The most wasted of all days is one without laughter – E.E. Cummings

Author: Carlee Hansen


It’s difficult to know exactly when it happens but one day, we wake up and come to the stark realization that we are, in fact, old. I remember being little and hearing my mom say that she was turning 30, to which I ever-so-politely responded, “I’ve never heard a number that big before!” (I was a cute kid, but apparently more verbose than polite). What I wouldn’t give to be 30 again – body parts would look infinitely more proportionate and I could eat ice cream without first having to consult the clock. BRING BACK 30!

The strange thing about aging is that we rarely feel it. Ask any 30(ish)-year-old and they would believe that they could easily blend in with the high-school seniors of today. (Just as a side note, I advise against attempting this. You wandering the halls in your letterman’s jacket, looking like a creeper will likely land you in jail rather than the senior picture. But I digress. . .) We all think we are invincible and that age is “just a number”. . . that is until you try to do a cartwheel for the first time in a decade and end up with a sprained wrist and a black eye. Note: Gravity will always show your true age. Ooooh, that’s good. Can someone put that on a t-shirt?

As we age, we not only take on a new look but also a slew of new responsibility. We quickly go from worrying about part-time jobs and thesis papers to mortgages and life-spanning relationships. The transition is crazy and frankly, not super gradual. “What day did I wake up and just start doing critical things? Was I warned? Does this realization frighten anyone else? I’m hyperventilating.”

How do you know when you are ready to take on these responsibilities? Does priority mail arrive from some department at the IRS saying, “Congratulations. After careful consideration, we feel as though you are ready to “adult”.”? (That’s how you know it’s important – priority mail. Maybe that’s the sign? The first time you sign for a registered letter. . . Again, I digress.)

Some would argue that the government has already established this line of adulthood with the legal drinking age – you are officially an adult when you can enter a bar. That seems a little odd, doesn’t it? My ability to hold liquor is directly related to my ability to be responsible? I’m not sure about this.

As I’ve observed people around me “adult-ing”, I’ve come to realize that it isn’t that difficult to know if you are ready to join the throngs of others living out their lives in responsible bliss. I find these few indicators to be much more accurate than a thumbs up from Bubba the bouncer. How do I know this? First, because there are plenty of people above the legal drinking age that are yet to master these basic concepts. People may even reach the ripe-old-age of 30 (gasp!) and still not have them under control, which in my world means that you are not yet allowed to be called an adult. Second, these are more closely related to a person’s character than a game of beer pong, so there’s that.

“What are these principles?” you ask? “Tell us! Tell us now!” Ok, I’ll tell you. And this one’s on the house.

Principle #1: You are “adult-ing” when you can respect other people’s opinions even if, nay ESPECIALLY IF, they are different than your own. Now I know that every single person reading this is saying to themselves “Oh, that’s me, for sure. I’m totally that.” But is it? When is the last time you got into an emotional political debate where you were so heated that you threw out a “neener neener” or maybe a “you’re so stupid” or some other trite argument as if you were a brother and sister fighting over the last Pop-Tart (mmmm, Pop-Tarts)? Is that adult-ing? I submit that it is not.

Now don’t go sending me messages about how I’m a hypocrite because I, too, like to get into heated “discussions” about a variety of topics –healthcare, gun laws, the best flavor of Pop-Tarts. Any one of these can get me fired up at a moment’s notice. I just choose to get fired up behind closed doors rather than on social media. But I do have my sparks. I’m just learning to control them.

Being passionate about things is not a sign of weakness. Everyone should be passionate about something (unless that something is your girlfriend and you are 13, then stop it. Stop it right now.). Passion is what should drive us to learn and hopefully become better. I’m all for passion. Controlled, non-movie-theater passion.

Not to get cliché and all “‘Merica” on my readers but imagine what the country would be like if it weren’t founded on a variety of ideas and eventual compromise. If one person’s opinion were always right, we wouldn’t be a republic, we would be living in a dictatorship; and we wouldn’t be America, we would be an island in the Pacific that shall remain nameless because that movie already caused enough problems for us. . . Anyway, you get my point. Founding principle: various opinions and discussions (likely heated ones), and decisions made in compromise for the greater good. ‘Merica.

