When Anxiety Takes Hold

The other night I sat on our big, blue ottoman, curled up in a blanket, crying. My husband sat on the couch facing me. He listened as I listed off all of the things that were stressing me out and causing me to feel so helpless.

There’s too much credit card debt, I feel like we’ll never pay it off. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do all of the things I need to do, like workout and spend time with you and get enough sleep. My job is too stressful right now and it takes all my mental energy just to make it through the day. 

Everything just poured out. Tears streamed down my face as I sat there, ugly crying, and I kept adding things to the list. The weight of the stress was too heavy and I couldn’t get out from under it. I felt like I was drowning, like all of these things were weighing down my shoulders and pushing on my chest. Being a living, breathing human was the bare minimum I could accomplish and even that felt like an effort.

As I added more and more things to the ever-growing list of stressors, my husband calmy, softly interrupted my lamenting:

Oh baby, you need to start talking about the good things.

And I’m not exaggerating, this literally stopped my negative thinking stream-of-consciousness brain dump in its tracks.

I looked up at my husband and I saw that he was hurting. He was hurting watching me cry, watching me in pain, watching me crumble under all this stress. He was hurting listening to me list off all the things that were going wrong in our life. He was hurting trying to take responsibility for all of the things causing me stress.

But he knows it could be worse. He tells me all the time.

So, I asked him:

Can I come and sit next to you while I talk about the good things?

And he said:

Of course, baby.

I curled up next to him and laid my head on his chest and started listing off the good things.

We’re together. We’re married. We have jobs that pay well and have good benefits. We have a roof over our head. We have food to eat. We have clothes on our backs. We have family and friends who love us. We’re in love and we’re happy. 

He kissed my forehead:

That’s right, we are happy, aren’t we?

Listing off the good things made me cry even harder. I don’t know whether it was the weight of the stress being lifted off my shoulders or the guilt of forgetting that there are so many good things.

I think sometimes, especially for those of us who struggle with anxiety and depression, it’s easy for us to forget about all the good things. We get stuck in this rut of negative thinking once we let the anxiety take hold, and it’s hard to remember the good things when we feel like we’re drowning in all the bad things.

Remember the good things.

Talk about the good things.

Write about the good things.

For me, the struggle is accepting and enjoying where I am now in my life. I have so many goals and dreams that I get hung up on where I want to be and frustrated that I can’t just be there right now. It’s not that I don’t want to work for it. I just want the work to be going faster.

I get so hung up on chasing my dreams that I feel unsatisfied and unhappy with where I am and what I’m doing right now. I can’t be present in the here and now, because the future seems like such a better place to be. I get overwhelmed by all of the things I need to accomplish in order to get to where I want to be. The worrying sets in, and the anxiety takes hold.

I am posting this to remind myself to take a moment each day and express gratitude.

To appreciate the good things.

To be present in the here and now.

To love my life, my husband, and most of all, myself.

And I hope that you will too.

 

 

 

What’s Wrong With Youth Sports Today: Parents Edition

*Parents, please note that the following post contains a mix of satire and truth. It’s up to you to decide how much you take seriously. 

I recently posted about my personal experiences with youth sports and realized that I had more to say than would fit into one blog post.

So, here is the Parents Edition of What’s Wrong With Youth Sports Today.

I’ll just come right out and say it: parents are ruining youth sports. 

Now, someone remind me (once again) to write a follow-up on this once I have my own children. I’m sure I will have a boatload more to say at that point, but for now this is my stance.

Why are parents ruining youth sport? I’ll tell you why:

  • They are too damn supportive. Back in the day, parents just dropped their kids off at soccer practice and picked them up when they were done. Now, not only are your parents cheering you on at every game, they’re also telling you to run faster during practice. As kids, we play sports to get away from our parents. Don’t ruin this for us.
  • They only buy healthy snacks. These days everyone is gluten free and/or has a peanut allergy. Gone are the days when the snack after the game was not really a food group at all. I once saw a parent bring two veggie trays as a snack at a soccer jamboree and I almost fainted at the sight of it. What has the world come to?
  • They cheer so damn loud. Want to know why I chose swimming as my sport? Because you can’t hear your parents cheering you on if you’re underwater. I actually can’t even sit next to my mom at any sporting event because her cheer gradually gets louder and higher-pitched throughout the game, until you’re sure that you’re going to lose your hearing.
  • They’re convinced that their kid is the best. Although we could have used the self-esteem boost, I’m glad that our parents never told us we were the best players on the team. Because those kids have the worst attitudes and the worst sportsmanship. They’re the ones who throw a fit when the game just isn’t going their way or when another kid on the team isn’t as good as they are. They’re terrible to be around if the team is losing, and their parents enable that behavior.
  • They’re also convinced that they would be a better coach. I was going to say especially the dads, but the truth is that the moms are just as bad. I won’t discriminate based on gender. Every parent thinks that they could do a better job. They could shape up the team. They could lift their spirits. They could magically make every kid into a pro player by the end of the season. And they would do it without yelling as much as Coach Johnson does. You go, Karen. Let’s see you try and coach the team. You and your veggie trays won’t last an hour.
  • Or worse, they are the coach. I think the best year of soccer I ever played was when we had a coach who was a younger guy–I think he was in college–and he was not a parent of anyone on the team. Matter of fact, I don’t think he was a parent, period. Everyone on that team improved their skills, was given a chance to play a fair amount of time each game, and even the all-stars had better attitudes. Maybe this guy was just a soccer-coaching wizard, but I do think it makes a difference having a coach who isn’t a parent of one of their players. Matter of fact, more parents should coach opposing teams. I can’t think of anything better than winning against a team that your parent is coaching and I can’t think of anything worse than losing to that team.
  • They become an expert on the sport. There are pros and cons to this, of course, but overall I don’t think any kid wants their parent to micro-manage every aspect of their life based on their current sport. Especially since your kid probably isn’t going to become a professional athlete. Don’t crush their dreams, but maybe let them take some initiative and become an expert on their sport. Let them put in the extra hours practicing, if they want to, but don’t make them. Be there for them, support them, and remember that they already have a coach. 
  • They’re too invested. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a high-school-age referee or umpire get verbally abused by parents at a game. It’s youth sports, people! There are going to be bad calls. There are going to be questionable calls. There are going to be good calls that you still disagree with. Be a good example and don’t scream at the 16-year-old referee. He’s just trying to do his job and you’re making it harder. Go to a professional sporting event if you want to be surrounded by adults who complain about every referee’s call. Guess what? You can drink beer there, too! 

Okay, now that I’ve demeaned all of you and your life’s work as parents, what now?

