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Belle

5 Things You Need to Start Doing

Posted in Lifestyle by

Pink and red flowers--roses and peonies--are laid out on a concrete floor. Overlaid is the title "5 Things You Need To Start Doing"

Last week was all about 5 Things You Need to Stop Doing. If I left it at that, it would feel like doing bicep curls on just my left arm, or throwing out the trash without putting a new bag in the trash can. Things, big and small, need to be balanced: so if you stop doing some things, you should also start doing other things.

Just like last week, these are lifestyle areas to draw out your inner happiness and confidence, as well as spread some positivity around for others. You will have to work at it and it won’t happen over night, but one day you’ll catch yourself doing one of these things naturally and that little lightbulb in your head will go off, likely accompanied with the realization that you’ve achieved some growth.

 

#1 Start Speaking Up

We live in a time and age when people are being encouraged to find their voice. Some are doing this well, like Emma Watson and Halsey, and others are…well, not so great. There is still a time and place to shut your trap and nod your head while blending in with the wall paper, but those instances are falling into the majority. It’s time to start taking small and big steps towards having your voice heard.

Let’s start little. The next time you’re with a group of friends or coworkers and everyone is asking “where do you want to go for lunch?” but no one is coming up with an answer, speak up! Even if you truly don’t care if your get salads or pizza or just raid the vending machines, you’ll be the hero for giving a definite answer, rather than just keeping the question game alive. It’s so simple, but it will give you a bit of a confidence boost and people will start to pay attention to your existence.

How about a medium step? The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, say so. Tell your BFF “I’m having a rough week and need a girl’s night”. Go to your boss and say “this project is bigger than I anticipated and I could use more resources to make sure it’s done on time and done well”. Feeling underwhelmed? It’s okay to say “no hard feelings, but this date isn’t going very well. Why don’t we just get the check now, shake hands, and call it a night?” rather than suffering through another hour and then pretending like you had a good time and should do it again sometime.

Now we’re ready for a big step, and it’s going to be uncomfortable. But necessary. And worth it. This is the step where you start speaking up when things are uncomfortable, rather than gritting your teeth and bearing with it because for some terrible reason, you think that’s how it should be. This is where you start challenging voices of authority that aren’t keeping up with the times, that are delivering false information, that can’t defend or rationalize their actions. It’s time to start calling out instances of mansplaining and hepeating and sexism and racism. I won’t lie, it will be hella awkward in the moment. But later, when you’re driving home and reviewing your day, you’ll feel a lot better knowing that you stood up and made a stand.

 

#2 Start Thinking with Confidence and Love

The saying “beauty comes from within” refers to kindness and a good personality. Wanna know where those things come from? Confidence and self love. I’ll wait for you to pick of the pieces of your blown mind at this realization.

But seriously, we’ve got to start learning to love ourselves, and that starts with the way we talk to and about ourselves. Every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to sleep (or as often as you can), tell yourself that you are great, you are worthy, everything if fine. It’s cheesy and you’ll feel silly, but it will make such a difference in how you present and carry yourself.

The best part? You can totally fake it, and it still counts. In the beginning, you might not believe yourself when you think “I am beautiful” or “I am worthy of love”, but you need to say it anyway, and with as much conviction as you can muster. The saying is “fake it until you make it”. And there’s science behind it to prove it works. 

I’ll leave on this note: how you treat yourself sets the standard for how other people can treat you.

Related Reading: 6 Mantras To Live By In 2018

A bike basket is filled with bright pink flowers to symbolize the love of self. Give yourself a gift of happiness and flowers.

 

#3 Start Challenging Your Conditioning 

It’s like Ms. Norbury said, “You’ve got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” We need to start examining our behavior, language, reactions, ideas, roles, and everything and figure out if it’s something we do because we like it and it feel right, or if it’s something we’ve been secretly trained to do. Our words and actions reinforce other words and actions, like the idea that sexual activity it okay for guys but not for girls, because that’s just wrong.

There’s this idea that the first thought through your head is what you’ve been conditioned to think. Things like “ew, that girl is so fat” or “I have a flat tire so I should call my boyfriend to fix it”. But it’s your second thought that defines you: “that girl is rocking her skin; good for her” or “I should call my boyfriend to teach me to fix my flat tire so I can do it myself next time.” It’s time to start rethinking and going with that second thought. That also means thinking about yourself differently (see #2 above!).

 

#4 Start Half-Assing Things

In the wise words of Amy Phoeler, “The doing is the thing.” It’s not going to be perfect the first time you do it, so you have to start somewhere. So it’s just about the doing, not the result.

I am not a fitness person. I do not love the gym or have a clue about what to do when I’m there. But it’s important to be active and healthy, so I go. In the beginning, I went for the minimum twenty minutes, did a little of this, barely touched that, and then went home. And I celebrated! It was an absolutely terrible workout, but it was more of a workout than I had done before. I congratulate myself on going, on just showing up and doing the bare minimum, because I was focusing on building the habit, of just getting out of my shell and doing it. Bit by bit, my workouts started to increase in length and purpose and I’ve improved. If I had tried to be perfect on day one, it would have been too much pressure and I wouldn’t have even started.

So really, this is about “starting to start”.

A woman sits on a stump by the beach, the wind blowing her blonde hair.

 

#5 Start Going For What you Want

Sitting around wishing for something isn’t going to get you anywhere except Sadville. Want a better job? Start applying. Want love? Stop wondering why you can’t meet anyone when all you do is sit in the dark watching Netflix; go out and make the first move! Or adopt a puppy. Either works.

You can start small (see #4), but you have to start. Saying “maybe next year” is just another way of saying “I want it, but not badly enough to do anything about it, so it will never happen.” Get out of that cycle, grab life for the reigns, and start taking control! Because you can do it, you do deserve it, and it is worth it.

 

When you’re ready to start, I’d love to hear from you! Let’s help each other stay on course towards growth, so don’t be afraid to reach out.

