The Thankful Project Day 9: Study Abroad

Though I am still trying to compile all my amazing memories and experiences from studying abroad down to one story, or one way to simply describe it all, I am so incredibly grateful for studying abroad.

The things I learned abroad go so far beyond the classroom, I’m not even sure we can see the building anymore.

I learned so much about myself while studying abroad – my work ethic, my personality, who I’m becoming as a person. It’s hard to pinpoint when I started realizing this, but then, we are always changing.

I met some of the most amazing people while studying abroad. I came home with a group of friends that are so amazing; they are undeniably friends for life. These people are so wonderful. They supported me, and I them, while abroad – struggling with studying, homesickness, heartsickness, etc. I love them with all my heart and wish they could be with me always.

I also saw things while abroad that I never thought I’d get to see. We went to Venice, Monte Carlo, Amsterdam, London, and so many places that I am so glad I got to see. It will probably be a long time before I see any of those places again.

Ireland is also an amazing place to live. It is so different from any place I’ve ever visited, let alone lived before. And I am very grateful to have gotten the chance to live in a place like that.

All in all, while it was difficult to transition back from being abroad for so long, I am so very grateful to have had all of these experiences. I have grown, loved more, learned more, and lived more than I ever thought possible. These experiences from abroad have helped me to know myself better so very much.

I wouldn’t trade any of them (literally) for the world.

The Thankful Project Day 8: Gym

I hate writing this. Because honestly? Who could ever possibly be thankful for the gym? And why would I be thankful for the gym?

I don’t really like going. I don’t like sweating my ass off watching all the body builder guys strut around and occasionally lifting a weight. I don’t like looking at all the skinny girls elliptical for a half hour and then being able to call it good. I just don’t like it.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t be grateful for it.

I’m grateful for the gym simply because it is a place where I can go and for one hour (or 90 minutes), I get to just be alone with my thoughts. And, exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy.

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I can leave the gym feeling invigorated (if not a little sore). I feel better. Even when I’m exhausted, and don’t feel like going to the gym, I push myself to go and it makes me feel more energetic. It brightens up the rest of the day.

Plus, getting stronger and getting in shape isn’t too bad either.

Working out also helps my mental health, which also keeps me happier and more energetic throughout the day.

So, even though I really do hate the gym, I’m pretty darn thankful for it.

The Thankful Project Day 7: Smoothies

Smoothies are a quick and easy way to start off your day (or get a healthy sweet fix during the day). They can vary in flavor, color, and size, and are such a sweet cool summer treat to have.

I start most days with a smoothie for breakfast. It takes about 5 minutes to make, and with an insulated cup, I can sip it for over an hour (I make my smoothies really thick). Sure, it gets a little monotonous starting every day the same way, but couldn’t that be said for all the people who start every day with two scrambled eggs and wheat toast? At least mine is a protein packed, 2 fruit serving cup of cold goodness.

Most days, I just do a good old fashioned mixed berry smoothie, but some days, I’ll do a nice tropical flavored one. Here are a few good smoothie recipes:

1. Mixed Berry Smoothie

8 oz. of your personal choice of milk (I do almond milk).
2 scoops of protein powder (or a tablespoon or two of your favorite nut butter).
1 banana.
1/2-3/4 cup of frozen mixed berries – no sugar added.
Ice to make as thick or runny as you’d like.
Optional: 1/4 cup fresh berries

2. Tropical Smoothie

8 oz. of your choice of milk.
2 scoops protein powder (or a tablespoon of nut butter).
1 banana.
1/2 cup of frozen peaches.
1/2 cup of frozen mangos, etc. (Usually the market sells a bag of frozen tropical fruit).
2 frozen strawberries.
Ice.

3. Green Smoothie

6 oz. of water.
1/2 cup kale.
1 banana.
1/2 cup pineapple.
1/2 teaspoon ginger.
1/2 green apple.
(I’ll usually do this one cold, but not frozen – more like a juice.)

4. Strawberry Blueberry Smoothie

4 oz. of your favorite milk.
1 container of plain greek yogurt.
1 banana.
1/2 cup frozen or fresh strawberries.
1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries.
Ice.
Optional: 1/2 avocado.
(This one smoothes your skin).

Honestly, you could add literally anything that sounds good together to a smoothie and sip it right up! To keep it healthy, though, definitely look for frozen fruit without added sugar, and keep that need for protein powder and milk to a minimum. What keeps you full is the whole smoothie put together, not just a few components of it.

I’m also super thankful for smoothies because they help me keep my cravings in check. When I’m trying to lose weight, or keep a stricter and healthier diet, starting my day off with a smoothie helps keep my notorious sweet tooth in check.

And during these warm summer months, I get to start my day off with a fresh and cool smoothie.

DElicious!

The Thankful Project Day 6: Planners

To step away for a day from the ultimately cheesy sounding thankful posts, I’m just going to dedicate this post to planners.

