31 January 2011

wear red lipstick.

This one goes out to all of my girl friends...

My day started out like usual. The four alarms I set - two on my cell and two on my super old school, 1980's alarm clock (both semi-strategically placed in opposite corners of my room so as to force myself to get out of bed) - went off at 7:30, 7:31, 7:32, and 7:33 (yes, you read correctly. I tend to get a little sassy and play hard to get with my alarm clock in the morning). Once I finally forced myself to get out from under my ridiculously comfortable down comforter and slipped on my fuzzy bathrobe and fleece booties, I began to get ready for work. 

Typically my "getting ready process" is one chaotic whirlwind. I basically leave myself with *no* time to get ready (as I need all the sleep I can get), which leaves me to run around like a crazy person so I can get to work on time (my version of "on-time" is anywhere in the 9am hour thanks to my awesome boss). With that being said, I normally skip the make up and hair (no really, there are days when I literally do not brush it, but somehow, people really think I actually do), allowing just enough time to brush my teeth, wash my face, throw on an incredibly haphazard outfit (think shirt that I could wear to a club, covered by a cardi, over some leggings, paired with shoes that I grab as I'm rushing out the door). 

Maybe because I actually went to sleep at a decent time (translation:  before midnight), I woke up feeling refreshed and energetic this morning. Instead of rushing around my house (I really do get a nice mini work out with all of my running around), I took some time for myself. I checked my mail, scoped out some more apartments for me and Kaitlin, checked facebook and then started to get ready. When it came time to get dressed, I found myself carefully selecting my outfit, choosing a trendy black suit I purchased five years ago. I took the time to find my favorite pair of nude snakeskin pumps and decided to blow out my hair for once. I then rummaged around my vanity for my newly acquired tube of red lipstick (thanks, Saadia!) that I've been dying to try, but admittedly too nervous to wear to work.

The second I was done carefully applying my bright red lipstick and black eyeliner, I knew that my day was going to be different than most. I surveyed myself in the mirror and dashed out to my car noting an extra bounce in my step. Quite simply, I felt fabulous. And that feeling remained with me the entire day. I realized the truth in what any fashion magazine is always trying to convey: If you look great, you will feel great.  This doesn't mean that you need to be a supermodel or a fashion icon to look great. It just means that if you take two seconds to take time for yourself in the morning, it can do wonders for your day. Today, I dressed up for me. Not for my job. Not for a meeting. And not for the residents who pass by my office hourly (although they make for some nice eye candy). In doing so, I was more confident, I commanded more respect, and I was more in control of my day. I felt like I was making a statement, not only with my red lipstick, but my newly acquired, ultra positive attitude. 

So, go ahead, and make a statement. Wear the red lipstick, funky patent leather shoes, or black tights you've been dying to wear but too afraid to. Trust me, not only will you look fabulous, you'll feel fabulous.

24 January 2011

the beauty of prayer.

As part of my CASA training, I was recently assigned the task of visiting a place of worship other than my own. Growing up in a predominately Caucasian, Christian community, it wasn't until college that I was fully exposed to the diversity of our world. Living in Hopewell is akin to living in a little bubble where "diversity" was only something you heard on TV or read in the newspaper. But alas, I finally left the bubble, moved to college (even if only a few miles down the road), went on to work for a firm employing more than 100,000 people, and even moved across the country to the densely populated, yet incredibly charming city of San Jose. In those few years I was exposed to people of more backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and cultures, than an entire childhood provided me. 

