Life Lessons 21-25…and then some

For those of you who know me, you probably know that my birthday has come and gone over a few weeks ago! Although I had intended to finish my 25 life lessons before my birthday, my life was a little hectic in the week leading up to it (I was at a national conference during the few days leading up to my birthday and was busy at the conference).

In addition, I had a lot of difficulty finalizing those last five lessons. What did I want to say? What were the most important lessons that I learned in the first quarter of my life that I really thought were worth sharing?

There’s so many things that I could say or wanted to say that it was hard to narrow it down to only five. So, I didn’t…and I tried to figure out what were the most important things to know. Of the lessons I had in mind, what were the lessons that I would want my (future) kids to know? When I do have children, what will I teach them? What are some of the first things that I will teach them? Well, there are a lot of things we can and should teach our kids, but below are some of the lessons I learned that I know I will most definitely pass onto my future offspring.

Life Lesson #21: Be there. Each year, the catholic schools in my diocese have a baccalaureate mass the night before commencement. In the past few years, the diocese’s relatively new bishop presides over the mass. In one of his homilies in recent years, he talked about the importance of being there for others. He challenged the seniors and the congregation to live a life in which they would be there for others at all times.

Be there for your friends and family to help them celebrate when things go well in their lives, but also be there for them when the going gets tough. Hold out a hand to a person who is need, and be willing to offer a warm embrace when all someone needs is a hug.

I’d like to expound upon the part about being there others in things aren’t going so great. It’s easy to be there for others when things are going well and you can join in the celebrations. However, we must also be there for others when things aren’t so pleasant. When a friend is upset and questioning a life decision, or when they’re depressed about something going on in their life, we must also be there for them in those times of need for those are the times when they probably need us most. Anyone can be there for the good times; everyone wants to take part in a celebration. However, the real challenge is to be there in these difficult times.

Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of being there for others especially in these difficult times. I cannot tell you how many times I went to calling hours as a child before I fully comprehended the finality of death. I know that some people would disagree with children going to calling hours at a young age, but in retrospect, I think having those experiences taught me a lot. They taught me what it meant to be there for others when they needed it most. They made it a lot easier to deal with these situations as an adult. Had I not had these experiences, it would have been a lot more challenging for me to handle these challenges.

I’d also like to think that when we find ourselves in difficult situations, we’d want someone to be there for us, so why shouldn’t we be there for others during these times?

 

Life Lesson #22: DO something that scares you.

This is a tough one and it’s a lesson that I’m still coming to terms with. I think the lesson here is not to let fear rule your life. It’s easy to have fears and to let these thoughts or worries impact your decisions. However, you can’t live in a bubble. If you avoided everything that scared you and made decisions based solely on things that didn’t scare you, I’d venture to say that you’d probably miss out on a whole lot. This can apply to anything – whether it’s entering a relationship rather than avoiding one for fear of getting hurt, or going on a crazy adventure rather than staying inside because you’re afraid of the number of things that can go wrong. As many of you know, I’ll be applying for graduate school in the fall. I think I’m beginning to have a better sense of what I want to study which is awesome. However, with this new found understanding has come a realization that many of the schools that have what I want are all around the country from out west to the deep south. The thought of spending 4 years there and being away from my family and friends terrifies me. It’s such a scary thought and it makes me really nervous to think about the possibility of moving to one of these places. However, I know that applying to these places is the best thing I can do for my future. I’d like to think that if I applied and got into one of these schools that I’d have a better chance of being able to eventually make my way back to Ohio in a relatively short period of time. I guess you’d say that I’m following one of my previous life lessons in thinking about the future.

Life Lesson #23: Accept that not everyone will like you.

As a kid, we want everyone to like us. We want to be friends with everyone we meet (or at the very least, we want to be invited to all of our classmates’ birthday parties) and if someone tells us they feel otherwise, our feelings are immediately crushed.

I’m telling you now that it’s OK. Someone may not like you and you may have no idea why. Or, it might be because you ticked them off and you were aware of that crucial moment that changed everything. Or, it could be because of the way you look at them, or the way you talk, or the way you dress, or a million other things. It truly could be anything and there’s no true way of knowing the cause.

