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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A different kind of journal.

About two years ago, I stumbled across Jenny Firth's journal work while wasting time on Pinterest.  I was totally captivated by her artwork (she makes it look so easy!) and felt like I found a kindred spirit in someone who loved to doodle in their planner.  A long-time fan of the planner, I often find myself writing encouraging words or making small, simple doodles, but never anything as intricate as Jenny does.  Maybe someday...

While poking around on her website, I found her gratitude journal work.  I'm not sure when I first heard about a gratitude journal, but the concept is pretty simple: you devote your pages and entries to things you are grateful for in life.  Her pages are beautiful, intricate illustrations of the things she is grateful for - you can see a recent one here - but it can be something as simple as making a list.  I was intrigued by this idea, and started to do some research on it to see what the general guidelines would be, and the most common suggestion is to do set aside time each day (usually at the beginning or the end) and write five things you are grateful for that day.  It can be something as simple as the cup of tea you just had, or more elaborate like overcoming an obstacle or achieving something, or even just that the sun was out.

Ultimately, the idea is to encourage an environment of gratitude each day, regardless of how good or bad things can be.  One school of thought is that if you do this, if you spend each day writing five things you're grateful for, after a certain amount of time you will be a generally happier person than when you started, and you will automatically become accustomed to recognizing the things you are grateful for, whatever they may be.

I strongly doubted this, not because I'm a non-believer, but mostly because there wasn't concrete evidence to confirm it.  Regardless, I jumped on board, because hey, who couldn't stand to practice being more grateful?  As of today, I've been doing this consistently for a little over two weeks.  Like any other Tuesday, I got up this morning, a little tired but otherwise fine, and settled into getting to work.  I jumped on the phone with a friend for a good 45 minutes, just playing catch up, and afterwards, the craziest thing happened.

I was hit with a ton of gratitude bricks.

That is the only way I can accurately describe it.  It was like a cloud was lifted, and I was suddenly re-energized, emotional, thankful - all of these emotions all at once - and deep down, totally grateful.  Grateful for a healthy life, for amazing family and friends, for a gloomy cool Tuesday morning, for everything.  I started putting together a meal in the crockpot and found myself thinking, 'I am so grateful I bought chicken a few weeks ago and froze the extra so I could make soup today.'  I mean, I literally thought it.  Insane.

I'm not saying that I am going to wake up every day feeling this way, because I think that's unrealistic this early on in this journey.  But the feeling I had this morning, that came totally out of left field, was so wonderful, I wanted to bottle it up and ship it to all of my friends.  I'm pretty convinced its come just from focusing on the good, rather than the bad, even if its only five things a day.  I'm looking forward to seeing how else it manifests in my life, as I'm sure this won't be the last time I'll feel like a ball of gracious energy.

If you have considered starting a gratitude journal, I highly encourage it.  I picked out a simple leather journal from Target, and set aside time at the end of each day (right before I get ready for bed and usually while I have a cup of tea) to write.  Sometimes they're long sentences, sometimes its just a list.  Often I have to sit and really think through my day and reflect, but even then, I always find something, even if its literally being grateful for being able to actually write.  I find myself looking forward to it and picking up on things throughout the day that probably would have passed me by before.  Its a wonderful tool and I'm really grateful (see?!) that I started working on it.

What are you grateful for today?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Challenge: Pile on the Miles (and hopefully not the pounds)

Last week, Jillian mentioned she was joining the Pile on the Miles challenge, and the concept totally intrigued me - pick a total goal of miles (or minutes) you want to walk/run in the month of November, set your goal, and return to the blog to keep yourself accountable.  Since I do far better with goal setting and challenge than I do with arbitrarily going for a run or doing pushups, this seems like its feasible.  Bonus: its not even competitive, its just focusing on yourself and your goals.  I picked a goal of 31 miles, one for each day, plus a bonus for good luck, very well knowing that I most likely won't get out and do a mile each day, and I'll certainly have miles built in when we head to San Francisco for Thanksgiving, but it will give me something to work towards.  It'll be nice to watch those numbers creep up throughout the month!