March 15, 2018
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5 Things You Need To Stop Doing

Posted in Lifestyle by

The title "5 Things You Need to Stop Doing" is written over a person climbing a flight of stairs.

The last two years have not been great: I quit the career I studied for, I quit the next career I went into, my depression resurfaced and brought his buddy Anxiety to the party, and I’m in the worst financial situation of my (admittedly short) life. Every day is a new discovery of short-fallings and failures and black holes, but every day is also an opportunity to dust myself off and get back up to try again. The wonderful thing about rock bottom is being able to do anything: I can take risks because there’s nothing left to lose. But most importantly, I get a second chance at building a strong foundation. And I’m determined to do it right.

I’ve found myself doing a lot of self examination over the past few years, especially in recent months. I’ve been trying to figure out what are the little things that are holding me back, that are making me unhappy, that are getting in the way of things. I have these great dreams and big plans, but I don’t seem to go for them as strongly as I could. There’s a whole slew of psychological reasons behind that to keep a therapist employed for years, I’m sure, but there are a number of tiny things I can work on right now. And that you should work on, too.

Whether you’ve already achieved success, are almost there, or can’t even figure out where success is because your compass is broken, there are five things in your life that you should stop doing. I’ve found that these are areas that make me unconsciously unhappy, and that also poison the people around me. So this isn’t about me, this isn’t even about you: this is about everyone.

 

#1 Stop Apologizing

This has some parameters to follow: if you hit someone’s car, apologize; if you hurt someone’s feelings, apologize; if you accidentally feed your roommate peanut butter cookie dough that triggers his peanut allergy, apologize (I swear it wasn’t me. It was the other roommate). But there are other situations when you should rephrase your “sorry” as a “thank you.”

Let’s say you’re running late because reasons. The reasons don’t matter. But you show up to happy hour where your friend has already been waiting for twenty minutes and you’re a bit out of breath because you were trying to be there on time, even though you knew you wouldn’t be. So what do you say? “I’m sorry I’m late”, right? Wrong. Don’t say that. Instead, say “Thank you waiting for me.” It’s a simple change of words, but it will do so much for you and for your relationships.

When you say “I’m sorry” you’re putting the focus on you, and you’re doing it in a negative way. You’re essentially saying “I messed up. I’m a failure.” Yes, you did oversleep or whatever it was that caused you to be late, but beating yourself up about it further is only going to make you feel negatively about yourself, and it’s inviting the other person to view you negatively as well. Reverse it to say “thank you” and you’re expressing gratitude, something positive, towards the other person. You feel good, they feel good, everyone is a winner. Positive vibes = positive life.

Other ways to say “thank you” instead of “sorry”:

  • I’m sorry I’m such a mess
    • Thank you for understanding that things are crazy right now and for still loving me.
  • I’m sorry I’m so emotional
    • Thank you for being patient with me
  • I’m sorry that I need so much attention
    • Thank you for reassuring me and spending time with me

Need some help getting started? Try filling out a few of these “Thank You” sticky notes.

Three women are pictured from behind with their arms around each other's low backs. They are wearing denim and holding baby's breath flower shoots. Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

#2 Stop Trying to Fit into Molds

Somewhere in the course of history, humans created this idea that certain titles come with certain identities. Things like “construction workers can’t be pretty” and “women should be stay-at-home moms” and “manly men can’t wear glitter.” All of those are lies.

If you haven’t yet, you need to go read Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. In it, she talks about “good for her, not for me” and how terrible it is for people of different walks of life to criticize each other. You should not feel bad about wanting to wear a floral sundress right after shaving your head. You should not have to think about what others might think about you if you quit your job as a rough-and-tough business woman to pursue a career as a hair dresser. You should not been made fun of for having a full beard and perfectly threaded eyebrows.

Likewise, you can fully wrap yourself up in an identity if it’s what you like. You’re an accountant and like wearing black suits every day? Good for you! Just maybe not for me. So let me dye my hair pink and go slam a whiskey shot at lunch.

This is about being true to you. It’s the same lesson that you’ve been hearing time and time again since you were a little kid, but I’m here to tell it to you again just in case you haven’t started living it. Be what you want to be, who you want to be. And if people aren’t supportive, then you don’t need them: this is your life, so live it!

Related Reading: 6 Mantras to Live by in 2018, The Two Step: A Bilateral Move

#3 Stop Going Back to the Same Sh*t

You ex is an ex for a reason. That restaurant always gives you food poisoning. You say that you can write a blog post while watching Netflix even though you know you can’t. So stop going there!

We’re creatures of habit, I get it, but sometimes we have to slap ourselves out of it and move on. Because if we don’t, one of two things will happen: either it will continue to suck you down until it’s too late and the damage is irreversible, or your friends will start throwing spoons at you every time you try to talk about getting back with your ex. True story.

If you hear the little whisper in your head of “don’t do it”, then DON’T. DO. IT! If you’re sitting down at happy hour and your conversation starts with “I know you told me not to, but…” be prepared for a harsh dose of reality, either from your friend or from the world. Stop poisoning your own well, stop the self-sabotage. If you can’t do it alone, enlist help: get your friend to delete all of his social media and change his number in your phone; cancel your Netflix subscription (drastic, I know, but it might be necessary. Speaking from experience here); hire a shrink. Take care of yourself.

A woman is pictured walking on a sandy pier between two bodies of water, her back to the camera. It has a light and positive feel. Photo by Mariona Campmany on Unsplash

#4 Stop Letting Things Slide

There are little things every day that irritate you and you know it, but you don’t do anything about it. Or at least not enough. Maybe it’s your roommates never emptying the dishwasher or the dog always tracking in mud or your boss never fully giving you the details of your assignment. Maybe it’s bigger, like constantly being overlooked for a promotion or your landlord not sending a plumber over for the garbage disposal that broke two weeks ago. Either way, those things make you sad and mad and that’s what leads to stress acne and not being able to sleep and feeling sick and throwing things. Not good.

