A Brief Hiatus

Hey World,

If you've followed along on my blogging adventures, you'll know that every few years, I completely re-invent myself. 

It first started back in 2009 with They Call Me the Golden Child for much of college, then I shifted to Tanzania 365 in 2012 when I learned I would be moving to Tanzania to teach for a year. In late 2013, I re-branded as A Path Unpaved, where I've mediocrely documented my life in NYC & back in Tanzania.



I think you can guess where I'm going with this...

It's time for something new. My hallmark birthday is coming up (27!), I'm married, and I'm becoming more and more certain that the greatest adventures of my life haven't even begun. At the same time, I'd like to move into a more structured lifestyle blog to capture all of the things: being married, traveling, being a woman at work, chasing happiness, trying new recipes, what I love reading...you know, everything. 

I'm really excited to put together (what I hope is my final iteration) and launch in the next couple of weeks -- stay tuned! 

xoxo,
M


Monthly Mantra: Obsessively Grateful

Hey World,

It's time for the seventh edition of monthly mantra

In case this is your first time stopping by, at the beginning of the month I share one quote I've come across to give a positive frame of reference for the coming weeks. They will be shared without explanation, as inspiration comes to each of us differently!

If you have any suggestions for a single sentence mantra, leave it in the comments, and you may see it in an upcoming month! You can check out all of my previous monthly mantras here.  



xoxo,
M

Image Source: Instagram

My 2017 Management Reading List


One of the (many!) great perks of my job is a small annual stipend to devote to self-driven professional development. I thought about looking for some online courses, but I then I noticed some of the books on my reading list that could probably fit the bill - so I organized a large order of books delivered to my mom's house over winter break to bring back and read throughout the year!


I think there are a couple missing from the shelf here, but most of the books that I selected are on here! In particular, I'm excited about Adam Grant's 2 reads Originals & Give and Take, as well as Multipliers.

Most of these I saw for the first time at airports (why do people LOVE buying management books in airports?!), but corroborated reviews with Amazon before clicking "purchase". 


Since January 1st, I've read these four. I actually loved every single one of the above! 

The Checklist Manifesto was a recommendation from a direct report & my boss, and it's a super interesting read about how checklists can save lives & work smarter, not harder. 

Payoff & Beyond Measure are both mini-books published by TED, by guest speakers who have had extremely successful TED talks. They are only ~100 pages each, and are so easy to read. I really, really think these should be the Little Golden Books for adults in management! 

Finally David & Goliath (was a bit of a stretch for management work) but it Malcolm Gladwell does a great job at pushing your limits of understanding and challenges your perspective of the world as you know it. David & Goliath starts with a second look at the biblical tale, and then goes on to share many 'underdog' stories, always highlighting the advantages of alternative perspectives. I devoured this in a weekend - highly recommend! 

I try to make sure I either wait two weeks between books, or read 2-3 personal books before diving into another. I've been in hyperspeed in terms of reading so far this year (I imagine it's going to slow down soon), but I'm going to try and hold to this principle. 

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If you've read anything that you especially loved that you haven't seen above, let me know! I'd love to add books to the list for next year's stipend. 

xoxo,
M

March Goals (2017)

Hey World,

The calendar is dragging us to the end of the first quarter, and I am excited at the pace 2017 carries with it. I can only imagine the whole year is going to be as packed as these past two months have felt! I've been able to prioritize a lot of reading and a lot of resting (which I am immensely grateful for!), defied all desires for online ordering of clothes (the sales though!), and mapped out a savings/spending plan for Brady & I for this year. In short: I'm ready to keep plugging along!

Here's how my February Goals went:

1. Get passport with my married name (!!!!!) 
The passport has been applied for and now I'm trying to figure out in-country DHL to do the ol' switcheroo with the embassy since it's made it one way...but not the other. 
2. Begin/Resume wedding posts on A Path Unpaved  We kicked off with two posts on our wedding readings and our wedding vows
3. Go to Sauti za Busara for my MA thesis (research, part two!) Thank you BG for coming and keeping me focused for a couple of days to get what I needed! We took over 300 images and got some critical information for eventually wrapping this thesis up.
4. Keep going to Yoga at least 1x a week ...yikes. Not so great here. 
5. Execute 2 kinds of "givingness" this month, that are not money-driven I wrote about the Valentines Day cards I made, but also signed up to be an online resume volunteer through a nonprofit. I'm still waiting for an assignment from them; hopefully in March! 
6. Finish reaching out to my far-away friends for much needed catch-ups  I feel like the list here always gets longer instead of shorter here, but I still have five days to finish it up :)
7. Discuss our 2017 donation plan with BG again We had an honest conversation, and basically determined this is not the year to commit a larger amount however we'll discuss items throughout the year and the amount which we think we can give!

