Live your Legend Challenge #7 – What Revolution Will You Lead?

As I sit here, snugly nestled on the couch under a duvet, with a purring cat by my side, Christmas lights twinkling around the room, candles flickering, and a hot cup of tea in one hand… I’m ready to lead the revolution of comfort and coziness.

Life in this modern day can be harsh. We’re constantly being bombarded with noise, with advertising, with calls-to-action, with demands on our time and energy. It’s hard to get away from it, when much of it comes from these little devices we carry with us everywhere.

I’ll advocate that we all take a hint from the Danes, and get hygge with it. Hygge, if you haven’t already heard, is the Danish mindset of enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Cozy contentment.

Is it groundbreaking and revolutionary? Maybe not – but it’s certainly different from the usual rat race, and I think it’s good if we all take some time to unplug from the craziness and spend more time with our loved ones, snuggling with our pets, and enjoying the simple pleasures in life.

Live Your Legend Challenge # 6 – What difference do you want to make?

It’s a total cliché statement, and I even have a sticker of it right here on my laptop – Be the change you wish to see in the world. (Sidenote: although this is attributed to Ghandi, it’s really a condensed version of what he said.)

But anyway, it’s still a decent concept to live by.  Like the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Treat all living things the way you want to be treated. Live the way you wish everyone would live, the way you feel is best for the planet and our fellow earthlings. Be an example.

I don’t know how much difference it really makes to just BE your best self. Is it really that inspiring to those around you? Does anyone actually notice?

If it did, wouldn’t everyone I know have become a vegetarian by now, and have discarded all their excess stuff in a full embrace of minimalism? Also, could we have freaking shorter work days? I must be doing something wrong.

I guess the difference I really want to make in people’s lives is to bring more joy into them in some way or another. Either by sharing a story that touches them, or by sharing art that moves them, or by straight up reaching out and being a good friend to someone. I want to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. I want to teach people how to take better care of their health, and the health of the environment. Basically, I want to be your favorite elementary school teacher, Jane Goodall and Rachel Carson all rolled into one.

Live Your Legend Challenge #5 – The Elevator Pitch

Doesn’t everyone love a good story? As a writer, an artist and a budding public speaker, I am constantly thinking of the next story to tell.  I write from the heart and I find that personal stories resonate with others. I enjoy writing for others too, like today’s post on the NFED blog. My best speaking performances happen when I share a story that will touch your heart, make you laugh, and later, have you thinking back and wanting to find out more about the topic.

I have dreams of one day appearing on that round red carpet, doing my very own TED talk. I can see myself standing in front of an audience of school children, as part of an anti-bullying campaign, or as a motivational speaker. Of course this would also be supplemented by colorfully illustrated children’s books, and an autobiography for the older crowd.

While I’m certainly not the first person to share their own story in hopes of educating or motivating others, I know that since my own story has so many facets, I am adaptable to many different situations. I’d like to use my storytelling abilities to help others share their stories too. Not everyone feels confident writing or publicly speaking about their experiences, but with my skills, I could be their voice.

What stories do you enjoy hearing? How can I help you share your story?

Live Your Legend Challenge #4 – What’s One Thing You’re Proud of?

I’m proud of getting myself out of debt and getting my finances under control. When I graduated from UConn in 2008, I had student loan debt, personal loan debt and a hefty credit card debt. In total it was over $60,000.

That might not seem like much – I’ve heard horror stories of people graduating with 6-figure debt – but this was more money than I’d ever owed (also more than I could even earn in a year at that point) and it was seriously upsetting when I realized how long it was going to take to pay it off. If I did nothing but pay the minimum on the credit card, I would be paying it for the rest of my life.

I bought a couple of financial self-help books and got down to work. I tackled the credit card debt first, and once that was out of the way, I focused on the personal loan. It took years to get it all under control. I actually still owe a little on my student loans, but at this point it makes more sense for me to keep my money in my savings account vs. paying off the loan early.

Getting my finances under control was awesome. When I owed more money than I was bringing in, I felt like I was drowning in debt. I felt very insecure – like the slightest unexpected expense was going to push me into poverty forever.

Coming up with a plan and sticking to it was really satisfying, especially as I saw the progress I was making. After a while, my nervousness about my financial stability subsided and I began feeling more confident.