I have learned over time that everyone has a different opinion because of their experiences (or lack of) with a given topic. Take my earlier example on healthcare (I know you were hoping I was going to say “Pop-Tarts””. If you want to know how I feel about those, read my book): my opinion on our healthcare system is likely very different from someone who has never had to research or pay for their family’s healthcare. It’s probably also vastly different from someone who has never had good healthcare. It doesn’t make any one of us right or wrong in our opinion, we only know what we know based on our experiences. And you know you are “adult-ing” when you can discuss those experiences and still walk away without sweating. Anger-induced sweat is really gross.

Principle #2: You are “adult-ing” when you learn to live within your means. This concept seems so simple and yet is mind-blowingly difficult for most people. Some thoughts:

I could write a series of blogs about what it takes to be debt free and the amount of freedom that it offers but I’ll leave that to those trusty late-night infomercials. The concept of living within your financial means is really as simple as this: if you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. That’s it. I know that sounds crazy with all of the low-and-no-payment options for financing but seriously, just don’t do it. People that are “adult-ing” work for what they have and pay for what they want. They manage their finances and do what it takes to avoid owing people money. (As the P.C. side note of the day: there are always extenuating circumstances for borrowing money. That’s why the system was created in the first place. I’m talking about long-term, no feel-bads dependency on borrowed cash, y’all. It’s no bueno.). Live within your financial means. You’ll be much happier. You can quote me on it.

Second example: if you only have the means to take care of three children, don’t have seven. While it would be easy to just call this a financial issue, it’s not. While finances are a Yuuuuuuge consideration (you see what I did there? You’re welcome.), you also need to have the “means” to support your children emotionally and socially and mentally. In fact, I think that we’d all agree that someone who offers a stable environment to a child but can’t buy them a new pair of shoes every six weeks is operating much higher on the “adult-ing” scale than the inverse. Kids need time and love and support and if you can’t give them an environment that provides that (however you give it to them), it’s time to rethink your breeding options. Live within your “means” – what can you handle emotionally, financially, physically?

My point here is this: know your limitations. Whether it be considering all of your financial obligations before buying a new jet boat or understanding your time restraints before opening a petting zoo, it’s critical that you are constantly assessing your life and exactly what you can handle. That isn’t saying that situations don’t change (note the constant assessment reference), but you need to know where you are at and what you are dealing with before you make any major life decisions. That, my friends, is “adult-ing”.

AdultingPrinciple #3: You are “adult-ing” when you learn to commit to things. I’m not talking just the “‘till death do us part’” kind of commitment although there is a major epidemic called “fear” or “wussiness” that surrounds that type of commitment as well these days. I am talking about committing to anything, even your Saturday night plans.

When someone sends you a text on Monday and says “Hey, we are going to an art show and dinner on Saturday, would you like to join us?” there are two acceptable responses: yes or no. Don’t text back, “Can I let you know in a few days?” because we all know that this translates to “I want to see if I get any better offers before committing to something.” This is rude and not “adult-ing”. It’s like looking at your Facebook feed in the middle of a conversation – you are basically telling the other party that you like them enough to consider the offer but if someone(thing) that sounds better comes up, you’re outtie.

Just to be clear, we all know that things come up. If you say “yes” to an activity and your grandma ends up in the hospital, it’s ok to change plans. If you agree to my art gallery date and you suddenly get front-row tickets to see Garth, you are excused (as long as you take me with you). But commit to something! Make plans, and then keep them.

You kids are about to have your minds blown: there once was a time when you couldn’t cancel plans at the last second because your sorry bum would have been in the car thirty minutes before any activity and you’d be looking and hand-scratched directions on how to get to the birthday party you are headed to, yelling at your mom that she took a wrong turn. . . whoa, flashback. I’m back. You wouldn’t have had access to call and cancel or to say that you were going to be late. You had to plan ahead and be on-time, otherwise everyone waiting for you thought you died in a fiery crash. You showed up on time and stayed the whole time because that’s what you said you would do. I know: Mind. Blown.

But seriously, while technology has lessened our fiery-crash worries, it has increased the amount of inconsideration. We are late, we cancel last minute, we change plans with little or no regret. You know you are taking a step toward “adult-ing” when you can commit to an activity, show up on time and keep your word.

