Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Appreciation Blog

It seems that appreciation is more thought of than expressed.

I think that the reason for this is the mindset of individuals that if something is repeated too often, it's not special; the statement becomes "cheap."  What I mean by "cheap" is that it holds little to no value to the person receiving the compliment since he/she hears it all the time.  I think we should all take a minute and think about this.

If asked in an interview what one of my greatest strengths is, I'd probably respond with my strong work ethic.  I think that's a common answer for most of us, and since a lot of us use it, it doesn't make us stand out from the crowd.  After I say that, I ask for a moment to explain.  For one thing, I'm my worst critic when it comes to my work, and I think that's what forces me to work harder to do my job.  It's as if I'm competing against myself to win some sort of challenge.  I'm always trying to outdo myself.

I usually leave this part out of my answer, but in order to do this, I tend to overwork myself - work when I'm sick (yeah, I'm that person), stay late, work through my lunch hour, work at home, etc.  Some of you probably think this is a shame.. and some of you are the same.exact.way.   

If asked in an interview what one of my greatest weaknesses is (even though I've only been in one interview that this question was asked), I'd say that in order to thrive in my position, I need positive reinforcement for performance.  Some of you probably don't think that's too bad, but it's actually kind of embarrassing.  I wish I could say that I don't care what other people think, but it's not true.  I really care what other people think.  I care so much that if I do something or produce a piece of marketing material, I need to find someone to show it to so I can receive that positive feedback.  And if I don't receive the positive feedback, I'm often left feeling disappointed.

In the non-profit world, your salary doesn't reflect how much appreciation your employer has for you, and because of that, the positive reinforcement makes that much more of an impact.

The reason for this blog is to tell you two great things that were said to me today about my performance at TBY.
1.  "You are the best thing that has happened to this Temple in years.  I have no idea how you could be so young and be so good at what you do.  We're so lucky to have you."
2.  "I don't know what we would do without you.  Do you know how great you are?"

Now, this blog wasn't written to toot my horn or ring my bell.  It's supposed to remind us of an important life lesson.   Just like you tell individuals you love that you love them, tell the people that you appreciate that they are appreciated.  Tell them everyday... tell them in different ways.  Give reasons for why you appreciate them.  Saying it over and over does not cheapen the compliment.  Appreciation is no good unless it's expressed. 

And who knows, you'll probably make someone's day... and they might write a blog about it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Eight Days of Chanukah - The Cali Brenner-Epstein Version...

Sung to the tune of, "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

On the first day of Chanukah Laguna gave to me, a bungalow on Third Street.

On the second day of Chanukah Laguna gave to me, two flippy floppies and a bungalow on Third Street.

On the third day of Chanukah Laguna gave to me, three close airports, two flippy floppies, and a bungalow on Third Street.

On the fourth day of Chanukah Laguna gave to me, four fish tacos, three close airports, two flippy floppies, and a bungalow on Third Street. 

On the fifth day of Chanukah Laguna gave to me, five apartment rooms, four fish tacos, three close airports, two flippy floppies, and a bungalow on Third Street.

One the sixth day of Chanukah Laguna gave to me, six local mountains, five apartment rooms, four fish tacos, three close airports, two flippy floppies, and a bungalow on Third Street. 

On the seventh day of Chanukah Laguna gave to me, seven days of sunshine, six local mountains, five apartment rooms, four fish tacos, three close airports, two flippy floppies, and a bungalow on Third Street.

On the eighth day of Chanukah Laguna gave to me, eight months of summer, seven days of sunshine, six local mountains, five apartment rooms, four fish tacos, three close airports, two flippy floppies, and a bungalow on Third Street.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Scrunchy the Elephant

Meet Scrunchy... your typical Californian elephant.

He's pretty chill, as you can see by his demeanor and facial expression.  And his shoulders - he looks so relaxed!  The tusks look a little intimidating, but don't be scared.  It's all for show; he won't hurt you.  

Scrunchy recently moved to California, and not until he made the trek did he believe that the move was good for his health.  There's a lot of sunshine to warm his skin daily, sand to sift between his toes, and new sports that he could try.  He's really good at beach volleyball; the trunk helps in that department.  Paddleboarding - not so much.  (He doesn't really like talking about the paddleboarding experience, so you'd be better off not bringing it up.)  And he was doing these things all by himself, which reminded him how lonely he was.  If only Scrunchy had a friend. 