But still, despite all of my fabulous friends and co-workers - many of whom are not Caucasian and/or Christian - I never really dove into the multi-faceted depths of  other religions/cultures (aside from 3 credits worth of World Religion during my first year of college). I suppose the reasoning behind this was quite simple. Quite frankly, there was no reason for me to go to another place of worship. Sure I asked my friends questions about their beliefs and customs, but my knowledge didn't extend much more beyond that. I was raised Catholic, so I grew up going to Sunday morning mass (at the crack of dawn, mind you) and that was that. It wasn't until this past Wednesday that I was actually "assigned" to go to another place of worship. Immediately I logged onto Facebook (please, it's 2011, what else are you supposed to do when you need to reach out to all of your friends) and basically requested that one of my friends take me to their place of worship (outside of Christianity).
In comes Ravi, not only an awesome friend, but a stellar former co-worker (the kind who would listen to me throw a temper tantrum when it was 11pm and I was still at work during busy season and the copy machine decided to jam a 50 page tax return). An Indian follower of Hinduism, Ravi graciously invited me to visit a temple with him last Friday. Knowing next to nothing about Hinduism, I asked Ravi a few basic questions and did a quick Google search so I wasn't *completely* clueless during my visit. Unfortunately, due to bad timing, we weren't able to attend a service, but we were still able to visit and explore the temple. 

I have to admit, I was a little excited when Friday evening rolled around. For some ridiculous reason, I envisioned the temple to be this huge, pristine, marble building, accessorized in ivory and gold. Clearly I pay too much attention to Hollywood movies. Admittedly, I actually took time to make myself look presentable, wearing a somewhat sophisticated outfit and splashing on some make up (for those of you who know me, sleep is a very precious commodity, so I do as little as possible when it comes to getting ready for work in the morning). 

Clearly the temple was not made of marble or plated in gold. Thanks, Hollywood. If anything, the temple looked like a church or a very large, oddly configured house. Ravi took me inside and the revelation began. We had to travel through several rooms before we arrived at the room right before the actual "main room" (Ravi, what is that room called?!). That's when Ravi reminded me that I had to take my boots off. Even though Ravi warned me about this part, I still had a mini panic attack at the sheer thought of removing my boots. I am so sorry if what I'm about to say is "TMI," but this is my blog and I'll write accordingly. In short, my feet have one too many sweat glands. So when their freedom is taken away from them and they're stuck in  shoes all day long they tend to sweat. And then, well maybe, smell. There, I said it. I'm a girl and I have stinky feet. So, imagine my horror as I removed my boots! Luckily, I remembered to bring an extra pair of socks...You can't have stinky feet and pray! As Ravi rolled his eyes and informed me how unattractive I was, I prepared myself to enter *the room* of prayer. 

Ravi led me into the room and the ultimate tour/tutorial began. In Hinduism, you do not pray to just one god. In fact there are many gods you  pray to. So, in the front of the room, there was what appeared to be a stage or one very elongated pedestal where all of the gods were situated. Since we weren't attending a service, Ravi took me to the front so we could pray before each of the gods. At first, I simply observed Ravi close his eyes, bring his hands together to his face and pray. Mimicking his gestures, I attempted to pray. Only I couldn't! Keep in mind that I never have a hard time praying at my church (I pray and give thanks for anything and everything). So I sat there, eyes closed, while my mind chattered away - "I wonder what Ravi's praying for, I wonder if it's an actual memorized prayer...hmm...maybe I'll sneak a peek and see if he's done...I wonder what I should pray for...Shit, I should probably start praying, he's probably done by now. Damn, I probably shouldn't curse in church!, okay, fine the "Our Father" will have to suffice for now").

We ended the visit by sitting down (picture the sukasana pose in yoga) near the center of the room and made one last prayer to all of the gods. Ravi then handed me what is called "prasad," which is quite literally a gracious gift, blessed by the gods. My prasad consisted of almonds, raisins, and rock sugar. Ravi explained that you must accept prasad when offered - I suppose much like receiving Communion in the Catholic church. The difference with prasad is that it's food offered by worshippers (ie. Ravi), then blessed by the gods, and offered back to the worshippers. A concept that I had previously never heard of, but was completely amazed by.

During our visit, several other people came in to pray. They removed their shoes and assumed the easy pose position, prayed for a few minutes, made an offering (as customary in my church) and went on their way. 

