"The Hippopotamus Ballerina"

They say "a picture's worth a thousand words", yet the picture below shows a powerful, strong confident woman who doesn't care at all whatsoever what anyone says about her outfit.... And yet, that couldn't be farther from the truth. 

After spending most of my adult life convincing others to "take risks" and branch out of their comfort zone when it comes to fashion trends, I am probably the last person to jump on the Runway Train and try it myself. In an attempt to challenge myself to "get comfortable in the uncomfortable", I picked the trend that would get the most notice and #yolo.

No, that's not a "hippopotamus ballerina", a thought I had when I first saw my reflection in the mirror which says a lot about my daily battle with my body. If I think it, then obviously the hundreds of people I see on my commute to work, will think even worse. 

With a deep breath and sigh, I take a second glance. 

Ok. This isn't that ridiculous. I've paired it with one of my favorite summer chambray tops, my favorite sandals, and, of course, my summer to fall obsession, a magenta matte lipstain (Sephora, GET AT ME!), three things I love. So in total, only one of these pieces is foreign, three outta four, ain't bad! We can do this, Marge! Of course this look will catch attention, good, bad or otherwise, so be it. If I act like I love it, own it, and know I look awesome, then, as a wise friend told me, "f*ck that noise!" Much easier said than done, let the battle begin!

Never has "fake it till you make it", resonated so much. I grabbed my bag and walked out the door with Kelly Clarkson's "Invincible" blasting in my ears for extra encouragement. (Sidenote: Men, do you have a go-to artist for positive encouragement and parallel to total diva-slayer? I'm intrigued to learn!)

With each layer of tulle as a barrier between what the world saw and what I felt they saw, I made it out of my apartment. I got some looks on the bus as, of course, it was packed and I got the last available seat, squished next to an older woman who gave a very sweet yet kurt smile when my tulle skirt bubbled over my designated seat, but I did everything to keep the demon thoughts at bay. Oh, you aren't familiar with "demon thoughts"? Ya know that little voice in your head that sometimes sounds like the voice of your least favorite social studies teacher, or maybe that awkward friend that always seemed to hit you in the guts from time to time when you voiced your hopes and dreams, they utter the deep dark thoughts about your body or intelligence that your brain creates out of sheer boredom and lack of new episodes of The New Girl.

In case you're wondering what Marge's Demon thoughts sound like, and you haven't read about them in one of their many debuts in past posts, here's my favorite from this particular day. ("How do you remember these thoughts, Marge?" Oh, I don't know! My brain chooses to remember the extremely happy and the extremely dark moments, because it's half-masochist living in a "glass half full" body, yet, if you asked me if I ate lunch yesterday, I have no clue.)

Demon Tutu Thoughts:

"Oh, he thinks you look like a moron,"

"Ya, she thinks I'm going to sing Disney songs to children in a library somewhere,"

and my personal favorite that surfaces at least once a week, even on a good day:

"you're fat enough, why are you adding to what you've got? Have you forgotten everything? Remember high school?" 

Whoah Marge, too real! Honestly, if you've read my other posts, this is nothing. But this says something about our brain, mentality and how we perceive ourselves. Let's continue on with the day and see if things changed...foreshadowing!

I made it to work, on a crowded PATH train and walked, with Kelly blasting her magical, musical combination of melodic motivation, the six avenue blocks in the workd's fashion center in the peak of Monday rush hour, a challenge in it of itself. 

Looks, but more importantly, smiles greeted me when I stepped into my office. Friends and colleagues both were marveled at my skirt and, what I can only take as stunned, as I usually wear some level of modestly, black apparel on any given day. Here I was, dressed in a full-blown tutu, purposely, not for a office prank or dress-up event. 

After sharing the above photo on Instagram and Facebook, to document this monumental occasion, of course, those demon thoughts slowly began to slither back into their corner. As the likes, genuine smiles and compliments came, I started to believe them, a rarity in my life, and feel comfortable living in the whimsical feel of the outfit. The Marge they thought was reliable and predictable, was in fact, a bit quirky and maybe even a bit daring and confident...ha! Maybe not that far. But nonetheless, as it surprised them, I was surprised by my own mood and confidence as it grew throughout the course of the day...even helped me hold my head high at the #PlusisEqual event in Times Square surrounded by hundreds of other fashionistas! 

So here's the "inspired wit" of it all...every so often, challenge yourself. Be daring, courageous, even if it seems like a small task, take a risk, not just for you, but for the others who see you and are inspired themselves. Try something new because not trying and wishing you did is much worse. Oh, and demon thoughts are the worst, BUT if you surround yourself with people who know and love you for who you are inside the clothes, they'll only love you more for wearing them...or not 😉...just kidding, mom! 

"A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but ...chose not to."

This post was originally shared on September 10, 2015.

In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, I'd like to share a very personal story, one most haven't heard. 

She sat on the hard wooden bench, head resting on the ledge of the upright piano, the soundproof room furthest from the dorm's basement door. No one could hear her screams and sobs even if they tried to look for her. It was her perfect escape.

With a concoction of whiskey, vodka and whatever else she could get hands on throughout the course of the evening, thoughts of terror, pain, and hatred coursed through her head. It was easier to listen to them over the little hope she had.

The bottle of leftover pills she had from her accident sat on the top of the piano whispering, if not relief, at least she could be numb.

She'd felt numb for most of the previous months, struggling to keep her head above the water. With school, her performances, balancing her finances alone, family, friends, her accident, surgery and terrible recovery, the constant battle with who she was and unsure of who she wanted to be, the hours she spent numb were free.

But this night was different. Numb wasn't enough. This night, the terrors that kept her up at night just wouldn't settle.

What if it was all over? What if there was a way to silence those voices, end the pain?

She hated herself. At that point, she loathed just about every inch of her. Her body just kept fighting against her. Between her past injuries, her current one, it was if her legs were someone else's. Struggling with a recent diagnosis of PCOS, even the thought of one day having a family seemed unattainable, and her weight was just a constant reminder that she'd never find someone to love her.

The extra pills here and there were an easy way to coast. Drift through the day to day without having to think too much. Her grades declined when she'd spend days sleeping instead of studying or practicing, making excuses teachers easily bought. The days she was awake she was so full of energy, she couldn't focus. Keeping up her usual cheery personality while she was screaming inside tugged at most of her energy.

After months of numbing the pain with a mix of either pills or liquor, she had enough. That night it seemed to be a combination. The memory of what triggered the breakdown is unclear, honestly, a lot of memories from that time are unclear, except for those few minutes.

It wasn't the first time she held a handful of pills in her palm before. She'd count them one by one and think of the quiet she'd feel when it was all over.

Through tears and screams of frustration, the end seemed so simple then why couldn't she do it?

Thoughts raced through her head of her family, parents who battled slim odds to have her and raise her in a house of unconditional love and faith. Friends, who, even if she was a lump in a cast and wheelchair, would wake up early just to cart her off to class with a joke or song to keep each other laughing. The unknown future, if it all ended now, there wouldn't be a next chapter. The story would end without a final conclusion. Whether she ended it today, or kept going, there would never be an answer to the unknown except to keep moving forward.

And in that moment, as she held the pills in her hand, she felt a wave of calm. As if a breath was being forced into her lungs, she caught it and felt her life come back into view. While she couldn't say she wasn't afraid of the future, she knew that she just had to stop, take a breath, and keep moving forward. That the only person putting those thoughts in her head was her and that she had the power to fight them. In that moment of clarity, the realization of how quickly everything she had worked for could be over and she wouldn't have the chance to have the life she wanted. 

While it hasn't been an easy route since that night, and I'd be lying if I said that there haven't been moments of frustration, uncertainty and plenty of tears, but I'm confident in saying that I know I have a future, even if I don't know where that leads. I've learned that I am stronger than the girl who wanted to give up, I want to fight for every extra moment I have. It's been a journey to get to this point but sharing my story, in the hopes that it reaches others who feel or have felt that sense of loneliness with inspiration. I would have never thought I would be in the position I am today, surrounded by friends I call my family and family I call my friends, who are there whenever I need them and struggle with similar problems as well. It's helpful to talk these thoughts out and sharing my story is just one part of my journey. If you, or someone you love, struggles with depression or has thoughts of suicide, reach out to the amazing support system that has been created. Feel free to check out https://www.afsp.org/ for more information. 

"A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but ...chose not to. The sentence is your life and the author is you." - Project Semicolon http://www.projectsemicolon.org/

"And then....JOY!"  "Freude" is "joy" in German, representing the joy I have for my life now and the first word I sang at Carnegie Hall back in 2009.

"And then....JOY!"  "Freude" is "joy" in German, representing the joy I have for my life now and the first word I sang at Carnegie Hall back in 2009.

Learning to Ride the Waves: Lessons from a 7yr old!

This post was originally shared on August 16, 2015. 

I'm so thrilled to share the stories of others who's inspiration began from within and have the power to inspire others! I can't wait to continue the "Share yOUR Inspiration" series but I have been dying to share some inspiration from a pint-size powerhouse.

As some know, I spent the first week of August on the beach with my family. After a two hour train ride to then three long hours in the backseat of the family SUV, squished with the only two people I could ever withstand a road trip with without use of expletives or sedatives, my niece and nephew, we unpacked the bags, untied the surfboards from the roof and settled into the cool breeze of salty air off the ocean shortly after midnight. I've always said that there is something magical about beach air, especially at night, when the beach crowd has settled in, alone and free. The crashing of the waves seem to whisper and pull at your thoughts with some power that opens your heart, frees your mind and calms your soul with one deep breath. Any stress carried to the beach, disappears as a wave crashes on the shore and pulls back the tide. (Don't get me wrong, I've fully committed to city life and love Manhattan for all of her glory, but our cottage on the beach will always hold a safe place in my heart.)

Since I was a little girl, probably a little bit older than Phoebe's age, I would walk up to the water, dip my toes in and look out onto the horizon, sending all my secrets, thoughts, wishes and dreams off, as if messages in a bottle, into the unknown. Every summer, I find myself returning to that spot, feet settled into the moving sand beneath them as water pools on top, a place where no one else can hear me, where the waves drown out any insecurities, where the sky and the sea meet, where I believe, if you look hard enough, heaven exists on earth. No one can hear you scream in frustration, no one can see you cry, no one can judge you for talking to the shore, because they use it as the same kind of refuge. A place of peace. 

This summer, in particular, I've been wrestling with a variety of inner demons (do they ever rest?) With my passion and excitement to be successful at my new job, my endeavors with my styling project on the weekends, balancing time to devote to IW and writing, enjoying free time without feeling guilty, reveling in NYC in my twenties, oh, and of course, paying bills, finding a new apartment and boring "adult responsibilities", this is NOT the time for Mr Anxiety to jump back into the picture with his bromance bro Señor Depression. #aintnobodygottimeforthat And yet, lately, I feel like everyday is a battle against me, myself and I. 

So I go through my "list": 

1) I am alive and healthy, mentally and physically.

2) I have a family who loves me.

3) I have friends who love me, no matter what I wear, say, drink or sing.

4) I have a job I love where I'm surrounded by my friends all day. 

5) I have a roof over my head and apartment, for now where I don't have to rush to move out ASAP.

And usually, after I go through that list, take a breath, slowly, the tag-team bro's STFU, however the past few weeks, they seem to hit me when I'm down, jump out of the alley they're hiding and strike when I least expect them. 

