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2017 Goals: A progress report, II.

We’re halfway through the year – how are your goals shaping up?

It’s June, and that means we’re halfway through 2017 ALREADY! When I set my goals for the year I was thinking about how so many people simply set goals on New Year’s Eve and basically never revisit them, and before they know it, the year has passed.

I don’t want that to be me this year. So, I’m going to hold myself accountable and do some progress reports on the blog. I already think this miiiiight be a little embarrassing, but maybe it will light a fire under my booty to get things moving.

I wrote a list of goals at the end of 2016, which I published here, and today I’m going to revisit this same list and tell you if I’ve made any progress on it.

Here goes:

GOAL: Start With Kindness. As you can tell by the name of this blog, I’ve spend a chunk of my life feeling sour about things that have happened to me, and choices I’ve made. But in general, I wouldn’t classify myself as bitter – I’m actually pretty kind and very giving.

In the last year, I’ve thought a lot about a kindness campaign started by my favorite radio show hosts, Johnjay & Rich. Their campaign, #LoveUp, encourages everyone to do something kind for someone else – whether big or small, and whether they need it or not. I’ve already started my own #LoveUp acts of kindness, and they’ll definitely be making appearances in 2017. 

PROGRESS: The last time I wrote this progress report, I hadn’t really done much for this goal. But this time, I’m happy to report I have. Not only have I tried to remain calm in frustrating situations, but I also ran into a fellow dancer who was short a few cents while trying to buy a protein bar. I happily put a dollar on the counter for him.

GOAL: Be a Practicing Writer. In my previous job, much of my day was spent writing. Whether or not it was stuff I actually wanted to write was not the issue, but I wrote a ton during those years. I blogged, I wrote freelance articles, I wrote books, poetry… and I really haven’t immersed myself in my craft since.

This year, I used birthday money to buy books on screenwriting, and I volunteered nearly 20 hours of my time toward the Austin Screenwriting Festival, listened to many podcasts on the craft, and have researched courses to take to learn on it – but haven’t actually DUG in there and started typing! So, I’ve got to do it – whether or not its work anyone sees, its time.

PROGRESS: I’ve totally sucked on this for ALL of 2017, and I’ll be honest, I’ve barely been able to keep up with this blog. I’m sorry!

GOAL: Just Go For It. I spend a lot of time analyzing situations and decisions, trying to figure out if I should do it or how or when or why, and frankly, it’s exhausting!

When I moved to Austin in 2015, I had basically no money, was living in an extended-stay hotel, and I spent my evenings going on “adventures” – where I’d basically just drive to a place that sounded cool and check it out, so at least I’d learn my way around the city and pick places I wanted to visit later. It was simple, fun, and it really helped shaped the way I look at the city. I’m definitely aiming for more adventures in Austin, and elsewhere, in 2017.

PROGRESS: I’m kicking this one’s ass. I’ve already booked my second vacation of the year, and I’ve even “just gone for it” in terms of medical tests that I 100% would have backed out on before. On my vacation to Vegas, I totally just went for it when my friend suggested a rollercoaster ride. It was worth it, but if I had thought about it any longer, I would have talked myself out of it.

GOAL: Act, Believe, & Receive. I’ve spent the last several years really trying to focus on myself. After years of abuse from various places, I lost myself and I was letting other people create my course. It took therapy, time, and lots of self-reflection for me to even begin to build myself up and allow me to just be me, and I’m finally starting to feel like myself again.

In these last few weeks of 2016, I’ve felt it, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So, in 2017, I’m going to act more confident, believe in myself, and receive the treatment that I deserve.

PROGRESS: This is slowly coming, although if you have ideas or tips on how to achieve this goal, I’m all for it.

GOAL: Be Intentional. As of yesterday, I started listening to “The Minimalists” podcast, and although I’m just four episodes in, I am hooked and craving for more learning on this lifestyle choice. The Minimalists are particularly two men who left corporate America (and six-figure salaries) to live simply in terms of having less things, but to also live with intention and do everything on purpose – down to drinking one perfect cup of well-made coffee instead of just guzzling another K-cup.

PROGRESS: I’m 90% of the way through cleaning my closet, and I have lots of things to giveaway. However, I have replaced many of the items to give away. I wanted to look forward to getting dressed each morning before work. Now, I am excited to see the clothes in my closet and make a choice on what to wear, based on my mood.

GOAL: Live High. Initially, I was thinking of a fantastically mellow Jason Mraz song titled as such, but then I thought of that moment at the Democratic Convention this year when Michelle Obama talked about her approach to bullies: “When they go low, we go high.” Essentially, I want to give myself permission to do things just for me. I do a pretty good job already of having no shame for watching hours of TV each week (hell, each night), but I want to do a better job of encorporating happy and healthy habits into my life, and not apologizing for them.

PROGRESS: Eh, this one still needs work. However, I have been trying to make time for me in the form of a weekly soak in the tub, making time for a nice facial mask several times a week, and had a nice manicure and pedicure about a month ago. It felt wonderful!

GOAL: Choose (& Plan for) Your Destiny! This started as kind of a joke between me, and well, myself, because someone told me earlier this year: “Everything that happens to you is because you let it. You choose your destiny.” In the way it was delivered to me, it seemed more of a way to avoid blame, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it in all areas of my life.

Spent my Saturday working? Well that was obviously the destiny that I chose. No more being a victim; no more going along for the ride. We choose our destinies! 

PROGRESS: Yes – I’m still living by this motto, but it’s a constant effort, and I’m sure I’ll be reminding myself of this rule a time or two.

…So, it’s safe to say I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I’m also doing okay. What are your goals for 2017 and how are they coming along? It’s certainly not too late to jump on them and cross some big items off your to-do list before the year is over!

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2017 Goals: A progress report.

Just doooooo it!

Just doooooo it!

It’s March 1st, and that means we’re a quarter of the way through 2017 ALREADY! When I set my goals for the year I was thinking about how so many people simply set goals on New Year’s Eve and basically never revisit them, and before they know it, the year has passed.

I don’t want that to be me this year. So, I’m going to hold myself accountable and do some progress reports on the blog. I already think this miiiiight be a little embarrassing, but maybe it will light a fire under my booty to get things moving.

