Allowing Others To Be Who They Are

How many times have you sat, exasperated, while someone you loved mishandled a situation in their life? How many times have you listened to the same story and given the same advice only to have them come back to you a week later with an encore performance? If only they would listen to you (instead of themselves) the situation at hand could be fixed, they could be happy and you could be right.

And what about the times when you have felt pressured not to follow or share your own instincts or desires in order not to upset or frustrate someone you loved and respected?  How many times have you pretended not to feel a certain way or stopped yourself from reaching out due to embarrassment?

The fear of judgement and rejection can be debilitating, not only to individuals, but relationships between those who have heart-to-hearts and cannot see eye-to-eye.  I know there was a time when I personally lived in constant fear of disappointing dear friends and mentors I felt were more advanced in their approach to “problem” solving. After plenty of pretending not to need a little extra tutoring (and my fair share of test anxiety) I had to teach myself that it was OK to follow my own path (and stumble down it at times), come to my own conclusions and make my own mistakes.

I had to let go of my fear of loved ones rejecting or judging me and hold onto the hope would still love me even if it took me a dozen times to “get it”.

Guess what? They did.

I sat in class a while, but I finally learned that just because someone loves us or we love them doesn’t mean we need to think alike, feel alike or want to do all of the time.

We are a group made up of unique individuals with our own thoughts, feelings, experiences, fears and desires, but I believe we all want same things in life:  To love and be loved, to be accepted for who we really are, space to breathe, and room to be ourselves in the world and our relationships. I embraced the fact that we are individuals walking side-by- side in this life, and not extensions of one another. A difference in thought or opinion isn’t a rejection of us as a person (and if it is, that’s a relationship we need to reconsider participating in).

You’re likely reading this post thinking, “This is really so obvious, Brenda,” but it’s not always easy to remember when we are upset that someone is not taking our advice or handling a situation the way we would and/or think they should.   I write this as a reminder to us all (myself included) to try and remember to approach one another with compassion and a desire not to “know” but to understand.  Let us all remind ourselves that situations are often black and white to those of us who are not attached by the powerful emotional hook.

And as illogical as it may seem, emotions are what attach us to people, places and things.  They are what adds color to the world.  They are the soul to our body, the reason we give hugs, meet up with friends, write poetry, make love, say prayers and visit graves.

Live (for yourself) and let live.

Wedding, Wedding ideas., Ideas for wedding, wedding planning, bridal planning, bridal , Bouquet, Brenda Della Casa

Something Blue

  

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(All photos courtesy of Pinterest)

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Rose-Inspired Wedding

White Rose Wedding Cake, Brenda Della Casa, Wedding Design, Pink and White, Flowers

(Photos Courtesy of Pinterest)

Rose Petal Champagne,.Wedding Cocktails, Bridal Shower, Brenda Della Casa, Weddings

Cheers To You: A Touch of Pink

Whether toasting  your in-laws at your engagement party, your BFF at your bridal shower, or your new partner at the after-party, a touch of pink always adds a little whimsy to the moment.

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Lavender champagne, Brenda Della Casa, Weddings

Photo 1: Pink Mojito Cocktails, 2. Pink Champagne With Lavender Sprigs

Change Can Be Painful (But That Shouldn’t Stop You)

It doesn’t come to everyone. 

Others greet it on almost a weekly basis. 

I am talking, of course, about the desire to make a significant change in your life, personality or personal structure.

While it’s usually preempted by something negative–an embarrassing situation, comparisons, the loss of a loved one, reputation, job, or treasured possession–it can just as easily be ignited by a dream or an “a-ha” moment that snapped loudly in your brain while walking to the grocery store on a Saturday afternoon. 

But when it comes, it often makes a stink.

As much as we might try to shush it, the realization does all it can to show us that what we are doing and how we are living isn’t working.  

But comfortable discomfort is a strange reality to live in.  As illogical as it is, many of us believe that walking with the devil we know through the hellish situations we live in is better than venturing into the unknown.   

This means very few accept the call to action when it comes. The rest ignore it, devalue it through a series of justifications and blame-shifts or make sloppy, unfocused attempts to change, but soon give up.

The reality is that dedication, sweat and daily efforts are inconvenient and discouraging.  Then there is the painful withdrawal that our egos go through.  With every agonizing realization, we jones for the comfort a self-medicating lie will bring.  To make the decision to do better, be better and live better requires an acknowledgement that what we have been doing, saying, thinking and feeling wasn’t right.  It forces us to look in the mirror and see what is really there and not the airbrushed portrait created by the person our ego has made us believe ourself to be.  Seeing who we are clearly can be painful and some of us will do some very destructive things in order to hide behind that inaccurate-yet comfortable–mask.

So, what are we to do if something doesn’t quite feel right in our lives but we are unsure what it is that we need to tweak or how to go about making the changes we know we need to make?

Here are a few tips:

Reach out to a trusted friend or mentor and ask them to be open and honest with you about their experiences with you. Encourage them to freely share their observations.  Be sure not to get angry with them for sharing their thoughts.  While you don’t have to take it all in as the final word, do file what they say in the back of your mind as you observe yourself.

Consider seeing a professional. If you are open to the idea, remember that finding the right analyst may require sessions with a few professionals.  Not every therapist fits every client.  For those interested in a more activity-focused approach, check out cognitive therapy.

Write out the life you want to be living and the attributes of the person you want be and compare and contrast.  If you notice a discrepancy, write down three ways to get closer to what you want.

Support yourself.  If you want to have a stronger financial foundation, create a budget and carry it with you.  Leave cards at home and carry cash so that you are able to monitor how much you are actually spending.  If you tend to be very self-focused, make a decision to spend the first five minutes of each conversation asking the other party about their lives and needs and actively listening to what they have to say.

Make amends.  Once you recognize that your past behavior has caused others discomfort, apologize either by way of a call, an email or a card.  Or simply stay quiet and show them a different side of you.

- Keep a daily journal and track the reactions of those around you.  Maybe people cut conversations short or seem exasperated or drained after speaking with you.  How often do you speak about yourself, your problems, etc.  Do people say the same kinds of things to you?  Take notice.

