5 Things, Personal

5 Things You Can Do Right Now

I know yesterday I said I would be posting every day this week with five things I am grateful for, since it’s the week of Thanksgiving, yadda yadda ya. I sat down after work to do just that and realized I can’t. Well, that’s not true. I knew last night that I couldn’t. That something needed to be said about what is happening in the country right now.

Last night, the grand jury announced their decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August of this year. The evidence and court transcripts were released and are available to the public. There have been protests, gatherings and, in some cases, riots in response to the news.

It is a time that is extremely emotional for everyone. Social media outlets are loud, buzzing, angry, distraught. There is fear for loved ones, for lives of those in areas where reactions are potentially violent, for those who may be impacted in other ways in the days to come.

So here we go. Five things you can do right now in light of what is happening.

1. Be educated: gather information. Read. Question. Look at what is credible and not credible by turning to different sources. Make your own opinions, even if they are not the same opinions as everyone else.

2. Be aware: not just about what is happening around you physically but emotionally, socially. Take note of yourself as a person and the words you use and the actions you take. Consider the impact of that tweet, or status, or picture. Think of how you would act if you were in a room with people you don’t know. Act conscientiously.

3. Stand for love: no matter what side you take, ask yourself where your belief comes from. Is this sentiment rooted in love for the world you live in, the people around you? Or is it from feelings of superiority, inconvenience or pain? Do you want to raise people up or let them wallow wherever they may be?

4. Don’t mistake “drama” for “activism”: last night, I had to make an effort to step away from the computer. It’s hard to not get pulled into the emotional raucous that is happening in front of you. It’s like a mosh pit: sometimes you just end up in it, sometimes you feel drawn to it. Don’t get involved in the finger-pointing, name-calling, communal hand-wringing. Never let anyone decide how you are going to react to something.

5. Remain present: life is happening right now, all around you. You aren’t doing anyone any good mulling, sulking, pouting and complaining. Live. Do what you’re supposed to be doing. If you want to help, do something tangible: write a letter to local, state, federal officials; donate to a cause; volunteer in cleanup. Do what you can.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

5 Things

Attitude of Gratitude 2014: Day 1

This week, I’m sharing five things I am grateful for each day until Thanksgiving. Do it and share with me!


1. It’s almost Christmas. Is that a cop out? I love Christmas. I even went to the post office and bought Rudolph stamps. It doesn’t count as getting into the spirit too early (read: before Thanksgiving) because we needed them anyway!

2. We’ve gotten to the time of year where I can go out on my porch, look across the horizon through all the now-naked trees and just see the UPMC building in the distance, sparking against the sky.

3. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It makes me feel like I have a pretty good understanding of my life, because I meet those things.

4. A great collection of books.

5. Prayer. Meditation. The ability to find peace in a world of chaos. Not all can do such a thing.

5 Things, Art, How to Have a Day Job, Reviews, Writing Tips

Stop What You’re Doing and Read “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler

I just got finished listening to this amazing, inspiring, beautiful book by Amy Poehler. This is going to go on my list as one of my favorites on Audible, by the way. I’m sure the book/ebook is wonderful, but the audio version is like…this awesome party you’ve been invited to. And you know all the people there, and you get to watch this great group of friends laugh and joke together.

I was late to the Poehler party. I’ll admit that right now. I probably only recently binge-watched the entire Parks and Rec series to this point, and it is one of the best comedy shows I’ve ever seen. It has just the right amount of funny and heart and wit and deadpan awesomeness. So I got really excited about Amy’s book.

I wasn’t disappointed. Not at all.

Amy had me at hello. I was sitting in a hotel in Plymouth Meeting on a business trip the day Yes Please came out. I had downloaded the Kindle sample and started reading it. In the first pages, Amy is upfront and honest about what a grueling task it was, writing the book. How she kept wanting to stop, how she tried to surround herself with her favorite writers’ work and then just found herself re-reading those other books instead of working on hers. I loved her for saying all the things that I think writers try to avoid saying, or share as an afterthought…like, “Oh, yes, writing is hard work, but when you are one with the Muse and you unplug from the material world, you are a better person for your craft and…” Amy takes that Walden image and calls it out for the bullshit it can be.

