You Do You: The Key to Smiling

You Do You Quote

‘You do You, babe’ is something VH says to me on a fairly regular basis. While it’s normally in response to us not agreeing on something I want to do and is often used semi-sarcastically, it’s something I’ve learned to take to heart over the last few years. Being a creative type with a dream of working from home, I run into a lot of naysayers and negative types. Being a little on the unique side, having tattoos and colored hair, I’m often on the receiving end of a lot of unwelcome opinions and ‘tips’ on life.

We all encounter the opinions as well as the wishes and hopes (and expectations) that others have for us, but when it comes down to it you really just have to do you. 

The funny thing about doing you – I mean really doing and owning it – is that, while some people may have negative things to say or disapprove of your choices, you begin to attract supportive, amazing people into your life. The more you own your choices and who you are, the more confident you become and, as a result of the things and people you begin to attract into your life, the happier you become. 

‘You do you’ is advice that sounds relatively easy, but sometimes it takes a lot of guts. When your choices or desires go against the grain of society, or even just that of your close friends and family, it can be hard to step up and own it. I love having colored hair, for instance. LOVE it. But, my family has a tendency to pick on me for ‘letting the kids color on’ my hair (again), or well-meaning people tell me that I’m not going to ‘get anywhere’ or will attract ‘a lesser caliber of people’ and ‘not be taken seriously’. I once had a ‘friend’ ask me to change my picture on LinkedIn because she didn’t want potential employers to see people with teal hair recommending her. True story. (For the record, I removed my recommendations before I changed my picture – who says something like that to a friend?).

And, for a long time, I believed these things. I believed that I had to curb who I was to fit in, be accepted, and make it in this world.  Then, about a month ago, I was having a discussion with some successful, well-known social media people and one of them said ‘You’re dying your hair back before the event, right? You’re Vagabond Shai…you have to have teal hair. You’re the girl with teal hair – it’s your trademark!‘. And it’s not my trademark because I dye it teal, it’s my trademark because I own it.

Erika Napoletano is a famous business adventurer and writer who has a full sleeve and is known for spouting four-letter words, and she these aren’t just things about her separate from her business, they’re things that people expect from and love about her, because she owns it. 

Steve Jobs broke into the world of electronics with weird designs and atypical presentations that went against everything you would learn in design or marketing classes, and he went on to make billions because he owned his personal brand and what he believed in. Design, marketing, and communications classes now often teach the ‘Steve Jobs’ model.

VH, while not famous, goes against what’s generally accepted in society in terms of being social and relationships with others – he’s not a social creature, doesn’t much like people, and has an awesome way of telling you how it is. And, instead of forcing himself to interact, putting on a smile and pretending he loves people or social gatherings, or giving people advice they want to hear, he owns who he is. And you know what? He’s happy. He’s comfortable in his own skin, and happy with the choices he makes. And, the people with whom he is close love him for these things. 

Having teal hair, obviously, isn’t ‘part of who I am’ – it’s a choice that I make, just like getting tattoos, doing social media, or running an Etsy shop. But, it’s a choice that puts a smile on my face and happy people are more confident people. 

If you want to give yourself teal bangs, or shave your head (if you’re a girl), or rock a full-sleeve, just do it. If you want to chase an atypical dream job, just do it! If you want to major in art or English or history, or run away and join the circus (I know someone who did that, actually…and she’s kind of awesome), or have five kids instead of the generally-accepted two, or >insertwhatevermakesyouhappyhere< – just do it!

Life is short, and we only get one – so you do you! 

Big Announcement!

Do what makes you happy meme

Five years ago, if you asked where my life was headed, I would have responded with something like ‘I’m an artist. I’m going to teach art’. Simple, right? And, it really was that simple, because art was my life. I lived, breathed, and dreamed watercolor paints and charcoal for nearly a decade. So, when I wasn’t accepted to the art department of the university at which I was enrolled, I was a tad shattered.

