The Unofficial Life Manual- by Abbey Algiers

 

Advice I Wish My Future Self had Shared When I Was 22

AKA - 5 Things Every 20 (or 30,40, 50, etc.)Something Gal Should Seriously Consider

 

Don’t you just hate that person who always has advice on something? Yeah, me too. Which is pretty sad, because I’m actually that person.  Maybe it's my name (ala *dear*Abbey), but it’s true. I thrive on sharing tips I’ve learned along the way with practically anyone I meet. 

Accordingly, I'm sure it's not a surprise that I'm the world's worst advice taker. 

Yup. I'm a resident expert at ignoring really good advice. I've done it all my life, and my 20's were prime years for blowing off  (really important) advice regarding relationships, jobs, and life in general.  Sure, I listened every now and then.  But mostly, I scoffed at advice like a teenage girl denying the fact that Sun In is bad for your hair. (Unless you're into orange hair, that is.)

You see in my 20’s, I had life all figured out.  I didn’t need to listen to the older, wiser women who gave me advice on everything from sunscreen to careers to relationships. In talking with my friends, and listening to a lot of Dr. Laura, I see this is a common trend.  Even when approached by a woman with a proven track record of something (insert early marriage, marrying someone with kids, quitting a job too soon, save don't spend, etc.) chances are, the advisee will tend to ignore her. Further, that wise woman can literally be shaking us, (almost) screaming, "Listen to me! I was dumb like you, and look how that turned out,"  and we'll turn the other cheek, claiming that could never happen to us.

This ignoring of wise women is a universal truth, which is really too bad.  Because here's another secret of the world- women need to be there for other women.  We need to share our experiences, so that the same mistakes don't continue getting repeated.  In this spirit, I’m sharing some things I've learned and some stories I've heard, in hopes of reaching the 22 year old (or 26, 38, 59 or 99) who needs to hear it.  

Granted, this could be a really long list.  So let's start with five key pieces of advice.

The Unofficial Life Manual

1.    It’s often better to not do it than undo it.  This one reminds me of a friend of mine who was about to get married. Everything was in place for her Friday wedding - the church, the restaurant, the flowers, the honeymoon.  Guests were coming in from out of town.  However, the one thing that wasn’t in place was her heart, which wasn’t in it for a multitude of reasons, most of which spelled an imminent disaster with a capital D. Her fiancé was not the one, yet on the Tuesday night she realized this, she couldn’t imagine canceling everything just three days prior to her nuptials.  How embarrassing it would be.  How much money it would cost. How hard it would be to tell her fiancé, and everyone else.  Yet…she did it.  She realized that canceling would be hard at the time… but nothing in comparison to the pain of “canceling” her marriage later on.  Because the truth of the matter is, it is much, much easier to NOT do something, than to undo it.  This advice applies to love, moves, work, and generally anything your intuition tells you not to do… yet the part of you that doesn’t want to deal with conflict begs you to just do it, and take the easy way out.  Easy is only easy for the present moment… sometimes we have to make uncomfortable decisions in the short term to prevent pain and suffering later on.

2.    Listen to your inner voice. No, really, I mean listen to it. It rarely lies.  It’s that inner voice that tells us not to do something.  It’s that inner voice that tells us when someone isn’t right for us. It's the voice that tells us to Uber it  rather than walk the four blocks home from the bar at 1 am. It tells us what to study in school, who to be friends with, when to move on in relationships or jobs.  As I look back at my life, I can pinpoint exactly when and where I didn’t listen to my inner voice. Let’s just say things didn’t turn out well in those situations. Plain and simple. Get to know that voice and then actually follow it.  That voice will not let you down. I promise.

3.    Act your age.  No, I’m not talking about when you’re 12 but act more like you’re 6. I'm not talking about the 42 year old married guy with two kids, who galavants around like he's 23, going out every night. Wait, actually I am talking about him, only in reverse. This particular clown illustrates the point that there's a time and place to go out with your friends until bar time.  There's a time and place to get an apartment with three other girls and stay up until 2, discussing your futures.  There's a time to go on trips with your girls and generally enjoy being young and unattached.  Age 19 or 20 is not the time to be focusing all of your attention on a boyfriend, getting one, or thinking about your married life someday. There's time enough for that when you know who the hell you are.  Dr. Laura nailed it when a 21 year old girl called, saying she was was overwhelmed with her job, school, and boyfriend. Dr. Laura told her to dump the boyfriend and act like a 21 year old- be in school, work, and go out with her girlfriends.  The girl was astounded, saying, “But he’s the one… I’m going to marry him.” Dr. Laura quickly shot that notion down, reminding her that she was a teenager just two years prior, and what teenager has any business choosing a life partner. (Damn good point.) The girl needed to find out who she was before finding someone to be with. Amen and amen, Dr. Laura.  Having gotten engaged myself at the ripe age of 22, I can vouch for the fact that I had no clue who I was, or what I wanted out of life. Looking back, I think basically all I knew was that I liked emerald green for bridesmaid dresses. Which is actually a pretty dumb color choice to being with, and not exactly the formula for being ready for the rest of my life. Nope, I spent my 20's married, divorced at 31, and spent the next years doing what I should have done before - going out with friends, going on girl vacations, and discovering what I liked.  It all turned out okay, but I could have saved a lot of pain and suffering had I known what I didn't know.  So girls, please listen to me on this one.

