Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Music Review: Idina Menzel’s Holiday Wishes #HolidayWishes #O2O

 

It is the Holiday season. I like to think the Holiday season begins in October with Halloween. Immediately afterwards, you have Dia de los Muertos, All Saints Day, Thanksgiving, then Hanukkah, Festivus, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, 3 Kings Day, and then Valentine’s Day will roll right along. Whew…It is a lot of celebrating, but you know what? I don’t mind having something to celebrate, especially on dark days, when the sun has taken a break, the leaves fall, and the world tries to manufacture a bit of warmth to get us through. I don’t know about you, but I get such a overwhelming melancholy in December, I rely on my many traditions to cope. Celebrations with friends, gazing at lights, sending Christmas Cards filled with love to those far away. All the while, trying to curb the urge to spend, spend, spend and eat, eat, eat.

When One2One Network invited me to review Idina Menzel’s new album Holiday Wishes, I jumped at the opportunity. No, I’ve not tired of her version of “Let it Go,” nor do I think her voice is too nasally for my liking. Much like the power ballads of the 80s, I am unashamed to admit I like it when she builds up the song and belts it out.

Listening to the album, I know the words to the songs because I grew up singing many of them. If you are someone who likes to sing along to music, then this album will be for you, even if the arrangements may not be too familiar. Her duet with Michael Buble for Baby It’s Cold Outside is fun, but then again, I loved it when Buddy the Elf sings it, too. It is a great song! I will also say that I was not happy about her performance for All I Want For Christmas. It is a much beloved favorite because of Mariah Carey in her heyday.  I think my favorite on her album is What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? This is the song I can sing in my car, pretending I’m in a glittering gown on a stage, singing with a piano accompaniment. Immediately following, December Prayer…this is the one you listen in the dark of night when fat snow trickles down from the unseen clouds above. “Hear the song within the silence. See the beauty when there is nothing there. Sing a song within a silence that hope and love are everywhere…” River is also a tremendous favorite of mine. I’ll let you take a listen and form your own opinion. Overall, I know some of her songs will make it to my playlist and my girls will grow up listening to the songs I heard as a child, but they will also hear her voice, too. You can check out her album now at  iTunes : http://bit.ly/IMHolidayWishes and on Amazon:  http://bit.ly/IDINAHOLIDAY. (or you can listen on Spotify, too!)

About Idina Menzel & Holiday Wishes

Holiday Wishes, a Christmas album recorded by Tony Award-winning singer/actor Idina Menzel, is out now on Warner Bros. Records.
The album was produced by Grammy Award-winner Walter Afanasieff (Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey) and features such classic favorites as “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” as well as Joni Mitchell’s Christmas-themed “River,” one of Menzel’s favorites. Another highlight is a duet with international superstar Michael BublĂ© on “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” An exclusive Target edition of Holiday Wishes features two bonus tracks, including “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”.

Idina’s career has traversed stage, film, television, and music. She was most recently heard as Elsa in Disney’s global box-office smash Frozen, in which she sings the film’s Oscar-winning song “Let It Go.” After her performance of the multi-platinum song at the 86th annual Academy Awards, she made history as the first person with both a Billboard Top 10 hit and a Tony Award for acting.

Idina currently stars as Elizabeth in the original Broadway production of If/Then.


Holiday Wishes Track Listing

  1. Do You Hear What I Hear
  2. The Christmas Song
  3. Baby It’s Cold Outside (Duet with Michael Buble)
  4. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  5. All I Want For Christmas
  6. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
  7. December Prayer
  8. When You Wish Upon A Star
  9. Silent Night
  10. River
  11. Holly Jolly Christmas
  12. White Christmas

Bonus Tracks on Target Exclusive
  1. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
  2. Mothers Spiritual

 

Online Presence:

* iTunes: http://bit.ly/IMHolidayWishes
  * Amazon:  http://bit.ly/IDINAHOLIDAY
* Official Idina Menzel website: www.idinamenzel.com
* Twitter - @idinamenzel
* Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/IdinaMenzel
* YouTube - http://bit.ly/IMHWVID

 

**I participated in the Idina Menzel Holiday Wishes album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.**

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Album Review: Mary J. Blige The London Sessions #TheLondonSessions #O2O


If you were of some kind of age in the '90s, then you are intimately familiar with that melodic and enchanting voice filled with so much heartache and pain that oozed soulful hip hop. Mary J. Blige personified that era perfectly as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. She remained true to her roots. To this day, her tracks Real Love and pretty much anything from What's the 411? is iconic, classic and music for now. 

When I was given the opportunity to review her album by One 2 One Network, I jumped at the chance. Are you kidding me? Mary J. Blige has once again confounded expectations and ventured into new musical territory by crossing the Atlantic to collaborate with some of this decade’s most celebrated UK musical talent – including Disclosure, Eg White, Emile SandĂ©, Jimmy Napes, Naughty Boy, SAM ROMANS and Sam Smith – and recorded a new studio album, The London SessionsThis extraordinary new collection will be released December 2 on Capitol Records. 

With a track record of eight multi-platinum albums, nine Grammy Awards (plus a staggering 31 nominations), a 2012 Golden Globe nomination, and four American Music Awards, Mary J Blige is a global superstar. And in ensuing years, the singer/songwriter has attracted an intensely loyal fan base – responsible for propelling worldwide sales of more than 50 million albums. I am among those fans. 



