Friday, December 21, 2012

Lessons Learned 2012

As we draw close to the end of the year, I can't believe how fast 2012 has flown by. Seriously, it was just February, and now we are getting ready for Christmas. Wow. But, as always, I take this time to reflect on the lessons that I've learned this year, some easy, and some hard. I'll allude to things certain readers may know about, but the big take away is that if you can't learn from your mistakes and failures, then what was the point? And if you can't see the silver lining from the dirt, where is the hope? In everything I do I try to live with no regrets, so here's reflecting on what's happened so far:

January thru September I learned about patience. I was challenged to just sit and wait to see what happened. I also learned to believe in myself and just do the thing that I love to do. You may not become a millionaire, but when you look back on your life you will be exceedingly pleased with your decisions.

February I was shocked. I thought I had a friend I could trust. Instead, I knew a person who was just trying to get what they wanted at no regard for anyone else - beg, lie and cheat. I learned that even the most well-educated, well dressed, charismatic person could be scum not worthy of the bottom of your shoe. I really learned what it meant to be naive and gullible and how some jokes no one comes clean to in the end. When all is said and done you just have to walk away, never knowing the truth, but trusting your gut.

In March I learned about heartbreak and how you can have your heart set on something and think it's yours, only to find out that it is not meant for you. It is not your dream. And when it is so close that you can taste it to the bottom of your soul, it feels as though it is being ripped out from under you. So close it hurts. I then learned about decision making. I had to decide what I was going to do. And I needed to be able to be happy with that decision and not resent myself or anyone else for making it.

In April I learned all about different cultures. I learned some Catalan, and some Italian, and brushed up on my Spanish. I saw the world, literally, and it was absolutely awesome. It's really eye-opening and if you haven't been outside of the comfort of your "world" you should check out someone else's. Especially somewhere where you don't know the language and have to rely on your other senses to get around and figure things out.

In May I learned about hope. I was reminded that God has a much bigger plan for me, and what I thought was heartbreak, was just me trying to plan something that wasn't for me to plan. I learned about making the best use of my time and really getting to know people better and not take things for granted. I learned how to enjoy the present just a little bit more.

June through August I learned what happens when you let go and just give it your all. I had a blast doing the things I was apprehensive about in March. I now understood how sometimes you wouldn't make the decision on your own and you need something to happen to make you realize where you are really meant to be. This is the 2nd time this has happened - when heartbreak really leads to exploring new endeavors. There are no coincidences ;)

September I learned that I do not have time for foolishness.  If you are not on Team "me" then I don't need you on my team. And as much as I like a good party, sometimes it's the more intimate setting that really makes you smile. I had a blast with close friends and family, and they are the ones that make me happy and the ones I want to get to know even better.

October I learned how to calm myself down as I frantically realized that I was running out of time to do all thing things I "needed" to do. Then I was smacked with a hurricane to make me realize that too much emphasis is put on material objects. Time spent in good company is priceless, regardless of the circumstance. And to be grateful for everything that God has provided me; I don't "need" anything more.

November taught me about the people that matter. I have a wide open heart and try to be inclusive of everyone, but that is not always reciprocated. In life you will meet friendly people. Some are meant to be just passers by, while others will hang around. It really is a learning lesson to tell the difference between the people your prioritize and the people that prioritize you. I am done making people priorities who have me as options. Done. For. Ever. (We all know this one will take some work ).

December has reminded me not to take anything for granted, including my own life. And to stop pouting about the things that are wrong and either fix them or deal with them. December has tested me and asked me if I choose to feel lonely, isolated, bored, angry, and all that jazz. You do not choose what happens to you, but you choose how you react to it.

And 2012, as the other years, has blessed me with insight to see my past situations and the opportunities to learn from.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Thanks Amidst the Storm

**** This is my story of how the Hurricane affected some of the comparatively least affected areas. For many others it has been much worse ***

Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey on Monday October 29, 2012. The radius of the hurricane was reported to be around 200 miles and there were high winds and rains much before the actual 'eye' hit, and even after. The Jersey Shore is used to getting tropical storms and hurricanes, but this was nothing like they'd ever seen before. This was bigger than Irene, which hit last year, and was on the news for days and days before the storm. Governor Christie ordered evacuation of the barrier islands and people were urged to prepare by purchasing non-perishable food, gas, batteries, and candles.