4.    One of my favorite Spanish expressions is en hora buena – everything in its time. This expression kind of goes with #3.  Everyone has a list of things they want, whether it’s an ideal job, partner, family, or dream home.  We can want something so badly that we become obsessed with it and think we’ll never get it.  This type of thinking tends to take the joy out of everyday living, and prevents us from realizing how cool our present situations are.  A better way to handle those dreams is to keep them close to our hearts, all the time trusting that they will come ‘en hora buena” – all in their own good time.  Trust in that, and your whole outlook will most likely change for the better.

5.    Don’t ditch your friends for your boyfriend.  This happens a lot in high school. You remember “that” friend, right? The one who was your bff until the bohunk from her chemistry class finally asked her out, and BOOM, you were ancient history. Well, that happens as we get older too.  It’s easy to get all consumed in a relationship, and stop doing things with friends.  Let me tell you this now girls… don’t do it. You are going to need your girls about a million times over between now and the end of time, and chances are most of them will outlast any relationship.  So, take care of your friendships and nurture them like you nurture your boyfriend or husband.

Stay tuned… I've had plenty of blunders in my lifetime. More advice coming.

 

Dealing with Winter, Part II

FIVE MORE WAYS TO DEAL WITH THE WINTER BLUES

by Abbey Algiers

I’ve decided that winter is like the mean girl in middle school who just won’t leave you alone.  Your mom tells you to ignore her, but she is relentless, waiting for you at your locker and around every corner, with new, nasty tricks up her sleeve.  Winter’s tricks include piercing cold, grey days, ugly landscapes where the snow has melted, and that chilling wind that whips the hell out of you.  Add fun jobs like shoveling snow, scraping windshields, and generally just dealing with the meanest girl of all, Mother Nature in full-on winter mode.

That said, the only way to handle winter is just throw on some layers, suck it up, and pretend it’s not there while you focus on things that make you happy, like perhaps some of these:

1.     It takes one to know one… why not deal with that mean girl winter by planning a bea(t)ch vacation that will remind you what it feels like to be warm? Not into the beach, or maybe it's impossible to get away for a week now?  Then consider a girl’s weekend or a couple’s getaway. It’s amazing what even a night away can do for one’s outlook.

Even if you can’t get away now, you can still look into trips for the future.  What if I told you there was a way to spend a week in a Spanish village with all expenses paid except your airfare? You’d perk up a little, wouldn’t you?  Well, forget about the cold, and fire up your computer to check out diverbo.com.  Here you’ll find details on how you can make lifelong friends from around the world while you learn about Spain, enjoy its cuisine, and generally just expand your mind while making a huge difference “teaching” English in Diverbo's "Pueblo Inglés" program. To answer your question, no formal teaching is required, it’s more like a week of great conversations  with Spaniards, allowing them to fine tune their English for their jobs or lives. And no, you don't need to speak Spanish, in fact it's banned at Pueblo Inglés in order to give the Spaniards an authentic English immersion.

Wait, you want to speak Spanish? No sweat, amiga. Diverbo’s got an answer to that too.  Spend 8 days in that same charming village, but this time you’re the student who will be immersed in Spanish in a fantastic program called (you guessed it) "Pueblo Español."  This program will cost you a little, but it’s worth it for the 100 hours of authentic Spanish communication you’ll experience. 

Both programs are tried and true and 100% legit! Give them a peek and be ready to rock your world in this amazing cultural exchange.

2.     Okay, your vacation’s booked, and the wind is still howling outside your window? Well, then curl up with a good book, grab a cup of tea or glass of wine, and get lost for a while. My top pick is In the Company of Women , an awesome read that inspires you on every page of this dynamic book written by Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge. (Note, I took a 25 minute mini vacay on this site when I just popped over to get the hyperlink set up for this article.  You may want to spend some time there yourself.) In the Company of Women tells the stories of over 100 female makers, artists, and entrepreneurs.  My favorite fun fact about the book is that Grace Bonney wrote it in just two months! Just before deadline, she made a last minute decision to change the entire book she was contracted to write.  Her publisher allowed the change, but kept the deadline.  What Bonney created in those two months is indeed a masterpiece.

3.     Would you rather just unplug a bit and let inspiration come to you? Then charge your phone and throw on a great podcast. Need some ideas? Here are a few:  

You’ve Got Issues With Anna David- I love this podcast because it makes me feel better about all of the issues I have about silly things.  Each podcast starts with the guest telling their issue, such as “people who ask ‘can I squeeze by?’” or “friends who walk together on sidewalks” or “women who don’t sit on toilet seats.”  Clearly, there are a lot of issues out there, and this podcast hits on some of the most pressing.

The Chris Loves Julia Podcast and Young House Love Has A Podcast- If you’re into HGTV, you’re going to love these two podcasts. Each features a husband/wife duo who talk all things home design and renovation.  The podcasts cover the projects the couples are working on, and offer tips on what you can do in your own home.  Nothing heavy on either podcast, just good fun.

