May 31, 2011

Taking the Plunge - the 30 Day Blog Challenge, Day 1

Yet another blogging idea I found over at Kelsey's place. It seems that there are lots of "30-Day _______ Challenges" popping up all over the interwebs.  Over on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr I've seen the 30-Day Music Challenge, the 30-Day Photo Challenge and the 30-Day Movie Challenge.  So it should come as no surprise that there's now a 30-Day Blog Challenge I've stumbled upon. 

I really suck at these, actually.  The only one I've actually started AND finished was the 30-Day Photo Challenge.  I can't promise I'll even finish this one, and I can promise you that I will NOT do these on 30 consecutive days...that part is a fact.  But, it will give me something to blog about on days where I want to blog, have time to blog...but have nothing to blog about. 

So without further ado:

Day 1: Your Current Relationship

Well, that's awfully broad.  I suppose I can be pretty simple about this.  I'm married to a wonderful, funny, kind, and super-dorky-in-the-best-way man named Michael.  We've been together for almost 10 years.  Here's the first picture we ever took together:

My goodness we look so much younger! 

He is an opera singer.  Yep!  He's really freakin talented, too.  He has a Master of Music degree from The Boston Conservatory, and I find him to be an incredible musician, teacher and singer. 

We got married on September 6th, 2008:

He is my very best friend.  He makes me laugh, roll my eyes, feel loved and beautiful...all those awesome things a good husband should do.  He's not hard on the eyes, either:

So, that's that!  My current relationship is, God-willing, the last relationship (romantic relationship anyway) I will ever be in!  

May 26, 2011

A Prayer for Parents

Today, I am thinking about my friends (the kind I have "in real life" and the kind I only know through Blogs and Twitter and such) who are parents, and I wanted to give them a shout-out.

Every day I get two devotional emails, one from Join the Journey and one from Girlfriends in God. Yesterday, I got the following from GiG, and it made me think about all my amazing friends who are either currently raising children or about to start that journey.  Allow me to share some of it (though, while it continues to refer to the Mom only, I think it applies to both parents!):

One mother with three active boys was playing cops and robbers in the back yard after dinner on a summer evening. One of the boys "shot" his mother and yelled, "Bang, bang you're dead." She slumped to the ground and when she didn't get up right away, a neighbor ran over to see if she had been hurt in the fall. As the neighbor bent over, the overworked mother opened one eye and said, "Shhh. Don't give me away. It's the only chance I get to rest."

Busy moms all need a break from time to time. Mothers need time to recharge, refuel, and refresh.

Even Jesus encouraged his disciples: "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31 NIV). He knew that we all need time to recharge, reflect, and refresh.

So mom, take a break today. Spend time with God and ask Him to fill your empty cup!


Dear God, You know that parenting is a hard job. Thank you for allowing me the honor and privilege of being a mom. Thank You that I don't have to parent alone. You are right there with me all the time. I pray that You will refresh my soul today.

And if you are not a mom, then here's a prayer for you.

Dear God, I pray for my friend _________ today as she parents her child. Give her strength, courage and wisdom as she makes tough decisions. Fill her as she pours out for those kids. Show me how I can be a support and encouragement for her today.
To all my friends who are parents and parents-to-be: I think you are awesome, and I challenge myself to pray this prayer for you every day!

May 25, 2011

Life Well-Lived, Vol. 1

My good friend and fellow blogger, Kelsey, has recently been posting in a series called "Life Well Lived" every Wednesday.  I have been inspired by this, and have decided to start doing the same thing.

She describes it in this way:

For me, thinking about the things that I’ve experienced and being joyful for those moments, means more than reaching into a future that I can’t control.
Well said, Kelsey!  So, without further is my first Life Well Lived list:

1. I have graduated from college.

Sure, a lot of people have done this...but I was the first person in my family to get a college degree.  I'm very proud of this fact, and I hope to some day continue that list of firsts by being the first to get a Master's degree.  Now deciding on one...that's the tricky part.

2. I have held a newborn.

One of the most amazing things I've done in my life recently was hold my "niece" (she's my cousin's daughter, so she's not reeeeeeeeally my niece...but I'm Aunt Mandy to her, so we'll accept it) a few minutes after she was born.  A brand new, tiny, squirmy little life...just trying to keep her eyes open and figure out what the heck is going on.  My uterus fluttered a little bit when I was holding her in those first few minutes of her life.  Incredible feeling.

3. I have trashed a wedding dress...and was on The Today Show doing so.

When my wedding photographer, Lynn Michelle, was contacted about doing a Trash the Dress segment for the Today show, she called me and some friends up, and we jumped at the chance to do something FUN with our wedding gowns we knew we'd never wear again.  The segment also featured clips from MY VERY OWN wedding video!  Very, very cool.

