Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Monday Quotable

It is hard to find a reason to laugh every day. Sometimes, we're grieving. Sometimes, we are exhausted and sometimes, we're just plain mad. That said, the days where you can let loose and belly laugh with good friends, family or even by yourself are the best days. Ever laugh until you cried? It's bliss. It's all about the freedom of the moment. Your heart feels good, you are fully present and nothing seems wrong with the world. It's like a mini mental vacation.

Today's picture is from an Oscars/birthday party I went to this weekend. There was a red carpet outside and we were all taking pictures at the end of the night. Ludo (the dog shown in today's photo) ran outside as if the carpet was calling him for his big moment. He plopped down right in front of the Oscar statue and smiled up at the camera. It took us all away from fixing our hair and adjusting our clothes and made us laugh. We were all immediately present in the moment. Hands down, one of my favorite moments of the night. Then we all hugged and ended the night. Friends, love and laughter make the days worth living. Happy Tuesday.

p.s. Sorry the Monday Quotable is being posted on Tuesday. I took some much needed time off yesterday.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Playlist

Ever have one of those days that is more frustrating than it should be? You know the kind. Things start out great and then one thing derails the morning and people just keep piling on all day. Nothing too terrible standing alone but all together...well, it makes you count down to happy hour starting sometime around noon. Today was one of those days for me. This is the first time I've felt like I could come up for air and I am taking a deep breath and sharing playlist that has a bit of a split personality. The first half of the list is filled with "angry" songs. I sing along to these songs to get it (whatever it may be) off of my chest. The second half of the list is a breath of fresh air--the happy songs, if you will. At the end of the day, I'm not one to wallow in frustration or anger.

As a note, in putting together the list, I found that a lot of the angry songs I go to for top of the lungs singing in the car/frustration release are relationship/break up songs. Don't worry, I'm not divorcing the husband. In fact, I can't wait for date night. Ten minutes in and I will have forgotten all about this day. There just aren't a lot of "mean people (who you don't live with/date) suck" songs.

If you're in a funk, press play and release it. If you're on cloud nine, skip to Jimmy Cliff's "I Can See Clearly Now." Happy Friday and have a wonderful, magical weekend. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Balancing Act

I am wiped out and it is not a good feeling. I tend to get a burst of motivated energy at the beginning of the year that carries me through completion of the goals I've set for myself. I might have the occasional pull for vacation but its usually right around the time of a planned vacation so I don't feel the burnout too severely. Today, burnout has moved in and I am at least 3 months from a good vacation. I could sit staring listlessly at my computer monitor waiting to feel better or I could actively look for the cause of the burnout and fix it.

The cause isn't hard to find for me. It is a total lack of work-life balance. I read a great article the other day that noted bleed-through is the new normal. Our activities that drain us (work, caretaking, volunteering, blogging) bleed into the activities that replenish us (time with family/friends, rest, prayer/meditation, vacation). There is no way I can totally stop that but I CAN do better at dividing the lines. I don't have to stress at work, spend the commute making a mental list of what I need to do the next day, go home and talk about how overwhelmed I am, have my thoughts racing all night--robbing me of sleep, and get up to do it all over again. Let's not even talk about trying to make time for medical stuff (appointments and treatments), blogging (which includes cooking, craft projects, home DIY, etc.) jewelry making, exercise, playing with the pets and making time for my marriage.

Something's got to give. There's only so much a girl can take.

My goals to help with the bleed-through are:

1. Change into comfy clothes within 10 minutes of getting home. I feel like this will contribute to the relaxation. Even if I have additional work to get done, doing it in my pajamas makes it a little better.

2. Keep the laptop out of the bed. If I have to blog or work on the jewelry site, I will do that in our home office rather than in the bed in front of the TV. I can't commit to leaving electronics out all together. I read on my laptop.

3. Set a cutoff time each day for stopping all work (including checking e-mail on your phone or tablet). I want to try to make this no later than 2 hours after I get home on regular work days and 1 hour on days when I have meetings after work. That time will be reserved for quality time with my husband or some me time if Ash is on location.

