May 26, 2017

Advice for Future Grown-Up Girls

There are no do-overs in life. We can't go back and change the past, as much as we'd like to. Looking back at certain periods of time, particularly my teenage years, there are things I wish I had done differently. Things I wish I would have known.

Would it have mattered? I'm not sure.

I'm currently listening to Drew Barrymore's memoir "Wildflower" in audio book format. I love it when an author reads his or her audio book because it feels like an opportunity to have him or her tell his story directly to me.

In the book, she addresses (albeit briefly) the rise of social media and how crazy it is to be able to share photos with millions of people with a single click. I follow my younger girl cousins on social media and enjoy feeling like I have a bit of inside scoop on their lives, even though I don't get to see them very often. I wonder how hard it is for them to be girls coming of age in our current time. One of my favorite girl cousins to follow is Elliott, a precocious rising sixth grader whose posts never fail to make me smile. From her love of elephants to her victories on the volleyball court, to her adventures with friends doing typical middle school girl things.

This morning, my girl bestie from high school sent me a Facebook message with a clip from the film Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion. She said she missed those simpler times in life when just watching a favorite movie for the umpteenth time was all it took to enjoy yourself. I miss those things too.

Some experts say that kids today don't know how to connect with people in real life because they are digesting each and every experience through screens. Others would argue that social media has made us more connected than ever before. I hope that's true. I hope young girls understand the importance of the friendship connections they are forming at this time of their lives.

The years will come faster and faster, and soon those carefree days will seem like a dream, something you kind of remember and hold dear but also something that feels so distant and removed that it might not have happened at all.

I wish someone had shared this with the young girl version of myself. If you are a fourteen year old girl who happens to be reading this, or fifteen or sixteen or even eighteen, there's still time for you. Take this bit of advice from someone who knows:

Put down your phone and really look at your best friend's face. I mean really look. Memorize the way her eyes crinkle just a tiny bit when she smiles. Hear her laugh, with its ever ebullient cadence and write the sounds of it on your heart. See the way she sits, cross legged in the back of the school auditorium, eating a plain turkey and cheese sandwich from Subway. Never forget how important of a role you have in her life, as her confidante and cheerleader. One day you might be in her wedding. Perhaps you'll be in the room as her first baby is born. These magical moments are amazing and unforgettable, but somehow they aren't quite the same as just being a couple of girls, 15 and 16, driving around your small southern town in an old Chevy Blazer, smoking Marlboro Lights out the window. Do not smoke (Marlboro Lights or otherwise).

The next time you are hanging out with your best guy friend, take your earbuds out and really listen to him. Watch the outline of his profile as he drives you to Sonic for a Route 44 Cherry Limeade made with Diet Coke instead of Sprite. For the record Diet Coke is terrible for you, but life goes on. Memorize his mannerisms, the way he crosses his arms over his chest, in his Gap sweater, leaning ever so slightly to put more weight on one foot than the other. The next time you are standing with him in front of a vending machine, as he is buying his post-lunch bag of Sour Patch Kids, take in every sight and sound of the moment, because one day you'll want to re-live it. Or all the times you pull your car into his parents' driveway, going to pick him up for some evening of teenage adventures. Take a moment to enjoy the fact that his parents are inside, waiting to greet you warmly, his dad jokingly asking you to "feed his son something and bring him home alive."

These are the moments that you'll miss most when you're stuck watching a corporate webinar or attending a conference with a plated lunch and keynote speaker.

One day you won't live in a house with your parents, where your best friend just naturally comes over and lets herself in the back door. One day you won't get together weekly with your best friend to watch Dawson's Creek and eat cheese fries. One day you will wake up and your to-do list will include things like get a watch battery, call the IRS and straighten out how your quarterly tax payment was applied to the wrong year, buy toilet paper or a broom and take that bag of stuff in the garage to Goodwill.

Maybe you'll move away while your best friend stays in your hometown, married and raising a beautiful family. Maybe your friend will move across the country and you'll mean to visit him but thirteen or fourteen years will go by and you won't be able to believe you haven't made that trip.

Of course you'll form other friendships along the way. Dearly dearly beloved friendships. Friends who become family. Friends who know the grown-up you and are there for you when you need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Don't take these for granted either.

But it's those first friendships...the ones that form while you are still forming. They are worth more than all the likes, all the hearts, all the regrams. And I'd hate to think anybody missed out on that because they were too busy looking at a screen.

Oh, and one more thing. Have as many sleepovers as you can. Grown-ups are supposed to be able to do whatever they want but sleepovers never seem to make it on the list.

May 24, 2017

Drink UP! 3 Easy Summer Drink Recipes

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer and I don't know about you, but I think I'm ready for it. Here in the south, we know hot weather is coming. And there's nothing we can do about it except try to stay as cool as possible with delicious cold drinks.

I've got three good ones you might want to try this Memorial Day, or later this summer. Drink up, y'all!

Sugarlands Shine Coconut Bellini 

I just love the folks at Sugarlands Distilling Company! And they have a brand new flavor of moonshine just in time for summer...Pina Colada! Trust me, it's delicious.

Here's a fabulous drink recipe using the new Sugarlands Pina Colada Shine - the Coconut Bellini. You'll definitely want to be sipping this at some point during the summer.

To make the Sugarlands Coconut Bellini, you'll need the following things:

Champagne glasses
2 oz of Pina Colada Moonshine
Fresh berries of your choice

Mash the berries with Coconut Moonshine. Allow to chill if you have time. Top off with sparkling wine.

Sip sup!

Copycat Starbucks Pink Drink 

You may have seen this lovely concoction filling up your social media feed...the Starbucks Pink Drink. Originally a fan creation from the "Secret Menu" this drink is coming to Starbucks near you this summer. 

Try it out and see if you like it, but in the meantime you can make a similar version of your own at home. 

You'll need: 

4 acai berry tea bags
1 cup hot boiling water
1/2 cup white grape juice
1-2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
Fresh sliced strawberries
Agave nectar, optional

Pour boiling water over your tea bags and let them steep. Add white grape juice. 

Fill a large glass with ice cubes and add about a cup of the tea/grape mixture. Top it off with a splash of coconut milk. Add sliced strawberries and additional sweetener if you choose. 

Lemon-Limeade with a Kick 

I'm a sucker for anything Trader Joe's has to offer, and most of the time I'm happy with the products I find there. 

The most recent product I tried is their Organic Jalapeno Limeade. It's definitely got a kick to it, but for people who like a spicier option, you're going to love it. 

