What’s Your “Why?”

Last Wednesday, during a walk, I listened to my second podcast ever. Yep, I’m late to the party. The only other podcast I’ve ever had the chance to listen to was Serial, which I highly recommend if you’re a fan of podcasts. Serial and the podcast I stumbled upon are completely different. The podcast I found talks mostly about motherhood, parenthood and all of the relationships that come with those roles. (I’m having a mental block on the name right now, but I’ll post it here at a later time!)

If I’m being honest, it felt so good to listen to because I felt like I was “hanging” out with someone like me, someone who understands the phase of life I’m currently engulfed in. Plus, it was just nice to hear adult voices instead of “baby shark radio,” although, admittedly, I love baby shark.

The podcast got my wheels turning and made me think in ways that I haven’t lately. It made me give real thought as to why I share on social media. Why do I share my kids (many people look down on parents who post photos of their kids), why do I share my ups and my downs, etc.?

Basically, what is my “why” for social media? Well, it’s a little bit of a long winded answer. Social media, especially Instagram and my blog is a platform for my tiny voice to be encouraging to others. It’s where I can express my creativity through writing or photography, since my normal daily life doesn’t allow for other forms of creativity and expression.

It’s also an escape. I know many people use social media as an escape. You can mindlessly scroll and checkout for a bit, or it can make you feel more connected to the outside world when you’re a stay at home mom, like me. For me, when using social media I feel more seen and known, but not in a way where I need attention or validation. I feel seen because I’m home alone much of the time. It’s my way of communicating and connecting with adults when I can’t do it physically. Does that make sense?

My value and worth are by no means measured through social media, comments, likes or followers. When people start to feel a hunger for validation through social media I think it’s time to pause, take a step back, and take a break from it to be loved by the “real” people in your life. I’ve done this on occasion and it’s a nice way to detox when you get caught up in scrolling for the wrong reasons.

I share the things I do because I have a genuine desire to. The things I share have meaning to me, and the Ashley you see on social media is the same Ashley you’ll see in real life.

Xo

More Than A Wannabe

Everyone is a blogger these days. Whether you’re a journalism student hunting for a platform (I was one!), a makeup lover with on fleek contouring skills, or just a “normal” person like me who enjoys posting about your real life, anyone can be a blogger.

Ask any truly successful blogger or influencer and I’m sure they’ll tell you the struggle is real. Not everyone has ideas for blog posts just flooding their brains, let alone coming up with enticing blog post titles to catch the attention of a follower. Hell, this rings true for me and I just do this stuff for myself, not a big audience. I guess it’s kind of like my journal and I’m hoping I grow by sharing it with others, whether they care about the content or not.

Even though I’m just a sometimes blogger whose following is mostly family that I’ve bribed into reading along, part of me still would love to somehow make this hobby a job.

Yeah, I’m not organized like these Instagram influencers and fashion bloggers who post daily, but I’m passionate about trying to show others that we are all more alike than we may know. I might not have the photoshop skills for this, let alone a fancy camera…..hello iPhone! But, I’ve got gusto and I think I’m a decent storyteller, writer and I’m a realist. (Did I just compliment myself? Go me!)

At the beginning of this blogging rendezvous there may have been a time or two where I’ve wondered why I’m not famous and getting freebies in the mail. I’m sure I’ve also pissed people off, or at the very least, annoyed people with things I’ve written. I’ve gotta share posts to put myself out there, so my skin has gotten thicker.

I’ve thought about trying to add more glamour to my everyday life, but again, let’s keep it real. Most days are spent bare-faced with day 3 (or was it 4) hair and chasing my firecracker toddler. I’m no Julia Engel, Rachel Parcell, or LaTisha Springer – not even close when it comes to the blogging world. (Ladies, go follow them!)

What I do have that these other bloggers don’t have is an innate drive to share real life moments (good and bad), to try and not be so filtered, and to write thoughtful posts that allow me to remain totally true to myself.

I may never have a following and I definitely don’t have the aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed that these other bloggers do. I may always struggle with the tone of my blog, for fear of others thinking I’m an over-emotional wacko. My main reasons for writing and sharing the things I do is to sort my own thoughts out, to learn from my own mistakes, and to share my limited, yet still valuable life experience as a young mom.

I feel funny saying, “I’m a blogger,” but isn’t that what I am? I have this blogging platform that I contribute to on an almost regular basis, so I’m no wannabe. I’m going to own it from here on out, whether I get sent goodies from companies or not. I’m having a good time doing what I’m doing. That’s what this whole thing should be about anyway!

Putting my thoughts and opinions out there has been hard at times, but it’s teaching me to continue to focus on what’s important in my own life. Plus, challenging myself mentally like this is good for my emotional health!

Go ahead and put yourself out there! Own your truth, whatever it may be. Things might feel uncomfortable, but the growing you’ll do afterwards is so worth it.

