4 Reasons You Should Work Out in the Morning

I’m a huge proponent of working out whenever you can fit it into your day, but there’s something special about a morning workout.

I know, I know. Most people snarl at the thought of setting their alarms for 5 just to go to the gym. But, once you do it for a few weeks, you’ve already formed a habit and it gets that much easier.

Why should you bother with a morning workout, anyway? I’m so glad you asked.

 

You’ll Actually Work Out

Be honest with yourself: if you’ve had a long, stressful, exhausting day at work, how likely are you to go to the gym after work? Getting in your exercise first thing in the morning ensures that you’ll actually do your workout. You won’t be able to give yourself the excuses of “I had such a hard day,” “I’m exhausted,” or “What I really need is a glass of wine.” Plus, if you workout in the morning, that glass of wine at the end of the day will be guilt-free.

You’ll Have a Better Day

Beginning your day with a workout starts you on the right foot. Hopping out of the shower after a hard workout at the same time most people are waking up will give you the greatest sense of accomplishment. You’ll have more energy and less stress, be happier and be more ready to take on the day. I can’t guarantee that working out in the morning will keep your boss from being an ass, but it will definitely make you less murderous. At least at first.

morning-yoga-lauren-cathleen

You’ll Be More Likely to Make Other Healthy Choices

On Saturday, I went to an 8:30 spin class. Typically, for me, Saturdays offer a little more flexibility in my choices. I sit around all day, we might go out to dinner for a break from paleo or I may enjoy a glass of wine. But, starting my Saturday with a hard workout where I burned nearly 700 calories made me want to make sure it didn’t go to waste. After I showered, I kept moving all day. I cleaned, I finally put away the Christmas decor, I did the laundry, I took the stairs instead of the elevator and, my crowning achievement, I chose a healthy, low-calorie snack box over popcorn when we went to the movies. When you start your day with a workout, that’s what happens. Your whole day becomes healthier because you don’t want to nullify all the hard work you did that morning.

You’ll Have More Time to Yourself in the Evening

I detest coming home after a stressful day knowing that I, essentially, have to work again. When I finish work, I’m done. I want to come home, decompress and have that glass of wine I mentioned. When I get my a.m. workout in, that’s exactly what I get to do. I have time to enjoy a long, relaxing bath, watching a few episodes of Star Trek with Stephen or work on my side hustle. Working out in the morning gives your more time to enjoy your evening.

You’ll Burn More Calories

There’s nothing like HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training, in the morning to jumpstart your metabolism. These types of workouts burn fat up to 50 percent more effectively than low-intensity workouts and speed up your metabolism so you continue to burn throughout the day. I know that fat and calorie burning aren’t the priorities of a lot of people’s workouts, but, for many of us, that’s certainly one of the goals. If you’re not concerned about burning calories, then I refer you to my earlier point that jumpstarting your metabolism will provide you with more energy for the day ahead.

 

Obviously, not all of these apply to every person. For some, evening workouts may be your only options. Others are straight up night owls. The important thing is that you actually are getting in your workouts every day, even when that workout is walking. But, for me, I’ve found the most assured way for me to get in a daily workout and to feel better in general, is to work out as the sun rises.

What are your favorite fitness tips?

Follow my fitness journey on Instagram: @laurencathleenfitness

Why You Absolutely Need to Watch “Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian”

When you want to see results, you have to push yourself. You have to get out of your comfort zone. That doesn’t mean train for a marathon if you hate running. That just means challenge yourself.

I’ve never been one to tout the Kardashians as role models, nor involve myself in their drama-ridden “reality.”

But, since Khloe took control of her health, I’ve found her, well … inspiring. Revenge Body is no exception.

Kelsey Miller at refinery29 was quick to condemn Khloe, those on her new show, and those who watch her new show. Miller — who is not, mind you, a health and fitness expert — is the mind behind “The Anti-Diet Project” and “Rational Fitness.”

Both programs seem to advocate utilizing happiness as an effective means of getting healthy. They’re basically the Joel Osteens of the health and fitness world. Miller makes some good points with these programs — killing yourself in the gym every day will only make you miserable; depriving yourself of every tasty treat will do more harm than good — but she never tells the whole story. She claims that taking a long, meditative walk counts as being active. I admit that those are excellent for overall health and are far better than sitting on the couch for a Netflix binge, but long walks do not a fitness regimen make.

