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All Or Nothing Day: Creating A Life You Love

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Timing is a fickle thing. It is rarely convenient, and yet it controls so many of the decisions we make in life. We talk about timing when we tell our friends why we’re going to have to put off travel plans for another year. We blame timing when we think about why things didn’t work out with our exes. The trouble is this: No matter what path we choose, no matter how stressful life may be, time continues to move forward — regardless of how we choose to spend it.

I’m thinking about timing a lot today because it happens to be All Or Nothing Day, a day that is dedicated to giving your all and celebrating your passion for life. I first learned about this day from Heather Von St. James, a truly inspirational woman who survived a harrowing cancer diagnosis and has dedicated her life to raising mesothelioma awareness and educating others on the dangers of asbestos. Heather received her diagnosis soon after giving birth to her daughter, and after a difficult battle with the disease, has survived cancer-free for ten years. (You can read more of her story here!) I was so inspired by Heather’s journey and the meaning that All Or Nothing Day holds for her, and her story helped to shape my own perspective.

all or nothing dayWhen we turn down an opportunity that challenges us, it is so tempting for us to blame timing and other external factors. Deep down, we tell ourselves we have all the time in the world to do the things we hope to accomplish someday, without realizing that we could lose everything in the blink of an eye. We take a lot of things for granted, including the fact that we can always pursue our dreams next year.

In Jen Sincero’s book, You Are A Badass, she writes:

“When it comes to the creatures you love and the things you love and the life you love, what on earth could possibly be more important than soaking them up right now while you still have the opportunity?”

This line rings especially true for me, having recently experienced a loss in my family, and as someone who also got out of an unhealthy relationship not too long ago, I know how important it is to make time for the things and people that do bring you happiness and love.

As Sincero says, “If it’s something you want to do, don’t wait until you’re less busy or richer or ‘ready’ or twenty pounds lighter. Start right now. You’ll never be this young again.”

To me, that’s what the spirit of All Or Nothing Day is all about: taking charge of your life and creating a world that you love with the people (and animals!) that you love. If any of you who are reading this are looking for a sign that it’s time to move forward — in whatever way makes sense to you — please consider this your sign. Tell someone that you love them. Apply for that internship in London. Take that improv class that you’ve always been curious about. End the relationship that is making you unhappy. Do something, because life is too short not to.

 

Be My Valentine: A Letter to My Younger Self

Strange and Unintentionally Funny Vintage Valentine's Day Cards  (1)February 14th lingers just around the corner, but for the first time in five years, I will be single on Valentine’s Day. For some, the thought of not being in a relationship at this time of the year can be downright depressing — and for a long time, this held true for me as well. After all, for melodramatic teenage Val, every year that a boy didn’t send a carnation to me in English class practically felt like a year wasted! It’s interesting to see how much our perspectives can change over the years. This post is a love letter to myself and to everyone else out there who is still searching.🙂

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Dear Younger Me,

I know that not having a boyfriend feels like the end of the world, especially at this time of the year. I also know that you won’t believe me when I tell you it’s not. You have a lot of exciting opportunities in your life already (and I wish I could tell you about all the adventures you are going to embark on in the not-so-distant future!), but you still base a large chunk of your self-worth on your relationship status. For that, I’m truly sorry.

Because of that, you aren’t particularly picky right now. In fact, you would likely allow someone to treat you poorly 80% of the time if you had their love and positive attention for 20% of the time. I know that sounds harsh, but over the next few years, you will ignore a lot of red flags and accept some pretty harmful behavior in order to avoid being alone. You will receive flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s Day, but the person who gave them to you won’t necessarily be that best friend and support system you need and deserve.

By getting into a relationship mainly for the sake of being in a relationship, you stop trusting your inner voice and start accepting things that you should know in your heart are not okay. By muddling through something that doesn’t make you happy, you end up breaking your own heart and putting a strain on other close relationships in your life.

I wish I could shield you from some of the bad decisions I know you’ll make over the next few years, but I truly believe that what you’ll learn from them will only make you stronger and more resilient. Still, that knowledge doesn’t make a toxic relationship any less toxic, and knowing what I know now doesn’t mean I can just turn back time.

I’m writing to you at 25 now, and (spoiler alert!) we’re single again. Valentine’s Day is in just four days, and the beautiful flowers in my kitchen are not from a secret admirer; they were just a gift I bought myself a few days ago. I wouldn’t mind being in a relationship again, but now that I have a clearer picture of what I want, I’m not willing to settle for less than I deserve. I’m not spending Valentine’s Day alone — I’m spending the long weekend with loved ones, and I couldn’t be more excited. I do things because I want to do them, not to earn someone else’s approval. I spend more time creating fun memories with old friends and cultivating relationships with new ones.

