Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Quotable

Today's quote seems pretty simple. Be happy and fulfill your purpose by doing so. When I first read it, my reaction was "Ok, but how do you find your happy?" Then, I rolled my eyes at myself. Why? Because I know how to get to my happy place...the question is really how to make that happen while still having the things I need (health insurance, regular income, etc.). I am a pretty joyful, happy person. There is only one aspect of my life that gives me anxiety and stress and I'm not sure how to totally change it. I guess that is where faith comes in. You keep plugging away at the thing that makes you happy and have faith that one day what you do for a living will be that thing. If not, plug away anyway and perhaps it will bring you so much joy that the shadows cast by the unpleasant parts of your life will shrink or fade away. Happy Monday!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Playlist

Today's playlist is dedicated to living in the now. Focus on the good and live your life. Happy Friday!!

What I'm Reading: The Sense of An Ending

SPOILER ALERT! If you want my general impression skip to the last 2 paragraphs of this post.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes is a short novel divided into two parts. Part One of the story focuses on the relationship between friends on the verge of graduation but the book is not really a coming of age tale. The story is told from one of the boys’—Tony Webster’s—point of view and starts with an explanation of how his friends are impressed by the musings of a new student (Adrian Finn). The clique befriends him and he ultimately becomes a leader of sorts in the group. There is a moment in Part One where a classmate hangs himself after purportedly finding out his girlfriend is pregnant. No one ever confirms what actually happened. It seems a strange thing to interject into the story but turns out to be an important fact later.

Eventually, the friends split and go to college. Tony meets a girlfriend (Veronica) whose acceptance he wants despite her snobbery. Their relationship is fairly tense and sexless (I add that because he makes a repeated note about it). They are serious enough that he meets her family and he introduces her to his friends. During the time spent with Tony’s friends, Veronica flirts pretty shamelessly with Adrian. Shortly after that, Tony and Veronica break up. He moves on with his life and one day gets a letter from Adrian letting him know he is dating Veronica. He has a very negative reaction and writes a scathing, mean letter back to the couple. Adrian ultimately commits suicide. The friends meet up again in tribute but don’t’ keep close ties after that. Tony ultimately gets married, has a child, divorces and retires.

The book takes a turn (and for me hits the most interesting part) early in Part Two. Tony gets a letter from an attorney letting him know that Veronica’s mother’s (who he only met the one time he visited Veronica’s family) left him £500 and Adrian Finn’s diary. She also left a note telling Tony she thought Adrian was happy in his last months.

Tony finds out that Veronica is holding the diary and does not want to give it up. She claims she burned it. Tony doesn’t believe her but he does go out with her to talk about the past. She is short but takes him to see young Adrian (Adrian’s child) and provides him with a page of the diary. Tony feels bad that young Adrian has special needs and thinks about how hard it must have been for Veronica to raise him. Tony feels guilty for the words in his letter and thinks they may have had some impact on how Veronica and Adrian’s life turned out.

After getting the diary page, Tony embarks on a kind of puzzle solving mission and ultimately discovers that Adrian actually had an affair with Veronica’s mother. This is why she knew he was happy at the end and why she had the diary. On top of that, young Adrian is Veronica’s brother.

I will admit that the first part of the book was slow reading for me. There were good parts but I didn’t feel like it was something I couldn’t put down. When Tony received the letter from Veronica’s mom’s attorney, I shifted into “Can’t put it down/I must know what happens” mode. Throughout the book, there is much made out of the fact that Tony “just doesn’t get it.” I think I must be just like him because I would have never guessed the ending of the book. It’s something right out of a soap opera. Scandalous!!

I picked up The Sense of an Ending because of a book review I read in a magazine last year. After the first couple of pages, I decided it wasn’t what I thought it would be. A retiree’s reflection on life isn’t my idea of a quick read. The story develops slowly at first but the seemingly non-important reflections on Tony’s youth become major parts of the book later on. The events and characters weave together to create a beautifully simple, unsettling and interesting story. I’d recommend this if you want a quick read (though if you’ve read all of this, I’ve pretty much spoiled it for you).

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Putting Negative Nelly In Her Place

I think there is a lesson in everything. I will admit that sometimes, it isn’t a lesson I feel like learning (or even one I feel I need to learn) but, still, the lesson is there for the learning. Lately, a couple of people in my life have been complaining… a LOT. I usually try not to join in. Instead, I try to break everything down and get to the real source of the complaint.

