Tag Archives: happiness

Finding Middle Ground: Bridging the Gap Between Capable and Breakable

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“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you laugh like that before, Libby. I love it,” David smiles, and looks at me.

It’s early in our road trip. We are somewhere between North Carolina and Louisiana–Kim is driving. David is riding shotgun, and I’m perched up in the backseat, staring out the window—and laughing—no, more precisely, I am giggling. A hearty giggle—the kind where you’ve put aside all of your defenses, your guard is completely down, and you’re completely vulnerable.

I’m happy.

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It’s the first time I remember being this happy in a long time. It’s also the last week of the initial hobby year; the last week of the “giant quest” I had set out to quote, unquote, find myself. The road trip was initially meant to mark the end of The Hobby Hoarder, a kind of non-chalant pat on my own back for the success of making it through the year. What I found was that it actually marked a new beginning; a newfound confidence, a newfound “place” in this world; a newfound feeling of gratification; a newfound belief in the good in this world; a newfound love for life—and for myself.

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It’s been nearly two years since the road trip—and nearly three since I began “The Hobby Hoarder.” In a way, it feels like it’s been a lifetime.

Rachael, an acting teacher and friend of mine, once told me she loves growing up, adding years; because it adds experiences. She also told me she’s had many lives. Three years ago, when she first told me this, I didn’t understand.

But I’m now starting to.

After the initial hobby year, I decided I wasn’t ready to “land” quite yet—or quit the challenges. Besides, now for me, it was all a lifestyle–so when I returned from the road trip, I continued hobbying and trying new things.

Then one day, I stopped. The videos stopped. The blog posts stopped, and the writing stopped. I called it a “hobby hiatus,” a short break. What I refused to call it was, putting the hobby hoarder to rest.

It was April of this past year. I had just gotten doored on my bike. I was in shock and convinced myself I was ok. I went to dance class, and the next day I couldn’t move my neck. Two weeks later I broke my hand; three months later, sprained my ankle; and in October I broke my foot.

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“How could this happen,” I’d ask myself. “I went two years, trying EVERYTHING under the sun—without a single major injury….I haven’t done a hobby in months…how is this possible?”

I lost myself to the injuries. First I was sad—then I was angry. And that giggle my best friend commented on during the road trip two years ago? It was nearly non-existent.

Focusing on the roughness in my own life made me somewhat ignorant to the issues my friends were having. How could I be there for them, when let’s face it, I was doing a piss-poor job of being there for myself?

It’s been just over two months since I broke my foot, and four weeks since the doctor cleared me to lose the boot. Three weeks ago, I went for a walk—a really long one. I cleared my head.

I thought to myself, ‘It would be really easy to write 2014 off like a bike accident—as if the whole year was just one big “doored” accident, a year in which I would walk away from with a sour taste in my mouth but ultimately forget about.’

But the truth is—looking back on it: 2014 really wasn’t bad. It was actually pretty good. What I came to understand, was that even though the injuries significantly knocked me down: they didn’t complete me—the way The Hobby Hoarder didn’t complete me either.

Getting back up—toughening up—flexing my rebound muscle—that’s what became important. Finding the balance between feeling unstoppable and being breakable became it’s own life lesson—one I could have never learned if I hadn’t taken the hobby hiatus.

This year I also came into my own—became more honest with myself, my friends, and my family about who I am and who I want to be. I made new friends, grew closer to old friends and opened up.

Ultimately, I began to accept myself, something I’m not sure I really did in the Hobby Hoarder years—likely because I was so focused on trying to “find myself.”

The truth is if we focus in on trying to find ourselves, we should be aware that we may not love what we find at first.

Acceptance and love then become their own journeys. That’s what I discovered; that’s the life I lived this year.

In the past few weeks, I’ve gone on more long walks. I’ve sat and taken in some serious fresh air. And I’ve debated if I’ve wanted to make any new years resolutions. I normally don’t.

 But this year I’ve decided it may be a good time to put some out into the world, to plant them, and watch them grow.

There are two.

1. I’d like to find middle ground; between “feeling unstoppable and capable of anything—and feeling completely breakable.” I’d like to find the joy in the difficult moments—as they are happening, rather than in the months after they’ve passed. I’d like to lose retrospect and hindsight. I’d like to smash the rearview mirrors.

2. I’d like to start the hobby hoarder again. But this time around, just as me—regular old Libs. No videos this time around—alright lies—maybe a few. 😉 I’d like to give myself a chance—or perhaps you might call it a second chance, and I’d like to give the hobbies I’ve tried in the past a second chance—and some new ones a first. I’d like to see if there’s things that I’ll see a little bit differently now—that I’ll like a little bit differently, that may not have scared me before—but maybe scare me a little bit now—or things that may have scared me before, but scare me a little bit less now.

When I started the hobby hoarder, I swore life was all about “firsts.” But the truth is life is about more than just firsts–it’s about seconds and thirds too–besides who doesn’t like a second helping? It’s about filling ourselves up with as much as we can until we explode. That’s what I did in the first hobby hoarder year, I filled myself up.

