Little changes add up to big ones

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New YearA bad habit I’m going to break: Holding in my emotions until I pop. I would like to work on dealing with little problems before they turn into big ones. Be more open about when things are bothering me.

A new skill I would like to learn: I want to continue learning more about photography, posing and editing. I have come a long way in the last couple years, but there is still so far to go. Eventually it would be nice to be able to make a living off it again.

A person I hope to be more like: Pollyanna! I need to learn to appreciate the small things in life more. To view the class as half-full rather than half-empty.

A good deed I am going to do: I would like to do good deeds whenever possible. Little random acts of kindness can make a huge difference in the day, or lives of other people. If we all tried to do one random act of kindness a week, I think the world would be a much better place.

A place I’d like to visit: I would love to go back to New York City. I haven’t been in over a decade. I could never imagine myself living there, but with the hustle and bustle, the lights and sounds, it is a great place to visit. I really want to visit the Ground Zero Memorials. I think it is a place every American should visit at least once in their lives.

A book I’d like to read: The Bible. I have read bits and pieces of it and have several times started to read it cover to cover, but have never managed to do it.

A letter I’m going to write: I write letter all the time, to all sorts of people for lots of different occasions. I never mail them though. Maybe I should.

A new food I’d like to try: Sushi, the raw kind, not the cooked kind.

I’m going to do better at: Not emotionally eating, sticking to my weight loss and exercise plans.

I’d love to hear your responses. Here’s to a great 2014!

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Links of the week 12/4/13

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The Worcester 6. (Photo courtesy of http://www.fallen-heroes.org/)

The Worcester 6. (Photo courtesy of http://www.fallen-heroes.org/)

1. This is the story of the 1999 Worcester Cold Storage Fire that claimed the lives of six Worcester-area firefighters including Paul Brotherton, Jeremiah Lucey, Thomas Spencer, Timothy Jackson, James Lyons and Joseph McGuirk. Esquire magazine published this moving piece telling the tale.

Here is an excerpt from the story, written by Sean Flynn:

It’s not so much a bell, really, as an electronic horn, short and shrill. When it goes off, firefighters freeze and listen for the sound that comes next. Usually, only words follow. “Engine 1,” the dispatcher might say–or “Engine 8” or “Ladder 5,” but only one truck–before reciting an address and a task. One tone signals a medical run or some minor emergency, like going out to stabilize a car-crash victim or a coronary case until an ambulance arrives, breaking a toddler out of a locked-up Taurus, or squirting water on a flaming car. Milk runs.

Sometimes, maybe every fifth time, a second tone will follow the first. Two tones is more serious, perhaps a fire alarm ringing somewhere, probably triggered by nothing more than a stray wisp of cigarette smoke or a burp of electrical current jiggling a circuit. Dispatch sends two engines and one ladder truck for those, picking whichever units are available and close.

Even rarer is three tones. Three tones means a reported structure fire, a house or a condo or a strip mall already blowing smoke into the sky. Three tones means blazing orange heat, black smoke, and poison gas; sirens and lights and steam and great torrents of water; men ripping into walls with axes and long metal spears, smashing windows and cutting shingles from roofs, teetering on ladders a hundred feet long. It doesn’t always turn out that way, but three tones, at least, offers the chance of action. Firefighters love a triple.

Thirteen minutes after six o’clock, McNamee’s Expedition–or Car 3, as it is officially known–was on Clark Street, in the northern reaches of the city, Zinkus steering it toward the Greendale Station, when the first tone sounded. McNamee cocked his head toward the radio. A second tone, then a third. “Striking box 1438, Franklin and Arctic, for a fire at 266 Franklin,” the dispatcher deadpanned. “Engine 1, Engine 6, Engine 12, Engine 13, Ladder 1, Ladder 5, Rescue 1, Car 3.”

McNamee and Zinkus stared at each other, brows arched, eyes wide. “That’s a bad building,” McNamee said. He let out a breath, said it again. “Bad building.”

Funds are currently being raised to build a memorial park in Worcester. To donate to the fund, click here.

Santa whizzes by the Empire State Building in New York City in 2012.

Santa whizzes by the Empire State Building in New York City in 2012.

2. Christmas is right around the corner, and if you have little ones, you need to check out NORAD Tracks Santa. It’s a cute site filled with games and activities for kids (and kids at heart). Starting Christmas Eve, you can track the big guy as he makes his annual trip around the world, delivering presents for the good girls and boys.

