October 29, 2011

Swanky Living

Baby feet. They're just so darn cute, aren't they? Add to that their little coos and goofy facial expressions and absolutely viral laughter, and it's impossible to deny they're absolutely adorable.

Here's the thing about babies, though: the spit up, and they have nasty, awful dirty diapers, they throw their pureed peas all over the kitchen and then smear it through their hair until it's crusty...all the time. It's just so easy to forgive them because of all the aforementioned cute things.

A couple years ago, I did a research project for my child psychology class in which I investigated the cost of having and raising a baby for the first year of its life--the final number alone should be a great reason for teens to not even want to sit next to someone of the opposite sex, let me tell you. Looking back, some of the items I included were a little unnecessary, but not nearly as silly as what I found in the collection of pictures of celebrity baby nurseries.

Check out what Jennifer Lopez did for her twins
The sweeping drapes, fuzzy fabrics, and irresistibly cute crib bumpers, bows, and blankets are all very nice for the adult eye, but in reality, they're huge suffocation hazards, and those bows? Choking hazards. Congratulations, you've built a very adorable, very deadly nursery.

Look at the photo to the left. Are you kidding me? Can you imagine getting the less-than adorable pureed pea spit-up out of those fabrics? No. That chandelier is beautiful, but it will be less so when Baby throws a ball and it comes crashing down.

Granted, I'm sure JLo has at least one or two maids to clean up that mess, but still. I know I don't have a baby, but Baby wouldn't know the difference between a possibly less cuddly room that is entirely practical. A mattress in the crib minus the bumper, pillows, and stuffed animals is practical and safe, albeit less "awww!" worthy from Grandma.

I'm urging you, please keep this in mind when you have kids. Remember, a happy, breathing baby is always better than a beautiful satin bow around the crib rails. 

October 25, 2011

Halloween: Then and Now

Halloween is sneaking up unbelievably fast. I am completely at a loss as to what to be this year, especially since I've been told the line has been drawn at being Kate Middleton. It's cruel, really.

On Sunday, my boyfriend and I took a trip to the local orchard, where we participated in a great wine tasting experience and walked around in the beautiful fall weather. The wine was delicious, and we ended up buying four bottles, including two bottles of our favorite from the afternoon: Sparkling Sweet Peach, which had a fantastic fruity flavor and would be perfect for a brunch or luncheon, or with a great milk chocolate. Yumm!

The weather cooperated with our little outing, and we enjoyed the beautiful sunshine set against the changing leaves, it was the perfect afternoon. We got a good laugh when we decided to just wander around the orchard and walk in between the rows of trees: the entrance was blocked off with a collection of fun activities for kids. There were inflatables, games, even face painting stations, and the smell as we got closer hinted at a small petting zoo. Thwarted, we turned around and headed toward the makeshift "pumpkin patch" which was closer to the front of the orchard rather than the pick-your-own pumpkin section, and had a good laugh at the kids who were completely overwhelmed as they tried to pick up pumpkins almost as big as themselves.

Enter my story about a pumpkin carving experience. When I was a kid, I loved carving pumpkins. My favorite part was cleaning out the inside and squishing the insides of the pumpkin through my fingers. I loved it so much that I would having the pumpkin completely emptied and then put all the insides back in only to take them out again. Yeah, I was weird. A few years ago, a couple friends from college and I carved pumpkins. We went to a very conservative school in Michigan, and most of the other girls in the dorm made happy-looking pumpkins. Come on, it's Halloween. We decided to challenge that with our masterpieces, Chuck and Ralph, aptly named for their unfortunate action's slang. Almost better than the pumpkins themselves were the reactions we got from everyone else in the dorm.

Have you done anything creative with your pumpkins? Any great Halloween plans this year?

October 21, 2011

A True Love Story

In a time when the word "divorce" is all too common, stories of couples who were so clearly meant to be together are even more heart-warming.

