and show his knowledge of Beatrix Potter stories to win his trivia team some extra points.

After trivia was over, the group went back to another one of Taelar’s friends’ apartments to watch some TV. That friend, Brian, lived right next door to her, and we ended up watching “Flight of the Concords,” a very silly HBO show about a musical duo from New Zealand. I ended up sitting next to Billy that evening, squished on a futon between him and another friend. I remember blushing each time my knee accidentally touched his.

I ended up learning something interesting about Billy, which was that he used to live in the same loft as Taelar and her boyfriend Cody, right next door.

At the end of the evening, Billy and I ended up heading out at the same time. He offered to walk me to my car, and I obliged. As we made our way down the stairwell and to my car, I began to dread saying goodnight.

“So…uh…it was great to meet you,” I remember saying.

“You, too,” Billy said.

“So…I’ll…see you around?” I said.

“Yeah…see you around,” he replied.

And I got in my car and left, smiling all the way home.

Fast forward three days, and I got a Facebook message from a Billy Jaco. He asked me if I had seen the new Star Trek movie, a pick-up line I STILL tease him about to this day. After a few days of casually chatting online and texting, Billy asked me on a date. We had mentioned our mutual love of cooking, so he offered to make me dinner. Elated, I accepted.

Our first date, about a week after we met, consisted of grilling steaks and watching “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” a movie we could both quote from start to finish. It was the perfect evening!

We ended up seeing each other again about three days later. Billy cooked for me again, and we ended up watching a movie I had never seen, “The Big Lebowski,” which I later learned was Billy’s absolute favorite movie. It stormed really, really badly that evening, and the power went out. After lighting some candles, Billy and I ended up talking for hours, waiting for the power to return. We were sitting on the couch, talking about our childhoods and favorite things, and in walked his roommate, Deanna. She passed by the living room on the way to her room, saw us chatting on the couch with candles, and uttered, “Awwww! That’s cute,” before departing.

What was funny, though, is that I knew Deanna…from Lisa’s Cafe! Deanna is Lisa’s sister-in-law…further deepening the plot of serendipitous circumstances around Billy’s and my meeting.

A few weeks went by, and Billy and I were officially an item. The time came to tell my Nana, who had been inquiring about where I’d been spending my free time.

“His name is Billy. He’s 5 years older than me, he’s from Knoxville, and he works for Shaw. He’s so sweet!”

“Can I see a picture?” Nana asked.

I pulled out my iPhone and pulled up his Facebook page.

“THAT’S MR. SRIRACHA!!!” she exclaimed.

And so it all came full circle. I’m not normally a believer in fate, but the circumstances lined up in exactly the right way for Billy and me to meet.

  1. Taelar lived in the apartment Billy had recently moved out of.
  2. I had known Billy’s roommate, Deanna, for a little over a year through Lisa’s Cafe downtown.
  3. Billy was Mr. Sriracha.

And now…four years later…we are married. We own a home together, we have three beautiful fur babies, and we could not be happier.

I guess it all goes to show you…good things can come from playing hooky.

 

Here’s to four years of knowing the best human I’ve ever met. I love you, Billy Jaco!

 

The Crunchy Crusader

Galavanting in Greenville

I have a new city to add to my list of favorite places: Greenville, South Carolina! Though it was a rather short trip, I fell in love with the city. With so many beautiful sights, delicious food, and lovely public art, Greenville is a city I will definitely be returning to soon!

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Adopting this as one of my new mottos: “Whatever you are, be a good one.” This was found on the side of The Escape Artist. The mural was created by Stone Academy of Communication Arts and Furman University.

Billy and I went to visit his best friend of 8 years, Lawrence, for his birthday! Lawrence has been living in Greenville for about half a year, and had nothing but wonderful things to say about it. He very graciously hosted us from Friday evening to this morning, and showed us some highlights of the city.

We explored Falls Park, a couple of breweries, and some delightful bars and restaurants, including the Bohemian Cafe, Lazy Goat (where I had the BEST Brussels sprouts of my life), Swamp Rabbit Brewery in Travelers Rest, the Velo Fellow, Braswells, Pour, Sully’s Steamers, Universal Joint, Barley’s, Trappe Door, and, my favorites: The Village Grind and GB&D. (Yep, we saw a lot in a short amount of time!)