One day Scrunchy was walking down the street, enjoying a sbucks and a chocolate croissant, when something beautiful stopped him dead in his tracks.  Was this another California elephant sitting on the bench on Forest Avenue?  For all he knew, he was the only elephant living in this California town and was just starting to accept the fact that he may never find an elephant friend, confidant, or even a possible companion.  Scrunchy needed to explore the possibilities.  He knew he was a good looking bull, so he settled down and started flirting.  His job, at that moment, was to woo this beautiful piece of trunk. 
Who could turn down that flirty face?  Her name was Dolores, and my was she perfect for Scrunchy.  Scrunchy approached and ask her out.  And she said yes!  If Scrunchy had his way, he'd be jumping for joy...

...but this elephant had to keep his cool.  He knew that if he let it all show, Dolores would think he was such a dork!  So, he stayed fly.  They exchanged numbers and he told her he'd pick her up at 8.  And as he walked away, all Dolores could think was that she was the luckiest elephant in California!  I mean, who could say no to the cutest elephant in town...especially one with the cutest lil tush EVER!

The End.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

(10 Things that) I am thankful for:

The rest of this blog post needs to be prefaced with the following:

The list below is in no way inclusive of everything for which I am thankful.  This is a good sampling of the things that came to mind while writing this post.

1.  I am thankful for the fact that I have found the love of my life and have begun the next chapter with him in California.  We tell each other every day that we are so lucky - not only for having this opportunity and making it work but to be able to experience it with each other.  This experience is helping us build a strong foundation for our future...and we're loving every minute of it.

2.  I am thankful for knowing that even though I am far from the ones I love, specifically my family (including extended family and the friends that I consider to be family), I know that I am in their hearts and that they are constantly in mine.  Being far from everyone is hard, but I'm so thankful that just because I'm not around doesn't mean I'm any less loved. 

3.  I'm extremely thankful for my health.  I'm and the healthiest I've ever been in my entire life.  To follow up with that, I am so happy to be with someone who supports my endeavors to lead a healthy life.  Additionally, I'm thankful that I no longer have to pay for weight watchers.

4.  More so than my health, I'm thankful for my parents' health.  As I get older and realize how much I want them involved in my adult life and my future children's lives (NOT PREGGERS!), I'm appreciating the fact that something clicked and they are making an attempt to be proactive about their health.  I'm so proud of their progress - I really think it's going to prolong their lives. 

5.  I know this is lame, but I'm thankful for Facebook.  Wah wah wah... Before you all groan, here's my reasoning.  For someone who was never good at picking up a phone to call someone to catch up, Facebook allows me to keep in touch with everyone I miss - half the time it's like I'm with everyone.  It allows me to stay connected and follow everyone's lives.  Without it, I'd probably "fall off the face of the earth."

6.  I'm thankful for my friends.  Even though I'm not with most of them all the time and that 3000 miles is between us, every one of them means something to me.  I appreciate all the help with keeping in touch. 

7.  I'm thankful for all of the new friends I'm meeting in California.  Thank you for welcoming me and Scott with open arms and including us in your social activities.  I can only speak for myself, but it's made California feel more like home when I needed it to.

8.  I know this sounds wacky, but I'm thankful for my healthy debt.  I know, who says debt is healthy?  Well, in a place like Newport Beach, where materialistic things often determine the type of person you are, it puts things into perspective.  Live within your means, and things will work out.  It's a reminder to not overextend... that we can be happy without the excess and I believe that is how Scott and I are going to live our lives - and it's refreshing.

9.  I'm thankful for my hard work ethic and my persistence to always do my best.  Not trying to toot my own horn or ring my own bell, but if it weren't for this, I would be unemployed.  I'm thankful that I'm my biggest competition and I strive to be the best that I can be.  Most people who don't share the same character trait (or flaw) often become complacent.  I see the challenges as goals that I need to accomplish, and I like that about me.

10.  I'm so thankful that I get to put on a wedding dress before Thanksgiving 2012.  Next Thanksgiving, I will be Stephanie Epstein.  I can't wait to put on that amazing dress.  I can't wait for Scott to see me in it.  I can't wait to celebrate with everyone I love... I just can't wait!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day Staycation 2011!