Mix it with some fizzy water for a more festival drink and add fresh lemons, limes and mint. Easy to make and great for your summer parties. You can also add tequila or vodka for a more spirited option. Enjoy! 

May 17, 2017

Easy Recipes for National Salad Month

Did you know May is National Salad Month? Thank goodness salads have come a long way since the iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing of my childhood. There's no shortage of creative salad ingredients and combinations to try, for every different taste and diet.

I'm sharing three of my favorite salad recipes that are easy to make and oh so delicious.

Turn Your Salad into a Sandwich

Sometimes, a big bowl of greens just doesn't appeal to me. My trick is to turn my salad into a sandwich. It still gives you plenty of healthy ingredients, but gives you the option of bread, which is easier to eat on the run.

There's no reason you can't take your favorite salad ingredients and make a yummy veggie sandwich.

One favorite of mine is green apples (or pears), with cucumbers, sprouts and pumpkin seeds. Add some arugula or kale and you've got a salad-turned-sandwich fit for a king.

Salad on a Stick - Caprese Salad Skewers

Another favorite salad of mine, especially this time of year, is a caprese with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. There's been an abundance of cherry tomatoes in my local grocery store and I love to create these fun caprese skewers for an easy salad on a stick.

If basil isn't readily available or cost prohibitive, I use baby spinach and it's just as good. I also like to include black or green olives if I have them on hand.

These are the easiest salads to make and always get plenty of oohs and aahs when served at any gathering.

Salad to Eat with Your Hands - Endive Salad Cups

Hosting a baby shower or other fancy-ish party? Serving lots of little finger foods may be what you're going for. Salad isn't so much a finger food, but it can be depending on what you serve. 

Belgian endive (pronounced on-deev) is great for this. I also use hearts of romaine in a pinch when endive isn't available. 

Each little lettuce cup can be filled with whatever you like. Try some tasty in season spring veggies like asparagus, peas and cucumbers. Maybe add a slice of avocado, sprouts, a tomato and half of a boiled egg. 

Drizzle the dressing in the lettuce before filling it so it doesn't spill out. Yum! 

These salad ideas might be a little nontraditional, but they are so delicious! I hope you enjoy. 

May 15, 2017

Drink it up - Sugarlands Pina Colada Moonshine Milkshake

Summer is just around the corner and my friends at Sugarlands Shine have just the drink recipe for your summer parties and barbecues! 

Sugarlands just debuted its new Pina Colada moonshine and you can find the recipe below for a Pina Colada Moonshine Milkshake. Delicious! The new Pina Colada moonshine mixes the refreshing taste of pineapple and coconut milk. This flavor is currently only available at Sugarlands' distillery in downtown Gatlinburg. 

1 cup of coconut sorbet
1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
¼ cup of pineapple juice
4 oz Pina Colada Moonshine

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Sugarlands Distilling Company produces award-winning spirits in East Tennessee. The downtown Gatlinburg distillery is a popular attraction where guests are invited to sample award-winning spirits and enjoy behind the-scenes tours.

The distillery offers live music, private tours and tastings, and distilling workshops. It is nestled in the Smoky Mountains, near the Sugarlands, an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park historically known as “moonshiners’ paradise.”  The distillery opened in March 2014 to perform the age-old craft of distilling fine spirits.  Sugarlands Distilling Co. is a locally owned, community–minded, “give-back” brand.

April 22, 2017

How to have the perfect wedding

The forecast in Knoxville today was dark and rainy. We woke up to cloudy skies, which aren't that unusual for a Saturday in late April. The fourth Saturday in April is significant for me because two years ago on a Saturday just like today, my southern beau and I said our wedding vows in front of a crowd of our nearest and dearest people.

Weddings are special no matter who it is, but for us, after dating as long as we did (eleven years!), it felt like something we'd been waiting to happen for so long.

Just like today, on that fourth Saturday in April two years ago, we also woke up to cloudy skies and even some serious storm warnings. I know you can't control the weather, but nobody dreams of a dreary, stormy day for her wedding. I was already feeling those wedding day jitters. It wasn't cold feet, just a bit of anxiety because there were so many unknowns. It's not like we could really anticipate every little thing and even though we'd rehearsed the night before, there were still so many moving parts to the event.

I haven't written much about our wedding here on the blog, which was kind of a surprise I guess, even to me. I figured that the wedding festivities would give me lots of good material. Perhaps I just got caught up in all of it and wasn't able to process everything that was happening at the time. Two years later, I'm more able to look back on it.

I know it sounds trite and is the worst of all cliches, but my wedding was perfect. Seriously. I mean sure there are a few small things I wish had been different. But not many.

I wish my closest college friend Christina had been able to attend, but she was unable to travel because of complications with her pregnancy. Thankfully she's now the mom of a beautiful little boy so it all worked out, but she was so missed. I wish my paternal grandparents had been there. Health issues and some other complicated things kept them from attending, but ultimately I understood the situation. And I wish my husband and I had taken one good photo with the gorgeous 1958 Rolls Royce my parents got for us to leave the church in, but alas that was not meant to be.

I'm sure there were other tiny hiccups I can't remember. But there were so many wonderful things about it, it was sort of like a dream. I don't know what I did to deserve such a truly special, incredible day.

So maybe you're planning a wedding of your own. Or helping someone you love plan theirs. I can't make any promises, but here are my best tips to make it practically perfect.

Choose a venue that has significance for you, not because it's the fanciest or the most popular. Our ceremony was held at a beautiful old church, rich with history and nestled into the countryside. Our reception took place at an amazing venue nearby and it just so happens to be operated by dear friends. They took care of every detail, down to the absolutely perfect flowers and made from scratch tomato sandwiches.

Don't make your bridesmaids/groomsmen wear ridiculous clothing. We've all been in a wedding where we were forced to wear something that was just awful. Don't be that person. Nobody really cares what those people are wearing. Let them be comfortable in a style that flatters them.

When it comes to cake, buttercream is the name of the game. I know, I know, fondant is beautiful. But don't you want your guests to enjoy the cake too? I'm something of a cake snob and I am convinced that not only is buttercream more delicious but it's actually prettier too. My cake was perfect. Beautiful and delicious. My design inspiration? This cake. I mean, go big or go home, right?

Don't waste time and money on wedding favors that people will end up throwing away. When my maternal grandparents got married in 1957, they didn't have a reception but ended up stopping on the way to their honeymoon for a dinner of Dr. Pepper and fried pies. In honor of them, we gave our guests homemade fried pies as favors. They went fast and I didn't hear anything except rave reviews.