Well, you can write me some hate mail or you can try something different:

  • Talk to your kids about your level of involvement in their sport. Maybe they absolutely love having you at every game cheering them on. Or maybe they really like hanging out with their friends in the dugout telling inappropriate jokes and they’d rather you not be around to spoil their fun! Maybe they want you to coach their team this year and they think you’re a great coach. Or maybe they would rather have a coach that is just a coach.
  • Consider coaching another team. If you love coaching and want to be heavily involved, consider coaching a team that your kid doesn’t play on. Obviously this could be a scheduling nightmare, so it might not work for everyone. But you might find that it’s actually more enjoyable to coach a bunch of kids you’ve never met. As a babysitter, I can tell you that kids usually behave better when they’re with anyone else besides their parents, so that could be a win-win!
  • Skip the games, or take a walk. If you find that you tend to get riled up watching your kid play, consider staying at home for some of their games, or taking a walk during the game if you suddenly hear yourself yelling five times louder and higher than normal. Or fill your water bottle with vodka if that calms you down. Either one.

And last but not least, don’t be an asshat. Just don’t. Your kid is watching you. Other kids are watching you. Other parents are watching you. Judgmental bloggers are watching you. Treat people with respect and don’t lose your shit over a youth sporting event. It’s supposed to be all about having fun, right?

Make youth sports fun again!

Side note: I realize that not everyone will be happy with me for giving unsolicited advice to parents, when I am not a parent myself. But think of it this way. I’m 23 years old. I remember vividly what it was like to be a kid. I think my parents still consider me a kid. So take this as advice from a kid’s perspective. Once I have kids of my own, I’m sure I will have plenty more to add from the perspective of a parent. Stay tuned. 

What’s Wrong With Youth Sports Today?

What’s wrong with youth sports today?

Probably a lot of things. But I can only speak to my personal experience. I was a competitive swimmer from the age of 9 to 17.

Swimming is a whole different ball game. Mainly because it isn’t a ballgame.

Swimming is an individual sport that sometimes pretends to be a team sport. Swimming is absolute hell. If you’re thinking about joining the military, try being a competitive swimmer first. There’s a much lower risk of death, but you’ll spend most of your day following orders, adhering to a strict regimen, and having no semblance of a social life. If you think swimming is an easy sport, meet me at the nearest olympic-size pool and bring your inhaler. Even if you don’t have an inhaler, you’ll need one.

If you like waking up before 5:00am and starting your day with a freezing cold shower, this may be the perfect sport for you!

loved swimming as a kid. I loved taking swim lessons. I picked it up quickly and I was so much better than the other kids. I loved playing in my grandpa’s pool and I loved swimming in lakes. I loved swimming in the tiny kiddie pool in my backyard. Yes, the one with the slide.

By the time I retired from swimming at the ripe old age of 17, I loathed it. 

The first problem with youth sports is that kids are being pressured at such a young age to pick just one to focus on. I swam and played soccer until high school. Then I decided to pursue swimming exclusively since I didn’t have time to do both. Why didn’t I have time? Because swimming took up too much of it. It was too demanding. If I wanted to be a great swimmer, I needed to dedicate all my time to it.

Or so the coaches said.

I loved my coaches. They were all great people and I really do believe they all meant well. It’s probably one of those trickle-down effect things. They had a coach who told them this is how it is, so then they became a coach and told us this is how it is.

I don’t blame them for their occasional Hitler-esque behavior. I blame the culture.

Everyone wants to hear that they have a shot at something. That it’s not too late for them to be great, to be the best. But let’s face it, some people are born with natural talent and all the right circumstances. The rest of us are born with the world’s greatest work ethic, and some of us work hard enough to measure up to the talent.

A side note: I am from the “everyone gets a trophy” generation and I have something I’d like to say about that. We didn’t even want the trophies. That was all on the parents, who just wanted to raise their kids without them ever having to feel left out or not good enough or disappointed in themselves. More on that in another post later.

But that’s what this all comes down to, right, is this lie that everyone gets a trophy just for participating. I really and truly believed that if I worked hard enough, I would be a fast enough swimmer to get a college scholarship. I’m not even talking about unrealistic dreams of getting to Olympic Trials. I just wanted a scholarship. Not even a full-ride, just a scholarship, just something to help me pay for college.

If my coaches had been honest with themselves and honest with me, I could have focused less on swimming (not quit, just spent less time and energy on it) and focused more on academics. As it was, I was killing myself trying to do both. But we keep telling ourselves this lie that if we work hard enough, the big break is coming. When in reality, the big break might have been something else entirely had we actually listened to the universe.

Swimming taught me a million lessons that I hold near and dear to my heart, so I don’t believe that I wasted any time. I don’t have regrets. In fact, I count my lucky stars that I was too busy and exhausted to really deal with high school drama. You know those people who wish they could go back to high school? Who are those people and what high school did they go to?! Not mine.

Swimming taught me dedication. 

I can’t think of anything more dedicated than getting up at 4:50am every day just to do something you’re mediocre at (other than what most of us do at our own jobs on a daily basis). I was 100% dedicated to the sport. I did everything right: the workouts, the stretches, the diet (all the carbs you can eat, baby). I suffered through the hard times. I went to swim meets when I had sinus infections. I went to swim meets when I had ear infections.

I kept swimming when I found out that I had exercise-induced asthma and the chlorine and all the other chemicals were literally killing my lungs. I got an inhaler that didn’t help, and I kept swimming. I kept swimming even when it seemed like it was so much easier for everyone else on the team. I kept swimming even when the younger kids gradually got better and faster than me.

And that dedication never really leaves you. I recently did the Whole30 with my husband and he struggled through the entire thing, complaining all the way. I laughed and told him we should do a Whole365. After he said hell to the no, he said I believe you would do that just to prove you could.

He’s 100% right. I can commit to just about anything and see it through to the end, and I owe it all to swimming.

Swimming also taught me when to quit. 

It’s really difficult to quit on anything when you’ve grown up with the quitting is not an option mentality. Now, my parents would never make me do anything I really didn’t want to do. But if the time came for piano lessons and I wasn’t feeling it that day, you bet they’d make me go.

I can hear my mom saying, you can go to piano crying or you can go to piano smiling, but you’re going either way. 

That exact scenario might not have even happened, but it’s hilarious to think about.

But there does come a time when you have to quit on things, or rather, let them go. It’s a fine line. You can’t keep working at a job you hate, but you can’t quit your job every time some little thing upsets you. That’s where the dedication comes in.

You do have to be able to quit, leave things behind, without feeling guilty or thinking you’re a quitter. I was in my senior year of high school and I was ready to leave a lot of things behind. I was burnt out, depressed, anemic (which wasn’t helping the depression), and felt like a shell of the person I used to be. Or I just didn’t have the energy to be the person I used to be.