So this summer, I traveled up to the beach with a backpack full of doubts, quite literally. With a job is sales, job security sometimes feels more like avoiding impending doom. With my "single" Facebook status, each wedding announcement and invitation seems to stab the "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" into my heart. And with every cute kid I see as I grow a year older, I hear my uterus just laughing and rolling her eyes. I know most of these seem like #firstworldproblems, or things that everyone says not to worry about. "It will all work itself out" or "what's meant to be, will be" or even "just relax! Don't stress out!" (Note: all above phrases are usually the last straw before someone looses their shit and starts freaking out! Avoid at all costs. You've been warned!) It's always easier to be the person giving the advice, but when it comes to taking that advice, brain.does.not.compute. For a person who remains pretty put together and positive on most says, sometimes I still find myself acting the part instead of living it.

So here I was, stressed, overwhelmed, forced to "relax" on vacation and put my life on hold for ten days with just my thoughts and the beach. Where does that pint-sized powerhouse come in?

For most who know me, you know how attached to my godchildren, niece and nephew, minions, I am. Until their existence, besides not even thinking about myself as a "Mom", I never understood the similarities, oddities and character traits that are passed down through generations and how unbelievably connected we all are to each other. I'm a firm believer that a family is made up out of unconditional love and friendship, not just genetics and blood, and these children are the makeup of everyone I love dearly, melded into the best versions of themselves. Since the day he was born, Brennan and I have had this undeniable connection. From the same sense of humor, off-beat bubbly personality, precocious attitude or what some call "stubbornness", to enjoyment of the same music and comedy, I feel like I'm watching a mini-me grow up. It's as if our souls are the same and I'm constantly awed by him. Months pass and yet, we return to this safe place within our relationship and pick things up right where we left off. He's like that old friend I've grown up with and have known my whole life, and yet it's only been 10 years, the best 10 years. 

Now, my little miss Phoebe, while our similarities are undeniable, is a mystery to me. She, at 7, is everything I've wanted to be. Athletic, chick can run circles around anyone, just ask, funny, absolutely, and with her heart on her sleeve, her love radiates out like sunbeams as she snuggles into a hug. But even more than all of those things, she is determined, confident, strong and powerful! 

Before we left for vacation, she had her mind set on becoming a total surfer chick. After watching her Poppa surf every summer, she wanted to skip the boogey boarding and go straight to the fun stuff. Not because we asked her to, not because it was the cool thing, but because she wanted to do it! Where I would get hit with a wave, swallow a gallon of water, and surface crying, giving up almost instantly, she sprung out of the water with a smile, a laugh and a "didn't see that one coming!" as if the waves were playing a joke on her. Without any fear, she grabbed her board and kept swimming out to find the next wave. 

For a while, she would sit on her board waiting "for the perfect wave", which she learned, would never come, settled on a wave with potential, flipped around and paddled. In most cases, she was able to balance on her knees, arms out feeling the waves crash beneath her, and a euphoric grin of joy on her face. It wasn't about being perfect, it wasn't about standing up right away, it was about making the most out of each ride and enjoying every second of it. 

After a few days of battling waves, spending hours on that surfboard watching other surfers along the shore seamlessly stand up and catch waves, studying their moves, watching their skills, she was determined to be one of them. And with whatever gusto she could muster, on Wednesday, while we sat on the shore watching for that magic moment, she caught a wave, jumped up...and rode that wave to shore. 

"DID YOU SEE THAT?!?!?! DID YOU SEE THAT!" (Of course, all phones and recording devices weren't on! But I pray I never lose that image in my head) 

While the scientific measurement of time doesn't include or calculate moments that freeze in time for joy in seconds, but in her terms "it was like 10 seconds" and who are we to correct her? For the work she put in, combined with the determination, lack of fear and strength she gathered from within, she came, she conquered, she crushed it like the bad-ass surfer chick she is! 

Of course, then getting her out of the water after that was a lost case. She became dedicated to perfecting her new role as "surfer girl" and spent hours trying to recreate the moment, failing again and again, but set on pushing forward with her heart set on that feeling.

And when I think about my life, my anxiety and my plans for the future, or lack there of, I'm trying to channel Phoebe. Using the strength I have, the confidence in myself, knowing I can do anything I put my mind to, and determination to continue trying until I get it right. Laughing at the waves that knock me over, will only help me float over other waves to find the right one, trusting myself to pick the best one and knowing when to stand at the right time. We spend a lot of time talking about the waves, discussing in depth what they will feel like, how we will get over them, instead of actually swimming through them, looking back and laughing at them. We run back to the shore when we get scared of what lies on the other side of the crashing waves. Instead, we should learn to fight those waves, break through to the other side where it's peaceful and calm. Where you get to choose which wave you catch, instead of what wave catches you. A place where riding the waves is a fun, enjoyable, joyful journey that leaves you out of breath from the rush, but desperate to recreate the moment!

"Almost Famous: What's the BUZZ?"

This post was originally shared on June 30, 2015.

Well, this has been one wild week! My intention was for this post to go live last weekend immediately following my crazy adventure at The Curvy Con. With my vintage iBook refusing to connect to the internet and staying set on the date 12/31/1969, I'm guessing she had a wild New Year's Eve that year and didn't want to forget it, the Cosmic Writing Gods gave me an excuse to procrastinate finishing this essay. And if there's one thing those Cosmic Writing Gods know, it's when to infiltrate my life for the better of the full story, even when I can't see it. At this point, one full week later, the full story plus the adage of some other amazing events, can only make it an even better story to tell. Now, it's on me to share it....

Sure, some people call me ‘fat’. Others say ‘thick, curvy, plus’, whatever people call me is just an adjective, a word to describe who/what they think I am. I’m ‘Amber’, I’d love for you to call me that.
— Amber P Riley- keynote speaker June 20, The Curvy Con Manhattan

Through echoes of cheers, with goosebumps on my arms and a fierce fire in my soul to continue on with the charge to share my bits of wisdom, life stories, dark secrets and victory scars, even if it falls on deaf ears, to inspire me to keep moving forward into the unknown with my head high.

After six hours, completely exhausted from chatting with women with whom I've never met but instantly felt like I've known them my entire life, breathless from laughing and my cheeks pinched from smiling, I left the Inaugural Curvy Con in Manhattan with my heart and soul incredibly full. Full of love, inspiration, wisdom, encouragement, empowerment, fierce determination, and countless new friendships with women from across the country. 

The roster for the day included panel discussions with the industry's top models, bloggers, online influencers, fitness gurus and fashion leaders, topped off with a guest key-note speaker, Amber P Riley from Glee. Attendees traveled from our 5 boroughs to fashion lovers from Europe, Canada and Australia, just to take part in the day's events and shop through specialty collections provided by several designers. 

As a stylist in my "free time" for a new start-up online personal shopping service for women sizes 14 and up, Dia & Co, www.dia.co,  I was invited to attend The Curvy Con with our team. Dia & Co has been yet another little happy miracle. I'm constantly bewildered by a) how small NYC is, b) how important a first impression is and c) finally, being a chatty person will pay off! 

I met co-founder of Dia & Co, Nadia Boujarwah last fall at Lord & Taylor when we bonded over the potential of an outfit she had chosen for one of her clients. Working in the "American Woman", plus size floor, on most days, I was desperate for interactions with women under the age of 70, (see Mom, you're included!), and with someone who actually had an eye for turning something on a hanger into a fantastic fashionable look with the right pairings. Nadia was passionate about the pieces she picked and saw more than just patterns, cuts and fit, she saw the woman wearing it and loving it!

Fast-forward to this spring, when I received an email from Nadia asking if I would be interested in joining the team as a stylist for her rising company. With clients spanning the country, fashion vloggers sharing "unboxing" videos, the word of Dia & Co had spread and she wanted me! After the shock of her remembering me, (#reasonswhyfirstimpressionsmatter), and a week weighing the Pros & Cons of adding a second job to my already extremely fulfilling and time-consuming, I couldn't resist. Finally, the ability to combine what I loved about my old job, personal shopping, with the creativity and passion for writing and sharing inspiration with a network of women around the country. Dia & Co was calling my name. 

While I've only been with the team for a short time, I am constantly in awe of the community it has opened up for me. As a woman who, like most, constantly face the world of photoshop and wannabe perfections with a sense of confusion. We have created a culture in which we have excluded ourselves right out. No one is pretty enough. No one is thin enough. No one is smart enough. We are not enough. 

Yet, we live, survive and damnit, thrive. We have organs that pump breath, blood and life into our bodies, with the sole purpose to keep us living. That is literally, enough. So spending even a minute believing we aren't enough to be whoever we've chosen or want to be, is ridiculous. It's what we do with those organs, what we do with those minutes that count. 

I am honored to have role models of strong, independent, beautiful, courageous women of all ages and shapes to pave the way for me to choose this life. I didn't look to magazines or television to set the rules of who I wanted to become, but the women I surrounded myself with in my community. I found the same beauty people gawked over in photos in the eyes of close friends, but with real passion and need for life and excitement. 

Over the past few months, the women I get to know through working with Dia & Co, whether it be the amazing co-founders Lydia & Nadia who started this mission with a dream, the clients I write little notes to, or the women I met last weekend, I have been inspired. Whether a woman expresses her struggles with finding the perfect outfit she loves herself in, or a woman who wants to sleep in the outfit we sent her because she finally feels comfortable, I feel emotionally attached to complete strangers. I've felt the lows of not knowing who I was trapped in a body I hated and I've looked in the mirror and thought, "I finally feel beautiful!" 

There is finally a network out there for women who have spent years in clothes they hate, hiding bodies they hate, with "pretty faces", "great personalities" and "if only you lost a few pounds" can have fashion be FUN! With social media, videos, pictures, virtual closets, posts, and most importantly, inspiration, the tiny corner we used to hide in is now the place to party! And I'm honored to be one of the hosts!

I know I've said that past events "have been the most important day of my life so far", and I'm sure I'll have another day in the near future, but attending The Curvy Con was one of the biggest highlights in my life. Between chatting with several hundred women about their love/hate/need for fashion to be accessible, and amazing group panels about love, relationships, healthy living, and just loving life, I was overwhelmed with emotion. In a room full of strangers, I felt comfortable sharing exactly who I was afraid of sharing for so many years. I didn't have to hide in the back, I didn't need a friend or wing-man, I stood proud and was the person I always wanted to be...Margaret...and they liked me! (and guess who else did?)

Buzzfeed! 

Well, Nora Whelan of Buzzfeed, to be exact. She featured me in a post "20 Women On What They Want to Change About Fashion". 

http://www.buzzfeed.com/norawhelan/things-women-want-to-change-about-fashion#.kpZLJwGpV

There's yours truly, along with 19 other phenomenal ladies who are taking a stand to change the fashion world for the better. 

While I can't fully change the world alone, I am convinced that with the right friends in my corner, a community built on inspiration, hope, joy and laughter, together we can prove that people are more than a size number, more than a gender, more than an occupation, more than just an adjective.

Mic drop.

"Just like riding a bike!"

This post was originally shared on May 31, 2015.

But what if you don't know how to ride a bike?

Yes, I am a human. It's not like I lived in a closet under the stairs for most of my childhood, which reminds me that even Harry Potter knew how to ride a bike. 

I grew up like most 90's, boy band obsessed, Legends of the Hidden Temple playin, Barbie hoarder, girl-power chick. And I certainly wasn't bike deprived. I had a hot pink with purple stripes and streamers bike with training wheels. But if we're being honest, I had more fun pulling my bike around the driveway on a string pretending it was my pony. (Cough, cough Mom & Dad!! A pony, I'm still waiting). With the training wheels, I could bike knowing there wasn't much to be afraid of. Just the freedom of the world in front of me with the knowledge that I wouldn't fall. I remember watching my father take off the training wheels in the garage with nerves in the pit of my stomach. Why? Why ruin something I enjoyed perfectly by adding fear? Nothing was wrong with the training wheels except it seemed like it was a right of passage. If everyone else had a 2 wheeler, I had to follow suit. 

