Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Where is home?

When people ask me "where are you from?" I never know what to say. I was born in Brooklyn, New York. But when I was a baby my father's job was relocated to Columbus, Ohio. That is where I grew up, essentially. But then again, my teenage years were spent in Nowhere, Indiana, because when I was 13, we were uprooted once again. Though I never wanted and never liked Indiana, I never loathed my father for moving us there.  (Well, ok, maybe I did when it first occurred, I *was* 13.) He was just providing the best he could for his family. Ever since the first day I set foot in Indiana, I hated it. I didn't want to be there, I didn't want to leave my friends. I was already enough of an oddball in Ohio. Growing up in the Midwest with New York-state-of-mind parents gave me enough of a moral dilemma on how to act on a daily basis. From the very start, I was a typical Type-A, hurried, impatient New Yorker. That, mixed with a firey attitude and a roller coaster of an emotional personality, I definitely stood out among the slower, calmer Midwest mindset. I knew from a very early age that the lack of sense of urgency around me really bothered me. 

Once I was old enough and able to flee the confines of Smalltown, USA (aka, Indiana) I decided to do all I could to move to Chicago. It's not New York, which I ultimately want someday. But it's a large city, and it's close to my parents and my young brother, which I wasn't too sure I was ready to be farther from than driving distance yet. 

Though Chicago is the third largest city in the US, (and a beautiful one, at that) she's still in the Midwest, and most people here aren't originally from the city. That lack of urgency still lingers. I find myself riding public transit and walking through crowds with the mindset of an angry New Yorker, getting annoyed at slow walkers and rolling my eyes every time the el doors open and no one rushes to go inside. (They actually wait for people to get out first before boarding here!) 

Multiple solo trips to The City in more recent years make it clear that New York is home. I want Brooklyn, I want The City. For a few reasons, it's a little far from reach at the moment. But I love the feeling knowing that home is waiting for me, no matter how long it takes to get there.

Monday, April 22, 2013


For almost a year now, I've considered getting a cat. I have a hard time deciding what to eat for dinner, let alone major life-changing events. I really wanted to make sure I was ready for such a change. To let you in on why a little fuzzy cuddle machine would make such a difference in my life, here's a short list of things that would pop into my brain while deciding:

Litter box location. I refuse to be that person who has people over who immediately want to die because of cat smell. 

Longevity. My family's little 8-pound fur pot lived until she was 18 years old. If I get a cat that's 5 years old now, I'll be in my forties when it's that old. FORTIES. 

Moving. What if I move? Looking for pet-friendly apartments will narrow my search.

I go to work and the gym. I have a pretty regular work and work-out schedule. But being in a home is better than a tiny cage in a shelter, right?

Cost. What if it develops some food allergy and has to have the most expensive food and monthly vet visits and shots and medicine? Of all the people to raise a diva cat, it would be me. 

I don't want to adopt a cat then have to give it up again in a year because I realize too late that I can't take care of it. All my doubts, though, seem to fill my head just because I want to be the best "mom" to this innocent creature that I can be. And of all the doubt in my mind, the one thing I've never doubted was my ability to be a good mom someday. So while I'm in no position to have kids now, I can definitely mother a four-legged fuzz bag. 

Cut to last weekend, April 12th, when a coworker took me to Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society. I walked past a cage and was greeted with green eyes, grey fur, and a high-pitched meow. There he was, all 15 pounds. After a short play time outside of the small cage, I went home without adopting. My house wasn't ready yet. I didn't have all my supplies. I had planned on visiting other shelters the next day, but my mission was clear: give the giant grey kitty a loving home, outside of the noisy shelter. Hours later, after buying a variety of food, a littler box, food bowls, and a laser pointer, I drove downtown (Yes! I drove downtown.) back to the shelter to pick him up. 

I named him Walter. My grandfather's name is Walter. I just think that's a great name, and this lovely grey, regal cat is worthy of such a name. He is almost seven years old, declawed from previous owners, who had to get rid of him because they developed an allergy. (Or so said the paper on his cage at the shelter. I have yet to see this cat shed!)

He settled right in, takes naps on the furniture, eats regularly. One week later, we're growing to be pals. I see him trusting me more, and getting more comfortable. All my doubts are gone. 

For more photos, follow me on Twitter! @LaLaLauren

Monday, March 18, 2013

One-Week Challenge

Very often we get into daily habits, and we don't even realize our routines unless someone else points them out. I haven't lived at home for about seven years now. And, I haven't lived in the same city as my parents for about four and a half years. As a self-labeled health nut, when I go visit my parents, I notice little habits they've created for themselves through the years. They existed when I lived at home, but I wasn't aware of them until I was able to see things from an outside perspective. 

The longest standing habit that I noticed was my parent's consumption of soda. Growing up, we had soda at dinner. Dad and I always had regular, caffeine free. Mom always had diet. I stopped this routine in college, when I was on my own and able to develop my own eating habits. I chose water instead. I'm so glad I got away from this nasty little habit, especially with all the developing health buzz through the years about these sugary, artificial beverages. But, when I visit my family, they still have soda at dinner, and sometimes lunch. While their soda habit is actually pretty normal for the average American, I can't help but wonder how their health would be positively effected if they quit this sweet and bubbly daily fixation.

Added to the soda, we have coffee. I began to drink coffee occasionally in college. After I graduated and lived with my parents again for a short time, I enjoyed a Thermos of mom's coffee in the morning on the way to work. It was completely irresistible, especially on cold mornings. I love the smell of coffee, and she added a sprinkle of cinnamon to the grounds so the aroma was even more inviting. When I moved into an apartment by myself, I found it wasn't always easy to wake up early enough to make coffee for myself, and I eventually stopped the daily habit. After a few scary caffeine withdrawal headaches, I decided to keep coffee for "special treats" only. To this day, I try to keep the caffeine consumption to a minimum. Long story short, I get a more positive energy boost from a short walk near the agency windows (sunlight), a tall glass of water, and a piece of fruit.

My mother recently expressed interest in developing better eating habits. After a small happy dance, I started to think of easy ways she could incorporate more healthy choices to her daily life. (Ask LaLa for healthy habit advice and ye shall receive!) I thought it would be fun to challenge ourselves for one week. I thought of a challenge for her to do for seven days, and she thought of one for me. 

Thinking of my mother's caffeine routine, I wondered how she could do without it. I know she still brews that inviting cuppa every morning, yet I know she also has the diet soda at dinner, and sometimes an artificially sweetened latte or a diet soda at lunch. What if she only had her morning boost? My challenge to my mother was to quit the caff all day except for the morning. But rather than cut her off of cup completely, I gave her suggestions to replace these artificial beverages with something more clean and natural. 

My challenge to mumsie:

Stop the afternoon coffee and have a cup of herbal tea. My mom is used to sweetening her coffee with Splenda, and having diet soda, which is also sweet. Unsweetened tea can be a bit of a change for someone who is used to sweet beverages, so I limited her to one teaspoon of agave nectar. 

Afternoon and evening
Replace the lunch and dinnertime soda with lemon water. Room temp water with a hefty squeeze of lemon aids in healthy digestion while quenching thirst. In larger doses, caffeine can dehydrate your system by causing liquids to pass through your body more quickly. Also, the sweet taste of soda can make your body crave more sweet things later- diet soda or regular. A clean glass of water with lemon is just better for your insides than artificially colored and flavored carbonated beverages, sweetened with sugar or aspartame. 

Mumsie's challenge to me:
Edit your brother's senior photos, already! One photo per day. And, call your grandmother more often. 

My results:
Yes, I can do this! I knew I had a busy week, with events scheduled almost every night, (I'll get to more of this in my "reflections" section) so I decided to hit the ground running on Tuesday night and edit about eight of his photos. Cheating? Perhaps. But I got a lot done, more than just the photos my mom picked out that she liked. And the week after, I still edited more, because I wanted to. Sometimes I forget how much I love editing photos on my own, outside of work. I need to remember that just because my work day is done, my creativity is not. 

As far as calling grandma, I try to do that already, but I always think I could call her and my grandfather more. They are pretty amazing people and always seem to have a joke to crack or something nice to say, even if their week is filled up with doctor appointments. 

Mom's results:
(This is a direct quote from an email she sent me about the challenge.)
"I like not having soda all the time, it helps with the sweet cravings. I will continue to have it once in a while, but not as much as I did. As for my coffee...I can't say that I will continue to not have it in the afternoon but I can say that I will think 'tea' first if I want something. It's a rare day when I have more than 2 cups in the day." 

My reflections on both of us
As for my mother, and most every other person in the US with soda and/or coffee being a part of their daily lives, it is difficult for something so normal and comforting to be taken away. I was hoping this challenge would make her see that she doesn't "need" it, rather, she "wants" it. I think she partially understands that now, but it is a journey, for anyone, to change the way they view what they consume. One week is just a kick-starter. We have a long way to go.

As for me, oftentimes I come home from work, flop on the couch and wonder what I'll do for the rest of the night. I like to usually try and schedule things after work so I don't flop on the couch and stay there. My "challenge week" happened to be full of events, including spending time with a good friend who was visiting from out of town. It also included zumba and yoga, and the gym. (Regularly weekly scheduled post-work events are usually fitness or friends related!) Rather than cancel my plans with anyone or any class, I worked around them. I find that if I try to focus on one thing in my life, I get way too consumed with it, and forget about all the other things I was excited for in the first place. I managed to retouch more of my brother's photos than we originally planned on, as well as go to the gym and see my friend. So, as this was a rather small challenge for me overall, it really taught me a lesson on balance. Just because one big thing comes up doesn't mean I need to neglect all other things.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Nothing in this life is permanent.

A short post today, as a few things are on my mind lately. As always, let me know how you relate. Feel free to leave a comment here, or send me a tweet.


A good friend recently said some calming words in one of his podcast episodes. I won't get into the issue of which he was speaking because it isn't relevant to my topic for this post. But in context or out, it makes sense to me. 

"Nothing in this life is permanent."

As scary as that is to think about, I think he's right. Events happen to us every day which we do not expect. Also, if something in our lives isn't right, we can fix it. (It's just up to us to dig through the mound of excuses we tend to pile up.)

I've been thinking about how his statement applies to obstacles we face in life. 

A specific example I thought of is weight loss. If you want to lose weight, you have to live healthfully, completely. Don't dive in and focus on a number on a scale. Learn to live in a state of health first, and the results will follow. Weight is very much a state of mind as it is a shape. 

For another example, think of your job. How many of you go to work every day and don't enjoy it? Do you really need to continue to go there every day? What's stopping you from finding something you truly enjoy doing? 

And on a more "suddenly-in-the-moment" scale...sometimes we encounter things we never anticipated or prepared for- illness, layoffs, love. If we remember that nothing in life has to be permanent, we can change our day-to-day and accommodate new events, people, or situations. It's okay to change. It's okay to move things around a bit to invite new things into our lives. If we want something badly enough, we can make it happen.

(My photo above is a shot of Lake Michigan at Oak Street Beach from this past weekend, March 9th, 2013. The air is changing from Winter to Spring, and the lake is slowing going through nature's process of thawing out and becoming a "beach" again. Yep, it's watermarked. Stealing isn't nice.)