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  It’s 7:49 on Monday morning. Like most mornings, I’ve started my day by scrolling through my Facebook feed. On this morning, my feed includes a disproportionately high number of hostile, aggressive, inflammatory posts. Anger. Outrage. Arguments. Politics. My blood pressure is already on the rise and I haven’t even had a first bite of breakfast.  When social media first came on the scene, I was an early and eager adopter. I loved that it let me stay in contact with people I cared about, many of whom are strewn from coast to coast. Along the way, there have been new cities, new partners, new puppies, new babies.  I have enjoyed watching the people I care about flourish in their careers, marry their soulmates and flounder their way through building families with a sense of humor and grace.  In recent years, social media has taken a new tone – and it’s one that doesn’t sit well with me. The social space has become a zone of ongoing hostility. It has evolved to not only only mirror, but amplify, the shift and split of our nation’s collective attitude In many ways, it has become reflective of the worst parts of our humanity. Conversation and discourse have been replaced by name calling, accusations, jumping to conclusions, shaming and bullying. Even amongst my relatively small number of Facebook friends, I find myself regularly censoring my own thoughts and words knowing I will inevitably mingle with many of these people at future happy hours, Christmas parties, and networking events.  Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about hindering freedom of speech. I'm one of the loudest and proudest advocates for truth. I recognize the undeniable value of social in giving people a voice and platform for positive change. The issue I’m speaking to is the way social media has created a veil of anonymity. And even when we’re not anonymous, it has made it undeniably easier for all to spit spite and hit post without considering the real-world consequences.  In many ways, social has become a land without repercussion in which social graces and common courtesy have been flung out the window. Contrary to our grandparents’ conventional wisdom about the dangers of talking “sex, politics or religion,” it seems those are the only things people want to discuss these days. But it’s not a discussion. It’s a passive-aggressive (sometimes aggressive-aggressive) dichotomy. And the core message is: you’re either with me or against me.  This reality has led me to employ a new approach to my social media; a social diet of sorts. I’ve been quietly paring down and trimming the excess. And while part of me would like to say, “It’s nothing personal” – it is. Some people, much like some conversations, are better suited for once-a-year niceties at a Christmas parties.  The truth is, sometimes I just want to look at cute puppy videos. Sometimes I just want to see how you’re doing or how you opted to decorate your living room. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to defend my viewpoint on this or that. Sometimes I’d like to take a pass on picking apart the latest media-fueled hysteria or tragedy. Life is hard enough without adding a daily dose of additional anger and hostility to the universe.  Should we take a stand on the things that matter? Absolutely. But as the cliché goes, actions speak louder than words. Every day does not need to be a soapbox. Every discussion does not need to be a diatribe. Every message is not appropriate for every audience. We recognize this as a universal truth in business, so why do we shun the same conventional wisdom as it applies to communicating within our personal lives?  For years, I have been joking that the next wave of human trend will be a “return to real life.” I thought we’d burn out on the technology. It never occurred to me that we would burn ourselves out by using the tools to widen the human divide.  In learning to unabashedly speak our minds, I’m left wondering if we’ve inadvertently unlearned how to be kind.   

It’s 7:49 on Monday morning. Like most mornings, I’ve started my day by scrolling through my Facebook feed. On this morning, my feed includes a disproportionately high number of hostile, aggressive, inflammatory posts. Anger. Outrage. Arguments. Politics. My blood pressure is already on the rise and I haven’t even had a first bite of breakfast.

When social media first came on the scene, I was an early and eager adopter. I loved that it let me stay in contact with people I cared about, many of whom are strewn from coast to coast. Along the way, there have been new cities, new partners, new puppies, new babies.  I have enjoyed watching the people I care about flourish in their careers, marry their soulmates and flounder their way through building families with a sense of humor and grace.

In recent years, social media has taken a new tone – and it’s one that doesn’t sit well with me. The social space has become a zone of ongoing hostility. It has evolved to not only only mirror, but amplify, the shift and split of our nation’s collective attitude In many ways, it has become reflective of the worst parts of our humanity. Conversation and discourse have been replaced by name calling, accusations, jumping to conclusions, shaming and bullying. Even amongst my relatively small number of Facebook friends, I find myself regularly censoring my own thoughts and words knowing I will inevitably mingle with many of these people at future happy hours, Christmas parties, and networking events.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about hindering freedom of speech. I'm one of the loudest and proudest advocates for truth. I recognize the undeniable value of social in giving people a voice and platform for positive change. The issue I’m speaking to is the way social media has created a veil of anonymity. And even when we’re not anonymous, it has made it undeniably easier for all to spit spite and hit post without considering the real-world consequences.

