Aurora, New York

Day after day of stress leads to overwhelm, which ultimately can lead to burnout. Burnout is a real thing, and can cause many issues- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. A few months back, I had reached the burnout zone. I started doing my own research on the topic, listening to podcasts and reading books on how to reduce daily stressors and quite frankly – find help for myself. I have a good outlook on life, and am able to compartmentalize and prioritize, so feeling out of sorts for me was concerning. I approached Evan and told him I needed some time to be alone and get myself back in sync. I felt unbalanced, that was the best way I could describe it. I needed some Eat, Pray, Love in my life to shift things back and recover my equilibrium. It was a terrible feeling that I knew I could not shake without doing some real work. Evan, being the great supportive husband he is, said let’s do it, but he is coming with me. He made a great observation by saying my life was not going to simply change with one weekend away – it was not going to fix whatever was in me that was unbalanced. And while he was correct, I knew it would give me the time and space I needed to get back up on my feet and determine how to best move forward. I posted Instagram pictures that made it seem like a nice little getaway, which it was, but I was secretly referring to it as my burnout retreat.

Evan and I are good vacationers – we like to have fun, mix sightseeing with cocktails and activities and be surrounded by people. However, I made it clear that this “vacation” was going to be different. I did not want the focus to be on cocktails and fun (in fact, I considered having a dry weekend altogether, but then came to my senses..). I wanted this weekend to focus on nature, mindfulness and peace. We looked at quite a few resorts and finally landed on the Inns of Aurora in Aurora, New York. Aurora is part of the Finger Lakes, located on Cayuga Lake in Upstate NY.

The whole town of Aurora was recently part of a village-wide restoration project led by Pleasant Rowland, who attended nearby Wells College and created the American Girl Dolls, dumping an incredible fortune into this charming village, and creating the most gorgeous, charming cottages, shops, and restaurants overlooking the lake. Each house features private porches and fireplaces, where they offer coffee, tea, and homemade granola bars in the morning, wine and cheese at cocktail hour, and s’mores makings at night, as well as an innkeeper at the house 24/7 to help with any needs. The accommodations and service far exceeded expectation – and were so comforting.

The night we arrived after a long six hour drive, we joined locals down at the lakeside patio for live music and brews before heading to dinner across at street at a casual restaurant, Fargo.

We woke the next morning ready to decompress and start our healing journey. We started our morning with a cup of coffee in the living room of our Zabriskie House, with one of their homemade granola bars (so incredible!). We then grabbed yoga mats and headed to the most intense yoga session I have ever attended! Wearing a mask made it even more challenging, but it was a great way to start the day.

Next, we headed to the spa for the day. We arrived two hours before our couples massage was scheduled for so we could enjoy the hydrotherapy pools, steam and sauna, and meditation rooms.

Hydrotherapy is a thermal cycle of moving between hot water, cold water and rest. Water can be profoundly healing on an emotional level; for many people, water treatments are deeply soothing in a way that transcends their physical benefits, though it does have many physical benefits, too. Water therapy is almost unparalleled as a means of bringing the body back into equilibrium, just what I needed. We used all of these wellness treatments and felt rejuvenated even before getting our duet massage. We followed our spa treatment with tea and a healthy, complimentary lunch from the Spa’s café.

The spa at the Inns of Aurora was simply incredible, and by far the nicest spa I have been to. I would highly recommend that if you ever visit the Inns of Aurora, do not skip out on the spa. It is expensive but worth it, and you can spend the entire day there if you’d like.

Following the spa experience, Evan and I both got our tarot cards read. This was the first time for both of us, and I learned that it is really more so about how you interpret the cards and what they mean for you, rather than just the luck of the draw. I did feel connected to the cards I was drawn, and it made me consider a different perspective.

We then had a glass of wine and cheese by the firepit before heading to dinner at 1833 Kitchen and Bar, then closing the night with some s’mores back by the fire pit.

The next morning, I woke up and grabbed my coffee and granola bar to enjoy on the porch overlooking the lake and spent some time being present, and reflecting.

We then headed to Cayuga Lake and took out paddleboards, which turned out to be a comical mistake. It was a very choppy day on the lake, and took a lot of strength to navigate the paddleboard where we wanted them to go. We spent about 15 minutes out there, and I decided I am truly an ocean girl and navigated back to shore. We then headed back to 1833 Kitchen and Bar for a delicious brunch, followed by a hike and birdwatching, with a pit stop for an archery session. Evan and I both did better than I thought we would at archery, I was impressed with us!

Finally, we got back in the car for the first time since arriving as everything in the village is in walking distance – yoga, the restaurants, village market, the lake – everything!