So do something. Either truly fully suck it up and become okay with it on a spiritual level where you are the new Buddha, or speak up. Enlist a friend or coworker or your hairdresser to practice your speech: you want to be confident but not mean, firm but not overbearing. Make it happen.

And be firm with yourself. If you want to be healthier, don’t let yourself skip a gym session just because you don’t feel like going. If you want to learn a new skill, make it a requirement to practice it every day and hold yourself to that. You’re an adult now: it’s time to get off the kiddie slide.

Related Reading: When It’s Been A Long Week and It’s Only Monday, W(h)ine About It: The Little Things

#5 Stop Blaming Others for Your Unhappiness

It’s time to lay down some cold hard truth: take charge of your own happiness. That means either having some hard conversations with people (see #4 up above), or cutting some people out of your life.

If you’re a big dreamer but everyone around you is content to be mediocre and makes you feel bad for wanting more in life, the first thing you should want is a new circle of friends. If your partner belittles you or puts you down, it’s time to pack up and GTFO. If your friend is constantly bringing you down with all her drama and foolish decisions, see #3 of this guide and tell her buh-bye. Hard, I know, but worth it.

But here’s the thing: this item on the list isn’t telling you to stop being friends with those people. It’s saying that you need to stop blaming them for your unhappiness, because the real reason they make you unhappy is because you let them. By agreeing to a dinner date with that friend, knowing you’re going to need to order at least two glasses of wine and that you’re going to walk away feeling down about the world, you’re signing yourself up for a world of hurt. You, not her. If you’re dreading going to the family reunion where your aunt is going to criticize your haircut just because she never has anything positive to say and you go and let her, that’s on you. It’s time to either start standing up for yourself, cutting people out, or not letting it get to you. It’s your life, and you have a say in how you live it, and you have a say of how people get to affect it.

Because here’s the thing: you are worthy of happiness. But sometimes you have to work for it, and you always have to insist on it.

Related Reading: Cherish: A Story of Silver Linings 

Stop Doing These 5 Things
A man buttoning up his suit.
March 8, 2018
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7 Ways to Maximize Your Budget

Posted in Lifestyle by

A woman works in her notebooks at her desk. The title "7 Ways to Maximize You Budget" is overlaid.

If you don’t budget, you should. Even if, by some miracle, you have money pouring out of your ears, you should still have some sort of financial plan and outline. So let’s say you’ve taken care of the creating a budget part and now you’re looking to maximize it and stretch every dollar. This is the guide for you.

I’m going to skip over the things like “make coffee at home instead of buying a daily latte” because if you’re on a budget, you’re already not spending $5 a day on coffee (and if you are, you need more help than I can offer). This tip-sheet is about maximizing your budget by addressing the little things.

Related Reading: Creating a Bullet Journal

1. Adjust your diet

I’m not saying reduce down to Ramen noodles and peanut butter! Hopefully you can afford a little bit more than that. There are ways to adjust your grocery list.

First things first: stop spending money on “happy snacks”. You know, the food you eat that makes you happy but doesn’t give you any good nutrients; I’m talking about chips and cookies and donut holes. You love them, but you don’t need them. Don’t spend $3 on those Cheetos and instead get yourself two apples for $1.

Second, cut back on meat. I know, I know, how dare I suggest giving up bacon!? But I’m not. I’m just suggesting that you reduce. I won’t go on about the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet here, but instead focus on the financial benefits: it’s one less thing you have to buy, and meat is fairly expensive. For the $6 you would spend on some chicken, you could buy a bag of quinoa, some veggies, and eggs instead and still feel full. You don’t have to cut it out entirely, but switching to one day, two days, or weekdays without meat can provide a lot of benefits.

Third, get creative with your staples! With the right spices, you can do a lot with rice, beans, tomatoes… Check out our Pinterest board dedicated to eating on a budget, and/or this
Hot Mess Kitchen: Recipes for Your Delicious Disastrous Life cookbook.

2. Cancel Your Subscriptions

While getting athletic leggings for a third of the price at the store or boxes of snacks from around the world sent to your home each month sounds like a great deal, it can actually be a waste of money if you’re on a budget. Think about it: how many of those makeup products you get in your monthly subscription do you actually use after your first try them out? Maybe one out of five. So now you have a growing pile of products that you don’t use. See? Wasteful.

3. Sign Up For Smart Subscriptions

I know, I know, I just told you to cancel your subscriptions because they’re not budget friendly. But some of them are! Like Dollar Shave Club: for $9 or less a month, you get four razor heads sent to your house instead of spending $15+ at the grocery store. The little things add up, so shop smarter not harder… Does that work? We’re going to say it works.

4. Shop Sales and Stock Up

Make a point of shopping thrift and discount stores first whenever you can. Need a new pair of jeans? Check out TJ Maxx and Ross before going to a designer store; you just might get lucky.

And when your regular-buy items go on sale, buy them. Even if you already have one at home. (This is of course dependent on how strict your budget it). This happened to me recently: I ran out of my favorite Dry Shampoo but couldn’t spare any money to buy more. But behold! in my closet was a backup that I had bought the month before when it was on sale. At the same time, I had bought two bottles of mouthwash because it was a BOGO sale. If you know you buy it often–toilet paper, toothbrushes, canned beans–buy it when it’s on sale, even if you don’t immediately need it. In the long run, you’ll save yourself some cash and some heartbreak.

Related Reading: 7 Ways To Enjoy a Night Home Alone

5. Fill Out Surveys and Sign Up For Cash Back

Grocery stores will often have some sort of rewards system. In Colorado with King Soopers, it’s point towards gas discounts. At the bottom of my grocery receipt is a chance to fill out a survey and get an extra 50 gas points (I need 100 for $0.10 off every gallon). It’s a bit tedious, but it’s something I can do while watching TV, and if I do it twice in a month, I get my savings. It’s all about the pennies sometimes.

There are also great apps like ibotta that can earn you some more cents on the dollar and get you cash back. It’s not a get-rich-quick solution, but it adds up over time and can make for a nice gift to your future self.

