Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Dear 20-Something, An Open Letter.

dear 20 something

Dear 20-Something,

I know right now it seems like the world is moving faster than you can run, and everyone has it figured out but you. I know those around you are doing big things- getting the job, getting married, having babies (on purpose!), buying a house, etc. And maybe you’re doing all of that too! But also, maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re working at a job that you need to do until you are able to achieve what you want to do. Maybe you’re living with your family. Maybe you have 5 roommates and a job that barely covers rent. Maybe you’re a month so or behind on that rent…

No matter what your accomplishments or definition of success, I have a secret to tell you-

It’s ok to be lost.

It’s ok to feel like the world is spinning around while you’re standing still.
It’s ok to feel like you’re running and working twice as hard- just to not even get half as much.
And it’s ok to feel like you have it all figured out.

I have another secret to let you in on-

It’s ok to be exactly where you are.
I know a lot of times, especially as women, it’s easy to feel as though we are lost or just faking it and that any moment now someone will find out.
Someone might find out you don’t know what you’re doing.

Someone might figure out that you’re a fraud.

But let me tell you something.
If you are doing your own thing, following your path, doing what you have to do on a daily basis-

You’re not a fraud or a fake.
You’re doing it, babe!

And from where I’m sitting,
you’re doing a darn good job at it too.

Oh, and in case no one has told you yet, your hair looks great today.

Feel free to bookmark this page in case you ever forget that and need to come back so I can tell you how awesome you are! Also, pin the following image so you can save it to your boards!


10 Things I Wish I Would Have Known at College Graduation

what i wish i knew when i graduated

Graduation season is here and upon us! I’ve just finished up my school year with my students, and my mother just graduated from college! She has been working so hard for this and I couldn’t be more proud to be able to stand and cheer for her to congratulate her on everything she’s accomplished.

Now, it’s been a few years since I graduated from undergrad and I’ve learned a few things. I absolutely don’t regret the experiences I’ve had since then because it’s all made me who I am now, but if I knew then what I know now… I can only imagine the differences it could have made.

I wish I’d known…

That I didn’t have to have it all figured out. It’s ok to still be a little lost. I put so much pressure on myself to have everything all worked out and planned. Little did I know I’d end up on a much different path.

I wish I’d known…

I deserved so much more than I thought I had to settle for. I now know I am worth so much more than all of that. In relationships, work, and life in general.

I wish I’d known…

You’ll be a different person in a few years, and that’s ok! You’re most likely an incredible person now, and life and experiences will continue to shape and change you, especially within the next few, very formative years of adult life. Allow yourself to grow and change and stretch yourself as life goes on.

I wish I’d known…

Being intentional about keeping in touch is so incredibly important. Facebook and other social media may make us feel pseudo-connected to others but taking the time to reach out and have a conversation can go so far in keeping up friendships and other relationships.wishidknown

I wish I’d known…

There were so many amazing things ahead of me. They say college has the best years of your life, but there is SO MUCH good that comes after. Late nights spent dancing, days full of laughter, lessons to be learned- they aren’t over!

I wish I’d known…

You can still make new friends! It definitely gets harder to make new friends after college because you aren’t all in the same place anymore, but new jobs, hobbies, and experiences will all bring more friends your way!

I wish I’d known…

Staying in on a Saturday night can be SO satisfying. Adult life can be exhausting. Between work, social obligations, and keeping up with all other responsibilities, sometimes you need a Saturday night to just stay in and relax with some Netflix. If you’re lucky enough to have a cat like mine, they’ll definitely appreciate the extra attention time as well.

I wish I’d known…

Invest in relationships with as many people as possible, and do it with meaning. Fostering relationships and networking is so important to make sure you stay connected in your community. These people will be your keys when you need a new opportunity or just want to meet more people. It’s also important to keep connected to your friends and social circle to make sure you don’t let yourself feel lonely.