I found the entire experience to be rather peaceful and uplifting. As we left the temple, I remember thinking that I would love to attend an actual service. Contrary to many people's preconceived notions, many of the religions of the worlds really do parallel one another. Sure, the temple was totally different than a Catholic Church as far as appearance goes. But the perceptions people have about the actual differences are totally askew. Maybe Ravi was right in the fact that people may have looked at me oddly, wondering what a super pale, blue eyed girl was doing at the temple, but really weren't we all doing the same thing? Don't we all, in essence, do the same thing when we go to worship? People, especially in today's world, need something to believe in. Most of us have that innate desire to come together as a community and remove ourselves from the hardships of our lives, if only temporarily. So yes, someone could argue that Hinduism is a complete 180 from Catholicism, but before you make that conclusion, go ahead and try it out yourself. You just might find that the basic concept of prayer and faith outweighs all of the differences that separate  religions. And people. 

And one final thought for the evening. Throughout my life, I have found that the people I am most attracted to and form the strongest relationships and friendships with are the people who believe in something. Faith is a very powerful instrument in life and when played appropriately is very appealing.

16 January 2011

one more game.

For the past year I have been volunteering on the general pediatrics unit at a nearby children's hospital. I recently requested to transfer to the Hematology/Oncology unit after an afternoon of playing video games with two oncology patients. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to make the transition and it has already been quite the humbling experience. 

I will be the first to admit that after commuting to NYC for almost two years I strongly dislike being stuck in a car (How I drove across country twice is beyond me). If I had my choice, I'd live in a city (hello, San Francisco...oh hey, Austin!), where I didn't have to drive anywhere. Don't get me wrong, I've learned to optimize my time while behind the wheel. I often use that time to catch up with friends, unwind by driving in complete silence, or exercise my horrendous vocal chords and pretend I'm the next "it" girl in the music industry, while people in the cars next to me wonder if I've gone looney tunes.  Friday was one of those days where, quite frankly, I just didn't feel like driving 45 minutes to the children's hospital (despite the fact that my heart was gently prodding me, saying "Courtney, you know you will be so happy once you're in your element at the hospital."). My pathetic saving grace was the fact that I was meeting up with some former EY co-workers who I hadn't seen in what seemed like eons, in the same vicinity as the hospital. 

Of course, I shouldn't forget to mention that I was running late. again. Although it is one of my NYR to cease this "being late all the time" nonsense, I am failing miserably. After I parked my car, I quickly navigated through the maze of a hospital and finally landed in the playroom on the Hemat/Oncology unit for my volunteer shift. Breathlessly, I threw my stuff in the corner and saw that one of the patients who previously stole my heart a few weeks ago was still here. As if it were routine, I gave him a high five and he passed me a Wii controller so I could join right in on the game he was already playing. He, of course, had to reteach me how to use the controller, because the chances of me ever being able to remember how to play a video game are slim to none. A fact that had not slipped his mind. 

For the next hour or so, we played super mario brothers. And by that, I mean he totally kicked my butt, while I tried my best not to "die" every two seconds. Unabashedly, he made fun of me every two seconds when I pressed "a" instead of "b" or shook the remote in a desperate attempt to make it over a jump - something that he made look so damn easy! I swear I put my whole body into playing the video game, so that by the time I was done my hands were sweaty and sore from gripping the controller so intensely. Over the course of that hour, we joked around as if he was the little brother I never had. Through it all, we never discussed the fact that he's been in and out of the hospital for months, battling a brave fight against cancer. We didn't discuss the fact that he had to wear a hat to keep him warm indoors, or the fact that he was hooked up to an IV and a random assortment of monitors around the clock. Those facts were lost to him. For the hour that I was there, all that mattered was that he was rocking me in Nintendo Wii and having the time of his life doing so. This fact is not lost on me and is something that I will carry near to my heart for a long time. 

After losing all of my "lives," I told my newest pal that I had to visit a couple more patients before I headed out for the evening. Rolling his big brown eyes, and not missing a second of the game (this kid has ridiculous multi-tasking abilities!), he told me to hurry back so we could play some more. When I came back to the playroom half an hour later, sure enough, the patient was still there, looking as happy as can be, lost in the video game. As I grabbed my stuff and told him "I have to, but I better not see you here next week!" (guiltily knowing that more likely than not he'd still be there), he looked up at me with those innocent eyes and wistfully said, "c'mon courtney! one more game!" I let out an exaggerated sigh of exasperation and said "why?! so you can beat me again!!!?!," to which he replied, "of course!!!"