Scott and I wanted to go away for Labor Day weekend on a hiking and mountain biking trip at either Sequoia National Park or Kings Canyon National Park.  After seeing how outrageous a hotel would cost, we decided we could do similar things (if not more) on a staycation - hiking, biking, swimming, sight seeing, etc. 

With our activities mapped out to span the three day weekend and the reservations booked for a date night dinner out, we decided to take it one step further and look for a place to stay while "visiting".  We logged into and found the perfect place ( and guess what - IT WAS AVAILABLE!  Just three blocks from the beach and to the center of town, how could we pass it up? We jumped at the opportunity!  The couple who exchanged with us were lovely people... :)

We documented our three-day weekend with pictures.  And if you're lucky, when you come visit us, we'll turn our staycation into your dream vacation (yes, I'm now a sales-woman who really wants visitors... so plan your Laguna Beach trip TODAY!)

Friday Evening:
  • Brownie Lovebug Madness: Scott and I checked in after a hard day's work at Temple Bat Yahm where close to 140 people showed up to Shabbat Under the Stars - about 80 people attended Shabbat dinner (craziness!).  To celebrate, we baked some reduced guilt chocolate brownies from Trader Joes.  We each then ate one.  (No picture to document Brownie Lovebug Madness enjoyment.  Just picture a pan of brownies and me and scott eating one... on a plate with fat free whipped cream.)
  • Woke at 8:00am and headed to The Wedge to watch the surfers/boogie boarders play in 20-25 ft waves off the coast of Newport Beach.  Due to the winter storm off the coast of Antarctica, massive waves were hitting soCal up the coast and we were told that waves like this don't come as often as you would think.   We had to take advantage of checking out the sights.  Waves like this make you scared to go into the water ever again.  But- look how gnarley that is!!  And yes, that is a boogie boarder riding the wave in the last picture.

  • Next staycation activity was the farmers market.  A bonus about home exchange is that there is a kitchen!  It was time to stock up on produce.  For a weekend all about us, it's perfect that we bought heart plums.  Not only are they delicious, but they're super cute since they are shaped liked hearts!  
  • Now it was time for a little bit of fun.  The afternoon's activity was mountain biking.  We took a Laguna Beach Transit bus up to the Laguna Canyon Wilderness Park at the Top of the World and rode around the sandy mountain bike/hiking trails.  What a different experience biking on sand!  Much harder than biking in Frick Park.  We stopped along the way to take pictures of the sights.  Scott is so happy that I do these things with him and that I enjoy it.  The smile plastered on his face the whole time was priceless.  It was nice to get away from the materialistic Orange County to be surrounded by nature.  The trails were almost completely empty. Sadly, we didn't come across any mountain lions.  I still want to see one - from afar, of course. 
  • After mountain biking, it was time for lunch and a little r&r.  What better place for some relaxation than Main Beach - only 3 blocks away.  It was a little chilly near the ocean so hoodies and sweatpants were acceptable attire at 4pm.  Needless to say, we didn't go into the water, but sitting by the ocean reading a magazine was just what we needed after the mountain biking
  • Then it was time to shower and to make dinner in our staycation home exchange kitchen.  The gadgets this couple have are so fun to play with - they must be getting married soon!  We had a lavish meal of meat, couscous, and asian broccoli with a side salad.  Delicious!
  • We completed Saturday with a trip to the best gelato shop in Laguna Beach and a movie on the couch.  Of course, I fell asleep before it was over - as always.
  • We are so lucky to know the people we know through my job!  I work with some FANTASTIC volunteers who make my job worth it.  One of my favorite volunteers, Adrienne (and her husband Neal) gave Scott and I their Anaheim Angels Club seat tickets for the 12:35pm game.  Scott has been talking about going to a game since we moved here.  The game itself was low scoring - but the people watching was great!  Thank you so much for allowing us to check something off our "California To-Do" list, Adrienne!
  •  Following the game, since we were so close to walmart, we went to pick up outdoor chairs to match that table that we bought with the Federation gift card I received before moving.  They match perfectly!  O, and the shiny thing in the background - we'll get to that...
  • After getting back from the chair purchase, we went to the FREE Laguna Beach tennis courts to work on our game.  Scott and I have recently picked up the sport.  We're not good.  My game improves everyday and Scott can pretty much beat me every game because he has a good serve.  Gotta love these free activities!
  • Sunday night was spent making a delicious homemade pizza and playing chess... Another game Scott likes to beat me in...and if you know me, you know I'm super competitive.  Scott and I don't play chess anymore.
  • On the one day when most of the country has off from work in honor of Labor Day, it rains in Laguna Beach.  It was extremely unusual.  See, I think I figured out why rain freaks Californians out...  Hear me out.  The reason is because unlike the east coast, Californians don't have to look at the weather multiple times a day to know "what it's like outside."  Everyday, the temperatures are pretty much the same.  Scott and I have discussed that the reason the meteorologists on the news are so ditzy and dress like hussies is because it's not hard to say "it's sunny and 72 today and will stay like this for the remainder of the week" and the news needs some entertainment value for people to tune in - even if that comes from hooker meteorologists.  Regardless, it's not that Californians freak out when it rains as much as they are just surprised that it's precipitating.  It's a huge shock to them that it's ACTUALLY raining since "that never happens here."   This somewhat foiled our plans to go to the beach - but it wasn't a waste of a day. 
  • We made a pact that by the end of the weekend, we were going to buy outdoor chairs AND buy a grill.  If we didn't go out to buy it due to lack of funds, we were never going to.  We don't want precious grilling hours to pass right by, so we bit the bullet and bought one.  That is the shiny thing in the picture above.  It was pretty much half off.  It's a beauty.  
  • After assembling the grill, it had cleared up and was time to go to the beach.  I took a little power nap while Scott read - in our hoodies since the winds hadn't died down from the Antarctic winter storm.  We spent about 2 hours there.
  • After showering and getting ready, we headed out for our fancy date night at one of our favorite local affordable places.  It was delicious and a great way to end our holiday staycation.  
All in all, if you haven't caught on, we live in a really great town in a pretty nice state where there's so much to do.  We got lucky with the Angels tickets and all of the activities we did were free.  In all honesty, we could have had a money-free weekend since we had food in the house and if we didn't want to buy chairs and the grill.  We are extremely lucky to be in a place that is so community-friendly ... and the location doesn't hurt... :)