I am technically alone on Valentine’s Day, but I’m not lonely. I know in my heart that another relationship will come along in the future, and in my quest for true happiness, that relationship is just one part of the equation. Besides, who knows what our future self will be writing to us in a few years?🙂

For now, please be kind to yourself and remember that no situation is permanent. Enjoy your single time, learn from the rocky relationships, and appreciate the good times. Don’t let your friendships fall to the wayside. Remember that you deserve a lot better than you often allow yourself, and never allow fear to strand you in a harmful situation with no way out.

All my love,

Valerie

Adele, Please Stop Calling

ct-hello-video-from-adele-20151023Dear Adele,

Hello. How are you? I’m doing really well, but I’m a little sick of your popular single, Hello. I’m a longtime fan of yours — we’ve chased pavements together and even set fire to the rain (which I never thought was scientifically possible until I heard your song). I love your music. But the overall message of Hello is a little unhealthy, no? If no one is picking up, maybe it’s time to stop calling. Thanks!

Your Fan and Disgruntled Blogger, Valerie

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UnknownIf you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of Adele’s incredibly popular new song, Hello. Don’t get me wrong. Her voice is as beautiful as ever, and the song is certainly catchy. It’s the message I’m concerned with.

For those of you who don’t listen to the radio or aren’t familiar with Adele’s music, Hello tells the story of a person who is still heartbroken years after the relationship ended. She continues to reach out to her ex to apologize for the things she has done to hurt him (she “must have called a thousand times”), but he never picks up the phone.

What alarms me is the number of people who really seem to relate to Adele in this song. Don’t get me wrong – I completely agree that breakups suck, and I know that people deal with them in different ways – but when you want to get over someone, calling them constantly is not the way to do it.

There’s a lot of passive aggression in the lyrics of this song, regarding the fact that her ex is no longer torn up over whatever she did to wrong him in the past. In my experience, time and distance are the best ways to get over someone, and continuously reaching out to that person will only set one or both of you back in the healing process.

o-GHOST-570It comes back to a few age-old questions: Can we create closure while keeping our exes in our lives, or will this only create more heartache? Is it better to talk to them periodically, or completely shut them out?

I’ve been in both situations, as both the heartbreaker and the heartbroken, and closure hasn’t always been possible. I’ve had exes who tried to contact me multiple times after the relationship was over in order to reconcile in some way and apologize for wrongdoings, but at that point I had either moved on or was in the process of moving on, so meeting up with them for coffee wasn’t going to do me any good. While in some situations it’s okay to remain friends with an ex, I also don’t see the point in trying to rekindle old flames when things didn’t work out the first time.

On the flip side, one of my exes completely vanished after our breakup, and as difficult as that was for me in the moment, the lack of communication made the breakup that much easier to get over. It was like ripping off a Band-Aid — the pain was immediate and intense, but then it went away and I moved on. If he had started reaching out to me to say “hello from the other side” a la Adele, it would have been a lot harder to get over the whole ordeal. Instead, the disappearance was a blessing in disguise because it gave me a healthy dose of reality.

Closure comes in many forms, but sometimes a lack of closure has its own way of closing a chapter in your life. Adele’s narrator calls her ex under the pretense of closure, possibly without realizing that her call could open up a whole lot of wounds for him. The song is a one-sided conversation of which I’ve been on the receiving end one too many times, and it’s ultimately never particularly helpful for either party.

Friends, readers, and Adele: Stop calling your exes. If you’ve done something wrong, use the lessons you’ve learned to find ways to better yourself for the next relationship, and let your exes do the same thing.🙂

Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All Friends

Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All FriendsNow that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday shopping season has officially begun. Hopefully all of you have survived Black Friday! Even I managed to brave the mall and come home with a few goodies this weekend. Of course, as Hanukkah and Christmas loom near, it’s important to start shopping for our friends and loved ones as well.

I absolutely love gift-giving. With so many cool and customizable products out there, I enjoy putting thought into the presents I buy rather than slapping a bow on something really generic and calling it a day.

