Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Penn Station

Brie and her beloved, Fishy playing peek-a-boo on the LIRR downtown

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook...January 18, 2011

FOR TODAY...January 18, 2011

Outside my window...rain.  It's a cold and miserable day.  But I'm in NYC.  So it's all good!

I am thinking...some fun stuff to do with the kids tomorrow while Tiff has to work.  Maybe we'll see what's within walking distance, or do a fun scavenger hunt in the hotel.  We shall see...

I am thankful for...friends who inspire me to be a better person, challenge me to step outside of my comfort zone, and encourage me to reach for my dreams!

I am wearing...comfy pants, t-shirt, robe...I actually haven't changed all day.  So much nicer than my work "uniform"!

I am update my photo-a-day blog...I'm a few days behind so I need to catch up!

I am creating...a plan for our "hotel-schooling" for tomorrow.  Nate and Brie are getting a "lesson" each day while they're missing school - it's "M" week and Mrs. Downey sent home a packet of activities for us to work on while we're gone.  So, tomorrow we'll do our reading, practice our letters, and pick an activity to work on . 

I am bed early tonight.  I'm hoping getting more than 6 hours of sleep will help with my patience level tomorrow.

I am hoping...Nate gets a good night's sleep so he is less argumentative and more cooperative tomorrow.  Today was a challenging day.

I am hearing...Brielle's bath running, PBS in the background, and Nate going on a fire call.  

Around the house...we're in a hotel suite so its not really our house, but we have stuff strewn all about...the kids (Nate & Brie) had "school" earlier and Alex's train tracks are still set up in the hallway.  

On my mind...nothing to speak of, really.  Which is nice.  I don't have work to worry about (for a few more days, anyway).  I miss my hubby but he's been busy at home working on projects so I can't wait to see his work!!

One of my favorite things...Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  Because of them, I may never be skinny.  

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Swimming at the hotel, hanging with Tiff & enjoying our last 4 days in NYC, driving home to see Daddy, whatever else comes our way!

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...
The "crew" awaiting our train into the City.  It was cold yesterday but we had a big day (Tiff's birthday) to celebrate so it was the perfect day to get out and do it up big!  With no stroller it was a challenge so thank God Jessica was with us to help carry my load (Alex) or I would have pooped out early!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Singing the Praises

What do you do when you receive the most fabulous customer service you've had in a LONG time?  Why, you blog about the company, of course!

Not sure if you've heard of Groupon, but it's only, like, the most fabulous website for saving money on just about anything - EVER! (The "like" was for effect, btw, did it work?)

Per their website, this is how it works:
 Groupon negotiates huge discounts—usually 50-90% off—with popular businesses. They send the deals to thousands of subscribers in their free daily email, and the businesses get a ton of new customers. That's the Groupon magic.

First, you tell them a little about yourself—starting with your zip code, gender and age—and they make sure you see the deals most relevant to you. Every so often you get a random deal but it's a great way to find new places, activities, and try new things.  And you can even take advantage of deals in other areas.  Fabulous stuff - 1/2 meals, massages, discounts off of admission to museums, online order savings, the options are endless. 

Now on to why they are so fabulous and just why it is I'm impressed enough to spread the word about them even when they don't even know (or probably care) that I'm talking about them.

I purchased a Groupon (a deal) on 11/3 to purchase a blog book (a printed book version of my blog) at half price.  When I went to use the special code on 1/4, I learned that it had expired on 12/31.  Ouch.  So I contacted Blog2Print (the company through which the code was to be used) to see if there was a loophole and they said...more or less - "too bad, so sad".

I then contacted Groupon to inquire if there was anyway to avoid this oops in the future and/or to see if I had any recourse to recoup my money.  They advised me to contact the company above and see if they would honor their code and if not, to let them know.  Since I had done that already, I responded with the (not so helpful) response I received from said company and within the hour I had a response from Groupon advising me that they had credited my account the cost of that Groupon purchase to be used towards future purchases.

No hassles.

No bickering.

No pulling teeth.

Just 100% customer satisfaction.

I'm not a firm believer that the customer is always right nor that companies should bend over backwards to kiss our butts, but I do believe good quality customer service is a lost art.  And this, my friends, was EXCELLENT customer service.  Prompt.  Courteous.  (Dare I say...) even immediately HELPFUL! 

So today, I sing the praises of Groupon!  For they have made my day!  Thank you for listening. 

Simple Woman's Daybook...January 11, 2011

FOR TODAY...January 11, 2011

Outside my's winter.  Snow.  Cold,  Gray.  Typical for this time of year. 

