My Reminders for Who I Want to Be in 2016

Every year in my teens and early twenties, New Year's Day would bring lots of declarations of losing weight and getting more done and doing things everyday. I didn't really understand how to create good habits, and while I was filled with optimism, I had no follow-through. 

In the past few years, I've tried instead to write a list of reminders from the past year - some things I've learned that I would like to remember as I embark on this fresh start, this new year full of days that are mine to spend how I choose. 

So here are my reminders for 2016. Let's spend this year building upon good habits we already have and cultivating a new one, if we can carve out the time. It's going to be a great year, I just know it.


1. Drink water like it’s going out of style.

It is literally the most important thing you can put into your body. It will keep you healthy, keep your skin intact, keep your organs clean, help you digest your food, keep you fuller longer after you eat, replenish every cell in your body after a tough workout or a long night. It is more energizing than coffee and will make you feel better than alcohol. Drink water at every occasion this year. Don't be afraid to ask for refills at restaurants. Fill up frequently at work. Bring it in the car on trips - long ones and short ones. 12-15 cups, everyday.

2. Believe in your power, smarts and beauty.

You honestly have a good thing going with what you've done already, and you keep up the habits, schedule and goals to keep it going. This is a big one, as it encompasses many of your insecurities. It's hard to believe in yourself in everything you do, but part of it is not being afraid to appear less powerful, less smart or less beautiful. It's knowing that overall, you are those three things and everyone that knows you knows it too.

3. Don’t skimp on sleep.

You seem to think that going to bed at midnight and crawling out of bed at 6:30 is the way to do it. You get mad at yourself for not succeeding at that everyday (or most days). You're made at yourself for being late, for feeling rushed in the morning, for not going for runs before work, for not having time to meditate in the morning. But the answer is not getting less sleep or taking less medicine or putting your alarm clock two rooms away or getting a sun lamp. It's about going to bed earlier. Like you used to. Try to get into bed at 9:30. I know that feels weird now, and you won't always be able to do it. But you will feel 1000x better in the morning when your alarm goes off at 6:30, if you've already drifted off to sleep by 10:30.

4. Trust your instincts.

There are literally thousands of decisions to make everyday. You jump from thing to thing mostly on instinct, but the truth is when it comes to those bigger choices, instinct usually directs you where to go, too. There is something to be said about research and talking it through, but your heart knows what's best for it, and that should be good enough for you, too.

5. Remember you will never regret working out.

Seriously, when you go back and forth about it, and talk yourself out of it, you may reap small benefits like getting a little more work done, but what is 30 minutes more tasks in a day, when you could get 30 minutes of sweat in, make your heart healthier, have more energy, make your muscles stronger, increase your endurance, get better skin, sleep better at night, have less anxiety and just generally feel like a badass because you chose YES? It isn't much compared to all of that, so just do it.

6. Wear flattering clothes and take pride in your appearance.

When you look nice, you feel better. That is a fact. Losing weight is great, but there is no reason not to look fabulous today, at today's size and with today's shape. Pick out new clothes that flatter your shape today - not two years ago or 4 months from now. Select outfits that make you happy and feel good, but also make you look like the woman you want to be. Brush your hair, curl it up, blow it out. Do your makeup - spend a couple extra minutes on the foundation and eyebrows to really look polished. Pick out accessories each and every day - at least earrings. Sit up straight. Walk tall. Smile. 

7. Save money.

No, really, I mean it. This is something you have gotten better at, but where there is so much opportunity for growth. You and Dylan make more money combined than you have ever had in your entire life, but you have also gotten really, really good at spending it. Try sticking to a budget for a month. Then do it again. Create systems in place that save $5 here or $10 there. Cut out the things that don't matter. Making eating out or takeout a special occasion. Don't go overboard on groceries you don't need. Make food everyday. Ask friends over instead of going out. Don't drink alcohol in restaurants. There are 1000 little ways to save money, and if you can double or triple your savings by the end of next year, you will be in a far better position to have a wedding, buy a house or get ready to have some babies than you are now.

8. Read a lot of books.

You love to learn. You love to engage, be absorbed in a subject. Take this year - and those 30 or 45 minutes in bed every night, to get a few chapters of a book in. See if you can beat Mark Zuckerberg and his 26 books in a year. Read the books you have, borrow ones from friends, get recommendations, learn new things, go outside your comfort zone.

9. Say yes a lot, but don’t be afraid to say no when you need to.

Some of the best nights of your life have been ones you could have said no to. Some of the best experiences you've had have been things you said yes to because you were curious or excited or full of optimism. Not every experience is a great one, but you thrive on living in the moment and being busy. But all that being said, saying no is still ok too. Give yourself time and space to get things done, to stay on top of your life and your work.

