Sunday, December 8, 2013

How I'm Surviving the Holidays

Alphie in his holiday best.

This is a hard time of year for many people. Personally the cold weather and darkening of the sky at 4:30 pm contribute to me getting  into a funk on and off from now until March. Blah. But this time of year can be hard for other reasons. The holidays are a time of year I've always looked forward to among months of grey. Good food, family time and days off of school or work are cause for celebration. But, as years have gone by the celebration has gotten more exhausting. I notice that driving 3-4 hours (or 6 1/2 for our last trip due to traffic), eating and drinking at every turn, trying to fit in every last bit of face time with people that I do not see enough and little sleep leave me run down and not exactly pining for the next holiday season. All of this makes me feel like I'm somehow missing the point altogether. So, I have been working to make our holidays a little less stressful and more enjoyable. Below is a list of things I have identified as ways I need to take care of myself this time of year. 

1. You can't make everyone happy all of the time: For the first four years Nick and I were together we went to see every family member, every event and ate every meal. I did not want to complain, after all, who complains about being loved and welcomed?  But this was unmanageable. I was really scared to share with our families that we could no longer attend everything and would be alternating the holidays between them. But both sides were very supportive and understanding. And after a few years it has become normal. 

2. Doggies: Traveling with one dog is no problem. Traveling with two dogs is a pain and poor Asa does not adjust to change well. (He may take after me in that area.) So this year we are not bringing them to any holiday events. I'll miss them, but they are staying home. 

3. Green Things: All the holiday foods I love are brown, off white or filled with sugar. While it tastes delicious I feel uncomfortable and icky later. So I've been making sure I eat fruits and veggies at each meal over the holidays. At home it's easy, away from home it can be more difficult. But even if that broccoli takes the place of a second delicious biscuit I will eat it. 

4. Alcohol: In the past there has been consumption  of alcohol at most celebratory gatherings. I enjoy having a drink or two but when I am celebrating day after day, event after event it's too much. And as I get older I notice that I don't feel or sleep well when I drink. So I've cut back. I can attend an event without drinking and often I feel much better. I plan to drink little to no alcohol during the holiday festivities this year. 

5. Gift Giving:  Both Nick's family and my family are very generous. And I love giving a gift I know my loved ones will enjoy. But sometimes the generosity makes me feel guilty and pressure for everyone to purchase gifts means a lot of resources are put into gift giving (time and money). Our families have been working on reducing the gift giving to focus more on each other and our time together. Some of the ideas we've had and are implementing: buying for everyone but setting a low limit, drawing names and buying for one person or buying one gift and doing a game for the gift exchange. A suggestion my sister-in-law made, that I loved, is making a homemade gift either as part of another gift or on it's own (such as food, art, something funny). 

The holidays can be difficult for  various reasons. Many people in our lives have had negative experiences over this time of year, others are missing someone they love. Being mindful of not only how the holidays affect us but those around us is important.  Pressure and high expectations are a recipe for unhappiness. Reducing stress and practicing self care can make the holidays even better.  If you were to increase your self care over the holidays what would your list look like? 



Friday, November 22, 2013

A Story of Commitment in a Tattoo Parlor

Sassy picture taken by Nick.

I am a cautious person. This may surprise some people as I think my outwardly self can be outspoken, direct and focused. But I am also cautious. I see danger where there is actually danger and sometimes where there isn't. There is a driving force inside me letting me know, reminding me often, that this is all fleeting. That I have only so much time to do things, see things and love. Not to be melodramatic but this sense that time (everyone's time) is limited sometimes pushes me to take calculated risks and other times keeps me from wanting to leave the safety of my comfy bed.  I always remember being this way, even as a small child. I think two qualities that I have and love about myself are awareness and empathy, but they can be a double edged sword at times. 

Given my cautious side I have feared commitment, in any form. How could I commit to something, doesn't that mean I would miss out on  another precious opportunity or experience? This fear of commitment kept me from really delving into relationships, jobs and places. My ideal life would have been one where I could take everything I own, put it in a car and escape if needed. Never mind I never really wanted to escape. But I wanted the freedom to do so. One day a few years ago it dawned on me that my partner was the exact opposite of what I had always feared. He would always help me have the experiences I crave and not hold me back. That was true then and it's true now. Nick's unconditional support and love has allowed me to experience things that scare the crap out of me such as buying a condo and getting married. (There are days when the condo still makes me cringe-but it's also the coziest place I've ever lived.) Freedom is what I've always craved. Feeling trapped, dominated and powerless are my fears. Nick and my other close loved ones have given me that freedom to be myself.  