Being Boss: Mindsets, Habits, Tactics, and Life:  If you can’t be the boss of winter, at least find out how to be the boss of your life.  Entrepreneurs Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson offer great insight into the world of being a creative and making a living at it. The best thing about the podcast is that it feels like you’re listening to a great convo among friends. Friendly advice you can trust.

One Part Plant:  Rooted in healthy, plant - based eating, this podcast goes above and beyond the basics of what to eat, and introduces us to cool people doing amazing things all around the world. I love the host, Jessica Murnane’s calm, casual nature that makes you feel like you're listening to a girlfriend you’d want to wine with. REALLY great podcast, with a special series coming in January that will highlight the making of her upcoming cookbook, One Part Plant.  (Please, just stop what you’re doing, and pre-order it right now.)

4.     With all of this talk about podcasts, I almost completely forgot I’m addicted to Netflix. Perhaps you know someone who is as well.  If so, it never hurts to have a few more shows to binge watch when you’ve got extra time to kill, or no time at all. Because we all know Netflix is a great aide in procrastination, if you need ideas on how to do that. Some of my favs:

Parenthood- When the show went off the air, I went right back to Season One to remind myself of how it all began.  Whether you watched the show back in the day or not, I recommend this if you like a show that covers how siblings interact in adulthood.

Bluebloods- I really never thought of myself as a cop show loving gal, but my husband got me into this one, telling me I'd like it because it's about family, and every episode ends with the family having dinner and drinking wine together. Say what? He was right - I love it, and turns out it was just like my beloved Parenthood.  Just picture the cast of Parenthood, only they live in New York, and most of them are cops. Same dynamics, just add guns and crime.  At the end of the day, it’s a show about family, and who can argue with that?

This is Us- Speaking of family shows that add an element of time travel, and writing that is beyond words, This is Us could be the show of the century.  If you haven’t watched this NBC hit, where the hell have you been? Seriously, you need to catch up on the season and get with the program. Head over to NBC.com and binge, now. Or just download the app and find your show on your phone.

If none of these shows float your boat, here are a few documentaries and movies on Netflix you may want to see:

The Way- One father uses a 500 mile trek from France to Spain to grieve the loss of his son.

Finding Vivian Maier- Like photography? You’ll love Vivian.

Living on One Dollar Put things in perspective and see how the producers took this concept to heart. It really makes you think about how we live our lives with all we have… and makes us wonder how much we really need.

Minimalism – Live more with less. Enough said.

5.   Let’s face it, even with all of these fun activities, it’s still fricking cold out.  So, why not completely escape, and create a vision board that lets you get your goals and dreams out there well past the winter? Sound a little woo-woo? Maybe. But I don’t care. This stuff works.  There are tons of ways to do it, and you can personalize your board in whatever way you like. If you’ve got a lot of old magazines, cut out pics of houses, trips, clothing, jobs that you’d like to “create” for yourself, and add them to your vision board.  See what Martha Beck has to say about vision boards here.

Another idea, have a vision board party.  The Travel Mamas have tips on how to do this on their very cool site. 

Maybe the thought of scissors and magazines isn’t your jam. No sweat. There’s an app for that Actually, there are a ton of apps for that… just google “vision board app” and you’ll find options that will allow you to create the life of your dreams from your phone.  Because if you’re like me, you don’t spend nearly enough time on it the way it is. 

Well, I hope these suggestions keep your mind off that mean girl winter, and on happier things that bring a smile to your face and warm your heart. I’m going to stop now and get this post out because as my husband gently reminded me, “You’d better get that post out before winter actually IS over.” 

So there you go. Take these ideas to heart and give that mean girl winter a swift kick in the locker.

 

 

 

FIVE WAYS TO GET THROUGH THE WINTER WITHOUT PUTTING YOUR HOUSE ON THE MARKET AND MOVING TO AN ISLAND

by Abbey Algiers

I’ve probably said, “I can’t deal with the cold. I can’t deal with the cold. I can’t deal with the cold” about six million times… every morning, since this past November.  And this is the PG part of what I say when I walk the 12 feet from my house to my car each morning.  I. Can’t. Deal. With. The. Cold.  In fact, I hate it in a way that requires an expletive to be inserted right before the word Cold. I’m keeping this clean, so figure it out for yourselves.

With my extreme aversion to winter, I’ve created all sorts of fantasy gadgets that could help me cope.  One, a floating heat lamp that follows me wherever I go.  The ability to stand under the hot shower for 8 hours at a time and have a job that allows me to telecommute with a waterproof keyboard and hot stream of water.  A heated spacesuit that is not only fashionable but doesn’t let one bit of cold air inside.  

Since none of these options are really all that feasible, I’ve come up with some other solutions to help me get through this highly challenging time.  Note that most can be enjoyed with a nice glass of Shiraz (sometimes after said event), hot tea, or hot cocoa… whatever you find most soothing. We need to do what it takes.

