Friday, April 18, 2014

Weekend Links


Happy weekend, friends! Here are some things I've been loving around the web this week:

I am SO excited about this new season!

This trailer looks great too.

Friending your shrink: what happens when you find your therapist on social media. 

And on a similar note, do you feel teachers should avoid friending students?

This upstate NY house renovation is crazy!

Love these new sunglasses from one of my sponsors, Cut and Burn.

The 13 worst synonyms for vagina, ranked.

I've never been to the South and I'd love, love to take a trip there.

Oh, Mellie. If you watch Scandal you'll want to read this!

25 facts about one of my favorite movies.

Wishist: one, two, and three.

16 great portraits of old dogs.

A good read: What Education Excellence Looks Like.

Did you check out my spring reading list?

Unbelievable things in nature that really exist.

Etsy love: this print

I love reading about others' goals, and this long list on Kaelah's blog is awesome.

In defense of the English degree.

Read this: Male Lawyers Dressing Badly.

Main Street at night.

And finally: THIS.  Umm, where can I sign up?!

Happy weekend! xo

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Journal Day #9

How would you say your upbringing or background has shaped your idea of beauty? Were you taught to apply makeup or do you hair by your mother or friends? If not, where did you observe what is now your norm as far as beauty practices? And although most of us have been inundated by different cultural beauty "norms" via the media, would you say that television and magazines have had a strong impact on shaping what you think of as beautiful? This week, write about your idea of beauty- how your background has shaped it and what that means for you today.

our friend Nikki helping my sister get ready before her wedding

When I think back to my earliest memories of my Mom, I remember watching her get ready before her and my Dad's Friday night date nights- Avon blush and eyeshadow, a spritz of that floral perfume sitting on her dresser, hairspray scrunched into her permed hair. It was the 80s and memories of color are vivid; big baubles and chunky necklaces, dangling earrings and layers of bracelets. And although my Mom wore makeup when she went out, she was never the type to wear it on a daily basis. I actually have no recollection of her ever teaching me how to apply it, or even talking about why women wear it- it just wasn't important.

I didn't start becoming interested in makeup until the 8th grade, and even then it was just a little powder and some Lip Smackers lip gloss. The circle in most girls' back pockets at school was a tell tale sign of that Cover Girl compact we all had, and I can remember sitting on the lunch patio powdering my nose and reapplying my lip gloss before class with all of my friends. So silly. Some of my friends were already wearing mascara and foundation at that point, but even though I noticed it, I never thought, hey, I want to do that too. At that point in my life my idea of beauty was probably something I saw in a magazine- YM or Seventeen, and much as I loved curling my hair before school and spritzing on my Sunflowers perfume (ha), it wasn't an all encompassing thing. I remember feeling pretty, which is a funny thing to write out, but I don't have memories of feeling anything but okay with how I looked, at least until later.

In high school I was so active in sports that makeup wasn't ever really a thing either. I was always either going to practice right after school or had a game or meet, so it didn't make sense to wear it to school only to get all sweaty later. Most of my friends wore it, and I wore it for dances, dates, or special occasions, but it was never more than some eyeliner, mascara, and lip gloss. Looking back now I really do feel lucky to have had a Mom that never overtly put importance of outward appearances. Sure, she always looked put together and got us dressed up too, but it wasn't ever a thing. We were more than how we looked, and although she never told us that she somehow conveyed that to us very clearly.