Now, I know I exude sheer gracefulness and have the balance of a goat on the cliffs, but with my head screaming "don't fall!", my feet trying to pedal and my hands stayed in the same position, it was if my soul wouldn't have it. I'd like to blame this sheer lack of coordination on living on a busy street on a hill with cars around, which is true, but after a few sessions of trying at the playground parking lot, I let my nerves kick. Knees bloody, clothes ripped and ego sore, I threw in the towel. If I couldn't ride a two-wheeler then forget the bike all together. I don't need it. 

And that was it....or so I thought.

Quite a few years later, after graduating college on a celebration vacation to Florida with my roommate and friends, everyone was thrilled to see a row of beach bikes in front of our condo. Everyone, but me. "How do I explain that after all these years I still don't know how to ride a bike?" My fear wasn't that I would be embarrassed, these friends had witnessed me chug a bottle of Arbor Mist (I was classy back then), my fear was admitting the truth about who I was and that I was afraid of missing out on the fun. 

FOMO. Fear of missing out. 

Labeled by hipsters and the reckless cult following of Miley, the "fear of missing out" on even the smallest amount of fun, while others are ravaging in it, has built a society of hungry, rage-chasing "YOLO-ers". (For my mother, YOLO means "You only live once"), a phrase given to excuse just about anything these days, constantly craving the next rush, hopping from one trendy, bass thumping club to the next with fervor in constant chase to catch the beat before it drops. 

But that's just it, with the "fear" always looming in the clouds, don't you end up missing out anyway? The chase seems like it ends up taking more time than the actual fun. Correct me if I'm wrong, all you party people! I certainly don't want to be missing out while I'm here enjoying my life. 

I've never been one to follow the "hype". I was the last girl to convince her mom to drive across town to pick through baskets of glittery Butterfly Clips. I was usually the last kid picked for teams in gym class, however always managed to get an A (gym teachers enjoy a kid with quick wit and enthusiasm, a skill I will pass along to my kids). Oh, and I still haven't watched Lost or seen The Sixth Sense. I'm sure they're great but who would listen to me talk about them with excitement now all these years later? Do you want that burden? I didn't think so. 

I can hear my dad saying, "bring it back to focus now, Marge" so here goes... There's always going to be a fear and on most days, if I haven't woken up with another thing to add on my "Things that Stress Me Out" list, one pops up before I hit the office. 

Whether it be the fear of a bruised ego, heart or a bloody knee, the fear of embarrassment, the fear of being true to yourself or just the fear or missing the best party. There are always going to be some big scary monster hiding in the closet, taunting us and keeping us constantly questioning our focus, our path, who we are and what we stand for. 

I think back on to those young summer evenings, running around the driveway laughing carelessly, living in a wonderland where my "pony" was following me and I was euphoric. Sure, I couldn't ride the beach bikes with my friends on that summer trip but I walked along the water, toes in the sand and got to see the sun slowly creep behind the horizon. I've been in the company of wonderful people, laughed so hard I cried, cried so hard I laughed, I've seen skylines, world wonders, and watched magic happen before my eyes. To me, that's better than the chase of something better. While I'm not the model for risk and adventure, I'm finding new ways to challenge my comfort zone and push myself as a person while having a great time. I'm not living to check off the boxes, I'm living to create boxes no one has ever seen, and to me, that's fearless and pretty damn cool! 

(Don't everyone rush to teach me how to ride a bike at once!)

"The Uphill Battle"

This post was originally shared on May 11, 2015. 

Last weekend, while traveling alone to Scottsdale for the wedding of one of my longest, closest friends, I was struggling with a question that I've been asked several times recently about my life. 

"Oh, you're going alone?"

Whether it be to a movie, which I've done now several times since my first post about it, going to dinner or traveling across the country for a weekend, in the past few years, I've become comfortable doing most things alone. Not because I hate everyone and don't want friends or a significant other, but because I don't want to miss out of life's moments because I don't have someone to accompany me. 

As an only child, I've ebb and flowed between dependence and independence, always knowing I have a solid community of people who are there if I need them, but very aware that this is my life, and my decisions should reflect what make me happy. 

My original hopes for my trip included a longer stay, preferably joined by a close guy friend or, in dreams, the guy I would be seeing. With the date approaching, my quick, unplanned career change, and no sight of "dream man" I had to reevaluate and make the official plans. 

One round trip ticket to Phoenix, please! 

With only 32 hours in full to spend, I needed to find something to do that was exciting, different and a memorable way to forge an adventure alone. But, what is there to do in the desert? 

My answer came clear when I received an email from my hotel accommodations. I'd never done much research before a trip, usually because my time is planned out for me without much wiggle room for free time, but I took a few minutes to check out tourist attractions within Scottsdale. While, of course, great food was on my list, even though we have the best of everything here in NYC, I wanted to find something that would force me out of my comfort zone but wouldn't make me a creeper doing alone. Insert Camelback Mountain. 

Now, when you think of me, I'm sure besides incredibly graceful, athletic and insanely balanced on two feet, you think of an expert outdoors-woman and mountain climber. I'm as shocked as you are! So when I found Camelback Mountain, just over 2 miles from my hotel, and with different trails for levels of hike-ability, I thought, why the hell not? I can walk, I've been walking for years AND I can hydrate. I do it well, mostly with booze but I'm adamant about water to booze ratios so hydrating properly to conquer the climb shouldn't be an issue. Plus, I grew up on a hill, I climbed that hill over a million times, what's those million times combined together? We got this!

Insert Camelback Mountain.

Insert Camelback Mountain.

Quite literally, in fact. 

Out of the dry, desert land, glowing with the reflection of the sun off of every flat surface, amidst gorgeously bright bushels of flowers, overgrown bushes, dust and cacti, arose a mountain, non-ironically named for its' two humps. A mountain seemingly placed for no other reason than to climb to the top and gaze at the desert. My eyes caught glimpses of blues and melons as I followed the trail ahead already full of fellow hikers. 

"Ok, well if they can do this, so can I!" 

Let me first say that any mountain, hill, faux rock wall, I've ever "attempted" to climb was also usually covered by grass, snow or built with ridges to leverage your body and balance. Little known fact, the "Rocky Mountains" are pretty rocky. And when I say "rocky" I mean, from pebbles to boulders, or dirt to dust, there is nothing but you and the two legs you have to leverage your way up the mountain. #thingsIdidntthinkabout 

So, here I stood at the bottom of the mountain, heart beating with excitement and partial heatwave from the 2 mile walk in 99 degree heat, thinking, 

"Well, you made it this far. That's pretty good for your first time in the desert. You've never done this. You could get hurt, trip and fall! Who do you think you are? You could go back to the hotel, relax by the pool, grab a few cocktails and Google pictures to tell everyone you climbed to the top....

Or, you could start to climb. See how far you get. Take the first step forward and see how you feel. Make it to the first ledge and check in! Whatever you do, take a step!"

No one was around to hold me accountable, to push me forward or to talk me out of it. This was my adventure and I was in complete control of the outcome. If I wanted to see the world from the top, I'd have to take the first step up, granted, the first 20 steps were up were technically stairs built out of rocks and wood. 

With adrenaline, endorphins and sheer pride that I hadn't tripped over my own two feet yet, I continued my climb. Taking moments to stop and look as the world unfolded beneath me, mountains rose across the desert and a slight breeze amidst the heat enticed me higher up the cliffs. Careful of my steps, watching others strategically map out their footing, my feet found their natural place in the wedges between rocks and my body responded, easing up with the balance of someone I swear, wasn't me. It's almost as if I had to put a new level of trust in myself and my legs which have failed me in the past, but rose to the occasion to travel into the unknown with me. 

Brief stops at various points to catch my breath, rehydrate and view the world below at a different height, helped me assess my journey thus far. 

"My legs haven't given up, my heart isn't exploding out of my chest and while I'm dripping sweat, I feel pumped and ready to keep going!"

Through the variant terrain, from pebbles that were quick to move under my feet, to bigger rocks that took a bit of a hop to get to, my anticipation grew to finally reach the top. I'm sure the people behind me pegged me as a tourist from all the photos I took, however, these photos are proof of my physical and mental journey. With each step, I was as equally cautious as I was carefree, weary of the unknown but excited to explore, a perfect metaphor for the life I've been living.  

While many would assume to view this adventure as "climbing an uphill battle" or "fighting your way to the top", I've actually done quite a bit of thinking on it. After reaching the top, alone, without anyone telling me where to step or when to give or or push harder, the feeling of great relief that I accomplished something I put my mind to, and pushed through my fears, the slow dwindling fear of my upcoming descent put pressure on the joy I had felt just moments before. 

"So what's next? I can't keep going, there is no where to go but down....but how? I'll slip, for sure. I didn't think this through at all!"

The panic of my inevitable climb/slide back down the trail was so unexpected. Obviously, I knew the mountain wasn't a one way journey but no one ever talks about the climb back down, it's always the push up the mountain. So as I stood, overlooking a land that seemed out of a fantasy, I took another view at the far away mountains along the skyline, the houses of the people who called this land "home" and the others who continued to climb up the mountain. I may never get back to this place again, hell, I may never get the chance to climb a mountain again, but I'll be damned if a little fear of the ride back down will scare away the joy and accomplishment. 

After a few, well dozen, photos, I made my descent, carefully placing my feet back into the crevices they found and caught my balance. While it wasn't as easy as the climb up, which is a complete understatement because I wouldn't call going up easy, this was different. We always discuss the goal as a struggle to accomplish, however we never discuss what happens after we've checked it off our list. Does everything get significantly easier after? Probably not. Do we set our sights on a higher goal, a steeper mountain? Or do we settle in to skidding and sliding through the rocks until we hit the bottom again? What happens when if I do fall and I'm all alone? Should I have gotten Life Alert?

As humans, we are given mountains to climb, some larger than others to test whether or not we can or will even attempt to climb them. Our mountains are all different and at most times, not always on the same path, let alone the same mountain chain. When we get to the top, we never take a moment to appreciate the view. We're always focused on the next mountain, instead of carefully making our way back down, preserving ourselves for the next adventure. Or we carelessly let ourselves fall mid-climb without understanding when or where we lost our footing. 

This adventure on Camelback Mountain helped me learn more about my life, my journey and my strength. I learned that I'm stronger than I think I am, even if I have to push myself, as long as I trust my foundation, I'll make it to the top and I can do it on my own. I learned that the top is even more glorious than I had imagined but the little stops along the way are beautiful as well. I need to take the time to look around, take a breath, realize that even in moments when I feel alone on a mountain, there are always people around, willing to set examples along the way, willing to help out. And, that once I get to the top of the mountain, after I've taken in the world around me, the only way to get to the top of a higher peak is to make my way back down to the bottom. If done carefully, with thought, excitement and pride, it doesn't matter how many mountains I climb, the view will be different on each one and will encourage me to keep climbing. 

It's not always about the highs or the lows in life, it's knowing where to stand, check out the best views, and keep your feet moving in the right direction. I also highly suggest water and good tunes as well! 

"Selfie Syndrome"

This post was originally shared on April 26, 2015. 

The next time you stand, arm-stretched out high above your tilted head, lips pouted out and eyes wide open, thinking "YAS! This is the hottest look ever!" you can thank, Robert Cornelius.
I can almost guarantee the 19th century, Philadelphian photographer, who is best known for one of the first "self-portraits" in 1839, is currently rolling in his grave every second some tween snaps a snapchat selfie and sends it to her friends and "oops!" her crush too! While my research spanned as far as clicking a few links on Wikipedia, from hours to numerous brain cells, I've lost significant time perfecting the "selfie" which honestly, could use some work. 