 

FIVE WAYS TO GET THROUGH THE WINTER WITHOUT PUTTING YOUR HOUSE ON THE MARKET AND MOVING TO AN ISLAND

 

1.     CLEAN OUT YOUR CLOSET.  Now, this isn’t as dismal as you think. Cleaning your closet makes you productive, thereby releasing good endorphins. Plus, you’re moving around, which also makes you feel better.  This is your chance to finally get rid of that sweater you hate because it makes you feel fat, the blouse that was a bargain that you never wore, and all of those other clothes that sit in your closet untouched.  Get.Rid.Of.That.Crap.  Clear out anything (overused saying alert) that “doesn’t bring you joy” and be done with it.  When you’re done, you’ll have an organized closet that will be pleasant to look in each morning when you have to hit the icy streets.

2.     CLOSETS CLEANED OUT AND NOTHING TO WEAR? No tears for you, my friend. Because suggestion #2 is SHOP THE HELL OUT OF THE INTERNET.  Yes, you read it right. The World Wide Web is your oyster, and you don’t have to deal with a flake of snow or icy windshield to bring joy to your wardrobe.  Plus, at press time, winter sales are nicely underway.  If you haven’t done so already, Amazon Prime is a groovy way to get literally anything your heart desires and then some.  Not sure what you want? How about getting an online stylist to whip up a winter care package for you that you can try on (and return if you like).  New outfits delivered to you? Come on, you need to try Stitchfix.  Not into that? Well, simply go to the online version of your favorite store and check out something they have on sale.

3.     ONLINE SHOPPING TOO CONFINING? I get it.  Part of the drag of winter is that it tends to make one feel cooped up and just plain NUTZ (with a z).  So go to a mall. Or visit that cool boutique in your neighborhood. Discover some little coffee shop, restaurant, or bar you’ve never heard of, and park yourself and your laptop or journal there for a few hours.  Visit the museum in your city.  Just get the hell out of the house already. Do something you’ve never done- your brain and your psyche will thank you.

4.     WHILE YOU’RE OUT…why not pop in a HOT YOGA CLASS? Yeah, I know, I try to work in “why not try hot yoga” pretty much every conversation I can.  But this time it’s appropriate. When it’s 10 degrees outside and you’ve got New Year’s wellness on your mind, could there be a better time to head inside for a 95 degree Vinyasa or 104 degree Bikram class? I think not.  Just give it a shot.  Worst case scenario you say “screw it” midway through, lay on your mat, and have yourself a nice little savasana for a good hour or so.

5.     OKAY, YOGA’S NOT YOUR THING, I GET IT… that’s cool. But I’m sure you’ve got a thing- something you like to do to shake your booty.  Maybe you’re brave and like things like skiing, snowboarding, winter running, etc. – remember that #3 can help you get all geared up to do your thing in style.  And if you don’t have a “thing” that you love, why not try something new, like a trip to one of the new “boutique gyms” that are popping up around the world.  Here’s a look at some super elite gyms, but your city will no doubt offer something that’s just right for you.  Give “boutique gyms” a Google and see what you find.

 

These five not doing it for you? Alright then, hold on for the next installment, “Five More Ideas for Dealing with the Winter Blues.”  Whatever the case, just hang tight my friends.  This winter can’t last forever!

 

 

You Choose

You Choose

January 1, 2017

Like most people, I try to start the New Year off on a good foot.  Take this morning- I began by whipping up a green smoothie.  I then walked to Starbucks (because coffee is one of my resolutions every year, thank you very much). As I enjoyed them both, I thought about what I want the next 365 days to look like.  With this in mind, I headed to a hot yoga class at 9:30 a.m., my mind swirling with good intentions and thoughts.  

As soon as I stepped inside, I knew I was in the right place, as the large chalkboard outside the studio had the question posted, "What's your intention for 2017?" 

"Be more present."

"Be kind."

"Drink more water."

"Show up."

There were many other things written, but you get the idea.  Since it was a yoga studio, all of the intentions had a sort of a zen-bend to them.  That said, as I began the class, I was wondering how I’d pick an intention or two that I would actually stick with.  

Then the instructor came in the studio and turned on the music to signal class was starting.  She asked us to relax on our backs, close our eyes, and think about 2017, and what we wanted it to look like.  

She didn't ask us to choose an intention.  

She didn't ask us to make resolutions.  

Instead, she had a simple request:

“In this New Year, I want you to remember, that this is your journey.  You have the right to choose what your 2017 will look like.”

Not fully into the yogic mode yet, my mind immediately protested.  "Oh yeah? Stuff happens to us all the time, we don't have the power to choose what happens.  We can't necessarily control good or bad…" 

It seemed my instructor was anticipating thoughts like this.  She continued, clarifying what she meant. "You get to choose how you react to the same situations that are presented to you over and over.  You can choose if you want to go further than you ever have in your job, your life, or even just in your yoga poses.  You  are in charge of your journey. In 2017, you get to decide how far you want to go.  It’s always your decision.”

When presented in this way, I saw the word “intention” in a new light. A powerful new light that surpassed the "set an intention" we hear all the time, but perhaps never embrace to its fullest potential.  

Setting an intention means choosing to make our lives better -  sometimes in small ways, and sometimes in very epic ways.

It means being more present.

It means deciding to be more kind.

It can even mean choosing to drink more water or drink green smoothies.

