Ever-Changing Reflection

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding... It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.
~ Kahlil Gibran

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas fill in the blanks

Image credit: Lauren
1. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to smile, forgive and be kind.

2. The thing I love most about Christmas is the universal cheer and good will... and the lights and sparkle!

3. The holiday season is a time for love!

4. My favorite thing to eat at the holidays is eggnog cake.

5. I will be spending Christmas at my boyfriend's grandfather's house for dinner, then my parents' house afterwards.

6. 'Tis better to (give or receive?) Give. Sure, I love getting gifts off my wish list, but I always pause the receiving to watch those I love open the presents I carefully and lovingly selected for them. No better feeling than giving the perfect gift!

7. I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. (Does anyone else find the warm December weather ridiculous??? Not only is it making me sick, but it's messing with my ski plans! And let's not forget the environment.)

I'd like to wish all of you, and your families and firends, a very merry Christmas (or a belated happy Chanukkah or Festivus)! May you experience hope, love, joy and peace this holiday season!

And... just in case I don't make my way back to these parts beforehand, happy New Year! I have a feeling 2012 is going to be great!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bad Blogger

Ugh, I was just going through my Reader, and I realized that out of 21 days of journaling for #21DJC, I managed just seven posts. Double ugh... 14 ughs to be exact.

Through the challenge is officially over, I still plan on addressing the topics here... just as soon as this cold/sinus infection/cough decides it's month-long stay is over and work slows down just a tiny bit.

I'm also pushing just a bit to accomplish my goal of reading 12 books in 2011. I have four more to go... in three weeks!

Finally, I'll admit that I am a little bummed, and I have been TERRIBLE the last two months about working out. I hurt my foot after my last race -- the Tufts 10K for Women in Boston -- and I decided since that was my last race, some time off would be good. Since then (October 10th for those who are counting), I have run a total of two miles. One was two weeks post race, and the other was about two weeks ago. It was painful -- not only because I hadn't been running, but more importantly on my foot. Several "personal experts" I've talked to think I torn a tendon or ligament eight years ago when the problem started, and running has only aggravated it. Anyway, I need to see a doctor. Soon.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

This puppy will tear your heart out...

Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family--and a Whole Town--About Hope and Happy EndingsHuck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family--and a Whole Town--About Hope and Happy Endings by Janet Elder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has been many years since I have read a book in under two weeks, which should be point enough for how wonderful and delightful and heart-wrenching this book is. Huck will make you fall in love with you, break your heart, and then fill your heart with so much love and hope that the harrowing journey will be worth it.

Janet Elder takes her readers on a personal, emotional journey -- offering the invitation into her life, the lives of her family members, and the lives of kind strangers she meets along the way. You feel like you are there, and you ache to do something to help this family find their beloved pet. Coincidentally, I am vaguely familiar with the setting of the book, having visited there several times -- I even ran through the streets of Allendale and drove past the Hilton where the Elders took up residence during their search. I will also admit that having an adorable dog of my own who has won my heart made this book touch closer to home, but even if you never had a pet, I think you will find yourself on the edge of your seat to find out what happens to Huck and his owner, Michael, and smiling as you turn the last page. You can't help it.

I wanted to hug Huck all through this book, and there were several times I found myself looking up from the book at my own dog or even giving him a pat to remind myself that he is home and ok. I could not put this book down, and I bet you won't either.

This will go on my virtual shelf as one of the best books I have read this year.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 28, 2011

#21DJC: I'm going back in time, like Huey Lewis and the News...

This is a catch-up journal entry, but one that I was very excited about. Hindsight is always 20/20, they say, and I really try to live in the present and stay out of the past. However, I do believe it is often worthwhile to reflect on some key decisions you made in the past and what you learned to gain some insight into the present and how you would like to act in the future. That said...

Image credit: Personal Excellence blog

If you are to travel back in time to three years ago, what advice would you give yourself? How old were you three years ago? What was happening at that time? What would you say to yourself and why?

Let's start with the easy facts. Three years ago was November 2008, and I was 27. This was before I started this blog, so we cannot go back to this time in Nifer Musings history to see where I was and what I was thinking. No, you're just going to have to take my word on all of this. My life was radically different.

I was slaving away at the same job I had been doing for two and a half years, and I dreaded going into work every day. I loved my teammates, but all the drama surrounding me and what I did was ridiculous. I was looking for a way out professionally and felt pretty discouraged. The light at the end of the tunnel was my freelance gig, which I still maintain today.

The one awesome thing about my job was the amount of vacation I received. I had just returned from a week-long cruise in Bermuda with my boyfriend, best friend and her husband. We had a great time, despite the ship not living up to our expectations.

Overall I was happy. I was dating the man I had loved for years (and still am!), I had enough freedom and plenty of cash due to living at home. Life was pretty good.

Ok, there was another dark spot: my father was sick and on dialysis for kidney disease, which I have wrote about on this blog. He was getting progressively worse, and his deteriorating health strained all of our relationships.

If I could go back and have a cup of coffee with 27-year-old me, I would tell her to slow down and relax. Back then, I was very anxious for the next thing -- getting a better job, making more money, progressing my relationship, moving out of my parents' house. All of that came, and will come, in time. Perhaps it all came too quickly because I was pushing too hard for it. There is a time, a season and a reason. Respect that.