That’s it. Three principles. This is easier to memorize than any pledge and easier to implement than the commandments. If you can honor these three things, I can honor you as an adult, regardless of what your ID says. Let’s all commit to get moving in the right direction and start being the adult-er-ers we always knew we could be. Er. . . strike that.


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Fail-Free New Year

It’s that time again, folks. Every year we bottle up all of insecurities and doubts and then resolve in a 24-hour period to fix each one of them over the next 365 days. I love a new year full of promises that I likely won’t keep, nay, even think about once the summer sun is shining. Let’s be honest, by April I’ll be the Miss Columbia of resolutions: just as I think I’ve made some progress, I’ll be honest with myself and hand over my resolution crown to more worthy recipient.

My issue is that my goals are always astronomical – like not even Stan Lee could write them even to existence because nobody would believe it. In the promise of total honesty, I submit to you some of my most miserable failures to-date:

New YearI will lose 15 pounds a month for an entire year.

I will stop eating all sugar. . . probably forever.

No more eating out. Nope. Not economical.

I will hand-sew all of my clothes this year. . . Just kidding. I would never try to do this. I just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.

I will get rid of everything in my house that doesn’t serve a purpose. (Husbands, beware of this one. If you don’t start helping out, you might just make the list. . . I’m just saying.)

As you can see, I’m not really a “realistic” goal setter; I’m more of the all-or-nothing type. I don’t just want to lose a few pounds; I want to be a contender for America’s Next Top Model by August. Stop laughing, you’re killing my dreams.

I’ve taken all the courses about SMART goals and I still don’t grasp it. I know all of the steps to being successful with your goals like, “A goal not written down is just a dream,” blah, blah, blah. If you ask me, I say a goal not written down is a SMART goal – smart because nobody can ever prove that you set out to do it in the first place so they can’t hold it over you when they try to prove that you are a failure. How’s that for thinking like the mafia – never leave a paper trail.

This year, however, I’ve decided to change things up a bit and bite off some New Year’s Resolutions that I think I can tackle. Once I started reviewing these on paper, I thought I should let you all in on the plan so that when your other, loftier, “5k by March”-type goals fall through, you’ll have something to fall back on and just continue to be proud about.

So without further ado, here is Carlee’s Guide to a No-Fail New Year:

Goal #1: Be Less Dumb

Some years (like this past one), I’ve set reading goals to try and increase my vocabulary and to have something intelligent to talk about (with my 3-year-old?). Anyway, by mid-year, I’m so sick of reading things that I hate and that are supposed to make me smarter (Christian Science Monitor, I’m looking at you) that I actually get sick of reading and find myself watching Netflix and completely avoiding the documentaries (remember, by brain is tired). It becomes counter-productive and I start to loathe an activity that I generally really love.

I have also set goals to watch more news and stay fresh on what’s happening in the world – a goal that I can promise you now will only lead to mild bouts of depression and anger.

So how do we fix this? How do we win the battle of the brain? Well, I’ve found two things that have helped me feel “less dumb” and they only take me about 20 minutes a day to chomp through. They are theSkimm and Highbrow. theSkimm is a daily e-mail (Mon-Fri, folks. I don’t want to hamper your weekends with thinking.) that takes the major news topics and breaks them down into really short, fairly humorous facts. By the time you are done reading it, you feel informed enough to make it through water cooler talk (they are all Skimming, too, by-the-way) without all of the heavy, Lester Holt reporting. It’s good stuff.

Highbrow was introduced to me by a guy that used to rock a mullet so you know it has to be amazing. It, too, is a daily email but it is filled with course-like information about a topic of your choosing. The information is concise and really entertaining. I’m in the middle of the “Short Stories” course (each course is 10 “episodes” or emails) and have thoroughly enjoyed reading E.A. Poe this time around – my high school English teacher would be so proud. When your course is over, you simply jump back on and pick another topic. Again, easy breezy.

Whatever your methods, the goal this year is to be less dumb. Don’t force yourself to read stuff you hate. If you feel like reading about the latest E! News controversy will add to your dinner table discussion, do it. If 20 minutes every day proves too difficult to start, just read something, anything. Cereal boxes are chalk-full of good info these days. Start there.

Take in more information this year than you did last. Goal #1.

