On Happiness, Shopping, and Intervention

10 Jan

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to be truly happy. In general I believe that happiness is a constant struggle that involves choice. You have to actively choose to be an optimistic person – trust me when I say that I find pessimism much easier. Searching for a silver lining on shitty days can be trying, exhausting, in no way is it easy. The reason I thought of this is because of an old Chinese Proverb: “We count our miseries carefully and accept our blessings without much thought.”

This quotation in particular screams at me because it’s so undeniably true. Why am I so much more affected by a bad day than I am a good day? Is this a normal struggle? I imagine it is 🙂

I choose every day to wake up a happy person. And I hope you all do too. The whole no shopping thing is where I have had the opportunity thus far to re-think the “retail therapy” aspect of my life. When I’ve had a bad day maybe I need to reflect, read a book, have a glass of wine, watch some really bad TV (I don’t know about you, but Intervention makes me SO happy I’m not a crack whore) I don’t need to buy something to fix the problem. I need to fix me!

I know this is a totally random post, but I thought I would share it anyway. As well as Ghandi’s Top 10 Fundamentals for Changing the World: (or myself):

1. Change yourself

2. You are in control

3. Forgive and Let Go

4. Without action you aren’t getting anywhere

5. Take care of THIS moment

6. Everyone is Human

7. Persist

8. See the good in people

9. Be authentic, be your true self

10. Continue to grow and evolve

What are your thoughts? What do you do to maintain positivity and happiness in your life? Do you shop till you drop or treat yourself to a bubble bath? Let me know in your comments!

It’s 2012 – Time to be Miserable!

4 Jan

Hola bloggies!

Remember me? No? That’s probably because it’s been so long since I last updated the blog, so let me catch you up on a few things:

1. My family came to visit for Christmas! Yay! I hosted my very first Christmas dinner for 9 people, including 5 house guests, and we had a lovely time. My mom and sister did most of the cooking, but we had ham, potatoes, asparagus, french bread, pumpkin pie, homemade fudge, and that’s only naming a few things. We went up to San Francisco, down to the outlet malls (more on that soon!) and basically all over the bay area. It was lovely.

2. Having 5 house guests for 9 days is equal parts awesome, and exhausting. I grew up in a big loud household, so having that many people is always really fun for me. However, as the hostess with the mostess this time around, I understand the pressures of making sure that everyone is getting along, having fun, has all of their needs met, etc. I really appreciated my mom, it was so nice to have her around helping out with everything. 

3. I read three books! Three! Over the break. It was incredible. I will be updating my book club posts accordingly, but I am currently about 50% of the way through the final book of the Hunger Games, and until then the outside world more or less ceases to exist.

4. I did NOTHING on New Year’s this year. The family was gone, the house was quiet – it’s the first time in a really long time I didn’t do anything, and I couldn’t have been happier. It was nice to spend quite time with my husband, and Layla of course:

Image
Obligatory Layla Photo

So that’s pretty much what I have been up to the last couple of weeks. Relaxing with my family and counting my blessings.

I imagine you are wondering how I am doing with the no shopping thing, but to be honest, it’s only been 4 days, so I’ve hardly noticed it at all. I did choose to sit in the car when Victor went to Target however, as I knew I couldn’t resist myself if I tried… 

However, I must note that over the Christmas Holiday I went to the outlet malls with my mom, mother in law and sister. The haul there, and my Christmas gifts (of clothing and shoes only) included:

3 pairs of TOMS

1 lululemon jacket

1 pair of shorts

4 t-shirts

2 bath towels (don’t ask…)

1 pair of shorts

1 pair of jeans

2 sweaters

1 blazer

Frankly I did okay, a little overboard, but okay. I should have plenty of clothing and shoes to last me at LEAST a year. Otherwise I’m screwed.

On a personal note, I’m on a diet that sucks, as I am currently discovering life without carbs = the land of intense hunger and bitchiness but I will let you know how that goes. Currently it’s not going well – and I dream of cupcakes and pasta. Sigh.

Well, that was my very very long update, but stay tuned, I’m planning on updating a few book reviews and non-shopping techniques very soon!

