Tag Archives: work

Today: What a difference a year makes.

Oops.  This post is longer than anticipated. 

This time last year, I was wearing a very unattractive, very orthopedic boot thing, having tripped over Grace’s bouncy chair and subsequently broken a toe… just an hour and a half before my family showed up for Mother’s Day brunch at our condo. (Also: My parents were trapped at an airport somewhere, so the guest of honor wasn’t there to be showered with praise and gifts and affection… and to listen to me moan about my toe.)

Ready to party. Or something.

In addition to being temporarily physically crippled, I can’t say I was in the best shape mentally, or whatever, either.  I had been back at work (after a not-so-work-free maternity leave) for a few weeks, was getting up to nurse Grace every couple of hours, couldn’t find anything that fit (nor that matched the boot), and sort of had no idea what I was doing at any given moment.  Having people over to a mostly-clean home, serving mostly-edible food, and not having an entirely unexpected crying episode provoked by a diaper ad, or a cheesy song, or a faint, passing breeze felt like a major, major accomplishment.  

This time last year, I was second-guessing every decision I made, and agonizing over the longterm effects those decisions would have on Grace.  Was she eating too little?  Was she eating too much?  You’ll notice I wasn’t asking myself if she was sleeping too much, because… well… neither of us were sleeping.

I worried I was falling down (no pun intended… but sort of yes, pun intended because I really still can’t believe I tripped over that darn chair) as a wife.  I had no idea how I would manage my work responsibilities and my family responsibilities.  And how, on God’s green earth, was I ever going to get all the laundry done?  Would my body always feel so foreign (and lumpy)?  What would my first work trip away from Grace be like (Fortunately, I didn’t have the capacity at the time to imagine myself using a breast pump in a bathroom stall at the Detroit airport… but now I do.  And you do, too.  Sorry.)?  Would I ever see my friends again (this would likely require staying up past 7 PM)?  Would I ever have anything to talk about besides diaper pails?  Would every single drop-off at daycare feel so heartbreaking?  

It’s taken some time (and I don’t think my toe will ever be the same), but my goodness… What a difference a year makes.  I’m not perfect (you should see what I’m wearing) and life’s not perfect, but so much has changed for the better.  It’s amazing what a little time and confidence (and SLEEP!) can do.

Last weekend I had the chance to celebrate Mother’s Day with my parents and family on Saturday, and with Nick, Grace and Clark on Sunday.  And I felt calm.  And relaxed.  And happy.  And grateful.  And I couldn’t help but notice that life is sort of following the seasons this time around.  Not only is it actually (finally!) Spring, but I’m in the middle of my own transition of sorts.  And it’s full of (I almost said “blooming with”… but I stopped myself) promise and excitement and optimism and a “who knows what might happen?” sort of thing.

At the end of this week (though it’s been in the works for months… aren’t I a good secret keeper? Tell me everything!), I’ll be stepping down from my role at an organization I’ve been with for eight years to be home with Grace.  

I sort of always thought I would work (in the capacity I’ve been used to working, like, in an office).  And I am realizing now, as I make this transition, how much of my ego and self-worth have been tangled up in being busy.  And important.  And in charge.  I’ve also come to see, though, how much of my last eleven or so years have been spent moving from one mini-crisis to the next,  closing out the day with just barely enough energy to be a semi-normal, non-awful person. The good has far outweighed the bad (truly), though, I have loved my work.  I have loved the people I have worked with.  I have loved the people I’ve had the privilege of serving.  I have loved the challenges and the lessons and the surprises.

I know there will be pieces of all this that are not easy, but I also know how lucky I am to have options.  It took a lot of confidence and courage to make this choice, but I wouldn’t be able to make the choice if I didn’t have options.  I know this is not always the case.  Meanwhile, that new boss of mine?  She’s pretty cute.

Also On Tap for Today:

Looking back, what has changed most for you this year?

Today: Streamlining my mornings.

I have partnered with belVita and Dannon to help promote the belVita and Dannon partnership.  I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program, which includes writing about the promotion and product.  However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

For the past (nearly) three months, my routine has been… welp… a total lack of routine.  It seems like the second I started to get comfortable, and Grace and I had fallen into a pattern of sorts, things changed.  She started eating more.  Or less.  She started sleeping more.  Or less.  Morning was the best time for us to get out for a walk or do a few errands.  And then afternoon became a better time for that.  Some days I’d be showered, dressed and out on the town (or more accurately, cruising around Southie with Grace in her stroller or baby carrier) by 8:30 AM.  Other days, I’d be in pajamas until 8:30… PM.

The sole constant:  We’ve been figuring it all out together.  Me, Nick, and Grace (and Clark, but let’s be serious… he’s a go with the flow little guy).  Becoming a parent has been challenging, exhausting, and at times, overwhelming.  It’s also been the single most amazing experience, and I know I am better for it.  The time we’ve had together these past few months, and all of those transitions from one non-routine to the next, have been so special, so sacred.

