How to Be a Tough Mother F*****

I traveled to Illinois to visit some customers yesterday. Running on about two hours of sleep, I was up and dancing around my bathroom by 3AM (to tame my lion mane) and on the road by 4:45. If I could fairly express the level of “W-T-F” chemicals/juices rolling through my veins, I would. But I can’t. Just know that if I could describe my mental state in these early hours through a flavor, that flavor is.. black licorice. I was tired, more tired, and perhaps a liiiittle emotionally unstable.

I went into my first meeting with poise and optimism, but quickly learned of some unfortunate news regarding one of the C-level gentlemen and his deteriorating health. As the story unfolded, and more details emerged, I was seconds away from being Jess Day from New Girl, choking up and trying to swallow the ball in my throat while maintaining eye contact with the man speaking so that he could at the bare minimum, see the empathy in my eyes.

Afterward, I reflected on what just happened, and I thought, “I am SUCH a weak, little girl.” I felt embarrassed, knowing I couldn’t get a grip on the raw emotion leaking out of me. I felt out of control.

Guess what happened next?

This entered my life:

Be the person who cares.
Be the person who makes the effort, the person who loves without hesitation.
Be the person who bares it all, the person who never shies away from the depth of their feeling or the intensity of their hope.
Be the person who believes–in the softness of the world, in the goodness of other people, in the beauty of being open and untethered and trusting.
Be the person who takes the chance, who refuses to hide.

Be the person who makes people feel seen, the person who shows up.

Trust me when I say–be the person who cares. The world doesn’t need any more carelessness, any more disregard; because there is nothing stronger than someone who continues to stay soft in a world that hasn’t always been kind to them.

There is nothing more courageous than showing your heart to everyone.

Do you know how it feels when you get a paper-cut and someone walks by and sprinkles salt right on it? Or stabs a bow arrow through your right foot — the foot that you’ve had surgery on already once before? Or throws acid into your face?

Whether or not there is intent, people metaphorically do that sometimes. It’s part of life.

In reality, no one has ever targeted my foot with their bow.. yet. (But I really did get salt in my own paper-cut during an afternoon chip-and-salsa fiesta, and it felt like acid…)

Simply because you have the expectation set in your own mind that every person is good, this does not *poof* it into reality. You can want it all day long, but sometimes you will face disappointment. But that’s okay!

Don’t let the world make you hard.

Let the good bring you happiness, and let the bad bring you experience, wisdom and strength.

Good, bad, ugly, or beautiful — every little bit will add more perspective into your life.

There is nothing more admirable than a person who is soft despite the life curveballs that would make most turn cold, hard, and unreachable.

So, you want to be tough?? Show your heart to EVERYONE.

There is nothing more brave, tough, or undeniably rebellious than showing your heart to everyone.

This is a figure of speech — please keep your organ covered and inside of your chest cavity.



No one is you. That is your power.

While listening to a podcast this morning and getting ready for work, I was kindly reminded of that gross, painful, and paralyzing feeling of insecurity. It emerges as a lump in the back of your throat, a pit in your stomach, or a sudden rush of adrenaline on its way to protect you from the approaching danger, when the reality is, this lump, pit, or “danger” is uniquely a direct result of the thoughts you have fed yourself — thoughts that 9-times-out-of-10 lack any credibility.

If you made it through that run-on sentence, you’re doing great and I believe you should keep going! The next segment is going to push you over the edge. You may also land in the middle of the Pacific ocean, but rest assured and float comfortably — help is on the way.

There is always going to be someone smarter than you.

There is always going to be someone braver than you.

There is always going to be someone further ahead than you.

There is always going to be someone funnier than you.

There is always going to be someone kinder than you.

There is always going to be someone more attractive than you.

Thinner than you, stronger than you, sexier than you. Always.


Do you know what is pure magic, though? What the flotation device, on its way to rescue you, is?

No one is you. That is your power. 

You are you. You are enough. You are not what the voices in your head tell you when you look in the mirror, when you have a pimple, when you don’t fit into your jeans like you used to. You are not what the voices in your head tell you when you look at your bank account, when you put yourself first, when you say no to an opportunity you know you should say yes to. You are not what the voices in your head tell you when you compare yourself to others in any way, shape or form. Comparison is the thief of joy.

