A Food & Flowers Picture Post From Whole Foods

A new Whole Foods opened up, and it’s the closest one to my house! I’m excited because, well, Whole Foods, AND healthy eating is good, right?? So I got to go to a grand opening tour and I took tons of pictures and recorded it on Facebook live (at the request of Whole Foods Boulder/Longmont). So If you’ve never been to one, here’s what it’s all about!

First, let’s start with the floral department since it’s always by the entrance, and it’s my favorite of all floral departments in any grocery store. And because pretty. And we need some beauty in our lives.

Looks and smells like summer.

Then you walk through the produce, and I’ll let the tour guide take over from here. (Apologies for the spotty cell reception I was getting on my iPhone.)

Not bad, eh? I also love the personal care section. They have great bath items (I’m a fan of relaxing soaks), and you can even find the perfect gift.

It’s bar soap, folks. Handmade. Smells amazing!

LOVE this.

What Boulder smelled like when I was a kid.

And they also fed us, which always makes for happy bloggers. 

Whole Foods is really about the idea of LOHAS; Lifestyle of Health & Sustainability, and it’s reflected in their products and company policies and operations. Their mission statement says “… we offer a place for you to shop where value is inseparable from values.” So while they have a reputation for being pricey, which to be frank, can be true depending on the item, remember that with those extra dollars you’re supporting values like sustainable sourcing, fair wages for workers, and local farms to name a few.

What is your favorite store? Do you have Wegmans? Because I don’t and I want to know all about it!

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Finding Gratitude in a Noisy Crowd

Last week, I experienced an almost spiritual moment of gratitude. I was at a concert, a Tool concert to be specific. As I stood in the 12th row, my hair literally blowing from the sound waves (maybe I should have worn earplugs?), I was overtaken by sadness when I thought about my late grandma.

Yes, my grandma. At a Tool show. I know it’s strange, but stay with me here.

I realized how much she would have loved it, and how I wish I had taken her to a rock concert before she passed away in 2003. I imagined her throaty giggle as the sound waves vibrated in her chest. Her eyes full of excitement from the drummer’s insane solo as it ricochets around the arena. I could easily imagine this experience moving her to tears.

My grandma was deaf. She had scarlet fever as an infant and it stole her hearing. She grew up in the WWII era, and was sent to a deaf school. Her parents and siblings did not learn sign language. As was common at that time, deafness was associated with a lack of intelligence, and deaf folks were relegated to low-wage jobs and sub-standard education. She grew up, married a deaf man, and they had four hearing children. They refused to teach any of the children sign language for fear the kids would have the same stigma attached to them.

Grandma Beverly

Grandma Beverly

My mother was one of those four, and she and I learned to sign when I was eight. Grandma gave me a Sesame Street signing book, and she was so thrilled when I was able to tell her what I was learning about in school. I’d show her my favorite signs over and over, like dreamturtle, and grandma, but she never tired of it.  Although I was (and still am) a horrible speller, she pretended to understand what I finger-spelled to her. She had the most amazing laugh, because it was complete abandon every time. Guttural, loud, and full of life. She didn’t know about “indoor voices”. Just recalling the sound of it makes me laugh thirteen years after I heard it last.

My favorite memory of her is when I took her to a doctor appointment, and blasted Snoop Dogg from the stereo as we drove. I look over, and there is my grandma, bobbing her head and tapping her foot to the bass vibration in the car. She asked me what kind of music it was and when I told her, I was rewarded with her best laugh ever.

Not long before she passed, she got new hearing aides. We gathered at my mom’s house to fill out and send my wedding invitations. My mom messed up on one of the envelopes, so she crumpled it up in a ball and tossed it aside. Grandma’s eyes got huge!

“What was that noise?” She signed.

“It was the envelope,” I told her and replicated the crumple action.

“Paper makes noise?!?” She asked, totally astounded.  She’d heard the crumple sound for the first time.

Imagine that. Imagine not knowing that virtually everything makes some sort of noise. Imagine how wondrous each sound would be as you discovered it for the first time at the age of 63. Then she heard my mother’s (her daughter’s) laugh for the first time and she cried.