Further up north, miles and miles away from Atlantic City and the coast, there was the underlying doubt of impact. We bought cans of soup and flashlight batteries, not really thinking we'd have to use them. But just in case.  Just in case this storm was as bad as they said it would be. And Monday night as the lights started to flicker, we started to believe that this thing was really happening. Flicker, flicker, and then they went out. Wow, this is for real.

With lit candles and noise as loud as you can imagine we sat and waited for this hurricane to pass. Listening to the radio on limited battery and staying as far from the windows as possible. I sat in the bathroom, with some music, a candle, and a comfy chair, to be in the safest place possible. One ear plugged to the music, and one ear listening to what was going on in case an emergency arose. For me though, that was it. And it passed, and I was fine. Tuesday morning I woke up, happy that it was over. But the aftermath was not over, that was just beginning.

New Jersey residents (and other surrounding residents) have been without power for days. No light, no heat, no refrigerator. We've had to charge our cell phones in our car so that we could reach our families and tell them we were safe. Cell phone reception has been spotty, and it's been hard to contact everyone, especially with "LAN" lines that are connected through the internet (bad idea). Lines to get gas have been ridiculous, with fights breaking out and people waiting anywhere from 2-4 hours to get gas. Bad guys have been looting shops, making an already devastating situation even worse. Commuters going into NY have had to carpool in groups of 3 to use the bridge (which, on short notice, can be difficult), and drivers have had to drive different routes on streets without traffic lights. It's so dark outside, I haven't driven outside past 6:30pm.

But I write all this to say, that my story is not a sad story. My family and I are fine. My friends are fine. I haven't lost a house or anything that really mattered. Sure, I'm inconvenienced by not having heat and having to sleep elsewhere; driving the long way to avoid dangerous left turns; and whatever else I haven't had access to, but we're in this together. And I really feel for those along the coast,  in Atlantic City, and in the Caribbean that have lost tons more than I have. We really need to remember to be thank God for all that we do have and not complain.

Thanks to PSE&G and the electric companies for getting power back.

Thanks to those working overtime to make sure we are safe.

Thanks to the cops on the street to keep order.

Thanks to the gas attendants and truck drivers delivering gas.

Thanks to the supermarkets and workers who are showing up so we can get fresh food.

Thanks to Governor Christie and President Obama for all the national aid to those that need it.

So remember that now is the time to be thankful for what you DO have and not complain about what you DON'T have.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog Action Day 2012 - The Power of "We"

Today is Blog Action Day 2012!! This years theme is the Power of "We." I am a strong advocate for making change, and the best way to do that is to join a group that beliefs in the same things you do. It's great to stand for something, but when you stand alone, oftentimes your force is not heard.

There are a number of organizations to join to make an impact: from AmeriCorps, the Red Cross, United Way, Global Healthy Organization, Junior Chamber of Commerce. But the power of We doesn't stop just by joining another group. An individual can find a way to become a "We" through conscious everyday decisions. For instance, choosing to purchase coffee from companies who use free trade coffee beans, purchasing clothing/objects made in the USA; purchasing local farm grown fruits and vegetables; walking instead of driving; turning off the lights when they are not in use to save energy for others, not wasting water, etc. There are a ton of small ideas that, when done by a ton of people, make a HUGE impact. The key is to do it and encourage others to do it. Publicize WHY you are doing it, and that individual action becomes an action that WE all are doing. Read my earlier entry on "What is Wrong with the World? I AM"

The Power of "We" becomes a lifestyle when you realize that it isn't all about you. I've heard countless times people don't care about saving water or electricity because they 'aren't paying for it.' That couldn't be further from the truth. Just because you don't physically pay for it doesn't mean you won't reap the drama caused by an unnecessary drought because everyone wanted to waste water, or when gas and electric prices go up because you refused to conserve. Maybe it won't even affect you, but somewhere down the line your kids or your kids kids will see the effects of previous generations' waste.