Insecurity can be the vehicle to a garden of self-pity and unworthiness, in turn resulting in a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams, avoided opportunities, and worst of all, rejection of loving or being loved.

Feeling insecure at times can also be the fuel that accelerates your personal growth, so perhaps like most things, it’s okay in moderation.

One antonym of insecure is secure. (GASP!) The definition of the word “secure” is: to be fixed or fastened so as not to be lost. This obviously applies to your shoe laces or your safety harness on a roller-coaster ride, but let’s for a moment apply it to our confidence. Our courage. Our belief that the best version of ourselves is yet to come and it’s our daily duty to keep reaching for it.

Fasten your confidence belt/harness, and remember that no one is you. No one is *insert your first, middle, and last name*.  Literally no one. And it’s magnificent.

Please, the next time you are feeling insufficient, take a second to think about what the root of that unworthiness is stemming from. Actively give effort to modifying the way your brain responds to certain elements. Be thoughtful in the type of people you expose yourself to, and have the strength to walk away from poor relationships. We’re living on borrowed time, and although it sometimes drags on like the final hour of work on a Friday afternoon, life really is short. And there is no other you. What you bring to the world is enough. Don’t lose joy over anyone incapable of appreciating your value. Be painfully, beautifully, and drastically YOU!

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How To Cut Corners: A Step-by-Step “How Not To” Guide

When I seek out a common trend among the last few weeks of my personal life, I have to be honest. I have been cutting corners. In addition, this is not a tutorial, rather it is a highlight reel of my experiences–perhaps the theoretical equivalent to a sauce pan tumbling down a staircase.

The concept of “cutting corners” can be applied fairly broadly, but the intent here is to share the cause-and-effect of recent happenings in effort to potentially prevent minor catastrophes in others’ lives.

The following stories will be presented USA Today-style for dramatic effect, because you and I BOTH know that being dramatic is not normally my thing (wink face) and I like the idea of announcing, “I’m making headlines, baby!”

 “Woman electrocuted by her own load of laundry.”

We’ll start small with this one. Upon transferring a large load of colors to the dryer, I looked at the box of dryer sheets on the shelf and thought, “I don’t wanna.” I proceeded to start the dryer, walk away, then get quickly distracted by my excitement to go clean and cut strawberries, because when I cut strawberries, what ends up happening is: I cut the stem off; I eat the berry; I cut the stem off another; I eat that one too, and so on.

When the time came to fold the laundry, I popped open the dryer door and reached right in to bear hug as many articles as possible. I instantly felt every hair on my body stiffen, and I walked to my bedroom to set it down. When I reached into the pile in search of a shirt to proactively hang up (before it wrinkles, and I hate how wrinkly it looks, so I throw it away and give up on clothing altogether), I FELT THE STATIC SHOCK RUN THROUGH MY BODY! People, I felt it on the tips of my ears!

When I realized I indeed survived the electricity storm, I laughed and ran to the bathroom to see if my hair had turned into Albert Einstein’s. Unfortunately, it didn’t. But on the topic of hair…

“Woman turns half of her head red velvet cupcake-colored, then pays $400 to repair.”

I went grocery shopping a few weeks ago, and the idea of changing up my hair color entered my brain. I thought about calling a salon, scheduling an appointment a couple of weeks out, but thought, “I don’t wanna.”

The powers that be summoned me to the hair dye aisle. I have never once tried dyeing my hair on my own, however, being deeply submerged into the mentality that “I’m a grown woman and there’s nothing I can’t handle,” I purchased some temporary red hair dye, thinking I would just *tint* the ends of my hair and see how I feel about having a little bit of red in my hair, given it is naturally brown with a few strands of auburn.

Drum roll, please!

Before you start empathizing and trying to imagine my sheer panic throughout the progression of these pictures, don’t. This was my own doing, and wow, was it a learning experience every step of the way! Between the correction phase and the final color fix, I dropped a juicy $400, but the lesson is priceless: some things should be left to the professionals–cavity filling, blood work, hair dying, etc.

