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BBC: ‘My Year With Eleanor’.

Hellooooo! I know it’s technically a holiday, so perhaps you’re reading this from the comfort of your bed? Or the beach? Here’s to hoping!

I’m at the office today, but we have spent a majority of the week packing, since the movers are coming tomorrow to put all of our work things in a new building. I checked out the place yesterday, and it’s nice, but very corporate. I’ll report there on Monday, so we’ll see how that goes.

I am really excited to talk about the last book I read: “My Year With Eleanor” by Noelle Hancock.

This book has been on my reading list for quite awhile, and I went to several bookstores looking for it. My mom eventually ordered it from a far away Half-Price Books, and I’ve just been waiting for the exact right time to read it. I knew it was going to be inspiring, and well, I’m in need of some inspiration! Here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

In the tradition of My Year of Living Biblically and Eat Pray Love comes My Year with Eleanor, Noelle Hancock’s hilarious tale of her decision to heed the advice of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and do one thing a day that scares her in the year before her 30th birthday. Fans of Sloane Crosley and Chelsea Handler will absolutely adore Hancock’s charming and outrageous chronicle of her courageous endeavor and delight in her poignant and inspiring personal growth.

While I’m not a huge fan of the loads of Eleanor Roosevelt quotes out there, I can definitely appreciate a person willing to step out on a ledge for an entire year.

When you think about it, doing something every day that scares you seems like a really terrible task – despite all the growth, of course. But, Noelle Hancock mixes it up and does some really terrifying things (gets in a shark cage, flies a fighter jet, and goes skydiving), and she does some things that are less scary, but leave room for embarrassment (sings karaoke, does stand up comedy, and visits her ex boyfriends).

Naturally, she saves one giant task for last, and I won’t spoil it.

I know there’s lots of books out there like this, and while I haven’t read “Eat, Pray, Love”, I’ve heard it’s pretentious, and that’s exactly what I loved about Noelle’s story. It was honest, and although she shared all of the cool things she learned from her journey, she was also willing to show the dark side – think: sleeping pills, snotsicles, and an empty checking account.

I’m definitely, 100% recommending this book to anyone who feels like they’re in a rut, or perhaps feel like they haven’t lived their full potential yet. Who knows, maybe this book will inspire your “Year of Fear”!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is… drumroll… “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. Read along with us by simply commenting here on the blog, or following me on social media @OrangeJulius7.

And so, it’s Easter weekend! I am not religious, but I treated myself to a Marshmallow Milky Way (YAS), and I’m pretty sure I’m going to make this Sunday a Funday, complete with eggs and mimosas… because, Easter.

Have a fun on, y’all!

2017 Goals: A progress report.

Just doooooo it!

Just doooooo it!

It’s March 1st, and that means we’re a quarter of the way through 2017 ALREADY! When I set my goals for the year I was thinking about how so many people simply set goals on New Year’s Eve and basically never revisit them, and before they know it, the year has passed.

I don’t want that to be me this year. So, I’m going to hold myself accountable and do some progress reports on the blog. I already think this miiiiight be a little embarrassing, but maybe it will light a fire under my booty to get things moving.

I wrote a list of goals at the end of 2016, which I published here, and today I’m going to revisit this same list and tell you if I’ve made any progress on it.

Here goes:

GOAL: Start With Kindness. As you can tell by the name of this blog, I’ve spend a chunk of my life feeling sour about things that have happened to me, and choices I’ve made. But in general, I wouldn’t classify myself as bitter – I’m actually pretty kind and very giving.

In the last year, I’ve thought a lot about a kindness campaign started by my favorite radio show hosts, Johnjay & Rich. Their campaign, #LoveUp, encourages everyone to do something kind for someone else – whether big or small, and whether they need it or not. I’ve already started my own #LoveUp acts of kindness, and they’ll definitely be making appearances in 2017. 

PROGRESS: I’ll be honest. I haven’t gone out of my way to buy someone coffee or anything. But, I have thought every day about putting kindness first. Sometimes it just means stopping by the front desk at my office and asking our receptionist how she is doing, or making sure I tell someone when they did really great, or asking someone if they need help with anything. Maybe I’m just tooting my own horn, but these little things go a long way.

GOAL: Be a Practicing Writer. In my previous job, much of my day was spent writing. Whether or not it was stuff I actually wanted to write was not the issue, but I wrote a ton during those years. I blogged, I wrote freelance articles, I wrote books, poetry… and I really haven’t immersed myself in my craft since.

This year, I used birthday money to buy books on screenwriting, and I volunteered nearly 20 hours of my time toward the Austin Screenwriting Festival, listened to many podcasts on the craft, and have researched courses to take to learn on it – but haven’t actually DUG in there and started typing! So, I’ve got to do it – whether or not its work anyone sees, its time.