Tomorrow we make our next big transition, as I head back to work and Grace begins daycare.  In a perfect world, we could do it all and have it all.  We’d be together all day long, be attentive parents, and be productive while enjoying our fulfilling careers.  We’d achieve the perfect balance.  But the world isn’t perfect. (Duh, lady.)  I know I am lucky to have both a beautiful family and a career that challenges and excites me.  As anxious as I am about the changes to come, I know we made these choices for all the right reasons.  We are so lucky to have options.

Um… this post was supposed to be about breakfast.  Not feelings. (I’m sure I will have much more to say about being a workin’ mom once I have more than 15 seconds of experience as one.)

Back on task.  Breakfast.  Mornings.

While there are plenty of new challenges we’ll need to navigate in the coming days, weeks, and months, I am hoping that making a plan for how we start each day, and making an effort to streamline our mornings, will help.  I’ve never been much of a breakfast eater, much to the chagrin of my parents, my husband, people that I flip off in traffic, my primary care physician… you get the point.  Despite having good intentions, sitting down for a healthy meal at the start of the day always seemed to fall by the wayside when faced with a time crunch.  I can skip breakfast, but I can’t (in good conscience) skip walking the dog.  Or, like, bathing.  Having someone else depending on me in such a real way has been the ultimate game changer.  More than ever it’s clear: I need to take care of myself in order take care of other people.

BelVita and Dannon have partnered to get me (and my fellow Americans) to ditch the excuses and make time for a quick breakfast that boasts 12 grams of protein and nutritious, steady energy (…maybe we can have it all.  Just kidding.  Too soon.  Pass the Kleenex.).  I’ve been pairing Dannon Oikos 0% vanilla Greek yogurt with apple cinnamon Crunchy belVita Breakfast Biscuits, along with an apple, in the mornings.  The combination is delicious and convenient and is sure to become part of my workday routine (bonus: if when I forget a spoon for my yogurt, a biscuit is the perfect stand in).

Are you looking to streamline your mornings?  Laura Stack, “The Productivity Pro”, offers the following tips for getting the most of your morning:

  • Do as much as you can the night before.  Leave as little preparation as possible until the last minute — you’ll thank yourself in the morning.
  • Spend 20 minutes at the end of each day planning your to-do list.  When you download the next day’s activities beforehand, you can devote your morning to enjoyment rather than stress.
  • Be sure to start your morning with a delicious, balanced breakfast.  Together, the nutritious steady energy of belVita and 12 grams of protein in Dannon Oikos Green nonfat yogurt along with a piece of fruit will help you get more out of your morning.

Welp, my breakfast is set for tomorrow… our bags are packed… I guess we’re ready?

Also On Tap for Today:

How do you streamline your morning?  Favorite breakfast ideas for busy folks excuse makers?

Today: This week: 1, Elizabeth: O.

If I were one for keeping score… This week: 1, Elizabeth: 0.

Thanks for the stellar protection, stupid bracelet. Just kidding… kind of.

I’m a little cranky and a lot tired.  I’m feeling a bit like the Universe has conspired against me.  On top of other stresses, things that normally would roll off my back have instead rolled down my back and turned into total pains in my ass.  Is it okay to say ass?  I hope so.  If not, my apologies.

I got to work Monday to find out our office fridge somehow broke during the move (we just relocated to a new building, and by new… I mean it’s so old the tampon dispenser in the ladies’ room charges nickles.  And it’s also broken, but that’s sort of irrelevant), so my lunch perished before I had the chance to eat it.  Note to self: Yogurt and various leaves are delicate.  Especially when the heat is on.  The relocation process itself has been nothing short of awful, but I won’t burden you with that.  Not when I can talk about holes in pants.

I spent much of the day Tuesday unknowingly walking around with a gaping hole in my favorite, best fitting pair of maternity pants– the skinny, black ones that make me feel all “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom.”  I wonder now if they fit so well because of the hole.

On Wednesday morning, I had a complete meltdown (hormones are weird and poking yourself in the eye with a mascara wand doesn’t help).  When I finally got my act together and put my face back on, I headed out to my car discovered I had a second flat tire in eight days.  I am not sure how I ended up with a nail in my left rear tire and a screw in my right rear tire, but I can now navigate to the auto body place in my sleep.  Also, one of the light bulbs in our bathroom exploded.

Thursday was a marked improvement (though that’s not saying much).  I got a ton of work done at the office and made progress on some important projects, ate a delicious non-wilted salad at lunch, and successfully hid my husband’s birthday presents before he got home… but I was almost too exhausted to enjoy the lack of catastrophe.  I barely made it 10 minutes into Scandal before needing to climb into bed. Semi-related: I am considering weaving my own line of WWOPD? (What would Oliva Pope do?… in case that’s not obvious) bracelets.