College though was when I would say my personal idea of beauty and the beginnings of my own beauty practices began to change. I was living in a dorm then and later with my sorority, and we all got ready together all of the time. Even when I would go to class Friday morning in sweats after a long Thursday night out, I would still make sure I got "ready." As someone who has struggled with body image in the past I've tried really hard to pinpoint the why and how I started seeing myself and "beauty" differently. And really I'm not sure if I could ever point to one thing- perhaps I could blame media influence, or being surrounded by women who did put an emphasis on looks, but I think it was just a mix of a million different things. This shift happened sometime in my late teens to early twenties and it took quite awhile to get back to a place without self-judgment, as I've written about before. And now as a 31 year old women I do absolutely feel beautiful (most of the time), and it's neat to look back at this whole journey of self-discovery and the growth of this definition of beauty I now have, and see it all laid out, back there. I have this feeling of awe and respect for myself, having given birth to 2 children and seeing my body change and grow big and shrink again, and in a way I think I'm just to the point where I am SO tired of wasting any time thinking poorly of myself, you know? What's the point?

In my long-winded round about way I think I kind of answered the question at hand, but I think I could go on forever about it. I've only just kind of touched the surface, and as much as I'm tempted to go back and add paragraph after paragraph, for the sake of keeping this somewhat readable, I'll leave it. I could go on about so much- there's a lot to be said about being a teenage girl, and the different expectations put on us as women, but that would be many more pages of writing. Perhaps I'll touch on that another day. There's also a conversation in here somewhere about raising children and the concept of beauty. How to talk to them about what they see in the media, what it means to be raising a daughter in today's world, where many of their "role models" in popular culture may be much different than what we grew up with. So much to discuss!

But anyway, that's my response. I really can't wait to see what you shared this week! Post an excerpt and a link your own post below. And as always, thank you for participating in this series. I'm LOVING it.


Read more about my Journal Day project here.
Read previous Journal Days here.



Balance. I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and I've come to the conclusion though, that unless I just accept that nothing will ever be balanced, I probably won't ever be happy! As someone who tends to be a bit of a perfectionist, it can be hard for me to not give everything 100%, or do things exactly how I envision them. It's something I think I'll always have to work through but I recently realized that just as life has changed with two children and different responsibilities, my expectations need to change. There are so many days I feel like a bad friend or a bad blogger, not having enough time to do other creative pursuits that are important to me, just kind of struggling to keep afloat in a sea of yes'...and this isn't okay. I don't want to walk around with a sense of guilt all the time- oh, I haven't posted today. Oh, I haven't called back so and so today. Oh, I haven't touched the boys' Project Life baby books in weeks, had that coffee date I keep talking about having, or answered any of the emails in my inbox in what feels like forever. And sure, some of these things may seem small or even insignificant in the bigger picture, but they're still part of my life. And to be honest, none of these things will ever change. Life will only continue to get busier, so what needs to change is my perspective. And thinking about it more, I realized that one thing I ALWAYS do is go to bed at night feeling like I was present as a mama and a good wife. Even on days I make mistakes or feel like I could have done better, I know that I am aware of how I can improve, and my family- my biggest priority- never ever gets shifted down the ladder or pushed aside. This feels good. And I realize that that's part of fixing those feelings of being so un-balanced, just recognizing that some things are higher up on my priority list, and that's just the way it is. I needed to shift my perspective and look at my day not as a huge puzzle to fit all of the pieces into, stressing over the fact that there is never, ever enough time, but as the puzzle already in tact with the main things I focus on everyday, and then making room for others things if I have time...and then accepting that if I don't, there's always tomorrow.

I'd love to know, though- do you feel balanced? Are you a parent, a student, someone who works full-time either for yourself or someone else? If you've managed to figure out a good balancing act, or if you're still working on it like me, let me know below, or send me a tweet!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sedona and 60th birthdays

There are so many times I feel like I have to thank the whole damn universe for surrounding me with these people I call family...and even more so, thankful that I actually want to spend all of my time with them. Just the other weekend my Mom turned 60 (still don't know how that's possible- in my mind I think she'll always be 35 or so) and my sister and I wanted to do something extra special. We knew we wanted to do Sedona, so we searched hotels and house rentals until we found the perfect place, via Airbnb. It can be hard to accommodate all 9 of us, and we're the kind of people who would prefer to stay in one big place together, rather than split off across a hotel, so this little spot was perfect. On a side note, remind me sometime to tell you the story of the one hotel room in New Jersey. Cra-zy.