Xo

Finding Balance While Maintaining A Sleep Schedule

To schedule or not to schedule?!  The idea of having some kind of routine for Gia crept into my mind during the first few weeks after taking her home from the hospital.  I read a couple of sleep solution books prior to Gia being born, in anticipation of being so sleep deprived myself that the last thing on my mind would be a book.

I’ve always been someone who likes a routine and babies and little ones like it too — or so I’ve read.  🙂  For the sake of making sure Gia was/is happy, thriving & rested, I adopted a schedule for her.  I didn’t really know what I was doing, but what I figured was best was to follow Gia’s cues.  And when I say schedule I’m primarily talking about a sleep schedule.

Over the last year and a half we’ve gotten a rhythm and have a pretty good system that works for us.  Nowadays, Gia takes one nap around noon and will usually sleep until 2:30-3 pm.  I prefer to be home for her naps so she can be better rested by sleeping in her crib, as opposed to sleeping on-the-go in the car or in her stroller.  That’s not to say that we don’t do that occasionally, but it doesn’t work as well for us.


Over-tired and out to dinner:

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Here’s a little secret:  I’ve always been in awe of the parents who are “no-schedule” kind of schedulers.  I think it’s because I wish I could be a little bit more like that.  You know what I mean….fly by the seat of your pants, take every minute as it comes kind of thing.  That’s just not how I’m wired, but I’m working hard to bring more of that free spirited attitude into my life.

Again, I know there is no wrong way to do things when it comes to a schedule for your child, or lack there of one.  I just like learning from the ways that other parents do it, so I can see if it works for my family too.

The reason why a set nap time in her crib works best is because Gia does not transfer well from the car to her crib.  I’ve successfully transferred her mayyyybe two times in her life.  For me it’s just not worth having an over-tired, cranky toddler by the time 4 pm rolls around, especially since days as a stay-at-home parent can feel long when they don’t go smoothly.  (Days are long for anyone – working parent, stay-at-home parent, etc.)  I know for a fact that people think I’m strict about how our day goes with Gia, but I really don’t care anymore.  What works for us may or may not work for others and there’s nothing wrong with that.


This is the “no nap” look:

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What I do know about making sure Gia gets adequate day time sleep is that she sleeps well at night because of it.  She’s always been a good little sleeper, but if I make sure she’s happy and rested it makes life so much easier for me.

A typical day with no exciting plans usually looks like this:

  • 7 am Wake up
  • Breakfast time + play time
  • 9 am Gym (Gia plays in the daycare while we workout)
  • 11 am Lunch time for Gia
  • Play until nap time at noon-ish
  • 2:30-3 pm Wake up
  • Play + snack
  • Run necessary errands or go to the park
  • 5 pm dinner for Gia
  • Bath time
  • 7 pm Bed time

We went down from two naps to one nap per day for Gia pretty soon after her first birthday.  She was fighting going down for her second nap of the day on a consistent basis, so I knew that was a sign to cut it down to one nap.  That nap transition wasn’t the easiest because I felt limited in what we could get done in the morning.  If we were in the car anywhere from 10 am on, that would result in falling asleep and hindering the sleep plan for the day.  Not the end of the world, but still tough on mom, dad and toddler.

Now, we just make it work and I never feel deprived or as if I don’t get to go do anything with her because of our routine.  I’m making a point to go out once a week where we just wing it through the day, as far as naps and a schedule goes.  Many times this results in a challenging afternoon due to an over-tired 18 month old, but we are all learning how to deal with these curveballs.  In a strange way, the days that naps go haywire are the days where my mental health is challenged and made stronger.  See, I’m finding the positive in something that I would’ve considered negative.


On-the-go sleep:

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I’m curious, do any other parents out there have any tricks up their sleeve regarding schedules and napping?  What do you guys do when your child has skipped their nap?  How do you make it until bedtime with minimal meltdowns?  What do you do if you want to enjoy a day out as a family?

I know sometimes these hiccups are just par for the course, but I’d love to hear what works for others so we can try things out to see if they work for us too.  We’re in this together!

xo

 

A Birth Story: Gialina Eve

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There are two days in my life that I will never forget – one is my wedding day and the other is the day Gialina was born.  I know lots of mommy bloggers share their birth stories, so initially I shied away from the idea of sharing mine.  What changed my mind is that everyone’s story is so unique and beautiful.  There is no right way to give birth and no mother should be shamed for going through natural delivery, an epidural or a c-section.  So much is out of your control when you bring another life into the world and any way that your child arrives is a perfect miracle.

I used to dislike saying that childbirth is such a miracle (silly me – that was before I actually went through it), but as cliche as it sounds, that’s the only way to describe it.  So, so much can go wrong from the time of conception until you meet your baby.   Inevitably, the wold miracle is the only proper one that encompasses the whole process.

I’d like to start by saying that the day I gave birth was just an ordinary day, but it sure didn’t feel that way to me.  I was so done with being pregnant!  Gia’s due date was July 28th, 2016, but our little lady arrived according to her own plan an entire week late.  The morning of August 4th, 2016 I had a pre-scheduled appointment with my OB/GYN.  That morning I felt pretty normal and remember the slightest little stomach cramps.  Of course my brain went straight to “I must be in labor!”