In many ways, social has become a land without repercussion in which social graces and common courtesy have been flung out the window. Contrary to our grandparents’ conventional wisdom about the dangers of talking “sex, politics or religion,” it seems those are the only things people want to discuss these days. But it’s not a discussion. It’s a passive-aggressive (sometimes aggressive-aggressive) dichotomy. And the core message is: you’re either with me or against me.

This reality has led me to employ a new approach to my social media; a social diet of sorts. I’ve been quietly paring down and trimming the excess. And while part of me would like to say, “It’s nothing personal” – it is. Some people, much like some conversations, are better suited for once-a-year niceties at a Christmas parties.

The truth is, sometimes I just want to look at cute puppy videos. Sometimes I just want to see how you’re doing or how you opted to decorate your living room. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to defend my viewpoint on this or that. Sometimes I’d like to take a pass on picking apart the latest media-fueled hysteria or tragedy. Life is hard enough without adding a daily dose of additional anger and hostility to the universe.

Should we take a stand on the things that matter? Absolutely. But as the cliché goes, actions speak louder than words. Every day does not need to be a soapbox. Every discussion does not need to be a diatribe. Every message is not appropriate for every audience. We recognize this as a universal truth in business, so why do we shun the same conventional wisdom as it applies to communicating within our personal lives?

For years, I have been joking that the next wave of human trend will be a “return to real life.” I thought we’d burn out on the technology. It never occurred to me that we would burn ourselves out by using the tools to widen the human divide.

In learning to unabashedly speak our minds, I’m left wondering if we’ve inadvertently unlearned how to be kind.

 

New Albany Classic

New Albany Classic

It's 1:30 p.m. on an unseasonably sunny and warm September Saturday. I take a seat in the front row of the stands. Behind me, a man and woman are chatting with the couple beside them about the logistics of flying their horse from place to place on a private plane. When the couple remarks on the expense of travel, the horse owners laugh it off. I can't make out the entirety of their response, but I'm able to catch the jist. Chartering a private plane is a sound investment when you're talking about ensuring the safe transport of an animal worth millions-with-an-s.  To my right, a man is sketching the scene. Every so often he flips the page and begins again. To my left sits a stoic, silent man in dusty jeans. He's tapping his spur-heeled boot, anxious to get the show started. He takes a swig from a bottle of Perrier. 

With that, one thing becomes crystal clear: we're not in Kansas anymore. We're in New Albany. 

In all the years I lived in central Ohio, somehow I never managed to make it to The New Albany Classic. When an invitation was extended to attend this year, I jumped at the opportunity. Much like every little girl, my childhood was filled with horses, from My Little Pony figurines to Lisa Frank unicorn folders. I escaped reality on the backs of Black Beauty, Flicka and Misty. And 30-something years later, I still haven't forgiven the writers of  The NeverEnding Story. (You know the scene.

I have always enjoyed equestrian jumping, but have never seen it live in person. So when I showed up at The Classic last Saturday, I was looking forward to watching the horses and riders do their thing. If you don't know anything about The New Albany Classic Grand Prix and Family Day, here's the Wikipedia rundown: The Classic is a unique day-long event featuring a myriad of family-focused activities including a USEF/FEI-sanctioned equestrian event featuring Olympic-caliber athletes competing for $125,000 in prize money, a concert featuring top pop touring acts from around the world and a large-scale carnival atmosphere including rides, sports experiences, hands-on art activities, musical and dance entertainment, car displays, food trucks and farm tours. Held annually since 1998 in New Albany, Ohio on the estate of Leslie Wexner and his wife Abigail Wexner, the event serves as the primary fundraiser for The Center for Family Safety and Healing. 

Now that you have the basics, here's what you really need to know: 

1) It's not just an equestrian event. From petting zoos and food trucks to rides and live performances, The Classic truly is a full-scale family fun event for people of all ages. (Full disclosure: I'm 35 and experienced at least as much joy petting goats and alpacas as the four-year-old beside me.) 

