When the Heat Beats You

 

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The weather is heating up here in Nashville, TN, which of course means that my A/C quit working earlier this weekend.

Typical.

This long weekend without a bit of cool air has left me going a little crazy, but thanks to a few tricks, not as crazy as one might expect. Sure, maybe I have considered taking up residence in my freezer, but for the most part, the following five hacks have helped me to keep my cool, even in the midst of this apartment-living-maintenance-will-get-to-you-sometime-next-week-maybe frustration.

Christmas Movies
I can’t even begin to describe the absolute joy that I experienced yesterday when I found The Holiday on Netflix. Yes, at first I thought I was having a heat stroke dream, but you bet I pressed play as soon as I possibly could. You see, Christmas movies always make me feel like cuddling up with a blanket and hot chocolate, no matter the temperature outside. Plus, it didn’t hurt to have 2 glorious hours of Kate Winslet and Jude Law to help keep my mind off of my 90 degree and rising place.

Reading Races
Yesterday, I read Miracles From Heaven in one sitting, start to finish. Those couple of hours flew by with me barely realizing that the scorching sun was pretty much sending my room up in flames. Today, I am utilizing the same trick, and am on track to finish a second book by dinner.

Cool Humans
If you follow me on any of my social media, you no doubt know that I love Graham Zusi, star soccer player of Sporting KC and the Men’s National Team. Thankfully, Zusi played a game on Saturday night, and thanks to my parent’s Time Warner online password, I was able to spend a precious 90 minutes distracted by the game, and not the heat. Sidenote – Yes, I am still bitter that Zusi didn’t get to sub in until 70 minutes into the match.

Neighborly Niceties 
I typically don’t open my windows to my apartment. One part due to the fact that bugs in the South are terrifying, but also because my neighbors are never very quiet. All of that changes, however, when the sun goes down and a cool breeze emerges. I have now become eager to throw open my windows at the first chance I get, even though the people next door still don’t understand what a respectful volume of conversation is.

Laugh It Off
When distraction fails and open windows can’t keep up, Chris Janson and this brilliant song are always there to remind us of what’s important: laughter and great puns.

 

 

 

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Ten Traveling Tips

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This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be able to go home for a couple of days.

My time was spent with family, my cat, and watching the legendary Graham Zusi play in a Sporting KC soccer game. Needless to say, it was a successful time.

Seeing that I live in Nashville and home is Kansas City, I travel by plane to get back and forth. Flying, especially in a busy airport like BNA, can be stressful. Here are ten tips that have helped take the frustration out of my travels.

Fly Southwest: Not only does Southwest have affordable flights and free perks, it also has some of the best turnaround rates at the gate, meaning less time sitting around during boarding.

Invest in PreCheck: If your airport is anything like Nashville’s BNA, security lines are typically 2-3 hours long on a good day. Opt instead to invest in TSA PreCheck. After a simple background check and small fee, you will be able to skip the lines – and not have to take off your shoes at security.

Pack Early: Don’t wait until an hour before you leave for the airport. You will forget your toothbrush.

Roll Your Clothes: The age old myth is true – if you roll your clothes, you will be able to fit more into your suitcase. And as an added bonus, the materials won’t wrinkle when packed in tight.

Wear Layers: Struggling to save room? Wear layers of clothing to help cut down on space in your bag. Plus, airplanes tend to be cold once they get going, so you’ll be thankful for that jacket mid-flight.

Carry On: Even if your airline lets you check a bag for free, I always find it easiest to just carry on all of my luggage. Making everything I need fit into a backpack and small suitcase can be a challenge, but it is well worth it when there is a zero percent chance of luggage getting lost.

Eat at Home: Always be sure to eat a meal or at least a snack or two before heading to the airport. It is no secret that food there can be overpriced, so save yourself the trouble and stock up at home.

Always Uber: Thankfully, I live under ten minutes from the airport, so it just makes sense for me to call an Uber instead of paying to park. However, whether you live ten minutes or an hour away, an Uber allows for the sort of convenience that airport parking just makes impossible.

Arrive Early: You don’t want to miss your fight, so don’t risk it. Always arrive with plenty of time to spare. Pack a book and catch up on your reading list, or take a nap at the terminal. An hour or two extra will mean the difference between a relaxing travel day, and a nightmare.

Extra Chargers: Airports are the nemesis of cellphone batteries. Especially when you have time to spare, the last thing you want is your phone dying. Be prepared and always bring an extra portable charger. These are quick fixes when your percentage hits too low, and no outlets are to be found.

Take the stress out of traveling by doing your research and always giving yourself plenty of time. Travel should be relaxing and just a part of getting to the end destination. Don’t let it overtake your vacation.

