Category Archives: Uncategorized

Change: Love the noun. Hate the verb.

I suck at change. As much as I love everyone to think that I am this easy going, adventurous person, the truth is: I suck at it. I avoid it like gay men avoid carbs between April and September.

I was in a 12 year relationship with someone who I am pretty sure is a psychopath that would have been a nice memory and a learning experience if I left him after a year. When I graduated from college I stayed in Upstate New York for 5 years after to stay with my college boyfriend (and we all know how that turned out). When I finally did move to New York City, I threw up every day for 2 months (meanwhile, I have never been so thin).

Once I did settle in Brooklyn, I got an apartment and have been in it for 18 YEARS (in the neighborhood that my parents and grandparents are from). I have worked for the same company for 12. But I have been living under this delusion that because I don’t like to eat the same lunch every day that I am the great embracer of change. I am that annoying person who is always quoting the clichés, “Change is the only thing you can count on.” “You always regret the things you don’t do.” Hypocrite!

So now I am making anoverdue self induced change. I am moving out of the city (not too far, just an hour, let’s not get totally insane) and I am buying my first house. Of course as soon as the offer was accepted, my dream job at my company has become available. My reaction? Crippling depression. How would I possibly move my life, my way of life, fix up a house AND start a new job at the same time? Back of the hand to the forehand – woe is me.  A cute new house by the ocean AND dream job? What a nightmare.  

So I have made the decision to embrace change.

A very smart woman and inspired meditation teacher Sally Kempton tells a story that has always stuck with me, and I will try to visualize this as the next few months unfold. It is the story of a town in Switzerland where everyone would jump into the graceful green river Aare and ride the river down into the next town. She noticed that for those that got right into the flow of the current, the journey was easy and fun. Those who held back from the center of the river, maybe out of fear, maybe out of ignorance of the help the river offered, never got very far. They would bang into overhanging trees and rocks and reeds that jutted out from the shore, ending up tangled and stuck or bruised and worn out. I have tried tangled and bruised, I would like to try easy and fun. So I am trying to trust the current and let it take me where I want to go.  

Does anyone know where I can get a good lifejacket?

-Jen

Meet Me In St. Louis

My friends are coming back to St. Louis for our 3rd annual girl’s weekend.  This annual convergence is proving to be the necessary kick in the ass to complete my spring cleaning.   This means cleaning out every room, closet, and drawer plus the cabinets and fridge.   Not to mention sprucing up the yard, getting the windows washed, and cleaning out the car for sightseeing trips. 

As the centrally located gal in the group (they come in from Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and California) it makes sense for everyone to come here.  And, I love hosting my friends.  Along with getting my spring cleaning Totally Completed (I’m pretty much done with closet and drawer cleaning until next spring) we get to take in the awesome things there are to do in St. Louis. 

It is so true that you don’t really appreciate what you have in your own city – I was somewhere in Tuscany waiting to go into yet another church when a lady in front of me asked me where I was from.  When I said St. Louis, she immediately started raving about the Cathedral Basilica and how it was one of the most beautiful churches she had ever seen.   At the time, I had never been there even though I’d easily been to more than 100 churches in Italy (seriously – 5 trips = lots of churches!!)  So, the first girl’s weekend we went to the Basilica (and it truly is one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever been in) and walked around the park at the St. Louis Arch which I hadn’t been to since I was a kid.  

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

Last year, we went to the Washington University / Forest Park area of town because Michaela had been reading about the 1904 World’s Fair and wanted to see the buildings that were donated to the city after.  The architecture of the buildings was amazing (I beg you to take the virtual tour provided in the link – it takes you building by building and you can see why Michaela wanted us to go).  I used to golf every week at Forest Park and I’m embarrassed to say that I still have never been into one of the museums which are now housed in the World’s Fair buildings.  We also went back to the Arch and toured the Museum of Westward Expansion.  Walking around the area made me appreciate how very pretty the waterfront park is. 

This year the group has already made their list – it will be the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour.  You guessed it.  Never been to the Botanical Garden (can’t wait after looking on the Garden’s internet site) and even though I worked for A-B for years, have never gone on the brewery tour. 

