On What to Do When You Lack Inspiration…

Blogging four times a week was bound to leave me feeling uninspired. It’s hit me pretty early on, but I think writing four times a week is helpful in not only being an outlet for ideas, frustrations, etc., but also in keeping my writing and editing skills sharp. I’m aware that I’m not creating anything spectacular up in here.

So for tonight I perused the Internet and watched an episode of Girls and hoped for something to give me an idea, and all that seemed to help were some blog challenges on Pinterest. One told me to put my iPod on shuffle and list the first 10 songs that come up. I haven’t used my iPod since 2012 so we’re going to go with my iTunes instead. Are you guys ready for this? We’re about to get all livejournal-y up in here!

1. “If She Wants Me” by Belle & Sebastian

I own this song and first heard about it because of the soundtrack to Juno – a movie that still remains one of my favorites. There are very few Belle & Sebsatian songs with which I’m familiar, but I’ve enjoyed them all. This one in particular is a song that I never skip when it comes on. It’s a song that easily blends into the background of your day. It doesn’t distract you from what you’re doing, but supplements it by adding another layer of media to your surroundings. Know what I mean?

2. “That It Moves (Garageband Demo)” by Greg Laswell

Not gonna lie, not familiar with this one at all. There was a time when the dude worked for a media conglomerate that owns radio stations and billboard nationwide and he would get CDs for free and give them to me if I had mentioned the artist before. He got me into Greg Laswell and then I got the chance to see him live at City Winery when I interned for CMJ. He opened for Joseph Arthur and between the beautiful music and the delicious wine on tap, it was one of my favorite shows that I went to while with CMJ. Also, listening to this song, it’s pretty great! Even as a demo!

3. “Swallow the Sea” by An Horse

Yup, another from the radio station days…can’t say I’ve ever listened to this one. Just uploaded it to my iTunes and left it there. I’m pretty sure that I like An Horse though…and in listening to this song I’m confirming that. Seems like a song that builds as it goes and I’m generally a sucker for music that isn’t stagnant and finishes in a different place than it started.

4. “Living in America” by Dom

I LOVE this song. It reminds me of late spring/early summer, and I connect it to a specific memory. For some reason we were let out early at CMJ one day (I think the internet went out or something) and I had bought this song as part of a SXSW preview playlist, which I was listening to while this happened. I decided to walk from our office at 28th & Broadway to Chelsea Market and catch the PATH train from 14th St. My walk took me through the Garment District to Madison Square Park, through the Flatiron District and then down to Chelsea, and I remember it being warm enough to only need a warm jacket. It’s one of my more fond memories of NYC.

5. “Photography” by The Starting Line

I was a big fan of The Starting Line in my little punk days of high school. I still own this album on CD (and we might even have it on vinyl…) and still have a special place in my heart for this song. When the dude and I first went long-distance, he made me a bunch of mix CDs for me and this was one of many songs on the many volumes he made. It still reminds me of him whenever I listen to it 🙂

6. “Heartbreak Warfare” by John Mayer

If I had this album in a physical format, I would’ve worn it out in college. It transports me back to junior year when I lived in an on-campus apartment (where the kitchens didn’t have stoves and you had to use a communal kitchen, but hey, they tried) and my room was about the size of a walk-in closet, but it was all mine. I had had my own room all my life until I went to college, and though I made great friends in my roommates it was amazing to finally have a place to retreat where I didn’t feel obligated to engage with anyone. I would play this song and hum along while doing my accounting homework, because it was pretty much the only way I could get through it. My love for this song also stemmed from a string of college heartbreaks, but those aren’t my primary association with it.

7. “Congratulations Smack + Katy” by Reggie & The Full Effect

This is the only Reggie & The Full Effect song I know and I played the shit out of it in high school. It was one of the first songs that left me wanting more – probably because of how abruptly it ends – and so I would play it on repeat. I rarely do that anymore because I’ve learned that’s the best way to get sick of a song you love (unless it’s a Beyonce song). I recommend it for running and workout playlists – super high energy and bright!

