My Top Priorities {Year of Intention}

Back in January, I declared 2018 as the Year of Intention. Seeing as how the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl this year (Fly, Eagles, Fly!) and Clemson basketball is a force in the NCAA tournament, there is no reason for me not to believe that 2018 will be my best year yet. Since my public declaration, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what is actually meant by intentional living. And after much thought, I’ve reached the conclusion that to me, the core of intentional living is actually understanding why we do what we do. And the first step for such exploration is determining what my top priorities are in life.

90 Seconds

Seems easy enough, right? Without thinking about it too much, I answered the following way and just wrote what came to my mind when I asked myself “What are your top priorities in life?” I didn’t think – I just typed (which is apparently how the POTUS runs his Twitter account). I gave myself 90 seconds and this is what I came up with…

  • relationship with Clay
  • relationship the kids
  • be happy
  • live simply
  • travel
  • be tough
  • make a difference
  • be happy
  • be kind
  • meaningful friendships
  • be present
  • experience different cultures
  • be happy
  • stay curious
  • experience much as I can
  • be healthy
  • experience food and drink from around the world
  • give back
  • be happy

Not a bad start. In fact – when you’re thumbing through that self-help book in Barnes and Noble, you’d be hard-pressed not see any of these phrases. You check the Amazon app on your phone and then have an internal debate about which multi-million dollar company to give your business while reassuring yourself that you will check out that independent book store in the hipster part of town sooner rather than later. You ultimately decide on immediate gratification and purchase the book – only to read the first three chapters before banishing it to the back of the middle drawer in your nightstand. You find it two days before the packers are due to arrive and stare at it in your hands – thinking about whether to donate it or put it in the keep pile. You choose to keep it and place it next to that one book you did end up purchasing at that independent bookstore for $2 over the suggested retail price. This isn’t just me, is it?

What about Happiness?

There are a lot of be happy’s on that list, aren’t there? Be happy – such a simple declaration that can seem like such an impossible task when it feels like the odds are stacked against you. But many people out there believe that happiness is a choice to be made each day, each hour, each minute, each second. Both Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan describe happiness as the joy of moving towards potential and happiness is fueled by that journey. I choose to look at happiness this way – it’s the joy of living and doing so to the best of my ability.


Narrowing the List

The contents of my 90 second list can be narrowed down by grouping them together based on similarities.

  • relationship with Clay, relationship with kids, meaningful friendships – all of these proprieties have to do with relationships
  • be happy, be healthy, be tough – all of these priorities have to do with health – both physical and emotional
  • live simply, be kind, make a difference, be present, give back – all of these priorities have to do with purpose and the impact I wish to have in the world
  • travel, experience different cultures, experience as much as I can, stay curious, experience food and drink from around the world – all of these priorities deal with exploration and the desire to learn

My Top Four Priorities

So based on the breakdown above, I’ve determined my top four priorities in life to be the following (in no particular order)…

  • Relationships
  • Health
  • Purpose
  • Explore

So what does this mean? Well – I’m not quite sure yet. Good thing I have a year to figure it out.


Here’s To Us Xennials

I was born in 1983, which means my childhood was analog and my adolescence was shaped by the emerging digital culture that would define our world as I entered adulthood. Me and my peers spent hours carefully cultivating our online profiles in middle school and high school. Personal computers were commonplace my freshman year of college but very few of us had personal cellphones that were used for anything beyond emergencies. The AOL away message eliminated the need for answering machines during those years and my senior year of college, I joined about 5,000 other people on an intimate social media network known as The Facebook.


College Clay and Karen taking a selfie (usie?) the old-fashioned way –

with a disposable film camera. #xennials

I am too young to be issued a membership card for Generation X and too old to be granted access to club Millennium. Thankfully a new term has been coined for those of us who had an analog childhood and a digital adulthood – we’re considered Xennials. We’re supposed to have both the optimism of millennials and the cynicism of Gen Xers and we are fast approaching middle-age. A lot of us have married, had children, earned promotions, and contributed to healthy investment portfolios that will lend themselves nicely to retirement. We don’t necessarily miss the good ol’ days but we miss the freedom from responsibility. We find ourselves singing along with Mr. Brightside as we drive the kids to school and wondering where Teck from Real World Hawaii ended up in life. We watch Cruel Intentions whenever we come across it on a streaming service and we remember where we were on 9/11 and when the OJ Simpson trial verdict was announced.

I wrote on Facebook the other day that I did not take a gap year in between high school and college and wondered if it were too late to take one now. Not surprisingly – many of my fellow Xennials chimed in and agreed that such a year is wasted on youth. Not that I am disenchanted with my life – it is pretty grand. And I don’t really believe in regrets – especially since I’ve never been arrested or interacted with shadowy figures in trench coats. But there are things I’d do a little differently on the march toward middle age now that I have the benefit of hindsight.


