Two beautiful views from dinner with one of my favorite people on the planet last night, in celebration of his 29th birthday (dang, where does the time go?!)...
So which fine California coast establishment did we feast at to enjoy such views, you ask?
Who says at 29 you can't still crave the same childhood favorites? It's your party and you'll Taco Bell if you want to.
It's all about perception, friends. About seeing the b-e-a-utiful all around you--especially in unexpected places. About enjoying the company of old and true friends. About allowing yourself to indulge every once and awhile. About allowing love to flow between us, take new form and grow in the direction it was meant to flourish. And about constantly finding things, people, places to be grateful for.
Love and Light,
Last Friday night (did anyone else just start singing Katy Perry's new single?) I met a new coworkers significant other during a fun company outing (dinner and bowling, woot!). While chatting about our lives I mentioned that Monday had been my 27th birthday. I was delighted to hear her response of "Oh! 27! Happy birthday, what a great age to turn, I'm totally excited for you." She then began to explain that, astrologically, the 27th year marks the beginning of the first return of Saturn in its orbit occupied at the time of our birth and symbolizes the start of major changes in a person's life.
A more eloquently explained Wikipedia summary:
"The Saturn return is a phenomenon which is described as influencing a person's life development at 27 to 29 or 30-year intervals.....a person crosses over a major threshold and enters the next stage of life. With the first Saturn return, a person leaves youth behind and enters adulthood...
The first Saturn return is most significant because it represents the first test of character and the structures a person has built his/her life upon. According to traditions, should these structures be unsound, or if a person is living out of touch with her/his true values, the Saturn return will be a time of upheaval and limitations as Saturn forces him/her to jettison old concepts and worn out patterns of living. It is not uncommon for relationships and jobs to end during this time of life restructuring and revaluation.
But the Saturn return is not all about painful endings. During this time, astrologers note that goals are consolidated and people tend to gain a better vision of where they are going in life. There are added responsibilities and a person may reap the rewards from her/his hard work..."
Man, as if I wasn't already excited enough about my 27th year, this pushes the levels of stoked to new heights! I pretty much feel exactly like this theory describes; any part of my life that I've been living out of sync with my values (c'mon, how many times have you heard me talk about being true to "me"?) is certainly being forced into reevaluation and restructuring, I'm constantly creating and exploring new patterns of living and I feel like I'm working double overtime to gain a better vision of where my life is going.
It is a relief...a hokey one, perhaps....to be affirmed in the knowledge that this is exactly where I'm supposed to be right now; that any ending I face today is really just a fresh beginning for tomorrow. I am truly rejuvenated by this knowledge to continue de-cluttering my life, being a "yes" woman and trusting the process!
Welcome back, Saturn!
The temperature was perfect; sunny and crisp, no need or desire for it to be a degree warmer or cooler. Part of the hike was spent swapping child hood stories, mulling over past relationships and sharing heart felt sentiments on life, love and heartbreak. And the other part of the hike was deeply enjoyed and cherished in silence; the crunch of the trail under our feet, the sporadic symphony of birds and the small splashing stream providing a peaceful soundtrack. I'm grateful for the shared comfort of silence between friends; the chance to be fully present together, to have no need to fill space that is already so lovely on its own.
As we rounded a corner towards the end of the hike a sudden shift took place. With a single step the air rushed in, salty and cold. The smell of earthy greens so startlingly being replaced by the scent of the Pacific Ocean that we both gasped at the same instant, smiling at the knowledge of what was up ahead...Our reward, 4.25 miles later.
My best guy friend sent me the most thoughtful birthday gift this year. As a "thank you" to him I brought the gift along on my hike to photograph--it's symbolism immediately brought tears to my eyes when I opened the package (I understood instantly what he was telling me). Even on my rainy days, he wants me to see blue skies up ahead. A gift for an eternal optimist :) Learning he thinks I have a great outlook and perspective was so humbling. I love this gift and I love you, dear friend. Thank you for being such a wonderful and deeply valued part of my life.
