The J O Y of productivity:

I consider myself an organized person.  Am I somebody who plans every waking hour of every single day?  Absolutely not.  But I do genuinely enjoy taking out my planner, brightly-colored pens in hand, and making memos of the things that I need to get done during the day, week and weekend.  There’s something relatively calming about planning your time and staying organized, especially because things will pop up at any given moment of the week and kind of derail your expectations for the things that you wanted to get done.  I’ve slowly learned a semi-perfect plan I do on Sundays:  to keep myself organized and to make my week the most productive.  Feel free to take this advice and completely make it your own, but one thing I will fully say is that embracing organization and time management this way will help you SO MUCH.  It will keep you focused, on track and it’s also fun to scratch off the things you’ve completed once you’re done.  That sense of accomplishment is the nerdiest high, but it’s totally worth it.  Also, who doesn’t love a good set of stickers?

1. Make yourself a nice cup/pot of coffee to start your morning:

It’s not embarrassing or shameful to say that sometimes (most times) you need coffee to function.  Yes, caffeine is great and all, but there’s something so enjoyable about prepping your favorite mug with the creamer of your choice and pouring that dark, liquid gold into it for your consumption.  A great cup of coffee will genuinely make your day THAT. MUCH. BETTER.  Not a coffee drinker?  No problem!  Make a cup of tea or chug some water, just get something into your body that will jump-start your morning.

2. Have a delicious and SATISFYING breakfast:

Remember, this is a day that is going to set the foundation for your week ahead, so it’s vital that you eat something that’s going to give you a sufficient amount of energy.

3. Spend some time in front of your computer/laptop.

It’s so easy to forget to clear our inbox.  Physical mail is so much easier to toss because we look through it as we get it, but our email accounts are just as important to maintain.  I’m guilty of letting my inbox grow and grow until it becomes too overwhelming to start deleting things (horrible, I know).  At one point I had unread emails from 2013 in there, LOL.  I’ve made it a point to dedicate about 2 hours to inbox etiquette.  Respond to emails that you need to respond to, save emails in designated folders if you have any (bill receipts, school information, important upcoming appointments) and try to get that inbox number as small as you can before it fills up all over again because let’s be real, a week from now you’ll probably have the same amount of emails to sort through all over again.

4. Physically write down things you know you need to do:

Time to bust out that planner or calendar!  Even if you have a notebook or Post-Its handy that you use to keep track of To-Do’s, USE IT.  Start in order of most importance, because those are the things that will need our most intricate attention, especially things that we know we need to get done at work.  Look at the days of the week in front of you and start jotting down projects, meetings and deadlines you either want to start, finish or be sure to remember through the workweek.

I recently purchased my second planner from Purple Trail and I am absolutely in love with it.  It’s an 18-month planner and one of the best things about them is that you can customize EVERYTHINGS.  Your planner theme, cover material, photos, inside content.  It’s great.  I love that I’ll get to use my planner for a year-and-a-half, so it’s a nice commitment to making sure I use it as often as I can since I’m going to have it for a while.

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5. Prep your meals:

It doesn’t matter if you’re following a diet regime, or whatever your dietary restrictions/preferences might be!  Get a nice set of Tupperware dishes, preferably glass, and prepare and pack your lunch for the work week/school week.  I like to pack dinner as well because it saves so much time for me once I get home from work.  I also like to plan out my breakfast so that I can just really quickly reheat something in the morning and eat it before I head out the door.  One of my favorite breakfast recipes is a 3-ingredient pancake (1/4 cup of dry oats, 1 egg, 1 banana and 1 scoop of protein + add a splash of water for consistency) that you literally just mix up in a blender and make like you would a regular pancake.  I make 5 or 6 of them on Sunday afternoon and have my breakfast ready for the week.  It really is that easy!

6. Get your wardrobe right:

Nothing takes more time in the morning than deciding on your outfit when you could’ve done it the day before.  Check what the weather is going to be, open your closet door(s), pick something that makes you feel professional and confident and set it aside for the morning.

7. Read something:

A novel, a magazine, a blog post, anything that will get your brain working.  I like to take some time every weekend to learn something completely out of my comfort zone, or something that I never knew before.  It’s fun, adds a conversation starter to your rhetoric and you just genuinely can’t go wrong when you open a book.

8. Write down your affirmations to yourself:

You are your biggest fan, your biggest motivator, and your best friend.  Write down reminders to yourself that will continually remind you that you are capable of not only rocking your week but rocking your month, your year, your LIFE.  No negativity allowed here.  This is the time to write a letter to yourself, messages to yourself, reminders to yourself, whatever.  Just do it.

I hope these steps make a difference in your routine and bring some calm to your chaos.  Remember, we’re all different and what works for me might not work for you, or anybody else for that matter.  The important thing is to find what helps you and run with it.

Love,

Naissa

 

 

Reflecting on 2019 (and the 2010’s):

Can y’all believe this year is about to end?

