My Picks for The Great American Read

If you want to see me really sweat, ask me to choose my favorite book. Sure, I just shared my top 10, but those were in no particular order and ALSO just my top 10 of March 2018. I fully expect that list to change over time (although I’m pretty sure Matilda will always be on there).

So when someone asks me what my single favorite book is, I really can’t do it. Does it mean the book I most enjoy reading? The book I recommend the most often? The book that taught me the most?

A new PBS documentary series, The Great American Read, is premiering next week, and it’s based around exactly that: 7,200 surveyed Americans picked their favorite novel, and a panel of judges narrowed that list down to the top 100 novels. And now we’ll vote, choosing the TOP FAVORITE NOVEL IN AMERICA!

I have a lot of issues with this premise. When my friend Lindsey handed me a list of America’s 100 most favorite novels (printed on a promotional bookmark), I immediately started analyzing: How does ANYONE pick one novel? Some of these authors aren’t even American? OK, I guess it’s favorite novel of Americans, not favorite American novel? And who THE HELL chose Fifty Shades of Grey?!

My initial thoughts about this list weren’t kind, I’ll admit. My degree-in-literature ass was judging the inclusion of certain novels (even some that I did enjoy reading). In my mind, the winner of this contest should be a serious work of literature. Maybe the words on the page are easy to read, but the themes aren’t. A good novel should make you think. About yourself, your relationships with others, the state of the world. And I don’t think that Flowers in the Attic accomplishes that.

BUT those initial thoughts are rude. Just because those are the criteria by which I choose my favorite novels does not mean everyone should or does think that way. I’m constantly complaining about how people don’t read enough, so I should shut my over-educated mouth and let people like what they like.

So that’s the last you’ll hear me complain about the selection of books on the list. (Exception: I will have some SHIT TO SAY if Fifty Shades wins. Read your erotic fiction all you want, no judgement there. Just maybe MAYBE maybe our favorite novel shouldn’t be so poorly written?  😳)

Voting opens after the initial show airs on Tuesday, and you can vote as many times as you want for your favorite book. I chose seven from the list that I love, and I plan to vote for them on a rotating daily basis. Maybe one of mine will emerge victorious, but it could also be the Left Behind series. Ahem.

MY SELECTIONS

  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie This is a complicated and beautiful novel. The author’s TED Talk was sampled in a Beyonce song the same year this novel came out, which is, if we’re being honest, what drew me to the book in the first place.
    In the book, the main character moves from her home in Africa to America, and she has to deal with race for the first time in her life. In a country where everyone is black, race is not an issue the way it is in America. There’s also a love story. The premise is thought-provoking and the writing is beautiful.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood You all KNOW I love this one. My review is here. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I can’t help but think Handmaid’s Tale (and 1984, also on the list) will have huge advantages because they’re currently on television. So we’ll see how that plays out.
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott I LOVE THIS NOVEL! It’s about sisters! ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    But, for real, if you ever want to see me ugly-cry, turn on the 1994 movie with Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst. (And I promise that this isn’t a PBS ad, but they’re currently airing a Little Women adaptation that is pretty good.)
    This novel may have been my first introduction to the format of novels that I love so much — multi-decade family drama!! I love that we meet the sisters as children and follow them through adulthood (well, most of them 😭).
    (ALSO, many of the other entries on the list are series — the entire Harry Potter series, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings. Does that mean that the other Little Women novels are included when you vote for Little Women? Because they are not… quite as good.)
  • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker You all know how much I love the musical, but I loved the book first. A deeply sad story about Celie and her sister, I can’t read it without crying. Sisters separated by circumstance ALWAYS makes me sob. The novel is short, but it covers so many important themes: poverty, racial violence, marital abuse, familial sexual abuse. It is a HARD read, but it’s an important one. Celie’s life circumstances aren’t made up, even though she’s a fictional character. The things that happened to her happen to real women, too. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold This is a beautiful novel. AND it’s about crime and murder, so you know I love it. I’m sure many of you know the basic plot, since it was a movie (that I never saw, I’m just now realizing) in 2009. The protagonist is a dead teenage girl who watches her murder investigation unfold from her own personal Heaven. It’s EXCELLENT. I’m seeing via Google that the movie was terrible, so please give the novel a try if you didn’t like the movie. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Stand, by MY DUDE Stephen King I love, love, love this novel. It’s about an America in the very near future, where a superflu has killed 99% of the world’s population. It is famously long (so long, in fact, that King cut 400 pages before the initial publication, and an unedited version was released after the novel’s initial commercial success), around 800 pages. I feel like its length will hurt it in the voting process, but I’m happy to see a King novel represented on this list. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee OK, OK, OK, this will probably win. It’s a widely beloved novel, we all had to read it in school, and it’s about racism, but the protagonist is white. ☕ People love this novel! And I do, too. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I was so, so, so sad when Go Set A Watchman was released against Lee’s wishes. No one deserves to have their first drafts published! That shit is PRIVATE.

