How to Eliminate Clutter


Tips and tricks on how to eliminate clutter | The Champagne Supernova

To promote my upcoming role as Guest Editor for the January 2017 edition of Tampa Bay Parenting magazine, I was invited to present a segment on Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend news show about eliminating the clutter of holiday toys before the new year.

Great subject!

Except anyone who’s ever been inside my home or has seen the inside of my car probably feels like they’re on an episode of Hoarders. I’ve got some junk in my trunk. (Za-zing!)

Really. I have no business telling other people what to do with their “stuff” because, with a two-year-old and four-year-old, I have issues of my own.

(All I want for Christmas is for my husband go find Alice the Housekeeper from the Brady Bunch and have her come move in with me.)

So.

I enlisted the help of some professionals and expert moms regarding how they purge toys and clothes to free up space in time for the new year. Here’s some of my favorite suggestions.

What to Purge. Toys that are loud, obnoxious, and cause you to hear dinging and buzzing in your sleep. (Ohhhh, the batteries are missing? No clue where they went…) Toys that are an impalement risk. Legos. Puzzles. (The pieces always end up missing.) Anything that is broken or stained. And lastly, any toys that trigger arguments among your kids. (I’ve learned to give them the same presents to avoid disputes.)

Other Types of Toys Worthy of Purging. Anything that has not been played with in the last 6 months. Anything that is similar to another toy they already have (keep only one!) Keep a set of toys in the closet and reintroduce them to your child every few months. If they aren’t interested, get rid of them.

Host a Neighborhood Swap Party or Girls’ Night. Invite your friends and neighbors over and have them bring toys and clothes they no longer need to swap with the other families (after all, other kids’ toys are the best toys!). Include wine. It’s a party!

Enlist Help from Elf on the Shelf. Gather a large assortment of old toys in a box for the Elf to bring to Santa in the North Pole when Christmas is over. Tell your children the Elf and his Elf friends will refurbish the toys so they can go to needy children the following Christmas. Your kids will feel good knowing they are helping others. (Props to Heather Phillips Walsh from the Moms of South Tampa Facebook group for sharing this good idea!)  

Holidays are Over? No problem. When it’s your child’s birthday, have them bring out the same number of old toys as new gifts they receive so they can exchange them for their presents. (Again, idea credit to Heather Phillips Walsh. I need to be friends with this gal.)

Social Media. This is a great way to get rid of clutter that’s actually worth something. Aside from social media like Craigslist that spans a wider geographic area, you can also look to local Facebook groups for selling and swapping your belongings with others. My favorite Facebook groups in the Tampa Bay area are  South Tampa Swap and Shop and MacDill Yard Sale. There is also an app called Nextdoor where you can communicate directly with other people in your neighborhood regarding “stuff” you’re trying to get rid of.

Clothes. Once a year, I go through my closet and get rid of anything that is dated, stained, doesn’t fit (e.g. too tight, usually not the other way around), or that I haven’t worn in the last calendar year. This requires me to be honest with myself, as I have historically held onto clothes because I was holding out for an opportunity to wear something, which usually never ended up happening. There is a zero percent chance I will wear a decade-old (mmm… ok… fifteen-year-old) fraternity or sorority mixer shirt in public. Zero.

Donation Locations. There are tons of these in your local community, and you can usually begin by calling your neighborhood church, who might know of a family in need of clothes and toys. There are other donation and charitable organizations that accept gently used goods. In South Tampa, I take my clothing donations to the Salvation Army and toys that are in good condition to a local thrift store called Lionhearted Toys.

You can watch my news segment here.

Happy purging, and wishing a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your families.

Cheers!

    The Paperless Princess: Receipt You Later


    cvs-pharmacy-digital-receipts

    Disclosure: I’m proud to be working with CVS Pharmacy on the CVS Says Receipt You Later Campaign. All opinions expressed are my own, and all product claims or program details shared should be verified by CVS.com or with the appropriate manufacturers. 

    One of my goals for 2017 is to simplify my life by acquiring less “stuff.”

    Less toys around the house that my kids have outgrown and never play with.

    Less cosmetics and old jewelry that sits abandoned in various places around our home.

    Shoot. Even the “junk drawer” in my kitchen has various sub-categories of junk!

    Less “stuff” inside my purse, which is a bottomless pit of pens, receipts, notes, and fuchsia lipstick.

    For 2017, I’ve declared myself the Paperless Princess.

    One of my go-to stores, CVS Pharmacy, in order to promote efficiency and eliminate clutter, recently started offering digital receipts as a new option for the millions of active members of its ExtraCare Rewards Program.

    I shop at CVS Pharmacy several times a week because it’s on my way home from work and perfect for when I need to grab simple (yet important) things like plastic baggies for the kids’ lunches, cotton balls, and super glue.

    Really. I purchased these three things from CVS the other day.

    With the digital receipt program, customers now have the opportunity to opt out of receiving paper receipts for in-store purchases when completing their transactions in the front of the store. Once the one-time sign up process is completed, customers will receive their receipts digitally, along with their personalized coupons and rewards, each time they shop at CVS Pharmacy.

    Instead of the cashier handing me a long receipt after my purchase that ultimately gets “lost in the shuffle” and tossed in the trash, I now receive digital receipts illustrating what I purchased.

    Returns are easy, peasy. No more hunting down the paper receipt.

    Signing up was lightning fast. As in, fifteen seconds.

