Thursday, October 23, 2014

Life lessons from "Shark Tank"

Forget about the gold and red scenery, sweaters, boots and pumpkin-flavored everything (OK, maybe don't forget about that last one). Fall = TV, and one of the many shows I expect you to be watching is "Shark Tank." 
It's already in its sixth season, but I didn't start watching it until last year when I was immediately hooked. I'm not sure why it's so fascinating to watch awkward, arrogant, scatterbrained, brilliant people pitch products that range from clever to genius to ridiculous to some of the richest people in America who are probably making money off of you every day without you even realizing it—but it is.

I've even picked up a little (key word: little) bit of a business education—about as much as my brain is willing to comprehend, anyway. I've also learned a few life lessons, five of which I'll share with you right now.

1. Simplicity is underrated. Some of the best-performing products on the show are the ones that make you kick yourself the rest of the night for not inventing yourself because they are so simple, easy and applicable to so many people. 

Whether we're trying to solve a problem at work or in a relationship, get a little artsy and create something, make plans for something as small as Tuesday night dinner or as big as a wedding or a career path, or, in my case, make any type of decision at all, it's easy to overthink things to the point that we end up tired and miserable with a pretty lame result. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of wanting everything you do to be the most creative, the smartest, etc., but it's important to remember sometimes the simplest ideas and solutions are the ones that make the most sense and make you the happiest.

2. Greed won't always get you ahead. Yes, greed is what drives corporate America, and the greedy guys usually fare better (materialistically speaking) than the rest of us, whether we like to admit it or not, but there is usually a tipping point—a point visitors to the tank quite often reach, much to my disappointment and entertainment. It is pretty amazing to watch someone with a great product come in and totally eliminate any chances of a deal because s(he) gets too greedy.

Always wanting more will push you to work harder to succeed, but you must have a limit where you can stop, accept satisfaction and be happy with what you have and what you've accomplished.

3. Passion can make a difference. Many of us, especially those of us fairly new to the workforce in the lovely state it is in, have come to terms with the reality that you can only "follow your passion" for so long. However, that doesn't mean you should completely give up on it or be ashamed to be passionate about something.
Robert's my favorite:)

Some deal winners don't actually have the best product, but are chosen because of the obvious passion they have for it, which goes to show it really does pay to believe in something.

4. There is never one right way to do something. The sharks all found success in different industries in different ways, so they don't always give entrepreneurs the same advice. While certain products do require certain business strategies, as a successful marketing approach for one brand could kill another, there are always different ways to find success.

The same goes for any life choice. I understand wanting to get the opinions of friends and family when you're trying to decide something, but it's important to remember that what worked for one person won't necessarily work for you. In almost any case, there is not a right or wrong way to do something— just a way, and whatever you choose, give it your all.

5. Know yourself. Too often, the people who were lucky enough to get the chance to pitch their products are not prepared with enough information to answer the sharks' questions: a huge red flag that usually results in five fast declarations of two dreaded words: "I'm out." They have to know their products and numbers inside out to show they are competent and committed.

Life is going to kick you around and spit on you when you're down. You'll face challenges you never planned on tackling, and if you don't know who you are, what your values are and what you stand for, well good luck, my friend. It was nice knowing you:)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My first (of hopefully many) half marathon

In an effort to actually follow through on at least one of my New Year's resolutions, I ran my first half marathon a few weeks ago. When I made it a resolution, I had been slacking on running for a while and knew if I committed early, it would be just the motivation I needed to get back to it! I was also growing more and more curious about how it would feel to run one since everyone who ever does seems to have an absolute blast. I didn't want to be left out!

Since I prefer running alone, I didn't know if I would be able to handle being surrounded by so many people. But I knew if I did end up liking it, signing up for races could provide a great opportunity to travel around to different locations I may not otherwise think to visit.

I started researching races around Minneapolis, but then figured if I was going to have to run with a bunch of people anyway, I might as well run with someone I actually liked. And if I could choose anyone to run with, it would be my little sister, so that's exactly who I asked. We decided on Omaha since it was the perfect halfway meeting point with a major bonus: our grandpa and his wonderful wife happen to live there also. We signed up for the Sept. 21 race in March, but I still didn't give myself quite enough time to get ready. Big surprise.


I didn't follow a specific training plan because I knew I wouldn't be able to fully commit to it, which would get me all stressed out and upset with myself, so I looked at a few different ones and adapted what I could to fit my schedule. I didn't end up running as much as I wanted to/should have, and mostly stuck to three-, six-, and nine-milers since I live right next to a lake with three mile running loop. My goal was to build up the endurance to comfortably run 13, regardless of time, without injuring my horrible knees that think and act they're 80 years old.

