My 10th Year In Colorado

I moved to Colorado in August of 2008 – see succinct blog post from August 19th, 2008.

I can’t believe I’ve been here 10 years. Even still, I’m uncovering new gems in Colorado, in awe of these mountains, and sort of still feel like a newbie.

The quick story is I moved here the summer after graduating college. After a little bit of travel, it was time to get to it. I packed up my trusty Honda Accord and drove west, with my mom in tow. Everything I owned was in that Honda.

I had a feeling I really wanted to be in Boulder. It just felt right and I needed no other reason but that.I grew up camping, hiking, and snowboarding in Colorado as a kiddo, but not much time specifically in Boulder.

I didn’t matter that I didn’t have a job, any friends, or a place to live. Things fall into place, right?

I found a place on Craigslist, a furnished, shared house near Chatauqua, right at the base of the flatirons (best neighborhood but I had no idea). I had been prepping to find a job from afar at home in Iowa, but being 22, despite doing way SO many internships – hah – they all said, “Give me a shout when you’re out here.” So I bought a lot of coffee and pounded the pavement.

It was hard and a little isolating as I really didn’t know anyone here but it was a perfect adventure for a young woman to take and I’m so glad I took the leap and risk. Those kind of experiences give you gumption, guts, and drives bravery.

A professor of mine from college, introduced me to a previous colleague of hers in Boulder (still friends with him to this day), and he introduced me to the growing tech/startup scene in Boulder. I honestly had no idea and thought I was going to work in natural foods. I landed a job (they didn’t even remember my right name) the same day I walked in in an early-stage technology startup and here I am 10 years later. As an aside, I was really lucky to find a job a few months after searching, in the recession of 2008 and didn’t realize that until much later.

This blog was a huge part of my 20s. I don’t post on it much anymore, but haven’t had the heart to let it go either. I met so many people through it, my first job was in the publisher/blogging space, and it was such an important outlet for me. Now I chuckle at what I used to say and sound like.

Recently on a personal development course I took, they talked about ‘following the breadcrumbs’ of life. As Tama says, “You have to obey the inner signals, the nudges, the Morse code of the soul…Pay attention with your heart, not your mind. The mind wants to know where things will go. The mind doesn’t believe gargantuan things happen from sweet, tiny steps. But this is a path of intuition. It has different rules. There are no sizes. Or as A Course in Miracles says, “There is no order of difficulty in miracles.”  You’re either listening to a power that has no limits or you’re listening to a limited mind that has no power. One nuance leads to another. You wouldn’t understand the plan. The plan would seem unthinkable. I think we swallow small bits of light, so as to not overwhelm ourselves. A child grows inches in a year, not all at once, because there is mercy in the Universe.  The Love that calls you is nothing like the world you know. So don’t look for things that “make sense” in the world you know. Follow heat. Follow sparks. Follow curiosities.”

Looking back, I didn’t even realize that was what I was doing. I base, and still do, my decisions off of how I feel. My gut. I usually don’t know what’s next and I’ve surely make a lot of mistakes along the way but it’s lead me here. It’s also a reminder of how non-linear life and our understanding of it all is, as well.

I feel incredibly grateful to be in the Colorado sunshine, to enjoy the community I’ve cultivated here, to relish in the mountains, lakes, streams, and rivers, and to find myself in a happy, healthy life.

Back then, I lived in old apartments in downtown Boulder where I could skip to work in a few minutes and leisurely join happy hours and stumble home easily. The apartments were furnished with side-of-the-road finds and many girlfriends were amazing roomies. I had a way of convincing many friends to move to Boulder (many are still here). I had a few break-ups in my 20s and experienced my share of loss. I worked at two, really fulfilling, life-changing (for me personally) , technology startups in client-facing roles and eventually learned to manage teams and grow into who I am today professionally. I said yes to everything too. I was down to try anything and explore.

Today, I live outside of Boulder in Longmont, in a house my boyfriend and I own. It’s not all Craigslist furnished, and that Honda I owned I finally got rid of at age 30! Hah. I have a new car that I love. I still am immersed in technology, but work in the food and restaurant industry in innovation. You know what’s cool? My first boss when I was 22, is now my boss and colleague at my new job, 10 years later. Serendipitous.