The No Shopping Project: RULES

21 Nov

Hi Bloggies! The rules are here!! I;ve spent the last week or so chatting with friends and family, trying to figure out what exactly I can and cannot do next year in order to have a fulfilling project on my hands. I obviously want to go a year without shopping, but I also realize that there are things I will need to buy. I also don’t want to make it too easy on myself either. If the project is just full of loopholes it doesn’t really make sense to even bother. The goal is to challenge myself. To find happiness outside of consumerism. To understand how happy I am with the things that I have. To understand that things don’t define me – I define myself. Not my job, not my car, the only thing that makes me happy is me and the choices I make.

That being said, below is a list of rules I have drafted, and intend to live by for the year 2012:

1. I can, and will, get my hair cut and colored. It’s simple maintenance. I will strive to find the best deal without going all Super-Cuts on myself. I will also limit myself to 4 haircuts in 2012.

2. I can, and will, replace makeup, hair and body products as needed. I will not buy new makeup/nail polishes, etc. Just replace the old stuff that’s run out. Again, maintenance.

3. No mani/pedis or massages/spa treatments unless given a gift card that expires. There is no use is wasting someone’s gifts!*

4. No Clothing. Exceptions are as follows:

-Extreme weight gain (20 + lbs)

-Extreme weight loss (20+ lbs)

-Change in environment (ex. If I have to move to Alaska, I can buy a coat.)

-Change in life status (ex. pregnancy, job location, etc – please note I really really hope this does NOT happen).

-Damage of an item beyond repaid and have no backup. (Ex, if I rip my jeans, I have another pair. If I lose my fleece coat, I can replace it as I may die of cold without).

5. No Shoes. Seriously. Even when TOMS releases their new line of flats this spring.**

6. Gifts are great! I will accept them, and give them!

7. No frivolous trips. Have to be driving distance. Exceptions include:

-Work related travel

-Weddings/bachelorette parties

-Graduations/Funerals/Family Holidays (including, if my entire extended family goes on vacation – I can go with them, I’m not forced to stay at home alone. I cannot buy things on the trips though!)***

8. The new car clause.

-Currently, Vic and I live in the Bay Area and share one car. It’s okay for now, but I’m really going to need a car of my own soon. However, there is an 89.7% probability that I won’t be able to afford a new car until January 2013, I’m just adding the clause in case of a change in family status, etc.

9. No home decor.

10. Groceries are okay – but I can only go to the store alone with a list.

11. Going out to dinner or to movies is okay – this isn’t a project to keep me in my house alone, I need to be able to enjoy experiences with my friends. If anything, it should push me to go to the movies or go out to dinner more!

12. Concerts, etc are okay if I am invited by a group of people. I cannot be the organizer. Again, like the last note – I don’t want to have to miss out on experiences and memories because of the year of no shopping. Impromptu Vegas trip for no good reason, however, would be something I would not do. All within reason and moderation.

13. Books are okay only if I have no other options. Ie, if I can’t borrow or find a book to read elsewhere. Like the library.

14. Technology – I can only replace things I cannot live without. (If my phone breaks, computer, etc).

15. If my company pays for it, it doesn’t count.****

* Please note that I will be accepting gifts effective immediately. No, I’m not kidding.

**Gifts may include the new TOMS ballet flats this spring. I’m a size 9.

***Seeing my family is never considered “shopping” if they need me, or want me to come visit, I will be there. No question about it.

****As some of you know, I work for a cool company. I intend to stay employed at said company 🙂

The fine print:

All the rule are subject to change – if there is a grey area, I will come to the blog first and ask for opinions as to what to do. The rules are also completely void if there is a major change in my life. Also, please note I really don’t want there to be any major changes  – I’ve had enough change for the last few years!

What do you guys think? Did I miss anything? Do you think the rules are good or just plain crap? Let me know!!

By Myself Book Club: Mindy Kaling

15 Nov

 

I recently read Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. If you don’t own it now – immediately go buy/download this book and get cracking.

If you’re like me, then you probably don’t (or didn’t) have a clue who Mindy Kaling is – however, you know her as Kelly Kapur, the annoying Indian chick on The Office who says everything you are thinking but can’t say out loud. Though real-life Mindy is nothing like her character, (thank God) and the book is insanely hilarious. I’d put it in the same category as Chelsea Handler’s or Tina Fey’s book, however, it still seems to be a bit different. Reading this book is sort of like taking a journey through the childhood and life of an ADD kid. It’s part memoir, part musings, and I fucking loved it.

