The Best Unexpected

Inspiration, laughter, and a tiny cheese obsession.

Give me the answers!

April 12, 2014
christina

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Next Thursday I will be having surgery.  All the questions I have asked about my health since November will finally be answered. Answers I have begged for.  Waiting for.  And, waiting is torture.  Ask anyone who has experienced doctor ping pong, or a played a  friendly game of “I have no idea what is causing this” with their doctor .  It is torture.

There are moments when you would rather hear bad news than no news at all.  At least then your pain would be justified, and not “just stress”.  You can have something to work with.  You can have a verifiable reason for all the turmoil.

Yet, I don’t know what I fear more…. having a concrete answer….or the doctor finding nothing.  When my doctor asked me if I had any questions, the only thing I could come up with was “what if you don’t find anything”.  He paused, and said that everyone asks him that very question.  Oddly enough, it calmed me to know that I wasn’t alone. That my fears were universal.  He held my hand and said he would be shocked if they didn’t find anything.  Surprisingly, that also calmed me down.

There will be so many things answered.  I want to know. I want to move on. I want to figure out how I can fight and conquer whatever has raged inside me.  That is what keeps me moving forward.  The thought of getting better, getting healthy, and overcoming these obstacles.

Give me an answer, and I will climb every mountain you put in front of me.   Continue Reading

“Gratitude. Appreciation. Giving thanks. No matter what words you use, it all means the same thing. Happy. We’re supposed to be happy. Grateful for friends, family, happy to just be alive… whether we like it or not.

Maybe we’re not supposed to be happy. Maybe gratitude… has nothing to do with joy. Maybe being grateful means recognizing what you have for what it is. Appreciating small victories. Admiring the struggle it takes simply to be human.

Maybe we’re thankful for the familiar things we know. And maybe we’re thankful for the things we’ll never know.

At the end of the day, the fact that we have the courage to still be standing… is reason enough to celebrate.”

5 things I know for sure

March 31, 2014
christina

The past few weeks have involved  a lot of soul searching, and moments of great relief.  The type of relief that happens when you finally let go of old grief, heartache, and disappointments.  I am still coming to terms with how the past 6 months have transformed me, and the principles that I now hold dear.  The list below are a few select truths that have anchored me during some of the stormiest moments. These are the 5 things I know for sure. xoxo

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Embrace Failure: Everyone has a different definition of how to hustle and what they need in life to feel prosperous.  My definition of success has changed drastically in the past few years, and is no longer synonymous with fame or wealth .  Last year, I struggled to get my business off the ground, and I was bombarded with feelings of inadequacy when I was not successful right out of the gate.  There were buckets of tears shed, and an eventual burnout that forced me to step back and reevaluate my goals.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that the personal “business boot camp” I experienced would lead to new ventures months later.  My business is no longer the blue print I had in mind, but my experience….and subsequent “failure”….introduced me to opportunities I would have never explored had my original plans not fallen through.  Now, I think of my business as a success because it taught me the invaluable lesson of growth, and resilience.  Which leads me too…

A Burnout Can Be A Blessing: We have all had that moment.  The moment when you hit that proverbial wall, and every ounce of energy that has pushed you forward has been zapped from you.  You are spent. You are done. Too much work, too much stress, and nothing in return.  Last December, I burned out from months of trying to make my business work, working 12 hour days and struggling to make ends meet.  I literally had nothing left to give, mentally or financially, and my body promptly followed suit and gave out.  I had no choice but to stop and finally let go.  It was exactly what I needed.  The moment I stopped trying to “make everything work”, and just allowed things to fall into place was profound.  My world didn’t fall apart as I had feared.  I was able to finally breathe and find time to take care of myself.  We are our own worst enemies, and sometimes we need a very sturdy kick in the pants to make us stop dead in our tracks.

