Roasted Plum (Roma) Tomatoes

Let me just say – if you like tomatoes (and maybe if you don’t) – add this to your arsenal of things to do with tomatoes. The recipe is simple and stolen from someone on Food Network – maybe Val Bertinelli or Aarti Sequeira, I’m not sure. And I’m going to make it even simpler – because it’s kinda one of those, “Do what you like best” types of recipes.

What you need:

A decent sheet pan
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Spices and herbs – choose your favorite flavor profile
2+ lbs of roma tomatoes

Core the tomatoes by slicing the top off (create a level spot to set them).
Slice tomatoes lengthwise, approx. 1/8-1/4″
Place in bowl and add olive oil
Add salt, pepper, herbs, and spices
Let sit for 30 minutes
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F
Place on sheet pan spaced slightly
Roast in oven 3-4 hours
Use hot, or place in airtight container and add to salads, omelets, pasta
If you want, store them in an olive oil “bath” – this is NOT necessary

Don’t worry if some get browned and others don’t. The difference in texture and doneness add to their amazing sweetness and flavor.

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Remember it’s a journey…

I always knew that there would be a time when my mom and dad weren’t here anymore. I did. Jim would say (and he’s somewhat correct) that I ignored that reality for quite a while. And I did. Because it just was … as I assumed … so long away. Here are some truths that I hid behind for a while.

I can always see them next time
There isn’t always a next time. So, with anyone you love…don’t wait. See them. Hug them. Figure it out but do it before you can’t anymore.

I’ve heard this story a thousand times
You know those stories that parents tell over and over and over? The ones you think you’ve got memorized and you could tell in your sleep? Write ’em down. Especially if you have family to pass them onto. Do you know when great-grandpa came over from Italy? Do you know the backstory there? When did Aunt Rose stop teaching? Who sang at mom and dad’s wedding? These are little tidbits that pop up from time to time and you can’t rely on memory to serve you forever. Jot that stuff down.

What should I do with this stuff when you’re gone?
Books. Videos. Records. CDs. DVDs. Magazines. Photos. Documents. Clothes. Although many of the aforementioned are “virtual” now….they were NOT virtual for your grandparents and for some of you, your parents. Do you know what to do with the stuff that isn’t listed in the will? Maybe ask the question.

Sweat the small stuff along the way
Although this flies in the face of that adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” the reality is, if you don’t sweat the small stuff along the way, you may wind up with a bunch of big things at the point where you are most overwhelmed…after the loss. So – is there a leaky window in their house? Get it fixed now. Does the fence need to be repaired? Jump on that now. Refrigerator on its last legs? Time for a new one. Don’t put those things off or you will wind up with a window, fence, refrigerator, and probably multiple other appliances that need to be fixed all at once. And who has the cash to do all that at once?

TikTok or bust
In this age of instant video, I highly recommend recording videos and storing them on Google Drive or OneDrive or Apple (whatever drive they have). I can’t express how much I wish we had copies of my mom and dad performing…or even just their impromptu “concerts” they’d do while practicing for nothing at all. They just loved being musical. And I really don’t have any video of that….which is distressing to me. I highly recommend recording and saving for yourself rather than just posting on social media as certain social media outlets do not let you reclaim your videos after you upload them (if you don’t save them on your own devices).

Mom’s meatballs
Did she add fresh garlic or garlic powder? Cook them in a skillet or in the sauce? What kind of sauce? Wait, is there a recipe for the sauce? Don’t assume you know all the things that make up your favorite recipes. Especially if you are one of many siblings, dividing up the family recipe book could be contentious. Make copies of your favorites now and you’ll always have them at the ready.

As with all my content, this is something I’m butting up against currently and so if my blog can help one person know SOMETHING after the fact, I have done my job.



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Raptor Air Bike by FringeSport

First of all, full disclosure, I received a price break for providing a review of this apparatus. That said, I’ve already published my review, so this is an additional review for those who don’t frequent the FringeSport website.