Mindy seems like a cool chick – like the kind of person you want as a friend if only for the fact that she would totally help you trash an ex-boyfriends car and not even remotely make you feel guilty. She’s hilariously introspective, capturing the naiveté of a child growing up dorky and not even realizing it, the insecurities of wanting to be liked by her older brother, and pretty much everyone else around her. I found myself laughing so hard describing an incident at summer camp as a kid, that I almost had to run to the bathroom to pee.

The thing I really liked about the book was Mindy’s voice. (Note that I’m using Mindy instead of “Kaling” as I now believe we are friends, even though she probably would think I’m a total stalker). I truly felt as though I was sitting around my living room with my girlfriends sharing stories. The excerpt where she describes living in a railroad apartment in Brooklyn? Lived it. Or where she accidentally punched her best friend in the nose and broke it? I love love love how that lead into the chapter titled, “Best Friend Rules and Responsibilities.” Annie – seriously, this was us in that apartment in LA – for serious. My favorites are:

“I can borrow all your clothes.” (with the exception of clothes you haven’t worn – perfect).

“I will take care of your kid if you die.”

“I will hate and re-like people for you.”

It’s like the girlfriend handbook – there are more, but those are my absolute favorite. (I can’t tell you the page they are on because I read it on my Kindle and for the life of me cannot figure out how to show page numbers on that damn thing).

I think Mindy’s personality can be summed up in one quote from the book, “I say if you love something, set it in a small cage and pester and smother it with love until it either loves you back or dies.” If this doesn’t describe the personality of someone with an awesome outlook on life – I don’t know what does. It also completely describes my relationship with my dog. And probably my future children. And could possibly be the reason for much drama in my high school years…but I digress.

If you enjoy elaborate revenge fantasies, witty introspection and hilarious observations about life, friendship, men, family and just about everything else – you will love this book. It’s pretty awesome. Buy it.

Okay bloggies – after reading Bossy Pants, and this my Kindle seems to think I only want to read memoirs about women or relationships. So I really need some recommendations of what to read next. I’m thinking Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, but still not sure. What do you think? What have you read recently that you loved? I have a Kindle to fill before Jan. 1 and would love your suggestions!

I Wasn’t Supposed to Buy Anything…

14 Nov

Guys.

I went to the mall this weekend with a friend. Not just any mall either – The Great Mall. That has the GAP outlet. As well as H&M, Neiman Marcus outlet, need I say more? I was supposed to be strong and just accompany a friend.

This is what “staying strong” translated to:

my shame.

 

Yep – that’s one pair of shoes, four t-shirts, a pair of skinny jeans and a blue cocktail dress. I totally failed my first attempt at not shopping. HOWEVER, in my defense, I got to the mall and panicked. I started thinking about how it’s only a matter of weeks, and I won’t be able to do this anymore. AND, to be completely honest – this is a very small pile of what could have come home with me. Very small. I actually put a lot of things back – which is generally unusual in my experience. Did I need the cocktail dress? No. But it’s pretty and I can totally wear it to the Holiday Party my company is throwing this year. See? This girl is full of excuses!

A  funny thing happened while at the Gap outlet. I was browsing through the racks and came across a green v-neck t-shirt. Nothing special, but very cute and comfy and sort of my ideal style with shorts and sandals in the summer. I’ve always, always been a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. Which then made me strangely nervous. I got a pit in my stomach. What if I ruined a favorite t-shirt this summer? What if one of them got armpit stains? What if a tiny hole appeared? What if one god oddly tight and uncomfortable (I vehemently hate tight t-shirts with shorts. It looks awful). I then decided to take home four of them, instead of the one I had picked out in the first place.

Which leads me to believe I am going to have a real problem in the next 7 weeks. I’m hitting the outlets hard with my mom, sister and mother in law the day after Christmas. (The boys will do something far more enjoyable for them). I’m going to destroy Amazon.com on cyber Monday. Costco, after Christmas sales on holiday decor – it’s going to be a problem.