Never Stop Learning:  After last years hurdles, I made a pact with myself that in 2014 I would be honest with myself.  What are my goals?  What is the end game?  How can I continue to move forward?  The first thing I realised was that I would have to up my game, and that meant going back to school.  I am no spring chicken, and online classes have made me realize that learning is a hell of a lot harder to comprehend now that I am in my late 30′s.  Shouting at the computer has become a weekly event.  Yet, I love it.  I eat it up. Opening myself up to learning new skills is terrifying, frustrating and mind bogglingly cool. I have discovered new talents and passions that I would have never fathomed I could excel at.  It may take me hours (HOURS!) to conquer a Photoshop graphic, but, when I complete my design I am beyond thrilled.  Beyond!  Now, I can proudly add writer, web designer, and business owner to my résumé.  Never be afraid to learn something new.  Never. You will be shocked by what you can accomplish.

Share Your Story: The biggest lesson I have learned this year is the power of allowing yourself to be vulnerable.  We have all been programmed to stuff our problems behind closed walls, and repeat the mantra “I am fine”.  By denying your truth, even if it is ugly, scary or sad, you are cutting off your connection with the people who love you.  My life has been forever shifted because I stopped trying to pretend that everything was sunshine, and gained the courage to say “I need help”.  When I became sick earlier this year, I finally reached out and admitted that I needed some support. Friends and family rallied around  me, and not only allowed me to be vulnerable, but shared their vulnerabilities too.  Some of the best conversations have transpired because we collectively said “I am going through a rough time” and tried to help raise each other up.  There is no shame in being overwhelmed with life.  There is no shame in your grief.  If you speak your truth, you will be amazed who reaches out to you with empathy and shares their story with you.  These connections are incredibly important.

Remember to be gentle to yourself:  I cannot repeat this enough.  Be gentle with yourself.  Strive to be kind, and have honor.  Take time for the people in your life.  Appreciate the tiny moments during the day that are important.  Try not to rush.  Stop judging yourself and dwelling in past mistakes.  Stop hating your body.  Embrace getting older, and stop living in the past. Remember that you are loved.  Remember that you are doing the best you can.  Breathe.  Be gentle with yourself.

growthisoptionalquote Continue Reading

“the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments- the ones we want to pretend never happened- are the very same moments that make us who we are” – Jenny Lawson -The Bloggess

Crock Pot Chicken Soup

March 18, 2014
christina

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Last week I was on sick duty taking care of Mike. He was hit like a tidal wave with an epic flu.  It is in those moments where you see the true character of a man, let me tell you.  Of course, last week turned out to be the worst of all work weeks, with three new jobs coming in.  As a foreman for a concrete company Mike has to oversee every job site, come hell or high water….or in this case, flu be damned.  I have never seen one man work so hard, while feeling so awful.  It killed me. Killed. Me.

Since I was helpless in this situation, all I could do was make sure the sickly dude came home to a warm, comforting meal.  This is one thing that my mother has passed down to me.  When someone you love is hurting, get thee to a kitchen and cook!  Some of my most loving memories are of my mother cooking me her famous cauliflower soup when I was sick, heartbroken, or downtrodden.  This is now referred to in our house as the “love soup”.  I swear it made everything better.

So, I decided to make Mike my version of the love soup.  And, nothing is better for a nasty flu than to make a heaping pot of homemade chicken soup! They don’t have a book called “Chicken Soup For The Soul” for nothing.  It works. It is everything healing and filled with love. And, it tastes pretty amazing too (if I don’t say so myself).

So, here is my recipe.  It is ridiculously simple, and fills the house with the most comforting aromas.  A week later, I am now the one with the flu….and the first thing Mike did was go out and buy me soup.  Soup heals!

Crock Pot Chicken Soup

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 5 hours

Crock Pot Chicken Soup

Ingredients

3 frozen boneless chicken breasts
1/2 of an onion, sliced into quarters
16 oz box of low sodium chicken broth
4 small tomatoes, sliced into quarters
8 oz of white pre-sliced mushrooms
8 oz jar of mixed vegetables (carrots, peas etc)
3 small potatoes, sliced into quarters
1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning
3 garlic cloves finely diced

Instructions

  1. Place the frozen chicken breasts on the bottom of the pan
  2. Cover the chicken breasts with vegetables (in no particular order)
  3. Pour broth over ingredients in the pot
  4. Add the seasonings, and garlic to finish
  5. Cook on high for 5 hours, or on low for 8 hours.
  6. You can easily play around with some of the ingredients and add or subtract what you like. Spinach, fresh carrots, green peppers, or brown rice would all be amazing additions.
  7. You can also adjust the seasoning to your taste. Adding 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes would kick it up a notch and add just the right amount of heat.

