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

Author: Carlee Hansen

Thinking Inside the Box

Carlee HansenAt the end of last October, I started a family journal. As much as I love writing, I am less than stellar at telling Dear Diary all about my day – at least I haven’t been as good at it once I stopped having a different crush every week and my journals evolved from lock-bearing, rainbow-covered hardbacks to something a little less ostentatious. Journaling is time consuming and arduous and frankly, most of my days aren’t filled with events that reach ‘write it down’ caliber. So for years I’ve brushed off the need to record my personal history and move on to more critical matters, like recording my favorite television shows.

Anyway, last October I kept having this want to write things down for my kids – the activities that we did, the places that we went and so on. Partly I wanted them to remember our history and traditions and carry them forward; but mostly I just wanted some ammo for when they get a little older and try to tell me what a crappy mom I am: “Uh uh uh, March 4 last year I took you to the Treehouse Museum. Who’s the crappy mom, now!?” The more I thought about this (and saw how sassy my girls can get), the more sense it made.

Enter the box.

On one of my many trips to the largest retailer in America who shall remain nameless because I’m not being paid a commission, I purchased a less-than-flashy index card box. Wait, strike that. I think it was my mom who was running to said retailer and asked if I needed anything and I shouted in anticipation, “Yes! A cheap box to hold index cards! And index cards!” Yes, that’s how it went.

Important side note: if this ever-popular retailer would like to talk about commissions for mentions on my blog, you know where to find me. That is all.

Anyway, I filled my box with index cards and got to work. Every day I wrote a single sentence(ish) – something we did, places we went, laundry that was folded, something. Some days were fun (last year on October 29th, Mack went bowling for her first time and scored and 87) and others lacked the luster that I would hope would go on each card (there are countless days that say words like “laundry”, “Lunchable” and “movies”. Probably more than I want to admit.). But the point isn’t the content (exactly). The point was to write something down. And I’m proud to say that I made it. 365 days of cards, each with a bit of information about what we have done as a family in the last year. And I learned a few things along the way. Let’s be honest, you knew this was coming:

You might think that writing a simple sentence every day is a pretty easy goal. Well, Snobby Sally, it wasn’t for me. Just remembering to open the box was a task. There were times when I had to play catch-up (thank the heavens for iPhone calendars) for an entire week. (Also thank heaven that my goal wasn’t 100 push-ups a day. Am I right? Imagine catching up on those suckers.)

Take away: don’t procrastinate because catching up is miserable. Shout out to all my high-school peeps struggling with this on a daily basis, yo!

If you’ve been to my house in the last year, you’d have noticed that whatever my table décor was at the time, it was always accompanied by this little blue box. I had to put it there so that it would annoy me enough to stay up on my entries. And it worked. So, in true Stephen Covey fashion, I submit this as a truth: If you want to accomplish something that is hard, you better put it right in your face. Like right in your face. Like look at it every time you pass the table, in your face. You have to constantly think about your goals, look at them, and dream about them (I only had like six nightmares about index cards in the last year. Pretty good, I’d say.).

I once read a poem called “The Will to Win” that I repeat (the first couple of lines) in my head whenever I have a goal to reach. Even though my goal was “only” to make a journal entry each day for a year, I had to repeat this to myself because I struggle. Although it’s probably more applicable if you are training to be the next Tiger Woods, I still found it helpful for me to stay on task . . . and to stop having dreams about giant, blood-sucking index cards.

The next thing that this little project taught me was about time – it’s limited and if you are going to fill it, fill it with something that is worth writing down. This doesn’t mean daily trips to the zoo or “Firework Tuesdays” or anything even close to that. Let me explain:

I mentioned earlier that there were a lot of “down” days over the last year – ones filled with tedious tasks like grocery shopping at (your name could be mentioned HERE, big retailer man!), or nursing kids back to health with unlimited iPad games and popsicles. But as I’ve wrapped up the year, I’ve become ‘okay’ with the fact that that is my life! Lots of plain-Jane days interspersed with noteworthy moments like a mom and daughter date to Lagoon, funerals of relatives and their loved ones, trips to the lake and first steps.