The Power of "We" is about collectively putting efforts toward a cause. Not only through joining groups but facilitating change in our smaller, personal circles. Do something. Or you have no right to complain.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Story Cube #1

I was digging in the yard one day when I discovered some coins. I dug about 5 feet and brought them in. After I washed them off, I sat down at the table and counted out $99.42! I went to the bank and had them changed the coins to bills. This was more than enough money to get my nephew the basketball set he’s been wanting. I bought the set, including a hoop, and wrapped the ball into a box. When I presented it to him, he shook the box to tray and guess what it would be. He immediately threw it up in the air. We went outside to play when I realized I wasn’t nearly in as much shape as I used to be. That night I tried deadlifting 40 lbs and I shamelessly struggled. I had this bright idea to join a sports league so I would stay motivated.
Finally, I sat down and waited for my tea to cool. I was babysitting my nephew and, of course, he was being mischievous. He attempted to reach high up to see what I had in my cup. I looked at my watch, and as soon as I finished my tea it was time for my sister to pick up her son. I changed and went back to the grad lab to finish my experiment for the night.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rory's Cube Picture #1

So I went to the store intending on picking up a book I had pre-ordered, when I cam across this snazzy little invention. They are called Rory's Story Cubes (by Gamewright if you want to order a set, or go to your local Barnes & Noble). And it's basically 9 dice cubes with pictures on each side. You roll the di and make up a story. 

So, let's have a little fun this summer. Every week I'll post a new picture up, and everyone writes a story on their own blog or webpage and put a link in the comments below. Also link my blog in your original post, so people can see the original picture.

Here's the first Story Cube Picture:
(Posted 7/19/12; Story by 7/25/12)

This is my way of getting back into the writing habit. Have fun!! I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Stop Planning on Doing Things

I am a planner. I love to know what's going on BEFORE I get there, or understanding what is going to be expected of me somewhere down the line, but I think here is where I can learn from my more spontaneous friends. Sometimes we planners are so good at mapping things out on paper - you know, the calendar, the to-do list, and all of the organization that follows - that we are not as skilled at actually doing planned activity. The easiest example is everyone's mad dash to make exercising their new year's resolution. Maybe you'll write down the days of the week that you will work out, and even look up the gym class schedules for Zumba. But all plans fail when they don't get executed. And soon you begin to make excuses - you're hungry, forgot your workout clothes as home, haven't joined a gym, blah blah blah. And the difference between PLANNING and DOING is all about enabling yourself to eliminate those excuses, so that if you consciously decide not to do it, it is because that is what you chose. So, for someone who really wants to work out, well, just keep gym clothes and a granola bar in your car trunk. Then you are consciously deciding to skip the gym each time you drive by and can no longer blame your excuses.

So right now, I am working on those enabling activities that hinder me from doing all the things I plan to do. I'll be the first to admit that I don't like to cook. But that's not the real reason. The real reason is that things don't always turn out perfectly the first time and I am impatient. Well, nothing I can really do to fix the impatience, but what I can do is pick a recipe and follow it from top to bottom. And over time I'll find out what works and what doesn't work. But sometimes as a busy person working it's hard to find the time to cook. And to make the time you need to have the right ingredients. In order to have the right ingredients you need to know what you are making before you go to the store. So, today in fact, I picked out a recipe and bought the stuff I needed. And then I made it (yup, didn't finish until 10pm, but hey one step at a time).  To the left are the ingredients I used: vegetable oil, peanuts, cilantro, ground beef, red pepper, soy sauce, egg noodles (couldn't get rice noodles), onion, bouillon.

And the final dish on the right, was just like  the picture on the recipe. It didn't take 30 minutes like the recipe said (probably took me 1.5 hrs) but I enjoyed the process. I felt good using my hands, and I saved some money by making my own food instead of buying it. Plus, I'm sure it's healthier than any restaurant style of cooking with loads of butter. And I even have leftovers for lunch.

So, this is just one example where I just had to bite the bullet and get things done, because I've been talking about cooking on Sundays FOREVER, and only know I stopped PLANNING to do it and actually did it.

Part of this realization for the need to DO things is also due to the fact that my time here is short (I'm not being morbid, I am actually moving in 3 months or so [most likely]). And I really want to be able to say that I took advantage of where I am while I was here. I am in a great location, near my friends and family, and there are a lot of opportunities to try new things. I don't want to regret not getting to try something when I had the chance.

