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Five Things Giving Me Joy This Week

Each week that passes in 2020 is a little different. Some are just fine, while others are more emotionally charged. What I have noticed, regardless of the week, is that the little things bringing me joy end up mattering the most to my overall well-being. And while there’s plenty of work to do this year, please be sure to take time out to enjoy a few things as well.

For me, these five things gave me joy this past week. I hope they spur you on a bit too.

Lady Gaga’s VMA masks

Say what you want about masks in general. But Lady Gaga’s masked ensembles at the VMAs were everything. I could stare at those outfits all day, and have done so since I first saw them. I particularly love the mask with the extruding horns, but they’re all fire.

If you missed Lady Gaga’s VMA masks, here they are in all their wonderful glory.

A side note on masks – my friend Natalie and I were talking about how they’re a chance to go all out. I mean, how many times in our lifetime has it been acceptable to wear a face mask out in public? Well, it is now, and all our childhood ninja-spy dreams are coming true. Think of the positives and have fun with this – it’s not going anywhere for a while. And in the meantime, get you some crazy masks and enjoy the moment. In a few years there will be something else everyone’s mad about.

One more thing about masks: I personally love not having to wear makeup because my face is covered. And it’s a chance for those eyes to shine. Go all out with your eye makeup a la Gaga, and you can’t lose. Feeling all incognito with stunner eye makeup on is one way to make mask wearing a tad more fun.

Fashion and makeup, in general

When I was much younger, I thought makeup and costuming might be in my professional future because I loved both so much. It’s giving me life again as I rediscover my passion for both during this pandemic.

Looking at beautiful things, whether it be clothing, makeup or hairstyles, is fun. And getting inspired to make yourself feel better through all of the above can be life changing when you’re feeling down. I love looking at textiles, patterns, and colors. I find myself watching TV most days to see the clothing. Within the past couple weeks I recognized that I was becoming obsessed with fashion again, and I love it.

One show that I’ve been loving all the fashion on is Grown-ish. It’s a good show with cute hairstyles, great clothes, and relevant story lines. I highly recommend it, and it’s parent show, Black-ish. I promise the fashions on both shows deliver on every episode.

My friends and family

I don’t know what I would do without my friends and family, especially during this time. It was my birthday this past week and connecting with loved ones felt essential. I always feel revitalized when I talk to those I love on the phone or see them in person. Connecting with those closest to you, will, I promise, give you the life boost you need.

One caveat to this one, though, is that this time has also shown me who I DON’T need or want in my life. It really has highlighted those who don’t deserve my time and energy, and I’m good with that. Allowing the natural ebb and flow of life to help me sort things out with toxic relationships has been very healing.

My husband

I’ll admit it, I’m lucky. I have a marriage I’m proud of, and a relationship with my husband that’s pretty wonderful most of the time. And when the going gets rough, we have each other’s back. If you are lucky enough to have a partner like that in your life, hold on tight and never let them go. Feeling like I have someone in my court at all times makes life more joyful in general. We can celebrate the good times, and help each other through the bad.  

Scented candles

This one might sound weird, but hear me out. Burning scented candles at my home has helped boost my mood a lot the past few weeks. I regularly burn candles and incense, but lately I’ve really noticed a difference in my mood when I have a nice scent permeating as opposed to when I don’t. I think it’s because I’m at home so much now that the nicer I make my space feel and look, the better I feel overall. It’s kind of like when your house is messy then you clean and you feel great.

Anyway, a little change of aroma in your space can do wonders if you’re feeling blah. Diffusers, candles, incense – whichever method you use will all work.

It really is the little things in life, right?

If you like this content, please visit my main site at www.conjurepublishing.com for the full experience.

Five Things to Do This Week

Ugh. It’s so hot here in Las Vegas this week it’s stifling. No more outdoor walks for me unless I get up super early. Even at night it’s still in the 100s, so I try to stay indoors from now until the degrees drop to a more bearable level. Since it’s so hot, I’m drinking water like crazy but feel like it’s never enough. And while I’m not drinking water this week, I’m thinking of things I’d like to do. I’ve run around my house to get in steps. I’ve looked up Atlas Obscura’s web series “50 States of Wonder” and traveled virtually to a few states so far. And I thought of this list for you.