I wrote a list of goals at the end of 2016, which I published here, and today I’m going to revisit this same list and tell you if I’ve made any progress on it.

Here goes:

GOAL: Start With Kindness. As you can tell by the name of this blog, I’ve spend a chunk of my life feeling sour about things that have happened to me, and choices I’ve made. But in general, I wouldn’t classify myself as bitter – I’m actually pretty kind and very giving.

In the last year, I’ve thought a lot about a kindness campaign started by my favorite radio show hosts, Johnjay & Rich. Their campaign, #LoveUp, encourages everyone to do something kind for someone else – whether big or small, and whether they need it or not. I’ve already started my own #LoveUp acts of kindness, and they’ll definitely be making appearances in 2017. 

PROGRESS: I’ll be honest. I haven’t gone out of my way to buy someone coffee or anything. But, I have thought every day about putting kindness first. Sometimes it just means stopping by the front desk at my office and asking our receptionist how she is doing, or making sure I tell someone when they did really great, or asking someone if they need help with anything. Maybe I’m just tooting my own horn, but these little things go a long way.

GOAL: Be a Practicing Writer. In my previous job, much of my day was spent writing. Whether or not it was stuff I actually wanted to write was not the issue, but I wrote a ton during those years. I blogged, I wrote freelance articles, I wrote books, poetry… and I really haven’t immersed myself in my craft since.

This year, I used birthday money to buy books on screenwriting, and I volunteered nearly 20 hours of my time toward the Austin Screenwriting Festival, listened to many podcasts on the craft, and have researched courses to take to learn on it – but haven’t actually DUG in there and started typing! So, I’ve got to do it – whether or not its work anyone sees, its time.

PROGRESS: I’ve totally sucked on this, and I’ll be honest, I’ve barely been able to keep up with this blog. I’m sorry!

GOAL: Just Go For It. I spend a lot of time analyzing situations and decisions, trying to figure out if I should do it or how or when or why, and frankly, it’s exhausting!

When I moved to Austin in 2015, I had basically no money, was living in an extended-stay hotel, and I spent my evenings going on “adventures” – where I’d basically just drive to a place that sounded cool and check it out, so at least I’d learn my way around the city and pick places I wanted to visit later. It was simple, fun, and it really helped shaped the way I look at the city. I’m definitely aiming for more adventures in Austin, and elsewhere, in 2017.

PROGRESS: I’m kicking this one’s ass. I took a new job two weeks into 2017 and it’s working out great! I’ve already performed on stage this year, I’ve booked a vacation, and I’ve signed up to walk for charity (I do still need people on my team). I know there are tons of adventures around the corner for me this year!

GOAL: Act, Believe, & Receive. I’ve spent the last several years really trying to focus on myself. After years of abuse from various places, I lost myself and I was letting other people create my course. It took therapy, time, and lots of self-reflection for me to even begin to build myself up and allow me to just be me, and I’m finally starting to feel like myself again.

In these last few weeks of 2016, I’ve felt it, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So, in 2017, I’m going to act more confident, believe in myself, and receive the treatment that I deserve.

PROGRESS: This is slowly coming, although if you have ideas or tips on how to achieve this goal, I’m all for it.

GOAL: Be Intentional. As of yesterday, I started listening to “The Minimalists” podcast, and although I’m just four episodes in, I am hooked and craving for more learning on this lifestyle choice. The Minimalists are particularly two men who left corporate America (and six-figure salaries) to live simply in terms of having less things, but to also live with intention and do everything on purpose – down to drinking one perfect cup of well-made coffee instead of just guzzling another K-cup.

PROGRESS: You may have read my blog post yesterday on minimalism. It’s true, I’ve slowly started to clean out my apartment, but I’ve been really good about NOT shopping (which leaves more money for experiences like concerts and trips), and only buying things I need, when I need them (i.e. not stocking up on coffee when I have plenty at home). It’s nice!

GOAL: Live High. Initially, I was thinking of a fantastically mellow Jason Mraz song titled as such, but then I thought of that moment at the Democratic Convention this year when Michelle Obama talked about her approach to bullies: “When they go low, we go high.” Essentially, I want to give myself permission to do things just for me. I do a pretty good job already of having no shame for watching hours of TV each week (hell, each night), but I want to do a better job of encorporating happy and healthy habits into my life, and not apologizing for them.

PROGRESS: Eh, this needs work. Between adjusting to my new job and to the new president – things are a little rough. But, I have been on a really healthy diet for the last five weeks and I feel good about that.

GOAL: Choose (& Plan for) Your Destiny! This started as kind of a joke between me, and well, myself, because someone told me earlier this year: “Everything that happens to you is because you let it. You choose your destiny.” In the way it was delivered to me, it seemed more of a way to avoid blame, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it in all areas of my life.

Spent my Saturday working? Well that was obviously the destiny that I chose. No more being a victim; no more going along for the ride. We choose our destinies! 

PROGRESS: Yes – I’m still living by this motto, but it’s a constant effort, and I’m sure I’ll be reminding myself of this rule a time or two.

…So, it’s safe to say I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I’m also doing okay. What are your goals for 2017 and how are they coming along? It’s certainly not too late to jump on them and cross some big items off your to-do list before the year is over!

Living your dreams… with a day job?

Truth bomb!

Truth bomb!

At the beginning of the month, I got an email with the subject line that read: Does a day job mean giving up on my dreams?

It was an email newsletter from Marie Forleo, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker (named as the thought leader of our generation by Oprah) whom I’ve been following for the last two years.

The body of the email talked about the problem of a specific person, who had been trying to make a business work, but wasn’t quite making enough money to pay the bills. But if she took a regular job, would that mean tossing out her dreams?

There was a video attached, because if you follow Marie, you know she truly excels in front of the camera. What followed was an hour-long (free) training called “How to Get Anything You Want”.

I listened immediately.

Before I go any further, I’ll explain that I’ve toyed with this idea of “Dream vs. Career” for pretty much the last 10 years of my life. I have always either worked two jobs, or had a job and freelance on the side, or had a job and wrote this blog on the side… all because there was something my day job wasn’t fulfilling in me, whether it was enough money or the social environment or creative freedom, something was missing.

And things are finally getting to the point where I’m not sure how much longer I can go just imagining my dreams. It’s time I got off my ass and actually made them a reality.