 

Is Work-Life Balance Doable?

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This world can be loud.

Technology does not help. Not only are we expected to take orders from bosses and coworkers while at our jobs, but now emails and texts make it possible to receive assignments 24/7 from the comfort of our own homes.

In this digital age, a work-life balance can seem impossible, especially with the daily stresses of a freelancer. There are always 12 different people wanting something from you, and oftentimes, they are feeding more than you can chew.

Too many people think that they are the only thing that matters. They believe that they should take priority over your own sanity and sleep. While it is good to hustle and get ahead, don’t underestimate the importance of your own rest and well-being.

I have fallen victim to the 24/7 business world, and am just starting to learn how to set boundaries that satisfy both myself and clients. It can be tough, but in the end, it is well worth any damaged bridges or cents lost.

Start by setting ground rules when you first begin a relationship with a new client. Let them know your time frame, your charge, and exactly what your services entail. Keep this in writing so that, if any one ever crosses a line, you can refer back to the original agreement. Never feel guilty about honoring your plans, and always put your own ethical practices first.

Another way to set your limits is to create a schedule that is set for at least two weeks out. If any client tries to change that schedule, or attempts to force you to do something that was not originally agreed upon, do not be afraid to charge more, or simply decline the gig. You won’t want to lose any work, but more importantly, you do not want to lose the ability to be in control of your own life. Your time is valuable. Respect that.

The simplest way to achieve some sort of work-life balance, is to turn off and unplug. Vow to not answer any emails outside of business hours, and dedicate at least one day a week to not doing any kind of work. You are a business, and people need to realize that all businesses need time off. No one would consider going to a movie theater that was closed for the night and demanding a ticket, so why should your work be any different?

Yes, there are always exceptions to the rules, but if generally kept, these guidelines can help you and your clients establish healthy relationships that honor your work fairly. Stop worrying about answering every email the second your phone buzzes, and give yourself the peace of mind that the work will be there in the morning. No one really needs an expense report at midnight.

The Amazing Underdogs

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Another May is upon us, bringing with it a new round of TV show finales. Last night, The Amazing Race claimed its winners.

While my deepest congratulations go out to the team that crossed the finish line first, I wholeheartedly believe that a different duo truly won: Sheri and Cole LaBrant.

The mother-son team were the pegged underdogs from the beginning. Through all nine legs of this around the world race, teams wrote them off as weak competitors and easy targets to take and beat in the finale episode. They scraped by with two non-elimination legs, and just barely claimed a space in the race to the final pit stop.

Even though their journey was unconventional and they do not have a fresh million dollars to their name, Sheri and Cole ran the best race out of all of the teams. Hands down.

Sheri and Cole never gave up. Even when they knew they were at the back of the pack, the duo kept a positive attitude and gave every challenge their all. Whether it was learning how to ride a motorized unicycle or changing a car’s oil, the two of them were always encouraging and never too hard on themselves.

Cole and his mom were the true winners, not just because of their consistent spirit and belief, but also because of the fears they concurred during the race. Both individuals are deathly afraid of heights, yet when challenges arose that required great feats, they quite literally jumped right in. They never hid their fear, but instead proved that they were strong and able to overcome every obstacle placed in front of them.

Sure, the best place they ever got was second, but Sheri and Cole ran the race like it was meant to be. They encouraged each other, never gave up, and consistently proved that you should never underestimate the underdogs.

 

Nashville Summer Bucket List Tips

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Music City has more than just Honky Tonks and Beer Pedal Taverns to offer.

If you are looking for a fun family vacation spot, or even just live in town and want to take advantage of your surroundings, look no further than Nashville, TN.

To help you get the most out of your summer vacation, here are six don’t miss activities to add to your Nashville Bucket List.

CMA Fest
The biggest week of the year for Country Music, Nashville’s annual CMA Fest allows listeners the chance to get up close and personal with the most popular names in the industry. The star-studded night shows at Nissan Stadium are always sure to impress, but there are hidden gems inside of the Fan Fair X at Music City Center, and some of the best performances of the event can be caught at the free stages along lower Broadway.

12 South
Full of great food and trendy shops, 12 South is the perfect place to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. Head over to The Flipside for some of the best milkshakes in town, or stop by The Frothy Monkey for a complicated coffee order. Summer is the perfect time to visit this Nashville neighborhood, thanks to all of the intimidating Belmont Hipsters having gone home for break.

The Wild Feathers at The Ryman Auditorium
Everyone should make a point of seeing a show at the historic Ryman Auditorium. Treat yourself on June 25th to not only a visit to the venue, but also one of the best concerts you will ever experience, headlined by the rock and roll geniuses known as The Wild Feathers.

