Wednesday, September 26, 2012

[Unemployed Life]: Dealing with Wants

Over the past week or so, I've been struggling a lot with being semi-unemployed in the face of the things I want. This is probably the most frequent reoccurring problem I face and has the ability to get me down and put me in moods I'd rather not be in because they're just not productive.

And the truth is that I've come a long way in some respects.  I used to shop -- like, seriously shop -- when I had no money to do it.  If I saw something I liked, I'd somehow manage to rationalize the purchase regardless of what it cost or what I had in my bank account.  I shopped for therapy; I shopped to kill boredom; I shopped to make myself feel better about my body; I shopped to purchase things for others so they knew how much they meant to me.  But I'm happy to say that things have changed.  I'm hyper aware of my spending these days.  I rarely ever go into clothing stores because I can't afford to buy anything and I don't want to tempt or frustrate myself.  I analyze then over-analyze almost all my purchases to make sure I really, really want whatever I'm buying.  I'm better at saying No to myself.

But this doesn't meant that the wanting goes away.  Just because I've trained myself to say No doesn't mean I don't always want to first say Yes.  I want new running and hiking shoes; I want to buy a few tops from Anthropologie; I want to get a hair cut and a massage; I want[ed] to buy tickets to Jack's Mannequin's final show in L.A.; I want to take a few creative writing and grammar classes; I want more books; I want to get my dog to a trainer; I want to buy my ticket home for Christmas; I want a facial; I want to go back up to Seattle in the Fall; I want, I want, I want...

But, for now, the answer has to be and always

So when I start to get frustrated and discouraged about my situation, when I start to get down on myself about any number of things I feel like I should be able to change about the way things are right now, I try my best to get my brain moving in another direction fast.  In the past, I've updated my Christmas wishlist.  It sounds stupid, but this makes me feel so much better.  Something about knowing that there's a slight possibility that I'll get what I want in a few months makes it seem more okay.  Plus, the who wishlist process has taught me the value of thinking things over before purchasing, since half of the time I go back and delete things I thought I wanted more than life itself a few weeks after adding it to the list anyway.

I also try to do something I really love that doesn't cost any money.  In my case, what I love (long car drives into the country) costs no money other than gas.  But doing this simple thing makes me feel so much better.  These drives have been my go-to stress reliever for years now, and they never fail to make me feel better, no matter what's going on in my  life.  They're my time for quiet reflection, for space, for breathing room.

And, because I'm a planner, I also tend to prioritize and plan my way through the sads.  I mean, let's be real here: I don't really need new clothes, a concert ticket, or pampering.  Those things would be a waste of my limited funds in the long run.  The things I do really need are new shoes and a plane ticket home.  So those are the things I'm going to concentrate all my meager income on getting.  Going through my list of Wants and really asking myself, "How much do you need this?" has been one of my best strategies for getting over my mood [and myself] lately.

Finally, I make some serious effort to refocus my energies and turn a shitty situation into a productive one.  Last week, for example, I really wanted a massage and facial after the stress of dealing with back issues for three weeks.  I mean, I was willing to give you a kidney for an hour at a spa.  It was that serious.  But let's face it, those things don't come cheap and there was no way I could rationalize it.  It just couldn't be helped.  So instead, I tried to refocus my energies.  I read a few blogs that I know usually inspire me to be creative, and I began writing (free!).  I also re-read some books that are seriously addicting and I knew would get my mind off of my frustrations (free!).  It takes effort to refocus, but it's a great way to redirect all that energy to a place where it can be useful.

These aren't fail-proof (I mean, what is?), and they don't always help me.  But they've worked enough times in the past that I'm willing to continue trying them in the future.  After all, I'm feeling better this week than I was last week, and I've literally gone through and practiced each of these strategies to pull myself out of the crapper of a mood I was in.  Do I have any of the things on my list now?  No.

Do I still want most of them?  Not really.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

[Girl♥Health]: Digging Deep to Find a Goal

Did you know that Nicole over at just released an e-book all about running and motivation?  Did you know you can get it super easily by clicking this link and signing up?  Did you do it yet?  No?


Here's the gist of what it's about from Nicole's blog: Stop Making Excuses & Start Running is a 41-page bullshit-free guide to redefining motivation that will give you the mental tools you need to get from the couch to the finish line of your dream race. Part e-book, part workbook, and part swift-kick-in-the-ass, this powerhouse of actionable steps will help you build a life-long relationship with running.

You guys, you all know that I've been trying to get healthy for the past year or so, right?  I mean, that's what Girl♥Health is all about.  I'm changing eating habits, trying to incorporate exercise into my daily schedule, thinking and rethinking about goals I want to make and accomplish, and planning for how all of that can actually happen when my motivation is low and my resistance is high.  So I was so excited when one of my favorite bloggers announced that this little gem of a book -- which is totally applicable to all my health-related (and some non-health related) goals -- was coming out.  I read it in one sitting and am slowly making my way through the prompts.