Here's some more shocking news.... ya know the hours you spent in front of the mirror perfecting your "bro hard or go home" faces? Complete with backwards baseball cap and "I promise they're really hard not just me sucking it in" abs? Making sure your lipgloss is actually poppin', your boobs are at the right, even because one is always rogue, level and your eye makeup is smudged enough to make you look sexy, but totally casually chic with a slight sense of wanderlust and slut....  you didn't create the "selfie"!!!

Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, yes, the Anastasia, a life cut short, but magically portrayed perfectly by Meg Ryan, had taken a selfie...in a mirror...and sent it to her friend....OWNED!

I'll give you a minute to wipe the tears, snap a YouTube reaction video and regain strength to keep reading.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, we did not create the "selfie", hell, it's been around longer than the original boy bands...The Jersey Boys. The "selfie" has taken over the world, with hashtags, tv-shows, songs, and ultimately, a "selfie stick", because holding your arm above your head for over 3 seconds is extremely strenuous and difficult. Anastasia was recorded to say in the letter accompanying her "selfie" saying "I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling." The fact that the brown box camera at the time weighed significantly more than an iPhone, is just a minor tidbit. 

Now, don't think of this as me putting myself on some holier than though pedestal "oh, I don't take selfies, those are for paupers and freaks...". I've been known to rock a great selfie, however as I've taken some time to step back from social media and view it with different eyes, and real glasses, I've noticed a flaw, trend and what I find a huge problem with this "selfie-syndrome" we've created for ourselves.

Let's paint a picture:

You're going out with a bunch of girlfriends, you have a great outfit on, amazing shoes that hurt just enough to keep you focused, but your ability to walk isn't hindered, yet. You've blown out your hair, teased in the right spots, spritzed, fluffed and your makeup is Red Carpet approved. Damn, you look great! 

"OMG!!! Let's take selfies!" giggle, giggle, hehehee. *Men, this is exactly how it goes down. No exaggeration whatsoever. 

Instantly, the arms go up and the lips pop out. Sounds of fake flickers and sighs of disgust fill the bathroom. 

Remember the time you felt like you looked great.......NOPE! Cus you spent so long trying to capture the best angle, which looks NOTHING LIKE YOU, that you've killed any, and all self-confidence. Of course, you settle for the one photo out of maybe 25 that you can throw a filter on, edit the contrast and distort the proportions and post to get the most likes and comments from people who really could care less about what you look like, and the people who do matter in your life have probably seen you in hella worse ways that they would love you if vomit were crusted in your hair, your shaved your eyebrows off and you were still wearing the same pair of sweatpants for 5 days....

Selfie-syndrome: 

1) the act of posing while taking a self-portrait, distorting your key features to the point that a cop would NOT be able to identify you in a line-up

2) spending way too much time self-deprecating over said portraits, which again, don't even look like you, usually silently, listening to the evil gremlin inside your head that tells you you aren't worthy of any real life or love

3) begging, pleading, praying for everyone in your social worlds to approve, like, or double-tap, proving the only way they can share their love, loyalty and friendship.

4) wasting a lot of damn time worrying about yourself and how others see you instead of living in the moment and spending that time having fun with people who choose to hang out with you in the first place. 

OK, I'm not trying to completely wipe out the "selfie", but I am trying to bring awareness to how we use the camera lenses to constantly judge ourselves and others. After so many selfies that have been perfected, liked and praised, we get camera shy and freak out when someone else is holding the camera. We've made ourselves unrecognizable to our own eyes. We have trained our minds to only see us in "selfie" mode so when another photo comes up, we can't believe who we are. Our "selfie" life is an edited, filtered view of what we want others to see, when, in fact, it is rarely a self-portrait of the real person inside. If you're only satisfied with the "selfie" you've become, you're doing something wrong. 

Years from now, when I look back on my life, I don't want to say "Damn! I took a lot of great photos of myself!" I want to look at photos of the people I love, the wonderful times we shared together and the adventures we had. I don't want to remember the hours I spent editing my life so others approved, I want to remember I lived the life I wanted and am proud of. No "selfie" can show that! 

"Midnight Run"

This post was originally shared on April 20, 2015.

As a little girl I heard stories of the city that never sleeps, a city full of life, love, lights and dreams, a city surging with people from anywhere and everywhere, flocking toward the sites and sounds, smells and tastes of world's exploration. People whom either born here and proud of their home or people drawn in from other lives to fully submerse themselves in the depths of the undertow, currents of movement, breath and life.

That little girl, who enjoyed running through hills, cold grass beneath her bare feet, swinging from tires and ropes, shouting to the unknown the dreams she had of this mystical place she'd caught a glimpse of on a trip to her first Broadway show, doll in hand, drinking in the life as if it were water quenching her thirst. The unknown fire that started in her heart sparked early, the want to explore and make this magical land hers, propelled her forward. The little snapshots she held behind her green eyes inspired her to keep dreaming, creating her own path that lead into that city. 

With a few years under my belt, or not because I rarely wear a belt, (those of us with higher waistlines and boobs shouldn't...), I've been fortunate enough to experience some of the best this city has to offer, fine meals with friends at some of Manhattan's finest restaurants, shopping endeavors with screen and stage's top costume designers and a few escapades chasing the sunset, dancing in the street and laughing until we were sore. All of these were well beyond my childhood dreams, and yet, when I look back on my life here in the city, two specific Saturday nights stick out. 

They weren't spent in expensive heels that were meant for lounging, they weren't spent in a restaurant, gossiping over a filet or grilled octopus (although, I am craving octo right about now...who's in?), and they weren't spent surrounded by people I knew. Both of the evenings I am referring to were spent taking part in Midnight Run with fellow members of my All Saints Hoboken community. Midnight Run is a sponsored program in which organizations can sign up to prepare food and clothing donations and deliver them directly to the homeless women & men at 4-6 designated stops throughout Manhattan. While the name doesn't directly relate to the activity, as we arrived in the city both evenings around 10pm, and the "running" was mostly just to gather folks who were nestled in their make-shift homes or resting spots around each drop off. 

With 2 cars packed with sandwiches, hot chili, water, juice boxes, coffee, cookies, fruit and other goodies, and another with sorted jackets, sweaters, sweat shirts, gloves and hats, we ventured into the city for our first run on February 1st, silently praying everyone would have found shelter on one of the coldest nights of the year. Unfortunately, just after we popped open the trunks to our cars, folks started to come from all angles, as if following a beacon to our haven. In the moments leading up to my first "hello", I was terrified. Would they be friendly? What would they say? Would they be angry at me for trying to help? I have spent most of my life volunteering throughout neighboring towns back in Connecticut, but nothing could have prepared me for Manhattan. This was a whole new arena. 

At our last stop in Times Sq. Feb 1st.

At our last stop in Times Sq. Feb 1st.

As thoughts of regret and fear filled my head, my heart and voice blurted out "Hello there! Would you like some dinner?", like a voice was provided for me, to an older gentleman who approached with a smile. Looking back, I think he was just as uncomfortable as I was, both of us unsure of how to proceed. He was the beginning of many, very kind, friendly, patient men who were genuinely grateful with the food we provided, following with thanks, graciousness and blessings. Some were more chatty than others, willing to chat about the weather, sports, one about his passion for music when I noted his guitar strapped to his back. 

"Music is my life. I'll do whatever it takes to have someone hear me play. This is what I will do."

In a way, I feel foolish for thinking even for a second that my interactions with them would be frightening. While, yes, there are precautions to be taken in any social situation, most, if not all, of the people I met that evening, and the one most recently this past weekend, were polite, respectful and pleasantly friendly. In the brief moments that we were talking, there wasn't any difference between their lives and mine, we were just humans, conversing over a meal, humans who followed different paths, living in a city we all called home. Our conversations were natural, small-talk, not surprisingly better than some I've had with people of significant wealth. 

Looking back at both evenings, my path in life may not be concrete, hell, it may not even be a dirt road running through the trees, but I will follow the people with whom I've felt life with, people who breathe the same energy in the city air, people who don't hesitate for "hello" but live in the moment. The people I met on those two Saturday evenings, while the rest of Manhattan was dancing in the street, chasing the sunsets, and enjoying their "poppy" events, are the people of New York. They are the people I believe in, the people that give me hope, drive and courage to push through the tough times because there will always be a helping hand out there to grasp, as long as you look for it and have a kind heart, there will be someone to provide. Times get rough but as people, New Yorkers, we get tough and find the life we've dreamed of, even if it's just a smile with a sandwich, pushing us one night and day closer to our future. 

Those two Saturday nights seem to make all the other nights feel even brighter, they make the darker days glow with hope. If people who collect their belongings in pockets, their meals from trunks and the drive to continue on day by day from some thing greater than you or I, then they are the true inspiration for the world. Their stories, time and graciousness will be carried in my pocket forever. Thank you, New York. 

"Lip Stain...100% kick ass, 50% the effort"

This post was originally shared on March 29, 2015.

I'd first like to apologize to all the women I secretly judged while watching them loathingly "touching-up" every time they caught a glimpse of their reflection. Sure, you're pretty, we get it! But will glossed, puckered and plump lips really change the world? Will a pop of red make it look like I've slept more than 4 hrs? Will it give me the confidence to tackle all life's biggest problems?

Damn straight, it does!!!!

At the beginning of this year, I complimented a friend of mine who always had perfectly matte colorful lips, yet I rarely saw her apply. What is this mystical wonder-paint that doesn't seem to catch on her hair, spread from her chin to her nostrals, and give her the final touch on her already flawless style?

Now, this isn't an advertisement, BUT if Sephora wants to give me a lifetime supply of their Lip Stain in every color, I will gladly try a different color a day and Instagram it and love every second! (wink wink, nudge nudge, tweet tweet!) With much skepticism, I purchased my first tube for $14. God knows, how much money I've spent on lipsticks, glosses, balms and putty over the years and none of it actually made it into my daily routine for more than a week. This was my chance...

It's magical! Straight up, magical! I am converted, partially, to the lipstick girl lifestyle! Hellooo, fellas!

Day one:

"WOW! You look so awake! What's different?"

"Are those new glasses?"

"Oh, the lips! YES! Do that every day!"

Ok, so maybe some of this was just in my head when I caught a glimpse in the mirror at a woman I didn't recognize. I looked awake, alive, healthy, happy and confident...all because of a little red lip stain.

Now, I can't let the lip stain take all the credit, but it was definitely the boost in the right direction that I needed. I love the simplicity of it:

Step one: Apply before I walk out the door...

(Step one and a half, check to make sure it's in the right places. The wrong smudge or hit on the teeth can make or break a day, more importantly a smile!)

Step two: Conquer the world!

That's it! Sure, it will fade just like the love made up in a Nicholas Sparks novel, but by God, it puts up a damn good fight! Depending on coffee intake and bagel to breakfast ratio, it stays on until lunch. A quick wave of the wand and an Altoid (they can sponsor me too!) and I'm ready to continue on changing the world, one smile and two dimples at a time! 

While I was skeptical at first, the sheer simplicity and ease of this new addition to my purse, has become a daily necessity. I will never be the kind of girl who primps and plumps for hours just to run to the store, hell you'd be lucky if I was wearing a bra...tmi? whatever. But for the days where coffee, a little bit of bass in my head, and the right outfit can't get me raring to go, I'll settle for the finishing touch of sheer bad-ass.

"Man Up, ya girl!

This post was originally shared on March 22, 2015.

a)"Grow a pair!"

b)"Sack up!"

c)"Stop being such a pussy"

d)"Man up, ya girl!"

This post isn't in any way nixing or devaluing the lovely gentlemen who read this each week and consistently take notes on "The Woo-ing Guide to Millennial Women", as I'm sure many of them do, (I'm brilliant at coaching men on dating women, as long as that woman isn't me), but more importantly a study on motivational words of encouragement in gender relations. Wow, that sounds like a paper I would write if I had chosen the grad school route. Don't worry, I wont MLA cite anything, I promise to add a few witty side comments and maybe a few words a sailor might choose while drifting in the ocean waves.

