Archive for the ‘self-improvement’ Category

For years and years I’ve had gel permanent french nails.  They made my stubby fingers look a bit longer, and I loved the fact that I never had to worry about filing and polishing my own nails.  Sure, the cost was a bit pricey at more than $50/month, but that’s  the price of beauty, right?

Well, last week, out of the blue, I decided that I was going to take my nails off.  Let my real nails “breathe” a bit, and save time and money by not having to go to the nail salon every week.  That was a major plus for me.  I had a standing appointment at the salon every other Monday at 4:30.  When school is in, making it to the appointment wasn’t a big deal; I’d just head there after work.  Now that summer has been here and my schedule is a lot looser, I really hated having that appointment time.  It was smack in the middle of the day and it meant that I had to carefully plan the Mondays around the nail appointment.

Plus, I was getting bored with the look.  Yes, my nails always looked neat and clean, but it was always the same look.  I longed for black nail polish, or red, or pink, or a light champagne color.  Being able to switch the color to suit my mood.  A bit of variety, if you will.

So I went into the nail salon yesterday and let them know that I wanted to have the gel taken off.  You would’ve thought I said, “please cut off my fingers,” from the reaction I received.  Every single nail technician in the joint came over and asked me why I wanted to take the nails off.  Even some of the regular customers asked me.  It was weird.  I just told them I needed a bit of change.  End of story.  I guess people are always looking for drama or a good story, but unfortunately, I didn’t have on for them this time.

So now my nails are “naked.” Yes, my fingers do look a bit more stubby.  But typing is so much easier!  Not that I had long nails, but my own natural nails are really short right now.  But they look fairly healthy for just having the gel removed yesterday.

Photo 20

So now I’m going to use manicures as a reward for weight loss.  I’m hoping to get them done once a month, but only if I make my goals.  I’m thinking of making different goals each month.  One month it might be to earn 25 Activity Points each week.  Another month it will be to have gone to a WW meeting each week for the month.  Another month it will be complete the EA Sports 30-Day Challenge or the 30-Day Shred DVD.  Something achievable but challenging.

I know this post is probably boring for most of you, because of its navel-gazing nature, but I just wanted to document the change.  We’ll see how long I can go with natural nails.  I’m hoping to go for the rest of this year, and beyond.  Why pay all that money for fake nails when I can maintain my own natural nails by keeping them healthy?

Actually, I think that’s what taking the nails off was all about for me.  I’ve been spending this entire summer trying to get my body healthy through a variety of exercise and diet.  I’ve made a huge lifestyle change in the past year as far as weight loss goes, and I guess keeping my own nails healthy and natural is part of that for me.  It shows I can take care of myself, because healthy nails = healthy Bella.

Doing my nails myself will be something of a novelty for me.  I was never very good at polishing my own nails, but maybe maturity has improved the steadiness of my hand?  I think polishing my nails once a week, maybe on Sunday evenings, would be a good way to do something nice for myself and prepare for the coming week.  Hmmm… I think I just thought of a new weekly ritual.

So now it’s time for me to go out and splurge on some fun nail polishes.  Any suggestion for favorite colors/brands?  I’ve always been a fan of O.P.I., but are there others out there that I should look into buying?


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41umN8uHLRL I just finished reading Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center.

I absolutely loved this book, and I have to admit, I was a bit surprised. I wasn’t sure how much I could relate to the story of a married woman with 3 kids. But the story of Lanie Coates is the story of any woman who has seen imperfection in her own life. And really, which of us hasn’t?

One of the things I loved about this novel, besides the brilliant writing and laugh-out-loud humor, was the use of art (photography and music) to demonstrate the creative outlet we all need. I also appreciated the fact that Lanie admits that having kids isn’t all about baking cupcakes and smiling faces. She shows the real side, the very difficult side, that you sometimes wish you could get away from.

One aspect of the novel that I could completely relate to was the idea of reinventing yourself. Lanie goes on a quest to get her pre-mother self back. She starts taking time for herself, even when there doesn’t seem to be even one minute. She starts going to the gym, she starts taking pictures, and she starts being a little bit selfish. And in the midst of doing it, she not only regains her “self,” but she also finds the new woman who she has now become.

One of the quotes I love from this book comes from the last page, but it doesn’t give anything about the novel away:

Beauty comes from variety, from specificity, from the fact that no person in the world looks exactly like anyone else.  Beauty comes from the tragedy that each person’s life is destined to be lost to time.  I believe women are too hard on themselves.  I believe that when you love someone, she becomes beautiful to you (Center 233).