One thing that this e-book has already helped me to do in the few days that I've had is to really examine what I want.  I've been saying for the past however long that I wanted to be a runner.  Why?  Because I wanted to be healthy.  And that was my problem right there.  The vagueness of this goal.  Saying I want to "be healthy" is like saying I want to "be happy."  It's like, no shit, of course I want to be healthy.  Who goes around thinking they want to be unhealthy?  So, because my goal wasn't actually a real, measurable, achievable goal, I wasn't really committed to it or the process I needed to go through to accomplish it.

This also pointed out to me the glaring fact that I didn't really want to be a runner either.  If I did, if running itself is what got me going, then I wouldn't need the excuse of something else in order to do it.  I would just want it bad enough that being a runner was my goal in and of itself.  Sure, running still has it's appeal to me: I think runners are fit and lithe and I would like to be that.  I also see running as a great stress reliever (when the thought of running itself isn't causing me stress) and a time to quiet my mind and let things sort of...go.  But those reasons aren't enough for me, I guess.

Realizing all of this was, in a strange way, both a relief and slightly devastating.  A relief because I can now stop beating myself up over not being "a runner" because it's not what I really want.  But it's devastating because, if running isn't what I really want, than what the hell is my goal?!

This was going to require me to dig deep.  What did I love to do?  What health-related images kept coming to mind when I thought about my Dream Life?  Where were my self-conscious hang-ups?  What did I fear doing the most?  When I imagined being a fit badass, what activities did I do?  What did health mean to me?

The answer slightly embarrasses me.  It's embarrassing because it touches on one of my deepest shames: my weight.  Being a person who loves the outdoors, I seem to surround myself with other outdoorsy people as well.  The upside of this is obvious: camping and day trips.  The downside of this is where it gets a little bit humiliating.  Nearly all of my friends love to hike.  And when they ask me to go along, the thought that runs through my brain is: Dear God, please let it be a flat hike or I won't be able to do it.  I've been that girl who everyone has had to stop for on a hike because I need to catch my breath.  I've been that girl who has had to ask to not take a certain trail because it's just too steep.  I've been that girl who has had to turn around before reaching the top.

And can I just say: it's makes a person's self-esteem feel about as low as humanly possible.

This is what I want to change.  This is my goal.  I want to feel confident enough to go on long-distance hikes.  I want to go backpacking and not be so scared out of my mind that my weight will hold me back that I chicken out.  I want to go to the top of Half Dome.  I want to see places that you can't get to by car.  I want to hike parts of the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails.  This will be a physical challenge, a conquering of a fear, and a stare down with my insecurities.  It's specific (finish a long-distance hike) while still being broad enough to encompass meeting small, less specific goals (like losing weight, lowering cholesterol, strengthening my core, having a healthy back, eating less crap, running, weight lifting, etc.) -- after all, I'll need to "be healthy" in order to see this through, right?

While I haven't fleshed out the details yet, I know there are tons of things I need to work on in order to accomplish this. For now though, I'm sort of just sitting with it all for a minute, just to see how it feels and if it still fits when the rush of naming it has faded a little.

[Photo source:]

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Evolution of Friendships

I've had a surprising number of conversations recently about the evolution of friendships.  Mainly, about how sometimes it seems like we remain friends with those we met during childhood or high school in spite of the fact that we've grown up and changed.  Whereas we seem to be friends with those we met during college and after because we've grown up and changed.

I don't know if this is true for everyone, but it seems to be true for a lot of the people in my life right now and, to a certain extent, it's also true for me.  It's amazing how the seasons of our lives are marked by the friendships we made as well as the friendships we ended.

When I was a child, one of my best friends taught me to love books.  She was/is so incredibly smart and, though I didn't realize it at the time (and therefore balked at it when my 10 year old brain took any notice), she held me to a higher standard than I held myself.  She moved away when we were in the fifth grade but we somehow managed to check in with one another once or twice every five years or so.  We evolved.  We aren't best friends anymore, but we are definitely friends.  We've changed, but I still love her so dearly.  There are no strings attached to our friendship, no roles we claimed for ourselves as children that we've been unable to get out of as adults.  We are accepting of our individuality, our growth.  And I've come to recognize that the person I would be had we never been childhood friends is so very different from the person I am and the person I want to be.

There were also friendships made during my childhood that were never meant to grow up with me.  They were meant to teach me lessons, and then to fade away.  From these friendships, I learned about the kind of friend I'd been, and that I didn't want to be that anymore.  I didn't want to be judgmental or mean (as tween girls can so be).  I didn't want to be clique-y and exclusive.  Making fun of other girls, putting myself in a place of grade-school power just so I wasn't the one being made fun of was way to grow up.  It made me a lousy person.  These friendships taught me these lessons when they turned on me, when rumors flew and the catty stares I'd once given were now aimed my way.  It was a hard way to learn it, but I'm so grateful for it.  I'm not sure it could have been taught any other way.