As a CrossFit enthusiast, I am always looking to improve my physical fitness and have been slowly building a garage gym. My previous post was about how I approached said gym. This specific blog is about one piece of equipment that I didn’t realize I needed but now that I have, I am *so* glad I invested in…an Air Bike. Quite honestly…THIS specific Air Bike.

Before I got the bike, I was really already a FringeSport convert/devotee. They make my barbell (The WonderBar), my weight plates (including the pink ones), my plyo box, my landmine, my med ball, and one set of my dumbells…oh, and one abmat too…plus a couple of shirts, a shaker bottle, two metal drink cups and my coasters. I’m hooked already.

I was thinking I wanted to add another piece of cardio equipment to my gym but I was leaning toward a treadmill. My coach suggested a bike but didn’t suggest WHICH bike, just….a bike. I started shopping around and as with all the algorithms, I started getting ads for every bike in the world in my various feeds. At that moment, I received an email from FringeSport introducing the Raptor Air Bike. Just reading the description, I knew it was the same, but different. It looked, in the picture, to be a beast. Substantial and almost indestructible. The price was well within the range of the Assault Bike, and below the Echo and BikeErg. While I knew it was a bit more expensive than say the Marcy or the Schwinn air bikes, I wanted to go with something that would stand the test of time – I expect to move in the next few years and I don’t want to have to worry about loading this onto a truck and having it disintegrate. Looking at the literature, I felt I had a choice between Echo, Assault, and Fringe. With the kick-ass wheels and significant steel structure, I chose Fringe and I’m glad I did.

Here are some other reasons why I’m glad I chose Fringe:
1. Ease of order/speed of delivery – I ordered and had the bike a week later. Pretty much two clicks of the mouse and I had the bike.

2. Customer service – I do realize my UPS drivers hate me, and the shape of the box made it clear that all of UPS is annoyed with me. The bike weighs 130 pounds. It looked like the rolled the box from Austin TX to North Carolina. Literally bashed up. So I had concerns…I took pictures of the box and sent them to Fringe Customer Service. They were quick to respond and tell me to keep them updated about the shape of the bike itself.

3. Packaging – Continuing on the story from above, when we took the unassembled bike out of the box, we were STUNNED. there was a scratch in the finish (more like a small scrape) on the support to the fan cage, and a small scrape on the body of the bike. That’s it. Nothing else. All parts in working order, included, cataloged, and ready to be assembled. I don’t know how they did it but they packed this thing well!!!

4. Simple-to-follow assembly directions – My husband (with a little help from me) put the bike together in under an hour with the tools included in the box. Outstanding.

5. Comfortable ride – I actually tried an Assault bike last weekend. I have to say that after multiple rides on my Raptor, I prefer the Raptor to the Assault. I mean, dollar for dollar, I feel as if the ride and sturdiness make this bike an incredible value. It seems completely indestructible and good news is I am not going to test that! It’s settled into it’s spot in my garage gym and seems completely comfy.

Although I was compensated for my review, I am as real as can be – there’s nothing faked about this bike and if it were in any way inferior, I would have said it here and to the people at Fringe. Did I mention their customer service is superb? Their sales staff is super too. Just fantastic.

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Garage Gyms and How to Build One

First, I have to say, I am *NOT* an authority on this subject, but I definitely have experience. You may or may not know my journey so I will begin with a brief history of my garage gym.

In 2019, I decided to try CrossFit and immediately loved it. I committed to a box (CrossFit gym) and went 3x a week faithfully through November………when I was told that the box was closing and the next closest boxes were far…or didn’t have the 5 AM class I needed. So….now what?

I decided to try to program workouts with the limited equipment I had and saved enough money for a rack. I also found this great group called WODprep that I still work with today. They are my “virtual” box. Over time I began to accumulate gym equipment and so here’s how I approached it.

I started with two 10 pound kettlebells, two 5 pound dumbells, two 3 pound dumbells, some bands (you can get these pretty cheap on Amazon) and a TRX (I got mine from Woot for like, $40 but you can buy directly from TRX for a little bit more or skip this all together.

A few weeks of scouring Craigslist netted a junky barbell that I no longer use but it had 20 pounds of weights on board and another 40# I’m using to hold my rack down 🙂 Honestly, I probably could have gone along with just this equipment for a while.

