31 Days of Gratitude: Day 30

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Day 30: What talent or skill do you have that you are grateful for? I would have to say the talent or skill that I have that I am most grateful for is the ability to write. But not just writing, I love to edit things – or what I like to call “word smithing.”

I think my love for words started early on, before I could really even write. It started with my love for reading. I was the kid who would be up until midnight reading a book instead of watching TV or playing video games. I LOVE to read. Unfortunately, I feel like I don’t do it enough or nearly as much as I used to, but there is something to be said for the feeling you get when you are completely wrapped up in a book. Basically obsessed with a book, not able to put it down and when you have to be pulled away from it, all you can think about is the next time you can sit down and pick the book back up again. I think that reading and writing naturally go hand-in-hand.

Growing up, I had big dreams of writing for my high school newspaper – I wanted to be a journalist. So, I took the AP English class that was taught by our broody Varsity basketball coach – man was he scary! BUT, if you took his english class as a Sophomore, you were guaranteed a spot on the school newspaper your Junior year. So, I did it. I remember my Dad coming home from back to school night and saying to me that Mr. Kendall seemed like a really tough teacher, and that I would probably learn the most from him out of any other teacher I would encounter in high school. My Dad was right. I strongly believe that Mr. Kendall instilled in me a lot of the perspective I still have today when I think about the audience I’m writing for, whether I’m addressing the who, what, when, where and how? and am I being clear and concise? I use all of those skills every day at work, and I learned those while sitting in Mr. Kendall’s class every day for 3 years.

I wrote for the school paper during my Junior and Senior years in high school, and then again in college. It’s interesting how my love for writing evolved. In junior high I wanted to be a novelist, then it morphed into realizing that I needed to pick a paying job so I wanted to be a journalists, but then I thought about how journalists are always traveling and chasing stories and that maybe that wasn’t necessarily the route I wanted to take in the long run. When it was time to decide on a major, I chose communications. When I looked at the course curriculum it still addressed a lot of the areas that I loved, media studies, editing etc.

I’ve been lucky enough to work most of my career in the communications field in one capacity or another, and this year I decided to start the blog. I don’t have a niche per say – but I’m hoping that eventually something evolves. Also on my list of ambitious plans is to write a children’s book. Not a lot of people know this, but it’s something I’m very interested in doing, and something I’ve been exploring with my artist brother Dustin. I’m hoping to start sharing short stories from that endeavor sometime in the coming year.

Needless to say, writing is not just important to me, but it is an outlet for me and it’s a way that I have been able to express myself and also make a living! For all of that I’m grateful and hope that all of my readers enjoy it as well!

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31 Days of Gratitude: Day 27 – 29

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OK – so I’m playing a bit of catch-up…AGAIN. But, here we go – 31 Days of Gratitude – days 27-29.

Day 27: What small thing that you use daily are you grateful for? My music via Spotify. I use my music daily, on my way to the BART train, once I’m on BART, and then when I actually have time at my desk and I’m not in meetings, listening to music while I work at my desk. It saves me. It protects me from the loud music rude commuters play on the train (buy some headphones for goodness sake!), and it protects me from the having to listen to people’s conversations either in-person with one another, or on the phone, and it just generally keeps me sane. I also LOVE my Spotify app. Two of the playlists I specifically look forward to each week are “New Music Friday” – This is pretty self explanatory – it’s all new singles released that week. And, one that is specific to me and what I generally listen to titled “Your Release Radar.” Every week that playlist is updated to include all of the new releases Spotify thinks I would like based off of what I’ve downloaded or saved previously. It’s great! And, just last week Spotify provided me with a playlist titled “Your Top Songs 2016.” I have found that playlist quite interesting – based off of my music choices I was a little melancholy this year – 2017 will be better! If I didn’t have my music to get me through my commute I don’t know what I would do!

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Day 28: What small thing that happened today are you grateful for? I don’t normally come into work the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but this year I have a trip to Italy planned January 15th – 25th, so I’ll be using two weeks of vacation time for that trip – hence why I needed to scrimp and save this year and not take this week off. With that said, working this week did come with a couple of commuter perks. For example, I was grateful to have gotten a seat today! And yesterday, and the next day! BART is extremely scarce people-wise this week which made parking and actually getting a seat on the train a piece of cake! It’s the little things to be grateful for and when your are generally what I like to call, “nuts to butts” having a slight reprieve is appreciated.