Other miscellaneous thoughts on The List:

  • I love Harry Potter deeply, and I am so happy that those novels got children to read. I just wish they’d maybe read some other novels, too.
  • The children’s books that are included, like Charlotte’s Web, make my heart break with cuteness.
  • I love that Jurassic Park is on this list. LOVE. Michael Crichton was teenage Caitlin’s favorite author.
  • I feel weird about books that were very recently released being on the list, like The Martian. Sure, I liked it, too. But how can you call a book your favorite if it hasn’t traveled through the years with you?
  • Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut is on The List, and that’s the novel that James Delos was reading in his weird Ikea apartment last week on Westworld. IS THIS AN HBO TIE-IN?!

So there you have it. My thoughts and feelings about America’s favorite novel. My educated guess? Mockingbird will win. Or maybe Harry Potter.

Please, not 50 Shades. I’m not going to say any other winner would make me happy, because I am too dramatic for that. But PLEASE not 50 Shades.

Banana chocolate chip muffins (VEGAN!)

I had my first vegan baking fail last month. I tried to make Tracy Shutterbean’s Hippy Banana Bread recipe vegan. Which I think is doable, I just did it wrong. I tried to sub applesauce and an extra banana for three eggs and that did NOT go well. I should have tried flax eggs. Grant kindly told me that it wasn’t a fail… it was just more of a pudding than a bread.

These muffins are the opposite. They’re super simple, super quick, and super vegan! I’ve made these probably a dozen times, and they always come out perfectly. I served them last weekend with a strawberry and grilled chicken salad for a pretty delicious brunch.

I love these muffins for a couple reasons: they’re vegan without a single weird ingredient (a standard pantry could make these pretty easily!), they’re sturdy so they travel well, and they use up the countless frozen bananas taking up space in my freezer.

These would be an awesome, easy Mother’s Day treat, wink!


Banana chocolate chip muffins (VEGAN!)

Makes 10 muffins

¼ c coconut oil, melted

½ c brown sugar

2 super-ripe bananas*

4 oz applesauce (a standard lunch cup)

1 tsp vanilla

1 ¼ c flour

½ tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

½ c dairy-free chocolate chips (I like the Costco brand!)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the coconut oil and brown sugar together until combined. Add mashed bananas, applesauce, and vanilla. Mix with a spatula until combined.
  3. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  4. Add chocolate chips to the dry mixture, and stir to combine. Adding the chocolate to the dry mixture coats it in flour, which prevents it from sinking to the bottom of the muffins.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and gently fold together. Stop when there are still a couple of flour streaks. You don’t want to overmix!
  6. Scoop the batter into a greased muffin tin. I use 1.5 loose scoops from this batter scoop in each cavity. You should get ten!
  7. Bake for ten minutes. Rotate the pan (turn the tin around so that the muffins that were in the front of the oven finish baking in the back of the oven), and bake for another 8-12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in a center muffin comes out with only a few crumbs.
  8. Cool in muffin tin for 10 minutes and then let cool on cooling rack or enjoy warm. If you eat them warm, you’ve got to add butter!

* I throw ripe bananas in the freezer when they’re turning black, whole and in the peels. When it comes time to make banana bread, thaw them on the counter or in the microwave in a glass bowl. YOU MUST USE THE BOWL OR A PLATE OR SOMETHING because they will ooze like crazy. You’ll end up with basically liquid bananas, perfect for banana bread.

