Friday, December 12, 2014

Middle School Dropout

Sixteen charts, three boxes, one giant trashbag of papers that needs to be shredded, and countless tearful goodbyes...

... and I am officially a middle school dropout.

I may have disliked a lot about the job, but I will never forget the awesome people. And the craziness.

Some highlights from my year as a middle school prevention counselor:

1. My first day, being welcomed by the 80-year-old "matriarch" teacher of the school: "I BETTER NOT see you talking to the men here. MY men. Don't think you can take over because you're a pretty white girl!" *Walks away huffing and puffing* She turned out to be nice. Sort of.

2. Hundreds of after-hours emails from my supervisor. Most were stressful, but some were very kind and flat-out hilarious. She would text pictures of her grandchild, too. I really will miss her.

3. Fights. And getting an ID machine thrown at my head. And the kid that caused a code red lockdown by trying to jump the gate with a backpack full of drugs and a weapon when he was suspended. And the kid that brought an 8-inch kitchen knife to school.

4. Everyone calling me "MAZZOOOOLAAAAA! Like the oil!" after I got married, even on the loudspeaker, because they knew I didn't change my last name. And asking me why I haven't given my man babies yet. And telling me to "Tell your sexy man we say hey! *wink*"You know people like you when they tease you endlessly :)

5. The marching band, drum line, and drill team, which were just as good as the high school.

6. Hearing all the inside drama, because I'm the counselor, and counselors don't tell secrets. :)

7. Making new friends! I have found it very difficult to make friends after college, especially because I'm a shy, socially awkward weirdo... at least I feel like one at all times on the inside, even if I seem outgoing. It was incredibly intimidating coming in to a school where everyone is from a completely different culture. Surprisingly, this is the first time I have felt like I fit in with people at my job. I've never felt more at home. On top of that, my fellow counselors at other schools were so supportive. Luckily, I will be working with one of them again starting Monday. We will be RUNNING THAT SHIT.

8. Mrs. Cooper giving me Beanie Baby cats to put in my office, because she knows I'm a crazy cat lady.

9. The end-of-the-year teacher bash at Bradley's... and riding a mechanical bull for the first time with all of them cheering me on. You know you work with a good crew when you can still show your face at work after that and get pats on the back. Yiiiikes...

10. Letters from the kids telling me how I saved their life or a friend's life, or that seeing a smiling face helps them come to school every day. Just getting ONE of those letters makes all the craziness worth it.

And now, I move on to my next adventure. I have switched jobs quite a few times now, but I don't think that's a bad thing. I realize now that there is nothing wrong with trying to find a niche that makes me happy, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to explore different paths in life. Screw what convention says! Screw what society says! I AM A REBEL! Just kidding, but really, I only get one life, and I plan to drink as much of it up as possible. While wearing my Converse Chuck Taylors. ;)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Body Shaming

I recently came across an article entitled "How Your Body Image Affects Your Daughter's Self-Esteem" . The article mentions this Dove commercial:


Both are worth checking out (especially the commercial... kids with British accents sound so cute), but for you lazies out there: The way you talk about and treat yourself has an influence on the way those who look up to you view themselves.

Now, let's talk about the recent onslaught of nude celebrity photographs that have popped up all over the internet. Kim Kardashian's butt, her sister Kourtney's pregnant body, and Madonna's topless photos. If you haven't seen these pictures... I'm not posting them here, so you can use The Google to look them up yourself.

What I would like you to do, if you do view them, is look at the comments in the articles where the pictures can be found. I guarantee you will see comments along the lines of, "EW gross," "Nobody wants to see old lady boobs," "Her ass is way too big," "She looks way better than her sister," and "I don't know why anyone would show that off."

Can we all PLEASE STOP BODY SHAMING? Stop shaming your own body, stop shaming the bodies of celebrities, stop shaming the bodies of your children. I am not telling you to be okay with nude pictures being plastered for the world to see. If you think that is inappropriate or immoral, okay. But if you think telling Kim Kardshian that her huge ass is disgusting is only affecting Kim, or no one at all, you are sorely mistaken.

The things we say about each other's bodies, and our own bodies, have a much bigger impact on children than you might realize, and it can create a life-long cycle of self-esteem issues. I can still remember the first time I ever heard the term "husky" used to mean chunky. I was in first grade. A mom had said it to her other mom friend about a little girl. I am sure the mom never realized the impact her gossip had on the children who could overhear her, but the next week, one of the boys called ME husky. I wonder where he learned that? I cried. As silly as it might sound to you, that moment was probably the first time I ever looked at myself and saw something wrong with my body instead of just seeing legs that danced and arms that threw footballs. Add the media's increasing influence as I got older, plus other girls and women body shaming themselves, and you have a recipe for body-image disaster. Sadly, I am far from being the only one who has a story like this to tell.

Idealizing any one type of body can have a horrible affect on the kids who see and hear about it. Many people believe it is inappropriate to call someone fat, but calling someone "too skinny" can be just as hurtful. Saying Kim's butt is huge and disgusting sends this message: "Your butt is ugly if you have a butt that looks like Kim Kardashian's." Saying that Kourtney's pregnant body is gross sends the message that women look gross when they are pregnant. Saying that no one wants to see Madonna's old boobs sends a message that you can't be beautiful when you reach a certain age. Now, if you are a woman reading this, are YOU okay with that? Don't YOU still want to feel beautiful, even if your body is starting to age? You should, because you CAN be beautiful at any age, weight, and shape. You don't need to be completely ripped, or curvy, or NOT curvy. You just need to be you.

I try to stay away from provocative topics, because I really am not trying to stir up trouble. I just think it is very important for people to be kinder to each other. The internet is a scary place, and it is easy to hide behind a screen and fling insults at each other. It is also easy to criticize ourselves, because we see the flaws that other people don't see in us. But these words and actions have an impact on the people who look up to us, even if your criticism has nothing to do with them. I am going to make an extra effort to stop body shaming myself. The cycle needs to end here and now.

Keep the future generations in mind in all that you do. If you want the world to change, it needs to start with you.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Tis the Season!

Tis the season for missing family.

I haven't posted a real life update in awhile because... I guess because there hasn't been much to write.

Or there has, and I just haven't wanted to write about it.

BUT NOW, it is time to release all the craziness.

I knew fall was going to be difficult for me, and it was. All of October, I had Halloween to look forward to. The stretch from Halloween to Thanksgiving felt like an eternity. I think November is going to be the Florida equivalent of the Months of Doom and Gloom that I experienced in New Jersey (January-March). I've lived here long enough now to feel the seasons change, and even though it's still 70+ degrees during the day, that is much different than 90 degrees. I want to feel normal, but my brain is saying, "IT'S COLDER THAN IT WAS, SO YOU SHOULD FEEL SAD AND ANXIOUS AND GO INTO HIBERNATION!" At least it's a shorter time period, but it still sucked. Really bad.

Eric's dad came to visit, which was nice and uplifting during the November Doom and Gloom. I had a little vent sesh with him and Eric about my job. I am glad I have supportive family who accept me no matter what. I love working with the kids, and I love my supervisor, but something just did not feel right. Things were getting crazy at the school, which comes with the territory, and doesn't really scare me, but... one girl brought a knife, another kid almost threw the ID printing machine at my head... I love the kids to death, but not LITERALLY TO DEATH. Come on. And it is not okay to get two hours of broken sleep per night and want to throw up every morning.

So, like a sign from the heavens above, my friend told me her addiction rehab was looking for a new therapist. I figured there was no harm in checking it out... and they hired me. It was a giant internal struggle, because I have been counting on the millions of days off I get in the school system to make it through life. But I would get a pretty nice pay increase at the rehab, and mental health/addiction therapy is where I feel most comfortable. Maybe if I felt more comfortable, I wouldn't NEED all the time off to make it through. Maybe I would actually LIKE going to work every day, with a friend, at a small rehab.

So I took the job!

I feel awful about leaving right before Christmas, but everyone at my company and the school has been very understanding, supportive, and excited for me. I feel like everything happens for a reason. There was really no down side to taking this position. And Eric made a good point: If I truly hate this position, too, then maybe this field isn't for me.

We shall see.

Thanksgiving was sad without our family, but it was fun with our Florida fam. Chloe looked adorable in her little turkey dress, the Eagles won, the food was delicious, and everyone was happy. Kristin and Ben's dads were giving me house-hunting tips. I am really lucky I have people down here looking out for me, seeing as I am clueless in all aspects of adult life.



