Thank God for Good Friends

The past year has been hard. Fantastic and wonderful at times but ultimately hard. The challenges I faced won’t be discussed here but trust me when I say my heart shattered a couple of times.

On the flip side, I have a lot to be grateful for. I have a stable job, a nice living environment and wonderful, sensational, glorious, brilliant and utterly fantastic friends.

I have the type of friends whose love knows no bounds. Though hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles separate us, their voices never fail to make me smile and a mere text message is enough to brighten my day.

They are the friends that if something happened, I wouldn’t hesitate to board the next flight – be it to San Francisco or the moon – I would be among the first to arrive. They are the ones I would take a bullet for, the ones I consider family, the ones whose fingerprints are imprinted on my heart.

Their hugs feel like home, their laughter sounds like music, and I miss them more than anything in the world. So thank you to all of my wonderful friends. We may not live in the same city but you are always in my heart.

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Love,

– Tina

The Choices We Make

Lately I have been in awe of little acts of kindness from random strangers. Maybe it’s just the holidays, but it seems that wherever I turn, someone is there to help. I guess that’s why tonight, when I was walking home from yet another random act of kindness, I was surprised to witness a disgusting act of hate that I can’t stop thinking about.

I was walking towards the metro station when I heard a homeless woman yelling at a young black security guard. He turned to walk away and then she yelled the most disgusting, obscene, unforgivable word that has ever been written in the English language.

As I walked closer, I could see the man’s body literally reel back. It was as if this woman’s hate had sunk a hook into his back. He turned around and said “What did you just call me?” And she responded with the word, again.

Surprised by her answer, he turned and asked me if I had heard what the woman had said. Looking into this man’s eyes, I could see that the real question was not if I had heard it, but if I believed it.

Shocked by the situation, I told him that I heard it and was disgusted by it. I told him what was obvious, that she was mentally ill, what she had said was unforgivable and wrong, and that he was bigger and better than her words.

By now a friend of this man’s had joined us and gave the man his support. The man turned to us and said “I am better than that” and walked to a corner where he put his face against a wall.

As I was turning to leave, his friend called after me and asked me what my name was. As we exchanged names, a powerful recognition came between us. Looking into each other’s eyes we saw that good people in this world still existed and that love was more powerful than hate.

This interaction, though brief, was proof that we are all interconnected and we all have a choice to make. We can choose to let hate ruin and divide us, or turn it into something that makes us stronger and more powerful. We can also let hate stick with us, or simply realize “we are better” and move on.

The Top 8 Gifts of All Time …..

Happy Holidays friends! I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted but I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to some of my favorite small business owners (and their amazing wares).

So without further ado, I give you my top eight favorite holiday gift makers of all time. Enjoy! ….

1.) Changes Jewelery – Handmade crystal necklaces

ImageMy good friend Ashley is one of the most stylish and hard working people I know. These gorgeous crystal necklaces are handmade and will make the perfect gift for someone special.

2.) Artsy Lydia – Embroidered Paper Goods

ImageI’ve known Lydia since tenth grade and can safely say that she is one of the most artistic people I’ve ever met. Lydia puts her all into what she does and will jump (and loop) through hoops to make sure your gifts are both practical and unique.

3.) Wayward Broad Studio – ‘Femme-forward’ art and illustrations

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Who doesn’t love a strong lady? Although I’ve only known Heidi for a few months, she is definitely one of the strongest (and sweetest) people I’ve ever met. I absolutely love her artwork and recommend that you head on over to her page and check out the awesome prints, postcards, and flasks!

4.) myRegeneration

ImageSara is part librarian – part eco-queen and has a heart the size of the sun. She made me this adorable utensil holder for my birthday and it’s one of the cutest (and most useful) things I own. This is the perfect gift for someone who cares about the environment and wants to look good doing it. You can check out Sara’s wares here.

5.) Bear Hat Studio

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I met Melissa years ago while I was living in Providence, RI. Melissa is a beautiful and talented artist, who loves to hang out with her dog and make food for all of her friends. Her paintings are gorgeous and full of life and I realllllly hope she decides to publish a book about them one day!

This painting is from her ‘protective ghosts’ series. You can check out more of Melissa’s gorgeous paintings here.

6.) Greer’s Jewels of Hope

ImageI first learned about Greer’s business when I was going through my very first (and hopefully last) cancer scare. My doctor recommended a very painful procedure and I was searching the internet for answers.

This is a gift for anyone who lost someone from cancer or who is dealing with a battle of their own. You can learn more about Greer’s business here.

7.) Spak Bros. Pizza

ImageAt the end of the day who doesn’t want a Steak & Cheese hoagie or a basket of seitan wings? Get yourself a gift certificate that keeps on giving and enjoy as many delicious homemade cheddar and potato pierogies as you can buy.

