Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ignoring Good Advice

I read an article on this morning called 5 Pieces of Advice Everyone Ignores (but Shouldn't!) by Martha Beck. All of the advice is based in common sense and has been heard by most of us in some form or another throughout our lives. Yet, none of us follow the advice despite knowing its the best thing. What are the 5 pieces of advice, you ask?

1. What leaves you feeling bad, do less of. What leaves you feeling good, do more of.

Seems simple right? Then why don’t we incorporate them into our lives? Actually, let me not speak for you. Maybe you do all of these things. I, however, do not…at least not as well as I could. For example, I do not spend a lot of time criticizing myself and I do spend a lot of time affirming my ability to achieve my dreams. That said, I also eat junk food more than I should, I procrastinate constantly and I spend days on end working on projects that I am not passionate about. It doesn’t leave me feeling good but I persist in the name of earning a paycheck and/or comforting myself. In the end, I don’t feel good but the cycle continues.

Beck notes that we are born with the capacity for suffering and joy for a reason: so that we can navigate the world. Why I choose suffering sometimes is a mystery to me. Maybe it is because doing what would make me feel good seems so impossible at the moment. For instance, doing less of my job isn’t an option because I need a paycheck. There is a way, I suppose, to go deeper. If I can’t change my situation right away, I can at least spend more time figuring out how to live off of my passions. The thinking and planning leaves me feeling good even if it doesn’t bring an instant change to my life.

2. To achieve bigger goals, take smaller steps.

With this advice, Beck told a story about a client who’d been talking about going to the gym everyday but never got around to incorporating it into her life permanently. Her plan was too much to tackle so she ended up not going. Beck suggested that she “get up five minutes early, put on gym clothes, then have coffee—full stop.” The client doubted the effectiveness of such a plan but her “five minutes in gym clothes grew to ten, then to 15, then to a Zumba class she loved.”

The couch to 5K app for Android and iPhone works the same way. I think that is why it is so popular. Bite sized chunks seem to work. This piece of advice is one I am using to tackle the task of decluttering our house, decorating, losing weight and growing a business. It is a much easier way to live.

Cat nap w/ Storm.
3. Lie down and rest for a while.

Oh how I wish for time to lie down and rest…that’s a lie, well at least partially. I do have time to rest. I just don’t use it for rest. I use it for watching TV, working, reading, social engagements, date night, etc. The only time I lie down and rest is Saturday mornings if I don’t have anything to do until Saturday afternoon. This pattern leads to me zoning out during my commute, finding it hard to keep my eyes open mid-day, and occasional grumpiness. Just last night, I was tired and dozed off on the couch while watching TV. When I woke up, rather than going to bed, I sat up to try to revive myself and finish the show. I dozed off again and woke up with a cramp in my neck around 2:15 a.m. Ash was still awake editing his latest project. We dragged ourselves upstairs only for me to wake up feeling drained again today. Seriously, I was wolfing down pumpkin seeds on my gray, rainy, traffic-filled commute this morning just to stay awake. Not good. I am going to try to start going to bed earlier. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I’ve been saying that for years. Beck suggests yoga or the Alexander Technique. Maybe I’ll try that whole small step thing in #2. Watch one less DVR’ed show and just go to bed. Project Runway can wait until tomorrow.

4. When you don't know what to say, try the truth.

This advice is targeted towards honoring yourself and your feelings by not being afraid to say how you really feel. I am totally guilty of telling people I have a meeting or that I have to work late so I can get out of something and go home. Sometimes, I just want to veg out but if you tell people that, they tend to get offended. I have been practicing “no” a bit more lately. I have also been practicing not feeling guilty about it.

I’ve also been making a conscious effort to stand in my truth. For example, I have health issues and every day isn’t roses and rainbows. When people ask how I’m doing, I used to give a canned “I’m fine. How are you?” Now, I try to be truthful without making people feel awkward. I’ll say “I’m not feeling too great today but I’ll get through it. How are you?” Similarly, when I feel good, I’ll say “I’m wonderful. What about you?” People are usually taken more aback by the “wonderful” comment than the “I’m not well” comment and the look is usually a cross between “why” and “how.” It doesn’t matter. The point is just to stand in your truth for better or worse. “Be who you are and say what you feel because those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.”—Dr. Seuss

5. Free yourself from dysfunctional people by refusing to try to control them.

I removed toxic relationships from my life years ago. I know I can’t change people. Heck, I can barely change the things I don’t like about myself (read: that pesky procrastination habit and my affinity for clutter...ok, borderline hoarding—just without all the mold, random animals, and rotten food a la TLC’s Hoarders/Animal Hoarders). At the end of the day, my energy is better spent hanging out with people I love and having experiences that are fun because of the joy associated with them. My attitude towards the relationships I eliminated was I’m busy working on me. I don’t have the time or the right to try to fix you…and I won’t break my spirit trying. I’m much happier and better off for it.

I really like the article and can see how I need to do the work of being happy. Small steps.

If you want to read the whole article, you can find it here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sayonara Summer

This was a great summer. I was scrolling through my photos over the weekend reliving some of the highlights. Photos can be a great tool for remembering how blessed you are. Though I had a rough start to the summer and got life altering news about my health, I bounced back and was blessed enough to have one of the best Summers I've had in years. Here's to an even better Fall! Cheers!

Beyond Date Night: Six Flags Great Adventure

A couple of weeks ago (sorry I'm late with the post), we fell gracefully back into our youth by spending the day at Great Adventure. We rode roller coasters, took pictures from high up on the ferris wheel, ate junk food and laughed a lot. From the moment we walked through the gates until the moment we got back in the car to travel home, we had a blast. No worries all day…just joy—except when we rode Kingda Ka and I destroyed my back by not being properly braced for the crazy turbo bolt (128 mph) out of the station. When I limped off the ride, a woman was there who told me she’d knocked her vertebrae out of alignment before and now has an implant. Her chiropractor friend actually checked my back and said I was fine but should see my own chiropractor if it still hurts in a few days. Luckily, after some ibuprofen and some time with a heating pad, I was fine.

But I digress. As we drove home, we talked about more early Fall dates we could do in and around the city (before the temperature drops to 20 degrees) and came up with a few things we’ve put off for years. We did Governor's Island while it was still warm. We did Great Adventure and we've done a few other things since then. Because of that, I decided to make this a regular series on the blog. I’ll blog about the experience, the budget and whether I’d recommend it. For the Great Adventure Date, it was tons of fun if you love amusement parks. It isn’t budget friendly. This was our September entertainment splurge. Between the cost of parking, the tickets and the wallet busting food prices, I could have gotten a couple of new outfits for Fall (I’m a bargainista) BUT the experience is worth the price. After all, I won't remember a great new shirt or pair of shoes at the end of my life but I will remember screaming and laughing with my husband on coaster after coaster. Going on a Fall weekend after school starts makes for lighter crowds, shorter lines and more riding time. I would highly recommend it. Have any ideas for great Fall dates/day trips? Let me know!

Detailed Costs:

Tickets: $42.99 each (online discount--unfortunately, the Coca Cola can discount ends after Labor Day)
Parking: $22.00 (or $32 if you want preferred parking closer to the park)
Food/Drinks: $25.00

Date Total: $132.98

100th Post!!!

This is my 100th post on this blog. Given that I started this whole blogging thing in 2009, you'd think I'd have posted a lot more than that by now. Between all of my blogs, I'm at close to 300 posts but this one is special because its the first blog I started and it's the most about my life and my beliefs. I will be lifting a glass for that tonight. Cheers!

Monday Quotable

Photo from the Wonderful Light album curated by caribb on Flickr

"You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great." -Joe Sabah

Today's quote is inspired by several of my friends who have uprooted their lives over the last year, relocated and started over. Some have traveled through Europe for a few months before moving to a new city. Some have moved to small towns after being burned out by NYC. Some have moved to other metropolitan places that offer the diversity of a large city but at a slower pace of life or a better cost of living. Most didn't know anyone when they moved but they were dead set on starting over. They are on their journeys to create their best lives. And really, that is the point. You may not have to relocate to "start" on whatever you are passionate about. You just have to let go of fear (or procrastination) and take the first step. Your step may land you in another country or it may land you right in your house at your desk sketching out your plans. As long at it is a step forward, it is a step in the right direction. Here's to greatness. Happy Monday!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Gratitude Project: Thank You Cards

After my 30 Days of Gratitude project in August, I found myself looking for another project that would help me focus on the blessings in my life. The 30 days was fun but I did find it difficult to find a picture for the emotions I felt each day. As a result, there were lots of pictures of food, drinks and nature. If not, I was posting quotes using twee-gram.

This month, I decided on a different way to express gratitude. Enter the "Note a Day" project. I was inspired to do it after sending a card to a friend who thanked me and noted how much she loved getting mail that wasn’t a bill. I'm the same way and think most people probably appreciate a little "out of the blue" mail every now and then. With that in mind, I decided to send a note to a different friend or family member for each day of the month.

I came up with only one rule for myself: the note can be long or short but must be actually written. I think it makes it more special. All I needed were some cute note cards (I got these for $1.00 for each pack of 6 at Michael's), postage ($13.50 for 30 $0.45 stamps) and time to bring some sunshine to a loved one’s life. Already brainstorming for next month. Stay tuned.

Love the paisley print and monogram window on these cards. Can you believe they were only $1.00?!

I got a variety of cards in bright, colorful prints. That way they bring cheer even
before the recipient gets to the message.

It took a little over an hour to write out all the cards but it flew by and it was fun to focus on how much I love and appreciate my friends and family instead of focusing on work related stress. Now all I have to do is send them out!

Opening Up

I debated a lot about whether to share anything about my path to motherhood on this blog. I share so much about my health that you might think it is an odd internal debate for me to have, but I debated nevertheless. While it is true that I talk about my date nights or DIYs and cooking with Ash, I like to keep my marriage and my family life pretty close to the vest. After all, this isn’t a marriage blog. It’s just a blog about my life. I decided today to lift the veil a little.

Over the last few months, I’ve been knee deep in the world of reproduction. I was diagnosed with PAH in February of this year. Ever since the doctor explained that I would be on medication that caused birth defects and noted that women with PAH have a hard time carrying anyway, I have been obsessed. Right before the diagnosis, Ash and I were at a point in our marriage where I was seemingly healthy (after years of trying to get my Lupus into remission) and we were both ready to have children. We talked about it non-stop and every baby that I saw sent my biological clock into a tailspin. Then, everything stopped. It was like being suspended in time surrounded by questions of what this new diagnosis would mean for my dreams of being a mother, for my marriage and for my body.

Sometime in March, I dusted my spirit off, put my disappointments into my baggage and moved on down the road of my life’s journey. I didn’t give up though. I immediately started researching egg extraction, gestational surrogacy and adoption. The expenses associated with each process blow my mind. I know the experience of being a mother is priceless but when we’re talking over $100,000 to get there…well, it’s quite sobering.

I am lucky enough to have a sister and a friend who've offered to carry for me but there is guilt and anxiety associated with that. First, I don't live in the same state as either of them so I wouldn't really feel like a part of the pregnancy. I'd constantly be worried about their health and choices. That's the anxiety. Second, I'd feel terrible about taking over their lives for a year or more (once you factor in hormone treatments, implantation, pregnancy, birth, healing, weight loss, etc.). My desire to have my own biological child is enough to make me get over all of that (if they can, i can) but the feelings are still there. If that doesn't work, there's always adoption though we've talked about doing that even if we can have a biological child. 

In short, wading into this territory is creating a huge ball of emotion in my life but short of a miracle (and trust me I'm praying for one), it is territory that I can't avoid at the moment. Some would say, leave it alone. If God meant for you to have children, none of this would be happening. I couldn't disagree more. There are different paths to parenthood. At the end of the day, my journey may not be traditional, but it will be mine and I am faithful that it will end with someone calling me mama.

The first stage of the journey will be meeting with a fertility specialist to discuss egg extraction and freezing. I still haven't firmly decided on who the surrogate will be (stranger or family/friend) but at 34, I can't just sit on my laurels and wait until I decide to extract and freeze eggs. We're still gathering recommendations from friends who've gone through similar issues. I'll keep you posted.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Weekly Quotable

"Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway." -Emory Austin

Beyond Date Night: Governors Island

Fall doesn’t officially start until September 22 but the brisk chill in the evening air is screaming that Fall is indeed here. For me, Summer was awesome—so awesome that I barely blogged, content to give my weekend over to all the fun I could have instead—especially after having gone through my early summer medical drama. It all started with a conversation during a random walk in Battery Park (where we got hitched). From that point on, it became very important to me to really experience the summer and not to look back at the end of it wondering (a) where the time went; and (b) regretting spending time in the house lamenting in the state of my health. Maybe it was the hospitalization in June that lit the fire. Suffice it to say, we followed through on our intentions and the Mister and I had a great time experiencing New York like tourists (rather than the residents we are), trying new restaurants, road tripping, and going back to our childhoods. As Summer draws to a close I can’t help but think that all the fun times had a positive effect on our marriage and our lives, which is why I’m ready to ride this date train into the Fall.
Generally, for me, Fall weekends bring the desire to hang out on the couch in cozy pj’s watching a marathon of guilty pleasure TV shows with an oversized mug of hot chocolate. I’m not usually an outdoor adventure girl so you won’t catch me in hiking boots working my way up a mountain trail with the crunch of leaves under my feet. You might catch me in a park upstate with a camera in had to capture the beautiful changing foliage but then it’s back inside to relax. Summer made me change my thinking a bit and while I’m not ready for a hike, I’m not quite ready for hanging out of the couch. My mind may change after the first big snow storm but until then, we’re scouting new experiences.

While scouting, I decided to create a regular feature on the blog to keep track of what we've been up to but also to inspire you to do the same. The couch, computer and TV will always be there. Live a little.

A couple of weeks ago, we took a trip out to Governors Island (an island just 800 yards from the tip on Manhattan) for a day of bike riding, exploring and outdoor eating. The day turned out to be a little overcast but we had a great time. The best part? It was virtually free!! We drove to downtown Manhattan to catch the ferry out to the island. We found free parking on the street, walked over to the ferry (also free) and piled onto the boat with a mixture of neon clad kids going to a rave, families with young children and a host of 20 and 30 somethings with cameras, picnic baskets, blankets, frisbees, etc.

