My Adventurous Journey

I'm breathless, I'm sweating very, very large bullets, I'm this close to exhausting my water ration, and I'm not really sure where I'm going to find the strength to lift myself on top of one more rock. Yet, I'm doing it and am determined not to complain.

"I think the trail is pretty flat from here on out."
"Don't challenge nature, Val! Nature will laugh in your face." 


My best friend, Val, is the bubbly, blonde yogi pushing past branches and creating a path for me. She does this "hiking thing" often...and I'm thankful true friends don't judge each other by how long they would survive alone in the wilderness. Let's just say...in matters of the wild, you want Val on your team.

In December of 2013, Miss Kentucky, Jenna Day, and the Boy Scouts of Kentucky brought the Duke of Edinburgh Award to the Bluegrass. The free and optional DofE Award promotes self-discipline, growth, and aims to push you outside your boundaries. Aside from performing one hour of a special skill (I chose tap-dancing), physical recreation (I chose weight lifting), and community service every week for three months, I was required to embark on an "Adventurous Journey." 

I just love the sound of that. 

The point of the Adventurous Journey is to explore the expanse outside of your comfort zone. Now, I love being outside as much as the next girl, but my comfort zone is about as far as I can drag a beach chair away from the ocean while still getting a gentle salty mist on my face. Hiking isn't my preferred choice of weekend activity, what with all the sweating, and the bugs, and the BEARS...thus, it is quite adventurous a journey for me.

So, I left the planning up to Valerie. I wouldn't trust anyone else to put up with me when I'm tired and dehydrated in the outdoors. When she wasn't helping me climb or stopping and smiling for yet another selfie, we talked about life, her plans to start a women's retreat and spa, and laughed at everything; mostly ourselves. 

We hiked Red River Gorge, Natural Bridge State Park, and The Pinnacles in Berea. If I needed any further proof that Kentucky is one of the most diverse and breathtaking places in the U.S.--if not the world--I need no more. I was easily distracted from my own lack of endurance by the sheer beauty of the scenery. So, of course, I took a million pictures.

My Adventurous Journey definitely served its purpose in opening the door to meaningful activity outside of my norm and provided time for much needed self-reflection. My breath was taken away by numerous mountain-top views (and one really dark tunnel), I laughed myself a little closer to a six-pack, and got to practice keeping my "big picture perspective" in mind. It wasn't until I arrived back in Greensburg late Monday night that I realized just how adventurous my journey truly was. I came away with four spider bites, a really painful, full-body sunburn, and a touch of poison ivy (turns out I'm not immune, Val!), but...

Thanks to you, Duke of Edinburgh, I am recharged! And, once the sunburn heals, really tan.

What I Learned from the "100 Happy Days" Project

In a previous blog post I announced my participation in the #100HappyDays project and encouraged you all to sign up. It's very simple. You go to www.100happydays.com, submit your e-mail address, take a short survey about your current happiness level, and choose the social media outlet you will use to document your journey. The premise of the project is to post one picture a day for 100 days straight. Each photo is representative of something that gives you the warm fuzzies and the purpose is to help you become more aware of all the *little things* you have to be happy about. If you complete the challenge without missing a day the foundation sends you a small book with your 100 photos in it...a keepsake made completely of your own happiness, if you will.

Needless to say, I was ALL about it. I didn't even have to think about it...I was immediately on board. I viewed myself as a pretty happy person already (maybe that's where the trouble began) but, I wanted to accept the challenge, and I wanted that little book.

So, it was with great pleasure, excitement, and positivity that I began my #100HappyDays project. I chose Instagram as my method of documentation in an effort to take more pictures (as if I don't take enough) and to challenge myself in finding creative ways to document said happiness.

What I didn't know when I began the #100HappyDays is how immersed in the "image" of being happy I would become. What I didn't know when I began my #100HappyDays is that my family would suffer the prolonged sickness of a loved one, and, in the midst of those 100 days, the death of that loved one. What I didn't know when I began my #100HappyDays is that I most definitely did not need a viral social media trend to prove to myself what I already knew: I am a happy, blessed, optimistic little lady without having to let the world know. 