In the meantime I’m still working on the rules – right now my biggest concern is maintenance. Ie, shopping for replacement lotion, face wash, makeup. Getting my hair done? Does that stuff count? My blonde hair does need help from the professionals keeping it well, blonde. For serious I am not changing my hair color (as I have no idea what my natural color is anymore). Do I have to buy in bulk for shampoo, etc before Jan. 1? These are the things I am thinking about late at night. I’ll update you as soon as I have the rules prepared!

If you had to give up shopping, would you do what I did this weekend at the mall? What would you buy if you only had 7 weeks left to shop? Does getting my hair did count as shopping? Let me know!!

Buyers Remorse: A feeling I do not Possess

10 Nov

I don’t think I’ve ever had “buyers remorse.” Ever.

This is not to say that I just go around buying everything in sight. (don’t you say a word mom!) I don’t think I’m really that much of an impulse buyer. In fact, I pride myself in being the person that finds the best deals. My mom always instilled that in me. We shopped at Ross and TJMaxx, but also Target, the Gap, and Nordstrom – my mom taught us to search the sale racks – because why bother paying retail if you don’t have to? That’s how I treat my designer jeans to this day – Nordstrom Rack is where I stock up on Joe’s, Citizens, and Seven’s – just as my mother taught me. I’ve always prided myself in being a smart shopper – but it’s also turned me into a sucker for a good deal.

For example, two years ago, with the help of a dear friend, I took the boots off of a mannequin at Urban Outfitters on the Upper West Side of New York. Why? Because they were my size, and they were Frye motorcycle boots:

They retail for $247 at Nordstrom (source) and I paid a whopping $39.99 for them. Hells to the yes. They are currently on my feet as I type. This purchase was only the first in a long line of designer goods at not-so designer prices. Like my Kate Spade handbag:

Worlds worst cell phone picture? Check!

Again, retails for $395 and I got it for $150. That one required a lot of back and forth. I ordered it from the Kate Spade website – and my sister – ever the enabler – told me that if I didn’t buy it I’d probably regret it for ages to come. She was right.

This could be problematic in the next few weeks as I prep for 1 full year of no shopping. I can only imagine – I already know I’m going to hit up the outlets – get some good bargains, fill up my Kindle.

If you had to give up shopping for a full year, what would you buy in the weeks before? Socks and underwear are a must, but other than that – I’m trying to not go too crazy! What are your suggestions? Do you have anything you purchased that you wish you hadn’t?

2012 – Project Update

9 Nov

Dudes. I suck.

Neglecting, not writing, working crazy hours – none of it’s an excuse. HOWEVER – I’ve been doing some serious introspection lately. And I need your help. I’ve got a project in the works. Before I tell you all about it, let me explain how I got here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I have and what makes me happy. In reality, my family, my husband, my dog – they make me happy. My job makes me happy. Good food makes me happy. Don’t get me wrong, I get bummed, mad, irritated – but I also understand that happiness is a choice. I wake up in the morning and I choose to smile, to laugh, to reach out to my friends, to watch funny movies when I’m sad, to laugh until I have to run to the bathroom. I choose happiness – it’s not something that comes to me.

That being said – I have a tendency to throw myself pity parties. When I’ve had a bad day I justify the 3rd glass of wine with, “I deserve it.” Or I go shopping to “Treat myself – it will make me feel better.” Which, don’t get me wrong, it does – but endorphins do a better job. Running over shopping. My happiness and my credit card thank me for it. I’ve also been thinking about things. I look in my closet and at my kitchen and my home, and I realize I have everything that I NEED. As in – to survive. I also have things I like and I love. I love my chuck taylors. I love my TOMS. I love love love my comforter. Yet, I still shop. Even though I have student loans up to my eyeballs, I want to buy a car, I have goals. And then the Nordstrom Sale just seems far more inviting. As does Nordstrom.com and modcloth.com and amazon.com – really people, I have a shopping problem.

Being a grownup is hard y’all.

And then my friend Jordan went to Central America. And worked with Orphans. And told me about how they were so happy to have shoes, basic needs – they were the happiest kids ever. And I realized that I don’t spend enough of my time being present. Being capital “t” Thankful for what I have. I haven’t been writing – I’ve been super busy (watching Big Bang Theory – let’s be honest) – so I came up with a project:

Starting January 1, 2012 I am going to quit shopping.

