A Review – Part 1: Books

I’ve been thinking about this series for a long time. I’ve spoken about starting it several times, i’ve thought about publishing different versions, but it just didn’t feel authentic or right. Plus, nowadays everyone has a blog, and I recognize mine is just one of the many, but what makes it worth it are the awesome messages of support from readers I’ve never met but who seem to get why I started this blog in the first place.

So here it goes, an attempt to end the hiatus for real this time.

A Review of What’s Been Happenin’: Books

When I moved to Carrboro. I was scared out of my absolute-freaking mind. The support and encouragement from my mentors, family, and friends, was the security blanket I clung to for what felt like weeks. The bubble of comfort and “safety” I had in Asheville? Was popped without my permission (Or so it felt) and I was in a totally new place, without a clue of how to feel about my least favorite thing in the world – change.

But i’ll get into that later…. this post is going to recap for you all my academic experience for the past year. Which can arguably be summed up in a loud audible sigh.

First, a round of applause for my professors who challenged the mess out of me at UNC Asheville.

Second, a round of applause for my bosses/coworkers who taught me everything I know about professionalism and developed me as a leader, and employee.

Third, for my parents who taught me to be stubborn and raised me with a work ethic that makes me want to roll my eyes at my own self sometimes, but I digress.

What has Graduate School taught you so far?

one year

This is a question I get asked a lot. It’s hard to sum up the amount of notes taken or lectures and classes that I sat through because the learning process changed so much for me in grad school. And to be honest that I don’t think you realize how much you learn in that first year until you’re at work and spit out vocabulary words from your organizational theory course or cite case from public administration law as if it is the most natural thing of life. However, since the post is titled books, here is a quick list that I think sums up the year.

Stop ignoring your local governments like they are antiquated and don’t do anything. They do everything.

I came into my MPA program, not wanting to really go into local government, but rather understand it’s role in whatever career related to housing that I would end up choosing, and what I got instead of guidance on the housing piece was a whole lot of knowledge and understanding about how crucial local government is to everyday life.

And the sad thing is? We ignore them. We ignore it and take for granted what local government’s contribute to everyday life. We don’t understand what public servants really do. We rush to look at the state level (oh NC….ohhhhhh NC….) and the federal level like that’s where it ALL happens when that’s where A LOT happens but not ALL things happen.

From housing, to roads being paved, to public transportation. Safety, making the community look nice, programs for the young, old, and in between. Things are really really happening at the local level, and despite my resistance at first, meeting what’s felt like hundreds of county and town managers (really just dozens) across NC, has really put the role of local government into perspective. So I challenge you, look up your town or city’s official website/twitter, look at what they’re doing. Even if you don’t get involved. You’d really be surprised as to how much is going on.

I can’t run away from math anymore.

Ya’ll. I took budgeting this past semester. Had a phenomenal professor who was patient in every single way you could be patient, and I learned so much about math I didn’t understand before. And maybe it was just the practicality of the course and how I realized I had to actually understand the math she was describing and educating us about, but truth is, I just can’t run from it anymore. It’s been a good streak though. #RIPmathavoidance2012-2016

There are more and more acronyms being created everyday and ya’ll might as well start tracking them.

I’ve been hearing acronyms for things I didn’t realize had acronyms from day one of graduate school. Eventually most if not all were explained to me, but my goodness it was so daunting for the first few weeks. My most salient example however is from my first day of work this summer. I learned a total of 11 acronyms on my first day. ELEVEN. Come on housing world…. do better….

Procrastination is the devil.

All I have to say about this is that my worst nights (and some of the funniest) came from times I procrastinated and I never want to do it again, and am fully aware that come October (that’s my goal) that’ll probably not be realistic but hey… i’m trying.

A lot more goes into your environment than you realize.

This is kind of like the “stop ignoring your local government” lesson, but the planning version. This past year I decided to apply for the City & Regional Planning program, was accepted and will be officially joining in the fall as a dual degree student. However, I had the opportunity to take a workshop in the Spring, and it blew my mind on a weekly basis. Despite it being housing focused, it consistently explored the intersectionality between other policy areas and over time, I realized how interconnected the players that construct the towns and places we live and enjoy on a daily basis truly are.

Sleep. Please do it.

I can’t really talk about getting sleep because I started writing a part of this at 1:30 in the morning  BUT, the first year of graduate school has really taught me to value sleep. Partially because it would happen anyways, and partially because I didn’t like how my body was reacting without it. Sleep matters. Do you best to get it. #tipofthecentury


Of course there is more….

struggle story

So 6 items is not an accurate depiction of ALL that I learned, but these six I’ve listed above really capture the year in a nutshell.