Metaphysical guru Louise Hay teaches an exercise on embracing life that includes the act of standing, once a day, with your arms outstretched while saying "I am open and receptive to all good. Thank you, life!". As she tells her students, life will hear you...and respond. Corny as it may seem, I couldn't resist the chance to thank life, God, the Universe at the top of the bluff. The immensity of the sea always has a way of snapping me back to reality; of reminding me that while my small corner of the world is a fortunate and blessed one, it is also a single life in an ocean of billions. There is no need to fear--cast out your worries, be open and welcoming to all good.
I also couldn't resist humming a few lines of my current go-to summer song, "Knee Deep" by Zac Brown Band ft. Jimmy Buffet.
"This champagne shore washing over me
It’s a sweet sweet life living by the salty sea
One day you could be as lost as me
Change you’re geography
Maybe you might be
Knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair
Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise there’s a fire in the sky
Never been so happy
Never felt so high
And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise
Come on in the water it’s nice
Find yourself a little slice
Grab a backpack of lies
You never know until you try
When you lose yourself
You find the key to paradise.."
Hipstamatic made an appearance, too :)
8.5 miles of soul quenching, limbs stretching, lung filling, skin kissing California beauty was the perfect way to spend my Sunday.
This week I had the pleasure of meeting up with an old friend and co-worker, Queenie, at a vegan restaurant in the city called Cafe Gratitude (can you guess why I like it here?!).
Via their site: "We honor the earth as we honor ourselves and have created a menu that promotes consciousness and sustainability for both our well being and health as well as the planet and all of its inhabitants. We practice business through a view of love we call Sacred Commerce, where we celebrate mistakes, commit to strong communication, and give gratitude for our lives." Pretty awesome mission statement, don't ya think?
Every item on the menu is titled a positive affirmation of sorts (love it) and the wait staff starts or ends the meal by asking you their question of the day (also love it). Our question was "what do you love most about the Bay Area?". Holy loaded question, waitress! Queenie and I both agreed it was that there is so much to see and do, so much life and energy and variation of landscape, within a short driving distance. We are both blessed to live here!
I considered trying to steal this mug :)...
We kicked off the meal with some tomato soup aka "I am Adventurous"...
Then dove into "pizza" aka "I am Hearty" (Deep-dish pizza with sun-dried tomato marinara, pesto, olive tapenade, Brazil nut Parmesan and ricotta cheese on live onion sunflower pizza crust)...
With a side of "mac n' cheese" aka "I am Comforted" (Live macaroni and cheese! Zucchini noodles and sun-dried tomatoes in a cashew cheese sauce with Brazil nut Parmesan)...
And finally topped the meal off with some chocolate and vanilla vegan ice cream, which was DELICIOUS! I love that I can always count on Queenie to save room for dessert :)
I also love that Queenie made sure to put this in her purse the day of our catch up, just in case she absolutely hated vegan food and was dying of hunger on the way home! I'm still giggling...
Overall the meal was really enjoyable and pretty reasonably priced. It felt good to nourish my body with such healthy foods and while I don't think I could ever convert to being a full vegan, it has sparked my interest into at least investigating some potential yummy recipes. The best part, of course, was catching up with Q. Thanks for being adventurous, comforted and hearty with me, doll!
It will probably come as no surprise, but I am incredibly grateful for all of the blessings bestowed on me during my birthday weekend.
My amazing stylist and bestie, Jenny, dressed me in a gorgeous and comfortable piece from her shop Heritage Row for round one of celebrations; I loved everything about this dress (it even had pockets)!
A handful of friends and coworkers joined me for dinner and sake bombs at a local, trendy sushi spot (and then continued the party with a bit of "I refuse to be old" bar hopping afterward). I was humbled, to say the least, to look around and see so many folks taking time out of their busy schedules to celebrate with me. I have somehow managed to build quite the loving, supportive and fun community around me here on the west coast and I sure do appreciate each and every one of their places in my life!
I think people had a pretty good time :)
Sunday was a day of relaxing by the pool and soaking up the AMAZING summer weather in Marin County (just over the GGBridge). We walked into the club (thanks Garcia family for being members and letting me mooch off ya!) to find that Taylor Lautner aka Jacob Black was life guarding....
There are several things I need to say about this:
1. Yes, I took his photograph from across the pool like a complete and utter stalker/creeper/paparazzi. I mean c'mon, the kid really did look EXACTLY like Taylor Lautner! I jokingly kept saying "Team Jacob!!" to Andrea...probably a little on the "too loud" side. Ah well. I thought it was funny.