So if you are a) a creative person, b) a writer or c) a human being, you should check it out. Here are five things I picked up from reading this amazing memoir. I’ve tucked these in my back pocket, as mantras and reminders of how to be a better person.

1. The doing of the thing is the thing. Not talking about the thing, or thinking about the thing, or planning the thing. Do the thing. Now.

2. It’s easy to get stuck in your head. We overthink. Jump in to life headfirst. Do.

3. Say “Yes Please.” There is the chance for adventure and great times if you put yourself out there rather than going “nah.” It feels good to go “Of course!” and “Bring it on!” Yes please. And I’d like to add, “More, thank you.

4. Try not caring so much, when it comes to your career. This isn’t about the creative aspect of it, but the business of it, the success factors. Your career will do its own thing in its own time and your obsessing about it isn’t going to help.

5. Our phones really are trying to kill us.

How to Have a Day Job

The Name of the Game is…Just That!

I am very proud of my most recent newsletter about how to gamify your day job. And I decided, because I love you all so much, I’m going to share it here.

Want more? If you’re not on the How to Have a Day Job list and you’d like to be, click here and fix that!

rolldiceHow to Have a Day Job
On how to make the daily grind more fun, or taking a lesson from a killer puppet doll

One of my favorite Vines of all time is one that was aired on an episode of the raunchy Internet video television show, “Tosh.O.” It featured a man being menaced by a version of Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, who asked in a gravelly voice, “Would you like to play a game?”

“What game?”

“Raise this baby.”

As Jigsaw handed over the infant, the man looked properly aghast and screamed in horror. “That ain’t no game, that’s life!”

And it was really funny, but then it got me thinking: who made the decision that life couldn’t be a game? That our serious roles couldn’t just be a little more fun?

Luckily, I’m not the only one who feels that way. Gamification is on the rise. The basic definition of this is when one uses the idea or design of play in applications outside of games. So whether it’s with Fitbit, task-oriented apps like HabitRPG or making your own personal character sheet with game stats on it with Chris Hardwick, people are looking for ways to ease up on taking everything seriously.

Day jobs should be no different!

So here we go. 5 ways to make your day job more like a game and less like…well, work.

1. Bond, James Bond — How about a day as someone else? I like to pretend now and then that I am a completely different person when I go to work. Although there are certain limitations to this — you can’t really afford to take on the persona of, say, Batman, but how about Bruce Wayne? Make believe that you just have to get through the day and afterward, you’ll be off to fight crime. Or perhaps you would be Sandra Bullock from The Net, and your gateway into cyberspace has to be unlocked through a series of spreadsheets. Have fun with it!

2. Set the record straight — Of course, getting a lot done during the day is going to make people you work for happy, but what about you? Why should you care? Challenge yourself to raise your productivity by even a little bit by keeping a scorecard and giving yourself different levels of rewards. You might even keep a jar on your desk and every time you fall short, you have to put some change in. When you finally succeed at whatever task you’ve given yourself, you can use the money for a treat. Everyone loves treats.

3. Mortal combat! — Making your job more fun doesn’t mean just playing with yourself. Challenge a coworker, if you have a good rapport with one, and see who can reach a certain goal sooner. Or, if that’s not really the type of place you work, pick someone who has a particular trait that you want to take on. Maybe there’s a team lead that’s always quick to make a joke in a bad situation, and you suck at being funny. Observe them carefully and start practicing the skill. Imagine yourself becoming better, excelling beyond that person’s status (even if it’s just in your head).

4. Make my day — Choose random people to do good deeds for. Watch them scramble around trying to figure out who did this nice thing for them. I love sneaking around and doing stuff for people. I sometimes combine this with #1, and pretend that I’m the most charitable ninja ever.

5. Take it outside — Play doesn’t just have to happen at your desk. Give yourself a challenge on your commute or during your breaks and lunches. Go outside and try to find types of wildlife around your building. Take a different route home and stop somewhere you’ve never been before. Take a drive during lunch and people-watch at a local neighborhood.

