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

Why I Should Be More Like My Dog (and You Should, Too)

So you had a bad day at work. A plan fell through, your boss was mad at you, the deal didn’t work out, you missed your deadline, etc. You finally get into your car after the stressful day and make your way home. You open the door, and there is your dog, wagging his tail, slobbering as he bounds toward you without any hesitation. He’s unabashedly glad to see you, and tells you so by planting a huge, wet kiss on your face.

It’s no secret that dogs truly are man’s (and woman’s) best friend. From the earliest days of man, when wolves gobbled up the scraps we tossed them from our hunting ventures and domesticated themselves, dogs have been our companions. Throughout time, we have bred them, narrowed down desirable traits (physical and/or behavioral) and invited them into our families.

I, for one, was never a dog person until we adopted Posy 2 and a half years ago. Growing up, we always had cats. It wasn’t until I was in 7th grade that we adopted Mocha, a brown deer head chihuahua, and later, Bella, another of the same. Sweet as they were, they acted more like babies than actual dogs. So when I browsed the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia’s website and saw this:

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I fell in love. What a sweet face!! That’s what a “real dog” looks like! I had to meet her!

Billy and I were moving into an apartment that allowed pets, and so I may or may not have convinced him to go to Adoption Day with me “just to see her.” Once we arrived at Tractor Supply, where the Humane Society had a tent set up out front, found her, and she flopped over on her back begging for tummy rubs, Billy and I knew she was ours. What I did NOT account for was how incredibly difficult it is to have a dog. Let alone one that is as stubborn as a mule (she’s half Basset Hound, half Boxer, 100% obstinate). A couple of months of trials and tribulations, tears, many ruined household items, and getting stuck on top of the cat tree (see below), and we settled into our groove with Posy. What we got in return was a friendly, affectionate, energetic housemate with whom to share the apartment.

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Fast forward two years, and we’re living in a house. We have since adopted another pooch, Pepper! We’re not sure what breeds she is (we lovingly call her a Heinz 57), but she has also found her place in our family. We adopted her from a friend of mine who rescued her from the side of the road, and though she is loving and comfortable with us, she is shy and nervous around every other person she encounters.

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Since I’ve become a dog owner two times over, I’ve learned a great deal about patience, forgiveness, and when to walk away from a fight (not literal ones, but you get the picture). Truth be told, I still don’t consider myself a “dog person,” per se; I think dogs are among the cutest and best creatures, but personality-wise, I am a “cat person” through and through. Cue picture of our first-born, yet not forgotten, Khaleesi, who fits her name very well:

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But I think the most important lessons I’ve learned from pet ownership are more positive ones. Each day, I am delighted by my dogs’ unfailing good mood, their uninhibited displays of affection, their fierce loyalty, and their playful sensibility.

So…as an expansion of a previous post, here are four aspirations of mine, as inspired by my dogs.

1. Be unabashedly enthusiastic about the things that make you happy.

Life is hard enough without worrying about whether or not people will judge your every move. Everyone is different and has different things that make them happy. I, for one, enjoy bad 80’s music, classic literature, British television, vintage fashion, and collecting trinket boxes. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve been looked at funny for having certain preferences in what I wear, what I listen to, how I speak, or what makes me laugh.

And you know what? Enough. Enough feeling bad for enjoying what I enjoy and judging others for things that make them happy. As long as people are not harming others, what does it matter? I aspire to be unapologetic in my flights of fancy, and to approach each of my hobbies and interests with relish and boundless enthusiasm, much like Posy and Pepper when they chase after a thrown tennis ball.

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2. Play hard, nap hard.

If there’s one thing that can be said about dogs, it’s that they do everything in extremes. My dogs, for example, are relatively young (Posy is almost 4, and Pepper is a little over a year old), so they are full of energy and put every fiber of their being into playtime. Conversely, when it’s quitting time, they are immovable lumps on the couches or their doggie beds.

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Waking up to their bursts of energy each morning makes for a very refreshing way to start the day. They are appreciative and loving when I come home at lunch to see them and let them outside for awhile. And the pups get so stirred up with joy when we get home from work for the day that they just don’t know what to do…they just do that adorable little prance/half-wiggle thing until I bend down to give them hugs (yes, both of my dogs hug.)