Missouri Botanical Garden

So, again this year during girl’s weekend I will get to visit two more spots that visitors come to St. Louis to do but I’ve never done.  I’m thinking I need to have a lot more girl’s weekends in St. Louis as there is a lot to see and do.  Maybe we need to up the weekends to twice a year.  YIKES – that would mean spring cleaning again in the fall.  I love my friends but spring cleaning once a year is enough for me …….  

 ~ Susan

Escape artists

Sometimes you just need to escape… without leaving the house.  Enter the DVR (how did we live without it?!).  Here is a taste of what the Sheality girls are escaping to these days.

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Since revealing my dirty little secret, I’ve actually cut down on the amount of TV that I watch… just not on the amount of TV that I record.  That continues to grow.  These days, in addition to The Bachelor and other nonsense that I watch, I’ve been overly into anything Alaska… meaning I search by keyword on my DVR, and record almost everything that shows life in Alaska. 

Full.  Blown.  Obsession.  A few of my favorites include:

Not only do I love the landscape and wildlife shots that they show in these shows, the lifestyle in the remote towns and villages of Alaska is so far from what I’ve ever seen, it’s fascinating to me. 

And, because I have a serious travel addiction (update: my passport arrived home safe and sound with 24 new pages!), I’m obviously planning a trip.  If you’ve been there, suggestions are appreciated :)

- Erin

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When I examined my DVR for something surprising, I thought, there is nothing surprising there, I DVR the same thing as everyone else – The Daily Show, Happy Endings, Californication, etc. Then I scrolled down past the Children’s Hospital episodes that I will never watch and two Woody Allen movies and there it was – 31 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – my DVR security blanket.

I actually own all seven seasons on DVD but I like knowing in an emergency (I’m not sure what a television emergency would be?) that I can watch a Buffy episode on a dime. To try to explain Buffy to those who don’t know it is difficult.

Television has never been the same for me since it went off the air. Long before Edward and Bill Compton there was Angel and Spike. Before all the anti-heroes that are everywhere now on television (House, Jack Bauer, Nurse Jackie) there was Buffy. Most people dismissed Buffy simply because of the name of the show. But it was meant to be ironic, because under the flaky name lies unexpected substance.

A consistently well told allegory whose science fiction world makes for so many more narrative possibilities than your average teen TV show. Everything was examined through the Buffyverse – fate, destiny, free will, love, good vs. evil – all the great literary themes. There have been countless academic studies on the show. And it was hilarious. They had me at the very first episode when Buffy explains to a vampire that his outfit made him look like DeBarge. 

So while I may never actually watch an episode, as they take up valuable space on my DVR, I rest easy, knowing that there will always be something amazing to watch on TV.

- Jen

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I saw Nora Ephron on a talk show recently.  One thing she said stuck with me because it is so true:  As soon as you get a DVR, you will never again be totally caught up because you will always have recorded shows that need to be watched. 

What’s on my DVR?   Everything I may possibly want to watch.  Why? Because I refuse to watch commercials.  The only recent exception is the Super Bowl and those commercials bored me silly this year. 

It’s much more telling to explain what’s NOT on my DVR.  Real Housewives of Anywhere, The Bachelor, The Voice and Selling New York.  The reason these shows are not on my DVR is because they rarely, if ever, finish recording before I start watching them. 

When I’m traveling for work, reality shows on my DVR is my reward when I come home. If my flight arrives in STL at midnight and I get home at 1 am, I still watch the Housewives before I can sleep.  And BTW, it totally pisses me off that the Bravo channel is not carried by the cable companies who provide service to any of the major hotel chains.    Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton — why do you do this to me?

- Susan

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Lately, I’m not motivated to leave the house for exercise.  That means my DVR is currently overflowing with either exercise shows or things to distract me enough that I’m willing to use my treadmill. 

My biggest diversion for the treadmill is Dr. Oz.   The man is amazing with having a show, a family, and an actual surgical practice.  I could definitely learn some time management from him. 

His shows are so interesting to me.  Just last week he gave a shopping list for 99 things to buy at the grocery store so you have quick, healthy, tasty alternatives ready to go.  And a lot of the items on his list were regulars on my shopping list, so I’m looking forward to trying the rest.  And he told foods to eat to reduce your risk for certain cancers at bay (apricots, limes, lima beans) and to keep your brain sharp (avocados, cashews, beets).  He even had a session on the newly approved non-invasive body sculpting Liposonix

You just gotta love Dr. Oz!!

