Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Throwing Away Your Mental (And Emotional) Blocks

In gymnastics our coach made us do a seemingly silly yet actually quite effective activity called "throwing away your mental blocks".  When we were scared of doing a skill - for either a plausible reason or no real reason that we could recognize - we called it a mental block. For whatever reason, something in our brain was preventing us from trying the skill. I didn't have this often, because I approach gymnastics with the same way I seem to approach life in in general - with reckless abandon - but when I did I found it very effective, and I saw it work for my teammates as well.

Our coach would give us a plastic block, the kind that you'd find in a kids toy set. He'd tell us to name the block for our fear. Then he'd have us ceremoniously throw the block backwards over our shoulder  and walk away from it, never to look at it again. We'd literally thrown away our mental block and the rest of the team was there to witness it for moral support.

While we laughed at the activity, it makes sense if you think about it.  Ever had a moment when you just completely got rid of a barrier that had been holding you back, even if you didn't know it? You make one step and suddenly you feel a flood of relief, energy or peace? I have watched friends who have lost a lot of weight do a very cleansing clearing out of their closets, tossing out (donating) all of the clothes that they wore at their bigger size. They told me it felt amazing afterwards. In a sense, they were banishing the part of their "old selves" that they'd had a negative feeling about.  Others have felt something similar walking out of the office for the last time at a job that they hated.

As we ring in the new year, it's the perfect opportunity to toss out the mental and emotional blocks from the last year (or years) that have been holding us down and building up walls around us. The new year is a fresh start. A time to leave the negativities of the past where they belong - in the past. So my challenge, to myself and everyone else, is to pick an item that represents your tie to to a difficult part of your past. Either aloud or to yourself (I find aloud to be more effective) say exactly what that item represents. Then take one last look at it, toss it over your shoulder and walk away. Make sure it can't come back to haunt you. This might require you putting it in the trash, shredding it, donating it (as in the clothing example above) or some other way of getting rid of it.

I should make an obvious yet obligatory note here, make sure the item is yours (I do not want to start law suits) and make sure it's something inanimate! Donating the cat of a neighbor you hate to the local animal shelter would NOT be a good idea.

I hope this helps you ring in the new year fresh. I'd love to hear what you tossed, either in the comments or privately if it's of a super personal nature.

Good luck, happy holidays and happy new year!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Almost Mandatory Thanksgiving Blog

I'm pretty sure this type of post is virtually mandatory for any blogger, but here it goes. Short and sweet (I know, astonishing) but to the point. Things I'm thankful for in 2011. In no particular order, other than the first two:

1. Family
2. Cinn
3. Childhood friends that have come back into my life such that I'm now not sure how they were ever were out of it.
4. Those that realize my true potential, and aren't afraid to tell me or others how great and impressive they think I am. Those that are willing to fight with me, or for me.
5. Modern science's ability to create medication. Those that know me well enough understand this.
6. My twitter travel family. Seriously - they're there for me more than most people I knew IRL, and some have now become IRL friends and even mentors.
7. My two best friends who basically are family. You know who you are, I hope. If you don't, here's a hint: COx2.
8. The fact that I finally realize my full potential even when others don't, and that I am finally willing to fight for it.
9. The fact that the idea of picking up and changing almost everything in my life only slightly frightens me instead of completely terrifies. The probability of this action item still remains the be seen, though I'll hopefully make this decision in the next couple of months.
10. My only slightly faltering belief in Karma. The fact that after all the sh*t I've been through, I still try so hard to believe I'll get what I deserve eventually, and that I still believe that if I make others a very high priority, that this will some day come back to me. Though, I'd happily give karma a little nudge in the right direction.

There are smaller things I could add, but I like round numbers and 10 is among the best of those. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! What are you thankful for?

PS those of you that are on this list (you should know it), mind if I put a picture of you in here to spice it up? Don't like to add pics without permission. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Art of Healing

Like a lot of folks, my sinuses and allergies have been hit hard by the change of seasons. I feel like I have been battling a cold/infection/allergies or most likely some combination of the these for the past three weeks.  Undoubtedly, when I mention that I'm not feeling great, someone says something about chicken soup (they clearly don't know me too well), Vitamin C or any other number of remedies that supposedly help aid those under the weather. 

