Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Soundtrack of Life

I. Love. Music!!

Music is... PASSION! For better or worse, every lyric ever written is backed with emotion, desire, and LIFE. It has the power to pull you in by lifting you up, dragging you down, and everything in between.

Music is... NOSTALGIA! One verse, one lyric or even one note can send you thru time. It's magical! Maybe it's "For You I Will" that will always remind you of one of your favorite Spring Breaks with your High School Sweetheart, "Rich Girl" (the original!) that takes you back to 3rd Grade and learning to reggae dance with your friends, or "Glamorous" that makes you laugh about when your best friend was first becoming your best friend. Music's instantaneous time travel ability is light years ahead of science!

Music is... ROMANCE! A sweet melody sets the tone, changes your heart rate and heightens your senses.

Music is... FUN! Pump up a nasty beat and you're READY to go out, have fun and rock the night away.

Music is... AN ESCAPE! Blast your speakers and drown out the world, take a break from your challenges, over power the little voices and just be.

Music is... PENSIVE! A powerful verse can lead you to an epiphany about your life, bring you straight to tears, or empower you to make a change.

Music is... THE SOUNDTRACK OF LIFE! Use it to get excited, evoke emotions you're struggling with, remember, or soothe you.

If there was one talent I could possess that I surely don't, it would be to sing & play guitar! It's such a productive, AWESOME way of channeling your passion while reaching out to others. My *wide* selection of tunes is my way of making up for it... Whether it be Hip Hop, R&B, Pop, Rock, Reggae, Country, Frank Sinatra, Contemporary Christian, Kids Songs or anything in between (other than screaming metal - I just can't do it), I'll listen and get lost in it. That's my way of saying a HUGE THANK YOU to all of the incredible artists out there... It is the soundtrack to my life in so many ways...

Go see any live band. Lounge in lawn seating at a concert. Dance all night to a great DJ. Use your music app to listen and sleep. ...those are my favorite ways to use music as the soundtrack in my life...

How is music the soundtrack of your life?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back in the day...

...when I was young, I'm not a kid anymore, but some days I sit and wish I was a kid again... (Throwback jam by Ahmad - anyone?!)

Don't worry; I'm not trying to say 29 is old - I'm saying 29 is NOT 23 and there is a HUGE difference in those 6 short years!

At 23... You're an "adult"; you are done with Undergrad, probably working full-time, living on your own (depending on what part of the country you live in and/or your need for independence), and you've learned to truly appreciate the finer aspect of *finally* being over 21! In other words, you think you know it all, you can still party like a rockstar until well after sunrise and somehow still function at work all day without anyone being the wiser. After all, you have a college-kid's enthusiasm for alcohol but are making more money than you ever have before... Besides "you'll sleep when you're dead"! It is one of the most fun, carefree times of your life!!

At 29... You look back at 23 and just laugh. What WERE you thinking?! How did you ever survive?? ...and, more importantly, what happened that you suddenly need 8 hours of sleep again and start hoping to hear last call so you can go home and take those damn shoes off?! God knows you'll never walk barefoot back to Penn ever again!!

You still ...LOVE a fun girls night with an awesome DJ and a dance floor; ...laugh and roll your eyes at every drunk skeeze ball that tries to dance all up on one of you (sometimes the b!tch comes out when they're over the top); ...go crazy when the DJ mixes in 112, old school Mariah or Madonna... And you smile and enjoy EVERY second of it!!!

Until... The new 23 year olds you're surrounded by are suddenly passed buzzed and into full on D-RUNK! That's when you start to remember the less than finer moments of nights like that. The need to be lifted on to a speaker and join the "hoe train" is about 6 years past desirable. In fact, you freeze on the dance floor and watch the obliterated "adult" and just hope that she demonstrates at least a fraction more of self-respect in daytime hours... And that at least one of her friends is keeping an eye on her - and the scivatz who has also frozen to watch, but for very different reasons.

So you close your tab... And will actually remember doing so the next day.

The strange part is... Yes, there's a part of you that misses the carefree debauchery of your early 20s. But more so, you're relieved to be past those years and truly an adult. My 23 year old self would have laughed in my face if she knew I'd be saying this in just 6 short years! Actually, my friends still make a face when they see I've switched over to water or when I turn down the "opportunity" to rally at an after-hours party.

Don't get me wrong... Hanging out with my girls when there's good music, space to dance and good drinks in hand will ALWAYS be a favorite thing of mine. I will continue to have nights where I am absolutely NOT the driver and where I'll be up until sunrise. The difference is, I've finally learned how to have fun in other ways and I don't make plans to be 23 every weekend, for three-nights in a row. Like I've been saying...

