Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Creative Intention for (the rest of) 2014

As part of the 7 Day Creativity Challenge (go check that out here), I set my creative intention for the remainder of 2014. Granted, 2014 is winding down rather quickly, but there's always time for creativity in my book. 

According to the challenge: a creative intention is a one word theme which will guide you through 2014 in your creative work.

My one word theme is:  INSPIRATION.

I want to draw inspiration from the world around me. I want to always be thinking and brainstorming and writing. I want to find inspiration in places that I wouldn't normally look. I want to be surprised by life. I want to be inspired by others. And if I can somehow inspire someone else to start their creative journey, then that's pretty awesome, too. 

I bought some new paint, a few canvases, and new paintbrushes, so today, I am just going to let my mind wander and see what kind of artistic creation I can produce. The end result may never hang in a famous art museum, but that's totally OK with me. I'm more interested in the creative process and seeing what happens. 

So, tell me, what's your creative intention? 


Friday, August 29, 2014

Why Jellyfish are the Real Dangers of the Ocean

Forget Shark Week. There should be a series called Jellyfish Week. Shudder. These creepy, slimy, creatures are the many-tentacled mini-monsters of the deep! Try saying that 10 times fast. 

OK, let me back up and tell you a story. It's the story of a girl and her dad who took a trip to beautiful, sunny Pensacola, Florida. The girl had never been to Pensacola before, but had heard stories of the famous white sand beaches and the beautiful turquoise colored water and was super excited to go. She and her dad of course had to make a visit to the beach. It was breathtakingly beautiful. The sand dunes, the water, the sunshine. Absolutely beautiful. 

The girl and her trusty pool noodle (What? Don't you bring a pool noodle to the ocean??) were floating along, minding their own business, just enjoying the sights and sounds and chatting with her dad. She had floated a little farther out than was probably wise, but she wanted to be out of the waves and float in the calm water and bask in the sun. 

Her dad became a little concerned at how far out she had floated and asked her to come back closer to shore. She and Mr. Pool Noodle began their long, slow float back. 

And then it happened. 

Her left arm began to tingle. And then it felt like there was a colony of fire ants swarming her arm, but of course there aren't fire ants in the ocean and fire ants don't have tentacles. Her arm began to feel like it was on fire. She thrashed her arm around trying to dislodge whatever creepy, slimy thing was attacking it. Her dad noticed her distress and began to swim out to rescue her, thinking the worst, that it was perhaps a shark. 

In sheer panic, she was swimming against the current and became increasingly exhausted. Her dad pulled her along until they finally made it shore and then they went back to their beach towel and collapsed, just utterly drained. They sat for a few minutes, most likely just in shock, while the girl inspected her arm and noticed bright reddish-purple welts all over that burned and ached and itched all at once. They quickly packed up their things and the girl threw a worried look back over her shoulder as they were leaving - secretly and irrationally worried that somehow the jellyfish would follow them. 

There were signs posted on the beach that recommended, if you were stung by a jellyfish, rubbing vinegar on the affected area. So they stopped at the convenience store and the clerk didn't even bat an eye when her dad ran in and bought a single bottle of vinegar. Clearly, these ruthless monsters attacked quite frequently. 

The girl didn't wait and soaked her towel with the vinegar and began to rub it on her arm in the car. It was the most foul-smelling, amazingly wonderful relief she had ever felt.

The girl and Mr. Pool Noodle called it quits immediately thereafter and she has been forever cured of swimming past the waves in the ocean. In fact, putting her toes in the water might be living just a little too dangerously in her book. 

I hope you enjoyed this cautionary tale of when jellyfish attack. If you guessed that the girl was me, well then, pin a rose on your nose. The end. 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thoughtful Thursdays: Courage

It's true.  I feel like I sell myself short all the time by not speaking up, by trying not to be a bother, by just going with the flow with what other people want.  "Yes" sometimes feels like a four-letter word.  It truly takes courage to say "No. This is what I want and this is what I'm going to do."  

I wish I had more courage.  