I still explore and travel a lot, but I’ve slowed down. Life catches up with you and you aren’t quite as resilient in your 20s. I value my health, deep rest, taking care of myself, and I say no more than I have before, but in a positive way (can’t please ’em all).

But for now, today, I’ll pay a little tribute to 22-year-old Grace and remind myself to keep living a life of wonder and curiosity – especially as I did then.

Posted in Change | Leave a comment

My Favorite Reads of 2016

Last year I read 24 books. I chuckle as I write this because on the 31st, I was furiously trying to crush the final book. A goal is a goal, right?

This year, my reading challenge via GoodReads was to do half that. I still feel like a book a month is a healthy ambition. I ended up at 17 books this year, so over my goal and happy about it. Thanks to GoodReads (one of my favorite apps) for helping me along with the challenge and this infographic.

Here are my favorites this year:

Circling the Sun | Paula McLain: This is an epic tale in a novel format, showcasing the story of real-life character, Beryl Markham. British-born, but Kenyan raised Markham is a strong female protagonist with a brazen attitude and unconventional childhood. Markham was an aviator, adventurer, racehorse trainer, and author. She was also the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. It is a wonderful history lesson without being dry, while McLain is a visual writer painting the picture of colonial Kenya in the 1920’s. If you enjoyed The Paris Wife, another of McLain’s books, you’ll enjoy this story. It’s no surprise, this book is a NY Times Bestseller and named one of the best books of the year by NPR. Related: Out of Africa has some parallels and cross-over in terms of characters and timelines, which was interesting.

Love Warrior | Glennon Doyle Melton: This is a memoir by bestselling author, Glennon who tells her story of her journey of self-discovery and awakening from her experience with addiction, to bulimia, to marriage, having children, her husband’s infidelity, and the subsequent life-awakening lessons learned. Glennon is a truth teller and she says things that people are often afraid to. By doing so, she has united a following of people through her transparency and honesty which was beautiful and inspiring to read. I want all my lady friends to read this book. It’s a must.

When Breath Becomes Air | Paul Kalanithi: This book wins the award for most tears shed (mine) during reading. Don’t let this deter you. Kalanithi is a beautiful prose writer and he was a doctor, with no history or previous work in writing. At the age of 36, just about to complete a decade of training as a neurosurgeon, Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lunch cancer. Confronting his own mortality, with the tables quite literally turned, he turned to writing to tell his story and uncovering the poignant questions of: what makes life worth living in the face of death? What does it mean to have a new child, as another life fades away? In this delicate, finite life we lead, this is a beautiful and important book on death, dying, mortality, living, and our relationship with both.

The Art of Fielding | Chad Harbach: This book has been on my list for a long time and I’m glad I finally got to it. I have a lot of nostalgia for the Midwest (where I grew up) and the growth and life experiences you find yourself in, during the college years. This book covers that and many layered characters set in a fictional college and town, Westish College, on the shore of Lake Michigan. Focused on an unassuming baseball star seeking a perfect record and going pro, there are great baseball / sports references, but really it’s a story of love, loss, friendship, seeking perfection, and navigating life. The book is moving and the many varied characters felt so real. Amazon’s review puts it best: “The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment—to oneself and to others.”

A Little Life | Hanya Yanagihara: This is the heaviest book I read all year. It still haunts me and I remember every detail vividly. So yes, brace yourself as it’s upsetting, but it’s worth it. The 720-page book covers four lifelong, but very different, friends: Willem, JB, Malcolm, and Jude and how their lives and relationships deepen, darken, and evolve. The book spans from their life in college, to their first jobs, to later years in life. Much of the book focuses on Jude, a successful litigator, who has a storied, painful, and secret past. The trauma they uncover in the book is heart-wrenching and and ends up defining all of their lives as his trauma is still very much raw. This book is a national book award finalist and short listed for the man booker prize.

What Alice Forgot | Liane Moriarty: This wins for best beach read of the year. I discovered Moriarty recently and enjoy her books. This book tells the story of Alice a 29-year-old who is crazy about her husband and pregnant with their first child. When she falls in a gym and hits her head, she doesn’t remember that she’s actually 39, getting divorced, has three children, and is a woman filled with bitterness. Although a bit cheesy, I do enjoy the premise: if you woke up ten years ago and found yourself in your life today, how would you react? What would you think? Moriarty has a good way of including a little mystery to all her books where you’re curious to keep reading and find out what actually will happen. Bonus: I also enjoyed Big Little Lies and Truly Madly Guilty by her.