At a certain point, our friendships can seem like rocky love affairs.  We are co-dependent and jealous, selfish and self-absorbed.  These relationships can burn bright and then burn out, and it's a painful struggle as you learn to let go.  I met a girl in middle school and we just clicked immediately.  She was, I now recognize, everything I wanted to be but wasn't.  We were opposites and we filled gaps in each other that needed to be filled for a time.  Where she was reckless, I was cautious; where she was in-your-face, I was mild-mannered.  My other friends tried to warn me off our friendship but I didn't listen.  We stopped being friends, the way high school girls do, more times than I can count before patching things up and being inseparable for another few months.  There was a final straw involving her and a boy I'd liked for 2 years.  I knew after that that this wasn't the kind of friendship I needed in my life.  I slowly started to back out of it.  After graduation, we lost touch almost completely.  Our lives have taken vastly different roads headed in almost opposite directions.  I see things now about her, about who I was then, about our friendship, that I wasn't able to see at 15.  We fed each others insecurities and were in constant competition for I don't know what.  But I'm still thankful that we were friends at all.  She allowed me to be a bit wild with her, and that's not something I was able to do elsewhere.  This was a friendship characterized by fun and freedom, even while we held one another down.

But not all high school friendships are like that one.  There are women in my life right now that have been with me forever.  We dealt with homesickness together during the first few weeks of boarding school.  We were fans of NSYNC together.  We obsessed about boys and wrote fan fiction together.  We got ready for school dances and got drunk off of Smirnoff Ice on beaches together.  We fell in love with Coldplay and screamed at football games together.  We cried at graduation together because we worried things would never be the same.  And now we're going to each other's weddings, texting one another from across the country, talking about jobs and babies and "Ohmygod, did you see that so-and-so from high school has five kids already?!"  These friendships are not always easy because we became friends with certain versions of ourselves -- so it can be hard to find commonalities between us as adults.  But we work at that.  And we try to give each other space to grow.  Because these friendships still bring something to my life; these women are familiar and funny and they know my story without me having to tell them.  They are the ones that I am 100% sure will be there for me in the darkest of times because they have been in the past, no matter what.  That bond is difficult to break.

And then there are the friendships we make as adults.  These friendships can seem the closest, the most immediate, because these are the friends you see or talk to all the time, the friends that the You you are now has chosen.  My current circle includes friends that were Nate's and are now mine, friends we've made together as a couple, and the friends I've made on my own either during or after law school.  I don't know how to explain these relationships other than to say that they are so engaging, so supportive and encouraging.  These are the friends I see at "Family Dinner" on Fridays and Saturdays.  These are the friends who come over to bring me wine and movies when I have a slipped disk.  These are my Girls Night and my camping crew.  They know my drink preferences and the fact that I want to become a long-distance hiker.  Our conversations are most often about issues like politics and greed and socialism and nutrition and poverty and education (and friendships...this blog post came from one of those conversations) because that's just what's important to us.  We are friendships built on ideas, on who we want to become, on who we are at the moment, and the things that drive us.  My life would be so much less without them right now.

This is all to say that I think the best friendships are the ones we choose to keep because they enrich us, they bring something to us and we know we can bring something to these friends.  Friendships, like all relationships, require work and acceptance and space and commitment.  But they are worth it.  Regardless of whether certain friendships have lasted or have faded, they have all been worth it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Today is Special

I'm not usually a jumper.  I'm a cautious person.  I take calculated risks.  It's not easy for me to trust, to put too much on the line when the end result is the product of too many variables.  Things happen in life, I know this, but I make an effort to think through every outcome I can imagine, to be as sure as I possibly can before taking my next step.

Today is different.  Today I jump without really knowing.

And that's okay with me.

[Photo source:]

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Recipe Roundup

You guys, I have clearly been starving lately.  I've been thinking of food non-stop, dreaming about mushrooms and soups and desserts.  Inundating my Pinterest boards with things I want to make, recipes I can't wait to try.  I'm not usually the cooking type, but seriously, I can't wait to get in the kitchen and whip some of this stuff up.

Then devour.  Obviously.