8. “Relax, Take It Easy” by MIKA

Oh god, every time I listen to MIKA I’m reminded of how good he is. You’ve probably heard many of his songs in commercials, TV shows, films, you name it. And if you’ve enjoyed that, you owe it to yourself to listen to all of his albums. Not only are his vocals impressive, he has a way of maintaining his signature style while giving each song its own identity. I bought his first album my senior year of high school – I drove to Best Buy with a friend after school, truly showing my 18-year-old independence, and it was one of the first things I bought with my debit card. I was then scolded for using the card, but the $7.99 I spent on that album was worth it. This song in particular was also on the store music for dELiA’s when I worked there during high school, and it brings back memories of spending hours folding graphic tees all for that sweet, sweet 40% employee discount.

9. “Better Together” by Jack Johnson

I went through a pretty intense Jack Johnson phase when I got to college and it continues today, though it’s not nearly as strong as it was then. This music was my go-to study music: mellow, thoughtful, and happy. All things college students need while freaking out about how this upcoming final will affect their future (hint guys, it won’t). I also had the privilege to interview Jack Johnson at my job in the city and nearly had a fan girl moment when I found out. He was incredibly nice – as you’d expect a surfer from Hawaii to be – and he likes Fugazi!

10. “Watch the Tapes” by LCD Soundsystem

Another song that I never skip. I can’t remember how I was introduced to this song – I want to say it was the 21 soundtrack (I was really into soundtracks my freshman year of college…), but that doesn’t seem right. Either way, it was the second song I heard by LCD Soundsystem – “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” was the first – and it made me realize why people lose their shit over James Murphy.

There it is y’all – the first 10 songs that came up on shuffle in my iTunes. If you can’t tell, I haven’t bought music from iTunes since about 2011. Give them a shot! Expand your horizons! GET INSPIRED.

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On the Way Snow Storms Seem to Follow Me…

It’s probably obvious by now, but I’m a Buffalonian through and through. Along with my love of chicken wings and often disappointing sports teams, I have a love/hate relationship with snow.

I wasn’t even being thought about when the Blizzard of ’77 struck Buffalo, and this storm is the first thing most people think of when I mention that I’m from there. When WNY’s reputation for snow is brought up, I always tell people, “Central New York gets more snow, we just get the publicity.” I was born in Syracuse and spent the first 6 1/2 years of my life there. In those six years I experienced at least two awful blizzards. When I moved to Buffalo, I definitely remember snow days here and there and some power outages, but nothing compares to the “October Surprise” we got during my senior year of high school. It was right before homecoming weekend when a freak snow storm hit Buffalo in October. Trees hadn’t lost all their leaves making their branches quite heavy with snow piled on them, and taking down power lines in the process. My family was without power and heat for nine days, and when I think about it I can still hear the hum of the generators rising from my neighborhood.

Snow followed me to college in Oneonta where classes were rarely cancelled and I trudged through a foot of snow more than once to get to class (I even sometimes trudged through it to get to the gym. That’s dedication). It even thwarted New Year’s Eve plans in 2008 when I set out for Oneonta and could only make it to Syracuse (where I hung out with my best friend instead and it was even better than I had hoped). And when I took two internships in New York City my senior year of college and lived in Jersey City…they experienced record snow fall the day before I got there.

While being a resident of New York City, I experienced a hurricane and at least one crazy snowfall in January of last year (though I’m pretty sure there were others). You could say, “that’s what you get for living in the Northeast,” but I’m convinced at this point that I’m the Snow Queen – and I haven’t seen Frozen so no it’s not a reference to that – and I leave a trail of snow in my wake.

This has proven to be true as the Capital Region has now been hit with two Nor’easters in the nine months that I’ve lived here. I’M SORRY, YOU GUYS. My heart definitely goes out to those in NYC, Philly, DC, and Boston (as I know people in all those regions) – stay safe, my friends! Albany won’t get hit that badly (I hope), but there’s something I really love about being snowed in. I love watching snowfall from my warm house with a cup of coffee in hand, a cat in my lap, and the comfort of having a job that will allow me to work from home if necessary. I never realized how important that last part is until I didn’t have that option in my last job.

I hope any of you affected by the storm stay safe and warm! And again, I’m sorry for bringing this on you.

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On Dressing Like an Adult…

For the first time since 2011, I have a job where I’m not able to wear jeans everyday.

