Mental Health Awareness Month: Improving Your Mental Health

Hello friends!

Even those without mental illnesses can improve their mental health.  Daily stresses are detrimental to everyone’s mental health.  Here are some ways to make yours a priority and always feel your best.

Treat yourself kindly.  Don’t beat yourself up over small mistakes and focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses.  Taking time to do the things you love to do and are good at is also a huge part of this that will improve your general happiness.

Sleep well.  The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.  Also, make sure that your sleep is restful.  Turn off your devices, put away other distractions and do your best to destress before heading to bed.  Being well rested is extremely important for keeping stress at bay.  People with chronic insomnia are 15-20% more likely to develop clinical depression (click here to read more).

Fuel your body.  Eating a balanced diet is as important for your mental health as it is your physical health.  Specifically, omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to effect dopamine and serotonin levels (two hormones known to control mood).  You can get your share of omega-3s from supplements or the old-fashioned way by eating eggs, yogurt, soy milk, flaxseed, peanut butter, oatmeal and seafood such as Tuna, Halibut, Herring, Sardines, Oysters, Salmon and Trout.

Stay hydrated.  The general rule of thumb for adults is to drink 8 cups of water per day.  Because the brain is 75% water, dehydration severely effects the brain.  Even slight dehydration puts a stress on the brain and therefore can effect your mood.  A simple and easy way to make sure your mental health is at its best is to drink water throughout the day.

Give to others.  Whether you donate money and possessions or volunteer your time and energy, giving to those in need is a sure fire way to feel good.

Be realistic.  It is easy to feel down on yourself especially if you are not achieving the things you want to be.  Make sure that your goals are realistic.  If you set small goals that have realistic time periods, you will feel accomplished more often and even have more energy to reach for your bigger goals.

Make time to quiet your mind.  Whether it is prayer, meditation or just simply clearing your mind and relaxing, taking a timeout from the things that you stress over is important.  Make it a point to find a quiet place to just breathe a few times a week.

Have some fun in the sun.  There is a reason why depression rates spike in the winter.  Sunlight is important for your mental health.  The sun supplies you with Vitamin D, which is extremely important for balancing mood.  While summer lasts, take advantage of the sun and be outside whenever possible.  During the darker, gloomier months, you can take Vitamin D supplements.

Get moving.  There is a reason you get a “high” after working out or simply being active with friends.  Exercise promotes mood boosting chemicals in your brain, so if you make being active a part of your routine you will definitely see an improvement in your overall mood.

Set aside time to stress.  This one might seem a little counterintuitive, but set aside a time in your day specifically for worrying.  That way you get it out and the stress doesn’t loom over you all day long.  Make sure you set a time limit for your stressing and also practice coping skills such as deep breathing or physically picturing your worries as an object (ex. balloons) floating away.

 


 

My goal for this summer is to focus on these goals to improve my mental health!  Who’s with me?!

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Mental Health Awareness Month: Signs of Depression

Hi everyone!  Thanks for stopping by!

Unfortunately, those who are struggling with depression will often not ask for help.  Because of this, it is important that we are educated on what depression looks like in order to offer help without being asked.

Signs of depression include:

  1. Sleeping too little or too much
  2. Poor appetite or extremely overeating consistantly
  3. Little interest or energy put into in his or her appearance
  4. Withdrawal from social activities and general conversation
  5. General loss of interest or motivation to do activities that usually interest them
  6. Beating him or herself up over small things
  7. Difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness
  8. Lack of emotion towards both positive and negative experiences (numbness)
  9. Mentions of harming themselves or thoughts about death (which often may seem like jokes)
  10. Reckless behaviors such as participating in dangerous activities, excessive drinking or drug use
  11. Restlessness and fidgeting or moving extremely slowly

If you are noticing a change in someone you care about that follow these signs, reach out to them.  Your help may not be accepted right away, but make it clear that you are concerned because you care about them and that you are there for them.  You will most likely need to continuously reach out.  Try spending time with them in ways that don’t directly bring up your concern, as well.  That way they will know that you are sincerely interested in spending time with them because you care for them.

 

Mental Health Awareness Month: My Story

Hello friends!

May is mental health awareness month!  This month I will be doing a three part series about mental health.  This is the first: my story.  I am somewhat weary of sharing this, and I am only sharing a snippet.  However, I feel that it is important to share in order to help others.

To end the stigma we must be educated on what mental illnesses truly are.  First off, mental illnesses are ILLNESSES.  They are conditions that should be taken seriously and given our attention and resources in order to help.  They have symptoms and treatments like any other illness, and they are not a joke.

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I personally have suffered from anxiety disorders and clinical depression throughout my life.  I will stick to talking about these because it is what I have knowledge about.