That’s why I know she would have loved the Tool show. She’d have loved the vibration of the music, the feeling of a sold out crowd united by what they are hearing. She didn’t get to experience music, or her childrens’ laughter, or the sound of thunder or ocean waves.

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Everyone was jealous of our seats

So when I was at the Tool show, being bombarded with amazing guitar riffs, the gratitude hit me. We are so lucky. Fortunate. Blessed. I try really hard not to take experiences for granted. In my opinion, they are the most important thing. Possessions are only things that lose their shine and usefulness over time, but experiences teach you, they broaden you, and they make you more interesting. Plus, they don’t go out of style and they can’t break like things do.

Me and the Mr. #twelfthrowseats

Me and the Mr. #twelfthrow

Have some experiences that push you and scare you a little. Do the things you have passion for. Do ALL the things. Don’t squander the chance to enjoy every moment of life. It’s the simplest experiences that can give us the most happiness. Don’t forget to be present.

That time I wrastled a gator.

That time I wrastled a gator.

 

What are your favorite adventures? What’s on your bucket list? How do you savor you life? Let’s share!

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Chick Chat: Let’s Catch Up!

Hey friends! 2016 has been a whirlwind and we’ve been busy, busy, busy! Seriously – how is it the end of September already? We wanted to take this opportunity to catch up with you guys – let you know what we’ve been up to and hopefully you’ll share a bit with us too.

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It’s been one big long year of change for me. As many of you know, my father passed away in February after a 10 month battle with leukemia, my office moved and job responsibilities shifted (again.) But earlier this month, our biggest change arrived- all 8 lbs. 1 oz. of him.

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On Sept. 7, my husband and I met the light of our lives, our son Joseph Luis. Since then it’s been a whirlwind of nursing, round the clock schedules and everything baby. We’re happily exhausted and feeling a bit more confident each day. I’m on maternity leave through the end of the year, and once cleared by the doctor, I’ll be easing my way back into a fitness regimen. Stay tuned as I explore this incredible new chapter in life.

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Life snapshot: Work, wedding planning, exercising, hosting football parties, choir, dogsitting all the time, playing with my cat, trying to eat healthy, sleeping… maybe. Basically, right now I feel like Leslie Knope, trying to do all the things at once and still have everyone like me at the end of the day. What my life requires at this moment is lists, boundaries, compartmentalization and coffee. Lots of coffee.

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Exercising and eating healthy (and sleep, I guess) help keep me feeling physically good and give me the energy to put in to all of my other endeavors. Wedding planning is going well, but I’m always looking for more ideas and ways to create a budget friendly celebration. I’ve had to step back from a few commitments in the last month or so because I realized that they 1. were causing me too much undue stress, and 2. were making things I loved way less fun.

Don’t keep that kind of negativity in your life, friends. Just don’t.

Setting boundaries and protecting your heart and happiness is easy to say and hard to do, but super important and something I’m working on getting better at. That’s the underlying focus of all the things I’ve got going on in life at the moment!

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My life has been dominated by one big thing, looking for a new home. There have been some changes in our neighborhood recently, so we’re cashing out our equity and downsizing to something that gives us more freedom to live. We want to work to live, not live to work just to pay for our stuff that we don’t use anyway. Since I don’t have children, the options are wide open. We’re even talking about buying a 5th wheel and living out of that while we sock away a few years of income. Just about everything is on the table!

Maybe this will be my backyard!

Maybe this will be my backyard!

After reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-up“, I’m on a mission to purge. You should totally read it too because it was life-changing. After reading it, I have the tools I need to par down my possessions and my life so I can focus on family, fitness, writing, and finishing my novel. Only good things are ahead!

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While Jenn has been busy considering a new home, my family and I are on the other side of… things? The fence? The grass? Is there a saying here that I’m forgetting?

Anyway, we’ve been finding our new routine in our new home. The summer felt like one big pool party (possibly because we have a pool in our yard now). Now my kids are getting their new school routines down while I figure out the best days to do laundry, go food shopping, volunteer, etc. I’m a type A to the extreme so I thrive with plans, lists (fist bump, Kyle!), and other things that make me feel like I’m in charge of it all.