2. I am officially a cougar. From a distance this kid looked like he was easily in his twenties...but as he made a lap around the pool and awkwardly made a comment to me (did his voice just crack?) and based on conversations of the teenie bopper girls giggling and chatting next to us I'm pretty sure he wasn't even 18. Here's how I feel about this:
a. What is a teenager doing with such a tanned and fit body that makes him look so much older? So unnatural and unfair and cruel. Where has chubby youth gone?
b. As far as he is concerned, I am basically the crypt keeper.
c. I officially joined the ranks of soccer moms at the pool who say things like "that is what I want for my birthday..."
Such a pity his Trix are for kids....
And finally on Monday, my actual birthday, I was showered with dozens of text messages, Facebook posts, voice mails, tweets, emails and phone calls all wishing me the happiest of birthdays. Technology sure does make a gal feel extra special on her 27th trip around the sun :) Thank you, dear friends!!
The Weeblies generously gave me the morning off to once again soak up summer in the city....(thank you, Universe, for making my birthday feel TRULY like east coast summer!!!)...
Using my full-strength to bend the bridge...
I really enjoy the sun worshipping-chubby man in the background of this pic...
Once I arrived at work those little dolls threw on some festive hats to make me giggle :)
And then I enjoyed an Italian feast at my favorite spot in North Beach, including a surprise birthday dessert with a "make-a-wish!" candle from the adorable and incredibly Roman staff....
Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped to make this weekend so amazing. I promise to spend every day of my 27th year working to be the best version of myself possible; to do your kindness and generosity justice, to pay it forward times 1,000.
Well, I don't really plan on calming down. It's my birthday and I'm pretty excited.
Oh you want to know what you can do to help make this day even better? Thanks for asking! I'll tell you now....
My friend and fellow PSU alumnus, Shannon, recently asked me to guest blog on her website; what a flattering and humbling request. It was an honor to be asked to write about my thoughts on healthy and happy living--I tried my best to keep it real! The internet sure does make it easy to spread the word about living and loving gratefully, now doesn't it? Ahh, technology. I heart you. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with your corner of the world, Shan! It means a lot to me you even asked :)
Help make my birthday awesome by checking out my piece HERE and letting us know what you think :) Thanks, friends!
In Gratitude for my amazingly blessed, crazy, hilarious and lovely 27 years of life,
My darling friend Andrea and I have clocked in quite a few hours in the kitchen this week and I've loved every second of it! It's so nice to be able to prepare food with friends while listening to good music and enjoying a post-work libation. Sometimes a gal just needs a quiet week of cookin up comfort foods, watching movies and rocking sweat pants, ya know?
On Monday we whipped up one of my go-to favorites; Turkey Meatball Soup (SO.FREAKING.GOOD)....
How cute are we with our little European cafe table set up in her kitchen?
Tuesday night was, naturally, Taco Tuesday! (Why can't every day be Taco Tuesday?) We feasted on lightly beer-battered fish tacos with fresh avocado, Trader Joe's mango/papaya salsa (are we on an island?!) and Coronas. Ole!
Wednesday was Caesar Burger night; hand made garlic, parmesan, caesar turkey burgers...
I swear, the smell of browning meat and garlic is my nostrils version of heaven....
Until you add chunks of fresh mozzarella...then my nostrils bail on the previous heaven and jump ship to this version...
Add some caesar salad to your bun (we used 100 calorie bread) and voila! Yum. O.
Have you had Apricot Ale? It's deliciously summery.
There's something to be said for the comfort of a kitchen and laying low to regroup a bit. I know I often preach about seizing the day, being a yes woman and grabbing every adventure that comes your way (you should still always embrace it all!); but I also deeply appreciate the quieter side of life and am thankful for this week of good, easy company and great home cooked meals.
Recipes after the jump!
In "what's cookin' good lookin'?" love,
I want to...scratch that...NEED to....give a huge huge huuuuuge thank you to my buddy Justin for designing such a lovely new blog theme for me! It's exactly what I wanted; simple, pretty, feminine and easy on the eyes. Once again I find myself in an incredible state of gratitude to work with such talented folks who so generously give of their time and talents. Oh, and who also happen to be a helluva good time :)
What do you think? Isn't it fabulous?!