ANXIETY DISORDERS

There are several different anxiety disorders which include panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, specific phobias and generalized anxiety disorder.  People may often suffer from a combination of a few anxiety disorders.  Symptoms of anxiety vary from disorder to disorder, but generally anxiety disorders cause people to feel panicked, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, inability to remain still, nausea, digestion issues, shaking and hyperventilation.

In my personal experience, anxiety can be crippling.   It has often times kept me from enjoying my life.  Avoidance goes hand in hand with anxiety, and avoiding has kept me from achieving my goals and has made doing day to day activities extremely difficult.

However, more often than not, my anxiety was not necessary, and remembering that fact makes it easier for me to push through my anxiety in order to live my life.  My advice?  Take a deep breath, count down from 3 and do whatever it is that you need to do.  Once you get going, you’ll begin to forget your anxious thoughts.  It also helps to identify the anxiety as soon as you feel it.  Telling yourself “this is anxiety” helps you realize that it is irrational and there really isn’t that much to worry about.  The more that you stop avoiding and do the things that make you anxious, the easier it will be to continue to live your life.


DEPRESSION

Symptoms of clinical depression include chronic lack of energy, irritability, loss of interest, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty sleeping or extreme fatigue and oversleeping, restlessness or moving very slowly, significant weight loss or gain and thoughts of suicide.  Not all symptoms are felt by everyone that suffers from depression and a lot of the symptoms obviously contradict each other, so not every case of depression looks the same.

I’ve experienced every symptom listed above.  In one bout of depression, I was unable to sleep or eat.  I lost a lot of weight and slept an average of 2-4 hours per day (even though I spent 99% of my time in bed).  In another bout, I over ate and could not stop sleeping.  I was sleeping about 12-18 hours per day.  Obviously this left little time for me to do anything else like go to school or have a social life.  I had very little interest in doing anything, anyway.

I pushed away the people I cared about and that cared about me, which pushed me deeper into a depression.  I had no motivation to do anything which kept me from working toward my goals.  All of these things created a vicious cycle that kept me feeling horrible.  I was terrified for my future (because of the anxiety), didn’t think I could achieve anything in my future (because of the depression), and therefore did not want to even have a future.


HOW I GOT HELP

At first, I didn’t want help, but my family forced me into therapy.  The first therapist I went to was not the right fit for me.  I sugarcoated everything and pretended to be perfectly happy, and before I knew it both my therapist and I stopped scheduling appointments.

I then tried to make myself happy by avoiding my problems and covering them up with exciting experiences and material items.  While that worked for a month or two, it didn’t fix anything, and when it came back to the surface it was worse than ever.

Eventually, I sought out help myself.  I went to a therapist that I had researched and thought would be good for me.  (It is important that your therapist is the right fit for you.  If you don’t find her or him on your first try, keep looking.)  This therapist really helped me.  She saw through my sugarcoating and asked questions in a way to get to what was really bothering me.  Most importantly she gave me tools and goals that helped me work through my issues in and out of her office.

The things I did outside of therapy were equally as important to my recovery.  My brother dragged me to church repeatedly hoping that I would find help there.  At first I was resistant, but finally I heard something that hit home, opened myself up to it and let God into my life.  During the sermon that changed my outlook, the pastor used a metaphor comparing Gods word to a seed.  He said that you cannot expect good things to happen to you just by going to church.  You have to work on it just like you’d water and care for a seed in order to grow a garden.  It all clicked in that moment for me and I realized that I could not sit back and wait to feel better any longer.  I had to help myself.  No matter your beliefs, that is a valuable lesson and finding a reason bigger than yourself to live is important.  I got a tattoo of a part my favorite Bible verses, Psalm 40: 1-3, as a reminder that the depression eventually ended and I was happy again so that I can find hope if I ever feel that hopeless again.  The full three verses read, “I waited patiently for the Lordhe inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

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“He drew me up from the pit of destruction”

A big reason I felt so hopeless was that I had no clue what I wanted my future to look like, so as part of my healing I did a lot of exploring and “finding myself” and eventually settled on something that felt right.  Once I was able to start working towards the life I wanted, everything began to turn around.

Also, very importantly, I surrounded myself with people who care about me and make me feel good about myself.  There were countless toxic people in my life that kept me from feeling better.  I finally stopped letting people make me feel horrible and focused on the people who made me happy.


My hope is that sharing some of my story will help those of you who are suffering and do not know how to get help.  Hopefully, you will realize that you are not alone and you will get the energy and determination that it takes to help yourself.