This has not been a normal week, and yet I am sure there’s a lesson or two in there somewhere (besides wear a helmet and safety glasses in the master bathroom and invest in a full length mirror lest ye flash your underoos unto thine neighbors).  It’s important to slow down.  It’s important to take people up on their offers to help.  It’s important to ask for what you need.  It’s important to schedule down time (and abide by this schedule).  It’s important to prioritize health and rest and balance.

Despite there being more downs than ups this week, there have still been plenty of bright spots.  My sister left me a weird voice mail yesterday (apparently someone joined her in the elevator just as she started leaving the message), which I will save for eternity.   I bought my first outfit for the baby (just touching the fabric made me long for the second we get to hold her).  I have a wonderful husband who helps put things into perspective and can somehow get away with laughing while I am crying like a fool (he’s lucky he’s so handsome).  I enjoyed a really great workout at CrossFit Southie on Wednesday aaaand got a push jerk PR.  I’m lucky enough to pass by three street pianos on my way to work and have loved seeing people stop to play this week.  Clark and I spent lots of time on the beach and at the park… and just when I needed a laugh, he posted a status message about farts and the government shutdown.  He’s so thoughtful.

Those are just the little things.

I know I have so much to be grateful for, especially during a week like this one.  Oh, and if you need a flat (or two) patched… I know a guy.

Also On Tap for Today:

What are your ups and downs this week?

Today: A pit bull in sheep’s clothing.

I was in a meeting once when I was twenty-two.  I mean, I went to a lot of meetings that year, but you have to start a post somehow.  In the hierarchy of titles on business cards, I was the least important person in attendance at this meeting.  I was also the youngest, by many, many years.  And I was wearing the best accessories.  I don’t know if this is important (but nearly a decade later, it sticks out… so I think it may have been, even in a small way), but I was also the least male person in attendance.  That is to say, I was the only woman there.

I love this giant pit and tried to convince Nick and Clark to adopt him for me for Valentine’s Day. Also, please note: This is an old photo, so what you’re seeing is not a baby bump, it’s a pocket full of dog treats. And now you know.

 The meeting was called because, well… it’s kind of a long story (and a weird one, at that), but one person felt he had been wronged and felt like blaming his entire Rolodex.  (This was before we had iPhones, people.)  Needless to say, I was in his Rolodex.  I was not, however, responsible for what he was claiming.  I was too busy trying to do my job (and avoid the speed traps in Rhode Island).   We sat in the room for a long time, as the man aired his grievances, pointed his fingers, and shuffled around papers.

Sometimes people just need to talk.  So I listened.

I tend to have a long fuse.  People who have witnessed me having a meltdown (namely: my entire family, my husband, and the catering director who tried to display plastic gourds at my wedding) may beg to differ, but it’s the truth.  In some situations, the fuse is months long.  In others, hours.  While other people in the room tried to interrupt, or raised their voices, I sat and simmered and waited.

When I finally had the chance to defend myself, I knew I needed to do just that.   When I was done, the room was quiet for a solid minute, but it was one of those extra-long minutes. (Slight tangent: How awkward were those extra-long twin mattresses we had in college?  What use is the additional foot to short folks like me?)  Back to it:  I felt like I had talked back to a grown-up, but I willed myself to keep composed and not retreat (under the table, meanwhile, I nearly broke my own hand).

Finally, laughing (but not in a happy kind of way), the man looked me square in the face and said, “You look like a lamb, but you’re really a pit bull.”

(For the record, he was referring to the breed of canine, not Mr. Worldwide.)

I nodded, stood slowly, and said something that I must have heard on a television show about members of the British Parliament,  something like, “Gentlemen, if there is nothing further to discuss, I bid you adieu.”  And then I cried in my Ford Focus for twenty minutes, feeling undercut and embarrassed.   At the time, I didn’t know any pit bulls (I wrongly thought they were all vicious and demented, and chained outside tow lots), so there was no opportunity to even pretend I had just been complimented.

Ten years have passed, and I still think about that meeting.  Time has helped me to realize– or maybe affirm is a better word, because I think I knew this at the time– that this guy’s lashing out probably had very little to do with me, and that his opinion of me likely didn’t matter to the others in the room.  They knew me for my work ethic and the reputation I had built during my short time on the job, and as neither a dog nor a baby sheep.

I think about this meeting when I hear people being called names.

I think about this meeting when I know I need to stick up for myself.

But I think about this meeting most when I realize there are people now entering the workforce who are ten years younger than me.  They’re twenty-two year olds who drive Ford Focuses, and maybe they’re finding themselves at terrible meetings, too.  I am reminded that how we talk to people and what we say matters.  How we treat people and how we make people feel matters.  Words and feelings stay with people long after interactions end.  (That whole “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” thing is straight up crap.)

Even when– or maybe especially when– we get to end of our fuses, we’ve got be kind to one another.

Afterword: In a perfect world, our spare bedroom would be filled (in a responsible way, not in bad, animal hoarding way) with pit bulls (and Clark) and I’d give each animal loving, individualized affirmations every day.  And then I would write and illustrate a series of children’s books about pit bulls and lambs roaming the city and countryside together, teaching good manners to rude, self-important adults.  Literary agents, call me.  Maybe?

