Little Bits of Joy

Sometimes, my chest feels heavy, like there is an invisible weight pressing on my ribs. I can’t see it, and I can’t touch it with my fingertips, but I can feel it there, sinking down, deflating my lungs.

Sometimes, my brain feels messy, like there is a thousand strands tangling together across my cortex. I can’t unravel them, can’t untie the knots they make, but I can feel the chaos, tiny strings of thought snarling together and taking up valuable space.

Sometimes, my soul writhes, like it is yearning for something I am afraid I will never have. I can’t calm it, can’t satisfy it, and so it continues to thrash somewhere deep inside, sucking my energy and dimming my mood.

The clouds roll in for us all sometimes. The world is not always a kind and joyful place like we all know it should be. We feel intense emotion, and for some reason as adults we often feel we must hide it away or ignore it all together. I validate the way you feel. Your emotions are yours and they are real and they are always, always valid.

When the light seems too dim and when the clouds seem too gray, find the little bits of joy along the way. The tiny things that bring us a smile can lift the heaviest of spirits and cast light in the darkest of corners. When I feel that weight or that mess or that writhe, I pause to breathe and search around me for the small fragments of life that bring joy when life gets rough.

This Face.

That perfect grilled cheese.

These flowers.

This thing.

These babies.

That movie.  

These eyes.

Always remember to find those little bits of joy. They’re hiding in plain sight and give hope just when you need it most.


Treat Yo’ Self

“Treat yo’ self,” they say as they encourage spending thousands of dollars on spa treatments and chugging an entire bottle of cabernet. “You deserve this! Self-care!”

100% you deserve extravagant vacations and enormous bottles of wine! I wish I could give that to you. As I’ve settled into this adulting thing, I have certainly discovered the importance of self-care… But the interesting thing is pop culture depicts self-care as an act of extravagance or excess, like charging a tropical vacation on your Discover card or ordering the biggest sandwich on the menu (with a Diet Coke, please). That type of self-care is great, and if that is what you need to reset and take care of the physical, mental, and emotional you, that’s cool. Charge that vacation, baby!

I think it is important to point out that self-care doesn’t need to be extravagant or excessive. Do I want that spa weekend in Hawaii? Of course, I do. But is that realistic every time I feel overwhelmed? Unfortunately, not (but if I win the lotto or actually ever sell a book, I’ll let ya’ll know). Self-care can be just those little tiny things you make time for throughout the busy day to make sure you stay okay. It is a space in time you carve out to reset and recalibrate, however brief.

                A long sigh in the grocery store check-out line.

                10 minutes of sun on the deck before your next virtual meeting.

                5 succulent plants on your desk to bring you joy.

                A quick Facetime with a friend before your next conference call.

                A Disney movie before bed.

                A morning workout, however brief.

                A moment alone in the pantry with the peanut butter jar.

                Lana Del Rey playing on repeat while you bust out that project.

                A little afternoon delight, because the hubby came home for lunch!

                A deep breath before replying to that text.

                Painting your nails, even though your right hand is going to look like a 4-year-old did it.

                Soaking in a bubble bath.

                Lighting a candle.

                Taking a walk.

                Doing that thing you love just a little more often.

Self-care is something that we can all do for ourselves any time, any place. It does not need to be a spa day or an entire bottle of cabernet (although it certainly can be). Self-care is simply the little things you stop to do for yourself. What can you make some time for to better nurture both your outer and inner self? If a long, loud sigh in the store is going to get you through the next 20 minutes, do it. Take care of that piece of yourself. Adulting doesn’t mean we have to ignore our more complex needs as individuals. We may have external adulty responsibilities, but never forget we also have a responsibility to nurture our inner selves and do the little things that keep us okay.

The Identity Crisis, Part 2

Last year, I wrote The Identity Crisis, and wondered if passion could ever be profession.

I’m still wondering.

But not even a year later, my focus has shifted.

“And here lies the identity crisis,” I wrote. There are two things I want more than anything in this world, more than I want to be a leader or a manager. To write, and to be a mama.”

I’m no longer worried about choosing between the corporate ladder and my creative calling. Instead, I’m reaching out into the dark, hoping to grasp something that I was meant to do.

I can feel in my soul that I’m supposed to be a writer, and even deeper than that, I know I’m meant to be a mama.