Swimming and I had a good run. I got some ribbons, some medals, some recognition. I threw up at practice a dozen times. And I don’t know if it was one specific day or a multitude of days, but at some point that year I decided I would not continue swimming. I would finish up high school swim season and short course season and I would be done. I think I fought an internal battle with myself about this for years, but when it was all said and done all I felt was relief.

But, swimming also taught me to stay active.

So of course I decided to learn how to play hockey after that. I couldn’t handle all of the free time. I had to find something else to keep me busy. I also started teaching fitness classes at my gym. I joined a hockey team. And honestly, I was not very good, but most of us weren’t. It wasn’t about being the best, it was about having a good time and learning how to be better and challenging myself.

I have no regrets. I’m glad that I pushed through and kept swimming until I finished high school. It was a nice, clean break. But I think we have to start looking at youth sports in a different light.

Let your kids play the sports they enjoy. Of course there will be days when they hate soccer practice and they’ll have to tough it out, but recognize that there is a difference between not wanting to go to one soccer practice and never wanting to play soccer ever again.

Help them understand that there’s more to play for besides the trophy everyone gets. They are learning valuable skills that will help them later in life, and there’s also something to be said for practicing and improving your own skills, even if you’re not going to make it to the level you’d like to be at.

Walk away from things when it’s time to walk away. This could be a sport, it could be a job, it could be a person. Listen to what’s going on internally and allow yourself to quit if that’s what will make you happy.

And don’t let your kids be swimmers unless you want to wake up at 5am to take them to practice, wash their chlorine-covered towels, and buy 4 times as many groceries because we really do eat like Michael Phelps.

What’s wrong with youth sports today?

All the adult involvement. The competition. The seriousness. Not every kid is going to be the best. Your kid might not be the best.

Let’s give youth sports back to the kids.

And just let them have fun.

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Student

I think I’ve always been a perfectionist. Even as a little kid. I watched and learned from other people. I was never the kid that just went to the edge of the diving board and tried to do a front flip. I watched people try, again and again. I wanted to get everything perfect on the first try.

Looking back, I don’t know who started it. Did my parents set high expectations of me? Did I come out of the womb with high expectations of myself? It was probably a little bit of both. And don’t get me wrong, I’m glad my parents set high expectations of me. It was me setting even higher expectations of myself that got out of hand.

Either way, it was expected that I would get a 4.0 GPA all four years of high school. It’s actually funny because I went to a Montessori school from preschool to 4th grade and they didn’t have grades. We had to do standardized testing every year, but that was all the structure we had (that I remember).

Then, in 5th grade, I changed schools and was introduced to the world of grades. Only no one really explained anything to me, in the beginning. It happened without warning. My teacher sat me down one day and said, solemnly, you have a 76% in Science. 

I stared at her blankly and did not understand for the life of me why she was so sad about this.

It was later explained, either by her or by a classmate, that a 76% meant I had a C. And a C was bad. A C was average. I was not average. I was supposed to be perfect.

All of a sudden, there was this system. My homework was worth something. The system was point-based, and to be the best all I had to do was get an A. This was not a difficult task. Most of the points came from simply doing homework and turning it in. I didn’t have test anxiety yet because I hadn’t taken many tests, so I did fairly well most of the time and didn’t worry when I didn’t do as well.

By the time I got to high school, I was a pro at the system. It was easy to get straight A’s, but it was time consuming. I was playing sports, too. In middle school, I did swim team and played soccer. By the time freshman year rolled around, I had to pick one or the other.

Being a club swimmer came with its own set of challenges. I had practice twice a day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, practice every weeknight, and a three-hour practice on Saturday mornings. I regularly started my day at 4:50am and didn’t get home until 6:30 or 7:00pm. I was up doing homework until at least 10 or 11pm, sometimes midnight. I had no social life, aside from the lunch hour at school and the time I spent hanging out with other swimmers.

But still, I got a 4.0.

I had absurd amounts of homework in high school. Absurd. Don’t even get me started on the amount of homework kids have in elementary and middle school these days. Half of it is just busy work. Here, fill out this bullshit worksheet so we can make sure you actually read the chapter. And you want to know what the crazy thing is?

I cheated.

I was so terrified of the idea that I wouldn’t be perfect, that I would lose that perfect 4.0. There just wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. A group of friends and I would copy each other’s homework if we didn’t have time to finish it, and we would occasionally cheat on tests because we just had to get 100%. My English teacher always said that it’s the A students you have to worry about when it comes to cheating, and she was 100% right.

We didn’t cheat because we were stupid. We cheated because that’s how you beat the system when you don’t have enough time to get all your work done. We were the smart kids, the valedictorians, the ones who gave speeches at graduation.

And I’m not saying all 4.0 students cheat. I’m sure there are plenty of kids out there who were better than I was, and who somehow found a way to get everything done and never copied someone else’s homework. Good for them!

But I’ll tell you what. The system still beats all of us in the end.

Because we grow up in this world where everything is graded, everything is part of this system, and that’s not real life. We grow up thinking that if you make a mistake, you lose a point, and you’re average. If you make a big mistake, you lose a lot of points, and you’re a failure. In the real world, you have to be able to make mistakes otherwise you’re never going to grow. You’re never going to take risks.

There are worse things in the world than bad grades.

You know what’s harder than getting into college? Paying for it.

There are a lot of scholarships to be had, but they don’t cover the cost of everything. While we were all taking AP tests, some kids were working part-time after school. I started working part-time in high school, teaching swim lessons, but it was only a few hours a week–hardly anything. Maybe the kids that worked on the weekend while we wrote college essays had the right idea.

You know what’s worse than getting bad grades? Being unhappy.

I took Spanish in high school and continued taking it in college. I was originally going to minor in Spanish, but I finally got to the point where I walked into a 400-level Spanish Lit class and had no idea what was going on. It was the first day. The professor was speaking 100% Spanish, 0% English, and he also kind of mumbled so I really didn’t understand half of what he was saying. I realized in that moment that I actually hated Spanish classes and I did not care how much being bilingual would help me in my career.

I dropped the class and replaced it with a business class that term.

I have no idea why I took Spanish classes as long as I did. I felt like I just had to keep going until I was a fluent speaker, but somewhere along the way I realized that wasn’t going to happen unless I went to some Spanish-speaking country for six months or a year and actually immersed myself in the language and culture. I improved my Spanish more while working at a restaurant and speaking Spanish with a few coworkers than I did in all of my college Spanish classes.

I think part of it was not wanting to quit. Quitting is the same as failing, right?

Wrong.

Dropping that Spanish class was a breath of fresh air. I was enjoying taking Psychology classes and I couldn’t minor in both Psychology and Spanish if I wanted to graduate in 4 years. Now, I could focus on the Psychology classes that I actually enjoyed. I was paying for college, after all, so shouldn’t I be doing what I want?