Figure out your triggers. Write down everything that comes to mind.  Just taking notice of these things will help you identify changes you might want to make in order to make your life and relationships better.

Stick with it.  Don’t be discouraged if you fall down. Remember that real change takes time.  It took some time to form your old habits and your new ones will be no different.

Random New York Moments: The People We Meet

We had texted and emailed several times over the past year but very little information had been exchanged.  The truth is that our “friendship” was more of an acquaintance, and one that helped us pass the time more than anything else.  But these 12 words explained it all.

“I am in a hotel room–alone–I cannot stay like this.”

The Italian loved anyone and everyone because he hated to be alone.

We met walking through a park in the West Village around this time last year.  I was on my way to have burgers and pie for my grandfather and he was gallivanting around town, in search of his next conquest.  Our eyes met, smiles were exchanged and I blurted out that he looked like a Musketeer.  After a quick introduction, we exchanged  numbers, had coffee and became friendly. For three weeks, I played tour guide in-between his liaisons. I showed him my New York and he shared tales of Italy, spoke in Italian and enjoyed my relentless teasing.  He was a “Casanova”, here to lie, cheat and flirt his way into the lofts and studio apartments  inhabited by the many beautiful women who occupied this city.  I was a writer, in love with someone else, who dreamed of living in Italy.  It worked.

At the time, we both needed something and were able to provide it over brunch, lunch and cocktails.  This something: A new perspective.  We talked, laughed, ate and argued.  We met at bars for drinks where he would excuse himself to go to the bathroom, and I later found out, accept numbers from women who were eager to play his game (he boastfully confessed this to me over drinks in a failed attempt to make me jealous).

I laughed as eventually tried to convince me that I was really the one for him.  I assured him that I was not.  I was in love, and even if I were as single as Jennifer Aniston post-Brad, I preferred a different kind of romance. Still, I enjoyed his chaos and boldness and he told me how much he appreciated my advice and company.  We sat in parks and I took him to church where we both lit candles and he confessed that he was once an altar boy.

When the day came for him to leave, I was surprised to find that he wanted to spend his last night with me, walking around the city and sitting in a park.  We had dinner and I did my best to console him.  He was devastated to have to leave the new love of his life: New York City.  He asked me if I would like to accompany him home.  I declined. He understood.  “Can’t fault me for trying,” he said.  I didn’t.

We said goodnight in person, in text, and then on the phone, only to say it once again when he asked me to meet him once more before he headed to the airport.  I gave him a book about New York and he gave me a black and white photo of himself posing in front of a mirror in a blazer and no shirt. “To the most precious thing I found in New York.” I knew I was one of many women to receive this photo, but I appreciated the gesture.

I left for work and he walked down the subway platform to catch the A train out to the airport. His plane took off on-schedule but not before he left me several messages in which he confused his desire to stay in New York with his desire to stay with me.  For the first month, we emailed, but time passed and the truth is that we didn’t have much to say.  We were “Facebook” friends.  We liked a song here and there and messaged a hello when we had the time and desire. There was an attempt at having a skype conversation but it didn’t go over well.

 This wasn’t a romance.  Nor was it really a friendship.  It was something else, an exchange.  A nice way to kill time when there was rain hitting the window or too little funds to go out to Gemma.

Then, it happened.

He informed me that he was planning to return the States to pay a visit to California and his favorite city, I wished him well.  Days passed and I only heard from him when he needed something. Could I ask a friend to let him stay with them? No.  Could I suggest a place to stay?  Sure.  Could I leave work to meet him at the airport during his first layover?  Not possible.  Was there a good place to eat in Los Angeles?  Yes.  

When he arrived to NY, we decided to meet for a quick drink. I saw him standing on Broadway, texting a woman. I snuck behind him and yelled,  “Hello!” intending to give him a scare. “Bella! Do not do that!” he exclaimed, tossing his phone into his pocket.  We spoke about nothing and walked towards the restaurant, all the while trying to fill the moments with something meaningful.  We sat down for drinks at Sanctuary T (go there and enjoy it, East (The host) is amazing). I sat with my back to the window so that he could enjoy the view.  His eyes darted around the room, taking in the sights of each woman and I sat there, wondering where the fun, exciting and fascinating person I had met the year before had gone.  We spoke about his liaisons in California, his girlfriend in Italy, and I listened to him explain that “all men” cheat and that makes him feel OK about what he does.  I told him my thoughts about it and he reminded me not to judge him. “Women are the same, everyone is cheating and lying to everyone.”  I told him that I was not like that.  “I know you are not, but baby, it’s only you who is like this.  The rest of us are not.”  I told him that I knew this was not true.  He offered me the last piece of pita to scoop into the humus we were sharing. By the time the second glass of sangria had been served, there was a woman on his lap.

I looked at the time and asked for the check.  He picked up the tab.  We shared a cab to Queens.  He was staying at the house of a male friend, he said, not realizing he had referred to this friend as “she” earlier in the conversation.  I spoke of my special someone and he looked bored.  As I got out of the cab, he leaned in for a kiss and I turned away. “You have a girlfriend and I have someone in my life, remember?” I said.

A blank stare came across his face. “Then it’s a draw, no?”

I said goodnight and shut the door.  He texted me that I was something special.

I knew this to be true, but not to him.

20 Lovely Things

Edith Piaf on the radio, rain hitting the window and laundry in the dryer. 

Jasmine Tea.

Lavender Oil.

A beso. A baci. A kiss.

Knowing your worth.

 

Fresh flowers.

Baked goods in the oven.

Making a meal for someone you care about.

Seeing someone you care about come around the corner.

A magazine, Pajamas and a comfy bed.

 

A massage.

Writing in your journal in a quiet “secret garden”.

Living in the now.

Memories of loved ones who have passed.

Grace.

 

Gratitude.

Compassion.

The loyalty given to us by our furry companions (I love my Tony).

Friendship.

Being alive.