The week before

Above all other unpleasant concerns, from chafing to blisters to burning out and not finishing, my biggest fear was an angry, rumbling stomach.  My stomach is ridiculously sensitive when running is involved. I have to have just the right amount of food in just the right amount of time before I run or I am home to a very unhappy stomach with varying levels of severity.

Trying to avoid this, I started to cut fiber out of my diet starting Monday before the Sunday race, and I ate a lot of white carbs that entire week (mostly in the form of pasta). I was loving it at first but didn't feel so awesome after a few days. It must have helped, though, because I was stomach-problem-free on race day.

After reading different opinions on how often and long you should run the week before a race, I ended up running four days that week, skipping Friday and running an easy four miles on Saturday. 

Race day

The start time was 7 AM, which meant my alarm went off at 5:30. Our parents also made the trip down for the weekend and were happy to wake up early to drop and see us off! 

We hit the porta potty line as soon as we got there, and after about a 20 minute wait and some pacing around, we were lining up behind the starting mark.

The weather was perfect. I was cold while standing but warmed up to just the right temperature after about 10 minutes of running. I was a little anxious waiting to start, but when I turned my music on, I couldn't have asked for a better song: Savage Garden's "Affirmation." Judge away, but it's one of my favorites, and listening to that during the first five minutes of the race while watching the sun come up set the perfect mood for the next two hours.

My sister and I stayed together through about mile nine and then went our separate ways. With two miles left to go, Fort Minor's "Remember the Name" came on, and I listened to it on repeat until I crossed the finish line. Seriously. And it felt awesome.

My goal was really just to finish without walking to see how I would handle the whole event. I didn't want to push myself very hard, so I aimed for nothing higher than a 10-minute mile and ended up coming in under my goal, which was definitely a plus!

My reaction

I L.O.V.E.D. it! LOVED it! I could not believe how much fun I had, and half the time I couldn't even tell I was running. The spectators were great, the course was easy, and of course having seven family members there supporting us made it even more exciting. I cannot even begin to describe how amazing I felt toward the end. Instead of being annoyed by running so closely to so many strangers, I was inspired. It was such a rush, and I can't wait to experience it again.

My only complaint: the race ended with a lap around a track, but you were basically forced to stop immediately after crossing the finish line, which is a terrible idea. I wasn't able to slow down to a jog and then walk, and my hips did not appreciate that. I felt them jolt right away, and the six-hour car trip afterward didn't help either. They were sore for the next two days.

I want to sign up for as many half marathons as possible now, and though realistically I'm not in a place where I can do that right now, I am excited to continue running so I'm ready when I can actually sign up for more. My sister wants to train for a full marathon, but I'm still a little hesitant. Bodies were definitely made to move, but not all bodies—mine includedwere made to run. I do want to check at least one off in my lifetime, but I would really like to focus on getting better and faster at half marathons—they seem like a much safer distance for me.

I didn't have any knee pain leading up to the race, but in the past week I've felt the dreaded, all-too-familiar twinge in both of them, so my main focus right now is strengthening these big, ol' hips and glutes of mine!

I highly recommend you sign up for a race immediately, be it a 5K or a full marathon. I promise it will be some of the most fun you will ever have:)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Friday Favorites

Although I live in denial as long as I can when summer turns to fall, I eventually have to admit October is upon us, which means wedding season is coming to a close. 

I love—LOVE—weddings. I am always astounded by the creativity people (brides) display when planning a wedding. There are so many different ways to do things, from the engagement photos and the invitations to the ceremony and reception, but the best part is that all weddings have one thing in common: two people committing wholeheartedly to each other, ready to take on whatever life throws at them. It's a beautiful thing, especially for a sap like me. Here are 10 of my favorite (and less heavy) moments when attending a wedding.

1. Yes, I'm going to be totally cliche right away and confess that I, too, love watching the groom watch his bride. You just don't often see the guy show quite so much emotion, affection and adoration at once, and it is pretty heart-melting.

2. The bubbles! Thank you to all of the couples who supply bubbles for the end of the ceremony. There is something so magical about them as they float around what is most likely the happiest couple in the world at that very moment in time, adding the perfect touch.

3. Cocktail hour snacks. I suppose I get why people who drink enjoy this, but for me cocktail hour = snacking hour, and mixed nuts and M&Ms always seem to taste better when devoured out of mini plastic wedding cups.

4. Watching the photographer. As someone quite lacking in the creativity department, I am always amazed by the different angles and scenes the photographers are able to scope out and captureand the uncomfortable and awkward positions they are willing to suffer through in order to do so.

5. Dessert. Duh.

6. People watching. Weddings tend to create some pretty entertaining crowd combinations, and it just gets better when people move onto the dance floor.

