Arizona, Deep thoughts

Choosing a President

One of the things that has helped me during this transition process across the country is having a place to congregate every Sunday.  Growing up, religion was never pushed on me.  We were expected to join our parents at church every Sunday.  I’m sure my parents prayed that we would continue to be faithful to the church, but it was never pushed.

Growing up I would never have guessed that I’d be glad my parents encouraged us to join them at mass each week.  It feels good to go to look forward to going to a place to clear my mind, remind me about what’s important, and has the same traditions of home.  Church is a piece of home and a piece of my family.  The church that I have liked the best is St. Benedict’s in Phoenix.  The second week I was there, the priest asked if there was anyone new so I raised my hand and announced I was from New Jersey.  Made me a little teary eyed to see a new parish be so welcoming.

You’re probably wondering if I got the title of this post confused with a different post and asking yourself why would I be talking about religion in a governmental post.  Since this election is EVERYWHERE, a couple weeks ago a presidential debate was taking place right after mass – so I wondered if the priest would dare bring it up during/after mass.   I thought about it – and when the mass concluded without any mention – I thought of course he didn’t say anything.  Government and Religion are two different things, right?

Well today we had a priest who actually went there.  Fr. Bill Faiella – He started off by saying, “It’s not in my job description to tell you who to vote for — Thank God for that!” 🙂  He went on to explain that there were some things though, that he wanted us to think about when we are making our decision.  He encouraged everyone not to look at one single issue – but look at the entire person and their being.  “Look at their values, programs, and behavior.”  It seemed like there was one singular thing he thought would sway certain people.  I quickly tried to think if there was one singular thing that Trump had over Hillary – and because I was glued to what the priest was saying I couldn’t come up with anything on the spot. I’m grateful that he eventually shared a story with us that made me realize why some people might vote for Trump.

He told us a story about a man who came to him and explained that although he does not agree with abortions, he doesn’t think it should be considered a crime.  The man said that he worked with women who have been through so much abuse and hardships in their lives and sometimes ended up pregnant.  This man felt these women have enough hardships in their lives and shouldn’t be forced to choose between having a baby or being put in prison.  The priest didn’t say this, but we all know that Donald has been saying that he thinks abortions should be illegal.  I’m so thankful that this priest made the bold move to let Catholics know that we shouldn’t be voting for someone because of one idea.

The priest then went on to say, no matter who wins or loses – remember this:  The Lord will either go through him or around him to make sure things in this world are right.


Arizona, Deep thoughts


It’s been about 2 months and a week since I moved across country.  Of course when I decided to move here I was thinking about all the positive things about moving, but after a little while – you start to see that there are some tradeoffs to living anywhere.  Here are some that I’ve come across:

Slow drivers —  more open roads

Beautiful cities with lights and energy — beautiful mountains, puffy clouds and bright stars

Subpar hair salons — more good hair days

Slow service — more people willing to help

No family around — living out my life wishes

One of the biggest tradeoffs is not being near my family.  Not having them around to hug is a huge deal, but I’m doing better than I was the first month.  When I went home last month for my dad’s birthday – I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about coming back.  My flight was supposed to be Sunday night – but I was so ready to go home that I went to the airport Sunday morning so that I can wait on standby to catch the earlier flight.  Because of this, I wasn’t sure if I’d get to NJ and not want to come back to AZ – but I was ready.   And then I got to the airport to go back to AZ – and they offered me a $400 voucher to stay an extra day.  It was tempting because I didn’t have to return to work for a couple days.  I called my mother, and she said “Michelle, stay on your schedule – go home.”  Wow!  My mother called Arizona “home.”  When your mother, the owner of your first home (aka, her womb) tells you to go “home” and considers another place that she doesn’t live in home, then you go home.  This is my new place – my new home and I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m making a new life for myself.  Stay on schedule, stay focused, stop looking back at the door that’s closing – observe as the new doors opens.

I realized that although I loved being home, there was nothing left for me to do there except for visit my family and a few friends.  After you’ve lived in a certain place for so long, and you haven’t built a new life for yourself with a spouse and kids – it’s time to explore and see what else is out there.  Thank goodness for Facebook memories because each day when I click on “On This Day” I come across different statuses that I’ve written in the past seven years.  I can’t believe how many times in different ways I wished summer were longer.  Then there were times when I expressed ways that I was trying to get over my seasonal depression and how I will need to go into hibernation because the cold was starting to come.  As much as I want to be around my family because they are such a big part of my life, my core has wanted to be in a sun shiny place for a long time – I wished and wished for it – and even though I really never thought it would happen, not taking this leap would mean I’m not living my life for me.