4. I have bought a completely impractical dress...just because it was beautiful.

When I lost a lot of weight last year, I wanted to reward myself.  I paid more for this dress than I have ever spent on a non-formal (wedding, prom, bridesmaid, etc) dress.  I have worn it ONCE.  And I don't even care. I love it and I can't wait to have a chance to wear it again.  Kelsey was with me when I bought it!

Now, it's your turn!  Post 3-5 things that you think makes your life well lived, and shoot Kelsey an email and let her know! 

Who Am I This Time? (an existential rambling of sorts)

When I was in junior high/early high school and really starting to get into the "Drama Club" and beginning theatre arts classes, we did a short play called Who Am I This Time? I don't remember anything about it.  I even looked it up on Google and Wikipedia yesterday and any information I found on it was absolutely unhelpful and unfamiliar to me.  Maybe I just sat by the tape recorder for that one and hit play for the handful of sound cues we might have had.  Maybe I just spent the time crushing hard on one of the stage crew boys. I have no idea why I don't remember anything about it.

But I remember the title.

And it's been stuck in my head as this blog post has been brewing.  I've noticed that the most popular Bloggers and Tweeters (is it okay to call them that? I have no idea what the alternative is...) have a definite identity about them. My own favorites are usually specific to one genre or area of "expertise," if you will.  They are musicians or Healthy Living/Fitness aficionados or spiritual leaders or get the idea.

I find myself leaning towards those different areas of my life at different times with my "online persona."  Sometimes I will go weeks only tweeting and blogging about performing.  Other times I get on a kick with my goals for a healthier lifestyle.  Sometimes I'm just plain old Mandy, tweeting and blogging about my day-to-day life at work/home or out with friends or in front of my television with a book and a puppy in my lap.

Sometimes I feel like this makes me look flaky to others... 

But....why do I allow this to stress me out?  I guess we'll call it that age-old desire to be liked and accepted by anyone and everyone -- even strangers.  There are days when I shake my fists at the heavens and cry out "WHY?!  Why do I caaaaaaaaaaaare?"  (Okay so maybe not quite that melodramatic.) 

But then I remember...I am me.  I am wonderfully made.  I am not one particular thing or another.  I can't adhere to one certain identity because I am...quite simply...not that simple.

I am so many things:

A Performer and Music Lover

An aspiring runner and Healthy Living advocate

A Christian

A Goofball

A Wife and Mommy

A Nerd

A Reader

A Sports Fan

A Friend

I am grateful and thankful that I cannot be easily placed into one category or another. 

I praise the fact that I am a bit complicated and unpredictable at times. 

I value the variety and diversity of interests, and am striving to add more to the list. 

Not being easily defined is, when you stop and think about it, a pretty awesome compliment. 

May 20, 2011

I am a Superhero

I will accomplish things today.

I love Picnik. I love that it's free but I can still play around with my photos. Since I *still* don't have an iPhone (and therefore don't have Instagram) and I'm wayyyy too broke for Photoshop or Lightroom, it allows me to play with my crappy Blackberry photos and make them look kinda fun.

I processed this photo this way today because I think it looks kind of like the newer superhero movies (300, that movie about that girl in the boarding school that's out now...whatever it's called) but also has this sort of look to it, which is kind of vintage-y:

Today? I will accomplish things. I will have a good day. I will run 3 miles. I will write 3 emails to people I haven't talked to in a while. I will tell someone I love them.

What will you accomplish today?

May 19, 2011

Actively NOT stressing? Is still stressing.

I have a really good friend named Anna.  Perhaps you've heard me mention her a couple of times?  She's pretty special to me.  Anyway, there's something she said to me once.  I don't remember the setting in which it was could've been two years ago.  It could've been back in college.  I don't know.  All I remember is that it stuck with me.  So what was this pearl of wisdom?

"I just hate being upset.  So I'm not gonna be." 

Okay, admittedly, I may have just paraphrased her, but the meaning is the same, no matter how she actually said it. 

If you know Anna at all, this won't surprise you.  She's one of the most laid-back, low-key people I've ever met.  In the decade (holy CRAP, dude!) that I've known her, we've gotten into ONE argument.  And it was really, really stupid. 

She just...manages to find silver linings and spots of sunlight even on the darkest days.  It's really amazing, and I always envied her because I was never really able to do that very well.  I'm passionate and outspoken and I wear my heart on my sleeve like an accessory from Claire's.  Because of these qualities of mine, I tend to live in the moment.  Because of my artist's (read: melodramatic) nature, I've found it hard throughout most of my life to see beyond how I am feeling in a particular moment.  These aren't necessarily bad qualities...they just keep me from thinking rationally sometimes. 

