Sunday, March 30, 2014

#LoveLifeProject: Fun in Pictures

Today I decided to write another installment for the #lovelifeproject! I have been a little forgetful about posting my pictures to Instagram with the hashtag, but I do remember to take them everyday and keep track of them all on my phone :) It is still one of my favorite things to do over the course of each day! Something small, cute, or funny happens, and I whip out my camera, snap a quick pic, and at the end of the week, I have a week full of love and happiness to look at to remind me of all the warm fuzzies that I felt that week. 

I love looking back at how the small moments really do make me so happy throughout the week. Such small things can bring such a big smile to my face! Like a cute German t-shirt from my hubby. Or sitting on the couch with my puppies. Or seeing a beautiful bouquet of my favorite flowers, tulips! I truly believe that taking part in the Love Life Project has helped me to be more aware of the small things in my everyday life that can make me happy. It reminds me to find the joy that comes from the little things in life :) 

To read more about the Love Life Project, you can  click here to read my previous post about it. 

Here are my #lovelifeproject pictures from the last two weeks.

March 19th

My 5th grade students made worm ecosystems. They actually have worms! They are so excited to write out a diary of what they are eating and what activities they are doing every time they observe them in science class!

March 20th

My poor hubby got his wedding ring stuck in the part of the couch that neither of us could reach! He had the drill out and everything! He worked for almost two hours to get that baby outta there! He loves me so much! #thecouchsurvived

March 21st

Don't you just love flower displays like this one? I especially love tulips, and these welcomed me into Whole Foods two weekends ago! Such beautiful colors, no?

Whole Foods also had this delicious loaded baked-potato pizza! It was a slice of heaven! I promise to get this recipe up on the blog this week! And I'll remember to tag you, Maja!

March 22nd

I am seriously loving my new Fasching t-shirt that Bjorn bought me! I am a sucker for anything with German writing on it! Peace, Love, and Pretzels!

Bjorn, Whitney, and Mark and their band The Stories killed it at 80's Pop Rocks! They played "Paradise City" by Gun N' Roses.!!!

Here's the video:

And a link to their website:

March 23rd

When I saw this picture, I was in love. I love cardinals. My dad loved cardinals. To read about my dad and his story with cancer, you can click on the "Why Blog" tab at the top of this page. I have heard that cardinals represent loved ones who have passed. When you see one, it means they're visiting you. I always see cardinals when I need to see one, you know? If I'm having a bad day or missing my dad. I know it's him telling me he's here.

March 24th

This just made me crack up laughing!!

March 25th

This makes me think of....

Yes, my baby. Whenever you want to hear it, I will tell you the story.

And I spent a lot of my spring break watching this lovely from my childhood! This show makes me laugh so hard!

March 26th

The puppies had their teeth cleaned over my spring break, so they were incredibly sleepy on Wednesday and Thursday sleeping off the anesthesia. 

While I sat with the puppies, I took a quiz and found out "I'm the King of New York"! Can't you picture me belting that one out?

March 27th

Then I found out Alex Wong was a Newsie! Totally awesome! I tagged him in an Instagram post and asked him if he wanted to go salsa dancing. He did not respond. :-/

March 28th

Does this need an explanation?

March 29th

Can you write this on a business card?

March 30th

 Today Rachael and I ate lunch at Panera. I noticed that the blow-up balloon thingy at Mattress Firm seemed a little tired. I think it was time for his lunch break too.

What has been making you Love Life this past week?

Love and happiness <3 Holly

Saturday, March 29, 2014

How To Be Happy #1: Music and Dancing

Have you ever had "one of those days" and just needed a pick me up? A lot of those days, I find myself turning to my favorite music to give me an energy boost or an emotional outlet for what I'm feeling. I really feel connected to artists, their music, and their lyrics. It is a great outlet for me and my anxiety. It always has been. Take today, for example. I was feeling quite "off" and tired after taking a nap this afternoon. I needed a "pick-me-up," so I put on an up-beat song that I love (Casey Abrams "Simple Life") and had a short little jam-out fest on the couch.