When you want to see results, you have to push yourself. You have to get out of your comfort zone. That doesn’t mean train for a marathon if you hate running. That just means challenge yourself. Get your heart rate above 140. Load the bar a little more (safely). When you’ve gone as hard as you think you can go, go a little harder.

That, to me, is the point of Revenge Body. In the first episode, we met Will and Stephanie. Both were tested, and both proved to themselves that they were capable of so much more than they expected. Both were on the show to get revenge, against an ex and against friends, respectively, and both eventually realized that those people’s opinions don’t matter.

Each person found strength within themselves to get healthy, and that’s exactly what they did. They spent three months focusing on nothing but themselves, and they were better off for it.

Those of us who struggle with our weight often put others’ needs before our own. We take care of everyone else and neglect ourselves. We overeat. We don’t exercise. We eat our feelings. Then, we realize how much weight we’ve gained, feel guilty, and eat even more.

Revenge Body serves as a reminder that your health is about you, and no one else. If you want to get healthy, you have to make the decision to put yourself first. Take care of your needs. You need to make time to exercise. You need to eat whole, healthy foods. You need to get enough sleep, and you need to take care of your mind through plenty of rest and relaxation.

To Miller’s points, no, this is not a groundbreaking new health and fitness show that will give you the tools you need to lose weight. It’s a Kardashian show on E!, for Pete’s sake.

But, it is a show that can provide you that extra bit of motivation you need to get off the couch. It’s a show that will remind you that your social and mental problems won’t be fixed simply with weight loss. It’s a show that will prove that those people you’re getting “revenge” against by getting hot are just toxic and completely undeserving of your time.

If you’re like me and find motivation in seeing other people succeed in their weight loss and health goals, then Revenge Body is a great show for you. If you’re looking for tips and tricks and secrets to weight loss: look elsewhere. Little time is actually spent on the importance of healthy food choices and great workout regimens.

Regardless of whether you choose to watch it, remember that your health is about you. If some jerk inspires you to get healthy to get Revenge, then let that be your motivation. But don’t let that be your purpose. Your purpose is to get healthy for you. To show yourself what you can do. To ensure you have a longer life, more energy, and greater happiness over all.

If you are looking for tips and tricks to help you with your weight loss/health journey, these are some of my personal favorite resources (be sure to let me know yours in the comments!):

  • Whole30 Diet: http://whole30.com
  • Stupid Easy Paleo Recipes: http://stupideasypaleo.com
  • Self Magazine: http://www.self.com
  • Greatist Health & Fitness Blog: http://greatist.com
And, you can follow my personal fitness journey on Instagram: @laurencathleenfitness

My Experience with a Cult

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into. I’d been thinking about it for months; hearing other people’s experiences and enlightenments tempted me, but still, I was hesitant.

I was confident I wouldn’t fit in. I would be an overweight, lumbering CrossFitter and weightlifter, wading into a sea of skinny white basics.

But, if I ever wanted to try SoulCycle, now was my opportunity.

Picture totally downloaded from soulcycle.com

I’ve been a member of an online workout support group-of-sorts for about a year. I join in the online discussions, “like” the other members’ photos and videos on Facebook and Instagram, and offer encouragement if someone seems to need it. But, whenever the topic of the monthly meet-up/workout is broached, I fall silent.

These women had become my sisters, my confidantes and my support group, but I was terrified to workout with them. What if I’m the biggest one there? What if I can’t keep up? What if, once again, I feel like the fat one out?

But I knew SoulCycle was dark and arranged in lines, so people were predisposed to not see you. The leader of the online group had managed to swing a free class for us, which rounded up the utter annihilation of my excuses.

I stepped through the glass doors, from the harshly lit, hot and humid Houston into the welcoming, cheerful – and somehow also serene – foyer. I was terrified, immediately surrounded by beautiful, fit people. But, they managed to put me at ease with smiles that offered comfort and inclusion.

I signed in, received my shoes, and headed down the white hall – passing the bright yellow Big Ass balloons that indicated a party was afoot – to the co-ed locker room. (Adjacent to the separate men’s and women’s bathrooms and showers. Phew.)