I have given the album a thorough listening a few times. I can't listen to the lyrics for some of those songs without feeling an overwhelming sense of melancholy, but the beats, the groove, her voice, all of those things combined get me going. Dancing to the beat, I find myself singing along. I can definitely foresee many of these tracks being remixed to play at clubs around the world. 

Off the bat, Therapy is a reminder of been there, done that in relationships where you hit the tipping point of where you need to leave because neither of you are doing anything about making the relationship better. However, it still hurts when you are gone. If you've ever suffered a broken heart from that kind of relationship, then you know what I'm talking about. That first song also reminded me of how her lyrics are always tough, but optimistic, too. They are like an internal dialog of feeling worthless, but then a reminder to pick yourself and keep going. That's why I like her music. Then there is Right Now, a groovy beat of self-empowerment, not taking the bad any longer. Finally, with Whole Damn Year there is reflection of a relationship gone bad, but then surviving the heartache. 

Overall, I enjoyed this album. I have it playing while sitting in traffic, singing along to her, because let's face it, she has a good voice and I can feel like I'm singing along with her. This  is quite a change from constantly singing Let it Go with my girls. Singing grown up music makes me feel more like an adult and helps the commute go faster. The album releases on December 2 and you can find it on iTunes : http://bit.ly/MJBLondon and  Amazon:  http://bit.ly/MJBLS or view some of the videos on her YouTube page


Online presence located here: 
* iTunes: http://bit.ly/MJBLondon
  
* Amazon: 
 http://bit.ly/MJBLS
 
*Official Mary J Blige Websitewww.maryjblige.com
Twitter @maryjblige
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/maryjblige  
* YouTube - http://bit.ly/MJBVIDEO   

Track Listing1. Therapy
2. Doubt
3. Not Loving You
4. When You're Gone
5. Right Now
6. My Loving
7.Long Hard Look
8. Whole Damn Year
9 .Nobody But You
10. Pick Me Up
11. Follow
12. Worth My Time

**** I participated in the Mary J Blige The London Sessions album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own. ****

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Party Shortcuts for the Busy Working Mom (Fashion, Hair, Makeup)

It is the holiday season, so I have quite a few events to attend: black tie, dressy denim, holiday festive, and a handful of cocktail soirees. I like getting dressed up and I LOVE socializing. I don’t have a whole lot of time, so I need to maximize it the best way possible. Here are three of my go-to’s for working women/moms. 

FASHION

Last week kicked off the party season for me, starting on Thursday with a charity cocktail mixer, attire is Birthday Denim. I put on a cocktail dress that I had on hand (purchased on EBAY AFTER renting it from Rent the Runway, because I loved it that much) and paired it with my Lucchese boots, because why not? I live in Texas and it actually worked out. On  Saturday, I attended a bonafide Ball—The Dallas Margarita Ball, where you can’t ever be overdressed. I’ve talked about Rent the Runway before, but I wanted to revisit it again, for those of you who may have recently had a need to rent a dress.
Rent the Runway is the premier online destination for access to your dream closet. With a revolving roster of over 200 top designers of the season's hottest dresses and accessories, Rent the Runway is designer fashion delivered to your doorstep for all of life's occasions for just a fraction of the price!
I don’t like is having to wear the same things over and over, nor do I want to spend a whole lot of time shopping, attempting to pair something that fits within my budget and looks right on me. This isn’t to say that I don’t have such pieces of clothing, because I do. However, I’d rather spend my money on my corporate everyday wear. RTR carries sizes 0 to 16, from daytime wear to black tie. You can also rent accessories or buy foundation garments from them.

I searched for a while for the dress that I wanted to wear to the ball. The more glam and  sparkle, the better. I’ve attended this event before and being in Dallas, there are no limits to what you will see. For me personally, I wanted something understated, which would accentuate my best features, and be comfortable enough to dance the night away. Chic and elegant are what I came up with and I felt these dresses would pair nicely with accessories I currently own.
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Halston Heritage and Robert Rodriguez for the win! Why two dresses? Well,  a gal likes to have a choice and when they arrived, I was gonna go with the one that felt the most comfortable. At the price point for rental, it was still CHEAPER than committing to a gown. I was gleefully happy until I received notification that both of my dress choices had been damaged beyond repair and they would not be available. UGH! Here is where I have to rave on the customer service of Rent the Runway! Rather than stopping with their condolences, they invited me to select my top 5 choices at any of their price points for my original rental price! WOW! WOW! WOW!
While they still had plenty of selection to choose from, there weren’t AS MANY choices as I would have wanted. I sent my my selections and these are the two that they sent me:
mgrta2014b
Badgley Mischka and ML Monique Lhuillier for round two! These dresses may seem polar opposites to one another. One screams va-va-voom siren and the other states conservative charm. Both of these gowns satisfy the two sides of my Gemini nature. I was able to rent them at my original rental price, so the price is DEFINITELY right! When they arrived, the zipper on the black and white gown was damaged so badly that I couldn’t wear it. The red gown was shorter than I wanted it to be (who looks at feet anyway?). I contacted Customer Service immediately and they sent another gown out to me overnight. It was larger at the top and not very flattering, so I took my chances with the Badgley Mischka. I had a pair of black opera gloves I wanted to wear with it, but sadly, one glove is missing and I have a strange feeling it is mixed in somewhere in the dress up trunk of my darling girls. The shorter gown paid off, because I had to walk through rain and some puddles to get to my destination and didn’t have to worry about my dress dragging. Score!
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To make up for the lack of fit, they gave me a discount code off a future rental, which made me very happy. My next rental from them will likely be a sparkly cocktail dress. I’ve not yet settled on which one, so I won’t share here. I have about 6 in my queue that I’m considering. In any case, if you have a formal event (wedding), a cocktail party or you just want something nice to wear on a night out, then I would recommend Rent the Runway. Click my referral link to start browsing. I think you get 20% off the first time you rent! Yaaay!

