Friday, May 22, 2020

how to get over embarrassment, a personal story

I have a bad habit of replaying an embarrassing situation that I have been in, over and over in my mind. The scene plays out on repeat in my head. This week, I did something that made me feel stupid.  I laid awake at night ruminating over my mistake and wondering what other people must think of me. It's something I have done my entire life. I just don''t give myself a break. After staraing at the clock most often night, I decided that I needed to stop the cycle. By thinking about it, I was just cementing the situation on my mind. Then I came across an article about exactly this thing.

In the article, the author suggested the reader think of the last embarrassing thing they remember a friend doing. Think about it now. You probably can't think of something, right? I couldn't. She reasoned that most people couldn't recall an embarrassing situation about someone else close to them. You are (more than likely) the only person who remembers.

This made me feel better. We have such a tendency to be cruel to ourselves and yet when a friend needs encouragement, we unconditionally provide love and support. We say "It doesn't matter. It's done. No one will remember this."

As I look back on my life, there were times when I did things that were humiliating at the time but now I can laugh at my naiveté or my clumsiness (I have no coordination. At all.) So, if you need to feel better about something you've done that makes you shake your head and think "Why did I do that?" this should make you feel better.


Several years ago, I decided I needed a new hobby so after watching "East Pray Love" I registered for Italian for Beginners at a local  college. One the first day, our very chic Professoressa (from Sardinia) asked us to write out a place card with our name that we would place in front of us on our desks. She said, "And include your title!"

I don't know what came over me but instead of Signora, Signorina or Signore, my mind went to titles as in Contessa, Principessa, Marchesa and Baronessa. I thought "Sure, OK! Let's have fun with this!" so I wrote my title and name down and placed the card on my desk.

It was then that I noticed that my classmates had written their equivalent Italian title + their name i.e. Signore Paolo, Signorina Caterina. Then there was me. My place card read Principessa Taylor. It was too late to change my card. I watched as Professoressa scanned each person along with their card and addressed them by their title and name.  Then she got to me and she started to laugh. I was wildly embarrassed by my  faux pas but Professoressa chuckled as she said "OK, Principessa Taylor. Buongiono!" And that is what she addressed me as for the entire semester - Principessa. After several weeks it just seemed as normal as being called Signora but at the time I felt ridiculous for making such an idiotic mistake on my first day. 

Other than this mistake and the inability to not speak Italian without using my hands, the semester was so fantastico that I went on to take Italian II and this Principessa was very sad to say ciao to one very understanding Professoressa

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

One of the best things I bought in quarantine

Me every morning: "I have no idea what day it is."

Since we started the quarantine at the beginning of March, the days and now even months have bled into each other. Most days of the week, I have no idea what day it is.  There are no classes, appointments and few meetings that divide the day or make it notable.  Is it Tuesday? Saturday? April? May? It doesn't really matter.

I joked to L that I needed something that would just tell me what day it was, just for my own sanity. At the same time, we have been having a challenge with Waverly (2 1/2) when we ask her to stop a fun activity to do something else. It often results in a frustrating battle of wits.

A few weeks ago,  I was browsing "day of the week clock" and I found this digital clock by Robin. While it's marketed as a tool for seniors with memory issues, it's turned out to be exactly what we need. Here are highlights:
 The 8-inch high clean design clock features the time with morning/night, day of the week and date. 
Press a button and it will announce this information as well as birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and any other dates you program as highlights. This is the first thing Waverly does when we come downstairs in the morning. She runs to her desk and hits the button to hear the day's information. 

There are custom alarms which have turned out to be HIGHLY useful. I began by setting the alarms to 8:30, 12:30 and 5:30 (with the same alarm tone), We've taught Waverly that the tone (we chose a chicken crowing) means that it is meal time. Before, she would sometimes throw a tantrum if we had to stop an activity she was enjoying.  Now, instead of trying to pry her away from her activities, when she hears the chicken, she excitedly announces "Heihei says it's time to eat!" and she runs to put the placemats on the table. It's so awesome. 
(*Heihei is the chicken from "Moana," Waverly's favorite Disney film.)