I wish I’d known…

You’re going to have to give yourself the recognition you want. There are no letter grades anymore so you have to keep track of how you’re doing on your own. No one is going to give you gold stars (ok, maybe my students DO give me stickers sometimes!) or A’s, so it’s important to make sure you’re always doing your best work and give yourself small rewards sometimes. Which leads me to…

I wish I’d known…

Find small ways to treat yo’ self. They don’t have to be expensive shopping trips or vacations, but small things throughout your day to make yourself feel good and special. Next week I’m posting a list of fun (and cheap!) ideas for how to do this, so stay tuned for that!


With my mom at my undergrad graduation and then my grad school graduation!

Your turn!
What do you wish you would have know when you graduated? Is there anything you wish you could go back and do differently?

7 Phrases That Have Different Meanings in Chicago

Phrases Different Meaning Chicago

“Oh no! You got a boo boo?” I said on my 2nd day of teaching in Chicago. A student had just come up to me with a scratched knee from falling on the grass. I was so surprised when he gave me a weird look and said “NO!” before running to the other teacher and asking for a Band-Aid.


Turns out, I had asked the kid if he had poop. Here in Chicago, “boo boo” doesn’t mean a small injury to a little kid. It only took me one extra day to figure that one out.

Here are 6 more phrases that mean something different here in Chicago than they do anywhere else I’ve ever lived.

“Push the door up” – Close the door

“I gotta use it” – I need to use the bathroom

“That’s high” – That’s expensive!

“Washroom” – Bathroom

“LSD” – Not a drug. “Riding down LSD” does not actually mean you’re on some type of drug trip. It just means you’re on Lakeshore Drive, a main road along the lake here.

“You’re stupid!” – Does not actually mean someone is questioning your intelligence. Just means “Oh you’re funny!”

Have you hear these in your area of the country? What are some other phrases that mean different things depending on where you live?

Making the Most of Post-Vacation Blues (with candy)

Note: This post was sponsored by Lucas candies. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

Let’s just take an honest moment here.
Vacation rocks.
Going to work everyday is hard.


I mean, why would anyone want to leave this behind?

Glad we got that part out of the way.

Now, I LOVE my job. If you’ve been around me for more than 10 minutes at a time you’ve probably heard a few stories about my students and the ridiculous and incredible things they do and say. Being their teacher is the greatest privilege and I wouldn’t trade this job for anything right now.

However, after a summer of relaxing, traveling, hanging out at the beach, and sleeping, it’s pretty hard to get back into the swing of things going to work everyday. In my previous jobs I’ve found myself feeling similarly after a vacation. Heck, sometimes even after just a long weekend! At work, I need to be on 100%, energetic, on point, at all times. After a few too many groggy Mondays, I think I’ve finally figured out a good formula for NOT feeling awfully when I return to work.

Step 1- Caffeine. Oh, yes. I don’t normally drive coffee or caffeinated drinks, so on days that I do, my energy level shoots up and I feel good for quite a few hours.

Step 2- Pump up the music. While going through my morning routine I turn up the music. My favorite playlist for this purpose right now is my 2000s hip-hop playlist. Yesss.

Step 3- Small boosts throughout the day. My boost of choice now are these spicy candies from Lucas. When I was first invited to try these candies over the weekend, I have to admit I was a little hesitant. These are the newest creation from the spicy candy brand Lucas.

lucas candies

The Mexican in me is always saying yes to spicy ANYTHING. Spicy candies are usually right up my alley. Mango with chili? OH YES. So I’m not so sure why I even hesitated. It turns out I shouldn’t have been nervous at all. They were SO GOOD. They’re little candy coated balls flavored with watermelon, tamarind and chamoy.

Lucas candy

This final step is pretty important because I know, for me at least, I get groggy around 11am. And then again around 2:30pm. And then sometimes around 6pm. Popping a few of these candies in my mouth throughout the day helps me keep alert because of the intense flavors!

And that’s it! I definitely recommend trying them out when you get a chance!