My goal this year was just to write something down. Anything. And I made it. My goal for this year is to notice. I’m not going to change anything about the way I parent (although I should) or the activities that we do (although I should) but I am going to take the time to notice the miracle moments every day. Amidst the laundry and shopping and homework, there are amazing, noteworthy things to write down like my daughter telling her first knock-knock joke or my baby falling down six stairs and giggling at the bottom (don’t call CPS – this doesn’t happen often) or my husband bringing home dinner because he knew I was tired. These are the legacy moments that I want my kids to look back and remember – the ones that show our character (even if they won’t prove what a stellar mom I was by visiting Chucky Cheese once a month).

The last thing that this little project taught me was probably the most important: I can do hard thing. I can do annoying things. I can do things that I have a bad attitude about. And I can do them for a whole YEAR! It’s astounding, the resilience of the human spirit, isn’t it?

But what’s more important is that those things become less annoying, less hard, less tedious when we see them for what they actually are: important. We set goals because something behind the goal is important to us. I’ve found that the mean (the goal) is very rarely what I’m after; it’s what I gain in the end that is why I set goals, this little blue box included.

My goals: I want to remember my family at this stage of life. I want my kids to remember our traditions and the things that we did. But most of all, I want them to remember me. I want them to see what I thought was important, that I saw them sharing (that one time) . . . and that I noticed.

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I side with Donald Trump. . . sort of.

Election time. Every four years our preferred primetime programming is interrupted by policy debates, town hall meetings and tours of Iowa, a state that I’m sure is grateful for elections otherwise they may never make the evening news. . . I digress.

Since my regularly-scheduled programs are being interrupted left and right, I figured the responsible thing to do is to watch some of these debates that major cable networks seem to find more important than Mitch and Cam’s marital shenanigans. So, I tune in.

Like a lot of Americans, my knee-jerk responses to the candidates were surface and shallow. Because I’m willing and able to humiliate myself in a pubic forum, I present said ‘first reactions’ for your reading pleasure:

Donald Trump: the billionaire. Since he has so much money, can we reduce taxes? Take one for the team, Donny.

Ben Carson: the doctor. Doctors are smart. He seems nice. The end.

Jeb Bush: mia familia. If nepotism were part of the electorate, he’d be a shoe-in. I hope he stops looking so worried and angry.

Marco Rubio: the Latino. He’s young and is probably a good dancer. (I didn’t say these thoughts were PC, y’all.)

Mike Huckabee: um. Didn’t they make a movie about his family? I Heart Huckabees, right? Mark Wahlberg was in that. Marky Mark. Donny. NKOTB. (I’ll admit, this one got a little long. I think it finally ended with wanting a turkey sandwich for lunch. Weird.)

Carly Fiorina: the namesake. Ok, few of you had this response because your name isn’t the same as hers but grant me a little latitude. How could I not trust someone with my name? Easy. I don’t. It’s my name. This makes her a thief. Um, let’s try that one again:

Carly Fiorina: the girl. Every battle needs one. And maybe if she wins, she and Hillary will arm wrestle at some point. That would be funny. Imagine the memes.
Rand Paul: the tree hugger. At least compared to these other folks, he seems like that. Like maybe he hikes mountain ranges in his free time.

Ted Cruz: the Cruz. He has the best last name. Think of all of the theme-song possibilities. I hope he makes t-shirts that say “Cruzin. . .”

Hillary Clinton: the repeat. She won’t go away until we elect her. What would they call her husband if she wins? The First Man? I’ll be she keeps a tight leash on him in the White House.

Bernie Sanders: the grandpa. The loud grandpa that complains and then sleeps at Thanksgiving. He’s passionate. But that passion frightens children so. . .

Because I could see the error of my ways (there had to be more to these fine folks than this!), I decided to get involved and see who I should back for president. So, I did what normal people do and turned to the internet to take a test.