A few days after Thanksgiving, we were lucky enough to have visitors in our area! My cousin Matt, his wife Emily, and her family were in the West Palm area. Eric's brother is actually best friends with Emily's brother, so Eric's family and all of them are buddies. Weird how our families connect like that! We met them for lunch at Dubois Park. I have never been there, but it was such a beautiful place to have a little picnic. It's right on the intercoastal by the Jupiter inlet, with a great view of the lighthouse. I don't get to see Matt and Emily nearly enough, seeing as they've lived in Utah for many years now, so it was REALLY nice to see them in my new home.



In Christmas news, I have had Christmas music blaring 24/7 to get my mind out of the Doom and Gloom and into Christmas Spirit mode. Eric and I invested in an artificial Christmas tree on Black Friday, much to my chagrin. It should be arriving soon, and it is a very nice one, but I grew up with a real tree. I am very adamant that fake trees kill the Christmas spirit. MURDER IT. No offense to you fake tree lovers. It's just not what I'm used to. We will be in Florida for Christmas this year, so I won't even see a real tree, or my family, or snow. I might cry.

My parents sent down a Christmas package for us, which almost made me cry when I opened it. Here is what was in it:
Christmas dish towels, light-up snowman, "snowballs", and ELF ON THE SHELF! What should we name him? Eric says "Tinklepoo"... so please give us some suggestions... 

Eric's mom made me a stocking (yes, she made it herself!) to match Eric's stocking from his childhood. One of the nicest gifts I have ever received.

My own nativity set!

Our first husband-wife ornaments

A unicorn, Gene Simmons, soft pretzel, and us... What can I say? We're eclectic.


Mistletoe!

My childhood ornaments are in these boxes! A few of my faves: airplane, Lucy the psychiatrist (I am basically her), Converse Chuck Taylors (duh), tailgate cooler full of beer (college), and my Frog Princes. When I met Eric, my mom didn't need to buy me any more of those guys. :)

These will end up going on my HALLOWEEN tree in the future, but they can go on my Christmas tree for now :)

 And to top it all off, my mom packed some of the ornaments in THIS lovely gift bag they had left over from one of my Christmas gifts last year:



This was probably the best package I have ever received. I will miss my family more than words can say on Christmas, but now, our apartment will feel a little more like home to me. I'll be sure to post pictures of our place once it is completely decorated, tree and all.

So, there you have it. Things are changing rapidly, but such is life. I have come to accept that things will work out for us no matter what. Life is too short to worry and be sad all the time. That is much easier to say than actually feel, but I am trying my best.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A World Without Alzheimer's

Yesterday was the four year mark of my grandmom's death.

I talk a lot about my Aunt Joyce's battle with cancer, but I tend to not share as much about my grandmom. Not because I didn't care about her as much, but it is a crappier situation for me to recall. Not that losing Aunt Joyce to breast cancer wasn't horrible... she just always carried on, was optimistic, and made it seem like nothing was wrong until the last two weeks of her life, honestly.

My grandmom, on the other hand, had Alzheimer's disease. For those of you who don't know, Alzheimer's is a form of dementia. A buildup of proteins in the brain cause plaques and tangles to damage the brain cells. An early sign is difficulty remembering newly learned information and recent conversations and events. It gets worse over time and leads to serious behavioral changes and confusion, and eventually affects the ability to do anything for yourself. You don't know where you are, or when you are, or WHO you are, for that matter. You don't recognize your family and friends. You just... aren't YOU anymore.

I remember the first time I realized that something was really wrong with Grandmom. I was watching TV one night with my parents, sister, and grandmom. I don't think she was living with us yet at this time, but she stayed at our house for several days in a row pretty often. I forget what prompted this to happen, but she started asking really weird questions about people, and where we were. It became apparent that she had no clue why she was there and who she was with. She asked who I was. She started getting very agitated and upset, and we tried to calm her down, but she just did not know what was going on at all. Think old lady Allie in The Notebook, when she remembers Noah for a minute, then all of a sudden forgets who he is. This was my first experience with my grandmom acting like that.

She moved in with us for awhile. I would keep an eye on her after school if my mom had things to do and my dad was at work. I called it grandmomsitting. We didn't want her to wander away down the street, or leave the stove on, or do something else completely out of character. Kristin, Lauren Ann, and my boyfriend at the time, Drew, would come over to hang out. Grandmom started forgetting who they were. I'm pretty sure it got to the point where Drew was my husband, Lauren was my sister, and Kristin was my friend Margarita. We weren't trying to mess with her, really we weren't. It just got to the point where it was very upsetting to me when she would ask who we were. I had to do something to make us laugh so I didn't cry.

Eventually, she needed 24/7 care. She moved to a long-term care unit in a nursing home. She didn't remember any of us, she never remembered us visiting, she didn't remember my mom going there every single day to be with her. She didn't remember where she was anymore or what day it was. She started to speak a lot of Italian. She asked a lot about my Grandpop, who hasn't been alive since the 1970s. There were some strokes and a lot of hospital visits thrown in there. At the end of her life, she was bedridden and wasn't really saying much at all.

She was the strongest woman I have ever known. She lived in an orphanage in Italy as a child, survived a bombing in World War II (she had a really cool scar on her arm from being stitched up in a bomb shelter), immigrated to the U.S., and raised two boys while working her ass off for her entire life. So I really, REALLY hate that she had Alzheimer's, because it is just the most unfair disease for someone like her to get.

Despite these circumstances, I have so many more good memories of my grandmom than bad. She would take Linny and I for walks around her apartment complex to see the fish pond and flowers. She always had those strawberry hard candies that melt in your mouth in a candy dish in her apartment. She loved to garden. She would sit outside and watch us play while she tended the flowers and swept the sidewalk with a broom (yes, she literally would walk down the street with a broom). All the neighbors knew her and loved her. She taught us how to play card games and told us her life stories... the same stories over and over... but I didn't even mind, because her life was so damn interesting. The little bit of Italian I do know, I learned from her. Every morning: "Buongiorno, Nonna! Come stai?" Do I even need to mention her cooking and Christmas Eve? No, I do not, because everyone knows Italian grandmothers are the best cooks. Our family traditions would not exist without her.

I am sharing this story to hopefully bring some awareness about Alzheimer's disease. Lots of people hear about it, but I don't think a lot of people truly understand the horror of this disease. You can be a completely healthy person, but you have completely lost your mind. Your body deteriorates last. The amount of care and attention needed for the person suffering is impossible for any family to take on, physically and mentally.

There is no cure.

If you are ever doing a fundraiser for a school or work event, please consider raising money for the Alzheimer's Association. This disease needs more attention. Visit them at http://www.alz.org/ to learn more about Alzheimer's disease and how you can help.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

THIS IS HALLOWEEN 2014

Halloween has come and gone, and it managed to be quite a festive occasion, despite there being no colorful, crunchy leaves littering the ground.

I was determined to make it feel like real Halloween season (i.e. not 80 degrees), and the only way to do that was to add some Halloween charm to our little apartment. If I had a house, I would have purple and orange lights and cobwebs and pumpkins and ghosts hanging from trees, but since I am confined to a small indoor space and on a budget, I had to get creative to make it feel like Halloween.

Halloween on all the closet doors:


This could stay up year-round...
Halloween in the bathroom:
I'm a little obsessed with pumpkin-scented things. This soap and candle were a Halloween gift from Eric's mom last year!

Halloween on all the lightswitches:
I am also obsessed with ravens, so I think this is the coolest. It was Eric's idea!
Halloween dish towels:

And, to top it all off, the beginning of my very own Halloween village!:
My mom sent the house in the middle to me as a gift last year, along with a bunch of my other decorations, for my first Halloween down south. This year, she surprised me by sending two more houses and the creepy glowing tree silhouette. Kristin gave me the jack-o-lantern tree, and Linny sent me the Nightmare Before Christmas book! I bought the All Hallow's Eve sign at Jo-Ann Fabric (they have GREAT Halloween sales mid-month), but had no good place to hang it. I really had no place to set things up properly, so our dining table became a makeshift Halloween display.

