Friday, April 15, 2016

My Very Honest Resume

It's something everyone has been asked when they were little, and something I have asked both my kids on numerous occasions. No, not "did you flush the potty after you pooped?" I am talking about "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

When I was around 5 years old, I wanted to be a singer and an actress. A few years later it was all about marine biology after I saw Stark Trek 4 - the one when they return to earth to save the whales, also known as the best one of course (Kahn, Shmahn). Then I discovered my love of drawing fashion and designing clothes (on paper). When I got into dance more seriously I wanted to be a professional dancer, and then after taking an advanced Bio class in high school I thought, for a hot second, that I wanted to be a doctor. 

Modeling some of my jewels...
oh to look like I did back in 2007. Damn you kids!! I blame you!

I went to college and didn't declare a major until junior year. I was in the business school, which I had no business being in (yuck yuck) in the first place, and decided on the most creative of the majors - marketing. I was an idiot. I didn't want to work in marketing when I graduated, but that is where I ended up, and that is the field I worked in my entire (all 5 years of it) professional life. During that time in the corporate world I had a side business of designing jewelry, and I loved it. I loved working with my hands, I loved making "bead magic" as I would call it when I made something of which I was truly proud. And when I saw how much other people loved my designs, and how much they were willing to pay for them, I quit my desk job and did the jewelry thing full time.

And then kids came. 

I have been lucky enough to be a stay at home mom for the past 6.5 years, and wouldn't change that for the world. I love being a mom. I love being CEO of our family (hubs is CFO fo sho) and taking care of my girls and my husband. It's my jam.

But along with all my family CEO duties, I need to have a creative outlet or I will go bonkers. I need to use my hands, to get crafty, to create. I need to draw, or paint, or take photos, or make movies, make dolls, or bake and decorate cakes or arrange flowers...I need to have my creative juices flowing and pumping and get my hands dirty.

Cake I made for Val's 3rd birthday last year.
Looks better than it tasted!
Lately I have been thinking a lot about my path in life, reason being in the past few months a handful of my stay at home mom friends have either gone back to some sort of work (be it full or part time) or are planning to go back to work in the near future. I had a conversation with one of these women the other day and she asked me, "would you ever consider going back to work?" And I didn't really know how to answer that. I never ever ever want to be sitting in an office behind a desk again - that isn't me. Would I want to make jewelry again? Maybe, but I don't get the butterflies that I used to when I think about creating jewelry. What would I do? Sell some of my crafts? Open an Etsy store to sell my dolls and drawings? Perhaps. Start a cake baking business out of our kitchen? Who knows. 

All of these thoughts got me started thinking about my resume. I haven't had an actual resume for 11 years, but if I had to put an honest one together, here is how it would go (oh and imagine it on some sort of amazing hand made paper, and my name would be vertically printed down the side in some artsy font...because I am an asshole):  

Job History
1990s - random babysitting jobs that I hated, but my parents made me take. I did not like kids. 

1997-98 - The Gap - only took this job because I had a psycho controlling boyfriend who didn't want me to go out with my friends on the weekends and have fun, so I opted to take a job instead of continuing to make excuses not to go out with them. Every penny I made went back into Gap, dinners at the Cheesecake Factory next-door to Gap or to cab rides home. 

1998 (summer) - Camp counselor. I liked kids by this point, and I especially liked hot male counselor that I got to ogle all summer long (psycho boyfriend still in picture unfortunately).

1998 (fall) - Walt Disney World College Program - I worked on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. I wore a batshit crazy old-timey costume and got paid about $4 a hour, but it was the best job of my life. Still friends with the nut jobs that I worked with, and owe them more than they know as they helped me get up the courage to break up with psycho boyfriend and really begin my life!

1999 (summer) - unpaid internship at party planning company. Only thing I remember about this is dying my hair school bus yellow before a party we threw in Newport and being yelled at by boss.

2000 - Sales associate at the Boston Red Sox. I got paid about $6 an hour, but had the best summer/fall of my life. Oh and I met my hot husband at this job, and the rest as they say, is history. 

2000 - I take the worst job of my life, which required me to be at work at 5 AM (not ideal for a 22 year old who liked to go out all the time) sit at a desk in a hotel lobby and pressure people into taking a tour of a timeshare. This job lasted two months. 

2001- I take the second worst job of my life, which required me to sit at a desk at a staffing agency and lie to people on the phone about my company having jobs they were perfect for, and then scheduling these poor desperate souls to come in for interviews...and yes there were a handful of people who screamed at me for lying to them on the phone. 

2002 - I take a marketing job at a large marekting/advertising agency. I work in client services. I love the people I work with, but hate the work I am doing. I am desperate for something creative. Why did I major in Marketing???

2005 - After many successful jewelry shows, I quit my job for jerks and go out on the road full time selling my jewelry. I am not only designing my jewelry but marketing it to stores (I got into Bloomingdales), showing it at jewelry shows, creating all my marketing materials (business cards, tags, bags, postcards, etc.) as well as maintaining my website and managing all of my inventory and finances. Oh wait, maybe college degree did come in handy? 

2009 - Present. Mom aka CEO of household, cook, housekeeper, doer of laundry, chauffeur, teacher, to name a few of my daily hats I wear. The most important job I have ever had, and honestly the best - although sometimes I close my eyes when my kids are screaming at me and picture myself back in the Magic Kingdom, late at night when it was empty and I was standing in the middle of Main Street looking at the castle, all by myself like I was in a dream...that was a good job...but I love my kids...I love my kids. 

