5 Ways to Make Your Monday Rock

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1. Duck out of work early for a happy hour dinner. With great dinner, drink, and appetizers discounts, you’ll zip through your day knowing you’ve got a great (and cheap!) meal to look forward to. Invite friends—most happy hours last through 7pm! If you’re in Baltimore you’ll want to visit RA Sushi for some tasty sushi and signature cocktails (3pm-7pm), Talara for $5 wine/mojitos and specialty tapas items (4pm-7pm), Charles Village Pub for their extensive $5 food menu. Don’t miss The Brewer’s Art for their extra-long Monday happy hour, which lasts from 4pm-close and features all their delicious house beers for just $3.50 per pour (and try their rosemary garlic fries!).

2. Check out a live music or comedy show at a local venue. There’s always a show going on somewhere, and sometimes Mondays offer you the best deals on cheap drinks and super-cool emerging artists. Get to Googling! For Baltimoreons: In addition to their varied downstairs calendar, The Ottobar offers weekly “Metal Monday,” with $9 all you can drink rail/select beers from 9pm-11pm. Local radio station 98Rock sponsors their “Noise in the Basement” show every Monday at the Baltimore Soundstage at 8pm with a $4.98 cover, offering an open bar for the first 98 minutes followed by 98 cent drink specials all night.

3. Make Monday your “cheat day.” Don’t usually eat sweets? Indulge in your favorite dessert on Monday evening. Treat yourself to a glass of wine, a bouquet of flowers to brighten up your home, an item you’ve been dying to buy, or a dinner out. You’ll start looking forward to Mondays if those are the days that you’re kinder to yourself.

4. Accomplish something right away. Cross something off your to-do list before you go to bed on Monday night, even if it’s just taking out the trash or doing a load of laundry. If you can feel productive on Monday, it will set the tone for your whole week.

5. Turn Manic Monday into Makeover Monday. Do something fun to change things up. Dye your hair, change the color of your nail polish, or experiment with a new shade of eye shadow. If your hair is normally straight, go curly. Add a pop of color to your outfit to liven things up. If your look doesn’t fall flat, then neither will your attitude, and you’ll be receiving compliments all day.

Sunday Poem: Edition 1

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Today I’m sharing a poem by Sandra Beasley. Sandra won the 2009 Barnard Women Poets Prize for I Was the Jukebox (W. W. Norton). Her first collection is Theories of Falling (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2008). She is a poet and nonfiction writer living in Washington, D.C.

Let Me Count the Waves
      We must not look for poetry in poems
                     —Donald Revell

You must not skirt the issue wearing skirts.
You must not duck the bullet using ducks.
You must not face the music with your face.
Headbutting, don’t use your head. Or your butt.
You must not use a house to build a home
and never look for poetry in poems.

In fact, inject giraffes into your poems.
Let loose the circus monkeys in their skirts.
Explain the nest of wood is not a home
at all, but a blind for shooting wild ducks.
Grab the shotgun by its metrical butt;
aim at your Muse’s quacking, Pringled face.

It’s good we’re talking like this, face to face.
There should be more headbutting over poems.
Citing an 80s brand has its cost but
honors the teenage me, always in skirts,
showing my sister how to Be the Duck
with a potato-chip beak. Take me home,

Mr. Revell. Or make yourself at home
in my postbellum, Reconstruction face—
my gray eyes, my rebel ears, all my ducks
in the row of a defeated mouth. Poems
were once civil. But war has torn my skirts
off at the first ruffle, baring my butt

or as termed in verse, my luminous butt.
Whitman once made a hospital his home.
Emily built a prison of her skirts.
Tigers roamed the sad veldt of Stevens’s face.
That was the old landscape. All the new poems
map the two dimensions of cartoon ducks.

We’re young and green. We’re braces of mallards,
not barrels of fish. Shoot if you must but
Donald, we’re with you. Trying to save poems,
we settle and frame their ramshackle homes.
What is form? Turning art to artifice,
trading pelts for a more durable skirt.

Even urban ducklings deserve a home.
Make way. In the modern: Make way, Buttface.
A poem is coming through, lifting her skirt.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2009).

How to Be a Bad House Guest

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Sometimes, when you have an extra bedroom and a hard time saying “no” to friends, they come to stay with you. Often, and for too long. In the course of the past several years of hosting both terrific and terrible guests, I have developed a keen sense for detecting bullshit, learned to draw boundaries, and come up with a golden rule: If you act like an asshole in my house, you don’t get to come back and do it again.