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This isn’t a photo of my commute, but those are very familiar facial expression I see on a daily basis

Day 29: What friend/family member are you grateful for today? Hmm today I think I’m grateful for a crazy bunch of friends that I am getting ready to travel around Italy with. These are the same loons (and I say that with complete love) who I road tripped with up to Oregon, camped out at Ainsworth State Park and then hiked to Multnomah Falls. I’m grateful for them because they take me out of my comfort zone time and time again and I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world! Watch out Italy!!

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31 Days of Gratitude: Day 26

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Day 26: What form or expression are you most grateful for? Smiling. Smiling can end a fight, start a conversation, and change someone’s day. With that said, I am very guilty of not smiling enough – and even border on looking unapproachable at times. However, when a simple smile is exchanged it can change everything.

I decided to do a little research and found an interesting article on The Huffington Post titled: “11 Surprising Reasons You Should Smile Every Day” – I have listed them below, as I found them interesting and simple reinforcement as to why we should smile and why we should be grateful for it:

1. Smiling can improve your mood: Our facial expressions do more than communicate our current mood — they have the ability to influence our mood as well. Emotions may originate in the brain, but the muscles in the face either reinforce or transform those feelings. Recent studies have revealed that through the enhancement of positive emotions — or the suppression of negative ones — with facial expressions, a person’s mood begins to align more strongly with the emotion his or her face is communicating.

2. Even fake smiles do the trick: While some researchers insist the benefits of smiling can only be rendered from a genuine expression of happiness, others have found that a forced smile can still make you feel happy, even when your existing mood and surroundings suggest otherwise. It only takes smiling for a brief period of time to experience its benefits — no matter how contrived it feels initially. In this case, maybe it’s OK to fake it a little.

3. Smiling helps reduce stress: In a 2012 study published in the journal Psychological Science, University of Kansas psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman studied 170 participants who were told to hold chopsticks in their mouths in three formations, making them smile to various degrees without realizing it, after performing a stressful task. The experiment revealed that subjects who smiled the biggest with the chopsticks experienced a substantial reduction in heart rate and quicker stress recovery compared to those whose expressions remained neutral.

4. Smiling makes you more approachable: A 2004 Penn State University study found that authentic smiles shared by employees in the service industry influenced their impressions on customers in a positive way. Smiling employees came across as more likable and friendly, and customers left the interactions feeling more satisfied about their overall experience. While job performance and the busyness of the venues were also factored into subsequent experiments, the researchers found that the added display of an authentic smile helped workers appear more competent as well.

5. A smile makes you seem trustworthy: From a psychological perspective, a person who is smiling appears more trustworthy than a person who is either frowning or holding a neutral expression. In a University of Pittsburgh study, researchers explored the potential connection between a model’s level of attractiveness, the intensity of her smile and her perceived level of trustworthiness. Study participants ranked 45 models on these three conditions, revealing that the bigger the models smiled, the more trustworthy they seemed.

6. Smiling actually retrains your brain for the better: While the brain is naturally inclined to think in negative terms as a defense mechanism, the habitual act of smiling helps the mind move to a more positive space and remain there longer the more you do it. According to Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, by making smiling a part of our everyday practice, we help our brains create happiness loops that encourage more positive-thinking patterns.

“Happiness is a work ethic,” wrote Achor. “It’s something that requires our brains to train just like an athlete has to train.”

 

7. Smiles are contagious: Ever notice how often a friend or colleague will reciprocate a smile after you share one? There’s a scientific explanation for that phenomenon. According to neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni, we all posses something called mirror neurons, cells in the premotor cortex and inferior parietal cortex that are activated when we perform a given action as well as when we witness someone else performing it. And when it comes to smiling, mirror neurons respond to the acts of both seeing and doing.

“The way mirror neurons likely let us understand others is by providing some kind of inner imitation of the actions of other people, which in turn leads us to ‘simulate’ the intentions and emotions associated with those actions,” Iacoboni told Scientific American. “When I see you smiling, my mirror neurons for smiling fire up, too, initiating a cascade of neural activity that evokes the feeling we typically associate with a smile.”

 

8. Smiles may strengthen the body on a cellular level: Just as this happy facial expression helps rid the body of stress, smiling can release tension on a cellular level as well, according to biochemist and artist Sondra Barrett. In her book, Secrets of Your Cells, Barrett explains how cells can distinguish between safety and danger, find and repair problems and create an overall sense of balance within the body. She also highlights how a person’s thoughts have a direct effect on cell function. When we smile, we reduce the rigidness of our cells, and this physical relaxation can help combat the risk of stress-induced cell mutations that can lead to the development or persistence of various cancers.