I was hoping that once Craig and I got to the hospital for my doctor’s appointment that they would confirm that I was in labor and I could just stay there and get ready to welcome our daughter.  WRONG!  I got all hooked up to some contraption to check and see if I was actually contracting and in labor, and the answer was a big fat no.  Come to find out, I was only dilated 1cm.  Womp, womp.  I was so bummed to hear this because I was thinking that this was it.  My doctor reminded me that things can change quickly, so don’t let yourself get too fixated on it.  Either way, I was penciled in for induction a few days later if mother nature didn’t get things moving on her own.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting induced.  Modern medicine is amazing and whatever my doctor thought was best for the baby was what I was going to do.  I have to admit that I really, really did not want to be induced.  I had heard a lot of stories about induction and it being a lot more painful, due to the pitocin that is given.

I took my doctor’s advice and just tried to relax as much as possible and not let my body get stressed.  Since I realized again that I was not the one in control here, I went about my day the way I usually would.  I opted for a walk in the neighborhood instead of heading to the gym like I had everyday prior.

Most of the remainder of the day was spent at my mom and dad’s house.  No matter how old I get, I will still always need my mom and that’s who I wanted to be near (along with my husband, of course) if I happened to go into labor.  So, Craig and I hung out at my parents house until my brother flew in from Orange County and my dad got home from work. (Since there was a possibility of being induced, my parents flew my brother home for Gia’s birth.)

All afternoon I was feeling oddly crampy.  I was uncomfortable but it felt more annoying to me than anything else.  I kept asking my mom and Craig, “Am I in labor?  Don’t you think I would know?  I can’t tell if I’m in labor or not.”  I know that sounds ridiculous, but I didn’t know what to expect, as I’ve never even experienced menstrual cramps, let alone childbirth.

We decided it couldn’t hurt to time the “possible” contractions.  I was all over the board when it came to timing these cramps, as I called them.  I was in complete denial that I was in labor and was able to sit and have dinner before I told Craig it was time to go home.


Keeping it real with this one – Here I am, clueless as to the fact that I’d be giving birth very soon:

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Since my dad and brother had arrived home, the house was getting a little louder and I found myself becoming irritable and wanted to be in the quiet of our own home.  Craig and I grabbed our things and were walking down the hallway towards the front door when, yep, you guessed it – my water broke!  It wasn’t at all like what the movies make it out to be.  I literally felt like I had peed my pants and couldn’t stop.

I remember screaming in disbelief, excitement and let’s be real, fear – “MY WATER BROKE, MY WATER BROKE!”  Thankfully, Craig was so on top of things and was dialing labor and delivery before I could think to do it.  The nurses on the other line instructed me to get in the shower and rinse off before making my way to the hospital.

Lucky for me my water broke right next to the downstairs bathroom, so I just went a few steps and took my quick shower.  That’s when sh*t started to get real.  My contractions came like a bat out of hell, fast and furious, almost immediately after my water broke.  Things were so intense that I could hardly get to the car.  I’m pretty sure I just hovered over the passenger seat while Craig drove faster than I’d like to know to get me to the hospital, which was maybe 12 minutes away or so.

I made Craig run the last light before getting to the hospital because I was literally about to give birth in the car.  Craig parked his car in the middle of the emergency room driveway, grabbed me a wheelchair and pushed me into the ER asking how to get to labor and delivery from there.  Everyone was literally staring at us saying nothing until the security guard chimed in and said, “this lady is about of have a baby, get her upstairs!”

Once I was upstairs I was brought to a delivery room right way.  The nurses were so calm and nice, and even making me laugh through my contractions.  Don’t get me wrong people, I was by no means comfortable.  I distinctly remember telling the nurse that I wasn’t opposed to getting an epidural if this was how I was currently feeling.  No need to try and be the hero, right?!

The nurse told me she needed to check me first before she could give me a yay or nay on the epidural.  All you mamas out there are probably thinking, girl it’s too late for that.  The nurse confirmed and said word for word, “Oh no, honey, you’re having a baby right now.”  I was already fully dilated, so I asked the nurse if I could push now.

During all of this chaos, Craig’s car is still in the ER driveway.  He asked the nurse if he should go move it (DUH!), but she said, “Not if you want to miss the birth of your child.”  Thank goodness my family was right behind us on the way to the hospital, so Craig literally tossed my brother his keys, so he could move his car.

I sat down on that delivery bed right around 8 p.m. and I think I pushed maybe five times and she was out by 8:31 p.m.  I had never felt more like Wonder Woman in my entire life.  Well, I should say I felt like Wonder Woman who just got a really good beat down by the bad guy.  I did it!  I was holding our beautiful daughter, who had a head full of hair and the sweetest little face.  When the nurses were weighing her I remember fixating on her hands and feet because I couldn’t get over how big they were.  I was in utter disbelief that she was just inside of me and I was able to push her out.  She was no tiny baby either.  Gia was a healthy 8 lbs 15 oz and 20 inches long.

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Giving birth to our daughter is my proudest moment and I will never tire of telling the story of her arrival.  Women’s bodies are amazing and capable of enduring so much.  I have to say, there was moment after the nurse told me that I couldn’t have an epidural that I got scared.  I questioned if I was strong enough to do it.  I was strong enough, and every time that I look at my daughter today, I cannot believe she is part of me.

I was grateful to be able to have such a quick delivery, but that doesn’t mean it any easier.  I’m just glad I wasn’t laboring and pushing for hours like many women do.  Those women are the real tough ones!  We are all goddesses, whether we have given birth or not, all women are amazing and capable of doing anything.  Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder every now and then!

xo

Reflecting On A Busy Year & Preparing For 2018

Here we are, yet again.  We are days away from saying goodbye to another year and getting ready to welcome a fresh start for 2018.  This is the time where people begin to think about making resolutions for the year to come.  Normally I don’t make a resolution.  I thought I’d flip the script just a little bit, while it’s great to make new goals for the upcoming year, it’s equally as important to reflect on the year that has passed.  I’m feeling especially inspired to start my 2018 with a clear mind, positive thoughts and heaps of gratitude, thanks to a very, very popular blogger.  I’m taking the time to write a few things down and share them with you, at the suggestion of Julia Engel.  Head to her blog, Gal Meets Glam, to see the post that has encouraged me to do some reflecting.

Now Julia isn’t the only one doing the encouraging – I encourage any of you reading my blog to follow suit and do as I am doing here.  Take an hour to yourself to reflect, show appreciation and yes, plan for a good start to 2018.

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5 things I’m proud that I accomplished this past year:

  1. Sold our first home and purchased our current home.  Life is stressful in many ways, and I’ve realized that moving homes is close to the top of my stressors list.  I’m happy that we are settled in our house and it already feels like we have been here for years.  I definitely look forward to continue making it ours.
  2. Started blogging again.  I follow a lot of different bloggers through their Instagram accounts.  Although I’m not an “accomplished” blogger, I feel that I’ve already become successful.  When I say successful I mean that I successfully put my mind to something, followed through and continued to write, regardless of the opinions of others.  That’s a win in my book for sure!
  3. Deliberately went out of my comfort zone.  Although this does not pinpoint one specific thing, it’s an accomplishment nonetheless.  I’ve done things like take Gia on road trips, try completely new workouts and deviate from our routines.  I’m sure these sound small to outsiders, but for me they’re huge.
  4. Survived the ups and downs of my first year as a parent.  When Gia turned one in August, it wasn’t just a birthday celebration.  It was also a chance for Craig and I to look at each other and say, “we did it!”  The first year of parenthood is magical, but it is freakin’ tough!  Anyone who tells you otherwise is not telling you the whole truth.  From sleepless nights, to that first little giggle, all of it is so memorable in it’s own unique way.
  5. Regained my sense of self.  After having Gia in August of 2016, I dealt with a lot of new feelings about myself.  Many of those feelings about myself weren’t so positive and were likely related to postpartum hormones.  I was able to feel like me again after remembering to make myself a priority.  After all, if I don’t take good care of myself, how can I take care of anyone else?

One of my favorite accomplishments of the year – celebrating Gia’s 1st birthday!

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5 things I want to tackle in 2018:

  1. Do more yoga.  I think I’ve said this for the past three years.  I start the year off doing some yoga and then I fall off the wagon.  This year I want to do it for my mind, to keep my body loose and prevent injury from my more traditional workouts in the gym.
  2. Hold weekly meetings with myself.  I’ll even admit it, this one is lofty.  It sounds really simple, but it’s not that easy.  I want these “meetings” to be a check-in where I can refocus and align my to-do lists with my high-level priorities.
  3. Maximize my time.  I’m going to try and implement a two-minute rule.  Any action that can be carried out in two minutes or less will need to be completed right away.  I’ll be able to finish small tasks before they pile up and take more mental space than they deserve.
  4. Learn to control my emotions.  It’s not like I have uncontrolled anger and need anger management classes, but certain emotions are destructive in all circumstances.  Gaining control over my feelings will allow me to continue to keep a level head and think more rationally, even during emotionally charged situations.
  5. Volunteer.  I want to do good for myself, but I also want to do good for others in the upcoming year.  The times that I have volunteered, or donated, gave me a sense of purpose, made life a little more meaningful, and made me happy.


Now that I’ve listed a few things I’ve accomplished this year and a few things I’d like to tackle this coming year, I want to continue the trend of making lists.  This next one is going to be one that I jot down on paper and keep to myself though.  Feel free to join in and do it too.  Again, these are ideas I’ve followed from one of my favorite bloggers, Julia Engel, of Gal Meets Glam.

I’m writing down the names of five people (or as many as you like) who were my best supporters during my hardest and happiest times this year.  My plan is to send them a note of appreciation to thank them and remind them of what their actions and presence has meant to me.  These are the people who have contributed to my own personal growth.

