The REAL Jersey Shore.

I don’t know about  you, but I’m finding it a little more challenging to crush out the crankiness today. It’s always hard to snap back into the swing of things after a long weekend. Just when you finally feel relaxed, the holiday drops you off on a Tuesday morning waking up with tired eyes, a slight food hangover (thanks to the gigantic spread my in-laws put out yesterday!), and zero motivation to jump back into reality.

My little water babies.

Thoughts of the weekend are keeping me smiling, though. Living at the Jersey Shore (which is not at all like the Snookified version you see on TV!) is a real crankiness crusher. We had dinner with another couple on Saturday at a fantastic restaurant on the water, which included actual adult conversation with a side of delicious food and a walk on the dock under the moonlight. The rest of the weekend included outdoorsy stuff: Lots of  hamburger & hot dog-eating, wine drinking, and watching my giggly kids go from splashing around in their kiddie pool to darting through their crazy octopus sprinkler. Nothing makes me happier than being with family and friends, and spending time doing summer activities. And there’s so much to do around here! I can’t wait until we can hit the spray park, sit under an umbrella at the beach, take a walk along the Long Branch Pier, check out the amusement parks in our area, and then chill on the deck with a frozen strawberry margarita. That’s what I’m talking about! 😉

Enough of me blathering on. I have to go prep for my husband’s birthday dinner tonight! Can’t wait to eat the key lime pie. I hope pleasant memories from the weekend are keeping you happy today. Please feel free to share them. Your crankiness crushers make others smile as well!


The Beach Boys Saved My Workout.

This is what I would have rather been doing.

I decided to hit the gym today, mostly because I knew that I could get a free hour of babysitting at the “Kids Klub”. 😉 I took a class called Body Works Plus Abs and boy did I have to work my body! Squats, weight-lifting, push-ups–and my least favorite…planks. While I know that they’re a good way to make my abs leaner, I hate how my arms shake and my back aches while doing them. Ugh. I sound so old!

But just as my body was convulsing and I was tasting the salty sweat dripping from my forehead (yum!), a crankiness crusher happened. “Wouldn’t it be Nice” by The Beach Boys started pumping through the speakers and I felt motivated. It got me thinking of summer and the thought of what I’d look like in a bathing suit if I didn’t do these stupid planks! “Good Vibrations” came on afterwards and then there was a selection of Madonna’s greatest hits. Gotta love some good 80s music! As I did crunches and bicycle sit-ups to  “Like a Virgin” and “Holiday“, my mind started drifting into long weekend planning mode and away from I feel like I’m going to throw-up right now mode. The exercise and good tunes woke up my body and got me excited about the holiday weekend (which I had practically forgotten about until now!).

Now that Friday is upon us, it’s officially here. Hooray! Try to let the thought of all the future fun you’ll have carry you through any annoyances today!

Shake it up!

I went into New York City for a lunch meeting today with a fellow colleague in the publishing industry. At the end of the meal, I said that I was craving something sweet and she had a fantastic suggestion that became today’s crankiness crusher. 

We took a leisurely stroll to a place I’ve been dying to check out–The Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. While they’re known for their amazing burgers, custards and shakes, we both opted for a traditional ice cream cone with one scoop of vanilla and one scoop of chocolate. We plopped ourselves at the bottom of a big statue and licked our refreshingly cold and yummy ice cream at record speed before it fell prey to the sun’s heat.

While chatting and taking in this gorgeous day at the park, I became nostalgic about my first real job in NY and how my colleagues and I would grab a sandwich at the deli and then sit in the grass or on a bench during our lunch break. Back then it was the perfect way to escape the pile of work on my desk. Today it was the perfect way to slow down and enjoy a lovely conversation with the sounds of birds and laughter in the background–until we realized how late it was and I had to make a mad dash to the Port Authority bus terminal!

We all need a moment of respite in our day. What have you done lately that made you feel like time stopped for a few minutes? Please share your crankiness crushers to keep the happy train chugging along.

One “crusher” leads to another.

