Month: January 2017

***

Let’s all take a moment to breathe.

Close your eyes.

(Well, keep one eye open so you can read this.)

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Feel the inner peace.

Listen to the methodical run of a waterfall.

Hear the birds singing a sweet melody in the distance.

Feel a gentle breeze on your face.

All is calm. All is quiet. All is peaceful.

You there?

Wonderful… So. Wonderful.

Now stay the hell off of Facebook or your mind will completely lose its shit again.

***

Can we all agree – no matter which side of the aisle you sit (or if you sit in the middle) – that Facebook may be more toxic for our souls than SATAN at this point?

You know that scene in Mean Girls when Lindsay Lohan daydreams that all the students have turned into wild animals turning on each other?

Yeah… that.

That is Facebook right now.

Friends, family, coworkers… no one is safe.

Trust me, I’m not above the anger. I have seen posts – or I have seen what people “like,” and a quick flash of anger / nausea / irritation / disappointment and/or RAGE has washed over me.

And I’m quite sure others have had the same reaction to things that I have posted or “liked.”

Why is it we get so worked up internally? I know I’m not alone in this, because I’ve talked about it with friends and family.

Is it because we now know things about people we wish we didn’t? Is it because our country is at an all-time high in divisiveness right now?

Facebook can often be the equivalent of wearing your heart (and mind) on your sleeve, right? I mean, except for those calm, rational people. You know the ones. I call them The Dignified Silent. They scroll through their timelines… processing everything stoically. And then they… wait for it… go about their lives without responding to any of it.

I KNOW.

It’s almost unbelievable, right? Like freakishly classy unicorns.

Oh, how I envy you, you silent specimens with all your in-tact dignity.

What does that even feel like?!

Anyway, a few days ago, I may have hit my all time high on annoyance. I was on a happy near-high from participating in something that made me feel so good and enlightened. And then… I went on Facebook.

And I felt crushed.

Disappointed.

Mad.

Sad.

Personally victimized by Regina George.

So, I decided to give myself a moment. Well, actually, a good 24-hours.

To process the pissed-off-ness, if you will.

And can I tell you?  It did wonders.

I flipped a switch that made me sit back and be a little more diplomatic. A little more understanding. I looked for the good, as my sister has always told me to do.  I looked for the helpers – because if the way they are trying to help looks different than yours, they are still trying to help.

I have never subscribed to the You don’t think like me, so you are wrong! mindset. For awhile, I actually tried to, because I kept reading these stupid quotes and memes that said I have every right to not respect others who carry a different point of view that will eventually harm others. But as much as I tried to adopt that mindset, it’s just not me.

I’m a fighter, but I think in order to fight fair, you first need to step on the stone of reflection and listening.

So, here’s the thing: I have somehow flipped the switch on my anger when it comes to Facebook. (At least for now.) I have found some good in what others are trying to say – and when I can’t seem to find any good, I look away.

And if that doesn’t work for you (because I fully understand kumbaya may not be the answer for all right now), I suggest the following:

  1. Unfollow.  I know this seems basic and obvious, but I’m always surprised by the people who don’t do it. You don’t have to delete friends or family, but you can unfollow them, so that you don’t see their posts. This can be temporary and maybe when things die down (IF they ever die down…), you can follow them again.
  2. Hide trigger news sources.  I think some may find it surprising that I actually don’t unfollow many people at all. In fact, I think I have maybe two or three people I’ve unfollowed total. But one thing I’ve done that makes a huge difference is that I’ve hidden “news” sources that set me off (the real fake news).  Every time I would see a “friend” like an article that I knew was either completely false or grossly inaccurate, I didn’t hide the friend – I hid all posts from that news source (with one quick click in the top right corner).  Did you know that if you “hide” those news sources, every time one of your ‘friends’ likes an article from them, you’ll never know?  It’s fantastic how much less people annoy you when you don’t see them liking an article on how Hilary Clinton shook hands with Osama Bin Laden. (For the last @#$*% time, that is a photoshopped picture!)
  3. Just keep scrolling. Just keep scrolling. Take a cue from Dory here, will you?  Just. Keep. Scrolling. You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to, isn’t that how the saying goes? And you don’t have to comment on every post you disagree with. Rest in the knowledge that you object but keep moving. This, in particular, has been the one thing that has kept my mind at peace lately. I strongly recommend it.  (Though I’ll never really be one of The Dignified Silent, sadly.)