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Training for a couple of upcoming 10ks and the Philly half marathon is going well. I’m injury free, thank goodness, and planning on staying that way. Really focusing on spending time with my family and trying to enjoy the moments that are going so fast and ignore the fact that my 11 year old is going to be taller than me very soon. Looking forward to all that fall has offer: crisp air, snuggly attitudes, and cute Target decorations!

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 Now that grad school is over and done with, I have effectively learned how to say no to additional responsibilities and freed up all kinds of time to do whatever I like…said no Cam ever.  Yeah, all that time I freed up graduating has now been officially assigned to work and soccer.  I have a 3/4 combination class, a new principal, and new math AND reading curriculum to learn.  My days are literally packed with preparing for the next lessons.  A combo class has forced me to plan and organize EVERYTHING or else I have 30 kids staring at me while I lose my shit.

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I’ve also sold my sole (ha ha, get it?) to soccer.  My guy is coaching so I’m splitting my time between playing Ms. Coach and carting my daughter to her practices, which are on the same nights at a park on the complete opposite side of town.  All this mommy stuff is putting the brakes on my fitness goals, though I did just finish a 6 week transform class where I lost 6% of my body weight and lots of inches.  So that was nice.  With Hawaii Ragnar just around the corner, there’s no time to slack off.  Looks like I’ll be hitting the field with the kids!
So, what’s the haps with you? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

This One Time, At Space Camp…

I spent the Forth of July weekend at the best camp ever. There was no lake, or horses, or archery, or whatever they do at summer camp. The camp I went to had a Space Shuttle and Astronauts, and I even got to do science on the moon.  I finally got to fulfill my childhood dream of going to Space Camp, and it was WAY better than horseback riding.

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I wore Skirt Sports gear the whole weekend and it didn’t let me down in the Alabama heat! #psychedGGUforthewin

I had to fly to Huntsville, Alabama, the day before camp started, so of course I researched restaurants. It had been a long time since I’d had a po-boy and ettoufe, and I was on a mission. I wasn’t disappointed by the Yelp reviews for the Po-Boy Factory. So yumm!

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The next day, I got to Camp a little early and did some exploring and shopping. The Shuttle in the photo is the Pathfinder, and was an actual Shuttle program test vehicle.

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We got to do a Shuttle mission where we replicated Mission Control and Flight Crew duties. I got the be the “Guidance Systems & Navigational Controls Engineer” for the mission! We spent lots of time pretending we were astronauts, and we got to work in simulators that replicated the Shuttle, the ISS (International Space Station), and a lunar base.

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The second day of camp was jam-packed with activities. We toured the Rocket Center with our private tour guide; a retired NASA engineer who’d been with the rocket program since its inception.  He knew EVERYTHING.

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Saturn V Rocket. You can see tiny humans in the bottom left corner of the photo!

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The *actual* Apollo 16 Capsule. Imagine 3 men in that 6x6x6 foot space for DAYS!

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There were burn marks on the bottom from re-entry to the atmosphere from space. SO COOL.

Then we got to do the REALLY fun stuff, actual astronaut training! The first video shows me in the 1/6 Gravity Chair. It simulates the gravity felt on the moon. It was much harder to get going than you might think!

In this video, I’m in the MAT, Multi-Axis Trainer. This machine simulates a “tumble spin” that pilots can experience with loss of control of their vehicle. I was certain I would throw up. Megan, our team trainer, said she’s put over 700 people on this machine and no one has ever gotten sick. I’m happy to report that I didn’t feel nauseated at all! The chair keeps your tummy at the center of gravity, thereby avoiding nausea. It’s really true!

We built a model rocket and launched it (mine deployed perfectly, thank you very much). We also did a thermal shielding experiment that required me to put my faux engineering skills to the test. We learned TONS about NASA history and the legacy of our space program, I got to meet a real life space-walking astronaut, see an IMAX movie about the construction of the ISS, and learn about the next evolution of exploration with the Orion craft.