This quote made me think about myself.  So often I focus on the things about myself that I want to improve – weight loss, how to deal with my crazy, curly hair, a new foundation or lipstick that will make me look beautiful – and I forget to focus on the things about myself that I love.  My personality, my humor, my intelligence, and my lust for life.  I am beautiful, and this quote reminded me to think about that a bit more often.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well written story but I feel like it should be mandatory reading for anyone who is a mother.

I look forward to reading Center’s other books, because she is an author with a gift for expressing the everyday in an extraordinary way.

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Today is my 38th birthday, and I guess it’s time for a bit of reflection.  38 is definitely in the “late thirties” category, yet I don’t feel that old at all.  I feel as though I’m in my late twenties, maybe.  I guess that’s because I don’t have a husband, children, or a mortgage, and all of those other things that go with being a responsible adult.

Being young-at-heart runs in my family.  My dad just turned 69 and he doesn’t look it or act it at all.  He’s still so full of life and vigor, and it’s wonderful to see him enjoying his retirement.  (Although he retired 3 years ago, he still substitute teaches because he says the kids keep him young).  My mom is the same way – she’s 62 years old and you would seriously never know it.  She has a really energetic personally that keeps all of us on our toes, and I love it!

This birthday marks 20 years since I graduated from high school.  The summer of 1989 was one of the best ever because it was the one between high school and college.  The summer on the cusp of growing up.  The summer when there were absolutely no responsibilities.  This summer feels very much the same way to me.  It’s the first summer in years that I haven’t worked, and I’m absolutely enjoying every minute of it – even the quieter ones.

So, what’s on tap for today?

  • Well, I started the day with my WW meeting.  The news was good, and the meeting really helped me get on the right track for this week.
  • After the meeting I got the car washed – I love the feeling of a spotless car.
  • Then I came home and did the Wii Fit.  I don’t know what it was, but I broke all sorts of records today.  Maybe there were being nice because it was my birthday?  Or maybe I’m just advancing!
  • I’m planning on spending an hour or so today just reading.  I’ve been really lax about reading this summer (too active, I guess), and it is going to be nice to just sit with a good book.  I’m reading Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani.  Love her writing and I’m sure this won’t disappoint.
  • Later this afternoon, my mom and I are going shopping!  She said that the gifts that I mentioned to her (she still likes us to give her birthday wish lists) were ones that she needed me to be there to pick out.  I’ve asked for some silver hoop earrings, a new coffeemaker, and a few other items.
  • After the shopping, my mom is making me a birthday dinner – pasta with pesto, barbecued Italian sausage, and a salad.

A birthday spent with family – shopping and eating well – how much better can it get?!

Now to explain the title.  I know all of you can add, but to me, turning 38 is really a wake-up call to me to get back on track with my life list (aka Bucket List, only these are things I want to do by the time I’m 40).  So, I have two years to complete the following:

Things to do before I turn 40:
1. Lose 100 lbs. Working on it, but the progress is slow.  I’m vowing to do this, though.  It’s the most important thing on this list.
2. After weight loss, go on a shopping spree at Anthropologie and Ann Taylor Loft, knowing the clothes will look great!
3. Sky dive.
4. Own a convertible. I should complete this one in August, when I buy the new VW Beetle convertible!
5. Find balance in my life. (I’m so bad with the work/personal life balance). As I wrote earlier this week, I’ve got a great handle on this one.
6. Make spirituality a part of my everyday life.
7. Try yoga. I have not only tried it, but I discovered I LOVE Bikram yoga.  I haven’t been in a while, though, so I’m going to go this month.
8. Start meditating. I tried it a couple of times, but couldn’t seem to quiet my mind long enough.  It might be worth another shot.
9. Get a Brazilian bikini wax.
10. Go to the beach in a bathing suit and feel proud of how I look.
11. Go to NYC.
12. Go to Boston/Connecticut CTLB’s wedding in August ‘08. I’m hoping to go back next summer to see CTLB’s new house.
13. Run a 5K. (Maybe even a 10K). I’ve walked two 5Ks, and have another one coming up July 19th.  Not sure if running one will be realistic.
14. Meet “The One” aka “Mr. Right” and be engaged, or close to it.
15. Own a home (condo/townhouse), even if I’m still single.
16. Go on an exotic vacation to Bali or Morocco.
17. Learn to speak Italian.
18. Get some of my writing published.
19. Use my masters in educational leadership, either in school administration at my school or on the district level working with the new teacher program.
20. Adopt a dog.