Cold turkey. No clothes, no shoes, no cute house decorations. Nothing I don’t absolutely need.

Why? Well – I want to be happier, more centered. I want to be appreciative. I want to see if I can do it (even though my mother and husband seem to think I can’t).

I will save money, learn to live with what I have – though it will be mostly clothing and shoe centered – I’m going to have to get creative with my work outfits, that’s for sure! I’m planning to use the project as an excuse to write every single day. I’ll post pictures of what I wear to work, hopefully spend time exploring good restaurants, exercising, being present.

But I need rules – which is where you guys come in – I need you to help me figure out what I can and cannot buy at any given time. Does grocery shopping count? (no). But the grey areas – if my jeans get a giant hole or stain, can I get a new pair, or do I have to figure it out? Can I accept gifts? Can I buy other people gifts? Can I buy plane tickets to visit family or go on vacation? Can I buy books? Magazines? Do I have to fill up my Kindle before Jan.1? Do I have to get a library card? What counts? If you were doing this project, what would you do?

Please – tell me what you think! These next few posts will be filled with prep – discussing the final rules, the posts to come – the photos to come, the obsessive purchasing of goods before January 1 (the outlet malls have no idea what’s about to hit them). I’m anxious for the feedback!

Karma – Is it a Bitch?

28 Oct

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Karma. Slash secretly hoping that someday it will come back and kick a certain person in the ass – however, I’m genuinely curious as to whether or not Karma really exists. The wonderful internet resource that is always correct, Wikipedia, describes Karma as, “What goes around comes around.” You know, the Christian idea of reaping what you sow, violence begets violence, Murphy’s law, whatever you want to call it. Basically do something shitty and eventually something shitty will happen to you.

Do you believe it?

The shitty things could be anything really, but I’m wondering the severity of punishment – and what actions fall into “what goes around comes around?” For example, my sister was a kleptomaniac as a child. She stole everything. Including the baby Jesus from a nativity scene at her preschool. We still have art projects at home that boast other children’s names on the back, as my sister swiped them. Does stealing things as a child mean that Karma will come back and get you?

The reason I ask – is that something very unfortunate happened to me a few years back, and my friend’s reaction to it was, “Wow, you must have done something really shitty as a kid, or in a past life to get that kind of Karma.” Did I? Was breaking my siblings toys or tying my baby brother to the back of my bike in a wagon (he had a helmet and pads on – don’t worry) something that would cause a horrible thing to happen as an adult?

Two years ago I was living in New York City with my then boyfriend (now husband). I didn’t know very many people, but my college roommate happened to be living there and working at a sweet job that scored us preview tickets to Speed the Plow on Broadway. Yep – the same one where Jeremy Piven feigned mercury poisoning. I’m guessing to get out of the role because he was NOT good. At all. But whatever, I digress. It was Mamet, it was Broadway, I was in. Erin lived in Queens, and I in Brooklyn, so we decided to meet at the theater early, so we could get dinner in the area and then head to the show. My timing was off so I got there super early, and was waiting for her outside of the theater playing on my iPhone. Suddenly the door opened and a short, grey haired man in a very expensive suit comes out, and says, “Elle?” to my back. I look around, I’m definitely the only person there, so I turn to face him. His face turns to shock, and he says, “Oh, I’m sorry, you look exactly like our understudy!” I laugh, and immediately blush.

I was so excited – this guy thought I was a Broadway actress! I was mistaken for an actress on the street, and that street was Broadway! I was elated. I told Erin the entire story when she arrived and we giggled uncontrollably that I was mistaken for Elizabeth Moss’ understudy. It was awesome. We had some dinner and headed to the sold out show – still giddy about the earlier interaction. For those of you who don’t know, Speed the Plow is a three person play – two men and one woman. Which meant there was only one understudy. Why is this important? I’ll tell you.

When we got to the theater, we were given our playbills and immediately started searching for the understudy’s bio and photo – to see who I could have been mistaken for. Erin got there first, “Wow! She’s pretty!” Erin said. Then I got there. And it took a second, but I realized immediately that I knew that face. I won’t name her, but it was definitely her. My boyfriend (now husband)’s ex-girlfriend.