I’ve been so spoiled in terms of dress code with a job in the music industry and then another at an internet marketing company. It was great to feel comfortable everyday and be ready to go out with friends after work when necessary, but in recent times (at the last job), I saw some of its adverse effects. The more relaxed dress code led to me wearing sweatshirts and flip flops and though it wasn’t what caused to me disliking that job, it certainly didn’t help my motivation. I saw others there wearing sweatpants and pajama pants…and I have no idea how they were able to get anything done being THAT laid-back.

I thought dressing like a professional would be sort of awful, but honestly, it’s kind of great! Dress pants are incredibly cozy (at least the ones I wear that are from 2011) and it turns out that a lot of the tops I own DO look dressy paired with dress pants and skirts. Who would have known! And I’ve learned that when you dress like a professional and even fake a little confidence, your productivity goes up as well as your capacity to learn more. For real, in the three weeks I’ve been in this job I’ve learned more than I ever thought possible about an industry I never knew I cared about, and I’m even starting to understand State laws and their jargon.

Despite how wonderful “Operation: Dress Pants” has been thus far, there are still some hurdles I need to overcome in dressing like a professional. For one, I need to buy a blazer at some point for when I’m on super, official, professional adult business. The last time I wore a blazer was in high school, when I thought I was a little punk princess, and I paired it with a band t-shirt and a pair of Converse. Not exactly the look I need to achieve at this point in my life. I have no idea where to begin with blazers, and have nightmares of ones with big shoulder pads that will make me look like a linebacker.

I’ve also had some issues with shoes. When I first started with this job, the only pumps I had were nude peep-toes, and peep-toe shoes aren’t exactly ideal or practical for winter. Some shiny black pumps (with SERIOUSLY great treads) have just been welcomed into my small collection. I also have a pair of high-heeled boots that are beyond worn out from Beyonce-ing around New York City. I’ve worn them a few times lately but always hope that no one will look at them too closely. I’m not even sure if you’re supposed to wear boots under dress pants. I just know that I absolutely have to wear heels with them otherwise they’re too long on me. And yes, they’ve been tailored.

On top of all this is the feeling of not really being an adult while dressing like one. At 25 years old, I still feel like a kid playing dress up. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I’m used to being one of the younger ones in most offices, or the fact that I’m still trying to learn SO much about this new industry and field into which I’ve wandered. I do think it’s all a step forward to truly though in truly feeling like I’m progressing. I can easily save my hoodies and flip flops for the weekends. If maneuvering my way though the professional career fashion world is something I need to deal with to reach my goals, then I’ll step up to the plate.

Blazer Hunt 2015: commence! Have a good weekend everyone, and hello new followers! I look forward to checking out your stuff 🙂

On What I’m Reading and Other Curiosities…

One of the habits I’m trying to incorporate into my everyday life is reading for an hour a day. When I lived in New York City, I devoured books by reading them on the train to and from work. It made the commutes so much better – I would create my own little world with my headphones on while reading a book. Now having to drive to work (which is great, don’t get me wrong), my reading time isn’t as obvious, and so I’ve carved out time before bed to live through some new worlds and characters. Reading before bed was supposed to help relax my mind and prevent me from looking at my phone until I fall asleep…but I definitely still look at my phone nearly every night. Looks like I’ll be adding another “bad habit” to my app.

Anyhow, a book I started reading back in NYC, oh so long ago, is Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami. It was a lovely distraction while commuting between Queens and Manhattan, and then it got away from me when I moved up north. I picked it up again this week and it’s just as good as I remember.

If you haven’t read Murakami and love surreal situations and settings, then please, PLEASE, procure a copy of one of his works at your earliest convenience. So far I’ve read The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood, and I loved the first and wasn’t crazy about the second. HBW has given me so much more of that first book that I loved, but I can’t predict where it’s going based on my previous experiences with Murakami.

This book is also the first in a challenge I’ve accepted via Pinterest (yes, I know I’m really basic). It’s a “26 Books to read in 2015” challenge that was posted by another blog, Bringing Up Burns. I haven’t checked out their original post about it yet, but I intend to do so.