We know this post is about a tattoo, right? Well how does a cautious, commitment phobe finally bite the bullet and get a tattoo? With a lot of research. I spent days researching tattoo parlors and artists in the Chicago area. I knew I wanted a woman to do the tattoo. So I found a woman that had amazing art work, wonderful reviews and worked out of a place that also had amazing reviews ( We met and she was lovely. My tattoo is of the very simple variety, not exactly what the average custom tattoo artist would spend their time doing. But she indulged me.  The experience was both painful and freeing. After 15 years of wanting a tattoo, I finally felt grounded enough to take the risk. It would be okay if I ultimately did not like the result. And for the first time I knew that to be true. 

But I love the result. And I want to thank my friend Kristen (read about how much she rocks here) who distracted me during the most painful moments by telling stories about her funny son.  And Nick for encouraging me to go for it when I started to have second (third, fourth and fifth) thoughts. My lesson is that commitment can also mean freedom. If done correctly. 

Kisses from my bub, Asa. 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

New York, I Love You

I can't believe it's November already. It's getting cold here in Chicago, which has me dreaming of summer. Thinking back to this summer a few of my favorite memories were made when my lovely friend Lesley and I visited New York City. Our trip mostly consisted of walking, eating, randomly riding bikes illegally through Central Park, resting, walking and eating more. This was the third time I've visited NYC and I love it more each time. Here are a few pictures of some of the awesomeness that NYC has to offer.

The Little Owl ( As I sat there many, many people took my picture. I thought I was finally discovered. Turns out this building was used as the cafe front in the "Friends" television show. 

View of NYC atop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET).

Lesley and I just hanging out on top of the MET. No big deal. Just kidding, this was awesome!

Anselm Keifer, "Bohemian Lies by the Sea". (close up)

Lesley checking out Anselm Keifer's "Bohemian Lies by the Sea". (panned view)

Chuck Close, "Lucas I". (close up)

Chuck Close, "Lucas I". (panned view)

Andy Warhol, I think it's named "Shaped", but I am not sure.

Delicious lunch on the go. 

Lesley on the High Line (
The High Line is an old freight rail line converted in to a beautiful walkway in Chelsea.

Pretty flowers on the High Line.

Yummy beverage at The Spotted Pig.

Lunch at The Spotted Pig. (

 Lesley at Roberta's in Brooklyn.

Lesley and me. Our smiles mask sadness that our meal is over.

Zen Butter ice cream (Peanut butter ice cream with toasted sesame seeds) 
at China Town Ice Cream Factory-Totally worth the hike. 

Random metal art. 

Pretty blue door plus me. 

Coffee and almond croissant at Zibetto Espresso Bar.

Lesley at  Sake Bar Decibel (

Me also at Sake Bar Decibel.

Oh, I love you New York City. Until next time.



Sunday, November 10, 2013

How to Test a Friendship

Coaster Mustache 

This past week my good friend Kristen visited to support me in something that I have not previously had the courage to do(reveal in next post). During our visit she and I reflected on the type of people we are attracted to, re: friends, mates etc. Kristen shared her realization that she has surrounded herself with people that are outspoken and stand up for themselves. Qualities that she admires and values. While she was sharing I thought about the type of person she is as well as the other people that I am close with. My closest friends and partner are non-judgmental, patient, optimistic (at least more often than I) and consistent. I know I can count on them to be a positive force in my life and be there for me when I need them. Like Kristen, I am attracted to people that have qualities I admire. 

Coaster Mustache Fail

Thinking back I realized my move to Chicago was an excellent example of Kristen's patience and loyalty. 

Seven years and four months ago Kristen took on the challenge of moving me. We had been close friends, sisters, since high school and the move was a scary thing for both of us. It can be hard for me to ask for help and Kristen has made asking easy by pretty much always saying yes. Our plan was that I was going to drive my car, she would follow in the moving truck and after the move we'd drop the truck off in Chicago. 
When we showed up at the "moving company" there was a problem. The truck size we reserved was out. Instead they gave us a truck that resembled a semi. But for the same price, what a deal! I laughed a lot. Kristen, who better understood the difficulty of the situation in front of us,  looked terrified.

