Monday, November 18, 2013

It's Too Soon

Have you been in a store lately?  Any store, a department or a grocery?  They are playing Christmas music already!  (Before you answer think about this, try going to work every day and being force to listen to Christmas carols for eight weeks and see how you like it.) It’s bad enough that every store already has Christmas decorations on display and/or on sale.  We haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet.  And for crying out loud, it’s not even winter.

What has happened to our society that we have to celebrate a holiday two months before it even happens?  I’m not a scrooge, really, I’m not. It’s just that when all this stuff starts happening earlier and earlier every year by the time Christmas comes around I’m sick of all the decorations and Christmas carols.  It’s no longer special, just a capitalistic holiday defined by stuff, lots of stuff. 

It used to be that the Christmas season started the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Even that was too soon for me.  Now stores like Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears and Toys ‘R Us are going to be open on Thanksgiving. I’ve worked retail at Christmas before and my heart breaks for those people who work retail on Thanksgiving.  We have become so consumed with stuff that we can’t even allow people to have a holiday where they don’t have to work and instead can spend a day with their family and friends.

I know the economy isn’t what it used to be and everyone is looking for a deal but have we gone too far?  What is more important, getting 20% of the new PlayStation or spending time with your family?   Think about it if you find yourself in a Wal-Mart on November 28.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

America's Prettiest Towns

Forbes recently came out with a list of the 15 prettiest towns in America.  I’ll admit, some I have never heard of.  Fish Creek, Wisconsin?  I had to look at a map to find that one.  Of course, everyone has their own idea of what is pretty.  Mountains, water, trees, flowers, architecture, etc.  There is only one town on the list that I’ve actually been to and it’s the one in my home state (Breckenridge).  But later this month I’ll be heading to Maine and will be staying in Camden which made the list.

The towns on the list are all over the map, from Hawaii to New Jersey.  Criteria consisted of things that would draw tourist: attractive main streets, idyllic settings (mountains or water), fun activities.  Any towns you’d add to the list?

New Iberia, Louisiana
Camden, Maine
Anna Maria, Florida
Decorah, Iowa
Breckenridge, Colorado
Fort Benton, Montana
Athens, Georgia
Lambertville, New Jersey
Kapa’a, Hawaii
Edgartown, Massachusetts
Asheville, North Carolina
Leavenworth, Washington
Galena, Illinois
Holland, Michigan
Fish Creek, Wisconsin

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Nostalgic Summer Nights

Driving home tonight with the windows down and the radio on I got a little nostalgic for the summer nights when I was in college.  I always came home for the summer and worked summer jobs.  But on the weekend nights friends and I would drive to the Denver suburbs (usually in my eight year old burgundy Honda Accord hatchback) to a dollar movie theater.The ceilings of the hallways had strings of flashing blue lights.  After the movies we’d drive down the road to Taco Bell for 59¢ tacos.  We'd sit in the car in the parking lot with the windows down, radio on and eat our tacos and talk.  The cost of the evening was usually under five dollars (that’s including gas).  We were young and innocent and the air was sweet with the fleeting moments of youthful freedom.

 I miss those nights.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Getting Back the Happy

It’s been a very stressful couple of months for me and the results have affected me physically, mentally and emotionally.  What I really need is a vacation.  That’s a long-term plan, but in the short-term I need to get back to the things that make me better and happy.

Reader’s Digest listed 20 simple ways to get happy that I thought I’d share.