Next year, when I have a house (yes, when), I will be able to go ALL OUT for Halloween. But this was good enough for now :)

Halloween night ended up being as good as possible with our Florida fam. It was a very Disney-themed year. I was Cruella De Vil, and Eric was the Mad Hatter. Kristin, Ben, and Chloe were the Evil Queen, Snow White, and the Prince. Their families and a bunch of our friends came over. We went trick-or-treating for Chloe's first Halloween (to three houses, which is plenty for a 6-month-old with 11 adults following along), followed by lots of spooky-looking, delicious food and pumpkin beer from Tequesta Brewing Company. A couple of the neighbors actually came over and played games with us, so we made some new friends. AND the temperature dropped in to the 60s, so it even felt like fall!

All in all, it was a pretty clutch Halloween.

Now... WHO'S READY FOR CHRISTMAS?!?!?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

FACE YOUR FEARS

I did possibly the most terrifying thing of all time today:

I made a morning announcement over the PA system at school.

Yes. It was really, truly scary. I thought getting married in front of 200 people was the scariest thing ever, but no, it was not. I had my best friend up there with me, who also had to walk and talk and pose in front of all those people. Also, those 200 people happened to be people who love us and care about us and don't judge us for being awkward weirdos.

A morning announcement, on the other hand, is all me. Alone. Talking to hundreds of people who are not my friends. A majority of them are kids who look for any reason to make fun of you, even if you are a nice, smiley "bubbly cheerleader" (it kills me inside when they call me that...). My voice booming all over the entire school, so literally everyone can hear me, whether they are in class or in the office or sitting on the toilet.

I forgot all about it, until I walked in this morning and saw the date on my computer. Today is the start of Red Ribbon Week, just so you know. It's a week to spread drug prevention and awareness, which is obviously my job. So, big week for me. I had planned to make an announcement today about it. I wrote it out and everything so I wouldn't freeze up and not know what to say.

My hands were shaking so bad, and I thought I was going to throw up while I was waiting for the Pledge of Allegiance to be done. But then I got the mic, and I read the paper, and I survived. People in the office started clapping when I was done. I swore they were being sarcastic because I did a horrible job. I couldn't even remember reading the paper afterwards. I completely blacked out. I couldn't remember if I had even read the whole thing or stopped in the middle. I walked so fast back to my office and shut the door for 10 minutes to calm myself down and convince myself it was okay to show my face around school.

Guess what? No one even looked at me funny the rest of the day. One of my teacher friends said she heard my announcement, and I told her I had been insanely nervous to talk this morning. She was shocked. She said I spoke clearly, at an even pace, and didn't sound shaky at all. That's why people were clapping. Because everyone messes up when they make announcements, and I actually didn't mess up at all.

No one can ever tell when I'm freaking out on the inside. I have had lots of practice with looking calm and composed.

Today made me realize that I have faced a lot of fears lately, and I have A LOT of fears. Like way more than the average person. Let's see, what else have I done recently...

1. I posted a picture of myself without makeup on Facebook to participate in the No Makeup Challenge. I'll post it again for all the interwebz to see:

There. I've spent way too much of my life analyzing my appearance and worrying about what other people think of how I look. Time to be done with that.

2. I called to make a hair salon appointment. My mom did this for me up until... well, now.

3. I got a manicure for my wedding. People touching my hands? All those horror stories you hear about infections? Scary.

4. I actually had a wedding. We already talked about how anxiety-provoking that was.

5. I flew on a plane about 203584240582 times in the past year.

6. I traveled internationally without my family. And got sick in a foreign country. I didn't mean to conquer that fear, but I kinda had no choice, so oh well.

7. I DROVE to the airport to pick up and drop off visitors. Okay, it was the little Palm Beach airport, not the crazy Philly airport, but still.

8. I gave a presentation at my work staff meeting.

9. I taught a classroom full of kids... with an assistant principal observing.

10. I went to the dentist alone without chill pills.

11. I sang karaoke at a bar while I was still somewhat sober. Hah.

12. I went snorkeling.

13. I went to the movies a couple times, and once, I didn't even sit in the aisle seat.

14. I ate at a restaurant and didn't sit facing the wall.

15. I started sleeping in the dark. With a mirror in my room. AHHHHHH

16. I ate junk food and drank alcohol without running that morning, or that night, or the next day, or even the next whole week. I let myself enjoy food and drinks ON A REGULAR BASIS without feeling guilty. That's a big deal for me.

17. I wrote this post. It is really scary to be honest about this kind of struggle with pretty much everyone I know, but I do it in the hopes that it will help someone else. And also, I like getting things off my chest. It helps not to have to bear the burden alone.

You should try conquering your fears. If you struggle with anxiety,  try gradually exposing yourself to the things that make you anxious. Make a hierarchy list, ordering experiences from least to most anxiety provoking. Start off small, doing things at the bottom of the list. Baby steps. Eventually, you will work your way to the top. I still haven't done the number one thing on my list, but one day, when I get back to the Jerz, I will.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Autumn Awesomeness: My Top Ten

As I sit here on a cloudy, hot, and humid South Florida morning, I am thinking of all the best things about the fall season.

Here are my Top Ten Things of Autumn Awesomeness (I'm so eloquent):

10. Leather Jacket Weather

Leather Jacket weather (or LJ weather, as I affectionately call it) is one of the best things about fall, but it is the last thing on the best things list. This is because, while cooler weather is a relief after the heat and humidity of summer, I can only stand it for so long before I want summer to come back. I don't like when my face starts to get too cold and red. However, the pro of LJ weather is, of course, looking badass in an LJ.

9. Candy Corn

You'd think this would be numero uno on my list, what with how I go on and on about it. Candy corn is possibly the most delicious thing about autumn. I ate three handfuls of it last night, and it was glorious. Then, my teeth felt like they were going to fall out, and I got a tummy ache. So worth it though. And they look so cute sitting in a clear glass jar, so they double as decorations! EDIBLE DECORATIONS.

8. Changing Leaves

Yeah, it sucks to have to rake them up every other day, and you run a high risk of getting poison ivy from jumping in the piles (is this just me?). But it really doesn't feel like fall until the leaves start changing. In my opinion, there is nothing in nature more beautiful than seeing bright reds, oranges, and yellows as you drive down the road or walk in the woods.

7. Apple Cider

It's good hot. It's good cold. It's good with a shit ton of alcohol in it. If you tell me this isn't the best drink of the fall season, you are a liar, kind sir.

6. Fall Makeup

Summer's bright colors are fun, but black, plum, and deep berry reds are the best. They're classic, beautiful, and pretty much universally flattering. And I feel much more comfortable in dark colors (hi, this is Lauren's inner goth speaking). Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics makes this crazy amazing product called Lip Tars. That sounds gross, but it's just highly pigmented liquid lipstick that you apply with a lip brush. You barely need any product, so one tube lasts forever, and the original formula dries to an almost-matte finish. I live for the time of year when I can start wearing the Black Dahlia color.  See? OCC Lip Tar

5. Fall Fashion

Leather jackets, flannel, boots, and beanies. This time of year is by far the most comfortable and stylish, at the same time. If I can look pretty by literally picking clothes up off my closet floor and throwing them on haphazardly in 2 minutes, that's a win in my book.

4. Thanksgiving

ALL THE FOOD. Especially pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and cranberry sauce. I really miss having Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt Joyce's house with all the cousins. Aunt Joyce was like Martha Stewart. She'd make everything all fancy. We'd each have a task, whether it was folding the cloth napkins, designing place cards, or making talent show programs (for the after-dinner entertainment, of course). She even taught us how to make designs on top of the soup once.

3. Pumpkin EVERYTHING

Pie. Beer. Cookies. Ravioli. Air freshener. Candles. Decorations. Poptarts. The (in)famous Pumpkin Spice Latte. ACTUAL PUMPKINS! Pumpkins are the best thing that ever happened to the world, because you can use pumpkins for everything. They're cute. They're orange. Their seeds even taste delicious. The only pumpkin thing that sucks is the pumpkin-shaped candy corn. Those things are IMPOSTERS, man. Gross.

2. Bonfires

Is there anything better than an autumn bonfire? Yes, I guess so, because there is still one more thing on this list. But bonfires are the runner-up. Making s'mores, drinking pumpkin beer or spiked cider, sitting around the fire listening to Coheed, Circa Survive, or Bright Eyes (that might just be me), all with your best friends... Put on your LJs and get out there, fools.

