Gretchen Rubin

To-Do or Ta-Da

Do you ever schedule time on your calendar to watch your favorite t.v. show? As of 1:16 pm on Saturday (now people, that’s right now) I’m two weeks behind on This is Us, a week behind on Grey’s Anatomy, and APPARENTLY a full season behind on Stranger Things.

I want to sit down and catch up on t.v. but then I think, well that’s lazy isn’t it when you’ve got a to-do list a mile long.

But what if watching This is Us is on my to-do list? Then I’m not lazy. Then I’m productive. So ha.

I saw on LinkedIn the other day that Gretchen Rubin was encouraging us to write “Ta-Da Lists” rather than “To-Do Lists.” Here’s her podcast. Well this is a fun idea, isn’t it? Let’s write down all the things we have accomplished. In all honestly, listening to the full podcast is on my “To-Do List” because podcasts are 40 minutes long. I like the shift in language though. I’d love to scream Ta-Da! I’ve gotten all of these things done.

For now, here is my to-do list:


I’m sure you all have similar things on your lists, because they are reflections of lives being lived.  I know mindfulness is positive, but our culture tells us it is not sexy to have a piece of lined paper that just says “Be.” Being – that’s all I’m doing. Being. I can stay in that space for approximately three minutes before the urge to do kicks back in.

All that to say my brain feels full and the pursuit of beauty feels a little squelched by my pretty lined notebook paper with pencil notes in cascading order.

Maybe there is beauty in making lists, in sitting at a computer, in getting caught up.

Maybe there is beauty in adding fun, rest, and indulgence to the list.

Maybe there is beauty in watching This is Us.

Damn. It’s the best show on t.v. right now.

Maybe there is beauty in laughing at my own neurotic tendencies to push and push to get things done.

I watched a webinar at work this week for a new product they are pushing called Getting Things Done. A bajillion dollar industry to help people stay focused and organized. In it, the presenter told me that most people have a capacity to remember 7 (+ or – 2) things they have to accomplish at any one time. Any more than that threshold, and our brains dump it to the back.

That’s why I write things down. I’m sure though, since my list is longer than seven items, that I’m probably forgetting something.

In other news, I’m beginning to think about a creative project with grief. I’d like to connect with delightful illustrators who would be willing to help me bring my little grief gremlin idea to life. If you know of someone who is taking on new work, I’d like to chat with you! Bonus points if the artist, too, has experienced significant loss.

Landon Barbers' Grooming Kit.png

No, that sounds bad – I just think an artist will understand my spark a bit more if they’ve had grief gnaw at their heart too. Please send me an email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com and I can explain my hope and vision for the project.

Now. Back to my list.





“Begin Now”

I’ve noticed a trend in myself, something to be examined that makes me feel rather melancholy.

I talk myself out of things that I really want to do.

A class on coffee brewing at my favorite local coffee shop. The chance to listen to a Holocaust survivor speak about his experiences during WWII. I did this just last night as I stopped by the grocery store to get a bag of lettuce and passed by the beautiful display of Easter lilies. I love the intoxicating smell of those flowers, and the way they fill up the house with spring. Easter flowers and spring fragrance are beautiful. However, I walked right past, writing off the cost as a reason to not partake in the experience.  I convince myself that it is ok to pass, that I do not need to attend or participate.

Now, this isn’t a blaming exercise on people whose invitations take over my priorities. No, I freely choose to talk myself out of things that I want to do. There won’t be enough time to squeeze it all in; I won’t find parking; that activity, class, enrichment activity will cost too much money, or be frivolous, or not a good use of my time. At times, I can be a tentative, introverted decision maker that withdraws into myself rather than being brave and doing what I actually want to do.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from the author Gretchen Rubin saying she was coming to a town near me. I immediately texted my mom and a friend and said, “Come with me!” It is harder to bail on things you want to do when you recruit other people who want to do that too. They agreed, we planned, it was a date.

Even with a text-message commitment, I started second guessing myself. I just started a new job and they won’t like it if I leave work early, the cost of gas to get down to Denver is high, it will be a late night out. Wednesday morning I woke up to a rainy, cloudy day and my first thought was, “hmm, maybe it will rain and I won’t have to drive down to the bookstore tonight.” The day had just begun and I’d already started the talk to convince myself the experience wouldn’t be worth it. Up until it was time to go and pick up my mom I was second guessing myself. I pushed those doubts to the side and made the drive. We picked up my best friend from college. I drove through the city traffic at five pm gripping the wheel with white knuckles. With help, I successfully parallel parked for free! We went to a delicious restaurant near East Colfax called Pinche Taqueria (hey, I didn’t name it. I just ate there). I ate tacos and drank a margarita, and enjoyed myself as the evening sunshine soaked through windows surrounded by rich, historic brick walls.


My mom pointed at me and said, “aren’t you glad you made this a priority?” I wasn’t entirely sure yet. We still had meeting the author to go.

After dinner, we walked across the street and opened the door to the bookstore. Ahhh, bookstores. The smells of paper and ink, the rich wood of the shelves filled with words of potential, life lessons, pain, and joy. Bookstores are beautiful things.

One of the stipulations of getting a book signed was “buying your space in line.” I brought my own personal journal to try and avoid that financial cost, but upon arrival realized I may need to purchase a book to get my spot in the signing line. Very unlike myself, I charged through those doors, picked up a book off the shelf, and got in line at the cash register. “YOLO”, I said to my friend, “to hell with the cost. I’ve got to do this now.” Here I was again, convincing myself that my desires were worthy of investment.