“Woman, home alone, toe stubbed to death on larger-than-life wall mirror.”

I recently purchased a large, sleek and shiny new mirror for my bedroom wall — one that doesn’t lean against the corner, rather it is to be hung on the wall, so you can get a full view of your toes all the way to the tips of your frizzy messy bun. This mirror is huge, and if I had to guesstimate, it weighs around 400lbs. Given my excitement to get it hung and on display, I realized in the moment I had failed to buy proper hardware to hang it…. properly. Upon considering a drive back to Menard’s, I thought, “I don’t wanna.”

I dug through my giant toolbox (a ziplock of nails alongside a hammer and screwdriver that I borrowed from my dad), and decided I had EVERY part I needed to get this bad boy installed. I want to say the only word to describe the final product was “sketchy,” but we got it done! Is there anything I can’t handle?

About three weeks later, I stood in the doorway of my bedroom and thought, “What a waste of time it would have been to make a trip to the store for proper hanging supplies. That mirror looks flawless.”

The other night, about 20 minutes into a deep slumber, I jolted awake to my worst fear of living alone: a serial killer had busted down my door and was en route to my bedside. I crept out of bed slowly, thinking of how far away from my kitchen knife set I was, and stubbed my left toe on a sharp piece of furniture I did not recall putting in the corner of my bedroom.

The mirror fell. Because the nails could not withstand the weight any longer. Who called that?! Thankfully, the mirror was in pristine shape and no glass was shattered. In fact, the only thing that shattered was my self-confidence in defending myself. That serial killer would have laughed in my limping, toe-stubby face.

Think about the little corners that you cut in effort to save time and ensure you live the most convenient life possible. It can’t always be worth it. I am living proof.

As I alluded to earlier, these examples have a theme.

The cause: “I don’t wanna.”
The effect: Red hair, an electrocution, and a straight-up near-death toe stub.
The takeaway: DON’T CUT CORNERS!

I want you to do as I say, and not as I do. Tell your friends. Tell your future daughter(s). Skip the self-checkout and tell the cashier at Target, too.

Thank you for reading. 🙂

P.S. my hair is healed and healthier than ever. Next time, I’ll skip the red velvet cupcake and go straight for the milk chocolate.

Field Researchin’ for.. Infinity

Do you remember those research projects you were assigned in high school? The often dreaded “pick a topic-conduct field research-then write about it” types of projects?

You thought you had gotten away from that stuff, huh?

Well, I have an assignment for you.

While out on an errand-running adventure last weekend in the midst of the dark, rainy hours, I unintentionally but thankfully and naturally conducted a bit of “field research” myself.

With bags in both hands, I made a beeline for my car, which, given my tendency to park 450 yards away from the store entrance, felt like a steeply ambitious and rather foolish attempt at dodging the raindrops.

About a half of a yard in, I witnessed a woman stuck in the middle of the parking lot, sitting in a scooter that had stalled by either a sick twist of fate or an overdose of moisture. Along with the assumed pressure she herself was likely feeling, a big, buff Dodge Ram had impatiently snuggled up right behind her adding some pressure of its own for good measure.

Rather than puddle stomp right past her, I thought “maybe I can push her in the scooter…. I mean, I DO do CrossFit so…” *hair flip, just kidding*

Well, I tried. I couldn’t push it, but I did keep her company while we brainstormed other solutions! She had a basket full of flowers, which she proudly announced were her yearly Mother’s Day gifts to herself. With her segue into motherhood, I probed for more details. She has twelve children total, seven of which have been adopted.

I quickly realized I was in the presence of an angel on earth.

I regret not asking for her name, but when we finally made it to her vehicle, I was both blessed by her verbally and physically. I unloaded her flowers and hugged her, and believe me when I say I love a good hug with a sweet stranger! Not knowing her name added a bit of whimsy to the experience, too.

As I slowly made it to my own car, pretty wet and pretty cold, I grinned and thought, “This is simply field research on my lifelong project of being a good person.”

My thoughts escalated into “What if we all worked on this project together? What would the world be like?”