Today's love story comes in the form of Norma and Gordon Yeager. The two were married 72 years before passing away in the hospital together--holding hands until the very end. Their children say Gordon stopped breathing first, but his heart continued beating, almost as if his heart was beating through hers in those final moments as they continued holding hands.

I'm no expert, but I believe that shows the power of love.

Like any other couple, the children said, the two had the occasional argument, but knew the life they were building together was bigger than all of that.

I'm not always sure if I believe there is an element of fate to relationships that feel "meant-to-be," but it's stories like this that make me feel there is simply no explanation beyond something far greater than all of us which guides us all. The thought that these two people loved until the very end is touching, but more amazing to me, is thinking about all the things that had to fall into place for them to meet, to fall in love, to marry.

What if one had been born just five miles from where they were? Would they ever have met? If they had, would their experiences in a slightly different life have brought them together, or prevented them from even becoming friends? What are the odds that something like this could happen completely based on coincidence? I'd say pretty tiny.

 It's like something Nicholas Sparks would write...in fact, that seems quite similar indeed to the movie The Notebook, which is arguably one of my favorites (for the record, the book is slightly different, definitely worth a read!).

As I'm watching the rain fall on this dreary fall day, this is a nice glimmer of inspiration. I can only hope that one day, when I'm too old to know who I am, I will have found peace in lasting love.

If you'd like to view the full story, please check out this video.

October 20, 2011

Ah, To Think...

This is not me, of course, but doesn't this look like the comfiest
sleeping arrangement in the world?
I think the most in the morning when I first wake up, and at night before I fall asleep. Doing the latter of the two generally means my thoughts are never completed and I end up with some ridiculous dream because, really, I fall asleep quite quickly when my head hits the pillow.

Often, this means a whirlwind of thoughts in very strange combinations...so I thought I'd share exactly what is running through my mind at this very second:

"I really, desperately need a haircut, and I'm not sure how I was planning on making it all the way to next week. In fact, I'm half tempted to shave my head bald and be done with it. This brushing and blow-drying my hair everyday takes a lot of time and generally ends with a shrug and a hope it stays in place. Place. Crap. I need to look up directions to that interview on Monday. Which reminds me, I really, really can't risk having the same experience as the one in Detroit, so I should probably scope it out the day before, except it's two hours away. Hmm, maybe I could find a friend who lives there and crash with them the night before. Yes. Good. I have a plan for tomorrow... and HOLY S*#$! WHAT IS THAT?? TELL ME THAT IS NOT A MINI SPIDER ON THE WALL. No way I can sleep here now. No, thank you. I'm relocating. In fact, maybe I just need to move into a new house. A spider-free house...Yes. That will be my new plan for tomorrow, find a new home."


It's exhausting.

Here's to hoping my dreams aren't filled with spiders, because I can NOT deal with that. I would probably wake up in tears. Very big, very crocodile-like tears.

And now, to sleep, or perchance, to dream.

Just not of my 8-legged foes.

October 17, 2011

Giving Life Meaning

Today's post is a short one. A friend of mine, Kevin, sent me a quote from a book and I think it should speak for itself. 

Last year, I had the honor of accompanying Kevin to a conference benefiting children suffering from Pallister-Killian Syndrome (PKS), which is a debilitating chromosomal abnormality. For more information on the disease, please take a look at the PKS Kids website (bonus: PKS Awareness Day is December 4!) 

At the conference, Kevin gave a touching talk in which he implored the audience to think about their legacy. How would they be remembered after their time here on earth is done? Would they be remembered beyond their children? It certainly got me thinking. Kevin described his own desire to do something that would leave a memorable mark on our world, which I'm sure contributes to the amazing work he has done through Be A Number

What are you doing to leave a positive legacy? How do you hope to be remembered? Think about this:
"Do not let your life be like a shooting star, which lights up the sky for only a brief moment. Let your life be like the sun, which always burns brightly in the heavens, bringing light and warmth to all those on earth. Let your light shine." 
-Matthew Kelly, Author, The Rhythm of Life

October 16, 2011

Another Royal Wedding?!