Today’s crankiness crusher was an unexpected good deal at Old Navy this afternoon. As I handed the cashier the $20 worth of Super C-A-S-H I had earned from my last spree (thank God I’m not shopping in any high-end stores otherwise I’d be broke) she reminded me that I could get an additional 10% off if I used my store credit card since it was Tuesday. I couldn’t refuse, and I left the store smiling because saving money and I generally NEVER work out. Inevitably, whenever I go to use a coupon it expired the day before, that humongous sale everyone’s talking about ended by the time I get around to shopping, or I forget which days you’re supposed to shop where to get a percentage off when you use your card! But today it worked out. And that made me happy–as did looking at the cute outfit I bought along with a few pairs of shorts for my son for less than $60. Score!

The crankiness crushing continued when I pulled up to my house and noticed these vibrant purple flowers (Clematis, I think?) climbing up to our bird house along our driveway. I’m sure I’ve seen them from the corner of my eye for the past few days now, but this is the first time I really stopped to appreciate how healthy the blooming flowers looked. Had I not been so chuffed about saving some money, I’m convinced that I would have just ignored their beauty once again. Lesson learned: When one good thing happens, you tend to notice (and perhaps even look for) the other good things happening around you.

Pleasure is spread through the earth
In stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find.
~William Wordsworth, 1806

Keep searching for your crankiness crushers, folks! The more you find throughout your day, the more chances you’ll have to be led to another happy moment.

Good sleep, good day!

An amazing thing happened to me this weekend…I SLEPT IN!! And like really slept in. The kind of morning where you miss breakfast, brunch, and head right into lunch. I haven’t slept like that since my teen and college years. And I slept soundly too–and it wasn’t even in my own bed. Now, now, before you go jumping to any wild conclusions, I didn’t do anything NAUGHTY! I crashed at my friend Rachel’s apartment in New York City after we saw Chelsea Handler and some of her “Chelsea Lately” peeps perform at the Beacon.

Here’s what led up to this delightful (and much-needed!!) sleep-in sesh: The comedians were totally funny and entertaining, but I kept nodding off throughout the show. Like embarrassingly nodding off; the kind where it looks like you’re rocking out to your own personal drum solo. Granted, the show didn’t start until 10:30 p.m., and I was already exhausted from chasing my kids around at their friend’s 2nd b-day party, commuting into the city, and then downing a half bottle of wine with dinner (oopsie!), so I was toast as soon as the lights went out.

By the time the show was over, I was rubbing my eyes and dreaming of crawling into bed. But truly not wanting my evening of freedom to end, I agreed to share some Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food fro-yo (yeah, yeah twist my arm) over a nice chat. I started to drift off while my friend was talking (so rude!), so she obviously got the not-so-subtle hint–I. WAS. DONE. And then it happened. I SLEPT. I woke up feeling relaxed, refreshed–and in no rush to get home (sorry, family)! Wow, what a total crankiness crusher! I guess my mind and body could finally rest knowing that I didn’t have to worry about my kids waking up in the middle the night or the tension-building mommy to-do list that usually greets me in the morning.

I’ve been savoring this well-rested feeling because it’s a rarity these days. I don’t usually hit the sack until 2 a.m., mostly because it’s my downtime and I enjoy how quiet the house is, but this night-owlish behavior isn’t really jiving with my kids’ 6:30 a.m. wake-up time!  But for now, I’m surviving and thriving on my “I finally got enough sleep!” high (and even had enough energy to tackle one of those over-stimulating, bouncy house-type play places with the kids today!).

Often we need to be taken out of our environment to really chill-out–and in my case sleep! If you can swing it, try to find a moment in your day where you can step away from your routine and find a quiet place to sit, listen to some Enya, and rest your eyes. If you can’t escape your surroundings, then allow your mind and body to relax and try to take a power nap at home. A little R&R can go a long way! It might even make you feel human again.

Snow White Syndrome.

Learning that wild animals are living a cozy existence in your backyard might infuriate some people, but I’m tickled pink. My husband, on the other hand, is seeing red! He views them as germ-infested, invasive creatures who don’t belong on our property, while I believe that we’re the ones crashing their pad. It was their home first, right?

