a few announcements (and a confession)

Hello, my loves!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Over a month, in fact. I’ve read that in order to be a successful blogger, you should post on a regular basis.

Welp. I have broken that rule many times.  But the blogging gods are obligated to forgive my absence, because I have some pretty damn good excuses.

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First, an important life update: Drew and I bought a house! We were hoping to buy a home sometime this year.We moved at the beginning of June, so the timing couldn’t be more perfect…it’s just that moving requires a lot of cleaning and packing and unpacking. It’s been an exciting–yet exhausting–few weeks; while we love our home, there are some maintenance issues that need to be fixed. Like, ASAP. And then I can finally put my design knowledge from all those episodes of Trading Spaces to good use.

Then–because when it rains, it pours–the real trouble began. About a week or two after moving, my car’s transmission died. After a few Google searches, we realized that a new transmission–and a few other related repairs–would cost more than my car was actually worth. (A 2006 Mazda 3 with a dead transmission? Not a hot spot for lots of cash money, folks.). I made plans to donate or sell it, and Drew and I came to terms with using one car between the two of us.

For a couple of weeks, carpooling worked extremely well. I pass Drew’s office on the way to work, so I’d drop Drew off in the morning and pick him up on my way home.

Then, one fateful day, when I was FIVE MINUTES AWAY FROM DREW’S OFFICE, I got into a car accident.

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Fortunately, everyone involved was safe. It just meant that Drew was stranded at work for a couple of hours, and that we were officially without a car. Currently, we’re using a rental car (yay, insurance!), but the insurance claim has finally been settled and I successfully sold my car. Our house still needs some work, but we’re in a much better place–mentally and financially– to handle it.

We also visited my family in Missouri over the Fourth of July holiday! We celebrated our family’s July birthdays, too. I did start writing this entry over the weekend…but I didn’t get very far. Basically, I was partying too hard to blog.

In other news…

I’m excited to announce that I am now a prose reader for The Cerurove! It’s a lovely literary journal that you can read online; the editors were kind enough to publish my flash fiction piece for their second issue, and so this community has a special place in my heart. We’re currently accepting submissions–we’d love to read your work!

These days, much of my writing time is dedicated to poetry. One day I read the news and did what any sensitive artist type does: I wrote about it. The result? I’m working on my first chapbook manuscript. It’s a critique and love letter to America, and it is both very difficult and very easy to write. I have no idea if or when or how it will be published–but I promise that it’s actively in progress. At the very least, I will one day share my work here.

Needless to say, blogging hasn’t been on my list of priorities.

But I also find myself frustrated with the blogging world. Everything–from the writing to the photos to social media–has to be perfect. You need to know your audience. You need to build your brand and use it to your advantage.

The problem is, I don’t know what my brand is. Am I a book blogger? An author and poet? A wannabe travel writer? A social justice advocate? An occasional theologian? In my mind, these things are intertwined; reading and travel feed my empathy, which affects my politics, which affects my faith, and on and on it goes.

This line of thinking does not fare well in hashtags or algorithms.

I don’t have the time or energy to build a better website; nor do I want my content to be perfectly curated.

I want to write.

I want to be me.

When I first started this blog, I wrote about whatever I wanted. I liked knowing that people read my posts, but at the end of the day, it was all for me. It isn’t the way to build a successful blog, but I find myself longing for this carefree freedom. Perhaps this inherent brandlessness was my brand all along.

I do have another post planned for my Read and Resist series, and I’ll definitely write about our trip to Iceland. In the meantime, I just want to discover everyday, ordinary magic. ❤

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ring in the new year

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Photo by Tessa Rampersad on Unsplash

We made it.

We actually made it through 2017.

I don’t need to remind you that 2017 was an exhausting year, right?

Even on a personal level, a lot happened–I mean, I got married, which is a pretty big deal.

But in the wake of extreme political turmoil and anxiety, the Internet has decided that 2018 is about LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE. Or, as my friend Chris put it, “SPICY BUSINESS, 2018.”