    I simply provided my email address to the cashier at check out and she said “alrighty, you should have your digital receipt in a few minutes.”

    It was in my inbox by the time I got to the car.

    Going digital results in increased efficiency, convenience, and personalization.

    Less clutter equals one happy mama!

    #ReceiptYouLater #CVS

    Cheers from the Paperless Princess!

      La Bamba: Fear of Flying


      Why I motherfreaking hate flying | The Champagne Supernova

      My parents (really, my mother) were always relatively liberal regarding what movies and television shows they let me and my sister watch as children.

      Granted, that was thirty years ago and before the rise of MTV and reality shows, so things are a lot racier now than my Southern Baptist upbringing would have permitted.

      As a young child, my mom let met watch La Bamba. The movie starred Lou Diamond Phillips (a 1980s heartthrob) and was about Ritchie Valens, the Mexican singer who died in a plane crash after hitting it big with his popular song, La Bamba. Buddy Holly and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in the same crash. The movie took place in the late 1950s timeframe and came out in 1987, when I would have been five years old.

      It was pretty much my first introduction to an airplane.

      No bueno. (Pun intended.)

      Then there was Sweet Dreams, which was also released in the 1980s and was about the life of country music singer Patsy Cline starring Jessica Lange and Ed Harris. It also ended with a fatal plane crash. My younger sister and I were allowed to watch that and it further reinforced my fear of flying.

      Now, as an “adult”, I want to board airplanes with a parachute.

      Last year, I had to get on teeny-tiny propeller plane from Charlotte, North Carolina, to the small town of Greenville for some depositions. The moment I saw the plane, I was ready to go back to Tampa, even if it meant I’d have to walk.

      Here’s the rundown.

      I get on the plane and immediately start scoping out people who look like they might want to take it down. Like some of the dudes who attempt to follow my Instagram page whose primary photos are of them holding machine guns while riding a camel in the middle of a desert. (This has happened four times. They get blocked.)

      Then, there is the crippling emotional struggle of takeoff. My non-mathematical, unscientific mind cannot comprehend how a large pile of metal and humans can get off the ground.

      White knuckles and breathing into a paper bag.

      Repeating the rosary and messing up the words.

      I can’t talk to anyone and have to sit near the window so I can focus on something outside.

      Something that is getting smaller and smaller and smaller.

      Then I start thinking about how the plane will crash into the ground, wondering whether I’ll feel any pain, whether I remembered to pay my life insurance premium and please God, I hope I reminded my family that if anything horrible ever happened to me, I don’t want them to put anything tacky on my tombstone like praying hands, a teddy bear, or a photograph taken when I was having a bad hair day.

      These are the weird things I think about.

      The second worst part of the flight is turbulence. Again, once I feel it, I am certain the plane will rip apart and I’m thinking of Aaliyah, JFK Junior, Carolyn Bessette, and John Denver.

      Deep breathing. Deep breathing. “It’s like wheels on a bumpy road.”

      I know this isn’t healthy or normal.

      My husband also doesn’t like to fly. When we sit next to each other, we just perpetuate each others’ anxiety.

      Everyone’s favorite story involves the time my husband and I were flying back to the mainland following our honeymoon in Hawaii.

      It was the summer of 2009 and our terror of flying was reinforced by a series of highly-publicized plane crashes that occurred in the short six months preceding the wedding. These included U.S. Airways Flight 1549 that took off from New York City and landed in the Hudson River in January (Great, bird strikes… one more thing to worry about!) There was also Colgan Air Flight 3407 that crashed near Buffalo that February. Then, three weeks before our wedding, Air France Flight 447 went missing over the Atlantic when it was en route from Rio de Janiero to Paris.

      Truth be told, we were not excited about flying to or from Hawaii. (I know, I know… cue the world’s smallest violin.)

      The thing about the Lihue airport on the small Hawaiian island of Kauai is that the runway leads directly to the Pacific Ocean.

      One small shred of pilot error and everyone goes swimming.

      To illustrate:

      Lihue Airport, Kauai

      Lihue Airport, Kauai

      It was around 8:30 p.m. and the plane was just getting ready to depart for a 6-hour red-eye flight that would land in Phoenix where we would make our connection to Tampa. The plane was completely full and the other passengers were getting into “relaxation mode” by cuddling with their blankets and setting up their iPads to watch movies before takeoff.

      My husband and I were sitting directly over the left wing.

      (I read somewhere that seats over the wings were the safest spots a plane.)

      Just as the plane was getting ready to take off and the stewardesses were getting buckled into their seats, I began to smell something terrible.

      Like gas. Something burning. Something chemical-y. Something that was not right.

      I looked at my husband.

      His nostrils were flaring. He smelled it, too.

      Do you smell that? I asked, panicking.

      Yes, do you? He wanted me to reassure him the odor was normal. Like maybe the guy in the seat next to me literally walked through a camp fire before boarding the plane and taking his seat.

      Of course I smell it! Do something! Now! Say something! Or else we are going to die! 

      via GIPHY

      My husband unbuckled his seat and stood up as the plane started barrelling down the runway in preparation for take-off.

      The stewardesses began freaking out.

      SIT DOWN RIGHT NOW! One yelled.

      All of the passengers started staring at my husband, clearly annoyed and some a little nervous.

      DO YOU SMELL THAT? SOMETHING IS BURNING! he yelled at the stewardess.

      YES! she yelled back. IT’S JET FUEL. IT’S NORMAL. YOU CAN SMELL IT BECAUSE YOU’RE SITTING OVER THE WING! SIT DOWN NOW.