What did you read this year? What should I read next year?

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Four Podcasts I’m Loving

Podcasts are growing. It seems everywhere I turn a favorite author or public figure has their own podcast.

I love the medium of listening (especially while I’m driving / commuting).

I’ve listed four of my favorite podcasts (of the moment) below that I hope you’ll also love. Although many people may enjoy these podcasts, I notice I have a bit of a lean on women topics (unintentionally).

Invisibilia: Latin for “invisible things” this podcast from NPR is about “the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” I am completely enthralled by it.

Hosts Lulu Miller, Hanna Rosin, and Alix Spiegel are charming, real, and relatable and tell incredible stories. They have two seasons and this is probably one of my favorite podcasts, ever.

Women Of the Hour: This is from actress/director/writer/comedian Lena Dunham who hosted this miniseries about friendship, love, work, bodies and more. I appreciate the informality of it (a lot of conversations), yet it was packed with interesting, inspiring stories, and real topics under the guise of women. It was co-produced through Buzzfeed which made it fun and entertaining too.

Strong Opinions Loosely Held: Hosted by Refinery29’s Elisa Kreisinger, she talks to today’s culture makers and rule breakers to try to solve the mysteries of our modern popular culture and often smart women’s opinions on them (e.g. is Instagram making us all into Betty Draper 2.0? Are there women on death row?).

In particular, I love their digestible format – usually 10-15 minutes per episode which makes great listens on a quick drive or walk.

Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert: I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Magic Lessons, and loved that she had a multimedia approach to telling more stories about aspiring artists who are looking to overcome their fears and create more joyfully. She talks to someone who writes into her about their artistic challenge/block, then brings in a guest expert like Martha Beck, Neil Gaiman and more to give advice and talk openly about the topic. I find it to be inspiring.

What else do you listen to and love?

Posted in Current Events, Inspiration, Technology | 4 Comments

30 by 30: The Lessons

I always thought 30 was super old. I couldn’t really imagine getting there either. Then as each year in my 20’s ticked upwards, it felt less elusive, and more like a decade I couldn’t wait to dive into.

I recognize in 2016, 30 looks different for me than it did for my parents when they turned 30. I’m not married yet. I do not have children. I’m exploring and traveling more than ever. I’m expanding my fulfilling career as a #girlboss, and far from what some might call settling down (even though I do live in house with my beau and our two dogs).

As my 30th birthday month has come and gone (March), I couldn’t help but reflect on the 30 things I’ve learned thus far.

My 30th birthday weekend in New Orleans, with my man. Both tired and hungover here, but always giggling.

Where I am today, compared to when I turned 20 seems like light years of difference. Yet, I am still me. Which is perhaps the most grounding.

Here’s what I’ve come to know to be true:

1. Having merit, being trustworthy, and giving someone your word is everything. Don’t take that lightly. If you don’t take it seriously, don’t give your word. Show up when you say you’re going to show up. Flakiness is lame.

2. Friendships – my girlfriends – are just as important as they were when I was 20, to today. Don’t get too distracted by those dates or casual guys/girls who don’t last. Friends are where it’s at, and their support and backbone will always be at the cornerstone of your life. Make time for them.

3. Related to number two, I subscribe to Shine Theory, “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” Surrounding yourself with successful, powerful women is something you do when you’re confident, and proud to call those women friends (versus resent them or be jealous). Ann Friedman shares: “I want the strongest, happiest, smartest women in my corner, pushing me to negotiate for more money, telling me to drop men who make me feel bad about myself, and responding to my outfit selfies from a place of love and stylishness, not competition and body-snarking.”

4. Study abroad. Get out, travel. There is no reason to not spread your wings while you are young. Sure, you can travel throughout your whole life. But the less responsibility, the better. Go see the world. Seriously.

5. Don’t compare your beginning or middle, to someone else’s end. We all are at different paths and who cares where someone else’s life has ended up, compared to yours? Expectations are rarely as they seem and it’s okay if they’re not met. Go with plan B, C, or D.