Take that as you will, but for me, spicy business is all about living your best and most adventurous life.  I’ve already gotten a new tattoo; yesterday, my friend and I took a yoga class at a local cat shelter. If that’s not spicy business, I don’t know what is.

 

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Usually, I’m extremely skeptical about New Year’s resolutions. The reasons vary: I hate how we act as though we can only set goals on the first of the year; I resent the fact that most resolutions fizzle out by the end of the month; and I tend to think that New Year’s Eve is an overrated holiday.

But there was something about 2017 that made me reflect on the past, as well as the wonderful things to come. Here’s what’s on the horizon for 2018:

A new home.

Drew and I are planning to stay in Atlanta, but we have been toying with the idea of our future home for a while now. While I do love our current house–it is full of so many memories and so much laughter–Drew owned it before we even started dating. This year, we hope to move into a home that we choose together.

And maybe I’ll get my Beauty and the Beast-esque library.

Adventures with people I love.

Drew and I had an adventure-themed wedding because we think our marriage is an adventure…but we also want to see the world together. We’ve been talking about visiting Iceland for AGES, and today, we booked a flight for August.

We’re also planning to join our friends in New York, so Drew will finally be able to experience one of my favorite cities!

Later this year, my mom and I are planning to spend a weekend in Asheville, and I still need to visit Xan in Chicago. It’s turning out to be a busy year, but how could it not be?! There are so many places to see! (#SPICYBUSINESS!)

A regular yoga practice.

Exercise and I have never had the best relationship. I hate running and most forms of cardio; gyms make me self-conscious at best and anxious at worst; and, to be perfectly honest, there are just other things I would rather do. Binge watching Netflix is just more fun, okay? LET ME LIVE.

Enter yoga. My first introduction to yoga was during a high school P.E. class, and since then, it’s been a constant in my life. An irregular constant, but a constant nonetheless–whether it was on our Wii Fit or a YouTube video, yoga has always appealed to me.

Because of this irregularity, I know that my body functions much, much better when I take time to move and stretch. When I start complaining about back and neck pain, Drew suggests that I start doing yoga again. And he’s always right.

But yoga is a spiritual practice–it rejects the idea that the body is inferior to the spirit. I often need to remind myself of the connection between my physical body and my spirituality; after all, I believe that God created our bodies and wants us to take care of them (not to mention that bodies are especially significant to Christian theology). Where better to practice this than on the mat?

Writing.

There are times when writing feels as natural as breathing: I get inspired and knock out a poem or a blog post in record time.

But lately, writing has been more like swimming. I’m racing against the clock, pushing through the deepest waters, and my lungs are screaming for a chance to exhale.

I’m afraid to fail. I’m afraid of sounding less eloquent and poetic than I’d like and I’m afraid whatever novel I pursue will die with the five thousand other stories that are rotting in the graveyard of my hard drive.

So, I make things easier on myself.

I leave everything undone.

I know that this is not a good reaction to fear. It isn’t good for anything, except making myself feel worse as the year goes by.

This year, I want to remind myself that writing is not only my passion, but it’s also a process. It’s often a slow process. But that’s okay, because I never want stories to end, anyway.

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

-Shannon Hale

What else?

Less burnout. More tattoos. More magic. More books. More light. More love.

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Happy New Year, sweet friends. I hope and pray that it’s one of the best. ❤

Newlyweds, Part II: Honeymoon Adventure!

To read about our wedding ceremony, read Part I here

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It is no secret that I love all things Disney. But when I added ‘Disney World’ to our list of honeymoon options, I didn’t think it would actually happen. Fortunately, Drew loves theme parks and roller coasters as much as I do, so he agreed to go to Disney World as long as we could go to Universal Studios, too.

Obviously, if your fiancé suggests adding another theme park to your trip, you can’t say NO. Like, pull my arm, why don’t you?

Our wedding took place on a Saturday night, and we left for Orlando Sunday morning. I think if we had a chance to do it all over, we’d wait a day or so–traveling right after wedding festivities is pretty exhausting. At that point, I was powered by pure excitement…BECAUSE WE WERE ABOUT TO RIDE THE MAGICAL EXPRESS, Y’ALL.