HAIR

I have a LOT of hair. When I give myself a blow out, it is usually a two day process for it to look how I want it to look. I spend almost an hour blowing it out the night before, then will spend another half an hour the next day (after it has settled down) curling it or running a flat iron through it. If there is any modicum of humidity outside, my hair gets excited from the moisture and frizzes up. It isn’t a good look, not to mention, I’m angry for all of the time that was wasted in attempted to calm my mane. That isn’t to say I don’t love my hair because I do! I love, love, love, love my hair!

With that said, I go to The Drybar for blowouts. I have been going to them for several years now. What I love most about my visits to The Drybar is that no matter which location, there is consistency. The styles remain the same, they are very true to their branding, and it is a treat for me. My styles are never compromised with the humidity and will hold strong for about 4 days. My girls both know when I’ve gone for a blow-out not only because my hair looks awesome, but also because of how it smells…and it smells so good! Cost of a blowout is $40 + tip (they encourage $10). Case in point, my hair above was blown-out on Thursday before my Birthday Denim event and it held up until Sunday evening when I washed it. Here it is Sunday morning after I woke up from a night of dancing and walking in the rain.:

MAKE-UP 

I am a vaseline, eyeliner kind of gal. I own all of that other stuff, but I don’t use it regularly. I’m trying to get more into my mascara and lipsticks. As I get older, my moisturizers are key, but small beauty tricks can go a long way. Curling my lashes and brushing on a bit of mascara really opens my eyes. A complimentary lip color really works a dazzling smile, too!

I am very lucky to be related to the best make-up artist ever (in my opinion), but he lives in Southern California. While it is no big deal to hop onto a Hangout, he hasn’t yet figured out how to make product magically appear through the screen. So for me, when I need something immediately, I pop my head into Sephora and opt for a free 15 minute beauty tutorial consultation. There isn’t an obligation to buy, but often when I’m going in, I know I will be purchasing a product. If you are a noob like me, you will need someone to teach you how to best use what you purchased, and their artists know their stuff! Are you gonna spend more than $50? Then sign up for the total beauty make-over, complimentary with $50 or more purchase. It is for 45 minutes and they will work your whole face!

Recently, I went in and bought some new items that I’ve fallen in love with: Marc Jacobs Beauty Gel Crayon, Hourglass Femme Rouge Velvet Creme in Icon, and Make Up For Ever’s Blending Brush. I used to be a loyal Urban Decay gal when it came to my liners, but at the end of the day it still smeared and gave me the look of bruised eyes more often than not. I’ve been in search of a great red lip color and so far Hourglass has satisfied. It has no nasty fillers and doesn’t dry out my lips. And the blending brush because holy wow does it make a difference. I never knew. After my session, I had tips on how to make up my face for future events!
Tips that I learned from my quick beauty tutorial:
  1. Johnson and Johnsons baby wash will clean my brushes just as good as fancy brush cleaner, just be sure to lay the brush flat to dry.
  2. Urban Decay’s primer is key before applying make-up.
  3. Apply moisturizer, primer, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, then concealer. <---I’ve been doing it wrong forever, no wonder I looked like a clown.
***************
So that’s it. Those are three things that have helped me. I realized that not all of these things will work for everyone. Budgets, time constraints, etc can get in the way. Rent the Runway is not a common thing that I use. Plus, I always try to find a discount code to apply before placing my order. I realize that there aren’t Drybars in every city. Most salons  can do blow-outs for less and odds are, they can give you what you are looking for. Sephora will actively encourage you to try their products without committing to purchasing. I would highly encourage you to do that before you invest in something that you probably won’t need. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

While I’m still sore from smiling and running…

I did it! I had the wildest and most amazing marathon retirement party ever! But first, let me start with this…

I didn’t make my goal time. I aimed for a 4:40 finish. I trained for it, even left some cushioning in my training for a 4:45 minute finish. I ran in temperatures over 100 degrees. I ran in wind. I ran in rain. I trained in the Texas summer heat. I cross trained through Camp Gladiator and followed Coach Sara’s plan each week. I tapered like I was supposed to. I sought chiropractic relief. I altered my hydration and diet, too. In my training, I gained back the confidence to run a 10mm pace for a half marathon. I had the confidence to run a 10:30-11mm pace WITH HILLS. I lost weight and shook off a large chunk of depression.

I didn’t make my goal time. My finish was 5:10:51, a full 11 minutes slower than 7 years ago for my other time of running this.

BUT…

I did it! This race was EVERYTHING I needed from a final race. It was brutal! Why? The conditions were low 40s with 20-30 mph winds. The winds were so high that they didn’t even allow the handcycles to start in Staten Island, cutting off the Verrazano Bridge entirely for them. I opted to walk that bridge, braving the masses, but staying on the side out of harms way, or so I thought. I was pelted with discarded gloves, water bottles, makeshift windbreakers from garbage bags, a race bib (!), a fuel belt, and sweat shirts. I fought against the wind to get this image:

See those white caps. See those clouds? Brrr…(my lungs started wheezing moments after snapping this. Inside I cursed them and said, Not today!)