Without further ado, five things to do this week that won’t disappoint:

Check out GiGis Boutique for all your face mask needs. My friend’s daughters started this online boutique, and the goods are cute! Named after the entrepreneurs, Giselle and Gianna, as an ode to Gigi Bryant, GiGis Boutique sells handmade face masks for kids and adults in a plethora of designs. They sell Vegas Golden Knights masks, other sports teams, Aloha style, and many other styles. Their tagline is “Just two sisters with Mamba Mentality helping keep folks safe, yet fun, fly & fashionable. I think they’re succeeding.

We bought Chris a VGK mask and it’s nice! If you’re interested in their face masks, visit their Instagram @gigisboutiquelv for the latest updates on available fabrics and how to order. Or just visit their Etsy page here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/GiGisBoutiqueLV

Try a free, five-day virtual Pilates challenge. The Pilates Firm in Las Vegas is offering five, 15-minute classes free starting Monday, July 20 via their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ThePilatesFirmLV

Here’s a fun fact: The studio director, Juliet Clingan, used to be one of my dance instructors once upon a time. Separately, she moved in to the house behind my dad in 2015 in a completely random coincidence.

If you’re in the Vegas area, order meal prep food from Chef Jainine. She offers a weekly meal prep menu that typically consists of five tasty options. She also offers vegan options for every meal. This week her menu is:

  • Kala chana masala with poha
  • Mushroom asada, grilled vegetables and barley rice
  • Moroccan couscous and spiced chickpea bowl, by itself or with tofu
  • Tandoori chicken and egg biryani
  • Grilled chicken with cauliflower rice and mango habanero relish

Each week she requests orders by Sunday at noon Pacific time for Monday pickup or delivery. She accepts Venmo, PayPal or Zelle for the $15 meals. To order, call or text 310-612-2945.

Sign up for Conjure’s 13-day challenge! With Conjure’s six-month birthday right around the corner, I thought it’d be fun to do a summer challenge with you all. It’ll be easy, tailored to the times, and something that can help entertain all of us as we’re still on semi-lockdown. If you’re interested, email lauraatconjurepublishing.com to let me know and I’ll get you signed up. Or, comment below. If there’s a specific challenge item you want included or want to do, let me know. Perhaps I can wedge it in.

Finally, pick one thing you’ve been putting off and just do it. It can be big or small, just do it.

I hope you have the best week, and I want to hear what you all have been up to!

 

Tracy Anderson day 30

This is hard. But oh so fun when you really get into it. And afterward, there’s this amazing sense of accomplishment and I feel good. I’m breathing better and I can’t really explain it, just better.

I finished day 30 of Tracy Anderson’s workouts, and there have been significant changes for me. I did at least 30 minutes of cardio every day, followed by the daily strength workout. Most of the time I did six days on, one day off, but had one sporadic week with two days off, two days on until it sorted itself out. Also, I didn’t follow the recommended diet plan that came with the program because I love to cook and also I’m not eating those meals. Sorry, Tracy.  But I have been eating better overall and am motivated to eat healthy, nutrient-rich food to fuel me and my workouts.

Up first, the mental and physical changes: My energy is through the roof. My fiancé is constantly commenting on my boundless energy, and I fully attribute that to the Tracy Anderson workouts. My head feels clear and I’ve gotten more organized overall, which is saying something because I’m already a fairly organized human.

I’m stronger now. The exercises seem so tough at first, but throughout the course of the 10 days, you learn them and can do them and it makes you feel wonderful. This is hard, and I am earning every ounce of strength and stamina I’m gaining.  Our girl Tracy is a beast. #respect

My cardio endurance is growing, and so is my determination. The cardio that I could barely do at the beginning is now fun and I’m craving harder and harder. Also, at this point, I can’t imagine not doing this in my life.

Now for the bottom line: My weight hasn’t really changed, save for a couple pounds. But my clothes are fitting me much better than they were, and the inches are melting off. In total I’ve lost 10 ½ inches this first month. Yay!

The layoff experience

Being laid off from work is an interesting exercise for me. I’ve never not had a job since I was 16 so not having a place I have to go to most days is a blend of nice and off-putting, depending on when you talk to me. I meant to post this back in November, so here it is, a tad late.