Also On Tap for Today:

What do you remember most about your first job?

Today: Recreating my favorite hotel room.

I’ve been doing some work in Memphis this year and in the midst of canceled flights, questionable transactions at an unnamed car rental counter, and meetings galore, I’ve found a little oasis of calm.  I don’t tend to go Lady gaga over hotel rooms, but I’ve developed an obsession with the perfectly appointed rooms at The Peabody.

We move into our new condo next month and I am intent on recreating my favorite hotel room there, in our master bedroom (we’re so grown up… sort of).

What I love about this hotel room:

  • I love that rather than using a conventional pair of matching nightstands or side tables, there is a small writing desk tucked into the corner between the bed and the wall on one side.  I imagine using this as a place to put on my face and touch up my hair in the morning.
  • I love the mix of grounded, dark wood and a dark upholstered chair, with airy and light touches on the bedding, light fixtures, and Travertine tabletop on the nightstand.  It’s the perfect blend of masculine and feminine.
  • I love the trim and molding, which makes the room feel even more spacious than it is (and by hotel standards, it was already quite big).
  • I love that the rich, silk window treatments conceal a set of blackout drapes, perfect for grumpy, overtired travelers like myself.

What I would change:

  • I like the wood headboard, but it’s the shape that I am most attracted to.  I’d seek out something upholstered, softer, and in a lighter color.
  • Similarly, I’d swap the darker colored drapery and rug for something lighter and cooler, likely grey.  I definitely prefer cool tones over warm tones.
  • I think a mirrored side table may be in our future… if I can find a way to fingerprint-proof it.
  • I’d opt for a more muted wall color, though I do like this blue.  You know I am a sucker for Martha, so I’d likely try Seed Pearl or Pebble on our walls.  We used Salt Glaze, Lemon Ice and Sharkey Grey in our current condo in strategic places – behind bookshelves, tucked in a corner of the kitchen – (a lot of color goes a long way in small spaces) and we were really happy with the results.

After spending time doing the online equivalent of window-shopping, I came up with a blueprint for bringing a little Memphis to South Boston (hold the bbq).  First up:  the headboard.

Image sources/Product links: 1 | 2

For the record, I am aware smallish is a terrible adjective.  And truth be told, I think bigger is better when it comes to chandeliers, but I have had more than one nightmare about an elaborate lighting fixture crushing me while I sleep (it all started when I watched a murder mystery and Phantom of the Opera the same night), so I’d rather have something smaller than me (and my lungs) dangling above.

Image sources/Product links 123

The baroque, frame-less mirror is one of my favorite parts of the room at The Peabody.  I love pieces that nod to the old, without feeling like something that should be in my grandparents’ attic.  A fresh coat of paint on an old frame might be a great way to bring a mirror up to date.

Image sources/Product links 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I can’t remember the last time I curled up in a chair just to read, but like the aforementioned face-applying and hair touching-up, I imagine myself doing these things in our new condo.  So naturally, I need a classic but comfortable chair.  One that Clark is not allowed to turn into a nest of Frenchie toys.  I find that hotels often have one or two stuffy or overly formal chairs tucked into rooms, and while it’s nice to have a place other than the bed to work on last-minute meeting prep, I’d rather not catch scoliosis before boarding  a plane.  The swoop-armed chairs at The Peabody are perfect for doing work and watching murder mysteries.  While drinking an entire pot of tea from room service.

Image sources/Product links 1 |2 |3

Our current nightstands likely will not fit it our new bedroom, so we’ll be on the hunt for something smaller, but still functional.  I love the look of mixing dark wood and marble, but I know we’ll need at least one drawer (for my Hello Kitty sleep mask and at least 16 tubes of Chapstick).  I am hoping to find something that marries the two tables below (you know, like, if tables could get married).   Or I could just go for one of the mirrored side tables I’ve been lusting after, and commit to de-smudging it twice daily.

Image sources/Product links 1 |

The matching pair of lamps, one of the desk and the other on the side table, give the room good balance without taking up too much surface area.  I love the shade on the lamp to the left, but prefer the body of the lamps on the right.  Perhaps I should be planning a lamp marriage, too.

Image sources/Product links 1 |2

Assuming there is room (which I should never assume, as I am not especially adept at spacial relations), I’d love to swap a side table for an apartment-scale writing desk.  I always gravitate to the clean simplicity of Parsons desks (number 3), and like the unobtrusive drawers.

Image sources/Product links 1 |2 | 3

We have hardwood floors in our new place (a big change from our current sealed concrete floors), so there’s no reason to go wall-to-wall like my favorite hotel room.  Instead, I’ll look for something big enough to frame out our bed, without overwhelming the room.  A rug is the perfect place to dial it up a bit with pattern, especially when you’re choosing muted colors.  I’ve had great luck ordering rugs from Home Decorators (you will not be shocked to find that I went straight to the Martha Stewart category), and flagged these four options.  I mean, rawwrrrrr.  I may as well just order number 4 right now.