If you are feeling at all hopeless or depressed, first of all know that this is not permanent.  Time will heal you.  I was depressed for about two years and severely depressed for about 11 months.  It felt never-ending, but eventually it did end.  However, time wasn’t the only thing that healed me.  I needed to reconnect with those that I pushed away, and I needed to accept the help.  If you’re feeling depressed, please listen to the people that are trying to help you.  It is hard to talk, but it is necessary.

Never be afraid to ask for help.  If you need someone to talk to, there is always someone willing to listen.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Intervention HopeLine: Call or Text 919-231-4525 or 1-877-235-4525

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

 

12 Things I Wish I Would’ve Learned by 12th Grade

 

  1. Those “friends” your mom says aren’t your real friends, really aren’t your real friends.  You will realize this eventually, but believe me, your mom can tell a fake friend the moment she sees one.
  2. Pick the school that is right for you.  Pick the one that will do the best things for your future, not the one your friend or that cute boy is going to.  Pick the one that made you excited when you first toured it, not the one that sounds cooler in your Instagram bio.
  3. Only do what you feel is right.  Peer pressure goes much farther than parties and sex.  If your friends are gossiping or speaking poorly about people, you don’t need to participate in those conversations, and more often than not you’ll wish you hadn’t sooner rather than later.
  4. Not all relationship abuse is physical.  It is possible that your boyfriend, girlfriend or your friend’s boyfriend or girlfriend is being abusive without laying a finger on you or her/him!  Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse.  Click here and here for more information and warning signs of emotional abuse.
  5. Don’t say mean things to/about your parents.  The teen years are tough and 90% of the time it feels like your mom “doesn’t get it”, but she does.  She might not completely understand what it is like to be in a group chat with all of her friends or have to keep up snap streaks, but really, the high school experience doesn’t fundamentally change that much over time.  She is looking out for you and your happiness.  Even if you don’t always agree, you have to at least give her credit.
  6. Form good relationships with your teachers. If not for the good advice (and a place to hangout at lunch when you are fighting with your friends–sometimes with candy), at least do it for the letters of recommendation.
  7. Eat. Food is amazing and diets suck and you really aren’t fat at all, so just eat.  (Especially in high school because soon you’ll live in a dorm and have to eat food from the cafeteria for every meal.)
  8. Go to all of those “lame” end of the year senior activities.  You might actually not want to go, or you might be saying that you don’t want to because everyone else is, but just go.  Senior prom is the last chance you’ll get for a while to get all dressed up and hangout with all of your friends.  The bonfires and banquets and class trip will be come memories that you and your fellow classmates will reminisce on for years to come.  Even if you don’t stay close with the people you graduate with, you’ll have great memories of high school to finish it off.  (And you’ll regret it if you don’t.)
  9. Stop comparing yourself to what you see on social media.  I honestly still struggle with this from time to time.  You don’t post photos of yourself on social media at the times when you don’t feel beautiful.  Neither does anyone else.  You cannot compare your Sunday afternoon messy bun and residue from last night’s makeup to someone else’s Friday night full makeup, hair done and heels on (plus probably SO much editing and filters).  Also, realize that you don’t have to do the same things as everyone else.  Everyone else your age might post about going out all the time or their perfect relationship.  However, things you see online are not always exactly what they seem.  The girl who’s profile you check incessantly might actually fight with her friends and her boyfriend daily.  Just because it isn’t on Instagram, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen to her just like it does to you.
  10. It’s okay to feel lost. You don’t have to have it all figured out.  You don’t have to know what you want to be when you grow up or even know what you want to do this weekend.  If you feel lost, read this post about my experience finding my way.
  11. Your high school GPA will not matter after graduation.  I bent over backwards trying for a 4.0, and in the end I still only managed to pull off a 3.9987.  But the worst part?  After high school, no one gave a shit.  Then I had to start all over stressing and trying to be perfect again in college 3 weeks later.  However, I was so burnt out from trying so hard in high school that college was even more difficult than it would usually be.  On the other end of the spectrum, if school just isn’t your thing, you can rest easy knowing that no one will care after these four years are over.  Moral of the story: work hard but don’t burn yourself out in the process.  Let yourself breathe.
  12. This is only temporary.  You might love high school or you might hate high school.  Either way, you need to remember that it will be over soon.  Four years go by quickly.  If you are having the worst time of your life, remember that it will be over soon and you can go off and live your life the way you want to.  If you are loving every minute of it, savor the moments.  If you are thriving in your captain spot on the varsity sport team, start thinking about what is next because these 4 years will fly by and that is when your life will really start.

Lastly enjoy these awkward photos of me in high school…

SENIOR YEAR

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The day I got accepted to my dream school…. and then I went somewhere else so I could be close to a boy (SEE #2!!!)