We also visited Horizon Records, where I found four of my absolute favorite albums for a very great price: The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Rubber Soul” (my two favorite Beatles albums); The Postal Service’s “Give Up,” and Green Day’s “American Idiot.”
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There were a number of notable delicacies at the places we visited: the best Brussels sprouts of my life at the Lazy Goat (Crispy Brussels Sprouts with speck ham, shaved Manchego, and sherry glacé); the Raspberry White Ale at the Swamp Rabbit Brewery (light and refreshing, with raspberries added to the second fermentation- perfect for a hot day); the Swamp Rabbit BBQ bagel at Sully’s Steamers (They’re famous for their steamed bagel sandwiches; this one had turkey, cheddar, provolone, onion, green peppers & BBQ sauce. Other notable names of sandwiches include the Bob Loblaw, California Steamin’, and Big Deddy); and, one of my new favorite meals ever, the Chicken and Waffles from GB&D (with hot maple glaze and bacon jam). Don’t worry: we walked all of the delicious food and beer off!

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Pink beer at the Swamp Rabbit Brewery in Travelers Rest!

A true pleasure was visiting The Village Grind, a trendy coffee shop in West Greenville owned by a woman I went to high school with, Lindsey (George) Montgomery. All of the memories I have of her place her in my mind as a creative, talented, and beautiful person, and her shop is so reflective of that. The cozy space was decorated with eclectic artwork and furniture, tons of plants, and cute knick-knacks, so I was in heaven! Her menu had your classics, macchiatos, americanos, cafe au lait; but she also had new and fun twists on coffee, like the rose cardamom latte. GB&D (which stands for Golden, Brown and Delicious), the home of the life-changing chicken and waffles, adjoins the space and is owned by her brother and father. It was so great to get to see her briefly and give her a huge squeeze! (And I enjoyed a very, very tasty cafe au lait.)

I’ve included links to all of the places we visited at the end of this post, in case you want to try any of the places out on your next visit to Greenville!

Hanging out with Lawrence and their friend Parker made for a very entertaining weekend! I always love seeing how happy Billy is when he’s with his buddies and hearing all of the hilarious stories from when they co-opped at Shaw together. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing my husband in a place that’s new and foreign to the both of us, and watching him feel completely at home. I’m constantly in awe of how lucky I am!

And so concludes another week. Each time we return from a trip, I find myself planning the next one! I’ve been bitten by the travel bug, and feel so lucky to be able to take these short trips and see new places.

I’m sitting here now, with my cat snuggled up to me. My turkey and sweet potato chili that I prepared earlier has filled the house with a lovely aroma as it cools before I portion it out for my lunches this week. My Daily Habit Tracker is made in my Bullet Journal for the month of May, so I can get started with it tomorrow. I’m sipping a cocktail. I literally could not ask for anything more at this moment.

My wish for you, reader, is that you revel in the small pleasures of life. I’m learning to. And I urge you to take a deep breath. Just breathe the joy in. Let it permeate your being, and exhale the stresses of the previous week. It’s a brand new month, a brand new day, tomorrow. Make it great.

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Love,
The Crunchy Crusader

 

http://thelazygoat.com/
http://www.theswamprabbitbrewery.com/
http://www.eatgbnd.com/
http://thebohemiancafe.com/
http://thevelofellow.com/
https://www.greenville.brazwellspub.com/
https://horizonrecords.net/
http://www.sullyssteamers.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thevillagegrind/
http://www.barleysgville.com/
http://trappedoor.com/
Info about the flowers mural: http://blog.escapeartistgreenville.com/stone-avenue-mural-makes-our-days-brighter

Another weekend, another adventure.

As I come to the close of another week, I sit back, contented. Another week of hard work, of adjusting to the rigors of my new job, adjusting to the commute and finding my place in the organization, has come to pass.