There is clearly no need to be almost 30 and in a club that allows kids under 25 to enter!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Life is NOT a Fairy Tale!

Let me just put this out there... life is not a fairy tale.  No, this isn’t an angry single girl post; this is more of a “when life hands you lemons” (made lemonade – with vodka!) post.  You’re shocked I’m sure; I’ve clearly been on “STOP WHINING! JUST HAVE FUN!” rants in my recent posts!

That being said, this post requires an additional preface... (yes, you may call me “Betty Backstory” in this moment!)  When I first started this Blog it was under a pen name.  I did that because I figured eventually I’d get the urge to post about sensitive moments in my life that I have always kept very private.  I can’t decide if I’ve done that because I was protecting myself from potential judgment by others, or if it was to protect my loved ones who will unavoidably be called out.  Either way, I’m over it and ready to continue with my “STOP WHINING! JUST HAVE FUN!” rants by shedding a little light onto why I’m so passionate about it...

NEWS FLASH! The world isn’t imploding around you!  It seems that so many people get stuck in the roundabout of daily life and stress themselves out over little dramatic episodes.  I can’t stand seeing Facebook posts by people who are clearly breathing fire and pissed off at the world because they are stuck in traffic, someone was rude to them or they have to work long hours.  Seriously people, in 50 years, I assure you, each of those events will have ZERO bearing on your life!  Why do you waste your energy flipping out over things you truly have no control over and that truly have no impact on you in the long run?!  It exhausts me just thinking about it...  face facts folks:

Life is not a Fairy Tale!  There are things that happen, however, that can have a significant impact on you in the long run...

Things like:
Your parents being Heroin addicts (in addition to your father’s alcoholism),
Learning about “The Big C” at age 5,
Your parents divorcing when you’re 3,
Spending your childhood going to NA meetings with your mom and little brother (but don’t worry – you’d still go to Saturday night Mass with your Grandfather to balance the scales),
Visiting your father “away at college” in true, cryptic Italian terms (prison for those of you who are scratching your heads),
Having all out wars with your mother’s live-in, alcoholic boyfriend all through your teen years,
Your father suddenly passing away when you were 16,
Watching your seemingly healthy grandma go from diagnosis to funeral in 7 weeks and helping tend to her in the interim,
Regulating your mother’s psychological health from 3,000 miles away...
Seeing things that are burned into your brain, hearing things a child should never hear and becoming an adult in the house at 4 years old. 
Life is not a fairy tale.

But life goes on... You take all of your experiences and you carve your path in life based on them.  You can either learn from the mistakes of others and be the best person you can be despite the hand you were dealt, or you can succumb to the weakness of those around you and follow a similar path.  You have the choice to look for pity from those around you for “what happened to you”, or to use it as fuel to prove to the world that YOU are a strong person who makes their own decisions.

Once something BIG happens in your life, it’s easy to look at something small like a flight delay and brush it off.  You’ve experienced true heart break.  You’ve experienced true trauma.  You know what it’s like to be sent to hell and back.  You can pull on those experiences enough to realize that the little annoyances in life aren’t worth your effort.  You need to conserve that effort for when it’s necessary and when life truly throws you a curve ball.  If you’re one of the fortunate few who haven’t had major hurdles in life, take it from me, you’ll want your energy for those times and you’ll have wished you didn’t expend it on the idiot taking 30 minutes at the ATM.

If you’re lucky... you have people in your life who you’re able to lean on when the proverbial $h!t hits the fan.  They are the people who support you, motivate you and act as a distraction from the insanity.  They play an integral role in helping you chose the path of strength, determination and success.  They aren’t the only key to the equation though... it starts with YOU!  I am lucky.  I have many of these people in my life and I always have. 
Despite the admission above, my mother is one of them – a huge one of them!  She has always been my greatest cheerleader.  (Yes, I clearly felt the need to defend her and clarify her inner greatness despite her past lapse in strength.)

Scary realization!  Most often in the past when I have the intense drive to express my gratitude to my important people, it’s my intuition telling me something is on the horizon.  Like my Ah-MAZING Grandma (“Mom Peggy” who now lives in my heart), I’ve always had a “sense” about things... that’s another story for another day.