4. Make a serious effort to go to sleep earlier. I have struggled with this one for a while. I do get the sleep I need (about 6 hours) most nights but it usually requires me to sleep later than I should, which leads to rushing to get ready and speeding on my commute. Lately, I have been getting in bed earlier hoping it would relax and knock me out. It has worked a few times but I usually get a couple of hours of sleep and wake up at 1:00 am. Then, I can't get back to sleep, which does me no good. I've decided I have to turn the TV off and listen to relaxing sounds (i prefer rain and thunder)....and hope Lola and Ash don't wake me. Storm is usually in her own bed and is so quite that she never wakes me (sneaky cat).

5. Listen to your body and honor its requests.  Nearly dozing off behind the wheel, having major headaches, catching the third cold of the season...these are all signs that the candle is burning at both ends. Blow both out and go to sleep. You body is begging you!

What do you do to balance work and life? When you are off balance how do you feel? How do you deal with it?

Happy Wednesday. Here's to balance!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Quotable

I was talking to a friend this morning about something that really upset me a couple of weeks ago. As I was talking, I felt at ease. I even smiled and joked about my reaction. It was a moment. There was no great trumpet sounding or lightening bolt of clarity. I just quietly realized I'd accepted what happened and moved on. The sting of it is gone. What helped me get there is knowing that this particular bump in the road (though one of many) is just that. So many things in my life matter more, not the least of which is life itself given all of my health issues. Perspective and space are great gifts. In the end, life keeps moving and there are often better things just around the corner--things that make seemingly huge offenses pretty damn small.

*Photo is of snow coated trees on the way to work. Finding beauty in the commute helps pass the time.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Playlist: A Little More Love

Continuting with last week's theme, here's a little more love. Happy Friday. Love somebody--even if it's yourself. Cheers!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

There are always mixed feelings about this day but whether you are part of a couple or not, love is the focus. I talk about it all the time, but love should be the focus of everyday. Love for friends, family, significant others, pets, and most importantly love for yourself should drive all of your decisions. Choosing it over anger, fear, depression, etc. helps open a larger space for gratitude in your life.

Today, love yourself and tell the people who love you (flaws and all) that you love them beyond measure. Thank them for letting you be your true self. Hug someone (even if it's you) and try to brighten someone's day. And if you have the urge to hire, let that rotting bouquet and disembodied teddy bear be a visual for the death of the baggage that drove you to spend money on dead flowers in the first place. Fill that space with something better.

To my parents, thank you for teaching me to love and for always being there. To my syblings, thank you for teaching me patience (ha!) and for being examples for what good human beings should be. To my friends, thank you for being family and loving me through it all. And finally, to my love, you make me braver and better able to face each day. Thanks for holding me tight enough to make me feel secure and letting go enough for me to fly. I love you.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Quotable

With Valentine's Day on the horizon, today's quote had to be about love. That said, I try to celebrate love and make it the driving force behind my choices every day. It can be love for myself, my family, my friends, my life, etc. This quote speaks to why. I've been through a lot in life and last year, a few major things piled on, which made me want to retreat into Pityville. I got past that by having faith that everything will be fine. Having my family, and specifically my husband by my side made it easy to keep that faith. Love is powerful and it is enough to keep me moving. Happy Monday!

Photo by Stacey Ilyse, taken on my wedding day.

Friday, February 8, 2013

DIY Gifts: Bath Salts

Recently, in the midst of doing some detox research (I credit/blame Dr. Oz), I read an article about the benefits of Epsom salts, which actually isn’t salt but a mixture of magnesium and sulfate. Turns out there are tons of benefits that go way past detoxing. Learn more here.

After my reading, I decided to make a batch of bath salts for myself and my friends. It is a really easy process and I am a big fan of any gift that promotes relaxation. For my bridal shower, I had a spa theme. We even had a masseuse on site. The favors for the party were an eye mask, earplugs and scented bath salts in pretty glass jars. I decided to use the same jars I used then and get to work. Here's what you need:

Coarse sea salt
Epsom salts
Baking soda
Food coloring
Essential oils
Glass jars w/ a stoppered lid

In a large bowl, mix to combine: 6 parts coarse sea salt; 3 parts Epsom salts, to soothe tired muscles and reduce inflammation; and 1 part baking soda, to soften waters and alleviate skin irritation. Add a few drops of essential oils, and combine. Add a few drops of food coloring, until you achieve the desired shade. If you intend to present the bath salts as gifts, be sure to store them in a stoppered container to keep out moisture.

  The ombre effect is from keeping some salts white. I also went very light by adding only a drop of food coloring. The blue option in my food coloring packet is more teal than blue so I only used a scant amount for the effect I wanted. If you want darker color, just add more food coloring. For essential oils on this one, I chose eucalyptus and peppermint oil. It's awesome if you're congested. Clears you right up. For my next batch, I'll use purple food coloring and lavendar oil. Lavendar is relaxing and helps with sleep.

Friday Playlist: Grammy Awards 2013

I am a big music fan. That is why the whole Friday Playlist came about. I can usually attach songs to certain periods in my life. There are songs that have gotten me through terrible times and songs that have added the exclamation mark to my best times. With that knowledge, you can imagine how excited I get for the Grammy Awards every year. I will admit that the show has been a disappointment in some years but I've tuned in every year since I was a little girl without fail. This year will be no exception. Sunday night, I'll be planted in front of the TV with my popcorn and wine watching the red carpet coverage and the show.

SO, it is only fitting that this week's playlist spotlights the Grammy nominees. Some nominees didn't make the playlist because I couldn't get access to the nominated songs through Grooveshark but the full list of nominees is below. Happy Friday!!

Album of the Year

The Black Keys - El Camino
Fun. - Some Nights
Mumford & Sons - Babel
Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
Jack White - Blunderbuss

Record of the Year
The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"
Kelly Clarkson - "Stronger"
Fun. feat. Janelle Monae - "We Are Young"
Gotye feat. Kimbra - "Somebody That I Used to Know"
Frank Ocean - "Thinkin Bout You"
Taylor Swift - "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"

Best New Artist
The Alabama Shakes
Hunter Hayes
The Lumineers
Frank Ocean

Best Pop Vocal Album
Kelly Clarkson - Stronger
Florence and the Machine - Ceremonials
Fun. - Some Nights
Maroon 5 - Overexposed
Pink - The Truth About Love

Song of the Year
Ed Sheeran - "The A Team"
Miguel - "Adorn"
Carly Rae Jepsen - "Call Me Maybe"
Kelly Clarkson - "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"
Fun. - "We Are Young"

Best Pop Solo Performance
Adele - "Set Fire to the Rain (Live)"
Kelly Clarkson - "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"
Carly Rae Jepsen - "Call Me Maybe"
Katy Perry - "Wide Awake"
Rihanna - "Where Have You Been"

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
Florence and the Machine - "Shake It Out"
Fun. - "We Are Young"
Gotye feat. Kimbra - "Somebody That I Used to Know"
LMFAO - "Sexy and I Know It"
Maroon 5 - "Payphone"

Best Dance Recording
Avicii - "Levels"
Calvin Harris feat. Ne-Yo - "Let's Go"
Skrillex feat. Sirah - "Bangarang"
Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin - "Don't You Worry Child"
Al Walser - "I Can't Live Without You"

Best Dance/Electronic Album
Steve Aoki - Wonderland
The Chemical Brothers - Don't Think
deadmaus - Album Title Goes Here
Kaskade - Fire & Ice
Skrillex - Bangarang

Best Rock Performance
Alabama Shakes - "Hold On"
The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"
Coldplay - "Charlie Brown"
Mumford & Sons - "I Will Wait"
Bruce Springsteen - "We Take Care of Our Own"

Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance

Anthrax - "I'm Alive"
Halestorm - "Love Bites (So Do I)"
Iron Maiden - "Blood Brothers"
Lamb of God - "Ghost Walking"
Marilyn Manson - "No Reflection"
Megadeth - "Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)"

Best Rock Song
Jack White - "Freedom at 21"
Mumford & Sons - "I Will Wait"
The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"
Muse - "Madness"
Bruce Springsteen - "We Take Care of Our Own"

Best Rock Album
The Black Keys, El Camino
Muse, The 2nd Law
Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball
Jack White, Blunderbuss

Best Alternative Music Album
Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
Bjork, Biophilia
Gotye, Making Mirrors
M83, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
Tom Waits, Bad As Me

Best R&B Performance
Estelle - "Thank You"
Robert Glasper Experiment feat. Ledisi - "Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)
Luke James - "I Want You"
Miguel - "Adorn"
Usher - "Climax"

Best Traditional R&B Performance
Anita Baker - "Lately"
Beyonce - "Love on Top"
Melanie Fiona - "Wrong Side of a Love Song"
Gregory Porter - "Real Good Hands"
SWV - "If Only You Knew"

Best Urban Contemporary Album
Chris Brown, Fortune
Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange

Best R&B Album
Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio
Anthony Hamilton, Back To Love
R. Kelly, Write Me Back
Tamia, Beautiful Surprise
Tyrese, Open Invitation

Best Rap Performance
Drake feat. Lil' Wayne - "HYFR (Hell Ya F---ing Right)"
Jay-Z & Kanye West - "N---as In Paris"
Nas - "Daughters"
Kanye West feat. Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz - "Mercy"
Young Geezy feat. Jay-Z & Andre 3000 - "I Do"
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
Flo Rida feat. Sia - "Wild Ones"
Jay-Z & Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean & The-Dream - "No Church in the Wild"
John Legend feat. Ludacris - "Tonight (Best You Ever Had)"
Nas feat. Amy Whinehouse - "Cherry Wine"
Rihanna feat. Jay-Z - "Talk That Talk"

Best Rap Song
Nas - "Daughters"
Wale feat. Miguel - "Lotus Flower Bomb"
Kanye West Featuring Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz - "Mercy"
Drake feat. Lil' Wayne - "The Motto"
Jay-Z & Kanye West - "N---as In Paris"
Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa Featuring Bruno Mars - "Young, Wild & Free"

Best Rap AlbumDrake, Take Care
Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1
The Roots, Undun
Nas, Life Is Good
Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don't
2 Chainz, Based on a T.R.U. Story

Best Country Song
Carrie Underwood - "Blown Away"
Ronnie Dunn -"Cost of Livin' "
Eli Young Band - "Even If It Breaks Your Heart"
Alan Jackson - "So You Don't Have to Love Me Anymore"
Eric Church - "Springsteen"

Best Country Solo Performance
Dierks Bentley - "Home"
Eric Church - "Springsteen"
Ronnie Dunn - "Cost of Livin' "
Hunter Hayes - "Wanted"
Blake Shelton - "Over"
Carrie Underwood - "Blown Away"

Best Americana Album
The Avett Brothers, The Carpenter
John Fullbright, From the Ground Up
The Lumineers, The Lumineers
Mumford & Sons, Babel
Bonnie Raitt, Slipstream

Best Blues Album
Shemekia Copeland, 33 1/3
Dr. John, Locked Down
Ruthie Foster, Let It Burn
Heritage Blues Orchestra, And I Still Rise
Joan Osborne, Bring It on Home

Thursday, February 7, 2013

DIY Valentine's Day

As Hallmark Holidays go, I guess Valentine's Day is my favorite. I don't get into the commercial side of it (as if you couldn't tell from me calling it a Hallmark Holiday) but I take any chance to celebrate love. When Ash and I first started dating, we did all of the traditional things. Flowers came to the office. Dinner was fancy. Gifts were expensive. Then, for unknown reasons, we decided to stop. Perhaps it was in the midst of stressing over a reservation at a high end restaurant (one that I'd likely be late for because of my formerly crazy work hours). No one should be stressing about how to show love.

Now, we make an awesome dinner at home. Any gift has to be inexpensive or handmade. We've done cheesy dollar store gifts, NYC street vendor gifts, handmade art, love letters and food. A few flowers may creep their way into the house but generally, it's a pretty stripped down Valentine's Day.

In that spirit, I wanted to do a post of my favorite Valentine's Day DIY gifts. A couple will be on my list for friends and family this year. As for the hubs, I see some art in his future...that and some yummy food (which I will post about on Scalded Pot). In the meantime, if you want to DIY, here are some ideas:

Uncommon Valentine

Heart Shaped Tea Bags

Love Sharpie Mugs

Heart Notebook

Relationship Scrapbook

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Heartbeat Necklace

Doing What's Right For You

This year will make five years of marriage for me and Ash. In the grand scheme of life, it may seem like a drop in the bucket. But, for us, it has been a long, and at times, harrowing five years. We've put our vows to the test--in fact, that was part of my story when this blog started. My profile initially said " I am a 30 year old southerner turned New Yorker who was married a year ago. We tested the "for richer/for poorer" part of our vows almost immediately (I lost my job about 6 months into our marriage)." Fast forward five years and we've tested "in sickness and in health," "in good times and bad," etc., etc., etc.