Now is a great time for me to start my tip list:
1. Know what you’re trying to accomplish. Back when I started building out my home gym, my goal was to have a home gym that would contain enough equipment that I could work out at home alone forever. Many people just want gear enough to get in a few extra workouts at home when they can’t get to a gym…after 2020 and the Pandemic, that’s not a bad plan. But know what you’re trying to accomplish first.

2. Once you know what you want out of a home gym, Determine your budget. I didn’t do this. I literally have been acting on impulse and that’s probably not the best idea. If you have a general budget you can fall back on, you will find it easier to pace your purchases and potentially determine what you want to buy new and what you want to “splurge” on as new equipment.

3. Weigh your options. Unless you’ve won the lottery, you probably will need to choose between some big ticket items and some smaller purchases you can make to fill in with less expensive gear. If you want a piece of cardio equipment, you’ve got some choices to make. Rower, SkiErg, air bike, treadmill, recumbent bike, stationary bike…there are so many choices. Because these all tend to be big ticket items, you might need to choose one to buy new and one to maybe search for used. I decided to go with new Concept2 Rower because it’s kinda the gold standard right now for CrossFit workouts. What’s right for me may not be right for you.

4. Build your space before you begin buying. This is ‘do as I say, not as I do”. If you are intentional about where you’ll be working out, you can lay out an efficient gym in just about any space. When determining your gym area, think beyond your means. And, this will probably be the only time I say something like that. Do you dream of having one of every single form of cardio equipment? Most manufacturers provide the size of the machines. Take that information, map out where you’d park said equipment and then go on from there. If possible, mark each area on the floor so you remember!

5. Know your workout. There are significant differences between workout programs. I am into CrossFit but in my life, I’ve done aerobics, weightlifting, and TRX workouts. CrossFit fits me. Without going into a diatribe about why, this bullet point is mostly to make you think about what tools you need and then using those thoughts, start back at #1 and work through these tips. If you start here, you’ll probably limit yourself and the idea is to thing big, then prioritize.

Now that we’ve gotten those tips out of the way, here are a few tools you may find completely necessary if you’re working on outfitting a CrossFit – style home/garage gym:

  1. Barbell 15kg for women, 20kg for men
  2. Weight plates – at least a couple of 10 pound plate sets and maybe some fractionals (.5 lb, 1 lb, 1.5 lb) more if you are more experienced.
  3. Dumbbells – I would say 8-10-12 lb if you’re just starting out.
  4. Jump rope – for CrossFit, learning single unders and double unders is essential. Even if you don’t do CrossFit, jumping rope is easy and very very cardio intensive
  5. Bench – these you can usually find on Craigslist – if you can find a positional one, great. Flat will do.
  6. Rack – again, Craigslist may be your friend here.
  7. Mats – super helpful if your garage isn’t squeaky clean…and if it’s poured concrete. You don’t have to mat the entire garage, just the portion you’ll use for a gym.

And two things you might want to invest in if you’re looking long-range at remaining a “home-gym” athlete:

  1. Plyo box – these are helpful regardless of whether you CrossFit or not. Honestly, I use my box for way more than box jumps. If you don’t have a bench, you can use the box for a bench in a way too.
  2. A piece of cardio equipment – I selected (first) the rower, but that’s not necessarily a requirement unless you’re planning to compete heavily in the CrossFit Open. Treadmill (if you’re in a cold climate) or bike are stellar choices but know this – you will want to be able to track meters, calories, and potentially watts so choose a piece of equipment that provides the necessary output.

Finally, these are not needed items but could be helpful for improvement:

  1. A good video device – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, THAT WAS GREAT only to watch the “instant replay” and find THAT WAS NOT GREAT. What I think as I’m lifting, burpee-ing, jumping and what is *real* are typically fairly far apart. A good camera is a great resource.
  2. A gym timer – I keep forgetting how useful it would be to have a timer and while it’s on my list, I only remember when I need to time an OVERALL workout and one section of a workout. For example, part of the AMRAP is 30 second plank. Well, the AMRAP is 12 minutes and the plank is 30 seconds and my timer on my phone only really does one of those two…there are many timers out there on Amazon. You can pay as much or as little as you want.
  3. A sizeable mirror. If you don’t invest in a great video device, definitely invest in a mirror. I find that my clean elbows are snappier, my snatch push to the ceiling is much more significant, and my warmups are more on-point if I’m staring at myself in a mirror. It don’t lie. Either or both – mirror or video camera. I recommend both.