This week, I’d like to share my holiday gift guide for all types of friends. Most of these products are ones that I either personally own, have sampled, or have purchased for someone else in the past. The best part? You can purchase any of these online in the comfort of your own home! No need to start any fist-fights at the mall this year.🙂

  • Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All FriendsThe Animal Lover: A custom-made shirt from Pop Your Pup!
    Pop Your Pup creates graphic T-shirts featuring pop art designs of your pets. Choose a shirt style and background color, submit a photo of your/your friend’s pet, and the graphic artists at Pop Your Pup will work their magic to make a one-of-a-kind shirt that really does look like your pet. The turn-around time is awesome, and 10% of proceeds are donated to local Humane Societies. I’ve ordered two of these shirts for birthday presents already, and they were a huge hit!
  • The Friend with School Spirit: A bottle of his or her school’s Masik Collegiate Fragrance.
    Masik Collegiate Fragrances is the brainchild of Katie Masik, who wanted to create perfumes and colognes that evoked memories of certain colleges and universities. Last year, I reviewed their University of Florida perfume and their Florida State University cologne, and even though I’m not a Gator fan, I still sometimes wear the UF perfume! The scents are inspired by the buildings, traditions and local plant-life of each university. Click here for a list of all schools represented so far to see if your friend’s school is listed!
  • Unique Gift Guide for All FriendsThe Sweet Tooth: A box of Wondermade‘s handcrafted marshmallows.
    (Paleo readers: You may want to shield your eyes for this one!) I stumbled into Wondermade one afternoon on one of my walks through downtown Sanford. The café is a local one, where patrons can buy marshmallow skewers and s’mores of all flavors that they can pair with coffee or hot chocolate. Wondermade also has an online store, where consumers from near and far can buy boxes of marshmallows in Christmas and fall flavors, as well as other unique flavors. I love to support local businesses, especially ones with such delicious products!
  • The Healthy Chick: A piece of (totally inedible) Organic Fruit Jewelry.
    Okay, paleo friends, you can start reading again.🙂 Organic Fruit Jewelry is exactly what it sounds like — real fruit dried and preserved into jewelry! This is an eclectic and fun gift, and no two necklaces/earring sets are exactly alike. I’m obsessed with the lemon slice necklace and will definitely be investing in mine soon!
  • The Single Friend: A copy of The Mathematics of Love by Hannah Fry.
    I’m a nerd at heart, so reading a book that relates mathematical concepts to dating and marriage was obviously right up my alley. This is a great read for anyone — single or not — who wants to see just how applicable these theories and formulas are to our lives. I was never a math lover in school, but I really enjoyed this book! (Check out the related TED Talk if you’re curious.)
  • il_570xN.436081413_kwxfThe Sports Fan: A personalized highway distance sign to your friend’s favorite team’s stadium/arena.
    I absolutely love these stadium signs as a way to support your favorite team! You choose your team’s venue from the Travelsigns Etsy shop, and plug in the number of miles between there and your home. This a great gift for that guy in your life who still hasn’t put anything up on his wall.
  • The Harry Potter Nerd: This Golden Snitch bracelet from Ashley Bridget.
    Seriously, have you seen anything prettier? The Ashley Bridget website features other Harry Potter jewelry as well, along with other gorgeous pieces from their NFL, collegiate, sorority, fairy tale and other collections.🙂
  • The Career Guy or Girl: A customized business card case.
    You can find these anywhere, depending on your friend’s preferences, but I purchased mine from the ChicMonogram store on Etsy. This is a great gift for someone who recently graduated from college and is just starting a new job. For nearly my entire first year at my current job, I didn’t have a business card case, and instead found myself carrying the cards around at networking events like the unpolished peasant I was. With my personalized business card case (featuring my full name, not just my monogram), I have something to store my business cards and it makes for a great conversation piece!
  • The Fancy Friend: Anything from the Downton Abbey collection at World Market.
    I am in love with this collection’s 2-tiered serving stand and tea spoons, and I don’t even watch Downton Abbey! Buy a few items from this set for your tea-loving friends who like to entertain.

How are you shopping for the holidays? Share your favorite finds in the comments section below!

Link Love Wednesday: David Beckham and Old Hollywood

026-ginger-rogers-and-fred-astaire-theredlistGood evening and happy Friday to all of my lovely readers! I hope everyone is having a wonderful month of November and getting excited for Thanksgiving next week.🙂 I’m fighting a sinus infection, but I’ve still had my share of adventures lately — some community service projects, a local jazz festival, and even a couple of items crossed off of my bucket list! What have you been up to?