This past weekend, I had the immense pleasure of spending time with my dear friends, Adam and Jess, in their little paradise in Pine Lake, Georgia. Just outside of the perimeter of Atlanta, near Stone Mountain, is a hippie’s oasis. It’s tiny and seemingly far removed from the noisy, messy city, full of lush green trees and quirky houses, with a small lake in the middle.

Billy took his annual trip to Tellico, TN, to spend time with his father and former coworkers from Broadway Carpets up in Knoxville. On a whim, which is in line with most of the excursions I’ve taken this year, I asked Adam and Jess if it would be okay if I third-wheeled them for the weekend. Graciously, they said yes, and I enjoyed some refreshing downtime with two of my very favorite people.

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We went to Avondale Estates for breakfast on Saturday, and I found this lovely mural!

I ventured down on Friday evening and came home this afternoon. Luckily, I wasn’t waylaid on my trip down or back up, I’m glad to say. I also watched “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” for the first time, and swooned over Clint Eastwood for three hours.

I’ve also started Bullet Journaling! I’ve been online researching all sorts of ideas, and have started off with a few really cool pages. Can’t wait to keep adding to it as the year progresses! For those interested in learning about  the Bullet Journal, visit the website here. I really love it, because you can customize it as much as you want, and it’s a really good way to relax and focus on one task.

I had a ton of fun with the “Things That Make Me Happy” page I made today! It was a fantastic exercise in mindfulness; because there was so much room for different items, I was forced to really think about the things that make me happy (whether superficial, material, or meaningful). Plus, it’s super colorful, which brings me joy. I have so many ideas for other pages!

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I am SO excited about next weekend! It’s our friend Lawrence’s birthday, so we’re traveling to Greenville, South Carolina to celebrate with him! I have wanted to go to Greenville for a couple of years, so I’m super pumped. That’ll be another new city to add to my list. And we’re also planning a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, for my and our friend Peter’s birthday in mid-June. This is the “Year of ‘Yes’ to Travel,” and I’m making good on that!

Thank you for tuning in! I’ll leave you today with a quote I stumbled across on Pinterest earlier:

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Go forth and have a great week!

Love,
The Crunchy Crusader

What a wonderful whirlwind.

Greetings and salutations! It’s the Crunchy Crusader here. I know it’s been an awfully long while since I last updated, so I’ll get right to it: the last month has been INSANE.

In the span of a little under six weeks, I went to Memphis, experienced my directorial debut, interviewed for and accepted a new job, resigned from my former job, flew to NYC, went to a beautiful wedding ceremony, and started the new job. But I’m getting ahead of myself! Let’s start with my trip to Memphis.

On March 11, 8 ladies and I tore it up in Memphis, Tennessee for my good lady friend Pallavi’s bachelorette party! We dined, we danced at a disco, we visited Graceland, and we enjoyed each other’s company as we celebrated the bride-to-be! 2017 is the “Year of ‘Yes’ to Travel,” so I was super happy to add both Nashville (where we stopped for lunch, but I’m totally counting it) and Memphis to my list of new cities visited.

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Stopped for lunch in Nashville and saw Amy & Sohum!


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It snowed while we were in Memphis!


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Glasses and Bangs Club! We legitimately got asked if we were triplets. 

Graceland was super neat, too!

Exactly a month ago today, “A Murdered Mystery,” my directorial contribution to “A Night of One-Acts 2017” opened! The entire show, consisting of 4 one-acts, was a ton of fun and an incredible learning experience. Not only did I get to get my feet wet before Gatsby this summer; I also had the immense joy of making new friends and having an absolute blast. My cast was made up of some of the funniest, kindest people I’ve ever met, and each of them did their part to bring my vision to life with humor, a keen sense of stage presence, and tactful acting decisions in their own right.

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Levi Witt, Caleb Busie, Natalie Bruce, Megan Robinson, Mat Noland,  and Nikki Sloan in DLT’s “A Murdered Mystery.”

While that was going on, on a lark, I had decided to submit my resume on indeed.com for a position with U.S. Xpress, of which I knew very little other than that they were a trucking company. The job, a public relations position, seemed to fit my qualifications and skill-set, so I said, “What the heck.” I had been applying and interviewing for a couple of months around Dalton, and the opportunities just weren’t the right fit. So, dejected and without confidence, I hit the “submit” button for this job in Chattanooga and didn’t expect to hear anything for a few days.