What are your favorite kinds of candy? Are you a sweet, spicy, or sour lover?

5 Tips for Waking Up Happier!

5 Tips for Waking Up Happier

I’ve been being better to myself mentally and physically lately, and a big part of that is in the way I start my days. It’s so easy to fall into the rut of groaning as we turn off the alarm for another day, but it has made such a difference for me to get up and start my day off with positivity! I’ve never been a morning person, but I am definitely becoming one. I’m learning to love my mornings!

Waking up like this makes me more productive throughout the day, more optimistic, and so much less stressed. So many benefits from such a little change! Here are 5 ways that you, too, can wake up happier and start your day off right!

|ONE| Turn off the screens at least 30 min before you want to sleep. ALL of them. Yes, even your phone. Just put it down! They cause stress and the screen itself being on can trigger your brain that it’s still time to be awake!

|TWO| Need some sort of noise as you go to sleep? Try some light music. Classical or something mellow will help with the noise without being a distraction keeping you up.

|THREE| Go to bed at the same time every night. Get up at the same time in the mornings. Getting your body trained into a routine will make things so much easier.

|FOUR|  Don’t hit snooze. No, really. Just don’t. It may feel like you’re getting a few extra minutes of rest, but your body really isn’t able to bank on that little bit of time and you’re throwing it all out of balance! Instead, set your alarm for the time you actually want to get up, and follow it.

|FIVE| Move your body. Even just a little. I’m not saying you need a whole intense workout first thing if that’s not your kind of thing. Even just 10 minutes of yoga, stretching, walking, whatever will get you in the right frame of mind and wake you up! Or just do a few jumping jacks or push ups to get yourself moving!

|BONUS| Keep a glass of water by your bed and drink it as soon as you wake up. If you can’t do this because, like me, your cat is a jerk who feels the need to knock over water glasses, just get up and grab a glass before you get moving or get in the shower. I’m a big believer that water is the key to pretty much anything, and it certainly doesn’t hurt first thing in the morning!

how to wake up happy

Hopefully this is helpful for anyone who is trying to wake up earlier or happier in the mornings!  What are your tips and tricks for waking up with positivity? Let em know below!

Just Show Up

Just Show Up

This may be a little heavy for a Monday, but this has been on my mind for a bit so I figure it’s time to let it out.

So many times in life we don’t show up to experiences and back away from opportunities and risks. This happens for a variety of reasons and though it’s difficult to look past, it is possible! Some reasons might be:

We’re afraid.

We’re nervous.

We’re comfortable.

We’ve had bad experiences in the past.

I get it. I do. The thing is, however, if we don’t show up, we have absolutely no chance of success. If we at least show up and try, there is so much more of a chance that we will succeed. Even if you don’t succeed, your chances are better of learning and growing!

It’s hard to bring yourself to just take the jump and risk the “what if’s” of what might happen. But it can be so rewarding. Oh, so rewarding. It can bring you to your biggest dreams, happiest times, and a new, better, life.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sometimes hearing these things is hard or falls on deaf ears (or eyes, in the blogging world) but I feel like I am living proof of the way big risks can pay off. I am living my dream right now and feel so fulfilled by it. Of course some days are harder than others but not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for having taken my own incredibly risky jumps. From moving to new cities, traveling to new countries, and taking on new jobs, it has all led me to where I am now.

Today, this week, right now, show up. Jump.

What risk can I help you take this week? What’s holding you back? Let me know how I can encourage you in the comments below!


5 Critical Things to do Before Making a Big Decision.

5 things to do before making a big decision

Stopping over from Alisha’s blog? Hi! Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here!

Boy, oh boy, this has been a year of change and big decisions. In the past 12 months I’ve moved 3 times, worked 3 different jobs in 3 different cities, and spent more time in transitions than I have settled. Looking back, I know it took a lot for me to be able to make such big, life-changing decisions in the way that I have. I know that there are things I’ve had to consider each time and steps that I’ve taken to ensure that I am making the best choice. Of course, this isn’t fool-proof, but keeping these things in mind will help you to know when to just close your eyes and make the jump.