miss you all.  promise to write more often.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Stephanie and Laguna Beach!

Today marks my one month anniversary living in Laguna Beach, California, and let me tell you - it's been one hell of a month.  Here is a list of some things that have happened, things that we've done, and some reflections.  O, and there's a fun video for you to enjoy.
1.  The first week here was great, but sucky, all at the same time.  It was great because for the first time in my life, I got to sleep in later than Scott for multiple week days in a row.  That never happened in Pittsburgh.  It was great because I got to run errands, be productive, and get acclimated to living on California time and the idea of actually living on the west coast.  I'm sure you're asking, "Steph, what about ANY of this is sucky? I mean, I know you haven't mentioned going to the beach everyday, but I'm sure you did that too, you lucky duck!"  Well, to answer your hypothetical answer - it was actually sucky for that reason.  Little do you know that I occasionally banished myself from going to the beach until I got a job.  I was pretty much punishing myself for being unemployed.  Sick, huh?  I was making myself miserable and putting so much pressure on myself that I didn't enjoy all that the beach has to offer.  

2.  I haven't talked about my job yet, so I guess now would be a good time.  Here's some background information.  I landed on Tuesday night with no job and had been beating myself up for it.  I had been looking for jobs since November 2010 and didn't get anywhere.  I knew that looking for jobs was going to be my full time job until I got one.  Well, two days after, I found a job on and I applied to a job at a Reform synagogue in Newport Beach.  I got a call three hours later asking if I could come in for an interview the following day.  I went to the interview - it lasted 2 hours.  I got an email on Monday asking about a second interview.  I went to the second interview on Wednesday - it lasted 2 hours and I was offered the position.  Thursday I called and accepted the position which was to start on July 1.  Needless to say, I was in California for a week and a day and had an offer.  Not too shabby!  I am currently the Membership and Programming Coordinator at Temple Bat Yahm Reform congregation in Newport Beach, California.  

3.  I made the video below.  Take a look.

4.  I got a job so I needed to get a California drivers license.  In California, you have to take and pass the written test.  I studied.  I passed.  No.Shock.There.