I am thinking...about the future.  Where I want to be in 10 years.  What choices I should be making to get there. What is happy to me and am I there?  It's deep stuff, but I figure I can't just let it happen.  Can I?  I feel like I've let my whole life just sort of happen.  If I want to have any control over where I am and how happy I can be, I need to start taking the reins. 

I am thankful for...the many opportunities that have come my way lately.  I am reaching outside my comfort zone, doing things that are challenging and a little unknown and learning and growing exponentially as a result.

I am outfit I'm horribly uncomfortable in.  Most of my clothing options lately fall into this category.  I know I need to do something but just. can't. seem. to. MOTIVATE!  I'm stuck in a vicious circle I can't seem to get out of.  Like those blasted traffic circles, driving around and around and around, unable to turn off.  Everyone makes it sound so easy but I don't agree.  Logically it makes sense: Eat less, eat better options, exercise more (or at all for that matter).  I just can't

I am remembering...all the things I have to pack for our trip.  Swimming gear, beloved blankets, loveys, diapers, clothes, entertainment for the trip, food, stroller, camera, medicines, chargers, etc., etc., etc. 

I am creating...recently I was lucky enough to be given the chance to create the logo and business cards for a property services company I'm doing some p/t bookkeeping work for.  It reminded me of a previous life when I had my own desktop publishing "company" (S.Y.S.tems Desktop Publishing) and did start-up business packages (logo design, business cards, letter head and envelope design) for local contractors. I only did a few but it brings me great pleasure to see my logo still being used by at least one of the companies.  It's an amazing feeling of pride even if it was 10 (or more!) years ago.
I am NYC!  The boys and I are heading down to NYC/Long Island area for a whole week to spend a glorious time with our favorite people, Tiff & Brie!!  I can't wait.  Of course I have serious anxiety over the trip itself.  Seven hours alone in a car with two small children in January.  It doesn't sound like the smartest idea, but we can't schedule these sort of fantastic adventures so we'll take them when they come!  We will spend the week hanging out, swimming, playing, touring, and relaxing (when Tiff's not working, that is!)  And of course, we will miss Daddy while we're gone, but I think the time away will re-energize us all!  He deserves a break and the boys will appreciate getting away from the "normal" every day stuff. 

I am reading...a couple things.  I am bringing them both with me and hope to get some reading time in, but we'll see.  In the meantime, I have started my second audio book and am riveted by the story...An Unfinished Life, by Mark Spragg.  I found myself parked in the parking lot at work waiting for them to finish the chapter the other day for almost 10 minutes!!

I am hoping...not to just ramble all my thoughts here and then forget about them like I usually do.  I really do want to change things.  Myself.  My outlook.  I just figure I won't follow through now any more than I usually do.  I need some accountability.  But how?

I am hearing...general background noise.  Hums, squeaks, taps.  Virtual silence, actually.  It's nice.

Pondering these words..."There's always a little truth behind every "just kidding". A little knowledge behind every "I don't know" A little emotion behind every "I don't care" And a little pain behind every "it's okay"?  
My brilliant friend, Heidi, posted this on FB yesterday and it's SO true.  I've always felt this way. 

Around the house...lately there's chaos, clutter, and tension.  The winter months have us hiding inside for long periods at a time.  It's been too cold to get the boys outside to play much and we've fallen out of sync on some of our usual get-out-of-the-house activities with Tiff & Brie being away.  Nate's attitude has been HORRENDOUS.  He's mouthy, argumentative, and has an awfully BIG attitude for his 4-year-old frame!  He's been losing privileges and beloved toys left and right lately!  It doesn't seem to be helping at all, though!

On my mind...Nate's behavior lately.  He is sweet as apple pie one second, being playful, cracking jokes, giving hugs for no reason, and then like a switch, he gets mouthy, starts fighting with me, his brother, the dog, and starts mouthing off.  I didn't expect this at four.  Fifteen, sure.  But FOUR?!?  I feel unequipped to handle this stage.

Noticing that...I'm in a bit of a funk today.  I need to snap out of it.  Oh SUNSHINE, where ARE you!?!?!

One of my favorite things...this blog.  It allows me to share my innermost thoughts, feelings, and dreams in a non-judgmental forum.  (At least if I AM being judged no one tells I'll take it!)

A few plans for the rest of the week: Christmas celebration with Auntie Pam and the Ayers Clan; Walk 'N Talk with Heidi, haircuts for the boys and I, packing, and ROAD TRIP!!

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...
A rare moment to get outside and play.  
It was in the 20s this day so it didn't last long, but we enjoyed it while we could!

Be sure to check out more Simple Woman's Daybook entries!

Monday, January 10, 2011

10 on 10 : January 2011

Today's 10 on 10 is a tribute to my upcoming road trip!!!  The boys and I are leaving this weekend to head down to NYC to visit a friend and I'm beyond excited!  So in honor of our adventure, I took 10 photos (one photo an hour for 10 hours on the 10th of the month) that reminded me of all things travel.   Enjoy!



Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 According to Facebook

I posted this last year and thought I would follow suit again this year just to keep it consistent.  Besides, I like the picture into my status updates for the year and what I talked about...Now mind you, according to the application I used to generate this, they used some 13 (or something) statuses of a possible 837 to choose from so this really is just a snippet.  It's fun anyway, though...

Monday, January 3, 2011

My 2011 To-Do List

Instead of a list of resolutions I'll never stick to and will beat myself up over for years to come, I decided to put my goals and aspirations for this new year down on a to-do list of sorts.  I'm constantly making lists and feel great accomplishment when I get to cross something off my list, so a list seems the most appropriate for me to work from.

With that said, here's my list:

1.  Finish a book.  Any book, really.  I've started two recently and have yet to finish them.  Heck, I started my last book (no less than) 7 years ago and haven't finished that one yet either.  I would just like to make reading more a priority in 2011.

2.  Get healthier.  Notice I didn't say "Lose 50 lbs" (which is ultimately what I probably need to do to be healthy) but I know a goal like that is overwhelming and completely undoable (for me!).  So, instead, I will say "get healthier" and take baby steps.  Perhaps I'll start with "fit into my pre-Alex size pants" as a starting point...10 lbs should accomplish that.  Then I can step it up and aim for fitting back into my pre-Nate size.  And so on, and so forth.  My first step is to focus on drinking water whenever I get the urge to eat.  I need to drink more water anyway and at least I'll be doing something instead of focusing on my incessant urge to shovel food in my mouth.

3.  Simplify.  This is pretty broad and could easily become one of those "too grand to know where to start" type goals.  But in an effort to not let it overwhelm me, I'll simplify by saying I aim to take portions of my life that feel cluttered and overwhelming and make them easier.  Whether it be taking the 7 email accounts that I have a hard time keeping up on and getting rid of a few (most) of them or just digitally uploading all my CDs to iTunes so I can purge myself of their clutter.  I'd like to simplify my friends list on Facebook and reprioritize how I spend my time online.  I'd like to downsize my closet and limit the clutter in my drawers.  There's so much stuff in there I rarely use or need.  What would feel better than empty space on my shelves and in my closets and more time to spend with the ones I love and do the things that feed my soul?   *Sigh*.

4.  Be recognized somehow for my photography.  Not sure how to do this one yet, but somehow, someway, I'd like to get props of some sort for my photography.  This seems a little gratuitous and self-promoting to say, but it would mean I was taking a step forward in realizing a dream.  2010 proved to be a good year for progress in the photography realm, between being asked to be staff photographer at Hillside's Believe in Kids Golf Tournament, doing "professional" maternity photos for my friend, Shelby, and being "hired" to take photos for Shelby's sister's bridal shower and again for my parents, I made quite a few positive strides towards my goal of being a "real" photographer someday.  So, whether it be a positive mention in a reputable publication, a "win" for an I ♥ Faces photo challenge, or (my dream!) a feature on Kodak's Picture of the Day.  I'd be honored if someone recognized my photography in one of these spotlights.  Until then I will keep honing my craft and working on my skills and "eye".

5.  Be nicer to myself, my family and others.  As I said here, I pledge to be nicer in general.  More specifically, I hope to be nicer to myself.  Less critical with more movement made towards this "loving thyself" thing people often talk about.  Even closer to home, however, is my family.  I've not always been pleasant to my loved ones of late.  My husband takes the abuse worse than anyone and as he said today "I'm used to it, I've been dealing with it for 10 years". Boo.  That's (obviously) not fair to him.  He deserves better and in return, I may perhaps get the improvements in his actions/behaviors that I have been longing for.  We shall see.  Either way, I hope to yell less, hug more (if that's even possible!) and listen.  Just listen - I could learn a lot by actually hearing people.

Obviously there are a hundred smaller things I'd like to "fit in" in the next year...small tasks I'd like to stop talking about and finally finish, projects I'd like to start, movies I'd like to see, places I'd like to visit, photos I'd like to take.  But one of my first goals for 2011 will be to finally finish (and POST!) my 101 in 1001 project.  I only started talking about this more than a year's about time I followed through.  I decided earlier today that I've been overthinking it...thinking all my goals had to be big, life altering achievements.  Really, it will just be a list of things I'd otherwise put off and eventually want to check off my list so I'm that much more settled and sure of my footing in this world.  So stay tuned for that to finally become a reality.  I promise not to just mention it and forget about - I vow to follow through this time.

I Pledge to be NICER!