9. Smiles boost your productivity: The benefits of putting a grin on your face at the office don’t begin and end with a mood boost; that dose of happiness can help make you a more productive employee as well. In 2010, a team of economic researchers found that happiness has a significant and causal effect on productivity in the workplace. And just as the positive emotions prove invigorating, negative ones are equally draining.

10. Smiling makes you more creative: This same mood boost can get those creative juices flowing. A 2013 study from the University of California, San Francisco explored this connection in men and found that those who were happier had a more comprehensive approach to problems, improving their ability to think of more solutions than their negative-minded counterparts. The researchers connected this finding to the release of dopamine triggered by happiness, since the neurotransmitter is involved in learning, processing and decision-making.

11. Smiles are free: This all-around mood booster is one of the few available to you each day at no cost whatsoever. So why not take advantage of your own power to create happiness?

I hope this made you smile today!!

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31 Days of Gratitude: Day 25

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Day 25: What moment this week are you most grateful for? I would have to say that the moment I am most grateful for this past week would have to be the time I got to spend with Mariana (8) and Ava (4) – my nieces. We had a “girls day” on Friday the 23rd and went to San Francisco for the day.

We took the train over – which was super cool to them (even though I do it every single day), and then we had lunch at Mel’s Diner. Ava excitedly ordered hot chocolate with her pancakes and Mariana ordered a grilled cheese sandwich (her uncle would be proud) that came in a super cool old school car. We then walked over to Macy’s at Union Square to see the puppies and kittens in the windows – it was hard to walk away that’s for sure! Once I pried the girls away from the animals we walked over to Union Square to check out the the huge Christmas tree and take a few photos.

This was my first adventure to the city with two kids – and one stroller. I was a little worried, but it’s amazing how quickly my nanny knowledge kicked right back in! I guess you never lose that type of skill! It was pouring rain that morning so I was praying to the rain gods that they would take a little break long enough for us to get some fun in. We were lucky! It started to rain fairly hard on our way to the Ferry Building (they wanted to see the Ferry’s come in an out of the dock and check out the Bay Bridge), but the rain won and we ended up taking shelter in a Peet’s (near my office) until it was safe to leave.

All in all we had a fantastic day out, and I would have to say it’s the moment this week that I’m most grateful for – though there were a lot with the holiday etc., but this one was special. And, I probably started a new tradition 🙂

Happy Holidays!

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31 Days of Gratitude: Day 24

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Day 24: What challenge are you grateful for? I’m grateful for the challenge of not having everything follow the timeline I  set for myself. I’ve learned that having your timeline not follow the “timeline” doesn’t mean you aren’t accomplishing things, it’s just proof that there’s a bigger plan for you than the one you’ve set forth for yourself.

So, with that said the control freak that I can be at times – especially when it comes to my personal life and accomplishments – meant that I had everything planned out after I turned 18. I was going to go to community college for 2 years (turned out to be more like 3), I would then transfer to a 4 year college – which I did, and I would be done in 2 additional years (that actually took me like 3 1/2). So, it basically took me almost 6 years to graduate from college. Deterring from my 4 year college plan…oops.

But, I learned that I needed to be flexible with my goals so I said, as long as I was graduated before I turned 25 I would be happy – mission accomplished. So, while some things weren’t falling into my stringent plan, I made adjustments and was able to be more realistic. So, when I got my first “adult” job literally two weeks after graduation, I was like sweet we are back on track.

I had only planned to be there for 1 year, and that went by in the blink of an eye and so did the second year as well. I always knew that I would go to graduate school, so when it didn’t seem like I would be leaving that job anytime soon, I decided I needed to make myself more marketable so I started graduate school. I was about a year into grad school when I scored the job at PG&E (where I’ve been ever since). This was definitely on my goal list – not necessarily as specific as PG&E, but definitely a large-scale company where I could grow and move around.

On a personal level I always thought I’d be married and with kids by the time I was 25. Wow, am I GLAD that didn’t happen. I truly didn’t know who I was at 25, but ironically enough it was the year that I had my first serious relationship begin and last about 5 years – and eventually end. Had I been married I most definitely would be divorced right now – a great example of having a plan not work out, and for the better.