The moral of this story is, as this post’s title implies, LIFE IS NOT A FAIRY TALE!  Don’t expect it to be.  You can, however, make your own Fairy Tale and have your own happy existence by letting the little things go... remind yourself that the daily little annoyances are not equivalent to the world collapsing around you.  And if one day the world does collapse around you, find your way out – you can, I promise!

PS: Please note that this post is not an invitation for a series of “Poor Jen” comments/emails.  I’ll never forget where I came from, nor have I ever wished for different circumstances.  Every single experience in my life, for better or worse, has made me who I am, brought me to where I am and will send me where I am going.  I’m not sorry they happened; I don’t need you to be either.  I can definitely appreciate any shock you may be experiencing right now if you're learning this for the first time though... ;)

PS to my PS... in re-reading this I realized I could've implied that I'm not open to any comments/responses to this.  That's not what I meant to imply... I simply meant please refrain from responses with an underlying tone of pity.  It is what it is, ya know? :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ah-MAZING People!

There are certain people in the world who lift up your spirits simply by being in their presence...  Hopefully, you know the type of people I’m talking about.  They are, simply put, Ah-MAZING!!!

Ah-MAZING because... their natural energy and positive outlook on life is contagious.  ...their innate warmth radiates from them.  ...they can be serious when needed, but are most often relaxed, happy and laid back.  ...they are genuine, thoughtful and kind in a way that is, unfortunately, rare nowadays.  ...they challenge you to be the best version of yourself.  ...they naturally seek out the good in any situation.  You find yourself naturally gravitating to them when you’re lucky enough to be in their presence because you truly feel metaphorically lighter. 

While you’re with an Ah-MAZING person, you find that you are naturally filled with the same positive energy and warmth.  You laugh more, smile more and stress less.  You are at ease and taking the time to actually enjoy the moments.

If you are an Ah-MAZING person, your ah-mazingness shines through even more when you’re with other ah-mazing people.  You bring it out in one another and gravitate to each other to recharge your batteries, so-to-speak.  It can be so amazing and rejuvenating, that people who are not naturally ah-mazing feel overwhelmed from the positive energy. (Sounds like a whole lotta their problem if you ask me! ;) )

Sadly, there are a lot of people who are... negative, consistently down-trodden, unwaveringly cynical and, frankly, WHINERS.  They always have something to complain about.  Their default mode is “what’s wrong with this situation”.  They will jump at an opportunity to bitch about something, but find it uncomfortable and unnatural to shower someone with genuine, positive praise.  These significantly-less-than-amazing spirits drag you down.  You feel depleted, stressed and snippy, in addition to being physically and emotionally exhausted from being in their presence.  These people take away from you and your greatness.  These are the people that read this post and think “Wow!  Really Jen?!  Can this be cheesier?!”.  And to that I say: “NEXT!”... you can forward this to someone else who will roll their eyes with you because they are probably with you on that negative rung of the ladder.  Leave me out of it.

Wouldn’t it be great if... everyone was an Ah-MAZING individual?

As with everything, you have a choice... you can be selective of who you choose to spend your time with.  You can choose to only be with other ah-mazing spirits and therefore only continuously grow as an ah-mazing spirit, or you can continue to exhaust yourself in the presence of those other people.  What do you choose??

I choose Ah-MAZING!!!  I am blessed to have many of these people in my life!!  And I continue to encounter more and more of them in the incredible TLG community!  (Perhaps there’s a reason we’re all part of the TLG network?? ;) ) 
I always find myself feeling rejuvenated and on a natural high after spending time with my ah-mazing people.  In turn, I do not enjoy feeling depleted, stressed or emotionally exhausted as I do when I’m with those other people.  So let it be known, if you pull people down, only see the negative in life, constantly whine about anything and everything, don’t expect to spend too much time with me!  I am truly a much happier person without that influence!

BE Ah-MAZING!!!  Thank your Ah-MAZING People for brightening up the world – your world! 

I’ve learned a hard lesson the hard way a few times.  That lesson is that you don’t have as much time as you think you do with the ah-mazing people in your life.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before, and you’ll likely hear it again, but that’s because there’s heart-wrenching truth behind it.  Take advantage of the time you DO have and tell your ah-mazing people that they are your ah-mazing people!!  This blog was my way of doing that – today.  I’ll find a new way tomorrow I’m sure...

You know I consider you one of My Ah-MAZING people if I’ve given you clues like this:
I’ve told you at some point that you are one of my favorite people in the world
I randomly seek you out to share funny moments
I text you to say I wish I was with you instead of the Negative Nelly I’m in the presence of at that moment
I’ve sent you emails or cards about something personal we’ve discussed or shared
Or, most obviously, I’ve told you (probably repeatedly) that you’re amazing!!