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 11.07.45 PM3. Heather Homefaker is, without a doubt, my favorite blog on the interweb. It is written by my friend (and ex-coworker) Heather. You never know what she is going to write about (food, adventures in home-ownership, Patrick Dempsy, fashion, etc.) but it is always funny. It’s the only blog out there I read faithfully every day, and you should too. The idea for my “High Five for Friday” posts I am going to be making weekly was stolen (with permission) from her.

4. The 40 most awkward dogs of 2013 (Buzzfeed). Who doesn’t love a good funny dog picture? Here’s 40 of them. Enjoy.

REVIEW: Brush it Off Paint and Sip Bar, Sturbridge, Mass.

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My cousin Cortney (right) and I, all ready for a fun afternoon of painting).

My cousin Cortney (right) and I, all ready for a fun afternoon of painting).

Several months ago while out on a walk, I happened by the Brush it Off Paint and Sip Bar. Combining art and drinking? Sounds like my idea of a good time!

Ever since I saw the bar, located in the Millyard Marketplace (559 Main Street, RT. 20, Sturbridge, MA), I have been talking to my mom about checking it out. Sunday, an impromptu visit from out-of-town relatives gave us the perfect excuse to give it a try.

I was immediately impressed by the comfy feel of the shop as soon as I walked in. Dozens of paintings form previous classes (all of which are available for purchase if you want the art without having to do the work) covered the vibrantly painted walls.

Working diligently on our 'Masterpieces.'

Working diligently on our ‘Masterpieces.’

You pay for the class in advance (generally $25-30 per class). The fee includes the use of an apron and brushes, paint, a canvas and instruction. The cash bar features an array of wine and beer (I chose a Wachusett Blueberry Ale), in addition to snacks and non-alcoholic beverages.

Just getting started.

Just getting started.

Everyone in the class paints the same painting, following step-by-step directions from the instructor. You can tell what paintings will be taught by going to the store’s website and looking at its calendar. We painted butterflies with bodies that looked like ribbons. While it is easier to use the same colors as the instructor, it isn’t mandatory, you can use whatever colors you chose. I chose to make the body of my butterfly orange, in memory of two friends I lost to cancer this year.

The painting class was a blast and the directions were easy to follow. Everyone was chatting while working on their masterpieces, some even singing to the music playing softly in the background.

Our instructor, Denise Morgan (who also happens to be the owner of the establishment) was quick to put the class at ease, creating a fun and relaxed environment. Step-by-step she brought us through the process of creating our masterpieces, giving us plenty of time between instructions to put our own artistic twists on the art without feeling rushed. She also was wonderful about roaming around the room helping anyone whose paintings decided to fight back.

By the end of our class we were all happy with our butterflies, and were all excited about making another trip back for more painting.

This would be a perfect event to do for a birthday party, girls (or guys) night out, or just a different way to spend an afternoon. They are also available for fundraisers. Five dollars from everyone’s fee for our class was donated to the American Cancer Society.

If you are a natural artist and aren’t interested in following the crowd, there are also open painting sessions available.

If you have any more questions, you can visit the FAQ page or contact the studio, call 774-241-3444 or e-mail paint@brush-it-off.com. http://www.brush-it-off.com

If you are at all artistic (or want to learn to be) I HIGHLY recommend visiting this establishment. I’m already looking forward to my next trip.

Five out of five stars.

The final product. Clockwise from top left, my mom, cousin Cortney, me and cousin Peggy.

The final product. Clockwise from top left, my mom, cousin Cortney, me and cousin Peggy.

Kindness is contagious, pass it on.

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random-acts-of-kindness

This actually happened to me at the beginning of November, but I wanted to share it all with you, hoping to spread the idea of doing random acts of kindness for others. ‘Tis the season after all 🙂

From my Nov. 2 Facebook post:

I just had my faith in humanity restored. It wasn’t my finest moment, but I am going to share it with you all anyway because it proves there are still good people in the world.

On one of my breaks from work today I left to get gas so I didn’t have to get it on the way home.

Earlier in the day I discovered that — due to a series of mathematical errors on my part — my checking account was overdrawn. When I pulled into the gas station intending to fill up using my credit card, I realized I left it at home. My car was running on fumes and there was no way I had enough gas to get home.