Image sources/Product links 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I am no expert (by an stretch of the imagination), but it is possible to turn inspiration, like my favorite hotel room in Memphis, into reality.  While shopping at actual stores is probably ideal (mostly because you can touch things to be sure you’re not allergic, see what colors really look like, etc.), I think shopping for furniture, textiles and wall decor can certainly be done online.  Paint is another story.

When we were renovating our current condo, we worked with an interior designer.  She was invaluable when it came to architectural renderings and connecting us with contractors for construction and wiring.  Nick and I knew what we wanted our space to look and feel like,  so I made a tumblr account (this was pre-Pinterest) to share with our designer, featuring every wall color, rug, sofa, and lighting fixture that caught my eye.  When the final design came together, it was so perfectly us.  It wasn’t until Nick pointed out that most of the plans came directly from my “wish list” tumblr that I realized it was us… because we picked nearly everything out.  The lesson: trust your instincts.  You don’t need to hire someone to tell you what you want, if you know what you want.  If you’re like me, though, you may need to hire someone to be sure that what you want actually fits into your space.

A few more online-to-real-life-redecorating tips:

  • This is obvious, but the more you search for and find images that fit your design aesthetic, the more fruitful your searching will be.  Learn from product descriptions (for example, I knew I was looking for a chandelier with “little shade things,” but did not know to search for “drum shades” until I landed on an image I liked) and be sure to check out the “related products” and “you may also like” sections offered on most sites.
  • Knowing how to describe exactly what you like might mean you can save money by broadening your search and opening up your options.
  • Browse daily deals sites (I like One Kings Lane and Joss and Main <– feel free to use my invite links if you’re not already a member) and make note of products and brands you like.  Even if the sale expires before you’re ready to buy, you may be able to find the item (or something similar) discounted elsewhere.
  • Know what you love about an inspiration space, and what you’d happily change or alter.  You might be able to accomplish the overall feel of a space by simply adding one special piece or color or texture, without needing to recreate the entire space.

I’m looking forward to sharing how this re-creation actually plays out, but first… it’s nearly time to pack up and move.

Also On Tap for Today:

Do you have a favorite hotel room?  

 

Today: Grocery haul, and hauling boxes.

A little PSA before we get down to brass tacks:  It’s hot in Boston.  Really hot.  Please be careful, look in on loved ones, check up on elderly neighbors, and — if you can — carry an extra bottle or two of water with you today to share with people who are outside and need relief.  It’s important to take care of one another.  

I’ve been doing a lot of “Oh, crap… we are out of lettuce” and “Maaaaan, I forgot the spicy mustard” lately.  I’ve been doing almost no meal planning, nor list making, nor organized grocery shopping.  I knew things had gotten out of hand when I made three separate trips to the store last week (and um… asked Nick to pick up thirteen other things on his way home).

I had the good fortune (mostly, if you disregard what I did earlier in the day… and yes, I will tell you about that momentarily) to get out of work early on Wednesday, giving me ample time for a leisurely (and more importantly, productive) mid-day shop at my favorite Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods grocery haul

Pardon my glitter centerpiece.

Produce:

  • Basil (and a few lingering Frenchie paws at the top of the photo)
  • Heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 4 heirloom mega-tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Snap peas
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 2 carrots (one for me, one for the dog)
  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 box of Olivia’s Organics Spring Mix with Herbs (my absolute favorite)
  • 1 box of Olivia’s Organics Spinach
  • 2 orange bell peppers
  • 1 bag of red grapes
  • 1 bag of Clementines
  • 2 lemons
  • 6 smallish bananas
  • 1 Vidalia onion
  • 2 boxes of Driscoll’s organic raspberries

Dairy:

  • 2 cartons of Stonyfield organic lemon yogurt
  • 2 cartons of Stonyfield organic vanilla yogurt

Random, delicious things:

  • Whole Foods guacamole (or as I like to call it, Heaven in a Container)
  • 1 package of gluten free brown rice paper wraps (for a fun Nasoya recipe I’ll share next week)
  • Amy’s organic vegetarian re-fried black beans with green chilies
  • Green Mountain Gringo tortilla strips
  • GoGo Squeez organic apple sauce on the go (because I am an adult who often eats like a small child, and can’t be bothered to pack a spoon)

These beauts warranted a close up.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day…

My office has had used several storage facilities during my time.  When one closed unexpectedly, we signed a lease (in a panic) at the facility closest to my office.  While convenient, it is also the most terrifying hell hole on the planet.  You may be thinking, It can’t be that bad.  I get it.  I love a good exaggeration as much as the next lady, but trust me.  I have seen things at that storage unit that I will never be able to un-see.  Things that would make grown men and women weep.  I have enough stories (including this one about possibly naked people) to write a book about this place, but I will not.  For the following reasons:

  1. Most people write zero books during their lifetime.  In the event that I am fortunate/talented/patient/focused enough to write one book during my lifetime, I would hate for it to be about a storage unit.  I don’t want that to be my legacy.
  2. It would be sort of depressing.  And kind of gross.  Especially if I include the part about the poop we encountered this week.
  3. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Needless to say, it was time — to quote the King of Pop — to make a change, for once in my life.  After a bit of research, we found a slightly less convenient (but infinitely more safe and clean) facility nearby, and manual labored our way from one place to the other in the span of 24 hours and 9 trips back and forth.  During a heat wave.  Nothing says I run an international organization quite like an inordinate amount of neck sweat.  My heart goes out to those working outside in this weather all the time (I am usually holed up in air conditioning set to “arctic tundra”).  By the time we finished our last load up the stairs at 3:30, it was time to throw in the proverbial sweat towel.

I promise, I (mostly) cleaned up before heading to Whole Foods.

Also On Tap for Today:

When do you get your grocery shopping done?  

 

Today:1,000 pieces in 800 square feet.

Puzzles were made for people with a lot of patience and ideally, a spare kitchen table.  I have neither.  I have, however, formed a recent obsession with puzzles.  It started the day after my sister’s wedding, when my family got together for lunch at the cottage my brother rented for the week.  I was immediately drawn to the nearly complete puzzle laid out on their dining room table.

I try to practice what I preach (namely saying no more often, so I can say yes to the things that matter), but I’m still left feeling a bit burned out lately.  I love being busy and interacting with people, but as an introvert, I end up completely zapped if I don’t carve out enough quiet time for myself.  And not just quiet time (hey, scrolling through baby Frenchie photos on Instagram for hours is quiet!), but quality quiet time.

At the risk of sounding like the lady that sells crystals near the T stop, putting puzzle pieces together feels very restorative for me.  It’s logical and there’s a right answer: a piece either fits or it doesn’t.  And at some point you’re done.  In other words: it’s the opposite of work.  I am incredibly lucky to have a career that I love, but the work is never done and it’s often complicated (and um… puzzling).

Hippy talk aside, when we got back to Boston, I hit up Target for my own puzzle.  500 pieces? 300 pieces? I figured, go big or go home…. and then I actually, well… got home.

I soon learned that 1,000 piece puzzles were not designed for small, city condos.  They are much better suited for dining room tables at the Cape.  I was faced with three options:

Option 1: Make a mess.

Option 2: Complete the puzzle in one sitting.

Option 3: Get things under control.

If you’re comfortable with Option 1, more power to you.  If Option 2 is your M.O., welp… I commend you.  After losing several pieces under the sofa (don’t ask), scattering several hundred pieces across any and all workable surfaces, and essentially holding our condo hostage with a nowhere-near-complete Italian seaside vista, I knew I needed to get things under control.  Thank goodness for washi tape.  And the 600 mason jars I seem to have hoarded since my sister’s shower.

How to put together a 1,000 piece puzzle in an 800 square foot condo

  1. Sort through each piece (if you have fellow puzzlers, recruit them to help here) in the box and remove all outer edge pieces.
  2. Connect your outer edges (this step alone may take 6-7 years).
  3. Review the puzzle box and determine which major categories pieces will fall into, for example: buildings, boats, dark water, light water, sky, trees.
  4. Label your mason jars (or other suitable containers with lids) with each of your categories and get to sorting.
  5. Tackle one jar (and effectively, one area of the puzzle) at a time.  You can keep the other jars tucked away while you focus on the “dark water” jar.  Or whatever.
  6. Pay someone to finish the puzzle when you get bored and/or distracted by something shiny.  Like, say, a different puzzle.
  7. Once all of your jars are empty, you should have completed the puzzle.  Unless something bad happened…

Wondering what to do once you’re done?  Consider donating your puzzle to one of the following places:

  • Hope Lodge – There are currently 31 locations in the U.S., all which offer free lodging in a warm environment to cancer patients, and their families, while they receive treatment.  
  • Your local library (many have puzzles available for loan)
  • V.A. Hospitals and Clinics – Puzzles are a great way for patients and their families to pass the time in waiting rooms.  Check with your local V.A. Hospital to learn more about making a donation.
  • Senior Centers and assisted living facilities – Our senior friends were alive before Angry Birds.  They know how to complete puzzles, which can be great tools for socialization and work on motor skills and concentration.

…just please be sure there are no missing pieces before you drop off a box or two. 😉

Also On Tap for Today:

  • 3rd CrossFit workout of the week (I am making good on my intention to show up more)
  • Happy National Running Day!
  • Making a summer bucket list

What’s your favorite way to restore yourself?

Today: A few simple steps for a better life.

I had one of those weeks.  The kind where you get to your desk and think… I don’t remember driving to work.  The kind where, at the end of the day, you forget where you parked.  And subsequently, you walk from one parking level to the next, casually pressing the alarm button on your key ring.  The kind where you eat frozen yogurt for dinner.  The kind where you wake up in the morning, feeling like you could use another six hours of sleep (maybe because you ate frozen yogurt for dinner?).  The kind where you wonder if wearing tomorrow’s suit to bed would give you a jump on the morning routine (a bad idea, I assure you).