I also set alarms for myself throughout the day. I give myself a block of time to work and I set Waverly at her desk (next to mine) with Magna Tiles or books. We both know that we have a certain amount of time to work on a project. Waverly is very schedule-driven and I have seen a big change in her, since she knows that there is a beginning and an end to a project.

This clock has been invaluable to both of us as we stay hunkered down. While we could just use my phone or the wall clock in the kitchen, I find that she and I both look at this clock often throughout the day and it's become a big part of our quarantine kit. 

The Robin 2020 version clock is available on Amazon for $59.95 and is available in white or black.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Magic of Disney Because You Need it Right Now

Waverly in full Disney mode during "The Disney Family Singalong"

When the pandemic first made news here in Seattle, L and I hunkered down with our two year-old daughter, Waverly.  At first, I counted down each day, thinking we had to make it mid-April, then May 1. As the situation grew more intense, I stopped thinking "It has now been __  days since we entered into this era of  'It could be Monday or it could be a holiday and maybe we will all catch this virus and nothing will ever be the same." I became concerned with how this would affect Waverly's well-being and frankly, ours too. The three of us travel often. We thrive on being with our family, friends and colleagues around the country. After six weeks of careful isolation, we were cranky. We needed an adjustment.

Then last week. we sat down as a family and watched the "Disney Family Singalong." We went all in. We wore  our Disney pajamas and our Mouse Ears.  It felt good to sing along. It felt great, actually. The next morning when I was helping Waverly get dressed, we were both humming along to "Be Our Guest" and the morning took on a new joy.

We decided we needed more Disney magic. It's our happy place when we visit the Disney Parks. Why can't we try to imagine that Disney magic at home? Luckily, the folks at Disney were thinking the same thing. From singalongs to recipes from the Disney resorts, and virtual attractions, there is something there for every foodie, every artist and every child at heart. As you listen to the singalong or make churros or take that virtual ride, know that one day you'll be back in the Parks. For now, do what you need to do to keep you and your family safe and healthy and enjoy the magic of Disney.

*For more Disney magic at home, visit #DisneyMagicMoments for new content daily. 

During our honeymoon at Walt Disney World (after a Disney-style wedding!), I think we had Tonga Toast at  Disney's Polynesian Resort's Kona Cafe at least every other morning. Thanks to renowned cookbook author (and our good friend!), Pam Brandon (Edible Orlando), we learned how to make this swoon-worthy breakfast at home. It always reminds us of our honeymoon and happy mornings at Walt Disney World.

Here are some other recipes just released by Disney to help you recreate some of your favorite meals and snacks from the Parks.

Churro Bites

New Orleans Square Beignets from Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter

Chocolate, Peanut Butter French Toast from Disneyland's Paradise Pier Hotel

Three-Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich from Woody's Lunchbox at Disney's Hollywood Studios

If your kids are yearning for some Disney stories and you have an Alexa, enable Disney Stories to hear four free  stories.  For parents, this is a lifesaver, when you just need a minute. For a limited time, you can also enable 50 more stories for $0.99 (otherwise $9.99)

As a Disney fan, you probably signed up for Disney+ the day it became available.  During this pandemic, it's especially wonderful to have this happy place to spend a little time feeling nostalgic, watching some of your favorite classic Disney movies along with Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and National Geographic content.  I love the Disney Fairytale Weddings and the behind the scenes content!

Do you want to feel like you are there, in the midst of your favorite park? Download the Play Disney Parks App to hear Park playlists, play trivia and play games. When this app first launched, I installed it for our trip to Walt Disney World. However, even now, not being near a Disney property, it's a fun way to explore the Parks (even while they are temporarily closed) virtually.  When the Parks reopen, and you're on the property, you can use the app do things like check queue times, explore Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge through a Datapad as well as manage your dining reservations and PhotoPass.

If you have virtual video meetings, you've probably explored different virtual backgrounds. Show your love for Disney by visiting the Disney Parks Blog to download virtual backgrounds of some of your favorite places at the Disney Parks.  I guarantee that someone on your next video call is going to say "Awww! Disney! I can't wait to go back!" (My favorite background is Cinderella Castle at dawn.)