6. For me, love was storied in my 20’s. I had four longterm relationships over the last ten years. Heartache is inevitable. Although I never meant it to be exploratory, it’s often a time when you are learning, and figuring out who you want to be as a partner, trying to understand what works or what doesn’t and what your deal breakers are. Don’t use your 20’s as an excuse to not take care of someone else’s heart. But also know, you may not always succeed. That’s okay. Learn from it. Apologize. Forgive.

7. Laughter has and always will be the best medicine. Keep it coming.

8. You’re never too old for a pajama party sleepover with your best girlfriends.

9. Asking for what you want is powerful. Sure, you may not always get what you want but being explicit can set us free.

10. Be open to the journey. I would never have thought this is where I would be when I turned 30 (or who I might be with). We can never know where we may end up and don’t try to predict it.

11. Standing up for what you believe in is sexy. Don’t go with the norm or what’s “cool”. You do you. This is attractive and the best way to live.

12. The nice guy doesn’t always finish last. Watch out for those nice guys (that really are so much more than nice, you’ll see). Really. The “bad boy” is not what it’s all about.

13. You begin to realize that as you grow into adulthood, your parents are human just like you and make mistakes. The older you get, maybe you’ll get closer, and realize your divide is less. On that note, don’t blow off your parents or grandparents for that matter (if they’re still around). You don’t know how long they’ll be around (or anyone for that matter). Make the time.

14. Risks are worth taking. Hardly are the falls ever as bad as we think. I find I worry more about things, that never end up happening and the 5% “worry” that does come true, I have come out alive.

15. Love openly. Kiss more. Dance when you feel it in your bones. Give long hugs. Look people in the eye, yes, even strangers. Smile.

16. Take care of your body. No longer do I lay out in the sun for hours without sunscreen. My hangovers are worse too. Your body is your temple, and you are what you eat. I indulge with the best of them, but taking care of myself internally and externally has become imminently more important.

17. Saying no is okay. Say yes to only the things you truly want to do and make your heart sing. Don’t say “maybe” or be wishy washy, just say no if it’s your truth. It helps everyone in the longrun.

18. Show up when you say you will. Period. The people in my life do. Those that don’t, slowly start to fade into the distance. We’re adults, start acting like one.

19. Make time for self reflection. I feel like much of my 20’s was a roller coaster, going at top speed. Now I like to make time to go on solo retreats, more yoga, more meditation.

20. This one I stole from Glamour’s 30 things every woman should have and should know by the time she’s 30″(I highly recommend it). You should own: “a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra.” Amen.

21. You are the author of your story. Nothing else gets to define that but you (despite what other people may say).

22. Get savvy with your money. See a financial planner. Learn how to budget. Invest perhaps. Lean into a 401k or RothIRA if plausible (both of which I have, but had to learn a lot about in my 20’s as I stumbled through it at first).

23. Have hobbies. I always find it odd when people don’t do anything else outside of work. It’s important to have things that you enjoy, where you can hone your craft, and expand your mind and body. For me, I’ve got: traveling, food blogging/writing (I call it a “jobby”), hiking, snowboarding, uncovering music, fly fishing, yoga, dogs, gardening, DIY-ing around my home, reading, scouring to find the best new restaurant (to name a few).

24. A lesson that was hard for me to learn, was being completely honest with myself – at all times. I would procrastinate big, challenging decisions even though I knew deep in my bones it wasn’t right for me. When you set yourself free, and are aligned with who you are, it is the most freeing experience. For everyone really.

25. I know nature isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. But for me, getting outside with no building or skyscraper in sight is everything. Getting mud/sand/grass between my toes, laying lazily and looking up at the sky, camping under the twinkling stars, listening to the wind and birds chirping alongside a running mountain stream – all these things make my heart soar.

26. Be accountable. Stop blaming other people for your experience, your feelings, your [fill in the blank]. Take some responsibility. Maybe that might have flown in your 20’s, but nah…not now.

27. Be an adult. Unnecessary drama seems so high school, but unfortunately, I see it all the time. I surround myself with people where that’s not the norm, and be open to talking honestly. Those that avoid confrontation just can’t get through life.