Regardless of which clue applies, to all of you, thanks for being you!!  I value every moment we get to spend together and always look forward to the next time!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

You Know You Travel Too Much If...

You’re on a plane and you’re bored… you can’t bear the thought of starting another book, and apparently there’s no movie or audio connection!  What do you do?!  Well, I don’t know what YOU do, but I did this (a few years ago):

You know you travel too much when:
1.    You know that 311 means 3oz liquid bottle in a 1 quart bag and only 1 per person
2.    You don’t “want to get a pad and pen and write this down” because you know where you parked (…at the East Economy, Road Runner lot, Garage B, Level 4, Row D)
3.    You get your laptop and 311 bag out before you’ve even gotten to the front of the line to show the TSA guy your ID
4.    You have ever wondered why the stalls in airport bathrooms aren’t wider than average
5.    You know that oxygen masks will fall from overhead and that you need to fully extend the rubber tubing to start the flow of oxygen (oh, and breathe normally – right, THAT’S how I’ll be breathing)
6.    You’ve ever paid a bill late because your money is on hold by 2 hotels and 3 rental car companies in 4 different states across the country
7.    You find yourself volunteering knowledge to random strangers about airline terminals, shuttle bus stops and luggage carousel protocol
8.    You laugh when travel virgins try to slam an overhead shut on their gigantic suitcase and then have their bag wheeled away to gate check anyway
9.    You have ever used the term travel virgin
10. You’ve figured out what jargon such as pushback, cross checks and all calls are
11. You can tell when you’ve begun your initial descent before its announced
12. You know that when the first chime rings after takeoff it means you’ve reached 10,000ft and use of approved portable electronic devices is now permitted
13. When you adjust the recline of the driver’s seat in your car, this runs through your head: “please return your seatbacks and tray tables to their fully upright and locked positions” (no?!  just me?!)
14. You have ever recognized a flight crew member from a previous trip
15. You only know the official name of your home airport, the rest are just 3-letter codes
16. You have ever had trouble asking for directions to the airport because, again, you don’t know its name
17. You understand plane etiquette and would never bring your McFish sandwich on board
18. You put headphones on and shove the wire into your pocket so the 29 year old chick next to you who’s being forced to move back home to mommy and not marry her suicidal fiancĂ© doesn’t try to tell you that whole story… because that sounded like a long day!
19. The highlight of your day can be an early shuttle arrival, boarding that begins only 5 minutes late, or, the Cadillac of highlights, the email alert with your 1st class upgrade
20. You’ve ever considered doing a travel stand-up routine… but in airports and with your laptop case out for tips, not a guitar case
21. You’ll celebrate the day all airports segment security lines and you can breeze through “expert”... or at least in your elite, priority line!
22. You’ve ever gotten the urge to kick the back of the knee of the 1st person in the check-in line for the self kiosk because they won’t go to an open computer because there is no person there
23. You give the “REALLY?!” look to the jerk still on their cell as the plane is pushing back
24. You’ve ever had the urge to open the Emergency Exit door just to jump on the slide… then move away from the aircraft of course
25. You laugh at the people who stand directly in front of the belt where the bags come out and then have to mow people down to grab their bags because it’s just too close
26. You know to keep your ID and Boarding Pass with you to walk through security
27. You don’t get “bag checks” because you didn’t hear the man-robot repeating over and over again that your laptop goes in a bin on its own
28. You see more movies on planes now a days than in theaters
29. Your body never knows when to be hungry or awake because it switches time zones too frequently
30. You’re enamored by compact yet spacious travel gadgets and bags because they’re just so smart
31. You know how many preferred miles you get for a trip home, or to Denver, Dallas or Raleigh for that matter
32. You know that 2hrs at an airport before a flight is just a waste of life
33. You know where to find a Starbucks in every concourse of the airports you frequent
34. You keep your receipts on the rare personal trip and realize that later that it’s YOU who’s paying for that one
35. You can “express pay” for parking at lightning speed and still make it onto that 1st elevator up to your car with the amateurs who will pay at the exit
36. You know which airports have free WiFi and when to bring a book
37. You’ve ever reminded yourself that you have a logo on when there’s a kid SCREAMING behind you
38. You now see lost luggage as an opportunity to shop and you’ve mastered what you need to purchase… you keep your cell charger in your carryon anyway, so there’s that
39. You know that EWR is Newark, YYZ is Toronto and ORD is Chicago but have NO idea what FICA stands for
40. You know when to walk on the far side of the concourse hallway to avoid having to lie to those Master Card people again about already having both their business and their personal card
41. Free flight offers from credit card companies aren’t motivating because you have plenty of your own miles and rarely even use those… but wait, will it count as preferred miles?!
42. You want to page yourself to the paging assistance location just to hear robot lady say your name
43. You know that B or E on your seat assignment is the truest test of travel patience
44. You question your sanity in paying rent for an awesome apartment you rarely get to sleep in and leasing a car that lives at East Economy (Garage B, Level 4, Row D)
45. You know that 98.3 and 97.5 stop tuning in once you’re on the 202 approaching PHX
46. Without being told, you know to initial the 3 spaces to deny all coverage and the space to show you did the walk-around looking for scratches through the paint of at least 5 inches at Enterprise
47. You measure time in miles accumulated and know how many more miles you need to reach your next level of elite status
48. You’ve ever taken time to calculate how many more trips and which destinations will help you raise your elite status
49. You’ve been all over the country but all you’ve seen are gyms, hotels and different Chili’s
50. You keep telling yourself that it’s great to travel this much but you WILL STOP if the TSA guards ever learn your name!