1. Practice mindfulness. Be in the moment and don’t waste the moment by dwelling on what’s happening later.
2. Laugh out loud. When I’m at work I often laugh because the other option is crying.  Laughter is so good for you.  You on your next break take a moment to read/watch something funny.
3. Go to sleep. I know when I don’t get enough sleep, especially over several nights, my mood changes and not for the better.  Turn off the distractions (computers, televisions, etc.) and get a good night’s sleep.
4. Hum along. Listening to music improved my mood and makes me happy.  I have to do that more often.
5. De-clutter. It may seem daunting at the beginning but the end results feels so good.
6. Just say no. Eliminate activities that aren’t necessary and that you don’t enjoy.
7. Make a list. I made a grocery list last week but forgot to take it to the store. Not much good if you don’t look at them or take them with you.
8. Do one thing at a time. I multi-task so this may be hard.
9. Garden. I know this works for some people but not really for me.  Yes, I like to look at pretty garden flowers but I don’t have a garden to plant.
10. Tune out the news. I tend to watch about 30 minutes of the news in the morning and check the news on the Internet throughout the day.  As a former journalist, it’s what I do.  But when something happens (like the Boston Marathon bombing) where the coverage is non-stop, I don’t have any problem turning the TV off.
11. Take a dog for a walk. I don’t have a dog but my sister does, two actually.  When she travels I house/doggy sit and, while I love her two dogs, I really don’t like walking them.
12. Scent the air. It only takes one Yankee Candle (the best smelling candles out there).
13. Ignore the stock market. Done.
14. Visit a quiet place. I like to read during my lunch hour but there isn’t any place to do that in my office so, weather permitting, I drive to a park.  It makes a difference.
15. Volunteer. Would like to be able to do more of this but don’t have a lot of time.
16. Spend time alone. I probably spend too much time by myself but I'm content with my own company.
17. Walk mindfully. Apparently “mindfulness” is a mental technique to bring about a relaxation response, a physiological response in which the heart rate slows and blood pressure drops (when walking this means paying attention to footsteps, counting one, two, one, two, and to visualize the numbers in their mind). Not sure about this. If I become too “mindful” I can walk into a wall.
18. Give priority to close relationships.
19. Take care of the soul. Studies have shown that actively religious people are happier and cope better with crises.  Having a faith can provide a support community, a sensing of meaning in life, and different/clearer perspective on life.
20. Count your blessings. Every day!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dessert, Glorious Desserts

First, let me apologize to all those reading this who do not live in the Denver metro area. If you like desserts, you'll understand why I'm apologizing.

Last week I went to the D Bar in Denver (D stands for Dessert).
One of the creators of this wonderful place is Keegan Gerhard, former host of Food Network Challenge.  While this restaurant has a regular food menu it specializes in desserts.  And oh, they are wonderful!

There are two dessert menus, one for daytime and one for nightime.  During the day you can get cake and shake, milk and cookies, creme brulee, molton cake, cheesecake, bread puddin' or a bag "o" dounuts.  At night the menu gets more elegant with some of the daytime items but also orange-ya glad this souffle has booze!?, tropical fandango (key lime pie), and pink! (buttermilk panna cotta with raspberry cloud, prickley pear sorbet). 

I went one night after work with a friend who was visiting and were lucky enough to sit at the bar.  But this wasn't you're ordinary bar where alcohol is served.  Nope, by sitting at the bar you got to see one of the chefs plate all the desserts.  That was as exciting as the actual desserts.

My friend and I split the d=mc2 which was milk chocolate three ways with mousse, salted carmel, peanuts and praline, rice krispies and ice cream.  Here's what it looked like:



Yes, it was lick the plate delicious.  So if you live in Denver or plan to visit, make a stop at the D Bar, it's worth it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Waiting is the Hardest Part - Part II

Well the waiting is over.  I had applied to attend a rather prestigious artist retreat in Saratoga, NY called Yaddo where I was hoping to spend two weeks working on my writing.  The place offers residencies to professional creative artist to work on literature, film, choreography, musical composition, painting, performance art, photography, printmaking, sculpture and video.  I didn’t think my chances were that great because technical I’m not a professional writer (I’ve never had anything traditionally published).  Yesterday I got a form letter from the Admissions Committee saying I hadn’t been invited to attend.