But it wasn’t even about doing what I wanted. It was the system, making me feel like I had to do all of these things because it was the smart thing to do. It was exhausting, always trying to check all the boxes and make sure I was doing the right thing. I lashed out in my own way, tried to rebel against being a perfectionist, but I could never bring myself to do anything really crazy.

Until now.

My husband and I have been talking about possibly buying a trailer in a year or two and traveling all across the country in it. Living in it! Maybe we’ll have to quit our jobs, maybe we’ll be able to keep our jobs and work remotely. Maybe it won’t end up happening, maybe we’ll find a new dream that we pursue instead.

But this idea of just packing up, getting rid of all my things, living in a trailer with no permanent address is so unlike me that it’s crazy, right? No, I don’t think it’s unlike me at all. I think it is very much like me. I think this desire to live a truly minimalist life, to wake up somewhere new every week, to live my dream now instead of working hard to have enough money to live my dream later, is exactly who I am. I just lost this part of myself somewhere along the way when I became trapped in this system, in all this structure.

Screw the system.

Teach your children that they are worth more than a grade.

Tell them that it’s okay for them to fail. It’s okay for them to forget their homework and face the consequences.

You don’t have to write their college essays for them just so they don’t fail.

Let them learn. Let them follow their interests. If they don’t want to go to college, ask them what they want to do instead.

And let yourself fail.

Let yourself dream. Let yourself imagine what your life would be like if you weren’t stuck in this system. Imagine what you would do if you made the rules.

And then do it.

 

 

Weekend Getaway: Moab/Arches

Last weekend, Kevin and I decided that we were going to venture down to Moab. We started researching all the various things we could do and ultimately decided on spending two days exploring Arches National Park. Although we have lived in Utah together for over a year (and I’ve been here almost two years), we really haven’t visited any of the cool places nearby.

Moab was great for a weekend trip because it was only about a 3 hour drive. We’ve done many 13-hour road trips back to Oregon to visit family so this seemed like nothing! I found a cheap hotel on booking.com (through Trivago) and was a little nervous about it since it was a cross between a hotel and motel, but had great reviews. It was by far the cleanest hotel I have ever stayed in. I would highly recommend checking out Big Horn Lodge if you want somewhere affordable and clean. It’s also right in downtown Moab so we were within walking distance of the brewery we wanted to eat at, as well as a diner where we ate breakfast one morning.

Arches Day 1

On Saturday, we left at 6am, drove to Moab, and ate breakfast at the Moab Diner since a few people recommended it. Great food, really cute little restaurant, filled to the brim with the most obnoxious families on the face of the Earth. You know when you walk around someplace and you see a bunch of poorly behaved children and you think to yourself, my kids will never behave like that. Well, if you end up having kids and they are little angels, this place will make you feel like the best parent in the world. Better news is, if you have kids that are little devils in public, you’ll fit right in here!

Then we headed over to Arches and realized that we probably should have gotten there early because it took us 30 minutes waiting in line in our car for us to finally buy our pass and get into the park. Which was fine, since we were playing Pokemon Go and watching people’s little devil children run wild in between the cars. Over to our left, there was also a huge sandy hill that people were climbing up and then attempting to slide down on. Some of them had little boards, like they were sledding. Every once in awhile, someone would fall flat on their face and we would simultaneously cheer and groan (because who wants a face full of sand, but it was funny!).

We looked over our little map and decided to attempt the most difficult hike on day 1:

Devil’s Garden Trail

Warning: your shoes will fill with sand about ten steps in.

7.2 miles round trip, includes Double O Arch, Landscape Arch, Dark Angel, Private Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Tunnel Arch, Navajo Arch and Partition Arch (not in that order).

First, we had to play the little game where you drive in a circle around the parking lot and try to snag someone’s parking space. It took us one and a half loops around before we grabbed one. And then we made our first critical mistake. Although it was sunny outside, it was also very cold and windy, so naturally we didn’t think we needed that much sunscreen.

Wrong.

Wrong wrong wrong. If you remember anything from this blog post, remember this:

Put on a shit-ton of sunscreen and then bring that bottle with you to reapply later.

Just trying to find a cozy place to take a nap!

The desert is not messing around.

The hike was fantastic, though, and luckily we didn’t notice how sunburnt we were until we were almost done. Ignorance is bliss. We decided to go against the grain and walk the loop backwards, thus avoiding most of the crowd. This was a great idea, except that it meant we had to walk through about two miles of loose sand. I had to stop a few times to dump sand out of my Nikes. Although normal tennis shoes will suffice for Arches, I would recommend wearing hiking boots simply because they keep out the majority of the sand.

I would not recommend doing this hike with your children (or spouse) if they are afraid of heights or are reluctant to climb on slick rock or walk across beautiful rock fins that are basically cliffs on either side. Or if they will complain about their shoes being filled with sand.

The most beautiful parts of this hike weren’t the arches!

This hike is great if you hate people. Most people will walk the 1.6 miles to Landscape Arch. Some will walk the 4.2 miles to Double O Arch, but not as many. Taking the loop backward, we were able to avoid most of the crowds and just enjoy the beautiful scenery (while not noticing that we were being burned by the sun). We finished the hike in about five hours. We took very few breaks, but you could easily make a day out of it and bring a picnic lunch.

We headed home, checked in to our hotel, and ate a fantastic dinner at the Moab Brewery. They had surprisingly amazing beer. We’d recommend the Squeaky Bike Nut Brown Ale. And then we passed out at 8:30pm in separate beds. Because we were sunburnt and couldn’t let our skin be anywhere near another person.

Arches Day 2

Partition Arch! And superhero pose!

We woke up at 7:30 and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the Moab Grill. Although our hotel didn’t offer complimentary breakfast, this restaurant is literally connected to the hotel and reminds us of the small-town homey diners in Eastern Oregon.

Then we went to the nearest grocery store and bought a sixteen gallon tub of Aloe Vera, and found a cute little store that sold long-sleeved touristy t-shirts. Yes, the sunburns were that bad.

We got to Arches earlier the second day, so we didn’t have to wait as long to get into the park. We did see a little girl throw an orange out of her window while waiting in line. It almost hit an unsuspecting motorcycle gang member. He graciously picked up the orange and returned it to her. Her mom had to roll the windows up to keep her from losing the orange again.

The goal was to conquer all the short hikes on Day 2. We started at the very back of the park and worked our way back to the front. First up was Skyline Arch, a super short hike (0.4 miles). Lots more people on these shorter hikes, since basically they just have to get out of their cars and walk a few feet to take a decent photo. We tried to catch a couple of lizards on the trail, but were unsuccessful.

