Every year there is a video that captures the feeling of the Christmas season so clearly. This year, it is this video. I don't want to give away too much so just turn up your speakers and watch.
Over the next few months I will be spending a lot of time in planes and on long road trips. I've flown a little over a million miles so far and during this time in the air, I've created a little kit of what works to help make travel more comfortable.
One tip that helps me feel refreshed, especially after a transcontinental trip, is taking off all of my makeup before I board a flight and sweeping on a Tan Towel. By the time I land, I have a nice glow. I swipe on a little Vaseline Rosy Lips and I feel ready to jump into a new adventure. The pashmina helps me feel cozy on cool flights and the eye mask along with the noise cancelling headphones relax me into a nice doze after a light fruit plate on the flight. I love my bkr bottle. It reminds me to keep hydrated, which is especially important when you're 36,000 feet in the air. Elizabeth Gilbert's newest book "Big Magic" is one that I have been saving to read on my next trip. I'm excited to start reading this and discover my own big magic.
Wherever you are traveling to this season, may you be surrounded by happiness.
Last night I went to bed before the election results were tallied. I had six news programs on the TV and anxiously watched them all. As I saw where things were heading, I shut the TV off. I grabbed the dog and headed to bed where we cuddled and I fell asleep with her heart beating against my chest. In that moment, all was right with the world.
This morning I woke up to dread, sadness, terror even on my Facebook feed. My heart went out to my LGBTQ friends, my Muslim friends, my nieces who are worried about their futures. I worry for them. So, I closed Facebook too. Today I want to be positive and send my energy out into this universe that somehow feels like it has been titled at a precarious angle. As author Liz Gilbert ("Eat Pray Love") says: Onward.
Posted On Wednesday, November 09, 2016
Cannes. Hollywood. Honolulu. Paris. Sydney. Prague. Toronto. London. This is where I worked. In these places, I did what I loved. As a reporter for MSN, I traveled globally and interviewed actors and musicians about their latest projects. It was exciting and challenging and I was in love with my job. It never occurred to me that one day it would just stop. That's what happened. One day, on May 5, 2009 I was part of the big Microsoft Cinco de Mayo layoff. A job that had been my life for 14 years was just gone.
I was lost. I remember sitting in my car in the parking garage immediately after I got the news. My cel was ringing madly. Word got around fast and several other friends were also part of the layoff but I couldn't speak to anyone. I was shocked and sad. I was displaced. In the dark garage I squinted out at the bright, beautiful day. I didn't know where to go. It felt weird to be skipping work but I had two weeks to come and go as I pleased. I couldn't have felt more alone. Or humiliated.
For weeks and even months after this fateful morning, I would think back to what I had. On Facebook I read about the adventures that my fellow reporter friends were still going on and I thought "This isn't fair." I spent a lot of time looking back at what I had lost.
"It isn't fair. It isn't fair. It isn't fair." It was my mantra.
The one thing I didn't do was look ahead. I was so wrapped up in what I had lost that I didn't treasure what I had or what could be. One day, I was holding our dog and feeling sorry for myself (as I had for months) and I realized as I looked at her that I had her and my husband and my health and our home. What else mattered than that? Truly nothing. I had what mattered the most. I also realized that I DID have the coolest job and the most amazing memories and that is something I would always have. It's like the saying "It's better to have loved and lost than never having loved at all." This is so true. I would always be able to go back to my memory bank and remember the way the sea smelled as I sipped an espresso on my walk home from a party at 4am at the Cannes Film Festival. There would always be memories and that was enough. It was time to look forward and see what I had missed when I was busy feeling sorry for myself.
I joined the human race again. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and what I didn't have and started to feel grateful for what I had and what could be. I looked at what happened as a gift. I started The Happygirl Experiment. I spent more weekends at home. For years I had spent almost every weekend away from home working somewhere in the world. I went to brunch with L. I visited Home Depot at 7am on a Saturday and did house projects that I never had time for. I let go of the angst that came with working in a high stress job. I let go of checking my phone in the middle of the night for urgent mail. I let go of what I thought I had lost and I found what I didn't even know I was missing. The future lay ahead of me. Wide open. Anything was possible. I was ready. And happy.
When bad things happened, or things didn't go my way, I felt defeated. Especially when there were those periods that everything seemed to go to hell at once. When I look back at the things that went completely different than what I thought, I realize that it was exactly what was supposed to happen. Other than deaths of those that you loved and will always miss, you bounce back. You find another love, another job, you make a serious commitment to health after an illness and yes, even after losing someone, life goes forward and you find a new normal.
I thought of this this morning when I received an email asking me how to make it through when things looks bleak with no hope of getting better. I thought back on how things have unfolded in my life. There were difficult periods where I felt like I was barely holding on but then I realized that the doors that closed at certain times in my life allowed fresh air in and a change that led me to who I am today. I believe in prayer. I believe in guardian angels and God. I believe that during my worst periods of grief that God was the one holding me together until I could see through the darkness.
Like I said to a new friend this morning, whatever you believe in, hold onto that and believe that good will come again. It may not be the good you were expecting but you will get happy again. The thing is, you have to embrace it and be open to the fact that life is different than you expected.