It’s not my first rejection letter and it won’t be my last.  I am only slightly disappointed since I didn’t have high expectations to begin with.  But you can’t accomplish anything unless you try.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Letter to U.S. Congress

Dear Members of Congress,

You better shape up because you’re not doing a very good job.  I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, your behavior has shown that you are more concerned with politics than with people.  If you were in any other job this kind of work performance would probably get you fired.

You seem to have forgotten who you work for.  You do not work for President Obama.  You do not work for Speaker John Boehne.  You do not work for the wealthy individuals or corporations that funded your campaign.  You work for me and the rest of the American public.  You are supposed to be working for our best interests and so far you have failed.

I think it’s safe to say that the American public is tired of your complaining and blaming others for not being able to do your job.  Stop it.  We all know the economy stinks but we are expecting you to take action to make it better.  We understand that it won’t happen overnight and compromises will have to be made.  But nobody seems to be making a real effort to accomplish that.  Buckle down, start communicating, and get the job done.  If you don’t, you’ll eventually be out of a job.


One of Your Bosses
American Citizen

Thursday, February 28, 2013

#2 Ain't So Bad

Gallup put out a well-being index score for U.S. states recently.  The data was based on daily surveys done from January to December 2012 calculating on a scale of 0 to 100 (100 being ideal well-being) areas such as emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, outlook on life, job satisfaction, and work environment.

Want take a guess as to which state ranked #1?  Go on, I bet you can guess.

Yes, that’s right.  Hawaii.  I believe my well-being would be pretty high if I lived in Hawaii. 

But I shouldn’t complain because Colorado came in at #2, then Minnesota (#3), Utah (#4) and Vermont (#5).  At the bottom were Arkansas (#46), Tennessee (#47), Mississippi (#48), Kentucky (#49) and lastly West Virginia (#50).

Here’s a map of the U.S. and the rankings.  How is your well-being?

Monday, February 25, 2013

No pain, no gain, right?

According to WebMD, when you exercise your body releases endorphins and these endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.  Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body (sometimes described as “euphoric”).  Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, ward off anxiety, boost self-esteem and improve sleep.

I must be doing it wrong.  I got a gym membership in May 2012 and have been going to the gym regularly (3-6 times a week, 45-50 minutes each visit) since then and I haven’t once felt “euphoric” after a workout.  I feel sore, tired and sweaty.  All those wonderful things that are supposed to be happening aren’t.

I still feel stressed and have anxiety.  My self-esteem isn’t any better and I’m not sleeping all that great.

The photo above had the caption, “Nothing beats that post-workout glow.”  Bullshit.  I have never, ever, had a post-workout “glow.”  I look like crap when I’m done working out.  My hair is all matted with sweat, my clothes are sticking to me and I usually walk funny because I’m sore.   I’m still waiting for those endorphins to kick (anytime guys).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

THINGS that Matter

We surround ourselves with things, cars, furniture, clothing, electronics.  And if we are honest, we all probably have too many things, things that we don’t really need.  But there are things in our lives that matter, for various reasons.

Some of the things that matter to me have to do with memories of people and places.  I have photographs all over my home.  Photographs of my family and friends and places I’ve been, and all of these things matter to.  I have things that belonged to my father and grandparents that matter, a desk, a ring, a contact lens case.  Books are also things that matter to me and I have books cases filled will books I read when I was 12, signed books by my favorite authors, and classics that I read over and over again.

The window in the photo is another thing that matters to me.  It was given to me for my 40th birthday by a very dear and close friend.  It hangs in my living room and it makes me happy when I look at.

The frames in the other photo are something I just recently started.  In those frames is sand from different beaches I’ve visited.  They hang next to my bed.  I look at them every morning when I wake up and every night before I go bed.  They remind me of happy times and that one day I want to live close to the beach and the ocean.

In the last couple of years I have really tried not to buy things that don’t matter and that I don’t need.  Yes, there are things that are necessities but what about everything else?  We all know we buy things to make us feel better; because we saw it in a magazine, or it’s the newest, trendiest thing, but do these things a really matter?