10. Be grateful each and every day for what you have.

You have so much in your life, more than you have ever had before. Take time each day to appreciate it all and remember you are lucky, you have earned it and you will do everything you can to honor and respect all that there is for which to be grateful.

Toast to Jill Clark on her 60th Birthday

Jill Patricia Beckwith Clark is my mother. She's also a wife, a sister, a friend, a coworker, a chef, a carpenter, a gardener, a landscaper, a baker, a crafter, a creator, a therapist, a dog sitter, a confidante, an advocate, a career counselor, a party planner, a list-maker and maybe a few hundred other things.

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I grew up thinking my mom was the best. She was able to guide me into building the most creative, cool projects like board games about dolphins and an inverted family tree shaped like a conifer. She took me to craft fairs where she'd sell her own amazing creations - woven baskets and multicolored broaches - but she'd encourage me to make my own little crafts to sell - like earrings made out of cereal. She upheld traditions in our family that hold strong to this day. Decorating the Christmas tree together, building gingerbread houses from scratch, celebrating the summer together with a big picnic, big family pancake breakfasts - with 2 kinds of pancakes! 

But it wasn't until I was an adult that I truly understood how amazing she really was. She made our lives so happy and full of joy, growing up. Even when things were hard, she looked on the bright side and helped us do the same. She supported us through everything we tried, everything we succeeded at - she was cheering on the sidelines. Everything we failed at - she was there with a hug and a smile. She helped us build our own lives as adults - find our wings and soar. And she celebrated us every step of the way. She made us feel as loved as when we were kids, even when I moved 300 miles away.

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We are all so lucky to have her in our lives. She makes our occasions brighter, our days sweeter, our lives happier. She cooks for us, buys us creative gifts, tells us stories, laughs with us, asks us questions about our lives, shares our joy with us. She makes time for us all, and makes us feel loved, whether we're her child, husband, friend, brother, sister, niece, nephew, cousin.

She will always be my mom. But she is also one of my very best friends, my favorite person to confide in, to bounce ideas off of, to get excited about the future with. And she is my inspiration to be the kind of woman, wife and mother she has always been and I hope to be.

Mom, you are so many things to so many of us. You are strong and beautiful and kind and generous and creative and positive and brilliant. Today, we're gathering to celebrate you. But in our everyday, in our smiles and our little kindnesses to each other, we celebrate you everyday. Thank you for being you. 

To Jill!

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Letters from Me, Day 41: Megan S., Newburgh, NY

Dear Megan,

You are a bright, brilliant and beautiful woman - and you have been since we've met.

It's been almost 13 years since we started rowing together at BU, leaving together from 575 Commonwealth Avenue - the HoJo - at 4:20am to make it to the boathouse at sunrise. 

We were fast friends back then, and I always looked up to you as a rower, a student and a friend. You always seemed to be a step ahead of us, to always have your game together a bit more, even if we were all figuring it out as we went along - you had a bit more figured out.

While we all lived in the dorms sophomore year, you had that cool apartment off campus. I loved coming over for cocktails, parties, to watch games or movies or just to chill out, tell stories and be ridiculous, sprawled all over your living room.

We had some amazing times in school, making Boston our playground and our testing ground for being grown ups who dined out, danced and drank fancy drinks.  We were planning our lives and our futures, while having fun and staying young and in the moment. After graduation, we all went our own ways...but made promises to stay in touch.

And we've kept those promises! Luckily, you were right down the highway from my parents' house, and a few hours north of NYC, so we've had more adventures since we parted ways. I remember meeting you in Bryant Park for just a few hours one time, where our timetables just barely crossed. Another time, you saw our post that we were caught in a snowstorm at a hotel near your house, and we spontaneously met up for breakfast the next day before we continued north. And then there was the weekend we all spent together in Chicago three years ago - a raucous and beautiful and elegant and hilarious few days where it felt like we were all back in school....except we all had jobs and lives and brand new stories to swap!

Spending time with you is always a joy, and we definitely could use more of it in our lives. This summer, there are more adventures to come in the Poconos! I can't wait to talk all night, sip drinks all afternoon, be in the beauty of the mountains together and just create a new favorite moment in our shared experiences.

Here's to friendship, to living well, to staying friends and spending time together for the next 13 years, and beyond! Thank you for being my friend, Meegs. You are truly awesome.

Love,

Amanda

10 Things I've Learned while Working from Home

I get a little stir crazy when I work from home.

Working from home is much more interesting with pets.

Working from home is much more interesting with pets.

Recently, I was laid up with a hip injury (What? I'm 31.) and worked from home for just 2 days. After a weekend doing freelance and volunteer work from home, I felt compelled to come at this the right way, so that I would have a better chance of keeping up with a tight schedule and lots of deliverables. I'd worked from home when I was at a startup last year, and know I had some pitfalls like distractions, eating too many snacks or never shutting my computer off and stepping away from work.

