Life Update: Aikin to Yates

It’s Gonna Be May

First things first… I finally got married on May 4, 2021 and everything turned out amazingly beautiful. Everyone had fun, it was everything I could have hoped for. Married life is awesome, but here are some mountains we’ve climbed shortly after we tied the knot.

Lost Job Turned Promotion

That’s right. The week after the wedding went along the lines of something like this: I was trying to get some help at work for my health issues, when I had come to find out that my position would not exist in about a month. So my options were either apply within the company for a new position or take a demotion. I quickly applied for a new position within the company, and shortly received an email from the building manager asking me if I had to for a quick visit. I went over to a building I had never been in before for the interview, and received the job offer a few days later – which I eagerly accepted. I then trained half a day in my new building and spent the other half at my old building. By June 1st, I started my promotion and a few months later I still love my job.

Mini Vacay Turned Nightmare

Before we went on our “mini-moon” or mini honeymoon – my dog, Sugar, (one of my Shih Tzu) wasn’t feeling so well and there was blood in her urine. My mother-in-law encouraged us to leave for our mini-moon, that she would take Sugar to the vet while we were gone. The vet found that Sugar had two bladder stones the size of hard boiled eggs and had to have emergency surgery to get them removed. She came home for one night before my in-laws had to take her back to the vet the next day. This was going on while we were on our trip.

We got a call Monday morning, my mother-in-law was crying and I knew Sugar had passed. Before we got that call… Let me explain something, I saw her in what I call my “happy place.” In my subconscious, my happy place is the house that I grew up in, it’s where I’ve visited loved ones who have passed away. So seeing Sugar there, I was confused – I thought she was there because I was so worried about her. In my happy place, we played and had a good time; I gave her treats and lots of hugs and kisses. Then I woke up, and we got the call a few minutes later.

On the way home, I called my sister and my dad to tell them what happened (I had already told my mom as soon as I got the call.) On the drive back, I had decided to order a pillow with sugars photo on Esty. Once we got back, not having Sugar there to greet us made it all real. We went to the vet, said goodbye to the sweetest fur baby I’d ever had the pleasure to call mine.

House Hunting

Let’s just face it, the house market is trash right now. Mainly for first time home buyers, anything thing we can afford is in a bad neighborhood, bad condition or we get out bid. Needless to say, the house hunt is to be continued… stay tuned.

Phrases to Push You Forward

Each day I come closer to better understanding myself. Every day, I get a better idea as to what truly motivates me, what truly peeves me, and most of all how to cope with these realizations and apply them to being a better version of myself. I’ve found that self-actualization is the epic learning curve of life.

I mean, Sheryl Crow says it best, “Everyday Is a Winding Road”

Most recently, I’ve grasped that niceties, frequent compliments, telling me, “Awe it’s going to be okay” – none of that motivates me, none of that means anything to me. It will go in one ear and out the other, the same as when someone apologizes to me. When someone apologizes to me, just the simple word, “sorry” has me shut down. I’m not listening to you anymore, I’m taking your words with a grain of salt, they mean nothing. You’re sorry? Cool story, bro.

I’ve understood that I’m very actions-based (my love language is acts of service obvi), and the only time words motivate me are when they’re unexpected or blunt. But nothing motivates me more than someone telling me I can’t do it.

Some phrases in particular, mantras if you will, that I’ve found myself saying on a loop in my head, that push me forward:

Pick your pain.

This phrase comes from Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. I read this book in January and this is the phrase that has stuck with me since. When I’m having an exceptionally terrible day, thinking about quitting everything and shipping off to live off the land as a hermit… I remind myself that pain, hinderance, it’s everywhere. It’s the biggest sign of life. You can’t get away from it, but you can pick the pain you want, choose which pain is most manageable.

I usually follow up this mantra with, “The devil you know.”

Cheat death.

This came from graffiti I saw on my way to work one day. I was having a super rough morning, one of those, “I need to take a mental health week…” type of days, and there was something about seeing this phrase that just gave me the kick in the ass I needed that day. Like hell yeah, let’s cheat death today, gurl.

I’m doing it for me.

There are times when someone takes ages to complete a task, and I’ll find myself annoyed AF and just do it for them. I’m pissed the whole time, adolescently slamming things and huffing as I do it, “Why am I doing this for them, they don’t do it for me.” Then one day it just clicked: They’re not doing it for me, and I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing the damn thing for me. In order to make myself more at peace, this task needs done ‘now’ – so I will do it just to bring myself some peace.

Sometimes I need to make a selfless situation feel selfish in order to boost my mood, it is what it is.

No one’s coming.

I recently came across this video about parenting yourself and it hit hard, because it’s true. As an adult, no one is going to come and force you to go on a walk, force you to go to bed at a certain time, and no one is going to tell you that microwavable mac and cheese is not dinner. No one is going to just automatically come and help you. And I’m not telling you that you’re alone in life, but if you do need help you have to ask for it.

It’s not personal.

I’ve typically always taken everything personally. If someone says an idea I have is stupid, I think that they’re telling me I’m stupid. If someone yells at me on the phone, because of something I can’t control, 8 times out of 10 I’ll start crying because they’re yelling at me. But it’s taken a long time, and I’m still working on it, to just not take things personally. Almost everything that anyone does, isn’t personal to you but it is personal to them – so leave it that way.

Not everything is about you. You aren’t stupid, but maybe your idea isn’t as well thought out as you envisioned (and that’s okay.) The person screaming at you on the phone is definitely just mad at the situation it puts them in – it has nothing to do with you (they don’t even really know you.)


What’s important is to understand what type of communication is most effective for you, the above phrases may be completely toxic to you and get you in a negative headspace. You have to sort that out for yourself. I’ll say it again: self-actualization is the epic learning curve of life.

Hi, My Name Is..