Day 1: I got my hair cut and indulged in the rare treat of Starbucks. I was elated with my much shorter 'do, and really, I'm borderline addicted to coffee, so it was safe to say the 1st day of my 100 Happy Days was off to a roaring start. 

Day 2: Already struggling. I received my first Julep Box in the mail, wore a brand new shirt, and it was Friday (#TGIF). I made a collage of these things and prepared to post it. In the process of posting, I was already unhappy with myself for documenting material items as what made me particularly happy that day. And...how do you really document the feeling of a Friday (that ISN'T a selfie of you making a ridiculous face) other than take a picture of the calendar? 

The next 25 days were fine. I took the pictures, I posted them to instagram, I hashtagged them appropriately. No big deal. 

Day 27: My Popadoc is sick and in the hospital. It doesn't look good. It's not good. The last thing I want to do is post a happy picture. But, I find one and I post it, because I don't want to be part of the 71% of people who couldn't complete this challenge. I'm pretty sure posting something "happy" because you have to defeats the purpose...don't you think?

Day 32: I've been in New York City visiting my amazingly wonderful boyfriend (a very happy thing), but this particular morning I received the news that my grandfather had passed. I would be heading home for his funeral the next day. I was so happy to be spending time with my boyfriend but so guilty about posting a happy photo, despite the immense feeling of sadness at knowing I would never hug my grandfather again.

Day 45: I'm over it. This picture of a paper banana was the only thing "cool" enough to photograph that particular day. No, I wasn't having a bad day. No, I wasn't in a bad mood. There was simply no photographic evidence of my contentedness that day. So, I chose this. A+ for effort, right? 

.................

Nearing the end of my journey, I realized my hashtags were on autopilot. Meaning, I was taking 1-2 pictures a day and labeling one with the appropriate hashtag of #100HappyDays without much thought at all. Being that I'm not one to post anything negative, each of my posts could have counted as something happy in their own way. In the end, I wasn't even looking for anything special. I was going about my day and labeling it as happy whether I truly felt it or not.

I made it all the way into the 60's. Why aren't I specific about the exact number? Because somewhere in the midst, I FORGOT to post one day. It wasn't a conscious effort, because like I said, I am NOT one to back down from a challenge. But it happened....life happened. I posted 1-2 photos each day since the challenge began and yet, I forgot to hashtag ONE of those with #100HappyDays so that it would count. Pretty lame, right? Right. 

When I discovered I had missed a day somewhere in the mix, I felt like crying. I was so incredibly frustrated with myself that I hadn't acknowledged happiness one day sometime in April. My mind was full of questions.

"What if people notice that I just stopped with the happy stuff?"
"I'm sure no one has noticed...should I keep going?"
Finally...
"Why do I feel so relieved?"

The next day, when I got the urge to post a picture...my first one without the #100HappyDays hashtag... I felt like the whole world would suddenly realize my "happiness" had come to a very premature end.

And the next day, when I would post yet another picture, I felt a little of that feeling. This time, there was more relief than worry. 

And now, a few weeks later, I can assess my experience clearly. It wasn't a bad experience by any means...but I found it to be more of a hassle than an opportunity for growth in optimism. I found that I am most certainly a happier person without the pressure of being happy. I am happier with my surroundings when I'm not worried about which thing to photograph and how to present it. I am happier keeping some things to myself. And I am happier when I am "allowed" to have a day of sadness when something truly sad has happened. 

However, if I had not accidentally missed a day, I am positive I would not have quit the challenge. I would be somewhere in the 80's, most likely still on autopilot. That's not a very happy thought...it's actually very sad.

For those of you that are completing this challenge (and I'm following a lot of you!) I totally support what you're doing. Knowing that this was more of a challenge than I ever expected should be further encouragement for you to keep it up!  

I also realize that I entered into this journey with the wrong state of mind. Whether or not I wanted to make myself a happier person, I wanted to say I completed the challenge, join the 29% of happy folks, and get that little book. Subconsciously, I entered without realizing I would be so conscious of what I put forth on a platter for everyone to see, labeled as my "happiness." This is not the intent of the foundation, and I shouldn't have tried to fix in myself what wasn't broken, just because I wanted to say I did it.