This is the perfect gift for someone who loves hockey, turtles, pinball, and pizza. They even have vegan pizza and are committed to providing local and sustainable food whenever possible. Get yours today here.

And finally …

8.) Lots of love and laughter …

ImageIf you’re broke as a joke and can’t afford to buy stuff this year, give the only gift we all have; unending love and lots of laughter.

To the rest of you who do have money, you should buy stuff from my friends.

There I said it.

Happy Holidays! ❤

PS – Please share your favorite small businesses in the comment section below. I am currently shopping for gifts and would love some suggestions! 🙂

Greetings From Another Planet

Dear friends,

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated but things have also changed quite a bit. In a span of months, I have temporarily moved across the country not once but twice. Luckily, I moved to the same place and have gradually come to know (and love) something that was once very foreign to me.

Washington D.C. is a place unlike any other. It is steeped in history and rich with culture. Every brick has a secret, a message told a thousand times but still left unturned. It is a place of endless and unfathomable knowledge; a place where you literally rub elbows with some of the greatest leaders in the world.

I love D.C. because it is like a dictionary and a fairy tale at the same time. You never stop learning and everything is possible. If you work hard, and make the right connections, anything can happen. The power to achieve great things is in your hands; how you use it is up to you.

D.C. is also exhausting, both physically and mentally. So much knowledge calls for a ton of responsibility and only the biggest, best, and brightest shine here.

People in D.C. are also remarkably fit. Running, walking, biking, cross-fit, you name it, they do it. Mix that with a shell of nerves, and a schedule that keeps you moving, and you have your basic D.C. body type (lean and ‘mean’).

One of the things that I most admire about people in D.C. is their ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle while being so productive. How they find the time to work 12 hour shifts and still create home cooked meals and head to the gym is beyond me.

One of my goals while I am here is to be like these people. There has never been a better opportunity to practice healthy living then when I feel like I don’t have the time.

My goal for this month is to create a master list of things I want/need to get done and to accomplish these while working a full time schedule and making time for exercise. I will post status updates regularly. For now I’ve gotta run.

Stay tuned …..

‘The List’ …

Tomorrow afternoon the man I love will be boarding a plane to South America. What was originally only a month apart has turned into three months as I learned last week that I will be leaving for DC at the end of May (most likely a couple of days before his return). 

     Needless to say, we were (and still are) bummed. We have been blessed with such wonderful opportunities. J’s trip sounds amazing and I am excited for the opportunity to gain career experience in DC. We are so lucky (so fortunate) to have such amazing friends, family, and coworkers that cheer us on every step of the way.

     Even though we live an hour away our bond remains as strong as ever; if not stronger because of the time that we spend together. It’s such an amazing experience to fall in love with one of your best friends. Someone who can make you laugh (and cry) in an instant. When simply curling up in their arms makes you feel like you’re coming home again … 

     That said, the past couple of weeks have been hard. We have both gone through various stages of the grieving process; most of which are denial. I can’t imagine a day without hearing his voice or a weekend not spent in his arms. He won’t have a phone in South America so we will have to rely heavily on Skype, email, and Facebook chat. I borrowed one of his pillows so I could still feel like I was holding him at night and stocked up on ‘girly books’ at half-priced books so I would have something to read until I fell asleep. 

     During times like these, preparation can make all of the difference in the fight against sadness. If J and I want to build a lasting relationship, we both need to do whatever it takes to make ourselves happy and strong. That’s why I have decided to make ‘the list’. The list is the beginnings of a longer list of things that I plan to do this month to make myself happier and stronger while Jayson is away. There are a lot of ‘have-to’s’ but I am making sure there are some ‘want to’s’ in there as well. If there is anything college has taught me it’s to focus on the body, mind, AND spirit. Here goes! ….

1.) Work out (intentionally) three times a week (exercise beats out the blues!)

2.) Eat mostly healthy whole foods (most – if not all – of which will be bought from the local co-op)

3.) Learn to cook! (try new recipes using fresh, local ingredients – things with lots of vitamins that taste delicious!)

4.) Clean your room! (sort through clothes/books etc. – donate whatever you don’t use – organize what you do)

5.) Take out the trash! ( …)

6.) Write your research paper! (weekend camp outs at the library! <3)

7.) Go shopping! (out with the old in with the new – or used!)

8.) Go see a movie! 

9.) Reconnect with old friends.

10.) Throw a mix-tape (cd/usb) party.

11.) Enjoy the sun!

12.) Get lost in good books.

13.) Play more chess!

14.) Cook dinner with a friend.

15.) Practice the ukulele.

16.) Make new friends.

17.) Pray/meditate.

18.) Drive somewhere beautiful.

19.) Email Jayson’s mom/ call my mom(s)/grandmom to wish them a Happy Mother’s Day! ❤

20.) Congratulate Shanell on her big graduation day (May 12th!) – Prepare your room for her arrival. ❤

21.) Pack for DC.

