Classic with a twist // MAXOUThappy

my first-ever blog photoshoot with whitney ūüôā

When I started MAXOUThappy, I really wanted to do it¬†the right way. I researched for hours, stalked favorite blogs, read articles about how to blog, how to design, what hosting site to use, etc. All the behind the scenes stuff. I worked for Kate Bryan at thesmallthingsblog last summer as an intern, which was so cool,¬†and I learned a lot about blogging. I took a Skillpop class about blogging basics with Molly Stillman and hope to take another one from her as soon as it’s offered.

I recently met up with Whitney, and we were discussing ideas and thoughts for her photography business and for MAXOUThappy. I mentioned that I never really know what to say when people ask me the inevitable question: ¬†“So what’s your blog about?” I usually just say it’s a lifestyle blog, so it’s a little bit of everything‚Ķbut I wanted to have a more focused description. I’ve mentioned my “classic with a twist” style before; but what is MAXOUThappy really about?! A fair question.¬†Whitney¬†helped me really narrow my focus into an idea that makes the most sense to me.

We both went to Meredith College and majored in Family and Consumer Sciences. We met on freshman move-in day and have been partners in crime ever since. I always wanted to teach high school, but I started out as an English major. I ended up switching after my sophomore year and Whitney did, too. Family and Consumer Sciences is what used to be called Home Economics, or “Home Ec.” I’ve caught a lot of flack over the years for going to Meredith, which by the way is a fantastic school, and for changing my major, which by the way is a fantastic¬†major that is little-known and not as widely supported as it should be. A lot of people love to joke about getting your M-R-S degree at Meredith, or that my major is to help me be a better housewife some day. I’d love to tell all those people where they can put their opinions, but instead, I’d really rather help people get it. Family and Consumer Sciences is based on the idea that everything begins in the home and spreads out to the community and beyond. What we can solidify in the home/family and what we can improve on with an individual directly affects the outreach and impact of that individual. We are not people in a vacuum. We are all interconnected and how we live our lives and help others (or not) affects and sparks change in the world. My major is not about cooking and cleaning to be someone’s home maker, although there’s nothing wrong with that job, either. Family and Consumer Sciences is about creating change, addressing global issues, and helping others.

Being able to teach about Parenting and Child Development, Human Services, Foods and Nutrition, Food Science, Interiors, Personal Finance, and Textiles/Apparel gives me such a wide range of topics to be able to help mold the teenagers in my classroom, and hopefully it spreads out beyond them. I realized that the things I write about on the blog tend to trace their way back to one of these areas, and figuring that out really gave me a sense of pride for all the hours I have spent defending and supporting my college major.

So that, along with my “classic with a twist” take on life, is what brings me back here to the blog drawing board week after week‚Ķto say “a little bit of everything,” but with this lens of helping others, improving life, talking about real issues from time to time, and throwing in some happy fluff in-between the real talk. It always seems a little silly to think that a post I wrote about lipstick or a new pair of shoes I got is going to¬†help someone, but I guess the idea is just to spread a little joy around, because life has enough¬†blah already. I am a generally happy person and I work on maximizing that happiness to enjoy the life I’ve been given. It’s not realistic to say I’m always happy or that life doesn’t get me down; if you’ve been reading for a while, you know that isn’t true. But I am an optimist and I love to write; I always have. I used to write chapter books as a child, I’ve started a million novels, I wrote my eBook last year, and I have this blog. I’m so interested in words, the meaning of them, and how they can go together in a million different combinations to evoke different feelings. A nerd? Sure. But I’m happy with that. If I can help get anything positive across to anyone, in any small way, I feel so accomplished. When people come out of the woodworks to tell me they read my blog or enjoy it, it truly makes my day. So, happy reading! Now you know what MAXOUThappy is all¬†about. ūüôā

a magnet reminder on my fridge ūüôā

Teacher Warriors

This is my buddy Tony and me. We have spent about 2 years now working on something that I’m so pleased to say is FINALLY FINISHED!!!

It has always been one of my goals to write a book. When I was a teenager, I toyed with the idea of writing a novel, and started probably a thousand‚Ķbut I could never quite stick with the story. I blogged a little here and there through high school and college, took nerdy delight in writing massive research papers in college and grad school, and then decided maybe one day I’d write a memoir of my crazy teaching stories¬†(still thinking of doing that¬†some day – I can’t make up the ridiculous antics of teens that I experience on a daily basis!).