 

JUNIOR YEAR

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Why did no one ever teach me about filling in my brows???
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My go to outfit for every thing: plain tee and a scarf (and probably jeans with sparkly pockets)

SOPHOMORE YEAR

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The dark hair phase

FRESHMAN YEAR

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I promise “scrunching” your hair and wearing this much eyeliner was cool.
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The most cringey of them all…

How I Found My Path and Why You Will Too

When I was in high school, I was extremely driven.  I got straight A’s, studied like crazy, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life… or so I thought.

After graduating, I got very lost.  I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I didn’t know where I wanted to go to school.  I didn’t know what I wanted to major in.  I didn’t even know what I was interested in or wanted to spend my free time doing anymore.  Ages 18 to 20 were very rough years for me.  I lost a lot of friends, and my grades suffered, which eventually lead to me losing a lot of self confidence and overall happiness.

I had always wanted to be a doctor, lawyer or CEO.  I wanted to do something impressive and powerful.  I wanted to do something that I felt used my intelligence, something that not everyone could do.  I wanted to be a successful woman.

I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself.  Nothing I do is ever good enough in my own mind unless it is absolutely perfect (which is something that I’m working on).  I just want to make my family proud.

I also was (and am) a feminist.  I didn’t want a career that my gender confined me to.  However, always, deep down, I knew that I want a family and that I love children.  When I was very little I wanted to be a teacher (if not a princess or something), but even though I still frequently thought about how much I would enjoy teaching, by high school I looked down on the girls that wanted to be teachers.  I thought that they were settling for what society expected of them rather than reaching their full potential.

After spending about a year and a half pretty depressed, I realized that I frequently relied on my little niece, nephew and cousins to cheer me up.  I had always wanted to make a difference in society.  I could do it by breaking the mold and becoming a part of the “boys club” as a doctor, lawyer or CEO, or I could do it by teaching little kiddos that all humans on earth are equal no matter their race, religion, social class or sexual identity and that they all should be treated equally.  I realized that I want to educate students not only about math, reading and history but also about how to treat others, the world and themselves.

However, I still often felt like I was settling.  I thought that by changing my major from Biology with a Pre-Medicine emphasis to Elementary Education I was saying that I wasn’t smart enough to become a doctor, but that is not true at all.  I could become a doctor, but I don’t think I would be the best doctor because I wouldn’t like it.  It is not what I am meant to do.  I know for a fact that I would hate the hours.  I want more than anything to have a family of my own someday, and being a doctor would not allow me to be the kind of mother I want to be.  However, I think that I will make a very good teacher someday (at least I hope) because I am passionate about it and I honestly think that I will enjoy it.

Eventually, I felt confident in my choice and became more and more excited about my future.  I realized that I felt lost because I was never pursuing the career that was really right for me, and now that I have chosen my path, I’ve never been happier or more motivated.  However, I’m grateful for the time I spend lost.  Because of how much I resisted teaching, I feel more confident in my choice.  I chose my career path despite my many reasons not to, and it feels right.

I hope that if you’re reading this and you feel lost, you know that you will find your way.  If you feel like you know what you want to do but are resisting it, give in.  Do what you love no matter the pay or status that comes with it.  If you don’t have a single clue, that is okay.  You’ll be okay.  Explore.  If you don’t find what is right for you right away, at least you’ll find out what you don’t want to do.

– ♥ Alana

21 in 21

Now that I’m 21 years old, there is almost nothing that I cannot legally do (besides rent a car).  In honor of that fact, here are 21 things I want to experience and accomplish in my next 21 years of life (before I am 42):

  1. Go on a girls trip
  2. Ride in a hot air balloon
  3. Invest
  4. Take a cross-country road trip
  5. Read the whole Bible
  6. Pay for a stranger’s meal at a restaraunt
  7. Go backpacking
  8. Attend a black tie event
  9. Volunteer
  10. Build my dream house (or a version of it)
  11. Pay off my student debt
  12. Learn how to fly a plane
  13. Travel alone
  14. Campaign for a politician
  15. Flip a house
  16. Spoil my mom
  17. Host family Christmas
  18. Write a book
  19. Be a mom
  20. Fundraise for a good cause
  21. Travel to all 6 inhabited continents

I hope to keep updating this list with the dates that I accomplished each goal and add links to posts about each one if applicable.  Stay tuned!

– ♥ Alana

For Your Next Netflix (or Hulu) Marathon…

I’m a self-proclaimed professional binge-watcher and napper.  Basically, I really know how to spend a lazy day.  Below are my favorite shows to watch for hours on end.


ON NETFLIX:

Grey’s Anatomy: The earlier seasons are better.

The Office: Everyone’s favorite.  I’m a Kelly.  Sad, but true.

Gossip Girl: S&B forever.  XOXO.

Friends: My all-time fav.