Surround yourself with people you love, who love you. I think part of what made my wedding feel so wonderful is that it was truly a celebration of all the people who have loved me in my life. Who have supported me and cheered me on through so many stages. And my husband too. Don't feel compelled to invite a bunch of people because you feel like you should. 

Spring for the wedding video. Yes, if you get a fancy videographer, it's expensive. This isn't an option for everybody. I get that. But no matter what your budget is, find some way to document your day on video. You will love your photos forever, but there's just something about having footage of the day that I promise you will treasure. I wasn't going to do it until I saw a wedding video for a friend of mine from elementary school. In just a few short minutes, her video captured the essence of the day and was a beautiful memento, especially for those folks who weren't able to attend.

Marry the right person. As I type these words, it's storming in Knoxville. Unlike my perfect day two years, the sky today has not turned blue, sunny and cloudless. But tucked safely in our little house, while I sit here typing on the computer, my husband and our two dogs are napping nearby.

Unlike our wedding day, these past two years have been far from perfect. I don't even think we've had one perfect day out of these past 730, although the second year of marriage has been better than the first. Hopefully each year after will be better than the last. It helps me enjoy the present and look forward to the future.

But we're in it to win it. True blue, stuck like glue. Better than enything (I know it's's an inside joke). This is a decision we both made and that's that. It has nothing to do with our wedding. That was just the buttercream icing on the giant cake.

*All photos courtesy Zach & Sarah Photography - an awesome couple who helped capture our day. *

April 14, 2017

This is not the end.

Last summer, my husband planted a tree in our yard. My birthday had come around in March and when he asked me what I might like to have as a gift, I asked him for some landscaping. Specifically, a tree. We only have a few trees in our yard as it is, and some of them seem to be on their last leg. Last limb?

So after careful consideration, I chose a fig tree. A beautiful, bushy fig tree with big broad leaves.

We did the research about where was the best place to plant such a tree and watched a bunch of YouTube videos on hole digging and soil prep, planting techniques and fig tree care.

Then, on a sunny day at the beginning of last summer, my husband planted our new tree in the front yard. He bought special organic soil and fertilizer. He painstakingly weeded and applied mulch around the tree. We christened it Miss Figgins and began trying to care for our newest addition.

Summer 2016 was a scorcher in East Tennessee. We experienced a drought that stretched on and on, creating the dry conditions that ultimately helped the November wildfires spread quickly through the Smokies.

All summer long and into fall, my husband and I took turns watering Miss Figgins. We saw her droop and drop a few leaves but through it all I held out hope that she'd make it. We never stopped believing that one day, we'd have a ginormous fig tree in our yard that we planted during the first full summer we lived in our first house together.

A few weeks ago, I was walking around our yard taking inventory of different things. Our handful of buttercups along the back fence had already bloomed and withered, but our monkey grass by the basement door was coming in. As I rounded the corner of our backyard to come up the hill toward the front, I spotted the fig tree. From a distance, it looked brown and small. There were no leaves at all and upon closer inspection, I saw no buds forming either. I broke off the end of a small branch and instead of it being springy and green inside, it was brown and brittle.

I knew right away that Miss Figgins had not survived. Later that night, I broke the news to my husband. He said that he already knew, but was trying to figure out a way to tell me. We both said it was a shame, but life goes on.

Today is Good Friday. My husband had the day off so he decided to mow our yard. After he had finished, we were eating some lunch when he mentioned offhandedly that he had gone ahead and mowed down what was left of the fig tree.

This news hit me square in the feels and out of nowhere I burst into tears. I don't know if it was because of the finality of it or the fact that holidays can sometimes bring deeply buried issues bubbling to the surface. But I wept and wept for Miss Figgins.

Even now as I type this a few hours later, I could still just bawl. I know it's just a tree. It's not really the tree I'm sad about.

Easter is a special day for Christians. It's a day that symbolizes a hope we have in the possibility of new life. And as a believer, I hold firmly to that possibility. It's not just a nice idea, but something that has truly become real to me because of my belief.

But not everything gets to live. Not every relationship gets to thrive, no matter how much painstaking effort we might pour into it. All the tending in the world might not have kept our fig tree alive. There were other conditions and factors totally out of our control that played a big part in her demise. It's a helpless feeling though. And if you've ever felt this way about a person you love or a relationship you treasured, you  know that it's leagues beyond how one might feel about a tree.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to keep it away, death still comes. The death of an identity you had always clung to. The death of a relationship you thought completely defined you. The death of an idea or a belief system that you had always marched under the banner of.

Letting go is hard. Admitting defeat even more so. There's part of me that would have enjoyed trying to bring Miss Figgins back. But how long could that have gone on? And how frustrating might it have been? Sometimes we just have to admit that a loss has occurred and try to move pas it.

And in the meantime, those of us who want to can keep holding tight to the belief that death is not always the end, but just a new beginning.

April 12, 2017

The Truth will Stand

When I was in the sixth grade, I transferred to a different elementary school in my hometown because my mom had taken a job there and it made more sense for me to be there too so we could ride to and from school together. It was the 90's and the school guidance counselor still made the rounds to each class on a regular basis to impart wisdom about various topics. Is that still a thing today?

On one particular visit to our class, the guidance counselor started out by asking me to take a slip of paper to the main office down the hall. When I returned to class, there were two straight lines of equal length drawn on the blackboard.

The guidance counselor then asked everyone to weigh in on which line we thought was longer. Several of the kids in the class said the first line was longer. This seemed ludicrous to me because the lines looked exactly the same length, and I said so.

Then a few kids in my class tried to convince me the first line was indeed longer and I was just seeing things wrong.

"The first line is totally longer...can't you see it? Come on, Kate, the first line is the longer one!" 

Apparently this was supposed to be a lesson in peer pressure. While I was gone on the counselor's errand, she primed the class to say the first line was longer even though they were the same.

I guess the counselor didn't realize who she was dealing this case I stubbornly stuck to my guns, knowing both lines were of equal length, and her point wasn't really made.

Have you ever experienced something like this? Stay with me now.

Maybe you went through a particular situation. You were dealt a certain hand in life. And while it might have been less than great, you faced it, tried your best to handle it with as much grace as you could muster, and then you processed it accordingly.