A man works on his laptop on his coffee table. It's important to take a few minutes to utilize reward and cash-back programs in order to maximize your budget.

6. Think “Big Picture”

When you’re on a budget, every penny counts. But in the long run, it’s worth it to buy things like mouthwash and floss. Think about it: it’s cheaper to pay for these items than it is to pay for a cavity. Don’t sacrifice your health in the short run to save ten dollars: take care of yourself and avoid a $500 doctor bill.

7. Shop Where It’s Cheap

I already mentioned shopping at discount stores, but this time I’m talking about zip codes. Different cities have different prices and different sales tax percentages. Example: it cheaper for me to buy gas in Longmont than it is to buy it in Westminster; it’s a difference of a couple of dollars to buy food and goods in Westminster than it is in Denver. Now, I’m not going to drive thirty miles to save $0.05 per gallon of gas, but I make a point of filling up where it’s cheaper, even if it’s only a quarter of a tank. Things to think about.

 

Two pineapples float in a blue pool, lit by the sun. The title "7 Ways to Maximize Your Budget" is overlaid

These are the tips that help me get through the rough patches and make the good patches all the better. What budget hacks do you use?

Two pineapples float in a sunlit pool. The title "7 Ways to Stretch Your Budget" by TwoFeelsWrite is overlaid.
February 27, 2018
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My Toxic Relationship

Posted in Lifestyle, Relationships by

A blond woman lays on a couch beside the window. It's grey and muted, her hair and her hand covering her face. A sense of sadness and loneliness is captured by photographer Benjamin Combs. The title "My Toxic Relationship" is overlaid.

There are plenty of people in my past that I wish I had never met. Or that I had stood up to. Or that I didn’t keep in my life for as long as I did. But the aliens/government/my future self aren’t sharing their time machines, so I’ve just gotta keep going with those black marks in my past.

The biggest stain on my people report card was my relationship. The relationship, singular, one, uno, can’t be confused with the other one because the other one doesn’t exist. That’s a tangled web of psychology and chaos to unwind at a later time, although it does likely have something to do with what that relationship was: toxic.

What is a Toxic Relationship?

As a kid, I heard all about abusive relationships that involved one partner hitting and beating and threatening the other. It wasn’t until I was describing my situation to my college roommate that things started to connect. Here’s the truth: an abusive relationship can exist without any physical harm. It’s called emotional abuse.

In some cases, emotional abuse is more obvious: “you’re stupid”, “you’re worthless”, “you’re ugly and lucky I love you because no one else would”. In others, its less: “I don’t want you to go out”, “you make me sad”, “you don’t do enough for me”. If your partner–or your friend or a family member–makes you feel worthless, that’s the toxin in your blood that they put there. If your partner makes you feel guilty about going out with friends, or wants to know every detail of the plan, s/he is trying to control you.

It can be subtle. It can develop slowly. Have you heard the story about the frog and boiling water? If you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out. If you put a frog in water and slowly raise the temperature to boiling, the frog will stay and die. No one is hit on the first date and thinks “s/he might be the one!” In the same case, no one is made to feel worthless and unloveable on the first date and instantly falls in love. In the beginning, everyone is happy. Everyone is falling in love. Then, a year later, you wonder why you’re so miserable. But the darkness of emotional abuse is that it’s so subversive that it often draws the victim closer to the abuser.

Underwater, people are swimming. There's a sense of drowning as only the shadows and limbs are visible. Overlaid is the quote "If it's destroying you, then it isn't love, my dear." Photo taken by Tim Marshall.

How it Happened to Me

Disclaimer: Every story is different. This is mine. Whatever comments I make about myself, my decisions, my mentality, the things I perpetrated, do not apply to anyone else that may or may not have been, are in, or will be in an abusive relationship.

I was not popular in high school. My dates to dances were groups of friends and my run-ins with admirers were guys I had zero interest in (and were also at the bottom of the food chain. It was high school. Stop judging). As a result, once I got to college I got a bit…desperate. Not desperate for a date or willing to take just anyone, but I was all about finally being in a relationship and not being the ugly duckling any more. I dated. I hooked up. I had a good time. But no one was willing to commit.

Until Jon*.

He had admired me from afar when we lived in brother and sister halls in the dorms (unbeknownst to me. I had never seen him). Then it turned out we were living in the same apartment complex. A passing hello and a few group events later, we started dating. He made me happy: he spent time with me, was interested in me and everything that made me me (even the dark parts. In retrospect, especially the dark parts). He fixed my flat tire, taught me how to drive stick, cooked me food, and invited me over every day after class. We’d talk for hours. We talked about a future.

Jon turned 21 before me. He went to the bars every now and then. About every Thursday. This will be important later.

We moved into different apartments when the leases ended, but I spent the majority of my time at his place. We’d talk: about our dreams, about how he wasn’t happy in the ROTC program he was in, about what it was like having divorced parents, about his fears of being cheated on, about how hard and confusing life was. About how he was scared I would cheat on him. About my rising depression. About feeling like we wouldn’t be loved by anyone else. Around the seventh-month mark, the conversations were mostly somber, dark, usually involving one or both of us crying. We talked about wanting to be honest with each other and doing everything we could to make the relationship work. That turned into criticizing each other over the tiniest things: “you don’t say thank you enough”, “you don’t listen to me”, “I love you more than you love me”.

I turned 21 and was excited to finally graduate from house parties to bar crawls. Suddenly, Jon was “over” the bars and didn’t want to go out. Since he and his friends were pretty much my only friends by this point, it meant that I didn’t go out. And it was okay, because I was spending time with him.

Right?

Related Reading: The Things He Said

I was formally diagnosed with depression. He started looking through my phone in the middle of the night, waking me up to ask who Eric (a project partner) was or why I was having coffee with Jeff (an old friend, whom he had met on several occurrences). We started fighting. I was always made out to be the bad guy. I stayed because I was determined to do everything I could to make things work, both of us insisting that I could do more, should be doing more.