So, Marie’s training came to me at a great time. She started off by talking about how everyone has dreams, but not many people actually attempt to go after them because they’re so afraid of failure (totally me).

Realizing your dreams; even just writing them down on a piece of paper in a hidden drawer, makes them real, and puts yourself out there. So, the first step is gathering that courage to define your dreams.

As silly as it sounds, this may be the most difficult part for me. Why? Because I have SO many dreams. I don’t want to let any of them go, even though I know I can’t live them all. I want to live in Los Angeles AND New York and not at the same time; I want to go to London; I want to take an Alaskan cruise; I want to write for Vulture or The Cut; I want to write a made-for-TV screenplay; sometimes, I just want to choreograph dances for the local high school pom squad and other days I want to have a guest spot with the Laker Girls. I kind of want to go to culinary school, or maybe just write a TV series, all until John Mayer finally swoops me up and I can just live Montana cabin life and write his blog for him.

I know, I sound like a crazy person. So, I’m still working through step one (I’m using my holiday weekend to get some of my thoughts organized). Overall, though, I know I want to empower and motivate others, and I know I want to do that through my writing and through teaching others how to write and publish their own blogs, to get the fulfillment that I have gotten.

Marie talked next about a woman who really wanted to write a book and have it be published. But as soon as she wrote this goal down and committed her life to making it happen, life got in the way BIG TIME for her. She had family problems, and major financial problems… basically all signs pointing to “no!” But, she kept on and wrote her book. And once it was finished, she sent it to publishers. And they, too, told her NO. Even the publisher that eventually told her yes, told her to keep her day job because she wouldn’t see enough money from the book.

That woman, of course, was J.K. Rowling, and the book was the first installment of Harry Potter. And look how that turned out!

Now I know, we can’t all turn out like Ms. Rowling, but I have always loved that story. Anyone can make their dreams come true, and Marie was using that story to say that once you absolutely commit to something, it can happen.

That’s why you have to make your goal as specific and concrete as possible (again, not easy). Because once you fully commit to this goal, other goals have to take a backseat (heart = broken).

So, if you’re feeling me and doing this exercise, you get a clean piece of paper and write down your dream. “What I really want is…”

And it doesn’t have to be something career-related. It could be a project at home; losing weight; running a marathon; learning a skill; traveling to an exotic place; saving money, etc. Whatever you truly want!

Once you define what you want, write the WHY. And while I know I’m still defining my wants, I know the why. I need creative freedom and fulfillment, and I don’t want to necessary be strapped by the daily office grind.

Next, make a list of all the excuses you’re going to tell yourself as to why you can’t achieve your goal – such as, “I can’t afford it”, “There’s not enough time”, or “I live in the wrong city”.

Next, debunk all of those excuses with a solution. According to Marie, time and money are the top two excuses we use on ourselves, and they can be solved if we just try. The time one is definitely one I’ve heard a lot from other people over the years – when I had a second job or wrote books or maintained this blog, my coworkers would say they didn’t understand how I had the time.

But time is the great equalizer; we all have 24 hours in a day. And yes, I know Beyonce and Oprah have full staffs to keep their empires going, but you control how you spend YOUR 24 hours. Do you spend it researching, reading, at the gym, etc. doing what you have to do to reach your goals, or do you spend it sleeping?

If you can’t find ways to solve your potential excuses, there’s a chance you just don’t want it bad enough. And that’s okay, time to seek the next dream! Because if you want it, you will make the time. Use this as a way to become more self-aware; see how many times you tell yourself you can’t, and then look at your list of solutions to keep things moving.

And finally, you’ve got to keep the faith. Be your biggest cheerleader, and be ready to pick yourself up when the course changes, because it will.

So, all of that to say, that this has what’s been on my mind for the last few weeks. I’m 100% certain you’ll be hearing more about it, because I’ve got to put my dreams into the universe if I think they’re ever going to become real.

I’d love to know about your dreams. Maybe you’re living them already, and how did you get there? How do you keep yourself going? I’m ready to jump into a supportive community right away!

But first, turkey (amirite?).

Hopping back into it!

Hello healthy life!

Hello healthy life!

Whew! It has been MONTHS full of stress, budgeting, cutting corners, adulting, working on the weekends, and all sorts of other non-fun things, and I’m happy to say that it’s finally, pretty much over. CELEBRATE!

I paid off my taxes, got my driver’s license and Texas plates, and even took Blanche to the vet for a checkup, and then I went on a much-needed beach vacation where I ate fried foods and drank lots of beer. It was incredible, and although I’m not thrilled to be back at work, I am happy to be back to a life I like: one with a friendlier budget.

My tight budget unfortunately involved eating more processed foods, and in return, I wasn’t feeling great. So, I’m happy to say that I’m back to organic, fresh foods, and it’s happening at the perfect time! The dance studio where I regularly go is having it’s showcase in six weeks, where I will be perforning a stiletto routine.

And so – this six weeks I’m hitting the dance studio hard, and I’m also eating as healthy as possible in order to hit the stage in November feeling confident and well.

Truthfully, I enjoy eating healthy. I think healthy foods are delicious, and I’m often too cheap to eat out. Plus, I enjoy cooking. My true weakness? The snacks at work. There are always chips, cookies, muffins, and other indulgences in the office that I don’t keep at home.

To combat this, I stocked my pantry with healthy snacks I enjoy such as almonds, individual packs of dried fruit and nuts, and organic popcorn. I’m making it a priority to pack these types of things in my lunch box so I can crunch on them instead of greasy chips or sweets. I know it’s still going to be a challenge, but once I get started, I think I’ll be okay.

I was also worried about the fact that I JUST discovered a vietnamese restaurant across the street from my apartment – it’s delicious and inexpensive. However, I looked up the nutritional value for my normal order: a vermicelli noodle bowl with grilled shrimp, and a side of egg rolls.

According to My Fitness Pal, as long as I swap the side of egg rolls for spring rolls (which aren’t fried), I’ll actually be eating something pretty healthy. If you’re not aware, one of these bowls is simply rice noodles with raw veggies and a choice of meat. There’s a small side cup of oil, but I mainly just use sriracha as a “dressing”. If you can get your chopsticks on one of these things, you will thank me. I swear.