Let's just say for example, you had a flat tire. Maybe you drove over a nail or perhaps the tire just got a slow leak and over time, deflated. But however it happened, you found yourself trying to leave the Dollar General store and couldn't get anywhere because the tire was flat.

Without knowing what caused this issue, let's say you still opted to try and fix it....either by yourself or by asking for a bit of help. And let's say after an hour or so, and a little bit of frustration, you managed the remove the flat and replace it with the spare. All's well that end's well, right?

But what if someone came along and told you that your tire had not been flat at all. That your tire was actually perfect and wonderful all along. That the experience you believe you had was not what really happened. That what you believe to be true is wrong.

It might leave you feeling confused. Kind of like how I felt when all those kids in my class tried to convince me the top line was longer than the other. Maybe even a little crazy. It might cause you to question what you think you know, to question your own ability to discern things.

In the case of the two lines, I remember thinking "Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me. If everyone says the first line is longer, maybe I'm just wrong." 

It's a lot like the story of the emperor's new clothes. Stark naked and walking through the streets, one man (and his wacky new tailor) caused an entire crowd of people to doubt their own ability to see what was right in front of their faces. And only a lone child in the crowd had the courage to speak up and say the truth. He's not wearing anything.

If you've made it this far in this seemingly strange and disjointed's what I hope you take away from it: Your experience belongs to you. It's yours alone. Whatever feels true to you is true. Do not, and I repeat, do not ever allow people to take that away.

It will leave you feeling confused and crazy for sure.

Just because someone else is unable or unwilling to face the truth about a situation, it doesn't mean what you believe you experienced is incorrect.

Maybe someone you love hurt you. That hurt is real. Maybe their actions started a chain reaction of things you are still trying to deal with. Nobody is allowed to invalidate your feelings because it makes them uncomfortable.

I've always believed that a person's story is the most powerful thing he or she has in this world. We should each be permitted to tell that story in a way that feels true and authentic.

But there are people who can't deal with reality. People who need to rewrite history in their minds. It's kind of like the if this, then that principle. If your hurts are real, then maybe I have to finally face my own hurts that I've pushed down for so long. Nah, it's easier just to convince you that you're fine, so I can be fine too.

In the case of the two lines, I knew deep down that I was right. The first one wasn't longer. They were both the same. I couldn't be swayed to change what I knew to be true.

If what you're feeling about a certain situation is contradicted by someone who just can't deal with the reality of it, don't let it get you down. Your truth will stand, even if some people won't stand with you.

April 9, 2017

Harry Potter & Saag Paneer

Have you ever set your mind to something? Like really felt strongly about a particular thing, to the point that it caused you to change your behavior one way or another?

Today, my husband and I were eating lunch at an Indian restaurant. I went to the buffet, filled my plate with all sorts of delicious options and was enjoying a big bite of chana masala when it occurred to me that not too many years ago this lunch experience would not have been possible.

I was probably in my late twenties the first time I tried Indian cuisine. There's an Indian restaurant in Knoxville called Sitar and my husband loves it. He has been a fan for many years. Since I first met him really. Early on in our relationship, he started trying to get me to dine there with him. We'd be driving down Kingston Pike away from the University of Tennessee campus (where I lived and worked).

All along the way we'd pass different restaurants looking for a place to have dinner. And inevitably, we'd approach this particular spot and he'd excitedly say, "Oooh, how about Sitar!?!?!"

And every time, this was my response: "I'm sorry honey...I just don't do Indian."

Perhaps you're wondering if I had a bad experience with Indian food in the past that caused me to avoid it. That's just not the case. In fact, I had never had any experience with Indian food. Growing up in a small southern town, I had been exposed to American style Chinese food and a little bit of Thai cuisine. But no Indian. Somewhere along the way I developed a notion that curry was gross. Mind you, this wasn't based on any sort of experience I'd ever had with it...just an idea that sprung up in me.

One of my biggest regrets in life is not trying Indian food during my first trip to London. I had just graduated from high school and my traveling companions and I were staying in an area with lots of Indian restaurants around. One night my dear friend and I walked past many probably incredible bistros and cafes because I was dying to have...wait for it...Subway. Gawd, I'm embarrassed just typing it. But I was young and homesick and wanted something that tasted familiar. Ugh. I'll never make that mistake again.

So after years and years of refusing to try Indian food, I finally gave in. I accompanied my husband to Sitar and was surprised to find many things I liked. Nearly everything. After that I was hooked. It's one of our favorite things and we've even learned to make several Indian style dishes at home.

But what does this have to do with the boy wizard? When I was in college, I had a friend named Stephanie. I still do, but life has happened and we never get to see each other, which makes me sad. Miss you Stephanie! Anyway, Stephanie loved Harry Potter. LOVED. IT. And I thought it was so silly. I couldn't figure out what the draw was. I couldn't figure out why a 20-something college girl would be into these fantasy books for children. Four of the books had already been published and the films began coming out during that time as well. I teased Stephanie all the time about her HP obsession.

A few years later, after I had graduated and started working at UT, I met my friend Reid. We were both art history majors who loved to read. One of our professors told us she and her young son were reading the Harry Potter book series together. Reid asked me if I'd read the books and I told him I'd never been able to figure out what was so great about them.

"You just have to read them," he said. "I can't believe you haven't read them." I think he even went home on his lunch break and brought back his copy of the Sorcerer's Stone for me to borrow.

"Start reading this tonight," he said.

I didn't have anything else to do and I was curious why he felt so strongly, so I gave it a chance.

I read the first book in one sitting. I read for hours, late into the night, until I got to the last page. I was hooked. I couldn't believe what I had been missing all that time. Stephanie was right. Reid was right. Millions of other people too. I had set my mind against something for no reason other than my own preconceived notion and it cost me. Thankfully I was able to remedy that. When The Deathly Hallows came out in 2007, I stood in line at the bookstore in the middle of the night to get my copy. I went straight home and read it from cover to cover. And I still love watching the films over and over again.

There was no reason for my aversion to either Harry Potter or Indian food. Both started as a small idea. And because I kept feeding both, they grew into a belief system. That those things weren't for me.

How many other wonderful things do we miss out on experiencing because we have set our mind against them? How many people could completely and totally enrich our lives if we'd let them in? Instead we've decided there are certain things, certain people, certain ways of being that aren't for us.