But by all means, it means showing up… for ourselves and all of the glorious potential we have to make our lives wonderful.

Here’s to your 2017 looking exactly like the journey you create for yourself.

Most importantly, remember that what that looks like is your choice.  

Cheers and Namaste, Friends. 

And may your 2017 be epic. 

 

 

Realtor.com is the new Match.com?

Let's start by saying that my husband once threatened to call the cable company to put a block on HGTV.  In fact, I just took a five (okay, 15) minute break from writing this post to see if I could download the House Hunters International theme song for a ringtone. (My search came up empty.)  I also subscribe to about five home magazines, and actually look forward to the dentist, so I can read the design magazines in their lobby. 

So you can imagine what it's been like in my head over the past year as my husband and I embarked upon our journey (I hate that word too, I know) to sell our home and find new digs. I've been like Bridezilla in HGTV-land.  In other words, a complete lunatic.

My life has felt like real life episodes of all of my favorites - Love it or List It, House Hunters, Property Brothers, Fixer Upper - complete with marital bickering, compromise, obsessive compulsive realtor.com checking,  and LOTS of home tours. 

Through it all, it dawned on me… the process of looking for a home felt a little familiar.  You see, searching for a home is a lot like searching for a life partner. Sure, humans are different from homes, but I have to tell you… what you put into finding one that matches your heart and soul's desires in each case is pretty similar.  Let's examine how.

1. You go into the search with specifics in mind. When searching for a mate, you have an idea of physical characteristics you're attracted to.  For example, I like rugged but wholesome, good looking guys; I've never been one for blond hair (Brad Pitt- meh) or tall-dark-handsome pretty boys (get over yourselves, nobody's hair stays perfect 24-7 and if it does, I want nothing to do with it). The same goes for a home. Mini McMansions with modern touches and flash have never appealed to me. I like old school charm with classic details, and I'll pay the price for these features by doing my laundry in an unfinished basement, thank you very much. So, at the start of our search, I had a specific wish list:  less expensive than our current home, urban but not too-urban location, charming yet updated but with classic features that haven't been monkeyed with, small but not too small, and on a great street.  Not too much to ask for, right?  Oh, and I also wanted all of these things in a condo, something my husband was not exactly on board with.  

Enter compromise #1- we'd look at homes and condos, with an emphasis on homes. 

2. Be careful what you wish for. Like the search for a mate, if you ask for a good-looking successful guy with lots of money, chances are he might work tons of hours to make that money. He also might be kind of arrogant with all of his success. Or, if you want an uber fit mate to call your beau, that mate might have to pencil you in after 3 hour gym sessions.  Translation, it takes a little weeding out to get a quality guy with the "solids" we want but who's also actually someone you want to spend time with. Similarly, ask for a charming, older place to call home, and guess what? It may be charming, but it's also old! And with old can come problems.  Our realtor showed us many places that met the bill… but unfortunately, we came to realize that the bill would soon be doubled or tripled with all of the improvements that were needed.

3. The search can get discouraging.  Ask any single woman about her experience on match.com, and she'll likely tell you that dating downright sucks. You start to question why you're even looking in the first place when date after date disappoints.  Same goes with the home search. As my husband and I went through countless homes that we absolutely hated, I can't tell you how many times we came back to ours saying, "Why are we even moving? Our house is great, let's stay here." 

4. Yet, you continue because you get glimmers of hope.  Every girl has had the first date where somewhere between the second and third glass of wine she starts to envision things like  oh, I don't know…. walking down the aisle with this date.  Having children with this person. Traveling the world together.  It really does happen. I call it the "first date fantasy sequence."  Others call it a wine buzz. Sometimes the buzz lasts for weeks, until that date never calls again, and you realize that fantasy just went down the drain.  In the world of homes, this fantasy has a similar "love at first sight" feel that translates into one moving Into that home immediately after the first tour. In our home search, there were about 7 homes that I had mentally (and almost physically) moved into after a first showing, or sometimes just after seeing them online.  I'd find a house, declare to my husband that it was "the one," and then proceed to completely and totally OBSESS over it until one thing or another (price, my husband hating it, another buyer purchasing it, etc.) would snap me back into reality.  Thus, starting the search all over again.

5. Disappointments can make a person a little gun-shy.  You can imagine that after mentally marrying someone or mentally purchasing a house and then having those dreams fall apart… one tends to not want to "get out there" again. Yes, when you get psyched about someone or something and it doesn't pan out, it's very hard to imagine ever finding something that can match the fantasy sequence that you had created. It would take me a few visits to my house version of match.com… realtor.com… to reinstill my faith.  Yet, the longer we were in the process, the more nervous I'd get when I actually found a home I liked.  Quite simply put, I didn't want us to get burned again.  Much like the game of love. 

