A hug from the soul

Make lists of positive aspects. Make lists of things you love—and never complain about anything. And as you use those things that shine bright and make you feel good as your excuse to give your attention and be who-you-are, you will tune to who-you-are, and the whole world will begin to transform before your eyes. It is not your job to transform the world for others—but it is your job to transform it for you. A state of appreciation is pure Connection to Source where there is no perception of lack.

— Abraham*

“They” always say that when you are at your lowest, it is when you need to feel gratitude the most.

I don’t know about you, but I have a really really tough time doing that. When I am severely down in the dumps and despair is the main feeling radiating throughout my mind and body, clinging to gratitude does not come naturally to me.

However, while I sit in my house this weekend thinking of those on the East Coast who are contending with Hurricane Irene, I remember to be grateful.

I sit comfortably at my computer in an air-conditioned home, with plenty of running water and food at my disposal, the weather is beautiful, the streets are quiet. I have a good job and work with really nice people. I get weekends off; I had time to relax and even nap today. My dog is sweet and healthy, my boyfriend and I are not suffering from any health issues at the moment, and we have celebratory brunch plans for Kevin’s birthday tomorrow.

We have a functioning car with working seat belts, air conditioning, heat, cruise control, airbags, cup holders, automatic windows, remote, and CD player. It’s five years old and is at a time in its mechanical life that it needs a little extra TLC and maintenance, but that is the way of life. I am grateful that it runs well and gets us where we need to go. When I complain about wanting a new car, I will try to remember to recite this to myself.

Despite the litany of things I worry and mutter about throughout the week, I am not lacking. I have more than enough. Relatively speaking to those in the world, I am a rich woman, and that is not easy for me to say. (I focus on feeling poor wayyy more than I do feeling abundant.)

But today, I am making a point of taking the time to reflect on all that I do have. Feeling gratitude and appreciation is like receiving a hug from my soul. It sounds corny but it’s really true. It’s in that feeling place that I can acknowledge that all is well. Again, not easy to remember in the day-to-day stuff we all get caught up in.

So even though I am not directly affected by Hurricane Irene this weekend, I know many people on the East Coast whom I care about and I am thinking of them.  And I remain grateful for the loved ones in my life and for my circumstances. Right now.

The Rainbow from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.stuckincustoms.com

 *Excerpted from the book “Money and the Law of Attraction: Learning to Attract Health, Wealth and Happiness” by Esther and Jerry Hicks, 2008

Can you keep a secret?


Photo courtesy of ~robot robot lover on Flickr

I had a fleeting thought the other day: are bloggers good secret keepers? Or are we in a special category because we have a public Internet presence? (I suppose saying “public Internet” is like saying PIN number–redundant and unnecessary.)

In my case, I can certainly keep things to myself that other people tell me in confidence. But I am a pretty open person and don’t mind talking about myself to most people, creepoids excluded. I also have a hard time buying gifts more than one week in advance for loved ones and not spilling the beans on what it is. I may have mentioned already that Christmas poses a huge problem for me because the anticipation just kills me. For weeks, I drop hints about how much my loved ones are going to love what I got them. Last year, I gave Kevin half of his presents early because I couldn’t stand to wait.

Now, I’m not saying I’m one of those people who has no tact or just blurts out what I’m thinking. I can actually be a pretty quiet person. I just mean to say that in my friendships with people, I have to compartmentalize friends into categories like Can Tell This Person Anything, Everything But Sex Stories or Fart Jokes, or Doesn’t Get My Humor. I suppose everyone has to do this to some degree but I keep detailed mental notes on what I can and cannot talk about with certain folks.

Having a blog allows me to write down many of the meandering thoughts that pass through my brain at any given moment. Sometimes it’s a miracle I even remember a topic for later if I don’t write it down right away. I find that a lot of my ideas or wonder-ments come to me while I’m driving (formerly it was on the subway when I lived in New York). But like dreams, they can be easily forgotten, gossamer wisps lost to the wind.

Naturally, not everything I think about or that has happened to me is written about on this blog. I have considered writing on more private topics but then I think that that goes against the grain of what this blog is about and would be better suited for a different medium – certainly a different kind of blog.