This challenge was appealing to me especially since I went from reading dozens of books a year to not picking them up for months. To some, 26 books is easy, and it might be to me with this hour before bed set aside for reading. If I can get through at least 26 books this year, I can no longer say things like, “I love reading, I just don’t have any time for it.”

And then perhaps I’ll stop using that excuse for other things that I love to do but “don’t have time for.” Most of us think we’re too busy for things, but I believe it’s because we’re too lazy to make the time for it. I’m incredibly guilty of this. For example, I love to run but I’ve hardly done it at all since Thanksgiving. A lot of this is due to my stubbornness when it comes to running in sub-freezing weather and not wanting to pull a muscle or have burning lungs all day, but until recently I didn’t even make time for workouts that would help me run even better when I was ready to hit the pavement again. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you take the time to schedule these things out.

Hey, maybe you’ll even revive your blog and write in it for three consecutive days! I hope you all take some time in your days to do something good for you, and something that you love.

Things I’m Currently Loving…

It’s been far too long since I’ve written one of these, and it’s always nice to reflect on the things that make me grin like an idiot. Not that I’m in a bad mood or state of mind and need something happy to reflect on, but just as it’s nice to write positive Yelp reviews and letters from time to time, it’s also nice to think of positive things for no particular reason.

Chips and Dip

Every few months or so, I go through a couple of weeks where I can’t get enough potato chips and french onion dip. It’s stupid, I know, and not the healthiest craving to have, but when I get in these phases there’s nothing like settling in with Netflix or a football or hockey game and chowing down. I am currently in one of these phases, and I’m not sorry. Now, in the Capital Region they don’t have the best chip dip in the entire world. Yes, I’m referring to Bison dip. I’m not sure how widespread it is throughout New York state, but I get my fix every time I’m in Buffalo. And we pronounce it “buy-zun,” not “bice-un.”

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image via amazon.com

House of Cards

Ok so the third season hasn’t started yet, but with this soul-crushingly cold weather we’ve been experiencing here, I’m being reminded of when the second season premiered. It was Valentine’s Day weekend, I took the Friday it premiered off, it was so cold that I barely left my apartment and watched the entire thing in three days. I had friends visiting who were in town for an event (so I wasn’t ignoring them, just filling my time when they weren’t around), and I pretty much only left the apartment to take them for bagels and to meet them for burgers – both worthy candidates of me braving the cold and leaving DC.

I can’t wait to be reunited with the Underwoods again next month…though after my anti-social behavior during last summer’s premiere of Orange is the New Black, I may have to rein in my watching habits and actually talk to the person I live with.

Playlists from 2007-2011

So last month while I was unemployed, I found myself charging my phone on my computer more often than not, and having not changed any settings on the phone or computer, my iTunes music auto-loaded onto it every time I plugged it in. It was annoying at first – particularly when I discovered that new U2 album had found its way on there, and I don’t even hate U2 I just wanted it to be my choice as to whether or not that album was in my possession – but as I was driving around listening to the music on there I was transported back to college when I actually bought music and didn’t stream it for free or $9.99 a month. I drove to Buffalo this past weekend and decided I needed to revisit my college days again – I found a “Best of 2007-2011” playlist on Spotify that lasted well over the four hours it took me to get there. I don’t think I’ve listened to so much Akon in my life.

akon-oSeriously though, that guy was everywhere for a while and now where is he? This playlist reminded me of dorm dance parties while getting ready for the weekend, study sessions where we blasted music and yell-sang the songs, and the fact that I know almost every word to “Money Maker” by Ludacris.

Homebrewing

Remember about two years ago when I said I needed a new hobby and I thought about homebrewing? Well now it’s a thing I actually do! The dude and I have brewed three different types of beer since I moved up here: a milk stout from a kit, and then copycats of Stone IPA and Founder’s Breakfast Stout. The IPA came out really well – possibly better than the original? The Founder’s is in its second bucket and we’ll be bottling it after this weekend. And though I haven’t tried the milk stout yet, it’s had positive reviews! Though a bit expensive to get started (the one time expense of buying the actual equipment), homebrewing is very fun and incredibly satisfying if it all works out when you finally get to taste the beer. It’s the best science experiment I’ve ever done.