So life isn’t just about firsts. It’s about second chances and new beginnings; and starting over. It’s about finding balance-and middle ground. Ultimately, life is about jumping-flying-embracing potential impact- and taking off again. It’s about looking deep inside yourself and asking what you need – right here- right now, so you can be the better person- the best version of yourself tomorrow. And then doing that again each day- cause we can only attack one day at a time. Baby steps. Stepping stones. Lilly pads. Until we feel rock solid.

This year, whether you’re starting over; attacking a new challenge; or giving a part–or parts of your life a second chance–I wish you luck and I wish you love for 2015. Cause at the end of the day that’s all we’re really searching for… The capacity to love ourselves – and in return to love and be loved by others. Here’s to the new, to the fresh starts, to the new beginnings, and to the second chances.

Happy New Year!!!

Top 10 Hobbies

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A lot of people ask me what my FAVORITE hobby has been. I usually answer that piloting a plane was my favorite hobby–and that I’ll be looking to earn my pilot’s license after this year. That’s 100 percent true, but ranking hobbies at all is incredibly difficult, because each one has done an incredible job in helping me to overcome fears, build courage and manage both my mental and physical strength. Additionally–for several of the hobbies, friends joined me–and being able to watch some of them overcome their fears was more often more rewarding than anything else. AND one of my favorite parts of the year outside of the hobbies that I did–was watching a friend complete her own challenge: Tears came to my eyes as Rena completed her 100th Bikram Yoga class in under 100 days. What I can’t drive home any more is that it’s not until we try everything–that we realize just how capable we are of anything. I hope that these posts do nothing more than inspire you.

If I had to answer “the top 10” questions, this is how the activities would play out from 10 to 1 (1 being my absolute favorite):

10. Ziplining 

“At 650 feet in the air going that fast, let me tell you something,  you’re not thinking about falling to your doom–you’re thinking about living. You’re thinking about how free you feel–how amazing of an experience you are having, how you don’t want this 3,200 foot zip to ever end, and how your smile is going to be plastered to your face for the next few days after completing this. No, you aren’t thinking about falling–you aren’t thinking about landing–You are indeed doing nothing but living.”

9. Subway Singing / Dancing

“It’s great to see what makes people really crack a smile.”-Grant Ryan

8. Chess

” The truth is, when a stranger has faith in you—after only moments of knowing you—it is an incredible feeling—and it makes you wonder how you’ve ever doubted yourself.

Checkmate.”

7. Pon De Flo

“Halfway through class, I had a hobby breakthrough: As I began giggling to myself while I messed up another dance move (sorry Heather!), I noticed that I didn’t care if people thought I was America’s next best dancer–I didn’t care if people saw me mess up–and I didn’t care if my right foot accidentally went when my left foot was supposed to. Eventually, I felt tears begin to fill my eyes. I wasn’t in pain–and I wasn’t ready to run out of the room screaming. No, instead the tears had developed because a great amount of pride had come over me. I realized in that moment, that the fears and worries that I had carried with me just 11 months prior had now dissipated completely. While it may sound insignificant when written down, it was one of the highest points of my hobby year, because it had meant that the hobby year was coming full circle–revealing bits and pieces about myself and how far I’d come, without me realizing that it would.”

6. Surfing

“As I surfed closer to shallow waters, I splashed off the board and was congratulated with a nose and mouthful of salt  water. When I surfaced–I fist pumped into the air, and yelled “I did it.” Joel looked at me and smiled from a distance, though I’m not sure he actually heard me with the crashing white waters. But it didn’t matter. I didn’t do this for him–or for anyone else–I did this for myself.”

5. Meditation

I had escaped–I took a quick short vacation, a brief leave from the world. I spent time sitting still in a moment of ultimate calmness. What one could consider a thing of beauty.”

4. Chalking Happiness

“And what I learned most about happiness–aside from where to find it (ahem, again, everywhere): was that much like my chalked out versions of the word: Happiness doesn’t always come in a straight line–in one swoop–or even in one size–but it always, always feels good.”

3. Trapeze

In the end, all that matters is having the courage to jump.”

2. Hang Gliding & Skydiving (tie)

“I open my eyes back up, and I take in the world around me. I don’t want to lose this feeling–this feeling that nothing can knock me down, this feeling of being able to hold the entire world in my arms and hug her tight–this feeling that I am flying–this feeling that I am living. “

I’ve learned this year that the more you let yourself “just do” the less you try to stop yourself–the more you go with your heart’s desires–the more your fears subside–and the more fun you have. And life is supposed to be about having fun.”

1. Piloting a Plane

I enjoyed piloting a plane so much that I just had to do it twice…There is absolutely nothing more freeing than using the plane to paint the canvas of the world down below.

“No fear. No looking back. No hesitation. I was–and still am–on top of the world.”

“I don’t believe that I’ve ever taken on a challenge of such great magnitude before–one that set me off into the world to tackle my fears, overcome my personal issues, and become an all around go-getter. This flight, now, gave me the time to see that.”