Pray, if you believe in prayer, meditate, walk, get that blood moving through your body. Be open to what will come. Believe that if you expect goodness, it will be there, just on the other side of that door.
This week I said goodbye to a situation that didn't serve me anymore. It's funny (not haha funny but more like, "Hunh, I'm finally aware that this situation is ridiculous" funny) but even though I knew it was a break I needed to make, it was still hard. Saying goodbye can feel like an impossible task, an irreversible, impossible feat.
I think sometimes we build things up in our heads and the anticipation of an event is often so different that what actually happens. What would happen when I made that break? I had finally had enough though and it wasn't a choice anymore. It didn't matter what the aftermath would be. It had to happen in order to move forward. So, I made up my mind, set a date and said a brief goodbye to what didn't work in my life.
As I sat there in the autumn sun, right after, I thought "Goodbye goodbye goodbye, good bye, good." Sometimes, we're not lucky enough to see the good in goodbye immediately, but saying those words over and over I realized that there is good in goodbye. If you don't see it right now, in the moment, hold onto the fact that you were strong enough to break away from a situation, a person, an addiction, a crutch, a job, a habit that kept you from being less than your ideal person. Soon, when you are filled with relief that you are closer to the person you want to be you'll think "Good good good" and forget all about the "bye."
Traveling for Microsoft in the 2000's, there was a long period that I couldn't take a flight without seeing at least half of the female passengers on my flight carrying Elizabeth Gilbert's book, "Eat Pray Love." This book seemed to touch something in people. It created a powerful movement as well as a film. Liz Gilbert's experience in changing what didn't work in her life, set people off on their own experiences changing their lives. Mine included. When you feel lost, you need a North Star. For many people it was Elizabeth Gilbert.
Since "Eat Pray Love," a lot has happened in Liz Gilbert's life. She's written several other books, including "Big Magic" and she recently changed gave up what wasn't working in her life in several areas and embraced what did work. She dove headfirst into love love love. Last week, she did a Facebook Live chat about her book "Big Magic." I happened to be online at the same time. I asked her a question:
How do you choose happiness when you've lost your happy? Do you still believe in happiness when you've felt loss?
Here is what she responded:
Well, I must have ‘cause I stayed. I was actually thinking about this the other day. I was looking-I was with a friend who was packing up her house. We were reading her old journals. She’s really happy. I think of her as a really happy person. She was just reading through those journals that we have all had in various times of our life and she was saying “Happinness is a treasure that apparently will be eluding me for my entire life.” Apparently I am not going to be receiving that. Apparently it’s not for me and I said to her “But you must not have believed that because you’re still here. You stayed. Why did you stay? You could have left. People leave. You know? Why did you stay? Because something in you, some stubborn deep deep rooted kind of beyond reality sense of yourself was like “unh, unh.’ This is the suck that I am in right now but this cannot be how it is always going to be. You don’t know how you’re going to get from where you are to where you need to be but there is something in you that must believe that because you are still here. Otherwise there would be no reason to say.
I think that Rob Bell puts it really well, my friend Rob Bell says, his definition of despair is “The mistaken idea that tomorrow is going to be exactly the same as today." When you start to believe that, that is when you fall into despair. When you start to think none of this is ever going to change that tomorrow I’m going to wake up it’s going to be just like this and a month from now it’s going to be just like this and ten years from now it’s going to just like this when all evidence, literally every single molecule of evidence in the universe points to the fact that everything is changing constantly. There is no such thing as tomorrow is going to be the same as today. It doesn’t exist. You’re not going to be exactly the same as today. Five years from now every single cell in your body will be replaced by different cells. You’ll be a totally new organism. The seasons change, the thing’s turning, the whole thing is churning. If you can sort of tap into this idea of paying attention to change and seeing how it’s happening all around you and being willing to take the risk to step into the river of change that’s the only thing that will take you out of despair.
So, how did I believe it when I was in the suck? I both did and did not believe that my life was going to get better but the part of me that did believe believe it, believed I guess a little harder than the part of me that was certain that tomorrow was going to be exactly the same as today. So, I would say that you somehow shake that myth. It’s not true. It simply is not true. Look outside. The wind is blowing. Leaves are moving. Everything is moving. This moment is over now. Boom. There is another one and with every new moment comes the possibility of change if you are willing to participate in it.
Elizabeth Gilbert on Twitter and Facebook.
We got back to the dorm, some of us with our boyfriend's blazers around our shoulders. I was with my favorite girls trying as hard as we could to speak (OK, giggle) softly as we stood in front of the building talking about the night before. We didn't want to go in, afraid then the magic of the night would end. It was at that moment that a car pulled up and in it were the boys, our boys, who drove up and handed us hot cups of Dunkin Donuts coffee and a bag of blueberry muffins. They thought before we went to bed that we would want a snack. And on the front steps of Sullivan House on that Sunday morning, we sipped coffee, waved the boys goodbye and pulled the blazers close around our shoulders. Sometimes now, when I inhale the scent of coffee, I think of that moment, that blissful moment. It makes me happy.