And we fought through that wind, running against it for about 20 of those miles, and then we were faced with uphill, no sun, tired legs. Before that, though…

I caught those unicorns I’d been chasing for a while!

I sat in that huddle of people to stay warm before the race. Robin Hood, you guys continue to touch my soul!

I stood in my corral waiting for that BOOM of the cannon and Frank Sinatra to belt out “New York, New York” while we ran past.

I nervously chatted with a local gal, a gal from Atlanta, and 3 women from Argyle, Texas! Wow!

I humbly wore the discarded Dunkin Donuts fleece hat that I had to cut a hole out of the top so my hair would fit.

At mile 13 I took a selfie in the sun!

At mile 15.5 I knew I was still plenty strong.

At mile 19.5 I took another selfie in the sun.

My face hurt from smiling so much! I ran strong! I ran my race. I ran with so many strangers cheering me along the way. I ran while my loved ones cheered me on both in person and through social media. I ran for all of them and for myself. The race was what I needed. It was a metaphor, a true test of determination, strength, endurance, and will. I didn’t really hit a wall. My lungs did feel like they wanted to collapse at one point. I lost feeling of my 3rd toe on my left foot around mile 8. At mile 9-10, I ran alongside my Teej! I saw her and nearly knocked her down because I was so happy to see her. I cried and cried, and squeezed so tightly. She ran in the crowd next to me, and when she hit her street, she hollered “Go!” and I went. At mile 11, I saw my Beloved!! He’d landed and made it to me. At mile 13 I messaged my beautiful friend on bedrest, who was cheering me on, texting me messages of support along the way! I hopped on social media at mile 15-16. I saw a few more familiar faces and beautiful souls at mile 17-19! At mile 20, Robin Hood’s block party erupted in cheers when they saw my shirt! I felt like such a celebrity! I had a pinched nerve in my right shoulder starting at mile 21. But I kept right on pushing. I ran to the Asian drummers beat. I high fived one of the rappers who was performing. I high fived as many kids as I could along the way. I held hands with a gal who was running to honor her mother at mile 23---she’d died on October 28th from cancer. I hugged a Swiss guy whose legs were giving out. I was going so fast, I missed My Michael at mile 24, but I saw my Beloved again at mile 24.5.  I put my phone away after that and focused on finishing. I happily ran under the foliage of My park, Central Park. We emerged out of park a bit after 25 and I saw the GM building…Maverick! I’ve walked MANY times to Columbus Circle, time to pick up the pace! (Screw you, lungs, stop sucking air, we have a race to finish!) I spotted people to try to reach and pass and I did. When I hit mile 26, I shouted BRING IT! and took off at an accelerated pace for that last quarter mile. I passed so many people and felt so light. When I crossed, I didn’t cry in my photos. I just beamed with the biggest smile. That was it.

I did it! 5 hours, 10 minutes, and 51 seconds of happy…happy that isn’t artificial, genuine happiness from achievement and support from more than 200 people! All 200+ of you that know me directly who reached out….

THANK YOU, MERCI, GRACIAS, DOMO ARI GATO, DANKE, GAMSAHBNIDA, GRAZIE!!!

The lady who handed me my medal, she was an older woman, and I just stared at her, and asked her for a hug. And she hugged me tightly like my abuela, and told me that she was so proud of me! Thank you strange lady! Thank you for being proud of me and giving me such a hug! And then I sobbed. Big, fat, joyful tears of happiness and sense of accomplishment.

The trek to my room was a journey all by itself. But I got to see my Beloved again before he headed out to the airport. I was able to laugh and recover with My Michael and Gen at a tea place. I was able to talk about the journey with my running friends and hosts after they returned themselves. The next day, I was tight, but I walked around my park for a while capturing engagement photos (yes, I had an engagement photo shoot and it was amazing!!). I had some amazing food, I had a blowout, and then I came home.

I’m tight, but not overly sore. Only my toe is really hurting, but I feel fine. It was a great retirement and the perfect way to say goodbye to my final endurance run. And now, I pass on the torch to everyone else who is able to do so! I will cheer them on!

Coach Sara…you helped me earn every single bit of this race! THANK YOU! Coach Mark, our time so far has been brief, but you helped me, too! Running friends, thank you for pushing me, even when you didn’t know you were. Mom, thank you for throwing me in the deep end and telling me to swim. Daddy, thank you for never slowing down when we raced! Thank you NYC for showing up, like you always do. I know I can make it anywhere!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

2014 TCS NYC Marathon Miles Dedication

religion: a particular system of faith and worship

To me, running is a type of religion. Not because I’m worshipping the god of running, but because rather it is a system of faith and worship. I am wholly present in my mind, my acts intentional, my faith LOUD—within me.
So while I run, it should come as no surprise that I often find myself meditating, holding tightly onto mantras I chant to myself, I’ll pray the rosary, but where I find the absolute BEST peace is when I consider and pray for others. With that in mind, these are my miles dedications.

1. My mother – The first mile is the most exciting mile. It requires the highest climb, with the freshest legs, and the most enthusiasm that you will have to control to make it through the rest of the race. Wings to fly, legs to run…Mom, I remember all of the times you were in my peripheral vision, cheering me, championing me, willing me to strive to be the best I could possibly be. Hurt back, push through. Fall down, pick yourself and keep moving forward. Crying, wipe your tears and smile. This is a race of endurance and motherhood is such a race.