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The Hobby Hoarder Ziplines

The Hobby Hoarder Dances her Pants off

The Hobby Hoarder Flies a Plane

Celebration of Happiness

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If you are in the New York City area on Saturday, come on out for a Celebration of Happiness being hosted by The Hobby Hoarder! The only requirement? Wear yellow! (even if it’s just a post it note!) There’ll be karaoke and dancing! Stout has food and drink! So come out and get happy!

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“Scratching the Sky”

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I recently came across this documentary which is both visually stunning and emotionally heart warming. I won’t say much more than that–I’ll let the video speaks for itself. I truly hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

“Sometimes the biggest risk we can take is to truly live.” – Scratching the Sky

There’s No Day Like Today

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I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions. I stopped making them several years ago when I realized that every time I went to make a resolution, I was really starting out a new year by picking out all the things I felt were wrong with myself that I wanted to fix. Now, instead, each year, I try to reflect on the lessons I learned that I hope to carry with me for the year to come. What are your favorite life lessons from 2013?

Here are my top 10 (in no particular order):


1. There’s no day like today (especially if you don’t know what day it is)

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Too often we hold back on some of the activities or events or outings we’d truly like to invest time and money in and replace our wants and desires with excuses. We say “someday” but many times know that very well “someday” will become “maybe later” or “maybe next life.” I’ a firm believer that it’s never too early and
RIGHT NOW it’s not too late to take the leaps  you’ve always wanted to take,
to say the yeses you’ve always wanted to say,
or to make that “someday” that you’ve been putting off, TODAY.
The Hobby Hoarder  (Forthcoming book)

2. Find comfort in the discomfort—It’s okay to be vulnerable.

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When giving something new a shot comes to sports or activities that require practice, the activity asks us to let others be better—to let others teach us. The activity asks us to be a little flawed, a little unbalanced, a little left of center. The activity asks us to respect not being perfect at everything. The task at hand asks us to breathe in deeply and exhale completely knowing that the person standing in front of us may have the opportunity to watch us do something we may rarely let ourselves see us do—and that is possibly fail. It’s okay—we don’t have to be perfect at everything we do and we’ll seem more human later for not being so perfect either.
The Hobby Hoarder

3. The world as we know it is a remarkable place
– Jason Mraz

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Going out and finding beauty isn’t difficult, but letting ourselves sit and enjoy and embrace beauty is. Go for a walk. Take a deep breath. Take a photo—but remember to look beyond the lens. Remember, before our apartments or our cities—this world is our home. It’s nice to just sit and breathe the whole world in once in a while.
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  4. Spend less time on the big picture and more time on the small stuff:

The big picture is important—it’s huge, but we can’t forget about the small things—the things we can work on each day—the things that make the big picture more of a reality. Big pictures are scary—terrifying. It’s kind of like a blizzard. Blizzards are BIG—HUGE—TERRIFYING. But what is a blizzard? A lot of small snowflakes together. And a snowflake alone is quite beautiful. Take some extra time to focus on the small things—the beautiful –though sometimes difficult—things at hand-the tasks that coat our daily lives and become the small nails that hold the big picture together later. Take some extra time today to focus on the journey of reaching your goals—not just the final destination.
– The Hobby Hoarder

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5. Respect sadness. In fact, embrace it.

Sadness comes in an assortment of shapes and sizes—and for a variety of different reasons. But if you’re feeling sadness as the result of having had the opportunity to feel a great wealth of happiness for an extended period of time, take a moment to breathe in what you’re really feeling.  After returning from the road trip in March, I felt an overwhelming abundance of sadness, but I had to take a moment to remind myself that the sadness came from days of joy. I had to remind myself that the sadness I felt was because of a world I had let myself see, the chances I had let myself take, the obstacles I had let myself face, the fears that I had let myself overcome—the challenges I had let myself defeat—the life I had let myself live. I had to remind myself how lucky I was to look back on the moments I lived—with tear drops in my eyes and joy in my heart. I had to learn to respect sadness.
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6. Serendipity

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You can take off anytime you want–and an accidental blessing will be there to catch you when you fall.

7. Every choice you make—is the right choice. OH AND smash your rearview mirror (metaphorically speaking).

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The truth is every choice you make is the right choice. That’s right. Every single choice (except killing or hurting someone purposely) is the right one. Really, think about it this way. Each choice is just a different path—with different scenery all leading to the same destinations. If you have a gust instinct, follow it. Stop asking for directions or a map on what to do next. No one else holds the map you need. We’ve got a great compass right there within us. So stop worrying about the right choice and just start feeling what feels right—for right now. Oh—and smash the rearview mirror, you don’t have to worry about the other options that are already behind you. You’re already on your way.
– The Hobby Hoarder

8. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.
-Wayne Gretzky

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You can’t sleep on your talents, your dreams, your aspirations or your opportunities. The biggest mistake you can make when it comes down to giving yourself a chance, going on stage and performing, trying something new or going to an audition is physically not being there.
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9. Embrace the climb.