Honestly, there are many companies that make many things I’ve listed on here. If you are short on cash and long on wish-list, go for Craigslist and save your pennies for the big ticket items such as a barbell, a rack, and a piece or two of cardio equipment. You can always level up and sell what you have purchased through Craigslist (on Craigslist!) If you’ve got a wad o cash stashed, definitely check reviews of items before you purchase but my “go-to” company is Fringe Sport (@fringesport on Instagram and you can Google Fringe Sport for their website. They have high quality merchandise and they frequently have GREAT sales. This is *not* sponsored, although I plan to do a sponsored blog about their Raptor air bike soon.

If you don’t already, follow me on Instagram for daily motivation and “real talk” @1CharlestonSC

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Christmas Crackle Cookies

My dear friend Camille has now renamed these “Crack” Cookies and they may well be. They are a “Crisco” recipe – I got the recipe from a Crisco container like…15 years ago and I love them. Here’s what you’ll need –

1 1/4 c firmly packed light brown sugar (I have actually used dark brown and it works as well, too)

1 stick of Crisco (pretty much one cup)

1 tsp of pure vanilla

1/4-1/2 tsp of peppermint extract – remember this is very potent so you better like peppermint if you lean towards the half teaspoon

2 large eggs

2 cups all purpose flour

6 tbsp cocoa (I try to use dark cocoa for a really dark brown color)

1/2 tsp espresso powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 c mini chocolate chips (really, I have used mini and regular size….so use what you can find)

1/3 c granulated sugar

1/2 c powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)

HERE’S HOW YOU DO IT

Cream brown sugar, Crisco, and extracts until light and fluffy. Light in texture, not in color. Add eggs one at a time and combine well after each addition.

Mix together flour, cocoa, espresso powder, salt, and baking soda. Add to wet ingredients. I always add a bit at a time because flour and cocoa seem to get everywhere if I dump it all in at once.

Once dry ingredients are fully incorporated into wet, add in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours. I’ve also just frozen it for 1 hour. I’ve *ALSO* refrigerated overnight and done the next part the next day.

Depending on how big you want the cookies will depend on how big a scoop you use in this part. I lean towards 1/2 tbsp and 1 tbsp scoop. There’s no right or wrong.

Before you take your dough out of the refrigerator, set up your “stations”. One bowl with granulated sugar. One bowl with powdered sugar (in that order). Ungreased baking sheets. I actually use a silicone baking mat (silpat, or the pampered chef one) but you don’t have to.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Scoop dough and roll into a ball. Roll first in granulated sugar, then in powdered sugar. You want the granulated sugar to completely cover the ball but the powdered sugar can show some “cracks”.

Place on cookie sheet 2″ apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Since they are chocolate, you won’t be able to tell if they’ve gotten brown or anything so they should flatten out a LITTLE BIT, not a ton. Don’t bake them longer that 10 minutes unless you’ve made gigantic (2 tbsp) cookies.

Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet. Move to a wire rack to complete cooling. Just TRY not to eat them all.

FYI – These are perfectly awesome WITHOUT peppermint extract if you aren’t a mint kinda family. They originally didn’t have it in the recipe but I like mint around the holidays. That said, I can eat an entire batch of these with no mint whatsoever. I bet they’d be okay with coconut extract and maybe some shredded unsweetened coconut in them. You could probably also sub in some coconut oil for some of the Crisco as both are “vegetable shortening”.

What I really like to do with these cookies is give them as presents. They need to be consumed fairly quickly though because the powdered sugar eventually melts and after around 5 days they get more “crackly” (read that as crunchy).