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Read All About It: Under Vanishing Skies, by G.S. Fields

I've never read anything by G.S. Fields before, so I didn't really know what to expect when reading "Under Vanishing Skies", but the synopsis from Goodreads had me intrigued:

"Hell is different for everyone. For Aron Atherton, hell is a small tropical island with white sand beaches surrounded by the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Trapped in Maldives after a massive solar event kills his family and nearly wipes out the human race, Aron plans to fish and drink until the apocalypse finally catches up with him. But when his best friend is murdered and he becomes the guardian of a ten year old boy, Aron’s plans fizzle away like the vanishing skies above him.

Drawn into a struggle that will decide who leaves the dying planet and who stays behind, Aron tries to escape the vortex of political corruption that has engulfed him. But when he uncovers a plot that threatens mankind’s last hope for survival, Aron must stay alive long enough to stop them."

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): I enjoyed it. 4 out of 5 stars. 

I am a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, mainly because they are stories of survival and of mankind banding together. This story fits that bill - a solar flare burns up major parts of the Earth's atmosphere making most of uninhabitable and there is only one known surviving colony on the Maldives. The main character, Aron Atherton, is an unlikely hero - his family is killed during the solar flare and he is content to just wait out his days until he can be reunited with them in Heaven. But, mostly against his will, he makes deep connections with some of the survivors and becomes invested in doing what he can to help those around him.  

Here's why I liked it:

  • I'm no scientist, but the descriptions of the post-apocalyptic world were believable. The oceans are running out of fish, so food is scarce. The weather is unstable due to changes in the Earth's atmosphere. 
  • There are pirates roaming around the islands who kill, steal, pillage. While mankind seems to pull together in the face of a major crisis, there are still those who will always look out for themselves and take advantage of the situation, and this also seemed authentic to me. 
  • Aron develops a deep bond with a 10-year-old boy named William. I won't mention the circumstances on how they become so close, as that might be a bit of a spoiler, but he comes to think of William as his own son eventually and I appreciated that relationship. 
  • The suspense in this story was amazing. There are some plot twists that I didn't see coming, and I'm usually pretty good at predicting what's going to happen next. So it was refreshing. 

Favorite Quote:

"Some say Fate is fickle. She isn't. She's a twisted, psychotic bitch. It was the only way to explain why nearly everyone on the planet was dead... everyone including my family... and I was out here fishing."

So, tell me, what are you reading? 
Have any book recommendations for me? 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Write It Down: Gratitude Journal

18 days ago, I started a gratitude journal. Nothing fancy, just one of those cheapo notebooks you can get at Target for like 50 cents now that it's back to school season. And every night before bed, I jot down at least one thing that I am grateful for in my life. 

I've discovered that there are so many benefits to keeping a gratitude journal. The most important being, for me, a vast improvement on my mood. No matter how tired I am, or how much of a craptastic day I had, when I put that pen to paper, I feel 100 times better just thinking about the things for which I'm grateful. Not that I've never thought about being grateful for things in my life, but I just never knew how rewarding it was to write it all down. I've taken to numbering each day's entry because I don't want to skip a day. Each and every day gives you at least ONE thing to be happy about. Even if that one thing is just being alive.  

Some days I have more to say than others, but writing in my gratitude journal is a ritual that I look forward to now every night. I find myself becoming a little more conscious of my daily life and stopping to smell the roses, if you will. 

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others." -Marcus Tullius Cicero. What are you grateful for? 
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Monday, August 25, 2014

5 Reasons Why Solitude Is (Occasionally) Necessary

People tend to think that solitude is a bad thing. They'll say, "I can't stand the quiet" or "I like being around people". As a self-proclaimed anti-socialist (is that a word?), I personally love solitude. But I know that it has its time and place. It doesn't have to have a negative connotation because everybody needs alone time once in awhile. So, without further ado, here are 5 reasons why I think solitude is occasionally necessary. 

1.)  You can hear yourself think. 

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives - jobs, spouses, kids, tv, friends - we are constantly bombarded with noise or things that we have to do. We're constantly on the move, going to work, heading to the gym, taking our kids to various places, etc. In the midst of all this chaos, we often forget to give ourselves time to just let our minds wander. Or we're simply too exhausted. When I have a few moments to myself, sometimes I sit and listen to music and just daydream. It's amazing how much better I feel when I give my brain permission to just veg out for a few minutes.  