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There are a lot of hurdles to jump, obstacles to dodge, and mountains to climb when pursuing a goal or a dream—but after the hurdles, the obstacles, and the mountains, there’s always the view. So embrace the struggle of the climb. Because the struggle is what makes you stronger—the struggle is what makes you smarter, the struggle is what makes the view when you reach the top that much more worth it. And when you get to the top, set your worries aside about what your next hurdle, obstacle or mountain may be and give yourself a chance to breathe in this view—this present moment. Respect the work you put in—the dedication—the determination—the discipline—the perseverance and remember to applaud yourself .You earned it.
– The Hobby Hoarder

10. Believe in the possible.

Find your passion and run with it—Don’t look back. Thank the people who call you crazy – because anyone who’s crazy enough to pursue their dreams is strong enough to achieve them too.
– The Hobby Hoarder

IMG_8482Photo taken by David Tierney Lerner

Giving Thanks

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Thanksgiving is just two days away! It’s time to brace yourself for the holiday traffic, prepare the turkey, set the table for 12, and start writing those wish lists. But it is also time to share what you’ve been most grateful for this last year… and perhaps indulge in some pumpkin pie.

Sharing our gratitude doesn’t have to be–and shouldn’t be–an event that is confined to forced conversation over turkey once a year. Showing gratitude is something that we should continuously practice day in and day out. Gratitude is a hobby that travels far beyond the remnants of the turkey coma after your Thanksgiving feast.

So rather than share ten hobbies that might be fun to try this Thanksgiving, I’ve decided to share ten ways to “cultivate the habit of being grateful” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)–not just on Thanksgiving but in all the days that follow.

1. Go outside and breathe the fresh air. Not everyone is lucky enough to have clean lungs or the ability to walk outside on two feet. Show your thanks for both by taking a step outside and really taking the time to breathe—inhale, exhale.

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2. Say thanks for the little things—If your loved one made the bed this morning, text him thank you in the afternoon with a little smiley face. If your friend or roommate did your dishes—especially if it happens regularly: say thanks. It’s the little things that sometimes mean the most.

3. Write thank you notes. Write them to everyone: to good friends, mentors, acquaintances, people you’ve lost touch with.. Be sure to let people know that even if they were in your life only briefly, their impact has mattered.

4. Pay it forward. Drop a couple coins in a parking meter that is about to expire; pay the toll for the car behind you on the highway; cover the coffee for the next person on line next to you in café. By doing this we can start something pretty amazing: A chain of gratitude—or something as amazing as a kindness boomerang:

 

5. Go out of your way for people for the heck of it. Similar to paying it forward: Offer to clean out someone’s closet, mow their lawn, or rake their leaves without an alternative motive.

6. Start a gratitude journal: Write down 5-10 things you are grateful for or 5-10 things that make you happy each day—or each week. Maybe 10 isn’t enough. Try 20. Once you start writing down what your grateful for/what makes you happy—you find out there’s a lot out there that goes beyond the surface. In 2010, my good friend Hannah challenged me to come up with 30 things that I was grateful for/that made me happy. I ended up making an entire day out of it in Rome:

7. Give thanks to the negative aspects of life—not just the positive. Remember, it’s easy to say thank you when all things are going right. But it’s just as important to say thank you when things aren’t going right, or when you’re stumbling, or when life puts up hurdles on the race track. It is in the moments of struggle that we build strength, and in the moments of adversity that we build character. We cannot be grateful for the happy moments without being grateful for the difficult moments as well. Make sure in that gratitude journal you share the negative things you are grateful for too.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

8. Write it in Stone. Okay I don’t mean deface property. But perhaps take a piece of sidewalk chalk and put just how grateful you are right there for everyone to see. Last winter, my goal was to spread happiness by chalking the word happiness into all five boroughs on one of the coldest days of the year. Why not take the time to chalk thank you as well? My good friend, travel mate, and editor Kim did just that in Raleigh, NC:

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9. Try something new. I clearly can’t preach this enough (ha). But remember (as with #1), not everyone has the chance each and every day to walk outside and breathe the air, to make use of the legs they’ve been given, the arms, the hands—the heart. Some people are born without legs and ski mountains, some people are given one arm and discover how to climb Everest. And some of us are given two legs, two feet, two arms, and two hands—and we often forget to believe in ourselves with our one and only heart. Show your gratitude for what you’ve been given, by using it. I don’t mean flaunt it—just use it.

10. Give yourself a day. Give yourself a day to just be. Don’t schedule a single thing. It’s your day. You’ve earned it. I mean this. As important as it is to show gratitude for the air you breathe, the people you spend time with, the roof over your head, and the health you’ve been blessed with—it’s equally as important that you show gratitude towards yourself—for the hard work you’ve put toward the happy, healthy, filled life you are living. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s next–To forget to embrace the moment. But embrace the moment—be grateful for the moment. Be grateful for yourself.