2. Sister – For all of my childhood, I chased you. Literally and figuratively, I chased you to become more like you. When you pushed me away, it hurt, but it taught me that I needed to be my own person—and whomever that was, you would be there to support me, regardless of my choice. This mile, is an easy mile, through a Brooklyn neighborhood that I know you would enjoy visiting.

3. Brother – Because there was a time not long ago that you didn’t think you could run a 5K, and just a short while ago, I turned around to find you, insisting that I NEEDED to cross that line with you. Not because I didn’t think you could do it, but because I wanted to grin from ear to ear and witness you crossing! All of those times you cheered for me and watched me succeed, I needed to be there for a big moment for you. This mile, we run together, not racing, just running on a cool morning while the sun kisses our cheeks. Turn up that Milky Chance Stolen Dance and let’s find our groove.

4.  Tesla – You will be 4 next year, even though you want to say you are 4 this year. You were the 4th member of my family. Your tiny spirit brings so much joy to everyone who meets you. You are so unabashedly stubborn and are so completely focused on your goals , it is something that I try to remember for myself.Baby, Mommy loves you and can’t wait for you to see the new medal to add to the collection!

5. My Brooklyn Beauties – Gen, Mali, Teej, I’ll be looking for you. Each of you inspire me in so very many different ways. All of you are so very strong, both emotionally and physically, I’m running your burough’s streets!

6.  Marisabelle – For you I learned what it meant to be a mother. Because of you, I try my hardest to be the very best mother you need me to be. You show me grace, you show me patience, you have given the the opportunity of wonder…and when I feel like my legs are heavy, I’ll remember your little voice, goading me: “Let’s race, Mommy! I can be fast like you!” Yes, baby, you compliment me by saying you are fast like me. You are already faster than me—and I love it!

7. Internet Friends – I was afforded in real life friendships with you and am able to maintain our friendship online. This means you Camille from Twitter, who shares a similar humor as I do. This also means you Makita, who has a beautiful and vulnerable strength I’ve not seen before—because of you, I am stronger in my actions and more purposeful.

8. For Diego, Kittens, & Unicorns – Diego went on a few of my early training runs with me, fumbling through each step until we figured it out. Your time with us was brief, but your tender spirit lives on. Kittens because well, I’m not allergic to them yet and they are so soft and adorable, and just want to curl up to be loved. Unicorns because they are fabulous and awesome!

9. For my Primo, Simon – Nine rhymes with wine and well, I know you love it! Simon, your wit, your but gusting laughter, and the wine….oh so much wine! I know if you were in town, you’d be cheering for me, throwing water balloons filled with some kind of libation at me, singing Fuego fuego…

10. My Min-Min – You’ve not questioned my sanity for wanting to do this. Instead, you’ve reached out to me to be sure we remain connected in spite of me running all of the miles all of the time. Whether you are there waiting for me at the end of the race with jello shots ready to share a hearty carb-load meal, you are there for me. Even now, I know you will be shouting from where ever you are enjoying Sunday Funday.

11. Margie – Adelante y orgullo: I only barely understood the definition of those words when I first chewed on them. Now, I understand them more. I can’t hardly get the words out to write more because the emotion just flows straight from my heart and out of my eyes. Happy tears of joy and gratitude. I’m so, so, so grateful for you!! I give thanks for your life, for your willingness to fight and continue to fight, every day.

12. Shannon – What a pleasure it was to find you at mile 12 during the Plano Balloon Festival Half. I was struggling, but with you, I was able to push through that final mile. Your exercise posts keep me accountable and remind me to not lazy around.

13. My Happy Half Marathoners – Each of you, declaring publicly which races you would run and peer pressure would kick in and I’d sign up. Mostly to ensure I’d hit my training run milestones, but even more so to be with you all. I didn’t and don’t want to miss any time I get with y’all. For the laughs, the grunts, the aches, the tears, the hugs, the encouraging words, the hilarity of so many things…thank you Dina, Meighan, Alison, Gail, Bonnie, and Danika. A great big heartfelt and SHOUTING dedication to Coach Sara, who has pushed me all along the way, encouraged me, and come up with creative solutions for any obstacle I threw at her!

14. Dan – I had no idea how much my life would change just by meeting you. My heart is more open, my eyes more open, my spirit willing to experience almost anything, entering the adventure with joy and enthusiasm. Just the way you live is a great example of how I want to live. I’m so glad you are not only my friend, but a mentor as well.

15. My extended family – I’m grateful for all of the strong aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, in-laws. Each of you have sent me words of encouragement! They mean so much to me. I consider the women in my life and how life will throw them a curve, and they just shrug their shoulders and deal. it’s how they are. When my Uncle Mutt gave me the biggest hug after a run and how he looked at me, I felt his pride and I was humbled. He reminded me of my previous life as an athlete in college and I remembered that she was still inside of me. My Aunt Frances cheering me on, giving me support, too! Thank you!

16. My Primo Phillip – Because this was the number of miles we walked that day in August while we cheered Don on. If I could have that much fun walking 16 miles in one of my most favorite cities, then I know I could run another 10 as long as I remembered the adventure we shared. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing that day with me!