Let me know if you think of any other variations you could do. Oh…wait…I just thought of one. CHERRY chocolate. Nice. Maybe try that with maraschino cherry juice and chopped up cherries in addition to chocolate chips (you’d have to dry those out some).

Merry Happy Joyful

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Death, Wills, and Things You Probably Need To Know

Caring for aging or ill parents is not for the faint of heart. If I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that death is hard. Not just hard to grieve but also hard to navigate. I’m still navigating it, but I’d like to give a few tips and reminders if you are either caring for or even just helping after the death of an elderly/aging/infirm relative. I’m going to refer to the main characters as parents but if you’re dealing with an aunt and uncle, a grandmother and grandfather, or a sick brother and brother-in-law…doesn’t matter. Consider it spouse and spouse in general.

Also, this may include references to death that seem cold and insensitive. Believe me, they are not intended to be cold but factual. They are not meant to seem as if grieving is an emotionless time. It is not. But the reality of slogging through the legal and fiduciary responsibilities after a loved one passes is that most people involved that are not YOU don’t know the decedent, nor do they really care. Only YOU care and you can’t expect external entities to truly do more than say, “I’m sorry for your loss”.

So put on your game face and read on.

Before death:

  1. Talk about the sick family member’s wishes. Discussion on a regular basis helps alleviate any confusion at the point of death. Many churches, funeral homes, and hospices have paperwork that can help you get the end-of-life wishes transcribed and on paper so that at the point of death, there’s no running around trying to figure out what to do.
    1. This step may include whether a funeral is planned, what kind of pre-funeral gathering may be expected, and/or what type of internment is to occur. Consider detailing out things such as wake/viewing clothes for the decedent, funeral notices and obituaries, philanthropic donations vs. flowers, photos to be used during celebration of life.
    2. If a viewing is to be held, consider having the clothing picked out, cleaned, and then stored prior to death so that no “surprises” happen (there’s a marinara sauce stain on dad’s shirt).
    3. If possible, make arrangements with a funeral home, crematorium, or religious organization to have a wake, viewing, funeral, internment, and/or celebration of life.
  2. Update wills. This is important if property is involved and of course if multiple beneficiaries are involved. For married couples, frequently a “sweetheart will” is drawn up. “When I die, my spouse gets everything” is typically the outcome of a sweetheart will. Ensure any property or finances that are being willed to someone ASIDE from a spouse are detailed out in a will.
  3. Update beneficiaries of life insurance policies. Don’t assume the will covers it because it doesn’t. Beneficiaries are on file with the insurance companies.
  4. Try to get all important paperwork into one spot. Banker’s boxes (cardboard boxes with snugly fitting covers) can be labeled as “Important Post-Death Paperwork” and stored so that everything is in one spot. This just makes life easier after the fact.
  5. Consider power of attorney and medical power of attorney. Also, having a living will or statement of DNR is helpful.

There are likely more than these few things but if my loved ones had done some of these things, life might have been a little bit easier. Talking about dying with the dying family member is hard. It’s emotional. It takes some significant emotional fortitude.

The following items are reminders. If you’ve gone through the above, you may not need all the below, but it’s better to be prepared than to have to play catch up afterwards.

Parent death (one parent remaining):

  1. Get at least 10 copies of the certificate of death. That may seem excessive, but you never know when needing a death certificate will crop up. Most places will settle for a photocopy however some need the CERTIFIED, STAMPED death certificate. Better to have 10 and need 5 than to have to scramble and wait for more copies.
  2. Ensure the will is filed through the court so that all property is transferred into the remaining spouse’s ownership. It may be that the same person who remains is the “owner” of the property but better to file the will than to find out later you haven’t done what you need to do.
  3. Contact any agency (such as pension disbursement org) to inform of the death. In some instances, pensions are based on full month of life, so you may be required to refund some of the pension if you are not a beneficiary of it.
  4. Visit all utilities and switch accounts to the remaining spouse’s name. Bullet 2 covers that this may not ALWAYS be necessary but better to be safe than sorry.
  5. Publish the obituary. Lots of times, this provides an opportunity for extended family/friends to know about the death. This also allows for extended acquaintances to make in-memoriam donations if desired.
  6. Update will. Especially if the wills were written as sweetheart wills, make sure that a new executor/executrix is designated, new beneficiaries are detailed, and any property and money specifics are updated. If possible, check and double check you are aware of the notarizations and certifications appropriate for your state. Mostly important if the will is written in a state NOT the state the decedent lives in.
  7. In the same way, update beneficiaries of insurance policies, annuities, and any retirement/savings accounts that remain. Make sure documentation (policies, statements, account details) is stored with all pertinent documents (see Banker’s box suggestion above)
  8. File a final 1040 for the decedent.