I found my quiz on a political website called The quiz offers up an array of questions about policies from foreign affairs to education, has you respond not only with your position but also a ranking of how important the individual topic is to you as a voter, and finally spits out percentage rankings of how frequently you agree with each candidate. I found the quiz to be fair in the way that it approached political policy and the way it drilled down on each topic, but I’m not CNN so take that for what it’s worth.

Important side note: The quiz offers baseline questions for each ‘debate’ topic but you also have the ability to answer additional questions under each topic heading, which I did. It also offers responses beyond the three or four basic viewpoints on the question. Just click the ‘other’ button and five or six additional opinion statements appear that you can also select. I did these additional steps to ensure that I was really getting down to brass tax. You know, because I’m so into politics.

Are you ready for the results? Well, at the risk of (again) humiliating myself, here they are:

I Side with Trump

Click for larger picture

85% of the time I side with DONALD TRUMP. What the . . .? I mean, I know that I’m a little more into TMZ than most people but I side with the Donald?!? Whaaaaa?

I tell you this for a couple of important reasons, none of which include endless mocking or torment from my constituents. (That’s a fancy political term for ‘my peeps’. You see, you can learn things by watching these debates.)

First, this result was unexpected. I knew I was conservative and I knew that Donald was as well. But I didn’t think he would lead the pack. In my mind, I thought I lined up perfectly with Marco Rubio because I found myself nodding each time he spoke. Apparently, the candidates don’t actually say everything they believe in these debates, just what they think will help their appearance. Weird, huh? Well, to my shock and awe, Donny beat you out, Marco. Apparently your Cuban rhythm is going to have to try a little harder to get me.

Take away: just because you think you agree with a candidate doesn’t mean you actually do. Particularly on topics that mean more to you than the average bear. If education is a big deal for you, you had better know which candidates support the Department of Education, standardized testing and CORE math, and whether or not you agree with them. If not, you could sign your own death warrant.

Second, it’s important to note that not only did I agree 85% of the time with Trump, but I agreed that often with Huckabee but on slightly different topics. So those Huckabee supporters that are running around calling Trump a buffoon better know that actually, he agrees with your guy on most things. Monkey see, monkey do.

Take away: first, Huckabee wasn’t even on my radar. He was out of touch . . . apparently with everyone else and agrees with me so much that he could be a blood relative. I better take another look. Second, there isn’t that much separating the front-runners in regard to their policy. In fact, I sided with all of the GOP candidates over 60% of the time and even agreed with the democrats more than 50% of the time. What does this tell us? There are some issues that everyone agrees on. What do we call that? Common sense. Welcome back, ‘Merica.

Lastly, and this is important, the office of president isn’t all about policy. I’ll admit that while I side with Trump politically, I question his sometimes brash demeanor and wonder how four years of that would go over with the rest of the free world. I also sometimes secretly (now publicly) like that he says what he means and makes no apologies. Do I like it often enough to give him my vote? The jury is still out.

Take away: there is more to an election that just policy. In fact, if you watch the debates closely, you’ll see that there is a lot more agreement within the parties than disparity. The really adversity comes when the media/moderator starts asking about previous stances and actions by the candidates, to which they get defensive and sometimes loud. Take a look at policy closely – there are small nuances that could make a huge difference on topics you care about. But also step back and look at character, demeanor and core values that may or may not be issues of policy – while they won’t be on paper, they will make a difference when they are Commander-in-Chief.

Voting is a right. But voting is also a privilege. And I would be amiss if I didn’t quote a great movie of our time in saying “with great privilege comes great responsibility.” (First person to name that movie on my Facebook page under the post about this blog will get a free autographed copy of my book, “Peas are Gross: and other important insights about life”. Just in time for Christmas, y’all!)

Take the responsibility, friends. Or at least take the quiz.

The isidewith political quiz can be taken here.

And because it’s my blog and I do what I want, you can purchase multiple copies of my debut book here.

And if you decide to take the quiz, share your results on my FB page here.

