Why not? & Self Expression

I recently went to a discussion group where individuals were discussing the why of their brand. I’m sort of reluctant to share this, because I don’t necessarily want to be a brand or anything like that, but I do really value the new world of self-expression that is available online and I enjoy chatting with creatives and content creators.

Around this discussion of the why behind online content, I kept coming back to a quote from Jeff Bezos that has always made sense to me:

The common question that gets asked in business is, ‘why?’ That’s a good question, but an equally valid question is ‘why not?’

That is my why for a lot of things.

That statement likely would not make a great college admissions essay and I doubt that was Bezos’ pitch to early venture capitalists 😜. But I don’t think it’s a cop-out; It’s a good enough reason to start any sort of passion project or medium of self expression.

Which leads to my other why, which is self expression.

Expressing yourself is the best, and you should totally do it. It’s like thinking; it’s hard to stop and it’s cool and fun and when you think up weird things with some boldness, it’s called ‘art’.

There’s a book out called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and as I understand it’s a guide to becoming more creative. In my mind, this is sort of silly. You don’t have to read a book that tells you how to be creative to become creative. Save yourself some time and money.

Here is how you become creative in 2019: Write a blog. Create content and then you will magically be creative.

It’s super simple. Alternately, instagram.

I think this self expression stuff is just as good as eating or taking a walk, and it’s definitely as good as working for a real paycheck.

Self expression is healthy for everyone, but I specifically crave the chance to give and receive encouragement. I love rooting for people and at this point in history, I think it’s especially important to elevate other female professionals who are pursuing their dreams. I love encouraging individuals and sharing valuable information, and I feel that it’s a responsibility to pay forward the kind words and encouragement I’ve received through the years. And that’s one of my goals in writing as well.

So that’s my why statement, which is actually more of a why not? statement. Thank you for reading! Go ahead and do the thing, perhaps even without a clear ‘why’.

S

Last Batch of Palo Alto Pictures

This is the last of my Northern California nostalgia series. Northern California is a lovely place, full of redwood trees, good food, two mafia organizations, and basically everything else you could possibly dream of.

Above, I’m at Big Basin camp with two darling students. This was the funnest week, when we cooked and went hiking and did arts and crafts and (friendly) pranks. On this particular week the leaders stayed up much later than the students, talking and getting ridiculous giddy punch drunk 🤪.

Our majestic campsite. Our ‘palace’ is on the right.

This is a picture of my brothers Paul and Douglas. They’re twins. Douglas came to visit us from Atlanta and so Paul took us out to eat at Google. Paul does front end for google maps, so think of him anytime you arrive somewhere safely (or get lost) because of google maps.

Pretty palm trees.

My friend Shelly and I took a day trip to the beach. This is Stinson Beach.

I am recently lactose intolerant, so now instead of eating ice cream, I take pictures of other people’s ice cream cones. 😦

There is nothing better than the beach. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

I have gone back to California a few times to watch the Galbraith family. They have eight kids! And if you think you don’t want eight kids, you may rethink that decision after meeting the Galbraiths. They are the funniest, smartest, bestest little humans.

Swimming time.

Wearing a helmet to make a nutella sandwich.

Joyful because she got to wear mom’s heels.

Joyful for no reason.

I took her to the wrong soccer practice and she did not complain or correct me.

All set for basketball practice!! #badmom #warmups

One of the best things about a huge family is that on Friday nights, the older siblings’ friends like to come over and play with the little kids:

We played a lot of M.A.S.H.. This lady is going to work as a mail carrier, ride a goat, and marry Diju (pictured). Also, have 3,100 tv’s in her house.

I hope my love for Northern California has rubbed off on you, at least a little.

Have a fabulous rest of your weekend.

Do you like your name?

What’s your name? Do you like it?

I like my first name, although my sister is always ready to point out that it is a “seventies” name. My name reminds me of myself 😊. I am named after my mom’s best friend and I like to think that I have now taken over that role.

