7 Guaranteed Joy Boosters

Vita Allegre (Joyful Living) is Ramona’s goal in my novel Dating da Vinci. While getting your groove back after a big loss (death, divorce) takes some time, I’ve gathered up 7 Joy Boosters that work for me to shift my energy and keep my spirits up. I’d love to hear yours in comments.

1. Singing really loud and dancing like a crazy person. People who ride with me know this. If you are easily embarrassed by a singing/car dancing driver, then by all means, Uber yo’self. But when I’m in a down mood, I seriously crank it. Current car dance  favorite: Hood Go Crazy.  May seem like a little thing, but a great road trip partner feels like hitting the jackpot. Going on dance competition road trips with my girlfriend Jill made all the difference and shopping with her for decorating clients is so much for fun than going alone. And I’m never, ever bored on a car trip with my guy. I think if you find someone you travel well with on both short and long trips and don’t feel the compulsion to open the door and leave them on the side of the road, that’s a very good sign.

2. Coffee and/or drinks with a girlfriend and one-on-one time with my kiddos. I love a great cup of java and a good red wine so adding in a girlfriend for a venting/laughter sesh turns that frown upside down. If it’s not possible to meet in person, a quick phone call can also do the trick. I also make an effort to schedule one-one-one time with each kid so I can tailor the activity for just them and give them undivided attention. (Which also means putting our phones away.) Since my kids are boy/girl/boy and spread apart in ages, it’s even more important I find that time to connect with them individually. My 17-year-old will watch the nerdiest documentaries with me on Netflix while my 15-year-old daughter says, “Mom! This isn’t health class!” Ha. So with her, it’s best to go shopping or find a ghost story or rom com to watch together.

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3. Getting my nature on. It’s really hard to stay upset when you’re looking at a stream or standing in the path with a deer or looking out at the horizon from atop a mountain. Seriously, go try it. I dare you.

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4. I work out. Getting my heart rate up is a complete no brainer to shift the brain chemistry and get the good feelings flowing. If I’m feeling anxious, I know 20 minutes on the stair master and treadmill will kill it. Feeling tense? Barre3 or Pilates provide a tough workout but also completely relaxes my mind with all the stretching and breathing and whatnot. Concentrating on those small movements keeps you in the present moment while kicking your ass. Love it. If you’re feeling angry, might I recommend kickboxing or lifting weights? Seems to work out my Hulk moods jes’ fine.

Hawaiian selfie on my way to the gym at sunrise in Maui last summer.
Hawaiian selfie on my way to the gym at sunrise in Maui last summer.

5. Kissing. My nerdy side loves the scientific reasoning behind a good lip-lock. In The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, author Sheril Kirshenbaum tells us, “The cascade of biological reactions during a passionate kiss plays a role. Research shows that kissing boosts levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine (which is involved in craving and desire) and serotonin (which elevates mood and can help spark obsessive thoughts about a partner). It also causes a jump in oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone,” whose release during orgasm triggers attachment between couples. She says kissing helps us evaluate the suitability of a partner, both in the beginning and assessing the health of a relationship long-term. I discuss the language of love in my novel, Dating da Vinci, but it’s way more fun in real life. Anyhoo, more please.

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6. Change your scene. Those of you who have read Family Charms know I based the novel on my estrangement with my mother for twenty years. Our relationship has been a rubber band that stretches over the years and she reached out to me after hearing about my divorce. She’s been a very healthy and helpful presence in my life since last October and we get each other. Last December I was lying in bed on a Friday night in my studio apartment feeling lonely when I called her and she told me to get dressed and go to the mall just to change my scene and energy. I did and shopped for a gift for my daughter and bought a dress for a client’s holiday party, which prompted me to reach out to a guy I’d met earlier that week. He asked me to meet him at a restaurant in front of the mall. So my glum Friday turned into my first date and first kiss with a great guy who likes that I sing and dance like a crazy person in the car and goes on big and little adventures with me. So, yeah, change your scene, change your mood. You may even get a passionate kiss at the end of the night.

A hiking trip with Chris to the Wichita Mountains in February.
A hiking trip with Chris to the Wichita Mountains in February.

