Spend Less, Give More: More Love Letters

Good morning! Welcome to the Spend Less, Give More series here on Mugs Life. If you’re just joining us, I’ve been making suggestions over the past few days of different organizations to contribute to this Christmas season, encouraging giving gifts with a purpose. The first few organizations highlight supporting immediate basic physical needs: clean water (Charity:Water), food (to put it simply) Heifer International, and shoes and eyesight TOMs. Yesterday, the focus shifted a little bit with a spotlight on emotional needs and mental health with To Write Love On Her Arms. With all of these posts there’s been a push for monetary donations, but today is a little bit different. If you’ve got the money to buy a stamp, a pen, paper, envelope, and some kind words? The only thing else you need to give is a few minutes of your time! Today’s spotlight: More Love Letters.

It’s been less than a year since Hannah Brencher started sending bundles from The World Needs More Love Letters. Thanks to the I Heart Daily Newsletter in my inbox last week, I can say I’ve participated in this wonderful movement. Hannah‘s mom had written her letters for years, so like me, she already had a love for snail mail. It’s funny because the day I got that e-mail, I was in a rough place myself, and I thought “this is perfect” because for me: one of the best ways to push myself into the light when my love tank is running low, is to write to someone else in hopes of lifting their spirits. That’s what More Love Letters is all about. Back in 2010 Hannah living in NYC, was in a dark place herself, so she started penning letters to strangers she thought could use a boost of encouragement, and leaving them all over the city. After that she invited her blog readers to request a letter, if they were in need of one themselves. From there, More Love Letters became what it’s known as now – a global initiative. Hundreds of letters have been sent. You can sign up to join the team, where you’ll be emailed a request each month, you pen a love letter, mail it to the PO Box and a bundle of letters will be put together and sent to someone who needs a little love.  One of the things I think is really cool about More Love Letters are the requests. People write in to request letters for a friend in need. The request could be for a teammate, relative, friend, fiance, coworker, people from so many parts of life that someone has recognized could use some light in their life. This was the request for Madeline, the day I got the I Heart Daily e-mail, which was encouraging participation in More Love Letter‘s “12 Days of Letter Writing.”

Madeline, due to depression and anxiety issues, left high school last year to homeschool herself. She has made some progress but has fallen behind in her studies and really needs some motivation to keep going even though she is falling behind even more every day. Her letter request writes, “It was this time last year when she left school and I know she is very prone to become depressed again in the winter time. I try to involve her in social activities as much as I can, as she will isolate herself otherwise, but I think a little love from a stranger could really help her outlook on life right now.’ Scratch out “stranger” — we are about to bless Madeline’s life with a whole lot of love letters. Help us in showing her how very wonderful and capable Madeline truly is.

(My letter for the bundle.)

You wanna know something a little crazy? I had just finished penning my letter for Madeline’s Bundle, around 10:30am last Friday morning. It was only about an hour later when I started seeing the news reports of the horrific tragedy taking place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. The innocent beautiful children’s lives ending far too soon, and the brave teachers who’d lost their own protecting them. (Just to note – I’m not trying to loosely combine these two things, or breeze over such a significant event, that has forever changed so many people.) I had just finished expressing how, even though it’s hard to see it sometimes, how true the words from one of my favorite songs are: “This world can be ugly, but isn’t it beautiful?” (“There, There Katie” Jack’s Mannequin.) Seriously. It kind of caught me off guard because one of the first things that flashed through my mind, despite the shock of such a tragedy was: more love. We need more love. And I knew in my heart it wasn’t a coincidence I wrote the letter that morning. It was like God whispering in my ear, encouraging me to follow through knowing of course, when you spread love you can feel love.

And now in recent days, we’ve seen a community come together, we’ve seen people reaching out, we’ve seen love being spread. In the face of such tragedy, we’ve seen compassion. Like six year old Emilie Parker who’s dad has shared how Emilie constantly was coloring pictures, and writing notes to cheer up people around her whenever she saw someone looking down. Robbie Parker said himself: “(that the tragedy) not turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and more humble people.”

So, today that’s what I’m encouraging you to do. More Love Letters is a simple, but extremely powerful way to contribute to making the world a better place. I know, that you know, someone on this planet who could use a little love. We could all use more love. Pick up that pen, and get writing. It’s a small gesture, that can make a world of difference and have such an impact on turning around someone’s day.

Here you can watch the TED Talk video of Hannah discussing More Love Letters:


Stay connected to the journey of More Love Letters: find them on Facebook, follow on Twitter, read the blog. Be sure to share with you friends too, that’s how a movement of love grows!



Thanksgiving at the Beach

I hope everyone had a lovely time for the Thanksgiving holiday. As I mentioned before my family and I spent a few days in Mexico Beach (before we came back for that ugly football game on Saturday 😉 !) Thursday morning I went for a run, and ended it with one of my favorite views. After breakfast and before some cooking for the evening, the family headed back down to the beach for a walk, some shell searching, and of course plenty of chatter and laughter. It was just a gorgeous day, the sun was shining, the water was beautiful – a great way to spend some time together!

All I could think of was that line from Jack’s Mannequin, “Bruised”:

There’s so much sun where I’m from, I had to give it away, had to give you away…

Working on convincing them we need to participate in a Turkey Trot as a fam next year!

I just couldn’t get over how unbelievably clear the water was!


Giant chair at the welcome center

Tuesday’s Thoughts on Running

There’s something extremely humbling, about laying in the middle of the sidewalk on a dark Thursday evening. After all these months of running, it was the first time I’d fallen. I must’ve tripped over something on the sidewalk. Kind of weird after my boss had just berated me earlier in the day about running in the dark by myself. I asked what else I was supposed to do? It’s dark in the morning, it’s dark at night. He suggested I take a lunch and run then. But who’s lunch is two and a half hours? I don’t even take “lunch” because they need someone in the front office. So, there I was thinking to myself “I can’t be twenty-four with a broken hip right?” I’m just telling myself that the crunching noise I heard while I stumbled was the crushing of acorns beneath my sneakers. Somehow my headphones remained intact during the tumble. I’m not quite sure how that happened. Anyway, I rolled over because I wasn’t sure how else I was going to get up off the ground. I was fighting the urge to cry. I looked around, and there weren’t any other people out. There were only like three cars on the street and they’d already flown by. The street lamps weren’t bright enough for me to access my injuries. I found my phone, and looked at the screen and it had basically shattered, shards of glass poking out on the bottom half around the home button, tiny pieces crunching into my left palm. Luckily I’d over estimated how cold it was outside, and double layered. While it ended up holding in too much body heat for my comfort, it worked out because it was extra cushioning on the fall. I briefly considered calling someone, maybe walking home…but I was only four miles in on a twelve mile run. It was supposed to be my last big training run before the race. SO after I realized that my pride hurt more than my body, and it was just some scrapes and bruises, I decided to forge on. I was listening to Jack’s Mannequin Pandora at the time, (what’s new?) and a lot of the lyrics are inspiring anyways. Mixed with the flashes of my old standby encouragement and motivation (Olympic athletes of course! From Michael Phelps, to the USA women gymnasts, to the track stars I watched carry on through obvious intense injury) I wasn’t even that hurt, just frustrated with myself. I was still reading Dominque Moceanu’s memoir, Off Balance at the time, and I kept thinking to myself about all of the people who are a lot stronger than me, face a challenge, and achieve like crazy goals. I wish I could tell you I had some really sophisticated mantra I repeated to myself, but it was a lot more simple than that. I just reminded myself “I’m not a baby.” Sounds cheesy? Maybe, but it worked. I finished that run, but something felt different. I felt determined but also frustrated and kind of angry, which sounds bad but hear me out…it seems dramatic, and now a few days out I’ve simmered down over the whole thing but I was just pretty mad at myself, and kind of bitter towards running. I felt like I failed. It felt like my body betrayed me, and there was such caution in each step, that I couldn’t trust the ground beneath my feet. In turn it felt like the escape had been ripped away. The fun got zapped. Running ten miles, now that was awesome. It was this exhilarating feeling, my friend described it perfectly saying it felt like you could conquer the world. But twelve…twelve I started to get bored, and I was getting restless and wanting it to be over. Now with a shorter run, and some rest days mixed in, I’m back in my routine. I’ve got the rest of this week, and a serious taper next week, and then it’s race day. Right now, I’m just anxious for it to be over. This training period has been a while. I feel like it’s taught me a lot about when to give my body a rest, showing me goals I can achieve I might not have thought possible before, and learning the slow and steady way to increase mileage. While I’m pretty sure I should continue to sign up for races to keep myself conditioned, and so I’m not tempted to slack off as the colder weather sets in, it will still be nice to have my own schedule going…less dictation in my runs throughout the week. Now that the routine is back in swing, I feel a lot better about things. So, really I’m just hoping that the only similarities between race day and last Thursday are – that I don’t cry, and I don’t give up.

Listen to This: “Wrecking Ball Heart”

And then there’s this:

Andrew’s post on SoundCloud:

one last song

I have been well aware, throughout my career, how rare it is for a musician to have such a genuine connection with the people who support them. The reaction to the final JM shows have certainly crystalized those realizations. There is little I could do to express my gratitude for this, but if anything, this is a small token. Late one night in Santa Monica I played my friend and long time producer, Jim Wirt, a demo of a song I wrote a few years back. No session was scheduled, but after a couple beers and some laughs we pulled out some microphones and cut it. The next day Jay and Bobby came through and did what they do best; selflessly and skillfully served the song. We weren’t making an album, and like the early days there was no label in place to release it. Just friends in a space playing music. I hope you enjoy it.

You don’t need me to explain my overwhelming affection for this band, just give their parting song a listen.

Sleep to Dream

Because I’m sure you love to read about my dreams, as much as I love to ramble about them. (Oh, c’mon just kidding guys!) Really though, when I woke up this morning and I was still in that hazy not completely awake place, it occurred to me just how awesome my dream was last night, and I wished that I could crawl into dream world and spend the day there.

The dream started off in a beach house, where we were discussing the local running shop we worked at (sweet gig right?) There was a girl from my hometown I never particularly got a long with, (but she’s a really good runner,) and apparently in the dream we were friends. A couple other girls were in the living room (I guess we were all housemates?) The chatting continued until I went to get ready for the day. I don’t really remember any transitional moment, but the next thing I knew I was on the beach in South Carolina with my friend Leah. I was BFF with Andrew McMahon, who was accompanying us. We had a big umbrella, and this little tiki hut with picnic tables we were hanging out under. We spent the day building sandcastles, splashing in the waves, taking funny photos, and drinking fruity beverages. The (Tallahassee native) band Mayday Parade was hanging out with us too, except the members weren’t the same as real life, and they were all super young and super friendly. They played a set on the beach (all from the A Lesson in Romantics album) and we all cheered for them. I mean, there wasn’t a whole lot more to it, other than the beautiful simplicity of what it was. Now, if this just translated to real life, that’d be nothing less than wonderful!

How about you guys? Any awesome dreams you were excited to remember? Share with me in the comments!

Throwback Thursday #12: MySpace What

If any of you are anything like me and get sucked into marathons of TV shows that you’ve already seen before, than you’re probably aware of MTV replaying The Hills on “Retro MTV.” (The fact that enough years have supposedly passed since I was in high school, that shows that aired regularly then can be considered “retro” is bizarre to me, btw.) Nonetheless, like I’ve explained with the random TLC shows I get sucked into, I’ve found myself watching episode after episode of The Hills, again. In my defense, a lot of the time it’s on for some background noise while I’m cooking in the kitchen. Otherwise the house is just too creepy quiet. Also, is it just me or are LC’s story lines relatable no matter when you watch them? And I wish I’d paid closer attention  the first time I’d watched, and remembered some completely awful character traits *cough*Spencer*cough* (or JB even,) and committed them to memory to complete avoid people who displayed any of them later in life. Alas, I didn’t and now in retrospect I can see these trends of behaviors in people I spent time with and I just think to myself…what exactly was I thinking?! See, I could’ve learned a lesson! But you know, like Audrina says somethings we have to learn for ourselves, so it might not have been that helpful at the time anyway.

Ok, longest tangent ever to get to the point that in season one, when Spencer and Brody are actually checking their MySpace accounts and bragging about friend requests, I got the urge to check out my own dated profile. I haven’t been on there in forever, and here are some of the photos I dug up (some of these weren’t even taken on a digital camera…):

JD and I, I think we were sixteen? Hanging out at Lauralyn’s house. Probably making s’mores on the chiminea.

My hermana Kirsten and I at the Jimmy Eat World concert at House of Blues, meeting Tom! (Either 10th or 11th grade for me, I think January of 10th.)

Oh man, this pic is old. I think I was sixteen at the time (because I used my video camera I’d gotten for my birthday to take the still photo) on the train in England. Even older flashback? This was my LJ icon for forevvver.

With Ali, Kir’s roommate at Stetson. I’d never gotten ready to “go out” anywhere. Between the two of them they had about nine thousand and seventeen MAC eyeshadows, and they did my make up for the night.

With JD August of senior year, during the week we did AIM club activities, getting the incoming freshman ready to start school. I remember how several people commented on this photo thinking I looked like Lo (Bosworth) at the time. I don’t really see it.

My awesome pen pal Katherine made me that shirt! This was on the trampoline at my cousin’s house in Tallahassee, with my brother one football weekend.

With Theresa and Sunni at a bonfire at JD’s house.

Hanging out with Nate the summer of my senior year.

Another photo from Stetson, lounging on the floor with Asha in the dorms the weekend of a Jack’s Mannequin concert.

Oh man, we were such dorks. I remember this night, Luke Matt and I were hanging out watching a Beatles special on CNN (seriously.)

This photo is so random. It’s at my work (now,) where we tailgated when I was in high school. This was the weekend of the UF/FSU game. I don’t know if we were playing hide and seek or what.

With Kirsten and Parker, dress-up random photo shoot in my room after we were finally freeee from the AP English test!

With Lauren on the last day of school, my senior year her freshman year of high school.

My little bro and I one of the last weekends before I left for college.

Caption reads “P4L” which means pirates for life. Charlie, Kyle, me, Brad.

“What’s a friend? A single soul dwelling in ten bodies.” (Asha’s caption for this photo.) What’s better than a pile of friends?

Girls at the bowling alley. Classy.

Wedding table at Erin & Jon’s wedding!

The height difference is outta control.

Ok, here’s the thing – other than these random random photos with friends, there’s something else myspace is full of. (It appears the kids on Instagram are calling them “selfies” these days.) Photos of yourself, taken at totally unnatural angles, and lighting. So vain and ridiculous, but not unusual at all at the time. Sometimes your arm is stuck in the shot. A lot of times they’re zoomed in. It’s a wonder we remember where and when they were taken in the first place.

I think this was taken on the beach in Destin one night when my family was on vacation. This is such a “myspace” pic. Ugh. (Also, the captions on almost all of my photos are song lyrics. These were from Spoon “And we believe in the sum of ourselves. That’s the way we get by.”

I loved that tiedye shirt. And the caption to this was “Your voice was the soundtrack of my summer.” (from Boys Like Girls “Thunder” song.)

And The Decemberists “If you don’t love me, let me go.”

Or a My So Called Life quote: “Like your life just figured out how to get good. Like, that second.” Ohh, Angela Chase.

Myspace was the perfect spot for vain pictures of your new haircut.

Or quoting The OC while wearing a Jack’s Mannequin shirt. “In order for two halves to be whole, each half must be whole on its own.”

My albums were frequently spammed with playground photos. (And captions I probably felt so connected to at the time, like “You look like the songs that I’ve heard my whole life, coming true.”)

Or ones where you’re actually doing something (like I caught that fish with just that line at Cooter Pond that day!) But also, I’m pretty sure this is the day I started crying on the dock about prom. Sum up high school much?

What happens in college when you go social costume shopping at WalMart with your best friend.

My Blow Pop shirt! And another favorite song lyric “Not even chapped lips will stop me from kissing your sunburned cheeks.”

“Love just leaves you bruised” and actually managed curls, I probably took this before walking outside at all that day.

“You grew up and you sparkled, why don’t you care?” (Some favorite SoCo lyrics from “Walking By”) in one of my favorite formal dresses, ever. Oh you know just having a photo shoot in my Converse shoes in my living room. (Everything and nothing is normal about this.)

Shake my head…black and white, angles, sunglasses inside. Typical.

Sweet Duke, and I.

Fill in the Blank Friday

Last week’s “Fill in the Blank Friday” post was a bit of a downer, which is why I skipped over it. Today though? Donuts and a burst of yellow in the photo? And questions about fun happy things? I’ll take it! Again this is from the great The Little Things We Do blog over on Blogspot.

1.  Something that is very near and dear to my heart is: my family. Sure this might be a lot of people’s answers, but all our families are different so no two answers would be the same. Mine is made up of some of my favorite people on the planet, who happen to be kind, awesome, great advice givers, supportive and some of my best friends…

2.  Today: is finally Friday woohoo! I don’t even know what the post work day has in store, but it means that I’ve have hours ahead of me to spend however I want. TGIF for sure.

3.  The most fun I ever had was: oh boy, I’ve only been around twenty-four years and still this is a really difficult question. How do they expect you to narrow that down? Mmm our family roadtrip to Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina a few summers ago was really fun. Particular nights that stand out in my memory of college are: an ABC date function (in Transformers pillow case dresses), Jacki’s 21st Birthday 80s Waltz night, (which included a fountain adventure…) A trip to Seaworld the summer after senior year was cool. Basically every single day of study abroad experience. (Or any vacation for that matter.) In high school, some of our “hurricane days” junior year, were some of my favorite. Movie nights, baking, mini-trips to Ocala. The weekend of the Next Big Thing concert and smores and middle of the night neighborhood walks. The last day of senior year – photo class, going out on the boat etc. Mmm basically any of my favorite concerts with best friends – Jack’s Mannequin (and meeting Andrew McMahon!), Death Cab for Cutie, John Mayer, Better than Ezra, Something Corporate, Dashboard Confessional etc. The Passion conference I went to in 2010 was definitely another most fun/intense experience so far. Luckily there are a lot of fun days in mind that I can’t narrow down and I think that’s a great thing.

4.  True friends are  the ones you can share comfortable silence one. The ones who get you when others don’t. They don’t always have the words to say but they’ll sit with you and listen. The ones who put a smile on your face, or can get a laugh out of you even when there are tears streaming down your cheeks. The ones who you can pick up with right where you left off, as if no time had passed between hang out sessions.

5. Something that makes me terribly happy is   adventures and traveling. When I have time at my hands to do whatever I want – creating and exploring.

6. A good way to spend a sunny day is   on the beach with your favorite people, soaking up sun. Maybe some cold beer or a sweet treat. Reading a book, swimming, bike rides.
7.  My favorite celebratory food is   mmm fancy cupcakes? An icecream sundae? Froyo creations? I love sweets!