“I once heard a saying that when you’re ready, the teacher you need appears before you.” ― Emily Byrd Starr

I’d like to thank Ellie and Jim Berghausen (Aunt Ellie and Uncle Jim) for this week’s challenge. They are close family friends from when I was little. They are also my sister, Abbey’s, Godparents. I’m sure I took it in a different direction than they intended, but I feel my responses are accurate and my recipients deserving of such praise.

Challenge #4:



“Write a letter to 2 of the best, most influential “teachers” you have encountered in your 28 1/2 years. Tell them why you chose them for this honor. If they respond, let the world know what they said!” – Jim and Ellie Berghausen

I was told that I could use the term “teachers” in the liberal sense or move beyond the classroom. Only one caveat- no family members.

I was going to write a letter to each of my siblings until I read that last bit (don’t worry, John and Abbey. I have another one coming for you down the road) and I realized I needed to go back to the drawing board.

I selected Melanie Chavez for my first letter. I joined the Junior League of Cincinnati 4 years ago and have met so many insanely awesome women that I cannot even begin to count. I remember accompanying my mom to meetings when I was a small child and watching them do their thing. She developed so many close friends with whom she is still close today. Many of which, I have come to call friends, as well.

One of the incredible women I have met is Melanie Chavez. She served as President of the JLC last year and I had the opportunity to work quite frequently with her while I was planning our spring fundraiser, Cinsation. I have gotten to know her on a personal and professional level and truly appreciate all of the guidance she has bestowed upon me.


I will not reveal the whole letter, but here are some of the lessons I have taken from our interactions.

– ALWAYS send a thank you note. Always. Handwritten on cute stationary. The handwritten word goes a long way and is so very rarely used these days.

– Act like a lady. Melanie handles herself with an admirable elegance and poise that I could only dream of having. My lack of coordination and severe case of clumsiness, not to mention the volume of my voice, are hindering this process but I’m working on it.

– Give everything 110%. I do not know how she does it, and might never know, but Melanie is all-in on every single thing she does. I’m certainly trying, but SOMETIMES I just doooon’t wanna go to that meeeeting.

– Be flexible. Sometimes things happen and you cannot control them or they are not as you expected. Roll with the punches and figure out how to solve the problem.

I look up to her more than she probably recognizes, but I can’t think of anyone more deserving. Thank you so very much for all that you have taught me, Melanie! It is genuinely appreciated.

And juuuuust as I was about to seal the envelope I discovered that I had written the letter upside down on my cute card. What can I say? Rome wasn’t built in a day…


After having spent the past weekend in Las Vegas for my friend Stacey’s bachelorette party, I realized just how much I rely on my phone. I was constantly looking things up on google. And thus, my second letter…

And with that, they’re on their way to their recipients! I’ll let you know if I hear anything back! If any of you happen to know anyone that works at Google, let me know!! I want to make sure the right person knows how much they mean to me!


That’s it for this week! Fingers crossed for good weather next week! I am really looking forward to the task I’ve selected!

Katie goes to Hoxworth!

This week’s challenge hit close to home given the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. I had decided last Thursday which one I was going to do and current events confirmed my decision. I was so moved after hearing stories about how many of the runners crossed the finished line and kept running straight to area hospitals to donate and help out.

Challenge #3:

Donate Blood!” from Sarah Warren.


Sarah and I had the chance to meet one another at Interlochen Arts Camp the summer after 7th grade. We spent a month becoming friends, rocking sweet uniforms consisting of knee high socks, button downs, god awful shorts and Birkentocks, and perfecting our various artistic talents. Sarah is a dancer and a fabulous one at that! We have only seen each other once since then, after numerous failed attempts while my sister lived in Dallas. Thanks to the magic of Facebook and lots of letters/emails in our younger days, we have managed to keep in touch. Sarah, I’m deathly afraid of needles so this was a great challenge for me!

First of all, Hoxworth makes donating blood INCREDIBLY easy! You can book an appointment online, call ahead or just walk in. They also have mobile units that travel around the area. I selected the Anderson location for my donation. I walked in, noticeably uncomfortable and terrified for what was about to happen. The facility was quite pleasant and the staff was extremely attentive and friendly. I was immediately greeted with a smile and a thank you for deciding to donate. After taking down my information and putting me in the system, I was taken to a cubicle where they pricked my finger to test my blood to see if I was an “acceptable donor.” The first needle – a very tiny one – is the one that hurt the most.

Blood test!

Blood test!

So many barcodes.

So many barcodes.

After approving my status she had to place my barcode on like 35 different tubes and bags that my blood would go into, reassuring me the entire time that I was freaking out for no reason. They walked me over to what looked like a dentist chair and immediately began the needle poking process.


My nurse, Sarah, walked me through the whole process step by step and asked me many questions to keep me occupied so I wouldn’t look at the needle. Not entirely effective, but helpful nonetheless.

I apparently have excellent veins.

I apparently have excellent veins.

She asked me why I was giving blood and I explained my blog, the challenge cards, etc. She brought me a blanket and shortly thereafter, the entire staff was surrounding my chair waiting to hear all about my adventures for the next year. It was exciting seeing how interested they all were in my project.


They can only keep the needle in you for 15 minutes so if they don’t get a full pint of your blood in that time frame, it doesn’t work. I couldn’t watch, but wanted to see what it looked like so I took a video of the needle-poking process. No worries, I decided to spare you all and not include it. Plus, I sound like a HUGE baby. Before I knew it, I was done!! Mine only took about 9 minutes because I apparently have excellent veins. I didn’t even feel her take the needle out! They gave me some popcorn, a Sierra Mist, a sticker and sent me on my way!

My blood, now available at area hospitals.

My blood, now available at area hospitals. That made me a little queasy…

I don’t know why I have waited so long to do this. It was unnerving at first, but I will definitely go back. They do a cholesterol screening and some other tests for you since they have your blood already, so that’s nice.

Some things to note before giving blood:

– Drink plenty of water.

– Have a decent meal so you don’t pass out.

-Don’t be scared! It’s really easy!! If I can do it, anyone can.

Did you know that only 5% of eligible donors currently give blood? Since it cannot be manufactured, we are their only source for it! If we don’t give blood, they don’t have blood and people die. Essentially. They told me that my blood will go to an area hospital and that one single pint can potentially save three lives. Y’all, I saved lives today! All in all, I feel like I made a difference and am very pleased with the whole experience. If you’re interested in donating, visit www.hoxworth.org.

Challenge #2: Rock Climbing

Forgive me for any potential typos as I can hardly move my arms from this week’s challenge. Since The Four Agreements was so heavy I decided to take a lighthearted approach to my second challenge and have a little fun!

Challenge #2:

“Try Rock climbing at a local indoor climbing wall from Linda Appleby.


Suited up and ready to go! Eeek!!

Suited up and ready to go! Eeek!!

I was really excited about this one because my sister, Abbey, has recently gotten into bouldering in Denver. This has freaked me out for a number of reasons, but mainly because you do not use a harness. Not knowing very much about the subject, I decided to do some research. I watched videos, talked to other climbers and did a LOT of reading.

Bouldering is typically done at a lower height than climbing with a harness. It is more about focusing on the problem and finding a solution to climb an obscurely shaped boulder. Fun fact: climbing urban structures and public architecture is called “buildering.” They sit and stare at the rock, evaluate the situation and come up with a plan of attack, or solution, on how to conquer it. It focuses on strength and power through smaller sequences of moves where as sport climbing is going up the face of the wall any way you can. The geek in my loves problem solving so, if I were stronger, this might be right up my alley. Perhaps someday.

Abbey, I’m beyond impressed that you can do this…and I get it now. I get why you like it so much. I’ll support you with Mom and Dad haha.

My sad attempt at bouldering.

My sad attempt at bouldering.

My best friend Christy Samad joined me on this little adventure. We selected Rock Quest Climbing Center in Sharonville for our climbing facility based on a recommendation from Linda Appleby and from the quality of their website. They seemed to have their ducks in a row, whereas Climb Time was not quite as informative.


I walked in and explained what I was doing (and they thought it was really, really cool) and suggested that we do a 1 hour semi-private session where a staff member belayed for us so that we could just enjoy the climb. That and I was nervous for Christy to belay me…

Some things to know:

1) I’m TERRIFIED of heights.

2) I’m clumsy as all get out.

3) I don’t do well in high-pressure situations.

This was really the perfect challenge to get me out of my comfort zone and really stretch my abilities.

After a minor panic attack I adjusted and accepted that this was an unavoidable activity and I had to suck it up. We then met the lovely Sarah Rottenberger, who would serve as our climbing guru for the next hour. After signing our life away, getting our gear and suiting up, we were ready to go!



I told them this was really in their best interest because the likelihood of me getting hurt was pretty good. Alas, I made it out unscathed…sort of.

What girl doesn't love accessories?

What girl doesn’t love accessories?

Here we go!

Here we go!

My thoughts on rock climbing…

It was really tough for me at first, especially because of the heights thing, and being able to maintain a level of confidence in my abilities. I didn’t think I’d be strong enough and Christy and I actually joked on our way there about whether or not we’d even make it to the top of the wall. There were many times where I was tempted to quit as a result of either fear, confusion or exhaustion. Sarah wasn’t having any of that. Her shouts of encouragement and directional advice from 40 feet below kept me going – truthfully. I could not have done this without her.