Picture totally downloaded from soulcycle.com

Amid the beautiful women (no really. Like, stupid beautiful.) in the, again, all-white, locker room, my fresh comfort and confidence began to waver. The Kool-Aid offered to me by the receptionist’s smile was wearing off. But, my cup was quickly refilled by both the veterans and the newbies who helped me find my locker and showed me how to operate it.

With my belongings in stow and my feet in borrowed shoes, I clacked, water bottle and towel in hand, back down the hall to the, thankfully sparsely populated, studio. I found my bike, situated my water bottle and climbed to the seat.

Oh no. 

The seat was too high, too far back from the handlebars. I tried to get off but the foreign shoe had clipped itself into the pedal, refusing to release me from the cult’s grasp. Panicked, I looked around frantically. Again, I was greeted with a smile. “Having trouble?” asked the friendly cyclist pedaling away caddy-corner to me. I managed a nod. “Don’t worry; they’ll set you right up.”

Her hand shot in the air. “It’s happening!”

Immediately a friendly face with a yellow SOUL tee was by my side, guiding my foot out of the locked position and showing me how to adjust the bike’s three components: the seat height, the handlebar height, and the distance between the two. She helped me up and taught me how to clip in (on purpose).

“Comfortable?”

No. I don’t think I belong here. I’m not a SoulCycle kind of girl. I’ve never been to a spin class. I’m sitting on a pole. And my clipped shoes make me feel like there’s no escape.

“Mhmm.”

The class filled up quickly and soon I was surrounded and being greeted by a voice that was trying to be soothing but was clearly meant to yell.

We began, guided by our leader, Catie, calmly saying “left, right, left.” According to her, with everyone on the same foot, the energy becomes palpable. Soon, the class became one. Our feet moved in unison left, right, left faster and faster. Did I have no control over my own body? My legs spun of their own accord, matching, spin for spin, those to my right and left. Left, right, left. Before I knew it, I was tapping it back.

Picture totally downloaded from soulcycle.com

Twenty minutes into the class I felt death approach. My mouth was filled with cotton balls, my Dri-Fit tank drenched. I reached for my now half-empty water bottle, and watched it fall from my fingers to the ground in slow motion. Oh no. 

Disoriented, I went to grab my towel and it, too, slipped from my grasp. I tried to unclip my shoes to pick up my manna, and I couldn’t figure it out. I was trapped on the bike from hell with no water and no towel. I’m going to die here.

With zero regard to my dire situation, Catie persisted. Left, right, left. So, I pressed on. Again, my body matched the tempo of those around me. We pumped together, up and down. Swayed together, left and right. Spun together, faster and faster.

“How’s my back row feeling?” Catie demanded.

A voice sounding suspiciously like my own responded, “Woooo!” Was that? Noooo. Was that me? Did I just woo?

I did. I woo-ed. I was – dare I say it – having fun. Mind you, a torturous, killer-cardio-driven kind of fun, but fun nonetheless. My thighs no longer felt like they were on fire. (Truthfully, they didn’t quite feel much like anything.) And I finally felt … home.

That’s it. I was home. There was peace here. Comfort. No judgement, no side-eyes. No one was looking at me differently for being big. I didn’t even feel big here. I felt new, sure. Not as great at cardio, duh. But I didn’t feel big.

In CrossFit, my size is both an asset and a hindrance. During the strength portions, I can lift on par with much more experienced women. But, during the intense workouts, I founder. My knees give, my form suffers and I steadily lose tempo with those around me. In both portions, though, I’m constantly aware of how big I am.

Not so at SoulCycle. At SoulCycle, I almost felt like I was one of them. Not a skinny white basic, but a person who enjoyed community and health. A person who wanted to better herself physically, mentally, emotionally, and, yes, spiritually, in one workout. A person who cares about her body but not its size.

Now that someone has helped me unclip my shoes (again), the endorphins have worn off, and I’m well-hydrated, do I feel like it was the soul-changing, spiritually awakening workout of legend? Not this time. But, I did just sign up for three more classes.

Want to find your SOUL? Use this link to get $10 off your first ride (and give me credit for referring you)!

How I Will Better Myself in 2017

I’ve always been a sucker for New Years.

As a child, I romanticized the notion of a kiss when the ball drops and fireworks illuminate the sky. (Frankly, I romanticized the notion of any kiss, hopeless romantic that I am.)