- Lori

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Drinking the clearance kool-aid

I’ve been packing the last few days for an upcoming vacation.  Since we planned this trip last fall, I’ve had plenty of time to ponder my wardrobe.  Over the past few months I’ve perused clearance racks for summer clothes for both my husband and I thinking they would be great for vacation – and a steal at that.

As I started pulling out things to pack, I quickly realized we both have more new outfits (daytime, nighttime and swim time) than number of days we will be gone.  For some bizarre reason, I feel every vacation requires buying a completely new wardrobe.   Needless to say, I have totally drank the ‘clearance’ kool-aid and feel if there is an $100 dress on clearance for $10, I would simply be an idiot if I didn’t take it home.  Besides, I have a vacation coming up where this dress would be fabulous, right? 

The worst part of my clearance rack purchasing sprees is that I would never wear these clothes during normal life.  So everything I’ve purchased will be for a one-time (or no time as some of my finds aren’t even making it to my suitcase) wearing as I will most likely buy new clothes for the next vacation. 

So the next time I am pulling items from my closet for the local charity clothing drive, there will be a fabulous $100 dress, and many other special summer items (many with the tag still on) that will be filling the boxes I set out on my porch. 

When will I learn that I’m blowing hard earned cash for clearance items that I simply must purchase only to donate to charity?  Hopefully, someone will benefit from my inability to refrain from bringing these steals home.  BTW — Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Chico’s,  I know you were waiting for a chump like me to come in and take a lot of clearance items off your hands and you’re welcome.

Oh, and this is the third time we’ve gone to the Dominican to an all-inclusive.  I know (absolutely am positive) that I’ll wear the same flip-flops, shorts and t-shirt to breakfast every morning, quickly change into a bathing suit and may or may not dress up for dinner.  I could travel with a carryon that has sunscreen, a bathing suit and visor and be all set.  Anything else I need I could pick up at the local Wal-Mart.

- Susan

New Wheels

Today, I sent my passport off for some new tires.  I’m almost out of pages and with 2 years still left on my old passport (in addition to some of my favorite memories) I’m opting for new pages to give this one a few more miles. 

I told you before, I have a travel twitch.  And with a new year, and a whole bunch of new vacation days available, it’s starting to go crazy. 

But the thought of not having that passport and having to start fresh (with no stamps) makes me really sad.  I love browsing through my passport while traveling or waiting in line at immigration, looking at the stamps and thinking of the memories that I’ve taken with me from place to place.

I think it’s for that reason too, that I’m always amazed when I talk to friends, family, or even strangers that have no desire to leave the US.  Some don’t even care about leaving the state!  And apparently they aren’t alone.  According to a recent study on cnn.com, only 30% of Americans have passports, and 50% of the international trips that Americans took in 2009 were to either Canada or Mexico, which didn’t even require a passport before 2007! 

Anyway back to my passport… it’s in the mail and I will be nervous until I get it back.  Am I the only one that feels this way? 

- Erin

Sheality’s New Years Resolutions

Here are some disturbing statistics released in a poll by the  Opinion Corporation of Princeton, New Jersey:

  • 62% of people make New Years resolutions
  • 8% are successful
  • 19% achieve resolutions every other year
on average
  • 49% have infrequent success
  • 24% NEVER succeed and have failed on EVERY resolution EVERY year!

So we at Sheality decided that we were not going to make the usual, vague, unattainable resolutions. The weight loss, the exercise, getting more sleep – it’s all been done and undone.  We were going to resolve to do just ONE attainable thing that we have never done before.  Happy New Year!

You made your bed, now lie in it….

