Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sedona and 60th birthdays

There are so many times I feel like I have to thank the whole damn universe for surrounding me with these people I call family...and even more so, thankful that I actually want to spend all of my time with them. Just the other weekend my Mom turned 60 (still don't know how that's possible- in my mind I think she'll always be 35 or so) and my sister and I wanted to do something extra special. We knew we wanted to do Sedona, so we searched hotels and house rentals until we found the perfect place, via Airbnb. It can be hard to accommodate all 9 of us, and we're the kind of people who would prefer to stay in one big place together, rather than split off across a hotel, so this little spot was perfect. On a side note, remind me sometime to tell you the story of the one hotel room in New Jersey. Cra-zy.

So anyway, we ended up booking "The Roost" at Sedona Sacred Rocks, which is a former Buddhist Retreat turned healing center. Very, very cool and right up my Mom's alley. Our hosts Meaghan and Stephen were so warm and inviting and made the weekend so special. My Mom, sister, and I actually participated in a few of their ceremonies too. The place is surrounded by hundreds of miles of national forest and the overall feel is incredibly serene and peaceful, so even just sitting on the back porch made you feel good. It was the perfect way to ring in my Mom's 60th.

The whole weekend was full of lots of food (Simon's Hot Dogs, our favorite), walking, hiking, and just enjoying each others' company. 60 is such a big year, and with all my Mom has been through over the past decade it was pretty great to be able to move into a new chapter surrounded by all of the people we love.

Happy birthday, Mom! We love you.

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Journal Day Prompt #9

Before we get into this week's prompt, I've gotten a couple of questions if there's a book of the prompts you can get somewhere, etc. I do have a notebook full of prompts I used while teaching, but all of the ones we have had thus far are from ME- I've made them up week by week. The only idea that really came from somewhere else would be the question about funding an issue close to your heart, and that came from a list of writing ideas in the New York Times, but I wrote the actual prompt myself. I will continue to make these up every week, and if I ever do borrow one from somewhere I will be sure to let you know, so you can check out the source too! :)

Here's this week's prompt-

How would you say your upbringing or background has shaped your idea of beauty? Were you taught to apply makeup or do you hair by your mother or friends? If not, where did you observe what is now your norm as far as beauty practices? And although most of us have been inundated by different cultural beauty "norms" via the media, would you say that television and magazines have had a strong impact on shaping what you think of as beautiful? This week, write about your idea of beauty- how your background has shaped it and what that means for you today.

I'll be back Thursday with my response, and that's where I'll ask you guys to share a bit from your writing in the comments, as well as a link to your post.

Read more about my Journal Day project here.
Read previous Journal Days here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Journal Day #8

Would you consider yourself a religious person? Quite simply- what do you believe happens when you die? Have you always believed this? Do your current beliefs align with what you were taught as a child? And if not, what was the turning point? This week, talk about your religion or spiritual beliefs (or perhaps your lack of), and try to sum up, if you can, what you believe happens "next."


I asked this question because I wanted to get all of us talking- and although I think it's great to be selective with what you share, every once and awhile it's wonderful to dig a little deeper. I've actually written about religion before, and after reading it to be sure I didn't repeat myself too much in a new post (I tend to do that), I ended up sitting here for 45 minutes trying to say something new about it and I realize that there isn't much to add.

So I hope it's not weird if I repost it here- I can't imagine I'll be reposting something old like this again for a future Journal Day, and please forgive me if you've already read it. The comments on the original post are really great and if you have some time to sift through them I highly suggest it- super insightful and beyond interesting. And I really, really can't wait to read what you have to say in your own posts, too.

Here's my response, originally posted here a little over two years ago. I also discussed religion in this post, after losing a close friend and my Grandma in the same week.

(I feel like I have to put a disclaimer on this because inevitably someone will take what I say personally, or the wrong way. Below I share some thoughts about religion (my lack of actually) and nothing I say is meant to question your beliefs or you as a person. These are just my thoughts and my own experiences, and it's important to me that you know that I respect ALL of you, all of your beliefs, and your right to practice, or to not practice any religion you so choose. The beauty of this world is that we are all so different, and I love that this is a safe place for me to share pieces of my life. Thank you.)