So, you can see that I still have several of the items to work on.  Some of them are a bit unrealistic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try.  You never know what you can do until you attempt it, right?

38 is definitely going to be a great year, I can just feel it.  There is no doubt that I will feel better than I ever have with my increase in activity, focus weight loss, and quitting smoking (July 15th).  There are so many things I want to accomplish, but like you know by now, I’m a girl who loves a goal, and I can’t wait to take some of these on!

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Ever since I started my weight loss blog, I’ve been writing much less frequently on this one.  Because weight loss is my main focus (almost like a part-time job), it makes sense that I have more to write about that topic than any other.  Still, sometimes I feel badly that this blog, the one I started blogging with, gets pushed back to second-class citizen status.

One thing that seems appropriate to write about here is how I’ve been doing on my quest to “get a life.”  Last August, I wrote a post where I vowed to take back my life and stop living to work instead of just working to live.

I’m happy to report that I am now a reformed workaholic.

It wasn’t easy.  At first I felt like I was really sloughing off on my duties at work.  “I really should go to the play this weekend.” “The students would really like it if I went to that football/basketball/soccer game,” etc.  Instead of feeding into this guilt trip I was laying on myself, I just said no.  I took myself off of the numerous committees I had been serving on and kept only those that I felt were the most important.

Did I feel like I was out of the loop?  Yes.  Did I crave being “in the know” the way I was when I served on lots of different committees and attended tons of school events?  Sure, sometimes.  But that feeling of being slightly out of the dialed in group was well worth the time and energy I found now that I wasn’t spending so much time and effort at work.

It was a strange year for me because CTLB, my best friend at school and one of my best friends in life, left.  I felt a lot lonlier than I had in the past 4 years, when were were “joined at the hip.”  But before you start feeling too sorry for me, I do have an amazing group of friends at school, and we all eat lunch together every day, so it’s not like I sit alone in my classroom and grade papers while I eat a stale sandwich.  (That would never, ever be me, by the way).  We also had a new principal this year, and that made for a lot of changes.  Good changes, but still, there were a lot of things going on this year that left me feeling out of sorts a lot of time time.

But my life outside of the work day was fantastic!  I found that I had tons of free time, and I used it to try new activities, reach out to old friends and make some new ones, spend lots more time with my family, and just enjoy myself by doing whatever I wanted to do – riding my bike, reading a great (or trashy) book, watching movies, cooking, etc.

It seemed idyllic until the school said they were looking for someone to teach a “summer school after school” class.  I saw dollar signs and knew that if I taught the class I would have the money I needed for a down payment on my new car AND I wouldn’t have to work this summer.  So, beginning after February break, I gave up 60 hours+ of free time and taught the class.  (This may not sound like a lot, but this is on top of teaching 5 other classes.  Not to mention grading and prepping for 6 classes).  It is something that I’m glad I did (for the money), but will never do again.  It’s just not worth giving up that much of my life.

All in all, I loved having my life back.  I felt like I was a better teacher because I could look at things from a well rested, happy point of view.  I plan on doing more of the same this coming school year.  Actually, it should be even better because I’m only teaching one honors class, which will dramatically cut down on my paperload.  Can’t wait.

Ok, enough writing, time to get out there and LIVE!

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AM sent this to me last week, and I just got a chance to view it today.  Overall, I love the message that it promotes.  It’s a good reminder that I have so much to be thankful for and I should treat each day as if it were a special occasion (sometimes hard to do).

The video is 3:20, and is worth the time, because it may just give you a little perspective on life that you needed to be reminded of.

Enjoy the Ride

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Is today really Monday?  Aren’t Mondays supposed to be yucky and awful and hard to deal with?

Today has been a fantastic day!  From the time I got up (early, before the alarm!) all the way until I got home, things have been going great.

Not only did I have time to sit down, read the newspaper, enjoy a cup of coffee and my breakfast at home, but I also got to work earlier than normal.  This is quite a feat for me, since I’m usually running to my classroom just in time to beat the 5 minute bell.  Unlike other jobs, teaching requires that I be there exactly at a certain time, with hardly any leeway.  It was so nice to be able to get to my room with plenty of time to prepare for the day ahead.  (Usually I make sure that I have everything ready, including writing the next day’s agenda on the board, just in case).