So here’s to us Xennials – most of us don’t have it all figured out like we thought we would by this age (seriously…17 years ago the age of 35 seemed soooo old), but we’re beginning to realize what is really important in life. It’s not about our possessions, the size of our house, or how much money is in the bank. Life is meant to be experienced – a journey through peaks and valleys is more preferable than a steady race because we now recognize the value of hard lessons. We crave simplicity and understanding. We are Xennials – and damn proud of it.

Sad Boob Pocket – Stitch Fix Review

I am not really into clothes. I mean – I like to wear them due to social decorum and have them flatter my body but I’m not constantly seeking out the newest trends. I’d rather vacuum out my car (how can kids destroy the backseat that bad in such little time?) than spend all day shopping for clothes. If I spend more than an hour dedicated to clothes shopping, I begin to get frustrated and end up buying things that I don’t love just to get the experience over with – which results in a closet full of clothes that I don’t wear. Since 2018 is the Year of Intention, I’m committed to being more intentional about my clothing purchases and embracing what my body looks like as a 35-year-old woman.


A couple of years ago, I hopped onto the Stitch Fix train. Since then, I’ve ordered a handful of boxes with varying degrees of success. Stitch Fix is a personal styling service that sends five items of clothing (or accessories) for you to try on in the comfort of your own home. The cost of the service is $20, but if you purchase anything in the box the $20 styling fee goes toward the cost of the item(s) – if you purchase all five items, you receive a 25% discount. While I’ve never chosen to keep all five items, I’ve always loved at least one item enough to purchase it. But not this time – I kept nada.

I requested spring and summer tops because I’ve been living in sweatshirts and leggings all winter and I should probably let the ol’ arms breathe a bit. I’m currently in an awkward in-between pant/short size so I’m holding off an purchasing anything for the bottom half of my body because having your body change in your mid-thirties is super fun – said no one ever.


Z Supply Coopie Knit Pocket Tee – $34.00

This shirt was comfortable – unfortunately, that is all the positivity I can muster for this $34 shirt that I can easily find at Old Navy for $9. Not only was it too baggy for my taste, it had a boob pocket so sad that Sarah Mclachlan popped out of my closet and started to play her guitar. Why is it there? Why sad boob pocket?


41 Hawthorn Dawney Scallop Trim Blouse – $54

This shirt is magical. As soon as I put it on, I transformed into a middle-aged woman demanding to speak to a manager. Since I’m clinging to my youth with a death grip and it totally made my waist disappear, I passed on this floral sleeveless number.


Papermoon Caputo Kimono – $49.00

I’m not quite sure what the purpose of a short-sleeve kimono is and I’m not about to find out because I sent it back. It’s like it doesn’t want to commit to being a vest. Or perhaps it realizes that vests ceased being trendy once the Beverly Hills 90210 gang graduated from fictional California University. I did love the color and if it were long-sleeve, I probably would have kept it.


Market & Spruce Britta T-shirt Dress – $64.00

When I first put this on, the dress was backwards. When I turned it around, it didn’t get much better. I’m curvy – I’ve got a chest, a waist, and hips that don’t lie. I am not thin so shapeless dresses tend to make me look – well, shapeless. It would make a comfortable nightshirt though – if I were 60!


Le Lis Juri 2fer Maxi Dress – $74.00

I almost kept this maxi-dress. But the longer I looked at myself in the mirror, the more I really did not like how the skirt looked like I just wrapped a floral towel around my waist. I really liked the bodice and the criss-cross peekaboo in the back but the ruched fabric of the skirt just didn’t sit well with me. Or my waist. If it laid flat, I would have purchased this dress it a heartbeat. Why are cute and flattering maxi dresses so hard to find?


Even though this Stitch Fix was a bust, I’ll try it again in a few months. It’s fun to try on clothes that you normally wouldn’t choose for yourself and I have scored some pieces I love and still wear today in previous boxes. It’s not in our budget for it to be a monthly gig – clothes are at a higher price point than I typically pay, even though I always request the cheapest option. The majority of our discretionary income goes toward travel and I prefer to keep it that way so I’ll continue to shop at Target and the sale racks at White House/Black Market and LOFT with a Stitch Fix box thrown in every so often.

If you’re so inclined, check out Stitch Fix – I recommend everyone try it at least once (if you end up signing up via that link, I’ll get credit for a referral. So if that bothers you, just type it out in the address bar). Once you sign up, you fill out a style profile and then schedule your first fix. It’s worth a shot – who knows, you may just find a piece that you love. Or you may end up with a sad boob pocket like me. I suppose that is part of the thrill – you never know what you may get to try on.