Tapestry Arch ft. Kevin

Next was a loop that consisted of Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch, and Tapestry Arch. Probably less than 2 miles total. We only brought one water bottle and I started to get hungry about halfway through. Luckily, Kevin stopped me before I started yelling at other people’s kids. It would have been warranted though. There were clearly signs everywhere stating not to go off the damn trails. 

My kids will never behave like that.

Someone remind me I said this after I’ve had kids. I may have to rescind that statement.

Next, we headed down to the Fiery Furnace overlook and had some lunch. We were unable to do the Fiery Furnace hike, because you either have to do a guided hike or get a hiking permit (which were sold out). We will definitely be doing this next time. After lunch, we did our last long hike: Delicate Arch.

Delicate Arch

This was a 3-mile round-trip hike with a steep elevation gain. Not that difficult of a hike, unless of course you like breathing normally. We pushed through the wheezing breaths and hiked as fast as we could to the top.

Delicate Arch ft. Sami & Kevin

The crazy thing about this hike was all of the people with strollers. We watched dozens of parents pushing strollers up a steep incline on bumpy slick rock. And then, of course, they had to abandon their strollers once they got close to the top. But it was crazy!

I can see how, through the eyes of a parent, it would be better to push your stroller up this rough terrain instead of watching your toddler fall off a cliff.

Delicate Arch was one of our favorite arches. It was also, unfortunately, the most crowded. It’s the arch that you see on all the Utah license plates, so it’s kind of an icon I guess. When we go back, we’ll bring lunch on this hike and stay and enjoy the view awhile! It is a little windy though, and very high up. It was slightly terrifying watching all the people standing in the arch taking photos. From where we were sitting, it looked like they were inches from losing their footing and falling to their death.

By the time we got back, we were sweaty and our feet hurt, but we had a couple more Arches to see before we could call it a day.

Double Arch

Double Arch with (most of) the people cropped out.

The next hike would take us to Double Arch, Turret Arch, and the North and South Windows. Instead of walking to the North and South Windows and then turning around, I wanted to go behind the Windows on a longer, primitive trail.

Kevin was less than enthused.

Double Arch was beautiful and crowded. But we were entertained by a few kids screaming at their parents and frantically running down the hill when they realized they were leaving without them.

The End of Day 2

After we finished taking pictures at Double Arch, we stopped by the Garden of Eden. A viewpoint, luckily, not a hike. Garden of Eden mostly consisted of a bunch of phallic rocks pointing straight up, so we laughed really hard at the name.

The Garden of Eden.

We stopped at the Courthouse Towers viewpoint on the way out and saw a couple of other cool structures. The only hike we didn’t do was Park Avenue, which has no arches but takes you through a really cool part of the park. We’d rather come back and do that hike when we can be dropped off at one end and picked up at another, rather than having to walk to the end and back.

The only other hike we weren’t able to do was Tower Arch. To get there, you had to drive on an unpaved road through soft sand. It was recommended that this not be attempted after heavy rains (and it rained all night on Saturday). But next time, we’ll rent a jeep!

On the Way Home

After starting our 3 and a half hour journey back home, we realized that we both had a few blisters on our feet. Disappointing. We stopped in a town called Green River and ate dinner at a taco truck. Walking back to our car, I had a minor panic attack. I thought a man was trying to steal our car, but in fact he was sitting in his own car, which was the same exact color as mine.

We made it home by 10pm on Sunday. I felt like we had been gone for a month. We hiked a total of 20 miles in two days.

Next Trip To-Do List

Trying to take selfies without people in the background.

Next time we go to Moab, we plan on going back to Arches and hiking Tower Arch and Fiery Furnace, as well as anything and everything else we didn’t get to see this time. We’re also going to head down to Canyonlands and potentially Dead Horse Point State Park (probably not all in the same trip).

If you’ve been to Arches or Moab and have other cool suggestions for us, comment below!

Disclaimer: all photos taken with iPhones. We are not photography professionals. Yet.

25 Legit Reasons To Stay Home From Work

Now, I love where I work. I love the people, I love what I do everyday, and I love how short the commute is. I really have nothing to complain about at all. Nevertheless, I still wake up some days and dread getting out of my comfy bed and facing the day.

It really has nothing to do with going to work at all. It has to do with going out into the world. 

So, for anyone else who just didn’t feel like going out into the world today, here’s a (hopefully humorous) list of legitimate reasons you can use to justify staying home in your comfy bed:

  1. It snowed last night and your car is covered in six inches of powder. The ice scraper/snow brush thing is inside the car so there’s no way to get to it without getting snow all over you.
  2. Your husband woke you up in the middle of the night by loudly blowing his nose, knocking over a bottle of water, and turning on the bathroom light because he forgot to take his contacts out. It clearly disrupted your REM cycle and you need at least a four hour nap.
  3. It’s too cold outside the comfort of your bed.
  4. You went to the gym this morning, so you definitely deserve to stay home and rest for the remainder of the day.
  5. You got a sunburn last weekend and it can’t have any clothing touching it, otherwise it hurts with a vengeance. Going to work topless is unfortunately not an option.
  6. Your sunburn that you got last weekend is now peeling and itching like a MOFO.
  7. The house is a mess. You need to spend the day at home deep-cleaning everything.
  8. You need to catch up on all of the Netflix shows your husband has been telling you to watch.
  9. Your jeans feel tighter than they did yesterday and you can’t bear going to work after clearly gaining fifteen pounds overnight.
  10. All of your clothes are clean (for once) so there are too many outfit choices to choose from.
  11. It’s too sunny outside and you don’t know where your sunglasses are.
  12. You have to clean up all of your clothes that are now strewn about the bedroom floor, after trying on every single article of clothing you own looking for something to wear.
  13. There’s no one around to put aloe vera on your back, because your husband is a responsible adult who went to work early.
  14. You’re too tired to legally be driving, maybe you’re at risk for falling asleep at the wheel.
  15. You have to make breakfast after going to the gym, which means you’ll be late anyway so you might as well just call it a day.
  16. You’re already late for work because of the last 15 reasons, so what’s the point in even trying to get to work at all?
  17. You’re going to be even later the longer you argue with yourself about whether or not you should stay home, so just stay home.
  18. You just remembered you need to get gas so that’s going to be another hour added on to your commute.
  19. There’s no Dutch Bros. near where you live, so there’s no point in ever getting out of bed really.
  20. Your husband is at work, so if you stay home you’ll have the entire house to yourself! Which means you can nap, all alone, spread out in the center of the bed.
  21. Maybe you’d be more productive if you stayed home. Maybe you could write an entire novel in one day if you really focused on it.
  22. Your husband has been sick all week, which means you’ll probably get sick next week, so you’d better rest up now and hopefully not catch his cold.
  23. There’s probably one or two thank-you cards you still haven’t sent out from your wedding. You should probably take the day to get those done.
  24. If you took a nap, you could go to the gym again this afternoon! Maybe it’s not too late to be an olympic athlete.
  25. It’s Friday. You showed up 4 out of 5 days this week. You deserve the day off!