I had a bad, stressful day overall, and there I was counting my change on the hood of my car praying I had enough for the roughly two gallons of gas it would take to get me home, tears streaming down my face.

There was a man in front of me pumping his own gas, when he was done he came over to me and asked me where I was trying to get to, I told him home to Sturbridge. He reached into his wallet and handed me a $20 bill, said he hopes my day gets better and to do a stranger a favor when I could, got back in his car and drove off.

Judging by the car he was driving, the $20 probably wasn’t much to him, but it made a world of difference in my day. I’ll definitely be paying it forward.

Links of the week 11/27/13

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A compilation of my favorite links this week (In no particular order)

1. Want to feel old? Adam Sandler’s Thanksgiving song is 20 YEARS OLD THIS YEAR! Hard to believe. I seriously love the song, and just stumbled upon this article explaining all the pop culture references in the song.

That's alotta Utah's.

That’s alotta Utah’s.

2. It’s Thanksgiving So We Asked Brits To Label The United States — We’re So Sorry, America It’s easy to laugh at these Brits for not being able to label all of the states, but why should they be able to? No way in H-E-double hockey sticks could I name all the countries in Europe (odds are you can’t either). And it was nice to see they had some fun with it. Side note: I don’t think anyone got Missouri right.

RetailMeNot_jpg_280x280_crop_q953. Retail Me Not — ‘Tis the season for lots of shopping. Want to save a little money? Check this site before hitting the mall. It shows sales and has coupons for pretty much every store out there. It has literally saved me hundreds of dollars over the last couple years. Plus, there’s an app for your smartphone. You can have the cashier scan your phone at the register. You’re welcome in advance.

4. Pro Football Mock posts fake Facebook conversations between NFL quarterbacks every week. If you’re a football fan, you’ll love it. if not, don’t bother. (If foul language bothers you, ignore this link.)

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5. Boycott Black Thursday For those of you that know me, you probably know I LOVE to shop. Seriously, I can tell you what stores are in every mall in a 300+ mile radius around me at any given time. I hate that stores are open on Thanksgiving though. Let the workers have time with their families. Not only do these workers (most of whom, I imagine, only make about minimum wage) have to be away from their families on the holiday, they have to deal with some of the worst people on earth: “I have to get the best deal” Black Friday shoppers. These are the people willing to LITERALLY KILL OTHER PEOPLE  just to save a few bucks on a TV. Get your priorities straight folks.

6. Relay For Life Holiday Bazaar If you are in the Hornell, N.Y. area Saturday, head on over to this great event. There’s dozens of local craft vendors, silent auctions, 50/50, food and drink, and more. All proceeds will go to help the American Cancer Society kick cancer’s ass.

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Twerkity twerk twerk.

Twerkity twerk twerk.

7. What do you get when you combine Chatroulette, a scantily clad hairy man, a leather couch, exercise ball and a sledgehammer? Hilarity. My boyfriend has a unhealthy obsession with Miley Cyrus (to the point he dressed up as her for Halloween and I dressed as Robin Thicke — before you judge, know that we won a $100 bar tab). Anyway, because of this obsession, I am always on the lookout for links to prove to him how awful she is. This video is a complete riot though. In only two days it has over 24 million views on YouTube. If you are one of the six people on the planet that hasn’t watched it yet, put down whatever you’re doing and watch it. The looks on people’s faces range from terror, to shock and awe. A lot of them even joined in on the man’s act.

8. I started with Adam Sandler and will finish with him as well. In addition to Thanksgiving, it’s also Hanukkah, so I leave you with The Hanukkah Song.

Have a link I need to see? E-mail it to me at DynamitesDomain@gmail.com, leave it in a comment here, or tweet at me @LynnsPics. I’ll be posting a new list of my favorite links every Wednesday.

Revealing a Thanksgiving secret

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If you die after eating pumpkin pie this holiday season, don't come crying to me about it. I warned you.

If you die after eating pumpkin pie this holiday season, don’t come crying to me about it. I warned you.

As tradition goes in my family, every year friends and relatives descend on my house for Turkey Day, and more importantly for most of them, hunting season.

They never come empty handed — most show up on the doorstep with pies of every variety imaginable, at least one of these from each family would be pumpkin.