On our very first trip together to Walt Disney World, L and I started a tradition called The Disney Nap. We always start  our day early at the Parks and head back to our hotel room around 3 or 4pm, exhausted and happy. We take showers, pull the curtains, set the air-conditioning to low and climb into bed for a nap before we going out for the evening for dinner and fireworks. We'd fall asleep within moments and wake up refreshed for another perfect Disney night.

Even now, whether we are at Walt Disney World or another vacation destination or even at home, we'll ask each other "Disney nap?" and we'll curl up together under the covers for a nap that is just as much bonding time as it is a rest from whatever we're doing that day.

If you are finding yourself frustrated mid-day or you just can't stand looking at the computer for another second of work or school, step away, shut the blinds and curl up for a Disney nap. This pandemic is stressful, even if you are healthy. Take a pause, treat yourself kindly and take a nap.

(Sleep mask available in Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse versions on

If you miss the magical moment of stepping onto your favorite attraction, you'll love the virtual ride and parade. Take a virtual ride on one of the following attractions and watch the Magic Happens Parade from the comfort of your own couch. No queues and no worries about wondering where the best place is to watch the parade. It's your own front row seat.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

It's a Small World


Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Soarin' Around the World

Magic Happens Parade

Plus: A Virtual Family Day at Aulani

If at the end of the day, you find that you are just done and everything is just too much, gather your housemates and get read to sing. Break out your Mouse Ears, wear them proudly and embrace the idea of singing along to your favorite Disney songs. If you missed the airing on ABC, catch it now on Hulu.

I wish I could bottle the scent of the lobby of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. There is something perfectly visceral about that particular scent. It's a mixture of water, humidity, flowers, coffee and well,  Disney magic. I also love the smoky scent of Rome burning in Spaceship Earth and the sweet smells of Main Street USA. When riding Soarin' Around the World, I get so happy when I smell the orange grove beneath my feet. Disney has mastered the delicate art of infusing scent into our adventures in the parks and for that, I am ever grateful.

I recently read this great article on The Top 10 Disney World Scents and I realized I wasn't the only one who loved the scents of WDW, especially The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction and the resort hotel lobbies. Read the 160+ comments to this post and you'll find yourself nodding in agreement with other Disney fans who are just as obsessed with the scents of the Disney Parks.

Have you stayed on property and thought your hair smelled fantastic? That's courtesy of the H2O+ amenities in the resort rooms. During our last trip, I became obsessed with this scent  and bought the H2O+ hair and body kit, which I have since re-ordered several times on Now whenever I want to feel like I'm about to head out for a Disney day, I use my H2O+ and I feel like I'm about to have a great, adventurous day, even if that just means we're sitting on the deck enjoying the sunshine.

If you want your home to smell like one of the Disney resort lobbies or a myriad of other favorite places in the parks, check out the Disney-inspired home scents from the Magic Candle Company. I'm placing an order for fragrance oil and hand sanitizer in The Polynesian scent.

*If you love tea and the scent of Rome burning in Spaceship Earth, apparently Twinings Lapsang Souchon Black Tea smells EXACTLY like the attraction.

If you've always been fascinated by Disney animation, now is your chance to learn how to draw your favorite characters from Disney animators. There are dozens of instructional videos from Disney's Hollywood Studios to choose from, so get some paper and a pencil and start drawing!

Remember the feeling of watching this fireworks show from Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom? You'll be there again. For now, throw on your Disney sweatshirt and enjoy the show!

Yes, you miss the magic of the Disney Parks but you'll go back and one day you will be standing in your favorite park, about to board your favorite attraction, listening to the sounds and inhaling the scents and that smile, that big, beautiful smile of yours is just going to be a reminder of a dream that was a wish your heart made when you were fast asleep.

For more ideas on adding Disney magic into your life, follow Disney Parks Blog on the following social media channels:

Check out the Disney Parks blog 
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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Staying Happy (and Sane) While Social Distancing

Adding some shimmer to our morning 

Make Your Bed. Take a Shower. Get Dressed. 

