I Can Do Hard Things

I can do hard things. How many times a day do you say that to yourself? I say it all the time. I have a crafty little piece of décor that says it on my dresser. I have multiple Facebook pictures with that caption. I receive and send that text all the time. I can do hard things.

The first time I heard this phrase my freshman RA said it on the eve of the first day of college. My fellow freshman friends and I laughed at the “stupidity” of the phrase. Then about a month into college I used it. It was used as comedic relief for my roommate’s stressful midterms. But it worked. We continued to use it sporadically throughout the year. It was a great saying that I quickly forgot.

Then, four years later I was in Australia. I had just flown a grand total of 19+ hours and it was only the early afternoon of the same day I left. I was on a study abroad. A cool one. The kind where you camp for 6 weeks in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. This was a trip that I was made for. The kind I dreamed of. My tentmate and I were assigned randomly. We hit it off immediately after meeting at LAX. We were pitching our tent along with everyone else in the group. But why were they getting it so much faster? Finally I said, “Courtney, we can do hard things.” And we pitched our tent.

For the next 6 weeks we probably used that phrase daily. We used it when we learned the water we were standing in had leeches. We used it when we stayed at a spider and snake infested campsite (seriously, ever had to go to bed at 7 pm to avoid being bitten?) We used it when we were swimming in water that had crocodile warnings and when we went scuba diving at night with sharks swimming in our point of entry.

It got us through the frigid black water rafting and carried us through our countless miles of kayaking. It comforted me through my coral reef injury and gave us the mind over matter we needed to eat the horrible food we were given. We were able to face fears of squatters, spiders the size of our hands (not exaggerating) and endure hauling bag after bag after bag of dirt. We did hard things. And we are better people for it. And we had more fun because of it.

The phrase “I can do hard things” is engraved in my soul. I use it to survive horrible days and it got me through the inevitable question of “what am I going to do with my life?” Listen, life is tough. And there’s not much you can do about that. Except change your perspective. I think people are more resilient than they know. They have stamina they can’t imagine. Life is tough but there’s no need to get a helmet. Just remember that you can do hard things. The next time you think you can’t, stop and say to yourself, “I can do hard things” and do it. Power through. You’ll be a better person because of it. And you’ll have more fun through it. But never forget that YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS!

June's How I LIVE UNITED- Debbie Kotter Barkley

Debbie Kotter Barkley learned the importance of businesses taking an interest in local communities when she started working at Nordstrom. Kotter Barkley, a retired store manager, was a co-campaign coordinator for Nordstrom’s employee giving campaign.

“I really respect companies that put communities as a priority,” said Kotter Barkley. “It makes a stronger company. It is great to know that you are helping people through your donations. Other things like United Way’s Day of Caring give you the opportunity to work with everyone. It makes you stronger as a team and better able to do the work that you are there to do.”

 Kotter Barkley says that giving is a great alternative to volunteering, something that many people do not have time to do on a regular basis.

“You may not have the time to volunteer because you are [working].  Giving through the employee campaign is a great way to help people in the community when you don’t have time. You can give a one-time contribution or have it taken out of each of your pay checks. You don’t even miss it.”

As a campaign coordinator, Kotter Barkley’s enthusiasm was obvious to those who interacted with her. Many were inspired to give because of her excitement about giving. 

“Every time you met with her, it was obvious how much she cared,” said Erika Coleman, United Way of Utah County’s major gifts manager. “She is someone who understands the impact that contributing to the community makes for everyone.”

Kotter Barkley has no problem encouraging others to give, even if it was something they never felt a need to do before, because she has had so many positive outcomes with her experiences.

“You always think someone else will take care of it,” said Kotter Barkley. “But it is waking up and realizing that it is up to me. It will make you feel better about what you are doing, and it brings more meaning to your life; helping people who need the help.”

Kotter Barkley says even though she is retired, she will continue to not only give but also encourage others to do what they can to make a difference as well.

”I’ve been giving for 30 years,” said Kotter Barkley. “It is a decision that I’ve never regretted."


Just Livin' the Dream


BAHH!!! Its June already!! The way time flies, makes me sick! But not really, I love livin’ the dream!!

Yesterday, I said that to a group of friend and they  rebounded with, “What’s the dream, Deb?”

I of course responded with something really clever like, “Um…something awesome!” or “It’s what I live” or “Duh! Do I have to answer that?”

But, the question  brought out the scientist in me and I decided that I wanted to research “The Dream”

I began my research in the most obvious place…Instagram.

1.       I searched all the tags called “#livingthedream and found 10,048 photos where people had consciously decided to tag, or title, their photo as an example of their version of Living the Dream.

2.      I coded the first 100 pictures I found under the categories of People/Relationships, Food, Travel, Life Events, Things.