With the Olympics coming up too, it's a great time to feel motivated. The Nike motto "Just Do It" seems to have even more meaning right now. So other things that I plan to move from Planning to Doing? Well, my writing for sure!! And it's always motivating to get fellow bloggers support - check out my friend here and show her some love. I want to get this fitness regime back on track. I want to read more, get my apartment in tip top shape and minimize (as I've been talking about for years). I finally want to pick up my ukulele, and of course, step up my cooking game. I think we those things I'll be really excited and enabled to do even more things.

So, my challenge to you - pick 1 thing you want to do this week. And then do it. (Tell someone so that you are accountable). It takes 14 days to break a habit I read somewhere. It all starts with 1 step.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Great Young Professionals Magazine

Bloggers, Check it out:

Higher EleVation Magazine for Young Professionals on the Rise

Great independent magazine with lots of information for the young professional. And yours truly knows the Creator/Editor :)

TV Credits Rolling

So, I've decided to look a little deeper into the world of writing. To start, I'm looking at the writers of those sitcoms we love. People always know the actors and actresses, and maybe they even know who the director and producer are, but rarely do the writers get credit.

My favorite shows and their writers (thanks to help from

Fav episode: The one where everyone finds out (Season 5, Episode 14)
Writers: David Crane, Marta Kauffman, Alexa Junga

A Different World
Main Writer: Bill Cosby

Main Writers: Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld

Main Writers: Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy

My Wife & Kids
Main Writers: Don Reo & Damon Wayans

Phineas & Ferb
Main Writers: Dan Povenmire, Jeff Marsh

Living Single
Main Writers: Robert Horn, Daniel Margosis

The Cosby Show
Main Writer: Bill Cosby

The Simpsons (pre-Season 4)
Main Writers: James L Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Gilmore Girls
Main Writer: Amy Sherman

Coupling (British)
Writer: Stephen Moffat

Caroline in the City (ya''ll remember this one?)
Main Writers: Fred Barron & Marco Pennette

Anyhow, you guys get the picture. There are some great shows out there. So when you find one, don't just look for the producer name, look to see who writes the script. They are the ones that make it funny!

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Listening to Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up" and just reflecting on today and the last couple of days. It. Is. Time. Time to be all that you can be. There is no time like the present. Sometimes we don't even try because we are afraid of failure. Maybe we think that anything that's not going to be perfect is not worth doing; well nothing, my friend, is perfect, so we might as well get that pretty little image out of our heads.

I listened to a lot of people talk about chasing their dreams and the motivation is contagious. It's time to stop making excuses and just do. As Yoda said, "There is no try, only do and do not."

And also bopping to Michel Telo's "Ai Se Eu Te Pego" (Portuguese) :)

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Silence is Golden

Sometimes you just need a minute of silence to think. In all the hustle and bustle it is so easy to get caught up with it all. I feel like sometimes we are afraid of the silence. There are things we don't want to think about. We just want to go on pretending that if we don't acknowledge it, it will take care of itself. And that's not a good place to be.

It's been such a long time since I've sat and read one of my [many] fiction books on my to-read list. It's not that I am not interested in reading the books, it's just that the easier and faster gratification items like the television and internet , or even music, seem to win out more than not. You would think that after being behind a computer all day at work, I wouldn't want to look at a screen at home, but it's actually the opposite affect. When I'm home I can do the personal things on the computer like chatting with someone from across the globe, or looking up a new music video. But it's really a mindset - after working all day we have been trained (or at least I have) to do something 'relaxing' after work. And sometimes reading, as much as I like it, seems like additional work. Now, maybe a book on CD is the better approach, but still the act of silently engrossing yourself in another person's mind of words is an incredible experience. And it's only in that way that you can appreciate all of the literary arts. I think it's great to listen to a book, but your imagination goes further when it is your mind doing all the thinking.

As you know, I have been following along with the happiness challenge; or at least I started to follow along at the beginning of the year. But it is something I want to get back into the habit of doing. The points that Gretchen Rubin offer are common sense, but it goes back to making things simpler. I encourage you to listen to some of the tips; they make for good advice. I just got back from my European adventure (will be another blog post), but what I really gained from it was realizing the fact, that for 2 weeks I only had 2 suitcases worth of possessions and I was absolutely fine. Obviously, there are comforts we live without when we are on vacation, but I am constantly reminded of how much STUFF we/I have and how eliminating some of that STUFF just frees up so much extra space for other non-material things.