But what do we really know about them anyway? In my case, nothing. I had based my beliefs on a bunch of silly ideas that ended up being hogwash. I don't just tolerate Indian food or Harry Potter...I love them! They are two of my most favorite things in the world. And I can't imagine a life without either one. As silly as it might sound, both have enriched my life. I think it's important to keep this in mind...and continue to challenge ourselves. Continue to try things we thought we were against. We might just be surprised with the outcome.

April 5, 2017

Simple and Easy Spring Fashion Accessories to DIY

Spring is here and if you're anything like me, a brand new wardrobe is not in the budget. No worries...there are still plenty of things you can do to liven up your closet for the season. I've got some simple, affordable ways to create fun spring accessories using stuff you may already have.

The secret is finding new ways to use your stuff. Or perhaps re-purposing it to give it new life. Sometimes it just takes looking at things a little differently to get a whole new perspective.

Tie One On: Using Scarves in New Ways

I saw this idea in an old issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine, but based on all the scarves I'm seeing this season, I think it's pretty much on-trend. 

One option is to take a large square scarf and turn it into a handbag. You can make a simple version with just a scarf, or you can incorporate two bangles or hoops for handles. 

This great diagram is from out more ideas for scarves here.

And here's a link to the Martha Stewart scarf handbag with bangles...

You can also give life to an old purse by adding a bright silk scarf to the handle, either by wrapping it or just tying it on in a neat bow. I was recently traveling to Washington, D.C. and saw this look in the window of the Kate Spade store in Georgetown...reminding me of yet another way a scarf can really add something special to your outfit.

Get Pinned: Jazzing Up a Plain Jacket

Everything comes full circle, especially fashion. I didn't always understand this fully, or believe it. As a kid and early teenager, my mom would tell me that certain styles looked like things she had as a teen, but I was always skeptical. Now as an adult myself, it's clear how right she was. I guess this is a rite of passage into adulthood...finally understanding there's nothing new under the sun.

As a kid, I had an awesome denim jacket that was covered with pins and brooches. Then for many years, pins seemed old-fashioned or out of fashion. They have certainly gotten a revival though.

Check out this Marc Jacobs version for the low, low price of $895. No but really, cha-ching!

To re-create this look at home, all you need is a denim jacket (or blazer...depending on your style) and an assortment of pins and brooches. You may have some stashed away somewhere, or you can always find pretty a good selection at thrift stores and second hand shops. 

Pin placement is key...try to group your pins together in unique ways and scatter them around the lapel or chest area on your jacket. 

Give an Old Bracelet New Life

I don't know about you, but I pretty much get stuck in a rut when it comes to jewelry. I wear the same few bracelets and necklaces all the time.

But who's to say you can't change things up a bit? Got an old bracelet you love? With a bit of ribbon, turn it into a necklace!

All you need to do is tie a length of ribbon to each end and then knot it in the back of your neck. Too cute, right? This would work for an old charm bracelet, a chain link bracelet or even some beaded styles.

Each of these ideas is so easy to do, and none cost hardly any money. Great for your closet and your wallet! Happy spring accessorizing ya'll! 

April 4, 2017

We can have both.

Remember when you were a kid and your parents took you to get ice cream? And you'd go into Baskin Robbins, the cold, sweet delicious air hitting you smack in the face. Under the fluorescent lights, in long freezer cases, laid out in neat rows, there would be an entire selection of beautiful delicious options. 

Every color and flavor under the rainbow. 

And you'd stand in line and wait your turn. 

And when it was time to order, your mom or dad would look at you and say, "Okay, now just pick one."

Impossible, right? How can you ever just pick one?!!?!

So, full disclosure here, but I can't remember going to get ice cream with my parents while I was growing up. I can recall a time or two we got ice cream together while we were on vacation, but for some reason this was not part of our family traditions. Or if it was, I have completely blocked it out. Mainly I wanted to present you, dear reader, with an experience that might be more relatable to you.

My own example of a childhood experience in which I was faced with a difficult choice took place at the dentist. I never minded going to the dentist as a kid. The dental office, which had been decorated by my dentist's wife, was a very magical place. In the waiting area was a rattan egg-shaped chair that hung from the ceiling by a big chain. Perfect for swinging while waiting for your appointment.

Then, while sitting in the dentist's chair, you could look up at a ceiling which had been decorated with all sorts of taxidermy woodland creatures and re-created nature scenes. There was even a big suspended branch with a giant dried wasp net affixed to it. Looking back, this doesn't seem like the most effective way to imbue peace and serenity in a place that invokes anxiety for so many.

My quandary always came at the end of my appointment, when the dentist's assistant pulled out the big basket of colorful erasers shaped like various farm animals.

"You did great during your appointment," she'd say. "Now pick you out an eraser." 

It wasn't stated, but more implied that I was to pick just one. But how? As a child who loved and lived for all things whimsical, how could I ever choose between a pink cow and an orange sheep? Or that elusive green goat? Each cuter and more magical than the previous. I wanted ALL of them.

But taking more than one eraser seemed greedy. And it wasn't fair to the other kids who only got one.

There's something about this practice of just choosing one thing that gets ingrained in us. I guess it's good because it allows a way for us to learn how to put limitations on ourselves.

We can't expect to have all the things we want, all the time. 

And somehow this practice of choosing just one sticks with us and we adopt the belief in our adulthood that we're only allowed to have one of a given thing.

But I wonder if it doesn't also pose a problem. In certain circumstances, actually most circumstances, there is never just one thing. And forcing ourselves to choose means denying another equally strong desire we have that is completely justified.

In this case I'm not talking about actual things...but more about feelings. Feelings that might seem at odds with one another, but in fact couple together quite well...for me anyway. 

Sadness and love. Anger and gratitude. Fondness and frustration. Rage and adoration. These are just a few pairs of equally strong feelings I have had recently. 

And my struggle comes from a belief that in each pair, one must cancel out the other. So, just like with those silly erasers, I'm left with a tough choice.

How can I feel so much love for someone and yet it also brings me complete and total sadness? How can I feel furious about the way a certain situation played out, but also grateful for many aspects of it? How does someone I adore also cause me to have such feelings of rage? 

My typical way of dealing with this has always been to try and examine my feelings to see which is stronger. Which one presents more evidence. Which one makes a better case. Because for some reason, I believed I could only feel one. 

Wrestling announcer voice: 
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. We've got a doozy of a match for you tonight. First up, fighting in the blue corner, is Sadness, taking on Love in the red corner. These two will duke it out to the death in a heated contest, which is scheduled for one fall." 
It's like saying one feeling must completely and totally win out, canceling out the other. But we all know this is not really how things go. Life is not so black and white. Most of the situations and relationships we find ourselves in are painted in many complicated shades of gray. 