We jumped in the car to drive an hour south to Ithaca to hike Taughannock Falls, which was incredible! The hike was easy, and really more of a path, but the waterfall was just stunning.

On the way back, we happened to drive by Cornell University, so we drove through to check it out – what a beautiful (yet hilly) campus! On our way back to Aurora, we stopped by Treleaven Vineyard for live music, local wine from the Finger Lakes, and some food.

The next morning, after coffee and meditation, we checked out and headed home to reunite with the Bunga. We still had a full weekend ahead of us to enjoy with him.

Our “vacation” was not the type of week away we typically aim for, but it was everything I needed. Spending so much time in nature, and with the help of mindfulness, relaxation and Hydrotherapy, it was the restorative break I truly needed. While Evan is correct that one weekend away won’t save your soul, it did allow me the space I needed to restore my energy and spirit, and that has helped pick me back up and enable me to fill my cup back up in a meaningful, lasting way.

A few things I committed to after my burnout retreat:

  • Meditation before bed
  • Gratitude in the morning – I do some breathe work now and say three things I am grateful for in that moment, before getting out of bed
  • Adding mindfulness throughout the day when stress creeps in (often)
  • Getting some outdoor time as often as I can throughout the week, even if that just means taking a meeting during a walk outside
  • I bought the coffee mugs that the Inns of Aurora used, I just loved them (lol) and also took home their granola bar recipe and have made it once so far, but it will definitely become a staple in our home (SO good – I will share the recipe here soon).

Stress will come, and stress will go, but I am truly grateful. It didn’t take one weekend for me to realize how fortunate we are (I’ve known that all along), but it did take a weekend to allow me to step back, take a nice big breath of fresh air, and appreciate it.

Cheers xo

Hello darkness, my old friend

I recently went back and read my old blog posts and was so pleased with my past self for being so strong, resilient and grounded. It is kind of funny and maybe even hubris to feel that way but life has changed so much for me in the past few years, that I feel far removed from the girl writing about love, bathrooms and happiness.

My days today are filled with diapers, 12 hours of meetings, stress, and sippy cups. I hardly get the opportunity to wash my hair (thank goodness for working from home) and I cannot respond to a text message in a reasonable amount of time.

And yet I am still the same girl who cares about love, bathrooms, and happiness (and champagne, sorry I couldn’t just leave that part out). When I created this space, I gave it the tagline Cultivate happiness through chaos, and yet somewhere along the way I left happiness out of it and quite simply allowed chaos to take over, turn into stress which quickly led to burnout. Burnout and recovery is a story for another day, but today I just wanted to spend some time happy-typing. I am on my laptop all day long, far too long for one human but at the end of the day what makes me happy is writing. Writing = rest for me, more so than crawling onto the couch and watching TV (though DO NOT snooze on Ted Lasso), or even sleeping. It restores my energy and makes me happy.

I had thought about it of course, that I missed writing. But it wasn’t until this week when two separate people told me I need to keep writing did I really stop to think about why I had stopped in the first place. The way it was said to me in both scenarios mattered, and made me reflect on why it mattered at all. I feel so grateful to have finally found my voice after searching for so long. I have to take my own advice from 2017 me, who said right here on this very channel “Never allow yourself to be in the passenger seat of your journey. It is yours, remain an active participant. It is kind to please others but never in the dispense of yourself.” And while I never did dispense myself, I certainly put her in the trunk for a bit. But she’s found a way to crawl right back into the driver’s seat.

Cheers xx

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Weird to think that it was two years ago that I wrote this post. I went to the ER, and ended up staying in the hospital for two weeks, diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC), the sister disease to Crohn’s.

When I got out of the hospital, I left feeling revived. I was on medicine, finally had a gastroenterologist (GI), and was in remission, after months and months of issues and pain. Today, well since April really, I’ve been on a steady decline. My medicine, which has been my savior the past two years, just all of a sudden isn’t working for me anymore. I’ve been trying a new drug, vising the hospital on a weekly basis for labs and tests, and have been back on the devil’s drug: Prednisone.

It was a good reminder for me to read my post from two years ago to give me some hope for better days ahead. It reminded me the main lesson I learned from that experience: your health is everything and should be held above everything else. It is so easy to get caught up in life and put off your health needs. I needed this reminder to make my disease a top priority so that I can find remission again.

If you or someone you love has recently been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, it’s important to begin learning as much as you can about what it is. Not many people know what UC is, or understand how it effects the body and everyday life. Below are just some basics, leaving the actual symptoms and treatment options out. Even just the basic overview can help you to support your loved one, and I promise, promise, PROMISE they will be so appreciative that you have even taken ONE minute to try to understand.

