I’ll Give You a Megaphone…

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest impact.  Have you ever been suffering from a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and then just as it hits the apex of dreadfulness when your heavy Trader Joe’s bag bursts open at the bottom, and your groceries crash onto the pavement, a kind man comes over to help gather the mound, and suddenly everything seems okay?

We’ve all been there, and we all appreciate it when there’s some spark of hope to allay the bad, or even just blah, spells.  This is why I absolutely love Improv Everywhere’s “Say Something Nice” campaign.

Created as a part of Guggenheim Museum’s stillspotting nyc exhibition, “the project [that] takes the museum’s Architecture and Urban Studies programming out into the streets of the city’s five boroughs…using ‘stillspots,’ which are identified, created, or transformed by architects, artists, designers, composers, and philosophers into public tours, events, or installations.”

Though the hustle-and-bustle of city-living can be exciting, it can also take its toll on both sightseers and natives alike.  This particular crusade offers a small yet curious release from the typical hullabaloo, and if nothing more, gets people talking:

Side note: if anyone can tell what the little boy is saying from 1:44-1:51, please let me know.  That’s probably my favorite part just because it’s so funny and cute, but I keep replaying it and still for the life of me cannot make out his little yelp!

*Smile Tip #7:* You don’t need a megaphone to announce your message – if you pass a stranger on the street, someone in class, or a fellow employee that looks (or even doesn’t look) like they could use a little pick-me-up, shoot them a thoughtful compliment.  You’ll have them smiling in no time.

Half-Baked, without the Spoon

My boyfriend makes me smile (most of the time).  He’s a big reason why Chicago was our current destination of choice.  Having lived here twice before with persistent dreams of making it big in the world of improvisational comedy, the second city continued to beckon his name way out in the Colorado Rockies.  With a little extra push from me, he was able to return to the Midwestern metropolitan, but this time, he had a sidekick to support him on the journey.

While the improv world is very much centered on performance, there are also other avenues that supplement this ultimate ambition.  One of these paths involves exploring the writing side of comedic expression.  Aptly, my poetic beau has been known to woo me with his words on many occasions, so this pursuit was completely second-nature for him.  With a degree in History, my creative aspirer found a way to merge his thrill for the Civil War and world antiquity with his passion for acerbic absurdity, and what emerged was a self-published book titled Half-Baked History.

I’ve kind of turned into his editor/PR rep, not only because I love him, but because it’s really that good!  If you own a Kindle and enjoy the likes of Colbert with a touch of scholarly satire thrown into the mix, then you have no excuse not to check out his first endeavor as an Amazon-accredited author.  The gist is this: there are “myths,” which, for the not-as-quick readers such as myself, are actually historical truths; and then there are “facts,” which are essentially a clever hodge-podge of fictional fabrications thought up by the ingeniousness of the self-proclaimed “Professor Bagnall.”

The following is an excerpt from the e-book regarding the highly misunderstood legacy of the prophet we refer to today as “Buddha”:

Fact:  Siddhartha Gautama, or Buddha, was in fact one of the most materialistic and shallow false prophets of his day.  Born in Nepal to an upper-middle class family living in the suburbs of Kathmandu, he received a private education at The Tibetan Country Day School – an elite boarding school located in nearby Tibet.  Even at that early age, Buddha’s hypocritical and pedantic nature could be viewed on a day-to-day basis.  

One fellow student remarked about an incident during their senior year: “I was carrying numerous books to class and had to rid myself of a Luna Bar wrapper, so like any sane person, I threw the wrapper in a nearby trash can.  All of a sudden, I noticed the roar of a Range Rover engine as Buddha skidded to a stop in front of me.  He began screaming at me about the fact that a local recycling bin was located some 45 miles from where I was standing, and grilled me as to why I hadn’t walked there to dispose of my Luna Bar wrapper.  I tried to point out the fact that he was driving a Range Rover, but Buddha quickly changed subjects and made a remark about the sweatshop-made Target shirt I was wearing.  He then promptly told me to ‘F**k off,’ flicked a burning joint into my face, and drove off.  I was simply in awe.” 

*censored due to the innocuously wholesome nature of *Simply Smile*—but do know that all of the stories are no holds barred through and through.

