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Monday, January 31, 2011

Role models

In the world of professional athletes, certainly there are the good guys and the bad guys. We often hear the stories of the bad guys—the ones who get in trouble with the law or can’t keep their bad behavior under control. Sometimes there will be a heartwarming story (most often the result of publicity stunts) of the good work and generous hearts of the "good guys". I know that many more athletes than we may be aware of are probably out there using their position for good causes, we just may not always realize it.  

But a coworker recently shared a story with me that truly touched my heart.

A reporter from Fox6 in Milwaukee had a chance to meet Aaron Rodgers over the weekend. I knew little about him before I read this story (except for the fact that he’s the starting quarterback for a team of which I happen to be a fan). But in sharing her thoughts, this reporter gave light to an incredible man. As my coworker said, it’s merely a coincidence that he’s the quarterback for the Packers. The appeal of the story has to do with the spirit and kindness of this man, not his athletic skills or the team he plays for.

I encourage you to read it here. Bring a tissue. Go ahead, I’ll wait….

Done?

How sweet is that? It was such a simple act—a simple message—but it was so compassionate. I can only imagine what it meant to that little girl’s family. It certainly tugged at my heart strings.  

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thinking about bedtime

What is it about nighttime that sends your mind swirling?

Our nighttime routine is always the same. We go to bed (usually) at the same time. We flip through the channels absentmindedly and usually settle on something mildly entertaining. And just when I get into the show and want to see what happens next, it’s a commercial break and Sean decides it’s time to go to sleep. The TV goes off and we’re slowly lulled to sleep by the hum of the fan.

I do some of my best—and my worst—thinking in these quiet moments between TV and glorious slumber. Is it that I finally (for maybe the only time of the day) have no distraction to keep me from the thoughts lurking in my head? Or is it the virtual silence that draws me to suddenly ponder life’s biggest questions in the few minutes I have before I succumb to exhaustion?

Whatever it may be, it’s been wearing on me lately. Rather than simply closing my eyes and going to sleep, I find myself worrying incessantly about the future, about big decisions (about hard decisions), about what I’m doing right and wrong. It inevitably keeps me awake longer that I’d like and only leads to bizarre dreams and restless sleep.

Enough already!

These thoughts can often be irrational and misplaced. What I really need to do is begin to acknowledge that. If I give them less power, and quit thinking that I can be philosophical and prophetic while the rest of the world is sleeping, then I think I can beat this game.

And since it’s the weekend, I think tonight is the perfect time to start!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Let your light shine

Today I was only in the office for a half day because I was observing some market research interviews with a few coworkers. After a couple of hours at the research company’s office, I made my way home to finish work from there for the afternoon.

On my way home I decided to take a slight detour. The cemetery where many of our loved ones are buried wasn’t far out of the way.

I don’t make it out there as often as I’d like, especially in the winter months. But something was pulling me there today. If only for a minute, I wanted to be near the sacred place we’ve laid them to rest.

 As I turned down the drive and spotted the mausoleum in the distance, I was struck by the beauty on this cold winter afternoon. Above the arched roof, the clouds had parted ever so slightly to reveal distinct rays of glowing sunshine. It was beautiful. It was breathtaking. It was just what I needed.

I tried to capture it from the substandard camera on my cell phone, but it hardly does justice to the beauty of that moment.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Finding inspiration

I enjoy blogging (uh, obviously! Why else would I do it?). But one of my very favorite parts of the blogosphere is reading other blogs. I find such inspiration and motivation in them. In the past week alone, I’ve come across dozens upon dozens of blogs—both big and small—of women who aren’t afraid to speak the truth, who blog about the biggest and the smallest moments of their lives, and who do it so well! I’m awed by so many of them.

Just starting to follow these blogs makes me feel part of a world that is so much bigger than little ol’ me. Not one of them knows who I am, but I’m honored to be among their readers. And look forward to, hopefully, one day becoming a member of these communities that seem to grow and flourish every single day.

One blog I came across today blew me away. I poked around a bit and came across her “Start here if you’re new” page, which encourages readers to start by reading the story of her second daughter’s birth. I was captivated. Her words are so beautiful, so raw, and so honest. They were so powerful I could practically feel the emotions she was speaking of take up residence inside of me. I encourage you to read it, too (at the link above). But I must warn you: If you’re anything like me, you’ll want a few tissues by your side before you get started.

I am amazed at the incredible people who are out there sharing their stories, their messages, their highs and lows. And yet, I’ve only tapped into the smallest fraction of it. I’m excited about where we go from here!