When we got to the island, we took a short walk to the bike rental stands run by Bike and Roll. We waited in line for quite a bit but we got the bike and the first hour was free instead of the normal $15 per person rate. We toured the island by bike (once I found my balance) checking out all of the abandoned and converted homes once used by U.S. Army and the Coast Guard (if not by the Dutch and British before the island became the property of the U.S.—learn more here.

Once we returned out bikes, we walked around the island to get a closer look at the Nolan Park houses, the church, the works on display at the art festival, the sculptures throughout the island and the park. While hanging out in the park, we found Little Eva’s—a small beer garden that serves beer and wine and a few seafood dishes. The prices are very reasonable. We also wandered into the food court area where there was a gathering of food trucks and stands selling everything from ready-made picnics to yummy West Indian cuisine. We grabbed a bite and sat down to eat. After eating, we headed back to the ferry station to catch the last boat back to Manhattan.

At the end of the day, we were out about $10!! That’s a steal of a date in this city. After exiting the ferry terminal, we were walking past the Staten Island Ferry terminal (right next door) and decided to hop aboard the big orange boat and get some good shots of Lady Liberty for free. It was the cheapest, greatest date we’ve had in quite a while. I highly recommend spending a date on Governors Island.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


When I was in college, I visited New York City on a family vacation. From the moment I hailed my first cab, I knew I would relocate to the city as soon as I could. NYC quickly got into my blood and thus began my love affair with one of the greatest cities in the world. I loved it all--from the glamour to the grime—it was the life I imagined for myself. The shows, the fashion, the food, the people, the ability to blend in—it all worked for me. I know most people don’t cherish the thought of blending in. For me, at the time, NYC was the first place where I wasn’t the mixed girl whose race no one could identify. No one asked me where I was from (unless they caught a hint of my southern accent) or what race I was. After a youth filled with “I know you’re mixed but what race do you consider yourself to be?” and “What nationality are you?” I was happy to finally be in a city where no one really cared. Almost everyone was from somewhere else and I LOVED it.

I moved to New York in 2000 for school and started my first internship in May, 2001. That summer, I saw several Broadway shows. I shopped everywhere from little stands in Times Square to flagship designer stores on 5th Avenue. I ate everything from 5 star meals prepared by celebrity chefs to delicious authentic world cuisine from small hole in the wall restaurants. I mastered traveling by subway and Metro North. I learned the best ways and places to hail a cab at night. I made great friends. New York was everything I’d dreamed about since that first vacation. Then, just a couple of weeks after my internship ended, at 8:46 AM on September 11, 2001, a plane ripped through the beautiful blue sky and crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I was sleeping and my phone began to ring. It was my Dad telling me to turn on the news. Our call was cut short and service was out after that for several panicked hours. In the space of the next 2 hours, I watched with the world as the day’s horrific events unfolded. All I could think about was my friends that lived and worked downtown, those that were already on the train on the way to work, and all those nameless faces that I’d passed and smiled at during the many times I shopped, ate and hung out in the World Trade Center over the Summer.

Over the next few days, most of my conversations with NYC friends were filled with stories of what happened to them. Apartment windows blown out, running out of the subway and being engulfed by a cloud of smoke and debris, walking home over the Brooklyn Bridge consoling and being consoled, sitting in the student lounge with fellow students and faculty fixed to the television and trying to figure out how this could have happened. My family and friends from back home were certain that I’d be moving back to Atlanta. Sometime during that week, I decided I wasn’t. Sure, the security I felt was ripped from under me but the spirit coursing through the city as people united to help each other replaced the foundation I’d firmly stood on prior to the 11th. Life, though different, moved forward.

Once the clean-up was far enough along for parts of downtown to be re-opened, I was able to go down for lunch with friends. The smell of burnt ruins invaded my nostrils and the flyers/posters showing the lost and missing outside of several churches left a knot in my throat and tears in my eyes. But, I took it all in, just as I took in the city as a whole the first time I visited.
Today, on the 11th anniversary of the tragedy, the sky is blue and the sun is bright. The temperature is perfect. There is an almost completed Freedom Tower shining above the city as a reminder of our resilience. The memorial is open and a tribute ceremony is going on as it has every year since the towers fell. As you reflect on this day and what it has meant in your life, listen to the messages encouraging you to make this a day of service. Whether big or small, the goal is to act in a way that will uplift someone else. Today, I am volunteering with a group of teens through a mentor/support group I created with a former colleague. I am also starting my September gratitude project (stay tuned for details on that). What will you do today? Visit to pledge your commitment to do something today.