Every single morning I make my bed. There have been some times in my life that the universe dealt me such emotional blows that it was a struggle to get out of the bed. I learned that making my bed every morning gave me a little win first thing in the morning. It also lessens the temptation that I'll cuddle back in at some point during the day. Later that night, it feels so good to peel back the covers and get climb into bed.

When I first started working from home, I would sleepily make my way downstairs in my pajamas, brew some coffee, head over to my desk and start working. Sometimes I would be so consumed by the projects I was working on, it would be 4pm and I would still be in my pajamas. After a few  weeks of staying in pj's until the afternoon, I realized that I would more productive if I actually started my day as if I was working in an office.  Now that you might be working from home, the temptation to stay in your pajamas may be there but I promise you, you'll have a more work-focused attitude if you actually take a shower and get dressed. Plus, it makes the shift from home to work to back to home clearer.

Structure Your Day Along With Breaks

When you work from home or if you are furloughed, it can feel like the day is just one open block of time. I felt that way. What helped me was to write out a schedule for my day, including breakfast, lunch and exercise times. You may already have conference calls that create blocks of time, but to help you focus, create your own structured day. It helps to follow a schedule, especially when each day feels like Groundhog Day.

Pray / Talk With a Therapist

My faith has always been an important part of my identity. Prayer and the moments with God are sacred to me and as much a part of my morning and evening routines as brushing. my teeth. As a Catholic, I believe in the power of novenas and prayers (even when things haven't gone "my way.") At different times in my life my faith has provided strength, comfort and relief when I needed it the most.  When I feel desolate or scared or I feel sorry for myself, I find a quiet space and imagine myself sitting across from God telling him how I feel. Yes, I will ask for protection or help in achieving what I want but I also ask for His grace in helping me get through whatever is worrying me.

I've also processed some of the worst periods of my life with the help of a therapist. Sometimes there is nothing that anyone can say or do to make the situation any better other than giving you the opportunity to release what's heavy in your heart.

Set Three Goals for Yourself Every Day

I spoke with one of my girlfriends this week and she lamented the fact that she is getting bored and starting to feel a little depressed living alone and working from home. We talked about setting three goals for each day. They can be little goals like emailing someone that you have been putting off or ordering groceries online or larger goals like editing your closet or updating your resume. 

Clearly Define Your Work Space and Your Work Day

If you are starting to work from home, create a space for yourself if you can, that is away from the bed or couch. When I started The Happygirl, I would curl up on the couch and write but I would get distracted, turn the TV on and sometimes even fall asleep. I was so cozy. I had to break that habit so I could be more productive. I made myself use the dining room table (and in time, a desk.) While I wasn't as comfortable as I was on the couch, I was much more productive.

One of my friends who has a studio apartment in New York, propped up his ironing board and is using that as a standing desk (clever!). If you know that you will be videoconferencing, set your phone camera to selfie mode to see what others see behind you. I've had several videoconferencing calls this week and it's such a strange experience to peek inside someone else's life. You get to see their home or kids or pets and sometimes, it's an awkward experience.

Tip: Another great option for videoconferencing is the XSplit VCam (on sale $19.99) which allows you to replace or blur your background without buying an expensive green screen.  More on the XSplit here

Be Gentle With the People You're With

L, and I have been home with each other (and the baby) social distancing now for one month. It wasn't long before we started getting on each other's nerves.   If you're at the point where you are thinking "OK, one of us needs to go back to work. NOW!" then it's time to have a sit down to talk about how you can make this quarantine better for each other. If you're short with someone or feeling the brunt end of someone else's frustration, remember that being with your family members or roommates 24/7 is new for most of us and you'll figure out a new normal.

Carve Out Some Private Time

One of the things that is working for us, is that L and I give each other some space. We are being very strict with social distancing so we won't go anywhere that there are people. I'll put Waverly in her car seat and just take her for a ride. We listen to music and I point out the boats or the trucks or the birds. This give L some private time. He does the same for me. If you can't get out, give each other some space even just to take a nap for a little while. 