Don’t fret and don’t waste time or energy on these people (Side lesson: also realize that you can’t please everyone, so don’t worry about making everyone happy. It truly is impossible).

Life Lesson #24: Be someone that you would want your kid to admire.

As some point in our lives, we’ve all looked up to someone. We’ve found a role model who has led us in the right direction and have used them as a guide for how to act in certain situations. Perhaps we have multiple role models who have inspired or challenged us to be better and do better – it’s possible that this person has challenged us to do something we otherwise would have never considered. Be this type of person for someone else.

I want to inspire people i want someone to look at me and say, "because of you i didn't give up" - just girly things

Life Lesson #25: Don’t compare yourself to others.

This one is challenging and it may be something that you struggle with for a long time. Don’t compare yourself with others. Someone will always be smarter, faster, prettier…and the list continues.

There is always going to be someone who has an edge over you in some way, shape, or form. But it doesn’t matter. Believe that you are good at what you do and fully capable of facing any challenge that comes your way.

Life Lesson #26: Always, always, always believe in yourself. 

This one is simple.

Believe in yourself. Always.

Ignore your negative self-talk. Rid yourself of people who put you down. And just believe.

nina dobrev, quotes, sayings, believe yourself, quote

Bonus Lesson: Don’t think too hard and overanalyze everything. Just live your life 😉

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Life Lesson #4: Change the way you think about the problem

I have a major dilemma.

It’s currently 20 degrees outside and my thermostat doesn’t work.

If I leave my furnace on, it’s sweltering in here and becomes so hot that walking around in a swimsuit seems like the only option.

But, if I turn the furnace off, it’s like I’m in an igloo and I’m forced to keep adding layers. The cats have taken refuge under the bed where they have a chance of staying warm.

I may have to join them.

It’s really frustrating because I don’t have control of the temperature in here and am unable to get the the temperature just right. I’ve been really upset about this whole situation and have been doing a lot of complaining about it. (I apologize if you’ve been the recipient of one of these rants).

I’ve done everything that I can do to fix the situation (i.e., my maintenance staff loves (read – hates) me for calling them on 3 separation occasions about the problem) and the problem is now out of my hands. The only thing I can do now is change my focus. Or, change the way I think about the problem. Let’s face it – I can’t fix the thermostat. I have degrees in psychology and political science, neither of which prepared me to replace a thermostat or know the first thing about handling this situation. However, if my psychology education taught me one thing, it’s about cognitive restructuring or reframing (…OK – my degree taught me more than one thing, but go with me here on this). Cognitive restructuring or reframing is just a a psychologist’s fancy way of saying you should change the way you think about your problem (i.e., we reframe maladaptive/negative thought patterns into more rational thoughts in an attempt to gain a positive frame of mind). For example:

So, I’ve decided to think about my problem differently. Yes, my thermostat is broken and I’m unable to keep the apartment at a desirable temperature. Sure, it’s an inconvenience and annoyance, but it’s not the end of the world. I do have fans that I can turn on if it gets too hot and I can always open the window if I can’t stand the heat (though, that seems counterproductive). If it gets too cold, I have more than enough clothes and blankets to keep me, and of course, the kitties, warm.

I know this theme has come up in previous posts – it’s a product of all those psychology classes. However, I think this is an important lesson to take to heart. So often, we have a problem and get so worked up over it that we drive ourselves (and, unfortunately, others) crazy. We become so fixated on these minor issues and find ourselves consumed by these trivialities. We focus on the one thing that is going wrong, rather than the 100 things that are going right. We’re focused on what we don’t have, rather than what we do have.

I think we can all benefit from this lesson. Sure, things may not be going quite the way we’d like, and sure, we may face some inconveniences from time to time. We may not always get what we want, but often times, we have what we need. I realize that this is a hard lesson to learn and I struggle with it on a regular basis. It’s easy to get bogged down by problems such as this, but if you change the way you think about it, I promise you that things will be easier.