Still, I admire authors who have the ability to write short stories or memoirs of their lives where it gets rather down and dirty; we are reading about intimate moments that I don’t think I could fathom putting down on paper for any old stranger to read. Two examples come to my mind: Running With Scissors and Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea. One is by Augusten Burroughs and the other Chelsea Handler. Granted, the latter author’s books are written with a huge dose of tongue in cheek, but we’re still reading about all of her sexcapades in gritty detail. Hm, the word ‘sexcapades’ is officially on my blog now.

As for Running With Scissors, all of that dude’s family business is out there for anyone on the planet to know, albeit with a lot of humor and hindsight thrown in. I struggle with how much I want people to know about me and thoughts that I have which are deeper than complaints about salesmen and even what some of my childhood pasttimes were. I don’t know that I could keep a blog that is much more like a diary and one which I allow the world to see. I really possess such admiration for those who can regularly write out their innermost thoughts. Maybe it’s something a blogger or writer progresses towards, much like an actor who works on successfully drawing upon certain experiences in his or her lifetime to evoke a specific emotion for a scene.

But that begs the question again: does being a blogger/writer necessarily make a person naturally more open? Or can s/he remain an immensely private person regardless? Perhaps I should be directing this question to someone like J.D. Salinger, a notorious recluse, even after (and in spite of) the success of his books. (Side note: I do not think The Catcher in the Rye is one of the best stories ever written. Quite the contrary.)

Here’s my first attempt to put something out there I normally wouldn’t: bad as it sounds, I rather hope that if I get to the point where I feel comfortable publishing some seriously private ish, that I have a generous book advance in my bank account. That’s not to say that people are clamoring to read my life story, but it’s the private stuff that usually garners more attention and is more interesting to read.

How’s that for revealing? Eh, it’s a start.

And because this is Zoe Says and I usually leave you with something arbitrary or funny, the below picture is of a book I can actually highly recommend. Its title is apt. Some might call it “chick lit,” a term I’m not entirely comfortable with, but it’s a good story written by Miss Sophie Kinsella. If you don’t mind modern day romantic comedies with a British female protagonist, I can assure you that you’ll enjoy it. And with that, I’m off to my private life. I think it’s suppertime.

The Summer Blues

I don’t know if any of you out there have experienced what I have dubbed as The Summer Blues but it’s basically the three hottest months of the year just not turning out how you thought they would.

I have vivid memories of being a kid and having summers off, watching my mother go off to work and having absolutely no clue why she couldn’t take off the same amount of time. I remember thinking that it seemed so silly that everyone didn’t have summer vacation. It’s hot and icky out, who wants to go to work? Answer: no one. (I would probably be writing a different kind of post if I’d grown up in Europe, where traditionally many countries take off the entire month of August. Lucky ducks.)

The last time I was able to experience having three months off was in the summers between college years. Most students find jobs. I really did try. I applied for cashier positions at Bed Bath & Beyond and the like. Nada. Not one phone call. And I had retail experience and administrative experience. I was unemployable, apparently. Despite being flat broke and having nowhere to go, I made the best of it and enjoyed some lazy days off, looking forward by August for the school year to recommence. I didn’t know then how much I would later wish to have absolutely nothing to do or nowhere to be.

Despite not working from May to August, no two summers were ever the same. Some I spent at my mom’s house, visiting with my dad, some I spent staying with a then-boyfriend of mine. I don’t come from a family with a lot of money so luxurious vacations have never been a part of my life. When my brother and I were kids, we had the occasional road trip to see grandparents and my mom was able to give us a trip to Disney World once. I was around 17 and I got severely sunburned. It wasn’t pretty. Still, Disney means it when they say they provide you with some lifelong memories.

In the summer of 2003, I had a chance to do something totally different. I got to spend ten days or so in the south of France with a friend of mine from college and it was one of the best times I ever had. Lots of sun, beach, swimming, good food, laughs, French speaking, memories – no sunburns. I still have the unfinished scrapbook, waiting to be completed. I haven’t been abroad since I studied in Paris in the spring of 2004, either. I dream about traveling more, though. Visiting Seattle this year and going for almost a week was a Big Deal. I travel a lot in my mind and daydream constantly about places I’d like to visit.