I would advise myself to be patient with my parents since they were going through an awful time, facing challenges no one should have to face. I would let myself know that things would get better soon; Dad would not be sick forever, and once he started feeling better, he would be happier and easier to get along with.

Be grateful for what you have and where you are right now; this is the easy time when you don't have the world on your shoulders, you aren't particularly challenged professionally or emotionally or financially, and you are free to travel and have a little bit of 20-something fun. Enjoy that. Live it up. Don't take it for granted. Someday you will miss the things you are cursing now.

See? Those are all lessons that I can apply now, as well as I could have applied them three years ago. In fact, we could all apply them now, I am sure.

So, what would you tell yourself if you could travel back three years? Where and who were you then?

Monday, November 21, 2011

#21DJC: The Dark Side of Me

Image credit: weheartit
What is the most painful thing you have ever experienced to date? What happened and why was it painful to you?

Several incidents ran across my mind when I read today's journal challenge question: break-ups, surgeries, lost friendships, accidents, childhood teasing... but none of those match my battle with depression.

I found the above image, and I thought it was a good visual of what living with depression -- or at least my depression -- feels like. The vast emptiness swallows you so that you view the world through a dim, dulled lens. The pain is sharp at times, aching but constant at others, and it permeates everything... even those drips of happy moments you catch. Depression claims you, and over time, you lose who you were, who you are, and you just become sadness and exhaustion. Oh, the exhaustion is overwhelming. I remember just being so tired with life -- with my life in particular. I was truly lost. Nothing excited me, nothing stirred the passion inside me. I just hurt. All. The. Time.

I faced two periods of deep, serious depression, both of which followed romantic break-ups but also times of intense change in my life. I think the combination of losing someone I cared about, questioning my self-worth and attempting to find my way on new ground was the recipe for the perfect storm.

The first came during my freshman year of college, and lasted through my sophomore, and maybe even the  beginning of my junior year. I was away from home, in a big city, by myself. Unlike some of my friends, I didn't have fellow high school classmates at my selected university, and that university had a starkly different culture than the warm, comfortable high school I left. I had a strong vision for my education and future career, but that was about all I had. I didn't make friends easily because I didn't know who I was and I wasn't will to trust. I didn't even trust myself, that I made the right choice for me at the time. Eventually, I made friends -- people who understood me -- and I realized my high school friendships weren't going anywhere. I learned to lean on my support system and on myself. I started to appreciate where I was and open myself to new people and experiences -- although not as much as I now wish I did. The depression faded.

It came raging back after college graduation. Again, I had just broken up with my boyfriend at the time, and I was not where I always thought I would be. I wasn't working in my field. I wasn't even writing. I was discouraged and defeated. Again, I didn't know who I was, and I didn't trust myself. I didn't trust myself to make the right choices, to know the right path, to accomplish my goals and dreams, to be successful. It was self-sabotage at its worst. I recognized this demon within, and I reached out for help. I clued friends into what was going on, and I even asked my doctor to recommend a psychologist, whom I never called. I didn't have the courage. DON'T LET THAT BE YOU. I eventually recovered and bounced back, but the process could have been faster, easier, more comfortable and ultimately more enlightening with professional help. I believe that by not seeking professional help, I left myself open to be struck a third time.

I missed out on so much because of my depression. Two formative years -- after high school and college graduation -- that are supposed to be about self-discovery, trial and error, beginnings, growth, and acceptance were fraught with nothing but pain, sadness, isolation, self-hate, fear and loss. I do not have any regrets in my life except for this one: that I let depression take over and steal those years from me. Whenever I feel myself slipping, I remember that, and I refuse to let those feelings and that dark side of my mind take any more from me.

I am by no means a mental health expert, and I do not recommend my path to anyone. Know that I am sharing this as part of my journaling experience, and if a side effect of that is someone is helped, I am grateful. If you, or someone you care about, is suffering from depression, I urge you to talk about it with whomever you feel comfortable. No one should have to face this demon alone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

#21DJC: What does love mean to you?

Image credit: Personal Excellence blog
What does love mean to you? What words or phrases would you use to describe love? How do you identify if you are feeling the emotion of love, or something else? What does the word 'love' mean to you?

Love means...

  • light
  • freedom
  • unselfishness
  • warmth
  • caring
  • sensitivity
  • thoughtfulness
  • gratefulness
  • forgiveness
  • hugs and kisses
  • knowledge
  • understanding
  • listening
  • giving
  • acceptance
  • worth
  • respect
  • affection
  • time
  • sharing
  • common interest
  • happiness
I thought a little free association might help with answering this huge question. Throughout my life so far, I have had many different definitions and understandings of love: parental, sibling, friend, romantic, unconditional, divine... and each stage has been different and more intense. I ask myself this question periodically, but now, it seems like you can't really define love; it is like trying to define God, and some will say God is love. I certainly believe that love is divine, and when we love, we reflect the divine in ourselves. I believe that God wholly encompasses love, and nothing else. Therefore, love -- regardless of who it's for or with -- is incredibly personal and spiritual, while being completely universal.