1. HALLOWEEN

Did you really think anything else would be number one on my list? Hallowen is The Beatles of the fall season. It combines pumpkin everything, LJ weather, changing leaves, apple cider, and candy corn. It ups the ante for fall fashion and makeup by making it COSTUME fashion and makeup. IT ADDS ALL THE CANDY OF THE WORLD IN TO ONE NIGHT. Plus, it's magical. And spooky. And I used to think I would become a witch on the Halloween of my 16th year, like Sabrina or something. Halloween is the best.

If you read all this, you either really love autumn, or you're really bored. Either way, I hope you feel quite festive after reading my list. I encourage you to make your own list, even if you don't like fall. Thinking about the best things helps you forget about the worst things!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sweet, Sweet October

I pretty much despise celebrating holidays before it is actually time to celebrate them, i.e. Christmas decorations being put in stores in September...

BUT.

This year, Starbucks released their pumpkin spice latte in late August. Yes, that is way too early, but I could not help myself. I had to have one. I don't even like coffee, but I had to have one. And once I have a taste of the fall season, it is impossible to hold myself back.

Luckily, I had the wedding to worry about in early September. As soon as that was over, all autumn-celebrating hell broke loose. I restrained myself for a couple weeks, but after the first day of fall, I let myself overdose on fall things.

Now, it is October 1st, and there are no other holidays between now and Halloween. That means...

IT'S HALLOWMONTH! And the week of Halloween is Halloweek. And actual Halloween lasts all weekend this year, because it falls on a Friday.

Halloween is by far the best holiday. Christmas Eve is the best day of the year, period, but that's only because my family is insane. As far as the actual holidays themselves go, it doesn't really get better than Halloween. Halloween is the only day of the year where you can be whoever or whatever you want and not be judged. You get to be someone completely different, or be your true self. Face your worst fears, or live your best dreams. It doesn't matter if you are a kid or an adult, or an adult with kids. Everyone can find joy in Halloween. The air feels electric. For one day, it's easy to believe that magic could be real.

Everyone thinks I'm nuts when I explain this to people, but I don't care.

Anyway, that is why October is the best month. We are in the thick of the autumn season. It doesn't feel like it yet in Florida, so I am purposely going crazy with fall-themed things and Halloween celebrating to make it feel right.

What's everyone being for Halloween?! You have to know already. YOU HAVE TO KNOW. It's important. If you don't know yet, you have 5 days to think about it and get back to me.

Besides being Hallowmonth, October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month. For those that don't know me well, this is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. My Aunt Joyce passed away in 2006 after a long struggle with breast cancer. I would definitely not call her a victim of breast cancer, because she was totally not a victim. She went in to remission twice before it came back for good, and even then, she continued to work, travel, and be the same, awesome Aunt Joyce that we all knew and loved. I have no bad memories of her, even toward the end of her life. Just memories of how strong, positive, loving, and "cool" she really was. Cool Aunt Joyce. Bringing us stickybuns from Cassel's and taking us to Broadway shows and hosting fancy dinners and hot fudge tasting contests and talent shows and making us Shirley Temple "fancy" drinks.

When Aunt Joyce passed away, I kept a wall hanging that belonged to her. It was given to her by a friend a bit before she died. It said "celebrate life." That is exactly what she did, and it inspired me to hang on, especially at that time in my life. A very hard time in my life. Seeing that sign every day completely changed who I am as a person and my perspective on life.

South Florida's Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is coming up in January. I think I can get myself to run a 5k again for a good cause, and I hope other people will join me as well! Anyone interested? It would be cool to sign up as a team and do some fundraising to help combat this illness that has affected so many of us. If you are interested in this idea, please let me know. You could even walk! It's not about the time; it's about the effort! I'll even wear pink... it's like the Lauren clothing equivalent of a unicorn sighting. And if you don't want to participate, I hope you will cheer me on, in person or in your heart, and help me celebrate my Cool Aunt Joyce and all the other fighters out there :)


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reality Hits Hard

After our sickmoon (that's a thing now, remember?), Eric and I had to go back to work the very next morning. I was still sick, pretty much.

The entire week consisted of about 600 emails from my supervisor asking how many clients I admitted (it's been an hour since I got back, chill), getting started on my teaching curriculum, contacting police and a kid's mom because he was suicidal (she didn't think it was a problem...), calling DCF because a girl was in tears and physically sick with worry that her dad was going to hit her and her mom (DCF told me she's probably sick because she's pregnant...), and a mom breaking down on the phone with me because her daughter OD'd on molly at 4am and they're living in a hotel and she's doing the best she can for her kids.

I know I got in to this field to help people. I don't do this because it's easy, and I definitely don't do it for the money (there is none). I do it because I am saving people's lives.

This was just too much to handle this week.

I don't know if I can handle this kind of stuff on a regular basis anymore.

I don't think saying that makes me weak, or not good at my job. I think it's the reaction any empathetic human being would have to working in this field. I am good at what I do. I love what I do. But at the end of the day, when I get home, I am left feeling exhausted. Self-care is something they preach to counselors, because how can you help other people if you aren't okay yourself? But I'm too tired to read a book, cook dinner, play my piano, go for a run, or even talk to Eric. I just want to sleep. And then, I'm left feeling like I do nothing but work and sleep.

It's not a good cycle to create, and I'm stuck in it. It's not fair to Eric. It's not fair to myself.

The system just pisses me off. Is DCF seriously trying to tell me that the little girl is sick because she's pregnant? She's sick with anxiety, so sick that she leaves school every day to make sure she's home in case something happens to her mom. You DCF idiots. I don't trust the system because of things like this.

I try to keep things optimistic, because I learned the hard way that being negative gets you nowhere. I really do try to see the best in everything and everyone. I try to see all sides to every story, and understand why people think the way they do. Most of the time, I can stay positive.

Right now, I am having a really tough time doing that, and I'm not going to pretend otherwise. 

I am frustrated.

I am upset that the world is such a fucked up place. "But even helping one person is a success! You made a difference!" Sure I did, and thank god for that one kid I helped. I just wish I never even had to help that kid in the first place. Why do people have kids if they are going to hurt them? Do you know how difficult it is to stay calm and composed when a kid is hysterically crying in terror at their own PARENTS? Or when a mom laughs at me when I say their child is suicidal, and says, "Oh you don't need to worry about him." God, it really, really sucks, but I refuse to harden myself to it, because then I wouldn't be as good at what I do.

After this week, I was tempted to drive directly to the airport on Friday and hop on the next flight to Philly. Thank god I came from a good family. I just want a hug from my parents after weeks like this. And I miss fall weather. All I want is to curl up in a flannel with my cats, drink hot chocolate and read a book. And stuff my face with candy corn. But it's still 90 degrees here, so I have about 3 months before the 70s kick in on a regular basis...

Do you see what just happened? I am now complaining about the weather in Florida, which is EXACTLY why I moved here. Look how negative I am being! Ugh, this makes me want to punch myself in the face.

Eric and I went to see Coheed and Cambria on Friday at House of Blues in Downtown Disney. It poured the entire 3-hour drive up and back. We were soaking wet by the time we got in to the venue. There were a ton of rude kids there pushing and shoving. If you are 6'5", and a short little girl (not me) asks if she can squeeze next to you so she can see, and you say no, then you are a jerk and don't deserve to see Claudio tear it up for 2 hours. Go away. And no, I do not want to watch the entire show through your CELL PHONE because you need to record every second and not actually enjoy being there in the moment.

People make me angry. And I sound like a crotchety old woman.

Regardless, that may have been the best show I've ever seen. It was a complete 180 from the last time I saw Coheed during their Year of the Black Rainbow tour. That was the Coheed "Dark Ages." Claudio didn't say a single word to the audience the whole time. He acted like he didn't even care, and there was no passion in the performance. THIS time, it was incredible. The whole thing was just epic. I can't even describe it.

Eric and I got coffee after the show and talked the entire drive home. It was actually pretty nice, even though we were exhausted. It cheered me up :)

Other good things did happen this week. We watched Monday Night Football with Katie and Paul, and we got to see Ben and Kristin yesterday. Eric and I got some post-wedding stuff sorted out and went on a late-night WalMart shopping trip, where I found autumn-themed poptarts and pumpkin air freshener! Today, we're going to watch football with more friends.

So, while this week was not a good re-introduction to the real world, there was a silver lining in the form of friends and music and fall gimmicks. I let myself be negative for a little while, but now it is time to be positive again, because clearly, life could be much worse for me. That doesn't mean I am not allowed to think things suck sometimes. What it does mean is that, after venting, it's time to realize there are still many things to be grateful for, including my loving family, supportive friends, pumpkin pie Poptarts, and Coheed. These are the things that get me through. Especially pumpkin pie Poptarts.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Jamaica, mon! The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

We are back from our honeymoon, and oh, what a honeymoon it was.