It feels like I’ve been here for so long, but then I remember it’s only been two months – it’s normal for me to feel unsure.  I wonder how long it will take for me to feel like I belong here.

One of my Facebook friends is doing a social experiment by calling each of her Facebook friends and having a conversation with them.  She couldn’t believe that I picked up and moved to Arizona.  She’s originally from Minnesota, moved to New Jersey, lived in Korea, and now is in Cali.  I met her in college and I always envied her – just like I do anyone I meet that has learned to live in a new place.  Something about that has always intrigued me.  And I told her that.  Everyone I’ve ever met who has picked up and moved somewhere else has always inspired me.  I told her how the first month I felt a little homesickish, but felt better once I went to visit and came back.  After our conversation, she told me she’s felt homesick each time she moved too.  For some reason I didn’t think she ever had.  I thought maybe some people are cut-out for this and maybe I’m not?  Having her tell me that met a lot.  It means she got over it, and then moved again – so it’s not the worst thing in the world.  I think the worser thing would be staying put, and not ever pushing yourself to take that leap and try something new.

Accomplishments during my second month:

  1. Pumped my own gas and learned how to use the metal thing to hold it so I don’t have to hold the pump the whole time.
  2. Started going to Sprouts food store!
  3. Saw a man running while dragging a tire with a rope attached to his back.
  4. Witnessed a haboob – major dust storm.
  5. Experienced a lazy Sunday with a full day of rain!
  6. Went to the DMV to get my license.
  7. Took a Dale Carnegie communication class.
  8. Got a standing desk at work.
  9. Went to Bikram yoga.
  10. Went to a dentist for a root canal that I really loved – thanks to one of my student’s recommendations.  I know this sounds like a really crazy thing to be excited about, but I am – good dentists are hard to find!  He was awesome and not only that, but my student told me today that he called her to thank her for recommending me because he loved treating me.  This is the new world I’m living in.  The guy had his hands in my mouth for a total of 2 hours (2 appointments) and for the second appointment I had just left the DMV so I was short on time and had to eat MC DONALD’S because it was the quickest option before my appointment so even though I mouthwashed, I was sure my breath smelled of onions and I was falling asleep half the time.  What was there for him to love?  I really loved because he explained everything so nicely and seemed to be so precise with everything.

My first AZ adventure: Kayaking on the Saguaro Lake

IMG_3406I’ve been living in Arizona for a month and two days, so it was time to do some serious exploring and meet new friends.  I spent some time during the past couple weeks researching activity groups.  I finally found this group called “Purposeeker” – and it was just right.  It was created by two awesome individuals and I’m so glad to have found them.  I saw that they had an upcoming adventure planned for Saturday, September 3rd – “Take Me Kayaking.”  I had never been kayaking before but always wanted to go.  It was perfect timing.  I started to feel a bit homesick last week, and I knew I’d need to book something fun for Labor Day weekend so I wouldn’t have time to get homesick again.

I got information from the site, but I wanted to get more of a feel for what this adventure entailed so I sent an email to get more information.  Fab got back to me quickly and let me know that it would be a great day and that the group would be about 10 people.  That was a perfect size – not too many people where I’d get lost in the shuffle – but enough people for a fun time.

On Saturday, we all met in Scottsdale.  I introduced myself to everyone and they were all very welcoming and friendly.  Laly, the other organizer handed out whistles (that she bought Party City) – in case we had an emergencies on our kayaks. Safety first!  🙂

We piled into Fab’s car and headed on the journey to Saguaro Lake.  The drive up was beautiful. Like most roads in Arizona – it was filled with beautiful mountains and cacti.  When we got there, Laly and Fab set up a beautiful picnic breakfast along the lake and under a peaceful tree.  We filled up on delicious bagels (loved that almond cream cheese!) and fruit.IMG_3390 (1)Kayaking along the waters was easier than I thought it was going to be.  It was surreal seeing all the beautiful, serene scenery.  A highlight for me was seeing wild horses eating along the water.

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We kayaked for about 2-3 hours total and we stopped twice to take a break and a dip.  I was so excited to take a dip in the salt water.  August is usually the month I’m driving down the shore to get my beach days in. This was the first August of my life with no beach days.  Maybe that also contributed to my homesickness!  Anyway, lucky for me my withdrawal was over after taking a dip in these waters.  So refreshing.  Note to self:  bring water shoes next time – the water was rocky, but it was worth it!  We were shocked to see what looked like seashells – definitely have to google that and see what that was about.  After snacking on sweet rice rollers, playing with the “riverweeds” and having a rock stacking contest it was time to get back in the kayaks.

