Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Awakenings: The Great Transition of 2014

Fellow citizens of planet Earth,

Life is weird.

The World prepares us for many a splendid thing. Google "job interview tips" and the interwebs explodes into a furry of articles, websites, blogs, and info-graphs giving us no excuses to bomb. Post to Facebook you've got a bun in the oven; and within minutes, you're wading through a sea of advice from friends, relatives, your aunt's-mom's-cousin's-best-pal about books, pamphlets, leaflets, outlets, and collections of baby advice and what to 'expect when you're expecting.' Prepare for a major life-altering test that determines what school you get into or what career path you'll face and there are how-to's, to do's, top 10's, books of secrets, books of strategy, games, flashcards, and mock-testing situations you can practice time and time again. In those instances, the only thing you can control when it comes to the moment is your reaction; you face them, nervous... but ultimately, feeling prepared.

Then there are the experiences we don't see coming. The times when you feel like you've been pushed backwards and are falling, suspended in mid-air with no sense of where the bottom is. In those moments, there are no books, articles, or pamphlets. All you've got is your aching and confused gut, your strangled and stifled emotions, and a sudden and swift dead weight that makes the world so, so heavy. 

(It is these moments that keep the junk food and wine industry well funded.)

Modern Family {ABC}

Mid-morning of Feb 28th, a Friday, a warm and sunny Friday, I was called into my boss's office, as I had been many times before, at the job I'd been at barely two months. A job I saw myself growing into. A job rich with possibilities and a chance to finally start developing a career. A job I took so seriously that I gave up many parts of my life outside the hectic 9-to-5 to be focused. Sure, there were some weird, un-fun, and confusing things - but overall I knew I was laying the groundwork. (I wrote a post about it, for crap's sake.) So, I ran into my boss's office with my legal pad filled with updates and things to talk about, already starting the conversation before I got in the door. I was met with a blank stare. I proceeded to carry on my one-sided conversation, then was sharply interrupted with:

"Celia, this isn't working out."

... Huh..?

What proceed that gut-sinking sentence was a choppy, hasty, semi-rehearsed speech that included things like, "we think you're so great and so talented..." "...but we just can't afford you right now..." "...this is all going to work out..." "... but it's just not a good fit..." "... you are going to do great things...

Friends: Have you ever been slapped with something so hard your ears ring so loudly and violently you've basically gone deaf? Your head is spinning and throbbing to the point you can barely see and you're pretty sure you're going to barf? Um, well, you're not sure if that's barf or your heart or your stomach in your throat. Nope, not your heart - it's been ripped out and thrown out the window of your boss's corner office. You think you're starting to cry but the scary, screaming part of yourself is starting to bubble to the surface, and your face feels like it's literally caught on fire. You almost hope you start crying to put the sting out. But all you can do is stare while the torment proceeds. Stare... and wonder why.

And when you can summon enough will-power to turn your head through the garbled static and slow motion of everything around you, you see a once inviting and friendly co-worker, now stone-faced, with a box in their hand. An empty box. A box meant to hold all the things you brought in to make your space, your career, your own. A box meant to take back all your hopes, dreams, and plans that would have eventually become the story of how you'd make a difference. 

So, I left with my pathetic Staples box filled with my pathetic sparkly pencils and shattered dreams. I left with severance paperwork in hand, giving me 30 days of compensation to last until I, hopefully, found the next thing. I left with a deep and twisted anger I had never experienced before.

I. Was. Furious.

In the recent months, I had completely restructured my day-to-day and made sacrifices to move forward full-force with this new opportunity. I had given up large chunks of the "me" part of my life to open my time and energy to put towards this gig. I thought I was doing the appropriate "adult" thing, being smart and dedicated and responsible. I didn't realize how tightly I had wound the blinders until they were ripped off, and I looked around - and there was nothing.

But there was my sweet and perfectly dashing husband who sat on the couch with me while I blubbered uncontrollably, episodes of Sex and the City playing quietly in front of us. I'd already polished a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck and half a package of Oreos by 4:00pm that afternoon.

I wallowed. I full-on ugly cried. I found myself in wild fits of hysteria.
I felt alone, pathetic, and pissed off. 