- perfect spiral thrower
- pinning things to Pinterest
- dance party starter, dance-off challenger, and overall very sweaty dancer
- doing voices - especially anything voiced by Frank Oz, as they all pretty much sound the same
- advanced intermediate piano player, including composing little ditties with good chord progression
- drawing bodies and clothing, but don't ask me to draw a face...ever
- decorating cakes - they might not taste great but damn will they look awesome on the outside
- arranging flowers
- party and play date planning - yes, there are wine and cheese at both when they are at my house
- felt flower and doll making
- recipe reading and interpreting (aka cooking from a recipe)
- Instagram posting
- lifestyle photography and videography - specializing in photos of my kids and their friends
- editing said photos and videos into short movies, scored by previously mentioned piano compositions
- binge watching television shows on my computer
- checking One Kings Lane, Joss & Main and Rue La La on a daily basis for furniture and decor for my house, but never actually buying anything - just pinning...I am good at that
- shopping for clothes for my kids - I may look like a bearded man who hasn't showered in three days, but kids have to look on point
- stealthily listening to my favorite podcast, Watch What Crappens, using my bluetooth headphones, while I am doing dishes or making dinner or "playing" with my kids. If you love the Housewives you need to listen to Ronnie and Ben dahlings!
- picking at my pores in my magnifying mirror and debating whether or not to get Botox in my crease between my eyes. The answer is no...for now. 
- sculpting of people and food out of Play Doh - but not letting my children touch them
- building castles out of legos

Yeah, so...what am I actually qualified to do? Be a mom and a great wife. A creative, crafty mom. Who might open up an Etsy store and sell some of the things she has made over the past few months. That is, after I watch all of Kimmy Schmidt, finish pinning things to Pinterest, shop for some more clothes for my kids, plan my next dinner party...pretty much just do what I do on a daily basis, and how lucky does that make me? 

What else have I learned from this exercise? That when my girls are ready for college they should actually study what they are interested in! Not waste their time learning about something they think they should do, but actually devote their time, and our money, to studying something they are passionate about. Damn college is wasted on the young...but that is an entirely different post for another time!


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mama J's Guide to Making a Beautiful Floral Arrangement

I love flowers. I love fresh flowers. I love silk flowers. I love dried flowers. I love planting flowers in my garden. I love making paper flowers. I love a floral print - on clothing, fabric or wallpaper. Something about flowers just makes me happy. It is that simple. 

I buy fresh flowers as often as I can. I will spend a long period of time at a grocery store bunching flowers together, trying new color combinations, mixing textures and types, then ultimately coming home to spend a good hour arranging them into at least one bouquet. This morning I went to Whole Foods, my favorite place to get affordable, loose flower stems, so you know I came back with some good stuff!
Today's haul from Whole Foods - purple carnations, peach roses, white roses, white hydrangeas, purple tulips, white lisianthus , dusty miller and assorted greenery 

I decided to document my bouquet making process so you can try it yourself at home!

First thing I do is unwrap all of the individual groups of flowers. Cut the rubber band that holds them together, but keep them all in groups still. I fill up my island sink with water, as well as a flower bucket that I have (I got this one from the florist at Wegmans and it comes in very hand when I am doing a large arrangement) and put all of the stems in water.

The next step is to clean your flowers, and prep them for arranging. This process is a little different depending on what type of flower you are using, but generally it means to remove all of the leaves from the stems of the flowers. For tulips, seen below, I like to remove all but one of the green leaves. They tend to take up a lot of excess room in the vase so I get rid of them.
For roses it is a little more complicated and time consuming. I like to not only remove the leaves from the stem, but I remove the thorns (if they have them) as well. I believe florists have an actual tool for this, but I use the bottle opening part of my kitchen sheers and it works like a charm. I also pick off any suspect petals from the outside of the bud.
After prepping the roses they look much more uniform and pretty.
Prepped and ready to go!

Ok, so now that your flowers are all clean and de-leaved it is time to start arranging. Some people might start with a vase and put the flowers in individually, but I start by arranging a bouquet in my hand. I usually start with the largest headed flower, in this case a Hydrangea, and then add all of my flowers around it, while continuously turning the bouquet in my hand.
Add some flowers, turn the bouquet, add some flowers, turn the bouquet...and so on

In addition to the varieties of shapes and types of flowers, I love to add some sort of greenery to my arrangements. Sometimes I use berries, sometimes flowering cabbage but this time I am using one of my favorite types of leaves, Dusty Miller - which always sounds like an old-timey country singer to me - that beautiful silvery green leaf you see above. 

Ok, so you are building this big bouquet, and your hand is starting to get tired, and you can barely hold onto it anymore - time for a vase. I line up my arrangement next to my vase and cut one stem as a marker so that I know where to cut all of the stems to get my desired arrangement height. 

Chop all the stems while still holding on to the bouquet. Try to chop at an angle if possible. 

Next step is to put the flowers in the vase. Here is where I add a few more things or move things around if I don't feel like there is enough color variation in one area of the arrangement. 
We are almost there!
I will pull flowers by the heads, very gently, so that all of the blooms are showing and nothing is hiding behind the larger blooms. I don't like when everything is the same length, and the arrangements have a uniform shape. I like when there is a little uniqueness to it - things sticking or poking out, something hanging lower over one side than the other. In this arrangement I decided to use those bright green greens around the base of the bouquet, but not uniformly all over, just a few here and there. After a few final tweeks you have a beautiful creation! 

Here are my tips for making a beautiful arrangement yourself at home: 

1. When picking out flowers, don't be afraid to try unique color combinations. The important thing is to be creative. I have never put peach and lavender together in a arrangement, but I think they work really well, when balanced out by the white and green of the other blooms. 
2. If you don't want to have more than one color (I love an all white arrangement) be sure to either buy a ton of the same flower (I am talking like 20 hydrangea stems or 50 tulips), or the same color in a variety of different flowers. 
3. Clean and prep your flowers before you arrange them
4. Start creating your arrangement bouquet-style in your hand
5. Add a flower, then turn the bouquet, add a flower, turn the bouquet...and so on. 
6. After you cut all the flowers and put them in your vase play with the arrangement - add flowers, move flowers, pull flowers up higher, but be gentle!
7. Don't go for a uniform shape. Again, be creative! One of my favorite arrangements I have ever made (which I can't find a photo of) was in an oblong vase and all the flowers were grouped by type and color. It was weird and amazing. 