      The many passengers who witnessed this ordeal were unamused.

      via GIPHY

      Like a dog with a tail between his legs, my husband obediently sat back down in his seat.

      I was glad that he faced the shame and humiliation and not me. I was also glad he risked his ego to potentially save our lives.

      When we landed in Tampa unscathed, we got quite a few laughs.

      Bamba, bamba

      Bamba, bamba.

      Cheers!

      I still hate flying, by the way.

        Ho Ho Ho: Holiday Gift Guide 2016


        Find the perfect presents for the special people in your life with this holiday gift guide | The Champagne Supernova

        This post is sponsored by Babbleboxx.com on behalf of Single Edition Media. 

        Procrastinators unite! If you’re like me, you regularly scramble for the perfect holiday gifts in the days immediately preceding Christmas.

        You’re at the mall duking it out with the other shoppers.

        You’re aimlessly wandering the aisles of Target.

        You’re at the florist looking for a last-minute arrangement.

        No more. I’ve done the work for you. And you can do all of this shopping from the comfort of your home or at your desk during lunch hour.

        Vermont Brownie Company Gourmet Brownie Sampler. Ideal for the friend or family member with a sweet tooth that’s just as sweet as they are. The Vermont Brownie Company collaborates with their farm partners and use the finest, locally-sourced, freshest ingredients possible. The company partners with Cabot Creamery, Callebaut Belgian chocolate, King Arthur Flour, and Vermont Creamery. (Am I the only one who feels like the world’s best desserts originate in Vermont?) This gourmet brownie gift is available in an assortment of flavors that include triple chocolate chunk blondie, espresso dulce de leche, and maple toffee crunch. Take 15% off your order here.

        Find the perfect presents for the special people in your life with this holiday gift guide | The Champagne Supernova

        Vermont Brownie Company Sampler

        Omaha Steaks: The Tasteful Gift Gourmet Collection. This gift is perfect for the foodie in your life. A giving classic, Omaha Steaks has holiday gift basket options that work for “the person who seems to have it all.” The Tasteful Gift is a collection that includes two (2) filet mignons, two (2) top sirloins, two (2) boneless pork chops, four (4) potatoes au gratin, and four (4) caramel apple tartlets, as well as one seasoning packet. The entire package is only $69.99 and shipping is free- here is the direct link. (My favorite word!) Super easy to order online or on the phone, just go to Omahasteaks.com or 1-800-228-9055.

        Find the perfect presents for the special people in your life with this holiday gift guide | The Champagne Supernova

        Omaha Steaks Tasteful Gift Holiday Collection

        Spire Wearable Wellness & Activity Tracker. Trust me, I learned the hard way, people: your state of mind impacts how you breathe, and how you breathe impacts your state of mind. Studies reflect that deep breathing can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase endorphins. Working with experts on the respiratory system, Spire is the only wearable device that increases mindfulness and productivity by tracking breathing patterns. This product attaches to your clothes and serves as a “trainer” for mindfulness and mindful living. While wearing the Spire, users will learn to anticipate stressful events before they happen and alert users with actionable insights on how to prepare and experience more calm in their life. This is the perfect gift for the loved on in your life who could use some help with stress management. (Save $10 off your order when you purchase your Spire from this link here.)

        Find the perfect presents for the special people in your life with this holiday gift guide | The Champagne Supernova

        Spire Discover Calm

        Find the perfect presents for the special people in your life with this holiday gift guide | The Champagne Supernova

        Spire Discovery Calm

        LumaBella Cool Mist Straightener. Say goodbye to split ends and straw hair! This salon quality straightener is technologically advanced and features a cool mist channel that conditions the hair before smoothing it with heat. This reduces frizz for hair that shines, protects from breakage, improves moisture and shine, and delivers longer lasting style. A huge step up from Helen of Troy from the days of yore. (90s girls, you know what I’m talking about!) For 20% off, use the code MIST20 at this link here. (Offer valid through 11:59 pm EST on 12/30/16).

        Find the perfect presents for the special people in your life with this holiday gift guide | The Champagne Supernova

        LumaBella Cool Mist Straightener

        YogaJewelz Petite Om Bracelet. Namaste, y’all. These bracelets (also come in necklaces) are sterling silver and are specially designed. Wear them dressed up, dressed down, or at a favorite yoga retreat. Reminiscent of the Hamsa, these bracelets are the tiny symbols that pack a huge punch. They are a constant reminder to live a life rich with luck, love, peace, and harmony. Purchase yours here.

        YogaJewelz Petite Om Bracelet

        YogaJewelz Petite

        Wishing everyone a fun and relaxing holiday.

        Cheers!

          Small Businesses: What People Don’t Know


          boise-paper

          This post was sponsored. Because Christmas is coming up and baby wants a pony. 

          The day after Black Friday is Small Business Saturday.

          I feel like I run two small businesses, aside from working full time in my regular career.

          My husband has an engineering firm that he established when I was eight months pregnant with our oldest daughter (perfect timing- NOT!)

          The blog is run as a business.

          I understand the nuances of hiring employees and subcontractors, as well as the importance of having quality products to help make a best “first impression.”

          We use paper to print graphic designs, send proposal letters, make presentations, create marketing materials, and for general office letterhead.

          Why is it important to think about your paper purchase? Ostensibly, it seems this doesn’t matter and that paper is one-size-fits all.