I didn’t really set “must-do” goals for myself for 2019.  Well, I guess I did.  At the end of 2018, I wrote down “Move to Nashville” as one of my goals for 2019. I. DID. THAT. I’m so proud of myself for taking that leap, and I won’t feel bad for being proud of myself and thinking I’m pretty freakin’ awesome anymore.  I think that’s what I want my goal for 2020 to be; stop being so modest.  I was always told that “modesty is key,” and that it wasn’t cute (or nice) to gloat about yourself.  Why not?  Am I not allowed to be proud of everything that I’ve accomplished and everything that I’ve overcome?  Am I not allowed to feel confident with my body and my face and WANT to show it off?  I’m tired of that.  I’m tired of women being called “thirsty” because we post photos of ourselves flaunting our bodies that we’re proud of.  Get over it.  If you’re proud of YOU, show it off and drown out the noise.  Don’t let people who thrive on criticizing others make you feel bad about yourself.  If anything, pray for them.

Okay, rant over.

What a year this was, though.  I went to so many concerts! They were incredible.  I started the year with Carrie Underwood and ended the year with Luke Combs (technically Keith Urban because he’s performing tomorrow night).  Music was such an enormous part of this decade for me, and I sincerely hope it’s an enormous part of the 2020’s, too.

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IMG_0803Eminem and Rihanna; The Monster Tour; NYC 2014

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Kenny Chesney; 2015

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One thing that DID stay consistent, though was the inconsistency of the Dallas Cowboys (LOL).  Good Lord, it was 10 years of going in circles and disappointment.  Glass half full, this was the decade that the Red Sox AND the Nationals won the World Series back-to-back!  Pretty awesome.

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I graduated from college this decade, got my masters and started on my Ph.D. I’d say that’s a pretty big deal.

IMG_9640Northeastern University; Boston, MA; May 2017

Obviously, my life changed in the middle of the decade when I lost my mom.  I was 25, confused, angry and extremely terrified.  It’s insane how much I felt like I grew up at the end of that year.  I was 25 going on 35 and I had absolutely no idea what the hell I was doing.  The responsibilities I had to take on made me this version of myself, though.  I can’t be mad at that.  I feel like even after she left, my mom was still giving me something, and that was making sure that I knew that there was nothing in this world that could break me.  Nothing.

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This is exactly the attitude I plan to carry into the new decade.  Be stupid enough to try something you know you might fail at but try to do it anyway.  Be brave enough to go for something completely out of your comfort zone.  Be kind enough to bring a sense of comfort to those around you, but also be stern enough to know when you’ve reached your limit(s).

The world is an enormous but delightfully small place; don’t be afraid to explore it.

Here’s to 2020.

Opry Goes Pink: 2019

Every year, the iconic Grand Ole Opry hosts Opry Goes Pink in October.  Proceeds from ticket sales benefit organizations in the fight against breast cancer. It’s an incredible cause, and you get to enjoy an amazing lineup in the process.  Well, this year, the lineup was MASSIVE.  Craig Morgan, Travis Tritt, Sara Evans, and LUKE BRYAN performed on Tuesday, October 22, 2019.  I’ll be totally honest, Luke sold me on purchasing the ticket, but that lineup was enough to make even the most lackluster country music fan smile for the entire evening.

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There was an older couple to my right, the husband was ex-military, and the older couple on my left were in law enforcement.  It was nice being next to people who have dedicated their lives to service.

Craig Morgan started the show wearing a bright pink sweater and with very vivid enthusiasm. His energy gave off such a grateful vibe, and you could tell he was very thankful to be there.  Travis Tritt took the stage right after, and boy did people start cheering when that iconic chorus came on. After all, it was definitely a great day to be alive.

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Luke Bryan performed after Craig Morgan, and boy did he perform.  I’ve seen Luke a few times now (5, I think), and every concert is special.  His enigmatic charisma and sweet charm is so contagious through every performance.  There was one woman screaming her lungs out in the front and he looked at her and said “Mama?” It was the cutest moment.

He started his segment with Most People Are Good from his “What Makes You Country” album (2017).

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He took a few moments to honor those who have been affected by breast cancer, and before belting out a few more hits, he closed his segment with the incredibly emotional song “Drink A Beer,” which he wrote to honor his late brother. The entire Opry audience sang the chorus with him as he sat on the piano and sang his heart out. To say it was an emotional moment would be a severe understatement.

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Missouri girl Sara Evans closed the show, and what a closer she was. Evans has such a unique voice, and no matter how many times you have heard her hits on the radio, listening to them live makes them sound that much better. I’d never seen her before, and she definitely did not disappoint.

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I’m so grateful to have been in the audience for this show. I was questioning whether I should go because I knew I’d be very tired at work the following day, but it was absolutely worth it.

Any visit to the Opry is a magical one.

My name is Naissa and I like Jack Daniels.

As anybody who just moved to Tennessee, one of the first things you think about doing is taking a trip to Lynchburg to browse the legendary home that belonged to Jasper Newton Daniel, or, as the word knows him, Jack Daniel.