Lost and Found

For my high school graduation, I received a Claddagh ring as a gift. If you’re not familiar, the Claddagh ring is an Irish tradition. It’s symbol—two hands holding a crowned heart—is said to symbolize three things—love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown).

Here is what it looks like:


Now, my ring and I have been through many ups and downs. I tend to be the queen of losing rings (why, Sean wonders, should he buy an engagement ring then?). I swear that every time I’ve lost a ring it’s because it doesn’t fit. So getting one that fits will eliminate that problem. I promise. And surely I would be 1,000 times more careful with an engagement ring. Again, I promise. But I digress.

Anyway, I’ve had many close calls with this ring in particular. Once, while working at a daycare in college, it slipped off my finger on the playground. One of the children found it a couple of days later, thank God.

Then, when Sean and I took a trip to Cozumel, Mexico, we were snorkeling in 20+ foot water and the ring slipped off because the water was so cold. A kind man who was scuba diving in the area agreed to swim to the bottom and look for it. Within a half hour, he had somehow found it among the reef at the bottom of the ocean. I was so grateful!

So when I lost some weight in the last 2 years, the ring inevitably got too big for me as well. There is said to be symbolism to what finger you wear the ring on, too, but I opted for wearing it on whichever finger it would fit. So I started wearing it on my middle finger, but it’s now gotten a little too big for that finger as well. I still wear it, of course, but I try to be extra cautious about it, especially when my hands are cold.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Green and Gold

The Packers are going to the Super Bowl!

Being from Minnesota, you wouldn’t think I’d be excited about this. But I am. And here’s why.

One of the first things I learned about Sean before we started dating 6+ years ago was that he and his family were huge Packers fans. His dad grew up in Milwaukee, so he passed the love for the green and gold on to them.

So logically, part of our dating contract includes a clause stating I have to be a Packers fan. Ok, so there’s no contract. But if there were, being a Packers fan would be in it.

And that’s why I’ve been a “traitor” to most of my fellow Minnesotans for the last 6 years. But recently, a coworker kindly pointed out to another coworker (a Packers fan) that he discovered being a Packers fan is much more fun than being a Vikings fan. I’d have to agree.

Win or lose, it will be fun to watch a Super Bowl where I have an actual interest in one of the teams. And when was the last time the Vikings delivered that opportunity?

Go Pack Go!

Friday, January 21, 2011

All the small things

I’ve said it before, but sometimes, it’s the small things in life that make your day.

Yesterday, Sean found out that he should be officially re-employed at the end of the month. That’s less than 2 weeks away! We’ve been waiting for that news since August!

Since being laid off, he’s had great opportunities to work, especially in recent months, so it’s been less stressful than we thought it would be. Or should I say less stressful than I thought it would be? After all, on the day he found out he was being laid off due to budget cuts, I was the one who left work in the middle of the day because I couldn’t compose myself. But looks can be deceiving.  I’m sure that the last 5 months have been much more stressful on him. As a woman, I probably just show the stress and sadness a little more.

So my day started out with that good news. And while nothing else especially good or really big happened, lots of little things made for a pretty good day.

I came home from work a bit later than usual. When I walked in the back door, I instantly noticed that the kitchen had been cleaned up. I was in a hurry to get out the door that morning. And since it was trash day, I wanted to rid the fridge of any expired food. As a result, the kitchen was a disaster—complete with used leftover containers strewn about and a sink full of soaking cake pans. They were all gone. The dishwasher that was full of clean dishes that morning had been emptied. It was now half full with all the new dirty dishes I had created that morning. It was a site for sore eyes!

I was starving and had told Sean to go ahead and eat without me. Remembering the leftovers I had carefully put away the night before made for a quick fix for my rumbling stomach. I popped it in the microwave and less 2 minutes later I was feasting on parmesan crusted tilapia and brown rice. And it tasted every bit as good as the night before.

While my dinner cooked I ran upstairs to change into my sweats. I threw on my slippers and before I knew it, I was snuggled on the couch under my heavy duty blanket (a Pottery Barn throw I got for Christmas – perfect for these winter nights). We caught up on some shows we had DVR’ed, watched some new ones, and eventually headed to bed early.

As you can see it was very uneventful, not much unlike any other night in our house. But it was a day that provided the perfect escape from stress and bitter temperatures.