The last thing I’d like to do is scroll through the photos on my iPhone and find five pictures that make me happiest when thinking about that memory.  That is going to be hard to do and take quite a bit of time, considering how many thousands of photos of Gia are in my phone.  I’ll be honest, I’m going to save the scrolling for another day.  It will likely be long after Gia has gone to bed for the night – that’s when I do most of my scrolling anyway!

I hope that in 2018 my thoughts become actions.  The act of doing is contagious and with that, accomplishments can come closer each day.  I can’t expect all of my goals for 2018 to happen in January, but with lots of hard work, a little faith and some action, I’ll get them done.

Happy New Year to all!

xo

 

Those Who Matter Don’t Mind & Those Who Mind Don’t Matter

So, this morning it was brought to my attention by someone who read my blog post from yesterday, that the post was “offensive to a lot of people who can’t have children, or are childless by choice.”  This was juuuust the tip of the iceberg.

First off, I am saddened and quite frankly, shocked that this was how my post came across to this reader.  I stated in the post that it was not meant to offend or single out anyone or any single incident in my life.  I know that my little disclaimer doesn’t prevent people from being offended or sharing personal opinions.  I just wanted to come and clarify, for lack of a better way to put it, that I meant no harm.

I always post with the best of intentions, while keeping in mind that I want to stay true to myself and be authentic.  It has taken me many years to realize that I should just do what I love and be me!  Now that I’m actually doing that I feel a bit taken aback.

Second, I was not aware that a single reader could speak for ALL who are childless, by choice or otherwise.  I felt it unfair to have one person make such a blanket statement for a group of people who may have differing opinions than the one they tried to present to me via message.

Let me include that this person is childless, as I’m sure you could have guessed.  There is nothing wrong with deciding that having children isn’t for you.  There is also a countless amount of people who struggle to have a child, which I most definitely sympathize with.

I am honestly hurt that someone could say that my post was “a scathing vent of why my time is more important than any of my childless friends.”  Let’s be clear here….EVERYONE’S time is important and I am not saying that my worth is more than someone who is without children.  That couldn’t be furthest from the truth!  The people who really know me well know that I am a good person who would never claim superiority because I am a mother.  True friends are people who will seek to understand.

My post was meant to humor those who do have kids and help them see that as parents, we all go through growing pains.  Yes, I realize that when I chose to start blogging that others would give their personal opinions, and that’s great.  This is a discussion board of sorts, and I’m glad this person messaged me because I can always learn something from these kinds of interactions.  What I think is a bummer is that the message also affirmed that there are people who are not willing to have a dialogue, and will cut you out.

The hurtful message assumed so much wrong about me and the point I was trying to convey. Since I have a blog that revolves around being a mother, fitness, cooking and family (all things I love), am I not able to talk about those things for fear of constantly “offending” someone else who has a differing opinion?  So, now am I an insensitive person because I talk about being a mother??  Am I not allowed to talk about the role that has changed my life, just because I’m afraid I will hurt the feelings of someone who is struggling to become a mother?  That sounds pretty ridiculous to me, especially considering it was not easy for me to become pregnant.

I will continue to write about things that interest me, things I’m passionate about and yes, I will absolutely write about what it’s like having a child!  Blogging will always invite opinions and discussions, some of which might be hard to accept.  In turn, since this is my space to share my opinions, you now know my opinion of the message I received.  As a side note, this was the only negative commentary I received on yesterday’s post.  I received many in support of what I wrote and thanking me for being open and honest.  I’ll never please everyone, so it’s best if I just come to terms with that now!

So here it is….I’m warning all of you now that if you don’t like what I write or if it’s offensive, you can stop reading my posts just like this individual did.  We all have a choice.  🙂

7 Easy Ways To Pay It Forward This Holiday Season

It’s so easy to become wrapped up in ourselves this time of year, with all of the presents to buy, parties to attend and preparations to be made.  Wow, I’m totally guilty of being very self-centered lately.  With my broken ankle still on the mend, continuously trying to get our house organized from our move and our toddler, lovingly known as hurricane Gia, I just haven’t thought much about anything besides myself and my family.

I’m starting to take action so I can pay it forward for the holidays, instead of focusing on me, me, me.  I don’t want excuses thwarting me from helping another, so this is where my little pay it forward project comes in.

Today Gia and I ran a couple of errands before her nap.  Our first stop took us to Target, which was bustling all before 9:30 a.m.  We made the rounds for a few essentials and that’s when I got the idea to create a goodie box for our UPS, FedEx and USPS delivery people.  I cannot take full credit for this idea, but I definitely put my own spin on it.

I used an old box from our move and wrapped it in festive paper, filled it with Gatorade, trail mix, protein bars and other snacks, and attached a little note expressing gratitude for the hard work of delivering packages during the exhausting and lengthy holiday season.