I’ll tangent into saying that the only reason this mattered is because Vic only ever had one girlfriend before me. In our teeny tiny town in Washington State. In high school. And I was mistaken for her on the street in New York years later. That has to be karma, right?

So in hoping that Karma exists – what the hell did I do as a kid or in a past life to be put in that unfortunate situation? Do you believe in Karma? Do you have someone in your life that you would love to have Karma come back and bite in the ass?

 

And I Still Don’t Have a Halloween Costume

13 Oct

I’ve been freaking out about the fact that I don’t have a Halloween costume this year. Not because I have a specific hoppin’ party to be at or anything, simply because I LOVE Halloween. For example, this week I have made Halloween funfetti cupcakes, decorated the house with pumpkins, squash, black and orange table cloths, and even a cute little vase filled with mini pumpkins. Did I mention that I have a light up spiderweb in the front window? And I already purchased 5 pounds of candy for trick-or-treating? Which is far too much I’m sure, but still. All the Halloween with NO costume.

So I approached my husband, the creative one, and suggested that we finally dress up together. After 8 years together, this would be the first time. He was hesitant, but didn’t exactly say no. Here are the things I suggested:

Me: Don and Betty Draper.

Him: They are divorced, and no one knows who they are.

Me: Lucy and Ricky?

Him: That’s steryotyping me because I’m latino. And I’d totally do the voice all night. Also, these aren’t costumes, they are just me wearing suits.

Me: Fine, come up with something better.

Bloggies, I should NOT have given him this task. He took it upon himself to find all the ridiculous costumes a couple could do. Please note the EXACT chat, copied and pasted below: (so please excuse the weird format – gchat is not copying well…)

Victor:  see anything you like? http://familycrafts.about.com/cs/halloween/l/blhalcouples.htm

Victor:  i like this one: Cat and Hairball

me:  … you want to be a hairball?
Victor:  how great would that be?!
me:  a hairball, seriously?
Victor: im just picturing me in a giant hairball costume. try not to laugh
me:  i cant not laugh. what other ideas do you have?
Victor:  i just sent you a giant list
me:  i havent gotten anything
me:  thats just a list from about.com.
Victor is offline. Messages you send will be delivered when Victor comes online.
me: you are no help.

Week in Review – TGIF Edition

7 Oct

TGIF people. Thank God – I need a glass of wine real bad.

This week in particular has been a little glum. We are 100% into the fall season – as we all went to bed on Sunday and woke up on Monday to winter. No gradual change, nada. Just dark, cloudy rain, overcast and yukiness.

San Fran in the fog. Bleh.

Though you would think I’d be used to it – having grown up in Washington and all – I actually HATE overcast skies. I’d rather it be freezing cold and sunny than overcast and gloomy. I end up feeling foggy all day, you know? Like I just haven’t had the opportunity to wake up. Thus the wino in me is in full force – glass of red wine before bed? There might not be anything better.

I’m at a very unique crossroads in my life bloggies – switching jobs, figuring out what I want to do with myself, you know – the normal. I just find it funny because on paper I seem to be very put together, and in reality I feel like my life could be described as happy little accidents. If you had asked me when I graduated college where I would end up – the answer would NEVER be where I currently am, yet, I am happy. I don’t “have it all together” so much as take huge leaping risks constantly and pray to God that I eventually land on something cool. Or stable. Preferably both.

And I’ve made mistakes, and hard choices, including leaving my current job for a new, sexy exciting one, but it all ended up okay.

I’m SUPER nervous about starting over again – I really hate change. (I know you’re all like WTF you change your life constantly – hello LA and NYC) but really, I get so anxious making new friends, meeting new people, starting over and finding a niche.

Superstar reference anyone?

Okay, maybe not nervous enough to smell my armpits, but you get the idea. This chic = anxious.

So over the past week to get rid of all of this anxiety – I’ve thrown myself into my new obsesstion – Pintrest. It’s like an online bulletin board for recipies, fashion, decor, etc – and it’s linked to my social networking, so I can look at what my friends are interested in too. I’m probably not describing it well, but check it out – I highly reccomend it!

This weekend I’ll make sure to post some pictures of the Halloween decorations I’ll be crafting thanks to pintrest – so stay tuned!