The icing on the cake? When I woke up today—it was Friday! Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Going public: A follow-up

A few weeks ago I shared the story of how I came to appear in Shape magazine’s January 2011 issue. I also mentioned that the Star Tribune, one of our local papers, was going to be doing a similar story.

Though I was apprehensive about having my picture taken (at the gym, no less), it wasn’t so bad. I chose a time where the gym might be slightly less crowded and decided not to notice (or care) if people were staring. The photographer was very nice and it was over in less than 20 minutes. Whew!

The article appeared in the Sunday paper on January 9th. I was actually quite pleased with how it turned out (not that I usually doubt these things, but I guess you never know how your words can be portrayed). To be perfectly honest, I was much happier with this article than the one that appeared in Shape. This one was more me. They were my words. My sentiments. I felt a little like the Shape article was more focused on what they wanted it to be than what I really said or meant. It’s not that it was wrong, or even bad. The Star Tribune article just felt more real.

So anyway – here is the link to the newspaper article, if you’re interested.

Some coworkers keep joking and asking when my next media appearance will be. Thankfully, I think I’m done. No more photo shoots scheduled. No more interviews to give. But I was truly honored to have been featured in each of those publications, and humbled by the outpouring of love and support from people who read them. So THANK YOU!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I told you so!

I was scanning the headlines on MSN after logging out of my rarely-checked email account today and one of their feature stories caught my eye. “Secrets of the happiest men and women.” Hmmm.

So I decided to check it out. Their 15 Habits of Happy Women were actually quite interesting. The opening alone caught my eye: “Sometimes happiness lands in our lap … Other times, it’s tougher to grab ahold of…” Ain’t that the truth?

So I perused through them and found some of them to be great advice. But the moral of the story? I told you so!

See number 3. As a chronic crier, I’m thrilled to see it made the list. I told you we should all just cry once in a while! Though, we can hardly call a single article the answer to happiness, but at least some of us are on the same page.

Anyway, while great advice, each of the 15 habits on their list will have different appeal to different people. We all have our own secrets to happiness. What’s yours?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Feeling alive

Almost every night before I fall asleep, I close my eyes and silently say my prayers.

No matter what is on my mind at the end of the day, there are a few things that have become a regular part of this prayer routine. One such thing is this: I thank God for the many blessings he has given to me and my loved ones, and ask that he help me to be more mindful and appreciative of the presence of these blessings in my life.

I think sometimes in our day to day life it’s easy to focus on what’s wrong or what challenges we’re facing. Or to become consumed with angst and longing for what we think we need or want. It’s in those thoughts that at times, our gratefulness can get lost. It’s easy to think the grass is always greener. It’s not always a default—at least not for me—to look at what I am blessed with first, and give thanks. And that’s a shame.

That’s not to say I am not grateful, or that I never recognize the blessings in my life. I am, and I do, every single day. But sometimes I think I need to be better. And that’s why I always include it in my prayers.

What sparked all of this was a quote that I came across today. It reminded me of the importance, and the power, of such behavior. 

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts our conscious of our treasures.” –Thornton Wilder

It’s so true. I am not happy (and certainly not much of a joy to be around) when I’m lost in the thoughts of longing or pain. It is in the moments when I recognize the beauty of the life around me, and take the good and bad for all that it’s worth, that I can find true contentment. And those are the moments that I feel alive.

I must, and I will, find a way to allow more moments like that into my life.  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Quiet around here

It’s been a pretty quiet week, but it’s moving along nicely. Tomorrow is Friday already!

Is it sad that one of the highlights of my week thus far is that they finally opened the new room of cardio equipment at the gym and every machine has its own TV on it? Ok, so most gyms probably have machines like these by now, but ours seems to always be a little behind the times. The closest we’ve come is a few stationary bikes with such a feature.

They’ve cleverly named the new room the “Cardio Theater.” I imagine the machines in there will be in high demand now, but I intend to choose them anytime they are available. You can plug your iPod right into the machine, or your headphones to listen to the TV. There are many more stations to choose from than the ones broadcast on the big screens at the gym. HGTV? Check! E!? Check! TBS? Check? And that’s only to name a few.

Why do I care about TBS you ask? Because when I’m on the treadmill at 6 a.m. I love the mindless entertainment of the Saved by the Bell reruns.

So there you have it—the excitement in my life. Goes to show what this week has had in store for me.

But tonight I’ll watch my brother’s high school hockey team take on my alma mater, so that will be fun. And tomorrow is Friday, followed by a 3-day weekend. So I’m feeling pretty good right now!