It wasn’t an easy road. To really make progress I had to be very frugal with my money. No eating out, no impulse shopping sprees, no vacations to exotic locations. It was tough, especially when I saw friends on Facebook doing all kinds of stuff seemingly without a care. But it was worth the effort. Now I have a “sunny outlook” in my retirement account, I have an emergency fund, and I have more money in my savings account than I owe on my car or on my remaining student loan. Woo hoo, it feels good!

Dave and I were finally able to take a real vacation last year, which was awesome. We continue to be frugal with our finances. We do not want to have to struggle in the future, so we are working on planning, saving and being wise with our financial decisions. I am not opposed to taking out loans, but I learned the hard way not to just blindly build up a ton of debt and assume it will be easy to pay it off. And I’ve definitely learned to be more careful with credit cards!


Live Your Legend Blog Challenge #3 – What Do People Thank You For?

Today’s prompt is: What do people thank you for? Or- What do you love helping people with?

What do people thank me for is kind of a tough one to answer without sounding like I’m tooting my own horn. So I’ll take the second question, Alex.

I love helping people by teaching them how to solve a problem. What I mean by that isn’t that I go around offering unsolicited advice, but more that, I like to show people how to do stuff. For example, in my current job, I often get emails from fellow employees looking for a particular digital file on our intranet. Since we are a global company, our intranet is absolutely insane. It can be really hard to find certain tools or documents on it.

So instead of just writing back and being like “Yeah, it’s in the blah-blah folder” or “Look for it in the such-and-such section”, I will send screenshots and step-by-step instructions for how to find the thing they need.

I guess what it boils down to is that I like to teach people things in a way that I know will be helpful for them.  And people thank me for it.

Live Your Legend Blog Challenge #2 – What Makes You Angry About the World?

Today’s prompt is: What makes me angry about the world?

Our culture of rampant, unchecked consumption is what makes me angry about this world!

It may be mostly an American problem – or a “first world problem”, though there’s certainly trickle-down effects on the rest of the world (anyone want our old electronics?).

If you close your eyes and listen, you’ll hear the buzz of millions of people working hard to earn more money so they can buy more things. It’s what we are taught from our youngest days by commercials on TV, billboards by the road, and our friends at school. You always need something new. A new toy, or a new dress. New is what you want. Not a hand-me-down, not homemade with love. New. From the store.


Before long that new thing loses it’s appeal. The colors fade. A piece breaks off. The whole thing stops working as it’s supposed to. That new dress is suddenly so last season. Thanks to planned obsolescence, that little gadget that broke 3 months after you bought it is worth nothing now. Throw it in the trash and buy yourself a new gadget. Shove your old clothes in a donation box and buy yourself something new. That’s how things work in this culture.

It’s not just stuff either. It’s everything. We want more food, more entertainment, more adventure, more more more! Instead of taking stock of what we have and enjoying it, society tells us we can never have enough and must constantly be wanting more.

Not only is the attitude of consumerism hurting us on a social and emotional level, but the environmental impact is devastating.  I’m too lazy to get into the statistics now, but just think about it. Greenhouse gasses. Animal waste. Trash. Oh so much TRASH.

Here’s a couple of articles if you’re looking to learn more. Of course you could also just google things, like I do.

Consumerism is killing the planet (and our souls)

Is what we’re recycling actually getting recycled?

What to do with all the poo? 

So yes, all that makes me angry, though my anger is often overcome by lethargy. I’m an ideas person, but when it comes to driving those ideas toward implementation – especially ideas that require buy-in by the majority of the world’s population, I don’t even know where to begin. Well, I begin with myself…

I’d say the biggest way to fight against our consumerist society is to not be a part of it as much as possible. I’ve written about my love affair with minimalism. I think the main thing that excites me about it is that there are so many other people out there who are doing the same thing! It’s always good to know you’re not the only person passionate about something.

The second big thing I’d advocate for is switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Meat production is one of the most detrimental industries to the environment. Not only do those animals product a crap-ton of waste, but consider how much land, water and energy is used to produce their food. Plus, call me woo-woo, but I strongly believe that one day our society will look back in horror at the idea that we once ate other living creatures.

With all that being said, don’t get me wrong. I am not living in a shanty in the woods, growing my own food and fashioning clothes from plant fibers. I have a full-time job, to which I am expected to dress professionally and not in hemp-fiber dresses. I have a car that I continue to make car payments on (and it runs on gasoline, yes). I have to control myself on Amazon. I occasionally indulge in a nice, thick, chocolate shake, even though in the back of my mind I’m like those cows are pooping us to extinction! and I’m sorry mommy cow that we are only using you for your milk.