In 2010, I moved out of New York City to where I am now in Illinois. Needless to say, that summer went by insanely fast because we were so busy with packing, moving, and getting settled in. This year, the summer is moving along at a brisk clip, as well, but less eventful since we’re all settled in. The things I look forward to most are having people come visit and enjoying two whole days off in a row (read: weekends) with Kevin, without one of us worrying about work/school/obligations. Once the school year starts up for him, the task of occupying myself falls to my feet once again.

This particular summer feels more “bluesy” to me because we’re in this odd transitional-yet-static place in life. We’re not planning a wedding, we’re not saving up to buy a house, we’re definitely not family planning (hell to the no).  It’s just insanely hot outside and I still have to go to work everyday. My best friend Helen always likes to say, “I survived childhood for this?” Haha. That’s a little dramatic but you get what I’m saying.

Oh, have I waded into the Pity Party for One at the end of the pool? I’m not trying to say life is bad or anything like that. For the most part, all is well. In this moment in time, there is stasis, and there is something to be said for that. But it will be short-lived and we’ll be moving towards the next goal, the next occurrence, the next thing, (the holidays? God…) really soon. I’m looking forward to autumn for many reasons – the weather, mostly – but also trying to slow down and enjoy each day for what it is without getting too impatient.

This is the first calendar year since 2001 that I haven’t moved. (I consider each move-in and move-out of college a move. Holy cow that was a lot of stuff.) And moving, as we all know, is a bitch. I moved so many times in New York City that I don’t think my brain has fully processed that in the year 2011, we’re not switching residences. Weird, but nice.

Just one more month left before it’s Labor Day, Back to School, football season, and the colors change. We’ll all be restocking on our cinnamon scented candles in no time. Well what do you know – I just cheered myself up.

So…this is being “in my 30s”

I’m still adjusting to this new jacket I’ve shrugged on. It’s the official being-in-my-30s starter jacket. Something that only three years ago felt far, far away.

Being 30 was new and interesting but since it came right after 29, it was like, okay I could just be 29 another year. 29 part deux. But 31 is a whole different ballgame. We’re not effing around now.

I am positive I will do this same adjustment when I have a 4 in front of my age but right now, that is too scary to comprehend. So many of my friends will enjoy at least three more years of having a 2 in front of their age. And even being 30 was okay, so add another year of enjoyment. Lucky bastards. By which time, I will be full on approaching my mid-thirties, which is almost as scary as the 4 word. I literally have heartburn as I write this. Another adjustment of getting older. Things that occurred fairly infrequently you just get used to and you say to yourself, “Yep, that just happens now.” I guess I just get to enjoy heartburn from time to time. Win.

I have a distinct memory of looking in the mirror when I was young (somewhere between 8 and 13, let’s say) and wondering what I was going to look like when I was grown up. I don’t know if it’s exactly what I look like now, because really, it’s more of the same but maybe with less eyebrow. Also I don’t think I could have predicted how much I would love coffee. Serious, deep abiding affection for that stuff.

I’ve heard from several friends that one’s 30s is “the best time of your life,” although isn’t that what they said about one’s 20s?

But like, I don’t have a house, I don’t have a husband (just a legal issue really….and a matter of a great wedding), I don’t have children, I don’t have a Master’s degree, I don’t drive my dream car (but I will, someday).

What I do have is a kickass new coffee maker – I am talking badass – a sweet dog, a Twitter account, this blog, and creativity coming out of my (large) pores. Oh, and a rather self-depricating sense of humor.

I only have nine more years to enjoy the hell out of this decade so…in the words of Andy Dufresne, I guess I better get on it. Well, what he actually said was get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’. He was trying to escape from a really corrupt prison, which in no way resembles my life at all.

Birthdays never used to do this to me.

Over and out.

