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How a Birthday Week Became 34 for 34

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you probably know Friday is my birthday and that I was less than thrilled until a few days ago. You see, I go into credit card debt to create some grand, spectacular event accompanied by the perfect present for my loved ones. And I’ll be honest – I’m damn good at it…which screws everyone else. It’s like the episode of Parks and Rec where Leslie has created entire calendars of “special” days with incredibly thoughtful plans and gifts for Ann and Ben, who have no hopes of keeping up.

I came across a great quote – you expect more of others because you would do the same for them.  I imagine its hard to feel the need to compete with private dinners at the Ritz, VIP pre-show parties and once a year events. It’s not about the money, but about knowing what makes people feel important. It’s taking the time to make it happen. (With my job, I have the advantage of planning events and my love of talking to anyone and everyone usually lands me some pretty good tips, but any one can be creative and thoughtful.)

I compete with the holidays. They take the good dates, places and people. Everyone’s in a time crunch, let’s just combine it with our Christmas visit. Did I mention I share it with a family member? Yep, just picture that half and half cake since we had different favorites. My birthday is usually just a blip on the radar that is December. I’m sure there’s some need of therapy for overcompensating for my trail of food poisoning, lost jobs, winter illnesses and/or family vacations wiping out entire elementary classes, divorced parents fighting mid-party and multiple massive snow storms.

After venting to a friend on the phone for an hour, she suggested I plan my own birthday the way I would for anyone else. Ouch. It stung a little bit. I wasn’t sure if I was more hurt, disappointed, embarrassed or ashamed. In the name of self-love and all that good stuff, I decided to go for it.

What was I going to do? Not just one thing, that would be crazy. I was going to do 34 things in celebration of my 34th birthday. As usual, it was go big or go home, and I never go home. I took the bull by the horns and actually planned to splurge on 34 fun and ridiculous things in the week between this brilliant idea and my actual birthday.

Yeah, easier said then done (in best Office Space voice). I couldn’t come up with 34 things. A small detail would cause an entire plan to crash and I’d give up swearing in frustration. Every other day I’d change my mind on what I wanted. Christmas was getting in the way (seriously, the 19th – 26th was like a nonexistent week). This was my worst plan ever, and I’ve definitely had some bad ones.

Then I realized none (or most) of that was not self-love. It was ego, plain and simple. I have so much while others have so little and I was letting this ruin my entire month? So I’m still doing 34 for 34, but it looks a little different. Instead of burning out crazy from a “fun” week, I’m taking the entire year. I’m combining pampering stuff for me and for others.

And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my 34 years.

Great Outfits for Holiday Travel

The holidays are here again, and for many of us this means travel (and lots of other things we can save for another time). Since most of my family is local I find myself spending more time in the car than any other travel options.

I have three goals when planning what to wear:

  1. It has to be comfortable and easy to move around in.
  2. Layers are a must. Sometimes its a change in temperature from point A to point B; other times I know fellow passengers won’t agree on a comfortable temperature.
  3. It has to be cute. Not fancy, crazy dressed up, but I also don’t want to look wrinkled and sloppy like I just rolled out of bed and stayed in my pajamas. Don’t get me wrong, I used to do this (long after age 5 when its appropriate) but I realized sometimes stops and things pop up and I’d rather look pulled together.

Our travels seem to have kicked off early over the past weeks, so I’d thought I’d share these two looks I threw together for my most recent ride. Almost all pieces are plus size (though most are available in misses too) and the price points are affordable.

Mint Road Trip
Plaid Road Trip
Some of my favorite parts of these looks are the simplest. The elastic on the back of the Converse sneakers makes them easy to slip on and off in the car. The Vera Bradley bag is a perfect size for magazines, laptops, snacks, any makeup or toiletries you want to keep you in the car. Scarves and wraps are perfect multi-taskers – fold them to make a pillow, use them as a blanket, wrap around your neck or shoulders if it gets chilly or tie around your bag for a little extra something.
Do you have favorite pieces for your travel wardrobe – or have you learned what NOT to wear?

Manifesting Gratitude

Though it seems cheesy to write the obligatory Thanksgiving/Gratitude post, I find gratitude itself anything but. Sure, I’ve tried to cultivate a gratitude practice of jotting in a journal at bedtime or listing three things in  my iPhone every morning, but it never sticks. I like to think that I’m a grateful person; I’m just not a person of routine or habit necessarily.

