Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me = Good Job, Mom!

Every kid loves birthdays. It's a day all about her, and she gets presents and candy. Since my 16th birthday, I've purely loved birthdays, because I'm reminded of how great people are. The month before my 16th birthday, my high school boyfriend passed away. Obviously, it was a sad time. I wasn't allowed to go on an official date until I was 16 -- just group outings with friends until then. Four days after what would have been Matt's 17th birthday, I turned 16, and I didn't go on my first official date -- but I had never had so many people rally around me. Usually 16th birthdays are known for outrageous Sweet 16 parties with lots of fanfare, but I loved mine because I felt so embraced when I wanted to hate the world. I laughed so much that day. Every birthday since has been that memory and those feelings reincarnated! I love my family and friends!  I love birthdays, and yesterday was no exception!  Even being 1,300 miles away from most family and friends, I felt so special.  I'm surrounded by wonderful people! 

Without fail, my parents sing "Happy Birthday" to me every year.  As soon as they're both awake and into their morning, they call me and sing.  If they're feeling a little fancy, my mom sings a stellar alto harmony.  (My parents are both very good singers.)  This is how yesterday's call went:

ME
Hello?

THEM
(straight into the singing)
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday...
(laughing because they started on different notes... clashing notes)

MOM
(to DAD)
You're singing off key!

DAD
We started on different notes!  (pause, and then emphatically)  We sound great!

THEM
Happy birthday, dear Lindsay
Happy birthday to you... (voices fork into comedically high pitches)

ME
I really wish I had recorded that!  That was too good!

DAD
Can you tell we're trained vocalists?

We were all laughing by the end.  It was pure joy at its finest!  My morning was then followed by my precious, sleep-deprived husband with carrot cake that had sparkling candles... that would relight themselves (but they weren't trick candles)... and when I finally blew them out, the room filled with smoke.  I kind of panicked.  "Oh, my gosh!  Oh, my gosh!  Help!  Honey, help me!"  We scrambled to put the candles under water.  Again, I was laughing so hard. 


The day was filled with text messages, e-mails, phone calls, gift in the mail, and Facebook messages despite the absence of a birthday listed on my profile.  Sneaky!  My boss and his wife brought these to my office:


So beautiful and delicious!  And I was both sweetly surprised and humbled by what Leah wrote to my mom:


It is one of the biggest compliments I've ever received, and I feel equally lucky to have friends like Leah.  Summer posted something very similar, and it made me smile again!  I will hold on to those words to remind me of who I want to be for myself and other people.  And as you can see, Leah's humor is partly why I love her so much.

And let's be honest, moms deserve the credit on birthdays.  I didn't bring myself into this world with 22 hours of labor and no epidural.  (Yeah, no epidural!)  THANKS, MOM!  Thank you for working so hard 27 years and 1 day ago to bring me into this world!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Patience for Presents? Yeah right!

And before I go to sleep, now that it's almost 2:00 AM (Am I in college again?!), I must confess that I did not demonstrate patience when I received my birthday present from Summer and Mike today.  Part of me was saying, "Don't open it until Wednesday," but what fun would that be?  I ripped that box open!  Thanks for the gifts, you guys!  I already wore the earrings, and I'm ready to use my new yoga/exercise goodies tomorrow... today... in eight hours!  THANK YOU!  I love you both! 

Also, Starbucks gifted me with a free drink coupon in the mail... twice.  Maiden name and married name.  Jackpot!

Conundrum of the Everything-Conscious

Mr. TBS and I do our best to live good lives.  Good to ourselves, good to other people, good to the environment, and so on.  But you know what?  It's hard to do it all!  Some people choose a cause.  Animal rights, nutrition, extreme coupon-ing.  But how can one successfully be everything-conscious?

I've spent a great deal of time looking at The Kind Life, Forks Over Knives, The China Study, cleaning alternatives like EcoCycle, and Ethical Ocean for the last few weeks.  There are so many ways that I want to live a "kinder" life, but without a boat load of cash and free time, it seems really difficult.  I feel like I'm faced with the obstacle of "Here are your options, but you can only pick two at a time."

To clarify, here is a brainstorm of four lifestyle updates I'm currently focusing on.

Be frugal
Coupons
Find best deals
Sales
Buy only what you need
Create a budget

Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Surround yourself with positive influences (both people and things)
Exercise regularly and using various methods
Eat organic, whole foods -- mostly plants
Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night
Keep your brain active


Live a life that is free of animal cruelty
Follow a plant-based diet
Only adopt when you have the time and resources to take care of them as a family member
Use products that are not tested on animals
Avoid leather and fur products
Educate yourself

Nurture Mother Earth
Buy local produce
Eliminate "indoor air pollution" in your home (Use natural cleaning agents and hygiene products)
Recycle
Conserve water
Use alternative transportation options: public transit, carpool, hybrid or electric vehicles, bike

Let's be honest: Organic produce can be expensive.  I don't sleep enough.  I own leather items.  I'm currently downsizing the amount of chemicals we have in our home.  