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After feeling proud about my mini project, I thought about additional ways that I could continue to spread some holiday cheer.  Some of the things I came up with I’ve done in the past and some are new to me.  I thought I’d share with all of you in case you’d like to keep passing on good karma.

Here are 7 ways you can pay it forward with me:

  1. Donate your time to new or exhausted parents.  My sister-in-law, Michelle inspired this one.  Michelle, her husband Jeremy, and newly crowned big bro, Jarren, just welcomed baby Jack to the family in November.  If I could offer my time to her for free babysitting, I would!  (She’s in San Diego, so logistically I can’t.)  If you know a parent or parents who could use an hour to themselves then help them out.  Bring your own kids along as playmates and helpers.  Imagine being a new parent and having the chance to get out for a few hours to do a little (peaceful) Christmas shopping, have a coffee break, or simply take a shower!  This basic act of kindness means so much to parents who desperately need a break.
  2. Be kind to someone you dislike.  Children are always watching and listening, and this I know because Gia repeats every word I say these days.  Thankfully she is always hugging and kissing her friends, family, stuffed toys and even photographs.  (I must be doing one thing right!)
  3. Be a store angel.  Leave 10 (or any other desired amount of) $1 bills in random places in the local store.  If you’re feeling extra kind, leave a little bit more for tax.  😉  Imagine how happy the single mom or dad shopping for their kids will be — or the child who wants a toy but mommy and daddy are hesitant to buy it because of the tight budget they’re maintaining.  It sounds like so little, but it makes such a HUGE difference in the lives of others who really need it.
  4. Leave a homemade treat with a kind note for your mail person in the mailbox.  These men and women are always providing us with such a thankless service every single day, regardless of weather conditions, traffic and more.  Let them know you appreciate what they do for you.
  5. Visit those who are lonely.  Some of the best gifts are not “things.”  A cheery visit to someone who lives alone may be just the nourishment they need.  Visit a neighbor or family member.  Save artwork made by your child to take as a small gift to brighten their day.
  6. Remember the “unsung heroes.”  Our local police officers and firefighters serve us everyday.  Bake goodies for their departments and fire houses, or buy their coffee when you see them in line at the cafe.  Do something to show that you recognize and appreciate all of their hard work.  After all, they are the ones who run straight to the danger that the rest of us run away from.
  7. Adopt a soldier.  Adopt-A-US Soldier is a non-profit organization that seeks volunteers to help show the brave men and women fighting for our freedom that their sacrifices will not go unnoticed. It connects supportive civilians with deployed troops and offers a channel by which to communicate encouragement and express gratitude to those brave men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces.  I’ve adopted a few soldiers over the years and it was a great experience.  We regularly wrote letters to one another and I sent much needed care packages filled with reminders of home and other necessities.

I know it’s not possible for everyone to do all, a few, or even one of these, but please, give what you can.  Your gifts to others do not need to be elaborate, or expensive.  You can have a charitable heart even if you don’t have a lot yourself.

I hope I’ve encouraged a few people to pay it forward for the holidays.  We should all be thankful for what we have and not focus on what we think we don’t have enough of.  As long as we have our health, a warm home and love in our hearts, then that will be enough.

In The Loupe

For you non-jewelry folks out there – no, I didn’t spell loupe wrong. The title of this post is my attempt to show that I can be clever! I know, I’ve got some major room for improvement in that department. At least I tried! 🙂

With Thanksgiving only two days away, Christmas around the corner and countless holiday parties on the horizon, I wanted to talk about how to care for some of our most cherished possessions. After all, us ladies will likely be sporting our diamonds, pearls, colored stones and gold to some of these upcoming gatherings.

Like I said, jewelry can be one of our most intimate and cherished accessories. Understanding how to care for and protect our treasured jewelry can make a world of a difference in maintaining its beauty, while keeping it dazzling for generations to come.

First, let me tell you why I’m not just a random woman pretending to know what I’m talking about. My love for diamonds, colored stones and pearls really became apparent to me during my time working at Tiffany & Co. During the time I worked for the company known for its famed blue box, I wanted to become a Gemologist (I still want to, but have put it on hold to be a stay at home mommy). I took courses with the Gemological Institute Of America to get the ball rolling on a process that can be quite lengthy. Although I have yet to become a Gemologist, I did receive my certificate in diamond grading and can call myself a GD, or Graduate of Diamonds.

This picture shows me in action when I was with T & Co., and yes, I got the sale:

Why do you even care? Well, I have gained the skills to grade the color, clarity, and cut of diamonds. I’ve learned to determine proportions and estimate diamond weight. I have also studied diamond treatments, synthetics, and simulants, and understand the effect of fluorescence on diamond body color.

Mind you, I haven’t actively done this since my daughter, Gia, was born, so I have some brushing up to do. Looking at diamonds and knowing what to look for is a practiced skill that requires the right equipment too. Even though I don’t get to work with diamonds everyday as of now, I am still constantly reading and learning more on my own with the materials I have been given from the G.I.A. (It’s a complete coincidence that my daughter is named Gia, by the way.)