In recent weeks, while doing a complete 180 switch in the employment demographics department, I've noticed significant changes in the ways of gender relations. While being part of the 20-25% of women in my office, similar to many other "Corporate American Workplace" offices, it's been an interesting educational study to see how we interact differently due to gender, and how we relate differently assigning, accepting, motivating and addressing certain tasks at hand. The comments listed above shouldn't shock anyone reading this, and this in no means has been a reflection of my current employment, but has raised the voice of the empowered woman within me to speak her mind.

a) I can't "grow a pair"...#sorrynotsorry I wouldn't even try to as they seem to just get in the way and be bothersome....like some men I know. Hmm... there might be a correlation here.

b) If you mean "grab my purse" in regards to "sack up", sure! I've got all sorts of wonderful things in this mystery bag, and you don't bother asking for something!

c) That word should be banned only because it sounds gross and cats are evil.....sorry, my dear cat friends. It's not you or them, it's 100% me.

d) I will if you will!!!

I find that these gender specific comments are trying to emulate a type of person in general, a strong, confident person, ready to be challenged while challenging others, not necessarily one with huge, gigantic balls... which just sounds mostly uncomfortable and not super attractive. While it focuses on the lack of "manhood" most women don't possess, I say "most" because I don't know your life, I've chosen to interpret the kind of person I am trying to be. I don't think it matters what you have going on below your drawers, but what goes on in your head and your heart.

I look around me at the people who have inspired and influenced me throughout my life, women and men alike who taught me to stand up for my beliefs, to think before I speak but to speak with strength, poise, and confidence while keeping true to my wit and humor, to allow passion to drive my decisions and follow through with what I love. My mother, a woman with vigor, strength, confidence, laughter, hope, and love, has raised me to stand tall in who I am, to accept what life throws at me and push forward with my head up to the sun. Stories of her growth as a woman through our country's struggles, battling wars of hatred, religion, power, greed, racism and gender, has built a warrior with a smile. She views a situation from all angles, accesses the damage and soldiers through in action, spreading encouragement and hope as she continues on. Olivia Pope has nothing on Momma Jane.

Watching my mother "play with the big boys", while fighting for equal pay and general validation as a woman, taught me that while you may have to fight for your voice to be heard, once your voice is heard, make sure you have the right message. Don't just yell to yell, don't fight just to fight, stand tall in your shoes and speak your mind with confidence. It's one thing to demand the attention, but it's what you do when you have it that makes all the difference.

The world we live in has made it difficult to be powerful, confident in who we are. We spend thousands of dollars trying to show wealth, beauty and allure, instead of looking within ourselves to what has been provided but needs to be found and surfaced. Our "Millennial" generation is focused on the constant "one-up", pushing to be better, faster, stronger Kanye-delusion in which we are consistently chasing a dream that doesn't exist or a dream that is unavailable. While I'm grateful to the world for allowing us to be the dreamers, at what cost will it end up breaking us before we get a taste of the clouds?

We constantly judge others for not meeting us pace for pace, or infuriate with words of hatred instead of encourage with words of motivation. It's always, "look what I have that you don't" instead of "do you want some? Here." It's taken me the past few years to feel grounded in my boots, strong in my morals, beliefs and confident that I make the choices I do for me, and not for anyone else or to match up with anyone else. Honestly, I'm at the point that I don't give a flying fuck if you don't agree with me on something that I'm passionate about and I'm not going to waste my life trying to get you on my side. We all have our own creeds, (not like the band...yuck), so speak to that. Challenge one another to find their true selves. Challenge them to stand strong in their decisions. Challenge them to be confident that their voice matters because it is their own, not anyone else's.

If "Man-ing up"(not in any relation to Peyton or Eli, well maybe Peyton a little because he's the cooler one. #sorrynotsorry) reflected a movement in which we can unite as members of a generation who were fearless, strong warriors with the ability to preach love and kindness, instead of hatred and confusion, then sure, "Man-up", but somehow I don't want to live in a world where just because you've got a different downstairs business, means you have the power. For the women who fought for equal rights, who continue to fight for equal pay and the daughters we bring into this world dreaming of a beautiful future of opportunity, stand strong! That's what will get you to where you need to be. Even if your knee's are shaking, and your heart is racing and the words just don't seem to come out right, stand strong! We are stronger than we will ever know!

"Be here. Now!"

This post was originally shared on March 8, 2015.

While this sounds like a plea to Chris Hemsworth, who is currently less than a mile away from my apartment, I will assure you that this post holds a place in my heart even dearer than the charming Aussie man/beast Thor. 

As a person who battles with bits of unwelcome anxiety when faced with "the 5-year plan" or even "the 6-month plan", I have always struggled being in the moment. With an active childhood mind, constantly running from one activity to the next and splitting my brain into pieces to conquer any and everything, I found comfort in procrastination and reveled in the chaos I self-constructed around me. Even as an adult, I'll create more of a mess of my apartment attempting to, to use a loose term, "clean", and then find several projects to attempt before the actual cleaning happens. It's as if I need to start a fire just to make sure I know how to put it out. I'm even anxious thinking about it, how about you? I know my parents will read this and calmly agree, as over the course of my life, we've lost count on the rational "get your shit together" conversations, each always ending in an plausible action plan and rational steps to move forward and taking each moment by moment until the next kindling sparks. 

Nowadays, with children being diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, Hyperactive-Gluten-Valium-Required-Playdates-with-iPads-and-no-friends-going-balls-crazy-because-they've-never-heard-no, I think to myself, well yeah, of course our minds can't focus. We have reprogrammed ourselves to jump from one thing to the next and never actually finish one project from start to finish without checking how many "likes" we've gotten on Instagram and whether Graham has actually ever opened that SnapChat I sent that was super witty and yet intriguing in the moment but now makes absolutely no sense....

Even now, I have my iPad open to Pinterest, my iPhone playing Spotify, open to Facebook and I'm typing on a laptop. As I try to focus on a clear message, my mind refocuses on my schedule for the week, bills I have to pay, pictures I have to like, errands I have to run and the life I have to live, instead of just sitting down and writing. My time quickly passes, filled with moments spent worrying about things I either a) have no control over OR b) don't even really enjoy. 

Not to be morbid, but I'm slightly worried that at my funeral, about 75 years down the line (longevity runs in my family...although they didn't enjoy hooch as much I do), the person who eulogizes me, probably my eldest son, as my husband will either be in the coffin dead next to me, or so distraught he will be in no shape to bring the humor required or requested for in my last will and testament, will only have a series of text messages, blog posts or Facebook status updates that represent who I was as a person. I'm terrified that our generation will kill all things personable and instead of actually attending funerals for our dear friends, the only proof we care will be some emoji reel shown on our tomb. 

We, as a generation, have become so focused on the steps ahead and what's happening in "THE" cloud, that being in the moment, taking a breath, smelling the roses, looking up at the real clouds, has become completely foreign. We are so set on viewing the photo with a filter and a hashtag that we forget how to use our eyes to see the world we've made, our ears to hear the magic sounds of life around us, our lips to speak our minds, to taste the cultures of the world, our nose to smell the salt coming off the ocean and our hands to reach out to others and express ourselves. Instead, we sit and fret about moments in our lives that we can't control. We spend hours dreaming of what might happen, what could happen, instead of enjoying the anticipation, the moment, and how quickly they pass. 

This evening, as the sun was setting on the reflections of the Manhattan skyline, I sat in a candle-lit church with several others who gathered to slowly embrace the moonlight. A time of darkness and reflection to help prepare our minds, bodies and spirits for the night, a time of unsure questioning, in anticipation of the morning rise the next day. I've always been intrigued by nighttime, spending hours watching the moon slowly ascend above the ocean while the stars began to twinkle above our summer shore house. A mysterious time of night when words escape the mind in wondrous quiet, reveling in the vast awe-some world. In my years of life, I've met folks who try and fill this quiet space, talk through the darkness to reassure themselves that they're not alone...most of my life, I talked through the beauty. Unsure if the darkness would end, scared of the one day it would consume the life I knew, not able to trust that the sun would rise again, not able to believe that this darkness was as much a blessing as the moment the sun crept over the horizon. 

While the drone lingered through the open pews, echoing as a breath of hope, light, as the sun set, I opened my mouth and let the words of faith fill the church. Singing words I've heard since birth, words of unwavering love and sacrifice, using darkness and light to propel us into the unknown with heads held in strength. Without thinking of proper support, whether the notes were perfect, the phrases held together, I sang to my saving grace. I was fully in the moment and for the first time in years, I felt like not only was I a musician, I was a woman, a soldier, a mission, a child of God, with her eyes set on the darkness, prepared to move forward in any way toward the light, toward love, toward life. 

Unfortunately, you probably wont see me marching down the street in a "Jesus is my Homeboy" t-shirt, mostly because I don't think Spencer's Gift Store still sells them. My faith is mine and mine alone. It may not be the same as my parents, friends, family or colleagues, or even the church I attend, but I've learned that that's not what makes it important. It's knowing that when I look up into the clouds, take a moment to breathe, or even just a step ahead, I'm doing it because I choose to, because I have hope for the light after the darkness, that even in the moments when the sun just doesn't seem to want to shine, I know that I am not alone in the dark. That even in the darkest of times, a moment is just a moment, live it and move on, and with a song in my heart and joy in my soul, those moments of darkness make the sun rise glow even brighter. 


"I sing because I'm happy. I sing because I'm free."

Risk: The Game of Global Domination ™

"Great people do things before they're ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you're afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that is what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that's really special and if you're not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself."

Amy Poehler "Yes, Please"

While I am still wishing I could joyfully anticipate another season or even one more episode of Parks & Recreation, quietly trying to emulate Ms. Leslie Knope in every aspect of my life, I'll settle into a Netlfix binge from episode one and "try something new" with these Red Velvet Oreos. After a taste test serving size, two cookies, assessing the calories per gratification, and some very serious contemplation on the evolution of a cake flavor to cross platform the cookie sandwich icon, I determined that yes, this was indeed a risk worth taking, and needed to be explored further with a glass of milk. If only all risks were this tasty and fulfilling.....

Wait one minute! Maybe all risks, while they may not be as equally tasty, should be addressed with the same sort of enthusiasm as picking out a new box of cookies. Imagine if we held the power to make life's biggest moves just a bit easier, and hell, maybe even just a bit more fun!

As some of you know, last week I started a new job. The chance to try something entirely new, start fresh, begin again in a world parallel to what I had known and yet somewhat on a completely different planet, was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Would I be qualified to accomplish the tasks at hand? Would I understand the material and be able to be successful while also staying true to my character? Would I be able to share my knowledge of the world and apply it to my job? Would I be able to be myself amongst all new coworkers? Would I make friends? Would they like me? Would I revert back to the person I was, shy, uncertain and scared to take on the world alone? What if I fail? More importantly, what if I succeed?

Flooded with thoughts of stress, anxiety, excitement and trepidation, I barely slept the weekend. My brain, constantly firing off thoughts of worry or pure joy in a battle of fireworks of the life that I never knew I wanted. Sure, it was a risk, but a risk that was worth the fall, a risk that took me out of my comfort zone and turned a dream into a reality.

From the moment I stepped out of the elevator and took a breath, I knew I was home. Music flooded the halls, voices of laughter, encouragement and friendship echoed through the office and I instantly felt all of my worries fall away. Sure, it was a risk and every day that I show up will continue to be a risk or  a challenge, but knowing that I'm not in it alone, knowing I have the tools to be successful, knowing that I have the power to help others live their dreams, makes the jump worth every ounce of terrifying joy. And at the very least, I know that I was brave enough to fly........and there will always be the original Oreos to fall back on!