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Our team right before graduation

Astrobot helps astronauts on the ISS with tasks and space walks (EVAs)

Astrobot helps astronauts on the ISS with tasks and space walks (EVAs)

The other wonderful thing about my experience is that it brought a variety of people together who likely would not have interacted in their day-to-day lives. We came from all over North America, and we all shared a love of space and science that unified us. Ages ranged from early twenties to retirement, from married couples, to singles, to a mom and her daughter. All backgrounds were represented, too, from chemical engineers to artists. Our team had so much fun together and laughed constantly, so much so that we were made fun of for it at our graduation. I was so touched when a retired teacher from Maryland and a musician from Brooklyn busted out their instruments and improvised together. Camp was such a unifying experience, and I know each of us learned something about diversity during the course of the weekend.

In addition to the kids and adult camps, they have Family Camps, Educator camps for STEM teachers, and an Aviation Challenge for those who are more interested in learning how to fly an F-16 than a Shuttle Orbiter. My only advice if you’re going and you’re an adult, sleep at the Marriott next door. The beds and showers at the Camp facility were kid sized and not very comfy for us larger humans.

Not so comfy when you're 40.

Not so comfy when you’re 40.

I would go back to Space Camp in a less than twelve parsecs, and I REALLY want to stress that this is such a fantastic opportunity for kids. If your child is interested in STEM studies, SEND THEM TO SPACE CAMP. I am not exaggerating when I say that it could be life-defining experience for them, the moment where they decide what they want to be when they grow up. It was that impactful and influential. The environment is so supportive of encouraging each child’s ability and potential. When you’re there, you feel as though you really could be the first person on Mars, or the engineer to solve the complex problem of artificial gravity. This is such a better educational value for your dollar than the typical summer camp, which is great, but will they get to meet an astronaut and ask them questions?

Nope.

Or pilot the Shuttle?

Uh-uh.

Or make slime on the moon?

Ain’t gonna happen.

 

The only place you can do that is at Space Camp.

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I’m front row, second from the right.

Have you been to Space Camp? Is science your boyfriend/girlfriend? Are you sad that the Hubble will crash into the Pacific in 3 years? (FTR, I’m crying in my Cornflakes about it.)

Tell me all about it below!

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My First Coach: A Father’s Day Post

I’ve written before about how a big part of my running inspiration is my mom. She was the marathoner, the mountain climber, the skier and the outdoors woman who brought me along on her adventures so that I would learn an appreciation for the things she loved. She taught me a lot about endurance and finding that  little bit extra deep down to keep going.

My mom played a big role in my development as an athlete, but I didn’t realize most of it until I was an adult.
Dad 1But this post is actually about my dad. Father’s Day is this weekend, and it seemed like a perfect time to reflect on everything he has taught me.

He was my first coach – putting  a basketball in my hands for the first time. Buying me a hoop so I could practice lay-ups and free throws in my driveway. Volunteering to coach every team I played on until I was 12.
FullSizeRender (1)Each high school game I played, I knew where I could find him: sitting in the top row of the bleachers, watching, taking it all in. After the game, he’d have feedback – and even when I was upset with myself or didn’t want to hear his critique, he was patient with me. I always knew he was right, I just didn’t always like admitting it.
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Before every game, he would give me a tip of the day. Anything from “block out” to “drive the lane” – his one tip was always something I did well to remember as I took the court. For an away tournament, he gave me a note card with tips of the day on it so that I could have his advice with me even when he couldn’t be there to watch.

When I went to play basketball in college, that notecard came with me, and lived in my gym bag. It traveled to every game even though my dad couldn’t. My dad would call or text those tips of the day before each game, too, so that I was never without my first coach.

I still have this notecard... it lives in my desk at work and it's still useful. "Head up" is just good life advice.

I still have this notecard… it lives in my desk at work and it’s still useful. “Head up” is just good life advice.