Damn It, Irene

Well, in case you hadn’t heard, there’s a storm a-comin’.  Thanks to Irene (a.k.a the hurricane with an attitude problem) those of us on the east coast are spending our weekend holed up, waiting for the power to go out.

Not one to sit on my patooty (I go stir crazy when I have nothing to do) I decided to make the most out of my day by baking a lasagna, brownies, grabbing a few bottles of red and inviting someone over. 

But my eatin’ and drinkin’ isn’t what this post is all about.  I thought I would share a few  tips that have come my way recently in the event you are facing (or ever face) a hurricane who won’t take no for an answer.

- Fill your bathtub with water.  You might need this to flush your commode.  Yes, I said “commode”.  I like it better than toilet.

- Have plenty of candles (and matches) or better yet, a camping lantern.  Get a flashlight.  If you waited too long to get one from the store and your alarmed-and proactive– neighbors scooped them all up, download the free flashlight app on your iPhone (if you have one).

-Bottled water is a good idea.

-Tape your windows in an X.  Don’t use super-sticky tape or you’ll have a heck of a time removing it (along with your paint) once the storm says “adios”.

-Charge your phone like crazy.  Charge your ipod, too, so that you have music to listen to while you wait for your power to be turned back on.

-Set your freezer to 0.  Don’t know why, just do it.

-Baby wipes can be used for personal hygiene.  It ain’t sexy but it is better than the alternative!

-Have a first aid kit handy.  That’s always a good idea.

-Put aside a little bit of water for teeth brushing.  I filled up a measuring cup for this purpose.

-Canned Goods are hardly gourmet cuisine, but you’ll love em’ if they are all you are able to eat thanks to no lights, refrigeration or stove.

-Do not go outside.  Sounds obvious but people can be silly.

-If you are ever trapped, do not yell.  Cover your mouth and tap on a wall, pipe or floor.

-Flood water is contaminated.  If anything you plan to place into your mouth comes in contact with it, don’t place it into your mouth.  For heavens sakes, don’t drink the stuff.

-Board games.  A good idea.

-Place important documents in sealed plastic.*

-Little furry things get scared in thunderstorms.  Have extra treats.*

*From BettyConfidential.

You Deserve This

When we start down the path of accountability and begin taking responsibility for our own happiness and our success (or lack thereof) we are likely to feel a range of emotion.  We may feel strong or scared, inspired or intimidated.  More often than not, we might start to feel a bit of shame or embarrassment as we compare our wiser, more polished selves to who we used to be or who we would like to be.

We know that what has been done cannot be undone, but doing better is the most effective way to mend wounds created by past mistakes.  If inaction has brought you a sense of failure, taking action now might yield success. If you were once a drama king or queen, staying calm and not overstating your case might bring about a respect you may have not enjoyed before.  If you have been a little “crazy in love”, learning how to love in a healthier and more independent way may bring you closer to your partner (or make you more attractive to potential partners).

The more open we are to accepting that we don’t know everything and are imperfect beings all doing the best we can in the moment, the less stuck we will be.  We will understand that life is about progression and growth and that change is possible and the only way to live our best life.  Adjustments in our behavior and direction are what allow us to move to the next level, no?

Your life is yours for the taking and the only person standing in your way is you.   It may seem as though others are holding you back or fate wants to pin you down but the truth is this: when you are successful and happy and healthy, you share that success, happiness and health with the world.  We all benefit.

Move forward into the direction of your dreams.  Study. Plan. Meditate. Dream, and most importantly, work your patooty off to finally achieve those goals you have put away on the shelf.

I believe in you.

Little Discoveries

Peter Thomas Roth Instant Firm(x): This stuff is unbelievable. It’s temporary but it’s an incredible temporary fix that works fast.

That Velvet Revolver is amazing.  OK, I knew that (Slither is one of my favorite songs).  But I just discovered this song and love it.  How cute is Scott Weiland?

That,  aside from my friends and their two adorable babies, TJ Maxx (on 60th) and Dylan’s Candy Bar are the best things on the Upper East Side. I now have three reasons to go above 14th Street.  This freaks me out a little bit.

Bare Escentuals Well-Rested eye brightener.  Whether up too late sipping cocktails, tossing and turning or trying to beat a deadline, this little powder covers up my eyes little white lies.  Thanks to Adriana for turning me onto this!

Vitamin Water Zero.  Finally, I can sip OJ without the extra calories. I win.

That my love for my iPhone knows no bounds.  BlackBerry who?

That the best app on the iPhone is Angry Birds.  I am so addicted to this game that I have to give myself time limits on it.  Other Favorites: Fat App, Aging App and StarMaker (Karaoke with built in autotune).

Lavender Oil really is calming. 

That Bill Clinton–a man who was eating McDonald’s and giving us White House M&M’s when I knew him– is now Vegan.

That a skirt steak loving carnivore like myself could actually like something Vegan.  This miracle something?  The Kale Waldorf Salad at Whole Foods.

What have you discovered recently?

It’s True

Destiny is another word for destination.  You decide what turns you will make, what passengers you will bring along and whether or not you will move forward at all. Your life is not predetermined.  Every choice, action, inaction, decision, lie, laugh and word change your course.

Most of us waste too much time worrying about what could go wrong instead of focusing on what could go right.

Time heals most wounds, but not all.

Life can be an adventure.

Make Your Life Less Stressful (Right Now!)

Living in New York can be stressful. From the grouchy MTA operator screaming back a non-answer to your question to rushing from work to birthday happy hours with a  deadline looming over your tired head.  Whether it’s just natural progression or outright rebellion,  I have become a wee bit obsessed with making my life as comfortable as possible– in every way possible.  I thought I might share a few tips in the hopes that you might pick up a tip or two.  If you have one to share, you know where to do it!

Bank Better

Sign up for direct deposit and spend 15 minutes setting up online banking.  Not only will you not have to look for those annoying paper bills again, but you won’t have to call up your credit card company and spend your hard-earned money paying a telephone banking fee.  You’ll also have a quick snapshot of all of your payments.