Wedding Craziness

No, not my own wedding, but getting psyched for the five we’re going to this year. I’m in two of them (one for my best friend of all time since I was born, the other for my best friend from college), so I started getting in “wedding shape” yesterday. I’ve missed being sore from workouts and have found some good strengthening ones to keep me going when the temperature is below freezing and it would hurt my body and lungs to run. I have the dress for the July wedding already and need to make sure I still fit into it, and want to tone up before I buy the dress for the September wedding. As for the others, I’d like to eat, drink, and dance while feeling good about myself 🙂

That just about covers everything for now. Time to check my blogging off my list for the night and move onto the next task!

On Breaking Bad Habits…

I’ve heard varying theories on how long it takes to form a new habit, and after trying things out for myself, I’ve found that it varies. I’ve had certain bad habits all my life that I’ve tried to break with these streaks and some have worked while others haven’t. I’m still looking for a way to break the nail-biting that has plagued me for as long as I can remember.

With many failed attempts in the past, I decided to try something new that the dude introduced to me: HabitRPG. This is an app/website that not only helps you build new, productive habits, it also helps you break the bad ones by turning everyday into a video game. You create an avatar, then set up habits (good and bad), dailies, to-dos, and rewards. I started with my bad habits: nail-biting and messing with the skin on my face (I’ve had various forms of acne since I was a teenager and have been incredibly unsuccessful not only in combating it, but also keeping myself from making it worse). I just click on these habits whenever I do them, and it takes “life” away from my character. It definitely takes some discipline to rat on yourself, but if you’re really determined to break the habits, I think it’s easy to stay true. As I was chatting with the dude about all the things I had set up, I found myself biting my nail and had to take a 3pt. hit to my health.

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image via kickstarter – not my actual habits and goals!

I’ve also set up some good habits that I want to form such as bringing my lunch to work (we have a cafeteria downstairs that’s inexpensive and very easy to default to) and reading for an hour a day (I love to read but always claim to not have time for it).

The dailies don’t necessarily have to be everyday activities, but are more regular ones you would like to adopt. I set up a once per week task of putting money into my savings account or setting it aside for wedding gifts for friends this year (because we have five weddings to go to. FIVE.). I really like this customized feature – it’s important not to overload yourself with so many daily things, and it helps keep you on track if some new things are less frequent than others. My exercise and blog posts fell under the dailies column as well, but these are set up for four times a week, while making sure the apartment is clean has been set as an actual daily task.

Even better than the dailies are the to-dos – one-off tasks that you can set up each day to be completed, and that can also have a set due date. With today being my day off, I set up to-dos for doing laundry and running the dishwasher. I was able to make a checklist for them to help get through each part of the tasks (running dishwasher, putting dishes away, reloading it, etc.), and if you don’t finish the entire task, having it partially completed allows you to lose less “life.” I made a “clean out my closet” task that’s due Friday, so we’ll see how well I stick to that one!

Lastly, by far the best part of the app, you’re able to set up rewards. With each daily/to-do completed, and good habit reinforced, you earn gold and experience. You can create rewards with varying costs for which you cash in your gold. For example, for 15 gold, I’m treating myself to beer or wine. For 40, I’m going to the movies (not just watching one on Netflix). And for 75, I’m buying myself something I don’t need. The app/website also allows you to buy equipment with your gold like in an actual RPG, and it can help you fight/recover the bad habits and unfinished tasks that happen from time to time. I’ve yet to really explore this part of it, but can’t wait to get my 75 gold to buy something fun.

Like I said before, it takes discipline to really stick to it, but that’s the case when you’re trying to do these things on your own as well. I definitely recommend this to those that need to make chores and breaking bad habits more fun – I know I certainly could use it. I’ll keep you up to date on my progress probably on a monthly basis. And I’m gaining experience right now just by writing this post – huzzah!

On New Offices and Nerdy Figures…

About a week ago, the dude and I were at the mall. We went to fye to flip through some vinyl and check out what other deals they had. Walking around, I came across a stand of Pop! Vinyl figures. “Would it be stupid if I got one of these for my new desk?” I asked him. He assured me it wasn’t. At this point I wasn’t sure if my new job would provide me with an office or just a desk, and I didn’t have my expectations too high since it was considered an entry-level position.