Terms of Endearment: Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove is secretly a softy.

Parks and Recreation: The world needs more Leslie Knopes.

Big Mouth: For those with a darker sense of humor.

Mindhunter: Because who doesn’t wonder what goes on in the mind of a killer?

Scandal: Shonda can do no wrong.

Gilmore Girls: A childhood (& adulthood) favorite.

The Magicians: Leaves you wanting more.  Good thing the next season is coming soon!


ON HULU:

One Tree Hill: Calling all Nathan Scotts.

UnREAL: Manipulation and murder all behind the scenes of your favorite reality show.

This is Us: Wear waterproof mascara or watch alone.

The Mindy Project: Remember when I said I’m a Kelly?  I’m also a Mindy.

America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway: Guilty pleasures.

Also Project Runway All-Stars: Making it work for 6 more seasons (and counting).

Rick and Morty: If Big Sean likes it, I like it.


WHAT I’M WATCHING NEXT:

Broad City

The Handmaid’s Tale

The End of the F***ing World

 

 

 

 

Life & Love Advice from My Grandma

Growing up, I only ever had one grandparent that I remember, my dad’s mom, Pat.  She is a interesting lady with a great story.  She’s also always given me the best and funniest advice.  For instance, almost every time I’ve seen her since turning 14, she has told me “when he goes for the zipper, get out of the car,” and who doesn’t need to learn that lesson?!  My grandparents had a very strong 51 year long marriage, so I figured she probably has a lot of great relationship and life advice.  Over my spring break I went to visit my grandma, who is turning 85 in a few months, and got to know her life story a little bit better.  Here are some of her stories and some of her best advice.


HER STORY

My grandma was born in Mauston, WI on May 13, 1933 into a lower class family who already had a son, and daughter.  A few years later, her mother gave birth to another son, and soon after that her parents split up.  She spent her summers working at the fair selling food from her grandparents’ food stand.  That is where she learned to speak what she calls “carnie talk”, which is the carnival workers’ version of pig latin.

Her mother gave piano lessons and played the piano at parties around the state.  Since she couldn’t afford a babysitter, she brought her kids with her to gigs.  My grandma credits her mother’s gigs to starting her love for music.  Although one of my favorite memories of my grandma is her singing along to Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl (even though grandma’s singing has always been more of a hum), her favorite musician is by far Elvis.  Her house features several portraits of the king of rock and roll, and she even owns one of his scarves from a concert she went to back in the day, sweat and all.  She always said she was going to clone him someday.

When she was 15, she met my grandpa, Richard, who was 18 at the time.  The next year the two were married.  She was kicked out of high school once the school administrators found out that she had been married.  The excuse was that married people had sex and they didn’t want her telling anyone about sex.  She says that the thing she regrets most is not finishing school.  She loves to read.  Her closet is like a library, if libraries were filled with 90% Danielle Steel books.  Her dream was to become a flight attendant.  However, since she couldn’t finish school that was impossible.

Instead, she was a house wife for quite some time.  She watched over the household while my grandpa stayed in an apartment in Madison during the week to do work at the capital.  Eventually she helped my grandpa and dad run their car restoration shop.  Her job in the office was essential to the business:

“I had to know where and when every single part was made, and I had to make sure everything was paid for.  I had a lot of fun there!  Your grandpa and dad were there everyday and some women from town that also worked in the office.  I used to take smoke breaks with the other ladies that worked there, but I never told your grandpa.  He definitely smelled it, but we never talked about it.”  

She did, however, find some way to fulfill her airborne dreams.  Both she and my grandpa got their pilots licenses.  She says, “I could land just perfect,” and she could go on for an hour about the Mooney airplane that she and my grandpa would take out flying on Sundays.

Before ever having kids, Mr. and Mrs. Braund were married for about 10 years.  She said that this allowed them to spend a lot of time as just husband and wife before adding kids into the mix.  She attributes much of their strong marriage to this.  “Don’t rush,” she says.  My grandparents had two children.  My aunt, Susan, and my father, also Richard, weren’t their only babies, though.  They also had several interesting pets.  They had a poodle named Suzie (who they actually decided to name my aunt after), three St. Bernards named Bourbon, Brandy and Sasha, two peacocks Pete and Perky, a macaw named Chandler (named after the shoe store they bought him in) and a cat named Venus (who my sister used to call Penis because she couldn’t pronounce her ‘v’s).  Now, she has a cat named Honey Girl, but St. Bernards are her true love.  They are right up there on her favorite-things list with Elvis and the Green Bay Packers.  (Note: She is the biggest Packer fan in the state of Wisconsin.  She has a book of every score of every game she has ever watched.  I dated a Bears fan in high school, and she still brings it up.)

