Defining… GALentine’s Day?

February 13th has recently become one of the greatest days of the year.

The Parks and Recreation TV show character, Leslie Knope, deemed February 13th an unofficial official holiday in an episode that aired in 2010.

In the words of Leslie Knope,

“Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies.”

This phenomenon has blown up since 2010. And, if I can speak for all the ladies my age, I think we love Galentine’s Day more than we love Valentine’s Day. Sitting in IHOP, chowing down on pancakes, bacon and biscuits and gravy sounds like the greatest holiday in the world.

I do this with a few of my friends at college, but you don’t have to sit down with a stack of pancakes to observe Galentine’s Day.

Today is a day to celebrate your girls. I don’t know about you, but my girlfriends keep my world turning. There’s so many I can count on for anything. How lucky am I to say that?

I love this holiday because it makes me realize how many great girls I have in my life. From my new college friends, to my old high school friends (FAM FOREVER), to my cousins and aunts, my people are the greatest.

I encourage each of you ladies to celebrate the girls in your life today. Give them a shout-out on social media. Shoot them a text. Or, every girl’s favorite, go old school with a chocolate heart.

Everyone needs a little love around Valentine’s Day. And today’s the perfect day to start.


EXCITING Defining Moments

Everyone has those moments.

Moments you know are going to change the current direction of your life.

Like I said in a previous blog, we each encounter little moments every day that can change things ever-so slightly.

But, every now and again, those moments are big decisions that take a lot of thought and multiple opinions.

I’m dealing with one of those moments right now in my own life. And let me tell you, it’s a little terrifying.

But what’s even more terrifying is being unhappy in a major you’ve only been pursuing for a year. Then you begin to wonder, “If I don’t like this now, how am I supposed to work in this field for the rest of my life?”

I asked myself that question about two weeks ago when my roommate was going through the process of changing her major. When she began to describe just how unfulfilled she was feeling, I realized I could identify with a lot of the same feelings.

And that’s when I began to freak out. But for a good reason! I began to evaluate where I was and the direction I was taking my life.

That’s when everything began to fall into place. That’s when God started showing me the little things He had been doing all along.

For example, I had made a last-minute decision to add a coaching minor last semester to begin taking those classes this spring. After sitting through a few of my functional anatomy classes, I realized how much I loved learning about the body and how it works.

Then, I decided to specialize in health and wellness for my ONE journalism class I’m taking this semester. I began to follow health and wellness accounts on Instagram and Twitter. This helped me realize how much I enjoy living a healthy lifestyle.

So, I scheduled meetings with my anatomy professor. He mentioned the option of potentially working in the physical therapy field. What’s ironic about that? I job-shadowed a physical therapist during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I actually committed to Simpson wanting to go into physical therapy, but plans change.

After that meeting, I scheduled another meeting with Career Development to nail out the details. The Career Development office at Simpson is top-notch. My meeting was a full 45 minutes of explaining my concerns, excitements and frustrations. Sometimes, you just need to talk it out to find clarity.

That’s exactly what I did. I may have walked away a little overwhelmed looking at the unknowns of the future, but I knew what I needed to do.

But first, I had to talk to my parents.

My parents are so great. No matter how crazy my ideas are, they’re always behind me (even if they don’t understand). They’re my own personal cheerleaders. I was a little nervous to tell them, but after I did, they were both so supportive – just wanting me to do whatever I enjoy.

I enjoy and am excited about exercise science.

I love rehab – seeing a patient go from limited mobility to walking in a few short months. I love working with people and helping them be the best they can be.

So, I have decided to change my major. From multimedia journalism to exercise science.

It’s scary and I still have no idea what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be after college, but I know I’m in the right spot.

I had to decide whether I wanted to stay where I was (which is definitely the easier route), or put in the work to do something I enjoy.

This is a defining moment. An EXCITING defining moment.

Defining Happiness

What is Happiness?

“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like & celebrating it for everything that it is.” -Mandy Hale

“You will be exactly as happy as you decide to be.”