At this point, there is no question that I absolutely love weddings, but a Royal Wedding can send me into a verbal frenzy in seconds.

And then there's Bhutan, a tiny country for which I have a lot of admiration.

Combine the two, and it's a very exciting day. I'm happy to report that the beloved king of Bhutan enjoyed his own royal wedding this week, and he, too, married a "commoner." Could this be a new royal trend? It certainly appears to be!

The bride is a pilot's daughter and has been treated to a tour of the country recently, as she prepares for her new role as Queen. She will be the King's only bride, he says, which is in stark contrast from his father, who has four wives. King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, is the son of the famed king who, in the 1970s, revolutionized the way leaders worldwide think about their countries' success by measuring gross national happiness, rather than gross domestic product.

Granted, this wedding was a far cry from the huge buildup and incredible excitement of the Royal Wedding of the century this past April, which saw viewers from around the world. This wedding only included members of the royal family and the country's onlookers.

Ahhh, weddings. They're such joyous occasions, and I love, love, love the benefits of modern media which make it so easy to follow the weddings of splendor that I'm quite sure I will never have as I don't have millions of dollars at my disposal. However, if it is possible to achieve some level of happiness through another's, I believe these two weddings have provided just that- a reason to celebrate a beautiful union, with full support of those around them--and around the world.

October 13, 2011

I'm A Soldier!

For a couple weeks now, I have been working at the Salvation Army with a special group of kids who need some extra direction in life. Whether that means helping with homework, tutoring, or being a consistent person in their lives, it's a big job...and I love every moment of it. Every day is overwhelming in its own way, and I come home exhausted frequently, but I am so happy working there.

Of course, it's not a career for me, but while I'm looking for something more permanent, I can't think of anything more well-suited for me. I've come to find out that the things I am best at doing are working with kids and working for a better world through philanthropy. What I love so much about this job is that I am doing both! It's the kind of thing I would do on a volunteer basis--and what's better than getting paid to do something you would do on a weekend or in your free time? Not much, I'd say.

After graduating earlier this year, I found that I wasn't, and still am not, sure "what I want to be when I grow up." Needless to say, that fact made it a little hard to figure out where to send job applications and completely lacked direction in my ever-changing life plan. I'm very grateful to the "very formidable Marcia," a local journalist's wife, and friend of my mother's who mentioned the job opening at the Salvation Army. I am quite sure I would not have thought of working there for quite some time, if at all.

Yesterday, I put in a few extra hours to help people fill out applications to be a holiday Bell Ringer, you know, the people who stand outside your local mall with donation cans. It was nearly heartbreaking to see people need help to read the application or to have people ask me to write for them since they hadn't really mastered reading and writing. However, as hard as it was to fathom a life of illiteracy, I couldn't help but admire them. Here were people who had lost jobs, some who had done time in prison for various reasons, and others who wanted to be able to buy their kids a Christmas present. They weren't too proud to stand in the frigid Michigan weather during the winter to make that happen. They weren't too proud to ask for help. They were determined. They weren't laying down and wallowing in self-pity. No, instead, they were willing to work, wherever, whenever, to start over, to have a happy Christmas, to make the next house payment.

It's one of my favorite things about America-the hard-workers who refuse to stop in the face of a bleak economic future. They give a particular zest to life that I hope I can also exude. While all the protests happen across the country, while many people are expressing their discontent by marching Wall Street or getting arrested, I have a great respect for those who take that same time to work, or at least try to. Rather than spending time asking for wages, they're actually earning them or putting in applications so they may be able to. To me, that's America. I'm here to work for my lifestyle, who's with me?

That said, I believe there are people who need a boost, and that's why I'm so passionate about philanthropy. I am willing to give some of what I have so they can have a chance at achieving their own dreams. So, I couldn't be happier to announce that I am a Salvation Army Soldier, and I hope as the holiday season approaches, we can all find it in our hearts to do something good for others while we work for our own good.