Being an adult means getting to decide how to take control of your life and make it more awesome! Get out there and play!

5 Things

5 Things: Favorite Movies Based on Books


While doing my normal early-day Twitter lurking, I came across this poll that’s happening over at Book Riot. Those tricky folks on that site asked for my top three, but I’m giving you guys two more. For funsies.

fellowshipBefore shit went south…

1. The Fellowship of the Ring: you’ll notice I didn’t say the all-encompassing Lord of the Rings. While I do love the trilogy, there is something about TFotR that is perfect. Just the right blend of whimsy, emotion, action. It’s a great movie. And no, the lack of Tom Bombadil wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. Sorry.

unicornThe movie that changed going to the beach forever.

2. The Last Unicorn: I know, broken record, but seriously, this is one of the best animated films ever made. You shan’t convince me otherwise.

secretary-weddingBefore James Spader got kind of creepy.

3. Secretary: this is one I like pulling out at dinner parties. Based on a short story from Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill, I can report that it is way, way better than the book. In fact, just watch the movie, don’t even bother looking for it. You will be very disappointed at the lack of…anything to it.

KickAss3-lgKid super heroes – you just can’t go wrong.

4. Kick Ass: you didn’t think this wouldn’t include a comic adaptation, did you? There are some huge, huge differences between this gritty graphic novel and its, well, just-as-gritty movie adaptation, and I feel like in many cases, it makes the movie superior, if just because it’s not so damned depressing. Fantastic soundtrack, too.

Jurassic-Park-3D-T-RexAnd the orchestra swells!

5. Jurassic Park: I recently brought up to a friend of mine how excited I am about the next Jurassic Park movie coming out next summer. I have keen memories of being ten years old, curled up on the couch, watching anatomically-incorrect dinosaurs terrorize tourists. Nothing but love.

How about you? What are your favorite movies that sprang from books, for better or for worse?

Writing, Writing challenge

PSA #2

Challenge yourself constantly.

It is 6:15am. Usually, when my husband wakes me at 6, I get up, shuffle into the other room with my phone or my tablet, curl into the corner of my couch and – though my intentions may be good, though I may be trying to check my email and get some of those random, electronic tasks out of the way – I fall back into somewhere between a light nap and full out unconsciousness.

Today, I am sitting up at my computer, where it is not possible to doze. I am typing this. I am avoiding the living room with its tempting couch fortress of relaxation. I am rubbing my eyes. I am straightening my back.

The damn light is on, and, dear reader, it is so bright and I hate it.

I am writing.

Monday Doing

It’s Monday! What Am I Doing?

mondaydoing11032014 copy
Watching: Forever on ABC — I really didn’t want to give this one a shot. Because come on. The premise reads like, “Let’s take Sherlock, put him in New York, make him live forever and…let’s see…oh! But he’ll be a doctor instead. Where’s my Emmy?” Now that I’m a few episodes in, I can’t really say that I’ve been proven wrong with that assessment, but the characters are engaging/likeable. And I love Judd Hirsch.

Loving: My Hippo’s misadventures — 5 years ago, I started a day job at a local insurance company. A bunch of people in a department adjacent to mine had these little hippos (for some HIPAA awareness…get it? Hipaa hippos?) all over their desks. Obviously, I wanted one and was never able to get one. Finally, the other week, I took matters into my own hands and ordered one off Amazon. Then, I started taking pictures of it at different places and I’m having a lot of fun with that. My favorite?


If you click on it, you can follow me on Instagram to check out more.

Reading: An Age of License by Lucy Knisley — A travelogue graphic novel. Two of my favorite things. It is lovely and makes me want to relocate to Europe for an undisclosed period of forever.

Hearing: Everything Will Be Alright in the End by Weezer — Is it as good as the blue album? I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it is the most 90s-rocktastic album I have heard in some time. And yes, of course my favorite track is “Back to the Shack.”

Doing: Professional videography — I’m going to keep the deets under wraps for right now but rest assured that I am very, very excited and I really, really need to order new business cards.

It’s Monday. What are you doing?