“Happiness is a way of mind. It’s just according to the way you look at things.” -Walt Disney

Our society has defined this word in many different areas. It can be linked to a stage of life, a feeling or a mentality. This makes sense to us.

But what doesn’t make sense is where society has told us to find that happiness.

I’ve recently realized that, in my life in particular, I find my happiness in the people I love. My family, my cousins and my friends.

I love to entertain them. I love to feed them. And when Christmas comes around, I get so excited to give them presents that I almost spill the secret. Every time.

But what do I really enjoy? Making those people proud.

My favorite five words in the human language are, “I’m so proud of you.” And when those words come from my Dad or my Grandpa – I can’t even think about it without crying.

That’s good and all, but what that really means is that I’m looking for my happiness in someone else’s opinion of me.

Why do I do this?

Well, it probably has to do with the way I’m wired – which isn’t going to change unless God does a miracle of sorts. And it’s good that I love to make people happy. But what happens when they’re not impressed with me?

To some extent, we all want to impress those around us. That can be dangerous, though. There are certain decisions we need to make for ourselves.

Now, don’t get me wrong, life is not supposed to be all rainbows and butterflies. I’m a firm believer in growing through the hard times. I think the most valuable lessons come from being uncomfortable.

But if we’re looking to find happiness in someone else, we’re never going to find it. Although we all want everyone to think of us in a positive way, sometimes that can’t happen. You can’t please everyone, Maddie.

Because of this, I really want to try to be happy with what I’m doing – not worrying about what others think. This is usually pretty easy for me, but I have my moments just like everyone else. There are times I just want to make my friends happy, so I don’t say what I’m actually thinking. Or, although I hate to admit it, there are times I think I need to act a certain way to impress that certain guy.

But, the reality is, everyone’s going to have their opinions of you. And, most of the time, there’s nothing you can do about it.

“You can be the ripest, juciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” – Dita Von Teese

So go ahead, say what you want to say. Be who you want to be. The only opinion that truly matters is that of yourself.

Define your own happiness.


A Route that Defines

The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.


Each year, thousands of bikers make their way across Iowa. They battle hills, wind, rain and the occasional bump-in-the-road for seven consecutive days at the end of July.

Megan Oliver and her family are just a few of those thousand riders. Six years ago, Megan decided to hop on the two-wheeled bandwagon and participate with her family.

“I remember reading about it in fifth grade and my brother talked about it a lot, and it sounded really cool. My brother knew for sure that he wanted to do it and eventually recruited my mom so I thought, ‘Well heck, I’ll go!'”

This year, the route will cover 428.1 miles and will climb a total of 12,576 feet. Towns included in the route are Onawa, Denison, Jefferson, Ames, Newton, Sigourney, Iowa City and Davenport.

Because not everyone rides 428 miles in a week, training for the race is suggested.

“Since I’ve started, I try to ride 100 miles before we go in. But even that is not nearly enough, but it’s some. A lot of the ride is just powering through. You’re going to be sore every day.”

While biking across Iowa, the riders get to experience little gems right under our noses, in our very own state.

“I love seeing all the new places. New towns I’ve never been to, meeting new people, it’s just a really cool experience, a whole lot of fun.”

The dates for this year’s race are Saturday, July 21st, through Saturday, July 28th. Or, as Megan’s countdown shows, 171 days until the start in Onawa.

“You go at your own pace and just enjoy yourself across the state of Iowa.”

Although it’s a week full of competitive nature and intense exercise, Megan and her family don’t look at it as a race to win, but time to spend together as a family.

“It’s a party on two wheels! In a responsible sense, you’re partying all across the state of Iowa. People talk about Iowa nice and that’s so true on RAGBRAI. We even have this joke that you could leave $5 on your bike seat, go walk around the town, come back and your $5 would still be there. It just embodies what Iowa’s all about.”


I think we often take for granted just how great our little state is. If you’ve never experienced “Iowa Nice,” let me tell you, it’s a real thing. There’s just something about the people of the Midwest that’s different from the people of other areas of the nation.