In college, the New Year provided me with a means to justify paying a ridiculous cover price at a bad bar for cheap champagne, dance-induced blisters and a drunken kiss with a stranger. (Sorry, mom.)

Now, though. Now, I just see so much life attached to New Years. It’s a chance to start anew, wash off the bits of the previous year you’d like to forget, and be a better version of yourself. New Years, to me, is filled with endless hope and a sense of being cleansed.

This year, I’ve decided to take that last bit quite seriously.

Cleanse and Renew

I love finding ways to better myself, even if the attempt at betterment only lasts a day. In 2017, I’m going hog-wild to cleanse myself of bad habits, bad people, bad environments and bad food. I’ve pledged to better myself financially, intellectually, nutritionally, friendshipally and fitnessally.

My New Year’s Resolutions:

Better myself financially. I’ve always had an unhealthy relationship with money. Since I first started working, as soon as I got money, I had to spend it. Try as I might to save money with savings accounts, the envelope system and whatever else, I can only set aside money until I need a new pair of shoes. Unless, of course, the money is being taken out of my paycheck before it ever hits my bank. Thank you, 401K.

This year, I’ve resolved to get my credit card utilization below 30 percent and save enough to cover three months’ living expenses. For my credit, I like to use Credit Karma, a free resource that provides your credit score, credit report, credit card utilization and a ton of other factors, as well as how they affect your credit score and personalized tips and suggestions. And, no. Getting your credit score from them doesn’t affect it. For budgeting so I can save money, I’ll use Mint, another free resource that gives you everything you need to budget successfully.

Better myself intellectually. I’ve been trying to learn a new language for more than a decade. In high school, I took both Spanish and French, and in college I took Swahili. But, with each language, I didn’t dedicate time to practice or continue learning after class. What resulted is a weird SwaFreSpanglish that only extends to “Hello, how are you?” in each language. I’ve started improving my French with Duolingo, a free app that lets you learn a multitude of languages. My goal is to be able to annoyingly order in French at a French restaurant and have boyfriend roll his eyes.

And, I’ll be making an effort to read a little every day, because, as much as I love books, I never make time for them.

Better myself nutritionally. Back to the more literal sense of “cleansing.” In all honesty, I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. I love food, but, more than that, I love unhealthy food. That, combined with my tendency to emotionally eat have left me overweight and unhappy. While I always try to eat healthy, I find that the little allowances I give myself, the taco here or candy bar there, inevitably stunt and even reverse my progress.

I’ve resolved to get serious about my health and nutrition and am recommitting myself to the Paleo Diet. First, though, I’ll be doing The Whole 30 to reset my system, debloat, cure cravings and restore my body’s natural balance. I started today, am sincerely hoping this blog will be a little commitment to myself to follow through for the entire month.

Better myself friendshipally. I’ve lived in Houston a year and a half and I have exactly three girlfriends. Making friends as an adult is difficult, especially in a new city where you’re not really sure what to do. I’ve tried making friends on BumbleBFF, but I’ve fiercely decided that online dating … or online friendshipping, if you will … is not for me. This year, I’ll be making an effort to make friends through things that I enjoy doing, most likely through activities on Meetup.

Better myself fitnessally. I’ve been working out diligently for about six years, but I’ve always struggled to maintain a routine. While daily workouts at CrossFit gyms worked wonders, my weight gain has told my knees that’s no longer an option. This year, I’m firming a workout routine for myself to establish good habits and make sure I stay active. I like to think of that arthritis commercial to get myself moving: “A body in motion tends to stay in motion. A body at rest tends to stay at rest.” I’m resolved stay in motion in 2017.

Follow my fitness journey on Instagram: @laurencathleenfitness

A lot of these resolutions are pretty personal, and the posts to follow will be downright intimate. But, to me, that’s not only great motivation to keep going, and have that one person who reads my blog hold me accountable, but will also provide a chronology of my journey in 2017. And I’m so excited to have you on that journey with me.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

*It should be noted that, although I link to a lot of resources in this post, none of them are sponsored or affiliate links. I just really enjoy them and legitimately recommend their services.

Gwynnie Bee

I love fashion. I always have. Even when I was an overly opinionated co-ed and declared fashion merchandising a waste of a degree, I loved it.