We walked down lush, carpeted stairs and found our seats towards the back of the room. I was so giddy when the author took the stage. Joy pulsed through my body, exhilarating my spirit, and putting a smile on my face. I did it! We made it! I’m here. Why don’t I allow myself to participate in these interests that I find intriguing on a more regular basis? Rather than continuing to beat myself up mentally, I sat down, listened, smiled, laughed, filled my heart with delight.


After the reading, I got in line and got both my book and my journal signed. I felt very much like a kid at Disney World – remember how awkward it is to shyly present that autograph book to your favorite character? “Can you please sign my personal journal too?”, I asked, sheepishly, shy, and vulnerable. Gretchen smiled, looked at my collage book, and said , “Thank you for showing this to me.” Thank you, Gretchen, for having an interest in the lives of your readers.  I have a memento from the night, proof and a reminder that it is beautiful to pursue personal interests. That life is meant to be enjoyed, rather than scrimped and saved and that there is beauty in being self-involved when it brings delight rather than fear or excuses.


Gretchen signed my book, “Begin Now.” She was referring to habits, but those three words hold much power in their presence. Begin finding beauty. Begin erasing excuses. Begin doing what you want to do. What are you waiting to begin?

No biscotti or nail polish this week. I was too busy eating tacos and accomplishing my dreams.


It was 75 degrees today! You know what that calls for? A shandy! I think my new summer go-to drink is going to be mixing Sunshine Wheat Beer (my favorite New Belgium brew) with Lemonade. When I asked Dylan what mix he used he suggested 56% lemonade, 44% beer. No joke. Good luck figuring those measurements out. Anyway, I highly recommend the drink. We had burgers for dinner, and my little summer drink, and the weather promised a bit of a spring teaser that makes me so excited that Spring and Summer are coming. Its been a long, cold winter.

Summer Shandy

Don’t worry. Just one is mine.

And…… today was Free Cone Day at Ben and Jerry’s. Who doesn’t love ice cream? And FREE ice cream at that. If that’s not a beautiful thing, I’m not quite sure what is. I really enjoyed my free cone of Coconut Seven Layer Bar. If you didn’t take advantage of Free Cone Day, you missed out. What was more enjoyable, though, was the waiting in line for 30 minutes. No, I’m not being sarcastic, I really liked it. It was nice to stand outside in shorts and chat with my parents, and Dylan and the little boy behind us in line. It was fun to people watch and see how a community comes out when the weather warms up and a free treat is waiting. Musicians were playing, the sun was setting; this was the place to be.

In my people watching, I saw a group of high school girls wearing Poudre Tennis gear and my heart swelled. Now the reason behind this excitement requires a little bit of back story. I am one of those girls who obnoxiously loved high school. I loved studying, I loved being at school, I loved doing sports, and being in choir, and when I wasn’t doing those things I was with the same 15 kids pretty much all the time. Thinking back retrospectively, I often wonder if I was so happy because I was in the right clique, and sometimes I wonder if I was mean to those I went to high school with. I hope not. But you know what they say, “If you think cliques didn’t exist, you probably were in one.” If I was mean to you, I’d like to apologize.

Part of what made my high school experience so wonderful though, was that tennis team. I was one of those giggly, seemingly annoying girls who was SO proud to wear my blue tennis skirt and home made puff painted t-shirts with the silly nicknames on the back. I was lucky enough to play on the team with the same girls for three years. We did EVERYTHING together – we had sleepovers, study parties at Starbucks, the staff at Chipotle probably hated us, and my coach was a wonderful, tough love kind of woman whom I still respect.

Regional Win

My best friends and I after we won the Regional Title in 2007. I’m in the center.

Aren’t those shirts embarrassing? That year, our Science Bowl team won the National Competition. Ok, we were also nerds. Big Nerds. It is neat to still live in the same town where I grew up, and I’m thankful I can have a little bit of alumni pride. We are the only Impalas in the nation you know. So where does the beauty in this nostalgia lie? My heart strings were tugged tonight because I sometimes miss that time of my life, where success came as easy as an A on a paper, a sweet tennis serve, a high five in the hallway on the way to class.

What is even better than feeling nostalgic tonight is knowing that these girls are still some of my very best friends. Yes, we went to college in different states, dated different boys, and made some of our own choices. Yes, now we have scattered and distance and life experience have changed each of us in different ways- two are in Africa serving in the Peace Corps, one is married and  owns a home, one is living in Fort Collins and one in Denver. Our communication comes less frequently, sometimes every few months, sometimes more than that. But this week, I also get the pleasure of inviting each of them to my wedding. One of them is standing up as my bridesmaid, and one will be returning from Sierra Leone for my special day. Those days of tennis skirts, and prom dates have passed us by, but those roots are so important to me. This group is so foundational to who I have become and my perspective on this planet.


Here are some of us on Wedding Day number one

Sometimes, I feel a little bit insecure because I am entirely happy living in the town that I grew up in. I’m a little afraid you are reading this and thinking, “sheesh, – she still hangs out with those girls?” Maybe I should be out exploring the world, traveling, testing my boundaries. But the beauty in “being Katie” as author Gretchen Rubin would put it, is that I know that what makes other people happy doesn’t necessarily have to make me happy. And tonight, I am thankful for friends who, against the odds, still remain a significant part of my life. I am thankful I live in a beautiful, wonderful town that I continue to enjoy. I am thankful for roots. And thankful for the beauty in free ice cream.