February 16, 2015
by Sarah
0 comments

Five Birthday Gifts Every 30-Something Woman Really Wants

As I write this, I’m less than 24 hours away from my next birthday. Yes, the earth has traveled around the sun yet again since the day this Aquarius made her first appearance.

If you’re anything like me, you know that birthdays can trigger massive attacks of nothing less than full-on panic. Especially when you stumble across videos of kids trying to make sense of an old school Game Boy (which was released in 1989, by the way – and that means you’re as old as shit).

It’s easy when another birthday roles around to find yourself comparing your life to the lives of the people you will inevitably stalk on Facebook when you wake up at 3am in a cold sweat, freaking out because you’re going to be 40 someday and your career is at a stand still and all your eggs are shriveling into dusty little raisins.

But instead of getting down on yourself, make your birthday – or any day, really – an opportunity to give yourself the gifts that will help you step into your power and thrive.

1. Knowledge of your awesomeness.

Have you seen the trailer for the new teen movie The DUFF? From what I can tell, it’s basically Pretty in Pink for the Pitch Perfect generation.  It’s about a girl whose classmates have ruthlessly labeled her a Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Her mission is to transform herself into someone considered to be “dateable.” To that end, her supportive guy friend reminds her, “You need to realize, you’re only as awesome as you think you are.”

This is actually pretty sound advice.  Most of us spend our twenties trying to be what we think the world wants us to be. And this makes sense. We’re on our own in the world for the first time, and we’re trying to live up to the cultural and familial expectations that we’ve internalized. But by the time we reach our thirties, we’re finally starting to understand who we are beneath all those layers of conditioning and oh-so-adorable neuroses. For many of us, our thirties are the first time we can really allow ourselves to start believing that we’re amazing (and totally dateable) just as we are, damn it!

2. They’re called boundaries.

What?? You mean you don’t have time to stay late at the office because you have to go to your son’s soccer game, bake two dozen cupcakes for your daughter’s class, and write the next installment of your popular yoga blog?

It really is okay to say no sometimes. It doesn’t make you a bad employee, a bad spouse, or a bad fill-in-the-blank.  You are just as worthy and valuable as all the people you bend over backwards trying to keep happy – so act like it! Showing up for the people you care about is important, but you’ve gotta make your own self-care a priority, too. Otherwise you’ll just be running on empty, and that’s not good for anyone. If you feel like you’ve given all you’ve got, don’t be afraid to drop the mic and walk off stage.

3. Faith in the process.

We live in a culture of go-getters. We’re all supposed to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get on with the business of becoming wildly successful. And while there are definitely advantages to that way of thinking, it can make us feel like pathetic failures if there comes a day when (God forbid!) we don’t have all our shit together.

By the time we reach our thirties, we’ve probably been through enough crap that we understand that life doesn’t always go as planned – and maybe we’re even starting to suspect that it doesn’t have to be a bad thing! It’s a good idea to have a general idea of where you want to go, but don’t be afraid of detours. Remind yourself that even when things don’t go as planned, there’s most likely an important lesson you can learn which, if taken to heart, will help you build a life that’s even more amazing than the one you were so certain you wanted.

4. Body love.

I can’t even. I could talk to you for literally hours on end about the travesty that is the media’s representation of female beauty and the ways in which it makes us feel like we have to diet ourselves into oblivion just to be considered acceptable human beings. We start to believe that unless we conform to ridiculous standards, we aren’t worthy of love or happiness (umm…let me refer you to the first item on this list).

The truth is, you are inherently valuable, just because you’re a human being! The number on the scale has nothing – I’m going to repeat that for emphasis – NOTHING to do with your value. So stop hating on it and show it some love. Whether it’s walking, hiking, jogging, yoga, playing with your dog, whatever – find a form of physical activity that you love and be grateful for all the amazing things your body lets you do. Get a massage. Try out a new hairstyle. Oh, and allow yourself to enjoy food! Good food nourishes the soul as much as the body, so don’t cheat yourself out of that experience.

If you can do this, then you can take all the energy and life force that you may currently be using to obsess over Dannon Lite nutrition labels and start channeling it into more worthwhile and life-affirming pursuits like building healthy relationships and following your creative passions. You have so much to offer the world, don’t hold yourself back!