Budgeting Happiness

money Credit: Images of Money


I have a confession. I like to spend money.

I like to treat myself to a coffee each morning from a local café or coffee shop because it kick starts my day. I like to take the East River Ferry every once in a while because the fresh crisp air in the morning sets my spirits higher than they would be if I was crunched into an overly packed subway cart. And I like to try new— sometimes-expensive activities—because trying new things brings a sense of balance to my life.

Okay, you got me. I don’t like to spend money. I love to spend money. But I didn’t always love spending. I’ve definitely spent money a lot, but I used to look at my bank account the day after a purchase—or the morning after a night at the bar—and regret my monetary choices. I used to HATE spending money, because many times spending money wasn’t bringing me happiness or joy.

Spending money is kind of like dieting. The more you tell yourself to eat less, the more time you spend thinking about food. The more you focus on how you should really spend less, the more you want to shell out the dough.

I’m not here to tell you to spend less. How much you spend is up to you. But I do want to talk about how you feel when you spend money – because this is up to you too. Take a moment to think about what you bought in the last week: Maybe it’s a new shirt, maybe it’s a movie ticket, maybe it’s lunch—I don’t know what it is. But take a moment to think about whatever it is that you bought and ask yourself these questions: “How did I feel after I made that purchase? Did that purchase bring me happiness—or regret for spending money?”

We’ve all heard the adage, “money can’t buy happiness.” I only partly agree with this. I don’t think happiness has a price tag, but I do believe that the ways we spend money and what we spend our money on contribute to our overall happiness.

One of the questions I have been asked most often throughout the hobby year has been: “How do you afford all the hobbies?”

Which really leads to a bigger question:

“How can we afford the happy and balanced life that we are seeking?”

For each of us there are certain expenses each month that we just can’t avoid:
In my case it’s rent, utilities, food, and a monthly train ticket. For others it might be a mortgage on the house, car insurance, and dependents.

The aforementioned are necessary expenses.

BUT much like cleaning out our closets from the clothes that we no longer want to wear, we can clean out the unnecessary expenses on our bank statements—the activities or outings or items that aren’t truly extending our happiness—that aren’t satisfying the lifestyle we are hoping to live.

When I moved to NYC in January of 2010, I very quickly realized how easily I could blow $50-$60 in just one night by going to an amateur comedy night on the Upper East Side. With a two-drink minimum as standard, a handful of bills could disappear at dinner alone. And the next morning? I hated myself for spending that money. But why?

As the money in my wallet began to dwindle, I had an epiphany, I realized that the glass of wine or the shot of Bacardi wasn’t satisfying me—that I was wasting money on something I didn’t ACTUALLY enjoy putting into my body. So I stopped drinking. Within weeks, I began to see an incredible difference in my money saved vs. money spent.

Once I gave up alcohol, I began to realize that there were other expenses on my bank account that likely also weren’t satisfying me or bringing me happiness.

Rather than eating out at lunch each day, I began packing my lunch for work; rather than going out to eat for dinner often, I began to cook my own dinners; and rather than buying new workout clothes, I began bringing my old field hockey shirts from high school and college back to New York City with me.

I realized that many times I was going out to eat at lunch because of feelings of laziness in the morning before work. This would actually in turn cost me three-four times the amount of money it would cost me to brown bag it.

This realization was one that made me hate spending money.

So rather than spending money on things that in turn caused me to be upset, I began saving and spending money on activities and things that I felt were helping me to balance and embrace the life that I wanted to live.

I don’t intend to suggest everyone should give up alcoholic beverages, stop buying new clothes, ignore the latest movie releases, or turn the oven on every night—unless you are an amazing cook, in which case, please do turn your oven on every night (and invite me over)!

I also don’t want to suggest that you should stand in front of an item at the store and do a cost/benefit analysis every time you are going to make a purchase.

What I am suggesting is that recognizing patterns in the types of spending that bring you happiness—and the types of things you regret spending money on in the minutes, hours, or days after you make a transaction—can help you to refocus your energy on achieving goals you’re not quite sure how to reach otherwise. The items I listed above just happen to be a few of the sacrifices I’ve been able to make for myself.

I became incredibly passionate about trying new hobbies this past year because of the joy each new hobby brought me , and because of the lessons each new hobby taught me. And because I recognized how much I was benefiting on a personal level and a physical level from each of the new things, I realized just how important it was that I budget, save, and sacrifice to contribute to the happiness I was seeking. If I’m going to spend money, I want to LOVE to spend money—and I want to love what I’m spending on.

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If there’s something you are looking to try, a class you’d really like to take, a trip you are looking to go on, try to start here:

Make a list of what you are spending your money on—then go over that list and eliminate just one thing that isn’t contributing to your health, your happiness, or your balance. Then use this money to help you achieve your goal.

Who knows? You might just fall in love with spending money, too.