What are your favorite reasons for staying home from work? What are some reasons you wish your boss thought were legitimate? Comment below!

Career Paths

Why must we commit to one career for the rest of our lives? Why are we pushed to find one thing to be amazing at, when there are a million things we could be good at? Why are we bashed for leaving jobs after one or two years because we want to try something new, change things up, be different?

This is not a post about millennials. I don’t know what your opinions are on millennials, but I don’t care right now.

I care about the fact that we, as a collective society, are living under this illusion that we have to be one thing for our entire lives. This may be great for some people. Maybe all you’ve ever dreamed of being is a stay-at-home parent. Watching your kids grow up and being with them 24/7 brings you so much joy that once they grow up, you start watching their kids. Maybe you’re an amazing artist and all you want to do for the rest of your life is fill the world with your art.

For the rest of us, the idea of being stuck doing the same thing for the rest of forever until maybe we have enough money to retire is mildly (or hugely) terrifying. I love what I do right now. I work for an amazing company that treats their employees well. I love talking to people and getting to know them and figuring out what their life dreams and passions are, so being a recruiter is great for me.

But I don’t have plans to be a recruiter for the rest of my life. Maybe I will be and maybe it’ll work out that way, but I’m not going to close my mind off to the potential of learning new skills or exploring opportunities when I’m only in my mid-20’s!

When I see a resume that has a bunch of short stints at various companies, that’s a red flag. Because from a company perspective, we don’t want to hire someone who is just going to move on in a year and leave us for another company. I get that. Companies need to have that security. High turnover is a pain for everyone involved.

But what if, as companies, we shifted our focus?

What if we stopped just dismissing people that appear to have jumped from job-to-job and we gave them a chance to explain themselves? What if we asked them this:
What do we need to do to keep you at our company for longer than six months? For longer than a year? For longer than five years?

And what if we asked ourselves this:
What value can this person provide? What can they accomplish in six months? In a year? In five years?

Maybe this person is a rock star and your company would be lucky to have them, even if it’s just for a short period of time. They might accomplish more in six months or in a year than the rest of your employees have accomplished in the last five years! Maybe it’s worth it to bring them on-board, even if they leave you a year later to live on a boat and write a book, or go back to college, or start their own company, or work as a bartender, whatever they want to do.

I moved to Utah on a whim and was only planning on being here for about a year before moving back to Oregon. But then I found an amazing job and I am now planning on staying at this company (and staying in Utah) for the foreseeable future. But I haven’t sat down and said okay, we’ll stay in Utah forever or we’ll stay in Utah for exactly five more years. There are so many factors involved in that decision and I think my energy is better served living in the moment and not worrying about it.

You have to decide if you want to be a part of this person’s career path. Don’t ask them to sell their soul to you for the rest of eternity, and don’t look down on them for not wanting  to commit to a certain company or a certain career. You’re taking a risk with everyone you hire, regardless of what they tell you about their current and future career goals, regardless of how perfect their resume seems.

Take a chance on these people who aren’t afraid to leave a job after six months or a year because they’re not happy or they know they can do better. Because if your company is the right fit for them, they will be your greatest asset. They may still leave you after a few years, but they will be your hardest-working, most passionate employees. And if they decide to leave you, it’s because their heart’s just not in it anymore and they do not want to be the employees that do sub-par work. They care too much about you and your company to do that.

Give these people a chance and stop calling them flighty, lazy, noncommittal millennials (I know, I said this wasn’t about millennials but I know someone is still thinking it is). They may not want to work ten, fifteen years at the same company or in the same industry, but don’t ever assume that means they aren’t hard workers. They care so much about their jobs, their companies, and their talents that it’s unthinkable to them that they would waste their own time or their company’s time if they want to move on and do something different.

Side note: there are genuine lazy, flighty people in the world who leave jobs after two months because they don’t like working. There are probably people on unemployment who sit around smoking pot all day, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who smokes pot is lazy, does it? No. So remember that not everyone who has a tendency to change jobs every year or two is flaky. Don’t lump everyone into one stereotype or generalization just because of a couple of lazy bums.

I do have a few suggestions, which really apply to anyone who is currently job searching or will be in the future:

  • Be transparent & honest. If you’re just looking for a job to pay the bills, be up-front about that. If you’re looking for a specific salary range, don’t be afraid to bring it up (but back it up with data). If you’re looking for your dream job, don’t apply for jobs that don’t fit your dream job requirements.
  • Ask questions. If you’re serious about a job, ask a million questions during the interview process. Ask about everything that’s important to you. Ask about salary, ask about work-life balance, ask about free lunches or casual Fridays. And most importantly, ask about the role. The last thing you want to do is get hired and find out that the role is completely different than you thought.
  • Make a list. Write down everything that is a must-have in your next job. Write down everything that you would consider to be a deal-breaker. Rank everything so that you know what is most important to you, because no company is perfect. You may not find everything you’re searching for but you can probably find about 90%.
  • Be realistic. Even if you love your job, chances are you’d still rather get paid millions of dollars to sit on the beach and read. You will still have days where you don’t want to come in to work or you’re frustrated with a project and suddenly feel like you don’t like anyone you work with. These are fleeting moments. We all have them. Don’t let one fleeting moment be the reason why you leave a job you love.

And for the love of all that’s holy, make sure there are no typos in your resume!
🙂

Stop Being Busy

I’ve noticed lately that everyone around me seems impossibly busy. At my work, people complain to me that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. No matter how hard they try, they can’t make it to all their meetings on time and get everything done that needs to be done.

I’m calling bullshit on this. Being busy is a choice.

There seems to be this misguided concept that in order to be successful, you have to be in a constant state of busy. You can never catch up, never hit reset, never come home and say I got everything done today that I needed to do. Why do we think this way?

Well, I think it goes back to our old American way of thinking. If you work hard, you’ll be successful. Unfortunately, no one is walking around preaching to people that they should also work smart.
While in college, I worked as an intern for a man who owned his own business. He taught me how to run his business so that I could be in charge of things while he was out of town. It wasn’t rocket science, and I picked things up very quickly. After I had worked for him for about a month, he sat me down and said that he was going to give me a raise. Apparently, I did everything twice as fast as his previous employees. What took them five or six hours only took me two or three.

He didn’t have to give me a raise. He could have just let my efficiency be my own downfall. Because I worked faster, I would have made less money than I could have if I had forced myself to slow down, waste time. But I’m not like that. I don’t think I could ever waste time just to get paid more. My own time is way too valuable for that.