What it is:

A chronic disease, that has no cure, or cause. Periods of remission can span months or even years, but symptoms will eventually return. Meaning: I’ll have this forever… BUT I do know many very smart people are working on fixing that(:

It causes inflammation of the large intestine, and pretty much throws your whole body off.

The result of an abnormal response by your body’s immune system. UC causes your immune system to not turn “off,” and therefore begins attacking your body. As a result, I am on a medication that weakens my immune system, so if you’re sick, stay awayyyyy.

What it’s not:

A constant stomach ache. I’m sorry if your stomach hurts sometimes too, I really am. But it doesn’t have anything to do with what my symptoms are. Yes, I do get stomach pains, but that’s the least of it.

Laziness. One of the many wonderful symptoms that comes along with UC is fatigue. I can sleep for >10 hours, and still wake up feeling absolutely exhausted.

Caused by diet. I mentioned there is no cause. While some people have found certain foods that irritates them, there is not a food group that we are asked to avoid.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS does not cause inflammation.

I hope that you or your loved one finds remission. UC sucks. It just does. But knowing that you have someone who understands, or even tries to, makes an incredible difference.

Proud to be an American

How appropriate that I am writing this post just before Memorial Day, a day for remembrance of those who died in active military service.

The drive from Reims to Normandy was a long one – about 5 and a half hours. We only had ONE day in Normandy, so we needed to make it worthwhile. We got up at 5am and got on the road.

Evan is a fantastic European driver. He drove us around in Ireland, where they drive on the other side of the road, so I totally trusted him in France (they drive on our side). We had no GPS, so we were kind of just wingin’ it. We finally made it to Normandy, after a wild search for coffee and only getting on a few wrong highways.

sign

Side note: Let me stop here and talk a bit about my knowledge of DDay, and when I got so into this. Two years ago, I knew the term DDay, I even knew the date (solely because it’s exactly one month before my birthday). I didn’t know nearly what I should have to be able to appreciate the men who gave their lives for our country that day. When we were planning a trip to France, Evan, the WWII buff, HAD to go to Normandy, which I was totally open to. However, I knew it wouldn’t be as meaningful for me to go there having such little knowledge, so I changed that. I bought the book “The Longest Day,” by Cornelius Ryan. I thought it was going to be a difficult book for me to get through, since my typical genre is love/romance/comedy. This book was amazing and I got completely absorbed in it. I learned so much, gained an interest, cried a lot, and could not put it down. This totally got me interesting in all things DDay, and WWII.

We went directly to Omaha Beach. My initial thought was how gorgeous it is. It’s a beach that people still utilize today – and it is beautiful. This made it very hard to imagine what happened here. There are memorials along the wall, explaining that day. On June 6, 1944, very little went as planned during the landing at Omaha. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landing craft to miss their targets throughout the day. The defenses (Germans) were unexpectedly strong, and inflicted heavy casualties on landing U.S. troops. Something I’ve never been able to get out of my head: the men who landed on this beach were so young. They were individuals, with lives and personalities, love and families. I can’t even begin to imagine the fear that they had on that boat ride from England to France. They gave their entire life to fight for what was right, to fight for America, and to give us, and our allies our freedom. As President Harry Truman put it:

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” 

omaha

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Next, we went directly to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. This took my breath away to see how many gravestones are here – over 9,000 Americans. They keep the grounds in immaculate condition. I was surprised that every stone has the name, and the troops are actually buried there. Previously, I thought it was just a memorial, but it is actually a cemetery and the gravestones have their name, which state they were from, the date that they passed, and which unit they were part of. There were a few we saw that the troop was unidentifiable, and the stone read “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.” It was incredibly moving to be here.

soldier

“If ever proof were needed that we fought for a cause and not for conquest, it could be found in these cemeteries. Here was our only conquest: all we asked was enough soil in which to bury our gallant dead.”  

General Mark W.Clark

cemetery

 

Our final stop was Pointe du Hoc, where U.S. troops did what was considered the impossible and entered the enemy territory by scaling the cliffs. The U.S. bombed this area five times before DDay, and the massive holes from the explosions are still there today — they are everywhere.

du hoc

It made me incredibly proud to be an American to see all of these sites. Many restaurants and homes in the Normandy area still today fly the American flag. It is amazing to think back to those dark days for the people in France, and how the flag gave them hope, and in the end gave them their freedoms back.

“Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.” — General John J. Pershing

Please take a moment this Memorial Day weekend to give thanks and remember the brave men and women who have given their lives for our country and our freedom.