PROGRESS: I’ve totally sucked on this, and I’ll be honest, I’ve barely been able to keep up with this blog. I’m sorry!

GOAL: Just Go For It. I spend a lot of time analyzing situations and decisions, trying to figure out if I should do it or how or when or why, and frankly, it’s exhausting!

When I moved to Austin in 2015, I had basically no money, was living in an extended-stay hotel, and I spent my evenings going on “adventures” – where I’d basically just drive to a place that sounded cool and check it out, so at least I’d learn my way around the city and pick places I wanted to visit later. It was simple, fun, and it really helped shaped the way I look at the city. I’m definitely aiming for more adventures in Austin, and elsewhere, in 2017.

PROGRESS: I’m kicking this one’s ass. I took a new job two weeks into 2017 and it’s working out great! I’ve already performed on stage this year, I’ve booked a vacation, and I’ve signed up to walk for charity (I do still need people on my team). I know there are tons of adventures around the corner for me this year!

GOAL: Act, Believe, & Receive. I’ve spent the last several years really trying to focus on myself. After years of abuse from various places, I lost myself and I was letting other people create my course. It took therapy, time, and lots of self-reflection for me to even begin to build myself up and allow me to just be me, and I’m finally starting to feel like myself again.

In these last few weeks of 2016, I’ve felt it, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So, in 2017, I’m going to act more confident, believe in myself, and receive the treatment that I deserve.

PROGRESS: This is slowly coming, although if you have ideas or tips on how to achieve this goal, I’m all for it.

GOAL: Be Intentional. As of yesterday, I started listening to “The Minimalists” podcast, and although I’m just four episodes in, I am hooked and craving for more learning on this lifestyle choice. The Minimalists are particularly two men who left corporate America (and six-figure salaries) to live simply in terms of having less things, but to also live with intention and do everything on purpose – down to drinking one perfect cup of well-made coffee instead of just guzzling another K-cup.

PROGRESS: You may have read my blog post yesterday on minimalism. It’s true, I’ve slowly started to clean out my apartment, but I’ve been really good about NOT shopping (which leaves more money for experiences like concerts and trips), and only buying things I need, when I need them (i.e. not stocking up on coffee when I have plenty at home). It’s nice!

GOAL: Live High. Initially, I was thinking of a fantastically mellow Jason Mraz song titled as such, but then I thought of that moment at the Democratic Convention this year when Michelle Obama talked about her approach to bullies: “When they go low, we go high.” Essentially, I want to give myself permission to do things just for me. I do a pretty good job already of having no shame for watching hours of TV each week (hell, each night), but I want to do a better job of encorporating happy and healthy habits into my life, and not apologizing for them.

PROGRESS: Eh, this needs work. Between adjusting to my new job and to the new president – things are a little rough. But, I have been on a really healthy diet for the last five weeks and I feel good about that.

GOAL: Choose (& Plan for) Your Destiny! This started as kind of a joke between me, and well, myself, because someone told me earlier this year: “Everything that happens to you is because you let it. You choose your destiny.” In the way it was delivered to me, it seemed more of a way to avoid blame, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it in all areas of my life.

Spent my Saturday working? Well that was obviously the destiny that I chose. No more being a victim; no more going along for the ride. We choose our destinies! 

PROGRESS: Yes – I’m still living by this motto, but it’s a constant effort, and I’m sure I’ll be reminding myself of this rule a time or two.

…So, it’s safe to say I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I’m also doing okay. What are your goals for 2017 and how are they coming along? It’s certainly not too late to jump on them and cross some big items off your to-do list before the year is over!

Yeah, Nike has it right.

New motto.

New motto.

Good morning! You’ve heard me talk about a big change that’s happening in my life these days – I’m starting a new job. And guess what? Today is my first day!

As with any change in my life, of course I’ve been thinking about the past. Many of you were reading when I announced my first day of my last job – the one I left on Friday.

When I got that job, I’d been freelancing and working retail for about nine months, and had applied to easily 200 jobs. I had so many interviews at different places, and when I finally got the job offer, it was as if the stars were aligned.

I’d nailed a job in a pretty cool city, it offered enough pay to cover my bills and there was paid time off and benefits. It was also a bit of shift in my career – I was going from content development and social media strategy to strictly search engine optimization. And it was an agency. All things would be new to me, not to mention a new city, new apartment, the works.

When I started the job, I was living out of an extended stay hotel for two weeks because my apartment wasn’t ready. I had no money, lived off frozen meals, and would you believe the shower didn’t even have a curtain? I was roughing it a little, but I wanted to kick ass at this job. I didn’t want them to regret taking a chance on me.