7. Try something new/go exploring. I thrive on change and learning so I probably have to do this more than the average bear, but I’ve found it’s not just big new adventures that can keep my spirits up, but those everyday adventures, too like taking the back roads to get to your destination. I also found out I get a high from other people having new experiences. When we took my kids to Carlton Landing and they kayaked for the first time and then to Grand Lake and my oldest learned how to drive a wave runner and when I met a friend for her first paddle board yoga class – it’s the same feeling I get when it’s me having the new adventure. Being an everyday adventurer means exploring wherever you are. When Chris and I stayed at the Waldorf in NYC, we explored the empty ballrooms and got to see much more than if we’d just segregated ourselves to our room and lobby. So reach out and invite someone to do something new with you. Of course writing about someone else’s new adventures works for me, too. In my brain, it’s as if I’ve lived it out. It’s still trippy to me how that works! I often tackle new writing challenges for this reason. Instead of writing from one woman’s point of view, I wrote about four women’s life transitions in Oklahoma City in my novel Something New. Now I’m working on my first mystery.

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The Waldorf, NYC.

What about you? What works to keep your spirits up? 

Why Quiet Adventure Matters

In “Listening Below the Noise,” author Anne LeClaire implores us seek quiet to listen to what our heart needs to say. I think the same goes for adventure. As we create our bucket list full of thrills and high-octane fun, it’s important to add the quiet, low-key adventures to our calendar, too. Not only do they bring us peace and grace, but help us feel completely rooted in the body and become aware of the chatter of our minds as we turn inward. Awareness sharpens, appreciation and awe grows. What matters – and what doesn’t – becomes clear. We lose ourselves in our surroundings, assimilating and merging and settling in. Any discomfort begins to wash away as we allow ourselves to just be.

Wishing you some quiet get-away time this summer as I share a few of my favorite silent moments from recent months.

xo, Malena

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As we neared the precipice, I caught our reflection and couldn’t resist. Solid. @ Wichita Mountains, OK
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A quiet afternoon with my youngest, who hates to have his picture taken. Red dirt, blue water and a full heart. @ Lake Arcadia, OK
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Seeing my tech-obsessed spawn on the water, kayaking for the first time as I watched from the dock (before joining them again.) @ Lake Eufala, OK
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A tranquil cloudy morning on the lake, in a canoe, with my love. @Lake Eufala, OK (Carlton Landing)

Meditations on New York (and why you should go)

My bucket list had a Big Apple in it and I picked it over Memorial weekend with my guy Chris for some big adventure. Maybe like me, you’ve heard all of your life how amazing New York is and you MUST GO yet you were a little apprehensive because you think of the sheer size and traffic and busy people. You may have even heard New Yorkers are rude (in fact, NY was cleaner, greener and friendlier than I expected). Now that I’ve experienced it in person, I have to echo, ‘YOU MUST GO TO NEW YORK’.

Instead of a list of the best places to see like a jillion tourist sites out there, I’d like to share some meditations on New York because it’s true that travel shows you who you are and where you want to be in life; that adventure makes you grow and bonds you with those you travel with; that as you look back on the years you’ll remember things you DID, not things you BOUGHT. Adventure enriches our lives and that’s why I made “every day, adventure” my motto this year.

1. New York can make you feel a little worldlier and grounded at the same time. Worldlier in all the big learning experiences: from seeing dinosaur bones to medieval spears to European sculptures to a Sphinx to Van Gogh. New York has something for you to think about and feel. We visited the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art – both highly recommended, but don’t try to see them both in one day. Grounded in that you see what a speck you are in the grand scheme of things. NY knocks you down and lifts you up at the same time. It’s trippy. It says, “you are one of many” but it also says, “look at what’s out there for you. Anything is possible.”  It fills you up and yet leaves you wanting more.

Skyline view at sunset from Ink 48. Gorgeous.
Skyline view at sunset from Ink 48. Gorgeous.
Yes, ask the waiter to take your picture. With my love at Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse before Broadway.
Yes, ask the waiter to take your picture. With my love at Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse before Broadway.

2. Explore with all five senses. Make that six. The city itself is one large canvas painted with a million hands. You and I could have completely different tastes and both find things to love about this creative city that houses priceless art and artifacts going back thousands of years, towers teeming above us and the bustle of the subway below. Get the most of the experience (any experience) by staying fully in the moment and taking it in with as many senses as you can. Hear the birds in Central Park. Touch the tomb inscriptions. Smell the wine and food to enjoy it even more. See the little things – the signs and architectural details. Lastly, feel the energy of the spaces. What does the energy of  Broadway and Times Square feel like in contrast to walking through the hotel or museum or park? You are walking in historical spaces and making your own history at the same time.

