Abraham Lincoln's Lasting Legacy

To be honest, Abe

On this day, over TWO CENTURIES AGO, an incredible man was born. Ok, no. It was a baby. A baby was born. But that baby turned into the greatest president this country has ever had, despite his “melancholic personality.” It should’ve, and could’ve, slowed him down, but he accomplished so much while dealing with mental health concerns. 

What we can learn from Lincoln

Across the span of many years and endless responsibilities, Lincoln faced real anxieties like the rest of us: about love and failure and the future. I think there’s hope in that for two big reasons:

1. Your sadness and anxiety don’t define you

What does define you is the progress you make every day, big or small. What defines you is how you treat those around you. I don’t know if his respect for deep conversation and intelligence played a role in his sadness… if maybe he knew too much and saw too much that couldn’t be fixed? Or maybe he was born that way and the loss of dear family members, like his son, amplified it. Regardless, Lincoln did all he could to right the wrongs he saw. And he didn’t let the endless problems in his country and life take him down. If he can do it, we can do the same. We can work hard on whatever small differences we can make.

2. You can still get sh*t done

His ambitions were impressive. And he accomplished much in his time, more than he ever dreamed of, but it didn’t satisfy him. Lincoln was quoted as saying “being elected to Congress, though I am very grateful to our friends, for having done it, has not pleased me as much as I expected.” If that’s not relatable to this day, what is? Having a goal breathes life into our everyday actions, but sometimes they serve as just a distraction from the pain no one can see. To his credit, he kept on. He worked, he didn’t wallow. He fought for equity and peace for everyone in the Union.

Abe Lincoln was a big man. An impressive man. A man history has and (hopefully) will always respect and honor with the highest regards. But he’s just a man. And I’m just a woman. And we’re all out here with our quirks, making a difference with our existence.

Happy birthday, Abe Lincoln. And thank you for inspiring my life.

tips for adopting a rescue pet

5 tips for the first month of adopting a rescue pet

Make sure you don’t put too much on your new pet by reading these straightforward tips that’ll help you mend the heart of your new pal.

1. Be patient

Wanna grab and cuddle your new cat? Don’t get mad when it attacks. Or do get mad, but keep it to yourself because this isn’t just your home anymore. You’re sharing the space and making it feel safe for any and all inhabitants.

You’re going to have to put food and drinks away, or keep an eye on them lest your pet dig it’s nose/paws in it. It’s an annoying, quick adjustment. And it’s not the end of the world if you forgetas long as you know what your pet is allergic to so that nothing you leave out can potentially harm them. Or, hey, just be cleaner.

2. Let them explore

This one is a constant. But especially the first month or so. Let your pet see every corner of the apartment to cure their curiosity. (Note though, that if you’ve got a cat, it’ll never be cured. It’ll touch everything all the time and that’s just fine. It makes them fulfilled in their daily cat lives, so try not to get frustrated when you open the fridge and the cat jumps in, or when you try to wash your hands and the cat jumps in the sink. It’s cute. Just remember it’s cute, and you’re lucky to have them. And you don’t know their past so make their present as amazing as possible and let them. Just let them.)

Another note: This “let them” is advice from hours of research on training a cat—I don’t recommend this approach for dogs. I will also say that I had to get to know my cat‘s personal habits in order to meet him halfway, and each cat is different. Some constants though: I make sure my cat doesn’t jump in the oven or sleep in my room—after weeks of no-sleep, I realized that we needed some boundaries for my own health—but I’ve adjusted to the fact that he’s going to jump on my bookshelves and that’s how cats are. To have a loving relationship, you can’t punish your pet for habits it formed at birth or during it’s years before you.

A final note on this: I got my cat at nearly 4. If you’ve adopted a kitten, you may have more luck showing them places you would not like them to go. This guy is a great resource for cat troubles. 

3. Have the essentials

Make sure you’ve got the essentials before you bring your pet home, and then see how he’s adjusting before deciding if you need to get anything more.

We’re talking:

  • Food and water bowls
  • A collar and leash/harness
  • A place, or plan in place, for bathroom times
  • Toys
  • Breakable or harmful items out of the way (at least in the adjustment period)
  • A cat tree or box ready to make your cat comfortable (highly recommend)

4. Give it time

Time plays a key factor. You may expect things to be perfect right away and your life to go on normally, but the blessings of having a pet also come with some trials. There may be vomit when changing food brands, bathroom messes, a new routine for you to remember to clean and play with your new friend every day.

DO NOT buy a pet and neglect it. If you’ve got time to read this post, you’ve got time to go wave a feather in front of your cat.