What the hell was I going to do with my life? 

I took a trip to see one of my favorite philosophy professors, who let me know that I wouldn’t lose any credits if I transferred to the philosophy program. At that point, I just wanted to finish my damn degree and graduate, and I happened to like philosophy, so we signed me up. I expected to simply finish my degree, and move on, student loans in hand.

What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with peace studies. I mean, sure, I had this eco-friendly blog and my friends teased me about being a ‘hippie’, but actually diving into the study of wars, religions, leadership, and all of that jazz? I just didn’t think it would be my cup of tea.

But it was. Apparently. Somewhere along the way I stopped listening to the naysayers: ‘You need to graduate’, ‘You need to get a real job’, ‘You’re never going to do anything with a philosophy degree’, and ‘You should be doing something real, like business school or education’, and just started following what put a smile on my face. I dove head-first into the world of peace studies, activism, and peace leadership. 

At the same time, I had the blog taking off and had found myself immersed in the world of social media. Let me start off by saying something I’ve said about a dozen times before: I hate marketing. The idea of creating strategies to lure customers into buying things just screams of capitalism and, well, I’m kind of a hippie. I don’t like things and stuff. I don’t want to encourage people to buy things and stuff. I think the world would look a lot better with fewer billboards and would be a lot more entertaining without commercials. I don’t even watch the Superbowl commercials (still have no idea what the Coke ad was all about, actually).

But, the blog took off because of the strategies (marketing, I guess) that I was using via social media and people started approaching me for help. They wanted to know how to make Twitter work for their venture, or how to integrate social media into their blog. They wanted graphics help, niche help, organization help…just about any kind of help you can imagine might come with running a blog, an Etsy, or an organization. And helping? Well, that’s what I do.

I loved working at Barnes and Noble in my early twenties because I was helping people find books and engaging in dialogue with them about their passions and interests. I LOVED working in financial aid at my university because, despite hating numbers, I loved helping students reach their dreams.

Last summer, my ‘day job’ and my ‘academic career’ sort of collided when I happened upon work with a peace organization who needed help with social media. And in an instant, everything I’d been doing over the past two years made sense. I finally saw how my focus in academics could help with a career in peace leadership, through social media, which I happened to kind of rock. I’d love to be in Africa building wells or in California giving speeches, or in Washington lobbying congress…but this…this is where I fit. This is what makes my heart shine.

Every morning, I wake up knowing that I have contracts with some of the most awesome organizations I could ever dream of working for. I sit down at my desk and, instead of thinking ‘What do I need to do to help this business sell x, y, or z, or reach their profit goals, or expand their customer base’, but focusing on ‘What do I need to do today to help further this cause, to make the world a better place’. And, one isn’t better than the other by any means – I’m a consumer just like the rest of us – but the latter is what I’ve been working for for years now – finding a way to help make the world a better, more peaceful, more compassionate place. 

I get to wake up to emails with videos from Desmond Tutu, or to live-tweet with people I know and work with who happen to be at an International conference with game-changing peace leaders from all over the world. My job, and the connections I’ve made through it, blow my mind on a near daily basis.

I’m happy. Because I’m helping people. 

I say of this for one reason: My step-dad used to say something about teaching a man to fish. And, I realize that, a lot of the time, I am working for other people. I love it – I really do. But, what I love the most is teaching other people to do it themselves. I don’t want to just be hired to critique and redesign your blog, or manage your social media, or to build an Etsy shop – I want to empower and teach you to do it, so you can become self-sufficient. I want to help organizations learn to manage their social media and expand the reach of their campaigns, message, or cause, rather than have to spend thousands on someone else doing it in short-term contracts. 