6. In the end, you just know.  People used to tell me that I'd "know" when I met "the one." I really didn't believe them, mainly because I met so many people who definitely weren't "the one" that I doubted his very existence.  Yet, then I met my husband and I immediately knew what all of the people were talking about.  Similarly, after scouring the web, touring homes, running down every street within a five mile radius, I couldn't imagine ever finding "the home." Yet, when our realtor opened the front door and let us in the home that will soon be ours, I immediately felt a sense of comfort and home.  I felt like I wanted to stay and get to know its walls and bones, and see what kind of memories we could make there. Quite simply put, the home felt exactly right and exactly what we had been waiting for.  Sure, it's not perfect, and I'm sure when we move in it'll present all of the quirks that any home does when you live it in for awhile. But, this home has what feels like will be a great match for my husband and me to enjoy for years to come. This makes me ecstatically happy and excited to begin a new chapter.  Like finding a good mate, or anything good in life,  isn't this what we're all after? 

So friends, whether you're looking for a partner, a home, a car, a job, or a parking spot… may you all find exactly what you're looking for. 

XO,

Abbey

 

 

  

Float your way to inner peace

Stressed out?  Having trouble sleeping? Need to jump start your creativity? If so, perhaps you need to try FLOATING.  Say WHAT, you say? I said the same thing until my husband surprised me with a Valentine's Day float session.  

He set the evening up by telling me to clear my schedule on the Wednesday before Valentine's between 8:00- 10:00 p.m.  He also told me not to go to hot yoga before like I normally do each afternoon. I was convinced this was a detail to throw me off so I wouldn't guess that we were doing a wine tasting or dinner. What else could it be, right? Just be ready at 8:00.  I had no idea what was in store for me until we approached a building with Float Milwaukee displayed on the exterior.

Upon seeing this sign, panic set in. I had heard about floating. I knew it involved a pod, water,  and sensory deprivation.  Being a person who suffers from claustrophobia in places like the middle seat in an airplane and the dentist's chair, you can understand why I was worried at the thought of being immersed in water with no light or sound. 

Yet, this was a sweet, unique and fun date gesture, so I didn't want to back out and ruin the whole night by being a big wimp. I decided to buck up and give this floating a try.

With a few moments to spare, I checked out the lobby pamphlet to see what I was in for. It suggested no caffeine, alcohol, or heavy meals prior to the float.  This explained my husband's "let's just eat a light meal before we go out" suggestion earlier that evening. Later, he would tell me he had heard hot yoga was not a good thing to do before floating, which answered my other question.

 The FAQ's in the pamphlet covered my basic concerns:

"What if I'm claustrophic?" The pamphlet explained that being in the pod was more like floating in outer space than being shut in a box. Since I had recently watched and liked The Martian, the idea of outer space had just the reassuring trippy sentiment I needed. 

Next, "How do you clean the tanks?"  Note that this was a good question to me, a former lifeguard, who has seen it all when it comes to disgusting water issues.  I like my water clean, thank you very much.  No worries, as the water is fully filtered at least 3 times between each float and is passed through a micron filter.  That sounded good to me. 

I was beginning to feel a little better about what was about to happen, but I still had one burning question. I'm sure you're wondering too.

"Can I drown if I fall asleep in the tank?" (Right?) Not at all. Yes, you heard it, I saw it in writing that I would not drown. At all. 

Knowing I'd at the very least survive, I was ready to give floating a try. I went to my float room, my husband went to his. No kinky business in the pod world - floating is a one-person per pod deal. The guide had told us to shower prior to entering the pod (the shower is right there in the room next to the pod) and then wait for the voice that would tell us when the session was to start.  

A Star Trek-like woman's voice let me know it was showtime with her explicit direction, "You may now enter the pod."   As I stepped in, the water definitely felt like its 93.5 degrees, a temperature which they call "skin receptor neutral." In other words, I wasn't really supposed to be able to tell I was in water. While at first I felt I'd like the water to be a bit warmer, I soon forgot this, and didn't think about the temperature at all, therefore proving they nailed it with this temp. 

For my one hour floating experience, I had a few options- I could keep the pod lights on or off.  I could listen to music or be in complete silence.  I could keep the pod open, or close it.  Finally, I could choose to wear or not wear ear plugs. 

These freedoms made me feel a little less helpless with the whole idea of sensory deprivation. I began with the lid of the pod wide open.  Soon, I found I was a bit chilly this way, and decided to tackle my claustrophobia and close the lid.  Much to my surprise, it was fine.  I felt perfectly relaxed and not a bit claustrophobic. I thought I'd soon drift off into the same coma state that I reach in yoga class when on the mat waiting for class to start.  Nope. I stayed awake the entire experience, or at least "sort of awake."  I believe I did enter the state that the brochure describes as between waking and sleeping.  (How do I know this? Maybe because what I do remember about the experience is that I went on some sort of a "tour" of my fourth grade house- details of every single nook and cranny of the house came to mind during my session. Most trippy.)

After all was said and done, I exited the tank and felt extremely relaxed, and slept like a baby that night.  

The only negative from the experience was an ear full of water and salt, caused by not putting the earplugs in.  (This step was optional per the guide, but both my husband and I advise... WEAR THE EARPLUGS!)

Would I recommend this to others? Yes, definitely. This world is crazy, and we need all the chances we can to calm our minds and reconnect to our innervoice, sharpen creativity, and generally just escape for an hour.  If you have the opportunity to float... go for it!