So anyway, we ended up booking "The Roost" at Sedona Sacred Rocks, which is a former Buddhist Retreat turned healing center. Very, very cool and right up my Mom's alley. Our hosts Meaghan and Stephen were so warm and inviting and made the weekend so special. My Mom, sister, and I actually participated in a few of their ceremonies too. The place is surrounded by hundreds of miles of national forest and the overall feel is incredibly serene and peaceful, so even just sitting on the back porch made you feel good. It was the perfect way to ring in my Mom's 60th.

The whole weekend was full of lots of food (Simon's Hot Dogs, our favorite), walking, hiking, and just enjoying each others' company. 60 is such a big year, and with all my Mom has been through over the past decade it was pretty great to be able to move into a new chapter surrounded by all of the people we love.

Happy birthday, Mom! We love you.

Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled

Journal Day Prompt #9

Before we get into this week's prompt, I've gotten a couple of questions if there's a book of the prompts you can get somewhere, etc. I do have a notebook full of prompts I used while teaching, but all of the ones we have had thus far are from ME- I've made them up week by week. The only idea that really came from somewhere else would be the question about funding an issue close to your heart, and that came from a list of writing ideas in the New York Times, but I wrote the actual prompt myself. I will continue to make these up every week, and if I ever do borrow one from somewhere I will be sure to let you know, so you can check out the source too! :)

Here's this week's prompt-

How would you say your upbringing or background has shaped your idea of beauty? Were you taught to apply makeup or do you hair by your mother or friends? If not, where did you observe what is now your norm as far as beauty practices? And although most of us have been inundated by different cultural beauty "norms" via the media, would you say that television and magazines have had a strong impact on shaping what you think of as beautiful? This week, write about your idea of beauty- how your background has shaped it and what that means for you today.

I'll be back Thursday with my response, and that's where I'll ask you guys to share a bit from your writing in the comments, as well as a link to your post.

Read more about my Journal Day project here.
Read previous Journal Days here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Journal Day #8

Would you consider yourself a religious person? Quite simply- what do you believe happens when you die? Have you always believed this? Do your current beliefs align with what you were taught as a child? And if not, what was the turning point? This week, talk about your religion or spiritual beliefs (or perhaps your lack of), and try to sum up, if you can, what you believe happens "next."


I asked this question because I wanted to get all of us talking- and although I think it's great to be selective with what you share, every once and awhile it's wonderful to dig a little deeper. I've actually written about religion before, and after reading it to be sure I didn't repeat myself too much in a new post (I tend to do that), I ended up sitting here for 45 minutes trying to say something new about it and I realize that there isn't much to add.

So I hope it's not weird if I repost it here- I can't imagine I'll be reposting something old like this again for a future Journal Day, and please forgive me if you've already read it. The comments on the original post are really great and if you have some time to sift through them I highly suggest it- super insightful and beyond interesting. And I really, really can't wait to read what you have to say in your own posts, too.

Here's my response, originally posted here a little over two years ago. I also discussed religion in this post, after losing a close friend and my Grandma in the same week.

(I feel like I have to put a disclaimer on this because inevitably someone will take what I say personally, or the wrong way. Below I share some thoughts about religion (my lack of actually) and nothing I say is meant to question your beliefs or you as a person. These are just my thoughts and my own experiences, and it's important to me that you know that I respect ALL of you, all of your beliefs, and your right to practice, or to not practice any religion you so choose. The beauty of this world is that we are all so different, and I love that this is a safe place for me to share pieces of my life. Thank you.)


There isn't much talk in blog-land about being a non-believer. There's a lot of religious talk, a lot of "I believe," and many beautiful sentiments about life and thoughts and talk of whatever god people want to put their faith into. But there isn't a lot about the lack of god or lack of belief from the other side. I am one of that other side, someone who doesn't follow a religion, and someone who isn't really sure if they believe in anything, really. I believe in Science, if that counts. But as far as a god, or an afterlife, or even a higher power of any kind, I'm not sure. And my "not sure" leans a lot more towards no.