I did not write this as a personal flex, because I’ll be the first to admit that I need help. I need daily reminders and perspective that we’re living on borrowed time, in the constant company of wounded souls who need kindness and love and understanding just as we ourselves do. I need constantly active discipline to not think only about me, me, me.

How do we focus on living more selflessly, when we’ve been conditioned to be go-getters, out here in a dog-eat-dog world, seemingly surrounded by others who continue to level-up in their life pursuits?

I honestly don’t have an answer. But I have a feeling it starts by being a good person. There is enough evil in the world, so help that friend. Sacrifice some of your time. Donate a little bit of money. Surprise a stranger with kindness.

I am motivated by teamwork, so let’s take on this project together. As my college professors used to say, the final write-up should be “as long as it needs to be.”

Let’s get out in the field and get to work!

Thanks for reading,


That feeling that feels…feely.

I had a moment tonight. Shocking, I know, given everyone all around the world has at least 54 moments a minute. I rolled around in a mud puddle of grace all day long, coming through on all of my intentions for the day. I was buzzing for good reason. Between having the windows open inviting all of the spring air into my freshly-cleaned apartment and getting my suitcase unpacked within the same day of homecoming, you can imagine having a front row seat to view the sunset on my evening run was almost too much for my little brain to process. Much like that run-on sentence. I am glad it’s over.

As I was about to sit down to eat my freshly-caught salmon filet, I whipped out The Instagram. I scrolled through a few posts, but gave up when an idea sprung: my carb-of-choice tonight (aside from asparagus) will be merlot!

I once again got situated at the dinner table (translation: walked back to the counter where I stand and eat dinner most nights), I felt the onset of a gross feeling. You know… that feeling that feels feely. I was as shocked by this feeling as I was by my complete bewilderment at what it was from. Like, did I black out for a second? Have I been robbed? Is my name even Ciarra?

I ate about four bites of salmon over the course of 15 minutes while I retraced my steps, thoughts, sips, blinks, and breaths. I honest to goodness wondered if I had simply-but-suddenly recalled a terrible memory and my body was working through absorbing it.

Well…. I did recall a terrible memory. Two, actually. The other night, I had a dream. I was madly, wildly, and hopelessly in love with a man who, if I recall properly, was handsome and talented. I had not foreseen my fleeting infatuation with this individual coming, so I will have to report back on the root cause of all of this. The man in my dream was the same man that appeared on my Instagram feed (2nd terrible memory), being affectionate with a girl whom I’d imagine is simply his study buddy, nail filer, stamp licker, or shoe shiner or something. Whatever, they are cauuuuute!

So what happened in my brain, I think, is I felt a brief pang of territorial jealousy–the grossest, stinkiest feeling I can imagine as a single woman, given my track record. (*subtweet). This is not a feeling I’ve faced in terms of romanticism in a couple of minutes (or years? Is someone counting for me??). This little devil of a feeling almost stole the joy right off of my fork and out of my stemless wine glass.

What happens in the human body when a debilitating feeling is held in? I am glad you asked. The feeling turns into a metaphorical seed, and that seed grows to the size of a mid-July watermelon, just weighing you down and making you feel like you’re more full than the house of the 19 Kids and Counting Duggar fam.

The person in the dream and the picture was….. Charlie Puth. I’m giggling as I type this. I am not a closet fan-girl. I do enjoy his music. I do also weigh at least 3x that of the hunnie in his picture.

Now that that is in the open, I can be serious for a moment. You know the feeling you get when you cut someone off while driving? Or don’t respond to a text from a very close friend for 24+ hours? Or know for certain that you fell short of an expectation at work? Or ate a meal as if you are actually expecting quadruplets?  If you don’t know the feeling, I have led you about 1,028 words astray, and I apologize. You should go.

I think the only way around these feelings is by acknowledging them. But when I say acknowledging them, I don’t mean seeking public affirmation that you are indeed a good person, although your actions of late would indicate otherwise, just so you can let someone else provide validation for you so you don’t have to go to the trouble. I mean acknowledge them  w i t h i n   y o u r s e l f .