And now time to dive into March! 


1. Host my friend Rose in Iringa! (Funny story: Rose & I have actually never met, but all signs indicate we're going to be BFFs) 
2. Plan a small adventure during my work trip to Rwanda 
3. Begin teaching myself calligraphy with the tools I brought back over Christmas
4. Update my contacts book with another 20 contacts! 
5. Prepare three wedding posts for the month of March 

xoxo, 
M

#BecomingTeam Grimes: Our Wedding Vows


A couple of weeks ago I shared our wedding readings, and today I wanted to talk a bit more about our wedding vows.

Brady & I talked on the day we got engaged (hiking back down the mountain!) about writing our own vows. We loved the notion of spending nearly a year pondering and finessing the words we would say to one another that would try to capture our marriage promises. In fact, I started writing my vows in a draft document in February! Brady is a bit more laid-back, and wrote his on our route back to the US before the ceremony. 

Despite having no one look at them for comparison on content or length, and being extremely secretive during the writing, Brady and I were pretty darn similar in our messaging, which made my heart swell during our ceremony.


I also ordered these simple vow books, personalized with our names on them, for our ring bearer to carry for us from Etsy, and I would recommend them to anyone looking for something well-crafted and simple! Paperpunched has a bunch of different options, each for $20-30 a set. Now, I have them tucked in a 'wedding basket' alongside a few other items we'll cherish forever from our big day! 






(Sidenote: Did you notice the similarities!?)

While our ceremony was private, B & I have also talked extensively about why sharing our vows more widely is important -- they are not only to one another to hold ourselves accountable, but for our entire support network of family and friends to also assist us in accountability, which is why I'm really excited for this opportunity to highlight our promises to one another. In March, I'll be sharing what we've invested in to make these vows an integral part of our every day. 

 In the meantime, what vows did you choose to do, or are thinking about - traditional or custom? 


xoxo, 
M




All photos featured here were taken by Jen Hudson Photography








Following Positive Vibes

Hey World,

Last week was quiet here on the blog save for my Galentines Day post -- but I'm prepped and ready to make up for it this week!

Today (as part of a two part series), I want to share some of my favorite Instagram followers that share good vibes, encouragement, and motivating quotes with me almost every day. Though I do love a good picture of cute puppies, succulents (!), and lots and lots of drool-worthy travel destinations, I also appreciate more positive reminders.




Conscious Magazine is one of my favorite follows. I love their quotes and their recommendations for books to read. If I was in the US, I would definitely want to order their magazine! 





Levo is all about women who work, and finding a career path they are most passionate about. 





This is a second magazine that I wished I could read in person! So much positivity. 




Boss Babe is sassy, and drops the occasional swear word. However more often than not, I think a crazy dose of inspiration is good for the soul :)





I've saved the best for last. Rank & File is the final magazine feature, which if their instagram is any indication, is one that I would run to the grocery store myself in order to purchase! Also, they describe themselves as "purpose-driven entrepreneurs who believe people are worth serving & business can create change". Yes please!






Have you found any great Instagram accounts that you'd recommend? 

xoxo,
M




Treat Yourself!


As I'm sure your grocery stores have been reminding you since January, tomorrow is Valentines Day! I'll be celebrating at work with my team and a slice of cake, and hopefully convincing Brady to cook dinner for us with St. Paul & the Broken Bones or Leon Bridges playing. It will be low key, particularly because I'm allergic to flowers and chocolate (see babe, I'm a catch!). 

I've always loved organizing a Galentines Day because it carried less expectations, and opened the opportunity to love up on some of my closest friends. In high school, this looked like chocolate-dipping our own strawberries and having pasta with vodka sauce. In college, it was dressing up and going to a nice meal. In recent years, it's looked like a girls camping trip, a day at the shooting range, and sending a lot of funny cards about being single and reciting of the phrase "Treat Yourself!" from the show Parks & Recreation. 

In light of that, and a lack of Galentines celebrations planned for this year, I wanted to put together a little montage to remind me of some feminine things perfect for February!