In order to learn SEO properly, I went through a 90-day bootcamp at the agency, which was polished off by me giving a presentation to the CEO that basically decided if I could stay or go.

I got to stay, and was actually told I would go far – I’d worked my ass off. And in all honesty, things were looking great. My coworkers were so cool! We worked near downtown! Our agency valued learning! There was free beer in the fridge!

But as the months rolled by, things became a little clearer. This #AgencyLife that colleagues had warned me about for years was coming true – it was a culture of late nights, early mornings, and lots of spreadsheets.

And the benefits? Well they’re not really beneficial if you don’t use them. It’s like a car salesman selling you on the optional third seat when you have no kids. Turns out, I don’t give two shits about free beer if the free beer means you have to skip happy hour and work late to drink it.

I came to see that many tech startups have these same perks – offering free food and drinks instead of a bigger paycheck; housing pool tables and bean bags so you’ll stay later. It’s appealing if you’re interested in working in a frat house long after it’s socially acceptable.

It wasn’t long before people started quitting; one-by-one. When coworkers left, the clients stayed – meaning more work spread between less employees. With every employee that left, agency management was 100% sure it was not any fault of the company’s. Put that in your spreadsheet.

Over these months, I grew tired and stressed. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. There were many conversations between me and management – they wanted to know if I was job hunting.

The truth is, I wasn’t. I didn’t know what I wanted and I didn’t want to quit. I am a fixer and I wanted it to work. I’d done too damn much to just leave.

But one Thursday night in early December, I made the decision to skip the company Christmas party. I’d worked until 1am nearly every night that week and was dead tired. I wanted to work a few hours and then crash.

Choose your destiny!

Choose your destiny!

Giant mistake. The next morning, my boss and the CEO laid it out for me, that since I didn’t attend the party, it must mean I didn’t like my coworkers, and if I wanted to leave, that was okay.

“Everything that happens to you here is because you let it,” they said. “You choose your destiny.”

To them, I’d chosen to work and sleep over going to the party, and apparently, that was a giant mistake.

But they were right – I do choose my destiny. And I knew my destiny was going to have to change.

Just a few days later, I saw a job posting for a digital marketing position with a woman’s healthcare provider that specialized in abortion aftercare, and also served as an advocate for woman’s reproductive rights.

I applied, and had two interviews. The conversations I got to have with the employees were eye-opening. These were women helping others who needed it, while fighting for the healthcare rights of all of us.

As some of you may know, I had an abortion when I was 23. It was not a pleasant experience, and I spent years being ashamed of the choice I made. I am still working through some of these issues, but to be able to share my story in an interview and be able to think that I can help women that may find themselves in a situation similar to what I was in, was refreshing.

I was offered the job about two weeks from when I applied for it. Honestly, I only had the two quick interviews, didn’t really do much research on it, but I took a night to think it over, and took it.

It was the perfect storm. All of these bad things kept happening at work, and nothing was being done to fix them. I probably wasn’t as passionate about the work itself as the agency needed me to be – and that’s something I can’t change. And to top it off, some of upper management had accused me of lying over a task I’d been stressed about.

You can call me lazy, weak, and disconnected, but one thing I am not, is a liar. And just an FYI, I graduated from high school almost 15 years ago. I’m so done with the Mean Girls’ schtick.

In 2017, I vowed to just “go for it”, and that’s what I’m doing today. It’s a job that utilizes my writing and digital strategy skills to help women across the country. It’s also a small way I can make a stand in my political views, and try to help make a change in the world around us.

In all honesty, I thought I was going to stay at my old job forever. I don’t want to be a job-hopper; I want to stay and grow with a company and climb the ladder appropriately.

But I also don’t want to be the person that hits snooze a million times because I dread the day ahead; I don’t want to just wish for Friday on a Monday. After the 15 months I’ve had, I know that I can get through just about anything. And at the end of the day, no matter what happens, I’m working for a cause that is very personal to me.

About two days after I’d put in my two weeks’ notice, I was listening to “SandyLand” with host Sandra Bernhart and she was talking to her guest (of course I don’t remember who), but she said something along the lines of, “No paycheck is worth having to stifle who you are.”

PREACH! I feel like that’s all I’ve done for the last nine years, and finally, just finally, I may have found a job that is willing to utilize my snap-back wit, my passion for equal rights, and my brain full of digital goodies.

And yes, I was very sad to leave my coworkers – some of them were so sweet in their goodbyes it nearly brought me to tears. But good people want the best for other good people, and I appreciate their support. I wish the best for any of them, and I hope they stay in touch.