Some of my favorite arrangements I have made in the last year

So there you have it. It isn't rocket science! Hopefully some day in the future you will be able to visit the Boston Floral Mama shop and buy my arrangements for yourself or your loved ones. And then stop at Boston Jewelry Mama for some baubles, and Boston Photo Mama for a photoshoot, and Boston Baby Accessory Mama for some baby booties, and then Boston Toy Mama for a handmade doll...damn I really need a crafty intervention!!!

Happy Floral Arranging! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Beet-y Smoothie Goodness

What? Beets in a smoothie? Hell yes. Beets in a smoothie.

I didn't taste a beet until I was probably 25 years old. Damn my mother for never giving them to me when I was little! But I guess if both your parents don't like something, there is no way they are going to be feeding it to their kids. Now that beets are a part of my daily life I enjoy them in all sorts of ways, including in my smoothies.

This recipe is a take on a smoothie, called the "Napa Valley Smoothie" that they serve at my gym. I decided to take it upon myself to create it at home, and save myself $7 a pop.
you can find these in the veg section of your grocery store - near pre-packaged salad items
It all starts with the beets. I either roast my own beets (with a little avocado oil for 50 minutes at 400 degrees, wrapped in tinfoil - usually I add salt and pepper, but not for ones going in the smoothie) or buy these bad boys at Whole Foods or Wegmans. Throw them in the blender with either a splash of water or OJ and puree. Basically you are making baby food, so when it is a smooth consistency that gives you flashbacks to sleepless nights, you know it is good to go. One of these packages yields three smoothies in my house. I keep the leftover puree in a little tupperware container in the fridge for next time. 

beet puree deliciousness. 
Next I add a handful of frozen strawberries and one banana. Then a scoop of organic vanilla protein powder, and a sprinkling of shredded, unsweetened coconut. I like the texture the coconut gives to the smoothie, but some people I know don't like "things" in their smoothies (my kids) so use your judgement. 

As for liquid I use a splash of organic OJ, and then some unsweetened vanilla almond milk. The final thing I add is two teaspoons of Fish Oil. Fish oil? And beets? Vomit you say? Well, I would say vomit too if fish oil actually had a fishy taste. I use this amazing product a few months ago and have been using it daily. 

It tastes like melted lemon ice cream, and it adds the perfect zing to my creation (well, my take on the gym's creation). 

So here it is: 

Beet puree
Handful of frozen strawberries
One banana
One scoop of vanilla protein powder
Unsweetened shredded coconut
Splash of organic OJ
Unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 tsp of Lemon Zest Fish Oil

And because I have been really into editing videos lately, I decided to create my own recipe video ala Tasty. Check it out!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Boston Baby Mama's Guide to Winning Instagram

some of my favorite IG accounts - see details below!

So you joined Instagram...what now?

Are you using it to share family photos with friends? Good for you! Have fun! This post is not for you.

Are you into taking creative photos that you want the world to see? Do you want thousands of followers? Lots of likes? Tons of comments? Features (more on what this means in the IG community in a bit) galore? Please, sit back and continue reading, because I have a surefire way to make you popular on Instagram.

Let me start off this post by saying this - I am not popular on Instagram, but I could be if I wanted to be. I have a little over 1600 followers, which by IG standards means I am a "math club dork." I share a mixture of family, every day and creative photos on my feed, and that is my downfall.

I know what it takes to be a varsity football QB of IG, but I don't have the time, nor do I have the energy to put in the effort to be more popular. If that is your goal in life, to have 50k followers or more on IG (let me also mention that I am talking Average American IG status, and not celebrity status), I can get you there with the following guidelines...

1. Consistency. It is all about consistency. The most popular people (that I follow) on IG post photos that all have something in common. Some have galleries that have a consistent color scheme. My friend Kim, @runnerkimhall, posts photos only of her dog, flat lays (which means photos taken of something arranged on a piece of paper and then photographed from above) or of herself in the distance (never up close). All of them are pastel-hued photos, therefore they all look amazing and very appealing in her gallery.

@runnerkimhall' s fabulous IG gallery
Another one of my friends that does this well is Jo from Perth, Australia aka @sayhellojo. She is known for photos of her dear son in front of vibrant walls, colorful minimal shots, and for holding objects in front of bright colored walls. All of which make for a tremendous IG gallery!

@sayhellojo's vibrant IG gallery

Another friend of mine, Julie from Quebec or @julie_audet has a breathtaking gallery full of animals and nature. She finds consistency in her color composition, but at the other end of the spectrum. Her photos are all serenely edited to have the same neutral tones. 

@julie_audet's serene IG gallery

Another way to be consistent on IG is to have a recurring theme in your photos. My dear friend, and creative inspiration, Carolyn from Miami, aka @carolyn_mara, photographs herself most of the time. No, I don't mean she has a gallery full of selfies, but she takes artistic and envelope pushing portraits of herself, which you would be shocked to know are mostly taken with her iPhone! Here are some of my favorites from her gallery...
some of my favorites from @carolyn_mara's awe-inspiring gallery

Another good example of a consistent theme is my friend Laurie, also from the Boston area, aka @lauries_little_ones. She burst onto the IG scene in the last couple years with her stunning, natural light filled photos of her little beauties. Most of the photos she takes are in front of a window or door, as you can see in her gallery. 