Listen, I’m fully aware that many people on Facebook don’t have issues like this, because they just don’t get involved. And I say Cheers! to you!  But this post is for those that have a tough time “walking away” from posts that get them riled up. I get it. I’m you. It’s hard.  Especially when you’re really passionate about what you believe!

For me, scrolling through these timelines was interfering with my inner peace and drive to act, and so I am making a choice to walk away from the conversations that really have nothing to do with my thoughts – and everything to do with someone else’s. I am choosing to use Facebook to stay caught up with friends, post information for friends that are like-minded – and to use the (endless) resources that Facebook does actually offer: resources for events and actions and meetings.

Someone I love and admire very much recently said this to me:

“We’re all on our own journey and come to our beliefs based on our own experiences and where we are on that journey. We love [others] because they are good, kind, and loving people. We’re just going to have to agree to disagree on some issues, but I think it’s going to be critical to find common areas of agreement that we can work together on, while we work separately on those issues we don’t agree on.”

This. This is everything!

This is what I hope for myself – and what I hope for everyone moving forward.

Find common ground.

Or don’t.

But don’t let anything or anyone disturb your inner peace – especially if it’s trying so hard to steer you toward outer action.

xo,

Jen

***

A few months ago I wrote about my anxiety issues, and I’m still in awe over the responses, comments and private messages I received from people who also suffer from the same or similar issues. I want to keep writing about this, because this is definitely a topic that I think should not just fade off into the sunset, especially because it is an ongoing struggle and isn’t easily cured with a pill or a new mindset.

Additionally, I wrote not too long ago about my desire to be a more active participant with regard to activism and taking a stand on issues that I feel strongly about.  One of these issues is women’s rights and I pledged to participate in the Women’s March either in Washington or St. Louis this month.  I don’t want to talk politics here (not today, anyway), but I do want to have a discussion about how anxiety can rear it’s ugly head straight into the heart of activities and events in which you really want to participate.

When I first wrote about marching, I thought that if I typed it “out loud,” it would make me brave enough to follow through. And then as the weeks went by, the anxiety started to creep in.  Full disclosure: a large part of my particular anxiety is triggered by crowds and the threat of violence, which we see and read about so often these days.  I know this fear may sound irrational and ridiculous to some – maybe most.  In fact, I’m really embarrassed to even write that publicly, because anyone who knows me and how (usually) outgoing I am, may think that is the last thing I would be fearful of.  In fact, I am sure it sounds insane – especially coming from a person who loves to travel, plans to continue seeing the world and strongly encourages it with our children.

But it’s the truth.

And no matter how ridiculous it sounds, it’s real and it is paralyzing at times.

I have been struggling daily – no, hourly – with this march.  I have gone back and forth between marching in St. Louis and Chicago, trying to rationalize which would be make me feel less anxiety-ridden. Though I currently live in the St. Louis area, I am more familiar and comfortable in Chicago (that statement, in itself, is pretty comical considering all things). However, logistics aren’t going to work for Chicago this weekend, so St. Louis it is.

If it is…

No, it is.

With my particular anxiety, much of my stress comes from the “lead up” to an action – and not the actual action.  What I mean is that my mind slowly works itself into a state of agony in anticipation of something –  not the actual event.  For example, Brian and I went to New York last fall, where we have been many times; however, my anxiety is so amplified now that I dreaded going until the actual day – but then I was fine. I barely paused getting on the plane… and once we were there, I didn’t have anxiety at all.

For me, extra time means extra time to freak out. And this probably explains why I always work very well (and much better) under pressure with short deadlines.