2) It draws a really diverse crowd. Wedged between high-end horse owners and a man who appeared to be a legitimate cowboy, one of my favorite things about The Classic turned out to be the way it brings a mix of people together around their shared passion: horses. The only common thread I was able to identify amongst the crowd was the way people were just so nice and welcoming. Even better? At $23 a ticket, the affordable cost of admission makes it an equestrian event accessible to all. 

3) It's kind of a big deal. The Classic has been named the top specialty equestrian event in the nation. It draws horse lovers from around the country -- and Olympic-level riders. I know what you're thinking. In Ohio? Seriously? Seriously. 2016 marked the 19th year for the event. 

4) It spotlights the true heart and spirit of central Ohio. If you live anywhere in the Columbus region, you probably already know the Wexner family by name. For those of you who don't, Mr. Wexner is the chairman and CEO of L Brands, the parent company of Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel, and others. The Classic was founded by his wife, Abigail, who hosts the event at their family home in New Albany. And while the day is an undeniable amount of fun, the true purpose of the event runs much deeper.  This year's Classic drew over 15,000 attendees and generated more than $1.7 million in support of The Center for Family Safety and Healing, an organization that addresses all aspects of family violence, including child abuse and neglect, teen dating abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse. As of this year, The New Albany Classic has raised over $30 million in support of initiatives addressing family violence. I can't begin to imagine the amount of work that goes into coordinating such a massive and impeccable event, but I know it takes a heck of a lot of heart. And that's something you'll find in abundance in New Albany. 

To learn more about The New Albany Classic visit http://www.thenewalbanyclassic.com. 

 

 

I Got Tanked: Adventures in Sensory Deprivation

I Got Tanked: Adventures in Sensory Deprivation

It's  11:00 am on Saturday morning. I'm reclining in a "therapy chair" sitting in the (almost) dark amongst three other strangers. New-age music plays softly as we await instruction, watching an image of the earth slowly spinning inside an ever-changing series of fractals projected on the wall.

"Is this how Scientology begins," I find myself wondering. 

But none of us are here to explore alternative ideologies. We're the 11:30 session of "floaters," and we're here to float our way into another dimension of relaxation. (Apparently float spas tend to shy away from using the term "sensory deprivation" these days, as it packs a negative connotation. Thanks a lot, Stranger Things.)  

I first learned about floating from Rhett and Link. The premise is about as simple as it gets. Roughly a thousand pounds of epsom salts are dissolved into approximately 11 inches of water in a float tank. The tank looks like some sort of futuristic pod (with a slight hint of water coffin). Thanks to the concentrated salinity, the tank water is event more buoyant than The Dead Sea. Which is to say, the human body (any human body) will naturally and effortlessly float. The water inside the pod is heated to skin temperature, so within a few minutes you begin to lose awareness of your body. It sort of just melts away. In addition, the pod is completely dark, scentless (hopefully) and soundproof. In essence, the experience will strip away every possible distraction until you're just a floating brain. 

As newbies, we've been asked to arrive 30 minutes early to experience the relaxation video and a brief "Floating 101" video. I'm getting into the fractal zone when two girls loudly enter the room bringing with them a jarring energy. One declares, "Wake me when this is over." The guy next to me is in his twenties. He's frantically texting someone instead of watching the video. In between the chatter of the two cynical hens, all I hear is the BZZZZ BZZZ BZZZ of his vibrating phone. 

I find myself wanting to reprimand him immediately. "Can't you disconnect for one hour? Get off your damn phone! And get off my damn lawn while you're at it, ya pesky kid."

My soul, it seems, is a 65-year-old neighborhood curmudgeon.

I say nothing.

Focus on the fractals. Focus on the fractals. 

A few minutes later the floating 101 video begins. It walks us through a series of suggestions for making the most of our floats. Everything from getting in slowly to avoid splashing water in our eyes to counting our breaths to 300 if we find our minds can't quiet down. At one point, the video flashes to a still of the man who conceptualized floating way back when. He appears to be wearing a red leather suit and a raccoon skin hat. 

Seems legit.

The video concludes with a question that will haunt me: "If you are bored by you, what does that say about you?"

Wait. What if I do get bored. What does that say about me? WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT ME?

There are no answers. 

After the introductory video, we are given a tour of the spa and shown to our private rooms to shower off and begin our floats. Earplugs in, I slowly sit in the pod and close the lid. (And no, you do not wear a swimsuit.) The water immediately buoys me to the surface. The sensation of floating with zero effort is so new it takes a couple minutes for my body to relax and stop fighting it. Music plays softly inside the tank for the first several minutes of the float. I hit the lighting button, toggling between a series of colors before shutting it off and slipping into the black. The experience is not at all claustrophobic as I had feared, but there is something undeniably jarring about the first few moments of floating in total silence and darkness. 