I've been rambling on for most of this post, but there are a couple of things that I would like you to take away, that I also plan on doing:

1. Be silent, be still. Take a couple of moments for silence each week
2. Eliminate the STUFF. Figure out what's really important. Get rid of the other stuff, someone else could probably use it
3. Read a book. Our generation is on top of twitter and Facebook and pinster and the IPAD, but what's the last book your closest friends have read?
4. Deal with all the things you're not dealing with. They won't just go away.

#4 is very pertinent to me. I just have to do it!! No matter how scared we are that it might not work; if you don't try you can never succeed.

~BAM, get it done!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tips for Traveling to Europe

Here's a list of tips I have found useful, or wish I had known ahead of time for traveling to Europe. I'm sure you can use these tips anywhere, but they are specifically designed for European travel. I hope you find it useful, funny, quirky, and a little mind-boggling. Yes, I said it. And I'm generalizing here, big time, so no need to take offense to my stereotypes.

  1. Don't be that rude American that expects everyone to speak English. I know it's tempting when everyone in the world but the US learns at least 3 other languages, including English, but at the very least learn how to say Hello, Excuse me, Please, I'm sorry, Where is . . .?, What is .  . .?, Help,  and Do you speak English?
  2. Try to blend in. We stick out like a sore thumb in sweat pants, baseball caps, t-shirts, and sneakers, above all else. The easiest thing to change is your sock color. I have found that black socks are more common outside the US, so for one, wear black socks. Secondly, try not to carry a backpack and wear t-shifts that make it obvious you are a tourist. Plain, neutral colored clothing will make it easier to pack less as well.
  3. Do you research before you leave your room. Nothing spells out 'pick on me' more than a lost tourist with a wide-open map in the middle of the city center. Obviously, you may need a map to get around, but if you can figure it out before you leave your hotel room (even better if you figured most of it out before you flew over) you are in pretty good shape and will look like a normal traveller.
  4. Forgo the fanny pack. Puhleaseeee!! I know they were cool in the 80s when you were a little kid going on a family vacation because it just holds EVERYTHING, but nothing spells 'target' like a fanny pack. The zippers are easily accessible to all on crowded trains and such, and fanny packs do NOT blend in.
  5. Embrace the cultural norms. I think this is the most fun part. Do your research ahead of time and figure out what is and is not acceptable. It will also help you to see more. For instance, in a lot of Cathedrals you can not wear shorts and sleeveless tops. Imagine taking a trip all the way to see the inside and finding out you can't go. Or the norms around hugs/handshakes/kissing. It's better not to make a mistake and offend someone.
  6. Look up National/Local holidays. I can really appreciate American holidays with a clear meaning behind it. You will find random 'bank holidays' where people have off and every site you may want to see is closed. Or it might be a national holiday while you are visiting. Always good to do a search before you go so you can plan to just walk around or join a local festival/parade when something is going on.
  7. Say you are from The States. I've broken this rule already here for brevity (sorry), but remember to be considerate when talking to others. People usually understand if you say you are from 'The States' as 'American' can also imply Canadian (North America) or anyone from Central or South America.
  8. Be aware of the political status. It may not be the best time to go right before or after a big election. People might be really happy . . .or really mad, and you really don't want to get caught up in that (unless maybe you are a journalist). Avoid politics usually (almost like a first date) unless you and the other person have a comfortable repertoire. 
  9. Don't tell people [that ask] where you live. These seems so obvious, but some people are just so persistent it's easy to let it slip. In order not to be rude, just state a general area (oh I'm about 20 mins from here, or I'm downtown, or I'm a little outside the city). If you build trust with someone that you know (and say, maybe you've already checked out) you can volunteer that information, but if someone is asking, they might have a secret agenda.
  10. Use the currency of the country you are in. People are just waiting to rip you off. You'll get a much better price if you spend the country's currency, plus you bring more attention to yourself from on-lookers if you are spending US Dollars.
  11. Unlock your phone's sim card or buy a local phone. If you have people meeting you it's a good way to have a local number to be reached. It's also important to know how to dial the phone number from a out of country phone. You'd be surprised how confusing it is with zero's that only get dialed by local phone numbers and country and city codes. Look this up before you go. Also, if you buy a phone pick a provider that is in ALL the countries you will be visiting. Nothing hurts more than to not be able to recharge your phone because you are not in a country that has that provider and the websites to recharge your balance are in a different language or don't take international credit cards. Just saying . . . .
  12. Look up hotels on reputable sites. Check ratings, reviews (bad and good), and pictures to see how the place looks and the surrounding neighborhood. See how far it is from the local metro and any sites you want to see. Sometimes saving money is not worth the hassle of living 10 miles outside everywhere you want to be or in a sketchy neighborhood. And when you come back write reviews to help the next person!
  13. Be safe. Photocopy your license and passport and leave it with family back home. Give someone a list of where you will be on what dates. Even if you are lost, look like you know where you are going. If you are extremely lost pay the extra money and take a [reputable] cab. Know how to dial the local police and also to ask for help. And memorize your hotel's name/address so that the cab can drop you off. You may want to program their front desk number in your phone.
  14. Have fun!!! Take pictures! And Enjoy your vacation :)