So, I have been going back and forth with this march… driving my poor husband insane. And, as always, he is so kind and supportive. Gently nudging me in the right direction, but giving me the space to have as many internal freak-outs as humanly possible.

And, trust me, it hasn’t been easy. Aside from my own anxiety issues, there has been a large amount of discord and internal controversy with the St. Louis march – which has only further given me pause.  I have since set aside those arguments, though fair and important, because I know my internal compass and why I am marching.

On that, I will rest in the peace of knowing where my heart is.

But I have still been struggling with the anxiety.  And then… a friend posted a quote today on social media that said Feel the fear, and do it anyway.  It could not have come at a more crucial time for me. (See! Sometimes those social media quotes aren’t just passive aggressive lash-outs!) One simple sentence was the kick in the butt I needed. And though a quote on Instagram won’t cure my chronic anxiety, it was a good reminder to proactively steer my mindset in a better direction – which is what I truly needed in this situation.

So, finally, I  am decided: I’m going.

Actually, we’re going.

Because my husband is a bad-ass.

I mean, he even agreed to wear a NASTY WOMAN’S HUSBAND t-shirt, if asked.

God, I love that man.

Ok, enough about you, Brian. 

I’m going. I’m going. I’m going.

I am?

No, I AM. (And now I kind of have to, anyway, since you all read this…)

I can be fearful. I can still act.  

One does not have to eliminate the other. That simple statement has somehow lifted a 500 pound gorilla off my back.

I will go and I will be bringing the fear with me.

Because if fear insists on tagging along, then it’s going to have to march.

xo,

Jen

 

 

Ok, I know I just wrote here that I won’t be writing about or sharing recipes on the blog anymore, but Ivy and I made some cookies yesterday that turned out so great, I feel it’s my duty to share the recipe with you.

That’s right, I’m breaking my own rules in the name of cut-outs.

Some rules are just meant to be broken. Immediately, apparently.

We have been trapped in this house for what seems like forrrr-evuh due to St. Louis’ Icemageddon, and, surprisingly, Ivy didn’t go too stir-crazy. She has, however, been asking to “make.”  (She gets make confused with bake and I don’t really correct her too often, because I think it’s so damn cute.) She also asked to “decorate” what we make, and since I already had the ingredients for sugar cookies and icing, we went for it.

*I would like to note that I am in no way trying to rush Valentine’s Day, but heart cut-outs were the only shapes I had that didn’t resemble Christmas.*

Some of you may remember this recipe that I posted from a few years ago; however, I tweaked it a bit and omitted the almond extract (which I never heard the end of).  These cookies turned out perfect.  They are thick and chewy and sweet – and they did not lose their shape.  Also, I should note that I halved our batch, because we just did this for fun and we still ended up with more than enough cookies to keep Ivy (and myself) occupied while decorating.

Cut-Out Cookie Recipe:

6 egg yolks
4 whole eggs
2 cups of unsalted butter, softened
2 1/8 cups of sugar
7 cups of all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 t vanilla extract

Instructions:

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla extract and beat until mixed.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in separate bowl; stir into the sugar mixture. Cover dough and chill for at least two hours (or even overnight).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheets.

Using a floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/2 inch thick (or more!) and cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters. (Note: If the dough seems too cold, don’t worry. Split it in half and massage it a bit with your hands. Also, don’t be afraid that the dough is too thick – this is key! The thicker, the better for these cookies!)

[Tip: If you have issues with your dough losing shape (though I don’t have any shape issues at all with this recipe), pop your already cut-out dough on the cookie sheet into the fridge for a few minutes. It firms them up and helps to keep their shape better.]

Place 2 inches apart on to the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. (Note: I baked mine for exactly 9 minutes and they were perfect. If they look a little under-done, that’s ok. They will firm up while cooling on the cookie sheet – and come out chewy!)

***

For the icing, I’m not gonna lie: I wing it every time. I mix a large amount of powdered sugar, some milk and a few drops of corn syrup (for shine) until I get the consistency I want. If you want it thicker, add more powered sugar. If it’s too thick, add a bit more milk.