Speaking of numbers, we spent Saturday at the Breeders Cup.  We went to Santa Anita earlier this year, on a much cooler and less busy day, and had a great time, so when the Breeders Cup rolled around, we jumped right on the bandwagon.  I've always wanted to go to Saratoga or to the Kentucky Derby, put on a pretty dress, wear a big crazy hat and drink mint juleps.  (I should mention here that I hate whiskey and have never actually had a mint julep, so the likelihood of me enjoying one is pretty slim, but when in Rome, right?)  Since we're only about half an hour from Santa Anita, the Breeders Cup felt like a surefire way to curb my imaginary, Southern-comfort itch.

We had a great time, despite my severe wardrobe malfunction right before we left.  (Note to self: try on dress to make sure it fits still before trying to force yourself into it and busting the zipper.)  It was hot, it was crowded, and I picked a pair of shoes that I've only worn once, and only for about twenty minutes, and there is a reason for that.  (Thank goodness for a life-saving girlfriend with spare flipflops in her clutch, and the foresight to pack a pair of flats 'just in case.')  I also had some not-so-wonderful run ins with belligerent "gentlemen" and witnessed far too many revelers being carried out by their friends.  However, despite all of those things, spending the day with great friends was wonderful, and my $2 bet on the winning horse on the last race netted me a whopping $8 which I prompted spent on a cup of tea for the ride home.  Perspective, people.

I fully intended to get out to yoga yesterday morning, but I woke up with my feet barely functioning, thanks to the aforementioned poor shoe choice, so I took it as a sign for a rest day.  Even though I was enjoying laying around on the couch, I did notice that I felt a slight twinge of disappointment that I couldn't even get out for a quick jaunt around the neighborhood.  (The shoes also left me with the largest blister I've ever had... ever.  I'd donate these bad boys but I would hate for someone else to get just as much pain out of them!)  I don't know if I've ever felt bad for not getting in a workout, so perhaps the winds are finally changing and I'm becoming a little more fitness inclined?  We shall see.  With the time change, it should be easier to get out of bed this week to finally get back to T/W/Th early morning yoga classes, and I may boogie my way back to belly dancing Thursday night.  Does an hour of belly dancing count as a mile of walking or running?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bold Moves October: one step at a time.

I finally got around to taking that belly dancing class last week, and totally intended on writing about it, but each time I sat down to do so, all of the basic elements were the same - fun. concentration. sweaty.

Last night, as I deleted yet another draft about belly dancing, I came across a video of a guy who was determined to hold his handstand for three seconds.  I think there are two types of yogis in this world - those of which handstands come very naturally, and then the rest of us, like me and this guy, who struggle with it because we have no arm strength, or we freak out once we're up there, or we convince ourselves we can't do it.  Yoga teachers say you'll get there eventually - it is a practice, after all - but its hard to ignore your ego when you've been at this for a few weeks and you're still falling down like a baby trying to walk, except it hurts more because you're getting older.  But one day, like some kind of miracle, you'll do that handstand.  Yoga is crazy like that.

A little over a week ago, on a very bright Sunday morning, I woke up earlier than I wanted to.  Not wanting to get out of bed, I turned on my phone to find a message from my mom with just the words "call me."  Knowing something serious had happened, I called her immediately, expecting all of the worst things when you have an ailing grandparent, a sister in high school, a cat that has used up her 9 lives and then some.  It was none of those things.

Our twenty year old neighbor was in a terrible motorcycle accident.  As of today, he has lost both legs below the knee, after many days of wondering if the second knee would hold.  A guy who was studying to become a state trooper and spent his summers surfing and his winters snowboarding, he is, by all accounts, in good spirits, and determined to do all of the things he did before.  He's being moved to the same rehab that the Boston Marathon bombing victims were patients at, and my neighborhood is rallying and supporting in whatever way they can.