And it is nothing short of magical: once you get to the Orlando Airport, you follow signs for Disney’s Magical Express. After you check in, a bus will take you to your Disney resort! No worrying about getting a Lyft or renting a car. They’ll even pick up your luggage and deliver it to your room (although if you are a paranoid control freak like I am, I suggest grabbing your luggage anyway).

As strange as it sounds, I think the hotel was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I’d been wanting to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for AGES, and our honeymoon was the perfect excuse to book a room. I loved it from the moment we walked in. The concierge complimented my nails, and when I oh-so-casually thanked her and told her I had to get fancy nails for our wedding, she handed us ‘Happily Ever After’ buttons to wear. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Our room overlooked the ‘savanna,’ so we spent a lot of time searching for animals. I usually want to do as much as I can when I’m on vacation, but staying in isn’t so bad when you can see giraffes and zebras from your window.

The next morning, we had breakfast at Boma before heading to the parks. Our plan was to spend half day of the day at Magic Kingdom before making it to Animal Kingdom for our first FastPass ride. Here’s what actually happened: we got distracted by watching the animals from our room,  so we only had enough time for a quick walk down Main Street …but we were able to buy our bride and groom mouse ears! SECOND MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Then, it was off to Animal Kingdom!

Since Animal Kingdom focuses on–well–animals, it’s more about attractions and animals than rides. The rides they do have, however, are totally worth it. Dinosaur scares the bejeezus out of me, but it’s still my favorite.

Drew’s favorite part: “Going to the Rainforest Cafe to have beer and French fries. It was fun to chill and just live our best beer life.”

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He also met a new friend!

The next day, we celebrated Halloween by visiting Hollywood Studios. It was the perfect day with just the perfect amount of spookiness. To get into the Halloween spirit, I wore my Hocus Pocus shirt and traded in my bride mouse ears for Halloween mouse ears (don’t worry–I still wore my button!). Drew didn’t wear anything special because he hates happiness, but he took this selfie with me.

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He’s such a good sport.

After lunch at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, we headed for my favorite ride of all time: The Tower of Terror.

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YOU CAN CHECK IN, BUT YOU CAN’T CHECK OUT. Just kidding. We were fine.

Drew’s favorite part: “Tower of Terror. Partly because the ride was really fun, and partly because of your excitement.”

At Magic Kingdom, WE GOT TO CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN AGAIN! We were lucky enough to snag tickets for the last day of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it–kids and adults are allowed to wear costumes, and the Sanderson sisters put a spell on the entire party. Later on, there’s a parade and fireworks. Since we’re an #oldmarriedcouple now, we left after the parade…but we made up for it later by watching Stranger Things. Party hard.

Drew’s favorite part: “Buzz Lightyear!” [as in Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. We rode it four times.]

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We spent our last day at Disney World at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. I’m a sucker for Halloween festivities and Halloween, but our Epcot day might be one of my favorites of the whole trip. We went back to wearing our bride and groom mouse ears, and practically everyone we saw congratulated us. One elderly man told us to never go to bed angry, and then handed us a two-dollar bill. “As long as you have each other, you’re never broke,” he said.

Oh, and it should go without saying, but the food, wine, and beer was delicious. Epcot gets ALL the points.

Drew’s favorite part: “The Chinese restaurant. I got those pot stickers.”

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Now, I’m a bit of a Disney snob, so I wasn’t expecting Portofino Bay, our Universal Studios resort, to be nearly as amazing as Animal Kingdom Lodge. I was wrong. We may not have been see African wildlife from our balcony, but look at that view!

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We had two whole days to spend at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Not surprisingly, my favorite part of both parks was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I was able to visit Hogwarts a few years ago, but this was my first time visiting Diagon Alley and riding the Hogwarts Express.

I only freaked out a little. And by that I mean a lot.

One of the best parts about Universal is the Express Pass. If you are staying at a Universal Studios resort, you automatically get an Express Pass; you can also use it an unlimited number of times. So, obviously, we rode everything at least twice.