Goal #2: No more Chocolate Cake Wednesdays

You know how every Wednesday, you sit down with a nicely covered chocolate cake and a fork and you just drown your worries in devil’s food. . . Now that I’m writing this down, I’m starting to think that maybe this isn’t as widespread as I’ve been telling myself. Dang it. But this is: EXCESS! Let’s talk about that.

Because it is so effective in the Bible, I like to use metaphors in my teaching. But then I take it a step further and explain the meaning, kind of like I’m talking to a little kid. Adults love that. You should try to be condescending in everything that you say. People will just think you are charming and fun. . .

I digress. The cake represents excess. The “Wednesday” represents regularity, and not the Metamucil kind although if you are literally eating that much cake. . . I digress AGAIN! Dang it.

My point? What was my point? I’m so distracted by cake. Oh yes, eating cake on occasion is great, no harm, no foul. But eating it on a regular basis is no bueno. Sure, it might improve your mood a bit but it’s just not healthy for your mind or your body.

The goal this year then? Pinpoint your “cake” and try to cut back a bit. If you shop too much, gossip too much, eat too much, drink too much, talk about CrossFit too much, whatever you do “too much” of, identify it and trim it back by 25%. That’s all it takes. Not only will you feel better physically, if your excess is some personality trait or talking about something in excess, you might actually find yourself with more friends because you’ll be that much less annoying (Vegans, I’m talking to you.)

Doing anything in excess is never wise which is why I’m limiting the number of marathons I run this year to six. Jokes.

While we are on the subject of exercise:

Goal #3: Netflix

You thought I was going to say “Watch More!” like this is some paid placement from Netflix, America’s leader is replayed television and original programming. You guys, I’m not a total sellout.

I was actually going to say: Let’s all resolve now that we will not binge watch more than two hours of anything without at least doing a lap around the kitchen. This needs no further explanation. I’m just trying to do my part to keep you healthy, you guys.

Goal #4: Be Nicer to People

This goal is a bit tougher than the others, particularly if you plan on visiting a Wal-Mart over the next year. Also, this requires you to overlook obviously idiotic moves by your fellow men and harness your inner Namaste. It’s hard!

So rather than saying “I’ll be nice to everyone, all the time” (a nearly impossible task if you own miniature humans/versions of yourself), we are going to make use of that “r” in “Nicer” and just be better than we were last year. A good place to start? Please and thank you, my friends. They’re called the magic words.

Remember that lady that slammed the door in your face at that little store on Main Street last year? It was probably me and I probably did it because you didn’t say “thank you” when I held it open for you the first time. That’s right, I’m guilty! But here’s the thing: I felt like my childish retort was justified because, in the words of my three-year-old, “You started it.” I admit my mistake publicly under the hope for a brighter future. When someone does something nice for you, say “thank you”. That’s includes even little things like holding doors, getting out of your way or helping you pick up something you dropped, even if it was just a cigarette butt. (I’ll still don’t understand why people keep getting upset when I hand those back with a “don’t litter” smile on my face. . .)

“Please” is another great word that insights kindness and giving. Smiling at people is good, not speeding up when someone is crossing the street and not looking disgusted when people bring their kids to dinner are also other ways to be “nicer” to people. Do what you need to but even starting here will turn your niceness factor way up, yo.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like my New Year’s Resolutions are really just lining up with the kind of person I want to be come 2017. I feel success in the air, my friends, and you should, too. Join me on this journey to change the world one kitchen lap at a time, will you? Together, we can!

Happy New Year.



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Diary of a Chubby Girl

It’s interesting how time can change perspective . . . on most things.  We grow, we change, other people change and our realities become altered by our new “normal”.  Not only do I continue to struggle with the challenges outlined below but after two kids, a couple of job changes and a good solid serving of life, I can now proudly add more eye wrinkles and a lot more gray hair to my list of imperfections.

I’m re-posting the most “brave” blog post of my life today, five years after it was originally posted, and I still feel every word of it.  This is my way of saying “thanks” for continuing with me on this journey, imperfections and all.  Hope you enjoy.

-Still the Chubby Girl


Monday, November 29, 2010

Diary of a Chubby Girl

I’m writing this post with total awareness of its implications – I just want you to know that.  Sometimes posts like this get written in hopes of receiving notes of encouragement or kind words and while your mental notes are appreciated, they are unnecessary here.