22.) Leave one of your pillows in Jayson’s car so he has something to hold while you are away. ❤ ❤ ❤

 

I’m sure things will be added/taken off the list as time goes on but I think I’m off to a good start. Here’s to growing stronger together even when we’re apart. 

For the love of reading (a nerd story)

      In elementary school I was, how do you put it, a giant nerd. As my mother so gracefully told my boyfriend this weekend, I was the epitome of an ugly duckling. Bad teeth, bad hair, add in the glasses … you get the picture. Not only was I not beautiful, I also had no social grace, which unfortunately for me meant zero friends. So in between fits of crying and begging my parents for ridiculously expensive clothing, I soon found other ways to pass the time. I built forts with my brother, played in the woods, and when I was old enough … I learned to read. 

     Reading did not come naturally to me. In fact I was almost held back in first grade for not being a strong enough reader. I was taught how to read in a trailer outside of my first grade classroom. I still remember the old woman who taught me how to hold a pencil and sounded out words one by one. What was once frustration soon became utter liberation as the light in my attic suddenly clicked on. I could read! And did I. Once I learned that letters connected to make words, and words connected to make sentences, nothing stopped me. I quickly surpassed my classmates in all things reading. Book reports were a breeze and soon I began to write my own stories. 

     My parents supported my vivacious love of the written word by purchasing me a used word processor (gasp!) and driving me to the local book mobile. Sometimes, if I was very good, my mother and father would allow me to pick out a couple of cherished items from the Scholastic Book Club magazine at school. Every day I would grip my desk in anticipation hoping that Scholastic books would be delivered to my desk by my teacher. When the books arrived it was like Christmas Day for one. Since none of the ‘cool kids’ were big fans of reading, I was the only one to receive these gifts. While they had their L.A. Lights and Starter jackets, I had my Edgar Allan Poe and Scary Stories. 

      To this day you will probably find me with my nose in a book while other ‘kids’ are playing beer pong. Once a nerd, forever a nerd. Luckily for me my story ‘ends’ happily. My family moved after sixth grade and I made lots of friends at my new school. I did lots of stuff that didn’t involve reading but I always seemed to go back to a book at the end of the day. Some of my best friends are characters in books and some of my fondest memories are of reading or writing. Whether curled up in bed or in the middle of a cross country adventure, you’re never truly alone as long as you have a book by your side. 

     So why did I decide to write a post about reading? For a couple of reasons. A while ago J told me about a site called Goodreads. It allows you to rate books and share your reviews with your friends online. While I know not everyone is on Goodreads you should definitely check it out if you have time. Also, if you have a book that you have cherished and wish to share with the world please post it in the comments section below. The most recent book that I fell in love with was The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. The book was so good that I actually missed it while I was at work or with friends. I literally could not wait to come home to it and continue reading. 

     All of us have our inner ‘nerd story’. Today take the time to embrace your inner nerd and do whatever it is that makes you feel loved and special. For me it’s reading, and communicating positively with other people. For you it could be building action figures, or playing extremely nerdy video games while scarfing down Omaha steaks. Whatever it is, embrace it, and share it. Unless it’s Omaha steaks … you can save all of those for yourself. ❤ ❤ ❤

Too much of a good thing

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     Remember when you were five and your parents taught you how to make toast for the first time? How about when you learned how to make cocoa or ramen? Cocoa, toast, and ramen made up a very large portion of my childhood snack foods. I even invented some snacks of my own such as hot sauce in tortilla wraps and ‘bread and butter balls’. Learning how to cook was fun, exciting, and for most of us extremely challenging. That’s why when you got something right you stuck to it and kept on making it until you literally could not make it (much less eat it) any longer; hence too much of a good thing. But is there really such a thing as too much of a good thing? I certainly thought so this Christmas when I swore off baked goods (and baking) for the rest of my life. Low and behold it is January and I am once again tempted by all things sweet as I sneak back into my weekly gym routine. 

     Here is one of my favorite ‘adult snacks’ that I learned how to make last summer. Once I learned how to make hummus I found that I could not stop. Hummus is addicting and extremely good for you. Serve it up with some semi-sweet carrot sticks from your local co-op or as the main sauce for a veggie wrap like in my photo below. I like to make an extremely large batch so that I always have some on hand when I need something quick, easy, and satisfying. 

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     I am exhausted so I am just going to post a recipe instead of typing one out. I use garlic salt in my hummus instead of garlic cloves and salt. I also use cayenne pepper instead of hot sauce. I have never heard of anyone using hot sauce in their hummus but to each their own I suppose. I hope everyone had a very happy holiday and a great new year. Here’s to healthy snacking! ❤ 

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/hummus-recipe/index.html