How do I know when I feel love? Well, it's two things. First, I am unselfish; I feel the need to give to whomever I feel love towards. I want to share... everything... Second, I feel whole when I am loved and when I am loving. Love completes us -- not that a person completes us, but the act of loving and accepting love completes us. When either of these is not present, it's not love. When both of these conditions are present, I know there is love, and I am whole and happy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Friday Blanks Break

Gah! I got off track with my journal challenge again and forgot to write yesterday! Lately, the days have just been getting away from me, and I have a hard time fitting everything in. I've also been a lot less organized than I usually am. Anyone else experiencing this?

I hope to post my journal entry for today a bit later, but for now, how about some fill-in-the-blanks courtesy of Lauren?

Image credit: Lauren
 1. A nervous habit I have is playing with my Claddaugh ring. When I'm nervous, I'll twist it around my finger and pull it on and off. Someone called me out on it once, and it was a bit embarrassing!

2. Something that makes me sad is this news story I heard at the beginning of the week about some people using a rabbit as a hockey puck. The poor thing was so beaten. I hate animal cruelty -- even roadkill.

3. Today I am thankful for awesome plans tonight! With this cold and sinus infection, I haven't done anything fun that I've enjoyed in two weeks, and I have had to cancel a bunch of plans.

4. My favorite room in my house is the master bedroom. It's all beach themed and shades of blue -- my favorite color. It's so soothing and relaxing.

5. I can't stand messiness, which I just read a great blog post about. I'm a bit OCD, and it drives Jed nuts.

6. If I had an extra $100 to spend on whatever I wanted today, I would treat myself to a few extra drinks tonight and maybe a sassy pair of new shoes to wear.

7. The last person I hung out with was Jed, all week long.

What do you have going on this weekend? Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy and get a well-deserved rest!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

#21DJC: I get by with a little help from my friends...

Oh ain't it the truth, and 'friends' is an all-inclusive term for me. I have friends in the traditional sense, but I also include my boyfriend and family as friends -- well, in some cases anyway.

Image credit: Google Images
Today's journal challenge topic is: Who do you enjoy spending time with?

The answer is a bit obvious here, folks, I enjoy spending time with people I consider friends. But, let's get more specific -- perhaps a top 10 list is in order... well, in no particular order.

10. My boyfriend. While I don't always enjoy time spent in the daily grind with each, I can say that I truly enjoy spending time with Jed. I love doing new and different things with him. He's the ultimate travel buddy. I love watching him discover the world, and I love that I can be myself, always, around him. I love the sound of our mutual laughter and conversation.

9. My dog, Morris. How can you not include your pet on this list? My dog just brings me simple joy. Whether I am playing with him, snuggling with him or just watching him sleep from across the room, he makes me smile. He reminds me that life doesn't have to be so complicated all the time.

8. Yelpers. Wow, what a fun, diverse, united, interesting group of people they are. I haven't met a Yelper yet that I didn't like, and I'm meeting new Yelp friends all the time (if you haven't jumped head first into your local Yelp community, get on it). This collective stretches me, challenges me and pulls me out of my comfort zone; it's incredible that a group of people with only a website and a city in common get along so well and become such fast friends.

7. My sister. Ok, so we have spent the better part of our lives as mortal enemies, but something shifted over the last five years or so, and now, sister time is fun time. Usually. There is an inexplicable sisterly bond that makes time spent together like time spent with your clone. We come from exactly the same place. We don't have to explain what we mean. Sometimes a look or an act says everything. We share enough in common to have fun together, but also have just the right amount of separate interests to keep the relationship interesting.

6. "The group." There's some overlap here, as "the group" consists of three couples: Jed and I, best friend and hubby, and JB and girlfriend. These are my closest friends in the world. We get together every other week (and have been for, like, eight years) to eat dinner and catch up on our lives. These are the people I call when I'm looking for something to do. These are the people I go on vacation with. They have all been there for me in their own way, and they always support me.

5. The band. When I want to dance, this is who I look for, and they are usually playing somewhere good. One of these guys is a close friend of mine, and I totally enjoy the one-on-one time we get to spend together because this is the person I talk to about dreams -- he's living his, and I think it's inspiring. They bring out a little bit of my alter ego, and it is always a good time.

4. My dad. Oh yes, I am a Daddy's Girl. I share several traits with my father, from physical to personality, and for that I'm proud. Dad and I can chat about everything from TV shows and cooking techniques to what I'm going to do with my life. He looks out for me, and he is the number one person I go to for practical advice.

3. Auntie. She's the cool aunt. The one without kids of her own that adopts her nieces and nephews. The one who got me into golfing and skiing. The one young enough to be my friend but old enough to have been my babysitter. We share books and weekend trips. She's always interested in talking about what I have been up to and where I have been.

2. Mom. For the simple reason that she is my mother and knows me like no one else -- even when I haven't even told her about everything. Mom just knows. When I am sad or confused or upset or scared or happy, she is the person I want to be around. I may not tell her what is causing what I'm feeling, but just her being there resolves almost anything. Mom is home.

