What if…

If I had followed my childhood dream, I would have opened a hair salon-photography studio combination. When my sister and I were younger, we would constantly use a variety of kitchen utensils to style each other’s hair. In addition, we would set up decorative columns and blankets in our living room to re-create the Target or JCPenney photo studio.

Looking back, I think it’s showing of what I want to do today: to help people feel their absolute best, as well as assure them that they can look back on a certain point in their life and feel a certain way. With my aspirations of working with Make-A-Wish, all I want is to help others know there is good that can come from their darkest times. I did my best when I worked with Adventure Club, because even after a long day, I made sure that the kids had some pleasure in their day. I hope that this pattern can continue for years to come, no matter where I am.

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why weight watchers is simply the greatest.

From the minute I walked off the stage at my University of Missouri graduation, it felt as though I was constantly doing something. I traveled to Texas, I was finishing up the job I had known for four years, and I was moving home. All of my surroundings were changing. The minute I got home I was thrown into an interview for a summer camp counselor position, and I ended up signing away my afternoons to sitting in a gym for five hours each day. When I got a minute to catch my breath and look back on pictures I realized that towards the end of college, I was stressing about moving, finding jobs, leaving my kids I had worked with all through school, and with stress came stress eating. Looking at these pictures I realized I was not a place I wanted to be health wise.

When I quit my summer camp job, two days later I was walking into my local Weight Watchers office signing myself back up for something I had done really well with in high school. When I tried again in college I wasn’t finding the right motivation due to distance and schedules, but now, I feel motivated. I notice myself wanting to work out more often, taking care of my food choices in a healthy way, and also having the motivation to try new things that are healthy for me. In this process, I have found that I am gaining an healthy lifestyle, inside and out, and for that I owe all to Weight Watchers.

I look forward to 9:30 am each Friday, which is weird for a recent college grad to say, because I get to spend my morning with the most positive thinking women I know. I am inspired each and every week to become half of the woman that they are. Even if we have a week where we gain, there is some silver lining that they can pull to instantaneously brighten moods. I also appreciate that they all have the same sarcastic attitudes that I possess. Each week I find a new healthy outlook on the week to come, as well as some fun recipes along the way. Sure, tracking my foods and activities can be quite tedious sometimes, but it’s something I feel so proud of. I have made myself so aware of things I might not have thought about before, and it makes me feel that, although I am currently unemployed, I have taken the reigns of some form of responsibility in my life. I hope that I can combine it with a job to feel as though I am pushing myself to be the absolute best that I can be.

Serenity

These next few weeks are going to be some of the most stressful of my life. Not only am I graduating from college and finishing school, but I’m preparing to move to an entirely new city and putting myself in a completely new atmosphere. On top of all of it, I’m trying to make sure I squeeze in as much as possible before I leave and it makes my schedule completely overwhelming. Oh also throw in that I’m finishing the only job I have really known to love over the last four years. It’s a lot to take in. I’m beyond thankful though for my ability to find stress relief in the smallest of ways.

1- one of my favorite things to do when I have an hour or two of free time during the week is curl up with my iPad and browse Pinterest. It’s really fun finding fun and creative ways to not only dress up my new big girl wardrobe, but also plan ways to dress up my new apartment when I move to Cincinnati. I’m a major fan of finding inspirational quotes, new hairstyles to try, and beauty products to dream of. For some reason the entire time I’m perusing through my boards it’s me thinking of what I can do with my life. It’s even more fun when I put one of the pins to use: the other night I made a baked taco recipe for my family for dinner and it was a hit! Really fulfilling to be told that you’ve done something right.

2-anyone that knows me knows that Starbucks is my place. On my worst of days I make sure I get myself a grande pick me up. Sometimes I go to the campus Starbucks and spend a couple of hours clearing my head by talking to a friend over coffee or reading up on the latest tabloids to make myself feel a bit more normal. There’s something about the ambiance of this place that has always been calming for me. It’s also noteworthy that in about 90% sure they know my name at this place.

