A Day in Raccoon Creek State Park

This year on Mack’s birthday we took a drive out to Raccoon Creek State Park. Man does this city have a looooot of parks!

We spent the day walking trails, ogling wildflowers and dragonflies, kayaking on the lake, and getting some much needed vitamin D. We even found a tranquil mineral spring.

The park is directly under a flight path, being so flipping close to the airport, but any park with a lake will do.

Here are a few pictures from the day :)

Breakfast at Pamela's. Pittsburgh, PA

Breakfast at Pamela’s first :)

Raccoon Creek State Park Wildflower Reserve

Ferns in Raccoon Creek State Park

I have this thing with ferns

Raccoon Creek State Park

Raccoon Creek State Park

Flowers in Raccoon Creek State Park

Flowers in Raccoon Creek State Park

Flower in Raccoon Creek State Park

Fern in Raccoon Creek State Park

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A CUTER FERN?

Raccoon Creek State Park Mineral Spring

Flower in Raccoon Creek State Park

Raccoon Creek State Park

Dat fern though

Mt. Washington Pittsburgh, PA

And we ended our day with a visit to Mt. Washington

Raccoon Creek State Park

Yes I am an Optimist and No, I am Not Delusional

I come across a lot of things online that portray optimism like it’s absolute delusion. You know the stereotype: that constantly smiling, cheerful person who’s always in a good mood no matter how many parking tickets they get or the frequency with which the dog pees in their house. People who function like that are referred to as Pollyannas, and I absolutely can’t stand that optimists and Pollyannas get lumped into the same category.

I’m a pessimist turned optimist and I’m not here to live in a purely positive bubble, devoid of all things unpleasant and negative. You can’t have light without the dark. Balance in life is necessary and a life with absolutely no negativity would frankly feel weird. I like to remind myself that even the Dalai Lama has admitted to getting mad on occasion, because he’s *gasp* human.

Optimism is defined as “hopefulness and confidence about the future or successful outcome of something.” In his book Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman outlines how optimists are fundamentally different from pessimists:

Pessimists see situations as permanent, personal, and pervasive, while optimists see situations as temporary, situational, and specific.

Optimism is not a dreamlike delusion- it’s a way of framing what happens to you that keeps it from being unbearable, inescapable, and crushing. I’ve been a full fledged pessimist, and I adopted optimism when I was 23. I can tell you first hand that pessimism will not help you grow, change, or connect to your full potential.

There are a lot of studies that detail the effects of employing learned optimism or a more positive way of thinking (here, here, or here for starters) and the results are striking: better health, less stress, a stronger immune system, more gratitude, and these people would say they are happy. They may even live longer.

So, as they say in Monty Python, “Always look on the bright side of life.” The bright side. Yes, there is and always will be a dark side of life (cue Darth Vader breathing). You can and will look in on the dark stuff occasionally, but if you can remember that there’s always an unlimited amount of hope and that you can keep it in your heart, you’ll be okay.

Life is full of ups and downs, good and bad, tragic and inspiring, amazing and devastating- but you get to decide were your mind goes, and you can choose your mood.

Life’s too short to spend in the dark.

-You can and will look in on the dark stuff occasionally. But if you can remember that there is always an unlimited amount of hope and that you can keep it in your heart, you'll be okay.- - Found on Jseeksjoy.com

If you’re interested in learning more about optimism and pessimism, I INSIST that you get your mits on a copy of Learned Optimism ASAP.

Mindfulness Roundup – August

Welcome to the first post in a new monthly series where I share with you photos of the things I’ve noticed trying to be more mindful! Mindfulness is really important to me and I try to consciously notice what’s around me. It helps me remember to stay present, not fiddling around in the past or the future.

This month I’ve been listening to Daring Greatly by Brene Brown on my mindfulness walks and it’s been an awesome refresher. I loved it the first time around and I’m really loving it again.

Why? I’ve been working on my NACADA presentation for the national conference in October and the feelings of inadequacy and my shame gremlins are out in FULL FORCE. I am having to constantly remind myself that I was chosen to do this by my peers, they believe I have an idea worth sharing, and that I am important enough to show up, take up space, and share not only my story but my ideas. Baby steps.

If I had to choose a theme for this month it would definitely be flowers. (If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen one or two of these already!) Summer, with all of its natural foliage, is my absolute favorite time of year. If I could live in one season, it would most definitely be summer. And if I could spend every day lounging in a pool reading in the sun, I would do that too. (Life goals). 

Enjoy!

Yogi looking cute AF in someone else’s yard

Yogi photo bomb

#NotMyYard

Let’s talk about stress, baby

I recently came across this video in my internet travels:

Stress is not glamorous.

Back when I was working retail, I was the most stressed I have ever been for every reason you can fathom, including not being able to find a job that required my master’s degree. (Pity party of one, please?) I gained 20 pounds, I had trouble sleeping, I was irritable and grumpy AF, and I had periods of severe depression and anxiety.

The weight I gained caused my cholesterol to skyrocket. I was also sighing a lot- I literally could not breathe. When I couldn’t sleep I would refuse to get out of bed, lying in the dark listening to my mind whir. When I did sleep, I would snooze my alarm for hours if I had nowhere to be that day. I would eat my feelings (and I would annihilate bags of veggie chips.) My body was trying its damndest to raise every red flag it had, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was too busy being a hot mess to realize that I needed to do something.

Eventually I figured it out (after almost two years), and I started this blog. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?

Today, I’m not necessarily less stressed, but I have learned to pay attention. To my body, to my moods, to my eating habits, to my cravings. I still experience stress (because I am a living human being (with an admittedly overactive amygdala)), but I am so much better at dealing with it.

And 75% of that is just being able to recognize the feeling of being stressed. If I know I am stressed, I can be gentle with myself when I struggle, and give myself a healthy outlet for all of my feeeeelings. Like reading, or going for a walk, or meditating, or watching an episode or two of something on Netflix, or getting a big, all encompassing hug from Mack. You know, the kind that makes you want to cry because you feel so safe and free to be quite frankly, vulnerable. (Here’s a really great article on ways to combat stress and anxiety with mindfulness. )

The moral of this story? Pay attention to your body. Check in regularly, and be kind to yourself if you find you are struggling. You are human, and you are going to be okay.

So I Have This Thing With Music

And I always have. Before I was speaking full sentences I was singing along with Paula Abdul in the back of my parents car. Which was released before I was a year old.

As I got older, I decided to play music. I started with the keyboard my grandparents gave me, and in fourth grade I joined the band and played the flute. I was pretty exceptional at the flute, and I always played with the older kids in band because it just came naturally to me. I quit after middle school because I was not going to be in marching band. So, I could have probably been a really kick ass flute player, buuut that’s what happens when you let 14 year olds decide their fate.

Music is still a really big part of my life though, even if  don’t play it anymore. When I was 16, I went to my first concert. I saw Ted Leo + the Pharmacists.

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TWENTY DOLLARS?! Take me back

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Here I am in Paris wearing my Ted Leo hoodie, which I will never get rid of <3

Since then I’ve been to oodles of concerts, and I love ’em. And it’s not just concerts. I listen to music more than anyone I know. In the morning while I get ready for work, all day at work, on my way home from work, while I do dishes or cook… I need it. And it turns out that music is good for you. So  there’s that.

If you need me, I’ll be listening to music. (Or alternatively, binge watching something on Netflix).