I have to be honest - none of these seem to work. I don't really like soup in general (even the vegetarian variety), and I take vitamins every day anyways. I do find, though, that certain things almost always seem to make me feel better, even if only for a few minutes here and there. 
  • A good laugh: there are certain people that almost never fail to make me laugh, and if I'm feeling up to conversation, I chat with them (online or text - the phone is my nemesis when I don't feel well). There are a handful of people I'm especially close to that will lift my spirits. As a poor substitute, if none of them are available I read  I'm serious. It's hysterical, as long as you don't mind a little "not safe for work" humor and aren't easily offended. If you are, stay off the site. If you aren't, I highly suggest it for a good laugh. 
  • Cinn: yes, my adorable, plump, sweet Cinn always makes me smile. She's a great snuggler and seems to know when her mom isn't feeling well. She gives me those sad eyes that say "I'm sorry you're sick" and offers me the doggy version of a hug (you know, with her forehead and nose nuzzled against me). 
  • Bronson: my newest addition to this list. If you don't know who Bronson is, he's the pygmy elephant from Borneo that was adopted for me for my birthday. His picture sits on the window sill with my other elephant things. He's adorable, and knowing that the adoption in my name helped save him is amazing. I just look at his picture and I smile. I wish I could snuggle him too.
  • Fresh flowers: I try to always keep fresh flowers in my apartment. It's currently an orchid, which sits in the window alongside my meditation candle. Other times I have fresh lilies. The colors, the smell and just the beauty of these makes me smile. 
  • Coffee: Yes, coffee. I love it - the smell, the taste, the sound of it brewing.  There's something about sipping it slowly and enjoying the taste that's almost meditative for me. I know this sounds weird, it's hard to explain. It's my happy place and it cheers me up. If I've already had to much, decaf will suffice. I enjoy it that much. 
 *Note: I didn't have an actual picture of coffee (go figure), but I put this picture of my sister and I in here because we actually stopped drinking coffee to take this picture (seriously, we're at a hotel having breakfast). If you haven't known me for too long, this is what I look like with long hair.... 

  • Music: I love music, and I love to dance and sing. I have to be really sick to not want to listen to music and sing along, or even dance a little. I mean really sick. It always peps me up. 
  • Baked goods: I know this is an odd one, but baked goods are among my favorite foods. They're delicious, they are usually easy to eat so even if you have a sore throat you can manage them and to me, they're comfort food. Thank goodness for the cafe that's within a half block from my apartment. 
  • Cheesy movies: Yes, I turn on the hallmark channel and watch silly, sappy movies when I'm not feeling well. What can I say? There's no plausible explanation for this - and luckily no picture to document it.
I'm sure there are more. These are the top contenders. What are your favorites? What makes you feel good no matter how bad you're feeling?  I'm curious to see how many we have in common, and how many you think are absolutely ridiculous. To all my fellow sinus/allergy sufferers - feel better soon! And in the mean time, eat some baked goods while hugging your dog and watching cheesy movies. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chimera's New Business Venture

I usually love fun, creative names on my blogs but I couldn't think of one for this. Besides, I wanted to make sure this one really got read - it's an actual serious blog, which is somewhat rare for me on Lilies and Elephants, but I'm excited about this new business venture and I wanted to share it with everyone that will read it. Don't worry, Chimera Travel is not going away. I still love travel, planning and helping people see the world. This is simply a new branch.

Most of you know that I love social media and blogging. All of you, I presume, know that I love to travel and plan travel. Fewer of you probably know that I have a M.S. in International Marketing from St. Joseph's and that I have for the last 5 years. While Chimera has certainly involved all three of the above, I have been looking for a way to use these skills for more than just Chimera itself.

When people ask me how I conduct research for my client, my number one response is social media. (There's a connection here - no pun intended - I promise). I have built up a network of followers, fans and truly new friends in the industry through my social media outlets - twitter, linkedin, facebook and now Google+. I have learned who has the most experience in various destinations, regions, and niches (i.e biking tours, culinary travel, etc). I have also made friends and connections located around the world. If I want to know the restaurant that serves the best gnocchi in a certain town in Italy, I know who to contact that's right at the source. I find this invaluable.