I loved finding new ways to wear old pieces. I loved creating unexpected color combinations. I steered clear of the vapid wasteland of Vogue and InStyle, never realizing that the fun I had with my clothes meant I actually belonged with the lemmings.

But, let’s be real. Plus-sized fashion isn’t a thing. Obviously there are so many more options out there than there were even a few years ago, but you have to look for them. More than that, you have to know where to look. At the Houston Galleria, I can count on one hand (even if I were missing a few fingers) the options I have to shop plus size, let alone plus size I like.

Most of your plus size options are online. But, when you’re plus sized, how can you be sure that anything will really fit? Though I’m big, I still have an hourglass figure, which is completely different than my apple-, pear- and banana-shaped sisters. (I am a bit grateful to not be qualified as a food item. But I suppose Oreo-shaped would work.) And their bust-to-waist-to-hip ratio is vastly different from my own.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s say I adore everything at Torrid, Seven7 or Rue107 and they all fit me perfectly. My weight is still always in flux. I went from a size 12 to a size 22 in one year, and now I’m a size 18. (That’s a whole blog post in itself.) I honestly don’t want to buy new clothes every time I change sizes.

I mean, I do. Of course I do. I always want new clothes. But I don’t want to out- or under-grow them in a matter of months.

Enter Gwynnie Bee.

I first heard about Gwynnie Bee through a Facebook Ad when I was a size 12. It wasn’t for me then, but I logged it in my memory and have been making excellent use of it for about a year.

Gwynnie Bee is basically Netflix for plus-size fashion. You pay a monthly subscription fee, determined by how many outfits/articles of clothing you want at once, shop in their online store to fill your closet/queue, and let them do the rest.

They’ll send you the first outfit you chose that they have available, along with a return envelope. Wear it as little or as much as you want and ship it back. Then wait for your next piece of clothing to come. They take care of everything — postage, item selection and even dry cleaning!

If you really love an item, you can keep it and let them know to charge your card. Bonus: because everything is pre-worn, you can buy everything at a significant discount.

I love Gwynnie Bee because I basically have a rotating closet with them. I’m always receiving new clothes that fit, and I don’t have to commit to them unless I truly love them. When my body changes as it inevitably will, I simply change my size selection online.

Gwynnie Bee is the plus-sized fashionista’s dream.

Do you have any favorite shopping spots and secrets?

Brunch and Babies

Brunch, I think, is one of those small joys in life reserved for catching up with girlfriends and pretending that it makes you Upper-East-Side classy. It’s a time for laughter, indulgence, and maybe a little drinking before noon without guilt.

And then, someone brings a baby into your sacred brunch restaurant. Yes, babies are adorable and pudgy and make your ovaries yearn for a life yet to come. But they also cry. And scream. And their adorable little noses run and get their cute pudgy faces crusty. And they throw hashbrowns on the floor. And, though they sit in a perfectly clean restaurant, under the gaze of a watchful mother, somehow their little fingers end up grimy and sticky, and dirt inevitably makes its way under their fingernails. And they look up at you, all big eyes, toothless smile, dirty fingers and snot-encrusted face.

Yeah, they’re cute. But you’re still silently judging their mother for desecrating brunch.

But, brunch is still brunch. It’s a beautiful, magical time that, whether with girlfriends or by yourself, allows you to escape the pain, sadness and complexities that may wait for you in real life.

It’s for healing and discovering and forgetting and indulging. And, if you believe hard enough, it’s two hours a week when calories don’t count.

Blackberry Grits and Mimosa at Another Broken Egg

My favorite food at my favorite brunch place (a classification that qualifies it to compete for the coveted title of my most favorite thing of all) is cinnamon roll french toast. Way too sticky and sweet for a meal when calories do count, it’s how I hope Heaven tastes.

Said most favorite brunch place is in Baton Rouge, and I have yet to discover an adequate Houston replacement. So, take to the comments below and tell me your favorite brunch places and meals.

Top 10 Dives in Upper Kirby

I’ve been living in the Upper Kirby neighborhood of Houston for just over a year and, I have to admit, it falls quite short of my old neighborhood near LSU in terms of affordable, casual restaurants. (Honestly, though. What could I expect? The offshoot of Houston’s most affluent neighborhood is just not going to have the same kind of restaurants as a college area.)