Are you ready for this? I don't think you are ready for this. I'll try not to go in to TMI territory.

So, we went to Jamaica for our honeymoon. It was Eric's first time out of the country, and my first time going international without my parents, so it was a little daunting. The plane ride was fine, there was a long line at customs, but it was fine, and we walked over to the Sandals shuttle! Piece of cake.

Eric and I were the last people to have our bags put on the bus, so we were the last ones on. I tried to let Eric go ahead of me, because I hate picking seats, but the nice bus guy said ladies first. But really I knew he just wanted to talk to Eric about selling him weed, because Eric tends to get targeted for these things, what with the long hair and tattoos. So Eric takes about 10 seconds to get on to the bus, and I look at him, and he goes, "So, yeah, I already got offered weed." Hahahahaha welcome to Jamaica.

We got to the hotel after a 5 minute bus ride full of about 100 "Yah mon"s from the bus driver, and we were met by a few other nice Sandals staff who gave us about 100 more "Ya mon"s, along with some "One love"s and "Respect!"s.  So, if you were wondering, Jamaicans really do talk like that, and it's awesome.

We were escorted to our room by a lovely fellow, where we found a premium stocked bar that gets refilled daily and a fridge full of Red Stripe. Red Stripe was the only beer there. It's like the Coors Light of Jamaica, which is way better than actual Coors Light, thank god.

We decided to grab a couple drinks and take a look around the place. It was super duper awesome. There were a couple pools, including a swim-up bar, volleyball court, basketball, darts, pool tables, OBVIOUSLY a really nice beach, tons of water sports, and even croquet! The scenery was beautiful. The staff was super friendly.

We had a great dinner the first night, and afterwards, I fell asleep at like 7:30. I was seriously exhausted from all the craziness going on the past week. Eric was tired too, so we decided to rest up so we could enjoy the rest of the week.

The next day, we chilled on the beach, met a cool couple from Canada at the swim-up bar, played drinking games and talked hockey with them, then went to take a nap and shower before dinner.

This is where things go downhill...

We wake up a little after 4pm to get ready for our reservations at the other resort. Sandals is really awesome, and you can go to their other resorts close by for free. We wanted to eat at one of the fancy restaurants over there. Anyway, Eric wakes up, and says he doesn't feel good. Me, thinking he's just being a baby (because he really IS sometimes when he's sick), I tell him to seriously not do this right now. "You're just tired, you need to really try to wake up, you never feel good after naps in the middle of the day (which is also true), I am NOT canceling this reservation," etc. etc....

PUKE.

Eric never throws up, so I knew something was seriously wrong. We went to the nurse's station, but she leaves after 5pm. We canceled the reservations and decided to see how Eric made it through the night. I ordered room service dinner for myself. As for Eric, he did not fare very well that night...

The next day, we decided to try to go to the beach. Eric said he would go to the nurse if he felt worse throughout the day. Well, he couldn't keep anything down. Not food, not water, nothing. He was really out of it. After his 3498753948th trip to the bathroom, he said he thinks he has a fever and needs to go to the nurse.

So, we went. And he had a 101 degree fever, bad stomach cramping, couldn't keep anything down, and was extremely dehydrated. And we had to call a doctor in. A JAMAICAN doctor, who said "Yah mon" a lot just like everyone else in Jamaica. He prescribed Eric a lot of medicine  (not weed, sorry guys) for fever, nausea, and stomach issues. He prescribed a lot extra, just in case I got sick. But it had been a couple days, and I felt fine, so I was sure it was food poisoning and would pass soon.

Eric felt well enough to go to dinner that night, but it didn't last very long. Poor guy still couldn't eat. We took it easy that night and chilled in our room, again.

The next day, he felt better and better as the day went on. A miracle! The doctor said by 4pm this day, he should be feeling much better. That was the truth! We had a nice dinner that night, listened to a band play, hung out. He was still very, very tired, so we went to the room early to rest up for the rest of our awesome vacation.

UNTIL...

Yes. That night I got "the sickness." IT WAS AWFUL. This is where I must avoid going in to TMI, but I will just tell you that it was literally the worst sickness I have ever had in my whole life, and I don't even blame Eric if he thought I deserved it after telling him to stop being a baby that first night before we knew what was really going on. My stomach had spasms so bad, I swear it's what contractions must feel like (and if contractions are worse, which I know they are, I am definitely never having a baby). Horrible, horrible pain, so bad I couldn't stand up. I started crying. It felt like someone was wringing out my stomach and punching me. I got dehydrated pretty fast.

Just think of the worst stomach virus anyone could possibly have. That's this.

I think it hit me harder and faster than it hit Eric, although I recovered much more quickly. It must be because I started taking the medicine immediately. I was bedridden all Friday, but I was able to keep food down for dinner. In the room, of course. We spent pretty much every night in the room, as well as a few of the days.

The next day, Saturday, our last day. We both felt okay. We took it easy on the beach and enjoyed the views. We finally went to dinner and ENJOYED it. We felt well enough to stay up and go out (without drinking, of course), but after awhile, we didn't anymore, so we went to sleep.

So, there you have it. The story of our honeymoon. It was more like a sickmoon. Is that a thing? I don't care, it is now. I was pretty depressed about the way things turned out for us. I hated not being able to call my parents. I hated being scared that we had some crazy sickness. I hated that it should have been this romantic, amazing, stress-free vacation, but it ended up being really scary and not so much fun.

But then I got a Cinnabon at the airport (because FUCK YOU, STOMACH), and had a little pity party, and got over it.

What I will say is that you do not know someone until you spend a week in a foreign country's hotel room together, taking turns running to the bathroom and dry heaving in to trashcans, wondering if you have ebola or some crazy shit. You really, really get to know someone after this kind of experience.

And what I found out is that I married the best guy ever, and we are definitely meant for each other. We took care of each other through this, managed to make the best of it, and were able to laugh about it.

Maybe one day, we will be able to take on Jamaica again and conquer it. Until then, I think we'll try to stick to more comfortable, homey locations... like Africa or the Amazon or something.

:)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

September 5th, 2014

HI I'M A MRS.!!!!

But Eric said we can't call each other husband and wife til we're 30, cause we're not grownups yet, obviously. So maybe we'll just keep calling each other beyoncé. We liked that.

I don't even know where to begin with this. I'll start with the planning process, since I haven't gone in to much detail about it over the past year. I had originally intended this blog to be for venting about the stress, but Eric and I wanted people to be surprised by the little details. 

It was going to be a big event by default, because we have a lot of family and friends, but a big, traditional wedding just did not feel like "us," so we decided to add some music-themed things to make it feel more personal. Each table was named after a band and had an album cover and section number on it, rather than having boring regular numbers. The place cards resembled tickets, giving the name of the band, section number, and special guests Mr. and Mrs. Blah Blah. We had people "autograph" a guitar instead of signing a guest book. That way, we can hang it on our wall with our other guitars and look at it every day! The guitar case served as our card holder. I brought an Angus Young figurine, a metal Beatles lunchbox, and some music note ornaments, which went around the cake stand. Speaking of the cake, our topper said "All you need is love" :) It was enough music stuff to make it feel special to us, but not too corny.

Eric designed pretty much everything for the wedding. The website, Save the Dates, album covers, place cards, and ceremony programs were all him. Eric actually had a lot of say in the details of the wedding. I am grateful that he didn't want to be completely uninvolved. Some brides might like that, but that is way too much pressure for me. He is so talented and worked so hard over the past couple weeks to get the last-minute stuff done.

Our parents also helped out a ton. From transportation to easels for the album covers to the all-important alcohol, our parents had shit covered. We literally would not have been able to have this kind of wedding without them.