This sport requires both mental strength and physical strength. I mean, you’re strapped into a harness and, though I didn’t believe this at first, they’ve got you. They will not let you fall. You’ll see this in the video. Sarah said she never climbs a wall without creating a plan first. Well I’m not much of a planner. I just went for it. That was stupid. At one point I was hanging, 30 feet in the air, and I yelled “I do not like anything I’m holding onto right now!!!!” and didn’t know where to go from there. Again, she encouraged me and up I went. Having faith in yourself and your own strength to keep going when you think you can’t is most important. Christy says to “Stay calm and keep focused!” – Two things I’m really good at…

What goes up must come down. OMG. Terrifying at first then totally fun. After the first couple of bumps I was alright.

IMG_3362 IMG_3321IMG_3302IMG_3278IMG_3235


We climbed 4 walls of varying skill level, the last of which consisted of a three-dimensional diamond pattern coming out of the wall. This was tough because you couldn’t see where your feet were or what to place them on, but eventually, I figured it out!

The sense of accomplishment I felt when I came down from the first climb is irreplaceable. I am beyond proud of myself for doing this and so very thankful to Mrs. Appleby for making me. Even though I could barely move when I woke up this morning…

Here is a little video of the adventure! Enjoy!

Kinda feeling like I can do anything now!! We’ll see what next week brings!

The Four Agreements

I decided to kick off my adventure with the first card returned to me because two very important people in my life have been pushing me to do this particular task for well over two years, now. I did not anticipate that it would be so personal, but I guess that’s kind of the point of all this, so…

Challenge #1:
“Read The Four Agreementsby Don Miguel Ruiz, and make a written reminder of them and post it somewhere visible” from Elizabeth Cottingham.


In the spirit of full disclosure, Elizabeth Cottingham has been my shrink/therapist/confidant/pal for over 5 years now. (Everyone needs one. I am a huge proponent of unloading your personal crap on an unbiased ear.) After seeing bazillions of quacks since I was a wee-one being diagnosed with ADHD, I finally landed on one I actually like. She has seen me through some incredibly difficult times, including loss of loved ones, career change, heartbreak and personal struggle, and some absolutely fabulous times, as well.  Both she and Jen Jura, my personal trainer turned friend of just about the same amount of time, have been begging me to read this book for too long and finally I have no choice, but to oblige. You can stop hounding me now, ladies.

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For those that have not read the book, it focuses on four essential beliefs or perspectives that, if you truly commit to living your life with these in mind, will enable one to experience personal freedom and a life “full of grace and simple truth.”

I was in Boca Grande, FL (my most favorite place on the planet) for Easter weekend and decided the beach would be the perfect place for me to read.


The book begins by explaining that, as children, we are taught to believe certain things and raised in certain ways, making “agreements” with our “teachers” in life because that is how we grow. These are things like religion, the way we speak, right and wrong, how we feel about ourselves, etc.  These agreements then guide us through our lives and help us make decisions. I think. We accept the things that we are told as truth because we learn them from people we trust and we live our lives with these beliefs in mind. We sometimes allow ourselves to be abused by others and, more often, by ourselves if we do things that we think are wrong. That abuse defines us because we have made that agreement. He says, “In this whole life no one has ever abused you more than you have abused yourself.” Likely true.

There is an example in the book of a little girl that loves to sing and one day her mother, after a long stressful day, tells her to stop singing because she has an ugly voice. The little girl then makes the agreement that she must have an ugly voice and never sings again. Essentially, the book tells us that as adults we have to break the agreements we made as children in order to truly experience personal freedom.  We have to commit to our own agreements on the type of people we are and the life we want to live.  You have to break down the walls you’ve built up, let go of the fears that are holding you back, put on your big girl pants and live the life you were destined to live. Easy, right? Not according to this guy.

The Four Agreements are: 

1. Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

So there’s that.

I have pretty mixed feelings about the book.  First of all, it’s very poorly written and suuuper redundant. His inability to write made me question his credibility and I was all “Why should I believe what this dude is saying if he can’t construct a sentence?”  I was forewarned that this would annoy me. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine. If you’re going to be published then produce a decent piece of literature. I mean, I couldn’t get 50 pages in to Fifty Shades of Grey because it was written sooo, so badly.  Anyway, I got over it and tried to really listen to what The Four Agreements was bringing to the proverbial table. I read along as I listened to the audio book so that I could truly focus without surrounding distractions (ADHD rears its ugly head).

Secondly, I get the message. It’s a solid message. And it makes sense. All of those things can definitely lead one to live a happier, more pleasant life. But every time the words Jesus or God came up, I felt myself roll my eyes a little bit. I had begun to accept the personal perspective it was providing, but I was not ready for the Jesus-speak, so to say.