28. Own furniture that wasn’t purchased from Craigslist and/or taken off the curb of the road. I’m all for budgeting, hand-me-downs, buying used, etc. but there’s something to be said about a great piece of furniture you earned and own. Not until my last year of my 20’s did I finally get rid of the from-the-curb couches I had and bought a beautiful matching set. I can’t tell you the amount of times I get compliments on these houndstooth beauties, and the number of times we sit and lounge on these are worth it on its own. Just part of growing up.

29. Learn to trust your intuition. Never has my intuition or gut been off. Long gone is the time where I shove away what I feel deep inside of me.

30. Listen to that voice! And honor it.

Posted in Change, Honesty | Leave a comment

Lessons Learned in Rolling Out Software

I’ve been in software and technology the last eight years and so I’ve had my share of teaching and training hundreds of customers on software, while also internally touching and using many tools and technology for my own successful management.

In my role as Director of Customer Success, I manage our technology stack for our team of 21 to use, to make their lives easier and better. This includes the likes of Salesforce, Smartsheet, Trello, and WebEx. Since we’re in Customer Success, we’ve made our way around Customer Success platforms (a nascent market) and after trying them all, we landed on Gainsight.

Gainsight, although powerful, is one of the most challenging tools I’ve ever setup and rolled out to a team. As I prepared for launch, I really tried to think through every scenario and I realized that software roll-out applies to a lot of business principles so I’ve outlined them below into three key phases of getting started, launch day, and retro. I’ll add in snippets specific to Gainsight, but this should mostly apply to any roll-out.

Getting Started: To be prepared is half the victory.

  • Project plan, timeline, goals, and launch date. Work your way backwards from this plan. Make sure this plan is public to your key stakeholders and you have the appropriate buy-in you need. It’s important to be strategic when launching so you know what “success” means and that you and your team are getting value out of the tool. Don’t start with the how before you’ve got the why.
  • Lean into your vendor for best practices. Hopefully, the vendor can be an advisor and not just a tool, where they advise how to get started and answer your questions as you navigate the new water. Gainsight definitely had resources for us to ensure we had what we needed to get going. They heard from me a lot 🙂
  • Send calendar invites in advance for launch. I booked time with our team a month ahead for the training day and follow up trainings. Not only did this give them plenty of context, but they knew what was coming with clear agendas.
  • Over communicate the updates and timeline. I made sure to let the team know progress updates as we were nearing launch. This ensures there are no surprises.
  • Involve key stakeholders in decisions. A big part of getting started with many tools is configuration or setup. Because this is a tool that many people would touch, I involved the leadership and key stakeholders from our group (and beyond) to ensure everyone signed off on it. Getting their input shows you value their feedback, but also ensures it’s going to be accurate. I also chose two key individual contributors on the team, that gave good feedback and showed them Gainsight early on.
  • They got to play with it and give me early feedback. You can think of them as your “power users”.
  • Give yourself enough time to do it right, not fast. In this case, the tool was a critical part of our day-to-day, so although we aren’t the types to take our time, I didn’t want to rush into launching this. It involved so many different people and groups, pending schedules, delays, hiccups, etc. it’s important to give yourself a buffer of time. Everyone, including yourself, will thank you in the long run. I chose a date a week out from the one I thought I would be ready by. That extra week helped with any loose ends.

Launch Day/Training: It’s ironic. I spent three months of prep rolling out Gainsight (about 75% of my working hours went to this for those months) and that included a three day onsite, their “Express” workshop at their offices. When launch day comes, it all leads to that, but it almost feels anti-climatic. The real work begins after the launch when they’re in the tool and the unforeseen comes to a head. Nonetheless, make launch day special. A lot of work went into it and you want it to go as smooth as possible so I treat it like an event or party I’m hosting, where I try to consider all sides.