October 10, 2011

Excuse Me, ESPN, May I Borrow My Boyfriend?

It's an interesting phenomena, watching a man watch sports. I've noticed some things about them, these sports-enthused men, and these things seem consistent across many sporting events, much in the same way they occur during video gaming experiences.

Observing someone completely engrossed in what I call "Manworld" is fascinating, really. Here's what I noticed:
  • Dialated pupils
  • A distant, yet impressively focused stare
  • Generally, the man is watching, awestruck, open-mouthed (the exception here, of course, is when they are actually yelling at the television, arms outstretched in either outrage or excitement, the reaction seems eerily similar minus the choice vocabulary and facial contortions)
  • Snacks are within 3-4 feet, allowing just enough room to jump off the couch as soon as a big play happens.
  • During a "big play" or something that has the potential to become one, the man will lean forward, as if moving the extra 6 inches closer to the TV will affect the outcome.
  • When his team wins, a man will proudly announce "we won!" whereas after a loss, he may say "yeah, they lost."
  • Attempting to ask a question or make light conversation is generally fruitless as responses will either be something like, "uh, yeah, that's-whoa! Did you see that?!- sorry, what were you saying?" or there simply won't be a response until the commercial break. 
  • Fantasy sports teams are as important as the very breath they breathe, and also account for a great deal of either joy or stress, depending on a particular player's performance in each game.  This is generally true for the younger crowd or the betting-prone.
Now, these things could be endearing if it weren't for the overlapping seasons which mean there could literally be a sport to watch every day of the week. The way I see it, the majority of September and October are pretty much lost. On the other hand, I'm sure bar and grill establishments absolutely love these two months. Add in the extra car and beer commercials, and it's Manheaven.

I also realize I am now at risk of a particularly sarcastic and/or poignant comment from my dear boyfriend. So, I'll come right out and say it: yes, I do also enjoy sports, and yes, I have been very passionate about my Fantasy Football team (which, by the way, is still doing quite well, thank you), and OK, fine, I am completely guilty of the stereotypical "woman questions or comments" during a game that could probably be seen as slightly annoying. However, I say that if ESPN, ABC, and NBC are going to insist on dating my boyfriend with me, then I should at least get to ask questions for clarification during a game or be allowed to make light conversation if I also made the snacks mentioned above.


I guess what I'm really asking is, Sports of the World, may I borrow my boyfriend for a moment? I have a very important comment to make about my new nail polish.

October 6, 2011

iThank You, Steve

Yesterday, the world lost a great innovator, businessman, and leader. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, passed away after several years of health problems (it's always the best people that seem to get sick, isn't it?). There is no shortage of news reports on this topic today, so my post will be brief.

Now, I've never owned a Mac, but I generally wish I did at least a few days a week. I have enjoyed close to a year with my iPhone, and after years of owning the world's lamest phones, I'm not sure how I survived without it. It has gotten me out of many situations in which I was hopelessly lost, helped me prove a point by looking up a quick fact online, keeps me constantly informed of the latest news headlines, ESPN updates, and even helps me waste time when I'm sitting in the waiting room at the dentist's office....all while looking sleek and cool. That's a feat certainly no human can achieve.

During his life as a business man, Steve helped build what seems to be a recession-proof company that consistently produces quality products and incredible customer service. He was a visionary, and a great one at that.

A while ago, I watched the commencement speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005, and today, I watched it again.  His words, albeit a little haunting today, were light, yet thought-provoking, and just so happen to fit perfectly with my new-found quest for attaining true happiness. Take a look below:

"Remembering you are going to die, is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose." -Steve Jobs

Follow what you love, dream big, and never, never stop believing you can achieve your wildest dreams. After all, in the end, what do you have to lose? I won't settle, will you? 

October 4, 2011

Congratulations Are In Order!