We filled the truck with my belongings, which took up no more than a 1/3 of the space. Our next stop was to fill up the gas tank before we headed out of town. Unfortunately, we were not able to restart the truck once it was turned off.  After two hours on hold with the "moving company" and several requests by station attendants to move, I called my old roommate and she asked her dad for advice. I actually don't remember why I called her, but I do remember that her dad knew exactly what to do. So the truck started again. The next six hours of driving (the trip is normally four) were a nightmare. Kristen could not drive above 50 mph or the truck would violently shake. She had no experience driving a big rig and therefore was terrified that she was going to cause an accident. And of course it rained the whole way. Upon arriving in Chicago our bodies and minds were exhausted.  Kristen parked the truck (not without incident) and we went to sleep on the floor of my new apartment with only blankets.  
The next morning Kristen fell down the steps and ripped the seat of her pants and the same bird pooped on me twice. Kristen strongly felt like these were all signs that I should not move.  
Dropping off the truck to the "moving company" was just as unpleasant as the rest. Driving a semi around the narrow streets of Chicago is not fun. When we arrived at the "moving company" a staff person told us we could not leave the truck, there was no more room. The same staff person was pushy and loud when I was trying to explain why we couldn't leave the truck to an exhausted and angry Kristen. I put my hand up to stop him from talking. He screamed about me giving him "the hand" until we left.  An hour later we had the truck dropped off at another site and then quietly drove the four hours home.

No matter how awful the trip was or how angry Kristen felt, I never feared for our friendship. We didn't argue or turn on each other. And after that I was not as worried about the affect of my move on our friendship. Now when we are together I cannot tell we've ever been apart.  As for the move, well it took a few years, but we can laugh now. 

I think being deliberate about who you allow into your life is very important. All people have value, but not all people are healthy for us. I have surrounded myself with people I respect and respect me. Sometimes I am in awe at the love I feel from those around me. But I am grateful. Always.  

Circa 2000



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Oyster Happy Hour

Truly happy people seem to have an intuitive grasp of the fact that sustained happiness is not just about doing things that you like. It also requires growth and adventure beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. Happy people, are simply put, curious. -Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener

Last week I saw an advertisement that a local restaurant Nick and I both enjoy added an oyster bar. Neither of us had ever had oysters before. And to be honest,  neither of us were very sad about that. But I am in the pursuit of self discovery, and the consumption of oysters seem outside my comfort zone.  So we went, asked our waiters' advice and tried two he suggested. Dramatically, I learned that I do not like oysters. While also discovering that I am not refined enough to hide that I do not like oysters from the very hip, restaurant patrons that surrounded us. It was hilarious, disgusting, embarrassing and so much fun. It's hard to describe the feeling that comes up when you can be totally your uncool, unrefined, nerdy self and have your partner be right there with you. 

I am naturally a curious person and have been all of my life.  But I'm learning being curious alone is not enough.  Big or small, I need to take risks where I could possibly fail, be rejected or even briefly embarrassed.  This is not to say I haven't taken any risks.  I have.  But I also have had the privilege of knowing that my family and friends would catch me if I fell.  Until this past year many of the risks I've taken have been fairly calculated.  This year I both married my partner and started a business.  These have been really scary, good changes. Changes that even two years ago I did not believe I could/would ever do.  And the truth is that I have not been comfortable for quite a while, but my happiness is growing exponentially. 

When I saw that advertisement I knew I could eat some oysters.  And so we did.  Now I'm thinking about daily things I could do outside my comfort zone. I want to grow as a person, but I also want to grow with Nick. Luckily, he's a really good sport. I can't wait to see what we do next. 

What sort of challenges would be on your list? Do you find only doing the things you already know that you enjoy is keeping you from growing? Are there things on your list you could do with your partner?

XO,  M


Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Date with My Self Worth

This post was supposed to be about a date that Nick and I had last Saturday. But it occurred to me that the date is a small slice of a much bigger change in my life. Our date was ordinary enough, we stayed in and painted really ugly pumpkins. But it was quality time with the person I love the most.  Quality time is not something there used to be much of around here. If you took a snap shot of my life last year at this time and compared it to the present day you'd see two different lifestyles. I think you'd also see two different people. Okay, maybe not two totally different people, but different nonetheless. 

A year ago I was working six to seven days a week. The plan was to keep my agency job while I built up a private practice. The private practice was part of a big picture plan to move my life into a calmer direction. But I was too scared to just take the leap. I wanted some kind of safety net. So I worked most of my waking moments. This unfortunately was a very poor plan. I was exhausted, crabby and reactive both at work and at home. Not awesome. 

In April of this year I finally made the jump full on into my business. Goodbye safety net, income security, colleague support system and a bit of my mind. The change has been hard. I mean really, really hard. Of course there is the financial stuff. It's difficult not knowing how busy I am going to be in a given month, but that was expected and we are managing. The unexpected hardship was that once I stopped working all the time I no longer knew what my worth was. If I was not contributing then what was I?  When I imagined quitting my agency job I thought that I would be bathing in the glory of my free time, soaking up the world and indulging in my interests. But instead I was miserable. Nick and my support system were shocked and saddened for me. But I don't think anyone was more surprised than I was. 