Throughout my life, I have always been a dancer. I've danced since I was two years old. Dancing has always been a way for me to put my emotions and my anxiety out on the table in an honest, yet safe way. I could leave my emotions out on the floor, feel what the music made me feel, spend all my energy out there, and I didn't have to tell anyone why I was so emotional during my dance. Why could I leave everything out on the stage? That's who dancers are. I truly did feel the dance and the music, but it was what was behind the music that really gave me that push to dance with so much feeling and emotion.

When you're dancing, you're telling a story, speaking with your body. You want your audience to feel what you're feeling, to understand what you're saying, to hang on your every movement. You become a good storyteller. You learn to become vulnerable emotionally. It's funny that I could always be this way through dance, but not in real face-to-face life all the time. It's so much harder for me. Dancing is my comfort zone. Maybe because I can become someone else when I dance and just tell people a story. It doesn't necessarily have to be my story. I just use what I know to pull from when I dance. 

Dance has always been a HUGE outlet for me. It still is in different ways. I don't dance as extensively as I used to. I don't really do ballet anymore, expect some barre work I do at home every now and then. I Zumba. I salsa. I hustle. I just started to waltz. I hip hop. I dance while I cook.

But the other huge part of my emotional release that goes along with dancing is music. I remember sitting in my room as a teenager and listening to all kinds of different music. Even when I was little. I would record songs off the radio and make mix tapes. I would put different music on, depending on how I felt at the time. I was really into Broadway music when I was younger. I just loved the stories, the rawness, of human lives, of the stories the Broadway shows told. My favorite was always Miss Saigon.

To this day, music and dancing are still a huge part of my life. Listening to good music on the way to work can put me in a good mood for the day. When I'm sad, listening to songs that touch my heart and soul really help me to work through my emotions. At school, my students and I listen to all kinds of music while they work, depending on their mood that day.

Jazz Hands

Without dance and music, I don't know where I'd be because they both are a huge part of my life. They keep be centered and balanced. They help me keep in touch with my emotions. They keep me sane. 

Working out (dancing) helps to keep my anxiety at bay. Belting out a great tune in the car can get my mind off of my OCD loop. 

One of my strategies for lowering my anxiety is to close my eyes while listening to a song and choreograph a dance to that song in my head. In that moment, I am not thinking about anything about the feel of the music, the words in the music, and myself dancing in my head. It really works. It takes my mind off whatever is, at the time, plaguing my anxiety.

I'd like to share with you some songs that I love to listen to in different situations. No matter how I'm feeling, listening to music makes me happy.

If I'm having a low key day and am just feeling like I need to release some sadness or anxiety or I am tired from dealing with anxiety, I tend to play low-key music. Quiet, calming muisc, sometimes with deep lyrics. Contemplating music. Here are a few I've been listening too lately:

Contemplating Music:

Birdy, "Winter Hymnal"

R.E.M, "Daysleeper"

Rufus Wainwright, "Poses"

Suzie McNeil, "Broken and Beautiful"

Amos Lee, "Arms of a Woman"

Harry Connick Jr., "Hear Me in the Harmony"

If I need a boost of energy, I play some high energy, uplifting, upbeat or happy music. Sometimes it's not uplifting either. It can be angry music that just makes me feel ready to tackle the day too! Here are a few I've been listening too lately:

Upbeat Music

V V Brown, "Shark in the Water"

Beyonce, "Countdown"

Sara Bareilles, "Brave"

ZZ Ward, "Til the Casket Drops"

Paul Simon, "You Can Call Me Al"

Do you have any songs that you've been listening to lately that either help give you energy or help you work through your emotions? If so, leave a comment below! I <3 comments!!

Love and happiness <3 Holly

Friday, March 28, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Mighty Anxiety

Tonight I'm linking up with Lisa Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday. Every Friday, people from all walks of life from all over sit down and write for 5 minutes about a given topic. Then we share our writing on her blog.