When I think about our friendship, it is a flurry of interesting moments - crazy nor'easters where we'd both be outside shoveling and snowblowing ours and our neighbors' driveways and sidewalks; walking him around the school he'd end up attending, and taking him to my favorite wing spot for dinner after; visiting his family's beach house and me, totally wiping out on the skim board, while he mastered it gracefully.  Its strange to think that so many of those things that seem normal and uneventful will now become events in his life once again.  He'll face many challenges and have a whole new future of firsts - walking, running, surfing - and it will no doubt be a long road, but I have zero doubt that he will succeed.  He just has that kind of attitude.

Looking at this guy, who is determined to hold that handstand, and our neighbor, who is just determined to walk again... its a lesson in patience.  Practice.  Accepting that wanting to overcome this obstacle is half the battle.  Each time that I try to get into my down dog, or my hand stand, and get frustrated, I have to remember that a year from now this will be easier.  A year from now I will be able to do this and will move on to the next challenge.  If these two guys, one a stranger and one not, can overcome a challenge, then so can I.  I just have to take it one step at a time.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bold Moves October: just do it.

Back in the spring, I was eager to get out of our hiking rut.  There are so many great places to hike in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, but it can sometimes feel a little daunting to pick a new route, especially if the research you do says "its an easy hike" and afterwards you feel like you just climbed Everest.  (This happens to me more often than I would like.)  Since we live so close to Griffith Park which is filled with trails, we finally settled on a hike I read about that sounded easy.  3ish miles, "rolling hills" and being able to stand at the absolute top of the park with a 360 view of LA.

The first time we did this hike, we admittedly got a little lost as first, and we ended up doing the "easy" part - practically zero inclines, relatively short (maybe about a mile, mile and a half) - and I felt like I was dying.  It didn't help that the path had zero shade and it was 80 degrees.  We realized afterwards that this could not have been the hike we had intended to do (even though I was perfectly happy with it) and vowed to give it another shot.

The next time we tried it, I brought my MapMyFitness app along to log distance/pacing/etc.  It ended up being an almost 4 mile hike that took about an hour and a half, with an elevation of over 600 feet.  When I look at the elevation map that MapMyFitness gave me it looks like a slow incline up and a slow incline down, but let me tell you, it does NOT feel that way.  Its more like steep incline, plateau, steep incline, plateau, like whoever built this path realized that some people will need to take a breather or two.  The day we did the whole thing, it was crazy hot, and my post-hike headache came roaring on even before we made it halfway down.  I felt awful afterwards - nauseated, overheated, and about ready to chalk it up to a loss.  Yes, I did it, but instead of feeling like a conquered the world, I instead felt like I had come down with the flu.  No fun.

C has still been doing this hike pretty often, and I ended up tagging along, only to bow out of the big hike and only doing the shorter, easier one, making sure I did an out and back and paced in a few 1 min runs here and there to make it worth my while.  I hadn't been feeling well all that week and knowing how I felt the last time?  Wasn't interested.  Yet as we left the park, I sort of felt like I hadn't made enough of an effort.

This past weekend, he was up for it again, and I decided that I was going to do the whole she-bang.  I hydrated like crazy the morning of, bought a few Vitamin Waters for post-hike rehydration, and made sure I wore my Red Sox hat this time.  Even though I stopped a few times, C remarked that he felt I stopped WAY less than the last time I did this hike, and kept up a faster pace.  (Unfortunately I forgot to use my MapMyFitness app, so I have zero proof.)  Normally while hiking, I find myself seriously huffing and puffing up the steeper inclines, and taking longer to catch my breath, just to go through the cycle all over again.  This time, however, it felt like my recovery was quicker, my legs burned less, and even better, I had ZERO post-hike headache.  Say what!?