Approximately half an hour later, I had an email in my inbox from a talent specialist for the company asking me for a phone interview. Fast forward to the week of March 20th, and I had myself a second-round, in-person interview. Fast forward to THE DAY AFTER, and I had a bona-fide job offer. It all happened so incredibly quickly!

My last day at the Downtown Dalton Development Authority was March 31st. My heart absolutely broke to leave my merchants and all of the wonderful people I had the pleasure of working with throughout the community. But an opportunity had presented itself that I could not turn down: I would be the first Public Relations Specialist that U.S. Xpress ever had in its 31-year existence, meaning that I would be building the position from the ground up with a team of equally new employees in a brand-new department. Not to mention, the job is in Chattanooga, which might as well be the other side of the world. I have only ever lived and worked in Dalton, so I was equal parts terrified and thrilled.

After my last day at the DDDA, we went to an 80s-themed birthday party for our friends, Lori Etheridge and Lori Southerland! I teased my hair to high heaven, wore a dress my Nana bought in 1986, and had the time of my life. Billy went as a combination of Bill and Ted from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. We looked rad!

Since my last day was March 31st and my first day at U.S. Xpress wasn’t until April 10th, I had a week to myself. So what did I do? I flew to New York! My best friend, Grace, and her boyfriend, Damon, graciously opened their home to me for a last-minute, impromptu trip from Sunday to Wednesday. And boy, did I have a ball. It was a more low-key trip, but there was no shortage of excitement and wonder at the big city. I had a chance to explore their digs in Hoboken, NJ, too, which I found charming and lovely.

Damon and I went to the Museum of Modern Art, where I stood 3 feet away from my very favorite painting, Starry Night, the New York Public Library for an exhibit on the history of musical theatre, and the Onassis Center for an exhibit on ancient Greek and Roman art.

AND, we got to see Kevin Kline (one of my favorites) in “Present Laughter,” along with Cobie Smulders and Kristine Nielsen. Though a bit slow at times, I enjoyed every moment. Kevin shone. ❤

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The closest I got to Kevin. I’ll take it. 

And the fooood. I tried Jamaican food. And I had the best cappuccino ever at Empire Coffee & Tea Co. in Hoboken. The best sandwich in the world is also in Hoboken at Fiore’s (the classic Italian combo), which was the sandwich Liz Lemon freaked out about in 30 Rock, which really tickles me. I also enjoyed arguably the best meal I had ever feasted upon at Lupa. Crispy duck with chard and asparagus, and cacio e pepe and  broccoli rob on the side. We also had a scrumptious chocolate and hazelnut dessert of which I can’t remember the name. Grace and I almost had to waddle into our taxi to go to the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre for her improv show, which was fabulous (duh!).

I also got to do some sight-seeing and vintage shop-hopping, which I always enjoy.

We also made our way to the Financial District to see the Fearless Girl.

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The trip came to an end with an 8 pm flight, which turned into a 10 pm flight, which had me touching down in Knoxville around 11:45. It was the most terrifying flight I’ve ever had, in the tiniest plane imaginable. But I made it home in one piece…eventually.

Since I am not familiar with the Knoxville area (side note: I flew out of and back into the Knoxville airport to not only save a considerable chunk of change, but also to avoid Atlanta and the I-85 mess like the plague), I plugged my home address into Google Maps to get me back to Dalton. But instead of taking me to the interstate, which I would have recognized, it took me down some very dark, very curvy back roads. With my phone on 10%, I clenched the steering wheel in terror for a good hour and a half before I made it onto a highway I recognized from our many trips to see my in-laws.

So, it was creeping past 1 am, and, thinking it would be quicker than staying on I-75, I went the back way through Cleveland, TN. MISTAKE. Because, lo and behold, what do I see in my rear-view as I’m passing through the postage stamp-sized City of Varnell? That’s right: one of the city’s probably 4 police officers flashing his blues at me. He swaggered over to my driver’s side window, shone his flashlight in my face…and informed me that my tag was expired. Billy and I had COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN to renew it on his birthday at the end of December. Whoops.