Five Minute Friday

The goal of our writing is to sit down and write without big revisions or editing. We just write. It's fun! Try it; see what happens!

This week's topic: Mighty


Mighty Anxiety

You, my friend, are mighty.

There are times when you
have taken over
my sight,
my heart, 
my mind.
You have taken away
my vision,
my hope, 
my voice.

With a strength and power
I had never known
how to overcome,
I struggled to
stay afloat.

I gave you my tears,
my thoughts,
my go-with-the-flow,
my too tired to fight.

You, my dear anxiety,
you put up a good fight.

I know you're used to surrender,
but I haven't given up yet.

Sorry to disappoint you, but 
I'm tired of your bullshit.

I am the mighty one,
putting up with your games
day after day after day.

I'm tired of fighting.
Some days, I'd rather not,
but every day I prepare for war.
This girl ain't going down easy.

She never has, and she never will.


Let me know if you give it a go!!

Love and happiness <3 Holly

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tried It Tuesday

Howdy-Ho, Everybody!

This week's Tried It Tuesday is all about FOOD!! Plus two lovely music finds that I am absolutely loving this week!

Don't you just love trying new things? I sure do! It makes me happy!!


In case you missed my post about my recent trip to the awesome and amazing international market that is Jungle Jim's, you can read about it here. I picked up some great new finds. I talked about most of them in that post, but I did save three of them for this one :) Here they are! 


Whenever we go to Jungle Jim's, Bjorn and I pick up Moxie for him (eew!), and I try a new flavored soda. This time I picked up two different flavors by the same brand:

I absolutely loved the pumpkin pie soda. It tasted exactly like a delicious, Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, but light and refreshing at the same time! It wasn't too sweet either. The blueberry was good too, but wasn't my favorite. I would definitely drink the pumpkin pie soda again!

To find out more about these organically sweetened sodas, click here.

Vanilla Powder

I drink decaffeinated  coffee in order to try to limit the number of headaches that I have per month. I usually buy plain decaf coffee (I've been obsessed with Starbucks Blonde Roast), and doctor it up in the machine before it brews with a little cinnamon and cardamon. I learned that trick from my mother-in-law. It's delish! At Jungle Jim's, I found this awesome vanilla powder to try as well to add to my plain decaf coffee before brewing.

I love adding vanilla powder to my coffee at Starbucks when I order one. But this one is even better. Vanilla and bourbon together?!?! Nuf said!

(P.S. There is no alcohol in this product!)

Click here to visit the website for Nielson Massey fine vanillas.
This bottle was a little pricey. It was $9.99 for 2.5 ounces. It is, however, made with good quality vanilla.


Seriously, this is absolutely my new favorite beer! It tastes like ripe, juicy cherries mixed with a crisp and smooth, caramel beer. I love this! I am going to find out where else they sell it besides Jungle Jim's. If I find someplace, I will link it below! By the way, I love the name too!

I haven't found a place yet! I'll keep looking for another place that carries this beer!

Giada de Laurentiis Pasta Sauce

I always walk by Giada's products at Target, and just never think to buy them. I happened to stop and look at her pasta sauce last week and thought this one looked amazing. Bjorn and I love artichokes, so I thought I'd pick this one up. It was soooo good! It is a little sweet from the roasted carrots and onions in the sauce, and it has chunks of delicious artichokes in it too. They are so tender and meaty. I made a meat sauce out of sweet Italian sausage and mushrooms, added the sauce with a little water (this sauce is very thick), and then tossed it with Rigatoni and Parmesan cheese. It was a winner!

Blueberry Yogurt

Bjorn and I also recently tried Homemade Brand Ice Cream's Blueberry Greek Frozen Yogurt. It wasn't as creamy as I thought it would be. It's a little hard to scoop out of the box, but the taste makes up for that. It tastes like fresh blueberries. I don't know if it's my favorite frozen yogurt, but it was pretty good. It is especially good the way we ate it. I melted a little lemon curd on top of the yogurt and crunched up a few Trefoil Girl Scout cookies on top. Wowy-wow! Such a good dessert!