I recently saw an Nate Berkus interviewed.  He is the interior design who became famous after being on Oprah and who lost his partner in the December 2004 tsunami.  He wrote a book called “Things That Matter.”  He said a couple of things that stuck with me.  First, surround yourself with things that bring you joy.  Newest gadget may be entertaining but do they really brining you joy?  And second, stop a moment before you purchase anything, a piece of furniture, clothing, toys and think about whether you really need it.

Why do we hold on to so many things that don’t really matter?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

As a child, didn’t we always seem to be waiting for something?  We waited for Christmas or summer vacation.  It seemed to take forever to arrive and then they were over before we knew it.  We waited for birthdays, especially the one that allowed us to see an R rated movie, get a driver’s license or buy a drink.

As we got older we still waited for things, things that seemed more important than movies, and over the years we developed patience as well the ability to deal with disappointment.  Sometimes that patience serves us well and sometimes it doesn’t, and some disappointment weighs heavier than others. 

I am waiting for something.  It is by no means a life altering event, just something I am hoping will happen.  I know, approximately, when the waiting will end and for now I just try not to think about it.  That is my way of being patient and not getting my hopes up.  If this thing I’m waiting for doesn’t happen, I will be disappointed but not devastated.  I know you can’t accomplish anything if you don’t at least try.  And if you fail you still learn from that failure.  I truly believe you can’t grow as a person if you don’t experience any failures during your lifetime.

My waiting will end sometime near the end of March and if the news is good I will share it.  In the meantime the waiting is the hardest part, and in this case, will be probably be harder to endure than the disappointment.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hooked on a TV show

With some time off at the end of last year I've gotten hooked on a couple of new shows.  I say new, as they are new to me but have been on TV for a while, but without cable I don't get a chance to watch the original air dates.

Homeland - I know, I'm late to the party on this one.  Watched the first season on DVD over three days.  It's so good.  The writing is good, the acting is good.  The whole is "he or isn't he" kept me going along with other suspicious events.  Can't wait for the second season to come out on DVD.

Being Human - When I heard the premise for this show when it started a couple of years ago I was skeptical.  It's set in Bristol, England (yes, that's a draw) about a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf living together.  I kind of feel like the whole vampire/werewolf fad is coming to an end but I really like this show.  It's got some humor to it and somehow it works.

Lark Rise to Candleford - This a a BBC costume drama and I can't say no to those.  It ran from 2008 to 2001 (four seasons) and is about a girl from a small English hamlet at the end of the 1800s who goes into town to work with the postmistress.  It's very family friendly (think "Little House on the Prairie" but it's got some good actors that, if you've ever watched BBC or Masterpiece/PBS productions, you'll recognize.  Just first the first seasons and got season two and three from the library today.

Merlin - Okay, this may not seem like a likely show I would pick but I actually got hooked on it when the first season aired.  I just finished watching season four and am waiting for season five.  That will be the final season and the Internet has spoilers all over the place about how the show ends.  Of course, I couldn't resist taking a peak but I won't share what I found out. But I am still looking forward to watching the last season.

So it looks like I'll be busy for a while...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Book List - December 2012 & Year in Review

38. Amazing Grace by Danielle Steel. I ended the year on a fluff book about how lives have changed after an earthquake in San Francisco.  No a lot of drama, rather goodie goodie but okay read.

I watched more movies this month than I did the entire year.  And I didn't read as many books as I normally do but that is due to some lifestyle changes.

Here have been some of my favorites:

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesley
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
My Mother was Nuts by Penny Marshall

Books I'm looking forward to reading in 2013

Three of my favorite authors will have books coming out in 2013.  Unfortunately, one will be the very last  book as Maeve Binchy passed away in 2013.  Here's what I can't wait to eat...

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes
Family Pictures by Jane Green
A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

Happy reading!