It's kind of scary to put that out there, when I know that it's easy to judge, but it is what it is and that's me. I have plenty of close friends who are religious, and plenty who aren't. In my world it doesn't make a difference to me what you believe in, just that you are a good person with a kind heart.

I grew up Catholic, going to a big, beautiful church in our New Jersey town. I was baptized as a baby, received Communion in the 2nd grade, and was confirmed in the 7th. I can still recite the entire Catholic mass, beginning to end, and have vivid memories of the confessional, memorizing the Ten Commandments, and even scary Monsignor Donovan who would slap your cheek if you took Communion the wrong way. I loved Church growing up, but not for any reason other than I thought that all of the rituals were fun, and I enjoyed hearing the stories each Sunday in class. Most of our friends attended with us, and I even had my first kiss right outside of those big wooden doors in the 6th grade.

We moved to Arizona when I was 14 and we went to a new church a few times, but my Mom stopped making us go, so eventually we stopped going all together. My Dad was actually born and raised in South America, where he traveled with his Reverend father and missionary family translating the bible, but by the time he became a parent himself he had taken a few steps back. My Mom was raised Catholic and attended a very strict private Catholic school and at that point still attended church on special occasions, but without the pull of our friends and our holiday traditions, we all slowly stopped attending.

In college I met quite a few friends who considered themselves atheists. For awhile I thought I could identify with that group, but I soon figured out that labeling myself as that was the same as labeling myself a believer. I wasn't sure either way. And at the same time I wasn't really agnostic because I wasn't sure if I believed in anything at all.

Maybe it's weird but this has never been a big deal to me. I'm not searching to figure it out, and to be honest, religion (or my lack of), doesn't cross my mind most of the time. Recently it's only been a bit more in the forefront as the election looms closer and there's this huge debate regarding the separation church and state, but for the most part it's a non-issue. At times I feel like it would be a bit easier to have a religion, to have faith in something. But at this point in my life, and maybe for always, I know that's not for me. If I had to really talk about my beliefs, what I think really happens when we die, I look towards physics and science and astronomy. I look to people like Carl Sagan, who I find to be incredibly inspiring, and whose words almost always make me think. Science is my jam. And on the other side of the coin I gravitate towards some Buddhist principles too. Really, I am open to the possibility that one day I might say, "Oh, hi there God. So there you are." And I'm also open to the fact that it's highly possible that when I die, I just die.

In a way, I think this outlook has allowed me to be fully in the now. This is my one chance to live and to love this life with everything I've got. At the end of the day I can say to the universe, "THANK YOU," and maybe someone's listening, and maybe they aren't. But I have gratitude, I have a love in my heart for every single day I am given on this Earth, and for now, that's enough for me.

I'll leave you with one of Hank and my very favorite quotes from Ann Druyan, best known as the wife of the late Carl Sagan:

"When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me — it still sometimes happens — and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don’t ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous — not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance… That pure chance could be so generous and so kind… That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time… That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it’s much more meaningful…

The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful."

So there's my response.  How about you? Leave a blurb and a link in the comments below!

Read more about my Journal Day project here.
Read previous Journal Days here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

12 Books To Read This Spring

Spring is in the air people! What better time to sit outside on a blanket, sip some lemonade, and dive into a good book? Or, if you're in my world, try to read a couple of pages around 11pm in bed, before you can't even keep your eyes open anymore. Either way, here are some books I plan on picking up this spring. Have you read any of them? I think I'm most excited about #9, 11, and 12!

Happy reading, and let me know if you have any great books to add to this list too.

one // two // three // four

five // six // seven // eight

nine // ten // eleven // twelve

*I used Amazon Affiliate linking in this post.
To visit Amazon without my link, click here. :)