For example: I'm angry about the way things were/I'm grateful for the way things were. 

I tell myself I shouldn't feel angry because all the stuff I'm grateful for should be enough to cancel out the anger. But it doesn't work this way. 

Being angry about certain things doesn't mean I'm not grateful for other things. And it's impossible to choose one, so I drive myself crazy making a case for each. 

Recently, I was talking about this with someone very wise. And I explained this common conundrum in which I find myself. And he said something utterly simple, but totally profound: "Why can't you have both?" 

"Oh, no," I said. "I shouldn't feel this much anger. I should be able to focus on all the things I'm grateful for instead." 

But this little tiny moment of clarity opened up a whole world of possibility for me. I can have both. There's no rule that says I can only have one. And maybe more is better. Isn't that a more authentic experience? 

Feelings are complicated and they tend not to come in loosies, but instead in packs. You never know which ones will lump together and come over you in a situation. It's perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed with fondness for someone and fully frustrated with them at the same time. And it's totally natural to feel love for someone who also makes you sad. 

What isn't natural is trying to deny yourself your right to live out your authentic feelings and emotions. 

Our lives are going to include people who bring out these complex feelings. And it will require us to set boundaries with them differently because of this (although please don't ask me how to do that just yet because I'm still learning myself). 

Ultimately, we have to give ourselves permission to have both. 

April 2, 2017

Cadillac Teeth in a Volkswagon Mouth

Would you believe that one of my most favorite places to visit these days is the pawn shop? It's gotten to be a big joke with my husband. He's always been a pawn shop frequenter, but for many years I'd roll my eyes and huff, opting to sit in the car instead. 

I've always loved a thrift store, lived for a consignment shop, and braked for antiques at every turn. But pawn shops? They had never been my thing. 

My husband goes because he likes to look at the various tools and other odds and ends. He hardly ever buys anything, but he still likes to look. 

It was a few years ago on a random Saturday when he said he'd like to stop by the local pawn shop and I gave my standard eye roll, saying "Okay, but I'll just sit in the car." 

"You know they have jewelry in there, right?" he said. 

To quote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, that was his "Big mistake. HUGE." 

Now I'm the one who begs to go to the pawn shop while he rolls his eyes at me. 

The problem is that I have expensive taste. Champagne taste you might say. On an RC Cola budget. 

This was illustrated in our recent visit to the pawn shop to browse for a possible Valentine's Day gift for me. I scanned the clearance jewelry case, my eye passing over diamond rings, tennis bracelets and gemstone pendants. 

My gaze landed on a pair of sparkly diamond stud earrings. Small, simple, and understated. 

I asked the clerk to see them before I noticed the more than $4,000 price tag. 

My husband wandered over to see if I had found anything I liked. It's gotten to be a joke that on any given visit to the pawn shop, I only end up liking the most expensive thing, so I tried to give the earrings back to the lady as quickly as possible. 

He still managed to see the price and guffawed. The helpful clerk said sweetly, "The price says four, but we'll take two." Two thousand. Dollars. 

Probably an incredible steal of a deal if you were in the market for such a thing. But not us, at least not that day. 

"Nah, it's okay," I said, trying to be nonchalant. "But thanks." 

Have you ever wanted something that felt just out of your reach? Something you thought would really change your current situation for the better. 

If I can only get this [] my life will seem better. I'll be happier. I'll feel more successful. It will really change things. People will finally notice me. 

I have felt this way...have you? For me, it's not so much about fancy cars or houses or even jewelry. But there are still things that seem just out of reach. And somehow I convince myself that having or achieving them would make me so much happier. 

And sometimes we long for things and when we get them, they do make us happy. I've always wanted an Hermes scarf. So when my husband and I were on our honeymoon, and I stumbled across a great vintage one for a steal in a consignment shop in Charleston, I decided to treat myself. 

It's beautiful and makes me feel beautiful when I wear it. It's something I'll always keep and it reminds me of our honeymoon, a wonderful trip to celebrate the beginning of our marriage. 

But so often, it seems like as soon as we get the thing we want, our feeling of satisfaction is fleeting and we end up turning our focus to yet another thing we are striving for. It can be more than a little bit exhausting.

Everything in life is a trade off. Sometimes in our quest to obtain one thing, we have to give up something else along the way. 

When I was a teenager I got braces on my teeth. Before the braces could be put on, I had to get several teeth pulled to make room. I'll never forget my orthodontist saying to me that my problem was "Cadillac teeth in a Volkswagon mouth." 

Even though these were the teeth I was born with, they just didn't fit. Sometimes we are born with things, or perhaps we pick them up at an early age and they just don't fit us anymore. Mindsets, perspectives, and ways of being. The good news is each day we wake up alive is a new opportunity to ditch the stuff that doesn't serve us. The stuff that holds us back. 

For me, one of those things is not enjoying the present. Not really embracing it as the gift it is, as cliche as that sounds. And being constantly worried about things that haven't happened yet. 

I regret spending way too much time in the past living for the next thing. Not enjoying or even seeing all the potential right in front of me because I'm waiting for the next thing to come along and magically make me so much happier than I currently am. This is something I'm trying to be more aware of, but it isn't always easy. 

To me the solution seems to be gratitude...that is, focusing on everything I have to be thankful for in this very moment. It's so overwhelming that it keeps me from getting too far ahead of myself. 

March 28, 2017

Do not read this blog.

Attention everyone. Or anyone who might be reading this. Which might be no one. This is a public service announcement. There are certain people who probably shouldn't read this blog. Thus, here is your warning. Read at your own risk.

Do not read this blog if your parents loved you perfectly, if you have your faith completely figured out, or if you can tuck the front part of your shirt into your jeans exactly like a J.Crew model and still look skinny.

Do not read this blog if you wake up without an alarm clock, if everything in your house matches, or if your vehicle still has "new car smell." ...kidding, I'm just bitter and mildly jealous of anyone with a car that doesn't smell like a fourteen year old chihuahua.

If you judge people who go to counseling or have a therapist, definitely don't read this blog. Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is reach out for help. This is not a weakness.

Do not read this blog if you have vividly white teeth in perfect rows, or if your eyebrows are arched just so without any tweezing, or if you never have to shave your toes.

If you think gay people or black people or fat people or any people for that matter are less than not read this blog. Actually, on second thought you might learn something. About kindness and love. So you can read this blog.