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300 Sandwiches away from an Engagement Ring

A while back, I saw a story on television about a woman who made her boyfriend a sandwich. Ah, today’s news. Good stuff. Next to that was a story about how a guy forgot to put his socks in the laundry basket. The end.

Ok, there was more to the sandwich story but the obvious nature of this into lent itself too well to jokes to not run with it. Anyway. . .

The sandwich was apparently so good (it was a turkey and Swiss on white bread, in case you are curious) that the bf in this case said “Honey, you are 300 sandwiches away from a proposal.” Well if that doesn’t sound like a challenge, I don’t know what does. I know about 53 girls that would quit their day jobs and work at Subway as a sandwich ARTIST if the guarantee at the end of it all was a handsome fella and a 1.2-carat finger weight. Don’t go getting mayo on those prongs, ladies. It’s impossible to clean out.

You’ll all be relieved to know that this rad chick took the challenge and started making sammys for her man. Right around the 280 mark, he lived up to his end of the bargain and put a ring on it. See, my motto is true: sandwiches do bring eternal happiness.

For anyone on this side of the women’s lib movement, you can imagine the outrage that this story sparked for head-shaving, bra-burning ladies everywhere. “How 1950’s can you get? Little woman cooks for her man and that makes him marry her,” responses were posted from YouTube to Twitter, talking about what a misogynist this guy must be to make the little woman cook for him in order to agree to marry her. To this I say in my best Barbara Streisand impression: “Oy vey.”

Let’s be clear about a couple of things: first, I don’t recall even once that that the guy turned to his GF and said “Woman, make me a sandwich.” That’s a very different, pack your bags kind of scenario. Second, he didn’t threaten her at gunpoint to make him dinner. This was a feel-good story on GMA, not Dateline. No cooks were harmed in the making of these sandwiches. Lastly, and I know that this is what most of my readers are concerned about, she did not make 300 grilled cheese sandwiches. She actually went out and researched amazing sandwich recipes and cooked them up with and for her man. Breathe easy, readers. There was no inundation of cheddar and the worst intestinal blockage of this guy’s life. (I think now is a good time to warn you ladies that if your plan is to make grilled cheese for dinner for a year, abort mission! Cheese is good for the soul but not for the tummy, if you catch my drift.)

I actually thought that this story was totally charming for several reasons: first, this guy recognized his woman’s prowess for making delicious sandwiches and told her about it. If only every husband or wife would pay such homage to their spouse’s talents, I think there would be more wedded bliss. I’ve been waiting for just over five years for my hubs to tell me how amazing I am with our Kirby.

Second, this girl heard what made her man happy and decided that she wanted to keep doing this seemingly small act to bring him joy. In the grand scheme of things, sandwiches aren’t a big deal… except when they are. You never know what’s going to melt someone’s butter (mmmm, butter) so it’s important to pay attention. More times than not, what seems like a big deal to someone else may be a fairly insignificant sacrifice for you. Little sacrifices on your part could (and likely do) mean the world to someone else.

I loved this story so much that I’m issuing a Sandwich Challenge to my readers. The upcoming holidays are a good time to implement this because they are all about giving and sacrifice and yadda yadda yadda. . . This isn’t just about finding or taking care of your romantic interest (although I’m certainly all about that). This challenge will be equally effective in any relationship you hope to make stronger… like with your rich uncle. Jokes, jokes. Sort of.

The rules of the challenge are below. And of course, I would adore reports back on how this worked out for you – if you dare.

Carlee’s Sandwich Challenge 2015

First Step: Focus. Focus in on one or two people that you want to improve your relationship with. Again, this doesn’t have to be a romantic interest but absolutely can be. Even if it’s a “kind of stranger” that you feel like you want to know better, this will work; a neighbor, an acquaintance, the good looking nurse at your local clinic . . . ok, that last one may be a little more difficult unless you plan on getting a flaming case of strep throat on a weekly basis and even then . . . flu shots! Flu shots are coming up. Ok, we’ve solved your issue. I especially recommend this for you singles out there trying to snag a date with a particular someone . . . this will be a rad experiment for you.