Five other ways to save money:

Piggy Bank
 Credit: 401 (k) 2013

1. Invest in a piggy bank—Really. Every time you find coins—save them. Those pennies add up.

2. Look out for deals. If there’s a fitness class you’ve been looking for, a getaway you’re not sure you can afford, or a class you’re looking to take, see if Groupon, Living Social, Zozi, or Yipit has it.

3. Go through your closet and donate the clothes you no longer want to a registered charity. When you make charitable donations, you can receive tax deductions. You may not see the benefit of this immediately, but next tax season you’ll have something to smile about.

4. Piggy Backing on #3: For the holidays, see if you and your family would be willing to go in on a deal to donate the money or you would have spent on gifts or a capped amount of money to a registered charity. This way you’re doing good and receiving a tax deduction in the future.

5. Each week, or even each day, set aside 5-10 dollars. At the end of the month you’ll have your own personal pay check!

Guerilla Haiku Movement

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Within days of moving to New York City, three years ago, I was approached on several occasions by clipboard holding agents. Each of them asked me to commit to something different. “Love children? Sponsor one in Africa! Don’t have time to chat about the child in Africa? You must be pretty selfish.” “Want a puppy for that apartment you barely fit in yourself? We’ve got bags of them!” “Do you love the environment? Prove it. Stop and talk to me. If you don’t I’ll make sure to note that you hate the environment. Your carbon footprint is the reason our children will never breathe clean air.”  It was in those first days that I made a vow to never hold a clipboard and approach people. Ever. Even if the rent to my apartment depended on it.

This past weekend I broke that vow. But I promise–it was for good reason.

A little over a year ago, I met Caley Vickerman. She is the founder of the Guerilla Haiku Movement, a movement that aims to inspire people to get out and create/make art; a movement that brings joy to people’s lives; and a movement that motivates people to explore and celebrate the temporary and the virtually permanent. How does the movement do this? It’s simple: Through chalk and Haiku.

(Quick reminder: A Haiku is a three line-syllable based poem. The first line must have 5 syllables. The second line must have 7. and the last line must have 5 again).

Throughout the world, Caley organizes events that ask people to take a moment out of their day to pick up a piece of chalk, find a free space of blacktop or sidewalk, and haiku away. Each haiku can be about anything a person wants his or her haiku to be about. Easy.

When I met Caley, I became enthralled by her movement. As someone who can often be caught on the subway counting syllables and noting haiku on her phone, I wanted desperately to be a part of Caley’s movement. Unfortunately, my schedule wasn’t matching up to haiku events, and I kept having to miss them. However, I felt so inspired by Caley’s chalking movement that in December of 2012, I set out on a quest to chalk the word happiness into each of the five boroughs.

IMG_4854_2(THAT’s A LOT OF HAPPPPPPPY RIGHT THERE!)

The joy I felt in purely taking the time to write the word happiness and visit each borough was amazing. It was then that I had caught the chalk bug–I knew that I absolutely would need to take part in Caley’s Guerilla Haiku Movement–as soon as I physically could.

It’s difficult to explain how honored I felt when Caley reached out to me just a few weeks ago about an upcoming event in New York City. She asked me if I could be a haiku agent.  Joyously, I went to type yes–but substituted yes, with an inquisitive: “What is a haiku agent?”

“You’ll stand with a clipboard, a map, a scavenger hunt, get people to join you, and keep track of the hailing/get social media photos, and more.

I hesitated for a moment, while Caley patiently awaited my answer. I sighed. A clipboard. Can I really do this, I thought? I made a vow NEVER to agree to hold a clipboard unless it was for a television or film project.  BUT this past year, I also made a vow to refuse the word “no.”
My friends, that is what we call a catch-22.

Alas, I decided that only the power of haiku could put a clipboard in my hand on the streets of New York City in order to approach people and ask them to do something–because I knew what kind of JOY it could possibly bring someone–even if it were just one person.

And honestly, I couldn’t be more happy that I broke my vow of going against the clipboard. Within minutes of chalking my first haiku of the day in Columbus Circle, I could feel the excitement bubbling. “Okay, this is awesome. Clipboard or not. I get to ask people to have fun doing this?! HECK YA.”

IMG_1951“Go find your passion
and believe in it–Be Brave
never stop reaching.”
-Libs Segal

After penning a few more of my own haiku poems, I met my co-team leader, James and the rest of our team. Their excitement was contagious, and as a team, we decided that infiltrating the park may be our best course of action. Our second best course of action was choosing a small bridge on the south side of the park–where within twenty minutes, tens of people were on their hands and knees haikuing away.

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This chalk traffic continued consistently for the next hour and a half. And through our chalk adventures…

We met people who wrote in Bengali….

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And people who wrote in Gaelic

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We met families!

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We met a father and a son who decided to take a break and haiku, because they thought it would make a great memory on Father’s Day.

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We saw a haiku written about zombies!

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And haiku that went deep–real deep:

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And haiku that made us laugh!

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 We saw people take a second to live in the moment. We saw people say yes to something they may otherwise not say yes to. We saw people leave their comfort zone–talk to a stranger–and slow it down.