IMG_3497Eventually, we made it to the end of the kayaking adventure and it was time to head back for our lunch picnic.  So glad this group likes to eat as much as I do.  I was contemplating bringing my own snacks, but I never did.  Thankfully, there was plenty of food and drinks all throughout the day.  The picnic lunch consisted of turkey wraps, chicken salad, cheese, strawberries, guacamole, veggies with dip, corn chips, pitas, and chocolate chip cookies.

IMG_3053After lunch, Laly led a group meditation.  We thought about all that we are grateful for and took time to send love to those we felt need it.  We took time to appreciate all the goodness in our lives.  We all had so much to be thankful on that day – especially the fact that we didn’t need to use the whistles!  Great day had by all!


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A day in the life..., Arizona, Conversations

License to Braid

I tried my first hair salon today in Arizona.  After reading through reviews for weeks, I decided to go to David Frank in Scottsdale.  The hair appointment was great – both David and Frank were awesome.  I loved how laid back the salon was – then again, I’m in Arizona – everyone’s laid back – I’m still trying to understand that.  David did my highlights and Frank did the cut, but more about that later.

Every time I go to a salon, I’m the aunt that tells the stylist about her nephew who braids her hair.  What?  Your nephew doesn’t braid your hair???  Really?  That sucks for you!  I showed Frank the photo of the braid my nephew worked into my hair the last time I saw him and he was wowed.  Literally, he said “WOW!”  – he was impressed.  So here’s the pic:  IMG_2921

Frank suggested my nephew work in his salon because he needs someone to do braids.  I told him about how in NYC they have braidbars and he said they didn’t stick in AZ… and maybe it’s because a stylist needs a braid license to do braids.  So let me get this straight.  In Arizona, you need a license to put a beautiful braid in someone’s hair, but you don’t need a license to buy a gun.  Interesting.  Ya learn something new every day.

Here’s a loose braid done by my favorite braid stylist –IMG_2413!



Another Bad Creation

Guachetta Breakfast Sandwich

1118B18E-E24F-491B-8153-4CA61840CE39I’m really excited to tell you about this latest creation. It was inspired by the following:

  • I have leftover ingredients from a yummy detox smoothie I made yesterday.
  • I love guacamole.
  • I love  bruschetta.



  • Avocado
  • Onion
  • Tomato
  • Cilantro
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Himalayan Sea Salt
  • Multigrain bread

I didn’t measure anything…. and I figured everyone desires a different flavor so use your judgement.  Toast bread.  While toasting, chop onions, tomato, cilantro, kale, and onion.  Add minced garlic. Add olive oil. Add avocado.  Mix well.  Spread on toasted bread for a crunchy, tasty, nutritious way to start the day!

I’m not a huge fan of lime, so I didn’t have any to add – but if you have it and love it – go for it!

I’d love to hear about any other ideas in the comments.


Perfectionism and Embracing Struggles

The Struggle is Real – So Let’s Celebrate It! 

Carol Dweck says that a constructive topic to bring up at the dinner table is “what did you struggle with today? what will you struggle with tomorrow?” Make it normal, understandable and common to struggle. Research shows that praising struggles and mistakes is what helps people create a growth mindset.  She also mentions that athletes who ended up becoming stars were not the best athlete growing up.  The people who were #1s as a child coasted on their natural ability.  Athletes who started off as #1 who did not learn about the power of struggling or how to work through struggles were more likely to give up before succeeding – they did not know how to continuously work hard to achieve goals.


Place Value on Effort

Although I want to believe I have a growth mindset, I can’t help but realize there were times in my life when I had a fixed mindset.   For example,  I chose Sociology as a major during my undergraduate studies instead of psychology because I was too afraid that I would struggle through anatomy and physiology. Crazy that a class could scare someone so much. I remember my first gymnastics meet – at 5 years old, I begggggged mom to tell my teacher I was sick so I didn’t have to do it. I don’t know if it was due to my shyness, or due to the fact that I was afraid that I wasn’t as good as the other kids, but I hope that if that ever happens to my kids I’ll be able to guide her to take the chance and do your best because that’s what’s most important and we can be praised for that.

Dweck goes on to say that even though we don’t realize it – we might come from a fixed mindset as many of us grow up thinking if you’re really good at something, you shouldn’t have to work hard at it.  “Everything important in life requires huge amounts of effort over long periods of time.  If effort makes you feel inadequate you’re at a huge disadvantage.”