But those around me will often hear me say “I’m just thankful to have a job” or “I’m so blessed with friends that are family to me” and “We’re fortunate to have a roof over our head, and a beautiful one at that”. When all is said and done, I wonder if this is nothing more than lip service.

I am thankful to have a job, and am very thankful for certain parts of it like a boss that has my back or being able to work from home.

I have friends that mean the absolute world to me, that have been there for me to the moon and back and that I love dearly. Lately, I’ve spent so much time cocooning in my own little funk that I haven’t reached out or visited with any of them though I know they are likely the biggest help in climbing out of my little hole.

Our “little” home is becoming more homey every day and I love being in many of the spaces here now. Simple things like candles, salt lamps and oil diffusers have made all the difference in something that felt like a empty space with no personality or function.

While all true, none of it changes my penchant to dream big. I am, after all, a Sagittarius defined by contradiction and duality. I want MORE. I want to live in a charming city with lots to do but in a cozy dwelling welcoming enough to not make me want to leave. I want to actually see my friends beyond Facebook and to actually share a meal and a bottle of wine when we say “we’ll get together soon”. I aim at finding the passion and the purpose in my daily grind, to feel fulfilled rather than exhausted at the end of the day.

Somewhere deep down I know that dreaming and being grateful are not mutually exclusive. I believe that both are important, probably equally so. In that spirit, I wanted to share with you all and the universe the things I am truly thankful for even though I don’t say it everyday.

  • My mind, body and spirit. Without my love of knowledge and endless curiosity, my life would be nowhere near as enriched as it is today. My body and I fight daily, but it has taken one hell of a beating and doesn’t give up on me, so I won’t give up on it. My spirit ties it all together, encouraging self-discovery and self-growth through more avenues than I can even begin to name that feed my brain and help me learn to love my physical body.
  • My husband. When I walked down the aisle to God Blessed the Broken Road, it held very true for me – there were plenty of bad moments leading to good ones. While we may have waited until 27 to marry we were lucky enough to have spent many years before that together.
  • My mother. She doesn’t know how strong she is or realize all she has done in her life, but I do. And without her, there wouldn’t be me.  She sacrificed so much for me growing up, and I am so thankful to have the chance to have her here now.
  • Sweetie. Though she’s not here with us any more, there aren’t even enough words to explain what she means to me. She taught me so much from the beginning to the end and we have a bond that is unbreakable.
  • To steal a phrase from Gabrielle Bernstein, my spiritual running buddies. My coaches and mentors and guides and support system. They help me get back on track, to get out of my own head and own way and to see myself the way others see me.
  • Technology. It does help me with so much of the above even though it sometimes seems more of a curse than a blessing. It connects me to those who are important to me, allows me to jump from link to link to learn about whatever strikes my fancy that day and makes my job much easier.
  • The little things that make everything better. The scent of a gardenia, a flickering candle, a cup of hot tea, football (especially my Ravens!), Chanel lipgloss, Starbucks, the first day of Chai Eggnog Latte season, a snow day when I actually have a chance to snuggle on my sofa, super soft cashmere, gorgeous coffee table books, binge watching Hart of Dixie/Reign/Tudors/Castle with the hubs, road trips, mini calla lilies, that little blue box, fancy cupcakes, daydreaming, a relaxing massage, reading about the real life fairy tale that is Princess Kate, actually completing a project from Pinterest and cheese from Old Hickory.

What are you really, honestly thankful for this year beyond the conventional and expected responses?

Don’t Miss Your Exit Waiting for a Sign

Fear. Ego.

None of us born with these things. Rather, they were bestowed upon us by our family, our teachers and mentors and society in general. It’s not our fault or theirs. It’s just what happens. And our lives will never be the same.

We take it and run with it. Maybe it’s the college boyfriend who treats you like crap, but that little voice in your head tells you that “you’re not worthy of anyone better” or “clearly there’s something wrong with you, not him“.

Maybe it’s as simple as refusing to add to your wardrobe until you’ve reached your perfect weight. Instead, you wear ill fitting clothes that make you look and feel worse, creating a vicious cycle. You’ll buy those jeans or that dress when you’ve paid your penance for eating carbs and not having the willpower to pass on dessert.