I am motivated to update our lifestyle, but there are challenges.  I just have to take it one step cause at a time, I suppose!  It's fun to research and find so many neat blogs and websites about all of these things.  And yes, I've even mentioned bumGenius to Scott.  I'm sure you can imagine his reaction.  ;-)  My inner hippy is gradually taking center stage, and I can't stop her!

I'm on a mission to be everything-conscious!  Want to join me?  When you think about it, it's impossible, because some things contradict each other, but it's still worth a shot!  Along the way, I am sure that some person, animal, dollar, or landfill will be saved.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Adoption!

This can't wait until lunch time!  I got really great news yesterday, and I have to share it now.  As some of you know, I'm a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for a foster child.  After completing my training in 2009, I was matched with a case, reviewed the file, accepted the case, and officially assigned to it on January 17, 2010. 

For obvious reasons, the case information is confidential, but I can say that after a long road, my case child's adoption will be official on October 7, 2011!  After being "in the system" for three years, it's done.  Adoption is such a beautiful thing, and I am so happy that as she enters those very memorable years of kindergarten and elementary school, she will have a more consistent lifestyle.  I spent an hour on the phone last night with one of her relatives, and in hindsight, I think we just kept saying how happy we were, over and over again.  We couldn't contain ourselves!  To have worked on this case has been so humbling.  I'm that much more grateful for what I have, and I almost don't know what to do with all of the thanks I keep receiving from my Voices For Children program supervisors and my case child's relatives.  I've worked hard and yet I don't feel like I deserve it.  These relatives have LIVED this every day for years, and I just showed up last year with the idealistic notion that I might be able to help.  They've worked so hard to do what's best for my case child, and to see love in action like that is so overwhelmingly astounding.  In the face of truly difficult times, I've learned a bit more about the parent I want to be.  I'm so appreciative that I got see this case through despite my move to Houston.

It's a CASA success!  I am one of those lucky CASAs that gets to say, "... and then she was adopted in to an amazing home."  It's one of those times you just want to sit and cry and smile.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Check-In

I hope you guys had a great weekend!  My weekend included three studio classes, an amazing place called Petite Sweets, a fantasy football win for Scott, and a good thunderstorm.

I registered for nine classes this week.  Free studio classes rock my world right now!  Once I use all of my free and discounted passes to different yoga/Pilates studios, I can finally add Houston Metropolitan Dance Center into the mix.

Okay, picture time.

Here are the white lights!  They trim the base of our vaulted ceiling.

Holy MPG!  New record for my Prius!  And yes, those 500 miles are from one tank of gas.

It's fall!  Shall I carve or decorate pumpkins this year?

Just singing along with Newsies together!
Me: "Look at me, I'm the king of New York..."
Amelie: "Suddenly, I'm respectable... Starin' right at ya..."
1992 movie musical lovers, jump in!  :-)

Can you tell they miss him?
P.S. In the almost six years I've known him, this is the first time I've seen Scott with facial hair.  (It's for his show that opens next week.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Reader Fever

As I neared the end of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (book on CD) during my commute this week, I started getting really impatient.  I've already read the book, and I know how it ends, but I just couldn't wait.  I stayed up until midnight two nights in a row just to get to the end.  Gregory Maguire is a genius with words.  Wicked doesn't bring me to tears the way other books have, but it's just so... raw.  It actually leaves me feeling conflicted.  The major theme of the story is the nature of good and evil.  Who appoints the good?  What determines evil?  I'm even more fascinated by his success with building a deeper story around the classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  I just love a good book.

Cory, remember how many books we read at "The Peg?"  I guess the absence of TV will do that to four "young idealists" working at City Year!  And you would check out books from my "library."  LA was so frustrating at the time to both of us, but I loved living with you -- and for so many more reasons other than books! 

I have all sorts of books on my shelf that I still need to read, but I'm always looking for book recommendations.  What have you all read (and loved) lately?

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Conjure the spirits from the earth."

I went to my first Nia class last night.  I had never heard of Nia until I found this studio.  Here is what the class description said:

"Nia is a low-impact, high cardio aerobics program that blends dance, martial arts and yoga with great music. Every Nia class is a fun experience and a great workout. Nia empowers students and teachers to make their own movement choices by offering students a flexible structure they can personally modify to suit their needs. Nia reaches people emotionally, in their hearts, motivating them to get fit and healthy by creating a deep personal desire to explore their potential and love their growth. Fitness, health, well-being, and self-love naturally result from the Nia experience."