So with this, I’m thrilled to announce that I have been working on something about which I am SO excited: a literal, though not physical, Vagabond Studio – a studio in which I will teach peace leaders, small business owners (I’m talking to you, Etsians!), and organization leaders how to take their skills, dreams and goals, and make them happen. We have small group sessions via eCourses and webinars, with some pretty awesome challenges, tackling one baby-step at a time until you have the fully-designed marketing campaign, Etsy shop, or blog that you need to reach your goals.

And the best part? You’re not in it alone. While I am, and always have been, for-hire on a one-on-one basis, things are often better done in groups where we can bounce ideas and questions off of each other. So now, instead of flying me across the country to teach your organization what they need to know in a short weekend, we can work together virtually as a united front.

I’ve been working on this little baby for about six months now, and will update on Monday with more detailed information about what will be offered, launch dates, and whatnot.

But for now, I leave you with this: Do what makes you happy, love. You never know where it’s going to take you! You don’t need a business degree, a huge support network, extensive knowledge, or butt loads of money to find what makes you smile - you just need to listen to your gut. 

Little Letters #42 – The Answer to Everything!

Little Letters 42

It’s been a month and three days since my last Little Letters post – I guess it’s about time I bring back another one. It’s been a weird month – a lot of settling into myself, I suppose. And I’ve come to the decision that settling into yourself really is the answer to everything. SO, without further delay:


Dear Maine-Heart, I love that I can always turn to you, even when I don’t realize I need it.

Dear Tetris, I forgot how much you rock. Holy mind-melt. Thanks for that bit of nostalgia and relaxation, even if I never made it past level four because I’m now old(er) and suck at my favorite games.

Dear Ikea, You made me a happy camper this weekend. Spending five hours doing nothing but perusing textures, colors and patterns made my inner artist scream for a little love and attention.

Dear ITP, I never thought I’d like hanging out inside-the-perimeter. I don’t consider myself a country girl, by any means, but I much prefer smaller, walk-able, historic little towns. You’re not so bad, though, Atlanta.

Dear Interstates, I have conquered you. CONQUERED!

Dear Bitch-in-the-Box via Google Maps, I should probably give you a new nickname, because you’re the only reason I conquered interstates in the first place. It’s much easier to navigate traveling from interstate to interstate in Atlanta when you have someone in your ear saying ‘In a quarter mile, take the exit on the right to >insertlocation< and then follow the left fork onto >insert interstate<’ No reason to panic! You’re my new best friend.

Dear SoCon14, Public speaking wasn’t my thing. Huge fear. I’ve written multiple blog posts about it. However, I’m finding myself not so scared to speak, now. I want to do it. I’m almost *excited* to do it. Whaaat?

Dear Senior Seminar Project, You will not defeat me. If I didn’t let Italian defeat me, a peace project definitely will not, either!

Dear ArtistChild, The sass has to go. HAS to. Parenting a preteen is more challenging than parenting a toddler – your brother as a toddler, to be specific, and he’s even crazier than you were. Just breathe, and smile. Or, something.

Dear Ninja, Thank you for being an angel, today, babycakes. I’ve missed my cute little man.

Dear WildSisters, Oh, the projects you ladies have going on are too darn inspiring! I love seeing how much we’re all growing together!

Caro tu, vi ringrazio per appena essere te. Tu sei esattamente quello che mi serve, quando ne ho bisogno.


Treeson Springwater Kickstarter and Giveaway!!

Treeson Water Mail In

People who know me really well will probably think I’ve gone off the deep end on this one. ‘Oh no, Shai’s sold out – she’s advertising bottled water!! >gasp<’. Despite the fact that I buy soda in a bottle, I’m the first person to glare at my friends for buying bottled water over carrying a reusable water bottle. I have a metal one. It has a panda on it. My water bottle rocks.