My hope is that over time i’ll be able to change and grow from all of it, but for now I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

So, that’s why i’ve broken up this series into four sections: Books, Pugs, Stresses, and Joys.

We’ve covered books! So be on the lookout for Part 2: on Pugs coming soon.


As always, Much love!



Stopping to Collect the Beautiful Moments

This past Monday night I sat in a lounge/restaurant with two of the most hilarious phenomenal people I know and laughed. I laughed harder than I’ve laughed in what feels like a really long time.

Something about the laughter, the great food, and the drinks, the fact that it was a Monday night and that these two awesome women were by my side made the craziness I’ve been feeling surrounding me lately, simply go away. It was like our presence plus the laughter and great queso dip made the crazy stress say “alright I’ll go away”.

One simple beautiful moment of freedom

I think that I’m guilty of half the stress I am experiencing. And let me tell you why. It’s not because I do too much (kinda) or that I don’t know how to balance my time. It’s because I’ve been allowing myself to sink so deep, so so so deep into every negative emotion that I’ve hardly been able to enjoy the truly beautiful moments.

I’ve been stressed from the moment I stepped back into class in August, but I assume that because I’m over-involved, am a senior, and projected to be on her way to greatness that I cannot show weakness for one single second, and that my friends, is so very stressful.

I’ve been sad, I’ve had my heart broken this semester, and you’d think it gets easier but it really really doesn’t.

I’ve been angry, finally after so long of letting things slide I realized that I can be angry and how to be angry but now it’s so simple to be angry and I’m passionate about way more than I thought I was and I get angry (because I care) about way more than I thought I would.

I’ve been self-conscious. Gaining weight instead of losing weight when you’re trying to lose weight is such a downer, and I’m not getting into the whole confidence self-image talk right now but it is stressful and anxiety-inducing to have your body changing into a shape that you’re finally strong enough to love but you’re just not there yet.

And all of this I say not to solicit pity or sympathy or attention…but to be honest and express the fact that this, ALL of the above, has contributed to a chronic funk that has BARELY allowed me to truly enjoy my last fall semester of my undergraduate career.

So when I cam across this quote, by who I’m not sure (thanks Pinterest) It made me stop, and realize this all over again.

You have to STOP and collect the beautiful moments.


I’ve had a few beautiful moments this semester.

  • Learned how to help people register to vote
  • Started my 3rd year tutoring some phenomenal kids in Asheville
  • Started my Senior thesis (not always beautiful but it’s on something I care about)
  • Finally had the courage to get highlights (took like 2 years ya’ll, I’m not a very good rebel)
  • Wrote my first newspaper article
  • Turned 21
  • Went on an amazing date
  • One an award that led me to meet other people working to change the world and make a difference.
  • Grown closer to people because our time together consistently is winding down.

So, I say all of this to say, that life is full of beautiful moments we don’t stop to collect often enough. We lie and wallow and swim in the depths of negativity before we choose to do the same in positivity. And why? Because it’s easier? That makes no sense. Negativity just  makes things harder. I suppose we’re wired that way though, the more stress the more we wallow.

I’m not saying to not be stressed, that’s impossible, especially in this day and age, I’m saying take a moment, at least once each week and collect the beautiful moments you didn’t bother to collect as they were happening.

That laughter, that margarita, and queso dip made me feel freer than I’ve felt in a while. But that was just one moment. One of many that have happened, and many that will happen. So just don’t forget to pause. You never know how free you can truly feel until you do.


Taken in October 2014 : Capturing a Beautiful Moment. (Left to Right : Harper, Me, Leigh)


Much Love,


Choosing to Smile & Taking Intermission

I remember being little once and trying to frown in a photograph. My mom immediately stopped and said no, the room gets brighter when you smile. The innate hopeful-world changer in me from that point on decided that until I could make a difference in another way, I would make places brighter, by smiling.

Smiling however, is painfully difficult the older you get. You see, smiling can be a reaction, or it can be a decision.

But the heavier life gets, the harder it is to get that reaction or make a decision.

I can probably pinpoint the time I felt that smiling began to be a heavier task than usual. You see I was so used to smiling in real life AND in dance, the performance mindset had integrated with my own.

I’ve hidden behind my smile my whole life, assuming if I just kept it up I’d be okay. But sometimes it’s a lot to handle, sometimes it feels like you’re carrying on and on and on and on smiling, with no time to breathe, as if you’re under constance surveillance, and the world is your audience.

SMILE for the camera.

Why does life have to feel like such a performance all the time? Why do we have to be so perfect all the time? It’s exhausting. And frankly, I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. I, like everyone else need a break. I need my intermission.

Intermission in a show is a beautiful thing…

It’s a time to re-group, re-focus, re-touch your make up and/or hair, and to more importantly, catch your breath.