This past week I had a friend from out of town come to stay with me. This was, perhaps, the worst house guest experience I’ve ever had. In true blue writer/blogger fashion, I had to write about it. Instead of detailing each of her offenses in an exhaustive essay, I’ve decided to make a list. Here are 14 easy ways to be a bad house guest, one step at a time:

  1. Tell your host that you will show up with some money to pitch in for groceries and that you will only be staying for a couple of days, but when you arrive be sure that you only have $5 and announce that you will be staying for an indeterminate amount of time.
  2. Upon arriving at your host’s home, immediately dump your luggage in the middle of the floor and leave it there overnight.
  3. Without a word, walk into the kitchen and rearrange the all the items in the refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets while simultaneously taking inventory of all the food items that you want to eat. Assume that you can help yourself to as much as you want whenever you want, no questions.
  4. Don’t have enough clothes or shoes of your own? No worries. Open the door to your host’s bedroom, walk right in, and put on anything you like. When your host looks at you with contempt simply say, “You don’t mind if I borrow this, right?”
  5. While you’re at it, ask your host if you can borrow her bra. When she says no, press her further, insisting that, “it’s not like I’m asking to share your used tampons or something.”
  6. Ask once if you can use your host’s computer to check your email, then attach your hard drive to it and use it whenever you want. Your work is too important.
  7. While watching TV with your host, wait until she leaves the room and then confiscate the remote and change the channel.
  8. When your host is leaving the house and asks if you would like to come, tell her no and explain that you are staying behind to masturbate (on her recliner. In her living room). Then ask her if she has any porn on her TV.
  9. You are invited to a party at the home of your host’s friend. Make an appearance, but don’t offer to help with anything. Eat and drink as much as you want, and ask probing questions like “are you two having sex?” Direct those probing questions to people you have never met before. Then, at the height of the party, ask the party host if you can sleep in his bed—and then turn the lights off and get comfortable.
  10. Assume that your host will drive you wherever you want to go, and don’t worry about gas money. In fact, ask if you can go on a road trip.
  11. After freeloading for a few days, ask your host if you can borrow some money. When she gives you the money, tell her you are broke and have no intention of paying it back.
  12. Leave crumbs on the stove, smear butter on the counter, grease up the toaster oven doors, and leave your dirty dishes in the sink. Do your dishes if you feel like it, but your host will probably get sick of them and wash them anyway.
  13. Make yourself at home. So much so that you lie spread eagle on the couch, offer food and drink to other people as they walk into your host’s home, give out your host’s cell phone number as your contact information, plan expensive meals with your host’s food, turn off all the lights in the house when you are ready to go to sleep, ask your host who she is speaking to whenever she is on the phone, complain about the comfort of the furniture or the set-up of the house, and leave a trail of your items in every room that you move through.
  14. When you leave, leave a pile of dirty items balled up on the couch and remind the host that she should wash them. Don’t offer any money, any help cleaning up, or any amount of gratitude. Your host should feel grateful for having had you stay at her home.

Garlic and Lemon Whole Wheat Pasta With Summer Squash

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I am not a chef by any stretch of the imagination, but my quest to live a healthier life requires that I learn to put healthy ingredients together to make wholesome meals. This was my most recent experiment, a whole wheat penne tossed with summer squash, garlic, and lemon juice.

Ingredients: 4-5 cups whole wheat penne, 3-4 summer squash, 6 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 cup chicken broth, 4 tbsp olive oil, 1tbsp minced garlic, 1tbsp I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter

To Prepare: Boil pasta. Slice squash in quarter inch circles and toss in 3 tbsp lemon juice. In sauce pan, fry olive oil, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and garlic until garlic starts to brown. Add squash, then let cook for 1-2 minutes. Add chicken broth and 3 tbsp lemon juice, and cook on low heat for about 7 minutes or until squash is soft and begins to brown. Pour over pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Yields about 6 servings. Approximately 305 calories per serving.

Vision Board

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There are some days when your plans and goals could never be clearer. I know that I want to be a writer, so I am sure to allow time each day to hone my craft. I know that I want to be a healthier person, so I set health goals every few weeks or months and try to eat a balanced diet and stay active in between. Seems simple, right? But then there are those days when you’re sitting in front of the TV thinking, “what the hell am I doing with my life?”

After graduating from college nearly three years ago, I have been working as a freelance writer/editor/proofreader and filling in the proverbial gaps with retail work and other odd jobs. Each year that goes by, I feel as though I am moving farther and farther away from my goal of becoming a successful writer and editor. Finally, after two and a half years of working part-time at a (wonderful, tasty) chocolate shop in Baltimore City, I decided I needed to call it quits. I had an imminent job offer after two successful interviews with an education company, so I put in my notice at the chocolate shop, and then I heard (after I was officially unemployed) that the editing position I had nearly signed on to take had been absorbed back into the company.