I was feeling way too stressed the past few weeks, especially the week beforehand. After a certain point, you know things are out of your control, but I still couldn't help stressing over stupid things. And I was nervous as hell about the day. I barely ate the week of the wedding, honestly. I feel sad for girls who feel the need to do crazy cleanses or starve themselves the week before their wedding, and I had no intention of being like that, especially being back in the Jerz. Pizza? Cheesesteaks? Cannolis? Good Chinese? You couldn't pay me to stay away from that stuff, even during my wedding week. But I was so anxious I just couldn't eat :(

Let me tell you something about having anxiety issues and getting ready for a huge event where EVERYONE is looking at you and listening to you. Normal people get anxious about their wedding, so try to imagine how it feels for someone who is anxious all the time. It's like the worst possible situation for someone with social anxiety. I have trouble just answering the phone sometimes, so the thought of 200 people looking at me was not exactly appealing. Eric and I decided to do a First Look to take some of the pressure off. It made us feel like we were in it together, and there wasn't a huge buildup of anxiety before the ceremony.

Although I did have a minor freakout before they opened the doors. But it was fine! I took a deep breath and held on to my dad for dear life. :)

I can't begin to tell you how amazing the entire night was. The weather held up for the ceremony. My cousin Chris did the best job officiating. Our bridal party, parents, and grandparents looked like they belonged in bridal magazines. Eric's vows made me cry. My dad, Linny, and Alex all gave toasts that made me cry. Everything made me cry! Hahahaha I was kind of a happy wreck, but that's okay.

People aren't lying when they say you won't eat, you'll get pulled in a million different directions, and the night will fly by. I swore I would sit and eat my dinner, dessert, and then go talk to people. Yeah, that didn't happen. I got through half my DELICIOUS stuffed flounder and decided I wanted to hang out with people! I don't even think I got to talk to everyone, and I feel awful about that. We really tried, but everyone was on the dance floor and moving around, so that's okay! But Eric and I did take a minute before dinner started to stand up, look around the room, and take it all in. All those people were there for US. It was overwhelming. It made me cry (surprise!).

My favorite parts of the night, if I can even choose, were:
- Seeing my dad's face when he saw me in my dress for the first time
- Seeing Eric for the first time
- The whole ceremony (sorry if that's cheating)
- Entering the reception to Thunderstruck by AC/DC
- Photobooth!
- Bacon wrapped scallops
- Dancing with everyone, especially my first dance with Eric, my dad's dance, dancing to AC/DC and KISS, Good Charlotte, Soulja Boy, the Wobble, the Mummer's strut, and Love Your Friends Die Laughing as the last song :)
- JAGERBOMBS, because a Deeg party is not a party at all without them
- Wearing my Converse Chuck Taylors with my gown (of course)
- Seeing our friends and family having a blast

The entire night was better than we ever could have imagined. When family asked us the following day what little details went wrong that guests didn't notice, we could not think of a single thing. It was literally our dream wedding. We hope everyone who came had as much fun as we did!

Here are the vendors who made it possible:

Venue: Valenzano Winery
Photography: LuRey Photography
Dress: Maggie Sottero- Blakely, from Angel Bridal
Hair: Revelations Salon
Makeup: Mostly Sunny Bell, and some myself
Flowers: Anton's Florist

Food, Planning, Decorating: Summit Catering- Maitre d' Betty
Cake: DiBartolo Bakery
Music and Photobooth: Time Productions- DJ Tom, Super Shots Photobooth
Liquor and Beer: Murphey's Market

I highly, HIGHLY recommend every single one of them. Everyone was so on top of things, so helpful, and so kind to us and our guests. Summit Catering not only does food, but helps you plan the entire day. Our maitre d', Betty, is the best person ever. She made sure everything was set up perfectly. And she's hilarious. I kind of want to be her friend. We have received so many compliments on the food, the kindness of the staff, and the talent of our DJ and photographers. Speaking of photographers, Laura and Easton of LuRey Photography are awesome and gave us a sneak peek of our photos... AT OUR DINNER TABLE. Yeah, that's right. They put up a slideshow of some pictures they had already taken. We saw it first, then they displayed it on the bar for everyone to see. Here's one they posted on Facebook already!


So, there is a very scatterbrained post about our wedding. We just finished packing for the honeymoon, and we are still running on basically no sleep, so I'm a little out of it right now. After our trip, I'll be able to show you all the wedding photos, and I'll post about the honeymoon, too!

Until then, I will be in Jamaica drinking 2945347 pina coladas with mah HUSBAND.

:)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

One Year

Happy One Year Anniversary of moving to Florida to me!!!!

I am going to spend the day relaxing on the beach next to palm trees, swimming in the clear, blue water. Maybe go out on the boat with some friends. Pack a cooler with beer and snacks, and a Tervis cup full of vodka. You know, the usual.

... jk, I'm actually right back where I started this day a year ago: my computer chair in the Jerz. Hahahahah go figure.

But this time, I am just here as a visitor, with a job, a home, a life to go back to in Florida. Last year at this time, I had been engaged for two months, had just quit my job, and was getting ready to live as a hobo in Kristin and Ben's house. I showed up with nothing but a suitcase and an optimistic attitude. And Kristin told me she was pregnant when I got there. And now, they have little Chloe, and Eric and I are getting married in two days.

Eric recently asked me if I feel like Florida is home yet, if it feels real yet that I live there. He has adjusted much better than I have to the move, surprisingly. I have moved around so many times over the past eight years, so you would think I'd settle right in, but moving so often has actually caused the opposite to happen. I still have a hard time justifying hanging paintings on the walls of our apartment, buying cabinets for storage, and putting things away, because I feel like the past year has just been another phase of my life that will end with me moving back to Jersey.

Each phase was some sort of challenge. Each semester of college was a phase, with exams and papers. Once exams were over, I looked forward to going home for a couple months every winter and summer. Grad school was a phase, with papers and internships. I knew I never wanted to stay in Baltimore. I always thought I would move back to Jersey, and I did, for over a year. Then, Eric and I got engaged, and went to Florida for vacation, and decided to just drop everything and move there. Any vision I had for my future went completely out the window in a month's time.

So now, this phase has felt like: get engaged, move to Florida, plan a wedding from a thousand miles away, then you'll get married and things will go back to normal.

But they won't. I will get married and go back to Florida. Probably look for a house since we like it there so much. This is my new normal.

I never thought anywhere other than Jersey would be my normal.

Along with moving away from my home home, my family is also getting rid of my home away from home. The Longport house is sold. The new people make settlement September 15th. I went there this past Saturday to say my goodbyes. I am very sentimental when it comes to places (and life in general, let's be honest). I had so many good memories there: slumber parties with my cousins, riding bikes with the neighbor kids, playing in the flooded street after storms, walking to the beach and the bay, eating cotton candy on the way home from the boardwalk, hot fudge taste tests, "fancy drinks" on the porch, monkey man fan blades, molasses pops, everything Aunt Joyce, creepy dolls, walking to Maynards with friends when I got older, Eric proposing...

I still remember the first time my family pulled up to the house, and I asked if it was the white one with pink shutters. And it wasn't. It was the one with black shutters. And I got really pissed because I wanted the PINK shutters (opposite of how I am now, how silly).

Little did I know how much that place would come to mean to me and my family and friends. I will miss it more than any other place. Even more than this house where I'm sitting now, if it were to ever be sold. I will miss the Longport house most out of anywhere.

Enough of my tangents. Things change. People move on. Such is life. I am getting married to Eric in two days. We've been going nuts the past couple weeks trying to get the last details together. I have my hair trial today, and we are meeting with our day-of planner tonight to go over every detail. We are bringing all our supplies. After tonight, things are out of my hands. This is where my Type A-ness kicks in, and I truly freak out because I have no control over the situation.

BUT, if the past year has taught me anything, it's that losing control can be the best thing that happens to you in your life. It's time to sit back, relax, and go along for the ride. Good thing this particular ride includes lots of dancing and drinking :)

Okay bye, talk to you when I'm a Mrs.! Stay tuned for a picture post of my time in Jersey, the wedding, AND the honeymoon :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I need the smell of summer, I need its noises in my ears

I just wrote a huge rant, and I am not even going to post it. I'm going to post another, more vauge rant instead. If it comes off as preachy, that's because it is. I'm preaching what you all already know to be true. I'm just putting it down in one place to reiterate it to the interwebz. People need to hear it as often as possible, especially right now.

The bottom line is that life is too short to be anything but happy.

If you are unhappy at your job, quit. I mean, please think about it before you go making rash decisions, but a well-thought-out risk can change your life. Start planning now and do everything you can to break in to the job that WILL make you happy. You spend the majority of your waking hours at work, so you sure as hell better enjoy what you do.

And if you have a higher degree and feel like being a stay-at-home mom, or a nanny, or a makeup artist, or a plumber, GO FOR IT. You are not wasting your education. That knowledge will always be with you, and you will use much of what you learned throughout your life, no matter what you choose to do. Screw what people say. Life is too short to care. If people are really going to judge you for doing something that makes you happy, they need to reevaluate their own lives.

On that note, can everyone stop being rude to each other? Be a good friend to your friends. Life changes. People grow up, move away, have babies, get married, travel the world. These experiences change people. You may not always be in the same place in life as your friends, and you might not have the most in common at times, but that doesn't give you an excuse to be a dick. Your friends are still your friends, and just like any relationship, friendships take work to last. Remember where you came from. Be empathetic. Ask them questions about their experiences. Show some interest in their lives. Care about them. Support them. This goes for family, too.

People just need to stop being so cruel to each other. Stop judging people. Stop alienating people. Stop being mean. You only live once. You will meet so many people throughout the course of your life. You may clash with some, and that's okay. But if someone has different beliefs that clash with yours, do you need to be judgmental? There is a difference between having intelligent debate and being rudely judgmental. Just do what makes you happy and let other people do the same (we're not talking drugs and prostitution here, people. You know what I mean). And if someone has done nothing wrong to you or your loved ones, and you just happen to think the person is weird, or you get annoyed by him, keep your mouth shut please. That doesn't mean talk about him behind his back. That means learn to process your feelings in your head and let it go; vent to a trusted best friend, significant other, or therapist; or keep your distance from that person if you think you can't control yourself. How does it benefit you, or anyone else, to be mean?

It doesn't. It won't make you happy. It will fill you with animosity and bad vibes. You will not feel better by making someone else feel bad. At least not in the long run, and that's what matters.

I have a wedding less than two weeks away now. Most of the planning is done. I am excited to see how all the flowers and decorations look when they are put together. I am still super pumped to eat, drink, and be merry. But most recently, I have started to become excited about the actual ceremony, and what it means that so many of our friends and family will be there for it.

This is a sign that good still exists in the world. Two people, declaring to be there for each other through good times and bad, supported by the love of friends and family.

That is how the world should be for everyone. Help make it that kind of place.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

EAT YOUR TACOS, TUNA: A Bachelorette Weekend Tale

Eric and I got to spend an extra week in the Jerz with our friends and family. It was for a sad reason, but we were happy to be able to be with family and friends at that time. So happy that we had a pretty hard time being okay with coming back to Florida. But, as everyone was telling me, I only had two days after I got back until I had visitors arriving for my Bachelorette Weekend in West Palm.

Eric and I got in Monday night. On Tuesday, we opened all of the packages that people had sent here for my bridal shower. Holy crap, there were a LOT of packages. We received so many amazing gifts, so thank you, everyone! Wednesday, Kristin and Chloe came over to help me clean up and organize my place for visitors. Kristin did a lot. Chloe just sat in her little rocker the whole time, pffft that lazy baby! :P

Lauren Ann got in on Wednesday night. We went to Ale House with Ben and Kristin and Chloe, had some food and drinks, talked like old times. Only now we all have decent significant others and a baby sitting there with us. Kristin, Lauren, and I hadn't all been together since high school. High school feels like a different life. I was a completely different person. But at the same time, it feels like no time has passed.

Thursday through Sunday was spent at a rental house, complete with a patio and pool in the back yard. Kristin, Katie, Lauren, Linny, Sunny, Katherine, Nicole, Helen, Erica, Erin, and Becca were ALL there. I'd go in to all the details, but I'm pretty sure you can just go to Facebook and Instagram #deegslasthurrah and see everything documented. The weekend generally consisted of lots of drinks, pool time, good food, dancing, bull riding, and karaoke.

The worst part of the weekend: I had to wear a pink tutu and a crown with Jordan almonds glued across the front.

The best part of the weekend: We all had matching black "Team Bride" shirts, complete with skulls on the front. MY friends wore SKULLS, in public, for ME. It was hilarious. I feel truly loved.

The real best part of the weekend: Friends from all different parts of my life were in the same place, at the same time, getting along with each other, talking like old friends, acting crazy together. People came to visit me from Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, DC, and Florida. That's pretty impressive. It was surreal to see Lauren and Kristin and Linny together again, the UD girls and Kristin finally meeting the people they've heard so much about from my college life and my Florida life, and Erin, my newest girl fam, being so loved that she was named an honorary Minty.

I stepped back a few times just to look around and take in the mental image of people from completely different parts of my life, all being friends together. Whoa. It was intense, guys. I can't wait until the wedding, when the other 200 friends and family are added in to the mix. I feel really, really loved and happy.

And NOW: IT'S CRUNCH TIIIIIIIME! Getting all the finishing touches put together, because in exactly one month, it's party time.

Life is crazy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Celebrate Life

This has been a whirlwind trip to the Jerz. Eric and I got in last Friday night, July 11th. It was so good to see our parents and drink NUGGET NECTAR! The trip has been very busy for both of us, with Eric working from home and me doing all sorts of wedding things. I had a nice day with Sunny at Longwood and we messed around with my makeup for the wedding, did some planning and discussing with my parents, talked about the ceremony with our very professional officiant Father Chris, applied for our marriage license, and got my hair highlighted and cut two inches off because it was too long to be held securely in an updo hahaha. So much stuff.

But most importantly, we spent as much time as possible with our family and friends. On Friday night, Eric's grandfather passed away. We are really sad, but I am so glad we were able to be there with him and our family if this had to happen.

I grew up not knowing most of my grandparents. My grandpop passed away when my dad was a teenager, and my pop pop and mom mom passed away when I was very young. My grandmom passed away only a few years ago after a long battle with Alzheimer's. I have the best memories of all my grandparents, like playing crazy 8s with my mom mom, my pop pop always giving me tic tacs, and watching my grandmom prepare delicious food while she told me about her life in Italy. But I still wonder what it would have been like if my mom's parents had lived to see me now, if I had met my grandpop, if my grandmom hadn't had Alzheimer's.

When I started dating Eric, I saw what it was like to have grandparents. Now that we have been together for almost five (woah...) years, I feel what it is like to have grandparents as an adult. It is the best. They have all made me feel so loved and welcomed me in to their family.

Eric's grandpop Mazz was one of the best people I have ever met, and I'm 99.9% sure every single person who met him says the same thing. He genuinely cared about helping everybody he knew. He was in the counseling field for so many years. Even my mom remembered him from when she was in high school and he worked for the guidance department (I won't say how many years ago that was for my mom's sake ;) ). When I was going through grad school and struggling to find a good counseling job after I graduated, he went out of his way to let me know of any job openings he heard about, gave me contact names, told me about different organizations. He would tell me about his experiences as a counselor, how he dealt with things, how he handled it professionally and personally. He was the only adult I knew who understood what I was going through and had the experience to back up his advice. And no matter what was going on with him, he asked me every time he saw me how the counseling stuff was going.

I hope he knows how much he has affected the people he has met. He is somebody I will always look up to and see as an inspiration, not just because he was Eric's grandfather, but because he made everyone, including me, feel like they had the strength to keep going in the face of adversity. His life is definitely one to be celebrated.

My bridal shower was still held on Saturday, which was difficult, but it turned out so nice. My mom, family, and friends worked so hard to make the afternoon a good time for everyone. It was probably the best thing at the time, to be surrounded by family and friends and keep in mind that we have a lot to look forward to. I still can not believe how many people were there. I don't like being in the spotlight, and I don't feel like I deserve any attention at all. But what DOES deserve the attention is the fact that I clearly have the best family and friends ever. So supportive and kind and generous. Eric and I are grateful that we have such amazing family and friends. We love you guys. The whole reason we are doing all this is because we want to celebrate with YOU. The day was the better than I ever could have hoped.

So, Eric and I are now staying in NJ for another week. We're gonna spend as much time with family and friends as possible, and continue to celebrate life <3

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sitting.

I've been too busy doing super cool things with my life to blog. I'll fill you in on it now. I've been...

SITTING!
- inside.
- outside.
- in the shade.
- in the sun.
- by the pool.
- on the beach.
- with a book.
- with a drink (or two or five).
- with friends.
- by myself.

Ahhhh, it has been nice.