3- another one of my favorite ways to take the load off is to hop in my car and crank the country station. I’ve always felt this connection of country music that makes me feel like I’m home. Whenever I miss home it seems as though there is always a Kenny Chesney or Rascal Flatts song to put me in a lighter mood. There’s also this way that country music makes you want to be in a sunny place, I don’t know how but it’s something that I associate with summer.

4- A short, simple phone call to home will without a doubt help. My mom and I talk close to everyday, and even talking about the small things from home like our pool opening or my brother having a good day at school really warms my heart. Any way I can be included in everything that I’m missing while away at school helps.

5- Last but certainly not least, my favorite outlet of happiness, is my job. Everyday there is some one-liner said or something done by one of the kids that makes me eternally grateful for taking the opportunity for this job my freshman year. These kids have become a family to me, and aside from the obvious needing me as a supervisor, some times they need me to help with a homework problem, or helping them fix a conflict going on with a friend. It’s in that time that I feel important to someone, and that is such a great feeling.

Overall, though they are all unique to me, these are what help and I know that everyone else has their calming moments as well. I truly believe that in those moments we are most vulnerable and open to figuring ourselves out, which is what our twenties are all about.

An Open Letter to country music

Dear Country Music,
Rascal Flatts. That’s where it all started. My dad let my siblings up way past our bedtime one evening to watch one of the countdowns on CMT, and “These Days” was the most recent single by the rising trio. I’ll never forget Gary Levox pointing up to the sky while he belted out his powerful vocals. That’s when I knew you had drawn me in.

From that moment on country music was a vital part of life for my family. We found some of our favorite singers and most relatable songs. I will never forget seeing my dad cry over the kitchen sink due to the death of his father. That one moment is only brought to surface when I think of a very specific Tim McGraw lyric: “I don’t know why they say grown men don’t cry.” When I was younger my daddy was my superhero and represented everything that strength was in my little girl eyes. I know that losing his own daddy was the hardest moment in his life and when I was little I had no idea how symbolic it was when he finally let his emotions become more important than staying strong.

When I think about CMT Top 20 Countdown I think about a talent show where most of country music’s best artists compiled into a two hour event. So many of the songs I heard on the radio were being performed in my living room and watching that special became a routine for me. To this day, watching Top 20 is definitely a calming routine for me. If I’m ever having a bad day I always feel better at least having it on in the background. Not only am I hanging out with most of my favorite artists as well as bring introduced to newer ones as well.

Another thing that you’ve given me is the inspiration to find undying, true love. When I first heard the song “Johnny and June” by Heidi Newfield I thought it was just going to be another one of those tunes that gets caught in my head every once in a while. I was wrong. There was a reason that I grew to appreciate that song on a much deeper level and it had everything to do with the tumultuous relationship of the named couple. Today’s society highlights relationships like Beyonce and Jay-Z or William and Kate because they seem to embody the perfect relationship. I always tell those people that they should watch “Walk The Line” and get back to me. I firmly believe that Johnny and June truly exemplified love. I visited the Johnny Cash Museum in September and there was a section of the museum where there were momentums that Johnny had gotten for June and never in my life have I been more moved by an inanimate object then when I laid eyes on a valentine that said “June: my love, my life, for life.” I will admit that there may have been a tear shed. Through all of the tribulations of their marriage it was known that Johnny loved June with all of his heart. They are what a realistic marriage is to me. There is no perfect happily ever after. Couples fight and they yell and disagree but at the end of the day they rely on each other. They are my inspiration for love. Thank you for introducing me to what I needed to know in that area of life.

Not only do you remind me of what love really is, but you also remind me of pure happiness. Whenever I am home from school, country music is what I like to blast on the radio while I drive with my windows down. It’s that ray of sunshine when it’s wintertime and I need an escape from a dreary Midwestern reality. It’s summertime in the pool with my friends. It’s concerts at the county fair. It’s my fearless nights dancing in bars with my friend as we took on our very first road trip out of missouri and Illinois. It’s home on nights where I’m too far away to be with my parents and I need a good cry. It’s comfort and happiness and home all rolled into one. Thank you for that as well.