7. The bouquet toss.
It might be a stupid tradition, but that doesn't make it any less fun or competitive. 

8. Late night snacks. The meal was hours ago, but you have an hour or two of dancing to go, and you need fuel—preferably the gooey, greasy kind. Enter late night pizza, taco bars, nachos, sliders...

9. Watching the bride and groom dance—not the first dance but much later in the night when they're completely blissed out, sweaty, messy and letting loose to whatever ridiculous song is playing with the cheesiest smiles on their faces.


10. The end. Weddings are fun, but they require you to have a lot of social interactions, and to me that is exhausting. It's a great feeling to leave a wedding knowing you had a good time and you're about to have a really good night's sleep!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A glimpse into the life of. . .

           BEKAH CANNON
It's been a while, but I'm back with another glimpse, and you're gonna love her!

I met Bekah at church a couple of years ago and was blown away by the warmth and kindness she radiates.
No matter how busy or stressed she is, every time I see her she always makes it all about me
what's new with me, what's troubling me, how she can help me, etc. She's like this with everyone, and she actually means it. You don't often come across people this genuine. 

In addition to the countless hours Bekah devotes to church and service activities, she is a happily married mother of two beautiful children who also works part time as a pediatric RN. It takes a special kind of person to work in the nursing field, and I'm excited to peek inside the mind of one and share her insight with you!

Current job: I am a pediatric registered nurse at a children’s hospital, where I work with infants and children who need heart transplants or heart surgery, and children who have other general surgical needs.

First job ever: I was a nanny for years, which helped me prepare for working with kids in the hospital.

First job after graduating/first "grown up" job: I worked on a pediatric medical/surgical unit that helps kids with diabetes, cystic fibrosis and asthma before I moved to the pediatric intensive care unit. I loved the PICU since I learned so much about how to take care of really sick kids and became a much better nurse. 


After I had kids of my own, it was hard for me to see a lot of the trauma patients we cared for since it made me so worried about my own kids, so I transferred to my current unit to work with cardiac kids.

Dream job: Williams-Sonoma. I think sometimes it would be so nice to have a job where I can worry about pots and pans and not really sick kids.

What is the best part about your job? I love how empowering my job is—I am able to influence many people, families and children to make their stay in the hospital easier and less stressful and help them access great medical care. I love to learn from families who are so graceful under extremely stressful circumstances, and they make me want to be more mindful, and seek God’s help in how I handle my challenges.

What is the most challenging part? The juggling of so many tasks! We have so much coordinating, planning and accessing of different heath care teams that goes on behind the scenes, and it is hard to convey to families why things take longer than they expect them to.There are so many medications, pain interventions, therapies, hygiene cares, exercises, discharge planning, and charting that go into each patient’s care. It is challenging work, but I work with great coworkers, which makes my job run much smoother and our patients get better care.

What advice do you have for someone pursuing a similar career? Study. Hard.

What drew you to nursing, and more specifically, what drew you to pediatrics? My dad is a doctor and my twin sister and I went into nursing together. I loved that my dad had a career where he got to help other people, have to be really smart and push himself to work through complex medical problems, and had a lot of satisfaction out of the work he does. I also wanted to have a career where I could be really flexible so I could be home with my children as much as possible, especially when they are young and in school.

I feel really blessed to be able to have my family be my priority at home, and then be able to help other families a couple times a week at work. It is a perfect balance of being home and keeping up the nursing skills I invested so much time in learning.

Nursing has been great for having a family since you can adjust your schedule to what works best for your circumstances. I have worked full time, moved to part time, then once a week, then back to full time for a few months when my family needed the extra support, and then back to once a week.

Most of my friends who have children have to make a choice about being at home or working full time. No other job offers the flexibility that nursing does, and it makes me so happy I have a career where I don’t have choose between my work and my family. You can have the best of both worlds!

Based on the most common concerns you hear from the parents of your patients, what is the best advice you have for parents with young children in the hospital? If your child were ever admitted to the hospital, my advice would be to ask a lot of questions and make sure that you know what your care providers are talking about.

There is a lot of medical jargon that gets tossed around, so ask for clarification if it doesn’t make sense. Many times families are overwhelmed with being in the hospital, and it is harder to process information under lots of stress. Write down questions you have throughout the day and pull them out when the medical team comes to see you every day. You will have a better experience, be able to help your child recover more quickly, and be a better advocate for your child if you know the plan and participate in it.

Three words to describe where you're at in life right now: Curious, peaceful, high-hopes.

How do you define success? Having a happy, fun and God-centered family, even if the only person in your family is you.

Who has been your biggest influence, personally or professionally, and why? My twin sister has been a part of my everyday life and has pushed me to be better, to study and work harder, and to be a better mother every day.