Thank you, Justin! You're the best!
Love and Light,
"Boys are stupid and girls are crazy", he said as we reached for our freshly served bottles of Bud Light. I giggled in response and then thought "wait, that might actually be true...and the most accurate, albeit highly generalized, summary of the sexes...ever."
In my incredibly humble life experience I have found that women like to analyze (and then re-analyze, 10-110 more times) everything, particularly when we are not feeling our most confident. We are swirlers and "but what does this text *really* mean??"-ers. Men prefer to not have to explain or analyze anything. These differences (among many others--we are from different planets after all), I have found, make dating one of the most fascinating and confusing facets of being human. This is especially true as I get older and realize whoa, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.
While perusing some of Tristan Prettyman's old blog posts (she's a great source for a quick, soulful pick me up) I stumbled upon this little gem of a thought;
"Last night, driving home. I was wondering where and when do we start to develop all these pre-conceived notions about how dating is supposed to go, how relationships are supposed to be, what the woman is responsible for, or what the man needs to be doing. It seems like we are growing out of all that. If you like someone let them know. Whatever comes up for you, however much you can give, be honest. However you are feeling, express it. If you are scared that what you might say, might scare that person away. Then you really should say it, cause that almost always means you are painting this picture of what someone wants you to be, and you already know you are about to shatter it by revealing the real you."
This concept is so eye opening for me at this stage of my life. In the end it's true what they say; those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. The truth eventually finds it's way into the open, including the truth of who we are. The best relationships I know of are those built on "I love you for exactly who you are. I give you the space to be you." So why am I finding it so hard to confidently be exactly who I am? Why am I constantly finding myself cycling through varying levels of disappointment in the way a relationship may or may not be playing out; placing so much weight on just a fraction of my otherwise fabulous life? And why...why oh why...do I seem to suck at dating?
My life coach (yea you read that right!) said something really (and simply) profound in response to my "I don't know how to date!!" rant during our last session together; "I think you need to begin to trust the process". And I knew, instantly, that she was right. I knew that I have been worrying too much over timing. I have been stressing over the "deeper meaning" of small and insignificant actions, moments, gestures. I have been putting too much value on things that do not bring me the joy I deserve while ignoring the things that do. I was sending myself into spirals of self doubt instead of just being present and trusting the process. Whatever the outcome, I need to believe that it is all a part of the Universe working for my higher good. I need to recognize that if someone doesn't end up a permanent fixture in my life, then it was truly for the best. I can choose to take what I learned from my time with them and move forward without disappointment (in myself or others). I can choose to listen to my favorite part of the Holstee Manifesto; "If you are looking for the love of your life; stop. They will be waiting for you when start doing things you love."
And of course, just as I'm mulling over these thoughts to post on this blog, the Universe follows up with an answer in the form of a Tweet from author Gay Hendricks;
"The lesson of learning love is simple but maddeningly hard to master. It is this: You are the creator of your life."
Maddeningly hard. That about hits the nail on the head. But let's keep trying, OK?
Cheers to being ourselves, always; cheers to trusting and enjoying the process.
Love and Light,
Hi Grateful Lifers! I want you to meet my new friend, Lucy :) She's the latest addition to the Weebly family (i.e. my boss and his fabulous girlfriend picked her up last week). Hanging out with her on Sunday was the highlight of my weekend! Animals are so incredibly healing to be around and this rolly-polly-wrinkly-little lover filled my cold black heart with a burst of much needed animal TLC...
Nap time! This is literally how she sleeps...(and snores!)...
After a solid hour of play time she passed out again on my lap...
And when I woke her up to move her to her little bed she smothered me with puppy kisses (I mean c'mon...if you're not a puddle right now you are officially the Grinch...)
As I mentioned here, I recently read The Art of Racing in the Rain (a MUST read) and now have a deepened appreciation for dogs and their wisdom. My favorite tid-bit of food for thought from this wonderful book goes along with my post from last week on the power of honoring the reality of our own mortality;
"To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life, as Eve felt the joy of life. To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to. When I am a person, this is how I will live my life."