In other words, own it. You felt jealousy? Own it. You felt guilt? Own it. Regret? Join the club. We have wi-fi here!  What gets in the way of us feeling pure joy sometimes is our own self. It takes awareness and intention to uncover yucky feelings, but you have to weigh the price with the benefit and listen to the little, incessant voice chirping in your ear.

I just can’t imagine that burying unpleasant feelings longterm can have a solid outcome. I also can’t imagine an average, very non-famous individual feeling real, personal jealousy toward a celebrity’s significant other. Like, at what point do I get to throw a beer across the room and say, “I DREAMED THAT WE WERE IN LOVE!”

Face your gross feelings. Give them the attention that they’re dying for, and then give them a flick. Use your middle finger, because I think science would indicate that the middle is the phalange with the most flick power. You’re not a bad person for feeling bad things. There’s a chance that a million of us are feeling the same, yucky thing at the very same time, but society indicates that we should feel ashamed for feeling them. So, we sip our tea and act like we are living in a perfect, little globe. Let’s stop doing that!

Thank you for reading,



My sunflower, my momma bear.

I woke up today. That is so much more than about 150,000 others can say. If you’re sniffing through this article, you are the lucky one, too!! The truth is, my ceaseless gratitude is blatant plagiarism. I would have SO been expelled in college had I pulled this theft on an assignment! I have morphed into this positivity essential oil diffuser, dispersing optimism into the air via a fine vapor that gently absorbs into your body, frankly whether you like it or not.

This attitude and outlook on life has been a massive part of my upbringing because of one key component: my mother. You might notice a sunflower tattooed on my right forearm. Tattooed. Permanent. Forever. AND ever. I haven’t made this type of commitment since, hmmm, 24 years ago when I came into this world. Thanks for the assist there, mom!

What I want to share has a lot to do with what I think of when I think of my mom and/or any sunflower strolling down the street.

When I look at my mom, I see strength. I see a woman who has faced such terrible degrees of loss in her life, yet still exults in the pure joy of waking up in the morning. I see a woman displaying the type of positivity and zest for life that makes your neighbor need a nap. It’s an organic, contagious energy.

When I look at my mom, I see a woman who would donate her entire physical vessel if it meant giving another person the opportunity to look at a sea turtle or do a 1000-piece puzzle in a poorly lit dining room.

When I think of my mom, I think of the night she kidnapped me from my hospital room, only to take me for a 10-minute wheelchair ride from one side entrance to the other, cafeteria cheesecake in tow. I think of the spontaneity that comes out of her mouth, and the way she keeps a crowd laughing and uplifted without a finger of effort. That’s the kind of person I want in my corner.

When I imagine the woman I want to be, I want to be the woman who rises to the occasion. If there’s an opportunity to sleep on a crappy, uncomfortable recliner parallel to my own daughter sleeping in a hospital bed, count me in. Because that’s the kind of woman who doesn’t just feel love, she expresses it through action. That’s the kind of woman I want to be.

When I look at the pain my own creator has endured, I feel as though I’m standing on the lip of a volcano, looking down at what could come. I am inspired to make the world’s best lemonade out of the world’s most rotten ginger root. If a human being can bear a child, birth a child, and lose that same child some time later and still have the drive to wake up and face her life, then I am convinced we can do just about anything. I mean anything. Except walk on water. Or go to Target without spending $100+.

My mom once made a joke about me favoring my dad more than I favor her. Emphasis on the joke. Looking at the hand I’ve been dealt in terms of parental figures, I couldn’t choose one over the other even if the ice cream market’s existence depended on it.

When I look at my mom, I feel an overwhelming amount of empowerment. I think “WWTD?” (what would Tina do?) and it’s game on. I’ll tackle whatever hand I’ve been dealt with determination, whimsy, and gratitude. You should, too. For example, if you stub your big toe, be thankful you have a big toe to stub. If you say something silly (hourly occurrence for the Wagner chicks), be happy you have a tongue to pronounce the series of words that make you wish there were a fireman’s pole within arms reach so you could swiftly make your exit. There is always a bright side, and while some find that perspective exhausting, it’s all that we know and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I look at my sunflower, I see healing. I see a reason to find the strength to carry on. I see the beauty in overcoming. I see myself thirty years from now, loving on my grandchildren and reminiscing on the time my mom and I visited my own grandma, playing cards and laughing until we all needed a doctor. I’ll be looking back on the day my mom pushed me around in a shopping cart at Walmart as a 21-year-old adult. Or the night I cried for hours, begging my mom to sleep next to me because my heart was so broken I didn’t know if I would wake up the next morning. And that’s exactly what she did. I’ll vividly recall the days we felt pure joy while eating stale omelettes from the hospital cafeteria, knowing full-well that the eggs were not in fact eggs at all. They were likely some sort of liquidized cardboard, obviously with a sprinkle of pepper.