Zoo at Grassmere
While not the most impressive zoo in the country, Nashville’s Zoo at Grassmere always provides a day of fun for the entire family. Get up close and personal with some kangaroos, and even tour the Grassmere Mansion. There are also special events held almost every week including Brew at the Zoo, an opportunity to explore the attraction while sipping on your favorite adult beverage.

Musician’s Corner
This concert series is a fan favorite for visitors and locals alike. Hear some of the best up and coming voices on radio, paired with legendary songwriters, all while enjoying Centennial Park and the plethora of specialty food trucks the event has to offer.

Be a Tourist
Half the fun of Nashville comes from participating in tourism. Even as a local, it can be entertaining to catch a show at the Opry, take a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame, or even sit in at a Nashville Sound’s Game. Since the town is growing in popularity, you can always rest assured that there is something fun going on in Music City.

Seeking Awareness: Celiac Disease

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May is Celiac Awareness Month, so I am celebrating by revisiting my diagnosis, and what helped me most to heal.

A little over two years ago I was introduced to the novel “Jennifer’s Way” by Jennifer Esposito. This book changed my life during a very life-changing time. You see, two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease – a disease that had overtaken my health for my entire life.

Celiac Disease is an auto-immune disorder that affects the villi in your small intestine. These brutal reactions are caused by gluten (found in wheat, barely, rye, and oats) and if left untreated, can lead to a number of terrible fates.

When I received my diagnosis, I was in the middle of my college career. It was difficult to deal with, but overall, the best thing that could have happened to me. I got an answer. I found a way to relieve my health problems and start to put the pieces of my life back together. A big part of the puzzle solving was Jennifer Esposito’s novel.

Jennifer reminded me that I was not alone in the scary world of Celiac Disease, and taught me more than any doctor I had ever spoken to. She assured me that there would be both good and bad days ahead, but more importantly, there would be health.

Not only did Jennifer pen a novel that helped me through some of my most confusing days, but she also continues to lead by example. Jennifer runs a bakery in New York (that I can only hope to travel to one day), encourages people like myself through social media, and fights for the little guy. She knows the importance of awareness, and stands up for our disease every single day.

Jennifer is one of the strongest people that I have ever read about, and I hope to one day be even a fraction as inspiring as she is. There is no question that her advice is the first I turn to after a health setback, and I could never thank her enough for everything she has done.

To get a more thorough look into my Celiac story, check out this video. Recorded just over two years ago, it is crazy to watch back and see how far I have come.

 

Four Financial Faults

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Finances.

Does that word make you cringe?

It is no secret that money is universally stressful. Whether you are a freelance writer and artist in a new city or a billionaire on a yacht, chances are that you have thought about your financial situation at least once in the past 12 hours.

I am no expert by any means when it comes to having a lot of money, but over my time transitioning into adulthood and the pesky bills that come with it, I have discovered four big faults that can be the cause of a downfall when it comes to managing one’s own bank account.

You Don’t Save
A fairly obvious statement, but if you don’t save money, you won’t have money. The golden rule of money management has always advised people to put 10% of every check into the bank. While it may be impossible for someone living paycheck to paycheck to be able to manage this, I have found that the more money I am able to put aside for later down the road, the better I feel at the end of each month when the bills come due.

You Use Plastic
Credit cards are convenient, but dangerous. Yes, they save space and time, but those quick swipes accumulate over the course of a month and can end up giving you quite the surprise. An easy way to cut down on that spending is to only pay in cash or check. Immediately having that money taken from you will help you keep things in perspective, and those name brand scented candles from ever reaching your apartment.

You Don’t Plan
How much money do you see yourself making a year from now? Ten years from now? Having a financial goal and a plan as to how you will achieve it is a great motivating factor when it comes to increasing your income. Always looking for the next client or gig will help to not only boost your resume, but will also give you grounds for a higher charge later down the road.

You Have One Income
Most people in America’s modern career culture rely on one income at a time for the course of their entire lives. This can be extremely problematic if you are to ever lose your job, or become unable to work. Get creative and find a way to have more than one income. Whether you work part time hours in a corporate environment and freelance on the side, or start your own consulting agency, having that flexibility both increases your personal revenue, and gives your confidence a boost.

Money is a tough subject to face, especially for the younger generation constantly stuck in the grind of job searching. The best advice that I have to ensure a financially stable future is to start now. Even if you are just putting pennies in the bank today, your success will grow into dollars tomorrow.