I’m not going to be that person to sit here, and tell you to run out and quit your job. I know it’s not an easy task. Hell, I was so nervous to turn in my two weeks, and almost thought about not doing it just so I wouldn’t shake the waters.

But I am going to say that my old job had something right: you choose your destiny. You’re going to hear this a lot from me this year (my friends and family are probably already sick of hearing it), but it stops you from playing the victim in any situation.

Hate your drive to work? Find an alternative route, clean out your car, invest in Sirius radio or find some great podcasts to listen to. Change what you can.

Sick of always cleaning your house? Get rid of unnecessary things. Find a spot for all the good stuff. Implement daily habits that will make weekend cleaning easier.

I’m saying all of this to say one thing: take control of your life. Decide what’s important and make it happen. It’s like President Obama said in his farewell address, “If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.  If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.  Show up.  Dive in.  Persevere.  Sometimes you’ll win.  Sometimes you’ll lose.  Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you.  But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire.”

So, here’s to just going for it!

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‘Hamilton’ & the magic of inspiration.

Siiingin' in the raaain.

Siiingin’ in the raaain.

No, I did not see “Hamilton”, and no, I do not have tickets. But what I DO have is loads of inspiration after watching “Hamilton’s America” on PBS (which you can stream thru 11/18) last weekend.

I’ll preface the rest of this by saying that I was not immediately sold on “Hamilton”. I thought it was hype, and I didn’t get it. Buuut, then I started seeing lots of people I knew who saw it and they said how great it was, and then he hosted SNL:

…And I was all… ok Lin-Manuel, I SEE you! So when I heard PBS was showing a documentary about the most-successful Broadway musical, I was in. I recorded it, and watched it immediately, as I shoveled takeout noodles into my dropped jaw.

Why? Because what I’d heard previously was true: Lin-Manuel Miranda picked up Ron Chernow’s book, “Alexander Hamilton” in an airport on his way to the beach for vacation, and was inspired to write a hit musical.

Uhmazing.

 The documentary explores the creation of “Hamilton” before most of it was even written – and it took several years to write, given there are 55 songs squeezed into a show that’s less than three hours.

What did I find so cool about this story about a man who wrote a musical on one of our founding fathers? Well, lots of things.

For starters, the fact that Miranda was so inspired by history in this small instant – his vacation – and also that he put a huge twist on it (hip-hop). And then there’s the fact that most people don’t make money on  Broadway. Creating a musical based on history was completely a passion project that turned out to be H-U-G-E.

I’m also dazed by the amount of work and research that went into the musical, as Miranda really wanted it to be historically accurate. No wonder it took nearly seven years to make.

I stumbled across an article in Fortune magazine which featured an interview with Miranda and he talks about what he learned from creating “Hamilton”:

You can have good ideas when you take a break from what you’re normally doing and don’t just go 100 miles an hour. Two: Really trusting my gut. I won a Tony with In the Heights. I got offered movie adaptations of musicals. I got offered a lot of Latin-theme stuff. But I had faith that the idea I was chasing with Hamilton would be worthwhile.

It takes years to make a musical. So I’ve got to choose projects knowing that even if they open and close in a day, I will not regret the time I spent on them. And so you can’t choose on what you think is going to be a financial success. You’ve got to pick the idea that excites you and inspires you to write.

I don’t want to give too much away, because you really should just watch the PBS documentary. Here’s the teaser:

So, now I’ve got Ron Chernow’s book on reserve at the library (I think I’m #10 in line), because I want to read the same thing Miranda read and see what’s on the pages. Will I see what he saw? Highly doubtful, because I know basically nothing about Broadway, and not much about musicals other than I wish I lived inside one.

In general, I live for these bits of inspiration. There are things that are likely to inspire us all – stories of rags to riches, those who’ve made something out of nothing. But perhaps there are things that oddly inspire you, which may not inspire the person beside you. Why?

Of course, we are all driven by different things. As a writer, great writing inspires me whether it’s in the form of a great song, an awesome TV show, a good movie, or the perfect book. Sometimes, just the thought of the light at the end of the tunnel inspires me: picturing a lazy Sunday morning when I’m knee-deep in work on a Tuesday helps me realize that the end is coming and I’m working toward those quiet moments.

Sometimes, I’m simply inspired by nature: the changing leaves of fall, every single sunset, a rare sunrise when I’ve dragged myself from the covers in time, flowers, mountains, or even green fields.

I’d love to know what inspires you – and what you do to keep that inspirational juice flowing in order to get things done. I know I’m always looking for more inspiration, and I’d love to know where we can all find it. And with that, I’m just going to leave you with this…