Teddi, and it’s nice to meet you. To be quite frank, it’s been a wild 26 years on this Earth.

I’ve always strived to prove myself somehow whether it be through my creativity or brutal (and loving) honesty. My life hasn’t been particularly “rough,” but it hasn’t always been the smoothest ride either. On this universal plane, I think we can all say that we’ve seen some sh*t and it’s time to open up and speak on it. In the end, I’m just here to entertain you, and [maybe] even put you at ease in some regard. And I’m pretty stoked to do that by sharing some of my anecdotal stories & life experiences with you.

So the better question is – who is Teddi? I’m a cis heteronormative woman who was raised on a quiet farm with a whole lot of land and the freedom to explore my imagination to my heart’s content. Albeit rare in a small, rural town, my parents allowed and embraced me to be who I wanted to be. Whether it be a tri-athlete who struggled with her very enduring growth spurt, a humble equestrian, a curious academic, or an introverted and erratic child with undiagnosed behavioral issues at home. My family underwent a lot of struggles once I turned 8, and financial traumas hit us hard. It was a little messy, but what childhood wasn’t?

My parents loved me, raised me, and here I am; 26 years old with a life of her own, fully developed mental health diagnoses, and two furry children who depend on me. I enjoy the repetitive loop of pop-punk playlists, QT cherry limeade freezeronis (with a mixed berry vodka), and taking part in shenanigans with my best friends. I have a big love for horror movies, I binge and rewatch shows to feed the quiet creature comforts, and I miss going to live shows. All the while, I take time daily to learn about/document mental illness symptoms that affect my every day life. And? I finally have a partner who is also willing to learn about those symptoms and love me just as I am despite the fact.

To be honest with you, there were two significant times in my life where I didn’t think I’d be typing this all up for you to read, but I’m grateful to be here. So I want to thank you, yes, you, for taking the time to take a read into my little spiel. Cheers, my friends, may this be a fun journey for all of us.

xo – Teddi

Trash TV to Nurture Your Void

Hi guys, my name is Emily and I’m addicted to trash TV. I always have been, and something tells me that I always will be; and no, I have no desire to change. There’s just something about seeing unhinged, drunken fools on television that put me in this euphoric mental state of complete void, it’s my favorite sigh of relief after any long day.

To put things in perspective, I’m the type of person that strangers feel comfortable dumping their trauma on, I’m the BFF drunk girl you meet in the bathroom at the club that hypes you up, I’m the girl that cares a lot – about everything. Which is maybe why everyone tells me everything… they want someone to care and they get the vibe that I’m that bitch.

18 People Who Just Took A DNA Test And Turns Out They're 100% Something  Ridiculous

So anytime I get to completely shut off, and give much ado about nothing… I relish in it. Now, I’m going to share some recs of shows you have to watch, if you want to join me in a completely mind numbing experience.

Below Deck

Network: Bravo

Streaming channels: Youtube TV, Hulu TV, Peacock

Synopsis: “This reality series profiles a group of young people who work aboard yachts that measure well over 100 feet long. The crew members, known as yachties, live aboard the luxurious, privately owned vessels while making sure that their demanding clients’ ever-changing needs are met. The yachties share a passion for a job that allows them to visit some of the world’s most beautiful places. Each episode features a different group of passengers — ranging from millionaires to hard-partying friends — as they head out for a marine adventure. The crews live by the “work hard, play harder” motto that gives them access to exotic perks few people get to experience.”

Why I’m obsessed: This show dynamic very closely correlates with some of the things I experience in my own line of work and it just resonates. You have these people from all over the world, crammed in these little rooms “below deck” on these multi-million dollar super yachts… things obviously get crazy. You have people who are really great at their job, and people who are really shit at their job, and overall it’s just insane to see how certain people cope. But what’s also fun about this show, is learning little things about yachting terminology and watching the deckhands dock these massive boats… it’s pretty impressive. They also make thousands in tips, it’s had me reconsider my life choices a bit… could I hack it as a yachtie?

Notes: I should also digress, there are three different series of this show: Below Deck (takes place in the Caribbean) Below Deck Mediterranean and Below Deck Sailing Yacht – so these all have different crews and types of people that charter out these boats, so… if you don’t like one, you might like one of the other two 😉

Ghosted

Network: MTV

Streaming channels: Youtube TV, Hulu TV, Paramount

Synopsis: “Hosts Rachel Lindsay and Travis Mills help distraught people track down former friends or lovers who suddenly cut off all contact with them, and the truth about the ghosting is revealed.”

Why I’m obsessed: So I’ve been obsessed with MTV’s show Catfish for years, and when this show came out I felt the correlation instantly: attractive gray haired man and their charismatic friend help people who’s love-lives have suffered the side-effects of existing in the millennial generation. The pull with this show though is the fact that unlike Catfish, these people had met before and some had even been engaged when suddenly *poof* #GHOSTED. So seeing these people reconnect and confess why one ghosted the other… it’s juicy y’all.

Too Hot To Handle

Network: Netflix

Streaming channels: Netflix

Synopsis: “American-British reality television dating game show where the host of the series is a virtual assistant, named “Lana,” who 12-hrs into the singles’ arrival to the house, announces that the contestants had been tricked into having no sexual contact for four weeks. If they make it, they win $100,000.”

Why I’m obsessed: I’m obsessed with shows like Are You The One? and Love Island and somehow this show feels like both of those wrapped into one – with the tricky twist of the no sexual contact. Season One singles definitely had slip ups, but these pandemic-lockdown-recovering singles of Season Two… they are buckwild and thirsty as hell. I’ve never seen a virtual assistant so pissed at humans for breaking so many rules LOL.


If Too Hot To Handle season two and the latest season of Below Deck Sailing Yacht have taught us anything thus far… it’s that any reality show shot during the pandemic that gets aired this year is going to be wild. So now’s as good a time (or better) than any to hop on this trash TV train – it’s going full speed ahead y’all.