My last name is Merrell and I’m a fan of that too. It comes from the word “Merle”, which means blackbird in French, and I think it’s a pretty name. My family has our genealogy for several centuries and I have some cool ancestry. My ancestor Captain Benjamin Merrill was a ‘belligerent’ colonist in North Carolina and way back in the 1200’s my ancestors were noblemen living in the Chateau de Merle. In college, I visited the Merle Castle and took a tour and it was soo cool. I’m really proud of my last name.

For some reason, I like to imagine the conversation at the arrival counter at Ellis Island. A brand new American immigrant, ‘fresh off the boat’ as we all were at some point, is being interrogated and says their name, and the person behind the counter misspells it or can’t hear them, or the new American decides to just say something random and make it their new name. Is that how last names evolved? I also like to wonder how our ancestors originally earned their last names. Did someone in the generations of the Merrell line look like a blackbird? Or like blackbirds?

Did you take your husband/partner’s last name? Would you? A handful of my married friends have kept their last names and I had a coworker whose husband dropped his last name and took hers when they got married. I thought that was sort of progressive and cool.

I’m always interested in celebrities’ names, because it can make such a difference in career and box office sales. Here is a list of celebrities who have changed their names. I know John Legend had much bigger success when he changed his last name and I’m curious if James Clear’s last name was originally ‘Clear’. It is a very marketable last name, especially for a productivity coach.

What about you? Do you have names you love? Or names that make you cringe? What’s the story behind your name?

Thanks for reading.

Pictures from the Fourth

Okay, doesn’t this woman in the foreground look photoshopped? Not photoshopped. Just an enlightened person. 😄

This Fourth of July, I hung out with my new boyfriend, saw the hot air balloons, ate a bbq and dinner and watched the Stadium of Fireworks from outside. It was laidback. The Fourth is easily my favorite holiday- no consumerism, no expectations, easy invites, and good food.

I am getting ready to move (!) to Ann Arbor, working at Sundance, focusing on staying pale, trying to finish too many books, and running through a few Utah bucket list items. What’s on your bucket list for the summer?

A few thoughts as of late:

  1. I just took an online health inventory and it said that my body type is protein and fat efficient (both true, I have a fast metabolism) and that exercise doesn’t help me lose weight. This is a fact. I actually gained weight when I ran a marathon, a good 10 pounds. I’m not complaining! I’m just saying I think my body type is weird.
  2. I don’t like it when people sign off their emails with the word, “best.” I know it sounds professional and everyone does it, especially in college, I just think you could take the time to find one more syllable to include as you sign off. I’ll let you know when I come up with it.

Hope you’re having a good one.

Best,

Shannon

That American Dream.

At this year’s Fourth of July dinner, the movie Gettysburg was on and I watched the Pickett’s charge scene. For me, it was a little emotional (I’m a crybaby) and it made me think about the unlikely series of events that has created the United States we live in; the almost two and a half centuries of disagreement that we have somehow managed to make it through. It is crazy to think that those soldiers are some of our ancestors. Life was so different then.

It also made me think about the differences between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives tend to dwell on the past heroes, the sacrifices that have been made for us and the honest deliberation that has come before us. Liberals tend to dwell on the future, creating an equal playing field for all of us, injustices, humanity, and ensuring a bright future for everyone. My question is – why do we think the way we do? Why do we have such different values?

One reason is perhaps because we have so many different experiences. Out of college, I taught English to language learning immigrants, mostly from El Salvador and Honduras- the two countries with the highest murder per capita in the world. In getting to know the stories of these teenagers, I came to understand the privilege I have always had living in America. I have had a handful of valuable things stolen in the past couple of years, but it’s the exception and not the norm. I have never worried about being killed. In contrast, my students from Central America had encountered theft, crime, and murder throughout their lives; they were surprised at and grateful for the safe and law abiding culture in America. These teenagers were simply fleeing violence, and I certainly admire anyone who works to escape crime.