Anyway, I digress. Now let’s get back to caring for our jewelry.

Be careful around light and heat with your jewelry. Light and heat can affect a colored gemstone’s color and durability. Over time and in excess, some colored stones can fade and their durability can be compromised.

Pearls, which are very delicate, can bleach if exposed to extreme light. When heat is excessive or if there are sudden extreme temperature changes, some gems can actually fracture.

Look at these gorgeous aquamarine earrings:

This next tip is kind of a no-brainer….keep your jewelry away from chemicals! Chemicals can damage and discolor your precious metals, like gold, silver and platinum. Chemicals can even damage some gemstones.

Even everyday items like hairspray, perfume and lotions can permanently damage the surface of your pearls or other porous stones, like turquoise. As a rule of thumb, you should always remove your jewelry before washing dishes, jumping into a chlorinated pool, spritzing with perfume and setting that hairstyle with spray. It can be tough for some to break these habits, but I’d much rather take the extra time to make sure my jewelry is safe from damage.

Use ultrasonic cleaners with caution! Not many people have these machines in their home, as they are a bit of a luxury to have. Your local jeweler will probably have more than one though. Not all gems and jewelry can safely be cleaned in an ultrasonic. Organic gems such as pearls, coral, ivory and amber absolutely CANNOT be cleaned in an ultrasonic.

The vibration generated by the machine can also shake loose your stones if they aren’t mounted properly. Ultrasonic machines are great for your tarnished silver pieces. It’s best to let a professional decide what can and cannot be cleaned by using this method.

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, so let’s make sure we always show them the love they deserve. I hate when I see people handling their diamonds the wrong way. What I mean by the wrong way is that they are touching the stone itself, instead of holding the band that the stone may be mounted on.

Diamonds attract the oil that’s naturally occurring on our hands and fingers. If you touch the diamond, the oil from your fingers will make dirt and dust adhere to it, dulling the fire and brilliance. Minimal handling of the diamond will keep it sparkling much longer.

Ultra classic round brilliant:

The key to a diamond’s sparkle lies in its facets – which work like a series of many tiny mirrors reflecting light in and out of the stone. Regularly cleaning the facets will keep your diamond sparkling and your diamond jewelry in gleaming condition, ready to shine for your next special occasion.

Pictured below is a gorgeous 2.69ct pear shape, D color and internally flawless. (I sold this ring a few years ago – It commanded a $155k price tag.):

If you have additional questions about how to care for your jewelry, feel free to comment or shoot me a message! I’m happy to help!

May your holiday season be bright and merry, just like your jewels!

Mommy Has An Owie 

Two days ago Craig and I loaded up Gia’s beautiful round crib and glider to bring over to the new house. These were the last “big” items that we needed to get in the house before we could officially start living there. 

As beautiful as Gia’s crib is, it’s a pain in the neck because it doesn’t breakdown at all. Almost every normal size doorway does not allow it to pass through, which spells out problems. We had to remove a small piece of wood from the doorway to get it into her new room, just as we had to do at the old house when we first got the crib. 

With the glider and crib being the final big pieces to move in, we decided to start off with the easier of the two and get the glider in first.  Craig was holding one end and I had the other – he was going into the house backwards with it so I didn’t have to. Once we got from the bottom of the driveway up to the walkway things went south. 

While holding the glider and not seeing where the walkway curved, I rolled my ankle off the walkway and into the grass. I immediately screamed out and collapsed to the ground. I’d like to think I’m pretty tough and tolerant of pain – after all, I made it through all natural childbirth of an 8lb. 15oz. baby in 30 minutes. (Yes, I’m proud of that!) Even though I’m tough, the loud snap that Craig and I heard confirmed in my mind, along with the pain, that I definitely had a broken ankle. Even the neighbors came running down the street to see if I was okay. 

Picture of me smiling through the pain:


Low and behold, after a trip to the ER, the doctor came in to give me the bad news. Yep. Broken. The absolute worst part about all of this is being completely useless with Gia. I’m pretty much bed ridden all day because I need to keep my ankle elevated. Anytime I get up I feel like my ankle is about to explode.  Things could have been worse though, so I’m thankful. 

Dr. G is taking good care of me:


I head back to the doctor on Tuesday for the real cast. The one I have is temporary because the swelling needs to go down and the doctor needs to make sure everything is aligned properly. 

I’m not sure how long I’ll be in a cast, or how long I’ll be using crutches. The other upsetting part about all of this is no working out. You never appreciate your health and mobility more than when you’re out for the count. 

Speaking of health – I found out that the blood I donated a few weeks ago went to use at a hospital in West Covina, CA. It’s pretty cool that I was able to find out where it went and that it helped someone in need. That’s just another reminder as to why this broken ankle is just a bump in the road. Life is still good!

When Tragedy Strikes

To my horror, this morning I, as well as countless others, woke up to news of the unfathomable tragedy in Las Vegas.  I picked up my phone upon waking and immediately saw news alert after news alert.  With each update, I saw that the death toll and injuries from this absolutely heinous act were climbing and climbing.  I couldn’t help but cry.  I’m so very saddened and shocked that this is the world we live in today.