The good news is, I was able to streamline things and may have actually gotten more solo work at home than I do at the office. Working from home cuts out much of the day-to-day office minutes I usually spend; communting is #1, also chatting, going to the coffee shop, getting lunch, running errands, hitting up the farmers market. I do try to make a little time for work pleasantries - each time I talk to someone new that day, asking how they are, chatting briefly about non-work.

Part of the joy of working from home is flexibility - being able to run an errand or head to a doctor's appointment at the drop of a hat. Or being able to wake up at 8:15 and work in your PJs for 2 hours. But it's all about achieving a balance between flexibility and structure that will help you shine. A few things I gleaned from working from home this time, and over the past 8 years. 

1. Don't check all of your email all of the time. Make time for it throughout the day. Don't react each time one comes in.
2. Keep calls short and sweet. Unless you're brainstorming. No one wants to be on the phone for 30 minutes at a time each time you talk.
3. Sit in a comfy chair. Get up and walk (at least around the room) a few times an hour.
4. Headphones are great for conference calls, but only if they work. Keep a spare pair of headphones around for instances that they fail.
5. Hydrate!! If you're drinking tons of water, you'll be less likely to snack on all of the delicious things in your kitchen.
6. Don't forget to have delicious things in your kitchen. It is an awesome thing to be able to take 15 minutes and make yourself a scrumptious homemade lunch, vs. running out everytime and getting whatever is closest/fastest/cheapest. (For us, that would mean tacos and Korean, but who needs to drop the cash everyday?)
7. Be available. Relentlessly available. If you're not at your computer because you're making cocoa or running an errand, check in on all channels when you return. 
8. Know thyself. Know thy distractions, thy strengths and thy weaknesses. Build a routine that is flexible, but gives structure to your day. Stick to routine (when you can.) 
9. Keep your workspace clean. Nothing worse than feeling like your home life is encroaching on your work life. Piles of papers and yesterday's mail shouldn't take prime real estate in your desk area.
10. Pets love when you're home. They just love it.

I'd love to know about your experience working from home. Do you jive on a particular playlist? Do you work on your kitchen floor? How do you make yourself the most productive version of yourself at home?

Letters from Me, Day 40: Nate Monroe, Fort Edward, NY

Dear Nate,

You are a wild and crazy, untamed and unapologetic, majestic beast of a man.

I have known you almost half my life, as long as you've been the main squeeze of my main squeeze, my dear friend, Tate. When you blew into our lives, you were the way cool, way mature "older man" in Tate's life. You swept her off her feet instantaneously and I knew that day you invited me to be the surprise at her surprise birthday party that you were the one for her. 

You have always cared so deeply for her, and no matter what the world has thrown at you, your love remains steadfast. 

I felt so honored to be a part of your big day, almost 10 years ago - can you believe it? The sun shone down on Crandall Park as we marched down the aisle - the bridge to the island in the duck pond - and you two said your vows, as serious as two crazy kids could be. I couldn't believe how grown up you guys were - tying the knot when I was still parading around Boston like a maniac, figuring out (or not caring) what the heck to do with the rest of my life or even the rest of the year. I loved dancing the night away with you and your big families and all of your friends at the Queensbury Hotel. How fitting and perfect that I was escorted in the ceremony and into the reception by your dear friend, Cherith. That night was one of many to come that we would party and act crazy together – for we were all just young ones looking to have fun. Another particular night that sticks out in my mind is the night we spent together when you guys stopped in Boston on your honeymoon. The four of us - with Bob - were a recipe for insanity. How many bars did we visit that night? I lost count.

As time passed, as it does, you guys continued to grow as a couple...and eventually Tate really began to grow! She was carrying your child, and then it turned out - TWO of your children. I remember how wild it was to find out you guys were expecting twins. Getting married was big, but this was REALLY big! You supported her through a tough pregnancy and a scary birth, but you both came out of it stronger, and with two little nuggets to call your own. I remember meeting them in your apartment right off Glen Street, with the tapestries and drapes and posters and rocking chair with cozy blankets. They were both so small, so similar, yet so different and both so perfect. It was a miracle before my eyes that you two created such amazing little beings.

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I moved to Philadelphia not long after the girls were born, but made sure to get in visits with you guys almost every time I journeyed back north. I have great memories of you and Tate and the girls at brunch, at dinner, at your house playing games and watching movies or at my parents, doing activities and crafts in the backyard, starting (and crushing) games of badminton and horseshoes and eating BBQ around the long tables. Or in the winter, when you guys would come and get the girls sugared up on frosting and candy, and you'd spend half the afternoon playing chess with my dad in the living room. My parents (and Josh and Kristi) have come to love you just as I have - you have always been so kind to them, spent time with them when we're all together and made time to ask them how they are. And most recently, you have befriended Dylan too - the love of my life who reminds me of you in more than a few ways. 

