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Monday, May 25, 2009

Thank You Bracelets


Recently, in going through my clutter, I found 2 beaded bracelets that I got back in law school. I put them on my wrist and kept cleaning. Later, I was hungry (and lazy) and wanted to go out to dinner so badly. I didn't want anything fancy. I just wanted something other than something I had to cook. So my husband and I drove to Five Guys. Its a burger joint. We walked in and I looked at them menu. If we each got burgers, regular fries and a small soda, we would have spent about $20. Knowing I would have felt guilty about that the next day, we walked out. In the car, I started to cry a little. I reconciled myself to cooking at home but as I stood in the kitchen feeling sorry for myself, I decided to re-create the restaraunt appetizer nights we used to enjoy. I made spinach and artichoke dip, stuffed mushrooms and garlic and rosemary french fries (all out of things I had at home). It actually turned out good and gave me a chance to test some recipes. Through the cooking, I cleared my tears and as I worked,I kept noticing those bracelets twisting around on my wrist. Then, I had an idea. I would start to use those bracelets everyday. I would thank God for one thing for each bead on each bracelet. If I can come up with that many things to thank God for (39), then things can't really be that bad...even if a $20 meal has suddenly become a splurge.

Losing Control (again)

Lately, I've been having a recurring dream that someone is trying to break into my house. Last night I dreamed I was getting ready for my wedding and someone was breaking into my hotel room. The circumstances are always different but the robbers are always the same and they are always out to steal something from me no matter who else is around. So, being the research freak that I am, I went online to search for dream symbols. What I found was that these types of dreams represent financial insecurity or feelings of being emotionally or physically drained. If you've been following my blog, you know I've been fighting hard to release all of the feelings of insecurity that came with losing my job and instead focusing on hope for the goodness that is sure to come. Then I had these dreams and a bit of a wake up call.

I went to the doctor Tuesday and after we discussed how I was feeling and the probability that I was no longer in lupus remission, she asked if I was on vacation. I asked why and she said noted that my jeans were a dead giveaway. I couldn't bring myself to say that I didn't have a job anymore so I said I was taking some time off. In that moment, I realized that I have not moved on. I am still insecure about being out of work. I am still scared that at the end of the year when my savings run out that my husband and I will be forced to downgrade as we lose our townhouse. I also realize that I am still struggling with control issues. I can't control my job or my income so I control how clean my kitchen is and what we're eating for dinner. I write because I control the process (at least until I try to publish). I turned away from the legal job hunt (at least through the 10+ headhunters I've used) to control the amount of rejection coming into my life.

So, I've suffered a setback but at least I realize it. Admitting it is the first step, right? I have been spending the last few days sending out more resumes, writing and engaging in armchair philosophy with a great friend. I have concluded that the one thing I can count on is that things will rarely go according to plan and that strength and resilience comes from being able to bend rather than break. Maybe the best way to be prepared for the obstacles in my path is to maintain a sense of hope that I will get around the obstacles and hopefully be better for it. At least I'm finding myself and my true passions in the process. The same is true for the locally famous weatherman who is laid off and is forced to live on less money but is working his dream job as a veternarian and the woman who lost her thriving businesses but now feels empathy for the struggling families at the food bank...and for the former high powered attorney who is now forced to come to terms with how she took things for granted but now gets to focus on her passion for writing rather than he passion for a paycheck. Many of us are at a crossroads but perhaps we're becoming better for it. Nothing can be that bad about losing control when the trade off is becoming more empathetic, more united and more of ourselves. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Just Like That