And so he tossed me the controller and we played one more game. And then another.

I finally found the heart to tell him I had to be going. And as I found my way back to my car and hurried off to happy hour, all I could think about was how happy that little boy was despite everything he was going through.  His positive outlook on life was breathtaking and reminded me to relish in the simple things life has to offer, even if it's just a silly video game.

When I arrived at happy hour I found myself refreshed and revived, happy to see the familiar faces of old friends. And as I walked to my car much later that evening, I didn't think twice about the fact that I had forty five minutes of driving ahead of me. Instead I thought of my little angel back at the hospital, full of laughter and happiness and thought how we could all benefit from a dose of his outlook on life.

10 January 2011

here's to hope.

There's nothing quite like a broken heart. Whether self inflicted or unwarranted, a broken heart hurts. Not in the painful way that a broken nose or arm hurt (I've broken both. Trust me. They both hurt like hell). A broken heart hurts in an indescribable way - only those who've experienced one can truly understand. There's nothing really tangible about it. No cuts, no scrapes, no cast to prove you're in pain.  There's only tears. Tears of fear, of hurt, of sadness, of anger. Tears that well in your eyes and pour down your face out of the blue, when you least expect it, despite your desperate attempt to hold them back. Your body becomes numb with anguish and hopelessness. You feel as though everything is crashing down on you and the world is anxiously trying to swallow you up. Part of you wants to just disappear and blend into your surroundings so you can ignore the relentless pain. 

Despite all of this, your body perseveres. Your mind perseveres. And, one day at a time, you get through it. Not only because you have to, but because you want to. You recognize that underneath all of the pain and hurt you're feeling, there's hope. And your heart clings onto that hope, knowing that it will eventually overcome the pain and bring happiness and joy back to the heart. And hey, fabulous friends, a nice glass of wine, and some great music certainly help :)

So for anyone who has had a broken heart, here's a little hope for you. It's there and you'll find it. It may take time, but trust me, it will be there waiting for you when you're ready for it.

05 January 2011

you say you want a resolution.

Oh new year's resolutions. Where do I begin. First and foremost, I must admit that I have never been 100% successful with any prior NYR (new year's resolutions). I always try really hard in the beginning and then...well, the inevitable happens. And it's not that I forget about them. When I was eleven or twelve I insisted on writing everything in calligraphy. Cards, school projects, you name it, it was in calligraphy. So it was only natural that when the new year rolled around, I carefully wrote out all of my resolutions on a fancy piece of parchment paper and tacked it right above my bed. Sadly, I was probably more dedicated to my penmanship than any resolution I made that year.

I honestly believe that the reason why my NYR are always mega failures is twofold. First, I create lofty goals with no plan of attack. What's the point of an NYR if there's no action plan? How am I supposed to make a change in my life if I have no idea how to do it? Second, I tend to lose motivation rather quickly. Probably as a result of my lack of planning. I am hoping that this *realization* will allow me to follow through with my 2011 resolutions...

Without further ado, I present my NYR (in no particular order):

1)  Create a peaceful living environment. For anyone who *really* knows me, you are aware of the fact that I am, in short, one hot mess when it comes to my living space. This is probably due to the fact that I am always in a rush (see below). Case in point - my sister couldn't even sit down in my room last night given its state of disaster. I have a horrible habit of getting undressed and leaving my clothes wherever they land. I also tend to change purses twenty times a week, so the contents are strewn throughout my room in the most haphazard fashion. I am terrible at going through my mail (thank goodness for e-mail), so it tends to pile up wherever space is available. However, the most ironic thing about this is that I am *ridiculously* organized when it comes to my work. If I'm not organized at my job, I simply cannot operate effectively or efficiently. Which brings me to the conclusion that if I have organization in my own personal space then perhaps I wouldn't always be running around like a crazy person, blaming the entire world for misplacing my keys for the millionth time or trying to find my favorite lip gloss when I was supposed to be out the door twenty minutes ago (and maybe, if I ever - and hopefully I don't - get pulled over again, the cop won't have to lecture me about taking time to get my life organized). I also think that this idea of a peaceful living environment will help me find better peace of mind. And who doesn't need that? Taking the advice of two very important people in my life - my mom and Saadia - I am going to start setting aside 15 minutes a day to just get organized. I am also well on my way to finding an apartment - something I've needed and have been looking for, for quite some time now. So there you go, a plan and motivation. NYR #1. Check.