          Wrong.

          I judge people who use paper that appears cheap and flimsy.

          Shallow, but true. (#keepingitreal)

          For instance. Consider when you’re at the greeting card rack at Target. The quality of card you purchase depends on the recipient. Kids’ birthday party? Go with the .99 cent area because you know the kid won’t care about the poor quality and the card will be trashed (or lost) within two days of it being opened. It’s the thought that counts, right?

          But what if you’re buying a sympathy card for a death? Or it’s Boss’s day? Then you go with the fancier Hallmark card with better texture and superior colors.

          With printer paper, here is a clear difference in value and performance between the options on the shelf.

          Selecting the right paper can ensure the colors pop off the page, black ink doesn’t bleed to the other side, paper doesn’t jam in the printer (my personal pet peeve!), printed pages look amazing, and you get the most out of every single solitary sheet.

          Don’t believe me about the quality of paper making a huge difference?

          Here, I tested Boise POLARIS Premium Multipurpose paper against the Equivocal Hammermill product: Hammermill Premium Multipurpose. I received reams of both types of paper to touch, feel, and test.

          While the differences are outlined below, what cannot be reflected in the photographs is that the POLARIS paper was slightly heavier than the competitor paper. A paper that is too sheer can not only make a document feel less sophisticated, but it can also make it impossible to print on both sides.

          img_1138

          The POLARIS paper is on the right, and the Hammermill paper is on the left.

          img_1140

          The POLARIS paper is on the right, and the Hammermill paper is on the left. I noticed the Hammermill paper is more see-through, while the ink appeared richer on the POLARIS paper.

          img_1141

          The POLARIS paper is on the right, and the Hammermill paper is on the left. Notice the difference in the opacity of the paper and the richer appearance of ink on the POLARIS paper.

          A few other perks about Boise POLARIS Premium Multipurpose paper: it carries a 99.0% jam-free performance guarantee that is certified by a third party, the Buyers Laboratory, Inc.. Further, it is available in three different weights, depending on your needs. It is made in the good ole’ U-S-of-A and is made from wood fibers that come from a sustainably-managed forest. Lastly, and my favorite, is that all paper packages include Box Tops for Education, so you can learn money for local schools while also getting a great printed document (read my blog post about Box Tops here).

          Cheers for a great product and getting a lot of bang for your buck!

            The Customer’s Always Right


            Customer service and workers who are annoying | The Champagne Supernova

            It blows my mind how businesses, especially small ones, permit employees to be rude to their clients and customers.

            Take The Write Stuff, for instance. They sell the loveliest invitations, gifts, and home decor and accessories on this side of the Mason-Dixon, but the older man who works there is consistently rude. Like he’s annoyed that someone dared to enter the store and ask him to ring something up, causing him to do his freaking job. And Heaven forbid a customer request that something is gift wrapped because they might as well be asking him to lasso the moon.

            South Tampa people, you feel my pain, you really do.

            But I love their Rifle Paper Company stationery so I keep returning.

            What’s more stifling is when the business owner is the rude one.

            He or she spends time, energy, and moolah on marketing materials and public relations but is too dumb to realize the lasting impact of poor customer service.

            Like the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld: No referral for you! No return business for you!

            I have a hard time relating to those who are nasty “business minded” people.

            In my “real job” as an attorney, I’m required to adhere to strict client reporting guidelines and similar deadlines Courts impose regarding responding to a complaint, answering discovery, and preparing for trial. Blowing a deadline could result in sanctions, losing a client or, worse, a legal malpractice case. I also respond to all client emails within 24 hours of them being sent (sometimes even on weekends, to the extent reasonable) in the interest of having them know I am on top of something. As the legal field is saturated with attorneys, my colleagues work hard to secure clients and keep them happy because we know there are hundreds of other lawyers who would love for the client to be their own.

            In my “side job” as a blogger, I work hard to obtain sponsorships. To a lay person, companies pay bloggers to promote their services or products, which result in sponsored posts via a blog post or social media promotions, or both. (According to the Federal Trade Commission, sponsored posts must be conspicuously disclosed to the reader.) All of these sponsorships involve contracts with strict deadlines regarding the date and time to post. I work hard to ensure I comply with all deadlines. In rare instances where I cannot meet a deadline (like two weeks ago, when the internet went down at my house and the technician couldn’t come until five days later) I let the client know ahead of time and either secure an extension or give them the option to bow out of the contract.

            It’s not all bad. I want to tell you about an exemplary customer service experience.

            Last November, I was invited to attend a “girls night out” with friends and, like most women, had “nothing to wear,” despite having a closet full of clothes (some of which still had the tags). During my lunch break, I rushed to the Nordstrom at the International Plaza, quickly retrieved the perfect winter-white jumpsuit from Topshop, and did a little internal crying once I reached the check-out counter. The associate was brand spanking new (it was her first day on the job!) and took her forever to ring up the long line of other customers ahead of me. As in, The Sandlot forever.  FOR-EV-ER.

            via GIPHY

            Once I finally made it to the front of the line, it took the sales associate ten minutes to ring up my ONE jumpsuit.

            When I arrived back at the house after work, I was pressed for time. I had a couple minutes to shower, refresh my makeup (as in, putting new makeup on top of old makeup- don’t judge!), spray some dry shampoo, get dressed, and call Uber to take me to the restaurant where I was meeting my friends.

            When I retrieved the outfit from the bag, it caught my eye.

            The security tag was still attached.