Split Your Bills

Some of you don’t have to worry about money.  Lucky so-and-so’s that you are. Most of us do.  This tip –shared with me many years ago when I was a low-on-the-totum-poll casting recruiter– was a lifesaver.  Here’s what you do: Figure out how much you owe each company each month and you pay 1/2 of the bill each time you receive a paycheck.  My landlord loves getting 1/2 the rent early and when those extra payday’s come in summer and winter (there is usually an extra payday in December and June or July) you feel like you got a little bonus.

Order Your Magazines Online

Instead of spending twice as much at the newstand, have your favorite magazines delivered to your doorstep and then donate them to local area businesses or libraries.

Donate, Donate, Donate

If you have not worn it in a year, bag it and call up your local Goodwill or Salvation Army.  Or, if you have female clothes, donate them to a local women’s shelter.  Your closet will thank you and you’ll do something wonderful for someone else. Win-Win.

Fix Your Shoes

New shoes are an expensive treat.  Taking your old soles and heels to the shoe doctor will give them new life for much less (15-25 a pair, usually).

Say “No, No, No”

How many times have you agreed to meet a pal for a cocktail or accepted an invitation only to bail out last minute (or worse, show up in a sour mood).  You not only feel bad but you wind up looking like a lousy friend. Save face and your friendship by not overextending yourself and taking a quality over quantity stance when dealing with your social life.

Diffuse

Get a journal and use a pen to scream out your thoughts before bed.  Not only will you “get it out” you don’t burden your pals with the day-to-day drama that comes with fleeting feelings.

Take a Day of Rest

If you “go, go, go” you’re going to exhaust yourself and won’t make it as far.

Get Organized

Mess is chaos (ever spent 15 minutes looking for lost keys?).  Set aside a day (take a vacation day if you have to, it’s worth it) and get your space in order.  Walk around the house with a trash bag and don’t stop tossing until it’s full.  No patience?  Save up and set aside a maid fund.  Pay someone to come in and do it for you (but make sure you keep it that way).  Wipe a mirror while brushing your teeth.  Mop the floor with a deep conditioner in your hair.  Multitask!

Go Old School

Pack your lunch and lay out your clothes the night before.  Place presentation folders, cards or mail you need to send out by the door so that you don’t forget it.

Overheard

Wisdom is everywhere.  Here are a few gems.

“If you aren’t careful, you will spend your whole life trying to make this relationship work.”

“There are some people who are stronger than you are, and when you try to save them from drowing, they will simply pull you under.”

“When it comes down to it, you have to let go of things.”

“Everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their home.”

“Do not focus on the now.  Focus on where you want to be, the life you want to be living.  That might help you make better decisions now.”

“I believe in myself.  It’s not always easy but if I don’t believe in me, then I have no chance at all. I want a chance.”

“There is no man in the world worth getting upset over.  These women get sick later in life and wonder why they’re health is a mess.  If they look back, they will realize it stems from their youth when they were crying over some inconsiderate idiot.”

“If you want to be someone’s abuse case, be it, but don’t complain about it.”

 

Today Is Your Day To…

Finally get those heavy things off of your “to-do” list.  The longer you leave them, the more they weigh you down.

Start being honest about who you are, what you want and how you really feel.

Laugh off the silly things that you used to waste your energy being angry about.

Look for a job that is worthy of you.

Let go of those relationships that are not worthy of you.

Step up and be the strong, independent, resilient, dedicated and successful person you are.

Stand up for yourself (even to yourself).

Make your own dreams come true by making a plan.

 

Learning To Appreciate Criticism

There are some things we are good at and others that leave room for improvement. When it comes to whipping up a batch of BDC’s special Oatmeal, chocolate & cherry cookies, no one can beat me (hence the title) but taking criticism as useful–or even with a pinch of salt–doesn’t come so naturally.

Looking back, I have to assume my negative response to criticism stems from the cutting tongue of my father. Whether he was laughing brutally at my imaginative childhood logic (humiliating) or reminding me that I was the wrong gender (heart wrenching), there was always a way to do and be something better than what I was. The message I received was that criticism was just another way to bully me.

As I grew older, the shame of being the girl with no parents, the one with no home –and the societal response to the role–nurtured my idea of being “less than”. Challenges to my thoughts, feelings, logic and ideas were deemed “critical”. Criticism was judgement and judgement was something used to send a person to hell.

It sure felt like hell.

I see now that it was an unfortunate response to something that– when done without condemnation or ego–can be quite constructive. When someone criticizes our theories, actions or ideas, they aren’t always attacking our character, but instead they are pointing out something we may have overlooked.  That can be useful information. 

I realized all of this not too long ago when my dear friend pointed out something I didn’t like. I was in the middle of snapping back a defensive retort when I realized something that would change my life. My behavior towards her was the adult Brenda’s way of saying all of the things the child I used to be never dared to. But my father’s behavior was not criticism, it was abuse. But my friend’s criticism was not abusive, it was friendly. She loves me and wants the best for me which is why she puts herself in the uncomfortable position of standing up to me.

The next time you find yourself getting defensive when someone disagrees with you, remind yourself that we all have wisdom to share and things to learn. Try and remind yourself that not every person has great bedside manner and not everything people say is meant to hurt you or can help you. When you’re dishing a scoop of criticism out, add a little sugar and remind yourself that you are feeding another human being.

A Few Tips:

- Pick and choose your battles. Criticism is often tuned out when the person doing the speaking is seen as critical in general.

- Qualify your statement, if you have to.  Make sure that you make it clear this is not a personal attack. On the flip side, if you are being given feedback, don’t personalize it.

-Be kind.  Humiliating someone is never the goal.

-Let it go.  Say your piece and move on.  Repeating yourself over and over or bringing it up every time you are upset is going to be seen as nagging or an attack.

Act The Part

When I was in high school, the queen bee of the drama department was a young (and very talented) girl named Janae.  With more diva in her than Jennifer Lopez, Janae had earned the reputation of being “difficult” and “demanding” at the ripe age of 15.  She was my idol and my rival, and if you were to ask me back then why I admired her so much I would have responded that she was a “star” without really being one.  How did she pull that one off?