As always, enjoy this week’s roundup of link love, and share your own favorites in the comments below!

Things I’m Loving Lately

What links are you loving lately? Share your favorites in the comments section below!

Link Love Wednesday: Falling in Love in a Gum Commercial

extracommercialHappy Hump Day, readers! I hope everyone is having a fabulous week and gearing up for an even better weekend.🙂 This week, I kicked off a new 28-day workout program with an awesome accountability group, moved up to #1 in my Fantasy Football league, and presented as a guest speaker for a student organization at my alma mater. What have you been up to?

Enjoy this week’s batch of Link Love, and share your own favorites in the comments section below!

Things I’m Loving Lately

  • Jane The Virgin is now back on The CW… and I still have a huge crush on Rafael Solano.
  • This cover of Hall & Oates’ Maneater performed by Grace Mitchell.
  • Receiving a Snapchat from the handsome Don Benjamin.
  • Brainstorming with my mom and sister for my exciting new Twitter project!

What links are you loving this week?

Link Love Wednesday: Disney Princes and Venus Retrograde

Well hello there, Prince Charming…

Happy August, readers! I graduated from college two years ago, but I still get that same lump in my throat when August rolls around… It’s almost back-to-school time! Thankfully, I won’t be juggling work and classes this time around (although next August may be another story!), but this time of the year is still a hectic one for me. I’m happy to have a few more slightly relaxing weeks before things get crazy here!

How are you spending your last few weeks of summer? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! In the meantime, check out the latest batch of Link Love, and feel free to share your own favorites.🙂

What are your favorite links from the last week? Share yours in the comments section below!

Link Love Wednesday: Futuristic Fashion, Love & Mathematics

5ClGUNklg-wk7KVyQwU50QHappy July, readers! I hope the summer is treating everyone well and that you are finding fun ways to beat the heat. Grab a cold beverage, crank up the air conditioner, and tune into this week’s batch of link love to entertain yourself on one of those days when you just can’t bear to go outside.🙂

What are some of your favorite links from the last week? Share your Internet findings in the comments section below!

Love Lessons from the Movies

e9431ded-5a77-4fec-8942-d8f5b0a500dbRegular readers of my blog will know that I love to write about romantic comedies. From the gender stereotypes they perpetuate to the misconceptions they give us about love to the modern-day endings to classic rom coms, I don’t know if I’ll ever get tired of watching, swooning over and criticizing these films.🙂

Of course, the romantic comedies we watch can actually teach us a lot about love and relationships! Below are some of the lessons I’ve taken away from these films, which will hopefully enhance your love life and bring you the happiness you seek!

  • High school is a drag, especially when it comes to dating, but if you change everything about your appearance and personality, you will finally find true love. – Grease (1978)
  • Living under the sea is a drag, especially when your only friend is a flounder, but if you sell your soul to a sea witch in order to change your appearance, you will finally find true love. – The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • Don’t fall in love with a womanizing slacker. Instead, fall in love with his workaholic brother who tried to ship you out of the country so he could complete a business deal. – Sabrina (1954)
  • When you love someone, the best way to show that love is by yelling at the other person. – Katherine Heigl movies
  • Women are most charming when singing among nature or not talking at all. – Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  • If you really want to be with someone who is otherwise engaged, you should wait to reveal your feelings until that person’s wedding day. – Various films
  • If you begin a friends-with-benefits relationship with someone, you will ultimately fall in love and end up together. – Friends With Benefits (2011), No Strings Attached (2011), various other films
  • If you’re otherwise sweet and easy to relate to, then it’s okay to steal your best friend’s fiancé. – Something Borrowed (2011)
  • It’s not an inappropriate age gap if the older person in the relationship is undead and still looks like a teenager. – Twilight (2008)

Readers, what are some of the lessons you’ve taken away from the movies you’ve watched? Sound off in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: TV Couples Who Should Have Ended Up Together

TV Couples Who Should Have Ended Up TogetherA pop culture junkie through and through, I can’t help but have some strong opinions about the television shows I have watched over the years. From universally hated finales to unhealthy relationship pairings, even our favorite TV shows will disappoint us from time to time.

This week, we’ll talk about the ones that got away – the TV couples who should have been together when the series ended. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: TV Couples Who Should Have Ended Up Together

1. Dan and Blair (Gossip Girl)
Throughout Gossip Girl, both Dan and Blair experience their share of relationships. The Upper East Side’s Queen B begins the series in a long-term relationship with golden boy Nate Archibald, falls into an emotional on/off affair with bad boy Chuck Bass over several seasons, and even marries the Prince of Monaco. Dan, a writer and outsider from Brooklyn, falls for socialite Serena van der Woodsen (Blair’s sometimes-best friend), briefly dates Hilary Duff and begins to raise a child he soon learns is not his. Let’s face it: these characters have a lot going on.