But, being the kind of person who neither cares for nor can afford fancy afford, I’ve scoured the neighborhood for suitable replacements to my Baton Rouge stomping grounds. These 10 restaurants, in no particular order (except for No. 1, obvs), are the only places I frequent now.

*Side note: for the sake of this post, a “dive” is a place with cheap and good food, lackluster decor, probably not a lot of parking, and maybe shares a building with several other businesses.

10. Mainely Sandwiches
Location: South Shepherd, between West Alabama and Richmond
This is a yummy North Atlantic Coast-themed soup and sandwich shop, with a special focus (obviously) on Maine lobster. Their sandwich rolls are delicious, but the bread is probably the best part. It’s like butter, melting in your mouth.
Try: Lobster Roll, Crab Roll, and definitely the Lobster Bisque

9. McElroy’s Pub
Location: S. Sandman St (off of Richmond, right around S. Shepherd)
Go for the drinks, stay for the fun. McElroy’s boasts friendly staff, a fun jukebox, and your standard go-to bar games of pool and darts. It’s super chill with a comfy, rich and warm atmosphere. Be careful not to lose track of time in your relaxation!
Try: The Best Pint of Guinness in Houston
8. Blue Fish House
Location: Richmond, just east of the Kirby intersection
Blue Fish is a great place for Stephen and me to hop over to when we just don’t feel like cooking. It’s right across the street from our apartment, has a large menu, and is super affordable. It’s not going to be the best sushi you’ve ever had, but it is really good, especially considering the price you pay. (Not a lot.)
Try: Volcano Roll and Vegetable Croquette
7. Hunan Village
Location: S. Shepherd, between West Alabama and Richmond
A relatively small Chinese restaurant with fast and friendly service, Hunan is one of our favorite places to order in when we’re feeling a carby feast. Great egg rolls and crab wontons (my favorites at any restaurant), and excellent hot and sour soup.
Try: General Tsao’s Chicken, Hot and Sour Soup, Crab Wontons
6. Luna Pizzeria
Location: Richmond and Kirby
A relatively small pizzeria with an even smaller menu, Luna has perfected their specialties: good food and a fun atmosphere. The restaurant is littered with throwback table games to keep you entertained while you’re waiting on your food.
Try: Spicy Andouille Pizza (Super yum!)
5. Avalon Diner
Location: Westheimer, just East of the Kirby intersection
Though they now have multiple locations throughout the Houston area, the OG, 80-year-old diner on Wertheimer is always packed with people and personality. Have a burger and an old-fashioned milkshake, sit back, and enjoy the charm with a big side helping of people-watching.
Try: Milkshake (any flavor; they’re all good), Breakfast Sandwich and Waffle
4. Dino’s Den
Location: Richmond, between Kirby and Greenbriar
An ideal spot for Happy Hour, Dino’s has stiff drinks, loads of friendly faces, and even a charging station. You may miss it at first, because there’s no sign at the moment, but just look for the painted dinosaurs next to Blue Fish House.
Try: Honeydew Mimosas and the yummy Sunday Feature Food (though that changes week to week)
3. Star Pizza
Location: Norfolk, just West of S. Shepherd (near Richmond)
Star Pizza is basically a Houston institution. All of their pizzas are made to order (which may make the service slow from time to time) and completely delicious. Their marinara and dough are made from scratch daily, and the toppings are fresh and delicious. Eat there or take it home, either way it’s completely delicious.
Try: Anything, really. But, especially the Deep Dish Starburst (pictured above), and the Hand Tossed Chicken Alfredo (pictured below).
2. Hobbit Cafe
Location: Richmond, between Kirby and S. Shepherd, nestled behind Blue Fish
This adorable little restaurant is a converted house with dining throughout the rooms of the house and, as you can imagine, decorated with all kinds of Lord of the Rings memorabilia. We expected more of a British pub when we went, but the menu has a great assortment of (mostly American) food.
Try: Boudin Burger, Quesadilla and Chicken Salad
1. BB’s Cafe
Location: Richmond, between Buffalo Speedway and Levy Park
This is my favorite. My absolute favorite. BB’s is the first place in Houston where I had “Oh. My. Goodness.” good food. It’s an exquisite blend of Tex-Mex and Cajun, and is, honestly, the best food I’ve had in a while. Go. Now.
Try: Crawfish Quesadillas (these are eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-your-head good) and the South Texas Fire poboy

Greatness

I’ve always felt pressure to be something great. When I was a little girl, I thought that greatness would come on Broadway, where I could share my angelic average singing voice and mesmerizing laughable dancing skills with awe-inspired crowds.