So there you have it. I am passionate about the environment, and about people, and I loathe rampant, unchecked consumption of our world’s resources. We’ve got to find a better way!

Photo credits:


Winston Tseng

Live Your Legend Blog Challenge #1 – Tell Your Story

Hello friends,

I’ve found myself another blog challenge to follow! This one is from Live Your Legend.

When I began this blog back in 2013 (whuut), I simply wanted to share my experience as a person living with EEC. I hoped that by sharing my story, I could help others affected by this condition. Talking about what I’ve gone through is a way of saying “I know how you feel – this happened to me too”, or “Guys, it’s going to be okay, eventually!”

After a while, I exhausted my EEC stories. Or at least I told all I wanted to tell for the time being. So I moved on to talking about other things in life; of traveling and artistic pursuits and my work with Toastmasters. All the while, I really wanted to talk about my experience growing up in an obscure religion and how I got myself out of that.

Finally, in these past few months, I shared my losing my religion stories. Again, I share these stories in the hopes that someone out there who needs them will read them. I’m not the only person in the world who was in a religion I didn’t like! I want you, dear reader, to know that if you feel sick to your stomach every Sunday morning, you CAN choose to walk away from it, and it will be okay (eventually).

Perhaps the next topic I will really delve into is the constant struggle of worthiness. Of insecurity. I’m struggling with it right now, as I begin yet another blog challenge to try and make my blog into a masterpiece. I can feel the wiggliness in my tummy as I write, thinking about who might read this and judge me negatively.

No matter how many times people tell you your writing is good, or your artwork is good, or YOU yourself are good, there always seems to be that voice inside that pulls you back and says, they’re just being polite, and you’re really not that good. 

Well, on that note… I’ll be back tomorrow for day #2 of the challenge!

Oh, Christmas Tree…

This past week, I’ve been having a debate with myself over whether to buy a new Christmas tree or not.

For the past decade, Dave and I have had this stupid little 3 foot tree that we got for free from our old company when it was closing. It was a cheap thing, and as the years went by, it just kept getting crappier and crappier.

Last year, I had enough. Once the holidays were over, I threw it in the trash. It was very satisfying. I figured I’d worry about getting another tree next Christmas.

Well, next Christmas is here, and we’ve looked at trees at Target, Home Depot, Ocean State Job Lots, Walmart, even Amazon… and I can’t seem to bring myself to pay $25 for another dumb-looking 3 foot fake tree. I’m definitely not paying more for an even larger tree, no matter how nice it looks.

We live in a tiny house – less than 800 square feet. Despite my attempts at minimizing, we still have too much stuff. When Christmastime rolls around, of course it’s nice to put up some decorations to get the place in a holiday mood, but it’s basically adding more clutter.

Not to mention, there are 11 months of the year where the tree and all it’s decor have to sit in a box somewhere, taking up precious space.

Maybe this year we’ll just stick with the old ceramic tree I inherited… It takes about 30 seconds to set up. It’s a gentle reminder of Christmases past, and it adds a festive look to the room, all without the stress of crooked stars and strands of lights that decide to go dark after you put them on the tree.


The old ceramic tree… no fuss, no muss.

We do have plenty of other holiday decor – yards of fake greenery, plenty of lights, families of fake snowmen and a platoon of nutcracker soldiers – we can still be festive without a tree.

Well, I guess that settles it. We’re going treeless this Christmas!

Throwback Thursday: Highlights from 1997

In the fall of 1997, I was a senior in high school. I was not academically inclined, so I had quite a few study hall periods between all my art classes. If I wasn’t hard at work on my next weekly sketch, I was bent over a spiral notebook, spilling my deepest thoughts onto the page.

Here’s a glimpse into my mind at that time. My thoughts of today are in italics.

9.17.97 It’s D-lunch study hall again and I have nothing to do. Ok, so I was dreaming about our future house, my room specifically and I want to paint the ceiling a dark purplish blue color and get a ton of those little sticky glow in the dark stars to put on it. That would be SO cool. Ok, I legit think this would still look really cool. What can I say, I’m 7 years old at heart. Still, the idea of painting over that is what keeps me from ever doing it. 

9.18.97 I really have to go to the bathroom- if you know what I mean. I feel like my hair is absolutely repulsive. It’s funny, I’m always so concerned about what I look like but I never notice much about what other people look like. I don’t know what I meant by the first sentence. Maybe I had to go #2. And my hair was pretty much the best it was ever going to look in those days.