Adapted from this recipe.

Currently//April 2018

Guys, remember when we were all complaining about how slowly January crawled by, but then we blinked and it’s MAY?! What. Were. We. Thinking? Pretty soon it’ll be ten years from now, and we’ll really be regretting wishing that month away.

I hope you all had an awesome April. Mine was crazy busy (what else is new?!). We started the month celebrating our first wedding anniversary at Big Cedar Lodge in Branson. It was so relaxing and beautiful, and we had great customer service at every turn. Highly recommend. Right after that trip, I turned around and went to RISE, which was SO incredibly fun and rejuvenating. You can read about the lessons I learned at the conference here. The rest of the month was full of dinners with friends, baby showers, and family time. The kind of activities that are so worth the time and energy, but leave you a little depleted just the same.

We spent this past weekend relaxing and recharging, which was incredible. I finished one novel and started another, caught up on The Handmaid’s Tale 😱, washed all of our bedding, and enjoyed our first deck dinner of the season.

It was incredible to have a weekend spent largely at home, and I woke up Monday morning feeling READY for the week ahead. Which doesn’t really happen after a jam-packed weekend.

INSPIRING

Something I didn’t write about in my RISE recap is the answer to the question I outlined here. What am I doing? What am I working towards with the Fruitful brand?

And I didn’t find an answer to that question. I did find a different answer, though. I may not know exactly what I’m doing, but I do know why. My mission is to inspire and motivate other women. To be healthier, stronger, more responsible, more ambitious, more focused, more whatever they want to be!

The why matters more than the what. Now that I know the why, I can figure out the what as I go. Right now, that means trying a million different things until I see what sticks. This is exhausting and time-consuming, but also very exciting.

Right now, I’m working on hosting a meet-up for women in Kansas City that are searching for community and motivation. I love the online relationships that I have with so many of you, but I want to take that into the real world! I posted about the possibility of this meet-up on my Instagram stories, and people were EXCITED, which means I’m excited to make it happen. Please leave me a comment below or email at caitlin@thefruitfulblog.com if you’re interested.

EXERCISING

Early in the month, I broke my own rule and deprioritized exercise when life got busy, and I’m sure you all know how hard it is to get back on the horse once you fall off. I broke that cycle with a pretty amazing yoga class in the lobby of the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts one Saturday. A friend and I bought tickets weeks and weeks ago, and the event popped up on my calendar just when I needed it. The yoga class stretched out all my lazy muscles and gave me a kick in the ass. It reminded me how good exercise makes me feel. (ALSO, the marble floors in the Kauffman lobby are HEATED! Isn’t that nuts? I’d obviously never been barefoot in this fancy lobby before, but now I may take my shoes off every time I’m there (kidding!) (maybe).)

I also ran an awesome race Sunday morning. The trolley run is an annual KC event that benefits a great charity AND got me to run four straight miles for the first time in my life. I really had only ever run a 5K before, but I felt confident I could tack another mile on there. And I could! Minus a quick ankle stretch in the middle of mile four, I ran the entire thing. And in only 36 minutes! I know that’s not crazy-fast, but it’s fast for me! My friend Courtney and I ran side-by-side, and we both ended up pushing each other to a faster pace than we’d ever have run solo. Now that I’ve done four miles, maybe a 10K is next? (No, I won’t ever be marathon training. No thanks! Not for me. I’m kind of attached to my toenails.)

EATING

Nothing is quite as good as all the California food I ate at the beginning of the month, including the Shake Shack I had for breakfast at the airport otw home.

I loved Pine & Crane, Poke N Roll, and also the Glendale Embassy Suites that assumed Brooke and I were guests (we were not) and served us during their free-to-guests happy hour. The best vodka soda is a free one.

Poke N Roll enjoyed on the deck at our Airbnb.
The 3 Cup Chicken and the Dan Dan Noodles from Pine & Crane.

If you haven’t tried the vegan queso I made for the blog, check it out. Dairy often makes my skin break out, and this is all of the queso goodness with just PLANTS! It’s best enjoyed with tortilla chips and a few cocktails.