Finally, I was reaching the end of my rope. No matter what, I wasn’t good enough. Things weren’t getting better. He left work in the middle of the day to come talk to me about it. We both knew what was coming. While I waited, I talked with my roommate, who was busy painting the kitchen. I told her about the things that annoyed me and why I was unhappy: he didn’t like me going out, he constantly put me down, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to be me and life my life. That’s when she said it:

“That sounds like abuse.”

Cue the sound of shattering glass. Everything clicked into place. Everything made sense. Holy shit, I had fallen into a trap and been too blind to see it.

We broke up. He made me be the one to say it, insisting that I be the bad guy.

My only regret is telling him that he was still a good person.

*Names may or may not have been changed to protect identities. 

A couple sits in a car, not touching. They seem stiff and uncomfortable with each other. Overlaid is the quote "You'll never really see how toxic someone is until you breathe fresher air."

How to Recognize Abuse and Toxicity. And What to Do About It 

Maybe it’s happening to you. Maybe it’s happening to your best friend or your sister or your brother-in-law. Look out for yourself; look out for the people you care about.

Notice the signs: unhappiness, pulling away from other people, feeling guilty about little things, second-guessing things.

It is okay to want to spend time with your friends without your significant other. It is okay to dance the two-step at a country bar with someone that’s not your partner. It is okay to have drinks with a friend of the opposite gender (or same gender or non gender or anyone that is not your partner).

Talk about it: with your partner, with your BFF, with your sibling, with your parents, with your hair dresser, with a therapist. Speak as honestly as you can. Listen to what they have to say. If you think you’re seeing signs of abuse towards someone you love, bring it up with them.

Don’t accuse or pick a fight: abusers are skilled in turning everything onto you. If you attack, they’ll attack back. Things might escalate, get ugly, get worse. Victims, likewise, often don’t view themselves as victims. They’ll have something of a Stockholm syndrome: they’ll defend their attacker, insist you don’t know what you’re talking about. I found that phrases like “I’ve noticed x and y, can you tell me your take on it?” are much more effective and help people come to their own conclusions.

Be present and active: the worst thing to do, as a victim, is to fall deeper into it. Keep your friends and family that are outside of the situation, whether you talk to them or not about it. Make a point to have some control over your own life. If your talks with your partner isn’t doing enough, get outside help. If you think someone you love is being abused or is in a toxic relationship, don’t let them pull away: invite them out for drinks or activities, text them, call them, let them know you’re there for them. You don’t have to talk about the abuse all the time (or at all), but make sure that they feel safe with you. Because if they get out of the relationship, they’re going to need someone around to help them rebuild.

 

A blond woman lays on a couch beside the window. It's grey and muted, her hair and her hand covering her face. A sense of sadness and loneliness is captured by photographer Benjamin Combs. The title "Recognizing Emotional Abuse" is overlaid.
January 30, 2018
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W(h)ine About It: The Little Things

Posted in Winer's Corner by

Hands work a corkscrew into a bottle of wine. The title "W(h)ine about it: The Little Things" is written over it.

I’m standing in line for a latte that was going to be hot but will turn out iced. I’m desperately peeling off as many layers of clothing as I legally can while trying to form a coherent sentence for the barista. It’s a warm January day (35-degrees) with the sun out, and knowing that I’ll be outside when it drops below 20 tonight, I’ve layered up like the well-prepared Colorado native that I am. Unfortunately, the building manager set the cafe temperature to a balmy 70-degrees and I’m starting to sweat. And I don’t like sweat.

I know, I know, 2018 is supposed to be about being positive and complaining less, but I need to get some things off my chest. There are so many little things–inconveniences, irritants, complaints, irrational temperatures–that get under my skin. Here’s my list:

  • People that walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk.
  • Websites that lead you in circles and never get you to the information destination you need.
  • Starbucks that don’t accept rewards on gift cards, like the one’s in Barnes and Noble.
  • Slow drivers in the left lane.
  • Groups of people that take up the whole damn sidewalk and then walk reeeaaallllyyy slooooowwwly.
  • Free trials that require a credit card.
  • Free e-courses that don’t actually give you any information, but tell you that all the information is available if you purchase their e-book.
  • Cashiers that insist on giving quality customer service by asking everyone about their family history when there’s a three-foot-long line.
  • People that say “Give me a smile” or “You should smile more” or any variation of that. I have RBF, and you telling me to smile is actually just going to make me want to punch you.
  • Drivers that don’t use turn signals.
  • When an app–especially GPS–takes forEVER to load.
  • Apartment complexes that don’t have guest parking.
  • People that post every single life development to their social media pages.
  • People that create networking groups and use it as a platform to post about every single life development.
  • When people ask you to work on a project or assignment before you’ve finished waking up. Especially if they know you don’t function until at least ten in the morning (ELENA!!!).

To be honest, the list could go on forever. But my body has finally adjusted to the cafe temperature and I was able to put my outfit back together, and I figured it’d be best to end here before the five shots of espresso catch up to me. Now it’s back to being positive and cheery and a good person. Or at least I’ll try to.

January 23, 2018
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Cherish: A Story of Silver Linings

Posted in Lifestyle by

Cherish

When I was seventeen, my first tattoo was going to be a wing on my ankle. Two weeks before I turned eighteen, I rear-ended my best friends car. Bye-bye tattoo money. Thank goodness, too, because I would have regretted that tattoo.

Instead, the first tattoo I got was the word “cherish” on my left wrist, exactly one month before my nineteenth birthday. A lot of thought went into it: which word was the most important to me? that would mean the most? that wouldn’t be too cliche? In retrospect, I should have put equal consideration into the design, but what’s done is done. So much had happened in my first year of college, and I needed something to commemorate that growth, and to remind me to continue on that path.

The Tattoo

I see my wrist every day. Just as I see my nose every day, but rarely register it. After six years, the ink on my wrist has become so common place, that it has nearly failed in its responsibility to be a daily reminder.