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@ The Met: Sphinx of Hatshepsut Period: New Kingdom Dynasty: Dynasty 18 Reign: Joint reign of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III Date: ca. 1479–1458 B.C. Geography: From Egypt, Upper Egypt; Thebes, Deir el-Bahri, Senenmut Quarry, MMA excavations, 1926–28
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@ The Met: Who wants to joust?
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@ The Met: Vanderbilt’s fireplace. Proof women do the heavy lifting.
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@ The Met: Sarcophagus of Usermontu Date: ca. 1279–1213 B.C.
I call tails.
I call tails. @ American Museum of Natural History
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Exterior of the Met
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I couldn’t get enough of the ceilings at the Walforf Astoria NYC. “The second Waldorf-Astoria hotel opened in its current location on Park Avenue on October 1, 1931, as the tallest and largest hotel in the world.”
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Flat Iron building, as seen from the Empire State building observatory. Nice use of space, huh? “The Flatiron Building, originally the Fuller Building, is located at 175 Fifth Avenue in the borough of Manhattan, New York City, and is considered to be a groundbreaking skyscraper. Wikipedia Address: 175 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010 Floors: 22 Opened: 1902 Style: Renaissance”
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Art deco lights in a bar in Waldorf Astoria. Love.
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Grand Central Terminal is absolutely a must to see in person. You get an idea of scale here, but it definitely lives up to its name. A timeless classic in Beaux-Arts style.
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“The Cathedral of St. Patrick is a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church in the United States and a prominent landmark of New York City. Wikipedia Address: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022 Opened: May 29, 1879”
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Architectural style: Beaux Arts Built: 1897–1911 Architect: Carrère and Hastings Location: Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street
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Love the mix of old and new and the blue skies help.
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Most elegant lobby ever. “The Waldorf Astoria Clock was executed by the Goldsmith Company of London for exhibition at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. It was purchased by the Waldorf Astoria and was the focal point outside the Rose Room of the original hotel at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. This clock weighs approximately two tons and stands nine feet tall. Around the eight sides of the base are likenesses of Cleveland, Harrison, Washington, Grant, Lincoln, Franklin, Jackson, and Queen Victoria. Under these are bronze plaques depicting various sports and scenes. Westminster chimes ring on the quarter hour.”
Desserts from Waldorf Astoria's famed brunch. I tried them all.
Desserts from Waldorf Astoria’s famed brunch. I tried them all.

3. Let yourself go and live in wonder. All too often we vacation based on a to-do list and stick to a regimented calendar. We, too, had a big list of places to visit as you see from the pictures, but mentally give yourself permission (and encourage yourself) to try new things and “go with the flow” sometimes. Go off the beaten path. Order shellfish if you ordinarily wouldn’t. Be like a kid and let yourself be amazed at what’s in front of you. For me, living without wonder isn’t really living and NYC is full of wonder.

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Inside the Park is a courtyard restaurant across from Waldforf. Loved this flower peeking its head through the railing.
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Sunshine and smiles in Bryant Park. The Moroccan lamb kabobs at Bryant Park grill were amazing. “Bryant Park is a 9.603-acre privately managed public park located in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and between 40th and 42nd Streets in Midtown Manhattan”
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Cityscape view from Central Park.
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Another beauty from Central Park.

4. Connect the past to the present and connect with each other. Travel gives us the opportunity to connect with something old and new and helps us make sense of the present. We learn more about ourselves. A shift happens. From the plane ride to the wait times in line to the actual big ticket events, it’s an opportunity to learn more about each other and truly listen. Be giving with each other and you’ll all be rewarded. Adventure is a natural bonding experience, but it still requires staying in tune and getting out of our heads to enjoy the moment and each other. New York has all the right ingredients for big adventure and bonding. You just have to do it.

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One of the “highs” of our relationship so far. Empire State Building observation deck.
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Also ended our trip on a high note with this amazing view from Ink 48.

What’s on your summer adventure list? Who would you like to go with? How can you make it happen?

Happy Summer, readers!

For a video (with no sound) of my trip:

Book news:

New cover reveal for Dating da Vinci since I got my rights back from the publisher. I love it and can’t wait to share it with readers in June. Launch date coming soon. I’m also working on a non-fiction book I hope to share with you later this summer.

xo,

Malena

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5 Reasons You Should be Dancing

“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” – Emma Goldman

I can’t think of a better Every Day Adventure than dancing. I start my days singing and dancing and keep it going in the car and recently decided I should put more dance into my nightlife, too, which is where Groovy’s, a classic dance club in OKC, comes in. Disco ball, smoke machine, confetti, Y-M-C-A, great drinks and strangely you feel you have more energy as the night wears on instead of less. When did you last dance – whether it’s Tom Cruise Risky Business style or in a club? Here’s 5 reasons I think you should just dance.