Pictures included the following:

3.      The results are shown in the table below. Each category reflects what these individuals define as a part of their “dream.” Because this is a very amateur study, I’m not going to delineate the meaning of each category. That is left to individual interpretation.









Life Events




4.    The Findings: These data show that in general, people mainly are satisfied with life when they have people in it. “The Dream” involves people and relationships. Another interesting finding was that, of the 100 pictures I coded, only 7 actually used the “living the dream” tag in a negative or sarcastic way. Hopefully this means that overall we are generally happy people when thinking about our lives and future.


The second source of my research were some individuals that I interact with regularly. I performed a one question survey (are those even reliable?) and asked them what they defined “The Dream” as.

These were their responses:

  • Channy H. said, “I guess the dream would be making a difference, even a small one.”
  • J.D. Cleak said, “The dream is constantly changing – but generally it has to do with women, in a boat, on a lake.”
  • L. Karsle said, “Living the dream is having goals and achieving them.”

Some responses are better than others, perhaps, but I think the point between both super scientific research projects is to live in the now, strive for excellence and enjoy it!

There is enough sad, disappointment, hurt, pain and bad luck in the world. Lets try to focus on the happy, the good, the joyful, the future, the vision, or as the cool people say, lets focus on just livin’ the dream.

Here is me and some friends, doing exactly that.



Share your stories

I finally tackled the pile of papers that had accumulated on my bedroom floor over the past couple months. Yesterday, all the bank statements, movie ticket stubs and wedding invitations were put in stacks as I tried to decide what to keep, and what to throw away. In the past, notes from friends, programs from piano recitals, and old plane tickets all ended up in the trash. I wasn't overly sentimental. But I've realized that  while these bits and pieces from my life may not have much meaning to me, they might mean something to someone else. 

A few years  ago, I lived in Bolivia and Peru. The only communication I had with my family was one hour every Monday where I read and wrote e-mails. That hour would go by so quickly! I wanted to know every little detail of my fmailie's lives, and I wanted to share every little detail from my life too.

When I came back to the United States, I could talk to my family whenever I wanted! I didn't need to write long e-mails and letters anymore. I went over to my grandmothers house one morning, and she had a box of photographs, mementos and stacks of letters. It was like you could see her whole history in that box! She governement issued booklets from Uruguay, giving advice about the best way to be a wife and mother and letters that she wrote to my grandfather while she was in nursing school in the United States.  She didn't know at the time that she would have a grand-daughter who would want to learn about her and see these things from her life. I'm glad that she had the foresight to keep them. I"m also glad that she was there to tell me what all of those little keepsakes meant.

Hevia Junca Cromar

My grandmother

I htought about how well-documented my time abroad was, but now that I was home, all the experiences I was having were "missing". I decided to start documenting my stories, even if that just meant gluing movie ticket stubs into my journal.

Think what it would be like if everyone shared their stories! Our history would be so much richer. It would help us connect, not only to the past, but to one another. 

Utah Valley is a great place to be if you like stories. The Timpanogas Storytelling Festival starts August 31st in Orem! Story-tellers from all across the country gather to preform. Or, if you want to share your own story, StoryCorps is an organization dedicated to sharing personal interviews. Here is one of my favorites:

Share your own stories! You'll be glad you did.



Just “TRI”ing my Best

Submitted by guest blogger Jeremy C.

Every summer I manage to seek out some exciting adventure that usually requires an extreme amount of preparation and commitment. It can range anywhere from backpacking trips to marathons, this year I made my venture into the world of triathlons. I have to admit; sometimes I do ask myself why did I get in so deep to this? Is it really worth all the hours of work and training? I am sure you have all asked yourselves similar questions regarding different adventures you have set off to accomplish. Life itself surely can be an adventure where we ask ourselves some of these questions.

This past weekend I had my first triathlon of the summer in St. George. I must say I did pretty well for my first triathlon. I took 2nd place in my race division and finished in the top 10% of all the competitors in who raced. It was an absolute blast. I had my family and friends who came along to support me. It created a really motivating and inspiring feeling inside me to do well for them. It was pretty intimidating at first. There were so many people, many of which; have these amazingly light and fast bicycles that are several thousands of dollars and wetsuits that are extremely expensive. You can just tell they are extremely experienced competitors. I like to think I am a competitor, but just starting in the sport, I definitely don’t have the nice equipment or confidence they have. As the start of the race neared, my dad and mom came over to take a picture with me and as I went over with the other competitors both my mom and dad expressed their pride for my hard work in preparing and taking on something new, like an Olympic distance triathlon. What they said next as I was about to turn around and walk off to get ready, stayed with me during the race; my mom said, “Remember bud, winners never quit and quitters never win”! My dad followed with; “they can’t beat you if you don’t quit”! These two phrases were not new for me to hear from my parents because they have been telling me these two phrases for as long as I can possibly think back to remember. It just served as a great reminder to me in that moment that it didn’t matter if I were to take dead last or first place. What mattered or I guess I should say, what matters is that I do my best in whatever I set out to accomplish and that I never give up in period. I think for me, I find motivation for life in crossing the finish line, not in winning every race. Certainly, it is fun to win, but the joy and the sense of accomplishment is found in not quitting, but in persevering.

My parent’s words of encouragement and support serve to me as a reminder that we eventually will finish out on top if we just stay constant and never give up. Those words of support and confidence; “winners never quit and quitters never win” and “they can’t beat you if you don’t quit”, ring truth I think for all of us as we pursue happiness and success in life. We just need to learn to always do our best and keep moving forward. Eventually, we will come out on top.


May's How I LIVE UNITED: Deb Weiss

Deborah Weiss doesn’t just wear the shirt, she LIVES UNITED. During tax season, members of our community who have an income below $50,000 can participate in the VITA program. This program is run locally by United Way of Utah County and offers free tax preparation for those who qualify.

Weiss went above and beyond when she took time after her regular work day at United Way to work as an advocate and volunteer with the VITA program. This year, she was asked to be a VITA site coordinator.

“Deb really stepped up her game this VITA season,” said Jillian Sergio, United Way of Utah County’s VITA regional coordinator. “As a site coordinator, she was not only responsible for all of the volunteers and making sure all of the returns have been done correctly, but dealt with complicated situations. She handled all of these very gracefully while helping the taxpayers understand and feel comfortable.”   

Before she got involved, she said that she didn’t know anything about taxes. But, she wanted to learn more about the material.

After helping her friends and family with their taxes, one roommate was pleasantly surprised at how much money Weiss was able to help her get back through her refund. After her roommate had experienced the benefits of VITA first-hand, she wanted to get involved. Then it rippled from there.

“I would always tell people to sign up for VITA or to volunteer for VITA,” Weiss said. “Knowing how to do taxes is a great skill that can help a lot of people, and it is a lot of fun.

She said that it is a rewarding experience to work with the families in our community all while learning a new skill and gaining experience.

“I recruited a lot of my friends to volunteer, and it was a lot more fun,” Weiss said.

One of Weiss’s friends that she recruited to work with VITA said he had learned a lot.

“Deb asked me to help out,” said Jeremy Cleek, another volunteer. “It turned out to be not only something where I could give back to the community but it was also skills that I could learn for myself.”


Bike to Work Day!

A couple of us from the United Way office joined the mayor in his "Bike to Work Day" Tuesday morning.

Bike to Work Day

It was lovely!

Lauren, Mayor Curtis, Gretchen

There was information available about road safety and bicycle maintanence. 

Bike Safety

Mayor Curtis led bikers on a 3 mile ride around Provo. 


Bikers queued up for tune-ups from Mad Dog Cycle while snacking on smoothies and bagels.

Mad Dog Cycles

The guys from Mad Dog really knew what they were doing, and had good advice about taking care of our bikes. 

Mad Dog Cycles

Mad Dog Cycles

Mad Dog Cycles

Bike activities have been going on throughout the week. If you want to find out more about biking in Utah Valley, go to

You can also go to this UTA website to learn how to combine biking with public transportation.

Rachel on a bike

Happy Riding!

K.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple, Silly!



Honestly, I’ve heard that acronym in several settings ranging from very casual to professional venues and I’ve never liked it. “KISS”? Really? You couldn’t have come up with another acronym to tell people to keep things simple?

 Just a few awesome acronyms I came up with right now:

Simplicity always is the best (SAITB)

Simplicity Is My Persona, Live Excellently (SIMPLE)

Simple work makes for simple minds (SWMFSM – uh….probably not)

Simplicity:  Always Sassy (SAS)  (Ooo!! That’s a good one!)

Okay, so all those acronyms are lame.  The point is that keeping things simple gets the job done.

This last week I was in Connecticut at a conference with all the states across the nation that are replicating the Help Me Grow model. Help Me Grow is a model to enhance the networks within a community system and improve the linkage of parents to resources to aid in their child’s development. Check out the website or blog!

It was interesting to see the challenges the other states were facing as they implement Help Me Grow. Each situation is unique, but the common thread I saw was that in striving to do something new, we will often get overwhelmed and bogged down by all the extra “stuff”. If a model has proved effective and efficient for years, why change it?

One of my favorite things that Dr. Paul Dworkin said during the conference was  “What enables implementation is the simplicity of the model.”

This applies to all aspects of life. What enables us to implement changes in our life, or new habits, or new systems or new schedules is simplicity. We’ll be much more successful if we do the simplify and focus on the essentials. Thoughts? How do you keep life simple?


Here are a few pretty (and simple) photos I took from my beautiful trip!

Dr. Dworkin speaking at the conference

Dr. Paul Dworkin speaking.

Girl riding bike.

Pretty picture of trees around a lake.

Pretty picture of a lighthouse.





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