Recently, due to some adjustments in how I try to live my faith as well as just the maturity and learning that comes from growing up (hopefully), I've gotten a lot better at this.  When it comes to my faith, I usually just remind myself of Matthew 6:25-34 or James 1:2-4 when I start to worry, stress out (mostly about money...yuck).  As for the just "growing up and dealing with things better" aspect, I just sit and try to talk myself back into a reasonable state of mind.  I tell myself, "Self, is this really that bad?  I mean, really?"  (Hint: usually? It's not.)

Overall, my life is much easier because of this.  I, much like Anna, do not like feeling stressed out or worried or upset. 

But sometimes? You have to let it go. 

You have to let yourself go in the bathroom and ugly cry because someone hurt your feelings or because you just had to replace the starter in your car and it cost $500 (ahem...not like I'm being specific or anything).  You have to understand that you're only a human and you can only take so much.  While I've never SEEN Anna completely break down, I would bet double-or-nothing the paltry amount of money I have in the bank that it's happened.  On more than one occasion. 

Holding it all in for too long is just as unhealthy.  Cry it out.  Kick a chair (a soft one).  Go for a walk or a run (lately I've been loving running as a stress reliever...scroll down and read a couple of my posts) outside.  Go splurge on a few naughty calories and get your favorite frappucino from Starbucks or your favorite fountain drink from Sonic. 

One of the hardest things I've learned lately is that while it is unhealthy to only focus on the negative things and the stressors in your is equally unhealthy to ignore the fact that you are a human being and you get stressed out.  Guess what?  You're not the only one.  Tell yourself, "Self, you are stressed out.  And that is a-okay.  Be stressed, but don't dwell on it.  Let it out, then let's go get some FroYo."

Guess what?  I just wrote all this to MYSELF.  It's been a rough 9 days, and I've been trying so hard to maintain a steady and positive front that I gave myself a tummy-ache.  Trying hard not to stress has stressed me out. So tonight? I am going to go home and eat a cupcake (or 3) and watch baseball and let myself be quiet and mopey if I need to.  And tomorrow? I'm going to run 2.5–3 miles and get those endorphines pumping right back out. 

And at the end of the day? I will be smiling.

May 17, 2011

Running Playlist

Today Sam over at Operation Jack posted his running playlist.  I'm still fine-tuning mine, but I'll at least post what I got through yesterday on my very accomplished (for me) run.  Keep in mind this is not consistent, necesssarily, and it was fairly arbitrary since I just put a bunch of songs I like on a "Running" playlist and then put the playlist on Shuffle.  But, here's what I listened to:

Adam Lambert "If I Had You."  I. Love. This. Song.  It's even better on the elliptical, but it was a nice rockin' start to my run.

"A Thousand Angels" by my good friends in Manic Bloom.  Check these guys out...I love their sound and I predict they're gonna be HUGE some day.

"Death and Conversation," also by Manic Bloom (MUSIC VIDEO COMING SOON!)

"Everything" by Michael Buble.  I love this song b/c it reminds me of my wedding day.

"And So We Run" by David Usher (also the title of yesterday's blog post, for those of you paying attention). I'm kind of obssessed with David Usher right now, and this is one of my favorites.

"You've Got the Love" by Florence and the Machine.  Ain't nothin' on this album I DON'T love. 

"Club Can't Handle Me" by Flo Rida featuring David Guetta.  This one TOTALLY pumped me up as I was nearing the end of my route and feeling a little bedraggled.

"Disappear" by the Gabe Dixon Band.  This one came on in the home stretch of my run. I know and love this song so much that it made it very easy to finish. 

Now! What's on YOUR playlist?

A Mid-Year Resolution

I feel like a lot of times when I get on here to talk about things, there's a lot of frustration that comes out -- mostly about how I'm feeling as a result of something that has happened to upset me.  A lot of that comes from social networking anxiety.  How silly is that?  But let's face it, it's a HUGE part of our lives now and a part of our generation that even the most adamant and staunchly anti-technology people cannot ignore for much longer.  How many of us got the word about Osama Bin Laden via Facebook? Twitter?  I only knew to turn on the television for an unscheduled announcement from the President thanks to Twitter.  Otherwise, I would've probably continued to watch old episodes of My So-Called Life on Netflix all night and not heard about anything until the next morning.

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with social networking. It's made everyone an expert, everyone a critic, everyone a pundit, everyone knows everything and has the right to share opinions at the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen.  Of course this has pros and cons.  The good is shared immediately, but so is the obnoxious.  Luckily there are electronic limits and boundaries we have the opportunitiy to use to keep our circles as small as possible, but sometimes we limit ourselves so much that we miss too much.  So we open it back up...get pissed...close it get the idea.

But the other day I had an epiphany...

