Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Songs that Inspire my Morning Self

{this pretty much sums it up...}

I didn’t use to be a morning person. In fact, I used to be the OPPOSITE. I was cranky, lethargic, and possessed an overall lack of motivation. At some point throughout my 4 years at MSU, that changed. Somehow I turned into the person that loves the morning and finds that once up, I am at my most productive during this time of the day.

I’m not sure what happened to make this change. Maybe it’s growing up and maturing, maybe it’s because I discovered coffee. Whatever the case may be, these songs have no particular meaning to them besides the fact that they inspire motivation in my morning self. They make me feel a combination of inspiration, motivation to take on the world, and an overall level of upbeat-ness:

  1. Stay or Leave – David Matthews Band
  2. It’s Amazing – Jem
  3. Something More – Secondhand Serenade
  4. Call N’ Return – Hellogoodbye
  5. Pony (It’s Ok) – Erin McCarley
  6. Life is What You Make It – Number One Gun
  7. Chances – Five for Fighting
  8. Can’t Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton) – Macklemore & Ray Lewis {song also mentioned here}
  9. Get Some – Lykke Li
  10. My Love – Justin Timberlake
  11. You’re Not Alone – Saosin
Come December, there are most definitely some seasonal tunes added to the mix! Nothing like a little boy-band holiday cheer to kick start your day.

**Image via

Monday, October 29, 2012

I'm not Rachem

You know how sometimes you just open up a J. Crew catalog for inspiration when you feel like you have nothing to wear? Or you choose not to throw away the 3rd Pottery Barn that's come in the mail this week, just to get an idea for how to rearrange your home office?

Well, sometimes I like to watch Friends to remember all of the haridos or outfits or funny situations "the gang" has had to trigger some copycatting on my end...or sometimes just for a fun reminder of character traits we may share with the cherished cast.

No matter how much I go back and forth, I can't seem to settle on which character I love more: Rachel or Monica. I have so many qualities of each character, I guess it just really depends on the day. Today I'll dedicate some of the scenes from Friends where I stalk Rachel, for these reasons...

Love the hair. How is it so perfectly messy?

Love her attitude. Such a whiny bitch. 
We all deserve to be this way sometimes. 

I hate this episode. I LOVE the shirt. 

When he finally finds out how you feel about him...after you've been holding it in for so long. You'll never forget that exact moment.

Love her outfit here. 
Still can't understand how a short person can pull it off, but she does. 

Hair. Straight and parted down the middle. 
This is something I can only pull off in the winter. 
The end of an era...I was lucky enough to live with BFF Cole for 5 years. When we finally parted ways, it was this sad...sadder even. 

"And that, my friends, is what they call ca-lo-sure!"
How many times have we made a call like that 
without thinking it through??

Meggie, do you remember when you used to act out this part for me and how hard we laughed?! 

Looking back, I cannot believe how many times we'd rewind...yes, I said rewind. This is when we used to watch the VHS tapes over and over and over....

Kind of miss those days :) 

Songs That Will Save Your Soul

Ok, so the title above is a little dramatic, but go with it…
I dedicate this post to my intelligent, strong, capable, amazingly beautiful sister. I owe so much to her. I could write an ENTIRE blog on this topic alone...
Life has their ups and downs. I think Courtney should be commended for how she’s handling every curve ball that’s been thrown her way. Not just with her career, but everything life has to offer, both the good and the bad. She’s handled all situations with grace, courage and dignity, all the while her love, sense of humor and support has not wavered. Every life that Courtney has the opportunity to touch has become better because of her. Period.
I don’t like to make a habit of being sappy; it’s just not my style. But, for my sister, I’ll always make an exception.
So CLINK to the amazing Mrs. U J Aka Wife, Sister, Daughter, Grand Daughter, Friend, Confidant and Mentor to so many amazing, and lucky, kids. Have a glass of wine, take a bath (in your huge tub) and get lost in the melodies that will save your soul (not the lyrics in all cases, but the music is beautiful and inspiring in itself).
  1. In Safe Hands – Badly Drawn Boy
  2. Suggestions - Orelia Has Orchestra
  3. Happiness – The Fray
  4. Psychasthenia– William Fitzsimmons
  5. Out of Reach – Matthew Perryman Jones
  6. Here Before – Lissie
  7. Seasons of Love – Shiny Toy Guns
  8. In My Arms – Plumb
As long as you have love and laughter, everything else will follow (not trying to be cliché... promise). Hopefully the below will provide both of these things. LOVE YA SIS!
{just Aunt Meg with her Nephew}