 

If Famous Authors Wrote Swift Songs

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Like most people, you have probably thought long and hard about which Taylor Swift songs popular authors would have written if given the chance. If for some odd reason you have not pondered this, today is your lucky day.

Here are 10 of the most popular authors, and the Swift Songs they would have penned.

John Green – “All Too Well”
Being one of the more wordy songs that Taylor has written, it only makes sense that the rambling genius known as Mr. Green would have crafted this hit.

Nicholas Sparks – “Sparks Fly”
Not only is this a wonderful pun, but “Sparks Fly” also embodies everything that a Nicholas Sparks novel is, including unrealistic expectations at first glance.

J.K. Rowling – “Wildest Dreams”
Millions of people grew up with Rowling’s “Harry Potter” and surely had some wild dreams of their own about attending the wizard school.

Gregory McGuire – “Today Was a Fairytale”
From The Wizard of Oz to Cinderella, McGuire sure loves to create his own version of beloved childhood stories.

J.D. Salinger – “Never Grow Up”
Holden Caufield never wanted to grow up, and saw right through the lies that made up most adults, making Salinger the prime candidate to write this tear-jerker.

Stephanie Meyer – “Teardrops On My Guitar”
The Twilight books are full of teenage angst, as is this old school Swift tune.

Stephen King – “Haunted”
Like most of the novels written by this horror enthusiast, this song from the “Speak Now” era is both eerie and catchy.

William Shakespeare – “Blank Space”
It’s no secret that this first single from “1989” is full of humorous ironies, much like many of the Bard’s works of art.

Cheryl Strayed – “Out of the Woods”
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is no joke, and I’m positive Strayed asked herself over and over again about just how much longer she would be in the woods.

George Orwell – “A Place In This World”
There’s a good chance you won’t be able to escape Big Brother or Taylor Swift anywhere you go in this world.

 

 

 

What Makes a Song Great?

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Music is meant to move people.

So why is it that some songs change our lives when we hear them, and others just make us want to change the radio station?

The answer is simple: We love the songs that we relate to.

Songs are poetic stories told in specific rhythms and key signatures. These stories capture moments in time that honor the feelings of love, betrayal, confusion,  etc. Many even take it a step further with genre specific nuances that help the listener connect more with the plot. For example, country songs focus on farmers wanting to take back roads, while rap songs tend to have more of a club setting.

When a song is related to, people see it as a part of their own lives. They see themselves in the story, and can’t get enough. It’s a bit narcissistic, but true.

That’s why you don’t often see a cowboy singing Kanye, or a city girl belting out Rascal Flatts. People hold on to the music that reflects their own stories, and flock toward artists that they see sides of themselves in.

One could argue that all music is great. Surely each artist would vouch for their own songs. The truth of the matter is, all music has the potential to be great, once it reaches the right ears.

When a song is exposed to someone at the right time and place that can relate to the story on a basic human level, then that song can be considered great.

The value of songs does not come from Billboard stats or iTunes buys, but rather, musical value comes from the listeners’ relationship with the song. Songs are meant to be heard, and once the right person hears the right song, then and only then does greatness occur.

Graduate

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I don’t miss high school. I really don’t miss college either.

But the past couple of weeks have been pretty weird for me.

You see, I graduated from college a year and a half ago. I completed my degree and minor in two and a half years, then got out. Since then, I’ve been busy with the “real world”, living in Nashville and writing. It’s been great. I wouldn’t trade graduating early for the world.

However, over the past few weeks, my social media feeds have been full of my high school acquaintances going on and on about finally getting that diploma and being done with school. They have all done the standard four year route, and are now about to make the leap that I made in December 2014.

These couple of weeks have been a weird sort of nostalgia for something that I never cared for. I can’t help but think that, if I had chosen a “normal” college experience, that would be me. I wouldn’t have moved to Nashville yet, and would be just hours away from putting on that cap and gown.

That’s a weird feeling. But I am so thankful that isn’t me. That isn’t my story. That wasn’t what I needed, or even slightly wanted.

I never liked school. I always did well at it, but the process just didn’t suite me. I would easily grow bored, then frustrated, then restless. I wanted out from the second each semester started, always looking forward to what was beyond institutionalized learning.

I wanted experiences. I wanted to move to Nashville. So I did.

And yes, I am still fairly new out of the college world, but I can’t see my life any other way. The past year and a half has been a big learning experience – something much more worthwhile than anything I could have gathered in a classroom.

It’s nice to see my peers so excited about this milestone. Good for them. But while they are breaking down over all of their “lasts”, I am quite content continuing on my journey of “firsts”.

While I don’t miss high school or college, I recently wrote a song about what it would be like if I did. You can listen to it here.