2.)  You can get a lot of things accomplished. 

What's that saying - cleaning your house with kids around is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. Ha. Sometimes it's just easier to get certain things accomplished when no one else is around. For me, it's food prep, laundry, and cleaning up the kids' toys. I'm rarely ever home alone, though, so I make sure to savor it when it does happen. 

3.)  You can do things that only you enjoy. 

Binge watch your guilty pleasure shows (helloooooo Pretty Little Liars)? Check. Have a solo dance party to raunchy hip hop songs? Double check. Read for hours on end without  anybody interrupting you? Hell yeah. Take some time do whatever your heart desires! 

4.)  You can be yourself. 

Being an adult sometimes means having to keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself. Whether you're dealing with a difficult customer, or chatting with an opinionated friend, I think we've all had times where we just bit our tongue and smiled and nodded. It's just easier sometimes. But when I'm alone? Oh my goodness. What a relief it is to just think whatever I want and say whatever I want without any audience and without any judgments. I can just be me, and not have to fake it and smile and be "on." Let your bitchy-resting-face-flag fly!

And you can also truly just be yourself. Whoever you are when you're not in your profession, when you're not being a wife, or a mom, or a friend. Just you. We all need to reclaim our own identity every once in a while. It doesn't mean that we don't care about others, but simply that we need time to nurture ourselves occasionally. 

5.)  You will appreciate your loved ones that much more when you are around them. 

So, you've had your solitude. Now what? Well, now you can be with the ones you love and appreciate them and love them that much more because you've had some time to love yourself.

What do you do when you have some time to yourself?  


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thoughtful Thursdays: Choices.

This quote makes me uncomfortable. Mainly because it just puts it out there in black and white. It eliminates all of the excuses and justifications and blame and it gets to the heart of the issue: 

I am responsible for my life. 

Whatever choices I've made - consciously or unconsciously; direct or indirect - have brought me to this place in life. I need to own that. 

But it also means that I can choose to make changes. And that's where my focus is now. It's a little overwhelming and I'm not too sure yet where to begin. But I can feel the shift. Change is in the air and in my heart. 

Let's do this. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Read All About It: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

I just finished reading Stephen King's latest book, Mr. Mercedes. He is my all-time favorite author, so going into it, my expectations were high, of course. But first, here's a little synopsis from Goodreads:

"In the gloomy pre-dawn hours of a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of unemployed hopefuls are lined up for a job fair. Without warning, a merciless driver plows through the crowd in a roaring Mercedes. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes into the early-spring fog, never to be seen or heard from again. Until now...

Detective Bill Hodges is a battle-hardened and streetwise crime fighter originally assigned to the Mercedes killings. Now retired, Hodges has lost his way in boredom and depression craving the thrills of taking down the region's most notorious criminals. When a disturbing letter from the Mercedes Killer arrives at his door, Hodges soon finds himself uncontrollably drawn into a cat-and-mouse pursuit with stakes beyond comprehension. 

Mr. Mercedes is King's first 'hard-boiled detective tale'. It will transport you into a vibrant and dangerous world filled with gritty characters living on the bleeding edge of reason."

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): I loved it. 

I mean, duh, he's my favorite author, there are few books of his that I don't like. 

Here's why I loved it: 

  • There was true detective work involved. Yes, we as the readers know who did the crime. But going through the process with the main character, Ret. Detective Hodges, made it really interesting. I liked seeing his cop instincts in action. 
  • He had some interesting "sidekicks" help him during his unofficial investigation into the identity of Mr. Mercedes. My favorite was Jerome, the teen who occasionally mows his lawn, but is also probably his closest (and only) friend. 
  • There were a few parts of the book that were super uncomfortable - can't tell you what they are without spoiling some of the story. But I mean, come on, it's about a murderer, so that's kind of to be expected. But what I like about Stephen King is that he doesn't pull any punches. He could sugar coat it or skim over it, but he lets us delve into the mind of the psychotic killer. 