So many moments in our lives involve coffee. When we want to see friends, we say "Let's meet for coffee" not "Let's meet for juice." We sit around the kitchen table sipping coffee on a Sunday morning. We meet at the coffee bar at work, we sip coffee in the car. A Starbucks cup is practically a given on a morning commute whether it's via car, train or a walk. While I love swinging by Dunkin Donuts (when I'm on the east coast) for a small Coffee Regular (that's Dunkin Donuts speak for a coffee with cream and sugar), when I'm home, I love our Nespresso machine. Ever since Nespresso came out with their first espresso machine we have used their products in our home and in the studio.
While L. prefers a tiny mighty cup of espresso, I like sipping my coffee slowly. What I love about the Nespresso VertuoLine (seen above) is that the taste is always perfectly the same thanks to the high tech system known as Revolutionary Centrifusion technology which recognizes each capsule via the individualized barcodes. Whether you place a recyclable aluminum espresso or traditional coffee pod in the machine, your drink is precise and impeccable. There are a multitude of flavors to chose from (including decaf, vanilla and hazelnut) for both espresso and coffee drinkers. L 's favorite is the Altisso espresso while I like the Caramelizio coffee. With both the espresso and the coffee, you get that delicious layer of crema that you see above. (Crema is not cream. It is often referred to as the "Guiness effect," the layer of foam that settles on top of a great glass of beer.) Pods typically range from $.80 to $1.10 which is more expensive than the Keurig. There is a high capacity water tank and the machine heats up in less than 20 seconds.
I do love this machine. It's tried and true. However, there are a couple of negatives. While you can buy hundreds of various coffee, tea and cocoa Keurig K cups in the grocery store, Nespresso only sells their coffee and espresso capsules on their website and in their Nespresso shops (including the Nespresso shops in select Macy's). I have also found that the coffee isn't as hot as I would like it. (It's perfectly hot if you drink it black but add creamer and it's just warm.) When I asked the Nespresso representative about this, I was told that in Europe they don't prefer to drink their coffee as Americans so the settings are a couple of degrees cooler than you would expect. Neither of these issues are dealbreakers, however.
The Nespresso VeruoLine is a happy way to start your day ($249).
The text simply said "This wasn't how I pictured my life."
It was from a friend who is having a hard time in his life, with his wife, his job . . . I listened to him talk and my heart felt for him. He didn't recognize his life, he said. He pictured himself with a wife and a family and yet, he was alone. She left him. I imagined him sitting at his desk late on a Friday night because he didn't want to go home to an empty house.
He was scared. I listened and if there was one thing I wanted him to know was that after loss, things do have a way of working themselves out. The baby that was lost during a pregnancy will always be a tragic loss but someday there will someone or something else that will bring joy. Not the exact same joy, but joy nonetheless. There may be a divorce or a job separation or an period in life where you never imagined would be your life but I can tell you from experience that you get through it. When I went through the dark (dark dark dark dark) period that was the impetus for this blog, I wold never have believed that this was my life. I didn't think I could make it. The thing is, though, that you power through.
When I went through the perfect storm of losses in 2009, I was depressed and lost and scared that this was my life forever. It felt like being in a blizzard at night, walking, bundled up, my head bowed with my face pelted by the biting cold, freezing snow. I imagined having to make an effort to pick up each boot as I tried making my way through snowdrifts. I couldn't see ahead of me in the swirling snow. It seemed never ending. I couldn't keep going. And then there he was. My husband reached out his gloved hand and together we trudged through the snow until we made it home and later in front of a fire, curled up together, with his arms around me, I knew it would be OK. I didn't know exactly how it would get better, but I knew that I was once happy and that this period wouldn't last forever. If there is just one person (even if that's just you) who believes in you, it will get better. It won't be the exact same happy, but you will be happy again.
On Friday night, I listened. I listened to my friend talk about what he hated about his life, what happened with his wife, what they would have named their kids, where they would have taken them on vacation. I listened until he had nothing left to say. It's what he needed. Just someone to listen. Then, softly I said "It's not over, buttercup. Maybe you won't stay with her, maybe you guys will find your path. Maybe you'll have kids with her or maybe you won't. What's happening right now, though, is how you get to your happy. You won't be able to get there without this part. Focus on what you do have. Focus on this moment right now. I promise you that this isn't the end. The book keeps going, you know. This is just a chapter. The bad chapter but it's still the chapter you have to get through to see what happens next."
The bad stuff that happens in your life builds character. It allows you to change and get rid of the things that no longer serve you or bring you joy. Patience, my friend. Like they say, it's all OK in the end. If it's not OK, it's not the end. You'll get your happy back. I promise.
I waas out walking the dog when I saw it. A glittery purple stone nestled into the rocks. It hadn't been there the day before. I know because I walk this route every day and a glittery purple rock isn't something you miss. Part of me wanted to pick it up, take it home and put it on my desk but then I realized that no one would else would have this moment, this moment of looking at a glittery purple rock and smiling. I liked the idea of someone decorating this simple grey stone and placing it amidst other rocks for their child to find on their way home from school. Or maybe it was a child who made it and wanted to find the perfect home for it, with others like it but not exactly like it.