Second Step: Listen. This is a toughie because we are so self-involved these days but this is the critical part of the challenge and without it, we’ve got nothing. Listen to the people you’ve decided to focus on. Listen for hints or flat our declarations of things they love or would like to do, see, visit or eat. People are dropping these hints ALL THE TIME even though they don’t’ realize it. “I love watching (feel in favorite 80’s movie here”; “I wish I knew how to make cake pops” (me, too. I for sure know how to eat them but. . .); “I love the fall and the leaves and pumpkins”; “I hate doing the dishes”. All of these seemingly insignificant statements can give you a lot of great ideas and insight into what makes your people tick.

Third: Write it down. We don’t want to make any hasty decisions right away as this could be dangerous: someone will make mention that they really like expensive cars and you’ll go out and take out a $70,000 loan and then you’ll hate me and. . . My point is not to go crazy. Be methodical. Take down some easy notes for a few weeks: likes campfires, wants to learn how to knit, needs an hour away from children, etc. This “listing” serves two purposes: first, it helps you keep track of individual “sandwiches” of each of your people – you’d hate to take a plate of peanut butter cookies to someone with a raging peanut allergy, am I right? Experiment over. Second, and this is the sentimental part, it generally means more to someone if you remember the things they said. If I said, “Gee. . . I sure love cupcakes,” and then you showed up with one 20 minutes later, it not only wouldn’t mean as much but it might seem like you are trying too hard. It, however, would blow my mind if you showed up with a cupcake three weeks later and said, “I saw these and REMEMBERED that you like them so I thought I would pick one up.” Mind. Blown.

Important side note: This is the most important warning I can give in the entirety of this blog: It’s critical to not be creepy. If the girl you are hoping to ask out makes mention that she loves her purple underwear (why would you say that? I don’t know. I’m old. I don’t know what you kids are up to these days!), maybe just don’t write that down. Turn on your “creeper” radar before you write just anything down; ask yourself, “Could this get me arrested?”, “Could this possibly make anyone mad?” or at the very least, “Will this cause extended conversation about me that includes concealed weapons permits and restraining orders?” If your answer to any of these things questions is even “maybe” let alone a resounding “yes”, I would recommend keeping it off the list. Also, anything that involves the word “poop”, but that’s just a personal recommendation.

Last Step: Divide and Conquer. Look through the list(s) that you’ve made and discard anything that is going to require a crazy amount of money (that you don’t have) or irrational wishes (that you also have that aren’t fulfilled like a trip to Italy). While these “bucket list” items are important for all of us to have (dream, people, dream), that is not the point of the Sandwich Challenge. The point of our little experiment is to see how much of an impact the seemingly insignificant sacrifices mean to other people and make a difference in their lives.

Once you’ve disregarded all of the impossible or even seemingly difficult tasks, you should have a nice little list of things you can do for that person (or people) without too much effort on your part. Look for things that:

• You can do without purchasing anything over a couple of dollars (or purchasing anything at all).
• You have a resource to help with (she wants to learn how to knit and your mom happens to be an expert).
• Acts of service that won’t take much time to complete (weeding a flower bed, babysitting for an hour, etc.).
• Things that you can to together. This last one is one of my favorite categories because it not only shows that you listened but that you want to spend time with the person completing a task or learning a new skill. Part of the appeal of the sandwich story was that not only did she research and make a lot of sammys for her man but that she got him involved; they researched together, they cooked together, it quickly became their “thing”, and having a “thing” is almost a guaranteed bond – a wonderful one at that.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, it’s time to do. Make a plan and execute.

The purpose here isn’t to blow someone’s mind by taking them on a hot air balloon ride (unless you know a guy, of course, then just go for it). The point is to do several small things that make a difference – make someone in your life some sandwiches. It’s these seemingly small acts that can make a huge difference to someone else. Try it. And while you’re at it, eat a grilled cheese.

If you are interested in sandwich recipes (literal ones, not the figurative ones I’m talking about above), check out our sandwich vixen’s cookbook here.

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