Not exactly the healthiest week.  But we all have ’em.  And fortunately, it’s a long weekend – perfect for getting a little much needed rest, and getting back on track.  More good news:  some of the best steps we can take for a better life are also the simplest.

A few simple steps for a better life:

1.  Take off your shoes when you walk through the door.

Your shoes pick up all kinds of cooties, germs, and particles throughout the day.  Leaving your shoes at the door will prevent you from tracking those nasty things throughout your house.  Need more convincing?  Here’s 37 reasons to leave your shoes at the door.

Fellow dog owners would do well to wipe their pets’ paws after walks.  Just think (on second thought, maybe don’t) about what those little fellas walk through.

2.  Consider making a switch.

It might be taking the stairs instead of the elevator.  It might be a piece of fruit instead of a cup of juice.  It might be a phone call to a friend instead of a television show.  Small switches can make a big difference, without requiring a lot of added time or effort.

For me, making the switch from dairy milk to almond milk has been an easy and effective way to ensure I get plenty of calcium in my diet, without the unpleasant effects of lactose.  I grew up drinking skim milk with every meal, but when my doctor and RD prescribed all kinds of tests and elimination diets last summer, dairy was at the top of the no-no list.

Single-serve cartons of Silk PureAlmond – I was thrilled to find these minis in the market. They’re much more commuter-friendly than a large, previously-opened carton of non-dairy milk. And yes, I have had one of those tip over and spill in my handbag.

Nick and I were already using almond milk in smoothies, coffee, baking, and protein shakes, so it was not hard to make a total shift.  Cheese was another story.  I came close to weeping before a wedge of brie at our favorite Whole Foods Market.  While I am back to eating dairy in small quantities, we still tend to opt for almond milk over cow’s milk.

There are the obvious benefits (50% more calcium per serving than dairy milk, shelf stable before opening… in your purse or elsewhere), but it’s also a taste thing.  I simply prefer almond milk at this point.  If you’ve made the switch and are looking for a little inspiration, check out these recipes featuring Silk PureAlmond Unsweetened shared by a few fellow bloggers on Silk’s Facebook page (where you’ll also find a $1.00 off coupon to um… sweeten the deal).  New recipes are being added regularly, and they all look fantastic.

3.  Bring home a plant.

Plants help purify the air around us.  They give us something to care for (I think this is important).  They look pretty.  And, apparently, they can make us smarter.

Lacking a green thumb?  Here’s a list of  24 easy to care for house plants.

4.  Give your cell phone some thought.

Every now and then, I use my iPhone for making actual phone calls.  You know when you’ve chatted just a little too long, and suddenly your phone feels like it’s been in the microwave?  That can’t be safe.  When Pong Research sent me a protective case, designed to reduce radiation exposure,  I hesitated to read their materials for fear I’d be convinced to forgo my phone all together.  Then I saw something really cute I wanted to Instagram.  Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too prevent harmful radiation aaaand over-share on the Internet too.

This is the thing: It’s possible that many of the devices we use daily are harmful.  Maybe a little, maybe a lot.  Spending time worrying and imagining (two favorite past times of mine) accomplishes very little.  Give your cell phone usage, or microwave usage, or super-amazing-hold hair spray some thought.  Research alternatives.  Come up with a plan to limit the harm you may be causing yourselves or others.

5.  Take a walk.

I take what I call a “wellness walk” (nearly) every day.  I usually fold in office errands, like grabbing the mail or making a bank deposit, but I always make sure I have a few minutes to myself to just be.  To say hello to the older people who gather near the playground by my office.  To look at the clouds (another favorite past time, one more productive than worrying).  To stretch my legs a bit.

I always return to my desk feeling refreshed and re-energized.  On days when I am at the office for especially long hours, these walks help break up the day and keep me feeling connected to everything going on beyond my desk.  They give me perspective.  It only takes a few minutes (I am rarely gone more that 10), but it makes a world of difference.

It’s pretty incredible how one simple, smart choice can lead to more simple, smart choices.  And how simple, smart choices lead you to the exact spot where you parked this morning.

FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign.  All opinions are my own.

Also On Tap for Today:

What healthy switches or swaps have you made?

Today: The sport of fitness has arrived. {Part 1}

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]I can think of no better way to end a wild week than a day of fitness with a lovely group of ladies.

Reebok generously welcomed a group of FitFluential Ambassadors to their headquarters in Canton, Massachusetts (just a short trip down the Expressway) for what proved to be an incredible experience.

Despite logging a pathetic ten hours of sleep between Wednesday and Thursday nights, I couldn’t help but feel energized crossing Reebok’s campus.  From the minute I reached the reception desk, I felt warmly welcomed.  I met two ladies who also live in Southie, so you know they’re good people.  Their team is friendly, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and above all, they clearly love what they do.