When I saw this stone I thought of the fact that sometimes we all feel like that glittery rock. We have moments when we feel good about ourselves. Our pants fit loosely, we're eating healthy, our skin glows, work is going great, our relationships are happy and we just know that we at our best. Maybe it's just a fleeting moment that we are filled with confidence. Maybe it's a day or maybe you are just one of those people who are perpetual rock stars. You have confidence for days. You lucky soul, you.
It's funny, though, when you feel like this, you often don't want to shine too brightly. Others may have said "Who do you think you are? You're not all it." Don't mind them. Maybe they haven't felt like a rock star in awhile. They forgot what it feels like to glow, to know that you are having your best day. If you're having that day where you feel like all is right in your world, congratulations. Be proud. Own it. Whether you've made significant changes in your life to bring about this confidence or you finally just realized how amazing you are, hold onto that feeling. Let it be contagious. Don't be afraid to tell others how amazing they are. Sharing that feeling makes your light bright. It won't dim it. Really.
Yesterday, I laced up my running shoes and headed out into the sunshine with the dog. When I got to the spot with the glittery, purple rock, it wasn't there. It had moved on. It's OK, though. I know it exists and that's enough.
Last night, I was curled up in front of the fire, watching TV with big tears rolling down my cheeks. L. walked in and paused, his brow furrowing. "What's going on? Is she OK" he said, looking over at Emma, our dog who was tucked into my side, oblivious, sleeping soundly through my heaving cries.
"She's fine. She's snoring," I said. "It's this." I pointed to the television. The end credits for "This is Us" were rolling. This pilot episode, which had just finished airing, was one of the most anticipated new series of the fall and it was over. I may have been crying because I was so happy that it was as good (better) than I had hoped. Maybe it was because the twist ending I had heard about was brilliant and touching and I didn't see it coming. Whatever the reason, I hit restart on the remote and watched it again. I've never done this before, watched the same episode back to back but it was so cleverly written that I had to watch it again just to soak it all in. Kudos to creator/writer, Dan Fogelman.
In case you missed it, this emotionally fulfilling series, perfectly, brilliantly, beautifully written and cast, is about people who share the same birthday. Unless you saw the show last night, that's all that I can say. That's all I want to say. Just watch it followed by this digital episode of the cast talking about the reveal and why they chose to make this series. While I'm excited about other new series premiering ("The Good Place"), "This is Us" was the "thing" that has been missing from television (especially after the final episode of "Parenthood" aired in January 2015. "This is Us" airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET/PT on NBC. I can't wait for next week. I'll have the Kleenex ready.
When is your favorite (or anticipated new favorite) series debuting this fall? Check out this calendar of series premiere dates on TVLine.com.
Here's what's debuting the rest of this week:
I love my sister-in-law, Sue. For many reasons. She reminds me a lot of my husband (her brother, L.) She's an incredible mom, friend, sister and educator. And she turned me on to this Asian-inspired noodle salad. She made this for one of her infamous parties. It's one of those foods at a buffet that you try and think "Oh, right. Excuse me, while I load up on this salad before everyone else discovers this and it's gone." I was hooked. It's a cool, perfect balance of crisp vegetables, al dente noodles and creamy/salty peanut butter with a kick of heat.
This weekend, I was craving this salad. The weather here in Seattle has been uneven (rainy/sunny/cool/warm all in one day) and while I don't want hot comfort food yet, I don't have that same love for cold lettuce-based salads as I did this summer. After a quick trip to the market, I tossed this together in a few minutes and let it cool while I started taking in the summer decorations from the deck. By the time I was finished packing everything away and had showered, the flavors in this salad were perfectly melded. I served this for dinner last night with a simple sparkling water with lime and L. loved it as much as I did.
This is a great salad for taking to lunch or for buffets. It makes a large amount and stores well in the fridge. You can also add your favorite ingredients to the recipe. I added shredded chicken but this can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the meat or adding tofu. I like the the simple taste of orange (or red) bell peppers with carrots and green onions but you can also add broccoli, snow peas or whatever vegetables make you happy.
The Happygirl Guide to Spicy Asian Peanut Butter Noodle Salad
by Taylor Johnson, The Happygirl September-19-2016
This Asian-inspired cool, spicy noodle salad is a perfectly balanced mix of crisp vegetables, al dente noodles, protein (chicken, pork or tofu) in a spicy, creamy peanut butter dressing with a hint of refreshing lime. This is great cooled after several hours but even better the next day for lunch.
- 1 16 ounces (1 box) cooked spaghetti (regular or whole wheat)
- 1 large red or orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 3 stalks of green onion
- 3/4 cup shredded carrots
- 6 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 6 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- juice from one lime
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
- to your taste optional: Cooked shredded chicken, pork or tofu
In large bowl add cooked noodles, pepper, carrots, green onion. Add protein (cooked chicken, pork or tofu.) Set aside.In another bowl, combine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, peanut butter, cayenne pepper, lime juice, water, sugar and ginger. Whisk until smooth. Pour over noodle mixture. Toss to incorporate sauce and noodles.Refrigerate for 3 hours until cold. When serving, sprinkle with chopped peanuts.For a quicker assembly, buy pre-cooked protein and chopped vegetables.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 dinner-sized servings
I am not proud to say this. About a year and a half ago I had a conversation that left me feeling dirty. I had met a friend for dinner and I realized that throughout the dinner, through the margaritas and the chips and salsa and fish tacos we had talked about other people, some our friends. We didn't do it intentionally or to be malicious. I think, in fact, we thought we were helping in some weird way by working out their issues or maybe we were trying to make ourselves feel better by talking about how screwed up other people's lives were. But these were people we were talking about and I felt like I had betrayed trust placed in me, even if they never heard our discussions.