And above all? We saw joy and we saw happiness.

What could have been a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

IMG_2015*Art strikes where it strikes*
*We happened upon this bridge*
*Art is where we are*

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If you are interested in taking part in a Guerilla Haiku Movement event (holding a clipboard or not), head over to www.ghm575.com and reach out to Miss Caley Vickerman–The Haiku Mistress.

AND I’m  inviting all to participate in the haiku joy. Submit your haiku below, message it, Facebook, or tweet it to me and  look for it to appear on the site later this week!!!

Cheers

How to Relax Without Being a Lazy Bum

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After someone told me, recently, that I needed to rest–and to give myself a chance to relax, I laughed. And then I realized she was right–I’ve been on the go a lot. The problem is that when I think of relaxing, I think of the terrifying idea of wasting a day lying on a couch, legs dangling over the end, and a bag of chips within reach.

So I got to thinking what are good hobbies to do when you want to relax–but you don’t want to be a lazy bum? I came up with running, drawing, pottery, and dance. While running and dance may seem TOO active to be relaxing, I’ve learned that you can find ways to really “zen out” while doing even the most exhilarating of hobbies. (Lindsey Lewis over at MindBodyGreen even argues this feeling in the article “Why Meditation is Overrated” as she lists 9 activities you can definitely meditate on.)

I then began to wonder–what are other people doing to relax, but to also stay active both mentally and physically? So I took to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and posed a question:

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The results varied from activities like surfing, which is physical and can remove mental stress (unless of course you are terrified of that ocean like I am), to things I know I need to try– like painting and gardening which give the body a break but still exercises the mind a bit.

Here are some of the responses:

K.M.: “Gardening , it is relaxing and you can see results. Some are immediate but many are gradual little rewards of beauty for steady maintenance and patience. It helps the soul to work with your hands in the earth and with plants. Fresh air , sky and greenery. Also hiking. It’s the nature again, keeps things in life in perspective.”

Robert DeSanti: “I paint/draw pictures of dinosaurs, do tasks in bright colors. I do it cause it’s fun and makes me smile.”

His painting/drawing made me smile too .
Robert_Dino

Julia Ember Ricciardi: “Cooking/baking! Because there is always a delicious pay-off in the end!”

Rachel Miller: “Gardening. I love digging in the dirt and being part of the growing process of plants. Plus the added benefits of adding beauty to the outside space and growing your own food.”

Ashley Castle: “Walking through my neighborhood, wine tasting, journaling.”

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 Adam Marland: For me, relaxing can mean a couple things. If I’m drained from a crappy work day or something, the goal is to check out mentally AND physically, and that means comfort food, beer, sweatpants, and movie marathon. If I want to relax physically but be engaged mentally, I just drive somewhere pretty and enjoy; a beach, a scenic overlook, whatever. The drive and getting out is as much the reward as the destination. In contrast, if I need to be engaged physically but not mentally, I find activity therapeutic; basketball if im in the city, but a hike or swimming hole are my favorites.”

Sarah Steeland: “Would have to be surfing for sure” (She even shared one of her awesome doodles to show)!

surfing sarah steenland

R.G.M.: “I love to hike around Turkey Mountain, a local spot with oodles of walking, biking and horse trails … just 3 miles from my house. And my favorite indoor hobby is photo editing. I can play with one pic for hours!”

Grant Ryan: “I have three said hobbies when I want to relax but not be lazy, the first is obvious, running – it might not sound like relaxing but its very zen to me, it clears my mind and eases my stress. No music, no phone, just a pair of sneakers and a road! The second is cooking, I love to create, and i find it artful and soulfully stimulating – it relaxes me in a different way, not so much zen as it is just adult play. Lastly I like to take a glass of red wine, and a new book and let my mind drift to worlds impossible – it might sound lazy, but I find it to be mental excersise and an escape from reality. I can literally go anywhere with the turn of the page. Wine isnt always necessary, but it definaltey relaxes me and it stimulates my creativity for hobby #2.”

Grant Ryan

Bekah Eaton: “Mudding!”

Emelie Samuelson:  “Slacklining, crocheting, or hiking.”

Joe Cicala: “I go to book stores and hang out in the cookbook section. Cooking at home is also relaxing. And at work when I make pasta and when I butcher and cure meat. That’s my zen time. I completely zone out and let my mind wonder.”

Jason Schneider: “I like to play Bass. I learn new songs and feel like I’m being productive/getting better at something, even though I’m just messing around playing music.”

A.M.: “WII Just Dance”

Hannah Brencher: “Is it possible to make gratitude into a hobby? If that be the case then gratitude has been my hobby for a while now. When I want to relax, but not be a lazy bum, I create care packages, and make cards, and just make things for people in my life that matter most to me. I roam the aisles of Target for little gifts or spend the afternoon writing letters “just because.” There is an indescribable feeling that comes from pouring myself onto people I love that never makes me feel lazy but leaves me feeling completely refreshed and relaxed. My hobby is also a remedy.”