Must have been a rough day!

Celery Salad

Bjorn's mom makes this great celery salad. I thought I'd try to replicate it the other night (I was craving it!), so I went for it! I chopped up about six stalks of celery and threw them in a bowl, juiced one lemon on top, added about one Tablespoon of olive oil, added salt and pepper, stirred it up, and grated about one Tablespoon of Parmesan cheese on top. Talk about an easy and delicious side! The next night, I made a double batch for dinner and lunch the next day!

Pork Jerky

I am not a big fan of beef jerky. My husband, however, loves the stuff! When I was at Fresh Market last week, I saw this interesting jerky flavor and picked it up for Bjorn, but I ended up liking it too! It has a really great smoky cherry flavor that I love. It tastes like you're eating a really great BBQ pork loin, minus the loin :) I got this bag for $4.99 at Fresh Market.


I have been obsessed with the next band and musician for the past week! You should definitely check them out! I can't get their music out of my head!!


I heard about Johnnyswim on the TV show Live From Daryl's House. (That show in itself is amazing. You should check it out. It features Daryl Hall from Hall and Oates. He invites his friends who are musicians over to his house to hang out, play music, and cook, among other things.) One of the bands featured recently was Johnnyswim. They are a husband and wife duo. Their story about meeting each other is so sweet. They are adorable together. Their music really hits me in the heart. It is full of passion and feeling. They are amazing talents. I love them (can you tell?). Here is a peek at one of their songs:

Aloe Blacc

I LOVE Aloe Blacc. He is like no other. His music is fabulous. His videos are fabulous. I am amazed by his talent. He wrote the lyrics to Avicii's "Wake Me Up" and sings on the track. Here is the song "The Man" from his latest album. 

Have you tried anything new this week?

Thanks for stopping by!

Love and happiness <3 Holly

Monday, March 24, 2014

It's Not Poison, It's Not Poison (On Repeat)

One of my earliest memories of living with OCD is from around the time when I was six or seven. I have a few other memories, but this is one of the most vivid. It is also one of my obsessions that my OCD brain still whispers to me about to this day. 

When I was younger, I remember watching the news and hearing stories about farmers using pesticides on their crops that were harmful to our health as consumers. I remember this being the story plastered on the news. The "scare tactic" at the time, if you will. And of course, my little OCD brain latched onto that story like a blood-thirsty leech. 

At dinner time, I used to dig through my food as if searching for gold. But the problem was, that's not what I was looking for. I was looking for poison. Poison from the pesticides. I didn't understand at the time what pesticides were, but I knew they were bad. I did, however, understand the word poison

One of my big obsessions when I was little was worrying about being poisoned. About getting sick. And then dying. About my family being poisoned. About my family dying. I didn't know how to articulate this, but in my head, it was very clear to me. 

I remember finding black flecks of something in my food and thinking, Oh no! They're trying to poison my family! I don't know who they were, but OCD is not rational and does not make sense. To calm my obsessions back then, I was constantly asking my mom, "What that?" or "What's is this?" I didn't really want to explain what I was thinking; somehow I think I knew my thoughts sounded a little crazy. 

My way of "checking" that everything was okay and acting on my obsession was to act compulsively or to continuously ask if those black flecks or other "abnormalities" that I found in my food were okay to eat. When my mom told me they were fine, it was nothing, just a fleck of pepper, I still continuously asked like a broken record to satisfy my OCD mind.

But the problem with OCD is that your mind is never satisfied. I still feared being poisoned. I still feared dying from the poison. I still feared my family dying from the poison.

This aspect of my OCD also pushed ahead with full force during Halloween. When I was younger, there was a story on the news about people trying to poison kids' Halloween treats or someone finding a needle in their kids' Halloween candy (or something to that affect). My mom, of course, being a concerned parent always checked my candy when I brought it home. I overheard my mom and dad talking about the possibility of  candy being tampered with (I was a very observant child). 