2) Stop being in a rush. all.the.time. The following quote basically defines my chaotic lifestyle, "I was going to be late. Again....Suddenly, an image of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland appeared in my mind. He was clutching a large golden pocket watch while huffing and puffing, 'I'm late, I'm late!' My own version of the frantic refrain started playing on a loop: 'cmon, come on, come f*cking on. I'm late! I'm late! I'm late! I'm laaate!" (-Lorna Martin). This constant state of rushing around is, by no means, healthy. And, it by no means, can lead to a peaceful lifestyle. I know that I juggle probably one too many things. And, I know that I probably will always be like that. However, if I learn to prioritize, learn to say "no," and have self discipline when it comes to the tempting distractions littering my life (hello facebook!), then perhaps, I won't always be envisioning the infamous white rabbit. 

3) Do not give in to the temptation of sugar. Some people have a sweet tooth. Not me. I have a full set. All thirty flipping two crave and delight in the taste of sugary foods. Before I go any further, I have to address the fact that, minus the sugar, I am pretty healthy. I don't eat fatty foods. I love fruits and vegetables. I'm ecstatic to start using my newly acquired Quinoa 365 cookbook. Sugar, however, is my downfall. It sabotages every last effort I have to eat healthy. I simply cannot resist the temptation of chocolate. However, with the encouragement of my best friend, I am slowly eliminating sugar from my life, so that it becomes an indulgence, rather than an everyday necessity. I completely understand the utter lack of nutritional value offered by sugar and the detrimental impact sugar has on one's mental and physical well-being. I also want my pearly whites to remain intact when I'm old and gray. 

4) Create my master plan. Thanks to OWN and Saadia, I am (and have been) creating my master plan. This is not a plan designed to define every aspect of my life. I already figured out that those plans don't exist, no matter how much you want them to. I'll save my master plan for it's own separate post, but in the meantime, take a look at this video to give you some insight....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gm73PfeQrkM

5) Be patient. Not only with others, but with myself as well. Take a deep breath when I find myself losing patience. Close my eyes, reach inside of me and find the patience I know I have...and use it. 

6) Continue to set goals, dream, and live my life to the fullest. Everyday. No matter what sets me back.

7) Finally, go to sleep early. Find the time - make the time - to get nine hours of sleep every night, so that I can wake up, refreshed and ready to take on the day.


03 January 2011

the zumba sisterhood.

On my drive home tonight from a pretty fabulous mini session of solo retail therapy, I found myself totally rocking out to The Anthem by Pit Bull, which is quite the 180 from T-Swift's Speak Now CD I've been listening to 24-7. As I drove home, wishing I had my new glasses on me, pretending that I knew all the lyrics (please, I may know Taylor's lyrics, but Pit Bull?! ha, hardly), I found myself becoming ridiculously excited for my first day back at Zumba tomorrow night. I began taking Zumba a year ago, after my sister insisted I join her one night. Keep in mind that Ashley practically forced me to first try Groove with her. I *vividly* remember hating my sister for a full 60 minutes, as my two left feet made a very sad attempt to keep up with the rest of the class. To make it worse, I was surrounded my mirrors - front, left, right, back - to remind me of my complete inability to move my body (unless a cocktail is in hand). Refusing to walk out, and completely resenting my sister, who moves her little booty like she's the next Britney Spears, I sucked it up and finished the class. 

So, you can probably imagine my horror when Ashley insisted that I put my Groove experience (or lack thereof...ha ha)  in the past, and give Zumba a whirl.

And my oh my. Zumba was a totally different story. Zumba was love at first sight. Zumba had everything that Groove didn't. In Zumba, I could *move* my body, sans embarrassment - even with four mirrors surrounding me. The natural rhythm of the music - latin meets hip-hop - combined with the superfluous energy of the instructor was surreal. I could dance. And burn a gazillion calories. Simultaneously. Sigh. What's not to love!?