I always thought I knew myself better than most. But my self worth was slipperier than I expected. So, now I'm rebuilding. Dates like the one we had on Saturday are an amazing reminder of some of what I have to offer, my time and my love. I'm working hard at increasing my self care and I push myself to experience things even when all I want to do is hide in my room. Now all of this feels like it is supposed to be part of my journey.

I imagine that my brief crisis of identity is not that uncommon in this day and age. In our economy I see a variety of reasons why one might fall into a similar state of uncertainty. Often now people are changing jobs, are out of work, their socio-economic status fluctuates  and sometimes people move away from their families or friends for work. It seems so easy to loose yourself in a culture where we place so much of our worth on work, especially with such an unstable economy.  We all have worth outside our job or paycheck. Worth is inherent, it's something we are all born with. I want to remind myself of this but also the people around me. I truly value you all so much. 


PS. The picture above  is a photo from that date night. I like how I can see the joy on my own (messy) face. And the two below are a couple of shots of our dogs, just because they make me happy.  

Asa, naughty. Always naughty. 

Alphie, my buddy.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Last Little Bit

The past week has been an exhausting one. But exhausting in an I'm fortunate and grateful for the people I love and the moments I experience kind of way.  On Wednesday I took the Amtrak train from Chicago to Kalamazoo, Michigan.  My good friend Nicole picked me up (more about how cool Nicole is here) and we spent the the next three days on the road from Michigan to Cleveland, Ohio and then back to Michigan.  The trip offered us miles and miles of good conversation and laughs. We only stopped talking long enough to eat delicious foods.  And the visit fueled my soul in a way only time with an old friend can. 

The photo above and the rest below are pictures from my trip with Nicole. I'm really enjoying the contrast of the pictures I took in Michigan at Nicole's house and the urban pictures I took in Chicago from the train.  

Train Photos

More Train Photos

Nicole is bombarded with the camera the moment she picks me up from the train.

Nicole and I

Hudson, Nicole's ham bone son. I asked him if I could take his picture. This is the doll face look he gave me in response. 

I love fall in Michigan.

Sipping warm apple cider on the lake.

Just looking at  these photos I can almost smell fall in the air. Fresh air is something I seriously took for granted before moving to Chicago.

XO,   M

PS. I will be posting pictures later this week from Saturday date night in with Nick!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Breath In, Breath Out

Alphie and Asa helping me show Nick my new yoga moves!

I have been taking introduction to yoga at a local studio. Introduction is the place I must begin. I have always known that I am not flexible. I could never touch my toes in high school gym, or at least it hurt pretty badly when I tried.  Many months ago I attempted to go to a higher level class with two dancer friends. They made yoga look like a beautiful flowing art. I tumbled, strained and wobbled my way through the class. As much as my body hurt during the class, it was nothing compared to the pain I experienced the week following.

So anyway, I'm trying again. I'm not giving up just yet! Last night in class the instructor was helping us work on our breathing. When she described breathing in; she said "breathing in is like accepting what we need from the world". Breathing out she said was "like letting go of things we no longer need".  Ka-boom, these simple statements struck me hard. Acceptance and letting go are things in my personal life I have been working very hard at doing.  So I decided to come home and contemplate what I consciously wanted to accept into my life and what needed to be let go.   Below my yoga pics is the list, in all of its glory.

We've got the moves.
(Not the best pics, but so cute.)

Asa checking out my pug leggings. He's suspicious.

Alphie being the good guy he is and standing aside. 

Breathing in; accepting what I need from the world:

1. Compliments. I will not diminish myself by turning down a compliment. I will graciously accept any positivity sent my way.

2. Help. As difficult as it is to accept help it's even harder to ask for help.

3. Loving messages. I will be present and notice when my dogs greet me with love, my neighbor says hello and my partner reaches for my hand. I have a tendency to be about twenty steps ahead in my mind. I miss things.

Breathing out; letting go of what I no longer need:

1. Clutter. Specifically getting rid of clutter and not accumulating more. I saw a picture on Pinterest recently that said "Have Less, Do More".  I'd like to do more.

2. Negativity. Specifically negativity I absorb due to everyday less than positive interactions. Examples might be Asa pee's the floor, someone bumps into me on the sidewalk or I miss my train. The negative feelings associated with these events I really, truly do not need.  It would be so freeing if in the moment I was able to see that holding onto negativity for even a minute is a waste of time

3. Being self-righteous about comfort. I am still blown away by this concept. Check out my thoughts in the previous post "Part Beauty and Part Discomfort". I think part of my continued fascination can be contributed to readers comments, which have only intrigued me further.

Phew, that was a hefty list. What would your list look like?