Except Dudley Do-Right. That ride shows NO MERCY.

Drew’s favorite part: “Hmm. Seeing how excited you were about Diagon Alley. You were so pumped. And also how we figured out the secret to the Men In Black ride!”

Y’all. We SLAYED the Men In Black ride. If you know the secret, we’ll have to go to Orlando together and discuss some serious strategy (to be honest, I’ll probably tell you the secret in person, but this ups the intrigue a bit and makes me feel really cool.).

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At the risk of sounding cliché, I completely understand why Disney and Universal are highly popular honeymoon destinations. The week went by way too quickly, but it was the perfect way to celebrate our marriage. I’m already itching to go back–do you think I can convince Drew to go again for a milestone anniversary?

Just kidding. I’m just happy that he’s the one I get to celebrate with.

Here’s to happily ever after, Drew. I lava you. ❤️

Newlyweds, Part I: Celebration!

Last February, Drew and I decided to take advantage of our long weekend and take a trip to Nashville. It’s a relatively short drive from Atlanta, after all–why not? We had so many adventures planned: coffee shops, live music, a day at the library…little did I know that our weekend getaway would become a pivotal moment in our lives.

I was oblivious, of course. We were snuggled up in our AirBnb room, watching How I Met Your Mother and laughing at the gang’s latest hijinks. I was reaching for the remote when Drew told me to wait.

And I saw he had a tiny box.

And then he said he hoped I would go on another adventure with him.

And then he asked if I would marry him.

I think you know what happens next.

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I guess he's stuck with me. 🙃

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We settled on an October 2017 wedding date. It felt pretty ambitious, since I’m REALLY UNORGANIZED and I hate planing things, but it was perfect. We didn’t extend our my stress for a year (or more) and our venue was extremely helpful throughout the planning process. Plus, October is my favorite month, so our anniversary just gives us another reason to celebrate!

Our family and friends were especially phenomenal. For instance: Xan was my maid of honor and helped create our save-the-dates; Drew’s groomsman Chris designed our invitations; Erin made cookies for our wedding guests; and my cousin/BFF/basically sister/bridesmaid Alyssa did my makeup on the wedding day.

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Everyone in the wedding party also reminded me that I needed to eat and gave me lots of bread and peanut butter. Also, it’s also very hard to eat while people are doing your hair and makeup.

Our parents handled a lot of things we probably wouldn’t have given much thought to otherwise. My mom bought wedding favors and helped create centerpieces (my grandma also provided the books we used; the day of the wedding, our friends Anica and Cathi helped assemble everything!), She also convinced me that the bridesmaids and I should have bouquets…which was an A++ decision, because I found an amazing Etsy shop and the flowers were GORGEOUS.

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LOOK AT HOW CUTE MY MOM AND MY AUNT KRYSTAL ARE. JUST LOOK.

My dad found our transportation vendor, and on the wedding day, he picked up the desserts from the bakery. Drew’s mom planned the entire rehearsal dinner, came with me to every wedding dress fitting, and scheduled my hair styling trial. My aunt and my grandpa created our photo booth backdrop, and everyone helped assemble the props while Drew and I were on our flight. Meanwhile, our flower girl and ring bearers just kept being freakin’ adorable.

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Courtesy of my aunt Kathi–if you need a good photographer, visit her page!

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Our wedding day was an absolute blast. The girls and I got ready while drinking champagne (thanks, Heather!) and hate-watching Fifty Shades Darker (they found it on TV while I was in the shower).

While I highly doubt our luck would have been compromised if Drew and I had seen each other before the wedding, we opted to avoid one another until our first look photos. We’re still waiting for the photos to come in, but Erin snapped this awesome picture of me hiding from Drew.

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Drew said he thought I’d have a poofy, Cinderella-esque dress. I SURE SHOWED HIM.

The ceremony itself was everything we could have hoped for. My brother walked with my grandma and my mom down the aisle; Drew walked with his mom, while my dad walked me down the aisle. Xan’s father was our officiant, and my friend Christina, one of my favorite people in the whole world, did our ceremony reading.