My grandmother pointed out one year that, for some reason, it never mattered how many pumpkin pies scattered the counter at my house, there never seems to be enough that everyone gets as much as one piece.

Each Thanksgiving morning — no less than an hour before the crack of dawn — the house would be filled with the sounds of several sleepy hunters coming downstairs, filling themselves with coffee, putting on their layers of camouflage and heading up the hill to deer camp. My grandmother could be heard yelled at them for hoarding the pies at our hunting camp, located about a mile up a steep, rocky, winding road meant for four-wheelers, or at least 4-wheel drive trucks.

Most of the hunters seem to look forward to the season the entire year, even if they don’t get a deer. I don’t see the appeal of sitting in the cold, damp woods for hours at a time. As the saying goes, ‘There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot,’ same goes for hunting in my book.

Meanwhile — once the men start their adventure — the women stay at home and begin to cook the annual feast. By noon, the turkey has been in the oven for several hours and the side dishes are waiting to be heated. We take the break in the action to visit, play cards and finish off the better part of a box of wine — nothing but the best for my family.

It was about this time of the day last year I revealed a secret I had been keeping from my family for nearly 10 years — the fate of the missing pumpkin pies.

You see, a great uncle of mine who happened to be quite ill, asked his wife to bring him a slice of pumpkin pie before bed. That pumpkin pie would prove to be the last thing he ever ate.

Some years later, on a night in April, my grandfather requested pumpkin pie to go with dinner, he passed away in his sleep that night.

I realized that connection as a sophomore in high school. After that, I made it my personal Turkey Day mission to rid the house of killer pumpkin pies, keeping my loved ones safe and sound in the process.

Each day leading up to, and including Thanksgiving Day, I would sneak out of the house as quietly as I could when everyone’s backs were turned, grab a pie or two… or three, go outside and dump them on the ground behind the barn.

This went on for four or five years, but I didn’t come clean to my family until nearly a dozen years later.

When I finally worked up the courage to tell them the fate of the missing pies, the looks on the faces of the women in my family were priceless. There was a small part of me that was a bit afraid they would be mad at me for turning hours of their hard work into a gourmet feast for the raccoons, deer, and the occasional bear, but they all just started laughing hysterically, tears running down their faces (and legs).

I’m still waiting for the gratitude, after all, prove to me I haven’t been saving their lives all these years.

We no longer own the family farm and our normal Thanksgiving crew will be spread all over the country for the holiday. My grandma has promised to throw a pie off the back porch to keep the family safe.

I’ve asked a friend to swing by the old farm in New York with a few store-bought pumpkin pies so the animals can have another feast.

After all, it’s tradition.

This post was originally published in Hornell, N.Y. Based Evening Tribune, http://www.eveningtribune.com

You have SUCH a pretty face

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Me in May 2013.

Me in May 2013.

If only I could instantly lose a pound for every time someone has said to me, “You have SUCH a pretty face,” I would be light as a feather — literally.

If you’ve ever said that to an overweight girl/woman, I can GUARANTEE you this is what they heard:

“You have such a pretty face, if only you were thinner.”

You may not have meant it that way, but it doesn’t matter.

All my life I knew I wasn’t ugly, but I could never call myself pretty. That’s what happens when you’ve never been anything but overweight — you let your weight define who you are. I’ve learned to hide behind it, to blame the fat for my problems.

I think there was a part of me that was afraid to lose the weight. When things went wrong in my life, when people didn’t like me, when I got dumped by a guy, it was easy to blame the extra pounds. That was better than the alternative — having to wonder if there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I would get depressed about my weight, which would lead me to eat, which would make me gain weight and get more depressed. It is a vicious, vicious cycle.

I let other people’s opinions of me be too much a part of my self worth.

In the last couple months I have told myself I don’t care what other people think. I Just keep telling myself if someone has a problem with me, it isn’t my problem, it was theirs. At first I didn’t believe it, but as time goes on, I find myself believing in my words more and more. I am hoping that change in my mindset will help me along this journey.

There is just something that feels different about this try at losing weight. I think in the past I have done it for others. This time I am doing it for myself.

Hopefully that will make all the difference.

Hopefully someday someone will tell me I have such a pretty face and I won’t hear the subtext.

This post was originally published on my other blog, http://www.fitwithlynn.wordpress.com