Sex & the City, HBO, Samantha, SATC
Sex and the City {HBO}

In slowly divulging the details of my descent into Loser-Land to a few friends, a few family members, and a few trusted colleagues, I decided I needed to snap out of it - and do so quickly. But I was really scared. Terrified of the rejection, of explaining things to people about what happened, of settling out of the necessity of needing to put food on the table and not be tossed out of our apartment. I wanted to hide under my dog-haired covered Snuggie. I wanted to run away.

Will and Grace {NBC}

Y'ALL,  I had no back-up plan for something like this. I hadn't planned to fail. I hadn't planned on someone else making a very important, life-changing decision for me. Quite frankly, I hadn't thought it the slightest bit possible. As a sloughed through job boards, completed application packets, mailed resumes and cover letters, and made phone calls to people, I fell more and more into a deep sense of defeat and indifference. The best thing that awaited me was wading back into the lazy river of career mediocrity, floating through for a paycheck and a steady schedule.

Breakfast at Tiffany's {Paramount Pictures}

And one morning, I decided I had been given a rare and sparkling opportunity to throw up my middle finger at the status quo and abandon the "sensible" path I had wandered for far too long.

But I was going to need a 2nd cup of coffee and a manicure first.

Through an interesting series of events, I had established a connection with the manager at the lululemon Showroom here in town. Within the first weekend of being "in limbo" I reached out to her about an opportunity I knew about at the showroom. She was amazing and responded very quickly and graciously, and we got to talking. Fast-forward through a series of conversations, interviews, a spin class that kicked my butt, and lo and behold... I was extended an offer.

I'm proud, grateful, and thrilled to report:
I am now a team member with lululemon
serving as Assistant Manager for the Columbia Showroom.

I get to work with an awesome team of people.

I get to experience new workouts every week.

I get to return to my first love of community outreach, planning events and meeting new people in Columbia's fitness community.

I get to flex my social media and marketing skills, finally putting my creative talents to use.

I get to learn a lot about running a business and cultivating people to rise above mediocrity.

I get to wear black stretchy pants to work.

Full House {ABC}

To be honest, I never guessed that would be a possibility either; and quite frankly, it still feels a little surreal. In the few short days of training, reading, and preparing, I've really come to believe this is where I was headed all along - that, really, I would've talked myself out of it had the opportunity presented itself in any other time or form. It's a major transition and totally different lifestyle - but instead of having to fold myself up to fit in the box of normalcy, I get to stretch fully and breathe deeply and extend the long limbs the dear Lord gave me.

Did I mention I get to wear stretchy pants to work?

So, to those of you who I reached out to and shared my situation and listened and offered help; to those to excitedly supported my new (new?) transition; to those who did not cast judgment nor pity but who rather rallied to make sure I only came out better than where I was; to those who offered their time and wine to allow some moments of comfort and reflection; and to those who shared in the relief and excitement for what's to come, I thank you.

There is still much to learn, much to explore, and much to share; but I am so, SO looking forward to where this journey will take me. Rather, I'm thrilled about how it will push me to go beyond the limits of my own experiences and learn to crave that excited, nervous feeling my inner gap-toothed spaz has been dying for, for far too long.

And of course, learn to appreciate and simply exist as my inner gin-slinging, early-to-bed-early-to-rise old bitty has been needing for far too long.

The adventure begins, my friends...

"Mommy, I'm still not exactly sure what's going on..."

Hugs and High Fives,

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sweet Potato Chili

sweet potato chili breakfast at target

We're finally breaking through the last of winter and hints of spring have started to grace us with their presence - typically just long enough to be an invariable TEASE - but there are still the cold snaps that strike on the regular, leaving those lingering cravings for something warm and filling. I was first introduced to this recipe via Real Simple while enjoying a leisurely post-exams winter visit at the home of my dear pal, Tracy, a few years back. Flipping through the pages of the magazine we stumbled on this mouth-watering concoction and immediately set out to pick up ingredients.  6-ish hours later we practically had our heads submerged in healthy-sized bowls of this stuff, only coming up for gulps of wine. Since then, it's been a frequent find in my crockpot; and considering this stuff is cheap, filling, healthy, low-fat, high-fiber, delicious, AND fool-proof, I don't see it leaving the meal calendar any time soon.

Y'all, when I say "foolproof" I mean it. I'm no master chef (I struggle with EZ Mac, people); but if you can pick out fresh ingredients (and half of them come from a CAN for crying out loud) and have decent chopping/peeling skills, you'll be set.