So why not take a 400 mile ride across our great state to see what it has to offer? It might be a challenge, but anything worth doing is challenging. Why not see what Iowa’s all about from the seat of a two-wheeled bike?

Defining the Future

Future can be a scary word. A word that’s thrown around way too much between the years of 17 to about 22-years-old.

Every college student is always thinking about that one word.

The future.

So when questions and second thoughts arise, we as college students are quick to panic about our dangling future.

Kaci Johnson is all too familiar with that panic. Although she may be 22-years-old, Kaci’s considered a sophomore at Simpson College because of many defining moments in the past three years.

“I had my heart set on being a nurse since I was really little. My dream job was to work at St. Jude Children’s Hospital helping kids,” Kaci said.

So, that’s how she started, attending Mercy College as a nursing student in the fall of 2014… but not for long. After her first semester at Mercy, Kaci transferred to DMACC, where she studied nursing until the spring of 2016. She then took a break from school that next fall.

“During my semester off, I had started working at Methodist Hospital in downtown Des Moines as a patient care tech on the colon/rectal floor. I remember having 14 patients one night, and you’re expected to walk each of them three times and do vitals twice in an eight hour shift. It’s a really tiring job, and that’s when I realized that’s not what I wanted to do with my life.”


Struggling to find her niche, Kaci took a personal inventory of her qualities and interests.

“I have a real passion for kids, and I knew I needed to do something I was interested in. That’s when I started to look at what Simpson had to offer.”

Kaci started attending Simpson in the fall of 2017 pursuing a degree in elementary education. Since then, she’s joined Best Buddies and has become a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. Through these groups, she has made friends and memories that will last her a lifetime.

“I was really looking forward to coming here, but also really nervous because I was completely changing my major and attending yet another different school. But it’s been really, really good.”

Kaci’s not the first, and surely won’t be the last, to feel stuck – whether that’s in a major or in a school. But how many students have the desire to change? How many want to put in the work to be happy? Kaci easily could have taken the easy way out, sticking with her nursing degree to make things a little less complicated.

But she knew she wouldn’t be happy there. She knew that wasn’t the future she wanted to make for herself.

So, she did something about it.

How many of us are willing to put in the work to MAKE our future? Our future doesn’t define us, we define it!

“It was tough, but I’m a lot happier than I was. I know I made the right change.”




Social Media – Is It Defining Us?

Look at today’s kids compared to the kids of the 70s and 80s. What’s the biggest difference? Social media. Technology. Almost everyone from age 10 and older at least have cell phones. I was one of those, but my situation was different in that I received a TracFone (more for tracking purposes) instead of the expected smart phone of today’s children.

In a world where everyone is glued to their phones, this epidemic looks to begin to start early. It’s not long after they have their very own smart phone that the child begins to beg for a social media account because they simply “cannot live without it.” According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “pediatricians often hear from parents who are concerned about their children’s engagement with social media.”

Social media often brings about a negative vibe, but it’s not always a bad thing. I know I would have little-to-no contact with my best friend living in Aberdeen, South Dakota, if it weren’t for sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

But, I’m 20-years-old. I didn’t grow up with my face glued to a screen. I grew up playing outside in the sandbox. In my opinion, its normal for people my age to use social media.

But again, I’m 20-years-old and probably biased to my generation. When those of an earlier generation think about us “millennials,” they are inclined to roll their eyes and think we’re all frying our brains at the mercy of Facebook and Twitter.

This is anything but true.

My generation is learning how to use social media professionally. We’re finding the tips and tricks of Facebook pages, WordPress blogs, and tweeting in hopes of teaching both the earlier and later generations… if they’ll listen to us.

This is the positive side of social media – connection, engagement and professional use.

But, with any good thing also comes a list of the bad.

Everyone is addicted to the likes and favorites they receive on a post. And, if they don’t receive that expected level of interaction, it can have negative effects.