I know… those are totally sucky instructions for icing. Sorry.

Ivy had a blast decorating these. I love watching her, because she makes herself a little assembly line with icing and sprinkles. Although I steer away from actually eating her creations… there’s lots of licking going on.

She takes her “making” very seriously.

***

Let me know what you think if you try this recipe!

Or don’t…

Actually, don’t.

I still have scars from the Almond Extract Incident of 2015.

xo,

Jen

{Recipe adapted from All Recipes}

I’m re-branding!

Wait, scratch that.

I’m a human, not a brand.

I’m re-naming!

There. Less fancy, more real.

Yep, I’m re-naming. Everything.  For several reasons… all good (I think).

Read more below about why The Velvet Hive is being quietly led out the back door (with parting gifts, I promise! I’m not a monster…) and a new name/look/blog is being ushered in and welcomed with open arms (I hope).

***

Ok, first…

New Year = New Look.

Who doesn’t love a fresh start?  I certainly do.  You know how Madonna always re-invents herself?  Well, The Velvet Hive has left the Papa Don’t Preach stage and is now entering the kinder, gentler mama stage (remember when Madonna first had Lourdes and was [briefly] all hippy dippy and softer around the edges?).

You know what? Let’s scratch the Madonna analogy. That ain’t gonna work here.

New year = new look.  Let’s leave it at that.

So, if you happen to visit here and we are mid-construction, please wear your hard hat and know that we’ll be all pretty (and safe) again soon. Also, the old website will eventually direct you straight to the new one.

Secondly…

Back to writing.

I used to write to write.  I didn’t have to overthink what I wrote, because my writing was mostly anonymous and it couldn’t harm or hurt anyone.  Also, there was none of this big blog-business that there is now.  I’m not criticizing the blog industry revolution, but I am criticizing the way I have let it affect my writing.  Somewhere along the way, after sharing a few posts, I was no longer anonymous and since the cat was now out of the bag, I decided to just go for it and put everything out there – with my face (and my family’s) linked to it all.

I don’t have to tell you that this ended up being both a very positive experience – but also a negative one. I’ve written about it before. The more attention you get (even if it is little ol’ me and my little ol’ blog), the more room you leave for misunderstanding and/or criticism. It comes with the territory and I understand it. But a recent wake-up call made me understand it at a whole new level. Though I am not going to completely sensor myself or only write about rainbows and butterflies, I will be a little more vague with regard to details and particular experiences. If I’m going to link my writing to myself publicly, I need to also protect those I love – and never put them in a situation of hurt or misunderstanding.

Therefore, I’m considering this new name/look as also being a new, mindful start.

And, finally…

I want to go back to me.

I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflecting lately. And, I’ve come to the conclusion that I miss me.

When my husband and I first met, I was very much “the glass is half full” girl to his “the glass is glaringly half empty” guy.  Every time he tried to shoot down a plan or idea with a We can’t do that!, I would reply with an Oh yes we can!

I know for a fact that my previous positivity and go-getter attitude was one of the reasons Brian fell in love with me, so I don’t know when or where it was that I started a slow decline from that happy, optimistic soul to this [more often than not] complete Debbie Downer.  The eternal optimist in me has been suffocated by a perpetual pessimist, and it’s time I start to re-train my brain into believing even the smallest lemons can indeed be turned into lemonade…. or, better yet, vodka lemonade.

A fresh start is what I need right now.  I’m going to go back to writing for myself (but in a much more mindful way). I’m going to turn this blog back into what it originally was – a boring place of my musings. No more recipes, no more decor. To be honest, that was all a fleeting-Gemini-moment anyway.  (Though I will share that kind of stuff on Facebook and Instagram, I just don’t need to write about it.)

So, it’s back to the basics for me.

And with this transformation (or would it be a regression?), I’ve decided to compliment my inner-makeover with an outer one as well.  A new look for the old me…

…with a name that will be a constant reminder that it’s all as simple as turning Lemons Into Vodka.

😉

Coming soon…

xo,

Jen