My classes went wonderfully, despite the fact that my honors students had a research paper due today.  Usually the days that papers are due are the ones that cause major stress for my type-A, overachieving students.  Today most of them were completely prepared and calm, which really helps set a nice tone for the day.  Plus, they’re really enjoying the new novel we just started, which is always nice.

Then, after lunch, I was surprised to discover that I got paid a day early!  Considering that I only get paid once a month, getting my check a whole day in advance was awesome.  I was able to come home after a few errands and pay all of my bills early.  It’s so nice to feel organized and ready for the month ahead.

I even had a bit extra this month, so I treated myself to some new makeup from Sephora.  Speaking of which, I’m not sure how you are, but I’m a really loyal to certain brands of makeup, and making a change is a really big deal for me.  For several years now, I’ve been using Bare Escentuals.  I like the lightness of the feel of the makeup on my face, but I am getting sick and tired of the mess it makes in my bathroom.  Seriously!  There has to be a better way to deal with the loose mineral makeup!!  The thing that fueled my wanting to switch is that last week, in a moment of rushing around the bathroom in the morning, I dropped the container with the foundation in it, and… SPLAT!  POOF!  Clouds of mineral makeup all over the bathroom floor, all over my shoes, all over everything!  UGH!  As if my mornings weren’t hectic enough already.  Couple that with the fact that I feel like the makeup looks a bit too “powdery” on my skin, and I made the decision that as soon as I got paid, I was making a change.

So what did I move to?  FMG raved about how much she loves Stila.  So I went to Sephora last week to check out their products and found some wonderful options for my skin.  Today I ordered:

  • Illuminating Powder Foundation I love that this powder is packed and not loose.  Plus, it really does give the lightness that I liked in the Bare Escentuals with none of the mess.  I also really like the brightness that it gives to my face.  They aren’t kidding about the illumination!  It also has an SPF of 12, which doesn’t hurt.  (Now before you jump all over me about how I need more than just a 12 SPF, I know I do.  My moisturizer has an SPF 25, plus my skin is olive and doesn’t burn easily, so I’m covered already.  This will just be a nice little added protection).
  • Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer I don’t usually use a tinted moisturizer, but I got this as a sample from Sephora a little while ago, and LOVED it.  It gives your skin a really beautiful, dewy glow, without a heavy feel.  It’s perfect for those weekend days when you aren’t going to be doing more than running errands or walking around the farmers’ market.  Since I’m taking this summer off, I figured this would be a nice item to add to my beauty bag.  It has an SPF of 15, which is a decent amount of coverage for my skin (see above).
  • Convertible Color I like the idea of a cream blush, because I think it gives a really lovely, light bit of color to your cheeks.  If done correctly, it can be so much more natural than powder.  I bought it in Peony, because in my “research” on youtube, I think it will be a great color for my skin tone.  I’ve heard nothing but good things about this product, so I’m really looking forward to trying it.

After my online shopping spree, I made a healthy, delicious dinner myself and ended the evening with a nice dose of one of my guilty pleasures, Gossip Girl

Today was simple, yet perfect.  Gotta loves days like that.

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This week I was able to take a couple of long, luxurious baths using my bath “chill pills” that I got from Hydra when I went with my sister earlier this month.


The best thing about taking a bath, to me, is that it is the ultimate form of relaxation.  You don’t have to worry about all of the million other things you should be doing.  Once you hit the water, all you think about is that moment, enjoying the bubbles, the scent, and the warm water.  It’s good for the soul.

I also think it’s something really good to do for yourself.  It’s a nice way to care for yourself, giving yourself a few stolen moments of peace and tranquility.

When I take baths, I always do it at night, for some reason.  I guess because the pace of the day is starting to wind down, and things move at a slower speed.  The laundry list of “to do” items have hopefully been completed, and all that’s left to do is relax and enjoy the evening.  At least, I find myself choosing evenings when this is true.

Before this week, it had been literally 6 months or more since I’d taken a bath, but I think I’m going to make this a weekly ritual, maybe on Sunday nights.  I really can’t think of a better way to get ready for the upcoming weekly craziness than to take some time out and enjoy the quiet and calm a long soak in the tub brings.

In fact, I think I’ll take a bath tonight, after the Oscars.

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