Finally, you introduced me to my future home. No, I’m not an aspiring musician or singer, but the minute I set foot on Broadway in downtown Nashville, I knew I was home. There was a really comforting feeling when I was exploring Music City, which was really unique to me. For most of my life I believed that I belonged up near Chicago, not only because I would be close to home but because it’s all I knew. The minute I stepped out of my comfort zone and into something new, I realized what I had been missing. The first time I went for a full weekend with my friend Taylor, I felt a sense of independence I had never known prior to that. I was dancing in honky thinks and singing with street performers. I was meeting new people and having the time of my life. It’s a weekend I look back on with no regrets and 100% pure elation over the fact that it was made possible. Taking in the entire history of country music in such a beautiful city is unlike anything you could ever experience.

What’s hilarious is that most people don’t give you a chance. They assume that each song is about beer chugging, blue jean wearing, twangy woes. When they finally give you the chance, they are in for a whirlwind romance. There are so many outlets to go down and find your niche. From Jason Aldean to Carrie Underwood to Cassadee Pope, there are artists with stories that deserve to be discovered. Other genres in music overlap in some form or another, but country is a genre that stands on its own. Maybe that’s why I feel my special connection to it: we both share an independence unlike the rest. That’s something to treasure and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Forever a fan,
Claire

The Importance of Connections

Throughout the past couple of weeks, I have had a lot of big decisions that were made. Some involved summer jobs and some involved I was going to do with my life after graduation on May 17th. It seems like every day I am on the phone with my mom for reassurance that some of my decisions are what’s best for me. It’s hard to try and move forward when I’m so attached to my life here in Columbia, but looking back on my decision four years ago to come to this school, I realize that starting then, I began an incredibly independent life with decisions I made on my own. I had scholarships presented to me from other schools, as well as “best” friends that were going to schools close to home, but something about Mizzou was calling my name. 

I obtained my first part time job in the fall of my freshman year, and began in the spring semester. Because I work for a before and after school program, my mornings started at 6, and my days would end 12 hours later when I got in my car after the PM shift. In the middle of the two, I had classes as well as maintaining a social life with my friends. I was building connections for classes as well as trying to make new friends. Networking throughout freshman year was so important to me because I didn’t want to be a bum that sat around in my dorm. Ever since high school, I made sure that I had a “friend” in each class so that studying was made a bit easier for myself, but it also brushed up on my communication skills. I made my job just like that. I have been close with the staff at Midway Heights Adventure Club for almost four years now, and am so thankful for that built in support system. They are my rock on so many tough days, they are the sane opinions i need when I don’t know which way to go, and they’re comic relief when the grey clouds seem to hover for a bit too long. Though we have had people coming and going each year, I am so thankful for the experience that they’ve given me. I also love the fact that I was able to connect my co-worker with a concert friend of mine this past week and he was able to see his favorite singer live for a second time, for free. It made me feel so happy knowing he was having one of the best nights of his life. 

On a different level of connection, I had the most bizarre quitting of a job a couple of weeks ago. First semester I took on a second job as a facility assistant at the auditoriums on campus, and it was really….unique. Though it wasn’t what I thought when I applied for the job, I was working with the greatest people on all levels. There were many late nights spent waiting for shows to end and for us to clean up, as well as a clogged toilet here and there, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Unfortunately, I took on my author job at Literally, Darling and picked up two more AC shifts this last semester, so I had to quite my FA job. When I went into my boss’s office, he knew what was happening because I hadn’t been in to work in a couple of months, but he still was really nice. In fact, he asked me what I was going to do with myself, and when he found out I want to write, told me that he might be able to set me up with a magazine this summer. Sure enough, after sending him a follow up e-mail, I received an e-mail from the woman in charge of the magazine letting me know that she would love to have me help with the writing. It was such an amazing feeling of gratitude towards my former boss, because he didn’t have to hand me another job after I walked in to quit with him, but he told me that through everything, he appreciated me as a worker and would still help me out with references and what not down the road. Not only is this sheer luck to land this kind of man in my life, but an incredible amount of thankfulness for having this connection. 