I was so terrified of ingesting some craziness that I was all consumed with inspecting my candy, even my parents had before me. I don't know what I was looking for. Signs of a needle sticking out of the wrapper? An unknown substance leaking out of my Snickers bar? Who knows. But that's OCD to a T. Sometimes I left my candy sitting in the corner of my closet, only to find it a year later, never eaten. 

I was so interested in finding out if that was a true news story, that I did some Google searching. I did find that there was a lot of hype about "Halloween Sadism," or tampering with children's Halloween candy in dangerous ways. But I found an interesting article written by Joel Best at the University of Delaware debunking the myth of this practice. There were instances that seemed to posture that there had been contaminated Halloween candy found across the country; however, after reviewing the specific instances, the evidence showed that the deaths and illnesses that seemed to be related to contaminated candy were not. And these instances were few and far between. 

To this day, I still get a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach when I get pieces of candy that are broken into crazy bits, have strange holes in them, or are oddly misshapen. It doesn't occur to my OCD brain that they may have been jiggled around a little too much en route to the store in the delivery truck. Or there was some inconsistency with the way the candy was made. It's not like everything is perfect. No, what pops into my head, of course, is that I am being poisoned by some sick person (who doesn't know me), but wants to get a kick out of seeing my suffer. 

To this day, my OCD brain still throws those thoughts my way. In the past I used to throw away those oddball pieces of candy and be done with it. But as I've worked on my OCD throughout the years, I've realized that has become a habit of mine to appease my OCD. So the other day when this handful of Reese's Pieces that I was eating looked like this,

I quickly popped those puppies into my mouth, chewed them, and swallowed them. And I enjoyed every last delicious bite. 

So much for poison, OCD. You can shove that one where the sun don't shine. 

To my OCD brain, it may be poison, but my rational brain has come to the conclusion that I like chocolate all too much to care. I don't think I'll have to play that loop on repeat anymore; it's not poison anymore.

Love and happiness <3 Holly

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I Have Social Anxiety Part 2: How I Handle Meeting New People

Recently, I wrote about having social anxiety. The last time I wrote, I talked about how difficult it can be for me to be up in front of people talking. Even people I know. It just makes me all around nervous. To read more about that aspect of my social anxiety, you can click here.

My social anxiety also affects me when I go out to places with a large amount of people, when I meet new people, and have to make conversation with people, who I don't know very well. 

For example, this makes me super anxious:

Midpoint Music Festival

Wowza! Lots of people!

Doing this in front of people watching made me crazy anxious.

This does not! Haha! But dancing is my comfort zone.

Me salsa dancing with people I don't know!

Before I explain a little about this part of my social anxiety, I wanted to share a quote that I heard somewhere about social anxiety (I can't for the life of me remember where it from!), but I think it really helps to show how difficult it can be and how awkward you feel in a room with a bunch of people. 

Have you ever been in a room full of people and just felt like everyone and their mother is staring at you? Their eyes are on you, analyzing what you're doing, the way you look, what you're not doing, why you're standing there on your own, among other things? I have that feeling all the time. Sometimes I am able to contain this feeling inside of me and move on. I can smile, look like I'm having fun, and carry on a basic conversation with people whom I do not know very well. Sometimes I do actually have fun.

Other times, the feeling is harder to control. I feel the anxiety coming on, and I do my best to control it. I picture my relaxing scene in my mind: my dad's grilling on the beach. Rachael, Bjorn, and I are hanging out in the sun. Crabs are skedaddling past us, hoping we don't catch them in the process. Laughter and peacefulness come over me....well, sometimes that works in these situations.

And then, like last night (at one of Bjorn's shows), I got that old sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, that everyone's eyes were on me. I stood awkwardly on my own at the side of the room, hoping no random people came up to start a conversation with me. I never know what to do with my hands. I clutch the strap of my purse. My hands  jump from "in my pockets" to "out of my pockets." First, I have my whole hand in my pocket, then I'm not sure if that feels right, so I take them out and stick my thumbs in my pockets, the rest of my hands resting on the side of my hips. But to me, I feels so exposed. Not necessarily physically, but so emotionally exposed.