I met Tony when we were both working at a publishing company when I finished my Master’s degree and took a break from teaching. We traveled together for work a few times, leaving lots of time for chatting on the road. Tony used to be a teacher and missed it, and he loves writing like I do. I was fresh out of grad school and did my Thesis research on new teachers and why they leave the classroom. One thing led to another, and before we knew it, we kind of jokingly, tentatively said maybe we should write a book about teaching. Then we started making moves. We met countless times and had millions of cups of coffee, technical failures, cancellations and reschedules, but finally, finally, we finished our eBook on teaching¬†and it is ready to be purchased¬†on Amazon Kindle!!!

Teacher Warriors is¬†proof to myself that I can finish what I start. That dreams don’t work unless you do. That timelines are more like wishful thinking, but end goals should stay close by your side.¬†Whatever your dream is, whatever you “really want to do someday,” start it today. It is never too late. Start today, not tomorrow, and if you fall off the wagon, lose your steam, have periods of low motivation‚Ķjust never give up. Remind yourself of your goals and¬†do the damn thing.¬†Get out there and hustle!

Why I yoga

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Photo credit: Rachel Garrison Photography 

I have now had a few full meetings with my yoga club students at the high school. I decided last year I wanted to start this club at school so students could experience something they may otherwise not have the chance to. So, without really knowing what direction I wanted to take, I went all in and took the first step.

The students were, of course, a little bit awkward, a little unsure, and a little bit silly – only 3 or 4 of the almost 30 girls that showed up have ever even taken a yoga class before. It’s understandable! But watching the students as I was giving them the background of yoga, the principles and the ideas behind why people practice yoga, and directing them through our first (very brief) practice together, I started to realize something. We had pushed desks to the sides of a classroom, the floors were dirty, their mats were awkwardly sprawled everywhere, and it was this really neat moment of realization. It reminded me why, after those first few yoga classes I took a couple of years ago, I couldn’t wait to come back to the next one.

People always ask me what got me interested in yoga Рthe truth is, I needed some serious stress relief because I was going through a terrible time in my life. I went with my friend Abbie who made me try a class even though I told her I hated hot yoga the one time I had tried it before. But the reasons I kept coming back, the reasons I decided to do teacher training and become a yoga instructor as well as a student, those are the reasons I love to share.

Yoga, at the very minimum, increases strength, flexibility, breathing, balance, and coordination. It is an ancient practice that has been proven to reduce stress, increase health, and improve quality of life. Yoga heals. It forces you to quiet your mind and shut everything else out as your ears eagerly await the next cue in class, or as you struggle with how the heck your right foot can go any farther back as you keep your body standing tall and your arms twisted up like a pretzel (elbows above your heart and shoulder blades expanding to either side, please). Yoga is a place where a community is formed the minute you step inside the studio, because no matter what your story is or why you’re there, you’re there. There is no “good” or “bad” in yoga. It’s about how you feel and your own relationship with your own practice. You can be successful every single day on your mat if you just show up and let go of whatever it is you’re holding onto for a little while.

I love yoga because it gives me a chance to see a different part of people than I would out in the real world. I get to catch glimpses of their vulnerability, see if they are competitive with others or with themselves, know if they like to dance to the beat a little in their downward dog, or if they have the type of practice where they seem to float on top of their mats (as I seem to clumsily flop around on mine). We say things like “Namaste,” or call out the fancy Sanskrit names of poses as we teach or discuss yoga practice, but sometimes we forget why we’re really there. Yes, for strength and flexibility…but also for sanity, self-love, quieting the mind, and a support system.

Yoga is for every body type, every age, every race, every ability. It’s for every person.¬†I believe fitness and health in this country are way too expensive in general, and unfortunately, the same is true for yoga. But there are many community yoga classes that are donation-based, free yoga classes for special occasions, and many studios do a first class free setup where you can come check out the studio without any charge. YouTube has several, several yoga channels and there are many apps that can bring free yoga to you. The internet has free sequences and poses already. So even if you just practice 3 poses every day for a few minutes, you’re practicing yoga.