5.  The answer to the "friend" question is "kinda."  We're working on making friends. 

6.  Scott has had 2 friends come visit him already.  I'm pulling in zero.  Hey friends, let's get on that!  COME VISIT ME!

7.  There is a bird that lives near our apartment that is dyslexic.  I swear.  Every night, when Scott and I are ready for sleep around 11:30pm, the bird wakes up and starts singing it's little (or big) head off.  When we wake up to pee at 3am - the bird is up, having a ball.  It's like we're sleeping in a rainforest.  Needless to say, we've gotten used to it.  If you come visit, there's nothing we can do with it, so deal with it. 

8.  Sucks to be on the west coast when everyone else is on the east coast.  Just so you know, there is like 2 hours total that we can talk during the day.  We can talk between 8:00 and 8:30am when I'm driving to work (but then you're working since it's only 11:00am) and when I leave work before I get home to do evening activities which is usually 5:30pm-7:00pm (8:30-10pm your time).  That's enough time to talk to one person a day.  BUMMER!

9.  Scott and I had to go register for engagement gifts as requested by our moms and it was the hardest thing we've ever had to do.  It wasn't fun AT ALL.  Good news is we're still engaged and we still love each other even though the 5 hours spent in Bed, Bath, and Beyond, not including the extra hour rearranging the registry on the website, was HELL.

10.  I'm so tan my feet are tan. I wear at least 15spf sunscreen as mandated by Scott, and my feet are more tan than my face.  I know Scott doesn't care if my feet get wrinkly but he wants my pretty punim to remain wrinkle free.  On a similar note, it's very hard to tell how old people are in California for two reasons: 1.  No one takes care of their skin and they are very wrinkly, and 2.  60 yr olds dress like hussies.  Put some damn clothes on, grandma.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The person wearing the Steelers hat doesn't always want to be your friend

This may be the longest blog title known to man.  But, it's true.  The person wearing the Steelers hat doesn't always want to be your friend.  Do you know what that tells me?  That tells me that the person isn't actually from Pittsburgh.  Hearing that I am from Pittsburgh should generate some sort of interest in being my friend if you are, in fact, a Pittsburgher.  Seeing that you don't give a shit shows me that you are from California, pretending to be a Steelers fan.  LIAR!

But really, who am I kidding?  I lived in Pittsburgh for eight years and wasn't really a Steelers fan.  Yay Eagles!

Here's my problem:

Laguna Beach is a vacation spot made famous by the MTV reality show (I have never watched it, so I wouldn't know... *crickets*....)  Ok, Ok, you got me.  I re-watched the entire first season the first 3 days I moved here.  Like I was saying, so many people from all over the country (and world) come to California, specifically Laguna Beach, that it's hard not to spot someone on any given day wearing a Steelers tshirt or a Phillies hat. 

The good news is that I found a solution to preventing the urge of wanting to approach anyone wearing Pittsburgh or Philadelphia sports paraphernalia - get some of my own!  That way, interested parties would approach ME and I would engage in some friendly conversations and make friends.  I know many of you would suggest that I refrain from wearing my Eagles jersey, as that may cause some backlash and I agree.  The Eagles stuff stays inside 468 Third St. Apt B.

I've decided to put a rant about California in every blog post - something funny I've realized about the state of California or Orange County.  Below is today's.

As if the people weren't posh enough in the OC, California cars are too good for car washes at the local gas station.  Cars in California are taken to Car Spas.  I'm not even joking.  There is no such thing as a car wash.  Let's say I needed to give Harlem a bath.  In Pittsburgh, I would either go to the drive-thru car wash at the Exxon station at Forbes and McKee on my way home from work, go to the car wash at the Get-Go in Aspinwall or by Century 3, or go to the place with the hose in Wilkinsburg during daylight hours.  No such place like that in California exists - at least I haven't driven past one yet.  Scott went yesterday and he had to wait  40 minutes to have his car cleaned.  I told him I would appreciate the attention to detail but I could understand how annoying that would be if you were under strict time restraints.  Not only does it take 40 minutes, but it costs an arm and a leg.  Nothing in California is cheap.  NOTHING!

PS, I feel like I'm 16 again!  I have to take the written test at the California DMV to get a California license.  I'm going tomorrow.  Wish me luck!!