Yes, those things that organize your day and tell you what to do.

I use my planner for everything. I write down my work schedule (even though it’s a normal work schedule), I write down when I’m going to the gym, when my appointments are, and to be honest, it reminds me what date it is.

It makes the days look way more conquerable, and like anything is possible. And it’s true. When you write something down, not only does it make you remember it more, but it gives you a sense of purpose. That’s why to-do lists are such a big deal for some people.

A planner is like a giant to-do list that is portable and easily viewable. And, for those of you who are super creative, there is such a thing as a bullet journal now.

And these things are even cooler. All you need are super fun pens (which are sometimes even cooler than planners), and the will to decorate your own planner. It sounds like more work than it’s worth, but it’s actually pretty relaxing, and you have a completely customizable planner all for yourself.

And, to allow the cheesiness to come back in for just a second, planners help me when my depression gets extremely bad. They help me see that my day isn’t as busy as it feels like it is. It makes hours seem less daunting. Planners overall help me feel more in check and organized.

And that’s why I’m so thankful for planners.

What are you thankful for?

The Thankful Project Day 6: Meghan

I wrote an article dedicated to lessons you can learn from your older sister. It was everything from learning how to move on from a guy to learning when it’s appropriate to let go of friends or things or something you think you’ll never be able to grow from.

And these are all lessons I’ve learned from my older sister. I close the article with this: “I am always and forever thankful for my big sister because of everything she’s taught me.” 

But really, I’m just plain old really thankful for my sister.

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She calls me when she knows I’ve had a bad day, she lets me come visit her and celebrates my birthday with me (in style), she supports me in my crazy dreams, and she’s literally always there for me. Like my post about my dad, my sister will hold me up when it feels like the floor is gone.

Meghan listens to my rants, she tells me when I need to get up and try again after I fail, she indulges my love of country music, she laughs with me, she cries with me, she loves the same movies, and she always is there for me.

Come hell or high water, I know my sister would run through fire for me (excuse the mixed and multiple metaphors). I know she would do anything to make sure I know that I’m loved, supported, and that someone will always pick me up when I’m down.

I just hope she knows I’d do the same for her.

The Thankful Project Day 5: Tacos

I guess… More than anything, I’m thankful for Mexican food. But if you ask anyone, my favorite food is tacos – so this post is dedicated to tacos.

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Here’s the thing about tacos, and why I love them so much:

They are very versatile.

Am I the only one that remembers when iCarly characters would eat spaghetti tacos? You can literally put anything in a taco, and it’s still a gift from g-d.

Everyone loves them.

There are a few (and these few are limited) that don’t like tacos, but most (sane) people love tacos. And why wouldn’t you?

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They’re easy to eat with food allergies.

This might be the most important point in this piece. When I found out I had Celiac Disease, my first thought was, “If I can’t eat tacos, I don’t know what I’ll do.” But that’s the beauty of tacos! They can come in corn tortillas, flour tortillas, with cheese, without cheese, with veggies and no meat, etc. The possibilities are endless.

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Tacos are so easy to make.

If you think you can’t cook, never fear because tacos are so easy! Just get corn tortillas, lettuce, salsa, avocados, your meat of choice (this, you’ll have to cook), and cheese if you like. Put it all together and voila! A delicious taco at your service.

To sum up, tacos are the best. They make me very happy. And thus, I am thankful for them. How can you not be thankful for a food that is delicious, perfect in every way, and so beautiful?

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Thankful Project Day 4: Country Music

Some people don’t like country music very much. So this post might not get too much love. But I am so thankful for country music.

In country music, they don’t scream about sleeping with b*tches or rap about shawty’s ass. It’s just guitar, lyrics about drinking beer with friends and falling in love with the perfect girl. It’s soft drums and concerts full of happy people and cowboy boots. In other words, I think it’s quite wonderful.

Country music never fails to make me happy. It’s my music of choice when I’m sad or down about something. It makes me feel like I’m better than what I believe I am. Country music made me believe in the power of music therapy.

If you don’t what music therapy is, here’s a quick synopsis: a patient can find an activity that includes any genre of music (singing, dancing, learning an instrument, sitting quietly and listening), and that activity triggers their brain to be happier and more productive – the more you do it, the stronger the triggers get. Patients can then move from that to another activity (without music), and use the strength of the triggers to be happier, more productive, more vocal, more communicative, etc. Music therapy has tremendous success in patients with depression, anxiety, dementia, Parkinson’s, Autism, etc.

And country music is my genre of choice.

When I get in my car after a bad day, or a day of knowing I’m not going to feel 100%, and I turn on country music, singing softly along, I start to feel better. And I can carry that mood with me throughout the day. I’ll probably be humming at some point, maybe muttering lyrics under my breath, but I feel better.