I am alone and I am uncertain if that is concerning or comforting. 

As the music fades away, my mind ramps up. Not unlike every encounter I've ever had with yoga, my inner voice attempts to fill the silence by cycling through a series of thoughts, questions and ponderings: 

That sound speaker is partially submerged in the water. Is that safe? I didn't even know waterproof speakers existed. Oops. I just hit the side of the tank with my arm. Am I flailing? The video said not to flail. Hmm. I'm tall, but not crazy tall. I feel like I might be almost too tall for this tank. I wonder if they have an exceptionally tall tank for exceptionally tall people? Am I exceptionally tall? What even qualifies as exceptionally tall? I wonder how many bodies have been in here? And how often they change the water? Wow. You really can't hear anything in here. I wonder what happens if a fire breaks out while people are floating? Do they have some sort of protocol to save us? Will I hear the fire alarm? I mean, I'm suspended in water, so I'd probably be okay. It would be so strange to emerge after 60 minutes and find the entire building had burned down around me. Raccoon hats are weird. I wonder if they carry any sort of rabies risk? Speaking of which, what's the disease people get from hot tubs? Shigella? No. Guillian-Barre? No. Legionnaires. That's it. Why does that word always make think of dancing soldiers in The Nutcracker? Oooh. Christmas. I can't wait for Christmas!

Eventually my thoughts slow to a stop. And this is when the float experience really begins. I've decided not to share this part of the story, as I don't want to taint anyone else's float experience. But I will say I have heard floating compared to everything from "better than LSD" to "a very expensive nap." I found it to be something in between the two extremes. (Not that I have a point of reference for the former.) I also suspect that there is a significant degree of self-fulfilling prophecy in floating. You'll get from it what you expect from it. It's an experience worth trying. Be open to it. 

An hour later, the soft music fades back in, alerting me that my float has come to an end. I lift the tank lid and re-emerge into the real world. The moment is surreal. It feels a little bit like being reborn after a journey to another dimension. I congratulate myself on not getting salt water in my eyes and step into the shower. After an hour without sensory stimulation everything feels...somehow brighter. I'm more aware of the temperature and cadence of the falling water. The coolness of the tile beneath my feet. The golden glow of the light. Although the spa is completely quiet, I'm realizing the difference between what we call silent -- and actual silence. Even in our most quiet times "above the surface," there's an ever-present hum and murmur of life happening. 

After dressing, I make my way to the relaxation room. A spa employee hands me a glass of lemon-cucumber water and hooks me up to a series of bubbling tanks at the oxygen bar. I toggle between a few different scents to create a custom cocktail. (Mostly unscented with a hint of mint.) When the bubbling stops, I make my way to a table stacked with an experience journal and an adult coloring book. The experience journal is filled with notes from past floaters. It reads like a series of postcards from time travelers. The handwriting is happy, the words are a message of transformation. 

I grab a handful of colored pencils and add my own creation to the mix. A few words that have become my personal mantra. They feel especially fitting in the moment:

Relax. Nothing is under control. (And it's all okay.) 

It's 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Time for me to rejoin the real world. 

 

 

Going to the Mattresses: Part 1

Going to the Mattresses: Part 1

In the grand scheme of shopping experiences that elicit zero delight points, mattress shopping ranks up there with toilet paper, oil changes and air filters. In my mind, a mattress is basically a multi-thousand-dollar air filter. They're not a fun thing or a glamorous thing. They're a necessary thing. A very expensive, necessary thing. Frankly, I just don't enjoy it. (Or at least I didn't...) 

It is here we find the root of a complex tale of procrastination.

Like many people, I bought my previous mattress the old-fashioned way. Wander into mattress store --> immediate overwhelm --> get accosted by aggressive salesperson --> commence introvert panic --> awkwardly lay down on a few showroom mattresses as said salesperson looms over me smiling creepily --> panic and purchase big-name mattress to avoid having to repeat this process again for at least the next decade. 

Spoiler alert: Not how it panned out, ultimately. 