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So basically, I was crying happy tears within five seconds of the ceremony starting. I was crying and sniffling even harder when we read our vows to one another. And I had a microphone, so I may or may not have mixed feelings about seeing our wedding video.

After we were pronounced Mr. and Mrs. Turner, we each grabbed a drink from the bar (priorities) and got ready for more photos (there are always photos that need to be taken at weddings). Then, it was time for dinner, more drinks, and dancing–the best part, other than actually getting married, of course.

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One of my favorite moments was when Chris asked the DJ to play “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.”

AND THE DJ ACTUALLY PLAYED IT.

If I have any advice for brides-to-be, it’s to play that song, because if you do all the millennials will sing and dance along dramatically. And if you don’t, your wedding will be a FAILURE.

Just kidding. But it was really, really, fun.

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Some of the wedding gals. #turningturner

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It was all so fun, in fact, that it ended way too soon.

Weddings are strange. You spend months and months planning this big, beautiful thing, and then it goes by in a big, beautiful blur. Some things did not go as planned–it’s just how weddings are–but that’s okay. We were celebrating love, and love is big and beautiful on its own.

The next day, we headed to Orlando for our honeymoon! Stay tuned for the second part of this post, where I’ll tell you all about our Disney and Universal adventures. Spoiler alert: it was amazing and I want to go back ASAP.

Until next time, my loves!

3 Financial Attitudes You Need to Adopt After Getting Engaged to Keep Your Sanity

This article was originally published as a guest post on Britt & The Benjamins, but Brittney has kindly allowed me to post on Quills and Crystals as well. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section. I’d love to hear about your own wedding planning experience–or what you imagine it will be like! 

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I guess he's stuck with me. 🙃

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On a scale of Pinterest-perfect centerpieces to spontaneous courthouse elopements, my wedding plans always fell somewhere in between (messy chalkboard art, perhaps). The closest I’ve ever had to a “dream wedding” was during a family trip to Disney World, where we spotted a bride and groom head towards their happily ever-after in a horse-drawn carriage. My jaw dropped. “I want to get married here,” I announced. I mean, why wouldn’t I get married at Disney World?

Of course, that was when I was about twelve years old—way before I knew how much weddings actually cost. Fast-forward ten years or so, and I didn’t know much other than the fact that I wanted an affordable wedding that was beautiful, but not too big or fancy. I scrapped the Disney idea (but if you managed to pull off a Disney World wedding, I. WANT. PICTURES.) and scoffed at the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding.

And that was before I got engaged. Initially, my fiancé, Drew, and I had a goal of spending no more than $10,000. The average cost of a wedding in the United States is around $30,000, so I felt pretty frugal in comparison.

I still think a $30,000 wedding seems a little extravagant, but after booking our vendors, I’m more understanding of how couples reach that point. I know now that some venues require that you use their own caterer—which means no bargain hunting for charming buffet dinners. You may want to invite all of your friends and family, which—surprise!—will cost more. You might have to travel just to get to your own wedding. And don’t forget about those deposits. And dress alterations. And postage.

Lesson learned: it’s very easy to spend more than you anticipated. We’ve had a lot of conversations about money—about wedding budgets, yes, but also in the context of our marriage—and I’ve had to adjust my financial philosophies accordingly. Here are three ideas I’m trying to put into practice before our big day.