I woke up this morning to the sound of my cat making friends with a manicure square. I have no idea if that is what it's really called but that is my name for the block that buffs on one side, shines on the next, files on another side and does something else. You get the point. Anyway, Storm (my cat) was busy pushing the block across the floor, pouncing on it and then licking it like it was her newborn kitten and the noise of it all broke me away from my sleep. 6:02. I rolled on to my side and looked through the small space between my purposely dark, heavy drapery panels (I like to sleep in sometimes and they help block the sunlight) to see that it was no longer dark. As I lay there trying to will myself back to sleep, I started to become aware of a change in my body. First, I noticed that my knee was warm and swollen. Next, I felt pain in my shoulder. Familiar with this pain, I performed my tried and true test and balled my hands into fists. The right hand couldn't quite obey. I got up to go to the bathroom where I could find real light without waking my husband and I saw that 2 of the fingers on my right hand are extremely swollen and tight. The fingertips are almost purple...and there it was. Just like that, life reminded me that I am not quite in control. This swelling and warmth are part of my personal hell. I am reminded this morning that I have lupus. Maybe the symptoms will just visit today and be gone tomorrow. This has happened a few times since I went into remission so maybe its just that. Maybe later today, I will feel fine and I'll be able to bend my fingers to type (which, as you can imagine is pretty critical, since I have started my new journey through life as a writer) but for now as I use my blackberry to type (my thumbs are working just fine...thanks for small favors), I can't help but to think of all the people, including me, who have seen life change in an instant. Just like that, we have to make new plans and exist in new realities. It's almost like the world shifts and shakes to constantly remind us to be flexible. So today, I'll bend a little to the left and keep focused on the one thing that doesn't change: my faith that all of this bending and adapting, adjusting and recovering is for a reason and will all work out for my good in the end. Maybe that's the real key to dealing with all of our issues. Be flexible when life doesn't go how you had hoped and be faithful that whatever trial you're experiencing is for your higher good.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Reality Check

I just wrote a check for over $500. What, you may ask, could I possibly be willing to pay so much for given my current circumstances? Tax penalties? School loans since the government hasn't granted my forebearance request? Nope. That large check would be for my reduced price COBRA health care coverage. Yes, that is the price WITH the 65% government subsidy. Total reality check. I've been watching my budget and counting how many months I would have before my savings ran out but not factoring in that I would be paying so much for heath care. I want to climb up on my health care reform soap box but I will resist. After all, this is not a political forum. That said, if I am still paying over $500 a month for health care AFTER the government subsidy, how does someone, especially someone with a medical condition like lupus, survive for very long after losing their job? Unemployment maxes out at $1620 a month in New York. That doesn't begin to cover my bills. With so many people in my position, I imagine that many people have to choose between mortgage and medication every day. What kind of life is that? I have always thought that health care was way too expensive in this country but I was never vested in the cause. I've seen lots of documentaries on the topic over the years but I was always working and I always had access to health care. Now that I don't have a job, all I can think about is the fact that I have lupus. Insurance is critical for me and without my doctors and my insurance, given how bad my health was a year ago, I might not be alive right now. Now, I too, may have to choose between shelter and medical attention. Suddenly, its not someone else's problem. When society's problems become your personal house guests, your outlook changes quite a bit. Medical care should be readily available for everyone. No matter your political posture, you have to agree that there is something wrong with the fact that it isn't.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Shopping trip!!!

In my effort to de-clutter my life, I've been de-cluttering my house. Today's project was the cabinets in my bathroom. On the road to peace and cleanliness, I discovered that I am (or was) a beauty product-aholic. Don't get me wrong. I have never been one to stock my bathroom with $200 face cream made from the finest caviar and crystals for at home resurfacing and youthful glow BUT if it was on the shelves of my local drug store, target or Sephora (within a certain price range) and it moisturized, defrizzed, volumized, firmed, tanned, curled, straightened, concealed, or provided a lovely new scent, it was in my shopping bag and ultimately in one of my bathroom cabinets. I tried many things once or twice and moved on in an effort to find my favorites. I never threw anything away though. Waste not, want not, right? Well, want not indeed! Today, I hit the jackpot. No more lamenting the fact that I have had to trade my Olay moisture ribbons body wash for the Target version. If I want a pick me up, I can look in the cabinet and indulge my beauty product habit in all of the gifts and hasty purchases that I've made over the years. So today, I had a fun shopping trip. Some may find it sad but I found it fun. Hey...I've given up shopping for everything but groceries and medication. I gotta get my thrills where I can. Its nice to know that when I want to try something new (or at least new-ish), I need look no further than my bathroom. As for the de-cluttering, I threw out all of the expired things. I am not in the business of giving money saving tips (especially since I'm just learning) but If I am to give one, I would say, take frequent shopping trips through your clutter...maybe even trade unused gifts with friends. Smelling like an unused bottle of cucumber jasmine body spray (at least for me) is a good way to get past not buying that cute green dress that I can only admire from afar while they ring up my prescriptions.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Permission to Thrive

Today, during one of my many "what's going to happen when my savings run out" moments, my husband stopped me in my tracks by starting one of his "We'll be ok" speeches. Normally, I would blow this off. Don't get me wrong. Its not that the pep talks don't make a difference because they do. Its just that he's always been a bright side of life person until the last minute. He stesses once his back is against the wall. I stress on the journey to the wall. In any event, he started his pep talk as we walked the aisles of the grocery store. I was busy looking at things to inspire new recipes and not listening that closely. He stopped and looked at me and said "you're not listening." I smiled and apologized. Then he said, "Babe, I think writing is your calling. I know you are stressed but you are happier than I ever saw you when you were working. If you want to write, then write. For once, let me worry about how things will get paid. I believe in you. You need to do the same." I could have cried right there in Pathmark. I didn't of course(somehow tears and summer squash don't go together) but I felt overwhelmed. Hubby has always been supportive. That's why I love him but he has never come right out and given me permission to dream and to follow my dreams. I was the risk averse one with the steady job and more importantly, the steady paycheck. He was always the dreamer. I was always stressed and he was usually relaxed. Now I am worried, needy and trying to start a new career. I am unsure of myself and scared to fail...afraid that I will wilt in these circumstances...and there he is, right in front of the summer squash telling me its ok and giving me permission to thrive. I am lucky despite my circumstances and I am going to stop worrying so much. Its distracting me from reaching my full potential. As my one year wedding anniversary approaches, I am going to stop worrying about the uncertainties of tomorrow and snuggle just a little closer to the certainty that my husband is here and he believes in me and my dreams. I will have that whether I am in our cozy home, the guest room of a relative's house, or a cardboard box (but let's be real...I am hoping it never comes to either of the last two options).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hamster Wheels

I always envied people who got to do jobs they loved...but only when those jobs seemed like fun to me. Painters, chefs, clothing designers, musicians, you get it...the happy people whose work was not really like work but more an expression of self. I think it was because I was a right brain person working in a left brain environment. I also worked so much that I didn't have time to use the right side of my brain except in two instances: gift giving and wedding planning. Over the years, I had tried to do crafts for therapy. I knitted several "scarves." I put that in quotes because a 2 inch by 12 inch strip best suited for my cat was all I ever really made. My cat did not appreciate her holiday attire. I made bracelets, christmas tree ornaments and watercolor paintings. In the end, so many things were incomplete because I had to get back to focusing on work. I blamed my waning creativity on a lack of time. Now that I have nothing but time to pursue things I like to do. I said it out loud (see my previous post). I am a writer. The issue now is forcing myself to have the discipline to see my once loved hobby as a job. To write on a schedule and to trick my mind into seeing this a job. As I sit here procrastinating, I can't help but think about how wierd it is that we spend our lives in search of something we are passionate about but we often forsake our dreams in pursuit of money only to turn back at the end of our lives and wish we hadn't "wasted" so much time on life's hamster wheel. Now that I have been thrown off of the hamster wheel, I am trying not to sink into the mulch on the bottom of my cage. The only way to do that is to keep reaching up so at the end of my life, I can say that I made the best of this time. Right now that means writing, writing, writing...so that when I am older, I can tell my kids that life threw me off the wheel but I kept running and eventually, I found a new direction and happiness by living my passion and loving my work.