Notes

This pot lasted us four days, with two of us eating it for dinner every night.

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Fear of Failure

March 12, 2014
christina

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I have often read that “life is a journey”, and although I adore the sentiment I have to say that I prefer the other quote “Life is a f*&^#ing fight”.  It seems much more honest.  Life is a battle, and we need to wear our helmets at all times. We work toward a goal, and pound the pavement trying to find the perfect harmony of love, financial stability and health.  But, what happens when you work hard and the goal is still unreachable?  What happens when you hit that inevitable burn out?

You can be full of optimism and confidence, but there will always be days when the little gremlin inside of you screams “you have failed again! Ha! Just give up already”.  Those little nasty thoughts that threaten to trample on your hopeful outlook.  It happens to the best of us.  It happens on the days when you feel that a pile of bricks has come tumbling down on top of you.  The job you wanted fell through.  Your finances are so strained you can barely make the bills.  Your health takes a nasty and unexpected turn.

We all have the moments when heaving big sobs full of uncertainty is the only reasonable thing to do.  We all have the moments when we look up at the sky, pound our fists in the air and scream “give me a f*&^ing break!”.

So what do we do?

First, I suggest letting yourself have that moment.  Give in to the grief and the frustration, and own it.  Pushing it down, and pretending that it is fine will only lead to an atomic bomb inside of you that will explode sooner or later. Cry, curse, vent, and allow yourself to feel the ache.  And oh yes, that gremlin voice will shout at you “failure, failure, failure” until you start to feel like you are one.  You can’t escape it, but you must conquer it.  The second you start to believe that you are a failure is the very moment you have to reverse the dialogue. That is the moment when you rise up to greet that bastard voice in your head and tell it to piss off.  You must say with every ounce of courage you have, “I am not a failure.  This is part of the battle”.   Because life will test you, and you can allow yourself to rest, and sob big hopeless tears…but never give up.  Even when you feel like a failure.  Even when continuing on your path seems like the hardest thing to do in the world.  The choices we make in these moments define us.

Be brave.  It will hurt like hell.  It does for all of us at some point in the game.

Life is a fight, so put up a good one.  Continue Reading

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” - Elizabeth Gilbert

Practice Gratitude

March 6, 2014
christina

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For the past two days I have put my money where my mouth is and tried to get out of my funk.  I have tried my best to “get out of my own way”, as they say.  Clear all the negative clutter in my mind, and focus on the good.  Focus, focus, focus….

But, in truth, what I really have done is get back to practicing my gratitude meditations. It may sound very silly, or new agey, but I promise it works.  I was in the habit of doing them daily, until the muck of the medical mess got in the way and clouded everything.  You see, I believe with my whole heart that if you remind yourself to be appreciative of the good things in your life (even the little things), than you will eventually be able to overcome the negativity.  I am not always the perfect student when it comes to following my advice, but I try.  Every day I try to be grateful for something that occurred, even if it was a tiny moment.  For example, this week:

*I connected with a mentor that I have admired for over two years

*I was able to take a 20 min walk with my dog Arthur, without having to rely on the pain meds to make it happen.

*Mike made me my favorite margarita (which is far better medicine than any pain pill!)

*I completed my list of “to do’s” for the week

*I caught up with a few close friends via text and phone calls…yes, people still use the phone these days.

So, even though I am overwhelmed with doctors, and bills, and chores (oh my!), I can still look around at my week and be thankful for the moments that were both simple and spectacular.  I can repeat to myself “I am grateful”.

One of my favorite websites allows you to share your daily gratitudes  http://thankfulfor.com/, and even allows you to create a personal gratitude journal.  The best part?  You get to read what other people are thankful for as well!  Or, you can check out this fantastic article on learning to practice gratitude: http://www.unstuck.com/gratitude.html

So tell me…. what are you grateful for?  Continue Reading

“There are no wrong roads taken to anywhere; there are no accidents. As we go along there are course corrections that we can make, and every experience that we have in our life is there to teach us something…” — Dr. Wayne W. Dyer