The day started with Johnice Graham giving us an introduction to the brand and their current campaign, The sport of fitness has arrived, as well as their partnership with CrossFit.

For the record: I still get chills every time I see that ad.  I also kind of love the Chad Johnson and Annie Thorisdottir one.  Mostly because I kind of love Chad.  Probably as much as Tina loves Annie.  The workplace culture was remarkable, there is no mistaking that Reebok employees practice what they preach.  As Johnice shared with us, in the last year alone, Reebok employees have lost over 4,000 lbs. by engaging with fitness in the workplace.  From an on-site CrossFit box to walking paths, fitness classes, sports fields, and a track that wraps around the headquarter’s main building, it seems there are limitless options for getting and staying fit.

I especially liked the “express WODS” posted throughout the building.

The morning’s discussion provided the perfect segue into our first workout at Reebok CrossFit ONE, in our matching Reebok gear and RealFlex kicks.

I’d heard Tina and Mal rave about their visit to CrossFit ONE earlier this year and was really excited (and admittedly, a bit scared) to give CrossFit a try.

Austin Malleolo, head coach at CrossFit One and one of the best CrossFit athletes in the world, gave us an introduction to the CrossFit philosophy and took us through a quick warm-up with Caleb Diebolt before we paired up for a partnered WOD.  The advantage to being engaged to a CrossFit addict is that I’ve unknowingly absorbed all the lingo.  I was excited to see kettle bell swings and running on the workout, but pull-ups?  Not so much.

[Photo by Kelly Olexa]

Sarah asked me to be her partner, and I eagerly agreed… until I remembered that she had her videographer with her.  I’d like to apologize to all of her viewers for any and all of my on camera time.  Fortunately, Sarah saved me when it came to pull-ups and jumped in whenever I was close to giving up.  That’s the beauty of a partner workout.  Want to see us in action?  Kelly Olexa posted this great video of the two of us.

The kettlebell swings were definitely my favorite, and Austin, Caleb and the other coaches were great about helping us with form, and motivating us all to crank out a few more reps. We finished three rounds in 15:03.  A quick and sweaty workout, to be sure.   And yes, I can see what all the hype is about.

[Photo by Kelly Olexa]

I’m looking forward to hitting up an intro session at our neighborhood’s box soon.  I think I’m ready to sip the Kool-Aid, especially after talking a bit more about it with Bridget during this morning’s run.  I’ve been promising Nick that I’d join him at CrossFit Southie one of these days, and with work craziness starting to wind down for the new few months, I am running out of excuses. 😉

Highlights from the afternoon included a focus group and discussion on women’s footwear and apparel, a visit to Reebok’s Human Performance Engineering Lab (safety goggles!), and a cardio dance class with Ilyse Baker that had us stomping, shaking our hips, and channeling our inner Beyonce.  More on all of this to come. 

{Oh hey… here’s Part 2.}

In the meantime, many, many thanks to Johnice and everyone at Reebok, as well as Kelly and the team at FitFluential for making the day possible.  I am so grateful to have been included.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Running (and catching up) with Bridget 🙂
  • IMAX movie at the Aquarium
  • Grocery shopping, laundry, and other glamourous things

How do you stay fit at work?  

Today: Yes, you May.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]This year is flying by at a frightening pace.  May shows no signs of slowing down.  I feel like I should be wearing safety gear.

I was cleaning out our cabinets this weekend, pulling out cans and boxes to donate to Feed the Need, when I came across a box of Wasa crackers that expired in June of 2011.  “Good,” I thought, “another month free and clear of botulism.”  Wrong.  It’s 2012.  I am still not sure how that happened.

With work busier than ever, it’s no surprise that old “I skipped Spanish class so many times that I am afraid to go back to class” recurring dream crept into my sleep Sunday night.

Let the record reflect that I never skipped a single Spanish class, but the dread always feels so real when I dream that weird dream.  I think it usually means that I’m over-scheduled and worried about letting something I’m responsible for slip through the cracks.  Or that I need to brush up on my romance languages.

Regardless of the fact that I feel like I am holding on for dear life, there’s a lot to look forward to this month:

  • Zella Day of Movement at Nordstrom this coming Saturday– all are welcome!  Check here to find the nearest participating location and join in the fun.
  • Clark’s Therapy Dog exam
  • The New Balance Falmouth Road Race Lottery opens on Monday, May 7th
  • My last big work event of the academic year, plus some work travel down South
  • A visit to Reebok Headquarters with the FitFluential family
  • Mother’s Day 🙂
  • Follow-up with my RD
  • The New Balance Reach the Beach Relay with #teamoffbalance
  • My sister-in-law’s shower (which means the baby is on the way!)
  • My sister’s law school graduation 
  • Boston’s Run to Remember
  • Memorial Day Weekend
Goodness, gracious.  That’s a whole lot of fun to be had.  Someone pass me a helmet.
Also On Tap for Today:
What are you most looking forward to this month?