On My Soapbox: Sponsored Posts

I may be preaching to the choir on this one, but hear me out.

I don’t know why making money from my blog via sponsored posts makes people go ape shit crazy, but it does. Lately, I’ve been getting comments on my sponsored posts like, “SO.MANY.SPONSORED.POSTS!” [I'm lookin' at you, "Olive"] or comments calling me a sell out because I get paid to write about coffee creamer and other products I otherwise legitimately spend my own money on.

So, I felt like addressing the topic [again.]

For anyone who is annoyed by sponsored posts, my question to you is: do have a job that you get paid to do? Like, do you do work every day and get paid for it? You do?! How DARE you?!

Do you see how stupid that sounds? 

penny

The Lunchbox Diaries may have started out as a weird hobby/experiment three and half years ago, but since then, it’s turned into a small business.

Bloggers make money because creating content and sharing it with the internet is work. Writing posts, editing photos, responding to comments and emails, managing several social media accounts – that’s work. While it’s fun work, it’s not like playing a video game or writing in a diary.

I genuinely enjoy the companies I work with, the products I write about, and yeah I enjoy getting paid to do it. I also enjoy running ads on my blog, as I get paid for that, too. [Tip: if you hate this blog, stop coming, because every time you lurk around, I make money.]

I can’t speak for every blogger out there, but it’s never my intention to “pull one over” on my readers. I’m as transparent as possible. I work hard to make this a blog that empowers and encourages other people. I also like to make people laugh. And like anyone, I don’t consider extra money a bad thing.

That said, if you enjoy what I post here, I want to  assume you’d be cool with me being compensated. Yes, that sometimes means writing about products and companies, rather than random mishaps or self-esteem, but that’s the name of the game, son.

 

 

 

Inspiring Design


In grade school, I was the epitome of an ugly ducking. I was chubby, had braces, massive green-rimmed glasses, and I fell prey to the slicked back pony tail look.

I know girls my age remember that look. We used clips and pins and water from the bathroom sink throughout the school day to make sure our pony tails were perfectly slicked back. It didn’t matter when my mom said I looked bald in every picture I took, because I knew it looked so kewl.

The summer before 7th grade, God probably felt like I had burned enough innocent retinas, and granted me some mercy in the form of straight teeth, contacts and repositioned body fat. Guys, things changed.

Well, sort of.

I mean, I looked different, but I still loved N*SYNC, boys with frosted tips, and going to bed early. I still made the same inside jokes with my best friend, I was still miserable at math, and still hated PE class. Even though the outside changed, my inside remained the same.

And as silly as it sounds, the new Coffee-mate design by David Bromstad reminds me a whole lot about gaining my “new look” during the summer before 7th grade.

table

Bromstad has partnered with Coffee-mate and Target to create a new look for Coffee-mate [my fave, you know that.] It obviously looks fresh and updated, but it’s great because the inside has stayed the same. My beloved vanilla? Looks cool, but still has the same classic comforting taste. I even stepped outside the box and picked up some Hazelnut. [I live on the edge.]

And, yeah, that reminds me of myself – or any of us, really. Our outside appearance is going to change at some point or another, but the inspiring part is when we keep all of our goodness on the inside the same.

coffee

“For more inspired fun, snap a photo of the newly designed bottles and share it on Facebook with the hashtag #CMInspiresSweepsEntry for a chance to win a year’s worth of Coffee-mate, $500 Target GiftCards, and a signed print from David Bromstad!

 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

[Thank you for your support as I continue to work with sponsors. Homegirl here has drive thru addiction.]

One Month Facebook Sober

Guys.

It’s been over a month since I made the life changing decision to deactivate my Facebook. Okay, so maybe life changing is a bit of a stretch, but still.

I thought that after a Facebookless month, I’d have a really dramatic post to write, but I fear that’s not the case. That said, I felt like some things could be addressed:

  1. Leaving Facebook is a humbling experience. I’ve learned that I do not have 1,015 friends in real life. In fact, it’s more like, 15 [on a good day.]
  2. When I do get back on Facebook, I will be going through a severe friend purge.
  3. Being off Facebook has made me even more aware of the Facebook culture. At least once a day someone says to me: Did you see what so-and-so posted on Facebook?!?!?!? 
  4. When you remind said person that you aren’t on Facebook, you will [without a doubt] receive an eye-roll.
  5. 3 divorces, 12 pregnancies, and 8 million blog posts have been posted about this past month, and I missed all of them. 
  6. Buzzfeed is so much more entertaining than Facebook.
  7. I have genuinely stopped caring about pointless shit happening in other people’s lives.
  8. Instagram is the perfect fix for me. I get to share little things, and I love seeing other people’s pictures.
  9. I love getting to hear stories first hand, rather than seeing them on Facebook and then half dozing when I hear about them in real life.
  10. Everyone’s main concern was where they’d be able to see Penny pics. No, nothing about me – just my big dog. So I post about her here and here.
  11. On our anniversary, we got so many texts! That is way, way better than someone writing on my Facebook wall.
  12. My mission of talking and connecting with the important people in my life has been accomplished. I despise talking on the phone, but I’ve gotten better at it! I even sent a few handwritten letters this month.
  13. It’s even been an exercise in scaling back what I share on the blog and on other social media avenues. We’ve had exciting things come and go in the past month, and it’s been nice just sharing them with the people involved. Does that make sense?

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 7.47.40 AM[does she mean a shot of vodka?]

 

Cultivating Happiness

If I just get this promotion…

When I get married…

When I own a home…

If we buy a dog…

If I lose 10 pounds…

When the stars align…

Then I’ll be happy…

I’m guilty of the if/when happiness trap. Of putting my happiness in the hands of The Future [which we all know is a mythical land that does not exist.] Yet, that is where we place the majority of our happiness.

More than once I have found myself in the situation that I knew would make me happy, only to realize that I felt the same. Not unhappy, but not as elated and ecstatic as I imagined my life would be in that moment. It took me a long time to realize that I had been mistaking excitement for happiness.

Cultivating daily happiness, rather than cultivating excitement, has been a practice of mine for quite some time. Life is exciting, absolutely. But not every day is a parade, and the practice has been choosing to be happy in the mundane.

Today is our third wedding anniversary, and my marriage has taught me a great deal about happiness.

So, so many exciting things have happened to us over the past 3 years, but the happiest times have been in the mundane times. Long car rides, getting lost in a conversation for hours, laughing until we cry, or simply sitting in the same room together as we’re both lost in different projects - that is where the happiness lies.

Being married is the happiest, most challenging, and most fantastic blessing in my life. But to be with someone who makes me happy in the mundane moments: that been the greatest gift.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 9.19.25 AM

 

 

Things Late 20-Somethings Say

Maybe it’s because my friends and I are closer to 30 than we are to 20, but recently, I’ve caught us saying things that make me feel like I deserve to wear orthopedic shoes. Tell me we’re not the only ones…

1. “Kids these days.” 

2. “Why does this concert start so late?”

3. “Are we supposed to stand for the entirety of said concert?”

4. “No more drinks tonight, I’ve got errands to run in the morning.”

5. “Want to come over on Friday? We can order takeout and watch Dateline.”

6. “Did her parents really let her out of the house dressed like that?!”

7.”My kids won’t have iPhones until high school.”

8.  “These shoes are really comfortable”

9. “Please don’t call me ma’am.”

10. “When I was in college…”

We also discuss things like 401k’s and taxes and investing and it’s weird. I also chose a sophisticated glass of wine over a liquor drink the other night and I almost wanted to slap myself.

No Touching Allowed

I was about 16-years-old the first time I saw Fall Out Boy in “concert.” They preformed at a small music festival at the rec center within walking distance from my house. There were, to my memory, a handful of kids there. I jumped and sang along to Take This to Your Grave whilst making eye contact with Pete Wentz [who was so hot, prior to the whole dick pic thing] and Patrick Stump.

take this

Months ago, my cousin Amy and I decided that we’d go see them [and Paramore!] when they came to Amy’s town of Charlotte, North Cackalacky. Thankfully, I have two uncles in radio, and one was able to get us passes to meet Fall Out Boy.

Swoon.

When we arrived, the radio intern who was tasked with taking us “backstage,” told us there were several very important rules:

1. No autographs [wtf, fall out boy?!]

2. No kissing [fiiiine.]

3. NO TOUCHING.

I wanted to be like: Patrick, I liked you when you were fat and had a minimal fan base. I’m not new here. We could be together. But, life happened.

Remember – no autographs, no kissing, NO TOUCHING. 

So, what’s the first thing I do when I walk up to take the picture?

I put my arm around Patrick Stump. Like, an enthusiastic Duggar side hug.

In a moment of panic, I turned to him and said, “OH MY GOD! No touching! I’m so sorry!” He laughed at me and told me it was fine.

But, so much was left unsaid.

A missed opportunity.

Welcome to my awkward life, ladies and gentlemen.

FOB

Embrace Your Strokes

A few days ago, I went to Spirited Art with some lady friends from my neighborhood. It’s a wine + design type deal, and while I was super nervous to try it out [I have no artistic ability what.so.ever] I was intrigued.

The instructor was a super cute girl who obviously had more talent than everyone in the room combined, but she was so genuinely encouraging to everyone. Like, she almost made me believe I was doing a good job. [Key word: almost] She was one of those beautiful artsy people who wears no makeup and has her hair tied back in a messy bun. Someone who is gorgeous because she is oozing passion.

crab

I fumbled my way through class, often frustrated with myself because my painting looked nothing like the instructor’s painting. And, because it was difficult. Ugh – my love/hate relationship with difficult things. There were moments I wanted to quit, because, let’s be honest – I’m a shitty painter.

But, quitting is for losers.

At the end of the class, most participants had dispersed and my group was hanging around finishing up and taking pictures. The instructor and her assistant were asking us where in our homes we would hang our paintings. I practically snorted.

I think our crawl space is in need of some decoration. 

I went on to say that while this was a fun class, painting is obviously not something I’d consider a talent of mine. Then the assistant responded in a way that’s resonated with me for days.

You know, the owner here has unbelievable technique, and it’s almost impossible for me to recreate her delicate, fine lines. If I compared my paintings to hers, I’d always come up short.  I’m a bold painter who likes thick lines and defined edges. We all just need to learn to embrace our own strokes. 

group

That totally rung true to me for some reason. Yeah, we all need embrace our own strokes. What works for me, really might not work for you – and vice versa - but the beauty in life is in embracing our own strokes.

Whether it’s going after your dream job or finding a new hobby, getting married at 23 or staying single until you’re 53, being a size 4 or a size 14 — as long as you’re embracing your own strokes, who cares what everyone else is doing?

You do you. I’ll do me. And no comparison shall there be. ;)

Taking Back Vanilla


Growing up, I remember going to get ice cream with my family was always an exciting treat. Everyone would order ‘fancy’ flavors like cosmic cotton candy, chunky chocolate chip, and chocolate lovers dream. When asked what I was ordering, I would confidently say “vanilla.”

The response was always the same: plain vanilla?! 

As if ordering ‘plain vanilla’ was on par with saying I wanted to slap a baby and kiss a priest.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a vanilla defender. I freaking love that flavor.

So it makes sense that on more than one occasion when I’ve been described as “vanilla” I consider it a compliment, rather than a subpar jab.

Yeah, maybe ‘the shopping cart’ and ‘the sprinkler’ are my my go-to dance moves, and maybe I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, and maybe my life can be reduced to several excel spread sheets – but if being ‘vanilla’ is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

I today’s world, when everything needs to be OVER THE TOP to be worthwhile, I find the simplicity of vanilla is so comforting. Vanilla isn’t a fad flavor. It’s classic. It’s confident. It’s the Audrey Hepburn of flavors, if you ask me.

And who wouldn’t want to start their day feeling like Audrey Hepburn? I know I do, which is why I start my mornings with Coffee-mate’s Classic Vanilla and French Vanilla liquid creamers.

vanilla

My coffee time in the morning is my “me” time. I scroll through blogs and read my email at a leisurely pace. I know for most people, “leisure time” is comparable to unicorns; like it’s some mythical creature that you hope exists, but know deep down it really never has (or ever will.)

Which is why “being vanilla” and having a routine is essential to my functioning like a professional adult. I mean, what professional adult doesn’t take selfies with their favorite coffee creamer? Exactly.

v2

Please tell me I’m not the only one with morning rituals. Well, I know I’m not the only one because I’m married to someone with intense rituals. But, you know what I mean.

“Do you love Classic Vanilla too? Snap a photo of your own vanilla moment and share it with the hashtag #TakeBackVanilla (on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram) for a chance to have your photo featured on Coffee-mate’s social channels.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

[Also, I totally appreciate your support as I continue to work with sponsors. Girlfriend likes to get manis and pedis.]