1. My best friend. I never spend enough time with this girl. I have never grown tired of spending time with her in the 16 years I've known her; I've never needed a break. I love her to pieces. Whether we are out and about, sharing a meal, tanning on the beach, or just sitting on a couch, time spent together is always time enjoyed immensely. How she sees me is how I most love to see myself, and it is probably my truest self. She never judges, always listens. She cares. And, perhaps the best part of all is that it is entirely mutual.

There are several people that I definitely could have added to this list -- so if you're reading, and you weren't mentioned, it doesn't mean anything, I promise. It is interesting to note that in all of these relationships, during all of the times I have spent with these people, there is one thread that runs through. That thread is comfort. Nothing is forced or feigned in these relationships. Conversation comes easily and naturally, and when it doesn't come at all, that is perfectly fine. Through all of these relationships I can find myself.

And that is the mark of a true friend.

Worthwhile exercise: Who do you enjoy spending time with, and why?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

#21DJC: A little competition is healthy.

Apologies I have not been keeping up with my journal entries for #21DJC. Last week I developed a horrible sinus infection, so I have been spending all of my free time sleeping or chilling in front of the TV. Each day I have been feeling a little bit better, so I'm back to catch up on these prompts, starting with today's. I'll continue with each day's prompts and schedule the previous prompts as posts when I can.

Photo credit: Personal Excellence blog

Today's topic is: What drives you?

While it is not always the best driver, competition does drive me. I have always loved striving for the top -- amongst my peers as well as against myself. Lately, the competition with myself has become more important to me. Constantly improving. Increasing my strengths and skills. Developing my abilities. While my passions and interests constantly evolve and change, this desire to push to be better remains.

I am also a collector, not so much of things, but of knowledge and experience. I love to learn and read, which is evident in my to-read book list, the piles of magazines around the house and my Google Reader. I am constantly reading and absorbing new information. I also enjoy traveling and exploring new parts of my community. As an avid Yelper, I love trying new businesses and posting reviews. I challenge myself at work to learn new parts of the business and get involved in different projects.

All of this contributes to transforming myself into the best version possible, which I think is one of the reasons we are here. As Celes wrote, in reflection of the self-love posts yesterday, we are all on a journey to become better, and that journey has no end. It is the journey that matters -- what pushes us and the choices we make along the way.

What drives you? In life, at work, in your relationships...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

#21DJC: What is your ideal diet?

My ideal diet would be perfectly balanced and include the freshest, local meats, fish, fruits and vegetables. I'm also going to throw in that I would like to have a personal chef who would prepare every meal for me and ensure I am getting all of the nutrients I need daily. I struggle to come up with consistently healthy meals on a daily basis; I get lazy quite a bit, which is why I love going out to eat.

Where I am usually reasonably active. I would eat five to six times a day: three meals and two or three snacks when I need them. I love hot breakfasts, and I hardly ever have time to make one. So, at least three times a week, I'd want a hot breakfast with eggs, French toast, pancakes, or something along those lines. It would also be awesome to have fresh fruit with breakfast daily -- that is one of my favorite parts of going on a cruise, the fresh fruit.

While I love hot breakfasts, I usually prefer cold lunches on the smaller side. Gourmet sandwiches and salads would be my rule.

Dinners are all about variety. I love trying new foods and flavor combinations, so dinner is the time to go wild with food. I want it all: meat, fish, pasta, vegetarian, pulling from different places around the world. Make my mouth water during dinner.

For snacks, I usually have one mid-afternoon between lunch and dinner. And, although it's not the best for me, I am a dessert girl. Whip me up something sweet for after dinner.

What is your ideal diet? Are you eating it now?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Around the world in... however long it takes.

If you are to do something for free for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I'm assuming this question means free of compensation and free of cost -- at least that is how I am interpreting it. The true question is: What is your real passion? What is priceless to you?

So, assuming I am independently wealthy and have no need to make money nor spend money, I would travel, around the world, to every continent and every country. Then I would go back and visit my favorites again. I'd start with every state in the United States, then I'd tackle all of North America. I would make my way South to Central and South America before hopping over to the South Pacific and Australia. I'd trek through Asia and the Middle East, down through Africa and back up through Europe.

While I'm exploring, I will write about what I find and how I feel about it; I will photograph the beautiful and the ugly I see. I would love to share it with the people I love.

I want to see everything this world has to offer, taste food around the globe, hear different languages and meet different people. I want to learn about different cultures and history and religion. And somewhere along the way, I hope I finally discover who I am and where I belong.

I know I don't have to take an around-the-world trip to find myself, but I am the type of person who needs to know all of the options available to me before making a choice. I am the kind of person who agonizes over not being able to try everything, and that paralyzes me in my decisions, making me always second guess what is right for me. Therefore, if i were free to do something for the rest of my life, I would explore all of my options and find the option that fits me best.

What would you do?

Monday, November 7, 2011

#21DJC: If I had a million dollars...

I'm participating in a journaling challenge over the next three weeks, and I wanted to share my entries here. This should be interesting, and I really hope to stick with the daily writing schedule. If you'd like to sign up, click the link above. Celes has some really interesting questions (I've participated in her challenges before), and she really tries to build a good community.

With that little introduction, let's get on with the first entry, shall we?