Most often, I am not the most eloquent person the first time I meet someone. I don't always know what to say or what to ask. I try to keep up the best conversation that I can, but don't want to ask too many questions or say the wrong thing. I would much prefer to stand next to someone with a quiet understanding: it's okay to just stand here and enjoy the moment, whatever it is we're doing. I don't have to talk. But, I always feel pressure to hold up my end of a conversation.

A great post about social anxiety written by mommyblog0627 here.

If I am not asking someone questions about their life or what they did that day or offering up information about myself, it is not because I'm not interested. It's because, in my mind, I am trying to wrangle in my anxiety. It's like I'm in a rodeo and I'm up next to lasso the calf running around the pen, and I am the worst catch on the ranch. Sometimes it may take me awhile to warm up; sometimes, I'm having a difficult day, and I am just not able to be myself.

I promise you that I am not uninterested. I truly enjoy your company and am happy to be talking to you! I think that this is the misconception about people who have social anxiety. I, in no way, am not interested in getting to know you, answering your questions, or being friendly. It is just incredibly challenging to maintain my peace of mind, quiet my anxiety, and be socially present when in this heightened state.

Many things can affect how I feel that day: how tired I am, how anxious I've felt that day, how well or not well I know who I am with, if I feel like I can create a connection with people or not, and the list can go on.

Over the years, it's funny, but I feel like this aspect of my life has gotten better and worse: in one way, I'm not as afraid to put myself out there. I know who I am, and I'm not afraid to be me. On the other hand, my social anxiety has become a little worse as I've gotten older (as with all aspects of my anxiety in general).

In my experience, my usual strategies tend to serve me well in these situations: 

  1. Walk away for a few minutes and picture my relaxing scene (this does not work when my anxiety is higher than a 7 on a scale of 1-10). 
  2. Take deep breaths and focus on calming my anxiety brain. I'm lucky that over the years of working on my anxiety, I have learned how to firmly quiet my mind by sheer will power and telling myself. Okay, this is just anxiety. It's uncomfortable, you will be fine, shut up already! Sometimes tough love works on my brain! 
  3. Find someone I know to stand with your hang out with while talking to others whom I don't know so well. This really builds my confidence! (But not always possible.)
  4. I've also realized that it's okay to have a lapse in conversation! I can sit and watch the    band play. I can take a walk around wherever we are and go back. I can walk outside for a few minutes. I can just stand there and listen to someone else talk. I don't always have to take part in the conversation, and that's okay.
  5. I'm okay with who I am, and I don't apologize for being me!
  6. Try to "blank" my mind when I go into a public place where there are a lot of people.
    That's me going in with an "open-mind." It takes some effort to stop my thoughts.
    If I can't stop my thoughts that night, I replace my negative thinking with a positive
    thought. Negative: I don't know what to say! Everyone will think I'm awkward!
    Positive: I don't have to know what to say. I am an interesting person.
  7. Sometimes I just put myself out there and not be afraid! Ask an oddball question: 
    • Have you eaten anywhere fun lately? 
    • Have you been listening to any great music lately?
    • I've had such a crazy week! (Insert interesting thing that happened to me this week.) What's the craziest thing that's happened to you this week?
    • How long have you lived in Cincinnati? How did you end up here
    • Sometimes I find it hard to talk about my personal life around people I don't       know very well. This way, I feel like I'm still conversing with people, but I don't get as uncomfortable talking about myself! This way, it's a little easier to throw myself out there.

I've spent a long time working on my social anxiety. I told Rachael the other day, "I know I'm always going to have social anxiety. It's just something that I'm going to have to work through every time I go out." I'm okay with that. That's who I am, and I'll be fine. It's just a lot of work, and sometimes, it takes a lot of energy. Some days more than others. But it's nothing I can't handle.

Do you ever feel yourself uncomfortable when you're out around people you don't know very well?

Shout out to Dave and Mary last night for making my night!! I was so excited to see you two!

Love and happiness <3 Holly