Playing basketball taught me more lessons than I could enumerate. About leadership, about working as a team, about repetition and working hard and not giving in. All practical on the court, but even more applicable to life. Lessons I wouldn’t have learned as well if my dad hadn’t fostered my growth as an athlete for all those years.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

His guiding hand has always been there for me, helping me navigate sticky situations, like teaching me how to deal with my 401K. My dad is the king of planning and lists and I absolutely picked that trait up from him, too. He’s goofy (see Exhibit A), he’s funny, he knows more sports trivia than anyone I know. But more importantly, my dad CARES. He cares for his family and for his friends. His heart is big and he goes miles beyond for someone in need. Literal miles. He has traveled halfway across the country on multiple occasions to help family through heavy and trying times. My dad has taught me more about what it means to be a good and kind human being than anyone else, because he lives it. Every day.

I know many people for whom Father’s Day is not a day of celebration – their fathers have been lost to them for some reason or another. On this day, I wish them peace and send them love – I can’t take away the pain or sadness they feel.
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But I’m extraordinarily grateful to be able to celebrate my dad, because I’m extraordinarily grateful that my life has him in it. He is one of the best things about who I am. And he’s still giving me tips of the day.

Changes

2016 has been one helluva year to date.

My father passed away after a 10-month battle with leukemia. My business moved to a brand-new office building, uprooting me from my home-away-from-home for the last 14 years. And the biggest life change – my husband and I are expecting our first child.

I know this post is long overdue, but where to start?

My dad, an Ecuadorian who moved to United States in the 1950s to attend university, had a spectacular life. A mapmaker by trade, he lived 85 years and remained positive throughout his last year, despite his terminal diagnosis. He died in February, and I was fortunate enough to spend several days with him and my mother the week before he died. At that time, I shared our news – that he would have a grandchild.

My dad was thrilled. He couldn’t get over it, as I’m the youngest of his four children and I’m what the medical community politely refers to being of advanced maternal age…a geriatric pregnancy.

You see, my dad and my pregnancy are linked. I don’t like to talk about it and hesitate to share even here, but it’s time to take a leap of faith.

The day I found out dad was sick, I also learned I was pregnant.

The day I helped tell my father he was dying, I learned that my pregnancy wasn’t viable.

The day I learned dad’s chemotherapy had stopped working I also learned I was again expecting.

Less than two months later, he passed away in my parents’ Pennsylvania home.

Dad was what I’d call a true gentleman and an incredible storyteller. He was quirky (who isn’t?) and intelligent, but lived for his loves – most importantly my mother. He was dedicated to his job and would have been honored to see dozens of former co-workers from across the country lovingly share stories as they attended his memorial service.

I know he is still with me, as I can feel his love and guidance regularly. I am heartbroken that he will not be able to hold his grandson.

As for me, I’m nearly done with the second trimester.

The first trimester was physically exhausting. The second was mentally draining with all the changes and adjustments, but I’ve been blessed with a wonderful network of family and friends who have simply been incredible.

Since just before dad passed, I’ve felt good – the energy returned when I most needed it and I’ve slowly realized I need to slow down a bit –  and I have.

Vic at nearly 25 weeks. Almost to the third trimester!

Vic at nearly 25 weeks. Almost to the third trimester!

In mid-April I outed myself at work, as I could not longer hide my rapidly-expanding waist. I also launched a new series about prenatal fitness, starting with yoga.

Now, I’m looking forward as my husband and I prepare for the birth of our son. I’m blessed to be able to share the journey with my cousin Keith and his wife Laura, who are expecting their first child (a girl!) in July, and my brother-in-law Andy and his wife Diane, who are due in September.

We’ve been purging the house of unneeded items. We’ve been preparing the nursery. We’ve been spending time together, relishing our last months as a couple.

It’s a whole new world.

Change Is Good. (And Scary.) (But Mostly Good.)

At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.

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A big change is coming to my little family. After 13 years in our “starter” home we are planning a move. Naturally, because we are us, we’ve actually been talking about this move for years. Seriously, years.

Last summer my parents sold my childhood home (how DARE they?) and took up permanent residence down in sunny Florida (yep, that’s how they dared). However, before doing so they mentioned that they’d really love to snowbird with us, will miss our kids (maybe us too, I suppose), ectera, on and on and so forth… and it lit the fire under our butts. We took months prepping our home for sale.