  • Executive mandate. Bring in the person that purchased the tool, and who is ultimately, the group’s boss. Our SVP Ryan kicked things off explaining the why and how, and asking for everyone’s support during the learning curve. You can go blue in the face teaching people a new tool, but unless their management doesn’t require it or give context as to why it will help them, it won’t be as impactful or even worse, may not succeed.
  • Have guiding tenets.
  • We have this when we roll out Kapost to customers. We outline good school of thought for launching and setting up Kapost. Things like: crawl, walk, run, I’m your project lead and will be your go-to resource, keep it simple to start, nothing is set in stone and we can make changes to ensure this makes your life better. I also was realistic knowing the team has used a lot of tools in the past, but this one was going be different (plus I infused some humor into that journey).
  • Bring treats. I brought fruit, croissants, and baked goods to get them through the long training. I also wanted to give back by thanking them for their time and commitment.
  • Laptops closed. Undivided attention was an ask from the beginning. I also let them know at the end of the training we would get into the tool, but please hold off from having them open until then.
  • Build a deck (that can be used after as a reference guide). I built a deck with Google Drive so everyone could access it after. I also used it as the presentation that outlined the agenda, expectations, and each area we were launching with on the day-of. I included a lot of visuals with screen shots, best practices, and videos (more on that below) in the deck, as well.
  • Create videos as a training channel. On each slide that included a key area we were launching with, I included a video that I made. The video showed them how to use said area and was another visual representation they could go back to later. I used Jing, a free screencast tool, and I highly recommend it.
  • Hand-outs and homework. I’m a fan of printing things. Call me old school, but people take notes anyway why not have it on a contextual piece of information. I wanted to be very explicit in guidelines so I made a checklist of homework in a handout (and digital) format. It gave them a list of resources they could use after the training and something to “walk away with” so they knew their next steps.
  • Whiteboard as a ‘parking lot’. I knew the team would have a lot of questions (this is a good thing!) and with a bigger group, you can often go sideways or down a rabbit hole. I addressed many questions because it should be interactive but sometimes I put items on a parking lot whiteboard to follow up with later. This is a fair tactic and just be sure you follow up with all of those items so the team continues to trust and value you.

Retro/Feebdack: This phase is really when the work begins, but people often front load the launch period and training, forgetting that you need to bolster a lot of support and feedback post-launch.

  • Create slack channel. We use Slack, so we created a channel just specific to Gainsight to ask questions and allow others to step up if they knew the answer. I also can send quick updates on my end.
  • Feedback loop. Be sure you have some way to capture feedback and let them know you’re listening. I created a Google spreadsheet with different tabs for each area of the app. I committed to checking it once a week, and answering / addressing all the feedback and questions.
  • Follow up sessions. Remember, the real work begins. They don’t retain everything shared in the first comprehensive training and that’s okay. I find that you have to repeat something seven times before it really sticks. I setup multiple open office hour sessions, follow up Q&A sessions, and feedback sessions from the team. I made sure the feedback session was separate from how things work and reviewing best practices too because it’s two different outcomes.
  • Iterate and be okay with it. Although I had key stakeholders sign off on setup and configuration, post-launch, we changed things probably everyday. When you’re really in the tool, you realize something may not work quite how you imagined. We have adjusted and tweaked things as a group, and luckily because I was enabled to do so, I can make all the changes myself. Just know that you don’t launch with a finished product and walk away.
  • Close the loop on homework. I did set specific dates for the homework, so alongside all the other things the team has to keep track of, I made sure to follow up with them as reminders for the homework and see if they had any questions. You can also gamify it and make it a healthy competition as some people will become clear leaders surging ahead.
  • Future state. I gave the team about a month to really dig into the existing launch plan we had. As an operations lead, I had to also consider what we wanted to expand to for next steps with Gainsight that we’re called Version II. I’m using the same above mentioned methodology to get input and feedback, while also ensuring it meets our strategic initiatives as a company. I believe in always innovating and being the “best” user of Gainsight so we definitely push the envelope.

As a final rule of thumb, I think it’s good to be ego-less. I didn’t build Gainsight (or any of the other tools the team uses) but sometimes it becomes your “baby” because of the time and consideration you spent working on the roll-out. People will have all kinds of opinions, some will be difficult, some will be supportive and it’s absolutely part of the game. Being able to balance many balls at once and stay calm is part of what I do. Also, staying open to the path changing and realizing that not everything will work out as you planned is very important.

Posted in Career, Change | 2 Comments

My Favorite Reads of 2015

I set a goal in the beginning of 2015, to read two books a month and nail 24 books by the end of the year. I will admit, it came down to the wire (as in December 31st) but I’m proud to say I did it.