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You are such an important part of our lives, and someone that I admire as a man, a husband and a parent. Watching you with Chloë and Leigha, you are patient, kind, invoking their curiosity and wonder, and asking all the right questions. I love being with you and your family - it is such an inspiration to me.

I wish you four all of the best things in life in the years to come. We hope to be there in some way, shape or form, checking in and sending our love in all of the big moments. You've got some great days ahead of you, with the wonderful home you've built (and keep building), the loving family surrounding you and the joy that you bring to everyone you're with. I realize how sappy this whole letter has been - I know you'd expect nothing less - but let me end it on this note:

Never stop being that badass mudda that you are.

Love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 39: Rachel Wolf, New Orleans, LA

Dear Rachel,

Or Wolf, Wolfy, Wolferino, as I've called you as long as I've known you...a time that is tipping the hourglass at almost 10 years these days. When we met, you were a freshman at BU and our worlds collided through a capella. 

I immediately loved you for your voice, your style and before long, how you were just as wacky as I was. Your brain works quickly to make jokes, some overt, some subtle, but rarely lost on me. Your humor was, to me, the things that solidified our friendship.

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Over the next year and a half, we danced, recorded songs, walked and talked, made plans, had parties, dined and drank through West Campus and Brookline, laughed our faces off, singing and harmonizing with each other every step of the way. Time and space brought us apart as you spent time in Boston, New York, eventually New Orleans, and I found my way to Philly.

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We were reunited last year at Raven's wedding, a glorious, magical weekend in the sweet Boston summer with it's share of joy, laughter, hilarity (which included jokes, new and old, and some minor mishaps,) and of course - harmony. 

You were the same. But somehow even more yourself than you'd ever been. Hearing about your life in New Orleans, I felt the adventure you sought, the days full of new experiences, the parades and costumes and sunrises and pedicab rides and performances and late nights full of laughter and spontaneity. 

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You were the Rachel Wolf I had known so long ago, but with even more stories, even more life in your eyes and energy in your spirit.

I can't wait until our paths cross again. Perhaps a Chords reunion, perhaps another wedding, perhaps a roadtrip down south will take the road into New Orleans. 

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Until that day comes, I hope this letter finds you well. I wish you the joy to live with your whole heart. I wish that good things come your way. I wish you strength in the hard times. I wish you perfect mornings when you wake up and know you're exactly where you're meant to be. And if you're not, I wish you wings to get yourself there.

All the best from Philadelphia, my dear.

Love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 38: Erin Coon, Queensbury, NY

Dear Erin,

I have always known you as a bright, brilliant woman since our paths crossed so many years ago.

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We met in 1999. We spent the next few years deep in a world of music and performances, between Madrigals, QHS theater, Youtheatre and community theater. I admired your dedication, your resilience and your raw talent. Your range as an actress was impressive and took the backseat only to your ability to belt a verse - and on pitch, every time. 

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We made so many memories those few years. Late nights at the diner or your apartment, early mornings driving to Lake George, making costumes, throwing parties, playing charades, doing interpretive dances, learning how to carry ourselves into adulthood, making choices, figuring it all out. You taught me so much about living in that world - the world of loud, boisterous, loving, erratic, soulful theater people. I fell in love those years, with a culture that was new to me, one that I've carried with me for half my life now.

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A few years later, I left for Boston. Coming home from exhausting whirlwinds of classes and activities, I'd always fall easily back into our routines and conversations. We'd get together for holidays, summer parties at the lake house, picnics, drinks here, there and everywhere.

When I moved home from Boston, you and I got to hang out more. We frequented Wallabee's for jazz and wine. You introduced me to the bustling Glens Falls theater scene that had grown since I'd left. We drove and drank and dined around town. I got to know your tight knit group of creative and clever friends. And then you met Sean, your other half, your partner in life. Life was always an adventure with you, no matter where we were or what was happening.

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Since I moved to Philly, I have loved our visits - more holidays and long weekends, picnics and parties. You have come to be known for some pretty excellent Christmas gifts - piles of homemade and local goodies, and some of my favorite jewelry of all time. No matter how long passes between our get togethers, I always know we will fall back into conversation and laughter. Being with you feels like being home.

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Through the years we've known each other, your lightness of spirit and love for the people around you has touched me. You are so talented in so many ways, and have been able to do wonderful and powerful things for a town that was ready for a creative revolution. I am so proud to know you, to be a small part of the world you've built, the life you've created for yourself and those around you. You are a true treasure and know no matter where you go and what you do, you will succeed.

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I wish you all the best things in the years to come: love in your heart and your home, fulfillment in your career and your friendships, health in your body and your spirit. Looking forward to the next time we convene and catch up, old friend.

Take care and be well.

Love,

Amanda