Find some time in your schedule this week to go for a walk or a bike ride, curl up and read a great book, buy your favorite sweet snack at the grocery store, or sit down and write that letter you've been meaning to send to a friend you've lost touch with. In short, treat yourself!

xoxo
M


My 2017 Travel Wishlist


Hey World,

When I think back to 2016, I am flabbergasted by the amount of places and adventures BG & I were able to squeeze into a single year!
I also forgot to add Zambia on this list in November!

We've already decided that 2017 will be more deliberate with our spending (read: we want to save more money), but that doesn't mean I don't have my sights on a few fun trips I hope to try and sprinkle through the calendar year. We are very lucky in that we are given more vacation than we would receive with most US jobs, which helps make all of this possible!


All of that to say, here's my realistic travel wish list for 2017:

#1. Going gorilla trekking in Rwanda: This is so high on my East African bucket list that if it was any higher, it'd fall off. I'm waiting for a long-time friend to plan her trip and come visit so we can tick this off together, but it's looking like sometime in late fall may be the time!


#2. See the pyramids of Egypt: Egypt Air actually has a direct flight from Dar es Salaam to Cairo. The only issue is the flight to Dar es Salaam from where I live basically doubles the cost! This could be a fun trip to take around our one-year wedding anniversary (and gives us a reason to splurge a bit), and my dad is thinking about joining us for some near-Nile adventures! 

#3. See the Aye-Ayes: If you know me IRL, you probably also know I had a weird childhood obsession with a strange endangered animal called the aye-aye. Well, past self - prepare to have your mind BLOWN. After speaking to some colleagues who have gone recently, Madagascar has a lot of great adventures to offer (and many many lemurs!!!) and it's just a mini-ocean away. I've convinced BG the time to go is now.*

#4: Americana: If you received a Christmas card from us, you probably saw this referenced. While we have literally 0% of it planned and I may have to get 1-4 wisdom teeth removed the week before, I have every intention of this being the best family vacation ever. Think: RV camper, states with no ocean access, national parks, rest stop breaks every 30 minutes, and tumbleweeds. Alright, I don't know if the Grand Canyon has tumbleweeds, but there's only one way to find out! 









 I am really excited to re-frame travel this year as being based on experiences rather than stamps, and trying to include more deliberate trips with a focus on family & friends.  While these plans would slow down the number of new countries to just two for this year, I have faith that perhaps another sneaky trip could be tacked in there (Switzerland, please!!!!).

xoxo,
M




*By "now" I really mean Easter, but close enough to start a countdown clock! 

#BecomingTeamGrimes: Wedding Readings

Hey World,

It's been almost five months since our wedding, and just this weekend, I finally shared 200+ wedding photos on Facebook to family and friends. Talk about procrastination! Anyways, with many of the images out of the bag, it's time to talk details.

Photo by Jen Hudson Photography!
Today I wanted to share the two wedding readings Brady & I selected (okay, mostly I selected) that our officiant read during the ceremony.


The first is the poem, The Art of Marriage. B & I had many discussions about the work that marriage was going to be -- maintaining a marriage would require effort, time, forgiveness, blunt honesty, and most importantly choice. 

The conscious choice day in and day out to say "alright, let's get through one more day together" -- and I think this poem captures so much of that sentiment.

 Image Source: Southern Weddings

Our second reading I found online, and seems to be a little less popular. I did absolutely no research beforehand on who Pierre is, but it turns out he was a Jesuit priest (Parents, you're welcome)! I particularly loved this reading because our love story has been so much of an adventure already, and becoming our best selves, together, is what we wanted both of our readings to reflect.



What were your wedding readings? If you had to do it again, do you have another reading you would have loved to reflect on?

xoxo,
M



Sharing Love on Valentines Day

Hey World,

Similar to my post on Kiva, I want to use this year (and this blog) to think about sharing ways to spread kindness and positivity through giving or acts, as much as possible.

I am also cognizant that I do not want to share anything that I haven't already done myself -- it would be silly to share something that I wouldn't also have dedicated my efforts to!

For Valentines Day, I was looking for a way to mail cards to someone who may like a pick-me-up. I also figured that Valentines Day cards could be extremely easy to make and wouldn't take too much time. 

I found on Do Something a campaign that partnered with Meals on Wheels of America -- which happens to be an organization that my mom and I have a special place in our hearts for!

I signed my name up, emailed the coordinator from a branch less than an hour from my hometown, and spent two evenings preparing 25 Valentines Day cards. Typically, MOW serves clients to address senior hunger and isolation so you can only imagine how much impact a surprise card could make alongside a nice hot meal! 

All in all, I probably spent 2-2.5 hours making cards -- cutting the hearts, gluing them to paper, and hand-writing a unique message in each (following a similar template).