There isn't much talk in blog-land about being a non-believer. There's a lot of religious talk, a lot of "I believe," and many beautiful sentiments about life and thoughts and talk of whatever god people want to put their faith into. But there isn't a lot about the lack of god or lack of belief from the other side. I am one of that other side, someone who doesn't follow a religion, and someone who isn't really sure if they believe in anything, really. I believe in Science, if that counts. But as far as a god, or an afterlife, or even a higher power of any kind, I'm not sure. And my "not sure" leans a lot more towards no.

It's kind of scary to put that out there, when I know that it's easy to judge, but it is what it is and that's me. I have plenty of close friends who are religious, and plenty who aren't. In my world it doesn't make a difference to me what you believe in, just that you are a good person with a kind heart.

I grew up Catholic, going to a big, beautiful church in our New Jersey town. I was baptized as a baby, received Communion in the 2nd grade, and was confirmed in the 7th. I can still recite the entire Catholic mass, beginning to end, and have vivid memories of the confessional, memorizing the Ten Commandments, and even scary Monsignor Donovan who would slap your cheek if you took Communion the wrong way. I loved Church growing up, but not for any reason other than I thought that all of the rituals were fun, and I enjoyed hearing the stories each Sunday in class. Most of our friends attended with us, and I even had my first kiss right outside of those big wooden doors in the 6th grade.

We moved to Arizona when I was 14 and we went to a new church a few times, but my Mom stopped making us go, so eventually we stopped going all together. My Dad was actually born and raised in South America, where he traveled with his Reverend father and missionary family translating the bible, but by the time he became a parent himself he had taken a few steps back. My Mom was raised Catholic and attended a very strict private Catholic school and at that point still attended church on special occasions, but without the pull of our friends and our holiday traditions, we all slowly stopped attending.

In college I met quite a few friends who considered themselves atheists. For awhile I thought I could identify with that group, but I soon figured out that labeling myself as that was the same as labeling myself a believer. I wasn't sure either way. And at the same time I wasn't really agnostic because I wasn't sure if I believed in anything at all.

Maybe it's weird but this has never been a big deal to me. I'm not searching to figure it out, and to be honest, religion (or my lack of), doesn't cross my mind most of the time. Recently it's only been a bit more in the forefront as the election looms closer and there's this huge debate regarding the separation church and state, but for the most part it's a non-issue. At times I feel like it would be a bit easier to have a religion, to have faith in something. But at this point in my life, and maybe for always, I know that's not for me. If I had to really talk about my beliefs, what I think really happens when we die, I look towards physics and science and astronomy. I look to people like Carl Sagan, who I find to be incredibly inspiring, and whose words almost always make me think. Science is my jam. And on the other side of the coin I gravitate towards some Buddhist principles too. Really, I am open to the possibility that one day I might say, "Oh, hi there God. So there you are." And I'm also open to the fact that it's highly possible that when I die, I just die.

In a way, I think this outlook has allowed me to be fully in the now. This is my one chance to live and to love this life with everything I've got. At the end of the day I can say to the universe, "THANK YOU," and maybe someone's listening, and maybe they aren't. But I have gratitude, I have a love in my heart for every single day I am given on this Earth, and for now, that's enough for me.

I'll leave you with one of Hank and my very favorite quotes from Ann Druyan, best known as the wife of the late Carl Sagan:

"When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me — it still sometimes happens — and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don’t ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous — not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance… That pure chance could be so generous and so kind… That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time… That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it’s much more meaningful…

The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful."

So there's my response.  How about you? Leave a blurb and a link in the comments below!

Read more about my Journal Day project here.
Read previous Journal Days here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

12 Books To Read This Spring

Spring is in the air people! What better time to sit outside on a blanket, sip some lemonade, and dive into a good book? Or, if you're in my world, try to read a couple of pages around 11pm in bed, before you can't even keep your eyes open anymore. Either way, here are some books I plan on picking up this spring. Have you read any of them? I think I'm most excited about #9, 11, and 12!