Today’s crankiness crusher was thinking about my wild kingdom. As the animals flock to our yard, it makes me feel like I’m their Snow White. 🙂 I smile when I see the fat squirrel make off with a huge piece of bread as he runs along the top of our fence. I love pointing out the bunnies in our yard and how my kids’ eyes light up when they see them hopping along. I enjoy birdwatching from the kitchen window as they cheerfully come and go from our bird feeder.

Our pic of Rocco was too dark, but this guy is just as cute!

Our yardmate Gilbert the Groundhog has dug humongous burrows near the foundation of our house, but I would never set a trap or call Animal Control. He’s just too darn cuddly looking! (Those of you who aren’t animal lovers are probably rolling your eyes at this sentence.) I’m sure I’ll catch him scurrying off with a bunch of my flower heads filling up his cheeks soon. Last night, I noticed that the bird feeder tempted a new animal friend–a raccoon (who I’ll call Rocco). I seriously thought it was a huge gray cat sitting on our deck until he turned sideways and I saw the black mask. He must have been there for an hour sticking his snout into the bird feeder and chowing down on the wild berry square I had put out for them. My husband snapped a picture of him with his iPhone, and while he was upset that we have yet another rodent to worry about, he admitted that he looked kind of cute using his little hands to scavenge for food. It appears that Rocco even managed to knock some of the crankiness out of him!

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character.” Knowing that the animals feel our yard is a safe place for them makes me happy–and it gives me more opportunities to nurture the living things around me. What’s your take-away from all of this? If you live somewhere where the wild life is abundant, try to focus on living in harmony with nature rather than instinctively chasing it away. The critters may bring you more happiness than you thought!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Gotta love a good “son”dae.

Since we had a new refrigerator delivered today (hooray!), my husband worked from home to help out. Because he was around, I was able to leave my napping daughter and take my son for a much-needed haircut. It’s rare that we get to spend one-on-one time together anymore, so it was nice to be able to focus all of my attention on him.

To make the afternoon seem even more special, we took a trip to Toys “R” Us and then got ice cream at the Dairy Queen just a few doors down. Together we sat on a bench; his feet swinging while licking his vanilla ice cream cone and smiling with his eyes. Grinning, I dug my spoon into my delicious vanilla sundae with caramel topping. I noticed a slight breeze in the air, and then looked up to see the sun shining–a truly delightful sight since it’s rained here every day this week! At that particular moment, I was taking everything in: my son’s beautiful blue eyes and his freshly-cut red hair, how creamy and sweet the ice cream tasted, and how rewarding it felt to be spending this quality time together.

This moment was today’s crankiness crusher; a moment that reminded me yet again of the importance of being present. I felt it deeply, lived it fully, and enjoyed it immensely. I even let go of the fact that I didn’t have a camera to capture it for the blog! I almost ran back to the car to get my iPhone, but I didn’t want to ruin how perfect it was. You’ll just have to envision what it looked like…and what you would see is happiness.

I wish you all moments that stop you in your fast-paced tracks. Moments that encourage you to slow down and  realize that life IS good even when the weight of it often makes it feel like it isn’t. Moments that make you appreciate your existence.

Now get off your phone or computer and go enjoy what’s around you! 😉

The truth behind small talk: Is there any?

While I had a wonderful time at last night’s breast cancer awareness event, (which incidentally was held at The Brownstone, the reception hall owned by the Manzo family from the “Real Housewives of New Jersey“) I am pretty freakin’ tired today. Guess grandma isn’t used to going out on a ‘school night’ anymore. 🙂 I woke up to the oh-so-soothing sound of my daughter wailing and my son demanding yogurt (things I couldn’t quite deal with on only a few hours of sleep and zero caffeine). But as the day progressed, things got better.

