I recently came across this video that The Glossary created using David Foster Wallace’s commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. It’s simple, yet effective advice on how to live our daily, (often) monotonous lives. Choice is powerful.
Birthdays were a big deal in my household growing up. My parents took extra care to make birthdays feel incredible special for me and each of my siblings. We got to make special requests for the dinner menu, invite family and close friends over to celebrate, and my mom always made her signature “kitty cat” cake (which I still request TO THIS DAY!)
My husband’s family, however, didn’t make as big of a deal out of birthdays – not that they didn’t value them– they just didn’t turn the day into a big production. And, to top it off, J is a leap year baby, so he only has a “real” birthday every four years!
It’s now my mission to make a big deal out of J’s birthday every year, despite his usual grumblings (although I know he secretly loves all the extra attention). This year, I decided to invite a few of our closest friends over to our house for an evening of food, drinks, and birthday fun. We ate pizza, played a game of special “Happy Birthday Jeremy” Mad Libs, and “inverted the birthday” by giving all of our guests presents of their own!
J and I talk a lot about being generous and how we can share our resources to bless others. He came up with the idea to buy meaningful gifts for our friends and surprise them at his party. Our guests were shocked, and we were thrilled at their excitement over the gifts. It really does prove that being generous with others enhances one’s own happiness.
J and I went to see Ignite Cincinnati #8 at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley. If you’ve never been, the concept is simple – presenters get on stage and talk about their current projects or favorite ideas for just 5 minutes. The catch is that they have to do it using only 20 slides and each slide advances after 15 seconds…20 slides x 15 seconds = 5 minutes.
On the night we went the topics ranged from Paleo eating to hacking to why Cincinnati rocks. One guy even gave his presentation while maintaining complete silence. It was easily the most effective and memorable presentation – and my favorite of the night.
By the end of the event I realized that in order for the presentations to be successful, they have to deal with a universal idea or concept and be presented in a unique and inspiring way. Some people had great ideas to share but they were too complex and involved to be adequately communicated in five minutes. On the other hand, some presentations were too general and unimaginative and needed a unique twist or call to action. This guy gave a fantastic presentation about a ski trip and how he learned how to persevere through having his friends leave him at the top of a mountain when he had never skied before in his life. He was funny, inspiring, and sprinkled audience participation in a way that was effective and not overdone.
I originally bought tickets for J and I because I wanted him to get inspired to give a presentation at a future event. But, ironically, I left feeling inspired to participate. Stay tuned… :)
Planning a wedding and saying “I Do” was the fun part. Combining personal items, furniture, and finances after living independently for 10+ years collectively? Not so simple.
When J and I got back from our honeymoon and moved in together, we realized that we no longer had to make decisions regarding which wine to serve at the reception or what color flowers my bridesmaids should carry. We now had to make decisions on how to approach married life, and more specifically, money.
One thing he and I have always agreed on is that to have a successful marriage, we must have a shared plan for managing our finances. Our experiences watching our parents manage their finances were very different; therefore, we both carry different perspectives when it comes to managing money. And, we both used different tactics and strategies when it came to handling our own finances as single adults. So, how do two newly married people reconcile their differences and come up with a plan that works?
The first thing we agreed to do was communicate. It sounds simple, but people often avoid discussing the tough topics – and this can be one of them. While the merging of two financial households brings new challenges, it also brings new opportunities. Understanding how to navigate through these changes is difficult, but being open and honest about our current financial state is setting a strong financial foundation for our life together.
The second thing we did was establish our collective values. It wouldn’t matter if we had all the money in the world if we didn’t agree on what to spend (or save) it on. We have had conversations with our married friends and family and asked their advice regarding money management. Every couple seems to do things a little bit differently, but their actions are clearly based on their shared values as a couple. So, over coffee one morning, we had a long talk about what we value in life and how our spending and saving should promote those values.