Sometimes the choice comes clearly and easily, other times you just have to trust life a little bit!

Here are 5 essential things to do before making that decision and jumping!

1. Lists– Oh my dears, I am a lover of lists. I have notebooks full, and more on my phone. Pro/Con lists give you the chance to see in front of you what the benefits are of each decision, as well as the risks and downsides. It’s important to remember that risks aren’t always in the con column- sometimes they are the greatest part of the decision.

2. Take time- Don’t jump into a big decision off an impulse. This goes for moving, changing jobs (or total career paths, if you’re me) relationships, everything. Some moments are hard and rough and it seems like there is only one clear decision- but in the next we feel the opposite. Give yourself enough time to feel both of these. This isn’t to say you have to spend months agonizing over which step to take. This could take an hour, a day, a year.

3. Talk to someone (just not too many someones)- Bouncing ideas off of a sounding board can really help. Hearing yourself say the words out loud will help you figure out why you are thinking the way you are. My first call is always my mama. (Hi, Mom!) And then a couple close trusted friends that know me can help me talk through my decisions.

Beyond that, be careful. Talking to too many people and getting too many opinions can make the decision even harder to make.

4. Don’t let yourself be too influenced by others. But, you just told me to get other’s input! I know, but ultimately this is your decision and the one it effects the most is YOU. You are the only know who knows what is truly in your heart and mind. I am a faithful follower of my own heart- it hasn’t led me too wrong yet!

5. Research it- where is your REAL hesitation coming from? This means researching what it will really take to make the jump and do whatever it is you are wanting. When I decided to leave my (awesome) job in the Mayor’s Office in Atlanta and try for Teach for America, I knew it would take work, but I had no idea how much until doing some research and figuring out exactly what was involved. Of course, I still made that jump and am now living my dream!

Are you hesitant because you are afraid of the “what ifs”? Or because it is actually not the right decision?

Once you can answer these questions and have gone through the other steps, you should have a pretty clear idea of what the best decision is for you. If not, the most important thing is what I said before- trust your heart and trust life a little bit.

Sometimes you just have to jump and trust that the fall will bring you to a greater place.

Your turn! What do you do before making a big decision? What steps am I missing? Do you agree with the ones I follow? Let me know in the comments!

Culture Shock | Travel Tuesday

Culture Shock

Culture shock is quite possibly one of the hardest and yet, best parts of traveling. It turns your whole world upside down and makes you think in a brand new way. You learn that everything you’ve ever known is not necessarily “right” but it’s not wrong either. It’s just different. And that’s ok.

The term “culture shock” is often used to describe how we deal with cultural differences in a new place and things we first notice when entering a new country or area. As many expats and long-term travelers know, there are many stages to culture shock and some don’t fully develop until after spending a few months in a new culture. It sometimes takes reflection and a realization that the emotions and exhaustion you feel can be attributed to culture shock.

I’m going to talk about 2 of the most common stages of culture shock. The first will seem obvious to those that have traveled to a place with a different culture, the second may seem a bit strange or unexpected!

The Honeymoon Phase

AKA- “Everything is great! I love this country! There are so many new things to learn/eat/speak/see and my new friends are so nice helping me try to speak the language and I love it!”

You really are learning and taking in so much at one time. Everything seems new and exciting as you experience a new way of life, new foods, a new language, new clothes, etc. You’re super happy and in noticing all the different things around you- and they are the coolest and best things ever.

On the other hand, you may also be looking at the culture immediately as “Why would they do it this way when we know it’s better like _____.” This is so different, and not in a good way. Those feeling usually pass though if you really try to integrate yourself into the culture and put yourself out there with an attitude to learn, not judge.