            The sales associate forgot to remove it.

            This was no small tag that I could easily hide. It was black, the length of a stapler, and was a huge contrast from the white outfit.

            Desperate, I tried to remove it myself. No dice.

            So I did something I’m ashamed of, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

            I got on the phone, called Nordstrom, asked to speak with the manager, and unleashed Hell.

            I was crazy. I was another person. I am not proud of who that person was.

            I was furious about the sales associate. I was so patient while I was in the store. Didn’t get annoyed when her being slow cost me time at lunch. And this was the thanks I got?

            via GIPHY

            I swear that if that call was recorded for quality control purposes and someone finds it and connects it to me, it’ll damage my chances of ever running for public office.

            Instead of meeting fire with fire, the manager calmly advised that she would send an associate to meet me at my destination to remove the security tag.

            Wait.

            What?

            As in, Nordstrom was rectifying the mistake by going out of their way to come to a location that was convenient to me to remove it.

            Are you kidding me? After I was so rude and obnoxious?

            If this were any other store, the lady on the other end of the phone would have pretended to sympathize with my situation and advised me that I’d have to come back to the store to have it removed.

            An hour later, as I was enjoying wine with friends, a sweet Nordstrom associate met me at the restaurant and removed the tag.

            It was incredible.

            But this is what sets Nordstrom apart from its competitors.

            When I told a girlfriend this story, she pointed out that she returned some sunglasses to Nordstrom several months after she bought them (with no receipt, only the credit card she used to purchase the item) and Nordstrom gave her a refund with no questions asked.

            Nordstrom might be pricier than some of the other stores, but the customer service and overall experience are bar none. I don’t mind paying a little bit more when I know I am going to be treated like a customer who is truly valued.

            I wish more professionals would adopt the philosophy that the customer is always right, even though my behavior in response to the associate’s honest mistake- no matter how irritating it was to me- was completely wrong.

            Cheers!

            By the way, I am receiving nothing from Nordstrom to write this post and I didn’t ask for anything. I just believe they deserve a nod for exemplifying how customer service should truly be. 

              Thoughtful Thinking


              How to be thoughtful and show gratitude | The Champagne Supernova

              The post is sponsored. The blog ain’t gonna pay for itself (and I’m due for low-lights!)

              How many times have we thought about doing something special for someone to show our gratitude for them and, while our intentions were good, life got in the way and we never got around to doing it? Or maybe we did it, but not the way we envisioned.

              This happens to me all the time.

              A personalized “happy birthday to you, you live in a zoo” phone call in your best Beyoncé impression becomes a short “HBD!” text message.

              Making a home cooked meal and driving it to the house of a sick relative becomes an Uber Eats delivery.

              Visiting a friend and her new baby in the hospital becomes hiring Betty-Sue’s Florist to deliver carnations in a beat up minivan.

              Sigh.

              We all have busy lives. Carpools. Work deadlines. Soccer practice. Tennis matches. Trips to the grocery story. Trying to survive the chaos.

              But when did it become acceptable to let being busy get in the way of being thoughtful and showing gratitude? This post here made me realize that life is too short to take someone for granted. To assume there would be another time to tell them you cared.

              Then, I recently discovered one of my newest favorite companies. A company that makes it easy to be thoughtful and show the ones we love they are appreciated.

              I am a huge enthusiast of supporting small businesses that make our already busy lives easier.

              Thanks to Bond, sending a personalized note is as easy as shooting off an email. Seriously.

              As in, they have an app and you can do it from your phone.

              Riding the subway.

              On an elevator.

              In an airplane.

              Standing in line for a Frappuccino.

              Laying on the couch in your pajamas. (Me over here!)

              Bond allows you to send beautiful, handwritten notes on customizable, high quality stationery from your phone or computer, and they make it easier than ever to make a habit of being thoughtful.

              I tend to be slow-to-learn when dealing with new technology, but it only took me about five minutes to send these personalized note cards to my loved ones directly from my smart phone on the Bond App.

              Five minutes!

              And even better, the Bond app even addresses the notes, slaps a stamp on them, and has them delivered to the recipient.

              Viola!

              When you download the app, you can send your first note to a friend or loved one for free!

              See the fruits of my non-laborious labor here:

              How to be thoughtful and show gratitude | The Champagne Supernova

              How to be thoughtful and show gratitude | The Champagne Supernova

              How to be thoughtful and show gratitude | The Champagne Supernova

              How to be thoughtful and show gratitude | The Champagne Supernova

              The new Bond app simplifies being thoughtful and showing gratitude- just in time for Thanksgiving and the holidays.

              Cheers to that!

              <

              How to show gratitude and be thoughtful toward others | The Champagne Supernova

                Getaway Giveaway | The Vinoy and Some of My Favorite Things


                Win a two-night stay at this beauty courtesy of The Champagne Supernova.

                Win a two-night stay at this beauty courtesy of The Champagne Supernova.

                It might almost be Thanksgiving, but it’s (almost) always summer in sunny Florida. And boy, am I ever thankful!

                I started The Champagne Supernova in December of 2014 and can’t believe how much it’s grown. I’ve connected with so many great people, not just in the Tampa community, but throughout the world.

                I recently reached an Instagram milestone by hitting 30,000 followers and feel honored to have such an engaged community of moms, dads, grandmas, college students, single moms, working moms, professionals, hobbyists, decorators, wine enthusiasts, and friends.