It runs rampant in the workplace, more for women than men I believe. You don’t get that long overdue raise you busted your ass for because you “aren’t deserving”. You don’t get that job or promotion because “you’re not smart enough”. You feel stuck in cement in a career that crushes your soul because it’s “more is just not meant to happen for you”.

The ego is a sneaky little bastard. It disguises fears as logic and reason. What if our boss is angry when we ask for a raise? What if we lose friends who are whispering “who does she think she is” behind our backs? What if we leave the draining, miserable job and can’t support our loved ones who depend on us?

The worst part of it all is that our ego really just wants to protect us. It’s like a friend with the best of intentions and terrible tactics. It’s the friend that’s holding us back, that’s telling us all of the reasons we shouldn’t trust our gut and make that leap. We wait for any number of variables to align or for a sign that the time is right because the ego tells us this will be the right time. Essentially, we’re stuck in a holding patter.

I’ll leave you lyrics from a song that came to mind while pondering all of this, aptly titled If I Ever Get Around to Living.

“You are hiding in your mind, working all the time, trying to make it better than you’ve got it. And you’ve been spending all your time searching for a sign that’s never gonna look the way you want it.” ~ John Mayer

 

How to Get Cash for Your Clothes (to Buy More of course!)

We have a rule in my house when it comes to closets – one in, one out. (This excludes handbags of course!) I’ve found, like most, that I tend to wear the same pieces over and over again while the same ones remain hanging in the back.

Since I love to shop, I find it best if I can make money when I get rid of the higher quality, designer pieces in my wardrobe. I used to spend a ton of time listing pieces on eBay, but over the past few years I’ve found that the process takes too long, there are too many steps once you include shipping, and the buyers are getting…let’s just say more difficult.

Its no secret that I love shopping – I probably shop online every day. This  I started taking things I would normally sell on eBay to consignment shops. If you have good ones in your area, this is still something I do and recommend for those who want to make back some of what you’ve spent for that new fill in the blank. It takes a little bit of time to sort and make sure it’s the brand and style shops want at that time – they will only take in season stuff, which may be the opposite of your closet cleaning cycles. I take my clothes to two different shops, one a little more high end then the other. This works for me because I have a range from Louis Vuitton to Target. You’ll need to make sure you know all of the shop’s rules – how many pieces they’ll take, when they accept consignments, what brands, etc. Consignment shops are very picky everything must be in excellent condition. With a consignment shop, you’re selling each piece to them, so have it ready to market as if you’re selling to the customer directly. I make sure to spray a little Febreeze to freshen things up and I run a steamer over most pieces. I make sure purses are clean and empty (that’s a big one!). I wipe off shoes and make sure there is nothing lose or worn before taking them in. Some will even accept jewelry and accessories. I’d say on average I’ll get anywhere from $35-$80 every few months from one and about $20-$40 from the other. Definitely enough for at least a new top!

My new favorites have become Twice and Thred Up.  It literally cannot get any easier, you don’t even have to leave the house. My mom actually introduced me to Thred Up, and I stumbled across Twice from there. I joined at just the right time…aka they were doing a promotion where you got an extra $10 or $20 for every purse you send in! They both basically work the same – you request a bag that they then ship to you, you fill it up with your clothes, shoes, accessories and they send you an offer for your bag. You can either accept the offers or decline, and depending on the site and what you’ve set up, they either donate or send the items back.

When I say they send you a bag, it’s a BAG. I’ve managed to get 25 pieces in one, along with a few pair of shoes. As of right now, both are offering free shipping, so it doesn’t cost you a thing to send your goodies in – not even gas since  you can call your carrier for pickup. They offer a little more flexibility in what they will take than a consignment shop, not being as specific about season, although they each have a list of brands they accept. That list, by the way, is quite long. The prices they offer for each piece is determined by the condition, the item and the brand. It may be lower than you would get on eBay and possibly a consignment store, but you get paid upfront – you don’t have to wait for each individual item to sell.

Shopping Spree!

I’ve found that these types of new sites are the most convenient for me, which means I’m likely to use it more often, I make more money and keep my closet cleaner.  I love shopping and this let’s me do it a little more often without running up the credit cards. That’s what I call win-win-win!

What do you do with clothes you don’t wear - donate or sell? How do you fund your shopping sprees?