Feed Your Mind: TED Talks Everyone Should Watch

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my high school friends (including Jeannette!) gather for Friendsgiving, an event that is graciously hosted by our friend Christopher. Every year is different and conversation greatly depends on who you’re sitting next to, what’s going on in everyone’s lives, and how much spiked cider has already been consumed. This year we got philosophical at my end of the table, and we started discussing TED Talks. Our conversation was short-lived, but in it we established that TED Talks were amazing and that everyone needs to watch a sampling of them at one point or another.

If you’re not sure what TED or a TED Talk is, here’s a summary:

TED is a non-profit that is devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading” and stands for Technology, Education, and Design. It began in 1984 as a conference on those three topics, but has since grown to two official conferences (The TED Conference and TEDGlobal) that are held annually. There are also countless TEDx conferences held around the world that are independently organized, but adhere to the same general rules and mission.

Speakers at TED events are tasked with “giving the speech of their lives” in 18 minutes or less. While participants are often experts in their respective fields, their talks are generally not boring or academic. Instead, they are often inspirational and offer insight into humanity rather than into their specific expertise.

Visit ted.com for their online video archive and more information.

Ted Talks

TED Talks I Think Everyone Should Watch (In no particular order)

1. Lesley Hazelton: The Doubt Essential to Faith
In her TED talk from June 2013, Lesley Hazelton discusses how in her quest to write a biography of the prophet Muhammad she came to a realization regarding the doubt that is intrinsic in one’s faith. Doubt, fear, and questioning, she explains, is purely human and, consequently, is absolutely essential to one’s faith.

 

2. Cameron Russell: Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model
In her TED talk from 2012, model Cameron Russell discusses the complexities of what it means to be a model in a world where beauty is largely constructed.

 

3. Benjamin Zander: The Transformative Power of Classical Music
Benjamin Zander demonstrates to the TED audience that just because you think you don’t like classical music, doesn’t mean you can’t learn to like it — or learn to like anything for that matter. It all has to do with truly listening to what you are hearing.

 

4. John Green: The Paper Town Academy
Author John Green discusses how our perception of the world shapes how we lead our lives and how education and learning often takes place as much out of the classroom as it does inside it. He demonstrates that we all live within learning communities that encourage us to expand the maps of our lives.

 

5. Meg Jay: Why 30 Is Not The New 20
Psychologist Meg Jay discusses her work with 20-somethings and in the process demonstrates that someone’s 20s is not a throw-away decade. Instead it is one of the most import ant decades in human development and should be seized for every opportunity it provides.

 

6. Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius
Author Elizabeth Gilbert discusses the phenomenon of genius and asserts that we all have genius, as opposed to a few of us being geniuses.

 

7. Andrew Solomon: Love No Matter What
Andrew Solomon reflects on his interviews with countless parents and discusses how in the end, regardless of differences, it is love that binds.

 

There are hundreds of TED talks, too many to ever watch and certainly too many to pick a definite favorite from. These are only a few of my favorites.

Have you watched any TED Talks? What are your favorites?

Life Lesson #3: It’s a Small World After All

What do you get when you combine six degrees of separation with the song, “It’s a small world after all?” Well, fine readers, you get:

Life Lesson #3: It (really is) a small world after all!

Disney World – one of the most magical places on earth!

A place where kids beg their parents to go on vacation, where newlyweds spend their honeymoon, and where generations of families gather together to take in the magic found here.

There’s so much to see and explore between the various parks that it’s often hard to decide what to do first! Should I go to the Animal Kingdom and go on a safari ride?

Or, should I start with Epcot where I can travel to Italy, France, AND Morocco without ever leaving the park?

Maybe it’s better if I just start in Magic Kingdom, see a parade and some of my favorite Disney characters, ride some timeless Disney rides, and go from there?