Christianity has also played a huge role in my grandmas life.  Growing up she attended a Baptist church every Sunday as well as a Baptist school.  After marrying my grandfather, they went to the local Methodist church which is the same church were my parents were married, I was baptized and confirmed in.  She still goes as much as she can, which can be difficult at her age, but I remember she never missed a Sunday when I was growing up.  She always sat in the same pew and wore her Green Bay Packer broach.  Whenever my family went, we sat by her, and she would give me tootsie pops to eat while I scribbled on my church bulletin.  She attributes Jesus for getting her through her long life.  She says, “church has made me happy when times were bad, and you know, because of God, they were never that bad.”  She would always tell me when I was very young that every star in the sky is someone in heaven, so whenever I missed my grandpa to look up and there he was.  It was a beautiful way to think of our loved ones passing on and remembering that they are still looking over us.

My grandpa died in 2000 of an aneurysm and left my grandma a widow after 51 years of marriage.  However, before that they had an incredibly strong relationship.  She had several ideas when I asked her why she thought that their marriage was so successful.  Most simply, she said “we really loved each other.”  She also pointed out that they never fought over things that “didn’t matter” because “it was just a fight then, and it was never even important”.  My grandpa was a very serious and accomplished man.  He was a Brigadier General in the National Guard, ran a business and wrote a book.  However, she said that, unlike his colleagues and their wives, he was never embarrassed of her.  He always took her to work parties and car shows.  She says, “I loved going out to fancy parties with your grandpa because I got to dress up and wear my shoes.  It made me feel really special.  And he always danced with me even if he didn’t want to because he knew how much I loved to dance.”

Since the death of my grandpa almost two decades ago, she has had a few suitors, but she hasn’t really been all that interested.  “They come and knock on my door, but I pretend not to be home,” she says, (which may be the most I’ve ever related to my grandma).  She has had love in her life, and she says now that she has enough love from her kids and grandkids and that she doesn’t need anyone to “put their shoes under [her] bed”.

She does have a loooot of friends though.  Going out and about in my hometown with my grandma is like going out with a Kardashian.  Everyone stops you and wants to say hi, so I asked what she does to be such a good friend.  She says that she always cheers her friends up when they’ve had a bad day, she doesn’t gossip and she doesn’t care what others think.  “A lot of people didn’t really like [one of my friends], but I didn’t care.  I liked her, so who gives a shit?!” she says.  More people need to think like Pat.

HER ADVICE

“Dress up, it’ll make you feel special”

“Stay close to your family and call whenever you can” (this might’ve been a hint which I most definitely will be taking)

“Don’t rush.”

“Always pay for at least some of the meal when men take you out.  It’s only fair.  You can take care of your self, and you don’t need anyone else to feed you.”

“Don’t holler!  Most things aren’t worth fighting over.”

“Finish school and become whatever you want to be before settling down and getting married.”

“Don’t be jealous of people, be happy for them.”

“If you ever miss someone who has passed away, look up.”

And last but not least, something that is very important to my grandma… “it’s called ‘supper’, not ‘dinner'”


I hope that this post inspires you to get to know your grandparents a little better.  While writing this, I learned a lot about my grandma and got to spend a few quality hours with her.  I think that it also really made her day that I was so curious about her life and wanted her advice, so call up your grandma or grandpa and take them out to lunch.  You might learn something, and you’ll definitely have a great time.

– ♥ Alana

Here are some photos I took at my grandma’s that I think really capture what she is all about:

 

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Grandma and her Mooney airplane

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Grandma is a little bit different than your typical “have you eaten” grandma.  Instead she offers me Oreos, but I’m not complainin’.
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An old newspaper article showcasing my grandpa’s business building Duesenberg IIs.

Someday: My Travel Bucket List

I’ve been very fortunate in my childhood and early adulthood to have been given so many opportunities to see the world.  However, like most good things, that has just left me wanting more.  I constantly find myself dreaming of traveling to places far and wide.  Below is a list of my dream destinations as well as what I’ve found during my day dreaming travel research sessions.

Antelope Canyon – Page, AZ

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A photographers dream, Antelope Canyon is a canyon located on Navajo land in AZ.  It was formed by the rushing of water through the stone.  By definition, slot canyons are much deeper than they are wide, making for stunning views and a humbling experience.

There are actually two canyons at Antelope Canyon, the lower canyon and upper canyon.  All of the sites I’ve looked at have recommended the Lower Antelope Canyon.  The underground canyon only allows groups of 10 people in at once with 15 minutes in between each group which leads to a much less crowded viewing experience.  Also, since the lower canyon is underground, it is much cooler in the Arizona heat.  Because of this, it is recommended to visit during late summer in the early morning to beat the crowds.