LISTENING

I’m loving the podcast The Habitat, a true story about six “astronauts” that are living in a simulated Mars habitat for a year. This is the dress rehearsal for the real thing with real astronauts, so these volunteers can’t leave the habitat without suiting up. (They also won’t see their families (or anyone outside their fellow volunteers) for a FULL YEAR.) If someone opens the habitat door without following the proper protocols, BOOM, experiment over (because the volunteers will be “dead”).  

NASA is using the volunteers to study the ways that people can live in close quarters together for an extended period of time. There’s also a lot of audio about space travel in general that has been VERY interesting to learn about.

ALSO the new Janelle Monae album and Water Me by Lizzo (“I am my inspiration.” 🔥 )

READING

If you follow my Instagram Stories, you know how LEVEL TEN EXCITED I was about the Golden State Killer. I was crying at work, shaking as I waited for the county prosecutor’s press conference to start, and telling anyone who would listen ALL ABOUT THIS CASE.

GSK was the white whale. He was like the Zodiac, except Jake Gyllenhaal didn’t star in a movie about him. He hadn’t been active for OVER 30 YEARS! This case was as cold as can be, and they CAUGHT HIM. I am crying just typing this.

GSK burgled 100s of people, raped at least 50 women, and murdered a dozen people. When they arrested the suspect last week, he was in his seventies. He could have died and gotten away with it. That’s what made me cry. The fact that all of these survivors and the families of victims get to look at his face and know that he will face the consequences of his actions. After 30!!! Years!!!

I love reading about crime and cults and all kinds of weird stuff, and Michelle McNamara’s book about the GSK was one of the best true crime books I have ever read. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer is INCREDIBLE. Michelle spent years and years researching this case, devoting countless hours to reading, combing through evidence, visiting crime scenes, and more. She died before the book was completed and before GSK was caught. But you BEST BELIEVE she was looking down on us, smile-crying.

Police departments pretty famously don’t acknowledge writers and journalists that help break cases. And, to be clear, that police force 100% deserves a mountain of credit for the decades of hard work that they put into the case.

But I have a hard time believing that a break in the case mere months after Michelle’s book was released is a coincidence. She’s the one that NAMED HIM the Golden State Killer, for pete’s sake. Michelle even suggested in the book that GSK would be found using an ancestry DNA service. And girl was RIGHT!!!!

I’m going to warn you that the details of the crime in the book are upsetting. This man stalked families, learned their schedules and the locations of all of their light switches and telephones, and used that information to hurt them. BUT THE BOOK IS SO GOOD. Michelle is a warm and concise writer, which is a hard combination to find. It is a true tragedy that she’s gone.

I don’t think we’ll ever catch the Zodiac. But they did get the GSK, and Michelle can totally claim that win alongside law enforcement. 


Our Airbnb in L.A. We stayed on the bottom floor, through that archway on the left.

Happy May, everyone! Summer is almost here. I can smell it.

What’s the best thing you did or read or ate this April? 

Black bean & sweet potato burrito bowls with VEGAN queso Happy Cinco de Mayo!

The last time I celebrated Cinco de Mayo was May 5, 2015. I know this because I went to work May 6th with a massive hangover, and I was laid off May 8th. I also know that these things aren’t related, and I bet I *~celebrated~* so hard because of the looming DOOM at work, but regardless: I’m not sure I’ll ever unlink the association. Cinco de Mayo makes me remember the weird humiliation of being laid off from a job that I didn’t even like that much.

But I had this vegan queso recipe that needed to be shared, and what better time than now? If you, like me, don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo, GREAT. This food tastes just as good any day of the week.

It’s very fitting that, when I made the food for this post, I fed it to my dear friend Lindsey to celebrate her birthday. I met her through this old job, she was there the whole weird layoff day (from literally breakfast through drinking that evening), and I’m so thankful for that job if only because I met her.

Me and the birthday girl

Cinco de Mayo is on a Saturday this year, but I don’t think that you should use that as an excuse to go wild. I encourage you to make this meal with friends in the safety of your home, drink one (just one!) too many tequila-La Croixes, and scream/sing along to the live Dixie Chicks album from their recent tour.