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Why Twenty One Pilots Should be a Part of Your Playlist

I’m confident that at some point over the last decade you’ve heard a song by Twenty One Pilots, made up of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. It may have been Heathens from the less-than-awesome Suicide Squad soundtrack or maybe Stressed Out that played all over the radio in the summer of 2015. With the newest album release only a week old – this is why you should have Twenty One Pilots on your playlist.


Genre Bending Music 

TØP started out a rural, hometown band from Ohio playing small venues for a dedicated legion of fans. The first two large scale albums, Regional at Best and Vessel, were raw, rough and full of angst. Since the band’s beginning in 2009, they have ventured into rock, punk, rap, hiphop, alternative, electronica and more even winning a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for Stressed Out in 2017. 

When it comes to live shows, there’s something amazing about the expectation and consistency from fans. I’ve seen three concerts, one from the Blurryface tour and two from Trench, and each time the comradery from fans is inspiring. They know the tours like the back of their hand, provide interactive paper cut outs to use at certain times and are all around – so great. TØP is also consistent. They never do encores, they always end the show with Trees. It’s a comforting experience.


Mental Health Struggles

I know that there have been mixed feelings about this but I really do appreciate the level at which Tyler shares his struggles. Most apparent during the earlier albums, Tyler pulled a lot of the creative inspiration from his own struggles with depression and anxiety. Hell, Blurryface is a literal personification of his anxiety. It’s realistic, honest and something that almost all of us can relate to. Even the newest album, Scaled and Icy, is said to represent being scaled back and isolated due to the pandemic. (Or is it a cover and really means Clancy is dead? #dema) 


The Dema/Trench Lore

If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s good storytelling. I won’t even pretend to know absolutely everything about DEMA or TØP lore, but boy am I a fan. Mentioned briefly in the Blurryface album (2015), DEMA is a terrible, prison-like place. During the hiatus between Blurryface and Trench (2018), a clikkie found a new 404 page on the TØP website, which include diary pages from someone named Clancy, along with graphics that would later be revealed as clues to the songs on Trench. In the first three music videos released for Trench, Jumpsuit, Nico and the Niners and Levitate, viewers see Tyler and Josh struggling in DEMA, being captured by one of the ‘Bishops’. 


The Quarantine Bop To End All Bops – Level of Concern

As the world was thrust into a pandemic and consequential lock down, our favorite guys released the ultimate quarantine bop – Level of Concern. It was as if they knew that the world needed something positive and upbeat during such a shit storm. Not to mention the 24 hour long interactive livestream where fans could post their own videos. 

Following up the livestream was an interactive puzzle for fans to try to decode. Designed to take up to six weeks to crack, fans a.k.a. The Skeleton Clique or clikkies figured it out in under a week. The puzzle included never before seen photos, graphics, audio recordings and more than anything – a distraction during lock down. 


Each Album Is An Absolute Masterpiece In Its Own

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking ‘damn she drank the kool-aid.’ Maybe I have, but I also know that I’ve been listening to this band for nearly a decade now and have not been let down once by their music. The first song I heard by TØP was Car Radio on 89.1 The Bash (a community college radio station from Illinois that only could be heard on good weather days). I was immediately caught by the intense lyrics, the interaction with the music – all of it. Everytime a new album comes out, I listen to it on repeat – deciding if it’s as good as the predecessors. Every time, without fail, that answer is yes. The newest album, Scaled and Icy, released this month and is full of bops. 


Looking for something deep and tragic?

Try these!

Looking for something light and fun?

Try these!

Looking for fantastic covers or videos to watch? Try these!

Evolution: Embrace It

“People don’t change,” whispers a scornful, bitter friend.

We’ve all been told vehemently that people don’t change, “If they sucked then, they’ll suck now,” and all that yada yada. Which in all fairness is true for some people – some people really do just suck (forever), but for the vast majority of the population: we are not doomed to suck forever.

To be the same forever goes against the grain; we aren’t meant to rinse and repeat our entire lives. This isn’t to denounce routine by any means, but it is to embrace growth. You shouldn’t be the same person you were at 17, or even the same person you were last year. Every day lessons should be learned, every day we should be striving to be better than yesterday.

When you move to New York, the first thing that people will tell you is to remember that there is always someone better.

This is meant as a warning that the dating scene is hard because in the back of your mind (and your date’s mind) is the lingering thought, “Hmmm… is there someone better? Is this investment worth it?” Not to mention the whole competitive job scene has an underlying tone that you are replaceable (which isn’t necessarily a lie.) But it’s true, in life there is always someone better, but there is always someone worse too. It’s a double-edged sword.

So let’s take that knowledge introspectively: there is always a worse version of myself and a better version, and it’s in the power of the present version of myself to decide how I pan out.

To break that down, lately before I do something mildly destructive I audibly tell myself, “Girl, don’t do that to future you. Don’t put her through that. Don’t give her chores for later.”

The tendency to coddle our present self is in and of itself: self-destructive.

Present you is already having a bad day, case closed. Done. Past you already wasn’t equipped to deal with it, so what are you going to do for future you? How are you going to try to set her up better, make her more equipped to handle a similar mess in the future? How are you going to e v o l v e from this?

If you don’t evolve, if you reject the universe telling you that your current state of being is not sustainable – you are doomed to rinse and repeat. If you don’t learn from the bad day, that bad behavior, or that explosive encounter with someone more woke than you – then these things will always happen to you like groundhog day. You will get stuck.

Change is an old friend that comes when you least expect it.

Sometimes we get to embrace the change with open arms, but other times… the change is too much and not our cup of tea. That being said, we all change way more than we give ourselves credit for. Just last week I was able to talk myself out of hitting snooze everyday simply by asking myself, “Will the ten extra minutes change your day? Is it worth it?” Each day it was a clear answer, the snooze was not hit and I got out of bed earlier than usual.