Don't get me wrong. The mattress felt great in the store. At least from what we could tell by laying on it for 30 seconds. Within a couple years, a rapid decline was underway. I'd wake in the night to discover my body involuntarily clinging to my side of the bed, desperately trying to resist the gravitational pull of the vortex that had developed at the center of the mattress. I'm still not quite sure how to explain what was going on. I just know that it led to a lot of tossing and turning, and even more morning aches and pains. 

Which begs the question, why did we live like this for another year before doing something about it?

Before you cast your stones of judgment, let me say this: buying a mattress is freaking complicated. It's basically the home furnishing version of digging through the worst and unhappiest parts of Yelp. You log on, thinking you'll do a little sleuthing, and before you know it you've gone down a dark rabbit hole of opinions and snark fueled by sleepless nights and spousal rage. 

Initially, it seemed everyone hated everything. I quickly came to understand that our fate was sealed. We would spend at least $3500 on something moderately tolerable that would ultimately disappoint and fail us,  possibly while clenching our bodies in an inescapable, balmy foam embrace. The years that followed would result in mental, emotional and physical suffering, until we reached a point at which we'd chuck the mattress and begin the cycle again. 

At some point, I came across this site. It is a treasure trove of unbiased (and more importantly, unsponsored) mattress information. A lot of information. So much information I could be convinced that there is a valid need for the mattress industry to start training their equivalent of sommeliers. I won't even attempt to recap all the things you need to know (Go to the site. Read all the things!), but I will share a few of the top takeaways:

  1. Material matters. All foams are not created equal. From density to layering to type (memory vs. latex), everything makes a huge difference in the feel, support and durability of the end product. Different materials work better for different types of bodies and sleepers. 
  2. How you sleep impacts what you should sleep on. Whether you're a side, back or stomach sleeper impacts the type of mattress material and support you should look for. As do things like height, sleep temperature (whether you run hot or cool), pain points and BMI. Not all mattresses are equipped to handle all sleepers. But most manufacturers won't tell you that. 
  3. There is some nasty sh*t in many mattresses. As a result, there an emerging trend toward more natural (and even some organic) materials. You know, the kinds of things that won't off-gas and slowly poison you every night for the next decade. 
  4. More isn't better. Some of the most expensive mattresses on the market have the lowest consumer satisfaction ratings. It seems people end up paying for the name. Which leads me to...
  5. Big names aren't the best. This was one of the most surprising realizations. Many (most) of the brand names we tend to recognize -- and find displayed on mattress showroom floors -- have fairly dismal consumer ratings. If they were in high school, the best of the "popular kids" pack would be averaging straight C's. Marketing is a powerful tool that has afforded these brands decades of profitability, but all that is starting to change... 
  6. There's a whole new world of mattresses out there. Startup mattresses, if you will. From Loom & Leaf to Casper to Tuft & Needle to Bed-in-a-Box, these "little" guys are cutting out middle man, selling directly to consumers and winning big. 

And it's that last point I want to talk about. A few things to know about these newer mattress brands:

  1. You won't find their mattresses in stores. They keep costs low by working directly with consumers and selling online. This rocks the mattress-purchasing norm a bit, and means you need to get comfortable with the idea of buying a mattress sight unseen/unfelt. 
  2. In order to calm those concerns, they have really generous return policies. Most online mattress brands will give you 75-150 nights to try the mattress out. Don't like it? Zero-hassle returns...for free. In many instances, if you decide to return the mattress, the company will donate your unwanted, gently-used mattress to a local shelter in need. 
  3. Their prices tend to be significantly lower and their consumer ratings tend to be significantly higher than the most recognized names in the mattress biz. Click around. Read the reviews. Not only are many of these brands producing a superior product, they're also providing an exceptional customer experience. And sleep-seeking consumers are loving it. 

SO WHAT DID WE END UP WITH? 

Originally, Casper was our frontrunner. The Casper name seems to be popping up everywhere, including as a sponsor of my favorite podcast, Awesome Etiquette, and via word-of-mouth from friends. After a lot of reading, researching and reviewing, however, we ended up going with Loom & Leaf. Our decision was based on a variety of factors, including: the firmness level of the mattress, their focus on creating a cool sleep (via gel), their use of plant-based materials and organic cottons, and the fact that their mattresses are delivered by way of "white glove delivery," rather than being bound up in a box for us to deal with. In addition, I literally could not find a single bad review about their customer experience, even amongst those who tried their mattress and ultimately decided it wasn't for them. 

We take delivery next week. Check back soon for a follow-up post! 