The burrito bowls are flavorful and filling, and the queso takes the meal over the top. Vegan queso may sound intimidating (or even gross. I get it 😜), but it’s not! All it takes is nuts, water, and a few seasonings. You get a rich, tasty dip that’s as spicy as you’d like.

This meal is best enjoyed at a crowded table.

VEGAN BURRITO BOWLS

This makes enough for four adults, plus leftovers for lunch the next day

Black beans (4 15-oz cans)

Rotel (1 10-oz can)

Salt and pepper

Sweet potatoes (5 lb bag)

Cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil

Bell peppers (6, various colors)

Onions (one red, one yellow)

Salt, pepper, olive oil

For assembly:

Cooked white rice (toss with cilantro and lime juice if you remember to! I did not!)

Various salsas and hot sauces

Diced avocado (would be amazing, but I didn’t include since Grant is allergic)

These directions are very loose. They’re burrito bowls, not algebra. Do what I say unless you have an idea that sounds better.

  1. Drain and rinse the beans. Add to a pot with the Rotel. Fill the Rotel can with water and add to the pot, as well. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, pop the lid on, and leave it be for ~45 mins. Stir when you remember to.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425. Roughly chop the potatoes (if the pieces are similarly sized, they’ll cook evenly!), spread on a large baking sheet, season with salt, pepper, and a dusting of cumin, drizzle with olive oil, and toss. Roast in the preheated oven for ~25 mins, tossing halfway through.
  3. Slice the peppers into strips. Same with the onions. Throw in a HUGE pot with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Let them sear over high heat for a few minutes before you stir. This is what makes the blackened spots like when you order fajitas at a restaurant. Continue until the peppers are cooked to your liking. These will hold over low, low heat for a long time.
  4. Assemble with white rice, lime wedges, hot sauce, salsa, guac, and vegan queso on the side!

VEGAN QUESO

1 ½ C raw cashews, soaked for 6 hours*

½ C water

½ C nutritional yeast**

1/4 tsp cayenne (more or less to taste!)

½ tsp chili powder

½ tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

Tortilla chips for serving

* I buy my raw cashews from the bulk bins at Hy-Vee in the Health Food Market. I know that Planter’s also makes them, and those are in the aisle with the snack nuts. “Soaked” means just what it sounds like. Cover the cashews with water and let them sit for at least six hours, up to overnight.

** This is a cheesy-tasting, plant-based powder seasoning. I buy mine from the bulk bins, just like the cashews.

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender*. Blend. Taste for seasoning. The END!

    * I’m sure this would be super-velvety and luxurious with a high-powered blender, but all I’ve got is a Cuisinart, and it works JUST FINE.

My 10 Takeaways from RISE Women’s Conference by Rachel Hollis RISExLA 2018 recap

At the beginning of April, I flew to Los Angeles to meet my friend Brooke for our annual personal development weekend at the RISE women’s conference by Rachel Hollis. RISE is full of great speakers and dancing and crying and genuine, revelatory breakthroughs — but it’s also kind of hard to write about. So much goes on during the weekend, but trying to describe it to an outsider is daunting. There are the standard key notes from famous women, but also meditations on self, the future, and limiting beliefs. There’s hugging and cocktails and compulsory dancing. It’s a totally absorbing experience, but one that sort of defies description.

But, here I am, trying to describe it. Because this experience — feverishly taking notes while crying in a room full of hundreds of women doing the same — you need to have it, too.

MY TEN TAKEAWAYS FROM RISE 2018

These points are all lifted from my RISE notes. I’ll credit in parentheses when the idea can be attributed to a specific speaker. The thoughts are my own, but the amazing speakers at the conference planted the seed.