The other side of this, is alcohol. I pretty much stopped drinking during my budget crisis for two reasons: 1. I couldn’t afford it, and 2. it was doing nothing for my depression. I’m not going to sit here and say I won’t enjoy a glass of wine on a Saturday night, but I won’t be doing any drinking during the week, or excessively at all. I’m in it to win it, folks – a rejuvenation of the mind, body, and soul.

Of course, I’ll be documenting my journey along the way, and if you’ve got any tips for me, I’d love to hear them!

Monday motivation: ‘Charlie Mike’ & glittery farts.

I'm freeeeeee!

I’m freeeeeee!

“I feel like a majority of my life is me just pretending like I don’t hate everything.” Sad, but true, I told my friend about a month ago.

I’m in a constant search of happiness, and I’ll be searching until I find it. As I mentioned before, I’m still obsessed with listening to podcasts and many of the ones I like are motivational; whether that be blatant or underlying.

I was catching up on The Jillian Michaels’ Show a few weeks ago during a road trip and she was talking about how she’s a control freak, and if something goes wrong that’s out of her control, she’s still going to feel like people are blaming her. She also has issues moving on (sounds familiar…).

She said she started working with a former Navy Seal, and he gets through these types of challenges by “Charlie Mike”. Huh? Charlie Mike. Complete the Mission. Do the best you can do with what you have in order to complete the mission.

You can listen to the entire episode here, but I think that phrase alone is pretty motivational.

It’s sort of weird to talk about motivation, but it’s really the only way for me to get through each day. Some days I feel incredibly READY to just tackle whatever comes. I get this jolt of energy, whether it’s used to go to work and knock out a bunch of tasks, or staying up late to clean my house; those days feel good.

But I’ll tell you this: every Sunday from about 2pm on, I dread the upcoming work week. Like really bad. Then I stay up really late on Sunday to avoid Monday as much as possible. Then on Monday, I’m a slug, and I’ll admit; I sometimes put off starting big tasks because I just don’t feel like it.

I start the countdown to Friday on Monday. Every Thursday night, I think MAN, I’m soooo glad tomorrow is Friday! And Friday at 5:30, I bust out of that office like it’s on fire. And why? Over the weekend, I got to thinking about why I love the weekend so much.

After all, I’m an adult, I can do what I want during the week; it’s not like I’ve got my parents telling me I’ve got to go to bed early. But, I get it, the work day really takes it out of me, and I usually go to dance until at least 8pm, so the weekdays are pretty much planned for me.

As soon as Friday night hits, I can do WHATEVER I want for an entire two days. That could be a cool dinner, a shopping trip, or like this weekend, I did lots of gardening (planted tomatoes and basil), went to a hockey game, and saw a movie. It was fantastic! If I want to, I can do nothing, I can lay in bed and watch homemade Daria marathons and roll around in my sweatpants. Its freedom.

Which brings me to another podcast I listened to last week, “Monocycle” by Leandra Medine at Manrepeller. The episode, “Saturday is a State of Mind“, and she talks a lot about the construct of time. She speaks the truth in that, on Thursdays, we’re so fueled by the IDEA of Saturday approaching, that we power through, and by Friday, “You’re so happy that you’re literally farting glitter.”

Is it the anticipation that we’re craving? Is there a way we can bottle that Saturday feeling and drink it when we’re feeling like shit on a Monday afternoon? Leandra talks about things we can do to help ease the woes of the week, including making Sunday fun instead of moping around, drinking extra delicious coffee on Monday or tackling the big things so the rest of the week is easy.

I don’t know if these things will necessarily work for me, but I’m down to take ideas. I currently take a pretty fun dance class on Monday nights, so that’s a start. But perhaps I should buy special coffee just for Mondays, or plan to always wear a bright color to kick off the week, or take myself to lunch.

One thing that’s inspired me for years is this video that came with a digital John Mayer album I bought many years ago. It was a short, acoustic album, and it featured this video of the making of the son, “In Repair” (which I love). The gist? He goes into the studio in the morning with no song; comes out that night having written the lyrics, song, and even recorded it. This motivates me like I cannot even understand:

I definitely don’t want to live my life just looking forward to two days a week. I want to look forward to every day; even if it’s anticipating something small, like a special dinner or a movie during the week. What about you? Do you do something special to make the weekdays a little more like a Saturday? I’d love to hear it; I need some cool ideas to make my entire week a fun one!

Survival Guide: Dieting.

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

We’re well into March, which means if you had a New Year’s Resolution of “sticking to a healthy diet,” then you’ve probably crashed and burned a few times by now.

And no, it’s not that I don’t have faith in you! I just know that making changes, especially when it comes to food (delicious food) is very difficult.

But, I’ll share what’s worked for me. And of course, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for everyone, but perhaps it will. And if you’ve got ideas that I haven’t mentioned here, I’d love to hear them!

  1. Remember the “Why.” There’s a reason you decided to eat healthy and even get on a diet — so go back to that. Maybe it was a picture of yourself five years ago. The looming swimsuit season. A doctor’s recommendation. Your kids. Whatever the reason, remember that, and let it inspire you. If you need to make a note and tape it on your fridge, do that!

    Survive a squat hold!

    Survive a squat hold!

  2. Find inspiration. Everyone gets inspired by different things. Pictures of hot guys really inspire me to get my butt to the gym. Fact: when we have to do “squat holds” in boxing class, I always picture Justin Bieber. Shirtless. Whatever works for you, do it, think it, put a picture of it on your phone — it can be your little secret.
  3. Cater to you. Not every diet plan works for every person. Some people love Paleo, I really didn’t. Some people like Atkins; I’ve never tried it. I think it’s important to find something that works for you, and that’s a matter of clearing the outside noise from your mind. Take things slow. If you eat fast food every day, even a small change of grilled meats and veggies is going to make a big difference. If you’re ready to make another change in a month, then do it.
  4. Allow freedom. This is the toughest part, but the second you tell yourself you can’t have chocolate, you’re going to want JUST chocolate. So, allow a cheat meal, or maybe a cheat day — whatever is going to work for you. If you box yourself into a strict plan, you’ll resent yourself and the diet. Then? You’ll quit the healthy foods altogether.
  5. Get creative. My favorite part about healthy eating is discovering things that are healthy, but are so delicious. Don’t be afraid to try new things! When I did Paleo, I craved sweets, but I ended up finding these dates rolled in unsweetened coconut… that tasted like fig newtons. They were a fabulous treat that felt like a cheat but weren’t! Find recipes you love all the time and see what twists you can give them to make them fit your new guidelines. You’ll find that there’s lots of healthy, delicious options for you.