The Duck Metaphor

Everything is a process and people (adults and kids) need to be reminded of that.  Many times it might seem like people are not even trying but Dweck says that there are people who look like they’re not “paddling” but actually underneath are actually paddling feverishly.  They do this so that it seems like everything is coming naturally to them because in their eyes goals are attained effortlessly and aren’t something that people work towards.  More and more people are doing this and it’s having a harmful effect on the people who are doing it because they have to live up to this “expectation” that they think people have of them that they don’t aren’t working hard when they actually are – and it’s also damaging to others who don’t understand that this is taking place and thinking that everyone else is effortlessly “perfect.”

All the research shows that in order to live a peaceful life what we think, say, and do should all be in sync.  If we are all honest and not afraid to admit that it’s ok to struggle,  it would even out the playing field a bit and also let those who are trying to keep up this image feel a bit of relief.


Life in Riverdale – the nice part of the Bronx!

I’m finally somewhat settled into my Riverdale apartment.  I am LOVING Riverdale.  When I first moved into my apartment I was thinking, wow – if I had to put down everything I wanted in an apartment that would really matter to me I would’ve described this studio exactly.  It’s big enough for me to have a separate section for my queen-sized bed.  It’s got a really cute kitchen, not just an area for stove and sink – it’s sectioned off and has an bar-like area where I put stools – so that’s my eating area and I don’t need to waste room with a table.  I always dreaded buying couches – but my landlord left him – which was a bonus!  The only part of it I would change if I had to pick something would be the bathroom – it is very blue.  It most likely hasn’t been updated since the 70s.

When I saw the ad for this apartment, it was also for sale.  I’ve been seriously thinking about buying it when the lease is up.  Just this morning I was thinking about that – how cool is it that I got to test out the property I want to buy?  Not many people can do that.  I have a chance to test out the neighbors, the building, the parking situation, the neighborhood situation.  So far everything passes my test with flying colors.  When you come from a small town there is a certain respect that you expect from people and Riverdale lives up to that.  Additionally, I’m walking distance from Van Cortlandt Park.  That is awesome because I missed having my Nomahegan Park so close.  It’s almost like that was also on my list of requirements – must be walking distance to a good park.  I’ve actually said that in the past – so it really is a requirement.

Unlike most other places in New York – there is NO alternate side parking.  This is SO great!  And not only that, there’s actually spots!  There have been plenty of times when I quickly found a spot right in front of the building.  I’m so thankful to my parents for letting me borrow their car while they aren’t using it and I get settled.  There are plenty of places that are walking distance or accessible by bus or train – but having a car just helps make things quicker and easier – especially when I have to carry stuff.

So far I have a few favorites:

  • sushi spot – Aoyu Sushi (sushi melts in my mouth) – I actually have to tell a story about this place.  When I came to see the apartment with the realtor – I decided to make a pitstop to visit a “friend” who lives in the area.  This “friend” makes me completely lose my appetite but knows I love sushi so he ordered a ton from this place.  I could barely eat it and he was so confused because I said I was hungry – and it’s the best sushi ever so wtf?  Well, I finally got to try the other day and now I’m kinda mad at myself for wasting that sushi on that rainy evening.
  • bar to watch a game or grab a quick drink – Jake’s  Bianca and I have come here a few times and it’s a cute small spot.  We’ve gotten the Reuben a couple times which was delicious.  The last time we went we had the French Dip with mozzarella and it was amazing.
  • grocery store (when unable to get to Trader Joe’s) – Garden Gourmet (lots of delicious, unique, organic goodies)  The other day it was a freakish 60 degrees in the early morning – so I decided that I needed bread and would wake up early to get a workout in and walk to the grocery store.  I’ve been meaning to check this place out, but almost forgot about it.  Instead I originally planned on going to the Stop & Shop across the street.  Change of plans when I realized how close I was to Garden Gourmet.  They have a ton of great things, one unique item I bought was some sorta chia pudding cup.  I haven’t tried it yet, it better be good – it was $3.
  • church – St. Margaret’s – I love this little church mainly because it’s so much like the church I grew up going to – St. Theresa’s in Kenilworth.  They use the same books so I think that helps.  I actually used to travel all the way to the UES because a colleague told me about a church she went to up there and highly recommended it.  I liked it – but being that it was so far I didn’t make it there as often as I wanted to.

Still would like to find a really good nail salon.  The reason why I’ve slacked in that department is because I LOVE the nail salon I go to on West 72nd Street, Nail by Young.  (Yes, singular Nail – that’s how it’s spelled at the location.)  Young is one of the sweetest NYC people I’ve met – especially for a business owner.  She is so down to earth and you can tell she really cares about her staff and customers.  So many times you go to a nail salon and there are always new people working – not at this place.  There are some technicians that have been there for 10 years.  That says a lot!

This is the perfect little quaint neighborhood for me.  I wonder how long I’ll live here for…

Here’s a video of me sledding for the first time down a hill on 231st street