Here's one of the cards I wrote:

"Hello,

I would like to ask you to take a moment and reflect on every single time you have made someone else laugh or smile. Countless, right? Thank you so much for sharing your joy to the world, and Happy Valentines Day.

A friend from Upstate NY"



I loved this exercise, and it cost me just a few stamps to put together a package to mail to the MOW of North Syracuse, who will then make sure they are distributed on Valentines Day to some of their clients or hard-working staff!! It really couldn't have been more easy.

This is an awesome project to do yourself, ask friends to join you in a craft party, or facilitate with children to introduce givingness on a holiday dedicated to love. I would seriously encourage you to check here to find a Meals On Wheels location near you and get some cards in the mail by the end of the week!

More than 50,000 cards have been made and sent to Meals on Wheels already -- will you be making 50,001?

xoxo,
M


Monthly Mantra: Shine Your Light

Hey World,

It's time for the sixth edition of monthly mantra

In case this is your first time stopping by, at the beginning of the month I share one quote I've come across to give a positive frame of reference for the coming weeks. They will be shared without explanation, as inspiration comes to each of us differently!

If you have any suggestions for a single sentence mantra, leave it in the comments, and you may see it in an upcoming month! You can check out all of my previous monthly mantras here. 



xoxo,
M



February Goals (2017)

Hey World,

I am not quite sure where January went, or how twenty seven days have flown past me with hardly a notice,  but it's already time for my February goals!


1. Get passport with my married name (!!!!!) 
2. Begin/Resume wedding posts on A Path Unpaved 
3. Go to Sauti za Busara for my MA thesis (research, part two!)
4. Keep going to Yoga at least 1x a week
5. Execute 2 kinds of "givingness" this month, that are not money-driven
6. Finish reaching out to my far-away friends for much needed catch-ups
7. Discuss our 2017 donation plan with BG again; especially in light of recent political events


Here's how January shaped up:

1. Set up method for tracking 2017 reading + page counting goals I have an Excel sheet set up, and six books (1,600 pages) already down for 2017! 
2. Kick off 2017 with Brady in Amsterdam  We went, we froze, and we drank lots of hot chocolate near canals! A low-key but beautiful mini-trip to start 2017.  
3. Write 'just because' letters & postcards to friends for January I am back on the bus, posting 5 cards and 3 postcards this month 
4. Change my name on social media accounts Done! What a relief :)
5.  Host an "Open Table" dinner for January I Hosted "Mr. Robato", with spicy beef ramen soup, salad w/ peanut dressing & some sushi for a party of 9. Reports say it was good!   
6. Decide how much BG & I will donate annually, and start a list of which organizations we're interested in  This is more of a process than I thought it would be, but we've had some good preliminary discussions, and made our first donation for 2017! 

xoxo,
M

A Totally Unspectacular Celebration

Hey World,

One Sunday afternoon earlier this month, I baked a confetti angel food cake, made a sweet sugar strawberry topping, and 'invited' Brady into the dining room with a random slice of cake to celebrate. 


There wasn’t an occasion to mark, such as a birthday, work anniversary, or a particularly successful week. It was simply just a celebration of…well, nothing. 


And to be honest, I kind of loved it. Why should there be a reason to have others over for cake? The box of cake mix (Betty Crocker, forever <3) cost me less than $5. And I only had to add water to whip it up – not five minutes from box to bowl to baking!

PS: How pretty is this hand-painted towel my mom gave us for Christmas? 
If you’ve got a box of mix and are waiting for a reason for celebrate (and maybe even a new spoon rest from Christmas you want to debut but couldn't find the event), open the box and just celebrate the calmness of nothing. Use it as an excuse to share a slice with friends or family, or put out a pretty napkin/towel/plate set. Plus you get a sweet treat out of it too ;)


xoxo,
M




Seven Years with Kiva

Hey World,

Today I wanted to share a bit about one of my favorite ways to give - Kiva. Kiva is an online platform where you can upload money to lend to small entrepreneurs or groups, aggregated from reputable micro-finance organizations around the globe. The best part? When you're repaid, you can re-lend the funds, again and again. 



Here's my story.


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I gave my first Kiva loan in November of 2009, after being encouraged to sign up on my campus quad by another GWU student. 

I signed up with just $25, and gave it to a dressmaker in Togo. It took 14 months for Rosalie to pay me back. When she did, I re-lent it to Tenedje, a food market vendor in Mali for a year. When he repaid, my $25 then circulated to Amina, who ran a food stall in Kenya. Amina was the first person to default on her loan. 