*Smile Tip #6:* Hands-down, once you get your hands on some half-baked humor, you will have a permanent grin on your face through even the most mundane of days.  Additionally, for less than it costs to buy a grande latte at Starbucks that merely gives you a caffeine kick for a few hours, you can buy an everlasting outlet to hilarity; and better yet, you’ll feel good knowing that you’re supporting a starving (and deserving) artist—there’s really nothing more smile-inducing than that!

A Journey of Empowerment

My big sister is one of the most incredible people I know.  On top of being extremely down-to-earth, talented, and bright, she is also a real-life superwoman.  When we were younger, there were a number of tell-tale signs disclosing this destiny; some of which included playing “teacher” with me using the huge chalkboard in our basement (which, by the way, made it all the more legitimate), staying awake until ridiculous hours of the night/morning to relentlessly study for whatever class or AP exam was imminent, and juggling being Student Council Vice President while also dancing and teaching dance classes on nearly full-time hours, five days a week.  As she sunk her
feet into her adult years, this drive and energy for meaningful success did not cease, and what it sparked was her very own charitable organization: Storybuilding Foundation.

After years of brainstorming while working in the non-profit world and also dancing for a well-known sports team, the timing, impetus, and intention finally felt right.  Since the arts had always been significant part of her life (at one point during her teenage years she even pondered pursuing dance therapy as a career path), the idea for StoryBuilding Foundation took flight naturally.  Essentially, the charity facilitates a personal journey through the arts, empowering young individuals in underserved areas of each city, state, or country by fusing together community, spirit, and life.

Through conducting workshops that explore tools and techniques around action planning, creative thinking, and journaling, participants are provided with an outlet to begin taking control of their unwritten future.  As people learn more about themselves, build confidence to express who they are, conquer fear, challenge the norm – and do it in their own way – they are better positioned to help others do the same.  The goal of the organization is to help individuals discover the voice of their character, the setting of their plot, and that our beliefs, choices, and actions lead to experiences that fill a new page in our storybook.

Right now, my sister is in Haiti marking the launch of StoryBuilding Foundation’s oversees program, bringing it to orphanages and tent cities greatly impacted by the earthquake.  I have yet to get a full report, but the following is a taste of the experience thus far:

“There are no words to describe what has happened on this trip. The pictures will provide a glimpse of a moment, our blogs will recount a memory, our hearts will hold the experiences – to allow our future words and actions to carry the energy and love of our individual and collective story.”

*Smile Tip #5:* Pictures are worth a thousand words…

Visit Storybuilding Foundation’s Facebook and Twitter pages to learn more about how you can help, or feel free to make a direct donation – any little bit helps keep those smiles alive!

Breaking the Bubble

I am generally the type who prefers to keep to myself.  Although I am palpably outgoing and bubbly, deep down inside, the introverted self that hovers always feels most comfortable in its own company.  Even as a child, I remember being painfully shy.  Throughout my youth and into adulthood, I pretty much kept enough close friends to count on one hand, though I usually entertained about two handfuls of noteworthy acquaintances.  A lot of these characteristics are innate – my mom’s side of the genes – though I also believe that a measurable amount of it is simply habit-forming.  If you start doing/knowing one way of experiencing life, these ingrained notions form a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The more you get stuck in the box, the more it’s hard to break free.

(I’m the lucky lil’ rascal holding the sign)

Life in-the-bubble really isn’t that bad since, overall, I am pretty content with myself and the close few that fill my pint-sized world.  I tend to be a particular person when it comes to finding and embracing those I care about; it’s truly about quality over quantity.  Nevertheless, with this whole starting anew sentiment that the lively Chicago air has sprung upon me, it turns out that I’ve really been making strides to disentangle myself from this typical staying-in-the bubble cycle.  And oddly enough, it’s kind of come naturally.

I guess that’s a funny thing about getting older—your personality and priorities are constantly shifting, developing a new and improved you in a gradual and comfortable way, every single day.  I am so grateful to have opened up my barriers enough to begin forming some amazing friendships out here, bonds that I can envision growing to be invaluable and everlasting.  And for a self-proclaimed hermit, that certainly speaks volumes.

*Smile Tip #4:* When meeting someone for the very first time, it is really incredible how a warm smile goes a long way.  Upon initial encounter with some of the girls I make reference to above, their approachable nature is very much what drew me to them—the first trait that stood out was an authentically earnest smile, and from there, I knew we’d become fast friends 🙂

Resurrection

After exactly 3 years and 2 months, I’ve decided to breathe life back into this neglected little creation.  So much has happened since its inception, and with my newfound stimulation, now seems like the perfect time to find little bits of inspiration to further me (and others) on the path of growth and discovery.

I guess this entry calls for a little update; an official introduction, even.  When I first approached the idea of having some sort of online written identity, I was an aspiring magazine editor.  I was obsessed with the idea of one day having a byline in an Oprah’s magazine (or the likes of), and thanks to tons of networking within the field and various internship experiences, I was on an effective path to one day reaching my goal.  However, somewhere along the way—okay, I can pretty much pinpoint that it was between the time I graduated and the time I met my now roomie/boyfriend of 3+ years a few weeks later,  my path sort of took a detour.  I fell out of dreams of freelancing from my bedroom and fell into concocting fun flavor twists for bejeweled walls of frozen yogurt.

Yes, self-serve fro-yo shops became the center of my existence.  I mean, it was pretty perfect – I got to cut up deliciously fresh fruit all day, be around some ridiculously awesome people, and delay growing up for little while more.  Really, I wouldn’t take any of it back for the world.  Though, after three years of being in food management, and even considering the idea of birthing my own “Simple Sweetness for the Soul” yogurt shop, I realized I was finally ready to dig back into my bag of passions and move on.

Actually, that’s been the trend for a little bit now—in addition to acquiring a male sidekick, I have apparently developed the ability to become a world traveler—or even just a national wanderer.  I’ve moved more than halfway across the country from my comfortable little bubble in New Jersey, and after a semi-short stint near the Rocky Mountains, journeyed a bit back east, now residing in the Windy City.  I suppose I’ve really adapted to this whole “change”  thing fairly seamlessly, with only a handful of bumps and scrapes along the way (which, of course, is inevitable).

So what now?  I guess we shall soon find out.  I came back to this because it felt right, just like the search for happiness should be!  And now, being just a bit older and wiser (at least I’d like to think so), I’ll probably be adding a bit more dimension to the simplicity of this blog’s theme—while still keeping it filled with positivity and butterflies and flowers, naturally 😉

I look forward to the journey ahead, and hope you will join me!

*Smile Tip #3:* This might be TMI and slightly off-topic, but I am finally becoming accustomed to, and oddly sort of enjoying, my newly fitted mouthguard.  I’m a gum chewer – it helps me focus, though I realize it could be a not-so-great habit – so I’ve started substituting it with some daytime molded plastic clenching instead—I know, I told you it was weird.

Apparently I may grind my teeth while I’m asleep, according to the dentist I acquired while living in Boulder, which is why I had a succession of fillings (whose cost could have easily gone towards a used craigslist car, if I needed one), and he suggested I get a mouth guard to prevent my teeth from developing any more holes/grinding-related erosion that may happen overnight.  Just the idea of that freaks me out, since I literally have nightmares about my teeth falling out; so I invested in a really expensive plastic molding of my teeth, even though I thought the whole thing was kind of ridiculous (mind you, this is coming from a girl who never had to wear braces, or a retainer, or any sort of foreign metal in my mouth through my awkward pre-teen years).

It was super uncomfortable at first, and I really thought I didn’t even need it (wouldn’t the guy who sleeps next to me every night notice a funny noise coming from my side of the bed?  I mean, I know he’s practically a brick when he’s asleep, but still…).  Though, I was told it needed to be broken in like a new shoe, so I wore it around our Colorado home while reading, watching TV, and packing for our second move.  In between departing and settling more into or colorful Lincoln Square apartment, I took my first visit back to New Jersey since leaving in the winter.  It was then that my rigid mouth contraption had a little tune-up by my childhood dentist.  Soon after, it finally felt right, and I was hooked.

In conclusion, if you cherish your teeth as much as I do, make sure you see a dentist before a small problem gets significantly worse and much more exorbitantly priced.  Your smile is precious—make sure it stays brilliant and strong for a lifetime!