Brave, Not Perfect

Recently I heard a Rise podcast episode with Reshema Sujani, CEO and founder of Girls Who Code and author of Brave, Not Perfect.

Listening to the interview, I got curious about her book. In a lot of ways, there are many times in the last decade that I haven’t felt very brave. If anything, I’ve thought I’ve made very careful steps, opting for safety rather than taking risks whether that was in my career or personal life. It ranges from small things to big decisions. I think we all have moments we weigh out the consequences to see if the choice is right for us and sometimes safe is best and sometimes, we should just go for it.

I love wearing this shirt when I feel like I need to ward off any bad juju, be a little braver. No negativity here, folks! Only positive vibes for positive lives!

I love wearing this shirt when I feel like I need to ward off any bad juju, be a little braver. No negativity here, folks! Only positive vibes for positive lives!

I checked out the audio book and listened to it every chance I got hoping I would hear the right things to maybe help me work through moments of self-doubt. While I immediately resonated with the things she said in the opening, I realized that perhaps my bravery has been there all along, just clouded with adult responsibility. For example, I loved dancing as a kid. I mean loved it. Growing up my mother helped with costumes at the local theater productions in the summer and I would go up there with her. I’d study the shows, learn the dances, talk to all the performers, put on shows for my family. To me, it was a whole exciting world I wanted to be a part of any chance I got. When it came my time to try my hand at theater, I wasn’t afraid to go to auditions as a kid. Nervous, sure, but my parents were so encouraging to go and have fun, I didn’t get panicked. I won scholarships at dance conventions for just being that happy kid, full out, no holds barred. There’s a story about leading the waitresses through the Macarena at Babes Chicken House when I was 10 because they didn’t know it and I had that dance down pat. Why wouldn’t I teach these ladies how it’s done?

There are many times I’ve embraced bravery without thinking about it: taking myself to my senior homecoming sans a date, asking that cute guy out for coffee only to be shot down, emailing a stranger for job opportunities that actually pan out, and traveling for auditions and navigating new cities all by myself. I’m not a total and complete scaredy-cat but I realized in listening to Reshema’s book, I’m actually plenty brave enough. The problem is when I let self-doubt and fear of disappointment rule out.

Now, neither of those two things are new to me—I’m well aware of these traits and have been trying to work on those for the last couple years. Heck, we all have self-doubt now and again!

“Should I go for this job” or

“Is this outfit too bold?” or

“What happens if I follow this dream?”

Questions like that are usually followed by answer such as:

“You’re not fully qualified for the gig,” or

“That’s not your style so it’s totally out of character” or

“You could fail, lose everything and people will judge you for it.”

What really makes people brave, I think, is when we work through the answers. Saying, “stuff it all! I’m doing it anyway,” doesn’t always jive for the careful thinker, especially if they have that giant pull to please others, not disappoint or care about another’s opinion. Yeah, try as you might, Fearless Ones, there are folks (like me!) who just can’t tear that part of themselves away. Instead we work have to work through it constantly.

Playing the “What If” game, working through each scenario, understanding why you feel the way you do and rationally working through each step can help ease that anxious feeling that a decision could prove to be wrong. And if it is, at the end of the day, you know you’ll be okay because nine times out of ten, that’s usually what happens when you work through it all. You end up realizing you’ll be okay, that you can pivot after trying, and that other options will present themselves when you relax and open your mind.

So, what exactly did I get from Brave, Not Perfect? Well, a lot actually! These key points were my favorites and I think good reminders for anyone to hang on to:

  1. You can’t be brave if you’re tired. Take care of yourself, eat well, move your body, and get good sleep! Make your health a priority or else you won’t have the strength and stamina to get through the unknown challenges and sometimes scary opportunities.

  2. Ask if it’s your drama talking or wisdom? Are you letting fear and dramatics lead you to an answer or are you rationally working through the problem, really seeing all possibilities? Is the experience of failure leading the conversation or actual know-how?

    *I love this one! No drama-llama, please!

  3. Hone the power of “yet”! I’m not _____ yet. I haven’t reached this goal yet. It turns everything from “not possible” to “possible” with time and effort.

  4.  What advice would you give someone else if faced with a hard choice? I can pump up anyone, my husband, students, friends, family—I believe in them so, so much! Myself? I can have one or two reasons and give up, but if I were talking to someone else, no way would I let them thrown in the towel. So why would not give myself the same sage advice to keep trying or go

  5.  “Change what we think and believe by changing what we do.” (Dr. Meredith Grossman)

    Turning the script around is hard, but following up the change with action helps make us believe in the change more. So simple and so effective but we have to make a conscious decision each time we adjust.

  6.  Ask yourself what matters more to you in life. Decide what your priorities are and make your decisions based on what brings you closer to those things.

  7.  Just ask and then stop talking. This is a good reminder to put the question out there to someone and wait for their response. Don’t fill with fall back (“If you can’t meet,” “if you need more time, “I might not be fully qualified”). Just ask and wait.

  8. Speak up when you know you should. If that voice tells you to, but the fear gets in the way, just speak up. Do it for the things you believe in, what you think needs to be addressed, the introduction that you know might make a difference. Just say something. And by the way, you can be confident and firm without being rude. There actually is a difference.

  9.  “I’d rather be caught trying than not at all.” (Hillary Clinton)

    No matter where you stand on the person quoted, the sentiment is what I think is most important. No one will fault someone who tried because, hey! At least they tried! They gave an effort! What did you do? Even if it doesn’t pan out, you tried and at the end of the day, or at your 80th birthday, wouldn’t you have liked to say that you tried, made an effort, lived fully without ever wishing to have missed an opportunity to try.

Maybe you’re not a perfectionist either, maybe you’re not in need of upping your bravery game, but if you’re just needing to work through moments of self-doubt, hopefully these points help you out. Of course, the book Brave, Not Perfect is always there to elaborate even more on the topic!


Happy Spring Semester!

Happy back to school for all those starting back today! This marks my seventh year working with this university which seems like both an enormous amount of time and yet the shortest amount of time. Isn’t that funny how time works?

I’m ready for the semester as best as I can be and looking to another full and busy spring time. Knowing it’s going to be a full semester (I counted, there’s only 4 fully work free weekends this year—eep!) I’m going to try and beat the burnout phase as best I can by being as prepared as can. Maybe you’re about to enter a busy season, too, and if that’s the case, here are a few things that might help you out as well:

Tips for Busy Times

  1. Meal Plan - Yes, this really does help and I really do this faithfully every week! I plan meals to be leftovers for both Janson and I, meals that are easy to fix when I’m dead tired and also based on what’s in season and on sale.

  2. Meal Prep - If I have lunches already in my fridge at work, that’s one less thing to worry about the night before or the morning off. A little time on Sunday basically saves me a lot of time during the week.

  3. One Stop Shop - I’m not a person that goes to the store eight times in one week. That does not work me. I enjoy my shopping time but I plan to pick up everything and not return until the next week’s list is ready. I’m thinking this year I might investigate online grocery delivery or rapid pick-up just say me a couple hours.

  4. Chore Chart - So I don’t have a specific chart up anywhere, but I do have designated days when I get household things done. Friday’s are meal planning and grocery shopping. Saturdays are my days to spend with Janson or with friends. Sunday’s are always my get-it-together day to do meal prepping, laundry and any picking up around the house. I’m going to try to designate one night to vacuuming and one to wiping down the bathroom just to sneak those in without being an all day affair. Just make it a habit each week and you’ll find your house is less of a disaster than you thought.

  5. Planner Time - By taking some time on Sundays to look ahead, I can see what all needs to get done and when, which allows me the opportunity to plan for what’s coming down the pike that week. It doesn’t have to be more than about 15 - 20 minutes and I’ve saved myself some sort of freak out for the week. I call that winning. PS - I wrote about my favorite planners here. Check it out.

  6. Daily Tasks - Each day I take a sticky note and write down 1 to 5 things that have to get done based on what I have written in my planner. You’ve probably heard of this before, but I’m telling you it helps get your long to-do list done so much easier. I can’t save the world in a day, but I can grade some papers, choreography 4 sets of eight, send off that email and prep the next days class efficiently if I make them a priority. Sticky notes. Go buy a ton!

  7. Schedule It All - Friend time to date nights, I have to schedule it in. Fly-by-the-seat-of-pants moments just don’t work when my time is that precious so I have to carve out the time. That allows me to actually make time for fun, relaxation, connection, and oh yeah, living my life outside of work.

  8. Don’t Forget to Breathe - Yeah. Take time for yourself. My time looks different depending on what I need. This year I’m hoping it’s reading for spell, spending time on the blog, taking more baths or going to a do a yoga class. The point is, do something for you even if it’s just sitting for 5 whole minutes without any screens or sounds.

Big List Breakdowns (1 of 10).jpg

You know that saying, “You have to spend money to make money.”? Well, I feel that can be true for time. You have to spend time to make time happen. What I mean is set yourself up for success by taking time to plan it out with just a few short minutes. Set a timer if you have to, put your phone away (I leave it charging in another room—that’s a habit I’ve started doing), and write it out, get it done. You’ll be surprised how much extra time you make for yourself and how much faster you get at things when you practice those good habits.

What are the best things you do during busy, busy times of life?


Long Distance Friendships

There is nothing new about long distance friendships. They've been happening for quite literally centuries with folks keeping up by letter until that grand ol' invention of the telephone. Since then we've moved on to e-mail, webcams and nowadays, Facetime and of course, social media. Thank goodness for internet! 

I've been very lucky to gain some beautiful friends over the years and it really took me a little bit to realize how difficult it can be to keep up with those wonderful friendships even with all the modern technology at hand. I'm not perfect but I have found some ways that have helped me keep those friends close even miles apart! 

10 Tips for

Maintaining Long Distance Friendships

1. Make the call/text/email  - If someone is on your heart, make the connection. Don't wait for a spare moment, just do it when you think about it. Even if you miss them, leave a message and get back with them when they call again. I reached out to my little sis from my sorority to say I think of her every time I use a blanket she gave me. One quick text and we were able to reconnect years after we graduated! I'm so glad I just sent the text and honestly, every time I reach out, I'm glad. Those people are on your mind and in your heart for a reason and you may never know how much that note can mean. Heck, that works for family all the time! Don't worry so much about the time that's past, just connect. 

2. Schedule your calls - Yup, I schedule my phone dates with friends. We're all busy and sometimes it's not the most convenient time to talk right that second, but offer up times to visit and schedule the date. Then make sure you put it in the calendar! If you're worried you'll forget, set an alarm and if you're concerned your friend my forget, just a send a sweet text to remind them, "hey! Are we still on for tomorrow?" 

3. Set a time limit (if you need it!) - When we schedule dinner dates with our girlfriends or plan a for day out together, it could take a couple hours and it's always delightful! Somehow changing the amount of distance between two folks and a couple hours on the phone can be difficult. There's not shame in keeping it short. When you call a pal, check the time, note how much time you've got and try to stick to what you need. If it's a short call, let them know you have a few minutes but you wanted to drop them a line. My sister is really good about calling any time she has the car to herself. When she's driving from client to client, she'll give me a call just to talk for a minute before the next meeting. It's not an in-depth convo, but it's a moment we get to share a quick "hello" and "I love you!" 

4. Be understanding if plans fall through - Like I said, life happens and sometimes things get busy. Don't get your knees in a knot if someone has to cancel. Trust that your friendship will be able to weather a cancelation and reschedule. Sometimes you have to give each other grace and a call comes maybe a month later than originally planned. It's okay! 

5. Text - I think this one is pretty obvious but in case you forgot, text messages can be a great easy way to keep in touch! Send a joke, a gif, some picture that reminds you of something or just a steady stream of a conversation throughout the day.  