I feel as if life and society circles around us like one endless show after another and people expect performances day in and day out, but rarely take the time to truly encourage the intermission part.

My moments of intermission come at night, when I’m finally in my room after a long day. I sit down in my desk chair and I exhale, for what feels like the very first time all day. Sometimes there are tears, sometimes there’s just exhaustion, sometimes there’s satisfaction.

But the next day, even if I start off tired, somehow I always end up smiling.

And it’s there when the choice is made, that I try to shift my thinking of smiling even when I don’t want to, not as a mask, but as a shield.

My smile is my shield.

I don’t pretend to be perfect. If I do, please stop me, I’m lying and I hate lying. And if you do it, you’re lying too. But a lot can hide behind a smile.

My smile protects me. It is a part of my identity. It is a part of what makes me, me. It is my shield. It blocks me from allowing what I might be feeling to affect my entire body. The smile can be the glue. The smile can be the pieces of velcro that make feelings inside me that are pretty packed in there-fit just right and stay still until my next intermission.

My smile , is one thing I try to not let waver. Sometimes it’s not the right time to not pretend, but we all have days in which there is one thing, just one thing, acting as the glue that holds us together.

My smile and I have an awesome relationship. From the days where it was just gums, to the two tiny teeth my mom cleaned with a Q-tip and baking soda, to now… it’s been a long time coming, a lot has happened, and I don’t often give it enough credit. You see behind my smile lies my to-do list. Behind my smile lies my dreams, aspirations, goals, memories, nightmares, fears, beliefs, and my spirit.

Behind my smile is me. When the smile is off, there’s more of me there. But it’s my gateway.

I choose to smile.

BUT, smiling is a choice you see. It’s like deciding to do one more rep even though you’re already shaking and sweating and dying from the three you already did. When you smile through things, it builds your strength, it builds up the strength of your smile and ultimately your attitude.

I’ve found that there are a lot of things that challenge the sanity and genuine-ness (that’s a word) of my smile. There are people who challenge it, instances that challenge it, classes, moments, pictures, stories, lies, truths, and pieces of life that test my smile.

Ultimately it’s a blessing that we have a choice. Every day is a new opportunity.You can sulk, you can mope, you can wallow. You have a right to do so.

You have a right to take a break. Don’t forget to take that intermission.

And yet the show must go on.

So don’t ever underestimate the power of a smile.

Much love,


To the girl who doesn’t take time to look in the mirror

I try not to make my posts specifically for males or females, in hopes of appealing to as many people as possible but after this weekend…I feel moved to write this for my ladies out there.

This weekend , I was told I was beautiful more times than I’ve actually felt it in the past few months.

And I smiled and blushed as best I could to mask the weirdness I felt from being called beautiful.

Every night this past weekend this rolled around in my head… and I asked myself over and over again why was this so hard for me to accept? And why were these words so unfamiliar or alien sounding to my heart ?

I don’t take time to truly look in the mirror… I actually kinda avoid it

When I look in the mirror I’ve chose more times than I care to admit , the flawed path of perception instead of the positive path of perception. And it’s been chipping away at me constantly. It’s so normal to me I didn’t realize that the chipping away was still happening. It was happening even on a good day. Even during a great weekend.

I don’t intend for this post to be a stereotypical, you need to have higher self esteem type of post. Rather I want it to be an alarm of sorts that makes you stop, and even if it’s the first time in a while or just the first time today… Look in the mirror and take the positive path.

It’s important to do this because there is a million other things fluttering about you that can be negative or are there to get you down… And it occurs to me that your own mind and heart’s perception of yourself should not be one of those things.

You shouldn’t be against yourself.

To the girl who doesn’t take time to look in the mirror, I know. I understand. I’m struggling as I type. But take a moment today and recognize the beauty. Don’t wait for someone else, no matter how great they are, to tell you and then have a mini crisis in your head because you can’t even see your own beauty.

To the girl who doesn’t take time to look in the mirror. These magazines don’t know you. These fashion trends and flashy pop culture ads that tell you to look a certain way don’t know you. They don’t know that mini skirts are an issue for you because you’re too tall,
Or that high waisted shorts are redundant because your torso is as short as you are and you have curves.

To the girl who doesn’t take time to look in the mirror. If you wear your emotions on your sleeve don’t be ashamed of them. They’re a part of you, and as my favorite Pinterest quote says:


To the girl who doesn’t take time to look in the mirror, stop for a second and just take an inventory of how you feel. Try and figure out if that negativity is still chipping away at you… Don’t let it get to the point where there’s nothing left to chip away at.

This weekend I felt beautiful every day for the first time in a while… But even I know I can’t rely on the words of another to keep this feeling alive.

So join your own team, be on your own side… try and take the time to truly look in the mirror.

Much Love,