It was a cool, drizzly morning in Nashville when we began the trip.  The rain made the air outside extremely crisp. It absolutely felt like fall. The drive took about an hour and a half with no stops. You know you’re getitng into Lynchburg after you hit an area in the middle of nowhere with little cell reception.

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The distillery is absolutely beautiful, and makes up pretty much the entire city of Lynchburg.  There are a few places to check out in their downtown area, but for the most part, the town is the distillery.  Picture a Hallmark movie setting with a lot of whiskey and you’ve pretty much seen the town.

The Angel Share Tour includes a storytelling of the facility, including checking out the home that Jasper grew up in, which also houses the safe that further led him to contract sepsis.  Story goes that he was frustrated that he couldn’t remember its combination, kicked it and got an infection.

Right before you go into the area where the whiskey runs through charcoal, you get to see additional scenery up close. It was gorgeous. Maybe it was the weather that made everything so much more aesthetically appealing, but it truly felt like we were in the setting for a movie. Because the facility relies heavily on charcoal, there are pieces of property and foliage that have traces of the matter. One of the buildings had a smoky black layer covering most of its side, and there was also a tree with a black trunk sitting in the middle. It was slightly macabre and extremely beautiful.

IMG_8792IMG_8791 copyIt was a little overwhelming taking a tour of a facility that single-handedly changed whsikey in America, and all over the world.

Jack Daniels is only made in Lynchburg and is sold in over 100 countries.  I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I absolutely recommend that yout ake this tour if ever you find yourself in Middle Tennessee. There are a number of tour operators that will drive you to the facility and back by bus, and even allow you to drink on the way (just don’t get rowdy because they WILL kick you off).

That legendary black label is worthy of every bit of its status.

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My first visit to Marathon Music Works

Nashville completely lives up to the name “Music City.”  The second you land at the airport, drive into the city or head out on the town, you’re surrounded by small traits that will absolutely remind you that you’re in the land of music and lyrics.

Marathon Music Works is a venue located not too far from Music Row, the renovated warehouse now welcomes up and coming rock stars, locals and a few country music favorites.

On Friday, September 27, I visited the eclectic establishment for the first time to watch one of my favorites, Chase Rice.  He’s a pretty low key artists who’s opened for several big names, like Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley.  But despite those credentials, his music has resonated really well with me over the last few years.  Whether I go alone or with a few people, I always have a good time at his shows; Friday night was no different.

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The venue itself is very industrial; it’s beautiful.  The environment is also just as beautiful.  From the moment I got out of my Uber and into the venue, I felt welcome.  The bouncers at the door are very gracious and respectful, as are the attendants checking your ID before you walk in.  The stage area is also extremely roomy, and no matter where you stand, you’re going to get a great view of the show.

The drink selection was AMAZING.  Whatever liquor or beer you’re craving for the night, they’re sure to have.  Thankfully I’m a Jack Daniels girl, and there’s no shortage of that in Tennessee.

The ambiance of the entire night was wonderful, and I’m looking forward to visiting them again soon.  If you’re ever in Nashville, you should definitely go and check out a show.

You can find a list of future performers here: Marathon Music Works Lineup

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Leap of Faith

I’ve always loved the saying “With great risk comes great reward,” because I fully believe it to be true.  You’ve got to make sacrifices to live the life you want, to get the life you want, or to keep the life you want.  These sacrifices don’t have to be huge or life-altering, but they do have to prove to the universe that you’re willing to give up a few things for even greater things.

In late June, I was offered an incredible position at Vanderbilt University, a position that I wanted, and a position I knew I couldn’t turn down.  I’d had my eyes on living in Nashville for about three years.  The music, the food, the people, all of those characteristics made me fall in love with the city.  Well, that and the fact that it has this small-town vibe, something I am very much used to, and something that I will always love about any city.

Saying goodbye to Texas was hard.  Texas is home, always will be.  I think the hardest part was saying goodbye to my family, especially listening to my dad continue to tell my dog farewell to avoid actually telling me goodbye.  Watching him wait for my Jeep to clear his line of vision made me extremely emotional, a lot more emotional than I thought I would get.  As I sat at the STOP sign down the road from my childhood home, I couldn’t help but think of my mom and what her reaction and opinion on all of this would be.  My mom was an avid believer in stepping out of your comfort zone and taking risks in life, because after all, you only live once.  Yesterday marked four years since telling her goodbye, and the void of missing her is still very prominent.  It will probably be that way forever.  It’s a hard thing to accept, but necessary nonetheless.

I hope that my journey in Nashville will be good to me, and I’m ready for it.  I know that I have an incredible support system in my friends and family, and especially from up above.  Had I not taken this leap of faith, I know I would’ve continued to think “what if?” for the rest of my life, and I absolutely could not take that chance.

Because in the end, the only chances you regret are the chances you never took.

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My last Texas sunrise for a while.

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This was about 12 hours of driving in, and at this point, my dogs and Loki (my cat) were getting so antsy to get out of the Jeep.

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No bed just yet (air mattresses are actually pretty comfortable), but my babies and my mama’s Bible are all I need to feel at home.