I'm thrilled to be a part of this little darlings life! Many adventures to come :)
My little sister turns 24 today. I could cry I love and miss her so much, but instead of making a fool of myself at my desk (not that I don't already do this on a weekly basis) I decided to dedicate today's post to her...
There are many ways in which my sister and I are alike. For example, we share the belief that spontaneous dance parties are a natural part of life. Don't resist them--embrace them (tap dancing in the Wegman's aisles? Genius). We can both eat an entire bag of cheese doodles in one sitting (only the Wise kind--red bag filled with puffed deliciousness). We are Penn Staters and alumni of the same great campus organization, Lion Ambassadors (I'm more proud of this than I could possibly explain!). We both giggle...a lot. We are often quite silly people. We prefer sweatpants and old t-shirts above all else and will immediately change into them upon coming home. We know that Stevie Wonder's "Someday at Christmas" is the best holiday album of all time, but especially so when listened to on vinyl. We both hope to one day receive our invitations to the Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We share the same tastes in music, books, TV and movies. We also share the familiar bump in our noses and have often deleted photos based on our mutual reaction of "whoa! look at our noses!".
And there are also many ways in which we could not be more different. Physically speaking I am a brown haired, brown eyed, tanned skin Italian; Belle is a blonde haired, blue eyed, fair skinned Slovenian. I am a loud and "look at me!" personality. She is far less loud. As kids this was very apparent as I was always one to march up to meet new people while she would hide behind our mom. I've tended to excel in English and History; she in Math and Science. I love to shop and have dropped many a pretty penny on retail items. My sister loathes it. She has been known to walk out of a Gap having spent a whopping $40 but somehow carrying 3 pairs of pants, 2 tops, a dress and a scarf. She will then refrain from shopping for months. It's truly amazing. She has a deep passion for horses and horse back riding; I prefer to keep my feet on the ground and simply pet the pretty horsies while feeding them carrots. I am a rolling stone with an insatiable travel itch; she is more content in settling down in a familiar place. She dislikes cheese; I am basically a walking ball of mozzarella.
And now, my list-loving self has prepared a snapshot of the top 5 things my sister has taught me (whether she knows it or not).
Little Belle Life Lessons:
1. Be yourself. It is more than enough to attract the right friends, partners, jobs, etc. It is a waste of time to try and be anyone else; who has that kind of time and energy to spare? It is such a pleasure to watch my sister be 100% herself in everything she does, in every interaction, in all relationships. You were born this way, baby :)
2. Work hard. Work hard and do it with a smile--complaining about the number of hours you've clocked in on the job vs. the number you've managed to sleep will not benefit you or anyone else. If you need to work 3 jobs at once while babysitting on the side (she has been known to do this) to pay the bills, all the while still managing to spend time with friends, ride horses, or visit family...you do it. Her time management skills and work ethic have always been something I greatly admire.
3. Forgive and let go. She couldn't hold a grudge if she tried. Like she always says, "What's the point?".
4. Be Kind. It is on a rare, rare occasion that I see my sister lose her cool in any manner. Her first instinct is always to approach a person, place or thing with kindness. I see this gentle kindness exhibited most deeply with children and animals; the girl has the patience of a saint.
5. Give. Give your time, give your talents, give your love. There isn't a selfish bone in her body (perhaps I absorbed that gene?).
I love you, Belle. You are a light and a blessing. There is strength in our differences and comfort where we overlap. You are a constant source of joy for me and I wish you nothing but many wonderful years of love and laughter ahead of you. Thank you for teaching me so much over the past 24 years; for loving me and being my best friend. I'm sending you a zillion good thoughts today and always. Siiissterrrrssss....UNITE! *fist pump*
Happy birthday, darling girl!
Death is truly a powerful teacher.
I loveloveloooooooved this article by Bronnie Ware, a woman who cared for patients while in palliative care (i.e. people who had gone home to die). The insights on life and death, regrets and coulda-shoulda-wouldas are incredibly spot on and a beautiful reminder to live in the now. I don't even want to summarize her words they are so perfect--do yourself a favor and read this list!!
"People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness."
Wow. Honoring my dreams, being the most *honest* version of ME, catching up with old friends, honoring a happy/silly/full of laughter life, staying true to myself and what I desire out of my time on earth (regardless of what others think)....starting NOW!! "That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships...."