One place, however, that I've found a hole, is stand-alone hotels, often smaller ones. While it's easy to get a response from someone at a major chain, or even a smaller one, when I tweet out that I'm looking for a luxury, stand-alone hotel for a client at "x" destination, I may get a response from someone who's been or booked clients there, but often I never receive a response from the hotel directly. This means one of two things - either the hotel doesn't have a twitter account, or they do but don't have someone watching over it regularly to respond when queries like mine come through. This is the type of accommodation I work with most, and yet it's the trickiest for me to interact with on social media. I realized that this class of hotel is under-represented in social media - most likely because of resource restraints, both human and budgetary. It's tough for a smaller hotel to pull someone from their marketing team to do social media (I'm not sure this is a good idea anyways) and just as tough sometimes to hire someone full time for the task. These hotels are also often lacking blogs for the same reason. I want to help these hotels. I want them to be as much in the "playing field" as the chain hotels, as they're some of my favorites.

I decided to combine my love of travel, social media, marketing and hotels (yes, I truly love hotels) to begin doing social media marketing and blog consulting for stand-alone hotels.  I help create and oversee their social media accounts, create and work on their blog and can include additional tasks such as website copy, email marketing and e-newsletters/publications. Because I'm not super woman, a few things I can't do include website design, coding and anything of the like. I can take a look at a website and from the perspective of both the travel professional and traveler give my input on the appeal and the usefulness, as well as my thoughts on the design from a top level. I can't, however, actually create the new design unless you want to go with a blog on Wordpress, Blogger or similar templates (great for blogs but I don't suggest a template for a whole website). However, I have some very contacts contacts that can do this, and am happy to work with them on these tasks if the need arises.

I'm incredibly excited about this new business development. However, as I'm sure you're not quite as excited as I am - unless you're a stand alone hotel that needs social media marketing, in which case please contact me! - I'll end this rather long blog. If you're curious about my work, please feel free to ask questions, either in the comments or in private. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Goodbye, 31

This is my last week of year 31. It's become a family joke that my birthday is bad luck. It's not really, I hope, but there have been a lot of unfortunately timed occurrences that just so happen to have taken place within a week or so of my birthday over the years. Since teasing each other is an art form in my family, my unlucky birthday has become part of our standard repertoire.

In all candor, 31 hasn't been my favorite year and I'm ready to wish it good riddance. Still, there have been some wonderful aspects to this past year and I'd like to focus on those. I'm sure there are things my friends and family could add, so feel free - I'm sure I can't think of everything! These aren't really in any order, though I'd say the first one is probably right there at the top of the list. Enjoy, discuss, add to your liking.

  • My twin niece and nephew were born in December. My beautiful girl Maggie and my little man Owen are just precious and I'd like to think that they already love their Aunt Maya, but I'm pretty sure I'm putting words in their mouth, since all they say right now is "da da da da".
  • All of the Northen "kids", significant others and their kids got together for a family reunion. This might be the first time we've done this without a particular cause (wedding, major birthday, etc) ever. It was a blast and so great to see everyone! 
  • It took a lot of brainstorming and decision making and I figured out a new direction in which I want to develop part of my business. I'm very excited about it and learning how to put that plan into action. 
  • I became more involved than ever in some of my favorite industry organizations and have had the chance to meet and collaborate with some fabulous industry people. I look forward to keeping this growing during year 32. 
  • I've reconnected with some childhood friends that I'd either lost touch with or hadn't been in as close of contact with. Thanks to Facebook (truly) we were able to re-connect and are now probably as close or closer than we were as kids. 
  • I've made some wonderful new friends that I didn't anticipate making. I don't believe people just "come into and go out of your life for a reason" as so many say. I believe people make an effort for others and if both of you make this effort, you can become friends and the "out of your life"  doesn't have to happen. 
  • My family and best friends have, as always, been one of my pilars of support. I truly wouldn't be able to make it without you. 
  • I've allowed myself to be convinced that I'm amazing and deserve the best, that I don't need to apologize for everything and that I am worth making the effort for. This took 31 years to learn - almost 32. It's invaluable and I work every day to try to remember it and your frequent reminders help. Thank you.
  • I had quite possibly the best few months over the summer that I've had in a long time. I learned how to feel like a kid again, if even for a short while. 
To all those that have made 31 as good as can be, and all those who plan to make 32 the best year ever - as I'm convinced it must be - thank you. You're wonderful. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Curiousness of Friendship