Need recipe ideas? Here’s a few of my favorites:

Pic of the Week.

Look at my sad little Blackberry.

Look at my sad little Blackberry.

For Valentine’s Day, I treated myself to a gold iPhone 6. But of course, it’s not just any gold iPhone 6 — it is my first iPhone, ever. Seriously.

For the past… Oh, seven years, I’ve had various Blackberry Curves. And before that, I rocked a Sidekick like a boss.

Truthfully, I started using a Mac in high school when I wrote for the school newspaper (Triangle, where you at?). When I got to college, and started working for their newspaper, they used Macs, too. I pretty much fell in love, bought a MacBook, an iPod, and later, an iPad.

But I could not give up the Crack…Blackberry. After all, crack is whack. Thanks, Whitney.

However, in the last year of having the Blackberry, it just wasn’t jiving well with my career needs. As a blogger, editor, journalist, and digital media guru, I need a mobile device that’s going to handle the crazy amount of emails I get, in order to keep the business alive.

And how am I supposed to claim I’m a social media expert when I don’t have Instagram (I do now, @Orangejulius7), or access to hot new apps?

The iPhone was really not even a luxury, but more of a necessity. Nonetheless, it was beautiful when it arrived on my doorstep in its sleek, white box. And the fingerprint detection? Money. So money.

As of now, I can do basic things on it, I’ve successfully used Siri’s help once, but other than that I feel completely clueless as to how to use the damn thing.

And as an actual phone, like, to call people, it completely sucks. If anyone knows the trick to this, that’d be a tremendous help.

And yes, I know I sound like a complete dinosaur. For the past few years, I’ve really tried top my technology game — I bought a new car, a subscription to Sirius radio, a camera for blogging purposes, and a voice recorder for interviewing accuracy.

But anyone that knows anything is aware that technology is ever-changing, and if you don’t keep up, it’s a long game of catchup to play, right before the new thing comes out.

In any case, I need YOUR help! Give me your iPhone tips, tricks, fun apps, games, cool people to follow on Instagram, and whatever else you think I need to know to survive!

Halp.

Workout playlist.

Fit-speration.

Fit-speration.

If you had a New Year’s resolution to workout more, get fit, lose weight, etc., now’s probably the time you’re losing a little steam on the motivation front, right? Because of my career-change, my schedule changed with it, and I took a solid month (okay, more like five weeks) off in order to adjust.

But, for the last month, I’ve been back at it, hitting the gym 3-4 times a week. Most of the time, I’m able to take a kickboxing class, but sometimes I just have to snag a bike or a treadmill and get some movement in.

A lot of people tell me they wish they were as motivated as I am. I’ll tell you this: I don’t think I’m more motivated than the next. I still have to convince myself to go to the gym. But you know what? The gym only takes an hour or so out of my day (3-4 hours out of my whole week), and it helps me perform better in other areas of my life — I can actually stand on my feet for an 8-hour shift at work, and I sleep better when I’m on a regular workout regimen. And working out helps me make healthier food choices: I don’t want to ruin the hours I put in at the gym just for a greasy meal.

On the days when I’ve got to come up with my own workout, I can say that music helps me push through it when I don’t have a trainer motivating me. I pick songs that make me want to dance, and sometimes, dancing in my living room IS my workout! I really like to get into the singing part, too, so sorry neighbors. Here are some songs I’ve been burning calories to lately, and who knows, maybe they’ll help you, too! Got any good songs I should add to my list? Let me know!

Confident by Justin Bieber

Don’t hate! Everyone knows I’ve got a super crush on The Biebs, and just about ANY one of his songs gets my blood pumpin’, but this one has a fantastic beat. If I could properly pop-n-lock, I would. Instead I just pedal really fast.

Crazy by Kat Dahlia 

This is the first I’ve heard from Kat Dahlia, and I’m loving it! This song has great lyrics (“Is it crazy that I keep your shirt right here, just to smell your cologne?”), and a mix of hip-hop and pop. I love her raspy voice, too!

High Society by Betty Who

This one’s a little slower, so it might be good for a cool-down, however it’s still hella fun! It reminds me of an 80’s song — and I love 80’s dance music. If you like this song, check out her entire collection; it’s all fantastic!

2 On by Tinashe

This one never gets old. I’ve pretty much got no idea what it means (something drug related), but I love the beat and how it changes up throughout the song. It makes me want to wear red lipstick — while I’m working out!

This is How We Do by Katy Perry 

This one’s a tad cheesy, but it reminds me of being in college, and in college… I danced a lot at Fred’s (NO shame!). Which means, I’ve got no problem getting my dance on to this one!

Love More by Chris Brown, feat. Nicki Manaj

Chris Brown — my guilty pleasure! I know he’s a bad boy, but I just love his music — dance worthy, for sure. This one also has an awesome breakdown with Nicki, and once you see the video, you won’t be able to get these dance moves out of your head.

Lip Are Movin by Meghan Trainor 

Everyone dogs on Meghan Trainor, but her songs are fun, flirty, and they get stuck in my head. I definitely love the beat of this one; perfect for dancing in the kitchen and/or running on the treadmill.

A Milli by Lil Wayne 

An oldie but a goodie! This is one of my favorite Weezy songs (Go DJ is my favorite) because I love the cocky lyrics, plus it has a fantastic beat with heavy bass that I love cranking up in my car (CATCH me at a red light when this is on). It’s a good one to listen to pre-workout — there’s just no way you can sit still to this one.

Work Bitch by Britney Spears 

Is there a workout playlist that DOESN’T feature Britney? Okay, probably, but she’s fun, plus, listening to this gets me thinking about the killer shape she’s in… and I want abs like Britney has!