This year I am going to make my bed every day. Gretchen Rubin wrote The Happiness Project, which is an account of the year she spent test-driving studies and theories about how to be happier.  And to her amazement, her findings showed that the most significant thing you can do on a daily basis to be happier is to make your bed. Not make more money, not being in a relationship, not meditating, not exercising – making your bed.  And there are two very good reasons why it works. First, it is a resolution you can keep. Even if you end up making it two minutes before you get in it, you did it. Victory! And it also just lends some order and peacefulness to the place where you sleep. And you can find your shoes.  Now there may be some of you out there who grew up with a drill sergeant for a parent and are trying to escape the strict rules of your upbringing and for you I say – DON’T make your bed every day and enjoy the freedom!- Jen

Being of sound mind and body…

My husband and I have said for the last few years that we absolutely HAVE to write up our wills.  As we are packing to go to the Dominican Republic on Saturday, and once again getting on a plane together, I am once again kicking myself for not having a will.  While I don’t plan on leaving this life any too soon, I don’t want to leave any more of my hard earned assets to the government than I have to. 

Yesterday I found an on-line document (Rocket Lawyer) so have at least started the process.  It was not as painful as I feared.  Now I have to actually make an appointment with an attorney so my husband and I can make it official.  This is something I am definitely doing this year and since tasks like this take me a long time to actually finalize, I need to make that appointment soon.  After this is our living wills and discussions about burial (or cremation) and other very important decisions.  Getting old sucks , and planning for getting old sucks,  but it’s the responsible thing to do and its better than the alternative…..

- Susan

Evaluating my emotional footprint

Recently, Jen turned me on to a great zenhabits blog and it has really been capturing for me many related threads that have been developing in my life. I am a firm believer that to change anything on the outside, you need to change the inside and I have been a road that brings me to this place where I ultimately want to develop my ability to be a more considered person… that is, for the thing I want to do for 2012, I want to be able to consciously evaluate my emotional footprint  and consciously choose my behaviors… everything from tone of voice (my last post) to what I put in my mouth to how I interact with others. 

So the first thing I want to do more of is sit and watch – something that helps bring that joy and appreciation of the moment. It makes me feel that I am taking a step outside the moment in a way that leads me to really appreciate this exact moment and the crazy confluence of events that it may represent. There is no other time like right now – ever. That is just an amazing fact and reflecting on it brings me the equanimity that I crave in my life.

With this as a first step, I think I will be able to more successfully move towards consideration of the moment and conscious choice of my action, my tone and well, just about everything.

- Michaela

Back to school

This year I’m going to start taking classes again.  Not necessarily toward a degree (at least at first), but classes to start learning new things. I’ve been feeling lately that my life has started to revolve only around working, and I need to add a few things (besides drinking cocktails with friends all weekend) to mix it up a bit.   

So I’m planning for two classes right now: Italian  (I’m planning a trip to Italy in June and would like to know the basics) and Woodworking for the Total Beginner (I want to refinish furniture and would like to do it the right way).  I’m really excited about not only learning both, but having more of a variety of activities going on. 

Eventually, I think I’d like to get another degree but in the mean time, I’m going to get back into the swing of things with just the fun stuff.    :)

- Erin

Estate planning

This year I will hire an estate planning attorney and ‘have papers drawn up.’  Granted, I don’t really have an ‘estate’, but I’m single and I have no children.  It’s not totally obvious what I’d like to do with the things I have accumulated.  For instance, who gets my egg collection?  And my fourteen containers of costume jewelry? And my dogs?  My little one that is at least 12, is on daily medicine and is well-known at the vet’s office will have everyone fighting over him so I need to settle that now!  But really, I want to provide financial assistance to the person who does wind up with him.  But mainly I’m concerned about my Mom.  She juggles a lot of responsibilities already and I’m an only child.  If anything does happen to me, I wouldn’t want to unnecessarily add to her burden.  This year, I’m going to do the grown-up thing.  I’m going to get a will and a trust with clear directions on how to dispose of my assets.  At the same time, I’ll be working hard to see that she never needs it :-)

- Lori

Sheality’s Top Ten Bad Holiday Gifts for the Busy But Balanced Professional Woman

When you’re a successful professional woman without children, many times, people have no idea what to buy you for holiday gifts; especially those who don’t share your lifestyle. People with children imagine us going straight from the office to the spa to the restaurant. Our weekends are spent shopping at luxury label stores, clubbing all night and napping and brunching all Sunday.