Flash forward twelve months later and my passion for Zumba is higher than ever. Only now I realize it's much more than getting a great workout in. Two days a week I meet my mom (an avid participant thanks to my sister and me), my co-worker - who I now consider to be a fabulous friend, and sister at the gym to get our "groove" on. Oh yes, that's right...homegirl now has groove. And so does my own mamacita. For a full 60 minutes, the four of us lose ourselves to the music and let our bodies dance in ways we ('cept for Miss Spears) never thought possible. We dance. We laugh. We sweat. And most importantly, we bond. It's amazing how such a simple thing has cultivated such a fantastic friendship between four women.

So thank you, Pit Bull, for reminding me of this ;)

02 January 2011

everything happens for a reason. or does it.

It's funny the way life works. You think you have it all figured out, and then bam!, out of nowhere, everything is turned upside down. It's been said by many, that "everything happens for a reason." But does it? Do we ever know? Is it just a positive spin people label past experiences? Is it a religious phenomenon? Don't things happen because of the choices we make? Don't our choices, rather than our abilities, dictate who we meet in life, where we travel in life, and why things do and don't happen? I've always wholeheartedly believed that things do happen for reason, but I can't help but be cynical about this mysterious concept. 

As I begin the new year, I find myself very intrigued by this concept. A few years ago, I dropped everything and moved to California to start a new life. To figure out who I am in this chaotic, whirlwind journey called life. The people I met, the places I traveled to, and the opportunities I made for myself could provide for a fascinating autobiography. (And if I ever find the time, I'd love to write an Elizabeth Gilbert-esq book on my self discoveries and experiences, if for no other person, than myself).

On the surface, I was able to reaffirm certain things I already knew about myself. Before I moved, I knew that I never had this undying passion for accounting and knew that I could never be fulfilled and happy as an accountant. But, as with everything in my life, I just had to be sure. I had to be absolutely, 110% positive that I could not love my life as a CPA. Over time, I found it more and more difficult to find happiness. Most mornings, I'd have a hard time finding the energy to drive to work. Not in the sense of, "oh man, I have to go to work today!," but, in the "Oh my dear Lord, I honestly don't think I can handle one more second of staring hopelessly at a never ending excel spreadsheet, while dialing into yet another conference call about how my client is going to apply some ridiculously overcomplicated tax law" sense. Needless to say, after 2 years and 10 months of pretending to be happy, I left not only my job, but my profession, as well. I gave my two weeks notice and quit. I didn't have a job lined up. I didn't even have a permanent home. What I did have was the confidence that I would eventually find something that made me happy. Something that inspired me. Although I am not there yet, I am definitely on the right path. So, this brings me to the question, did I devote almost three years of my post college life to a career I have no interest in, for a reason? Honestly, that's a tough call. Yes, my experiences in my former career taught me a lot. It also exposed me to what I don't like. But didn't I already know what I didn't like? Why then, did I go down that path? Should I even be questioning it? I suppose my concern dwells within the notion that either everything happens for a reason, or nothing happens for a reason. I don't think there's segregation in this "concept." So, this brings me to my next question. If I was meant to be a CPA (even for a short lived time), am I meant to cross paths with certain people? I'm not talking about the random person I exchange a smile with in the grocery store. I'm talking about the people who have had an impact on my life. The people I have chosen to open up to, to get to know, and to and share my life with. Does every relationship and/or friendship happen for a reason? Is it fate that I am meant to share my life with x amount of people before I find that one person who is right for me? Furthermore, how do we know when we find that "right" person...Can you ever be sure? Is *anyone* ever sure? How do you know if certain people are planted in your life for good or for just a short period of time? 

I'm not even sure why I burden myself with these questions, especially since I know that I'll never know most of the answers.

I know this is an abrupt halt to a seemingly complex issue, but given the therapeutic benefits writing has on me, this won't be the last time I write about this...With that being said, there will be plenty more to come....