Country music is so many things. It’s joyful, it’s sad, it’s a party, it’s patriotic, it’s beautiful. 

And no, not everyone agrees with that statement. But I don’t care.

Music has the ability to heal people.

So maybe this isn’t a thank you to country music, but instead to music in general. Music has the power to make people feel something more complex than what they currently feel. It brings people together. It makes people feel wonderful. It makes people happier. And isn’t that what we all want? 

The Thankful Project Day 3: “Friends”

I found Friends about 5 years ago – in the peak of my high school life. It was around the same time I had my first shoulder surgery.

Friends gave me laughter when I thought I didn’t have any. It gave me funny storylines and ridiculous love stories. Friends gave my silly things to focus on and characters who are oh-so relatable.

And it’s still that way. Friends, especially now that I’m actually in my 20s and getting ready to face the real world, is relatable. They all struggle with love, money, feeling accepted in who they are, and just being happy and being themselves. And aren’t we all?

That’s the point of the show – for decades of twenty-something year olds to appreciate and laugh along with and cry in happiness when amazing things happen to them. For people to root for Monica and Chandler, and to commiserate with Rachel and Ross over romantic woes. For people to appreciate Phoebe’s struggles with money and family, and Joey’s struggles with following his passion.

All of it is so relatable.

And it makes you feel less alone. Instead of wondering if anyone else has ever felt the same way, I can turn to Friends. It sounds silly, and maybe a little dumb, to be thankful for a TV show that started before I was born, but it helps me – and I’ll do anything to make myself happy some days.

Friends is one of the things in my life with no drama. There’s never any gossip, any kickback, any judgment for liking it. There’s nothing anyone can say or do to make me feel bad for enjoying turning on Netflix to the next episode. Friends just is and that is exactly what I need.

When it feels like my friends couldn’t care less about me, I can care about Friends. When I feel put down, sad, or I just need a good laugh, I can turn to Friends. And when I want to put my focus on being a hopeless romantic, I can watch Monica and Chandler fall in love in their own weird way. When I need anything, I know there’s an episode for that.

Without being cliché, Friends is “there for me.”

The Thankful Project Day 2: Dad

Today, I want to be thankful for my dad.

My dad who tirelessly supports me and always makes me laugh. My dad who works so hard and teaches me what it is to work for what you want. My dad who constantly inspires me to be better and believe in myself.

When I was 10, my dad picked up and together we rode across the state of California. He cheered me on on the days when it was so windy I thought I would fall off my bike. He shielded me from the downpouring rain. He helped me up the huge hills and supported me through the finish line. He kept me laughing when my legs were burning and I didn’t want to ride anymore.

And if that doesn’t become a metaphor for my dad supporting me through the rest of my life, I don’t know what will.

When my mental health was at the lowest point it’s ever been (thus far), my dad was right there to cheer me on. When I thought college would always be a miserable chore, my dad helped me up to better things.

He was always there for me, and I know he always will be.

And when my best friend from my childhood’s dad died this past week, my dad was right there to keep me standing when it felt like the floor had dropped from beneath me. My dad was right there to share good stories about him and make sure to keep me laughing through my mournful tears.

And that’s what he always does for me, my mom, my sister, everyone. 

When the floor goes missing, or I feel like I can’t do something, or I feel like I’m failing at something, or when I just need someone to be there for me, my dad is there.

He never makes me feel inadequate, or like I’m not good enough. He never makes me feel like I am missing a piece of myself, or like I’m lost. My dad always makes sure I know who I am. My dad always makes sure I can hold myself together. My dad always makes sure I’m found.

My dad always makes sure I cross the finish line.

The Thankful Project Day 1: Park City, Utah

The first thing I want to be thankful for is my hometown, Park City, Utah. Without the move my parents made when I was 11, I don’t think I would be the person that I am now.

Park City has introduced me to wonderful experiences and people and activities. Without Park City, I don’t know if I would have ever found volleyball or writing or my ability to be so open to new experiences. I don’t know if I would have ever met some of my best friends, some of the best people I know.

So, thank you, Park City.

Here, I’ve learned the real value of life and love.Here, I have fallen in love with autumn, and the way seasons change – something I never had in California. Here, my family and I have grown closer, I’ve discovered who I am and settled into that with ease and grace.

In Park City, I have cradled poetry underneath starry night skies, belted country music to my steering wheel on open roads, learned what it really means to call someplace home. 

While it seems odd to be thanking a whole city, and not just my home, or one area of the city, I believe there are spots all around Park City that have helped me become the person I am today.

My actual house is an obvious one – a place where I have found comfort and peace when I wasn’t sure I’d ever feel peaceful again. The mountains are where I discovered my love of nature and aspen trees and discovering new places. The Olympic Park showed me a good work ethic and the essence of having a whole lot of fun. And there are so many other places.

So yes, I’m grateful for my home of Park City. How could I not be?