While those are very literal examples of the “play hard, nap hard” sensibility, a more figurative approach is appropriate for human behavior. Simply put, the gusto and dedication Posy and Pepper put into play time, meal time, and nap time can be translated as: give life everything you’ve got. We’re not guaranteed time, and so it is important that the moments we have are spent wisely. Every action (or inaction, like spending a lazy Sunday working on a blog post) should be met with full intention of purpose; every meal should be savored and appreciated for the fuel it provides, every book should be devoured for the beauty of the language it contains, and every day at work should be a celebration of your talent, your purpose within your organization, and the satisfaction of doing something productive.

3. Welcome new friends with open arms.

As anyone would say about me, I could talk to a brick wall. From the time I  was very young, I enjoyed making new friends. And as I got into college and took classes in communication, sociology, anthropology, and psychology, I learned more and more about human behavior, and why we make the choices, form the relationships, and fit into our respective cultures the way that we do. So I love nothing more than to sit down with someone and ask the simple question: What does a day at work look like for you?

If it is someone who is passionate about their line of work, they will immediately start talking excitedly about the tasks they are responsible for, the procedures they take to accomplish them, and what their particular job means to their organization. If it is not someone who is passionate about their line of work, the question does not yield a lengthy answer; instead, the person typically will start talking about their hobbies, or what they would prefer to be doing instead of their present job. Either way, a spark appears behind their eyes, the pace at which they speak quickens, and the sheer delight of talking to someone about what they love to do, whether it be for work or play, shines through.

That is what I love. And that is what I strive to continue to do; I strive to continuously make these connections, talk to people about what makes them happy, and welcome them into my life with open arms.

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“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
Josh Billings (a.k.a. Henry Wheeler Shaw; humorist and lecturer)

4. Love unconditionally.

This is a hard concept for a lot of people, but very few dogs. Your dog does not mind if you’re having a bad hair day. He doesn’t care if you’re black, white, purple, or polka-dotted. He doesn’t have a concept of religion, so it doesn’t matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Pastafarian.

All your dog knows it that you are the most important person in his life. You’re his human. You’re the first person he sees in the morning, and the last one he sees before bedtime. And he loves you without question.

Shouldn’t we be inspired by this? Shouldn’t we strive to be more accepting, more tolerant, and more loving? It’s so easy to get caught up in our differences that I think we sometimes fail to remember that we are all humans. We have that in common. Maybe we should take a page from Posy’s book and welcome each interaction and seek connection.

 

So that’s the end of my (somewhat weird) blog post. At the end of the day, wanting to be like a dog is a silly suggestion; but at its core, the principal stands. We should all look at life like these innocent, adoring creatures, and cherish the good over the bad.

After all…life is short, but every dog has its day.

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For information about how to adopt a cat or dog (adopt, don’t shop!), contact your local Humane Society. For my local friends, visit the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia’s website, hsnwga.org. If you’re not in a position to adopt, they are always looking for volunteers! If you are not from the NW Georgia area, you can find info on your local Humane Society branch and other organizations from which to adopt pets here.

New Year, Better Me.

Until recently, I used the phrase “New year, new me.” New Year’s is a time for reinvention, for starting fresh and beginning again. But looking at 2017 in the last moments of 2016, I don’t agree with the phrase.

I don’t want a NEW me. I like me. Or, I’m beginning to, anyway. I don’t want to create a totally different me. I want to grow. I want to improve. Maybe instead of saying “New year, new me,” we should switch to “New year, better me.” I think I’ll start right now.

I have compiled a list of goals (I won’t say “resolutions,” because I feel like it’s been overdone and I almost never stick to resolutions.) So here, for your reading pleasure, are my 17 Goals for 2017.

1. Read 20 books.


Ever since I learned to read, it was very rare for me to be seen without a book in hand. Whereas I still possess a thirst and passion for reading, I read far less than I used to. I have tried to come up with half-baked excuses as to why I don’t read as much anymore, but the truth is that I just haven’t carved the time out to do it. I have gotten into a routine of spending about an hour before I go to sleep browsing the internet on my phone. This is a habit I will be breaking in the new year.

2. Go on more dates.

Of course I mean with my husband…but I also mean with my friends. It all boils down to not taking enough time to nurture my relationships properly. With a packed schedule, it becomes easy to neglect something as simple as calling up a friend and asking them to dinner, or scheduling a night or two each month to stay in and play board games with the hubs. And you know what? This goes for myself, too. I need to take myself out on dates more.

3. Keep on bloggin’.

Now that I have revived My Crunchy Crusade, I have opened the doorway to blogging again. I have set a goal of blogging at least once a week. I even have a shortlist of topics to write about for the next few months. Hooray for writing therapy! I hope you guys will stay tuned!