A wise person and one of my favorite teachers reminded me in class last night: ¬†The pose is what you’re doing. Yoga is how you are being. Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or a brand new practitioner, the idea that you have to do yoga ‘right’ or be a certain way to come to your mat is the opposite of what yoga is all about. If you’re considering trying a class for the first time, my best advice is just to take that leap and try. Bring a friend, go by yourself, put your mat in the back if it’s more comfortable at first, and let yourself laugh when you lose balance and almost fall over. Even the most experienced yogis fall on their faces. It’s a humbling experience to practice yoga, so try it with an open mind and a willingness to fail‚Ķand you’ll succeed ūüôā

Goal Digger

The last few weeks, I’ve been putting a lot of thought and effort into goals and plans for the future. ¬†I’ve been teaching my students about goal planning and resource management, so last week we discussed short-term, long-term, and even visionary goals. ¬†I am always surprised to hear what some of my students’ goals are; many of them have general goals to go to college, be happy, get married and have kids, etc. ¬†But then there are those students who write things like “One day I hope to become a child Psychologist, focusing in play therapy.” ¬†Or students who already have their plan to start a successful business during high school, selling handmade items like key chains, dog collars, leashes, monogrammed items, etc. ¬†As cheesy as it sounds, I know I’m supposed to inspire my students, but a lot of times it’s the other way around.

I have always been the person¬†who loves to write things down, so lately I’ve been making lists of my goals and mapping out plans. ¬†I recently started a couple of summer jobs that have already begun before school is out,¬†so I’ve spent some time really planning out how I’m going to manage all of that and still stay on top of my personal and financial goals.¬† I was feeling so excited about my lists and my plans and my visions for the future. ¬†Coincidentally, my best friend and talented photographer Whitney recently attended a beautiful and informative wedding photography workshop and was thinking about her own goals and dreams. ¬†We discussed making¬†vision boards soon so we can help ourselves stay focused on our dreams and goals.

I got this ‘AHA’ moment and had the idea to have my students create vision boards. ¬†I rearranged my lesson plans to fit in two days of hard work. ¬†I read several articles and tutorials online and finally ended up modifying this page to create my own instructions for my high school students. ¬†At first, they were very typical high school students: ¬†“Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! ¬†MISS WEAVER. ¬†We have so many projects in here.” ¬†“AND we have a test this week?!” ¬†But the funny thing is, after about 15 minutes of really getting into their projects and planning out their pictures and what to include on their vision boards, they started feeling it. ¬†They drank the Kool-Aid.

This is a picture of what I wrote on the board as their quick glance go-to while working on their vision boards.  The actual instructions sheet was much more detailed.

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Please, please, forgive me for the iPhone photo quality here – you can’t always grab your go-to photographer when you’re at work in the middle of the school day to come take high quality photos of your students’ work. ¬†Here are some of the products of their hard work.

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I am so proud of those kids. ¬†It really doesn’t matter what your goals are, as long as they mean something to you. ¬†There’s nothing wrong with being driven and striving to accomplish personal milestones. ¬†Just make sure to enjoy your life and your ups and downs on the way there.

I have always had big dreams, and sometimes I feel like I haven’t done enough – but when I look at my life, I’ve done some pretty awesome things and checked off some big items on my bucket list already. ¬†Who knows what the next year or two of life will bring? ¬†So I’m focusing on crushing my goals and also remembering to take care of myself and enjoy the ride. ¬†There are a million paths to reach one destination, and that’s part of the fun of being a¬†goal digger.

soul on fire

possibility everywhere
you got this
goals plans
small minds

 

The Passion Planner: for those of us who are passionate about plans.

This one goes out to all my Type A kindred spirits…and to those of you who are maybe a little too¬†breezy and need to make a plan for once in your life.

Around this time of year, it seems like life¬†gets hectic – the weather changes, decorations come out, and the invites start rolling in for Halloween festivities, fall gatherings, and holiday parties. ¬†Don’t get me wrong; I am not complaining. ¬†I happen to be a gal who enjoys staying busy, and anyone who knows me knows that I love a good planner. ¬†The truth is, holiday season or not, I generally have my hands on a few different projects, and I refuse to sacrifice fun events and time with my loved ones…so my schedule stays pretty full.¬†¬†With recently going back to teaching and beginning my yoga teacher training, starting this blog, and writing an eBook with my friend Tony, I knew this year was going to be every bit as packed as the last few, and that I’d need a heavy-duty planner to get me through. ¬†I try to be breezy and spontaneous, I really do. ¬†And every now and then you might just catch me asking about last-minute plans or deciding to take a day trip to anywhere. ¬†But the heart wants what it wants, and I can’t help myself: ¬†I love plans. ¬†I love lists. ¬†I love writing color-coded, bulleted lists and crossing things off one at a time. ¬†If that’s wrong, then I just don’t want to be right.