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Low Hanging Fruit

Never go for something just because it's there.

Today's lesson, is about the peach. You see, I don't like peaches. I have never been too fancy for them, and I honestly don't care enough to make it work. There are so many other delicious fruits, that I never really put the energy into discovering all there was about the peach. So I shrugged and went along my merry way. Until the other day, that is. You see, I wasn't even hungry, or maybe I convinced myself I was hungry, but there was no other fruit in sight, or food for that matter, but a damaged peach hanging off a peach tree. It was so close, and the wind was really pushing it further and further down. All I had to do was reach for it; perhaps stand up on my tippy toes and stretch out my arms; but if I wanted to get it I could.

So, why would I even go for the peach, when I don't like to eat peaches? Because somewhere between walking outside and stumbling up to this tree I became convinced that I was hungry, and that this peach would solve my hunger, at least temporarily. And once you convince yourself that you want something that you know you don't really want, it's almost a wrap. It's like going to the store with no intentions of buying anything and seeing that everything is on sale. That my friends, is called temptation. And to make matters worse, you have thoughts from everyone and their cousin telling you that maybe you should give the peach a try. Perhaps you just had a bad peach long time ago and now your taste buds have changed. Maybe if you just go for it you'll end up liking it. What? If I just go for it - you start doubting your own thoughts and wonder what in the world is going on. YOU DON"T EVEN LIKE PEACHES, you keep trying to convince yourself. But soon your stomach is grumbling and verifying that you are indeed hungry, and it doesn't matter if you don't like peaches, it will tide you over until another meal comes along.

And so I got up on my tippy toes and went to grab that stupid peach, because I was hungry and there was food. I reached and reached and reached but the wind would not let up. And alas, I couldn't reach it. I sat down at the foot of the tree and laughed to myself. I didn't want the peach, and I knew it, but I had a weak moment and tried to go for it. And nothing but God, pushed that peach out of my reach.

I sighed a huge sigh of relief. I began to walk away. The peach fell to the ground, but by this time the decision was made. No peach for me!

We all have "peaches" in our lives that we are tempted to take when the going gets tough. Maybe you are on a budget and you keep wanting to buy things you don't need. Or maybe people around you are irking your nerves and you want to do something about it. Maybe, to you, this story really was just about peaches. Whatever it is, we all need to be strong, and when we get a sign that we shouldn't' take the peach, we should stop and listen and take heed. It just wasn't meant to be.

Now, had this been a mango . . . .(kidding)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Happiness Challenge

Happy New Year Everyone!!
It is 2012. Wow, I can't believe how fast last year went by. And even now, it's already the third week in January. Craziness.

So sometime last year I stumbled upon The Happiness Project, the book. I was in the bookstore, one of my favorite places, and spotted this really bright blue book. I was in there for a purpose, so I told myself I wasn't allowed to buy any more books; plus I have a waiting list of all the books I'm supposed to be reading. So I wrote the name down in order to look it up later. The book is about doing things that make you happy and getting rid of all the things that do not contribute to you overall well-being. Check out the website:

I'm sure we can debate on what defines happiness and if there really is such a thing. But to me, The Happiness Project is just like any other list of goals we want to obtain for ourselves, whether or not we articulate it. So, for the new year, I have found that many of the things that I want to do are in line with the happiness challenge from 2010 that I stumbled upon on youtube. So, rather than reinventing the wheel, I've decided (at least for now) to check out the challenge and maybe even follow it. The author - Gretchen Rubin - has posted weekly videos on items inside the Happiness Challenge. And yes, there is one for 2012, but I really like the 2010 one, so I'm going to start there.