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Our sweet, cute, little home.

It’s where we came home to after our wedding. And had our first dog. And a few years later, brought our first baby home.

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It’s where we’ve had many first days of school.

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And an almost equal amount of last days of school.

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I’ve learned how to cook here, in a heinous kitchen. And become an even better cook in a way better kitchen.

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We learned about the trials and tribulations of home ownership in this home. We made questionable decorating choices (like painting our bedroom bright blue, for example) and then slightly better decorating choices along the way.

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Our older son became a big brother in this house with the addition of our youngest son.

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The boys became best friends here.

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In this home I ran my first ever mile on my treadmill. Like, EVER. And many subsequent miles since.

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I’ve been blessed by the amount of friends that have come to visit over the years and snuggle with me on my couch, whether it be for life celebrations, races they are running in the area, or just hanging out and going to the drive-in movies together.

We’ve had a lot of fun here. Some sad memories too, but mostly happy ones, filled with a lot of joy.

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pumpkins

flowers

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It’s been good to us these past 13 years. And change is hard. But we accepted an offer on our home after it had been on the market for just 2 weeks; there are new people who will live here in a few months and I hope it’s just as wonderful and memory-making for them.

We’re on the search for our new home at the moment and while it’s daunting, I’m remaining fairly zen about the entire process. I know that wherever we land it will be good, because we will be together.

What big moves have you made recently? How do you tap into your moment of zen? 

Thanks For the Solid, Universe!

Perhaps it’s my fast approaching 40th birthday, but in recent years, I’ve learned not to take the good stuff for granted. Sometimes the craziness of life can make it impossible to take a moment to be grateful. I know I don’t need to enumerate the many variations of our daily struggles, obligations, and to-do lists. I know you feel me and we know the struggle is real.

When I was younger, I knew I was never automatically entitled to anything, but I definitely felt that life should be fair. Fair meaning that if you worked hard, you were rewarded in some way. Maybe not by your boss, but some other piece of good karma would surely float your way because you’re a good person. You try your best to be friendly, courteous, hardworking, and balanced. I don’t believe in the fairness so much anymore, but I do subscribe to the idea of good karma.

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January was a big month for me. I ran my first Disney race, the Star Wars Rebel Challenge. I got the promotion I’ve been working toward for three years. It came with a raise, too, and I’m able to breathe a little easier from month to month (and sock more away for future race entries). My marriage is stronger than ever, and my health is good. I think I’m getting some karma payback at this particular moment in time. Overall, life is pretty fricking awesome right now.

Just right now. Because we all know “fricking awesome” is a very temporary state.

I’m not trying to brag and don’t misunderstand me, there are certainly things in my life that aren’t going swimmingly, things that are too private to share with the interwebs. But my point is, when we find ourselves in a good place overall, we cannot allow ourselves to focus on the few difficult challenges and pass over the fricking awesome. It’s hard. I know. Here’s what we have to remember, we have to refuse to get distracted from all the amazing in life because it’s too precious, and all too fleeting.

Senior prom in 1995, and Fall of 2014. #alwayshim

Senior prom in 1995, and Fall of 2014. #alwayshim

Living in the moment is sooooooo hard. Finding two minutes to reflect on what is cause for happiness can be easily blotted out by the daily grind. Maybe for you it’s the stress of your kid’s schedule, demands and deadlines at work, bills piling up, or countless, never-ending chores to do. We all have different coping strategies, and here is what I’ve found works best for me.

Stop stressing over things I have no control over. This took me a long time to learn, but once I finally let go of worrying about every possible worst case scenario, I felt so free. Free to be. Free to come up with creative solutions when and if the need arose. Free to let other people worry about stuff. Free to put this extra crap I don’t need to carry around out of my mind.