Mixing It Up With Friends…Giveaway | She’s Becoming DoughMessTic

Mixing It Up With Friends…Giveaway | She’s Becoming DoughMessTic.

This is for a good cause. I have been trying to win a KitchenAid mixer for my BFF Helen for quite some time. She won’t easily find out about this because she doesn’t have Internet (she’s old-fashioned like that). So if any of you decide to enter because you see this post, just say “Zoe Says sent me!” And you can also enter for yourself, as well. Although the contest ends in about 45 minutes so the likelihood is slim but hey, a girl can dream.

Hells needs a mixer so I’m doing what I can to win one for her.

Drumming up new mixer karma!



Looking Back

2010 has been a hell of a year. One year ago from now, I was living in an apartment that I hated in New York City. I had a good job and people I loved working for and with but I knew it was never going to be the job from which I retired.

I didn’t blog regularly. I took photos here and there and posted on Facebook like many people do but I didn’t pursue passions and/or blog about them.

I was living with my wonderful, supportive boyfriend who was applying for law schools and we were doing our best to make ends meet. Then he got into several schools, weighed out his options, made a decision, and we whisked ourselves out of the city and that apartment and back to our Midwestern roots (more specifically, his). We now reside in Illinois, Land of Lincoln and very, very flat land. It’s been an incredible journey and every year that I see to an end, I am reminded of how much can change and how much one can accomplish in 365 days’ time. Just one person’s life can be altered so dramatically. Sometimes it’s hard to turn around and look back because we have come so far.

I took up blogging more regularly the latter half of the year. And then suddenly, as if by magic, I made it onto Freshly Pressed with this post. I had been pondering how I could get more readers and suddenly I was bestowed with the gift of being featured. Ever since, I have felt a complete passion for blogging overtake me and I have been regularly posting ever since. I’ve also been blog-networking more and discovering this whole universe of fellow bloggers who make it look easy and so darn pretty. I can state with confidence that my blog roll will increase exponentially in size.

I received a fabulous present that will aid me in moving forward with authoring my blog with my own photos:


Canon EOS Rebel XS

I am so grateful to everyone who reads my wee blog faithfully and those who pass it on to others. Someone at Christmastime even asked me, “Hey what’s the name of your blog? I wanted to check it out.” I was so pleased to hear about one word-of-mouth referral that you’d have thought I had a New York Times bestseller or something. I have been doing my blog since August of 2008 but it is at the end of 2010 that I see it blooming into….well, something. It feels more tangible today than it did two years ago.

And so, as I bask in that warm glow of gratification and appreciation, I now make my list.

Things I’m looking forward to in 2011:

  • Overhauling Zoe Says to a new look and format. (Gulp.)
  • Taking tons more photos; learning how to edit them; sharing those photos.
  • Learning more about logo and button design.
  • Networking with more fellow bloggers and readers.
  • Doing more crafts.
  • Actually meditating, and regularly.
  • Keeping up a nightly facial routine.
  • Not obsessing about my physical appearance (read: weight) but focusing on my health and how I feel in my body.
  • Making new friends in my still new community.
  • Reading more books. I love love love to read but my attentions have been focused elsewhere this year and I haven’t read nearly as much as I’d like.
  • Being more patient.
  • Waking up earlier.
  • Not forgetting for too long how blessed I really am, every day.

Good tidings to you, wherever you are. For family, for friends, for peace among men…we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Revisiting Midwestern Thunderstorms

As it always happens, I want to post a topic when I haven’t given the proper update that should precede it.

I updated my A Little Extra On the Author page, but I did not write a full story describing how I have moved back to the Midwest (Illinois, incidentally) just recently. It’s been almost a decade (a decade!) since I’ve lived in this vast region of our country, comprised of what most people call the “flyover states.” Knowing myself very well, I will probably take one or two aspects and feature them in a future post, much like I did my grocery post when I lived in New York. But since I want to write about thunderstorms, I must keep this brief and say that I am now living in Illinois and we are currently experiencing a full-on thunderstorm, something that was not nearly as frequent in New York, sadly.