6. Make that gal pal group text - One of my favorite group texts I have on my messages is with a great group of gals from work. Three out of six of us are in other states, two of us still work together and one is just minutes away in the city at a different job. Even far from each other, we seem to be able to share the funny moments in life, celebrate the high notes, lift each other when we need the support and just reach out for that friendly connection. We don't text all the time but we text and connect nonetheless! 

7. Get comfy - I have one friend I always Facetime. I'm not sure how we got started on Facetiming only but I can't image calling her any other way! When I see her on the screen, it's like she's right next to me and that is the best when you're long distance! We schedule our Facetime dates pretty far out and I make it a point to treat those calls like a friend date with favorite drink in hand, a comfy chair to sit in and total focus on my friend.

8. Don't be afraid to be honest - With my college roomie--yes, we're still best friends!--we call each other probably about every six to twelve weeks and when we talk, it's usually for a good amount of time! There's so much to catch up on but we're both pretty good about saying, "hey, I'm throwing in some laundry while we talk" or "ooh, don't mind the sweeping, I've got company coming later tonight!" I appreciate that ability for us to take care of little things while we visit. The hardest thing is making time to talk and catch up and if you and your friend are close enough, let them know you're listening while you stir sauce or wipe down counters. If it's a big task, it can wait, but if it's something mindless and it needs to get done, fold that laundry, lady! 

Real life after work look, messy kitchen and all, but who cares! I've got a friend on the other end of the line!

Real life after work look, messy kitchen and all, but who cares! I've got a friend on the other end of the line!

9. Book the trip - OK, travel can be expensive. I still don't know how all these college grads are traipsing around Europe after school or how people are able to live like nomads, but somehow they're able to purchase some plane tickets. Surely you can find a way to get to see your friends, too! I just booked a flight to Denver to see a dear friend and I'm hoping I can add Florida on the 2019 list for my college roomie although, she's coming to town this week! Someday I'm going to make it the Nashville for an MFA buddy and I always love staying with friends in NYC. Maryland, I've got to come soon soon because I miss the heck out of not one, but TWO friends up there! I try really, really hard to make visits happen with friends when I'm back in Dallas and I'm usually successful. There are so many more places to add and many wonderful people to see. 

10. The point is make it happen. There's nothing like spending time with those people who mean so much. Family is a wonderful gift as is the family that you choose in friendships. If you have ten minutes to scroll, you have ten minutes to call. If you have a second to send a text, just do it. The only way to keep friendships up long distance is to make them a priority as you do all the other things in your life. That doesn't mean all day every day communication, but it means making time for those people even if it's five minutes to send them good thoughts or share a funny memory. Just do it. 

Where are some of your besties and how do you keep up with them? 


Meal Prep Help

I always feel really accomplished when I set myself up for a successful and less stressful week. Meal prepping has been all the rage for a while and there's tons of articles out there to help you, sometimes it gets overwhelming.

The past four weeks have been whirlwind crazy and I’m still four weeks away from having a “normal” week, i.e. nights where I’m home before 8:00 something at night. I’ve definitely been relying on my Sunday’s to prepare my food needs for work and for home, not unsurprisingly since a lot of people do it! While it can take a bit of time and elbow grease, I have to say, it’s been an absolute lifesaver!

Five Favorite All Week Meals

  1. Soup’s Up! I’m a huge fan of soup when I’m in the throws of a busy week like a show week. I’ll make a huge pot and fill up several containers for lunches and boom! I’ve got lunch for every day that week. Just a sleeve of crackers or some fresh french bread and I’m good. Throw a side salad with it or a half a sandwich and the meals seems fresh and new on day four.

    My personal favorite soup recipe is the Spicy Chicken Soup from Real Girl’s Kitchen and yes, that is Haylie Duff’s cookbook. No judgement, she’s got some pretty good ones!

  2. BBQ Pulled Pork Take 2. OK, so it’s easy to throw some pulled pork together, 1 can of soda and a bottle of BBQ sauce, large crockpot on low for 8 hours and ta-da! A great meal is ready for you! You can put it on a bun or on a baked potato or just eat on it’s own with a salad or delicious sautéed veggies.