17. Carol – Your presence helped my training become possible. Otherwise, it would’ve been a greater challenge attempting to push the girls and log my miles. Your life changed dramatically at 17 and since then, you’ve persevered and thrived. I hope you see it that way because so many admire you, as I do. Thank you for all you did and all you do!

18. My Einstein’s Crew – Especially the Saturday morning gals! Renee for the distractions and laughter and Marisa for that last quarter mile sprint to finish strong! Fist bump!

19. My Inner Circle – You all know who you are. We may not see one another often. Sometimes it is in the parking log of a Dry Cleaner, on the phone on my way to the doctor office, for a quick bite to eat, when our kiddos play dress up, when I watch your daughter play volleyball, when we paint together, when we go camping, when we go cruising, when we meet for wine night, when we celebrate our kid’s birthdays…regardless, you are my family. For the big moments, you all are there! This one is for you!

20. Nina Dani – You never let a little thing like sleep or asthma or money get in the way of a good time. You are so giving and humble, for those traits and so many others, we chose you to be our daughter’s godmother. For believing in me, and telling me to shake off the haters.

21. My Beloved – You arrive at noon and will race to find me at some point along the way. Each training race, you have helped me recover by allowing for some quiet rest. During our training runs. you run ahead of me, letting me chase you, forcing me to be better. You believe in my dreams and champion me. You push me to find amazing and are there right by my side when I discover it. Thank you for this adventure!

22. My Michael – New York!! You are there now and it is near this mile you will find me. I love you and I can’t wait to see your face and laugh. I know there will be a great many more trips out to see you in the future, too! I already love the memories we’ve created there, so far.

23. Ada – Because Bianca Fight Never Dies, because running is stupid and why would any one want to do something like that outside when you can be crushing balls in the air conditioning, because people are idiot drivers who merge in the fast lane only to go slower than the speed limit, because of Whataburger taquitos, because of acorns on the ground, because “I’m like a bird,” because of cherries, because of tears of joy and tears of ache, because I am whole all over again when you hug me. This one is for you!

24. Lindsey – My Bish, my friend, even though you think I’ve lost my mind in doing this, you know that it was gone a longer time before that! I may be doing a type of zombie-like run at this point. I will endeavor to champion my inner zombie, made evident by your crew.

25. My Mavericks – Their financial and emotional support has been overwhelming and, as always, humbling. I have raised nearly $7,000 (and counting) for Robin Hood, largely because of their support. Amazing! When I turn the corner by the NY office, I will smile proudly and fondly knowing so many of my colleagues are cheering me on!

26. Daddy – The race is won by running. I will not give up. In the thundering echoes of the roaring crowd, I will hear your voice. I will keep going and know that THIS race…Life, I don’t give up. Even when I feel down, I am a VALENCIANO, I lift my chin, I look it square in the eye and say, “Bring it!”

.2. Me…that last quarter mile is for me. A celebration of what I’ve achieved and a moment of definition, of closure, and gleeful gratitude to my body. Thank you self, for this. You had many doubts if you could do it, but still you managed to get there.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Music Review: Neil Diamond’s Melody Road #MelodyRoad #O2O

Neil Diamond has sold over 125 MILLION albums worldwide and he’s been inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame AND the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You know him, you love him, and now Neil Diamond has a new album, Melody Road, which arrived in stores October 21. The album, marks his first original studio release in six years and first since signing with Capitol Records.

I am quite a bit Neil Diamond fan. I’ve been listening to his voice for about as long as I can remember falling in love with music. I was so jealous of my friend Caroline growing up because he sang a song about Caroline! And who doesn’t have a good time when they listen to Cracklin’ Rosie get on board” even though, I learned that it was a song about alcohol, but whatever.

In any case, I had the chance to listen to his new album and wanted to share what I thought. Here’s the thing, Neil Diamond is a no-frills, no auto-tune singer, with a guitar, maybe some backing instruments, and really strong lyrics. Throw in a bit of country twang and well, there you go, you have some Neil Diamond music. I’ve listened to the album a few times and it hasn’t gripped me—the album as a whole. The lyrics, though, the lyrics are beautiful and wonderfully put together and just give you the smiles. Wholesome and good music that I can share with my kiddos. “Melody Road” the title track with the finger pickings on the guitar and add the whistling tune in the middle, is just fun. There is one song, “Ooo Do I Wanna Be Yours” that is a surprise and a punch in the throat. It has so much emotion filled with desire from a loved one to another. It is filled with the kind of love that we all desire to have. It is worth a listen, but if you aren’t a Neil Diamond fan, then you probably aren’t going to really understand what you are listening to. If you are, and are interested in listening to music familiar from your childhood or from different times, then yeah, check out his album. I’ve included the details of where you can find his stuff below. Also, he’s going on tour!! (Why are tickets so expensive??)

 

* iTunes: http://bit.ly/NDMelody

* Amazon: http://bit.ly/MelodyRdND

* Official Neil Diamond Website – www.neildiamond.com
* Twitter – @NeilDiamond
* Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/neildiamond
* YouTube – http://bit.ly/NDMelody

**I participated in the Neil Diamond Melody Road album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Music Review: Mary Lambert’s “Heart On My Sleeve” #HeartOnMySleeve #O2O

Who was that girl who sang on Macklemore’s “Same Love” song? She had that great and powerful voice and I does she have her own album? As a matter of fact, yes, she does! It is called “Heart On My Sleeve” and it is filled with many unapologetic honesty, it is real, so real.