Beautiful by Mali Music

This is definitely a slower song, but I am obsessed! I love sweet songs, and this one is like a love ballad put to a beat. I heard this one at work about a month ago, and I always get so amped when it comes on. Get a few vinyasas in with this one!

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The heart at home.

Photo from Columbus North High School Student Body President @Vince_Grana

Photo from Columbus North High School Student Body President @Vince_Grana

One of the best parts about my job as a journalist is being able to meet all kinds of different people; hear their stories; their struggles and triumphs. In the mix, I often end up in spots I wouldn’t normally be.

A few weeks ago, I was in a flower shop, talking to a man as he made corsages. He had a stack of “about 50” corsages and boutonnieres to make for a local school’s winter formal the following day. As I watched, I remembered my high school dances, my dates (very rare), and that oh-so-awkward moment of exchanging corsages and boutonnieres — I always made my mom pin it on the guy.

“I’ve kept all of my corsages,” I admitted. He gave me the one-eyebrow.

“Seriously?” he asked.

Yes, of course I had. Those were moments I treasured. Sometimes, thinking about the past really gets in my way. When I find myself drifting back, I attempt to put the thoughts away, and focus on the present. Don’t keep living in the past, right?

What’s interesting about my bouts of reminiscing, is that of course, I hated everything when it was happening. Growing up in Columbus, Indiana was so lame at the time — though I did enjoy cruising on country roads.

To me, to us, Columbus didn’t have a clue. There was a bigger world outside of “The Bus” and I was going to find it, conquer it, and never look at Columbus again. But when I moved to Louisiana, I quickly realized the things I took for granted.

At Columbus North High School, I got a fantastic education. One that would cost a Baton Rougean thousands of dollars (seriously). At a school where I felt like I didn’t really fit in, I got plenty of opportunities to express myself — through dance, through the school newspaper, and through freedom of dress.

When I moved, I quickly missed the comforts of Columbus’ chain restaurant diet — Steak n’ Shake and Red Lobster were top on my list. And did you know that more people cram themselves into the Columbus North gym to see the Bulldogs play ball than at Louisiana State University?

I wasn’t sure if it was just the corsages that brought on my memories; after all, I’ve thought a lot about what it was like to be “young” lately, perhaps it’s just my looming 30th birthday. But then I caught a glance of #JoshStrong on my Twitter feed.

From my trail of research, I gathered that one of our own, a Columbus North High School senior, Josh Speidel, was severely injured in a car crash. At the time of this writing, Speidel has been in the hospital for five days, asleep, as the doctors attempt to keep his brain from swelling.

Though there haven’t been many details released about the crash, or his injuries, I know that scenario all too well. As a Columbus North High School student, I got phone calls with bad news too many times.

During those times of loss or stress, pre-social media, we did anything possible to deal with our grief. We wrote on tree stumps and sidewalks. We wore matching t-shirts at the big game. We asked the announcer for moments of silence.

Facebook appeared when I was a freshman in college, and it changed my college experience. I have always wondered what it’s been like for youth in this social-media age. High school was tough enough without crafting status updates and posting Friday night photo albums.

But when I see #JoshStrong, a hashtag I’ve been obsessively following, I see my hometown rising up, rallying behind Speidel and his family. It’s a sight that — even from afar — gives me chills. Naturally, Speidel’s friends and family have taken to social media to post their thoughts, and any medical updates on his current state.

But it’s more than that.

From what I’ve read, Speidel is that guy. You know the one. The basketball star (he currently holds the record for scoring), good in school, all-around good guy. He’s the kind of guy I totally would have crushed on in high school, just hoping for a wave in the hallway that I’d dream about for weeks.

A verbal-commit for Vermont, his future team and coach sent him a get well message that went viral. Then, Columbus North students put together a pasta dinner in the school cafeteria to raise money for his medical bills — raising more than $8,000.

Then there was the game against Hamilton Southeastern — the first game the Bulldogs would play without their star. And Hamilton Southeastern showed up wearing Speidel’s number. Even the hometown rival, Columbus East, wore blue (Bulldog colors) in support of North. The cheerleaders got the whole gym in a “Josh Strong” chant.

It’s not a moment I’ve seen at a college game.

It’s made me think a lot about my hometown; a place that’s somehow risen above a significant amount of loss over the years. I sure would trade a lot to spend another Friday night in that gym, for the big game against East.

To CNHS, if you’re reading this, I know everyone is telling you not to grow up quite so fast. And maybe, you’re thinking of leaving and never looking back. Getting out there is good, but I know you’ll miss something about it once you’ve jumped on 65, or hit the hills for Bloomington.

So before you go, get one more pineapple-Sprite from Zaharako’s. Sink your heals into the midnight sand at the Marina. Cruise Washington, windows down, at sunset. Tell me you don’t fall in love.

Columbus ain’t bad. But I realized it ten years too late. I’m really hoping Speidel makes it out okay. I want to know what it’s like when he sees how he’s affected his town for the better. #JoshStrong is what happens when hearts of children rally for one of their own.

That is love.

Contribute to the Speidel family here

Pic of the Week.

Hey, I got some new shoes on and suddenly everything's right.

Hey, I got some new shoes on and suddenly everything’s right.

I’ve been on The Hunt for comfortable flats to wear to work since I started in retail three months ago. At my previous job, I spent lots of time in a chair, so wearing incredibly high heels was pretty easy. I only had two pair of flats in my closet.

Truth be told, I don’t really like wearing flats — they aren’t flattering on my feet, nor my stumpy legs, and let’s face it: I could use a few extra inches in the height department. But it’s impossible to work comfortably for 6-9 hour shifts wearing wedges (trust me, I’ve been doing it for awhile now).

So I was on the lookout for cute, fashionable, versatile, and extremely comfortable shoes to wear to work. And yes, I know, I work AT a shoe store, so how was this a difficult task? Well, there aren’t many flats where I work — mainly heels. And the flats we do have… I’m not sure they can withstand the pressure. Plus, even with the discount, they’re out of my budget.

My other dilemma? I don’t have loads to time to find these said perfect shoes. But alas! Friday, I was off work at 2pm for the day, and I faced the rainy, cold weather to shoe hunt at a few more stores. At store #1, I found tons of cute ones to try on, but for some reason I couldn’t find the right fit.