Here are some of the highlights of my life at the moment:
  • This beef stew recipe from Movita Beaucoup.  I mean, you make it in a slow cooker, which tells me two things right off the bat: 1) this is gonna be crazy simple and convenient, and 2) this is also gonna be crazy delicious given the amount of time it's given to cook (8-10 hours!).  Typically, my favorite beef stew recipe is a copycat of the Guinness beef stew I had at the Newgrange visitor's center cafeteria in Ireland.  I know "cafeteria" doesn't necessarily bring to mind "effing delicious," but believe me.  But I'm way more than willing to give this one a fighting chance.  First rainy day of fall.  All.  Over.  It.
  • Speaking of rainy days.  This is also going to happen.  Maybe on the same night as the beef stew.  Just in case we run out or something.  No?  Meh.  I love the How Sweet It Is blog -- Jessica is friggin hilarious and all her recipes make me salivate.  So it's no surprise that, although I've been anti-mac and cheese for most of my life and am still highly, highly picky about the stuff (I know, who am I?), I'm obsessed with her white cheddar and arugula pesto mac and cheese.
  • Nate and I made this from Donal Skehan one night last week, on one of our pescetarian days.  The mushroomy, garlicy, cruchy bruschetta went perfectly with the caprese (fresh tomatoes!  Woo!) and whole artichoke we had alongside it.  I was worried, like I usually am on non-meat days, that I wouldn't be full after I finished eating -- this is probably one of the biggest struggles for me...getting past my own mental blocks -- but the bruschetta is pretty much the size of two pizza slices so I was completely satisfied when I was done.  Definitely, definitely making this again.  Soon.
  • I have three favorite restaurants in the world.  One is the Chinese place my family has been going to for years back in Hawaii, the other is the best Thai restaurant outside of Thailand and is located in Seattle.  And the last is the first Indian restaurant I ever ate at (also in Seattle) which has since moved locations and changed its name.  It was there that I discovered chicken tikka masala.  And the love affair began.  I'm dying to try this recipe from Can't Live Without, which may be a biiiiiit out of my very limited league, but just look at it.
  • This deliciousness from Spoonful was dinner on Sunday.  Because we had almost everything on-hand and were looking for something vegetarian to eat that was both filling and quick.  It turned out to be so good that we'll be making it again before much longer -- especially with cold weather coming!  I have memories of eating udon at my village Hongwanji's Obon as a kid.  It came in styrofoam cups and was hastily eaten along with hot dogs and Okinawan donuts.  I love when foods carry stories with them.
  • You've probably seen this recipe from Ambitious Kitchen floating around the internet lately.  These cookies look insane and I am making them as soon as I can.  Maybe right now.  I mean, these are nutella-stuffed brown butter and sea salt cookies, guys.  !!!  What?!  SOLD.
You're welcome.  Happy eating.

Monday, September 17, 2012

On "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed

It was the title that first caught my eye as I quickly looked over the "New Fiction" shelf in Barnes and NobleWild.  It's one of my favorite words.  It's a word I love to think about because, for some reason, it comforts me.  I like to imagine the wilderness as this beautiful, untouched place.  This place where there is only you and the natural order of things.  It's scary, but it's honest, you know?  That's the best thing about the wilderness: it is honest.

In God's wilderness lies the great hope of the world
the great fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.
-- John Muir

I didn't buy the book that day, but did go back a month later when I couldn't get it off my mind.  I've been on a kick lately where I've been loving memoirs, especially those written by women who are going through it at the time.  I like being with them through the struggle, and I love being with them when they find their way to the other side.  It inspires me like nothing else.

So I was really looking forward to getting to know Cheryl.  I knew going it that this was going to be about her journey dealing with the utter tragedy of her mother's illness and death (fair warning: you'll cry), the disintegration of her small family, her despair, the breaking apart of her marriage, her foray into men and drugs, and then her determination to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and find herself in that Hail Mary attempt.  But I'll be honest, after getting a few chapters into the book, I wasn't sure I was going to like Cheryl very much.  She was blunt and edgy.  She said and did things that I'm not sure would be forgivable in my world.  She crossed moral lines I didn't agree with, she made choices I would ever have made.  There were so many moments where I thought, "No!  Don't do that!  Say this instead!  Pull yourself together!!!"  I just didn't understand her.

But I stuck with the book because I wanted to read about the PCT.  I wanted the writing to make it real in my mind, to allow me to see places I've never been to and experience things I haven't yet.

And somewhere along the way, I began to realize that I'm a judgmental ass.

Ms. Strayed tells it like it is and it's a real, raw and honest portrayal of the very rocky years of her mid-twenties.  The bottom came out from under her when her mother passed away so suddenly.  She was young and found herself in a horrible situation, with little family support, and a marriage to a man she loved but couldn't be with anymore.  She made choices.  We all do.  Her choices led her to the PCT and, eventually, herself.

Her telling of this intense 1,100 mile hike from the Mojave Desert to the border of Oregon and Washington is harrowing, painful and beautiful.  It has also inspired me to attempt a small portion (and by small I mean NOTHING LIKE WHAT SHE DID) of the PCT -- to do something I think is impossible, to challenge myself, and to see places I've only ever dreamed about.

So in the end, I loved this book.  I loved her journey.  I almost yelled at Nate when he attempted to make idle chit chat with me as I read through the final two pages -- I mean, who does that?

If you like memoirs, if you like honest story-telling or if you like tales of survival in every sense, I would suggest Cheryl Strayed's Wild.  I have a copy if you'd like to borrow it.

[Photo source:]

Friday, September 14, 2012

[Unemployed Life]: The Benefits of Busy

"You are the busiest unemployed person I know."

I can't tell you how often I've heard this.  From my boyfriend, my friends, my parents, my chiropractor...

To them, I know it must seem like I'm constantly running around.  I'm at my awesome internship.  I'm at my part-time job.  I'm meeting a friend for a writing session at a cafe.  I'm having girls night.  I'm going out of town for a wedding.  I'm going camping.  I'm going on a hike this weekend.  I'm having a meeting about some consultant work.  I'm editing someone's e-book for publication.  I'm jumping on an online tele-seminar.  I have a workshop to go to in the city.  I'm meeting friends at a coffee shop for a collective job-hunting session.  I'm meeting my research professor for lunch.  I'm seeing a friend who's in town for the weekend.  I have a doctor's appointment.  I have errands to run.  I have a call about some copyediting I'm going to be doing.  I'm going to happy hour (where I won't drink because I don't have the money, and I don't really drink anyway).  I'm baking cookies for a bake-sale...

"Busy" seems to be my default setting these days.  And there's definitely something to be said about not letting your life be consumed by "busy-ness" so much that you forget to see and enjoy where and who you are in the moment.

But let's be real.  I've been mostly unemployed for about 15 months now.  That's a long while to spend without a set place to be and thing to do from the hours of 9-5 each day.  If I didn't fill my life with busy, I can almost guarantee that I'd go not-so-quietly crazy in the span of a week.

Being busy helps me to stay sane.  It helps me to be productive with all this time that, if left to my own non-busy defenses, would otherwise be wasted.  And most of all, busy helps me to feel useful.  It helps me to not feel like I've failed at something.

So here are some of the things that have helped me to continue being/feeling busy and useful while I've been sans job:

Wake up at a self-respectable hour.  This is pretty self-explanatory.  Nobody likes to feel like a lazy ass and, whether you like it or not, that's probably how you're gonna feel if you're rolling out of bed at 1pm everyday.  I generally set my alarm for 7:50 in the morning, and actually get myself going at around 8:20am.  That way, by 9am I'm halfway through my workout, or at my desk firing up my computer, or heading out the door to a coffee shop, ready to go.  When I first began forcing myself to get up in the morning I couldn't believe how many hours in the day there were to actually get shit done.  It was revolutionary.

Brush your teeth, dammit.  The best and fastest way for me to kill both my mood and my day is to stay in sweatpants.*  Being in sweats, hair all haphazard, face maybe washed, teeth hopefully brushed but I make no promises...These are the killers of my productivity.  It pretty much guarantees that I'll be in bed, snacking on chips, reorganzing my Pinterest boards until Nate gets home that evening.  Cause that's just the kind of girl I am.  So instead, I get dressed.  I put on actual pants, brush my hair and put on some basic make-up, and choose a great pair of earrings (because earrings are my power accessory, obv). 

*Fridays are the exception, guys.  Yoga pants all day long.

Schedule your days out.  Much like I did over outlook when I had a full-time job, I try to schedule out every hour of a typical "work day."  I usually do this on Sunday nights or Monday mornings, and when I say I schedule things, I mean ALL THE THINGS.  I schedule out lunch breaks, exercise, dog walking, phone calls, reminders, errands, EVERYTHING.  This helps because I'm terrified of missing deadlines (cough*brown-noser*cough), so I'll do everything that's in that calendar.  I also take the first ten minutes or so of the day and, looking at my calendar, write out a to-do list.  This is redundant, and is pretty much just so I have an excuse to cross things off a list.

Find someplace to give your time.  These are my current commitments: My internship.  My part-time job.  My consultant work.  My volunteer work for Stratejoy.  And my position as a Board Member for an organization.  I'm also considering volunteering with another nonprofit and as a campaigner this election cycle.  And while none of these positions (as they are currently) will sustain me in the long-run the way a full-time job would, I take them because the two worst things I could do to myself right now is: 1) Not have anything to do all day, and 2) Leave a huge, gaping hole in my resume for the months (years?) between jobs.  These positions also all help to grow skills I'm looking to cultivate in myself, and to network.