While it is true that we often have gotten anything and everything on our wish list for ourselves already, there is a way to gift a gift that means something and is nice…

What do you get the woman who has everything? Well, here’s some idea of what not to give….a lot of well intentioned but really crappy gifts.

  1. Anything Doga: I love yoga and I love my dog… but there is no reason on this green earth to combine the two. Don’t even think I would be interested in anything related to Doga (yes this is real)… dogs don’t need yoga. Period. 
  2. Toys: The kind of toys that children get, and apparently me at the age of 28 because my mom wants to “keep it fun.”  A cabbage patch at the age of 28 is not fun, it’s just ridiculous.  What on earth do you do with it when you go home? Put it on your bed?  No, it goes right in the trash.  Save your money.
  3. Desk accessories:So yes, my job involves sitting for hours on end at a desk in front of a computer …. BUT, a desk is a piece of furniture and I can tell you, it doesn’t need to be accessorized!  I travel light at work and highly recommend it (everything you can pack in a box!). It seems to me that any $$ spent on these hunks of crap imported from China (or other exploited workforce country) would be much better spent donated (here are my favorite sites for that… www.heifer.org, www.humanesociety.org, or www.surfrider.org )
  4. The Visa Gift Card: My brother has taken to giving me (and asking for) Visa gift cards. Aside from whatever is in your wallet, can you think of a gift requiring less thought? And how annoying are they? They are for a set amount so unless I am buying something for EXACTLY 50 bucks, I have to put the rest on another card or have like $5.85 left on it – sitting in my already crowded wallet – taunting me.  I propose that my brother and I just save the money and pass the same card back and forth to each other.
  5. Bad gifts for the cook:  I’ve posted in the past about having every kitchen gadget one could possibly have.  However, every once in a while, someone comes across something that I don’t have… and there is usually a reason I don’t have the gadget.  Past gifts have included a cherry pitter (I hate cherries) and a jalapeno popper grill rack (doubt that will make it out of the box). Really?? A grill rack specifically for jalapenos?
  6. Doggie Decorations:  Because I love my dog, I get a lot of dog gifts. And by dog gifts, I mean home decorations with dogs on it. Picture frames, pillows, throws, and my personal favorite – a yard sign with “Spoiled Rotten Dog Lives Here” on it.  I don’t even have a yard. Owning a dog doesn’t mean I want to decorate my home like my vet’s waiting room. 
  7. “Gifts” with advertisements or corporate logos: I have a family member who thinks that because I have a computer, I love anything that involves technology.   Every tchotchke she receives from vendors that pertains to computers, I get.  Think: wrapped thumb drives, cd cases, a reading light that attaches to a PC, etc.-  all having a vendor’s name stamped all over them.  Hello…. I know you got these free.
  8. Art: Let’s just say art is as personal a gift as lingerie… if you know me that well, by all means, get me art. But if you don’t, I would highly suggest you stay away from the gift of art and go for some great dark chocolate! 
  9. Heavy, breakable items that you then have to travel with: When I say the best gift you can give me is a Costco gift card, get me a Costco gift card.  Don’t give me a large, heavy gift from Costco that I then have to lug home on a plane… oh… say…  huge serving platters (12 x 12 and 5 pounds each) that sit on metal stands and a 2 foot wide lazy susan with five ceramic sections for goodies.  These items, while very nice, were purchased at a Costco in Tennessee, hauled by car to Florida, wrapped, and given to me.  I then have to carry them on my flight home due to the 50 lb checked bag limit.  Did I mention that these came from Costco? There is one less than 5 minutes from my house – I could have picked them up there… with the gift card.
  10. Bath and body anything: Two words: no thanks.  Like art, I think the scents that you choose are very personal and just because YOU smell good in something called Vanillatini doesn’t mean I will, or even want to.

In the actual spirit of giving, we would also like to add some good gift giving ideas:

Personally, I think you are always safe with the 3 C’s: Chocolate, champagne and cashmere.  - Jen

As for me, Lululemon, Athleta, chocolate and your favorite book. You can’t go wrong! – Michaela

Wine, books, and cute scarves are top on my list! – Erin

A phone call or personal email are wonderful.  If you feel the need to spend money, red wine or a donation on my behalf are great.   – Lori