Growing up, I was lucky enough to travel to Disney World twice- once with my family and once with my high school band. Both times were wonderful and I can safely say that I was never able to see or do everything that I wanted while I was there. I saw many parades, watched fireworks shows, took pictures with my favorite Disney characters, and rode many rides. Thinking about the rides, the ones that stick out the most to me are: Splash Mountain (awesome, but wet-clearly), Space Mountain (super fun), the Buzz Lightyear ride/game (I rocked that game), and the It’s a Small World After All ride.

If you’ve been to Disney World/Land (or even if you haven’t), you’re probably familiar with “It’s a small world after all.” If you’re not, here’s what you would experience if you were on this ride:

As a kid, I didn’t really understand or appreciate the meaning of the song or the excitement of the ride. Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing all the different cultures and countries represented in the display…although, the song did get a little annoying after awhile. Nevertheless, I didn’t really see how everything was connected or realize how small of a world we actually live in.

 Now that I’m older and yes, even somewhat wiser, I’ve come to better understand how the song and ride is applicable in the real world.

Most of you may be familiar with the theory of six degrees of separation. It’s a theory that asserts that everyone in the world (yes, all 7.2 billion people) are connected to everyone else by six links or people.

Wow.

It’s such a crazy idea when you take a moment to think about it.

When I think of this theory, it’s hard not to imagine I’m back on that ride in Disney World. Is it possible that a girl from a  small town in Ohio can be connected to a random stranger half way across the country? It seems crazy and doubtful.

I’m not saying that I buy into this theory completely, but I can appreciate it in the context of realizing that it really is a small world after all. When you move to a new place, start a job in a city where you know no one, and are feeling completely alone – remember this.

Remember that we are all connected in some way, shape, or form. Maybe not by six people. Maybe it’s a connection through an activity that you participated in when you were in high school. Maybe it’s through a university you attended for undergrad. Or, maybe it really is by a person. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Finding those connections may not even be intentional. You may have to work to make those connections and to put the puzzle pieces together, but I have a feeling that if you look for it, you can find the link.

Here’s why: When my family was in Egypt when I was a baby, we were in the Cairo airport waiting for our flight. From across the airport, someone began frantically waving to my family. From what my parents tell me, they had no idea who this woman was or why she was trying to get their attention. As she approached them, she addressed them by their first names. My parents didn’t recognize her. At all. Literally. It was 2:00 am in an airport half-way across the country from our real home and here’s this woman who knows us. Apparently, she was the sister of the priest of our church in Ohio and had recognized us from a single mass when I was baptized. Connection number one.

In July, Joni and I (and Sarah, too, but she wasn’t there for this part) attended a bachelorette party in Cleveland. As Joni and I were riding in a taxi that evening, we began talking to our driver. We were talking about various topics, when it somehow came up that we had attended the same university for graduate school (not at the same time). It was so random to be riding in this taxi in Cleveland and accidentally find out that we had the same alma mater. Connection number two.

During my first year of grad school, my mom came to visit me. Naturally, this trip involved shopping because what mother-daughter trip doesn’t?! When she was there, we went to Sam’s Club. Shortly after we entered the store, we saw a man who was clearly a Coptic Orthodox priest. So, not to be too creepy or anything…my mom and I followed him and his family to the checkout lane…to talk to them. As we introduced ourselves to the family, we realized that he knew my uncle (who is a priest) who still lives in Egypt. Seriously? In a country with over 80 million people, how could be possibly know my uncle? What are the chances that when my mom and I serendipitously (is that a word?) ran into this family that we would be connected?

It’s a small world.

So, why am I telling you this? I think it’s as much for you as it is for me. I think it can help you realize that no matter how far you go from home that you’re not alone. You’re not disconnected. The connections are there, you just might have to look for them. You might think you know no one. You might think that there’s no one around who can possibly understand the uniqueness of where you came from. But, in some way, the connection is there. It may be unexpected and not in the way that you had anticipated, but I have confidence that you’ll figure it out.

Now, go forth and enjoy the ride! Find those connections.

Who knows, maybe you’ll discover how you’re connected to your favorite actor, musician, or politician!