If you never had a fat phase, or an awkward phase, or an ugly phase or a bad hair phase, please don't read this blog.

If you're wandering or wondering, read this blog. Got family dysfunction? I got it too. You may read this blog.

If you floss every day, you can maybe read this blog. And teach me how.

If you've ever felt a million miles away from someone you loved most in the world, while sitting in the same room with them, you can read this blog. Got a broken heart or a broken relationship or a broken spirit? Please read this blog. Start with this. And maybe this.

If you don't cry at that coffee commercial where Peter comes home for Christmas, please avoid reading this blog.

If you've ever had the rug pulled out from under you, been backed into a corner, had your life turned upside down, or received the short end of the stick, please read this blog. And be my friend.

If you sometimes say the wrong thing, end up feeling silly or wish you could rewind the past ten minutes for a do-over, definitely read this blog. You're among your people.

If you feel like a has-been or a never-was or you're afraid you'll never reach your full potential, or you think you might have peaked in high school, read this blog. There's hope for you and me.

Life is what happens while you're too busy waiting for life to happen. When we finally accept this, it will be a great epiphany....I just always manage to forget. If you're reading these words, there's hope for you. Even if it feels like your last crumb of hope was eaten by a cartoon mouse in an ironic sort of way. There is hope. I promise.

And for the record, anyone who wants to can read this blog. That's all.

March 22, 2017

Creative Ways to Set a Spring Table

When I was a kid, I used to love setting the table before dinner. Instead of eating in our home's formal dining room, we normally ate around a plain wooden table in the middle of our kitchen. It wasn't fancy china or exquisite linens that I used to adorn our eating surface, but instead my mom's old woven placemats and pottery dishes, beige rimmed in baby blue.

Our meals weren't gourmet, but the act of gathering together was meaningful anyway. Memorable.

“If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.” 
― Shauna NiequistBread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

I hardly ever get to set the table anymore. My husband and I sometimes eat in the den, on trays in our laps. When we do use our dining table, it's still just the two of us and we rarely put down placemats or light candles. But that's okay with me. Meals don't have to be fancy to matter. When you are gathered with those you love, this is what matters most.

Although, sometimes it's still fun to set a lovely table and spring is a great time for this. Whether you are hosting a large gathering of dear friends or just dining with one or two special someones, there's no reason you can't get creative and set a lovely spring table.

Here are some of my best tips for setting a spring table. I hope it inspires you to get creative and think outside the box at the next meal you host for friends and loved ones.

Creative ideas for setting a pretty spring table

1) Choose a color scheme and stick with it - 

Not everyone loves the typical springtime colors of bright yellow, pink and aquamarine. Perhaps you are drawn to more muted hues. For my latest lovely spring table, I opted to use shades of the Pantone 2017 color of the year "greenery." Green is my favorite color and there are so many shades of it to enjoy, from chartreuse to brighter acid-green shades to pale tones of moss, fern and olive. 

2) Shop your home before hitting the home decor store - 

Unless you're a complete minimalist, I bet you have lots of items around your home that can be re-purposed to create a lovely table setting. Just from where I'm sitting in my home, I see baskets and vases, pitches and glass containers, plus plenty of green plants. All of these things can be used to set a lovely table! 

You don't have to hit the home decor store or spend a penny to set a lovely table. Shop your home, including things you may have tucked away. 

3) Mix and match - 

Few of us have the luxury of owning entire sets of matching china, stemware and silver. If you're like me, you've collected odds and ends over the years. Clear off a space on a table or counter and gather up various plates, chargers, table linens, etc. Pretend you are a magazine editor and look for things that complement each other as you're building your table setting. 

And as Tim Gunn likes to say, "make it work!" So what if you only have three brown transferware plates. Mix them into the lineup with all white dishes for a little unexpected surprise. Got several different patterns of floral china? Unify them with gold or silver chargers. 

Something else I like to mix and match is cloth napkins. I have amassed a great collection of odd silk and linen napkins in different shades of green. These are perfect for a spring table, but can also work during the winter holidays too. 

4) Incorporate natural elements - 

I like to do everything on a budget, so I rarely spend a lot of money on floral arrangements. But a sprig of greenery can go a long way. I've been known to take my scissors and walk around the yard, snipping a few pretty pieces to use in my tablescapes. Even a so-called weed can sometimes look really pretty when presented in the right way. 

5) Leave room for the food - 

We've all seen the picture perfect tablescapes in magazines and on blogs. But I often wonder how realistic these are for actual meals. When setting your table, leave some space for the food. Make sure everything has a bit of breathing room. If people are too nervous to move for fear of elbowing a compote, this can cause undue stress. 

And finally, have fun with it! So what if things aren't perfect. Setting a table before sharing a meal you've prepared is a special expression of love for your family. Be grateful for the moment and don't take things too seriously if your end results aren't magazine worthy. This is real life after all. 

March 17, 2017

What I've Learned - 2017 Edition

I was almost a St. Patrick's Day baby. Born just a day late on March 18, I've always wished for a March 17th birthday. The same way I've wished to find any sort of Irish ancestry in my lineage. I guess my pale skin and reddish hair have always made me long for some connection to the Emerald Isle.

In honor of the 35th anniversary of my birth, I thought I should share a few things that I've learned. I originally thought of calling it "35 in 35: What I've Learned in 35 Years on Earth." But then I tried to think of 35 actual good things worth sharing and it got super hard after about number seven, so I scrapped that idea.

Trust me, I still have plenty more to soak up and hopefully more years in which to do it. This isn't even for you so much as it is for me, to document and remind myself to be thankful when I look back on it later on.

Here goes nothing....In no particular order.

1) Always get there early. Not awkwardly early which I am wont to do, but just early enough that you have time to spare in case any unforeseen hiccups should present themselves. It shows people you value their time. And you never know who you might get to meet.

2) Along the same lines as number one...value people's time. It's your most priceless resource and wasting people's time is like smacking them in the face with a fish. Rude.

3) Don't get too caught up in long-term plans. It's not bad to plan and have goals, but sometimes this can cause you to miss out on the little moments that make up your life. Instead of trying to work toward something so far in the future that may or may not happen, focus on how you can make people feel in each tiny interaction you have with them. If you do this, it will add up to a pretty great experience. And people will like you. I'm not saying I always do a great job at this, but I have been lucky to encounter people who do and I'm trying to be more like them.

4) Drink more water. Always.