Why not?  It's free.  Sounds interesting enough.  So I went.  And it was very apparent that my dance background is ballet, jazz, and tap.  I have very good control over my body.  Nia is NOT a dance class.  It involves letting loose and being free-flowing.  I thought I was in hippie world for the first ten minutes.  "Lead with your knees and move about the room.  Do whatever your body feels."  And then it became, "Now lead with your hips... your rib cage... your shoulders... your head..."  It was very funny to see all of these bodies meandering about the dance floor, limbs flailing, torsoes twisting.  My body wanted to dance and to be given choreographed moves, and I felt very silly.  The instructor was awesome, don't get me wrong.  She was incredibly zen, focused, nurturing, and intense, all at the same time.  It took me about 30 minutes to get into the groove of what was happening, and I liked the class more as it got intense and I started to sweat.  I couldn't help but think about one of my favorite funny experiences from 2010.  Oh, you guys.  This is a good one.  Please visualize as you read.  I would act it out for you if I could.

It was April, and I got a call from SD Repertory Theatre for an invited audition.  They had my headshot and resume on file from another audition and thought I was a good fit for a musical called "Storyville" that would be opening in the fall.  After a strong audition, I got a callback.  I had the requested two songs (upbeat and ballad, both jazzy) and one monologue (provocative and sexual), and I was ready to dance.  Songs, bada-bing!  Monologue, bada-boom (and I somehow managed to be sexual, and yet, funny enough that the artistic director laughed aloud)! Dance, feelin' good!  And then we had to do another dance.  An African dance.  (Say whaaaa?)  The choreographer's exact words were to "feeeeel the beat, feeeeel the rhythm... conjure the spirits from the earth."

There is one thing that you absolutely cannot hide on stage.  Self-conciousness.  You can't hide anything.  It's what I love about live theater.  It's intimate.  It's live.  There are no second chances with directors yelling "cut."  You are the character or you're not.  I am not an African dancer, and I know I looked stiff, especially compared to the one other person I danced with, a Brazilian belly dancer who takes African classes at Debbie Allen Dance Academy.  It's one of those moments where you just say, "Well, I'm here.  Give it a go!  Fake it 'til you make it!"  It was hard, but I had a lot of fun despite my lack of spiritual conjuring powers.  Smiling and giggling ensued as soon as I got in my car, and I told Summer all about it on the phone.  We both laughed hysterically.  I didn't get the part, but I guess I wasn't too bad, because I was asked to understudy three ensemble roles!  :-)

I actually really love watching African dance.  Have you seen how those dancers move their bodies?  It's liberated but controlled, masculine but graceful.  I wish I could dance like that.  I loved watching Pilin, one of the "Storyville" actresses I understudied, dance.  She is an African dance storm to be reckoned with, and she has such strength.

So that is what my experience last night made me think of: the time I had to "conjure the spirits from the earth."  All joking aside, Nia will not replace dance or yoga for me, but it was fun. I'll still be going to a few other classes with my free two-week pass.

Monday, September 12, 2011

An Abundance of Little (and Big) Pleasures

It's the litte things, isn't it? 
Finding a dollar bill in your pocket,
a stranger saying "have a nice day,"
cuddling with a pet,
getting your drink for free at Starbs as an apology for the wait. 

But let's be honest; sometimes, it's the big things too. 
A new laptop,
going out to dinner,
being granted a full refund for an event you couldn't attend at the last minute,
getting free "new student" passes to yoga studios. 

In any case, these things made me smile today:
  1. We got a new laptop this weekend, and I can officially Skype without having to hinder Scott's work by using his MacBook.
  2. Every morning, Scott makes me a breakfast protein shake that tastes like cake.
  3. I made a packed 2.5-week yoga/dance class schedule that I put together in order to take full advantage of a one-week free pass to The Yoga Institute and a two-week free pass to Nia Moves.  Go ahead and laugh at my lists and schedules, but they work!
  4. My company reimburses employees for half or up to $24.50 of monthly gym dues to promote healthy activities outside of work.  I proposed that dance/yoga/Pilates studio memberships should be honored as well... and the HR manager agreed!  :-)
  5. I appreciate lunch/break time blogging at work since I always pack a lunch and never leave mid-day.  (Too hot!)
  6. I saw pictures of Summer's first sprint triathlon she completed yesterday!  Get it, sister!  I'm bummed I couldn't be at the finish line, but I'm so proud of you! 
  7. I went to another free yoga event called Salutation Nation on Saturday.  It was very different from FDOY but so fun! 
  8. Autumn arrived in our home over a week ago.  The proof:

 Mom gave us that book a few years ago.  (2008?) 
P.S. I made that chalkboard.  So easy, and yet, I felt so fancy.