9.24.97 People really need to come equipped with brake lights, turn signals and warning signs. After walking to study hall, weaving my way in and out of clumps of slow or non-moving people, I wish there was some way to know what the person in front of me was planning to do. It’s very annoying to be walking behind someone who keeps slowing down, or worse yet, spins around to go in a different direction. Maybe I’m just a klutz, but I crash into so many people, it’s ridiculous. This was before I was a licensed driver, and so I did not know then that all the turn signals, brake lights and signage in the world would still not help you really know what the hell the slowing driver in front of you is going to do.


My proprietary design for adding signaling features to humans beings… and apparently removing their hands in the process.

10.6.17  Well, it’s been a while since I wrote. I really don’t feel much like writing, but Mrs. Hadeka says that 95% of what even the greatest writers write is just junk. So here I am trying to make the 95% junk.  This is great! I’ve definitely kept up cranking out a lot of junk over the years. 

11.5.97 I was just walking down the hallway and I came around the corner and this girl was talking to a teacher about some quiz or something. The teacher said “92” and the girl went “YES!” and pulled back her arm. I was thinking how funny it would be if she elbowed me as I walked by. I still crack myself up with these kinds of thoughts…. like “what if such and such happened?” and then I will laugh to myself and people wonder about me. 


11.6.97 Well, my skirt is coming along pretty good (disregarding the fact that I had to stop working on it because it got stuck in the sewing machine and I can’t get it out.) I laughed so hard I cried when I read this just now. That skirt was a sexy crushed blue velvet number that I was so proud of once I got it unstuck from the sewing machine. I wore it for years!

12.16.97 This morning was a bit weird.  had to make up the Chem test that I missed last week, and the sophs who were in the classroom when I went in were dissecting fetal pigs. Ewww. What a horrible thing to do. What do they do, get a pregnant sow and open her up and take out the fetus? What do they do with the sow? Eat her? How gross! That makes me so sad. What is up with the world today? Yes, I was a bit naive at this time. I don’t know why it didn’t cross my mind that sows actually had litters of piglets, so it wasn’t like a one-fetal-pig-per-sow ratio. And duh, they obviously would have gotten them from the meat-packing industry when they killed the pregnant sows. Of course I still think it’s a horrible practice, but we’ve got a long way to go before people give up their precious meats.

Well, that in a nutshell was my view of the world in 1997. Pretty sheltered, yes. Of course I left out a lot of my deepest blatherings… the “Why doesn’t he like me as much as I like him?”, and “I can’t believe I thought he liked me, I’m so stupid.” Ya’ll don’t need to be reading that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow Americans!

We just got back from a hearty Thanksgiving meal at my dad’s house. Kris and Grey came too, so it was a nice little gathering. Of course we prepared too much food, but that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? I am always grateful for quality time with my loved ones.

This time last year, Dave and I were holed up in our hotel room in Costa Rica, waiting for Hurricane Otto to pass by. After that unique experience, I no longer have any particular expectations for how a Thanksgiving should be.

I used to feel like Thanksgiving had to meet certain requirements in order to be right. My whole family had to be there. We had to have turkey, stuffing, gravy, broccoli casserole, creamed onions, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and biscuits. We had to have apple pie and pumpkin pie for dessert. If it could snow, even just a little, that would be nice.

Last year, Dave and I decided to use the Thanksgiving holiday weekend as a way to extend our Costa Rica trip. I hesitated at first – did I really want to be away from my family during this most-cherished of holidays? It had been weird enough to stop eating turkey on Thanksgiving once I became a vegetarian, but skipping the holiday altogether was really pushing some boundaries. Perhaps being stuck in a hotel room as a hurricane passed by was the price I had to pay for skipping Thanksgiving, but it was worth it. That trip was amazing.

This year, when it became apparent that one brother was going to do this, and another that, I accepted that we would not all be together on Thanksgiving day. Instead, my brothers and I had a pre-Thanksgiving weekend with my mom, and then today, Kris, Grey, Dave and I shared the day with Dad.

When I think back to Thanksgivings of the past, I feel so lucky to have spent the day with so many wonderful people and in so many cozy homes. Above all, I’ve come to realize that the holiday is about the experience of being together with people who are important to you.

This is what I’m grateful for today:

Time spent with my family.
My two fuzzy children.
That my dental journey is nearing an end (or, a resting point?).
Our cozy little house.
That I’ve been able to meditate for 110 days in a row!
That we live in a safe place and I can go through my days without fear.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?