                As a way to show my gratitude, I’ve partnered with some of my favorite brands to create a “Getaway Giveaway” by enjoying two nights at my favorite hotel and giving away some of my favorite things. The winner will receive all of the following:

                (I want so badly to burst out in song: raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… these are a few of my favorite things…)

                To enter:

                1. “Share” this giveaway page on your personal Facebook page; and

                2. Subscribe to my blog.

                You must do both. (Current blog subscribers will already be credited that part of the giveaway entry and all they have to do is share this giveaway page on their personal Facebook pages.)

                The winner will be chosen at random and notified via e-mail at 8 p.m. EST on November 25, 2016. You have until then to enter! Be sure to use the e-mail account that you actually check as the e-mail you are using to subscribe to the blog! (This date was extended due to some technical difficulty precluding people from being able to subscribe to the blog!)

                Me and my tribe on St. Pete Beach.

                Me and my tribe on St. Pete Beach.

                Disclaimer: The two nights at the Vinoy must be consecutive and the winner must notify me of the dates they choose at least four (4) weeks in advance. All dates are available except holidays / holiday weekends (e.g., Martin Luther King, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years). The prize must be used by December 31, 2017. The winner must acknowledge receipt of the prize within 48 hours of being notified; otherwise, it will go to the next person. (Sorry for the crazy lawyer legalese!)

                Thanks for the support, good luck, and Cheers! xo

                  Tips: How to Help a Grieving Person


                  Tips for how to help a person who is grieving after losing a loved one | The Champagne Supernova blog
                  Some people are lucky to never have to deal with grief.

                  The kind that’s crippling.

                  The kind of grief that makes you sleep during the day and awakens you at night.

                  The kind that makes you forget to eat or paralyzes you from functioning.

                  The kind of grief where, because of the loss, you’ve accepted the world will never again feel the same.

                  Some of us have never felt that type of grief. We may have lost grandparents or distant loved ones, but those people were older, their time came, it was painful to lose them, but also exemplified the circle of life, and so it was.

                  Sometimes we feel so stressed by the pressures of everyday life that we forget how good we truly have it. Racing to get to kids’ birthday parties. Unloading the hundreds of dollars of groceries from the car and getting them inside the house. Career deadlines. Getting locked outside the house. Rainy days when you wanted to go to the beach.

                  Then we see someone who experiences such horrible grief or sadness that we are reminded our “stressors” are small stuff.

                  And we don’t know how to treat that grieving person.

                  Because we don’t know how we would handle being in their shoes.

                  We want to reach out to the grieving person, but we might not know them “that” well, or addressing their sadness feels awkward, so instead, we do nothing.

                  It’s not because we don’t care or because we aren’t thinking about them, it’s just because it’s difficult to know the right thing to do without feeling we are overreaching or doing something that “isn’t our place.”

                  In 2015, my high school classmate, Heather Gast, experienced true sadness. The kind that you see on the televison and wonder how you could ever go on if it happened to you.

                  I watched the events unfold as Heather bravely kept everyone informed via Facebook, and I closed the door to my office at work, read the updates on my computer screen, and sobbed.

                  Like seeing tragedy occur in other peoples’ lives, I wanted to reach out to Heather and give her a hug. Tell her I was praying for her. Tell her I’m so sorry and there were no words but that she and her family would be on my mind.

                  So many of us feel this way. We want to be there for the grieving person, but don’t know how.

                  Heather has been kind enough to share her story and her insight about the people who showed their support and helped to make the loss more bearable.

                  Here is the story, in Heather’s words.

                  In March of 2010, I married the love of my life. Just over three years later, we began the crazy journey into parenthood when we welcomed our beautiful twins, Nathan and Sophia. The first years were dotted with career changes, moves and chasing babies. Life was crazy, but we managed to settle into life as a family just fine.

                  Then, in March of 2015, I discovered what I initially thought was the flu was actually a surprise pregnancy. I soon found out that our then 14-month-old twins would have a little brother. I was shocked, but elated! My husband and I were definitely open to baby number three, but it happened a lot sooner than we anticipated. The next several months were filled with routine OB appointments, tiredness from chasing my toddlers around, deciding on nursery decor, and looking forward to my third November baby, due just before the holidays. I missed the newborn snuggles stage, and was really happy to have another baby to add to the armful!

                  Tips for how to help a person who is grieving after losing a loved one | The Champagne Supernova blog

                  Henry’s pregnancy announcement that was shared with friends, family, and on social media.

                  We took maternity photos. Sweet friends threw me a baby shower. After a traumatic birth experience with my twins, I looked forward to an uncomplicated singleton delivery. There were no pregnancy complications, and our sweet boy passed every scan with flying colors. I managed to dodge the bullets of swelling and pregnancy induced hypertension this round. I was relieved. This time there would be no NICU. I made it to 40 weeks.

                  Tips for how to help a person who is grieving after losing a loved one | The Champagne Supernova blog

                  Maternity session during pregnancy with Henry. Photo Credit: Ann Axon Photography.

                  At 40 weeks and 3 days, my husband and I decided it was time to meet our son. We hadn’t finished the nursery yet, but it didn’t matter. We were going to meet him.

                  The day was November 9th.

                  That is the day our family was changed forever.

                  At 5:52 p.m., Henry James was born. It was a beautiful birth. My doctor and the OR staff were nothing short of amazing. My husband got to watch our baby’s birth. I’ll never forget the soft little cry I heard and feeling the warm tears of relief rolling down my cheeks.

