Wonder: A much-needed pep talk and 5 things to be grateful for every day

“You aren’t doing great, but you aren’t drowning and that is something.” ~The Secret Life of Pets (Duke to Max)

My sweet friend, Cara, has been doing an exercise on Facebook that I really love. Every day she posts 5 things she’s grateful for. These aren’t the same, stale, stereotypical responses to questions like this. She gets down into the details. These are 5 practical things that made her life better that day. They are often small things, things that we overlook all too often, and I always look forward to reading her posts. With Christmas around the bend and the new year not far behind, I’m inspired to take up this idea, too. So on my social media platforms, you’ll see a nod to 5 things that I appreciate that day. Because look, things may not be better, but recognizing the good makes me feel better, and that, as Duke would say, is something.


Wonder: A walk to remember

I’m used to walking hours a day with Phineas so since he couldn’t take a long walk, I took one for him on Saturday. I walked from my neighborhood across the city to Georgetown. We’re having an amazing weekend in D.C. with highs in the 70s, bright blue skies, and gentle breezes. It’s perfect weather.

Once I got about halfway through my walk, I started to feel a lightness. A funny sense of belonging, of feeling like slowly but surely I’m figuring it all out despite the stumbles and setbacks. I found a city I really love. Now I just have to find the right home. I found an industry I really enjoy working in, that I find fascinating, and that also supports all my creative projects like my writing and collage work. Now it’s just a matter of finding exactly the right fit. In the past two years, I’ve made a lot of big decisions and seen a long of progress. Now, it’s about refining and that realization gave me a lot of peace after a stressful week.

It’s amazing what can happen over time when we focus on making the here and now better.


Wonder: What I wish I could tell my 20-year-old self

On Saturday, my friend, Chris, and I went to look at a house I’m interested in buying. We were sitting on the porch waiting for my wonderful agent, Yo-G, to arrive to show us the house. Chris and I grew up in a similar socioeconomic situation and we started talking about how lucky we both are. Our educations literally saved our lives, and the road wasn’t easy but it was worth it. For me to even sit on that porch with the possibility of making an offer on it is a dream come true. I feel the same way when I go out to eat, take a trip, or even pay my monthly bills. While it sounds simple, I’m glad I’m able to do all of that and still save for my future. For so long, that felt out of reach.

I wish I could go back and tell my 20-year-old self that everything’s going to be fine, that eventually after a lot of hard work and hardship life would get easier, less stressful, and be fulfilling in so many ways. I wish I could save her the sleepless nights, constant worries, deep depression, and intense fear that plagued so much of her college years into her 20s and 30s. I guess that’s why I’m so intent now on mentoring and helping young people. I can’t go back and save myself that stress, but I can help others who are on the same path. I can let them know that with determination they will be ale to build a life they love. And the difficult path certainly has an upside – it made me so grateful for what I have today.  I’m glad I got to see the world from my view now, and I’m intent on taking other people with me while I rise.


Wonder: A walk through D.C. to clear my head

On Tuesday nights I play in a bocce league. I walk from my office in Arlington through Georgetown, past the White House, and then to downtown D.C. to the court. It’s a magical ~4 mile path.

Yesterday my brain was tired after work. I’m learning coding in addition to writing dialogue for our AI product, getting up-to-speed on the healthcare industry’s best practices, processing and pulling apart medical triage guidelines (with plenty of medical vocabulary that’s brand new to me!), and planning our product’s strategy, pricing, marketing, and testing. It’s a lot and I needed a good, long walk to clear my head.

As I wound my way through this city yesterday, I fell in love with this city a little more with every step. The architecture, colors, light, water, pattern of the streets, iconic symbols of our country, and people. All of it just dazzled me. It lifted me up out of my tired fog and into a state of supreme gratitude. Movement creates a movement.


Wonder: Josh Ritter and Elephant Revival make me happy

My favorite shot of Josh Ritter at the 9:30 Club. A musical watercolor.

Last night I had the supreme pleasure of seeing and hearing Josh Ritter and Elephant Revival live at the 9:30 Club. I danced until my feet hurt and smiled until my cheeks ached. It was a fantastic display of the power of music to make us whole and connect us to others. Music makes the good times better and the tough times manageable. It helps us celebrate and it helps us grieve. It’s a constant companion, and for that I’m very grateful.


Wonder: The power of reaching out to people you admire

writingI’m a big fan of reaching out to people I admire – authors, activists, business leaders, politicians, and anyone doing a passion project that I find interesting. I write cards, email, use Twitter – whatever method seems best suited to them.

Every time I’ve gotten a reply, it’s been a wonderful honor. Sometimes it’s just a lovely exchange. Other times it’s led to conversations that have then led to job offers, joint projects, and mentorship. I never go into these points of connection wanting anything except to thank them, to say how much I admire the work the person is doing and how it’s impacted my life.

So if there’s someone you admire, someone who’s work has really been of value to you, reach out. Tell them. Let them know that what they’re doing matters to you. We all need a little encouragement. We all need to know that what we’re doing is making the world better in some way. Be that person who helps someone continue to do the work they love to do.


Wonder: Find utility in everything


“Be patient and strong, for someday this pain will be useful to you.” ~Ovid

Here’s what I’ve learned: good, bad, or indifferent, every experience we have, person we encounter, and place we go is useful. It shapes us into who we are and who we will become. The good times and the tough times are all necessary. So if you’re having a good time, dance. And if you’re having a tough time, dance. Dance because what happening to you right now is contributing to the wonder that is you, and you are wonderful.


This just in: Travel makes me grateful

The magnificent city of Pest as seen from Buda's Castle at sunset
The magnificent city of Pest as seen from Buda’s Castle at sunset

Travels helps me count my blessings. After a full night of sleep, I woke up this morning feeling so grateful. Grateful for the chance to travel and learn about different cultures, and grateful to live in the U.S. and call it home. Sarajevo is a sad city, plagued by geographic isolation, the legacy of the war and communism, poor health of the people (70% of them smoke), and a true lack of opportunity. Budapest is bustling, thriving, and full of life. The two are in such stark contrast to one another and couldn’t have been more different.

And then I landed at Washington National airport, and my eyes opened up even wider. We are so lucky here. We have everything we need to build a good life for ourselves. Certainly our country has problems and challenges and its own wounds that need tending and healing. What we do have is possibility and potential. And while potential alone can’t get things done, it does provide the fuel we can use to build something beautiful and meaningful.

Travel is a gift that keeps on giving. It gives us empathy and understanding for cultures not our own, and then it also helps us appreciate what we have at home in our everyday lives. It’s a realization I hope I never lose.