I don’t know if it was the city’s tall buildings or the area but thunderstorms are in a class of their own in the Midwest. Granted, they can be more dangerous here because they can also lead to or derive from tornadoes but when it’s just the thunder, lightning and rain, they can be one of the most soothing events to listen to and witness from a warm, dry spot. (Or cool, if it’s humid up to your eyeballs, which is also frequent here.)

Tonight as we were relaxing, the lightning started up and sure enough, seconds later, the thunder started rolling over our house. The weather report says we can expect these to occur all night. I don’t know why it’s not remotely frightening or concerning; after all, I have personally had a few electronics die at lightning’s hand. But the sound of the thunder and the rain hitting the window panes just makes me feel cozy inside.

I know I’m not the only one – I’m not an anomaly here – or there wouldn’t be endless thunderstorm sounds to purchase.

Truly, one can experience a thunderstorm in the Midwest greater than in dense populations because you can see it and feel it in a way that you cannot when you are surrounded by incredible, statuesque buildings that block the skyline.  Not having lived in these middle states for almost a third of my life now (wow…), I’m rediscovering them and my delight at their presence.

While I can admit this isn’t the most exciting post one will ever read or write, I hope that a handful of readers can relate. Knowing that it’s supposed to rain all day tomorrow (with possible thunder and lightning!) makes me feel toasty inside as I think about putzing around the house and doing all sorts of cozy indoor projects. Thunderstorms also induce one hell of a great nap, if you didn’t know.

If you’re fortunate enough to experience these wonders of nature and have some time on your hands, just listen and/or watch the next time one happens. They make me pensive, they soothe with their cacophonic sounds (although really they’re more symphonic), and as I have stated, they are soporific.

I think I will sleep well tonight.

(As I finished this post, a huge clap of thunder rocked our house and I felt it under my seat. Someone’s car alarm is going off! Bliss….)

For the Chewster


Talk about a hiatus. In the time off that I haven’t written, President Obama was sworn in as our 44th President, American Idol started back up again, my love for CBS’ The Big Bang Theory has grown to epic proportions and I’ve even managed to acquire and build two very important pieces of furniture for my apartment (a bed frame and a bathroom shelf, respectively). Lots of progress!

But on a more somber note, I received a phone call a couple of weeks ago from a former boyfriend. We were together for a long time and in the last year of our relationship, he got a dog named Chewie.  A mix of Yorkshire Terrier and Miniature Pinscher, he was the sweetest little thing, with an endless playful and affectionate energy. When I got back from studying in Paris in June of 2004, we house-trained this little guy and he took over our hearts.

Is he photogenic or what?

Is he photogenic or what?

I was shocked and saddened to get the news that Chewie  suddenly passed away on Saturday, March 7th. Dave was driving down the highway with Chewie in the back seat when he suddenly let out a loud yelp and then…silence. By the time Dave could get the car pulled over so he could get back there to check on Chewie, he had died. He was turning 5.

We don’t know what happened, be it a stroke or some kind of heart condition (I thought maybe he was stung or bitten by something – brown recluse?), but he was gone in an instant.

It’s incredibly weird to me that he isn’t running around and being his wonderful, loving self. I easily thought he would live to be 15. Dave buried him at his parents’ farm, where Chewie loved to scamper and play. I was blue and teary all that weekend; I can’t imagine how the first couple of days without him went back at Dave’s place.

Chewie passed out

Chewie passed out

I haven’t seen Chewie since 2005 but I never forgot about him, and it was always a source of comfort to me that Dave had him and took such good care of him (and vice versa). To have him suddenly yanked away was such a shock, even from my distance.

Favorite things about Chewie: he only barked when the doorbell rang, even if it was the Domino’s Pizza doorbell on TV; he loved hopping on his hind legs to show you how excited he was to see you; he was always happy to curl up next to you while you slept; he loved Tug of War; nothing was funnier than watching him sprint.

Chewie was the first dog I ever loved – the dog that made me fall in love with dogs. (At least little ones.) He will always be a part of me. I could think of nothing more fitting than to dedicate a post to his memory.

To Chewie. You are missed. You are loved.

Chewie: March 2004 – March 2009