Week one of the layoff went like this:

I woke up around the normal go-to-work time, made coffee and breakfast, and really thought outside the box about what I wanted my next move to be. For instance, I emailed one of my favorite authors (she still hasn’t emailed me back by the way), and considered starting a freelance writing business, to hold me over until I become a famous author myself. I also worked out almost every day, cooked like crazy and reached out to a few people in my professional network to get the ball rolling on a future employment opportunity. I also filed for unemployment in my state, met up with a couple friends for lunch and dinner so they could console me, wrote a story for a writing contest, and wrote a few blog posts for this site. So basically, the first week I was laid off I totally kicked ass. Oh yeah, I also went to my fiance’s music gigs and supported his dream too. Boom.

Then I had a total breakdown over that weekend, causing me to come crashing down from my ass kicking perch. My fiancé said it was because I did too much instead of letting myself just be and let the shock of losing my job sink in. He was probably right, but honestly, I was terrified of him thinking I wasn’t pulling my weight or being productive so I felt like I HAD to do those things. Apparently, he didn’t feel the same way. I just love him.

The next week, after a ton of crying and screaming and attitude giving, I felt better about my new life. I signed up for a couple online job searches and continued to daydream about what my new, cool life could look like without having to wake up for a 9-to-5 any longer, being my own boss and creating the life that I wanted for myself. Wow, that’s the dream. But how to get there?

I realized that at some point I’d need healthcare and steady money coming in again, so I worked on my resume and cover letter, and then finished my writing contest entry and submitted it. That was something, for sure, that I hadn’t done in years. I feel like that was a huge accomplishment in getting back to myself. That second week I sent out a couple Hail Mary emails to potential employers that I’d love to work for, letting them know of my existence on this planet and that I’d be totally pumped to work for them. At this point, I figured I didn’t have much to lose. I also applied for an actual posted job in my area that I really hoped to be considered for, although I didn’t really tell anyone about it except for my fiancé because I felt like maybe I didn’t have enough experience yet for the role. I also went to a play with my cousin and to one of my beloved’s shows, adding to my entertainment repertoire for the layoff period. So far, it hadn’t been a bad deal.

Week three, Thanksgiving week. Something definitely changed for me this week. My focus changed a bit although I did apply for three more jobs. One was a legit opportunity I’m totally qualified for and would be a perfect fit for. One I’d love to get as it’s in Nashville and I really want to relocate there. The other was a bit of a Hail Mary pass (again) but again, I figured why the hell not. Then I had a phone interview with the unemployment office, and that was the sum total for the week. I did workout a bit and cook Thanksgiving dinner for nine people, which was totally awesome, but I still felt a bit lazy. I knitted a small tea towel for fun, wrote some of my book and worked on some wedding details so I guess it wasn’t as bad as I seemed to think, but sometimes we just need a reminder, you know?

My eating habits turned terrible the past couple of weeks, and today I reclaimed them a tad. It’s week four, and my fiancé and I celebrated a morning in honor of my late mother’s birthday over the weekend, in addition to enjoying each other’s company. Oh yeah! I’ve been learning the drums too. That’s been pretty cool. I worked out yesterday but today nothing. I did do a little Christmas shopping, although gifts will be very light this year so I had to get creative.

I probably should go, as I have a few things to make in the kitchen before giving myself a manicure. I have a meeting with a potential employer tomorrow! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Until next time!

Pomegranate jelly and Tracy Anderson

Nothing is going right for me at this moment in time.

At the time of this writing, it’s six weeks to my first wedding dress fitting and 14 weeks until our wedding. I was laid off from my day job just more than a month ago. Up until this point, I’ve kind of been half-assing it in the workout department, but 11 days ago it was time to get serious.

Shortly after getting engaged, I printed out a beauty checklist from Allure to keep me on point for wedding-related beauty extras, which you can find here. One of the main items on the checklist, listed repeatedly, is working out. And then working out some more. And they recommended Tracy Anderson’s workout videos. Back in the summer, I dismissed her workouts as not for me and powered on with my YouTube cardio, light running and a collection of strength workouts, except that nothing stuck. I lose interest quickly in all things, and I needed, craved, more structure. I’ve danced off and on for my entire life, ran a few 10ks and 5ks, lifted weights, done every Buns of Steel workout video with my mom as a kid, and Mousercise videos (YES, that Mousercise) so I’m no stranger to the female workout game.