5. Trust in your intuition.

During our twenties, most of us haven’t really grasped the fact that we all have a secret superpower called intuition. But by our thirties, we’ve begun to see what happens when you ignore that nagging voice in the back of your head. You know, the one that tells you that the guy you’re dating may not really be long-term-relationship material. Or that the job you’ve just been offered – which would require you to move 3,000 miles away – might just be one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to you.

There is a time and place for making pro-con lists. And it is often important to ask for advice from trusted friends and family members. But most of the time, our inner wisdom will tell us what’s right, if we can silence the mental chatter long enough to listen, and resist the temptation to endlessly second-guess what we know in our hearts to be true. Maybe you’re not even sure why you think something is right or wrong for you – and that’s okay. If you know something in that still, quiet place deep down, trust that!

So there you have it, ladies! Some of the best gifts you can give to yourselves. Now go out there and make me proud!

January 4, 2015
by Sarah
2 Comments

Do You Have the Resolve to Resolve Not to Resolve?

It’s 2015, people! I hope you all had a lovely celebration (and a minimal hangover). So, did you all make your resolutions? I didn’t! And I’ll tell you why. Because most of the time, resolutions just end up making me feel like crap. That’s not to say we shouldn’t have goals. Of course, goals are super important. And I do like the idea of starting the new year with a sense of purpose and optimism.

But that’s not what resolutions really are. For must of us, they’re just another way to remind ourselves of our shortcomings. All the fantastic things we’ve thus far failed to check off the ol’ bucket list. All the reasons why everyone has their shit together but us. So essentially, resolutions are like your Facebook newsfeed – except self-imposed and without the pics of fancy cupcakes that look like they were taken in the 70’s.

Here is a non-exhaustive and non-chronological list of some of the resolutions I’ve made over the years*:

  • Lose weight
  • Gain weight
  • Learn how to make a real pumpkin spice latte
  • Find a better job
  • Find a boyfriend
  • Lip sync with Jimmy Fallon
  • Learn to love spreadsheets
  • Learn to cook
  • Find a boyfriend
  • Star in a hit show on the CW where I save the day as a grown-up, crime-fighting Penny from Inspector Gadget. It would be called Penny Saver.
  • Thumb wrestle The Rock
  • Become a master at krav maga
  • Find a boyfriend

Have all of these come true? No. But some of them have – and not because I made resolutions.

Benchmarks are important. They help motivate us as we’re trying to make positive changes. But there’s something a little unforgiving about the word resolve. It doesn’t leave space for the unexpected. There’s no room in a resolution for you to adjust course if you find the path you’re on isn’t quite right for you, after all, or that it might take a little longer to get where you’re going than you’d expected. Resolve is good if you’re Scarlet O’Hara vowing never to go hungry again. But if you’re like me, resolve just doesn’t have enough flexibility, because life is not black and white.

So what’s the alternative? Well, one way to go is to just stop trying already and accept the fact that you will never accomplish your dreams, that life is just a series of pointless and monotonous days, one indistinguishable from the next.

OR…you can set goals for yourself while also not being a perfectionist. You can have a clear picture in your pretty little head of what it is you want to accomplish, but know that your best truly is enough.  Make a game plan, but keep in mind that you’re setting goals for yourself because you want to live your best life, not because you have to demonstrate your worth to other people (or to yourself). You are inherently lovable and valuable, exactly as you are – even if the only thing you ever achieve is the Guinness World Record for most episodes of Scandal viewed in one sitting.

And any time you start to doubt whether it’s really okay to be who you are, remember these timeless words from Eleanor Roosevelt:

I’m a bitch, I’m a tease
I’m a goddess on my knees
When you hurt, when you suffer
I’m your angel undercover
I’ve been numb, I’m revived
Can’t say I’m not alive
You know I wouldn’t want it any other way

 

*I did not actually make all of these resolutions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 23, 2014
by Sarah
0 comments

The Totally, Completely Mindblowing Truth About Christmas (the last paragraph will have you in tears!)

If you’re reading this, I must be the master of clickbait (suck it Upworthy – j/k, I love you guys).

With just two days left ‘til Christmas, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about what it is that makes me love this holiday so much. And I really love it.  No joke, people. I’ve seen The Nutcracker more times than I can count. It was a beloved family tradition/obsession with the Cooke clan. Growing up our family Christmases were a little like what would happen if you created a robot with the voice of Bing Crosby and the artistic sense of Thomas Kinkade.