That night I felt disgusted. I wondered "If I'm talking with a friend about another friend, then they will probably do the same thing about me." I decided at that moment that I wanted to be the kind of person who could be trusted. I didn't want to wonder if someone overheard my conversation or if God forbid, what I said got back to someone. This wasn't the person I wanted to be.
It happened organically. I simply didn't bring up other people in conversation and if someone else did, I would say something like "I honestly don't know" and let the subject dissolve. It wasn't easy at first which made me realize how much we do talk about other people. What amazes me is how much my relationships shifted immediately, in a positive way. Once you stop filling a conversation with other people, you actually learn something about someone else, about what they like, about where they've been and where they want to do. You talk about the world and all that there is to do and see and be and play. You also build trust with those around you, whether it's a family member, friend or colleague. This is key to long-lasting, deep, fulfilling relationships.
In trying to get my happy back. I realized that you can't control everything that happens in your world but you can control what comes out of your mouth. I want the people in my world to know that your name is sacred in my mouth. I will protect your name and speak of you only with the best of intentions, because that is what a happy girl does. You have my word.
Visitors to our loft space always notice two things: our area is bathed in shades of the ocean and there are always candles burning. My favorites right now include Jo Malone London Orange Blossom for the day and Kringle Candle Grey for evenings and entertaining. We also like decorating with glassybaby votives (the one in the photo above left is a color called Mother Earth.)
This week, glassybaby released their first scented tealight. The scent wasn't listed on the website but here in the Seattle area, we have four locations and one was right by a restaurant where I had a breakfast meeting this morning. I stopped by the Bellevue store and picked one up. Back at home, lighting the candle, it took just a few minutes for the air to infuse with the scent of jasmine, gardenia, tuberose and vanilla. It wasn't cloying. In fact, it was light and it reminded me of the perfume I wear, Kai, a creamy gardenia scent with green notes.
At $10, it's expensive for a large tealight or small votive. The package states not to burn the candle for more than 1-2 hours at a time and I can see why. The candle, a soy blend melts easily and would not be ideal as a candle you would want burning on your coffee table all night long. This is one that I would light in the studio in the morning as I enjoy an iced coffee. Even now, with candle extinguishes, on this rainy, damp, grey Seattle day, the tropical scent of happiness lingers in the air.
The glassybaby scented tealight is a treat, perfect for someone who like the scent of creamy white tropical flowers.
Yesterday, I was out in the front yard, wondering what to do about the lawn. A little 5 year-old boy (new to our neighborhood, I've never met him) rode his bike up our driveway, placed his bike down, walked up to me and said "Hello, how was your day today?"
I said "Hello, it was very nice. Thank you. How was your day?"
"Very good. I start kindergarten in two days. I met Mr. Miller my new teacher. He is very nice."
He told me his name was Ben. He asked me my name and he had more questions.
Ben: "I see you every day walking your dog. Where is it?"
Me: "She is inside napping. She just had a bath."
Ben: "How many babies do you have?"
Me: "None, at the moment."
Ben: "Do you know my mom?"
Me: "I do. I like her very much." (I've met her on my walks)
Ben: "Have you ever had tater tots and meatballs? Do you like them?"
Me: "I like tater tots but I don't eat meat.
Ben asks why. I want to tell him that I don't eat animals but I don't want to undo any work his parents have done so I simply say "I don't like meat." He doesn't get that. He loves meat. "It's too bad," he says, "You're missing out."
Ben: "Where is your husband?"
Me: "He's inside."
Ben: "Can I come see you tomorrow?"
Me: "Well, I will be working but maybe. I don't have any toys though."
Ben: "I don't need toys. You're here and you have a dog.
That was it. He got back on his bike, waved and said "See you tomorrow, Taylor!" as he sailed away down the street and out of sight.
I realized I just had a life lesson from a five year-old boy. Here is what I learned from Ben:
There are just a few things to be concerned with in this life. As he asked his questions, Ben thoughtfully nodded to every answer I gave. According to Ben what he needed to know, what was important to him was this:
Was I happy? (How was your day today?)
Do I have people who I love and who love me? (Where is your dog, husband, babies?)
Food (Do you like tater tots and meatballs?)
Future happiness (I met Mr. Miller, my new kindergarten teacher, Can I come see you tomorrow?)
What Ben didn't realize in his sweet innocence was that he was proving Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs that drives every human being.
1. Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.
5. Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
It was such a sweet conversation with a little boy but what left an impression on my heart was that Ben wasn't just concerned about himself. His first question was about my day. Was I happy? I thought about this. What if instead of being so focused on ourselves,we turned our thoughts outward? Do the people around us have affection, food, safety, stability? If not, what can we do to help them achieve what's lacking? Maybe it's a handwritten note with the simple words "You've got this!" or a gift card to a market anonymously left for them or maybe it's simply putting your cel phone down and giving a family member, friend or colleague your complete attention when someone is feeling down or insecure. What if someone else's needs were as important to us as our own?
As I watched Ben pedal away from me, I smiled and turned to go inside towards L and our dog. Nothing was more important to me than asking them "And how was your day today?"
Not too long ago, when I was a new(ish) friend, we were laughing so hard that I couldn't keep my eyes open and I could barely breathe, I thought "I wish I had met you when we were kids. It would have been fun growing up together." That's when you know you've met a true friend. When was the last time you felt this way about someone?
Posted On Friday, September 02, 2016
I love toddlers. They have zero cares about the way they look. Their confidence levels are in the stratospheric range. So, when I saw this video of toddlers leading James Corden and Gwyneth Paltrow in a dance class, I laughed harder than I have all week.
May your weekend be as happy as a toddler with an open space and a favorite song.
My phone vibrated and even before I looked at the screen, I had a bad feeling. I took a deep breath and answered. It was my uncle letting me know that the matriarch of our family, his bride of 60+ years had died. He sounded defeated, small. I was standing in the produce aisle holding an avocado as the tears rolled down my cheeks. I asked if he was with his kids and he said yes, he was good. It was agonizing to learn that the funeral was the next day. It would be impossible to fly to Pennsylvania from Seattle in time for the service. I sent my love and reluctantly, sadly hung up. I checked out, drove home and sat at my desk with L, going over flights. There was no way I could make it home to the east coast in time.
The next morning I said a prayer for Aunt J and her family and I wondered how I could best express my sorrow/gratitude for having had such a remarkable woman in our family. While I would typically make a meal or bring flowers over to a bereaved friend, this instance left me befuddled. At 90, my uncle didn't need flowers. A mass card would be for Aunt J's soul, not for my uncle. What could I send that would extend our condolences? I decided to ask my friends.
God bless them. Here are their suggestions:
- A memory lamp
- Gift cards to a local favorite restaurant
- Photos of us (Aunt J, Uncle R and I) that I could frame along with a note of a favorite memory
- A glassybaby in a color to remember the deceased or in a color called Remember
- A month's worth of notes mailed each day for 30 days
- A story or poem about their love for each other
- A memory tree
I loved all of these ideas. I especially liked the restaurant gift card idea. As my friend Carin said "Eating alone stinks and this way, even if he's alone, he may bump into someone he knows." I remember when my grandfather died, the last thing my grandmother wanted to do was cook. Even if the bereaved isn't up to actually dining out alone yet, he or she can still order take out and have a warm meal.
The most important thing is to do something, even a simple card. If you don't know the deceased well, in a case where you may only know the bereaved, a card sent to their home a week or so after their loss can mean the world. If you don't know what to say, here are some sentiments that can help get your support across.
"Wherever you are you will always be in my heart." - Gandhi
"May God comfort your grieving heart."
"Hold onto the love, not the loss."
If it is the loss of a baby, this phrase is beautiful. (It provided immense comfort to me when I lost my baby.)
"How very quietly you tiptoed into our world, silently, only a moment you stayed. But oh, what an imprint your footprints have left upon our hearts."
And for the loss of a pet:
"Grieve not. nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk of me as if I were still beside you. I loved you so. . .
Twas heaven here with you."
Grief is a terrible thing. The only thing that helps alleviate it, even for a moment, is knowing that you have support around you. As I wrote this, I think of Uncle R and how his life has become something he doesn't know. I pray that he is surrounded with people who love him and who can make him laugh with the stories of Aunt J. That is what matters, isn't it? The memory of the love that stays until we embrace again.
This morning, my mind knew that I was starting a new healthy eating program but still I opened the fridge and reached for the fake coconut creamer, the kind that is all full of fat, sugar and oil. It is my downfall. It is my weakness. I know that if I start the day with this favorite creamer in my coffee, that I'm then set up for failure. The sugar/fat combo hits my system and I just crave more of it throughout the day. The creamer leads to a muffin which leads to mac & cheese which leads to a hit to my self-confidence and my health. From the success I've had in the past, I know that if I resist this temptation, I can resist almost every other temptation during the day and each time I resist, I feel stronger which helps me to resist other tempting things.
It's 10:09am and so far, I feel good about the day. I poured the fake creamer and all its delicious fakeness down the drain. I resisted temptation #1 and I feel strong and committed about the rest of the day.
I hope that whatever your temptation is (a cigarette, texting in the car, an ex, a donut. . .) that with every instance of rejecting that temptation, that you build on that self-confidence knowing that you are becoming the best possible you.
I believe in you!
Posted On Monday, August 29, 2016
I was having breakfast with one of my best friends last week. She couldn't decide what she wanted to order. Her brow was furrowed as she stared at the menu. I asked her what was wrong. She said "I have my period. I hate myself. I feel ugly. I want to order everything on this menu but I feel like people would judge me." I laughed because she was right. It would be lovely if when you have your period, someone would deliver your favorite comfort foods with a note attached saying "You can do this! You're pretty! You're strong! Here, have some potato chips slathered in chocolate!"