  • I don’t start things because I’m afraid they’ll be too hard. (Rachel Hollis)
    Yes, I’m starting with a big one. This realization is on page one of my notes, so the conference started with a bang, too.
    How often have I talked myself out of something before I even started it? How often have I been my own roadblock on the way to an opportunity?
    I’m not scared of hard work. I’m afraid of uncertainty. Of doing something and not doing it well. Last year, I attended RISE, and I kept putting off writing a recap of the conference because I thought it would be hard. Sure, I had other excuses and reasons and blah blah blah, but: I didn’t want to do it because it would be too hard and maybe it wouldn’t be great. And I never wrote it.
    Jen Hatmaker said at RISE “as soon as you muster the courage to stand up, you’ll be asked to sit back down — maybe by yourself.” There are enough roadblocks in this world — I need to stop being my own barrier.
  • The excuse “somebody else beat me to it” is just an excuse. (Rachel Hollis)
    When I’m working towards something, it’s really easy for this negative voice to speak to me: “there are thousands of inspirational Instagram accounts; there are thousands of motivational blogs; you are just another woman talking into the abyss.” And those things are ALL TRUE. BUT they don’t matter. Just because I didn’t do something first doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do it.
    What really hammered this home: Rachel Hollis and Jen Hatmaker do
    very similar things. But they’re both here, wildly succeeding.
    And, on this theme, Rachel reminded us all that we’re not competing with each other, just with the versions ourselves from yesterday. OR, as Queen Cardi B says: “I’m my own competition/I’m competing with myself.”

    RISE wouldn’t be the same without my buddy Brooke, all decked out for the ’90s dance party in front of our Airbnb. (And, yes, we hung out with other people and made new friends, but I didn’t take any photos of that!)
  • They may have your best interests at heart and still be wrong.(Rachel Hollis)
    When you set out to change your life, people will be full of suggestions, advice, and warnings. And those are all appreciated. I love that they care about my life and my business and my health. But here’s the thing: no one knows what you need better than you do. Yes, you should ask for and accept the guidance of trusted advisors — but those people aren’t the people I’m talking about. The people that ask the questions that scare you out of trying? Maybe ignore them.
    They have your best interests at heart, but — unless they’re an expert in the field and also a licensed therapist probably — they don’t know what they’re talking about!
    The path to success includes a million mistakes, so get busy making them, and ignore the haters (that may be disguised as well-intentioned family members or coworkers or best friends).
  • The time will pass anyway! (Rachel Hollis)
    This is my new shit-calling phrase. If I find myself making an excuse about why I can’t do something or how it will take too much time or WHATEVER, I remind myself that the time will pass regardless of whether or not I take the next step. In twelve months, a year will have passed whether or not I’ve done a year’s worth of work. This is sobering and motivating. The time will pass anyway, SO WHAT THE HELL AM I WAITING FOR?

    Gorgeous view from our Airbnb patio.
  • The fruit of the uncertain tree is unbelievably better tasting. (Dave Hollis)
    This phrase made me feel so courageous. He’s so right — life isn’t about doing the same things over and over again to see the same certain outcome. Life is about growth and change and uncertainty. Hearing that idea in this poetic way really motivated me to try new things. I have so many ideas for my blog and social media, but I’ve allowed uncertainty to derail my best intentions. UNCERTAINTY is the the POINT! How have I been missing this? Nothing cool ever happened because the outcomes were sure.
    Some context here: Dave is leaving his big VP-level job at DISNEY to be CEO of his wife’s company (she’ll be chief creative officer and continue to be the face of the company). He knows about big leaps! They have FOUR kids. That decision could not have been reached easily.

    The best photo booth at the ’90s party
  • SAME YOU/NEW MOOD (Rachel Hollis)
    This is my new MOTTO, okay?! Life is hard. Lunches get forgotten, meetings go poorly, ankles get twisted, your spouse annoys the hell out of you. BUT, but, BUT, here’s the thing. You get to CHOOSE how you react. You can take a deep breath and react with positivity, not yelling (guilty).
    Rachel shared this idea, and I think it’s pretty genius. If you take a moment to snap yourself out of it, maybe you won’t yell at your husband. If you take a moment to think “SAME YOU. NEW MOOD,” maybe you won’t start crying at work (less guilty, but not totally innocent). She said it works extra well if you add a physical action. SAME YOU. CLAP. NEW MOOD. The clap snaps you out of the negative thoughts and allows you to make a more positive decision.
    I am the queen of letting one bad thing color my whole day with negativity. No more.
  • Make a list of the six things you’ll do tomorrow. (Mica May)
    This one is so simple, but it kind of rocked me. All too often, I am sprinting through 1,000,000 tasks and just trying to get through as much as I can each day. Hearing Mica say that she shoots for six tasks each day refreshed my brain and reminded me how much happier I am when I map my to-do list across the whole week, instead of trying to get it all done every day (and inevitably pushing a lot of it to the next day. Every day). This week, I wanted to get a ton of house organizing projects done (more on that in number 8), so I mapped out which day I’d tackle which project (with a blank day for a schedule cushion), and it’s WORKING! I have finished the kitchen and swapped my winter and spring clothes.

    The beautiful Brookie!
  • CLUTTER CLUTTERS YOUR MIND. (Rachel Hollis)
    Of all the ideas on this list, this is the least revolutionary. But it’s one that spoke to me HARD. If you follow me on Insta Stories, you know that I have a closet/guest room/pit where all clutter goes to die. And a pile of wedding stuff in our shared office. And a bad habit of letting the kitchen counters get cluttered. Hearing Rachel say this was a great reminder to recommit to my 2018 intention of cleaning up the house to FREE MY MIND for creativity, focus, and not feeling like my brain has exploded when I come home in the evenings.
    I started before RISE with the project to go room-by-room, organizing and decluttering. So far, I’ve done our room, the linen closet, a guest room (not THE guest room of despair, but a different one), and the kitchen. I feel so, so much better already, and I am determined to keep it UP until the whole house feels a little more manageable.
  • Ask for what you need with less wishbone and more backbone. (Elizabeth Lascaze)
    Design by the incredible Brooke Schelar of Proud Salemander and Common Era Collective

    This one elicited actual gasps from the audience. First off, this woman is incredible. Her appearance at RISE was her first day back at work after the birth of her five-month-old twins, she KILLED IT, and she is maybe the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in real life (and I have seen BEYONCE in real life). She’s a powerful consultant at Deloitte and had so much knowledge to share about getting what you need to excel professionally.
    But this advice gave me chills. How many times have I missed out on an opportunity because I thought of it as a “want” rather than a “need”? Just think about how much further you’d be along in your career if you killed the wishy-washy-ness in favor of determination. Use that backbone, girl!
    And this doesn’t just apply to professional goals. When was the last time you asked for help around the house? And not as a “want.” As a “need.” It’s so easy to drown in the million daily tasks before you give a single second to pursuing MORE than the daily drudgery. Ask for help or pay for help, but get some help. Use that backbone to make the space in your day for MORE: more exercise, more reading, more writing, more relaxation, prayer, meditation, WHATEVER.

  • You’ve been given this mountain to show other women that it can be moved. (Rachel Hollis)
    On the second day, we did a meditation that focused on our future selves. We imagined our lives — down to the cars we drive and the outfits we wear — in five years, ten years, twenty years. We were instructed to envision every detail of the life we’re working toward. And then we were asked to pick a single word that could be a reminder of that vision. A word that, when we thought of it, could recenter us on our mission to build that life. I chose MOTIVATOR. It didn’t feel like a conscious decision. It felt like that word was there, waiting for me to find it.
    I went to RISE with a question: why the hell am I sharing so much of my life and spending all this time blogging and Instagramming? And I found an answer: I want to show all of you that since I can change my life, you can change yours, too. I want to motivate you to be better, more, stronger.
    We can’t change society. The problems are too big, too scary, too complicated. But we can change ourselves. And if enough of us change — into strong, healthy, compassionate people — society will change around us. From the inside out.


    OK, if you made it this far, I LOVE YOU. I tried to edit this post down multiple times, but there was too much to share. If you made it this far, RISE may be for you, too 💖 In 2019, there will be one-day mini-RISEs in several cities (including KC!), and the main conference will be held in June in Minneapolis. I hope I see ALL OF YOU there. We can laugh and cry together and also dance and drink and lose our voices. Like always, you can find me over on Insta if you have questions, or leave a comment here! If you were at RISE, I’d love to hear your power word!

Would you consider a conference like RISE? If no, why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts!