My Living Will

My living will, here published, though not notarized, eye-witnessed, or registered.

The instructions for my beloveds:

Bury me in the mountains of Carolina.

Play The Eagles, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and the Goldberg Variations at my funeral.

I leave my bank account to my mother, who has paid dearly for me to live my life.

I leave my awesome other shit to Alle and Corie.

Gnatalie gets first pick, though.

And John gets first pick over that.

Eli and Grayson get all the candy and food and electronics.

Melanie gets all my flowers, and my deepest thanks.

John already has all of me.

I want to return to ashes, and be scattered at the top of Pinnacle.

I want a very keen eye to make sure whatever pictures of me that are set up for the funeral don’t make make me look fat.

And I want Luna to have a brother.


The Importance of Being Honest


I have four siblings. The five of us grew up in the South, and I was a chatterbox, which is why my brothers called me the “mouth of the South.” Little did my parents know (or let on that they knew) that was blaming everything on my siblings; I could talk my way out of just about anything. I’ve always harbored an obsession with being right, being smart, being better, being a Type A personality, winning, and exaggerating to compensate for the times I didn’t do well. Growing up, I always hoped that feigned brilliance and wit would help me to lead an extraordinary life—at least, I did for a while.


“Liar, liar, pants on fire!” When you’ve truly messed up and taken that one fib too far, dealing with your jeans as they literally catch fire may seem like a preferable option to facing the pain you’ve caused your loved ones. As adults we may like to think we’re full of truth and integrity, virtues we must pass on to our youth. The truth is that no one is perfect. My day of reckoning came when I blamed my brother for something I had done, and my mother punished him to the point where I felt a very real pain as I watched him suffer. I came clean to my mother, who didn’t punish me. Instead she physically turned away from me, clearly hurt. After that incident, I knew that I never wanted cause pain again, or to be responsible for the suffering of others. Lying would never come so easily to me again.


No matter how hard your parents tried to bring you up right, it’s easy to let a little fib slip between your teeth from time to time. Saying “Yes, I did the dishes” when you didn’t may not seem like a big deal, but lies can spread like wildfire. Is lying ever worth the consequences? What kind of example are we setting when tell others a “different version of the truth”? What damage did I cause my little brothers when I blamed my misconduct on them, and they suffered the consequences? How could I think their suffering would be better than my owning up to the mistake?

Since that day I came clean to my mother, I’ve noticed an almost tangible change in myself. I started to notice a negative aura around those I knew to be liars. I felt horrible just knowing what they were doing. Having been on the other side of a terrible lie, I felt dirty when I knew someone lied to me–especially when that someone was a person whom I loved and trusted. Most people may not see what they’re doing as harmful; to them, lying is a form of self-preservation. But whether you tell someone you “like” their new haircut, blame your sibling for missing cookies, or pretend you have permission for something you don’t, lying is deceitful and undeserved to others. There’s a catharsis that comes with honesty. “The truth will set you free.”


I encourage you to be as honest as you can with the people around you. White lies to cover harsh truths in the presence of little children may prevent their understanding of reality, as well as prove you a dishonest caretaker. When you catch someone lying, try talking to them about it openly and respectfully. Give evidence or relay memories to displace their assertions. How you ultimately deal with the problem is up to you, but confidence, face-to-face conversations, and unconditional love are paramount to dismantling a lying loved one.

No matter what your child, friend, or sibling may have done, no matter what words were said, try to always let the impact of love wear down the barriers. A hug post-chatting never hurts. As H. Jackson Brown, Jr. said, “Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.”

“The Importance of Being Honest,” as published on on 11/07/2014.

Habits of Healing: Surviving the Pain of Loss

I was seventeen when I lost my favorite person on Earth. I had known Jacob for four years, both romantically and platonically. It was mid-junior year in high school, post-break-up, and the only class we had together was English—my favorite, his least favorite. We had drifted apart after he became part of the cool athlete clique, but one day we stayed after class to study and talk. Our conversation mostly revolved around our assignments, friends, and plans for the future—college application deadlines were fast approaching, after all. As we talked, he seemed unsure of himself; he didn’t know what else to pursue beyond his football talents. I asked him what mattered most to him. He didn’t have an answer for that, nor did he know what his life goals or passions were. He left our study session early. The next thing I remember is a flurry of phone calls from friends telling me that Jacob had shot himself on our once favorite picnic spot, World’s Edge, January 10, 2009. The gun had been a birthday gift from his grandfather.

The impact of loss hits you from nowhere, and all at once. The pressure, the weight of it: it’s hard to shake off, to breathe, to clear your head. The pressure is simply there, and it doesn’t retreat, not until time heals your pain. When I lost Jacob, I was experienced enough to deal with my grief in a constructive way through listening to others and tending to their grief, and I was old enough for my grief to serve more as a warning than as an irreparable scar. Though Jacob is not my only loss to suicide, he was my first. Thankfully, I’ve learned what I have to do to survive the pain of loss. Surviving requires mental stamina, compassion for others, an understanding of what you can and cannot control, acknowledgement towards the singular experience of grief, and the belief that, with time, you will be able to live on, even if grief interrupts your routine occasionally. It’s natural to find yourself reeling on an emotional rollercoaster, trying to forgive, trying not to forget, and struggling onward, hoping that your lost loved one would be proud of you. Loss is something every person will deal with at some point; coping with intense personal trials is just part of the human condition.

Sharing your love, your feelings, living life to the fullest, appreciating single, peaceful moments, acknowledging the good that surrounds you, letting those good moments carry you through the bad times—these are the best ways to cope with grief. While expressing your deepest feelings can be difficult, finding a healthy way of expressing them is important. Talk to someone about what you’re feeling, write your feelings down, dance them out, draw them; do what it takes to get them out of your system. As John Green writes in his book The Fault in Our Stars, “Pain demands to be felt.” Once you can recognize that the loss is reality, share your grief with others. Remember the things you loved about the person you lost. Celebrate his or her life. Channel your energy into something besides recounting the loss—distract yourself. This will help you fall back into the routine of daily life.

Your life does not end because another person’s does, no matter how much it may feel like that way. Take the time you need to heal. Then, once you feel emotionally rejuvenated, seek the happiness in life you desire, knowing that that’s what your loved one would have you do. The power of positive thinking goes a long way.

“Everything will be all right in the end, and if it’s not, then it’s not the end.”-Maggoch, D., The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

“Habits of Healing: Surviving the Pain of Loss,” as published on on 11/06//2014.

Operation Toasty Toes: Knitting for the Holiday Season

Get out your knitting needles, ladies and gents—it’s cold outside! Below are some totally fantastic ideas to kick-off knitting this season. From beginner to expert, there are patterns for every style. We know there’ll be something here you can’t help but fall in love with!


Comfy Cuffed Slippers

comfy cuffed slippers

Keep those toes toasty with some of these comfy cuffed slippers. Easy to knit, easy to love. For beginners!


30-Minute Infinity Scarf

30-minute infinity scarf

Keep your entire neck warm all year round with this fabulous 30-minute infinity scarf.


Funky Foliage Hat

funky foliage hat

Show off your style with a well-knitted foliage ‘boggan. You won’t regret the fall fashion decision to stay warm!


Beautiful Boot Cuffs

beautiful boot cuffs

Quick knit these fantastically cozy-looking boot cuffs for a sneaky flair in the colder months!


Wintry Snowball Scarf

winty snowball scarf

This “fun in the snow” inspired scarf is truly a wintry sensation—any other color and you’ve got a pom-pom scarf for all occasions!


Knitted Fall Pumpkins

knitted fall pumpkins

Knitted fall pumpkins are scientifically proven to give your fall decor a little “umph!”—and they work great as stress balls for the holiday blues!


Easy-Peasy Baby Blanket

Easy-Peasy baby blanket

Got a friend who has just had a baby? Make a super easy baby blanket! Guaranteed to be the cutest thing the new mommy’s ever seen.


Autumnal Maple Leaves

autumnal maple leaves

Stem right up, and check out these knitted maple leaves! They’re a little less messy than using the great outdoors to decorate your indoors, so don’t be afraid to stitch ‘em right up and use them for potholders, centerpieces, you name it!


Doggie Mittens—for Humans

Doggie Mittings - for humans

Looking for some pet-friendly hand-warmers? Try knitting these doggie (corgi) mittens!


Holy Cowl! Scarf

knitted cowl scarf

This fantastic fall-icious knit cowl scarf is sure to keep you warm!


Baby Cuddly Cardigan

baby cuddly cardigan

Who’s got the cutest cardi in the world, baby girl? You do! You can’t go wrong with a little colorful fluff n’ fun!


Adorable Knit Bunnies

adorable knit bunnies

What’s cuter than knit bunnies for the kiddies or for your dorm shelf? Time to hop to work on this one—or five of them! I say make like rabbits and knit a whole family!

“Operation Toasty Toes: Knitting for the Holiday Season,” as published on on 10/11/2014.

Disclaimer: I do not affiliate with military knitting organization “Operation Toasty Toes”.

23 Reasons Why Fall Break is Better than Spring Break

For many of you, fall break is on its way! If you’re not ridiculously excited already, here are 23 reasons why you should be.

1. Check out those killer leaves! The color spectrum of fall leaves is probably one of the most beautiful things the human eye can witness. The radiance, the quality, the smell… Go for a drive, and snap some pics! Press leaves in a diary for keepsakes.

2. Fall break provides some real time to yourself. Since your beloved summer months have passed, it’s the first break you have from the academic routine.

3. Helloooo, s’mores! Time for some tree stumps, a fire, a couple tents, and some spooky stories! It’s the best time for some good old bonding time with buddies!

4. Fall break is by far a more wholesome vacation than spring break; in the fall, it’s prime time for family camping trips, hiking, mountain biking, and just being out in the beauty of nature with loved ones.

5. Fall break is a real break! There’s not as much pressure to do more than be with family and catch up on homework.

6. If you’re into colder weather, this is your time to shine! The change of weather is sure to bring on a smile. Go be in nature without your teeth chattering (but also without getting bad spring break bikini lines)!

7. Fall break is an awesome time for a road trip to a new city. The vibrant colors of leaves and the local color will sparkle! Think about taking a trip with the school for a community service effort. Traveling and do-gooding at the same time? Yes, please!

8. If you don’t plan to go anywhere, you can get plenty done for school—there’s less emphasis is placed on homework in the warmer months!

9. Fall break is a great time to go shopping for warmer clothing. While you hit the thrift stores, costume shoppes, or other boutiques and emporiums, keep a sharp eye out for awesome Halloween costumes, boots, sweaters, and ‘boggans! Definitely stop by a perfume store and smell all those autumn peaches and campfires. It’s a great bonding time, too!

10. Check out a corn maze (read Familius’ top pick US corn mazes)!  You won’t regret testing the limits of your know-how by deciphering mysterious maps and making decisions that could lead you further into—or out of—the maze! Unless you find a haunted maze, that is…

11. Apple-picking! Find a nearby orchard to handpick apples for locals and for lunch. Orchard owners love the extra help, and it’s a good time to hang out with family and friends! You could even go pumpkin-picking—why not? It’s fall!

12. Fall marathons usually have more pronounced themes than spring and summer marathons do—likely due to the holidays and the changing leaves! Get out in nature and support a great cause!

13. Fall break proffers apple cider, chili experiments, quilting, hay rides, hunting, candy corn, foliage, and pumpkin-carving! It’d take about a week to do each one well!

14. You can’t play in a leaf pile with your little sister in the spring! Whip out those rakes and get to it!

15. Heard of spring cleaning? Things add up in the fall, too! Go through your belongings and host a yard sale—or donate all your items to charity!

16. Fall break is a great time to check out nearby fall festivals! Lots of cities host crafts fairs, car shows, art shows, and antique shows this time of year.

17. Over fall break, you can revisit summer days by just traveling to the nearest beach! Temperatures at the beach change more slowly than they do inland, so it’ll still be warm and welcoming.

18. With everyone preparing for Halloween, it’s a great time to take a haunted tour or two. Visit caverns, explore historical sites like ghost towns, or visit empty prisons!

19. If you’re a parent rather than a student, having your kid(s) home for break is a great time for togetherness, since they’re still settling into the new school year with new peers. Depending on their ages, recruit their help in rearranging furniture or decorating, go on a family venture, take them for a local scavenger hunt, or discover sensational new autumn recipes with them!

20. There’s no state fair in the spring! Don’t miss out on an opportunity to ride on “the World’s Tallest Ferris Wheel”, taste cotton candy for the first time, or finally win one of those plush ducks at a game tent! It’s a great date night idea or good for family time, too.

21. Scarowinds! Or any theme park, really! The more haunted or themed the park, the better (and less sweaty, this time of year)!

22. Fall break is definitely the right time to get festive: decorate, decorate, decorate! It’s time to hang that leaf mobile and carve that pumpkin. You can even look ahead for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Decorate your door with some cut-out bats or paint contact paper for a unique spin on your personal style!

23. Overall, fall break is a great time to take a step back and be you! It’s the time to be inspired, to reflect, to create, and rejuvenate! Take advantage of the beauty all around you, whether on campus, at home, or someplace new!

“23 Reasons Why Fall Break is Better than Spring Break,” as published on on 10/14/2014.

How to Survive Your Long-Distance Relationship

Strap on Your Seatbelts

Until recently, my boyfriend and I were in a long-distance relationship (LDR). The whole thing was very sudden. The transition was difficult, and not just because I was away from my home and comfort zone, but because I was transitioning to a new proximity with him as well—we’re kind of unofficial Olympic hand-holders. We didn’t have much time to prepare, and neither of us knew what to expect. What I can say is that you should do whatever research you feel you need to do. Certainly don’t prepare to hate the duration (though comfort food does its part). Rather, look into easing the transition process. Geographical distance doesn’t have to be the end of the world—or your relationship! Below are some tips that I wish I had had before our journey.

1. Establish ground rules. Your relationship will change, for better or worse, while you’re apart. Of course, the basis of any relationship is trust. There may be temptations along the way, but you’ve survived them so far, right?

2. Be level-headed when making judgment calls about your relationship. At least apart you can have all the physical space you need.

3. Prioritize. Don’t feel sorry for working or studying. Be independent but respectful of your significant other’s ventures, too.

4. Establish a schedule. It’s a time-saver, and it also gives you something to look forward to throughout the day or week.

5. Take advantage of options outside of social media (Facebook, Google+, and Twitter). You also have the bread and butter of fairly direct communication—texting and calling. Good morning texts go a long way. Now, you don’t have to send smoke signals, but you can also use more creative methods like online forums: For example, Between (an app for couples) or Snapchat (try sending drawings or funny faces or clips of your daily walk to work). Skype, Facetime, and Oovoo are all helpful when you want to videochat. When we were apart, my boyfriend and I used Facetime like college kids eat Ramen.

6. Support each other in times of both need and triumph! It’s a great bonding experience to talk about both the quirks of our days and the losses we experienced during personal trials.

7. While you’re apart, life’s seemingly mundane things can be interesting conversation starters. It was fun to tell my boyfriend about the differences in supermarkets, public transit, the locals, and even the rain.

8. Be creative with sharing your affections! Try snail mail! Send jars of candy or a t-shirt with your scent.

9. Arrange visits as often as is feasible. If you have yet to meet (online dating, etc.), then plan when and how to meet!

10. Fret not! It’s natural to let the worry and anxiety of separation overcome you, sometimes. Worrying, distrust, or blame don’t change the fact that you’re not physically together. Instead, focus on preserving your routine and strengthening your communication with your significant other. Try to view the distance as proof you two can weather life’s storms.

11. Acknowledge and adjust your expectations once you settle into your new routine. For example, when my boyfriend and I Facetimed each night, I felt that for some reason I had to be refreshing company in order for him to remain interested, since I had a proximity deficiency. I put a lot of effort into looking nice for our video dates. While it’s can be fun to play dress-up for a Skype date, it isn’t necessary to change who you are for the sake of shaking things up. Be stronger in how you communicate by just being yourself—discuss intimate subjects and feelings and share the ups, downs, and in-betweens. Plan for the future! It may be difficult and uncomfortable, but right now the distance is just a fact of life. If you’re really meant to be, what’s the time apart when you’re looking at the rest of your lives?

12. Keep your love alive by doing activities together! Try a new gutbuster workout, watch films simultaneously, read a book together, try sending each other clever love coupons, try taking a compatibility test or the MBTI, take a virtual vacation, prepare the same dinner recipe, find apps to play together, do madlibs, or track the weather and send a thoughtful text.

13. Remain positive! Absence makes the heart grow fonder! You always have something to look forward to in an LDR, seeing as communication can be strained—and then intensified in ways.

14. Realize that distance is perspective—it’s good to take a step back. The distance encourages concentration on yourself, engaging in commitment, and it lets you practice everything you can’t wait to do well when you’re together—like learning to play the ukulele!

“How to Survive Your Long-Distance Relationship,” as published on on 10/08/2014.