Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Ted Mosby once said, "But that's the funny thing about destiny: it happens whether you plan it or not. It turns out I was just too close to the puzzle to see the picture that was forming."

I've spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not I believe in destiny. Do we have a set path that we will end up following no matter what we choose? If so, does it really matter what we choose? Because if that was true, wouldn't everything just happen like it was supposed to anyway?

But if we are in charge of our own destiny, then we are also to blame when things don't turn out how we want them to.

I have spent my entire life wondering what my life will eventually be. I spend so much time trying to figure out what comes next that sometimes I forget that life is happening right now. Sometimes I actually have to take time to remind myself to live in the moment.

So, it got me thinking: what if I only had one more day? How would I spend it? Who would I spend it with?

If today was my last day, I would spend it with my best friends and my family. I would play hide-and-go-seek with my little sister as many times as she wanted. I would let everyone in my life know how much they really mean to me and how much they affect who I am every day.

If today was my last day, I wouldn't spend so much time on my phone, because nothing on Facebook is really ever that interesting. And yet, I find myself glued to my phone more than I care to admit.

If today was my last day, I would get better at texting people back and call my grandma. I'm sorry, Grandma. I really do mean to call more.

If today was my last day, I would eat the ice cream, because sometimes happiness is about more than your waistline.

If today was my last day, I would stop taking everything so seriously. Life is a funny thing, and I think we all need to relax a little and just enjoy it.

If today was my last day, I would spend time in my favorite place: the ocean. If I could live anywhere in the world it would be right off the beach.

If today was my last day, maybe I could stop being so afraid of the future.

I don't know if I believe in destiny. I like to believe life is more "choose your own adventure" than it is a set path. But maybe it is time we stop thinking in terms of what our lives will become in the future. I love Ted Mosby. How I Met Your Mother is and always will be one of my favorite shows. But while Ted spent his entire life waiting for his life to start, he sometimes lost sight of what was right in front of him.

The worries of the future can consume you. They can eat you apart. But don't let them. Happiness seems to be this elusive goal that we all search for, but it doesn't have to be something we strive to attain in the future. You don't have to wait. Whatever your "destiny" is (if you believe you have one), it is important to try to find happiness in the present, because you can never be certain of what the future holds.

And that's okay.

What would you do if today was your last day?

Friday, June 24, 2016


A few months ago, while visiting Nashville, we stumbled across one of the world's most glorious inventions: the cupcake ATM.
At one point in time, someone must have decided that cutting cake was too much. I am not sure how this came about. I like to imagine that they were frustrated with not being able to cut equal slices for everyone. The kids complained, and they thought, what if everyone just had their own individual-sized cakes? Then, no one would have to fight over the larger slice of cake. 

Whatever the thought process, this delight of a dessert got even better when someone decided to put them in a vending machine. The only thing better than getting fresh cash out of an ATM is getting cupcakes out of one.

We all peeked inside the store, which was just as cute inside as it was from the outside.
But ultimately, we decided why buy a cupcake inside a store when you could get one from a fancy ATM machine?

Of course, we had to document our excitement as we received our little bites of heaven. And they were so good! If you ever make it down to Nashville, I highly recommend stopping by Sprinkles for a cupcake.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


It's gloomy in Madison today. The sun is hiding. It's much cooler than the last few 90 degree days we have experienced. But I find it fitting for the news I woke up to this morning. In March of my freshman year I found out that my Grandma Barb was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Ever since then, I was positive that she would recover. She had to. She was the strongest, kindest person I knew. She taught me to believe in God, so I had faith that she would make a full recovery. Some time my sophomore year she entered remission, and I was confident that she had beat it. A few short months later, the cancer came back with a vengeance. And it was here to stay. 

This morning I woke up to a notification from her Caring Bridge page saying that she had transitioned to her final stages of life. I knew last week when I came home that it was probably the last time I would see her, and it was one of the hardest days of my life. But she wouldn't want me to focus on the negativity. 

Right before we left I started crying, and she told me to find the humor in everything. She never stopped cracking jokes. So, instead of focusing on her illness, I'm writing this, because I want to share the impact that she had on my life. 

She played a big part in who I am today. Whatever I wanted to do, she made me feel like it was possible. When I told her freshman year that I was still considering pre-med, she urged me to follow my passions, because she knew that I wanted to be a writer more than anything else. She wanted me to be happy. 

She took care of us when my mom was working. I loved coming home from school and getting to talk with my grandma. It was the highlight of my day. She was always telling me about books she was reading and giving me books. I was always so impressed by how many books she could go through so quickly. And I wanted to be just like her. 

Grandma Barb and her father
She wanted us to be happy. She walked down the aisle to Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" when she married her current husband when I was a kid. I keep listening to it on repeat, because I can feel her energy just listening to it. Even in her dying days she was more concerned about everyone else than herself. She wanted everyone else to be happy. She apologized to my mom for the inconvenience she caused by falling and breaking her hip one day when they came over. Who does that?! She broke her hip! And she was more concerned with the distress it caused my mom and siblings. 

She impacted everyone she met. From her random acts of kindness to constantly making people smile, she touched everyone around her. She was someone you could never forget. My grandma is filled with a type of energy that is contagious. I liked to say she was spunky. Her style was amazing: She always had the most colorful clothing and beautiful earrings. How could you not be happy around her? She taught me to be kind to everyone that I met and to try to make someone else's day, because you never know what they are going through. 

She called me "Honey Girl." This is one of the things that I will miss the most. I will miss her hugs. I will miss her pep talks. And I will miss her calling me "Honey Girl." I don't know what it is about it, but it always made me feel comforted. Whenever I was upset, I was embraced with a "Honey Girl, it's going to be okay." And I really believed her. 

There is so much more that I am thinking and feeling, but I couldn't possibly express it all in one post. What I hope that you can take away from this is to always remember how much the people around you are impacting your life. Don't be regretful for lost time, but be thankful for the time you had with them. I am so grateful that I got to be her granddaughter, and while all I want is more time with her, I know that she will always be with me. 

Whether it's a smile to someone at Target or calling a loved one you haven't spoken to in a while, please pass along some joy today for Barbara Jean.

Though you will probably not get to see this, I am going to miss you more than you will ever know. I love you so much, Grandma. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Summer has begun. This is my last summer as a college student! While I'll still be busy working two jobs, this is my last summer break. So, I have plenty of ideas about what I want to do to make this the best summer yet.

1. The Summer of Healthy. 
My biggest goal for this summer to is to be healthy. In college, it can be difficult to stay healthy. You're busy, you're going out with friends, and your number one priority is often doing well in school. That means that sometimes you put your health on the back burner. I don't want that this summer. I want to focus on putting healthy foods in my body. I want to exercise more. And I want more sleep!

2. Learn new skills. 
I've had a book about learning Java Script on my bookshelf for two years. TWO YEARS. This summer I am going to learn Java Script already.

3. See more good live music outdoors. 
For the past few years I have gone to Basilica Block Party with my best friends back home. It is two nights of live music on three stages in Minneapolis hosted by Cities97, and it is one of my favorite events each summer. This year the lineup for the night I want to go includes, Death Cab for Cutie, American Authors, X Ambassadors, Matt Hires and more. I need to get to this concert.

4. Spend as much time as possible on the Terrace. 
The Memorial Union Terrace at UW-Madison is my favorite part of campus. Although, there is still a little construction going on there, everyone is thrilled that it is back open for the summer. And it is looking better than ever. I can't wait to have some more great summer nights hanging out in our terrace chairs.

5. Get outside. 
Living in between three lakes makes getting outside easy. Being near those lakes never gets old. There are so many beautiful spots in Madison and I want to spend more time exploring new places around here.

A photo posted by Taylor Shiff (@tay_shiff) on

6. Make time for friends. 
This is the last summer that all of the amazing friends I have made these last four years will be together. Some of my friends are studying abroad in the fall and some of us are graduating in December. It's hard to believe that this is the last time we will all truly be together before people start moving away and getting full time jobs.

Last summer in Madison was great, but I know that this one will be even better. I have a feeling it's about to be a summer I'll never forget.

What are your summer goals?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


When we are little, we are often confronted with the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" We are encouraged to be creative. We are encouraged to be imaginative. We are encouraged to be daydreamers

But at some point, that all changes. Society wants you to be creative but in a scientific and analytical way. 

So, you've probably heard the saying "Don't quit your day job," right? It suggests that you should give up on what your dreams, because you'll never make it anyway.

In Tori Kelly's song "Daydream" she says, "Don't quit your daydream." It is such a beautiful lyric, and I wish that more people felt this way.

Imagine. When you have dreams, you have to continually think of new ways to achieve your goals. No matter what your dreams are, it's likely that you spend time thinking about what it will be like when you achieve them. Dedicate time to actively imagining where you want to be and what you can do to get there.

[Related: How to Actively Pursue Your Passions]

Believe. You have to be your own biggest fan. Believe in yourself first, because people can tell whether or not you believe in yourself and that can make all the difference.

Determination. Sometimes your dreams will seem to big--even impossible. Don't let fear get in the way of the rest of your life. You shouldn't abandon your dreams because anyone tells you they are "unrealistic." But don't do something to prove anyone else wrong; do it to prove yourself right.

Love. At the end of the day, it comes down to finding something that you are passionate about. I have been told not to follow my passions. I have been told to do what will get me a job and what will make the most money. I have been told that I will never be financially secure in my industry. And to that I say, that scares me. It is terrifying every day questioning whether or not I will succeed. But then I go back to imaging what it would be like if it worked out. I go back to believing in myself and my abilities. I go back to being determined to making it happen, because I know it is what I want more than anything in this world. What I really want is to really mean it when I say, "I love what I do."

In school, we're told to pay attention. Stop daydreaming. Maybe there is a time and a place. But don't ever let anyone to tell you to give up on your daydream. You have the power to imagine what you want to do with your life, and you have the ability to make it happen.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


My mom taught me manners. Sorry, Dad. The credit goes to Mom on this one. She raised me to write thank you notes for everything. She made sure I never forgot to say please and thank you. She is the reason growing up my friends' parents used to tell me that I was the politest one of their kid's friends. So, when I encounter people who don't have the same level of respect and politeness engrained in them, it throws me off.

My aunt always tells the story of when she took me to see The Wizard of Oz, and that day someone had been mean to me at pre-school. Apparently, she told told me that whoever was mean to me probably did it because they had low self-esteem. After seeing the play, I told her The Wicked Witch probably had low self-esteem, too. So what if someone is "mean" to you as an adult?

We all encounter people that test our patience. The demeaning coworker. The not-so-friendly friend. The customer that is rude for no reason. Growing up, my brother and I often did not see eye-to-eye. My parent's main advice was always: kill him with kindness. The theory is that it's pretty difficult to me rude to someone who is always nice to you. In practice, it isn't always easy. So, you need to be equipped for responding positively.

1. Breathe before you respond. 
Take a moment before you say anything. Your first instinct is to go on the defense, but that might make the matter worse. Inhale. Exhale. Use this time to think about what you want to say, so that you don't say something you could regret.

2. Lead by example. 
We all know the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. This is involves more than being nice. It means be inclusive, it means demonstrating your expectations and it means holding to your standards. Remember when in elementary school you felt bad after not getting invited to someone's birthday party? That never goes away. Sometimes you are going to feel left out. But that doesn't mean you should you do the same to the people who make you feel that way. When you're the bigger person, you do what others don't and you do it sincerely.

3. Do not act out of spite. 
Revenge is not the answer. Let's say you're frustrated because your roommate always leaves dishes in the sink. Leaving your own dishes in the sink won't "teach them a lesson." It will just make more dishes in the sink. And you will inevitably feel worse.

4. Learn to let it go. 
Acceptance is key. Life isn't always going to go your way. And if you spend all of your time being angry about that, you're only hurting yourself. You can't expect anybody to change just because you want them to. So, learning to let go what you cannot change about them will ultimately make you happier.

5. Laugh more. 
Don't take life so seriously. It's way too short, and you have to enjoy it. Unfortunately, we aren't going to like everyone we meet and not everyone we meet is going to like us. But that's okay! Next time someone makes you really mad, make a conscious effort to laugh about it. First of all, if they are trying to get under your skin, it will show them that it didn't work. Secondly, positive energy is contagious (and so is negative energy!). When you hold in your anger, you usually end up letting it out on the people you care about--who don't deserve it. Spread positivity instead.

People are going to try to get you down sometimes in life. Don't let them! You deserve happiness, and don't let anyone make you think otherwise.

Friday, January 29, 2016


January has been an interesting month. I spent the beginning of it with friends and family from home, until I got the flu right before classes started. Luckily, I had a few days to enjoy back in Madison before classes started after I recovered. But as soon as the new semester began, life got hectic again. Last week I worked more than usual on top of getting hit with a ton of assignments quickly.

So now that I have a moment to myself, I decided to share some of my favorite discoveries from January. Here are a few of my favorites from January:

I have been debating about getting a record player for years. While the technology may be a bit outdated, I have always wanted one. The last few weeks it has been on my mind a lot, and since realized I had been thinking about it so much and I had a gift card leftover from Christmas I finally decided to go for it.

The whole album is only 32 minutes. So it is super easy to get through. I recommend listening to it all the way through the first time you listen to it.

Hoodie Allen "Happy Camper" Album

This is my new favorite song these days. It's by The Chainsmokers with ROZES. It has a dreaminess to it, yet when the beat picks up it is definitely a song you can dance to.

Following the Doug the Pug page on Facebook is one of the best decisions I made in January. It is guaranteed to make you smile.

Does it get more American than that? I think not. I had these delightful bites of heaven a few weeks ago, and I will never look at regular cheese curds the same way.

Do you have any new favorites this week?

Thursday, January 7, 2016


So far my winter vacation has consisted of a series of naps in between watching How I Met Your Mother and spending time with people back home. I spent a few days watching my little sister before she went back to kindergarten. I saw a few movies. And I took pictures with some of my best friends (like the one above). 

Now, after 5 and half seasons of HIMYM, I'm starting to feel ready to go back to school. I have finally had the time to workout, and boy is my body feeling it. My legs ache, my back is sore, and I have 11 weeks left of a workout program I agreed to do with my roommate. (We'll see how long that lasts.)

The thing is as soon as school starts, I'm going to regret wanting to go back. Everything gets busy so fast. I'm just running out of activities. I haven't felt much like writing these days. Lately I have held myself up to impossible standards of finding the perfect subject to pick up blogging again after my impromptu hiatus. But I am making myself come up with something, because you can only watch so much HIMYM before having an existential crisis about the state of your life. It's weird how much I can relate to that show when the main characters are in their thirties. 

On top of all that, every time I go on Facebook another person is headed off to study abroad. And it's a little bit difficult to watch, not only because some of them are my friends, but also because up until a few months ago I thought for sure I would be one of them. 

But I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and there is something else in store for me back here. For now, since I have watched so much How I Met Your Mother, here are a few lessons I have learned along the way: 

1. No matter how well a first date goes, saying "I love you" is NEVER appropriate. 
But somehow you can recover from it and keep this person in your life (if your name is Ted Mosby)? 

2. If someone is meant to be in your life, they will come into it (or come back into it) when they are supposed to. 
Letting go of someone you care about it always difficult. Ted and Robin have been all over the place, but there's no doubt that in some shape or form they are meant to be in each other's lives. 

3. Life goals can change. And maybe they should. 
Everyone in the group has gone through a series of life changes. Marshall dreamt of being an environmental lawyer, but the reality of living in New York and trying to raise a family with Lily meant settling for a corporate job to survive. 

4. Sometimes dating isn't about "finding the one", but more about figuring out what you want out of relationships with other people. 
Ted was determined to find the one. He was ready to start find the woman he was "supposed to be with", and start a family. But it took a lot longer than he expected. But all of the women along the way helped him grow and figure out what he really wanted out of a relationship. 

5. Growing up is hard. 
At twenty years old, it's really easy to think that by 30 I'll have it all figured out. But after 5 seasons of HIMYM, I've realized that growing up is an ongoing process, and no one actually has it all figured out.

6. The journey is just as important as the destination. 
Once Ted was complaining about how he wanted to find his wife and start his life now, but Robin reminded him that it was about the journey and not just having the life. He wanted to skip past all of the stuff in between and end up with his perfect family. But you have to keep in mind, that it doesn't end there. Your life doesn't start once you land your dream job or find your "soulmate." It's happening RIGHT NOW, and you have to be present in every part of the journey. 

7. Life doesn't follow your timeline.
This one goes hand in hand with the last point, but I thought it was worth making its own separate point. You can plan your life out as much as you want. You can set dates for when specific life events should happen. You can envision where you want to be in 5, 10, 15 years. But nothing ever happens according to plan, and nothing is wrong with you for not having the life you thought you would have by now. 

8. You are AWESOME. 
Barney Stinson may be one of the most overconfident, narcissistic playboys of all time. But he got one thing right: you are awesome, and you should believe that.   

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