So here I sit, a veritably unemployed lady, typing away at my computer. I could have let this unfortunate situation get to me, but instead, I used it as an opportunity to look inward and examine my current situation and goals. I realized that while I am bringing in less than half of the money I had been before, I am much happier. I also realized that this temporary lapse in employment has given me the opportunity to reevaluate my options and begin to align my career more toward my intended path. I looked online for a few weeks and put out some feelers to see if there were any potential full-time editing gigs in my area—turns out, as I already suspected, there aren’t many. I applied to those few on my own, and wasn’t having any luck.

I happened upon a local temporary agency by sheer accident while searching for full time jobs. I clicked a link advertising an editorial assistant position, and it lead me straight to the temporary agency website. I decided to give it a go and filled out all the online applications and quizzes, and guess what? One of those very companies with which I had previously left my application had decided to go through the temp agency instead of hiring an individual, scoring this happy girl an interview that would not otherwise have happened.

I love to celebrate happy accidents, and I love it when my desires slowly start to manifest, so in acknowledgment of this strange place in my life I decided to begin work on a vision board. In case you didn’t know a vision board is basically just a collage of words and images meant to display your dreams and desires, but it can also serve as an inner roadmap to navigate your current disposition. I decided to use a sketchbook so that I could do a series of smaller vision boards, or a vision book. That way I can repeat the process often and track my progress, see how I am changing and growing, and notice easily which areas I should improve.

My first step was to go through some old magazines and cut out any images or words that moved me in some way. Naturally that meant a good deal of foreign destination pictures, really amazing shoes, yummy looking foods, and varying sizes and colors of different cut-out words. I tried not to think too much about this process so that I wouldn’t know exactly what was going to happen on my board—I wanted it to be a very organic, self-actualizing experience. Once I had procured about a thousand or so scraps of paper that I felt very strongly about, I went through them and organized them into groups that went something like this in my mind: things that apply to me in this very moment, travel and exploration, fashion, health and exercise, reading and writing, and home life. After I sorted my cut-outs into these six groups (which they naturally fell into without any planning), I discarded anything that I no longer felt related to myself or my vision board.

I decided that I wanted to make my first board one that could encapsulate who I am at this very moment. I wanted to be able to glue words and images to the page, step back and say, “yes, this is exactly what’s going on inside me right now.” The cut-outs represent my likes and dislikes, my fears, things that I already possess, goals that I have just set for myself, and a few odds and ends. I was stunned as it started to come together. I placed a picture on each of the two blank pages facing one another in the notebook, one of the Baltimore skyline along the harbor (which is my favorite view of the city in which I live) and one of Marie Claire plus size fashionista Nicolette Mason which says “Big Girl in a skinny world.” I felt that these two most closely represented the physical and psychological place in which I find myself right now. I worked my way around those pictures on the page, finding that the most pervasive words on my vision board were “crazy,” “control,” “damage,” “what’s next,” “writing,” “power,” “less stress,” “explore,” “obsessed,” “sensitive,” and “out of line.”

As I finished gluing the last few words onto the paper, I began to see the vision board coming together as a cohesive statement: I am an overweight twenty-something girl living in Baltimore, stressing about finding a job and moving forward. Sometimes I feel like I am losing control of my life, like I’m crazy or damaged. I am loud and obsessive and sensitive. I enjoy my dog, Sunday brunch, coffee, tea, travel, and cupcakes. I am concerned with becoming healthier and more generous. I am a writer, a blogger, a Sagittarius, and a shoe fanatic. I have dealt with loss and death. But when I look at the words that surround all of the negative ones, like “power” and “unstoppable” and “self development,” I see that I am more than just my feelings of damage and loss. I am a happy, hopeful person. I am a person who is going to make vision boards like it’s my job.

I would recommend this experience to anyone. If you are even thinking about making a vision board, do it! Start small. Get a piece of 8.5×11″ paper and a magazine or two, and see what you come up with. Pretend that you are a child in art class, like you are coloring or doing something else that doesn’t require much brain power. Let yourself feel relaxed, and see what you come up with. This is one of the easiest and most rewarding experiences I’ve had in an hour.

Check mine out below, and please share yours!

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If a blog falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it…

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This past year has been an important journey for me on my way to self-acceptance. I have learned to see myself as a flawed but ultimately good person. I have come to love my body, and love it enough to begin to care for it in healthier ways. I have taught myself to cultivate self esteem from within and not from without. I have found a way to forgive myself, and to treat myself with kindness.

More than acceptance, though, I have gained awareness, happiness, knowledge and curiosity–I want to explore new and exciting things and to thrive in life, and I hope to share some of those things on this blog!

If you’re interested in poetry, healthy living, essays, self improvement, traveling, and lots of pictures, then you should check back often.

“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” -Herman Hesse, Demian