5. Watch your mood improve

My cat watches me wade through important papers. When I’m done and have them neatly sorted, he hops onto the stack, kicks each paper off the counter one by one, and stares at me for a reaction. I’ve since put my important paperwork in drawers.

I’ve endured various escape attempts by my hamster and cat. The most notable is my hamster Abe breaking out of her cage to play tag with my cat. I’ve mediated far too many Tom- and Jerry-like chases.

I went on my first road trip with a cat, and Franklin broke out of his overpriced kennel (designed for his comfort, like the spoiled boy he is). He sat on my feet while I was driving on the interstate. We had to make an emergency stop, buy a more secure/less luxurious kennel, and make the arduous drive home while his wail filled the car. (So dramatic, he is. He’s definitely my cat.)

But, really, everything is better. I’m learning patience, cleanliness, compassion, care… I love being at home—more than the usual amount, which is saying something because I love home. I love cuddles and his indignant meows when I haven’t read his mind about something he wants. I love the slow close of his eyes after a play session. I love going to bed knowing that I have a constant companion. I love that my cat knows when it’s morning and sits by my door patiently, ready for morning snuggles.

To be honest, new pet owners, by the time you think back on how much effort it’s taken, you’ll be so in love with your pet that you don’t even remember the struggle.

Life cycle considerations for character creation

Everyday life provides countless opportunities to make us better people—and writers. Use these three tips to make the most of them.

Take in the situation

I’ve got this neighbor. A beautiful soul at the ripe age of 89. A Holocaust survivor. A mother and grandmother with a million stories and tribulations that show her strength. But she almost died last year, and she tells me that a lot of her friends are already gone. She’s tiny and wears purple eyeshadow and calls me “my Lindsey.”

I’m a new gradI’m going to keep calling myself that until I’m not allowed to use it as an excuse or because I’m the CEO of a huge company and no longer just feeling my way around life—and living alone for the first time. It feels like my friends are gone (friends, if you’re reading this, I know you aren’t gone. I love you and love how we’ve managed to stay in touch).

This old woman and I are in completely different life phases but we connect. I’m there to hear her stories and make her feel less alone. And she’s there to remind me how magnificent it is to live a full life. Still, though, we both have these feelings of loneliness and a—sometimes—crippling inability to move on.

Savor the details

It never struck me just how much more there is to miss as life goes on. Even though I miss a lot now at 23, I thought this nostalgia is something I’d grow out of. It’s hard to move on at any age. Whether you’re reminiscing on last week or the last decade.

Life has so many beautiful moments worth missing. And how we decide to look at those moments—as debilitating or as wonderful glimpses into a great past life—says something about our character. Not good or bad. But how we cope. What our specific lenses of the world are like, regardless of age.

Apply it to your writing

Getting behind that lens is how we can make beautiful characters that remind us of the people we know in real life. Don’t be afraid to borrow from the beauty of those around you. Because writing about people, time periods, and experiences is the only way to keep them going. 

girl with hamster and cat

Me at 23: Thankful and just in time for 2019

Last month I turned a new leaf. I mean, a new year. I turned older. I am old now. And that means I actually pay attention to and appreciate the things around me. You know, unlike when I was in college and had no comprehension of people outside of my friend group and my personal problems.

Lately, I’ve been waking up in awe (and honestly sometimes crabby because mornings are THE WORST). I mean, this is in the midst of my two best work buddies/mentors leaving the company I work for, student loans kicking in, cat behavioral problems, and my car having transmission problems.

Then I realized:

  • My cat attacks me, but he also runs to the door when I get home, cuddles me while I read, and brings my apartment to life.
  • My lovely work friends left, but how lucky am I to have two amazing women to look up to? To have been able to work with them in the first place?
  • I don’t have the luxury of living across the hall from my friends anymore, but how great is it to have girlfriends who make me go out dancing with them because they miss seeing me?
  • I’m so blessed to have parents who are able, and willing, to help me with my finances and car troubles. (Along with traveling to my apartment and letting me play mini-adult for the holidays.)
  • I barely get to see my brother once a year, but he made plans for me to visit him in New York and I am so fortunate to have that relationship. 

Thanksgiving and Christmas are gone, and the leftovers probably are too, but every day is still a new day to gobble up gratefulness.

Stop and smell the flowers (or the snow) and decide to make tomorrow and this next year the best one yet.

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I adopted a cat

I thought said cat would be my best friend. I’ve never had a cat before. It’s been interesting. 

The adoption guy said this cat was going to be a lot of work and not good for first-time cat owners. I said no problem. 

Some problems include: Murderous scratching while I sleep or walk or breath, murder attempts directed at my hamster, and tearing sheets.