 

Meet Robert W. Tobin

Meet Robert W. Tobin

I'm not sure when or where or how Robert W. Tobin and I first crossed paths, but it seems he has always been there, offering up love letters to a city loved by thousands -- each one a story in a square. If you don't already know him, you should. And this is a good place to start. 

Back in South Carolina

Back in South Carolina

It's good to be home! 

 

 

Going Off Script

Going Off Script

Every once in awhile someone will ask me what I do for a living. These conversations usually occur in the kinds of places where strangers feel compelled to carry on polite chitchat. In line at the grocery store. Doctor's office waiting rooms. Airplanes idling until cleared for take-off. When I tell people I am a writer, they often respond in the same way I imagine I would respond if someone told me they traveled with the circus or roadied for Def Leppard in the 80s. An incredulous mix of shock and awe, with undertones of questioning sanity.

“That must be...interesting,” they say. What they really mean is, “How do you sleep at night knowing you could be one dry spell away from the unemployment line?” My answer is simple: I have no answer. I just know this is what I was meant to do.

I was born with an innate love of language. My childhood scrapbook, a chronicle of tidbits from my early years stealthily pilfered and lovingly preserved by my mother’s hand, can attest to this.

As so often tends to be the case with keepsakes, many of the artifacts are truly terrible. In many instances, what once seemed like staggering works of genius now seem more like the literary equivalent of those coconut monkeys souvenirs people pick on on vacation in Cabo. Given a few decades to marinate (and fester), my early works leave me awash in a sea of simultaneous horror and nostalgic delight, reveling in the absurdity and purity of first love-inspired poems, drama-laden high school notes and even the occasional elementary school valentine.

Among the written wreckage, you will find classic hits such as: a third grade essay I wrote about my teacher’s best quality (her red fingernails), as well as a pillow-side plea asking “Molly” (the tooth fairy) to keep the pocket change and leave me a unicorn. There are cleverly written scripts starring my sister and I. Acted out in the living room, those performances were a relentless negotiation (with an occasional musical number thrown in for good measure) as we tried to persuade our parents to get us puppies, ponies and, sights set slightly lower, pizza on Friday nights. (Rhyming "pepperoni" is hard.) 

Perhaps my favorite relic, however, is the neatly folded copy of a letter I sent to former Ohio Governor George V. Voinovich. In the note, I implore him to help me save the environment (and future of the planet) by becoming a partner in my third grade fight against the formidable Styrofoam lunch trays used in my elementary school cafeteria. Apparently Governor George was busy that week. And while he didn't swing by to chain himself to the cafeteria tables, he did send an autographed head shot and a letter of encouragement to “keep it up." The day I received that piece of mail was one of the most thrilling afternoons of my young life.

Not too long ago, I found myself on delay in an airport taking a seat beside an older gentleman. In a sea of kindles and ipads, he was the last of a dying breed, perusing the newspaper with a quiet sort of page-flipping dignity. We exchanged the usual pleasantries of strangers who are temporarily forced, more by inadequate airport seating than by choice, into each other’s lives. After a a few minutes of small talk, he asked the inevitable. What do you do? I told him I was a writer, expecting the usual response.

Instead, he looked at me, smiled and said: “A writer is who you are. Writing is what you do. Never confuse the two.”

Nearly two decades ago, a college admissions counselor sat across the desk and asked me what I wanted to do. “Write,” I said. She looked at me, laughed and replied, “Write? You might as well go into philosophy. Writing is a useless degree.” I went on to spend the greater part of my early college years fighting what I really wanted instead of fighting for it. 

Sitting here, 17 years later, it's hard to imagine what I would have missed out on had I stayed on script and opted for the more pragmatic path laid out before me by someone else. Only by wandering -- and ultimately going off script -- was I able to discover my innate strength as a woman by embracing the power and authority of my own voice. As a result, I get to wake up each day and use that voice to advocate for passionate, courageous, amazing people doing meaningful, important work in the world. They're abolishing sex slavery, advocating for rescue animals, promoting literacy, redefining healthcare, empowering women, ending domestic violence, protecting the environment.  

In our culture, women are often told to stay small, modest, polite. I challenge you to do the exact opposite. 

Be big. Be bold. Be brazen. 

Tear up the script. Write your own story. 