{we're only one iPad call away :)}

{I was bored... enough said}

{"come on, that's not running, LET'S GOOOOOOO"}
{totally worth gaining a couple pounds!}

{classic sis and bro in law}

{clink! Everyday is a celebration Court... remember that}

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Look on the Bright Side

This post, oddly, is about love.
Not romantic love or sisterly love. Not about movie or novel love.
This is about loving life and finding the beautiful sides of what you've been given.

It's no secret to my closest friends and family that this has been a rough work year for me. Yes, I have made the choice to work in difficult school systems because the children I service are the ones who need the most help. I take great satisfaction knowing I've taught now close to 200 kids to read & write.  I've fallen in love with them, formed relationships with their families, changed the way they see things, the way they act, and exposed them to ideas they may never have known before. Even the ones who try my nerves each day with less than perfect behavior...often those are the ones I fall hardest for. They're my babies.

But this year I am an administrator and the problem is that, while I entered this position intending to support other teachers' instructional practices, I've found myself only dealing with behavior issues. The teachers need me constantly to help deal with the many, many disruptions in class, and it consumes every minute of every day. Not a single thing gets done that I should be doing in my role and that has left me frustrated, confused, sad, angry, drained, resentful.

My attitude had become so negative it was leaking into my constant state of mind and eventually reached an unhealthy level.

But then, one night last week, I had a talk with my brilliant, beautiful husband. He is my angel.  He is my gift. You see, like me, he's an administrator. But he serves at an even higher level in the schools and willingly deals with behavior issues larger than those I see each day.  He WANTs to be in this position, so he can talk about the responsibilities in a different light. He has more experience and  is able to look at things objectively and often helps me sort these things out that I get so emotional about.

He also knows me inside and out.

He told me how proud he was of the work I'm doing this year. He reminded me that my school is in a tough spot and I'm not the only one struggling. He pointed out all of the things I AM doing for the teachers and kids. He reminded me of how the team would suffer without me if I were to walk away right now.

So, what I should have said is: This year, I'm an administrator, so I GET to meet and know and love almost 200 kids at once! I'm in charge of grades PreK-2nd at my school.  Eight classrooms, 14 wonderful teachers and just over 180 kids from 3 years old to 9.  (I could dedicate an entire blog simply themed with pictures and stories about each one of them).

They are extremely difficult but they need love, knowledge and attention just as much as any other kid in the city, the country, the world.

This idea is what sparked my shift in attitude. I may be miserable in my role, but these kids are still there and they need me. The teachers need me. I made a commitment. I will finish the year knowing that I am doing the best I can with what I've got.

The bright side is that come May, I can do whatever I want. Teachers have the gift of a blank canvas each spring. We can make the next year what we want it to be. So, there's a VERY strong possibility I'll be back in the classroom where I belong next year. Teaching kids to read. Teaching kids to think and love to learn. I cannot be so far removed from instruction again. It's been physically painful to me.

Moving on.
I am blessed with a wonderful life. We've covered the husband--he's amazing. I also have parents who love me, a sister who stands by everything I do, and the cutest dog on the planet. I'm extremely healthy. I hold a strong skill set in my career (even if I occasionally loose sight of it). Friends. INTERESTS.
Man, do I have interests. I said so myself  right here!

I have experienced so many waves of euphoria lately and have not spent enough time trying to hold on to them.

I found this picture recently and fell in love with it. 
Looking at it conjures up thoughts of Florence + The Machine songs because of its peaceful intensity, just like their music.

So, in the spirit of my sister's "Friday Five", here are some things that keep me in the here and now, feeling happy and peaceful, and looking on the bright side of my full & rich life. 
Before I know it, we'll be back in Chicago and I can take long bike rides and runs along Lake Michigan with this view. 