"Better than a 4 Karat Diamond on Valentine's Day!"

This post was originally shared on February 14, 2015.

Now, before you start shrugging and thinking, "Oh, God. Here she goes again about love, having it or not having it and loving yourself and all that romcomdram inspirational crap that I'm just not in the mood for this Valentine's Day and why didn't I just start drinking when I woke up because I'm not prepared for this" WAIT! I promise this is will be different!!!!! (Well, you probably should start your day with a mimosa either way, so your choice!)

While, yes, today is the day where we celebrate our love for coupled relationships, family members, friends, OR celebrating the fact that we can drink ourselves into a whiskey-induced coma to try and erase the horrible memories of love that we've lost, or love that we've never had, today is Valentine's Day. Whether we want to celebrate it or not, I don't think the holiday is going anywhere anytime soon, so it's best just to acknowledge it.

A few posts ago I referenced the quote,

"A flower does not think about competing with others. It just blooms."

I talked about how we are constantly looking at others and what they have versus what we don't have and how we put ourselves under such harsh light and deem ourselves unworthy. It's important for us to find our own path instead of mimicking others and hoping we can be as successful. I've always watched others fall into love or out of love and couldn't help but feel jealous that they had those experiences while I sat on the sidelines. This year is different. I know I know, I've said this before, but shouldn't each year feel different?

This Valentine's Day, today, while I may not have a bae to take me to a fancy dinner, send me roses and tell me how I'm everything he's been waiting for in his whole life, pull out a 2 karat emerald cut, engagement ring, just for me to turn him down because engagements on V-day are THE worst and how I'd rather have him propose at a gas station like Jim & Pam on The Office, I am proud to say that I've gotten the best gift I could have ever dreamed of..... A NEW JOB!!!!!!!

(Gasp! Shock! Awe!)

Yeah, instead of celebrating "Single's Awareness Day" and drinking over what I don't have, I'm happy to be spending my last full weekend working at the job that made me who I am today, and prepared me to take this next big leap into the future and rejoicing in what I do have.

If someone had asked me 5 years ago where I saw myself in 5 years, hell, if someone would have asked me that just a few months ago, I probably would have choked on my Vodka Tonic and rambled about how I'm too young to know what I want and how I have plenty of time to figure it out. More importantly, I would have never said I'd be pursuing a career in marketing for a start-up social media company in Manhattan. While many people spend years laying the perfect path to a life-long career, I never saw my path clearly, I was just lucky to know that I could take a few steps forward without falling flat on my ass.

I remember my first day, almost 3 and a half years ago, walking through Lord & Taylor Flagship Store, days after Hurricane Irene, from my black polka-dot dress to my short-bob haircut, heavy framed glasses and bottled up insecurities. Without much knowledge of the brand, but intrigued by a position in the "plus size" department that was 5 times the size of my local Lord & Taylor, I was told there was a position working for Eileen Fisher and I just needed to interview with their coordinator. (I know she'll make fun of me for this but it's worth it.)

Now, to fully put yourself into the situation, I'm going to need you to forget the ME I am today and picture a heavier, more awkward, 50% less confident, 65% quieter (I know!), and 100% different version of me. Got it? We will continue...

I made my way to the 6th floor, unsure of who I was looking for, and saw a young woman with red, auburn hair (the unicorn of hair colors. You're welcome, Diana!) changing a mannequin under the sign that read Eileen Fisher. Awkwardly breaking the ice, I think I made some joke about the recent Hurricane and how most of my neighborhood was under water, and she laughed, ironically/not ironically at all, she and her husband lived in the next town over. Before too long, we were chatting like college friends and bonding over our not-so secret obsession with The Bachelor.

Now, I know she'll probably hate it if I give her credit for who I am today, but without her instant friendship, there is absolutely no way that I would be the person I am, or the person who is now moving forward. Over our working relationship and our "secret outside friendship", I've gained a mentor, colleague, listening ear, and most importantly, a lifelong friend. Between changing looks for the upcoming line, we always had something to chat about. Diana has always helped give perspective into a successful life in NYC that takes hard work, trial and error, and taking that leap of faith. With encouragement in being the best work-self I could be, I was able to evolve into someone that I believe in and love. My walls and barriers came down and realized that I could be the person I always wanted to be if I was willing to work for it.

As I look back on my past three and a half years, the countless friendships I've made is incredible. Some for just a few months and then others from the very beginning, between management, specialists, floaters, and beloved clients, it's bittersweet to be saying goodbye. Now, while I hear laughing from some who can't believe I'm actually sad about leaving, of course it was always a job, a way to pay my bills and start a life for myself on my own. But when reflecting, this was way more than just a job. This store gave me more than hours clocked in the time clock, and more than money to pay my bills. This store, with the people that keep it opening every day, rain, snow, ice and sun, has given me a life I never expected. With friendships from people from around the world, memories of laughing until I cried, or crying until I laughed, I've grown to be the woman I always wanted to be. I can say that without this "just a retail" job, I would not be able to start a new chapter elsewhere. To most, they never understood why someone with a college degree and years of experience, would take a job like I've had and you know what, that's fine. They'll never understand what it's like to watch someone take a glance into a mirror and feel pretty, worthy, beautiful for the first time in their live. I've seen that. They'll never understand how in a world so full of different beliefs and ideas, that when it comes down to it, as individuals, it's how we see ourselves that's important and now how others see us. I've learned that. This "just a retail job" has given me something that money can't buy, life, love and happiness. THAT is why it has all been worth it, that is why I have stayed for these years, and that is what I will take with me as I adventure out into the world.

You tell me, is a Valentine's Day filled with chocolate and fake promises better that a new life full of excitement and adventure? I don't think so. And hell, maybe I'll pick up a real Valentine in the next chapter? All I know for sure is I am happy, healthy, blessed and loved! You are too!

xoxo

Daily Dose: Weekly Wrap Up "Times Up"

This post was originally shared on January 26, 2015.

While I had planned on writing every day of my vacation, I've struggled to prioritize my time with writing over the past few days. This is not an apology, for the results of a few days off gave me the idea for this post. As some know, I've taken these few days and traveled back to my roots, out of the city, to spend some quality time with my parents and family in Connecticut. With both of my parents retired, living a busier schedule than I think they did while working and raising me, finding time where we can just hang out and be a family is difficult. Plus, corresponding a weekend with my parents AND godchildren and their family is beyond impossible. So, when I can, I pack my bags, hurry to Grand Central, and make my way up, out of the city and into a land that smells of pine trees, dirt, coffee, fresh air and, most importantly, home. 

With mornings that aren't rushed to get up, the luring smell of fresh coffee drew me out of my childhood bedroom just after 8:30 and down the chilly, hard-wood steps of the front hall to my favorite spot in the house. A cozy, well worn, arm chair in the middle of the kitchen, a spot to relax with a book and a steaming mug while watching the world outside slowly arise. Out the kitchen windows, the yard looks eerily quiet and grey without it's usual green abundance, but the sun's pinkish glow peaks just over the trees and fills the room. Both in our "jammies", my mother, who's stationed at her usual kitchen chair by the window, and I begin chatting about our lives apart. From friends to work, knit club, church and relationships, I'm certain, if given enough time and coffee, of course, we could solve world peace in those spots. After 26 years of parenting, my mother's wisdom has been a resounding voice in my head, as if she anticipates my next question and already knows how to guide me forward. Whatever concerns about the future I have, she acknowledges, reassures and refocus' me on the constants that exist in my life. In those moments over coffee, any worry about my life, seem to just drift away as actualization appears. In those moments over coffee, I am safe, confident, and sure.

On Friday, I found myself in a very familiar position, bundled up head to toe, skis and boots strapped to my feet and my dad sitting on my left in a chairlift headed up a mountain. Just like all the other thousand "chairlift" talks we've had over the past 24 years of my ski career, it wouldn't have been the same until I heard,

"Well Margaret, you have to just count your lucky stars. Live today and thats it. Don't worry about tomorrow." 

He, without knowledge of my conversation with my mother just a day earlier, seemed to make it a point to be in the NOW, to evaluate what brought me to this moment, to this mountain, to this chairlift. To understand that it's a blessing to wake up and make use of the day, doing something I love and to appreciate the opportunity to take the time to enjoy the life I have.

I hear stories about folks who are pressured by their parents into choosing a path to then realize later on that it was never what they wanted. They spend years trying to be someone they aren't to gain the respect from people who never took the time to really understand who they were, time that could have been used doing something they loved, time understanding each other and growing together. I'm lucky, and have those stars to thank, that I have parents who never did that. Most say they have supportive parents, but I don't know how they could top mine. While giving me guidance and coaching me along the way, they've stood by and allowed me to mature into who I am, never once suggesting that my dreams were too big, or too much for me to handle. Over time, they have helped mold and shape me to be a free-spirit, confident of my beliefs, kind-hearted and capable of discovering the world for myself. In the kitchen over coffee, sitting frozen on a chairlift, or even over the phone, the down time is never wasted.

"I wish we had more time."

A quote many say after a loss of a loved one or an end to a relationship just seems to devalue the time that was spent together. As a society, we focus on what could have, should have, would have happened if we only had that extra moment to say everything we wanted to say. But do we use that time wisely? No, it's easier to spend years wondering how things would have been different given extra time, instead of embracing the moments we have in front of us. 

I've learned the value of time from my parents. Among other life lessons, I've learned that it's not about how much time you've waited, but it's about how you chose to use it. Years from now, many, many years, when I am so driven by grief that someone has to pull my body off of their graves, remind me of this post. I'll want to remember that in the time that we had, we talked, we skied, we played, we sang, we laughed, we loved, we enjoyed it together, we were a family. That in the time we were given, we gave it our all.  

Daily Dose: Day Four "Death Becomes Her"

This post was originally shared on January 20, 2015. 

WAIT!

Before you read another word, check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art "Death Becomes Her" exhibit! It closes February 1st, and is absolutely phenomenal! As many of the exhibits at the museum, especially in the Anna Wintour Costume Institute, it is astounding what brilliant minds come together to collaborate such fascinating exhibits. I am constantly blown away by the technical quality of the garments and the rich history behind each piece, showcasing the lives of the women who wore them in various decades of mourning throughout Europe and Early America. Please, check out the exhibit before it closes! I'm not a usual museum aficionado, but am always inspired and enthused after visiting the Costume Institute.

That being said, I was fascinated to learn that HRH Queen Victoria, after the passing of her husband, Prince Albert in 1861, remained in mourning clothes until the day she died, some forty years later. Upon further research, there are several cultures today that carry along a similar tradition of wearing black or color specific garbs for a year after the death of an immediate family member.

Naturally, while trying to absorb every inch of each dress, detail, pattern, layering, accessories, I couldn't help but be haunted by a dress that lives in my closet, a dress I have only worn once, and yet a dress I can not seem to let go of. This dress, a beautifully, feminine black lace, sheer sleeves with a high neck, low back that comes together with a striking gold zipper just above my knees, and hugs in all the right places, as if made specifically for me. A dress that in my mind, could be worn as the "little black dress" to an evening cocktail party with black Louboutins, or accented with a pair of bright pink flats, a strand of pearls and a showy clutch. A dress I will never wear again.

A winter day, with a crisp chill in the air and clouds covering any sign of the sun, I sat in the back seat of my parents SUV, rereading my lines over and over again. Words I've read before, words I've heard since I was a little girl and were plastered in several forms amidst my late grandparent's house, my grandmother's favorite verse from the book she held so dear. Then, in the moment in the back seat of the car, they were just words, with no meaning or heartbeat, words I would read just a few minutes later that would change my life.

As I stood up and made my way to the front of the congregation in my perfect, black dress, I took a breath. She was gone... My words needed to be clear, strong, full of meaning so even she could hear me in whatever land she was in. I turned around, looked for comfort from my family and read,

If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don’t have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing. If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

But where there are prophecies, they will be done away with. Where there are various languages, they will cease. Where there is knowledge, it will be done away with. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is complete has come, then that which is partial will be done away with. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known. But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love.
— First Corinthians

With tears on the brim of my eyes, I slowly made it back to my seat. Fighting every ounce of courage, the tears won and sorrow overcame me. The words I've known for years seemed to be etched into my heart, slowly letting her death become me.

Years too soon and miles to go, my aunt was taken from this world after a vicious battle that stole her body and soul. I know, soon, like the many others who's voices I wish I could still hold on to, hers will be a faded memory. Like the moments when I smell my grandmother's perfume on someone new, I'll smile as it brings me back to our lives before. That dress will continue to hang in the back of the closet covered in plastic, preserved, like her memory in my brain. Memories of laughter, joy and love that I will carry forever.

While the mourning may last a lifetime, we must continue on with the strength of those we've loved and lost, with their memories unwavering love, we must keep living. Love can overcome death, love never fails.

Daily Dose: Day Three "MotiVACAtional Monday"

This post was originally shared on January 19, 2015.

While I spent most of the day in my jersey, wallowing in the loss of the Green Bay Packers, (see yesterday's "Daily Dose: Day Two 'How Football (and a Neanderthal) Saved My Life'") I couldn't help but hear the voice in my head reminding me to keep to my Daily Dose promise.

As some may know, I'm currently on my annual winter paid vacation and reveling in time, space and comfy sweats. With travel plans later in the week, I've been grateful to have a few days to myself to catch up on all the things I say I am "too busy" to do when I'm working. Honestly, my closet isn't going to get cleaned and the tub of random bath and beauty projects from when I moved apartments has been just fine until now, what's another few months?

Basically, besides from spending yesterday watching football, my days have been full of laundry and a Friends marathon, not that I'm complaining. With working a busy schedule, it's days like today that make me feel almost guilty spending it on the couch instead of hustling around the city and "fighting fashion, one outfit at a time!"

While I lounged and watched Friends, I couldn't help but recognize the correlation between my life to theirs. Don't worry, I didn't go and get the "Rachel" haircut...again! In all the previous times watching the show, I always looked up to the characters for having their lives together and seeming so much older and mature. Now, that I am the age of most of them, I relate to Rachel's struggle finding a job, Monica's need for a healthy relationship and future family, Joey's ambition to follow his heart and pursue his dreams. I can see a bit of me in all of them and somehow find comfort in their difficulties. After years of putting these characters in realm where I never thought I would live, I am right there besides them, dealing with all of the same issues.

As many do, I find it difficult to avoid comparing myself to others. It's easy to watch others make big moves for work, relationships, families, and think that you're remaining stagnant. I recently came across a quote, on Pinterest of course, that helped put things into a different perspective.

Yes, we see others moving at rates different then our own. Some quickly move ahead and then retreat, while others take their time and approach slowly. As a charge to the future for both myself and my readers, I'd like to move forward and bloom. Take time to appreciate the beauty in the flowers, and the world around us, knowing that we will bloom when we are ready on our own. We must trust our world to provide nutrients for our brains and our hearts to become our true selves and stand strong in who we are. This is coming off way more hippy-chic than I expected, very Phoebe Buffay, but we need to stop comparing ourselves to others. We each have our own lives, struggles, skills, and strengths, to help us continue on in this journey. Although, it won't end with a Friends reunion, it will give us memories of each season, recalling the beauty of who we've become and who's been there all along. I've noticed that like flowers, it is rare to find just one growing in a garden. Surround yourselves with people who find that beauty and share in the glow of the sun!

Daily Dose: Day Two "How Football (and a Neanderthal) Saved My Life"

This post was originally shared on January 18, 2015.

First, and always, "GO PACK GO!"

Secondly, along with teachings from strong women like e.e. Cumming, Jane Austen, Maya Angelou, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, my mother, grandmother, teachers, friends and mentors, I owe most of who I am today to the Green Bay Packers, with help from a noisy, and wonderful cheesehead couple with whom taught me everything I need to know about being a first round draft pick in Future Mrs NFL. 

Although, as this post is being written, in day two of "Daily Dose", I must confess my love for football, in general, is being put to the test. While, win or lose, SuperBowl or Puppy Bowl, my feelings toward the Packers will remain strong, there is a solid pit of disappointment and anger in their loss today. 

More importantly, I love the Green Bay Packers for allowing me to be the person I am on Sunday afternoons, and some occasional Monday and Thursday Nights throughout the season. This person is dedicated, strong, confident, powerful, optimistic, cheerful, and free! Not that I'm not those things on an average day, but in this scenario, surrounded by others who are drawn together, without any other affiliation besides their love for the Packers, we are a community. 

People always ask me, "How do you do it in New York? How do you remain so cheerful at work?" 

It's simple, you spend time with others who have a common interest, in our chance, our NFL team. I can't take all the credit for this wisdom. I'd like to fully put all blame for my Packer-ness on my college roommate and her husband. Our first years in New York were difficult, each living in different parts of the city, busy with jobs we didn't love and little time to be together. One Sunday, I was invited to this little bar "down town". Not knowing where I was headed, usually just focused on getting to and from work safely, I put the address in my phone and agreed to meet them to "watch football". 

With no formal NFL affiliation, and a childhood in Connecticut, my allegiance wavered from the team to team, following the cutest players, (DUH!). I didn't know much about the sport but was instantly drawn to the dedication of the other Packer fans in this small Irish Pub on 14th Street. Everyone seemed to know the players by name, and were almost as physically into the game as the team. I was in awe. I can't tell whether I spent my time watching the actually game being played, or studying the fans in their own sectioned off room in the back. Every thing about it was enticing, not to mention my future hubby, Clay Matthews. (He's mine. Back off!)

From that very first day, to the game that just ended, my life has been changed. For that three to sometimes twelve hour period that we are together, we are united. As fans, such as my lovely cheesehead couple, leave and move on to different parts of the world, still Skyping during games, new friends are added, and with that my knowledge of the game grows. I can't say I'm ready to take Erin Andrews position yet, I have been known to rock a side braid. I am more confident of the friendships I've made in my years as a Green Bay Packer fan, than I am over my skills as a defensive coordinator. And for me, that's what's important. I'd rather scream, cry, lash out, yell, curse, and jump with that group of fans than anyone else in the entire world. 

Thank you Green Bay Packers, for being an excellent example of what friendship means, sticking together through win and loss, holding each other up when life throws you down. 

Thank you for giving me a reason to push through the tough weeks with hope of seeing what's to come. 

Thank you for providing me a home in a city that sometimes feels just a little too big and a little too far away from home.  

And thank you for a legacy I can't wait to share with my future family! 

To a wonderful season, and even better friends! GO PACK GO! 

(PS: I'm still a little angry about today's loss.) 

 

 

Daily Dose: Day One "No Butts About It"

This post was originally shared on January 17, 2015. 

I'd like to spend today's "Daily Dose" discussing a topic that I've put on the back burner long enough. I've shared several intimate details about my life and my past in these last 21 posts, but now I really need to come clean with the whole truth. I've spent years pretending that this vital flaw hasn't effected how I view myself and others and the lifestyle I've built for myself, but it's just too hard to continue the charade. With pop-culture, magazines, online articles, twitter, instagram, twits, tweeps, snap this's, dick pics, and that wild excuse for "Music" TeleVision, I can no longer escape a world in which I do not belong. Just like a super hero, learning his/her true powers hidden in a flaw, I must come to accept this and move, specifically, forward.

I was born without a BUTT!

I'll take a moment for you to grab a tissue and wipe those tears. No, there isn't a picture to prove it and no, I won't DM you one either! It's been a rough 26 years, but from studies done in movies of people dealing with major life issues and dependencies, I've learned that "admission is the first step."

I'm not sure how it all happened, honestly. I grew up a normal child, without much attention to an excessive posterior and no real need for it. I had a back, hips, and legs, all necessary elements. My "butt" seemed to fit in pants like the other kids, kept me cushioned when I fell and allowed me to sit, stand and function like everyone else. So what was the need of social acceptance for a larger rear?

As an avid music lover, my need for "some junk in that trunk" came when the beat dropped. Check out this list of wonderful "booty" songs.... 

  • All About That Bass Meghan Trainor
  • Bootylicious Destiny's Child
  • Fat Bottomed Girls Queen
  • Bubble Butt Major Lazer
  • My Humps Black Eyed Peas
  • Honky Tonk Badonkadonk Trace Adkins
  • Wiggle Jason Derulo

The only one that actually gets it right is by the darling, Sir Mix-a-lot in Baby Got Back and honestly, I can't even listen to the song anymore. It's only in saying those three little words "Baby Got Back" that ring true to my soul. Forgotten are all those years I spent programming my brain to remember each verse of the rap at school sleepover parties. Now, all I hear is a song that preaches about butts being "round & juicy", which is alarmingly, a serious medical issue. 

And fellas, YA!, fellas, YA! is it really "all about 'dat butt"? I'm a lovely person. I like football. I'm funny. I have normal boobs!!! (None of those pancake ones, yikes!) and I'm not crazy like the girls on The Bachelor. Can you live knowing that, while your girl doesn't have a butt like J-Lo, or even, J-Law, she is still pretty cool? 

Even Justin Timberlake knows what's up. My heart will never recover from this. 

My hope for this confession is not to deter from those bootified ladies, but to bring awareness to the feelings of rejection one has when she hears a great new jam on the radio, or at the club, and realizes she will never be able to "shake it off" or "get low" or hell, even "bust a move". (Studies I've done reflects direct correlation between lack of butt and lack of dance skills.) If there are others out there, and I know there are, who feel like their booty's just don't literally, fit in, I encourage you to take a stand! Show the world that you don't need that butt to feel worthwhile! You don't need a butt to have a good time! You can awkwardly sway side to side on the dance floor while those whores, I mean other girls, wiggle their butts like they're shooting an Usher video. But know, deep in your heart, it was never about the butt, it's about who you are without it!

"Stop being such a B...."

This post was originally shared on January 14, 2015.

Whoa there, let me finish that for you. Beautiful, Confident, Witty, Gracious, Fearless, Strong, Educated, Thoughtful, Conscious, Grounded, but definitely not now, and not ever a BITCH! 

I'll be the first to admit, that against all attempts by my parent's fabulous child rearing and tips for "being a proper lady", I savor the sounds of curse words as they grace my teeth and tongue and escape my mouth. Whether it's the hard consonants sandwiching strong nasal or guttural vowels or feeling like a complete rebel, these words seem to strengthen from the core and release some sort of thrilling high. (Not that I know what that feels like at all, or maybe that one night or semester in college in the woods because all the cool kids were doing it too but wait what? Never, Mom! I promise! ) 

Now, I hope this hasn't shattered the lovely image of me as this prim and proper lady with mouth of roses and words of rainbows, ponies and meadows pink and perfect with a sunset on the ocean. If you thought I was that person, then you clearly haven't been reading the "write" blog. Ha! See what I did there. I'm not above puns!

I like to think that I'm not as bad as "the others" I hear here in Manhattan. There is a time and a place for profanity, among friends, screaming at the television over a horrible call by the replacement refs that nearly killed our entire season. Not bitter. At. ALL. Or maybe when a rogue cab driver thinks he's driving a drag race instead of 6th Avenue. Even, when someone rushing past to get to work bumps into you spilling your $5.89 triple no-whip latte. All appropriate, however, use sparingly. I'm not ashamed to admit that a part of me cringes when I hear the valley girl favorite "like, replaced with "eff this". 