Dedicate actual hours to YOU.  I can't count the number of times when I had a full-time job and said, "I wish I had more time to do xyz," or "I would do that if I had more time."  Well, I'm unemployed now and have no excuse.  I refuse to live my life just saying "I wish" when I'm in a position to act on those wishes.  So that's why I spend some time doing things I love and exploring things I think I may love.  Like copyediting classes.  I totally take those.  And writing dates with a friend?  We have those too.  I read for both pleasure and research.  I blog more.  I hike more.  I spend more time with my friends scheming things we're going to try once we have the money (like rock climbing).  I'm exploring vegetarian cooking.  I'm re-learning to play the piano (and eventually the violin).  And I'm definitely spending more time on my relationships.  This is all part of the self-care thing I mentioned earlier this week.  It's a practice, and it's meant to be done daily.

Finally, I think the thing I try to do the most of everyday is job hunt.  I know this one sounds less fun than maybe the others did [if you're me and think things like calendars and to-do lists are super fun], but the point of my becoming unemployed was two-fold: So that I could find myself and my direction again, and also so that I could find a job that was better suited for me.  I think I've been a rockstar at spending time discovering this new path I'm on, but I also have to be practical.  I need full-time work.  The only way I'll get full-time work is to set aside time to look for it.

So I put that into my busy schedule too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Final Days of Summer

I know that summer doesn't technically end for another ten days, but I don't care.  I'm pining for it to be fall in the worst kind of way.  I've probably been driving all of my friends nuts over Pinterest since I've started populating my recently-created (and completely awesome) Fall and Winter Board.

Oh, yeah.  Believe it.

I just want it to be cold and rainy and crisp so badly.  I want the leaves to change color and crunch under my feet.   I want to wear boots and scarves and knit cardigans.  I want big family dinners and nights in front of a warm fire and Halloween decorations.  I want to sit in a cafe when it's gloomy outside and write to my heart's content.  I want to actually want the steaming mug of pumpkin spice latte I order from Starbucks, instead of just ordering it because it's there and, well, why wouldn't it?

I want the world to feel cozy again.  And new.  This is my mission in life: to make it as cozy as humanely possible.

I know that the fall usually signifies the slow slide into winter, when life generally hibernates and waits to renew in the spring.  But, for me, fall has always been about feeling refreshed and awake.  About celebrating what was and starting over again.  And being close to people.

Is it just me, or does the country seem friendlier during these last few months of the year?

I can't wait for the fall.  As I've said before, from October 1st through Christmas Day, I'm usually at my absolute happiest.  The only thing that can dampen this unbridled giddiness is the fact that, living in Northern California, we don't experience the fall as much as I'd like.  But I'll take a drive up into the Sierra's and take what I can get.

What's your favorite season?

[Photo source:]

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

[Girl♥Health]: Daily Motivation


Someone explain to me why I'm at my most motivated to exercise when exercise is the last thing my body is able to do.  Because for the past two solid months, I couldn't be bothered to go for a run or a swim.  I couldn't be bothered to even think about going for a run or a swim.

And now that I'm on my ass midway through the slow back recovery process (yay!), all I want to do is work out.  I can't sleep at night because I imagine all the ways I'll be superfrigginfit once I'm able.  I picture myself in cute Lululemon gear I don't own and can't afford, lacing up the new shoes I haven't been able to buy in six years, running down streets that are not in my neighborhood, and doing that for miles instead of the 1.5 miles that I can actually manage.

The hard part is getting this motivation to last until I'm able to do something about it.

[Photo source:]

Monday, September 10, 2012

Who I Should and Shouldn't Be

There's a girl woman in my life that I've been comparing myself to lately/again.  There's a lot of things that go into the backstory of why, but in essence I think it's because she's maybe what I hoped I'd be at this point in my life.  And I'm not.

She's feminine and soft and emotional and compassionate.  She drinks tea and does yoga and goes on meditation retreats and gardens.  She's folksy meets bohemian meets hipster.  She writes poetry and reads books about natural health and foods.  She loves to cook and she teaches and she has this personality that just screams, "Let me nurture you!"

She was ready, at a whole year younger than I am now, to get married and have her first child.

And I've been struggling with these comparisons.  Because I'm not sure I'm any of those things, but I think I should be.  I think, for some reason -- even though I know better -- that as a woman, those are the things I should be.

Instead, I'm not overly feminine, I'm rough around the edges, I struggle to allow myself to actually feel my emotions, and I worry that this well of compassion I used to see in myself has somehow been exhausted.  I hate tea because it has no flavor.  I can't bring myself to rest or quiet enough to practice yoga or to meditate.  And I've been trying to think of ways to kill my garden lately because of all the zucchini.  I don't know what my style is, I can't write poetry to save my life anymore, and I read romance novels instead of books on alternative health.  I think making an egg salad sandwich is a totally legit form of "cooking," and I'm not sure I have the patience or empathy to be nurturing.