I decide to jump right in and start as though I am watching the videos in year they are made. I'm coming on week 4, so I will look at the first 3 weeks and then jump right in. I do need to write more, so I may blog about each of the weeks; we'll see.

So, I've watched the first 4 videos and here's the summary:

Month 1: Get Energized
1. Get more sleep
2. Get more exercise
3. Toss and Organize
4. Tackle a nagging task

Most of these I have already been working on, so great alignment. I definitely need to work on #1 the most. (1) Getting more sleep is so important. I enjoy being up when I know others are asleep. It does make me feel as though I'm getting ahead and getting things done. The truth of the matter is that time is equal whether it's 11pm-1am or 5pm-7pm, so maybe that is one fundamental I will just have to challenge myself with. Getting more sleep for me would mean going to bed earlier. If I go to bed earlier then I will wake up earlier, then I will go in to work earlier, and thus leave earlier, leaving time in the later afternoon to do those things I am doing late at night. In theory this works. In practice, sometimes we leave work at the same time if we get in at 7:30am or 9am, so that will really be a culture change for me. It's ok to leave before 5pm if you got in before 8. I think most young professionals, or maybe just people in general, want to get ALL the work done. And it's really impossible - it will never ALL be done, and it will still be waiting for you when you come in the next day. Work-Life balance is key.

(2) Exercise more. I know this. I used to do so many extracurricular activities in high school. I had the basketball coach yelling at me to run more, run faster, jump higher. I had the volleyball coach yelling at me to run more, run faster, jump higher. And I had phys Ed 2 times a week to learn to run more, run faster, and jump higher. Then you get to college and there is no one yelling at you. you have to motivate yourself. Ok, but that wasn't too bad. I stayed in the dorms and found friends that also missed their coaches yelling at them, so we went to the gym together. We took fitness classes. We ran to our 8am classes (look, I have never been a morning person). And then you graduate from college and your physique is really up to you. So now, years out of structured schooling, and it's time to get back with the program. I'm not in horrible shape, so I don't feel the need to pay a personal trainer to yell at me, but I can motivate myself to get back to the gym. I'm implemented Workout Wednesdays, so at the very least I am doing 30 mins of exercise every Wednesday - no if's, and's, or but's. If I can't make the gym I lay down that yoga mat at home and get to crunching. If I don't want to sweat out my hair I can do toning and stretching. The more excuses we make NOT to do something, the more likely we will get comfortable not doing it. My other pitfall is not being prepared for the gym. Lots of time I will want to go but I might have left my sneakers or clothing at home. And we all know - once you go home, you are NOT going back out!!! (Don't even try to lie to yourself). So I am also keeping a gym bag in the trunk with workout clothes, a lock, lotion, and sneakers. NO EXCUSES!!

(3) Toss and Organize. The story of my life!! I have some much STUFF. I'm still working on minimizing with getting rid of things I don't need. This include physical objects,, as well as negative people. My main source of disorganization is PAPER!! It accumulates so easily. And now with trying to recycle, I have to hold on to it even longer so I can take it to the recycling center. So, I'm working on throwing out papers that do not matter, and filing the important ones. Anything else should just get tossed. I think if I cleared out all the paper in my apartment that was junk, I'd probably clear out 3 full boxes of stuff.

(4) Tackle a nagging task. I have 2 of these facing me right now. 1 is something from work that I have been procrastinating on, and the other is to really get my budget together. The second one is not difficult, it just requires me to carve out a good hour to sit down and crunch the numbers. Probably the contributing factor to that delay is that once I have it in black & white I will have to obey it. My goal this year is to reduce my debt. This means tight spending and minimizing expenses.

Ok, so that's the plan. I will start working on #4, as #'s 1-3 will be in the back of my head. Feel free to join me on this challenge. Comment below on how you are doing, and we can support each other.

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