When I do that, I find that generally, there is something just below the surface that is making tiny annoyances GIGANTIC. You know the deal. The house is a mess and on Monday, you could care less (unless you are one of those enviable people who keep a clean house at all times). On Tuesday, you flip out on your partner because his dishes have been sitting in the sink for 2 days and go on a tirade because you shouldn’t be expected to work long hours, clean the house and cook dinner. Then, the issue snowballs and the house is so cluttered that you’re professing that the house is two stray socks away from being on Hoarders. You’re waxing poetic about how a cluttered house leads to a cluttered mind and the dishes/pile of mail consuming the dining room table/socks on the floor are the source of all of your stress. Before you know it, you’re ready to hire a cleaning service because you’re totally overwhelmed.*

If you peel back the layers, under all of that madness is just a bad day at work where someone was insulting or rude. You had to take it because of hierarchy or social acceptability. Or, perhaps the emotional spiral over dirty dishes was prompted by feeling out of control in your personal life—whether over health, friendships, finances, etc.

Over the past week or so, I haven’t been peeling back any layers. I’ve been hanging out on the surface, complaining and swimming in negativity. I haven’t been focusing on the positive or looking for the happy moments in each day. I got sad news about a sick family member, got reprimanded at work, got smacked with world events that hit too close to home and spiked a fever all in one day. From that moment on, it was negativity central. It ultimately resulted in a grudging introduction: Hello shoulder, meet chip…then, hello world, meet my chip and let me tell you all the reasons why he’s there. Insert gripes here.

The result? My attitude has taken a toll on my outlook as a whole. I wake up thinking about what may go wrong at work and what confrontations I may face. With my health, instead of focusing on how I’ve improved, I complain about how long I’ve been sick…and on and on, AND ON.

Just when I was getting tired of my own mess, a friend spun me in the opposite direction. She sent me a text asking me to proofread a document. After I did it, she thanked me and said “Enjoy the rest of your day. I hope you find at least 2 reasons to giggle.”

The sentiment itself made me giggle, and that alone is a plus. I find the word “giggle” isn’t used very much in my adult life. People say, “Find a reason to smile.” or “Look for reasons to be grateful.” But no one encourages giggling. There is something delicious about the thought of giggling. It implies a level of silliness that we don’t experience much as adults. I feel like it’s something I need more of.

I ultimately did giggle twice that day and it broke my rut. It made me realize that I’d been a negative Nelly but all I had to do was step out of it. The lesson is that a little positivity goes a long way but you've got to seek it out--you've got to find the reasons to giggle. If you’d told me that last week, I’d have responded with “Ummm, you don’t have to tell me that. I know that. I live that.” Yet, I clearly needed a refresher course.

To get back on track, I’ve started each day with a little music and prayer/meditation. I also started getting up a little earlier. I get to work earlier and can tackle a couple of things before the meeting/ e-mail storm starts. The pace is easier and if negativity comes (everyday can’t be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows), it’s a little easier to take it in stride. I’ve made a concerted effort to get back on my gratitude game. Finally, I’ve started doing something to treat myself at the end of each day. Now, I just have to find something other than an edible treat to accomplish that. I’ve got to be in a bathing suit in a month and the Reese’s cups are becoming a problem.

So, who's in the picture? Nelly Olsen from Little House on the Prairie. Her character is the reason for the term "Negative Nelly." (I feel like I should say "Be grateful and avoid negativity" and the theme from NBC's "The More You Know" PSAs should play here.) Happy Wednesday!

*This example is based on true events but maybe, just maybe some of those dishes in the sink were mine. On positive days, those things don't matter. I gladly trade a messy kitchen and socks that can't seem to make it to the hamper for a partner who will try his damnedest to help me do laundry and bring in packages despite being sick and on crutches...but picking your battles is a different post for a different day.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Quotable

Happy Earth Day!!

This photo was taken on a drive to date night. Initially, I was struck by the contrast of the dark clouds against the darkening sky but when the photo was taken, the green of the new Spring grass showed up. I hadn't even noticed it. Ash snapped the photo just as the car was pulling off (thus the blur). Normally, I delete blurry pictures but something about this one appealed to me.  It also reminded me to look at everything around me. There's beauty and inspiration everywhere.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Playlist

This has truly been an emotional week. If anything is needed, it is a window of peace. I tried to focus on that when compiling this week's playlist. There is a mixture of genres and even some instrumental pieces because sometimes, the world hurts so badly that words are too much. My prayers are with our "Boston Crew" and to all of those in Boston who I don't know but have been touched by this terrible continuing tragedy. The playlist is also for Rosa and all the grandmotherly love (and belly laughs). Hug your loved ones. Life is fragile. God bless.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Our Own Worst Critics

I shared this video on my Style blog but also felt compelled to share it here where I talk so much about being yourself and loving who you are.

It is amazing how we see ourselves so differently than other people see us. I will confess that when I see pictures of myself, the first thing I am drawn to are the features I don't like. My round face, my thin top lip, my squinty eyes that tend to close when I smile...

I also tend to downplay compliments when people give them. It is just now, that I am getting comfortable just saying "thank you" when someone says I look nice. Before, I was only comfortable taking that from  Ash and my family.

I am getting better at being more positive towards myself but there is always work to do. I do a little exercise on days when I'm not feeling super cute. As I get ready for work and I'm in front of the mirror doing hair and makeup, I try to pick one feature that I can focus on and compliment it.

“Your hair is really full looking today.”  “Your eyes look bright and happy.”  “Look at those cute little freckles.”  It makes me feel so much better than saying "Ugh, I've got a pimple." or "My face is so fat!"
Then I remind myself that beauty comes from within and I go out and practice kindness to others. That always makes me feel great about myself and about others.
What do you do when you are feeling overly critical of yourself?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

“The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

I can't believe that I am again sitting in front of my computer thinking about the best way to address a tragedy. Yesterday was a tough day in general. Work made it start that way (hence, the Monday Quotable). Then, the rest of the day was an exercise in perspective--not the least of which came from the tragic events in Boston. A great friend of ours was running yesterday and several of our other friends were at the finish line to cheer her on. I am so thankful none of them were hurt. At the same time, I am horrified by what happened and devastated for the families of the injured and deceased. I am at a loss for words. What I will share instead is Patton Oswalt's reaction to the tragedy because, truthfully, I couldn't have said it better.


Boston. Fucking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Quotable

If I did this exercise every day, I would have been saying "no" for quite a while now. That is no way to live. I know that...heck, we all know that but, we keep plugging along for the sake of the status quo. Whether it be earning a paycheck, keeping a title, or trying to please others, we go through the motions to keep the train on the track. I think it's time for a little derailment in my life. I'm getting pretty tired of saying "no" five days a week. Here's to the bravery needed to change a monotone "no" to a jubilant "yes!" Happy Monday!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Playlist

It is the start of the music festival season! Today marks the kickoff of Coachella. I like so many of the artists performing that I feel sort of compelled to dedicate this week’s Friday Playlist to the Coachella lineup—especially since I won’t be traveling out to Indio, California to camp out. If you’re going, have fun (so jealous) and if not, hit play. Happy Friday!!

I only included 45 of the artists on this week's playlist. Stay tuned next week for a playlist including the rest. Also, in case you’re not going but want to know who’s performing, here is the full lineup.

Friday, April 12 and 19

Blur, The Stone Roses, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Modest Mouse, Lou Reed, Jurassic 5, Grinderman, Bassnectar, Dog Blood, How to Destroy Angels, Passion Pit, Tegan and Sara, Band of Horses, Beach House, Metric, Local Natives, Of Monsters and Men, Infected Mushroom, Japandroids, Divine Fits, Stars, Johnny Marr, Luciano, Wolfgang Gartner, Nicky Romero, Modestep, Tommy Trash, Thomas Gold, the Shouting Matches, Dillon Francis, Four Tet, Aesop Rock, Alt-J, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, TNGHT, Jake Bugg, Earl Sweatshirt, Polica, Sparks, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Purity Ring, Lee Scratch Perry, Dam-Funk, DJ Harvey, Jamie xx, Seth Troxler, Youth Lagoon, Deathfix, C2C, Beardyman, Lord Huron, Palma Violets, IO Echo, Skinny Lister, the Neighbourhood, Sam XL Pure Filth Sound

Saturday, April 13 and 20

Phoenix, the XX, the Postal Service, Sigur Ros, New Order, Hot Chip, Grizzly Bear, Knife Party, Benny Benassi, Two Door Cinema Club, Moby, Descendents, Yeasayer, Franz Ferdinand, Violent Femmes, Simian Mobile Disco, Spiritualized, Puscifer, Cafe Tacuba, Portugal, the Man, the Make-Up, Bat for Lashes, Richie Hawtin, Major Lazer, Fedde Le Grand, Dropkick Murphys, FOALS, Ben Howard, 2 Chainz, Janelle Monae, Danny Brown, Wild Nothing, Booka Shade, Bingo Players, Allen Stone, El-P, the Selecter, Pusha T, Kill the Noise, the Evens, Biffy Clyro, Theophilus London, Baauer, Zane Lowe, Trash Talk, Birdy Nam Nam, Action Bronson, Jason Bentley, the Wombats, Guards, Mona, Savages, Shovels & Rope, Huoratron, Kurt Vile, Reignwolf, Cassy, 3Ball MTY, Kids These Days, the 2 Bears, the Colourist, Vintage Trouble

Sunday, April 14 and 21

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Vampire Weekend, Social Distortion, Wu-Tang Clan, Pretty Lights, Eric Prydz, Tame Impala, the Lumineers, Dead Can Dance, La Roux, James Blake, Excision Grimes, the Gaslight Anthem, the Faint, Hardwell, Paul Oakenfold, Dinosaur Jr., Raider Klan, OMD, Roni Size, the Airborne Toxic Event, Father John Misty, Tanlines, Rodriguez, Alex Clare, Paul Kalkbrenner, Jessie Ware, Loco Dice, Jamie Jones, the Three O'Clock, Disclosure, Mimosa, Cloud Nothings, Parov Stelar Band, Julio Bashmore, Thee Oh Sees, Dub Fx, Maya Jane Coles, JEFF the Brotherhood, Smith Westerns, Dirtyphonics, Joris Voorn, Hanni El Khatib, Danny Avila, Ghost, DIIV, Little Green Cars, Mord Fustang, James McCartney, Unicorn Kid, Robert DeLong, White Arrows, Deep Vally, Wild Belle, Adrian Lux, Ladies Night

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Using "Busy" as an Excuse

I don’t know about you but I find myself saying “I’m really busy” as an excuse for why I don’t get to a lot of things these days. Don’t get me wrong. I am pretty busy but the time I spend watching TV at the end of any given day could totally be replaced with time spent on chores, hanging out with friends, going to the gym or writing.

The reality is that you make time for what you want to make time for. Being busy is often just an excuse that sounds softer than, “Cleaning is on the bottom of my priority list so that huge pile of clothes in the laundry room is my fault. I chose to watch a marathon of Millionaire Matchmaker instead” or “I know we haven’t hung out in a few months but I’d rather go from my meetings to my couch rather than go out to dinner.”

Like I said, I am busy but I have the power to set my schedule. My job and volunteer activities are not so unreasonable that I can’t do anything but that. I am really just pushing things off because I’m using “busy” as an excuse to be lazy. I know this is the case because the need to clean always comes eventually. It is usually when we are out of something essential—underwear, socks, silverware, sheets (can’t believe I just told you that) but when it is necessary, magically, there is time for it. The same goes for hanging out with friends. Sure, there are Saturdays when I’d rather close the curtains and stay in bed but I’ve managed to get up and out to see friends over the past few weeks with no issue.

In the end, it is all about LIVING life. Existing is for the birds. It is not what we are here for. I’m working on really being busy (except when I need some lazy time) doing fun things (or necessary things) rather than just saying my job is SOOOO busy and using it as an excuse to stay in bed. Here’s to living. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What I'm Reading: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

When I set my reading list, you might have been surprised to see an older Gillian Flynn work—especially since everyone seems to love Gone Girl. Gone Girl is on my list but in looking for books, I previewed the beginning of Dark Places and I was sold after the first 3 sentences.

“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it. It’s the Day blood. Something’s wrong with it. I was never a good little girl, and I got worse after the murders.”