In my teenage years, I had a sour nature and tendency to focus on the negatives. I strung up my unfortunate events and flew the banners from the rooftops, clinging to the notion that they excused my sullen and sharp behavior. It wasn’t until I had someone very dear to me start pointing out that I was poisoning myself with that negativity. I wasn’t doing myself, or anyone around me, any good. He directed me towards finding positive things in my life. Me, being the stubborn woman that I am and still inclined to see the negatives, compromised by finding the positives in the negatives.

One way or another, the idea of a commemorative, reminding tattoo came about. I thought of the word “treasure”: to treasure what has happened, and that it’s often hard to find. But it didn’t sound right, and it seemed an odd word to appear on someone’s wrist. A few others came and went, until I finally settled on the winner.

“Cherish” means to hold dear and to protect, to care for lovingly. I direct it towards my memories, my experiences, the lessons learned, the people I’ve met, and to myself. It has served me well, when I take the time to reflect on it.

Things I Cherish

  • Having a friend in elementary school that introduced me to video games, fantasy and sci-fi books, and writing. Even though our friendship didn’t last (most likely for the best), that’s where my identity took root.
  • An argumentative divorce that took ten years to fall into silence. However damaging that it was, it did at least teach me the importance of civil speech and forgiveness.
  • Owning a horse and learning how to become self-reliant.
  • My independent, take-no-shit attitude that alienated me from potential friends, but also prevent all but a few, minor instances of bullying.
  • My abusive relationship in college, the ending of which made me realize exactly how great I am and what I deserve.
  • Fantastic friends that have stuck around through the years and across cities.
  • The chance to spend six months abroad, even though it wasn’t the right place for me.

Related Reading: Carpe Diem and Other Ambitions for 2018

A girl walks through a green field under a bright sun. In an orange overlay box, the quotes reads "Once you start replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start seeing positive results."

The Importance of Silver Linings

Bad things are never going to stop happening. What can change, though, is how you let them effect you.

I still have a long way to go. I make excuse after excuse for why my work isn’t done; I whine about my terrible boss and the crappy weather; I rage at my BFF when she decides to go visit her family for the weekend instead of binge-watching Harry Potter with me. But I am taking steps to shift my thinking towards the positive and taking things in stride. I’m turning my excuses into aspects of my life that need to be examined and redirected; the weather isn’t going to change and now I have a great excuse to wear my rain boots.

It’s also about having a growth mindset. When you can find the positives in the negatives, you find the lessons in the failure. It’s from there that you can grow (understand why it’s called a growth mindset?).

Maybe you don’t have to be as extreme as me and get a tattoo, but try to find something that will remind you to think positively. Put a message in the corner of your bathroom mirror. Put silver things in your house. Repeat a positive mantra. Keep a gratitude page in your planner. Make the change.

Related Reading: 6 Mantras to Live By in 2018

Related Reading: Creating a Bullet Journal

 

January 16, 2018
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Santa Belle: What I Gave for Christmas

Posted in Lifestyle by

Christmas ideas

Christmas is my absolutely positively favorite holiday of the year. I love the festive decorations, the cookies and sweets, the music, the gathering of friends and family, and the gifts. As someone in her young twenties, Christmas is a reliable time of year to get some help on all the things I need and want but can’t afford. Like this year I received a much needed blanket for my bed and gift cards to some of my favorite places. But better than receiving the gifts is giving them.

I try throughout the year to give meaningful and thoughtful gifts. It’s the chance for me to say “I notice you and appreciate you”. Now, meaningful and thoughtful doesn’t have to mean expensive, which was very true this year (I spent an average of maybe $10 a gift); it means addressing someone’s interests, style, or personality. And this year I hit it out of the park.

So I don’t want to brag about the gifts I got. I want to brag about the gifts I gave. Hopefully this can give you some insight and help on what to give your loved ones the next holiday season!

For the ladies in my family:

Waaaay back in September I stumbled on a secret Kate Spade sale that finally let me achieve my dream of owning one of her purses and a wallet. It also let me get some Christmas shopping done.

  • For my mom, I got her a pair of dangling earrings, a collection of brassy little circles which she loved.
  • For my step-mom of sorts, a circle bracelet with a mod black, white, and blue pattern that 100% matched her beautiful style.
  • For my sister, a simple gold and crystal necklace since her ears aren’t pierced. As a similar lover of designers, she loved adding it to her collection.

Related Reading: Dear Bellena: Help with the Holidays

For the ladies that love a good home-made gift:

I love little crafts, especially those involving yarn or string, because it gives me something to do during my frequent Netflix marathons. They also make for great, inexpensive, heart-felt gifts!

  • For my best friend in the whole wide world: a “flowery” cross-stitch to decorate her fancy-pants cubicle and let her coworkers know just how much she cares.
  • For my step-sister of sorts: a framed cross-stitch that pairs her love for cats and activism in one perfect little picture.
My step-sister and step-mom pose with their Christmas gifts on the couch. My step-sister holds a white-framed cross-stitch pattern that features four cats and the words "less catcalls, more cats". My step mom looks down at the Kate Spade bangle bracelet I got her.

Step-mom and step-sister pose with their gifts.

Related Reading: Adam’s Mystery Playhouse: Holidays R Murder 

For the southern dad that loves to cook and already has everything he needs:

My dad is the hardest to shop for. He doesn’t like a lot of fancy things, likes to keep thing simple and clutter free, already has every tool in the tool shed, and buys everything he needs for himself. I have to get super creative with his gifts, and they’re usually the ones I stress over for the entire year. But this year I stumbled on perfection.

  • A little book from Barnes and Noble’s discount shelves called Well Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit, a collection of weird and crazy sayings and stories from the south, perfect for someone who spent his summers on a farm in Missouri as a kid.
  • A Himalayan Salt Plate for cooking and bar-b-queing. My dad loves to cook and is a master at it, but already has all the pots and pans and knives he needs. This gave me something I could give to him that was new and interesting and expanded his cooking style. I’m looking forward to whatever he makes with it!

A salt plate with a serving tray and cook book sit on the coffee table after being opened as a gift on Christmas.