Parent death (last parent):

  1. See steps 1 & 2 above. Both are important here. Also, don’t forget #8
  2. If you are the executor/executrix, make sure you are clear on your responsibilities. If the estate is significant, you may require a lawyer’s assistance. Use the lawyer who wrote the will if possible. If not, seek a counsel who is savvy in estate law IN THE STATE OF THE DECEDENT.
  3. If needed, file for a letter testamentary and being the process of opening an estate account for your deceased parent.
  4. Ensure you are following the laws within your state/county for probating the will. Each state is slightly different and what is required to fully execute a will differs. Consider searching the internet for Clerk of Court in your county or Estate filing in your county.
  5. Contact any agency (such as pension disbursement organizations) to inform of death. The faster you do this, the better. As stated above in #3, some pensions are based on full month of life.
  6. It’s always good to know the contents of the estate. You may have to provide an inventory of the estate assets based on your state’s laws. If you haven’t already detailed out a list of assets, consider doing it before you are too deep into the execution of the will.

Some things I found when dealing with my mom’s estate.

  1. Even though mom’s assets were minimal, they included real property thus it was considered a will that needed to be probated.
  2. Almost everyone involved in my mom’s estate changing to my hands needed a letter testamentary. Admittedly, my parents never updated beneficiaries after my dad died so life insurance policies were “sweetheart” – mom was dad’s beneficiary and dad was mom’s…. but he was already dead.
  3. Power of attorney ends upon death. If you are your parents’ power of attorney, it’s never a bad idea to do things such as ensuring bank accounts have right of survivorship and you have signature ability (I became a co-owner of my mom’s account).
  4. Most utilities are “okay” with you just providing a copy of the death certificate to take over paying for the utility but in some instances such as energy cooperatives, there are dividend/rights of ownership that can accrue. I found that the cooperative here was more than happy to switch the name on the account but when it came to the dividend, I couldn’t lay claim to it without the letter testamentary from the court.
  5. I found that the funeral home wasn’t overly helpful with “what’s next” although they supply a one-sheet of things you *may* must do, they don’t know anything. I also found that many people you encounter “can’t give out legal advice” so while you may not have to have a lawyer, you may wind up consulting one. Always look for a lawyer who knows estate law because the twists and turns I’ve encountered would probably baffle a lawyer that isn’t familiar.
  6. Take notes as you move through the process. Keep everything together and even if you think stuff isn’t related, just keep your paperwork all in one place. If you aren’t a filing cabinet kinda person, the banker’s box may be your best friend.
  7. Although no one knows anything (generally, you find that most people cop to ignorance), be nice. If you are kind to people as you slog through this process, you will find that people are kind back to you. It’s not their fault they don’t know. Even if they’ve talked about the process a thousand times, if they haven’t walked through it, they don’t know. If you are kind to them, typically the kindness is returned.
  8. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know or don’t understand when people toss legalese at you. Make them stop and explain their jargon. We aren’t all graduates of Harvard Law, so it’s good to ask people to speak plainly.

This is not even close to an exhaustive list. I may try to update this blog as I learn more, but this could get you started.

I truly believe that the more you do while everyone is still alive, the better off you are. Details may seem picky but the reality is, details help insure your wishes are carried out after you are gone. Wills, beneficiaries, inventories … they are all important and should be kept up to date. Remember as you list out your wishes, the will is a legal representation of YOUR wishes regarding YOUR assets upon YOUR death. If you want to leave everything to your favorite charity, that’s your wish and you should detail it in your will. Also, if there are particular assets you’d like to leave to particular people or organizations, put it in your will.