--------------

GIVEAWAY: TWO TICKETS TO KEYHOLDER 2016

Sponsored by The Women's Fund of Central Ohio, Keyholder is a night to convene as a community and amplify the voices of women and girls. As a guest, you will unlock the potential and influence gender equality and economic security in central Ohio. You hold the key to be part of lasting social change-- and that’s what Keyholder is all about. It’s a night to give visibility to issues affecting women and girls while also providing inspiration and highlighting solutions.

On Tuesday, May 10th 2016  actress, author, producer, trailblazer and humanitarian Vanessa Williams will take the stage at the Ohio Theatre.

Vanessa's integrity, resiliency, and grace make her an authentic voice as she lives her life with dignity and professionally defines her own path to success. Vanessa’s strength and endurance over the years to become a multi-faceted performer and actor will resonate with many, while encouraging us to script our own lives.  

Enter for a chance to win two free tickets to Keyholder 2016 by leaving a comment on this blog post sharing a time you have "gone off script" and how that has made an impact in your life. 

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. In exchange, I received two free tickets to the 2016 Keyholder event from The Women's Fund of Central Ohio. 

Claws, Paws + Mini Monsters

Claws, Paws + Mini Monsters

Flowers are overrated. There. I said it. I like them, don't get me wrong. They're just so easy to love. They have an simple time of it, resting on their laurels and coasting on their good looks. 

Cacti and succulents, on the other hand, are so much more interesting. They're jagged and rough around the edges. They have claws and teeth. They're the survivors of the botanical world. They don't need your rainstorms or touch. They're little monsters who stick it out with their humans when fickle flowers pack it in. 

Here in Ohio, gardening season is just around the corner. I can't wait to get out and get my hands dirty. In the meantime, I'm happily filling my days with claws, paws and mini monsters. 

What I Learned From an Evening with Monica Lewinsky

What I Learned From an Evening with Monica Lewinsky

I was 17 years old when "the Monica Lewinsky scandal" broke. Like most of the world, I drew conclusions based on the storylines the media was spinning day after day. Social media didn't exist back then, but wherever you turned (newspapers, magazines, late-night television), Monica was the topic of conversation. (Note: we're all trained to politely call it "conversation," but if we're being honest, it was plain ol' gossip.) When I say the name "Monica Lewinsky," you probably have a certain storyline you default to. I did, too, at least until last week when the Jewish Federation of Columbus invited me to attend an event at which Monica was the guest speaker. Turns out, that storyline we've all grown familiar with is probably the least interesting thing about her.

Some things you might not know about Monica: She has a great sense of humor. She's a talented storyteller (and even brought the audience to tears). And she's using what is arguably one of the most difficult experiences any person has endured as a catalyst to do good -- fighting cyberbullying.

I've never fully believed in the notion of mistakes. I believe in accidents and I believe in choices. Most of the things we label "mistakes" fall into the latter category; choices in which the outcome wasn't what we intended or actions that had unexpected ramifications. I've never liked the word "mistake" because it suggests some sort of hashmark on our permanent life record. And despite the fact that we all make questionable choices at some point or another, labeling them mistakes gives those things more power than they deserve. It gives us permission to define each other based on past history rather than we are today.

I was 17 years old when Monica Lewinsky became a household name. She was in her early 20s. Through the eyes of a 17-year-old, twenty-something seemed so adult. Looking back at everything as a now-34-year-old, I have a whole new perspective. As I listened to Monica speak last week, I tried to imagine what my life would have been like had my 22-something choices and actions been plastered across newspapers and television sets, paraded out onto an international stage. I found myself thinking about how exhausting it must feel to spend a lifetime running from a past you know you'll probably never fully escape.

When you find yourself sitting a few feet away from someone whose intimate history you know better than that of your closest friends, it changes things. In that moment of vulnerability, you stop seeing them as a punchline and a headline and start seeing them as a person just like you. When you get to know the human -- rather than the spin -- the storyline we've all been fed suddenly loses its flavor. You find that you're just two flawed people trying to do something and be someone and maybe make the world a slightly better place. And there, in a hotel conference room on a random Thursday night, your choices of your past no longer hold up. Because the only thing that really matters is who you are right here, right now.

I'd argue there are no such things as mistakes. There are choices and outcomes. Some good, some bad. I'd argue it's the choices we might do differently, if given the chance, that are our unlikeliest of teachers. They change us for the better. They challenge us to define our character, to sharpen our steel, to grow, to learn, to forge onward, to take action. They call for us to stand up, stand for something and take a stand. But most of all, they teach us how to forgive ourselves, move on and do better.