                  Henry was here.

                  We heard him cry.

                  He’s okay.

                  But we soon learned that things were far from okay.

                  Within minutes of his birth, the NICU staff assembled around Henry. He began to turn purple and struggled to breathe, and his oxygen saturation levels remained low. Henry was immediately taken to the NICU so the doctors could figure out what was wrong. I sent my husband after them, while I stayed behind as my OB was still sewing me up.

                  I was wheeled to recovery.

                  Alone.

                  Again.

                  With empty arms.

                  How was this even happening?

                  My husband and I remained hopeful. My OB and the attending nurses assured me that some babies just need a little help transitioning from inside the womb. Henry probably needed some supplemental oxygen. I waited in the recovery room for what seemed like an eternity. The recovery nurse kept calling the NICU for updates and information on Henry’s condition. It was shortly after that we received the news that Henry needed to be airlifted to a children’s hospital, more than 80 miles away.

                  Thankfully, the nurses wheeled me into the NICU before the flight crew wheeled Henry away. He was beautiful, and had a thick head of hair like is big brother Nathan. I reached out to touch him, and he grabbed my finger. I was a goner. I was in love. The attending neonatologist suspected a cardiac issue, but Henry needed further testing that our birth hospital was not able to provide.

                  Tips for how to help a person who is grieving after losing a loved one | The Champagne Supernova blog

                  Henry, after he was placed on life support.

                  That night, we learned Henry had a defect with his pulmonary veins, and would need surgery right away. My hours-old son was 80 miles away, and there was nothing I could do for him.

                  I never felt so powerless.

                  The next few days were a blur. By the next morning, Henry had deteriorated so much that he developed hypoxemia and was placed on a machine considered to be the last ditch “Hail Mary” of baby life support. Henry was very sick. He was diagnosed with what we later learned was an exceptionally rare and serious congenital heart defect: Obstructed Total Anomalous Pulmonary Veinous Return (“TAPVR”).

                  The obstructed kind.

                  The “critical” version of this defect because, not only was the “plumbing” around Henry’s heart all wrong, his veins were also abnormally thin. Tragic fact: TAPVR is most often discovered after birth, because the pulmonary veins are not visible on routine anatomy scans. Or even on the level 2 scans that I had. Henry was due to have his open heart surgery on Friday, November 13th. Henry’s cardiologists determined that he had healed and was stable enough for surgery.

                  But this was not to be.

                  Over the course of that Thursday evening, Henry suffered a catastrophic complication that necessitated his removal from the life support machine. He wasn’t going to make it. We had to let him go. My husband consented to the withdrawal of life support. At 3:02 a.m. on November 13, 2015, Henry drew his last breath on Earth and took his first in Heaven. Our world has never been the same since.

                  There we were, my husband and I, left in profound grief and shock. Instead of cuddling our newborn son at home, introducing him to family and friends, we were sitting in a funeral home making arrangements.

                  Purchasing a tiny casket.

                  Choosing a burial plot.

                  How were we ever going to get through this?

                  The days, weeks, and months that followed Henry’s tragic death have been the most difficult our family has faced. However, this time also really taught me about caring for those who are grieving. When tragedy strikes a friend or loved one, most of us are left wondering what to do and how to help.

                  I can attest to the fact that those who are grieving are just trying to survive, and they don’t have the energy to advocate for themselves and reach out for the help and support that they so desperately need. I wanted to share some simple do’s and don’ts, and I hope that they will help you find ways to reach out and help your friends and loved ones who may be grieving.

                  Tips, do's and don't for how to help a person who is grieving | The Champagne Supernova blog

                  Do show up with food. I know this one might sound a little silly, but keeping a hurting family fed removes a HUGE burden. My friend, Keri, organized a month-long meal planner for us, and we had meals delivered several nights a week. We were grateful for the food, but even more so for the familiar friendly faces, hugs, and company. If you don’t cook, consider sending a gift card to a favorite restaurant or mail a care package with all of the essential (read: disposable) cups, plates, and utensils.

                  Don’t disappear because you don’t know what to do or say. I repeat, don’t disappear because you don’t know what to do or say! Trust me when I tell you that, to a person who is grieving the loss of a loved one, silence is deafening. I was amazed at the people who I barely knew who came out of the woodwork with texts, calls, cards, and who showed up to support our family at Henry’s funeral. I can’t even begin to tell you how much it hurt to have people who I thought were close friends and even family members not reach out. The friends who I had been there for who never even so much as sent a text message. I felt so sad and even a little angry. I may have moved forward and forgiven those people, but their lack of support is difficult to forget.

                  If you did disappear, it is NEVER too late to reappear. This is important. I had many friends who eventually reached out, and were honest about not knowing what to do or say. They worried about hurting me by saying the wrong thing, and were trying to give me space. Just know that it is totally okay to not know what to say! You don’t even have to say anything. Just be there.

                  Don’t say, “let me know if you need anything.” Just don’t say it. This puts the responsibility on the grieving person or family to coordinate their help. Please don’t do this. If you really want to help, ask when you can bring a meal, or when you can help clean, or whatever it is that you know would help the grieving friend the most. We will gladly accept.

                  Do say their loved one’s name. Talk about them. Even nearly a year later, friends often mention Henry by name. It is such a gift when the people in my life talk about my Henry or ask about him, and often say they are willing to listen anytime I want to talk about him. Some people have said that they worry about reminding me about my loss, but no one needs to worry about reminding me. I’ll never forget that Henry was here, and that now he’s gone. Acknowledge often. It’s a wonderful thing.