Image credit: Google Images
What would you do if you have one million dollars?

I have actually put a lot of thought into this question over the years because I'd love to be independently wealthy and never have to worry about money again. I also suffer from an overactive imagination.

The first thing I would do is pay off my parents' mortgage, so they wouldn't have to worry about the house. I would also give them money to create their dream kitchen and fix up the bathrooms.

Next, I would automatically put 30% into savings... for a rainy day, for vacations, for my children's education.

Then I would build boyfriend's and my dream house somewhere and sell our house now. Finally, I'd buy a new car -- the one I really want -- pay off my studient loans and other debt, and go on a relaxing two-week vacation in Hawaii.

I'm pretty sure that would account for all of it. Now that I actually budget it out, could I have two million?
What would you do with one million dollars?

Friday, October 28, 2011

When I was a kid...

Photo credit: Lauren

1. When I was a kid I wanted to be a professional ballerina when I grew up.

2. As an adult, my dream job would be a travel agent... or a professional ballerina :) .

3. When I was younger I wanted to be just like my cousins .

4. The childhood Halloween costume that I remember most was when I was a Honker. Remember those things? From Sesame Street.

5. My favorite childhood toy was my swing set. I spent all summer out on it .

6. The time I got into the biggest amount of trouble when I was a kid was when I didn't listen to my mother. That covers a whole range of things, which is a bit of a cop-out because I can't remember a specific incident.

7. I get daily inspiration from bloggers, books, nature, the world around me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review: "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game" by Michael Lewis

The Blind Side: Evolution of a GameThe Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was not at all what I expected it to be, but I ended up being completely ok with that. After seeing the movie trailers, I was expecting your typical feel-good, slightly mushy athlete story. This was far from that. This was a quality piece of journalism by a writer I greatly respect and admire. This story reads like an extended profile in the Sunday sports section -- a very extended profile. Lewis balances the heart-tugging story of the birth and rise of Michael Oher with in-depth analysis of how the entire world of football has evolved over the last 30 years, leading the reader to realize those evolutions that enabled Michael Oher to become Michael Oher.

As a football fan, I found both sides of this book interesting. I certainly learned quite a bit about the left tackle position and how it developed over recent years. However, I will admit that there were sections that dragged a bit for me. I really wanted to just read about what was going to happen to Oher at times and leave all of the game-changing history to another book. Both sides of the story are critical, though, as the reader realizes in the end, and I think Lewis did an excellent job tackling this story.

I would definitely recommend this to any football fan or lover of a great journalistic non-fiction piece of work.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Peeking into Houses

I have always loved exploring houses, whether they belong to family and friends or complete strangers present or past. There is something about peeking into rooms where people live their daily lives that fascinates me. I try to imagine how they use the rooms, what they do in there, who they spend the time with, what their decor inspiration was. Most of all, I think I like to imagine how I would live in that space.

So, when The Travel Belles asked today what my favorite museum is, I knew immediately.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
(Sorry for the awful picture quality.) This is The Breakers mansion in Newport, RI -- a place I visited many times throughout my childhood. As a kid, I always told my parents that someday I would live in The Breakers, not understanding the hold the Historical Society of Newport has on the place.

This was the summer "cottage" (yes, that is what these monstrousities were called) of the Vanderbilts back at the turn of the 20th century. They would travel from New York City up to Newport in the summer months to relax and socialize with all of their fellow New York elites. I can't remember how many rooms are in this residence, but suffice to say, it's a lot, including rooms with gold-leaf accents. Oh, and let's not forget the life-size doll house for the young Vanderbilts or the carriage house down the street. The myriad of acreage is astounding (what did they do without ride-on mowers, let along gas-powered mowers???), and the backyard overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, where the waves break on the rocks far below (hence The Breakers).

If you are ever in Newport, I highly recommend visiting The Breakers and a few of the other mansions down there. The admission can be pricey, but I like to think of it as my contribution to preserving these giant pieces of American history. They also did away with the live tours -- tour guides always have unique and interesting stories to share on their tours -- in favor of a self-guided audio tour, but still check it out.

While this is probably my favorite because it's so local, I love these types of museums anywhere I go. When I visited Key West, FL, for a day on a cruise, the one item on my must-see list was Heminway's house, and it was amazing.

Do you like to peek into other people's homes -- past or present -- and imagine how they live? What's your favorite museum?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fill in the Blank Friday

Image credit: Lauren
1.   My current obsession is      weirdly enough, marshmallows. I just polished off a bag of mint-chocolate ones  .

2.    Sunshine      makes me happy.

3. My greatest strength is  writing .

4. My need for control  is my greatest weakness.

5. My life is    busy! Between picking up extra projects at work and nearing the end of my 10k training, life has been a bit hectic .

6. In high school I was    such a perfectionist and so driven. I was super book-smart but not so street-smart. I strived for great grades, good friends, and the star ballerina .

7. When I'm super tired    I can unconsciously get extremely cranky and short with people. I really can't think of anything else but sleep when I'm that tired; I go into survival mode .