4. Meditate.

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I know that meditation means many things to many people. A lot of people picture meditating as something a guru does, seated with their legs “criss-cross applesauce” (I’m bringing back that phrase, so help me), eyes closed and touching their index fingers to their thumbs, forming a circle. Whereas this is one way of doing it, it’s not the only way to look inward and achieve moments of peace. This year, I plan to seek these moments of peace throughout my day, living in the moment, taking in what I’m experiencing, and being truly present. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone home and been asked, “How was your day?” only to blink confusedly for a few seconds, trying to recall. I know I went to work and did my job, but how was my day? I hope to remedy this in 2017.

5. Make more art.

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This goes across the board. The arts mean a great deal to me, whether it be visual, performing, literary, you name it. There are a number of projects I already have lined up for the year: working on my blog/writing poetry, directing The Great Gatsby and hopefully being involved in a few other productions throughout the year, and working on chronicling the last few years with scrapbooking, to name a few. I plan on relishing any other involvement with the arts that comes my way. I have a creative soul, and I need to work on nourishing it more.

6. Drink more water.

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This one’s really straightforward. I am entirely convinced that I have spent the majority of my life mildly dehydrated, so I need to be more mindful of sipping water throughout the day. I could expound on the health benefits of water, or perhaps even the symbolism of water as one of the bases of life, but I’ll leave it at this: I need to carry a water bottle with me everywhere. Or chain it to my ankle; whatever it takes.

7. Whine less, celebrate more.

THIS. This is a biggie. I am susceptible to negativity. My anxiety seems to feed and thrive off of it. For my entire life, my factory setting has been more negative than positive. But as the entirety of my high school and a portion of my college life taught me, no one likes a complainer. No one. As a result, I have spent these past few years trying to negate the negativity. Though there are plenty of times where complaining is just a part of life and a healthy way to vent frustration, every day is a battle to remain positive and stop the whining. I plan on continuing this fight and trying to encourage others to do the same, because I would be a total hypocrite if I told people to stop whining without following my own advice. Thus, I created My Crunchy Crusade and also the Glass Half Full Initiative (#glasshalffullinitiative) to spread positivity and forward-thinking in life and on social media. What do you have to be happy about? Celebrate it! I know I will be in 2017!

8. Say “no.”

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For those of you who know me, you know that I care a LOT about what people think of me. Like, a LOT. Though I’m beginning to be better about it, I make myself sick over disappointing people. What I’m learning, however, is that it is completely okay to say no to people. NO, I would not like to join your LulaRoe Facebook group. NO, I cannot join your committee/board. NO, I will not be able to run that errand for you. NO. It’s another daily struggle, but one I continually work on.

9. Stop apologizing.

In the same vein as saying NO, I have this very annoying tendency to apologize for almost everything I do. I don’t know if it’s a societal thing, where I’m afraid of ruffling feathers as a woman, or if it’s my own neurosis, but I apologize way too much. Sure, there are instances that warrant an apology. Running over someone’s foot with a shopping cart because you weren’t paying attention? Thoughtlessly insulting someone during an argument? Missing an appointment because you didn’t write it down? Yes, by all means, apologize with meaning and with your heart. Having a differing opinion and respectfully making a counterpoint? Not doing something for someone because it makes you uncomfortable? Standing up for yourself? No. No more.

10. Get outside.

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Again, this is another instance where I’ve made half-baked excuses. I do not take enough time to be outside enjoying nature. There is more to life than sitting at a computer all day and then coming home to sit in front of a tv and go to bed. Here’s to embracing Mother Nature!

11. Stop comparing apples to oranges.

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I believe we all have a tendency to look at other peoples’ lives and say, “What am I doing wrong?” I know I do, almost constantly. The thing is…no one knows what anyone else has gone through to get where they are. We all have so many factors contributing to how our lives turn out. Some people truly do live a charmed life, with very few things that ever go wrong for them. Some people appear to live that charmed life, but suffer on the inside, or hide the bad things very well. The fact of the matter is…none of us are the same, so we do ourselves and others a disservice by comparing one person to another. I catch myself looking at other women and making things a competition. She does this, she does that, she looks a certain way, she acts a certain way…why can’t I be/look/act more like her? That’s the wrong approach. Instead of comparing myself to these other women…why not try to be happy with who I am?

