Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Book: Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She's 30

I'm past the 30 mark by a few years now and when Glamour Magazine first published the list that led to this book in 1997, I was in college and not thinking about 30. I remember the list but I didn't know a book was over a decade in the making until I saw an article on it today.

Anyway, at 33 (and creeping up on 34), I thought the list might be worth a re-visit and maybe I'll add the book to the ever-growing list of books I want to read while traveling over the summer. I'm also thinking of working on a personal list of things to do and know by 35. I think it will be pretty cool to create such a list as I'm on this journey to figuring out who I am (see here). 

As for the existing list, it is broken down into things you should have and things you should know. I can check off all of the things I should have (or eliminate the need for them--I truly don't have an old boyfriend I could imagine going back to considering they all cheated on me or said I wasn't marriage material at some point. They do all remind me of how far I've come so I've got half of that one down. As for the decent umbrella, I've got a few stellar ones (and by stellar, I don't mean cute. I mean strong enough to block the wind and rain without turning itself inside out or breaking) but they all have a logo from a company giveaway. LOL. Maybe that doesn't count and I need something cute and bright to complement my rain jacket. I don't have an exercise routine but I've had several through the years. At the moment, I am working with my new health issues to figure out what my body can tolerate. As for the ridiculously expensive thing I bought myself because I deserved it...I'm not sure what that would be. I've certainly spent a lot of money on things on the road to my 30s but it was because I needed them (save for the occasional spa appointment). I've never treated myself to really expensive jewelry or shoes just because. Bags that I splurged on were for work and trust me, there is nothing in that collection valued at over $250. Maybe I can put our honeymoon to South Africa in that category. It wasn't something I needed but it was somewhere I always wanted to go and even though it was an expensive trip, I'm happy I splurged.

As for the things I should know, I've got most of those under my belt too. I spent a year intensely focused on being single so I could stop dating the same type of guy over and over again. In the process, I discovered how to love myself so I wouldn't lose myself in a relationship. Of the rest of the list, certain things stand out for me. I know how to quit a job because I had to do it to take my current job but it was hard and something that I don't think we really ever get used to (at least when it is more than a summer or seasonal job you are working between graduating and going to school). It's always something to refine. What I don't know is the best tailor in town. Maybe I should get on that.

In the meantime, you can access the full list of things to do and the suggestion to make your own list on the Huffington Post. How do you measure up? What's on your personal list?

The Soul Profile

When I started this blog back in 2009, I was trying to figure out who I was outside of my life's labels. Clearly, you don't lose your soul when you lose your job. That said, I started the blog because I couldn't figure out why I lost my job and felt like I lost myself. I struggled to to define myself without using a title or a role but over the last two years, I've often felt like I got through that journey. If you asked me last week, I'd have told you I know who I am and who I want to be.

You notice I used past tense. One sure thing in this world is that God (or whatever you believe in) has a way of putting you back in class even when you think you've learned a lesson and graduated to a new phase of your journey.

This week, I was put back in class while actually attending one. I was watching Deepak Chopra on Lifeclass Monday night. There was so much in that episode to process but the reflection started early on when Oprah shared a lesson she learned a while back: "You are not a body that has a soul but rather you are a soul that has a body." I'm Christian. I know I am a soul so you would think my response would be a sarcastic "duh," right? Surprisingly for me, it wasn't that kind of moment. It was a freakin' revelation and it is because of where I am right now in my life. If I take a step back, I have no problem saying or accepting that I am a soul inside of this vessel. Yet, my current reality is that this vessel is sick. All that I am going through with my health and my struggle to find time to pursue my passion projects while working a full time job and trying to be a present person has made it easier to get lost in my physical being and not focus on the soul using it.

As I was trying to digest the weight of that, Deepak began talking about the spirit and it being the source of our values, inspirations and intuition. That made it a little easier for me to separate the body from the spirit and forget about my ailments and ego for a moment. I do know what my values are. I know what inspires me and I listen to my gut the majority of the time. I know when my social mask or my ego is driving my actions and I am able to acknowledge it and dial it back. I can ask myself whether I am walking my walk or if I am stifling my spirit to please others. I can apologize when I have let my ego win. Satisfied that I was closer to the front of the class than I felt at the start of the episode, I continued jotting down notes but relaxed in my seat a little. I've got this, I thought.

Then, Deepak moved into the questions to ask yourself to create your soul profile. Bam! One foot instantly back in 2009. Why? Well, here are the questions:

1. Who am I?

2. What do I want?

3. What is my purpose in this life?

4. What are my unique skills and talents?

5. What do I expect in a meaningful relationship?

I can answer a lot of that really clearly.

What do I want?

I knew I wanted to be a lawyer by the time I was 8. As an adult, I am aware that I just wanted to help people and the best example of an advocate I had at that time was the lawyer. Today, I'm a lawyer but I know I want to help people on a human level and not just on the academic level I picked up in law school and in practice. If I am being truthful, I've had quite a few moments over the years where the job got to be too stressful and not what I thought it would be when I filled out my law school applications. I've asked myself if I missed the mark when choosing my career more times than I can count. There was a time when I was not working on my own terms and I was pushing my body to a breaking point. I'm in a much better situation now and I know that I am not my career but I still want to be an advocate for others. I found volunteer opportunities that allow me to work through my history and help others at the same time. So what do I want? I want to comfortably stand in the truth of my past but not be held down by it. I want to take the work I've done on myself and help people overcome obstacles by sharing my story of abuse, illness, job loss and love. I want to listen and mentor from a raw, honest place. I am doing that through my volunteer work and through my everyday interactions with people. I am attempting to do that through my blogs and other writing. To continue to do that and build upon it is what I want.

What is my purpose in this life?

I think everyone's purpose is to serve others so I can answer this one pretty easily. My purpose in this life is to serve others (related and not) and try to lift them up. To serve myself and make sure that I am taking care of my spirit so I can be present in my daily life and recognize when I am losing focus on my spirit and getting caught up in my issues. I also feel like my purpose is to be a mother (that's a journey that you know I'm working through but I know it will happen no matter what). Even that goes back to serving another person. Somehow, it also goes back to continued healing from my own past.

What are my unique skills and talents?

I think I am constantly growing and discovering my skills and talents. That said, I know I am a good advocate and a great listener. I have a unique story and while I know I am more than my story and I am not locked into the role of the victim I've been, the happening of it all arms me with a unique perspective. Walking through the storms of my life and truly feeling like a fighter at the end of the day helps me listen with an experienced ear. The work I've done to break out of my story helps me let others know they are not their stories either. There is no story that makes me want to shy away and say you can't get past that because our spirits can overcome all things.

What do I expect in a meaningful relationship?

A commitment to growth and to love. Forgiveness and honesty. Encouragement and presence. Focus on helping with the daily walk of life. Support. Acceptance. I expect it out of my relationships with others and out of my relationship with myself. I expect it of myself in my relationships with others. Of course, I fall short but that is what I expect.

So, Ive got all of that figured out for the most part. What about that 2009 foot? I'm still stuck when it comes to the threshold question. Every morning since I saw this week's Lifeclass, I've been getting ready for work, looking in the mirror and asking "Who are you, chick?" Every time, I start listing my titles and roles. Lawyer, volunteer, wife, daughter, sibling, friend, person with lupus and PAH, future mom. The journey continues but I am making every effort to answer that question in a clear way as soon as possible. Time to go meditate. I also see a book purchase in my future.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Burnout and Reset

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

The midnight hustle has suffered greatly in the last couple of weeks because Hubby and I are mired in our day jobs. I've been blaming my laziness on being burned out. Today, we were talking about it and I realized that our priorities are off. We are watching plenty of TV and hanging out but we aren't putting our empty time towards making and designing new pieces unless we have an order. We aren't having our weekly business meetings or holding each other accountable to deadlines.

Yet, as we collapse on the couch at the end of the night, we both feel burned out. As we talked about it tonight, I realized that I want to change my situation. I want to write and work on our business full time. I can't do that if I don't make time for the work that I need to do to get there. Until I get there, I am going to keep feeling burned out because I am sacrificing doing what I love to do and turning all of my energy over to the job that provides the paycheck.

Again, that brings us back to the need for balance. We need our day jobs. We just have to schedule time for our business like we schedule time for our jobs or other obligations. We set a business meeting for tomorrow night to get back on track. We also decided to take a staycation day the Monday after a friend's upcoming wedding. I am hoping for sunny weather so we can hit the park with Lola during the day and have a cozy dinner on the deck at night. After the reset, hopefully, we will be back on the path with renewed tenacity.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Around the Blogs in 80 (well 5) Clicks

Here's what's going on at A Curated Life this week. 

I'm gaining perspective and focusing on the positive.

Surviving Lupus: Folks, we have a new treatment plan. It's aggressive but has the potential to make a big difference in terms of my Lupus and my PAH. Check out the story here.

Under the Roof: Our plans are loftier than our energy level during the week. We're aiming to finish the foyer this weekend and the bedroom by the first weekend in May. Here's (and here) is the latest.  I've also been pinning like crazy. Follow me here

My Red Jeans: Photos? We don't need no stinking photos! Ok, really, the photo thing wasn't timed well. Indoor lighting kinda sucks but I'm working through that. In the meantime, you've got details and a super cute photo of my chic pup. 

Scalded Pot: Product Spotlight on Food Should Taste Good snacks. Check it out here. Also, check out the 100 Foods to Eat Before You Die here

Now, it's 2:05 a.m. and I am pretending that I don't have to wake up for work in just over 5 hours. The steroid induced insomnia (more about that on Surviving Lupus) SUCKS!  Goodnight. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Perspective...Get Some!

Clipped from Pinterest.
Yesterday, I had one of those rare moments of clarity that snatched me rich out of my woe is me mindset into the present where I had no choice but to focus on the positive. Here's the story.

Monday evening, I left work and realized I'd missed a call from my rheumatologist. I called her Tuesday morning and she gave me my lab results (more on that here) and walked me through my new treatment plan. As the list of medicine increased and we talked about options, I felt my heart racing. Everything I'd been worried about at work that day, all of the petty all melted away.

When I hung up the phone, I took a deep breath and I felt all of this emotion rush to the surface. I've only cried once since my PAH diagnosis and it was in the car on the way home from my right heart cauterization. It was private and honestly, it is a side that I only show to my husband. Despite that, there I was in my office with the door wide open feeling the lump growing in my throat and the tears burning in my eyes.  I got up to close the door and sat back down to catch my breath.

There are signs of inflammation in my kidneys. Going forward, I will do infusions of my current medication every six months and if that doesn't work, we will explore the use of a new medication. The alternative medication causes early menopause. I mentioned in an earlier post that the PAH makes carrying children a near impossibility but the thought of not even being able to produce the eggs--of menopause in my early 30s--it was all too much.

My doctor did give me some encouraging news and said after going through my case with my pulmonologist, they think my PAH is largely related to the inflammation in my system. They also think the decrease of inflammation will do a great deal to relax my pulmonary artery and may possibly put me back (or make me feel like I am back) at stage 1. I will confess that I was too mentally tied up in the thought of early menopause to give the bright side my attention.  

I got myself together and called Hubby to walk him through the latest. I found myself emphasizing the bright side (its easy to do that for others) but talked about the new (and very large) amount of steroids I will have to take. I talked about my kidneys. Hubby was quiet so I asked why. He said, it's like good bad news. You seem sad about the steroids but it will get you better. There isn't much to say except we will get through it. Typical Hubby. He's the "we'll kick this disease's ass and move on" one and always has been. If he is feeling emotion, he will work through it for a couple of days, process and then ask me questions or tell me how he's feeling. I know that about him but I wanted more. I needed a pep talk.

In search of that, I hung up with hubby and called my mom. I didn't get her on the phone so I called her figuring she was on a conference call or in a meeting. I included everything and her response was that she loved me and was glad to hear the news. She ended by saying all will be ok but it wasn't the usual pep talk. t read back through my e-mail thinking that maybe I was playing up the bright side too much. Here I was crying at work of all places and my cheering squad was missing its rah rah rah, sis boom bah!

I talked to my mom live on the way home and told her I was feeling overwhelmed. She gave me the pep talk I needed but it didn't really hit me like I needed it to. After our call, I was listening to the radio and decided to listen to my daily Joel Osteen declaration. It was all about perspective and choosing to change your perspective by focusing on the positive. Tick, tick, boom. There was the message I needed. I was immediately out of my head and into the present.

I have been praying for improvement in my health since the day I was diagnosed with PAH. Having kidney issues isn't an improvement but it is related to my lupus and it is something I have dealt with and reversed before. I now have a concrete plan (and a super team of medical professionals) to get me on the path to that improvement and instead of focusing on the good news--the news that my cheering squad heard first--I somehow lost grasp of the present moment and got lost somewhere in menopause, insomnia and weight gain. I saw a sad, bloated, moon-faced, sleep-deprived menopausal version of myself and I lost the regression to stage 1. I was mired in the negative (and honestly in the vanity) while my family was focused on improvements and answered prayer. I am finding that it is constant and conscious work to stay in the present and be thankful for every blessing--to truly honor and be grateful for those blessings even in the midst of stress and pain.

I plan to talk to my Dad tomorrow and I can almost guarantee, I will come from a totally different place. That small shift in perspective and the reminder to be grateful (a message I just posted about and applied a couple of days ago) lifted my mood and now instead of focusing on the sad girl, I am focused on the healthy girl. Thank God for perspective, timely messages and my cheer squad that is miles ahead of me in terms of focusing on the right things.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Time Out

I am having one of those days where my heart is somewhere else and I’m feeling ungrateful for my 9 to 5 because of the stress headache that came with it from the time I walked in the door this morning. Hubby is at the Boston Marathon out in the sunshine (and occasionally inside a local pub for an air conditioned reprieve) with friends supporting one of our close friends who is running her heart out. I’m in my office staring at a computer screen and a To Do list that is 16 items long and growing as the day goes on.

Before my head exploded, I decided to take a step back and remind myself that:

(1) I have a lot to be grateful for.

(2) Going to the marathon would be awesome but might have stressed my health more than I’d like to admit.

(3) I have a job that pays well enough for me to pay my bills and save a little each month.

(4) This frustration will pass just like every other work obstacle.

(5) I am a midnight hustler because I am trying to change my 9 to 5.

Thinking those thoughts calmed me down and helped me to be present. I closed my door, read my devotionals and got my mind together. Before I opened my door, I meditated (or tried to) for 2 minutes. Then I tried to go once around my gratitude bracelet. The day is not over but thanks to putting myself in time out, I feel better. People may frustrate me but I have a choice to let it ruin my day or to address their concerns and move forward without the baggage.

What do you do when the business/stress of the day gets to be too much?

Friday, April 6, 2012


Every morning before I get out of bed, I thank God for another day and ask him to use me to help others in any way he sees fit. It doesn't always happen--or at least I don't notice it all the time but sometimes, it is as clear as a bell and I find myself shrinking away from the opportunity. It is easy when someone asks for a donation or a signature on a petition. It is a lot harder when someone asks for a favor just when I am ready to crash into bed at the end of an impossibly tough day or asks for advice when I am falling apart. Those are the moments when I forget my morning prayer and get lost in my needs. It's not something to be proud of but it is reality. It is also driving my latest push towards personal growth.