Later as I was driving home, I thought "What if a little comfort was yours every time you opened a feminine product?" Right there on the pad or tampon, in big letters were words of encouragement. I love that idea.
If this is your special time of the month / aunt Flo is visiting / your bill came due, may you know just how strong and beautiful and kind you are. And order the blueberry pancakes. They work magic.
Yesterday when I was ironing a shirt, I had the faintest whiff of that hot t-shirt shop smell. I was taken back to that scent that oozed out of boardwalk t-shirt shops when I was a kid. I loved that cloying, almost burnt scent when the cute teen boy a couple of years older than you, wearing a Locals Do It Best t-shirt would hold down the handle of the t-shirt press and you knew that in just two minutes, your new pink cap-sleeved t-shirt featuring a glittery rainbow over a beach would be yours to treasure forever. I would inhale that hot fresh chemical decal-on-a-t-shirt smell and be ridiculously happy. That scent is part of my history, and it must be important to me because even the faintest hint of it makes me smile.
I thought of how powerful our scent memory is and researched why exactly certain smells elicit such strong responses. Scientists at Brown University discovered a strong tie between autobiographical memory and smell at the neural level. In short, specific smells create vivid emotional memories. For example, smelling the perfume your mother wore when you were little elicits a much different response than simply saying the name, Jean Nate. (Learn more here.)
What scents make you happy? What reminds you of those summer when you were carefree and ran around with as little clothes as possible? Here are my top ten scents that bring me right back to childhood and those lazy, wonderful, innocent days of happy.
Posted On Monday, August 08, 2016
When I start to feel myself getting in a bad mood, one thing to get me out of the funk is to watch a happy video. This one, of news anchors laughing, is one of my favorites. The Today Show anchor at 23 seconds in is my favorite. His reaction to Grumpy Cat is everything.
This morning I thought back to some of the moments in my life when I was too afraid to stand up for myself, too afraid to hurt someone's feelings, too timid to say "This is unacceptable. Your behavior is hurting me" so I let it go and I let it stew. I carried this anger and this sense of hurt in my heart and thought about it over and over. I always ended up thinking of things I should have said but didn't. I was afraid that I wouldn't be liked if I asked for more, if I asked to be treated properly.
Maybe it's growing older but I realize now that it's OK to ask for more. It can be something as simple as not getting what you ordered but eating it because you didn't want to make a scene. Or maybe something more. Maybe a friend is perpetually late or always on their phone when you're together. Maybe you've always hated a derogatory nickname that you're family has always called you. (I know someone whose family calls her LFG pronounced ell-eff-gee as in one word. It stands for Little Fat Girl. She was a big baby. She's never told her family how much she cringes inside and how it hurts her because she doesn't want to hurt their feelings.)
Maybe at work you take on all the jobs people dump on you because you feel like if you say something that your colleagues or your boss will be angry with you or won't like you if you don't take on all the things that they don't want to do. Its easier to just do it and be pissed off inside. That way you don't seem pushy or bitchy.
Here's the thing: they dump on you, they call you nicknames you hate, they ignore you to see what's happening on their phone because you let them. You tolerate their ugly behavior and there is no incentive for them to stop.
It's OK to ask for the entree you actually ordered. It's OK to say "When you're with me, I need you to be present and not checking your phone all the time. It makes me feel like I'm not good enough." It's OK to say "You know, I am slammed with work too. I'm sorry I can't take that on today." It's OK to say "I know you say it with love, but please don't call me that nickname. It makes me feel embarrassed."
I believe people mean well. They don't intentionally want to hurt you. They just can't read your mind. They don't know that what they are doing hurts you. Fill them in. Do it with grace, with the expectation that this behavior will change. If it doesn't? Keep reinforcing it. Again and again. If their behavior still hurts you, then change your reaction. If your friend is perpetually late and it bothers you, don't make any more dates until she gets the point. If your family or friends still call you a nickname you hate or constantly bring up one of your faults or your Achilles heel, don't respond to them. They will learn that if you are going to be in their lives, then they need to up their game and treat you with the level of respect that you have asked for.
In turn, remember, you have to do the same. Is there a behavior that you are doing that hurts someone else? Do you laugh it off because it seems silly? It may seem silly to you but to the person you are hurting, it's everything.
Posted On Tuesday, July 26, 2016
When I was in grammar school, summers were idyllic. I would wake up, throw on my little red swimsuit, a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, my Keds, grab some cereal and head outside on my bike with a dollar in my pocket. We didn't have cel phones to reach out to each other but there must have been something in the air in that little town in Massachusetts. A pack of little girls all suddenly appeared outside on our bikes. After a morning of riding, hitting the children's library and exploring, we'd stop by the ravine and pick and eat blueberries until our lips were purple. Inevitably we would end up at someone's house just in time for lunch and an afternoon of swimming.