Sure, the lines are gory but I could see the main character (Libby Day) right away. The lines spoke to her inner turmoil and I instantly wanted to know more. I went with it and am so happy I did. The book starts in the present day but seamlessly toggles between flashbacks and present day to tell the nail biting tale of night of The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas from the perspective of Libby, her mother and her brother Ben, who is serving time for the murders thanks to Libby’s testimony.

Libby was confident in her testimony—and living off of the donations of well wishers—until she met the head of The Kill Club. The Kill Club researches famous crimes and their contact with Libby comes at a time where she is cash strapped and open to revisiting the evidence. When she does, she realizes her testimony might have been a mistake. Driven initially by the need to make money, she agrees to sell items that belonged to her murdered family members to The Kill Club and eventually agrees to interview other people who may have been involved.

The interviews lead her on a path she couldn’t have imagined and eventually reveal the truth about the events of the night her family died. This book is a nail-biter and I absolutely loved it—so much so that I almost skipped over the March through June books to get to Gone Girl. I ultimately decided to wait since I will be on vacation in July and can’t think of a better beach companion than a deliciously scary Gillian Flynn novel. I might download Sharp Objects as well.

Now, I’m reading The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Then I’ll jump into Room by Emma Donoghue. I am a little behind but should be caught up by the end of the month.

Have you read Dark Places? What did you think?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Monday Quotable

This weekend, I had lunch with a friend and our chat inevitably moved towards disenchantment with our careers. I say inevitably because it is an ongoing conversation I have been having with most of my friends over the last 5 years or so. Our shiny, happy "I can change the world" selves have been dulled by the realization that we may have chosen the wrong careers.

It may sound normal. I mean, who doesn't have bad days (or months) at work that make them want to change jobs? But I've come to realize that it's not just bad days at work. It is a feeling that the choice we made as kids declaring "I want to be a ________ when I grow up" may have been the first step in a series of mistakes--very expensive, loan accumulating, gray hair inducing mistakes.

During our conversation, my friend told me about a new opportunity she is applying for in an effort to get back to what she really wanted to do all along--policy making. As we talked through it, she told me about how she decided to wind down her practice and apply. She was talking to another friend who recently left her lucrative job to go work at a non-profit organization for a fraction of her former salary. The conversation with her friend started with her saying "You're going to think I am crazy, but..." My friend listened and at the end of the announcement, she said "I don't think you're crazy. You're my hero." Her friend's "crazy" decision inspired her to apply for the new policy making opportunity. Her inner fire was reignited by her friend's willingness to set fear aside for career fulfillment.

It turns out fire spreads quickly. In listening to her talk about why she had to make a change, my inner spirit was rekindled. My life has become more and more about "existing." I feel largely like I am on autopilot most of the time (except weekends when I work on things I am passionate about). I work, I go home, I pay bills, I get frustrated with the state of my life and am inspired to think about the direction I want to go in to get back to truly be excited about each new day and to make a difference. Then, the next day, I go back to autopilot. Gotta make the donuts.

In all of that, the pull to serve others keeps coming up. It's not like I don't serve people in my current job but there is a bigger difference for me to make. I've been through a lot in this life and in looking at everything, it is pretty clear what I am supposed to be doing. I just needed my fire to be reignited. Today's quote is dedicated to the friends who've helped to do that.

I hope you are reignited or helping to reignite someone if you are already following your bliss/passion. Happy Monday!

*Today's photo was taken at Jockey's Ridge in the Outer Banks. I was really sick when it was taken and climbing to the place where I could get this photo was a major accomplishment. It was a turning point for me and reminded me that all things are possible with faith. It robs fear of a place to dig in its heels.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Playlist

Today's playlist has a bit of a split personality. It has pop, hip hop, rock, and dance music in rotation. The common thread is that these are the songs that make me crank up the volume lately. Yes, Kendrick Lamar, Krewella and Red belong on the same playlist in my world. It's all music and I love it. Hope you enjoy it. Happy Friday!!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Monday Quotable

Shock and shame. I missed another Monday. Sorry friends. I've been in bed battling a serious case of bronchitis over the past couple of weeks. I'm still not back at 100% but I am up am moving, which means my fingers are back on the keyboard. What better way to come back than with something focusing on the power of positive thinking? If you're having a bad day, press stop on the stream of negativity playing in your head and tell yourself how fantastic you are...because you truly are. Let that follow you through the rest of the week. Cheers!