I'm not sure if there is any one thing to point to as my success - I'm finally getting back on the yoga mat tonight after an awful 2 week hiatus, I haven't done that hike in MONTHS, and the only thing different this time was the fact that I was wearing a hat - but whatever it is, I'm glad it happened.  At a time where I was really not feeling a hike, or anything active, I felt like I overcame a huge obstacle, both physically and personally.  And, not to sound cheesy, but after an epic 10 second Patriots touchdown and a Big Papi grand slam yesterday, I'm going into this week feeling a little bit more eager to take on some challenges, and, you know, make some bold moves.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bold Moves October: paying it forward.

Our power went out at 4:30 am this morning.  Ever have that happen in a large apartment building?  If you have, you've probably noticed that the emergency exit signs give off a high pitched, consistent noise that needs to be manually shut off.  When your onsite manager is out of the country and has someone temporarily taking her place, that doesn't happen right away, which means you've probably been awake since 4:30.  Or at least, I have.


In addition to that, I had to get bloodwork done this morning at 9 am, which meant no eating or drinking anything - not that I could have, because the power was still out - but it meant my crankiness was in overload.

When I got to the office, there was only one open parking spot, and I saw it long after I passed it.  I quickly turned around, but by the time I got back to it and put my directional on, another woman had pulled up.  She took one look at me, one look at the spot, and took it.

I immediately became crazy annoyed, shooting dirty looks in her direction, until I realized a spot had opened up three cars away.  Had I taken a deep breath and recognized that she knew this before I did, and therefore knew I'd have a parking spot, all would have been well.  But I didn't.  I fumed and fumed, and then passing her in the walkway, made a not-so-nice remark, which I immediately regretted but was too embarassed to face.  I went to my appointment and spent the entire time feeling so utterly guilty and awful for behaving such a way.  Was she a total stranger and did her opinion matter?  Yes and no.  But when you're trying to put good energy into the world and you're a work in progress, sometimes you slip.

On my way back to my car, I realized she hadn't left yet, so I quickly grabbed a piece of paper, wrote a very quick "I'm sorry, bad day, you were right, hope this covers your parking, have a great day", stuck a few bills inside the folded up paper, and popped it on her windshield.  First step?  Admitting I'm wrong.  Second step?  Trying to rectify... well, sort of.

On my way home, assuming our power wasn't back on (which it wasn't), I got in the crazy long Starbucks drive thru line, desperate for a latte.  When I approached the window to pay, I asked the barista if I could add value to my Starbucks card and then pay for my drink, and he said he'd be happy to add the value, but my drink was already paid for.

Say what?!

Turns out, today Starbucks started their Pay it Forward program, and the woman in front of me bought me my latte.  The barista asked if I'd like to keep it going, and I said absolutely!  (I used to do this religiously while driving to camp every weekend by paying the toll fare for the car behind me, before EZ Pass was invented.)  He mentioned I was the 6th car in a row to do this, and he was interested to see how long that chain could last.  The other barista working with him was totally jazzed to hear another customer had participated, and it was so wonderfully refreshing to see people championing such kind acts, especially in an industry that can sometimes be more demeaning than rewarding.

When I got home, I realized I spent the entire drive beaming, not because of my free latte, but because I bought a total strange breakfast.  When facing a bad day or things that can be annoying, its hard to remember that elation that comes from random acts of kindness.  So today's #BMO?  Paying it forward, and remembering to do it often.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bold Moves October: better late than never!

I have been severely unmotivated lately.  It started with not feeling well, which caused me to miss a few yoga classes, and then it snowballed from there, and its been driving me nuts.  I finally took a step in the right direction last night and made a new recipe (easy one skillet lasagna; its so easy and SO good) and bought art supplies over the weekend, so I am slowly (but very surely!) trying to motivate myself to do anything.

Last night, as I was scrolling through my blog feed and keeping my fingers crossed for a Dodger win, I came across a post regarding Bold Moves October.  I am probably the last person on the planet to be aware of any sort of blog-related movement, but the post in question was about allowing yourself to say no so that you can open up space for more joy, and I was intrigued.  Doing a little digging this morning, I came across the source, and now that I've read a lot of entries, I am totally into it.  I love the idea of challenging oneself - I've always loved a challenge - and facing a fear or an anxiety and really noticing, what is the big deal?  What is the worst that could happen?