 Those are cinnamon-scented pine cones. YES.

The haunted house we bought from Illuminations, the most amazing candle store until it closed in April 2009.  Stupid economy.  (Please ignore the messy kitchen counters.)

Our Halloween pigs, courtesy of Erin for my birthday last year.  We love them very much!

I even put up some lights, but I forgot to take a picture of them.  In the evenings, we live by white lights and candlelight.

What made you smile today?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I'm Not THAT Short

Dear male Houstonians who work in customer service,

When you are assisting me, a female customer, please look at ME when answering MY questions and not my husband.  I understand that I am short, but I'm not that short.  Yes, my husband may be tall, but height has nothing to do with authority or worth.  Additionally, I would appreciate it if you would hand MY credit card to ME and not my husband.  The card says MY name, and I handed it to you.  Therefore, you should be returning the card to ME.  Lastly, if you are going to assist two people in your store, it would be polite to genuinely make eye contact with both of them as you speak.

I am aware that this e-mail is all about me.  I'm not narcissistic, but I feel obligated to enlighten you of my existence being that you neglected to acknowledge me.  I'm not sure if it is my height in comparison to my husband's or if it is that women are spoken for in Texas, but either way, it is not nice.  Please take some time to reflect on these words, as I'm sure you are envisioning me catapulting fire cannons at you, medieval style, out of left field.  Try not to take this too personally, as you're not the only male in Houston who has done this.  But still take this personally enough to be solution-oriented and make a change.

Please, and thank you.

Sincerely,
The invisible 5'2" woman with her husband at Best Buy

Yesterday I could do without: BEING IGNORED
** This annoyance brought to you by store representatives who act like I'm not standing there.

Friday, September 9, 2011

In True Amish Style

I am thankful for: APRONS
** Today's thanksgiving is brought to you by Mom & Dad's trip to Amish Country in 2007.  It's getting a lot of mileage these days, along with my apron from Summ from my bridal shower!

It's Official!

I have readers!  13 to be exact.  This means that I have committed myself to maintaining this blog unlike my attempt in NYC.  If your name is Leah, SueEllen, Caitlin, Kay, Annie, Cory, Erin, Mike, Gary Mike, Summer, Dad, Mom, or Scott, I love you dearly.  Life gets busy and connecting across time zones can be a drag, but hopefully, this will help us stay connected!  It must be working, because it spawned a call from Caitlin.  :-)

In other news...

  1. I wish Sara Bareilles' Kaleidoscope Heart tour was coming to Houston before it ended.
  2. I am going to need to go shopping at H&M when I visit San Diego, because it's the only store that has adult clothes that I like in my size that won't cost me a fortune for tailoring or petite sizes.  THIS needs to happen NOW.
  3. I can't stop thinking about dresses and yoga.
  4. Today is Friday AND pay day!
  5. I better start writing shorter posts or my 13 readers will stop reading.  Eeek!  :-/

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wicked Wednesday Work Commute

I am thankful for: BOOKS ON CD
** This thanksgiving is brought to you by WICKED, the book on CD I've been listening to during my commute for the last week.  I almost forgot how amazing this book is.  The musical version has great musical, but it just glosses over the storyline.  The book is so much more political, provocative, dark, complex, and curious.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Smile, damn it."

My hunt for a dance studio has been disappointing.  It seems as though dance studios here only cater to ballroom couples and senior citizens.  With the very active performing arts community I'm hearing about in Houston, I'm shocked that it's so hard to find an adult studio with a varied class schedule.  No, pole dance aerobics does not count (though you'd be surprised how many of those I've found).  I'm looking for the more traditional classes like jazz, ballet, and hip hop.  In my many Google searches, an enormous amount of yoga/pilates studios came up.  I had never taken a formal class, but it seemed like my next best option.  I narrowed the list down by class schedule and price, and then I came across Yoga Month!  What better way to try something out than with free events?

Yesterday marked my first official yoga experience for Free Day of Yoga Houston at none other than my favorite neighborhood spot, Menil Park!  It was meant to be!  New activity, just a few blocks from home, sunny and breezy, and completely free.  I went, I met a few people, I sweat the sweet life out of me, fell in love with it, and left wanting more.  There were about 150 yoga mats and towels sprawled across the grass with the sounds of chattering yogis anxoiusly looking through small swag bags of Luna bars, coupons, and free passes to nearby studios.  And then it was one hour of one voice through a microphone leading the class, the breeze, a lot of chirping birds, fun music.  I did my best, and I must say that I don't think I stood out, thanks to my dance background! 