But I recognize two things here: 1) None of these things are forever.  They can always be changed.  I can be whoever I want to be.  And 2) I've been concentrating so much on the ways that I find myself lacking lately, and this too is something I have the power to change.

They talk about self-love a lot over at Stratejoy, and one of big things mentioned is that self-love is a practice.  It's not something you decide to do one day and, BOOM!, all of sudden you wanna spend all day kissing yourself.  Self-love is something you work at.  It's the daily mantra reminding yourself that, "You are Enough."  It's the time taken out of a busy schedule to sit somewhere quiet and breathe.  It's the run through the woods in the early morning, or the bubble bath at the end of a long day.  It's the journal entry that helps to clear the mind, or the piece of chocolate before bed.  It's growing in the knowledge that being and loving yourself is the first step toward authentically showing up in your life.

See?  I know all these things.  I'm not a dumb person.  But the practice of it is so much easier said than done.  Still, I'm going to give it a go.  I'm going to try my hand at the things I've wanted to do but have never really given a fair shot, even though I beat myself up for not doing it them -- vicious, vicious cycle.  Things like yoga, and maybe meditation.  Natural health.  Allowing myself to feel my emotions as they come, rather than keeping them in to "deal" with them later.  Being vulnerable (one of the values I identified while working through the Joy Equation).  Trying to find the joy in cooking, because I know it must be in there somewhere.

And I'm going to try to tell myself that, regardless of whether those things become habits, who I am is okay.  I'm going to try to tell myself that the only person I should be is whoever I feel like being at a particular moment. 

I'm really going to try to stop comparing myself to others.

[Photo source:]

Thursday, September 6, 2012

[Girl♥Health]: The Tough Decisions

Earlier this week I talked about how one of the focuses of my Girl♥Health plan for the next year is to build and nurture a healthy back.  I want to be able to move, to accomplish the goals I set for myself, to do what I want.

This was never more true than it was over this past Labor Day weekend.

On Tuesday of last week, my back went out again.  When it does this, there's little I can do besides be in bed.  I can't sit for long periods, I can't stand for long periods, I even have a hard time rolling over.  If the movement has anything to do with my hips, lower back, or my entire friggin' spine, chances are I can't do it.

The big problem was that Nate and I were heading to Seattle over the long weekend for a wedding.

Seattle.  My favorite city in the U.S.  College friends, old haunts, PNW weather, water, mountains, EVERYTHING I LOVE.

So you can see my dilemma.

Do I stay in bed, where my back can heal, where I'm not pushing it to do more than it can, where I can be comfortable and in as little pain as possible?  Where I'll also be alone and bored and without internet (it went out on Friday, not to return until Monday) or boyfriend?

Or do I chance it?  Do I pray that my back is better by Friday night, or Saturday morning at the latest?  Do I get on that plane, sit for TWO WHOLE HOURS, get out and leave myself at the mercy of the group, hoping that our collective itinerary has enough time built in for me to lay down regularly and stretch my back out before I collapse?

The smart, back-health-conscious thing to do would have been to wish Nate a good time, stay home and rest up.  Sure, I'd be miserable (I'd probably cry a lot, as I do), but it's responsible.  It's reasonable.  It's what an adult would do.

So.  What did I do?


I said, screw it, packed my bags, and hightailed it up north.

On a scale of one to ten -- one being the base level intelligence of a dirt, and ten being the base level intelligence of a baboon -- my decision to go to Seattle probably places me somewhere in the vicinity of -15.  Because, as it turns out, I have a slipped disk.

Let me put this another way.  I spent an entire weekend walking, sitting, standing, moving, NOT LAYING DOWN, on a SLIPPED DISK.

And now I'm in pain.  Staring at my ceiling.  Again.

But (and this is a huge but), I would do it again.  In a heartbeat.

Why, you may ask?

Well, because I have this to show for it:

Sometimes, it's just worth it, you know?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Teacher's Girlfriend

As the long-time girlfriend of a teacher, the start of the school year fills me with not a little anticipation and anxiety.  It used to just mean the fall was here, that the bus would be packed once again in the mornings and afternoons, that stores would have amazing sales on office supplies.  Now, it means a whole different slew of things.

Being in his fifth year as an honors U.S. History and American Lit high school teacher (at his alma mater, in fact) in one of California's most dysfunctional school districts, Nate is both prepared and unable to prepare for whatever the next nine months may hold for him us.  Sure, his lesson plans are ready to go, he has healthy after-school routines in place so that he can separate work life from home life, and he goes to bed about two hours earlier on average.

But there's no way to plan for those pushy parents who believe their kids are going to write the next great American novel when they can barely string two sentences together.  There's no way to prepare for those entitled students who believe they can and should be able to cheat their ways into Ivy League schools.  There's no way to fortify your work against administrators who are just trying to shove their loads onto others so they can leave school early.  And in a school where the demographic has so drastically shifted over the past two years from being historically black to being predominantly white and middle- to upper-class, there's no way to insulate yourself against the race and class tensions which pervade the environment.