But this week, I’ve not seen the same rationale and argued that yes, ten more minutes will actually make or break my day. Yet instead of that extra ten minutes domino-effecting my morning, I cling to the beneficial mindset I made last week and make compromises. Meaning if I sleep longer then this is how my routine will get altered, etc. Really, I’m refusing to allow myself to ‘sleep in’ without holding myself accountable for the effect it will have on the rest of my morning.

So you see, the person I was last week, I’m not her today, not completely. The person I was last year? Don’t know her. This is to say, if you knew me in high school or even college, and our friendship didn’t withstand the test of time: you don’t know me, nor I, you.

“You’ve changed,” whispers a scorned, bitter friend.

“Funny how that happens, isn’t it?” I say with a smile.


Dropping this Affirmations playlist as a reminder to embrace your evolution, but also don’t be too hard on yourself today ❤


The Universe Screams Perception

Perception. Life is all about perception.

You know that weird thing that happens where the universe starts to send you the same message over and over again, but it takes the third, fourth, or millionth time for the message to actually come through? The message finally hits home hard enough, reverberating in your mind, and you finally say to yourself and the universe, “Okay, okay – I get it…

Lately the universe has been screaming out one word to me: Perception.

Where it started:

Late at night, as I’m trying to go to sleep, my brain loves to torture me with embarrassing things I’ve done throughout my life, dangle the tasteless words I’ve spouted at others, and really just hammer in that I’m a terrible, heartless person. After I hear a dizzying bout of my own words, I then take a deep dive into a vicious wave pool of the hurtful things friends and family have said to me (or about me) throughout my life, “Nobody really knows who you are,” “You don’t have much of a personality,” “You’re a two-faced bitch,” “You’re soulless,” all of which effectively drive the point home.

Yet, as I flail about the torrent of self-loathing, I take a minute to refocus – to reel it back in. None of that matters, what matters is where I am now. Not the big picture macro-now, I mean the micro-now. I focus on the task at hand: relaxing and getting some rest. I remind myself that the past is done, those people probably don’t remember these moments anyway. In this precise moment the past doesn’t matter, only the micro-now matters.

Where it went:

Nobody really knows who you are.” This is the late night phrase that has been sticking to me like static-y cellophane throughout even the daylight hours. I’ve just had a hard time shaking it lately. This was something casually said to me in high school by an incredibly close friend. They said it offhand, and I remember being completely jarred by it.

I always felt a tad out of place in high school, all of those kids had grown up together, I randomly showed up freshman year and most people assumed I was older because they didn’t know me. But a little over halfway into my high school career, I had become involved enough to genuinely feel like I was leaving some kind of footprint with my classmates, and like I was becoming a part of this general air of familiarity carried between these hundreds of kids.

Then my friend made that statement and it completely altered the perception I had of myself. My gut reaction to their statement was that they were wrong. But my audible response to them was, “Well, I still don’t really know most people anyway, so that’s fine.”

But it wasn’t fine. That one offhand, careless statement made by a friend… I gave those words so much power that they still have a hold over how I see myself in the eyes of others. Consistently throughout my life, well since sophomore or junior year of high school, I have always assumed people don’t know me. All because a trusted friend, an ally in life, told me so.

Where it’s going:

What has been most difficult lately is trying to understand why that memory decided to resurface so fiercely and persistently. Why has it been the ringing in my ears? Is the universe trying to communicate something to me?

Then today, the universe screamed its violent message at me, using my cousin as a catalyst. My cousin posted a video and somewhere in there she said, “Everyone in the world has a different perception, even if they’re seeing the exact same thing.” What’s comical is that this message from the universe landed like an edible – aka an hour later.

An hour after watching my cousin’s video, I sat up in a stark realization: I let the perception of another impact my own perception of myself. Which is incredibly unfortunate, I can’t help but wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed due to this lack of clarity in myself? So within the time I’ve been writing this article, I’ve been tumbling down rabbit hole after rabbit hole of realizations. Most importantly, I’ve come to understand that I stopped believing that friend’s statement long ago, their words have not been my truth for quite sometime now.

Since moving to New York and starting my career nearly four years ago, I’ve slowly been coming into my own power and understanding the impact that my voice can have. I have come to understand that I am incredibly capable of commanding a room, that I have an infallible confidence if I so call upon it, and that I have the power to decide whether I am noticed or whether I hide. I am in charge of the perception I project – whether it’s yours or mine.

. . .

Somewhere in Rainbows

My parents met in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University in the mid 90’s. My mom was in a sorority, my dad a fraternity and they hit it off at a Greek mixer. I came into existence in 1995, they subsequently dropped out of university and moved to Louisville to raise little ol’ me. Two and a half years after I was born, my sister came into the picture, and a year or so after that my parents got divorced. My dad stayed in Kentucky, but my mom needed to move to Indiana to be closer to my aunt and nana.

Every other weekend, every summer, and alternating holidays would be spent at my dad’s in Kentucky (this schedule not strictly followed as I got older) and all schooling would take place in Indiana. The driving distance between my parents was a lengthy three hours; which is short enough to be doable, but long enough to be slightly painful. The divorce wasn’t easy on anyone. It was never a smooth, simple thing. It was uncomfortable and it always felt like someone was deeply hurting more than the other, no one ever on the same wavelengths, and everyone seemingly took turns over-vocalizing the pain in what was usually not the most constructive way. Essentially, none of us made it through unscathed.

When it was time for me to start kindergarten, my mom soon found the Catholic elementary school, St. Ambrose, in Anderson, that seemed like the best fit. Quickly upon starting school, I was also signed up for this afterschool program called Rainbows which took place every Tuesday. A few other kids and myself would all get a ride over to the slightly larger Catholic school in town, we’d dash out of the car for bomb milk and cookies, then talk about our feelings for an hour or so in small groups.