Here I am, 33 and still unmarried and without any kids (minus my fur baby), but I’m also OK with that as well. I didn’t used to be, but I had to remind myself that I can’t make the plan happen. There’s something bigger out there for me. I am grateful that I took care of school and established a solid career. Those were all things I wanted to have established before I began the other part of my life – i.e. the husband/kid thing. But now, interestingly enough because I don’t have those responsibilities yet I can do fun things like travel and continue to help out family and spoil my nieces.

It’s all in how you look at. I realize that my life hasn’t followed my plan exactly how I mapped it, but I wouldn’t be my unique self with my unique life if it had followed my plans. So for now, “Trust the wait. Embrace the uncertainty. Enjoy the beauty of becoming. When nothing is certain, anything is possible.”

Happy holidays!

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31 Days of Gratitude: Day 23

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Day 23: What tradition are you grateful for? I’m grateful for the tradition of Mari and Ava spending the night on Christmas Eve. There’s only been a couple of Christmas Eves where it didn’t happen, but for the most part I’ve been lucky enough to have those nights with them.

It really is a lot of fun. The girls come over later afternoon and my Mom always has a craft or something for them to make. In the past we have made ornament head bands, gingerbread houses, Santa hat brownies…you name it! Then, either my Mom or I make dinner and we go see Christmas lights in Fremont after we eat dinner (Ava has literally fallen asleep on the way there and then woke up as we pulled back into the driveway, upset that she missed the lights 😦 poor thing). Once that is over, the girls get to open one gift (from me) and it is usually brand new pajamas. Then we pile into my bed – though as of late I’ve had to put my foot down and put Mariana at the foot of the bed on the air mattress. Two kids, me and a dog in my queen sized bed is less than comfortable.

The next morning we get up and open presents – both from Santa and the rest of us – and then Chris and Audi pick the girls up so they can have Christmas at their home too! It is one of the things I look forward to every year, and get excited about because to quote Mariana – “Grandma’s house is so magical.” Kinda can’t argue with the kid! Merry Christmas!

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31 Days of Gratitude: Day 22

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Day 22: What story are you grateful for?  I am always grateful for the story of how I found my rescue pup Ruby Sue. I had a cat who was getting ready to turn 17! Can you believe that? 17! Allie really was the sweetest cat in the world, and she was a rescue as well (found in a neighbor’s garage), and was a genuine scaredy cat – so she was always handled with care. Anyway, I knew that my days were eventually coming to an end with her (she had failing kidneys, and I think she had gone a little senile as well) and so I was thinking about adopting a cat to help ease the transition for me.

So, I am perusing Craigslist postings under the “cat” section when a pretty non-descriptive post appears, and at this point I was basically just clicking on every single posting on the off chance that I would find a cat I wanted to at least go see in person. Well, I click on a link and it takes me to a posting for a dog, and not just any dog but my pup Ruby! The photos below are taken from her actual Craigslist posting – you will quickly see why I logged onto Craigslist looking for a cat and ended up with Ruby!

Anyway – I immediately go to the Love and Second Chances website, I highly recommend you check them out. This organization is managed by some truly amazing people and they also work extremely hard to rescue pups internationally as well. They are doing amazing things in this world and are true guardian angels for so many pups!

I filled out the application and they immediately got back to me asking if I wanted to see her. I decided that I ABSOLUTELY had to see her and that I would make it work the next day. So, my brother Dustin and I set up an agreed upon time at a park in San Ramon to see Tiramisu (aka Ruby). I fell head over heals in love with her, and I think Dustin did too. I was told that there was one other person interested in her and that they would know that day if they were going to adopt her or not. I’m a fairly competitive person, but that made me down right crazy competitive. I told Dustin that she HAD to be mine, and I was lucky enough to indeed make her mine.

She came into my life at a time where my companion (Allie-cat) would be leaving me soon and she has definitely filled that hole, and then some! Ruby has so much attitude, is very particular about a lot of things, and is extremely opinionated and loud! She has a true terrier bark and grew into what I call a girl’s best friend. Below is a snap of what she looks like today and my Allie cat (RIP).

With any rescue pup comes challenges. Ruby hates the car – I have never had a dog who didn’t enjoy the car, it literally makes her shake and breathe heavily – she hates it! She also doesn’t like anything that makes a crumpling sound, for example water bottles or paper/plastic bags. Something early on before she was rescued clearly scared her, which always breaks my heart to think about but she now has a loving home and two other pups she gets to romp around with now (my parent’s dogs – also Love and Second Chances rescues).

I hope you enjoyed this short little story about how I came to have this Scruff McGruff in my life. She truly is a sweet pup and I’m not sure what it would be like without her!