When I take a step back, I realize that getting places outside of your comfort zone (highly recommended for those wanting to mature and actually grow up) is more than possible through connections you make. Try if you can to talk to people and ask the right questions. It’s phenomenal what can come if you’re both curious and honest!

Adventure (March 26th, 2014)

So this morning, the girls (Caroline, Seri, and Kristin) and I woke up around 8:30ish and got ready for a day filled with Chicago activities. We started off the day with coffees and then hopped the train to Wrigleyville. Let me tell you, I feel so happy walking through those streets and taking in everything that surrounds my favorite building in the entire country. The people that live in that small little niche of Chicago seem so…together. There really isn’t a better way to put it, because those that live in it are all in that specific neighborhood for the sake of convenience and availability to Wrigley. I was also really touched that my friends would even take the adventure, because they either aren’t huge baseball fans or (shoutout to Caroline) diehard Cardinals fans, and this is stepping in dangerous territory. So thankful that it was a moment I could spend with my gals. 

Following my trip to Cubs heaven, we got back on the train and hit up Water Tower Plaza mall. The first store we went into was Lush Cosmetics, which if you haven’t heard of them I highly recommend checking them out, and not only was I introduced to new types of organic events, but I also got a major allergy issue taken care of that I woke up with this morning. Most of the afternoon was spent there, but it was fun because we were all on the same level, and it was fun finding things that I have wanted for a while. I also had my first Topshop experience today, which was interesting. It’s a rather heartbreaking moment when you spy a dress or top that is right up your alley, but has the price tag screaming “HAHA NOPE” right in your face. It’s hard to have an expensive taste on a college budget. Especially when my parents have huge expectations of me by being the oldest. We rounded off the day with deep dish pizza at Gino’s East so that was fabulous.

As I sit here in my friend Kristin’s apartment, I have a killer view of skyscrapers and apartment buildings lit up for the now evening. As I take the scene in, I can’t help but get excited for a future in a city bigger than the one I’m in now. For the longest time, I used to think that Chicago was the city for me, mainly because of the Cubs and my family, but it’s safe to say that I want to keep it a city that I look forward to visiting, and not wearing out the luster by living here. There are so many places I want to explore here, and there are so many trips back in the future where I can venture out and take it on.  

Independence/Spring Break

So it’s been another minute since I’ve last posted. Fell off the train because of an insanely busy semester, and I can’t say that I mind it. I love the fact that I have a steady social life as well as being busy with wanting to have a good final GPA and a balanced work life. There are so many positive things going on around me and it makes me feel like I am going places, but unfortunately the one thing I am freaking out about is finding a full time job. The hunt is so hard, especially for an English major, because with such a generic major, you have to really sell yourself. Lately I have been revamping my resumé and practicing cover letters because it seems as though I am throwing myself at multiple types of jobs. It makes me feel more and more grown up each and every day.

In my opinion, I think that the essence of Spring Break is also about growing up. Whether it be a weekend in Chicago or and entire week on the beach, the trips take planning, which is definitely not done by one’s parents, for many reasons. There is a sense of independence that comes with spring break in college, and for me and my friends, we are taking the mini trip route, which has just as much packed into a few days as any other trip. We are exploring tourism in Chicago, as well as taking on Water Tower shopping center. I decided to budget the trip out ahead of time, that way I don’t blow all of the money I barely have. My paycheck comes through the second day of the trip, and I unfortunately have a wealthy fashion taste on a low budget. The inner conflict when I online window shop is so intense it hurts. My advice in this situation: make a list. I have so many things I NEED going into spring, but there are a few affordable items I can indulge in in Chicago this week. It makes me feel as though I can shop, as well as work with my budget. Another tip: do your research. My friend found a place where we can overnight park for two days and only pay $32. In Chicago, that’s like striking gold. My friends and I have researched what restaurants to go to that way we don’t have to drop a fortune on FOOD.

This last semester in college not only has highlighted myself venturing into the adult world both professionally as well as personally. Once you get to this point in your life, it feels good to know that you are moving forward and can handle yourself in the most independent of situations. I feel so confident in the decisions I am going to have to make for my future, which is something I could not confidentially tell you a year ago.