  1. Decide what to prioritize. Before Drew and I even started looking at venues or vendors, we came up with a list of wedding must-haves. For instance, we both want incredible food and an open bar, but neither of us have particularly strong feelings about floral arrangements—so, we’re splurging on food and going the DIY-route for bouquets. Be equally upfront about who you want to invite. While I love the idea of a small, intimate ceremony, it ain’t gonna happen: my family is ginormous and incredibly tight-knit. Cutting out cousins, aunts, and uncles is simply not an option; cutting out favors or decor, however, definitely is.
  2. Don’t focus on the differences between your salaries. I’m a writer who has done my fair share of job hopping; Drew has had the same job in IT for several years. I realized long ago that writers don’t usually become millionaires, and I knew that I needed a steady source of income before I cranked out a bestseller (or anything, really, but I’m trying to be optimistic). What I didn’t know is how strange it would be to discuss finances with my fiancé, who might always earn more money than I will. Have an open discussion about your financial situation, but don’t let the numbers paralyze you. Remember: you are a team. No matter how you decide to combine finances—if at all—your ultimate goal is to have a better, more beautiful life together.
  3. Learn how to accept help—financial or otherwise. Full disclaimer: Drew and I are coming from quite a bit of privilege, and we are insanely lucky to have family and friends who are willing to help with wedding expenses and planning. For some (like me), money and pride go hand-in-hand. Generosity may be difficult to swallow if you are striving for independence; while independence is not a bad thing, this can be an opportunity to learn from people who are chipping in or offering advice. If your parents are able to pay for your wedding, how did they manage to save that much money? Even if you are paying for your wedding, there are a lot of people who are probably willing to give you advice. Ask questions about budgets, planning a honeymoon, and everyday married life. Listen to them. You’ll feel less alone, and you’ll be relieved when you learn you weren’t the only one who didn’t know dress fitting appointments were a thing.

Our wedding is still months away, and the thought of so much to purchase and plan can get overwhelming, to say the least. But I’ve realized that at the end of the day, our engagement is a time to celebrate. And better yet, we’ll soon be living our own fairy tale. No carriage required.

Rethinking Animal Advocacy

Like many young girls, I used to dream of being a veterinarian. Then, of course, I learned that vet school required far too much math, science, and handling blood–none of which I consider my strong suits. I later realized I wanted to be a writer, but I still love animals and often wish that our house could become a sort of animal sanctuary.

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Not that we could responsibly care for so many animals. Drew and I are already the proud parents of Constable Chubs. She’s been a part of our family for over a year, and even though I may act like an overbearing mother (“Constable Chubs, you are so cute. You are a literal angel. GOD HAD THE BEST DAY WHEN HE MADE YOU!”), I cannot imagine life without our sweet feline friend. Our roommate, Kate, also has a cat named Sam. He and the Constable usually get along, but I don’t think they would be too thrilled to share their food with another cat.

I’m lucky to be with someone who understands my soft spot for animals. For instance, we have a strict no-kill policy when it comes to spiders, but Drew and I are both extremely afraid of spiders….so releasing them back into the wild is always a very dramatic process (BUT IT’S WORTH IT. Live your life, little spider. Just…please don’t come back inside, okay?).

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
― A.A. Milne

A few months after I moved to Atlanta, Drew and I started volunteering at a local animal shelter. It was wonderful, but like many wonderful things, it soon fell out of our weekly routine. Once I found a steady job and a regular schedule, I started volunteering at another shelter.

Even though I love all animals, I signed up to work with cats. I have more experience with kitties, and I (usually) know what to do if a cat gets frightened or stressed. I didn’t want to work  at the front desk or provide adoption counseling, either–I’ve had enough of customer service jobs, and didn’t want my introvert self to get burnt out from something that was supposed to be fun.

Of course, that’s where I went wrong. Caring for animals definitely relates to caring for people, but it goes far beyond adoption fees or customer service. The goal of any shelter should be to find permanent homes for each and every animal; with that kind responsibility, how could we not extend our love anyone who passes by?

After all, I know how my pets have changed my life. I want everyone to have that chance: the children who visit and read to the cats; the mom who is trying to decide which cat to bring home; the couple who has too many pets but wanted to say hello. Adopting an animal is a win-win situation for everyone–you get a friend, and an animal finds a home.

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There are a lot of awful things in the world that we cannot change. But maybe we can learn to care for a lost puppy, or save a spider from being crushed. Peace starts with empathy; empathy starts with us. If we can learn to take care of tiny creatures, how much better will we be able to take care of each other?

Has an animal ever changed your life for the better? How have animals helped you become more compassionate towards people? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments! 