1. You feel ageless when you dance. When the music takes over and you cut loose, you are just purely living. Yes, you may remember how old your bones are the next day, but then you remember how alive you felt on the dance floor and it’s all worth it. That’s what ibuprofen is for.

2. You can’t be in a bad mood while dancing. It’s a stress reliever. It’s a smile inducer. Even if you don’t attempt to twerk.

3. You already sit on your butt all day long. Yeah, a lot of “nights out” involve more sitting – dinner, movies, plays, all on your ass. If you’re like me and have a desk job, then you really need to get up and shake your groove thing.

4. It’s more fun than the treadmill. So it’s fun *and* you can burn some serious calories? Score. I love when exercise mashes up with cocktails.

5. It’s social. I’ve been reading lots of depressing research about the sad state of “alone together” where we get together but we’re all on our phones. That’s not a problem on the dance floor. You make eye contact, laugh and shake your booties with your besties and strangers, alike. So what are you waiting for? Let’s dance! See you at Groovy’s.

A fun-filled night at Groovy's with some of my favorite humans.
A fun-filled night at Groovy’s with some of my favorite humans.

The real Pinterest: Bowling

“There’s kind of a Zen aspect to bowling. The pins are either staying up or down before you even throw your arm back. It’s kind of a mind-set. You want to be in this perfect mind-set before you released the ball.”

Jeff Bridges

Every Day Adventure is about unplugging and reconnecting in real life. Opening our eyes to what’s out there and saying “yes” to a new route, a new friend, a new possibility for growth through play. Unfortunately play gets a bad rap, yet that’s just what psychologists are telling us we need more of to ward off stress and increase our happiness. Less Facebook, more face time with real people.

When’s the last time you bowled? That long? Why not grab your partner or your kids or some buddies and knock down some pins (and maybe some beers) while you’re at it?

Over the holiday break, my sis and I took our kids to the Woodward Bowling Alley where I found out my nephew is a pretty damn good bowler. And my boys are eight years apart in age so something like bowling is the perfect way to get them to play together.

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He gets his form from me, natch.

Then a couple weeks later, a double date landed us at the swanky Red Pin in downtown OKC. With a full bar and actual appetizing apps, it’s a classier joint. While the traditional double date is probably dinner out, we made ours a playdate with tapas followed by bowling with some fun winner takes all stakes. We had a blast. And, hey, I didn’t suck.

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We’re very serious bowlers as you can see.

So, dear reader, where will you go play today?

If you’re on Instagram, follow my #everydayadventure @malenalott and I’d love to hear about yours.

2015: The Year for Living Boldly

“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”

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― 
Lewis CarrollAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Happy New Year, readers! While a new year may just be another number, every day is an opportunity to fully live, right? If you are like me and last year threw you for a loop, it’s refreshing to turn the calendar and start anew.

Thanks to a lot of work on mindfulness, I made it through an emotional year and am going to carry that through to the new year with this year’s theme, “Every day, adventure.” That also includes everyday adventure, appreciating the extraordinary within the ordinary. Last year’s Get Out posts were among my favorites and I loved hearing how some of my adventures inspired you to get out and explore nature and add more adventure into your lives. Let’s do some more of that this year.

  • What’s holding you back?
  • Where would you like to go?
  • What could you do each day to make you smile?
  • What new adventure could you fit in on the weekend?

I plan on doing a lot more traveling, hiking, biking, exploring and trying new places and meeting cool people. I also intend on making the most of every day and staying present to experience all the good stuff that happens right here, right now. I’ll share some work and leisure adventures and hope to give you some new stories soon, too. I put my manuscript on hold for a bit but have worked on some short stories I’m excited about. I should get my rights back on Dating da Vinci soon so I can do a new cover and publish that under my Buzz Books brand.

One of my new adventures in 2014 was starting a side business decorating and ended up doing eight projects with my fabulous friend Jill Martin. I’m planning on doing more of that this year, so if you love interior design ideas, you might want to follow our Facebook page Sooner Spaces where I share decorating projects and cool Oklahoma spaces. Jill and I are starting on a 2500 square foot 1918 historic home in Heritage Hills this week so we’ll be posting lots of photos and finds. I’ll try to post here every other week with my new adventures and ideas for you to explore, too.

Every day is a great day to practice gratitude and I’m so grateful for the friends who stuck by me and lifted me up last year and went on all those adventures with me in the great outdoors and just drinks and deep conversation indoors, too. My kids are amazing and always an adventure. Life is messy but wonderful, isn’t it? Let’s make more wonderful this year.