So he wrote me a ticket. Resigned to my fate, I signed on the line and took my miserable butt back home, where I collapsed into bed, too tired to change into my pajamas.

The next day, I ventured down to Calhoun for a lovely luncheon for my dear friend, Pallavi, the day before her wedding. We witnessed a ceremony of married ladies blessing the bride-to-be and had mehndi (henna) applied on our hands. Then we sat down to a yummy lunch!

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The day after that, we witnessed a gorgeous traditional Hindu wedding ceremony (in Sanskrit!) and watched as two of my favorite people got hitched! Pallavi was stunning, and her beau, Peter, surprised her by dressing in traditional clothing (complete with a sword and all). The reception was a ball, with more delicious food and dancing (with a few Bollywood songs thrown in, which was some of the most fun I’ve ever had).

Saturday and Sunday were spent recuperating from the revelry. Monday, April 10th, was my very first day with U.S. Xpress, the nation’s largest privately-owned truckload carrier (I have that spiel down now). The first day was spent in orientation, where I learned all about the company and its objectives. From my second day on, I have hit the ground running and have gotten to know my coworkers. I’ve graduated to a team of 5, with the VP of Corporate Communications as the big boss, a Communications Manager under her, and then me (Public Relations Specialist), a Social Media Specialist, and a Graphic Designer.

I am still adjusting to the 40-minute commute, compounded with the mental strain of processing a new job, getting up two hours earlier than I’m used to, AND working out every day during my lunch break. Yes, you read that correctly! Your girl is on a treadmill for 30 minutes every day at lunch. I never thought I’d see the day. I’m making sure to get my 10,000 steps in every day, and have been successful!

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My view every day at lunch. I use the 30 minutes to get some power-walking in and catch up on some reading. 

In any case, though I am very tired, I am loving every moment. My meal planning is back on track, I’m sleeping well, and I’m feeling great. Hope you’ve enjoyed the update, and I am going to make a concerted effort not to lapse for this long again! Thank you, as always, for taking the time to follow me on My Crunchy Crusade.

Cheers!
Tanner

 

Garden

I want to learn to garden
Till the earth and unwind
My little patch all barred-in
Keeping my own wilderness confined

I’ll pick patch of land
And a place in the sun
I’ll raise flowers by my own hand
And pick them when I’m done

I’ll learn about seeds
And which ones respond best
To sun, to soil, and other needs
How to avoid a garden pest

A seed is untapped power
Un-marred by heat or neglect
Yearning to become a flower
That I  am charged to protect

I want to learn to garden
But not just in my yard
I want to plant the seeds of pardon
To past offenders who have scarred

I want to sow forgiveness and love
To reap empathy and gain
Pick up my shovel and gardening gloves
And weed out my sorrows and pain

Smile Like You Mean It.

Smiles can brighten the darkest of days. Whether it’s a shy, hesitant grin, a baby’s first smirk, or a full-on beam, there’s something so beautiful and human about turning up the corners of one’s mouth.

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My Duchenne smile

Studies have shown that there are many physiological and psychological benefits to smiling. Dubbed the “Duchenne smile” by psychologists, a true, genuine smile is the only indicator of real enjoyment in humans. When an unforced, real smile is provoked by feelings of happiness, certain facial muscles are utilized (the zygomatic major muscle , which raises the corners of the mouth, and the orbicularis oculi muscle, which raises the cheeks and forms crow’s feet around the eyes), and there is more activity in your left anterior temporal region of the brain. (Source)

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I smile a lot when Billy’s around. This is one of our engagement photos.

I, for one, was raised by people who taught me to acknowledge passersby with a smile. Though it only takes a moment of your time to smile at someone, it can make a difference. There have been studies linking even fake smiles with the release of endorphins in the brain; so even when you fake it, your body still reaps the benefits of smiling!