 

Change the World, One Step at a Time

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For every tragedy or major political event, I spend hours reading the news. Headlines and Twitter threads become my bedtime story; my heart breaks for people I will never meet, and they become my prayer.

And so often, that’s where it ends. I whisper kind words and send happy thoughts out into the universe, and then they are oh-so conveniently forgotten. Our paths split as soon as they meet on my wishful spiritual plane, because the world is too damn big, and there is nothing I can do.
If there is anything I have learned in the past year, it is that I have bought into a horrible lie: that, in order to help others, I need to do something drastic. Growing up, I heard stories of environmentalists and imagined what it would be like to handcuff myself to a tree. Now, I see people going on strike or going on hunger strikes. They’re running for office or becoming billionaires and donating every penny (okay, that’s basically just Bill Gates and J.K Rowling. But you get my point).

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

-Anne Frank

If you’re watching the news and feeling a bit discouraged, take heart. The fact that you feel this way means that you care, and there can never be a surplus of love in the world. Politics are important, of course, but our own circle is an excellent place to start. Here are a few activism-inspired habits that I’ve been putting into practice–and some tips you can use, too!

Practice self-care. Too often, the concept of self-care gets watered down to coloring books and taking a bubble bath. While there is nothing inherently wrong with bubble baths or coloring, we all need to consider what truly restores our souls. If you are burnt out, stressed, or feeling scatter-brained, you probably won’t have the energy for anything other than watching Netflix. Remember the basics: do the dishes, eat a good meal, stay hydrated; then, take a day just for yourself. You deserve it.

Be kind. Be kind to your cashier. Be kind to your barista. Be kind to the homeless man you pass on the street. Be kind to the receptionist. Be kind to your neighbor. It’s not that hard. Really.

Speak up! Contact your Senators and House Representatives–calling their office only takes a few minutes, and every phone call is tallied. If you are like me and absolutely hate calling strangers, websites like 5 Calls  provide scripts you can follow. You can also download Countable to learn more about various issues and send your reps a message.

Share informative and encouraging posts on social media. Whether you get caught in a heated debate or realize you’ve spent hours reading news articles, it’s easy to get stuck in the black hole of despair that is social media–but the Internet can still be a force for good. Share posts from a variety of (accurate) sources, and say something inspiring to go along with it.

Read. Aside from the all the fascinating things you’ll learn, reading can reduce stress and make you more empathetic. If you’re already a bibliophile, change up your reading habits: support indie authors or add more diverse books to your reading list.

Speaking of which…support artists! Writers, painters, photographers, musicians, filmmakers–they all make the world a more beautiful place, and they all need to eat. Check out Patreon and consider donating to an artist you admire. If you are unable to donate, spread the word. Share their posts on social media. If you love their work, TELL THEM! It will make their day, and your support will help them share their work with the world.

Start using apps and browser extensions that make a positive impact. Put all those hours online to good use! Install Tabs for a Cause to donate money to various organizations; ditch Google (gasp) and plant trees with Ecosia. If you’re an obsessive Amazon user, try AmazonSmile.  See? The world’s looking brighter already.

Adopt an animal. If you’ve been looking for a four-legged friend, visit your local shelter. There are millions of homeless animals in the United States alone; you are bound to fall in love with at least one, right?

Be generous. If you are financially able, donate money to your favorite organizations or non-profits. If you are on a tight budget, give your time instead; most non-profits have  volunteer programs. Find something you are passionate about–it doesn’t have to feel like work in order to be helpful!

Listen. Until we listen to someone else’s story, we will only ever see the world through one lens: our own. No one just decides what they are going to believe, and no one magically  becomes woke. It’s a process, and open dialogue can go a long way.

Pray. I know not everyone shares my beliefs, but I have found that just saying my intentions out loud can work wonders. Change starts with us, after all.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of good deeds, but for me, they have become a manageable starting point. Together, I think we can accomplish just about anything.

How do you incorporate activism and kindness into your life? Tell me on Twitter or leave a comment!