Here’s to a fresh start!

“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” 
― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland

xo and cheers,

Malena

Congrats to Broadway 10 Bar and Chophouse in OKC on a stellar space (10th and Broadway, of course). Enjoyed kicking off New Year’s Eve there with my sister and friends.

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Get Real: Rudolph and the Land of Misfit Toys

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is more than a story about a reindeer born with a deformity (a glowing red nose) that ends up saving Christmas. It’s a metaphor for misfits everywhere. Along with Mary Poppins and the Wizard of Oz, Rudolph has spiritual meaning we can apply to our journey.
Hermey: [musically] Why am I such a misfit? I am not just a nitwit. You can’t fire me, I quit. Seems I don’t fit in.

Rudolph: [musically] Why am I such a misfit? I am not just a nitwit. Just because my nose glows… why don’t I fit in?

Hermey, in the 1964 cartoon, was the elf who really wanted to be a dentist. Rudolph desperately wanted to be like the other reindeer and get the chance to fly Santa’s sleigh but he was made fun of because of his nose. When he visited the Island of Misfits, he discovered he was in good company. Misfits are everywhere.

First, we need to recognize we are all misfits somewhere and that’s part of the fun and challenge in our journey is to figure out where we best fit in: personally and professionally. The more we know who we are and stop pretending to be who others need for us to be, the more that happens authentically. Sure, once in awhile we are still called upon to put on the fake nose and fit in, but if we do that too long, we can get depressed and even repress our feelings and shrink instead of grow. It was only when Rudolph took off the mask and let himself be who he is that his unique gifts were seen and offered to the universe.

The holidays are a huge trigger for our Misfit beacon. Maybe it’s being around family that reminds us of failures or past hurts or labels thrust upon us or feeling “forced” to go to holiday parties because we are supposed to versus genuinely wanting to with an open heart. It’s also about being Alone and Lonely when it feels like everyone else is so damn merry and have it all together! Of course that’s our own lens we’re looking through. The very folks we think are having the time of their lives could be wearing fake noses to fit in, too! And underneath their smiles could be a lot of pain. As someone who felt like an outcast most of my life (but found a way to fit in where I could offer my gifts) and as someone who is struggling to find my emotional footing right now, I wanted to offer up this cool Holiday Intention pic I snatched that can help us sail right into the new year. I can’t quite read the attribution, but thanks to whomever came up with it.

Image 2   Be present, give with intention, wrap others with joy, send good vibes, make friends, be the light.  I’ve always been independent and have gone to a lot of functions alone, but it feels different going alone because you are single. I’ve found it’s tested and stretched me in new ways. One of the reasons I love this holiday list so much is we should do this when we go about our merry way (even when we are feeling Grinchy) this season and always. Just as we check the mirror for the way our hair and outfit looks before we go, we should check our attitude and energy. If we are FEELING like a misfit, that’s the energy we are going to send to others and yes, they can feel it, even if it’s subconsciously. If you go out saying, I’m going to be the light (code word for radiating your best), then others will be drawn to you quite literally like a warm fire on a cold day. Even though I love nothing more than a night in with my journal and a glass of red wine, I *know* it’s good for me to get out and be around people to re-energize me and make me feel a little less alone. You’ll know what that right balance is for you. As an ambivert, I recharge pretty evenly between ideas and alone time and being around people I admire and meeting new people.

What are you grateful for this week? Who lifted your spirits? Whose spirit did you lift? Where do you feel like a misfit and how could you correct than in 2015 to live more authentically?  This week I’m grateful for Patty, Tracy, Hilarie, Ann and Carrie for being my party pals and my old friend Matt and his dad for inviting me to the Bedlam game (even though we lost. Ugh.) Our evening was full of spirited conversation and I’m never shy about sharing a good story and inviting others to do the same.

Get Out: Reverie vineyard from Napa Valley at Carrie Palmer's holiday party.
Get Out: Reverie vineyard from Napa Valley at Carrie Palmer’s holiday party. Carry “gave with intention.”
Girlfriends Tracy and Patty always "wrap me in joy."
Girlfriends Tracy and Patty always “wrap me in joy.”
Taking time out for dominoes at Cuppies and Joe with my youngest. "be present"
Taking time out for dominoes at Cuppies and Joe with my youngest. “be present”
"Make friends" - with Ann (an AXO sister, too) and new friend Jen.
“Make friends” – with Ann (an AXO sister, too) and new friend Jen.

Happy holidays, dear readers. Sending you loads of good vibes.

xo, Malena