The Best DIY Project for Your Fall Wardobe: Infinity Scarf

Sweater weather. Those are my two favorite words to hear in late September. However, with the weather we’ve been having in northeast Ohio, real fall weather hasn’t really appeared until the last week or so, and it’s still not consistent. It’s supposed to be in the mid 70s this afternoon. I’m hoping the fall temperatures become more reliable soon. Fall is, hands down, the best season in my book, and it always has been. Even though January 1 traditionally rings in the new year, I always feel like fall brings a fresh start with a new school year, or a second try if your year didn’t begin as you’d hoped it would. (At least this year it did for me, since I wasn’t heading back to class for the first time in 20-some years this fall. I just really like buying school supplies and picking out my “first day of school” outfit, ok?) Fall means great September thunderstorms, mugs of hot chocolate or hot apple cider (apple anything, really), watching the leaves turn beautiful shades of red and orange, new seasons of my favorite television shows, pumpkin ice cream, football and marching bands, and cozy scarves. Actually, I love all staples of a fall wardrobe, but cardigans and scarves are really at the top of the list.

I’ve already shared super-simple tutorials for DIY makeovers for your summer and winter wardrobes, and now I’d like to give you one to top off your fall looks. Infinity scarves have been popular for a few years now, and while I love my cute floral patterned ones from Charming Charlie’s, this scarf will take you through fall and into winter, and is much cheaper than anything you can get in stores. You should be able to make two scarves for less than $6 — keep an eye out for JoAnn’s Fabrics and Crafts coupons! If you’re using a sewing machine, this project should only take you less than a half hour. If you’re hand-sewing like I did, get comfy with your Hulu Plus queue — I’d suggest 2-3 episodes of Downton Abbey. (Not “Downtown Abbie,” as Brian referred to it.) I started watching this a couple of weeks ago and I absolutely love it. Anyway, here’s what you’ll need to get started with your new accessory:

1.75 yds of medium-weight plaid/flannel fabric
Mine isn’t very thick and not very fleece-like. Consider that it will be doubled over and then wrapped around your neck twice.
Spool of thread
Any color that coordinates with your fabric will do.
Straight pins
These are so much more helpful than I ever realized… I wish I’d used them for other projects I did this summer.

Step 1.

Put on moccasin slippers and refresh your mug of cocoa. Lay the fabric out flat on the floor or a long table, lengthwise. Cut the fabric on the folded edge along the entire length, giving you two identical pieces. Toss one piece off the the side and use it to make a gift for a friend later! Fold your piece of fabric lengthwise with the right side of it facing in. It should be about 10-ish inches wide now.

Step 2.

Pin your fabric together on the “open” edges, leaving about 3/4″ for a hem. Sew along the entire length of the fabric to close the open edges and create a tube. For this part, it was nice to have a straight line on the fabric to follow with my stitches. Once you’re done sewing the edges together, be sure to remove all of the pins.

Step 3.

Turn the fabric right-side out and lay the tube out flat. (It will be the same way it was when you were sewing the open edges together, except now the edges have been hemmed inside. On one end of the tube, fold the edge down about 1″ to create an even hem. It should look like a shirt sleeve at this point.

Step 4.

This part is a little tricky to explain, so I drew a little diagram to make it easier to understand. (I promise it’s easy to do.) Keeping all of the fabric flat, insert the open edges (cut end) from the opposite end of the tube between the folded down edges (hem end). It will be helpful here to pin everything together. Now, you’ll sew through all 6 layers of fabric, as shown in my handy little drawing. Make sure you’re getting all of the layers, since this is how you join the edges and close up the loop.

Step 5.

It doesn’t exactly matter where you tie the knot at the end, since no one is going to see it anyway. For my scarf, however, just so I didn’t snag it on anything, I flipped over the little flap created by the hem and tied my knot underneath.

And you’re done! Wasn’t that easy? Now go show your new fall scarf off to your friends and see if they believe you only had to sew two straight lines. Make a mistake? That’s ok, these scarves are very forgiving. After all, it’s just a piece of fabric wrapped around your neck. 🙂

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