    Here’s a new one though, slap some of that BBQ between to tortillas, add some cheese, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice and you’ve got yourself some delicious BBQ quesadillas.

  3. White Chicken Chili for days! I wish I could take credit for this, but good ol’ Pinterest to the rescue. Here is THE best white chicken chili and I promise you won’t get sick of this one! Add tortilla chips or pair with a light green salad to stretch it out and shake it up.

  4. Tray Bakes for the win! Roast up a few chicken breasts in the oven with a separate tray of your favorite veggies and that’s an easy full meal with tons of nutrition packed in. I like to use brussel sprouts, asparagus or zucchini with sweet potatoes or purple potatoes and a bit of chopped onion. A little olive oil and some sea salt and you’re good to go. Other spices are fine, but I like the simple flavor come out through the roasting.

  5. Muffins, man. I know, bad pun, but still funny. I whipped up a batch of Oatmeal Apple Cinnamon Muffins since I was hankering something delicious warm and fall flavored. Definite success although this particular recipe calls for a pretty good amount of sugar. I’m wondering if I could pair that down or trade out with a different type of sugar. Either way, I’ve got delicious breakfast muffins to pair with scrambled eggs and some fresh fruit.

The trick is to make it all at once and divvy everything up, a plate or bowl for each day of the week. I cart all these bowls to work and leave them in my office fridge prepped and ready to heat up. I’m a leftovers fan so this type of eating isn’t too tricky for me and if you’re looking for something other than a frozen meal for lunch or another sandwich, these might perk up your meals for the week!

Happy meal prepping, y’all!

The Real Girls Spicy Chicken Soup.

The Real Girls Spicy Chicken Soup.


Tackling Big Lists

Most folks have a number of things on their to-do lists every single day, me included. Lately I've been really trying to jump into things, get a lot of work done and push through before school starts. Everyone has a different way of plotting things out, but I thought I might share what's worked for me more recently. 

First of all, I'd just like to say that pretty paper, pens, pencils, and post-it's actually do help make this process more fun. Just a thought. 

You can use these tips for organizing your home life or work life, school work or just one big job or project for a week, six weeks, a month or just three days--whatever you want! 

  1. I take a legal pad out and write down general categories. These can be classes you're prepping or taking, home life (chores, bills, correspondence, calendar events), or just areas of your life (work, home, personal). 
  2. Jot down everything that needs to get done in your given time frame for each category. 
  3. Open up your calendar for your time frame and look to see when those items need to be done and assign each one a "due date." 

Now you're armed with the master list--a huge collection of what needs to get done when. Here comes the best part. I know it seems like a lot, sometimes seeing it all can be a bit overwhelming, but I promise this will help. 

There are two options: 

  1. Take that list and reference every day. Write down a sticky note all you need to get done ONE day at a time. I like to do this the night before so when I wake up and open my planner, it's already laid out, no surprises. You can do it that morning over a cup of coffee. But it's just a small list to help move you forward. OR, option #2: 
  2. Plan out every day from now to your final due date. Every day gets a list that you can follow that whole time. I like to re-evaluate as I go whether that's at the start of a new week (If I've planned out a month or two weeks) and adjust what I need from there. 
Penny is totally into planning...

Penny is totally into planning...

People find their own systems, color coding, hi-lighting, online calendars, whatever works for you, honestly! Check it off, scratch it out, mark all of that stuff until you see nothing but a finished list. There is truly so much satisfaction is marking off completed things, am I right?

Sure, Mom...

Sure, Mom...

This system works for me. It not only helps me see the big picture of what's got to be done, it's helps me tackle it one bite at a time. You know that old saying, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

I love her little face, my summer book of to-do's and reminders! 

I love her little face, my summer book of to-do's and reminders! 

Well, that's how I take one bite at a time. Doesn't mean I don't get stressed, or still get a little panicky when I'm feeling behind, but it allows me to map out a plan, take a breath, and get stuff done! 

Big List Breakdowns (10 of 10).jpg

What are your best tips for plotting out to-do's?