"Do you know who I am?"

Janae graduated two years before I did.  Off to the Acadamy of Dramatic Arts in New York, she was out of my hair and set to conquer the world of musical theatre.  The girl had pipes for sure, and she wasn’t bad to look at, but more than that, she had that “X- factor” my drama teacher (Mr. Catinari) used to talk about so often.  One day, while working in the little coffee shop that paid me the money I needed to cover my bills and lipstick, Janae’s aunt walk in.  We spoke about New York and acting and I pretended not to detest her neice.  As she left, she said, “You know, she can be difficult and demanding and rough, but when you want something, you need to live like you already have it and the world will respond to you in kind. Janae acts like a star and is treated like one.”

It made no sense to me then, but as I have grown older, her words have blossomed and their wisdom more fragrant.  Now, there’s never a good and solid reason to demand baby pink M&M’s and rare african orchids in every room you enter, but if you’re aching  a successful (insert goal here) it would help for you to see yourself as such in order to get others to view you that way.  Here are a few ideas:

Dress the Part: If you’re looking to take on the corporate world, those sexy mini’s and jeans aren’t going to fly. Take a look at what the person in the role you’re looking to fill wears and follow suit (no pun intended).

Read Up:  Start following the news in your industry.  You want to gain an understanding of who the key players are, learn the lingo and have something significant to add to discussions when faced with prime networking opportunities.

Get a Mentor:  Start holding informatinal interviews with people who have achieved what you want to achieve.  Ask to buy them coffee or for 15 minutes of their time via phone.  Make sure you have a list of questions prepared and make the most out of your moment.

Polish, Polish, Polish:  Take a look at your dream job or goal and pay attention to the skills that are required to slip into the position.  Now, sign up for a class, get a tutor or start teaching yourself and ask a mentor to guide you.

Mix & Mingle:  Find out where those who have achieved your goal meet up for drinks, dinner and networking events.  Go!

I always tell writers to write, even if it is just a blog.  Publish yourself and build a strong clip file.  Make sure your bio and brand are tight.  Success is not measured by what is in your bank account, it’s determined by what you are doing and what you have actually done.

Imagine

Being loved for who you are, flaws and all.

Not having to fear the truth.

Being kind to yourself, even when you disappoint yourself.

Not personalizing the projections of others.

Laughing without ever worrying about the snort.

Kissing without worrying about your breath.

Loving without worrying about getting hurt.

Giving others the benefit of the doubt.

Having people in your life who offer you the same respect.

Appreciating trust enough to respect it and be grateful for it.

Knowing that you can trust the people in your life.

Not placing your life on hold for anyone.

What might a life like that feel like?

Your Secret is Out

It may be that we have not spoken for some time.

It may be that we have never met at all.

But I know your secret.

I know what it is that you want most in life.

The reason I smile at least a dozen times a day.

You want to be fulfilled.

You want to be successful.

You want to be loved.

You want many things, but strip them down and you’ll find that what you really want in life is one simple thing: You want to be happy.

Most people do.

Most people aren’t.

Well, at least not most of the time.

Why is that?

If we were all to closely at our lives, most of us would find that we have at least a few solid reasons to feel good. If you have a job and you make money to cover your bills (even if barely doing so) that’s a reason to smile.

If you have love & friendship in your life, that’s another.

Sinking your teeth into the flesh of a ripe peach should move your lips upwards.

Not having major health problems is enough to make you jump for joy.

Hell, being alive is often reason to be grateful.  Imagine not having a tomorrow to look forward to.

I could go on and on, but no one wants me to.  Counting common blessings isn’t a favorite pastime of the modern ambitious types.  Suggesting one thanks the universe for a clean bill of health  are often met with an eye-roll. Until, of course, one gets sick or breaks a hip.

That’s when the “a-ha” moment comes and we start feeding into the “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” cliché.

But why?

Why is it that happiness eludes us when we have so many reasons to be happy?

Maybe it is because our expectations of what happiness should feel like are too high. 

Maybe it is because we don’t understand that happiness is found in moments and moments are fleeting.

It’s quite possible that many of us have not yet realized that happiness is a choice. Yes, a choice. The truth is that there are usually two forks in every road. There’s always a darkness to balance the light. The love in your life may include fights and disappointments. The career you love may not move forward as quickly as you’d like for it to. That peach may make your hands sticky.

We choose what to pluck out of each episode. We decide what we will focus on.

What we meditate on becomes our mantra.

Our mantra serves as a guide into a particular direction. 

Telling yourself that there is “no way” to achieve your goals, that you will “never” have this or that or that you “are who you are” and “cannot change” is like pressing the gas pedal of a car headed to nowhere.  Each negative thought increases your speed and makes identifying exits and making quick turns (to seize opportunities) more difficult.

Take it easy.  Take it slow.  Be grateful for what you have and use it to get what you want.  The truth is that what is in your life can all be used to increase your happiness.  Nothing works against you unless you allow it to.

Ten Things That Make Me Happy:

- The way Tony Montana greets me when I wake up/walk through the door. All bad days become good days when I see that little guy.

- Spending time with my loved ones. I am blessed.

- Laying by the ocean.

- Writing.

- A good workout. When I overcome a physical challenge, I feel strong and healthy.

- Cooking.

- Travel. I love to see new places and visit favorite locales (London is calling…)

- Doing something to make someone else happy.

- Living up to my own standards (Not something I do every day).

What Makes You Happy?

Say It With Me…and Mean It!

I have no time for:

People who want to tell me why I cannot achieve my dreams.

People who want to pull me back into the past.

Envy.

Liars.

Meaningless arguments.

Careless insults.

Calculated manipulations.

Toxic relationships.

Comfortable ignorance.

Deception.

Fairy Tales.

Those who seek to judge me for silly things.

Pretending that I am someone I am not.

Trying to make sense out of nonsense.

Wasted time.

It’s Perfectly Fine To…

Stick it out. There are few things more beautiful than watching something you thought was dead and done blossom into something fragrant and beautiful. 

Be a little happy when your best friend/partner/favorite family member’s plane gets delayed.  More time with those you love? Yes, please.

Not care about showing anyone up at your reunion.  Hell, it’s fine to not even want to go. 

Not want to be in a relationship.

Want to be in a relationship pretty badly.

Not know what in the hell you want to do.

Not care about winning the argument.

Walk away.  When you’ve done all you can do, what else is there to do?

Bite your nails.  There are worse vices.

Prefer to stay in and relax over getting bottle service.

Tell someone to mind their own business.

Spend all day in your pajamas.

Take some time off from (insert whatever here).

Look forward to the Muppet Movie (I am!)

Remember…

You don’t need to avoid success because you don’t wish to highlight the failures of those around you.

People view the world (and those in it) through different lenses.  If a stranger or acquaintance isn’t warm to you, understand that they don’t know you well enough to dislike you and are most likely projecting.  Don’t take those projections personally.

Your friends aren’t meant to agree with you all of the time. 

Most people will come around.

The truth cannot be hidden forever.

People can change but you cannot change them.

Those who know rarely shout the message from rooftops.

Compassion, respect, manners, dignity, kindness, curiosity, diligence, elegance and knowledge and honesty.  These are the traits that propel average men and women from good to great.

No one knows the answers to the questions you have about your future.

Your gut = Your guide.

Your values > Instant gratification

Your words < Your actions

You have to do what you feel is best for you. 

You are meant to be here.

A Few Questions

Are you someone who prefers to give or to get?

Do you know how to take a compliment with grace?

Are you quick to support or criticize?

Are you flexible or stuck in your ways?

How are your ways working for you, anyway?

Do you believe in yourself?  Why or why not?

Do you think/feel/speak in absolutes or are you open-minded?

Who were you in the past? 

Who are you now?

What lies are you telling yourself?

What crutches is it time to let go of?

What do you really want?

Six Little Ideas That Might Change Everything

You can’t expect yourself to stand tall, stay strong and carry on if you don’t actually believe things can get better.  Positive thinking isn’t just peppy sunshine language, it’s a side-effect of knowing that all things come to an end, even “hard” times.

When someone wants to be with you, they will be with you.  They will fight for you, call you, write you.  They will apologize and do what they need to do to make things right with you.  They will come after you.  Chasing someone to get them to chase you is a waste of time and devalues all of the things that make you, well, chase-worthy!

Asking the Universe/God/Spirit Guides/ Allah to “help” you is one thing.  But there’s a good chance you’ll get a bigger boost by asking to be “helped along”.  Just as you couldn’t expect someone else to pedal for you as you learned to ride a bike, you’ll need to do most of the work (or at least half) if you expect to get where it is that you want to go.  So, the next time you ask for help, ask yourself, “what efforts am I putting into this beyond asking for help?”

If you knew that the person you loved would be gone tomorrow, how would you have handled things differently today?  It sounds morbid but death is a fact of life and when someone we love dies, we spend most of the time thinking about what we would like to have done differently.  Avoid that kind of regret by not allowing pettiness and unimportant things cause friction and waste time that is better spent enjoying one another.

If it is true that people treat you the way you treat yourself, how might treating yourself better change your relationships and the way the world interacts with you?

There’s a very good chance that you’re on your path and well on your way to where it is that you want to go.  Just keep moving along.

5 Things That Are Holding You Back Right Now

Clutter:  Wasted time aside (hello, where is that shoe?) disorganization keeps the mind in a constant state of stress.  Clean space, peaceful mind.  If cleaning everything at once is too much, break it down.  Set aside 15 minutes a day to organize your space and promise to throw away at least one bag of trash every single day until it’s done.  Trust me, you don’t need those jeans from college or those cards from your ex.

Hopes of Someone Changing:  They will or they won’t, but placing your life on hold in the hopes that someone will have an epiphany isn’t romantic or kind, it’s stealing moments from yourself.

Lies About Yourself:  Maybe you think you’re “too old” to go after that dream of yours.  Or maybe you worry that you’ll never find anyone to love you now that you are divorced.  Maybe you believe that you aren’t as smart, funny, lovable, gorgeous as you are. Whatever it is, it’s time to face the truth and get moving on with your life.  If you don’t know where to start, seek out the help of a trusted friend or therapist to help clear things up for you.  Another tip, write down the compliments given to you by friends, lovers, loved ones and strangers and resist the urge to deflect them.  It’s rude.

Bad Manners:  Speaking of rude, few things turn people off worse than poor manners.  Not knowing which fork to use is not blacklist worthy, but not showing respect,  support, saying “thank you” or giving someone eye contact are all great ways to have people avoiding you.

Nasty Language:  It doesn’t sound “tough”, it sounds uneducated at best (trashy at worst!)

Chris Lemmon

Being that I adore Jack Lemmon, I am was pretty excited to interview his son, Chris, for Staggered.  Little did I know that one of the son’s of my favorite actors would also become one of my favorite interviews.  Read more here.

We’ve Lost Her

Those of you who know me and read WB know that I have never made my appreciation of Amy Winehouse a secret.  I adore her voice and cheered for her in the ways a fan could, always hoping (along with millions) that she would beat her demons and live a long life, sharing her gift and finding peace along the way.  We now know that wasn’t her fate.

We hear about celebrities passing away all of the time, but this one was different, at least for me.  My heart broke instantly.  There was a feeling, “Oh God, we’ve lost her” that only those who felt it can describe.  Obviously, I didn’t know Amy, but what made her so special to her fans was that she made sure that we knew who she was– her soul, her weaknesses and her pain were all put out there without the slightest attempt to hide the ugly parts. There was no pretense, no inauthenticity with this woman. 

Of course, the press used this to their advantage, grabbing every flaw and misstep and running them through the presses. To those who think Amy was little more than a drug addict who ran through the streets in bloody shoes, I challenge you to listen to one of her songs and maintain that viewpoint. The reality is that she was one of the greatest voices in the history of music.  She was a genius. She was a daughter.  She was a sister. She was a human being.  She was still a child. 