Today at work we kicked off a project that has some deadlines in April and May. How glorious it was to see those months pop up! It reminds me that spring is indeed in the future for us. It may take a few more months of snow and cold but we’ll get there, and thank goodness. I’m tired of it already!

Hope everyone is having a great week. Happy Friday-eve!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dream a little dream of me

I’ve always been a bit fascinated by dreams. They can be so real, and yet, so bizarre at the very same time. Even more than the content of a dream, though, I’m fascinated by the profound impact they can have on your feelings. I can wake up from a bad dream and feel a huge sense of relief and still feel anxious in the back of my mind all day because of it.

I’m fascinated by the strange places deep within our subconscious that our dreams come from. They can sometimes be so obvious and other times come out of nowhere. It’s strange how both big and small things from our daily lives—interactions we had that day, material we’ve read, issues we have on our mind—manifest themselves in unique ways while we sleep.

For example, I have a recurring dream where my teeth fall out. It’s not always the same dream, but it always ends with my teeth somehow crumbling into pieces or casually falling from my mouth. I have no idea what it means or where it comes from, yet it keeps coming back to haunt me. Maybe it’s my subconscious bringing to light the guilt I feel for flossing far less than I should? My dentist would be proud.

Sean never remembers his dreams. It’s a rare occasion when he can recall the topic, much less a whole story. I wake up in the morning (or in the middle of the night) and always remember at least one dream (or a topic from it, at minimum). And dreams have always had the ability to influence my mood or feelings in significant ways. When I dream about sad things—like loved ones who have died—I wake up with an ache in the pit of my stomach.

Just last night I dreamt that the Packers made the Super Bowl, we scored tickets, and then saw Sean’s dad outside the stadium. We were all so happy to see each other. He told us he missed us. We all wondered if we could hug him, or if it was only a ghost and he would disappear. It was so real—I could hear his voice and remember him as though he was really standing in front of me. I woke up feeling so happy to have seen him, yet so sad to have to remember—as though I was learning it for the first time—that he isn’t here with us. It was bittersweet. And here I am almost a full work day away from this dream and I can still feel the emotions swirling through me as though I just woke up. That’s what blows me away—the power of something my mind creates all on its own.

Dreams (at least the good ones) allow us to live in a world where, for just a minute, your deepest sadness is gone. Your hopes and goals and plans all come true. You’re invincible. You do things you never thought possible.

I suppose in some cheesy and cliché way it’s how we should be living our lives anyway—with optimism and determination, as though anything is possible. The sad truth is that life doesn’t always work that way. In fact, it seems that it rarely does. And dreams can be so wildly inconsistent that we can hardly start relying on them to guide our day-to-day life. And really, maybe they’re nothing more than an opportunity to feel something that you want or need to feel. We have so little control over some things, and maybe we just deserve to see things work out every once in a while.

But now I’ve rambled on and still haven’t come to any real point or conclusion about dreams. I really wasn’t aiming for one in the first place, more just reflecting on my own experiences.

I guess my point is this: As rationale human beings we spend much of our time thinking about what goes on in life, organizing it into sections, labeling our experiences, and trying to make sense of everything. And then we go to sleep. Our mind—overflowing with information—takes on a life of its own. Sometimes those dreams are nothing more than strange collaborations of the many thoughts crowding your head. And sometimes they can reveal how you really feel about something. There’s no rhyme or reason to them. No profound message we should be looking for. But we also shouldn’t be afraid to reflect on them or talk about them from time to time. Because when I can spend an entire day with my stomach in knots over a dream, I can hardly deny the power they can have either.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Weekly Wednesday Top 10

Thanks to the wonderful World Wide Web we have endless of amounts of information (and mindless entertainment) at our fingertips. I’m certainly one to take advantage of this on a regular basis. Sometimes you just need a quick break from staring at the same word document for 2 hours, or a distraction from the endless amount of sports that are always on the TV at home (ahem, Sean).

There’s only so much you can do before you get bored with the Internet. But there are a few websites I tend to frequent. Whether catching up on the latest celebrity gossip (sad, I know), browsing current events, or finding inspiration and humor in the words of a Pioneer Woman, I find fun in them all the same.