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Adulting 101

I’m not going to claim to have a high level of adult-ability however I have been adulting for around 40 years and have learned a bit in the past 25 years that I would love to share. These adulting tips are mostly for those employed in corporate America but can be useful in non-work relationships too.

  1. Learn to play well with others – in this current environment of remoteness, it seems the ability to play nice in a group may have flown out the window. Just because you no longer like assembling in a live group, you do not have the right to make life miserable for all those around you. And even if you ARE miserable, defer to the old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” For those who need more context here – honey = sweetness, vinegar = sourness. When in doubt, tend toward honey.
  2. Collaborate – like above, sharing is caring. When placed in a situation where you have to play well with others and you do so, remember to do your fair share. A spirit of collaboration makes corporate teamwork palatable. Oh, and those of you who have relationship goals of having a single monogamous relationship….collaboration and teamwork is kinda important there too. Plus…who knows, you may just find that this sharing becomes a thing.
  3. Be flexible – you may feel you are right. You may *be* right. You may have textbook knowledge while a teammate has experience. The reality is, right and wrong are amorphous when having to work together. Spend some time approaching from the opposite angle – see things through another’s eyes. Meditate on the other view point. Walk a mile in another’s shoes. You don’t always have to acquiesce. You can stand your ground if the ground is solid. But do so once you’ve looked at things from the other perspective.
  4. Accept and internalize feedback – remember as you progress in your career that you will receive feedback. Read that word as criticism – but criticism that will help you grow. Will the feedback always be provided with kindness and soft words? No. At first, you may not have tough enough shell to separate your pride from reality. Most of the time, when you receive constructive feedback it is because you have fallen short in some way. Expect that the person offering the feedback knows the business (whatever business you are in) and can help you take your career to the next level and take in the feedback. You should continue to receive feedback throughout your career. As you “grow thicker skin” you will be able to feel that you are not being personally attacked. You are being coached and encouraged even if the feedback is harsh in its delivery (not everyone is good at coaching). Also, if you are in a “creative” role – writer, artist, presenter … any creative outlet … remember that you are not your output. In other words, what you’ve written (for example) is not YOU as a person. It is a part of your role…your position…your job…and you have an identity OUTSIDE of that. Keeping that in mind will help you build the skill of accepting feedback, internalizing it, and using it. Quick tip for those of you who struggle with taking feedback (coming from someone who used to cry every time I was corrected): If the feedback is written, consider giving yourself some time before you read it. Once you receive the feedback, acknowledge its receipt and then set it aside…for a period of time (my period of time is 24 hours unless I’m under a deadline). Then, approach it with a positive mindset knowing you can use it to become better. Sometimes I read a bit of the feedback and then close the email/document and return to it later. Whatever makes it easier on yourself. One other reminder: EVERYONE receives feedback. EVERYONE. No human is perfect and therefore even the person you are receiving feedback form has received feedback. This is how we all learn.
  5. Start at the bottom and rise – This is my final piece of advice and it’s given because too often I encounter the mindset of I’M GONNA START AS A CEO. Nope. You’re not. For a good 90% of the population, you start at the bottom. Even if you have multiple advanced degrees. Doesn’t matter. You start at the beginning. Your career, as with your life, is a book. You don’t start a book on Chapter 10 or Chapter 40. You start on Chapter 1. Just graduating? You’re about to open the cover of that amazing book called your career and start it…….maybe with the prologue! We all do. While this is a generalization and some people do start at the top, truly, very few do. When you start out, it’s great to have a GOAL of reaching the top of your field but expecting to start at the top is unrealistic. You may see your favorite athletes or musicians or actors reaching the pinnacle at a point that seems to be right out of the gate, but truly, no athlete, musician, actor, artist, writer, or corporate mogul STARTED there. They started learning “the game” (whatever that game is….football, gymnastics, rock ‘n roll, tech) at a young age. If you ask most successful people when they started working at whatever they’ve excelled at, you will hear the, “I played football for the first time when I was 6,” or “I learned to play the guitar when I was 10…” Picking up a computer, learning to code, and becoming the CEO of a highly lucrative software company all in one week is unheard of….and rarely happens. Have a dream. Have goals. Reach for the stars…but realistically know those goals and dreams are realized on a foundation of hard work and feedback and flexibility and collaboration and teamwork….