The bride's sister took this great photo
This weekend, I had the honor of attending the wedding of a beautiful couple. The blushing bride was my "Big Sis" in Pi Phi, and was an amazing friend and mentor to me as I grew through times good and bad. Needless to say, I admire her in many ways.The dashing groom proudly sported his Marine colors, and makes a perfect match for Julia.

Julia is one of the most beautiful souls I've ever met. She constantly amazes me with her grace, patience and commitment to her faith. These qualities, of course, are paradoxical with the intensity with which she supports the Bears, and she can certainly make her displeasure known when they are losing.

I haven't known Matt long, and I can't say that I have had a chance to really get to know him, but Julia has told me enough about him that I feel quite comfortable saying that he is perfect for her. Just in the way they interact, anyone can see how much joy he brings her (and she, him), and how comfortable they are together. They share laughter easily, but naturally just click on the more serious matters in life.

Their ceremony was solemn, personal, and so heartfelt. Similarly, the reception was romantic, yet fun. I, of course, had no shortage of tears during both.

During the reception, arguably one of the most memorable moments occurred during the traditional father-daughter dance. I was seated with a group of other former Pi Phis who had made the trip. As the music began and the bride joined her father on the dance floor, our entire group nearly instantaneously burst into tears. We all began to look around the table and noticed that each of us was crying (minus one Pi Phi's husband, who had the misfortune of being the only male seated at our table), and giggled a little.

Then came the moment that defined the reception for us. As the father-daughter dance ended, the bride took the microphone and asked her dad to return to the dance floor. She explained that she had one more song to dance with him since she had long regretted not dancing with him during a high school dance (I missed the explanation here, but I'm guessing he volunteered to chaperon the dance). The song "Stealing Cinderella" by Chuck Wicks came through the speakers, only this time, our table was rendered near inconsolable. We cried, wiped our tears, and cried again, but noticed again that everyone at our table was doing so. This inspired a fit of laughter on all accounts, but the laughter didn't stop the tears.  In case anyone at the reception had been wondering where the "sorority table" was, there was no longer any question. The server looked bewildered with a side of concerned when he spoke to the next table and pointed to us, saying, "that whole table is laughing and crying...I don't know what to do!"

I have heard of people laughing and crying at the same time, but I never actually thought it could happen. I'm sure my brain was incredibly confused as to the proper response to such emotional contradiction. Leave it to Julia to show me anything is possible!

So here's to a beautiful wedding, an inspiring couple, and a very happy, blessed married life together. Congratulations, Matt and Julia!

October 1, 2011

Finding The Meaning Of Happiness

I caught up with a friend of mine, Kevin, yesterday, and we began talking about my last post and the idea of what makes people happy.

Here are Kevin & I just before leaving for
South Dakota a few years ago
Generally, our conversations either begin or end with a discussion about life and what makes people tick. Kevin is one of those people who is constantly dreaming big. Whether that be dreaming of a better world for everyone in it or of a new fantastic plan he has come up with for himself. Honestly, I wish I could dream like that, but I often find my creativity comes up a little short of thinking of a new business idea every day.

When talking with him yesterday, we got on the topic of good ol' Bhutan and how the idea of finding happiness, or defining it in some way, could be a blog in and of itself.

So here's what I'm wondering: what brings you happiness? I mean pure, unadulterated happiness. The kind of joy that comes from seeing your mom's open arms at long last after a week at summer camp as a kid, or perhaps being able to sit down with the one you love at the end of a long day and share a smile.

Here's where I'll interject with a small brag about my awesome boyfriend. I'm perfectly happy curling up on the couch with a movie and a bowl of popcorn, and I'm so glad he enjoys the same. I love the comfort that comes with being able to get dressed up and go out, but also being able to show up on his doorstep in sweats and disheveled hair after a long day.  It's good to know I can just be unapologetically...me.

So there's one example about what makes me happy, what about you?

Seriously, I'm really interested to see what you have to say, so please share!
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