Through all of that, we've gained a new perspective on what really matters in life. "Family first" is a mantra of ours. When we got married, we were a little more focused on our careers than we were on our partnership. Sure, we loved each other but we were focused more on trying to make it in this big scary world than we were on cultivating our relationship. We knew we loved each other, didn't want to be with anyone else and wanted to create a family together. But, we also wanted to run the rat race in NYC and reach our then idea of success.

Then, life happened and we had to make each other more of a priority. We had to learn to console each other through failures, to accept that we need each other (that was more me learning to release control when I got sick and couldn't do things on my own), to make dedicated time for each other (date night), and to ferociously support each other's goals and dreams.

I think I was in the hospital feeling sorry for myself when I had a revelation about us renewing our vows. I was realizing how fragile and short life can be as a parade of nurses and doctors came and went. Ash was trying very hard to sleep in an uncomfortable chair and then on the floor so I wouldn't have to be there alone. I had one of those "who would've thought this would be my life" moments and started thinking about our marriage. First, I never thought I would be married but to be married to a man who has stepped up to the plate to deal with every curveball--well, suffice it to say, I felt blessed (and, I'll admit, a little teary).

We talk a lot about how much we've grown and how different our vows would be today. Heck, how different the feelings would be today. Turns out God didn't have a perfect "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage" life planned for us, but, my goodness has He given us a crazy, wonderful, emotional, growth-filled, blessed, cathartic five years. So, for us, it's time for a vow renewal.

Why is this post titled, "Doing What's Right For You?" Because people have mixed reactions to our decision. Some think vow renewal is a curse and divorce is imminent. Some think it's too soon. Some think it's silly. Some (those who truly love us) say "do what's right for you." So, we are. Just us, a tropical climate, our new vows and our love for each other. And then, we're gonna party because, well, you only live once and that's just who we are.

Monday, February 4, 2013

What I'm Reading: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a beautifully written work providing insight into the troubled life of a family-and specifically of a mother and her 12 tribes (11 children and 1 grandchild). Hattie moves to Philadelphia during the Great Migration in 1923. Two years later, she is 16, married to a philanderer and has given birth to twins. By the end of the first chapter, a tragic event rips Hattie open and almost instantly turns her into a stoic woman that sees provision as the best way to love. The effects of that manifest in in the lives of her children whose lives we are allowed to peer into through chapters named for each of them over the course of 55 years.

The book spoke to me on many levels. It re-emphasized the importance of love. I realized at an early age that love is one of the most powerful gifts we have to give and the decision to dole it our freely or to withhold it can shift a life--it can actually shift several lives since we often only pass on what we've been given.

The book also reminded me that emotion is better than provision. I think we often get consumed in providing for our loved ones but in the end, the food in my belly, the clothes on my back or the roof over my head won't be as important to me as a shoulder to cry on or the feeling I get when I know I'm loved.

Finally, the book provides a commentary on the importance of seeing love and joy as you grow. I do not have children, but I mentor a teen group and I am my parent's child. Though it came later in life, my parents are happy and living fulfilled lives. It makes me want to reach for the stars. I like to think I model that same behaviour for my teens.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is all pain and lessons, choices and truth, birth and death. It touches on spirituality, sexuality, family, and mental illness. It is a survival story beautifully brought to life by Mathis' vivid almost painterly writing. I highly recommend adding The Twelve Tribes of Hattie to your reading list.

Next on my list is Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

Monday Quotable

In planning our future, Ash and I sometimes get caught up in our doubts about whether we'll ever get to our goals. This quote helps remind me that if we spend more time questioning the outcome than we do taking steps toward our goals, we'll never get to where we need to be. So, we have a new rule: Go for it. The outcome will be what it will be but, we don't want to regret not moving in the direction of our dreams. Hope this quote inspires you to do the same. Happy Monday!

Photo: Taken at Bear Mountain during Oktoberfest, 2012.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Playlist: Sing-A-Long

Today's playlist is filled with songs that make me sing along with the radio. They get me through the commute, through the workday and help me shake off the work at the end of a long week. What's better than a soundtrack that gets you in a weekend kind of mood? Happy Friday! Enjoy the Super Bowl if you're into it and if not, just enjoy the weekend. If you're hosting a Super Bowl Party (or if you're just in the mood for some yummy food and cocktails), check out the Scalded Pot page's Super Bowl Bonanza series here..