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Definitely not a fake smile 🙂

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** Side note: This picture is one of my favorites ever taken of Nana and me. When I was little, Nana and I were best buds (and still are). She and I spent a lot of time together. She used to pinch my little leg, and then ask, “Ooh, did you see that big bug??” and I would laugh and laugh. On my wedding day, right as we were taking this picture, she reached behind me, pinched me, and whispered, “Big bug!” I’m not crying. YOU’RE CRYING.

But back to the blog! A friend of mine said something profound a couple of years ago about a habit of hers that she developed when interacting with people. Because it is so easy to focus on negativity or point out flaws in other people, she found herself resorting to picking these things out during her first impression of people. So what she started doing when she passed people on sidewalks, in stores, or in the hallways at work, was to immediately find something positive to think about that person. Instead of “His shirt is wrinkled,” she would try to think, “The color of his shirt compliments his eyes.” Or instead of, “She has really big feet,” she would try to think, “Those are really cute shoes.” In time, she had trained her brain to find the positive things about people.

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My best friend Grace and I went as the swans from Swan Lake for our senior costume party in high school. Typical us. ❤ 

This is something I aspire to do, especially towards other women. For some reason or other, women feel this innate instinct to compete with other women. And there’s truly no need. In my teenage and young adult years, I found (and still, I’m embarrassed to say,) find things to criticize in other women, when a) it is not my place to be critical of anyone and b) it’s nasty and exhausting. In my voyage toward more mindful living, I strive every day to lift up other women, to support them. We’re all sisters, and we need each other. It shouldn’t be a contest.

Back to the subject of smiling. Lately, I feel as if I have been going through the motions. Instead of using the Duchenne smile when I smile at others, I’ve begun to do this weird thing where I press my lips together and only slightly raise the corners of my mouth. Aside from probably looking insane, it’s disingenuous.

What the world needs now is more smiling. More positivity. More outward displays of joy. It’s easy enough to open Facebook, Instagram, or SnapChat and see countless mannequin smiles posted all over the internet, but what we need is more of those crinkly-eyed, glowing grins. I think we can all do our part to spread the love by smiling like we mean it.

 

What makes you smile? Tell me below in the comments! You never know whose day you’ll brighten by sharing what brings you joy.

 

Peace,
Tanner

 

 

My She-roes.

Greetings, readers.

In the wake of all of the horrific cat-fights I’ve witnessed on social media, divisive language and actions of various political figures, and a general feeling of unrest from a lot of people in my life lately, it’s been a little difficult to remain positive. But I realize that all I can do is try to keep my head above water and continue focusing on my mission: spread joy, hone in on what makes me happy, and live mindfully.

Oh, and Happy February!

I’m glad to be starting a new month. January was kind of weird; the first couple of weeks of the year started out wonderfully- I was on track with my new diet, reading a ton, keeping up with blogging…then I got sick! I’ve spent a total of almost three weeks battling a sinus infection from Hades (for which I finally broke down and called in anti-biotics). As soon as I got over the sinus infection, BAM! Food poisoning. I’m chalking it up to bad luck, and am hoping to stay healthy for the remainder of the year. Being sick has made me completely abandon my healthier diet, though, so I have gone back to square one, which is super upsetting. I’m really angry at myself for reverting back to the bad habits, which isn’t doing a lot for my morale and motivation to get back on track.

Rehearsals have been going super well for the cabaret I’ve been a part of, entitled “Lively Ladies…Dead Composers.” I’m enjoying working with the other Lively Ladies, and to share in the experience with performers I admire. And it’s a dream come true…I get to sing “Singin’ in the Rain”! I’m over the moon and can’t wait to perform next weekend.

I’m also holding auditions for my very first play, a one-act called “A Murdered Mystery”! It calls for a cast of 3 women and 3 men, and runs about 20 minutes. I figure it’ll be the perfect way to get my feet wet before I tackle “The Great Gatsby” this summer. We have a really interesting mix for this year’s “A Night of One-Acts” at Dalton Little Theatre. I’m directing the only comedy and the only play not written by a local playwright; the other three are dramas written by very talented gentlemen from this area. My plan is to work on writing a one-act for next year and submit when “A Night of One-Acts 2018” rolls around.