Everyone has definitive regrets in their life.  I do my best to not focus on the things I should have done, but rather the things I can control moving forward, but sometimes you get stuck in the downward spiral of "why didn't I study abroad? why didn't I reapply for that position?"  And, even in the face of knowing you may regret NOT doing something, it can sometimes be difficult to find self-motivation to do it in the first place.  This kind of daily challenge is exactly what I needed, when I needed it.  (Again, I say - ask the Universe, and you shall recieve!)

I have made a few choices recently that I'd consider bold moves, but for starters here, I'll mention that I'm planning on going to my first belly dancing class Thursday night.  I've never been to a belly dancing class, and thought about going last week, but totally chickened out.  And for what?  What is the worst that could happen?  I make a fool out of myself? I do that on a regular basis - at least I'll be burning some calories while doing it!

I'll keep track of my progress and am interested to see what comes out of this crazy little experiment.  After all, as the rules say, the first week will be harrowing and the last will be enlightening, and I could use a little enlightenment.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Blogtember: Put the phone away.

Saturday night, we went to the LA County Fair.  I've never been, but my idea of a county fair is the local on back east - dirt field, carnival rides, fried dough, and weather that necessitates a sweater and a knit hat.  Imagine my surprise when we arrived at the LACF ("the largest county fair in the world," C reminded me,) to a Disneyland-esque parking situation, complete with a tram to the entrance, and tons and tons of people.  (And 80 degree weather.)

I decided that before we went, I would take one or two pictures with my phone, but that was it.  No checking it to see if I got a random text message, no scrolling through my news feed, nothing.  In the past few months I've really been feeling like my phone is such a cop out, and Louie C.K.'s recent discussion on Conan that's gone viral has really, really gotten me thinking about it.  (Here's a great yoga-centric post about it from YogaDork.)  I originally planned on having phone detox Sundays, but that became a problem when football season started and I needed to keep an eye on my Fantasy score.  I then decided that I'd just ixnay the phone usage after 6 pm on Sundays, substantially easier now that Breaking Bad is almost over and most of my news feed are east coast watchers.  (Yet, that said, Breaking Bad IS ALMOST OVER and that means after next Sunday I'll need to find a new excuse.)

While we were at the fair, I did only take a few pictures, including cute bunnies who were snuggling together in their pen, and a photo and video of C bungee jumping (BUNGEE JUMPING!).  I managed to avoid Facebook altogether, and unsuccessfully tried to post a photo to Instagram.  I noticed I was much more aware of what was going on, how I was feeling, and what we were doing, so much so that now, three days later, I'm still remembering details that I would have definitely forgotten by now had I been engrossed in my phone.

The irony is not lost on me that last night I got to a chapter in Yeah Dave's "Living in the Moment" about the exact same thing.  The idea that time you enjoy wasting isn't actually wasting time.  (Or something like that.)  In a society where we equate productivity with success, its easy to fall into the 'I have to check my email, I have to call this person, I have to do this thing,' to feel like we've accomplished something.  Take it from me - my office phone is an iPhone and it pretty much follows me wherever I go, so no wonder I've been contemplating running away to a cabin in the woods with a bunch of books and no internet in sight.  But some of the best moments in life are truly the ones where we stop to take in what's around us, what's happening, and how we're feeling.  And that can be scary.

My summers spent in Maine used to be like this.  When we first started camping there, I'm pretty sure they didn't have wifi yet, and I certainly didn't have a cell phone or a laptop.  Days meant going for long bike rides, reading by the lake (one weekend I read 4 books, and I still remember doing it!) and playing cards on the picnic table.  Even in the more recent years, when I did have a smartphone, it was far easier for me to ignore it in that environment.  It meant I was out making memories and spending time with people I cared about, rather than taking photos of said memories to then post to the world.