At the start of the series, Dan and Blair come from very different worlds and have nothing but disdain for one another, but as the seasons wear on, we learn that the two actually have a lot of common interests and chemistry of their own. They form a very close friendship that eventually evolves into a brief relationship, but the writers quickly force a breakup because the two characters were never supposed to be endgame material. Blair ends up with the emotionally and physically abusive Chuck (who once traded her for a hotel), while Dan ends up with the aimless Serena. Moral of the show? Shared interests and the ability to have real conversations with another person are nothing compared to rocky relationships with emotionally unavailable people! (“Dair” was pretty great while it lasted, though, and it definitely made the show a lot more interesting.)

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2. Shawn and Angela (Boy Meets World)
Many of us grew up watching Boy Meets World and wanting the idyllic Cory/Topanga relationship, but to me, the more interesting couple was always Shawn and Angela. Shawn, Cory’s best friend, had a rough family life and difficulty staying in a relationship longer than two weeks. Angela was the first girl he really committed to, dating in high school and college, and his character grew a lot during that relationship. They part ways when she leaves for Europe to be closer to her father (which is a valid reason to leave), but the couple never really gets closure.

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TV Couples Who Should Have Ended Up Together3. Rory and Jess (Gilmore Girls)
First, let me just say that I hated Rory’s Yale boyfriend, Logan. To me, he never really came off as a fantastic boyfriend, and I was happy to see that she breaks things off at the end of the series and leaves for her dream job (a positive portrayal of a young woman who temporarily chooses career over relationship). However, if Rory was meant to be with anyone, it was always Jess, Luke’s nephew. Although a troublemaker who doesn’t always know how to be the best boyfriend, Jess grows in his relationship with Rory and (much like Dan and Blair of Gossip Girl) the two have some very real shared interests. Both experience their highs and lows over the next few seasons, but Jess ultimately grows up, achieves some of his goals and becomes a better version of himself. In some ways, he and Rory are at a much more similar point in their lives by the end of the series. I’d like to think that after Rory fulfills her dream to work with Christiane Amanpour and Jess publishes his next novel, the two settle down and live a happy, drama-free life together.

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4. Jackie and Hyde (That 70’s Show)
I know that everyone is looking back nostalgically at Jackie (Mila Kunis) and Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) because of the actors’ real life engagement/pregnancy, but I always preferred the pairing of Jackie and Hyde. Although an unlikely pair, the two characters work well together on the show and develop considerably throughout the relationship. Things go downhill when Jackie demands an engagement and Hyde marries a stripper, but with the way the show was written, it all felt like a wild misunderstanding that would eventually be resolved. However, the writers never seemed to explore the relationship again, instead bringing Jackie and Fez together in a final season that felt a lot more like fanfiction than the actual show.

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TV Couples Who Should Have Ended Up Together5. Ted and Tracy (How I Met Your Mother)
Yes, readers, I am still mourning this devastating loss! The show How I Met Your Mother, in which Future Ted tells his teenage kids about how he met their mom, opens with the story of how Ted met Robin, a woman he immediately thought was the love of his life. We quickly learn that she is not their mother. Ted and Robin date for a few seasons, but have some fundamental differences that would affect marriage and children in the future, so they eventually split. Over time, we realize that Robin truly is not The One for Ted, and he finally lets her go right before she marries his close friend, Barney. At the wedding, Ted meets the bass player, Tracy, and immediately falls for her. During their conversations, we quickly see how perfect they are for one another – their pronunciations of “Renaissance,” their dorky shared interests, the many ways they unknowingly crossed paths over the years.

The writers do a great job of convincing us that Tracy is Ted’s soul mate, the one who made nine seasons of heartbreak all worth it. Then, after the characters meet, Future Ted reveals that Tracy died and that he’s in love with (now divorced) Robin again. The entire episode felt like a slap in the face and like complete regression of his character (and possibly an April Fool’s joke), but the writers stuck to the ending they had planned years earlier, ultimately disappointing their fans. After all Ted has been through, he deserves his happy ending with Tracy!

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What are some TV couples you think should have ended up together? Do you agree/disagree with any of the above?