Clean in 2016

We're a few weeks into the New Year. Remember those resolutions made on January 1? Yeah, me too. I had a few resolutions that I was absolutely going to stick to.  My "no sugar in 2016" lasted until 10:00 a.m. on January 1 when the chocolate covered pretzels won. Similarly, I haven't exactly been getting up to write each day as I planned. (As is obvious by this post 12 days into the New Year.)

Yet, I'm still kind of in the spirit of making 2016 a great one. I want to do things better, feel better, and just generally be happier in 2016.  In light of these desires,  I've decided to focus on "Keeping it Clean in 2016." And, while I may not be good at resolution making, I am good at making lists. 

Keeping it Clean… The List

1. Clean connections.  I'm not talking about getting a faster internet connection or upgrading my phone plan. Quite the opposite. I'm talking about connecting with the people who are in front of me when they are in front of me.  In real time. This means ditching my phone in the presence of others. Instead of Instagramming, I am Instaconnecting. Clean connections = clean relationships. 

2. Clean Fridge. Perhaps the most obvious healthy eating solution is found in the fact that if it's not in your house, you won't eat it.  "Clean fridge" to me represents putting healthy things in my fridge (and cupboards).  The clean fridge concept also translates to decisions about food when at restaurants and other places.  Fill your fridge and your body with clean food.  It's not rocket science, right? Clean fridge = clean body.

3. Clean Closets. I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Can you say spot on? The book made me rethink not only the things I was hanging onto that I no longer used/needed, but also helped me streamline and organize the things in my house and my life.  I'm still working on this one…my quest for clean closets & drawers will continue throughout 2016. Clean closets = clean mental attitude and peace of mind.

4. Clean Computer.  I feel like I should take this one to a support group.  My name is Abbey, and I have a lot of emails on my computer. No, not just " a lot" but almost computer crashing "a lot."  Like we are talking in the thousands. 16,076 to be exact at press time and I'm pretty sure this isn't even accurate, as I also have a bunch of email addresses out there.  My email situation is very disturbing to me, as I'm sure it's blocking my flow and preventing me from being my most creative self. That said, I'm cleaning up my Mac in 2016. Clean computer = clean mind (and hard drive). 

5. Clean Agenda. Like everyone else, I have a million things that I could put on my to-do list. But what are the things that count?  Who are the people that matter most?  In 2016, I'm going to do my best to stick to the items that are truly agenda-worthy and in line with the people I want to spend time with, and the life and career goals I want to focus on. The other stuff, not so much. Clean Agenda = clean future outlook.

Now, I know I will slip up throughout the year.  But, I'd like to believe that by making attempts to have a clean, strong foundation in the areas mentioned above, I have a shot at really making progress this year.  Give it a try!  What areas of your life do you want to clean up? 

 

 

When It's Over, It's Over

When It’s Over, It’s Over

It is the morning of December 23, and I have a list a mile long, full of things I need to do before hosting Christmas Eve. Let me tell you that at press time, my house is in no shape to host 15 people, 5 people, or even the UPS guy dropping something off in my doorway. My living and dining rooms, where the action will take place, are “decorated” with signs of holiday frenzy - rolls of wrapping paper, Christmas card envelopes, and shopping bags of things to return. Dirty dishes are the focal point of my kitchen. Did I mention that I still need to buy a few gifts, get my eyebrows waxed (priorities), go to the store, and make a few appetizers? Oh, and I’m meeting my college roommate for lunch today; an event I wouldn’t cancel for the world, but one which will take about 5 hours off the clock.

I know I’m not alone in my last minute rush. I can imagine that others have lists much longer, and also full of much worse problems than dishes in the sink. I’m also aware that for others the holidays will not bring a house full of family and friends, and that perhaps by choice or life circumstances the holiday will take on a quieter, more mellow tone.

In each case, I would bet that we share an underlying anticipation both of Christmas coming and of Christmas leaving.  I’ve heard more than one person say, “I’ll be so relieved when the holidays are over. Then I can relax.”  You can bet this thought has crossed my mind as I’ve stressed out over the gifts, cleaning, entertaining, and holiday travel.

Part of my holiday build up does provide stress-free time to catch up with old friends.  It comes in the form of an annual holiday lunch at school where retired teachers come in to catch up and celebrate the season. At this celebration, I was talking with a retired teacher who shares a love of travel. Each year he tells me about the trips he and his wife take during their globetrotting retirement.  This year he noted that his trips have gotten progressively longer, going from 10 to 14 to 21 days. While he said he's come to appreciate the longer, 21- day trips, he noted that on all of these trips he noticed a certain restlessness begin to stir about two days before the trip’s end.  Other travelers would start to talk about the return trip…ironically, of course, while they were still on the trip.  They’d pack their bags at least two nights before they were to head home, and dinner discussions would be of logistics surrounding the flight home.

Consequently, the trip that they’d planned for months and months would essentially wind down and travelers would be “back home” before it even ended. My friend’s wife began to recognize this as definitely an uncool way to get the most out of a trip.  She didn’t buy into the early mental departure and preparation but instead adopted the mantra “when it’s over, it’s over.” Meaning… the trip will be over soon enough, but it’s not over yet. So enjoy it (while you’re still there) and don’t even think about packing your bag until the last night.