Today is my birthday. I share this day with Zack Morris, Ron Howard, and the anniversary of Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, & Tituba being arrested for witchcraft in Salem, Massachussets. I’m currently listening to The Eagles’ Witchy Woman, watching Apollo 13, and reading about how Zack Morris is trash in celebration.


I am now 35 years old. I reminded myself this morning that no matter how old I feel now that I am checking a new demographic box (35-44 representin’), my parents must feel that much older knowing they have a 35-year-old child! Along with the start of the calendar year, birthdays seem to be the time we look back and take stock of our lives thus far. It’s easy to get lost in the minutiae and feel like we’re not measuring up to the expectations of our younger selves at these milestone birthdays. I may not be a powerful political player but I’ve done some pretty amazing things. Therefore, I decided to pass along 35 pearls of wisdom to younger Karen in hopes that she isn’t so hard on herself in her teens and twenties.

35 Things for Younger Karen

  1. Don’t eat unpasteurized cheese. Your body can’t handle it. No matter how good it tastes – it is not worth it.
  2. When walking down a random hall in your freshman dorm, say yes when a really cute boy asks if you want a double shot of Peach Schnapps. You’ll marry him a little over three years later.
  3. It’s okay to cry.
  4. Get that eyebrow ring you want in college. If you don’t, you will always wish you did.
  5. Eat at your wedding. If not, you’ll end up searching for an open McDonalds at 1am – only to be told that they’re out of hamburgers.
  6. Whenever you land in a new city – find a bar and have a local beer.
  7. It will take some time, but you will eventually see the worth of putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. Embrace these moments. You will learn the most from them.
  8. Continue to smile while listening to Desperately Wanting on repeat because when you’re 32, you’ll catch a guitar pick at a Better Than Ezra concert in downtown Kansas City.
  9. Celebrate every reunion with Clay – no matter how small.
  10. Find a group of friends who get you. They will become your tribe and they’re necessary for survival.
  11. If someone doesn’t get you, it’s not your problem. It’s theirs.
  12. You’ll eventually learn that you can eat and drink everything in moderation and still have a bangin’ curvy body. Those extra 10-15 pounds aren’t worth the experience of truly enjoying food and the love used to create it. Don’t diet!
  13. Never turn down the opportunity to hike outside. It’s your happy place – no matter the weather.
  14. Write more. You’re good at it – no matter what your inner-critic says.
  15. Remember that your body is amazing. You will use it to hike mountains, kayak in multiple bodies of water, run races, and birth two children.
  16. You’ll feel so incredibly lost during the first few weeks of motherhood. Ask for help.
  17. Embrace your desire to be spontaneous. It’ll be the source of some of your greatest stories.
  18. You’ll never find better french toast than at Tin Pan Galley in Sackets Harbor. Eat as much of it as you can (see #10).
  19. You look best as a blonde. Every time you dye your hair darker, you eventually wish you didn’t. Don’t.
  20. Misery loves company. Don’t bother yourself with miserable people – they’ll just drag you down.
  21. Respond to that email.
  22. As soon as you can afford to stop buying $5 bottles of wine – do so!
  23. You’ll quickly learn that you aren’t motivated by money. If you don’t feel like you’re changing the world, you won’t want that job – no matter how much it pays.
  24. You’ll be happier when your children begin to walk. It’s okay to just survive and not thrive during the infant stage.
  25. Spend money on that trip. It’s worth it.
  26. Don’t ever match someone shot-for-shot of tequila. It won’t end well for you.
  27. The Army will be the source of some of your most saddest and most joyful moments.
  28. There is great beauty in failure. Don’t fear it.
  29. Don’t bother hanging out with moms who only talk about their children – they’re incredibly boring and life is too short to hear someone go on and on about potty-training struggles.
  30. Invest it good jeans that make your butt look amazing.
  31. Don’t wait so long to try raw oysters. They’re delicious.
  32. Be sure to carve out alone time away from your children. You need it to be the best you.
  33. You won’t be one of those people who look back at high school and college and view those years as the best your life. Thank goodness.
  34. Celebrate other peoples’ successes.
  35. Always remember that you’re awesome and there is no one alive that is more you than you.

So here’s to an amazing, wonderful, fearful, intimidating, and magnificent 35th year of living. I’m quite excited and not at all ashamed. When someone asks me my age, I won’t make a self-deprecating joke about celebrating the anniversary of my 29th birthday. I will proudly say that I am 35 years old and I am happy to be alive.