The more this lesson keeps popping up in my 'sphere, the more I become aware that I miss the days where smartphones didn't exist.  Sure, its a great tool in many ways, and by no means am I regretting having one.  (The paranoid 'what if there's an emergency?' part of me outwins that battle every time.)  But I am going to be much more cognizant about how much of those calm, quiet moments I waste scrolling my news feed or playing Tetris.  One of my favorite things to do on Saturday mornings post-yoga is to open our balcony door, listen to the birds, and drink a cup of coffee in silence.  I just need to remember that feeling whenever I feel the 'grab the phone' itch.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Blogtember: A skeptical ESFJ

Last week I mentioned that some of the Blogtember posts have REALLY been hitting home.  When you ask the Universe for some guidance, it will give you guidance, just in ways you don't quite see, and today's prompt is no joke.

A little back story: a few weeks ago, C and I went to dinner with a good friend of mine and her good friend, who I had met once before.  We had a really great conversation over dinner which lead to her recommending to me a book called "Do What You Are".  She mentioned that she had been in a job for years that she was, for the most part, happy doing, but something was off, and lo and behold, this book showed that her personality was ill fitted for the work she was doing, and it totally changed her perspective on careers and jobs.  She recommended I check it out, take the personality test, and see where it guides me.  I bought the book used on Amazon, and have slowly been working through it the past few weeks.  Let me tell you, figuring out your personality is not black and white!

I mentioned this book to Jillian last week, and then had to laugh when I saw that today's prompt was taking an online version of the personality test.  What are the odds?!

Here are my results:

Extravert(44%)  Sensing(12%)  Feeling(62%)  Judging(56%)
  • You have moderate preference of Extraversion over Introversion (44%)
  • You have slight preference of Sensing over Intuition (12%)
  • You have distinctive preference of Feeling over Thinking (62%)
  • You have moderate preference of Judging over Perceiving (56%)
Before I go into details, what I find really humorous about this is that when I first took the test via the book, I thought I was one personality type.  Then, as the book suggests, I looked at the things that I was more or less halfway on (Sensing/Intuition, Judging/Perceiving) and swapped sides, and looked at that personality, and thought it was mostly fitting but not 100%.  I read both types to two friends, looking for their input, and both said, without a doubt, I was type #2, which shocked me.  I take the personality test online and lo and behold, type #2.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Guardians of birthdays, holidays and celebrations, ESFJs are generous entertainers. They enjoy and joyfully observe traditions and are liberal in giving, especially where custom prescribes.

Uh, yeah.  As my family and close friends know, my birthday is celebrated all March long.  I love all holidays as well, and can easily turn anything into a celebration.  (I went to yoga today? Celebratory cronuts for everyone!)

  • ESFJs enjoy being in charge. They see problems clearly and delegate easily, work hard and play with zest. ESFJs, as do most SJs, bear strong allegiance to rights of seniority. They willingly provide service (which embodies life's meaning) and expect the same from others.

There is a reason why I was president of my high school Student Council.  This would also explain my desire to be involved in committees and groups.
  • An ESFJ at odds with self is a remarkable sight. When a decision must be made, especially one involving the risk of conflict (abhorrent to ESFJs), there ensues an in-house wrestling match between the aforementioned black-and-white Values and the Nemesis of Discord. The contender pits self against self, once firmly deciding with the Right, then switching to Prudence to forestall hostilities, countered by unswerving Values, ad exhaustium, winner take all.

In lamens terms, I really struggle with deciding where to go out to eat on a weekly basis. I am my own worst enemy.

My journey on discovering my personality and learning my strengths and weaknesses has been really fascinating.  I'm taking is super slow with the book, often rereading sections or chapters to make sure I'm really understanding things, and its been enlightening.  It has also helped me recognize personality traits in others, and helped me slowly become much more understanding and empathetic.  If you haven't taken the online test, I highly recommend it.  Totally worth your time.

Now, what to eat for lunch...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Blogtember: 3 months.