The third thing we did was translate our values into action. We agreed that our first step should be to become debt-free as soon as possible because we value the freedom that having no debt brings. Our second step is to start building enough savings to cover at least 9-12 months of our expenses. I remember reading somewhere that you shouldn’t plan for financial emergencies, but rather, for financial certainties. You might not be able to predict when financial emergencies will occur, but you can be certain that they will occur at some point.
How are we carrying out these steps? Well, we are still figuring out the details – but the point is, communicate your values and find a strategy you can put into action now. Who knows what situations life may throw at us that will shift our current plan. But the firm foundation built on communicating our values will be the steady anchor that will hold us through whatever storms come our way.
One of the best stories of my life is how I met my husband. It was 2007 and I was a senior in college at NKU. I had pushed off fulfilling my language requirement until the very end, so I finally signed up to take Spanish. On the first day of class a young, high energy, incredibly silly man named Professor Goebel walks in the room. All the girls giggle and whisper about how cute he is and I laugh at their immaturity, never thinking for a second that this guy would one day become my husband.
It wasn’t until almost three years later that we reconnected. I had recently gotten out of a serious relationship and for some reason, my thoughts drifted back to my old Spanish professor. I decided to friend him on Facebook. He accepted (yay!), and we started corresponding via Facebook and email. A few weeks later, we (literally) ran into each other at the Thanksgiving Day race in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, this chance encounter also confirmed what I had suspected – he was in a relationship with someone else. I quickly stopped communicating.
Several months later I received a random Facebook message from Mr. Goebel – completely taking me by surprise. I was excited and my friends were telling me he was clearly interested. Yet, he wasn’t making a move! I was about to give up, but I took the chance and gave him my number and suggested we participate together in an upcoming 5K race. The rest is history…
In today’s world of instant gratification and instant access, it’s amazing to look back and reflect on how our relationship took so long to grow. The seed was planted in that first Spanish class, was fed and watered over the course of several years through emails and random run-ins, and eventually blossomed into our first date.
P.S. I sent this email to my husband because when he would tell our story, he would never get it exactly right. :)
Emily Blunt <email@example.com>
Subject: The Breakdown
Behold, the infamous breakdown of our history.
Spring 2007 – Emily takes SP 101 from Professor Goebel
Summer 2007 – Emily takes SP 102 from Professor Goebel
July 2009 –
· Emily sends a friend request on Facebook to Jeremy.
· Jeremy accepts.
· Jeremy sends a Facebook message on July 9, 2009 to Emily.
· Jeremy and Emily run into each other on NKU’s campus – share brief exchange.
November 2009 –
· Emily and Jeremy see each other at the Thanksgiving Day 10K race
· Emily sends Jeremy a nice catch up email
· Jeremy responds with an email confirming he is dating someone (in so many words).
· Emily takes the hint and breaks communication
May 2010 –
· Jeremy sends Emily a message on Facebook. Makes an ask about an upcoming race on Memorial Day
· Emily responds; messaging back and forth continues
· Is he interested? Emily almost writes Jeremy off due to lack of game
· Finally, he shares his phone number and tells Emily to text him
Hi, I’m Emily – aka Bing, a nickname given to me by my husband…this guy —>
I’m starting this blog to document stories. I value living out life as if I’m part of an amazing story. And, I want to write about it, because I want to remember my story and I want to share it with others.
Donald Miller wrote, “Every life is a story. Whether it is a story worth telling and talking about, though, is up to you. People set out with grand dreams of changing the world, falling in love, doing something amazing. But the drift toward the merely acceptable happens almost without notice. That does not have to be your story.”
I know that if I’m intentional about it, my story won’t be “merely acceptable.” I will use this place to express my thoughts, dreams, adventures, experiences – all the collateral that make up the chapters in my story. I know it won’t all be exceptional, but maybe, just maybe, through my crazy musings, something of value will emerge and I’ll realize that my story has meaning and direction. And, I hope it encourages others to think about the story they want to tell.
So, thanks for reading. I hope you come back. Let’s write our story together.