According to Social News Daily, “social media can contribute to a negative self-perception.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a heavy Facebook user or if Instagram is your “drug,” we all want our followers to believe we are happy, successful and living a fulfilling life. This leads to comparison and self-doubt.

Social News Daily describes this as “smiling depression… used to describe people who are depressed but do not appear so.” We all know everyone has their flaws and bad days, but social media masks that reality. Why are we comparing ourselves to each other if we know that, in the end, we’re all just one like away from deleting our accounts?

This “smiling depression” can be dangerous for younger children, particularly girls. Growing up, I remember comparing myself to my aunt, my dad’s sister. We’re 13 years apart in age and I thought she had hung the moon (and still do sometimes).

That is where my comparison happened. I wanted to be just like her, just as many girls my age would look up to their older sister.

But this tends to look a bit different in the minds of today’s little girls.

Instead of looking at real people, they find the trendiest Instagram face and desire to have her body, her job and her beyond perfect boyfriend.

How sad.

This is not just a call for the young girls of today’s generation to look elsewhere, but a call for the ladies my age to step it up. If we provide a positive example for those girls to look to, they won’t need to find a fake, too tan Instagram model to look up to.

They’ll have us. Real people who make mistakes and fall down sometimes, but always will get back up and dust ourselves off, ready for whatever life throws next.

So, here’s my conclusion to the question, “Is Social Media on the Whole a Negative or a Positive Social Force?”

Yes, yes to both!

There’s no one answer, and there never will be. It’s going to be a problem future generations will continue to deal with.

I have no doubts we will become more tech-savvy in the years to come, but for now, all we can do is keep doing what we’re doing – improving and learning more each day.

A Defining Change

My roommate, Courtney.

She’s smart, she’s driven and she’s determined.

I knew this even before we became roommates in August. She gets things done and does them well. She knows how to have fun, but also how to focus on her education and her health.

Recently, Courtney made a change. A change that would directly impact her health for the better.

“Part of my wakeup call was that I tried to run a single mile, four laps around this park near my house, and I physically could not do it. So I decided I needed to make a change.”

Starting a healthy routine of diet and exercise is not as easy as it sounds – something Courtney learned quickly.

“It would have been harder if my family wasn’t behind me. Both of my parents supported my decision to start eating healthier and workout more. I don’t think I could have done it without their support.”

During the summer of 2017, Courtney started going to CrossFit in West Des Moines. Here, she began to see first-hand the effects of her new healthy lifestyle.

“It doesn’t make sense, but when I don’t work out, I notice that I’m more tired. I don’t have motivation. I’m just kind of… bleh. But when I do work out and get it done, I’m ready for the day. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to take on the world.”

But that’s not all. Courtney not only began regularly attending CrossFit classes, but she also began running on a regular basis.

“I didn’t think I would like running as much as I do. But the more I got used to it and the more endurance I built up, I really enjoyed it. It’s my stress-reliever.”

In the past year, Courtney has ran three 5Ks and is training to run the Des Moines Dam-to-Dam half marathon that will be held in June. But she’s not planning to stop there.

“I decided that a year from now, I’m going to run a marathon! But I’m going to really try to do it the right way. I’m going to eat what I need to eat, I’m going to run when I need to run, and I’m going to make sure that I do everything for myself.”

Courtney is an inspiration to me. Because I’ve known her since my first week here at Simpson College, I have seen the difference in her. She’s happier. She’s more active. And when she decides she’s going to stick to a certain diet or exercise program, she does. Courtney inspires me to be the best that I can be.

So, because of my dear roommate, I will begin training WITH her for the Des Moines Dam-to-Dam half marathon. It sounds SO scary, but I know that Courtney will push me and motivate me.

This is the benefit of having healthy friendships. She pushes me, I push her. All because of one change she made last summer.

My challenge for you today is to look at your friendships. Do you have that person who will push you to be your best? If not, why can’t YOU be that person? YOU can make a defining change to help your friends be the best they can be. And who knows? Maybe you’ll do something crazy, like sign up for a half marathon.