What if we used even the negative to find a positive?  What if, instead of blocking someone for constantly venting about his or her frustrating life....we sent them a note or a tweet telling them we were thinking about them or asking them out for a cup of coffee?  What if, instead of calling someone a hypocrite for posting about scripture one moment and then cursing out someone the next....we saw a possible struggle within them and stopped and prayed for them? 

Twitter and Facebook and other social networking sites (God, are there others? It's hard to keep up with those two!) have made it so easy to write off a person as being "too outspoken," or "always negative," or "self-righteous and pious." 

I think we've forgotten that a person is not defined by 140 characters or a status update or a YouTube link.  Yes, it's something that person is thinking and feeling at that very moment...but have we really been fooled into thinking that the incredibly complex human beings we were created to be are so easily defined and pigeon-holed? 

This morning I was talking to a friend that I've never met in person, and all of this kind of came to mind.  There is a small group of "online pen pals" that I have thanks to the early days of blogging back in 2005 or so.  A small few of us have kept in touch via email and yes, even Facebook and Twitter and such.  Then there are some new people I've met thanks to other online groups (running buddies and classical music lovers on Twitter, family-oriented people with similarly dorky loves [coughFIREFLYcough] through a photography group on Flickr, etc.) that I truly enjoy communicating with. 

The world getting smaller due to technology is a myth.  The world is just as big...the types of people are just as spread across the vast spectrum of personalities, likes, dislikes...and we have SO many opportunities!  We can connect with someone instantly over a love of an opera....the quest to run a 5k/marathon/relay for a cause we both passionately believe in....a prayer request for someone who is, when it comes right down to it, a stranger.

I will focus on the good things...and I make a resolution (I can make a mid-year resolution, right?) to try to read between the lines and not make so many snap judgments.  A person is a person, not a tweet...not a status update.  And while there are many who use social media just to be trolls...I have a feeling that most of us could take a moment and see that there's a human being with feelings and problems and stressors and emotions behind that avatar of theirs. 

I challenge you to do the same. Before you get pissed off at a tweet or a status update...stop yourself and try to look deeper.  Send a note to someone who has been posting negative or forlorn things lately.  Tell them you're thinking about them.  Ask them if there is anything they would like you to pray about with them/for them. 

I think we may see a difference in our own output when we care more about others'.  Wanna try it with me?

May 16, 2011

And so we run

I've been staring at this blank, open blogger window for a few days now (on separate occasions of course...I have slept and worked and done other things of course) trying to think of how to just jump back into this non-theatre, non-devotional-inspired blogging.  I suppose I should just make it simple:

I've gained some weight back...only about 10-12 lbs or so of what I lost (of which I've re-lost about 5, so net gain is really about 5-7lbs).

I've decided not to attempt the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for the Cure again this year.  My teammates and I agree we may try it again next year, but a year off seemed to fit our current lifestyles/schedules.  I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when we each realized the other was thinking the same thing.

This has left me feeling...unsettled.  Lazy. Unmotivated. Bummed out.  ROUND AND SOFT.

I can't even tell you when I decided, "You know what? Maybe I'll try running."  Maybe it was when I realized that running three times a week and drastically counting calories again would be the best way to jump start my weight loss again.  Maybe it was because I ended up following some Twitter people who are running for one reason or another (for themselves, for weight loss, for therapy/alone time, for a cause, etc.) and I thought "they really seem to enjoy this -- I wonder if I would?"

Turns out? I kinda do.  Like, a lot.

I'm slow. I can't run very far without feeling like dying.  I get winded quickly.  Old ladies with walkers pass me (okay that's not true). 

But I'm doing it.  I'm going three times a week.  I recently discovered that I enjoy running outside more than running on a treadmill going nowhere.  Until today, I was running two miles, three times a week...mostly without stopping.

Today, I decided to push myself a little.  I mapped out a new route and I ran 2.61 miles in beautiful weather.  While I struggled with my rhythm and my stride at times, I never stopped to walk. I always regained a breathing pattern that I could maintain. 

I'm not doing Couch to 5k.  I'm not quite sure what I'm doing.  I don't have special shoes or gel packs or special methods.  I'm just out on the pavement...taking measured breaths every few strides, in and out, and reaching small goals at a time.

It calms me. It gives me time to think and to breathe and to leave all the stress I may have been building up on the pavement.  It leaves me with a feeling of breathless accomplishment every time I push myself a little further.

I am a goal-oriented person.  I need something to work for.  Right now? It's being able to run 5k without stopping. After that?  Actually register for and run a 5k....and then some 5ks.  After that? Who knows...I just know that I've found an activity that's mine and mine alone.  No teammates.  No fellow actors.  Just a network of people congratulating me and encouraging me...but the action alone is mine. 

I didn't realize how badly I needed just that.