But I have also been doing a lot of wedding stuff while sitting, like talking to vendors, doing research online, planning the last details.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but wedding planning is making me really anxious. Is that normal? I hope so. There is too much to think about. For my entire life, I have been planning my dream wedding in my head. Black tie, fancy, long train and veil in a church with lots of stained glass, literally everyone I know there. I think my first board on Pinterest was a wedding board (besides the food board. Nomnom...), and I wasn't anywhere near engaged at the time

Then, I ACTUALLY got engaged, and I realized I didn't want ANY of that. I had no clue what I really wanted. Church? Not for us. Black tie? Why the hell did I think I wanted a black tie wedding? When have I EVER liked that kind of fancy thing? And then I figured I wanted some backyard tent wedding, really hippie-dippie and rainbow and DIY. LET ME WEAR JEANS! But that's a little difficult when you're inviting 200+ people. It's also a little difficult when you are trying to avoid being exiled from your family for bucking tradition (Jordan almonds, anyone?).

I don't care what anyone says. A wedding is not just about the bride. I would never be happy if our families were offended or Eric hated everything about the wedding.

When we decided to move to Florida, everything became even more complicated. There can't really be any DIY stuff even if I wanted to do it, because it would be so annoying to ship things back to Jersey. Especially if I have delicate things. Sure, I can have people help me up there, and I would be very grateful for that, but that kind of takes the fun out of it for me, doesn't it?

I wanted to actually do stuff for my wedding. Instead, all I can do is talk on the phone and email. Every single time I go home to visit, I am almost completely booked with wedding stuff. Dress fittings, salon appointments, vendor meetings. I barely get to see my friends and family when I'm in Jersey.

I am getting really, really excited for the day, and of course to actually be married to Eric. But I am also just anxious. I don't like being in the spotlight. I don't want my appearance and actions to be analyzed and judged (I swear I don't think you are all mean people. This is just how my messed up brain works, no matter how hard I tell it to shut up). I am terrified to trip. I want to look good for Eric. I want to make my family proud. I am really worried about getting a lot of things done so the day is perfect for everyone.

Bottom line: I just want people to be happy and have a good time. It is really hard to please everyone in this process and still stay true to ourselves, but Eric and I are trying to make that happen. The most important part of this whole thing (besides bacon-wrapped scallops) is our family and friends partying hard and celebrating with us. Everybody has been so supportive and helpful for the past year. The least we can do to repay them is give them a good time.

SO. That is what I have been struggling with this summer. Besides that, I just sit :)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summa Summa Time!

I haven't really been writing a whole lot, but that's actually a good thing. Writing has always been an outlet for me. I started this blog as a way to help me adjust to moving, and it did its purpose. Not that I am perfectly adjusted, but I have been living life and taking it day by day. I wake up some days and feel really shitty. I miss my family and friends up north. But a lot of days I wake up and am so grateful that I ended up here.

I have lived in Florida for over 9 months now, which is hard to believe. It feels like time is standing still when it's nice out year-round... and I swear I am not saying that to rub the nice weather in your face (although if that will convince you to move here, then yes, yes I am). There is just no extreme seasonal fluctuation to make it feel like the year is passing by. That also means I have been feeling much better, because the less the weather fluctuates, the less my mood fluctuates.

Eric and I have met a ton of really cool people here, so we are finally starting to feel like we have a bit more of a social life. We have awesome coworkers and friends here. Lately, we have been going to the beach, pool, playing games, going out to eat/drink, going to the movies, trying rare beers, and riding mechanical bulls at bars. Wait... what? Let's pretend that didn't happen.

I am completely done with work for the summer. The last day of school was 10 days ago, and the last day of work was this past Friday. IT FEELS SO GOOD. Everyone has been asking me what I am doing for work over the summer. To that, I say NOTHING. At least not this year. One of the benefits of a school schedule is that I get to relax for 2 months, and honestly, I am the kind of person that needs that. Especially right now, when I am trying to figure out the remaining details of our wedding and flying home for 9 days in the middle of July. I may do some babysitting, but I don't think a full-time summer job is a good idea for me right now. If you think I am lazy, you are wrong. People who work in the schools have an incredibly demanding and draining line of work, and it's not something you can just leave at work. Counseling is the kind of job where it's hard to leave things at work anyway, even when you don't work in a school. Having a couple months off to look forward to may have been the only thing that kept me going this past year. I love what I do, but I am really, really bad at practicing self-care.

Speaking of self-care, I had started going to kickboxing, but I destroyed my back a few weeks ago. It was so bad I could barely walk. Remember that mechanical bull I mentioned? Well, after that little incident, I woke up the next morning and felt FINE (although dehydrated...). It popped my back right in to place or something. If you ever have back issues, just go out with your friends and ride a mechanical bull. Way more fun than a chiropractor.

Anyway, I think I am going to try to get in to running again. Loved boxing, but it's a little too expensive right now. Plus, I can get in to a routine of running in the morning now that it's summer. I woke up early and ran on the beach this morning. I did 2 miles and it didn't even feel like it... til afterwards. Running on sand is a bitch. But the breeze was awesome, everyone was happy and waving, and there were a lot of cute dogs to look at!




I am going to try to write a few times a week. It'll force me to get out and do things, so I have interesting stuff to write about. Luckily, I have other school worker and mommy friends who have time off to do things as well :) If they're not around, I guess I'll just sit by the pool or go to the beach... woe is me.

HAPPY SUMMER!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Awesome Dads

Sometimes, I don't think dads get enough credit. Everyone always talks about how difficult it is to be a mom. Don't get me wrong: it IS difficult to be a mom. A good one, anyway. I don't think I could do it. Like I said on Mother's Day, good moms are superheroes. But so are good dads.

Here, I'll use my dad as an example. This is me and Bill:
On a cruise many moons ago in 2007 for his retirement
Bill has been putting up with my crap for 26 years, just like my mom has. When I was little, I had terrible nightmares. I can not tell you how many times I woke him and my mom up because I was scared someone was going to kill me. My dad was a police officer, and that is literally the only thing that made me feel like I would be okay. One night, I swore I saw Bloody Mary in the mirror in my room. I woke my dad up at 3am and made him take the mirror off my wall and out of my room, and he did it, and then slept on my floor for the night, AND went to work the next day. I'm sure he thought I had serious issues, but he did it anyway (and it was never put back. Screw that, I don't need Blood Mary coming after me).

My dad introduced me to The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, AC/DC, and all good, REAL music. I remember sitting there analyzing song lyrics with him, talking about what the metaphors mean. Listening to music after dinner. Talking about the history of The Beatles. Him sitting there listening to me practice playing the piano, even though I would mess up all the time. Spending tons of money to take the family to see AC/DC... twice.

My dad is responsible for my passion for traditions and culture. He sits there every day before Christmas Eve and does THIS shit for hours:
That's my dad peeling and breading a ton of shrimp. A TON.
He also makes gravy, pasta, and broccoli rabe. He spends hours prepping and cooking this stuff. In recent years, he has let me, my sister, my cousin Chris, and even Eric help with the shrimp. Last year, he even let Chris and I fry the calamari (risky, but it turned out fine!). These traditions will be carried on because he cares enough to take the time to do it EVERY YEAR (sometimes twice, for Christmas Eve in July) and teach us youngins how to keep it going. It is by far the most important day of the year in our family, and he and my Uncle Al are responsible for that.

He let me know that it was okay when I was having a panic attack at home for no reason. He didn't say everything is okay, calm down. He said it was okay that I was having a panic attack and continued to talk to me, which is what helped me calm down (never tell a person having a panic attack to calm down. That's a dick move).

He's an animal lover, even though he denies it. He puts himself in uncomfortable positions so they can chill:
Hey there, Binx and Dad
He introduced my sister and I to Longwood Gardens, which has become one of my favorite places in the world. He made it possible for me to take a music trip to Europe, and pretty much demanded that I go, even though I was terrified to leave. He has taken my family on countless vacations so we could spend time together and see the world. He helped me with math homework when I was failing. He has intelligent political discussions with me, even when we disagree. He wouldn't come pick me up from UD when I was homesick and wanted to leave, because he knew I'd never go back if he did.

He also supported my decision to completely drop everything in life and move to Florida, even though he thought I was crazy for doing it. Oh, and he's throwing me a crazy awesome wedding, for which I will be forever grateful.

My dad has been there for me through everything, even when he thinks I'm crazy. And he kept me safe from Bloody Mary. And he kept us all safe by putting his life on the line to do his job.

So, yes, moms are superheroes. My mom certainly is. But so is my dad. And I wouldn't have such an awesome life if it wasn't for both of them being the best.

Thanks, Bill. You ROCK.