More important than this pleasant and courteous PSA to keep the smack talk to a minimum, is the deeper issue. 

If I'm sharing my own personal opinion or reaction or even just a thought, crafted after years of life experiences, education, influences by people who've graced my life with inspiration and guidance, and usually several pro/con lists made in my exploding filing cabinets of a brain, why am I a BITCH?

Just because we have the power to house the difference of opinions, views, morals and beliefs in each and every one of our bodies, we have the power of speech to express those. Most of us, lucky enough to live in the US, have a constitutional law that allows us to freely express ourselves without any government involvement at all, within specific guidelines. But then, what part of this makes it ok to label and judge those who speak their minds, especially when it differs from what's inside ours? 

I hear "Oh, she's just a b*tch" or "he's being a d*ck" as an excuse to justify someone's actions and words in ways that they differ from our own. And that's what it is. Just an excuse to continue living in the boxes we put ourselves in. 

Now, I know you're thinking. "But I love saying it! It just rolls right off the tongue and sometime's she is just being such a b*tch!" 

Then fine, go ahead. This is, by no means a resolution to abolish these terms, but to bring awareness to how we address conflict resolution. We learn on the playground to solve issues with words and to choose them carefully. 

Let us take a moment to time travel to a middle school hallway in which my first, and probably only, moments of confrontation and verbal vindication occurred. 

After several weeks of harsh, verbal bullying about my pleasantly plump body dressed awkward denim overalls with Airwalks and horribly permed hair, (all pictures have been burned so don't even bother to ask), I had finally had it with my antagonist. The night previous to the "incident", I had shared my concerns with my parents. Their usual pep-talk and words of encouragement to "let it go" (shockingly, people used this before Frozen" hadn't got far and I was in tears over having to return to school the next day. We started to brainstorm ways that I could address the issue face to face and still keep things civil, but nothing felt right. Jokingly, my wise father suggested something a bit more direct. A question I posed to the bully, that will always give me a chuckle until my last breath. 

So with my amo in my back pocket, I confidently made my way to the hallways. Of course, I saw the boy as soon as the bell rang and the remarks started coming. Each one rolled off my back as I bit my tongue, rehearsing the one line in my head for proper delivery. 

As I approached our lockers I heard, "oh look! It's an earthquake!" to the cackling boys surrounding our lockers. I just smiled and put my things away.

As we approached the classroom, quietly, I turned and sincerely asked, "Did your mother really give birth to you OR did she find you under a rock?"

MIC DROP! WIN! I shut him up. 

After his friends stopped laughing at him, he responded with a weak, "Whatever Fatty!" just as our hometown teacher walked by. Double WIN! 

Bully got hauled off to the office in tears and a "she started it" which everyone knew was a bunch of bull. Of course, I then had to explain to the guidance counselor, who nearly spit her coffee out, when I told her what I said. She wasn't amused, or even proud, that I took things into my own hands and required both of us to write apology notes to each other for inappropriate behavior. Way to go, public educators dealing with bullys! You nailed it! 

My note was as follows:

"Dear Ryan,

I apologize for how I acted today in homeroom. I am not sorry for what I said. I chose my words carefully."

Nailed it!

Sure, I could have stayed quiet, kept my mouth shut, and allowing him to torment me for the rest of my schooling. Instead, without months of hateful words, but humor and a question, I got him and he stopped. 

Looking back, I'm proud of that girl. I'm also a bit proud of that boy. He's grown up and turned out to be a pretty nice guy. I wonder if he remembers any part of that story and only the feeling of pure surprise and astonishment. 

It's easy to use hurtful words to express our anger when the harder words just can't form. Sharing how we truly feel is difficult and when anger, judgement fuels our emotions, those curses just seem to help lighten the mood or fill the empty void.  Saying "she's a b*tch" is less time consuming than discussing why she feels differently than you do. Maybe that "b*tch" had a reasoning to her actions that you just don't, can't or won't see, but give her the benefit to show her whole self. Usually, those snap decisions about people are made with little to no solid information. We are so quick to pass judgement with nasty words of negativity instead of realizing how hurtful it's become.

Call me an optimist or even crazy to hope that one day we can speak kindly about others and actually mean it. Treat others you want to be treated? Who knew? Maybe you and "the b*tch" like the same TV show, or maybe go to similar spinning classes, hell, maybe you'll even become friends. Too far? Even scarier, what if you're actually "the b*tch"? Terrifying, right? Imagine what it would be like knowing that others liked you as much as you liked them? Or even just tried! I promise it doesn't hurt as much as the years of Botox to remove frown lines. Did I just solve World Peace? Probably not, Girl Scout Cookies are still just once a year.

Of course, it won't be tomorrow, and it's not a resolution I take on lightly, but I choose to believe that the more I view people in a positive light, the more they sparkle and shine. And hey, maybe they'll even surprise you?

"New Year, Same Me"

This post was originally shared on January 4, 2015.

A scenario:

Woman: "Happy New Year!"

Me: "Why, thank you! You as well!"

"Do you have anything planned for New Year's Eve?"

"Yes, I'm working here and then I plan on spending the evening making dinner, watching some tv and just relaxing. I have a great book I've wanted to finish."

"Oh, so friends are coming over?"

"Nope. Just me. It's just nice to have a night off. Last year I was in Times Sq and it was enough of a celebration for at least 3 years. I could use a quiet night after this holiday season."

"Wait, you're going to be alone? You don't want to go anywhere? Be with friends?"

"Yeah, I didn't make any big plans because I'm working the next day and want to hang out without all the fuss of NYE. I can see my friends whenever."

(awkward pause) 

"Uh. Yeah. Sure.... That's cool... I guess....."

Now, originally, this post was going to be about how the above conversation I had made me slunk back into the February 14th, Doom's Day pit of doom and chocolate. I'd share with you how I wished I had made up some bullshit story about going out with friends, partying until dawn, watching fireworks and making dreams come true with a kiss at midnight, ending in a wicked hangover and a "why do we even have to work on New Year's Day?" just to avoid her questions and make me blend into the rest of the partying mix. (Sidebar: I am not above partying. I love to party! Well, that's a partial lie and I don't been "party" like I do cocaine. I don't party, party, I party. Get it? Whatever. I've been known to have a good time, and no, not in that way either. Jeez, ok. So, I party. I have photos and battle scars to prove it, but as I age, hangovers have become a real bitch and working with a hangover is almost unbearable. I enjoy a good party, late-night whiskeyfest as we close down the bar, sure thing! But, by God, let me sleep it off the next day in a coma of Advil, coffee and a bacon, egg and cheese on a whole wheat everything bagel. Speaking of which, when do I get an assistant who brings me these things while I hide under the covers? Is it in another 20 posts, or 500 views? What are the rules on hiring an intern?)

After a relatively quiet work day, I left work in a state of melancholia with thoughts of sadness and pathetic regret that I would be spending the evening alone, that nasty woman's voice stuck in my head and setting up my year for only future loneliness and lackluster. Maybe I'd write, maybe I'd drink a bottle of Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio and pass out on the couch, inevitably I brought this upon myself and I had to live with it, the night was mine and mine alone. 

Almost to where I pick up the train home, I stopped waiting for the crosswalk to change on 34th Street & Broadway, and looked up, the Empire State Building danced among the night sky directly above me. It's colors magnificent and bright, continuously changing, shining like a stained-glass soaring taller than any other building around. I stood in awe with hundreds of others, tourists, New Yorkers, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends, family, strangers and loved ones, and none of us were alone. We were all together, taking in a moment of beauty, joy and celebration, as a community.

And in that moment, I was not alone. I was free. I was choosing to follow my own path, to do what makes me happy, to do or be whatever/whoever I choose to be, knowing that I'm making the right decision. I am not alone. I am constantly surrounded by people, even complete strangers, who are genuine and true, friendly and kind. Even in moments when I'm alone writing in my cozy city apartment, I hear the sounds of people in my building, in my neighborhood, living their lives. People who, when a fire is erupting and exploding just outside our building, will bond together to make sure everyone is safe. People, who I meet at work for the first time, who then become like long-lost friends visiting from across the world. These stories, these people, now live inside me. Combined with my close friends and perfect little family, they help mold and shape the person I want to be. They help inspire my wit, humor, confidence and drive to continue on in this world. They light up my world, even moments of darkness and night, with brightness and color, like the Empire State Building late Wednesday evening. It is truly spectacular what a little brightness and color can do for the world.

That brightness encouraged me to head home, put my comfy jammies on, and curl up on the couch with the "Gilmore Girls" queue on my Netflix, something I get great pleasure out of even if it is the 3, 4, 5, 6th possible time I've watched the complete series in my life. That brightness helped me see that I shouldn't be ashamed of taking an evening doing what I choose to do. That brightness reminded me that for more years than I can count on my fingers, I've dreamed of being in New York, even if it was for less than 24 hours. I've left family, friends and a different life elsewhere to spend a majority of my breathing time here, living a life I never thought I deserved. That brightness sparked the fire inside of me that inspires me to continue forward, that there is more in this city for me to fall in love with, people to befriend, places to explore, and a place to call "home".

Instead of partying all night with people I don't know, puking on the side of a mailbox, and calling out sick on New Year's Day, foregoing any hope of holiday pay, I enjoyed a quiet night at home. I watched several episodes where Rory and Lorelei are fighting about Rory dropping out of Yale, which are, by far, the worst and yet the best, in the series. I spent time appreciating the recently passed, Edward Herrmann, as Richard Gilmore, and imaging his life as the charming and supportive patriarch surrounded by a loving family. With my iPad in my lap, and a mug of hot cocoa with Bailey's (Thanks Momma Jane) I perused Pinterest searching for  new recipes for string beans and brussels sprouts, read some inspiring quotes, pinned ideas for my next housing endeavor, and found a few sweet recipes I want to try (I did not set a resolution to give up sweets. That's suicide!) I was able to chat with a friend who was having a similar evening and reveling in how nice it was just to relax. In bed and snuggled in just in time to watch the fireworks from my window, I began my new year comfortably happy ready for dreams.

If New Year's Eve is any reflection to how I will spend my year, I'm excited. I'll pass on spending the year popping "Molly", drinking watered down, cheap vodka listening to a poorly dressed with pit-stains, Brian slur his words on venture capital and equity marketing and God-knows-what-because-he's-not-even-that-cute-but-he-may-have-hot-friends, while my "friends" make a bee-line for the bathroom to complain that the doucher she likes wont text her back after she said "hey" and sent 3 snaps of her slutty outfit and vent about how, like totally, rude it was for what's her face to wear the same dress and OH MY GOD, are these shoes made by Satan AND Louboutin and why is the line for the bathroom this damn long? Sound familiar?

Yeah, I'm good. Maybe I'm growing older, or maybe I'm just not as cool as those other kids, but none of the above sounds remotely like anything I would want to or choose to do. This year, instead of making big resolutions to "change for the better", I'm going to focus on staying the same me I've been. I'm not going to pledge to go to the gym 5 times a week or eat more kale (Is the kale thing done yet? Will it taste better when it is done? No? Ok, I'm still out!). I can't say I won't laugh when someone falls, but I promise to assist in recovery or at least make sure they are ok before I continue on. I won't promise to be brave and say everything I want to say, I'll try, it's scary, vulnerable and takes a lot of practice conversations, but I'll try to do what I feel is best for me and my future. I'll shape my thoughts and words carefully and speak them with eloquence and truth in my heart. I'll love with the hope, not expectation, that love will love me right back. I'll spend time understanding and appreciating who we are as people in this world, and how, together, we can rise up from the ashes like the phoenix. Most importantly, I'll write. I'll put my thoughts, breath, time, love and humor into Inspired Wit, because I believe that it will change a life. In fact it already has, mine.

with love & joy,
Here's to 2015! New Year, Same Me!