Without much hesitation, I went for the Pop! Vinyl figure of Daenerys Targaryen – known to most as Mother of Dragons or Khaleesi on Game of Thrones. I didn’t put much thought into it. She’s my favorite character on the show and I’ve been known to say things like, “I’ll take what’s mine with fire and blood,” or “I AM THE BLOOD OF THE DRAGON,” after a few drinks.

To my surprise this Monday, my first day at the new job, I was taken to my new office. Yes, an office! With a door! I’ve never had my own office. At my job in New York City, I had a corner desk with a window, which was wonderful, but all I wanted there was a door to close to deter visitors and additional work whenever there was too much on my plate. At my last job, I had a table masquerading as a desk that was just one of many in a dark, quiet, silent room. It didn’t seem bad at first since I followed suit and went into my own world in my headphones as everyone else did, but the nature of that job made any setting seem awful. Now I had an office with a door – which I’ve yet to close as I haven’t felt the need yet – and a space to make my own.

On Wednesday I brought in a few items to personalize the space. The dude bought me a Lil BUB calendar for whatever my new space was going to be, and I proudly put it above my computer so I could look up at BUB’s majestic face whenever I needed to. Side note here: I’m a HUGE animal lover and all BUB products donate proceeds to Lil BUB’s BIG fund for the ASPCA, which benefits special needs animals. Looking up at it from time to time reminds me that you can find small things to do everyday to help those in need.

Next I put my little Dany Targaryen figure on my desk, and then it hit me. This seemingly childish, nerdy, figure had much deeper symbolism than I had realized when I bought it. For those unfamiliar with Game of Thrones, the Targaryens’ house sigil has a three-headed dragon. Their family was known for their dragons and were said to have “the blood of the dragon,” and so on. In the first season, Dany is given three dragon eggs, which are beautiful and thought to be only decorative treasures. SPOILER ALERT: Dany walk into a funeral pyre holding the eggs, and as the fire dies down, she’s still standing there, unburnt, with three baby dragons that hatched.

Those that read the books know that in Dany’s long title is the term “the unburnt,” and it seems like an appropriate title for myself after what I went through at the end of 2014. I was let go from my first job in the Capital Region for reasons that, in my opinion, were BS. My job was numbers based, my co-workers and I were ranked against each other, and we had quotas that we were told to aim for, then told were not in place, and it always went back and forth with nothing in writing. My numbers went down for just one month, and despite the fact that others’ were consistently lower than mine, I was let go. I wasn’t sad about losing this job – I took it to move to this area and had hopes of moving up to a different department with this company as soon as a could, considering I had a good amount of marketing experience. More than anything I was furious that the CEO who told me this “clearly isn’t your cup of tea,” was able to wield any power over me. I left his office saying, “Thank you for the opportunity, I learned a lot while I was here,” and he didn’t even look up at me.

I wasn’t the only one let go in those times. Others that were doing even better than I was were also let go for no reason at all. It started to feel as if those that knew they were overqualified for the position were getting the axe despite being good employees. In that way, our being let go felt like something the CEO was doing to stroke his ego and add to his own sense of megalomania.

The only tears I shed after this event were for the fact that I was let go in early December and now wasn’t able to get gifts for my family for Christmas. My family is amazing and supportive and I try to show them how much I appreciate them, especially during Christmas. The day after I was let go, I applied for unemployment, started networking, and applied to any job for which I was qualified. Three weeks later, I was offered a job that was miles above the one I had lost.

So despite this man trying to make me feel like a worthless loser, trying to ruin my holidays, and ultimately trying to break me, I rose from the ashes unscathed and feeling more confident and powerful. My new job has been exciting and challenging, and whenever I feel like I’m having trouble understanding something or doing my work, I look over at my little Dany and am reminded that no one can ever bring me down.

The vindictive part of me has dreamed of driving past the old office while the CEO is on a smoke break, giving him the finger, and shouting, “YOU DIDN’T WIN,” but instead I have this little figure on my desk to remind me that he isn’t even worth it.

“He was no dragon. Fire cannot kill a dragon.”