It is nice to have someone to benchmark your life with since they can help drive you to excel, and you can see where you could/need to be on different aspects of life. It is inspiring to see what she does and know that (having the same genes!) I can accomplish similar things.

What hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time? Running, yoga, reading, sleeping or making some kind of craft.

What is number one on your bucket list? I want to go to Glacier National Park. I see pictures of that place and can’t wait to just see it in real life. 


Favorite ice cream flavor: Izzy's Midnight Snack: graham cracker ice cream with chocolate chunks and peanut butter swirl. Amaze.

Thank you, Bekah!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Favorites

Today's favorites combine this week's "rude" theme with my love of TV. Why are the most selfish, ridiculous characters sometimes the most loveable? Here are five of my favorite TV characters who are incredibly entertaining to watch but would be horrible to interact with in real life!

1. Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm).
2. Karen Walker (Will & Grace).
3. Red (That 70s Show).
4. Marnie (Girls).
5. April (Parks and Recreation).

Have a good weekend! Think nice thoughts:)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rudeness challenge

I don't know about you, but lately I feel like I'm drowning in negativity. Most of it is coming from sites like Facebook and Twitter, where people are either full out attacking other people or issues, ranting about some "horrible" experience somewhere or typing smug, little posts oozing with holier-than-thou attitude. Some of it is coming from people in real life too, whether it's someone at work, a stranger in the car behind me or random people I come across in public places. And of course there is also quite a bit of it floating around in my own head. I cannot escape!

I came across this blog post today and found out I am not alone.
It's an easy, short read, but to summarize: people are rude. We are all rude. And something needs to be done about it. 

How many times have you heard, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all?" While it's helpful in some situations, and a lot of people would do well to follow such advice, why not go to the root of the problem and try to avoid the negative thought in the first place? Why is it so easy to be so mean? I cannot tell you how many times throughout the day the phrase "people are the worst" crosses my mind or escapes my lips. 

I have especially noticed how angry I am when I'm driving. I used to take the bus to work, where my impatience and dirty looks were reserved for loud passengers, but now that I'm driving, everyone on the road has become an enemy in my race to save maybe two minutes on my entire commute time. 

At the gym, every tiny complaint I hear and every ridiculous statement I overhear just fuel my rage toward the ignorance and selfishness abundantly flowing through our society. So does every exaggerated, biased article I read, every injustice or hardship I see or experience, every time I see basic manners being ignored or someone being ridiculed for acting or believing in something different...pretty much every unkind thing I witness makes me grumpier and, oddly enough, meaner. Apparently I just want the impossible where everyone is nice to and accepts one another, which would make it much easier for me to be nice.

I'm not naive enough to think that will ever happen. I may not have control over what other people are saying or doing, but there is plenty I can do about my own thoughts and behavior. There is no reason for me to let other people's bad attitudes or lack of self awareness bring me down. I have enough stress to deal with, and letting other people's poorly chosen negativity release methods bring me down even more is a waste of time and energy. And maybejust, maybeif I start thinking and acting in the manner I expect from others, it might start influencing them in a better way than a pessimistic or sarcastic comment would. 

This is going to be much harder than it sounds for me, as I am human and quick to judge, but here is my challenge: for every negative thought I have about a person or a situation, I have to come up with two positive (and sincere) thoughts. Every negative action warrants two positive actions. Hopefully I can train myself to stop contributing to our rudeness epidemic, and I challenge you to try it too!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Favorites

Tonight we went to the Twins/Angels game, thanks to some awesome season-ticket-holding friends who gave us their seats. I usually go to a couple of games during the summer, but this was my one and only 2014 experience. Summer nights seem to be made for baseball games, and here are my five favorite reasons to go to a game:

1. The food (surprise, surprise): eating it, smelling it and walking the stadium just to look at it all. Brats, fries, burgers, ice cream sundaes in mini helmets—everything that just tastes better eaten outside. My must-have snack actually comes from Candyland, a few blocks away from Target Field: chocolate gummy bears. You have to try them.

2. KISS CAM! My ultimate goal is to actually be on it someday. 

3. People watching. The range of people brought together for the sake of a baseball game provides some pretty good entertainment, and since there's so much going on, it's easier to get away with checking everyone out. You know you do it too.

4. The general atmosphere. I just love the feeling I get walking into Target Field. There's a constant energy buzz, and you get a pretty awesome view no matter where you sit.

5. Trevor Plouffe, my favorite player. OK, so he's really only one of maybe three I can actually remember, but what a sweet name!

Least favorite part: The actual baseball playing. I just cannot get into it. And NINE innings? Is that really necessary?

Have a good weekend! Hopefully you can catch a game if you're in the area; they're here through Sunday!