For the world-conscious, give-backers that rule the world:

These were other stumble-on miracles that I found that managed to combine duel interests into one perfect gift.

  • For my best friend’s sister, the green-thumb guru: a K-Cup Recycling Tool. Keurig pods can’t be recycled unless the top is separated from the bottom, which requires a nifty tool like this (which is relevant because she uses a Keurig for her morning coffee). Bonus points: the coffee grounds make great compost for her many many house plants.
  • For the friends and sister + brother-in-law that have a rescue pup(s): coffee is a great gift, but coffee that gives back is even better. Grounds and Hounds donates a portion of their profits to animal shelters and rescues, which I’m all about. This way, I was able to include the doggos in the gift without adding yet another squeaker toy to the over-flowing collection.

For everyone else, they are coffee mugs:

Simple, versatile, useful, necessary, and you can never have enough. Mugs are a great way to spread the love without emptying your wallet.

  • For the dog-lover stuck in a house with two cat ladies: a mug covered in cartoon pups. He needed a mug of his own that didn’t read “crazy cat lady” or “how do you like me meow?”
  • For the sassy, silly, YOLO AF bestie: a mug sporting the life motto of “no regerts”.
  • For the football-loving brother-in-law that married a Colorado native: some orange and blue Broncos pride on a mug. That he received while wearing a Steeler’s jersey. Welcome to the family, bro.

Related Reading: 5 DIY Christmas Gifts for the Office

What was your Christmas gift win this year? Tell me in the comments!

January 2, 2018
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The Two Step: A Bilateral Move

Posted in Lifestyle by

 

two step

How to Move Forward When Taking a Step to the Side

It started about 60 years ago in Denver: a complete stop of automobile traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians unobstructed movement in all directions. The joke became that, amongst the crowds and unpredictable paths, some people had to dance their way across the intersection. While utilized in several cities around the world, many in its origin city call it the “Denver Two-Step”. Simultaneously moving forward while moving sideways.

It’s a typically well understood and universal notion that a loss is expected when jumping from one ladder to the next, from one place to another. You have to relearn the ropes, establish a new ground floor, prove your capabilities in a new environment. Just like how you can’t expect a new romantic relationship to have as many memories and inside jokes as your last one, you can’t expect a complete career shift to get you ahead.

Right?

Maybe.

Defining Forward Movement

So often we label success by two factors: money and title. Financial status and social status. We criticize the woman who leaves her comfortable office job at an elite firm to open a sandwich shop. We laugh at the washed up celebrities working behind the bar counter. And yet we applaud the man who works sixty hours a week for an extra $300 a month and missed his daughter’s soccer game because of a recent promotion on the fast track to partner.

Forward movement means the fixing of a problem. It’s something tangible, something you can see, point to and say “that’s forward.” It’s a higher salary. It’s moving from a cubicle to a corner office. It’s having less people to report to while becoming the person more people answer to.

But that’s changing.

Related Reading: A Millennial Job Interview

A woman stands on the end of a pier by a lake in the woods.

Redefining Success

We’ve all heard various renditions of “pursue happiness” and “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. But there’s no money in art history, and selling knitted hats on Etsy won’t put food on the table. So we keep slugging on in the factory, in the ditch, behind the desk, in the job that doesn’t make us happy but pays the bill.

But things are changing. And we can change with it.

Slowly but surely, businesses are catching on to the new surge of Millennials fighting for their values of culture, social responsibility, and a work-life balance. The corner offices are disappearing. Success is being redefined.

I’ve already changed my career path since graduating college. Once a teacher, now a receptionist. And there’s another move looming in my future. In one position I had some (debatable) status, not a lot of money, and even less time. In the other I had very little to no status, almost decent money, and a moderate amount of time but terrible hours. I don’t consider either to be a success. Within the first few months at both positions, I became stressed, unmotivated, and threatened with dangerous coping methods.

So let’s call that move a draw. A purely sideways move: less status for more money, but overall no increase in satisfaction.

Because that’s what it’s about: satisfaction. Not complacency, not acceptance, not even happiness. Satisfaction.

It’s a balance. Work will always be work, no matter how much you love it. But you have to be satisfied with the balance between effort and payout, between how much time you spend at the office versus at home, between your personal wants and needs and those of the company. Some people might be willing to work long, grueling hours because the pay is good. Others may be more inclined to take a pay cut because it gives them more free time to pursue their hobbies or spend  time with friends and family. One person may crave the structure of a 9-5 job with a dress code and a boss, while another finds joy in working sporadic hours from home in their pajamas.

It’s all in the eye of the beholder, dependent on personal values. So there’s one more thing that success is: fluid.

A change in careers can be a step forward if that’s the direction you want to take it in. You might lose money, lose sleep, lose status, but you might gain happiness, autonomy, a better work community. Jumping from one ladder to another doesn’t have to lose you any ground when you define the ground worth standing on.

 

The title "Moving Up and Over: Redefining Success" if overlaid against a pair of black converse shoes on green grass.
December 21, 2017
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5 Phone Apps Everyone Should Have

Posted in Lifestyle by
A woman holds her smart phone. The title "5 Phone Apps Everyone Should Have" is overlaid.

phone apps

Your phone screen is likely filled with messenger apps, social media apps, gaming, banking apps, and so on. But do you have these five essential apps on your phone? I know I do!

1. The GIF Keyboard

You’ve got your messenger and your other messenger, but do you have anything to make those messenger conversations any fun?

Belle and Elena have a conversation using just GIFs.

Other than my actual texting app, the most used app on my phone is the GIF keyboard by Tenor (Apple, Android). Entire conversations can be had with little clips of favorite shows, movies, interviews, and on. More elaborate and accurate than emojis, I can’t go a day without using it.

Be warned: while it can be hilarious and entertaining, it can also be used as a great source of annoyance. Let the spamming commence.

In a group message spammed with GIFs, a member complains about having to skip past all the spam messages to the last message that was sent.