But I’m all grown up now. Santa’s not real. Holiday travel sucks. And Christmas shopping is not a joyful, holiday experience as much as a scene out of the Hunger Games – for real, take a look at my status update from last year.

Not to mention the money you have to spend on gifts, travel, food, decorations, and of course, booze (what’s Christmas without a little wassail, am I right?)

There’s also the classic argument that the way we celebrate Christmas only serves to promote materialism. And there is some truth to that.

So, if Christmas is at least in part a giant, expensive pain in the ass, why do so many of us love to celebrate it year after year?

Because life is hard.

Not always, but often enough.

I was walking home recently and a guy stopped me to tell me how beautiful I was (in the Christopher Walken way, not the Cary Grant way). In very poor feminist form, I actually said “Thank you.” This of course was taken as an invitation for the guy to continue walking beside me and ask me on a “date.” When I told him I was married (I know, such a cop out response), he noticeably shifted his gaze to my left hand to see if I was lying, then said, “That’s okay, we can be discrete.”

Shit happens (not that we shouldn’t take a vocal stand against sexism/male entitlement – we should and must).  One of the best ways to stop it from turning you into Debbie Downer is to take some time and remember all the joyful things in life.

Look at all the crap that goes on. War. Illness. Discrimination. Misogyny. The end of The Colbert Report.

And even on a day-to-day basis, most of us wake up too early, sit in traffic, pay bills, argue about silly things, and spend too much time looking at screens. Some of us get divorced. Some of us get sick. So it’s easy to become cynical.

Life is hard.

But it’s also beautiful and amazing. And it’s the lenses through which we choose to view it that determine our experience of it.

A few days ago, on the same block where I ran into the creepy guy, I bumped into a neighbor I occasionally exchange a few pleasant words with. I was carrying a large box of Christmas presents to the post office a block away.  My neighbor was talking with a friend, but he immediately stopped what he was doing to help me carry the box, without asking me out or making even one inappropriate comment!

You can choose to focus on the negative things, or you can instead decide to give your time and energy to the wonderful, breathtaking things. Like babies, or that moment during a sunrise when it finally stops being night and starts being day, or long, late-night conversations.

Or Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch from the 90′s.

            

Christmas is – or can be – an expression of everything bright and shiny. We can choose to make it an annual reminder that, although we all have to deal with a fair amount of crap, at the end of the day, life is pretty fucking fantastic.

December 12, 2014
by Sarah
0 comments

Home for the Holidays (or The Benefits of Not Being a Douche at the Airport)

There are few things in life with the potential to be as simply awful as flying. A few weeks ago, I was traveling from New Jersey to Ohio to visit family for the week of Thanksgiving. It had been close to a year since I had spent much time with them, and I was looking forward to it.

The first leg of the flight took me from Newark to Washington, D.C. and was completely uneventful. But during the second leg, things got interesting.

The plane was one of those small, regional jets where anyone taller than 5’2” is likely to stumble off looking like Quasimodo. Luckily, I measure in at a barely respectable 5’0”, so I had no problems on the head bumping front (this is one of the many underrated advantages of being what I like to call “fun sized”). But despite my shrimpy legs, I wouldn’t exactly describe the plane as comfortable.

As we took off, my aisle mate and I made with the requisite pleasantries, then turned our attention to our solitary distractions – she to a game on her phone, me to Anne Lamott’s  Small Victories. Everything was going swimmingly. But about 20 minutes into the 50-minue flight, the pilot informed us that a light had come on indicating an engine problem, and we’d have to go back to Washington. Here are the thoughts that went through my head:

  1. I mean come on. SMH. I’ve driven the car with the engine light on for like days and lived through it (not that I advocate such reckless behavior). I say screw it, let’s keep going.
  2. We’re almost halfway there! It’s only 10 minutes longer to get there than it is to turn back. Will 10 minutes really make that much of a difference? If the answer to that is yes, I’m going to have to re-evaluate my stance on air travel.
  3. *Sigh* – I guess it’s better than a fiery death. But just barely.

After a few minutes, the plane U-turned back toward our lovely nation’s capital.  Once we were on the ground, we marched back up the runway, broken, defeated people. There was no word as to when we might take off again, and we started to settle in for the long haul. We were in the Z terminal which, as you might imagine, is way the hell far away from pretty much everything else in the airport. Our food choices were limited to Subway and Dunkin Donuts. Since I’m gluten-free (yes, I know, I’m that person) literally the only things I could eat were salad, baked chips (I hate those, they taste like styrofoam), and apple slices that were turning brown.