I am trying to find balance. I know people spend a lifetime trying to get the scales of life at equal weight. It is a constant shuffling of priorities of different weights. Throw the career and the need to earn income on one side and it practically tips the scale. Throw everything else on the other side. For me it is health, marriage, midnight hustles, friendships, volunteer work, blogging, sleep, fun, and on and on and on.

About two weeks ago, there was a lot going on and I was running on empty. I dragged myself in the door around 10:00 after a mentoring session with my teen group and driving a few of them home. I always get a dose of energy from my kids but that night, it faded as soon as I got home and sat down. Dinner was a handful of dry cereal. I sunk into the couch, picked up the remote and started my DVR of Lifeclass the Tour. It had a very timely message. Iyanla Vanzant was on and helped give me some perspective with a simple phrase (that I will paraphrase): When your cup runneth over, you have enough to give of yourself but if you are on empty, you are burning yourself out and turning those you help into thieves. Whoa! Rewind. Play again. Discuss with hubby. Internalize.

Now, I have a renewed sense of need for balance and am trying to remember that I want to live a life of service and help others but that I also need to take care of myself. I've talked about self care on this blog before but I lose it every now and then. It's nice to get refocused and take some time each day to do a self check to make sure I'm not sprinting down the road to burnout.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

When you don't have much to say...

Sometimes, as a blogger you feel pressure to have something profound to say or something great to post every day. I can't speak for all of you, but my daily life isn't interesting enough to maintain that kind of schedule.

Take today for instance. I didn't go anywhere exciting (except home at the end of a long day). I obsessively checked my heart rate and pulse ox every hour and put it in my daily log. I ate soup for lunch. I had to find a quiet minute to meditate at work before I lost my marbles somewhere around 2 pm. My gas light came on about 20 minutes from home (I didn't even notice I was low when I left the office). I cooked, ate and watched TV. Aren't you glad you logged on to this blog today???

I could talk about finding balance amidst the chaos. I have plenty to say about that. I could keep it short and say keep calm and carry on as a reminder to me and to you. I'm not going to do either. Instead, I thought I'd post a photo of something that took the stress right out of my day. Find that something and find a moment to be grateful for that something each day....look ma, I said something kind of profound.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Girls Night

Never underestimate the value of a girls night. Whether it's low key hanging out around the TV or partying at a bar, there is something so valuable about being with people that love you and give you the freedom to let it all hang out.

This weekend, hubby and I had a fun date night, which always helps me shake off the stress of the week and reconnect over drinks and bar food (for me it's usually chips and guacamole and a couple of glasses of wine or french fries with no salt if I'm feeling indulgent). Saturday morning, he had a shoot and I had a charity breakfast so we ran off in separate directions.

That evening, a friend hosted a Final Four event at her house that was scaled back to three women once the rain started to fall and everyone pulled out. She cancelled the catered food and the reservation on the theatre in her building. The crappy weather in NY this weekend made me want to curl up in bed and put off the visit for another time but I decided I should get out of the house. Everything happens for a reason.

We started with food and wine. By the end of the first game, we'd cheered for our respective teams but we'd also had meaningful conversation about health, kids, work and relationships. Each of us have been dealing with our own issues and once the conversation got started, it was like a therapy circle (during a basketball game no less).

In the course of the conversation, I got stories of two different medical miracles. Obviously, they couldn't have come at a better time. I'm so glad I went and need to make plans to have girls nights more often.

There's no point to this story other than to encourage time with friends. I've been so stuck in my life (and specifically my health) lately and it's nice to lean on friends. It's even better to be leaned on when your friends are going through their own mess.

Girl on a Budget Tip: Girls night does not have to be expensive. After cancelling the catered food, the host decided to do a  veggie and hummus tray, cheese and cracker tray, and chips and dip. We also ordered a pizza that included some veggie slices for me. I contributed wine and dessert (cookies from a store bakery and a tub of dark chocolate covered almonds). Total spend for all of us combined was under $100 and that includes 3 bottles of wine (no we didn't drink them all) and there were plenty of leftovers to make a good Sunday lunch or snacks during the week.

Photo from The Bubbly Professor