That one year of high school when I thought I was a poet, I was convinced my simple ballads would make me this generation’s Emily Dickinson.

My grandest, longest dream of greatness was imagining myself creating a girls’ magazine. Seriously, this was a 10-year dream of mine (which, when you’re 26, is a long damn time). This is what I told every friend, mentor, colleague or passersby who asked my career plans. I was going to achieve my own greatness by helping young girls understand how wonderful they are. (I am just SO giving.)

I started by creating blogs, because I knew the best way to reach my dream was to start as soon as possible. I created at least four blogs in as many years because ADD. I never wrote frequently enough to gain the necessary traction for success. And, by the time I’d realized I hadn’t blogged in four months, I had a new awesome idea for a new awesome blog. My final blog attempt was a concerted effort to create the early stages of my magazine. Then I realized I had no idea what I was doing.

And then, I’d feel bad about my failures. I’d read too many articles by 23-year-old assistant editors at Vogue, and too many fashion blogs from women my age wearing Valentino on the daily.

Why hadn’t I achieved my greatness? There are women younger than me all over the Internet who are experiencing the kind of monumental success I’ve always envisioned for myself. If I haven’t made my first million and/or become a household name by 27, I’m obviously a failure.

Wait, Lauren. Take a step back.

It’s not about you.

Why did you ever feel pressure to be famous and wealthy?

It’s not about you.

Who ever said that notoriety was the only way to achieve greatness?

It’s not about you.

I live my life by a faith that prioritizes loving others, so why did I feel that everything needs to be about me?

The more negativity I see in headlines, the more narcism and bullying I see on social media, the more I realize that achieving my narrow view of greatness should never be a goal for me. I’m starting to think it’s not really worth it.

I’m starting to realize that true greatness already exists all around me, and I become an active participant every time I love my neighbor. I become part of the greatness of humanity every time I hold the door for a stranger, keep my middle finger down when someone cuts me off, or even take a moment to people-watch with love instead of derision and judgement. (If you’re overly hipster or trying to rock normcore, the judgement is just gonna happen, dude.)

It’s not about me.

Greatness is about loving others and finding ways to love through my talents. I write, so I enjoy crafting meaningful notes to those I love. I’m a gift whisperer, so I be sure to get people small presents randomly, just so they know someone is thinking of them. And I’m a fabulous hugger, so I try to make people’s gloomy days just a little bit brighter through a warm embrace.

I’ve given up on my silly, self-centered goal of fame, and am choosing to be the best, most kick-ass embodiment of love that I can be each and every day.

And that, dear friends, is greatness.

Me Before You Review

Last night I had the opportunity to screen “Me Before You,” a new British rom-com based on the book of the same name. How excited was I? Let me count the ways.

First of all, how can any closet nerd not want to see a movie with Daenerys TargaryanFinnick OdairNeville Longbottom and Clara Oswald? Bonus: it also features Mr. Bates and Tywin Lannister. It’s a glorious nerd-world amalgamation/love fest!

I first saw the trailer with Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin back in February, and instantly knew I needed to see the movie. But first, I needed to read the book.

From Amazon –
“Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation and perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our StarsMe Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?” 

Even though I read this book specifically to watch the movie, I always get a little nervous about a Hollywood adaptation of a beautiful piece of literature. As is the case with all books-turned-movies, except Tuck Everlasting, the book was better. But, the movie was a fair adaptation.
Sam Claflin captured Will Trainer’s morbid humor, while Emilia Clarke perfectly embodied the incandescent joy and quirkiness of Lou.

The movie did fail to bring in a few plot points from the book that I thought were integral to both full character development and the comprehensive plot of the second book. So, now I ponder with a slightly pouty lower lip: are they even planning to cinema-fy the second book? They did well to end the movie with closure, but the sequel just provides so much growth for Lou and her journey to self-discovery and fulfillment.

The good news is that you don’t need to read the book to understand the movie. You can see “Me Before You” starting June 3 (and don’t forget your tissues).
Be sure to let me know your thoughts on the movie or book in the comments!