I sat down on the cold, hard floor with my food next to an outlet so I could charge my phone and iPad and started watching The Mindy Project (oh that Danny, he cracks me up with his Staten Island Italian antics!).

Just as Mindy and Tamra were making a fabulous joke about Caramel Princess Time, I saw one of my fellow passengers storming off down the terminal in a huff and giving crap to an airport employee, like she was Queen of Snarklandia. But seriously, I got it. Our situation sucked. Do you remember that reality show Airline? If you haven’t had the distinct pleasure of viewing this particular piece of television gold, it chronicles a bunch of Southwest passengers who totally lose their shit when there’s a snag in their travel plans.  It’s basically a Leslie Nielsen movie meets Real Housewives. Now, those folks might have taken the crazy train one stop too far, but traveling really is a giant pain in the ass. So I wasn’t surprised by my fellow passenger’s little tantrum.

What did surprise me was that she was the only one on the whole flight to melt down.  Everyone – including myself, astoundingly – seemed more bemused with the situation than angry. Those silly airplanes, they’ll get ya every time!

People were actually striking up conversations with one another! They were smiling and laughing! It was like one of those wacky alternate universe episodes of Star Trek.

Finally, as if we were being rewarded for our good behavior, it was announced that the plane was now in working order, and we’d be taking off again shortly. We had been waiting for close to two hours but, all in all, it could have been way worse. So, we boarded the plane, the flight attendant went through her spiel again, and we were off!

Turns out, we might have been jumping the gun a bit with our optimism. After we’d been in the air for about 15 minutes, the pilot came on the intercom.

“I was trying to think of way to sugar coat this,” he began – definitely not a good sign, “but there really isn’t one. The same thing happened again. We’re going to have to go back to Washington.”

O.

M.

fucking

G.

Why? Why was God punishing us like this?? We had been good! We hadn’t shouted at airport employees (most of us)! We hadn’t taken out our frustration on our traveling companions! We hadn’t acted like little snots! You might think this would be the end of our little love fest. You would be wrong.

Once we found ourselves in sunny Washington, D.C. yet again, it was as if this most recent snafu had just made our outrageous story even more hilarious! LOL LOL LOL! It’s really true what they say – when there’s a situation that’s out of your control, you can either laugh or cry. That day, we chose to laugh.

My travel mates were joking about how we should get double the frequent flyer miles, and how the flight crew owed us dinner. One guy who had also been on my first flight from Newark said something along the lines of, “Eh, ya know once we’re in the air, we all deserve a free, stiff drink!” (imagine Jon Stewart doing his impression of New York Guy).

Luckily, our wait this time wasn’t as long, and we were put onto a new (fully functional!) plane.

By the time our harrowing journey finally came to an end and we landed at the Wood County Airport like hobbits returning to the Shire, there was a genuine sense of camaraderie. The trip would have been so much crappier if everyone had been bitching and moaning the whole time. So kiddos, the long and short of it is this – only a part of your happiness is determined by external circumstances. The lion’s share really is in your own hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 18, 2014
by Sarah
0 comments

Mindy Kaling Talks Abortion on Colbert: Why it Matters

Photo courtesy Kristin Dos Santos.

I admit it, I have a celebri-crush on Stephen Colbert. And I’m convinced that if Mindy Kaling and I met in real life, we’d be BFF’s. That’s why I was completely stoked when Mindy appeared on The Colbert Report this week. I loved the interview in part because Mindy addressed recent criticism that, although she plays an OBGYN on The Mindy Project, the show has yet to address the topic of abortion (also because Stephen conducted the whole thing wearing a kilt).

Many of us feminist types are big fans of Mindy because she has made some powerful statements about standards of female beauty. But some feel she has shirked her responsibility to pipe up about abortion. I disagree. It is not her obligation to tackle the issue on her show unless and until she feels comfortable doing so. Mindy’s success in comedy, one of the many fields where women are still not given the same respect as men (how many times have you heard someone say women aren’t funny?), in addition to her statements about beauty and body image should be enough to confer on her some major feminist bona fides. To tear her down for not having done more yet is just feminist in-fighting. Not cool. To check out the interview, click here.