Pretty quickly, all of us kids realized the common denominator between us was that we all lacked a nuclear household.

Rainbows created this community of kids and a safe space that essentially validated our feelings. All of them, every single emotion we felt… we were told it was normal.

If I’m being honest, I don’t remember nearly any of the particulars in those little lessons we had within the small group talks. I was in Rainbows for years, yet I genuinely don’t remember what we talked about each week. I just vaguely remember the constant undertone of reassurance that nothing was our fault, which I understand is a common thing for kids with divorced parents to feel. Though I did (and do) feel responsible for my parents marriage, never in my life have I ever felt to blame for my parents divorce.

The primary memories that stick out from Rainbows are the relationships that it created. There were so many adults that felt (and still feel) like an extension of family, and the best friends I had in that lifetime have transcended into adulthood. All of the friendships, even the ones that didn’t quite withstand the test of time, were/are priceless and heavily impacted my life. They’re the people who just got it. It’s always felt like yes, we’re all in our own boats, but we’re still in the same ocean weathering similar storms.

Rainbows encouraged a deep level of empathy.

We were this group of mismatched kids, varying in age, personality types, and all with different stories: some kids lost a parent, some lived with grandparents, some parents were divorced but still lived close to each other (these were the ones I was most jealous of), some kids didn’t know one of their parents at all – the list goes on. Yet throughout the lessons, we were made to feel that yes, our situation sucks and our story may seem harder than the person’s next to us, but that doesn’t invalidate that person’s pain.

All pain is valid, we are not here on this Earth to decide who gets to feel and what it is they feel.

. . .

In deciding to write this article, I googled Rainbows for the first time ever. Finding out that Rainbows was founded by a woman was not surprising, but it did bring a smile to my face (#girlpower). Rainbows, actually fully named Rainbows for All Children, was founded in the mid 70’s by Suzy Yehl Marta, a divorced mother of three boys. She was devastated when her marriage ended and found solace in a support group. It didn’t take long for her to realize that her sons could also greatly benefit from such a group, but her search for this came up empty. Thus, Rainbows for All Children was born.

“Working with other concerned parents, Suzy began organizing weekend retreats for the children in single parent homes. In three years, more than 800 youth benefited from the retreats. Suzy knew more needed to be done. She started working on a curriculum, the foundation of Rainbows for All Children, for children who experienced loss. The curriculum was designed to provide grieving elementary school children with an understanding of their new family unit, to help build a sense of self-esteem and to give them the tools to properly cope with their loss.”

Rainbows for All Children

. . .

Ultimately, it seems Suzy understood that relying on a child’s resiliency isn’t always the best or only answer. Just because kids have the ability to quickly bounce back on their own, doesn’t mean they should be left to their own devices to do so. I mean, think about it: why do adults go to therapy? Typically to finally unpack all of that compartmentalized childhood trauma. So when you think your kid is “getting over it” and “bouncing back” – it’s possible that they’re really just saving that pain for later.

Rainbows is very much still operating today – head to their website to learn more!

Finding Claire(ity)

I normally hate talking about myself but I’m on a path of self-love and acceptance, so I suppose writing about myself in a positive light is a step forward in the right direction. 

Instagram @claire.marie.photo

Typically when one reads about someone’s journey to discovering their love for photography, you see a small child being gifted a camera by one of the grandparents who lived in the countryside, where the scenery and the love for the family just really inspired them to pursue their passion for photography.

This is not that story. But truthfully, I don’t think every story has to be packaged with a pretty bow on top: it just has to be real.

Instagram @claire.marie.photo

While my interest in photography did start at a young age, it wasn’t that whole, “I held a camera for the first time and I knew this was my passion” moment.

I grew up in the time of disposable cameras and, for those lucky enough, reusable film cameras. Growing up my mom, like I’m sure most moms in the 90’s, was the one always trying to capture every moment of her children’s life. Whether that be a fun family vacation at the beach or simply playing outside with the dogs, she was always there following us around with a camera.

Seeing her in action definitely inspired me to pick up the disposable cameras and capture moments; granted my moments were less significant than hers.

Instagram @claire.marie.photo

I took the same energy for photography when I was given my first Polaroid camera; the old school ones that were bulky and printed out square photos. I almost understood the concept that Polaroid film was more expensive to buy, but that didn’t stop me from taking a picture of every cat we owned – and trust me, this was a lot of photos as we had a ton of cats at the time.

When that camera finally ran out, it seemed like my interest ran out too. My mom never gifted me a fancy expensive camera since I accidentally dropped her old film camera in the toilet (don’t ask).

So my passion, along with her fancy camera, went down the toilet. 

Instagram @claire.marie.photo

Fast forward a few years to 2014, the summer before sophomore year of college, fatefully my passion was reignited thanks to a former friend and her camera. This friend of mine was always taking photos and coming up with interesting concepts for photo shoots and I wanted to do that!

In an artistic sense, photography was one of the only ways I could express myself. I can’t draw, paint, or write very well, but capturing moments in time and editing them to fit the picture inside my mind seemed like second nature to me.

Instagram @claire.marie.photo

Although it wasn’t until the following summer when I had finally saved enough money to buy my own professional camera.

And, believe it or not, that’s the very same camera I still use today!

It can paint a picture of every self portrait, all the amazing friends that have allowed me to take photos of them, all the animals that have been my practice models and all my European adventures – which includes breaking my lens in Barcelona and hiding my camera on the plane ride to the French Riviera because I couldn’t fit everything into one bag.

Instagram @claire.marie.photo

Every time I hold that camera up, it’s been like an escape for me, a way to push myself to go outside my comfort zone. And let me tell you, outside of the comfort zone can be a beautiful place; it’s helped me create amazing pieces of myself, my friends, and the landscapes around me.

So, you see, young Claire had an air of simplicity about her, if she wanted to take a picture of something she did. Whether that be a polaroid of her foot or a plate of fries – not lying, I really did take pictures starring plates of fries lol – young Claire was just reflexively taking pictures of whatever caught her eye. I’d like to think that I still have that simplicity now as an adult.

Photography doesn’t need to be overly complicated as a lot of people make it out to be, myself included. Sometimes the best photos are the ones that you take on a whim or by accident. I’ve found that sometimes all you gotta do is just take the picture. So while this isn’t the perfect little story about a girl who grew up with a camera permanently in her hands, it is about a girl who learned that the simplicity in the art of photography is the most beautiful story.

. . .

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Duck

Recently I read Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. I practically inhaled the book in just a few short days, and honestly I’m shook. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I read, because I devoured it like a bomb burrito – so quickly I didn’t even really comprehend what parts of the burrito were actually the game changers, what I should factor in to my next burrito creations.

(I’ve been on a burrito making kick recently, so bare with me on this analogy.)

But alas, some things clearly stick subconsciously. For example, when trying to recreate my bomb burrito, my hand reached for garlic powder out of reflex, and it was in that moment it clicked that I had put garlic powder in that burrito last time on accident… but it was bomb. And then today, I was scrolling on my Facebook timeline and some people from high school were getting too personal (again). It was so annoying, I was two seconds from sending screenshots to one of my friends so that we could essentially poke fun at these people… but then I took a pause and thought, “Who gives a duck. They want to post this, that’s their business – no need to make it mine.” I then went about my business, sans screenshots, sans gossip, sans ducks.

Hehehe GIF by memecandy - Find & Share on GIPHY

Here is when it clicked – the book did something! I’m actually listening to Mark Manson’s advice, whether I realized it or not – yay! Cheers to growth, motherduckers!

Ultimately, Mark’s book wasn’t about not giving a duck about anything and living a carefree life, it was quite the opposite. It centered around the fact that you have to give a duck about things, but you should be selective and thoughtful with your ducks. In turn, this thinking then enables you to think about problem solving differently – what do you truly give a duck about? Why do you give a duck? Does it make sense to give a duck?

Question every problem you have like you’re a child aka – “But why?” yourself into oblivion.

It’s stripping down a problem to such bare bones, that you can then face the root of the issue, the true reason why you’re giving a duck. Nine times out of ten, when you strip down a problem like that, you’ll realize how dumb it actually is and how you’re probably responsible for the problem itself. Actually, Mark will tell you that you are responsible for your problems – every single one of them… but that’s a whole other topic.

Anyway… when you start stripping down problems, a realignment of priorities and values can take place. This enables you to shift your outlook and erase pointless problems. Next thing you know, you’ll find yourself actively withholding your ducks from things that no longer align with you. And trust me when I say you will feel really good about that.

Overall, if you’re looking for a read that will give you a bit of a wakeup call, something that will challenge your comfortable way of thinking… You’ve gotta get your hands on this book ASAP.

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

. . .

What I Learned Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons for 300+ Hours

A true gift from this shithole year was Animal Crossing. Originally released in 2001, AC has been popular amongst audiences for almost two decades; releasing in the US in 2002. With over 40 million units sold worldwide and five spinoff games, there is clearly something for everyone to love and learn from Animal Crossing. 

The newest game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released worldwide in the beginning of 2020 on the Nintendo Switch, eight years after the previous AC game release. A perfect storm of social distancing and much needed entertainment brought AC:NH to new heights, with over 5 million downloads in the first month alone. So what’s so great about this game?

First and foremost, I am not an avid video game player nor am I a good video game player. I typically get bored after a few gaming sessions, having only completed two games prior (s/o We Happy Few and BioShock!). But I love AC:NH and have spent 310 hours playing over the last six months. This is what I learned while playing AC:NH. 

Game Premise 

You embark on a deserted island getaway and are able to create, morph and design your perfect island over time. You have residents that move to your island, along with shops, seasonal events and more to experience. Thanks to your raccoon overlord, Tom Nook, you start the getaway in debt, but don’t worry, you’re able to pay it off quickly. 

What I Learned

First Homesite; Island 1

Daily tasks are necessary – in the game and life.

As a person who’s struggled with heavy depression on and off for a decade, sometimes the essential tasks like cleaning, laundry or eating can be a burden. In AC:NH, your character is rewarded for doing simple things like picking up sticks, clearing weeds or chopping down trees. Being able to make a character push through mundane tasks made it a little easier to force myself to get out of bed and do laundry.


If you’re unhappy, restart.

New Campsite; Island 1

I spent almost 275 hours building an island which is roughly 12 full days. I received the coveted 5-star rating on accident at around 180 hours and was seriously unhappy. I really didn’t like my island – I started playing without knowing the purpose, creating a mismatched, haphazardly built island that I really wasn’t enjoying. So I restarted. Erased all that work and started over. That same principle can be applied to each of us every single day. If we’re unhappy with something – our attitude, mindset, exercise level, whatever – we can change that. Hit the restart button until you’re at ease and at peace with yourself. 


Everything changes and that’s okay.

Celebrating Summer; Island 1

You can build a perfect utopia from top to bottom, but inevitably something will change that you have no control over – like the seasons. AC:NH is set to recreate the seasons of your hemisphere, changing the available DIY crafts, ingredients and overall landscape of your island. This is not something that can be fought, but merely accepted. I do not enjoy change as a person, but playing this game has surprisingly made it a little easier to accept. (An overexaggerated reaction, but a good example nonetheless). 


Sometimes, people you love leave.

5-Star Status; Island 1

When you start your island, there are two other islanders who spawn with you. You’re able to interact with your islanders and swap gifts, etc. throughout the game. However, sometimes your islander will decide that it’s time for them to move on to another island. At first, I hated when islanders would want to leave – because I wanted them to stay with me. But just like in real life, sometimes you have to let people go so that they can be the best versions of themselves. Or alternatively, you need to let them go because they’re not good for you anymore (cough*Curlos*cough).


Just because my island looked different than others, doesn’t mean it’s bad.

Yoga by some trees; Island 2

A fun perk in AC:NH is that you’re able to visit other islands, deserted or inhabited, to trade or simply see a friend’s design. After watching a few of those 5-star island tours on Youtube though, I was feeling pretty dejected about my shabby island. Who cares? As long as I like my island and it functions for me, then it doesn’t matter. The same principle should apply to regular life too. Who cares if I’m not the same size, personality or type as someone else? It shouldn’t matter as long as I’m happy with myself. 


People can be jerks, but that doesn’t mean you should put up with it.

Turkey Day; Island 2

AC:NH contains over 400 characters that you could randomly meet or interact with. The characters are grouped by a personality trait: normal, peppy, sisterly, snooty, cranky, jock, lazy and smug. Snooty and smug villagers can be annoying to deal with, especially when they’re being rude towards other characters. You do have limited control of kicking people off the island if you so choose. There’s no reason to keep villagers or people in your life if they bring you down. Surround yourself with those who bring happiness. 


For anyone that’s looking to kill some time as we move towards another potential lockdown, maybe give Animal Crossing: New Horizons a chance. With bright colors, cute characters and a mostly stress-free gameplay, this can be a great escape for anyone experiencing heightened anxiety from lockdowns, COVID-19 or just the day to day stress of life. Spend your time fishing in lakes or growing flowers or diving for sea creatures.

Tips From A Serial Wanderer

Long-time traveler and friend, Agnieszka, sat down with me to discuss everything she’s learned from a life of traveling. Currently residing and studying in Germany, she splits her time with her family in California. Agnieszka has traveled to roughly 45 countries since childhood including: Canada, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Bahamas, Iceland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Monaco, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania , Kenya, China, Nepal, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, Dominican Republic


Tanzania, 2012

Where did your desire/love of travel come from?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been raised by a father with an insatiable passion and love for traveling. Since I can remember, he was constantly trying to find any opportunity for an adventure and almost always trying to bring his family along. Traveling with him were and still are the most fun and exciting experiences of my life. 

So where did your dad’s love of travel come from?
It was really his inability to travel. My parents grew up in Poland – which was then a communist country under (official/unofficial?) control of the Soviet Union. Traveling to another country was heavily restricted… people could essentially only travel to other communist/soviet eastern European countries. And when something is forbidden from you, usually that’s something you then really want. Growing up my father actually thought about becoming a sailer because that was then one of the very few opportunities to actually travel and see the world. Instead he immigrated at 23 years old to the US and as soon as he was able to afford it, his (and our) world adventures began.

Nepal, 2017

Do you prefer traveling alone or with others?
That’s a difficult question for me. There is a lot of good in both and I’ve enjoyed both tremendously. Traveling alone is – at least for me – a huge challenge. But it was a challenge that allowed me to learn a lot about myself and how to positively develop as a person. I’m self-conscious and antisocial and really quite nervous around people and so I had a lot of difficulty opening up to incredible people I was meeting during my travels alone and probably missed out on a lot of amazing experiences. But the occasions when someone was brave enough to push through my barriers and invite me along on their adventures or show me kindness and love are memories I will always always always cherish – and I would have probably also never experienced those had I been traveling with others. 

So I am grateful for the times I traveled alone and hope to travel alone again in the future… I had freedom to do and see what I pleased without worrying about what anyone else wanted but I then also had the freedom to meet and spend time with whatever wonderful person I meant along the way and experience so many other awesome things beyond just visiting the next famous site. Traveling with others is wonderful because I then have someone to share not only the incredible moments with but also the difficult times. It is not as lonely and therefore is not as mentally challenging.

Machu Picchu, 2012

Stereotypically, society says that women should not travel alone. Have you also experienced that stigma? Or do you feel that it is equally as safe as long as you’re smart about it?
Of course. As a women I’ve experienced sexism and many kinds of sexual harassment. There are countries I probably would not have traveled to had I been alone and don’t have the desire to visit in the future without a male companion. It is not as equally safe for women to travel in several parts of the world. But that has not and will not prevent me from traveling alone – and I don’t think it should prevent any other woman from doing so. Horrible things happen to people everywhere – even of course in the most “modern” and “safe” countries. In the end, it’s important to be as cautious as possible, avoid any possibly dangerous situations as much as humanly possible, and to always try to plan how to keep yourself safe in any given situation. Also I find that one should also try to respect the culture and customs of whatever place they’re visiting… if you’re visiting a country in which women generally cover their bodies in loose clothing, or cover their hair, or avoid doing a certain thing then I think it’s not only respectful to try to do the same, it also avoids more attention on you and hopefully then keeps you a little more safe.

Do you have any tips for staying in hostels?
I am not particularly easy-going about where or how I sleep, so I spend quite a lot of time and effort in choosing which hostels I will stay at – I proably spend more time on that than on actually planning what I will do outside the hostel once I’m there. I’ve only ever stayed in hostels in Europe and I would find and reserve them on “hostelworld.com.” I would base my decision on reviews, whether they provided breakfast, whether it was located close to the places I wanted to visit but also in a safe area, and of course on price. If you are like me and have a deep dislike of sleeping in dirty beds and showering in disgusting showers, these are my suggestions:

France, 2018
  • Book the hostel in advance. Give yourself time to do research and find the best one… This may however unfortunately require you to not take the cheapest bed in the cheapest hostel. 
  • Try to stay in a hostel in or at least near the areas you’d really like to visit or at least in an area that is said to be safe. I’ve stayed in hostels that fulfilled neither requirement and it made my time in that city/area much less enjoyable. 
  • Unless you can sleep through literally everything, bring earplugs and something to cover your eyes!
  • Bring a bedsheet or a sleeping bag! I am very sensitive about sleeping in unclean sheets and so bringing my own definitely allowed me to sleep much better. (I always brought a thin bedsheet with me which took up very little space in my backpack and which I used to wrap around me while I slept, serving as a mattress & pillow cover and as a blanket.
  • Bring flip flops to wear in the shower and a fast-drying towel!
  • Bring a lock! Oftentimes the hostels would provide lockers or similar to store your baggage but they would rarely come with locks and were of course always in public areas so a lock is great for additional security and sense of peace.
Dubai, 2016

What are 5 must-have essentials when traveling? (Besides the obvious)
I don’t really know if there are essentials other than the obvious. I find more people overpack and worry about bringing so much unnecessary things… unless you plan to go deep into no-man’s-land, you will be able to find and buy soap and other basic essentials. I’ve also never been one to travel and actually try to look attractive so I have no suggestions on essentials for when that is a goal of yours… But I suppose some things that I do try to always bring with me are: a comfortable day backpack/bag that closes all the way, medication for the basic pains and aches that you know works well for you, comfortable shoes, a rain jacket, and some secure way to keep my passport and money on me at all times.

Where is the favorite place/places that you’ve traveled?
I have never had nor will I ever have an answer to this question. I truly have difficulty trying to think of one place that I enjoyed more than the others. I have loved and appreciated every single place I’ve ever been to – even the places where I had unpleasant experiences and the places I’d never want to visit again. From every single adventure I learned something and experienced something good and I am grateful for them all. 

India, 2015

Where’s the most underrated or surprising place you’ve been?
Hmmm… this is also difficult. I suppose I am particularly grateful for my experiences in the economically/systematically “poorer” parts of the world. I am often thinking about my experiences in Tanzania where my father and I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. I will never forget how kind the people were to us and how many huge, happy, beautiful smiles I saw and how much laughter I heard. This memory is something I always try to protect in my heart to remind myself to be grateful, to smile, and to just be freaking kind.

How important is the planning before a trip?
Well… I guess that depends on how easy-going you are, what is important for you to achieve from this trip and what you know you want to see or do. I do always try to plan enough in advance so that I can at least book where I will be sleeping and know what I can do the next day, but I have never planned all details of an entire trip. So it’s not necessarily important… I’ve learned that it is much easier and more enjoyable if you allow yourself to “go with the flow”.

Argentina, 2014

How do you find the less touristy places?
I google and read through a lot of blogs and travel websites, I always ask hotel/hostel staff for recommendations, I ask anyone and everyone I meet along the way for their suggestions, and I always try to get a map of the area from the hotel/hostel and I go through all the sites that are usually marked on them. But… I don’t purposely try to avoid the “touristy” places… they’re often touristy for a reason and I think they are worth seeing if it is indeed something you’re interested in. 

Where’s the next place you’re traveling?
I am deeply saddened to say that I have no idea when or where I will be able to travel next. Not only because of the pandemic, but also because my studies allow me to have very little life or time outside of it and when I do have any time free, I am utilizing it to visit my parents in California. I have lots of ideas and dreams and I hope I’ll be able to make one of them a reality sometime soon. With my boyfriend perhaps Norway or South Africa. My father’s next ambitions are exploring Bhutan and Madagascar, snowboarding in Japan and in the Andes, and kitesurfing in Zanzibar.I also would like to try to find an opportunity to travel a little bit alone again.


Travel Tips for First Time Travelers:

  • Be open-minded. Be open to new experiences (foods, languages, customs, behavior, people) and try to find the good in them all.
  • Be ready to get out of your comfort zone. Traveling often includes stressful, frustrating, uncomfortable situations. Breathe through them. It will be OK and it really is all worth it in the end. Either way, it’s a story to tell for later.
  • Be respectful of other cultures. Do your research about what is illegal and what is considered disrepectful in the area you plan to explore. That is also perhaps involves adapting your behavior/appearance. 
  • Please don’t assume everyone speaks english. I find it more respectful to ask if the person speaks english before beginning to speak to them in it. Perhaps even try to at least pick up some basic words – especially the word “thank you” or “please”. And if you’re American, please do try to speak more quietly… we are really generally quite loud and it really can be quite annoying.
  • Don’t pack too much. You can always wash your clothes while traveling or buy essentials like shampoo at a store.
  • Look into local transport – some cities have apps available for subway lines, buses, etc. And it’s good to know a little bit about what is available in an area so you can always try to find the best and cheapest traveling solution. Find a map of the local area and embrace it! And most importantly – try to walk a little! Some of the coolest things I’ve discovered in a city have just been things I’ve walked past on my way to somewhere else.
  • Go with the flow and be flexible. It will make life much easier for you and you’ll discover incredible things. I promise.
  • Don’t keep important or expensive items in the back pocket of your pants or in the front pockets or the very bottom of a backpack. I’ve met so many people who have had things stolen from them and I’ve seen it in action as well. 
  • Try to be cautious and attentive about everything around you. Be aware of your surroundings so you can try to better protect yourself from possible dangerous situations. Err on the side of safety.
  • Traveling doesn’t have to be unaffordable. Try to be flexible with where and when you travel. Spend time looking at multiple websites for flights and hotels/hostels and try out every single date/location combination you can think of and you’ll be surprised what kind of possibilities you’ll find.

As my father always says, “traveling is the best teacher.” You’ll not only learn about other people and ways of life, but also about yourself and how you can be a better you. You’ll find so much gratitude and love for yourself, for others, and for this planet. Don’t be afraid – be open to the challenges that come with traveling and adventuring and embrace what you learn from them. Follow your heart, find what you want from your life, and just go for it. All in.