PhotoCredTiffanyFarley (15)

Photo Credit: Tiffany Farley

Celeste Headlee: “I have a strong sense of guilt whenever I sit down to watch “Mad Men” or “Downton Abbey” because I can hear my mother’s voice in my head saying incredulously, “Are you just going to sit there?” So, I have a whole host of hobbies that I can do while I’m seated. One of my favorites is needlepoint and cross stitch and I especially love the complicated variety that take months to complete.”

Tammy Tibbetts: “Reading in Central Park, Yoga for Runners class at Jack Rabbit NYC, and watching Mindy Project with my friend Erin to name a few!”

Maitland Ward Baxter: For sure yoga. Pretzeling myself helps me de-stress. #theflexibleshallnotbebentoutofshape

How about you–What are YOUR favorite hobbies to do when you want to RELAX but don’t want to be a lazy bum?

Here’s one of my drawings from when I want to relax–but I don’t want to be a bum…

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Body, Breath, Balance: Yoga

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Throughout the hobby year, two hobbies were recommended to me on a regular basis: Trapeze and Yoga. Of the two, I followed through and did trapeze. And although I did give laughing yoga a shot–I never went out of my way to throw on a pair of yoga pants and jump into a sun salutation or dive into a downward dog. And there’s two reasons why:

A. Because it’s so accessible in New York City. I knew that if for ANY reason a hobby fell through, I could just go take a yoga class—heck I bet if half of my hobbies fell through, I could find a way to take 25 different types of yoga. It became my “back-up” hobby.

and

B.  Because I am as flexible as a stone statue. As an athlete, I constantly struggled with being too tight–straining muscles here and there–and occasionally pulling a hamstring. For a long time, I was convinced that yoga was simply about stretching and how flexible one was–and that I would be far too embarrassed by my non-flexible nature if I ever took a group class.

I don’t think I am alone in this. Why do any of us feel uncomfortable going to any group classes? Because of the unknown—or discomfort in something, that in the end, only we are judging ourselves for. Prior to the hobby year, Zumba classes terrified me just as much as yoga classes because of my own pre-misconceptions about my coordination. Turns out, I can actually bust a move pretty well.

During our travels, I learned that both of David’s parents teach yoga. Knowing that we were going to meet David’s parents when we visited his hometown of Hudson, Ohio, I asked: “David, could we do a yoga class with one of your parents?”

“Probably,” David responded.

So that was that. It was decided. When we’d finally arrive in Hudson, Ohio, we would take a yoga class.

Yesterday was that day. At 9am, on our 42nd day of travel, we each woke up ready to tackle a yoga class. As the only one in our travel trio who hadn’t tried yoga before, my nerves silently buzzed. “I hope no one is appalled by how non-flexible I truly am.”

But before even getting in the car and driving to the gym, I began to feel more comfortable. As we sat down to breakfast with David’s parents, we started to talk about the art of yoga and several different varieties of classes. I soon discovered that yoga goes beyond flexibility and stretching—and that much of the focus is rather on breathing—something I already know I need to concentrate on much more when I return to New York City next week.

Just an hour later, I was taking off my socks, collecting my yoga necessities and getting ready to partake in my first yoga class ever. As the class commenced, I listened carefully to David’s mom’s instructions. And fifteen minutes in,, I could feel the rhythm of my breaths as I crossed one leg over the other. There were anywhere from 10-20 other participants in the class, but for an hour and fifteen minutes—it felt like just me and my breaths—my inhales—my exhales.

I think we forget what it means to breathe—to inhale—to exhale-inhale—exhale; to concentrate on filling the lungs with air and then releasing. In-Out-In-Out. I know I forget far too often. As I reached my right arm over my head and to the left of my torso, I briefly thought of the last time I took a moment to actually feel myself taking a breath. I realized that it was weeks ago, on the side of a mountain, in Southern Utah—when I was experiencing a great deal of fear. But why was that the last time? I had seen so much — that I was clearly forgetting the most basic part of living–breathing.

During our trip, one of my travel mates often stops and spins in a circle—to take it all in—to breathe it all in—whatever “it” is that day. I continued to stretch, and though I couldn’t at the moment spin in  a circle, I took in the moment:

Inhale. Exhale. I can feel pressure as I reach my left arm over the right side of my body. I note a muscle that I haven’t felt in months—and the breaths I know I take but often forget to be grateful for.

It became very clear as class continued that just as focused as I was on my breathing and my own body—everyone else was on their own bodies and their own breathing. My fear of those judging me for my non-flexible nature was diminishing quickly. No one there cared how far I could—or couldn’t–straighten my legs. We were truly in a no judgment zone.

David’s mom instructed us more:  “Good everyone, now bring up your knees, grab your ankles—and roll a bit—even in happy baby pose if you’d like.”

I repeated the phrase Happy Baby to myself, and I giggled. At this point, I felt like a happy baby—conquering something new—without a care in the world—one breath at a time.

Here’s a happy baby video for your enjoyment:

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