Her opening song, “Secrets” pours out some of the insecurities some of us face. I know what this is like: to be afraid of the world knowing my dirty secrets. When they are exposed, you feel raw, exposed, and completely vulnerable, but there is so much beauty in that vulnerability---if you can only overcome that initial burn. She says of the song:

“I felt like there were a lot of songs coming out about self-empowerment and challenging beauty standards, and I wanted to write a song along those same lines, but in my voice,” she explains. “It's easy to paint a pretty picture and tell everyone to love themselves, but it's way more complicated than that. There is so much shame and guilt in our society, and I think it has deprived a lot of people from living fully. We're all facing battles. We've all had someone who has hurt us, so let's talk about it. I believe vulnerability is what will save the world. I wanted to point the lens at myself in hopes of inspiring others to do the same. This song is my dirty laundry, and that's actually really freeing. Now I can walk around with accidental pieces of bagel in my bra and eat it anyway.”

But she doesn’t stop there. “I’m a better person when I have you here” resonates to my soul simply because you can be surrounded by so many people who love you and yet you feel incredibly alone. If you have your “person” then you can battle anything that you face. Moving on to “Rib Cage” you get this sensual feel of a song, but the lyrics punch you right in the gut.  And along she goes, sounding familiar of the easy listening music reminiscent of Sarah Mclachlan with a sprinkle of Amy Grant from the 90s. Until you get to Wounded Animal and well, if that doesn’t give you some kind of feels then you have died inside.  You should invest some of your time and give the album a listen.

Her lyrics will touch you, but then that was her thinking when she wrote this album over the course of the past year: “I wanted the songs to be poignant and raw, but I want to hear them on the radio. I like to describe Heart On My Sleeve as a pop album with a conscience.”


For more information on Mary, please visit her official site at www.marylambertsings.com

* Official Mary Lambert Website – www.marylambertsings.com
* Twitter – @marylambertsing
* YouTube –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqqqV50zaAc
* Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/marylambertsings

I participated in the Mary Lambert Heart On My Sleeve album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Swan Song: When you listen to the “shouldn’t”

I’ve always had issues with my spine.

When I was about 4, I wanted to roller skate so badly at a birthday party of one of my sister’s friends. I’d been scooting along the side, holding onto the rail, and at times, holding my mother’s hand. I felt brave enough to try it out on my own, and insisted I was ready. She cautioned me that it would be different, and that I needed to be certain, because I might fall. I told her I was prepared to fall. Off I went. I was doing well, until I wasn’t. I fell on my ass, and broke it---Literally. I felt something crack and it HURRRRRT, but I refused to cry. Why? Because my mother had warned me I wasn’t ready and even then, I had too much pride to admit I was wrong. So I didn’t speak up with she asked if I was ok. I just said that it was a little sore. But it wasn’t just a little sore. I was sore for a long time.

Fast forward to high school and I started to have chronic lower back pain. I was in the throes of hours-long volleyball playing and running each day. We thought it was typical. We thought it was over-exertion. My trainer had me on a strict program of stretching, heat before, and ice after. He strongly encouraged me to consider holding back some. He suggested I shouldn’t attempt a career beyond high school for fear of my future self. I aimed to prove him otherwise. It was just a little bit of back pain. After all, I survived the ligament tears in my ankle and my thumb. They were sore, but I could tolerate it.

I went on to play in college and at a university. I ran even more, lifted harder, jumped, landed, flew, and had more bang-ups than before. I accumulated another 2 concussions, and felt weak because I couldn’t breathe. But I pressed on through the pain, doing my very best to breathe and keep up. I would pop a couple of pink power pills (powerful anti-inflammatory pain blockers) with a 32-oz Dr. Pepper and I was good to go for games.

By the time I graduated, my mother had undergone her first back surgery and had a Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis.

I continued to have the back pain, and when I had my first job post-graduation, I visited a chiropractor for the first time. She took x-rays and noticed that my spine was a full inch off of alignment from the lower part of my body. So we came up with a treatment plan that helped me get through the every day, and also got me through my first pregnancy and first marathon.

It wasn’t until after that marathon that I saw an allergist. I was tired of sneezing all of the time, even though that was basically my life for, well, all of my life. It was there that I had a full diagnosis of asthma. I remember the look on her face when she told me, because she wondered how I was able to cope all of those years being as physically active as I was. I chalked it off as to something that maybe got worse with age. Because really, I’m not a super human. It made sense that times were more difficult based on the seasons and my outdoor activity level.

Then there was last year. That fracture, the conversation with the doctors, my chiropractor, processing the diagnosis. The Neuro said I shouldn’t run as much as I do, because of the impact it has on the body. But when I ran the Santa 5K with my 5 year old daughter for her first-ever 5K, when I ran the Cowtown Half with my friend, when I ran the Fairview Half with my family cheering me on, when I’ve had my training runs (in spite of them getting longer and longer)…I’m happier. I’ve found a way to redirect my stress. This is a big deal and quite noticeable because my normal nervous tick of yanking on my hair, well I don’t do it. My bangs have grown out to the longest they’ve been since before I got married. I still had the migraines. I still battle depression feelings. But I kept running.  I pushed through the pain, willing my back to deal. I breathed purposefully, willing my lungs to cooperate.