Not to diminish my 24 books in 2015 (which was a busy year!), but in 2013 I read 27!

I love reading. This was a joy to accomplish, but it had its challenges at times. I had to be conscious to read at times where instead I might have diverted to diving into my phone or doing something else. Another difficult rule is that when I start a book, about 99% of the time I finish it even if I didn’t want to. It helped me with focus and also hone in on what I love or don’t love in books. If there were the few books I started in 2015 and couldn’t for the life of me finish them, I didn’t count them.

GoodReads puts together a nice infographic of the synopsis.

Great gamification!

Good Reads

Read 24 books!


Without further ado, here are my favorite books of 2015. I hope you enjoy them too:

All the Light We Cannot See | By Anthony Doerr: This was my favorite book I read in 2015. GoodReads also told me of all the books I read in 2015, benchmarked against other GoodRead users, it’s the highest rated as well. It’s a beautifully told work of fiction, based on historical facts, about a precocious blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France during the horrific World War II. The stories weave over the course of many years, keeping you deeply intwined into the characters as you grow with them. I couldn’t recommend it more.

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts On Faith | By Anne Lamott: I resonate with Lamott’s writing and since this is a autobiographical novel, it felt even deeper. She writes visually, she takes you down the rabbit hole, and makes you feel with her words. This book is her chronicle on faith and spirituality, and her journey on her troubled past, and how she found faith. I’ve been very much into memoirs lately, so this is a nice mix of stories, diatribes, and visions. She does this all through a grounded nature and always manages to infuse humor into an another serious topic. I hope to read all of her work.

A Place to Stand | By Jimmy Santiago Baca: This was one of the last books I read of the year. It’s another memoir, and it’s quite harrowing! He’s considered once of the best poets in America so his writing is quite poetic. His story starts with a broken home, in and out of orphanages and jail, and by the time he was 21 he was facing five to ten years in prison for selling drugs. He was illiterate, and his story about how he spent time in isolation, came to his own, and learned to read and write. At times the story is hard to read from the brutality, and sadness he faces to our prison system and what he experienced. It’s a beautiful story of success and a great way to see that anyone can find their way no matter what they’re “handed” in life.

Eleanor & Park | By Rainbow Rowell: A little less heavy than the above mentioned books, this is a story about two misfits’ first love that was so touching to me. It’s realistic as it divulged the often over-the-moon, totally irrational, obsessed feelings that might come between two teenagers falling for each other, as well as the often inconvenient truths of young love and the changes we experience. It’s far from your cheesy RomCom, because the characters are very real and quirky, giving it an edge I didn’t expect. I couldn’t put it down.

Me Before You | By Jojo Moyes: This is another love story, that’s woven with passion and tragedy, and it’s another I never wanted to put down until I finished it. I was moved to tears as you’re drawn through the love and loss of this honest story between two lovers that couldn’t be more different. Sometimes the writing had a cheesy tone, but since I was so enamored, I looked past it (but worth noting here). This book is the perfect easy reading for the beach. Bring your tissues.

The Girl on the Train | By Paula Hawkins: This was a gripping novel, that was very ala Gone Girl. I saw my friend Elisa on GoodReads say, “five star story, four star writing,” about the book and I thought it was a good synopsis.

But because I couldn’t put it down, and the story had interesting twists and psychological thriller components it was a favorite read.

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Your Brain On Love

Recently, I was recommended the audiobook version of Your Brain On Love by Stan Tatkin. Fjallraven Kanken Big His book Wired for Love is also (I hear) a great supplement of his work.

Your Brain On Love

Produced by Sounds True, the audio book has a strong focus on your brain, and shifting out of conflict into greater intimacy, and understanding with your partner. Which in my opinion, anyone could find useful. We’re always works in progress, period.

Tatkin is a researcher and couples therapist. I love his focus on neuriobiology (down to the literal science) and where he uncovers different attachments styles, based off experiences and who we are, that started at a young age.

One of my favorite parts is how he kicks things off in the beginning with known facts. I love how realistic he is, it’s very grounding. He shares that our brains are built more for war than love (e.g. the negativity is often where we go versus positive and our threat response is often getting in the way of love), there is nothing more difficult than another person, there’s no such thing as as low maintenance person, as partners we are inherently just annoying and will be a burden to the other, in love relationships no one comes pre-trained, you must train each other, partners are responsible for each other’s past (we are a proxy for everyone that came before), we don’t really know what we’re doing, and that the need for parenting, never really goes away.