Yes, she had issues. But it wasn’t Amy who exploited them.  She suffered.  Some snickered. The tabloids made millions.

The news of her death came to me in an casual way.  I was writing an article and my colleague mentioned that the small girl with the big, heartbroken voice had passed away.   I cannot explain how I felt, but time stopped.  Maybe it was the almost callous way she said “Hey, did you hear that Amy Winehouse died?” as though she was telling me that it was going to rain or maybe it was the fact that I listened to Amy almost daily and had come to actually care for her. Either way, the news hit me hard.  I sat there, stunned.

“I don’t mean to laugh, but the look on your face is intense,” said my colleague with a giggle.

“Is anyone surprised?” asked another.

“Enough!” I said.  It was an out-of-character response for me and the room got quiet.  As inevitable and unimportant as it might seem to those around me, I was hurt. I found myself angry that a young woman’s pain and passing was “juicy water cooler dish”instead of supremely tragic.

Within an hour, Facebook was full of tributes and even more snarky comments.  The latter upset me so much that I almost defriended friends I had known for 10+ years.  It sounds dramatic, but this was less about Amy (as much of a fan as I am and as tragic as her passing is) and more about human beings being decent to one another.  To me, it says much more about someone who makes jokes or shows zero emotion over the death of a 27 year old woman (child) than it does to be addicted to drugs and alcohol.

The truth is that I grew up with a father who struggled with heroin and alcohol addiction. I am no stranger to what the dependency can do–not only to the addict but to those who love them.  I know what it feels like to be frustrated, to live in fear of  a relapse, to fight like hell to make an addict care enough to get help (rarely works) and even to let go and walk away forever because someone you love so much can’t release themselves from the grips of whatever is ailing their intense internal pain.

Maybe my compassion for Amy was part projection (I am sure of it) but I know that most of it was true appreciation for a young woman who easily shared the limelight with the greatest artists of our time.  Her precious vulnerability and sincerity remind me of another woman I have never met but love dearly–my beloved Marilyn.

May Amy rest in peace and may we all honor her by showing compassion to those who need our help most and by remembering her for what she really was, a great artist.

A Few of My Favorite A.W. Songs:

Wake Up Alone

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (Gorgeous)

Love is A Losing Game

In My Bed

Time’s Up

Whether it is cleaning up your contact list, responding to a not-so-easy-breezy email or finally mailing that damn Netflix disk back, it is time to set aside some time and energy and do that one thing that never seems to fall off of your “to do” list. 

Just think of the peace not having (insert task here) on your brain will bring.  Don’t worry about why you have not done it, just get it done.

It’s True

You can make excuses or you can make changes.

You can grimace or show gratitude.

You choose which level you will live on.

You can fight or you can work towards a solution.

You can blame or you can accept responsibility for your part in a situation (even if simply allowing yourself to be victimized).

You can stay in and sit on the couch or go and explore the world.

You can eat healthfully or fill up with junk food.

You can eat alone or invite someone to join you.

You can worry about time that has passed or you can seize the day.

You can watch TV crack open a novel.

You can exist or you can live.

Your Word, Your Bond

Anyone who has ever had someone “flip-flop” knows the importance of being surrounded by people who honor and stand by their word.  Doing what you say you will do, maintaining your value system and showing respect for the promises you make not only strengthen the bond you share with others (and your reputation to boot) but is also a great way to build confidence and self-respect.  There something really special about being the kind of person who can be counted on.

Try it and watch your relationships bloom!

Your Ideal Life (Designed and Presented by You)

If you could sit down and design your idea life, what would…

Your Location be?  Where would you really like to live?  What about this place appeals to you?  Is there a way you can move there?  If not, how can you make where you are more like where you’d like to be.  If you love where you are, what do you love about it?  How can you enjoy it even more?

Your Crew be Like? What kinds of people do you want to be surrounded by?  How what kinds of people would you avoid?  How would you interact with them?

Your personality be like? What does the best version of you look like?  What kinds of things does he/she do?  What kinds of things does he/she say?  What habits does he/she have?

Your Relationships be like?  How would you engage family, friends and coworkers?

Your Partner be like? What kind of lover/partner would you have?  What kinds of things would you do together?  How would you communicate?  What kinds of values would you share?

Your style be like?  Would you present yourself as you do now or change it up a bit?

Now, think about the answers to these questions and how different your ideal life is from the one you are living now.  If they are similar, great, keep doing what you are doing. But if there is a disconnect, sit down and think of ways you can start making changes.  The truth is that you decide what you will choose, what standards you will have for yourself, others and how you live.  You don’t need to win the lotto to make your dreams come true, you simply need to be willing to put in the work.

Botox Diaries

–Brenda Della Casa

I am not sure what I was thinking, exactly.  Was I thinking at all?  Probably not.

There I was, going through my college photos when I noticed that my skin didn’t quite look the same as it used to. As if overnight, there were lines, dents, and shadows in places where there was nothing but collagen “back then”. Funny, that wasn’t so long ago. Only a decade or so. Still, I knew that Botox had been used by my favorite actresses and friends,–several of whom are a decade older than me– and they all look so “fresh”.  Much fresher than I looked (or so I thought).  I decided at that moment to open my mind (and possibly my pocket book) and mention it to my dermatologist on my next visit.  I  “just want to learn more,” I lied to myself.  After all, vanity has always been my sin.  I will gladly forego $500.00 dinners at five-star restaurants, but show me a cream that promises glowing skin and I am sold.  I started using anti-aging creams at 19. 

I’m not saying it’s normal.

Knowing I can be a little impulsive, I asked an “honest” friend  what she thought.  “You’re eyes make you look old and tired,” she said.  She’s 26.  I am not much older, but as anyone who has hit 30 knows, 26 is a lifetime ago in skin care.  (I did look tired. Maybe I should have slept.)   I then asked another friend, also 26.  “Use cucumber,” she said, gleefully.  “Cucumbers don’t work after 30,” I replied.  Botox was sounding better and better.