Interpersonal personal relationships have always fascinated me. Probably because human thoughts, actions and interactions are something I've always been interested in - after all I was a psychology minor. The way people relate, or don't, the things that bring them together or push them apart is truly a mystery sometimes. Ever know two people that are close friends and you can't figure out for the life of you why? Ever have a good friend that at first meeting you'd never think you'd get along with? I'd venture to guess we've all experienced both. 

Before I write anything else I want to be very clear about one point - I absolutely did not write this post to be negative about anyone or point out any of my friends' short-comings. I know I'm the type that when I read a post like this, I always wonder "oh no, is that me? I hope I didn't do something wrong!". I wrote it to truly ponder aloud about friendship and to celebrate those that have been great friends either throughout my life, recently, or both. 

Over the years I've had friends come and go. I've met friends in some unique situations. For instance, I met one of my best friends standing in line at the airport waiting to board a flight. I've had friends that I've known since I was 7, who have been through everything with me and who I'm pretty confident will still be my friend when I'm 70. Recently, I've noticed a unique trend - reconnecting with people I was friends with as a kid who I may have lost touch with (or not been in touch with as often) who have now become good friends again. Thank you for that Facebook. Truly. One of the advantages of social media is that you get to connect with those you might otherwise not be able to and realize again why you were friends all those years ago. 

So what makes a good friend? Why do we stay friends with some people for years and years, and others seem to vanish from our lives over night? Why can we not see someone for years and then when we have the chance, it's like we haven't missed a day?  To me, it comes down to a few things. First is effort. I make a major effort for my friends. If they need me to run over in the middle of the night in my pajamas because they're going through a crisis, I'll do it (provided they're within running/driving distance and I'd hop on the next flight/train if I had to). If they need a good laugh, I'm happy to do something ridiculous and let them laugh at my expense. I appreciate those who do the same. I realize not everyone has the same amount of time to give and I don't expect it. But those that will lend an ear, help make me smile in a down time, laugh with me, make an effort to see me, reach out first so I don't always have to, those are the friends I value and keep.

The ability to be selfless is an amazing quality. My best friends will listen to me talk, gripe, ramble when I need to even when they've had an awful day (thank you). They'll answer the phone in the middle of the night, they'll stay up late or wake up early just to give me an ear. I understand that everyone needs to be selfish at some times. But it has to be a two way street. Those that understand this, I value tremendously. It can't be all about me, and it can't be all about you. It's not always even, but it should even out somewhere along the way. I walked away from a very close friend because of their selfishness. Truly, the ability to put the other person first sometimes is a must. Along with this goes compromise. People rarely see eye to eye on everything. I respect people that can compromise. They are willing to see my point of view and meet in the middle. I expect myself to do the same and would be ashamed of myself if I didn't. 

Finally, I think everyone needs to be needed. I have friends that I know I can go to when I need to talk, but that don't come to me. Or maybe they do, but only when no one else is available. I consider them friends, kind of, but not my closest friends. I call them happy hour friends. If you can't lean on me, how close are we really? I can have a beer or watch a ball game with total strangers at the bar next door (and do, on probably a weekly basis). I love light-heartedness and fun, but I need that intimacy of personal sharing to feel really close to someone. It doesn't have to be something terrible, it could be something great, or just something you need to discuss. If the only things I know about you I could find out on your Facebook status or twitter update, we're really not that special to each other.  I think of everything, this is the one absolute for me in a friendship. I really can't have a true friendship without it. 