Happy reading, and let me know if you have any great books to add to this list too.

one // two // three // four

five // six // seven // eight

nine // ten // eleven // twelve

*I used Amazon Affiliate linking in this post.
To visit Amazon without my link, click here. :)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Charlie, 7 Months Old

Watching a baby grow and change is so much fun, and especially once they hit about half a year old and you start to really see their personality shine through. Charlie at 7 months is pure sunshine. He's one of the most smiley babies I've ever known, and if you were to be around him, I'm sure you'd feel the pure joy he radiates. It will be interesting to watch him grow, and to see if his perpetual smile sticks around. I'm pretty sure it will!


This month:

Charlie has four teeth- the top and bottom two- and is working on the ones on both side of those top two. His teething symptom is a runny nose, and we can tell right away when it's going to be a rough, teething day based on that.
He is napping like a champ on a schedule. His naps are 9-11am and 1-3pm. Nighttime sleeping is still spotty, but getting better. Some nights he will wake up just once, although those always seem to be the nights I stay up way too late so I never get to catch up anyway. Of course!
He is fully sitting up on his own but still likes to roll around on his back and tummy.
Crawling. Kind of. He's great at going backwards and army crawling anywhere he needs to go, but true crawling hasn't happened yet. He'll get up on all fours and rock back and forth, but hasn't yet made the connection.
Food is going well. He's been eating "real food" 2-3x a day and loving it. His favorite so far has been a carrot and broccoli puree.
No binky and no thumb sucking. No lovie either! 
Still nursing and showing no signs of slowing down. Henry stopped right on his first birthday so I'm curious to see what Charlie is like.
Loves to be worn all of the time.
Laughs and smiles all day long. I know Moms probably say that about their kids often but seriously, this kid is ALL smiles, it's adorable.
Loves to be tickled and sang to.
Enjoys bouncing in his bouncer and "walking" in his walker.
His favorite thing is playing with the O-Ball and rolling in back and forth with Henry. So much laughter!


7 months old is the best. Nothing beats going into Charlie's room in the morning and being greeted by those big green eyes and that smile. His all day babbling leaves us laughing all day long, and I can't wait to watch Henry and Charlie begin to play more and more. I'm already getting to see little glimpses of it, and it's pretty amazing. This time has truly flown by, and it's hard to believe we're getting close to the summer, which means we're getting closer to his first birthday. What!

Love you so much, Charlie boy. And like I say in every post, you are our sunshine!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Journal Day Prompt #8

Here's this week's prompt-

Would you consider yourself a religious person? Quite simply- what do you believe happens when you die? Have you always believed this? Do your current beliefs align with what you were taught as a child? And if not, what was the turning point? This week, talk about your religion or spiritual beliefs (or perhaps your lack of), and try to sum up, if you can, what you believe happens "next."

I'll be back Thursday with my response, and that's when I'll ask you guys to share a bit from your writing in the comments, as well as a link to your post.

Read more about my Journal Day project here.
Read previous Journal Days here.

Weekend Links

 so true, right? Does anyone know this source?

Some Weekend Links, on a Sunday...enjoy! xo

An interesting read: Would Walmart's prices spike if they paid their employees more? 

Heathers: The Musical.

The top 10 most followed Twitter accounts.

The wonderful folks at Her Fashion Box sent me a fun treat and I loved it. I'm kind of a sucker for subscription boxes and this one did not disappoint.

How old is the moon?

A toasted coconut margarita- yum!

"I travel to feel lonely...on purpose."

The future of education: 10 trends to watch.

Yay, Honey Maid!

Wishlist: for Hank, for me, for Henry and for Charlie.

How to come to a healthy eating compromise with your partner.

Some women in food to know right now.

"When Cancer isn't just a bad April Fool's joke..." A beautiful piece by my friend Mandi.

The United States of Bros: A Map and Field Guide. "When hipster is ubiquitous, hipster becomes bro. Let that sink in." haha!

Unforgettable performances by the wonderful Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

In Phoenix? My friend Katherine has put together a fun floral design class series.

The definitive ranking of all Roald Dahl's books.

Cheryl Strayed on memoir.

9 hotels that bring books to life.

Oprah-looza? Sign me up!

Loved this article about schooling without technology.

A good read about Tavi Gevinson.

And finally, 30 things to stop doing to yourself. (I may have shared this recently but I can't remember! Either way, enjoy!)