Make sure you link up with Lauren if you play along! Have a wonderful weekend! I'll be enjoying our new fall weather by apple-picking with my family and then having what will probably be the last cookout of the year.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Girl Needs a New... [Fill in the Blank]

Ok, or I just need to beef up the savings account. I have seen several bloggers I read do this as an alternative to Goodwill or consignment, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

I'm putting some items from my spring/summer wardrobe on an end-of-season sale to celebrate the first day of fall. Below is the first group of many since I'm still cleaning out the closet.

The details:

  • PayPal only, prices include standard shipping within the US
  • If you're buying multiple items, I can do a discount
  • Sales are final
  • If interested, send an email to jhoward03 {at} gmail {dot} com
  • Unless otherwise noted, condition is worn but well-cared for (no rips, worn spots, stains, etc.)
Gap short-sleeve cotton/lycra sweater in raspberry color, size small. This top was perfect to wear to work in warmer weather, but it also looks great with jeans. Also available in pink and blue (color and fabric samples below).

Puma heavyweight cotton pique golf shirt in lime green, size large (these ran small, I'm a 35-36" bust). If you golf, this shirt is perfect; if you don't, it's a nice bright polo to pair with shorts or jeans in the summer. This is a high-quality shirt that I only wore a couple of times; it's like new. I also have it in pink and turquoise -- color samples below.

Gap three-quarter sleeve cotton/lycra cable-knit sweater in pink, size small. Just like the cotton sweaters above, this was a spring work staple for me. It's a little Lily Pulitzer, but if that's your style, you're gonna love it!

Express short-sleeve white cashmere/cotton wrap sweater, size small. You'll need a camisole to wear under this sweater, but it is such a pretty piece to add to your work/dressy wardrobe. Looks so polished with a pencil skirt and pumps. Lightly worn.

Express printed sheer three-quarter sleeve v-neck shirt, size small. Again, you'll need a cami under this, but I loved this top -- even though I only wore it a few times. It's appropriate for work, a date or a night out with the girls. The print is light blue and green (zoomed-in picture below).

New York & Company nylon/spandex camisole in ivory, size medium. Great laying piece for the top above. The satin finish dresses it up more than your typical cotton cami. The straps are adjustable, and it has a shelf bra. Also available in black. Both camis were only worn a few times; they are like new.

American Eagle khaki cotton shorts, size 8. These shorts have a three-inch inseam and low-rise; they sit on the hip. Button fly, belt loops, front slash pockets and back slot pockets, weathered edges and finish, and stretch fabric. These shorts are like new.

Old Navy slate blue cotton shorts, size 8. These shorts have similar styling to the AE shorts above with a higher rise and a less worn finish. There is a hook and slot closure with zipper fly. (Sorry they are so wrinkled! They were in my dresser at the bottom of a pile.)

Old Navy khaki cotton twill shorts, size 8. These shorts have a five-inch inseam with front slot pockets and back utility pockets. Button closure and zipper fly, low rise, like new condition.

SU... GSJC denim skirt, size 9 junior. Skirt has classic denim jean styling with worn finish on front and back, medium denim color. I am 5'5" and it hit my mid thigh. 

J.Crew cotton twill cargo skirt, size 6. I wore this skirt maybe twice, so it is like new, despite being wrinkled. There is a cargo pocket on one side, flap pockets with button closures on the back and slash pockets in the front. It hit my lower thigh.

I hope to get another one of these posts up this week, and I will update this post as items are sold.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's Where I'm From

Image credit: Wikipedia

I am from swing sets, bikes and books, from American Girl and Disney.

I am from the stairs that creak, the floors that feel cold and the kitchen that smells of garlic.

I am from the garden that grew every summer, the apple tree.

I am from Thursday pasta nights at Nana's and stubborness, from Laura and Lauren.

I am from the loud conversations and squeals of laughter.

From eating everything on your plate and cleaning your room.

I am from God, like everything else that exists. Mass on Sundays, Our Father prayers, saints and sinners, white dresses and Jesus on a cross.

I'm from the home of Harvard University, England, Ireland, Germany and Italy too, from potatoes and pasta.

From the meat-cutter who fell in love with a supermarket cashier, the chemical engineer and the stay-at-home mom.

I am from the two-bedroom apartment on the Charles River, the three-bedroom Cape house that Mom fell in love with; from Walt Disney World, Silver Lake and Niagra Falls; from Nana's house and Catholic schools. I am from good times and bad times, but always from love.

This post inspired by

Friday, September 9, 2011

fill in the blank friday

Image credit: Lauren
1. Somewhere someone is experiencing their dream come true. Inspiring, isn't it?

2. The world is/are my muse.

3. It would suck if summer was no more because I can't deal with the cold and clouds for too long.

4. My perfectly coiffed and bathed dog is/are my favorite thing about today. (He had his first trip to the groomer today! So worth every penny... look...)
5. Life is kind of like a road trip. The journey is the fun part; the destination is just the frosting on the cake.

6. If I could have anything I wanted, I would want enough money and time to travel wherever I desired for however long I needed, whenever I felt like it.