I am no longer an hourly employee, but there is still this expectation in my current job that we work 40-50 hours a week. Now, I have absolutely no problem working 50, 60, 70 hours a week if there is work to be done. I’m not a lazy person, trying to get out of doing my work, but I fundamentally disagree with the concept of the 40-hour work week.

Who got to decide that we had to work 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week?

Now, of course it depends on the job that you have. Some jobs are very flexible, some are very structured. If you work at a bookstore and it’s open from 9-5, you’re going to be there from 9-5 whether it’s a busy day or a slow day. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, you work 24 hours a day, even on sick days and holidays. If you’re a freelance artist, you can work whenever you want but you have to sell your work in order to get paid.

But regardless of the structure or lack thereof at your current job, I think we can all agree that this assumption that successful people are busy people needs to go out the window.

How about this: happy people are successful people.

I don’t know about you, but being busy does not make me happy. If I can’t get everything done and I have to go home at night knowing that I’ll be behind the next day, I get stressed out. If I have to miss an important meeting so I can get something done, I feel guilty for missing the meeting and stressed that I’m so busy I had to miss it.

If I get everything done by 4:00pm and I’m ready for everything that’s going to happen tomorrow, I would love to just call it a day. Head out of the office early, maybe go home and read a book or tidy up the house or go to the gym or take a nap. But I get worried that people are going to think I’m skipping out early or I’m not really doing all my work. And I also get worried about the other people that I work with who can’t call it a day and leave early. I want to help them get everything done so they can leave at 4:00 too.

So, how about we collectively decide not to live in a constant state of busy?

Here are a few ways to start:

  • Have realistic expectations for yourself. There really are only so many hours in the day. If your to-do list is three pages long everyday, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Figure out what you can realistically get done every day and stick to that.
  • If you’ve got too much on your plate, delegate. If you have to do everything on your 3-page to-do list, figure out what things you can assign to other people. Especially if you are a manager. Your employees should be taking things off your plate. You should be delegating to them and training them to take over certain things so that you can focus on the things only you can do. 
  • Create a game plan. Daily. As soon as you get to work and get your coffee, write down all the things you have to get done and decide what order you want to tackle them. I recommend doing the most difficult things first, but that doesn’t work for everyone. Figure out what works best for you.
  • Only attend productive meetings. If you have a weekly meeting where absolutely nothing gets done, say something about it. And if you are hosting a meeting, make sure it has a clear agenda, is productive, and worth your time (and everyone else’s).
  • Clear out your inbox every day. I start with my oldest emails first and go from there. By the end of the day, my entire inbox (except occasionally, one or two important emails) is clear. I move emails into folders if I need to save them and reference them later, but I don’t move or delete an email until any necessary action on my end has been completed.

Once you have freed yourself from the plague of being constantly busy, don’t fill that time with more busy clutter.

Your time is valuable. It should not be filled to the brim with to-do lists and plans and structure. Give yourself some wiggle-room to enjoy not being busy, to breathe, to de-stress, to do whatever it is you’ve been needing to do for yourself but you’ve been too busy to do it.

Busy does not equal successful.

Happy equals successful.

Choose Your Family

People always say you can’t choose your family. I have heard many a disgruntled relative or frustrated parent say this over the course of my lifetime.

I disagree.

You can choose your family. You just can’t choose your relatives. Once you are related to someone, by blood or marriage or adoption or whatever, you can’t get rid of that association. They are your relative, but they may not be your family.

I googled the definition of family just now and at first found a couple of things that are more in line with what I would call relatives, but I also found a few definitions that I really loved:

A group of objects united by a significant shared characteristic.
A group of people united in criminal activity.

If anything, we really should be choosing our families based on the latter definition. Who would you want in your circle if you were robbing a bank or running a drug cartel? I like the first definition though, which has roots in biology, because it goes back to that idea of surrounding ourselves with people who share our core values and beliefs.

The definition of a relative is a person connected by blood and marriage.

In my last post, I brought up this notion we have that we’re supposed to keep all of our relatives in our close circles simply because they are related to us. I really want to challenge this line of thinking because I don’t think any of us should feel guilty for who we have close relationships with and who we don’t, regardless of whether or not they’re related to us. I think we also need to make the distinction that just because people may not be in our closest circles doesn’t mean we don’t love them, appreciate them, and support them in their own lives.

I have relatives that I have lived close to my whole life, and relatives that live in other states. The distance between us does not determine how close our relationships are. I only see my California-residing relatives every couple of years and I don’t really keep in touch with them other than Facebook, but when my family goes down to California or they come up to Oregon we have a blast. I love them just as much as my Oregon-residing relatives.

But I did not invite them to my wedding. Why? Well, partly because I was only engaged for six months leading up to my wedding (not a lot of time for people to make travel plans) and my husband and I decided that we did not want to wait a year to get married (which would have given us more time to plan, save money, and invite more people). I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad if they couldn’t go due to the short notice. And we wanted a small, intimate wedding (which is really impossible unless you elope, but we did pretty well).

The main reason, though, was because my husband’s family did not go to our wedding. My Oregon-residing relatives all know my husband, so I knew that having them there would make him feel supported. I was worried that having all of my extended family there, especially all of the people he’d never met, would make the absence of his own family hurt even more (a special thank you to the Evers family members who were there to support Kevin on our wedding day – we love you!).

My point is that I did not allow myself to feel the pressure to invite all of my relatives (and friends) because I knew that they would understand and they wouldn’t take it personally and even if it hurt their feelings a little, they’d get over it. Because we are all adults and we have to make the choices that are right for us. And we shouldn’t have to feel all of this guilt and pressure over making everybody else happy.
It’s impossible, really, so why not focus on our own happiness?

Surround yourself with people who love and support you, who share your core values and beliefs.

These people might be your relatives, they might be your close friends, they might be a mix of both. I, personally, am very close with my parents and brothers and couldn’t imagine our relationship being any different. But it could very well have been different if my parents were toxic, if my life was different growing up. And that could be your story. You should not feel the need to keep people in your close circle if they are toxic or if they bring you down. Sound familiar? I’ve said it before, and the point is that it doesn’t matter if they are related to you. The same rule still applies.

Understand that people change, and your close circle might change over the years.

I remember being a kid and being so close with my cousins. I loved going to family gatherings and hockey games and hanging out with them. I still love them all to pieces, and it’s great to see them on holidays and birthdays. It’s great to watch them grow into young adults, but our relationship is not the same as it was ten years ago. And that’s okay. They have their own friends and they’re growing into these unique human beings, and they know that I will be there when I can to support them. And who knows, maybe in the future we’ll have that really close relationship again.

Also understand that some people don’t change, and you may have to leave them behind.