Mood-booster #1 was taking my invigorating kickboxing class which led to mood-booster #2–taking a few minutes to sip my beloved grande skinny caramel macchiato (iced this time!) while chatting with a friend I bumped into. But what really crushed my crankiness today was thinking about the conversations I had last night and how great it was to really catch up with some good friends. I’m not a big fan of small talk or chats that just graze the surface so you end up talking forever about absolutely nothing. I love to discuss the things that really matter: the good, the bad & the ugly. The everyday, meaty stuff that’s shaping your life.

When was the last time you asked someone how they’re doing and actually got an honest answer? People don’t generally want to discuss what’s really bothering them (well, unless they’re the type of person who complains constantly to the point where no one even listens to them anymore!), but it’s important to make your friends aware that you WANT to know how they’re really feeling and that you’re there to listen, not judge. The more you support one other, the more you’ll share. And the more you vent and share, the better you’ll feel!

I encourage you to have a heart-to-heart conversation with someone. Allow yourself the time to really talk and get things out. Letting go of your burdens (or sharing them) will make you feel lighter–and happier.

Inspiration to make a difference.

I’m excited and delighted to attend tonight’s 10th anniversary celebration of  the Young Survival Coalition’s (Northern NJ Affiliate)In Living Pink” event. The YSC is a global organization dedicated to helping young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer by offering resources, connections and outreach so women feel supported, empowered and hopeful.  My good friend Dina is being honored for her volunteer efforts and dedication, and I couldn’t be more proud of her!

Dina began volunteering a decade ago when her friend Lisa Marie founded the YSC’s North Jersey Networking Group. The YSC had become an invaluable resource for her when she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer at the age of 27, so she wanted to help others through this difficult and emotional time. After Lisa lost her battle at age 33, Dina then served as President of the YSC NNJ Affiliate. Her 4 years of leadership not only raised awareness for the organization–but also close to a half million dollars! It’s no wonder that she was elected to the National Board of Directors and acts as their Secretary today.

Dina’s commitment to the YSC is an inspiration to me–and today’s crankiness crusher.  She empowers those who are affected by breast cancer while fighting in memory of those who have lost their battle. Dina will say that she’s a better person for having known and learned from these individuals. I say that I’m a better person for knowing Dina.

How can this story help crush your crankiness? Try doing something for yourself that will also benefit others. Be an advocate for something you believe in. You’ll enrich your life and your soul while truly inspiring those around you. When you put your heart into something that matters, you’ll find the happiness that lives inside it.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

~ William James

Today’s Crankiness Crusher: Found Money!

When we agreed to participate in my friend’s community yard sale, I never expected to make a decent amount of cold hard cash from it–but I was wrong!

After clearing out our ridiculous collection of baby gear and other random paraphernalia like lamps (circa 1988) we inherited, an unusually excessive number of cutting boards, and enough toy trucks and cars to fill a small parking lot, we finally made a respectable pathway in our basement.  I say “we”, but all I really did was give the thumbs up to what we were selling and then my husband turned into a wheeler and dealer while negotiating with customers. I’m TERRIBLE at naming a price and sticking to it, but Vlad stayed strong, showed people the item’s original value on Amazon (so they didn’t feel like they were getting ripped off), and then raked in some serious dough (if you consider $250 a lot–I do!).

While it may seem annoying to sort through all of your stuff and haul it into your yard or to a friend’s house, it’s so worth it! Getting rid of things you don’t need is really cathartic and it also motivates you to clear out more. I plan on being much more organized for next year’s event. We’ll get some price stickers to display on our items, bring a clothing rack to show off our duds for sale–and we’ll sell cold drinks and food! Until then, I’m going to start putting things aside that I don’t need or use anymore (like costume jewelry, books I’ll never read again, clothes that don’t fit, etc). I love putting things into little piles, and knowing that they’ll eventually go to someone who actually wants them makes me feel good inside!

In addition to feeling good, it also feels great to not feel guilty about spending the extra money we made. My husband and I treated ourselves to some delicious Indian take-out and then split the rest of it. Hooray for some money that I don’t need to account for! Hmmmm…what should I buy first? 🙂

Here’s hoping that you find a bit of happiness that you didn’t expect today!

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