But sometimes it feels like I won’t ever accomplish either of these things, and it is daunting.

The literary agent rejections and the negative pregnancy tests are beating me down, like boulders tumbling uncontrollably down a mountain. I am drowning in failure as I sink deeper and deeper into dark waters that I don’t know how to navigate. This is not the map I illustrated for myself.

This is something else entirely.

I can’t write. My novel has seen no success, and there’s no room in my headspace to create something new. I simply can’t wrap my mind around building a new world. I can’t dedicate the energy, because I am facing my worst nightmare: infertility.

And it’s draining.

It’s all I think about.

Sometimes, I feel so lost.

I have steps to take. Things to do. There is nowhere to go but forward, and forward I shall go. One day, one hour, one word at a time.

But who am I, if not a writer?

Who am I, if not a mama?


And here lies the identity crisis, part 2.

Burns and Blunders

Valentine’s day snuck up on us this year, and to be honest, Mike and I really don’t care much for the “holiday”.

“Sooo, I just heard on the radio that tomorrow is Valentine’s day…?” Mike ventured as he came inside at 9:00 pm on the 13th. He shed his Carhart bibs and looked over at me. I was playing Breath of the Wild and pretty engrossed.

“Yeah…?” I responded, only glancing at him. “And?”

“I just didn’t even realize it,” he said as he trudged across the house.

“Who cares,” I scoffed before cursing at a Moblin in the game.

“Well we can just spend some time together tomorrow.”

“Like we do normally,” I verified, rolling my eyes.

It hit me some time later that this very well could be our last Valentine’s day as an empty nest couple. We’ve really been getting our adulting shit together lately, and I’m not sure why this seemed like such a profound epiphany, but I woke up on the 14th ready to make the biggest breakfast spread ever for my man.

We’re talking pancakes. Toast. Eggs. Bacon. Sausage. Coffee.  All the things. I had all the gas burners running and the bacon was in the oven.

Let me just preface by saying I really hate my gas range. From a cooking perspective, I totally understand why so many people prefer gas. But from a safety perspective, I am uncomfortable with the idea of an open flame, and I hate that I could bump the knobs, causing a gas leak. When I impulse purchased new appliances back in November, I was sure to order a new, fancy electric range that would not only look sharp (oh my lord I sound like my father) but make me feel safer, especially for when we have kids one day.

Unfortunately, the new appliances have yet to arrive.

“Smells amazing,” Mike said through a yawn when he emerged from bed. “What’s the occasion?”

“I didn’t get you anything for Valentine’s, so I wanted to make you a nice breakfast!” I explained brightly.

“That’s nice…but I don’t have anything I can do for you.”

“I can think of a few things,” I murmured out of the side of my mouth with a wink.

Mike laughed and shook his head before taking a seat at the table.

“Shit, my bacon.” I could smell it starting to burn, so I hurriedly grabbed the nearest kitchen towel and removed the pan from the oven, not realizing my stovetop was completely full of pans of eggs, pancakes, and sausage. I had nowhere to set the pan that was now burning through my kitchen towel and beginning to sizzle my hand.

“Ow!” I hollered, deciding to unload the pan from my grasp by shoving the eggs toward the top corner of the stove. As I leaned over to release the pan, I suddenly realized the bacon grease-soaked towel I held was swinging in the open flame of the burner. I gasped, dropped the bacon pan where it was, and tore the towel away. As I did so, simmering bacon grease splashed upward and decorated my chest.

“FUCK!” I cursed, throwing down the towel and backing away from the range. “SHIT!”  In my determination to romantically supply my husband with the world’s biggest, hottest Valentine’s Day breakfast, I reverted to my roots of being a complete and utter spaz, giving myself a rather unsightly burn just below my clavicles that now vaguely resembles the Hawaiian Islands.


Within seconds, Mike was pouring Aloe down my shirt as I fought back tears of mostly surprise and embarrassment.

I wasn’t off to a great start for the day. We ate breakfast, then cleaned my mess. Attempting to move on from the fiasco and unfairly blaming the gas range for the incident,  I opened my phone and selected the Home Depot App.

“I should check on the status of the new appliances,” I said. “They’re supposed to arrive on Tuesday!”

Order Status: Delayed.


The appliances were a Black Friday purchase, and it is now Valentine’s day. They’ve been delayed at least twice now and given my already grumpy mood from the bacon grease burn, I was NOT having this.

“I’m calling them to see what’s up, because if we’re just waiting on something stupid like the Microwave, they need to send me what they have.”

As I searched for the customer service number on the app, I found a “Text a Representative” option. Oh boy! Something perfect for my social anxiety! Customer Service confrontation via text. Perfect. I can adult and handle this order, but I don’t have to do so on the phone (because lord knows us Millennials hate the phone). Excellent.

What could possibly go wrong?

The conversation spanned over an hour, as the responses were sparse and far between. I didn’t mind too much, as I continued about my day while I waited.

Texting a rep is great!

The representative explained to me the entire order was available, minus the range. It was on backorder.

Bummer, because I’m pissed at the range I have right now and would feel very satisfied if I could throw it outside to make room for the replacement.

“Can you send me the other appliances that are available?” I asked.

“I’m sorry, we cannot execute the order until all appliances are received.”

I composed several drafts as I tried to work out the best way to respond. (How great is this texting thing?! I sound much more prepared, articulate, and determined!)

“Is there perhaps a similar range that is available? I would be willing to upgrade if it means receiving my order sooner.”

“I’m sorry, we cannot swap out appliances in an online order.”

What the fuck?

Now I was getting a little irritated. I took a moment to gather my thoughts, then decided to text a friend to share the frustration before responding. Telling someone else the situation always seems to release some steam, so it seemed like a great idea, given I had the luxury of time while texting. Man, I’d never be able to do this on the phone! I’m going to text representatives for customer service from now on!

“It’s just the range they are holding on, and cannot process the order until all items are in, so they can’t ship me what they have. I am trying to convince them to let me upgrade to a range that is actually in stock, but they are giving me a hard time. I might just have to rage-cancel this order and go elsewhere if they won’t work with me.”


I will be damned if I didn’t accidentally send that frustrated text TO THE REPRESENTATIVE instead of the intended recipient.

Kill me.

My mouth dropped as I slowly realized what I just did. My stomach sank down to my knees and my fingers began to tremble.

“Oh shit.”

“Whoooops, that message was definitely meant for someone else… my bad. But we do really need to figure something out, because I’ve been waiting since Black Friday for these appliances and I really need my fridge before my current one dies,” I hurriedly texted the representative, feeling like the world’s biggest dick. I sent the message and rested my head on the counter, cursing repeatedly and wishing I could just start the day all over again.

“Ok so we can probably just cancel the range in your order, and you can order a different one separately,” the rep responded, seeming to mostly ignore my blunder.

 “Will that impact the remaining items on my order?” I asked.

“Was it an appliance bundle?”

Yo, I bought these like, 3 months ago. How should I know?

“Possibly,” I replied. “They were a Black Friday purchase.”

“Oh, if they were a Black Friday deal, I can just go ahead and cancel the range for you.”


“Yes please, that would be exceptionally helpful.”

The nightmare was ending.

I was SO jazzed up about being able to text a representative to better manage my social anxiety, and I fucked it all up and nearly had a panic attack from sending the wrong message to the poor representative.

I am such an asshole.

I will never do the text thing for customer service inquiries again. I ruined such a good thing. I will have to suck it up pick up the phone in the future.

Like an adult.

Happy Valentine’s day?

It’s Not a “Diet”

It took an obscene amount of time for me to realize fad diets and magic pills have no place in our health journey. I’m not usually one to blog about health and wellness, and if you saw my rollercoaster weight chart, you’d know I’m not the most qualified source. But my last post, The Chart, got an unusual amount of views, and I do think there is some value in sharing a piece of my journey.

I’ve given almost everything a try.

Intermittent fasting.


Calorie confusion.


Vegan cleanses.




Extreme workouts.

A random Eat Your Heart Out diet I found on Pinterest.

Some of these didn’t work at all.

Some of these worked… for like a week. Any time I tried a type of cleanse, I’d drop quickly, but then put it right back on just as fast or faster.

I’m not sure what finally got through my skull to make me realize this journey isn’t about a fad or certain product. It’s not even about being on a diet. It’s about adjusting my lifestyle and becoming the healthiest, happiest version of myself. Yes, at the same time. Because you can bet the extreme workout version of myself was definitely not happy.

This time around (Because there have been many, many times), I viewed weight loss as an adjustment to my lifestyle and everyday habits. Rather than fitness being a chore, I made it a part of my everyday routine, a non-negotiable habit to keep indefinitely. Rather than being on a “diet,” I adjusted to consistently include healthier choices, and I started weighing the food I chose to make sure I was only consuming a serving.

I know we’ve all read a thousand health and wellness blogs that tell us it isn’t as hard as we make it. I’m not the first person to tell you it’s just a math game: burn more than you consume. But if you take that knowledge and replace “diet and exercise” with “lifestyle and wellness,” it might be easier to tackle what sometimes feels impossible.

It definitely felt impossible for me sometimes.

As a female in my late 20’s, here’s what I did and continue to do. It’s not a diet. It’s my daily routine, my consistent lifestyle that allows me to be the best version of myself. I’m not a doctor nor an expert by any means; I’m just an Average Jane who spent a lot of time looking for my own custom balance. Maybe reading mine will help you discover and design yours.

My Daily Routine in 10 Steps 

  1. Fasted Cardio, 20 minutes. Each morning, I wake up and hop on the elliptical for a 20-minute workout. I run an interval program, with alternating sprints and rests. Stay hydrated and listen to your body to know your limits!
  2. Breakfast. Activia or Greek yogurt, 1-2 egg whites, and a multi-vitamin. Still hungry? Add some melon. Don’t forget a glass of water to wash it all down!
  3. Walk. This is a very brisk 20-30 minute walk right before lunch. My route includes a couple hills, which is perfect to get the heart pumping.
  4. Lunch. A plant-based lunch with more water. I stuff pita bread with spinach, tomato, avocado, and just a splash of balsamic vinaigrette. I also add 1 serving of cheese, either sliced in the pita, or a Babybel on the side.
  5. Afternoon Snack. Fruit, usually a big Honeycrisp apple.  
  6. Walk. Another brisk 20-30 minute walk before dinner. 
  7. Dinner. I try include protein, grains, and a veggie. For example: chicken breast, a serving of wild rice, and steamed broccoli. I also still eat pasta! I just weigh it to make sure I’m only consuming 2 oz and watch out for hidden sugars in my sauce.
  8. Dessert. Yes, dessert!! I find that I am less likely to snack in the evening if I have a dessert after dinner. Garden Lites is a quick and easy frozen food aisle option I’ve discovered. 1 minute in the microwave and I have a 110-calorie little chocolate muffin that has some hidden veggies in it.
  9. Evening Snack. I usually don’t need to eat again after dessert, but if I’m particularly hungry, I’ll grab carrots or some fruit as an evening snack. I recommend completely avoiding chips and candy.
  10. 8 hours of sleep. I shoot for 7 – 8 hours a night so my body can recover from the day.

This is what works for me, and has become my routine. I do this every day, and it’s not a diet anymore. This is just my lifestyle. I’m not perfect…of course there are slipups and occasional cheat days. But those aren’t what define us. It’s the way we get back at it afterwards that show what we’re made of.

Some things that really help:

  • Fitbit, or other fitness watch. I use this to monitor my activity and log my calorie intake to ensure I am burning what I take in.
  • A dog. Mine holds me accountable for the 2 walks, and is great company.
  • A water bottle. Carrying around a full, cold water bottle helps remind me to stay hydrated.
  • I cut out beef, pop, and alcohol. I replaced beef with turkey. Jennie-O turkey burgers are surprisingly delish, and you don’t even notice the difference when you use ground turkey in chili, taco, or sloppy joe. I cut the pop and alcohol to limit my carbs, sugar, and aspartame intake.
  • A buddy. Someone to hold you accountable and cheer you on. It was exceptionally hard to limit my evening snacking when my husband was sitting next to me elbow-deep in a bag of Doritos.

In summary, I shoot for ~60 minutes of total activity a day, choose healthy options, count calories to make sure I’m at a deficit, and try to get some good sleep. Don’t deprive yourself, don’t overwork yourself, and don’t stress out. Just adjust the lifestyle so you can be happy and healthy simultaneously. Do what you’re comfortable with, what you have time for, and what works for you. Find your own personal balance and stick with it. We’re all different.

You got this.

The Chart

Can we talk about “the chart”?

You know. The chart. The one the doctor points at when he tells you you’re overweight. That chart.

I’ve been on the “wrong” side of that chart for the better part of 3 years. I was hanging out on the low end of “normal” for a decent chunk of time when I had that wedding dress and tropical honeymoon as motivation, but then fell off that bandwagon and struggled to catch up (because running sucks).

Quarantine certainly didn’t help. The “Covid 19,” people have been calling it. You know, like the “Freshman 15,” but lonelier.

Recently, I got it in my head that I didn’t want to go in for my next checkup and have my doctor tell me I’m overweight on his chart and therefore will be a moose when I’m pregnant one day. I somehow convinced myself being even 5 pounds on the wrong side of this chart will put me and any future babies I may make at risk of all kinds of scary shit.

I slapped my ass on a diet.

And I lost 25 lbs.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate that, because ya’ll know that shit isn’t easy when you’re pushing 30 and hate running.

Now let’s talk about how that backfired and threw off my cycle, thus making it exceptionally difficult to predict ovulation and good ‘ol Flo, who follows the mantra “better late than never” to a T.

All because I’m fixated on the chart.

Who designed that thing, anyway?

Why do we let ourselves get so caught up in what society calls beautiful and what the chart says we should weigh? Apparently being 5’5” and 150 lbs is overweight, and I call bullshit. Yet here I am, making sure I’m well under 150 just so that I can say I’m on the “right” side of the chart.

Am I brainwashed?

I’m sure there’s science to support the chart, and I’m sure it’s a great tool used to keep us healthy and on track.

But I am not one of those 2-D people illustrated on the poster.

I am me, with my own unique body type and health needs.

Don’t let the chart nor any other social expectations take over your life. Use the chart and your doctor as a guide and be the healthiest version of yourself, but don’t let yourself become obsessed with an unrealistic expectation.

I need to take my own advice, but as I said in Hot Potato, it is much easier to tell you what to do than to tell me what to do. Be healthy and be happy. That’s my best advice to us all. Chart or no chart, I’m sure we can all agree with that.

The Guilty Writer

Sometimes I feel guilty about not writing for a while. And if I don’t feel guilty about that, I feel guilty for not feeling guilty about not writing. It can be hard to come back when you’ve stepped away. Breaks are important, and life is messy, but sitting down to tap keys after several weeks of silence can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. Not quite right, even. Like I almost have to settle back into the creative shell of myself that I left.  

Time for writing is thinning. Responsibilities thicken, layers I barely notice tossed one by one on my back. Work rages, my diet intensifies, projects in the house and yard take priority.

This isn’t new… We all experience the struggle of balancing the things we must do and want to do. I’ve been here before, yet it seems different this time.

Maybe it’s because I tucked the novel in a drawer a couple weeks ago.

I didn’t give up, but I did intentionally step away.

Seven agents have asked to see the complete manuscript. Six returned it, some without a word, others with contradicting feedback. I became tangled in this terrible web of editing for the next agent, adjusting the story for the next set of eyes whose feedback will contradict the last.

When one said it started too slow, I adjusted, then the next said it was too much.

I’m spinning, long strings of opinions and subjectivity strangling me.

To be free of that frustration, I tucked it all away.

At first, I felt like I was betraying my characters… but to constantly change the story just to meet the desires of literary agents would be a far greater disservice. I know I have something here, but perhaps now is not the time. I’m stepping away to process, to wait, to breathe, to start something new.

One day the time will come, and I’ll dust off those pages to try again. But for now, I need to try something different and keep the words coming. The time for these phrases is minimal, but if I can write even just a few sentences a day, keep the creativity flowing with my blood, that will be enough.

Synonyms of Terrible

I’ll come right out and say it.

I am terrible at adulting.

I’m writing this when I should be formatting a spreadsheet for work.


I forgot to take down my trash bin 2 weeks in a row. Then on week 3, had to run it down the longass driveway screaming, “Wait! Wait! Wait for me!”


What good is the expensive-ass water softener if I can never remember to actually put salt in it?


I would rather pluck weeds on Animal Crossing than weed my own real life garden.


I have walked past the same bench every day for 3 weeks saying, “I should probably dust that.”


I never balance a checkbook.


I fill my fridge with healthy options and carefully packed leftovers, then ignore them until they go bad on purpose so I don’t actually have to eat them and must settle for Doritos.


I get so caught up in needing to be able to do everything myself that I then inadvertently refuse to ask others for help and keep my needs and feelings bottled up inside.


Yesterday I put the clothes in the dryer, but never actually STARTED the dryer.


I would rather watch any movie on Disney+ than sit down and watch the news.


Like these last couple synonyms of terrible.

A Magnificent Journey to Shore

I watch the salty foam rise slowly onto the white sand, lose its grip, then slide despairingly back down. The sea is restless, churning, always changing. In the distance, each billow rises with grandeur, and then powerfully smacks into itself. What a peculiar fate… continuously rising and falling, an unbreakable and uncontrollable cycle.

Some are born to make waves. Others are meant to break them. A few are destined to ride the waves, while others prefer to watch them crash.

I don’t believe my purpose entwines with any of these.

I think maybe I exist to provide an escape from the waves.

I am a creative soul with a tendency to avoid conflict. Perhaps that’s a personality flaw. An adult weakness. There’s a lot of things whirling around us now. There are clashing sides and writhing politics and whiplashing events. It’s a maelstrom in the ocean. We’re seeing the worst of some and the best of others, and many of us are caught in the dizzying center of it all wondering who and what to believe.

Some of us are drowning.

Social media can sometimes amplify the splashing chaos. I’ve been avoiding Facebook. Mine still exists, and I still update my writer’s page, but I deleted the app. (My Instagram feed is almost entirely puppy dogs and infinitely more joyous…@kaitlinstaniulis  @chevy_the_doberman)

I’m not stuffing my head in the sand… I’m getting my news outside of social media and I’m separating myself from misinformation and unkind conversation.

I am focusing on creating pieces of happy so that others may have an escape when they too are stuck, overwhelmed, or discouraged.

Because I was never meant to make the waves. I don’t know how to break them. I’m too queasy to ride them, and I do not want to watch them.

Instead, I want to toss you a raft and build you a world that brings you bliss. I want to offer you words that transport you elsewhere, craft you sentences that help you know you’re not alone, and design a story to give you hope.

I want to take your hand and bring you on a magnificent journey to shore where we will find adventure and love and kindness between words.

I am meant to provide an escape from the waves.

This Tiny Piece of Day

“Let’s go for a walk,” I say as I grab my dirty sneakers.

She doesn’t respond, but she smiles, and that is plenty for me.

There’s a certain peace that flows through walking together. It’s just us and the earth and the sounds of the world humming. Fresh air lifts any worries from our shoulders and the bustle is left behind. The day’s responsibilities won’t go away, but they can wait. We’ll come back, and life will suck us in again, but for right now, we escape. This is our perfect slice of the day where there’s nothing but us and the trees and the sky.

The dirt and gravel crunch beneath our feet as we walk down the long driveway. A breeze brushes by, and I feel at peace in this quiet.

That’s what’s so great about us. We can walk side by side and words aren’t needed. I can just sigh in the summer air, and she knows how I’m feeling.

And if words do come, they’re easy. She listens quietly, occasionally glancing at me as we walk, that content, understanding smile still stretched across her face. She’ll never judge what I have to say or the way I’m feeling. She’s just there, always by my side, the perfect listening ear as I mumble the thoughts that glide across my mind.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you,” I say when the sun slows our pace and the gravel turns to grass. “Thanks for listening.”

And she doesn’t even have to say “you’re welcome,” because I know I always am. This simplicity is bliss. Just being brings comfort to us both, and this fragment of daylight belongs only to us. This break keeps us both sane.

Work/life balance can certainly be a challenge to any adult, and this proves true even when working at home. It’s like the laptop is a galactic portal with irresistible gravity, and there’s always a task to complete, always an email to send, forever a project to start.

And that’s fine. That’s professional life. That’s adulting. But take a break. Because right now, this time is ours.

Me and my dog stepping through wildflowers and truly enjoying the other’s undistracted company.

Us. In this tiny piece of day we call our own.