5) Memorize this phrase: "It's not about me." This applies at least 75% of the time, probably more. When someone is rude. When someone cuts you off in traffic. When your spouse is in a bad mood. Usually they are just doing the best they can and you happened to get caught in the cross fire.

6) Give yourself permission not to engage with people who bring you down. You can only do so much and your own joy and peace is too valuable. Don't throw your pearls before swine.

7) Wear the best quality shoes you can afford. Even if they are second-hand. Your feet will thank you.

8) The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to take care of. This takes a lot of energy. I am far from minimalist, but I am learning that a cluttered house stresses me out and having a bit less is more peaceful.

9) Don't go to McAllister's (or any other busy lunch spot) and have a 48 minute call on speaker phone where you plan your Spring Break vacation menu. This is rude to other patrons who might not want to hear about it. And what do you mean nobody likes Oreos? Who are you?

10) Realize that the little spot cleared out for you in the world is small but important. Wiggle into it and figure out how you can make the most of what you're given, but don't take over or spread out too much to where you crowd somebody else.

11) Live in a way that would make your great-grandparents proud. This includes picking up cigarette butts that people have thrown out along the edge of your driveway.

12) Don't get in such a hurry. Refer to #1. You'll save yourself a lot of stress just by arriving early.

13) Honor the miracle of your body and all its many functions. You'll miss these when they don't work so well anymore.

14) Pay compliments and really mean them.

15) Don't huff and roll your eyes when you end up behind a slow walking person at the grocery store.

16) Live in such a way that it let's other people know it's okay to be [broken, sad, angry, lonely, whatever]. Don't be ashamed if you are in therapy, taking medication, seeking help.

17) Never pay retail prices for jewelry. Visit your local pawn shop. You'll be amazed at what you can get for a fraction of the cost.

18) Plan and take vacations. Your best friend might move to California and you'll mean to visit him for 14 years but if you never actually plan and do it, you will majorly miss out.

19) Practice standing in front of the mirror and trying to really love what you see. Don't just tolerate yourself. Celebrate the fact that you are a miracle.

20) Don't let someone who can't or won't acknowledge your pain cause you to doubt your own experience. If something bad happened to you, you can feel however you want about it. Be true to your deepest hurts. It's the only way they will ever have a chance at healing. Don't expect a drowning person to save you. Some people are drowning so deep in their own stuff, whether anger, guilt, sorrow, ignorance, etc. that they can't save themselves, let alone throw you a lifeline.

21) Recognize the beauty and glory of friendship. Just the word sounds trite because we've boiled it down and slapped it on every piece of craft fair home decor we could find. But the next time you feel like someone really sees you, really understands what you're going through, truly gets you...that incredible connection is something to be held in high regard.

22) Dogs. Or cats. Pets in general. Get some. So you say you're not an animal person. Maybe that's true. Maybe you have other ways of coping with what life throws at you. For me, it's dogs. My husband and I agree that our first year of marriage would have been much less stressful if we'd had a dog. It just brings me so much joy. After my Leon passed away, I didn't think I could ever love another dog again. But thankfully my heart felt ready the following year and now our bench is two dogs deep, with hopefully more on the way.

Always keep learning. Always keep loving. Especially yourself.

March 13, 2017

The Best Revenge

Whoever said "living well" is the best revenge obviously never ran into her ex-boyfriend on a humid, July day at Wal-Mart, hair frizzed to the max, wearing a stained Goodwill t-shirt and two different socks. That would have been me. Mind you, it was a long time ago because I have had the same boyfriend since 2004 and he's now my husband.

I was never one of those people who dated recreationally. I had crushes in high school, and I was once asked to accompany a sweet, but awkward boy to the homecoming dance, but it wasn't particularly memorable. My prom date was my best friend (thank goodness) and after graduation, I went off to college with the hope of finding true love. It just took me a few years to do so.

But for one fateful season between my freshman and sophomore years of college, while back in my hometown working a summer job, I sort of dated a guy. Mainly we just spent a couple of months talking and hanging out on his front porch swing on muggy Tennessee nights, eating atomic fireballs. Our first official date was to the sno-cone shop, aptly named "Sno-Daze" and over the course of the summer, we saw exactly one movie together at the theater, The Fast and the Furious. 

Ours was not true love, or really any love at all. Just attraction and infatuation. I should have known there was a shelf-life to that type of thing, but having had absolutely no experience in that arena, I was shocked when he stopped taking my calls about a month into the fall semester.

So, let's just say that when I bumped into him at Wal-Mart the following summer, clad in grungy clothes, with my mom in tow, I feel certain it didn't induce some type of woeful regret on his part. I tried to put on a devil-may-care attitude, but the whole thing just gave me a stomach ache.

You see, I come from a long line of people who cannot. let. things. go. Figuratively and literally. This applies to our feelings about situations as well as items we have come to own. I am incredibly jealous of anyone and everyone who can simply move on. That just isn't me. I will hash and re-hash the same scenarios for years, often never getting any closer to understanding the how and why.

Sometimes I jokingly refer to myself as Nancy Drew, but in truth, I'm more an Encyclopedia Brown...getting all the facts down in my trusty notepad and solving the case during dinner, sometimes before dessert.

But so many times in life, we just don't get the facts we need to solve anything. This is a common underlying theme for me. I'm reminded of a quote from my all-time favorite TV show, Sex & the City when Miranda says, "Carrie, we can analyze this for years and never know the answer. I mean, they still don't know who killed Kennedy."

I'll never know why my summer fling dumped me at the end of August without any explanation. It's just one of the many, many things I will never know. And it's not something I really ever think about...I just figured you'd get a kick out of my embarrassing nostalgia.

Are you ever afraid there are other questions that will never be answered for you? Important questions. Questions that you feel you deserve answers to.

Like why somebody who was supposed to love you for much longer than a summer vanishes from your life without any reason. Or why somebody did or said something that hurt you, but can't or won't explain their motives. Or why people can't or won't simply acknowledge things that might give you some peace. Even if it's not the explanation you dreamed of.

Living well is not the best revenge because no revenge is good. You think it's going to make you feel better, but it never does. Being happy with your own life helps. Not because you're shaking your proverbial fist in an "I'll show you" sort of way, but just being genuinely happy with things. There's a peace that comes from having a life you want to focus on, with people you care for, and things you feel passionate about. Before too long, there's no room (or time or energy) to hold those grudges that once took up so much of your space.

That doesn't mean you won't always wonder about the questions left unanswered. But hopefully they won't keep you up at night.