I texted a friend who lives in Southern California, for I knew she had been in Vegas over the weekend, and I held my breath until I received a text back stating that she was okay.  After texting her, I remembered seeing via social media that a girl I had grown up with was also there with a friend of hers.  I messaged them as well – they were safe yet shook up.  I can’t even imagine.

I also cannot begin to imagine the pain, anger, sadness and grief that families are feeling right now.  Households that were once whole are now forever broken.  (I understand that this is not the only horrific event to happen as of late, but I feel compelled to share my thoughts and feelings.  I want everyone reading this to know that they should not politicize my words.  This is just me being human and feeling a wide range of emotions.)

So many lives are forever changed after what occurred last night in Las Vegas – people are without their parents, children, brothers, sisters, friends and acquaintances.  It makes me feel sick thinking that these poor people didn’t know what to do when they heard gun shots raining down on them for over 72 minutes.

Based on the news reports, it was utter chaos at the concert venue where people were trying to escape.  I cannot go without saying that there were many first responders at that Jason Aldean show, as off-duty concert goers.  I believe that those first responders made a huge impact last night in saving lives, in obvious addition to those on-duty.  Police, fire and EMS ran towards the danger while everyone was trying to get away.  The help and bravery of the first responders demonstrates true heroism.  If it weren’t for these people, who knows how many more lives may have been lost.

It’s awful that it takes the worst in humanity to bring out the best in people, but this is something that I think of on a daily basis.  Many of you know that I come from a first responder family and some of you might just be learning that now.

My grandfather was a firefighter who passed away in the line of duty, due to asbestos and smoke exposure – his death was the precedent setting case for the State of California for firefighters who lost their lives on the job.  He is forever immortalized on the wall at the Firefighters Memorial in Sacramento.

My brother-in-law is also a firefighter, as well as some of our very close friends.

My dad was a police officer for his entire career, working in a very busy city.  My father-in-law worked side-by-side with my dad for the same department.  Now my husband is also a police officer.  I hesitate in even mentioning this here because I know that there is so much tension around law enforcement in this day and age.

I was finally able to grasp the true meaning of what it is to be a first responder when I was the one sending them to calls for help.  There was a period before my husband became an officer where I was a 911 dispatcher.  I always knew growing up that my dad had a dangerous job, but I never thought about it much beyond that.  After being the person talking to the officers through their earpiece, I was able to grasp just exactly what my dad and father-in-law did every single day.  Now my husband does it and I have another unique perspective about the job because I am a police wife.



My everything in one photo:

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As I was waking up this morning, my husband, Craig, was coming home from work to sleep.  I asked him if he had heard about what happened in Las Vegas as I got a teary eyed.  I knew full well that he was aware of what had happened, since he had been up and working all night.  I told him that this is the kind of thing that I’m so very afraid of.  Call it tragedy, call it terrorism, or call it whatever you want – all of it is disgusting.

Now that I’m a mother to a beautiful little girl, I am so scared of the world we live in.  I might think a little bit differently than others, but I am always preparing for the worst.  For example, my parents, Gia and I went to San Francisco for the day over the weekend.  On our car ride there I told my parents how that I think completely differently about the world now that Gia is around.  (This is totally normal to a certain degree, but I think I take it up a notch.)  Just driving on the Bay Bridge into the city made me think about how it could be a prime target for an attack.  Then I thought about how we were going to the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero and how that is another potential target for a mass shooting or bombing.


Photo of my dad, Gia and I at the Ferry Building over the weekend:

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I know I cannot live my life in fear, but I am always on alert when I am alone with Gia.  Often I think of how I cannot let anything happen to me because I can’t leave her without her mother.  I’m so protective when we’re together and would jump in front of a moving train if it meant that she would be safe.  I know this is the feeling that many (hopefully all) parents have when it comes to keeping their kids safe.  It’s sad that I have to think about this on a such realistic level now.

I’ve only been to the movie theater one, maybe twice, in the last year, but even that experience has forever changed.  I think hard about where I should sit in case there is a deranged person who wants to harm everyone in the theater.  It’s just really very frightening that my mind even goes there.

I’m kind of starting to ramble on now, so I’ll wrap this up.  What I’m getting at is that there are people out there who go directly towards danger every single day.  They don’t think twice about it.  That is pretty amazing.  My hope is that you can walk up to someone wearing a badge and say “thank you.”  It doesn’t matter if it’s a police badge, a firefighter badge, a military badge, or an EMS badge – just thank them for what they do on a daily basis while we live our lives.  Many are quick to bash our first responders, but remember, they are the ones you call when you need help.

I know thoughts and prayers are never enough when tragedy strikes, but I offer them anyway.  My warmest condolences go out to everyone connected to the violence in Las Vegas.


Las Vegas is in desperate need for blood donations.  Here is a list of locations where you can donate if you live in Nevada:

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