Better Than a Blue Ribbon

Some women were born to be moms. Like, it’s in their DNA to just be amazing, selfless beings. I normally get weepy when I talk about MY mom, because she’s pretty much the center of my universe. I mean, I wouldn’t be a functioning adult if it weren’t for her.

mom1

Being anxious and putting pressure on myself to succeed is apart of my DNA. My parents were NOT the type who pushed me to be the best/fastest/smartest kid on the block. They knew I did that for myself ;) The one thing they were strict about was making sure my brother and I were kind and considerate. They wanted us to do well, but being a good person trumped A’s and blue ribbons.

I remember that in grade school, running the mile in PE class was the most stressful event of the year for me. I’m a bad runner, I have always hated running, and I hated the mile because it showcased the fact that I wasn’t perfect.

Not surprisingly, the week of THE MILE, I would cry every day, begging and pleading with mom to let me skip school the day of the mile.

Kate would’t budge. I’m sure it would have been so much easier to let me stay home and not participate. To give in and give me what I wanted so I would just shut up.

But she didn’t. She’s one tough cookie [can't you tell?]

tough

One year, after days of crying and having child-anxiety attacks, my mom said to me: Colleen, how do you think A. feels this week?

A. was a shy girl in my class who was overweight.

Do you think it’s going to be easy and fun for her to run the mile? Stop being so concerned about yourself and think of someone else. Stop wallowing and put your energy towards making someone else’s day better. 

And that’s what I did.

The morning of the mile, as the class headed out to the track, I found A; and I asked her if she’d like to run together. I’ll never forget her smile as she accepted. We jogged and walked and jogged and walked and we both hated every minute of it. And when we were finishing the final strides of our last lap, I let A finish in front of me.

I was the last one to finish the mile.

Seeing A being proud of herself, confident about finishing, and not finishing alone made me forget how scared I had been.

That night at dinner my mom asked about THE MILE, and I told her what I had done. My mom smiled and said, Now just think about how A feels tonight as she tells her Mom that she wasn’t the last one to finish. 

That’s a perfect example of how my mom molded me into the person I am today. She’s taught me how lift others up, to examine what’s important and what’s not, and how to make people feel good about themselves. 

She’s never cared if I was perfect, and even when I come in last, I know my mom will be proud of me and have my back. People routinely ask me where my confidence comes from. And the answer is simple: it comes from my mom.

dance

Do I still get stressed over stupid things? Uh, absolutely. But my go-to remedy for stressful energy is molding it into confidence by doing good for someone else.  Rather than telling me, my mom helped me experience [on a million occasions] that you can be the fastest or the smartest or the best, but if you’re not the kindest, none of it really even matters.

State-Farm-Logo
Like a good neighbor,  StateFarm is there

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by State Farm via Mode Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of State Farm. 

I appreciate your support as I continue to work with sponsors.

 

Take Off the Cape

I don’t know about you, but I rarely learn lessons without sobbing. It’s like, situation/stress + tears = lesson learned.

I mean, it goes back to grade school. I can remember weekly Friday spelling tests. Spelling word quizzes were routinely part of dinner table conversation in the Whitney household. Without fail, by Wednesday night, I would be sobbing into my spaghetti because I couldn’t spell communion or some other equally Catholic spelling word.

My mom would let me get it all out. She’d agree with me: Yes, Colleen, the world is a cold, hard place. Maybe you’ll never get communion right. Maybe you’ll never pass 3rd grade. Maybe you should just quit. 

And because my mom knows me better than I know myself, she knew if she said the q-word, my sob-fest would end and I’d get it right. I don’t like to brag, but sobbing resulted in many a 100% on my spelling tests.

Recently, I may or may not have needed a good cry. You must know what I mean. A good, hard I-can’t-handle-this-shit kinda cry.

Except now, I’m not dealing with spelling words. And mom can’t tell threaten me to quit.

Because you can’t quit life.

But you can take off the Cape. The Wonder Woman Cape that makes you feel like you need to be everything for everybody. A happy face, a positive point a view. A good friend, a supportive spouse, the perfect mom. A hard worker and a dream chaser. A hostess with the mostest, a Doer Of ALL THE THINGS.

But sometimes, it’s okay to be an asker of help, a napper and a cryer. You’ll be surprised that the sky will not fall & the people who love you, won’t love you any less.

But the one thing I don’t want us to be, what we can’t be is quitters.* Ya dig?

Now, go have a good cry and then proceed to kick ass and take names.

 

[*Quitting something because it's hard is not okay. Quitting something because it's unhealthy or dangerous is a totally different story.]