Raye Lynn Rath's voice was so soothing yet energetic.  She was focused but still made it fun.  With encouragement, she said in her ever-silky voice, "Really open yourself up and reach.  And remember to smile.  (pause... and then continuing in her gentle tone...)  Smile, damn it."  We couldn't help but smile after that!  It became a running joke that only garnered more laughter every time. 

I just felt happy to be there.  I was outdoors.  I was challenged and dripping sweat.  I was giggling at Raye Lynn's jokes.  Yoga never interested me, because it wasn't dance.  It didn't seem high-energy or challenging, so I never gave it a second thought.  Now, I am sore, and I can't wait to go to another class!  (Hello, muscles I never knew existed.)  And it seems as though my first yoga experience has been documented for me thanks to Culture Map Houston:


Yes, that's me in the gray tank top!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Zzzzzzzz...

I am thankful for: SLEEPING IN WITH MY HUSBAND UNTIL 10:00 AM.
** This thanksgiving is brought to you by a Sunday in which my husband does not have class or rehearsal.

Activity Addict: For Fun or For Worth?

I am an activity addict.  It runs in my family.  It makes me feel accomplished and productive.  I insist on having lists for everything, and I've mastered my own organizational art of efficiency which happens to serve me well in my professional life too.  I use lists to run my errands and sublists for tasks and items for each errand.  I like to start my errands at the location farthest from home and work my way back.  In this way, my days are calculated.  If something else comes up, great (especially if it's something fun).  If not, I have my day planned out.

As recent experience is proving, Saturdays may very well be my most productive day of the week, and today followed suit!  I'll spare you the details, especially after my unraveling post last Saturday, but I will say that I dominated -- yes, dominated -- the kitchen today, and I felt like quite the domestic goddess.  I ended the night with scrubbing the shower and snaking the drain.  I smiled at my handsome, studying husband and said, "There's nothing a little baking soda, white vinegar, and your wife can't fix."  Indeed, I was pleased with myself.  And it was after 10:00 PM.   What?  10:00 PM?!  I had completely filled my day.  But guess what?  I had that aforementioned splendid feeling of accomplishment. 

It got me thinking about my desire to fill my days.  I'm always looking for new things to do.  In San Diego, it was being a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for a foster child and auditioning for musicals and singing gigs.  Now it's looking for dance/yoga studios, DIY projects, and piecing together my idea of "housewifery."  Do I try to do so many things for fun or for self-worth?  I am a person with many interests, but do I also feel better about myself when I'm busy?  Maybe.  Is it so bad that I want to be a contributing member of society or learn new things?  ;-)  I know I need to find a balance.  Now that I've achieved work-life balance with my new job, I'll focus on finding activity balance too.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Kudia Staple

Since moving to Houston, we've been really disciplined about the groceries we buy and what we're eating at home.  On top of that, I happen to work with an amazing woman who knows everything, literally, there is to know about nutrition and exercise.  My one vice seems to be ice cream, but I'm working on it.  Everything in moderation, right?  Good for me, the Kudia staple is delicious and healthy!  Drum roll, please...

Ta-da!  It's amazing.  So simple, too, which is good for me!


And just for kicks, here are a few more pictures just hanging around in my phone.

A perfect sitting place at Menil Park.


 The most amazing tree I've seen in a long time.  It's almost magical.


Another quiet sitting place.


I feel peaceful just looking at this.


The Kudia girls taking a picture to send to "Dad!"


 My babes.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Autumnless Pit

It's the first day of September!  It's my birthday month!  And soon I will be the age that I've been saying I am.  (I spent the first week of training in Las Vegas saying that I was 27... and then realized that I'm not yet.  Embarrassing!)  I have always loved September for many reasons:

  1. Cooler weather
  2. The start of the school year
  3. The start of CYT classes/rehearsals
  4. My birthday
  5. Gearing up for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve
  6. Fall fashion

And there's the catch.  I just realized that there will be no true fall fashion in Houston, because autumn does not appear.  How sad is that?!  It's bad enough that people have to fake it in San Diego, because it's never truly cold or blustery for more than two days.  And now I live somewhere even warmer.  How disappointing.  No boots?  No scarves?  No layers?  No sweater dresses?  *sigh*  I am by no means a trendy fashionista, but I do like to wear pretty, classic things.  And if had my way, I'd wear a dress every day.

Silver lining: I still get to wear dresses but of the spring and summer variety.  I'll take it.