While I am here in NOLA, I have access to paths like this one to run on and be alone with my thoughts. I love the crunch of the dirt and leaves beneath my feel as I trot on...I love the smell of the trees and looking at the stunning houses that border the parks here. 

I took the day off recently, just because. I went to a new store, The Fresh Market, and enjoyed a long lunch while I read my book on their charming front porch. 

They're all decked out in preparations for fall. 
They have this amazing turkey sandwich with a dried cherry spread that adds an interesting sweet tang to each bite. 

I let myself wander to their second floor and discovered a wine room.  Will have to sample some new bottles.  

I have a super cool apartment to come home to every day. 

Funfetti cake. It's my husband's and my favorite cake and I'm going to bake us one as our Thanksgiving desert this year since we're celebrating here, just the two of us. 

Also, on Thanksgiving day, I'm running my first Turkey Trot
It's a 5 miler. Should be a lot of fun. 
Of course, I'm hoping they will serve us turkey at the finish. 

And I have a husband who loves me so much.  Having a life partner who supports everything you do can have such a positive effect on your life. No matter what happens during the day, when I come home, he's there.  He's my life and the two of us are a family. 
Jobs will come and go, but he's my constant.  I'm so lucky.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Five

My company’s fiscal year has officially come to a close. Crazy how fast 2012 has gone by, and it’s strange to think starting Monday I will be working towards my 2013 goals! This year has brought on amazing opportunities with tons of additional responsibilities. Though there were (are) times I had the I-don’t-know-what-I-got-myself-into freak outs, the professional growth has been, and continues to be, invaluable (which showed in my stellar performance evaluation yesterday!).

Since the end of the year goes hand-in-hand with Halloween, a Friday afternoon office party is always on the agenda. Family and friends are invited to enjoy trick-or-treating, great food and fun, and take the grand tour of our new (huge!)office, all the while commemorating the hard work that went into the past year. My parents came by this year to check out my new “digs”, as my Mom likes to call it, and partake in the festivities.

All in all, a perfect way to kick off the weekend! Since Dave is up north at “Deer Camp” I am anxiously awaiting his return on Sunday, but in the meantime, will fill my time with plenty of relaxation, catching up on shows and magazines, and christening some close friends new home with, numerous, champagne toasts J

{excited to snuggle up with Cider Mimosa's, my new favorite beverage, and read this by our fireplace}

{s'mores latte and tackling an early morning to-do list)

{PUMPKIN BARS! My very new favorite dessert!}

{can't wait to rock this look in Mexico}

{hayrides and pumpkins}


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Runnin' Up That Hill

** Disclaimer** Court – you will LOVE this post!

I’ve never been a fan of running. Even when I was at the peak of my 10 year gymnastics career, endurance was never my strong suite. PERIOD. And while I do prefer swimming (easier on my ex-gymnast joints) I just can’t get myself into a pool during the Fall and Winter months. It’s too reminiscent of my high school diving days. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the sport, but thinking back to those Fall days in a cold pool makes me cringe and quite frankly, want to cry. With that being said, I realize weight lifting and yoga, even though it does in fact get my heart rate up, are not enough. So I have started incorporating cardio into my routine, not on a daily basis (yet), but I’m working on it…

Music is a big driver of my moods, so here are 10 songs that get me in the running frame-of-mind:

1. I Came to Party - Deuce
2. This Could be Anywhere in the World - Alexisonfire
3. Miami 2 Ibiza – Swedish House Mafia & Tinie Tempah
4. Run Wild – Phantoms
5. Can’t Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton) – Macklemore & Ray Lewis
6. Closer – Kings of Leon
7. How to be a Heartbreaker – Marina and The Diamonds
8. Where Have You Been – Rhianna
9. No Light, No Light – Florence + The Machine
10. Adagio for Strings – DJ Tiesto (also the song that is my alarm in the morning)

** WARNING: Some contain Explicit Lyrics

Since I loathe running so, here are some things, besides music, that help keep me motivated:
{you always feel better when you look good... my girl Nina Dobrev is inspiration in itself}

{since I simply can't say no to sweets with Halloween spirit looming, extra workouts are a MUST}

{Mexico is quickly approching! This picture is from my last trip there in December 2007}