This was all sparked by an off-hand comment made to me today at work.  A co-worker and I were discussing an informational video that they had seen online and I asked them to forward it so I could watch.  After several minutes, they re-appeared in my office and said “No offense, but there is part of the video that has to do with obesity and the affects that it has. . .” This, my friends, is where I stopped listening and started internalizing what had just happened.  “No offense. . .”  What did that even mean?  I shouldn’t be offended that they talk about obesity or I should be more self-aware. . . I’m not really sure but in case there was ever any doubt about how I see myself, I’m going to clear it up right now: I am chubby.  Been aware of it for years.  There, the cat’s out of the bag.  Newsflash: The chubby girl knows!!!  I hope we can all relax now and stop filtering our comments about weight and health.

Most of the people that will read this know me well and know that this isn’t a new revelation.  In fact, it’s one that I’ve dealt with my whole life.  What I haven’t done (until this very moment) is have a very real, out-loud look at my self-image.  I’ve tried everything short of therapy to try and understand who I am and why the chips (mmm, chips. . . jokes, jokes) fell the way they did so maybe this will help.  Then again, maybe it won’t but here it goes.  

The battle of the bulge didn’t start last week for me – I didn’t wake up on Wednesday and think to myself “I think I’m a bit overweight!  How did this happen?”  As much as I wish this was a day-to-day battle over whether I liked how I looked or not, it hasn’t been.  In fact, I would dare say that there has probably been no more than a 30 day period in my life where I truly liked the way I looked. . . and man did I look good in those Pampers.  Do you know what it’s like to struggle with body image every day of your life?  Sadly, a lot more women than are willing to admit it fight this battle every morning.  I’ve been one of them. . .but I’m thinking about stopping.

diary of a chubby girlI’m actually a very normal girl with a very normal appetite.  I know that it’s shocking to the general public that people that are overweight actually do like carrots and I know that it shocks the hell out of most people when we ask for a box at the end of a meal because we can’t eat all of our food (thanks for staring at us while we eat, by the way . . . it’s very encouraging) but it does happen.  I like vegetables and fruit.  I also like pasta and French fries, just like your average eater.  I don’t over-indulge on a regular basis.  I don’t slap mayo on my 100% fried food in order to get it down.  In fact, because I struggle with my weight, I pay very close attention to the things that I put in my body . . . and I probably eat better than a lot of people.

I’ve been an athlete all of my life and I’ve never been prejudiced toward sports.  I have more belts and trophies than most people could dream about and they are NOT for serving water on the sidelines while I eat a donut.  I play basketball, softball, soccer and did karate . . . and I am decent at all of them.  I like to dance and lift weights and have run a 5k within the last year.  I will work and sweat and move more in a day than most people do every two.  Contrary to popular belief, overweight people aren’t all lazy.  I get up early, I work long days, and I visit family and contribute to my community.

I am healthy.  I have the cholesterol counts and heart rate to prove it.  My organs function as they should.  I’ve never drunk nor smoked a day in my life.  My mind is sharp and full of ideas.

I say all of this to prove a point.  Despite all of my efforts, all of my awareness, all of my try and work and sacrifice. . . I’m still chubby.  Does it bother me every day?  Sure does.  I’ll be the first to admit that I would adore waking up tomorrow and having the body that I deserve – the one that I’ve worked very hard for all of my life.  That would be ideal.  I keep waking up every day hoping. . .

But, more importantly, do I think I’m more than this?  Absolutely.  As much as I wish things were different and that this wasn’t such a tough battle for me and millions of other people, I’m better than that.  I’m better than taking “offense” to your comments and staring and judgement because this struggle has made me sensitive and understanding and mindful of other people’s struggles.

I know that it may be hard for some people to grasp but when you tell a chubby girl that she’s chubby, you aren’t likely telling her something she doesn’t already know.  So, you can stop staring and whispering and talking about how I could “let myself get like this.”  I’ll tell you how – I did exactly the same thing that you all do every day.  This is just my battle.  All things considered, I think that my ailment, while very visible, is pretty minimal compared to what I could be dealing with, no?

‘Nuff said. . . I need a carrot.

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