Mom, I love you. I love that you gave me your smile, your bunions, your humor, and a first name that most always gets mispronounced. I love that you give every thing you have with nothing expected in return. I love that you face fear as if it is just another friendly stranger, when the rest of us want to crawl in a hole for a few weeks until we have no other choice BUT to face it. You’re a sunflower, and I can only hope to bring light into the world like you do one day.

Some X’s, but mainly O’s,
Your favorite daughter



Let me set the scene for you. You’re a 24-year-old, averagely sized, healthy-in-the-thigh-arena, adult… if you will. You prefer to wear jeans that a mouse could NOT crawl up the leg of, hypothetically, if the environment presented the opportunity. The modern jean market is saturated with the type of fit that’s fit for a 10-year-old who lacks the free reign to eat ice cream whenever she wants (Unless her parents own an ice cream shop all while she’s growing up… @mom @dad). What I mean is the thigh-to-waist ratio is a little off. So, you sacrifice the snug comfort of a tight-waisted pair of jeans in order to squeeze yourself in, although a dance, or a wiggle/shimmy/90s-aerobic-bouncing-squat is still 100% required to get ’em on.

This 24-year-old is me. If you’re a woman who also prefers to avoid the mouse thing, you know what I’m talking about! If you’re a man who feels this doesn’t apply because you have no fear of mice, read on. I’m almost done with the jean fixation. If you’re a person who simply doesn’t wear pants, please reach out to me privately because I’m interested in a lifestyle change.

With a skewed thigh-to-waist ratio comes a daily struggle of the fear of exposing an area of your body most don’t in any given common daily activity. Except plumbers, I guess, if you’re into stereotypes.

The solution would be to buy a belt. Or a different pair of jeans. Or wear long shirts for the rest of your life. But for the last few years of my adult life, that’s been too easy for someone like me. I prefer to take the most illogical, resistance-filled path in life. I also measure my maturity by whether or not I own a charcuterie board. And whether or not I can spell the word charcuterie. I aged at least five years by swiping my card at Target yesterday. As it turns out, you can buy wisdom!

Here is the kicker. I BOUGHT A BELT!!!! I understand this means very little to any one of you reading this, but there’s a message that I taught myself by finding a cute little black belt for $8 on clearance. I promise the message is NOT about pants. But I will tell you, my life was changed by this belt.

Think about the little things in your life that you’ve been putting off. The things you wake up thinking “today is the day I knock this out” … and then you don’t. It could be as dreadful as filing your taxes, as consuming as cleaning out your closet, or as simple as responding to a freaking TEXT.  Seriously, I need to get my sh*t together on that last one.

What is holding you back? Time? Capacity? Fear? Doubt? Shame? Do you not have a closet? Is that why you can’t clean it out? Because you don’t have one?

Just – DO – THE – THING. Take the trip. Send the email. Say you’re sorry. Get rid of the nasty, dusty clutter. Get a tattoo (if it’s meaningful and you’re not under the influence). Break up with your significant other (just kidding, but if you need to, then now’s the time). Get a dog. Get one for me, too! Name him Harvey.

Or, if you’re like the old me, living a life full of lower back draftiness, buy the belt.

We subconsciously fill our days with unnecessary fear or dread associated with a certain thing. And then, it comes to fruition and we realize we wasted some really precious time not feeling the joys of life. And trust me, I know about the joys of life. I had a staring contest with a deer on my way home tonight. I think he even winked at me.

Speaking of precious time, thank you for reading. Go get that thing knocked out. WRECK IT, gently. I believe in you!