I walked into my dermatologists’ office and was promised by his partner that I would look “more refreshed” post-prick.  He had nice eyes and a trustworthy smile.  He was a doctor, after all, and he did this routinely.  I decided to close my eyes, hold my breath and go for it.  If Jennifer Aniston was game, so was I.

After several needle heads dove into the delicate skin around my eye, I handed over my overtime pay (yay for discounts!), left the office and said a prayer.

I was excited.

Wait, no, those weren’t butterflies. 

I was nervous. 

Uh-oh.   

Was I about to look like a real housewife or Kim Kardashian?

Knowing that I could not look down for 4 hours brought about a strange anxiety that I was going to fall and squish the toxins I had just paid someone to inject into my eyes all around my face.  This would result in a droopy eyelid, or one of the other horror stories I was suddenly remembering that I had read about.

I was on the verge of a stage-five panic attack when  I decided to get myself together and hold my head up high. I wasn’t going to fall flat on my face.  No way.  I had made this decision and I trusted my doctor.  I would look fabulous, right?  Right?  Well, for the first day, things would work out well. By day three, the party was over; my feelings about Botox (and it’s feelings about me) were written all over my face.

I not only looked less refreshed, I looked downright exhausted—and older. Good thing I had  a movie premier a week later.  That was perfect timing, Bren. I decide to see my derm and agree to  let him “fix” the issue.  As you can see, I make wonderful decisions.

He popped a needle under my eye and into my cheeks (to make the new wrinkling under my eyes look better, he relaxes my cheek muscle so I don’t smile so big).  Four days later, I looked even more tired.  I return to his office, this time in tears.  He tells me I look better, except when I smile.  “Don’t smile,” he says, reminding me that the models on America’s Next Top Model frown upon big grins.  That’s great for them.  They are hungry and can’t wear heels on dates.  I do not have these issues.  I am short and I am always smiling. Except for today.  Today, I am giving Botox the perfect muscle movement to look decent.

He promises me that it won’t last more than 3 months, but his partner says 6.  He tells me his partner is wrong.  I don’t know who to believe and start feeling relieved that I don’t have a beach house to invite people to for the rest of the summer.   He gives me a cream to help pull up the drooping skin (my skin never drooped) and I go home, toss on an eye mask, and white sage myself to get rid of negative energies because a friend said it might help.  I scour through the photos that I deemed heinous just two weeks ago and see my smiling, youthful face staring back at me.  I miss the big grin, the normal looking eyes and even the baby crows feet that were so troublesome to me and my 26 year-old friend.  I start to think about how hypocritical it was of me to try and turn back time when I constantly say that we cannot go back to the past.  I wonder what made me want to change my face and make a promise to spend the next few months working on my spirit so that I don’t ever get the urge to change my face again.

Don’t let anyone ever convince you that you are not as beautiful as you are.  Even you.

-Brenda Della Casa is the author of Cinderella Was a Liar, a Freelance Writer and the Managing Editor of I Am Staggered, USA.  She plans to share her journey back to her face on her blog, Walking Barefoot.

It’s True…

Most of th dreams you have for yourself are achievable.

Life is moving forward and time stops for no (wo)man.

You will be betrayed in your life.  How you handle that betrayal will help dictate just how often it repeats itself.

“Turning the other cheek” is a nice theory but people respect those who have boundaries.  Bullies tend to continue picking on those who don’t fight back.

Relationships should be safe in every way.

If you do not like yourself, you will drain those around you.

There is so much more to you than you realize.

That person you know so well?  You don’t know everything.  Make an effort to get to know more and watch your relationship blossom.

You can exhaust yourself chasing rainbows or you can enjoy them while they last and remember them fondly when they are gone.

Passion is painful.

Love will sometime run its course and end faster than you had hoped it would.

Treating yourself well, enjoying your life, showing appreciation for what you have, giving back–these are the “secrets” to happiness.

 

Good Advice

“You should be happy every day.  Well, I know that’s optimistic, but that’s what you should strive for so that you can quickly identify who is a drag and move away from them.” S

“You will never be able to wear size 3 shoes again, just as you cannot go back in time and change things.” H

“Some people create drama by worrying about the drama caused by others.  You can push more people away by simply caring too much about what they think.” J

“I don’t like when people say their life is no good when single.  Your life might be awesome but you’re just not in a relationship at the moment.” M

“Who cares what someone thinks and does or what they do if they are not showing you respect? They can love you to no end but unless their love or friendship does something positive for you, it’s meaningless.” K

“Sometimes it is better to just leave “well enough” alone.” Y

10 Things I Am Loving Right Now

Yay For Booty Cream!

Preperation-H Under The Eyes- The one for “swelling” works so quickly and so well.  Another great little gem? Sephora Under-Eye roll on cream. Note: A big merci to my friend, Parris, for introducing me to that one.

My iPhone  I don’t know how we lived apart for so long.

Friendly Friends It’s nice to be around positive and intelligent people who see the best in situations.  Good vibes are contagious.

Grilled calamariAdd a little olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and grill.  Serve with a Tomato, Onion and Blue Cheese salad.  So good!

Moving On- Holding onto something (or someone) who holds you back or pulls you down is no way to move forward.  Next time, try this: Let go and see if they do what they need to do to catch up with you.

Saging:  Hippy-Dippy? Yes. Effective? Yes.

Annoying Tony Montana-My baby hates being photographed and videotaped.  Thanks to the new iPhone, I can do both, and often.  He’s not amused.

Paying Attention To Universal Signs:  When people tell me something about myself that I don’t love, I try to listen.  When I hear about a new way to go about things, I take notice.  It’s not always easy (change can be a pain) but there are angels among us and they speak to us (guide us) all of the time. 

Good Advice- I have this amazing friend, Haley, who is a more honest, self-aware and realistic person than anyone I have ever met in my life.  The best thing is that she has a way of telling it like it is without making you feel like a jerk or that you’re being judged.  A gift.

Music From Other Cultures: French Classics, Italian Classics, Salty Latin Sounds. I rarely hear English words these days and it’s so romantic and nice.