Those that know me well know that I have a very difficult time when it comes to accepting faith and religion in my life. As a child, I would go through the motions and do everything I was told to do at good old St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Anderson. However, I have always questioned it. I have a hard time believing all the water into wine, walking on water, parting of the sea, dying and rising stuff. I cannot suspend my disbelief long enough to focus on the real message I’m supposed to be receiving. I questioned my religion teachers all through junior high and high school asking them to “prove it.” This was never appreciated. I believed because I was supposed to believe – an agreement I unwillingly made, according to this book. However, these days, given past circumstances in my life, I just don’t have the patience for it. I cannot wrap my head around how God, or whatever he/she/it may be, can allow certain things to happen, especially to such wonderful people. My family has had some pretty hard losses and now my mom, one of the healthiest people I have ever met, is fighting cancer and I just can’t comprehend it. Blah blah blah, everything happens for a reason. I’m not buying it.  I had a conversation with my father the other day about how he wishes I would accept some form of faith back into my life and how he feels it would be beneficial. I told him I would consider it. Apparently this book thinks I should, as well. I have some other challenges coming down the pipeline that will focus on that so I’ll deal with it at a later date.

From a personal standpoint, the book hit home specifically with the second and third agreements. I cannot tell you the countless hours I have wasted in my lifetime worrying about why people did things they did, whether it was my fault or a result of something I had done or said. So the message is that people do what they wanna do because they wanna do it. Plain and simple. It has absolutely nothing to do with me. Except, I’m not totally on board with that. If I knock over a cup and spill its contents all over another person, they are going to get up and dry themselves off because I spilled on them.  My action: their reaction. I actually think there is, like, a scientific theory behind that or something. I’m working on this one because, in my opinion, it needs further investigation. I also cannot tell you how many countless hours I have wasted assuming things. Assuming what people are thinking about something I have done or said. Assuming what reaction people will have to certain events. Assuming how a conversation will go before it even begins. Part of this is because I have an insanely good memory and never, ever forget anything – good or bad, so I predict outcomes based off previous events.  If I said something stupid to someone, I would mentally kick myself over it for years when really, anybody else couldn’t care less.

I remember we had this activity in Mrs. Wilson’s second grade class at Ayer Elementary. We had to bring in a baby picture of ourselves, sit in a circle and the rest of the class had to match the picture to the classmate. I got SO excited (ADHD again) when my picture came up that I yelled “That’s me!!!” Mrs. Wilson looked at me and told me that I ruined the game. Now, your average kid would probably forget about that moment, but it has clearly scarred me for life. I think about that moment allll the time. I have spent the last 20-some years of my life desperately trying to avoid being the “fun-ruiner” ever again. So, I guess now I’m supposed to make peace with this moment, and many, many others, and move on. Yeah…ok. After having spent the last 28 years wrapped up in my own head I imagine this will take awhile.

Since completing the book, I have already been more conscious of things that I am saying and thinking, so it’s already begun to have an impact on my life. We were in Florida with my niece, Belle, and it was absolutely fascinating to watch her learn, grow and discover things in her own way. She would stare in wonder at things she was unfamiliar with and mimic behaviors, sounds and mannerisms as she watched her parents interact with others. I began to think about the “agreements” she is starting to make. I can only hope she soaks up the best lessons from her wonderfully loving parents and the great big world around her because that beautiful, little angel deserves only the best. And then I accidentally knocked her off of a toy train and will probably feel horrible about it until I know there isn’t any permanent damage. Baby steps.


Now, naturally, I read the book, but have put my own little spin on the second portion. Thanks to Pinterest and the lovely additions of some creatively talented folks, I printed out some images of the agreements and framed them in various places in my home. Now I can see them all the time.

I appreciate the sentiment and the purpose behind Elizabeth and Jen having me read this book. These two people know me very well and know that I can and will benefit from it. Ruiz says that these changes obviously don’t happen overnight and that it is a constant struggle trying to retrain your brain on how to process these thoughts. People can be quite cruel. Years of living, breathing and believing one way will not change in an instant. I know that I am an absolutely incredible person. My sister, Abbey, always reminds me of the wise words of Stuart Smalley. “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and gosh darnit, people like me.” I know that I am a good person. I know that I am a good person that some pretty crappy things have happened to. I guess the lesson that I have to take from this is that it’s all about perspective. I can choose to continue to let those moments define me and direct me or I can choose to live out these agreements. I can choose to be impeccable with my word. I can choose to not take things personally. I can choose to not make assumptions. I can choose to always do my best. I can choose to say that I’m honestly looking forward to it. Heavy.
Message received. Can’t wait to see what’s up for next week!