When it's over, it's over. I think my friend's wife may have nailed a huge secret to life in this one simple phrase. With trips, the holidays, weddings, and all of the moments in our lives that we plan in advance… how often do we just actually enjoy those moments when they come?  After all, those moments are about those moments.  When they arrive, the planning is done. All we have are those moments. They will never happen again.  

Of course this is not a new idea; we are told to live in the moment all the time. However, I think in today’s society, with our daily lists full of things to do, we find it more and more difficult to remain in “real time.” It’s hard for us to stop and enjoy moments because we are often worried about preparing for the next ones.

So how about this?  This holiday season, let’s make a solid effort to not allow our lists to distract us from moments of our lives that are unfolding right now.  Right now as you plan.  Right now as you clean your house.  And most importantly, right now when you are gathered with your family and friends, remember... when it's over, it's over.

My wish for you this holiday and beyond is that you see your right now for what it is. Appreciate it in its moment and cherish the people you are with. This way, when it’s over, the memories will be of living fully in the moment and not one second beyond.

Enjoy your life, each moment…  right now. 

 

 

Oh, Well

"Oh, Well."

Maybe you just need to say, "Oh, well."

This was the advice I received before a reiki session, when I was talking about a situation in my life that bothered me, yet I couldn't necessarily change.  

Now, I've heard essentially the same advice before, but it seemed harder. It sounded something like this, "If you can't change the situation, you need to change the way you think about it."  

Yeah, I get that too. Yet, stated this way made me feel like a defiant teenager. Me change the way I think? That feels like way too much work.  Changing my thinking feels like totally giving in.  It means changing for something that I don't necessarily believe in.  Which also makes me feel like a defiant teenager.

However, when my wonderful friend and reiki guru told me to simply look at the situation as an, "Oh, well," it seemed doable. 

I liked it because I could add stuff to the beginning or end of the phrase (either aloud or in my head… yes, I'm trying to become enlightened, but I'm still human) to suit how I felt.  Yet the phrase would still serve the intended purpose… that being, simply... "Oh, well. This isn't that important, and really not going to kill me… so I will ease up and just maybe accept it."  Or, "Yes, this certainly sucks… but, oh, well.  It's not the end of the world." 

"Oh, well" says I don't like this, but I'm not letting it destroy my inner peace.  "Oh, well"  acknowledges that life doesn't always go exactly as we think it should, and newsflash, that's okay. Again, we can still be happy and move about the cabin.

"Oh, well" works for big life issues and small everyday annoyances, too.  Next time something happens that makes your blood boil, try inserting a gentle (or sassy, I get that this is a process), "Oh, well."  You might just feel a little more zen. 

I tried that tonight and… not sure if it's the reiki effects or the phrasing, but I feel better. Give it a shot… the worst that could happen is that it doesn't make you feel any better. And, if that's the case? Oh, well. 

:)

 

 

 

 

The Very First Agenda

One day in 4th grade, my teacher walked into my classroom with a very serious look on her face. We all wondered if we were in trouble, or if perhaps someone had died. She then took a deep breath, and told us we were going to be given some very important information. We needed to be on our best behavior.

She instructed the girls to go to one room and boys to another. We were all very confused until we were seated in our respective classrooms. Then, the lights went out. A TV cart with a huge VHS player was wheeled in (this was the 80’s, bear with me), and just as soon as the teacher pressed the clunky "play" button, cheesy music introduced the mysterious feature film… “Naturally a Girl.”  A gasp was audibly heard.  Someone giggled.  Yet most of us were silent, with our eyes glued to the screen. We were equally horrified and curious as the narrator explained what it meant to be a girl.

We listened to the “great and miraculous changes” we were about to go through.  Did I mention we were all horrified? We left the room quietly and red-faced, and went back to our classroom where we joined the boys. No one spoke of what was seen as we left, but we knew something had changed.  Part of the mysterious road to womanhood had been officially unveiled to us, and all we knew was that we had a lot to talk about at our next slumber party. 

A silent sisterhood had been born.

Yes, that movie taught us the facts of life. We learned all about our bodies, or about as much as we were allowed to know in the fourth grade classroom of a Catholic school.

However, the movie didn’t reveal the secrets of adult life, those secrets that no video can do any justice. 

1.     Life is hard.  There will be good times and bad, and you never really know when life will shift from one end of the spectrum to the other.  Learn this early, and find a support system to get you through.

2.     The support system looks a lot like that 4th grade movie audience.  The support system is called “Your Girls.” Find girls you can trust early and nurture those friendships. It is those friendships that will get you through it all- as in the good, bad, and ugly of this thing called life.

On the Agenda ("OTA") is the blog & podcast version of the sisterhood established back in 4th grade.  It’s a place where you can find your girls.  A place to hear about the things we all face, or will face.  We’ll talk about love, work, relationships, finances, health, family, and yes... we’ll even go back to what they taught us in 4th grade and discuss what the hell is happening to our bodies as we get older.  

Nothing is off limits when it’s on the agenda. So, join us on this blog. Listen to the podcast.  Tell us what's on your agenda.