I’m no self-help guru. I just see a trend that really needs to be called out.

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Margaret Curtis Aquino  1928 – 2021

Margaret (Curtis) Aquino, age 93, went to be with the Lord at her home in Carolina Shores, NC, surrounded by her loving daughter Mary Margaret Aquino-Cooper and her son-in-law Jim Cooper.

Born in Gouverneur, NY, to Leo and Louise Curtis, Margaret attended the Crane School of Music at Potsdam State Teachers College (now SUNY Potsdam) where she received a BS and later her MA in Music Education. She was a sought-after piano accompanist at Crane, and it was through that talent she met her husband, Antone. They became tenor and accompanist, then married in 1955.

Active in the arts around the greater Boston area from 1969–1994, Margaret accompanied the Paul Madore Chorale, played organ at Holy Family Roman Catholic Church, and sang with the John Oliver Chorale and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus for many of those years.

In 1994, she moved with her husband to Carolina Shores, NC, where she volunteered with the Brunswick County Literacy Council and remained active in the arts, accompanying and singing with the Myrtle Beach Choral Society.

Margaret was predeceased by her husband Antone (d. 2012), her parents, her brother, and her half-sister. She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, and by her son.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to one of the following organizations:

Salem State University Antone Aquino Scholarship (indicate Antone Aquino Scholarship)

Lower Cape Fear LifeCare (feel free to indicate in memory of Margaret & Antone Aquino)

Long Bay Symphony (feel free to indicate in memory of Margaret & Antone Aquino)

Posted in Crazy Random Thoughts, Dad, Daily Stuff, Journaling, Life With Mom, Lifestyle Blog, love, Music, My Thoughts and Musings, Philanthropy, Service to Others, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I just wanted to help

It occurs to me as I sit here that I can’t do this all alone. I wanted to do something for someone else and I couldn’t do it alone.

Why does it matter now? Because in that someone’s hour of need, I failed. I truly feel useless.

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It’s Not a Cult, It’s a Feeling

The running joke about CrossFit is that it is a cult. And, to the point that those who are part of the “cult” share common loves (the WOD after you’ve finished) and hates (Assault bike)…and we speak a language many don’t understand…maybe it’s a bit like a cult.

The fact that you can come and go without reparation in any way kinda disproves the cult theory.

The most amazing thing I find about CrossFit in general is that when it comes down to the ultimate competition, The CrossFit Games….we each have our favorite elite competitors but in the end, we want them ALL to win. They are all THAT good and in each moment you feel the elation and sorrow as they succeed and succumb.

During the games this year, I learned a few lessons.

1. Lead with uplift. As a woman, I am trying to change the way I think when I encounter new people and instead of leading with judgment, I am trying to lead with an uplifting energy….especially towards other women.

2. I can. We all need to tell ourselves what is possible, not what is impossible. I am inherently hard on myself. Years of being “not as…” Not as thin, not as pretty, not as talented, not as smart….whether it was true or not, it was in my head. Perception is reality. Watching the community of athletes on the field give it everything…reminded me that I CAN. If I allow myself to learn, I can.

3. Annie Thorisdottir taught me to always do my best and keep at it. Yeah, I knew it before she said it but seeing her come from where she was to podium…and to see how the community rallied around her…it was just like the fans running with Scott Panchik cheering him on and encouraging him to keep going. My best is just that…mine. There is a community of CrossFitters out there cheering me on to do my best with each workout.

So, maybe CrossFit is a cult…we all wear the same shoes, booty shorts, sports bras and drink the same post-workout protein drinks (no we don’t)…talk in a language others don’t understand (AMRAP, EMOM, macros, METCON) … if that makes it a cult then so be it.

I mean…..I want to be part of a cult that includes people such as these….

…..and all the amazing friends I’ve made in the past couple of years. A community of people who uplift, encourage, and challenge each other to be better every day.

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