2. A News App

It’s important to stay in the know, and not just on who recently updated their relationship status on Facebook. Especially in this day and age. Spend the $2.99 a month or whatever small amount it is to subscribe to a newspaper or other journalist source.

 

The one on my phone is TheSkimm. I’ll admit that I’m a combination of busy and just too lazy to read the news for longer than five minutes, so I instantly fell in love with the concept of all the headlines and updates in a quick-read version. If I want more info than they provide, I can look it up. If I don’t, I can continue on with my day. Either way, I at least know more than I used to. Gone are the days of people saying “Did you hear about that earthquake in Mexico?” and me saying “What!? No!”. Now, my response is: “Yes, and as of this morning the report was that ten people have died.” Bam, knowledge.

A screenshot of theSkimm app, showing a portion of an article wherein information from both the supporting position and critical position are presented.

Not only is it quick and to the point, it’s also got enough sass and sparkle to make it interesting. I never miss the chance to read it on my morning bus ride into work. Check it out.

3. Duolingo

Learn a language for free!? Whaaaa? Seriously, this app is fantastic. Are you going to become so fluent that you could become a professional translator? Probs not. Will you be able to hold a more-than-basic conversation in that language? Probs yes.

Duolingo can teach you Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Danish, Russian, and more. It even has courses in Esperanto, Hebrew, Irish, Welsh, and Swahili. Practice as little or as much as you like. You can even sync up with your friends and family to keep you motivated.

A screenshot of the TwoFeelsWrite Learn German Duolingo club. The joining code is AMW6MT

I especially love the format. I’ve previously tried Rosetta Stone and was constantly frustrated by not being able to find literal or exact translations. The technique works for some, but it made me want to quit, and therefore not absorb anything. Duolingo has cartoon graphics, matching, audio, speaking, and translating exercises to give you a variety of learning techniques. My favorite part, however, is being able to click on the words if I need to see a definition. That way I’m not guessing over which of the two words means “bike” and which means “red”.

4. A Book App

Please, please, have a book app on your phone. Reading is good for you! And you never know when you’re going to be stuck somewhere and in need of entertainment.

I’m able to dramatically increase my number of books read each month by listening to audio books while brushing my teeth, commuting to work, cooking dinner, or even while at the gym. There are paid services like Audible and Scribd that let you download audiobooks every month to you library. Those, plus apps like Google Books and Kindle can get you ebooks as well. Short on cash? Check with your local library! More than likely, they have an app (Overdrive or Axis 360 are common) where you can check out ebooks and audiobooks for free. Make it work, people.

A screenshot of a grouping of iPhone apps. In the "Learn Folder", the apps Duolingo, Scribd, theSkimm, and Axis360 are pinned.

 

Related Reading: What Should I Read Next?

5. Waze

I really like this map app because it updates in real time. Traffic jam on the interstate? Waze will find you another route. A car is stopped on the side of the road up ahead? It’ll alert you. There’s a cop hiding behind the sign around the corner? It’ll give you the heads up.

A screenshot of Waze. A map of Denver has alert tags about the location of favorite shops, police, and construction.

Drivers and passengers using the app can upload notifications about construction, traffic, and hazards. Other drivers and passengers can then confirm that such a condition exists, or let the app know that, nope, the traffic has cleared out, carry on. Just be careful to not become less aware of your driving and the road just to update someone about the pothole you only just narrowly missed.

 

 

What apps do you recommend?

December 5, 2017
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Thanksgiving: Then and Now

Posted in Lifestyle by

Thanksgiving times

A lot of things change as we get older: sugary cereals aren’t as tasty as mushrooms and asparagus, socks as Christmas gifts are actually amazing, and holidays are flexible. Thanksgiving has always been a bit different for me because my parents are divorced, but this year was something new entirely.

Then: Thanksgiving as a KidBelle, as a kid (approximately age 7) with her younger sister in the front yard of her grandparents' house in Florida.

Every year, my sister and I switched between who we spent Thanksgiving with: one year with Dad, the next with Mom, then back to Dad again. This happened with other holidays, as well. Thanksgiving with Mom usually meant the church potluck, with me and some other kids playing Monopoly in a classroom. With Dad, it meant a big home-cooked meal, sometimes  with extended family. Regardless of whom I was with, Thanksgiving happened on the third Thursday of November, had turkey and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, and was altogether relatively normal.

Now: Thanksgiving as a Young Adult

This year, Thanksgiving happened on November 12th. A Sunday.

As we get older and start meeting new people, dating new people, gather step-siblings, have work and travel to plan around, and more and more, it becomes harder to schedule the holidays. I have my mom and dad, my step-sister has her mom and dad, family friends have their own families, you get the picture. There was no way to get everyone together on Thanksgiving for Thanksgiving, unless we wanted to have ham and green beans at ten in the morning. So my dad restructured his monthly Second Sunday dinner to be a Thanksgiving potluck.

A table filled with Thanksgiving dishes, such as stuffing, home-made bread, mashed potatoes, green beans, and turkey.

Everyone contributed a dish while my dad roasted the turkey. There was a cheesy brussle sprouts casserole, sausage stuffing, green beans, fresh baked bread, mashed potatoes, fruit salad, and a spinach salad with the most amazing cranberry vinaigrette. I made a sweet potato and walnut pasta bake that I had previously made for the weekly Family Dinner I have with Elena and Mitch, modified from this recipe.

It was a great event and the food was to die for. It took a lot of stress out of the month, but then something strange happened: what was left to do? While coworkers and friends talked about their Thanksgiving plans, I was left to shrug my shoulders.

 

I’m used to my holidays being a bit different; it’s been two years since I celebrated Christmas on Christmas day. The special days become less about the days and more about making time to spend with loved ones, however possible. While it’s awkward to be finished with a holiday before it happens and to try and explain that to people in the 30 seconds we’re in the elevator together, I feel more connected to the spirit of the holidays. As much as I’d love for things to be conventional and simple, I’ll take my rescheduled, purposeful holidays any day.

November 28, 2017
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