What have you read lately? 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School - 3 Ways to (Really) Prepare Yourself

Now that summer is winding down, and the kids will be heading back to school, you may have seen magazine or news articles giving helpful suggestions on how to prepare yourself and your kids for going back to school. Things like making sure your kids go to bed progressively earlier as the school year approaches so that they will be used to getting up early again, etc. 

Yeah, this is not that type of post. 

Dom is starting first grade in a couple of weeks, so I want to share with you 3 ways to really prepare yourself for the back to school phenomenon. (And for those of you who don't have kids yet... just take notes, sisters.)

1. Save up some cold hard cash. 

Let's be real here. Yes, you have probably spent hundreds of dollars already on school supplies and clothes and shoes. But guess what? You're not done! There will be some additional items that your child's teacher specifically wants the students to have that weren't on the school-published supply list. There is lunch/snack/ice cream money to think about. There will be supplies or snacks that need to be purchased (weekly it seems) for upcoming themed activities and parties. There will be PTA fees. There will be school t-shirt costs, yearbooks, field trips. The. list. never. ends. Whoever said that public school is free is crazy. 

2. Channel your inner schoolgirl and practice your signature. 

Holy hand cramps, Batman! Now, the first day of school packet is bad enough, right? The emergency contact form, the medical/allergy form, the "tell me a little bit about your kid" form, the transportation form, blah blah blah. But no, that's not all. There is also the daily folder, the weekly folder, the homework folder, the writing/composition folder, the "behavior" folder. I may as well just get a signature stamp at this rate! Who knows what I'm even signing half the time. 

3. Make Pinterest your b*tch. 

Pardon my French. But it's true. You'll get vague directions from your kid's teacher. Something like "please use a 83% recycled materials brown paper bag and make a vest for our fall celebration." Um. What? Look, I'm the most un-artistic person in the world, I'll be the first person to admit it. But come on. We never did any of this crap when I was in elementary school. Young whippersnappers. 

*4. Bonus tip: Drink. Heavily. 

No explanation needed. ;) 

What "helpful" tips would you add to this list?


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thoughtful Thursdays: Blossom

I want to blossom. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Express Yourself

For the past few years, I've felt like my brain was turning to mush. Just a total creative block. I can't even tell you how depressed it made me. It's frustrating to know that you have this passion inside of you to create things and do things, but just not have the physical or mental energy to make it all come together. 

But lately, I find myself swirling with ideas. My mind has been constantly on the move, just racing from one creative point to the next. It's all I can do to try and keep up and jot things down to remember them for later. I haven't had a creative burst like this for so long, and I have to tell you, I am utterly enjoying it!

I find myself wishing, though, that I had somebody to bounce some ideas around with. My journals are bursting with ideas, and I'm pumped, but I also need to calm down just a tad and find a way to focus. Anybody out there want to be brainstorm buddies? Hit me up! 

Anyway, these are some of the projects I'm currently working on:

*  Planning Dom's 6th birthday party and attempting to design my own invitations (EEEEKKK!). More on that next month. 

*  Brainstorming ideas for a complete makeover and branding of the blog. I'm looking for some consistency in my message and I really just need a space that reflects who I am. 

*  Researching part-time freelance writing opportunities. I still have a lot to learn, but this is definitely something I need to pursue. Writing is a big part of who I am. And I would really love to challenge myself and also build a portfolio. 

*  Coming up with activities to do with the boys for the 25 Days of Christmas project that I'm working on. It's just like it sounds - one activity each night from 1-25 December. Clearly, I'm insane. Ha. But I'm hoping to start a new tradition with them and share my love of the holidays. And of course, inspire myself to create new things! More on that.. yep, you guessed it, in December. I'm such a tease. 

So tell me - How do you express yourself? Or what do you do when you find yourself in a creative block? 


Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Life's Motto

"Just do it."

"Winning isn't everything."

"Go big or go home."

"Good things come to those who wait."  

We've all heard these mottos before, right? They become ingrained into our brains growing up. Sure, they are supposed to be inspirational and represent a deeper meaning and I'm sure they do to some people. But they never really resonated with me. Maybe they were just a little too cliche or vanilla for me. I prefer sentiments that are just a little bit more real. 

I've never been officially diagnosed, but I've always felt like I've suffered from some form of depression growing up. Now - don't get the wrong idea. It wasn't some hard knock life for me or anything. I had parents who loved me, a roof over my head, I never wanted for anything material. It wasn't that kind of struggle and I know I was lucky because there are plenty of people who don't have those things. But it was always more of an emptiness of the soul. Somewhere down deep, I was just missing something that would allow me to be happy like other people. 

I still feel that way every once in awhile. And whenever I get too far down deep into my funk, I always remember this line from one of my favorite movies, The Crow:

This is my life's motto. 

And it's true. Life can and does suck sometimes. But it also absolutely breathtakingly amazing. I'm often reminded of that every time I look at my two beautiful boys. 

It can't rain all the time because there's sunshine in my heart and soul. It might be hiding behind a cloud some days, but it's there, just ready to break through. 

What's your motto? 


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Oh the Silly Things We Do

Do you ever stop and think about the some of the things you do every day? Things you have always done that are now second nature and you don't even think about them, but know that if you had to explain yourself to someone else, it perhaps would be a bit silly or weird? Or maybe you do secret things that no one else knows about? Dun dun dun!

OK, so, nothing that dramatic for me, but I indeed do some silly/weird things on a daily or frequent enough basis. 

Like for example, if I'm alone in the car, I talk to myself while I drive. Sometimes I'll just vent about something that's bothering me and just get it all out, since I'm one to hold everything inside. Or sometimes I'll just talk about what I'm feeling, or something that I need to do. But it's not just a sentence here or there, it's like a full blown conversation. It's therapeutic, actually. And in this day and age, with Bluetooth and hands free, it's not that odd to see a lone driver talking in a car. But it does make me feel silly from time to time. Especially when I crack myself up.

I also have to delete text messages at the end of the day (with the exception of hubby's because I puffy heart him). It just overwhelms me and reminds me of a cluttered email inbox. It gives me great pleasure to delete them. Poof, be gone. I may actually even say that as I'm doing it. It's cool, don't judge. 

Yesssssssss. Delete them alllllll. 

I always giggle under my breath when I'm getting my picture taken. I think it's a subconscious reminder to force myself to smile, and not show my bitchy resting face.  

Another thing that I always do, and this isn't silly to me at all, is to immediately double check the car seats right after dropping the boys off at daycare. I walk them inside to their class, kiss and hug them both goodbye, and walk back out to my car. And then immediately turn around and visually inspect the car seats to make sure the boys aren't still sitting there. Even though I know full well that they are safe in their class. Sometimes simply looking at the car seats isn't enough, I have to put my hand on the seat as well to confirm that it's empty. I mean, seriously neurotic, right? But it's my absolute worst fear in the world that I would ever leave them in the car and not realize it. Just my paranoid tendencies, I guess. 

So, now it's your turn! Tell me some silly or weird things that you do every day. I won't judge. Promise. ;) 


Friday, August 1, 2014

Oh Hey There Friday

It's FRIDAYYYYYYYYYYY! Hallelujah! I feel like this has been a super extra long week for some reason. And clearly I've been in a funk. So... time for 5 things that deserve a high five!!

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Numero Uno: Hellllooooo lovely. 

Since beginning my clean eating/paleo journey, I have been longing for a cereal that doesn't have 5 tons of sugar in it. Because some mornings, I just don't have time to make bacon and eggs, or sometimes I get tired of drinking my paleo breakfast smoothie 4 days in a row. Enter this beautiful product here. OMG. Just.. go try it. You can buy it here. And no, they are not sponsoring me in any way. I'm just in lurrrvvvve. 

Numero Dos. This is a superpower we should all have, obvi. 

Numero Tres. This bad boy right here. I shall partake in this awesomeness this weekend, you betcha. 

Numero Cuatro. (I have no idea why I'm counting in Spanish. Just go with it.)  Oh these two angels. Love love love. 

And last, but not least, numero cinco. I am a cheesy movie/tv show aficionado. And this show has been nurturing my cheesy tendencies for the past few weeks. Yes, I know, it's no original Beverly Hills 90210 (helllooooooooooooo Dylan!). But it is still pretty awesome. 

So... what things are on your high five list?