These are things that often aren’t talked about, but are just at it’s core, so true.

Here are some highlights from Sounds True:

  • The neurobiology of mating—who we choose and why
  • The neurobiology of commitment—building security, the foundation of a healthy relationship
  • Anchor, Island, and Wave types: understanding your attachment style and those of others
  • “Is it you or is it me?” Understanding how the attachment styles of others interact with your own.
  • Experiencing healthy conflict through social contracts, ground rules, and awareness
  • Creating a lifelong plan to continue deepening your relationships

Since I drive on my short commute to work, I love listening to podcasts and this audiobook was no exception. I’ve already begun telling all my friends (single, partnered, married, etc.) because I felt it to be so interesting and helpful in self-awareness.

I also think it’s great if you are partnered, that both parties listen to it (that’s what we’re doing).

I also felt some ways in which myself and partner operate (naturally, we’re different in many ways) made so much more sense. In my mind, it’s just one of the many resources I now use in my “tool-belt” for operating successfully, and in unison as a strong partnership.

If you’re at all interested, I couldn’t recommend it more.

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Making Time for Joy

I grew up with the phrase (over and over): life is bliss.

When you think of the things you’re told growing up, this isn’t bad, right?

It was mundane to me though, at first. I don’t think I really knew what it meant until I left home thousands of miles away, for college when I was 18 and you can step away from what you grew up with (potentially your own bubble) and get context.

It was the first real step where I did something for myself, where no one else influenced my decision and I went with my gut on making the move from Iowa to Burlington, Vermont and really, following what felt joyful.

During those four years I acknowledge I had the privilege to make mistakes, make lifelong friendships, travel, live and study abroad, work hard, figure out what made me tick, and chase the joy. From then, I was hooked. I made a promise to myself that no matter what happened, I would keep working and coming back to find that joy and bliss.

dance off

On the flip side, there is work to be done daily to keep reemerging to find joy.

I stumbled across Erykah Badu’s essay on making time for joy in your life, and she shares that joy can easily be pulled from us, with the natural challenges of life:

There’s this natural instinct we have as human beings.

Regardless of our position, religion, color or kind, we all have a primal desire for immediate, and almost unwavering, JOY. Eventually, through the experience of events and circumstance, we learn that this desire just may be unreasonable and unnatural. We watch our emotions sway as we are affected and influenced by the energy around us. Our own resistance to “unpleasantness” restricts our movement.

It’s extremely easy to get overshadowed by the doldrums of life. For that reason, I try to really integrate “self care” into my week. I know that I can only be my best self, be heads down, prepared for the challenges that undoubtedly face us – if I’m taking care of myself and subsequently making time for joy. It’s like a daily reminder, and something I think everyone can partake in.

What’s so special about joy is that it’s in the eye of the beholder (I love learning about what brings people joy) and it’s often in the little things that perhaps have no cost associated to them, and are at our fingertips everyday.

For me joy comes in many forms. It’s being out in nature, in the mountains and finding true stillness, kisses and cuddles from my dogs, pushing the limit physically on my yoga mat, on a big hike, or at Crossfit when I’ve surpassed a challenge I didn’t think I could do and running off those endorphins, shared belly-clutching laughter, uninterrupted time to read, a sunset, booking an adventure (whether it’s local for a weekend trip or far away by plane), eye contact, being honest with myself and others, quality time with my honey, catching a fish on the fly on a roaring river in the mountains with him, hard work paid off, happy hour in the late afternoon sun on a patio, feeling whatever it is I’m feeling (just being true), an delicious meal, a farm dinner, a fully stocked fridge and empty dishwasher, opening a bottle of wine you’ve been saving to celebrate (celebrate more!), eight or more hours of sleep, not having to rush wherever it is I’m going, giving back, and finding peace with whatever it is, that I’m doing.

Sunday is my day of rest. It’s typically when I start looking ahead at the week, formulating what I need to do to stay on track, but also where I’ve allocated time for joy (perhaps coming off the weekend where I made that happen).

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