7. A funny thing happened the other day... when I stepped out of my comfort zone and met a wonderful new person.

Following up on that last blank, I ran with Team Luna Chix last night in Cambridge, and it was awesome. I have discovered that I enjoy running with other people (as long as they are at my same pace); it really makes runs fly by. We did 2.3 miles, and I was amazed how quicky it went. I was seriously ready to do another 2-3 miles when we were done! These ladies host weekly runs around the Charles River every Wednesday night, so I'm thinking of trying to join them once a month -- it's just too far for me to go every week.

This weekend should be another good one. Tonight, Jed and I are going to a fund-raising dinner for RI foster children, then I might head out to see a local band I know and grab a quick drink. Tomorrow I am treating myself to a mani-pedi with a Groupon I got, hopefully making it to Yoga class after, then heading out on the boat pending nice weather. Sunday is church day followed by more boat and hopfully some running!

What's on the agenda for you this weekend, dolls?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Labor Day Blanks

Image credit: Lauren
1. One thing that is completely superfluous, but that I could never give up is my dance gear. It took a decade for me to relinquish all of my costumes, let alone my practice gear and bag full of shoes that I hang on to.

2. Forced conversation makes me feel awkward.

3. I can't start my day without, coffee.

4. Fruit is my favorite snack.

5. Lately I've been really focused on runnhing and being my best self.

6. If at first you don't succeed try again, if it's worth it to you.

7. Fall is coming too quickly this year! I'm not ready to leave summer yet.

Fill in your favorite blank in the comments, then tell me what you're planning for Labor Day weekend! Or, visit the little things we do and fill in the blanks on your blog.

My plans are rain-dependent this week, as there is a chance of rain all weekend, with increasing liklihood as the weekend progresses. Saturday, we're planning a little boating followed by a cookout at my parents' house (as if I haven't spent enough time there this week already!). Jed's cousin is getting married on Sunday, so we'll be celebrating with them, and I'm looking forward to a lovely wedding. On labor-free day, we'll be back on out the boat if the rain holds out, otherwise, I'm sure we'll be chilling -- maybe catch a movie.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

That Time When...

This idea just came to me: To record those memorable (or not-so-memorable) life moments on this blog using a bit of that Friends theme. For your edification (or warning), I'll use the above title for all of these posts.

Let's get right into it.

That time when... we lost power for four days courtesy of Hurricane Irene and National Grid. As you may or may not know, Hurricane Irene made her way up the East coast this past weekend, hitting New England early Sunday.

I wasn't overly concerned; I thought it was going to be a bust. I even partied for her arrival Saturday night at Gillette Stadium for Kenny Chesney's Goin' Coastal tour (amazing, by the way). I glaced above to watch the show lights illuminate rapidly moving dark clouds, but I just thought it was a cool effect to an already crazy, to-heck-with-the-weather atmosphere. The bands seemed to play on forever, throwing their collective middle finger up at the rain, and by the end of the night, the set list had been swept away.

Sunday morning was a different story -- although, as Kenny promised, I did wake up with the words to Out Last Night running through my brain. I also woke up to no power, rain and some pretty impressive (but no where near scary) gusts of wind. No biggie. We'll unplug for the day, hang out in our PJ's, play Monopoly and order delivery for dinner. We went over to Jed's parents after dinner to make s'mores over their grill and chill in the candlelight.

I got kinda freaked when I woke up Monday morning still without power; I was not used to this (the longest I had been without power was, maybe, six hours). I admit that I used a vacation day at work to emotionally deal with the entire situation. I emptied the freezer and brought everything to my parents' house since they got power back. I used the time without TV to fold two loads of laundry that had been waiting around for over a week. I tidied up the house. I went for a run to assess the neighborhood damage and pick up the fallen branches in the yard. I finished the book I was reading. When Jed got out of work, we ran down the street to eat dinner at a local restaurant. (Yes, it was very weird to have power a block away from our house for three days while we were in the dark.) I read by a LED camping lantern and went to bed early. The darkness was unreal, but the silver lining was being able to see the stars like never before.

Tuesday morning? Still no power. I took Morris to my parents' house, where I worked for the day and took a hot shower (oh, the cold shower on Monday was a shock). Jed drove up after work, and my parents were nice enough to feed us a good meal.

Still no power Wednesday morning. The day before, I had started following National Grid on Twitter, along with hastags #RI and #RIirene. Whoa, there was some serious bitterness going on! I was upset, but I also realized that there wasn't too much I could do besides alert them of our blackout and follow the updates. My main concern was all my food going bad in the fridge and freezer. I was grateful that all of our Omaha stuff made it safely frozen to my parents' house, and I could deal with what was left. I was also grateful that we still had water (albeit cold only) at our house.

National Grid had given us and estimated time of restoration of 6:00 p.m. Wednesday. I tried calling our house phone several times Wednesday, and it rang busy -- which indicated we still didn't have power. I had dinner at my parents' house Wednesday night, and we called, and the phone rang! By the time I got home last night, our lights were on, our fridge was running, and our clocks were flashing that glorious random time. I was so happy!

Man, I will never take electricity for granted again! It really is amazing how much we have come to rely on it. My heart goes out to those in my area who still don't have power and are facing ETR's of Sunday. I really feel for them, but I am giddy with my hot water, lights and TV right now!