*I have been 100% slacking already on Blogtember.  Not the best start, right?  I've felt uninspired, but the whole point of Blogtember is to follow the prompts so I don't have to muster up the energy and figure out what to write.  So, be ready for me to attempt to pay catch up.  (Yes, I get that's kind of anti-Blogtember, but there are so many great prompts, I don't want to miss out!)

Do you ever have one of those moments where a friend will bring up a topic to you, and you've totally been thinking about it for a while, and it feels sort of like kismet that (s)he mentions it at all?  This is sort of how I feel about today's Blogtember prompt, on how I would spend 3 months off from from life.  I've spent a lot - A LOT - of time lately ruminating over what I'd be doing if I could do anything (dream big, kids!) and when Jenni at SoML posted her Blogtember prompts, I laughed when I saw that day 2 was exactly what I had been thinking about.

First and foremost, I'd travel.  Another cross country road trip, starting with Yosemite, then criss-crossing down to New Orleans, and back up the east coast to see family.

Then I'd look this fear of flying square in the face, and go to Ireland; sit in pubs all day and drink and make friends, go on long walks, and buy a bunch of wool scarves to ship back to California that I'll never get to wear (but will always be a fun reminder.)  I'd then make my way back to London for a redux; last time I was there, I was 10, and got homesick and got sent home early.  I have some catching up to do... which is really just code for shopping at Harrods.  I'd then make my way to Paris, FINALLY, and drink wine with every meal and people watch.  I may even skip the Louvre and instead run the Champs Elysees.

Then, Italy.  Lots and lots of Italy.  Florence, Rome, Tuscany, Cinque Terre.  Writing, eating, taking pictures... do you see a pattern here?

Besides the reading, eating, writing and photograph taking, I'd also do my damnedest to detox on the social media front.  I've already been attempting Sunday detoxing (which is now going to be difficult to maintain with fantasy football season) because I think I just spend too much of my free time checking in on everyone else and not in on myself.  What more could I accomplish in the minutes or hours a day I spend checking my phone?  A lot, I think.

Could I live three months without Facebook and Instagram?  Well, maybe Facebook..

Monday, August 26, 2013

Upside down.

I've never done a cartwheel.  Not once.  Not even as a kid.  I've never been able to.

I was always jealous of my friends who seemed to, so naturally, be able to flip themselves over.  You totally take for granted your flexibility and resilience as a kid, and your lack of fear.  But the one thing that always scared me was flipping myself over.  My best friend even took me to her trampoline one day to try and teach me how, and I totally freaked out and faceplanted on the trampoline.  There was just no way I was getting my feet over my head on purpose.

C has been waking up early 2-3 days a week to attend a morning hatha class at our yoga studio, and comes back not only totally energized but enthusiastic about the class and the instructor, Nathan.  When I saw that Nathan was subbing for the Sunday morning vinyasa class, I figured it was the best time to see what all the raving was about.  I normally like to sit in the back of the class, but C encouraged me to pull my mat right up front with his, as Nathan encourages everyone to sit up front - and he echoed this sentiment by calling us all 'valedictorians' while the back of the class were the kids who 'smoked under the bleachers', totally joking of course.

I don't have a lot of upper body strength, so I'm always struggling with my down dog.  I've gotten better, mostly because I've just been practicing at home, but for a while it was an ego battle - I'd get frustrated in class that I couldn't hold it and then would feel embarrassed that I'd have to get into childs pose to recover, even when every yoga instructor I've had has always said to 'honor your practice and body' and do whatever feels right.  Because of this, many of my first yoga classes were emotional ones, and it drove me crazy.  I'm supposed to come out of yoga feeling peaceful and energized, not pouting!