In my first three years with Kiva, $25 (the equivalent of a dinner out on campus at the Thai restaurant, or a new dress from Forever 21) pinged across the African continent, and facilitated opportunities for three small entrepreneurs. 

I didn't miss the money.

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In 2013, I tried a new Kiva program, "Zip", which are smaller loans ($5-$10) for American entrepreneurs. They all ended in default -- which is insanely uncommon, but I lost most of my $25. It took a year for my pride to recover, but last spring I read The International Bank of Bob during our DRC trip, and came away realizing that my $25 across four years had a decent run, and it was time to re-invest.

So in March of 2016, I put $75 into my account and picked loans with shorter repayment windows (to help keep my money circulating). That first go-around, I chose a women's group in Nicaragua and two women entrepreneurs in the Philippines, Lucita & Zenaida

When they all repaid, the money went back in for a group in Rwanda, Laos, and a farmer in Armenia. My Rwanda loan has finished repaying, and I re-invested in Shabana, a home product saleswoman in Pakistan.


Over the weekend, I reached $25 re-paid credit again, and re-lent it to Agim from Albania, who is seeking a loan to make improvements to his stables. 

All in all, I've given Kiva $99 of my money. In seven years, I've turned that $99 into $300 (tripling the value), which has funded 15 loans in 11 countries...and counting! By July, I'll get enough repayments to re-lend two more times.
It's also fun to browse who to give to next: you can choose by organization, sector, country, or those near/far from their goal. Sometimes, you can even find a 2x opportunity, where a private donor or sponsor organization will match whatever you give for double the impact!

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Kiva is a really easy, non-expensive way to facilitate opportunities for those around the world with big dreams over and over again, and allowing individuals to create their own impact for their families and their communities. If you have a classroom, or a family with young kids, Kiva may be an interesting way to explore the challenges others may be facing, but also the vast amount of opportunity we can share by supporting them to improve their own lives.



If you're interested, you can join here to find out more, and sign up. (Using this link pings me to let me know I've encouraged someone else to give too!) Join a huge community of lenders & borrowers, with almost one billion dollars of money circulating since 2005.




I am so thankful for my journey with Kiva thus far, and am looking forward to the chance to continue supporting entrepreneurs around the world for years to come.


xoxo,
M






NOTES:
* You can click on any of the names or countries mentioned above to read more about the specific people & groups I supported!
* All images shown above are from the Kiva website -- www.kiva.org 

Making Memories in the Ulugurus

Hey World,

One of the aspects I like most about Powersheets is setting monthly intentions to devote to relationship building. In my Year of post, I also set that as a major focus for myself for 2017!

I think creating memories is one of the best things you can do to build a relationship. I think about this a lot during our short home visits to make sure we help facilitate 'memorable' events with family when possible (and without too much $!), but I think it's equally important in developing friendships.


So, it was really fun last weekend to go on a 2-night trip with another couple to make some memories outside of the typical -- we drove just over 4 hours to another large town called Morogoro, stayed in a guest house that was owned by once Iringa-residents (and a couple who got engaged the same weekend as Brady & I, and are now expecting!), and hiking a nearby mountain range that I've heard lots of good things about.


We drove part-way up the mountain and parked the car at this village, which was probably the best decision we made the entire day. The walk to where we dropped the car from town had no views, and would have been killer! 

 


The whole way up was so green, and we paused a lot to bird-watch, pick wild blackberries, and rest and re-hydrate in any bit of shade we could find (despite all of this, I ended up burning my scalp!).



At the top was this radio tower, which our guide insisted we should take a picture of after our 3 hour summit. I much preferred the view the other way though...



 Come on; isn't that incredible?!


After our two hour power-hike down (to which my legs immediately pulverized themselves into jelly), we indulged in a double-dinner, which basically means we were all so hungry, we each ordered two entrees, and subsequently demolished them.

We finished the night before 9:30pm after some pretty terrible rounds of pool, but who's counting? :)


The next day we had a lazy breakfast, I learned that lime flowers are beautiful on a little nature walk, and then we headed back to Iringa! 

We're hoping to tack on to a group trip to a nearby national park in a few weekends with a few of our coworkers, and I am continuing to host a monthly Open Table events -- next week my theme is Japanese food! Creating and taking opportunities to make memories is something I want to keep deliberately dedicating time to.

What's on the docket for your memory-making list? Any go-to's before spring starts?

xoxo,
M