What do you do when you lose power?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One Summer

One SummerOne Summer by David Baldacci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I believe David Baldacci is known for his vast library of mystery thrillers, but this novel couldnn't be further from his normal reportoire. Not that that is a bad thing. "One Summer" is a book that had me crying within the first 20 pages and captivated through the end to learn how this family would progress.

The novel is based in Cleveland, Ohio, and Channing, South Carolina, where the piecemeal Armstrong family relocates for one summer to discover their identity. The story is not a completely happy one, and there were many times I felt this could not possibly end well, and who knows if it truly did -- I'm not going to give away the ending. I loved the imagery in Channing, which sounds like my perfect beachside town.

I fell in love with the protaganist, Jack Armstrong, from the beginning. He is a complex but completely likeable character. The other characters, with the exception of Jack's sons -- Cory and Jackie (Jack Jr.) -- are also well-developed and likeable. This would make one heck of a summer movie.

"One Summer" is a well-written, entertaining beach read.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First 10+ Mile Week!

Photo credit: Real Simple
I logged my first 10+ mile week running last week! I had to squeeze in three training runs and a race to do it, but I did it, and it's only up from here! I think the most important thing is that I feel great: no pain, no soreness, no tiredness. My runs were tough, but not unmanageable. I can't believe how far I have come in the past year; a year ago, I could not even run three minutes, and now I'm running two miles at a time on my best days.

How did I do it? Well, I am using Ease Into 10K to prepare for the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women I am running on October 10th. The plan calls for three interval-type runs a week, but I missed my third run of week 1, so I did it last week.

EI10K W1D3: 2.2 mi., 13:11 avg. page
This was a 29-minute run with a 5-minute warm-up and cool-down, then alternating running for three minutes and walking for one minute, five times. My pace time includes warm-up and cool-down (Do all of you runners down there include these times in your pace?) I did this run on the treadmill at the gym, and I even used a one percent incline for the second half.

EI10K W2D1: 2.66 mi., 12:47 avg. pace
Week 2 ramps up to 34-minute runs with four-minute running intervals. I also did this run on the treadmill.

EI10K W2D2: 2.9 mi., 11:44 avg. pace
I love seeing that average pace increase along with my mileage! I know you're only supposed to increase mileage or intensity, but this run was on the road (and I don't have a watch), so it's hard to gauge my pace. This was a tough run because it was hot outside, and I was dehydrated. It was a good lesson for race day on Sunday, but I didn't really pay attention to it.

5K race day! 3.1 mi., 10:55 avg. pace
This time does not include warm-up or cool-down, so this is a more accurate reading of my actual running pace. I used the race as day three of my training program because the running time and distance are close enough to what I was supposed to do that day, and I had already registered for the race. I didn't follow the EI10K prompts during the race; looking back, I probably should have. I ran the first 1-1.5 miles straight through, keeping a steady (albeit too fast) pace. The second half, I had to take a ton of walk breaks because I was so hot I felt like my body was shutting down. Tough lesson, I know. I finished with a gun time of 34:08 and a net time of 33:49, which is almost a full minute slower than my last (and first) 5K. Pretty disappointed about that, but running is all about dealing with the conditions thrown at you on that particular day, and the conditions were tough. I really was not happy with my race performance though because I was expecting to do so much better than I did.

This week, I move onto week three of the program, which requires five-minute run intervals with one-minute recoveries in between. I'm really going to push myself to stick with this and run in the allotted times. I would love to finish the 10K in under an hour.

Ok, now I have a question for you: Are you enjoying these run updates of mine? I know I just started really getting into running, so my long-time readers are probably wondering what is going on here. I want to know your thoughts.

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, August 5, 2011

What's Up, Friday?

Hello friends! I have been a little bit here, there and everywhere lately! I'm really branching out on the intrawebs: Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Google Reader, Goodreads, #30BBM, Yelp, and a little mysterious side project. As a result, I haven't been posting nearly as much as I would like. It's been a challenge balancing it all, but I am having a blast!

Today, I thought I would participate with Lauren on Fill in the Blank Friday.
Photo credit: Caroline of Coeur de la Photography

1. My go to outfit for a dress-up occasion like a wedding is       a short, black, cocktail dress. I found it at White House/Black Market, and it has been a worthy LBD for many years now  .

2. This week has been    challenging. I haven't been feeling well. I've really tried to commit to #30BBM. Work has been busy. I haven't felt like running. Really trying to get back on track this weekend .

3. When it's dinnertime and I'm feeling lazy I'll usually eat     pasta. It is my go-to meal. Pasta, sauce or EVOO, maybe some meatballs or veggies thrown in. Easy peasy  .

4.  My favorite pair of shoes are   my running sneakers! They are so comfortable and supportive (man, do I sound like an old lady or what?), and they're pretty! I'm also still a big fan of my flip-flops in summer and my equestrian-inspired boots in winter .

5. A random item that I own that is completely unnecessary, but that I could never part with is   my stuffed animals. Completely useless, but I just can't bring myself to throw them away  .

6. My favorite person is      my BFF. I admire and love her so much. I owe her everything  .

7. If I were going to write my own blank it would say       You can carry only one thing with you for the next five years. What would it be?  

Have a wonderful, fun, refreshing weekend!