Nearby Antelope Canyon are several other beautiful natural sites such as Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and Lone Rock Beach.  This area is also very camper friendly, making for an Instagram-worthy, adventurous getaway!

Cape Cod, MA

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I’ve always loved the vibe of the east coast.  So of course, I would love to visit the most typical east coast destination: Cape Cod.

Of course, anytime you’re on the eastern seaboard, you must eat affordable, fresh, delicious lobster.  However, Cape Cod’s chamber of commerce also recommends a top rated pizza place, and I can never turn down a good pizza.

Not only is the cape a beautiful setting with amazing shops, food and beaches, but it is also rich with history.  This area was the original settlement of the Wampanoag Native Americans and nearby the landing place of the Pilgrims.  Of course, the museums in the area are a must-see.

If Cape Cod isn’t enough, it is only a short 1 hour drive from Boston, a beautiful 1 1/2 hour coastal drive to Provincetown, and a 2 hour ferry ride to Nantucket.

Barcelona, Spain

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If I’m being completely honest, I first wanted to go to Barcelona as soon as the Cheetah Girls did, but the more I research it, the more I yearn to go.  My favorite thing to see in new places is hands down architecture, and Barcelona has some of the best such as the Sagrada Família.

However, even if architecture isn’t your thing, there is still plenty to see and do such as seeing the Flamenco Show and experiencing the native dance, food, music and wine all at one at the Palacio del Flamenco in the heart of the city.  Another fascinating attraction I’ve decided I must see are medieval villages just outside of the city.  These villages are pristinely preserved on the water and small-group tours by boat are available!

San Francisco and San Diego, CA

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If you grew up in the 1990s or 2000s, you know it is impossible to see that photo and not hear “Every where you look…” and the rest of the Full House theme song play through your head instantly.

Actually, though, I’m not going to write much on San Fran/San Diego now because I will be posting an in depth blog post (or 2 or 3) during my trip there from June 2nd to the 10th!  Hopefully I’ll meet my Jesse Katsopolis while I’m there (swoon).

Seattle, WA

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Another dream travel destination inspired by one of my favorite TV shows, Grey’s Anatomy.  Although there is no actual Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital to visit, Seattle does have so much to offer such as the birthplace of Starbucks, the famous Pike Place Market (pictured above) and the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) which looks like a smashed guitar from the outside and has everything you’d ever want to know about American culture on the inside.

The Chihuly Garden and Glass museum is sure to be stunning.  I was able to visit a Chihuly exhibit at the botanical gardens in Dallas, TX.  Dale Chihuly, the artist, is a Seattle native.  And if you aren’t able to see everything individually, you can always view it all from the sky in the Seattle Great Wheel or the Space Needle.

Of course, above all else, I must take a ride on the Washington State Ferries across Puget Sound in honor of Dr. McDreamy, may he rest in peace.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Ever since watching a video in high school Spanish, I’ve wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival.  However, even if I don’t go during Carnival, my research tells me that the city is bound to be amazing.  The streets are lively and filled with the sounds of samba, funk and hip-hop, and the beaches are tropical and relaxing.

Plus, being in the southern hemisphere, Brazil’s summer months are opposite of ours, so Rio is the perfect winter destination to escape from the long Wisconsin winters.

London, England

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London has always seemed like a very unique place to me.  It is full of regal history and urban culture all at once.  It is a hub of music, fashion and art culture, and it is the beginnings of American history.

I’ve always wanted to visit during the fall because something about walking around London in booties and a peacoat jacket seems super chic.

Of course, I want to see the typical sights: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, a guard who cannot smile, etc.  However, some out-of-the-norm options really intrigue me as well, such as the Borough Market, which offers more than 100 market and street food options, and the Camden Vintage Market which brings together vintage clothing vendors as well as food and live music and DJS.

Iceland

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Who doesn’t want to see the most vivid Northern Lights dance around the sky?!

Reykjavik offers beautifully colorful architecture, creative people who supply the cities with countless art exhibits, and supposedly wild nightlife below the northern lights.

Only 40 minutes down the road is the stunning blue lagoon.  The vibrant blue hot springs is said to have spa-like affects on the skin, and BONUS, everything around the lagoon powered naturally by the geothermal seawater!

Thailand

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There are so many enchanting destinations in Thailand.  First, Chiang Rai is home to so much Thai culture.  The churches are built extremely intricately, and you can soak in the architecture all set in front of the beautiful Phi Pan Nam Mountains.  Just south of Chiang Rai is Chiang Mai which offers a greener setting than Chiang Rai.  Chiang Mai is known for being home to some of Thailand’s most beautiful temples, however those ancient architectural gems are mixed into the modern city that is Chiang Mai.  Scattered between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai is rainforest, sprinkled with gorgeous waterfalls and elephant sanctuaries!