And as Nate's partner, there's even less I can do to help him.  I can accept that, with the school year starting, I now share him with more than a hundred other people, more than a hundred assignments he has to grade after he gets home at night.  I understand that our weekends consist of -- if we're lucky -- a Friday night date and a Saturday full of errands before he starts working again Sunday morning.  And I know that I'll worry about him when he can't sleep at night because of the stress, because the to-do lists and curricula won't stop running through his mind.

But it's never easy.

He does wonderful work -- and he's a fantastic teacher.  But his job isn't easy.  With more resources, a better teacher to student ratio, a cleaning up of both the district administrators and the teachers union, higher pay, a damn contract under which to work and argue for rights, maybe things would be better.

But until then, welcome back.  School is now in session.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

[Girl♥Health]: The Thought Behind the Plan

Now, I'm not a doctor or anything, but I think something may be wrong with my back.

Just a hunch.

Things have been mostly fine since the last time I messed up my back alignment.  Maybe I've had a few aches and pains, but I haven't been laid up again until now.  In the last few weeks, there has just been more activity happening -- dancing at weddings, carrying heavy luggage, minimizing my belongings, going on 9-mile hikes, taking road trips, sleeping on uncomfortable beds.  I also haven't been stretching on a daily basis at all.  And now I'm paying the price.

I've been lying in bed staring at the ceiling for what feels like forever.

So as I start to plan out a new exercise regimen (because what else can you do when you're unable to move?), I think I should focus on one or two things: a main goals I hope to accomplish, and back health.

The Goal(s)
I actually have three goals that I hope this exercise plan with allow me to accomplish.

Goal #1 is bring my cholesterol down.  As I mentioned before, the last time I went to the doctor and had my cholesterol checked, it was high.  Scary high.  I was told that, unless I could lower it on my own, my doctor would recommend that I begin taking cholesterol medication.  She gave me this warning because doctors tend to not want to use this type of medication on women of child-bearing age since it has a tendency of making it difficult -- if not impossible -- for those women to have children.

I want children one day, so I want my cholesterol to be at a healthy level -- according to my doctor -- by the end of 2013.

Goal #2 is to run the 10k at the Dawg Dash next year.  I can't do it this year because I'm nowhere near in-shape enough, and I already have a job-related commitment that same weekend, so I'm looking ahead.  I'm hoping to run the entire 10k, which means I'll probably want to get in one or two 5k's as training runs before the Dawg Dash itself.

Why this particular run?  Because I'm a Husky!  Go Dawgs!

(Okay, yes, I know that was completely nerdy.)

Goal #3 is to hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail.  I'm reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed right now, so that's where the idea came from.  And I've been wanting to see the High Sierra's, but haven't felt in-shape or brave enough to make the trek.  I obviously don't want to do the entire PCT -- because that would be crazy -- nor do I want to do it alone (I think I've already convinced a friend to do it with me, but if anyone else is interested, let me know!), but I'd like to backpack along it for a few days.  I'd like to be fit enough to have the confidence to do that.

My goal is for this to happen next summer (or whenever the best conditions are -- I haven't done my research yet).

Back Health
Finally, I really have to figure out a way to manage my back because this just can't keep happening.  As you've just read, I have goals, man!  I have things I want to do, and I need a healthy back in order to do those things.  I can't have my back taken out by a mostly-flat 9 mile hike if I want to be able to do part of the PCT and live to tell the tale.

The problem is that I'm just not sure of my limits yet.  I know I can't lift heavy things -- but how heavy is too heavy?  I know I can't bend past a certain point -- but where is that point?  And does this mean I can't do pilates or yoga?  I didn't think sitting for long periods would effect me -- but am I wrong?  And will my hips always hurt after short hikes?  Does this mean I can't accomplish my PCT goal?

These are all things I need to figure out (read: ask my chiropractor) as I create this plan.

I also need to start stretching and strengthening my back daily.  To do that, here are some chiropractor-recommended stretches that I'm going to be incorporating into my daily routine:
  • Hamstring stretch: holding for 10 seconds; 4 times on each side
  • Hip rotator stretch: holding for 10 seconds; 4 times on each side
  • Knee-to-chest stretch: holding for 10 seconds; 4 times on each side
  • Quadriceps stretch: holding for 10 seconds; 4 times on each side
  • Prone press-up: holding for 10 seconds; 4 times
  • Partial curl-up (or crunch): 10 times
  • The bridge: holding for 1 second; 15 times
  • Wall slide: holding for 10 seconds; 4 times
It's a lot to think about, a lot to plan for.

But it's also a lot to look forward to.
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