12. LET IT GO.

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2017 is the Year of Elsa. Or…the year of Let It Go. Here’s one of my favorite memes about my struggle:

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One of the main contributors (and there are many) of my day-to-day stress is that I hold onto the wrong things. Instead of hanging on to the simple delights of my day and the good things that happen along the way (I unintentionally rhymed, but I’m going to keep it), I tend to harp on the bad things. There are things that happen in life that suck. It is impossible to scrape by without being touched by some unfortunate occurrences. The biggies should be dealt with and may take time to heal from, but the smaller bumps in the road need to be LET GO. Sometimes nothing can be done. Agonizing will not help nor will it change the fact that something crappy just happened. The best we can do is take a small amount of time to be upset, then move on. Keep truckin’.

13. Get out of town!

In the new year, I plan to use this phrase to express my disbelief at what someone just told me.

“Did you know that most Muppets are left-handed?”
“Get out of town!”

No…I’m kidding. I plan to travel more. I was born and raised in Dalton, GA, and have traveled very little in my 23 years. It may not be in the cards to take a bunch of trips across the country, but I’m setting the goal of taking multiple day trips in the coming months. There’s so much more to see!

14. Be more like my dogs.

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You may be scratching your head at this one, but hear me out. My dogs are the most enthusiastic, loving creatures on the planet. Posy, my Basset/Boxer mix, has never met a stranger. She does not discriminate. If you have hands to pet her, she is your best friend. And don’t even get me started on their zest for life. They get excited about absolutely everything: meal times, lazy couch time, potty time outside, you name it. I can even start talking in a very excited voice to them, and they start wagging their tails and doing that cute little hopping dance that dogs do. It is precious.

So here are my goals-within-the goal, or “Lifestyle Tips from Pepper and Posy”:

  • Be unabashedly enthusiastic about the things that make me happy
  • Play hard, nap hard
  • Welcome new friends with open arms
  • Love unconditionally

15. Laugh, laugh, laugh. (And cry a little.)

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One thing that I’ve found is very therapeutic in times of stress is to find the humor in life. This is where the old saying “laugh to keep from crying” comes into play. But sometimes, it’s okay to cry. They say laughter is the best medicine, but sometimes a good cry can help. Like, an ugly, snotty, toddler cry. As long as it’s not in public, because I think that might freak some people out at Kroger. But one thing I hope to do in 2017 is laugh more than I cry. Because life is short, and laughing makes you feel good. In my book, there’s not much better than when something makes you laugh so hard, it turns into a silent wheeze; you’re doubled over, tears streaming down your face, trying to get a grip. That’s what the world needs more of.

16. Be. Patient. (I mean it.)

When describing myself, I always use the phrase, “I’m a lot.” Meaning, I’m a lot to handle. I have an abundance of many things: personality, love, passion, drive. What I don’t have an abundance of is patience. I’m getting better about letting things settle and breathing, but I have a long ways to go. Perhaps one of the most important goals I’ve set for myself for the new year is that of being patient.

The Information Age has spoiled us all. Now, at our fingertips, we can achieve instant gratification on many fronts: sending a message to someone, posting an angry status in the heat of the moment, one-click shopping, looking up who sang that one song that’s been stuck in your head all day, etc. Some things take time. Some things you have to be patient for. And those things are usually the ones that are worth your while.

17. Lose 20 pounds.

I am so sorry to shift the tone so drastically with the last item of my list. Truth be told, I was extremely nervous to put this on the list and onto the internet for anyone passing by to read. But this is a big deal.

I am unhealthy. My bevy of poor choices in diet and lack of exercise have culminated in weight gain that goes beyond “happy weight,” a term which I hate. My sleep schedule and quality are shoddy. My head is foggy a lot of the time. My stress is through the roof. The time has come for me to take charge of my life, make better choices, and get it in gear. I am doing this for no one other than myself, and have laid it all out here on a public forum to hold myself accountable. This will not be an easy process, as I am used to eating whatever I want, not exercising, and staying up late, but I feel it is crucial to being the best version of myself I can be. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

With all of these goals laid out, I have a big year ahead! The time is now. The need is mighty. Negate the negativity. Live life. Be the ball (wait, I don’t think that one fits here.)

Anyway…I’m both excited and terrified of what 2017 has in store. Each hour brings us closer to toasting the new year, replete with potential and chances to evolve, to move onward and upward. I think most of my fear comes from being scared of not having the willpower to break bad habits, and of reverting back to past behavior. Which reminds me of the last two lines of The Great Gatsby:

…tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

It’s not easy to move forward without looking back. Our past happened, and there’s nothing we can do about it except learn from what we’ve been through. Even though we are constantly pulled back into our past, we move forward as much as we can.

Here’s to inching forward together. See you in 2017!