Even better? This recipe is super customizable. I'm definitely "that girl" at restaurants who subs things for other things and asks for several things on the side because, frankly, I have weird tastes and cravings... okay, and maybe I like to think I can do a better job of flavor combinations and pairings. ANYWAYS. For instance, I love corn. So ya' know what? I ADDED CORN. I think sweet vidalia onions taste way better than red ones (maybe it's that southern thing?). So, I ADDED SWEET ONIONS, DARNIT. Seriously, let your imagination run wild, folks. You can make this as simple or as much of a crazy crockpot fiesta as you want. You have the power. USE THE POWER. 

Sweet Potato Chili via Breakfast at Target (vegetarian)
Stockpile of ingredients; armed and ready to go.

Okay. And here's another dirty little secret. I hate cleaning the crockpot. HATE IT. There is nothing worse than having your house smell like a magical culinary wonderland, enjoying a nice dinner, and then DUN-DUN-DUN, you've got a crusty, goopey mess to clean up. GROSS. I know, it's not the most eco-friendly option; but it's a keep-Celia-good-mood-friendly option, and isn't positive energy just as good for the world, too? (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Right - I don't have to tell you to properly wash your veggies, do I? Listen, I don't care you pulled them off a gold platter at Whole Foods, they still need a good rinse.

Then peel those suckers. Peel 'em good.

Hehehehe... Nakey sweeeeet potatoes! 
For best results, always make sure you have your trusty sou chef + scraps-on-the-floor-disposal handy.

"Sou chef" - more like, "Soooou, chef, ya gonna drop anything anytime soon? Huh? HUH?"

Why do bell peppers always look like they're yelling? I guess I would be, too, if someone sliced me in half.

And, y'all, thanks to this Vine video, I can't wash/eat/deal with beans without a little shoulder-shruggin'.

Last step is dumping your seasonings on top, giving it a good swirl, and walking away.

Approximately 4-8 hours later (depending on your settings of choice), you'll return to a kitchen thick with the scent of warm, spicy magic and a crockpot pull of goodness.

Now listen, you can totally forego the extra trimmings and enjoy this meal completely vegan if that's your style. 

But if you're of the belief that chili is the perfect foundation for loads of cheddar cheese and hot sauce, you can come over to our place. We won't judge.

(Not pictured here, but I also dump some serious salsa on there; avocado, too, when it's in season.)

Something to note is that in our little household, we've replaced sour cream with plain Greek yogurt. It's a little more expensive, sure; but the health benefits far out-weigh the couple of extra bucks (protein boost, low- to no-fat, better taste all around? hellOOO!).

So grab your Costco-sized spoon and pat yourself on the back for a delicious job well done (with the hand NOT holding the spoon, OBVIOUSLY). 

And really, I should get some kind of medal for being able to hold off long enough to snap some photos. Though it's a good thing the camera was off when I finally dove in. Word to the wise, change out of your work clothes before you go for it.

Enjoy, muchachos!

Hugs & High Fives,

Base recipe from Real Simple:

Serves 4Hands-On Time: Total Time: 
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • sour cream, sliced scallions, sliced radishes, and tortilla chips, for serving
  1. In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cocoa, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Add the tomatoes (and their liquid), beans, sweet potato, and 1 cup water.
  1. Cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, on low for 7 to 8 hours  or on high for 4 to 5 hours (this will shorten total recipe time).
  1. Serve the chili with the sour cream, scallions, radishes, and tortilla chips.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Brave New Year

We're almost two full months into 2014.

I swear I was just cleaning champagne and glitter out of the carpet just last week.

And for the first time in years, I'm not living in fear of the painful whirl of time. I've learned to breathe. Yes, I had forgotten how to deeply inhale, to slowly release the exhale... to give my body and soul a positive reaffirmation that, in a single moment, I can exist.

And as I breathed in the fresh new year (wildly uninhibited thanks to a healthy flute of bubbly), I made a very serious decision. This year is about - has to be about - the art of simplifying. Read any of my blog posts over the years and they all encompass some tinge of anxiety, fear, frustration, and messiness of life. (And oh, how ironic, my love of spotless countertops and color-coded calendars and "to do" lists within to do lists.) It dawned on me - shoot, it straight up kicked me in the face - that the only magic solution for being in proper control of one's life is to recognize one's true capacity. Living fully didn't necessarily mean having a full calendar.

I have always piled on the commitments and lived in absolute, paralyzing fear that if I turned things down, I would ultimately turn down an opportunity to grow, to meet someone, to learn something about myself... to get ahead. I assumed if I felt some compulsion towards something, that was the Universe telling me to do it. Similarly, if I was presented with an opportunity, I knew it had to be the Universe trying to give me an opportunity. I always survived my experiences and opportunities, so I convinced myself this was supposed to be how I lived my life: always on the move.

I'm also a very impatient person. When things or results weren't happening fast enough, I felt that by piling more on my plate I'd expedite the process of gaining experience. Clearly if I did double, triple, or quadruple the average person, I'd be pushed to the top that much faster. And The World practically begged me to do it, so I was fulfilling my destiny, right?

Meh. Not so much.

After a few years of being unable to sleep throughout the night without medication, go a day without experiencing some kind of physical tension or pain, or be fully present in both big and small experiences, I realized my burn-the-candle-at-both-ends approach wasn't working the way I thought.  I left no room in my life for truly important things - friends, family, personal hobbies, inner-most dreams and goals, etc. - and always convinced myself I'd get to them eventually.... Even if I did, I didn't fully. And for that I may have well not gotten to them at all.

I prostituted my passions and turned them into more work, leaving the end results to be decided by clients and outside passerby's. More dangerously, I convinced myself I was still satisfying the "me" part of my soul by doing so, that I was killing two birds with one stone and essentially creating personal efficiency. In 2013, I cracked open a total of two books (where I used to put down at least two a month); one I never finished. I told myself reading for enjoyment was only to come after I finished all my to do's, chores, and work. My husband, with his a high-pressure job, and I continued to swirl in a vortex of overlapping existences; in our first year of marriage we couldn't make those day-dream inspired newlywed promises to each other like the saps we should've been. Instead we clung to our bourbon on the rocks and any tiny moments we had together. Getting to Friday in one piece was an accomplishment.

Then an opportunity presented itself; it wasn't a hard, fast, instant-results opportunity. It was a career transition that, for the first time, offered to help create a foundation: to give me room to build, grow, learn, and flourish while having a varied team of support and leadership that expected me to seek challenges. It was going to be slow. It was going to be a lot of trial-and-error. It was going to mean some sacrifices and sucking up my pride because the learning curve was going to be steep. I was going to have to do a little grunt work while keeping a smile on my face. But I wasn't going alone and the opportunity had the possibility to go in a number of directions -- all of them in the upward motion. The mission was in need of a champion, and the mark is mine to make if I work smart and graciously. I caught the break I had so desperately been praying for; and for once, the "unrealistic" vision I had in the back of my head for years suddenly started to feel very real, indeed.

Amazing how a little bit of clarity affords you the will to get out there, to enjoy simple pleasures... to spend the afternoon at a trampoline park and not give a HOOT you're at least 15 years older than the average bouncer.

A new opportunity, a new realization, and a new perspective on the future hit all at once. Slowly, I found my inner gangly, excited, gap-toothed spaz with her desire to experience the world and believe that fulfilling her true capacity - not just "getting things done" but actually "doing" with intention - was possible.

... and a new overhaul of my wardrobe and an overly-priced haircut did wonders for my inner girl-on-the-go diva.

Though, this is just the first step in a long yellow-brick road ahead. I still having crippling moments of anxiety and dwell on thoughts that do me no good. The cloud of impending uncertainty hasn't lifted yet, but I'm getting better at preparing for the storms. The new year's been plagued by a brutish winter, but it's also afforded some beautiful moments of cozy tranquility. Patience is a virtue I still lack, but I'm getting better by trying in the small moments.... I ate fully heated leftovers at lunch recently. It was totally worth the wait.

And as March comes in like the lion it promises to be, things are about to get a little crazier than normal; but with it comes the much-needed promise of spring. And instead of a chaotic, disjointed furry of activity, it will be a series of focused leaps of faith.

To be continued...

Hugs & High Fives,

PS. As an added bonus, below are some of the highlights of 2014 thus far! (All from the iPhone, if you can believe it... letting the Nikon rest up for engagement/wedding season... :)

fire and ice columbia contemporaries
Fire & Ice Ball with the Columbia Contemporaries (Jan 2014)
south carolina state house
Snowy Sate House (Snow Day Part 1 - Jan 2014)
Snow day deliciousness; homemade chocolate chip cookies and chai (Snow Day Part 2 - Feb 2014)

Homemade Sunday Brunch (Feb 2014)

hilton head half marathon
Hilton Head Half Marathon - 13.1 miles of freezing rain and never better (Feb 2014)

Sean Luca as my 'fuzzy' Valentine (Feb 2104)

studio cellar columbia sc
Impromptu art date night - went totally rogue from the model painting (Feb 2014)

south carolina state house columbia sc
Sunset stroll around the State House; spring slowly showing itself (Feb 2014)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Anniversary of Life": I Made It to My Late 20's

Victoria Beckham for Vouge - March 2010

Ten years ago I was on the brink of a serious and oh-so exciting transition. College lay ahead of me like a beautiful new fresh start, a chance to claim my individuality and take on the world. I was fearless, open to whatever challenges that dared to present itself. I had a thick, shiny sword of cast-iron naiveté, a never-ending source of energy, and an ambition that rivaled any smart, glossy-haired Senior that came before me. All I needed was an all-nighter in a haunting, dimly lit university library to create my masterpiece of a research paper and a raging frat party to get me started. The future was wide open. 

And ten years later, I'm sitting here in my over-sized underpants taking comfort in my $6 bottle glass of wine, wondering where that skinny little sprite of a girl with the sparkle in her eye and pep-in-her-step went. 

Sometimes, I feel like I let her down.
By now she was supposed to be in shoes that weren't on sale at Target and talking on her fancy phone to important people about urgent and slightly scandalous matters.

But with each new dose of reality and exposed corner of world come to light, she stumbled and waned a little more. As friends chose toxic personalities or substances over destinies; as cruel or selfish actions revealed the true identities of trusted counterparts; as the world proved unbalanced in favor of the greedy and the corrupt; and as admired figure-heads crumbled behind their masks because their lies proved heavier than their painted and polished facades, she found herself trying to right the wrongs and lead the weary. She tried to always do her best and trudge forward. She found it heavy, frustrating, and thankless. She hoped one day it would pay off. In the end, she all she had were many sleepless nights and a pile of resentment. 

But with each little crack in her shell, she found the good people who were there to patch her up. With each rejection she found a new strength. She discovered the beautiful things hidden beneath the veneered layers and appreciated more the work that was done out of responsibility and selflessness of others. She discovered humility. She looked up and saw the lightly trodden trail off the beaten path was where she needed to explore, and along the way she met new, wonderful people at every turn; even a few who showed up though she thought they were lost. She pushed herself harder than she ever thought possible. Her better-half, best friends, and closest family members created a net of much needed support. 

And she found her Target shoes fit her just fine. As did her over-sized underpants.

Every day, I look out for that gangly, gap-toothed spaz and the chance to look her in the eye. Because with each new squiggly little wrinkle or hair that looks questionably grey, I need to know my wide-eyed, excited, and slightly stupid self is still in there. In the moments where I'm truly in my element, I'm pretty sure she's there.

So as another November 13th comes and goes, I'll be another year older - and, hopefully, another year wiser. I'm sad to say this past year is coming to an underwhelming and stressful close; but I've learned a lot about myself and even more about what I want out of life. Part of that is simplifying. Learning to say "No." Making time for special people. Breathing. Praying. Listening. Lots and lots more hugs. And waffles.

Because the art of aging gracefully

[Audrey Hepburn on the set of 'How to Steal a Million']

starts with knowing your fears are sillier than you are.

And never - ever - refusing the excuse to eat cake, of course.

Hugs & High Fives,

Thursday, August 22, 2013

You Can Keep Your Motivational Posters; I'll Take Another Bourbon

The Summer of '13 is coming to a close.

I'm not sure I'm okay with that. With all the rain and running around, I feel like I was jipped of my summer reading and a proper sunburn. Here's to hoping for a far more delightful fall.
At least I'll be able to drink myself into a Pumpkin Spiced Latte coma soon...

Here's nothin':


In times of discomfort and uncertainty, I often turn to words of solace, hope, or maybe a staunch "get over it!" message. Sometimes, a new perspective sparked by well-intentioned words strung poignantly together can mean all the difference in how the rest of my day goes. Scouring books on poetry, great literary works, biographies on seemingly ordinary people with extraordinary purpose, and even the "good book" itself, I always pray I'll land on a page that says exactly what I need to hear. 

But lately, 
I'd rather open a bar menu to a page that has a drink I need to knocked flat-out cold.

Le sigh.

I don't know if I can chalk it up to the whole cliche quarter-life crisis bit (barf); nonetheless it's hard to explain. Not that I feel old or sad or woe-is-me. Rather, I feel stifled. And stupid. Burnt out from spinning my wheels trying to create, change, and do that often results in little to nothing. I often feel exhausted and empty. Who knew emptiness could weigh as much as it does? For every day that passes where my life is spent swirling in the vortex of mere "daily existence," I feel a little heavier. One of these days I'll either crumble, combust, ... or give up and buy the fat pants.

I mean, 
does anyone else ever feel like the Universe is giving you mixed signals?

 and yet...


I feel like the more I try to improve and to change the situation - even by merely changing my perspective - the deeper into that rabbit-hole of aimless existence I go. I see my friends, colleagues, and peers (who are all beautiful, wonderful people I might add) taking big chances and changing their lives for the better. There they go, running off into the sunset to greet their new lives full of meaning and wonder. Lives full of new chances to contribute to society, to see new things, to discover new parts of themselves. Lives where happy hours are actually happy. I'm really proud of those people. I thank the dear Lord for bringing them all into my life and inspiring me to keep up.

But as I stare at my - what I'd like to think is - full resume that includes some pretty cool experiences and opportunities to have left my mark, I feel like I've let those people down. Several years of busting my hump for the cause and living on caffeine and a prayer have amounted to a life of a steady paycheck, leaving me suddenly scared of giving up the small comforts I have secured and pursing what it is I'm supposed to do.

But the fat pants aren't on just yet.

(you wouldn't be the first)
but being an adult shouldn't be about settling. About accepting policy and procedure as moral code and trying to fit into the mold of what previous generations have made out to be the "dream." For some, that fits them just fine - and I'm not knocking those who want that. But all to often I find myself surrounded by people (and usually one too many bottles of wine) who want nothing more than to show the world what it's missing. For being in the generation that constantly gets sh*t on, these conversations prove to me that with a little planning and a lot of prayer (and vodka)... we don't have to get left behind.

And as I set out to complete this post that's been sitting in the pending bin for far too long, the words, this time, found me:

To those of you I know are feeling the same, take a minute to look up from your computer screens, your endless to-do lists, your piles of paperwork, and your glasses of bourbon.

Raise that glass up.

Reach out to those people charging into their new worlds - they haven't forgotten about you.

Tell Him - whoever your "Him" is - you're ready.

WAKE-UP so you don't miss the experiences coming your way.

Start your day every. day. believing something good is going to happen.

Make a plan. Like, for real: Write that mess down. Look at it often.

And whatever you do,
DO NOT put on the fat pants.


And that's all I have to say about that.

Back to regularly scheduled Breakfast at Target foolery soon.

So many hugs & high fives, friends.

**I'm having the hardest time finding the original sources of the images above. Got the deets? Send it my way.**

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Always Find the Sunshine"

Wednesday morning was the first time I woke up knowing my little lady would not be tapping at my feet while I sipped my morning coffee. For a girl perpetually preoccupied with the ever overwhelming "big picture," I never realized just how much this little part of our daily routine affected the start of my day. And with most of these small moments, we never truly understand their absence until they're no longer there.

Breakfast at TargetOn Tuesday afternoon, June 23rd, 2013, John and I said good-bye to our little lady, Audrey. For those of you who know us or have been following the blog for a while, you know our chubby Chihuahuas are a very important part of our family. A source of constant and genuine affection, love, and entertainment, I dreaded the day we wouldn't all be together. Audrey had been afflicted with a degenerative spinal condition for a long while now, though it took an unexpected turn a couple of weeks ago right before John and I left for our family vacation. We visited our primary vet and a specialist, both who gave us options and tried to stay hopeful. I filled the list of prescriptions and left Audrey in the care of my sister while John and I went with his family on our trip. I prayed. I just knew I would return to a bouncy, spunky old gal.

Unfortunately, I returned an exhausted and frail creature who could barely hold her head up without writhing in pain.

Two days of failed attempts of medicinal treatment and sleepless nights, John knew we had to make the decision. I called the vet Tuesday morning from my office and told her what was happening. She spoke slowly, quietly; it was time to end Audrey's pain. They had an appointment at 4:00 PM available that afternoon. My heart suddenly weighed so heavily it took everything I had to not collapse. Audrey's hours were marked. The scores of emails and paperwork flooding my office reminded me of all the work I needed to get done; but knowing I only had a few precious hours left with my best little friend of 10 years, I fled the office and literally ran the entire way home.

I scooped her up ever so carefully, and I'll never forget the look on her sweet face. She knew. We curled up on the couch with our other pup, Sean Luca, opening the windows to fill the apartment with the sunshine - something we haven't seen in weeks. For what was probably the 100th time, we watched Breakfast at Tiffany's together. Seeing the graceful and beautiful woman on screen that served as Audrey's namesake, it reminded me again how we all fit. A couple of no-name slobs that found out we did, indeed, belong to each other.

John came in the door late that afternoon; as much as I needed him, I knew his arrival meant it was time to go. Holding Audrey wrapped in her comfy bedding, we left for the vet. Instead of the cheery greetings of our normal visits, we were met with quiet wordless acknowledgements. The vet and her assistant came into our room and was very gentle and comforting. John and I got to be with her the whole time, gently stroking behind the crook of her ear - her favorite. She looked safe, peaceful, and comfortable. We didn't take our eyes off one another until the doctor administered the final phase. I leaned into her little face; she looked at me, gave me a sweet little kiss on the nose, and slowly rested her head. The overwhelming sensation of relief and devastation was beyond any scope of emotion I had ever experienced.

The morning after was barely tolerable. Sick with anxiety and almost convincing myself it was just a bad dream, I looked around and saw her empty bed. Life was going to be different.

Audrey's Easter Musical Stylings
:: Audrey loved naps - I don't mean snoozin', I mean curl-up-on-the-couch-with-an-old-blanket-and-day-dream kind of naps. She loved getting dressed up in the ridiculous outfits my mom and I would bring for her. It meant she was going somewhere special or meeting new people. She made friends quickly and knew exactly how to play newcomers to where she never had to beg for treats - you couldn't not give her some. Her favorite party trick was that she loved to sing - loudly. Not howl, not bark: Sing. Audrey had princess standards; plain pillows or scratchy towels were an absolute no-no. Only the fluffiest, softest, most fabulous bedding would do. Ironically, however, piles of fresh-from-the-dryer laundry were the ultimate snooze grounds. She always felt the need to clean things. She regularly made sure Sean Luca's face was free of the dirt and grime that always seems to be attracted to pups' faces. If you were a male with bushy facial fair - Lord help ya. She could pick beards and mustaches clean. Audrey also had a thing for little people; she loved toddlers and babies to the point where she'd literally squeal in delight when she saw them coming down the street. She was very gentle as little tykes would grab her and try to pick her up, and she lapped up every moment. I used to think it was because of their size - but she had a need to nurture and loved the purity of the mutual joy and affection. I was really looking forward to having her as head nursemaid the day that John and I brought home our first little rugrat.

But most of all, Audrey loved the sunshine. She worshiped the light that poured into our apartment mid-morning, always following it until even the tiniest bit was left shining on her face. In any place, she could find it.

In the days since, I've tried to find the sunshine. The bright sides. The silver linings. This summer has been a tough one; a really tough one. The endless rain and storms and unwavering heat has paralleled my journey into trying to become the person I so desperately want to become. Audrey's been there through all my major life changes - college, AmeriCorps, grad school, marriage, and post-grad life in the working world. I had a momentary, debilitating thought that her passing meant there were no more big changes. But my belief that the universe has a way of restoring balance and that the dear Lord works in mysterious ways, I wondered if she moved on to make room for something else. In any way, I know she's looking down from her pink chenille bed padded by warm, clean socks, making sure everything turns out okay.

So until we meet again, silly girl, I'm happy to know you're surrounded by eternal sunshine.


*It really meant a lot to have had the amazing professionals by our side during the difficult procedure. If you feel so inclined, I urge you all to donate to your local vet or shelter - whether monetarily, with supplies, or with your time. To go through it once was hard enough, but these special people have to help families through these tough moments all the time. But they also get to see the happy moments, and that's worth supporting even more.

Breakfast at Target
Audrey & Sean Luca

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"O-PIN-ionated": Pinterest Offenders & Airheads | Wedding Photos Edition

I know you shouldn't make fun of people, but it's really hard not to when the Internet gives you endless material. But here at Breakfast at Target, we're making fun of the "pinners" of Pinterest - and let's get real. Pinterest is a representation of what you'd like your life to be if you had all the money/talent/confidence in the world. So this "O-PIN-ionated" Feature is really about making fun of the alter egos of people behind the computer screens. 

In which case: GAME ON.


I love Pinterest. It's my favorite time-waster that actually leads to productive and creative outcomes in most several a few instances. I use it as my visual search engine. I enjoy the inspiring tips, tricks, and ideas that come along with it. I love getting lost in the sea of pretty outfits and places to travel.


It IS, first and foremost, a social media outlet. "Social" means there are other people. "Other people" people floating around the internet waiting to unleash their unfiltered thoughts. OTHER PEOPLE who further remind you that for all the wonderful, inspiring, beautiful, and creative things you can find on Pinterest... they are not safe from the horror that is the hoard of nincompoops ready to ruin a good thing in a single push of the "Submit" button.

Let us take, for example, the most obnoxious excessive popular use of Pinterest:

NOTE: This is cute, but "pinky swears" are NOT legally binding.
You know what are? PRE-NUPS.

I would go off about this topic for DAYS, but let me just say the Pinterest wedding craze only further enhanced my brewing anxiety regarding wedding planning. I love beautiful soirees celebrating special couples - heck, I even love the off-beat, festive nuptials. But I couldn't scroll through my daily Pinterest check without seeing horrid bridesmaid dresses and tulle-laden monstrosities and cheesy ideas that turn romantic nuptials into "My Super Sweet 16" parties. 

UM YEAH, it's cool if you're the betch lucky gal who scores the 3-carat prize. "Oh, hey peasant friends - let me see your rings so I can adequately appreciate the size of MY ring!"

But, as a photographer, I have a REALLY hard time stumbling on wedding boards and finding lists of "wedding photo ideas"... 

You know what really says "True Love"? Displaying the new Mrs.'s dairie-aire against a dirty brick wall in a pile of dead grass.
And you know what really says "Classy?" Cliche Photoshop accent colors. 

I know there are classic and cute photos every bride longs for - secretly, I had several images in my head I prayed made our album (and of course they did because our rock-star photographers did a BANG-up job). But I have major issues when 1) photographers actually go through with/produce really atrocious work, and 2) newly-engaged, starry-eyed brides think they're actually good ideas.

Kudos to this o-PIN-ionated gal who actually noticed the maid of honor accent bit... all I see is a  very heated bride that all her friends are off hanging out without her. Judging her, no-less, while her MOH gets all the attention. This is HER day, you ungrateful ninnies! 

I know photographers are constantly at the mercy of a flooded market and have to get creative to stay competative. 
But sometimes, y'all, people tread that very, VERY fine line...

So glad you're "signing your life away" to what seems to be a quality d-bag.

And IF we're supposed to be more and more skilled with bigger and crazier ideas, you'd at least think we'd be conscious of the small details that can really make a shot, um, awkward:

Good grief, did people have to climb a bean stalk to attend this wedding?
I have to admit, I thoroughly entertained myself with the thought that the mother-son "dance" was actually this lug swishing his helpless mother around to a Celine Dion ballad.

And for all the less-than-lovely photos floating around and the people who wish to recreate them, you think it just possibly couldn't any worse, right? 

From "I Do" to "We Did It"... now THAT's one for the album.
Wait, are they in the woods?
Wait, can you wear coral 'unmentionables' beneath a white dress?

*palm to face*

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I guess when it comes down to it, you can do whatever you want when you're paying oodles of money for friends, family, and even strangers during your "big day."

Because, obviously, there are plenty of people out there just waiting to steal your "brilliant" ideas for their own classy affair.

Happy Pinning!

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