I remember when I first got Abe Lincoln (my female hamster). I was going through a bad breakup and was pretty depressed so I bought the little thing to cheer me up. The first time I interacted with her, she bit me and I just cried and cried because I thought no one could love me.

Well, I’m happy to say these circumstances are very different. I know I’m lovable and I have a lot of love and I wanted to share that love with a shelter cat. I’m just not sure if Franklin (the cat) wants to be loved, is the thing.

Anyway, this time around in the new-pet process, I have to hide Abe away in a closet to keep her safe. But, on the bright side, Franklin is house-trained and teaching me to lighten up (as I’ve weaned off my meds, my anxiety has increased). I won’t say that having this destructive cat around is soothing yet, but in a way he’s teaching me to not be so uptight and that I can’t be in control of everything.

I don’t know how to pet parent. My arms are covered in scratches and my search history is full of articles and videos to help me raise this cat. He can be aggressive and I can’t tell if he likes rough play or if it’s from a dark past. 

Tonight, I’ll be sleeping in the living room and bringing Abe out for a safe sleepover and a chance to run around in her ball. Tomorrow, who knows.

I love my little zoo family.

 

 

hamilton-mn-orpheum

Crossing it off the bucket list

Let’s go back about two years to when I heard a song called “Satisfied”. Granted, I heard the Sia/Miguel mix-tape version first, but when I heard that song I fell in love. I loved the story it managed to tell in five minutes. I loved the lyrics and the pace.

I then found the Hamilton soundtrack and fell in love faster than a marble rolling down a slanted table. 

I had to see Hamilton

But I found out it costs five-thousand-million dollars to see on Broadway. Dreams crushed. Maybe after 20 years and a few promotions/CEO positions, I could go see it.

Then I found out a traveling group was coming to Minneapolis. And that you had to be a member of the theatre and pay a certain amount to MAYBE get a change to MAYBE get tickets. So after a roller coaster of emotions, I accepted that maybe it was never meant to be.

Then, a year later, I realized it’d been changed and that all I had to do is make an account and enter into a lottery!

Dramatic and long story short, I managed to buy tickets that did not cost five-thousand-million dollars.

I got to see Hamilton

Sometimes, people set their hopes too high when it comes to lifelong dreams. Like seeing a celebrity or going on a cruise or going to Disney World and thinking it’ll be the greatest time of their life… only to find the celebrity sucks or they get seasick or blisters cover their feet. For me, though, Hamilton was everything I dreamed and more. The music and dancing and story. It was the best night from beginning to end—from the Hamilton Edition Champagne to hearing my favorite song live.

This is what it means to live: Don’t wait until you’re richer or smarter or older or hotter, work towards something and then look forward to it. When it’s over, cherish the memory.

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Coffee-in-Minnesota

My positivity project

Through my time living alone and being hard on myself, I’ve tried to become a better version of myself and not just waste away alone in my apartment—although I will admit it’s tempting.

Here’s what’s been working to make me a more positive human: 

  • Going down on my meds and drinking less during the week (unless it’s F.R.I.E.N.D.S. trivia because, hello, i’m still human – also, a glass of wine is healthy, I’ve been told?): No more “reward” drinks or “it’s been a long day” drinks
  • Drinking more water 
  • Setting a rule for myself  to not jump into bed right when I get home, which has led to me at least being present in my day longer, not taking weird naps, and having solid sleep at night
  • Focusing on me, not other people: I’ve been pretty good at this over the years, but moving into a new apartment had me all out of whack and thinking everyone in my building was friends with each other and I was this weird outcast. That’s just not true at all (I hope)

I’m a very slow mover when it comes to making changes and I’m not going to say there’s a huge difference and I’m a changed woman or whatever. But with the decrease in my meds and trading (some) junk food for more vegetables and water, I do feel more energized. I mean, yesterday I had Chinese for lunch but today is a sandwich and carrots. And a month ago I would’ve just gone to Raising Cane’s or something. Anyway.

Benefits I’ve noticed:

  • More energy
  • Clearer skin
  • More positive (that could be because I moved out of my dirty, depressing college house)

Hopeful habits I’d like to start in an ideal world that would be great for people to start and I encourage you to but it’d be hypocritical of me to say you should and then not do it myself:

  • Spending less money eating out/more meal prepping
  • Hitting up the gym, like, twice a week
  • Reading more instead of getting home and turning on the TV and somehow watching it and getting nothing done and then it’s 2 AM and I’m tired and nowhere closer to where I want to be
  • Writing every day (non-work related writing, such as novels)

So there you have it: What I’m doing for myself this month. Clearly I’m not perfect but if you ever need someone to talk to about stuff, send me an email at lindsey.b.bakken@gmail.com. You’re not alone out there. 

How do you stay positive?