Of course you can’t travel to Thailand without checking out Bangkok.  The city is known for its colorful street markets and wild nightlife.  For me, the most exciting part of it all is the delicious food readily available to those walking around and taking in the views.

Chile

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Chile is an interesting country with a wide array of landscapes.  In the south, you will find snowy mountains perfect for skiing, and in the north there are volcanoes, lush greenery and desserts.  Almost half of the country is coastline!

One thing I for sure have to see before I die is Los Pinguinos Natural Monument which is located on Magdalena Island.  It is home to more than 120,000 Magellanic Penguins from September to March every year.

Valparaíso is a lesser known Chliean city located on the coastline in the middle of the country.  It is known for its brightly colored Mediterranean style houses that line green, rocky hillsides.  The city also has mazes on cobblestone alleyways that hold all kinds of cultural treasures.

Other noteworthy sites to see in Chile are the San Rafael Glacier, the Chilean Fjords, Santiago, and of course Easter Island!

Marrakesh, Morocco

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The beautiful tile sided buildings and painted woodwork of Marrakesh bring color to the desert in Morocco.

There are street markets that twist through the city for miles, mosques that hum with prayer of the extremely faithful locals and the North African spices are sure to dazzle your tastebuds!

If all of that aren’t enough, once you venture from the heart of the city, you can ride camels through the desert and soak in the sun washed landscape.

I personally have always loved Moroccan style and colors.  I’ve always dreamed of having a Moroccan rug in my future home.

Germany

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My family’s heritage is mostly German, so I’ve always wanted to visit.  Of course, ideally I’d love to go during Oktoberfest to enjoy a German brew and an authentic brat with sauerkraut.

I’ve also always found the holocaust to tragically interesting.  It would be a true experience to see the country in which it all started.

Also on my list to see someday…

  1. Singapore
  2. Egypt
  3. Toronto, Canada
  4. Bora Bora
  5. Australia
  6. Zanzibar
  7. Marfa, TX
  8. Switzerland
  9. Agra, India

 

All photos in this post are provided by Pexels

Push for Progress

Hello, everybody!

It is March 8th, International Women’s Day!

If you don’t know what Women’s Day is, you can find a complete history of the day here.  Today is a celebration of women around the world and, more importantly, a day to shed light on topics that affect over half of the world’s population: girls.

This year’s theme is Push for Progress.  Women around the world are pushing for gender equality when it comes to wages and education and simply pushing to feel safe in our work places, homes and on our streets.  You can become a part of the Push for Progress movement in about 15 seconds here.

I’ve always been a big believer in girl power.  I grew up surrounded by strong female role models.  (I was raised by a single mother who is a master sergeant in the Wisconsin National guard and has put in over 20 years of service.  I also have four older sisters and 9 aunts who I’ve always strived to be like.)  The thought that I was limited based on my gender never occurred to me.  I remember being shocked and frankly confused the first time I heard that women were not being compensated at the same level as men or that in some countries education was seen as a privilege that girls often do not enjoy.

However, as I’ve gotten older I have seen some of the downfalls of being a women in today’s society first hand.  For example, when I went to the doctor about my Endometriosis, I had to go to 5 doctors before I could find one that would even listen to me.  One doctor even sent me to counseling and told me that my pain was purely emotional without even touching me or doing a single test.  I pushed against the doctors that wouldn’t listen to me because I am a young girl until I found someone who would listen and treat me.  Of course this is nothing but a drop in the bucket compared to what other girls go through every single day.

I am proud to be female.  Women do great things every day.  Mothers (and fathers) and teachers across the globe raise the future citizens of our world to dream and achieve their goals no matter their gender, race, religion, social class or sexual identity.  Young women like Parkland High School student, Emma Gonzalez, are leading the way to end gun violence in our schools.  Women in Hollywood are getting bigger roles in popular movies, shifting the way we perceive women in the media.  Women all over the world are doing their parts to instill body positive thoughts in our youth.  Slowly but surely women are getting the chances to serve powerful roles in government, science, philanthropy and industry.

I hope you are inspired today to push against whatever is holding you back and strive to achieve your goals no matter your setbacks.  Also, I hope that today you are proud to be a woman.

– ♥ Alana

Lastly, here are some of my favorite quotes on the topic of International Women’s Day:

“I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” ―Malala Yousafzai

“Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” —G.D. Anderson

“When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch.”―Bette Davis

“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” ―Gloria Steinem

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” —Audre Lorde

“I am a woman with thoughts and questions and shit to say. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story–I will.” —Amy Schumer

And here are some wise words from everyone’s favorite feminist, Leslie Knope:

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