So there’s an update about my recent goings-on…now, onto this week’s theme:

My She-roes.

Being born into a family that is predominantly made up of women, I was taught from the very beginning that women can do anything. I have witnessed first-hand women being born into less-than-ideal circumstances, being dealt a difficult hand, or falling prey to woeful events, and then fighting to make it work. Even with all of the odds against them, they have persevered.

So I believe it’s only fitting that I write a blog post about strong women throughout history who have fascinated and inspired me. These women’s stories have stuck with me as I’ve become an independent woman, myself, and I have borrowed pieces of their courage while making difficult decisions, standing up for what I believe in, and making my way through life as best as I can.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller, born blind and deaf in Alabama in 1880, embodies the word “perseverance.” Though her body had stacked the odds against her, her mind was sharp and inquisitive, and her drive to understand the world around her trumped her disabilities. She went on to become an author, a political activist, and a lecturer, touring the world and acting as an inspiration to people of all backgrounds and abilities. She was also greatly admired by Mark Twain and was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree. I also just recently realized that she lived to be 87, and passed away in 1968. She was alive for a very large portion of first-wave feminism in the U.S., and lived to see the very beginnings of the second wave.

Maya Angelou

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Another writer. But so much more than that…Ms. Angelou was also a civil rights activist. She was born in 1928 in St. Louis, and lived an extremely interesting and inspirational life. She was the victim of sexual abuse and rape as a little girl, and as a result, was mute for five years. Out of the horrific trauma, though, she developed an incredible memory, memorizing dozens of books and plays by Dickens, Shakespeare, and Poe, among others. In foregoing speech, she learned to listen intently and understand the world in a completely new way…and from then on, strove to “tell the human truth.” In her multiple autobiographies, poems, and stories which closely mirrored her experiences, she delved into the painful and difficult times of her life to create art that spoke the truth of the human condition.

Another fascinating thing about Ms. Angelou was what she called her “writing ritual.” ‘She would wake early in the morning and check into a hotel room, where the staff was instructed to remove any pictures from the walls. She would write on legal pads while lying on the bed, with only a bottle of sherry, a deck of cards to play solitaire, Roget’s Thesaurus, and the Bible, and would leave by the early afternoon. She would average 10–12 pages of written material a day, which she edited down to three or four pages in the evening. Angelou went through this process to “enchant” herself, and as she said in a 1989 interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, “relive the agony, the anguish, the Sturm und Drang.” She placed herself back in the time she wrote about, even traumatic experiences like her rape in Caged Bird, in order to “tell the human truth” about her life. Angelou stated that she played cards in order to get to that place of enchantment and in order to access her memories more effectively. She stated, “It may take an hour to get into it, but once I’m in it—ha! It’s so delicious!”She did not find the process cathartic; rather, she found relief in “telling the truth”. [Source]

Beyond her work as a poet and autobiographer, she was a civil rights activist, an actress, a singer and dancer, a polyglot (she was proficient in multiple languages), and a journalist. She wrote stage plays and screenplays, produced documentaries, composed movie scores, taught college classes, and directed feature films. And she was also given dozens of honorary degrees from colleges and universities all around the world. Maya truly channeled the hardship and adversity thrust upon her into creativity the likes of which can never be duplicated. She was, in a few words, uniquely gifted and driven to make the most of life. She passed away in 2014.

Malala Yousafzai

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Malala is the youngest Nobel laureate in history and is an staunch advocate for worldwide access to education. Starting at age 11, Malala started writing blog posts for the BBC about attending school in her town in Pakistan, which was under Taliban rule. She bravely wrote about her experiences as bans on girls attending school were implemented and then lifted, later speaking out against the Taliban’s rules on a local current affairs show. She and her father were later featured in a documentary by a New York Times reporter, and subsequently appeared on other television shows advocating for girls’ education. As she became more and more well-known and recognized, the danger grew.

In 2012, an assassination attempt was carried out on Malala as she rode the bus home from taking exams. Though three bullets were fired at her and one went through her face and neck, ending up in her shoulder, she survived the attack. Protests against the shooting were held in several Pakistani cities the day after the attack, and over 2 million people signed the Right to Education campaign’s petition, which led to ratification of the first Right to Education Bill in Pakistan.