Move. Walk. Stretch. Get Out of the House

One of the keys to keeping sane, is to move, to get some fresh air. Go for a walk if you can. Breathe in the spring air (with a mask on). If you can't go out because of the crowds, do an at home workout. I love kickboxing and have started to do it again with a DVD that I loved several years ago. A friend in DC takes an online dance class. Whatever you can do physically, do it. Move and get your blood pumping. 

Eat Healthy

I crave mac & cheese when I'm feeling like I need to be comforted. It's so tempting to cave and eat comfort foods. Sure, have a treat in moderation but strive to keep your nutrition at a healthy balance. Eat fresh food if you have it. Right now I can't get enough strawberries and pink grapefruit. When Waverly naps, I make myself a tea and read through a couple new cookbooks.  I'd like to think that when this is over, that we will be healthier than when we started the quarantine. 

Stimulate Your Mind

It would be easy to binge watch new series or old favorites but we're trying to limit our screen time. I've started doing the NY Times puzzles again as well as taking Duolingo lessons. With Waverly, I love the virtual tours. For several weeks now, we have also been doing a 48 piece United States map puzzle. At two years-old, she can do it all by herself. The capitals are a little harder but at least she is learning something. I can see how proud she is when she completes the puzzle. 

Take the Opportunity to Clean Your Space

With all of us at home, our house started to get super cluttered with toys and books and games kind of everywhere. We had boxes from deliveries sitting in the living room and blankets always seemed to be in piles on the couch. Two weeks ago, I made a list of cleaning projects. Some were small like folding the blankets on the couch at the end of every day or putting the boxes in recycle every night. There were bigger projects too like cleaning out the pantry and the refrigerator, starting from bare shelves. Cleaning up our space feels good. I feel like I have so little control over what's happening in our world. At least our home is clean.

*I also wipe down all of the surfaces we come in contact with every day, from the front door (inside and out) to bathroom and kitchen counters, remote controls and our phones. In addition, I was our clothes on sanitize mode every night. 

Limit Your News Intake

I have insomnia and I often read the news when I can't sleep.  Last night I watched two videos from doctors regarding the virus and how it will kill us. This was such a bad idea. I've decided that while I need to know what is happening with the virus, I realize that I'm overstimulating myself with too much news. I now read the news in the morning and once in the late afternoon before I sign off from work. My mind feels much more relaxed now.

Make Video Dates With Friends and Family

If you're feeling isolated, make a date with your family and friends with a video chat.  This week our family celebrated my niece's birthday and while we weren't there together, it still felt good to see each other. Think about someone who made need a spiritual lift and set up a date of your own.

The Pirate & Vampire Bagel Set from Rubinstein Bagel in Seattle

Support Your Local Small Businesses

One of the things that we are concerned about, is the small business crisis. We are doing our best to support small businesses that we love. both locally and across the country. Last week we ordered a delivery of Rubinstein Bagels from Seattle. It felt like Christmas morning when the bag of bagels and schmears arrived on our doorstep. If you can, support your local restaurants or other small businesses that are still open (online) or for delivery. 

Infuse Your Day with Humor

I have been struggling with the feeling of isolation so I have made a concerted effort to bring more joy into our home. Waverly and L and I have been playing together more than we ever have and we try to remain as happy as we can. Whether it's covering ourselves in super shimmery lotion or singing out loud to "Benny and the Jets," we are striving to keep our sense of humor and levity.

We also make time for dance breaks throughout the day. Just now Waverly and I danced like mad to "Jump in Line" until we fell into a laughing pile of giggles on the floor. These are the moments that I hope Waverly remembers from this pandemic.

Make a Plan for When This is Over

This is what I fantasize about.  I think about L and I taking Waverly to Walt Disney World. I think about hugging my friends. Brunch at my favorite places. Playing with Waverly at her favorite outdoor spaces. I have a long of things I want to do when this is over. I think about all of the people I want to see and the things that we will do when the world is right again.  What are you looking forward to when this is over? 

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