But whether you’re a Type A champion weirdo¬†like me or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of person, the bottom line is that we all have to keep track of our crazy lives, and in order to make sure I reach my goals and follow through on my commitments, all the while remembering everyone’s birthdays, anniversaries, and wedding dates, I¬†have to keep up with a planner. (Or do I¬†get to?! ¬†Someone out there tell me I’m not alone in my passion for organization!)

Long story short, I came across the Passion Planner when a friend of mine shared a link to it on Facebook. ¬†At the time, it was just barely getting started as a business, but I was hooked immediately. ¬†This was the planner for planners. ¬†This was the closest I had come to the planner of my dreams. ¬†And it was only $30. ¬†$30 for a whole entire year of my life mapped out on lined paper. ¬†However, I had unfortunately just received a very nice¬†Emily Ley planner for my birthday that I just¬†had to have (not knocking those planners – they are also very lovely). ¬†Thus began my wait; I couldn’t justify getting a Passion Planner when I had JUST received one…so I made the difficult choice to wait until my planner ran out this December. ¬†And I was faithful…until my life really took a new direction in a lot of ways. ¬†Time for a clean slate. ¬†I made it a full 9 months before purchasing my academic Passion Planner for 2015-2016 and I haven’t looked back.

The creator, Angelia Trinidad, came up with the idea of the Passion Planner after she graduated; her aim was to help people achieve their goals and dreams through their daily activities. ¬†The site has links to download undated, printable planner layouts for those who are strapped for cash, which you just don’t see much of these days. ¬†The company also has a pay it forward program, where you can sponsor someone else with a planner.

Things I love about the Passion Planner:

  1. Each day goes from 6am-10:30pm, which is fantastic for someone like me who is up with the birds and stays busy until bedtime.
  2. Each day’s column is wide enough for a small sticky note, which I use to write out my lesson plans for teaching. ¬†This saves me from needing a separate ‘lesson-planning notebook.’
  3. Each day has a spot for ‘today’s focus,’ so I can easily either create priorities for each day or remind myself of important events like birthdays, teacher work days, days for errands, etc.
  4. Each weekly layout has an inspirational quote, a box for ‘this week’s focus,’ and a box for ‘good things that happened,’ so you always remind yourself to express gratitude for even the smallest things.
  5. It has a nice silky bookmark to keep your place.  Enough said.
  6. It is a lovely, floppy, leathery-feeling planner and does not have a spiral, which I really appreciate.  Spirals get messed up so easily and they get in the way for those of us who are lefties!
  7. Each week’s layout also has a space for work AND personal To-Dos, as well as an open space for notes, reminders, brainstorming, etc.
  8. It has a monthly calendar layout as well as the daily layout – this is very important to me for reasons that are too nerdy and too lengthy to write about.
  9. Before each new monthly layout, the planner asks you to see what progress you’ve made towards your goals since the last month. ¬†It might sound cheesy, but it’s one thing to have big dreams and quite another to make them happen – and that comes with planning and recording progress. ¬†It has a whole brain mapping and goal-setting theme that carries throughout the year.
  10. Finally, the planner is good for whoever you are – whether you are a student, a parent, self-employed, or someone with a job who is just trying to get your life together…it works.

(I think it needs to be said here that the people over at Passion Planner don’t know me from Adam’s house cat. ¬†They did not in any way sponsor or suggest this post. ¬†I hope they don’t mind that I am bragging about them on my blog.)

So, if life gets crazy for you and your cell phone just won’t quite cut it for scheduling, the Passion Planner can organize¬†your agenda, your goals, hopes, dreams, to-do lists, brainstorms, notes…really anything you could ask for. ¬†It can carry you through the busy fall season, into the hectic holidays, and land you successfully into a new year. ¬†Plus,¬†it comes in two sizes so you can decide how portable you want it to be.

From a very early age, I’ve known I have a tiny bit¬†a healthy bit of¬†OCD when it comes to organization…but aside from my Type A tendencies, having old planners is like looking back at your old diaries – it’s an awesome way for me to look back at my life and remember important moments, see how far I’ve come, or realize how blessed I am to be able to max out this one beautiful life that I’ve been given.