In 2014, Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy and struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. On 12 July 2015, her 18th birthday, Yousafzai opened a school in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, near the Syrian border, for Syrian refugees. The school, funded by the not-for-profit Malala Fund, offers education and training to girls aged 14 to 18 years. Yousafzai called on world leaders to invest in “books, not bullets.”

Ellen Degeneres

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What’s not to love about Ellen? She got her start as a stand-up comedian, later breaking into television, where she publicly came out as gay on national television in 1997 (huge for the time). After some push-back from ABC, her sitcom was canceled, but she rallied and restarted her stand-up career. She went on to try another sitcom, but ended up finding her greatest success with her talk show, The Ellen Degeneres Show.

What I love most about Ellen (besides the fact that she is Dory) is the way she uses her fame to uplift, inspire, and help others. Her show is not sensationalist; she invites guests of all backgrounds and types, from celebrities to child prodigies to people with positive or heartwarming stories. She entertains without tearing people down or harping on negative stories in the media. In addition, she is an animal rights activist, a humanitarian, and a philanthropist. I was overjoyed to hear that she was awarded the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. Before awarding the medal, he said, “… today, every day in every way Ellen counters what too often divides us with the countless things that bind us together and inspires us to be better, one joke, one dance at a time…Again and again, Ellen DeGeneres has shown us that a single individual can make the world a more fun, more open, more loving place, so long as we just keep swimming.”

Michelle Obama

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I miss our former First Lady already. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, I was 15 years old. Too young at the time to know much about politics and the impact the Obamas would have on our country and the world at large. What I knew was that a young, beautiful black family had moved into the White House, and that was an enormous deal. And so my research began.

I learned that Michelle was born in Chicago, and though she lived in her older brother’s shadow for most of her life, decided that she would follow in his footsteps and try to go to Princeton. She earned straight A’s throughout high school and graduated Salutatorian of her class, yet she was still advised not to “aim too high” when she applied to Princeton. Determined to prove her own worth, she studied hard and became involved on campus. She became involved with the Third World Center, an academic and cultural group that supported minority students, running their day care center, which also included after school tutoring. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in sociology with a minor in African American studies. After that, she earned her law degree from Harvard, making her the third First Lady to have a postgraduate degree, after Laura Bush and Hilary Clinton.

Michelle met Barack Obama while they both worked at Sidley Austin LLP in Chicago. It was an “opposites attract” situation, according to Barack (aww!). Her career has consisted of working as the assistant to the Mayor of Chicago, Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development for Chicago, Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago, where she developed the University’s Community Service Center,  and Vice President for Community and External Affairs for University of Chicago hospitals.

While she was First Lady, Michelle visited homeless shelters and soup kitchens, hosted receptions for women’s rights, advocated on behalf of military families, and founded “Let’s Move!” an initiative to encourage exercise and eating healthy to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity. Michelle is also an enormous supporter of LGBT rights.

What’s more, throughout her tenure as First Lady, Michelle was the epitome of grace, class and style. Though fashion does not matter with regard to being a “She-ro” in my book, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Michelle always looks fabulous. There was a bit of controversy (for some reason) about the fact that she wore brands like J. Crew and Talbot’s, but it’s extremely endearing to me that she didn’t pay as much mind to the prices or fame of the labels she was wearing, just that she liked the way she looked (and felt). In addition to her fashion sense, our former First Lady was first and foremost a wife and mother who cultivated a healthy relationship with her husband and her two girls. She is, in my opinion, one of the most inspiring women of all: she cares about families (others’ and her own), poverty, public health and safety, education, and human rights. I will so miss her being in the White House, and can’t wait to see what she does next!

These were just a few of the ladies I look up to and draw inspiration from. Though some may disagree with some of their political leanings, the basic principles they upheld and the way they all battled adversity with grace and fortitude is something to be admired. I will most certainly be posting another edition of “My She-roes,” because there are so many more ladies throughout history that I admire and would love to research further.

 

Thanks for reading! Who are your “She-roes”? Comment below!