So are you looking to try out a few new websites? Just want to know what I do most often when I feel the need to waste some more time in front of the computer? Here are some of my favorites:
  1. Read blogs. I just recently started writing my own (duh!) but I’ve always loved reading others’ blogs. One of my favorites, and one of the first blogs I started following (way back when), is The Pioneer Woman. Great photo advice, hilarious commentary, delicious recipes. This is just one of many—I have a “favorite blogs” list in my browser that’s a mile long.
  2. Read the news. You’ve got to love staying on top of what’s going on in the world. And it’s always good small-talk material to have in your back pocket. So I like to stay up-to-date. I frequent CNN, MSNBC, NY Times, and many of our local outlets.
  3. Check Facebook. Enough said.
  4. Listen to Pandora. The genius that is this site is a staple in my work day. I still listen to my iPod a lot, but I love being able to pick the music mood I’m in and letting my custom station(s) do the work! I’ve found many of my favorite songs just from them popping up on my Pandora playlist.
  5. Email. I might be a little obsessed. I tend to check my email—personal and work—incessantly. Not sure why—there’s rarely anything so pressing that I need it right away—but I’m sure it’s nothing more than a symptom of my generation’s growing dependence on technology.
  6. Shop. It’s always fun to check out the latest styles and sales. I even get a daily email that shows me sale items in my size from some of my favorite stores (ShopItToMe if you’re interested in signing up). In addition to some of my favorite stores, I also love browsing Etsy, Craigslist, and Amazon every now and then.
  7. Search YouTube. Who doesn’t love watching the latest viral video or laughing along with a cute baby from time to time? YouTube is also great for looking up clips to your favorite shows or movies, or listening to a song you just have to hear right now!
  8. Get the latest celebrity dirt. I shamefully admit I’m one of those people who reads about Hollywood’s latest scandal or which 2 celebrities are now an item. I’m not obsessed, but I find it entertaining. My most frequented: People, TMZ, Perez Hilton.
  9. Stay up on industry info. I enjoy reading about current events that relate to my professional life. I work in marketing, so naturally things related to marketing (of any type) are interesting to me. I also work in the education industry, so I enjoy sites like The Chronicle of Higher Education. And I’m a writer, so I love reading about tips, trends, and snafus in the writing world, too. My coworkers are way better about this than I am—so a lot of my info I get from them!
  10. Find answers. The Internet has undeniably changed the way we all do things—learn, work, communicate (to name a few). Among those transformations: finding a fast answer to almost any question. I am constantly “Googling” everything (see what I mean about change? Googling is now a very common verb). Be careful though. As most of us are aware, there is plenty of unreliable information out there, too.
What are your favorite things to explore on the handy dandy Internet?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Crying?

I may have mentioned before (or more than once?) that I’m a crier. It’s always kind of been part of who I am.

When I was little, I was allergic to crying. It was more likely a reaction to stress, but it’s much easier (and more interesting!) to describe it as an allergic reaction to the art of crying. Anytime I would let out a good cry, I would suddenly become flushed and full of hives. My mom would pull out the trusty antihistamine pills my doctor prescribed and within the hour, I'd usually be cured.  

At some point I grew out of that (thank God!). I’d probably break the bank paying for those pills nowadays. I don’t always enjoy crying, but sometimes I find it quite comforting to release the stress/sadness/fear/anger/hormones/general craziness that is building up inside of me.

Sean gets a big kick out of this. I will admit, sometimes when I’m having an exceptionally bad day, I say to him and Oliver, “I think I may go upstairs and have a good cry.” He always gives me the same look: a sort of sideways glance and half-smirk. In his defense, I know it sounds very weird. But sometimes a girl just needs a good cry! I’m sure he would much prefer it than me spewing my random, often hormonal thoughts that are racing through my head at 100 miles per hour.

In fact, a few weeks ago when I proclaimed that I was feeling the need for a good cry, Sean responded with, “Oh yeah, you usually do that on Thursdays don’t you?” It was funny, but even funnier because he was totally serious.

So I say, if you need a good cry, let it out! There is no shame in it. Granted, this is coming from the girl who once cried every night for a whole summer because she dreaded her boyfriend going away to school at the end of it. So I may be a little biased. But I still fully support the behavior. Sometimes people feel like they have to hold it back. Crying does have it place—it’s generally frowned upon at work (at least on a regular basis) and in dramatic fashion in public places (I’m not saying I know this from experience, hah).

But if you’ve had a bad day, or you’re missing someone so much it hurts in the depth of your soul, or you’re worried so much about things that lie ahead, don’t be afraid to grab a box of tissues and let it all out. The men in your life might give you sideways glances and half-smirks, but deep down they’ll probably understand.