@lauries_little_one's precious family gallery

You could focus on taking photos of your city, like my friend Smita aka @hoggerandco, who is also from Boston. She has a growing love affair with our historical city, and magically captures it's beauty and lifestyle on a day to day basis. 

@hoggerandco's city lifestyle gallery

My final example is my deeply talented friend Mari aka @meandering_mari, who is a former chemist turned artist. She showcases her colorful works, as well as creates what she calls #meanderinghearts, which are flat lays that all have a heart in the center of them. 

@meandering_mari's creative IG gallery
So what am I getting at? All of these IG superstars have one thing in common - consistency. They have a theme to their gallery. They aren't posting vacation photos, they aren't posting selfies or date-night photos, they all have a theme and have stuck to it, and have become wildly successful. If you decide you want to only take photos of puddles, and create a gallery full of puddles all over the world, I bet you could be successful. Or take photos of your breakfast every day, but have it always on the same blue plate. I kid you not, you could have 10k followers in a year. But now the question is, how do people find you??

2. My second bit of advice is to tag, or hashtag, feature pages, and hashtag a ton of them. 

What is a feature page? A feature page is an IG account that doesn't post their own photos, but re-posts photos that have been tagged to the feature page's hashtags. Still confused? Stay with me. 

I run a feature account on IG called Nothing Is Ordinary (@nothingisordinary). Myself, along with 5 other ladies, literally from around the world, choose daily themes and create a unique hashtag for people to "tag" their photos to. Each day we go through about 1000 photos that have been tagged and pick our favorites to be featured on the @nothingisordinary account. These featured photos are seen by almost 80k IG users worldwide, and will now have people following their accounts. The more features you get, the more exposed to the IG community you are, and in turn, the more followers you will have. 

some feature pages for your tagging pleasure

3. Post often, but not too often. You need to be posting a photo a day, at least. You don't want to be filling up people's feeds with your photos, but you want to keep your account fresh in your followers' minds.

So you have picked out a theme for your IG account - let's say "Dogs in Wigs" (because that sounds amazing and I would follow the crap out of your account!) Now you open up your account, @dogsinwigz on IG (because I just checked IG and @dogsinwigs exists so you have to change the s to a z, because that is what you do, right?) You've got a consistent color palette in all your photos (all the dogs are photographed in front of a solid pink background), and your feed is looking great. Every day you are posting a new photo of a dog in a wig, and maybe you have branched out to dogs in glasses too, but you are keeping the editing and composition of the photos fairly the same. You have been tagging your photos to feature pages, and your follower base is growing. Now what? 

4. Now you need to establish a relationship with our followers. Those kind people who like your photos all the time, and even take the time to comment? You need to respond to them. Thank them for liking your photos. Check out their feeds, and possibly follow them. Like some of their photos. A little IG love goes a long way. Being friendly and sharing the love will make your followers more likely to suggest your account to other IG users, in turn getting you more followers. Also, it is just nice to be nice!

I know what you are thinking - @bostonbabymama, why don't you follow your own guidelines and become a successful IGer? Well, for one, I don't have the time or energy. It takes a lot of effort to create the beautiful works of art on the accounts I featured above, and right now I just don't have the focus to do it. I have the ideas (I still want to have an account that recreates daily activities, but only with toys - check out #bbmtoys for some of my past photos like this) but I have too many ideas and can't concentrate on one. 

Right now my feed consists of photos of my girls, some portraits of myself, flat lay photos, things held up against bright walls, artsy photos, lifestyle shots, vacation name it, I have it on there and none of it is edited consistently. They are all great photos, or so I have been told, but my feed is not generally appealing at first glance. I am like a combination of all the feeds above, and that does not make a popular IG account. 

To sum up this novel of a post...

To become an uber successful Instagrammer you must:
1. Have a consistent theme to your posts, therefore a visually consistent gallery
2. Tag your photos to feature pages and other hashtags
3. Post at least once a day, but don't fill up your followers feeds!
4. Share the love with your followers

Seems simple, and it truly is, but it is time consuming. I challenge you to give it a try though! I call "Dogs with Wigs" can have "Bacon Man," the account where a piece of Bacon comes to life, marries a human and leads an average American lifestyle. Actually, I don't know if I would follow that...yeah, probably not. 

Now if it was a family of Bacon people....

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Where I Find "My People"

Being a stay at home mom can be lonely, especially when both your kids are in school. You get them up, get them dressed, feed them, pack their lunches, argue with them about not watching tv before school, get their school stuff together, bundle them up, strap them in the car, drop them off at their respective schools...and then you are by yourself. 

You have responsibilities, like errands and things around the house, but you don't have a job to go to and a boss to whom you report. If I wanted, I guess I could sit on the couch all day and watch tv and eat Bon Bons. But I don't, and I don't know another stay at home mom who does.

So as not to feel so lonely you are pushed over the edge, it is important for someone like me to be part of a community, It is important to surround yourself with likeminded individuals, who share the same interests. Some people do this through church. Some people have weekly book clubs. Some people do this through mom groups. Some people get very involved in their kid's school. Some people do this through exercise classes (I had my first experience with SoulCycle last week and I have words...but that is for another post).

My community is a little unconventional.

Sure I have the people I see at the gym every morning, and I have mom friends that I meet for lunch, and play dates, as well as being an active parent at both of my children's school, but I tend to find my peace and "my people" through a different, more convenient, outlet.

I am a very creative person - I need to do something creative every day or I feel funny, or empty. Whether it is taking photos, writing, playing the piano, making dolls in my studio, decorating my house, arranging flowers - something needs to stimulate the right side of my brain on a daily basis. To satisfy this creative need, and my need for a creative community, I take online photography classes. I know this sounds strange, but through The Define School of online photography I have met some amazing, creative, similar individuals. By "met" I mean I met the online - I have never actually met these people in real life. That alone sounds really weird, especially to my parents generation I am sure.

Each of the classes I have taken (I think I have 6 under my belt - each 4 weeks) are led by the most ridiculously talented and inspiring women, who have pushed my creative boundaries and made me the "Unapologetic Artist" (also the name of my favorite class I have taken at Define, taught by my dear friend Carolyn Mara Harris, who is also the most bold and brilliant artist I have ever come across - check her out on Instagram @carolyn_mara) that I am today.

one of my shots from my Unapologetic Artist Class

Each time I take class there I am giddy with excitement when it starts, and teary-eyed when it ends. If you are like me and want to be part of something amazing with creative women and men all over the world, please check out The Define School.

Now, this second place I find "my people" is a place that I never thought I would EVER touch with a ten foot pole. I am not one for spiritual thoughts or beliefs. I am fine with others believing and practicing their religions, but I don't believe that there is an almighty being who is watching us and judging us and responsible for our behavior and whatnot. I don't believe the words in the bible should be taken as law, but rather a bunch of stories, some with valuable lessons and themes, others just pure crazy fiction.

With that said, I do feel that we all have an energy around and in us, and that there are certain things we can do to shift and move that energy for the positive.

Last year was a tough one for my family, with losses on both sides, illnesses, injuries and just over all bad luck. A friend of mine, and past teacher at Define, happen to post something on Facebook that a friend of her's commented on. That friend happen to be the actress Carrie-Anne Moss of Matrix (and now Jessica Jones) fame. I inquired how they knew each other and my friend pointed me to Carrie-Anne's website, At the time Annapurna was offering a 10-day simple meditation course.

Meditation? Chanting and humming and that baloney? Not for me...or is it?

I needed something calming and positive in my life. I needed way to control the stress and anxiety I was starting to feel. I needed a little quiet in my life. I am not one to shy away from trying new things, so I signed up. And boy am I glad I did.

Carrie-Anne is this magical human being. The kind of human being that I wish I was. She is so at peace in her life, and so deep in her thoughts and just the type of person that I really want to be. Every day she would send us a video with some inspirational words, and every day I would anxiously await the ding from my computer telling me I had new mail, hoping it was from Carrie-Anne. I couldn't wait for my kids to go to school and husband to go to work so I could sit on my sheepskin and just "tune in."

This month Carrie-Anne launched The Fierce Grace Collective. As soon as the first email announcing this community/collective (whatever you want to call it) was sent out, I knew I had to be a part of it. For a tiny monthly fee, you join an online community of like-minded women, seeking spiritual support and calming guidance, led by the ethereal Carrie-Anne. We practice our mediation daily (a new one each week), have creative prompts (things to write in a journal about, or even something you can photograph and share) and nightly visualizations (this is where you lay down and listen to Carrie-Anne's calming voice share some of her wisdom and guidance).

At the moment there are about 200 of us, literally all over the globe. There is an online community where we are able to share thoughts and feelings with each other too...and you know I have thoughts and feelings!

Many of these women are stay at home moms like me, looking for some direction in their lives, trying to figure out what is next, so I am excited to get to know them and be on this journey with them.

"My people" might not be able to meet me for tea, as they are scattered all over the globe, and I have never met most of them in person, but we share common interests and passions and are like-minded individuals, and that is all that matters to me. I have real friends in my life, people I see on a daily basis, and talk to on the phone, but I just so happens to have a lot of friends that I can only communicate with through a screen! Welcome to 2016!

Where do you find your people???

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Young Lovers are Idiots

I had a conversation with a 23 year old female today that ignited a fire inside me. Not a good fire of passion and motivation, but a fire of rage and frustration, so I am taking to the blog to share my feelings.

Without giving away who said 23 year old is - let's call her Sara for this story's sake - I will give you a little background on our relationship. I do not know her very well, but we have the kind of relationship where she feels comfortable enough with me to share some pretty intimate details about her current relationship wither her boyfriend. I do not reciprocate, as we are living in two completely different worlds, but I do share stories about my girls and silly things that happen during the week. She gets a much more deep with me. I have basically taken on the role of her older, and much wiser, sister, with whom she feels comfortable sharing her boyfriend troubles.

Over the past few weeks she has shared with me stories about her very new boyfriend. They have only been dating for two months, and already there are issues. He has some emotional baggage that he should be talking over with a professional, but instead bottles up and releases his anger onto Sara. She has even called him verbally abusive. He snaps a the littlest things. He turns minute conversations into all-night arguments. He confides in his ex-girlfriend and rubs it in Sara's face, and he belittles her job. Shit, his mother even told Sara that she shouldn't be dating him. And she tells me all of this, in what I think is a cry for help.

Now, I am not one to sit by and listen to this kind of bullshit and not say anything. I have years of experience with this kind of situation, and consider myself somewhat of an expert in the field of horrible boyfriends. Not that I have had a ton of boyfriends in my life, but I had one, for almost 4 years, that pretty much took the cake when it comes to boyfriends that you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy.

Today I looked Sara straight in the eye and said (in so many words), "get out. Get out of this relationship before it is too late. Get out while you are still young. You do not deserve this kind of bullshit. No one does. No one should be treated the way you are being treated. You are young, and beautiful and smart and motivated and have the world at your finger tips. Dump this loser and move on with your life. This is not love. You are not in love with this terrible person. Love should be easy. Love should feel good - shit, love should feel amazing. Love is not just something you feel, but something you do. This person does not love you if he treats you like this. GET OUT NOW."

God Damnit I wish someone slapped me in the face when I was 18 and said these words to me.

When I was 17 I met and "fell in love" (my blood is boiling right now as I type this - how stupid are young lovers???) with a boy. Never had a boy liked me before, but this boy did. And this boy was popular, and was friends with the older kids, and was out of high school and had a real job. How cool was it that someone like this, someone who I later found out had red flags galore (terrible childhood, treated his mother and brother like crap, overweight, didn't go to college, flirted with everything in site - and later cheated on me multiple times, disrespectful to my parents, treated my brother like shit, horrible temper, verbally abusive...I could go on), actually paid attention to me and wanted to be my boyfriend? We fought all the time. My parents LOATHED him (rightfully so). I became a different person when I was with him. I did whatever he wanted me to do...I can't even say more because it makes me so freaking angry that I wasted so many years of my life with this loser.

But oh, how I wish that someone pulled me aside and said what I said to Sara!! I wish someone shook me and said "You are better than this! You deserve so much better than this!! Why are you wasting your time, and your youth on this piece of garbage? Why do you let him make you cry? Why do you let him get to you - let him make you become this horrible bratty selfish teenager? You used have so many friends! You used to be close to your Mom! He is driving a wedge between you! You are ruining your life you stupid naive girl!!!"

Maybe my mom did say those things to me. Maybe someone else did, but I was so self-involved that I wouldn't have/didn't listen to anyone that tried to steer me away from this loser. And you know what? Looking back on my life, I wouldn't change a thing. Because of this relationship with this guy, I am the person I am now. I am in the amazing relationship I am because of who I became after I dumped this guy.

If you met me today you would not believe for a second that I used to be this pathetic, submissive shadow of a human. I am so strong willed, so outgoing and so much braver than I used to be - but it took going through all of that bullshit to become who I am today. I am not saying that everyone needs to go through something like I did to become an independent woman, as I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but that was my path to become the woman I am today.

I am fearful for when my girls get older. I am scared that they are going to fall into the same trap that I did, that Sara has, and let a man control them. I am scared they will let a man make them feel pain and sadness. I am scared they will let a man get into their head and make them feel less of a person - make them feel that they aren't deserving of what they really want. I will do my best to tell them about what I went through, and give them advice and hopefully they will start out their dating lives as strong independent women, unlike I did. I will always be there for them, even if they won't talk to me, and I will remind them constantly that they are amazing, beautiful creatures, and should be treated as so.

Here are my words of advice to women of all ages out there: No man, or woman, or whomever you are in a relationship with, should ever make you feel badly about yourself. No one you are in love with should constantly make you sad. The beginnings of a relationship should not be challenging. New love is the most exciting love - you should want to be with each other every chance you get. You should be smiling ear to ear when you see this person, and never want to let go of their hand. Your partner should not make you cry - unless it is because he or she did something insanely romantic and sweet for you. If you are constantly fighting, this is not the right person for you. If you are nervous about saying something wrong in front of this person, this is not the right person for you. If you cannot be your amazing self in front of this person, this is DEFINITELY not the right person for you.

Love is not just something that you feel, it is something that you do. This is something that my husband said to me once and I will never forget it. You can't just say you love someone and think it will all be ok - you have to live the love. You have to put their needs before your own. You have to want to make them happy as often as you can.

You have to love who you are when you are when you are around your partner. And if you don't? Move on with your life. There is a lobster out there for everyone, you just have to keep looking.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Time for some Botox!!!

My entire life I have been told I look like my Mom. Not that we resemble each other, but that we look exactly alike. If someone has met my mom, and then sees me for the first time by myself they will tell me "oh I knew you were Donna's daughter as soon as I saw you!" And it is true - we do look a lot alike. We are about the same height, both have short hair, pretty much the same eyes, and other similar facial features. I always referred to myself as the "Northern Version" with dark hair and pale skin, of tan, blonde highlighted Donna.

Before I go any further I must say that my mother is beautiful. She has always been beautiful, and looks at least 15 years younger than she actually is, so when people tell me I look like her, I take it as a on with my story...

When I was in my teens, and starting to really look more like my mother, I LOATHED when people told me I looked like her. It wasn't so much that I didn't think we looked alike, or didn't want to look like her, it was more that it was all people told me. Every time I saw her friends, or even complete strangers, it would be all, "you look more and more like your mother every day!" It was all I heard - that I was a mini-Donna. I wanted to be my own person. I wanted them to notice me for something else, and not just that I looked like my mother. I wanted my own identity. And really, what 18 year old wants to hear nothing but how much they look like their 40-something year old mother!

The older I got the more ok I was with it all. People would joke with us and call us sisters, much to my mother's delight. I would laugh it off, because they were not being serious, but being flattering to my mother...until they actually were being serious.

In the last 5 years my mother and I have been called sisters a handful of times - and each time was in all seriousness. In that time, my mother has since let her hair go naturally gray, I have put on a little weight, but not much else has changed. Sisters? Are you serious?

I know what you are thinking, that these idiots that said this were trying to flatter my mother, but I kid you not, they seriously thought we were sisters. Do I look like I am 63 years old? Does my mother look like she is 37? Do we both look 40? 50?? What are you saying you imbeciles!!???

Last year, my husband treated us to a spa day in honor of Mother's Day. I was getting a facial, while my mother was getting a pedicure. I am talking (it is one of my pet peeves when getting a facial [and getting my teeth cleaned] to be constantly asked questions) and I said something about "my mother getting a pedicure" and the aesthetician stops what she is doing and literally gaps and says "that woman out there is your mother? I swear to God I thought you were sisters!"

Never have I wanted to slap someone so hard in my life (well, until later but you must read on).

This is what I wanted to say to her, but of course I did not:
Sisters? You thought that woman with the gray hair out there was my sister? Sure, she looks fabulous for her age - of 63 - but your first thought was that I was her sister and not her daughter? What age would that make me? Let's pretend that you thought she was, what, 50? What age does that make me? 45? Am I her younger sister? Or am I her older sister? I think my mom could pass for 55, maybe 52 - do you think that I am actually 36, as I am in real life, and that I am the OOPS! of the family and we are actually sisters? Why would you say this to me? In no way is this a compliment to me. You are saying that I look MUCH older than I really am. What woman on any fucking planet wants to be told that?????? Do you know how this makes me feel???

I just also have to throw out there that this woman proceeded to tell me that I should shave my face with a razor "a la Caroline Manzo." I can't even....WORDS.

Let's fast forward 7 months to the week before this past Christmas...

My brother and I stop at Target after a grueling workout at the gym. We are sweaty, and flush and in gym clothes (obviously). My brother stands next to me (he is 19 months younger than I am, about 6 foot 5 to my 5 foot 9) as we are at the cash register. The cashier, an Indian woman approximately in her late 40s, looks at me and says....are you ready for this....

"Is this your son?"

I literally did the thing where you point to yourself and then look around to see if she was actually talking to me, as I was filled with a rage like no other rage anyone has experienced before.

This is the perfect depiction of how I felt:

"Me? You are talking to me? You think this man looks like he could be my son? Me?"

"He is not your son?"

Here is what I wanted to say, but of course did not (but probably should have): My son? Are you fucking kidding me with this, woman? Do you need your eyes checked? You think that this MAN, standing next to me right here could be my son???? What are you saying????? Are you saying that I look old enough to have a 35 year old son? Or are you saying that he, at six foot five, looks like he is 6 years old? What is it you are saying woman?? Because in no way are you coming out of this situation without being slapped across the face. 

As a decent human being, with good manners, I would never think twice about saying something like this to a complete stranger. I would never comment on a person's appearance, especially someone that I didn't know. Of course I am curious why you have that bandaid on your face, but I will talk to you and pretend like I don't see it, as I was not raised by gorillas in the mist!!!!

I get flushed when I workout, and when I am embarrassed or nervous - do you know how many people in my life have told me this? Do they think I do not know this? What good is it you telling me that I have red cheeks? You are just making them redder.

It goes without saying that my New Year's resolution is to take better care of myself, my skin, my hair...and possibly look into a chemical peel, face lift, botox and other rejuvenating treatments as I apparently look like I am a 60 year old mother of a 35 year old man.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What to Play with a Terrible No-Good Sport

I am a competitive person. I am the daughter of a professional athlete, and I think because of that I have always been an ultra competitive person in some aspects of my life. I wanted to be the first person down the hill when we went skiing. I wanted to have the best backhand and the fastest serve at tennis camp. If you have it, I want it bigger and faster and with more gadgets (cars, cameras, phones, etc.). If I bake a cake, it is going to be the best looking (probably not tasting) cake you have seen. And when it comes to board games - let's just say I once made a grown man cry when he wouldn't make a trade with me in Monopoly (at least that is how the story goes when the sister, who is also one of my closest friends, of said man tells it after a couple drinks). 

It is not one of my best qualities, I know this, but it is not something that I rub in people's faces. It is truly for personal reasons that I want to "win." I don't see anything wrong with wanting to win when you are in any sort of competition. I want my girls to grow up wanting to win things, and doing their best to do so. I want them to be competitive like I am. It is, of course, ok if they do not win, but I want them to want to win. I do see a problem with throwing a tantrum (no matter what your age) when you do lose, or rubbing it in people's faces when you do win. Phew - that was a wordy paragraph - on to my point!

My 3 year old, Val,  is a very poor sport. This is something that we have recently discovered after playing many games of Disney Princess themed Candyland while on vacation last week. 

Sure, we have played board games with her in the past, but they are either cooperative ones, where you all work together towards a common goal, or if it is one where there is a winner, she usually gets board after five minutes and walks away. This did not happen with Candyland. 

The first few times we played, her sister won. We had the conversation about being a good sport versus a bad sport, and we all congratulated Marlo on her win and went about our business. But then the next time Val won, and the Competitive Kraken was released...

She kept asking to play the game, and now while we played she would whine after every turn if she wasn't in the lead. When it was everyone else's turn she would say to us, "Mom, don't win. I want to win. Dad, please don't win. I really want to win. You should lose." I would look at her and say, "anyone can win Val, we are still playing. Just wait an see." To which she would respond some sort of whiney response like, "but I want to win! You can't win!" 

She would be in the lead most games, and then get a card that sent her back behind everyone else...and then lose her bloody mind. We would tell her to be a good sport, no one has won yet, she hasn't lost yet, yada, yada, yada. And then someone would get a card that sent them backwards too and her mood would immediately change now that someone else was in the losing spot. And then she would ultimately lose the game...and then lose her shit. 

We would then start the "poor sport" talk again, and tell her that she can't always win, but it went in one ear and out the other. "But I wanted to win!! I wanted you to lose!!" Man, we have our hands full with this one. 

We have now sworn off playing competitive board games with Val until she can learn to be a better sport. Thankfully at home in Boston, the majority of the games we do own are made by a company called Peaceable Kingdom. The idea is that when you play their boardgames, you are all working together as a team towards one common goal, whether it be to get to Mermaid Island before the witch does or free the bugs before the spider fall. Their board games are the perfect games to play with little competitive monkeys like my Val Gal. 

Our favorite cooperative games are the following: 

1. Hoot Owl Hoot - Everyone works together to get the baby owls to the nest before the sun comes up!
2. Mermaid Island - Similar structure to Hoot Owl Hoot - you have to get the mermaids to the center of the board without the witch getting them first, but this one you spin a spinner, instead of drawing cards. The girls especially love this one as we have named the three mermaid playing pieces. 
3. Willy's Wiggle Web - Santa just brought this one for the girls and it is already a big hit. It comes with paper webs that you stretch out and the kids have to cut (with the provided kid scissors) the bugs free without letting Willy the spider fall. 

Peaceable Kingdom offers a variety of other games, as well as matching games and puzzles (we have three different versions of these and the girls love them). 

So until Miss Val really understands the age old words from that Yo Gabba Gabba song "sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but it's ok. You try again!" we will be attempting to keep our kingdom peaceful by playing games from Peaceable Kingdom!! 

(And no this is not a sponsored post, I just really love what this company is doing!) 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Six shows you should be watching, but probably are not!

I was going to entitle this post "Six television shows you should be watching..." but I just realized that I don't watch any of these shows on my actual television anymore. Who needs TV when you have Hulu and Netflix, and you can carry around your iPad with you from room to room while you put away laundry?

Most shows on actual broadcast networks are total garbage. To find groundbreaking "television" you must turn to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime or obscure actual networks like FXX.

There are so so so many good smart "television" shows out there right now, and I bet you aren't watching them, nor have you heard of them in some cases, so I watched them for you and made this list!

In no particular order, here are the things that you need to start watching:

1. Master of None (Netflix) - I feel in love with Aziz Ansari back when he had a very minor part on Scrubs in 2009, and again as Tom Haverford on Parks & Recreation. Anyone who has an affinity for 90s hip-hop is a friend of mine. His latest show (that he created and wrote), which was just released a few weeks ago (all 10 episodes are streaming now) is freaking amazing. AMAZING. I think I watched all 10 episodes in one day. It is smart, relatable, hysterical, moving, need to be watching this masterpiece, especially if you are a human in your 30s (30 year old horses need not watch). It is honestly unlike anything else out there. Turn off that Big Bang Theory garbage, and treat yo self to Master of None. (I am currently listening to his latest book on Audible as well! All Aziz all the time apparently.)

2. You're the Worst (FXX) - This show is my husband's worst nightmare. He cannot stand to watch a show where the cast is full of horrible selfish people (he will leave the room if I am watching any Housewives episode). I don't think I could ever get him to watch this show, based on the title - and the fact that everyone is this show plays a despicable character - but I love every one of them. The main characters are self involved 30 somethings afraid of commitment and change, who are also alcoholics and drug users, as well as clinically depressed narcissists (well, one is depressed, but all are narcissists). It is so well written, and honestly laugh out loud funny. The first season is all on Hulu right now (and for $11 a month you can watch anything on Hulu without commercials now - have you tried watching television on On Demand? Is there anything worse than not being able to fast forward commercials??????? NO!! - for some reason I just said this whole parenthetical in Aziz' voice in my head - yikes.) The second season is currently airing on FXX.

3. Jessica Jones (Netflix) - Holy bejesus. I love love love a show where things happen that you totally don't expect. I won't give anything away but after the first episode I just stood there staring at my iPad (while in my closet putting away laundry - again, who needs tv?) in total shock. This show was ten times better than I could have ever imagined. A dark, scarred and emotionally damaged female super hero? Sign me up!

4. Fargo (FX) - I can't say much about this, as I have only watched the first episode as I am waiting for Hubs to be less busy to watch with him. But having seen the glorious first episode I am waiting with breath that is bated to continue watching it. I have heard nothing but praise for this season of Fargo.

5. Transparent (Amazon Prime) - I watched this series when it came out last year, but in anticipation of the second season starting December 11th, I had to add it to this list. It is groundbreaking, it is heartwarming, it is heartbreaking. It is a must see. Moppa!!!!

6. Difficult People (Hulu) - I love watching Billy Eichner acting a fool while running all over Manhattan, and now I love him even more after watching his latest endeavor, Difficult People, in which he costars with Julie Klausner. Here is another smart, well written and laugh out loud comedy about generally horrible celebrity-obsessed people - and I can't get enough of it!! Especially Andrea Martin, who plays Klausner's mother. That lady gets funnier the older she gets.

I beg you to stop watching Shonda-shite on TV, and cancel that Scream Queens series recording and start watching one of these least so I have someone to talk about them with!!!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dinner Winner

Last week I wrote about our struggles with dinner, but this week I write about our triumphs!

A friend read my post Picky, Picky, Picky Eater and immediately informed me of this amazing product that has changed dinner time in their house, the Dinner Winner Tray by Fred & Friends.  I am willing to try anything with my kids, so I hastily purchased two trays via Amazon as I could not go another night fighting my kids to eat their dinner.

The kids were immediately drawn to their colorful new "plates" and I loved the retro design and feel. I let them both see the trays before I started to prepare dinner, and told them we were going to play a little game while we ate. Mommy was going to put a treat under the "Finish" top and if they ate their way down the path and got to the Finish space, they could have whatever I put under there.

I had them in the palm of my hands. Games? Prizes? Mom is actually letting us have dessert???

I explained to them that some nights the spaces on the trays would be filled with things that they don't eat all the time, and that they had to try them. I also explained that if they didn't eat all (ok, 90%) of the food on their tray that they wouldn't get the AMAZING prize (which has been M&Ms the past four nights), and that is ok.

Let me tell you this - for four nights in a row my kids have been asking to play "Dinner Winner" and are absolutely elated when they sit down to eat!! I got them both to eat the crap out of a ham and cheese quiche, they are eating their vegetables, and last night I even got Marlo to eat "weird" pizza that had fresh herbs on it. I am still in shock.

They have been so good at waiting to have their prize too. And totally understand that if they don't eat the food in the spaces they don't get the prize, as has happened for each of them one night.

I know there are articles out there that tell you not to bribe your kids to eat, and not to make them eat all their food, etc., but we tried those methods. I tried the "You don't have to eat all of it" method or the "try bite" method, but nothing worked. The kids ended up just walking away from dinner and then throwing huge fits at bedtime because they were so damn hungry. This might not be the best way to get them to eat, but for four days it has worked for us!!!

I wish they made this for adults, but instead of a food prize it was a pill you could take to lose 10 pounds!