A few of my friends had pools and their moms were home. (My mom was a nurse who worked twelve hour shifts. I think now that it must have been such a relief to my mom that I was spending my days outside and supervised by a mom who would sit by the pool with us drinking Tab and reading a romance novel.) My friend's mom would make the pack of us Fluffernutters (it's a Massachusetts thing) or bologna or PB&J's with Rice Crispie or Cap'n Crunch Bars for dessert.
Sitting with my friends in the summer sun with our legs dangling in the pool as we ate homemade marshmallowy cereal bars is one of my all time favorite summer memories. Just the smell of chlorine or Cap'n Crunch makes me remember. So, when I was in the market last week and discovered limited edition Cap'n Crunch Orange Cream Pop, I knew exactly what I would make.
Orange Creamsicle is my favorite flavor of all time (our wedding cake was Creamsicle flavored!) and I thought this flavor would elevate this classic cereal/marshmallow dessert.
After making a batch and impatiently waiting for it to set and cool, I sat outside in the sun and I savored this orange vanilla treat. I closed my eyes and I was back there, with the sun on my shoulders, giggling with my girls and licking marshmallow off my fingers before diving in for an afternoon of Marco Polo.
Happy Summer Food: Creamsicle Cap'n Crunch Bars
by Taylor Johnson July-21-2016
The classic treat with an orange vanilla flavor
- 1 box Cap'n Crunch Orange Cream Pop Cereal
- 1 16-ounce bag marshmallows
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
- optional: 1 bag white chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons optional: orange sugar crystals
Line a 13 x 9 casserole with parchment paper. (You can also grease the pan instead. However, using parchment paper, makes it easier to remove the bars as a whole and slice them on a cutting board.) Set aside. Add cereal to a large bowl and set aside.In a large non-stick pot, add marshmallows and butter, cooking on medium, stirring frequently. Once the marshmallows and butter have cooked down to a smooth consistency, add vanilla and orange extracts. Pour the marshmallow mixture over the cereal and mix. This is VERY sticky so coat a large spoon with non-stick spray or use your hands to mix, taking care not to crush the cereal.Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your hands and pat the cereal mixture down until it is packed firmly and evenly. Optional: melt white chocolate chips in double boiler and spoon over cereal bars followed by a sprinkling of orange sugar crystals. Cool in fridge for at least 2 hours. Remove from fridge, slice and enjoy on a sunny day. If this limited edition flavor is off the shelves when you want to make these, use regular Cap'n Crunch but increase vanilla to 1 tablespoon and orange extract to 1 teaspoon.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 16 bars
The first time I watched this video of a father and his daughter singing. I smiled through the whole thing. It's an innocent, sweet snapshot into a moment which I imagine was taken just before bedtime.
Whenever I need to to get out of a bad or sad mood, this is one of the videos I turn to. It's impossible to be sad when you see the connection between these two.
May your Monday be an easy one.
Whenever I need to to get out of a bad or sad mood, this is one of the videos I turn to. It's impossible to be sad when you see the connection between these two.
May your Monday be an easy one.
Last week, some good friends from Massachusetts came to visit us in Seattle. It was an unusually perfectly sunny week of exploring in Washington with two of my favorite people but some of my best memories of the week were when we were home, just drinking cocktails on the deck or laughing and talking in the kitchen cooking and enjoying meals together.
On one early, beautiful morning, just as the sun was coming up, it was just the dog and I in the kitchen. It was that quiet time before everyone padded downstairs for coffee and breakfast. I was trying to decide what to make for breakfast. Recently, I had spent an afternoon dog-earring recipes to try in Chrissy Teigen's book "Cravings," including her French Toast Casserole with Salted Frosted Flakes. I didn't have all of the ingredients in the pantry but I used this recipe as a springboard. It's an easy recipe that works when you have a crowd of people to feed and you don't want to be standing over a stove. As we talked and drank coffee, I prepared the breakfast. Soon, the house was filled with the cozy scent of baking french toast. It was the start of another perfect day together.
Baked French Toast
by Taylor Johnson July-8-2016
A french toast casserole that's easily adaptable (inspired by Chrissy Teigen's French Toast Casserole)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large Challah or French bread cut in 2 inch cubes
- 8 eggs
- 3 cups half and half
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- optional: 2 cups fruit (i.e. sliced peaches, cheery pie filling)
- optional:1/4 cup toasted coconut bits
Preheat oven to 350.Butter a 9 by 13 baking dish and arrange the cubed bread in the dish. It's OK to fit the cubes in tightly. In a bowl, whisk eggs, half and half, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Pour wet ingredients over the cubed bread, being sure to soak all of the bread. Using your hands or the back of a spatula, press the bread down to ensure the liquid is being absorbed into the bread. Place in refrigerator until oven is ready. Before placing casserole in oven, add fruit to the top of the french toast. You can use sliced, peeled peaches, blackberries, blueberries or no fruit at all. I used Trader Joe's Cherry Pie Filling, dolloping several tablespoons at a time over the entire casserole. I also added toasted coconut bits for crunch.Place dish in oven uncovered and bake for 1 hour. The casserole will puff up and become golden.Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve immediately. If you have leftovers, lucky you. This casserole is just as delicious the next day (or at 2am when a snack attack happens).
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings