Monday, February 29, 2016

New Music Monday: Artists That Bring The Sexy

Over a year ago, I was obsessed with Banks! Her voice, her lyrics, and the sensualness of her album. Banks surfaced on the radio, but only for a split second or two. Once her music was played out (by me mostly), I was left wanting more of the same.

Last fall saw the birth of two very similar artists that bring the sexy:

Alina Baraz (EP: Urban Flora)
Cloves (Album: XIII)

Let's start with Alina's Urban Flora; this is one sexy EP. If you're looking for a steamy sound pick this up. Now, when I say "sexy" I don't mean sexy-time exclusive, but boy does it apply. Alina makes me want to enjoy a glass of wine by the fire with a good book or make love. It's just that type of sensual tone that could be enjoyed in individual calm or intimate chaos. Check out "Fantasy" or "Make You Feel" to get a taste of this album.

Clove's album is just as smooth, and like with Urban Flora, you're able to escape in the sensual soft of her deeply sentimental lyrics and beautiful melodies. Clove's is the kind of music that lightens your soul after a busy day of multitasking. "Frail Love" is my favorite song in the album and I actually discovered Cloves while listening to "Everybody's Son" in Starbucks. That's another good one from her recent album.

What new music have you discovered? 

Friday, February 26, 2016

More crazy and cute nail trends.

About a year ago I discovered gel manicures and my nail game has been on point ever since. But my nail fashion is pretty tame compared to some of trends I have seen. I mean I may add an accent color, or a dotted line across my ring finger nail. Over the years we have seen things like aquarium nails and sweater nails. I just can't with those.

There is a new trend hitting the nail salons that I just can't get with.

Furry Nails.

Yes nails with fur. Take a look...

That is some werewolf stuff!

There is another new trend that I CAN get behind. Pom-pom nails are a really cute new look you might be seeing. YES! Pom-Pom nails!

They are exactly what you think they are. Little, or big pom-poms glued onto your nails. They are so cute and could be a great way to make your nails more festive!

What do you think of these new nail trends? 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Relationship Ideals and a Bachelor Party

My husband left town today, but before he was up for his 5am Uber to the airport, he was up very late doing homework with our daughter, bathing three kids, washing our family's clothes, and organizing our home in general. At 11pm he was finally packing his bag for a dude's ski trip. In that process he ended up with two right hand gloves and a winter coat three sizes too big. It didn't matter. He packed what he had and did so with a smile. He also found a really cool and borderline scary ski mask to take on this trip. Score!

Per usual, my husband didn't take a moment out of his busy family and professional routine to think about winter clothes and the bone-chilling 10-degree weather in Denver. This doesn't make him selfless. It's just who he is. 

To me, this is ideal.

If you follow me on social media, you know I always boast about the greatness of my spouse while also adding the chronic caveat that he isn't perfect. It's like I want everyone to know I get it, he's human, of course he's not perfect. He's flawed. We all are. Then I think, but to me, he's everything I ever wanted and everything I deserve. He's my ideal man. 

What's your ideal?

I should now mention my husband's ski trip is also a bachelor party (mini vacation). So as he's packing, I asked about the adult entertainment portion of his weekend (of course he didn't type this out on the written agenda he diligently emailed me with flight schedules and such). We laughed together and talked about the bachelor party standard which includes a lap dance, or two, or more

To me, that too is ideal. 

Not the dancer(s) of course, but the easy and open conversation we have about everything and anything. I love that kind of love. Not everyone's take, but surely mine. I don't think twice about who my husband is when I am not around. That's the best anyone should hope for in a marriage. 

However, I remember a time in my life where my insecurities were so deep, I'd accept not discussing the obvious or fight against it. Then somewhere along the way I realized my worth, my marriage's worth, and something like stripper appearances during a bachelor party no longer sparks jealous or insecurity. Like with everything in our marriage we talk about strippers as we talk about $150+ lift tickets for an amazingly scenic snow board sesh in the Colorado mountains.

To me, that's ideal. He's ideal. I am enough for him while he is enough for me.  What's your relationship ideal? It's okay, you can answer.... No strippers!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Great Harper Lee

I don't remember what grade I was in when I was assigned the book "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, but I do remember the impression if left on me. For the first time a school book had me fascinated. I finished well before the deadline. I couldn't put it down.

This is an important book. This was the first book that most kids read with  storyline about racial inequality and injustice. Despite the fact that the book is from 1960 and the plot takes place in the 1930's, the story is still relevant today. Maybe even more so. I remember loving the voice of Scout and finding her to be a strong female character. She was smart and brave. Even Boo Radley didn't scare her. And her father Atticus was a true hero, fighting for justice and against racism while raising children who will make the world better.

Last week Harper Lee passed away at the age of 89. She published a second novel "Go Set a Watchmen"  in 2015. Even with only 2 books she has left a lasting legacy with one great novel.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” - Harper Lee

Friday, February 19, 2016

Zapping Your Kids Self-Esteem?

Some weeks ago I found myself nagging like crazy about the things my son was doing wrong. I could hear myself critiquing his every move. Of course, I took those critiques as correcting my son's negative behaviors.

While correcting our children is pretty standard, I suddenly wondered if it did more harm than good when it came to building my 9-year old's self-esteem? In those nagging moments, I realized it's all a balancing act. Like me, many parents fall prey to this habit of correcting and critiquing "bad" behaviors and forgetting to praise and recognize good ones. This can have devastating affects on a child's mindset as they begin to believe our judgements of them and think to themselves: "I am bad, I am wrong, I am not enough."

With this in mind, I began saying daily affirmations with my son. It's been a week and a 1/2 and I already see a big difference in his mood. I also started "catching" all the things he did right and making a verbal note of them. Now, this might seem like such an obvious concept, but I am sure parents forget to be intentional in their delivery, time and time again, finding themselves chronically judging negative behaviors instead of praising good ones.

For me, this is one of those clear areas where I adjust course as a parent when I feel my children are acting out more often. By building this positive self-talk habit my children are building up healthy self-esteem. 

At first, my son wasn't comfortable saying affirmations and that alone can be a sign of low self-esteem. He was almost embarrassed to praise himself. After a few days, the affirmations were his idea  and suddenly the acting out became less and less. One particular affirmation I love:

"I am enough, I am important, and I matter." 

This isn't to boost ego, but to remind them every voice has power and every person matters. At the same time, we always remind our children how imperfect we all are as humans and how OKAY that is. We remind them that love is unconditional and that the only opinion that matters is theirs.... so they should make it a GREAT one!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Texting and Driving Narc

Yesterday my Facebook friend Vero C. posted a great question on her wall. She asked...

Question of the day:
If you saw your friend's teenage child driving and texting.....would you tell your friend? 

The response was unanimous. She had a bunch of people respond and they all had the same answer: YES! Statistics show that 77% of teens think that they can text and drive safely. 55% of them claim that not only can they text and drive but it's easy. Statistics also show that in 2011 23% of auto accidents included cell phones. 

It could be really awkward to have to talk to a friend about their child misbehaving. It was hard when they were little, and it does not get any easier. Some people could take offensive and get defensive when being confronted. But the alternative is just not an option. As one friend commented so simply and beautifully...

Yes. It might save their (or someone else's) life


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Grammys 2016

From as far back as I can remember I loved award shows. I watch everything from the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards to the Oscars. For someone who does not like to dress up I love the glitz and glamour of these big shows. I love seeing the crazy fashions and listening to the sappy and sentimental thank you speeches. And of course the over the top performances.

No music awards show has better performances than the Grammy awards. The 58th annual show aired last night, once again hosted by LL Cool J and the show did not disappoint.

Here are some of the best looks of the night...

And even with Rihanna cancelling her performance last minute, the night was filled with some great acts. 
  • Taylor Swift opened the show with her new single Out of the Woods performing with her co-writer Jack Antonoff and her new short hair. 
  • Next up was for the country fans. A mash-up with the sexy Sam Hunt and the gorgeous Carrie Underwood. A bit slow and visually boring.
  • The Weeknd performed his hit "I Can't Feel My Face". Looking dapper in a black and white tuxedo and then he moved on to perform a mellow piano/cello version of "In the Night".  Another slow performance but if Adele gives you a standing ovation I guess you killed it. 
  • Another duet performance was next Andra Day and Ellie Goulding. (Seriously are all the women not wearing bottoms!!)  I will admit I have never heard of Andra Day and I am not a Ellie Goulding fan. I may or may not have taken this time to put my kids to bed. 
  • Can I say that I loved the fact that they used LL Cool J songs for the intro music!
  • A performance by Demi Lovato, Tyrese Gibson, Meghan Trainor, John Legend and my personal favorite Luke Bryan did a melody of all of Lionel Ritches hits. Including "Easy", "Hello", "Penny Lover", "You Are", "Brick House", and of course "All Night Long". A great tribute for the Person of the Year. Even though the neon face was a little scary!
  • More country for you. Now I am a country fan, but I really don't like this song. Little Big Town has been performing "Girl Crush" on any and every award show imaginable.Even dressed all in black with a violin accompaniment didn't make me like this song anymore.  
  • The legendary Steve Wonder and the group Pentatonix did a tribute to Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire. They performed a short version of "That's the Way of the World". Also good joke when opening the envelope. It was in braille. 
  • The music industry lost some greats over the past year. Including Glen Fry of the Eagles. Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh took to the stage to perform "Take It Easy". Nice tribute but another mellow performance. I this point I am needing some excitement and over the top theatrics! 
  • The next performance did not bring the wow. Tori Kelly and James Bay and a couple of guitars performed Let it Go (no not that one) and Hallow. At this point I am surprised I am still awake. 
  • Next up a live performance from Broadway in New York from the musical Hamilton. The opening number Alexander Hamilton was awesome. It was like a history lesson set to hip-hop. But then again I love myself some Broadway musicals. The lights, the costumes, the dance routines, the songs! I love it all. This is the "it" play right now in New York and I loved that it got a spot on the Grammy show. 
  • Next up Kendrick Lamar, finally some theatrics. With 11 nominations and 5 wins at the time of his performance he gave an amazing performance of The Blacker the Berry and Alright. Prison cells, handcuffs, crazy black lights (very Busta Rhymes put your hands were my eyes can see), African dancers and fire.  He was good and intense! Props to the camera work too. 
  • So who was the poor soul that had to follow Kendrick Lamar? Miguel. A beautiful cover of a Michael Jackson song. She's Out of My Life" was sad and haunting. You can't go wrong with a MJ song. Short and sweet.
  • The Queen of Break-Up Anthems, Adele is up next. Singing All I Ask from her new hit album 25. She looked stunning and even with the weird sounds issues and some weird notes she slayed. 
  • Okay Justin Bieber has made a pretty miraculous come back.Every thing this kid has put out over the last year has been good. He looked a bit like a disheveled mess but his performance with Diplo and Skrillex  also known as Jack U was pretty good.They performed Love Yourself and Where Are you Know. And he won his first Grammy. Go Biebes. Although the guitar throwing was a bit much. Yes you're a grown man, we get it.
  • Okay Sam Smith looks like Boy George right?
  • So here is where the theatrics come in. Lady Gaga never disappoints. Her tribute to David Bowie was awesome. Great costumes, music, robot pianos. Gaga was a perfect choice to honor such a talented and beautifully strange icon. 
  • A performance my husband sat through everything else to see. Chris Stapleton along with Bonnie Raitt and Gary Clark Jr performed The Thrill is Gone as a tribute to BB King. Chris Stapleton is hands down our favorite new artist of the year. We have been playing his Traveller album non-stop in our house. 
  • Alabama Shakes is a favorite around the HerMamas water cooler. It is so awesome to see such a talented group of musicians who do not bend to trend get some recognition. Brittney wailed during their performance of I Don't Wanna Fight No More".
  • Hollywood Vampire  yes you heard David Grohl correctly Alice Cooper, Joe Perry and JOHNNY DEPP. Like thee Johnny Depp. Their sound was horrible but they are rock legends. And it was very cool to see and hear a tribute to Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead. Fun Fact: Alice Cooper use to shop at a store my husband use to manage and he was the nicest guy. 
  • Ending the night was Pit Bull, now maybe it's just me but shows should start with Pit Bull because he always brings the party. He brought out Robin Thicke, Joe Perry and had the amazingly talented drummer Travis Barker and even Sofia Vergara. He ended with night with El Taxi and Bad Man

And the winners! Well I won't spoil it for you just in case you haven't seen it yet!  

Monday, February 15, 2016

Would you fail the test?

I was recently watching one of those funny clips where random folks got quizzed on a university campus. So many young adults struck out on questions regarding American History. Would you strike out too?

These same folks didn't miss a pop culture beat. They could rattle off everyone in the entire Jersey Shore cast, but didn't know who was our current Vice President. That to me is scary and yet I am guilty of this too. I was recently abroad and didn't remember who was the current CA governor. Sad, but true! Eventually the answer came to me and I tentatively rattled off.... 

"Jerry Brown?" 

Just like that as if I was asking and not confidently sharing what I knew to be fact.

Let's all do ourselves a favor and remember to keep our politics to ourselves but not the facts! We don't need to discuss who we'll vote for in future elections, but God almighty, we should know who's currently running our great country!

Friday, February 12, 2016

No Mas Bebes Documentary

Imagine you had just had a baby via emergency c-section and your doctor tells you that you need to sign these papers or your baby could die. What would you do?

Sign those papers of course.

During the 60's and 70's this exact thing happened to a lot of women. What many of these women did not know, was that they were signing a consent form for a tubal ligation.

Yes this women were essentially tricked into signing a document that would leave them sterile. This happened to many Mexican immigrant women in Los Angeles during the late 1960's and early 1970's. Some women were as young as 23 years old and having their first child. This was an attempt to control the Mexican-American population.

During this time period the idea of overpopulation was rampant. So much so that there was grant money being given to hospitals to help control the latino and african-american population.  This type of control sounds like something out of a World War 2 lesson, but the reality is  happened here, in this country to women not only in LA but all over the country. 
A new documnetry is out on the PBS show Independent Lens tells the story of some of these women. It also highlights the brave women who fought back. You can watch the entire documentary HERE  And you can read more about this in the book by Elena Gutierrez, "Fertile Matters: The Politics of Mexican-Origin Women's Reproduction"  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Build HABITS instead of making sacrifices this LENT!

Yesterday, marked Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. It's an important tradition for Catholics, but also a process that is adopted across many faiths. In Christianity, lent is technically defined as a time of fasting and repentance in the spring, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending several weeks later on Easter. The process marks 40 days of sacrifice to correspond with the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, per the bible.

Every year folks commonly give "something up" throughout lent. As my friend's pastor put it, "give up meats, sweets, and alcoholic treats!" For many years, I was all about common "sacrifices" such as no use of social media, no soda, or nailbitting. However, in recent years, I've taken these 40 days to build a new habit instead of taking something out of my life.

Pope Francis recently encouraged that individuals give up "indifference towards others." The idea here was also less about actually giving something up and more about building in you something new. Last lent I made sure we never missed a Sunday mass and this year I'll do the same. I will also keep a gratitude journal and work on stating daily affirmations with my children. 

This plan is less about giving up and more about building a positive habit that stays with me far longer than 40 days. It's about taking this time to reflect and transform. I am grateful to be Catholic and uphold this tradition, but I am even more grateful to become a better human being in the process!

What's your 'habit-forming' or 'sacrificial' plan for lent?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Knocked Out

Yesterday my daughter had a doctor's appointment with her dermatologist. We have been seeing one and many other types of doctors since she was 3 months old for her severe eczema. For over 10 years I have been researching, trying any and all medications, natural remedies and even crazy witch doctor remedies. We have tried bleach baths, oatmeal baths, less baths, more baths. We tried every lotion you can think of. Even the ones at the fair that claim to have healing emu oils. We have done light therapy, steroids and immunization suppression medication that is made for transplant patients. We have tried it all.

Yesterday I went in hoping that they would lower the amount of medication she is on. Instead I came home with 4 more. I walked out of there feeling completely drained. Like I had been fighting for so long and I got knocked down for the last time. I just can't do it anymore. I'm tired of consulting with doctors and driving to appointments and dragging my kid to blood draws. I'm sick of fighting with my kid everyday to take care of her skin. I'm tired of worrying about getting prescriptions refilled and then having to remember to pick them up. I'm tired of nothing ever really working.

I am trying to get past these feelings. To brush myself off and get back up for another round. And I will. But today it feels impossible. I can't even see where I can draw the strength from.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My Kid Can't Stand Pre-Puberty Chats

I have a nine year old who rather stab himself in the eye with a sharp pencil than talk about "cute girls." I am not the one to ask about him liking girls, but people do, and this is when painful awkwardness unravels. I wonder if this simply comes with his age. At nine years old, my son is oddly still my baby, but also he's not. I am well aware that he's growing up.

Next year, he'll have the school-provided "sex class" and though my husband plans to tackle the topic this year, I often do my best to hint at my openness and availability on all things sex, puberty, and anatomy. Sadly, my son wants nothing to do with me during these exchanges.

He's the type that hides behind a couch pillow if anything remotely intimate develops on TV. Sometimes I'll kiss his dad and he randomly proclaims, "stop it." Just the other day, I said a word he mistook for gay and he was up in arms about it. In the end, I found out his teacher defined the term for his entire class and that he knows next year he'll get the "puberty chat" in school. 

However, to get this much out of him was like pulling teeth. I had to carefully measure each and every word. Plus, he was just oozing painful uncomfortability.  Personally, I don't get why he's not more comfortable with me.

My parents were anti-communication. They were close-minded and judgey. My husband and I like to pride ourselves on being open-minded, understanding parents. We will shower acceptance all over our children, their questions, and lifestyle choices. Nevertheless, my son has a hard time being a part of any conversation he deems remotely touchy.

The other day as I poked around very subtly he seemed to get emotional when I asked if he was uncomfortable chatting about these preteen topics because of how I would see him? Fighting back tears and hiding his face he answered, "yes" then water works began! In the end, my preteen boy is somehow embarrassed that in my eyes, he'll change. Boy, do I get that. 

There's no turning back on growing up. Change is tough and our parents' opinion of us or lack thereof is pretty significant during our preteen years. I assured my sweet kid that I'd never judge him or label his natural changes in any way. I just want him to know I'm here to listen, accept, and support him. 

In the end, I hope my message got through and I sure as heck hope he's serious when he claims, "when the time comes, I'll be good, and I'll talk to daddy."

Monday, February 8, 2016

Strong is Beautiful

We all love the commercials during the Super Bowl. While scrolling through Facebook during the big game a Pantene ad video come up on my feed. The video was absolutely adorable with a message that means a whole lot to me.

How cute are these football player Poppas combing their daughters hair? Growing up my Mom would never send us to school without our hair perfectly combed. Never a hair out of place. Our braids never unraveled and our parts were perfectly center and straight. I can remember one time for some reason or another my Pops had to comb our hair. Let's just say that we looked very different that day. I can remember my teaching asking me if my Mom was okay.

In our house that is a daily occurrence. My husband has our girls in the morning and he combs our 5 years old hair every weekday. Our Louie has very very long hair. And I have to admit it he is better at it than I am. His braids never unravel and his parts are on point. He is the ultimate in Dad-Dos.

But behind the cuteness is a really powerful message. Girls who spend more time with their Dads become stronger women. Our girls have grown up with their Dad as their primary caregiver. He spends the most time at home taking care of the girls. As a Mom who sees herself as a strong woman I am very conscious about how my actions are being watched by my daughters. This commercial was a great reminder that my husbandand his actions are just as important in raising strong women. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

One couple's biggest regrets after a decade of marriage!

His (1-5):

1. Not vacationing sooner with my wife. I met a woman who loved travel. This defined her. My sweetheart stopped traveling when we got married and began having children. I hadn't realized she was sacrificing part of her for us. Now, we travel at least once annually (sometimes up to three times a year). What's important to her, is important to me.

2. Not admitting we needed help sooner. Once the newlywed haze faded, my marriage had issues I thought we alone could fix. I didn't think we needed outside help. Eventually I understood our church, friends, family, and even own self-improvement (books, retreats, etc.) was meant to make us better at this whole marriage thing and the struggles that came with it.

3. Not understanding sooner that my wife wasn't here to cater to my needs and my needs alone. Everyone has their own messy life to get through, it isn't her job to fix me. It's my job to fix me. 

4. Fighting about the fight! How many times does a fight start and the reason it started gets lost mid-fight? Before you know it, you're fighting about crazy things said during a fight, someone's tone, or even their silence. This is an exercise in futility. You end up going in circles likely escalating an issue and losing sight of why it began.

5. Not embracing sooner the work it takes to really make a marriage work. Dating folks and newlyweds have it easy (or at least it's suppose to come easy in the beginning), but hard work is required to make marriage last over the long haul. It took me too long to understand this, and once I did, I was better at being the best I could be for me, my wife, and our children.

Hers (6-10):

6. Trying to change my husband! At first, I didn't realize I was always trying to make my husband "more like me". I had to stop demanding he be anything other than himself. For instance, he HATES washing dishes. Nothing I do or say will change that. If that's so then why the hell did I spend years fighting about dishes? This is the same man who would gladly do 8 hours of any labor intensive work. Screw having him do dishes like I always do. We are different and that's good in so many ways.

7. Making my husband the bad guy after every fight. I often wanted to place blame on my husband when things went wrong or we disagreed. It was a sad reaction. A reaction I wish I was aware of sooner. Now, I stop when arguments get heated and do my darnedest to admit when I am wrong.

8. Not consistently showing my husband how much I desire him. It feels like he wants sex all the time. Truth is that's not the case. He wants to feel desired and I can damn well show him often how much I love and desire him with not only sex, but my words and actions. Authentically expressing my desires for him keeps him happier, more connected, and connection is one of my biggest needs. It's a win-win! 

9. Pretending we were something we weren't when things were hard. Early on I wanted to hide every detail of what went wrong with us. There was no need to hide it and become alienated from loved ones because of it. I am now proud of our battle wounds. After I began sharing the real struggles of our marriage with confidants, I felt more sincere in my life, and how we lived it. Plus, our lessons can help others going through similar challenges. Oddly enough some challenges began to go away the more transparent we became. There's a lot of growth in honesty.

10. YELLING! I've done plenty through the years. It never ever works or ends well. I still yell from time to time, but I sure as hell understand I am hurting communication instead of helping it.

What have you regretted through the years?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

You ruined that crying baby by picking them up...

or did you? New research debunks the theory that picking up crying babies will spoil them. A researcher from Notre Dame studied 600 hundred adults and concluded: "cuddles matter." Babies who were cuddled grow up to be healthier, happier, more well adjusted adults.

Interestingly enough my roomie-mother-in-law and I were talking about how great we believe it is for children to witness affection among their parents to learn connection firsthand. During this chat, I began to ponder my family structure. My parents were NOT close or cuddly people. In fact, they were troubled and violence was prevalent in their marriage. In turn, my siblings aren't very outwardly affectionate from what I see in their longstanding relationships. I'd say some are even troubled in adulthood due to the lack of loving connections in our youth. 

To that point, I wondered what made me different? I am the cuddle queen usually all over my hubby. To me, it doesn't matter who's around, I love PDA. Yet, I was raised in the same family as my less affectionate siblings.

realize now this difference could come down to birthorder. I am the youngest of six. I can remember feeling totally embraced and cuddled by five older siblings and two parents. Little did I know this was creating the future well-adjusted me. I cried a lot like any other baby, however, in my home there was no shortage of helpful hands willing to cuddle me. This in turn made me a cuddlier. My children are huggers, kissers, and all together mushy with those they feel close to likely because this was a part of my upbringing. Luckily, research shows this is a good problem to have.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

15 lessons learned after 10 years of marriage...

1. Marriage is fucking hard until it's not. Don't give up on it. You'll never know if you were "two feet from gold." Early in my marriage, I literally hated my husband (and myself) after plenty of kicked out, dragged out fights. We both acted like our previously unmarried, immature selves, and until we got the immaturity out of our systems, marriage was taxing. 

2. Sex is important. Don't stop having it or being good at it. Life will try to sneak up on you and steal your intimacy. Fight back tooth and nail. That bitch doesn't deserve a moment of YOUR orgasmic bliss.

3. Stay sexy! This isn't about being something you're not. Be you. Doesn't matter the skin you're in so long as you love the shit out of you. This love of you gives you the confidence to love hard outside of you too.

4. Haters gonna hate, especially on love. If you've worked hard on your marriage to make it look easy, then you're doing it right. Through it all, you'll be complimented and criticized (of course, the latter usually happening behind your back). Be attached to none of it. The haters will hate and the cheerleaders will cheer. Do you, do each other, and leave it at that.

5. Eventually I had to accept it, I am not always right. I come from a strong family of hardheaded mo-fos! Marriage taught me to drop my cool and stop trying to win every debate. Things got easier when I stopped closing out the world from my righteous bubble.

6. Marriage isn't a fairytale, but I won't settle for anything less than GREAT. It is never selfish to get consistently better at marriage. Sure, you could have a good marriage, but good is the enemy of great. Go for great, always.

7. Kids consuming your life kills sex drive and intimacy, so keep those boogers at bay. Do whatever it takes for them... feed, cloth, love, protect, and all that jazz, but never EVER make them the center of your marriage. You and your spouse come first.

8. Throughout marriage you'll lose friends, not to worry. Marriage will take your time and focus. It will disconnect you from some and connect you to others. Go with what feels right. Now, I don't mean to say become friendless, but friendships WILL change. Find authentic friends who will influence your marriage positively even if that means having a smaller circle of great friends. 

9. When "push comes to shove" be the real you... the most "ugly" and vulnerable you. In that rawness, marriage gets bigger and better. It's okay to emotionally fall apart with each other, if not with one another, then with who? Plus, it's this breakthrough in connection that takes weakening unions to the next level.

10. Protect boundaries: sexual, emotional, and physical boundaries alike. Pushing boundaries can be dangerous for the sanctity of good love. Proceed with caution. 

11. Everyone pushes their OWN little red wagon. This isn't 1952, men AND women do housework in 2016. Together they made those babies, so they sure as hell get to raise them TOGETHER. Besides, to me, there's nothing hotter than a guy doing handy work. Today, I witnessed my hubby bathe our son while simultaneously hosting a tea party and reading session with our daughter. SWOON!

12. Safeguard against contention. You know that couple that passive aggressively snaps at each other and sucks the air out of the room? Yeah, don't be them. They're headed towards Splitsville. Studies  have shown that contentious marriages are deteriorating marriages with a high probability of divorce. Project yours from such a slow and malicious death.

13. Don't compare yourself to other couples. Avoid looking outward for validation or direction. Look inside yourselves where your unique struggles and strengths lead to the perfect rhythm for a lasting relationship.

14. Your children will marry their parents. Be the best example for them. Those little sponges are watching where your union is weak and where it is strong, so be very careful not to model disaster. They deserve better after all. If you don't settle for a crummy marriage they won't settle for one either.

15. We're never done learning or changing. My marriage is only ten years young. As it evolves and changes, so will we. With that, I embrace change with every passing day. Still change is often uncomfortable and hard. That doesn't make it bad, so I'll accept it as it comes and evolve alongside it.

What are the lessons you've learned in love?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cheap Dates: Valentine's Day on a Budget

I remember the days my hubby and I didn't have much discretionary income. We lived paycheck to paycheck, but a girl like me still expected a nice gift and/or date night especially around holidays. In these situations cheap dates were better than no dates at all. For a Valentine's Day on a budget, keep things simple, but romantic options open:

• Sunset or Sunrise Hike: surprise your loved one with a romantic trek along a local/scenic trail. Bring along $2 buck chuck (wine) from Trader Joes and other delicious Trader Joes snackems. There's so many good deals on seasonal fruit and veggies. Bring a nice journal along that you've kept moving up to this date... add all of your feelings and all that mushy stuff that makes for a great sentimental gift. You can also address the journal and gift it with the caveat that once it's filled it is returned you - the gifter!

•'Volunteer together: there's nothing better than giving back. Use Valentine's Day to give to great causes. This is not only cheap, but worthy of your time. Fun volunteer activities include beautifying a local community garden, creating care packages for troops via local nonprofit orgs., or picking fruit together at local apple orchards. These fruits are often donated to local inner city groups. What a great way to share love and give back.

•Lavish dessert: a great way to enjoy a fancy venue is to visit without any intention of paying for a pricy meal. For instance, cook a great brunch at home then make plans to share dessert at a five star joint. This works well at a casual 5 star hotel bar known for impressive cityscapes or beach front views. Enjoy the romantic ambiance while saving on a pricy full course meal. This is an especially cost effective plan if you celebrate one day early or late (avoiding Valentine's Day crowds is an added plus).

What are your cheap date ideas???

Monday, February 1, 2016

Vacation Review: Bali, Indonesia

I just returned from an unbelievable vacation abroad. When thinking about a vacation destination, I knew I wanted something scenic, romantic, and affordable. In the end, Bali Island in Indonesia was just the ticket!

Sure, the plane ride is a long one from the US but that's nothing a little red eye, and a short lay over to stretch and recoup, can't fix. We left at 11pm, slept all night, and after 13 hours landed in Taiwan, five hours from Bali. This strategy worked well to break up a long flight time.

Next, we didn't stay in the tourist saturated parts of Bali. This is what I highly recommend unless you're looking for a "Cancun Spring Break" party feel. That ambiance is fun, but for us, that meant spending only one night in Kuta, Bali to relive our party days.

The next part of our trek took us to Jimbaran Bay. This is seafood central as well as the luxury hotel zone. We only spent two days in this area and it was gloriously scenic. For a moment of lavishness, order a huge lobster ($80-$125) to enjoy at the world famous beachfront fish markets or have lunch/dinner at Sundara at The Four Seasons Resort. This is a view that will take your breath away.

Our journey ended in Ubud, Bali. This is the most magical interior part of the island where you will immerse yourself in culture, art, romance, and scenic landscapes. We stayed in an unbelievable private villa with a private pool, outdoor shower, and floor to ceiling glass walls to feel as those you're sleeping in the actual jungle. Samkhya Villas are a true gem (google them)! Everyone there literally learns your name and is at your service 24/7. In fact, everyone in Bali is respectful, attentive, and kind-natured. This is an absolute pro!

Bringing me to the 'Pros and Cons' in a nutshell...

1. Cheap (hotel, food, and spa prices are unbelievable)! I enjoyed multiple 1-hour spa treatments spending only between $9-$14 dollars, yes $9, for a 1 hr. treatment. Our villa was less than $90 a night. This included a hefty and delicious daily breakfast. Mostly all hotels offer breakfast with their hotel stay. Read reviews to ensure other guests liked the food options.
2. Food choices and quality: plentiful and delicious options are at every turn (also inexpensive in most cases, this is clearly a theme in Bali).

3. Unbeatable Service: it's unreal how much this makes a difference. I am thoroughly impressed with this aspect of our trip. The Balinese people are truly some of the kindest I've ever come across. Plus, those working in hospitality outdo themselves. 
4. Safe and clean: no doubt this is an added bonus when traveling anywhere. The entire visit was relaxed and trouble free.
5. Everyone knows English: who doesn't want to communicate easily to ensure ease of travel?
6. Culture at every turn: the Balinese are deeply traditional people. There was history and culture oozing from every part of the island which is deeply devout to Hinduism. The sense of family and community is essential to the way of life in Bali. I came away with profound introspection after learning about the rich cultural traditions of the Balinese.   

Cons (I had to think long and hard to even come up with some):
1. Long flight, of course.
2. Wifi not always strong (but for a vacation meant to unwind and refresh, this just may be a pro).
3. Public transportation is minimal. However, private drivers for hire are a great alternative and they're very cost-effective. Make sure to push back if at first they quote you high fares. They'll work with your budget.
4. Mosquitoes: but hey, they were on the island first. We've invaded their space, so I say, embrace it (with plenty of repellent handy). Honestly, it was manageable.

Bali was truly a magical journey. The cultural influences were the highlight for me. There's so much to experience. For our 10 yr. anniversary and my 35th birthday celebration, we couldn't have picked a better destination for romance, scenery, and fun! 

What are some of your favorite vacation destinations and why?