"They" say you shouldn't criticize something unless you have a suggestion of how it can be improved. What would have been more effective for me is a name change: #100HappyThings. There are countless happy things in a day, most of which we don't take time to recognize. But, the unhappy truth of it is that not every day is a happy day. And it really shouldn't have to be.

The moral of my story is....
*Find your own happiness in whatever way you can, whether it is completing this challenge or not. But if you tried and still didn't feel the "happy" and felt like it was all your fault....you're not alone. This extremely happy girl was unable to complete the happiest challenge on earth.

I want to hear your thoughts on this! For those of you that are completing the challenge, do you think it helped you? Did you feel any of the things I felt? I am open to any and all opinions. I love new perspectives.

Have a happy Friday....only if you want to :) and I'll see y'all soon. 

Doc Shuffett

This week has been wonderful and sad and wonderfully sad all at once. 
There are a million and one things I could focus on, but only one thing I want to talk about.

Since last Saturday, I have battled with what this week's post should be about. There were many things it could be about, but I knew what it would be about. Thursday, March 27th, I leaned down to let my Popadoc kiss my cheek for what I knew would be the last time. I flew to New York on Saturday, and dreaded the inevitable call I would get to tell me Popadoc had left this world and entered another.

Since then, I have written a few different versions of my own Popadoc tribute. Whether in my head, at the airport, or at my desk, none of them felt "right." They were either too sad or too long or too detached. In the few days since my grandfather has passed, I haven't yet found words to describe him with all of the love, sensitivity, and respect that he deserves. 

In October of last year, my cousin Dave, host of KET's Kentucky Life, did a segment on my Popadoc. I watched it today for the first time since it debuted. Within seconds, I was in tears. Sad tears mixed with grateful ones, as I can't describe how thankful I am to have such a recent and real depiction of my grandfather at my very fingertips. 

So, today, instead of battling myself over the "perfect" tribute, I want to share with you the 5-minute video I must have watched 10 times today. It won't take you long to see why he was so loved and why he will be so missed. 

My Popadoc is easily one of the greatest men I have ever known, and I am confident no one I encounter will ever match him in wisdom, sensibility, or work ethic. I am lucky to have only happy memories of my grandfather as I continue to keep searching for the certain words that will rightly convey my connection with him. But for now, I'm going to watch this video again. This time, I'm going to smile instead of cry. 

"The Songs We Used to Sing" Music Video Shoot

A really cool thing happened last November. I was asked to be a part of a music video. What you may not know about Greensburg is that this place is music video GOLD. We have beautiful, untouched countryside, a cute down-town, and countless helping hands ready to volunteer their whole weekend free of charge. Blake Judd, of JuddFilms, is a Greensburg native and has relied on his hometown for many country music videos. Todd Tue, of Milk Productions, isn't from Greensburg, but I'm going to make him an honorary citizen....because this video truly showcases how breathtaking our little Kentucky town is.

"The Songs We Used To Sing," by Possessed by Paul James, is an Country/Folk/Americana song that was perfect for the location.

I am not going to give away ALL the secrets because I don't want to take away from the storyline. But, every person in this video is from Greensburg or Campbellsville. In addition to that, the hair and makeup artist, choreographer, and some of the volunteer staff are from Greensburg as well. If that wasn't enough---some very kind Greensburg-ians donated their cabin, their home, and cooked a feast for everyone on set. It was an amazing experience and I am infinitely proud of the final product. 

Oh, and meet my boyfriend, Daniel. 

He came home early from NYC (where he is an actual actor!) to be my music-video boyfriend. Also, because we used my car to film, and because I love both the photo and memory, these two items are still hanging on my visor.

He came home early from NYC (where he is an actual actor!) to be my music-video boyfriend.
Also, because we used my car to film, and because I love both the photo and memory, these two items are still hanging on my visor.

The song debuted on CMT, YouTube, and VH1 yesterday!
Click here to view the video through CMTedge.com!

Happy viewing.....see you next Friday!

Christmas on the Square: Greensburg, KY

HERE IT IS! THIS IS IT! (pulls the curtain away...reveals the big secret) The very first post in my brand new adventure.

Each year, the City of Greensburg holds a day-long event called Christmas on the Square. As a recent employee of Greensburg, I had a hand in planning and preparation, and was so excited to see it come to life on Saturday, November 30th.

See my next adventure soon!