As these feelings fade and you get into a new routine, you’ll start to notice some different things…

The Adjustment/Exhaustion Phase

“I can’t keep up. I feel like no matter how hard I try I can’t fully grasp the language- no one can really understand me here. I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster lately and I just want to sleep and speak English for ONE DAY!”

My first time living abroad at 15- I didn’t recognize my symptoms as culture shock. This all manifested itself at about month 3- October, my birthday, my first bus trip to a new city alone- I just thought I was having a rough time and everything started falling apart and I wasn’t good at this whole traveling thing.

What I didn’t realize what the my Spanish was actually getting quite good. I could get around on my own, have conversations and had begun making friends that 8 years later I still keep in touch with. My main problem? I was tired. My mind and spirit and body just couldn’t keep up with the pace I had set.

The thing is- I didn’t recognize this part of culture shock and didn’t know about it, until a wise exchange student counselor handed my a book that explained it all to me.

My brain was tired from translating literally everything I was saying or listening to. My body was tired from running around trying to keep up appearances. And my spirit was missing family and friends back home. I soon learned that all of this is part of the process- making the rest of the process so much smoother. Everything about life was different than what I had grown up with. I was dressing differently, acting differently in accordance with culture, and processing everything around me.

So how do you deal with it?

Sleep more. This helped in almost every aspect. I gave myself time to adjust more and learn more of the language. I found time to keep in touch with friends and family back home, but not too much- still immersing myself in my new life and culture.

I went out more. More time with friends, more travel within the country, more time with other exchange students, just keeping myself even more busy. Counter-intuitive? A little. But it works. Immerse yourself in the culture!

Acknowledge what you’re going through- it’s not totally all in your head. You’re not weird or wrong for feeling this way. It will pass, it will get better. I promise.

I’ve experience culture shock in the form of fear, anger, exhaustion, and complete joy. It’s definitely a unique experience but totally worth it to be able to travel and really learn and be a part of a new culture.

What about you? Where have you experienced the most culture shock? How do you deal?

Travel Tuesday

Q & A on a Thursday!


The lovely Kat of Lemonade Linings nominated me for a Liebster award! As I’ve already done a post on the Liebster award, I think it will still be good to answer these questions and share a little bit more about myself with my readers! I did this last time and it was super fun.

And since this is my little corner of the internet and I do what I want, I’m going to answer both the questions Kat answered and the ones she asked. It’s guaranteed to be a fun time! If you think this would be a fun post to fill out, I nominate YOU to write one up next! Tell me 11 things about yourself and answer 11 of these questions!

1. What’s your favorite part about blogging?
I know this is totally cliche but really and truly, the community I’ve found through blogging. It’s amazing to know that around the country (and some parts of the world) there are people reading my words and following along with my life’s adventures. It’s also so much fun to be able to look back on what I’ve written in the past.
2. What football team will you be cheering on this fall?
Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys. I know, judge away.
3. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Oh my goodness. SO many places! I think I’d like to try living in Vietnam for a while.
4. What’s the best piece of blogging advice you have for new bloggers?
Oh gosh I still feel like a new blogger myself. I think the main thing I would say is to not get caught up in statistics and page views. Just blog for yourself and to get your words out there. Remember why you started.
5. Best season: Fall, Summer, Spring or Winter?
Fall! I mean I love summer too, but fall is just so perfect. Not too cold but still I”m not dying of heat.
6. Are you guilty of texting and driving? Don’t lie!
Nope! I used to when I was younger, now I just don’t want to take the risk!
7. If you were 18 and in college again, and know what you know now, what would you major in?
Public Health, all over again. Except I would go ahead and get a minor in Education. I really loved college and my degree but I would love to have had a little more background in what I’m doing now!
8. Have you, or do you aspire to ever run a full marathon?
BAHAHA NO. I’ve done some 5ks and have a goal of a 10k. But that’s really as much as I’d like to do.
9. What’s your favorite beverage?
Water all day err day. With ice, please.
10. What was your biggest blogging mistake?
I think, in the beginning I just didn’t post enough. I wasn’t really serious about blogging so I only posted like twice a month. Now, I try to post more but not so much that I get burnt out on blogging. I don’t know how some people do 5 posts a week! I guess I’ll never be at that cool kids table. I’m okay with that.
11. Your house is on fire and you have time to grab three things – what are they?
Well, I’m assuming we’re talking about my new apartment and my roommate is capable of getting herself out? If so, I’d grab my phone, my laptop, and and my laundry basket because let’s be real most of the clothes i usually wear are in there clean or dirty.
1. If you could only eat one food for a whole week, what would it be?
Potatoes. In all the different ways they can be cooked!
2. What is your biggest fear?
Loneliness. Not being alone, because sometimes I love that, but loneliness.
3. If a movie was made about your life, what actress would portray you?
Probably Mindy Kaling. She’s sassy, classy, witty and totally gorgeous.
4. How do you spend your ideal Saturday?
Sleeping in, hanging out with my dogs, a long walk or bike ride, dinner with friends, bed by 11.
5. What is your favorite movie of all time?
The Princess Bride, hands down, every time.
6. What is the most important thing you’ve learned since starting your blog?
Before I began blogging, I really didn’t think anyone other than my mother (Hi, Mom!) would be interested in what I’m writing and what’s happening in my life. I’ve learned that there’s such a community to be found here and friendships that I never could have made without this little blog.
7. What is one item you’re dying to have in your closet right now?
Have you seen this dress? Ugh I want it so bad. I mean really all of their dresses are amazing but that one in particular has been speaking to me lately.
8. You are given a $100 gift card to Target. What do you buy?
Girl, you are speaking my language! I’d treat myself to some new eyeshadows and nail polishes, then hit up the clothing department for a new top or something. I love Target.
9. Where is one place you haven’t been that you’d love to visit on a vacation?
I already talked about Vietnam, but I’d also really like to visit Turkey or Jordan. So so many places I still have left to see in this world!
10. If you could only be active on one social media account (blog not included), which one would you choose?
A year ago, I would have never guessed I’d say this but- Twitter. I refused to give in to making an account for the longest time, but I’ve grown to love how connected I feel with it!
11. Cats or dogs?
BOTH. I’m a total cheater, I know, but I just can’t choose. My dogs are my absolute best friends, but my cat just cracks me up with his personality.
Now it’s your turn. Ready, set, go! And link up your post in the comments so I can see!

Reverse Bucket List!

Blogger shot caller

Thanks to Whitney from I Wore Yoga Pants to Work for the awesome t-shirt!

Instead of doing a bucket list with things I have yet to do, I want to make a list of things I have accomplished in my short time here in the world. I feel like this sort of reflection is good every once in a while.

Here’s 23 things I’ve done within my 23 years.

I have…

  1.  Lived abroad for a year.
  2.  Stood on the ruins of the land where my ancestors once lived.
  3.  Seen the live birth of a precious baby.
  4.  Run a 5k.
  5.  Graduated from college (with honors and no loans!)
  6.  Saved a life.
  7.  Learned more than one language.
  8.  Been to the Taj Mahal.
  9. Climbed a volcano.
  10. Seen 3 oceans and stood on the beaches to smell the sea air.
  11. Been snorkeling with dolphins and turtles.
  12. I got a tattoo! And then another…
  13. Played in a waterfall in Hawaii.
  14. Rode an elephant in India.
  15. Had my water bottle stolen by a monkey.
  16. Fallen in love.
  17. Lived in a convent.
  18. Ridden in/ driven a race car.
  19. Dyed my hair purple.
  20. Had a baby named after me in Uganda.
  21. Backpacked through Europe.
  22. Bought a pet.
  23. Met Betty White.

I still have a lot to do this life, but I don’t think I’m doing too bad so far!

What have been your greatest accomplishments thus far?