Don’t waste emotional dollars on small grievances. Years ago, an employer sent me to this cheesy seminar (you know the ones) where I learned nifty strategies for dealing with difficult workplace challenges. This particular seminar taught me the concept of emotional dollars, and almost 20 years later, I still use this tool to check myself. How does it work? Like this; when you wake up in the morning, you have 100.00 emotional dollars in your “emotional bank account” for the whole day. Let’s say you spend 10 getting angry at the guy who cuts you off on the freeway, another 25.00 at the lunch waiter because he got your order wrong, and 40.00 listening to your annoying co-worker gripe about how much they hate their job. At the end of the day when you go home to your family, you only have 25.00 left to spend. Only twenty-five emotional dollars to spend on the people and relationships that really matter. I try to spend my dollars wisely because spending emotional energy on this kind of stuff drains me and leaves me emotionally unavailable to the people who count. Not to mention, very little left for positive appreciation and contentment.

It's just not worth it.

It’s just not worth it.

Objectively look at my current situation and seek out the positives. Being objective about myself is super difficult, and I’m guessing that might be true for many folks. We’re always comparing and judging ourselves against others when the only comparison should be against ourselves. My strategy is to focus on the basics first, things we sometimes take for granted like having a home, healthy food and clean water, having a job, good health; you know, the important things. Even more effective is to reflect on my past. When I look back at my mistakes and wrong choices and see how they led me to my current situation, it’s easier to see how far I’ve come and be proud and content with myself.

Being grateful is a practice in mindfulness and living in the present. I’ve also had to learn to accept what I cannot change and forgive myself for some of my choices. I hope this post sends you some good karma and helps you find a little more peace and contentment.

How do you cope with stress and worry? Have you ever kept a gratitude journal? Tell us what you’re grateful for in the comments!

Crazy Christmas Coping

Let’s be honest, the joyous holiday season is sometimes not very joyous. The decorating and shopping and party going and hosting and cooking takes a toll on us. I didn’t even mention the cleaning for guests, the wrapping of presents, or the shelving of the elf.

Carlos is concerned. (Mer is so clever.)

Carlos is concerned. (Mer is so clever.)

And there are those members of the family that just lie around, soaking up the Christmas cheer while you do all the work.

SHINY TWINKLES.

SHINY TWINKLES.

Can I open my presents YET?

Can I open my presents YET?

All the hustle and bustle can zap us of our holiday cheer. I know you know that I know that you know. We all know the trick is to remember what the season is really about and to focus on the big stuff. To be clear, by big stuff I do not mean giant tins of caramel corn. There are techniques to avoid eating your holiday malaise because your visiting relatives are driving you bonkers. Here are some ways we cope with the Christmas crazy.

Crazy Christmas Coping Tip 1: Many Christmas’ past, my family decided to draw names instead of buying gifts for everyone. It’s quite possible that this is the best family decision we ever made. Here’s how it works in our jolly clan. After Christmas dinner, the adults each draw a name, and they buy for that person the next Christmas. This strategy gives us a year to shop for the perfect gift at the perfect price. There is a set dollar limit, and we keep track so that someone doesn’t draw the same name two years in a row. Everyone buys gifts for all the kids in the family (as it should be).

Because this is about my level of Christmas spirit come the 25th.

Because this is about my level of Christmas spirit come the 25th.

Crazy Christmas Coping Tip 2: Wassail, my friend. Yes, as in “Here we come a wassailing among the leaves so green…” It’s warm, it’s cinnamon-y, it’s divine. It’s an inexpensive cupful of winter warmth and cheer that guests will rave about. Plus, it’s just the thing to curl up with Christmas night when the kids are tucked away in bed and you can enjoy the blessings of the day like your family and your health and the existence of wassail.

Always buy the BIG bottle of rum.

Always buy the BIG bottle of rum.

Crazy Christmas Coping Tip 3: Why is setting reasonable expectations of ourselves and our time SO HARD? We feel like we can do it all and then some and still be creative and adorable to boot. We totally can be that person who hosts a gingerbread house party and makes her own gifts because we can do it all. But we shouldn’t have to. So we need to delegate. We need to make parties we’re hosting a potluck. We need to  shop online to free up time and stress. We need not worry about getting it all done. Instead, we focus on doing what we realistically can accomplish and remember that those who love us don’t us judge us.