Instead, I found a new iPad case, a few fun beauty products, and some clearance coffee (I couldn’t resist). On to the next!

Excuse me.

Excuse me.

The next stop was Burlington Coat Factory. If you’re not regularly shopping here, you really need to hop to it. I’ve gotten a few fabulous coats there for under $50, and they always have a great selection of shoes and accessories for great prices.

It was there I found not one, but two, TWO, pairs of shoes to fit all of my needs. The first pair is very similar to some styles we’ve got in the store — black, lace-up boots (by Skechers). They look cool, conveniently zip up the side, and are super comfy. And because…. Daria.

The second pair are little lace-up faux suede oxford-style flats (by XOXO), complete with tiny rhinestones on the stitching. I purchased BOTH pair for under $50. That’s what I’m talking about!

I wore my new boots for a 6.5-hour shift on Saturday, and the oxford shoes during my 8-hour Sunday shift, and my feet were extremely comfortable (I used my gel insoles both days, of course).

It’s amazing how much better work can be when you’re not trying to avoid being on your feet (I do that whole lean-back-on-your-heels-type-thing that doesn’t really work). Something else that’s helped my feet? An invigorating foot mask by Spa Life, and massaging a little lavender lotion on them before bed. You’re welcome, tootsies.

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Pic of the Week.

Excuse my finger-printed iPad.

Excuse my finger-printed iPad.

I’ve got a TON on my mind this week, so grab a cup of coffee. For starters, this whole to-do list thing is really working out for me! For some reason (and this has always been the case for me), if it’s on a list, I will not rest until the list is completely checked off. So, I feel like I’ve been able to accomplish a lot in just a week!

As per my New Year’s resolutions, I wanted to do more for me this year, including hitting the gym and/or yoga studio simply for some mental clarity, and I also wanted to read more, and see more movies. So far, I went to the gym three times last week, saw a movie (a few weeks ago, The Gambler, if you’re wondering), and I cannot seem to go ANYWHERE without my iPad because I’m reading the digital version of Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” — and it is GOOD. So good.

One thing I never anticipated I’d have to deal with in 2015 is toxicity among my peers. This could be due to the fact that I’ve never been one to really stand up for myself, but nonetheless, I cannot deal with toxic people. I’ll explain.

Since I lost my job, it seems like some people have no idea what to say to me regarding this fact. And I completely understand that, it was a weird situation. The key word being was. That happened more than two months ago, and while yes, I wanted to share it with you on the blog, it doesn’t mean that I want to talk about it anymore, or at all.

I don’t appreciate getting messages from people saying it’s difficult for them not to see me in the office, that they’re going to counseling because they can’t let go of it, or asking me if I’m going to take legal action, if I need them to buy me essential items since I’m probably broke, or sending me frowning emojis when I tell them no, I haven’t gotten a “real” job yet. These are the same people that refuse to talk to me about anything else in my life.

While I understand that these statements are probably coming from a place of good, it brings up negativity for me. What happened was terrible and it sucked, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve got to focus on the work I DO have, and figure it out from there. And if you really want the truth, spare me the details on how bad it hurts YOU that I lost my job; how do you think it made me feel? And since I don’t have insurance, I had to give up my counselor, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

What I do know is that when someone is going through difficult times, positivity is always a good idea. Listen when they need to vent. Offer advice when they ask. And tell them that everything is going to be okay — because everything IS going to be okay.

The funny thing is, if these people dared to ask me what’s going on in my life, they’d find that there’s actually a lot of good going on! I was recently promoted at the shoe store, so now I am a key holder and get to lead the sales team. While it’s not my dream job, it feels really good that after working there for just six weeks, my managers have seen my hard work and they know they can count on me.

I’ve never gotten a promotion in my life (okay, maybe one, in college)! I worked at my old job for almost seven years and really never saw much appreciation for what I did, so this feels really nice.

I have also gotten to work on some great freelance projects these last few weeks. I do a lot of web writing and book editing for clients across the country, and I don’t know what’s in the air, but the work has been piling up. And more work = more bills that can be paid. To top it off, I turned in my first article for a very respected publication in the local area, and they loved it, so I’m really excited to make my publication debut this week (I bought myself this adorable purse to celebrate, got it for $40 at Ross).

I realized that I’m doing it — I’m surviving without my old job, my old life. And while that job provided a lot for me, it was also drowning at times. I’m seeing that I can thrive when things are not perfect, and that’s precisely what this blog has been about from day one: turning lemons into lemonade; making any situation yours for the taking.

Aside from these great things that have been happening, it’s also nice that the “normal” things in my former life that I loved are slowly coming back — my gym routine, books, catching up on reality TV, bargain shopping trips, meal planning, at-home manis and pedis, and I’m still getting together with my friend every week for Girl’s Night, to cook and drink bottles of wine.

It’s kind of like the pages of a gossip magazine — Stars, they’re just like us! Look at Holly, she goes to the grocery! She goes to the gym! She has brunch! My life is actually pretty normal; it’s very similar to what it used to be, I just have a slightly different schedule (and my checks come from about 20 different places).

I’m not saying any of this to be rude, or selfish, and I appreciate all of the kind words I’ve received from anyone. I understand that it’s difficult for most people to even think about what it’d be like if something like this happened to them — but always keep it positive. And if you’re in the thick of it, keep your head up, no matter what.

This morning, there’s a calm I can’t explain, the rock candy’s melted, only diamonds now remain.

— John Mayer, Clarity 

Pic of the Week

The last issue of House & Home

The last issue of House & Home

Wow, it’s the LAST pic of the week for 2014! It’s hard to believe I actually have 52 pictures that represent my year — one full of nothing and something all at once. I really thought I was going to have something representative for this last one, but when this magazine came to my mailbox, I knew it had to be a part of my picture collection.

The magazine itself was no surprise, as it comes every month. The surprise was that on the cover, it said it was the “Farewell” issue. What?

Inside, sure enough, was a goodbye letter from it’s Founder and Editor, Nancy. I swear I’m not emotional about all publications (although print publication DOES hold a pretty big place in my heart), but this is one that I wrote for… for a few years.

I applied for a contributing writer position to House & Home several years ago when my then-job was doing lay-offs. I had no financial stability, a very tiny savings account, and I was scared to death. I was looking for any work that would help me save some money. Luckily, House & Home answered my call.