In my classroom, I had a lot of different personalities and a broad spectrum of motives. On occasion we would sit in a circle and talk about ways we could contribute to our communities, in the present and after high school. I was moved when I found out that a few of my poorest students occasionally spent their Friday nights giving food to the homeless with their youth group. Some of my students planned and studied to be electricians, police officers, nurses, professional soccer players, or join the army. Many of my students supported their families by working night jobs until two or three in the morning, and then came to school exhausted. They were doing their absolute best 20 hours of the day. These are good people.

On the other hand, I had students who said that they came to America to live off the government. I had a student who was accused of rape and there were murders in the area by individuals in MS13. I am very in favor of immigration, but I can’t throw a blanket statement and say that everyone who wants to come to America should have that opportunity. This is a complex matter, and investing in a stronger immigration process would pay us great dividends.

I wish we had a diplomat for a president. If that person is ever elected, he or she could have a discussion with these countries– How can America help you curb corruption, crime, and murder in Central America? How could we help you create better education, infrastructure, and a more fluid economy? How can we support you in those efforts? Perhaps it’s quixotic thinking, but if these countries were safer, we would absolutely see a drop off in the number of refugees fleeing to America. In the meantime, at the border, we can certainly treat refugees as humans.

I have no idea how to wrap up this string of thoughts, so I’m not going to! 😂

Thanks for reading and indulging me. Have a great Friday, and watch Gettysburg if you’re feeling resolute.

Mood Foods

The absolute best deviled eggs from the Fourth.

I recently met someone who looked like she weighed about 95 pounds and introduced herself to me as a ‘food addict’. I don’t think she was joking and she was very distressed about her ‘addiction’. This prompted me to do a confused facepalm.  Are we not all food addicts?

This post is about food, so I’m crossing my fingers that some of you readers out there are ‘food addicts’ (and/or have a pulse), and that this can be of use to you. 

I like to eat foods with very specific results in mind.  When life is stressful, and I’ve got lots of work and cortisol to slice through, I’m prone to resort to eating unhealthy foods.  To avoid this, I like to head into a tough week armed with a full pantry and fridge of healthy ingredients that I know will keep me happy and churning out work.

Below I’ve gathered some mood boosting foods and recipes I love. I hope they’re helpful to you, as you continue on your ‘food addiction journey’ 😉.   

  1. Honey garlic salmon, full of omega 3 fatty acids which improves brain function and cognition. When you’ve got a lot of work to do, stock up on salmon!
  2. Breakfast frittata, eggs and leafy greens. Eggs have Vitamin B12, protein, and healthy fat in them. Vitamin B12 helps your body metabolize serotonin, which boosts your mood. Leafy greens have magnesium in them; magnesium increases serotonin levels to boost your mood. Unfortunately, about half of Americans have a magnesium deficiency. In the recipe listed, try replacing the heavy whipping cream with greek yogurt.
  3. Turmeric Ginger Coconut Drink. I really don’t like cooking with turmeric, doing turmeric face masks, or doing anything turmeric related, because it stains absolutely everything.
    But it is essential to a good diet- it contains BDNF, which helps produce new brain cells and strengthens existing ones. It is also a powerful mood booster. I haven’t tried this TJ’s drink yet, but I have read it is delicious. Here are more ways to get some more BDNF into your brain.
  4. Kale chips. I don’t really like the taste of kale, but thankfully, this recipe makes it taste like potato chips. 😊 Kale is a great source of magnesium, which keeps us humans happy. You can also add kale to smoothies.
  5. Chia seed pudding. This is one of my favorite treats and it makes me feel so good. Chia seeds make you feel good because they are full of fat, antioxidants, and they provide fiber, iron, and calcium.
  6. Nuts. Nuts make you feel good because they contain magnesium and vitamin E, which are both powerful mood boosters. They also give you natural energy, because they are full of healthy fat.

I am certainly not the first person to opine on this topic. What healthy diet hacks do you have? And how do you strategize your meals? I would love to know.

Hope you’re having a productive week.