Lots of stockings on the wall means a big happy family lives here.

Lots of stockings on the wall means a big happy family lives here.

This goes without saying, but this season, try to remember what’s truly important. Pause and be grateful for your blessings. As life swirls on around us, the need to take a moment every day to be present and compassionate is more important than ever.

How Mer retains her sanity:

The majority of my holiday shopping is done online. We hit the stores here and there for little specialty gifts but otherwise I am Amazon Prime’s biggest fan!

Additionally, I’m cutting down on the hustle and bustle of this time of year by taking short cuts. Usually I bake cookies for all of my neighbors but this year I saw tins with shortbreads – 4 for $10 – at Sam’s Club. We have four neighbors, how convenient! Done.

I’m trying to focus on what’s important to me and my family and not stress about the rest.

 

Wassail Recipe:

In a crock pot or large stove top pot, combine 1 part oj to 1 part cranberry juice to 2 parts apple cider. Add rum or spiced rum to taste. Add ground cloves, ground cinnamon, and a pinch of allspice. Stud an orange with cloves and tie 2-3 cinnamon sticks together and drop them in the pot. Let simmer and serve hot. The alcohol will burn off after a while so you may need to add more.

Enjoy, and be sure to collect people’s keys!

 

How do you cope with holiday stress (besides running your feelings out)? What are your favorite holiday traditions? Does the Elf on the Shelf creep you out, too?

 

Memorial Day fun – and then some.

I cleaned lobster parts off the ceiling yesterday. I also scrubbed little bits of lobster off the front door, the sofa and our kitchen cabinets.

You see, my husband smashed our big holiday weekend dinner open using a typical hammer. It was hilarious at the time, but as we I cleaned up, I found more and more stray pieces. Choice words were spoken.

Oh, and the hammer? It’s a bit…fishy.

Typically, hubs and I spend Memorial Day weekend tackling a season’s worth of yard work and chores. We clear out the flower beds. We till and plant our vegetable garden. We decided to skip the big gardens this year and focus only on herbs. So with less yard work on the docket, we had more time for fun!

We spent Saturday showing my cousin Keith and his wife Laura around Rochester. Stops at the Public Market and Ontario Beach Park were no-brainers.

20140526-164540.jpgOntario Beach Park, from the pier. That’s right kids, that’s Lake Ontario.

We also visited Rochester’s Turning Point Park, and its impressive boardwalk over the Genesee River. This city park is one of my favorite hidden gems in the area. (It’s also one of my favorite running paths in the area.)

20140526-164835.jpgLaura and Keith loved the boardwalk

And of course we had to stop at the Genesee Brew House, where we had lunch, some beer and a brewery tour.

20140526-165133.jpgWe enjoyed $2 flights at the brewery. Proceeds go to charity.

highfallsThe view from Rochester’s High Falls, from the brewery, of course.

As hubs and I ran errands on Sunday, we found ourselves renting The Home Depot’s hourly pickup to bring home a new grill. (J loved his birthday gift this year!) I found myself in the bed of the truck holding onto the base of the grill as he rounded each corner. Yep, I was perched right next to the “no passengers in bed” sign. Oops.

Monday brought us to another lakeside park where we walked along Lake Ontario the second time in a weekend.

20140526-170422.jpgHubs enjoys the view

We wandered, without really any predetermined plans, and those who know me best know I’m not a good wanderer. Like, Meri, I’m a planner. It’s something I’m working on. But this weekend, I went with it more than usual.

I agreed when he suggested we drive along the shoreline without a destination in mind. I agreed when he changed course and headed for the Erie Canal path, where we enjoyed some ice cream. And I agreed when I jumped into the back of the pickup for a bumpy but fabulous 9-mile trek to our house.

I’m getting better about living in each moment and enjoying them for what they are.

But I can promise you, cleaning up lobster bits will never be among them. Ick.

How did you spend your holiday weekend? Are you a hiker or a beach-dweller? Have you ever had Genesee beer? Tell me all about it!