But this time I needed more structure. My head was spinning from everything going on around me. Time ticked on, and I wasn’t focused. After getting laid off I ran a few times around my neighborhood, but I needed more. Then I re-read my checklist and decided to look into Tracy Anderson’s workouts. They seemed to be exactly what I needed – structure that changes every 10 days with cardio and strength. I really liked what I saw.

Years ago, when I was a local news reporter, I watched Gwyneth and Tracy Anderson speak at a convention I was covering. I remember being interested in her method, but I never checked them out. I’m so happy I finally have.

After a 30-minute dance cardio session I do the 30-minute muscle conditioning, and although I’m tired immediately afterward, I feel great after that passes. In fact, it has given me much more energy. What was hard for me at the beginning of the 10 days isn’t so difficult now, and I can’t wait to see what other changes are in store. But it has been interesting making it work.

I didn’t have the required 3-pound weights. I have 5- and 8-pound dumbbells, but not 3. My fiance suggested I just use the 5-pounders, but I really want to do this right.  Instead of going over the weight, I went under to start until I could make it to the store. I used two jars of pomegranate jelly I had in the cupboard as a substitute. I also don’t have the ability to stream her workouts on my TV, so I streamed from my PC, which made it a little bit interesting, with me doing the moves and popping my head up to see what was going on every time she switched it up.

Then my computer broke. Well, the hard drive was corrupted. I was able to keep it going long enough to record the weekly video I was streaming onto my iPad and then was able to use that to workout until my computer returned. But, as luck would have it, I was able to get the DVDs as backup in case we went on vacation or I just needed a hard disc. And now I’m using those almost exclusively. And I’ve since purchased those 3-pound weights. When there’s a will there’s a way.

Jenni Vive

JenniAdmittedly, I didn’t know who Jenni Rivera was before she died.
I, like many Americans though, watched the events of Dec. 9 unfold on television news stations. They said her plane was missing in Mexico and she was a singer. She has a reality TV show called “I Love Jenni.” She has five children.
Today, Jenni’s reality show will make the leap into an area none have gone before. “I Love Jenni” will show the last footage from her last concert in Monterrey. Then, it will transition into the latter half of the season where her family deals with the aftermath.
Eventually, Jenni’s plane was found. There were no survivors. She was 43.
I lost my mom to a car accident when I was 25, so this is resonating. God, how horrible for Jenni’s children.
A week after the news broke around the globe, I’m flipping through the Direct TV guide and among the abyss of blacked out channels is a beacon in white lettering: “I Love Jenni.” My curiosity is piqued, so I record the entire season and change the channel.
The first scene is Chiquis and Jacquie in their backyard, trying to deep fry a turkey. The silliness of it all and Chiquis’ determination to make it happen kept me on the channel.
Bonus, even though the show is on Mun2, they were speaking English!
Months later, I am hooked on “I Love Jenni.” The family is endearing and relatable, and Mun2 constantly airs old episodes so it’s easy to catch up. Every Sunday in my house now is “I Love Jenni” day and I watch my queue.  I speak Spanish, but not super fluent. I’m probably mini fluent. But, there’s enough English in the show where I understand what’s going on at all times and I’ve even seen my Spanish skills increase! Thanks Jenni!

But seriously, there’s a deeper message in “I Love Jenni.”

I have become a fan of the Rivera family in every sense of the word. I identify with their struggles: I too, was raised by a single mother who was able to overcome adversity to make a success of herself. They make me laugh: Jenni is hilarious. And, finally, they inspire me.

It’s Jenni herself, that’s the obvious queen, which is why it makes perfect sense that the show is in its final season. Jenni is tenacious and one minute you find yourself inspired by her and ready to take on the world. Through her natural charm she reminds you to keep life lighthearted. She’s a born businesswoman, and in turn motivates you to be determined.

Jenni always says in the show that she inspires Hispanic women. I’d argue that she inspires ALL women, if only they could see her story and experience her for a little while. If you need inspiration, a virtual hug or just want to feel some serious woman power, La Diva can provide all that and more. I find myself thinking about her a lot leading up to tonight’s episode. Like when my own mom died, I find it hard to believe that a mere plane crash took out this woman of force.

If you haven’t checked out the show or Jenni’s music, I highly recommend you do. Her voice will float over you like a warm blanket on a cool day. The show will make you laugh, cry and shake your head. Whether or not you speak Spanish is immaterial. There’s enough heart in the show to understand.

Jenni Vive.