Ahh… you’ve arrived!  Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to (insert city here) where the local time is approximately (#).  Please remain seated with your carryon’s stowed until we are safely parked at the gate and the captain has turned off the fasten seatbelt sign indicating that it’s safe to move about the cabin.  Thank you for flying with us tonight and we look forward to seeing you on a future flight.  Welcome to (city)!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Life is a Series of Jedi Mind Tricks...

Life is a series of Jedi Mind Tricks...  you have COMPLETE control over who you are, what you do, where life takes you and the quality of your life.  Sure, things happen along the way that divert your course, but it’s true what they say: life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.  Your ability (or inability) to perform the Jedi Mind Trick on yourself either makes or breaks your happiness and satisfaction in life.

HOW TO USE THE JEDI MIND TRICK: Ready for this extremely profound thought?! Think positive!!  Instead of trying to persuade others with the Jedi Mind Trick, use it to persuade yourself!  Believe it or not, YOU are the only person who has complete and utter control over who you are and how happy you are.

Ga’head, roll your eyes if you will, but unless you’ve genuinely tried it, you can’t say that it doesn’t work.  Keep in mind, I’m a NYer.  Cynicism and negativity (aka “realistic views”) were my natural born tendencies.  I understand how after-school-special it sounds to actually be giving the advice “think good thoughts and good things will happen”.  That’s not the message; plenty of things have happened in my life that negate the wistfulness of “good things happen to good people”.  The message is to truly look for the good in every situation and adjust your attitude and response to it. 

Your ability to think positively will greatly improve YOUR emotional health, alleviate your stress and make even the toughest of life’s situations at least a little bit easier to handle.

LIVING AS A JEDI: The very second the little voice in your head starts whining, stop it!  Literally over power the thought by saying (in your head or out loud – up to you how crazy you’d like to appear in the moment ;) ), “The world isn’t imploding around me!”.  Take a deep breath and a step back from the situation and genuinely decide what the worst possible outcome is of the situation.  Then find the solution that allows you to truly think YES, I can handle this and it will be okay”.  I promise you, your decision of how to handle a situation is not going to make the sky come crashing down on you!!  The worst thing that can happen is that you decide you also don’t like the new outcome of how you chose to handle it... then ya know what you do?  Find a new solution and try again!  Don’t let it take over you or your life.  Remember, at the end of the day you are the only person who can make yourself feel or think anything.  Remind yourself over and over that you are not going to let this person or this situation take away from you.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “No, there are things that happen that I can’t handle” or “I can’t help how I feel when something happens to me”.  If you’re still thinking that then you’re right, you can’t handle it.  However, allow this thought to penetrate your brain and truly consider it: continuing to think like that IS what is preventing you from being able to handle it.

REALITY OF JEDI LIVING: Don’t expect to see an immediate impact of your “yes thinking”.  Trying to change your thinking isn’t going to happen overnight and you’re not going to feel the impact it has on you after an hour of trying to power through a challenging situation.  Give yourself the opportunity to see what it can do for you though.  Keep trying it over and over and OVER again!  Every time you stop trying and you let the negative thoughts take over in a situation you are letting the situation win.  Focusing on living like a Jedi will help YOU be the winner...

Besides, people enjoy being in the company of winners but nobody likes a whiner!! ;)