                  It’s common knowledge that death is a part of living. It is a certainty that every last one of us will be touched by grief during our lifetime. Our society often doesn’t do well with caring for those who are thick in the weeds of their grief journey, but it really doesn’t have to be this way. As long as we have compassion, we can find ways to come alongside those who are hurting and love them.

                  Feed them.

                  Talk to them.

                  Listen to them.

                  Hug them.

                  Be there.

                  Having walked the difficult path of grieving my son for nearly a year, it has given me the gift of perspective. Being Henry’s mom has made me a more compassionate human, and seeing the impact his life has made in the lives of so many has truly been a gift.

                  Tips for how to help a person who is grieving after losing a loved one | The Champagne Supernova blog

                  The Gasts’ 2016 holiday card, which honors Henry. Photo credit: Ann Axon Photography.

                  The most heartfelt thanks goes out to Heather for having the courage to share her family’s story. Henry is gone but never forgotten.

                  Cheers!

                    Pet Peeve: Don’t Use Me, Bro!


                    feeling-used-by-other-people

                    At this stage of the game, all of us are old and wise enough to know when we’re being used.

                    Smart enough to see through the shenanigans.

                    The event triggering this post happened last Wednesday.

                    I’m at my desk sorting through Motions and medical records when the following email popped up on my Outlook. Easily distracted, I clicked the little bubble on the bottom right corner of my screen.

                    Below are the contents of the email with my commentary in parenthesis.

                    Hi Jennifer,

                    I came across your name on LinkedIn and wanted to say hello. (Stalker!) I found you because I like to meet like-minded folks (oh, so you’re a psychopath too?) in the Tampa area and, in all honesty (as opposed to dishonesty?), form new relationships or connections (that’s not very honest, you want me to help you in some way). We are both in lines of work where we may be able to help each other, or act as a local resource for one another (alrighty, dude, what do you want from me?). Let me know if you’re up for meeting for a quick coffee one day (there’s no such thing as a “quick coffee”.) At the very worst, I’ll cover your coffee (gee, thanks… because my time isn’t worth more than $3) and won’t take up too much time- but hopefully, we’ll get to chat and get familiarized with each other and the work that we do for clients.

                    Hope you are well!

                    Aaron (That’s a lie, but his real name rhymes with Derrick.)

                    The signature line below was a lot more revealing.

                    Just as I suspected, Aaron is a financial planner. He wants me to invest with him.

                    “You wanna invest? I got some nice, shiny quarters for ya!”

                    Aaron, just be completely up front about your motives from the beginning.

                    Delete.

                    I hate emails like these.

                    I used to receive about five a week when I first started practicing law. Financial planners who wanted me to invest with them right out of the gate, without major expenses and with lots of money to invest. (Or so they thought.)

                    If I tallied up all of the emails I’ve received like this, there would be hundreds. No joke.

                    I’m sure any type of professional routinely receives emails of this nature.

                    My husband has his own structural engineering firm (plug… how’s that for being transparent?), and I know he’s constantly getting approached to join strangers for “beers,” “coffee,” and “lunch.”

                    It’s only through my experience that I immediately smell the rat and move on. But in my younger days, I would have taken Aaron up on this offer because I enjoy meeting “like-minded people,” only to have been disappointed. It’s similar to the first time you received an email from “The Desk of Mr. [name]” who, in weird Engish, requests a charity donation for a family member who suffered a brain hemorrhage while visiting some remote African country. It’s the same basic plot- there’s an emergency and won’t you please wire them some money? Don’t worry, they will repay you tenfold as gratitude for your kindness and generosity. The first time I got an email like this, I wanted to contact the United Nations so they could send assistance to whatever African country the guy was emailing about so they could please get this poor soul some help.

                    Now I get these emails and delete them.

                    I’ve seen it most frequently in the financial planning arena but, don’t get me wrong, have a few close friends who work in this field who I love and admire. Then, there are the ones who are constantly hitting people up in a super sneaky way and it’s annoying.

                    For instance, one of my college sorority sisters got her feelings hurt a couple years back when she agreed to have lunch with an acquaintance whom she hadn’t seen in a decade. Out of the blue, the girl reached out to my friend, faked an interest in her marriage and birth of twins, invited her to lunch for the sake of “catching up”, and then BAM… asked her to invest with her company with her serving as the financial planner.

                    My friend left lunch feeling used. Rightfully so. She never invested with the other girl. And she was maddddddd.

                    Let me be clear. I am aware of and respect that everyone has to use their connections and personal relationships to promote themselves and to grow their businesses. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do.

                    Ain’t no problem with the hustle.

                    I do it too.

                    The problem is when people aren’t immediately candid about their true motives. The problem is when people try to get what they want using “sneak attack” antics. It’s bad business. 

                    All Aaron had to say to me in the email was “I’d love to discuss financial planning with you- are you already working with someone? Can we have coffee to go over it and, if you’re not interested, that’s fine?”

                    Then, I would have respected Aaron. I would have told him we don’t need anyone but that I would keep his name in mind if the opportunity presented itself or for referrals for someone else who might be interested.

                    But nooooooooooooooooo. Aaron sent me an evasive email and tried to trick me into joining him for coffee so he could subsequently launch his sneak attack.

                    What a turnoff.

                    Drops mic.

                    Cheers to honesty and transparency!

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