Now I just have to find time to learn how to play the piano, get my Master’s thesis published, and get my PhD. ¬† #goals

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(Had to throw in a corgi…props to Whitney Rizzi, my BFF and the mind behind www.jparkerphotos.com for these pictures)

Follow your bliss.

Is this thing on?

Hi! ¬†Welcome to MAXOUThappy. ¬†I feel like a first blog post is always going to be kind of an awkward leap, but here it is. ¬†I started really thinking about my life, and life in general, a few months ago. ¬†Very long story short, I was kind of in a dark and strange place, and I felt like I had really lost myself over the last few years. ¬†I know what my values are, I know what I want out of life…but I hadn‚Äôt really checked in with myself in a while. ¬†What do I like? ¬†What are my hobbies? ¬†Have they changed? ¬†Have I changed? ¬†What are my short-term, long-term, and visionary goals? ¬†All of this was combined with feeling like I was being a big say-er, and not a big do-er. ¬†I have always talked a lot of noise about writing a book, writing a blog, losing weight, being fit, doing this or that, and I finally realized that I was the only person who was standing in my way. ¬†Sounds simple, right? ¬†But it hit me like a ton of bricks. ¬†I thought back to all the times I‚Äôve ‚Äėstarted fresh‚Äô and tried to get on board with something new, and then it slowly but surely trickled away…and a song lyric popped into my head, as they tend to do: ¬†It‚Äôs time to begin, isn‚Äôt it? ¬†I deserve to just do me, and not worry about anything or anyone else. ¬†This is my journey, it‚Äôs my life, these are my goals…so I decided to ‚Äėstart fresh‚Äô and never stop this time. ¬†¬†¬†

I felt like I had made a lot of excuses for myself, as we all do – and I‚Äôm not trying to put myself down here; it‚Äôs just the human condition. ¬†The ‚ÄúI‚Äôm too busy‚ÄĚs and the ‚ÄúI‚Äôll get to it later‚ÄĚs just pile up and before you know it, you have let yourself down and broken promise after promise to yourself…and as silly as that sounds, you should be the last person you break a promise to!

I made a pact with myself to be more of a do-er. ¬†Try new things. ¬†Put myself out there. ¬†Be brave. ¬†Try being more spontaneous and focus daily on being a happy and positive person. ¬†Get in tune with myself again. ¬†I got started on a lot of things I want to follow through on. ¬†I started practicing yoga, I focused on being active, spending more time with myself, journaling…I made time for reading again, I began writing an e-Book about teaching with a coworker, I stopped being so crazy about calculating meals and calories and I drank some a lot of wine and ate some a good bit of delicious food without feeling guilty about it. ¬†I started to seek out a really balanced life in all areas. ¬†I made a huge career decision to go back to the classroom. ¬†Finally, I enlisted the help of a sweet friend to create my logo and signature for this blog, and after several geeky and alliteration-heavy blogging brainstorm sessions, my lovely sister helped me find the perfect name for what you are reading now.

I watched a fabulously feel-good documentary called Finding Joe about the hero‚Äôs journey in literature and film…it‚Äôs all about going for what you believe in and following your dreams, even when you are afraid. ¬†When you ‚Äėslay your dragons,‚Äô the film says, you have to face the deepest parts of yourself. ¬†Once you can accept them, and even appreciate them, you gain the courage to move past your fears and ‚Äúfollow your bliss.‚ÄĚ ¬†Isn‚Äôt that what we all want? ¬†To find our bliss – to be content in our lives and to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be. ¬†Some people stay where it‚Äôs safe and comfortable so they never have to fail or feel pain…but that sounds like a cop out to me. ¬†The day is today; the time is now. ¬†If you wait until you‚Äôre ready for something, you won‚Äôt ever get wherever it is you are hoping to go. ¬†The more times we fall, the more times we get back up, the closer we get to finding our bliss. ¬†I have taken some pretty big leaps in the last little bit of my life, and it is scary as hell, but I also can‚Äôt think of a time when I have ever felt more alive or excited for what‚Äôs coming.

So…what does MAXOUThappy mean? ¬†It means never settling for second best, never taking what you don‚Äôt deserve, and above all, maximizing every single aspect of your life – friendships, romance, fitness, health, work, travel, whatever it may be. ¬†MAXOUThappy is about living and loving your life, but most importantly, loving yourself, because we are all enough. ¬†Life is short, and we‚Äôve only got one…we better live it to the max.

bliss