While I’ve always had an interest in homes and interior decor, I didn’t know much about it. So, when I had my first interview with homebuilders, I didn’t even know what to ask! I got humble and told them the truth: that I wasn’t sure what I was doing.

They were polite and helped me, and before I knew it, I could tell the difference between concrete slab flooring and tumbled travertine. I came to admire various veins in marble countertops, and learned to write 2,000-word stories out of bathroom designs.

It was the first time I’d ever seen my stories on the cover of a magazine, and it was a beautiful, glossy one. It was really a pleasure writing for House & Home, and I was lucky enough to do it for many years. It filled my portfolio with more stories, and the paychecks helped me save money during a time of financial stress. I am really grateful for that job.

While it’s saddening to see the publication go, I admire Nancy for making such a tough decision. I’m learning every day how to let things go as gracefully as possible. I feel like I’ve said a lot of goodbyes this year — ones I didn’t necessarily want to. But I’m hoping that 2015 will show me that saying goodbye isn’t always a bad thing.

Pic of the Week.

My trusty leather tray.

My trusty leather tray.

The weather in Baton Rouge has finally turned chilly — and it seemed to have happened right overnight, dropping into the low 30s. I haven’t broken out my winter coat yet, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my favorite pair of pink argyle slippers right by my bed and the quilt that’s usually folded neatly at the foot of said bed, is now in full swing.

But aside from the weather, my life has changed a lot in just a few weeks. I’ll be able to expand more on that in the coming weeks, but all I can say right now is that I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. For someone with a history of depression, a lot of time sometimes isn’t such a great thing.

And so, when I’m not working, I’m desperately trying to find those small things that make me happy, like a mug of cinnamon hot chocolate with gigantic marshmallows, served in my oversized, hand-painted John Mayer mug, or a wintery candle burning, a good book (I just started reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt), or a fun-filled magazine (even though I’ve got a subscription, I still get excited when it comes in the mail every month).

Believe it or not, I really do cram all of these things onto a tray (I have a small collection of trays) and park it in the middle of my bed. Seriously. It brings me unprecedented joy.

And although I know everyone isn’t going through the same thing I am, as winter approaches (along with the holiday season), sometimes joy is difficult to find. The winter blues are a real thing (okay, so it’s officially called Seasonal Affective Disorder)! Naturally, I found a few ways to cure the wintery blues:

  • Turn on lights in the evening so you’re not sitting in the dark
  • Load up on Vitamin D
  • Hit the tanning bed (hey, I don’t judge)
  • Take a walk outside, when it’s sunny
  • Get a pretty, bright colored plant to put inside your home
  • Eat healthy, balanced meals (don’t load up on carbs)

What helps you cure the wintertime blues?

Oh, there goes my self-esteem.

Lily Ghalichi looking perfect.

Lily Ghalichi looking perfect.

I know that everyone has their “thing” — the thing that makes you insecure in the blink of an eye. Chances are, it’s illogical, it’s all mental, whatever it is. But it’s there, and mine has been bugging me for years.

My thing? It’s those perfect girls. The ones that seem like they just have everything, or everything that’s good in this world. They’ve got money, looks, friends, family, a great job (or better yet, no job and a trust fund)…

In the past, I’ve dated guys whom I thought were attractive, and it made me feel confident and sexy to have a good-looking man by my side. But the second we stepped into a bar with a cute little waitress, or a fancy restaurant with a class-act hostess, my confidence deflated. Would he think she’s prettier than me?

In general, I think I’m an attractive person. Not necessarily because of the way I look, but I do think I have a lot to offer someone, as a friend, and as a partner.

But it doesn’t matter how great I feel walking out the door in the morning, if I cross paths with one of these perfect chicks, I all of the sudden feel defeated. Why does this happen?

A few years ago, my girlfriend and I went out on a Saturday night. I felt great, I was working some new, black hot pants and a cute top. And then, she ran into a group of girls she knew. They gave us both the once-over, and continued on their way after a short conversation, mentioning they were out looking for guys.

They were done-up, although in jeans, their hair looked professionally done, makeup full-blown, finished with crisp, white teeth.

“I always feel insecure when I see girls like that,” I told my friend.

“Yeah, but they’re single,” she said.

And she had a point. So why was I so torn up about it? Whenever I get the chance, I poise this question to guy friends, pointing out the most-perfect girl in the room.

“She’s on that level of hot that I just can’t get to,” I’ll say.

“Yeah, but no one’s taking her home to mom,” is usually the response I get.

So why does it still bother me? Actually, you know what bothers me? When these girls look perfect at the gym. It’s like they don’t even sweat.

Most of the time, I attempt to rationalize and talk myself down from my nearly-unstoppable jealousy. Because most of these perfect humans I see aren’t natural — hair extensions, false eyelashes, professional makeup, fillers and surgeries… when I’ve got nice, natural hair, real lashes, real boobs, and if I can get to the gym four times a week, my stomach is pretty flat!

The only thing I can really blame this on is that somehow, at some point, I got this insecurity rooted inside of my brain. And I know, that there’s a guy out there (somewhere) who thinks I’m perfect, and no one else.

And deep down, I know that no one is perfect, and that everyone has something in their life they wish they could change… it’s all just a matter of how you feel on the inside.

Save the Date: October 17.

Nope, I’m not getting married.

But I am judging a Pop Culture Hair Show on October 17, right here in Baton Rouge and I’m SO (or should I say “SEAUX”) excited!

Join me, along with the amazing team at The Garrett Neal Studio (yes, this is where I get my hair done) Friday, October 17, starting at 8pm, right in the hair studio. Here’s what the Facebook event says:

Be sure to come support our stylists with their first “in-salon” hair show! Enjoy seeing the creativity behind these master minds with their Avant Garde looks and uniquely created Up-Cycled looks. Mix and mingle with some of your fellow Baton Rouge friends! Enjoy a great time with wine and food catered by Zorba’s Greek Bistro. 

Not only will I be judging the hair show, but I’ll also be there with books and some merchandise from my Bitter Lemon store. Really, I just want to meet other creatives, and if you’re a reader, I’d love to say hello and snap a picture together!

So mark your calendars for the 17th, and I hope to see y’all there!