After the Sprint triathlon (about a month ago), I felt some discomfort in my knee. My current chiropractor, whom I hadn’t seen since March (maybe?), isn’t a sports chiro. I reached out to my running friends for referrals and each of them couldn’t say enough positive things about theirs, so I went in for a visit. I have tendonitis in my knee and my neck bones are reverse of what they should be (this is the BIGGEST reason for my migraines—my bones have been pinching the nerves right there by my brain), but therapy will help to fix that. However, what else he had to say echoed what I’ve heard before—only, this time, I HEARD it and begrudgingly accepted it. In the photo below, you can see how I am not aligned and you can see the limited space between the vertebrae (moderate degeneration—only a matter of time for severe degeneration, which is bone-on-bone).

His words, not to tell me to stop running, but to reconsider the longer distances. He acknowledges what running means to those who run. He suggested I SHOULDN’T run. And this time I listened because I have two smaller ones to consider. One day I would like to run with them, even if it is just a few miles. I expect to have late night dance parties with them. I expect to be upright, cheering them on in anything they are a part of.

So…

NYC will be my last marathon—he said it was ok to finish this training. New York City, my home away from home, the city full of promise, the city who gave me confidence in my body, the city filled with such positive, electric energy…that beautiful city. 7 years ago, the tagline was “Whatever it takes…” and this year, it is “Get your New York On, ” my favorite sign so far is “Get Your Invincible On.” I GET to have my final (yes, I realize it was just my second, but this was the gateway to ultras, to trail running, to others) marathon in one of the greatest cities in the world. New York turns out for a race and it is one glorious celebration! I GET to have closure. I GET to smile and soak in each “Go Bianca!!” one last time. I GET to feel Invincible for 5 grueling and glorious hours. My lungs, my back, my ankles, my knee, my brain, will be pulled by my heart, which has steadily grown because of all of the marvelous well wishes I have received from all of you! I literally hold them close to me, and remember them whenever I feel like I may hit a wall. Physically, I feel stronger than I did the last time I did this.

I will still run, just not for as long of a distance. I will still have an active lifestyle, only, I will consider long-term health more than before. I don’t regret going hard all of those years before. Also, I’m grateful that I didn’t know about any of my ailments, because I continued on as if I didn’t know any better and still achieved---without limits or impositions, treated just like everyone else. That suits my personality just fine.

I wanted to say thanks to everyone who has given me their words of encouragement and those who I’ve been able to lean on and cry. Y’all have lifted me up and inspired me. I’m truly grateful!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Where did you go?

I need a break is all. I’m ok. If you know me in real life, shoot me an email or a text. We can meet for some coffee or go for a run/walk. If you don’t know me in real life, you can still send me an email. Until then, I hope you are all well!

 

a-vacation_time-1498306

Friday, September 5, 2014

Music Review: Train’s Bulletproof Picasso

 

 

Three-time Grammy winning San Francisco band Train’s upcoming new album,Bulletproof Picasso, is available for pre-order at iTunes & Amazon, giving fans the early jump aboard Train’s much anticipated 7th studio album in advance of its September 16th release date.

When I was contacted by the One2One Network with an exclusive opportunity to review their new album, I jumped on it. You see, Train’s Drops of Jupiter pulled at me in a way that is difficult for me to describe. It is melancholy, hope, loss…walking away with the remains of your heart in your hand, knowing that life dealt you a major lesson. A lesson you wouldn’t forget, and the memories you coveted would happily resonate with you forever, even if it was laced with tears. How I didn’t know they were from San Francisco until recently is beyond me, but I understand it. There’s something to the city that very much makes me relate to their music more. I first connected with them with their Meet Virginia back in 1998. I wondered if anyone would ever see me the way Pat Monahan described this Virginia. Fast forward many more years, and Save Me San Francisco was released. When I first heard Hey, Soul Sister I thought they’d had new life breathed into them. They sounded different, happier, I suppose, not that they were all broody-moody, but yes, this tune was catchy, easy to listen to, and fun to sing along while with friends.

So what of Bulletproof Picasso? I know there are definitive hits on it. It is as easy listening as their previous albums. Their first single, Angel in Blue Jeans has already seen success. On their site, they have Danny Trejo quoted, “This song is gonna be a hit, I’m telling you. Everybody’s heard it. Low riders are all bumping it pretty loud!” It is fun! When you start up the album from the beginning to end, you will want to move, to dance, and try to learn the words to sing along. This album is going to be very FUN to see on tour. I’ve seen them on tour before and they put on a good show. I can’t wait until they come to town so I can see these songs performed live because they make me want to dance.

Give it All & Baby, Happy Birthday really pulled at my heartstrings. His voice just resonates in a way that people will be able to connect to. “I’ve always wanted to emotionally connect with people through the songs,” says Monahan. “But I also want to get into people’s lives with this album. We’re very excited about Bulletproof Picasso and we’re looking forward to performing some of the new songs for all our fans.”

I intend to purchase the vinyl version of this album. Go on out and enjoy some Train!

Tracklisting for Bulletproof Picasso:

1. Cadillac, Cadillac

2. Bulletproof Picasso

3. Angel In Blue Jeans

4. Give It All

5. Wonder What You're Doing For The Rest Of Your Life

6. Son Of A Prison Guard

7. Just A Memory

8. I'm Drinkin' Tonight

9. I Will Remember

10. The Bridge

11. Baby, Happy Birthday

12. Don't Grow Up So Fast

 

  * iTunes: http://smarturl.it/bulletproofpicasso
  * Amazon: http://smarturl.it/bulletproofpicassoAM

 

I participated in the Train Bulletproof Picasso album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.

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