I will hold the door for people behind me. I will say "please" and "thank you." I will smile at strangers. I will compliment people. If I'm not sure whether I should greet someone with a handshake or hug, I will opt for the hug. If I see someone having trouble, I will offer help. I will try to perform at least one Random Act of Kindness a week. I will be grateful. I will not hold grudges. I will always do my best to be humble, empathetic, and honest. I will be mindful and considerate of the people around me. I will be kind to people, animals, and nature. All in all, I promise to be nicer!

Won't you join me and Operation NICE in pledging to be a little nicer this year?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Judgement and Criticism Free Zone

I don't know why but parenting seems to be riddled with judgement and criticism.  From the heated breast vs. bottle debate to co-sleeping vs. crying it out, everyone has an opinion.  And their opinion is usually the (only) right one.  It gets old.  I have low self esteem issues anyway so having to battle this constant critique from friends, family, and strangers alike is exhausting.  Don't get me wrong, I have amazing friends who support me no matter what and are often chosen and kept as my friends because they are honest and accept me for who I am - so they are not the ones I am referring to.  My family is generally supportive of me no matter what, too, but there are always those random comments (whether natural or contrived) that catch me off guard and make me wonder if I'm doing it all wrong.

Today, for me, was an epic sort of Mom-fail day.  (Which if you read this article, you'd know how unhip and overused those words are in 2011).  From the very start I was challenged by seemingly normal activities and stressed by the chaos, mess, and noise bouncing off the walls of our house.  I yelled more than I (or, anyone) would want to, lost my temper, even threw out my back picking up my 45 lb. 4-year-old who was resisting arrest time out.  I just didn't have my wits about me and seemed to fail at every turn.  What turned my day around was the love and support from my 4-year-old and an omniscient g-chat with an angel.  At one point in the day, with tears streaming down my face from the reality of my pathetic parenting, Nathaniel came up to me and gave me a hug.  "I love you, Mom", he said and then turned a sweet, tender moment, into a fun game with an exaggerated voice saying "Bear HUGS?!" and then diving in for a bear hug of colossal proportions.  I hate failing my boys but at times like this I am comforted knowing somehow, at least, they're pretty good kids.

Later that night, while sitting at dinner with Nate and Alex, Nate put his fork down, clasped his hands and said rather authoritatively, "Everyone!  I think we need to talk, shall we?"  I was struck with his proclamation so I asked him what he wanted to talk about and he turned it back to me...So I suggested we do a round of "what was your favorite part of the day".  Mine, of course, was our fun game of "Bear HUGS?!"  :)

Out of nowhere, I got a message from Heidi on g-chat.  I had sent her an email earlier but in one short sentence she was able to surmise that I was having a rough day (still can't quite figure that out).  She let me vent and bemoan my failings and had brilliant words of wisdom to share in return.  Seriously, her being there at that moment to say the perfect things she said was a gift from up above.  Talk about perfect timing!

The reason I had emailed Heidi in the first place was because I had stumbled upon a blog that spoke directly to my soul today.  Over at Making the Moments Count, she writes about parenting, depression, life, and even blogs weekly with a theme of support amongst parents for our differences in parenting.  I'm not saying my epic fail today should be considered "right for us" by any means, it still sucked as far as parenting goes, but I hereby declare this space a non-judgement zone. If ever I don't hold to that, I ask you to call me out on it.  This world needs a little more acceptance and no matter who you are, where you've been, what you've done, what you believe, or how you parent, I think you're awesome and I relish the opportunity to learn from you!  So, expect me to take part in MtMC's weekly meme (did I mention that I hate that word?!?) and feel free to share your own stories of how you do this!  Parenting is an extremely hard job and last I checked there still was no instruction manual available so if it weren't for you, my fellow parents, friends, and family, I'd never make it through my day to day challenges!  I'm blessed and honored to be amongst some fine company!  Thank you!

Now, I'm off to take Heidi's fantastic advice and in her words,  I will "Now turn EVERYONE, even hubby and me, and whoever else OFF, and try to get centered as you have a long To Do list that you would like to tackle this year and you need to get off on the right foot.  One day at a time."

Indeed, one day at a time - and I am anxious to get this one over and start fresh again tomorrow!   

Saturday, January 1, 2011

365 Project

I've finally found the inspiration and motivation to get back on top of my photo-a-day blog - my dear friend, Heidi, has signed me up to join her in posting a photo a day for the 365 Project.  The details will be figured out as we go, but I look forward to the challenge of sharing a snippet into my day so I'll have a great look back at the year in photos this time next year.  Won't you join me?  Stop over to A Day In The Life of...

After all, what would a new year be without new starts and fresh beginnings?!? So join me as I attempt to post my year's "story" one photo at a time.