This, though? This I can get behind.  Treeson Springwater is a new company that is launching a Kickstart to help fund this incredible idea. I don’t think bottled water is going away time soon and, if that’s the case, this is the way to go about doing it. Here’s a little info:

1. The water bottle is 100% biodegradable and compostable, even down to the adhesive used on the label.
2. The innovative bottle is designed like a leaf so it can be folded flat, shipped to a clean energy plant, and used as fuel to make more bottles.
3. It employs the US Post Office to help in recycling.
4. Packages are infused with tree seeds – rip it up, throw it in the ground, and trees will grow.
5. Bottled with Costa Rican spring water.

Did you catch that ‘employs the US Post Office’ part? That’s because the packaging includes a peel-away shipping label right on it. Just peel and toss in the mail box. How cool is that? And the bottles themselves are eco-friendly AND really cool looking:

Treeson Water Bottle

Even my eldest thinks this water bottle is kind of awesome, and LOVES the project idea itself. She loves having a reusable water bottle but, as of last week, has ruined her fifth in the last year by sticking the cap on the bottom of the dishwasher. That’s right…five ‘reusable’ water bottles in a year. And they’re NOT biodegradable. With the Treeson Springwater bottles, she feels a bit like this:


Treeson Springwater has been awesome enough to offer my readers a year supply (that’s 24 cases, people – $480 worth) of this awesome bottled water. Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

13 Ways to Turn a Bad Day Around!

Amazing Day


Today, I woke up in a really, really bad mood. Something about being awoken by two kids screaming, at each other but in your face, after only three hours of sleep just makes for a cranky lady. Just…cranky.

Then I walked outside to take the kids to school, and realized it’s not only 69 degrees (perfect!), but raining. I love rain! I could live in this weather. I was still cranky, but I turned up the music and forced myself into a good mood.

And I realized, I really should do that more often. Why be cranky when I can dance party or puddle hop my way to a smile?

So here’s a list of ways to turn a bad day into a good one:

1. Turn up the music and dance! There are YouTube and Spotify playlists perfect for this. I love this, this, and of course this!

2. Put on some rain boots (or, regular shoes ((or, just go barefoot!))) and splash around in some puddles. No kids needed, but they do make it extra fun.

3. Bake some cupcakes, or muffins. Sweet treats make any day better, and making them yourself will keep your mind off of the icky stuff for a few.

4. Take a long shower or bubble bath. Lock the doors and turn up some relaxing, happy music.

5. Grab a canvas, some cheap acrylics, and finger paint. Even if you hate the painting, the act of finger painting is quite soothing and a bit nostalgic.

6. Sit down with a cup of tea and the latest edition of Wild Sister Magazine!

7. Garden! If you’re like me and live in an apartment, just stick some dirt and seeds in a couple of pots. Something about getting your hands dirty and the smell of fresh potting soil (and, also if you’re like me, the possibility of maybe growing something) can help you forget about the grumpies.

8. Yoga! My favorite yoga program, My Yoga Online, has hundreds of yoga videos and some of my favorites are the rejuvinating, ‘wake-the-eff-up!’ kind of videos.

9. Print off some color-by-number, coloring book pages, or word puzzles, and do them yourself (that’s right – don’t pass them on to the kids!).

10. Pick up that ol’ favorite book and start over. My go-to ‘Ta hell with the world’ books are Fahrenheit 451 and Angela’s Ashes. Otherwise, I don’t often read fiction. For a ‘I need a happy, positive chapter!’ book, I often turn to SARK, or a Wild Sister mag.

11. If you haven’t tried this little tidbit, you should: Get dressed! Just fixing my hair and getting dressed (down to the shoes!) in the morning will put a little more pep in your step. Try it.

12. Make yourself some kind of smoothie or shake! C’mon, you know chocolate shakes make you a happy camper, too. If not, try a root beer float (those babies fix everything, for me).

13. Put on a big smile. That whole fake it ’till you make it thing? It works. And while, over the last year, I’ve learned to really lean into my own emotions, read my own body, and listen to my heart – even when it’s sad or contemplative – some days I really just need to put on a smile and happify my way through things for the sake of my own sanity.


What do you do to turn a bad day around?