When we’re little kids, we have this unconditional love for family members, relatives, close friends, and that stems from knowing that our parents love these people and trust these people to be around us. As we grow up, we form our own opinions about these people we’re surrounded by and that unconditional love starts to fade. It’s not that we stop loving people, we just start noticing their quirks and their flaws and their personalities. And we start to figure out who we like spending time with. I encourage you to let your kids do this. Let them decide which family members, relatives and friends they enjoy being around. This doesn’t mean they get to be rude to everyone else, but they do get to have their own opinions and share them, when appropriate. We don’t live in the children must be seen, not heard era anymore. Plus, I guarantee they won’t be any more rude than their druncle (drunk uncle) is at any family gathering.

Ultimately, you have to do what is right for you.

Only you know the ins and outs of your relationships. You get to decide who is in and who is out. This isn’t some high school clique, this is your life, and you do get to decide who is involved in it.

Choose the people that make you happy and reduce your stress.

They’re your family.

Toxic Families

I’ll be totally honest here. I probably have no right to even attempt to give advice on how to deal with toxic families, since I have had a hard time figuring out how to deal with my own family. But I’m hoping that my own experiences will help you to find the right course of action in your own situation. Or, at the very least, make you feel like you’re not alone. Because you’re definitely not alone.

Every family has drama. But you can have drama and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are surrounded by toxic family members. The way I would define a toxic family member is someone that is repeatedly bringing negativity, drama, or complication into your life. So even though family drama sucks and it’s easy to point fingers, don’t eliminate someone from your family circle because of one or two small issues. Our families are usually very close to us, so we try harder to work through problems with them because we know that we’re still going to have to see them at the next birthday party even though we’re super pissed off that Aunt Karen is currently on some pro-NRA agenda and is lashing out at everyone else for being too liberal (this is not a real-life example by the way – I don’t have an Aunt Karen).

There are three things that have helped me deal with toxicity amongst my own family members.

The first is open communication. I know, weird right? Who would have thought that just communicating openly with people could help resolve issues? Pardon my sarcastic tone, but it’s a really simple thing that would solve a lot of problems and misunderstandings if people actually did it.

The second is understanding that everyone has their own truth. This is a hard one, especially if you’re one of those people who sees things in black and white and thinks you’re right most of the time (like me). The thing is, you only see things from your lens, your perspective, your view of the world, no matter how progressive or open-minded you think you are. Everyone else still sees things through a different lens than you do. But that doesn’t mean that they’re wrong and you’re right. It just means that their truth is different than yours.

Acknowledging that someone else has their own truth does not mean you are justifying it or agreeing with them.

It just means that you are acknowledging that they believe what they are saying. You don’t have to think they are right. In fact, you can think they are utterly and completely wrong. But you can’t really tell them that their truth doesn’t exist or shouldn’t exist, because it does.

It has nothing to do with being right or wrong.

The third thing is realizing that you can still love someone despite all of this. You can still love a toxic family member. You can still love a family member who has an extremely different truth than you do. You can still love a family member who is really just a pain in your ass. Trust me. Your parents loved you even when you drove them crazy, didn’t they?

There is a consequence for every action, right? That consequence could either be positive or negative, depending on the situation. When dealing with toxic family situations, everyone involved needs to understand that there are going to be consequences for their actions. It’s one of the most basic principles we teach our children, so it shouldn’t be that hard for adults to understand.

For example, if Aunt Karen thinks it’s okay to make openly racist remarks at the Thanksgiving dinner table, the consequence might be that you don’t take your kids to see Aunt Karen anymore. The consequence also might be that you teach your kids about racism and they call Aunt Karen out the next time they hear her saying something inappropriate.

Aunt Karen isn’t going to know about these consequences unless you say something. No, it’s not your job to say something and you’re right, she probably should be able to figure it out on her own. But let’s go back to that idea of open communication. Let Aunt Karen know your feelings on her racist comments. Let her tell you about how back in her day everyone said those things and it was fine.

Then you can say, “Well Aunt Karen, I understand that you don’t believe there is anything wrong with being racist because that’s how you grew up, and that’s fine if you don’t want to change that, but I have already told the kids that I don’t find your behavior appropriate and if it continues, we won’t be coming to see you anymore.”

Now it’s Aunt Karen’s choice. You’ve acknowledged her truth and you’ve let her know the potential consequences. It’s up to her to decide what she wants to do in response.

This is not an ultimatum. You have every right to decide who you spend time with and who your kids spend time with. You are under no obligation to spend time with someone just because they’re related to you. Don’t let anyone try and tell you otherwise.

One of the most freeing things my family has ever done is we started spending Christmas at home. Just my parents, my brothers, and me (and now my husband and my brother’s girlfriend). We used to wake up early (around 7) and open presents, then my grandpa would come by for brunch, then we’d get dressed and drive to Hillsboro to spend the rest of the day at my grandma’s house with aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was exhausting and by about 2:00pm we all just wanted to take a nap.

Now, we have no schedule for the day. We wake up when we want to and we take however long we want to open presents. We eat whatever delicious breakfast my mom has prepared for us. We take naps in the middle of the day. We go out and deliver presents to friends. We play games. We eat pizza for dinner. And we love it.

Does this mean I don’t love my extended family? Of course not. I do see them at other times throughout the year. Now that I live in another state, I really value the time I get to spend with my immediate family. And realistically, it would be impossible to see everyone during the short time I am back in Oregon so I do have to prioritize.

The point is, you are not obligated to spend time with family just because they’re family. You are not obligated to do things the way that they’ve always been done. You are not obligated to tolerate someone’s shitty behavior because they’re family and that’s just who they are. Side note: there will be a follow-up post on this because I think it’s such an important topic.

I cannot stress this enough. If anything, I think we should hold our family members to higher standards than we hold other people. After all, these are the people in our closest circle. The people that we have listed as emergency contacts. The people that can pick our kids up from school or watch our pets while we’re on vacation. The people that we spend holidays and birthdays with. It seems ridiculous that we wouldn’t hold them to higher standards.

But we let a lot of things slide with family and I think that’s a mistake. Because we don’t really let things slide. We just don’t mention them and we keep a running list in our head of all the things we let slide, until one day Aunt Karen does something and it’s the last straw and we just lose it.

So if you’re dealing with a toxic family situation or a toxic family member, don’t let it slide:

  • Communicate openly with all parties involved.
  • Acknowledge each person’s truth.
  • Be transparent about the potential consequences, but let each person decide their own path forward.
  • Remember that your love for this person isn’t contingent upon whether they make the “right” choice. You can still love them, even if your relationship changes going forward.

If you decide to cut ties with a toxic family member, you do not have to justify this decision to anyone. That decision is yours and yours alone.