I'm curious, what do other people need and hope for in their friendships? What makes people come together and drift apart - and sometimes come back together again. How can people be best friends one day and not speak the next (other than something obviously traumatic like a betrayal)? How can people not know each other one month and be inseparable the next?  To me, it's an ever-changing dynamic. There are some people that I can imagine, and hope, will be with me for life. They are my unofficial family. They've paid their dues, so to speak, and I love them for it. There are those that I've recently gotten close to that I can see joining that group. I don't necessarily believe that people come in and go out of your life for a reason. I believe that if both sides actively participate, they don't have to leave your life. For my part, I try my best and hope that I'm the friend that my friends want and need. I'll end this post with a big thank you, to all my friends - old, new and old-new. I hope that 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 years from now (if I'm still kicking) that I can happily still call you my friends. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Here Comes The Story of the Hurricane...

Ok, I'm probably going to get the copyright people on me after that title. But I couldn't help myself.

If you live in the northeast US, so far this week you've experienced an earthquake and a hurricane warning. If you're not, you have heard us all lamenting about it on Facebook and Twitter no doubt. The earthquake was nothing to write home about, but it was an interesting experience. Now I can say I've experienced an earthquake. For reference, just as it's not wise to go to the airplane restroom when the captain turns on the fasten seatbelt sign, the bathroom isn't the ideal place to be during an earthquake. While I can joke about the earthquake, the hurricane looks like it may be a legit cause for concern.

After the earthquake, several friends and family members texted/emailed me to check on Cinn and I. I thought this was incredibly sweet and it definitely made me feel cared about. If you're one them, thank you. If not, what's wrong with you? No, I'm just kidding. Kind of. I realize that some of those not in the area weren't aware of it. In fact, some of those in the area weren't either, though I'm not sure how. My point is, how you treat people in a situation like this says, to me, something about one's character and priorities.  Those who checked on me made me feel like a priority. Those who are around and available during this weekend's impending ridiculousness are also amazing people. Everyone likes to feel special, cared about, protected in a tough situation. When you make the effort, especially when you go above and beyond, it makes a difference and means a lot, at least to me.

Keep in mind that phone service and internet might be down. You may not be able to get through with a quick text or email. And no, a facebook "like" doesn't count as support in this instance. You know,  when someone's status reads "help I'm trapped in the basement b/c of this hurricane" and you "like" it, not very helpful. :-) Besides, who's on a computer when 100 mph winds come ripping through. Well.... maybe for facebook purposes.

So think about your plan for this weekend and who you need to take care of if things get rough. I, for one, am happy to have a group over who would like to pass the storm with Cinn and I. One of my best friends had the genius to suggest drinking hurricanes during a hurricane and I think it's a fabulous option. I can't think of a better way to pass a stormy day than with those I'm close to.  If I don't see you, have a wonderful, stormy weekend. If I do, make sure to have your camera!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Welcome to Lilies and Elephants!

As the title says, welcome! I just started this personal blog, which I feel is long overdue. I blog/write in two other places, the blog for my travel company, Chimera Travel,  and Chimera's quarterly e-magazine, TraveLuxe.  I love writing for business, but I also have plenty of thoughts that really have nothing to do with travel and even if they do, I don't feel they need to be on my company's blog and e-magazine. Hence, the start of Lilies and Elephants.

Why Lilies and Elephants you ask? First off, I love both. I actually wanted to name this blog Orange Lily, but it was already taken. So, for the record, was Red Lily. While forming this blog, I happened to have a conversation on twitter with several people about Elephants and how wonderful they are - my favorite animal for their intelligence and loyalty to their families - and though I might as well combine the two. I mean, if Elephant & Castle can become a worldwide pub chain, Lilies and Elephants has to have some strength, right?

This blog contains my musings, ideas, insights and potentially though hopefully not often, rants. I live my life by the "learn to swim by diving into the water" method, which results in many ridiculous stories, life lessons and hopefully helpful advice. I'm sure I'll be sharing some travel stories and pictures on here as well, and I'm always good for a little humor, self depreciating or otherwise.

If you have something you'd like to see me blog about, just ask! If  I don't know about it, I'll try to learn, or maybe I'll write a blog about how I don't know about it and why. Perhaps one day this blog will develop a theme. For now, it's just the thoughts of a wandering and adventurous spirit. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!