Monday, October 22, 2012

Funky Buddha + Grand Rapids Local Artists = ZEN

Driving to yoga is my least favorite part of the day. I haul ass through rush hour traffic just to make sure I get there in time for a parking spot where I don’t have to cross an insanely busy road... with no crosswalk. BUT, because the benefits are physically, mentally and spiritually invigorating, I gladly deal with it. Not to mention, the weather is finally getting cold enough to actually CRAVE walking into a 95+ degree room. A craving that will continue to grow as the temperatures continue to drop throughout the seasons.
The Funky BuddhaYoga Hothouse offers various classes, ranging from beginner to advanced, slow and methodical movements to fast-paced power classes. One of my favorite classes is called “Shake Your Asana”, which combines Power Vinyasa and music. Unfortunately, these class times don’t always work with my schedule, but I love attending them whenever I have the chance, mostly because I love practicing to music. It’s a form of relaxation I can’t get anywhere else. Most often I find that I already know or have heard of the artists they play, but I love when there is a new discovery. Since they so generously post the playlists on their Facebook page weekly, I rush home to download the unknown gems. Recently, I attended a class where the playlist was a tribute to local artists. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Week Full of Mondays – Josh Rose
2. Half a Mind – Josh Rose
3. La Ti Da – The Icicles
4. I, Love, You – Ralston Bowles
5. Holland – Sufjan Stevens

(an amazing 90-minute candle light yoga practice that I can't wait to experience)


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Baby Boy

This post is dedicated to my best friend (well, my best friend other than Meggie, of course).  Her name is Nicole, but I call her Cole.
Anyway, this past Thursday she delivered her first child, a precious baby boy named Andrew David.  They plan to call him Drew.

I won't put photos of him up here, but I have seen a few and he is a bundle of pink baby cheeks and nose and fingers and toes. I love him already & I can't wait to meet him.  He is a  blessing to Cole's family and to the world.

So, in lieu of pics of Baby Drew, I'll show some cute & funny shots of my own baby boy. Meggie texted me a photo of 2 adorable bulldog puppies this morning, so I'm inspired to share (and brag).

This was the day we brought him home. The breeder had his ears glued back to look like tiny rosebuds. Apparently it's pretty common with show bulldogs, which his family was. We chose to let him go natural. 

One of his first morning stretches. He was a tiny baby at this time.  
He still starts every day this way. It's hilarious.

You can just tell he's a baby.  Look at how soft and pink the face is.  
(Man, I've really got baby bully summer maybe...)

Our first trip to Audubon park. There was a lot of stimulation for him and it was a lot to take in, what with the ducks, other dogs, and all of the people stopping to pet and admire him...

This was him on the way home that day. He was knocked out! 

We had the dream that Monkey would one day be a 
skateboarding champion...all he does is bark at it. 
He doesn't really like anything on wheels. Maybe his baby brother or sister will like to skate.  I've heard bulldogs do better if they watch a human do it. Maybe Meg can show our next baby how to do it (hint, hint, Aunt Meg).

Very soon after we got him, we decided to hop in the car and drive to Michigan to surprise the family.  Jackson slept on the floor of the back seat for most of the 18 hour drive! 
Look at that little tummy!
After his first snow, I threw a snowball at his face. 

He's a great cuddle buddy during a movie. 

Waiting for us to come sit with him on the couch. His tongue dries up and starts to get stiff after doesn't seem to bother him. 

Getting ready for Mardi Gras parades. 

Deep in thought.  What is he planning to do?

This is Duckie, Jackson's first love (God rest her soul).  
He was once smaller than her. 

In addition to objects on wheels, he doesn't like anything on his head. So, much to mommy's disappointment, this was the only way to get him with his 1st birthday crown. The table he's under was a regular escape spot for him when there was something he was avoiding. 

Napping with daddy. 

He actually fell asleep standing up after a Fourth of July party at our friends' house.  (I think that was also the night he got into someone's beer). 

I have this picture in my office. 
Probably one of the sweetest faces I've ever seen. 

There are SO many more pictures of this little boy.  More will come in future posts.  Hopefully this time next year there will be another one to brag about.