For whatever reason, this weekend was the first time where I overcame that feeling.  Maybe it was the environment, maybe it was new perspective that came from heartbreaking news earlier in the week (more on that later), I don't know.  What I do know is that I was feeling comfortable and not frustrated, which then lead to this:


Headstands, my friends.  If you think my fear of doing a cartwheel is silly, imagine how I must feel when it comes to headstands.  I have opted out of this portion of many a yoga class, simply because there is no freakin' way I'm going to put my feet up over my head.  I don't have the upper body strength - I can't even hold myself up during down dog!  And you want me to do what?

Because I was the only new person in this class, Nathan casually called me out by asking if anyone in the class had never done a headstand before, and I raised my hand.  (I only realized afterwards that I was literally the only student he had never taught, and therefore he already knew the answer.  Sneaky.)  While he started going through the prep steps to a headstand, I sat on my mat immediately thinking "nope, no, no way," while figuring out a polite way to refuse this man's encouragement without seeming like a total brat.  Then, to add to the pressure encouragement, he went over to C and asked him to demonstrate.  (He's well aware we're in a relationship, so he totally knew what he was doing when asking this!)  C had just shown me his headstand the day before, and I knew he could do it, but was proud and impressed nonetheless when he got up there and didn't need any support.  Applause was all around.

I got into my prep work and after visiting with other students, Nathan came by to check on me.  "How are you feeling?  Is this easy?" and I let out a tiny fit of laughter.  I knew I was totally resistant to doing this, yet here I was, prepping like I was actually going to do it, which I found hilarious.  He left me alone, wandered around to other students, and then finally came back.  "Want to try?" he asked, and I must have said okay, because the next thing I knew, I had one leg up in his hands, then the other, and then I was inverted.  When the realization hit me that I was doing something that I had been completely afraid of, I let out an instinctual, small yelp, which everyone around me laughed at.  He gave me pointers (feet straight, bring in the ribs, bring in the ribs) and encouragement, and after a few seconds, let me down, and everyone applauded.  I couldn't believe it.  I did a headstand!  What the hell?!

I came out of that class beaming with energy and excitement, feeling totally motivated to keep going.  When I mentioned to C that I was so proud of myself (something that I rarely feel) he mentioned that Nathan was barely holding me, and I really was holding the majority of my weight, when I was convinced Nathan was holding me up.

It is one thing to overcome a challenge and to feel proud for doing so, but another to overcome a fear.  To be able to come out on the other side and say "that wasn't so bad" or even "I want to do it again!" (which I totally do) is HUGE.  C mentioned that I tend to have a mentality of "I can't do this" rather than "I can't do this today", and the difference between the two is astounding.  Accepting that you can't do something at this moment changes its meaning - you no longer are telling yourself no, you're just telling yourself later, which are the small building blocks to going from "I can't do this" to "I will do this someday."  Although I definitely couldn't get my feet up on the wall for a hand stand this time, Nathan's quiet "next week" response was encouragement that it will happen eventually, which is a lesson in patience and acceptance that has slowly started rooting itself in my being.  How does that saying go?  Courage is saying, 'I will try again tomorrow'?

Something like that.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Return on investment

My yoga studio has a program called the 100 Exclusive, which offers some pretty amazing deals for the first 100 students to sign up.  I had been eyeing the deal of $75 a month for unlimited yoga since my first week at the studio, but kept debating.  At the time, I had just bought a month unlimited and was unsure of whether it would even pay for itself. (I don't know if you've figured it out yet, but I tend to be non-committal to certain things...)

Anyway, my month ran up last week and I spent the next 7 days going back and forth.  Although it may not seem like a lot, right now, $75 is an investment for me financially.  It's 3 nights out to eat; its 3 movies (ugh, I hate even saying that); its chairs for our neglected balcony; its 3/4ths of a day at Disneyland.  I've been trying to be better about "impulse" shopping, and allowing myself to sleep on something before buying it, regardless of what it is.  I slept on this for SEVEN days.  SEVEN!

I finally decided that I was going to let the universe guide me with this.  I was in desperate need of some restorative, so I made a plan that I'd go to restorative Tuesday night, and on my way in, inquire about the $75 deal.  If it was available, I'd sign up.  If it wasn't, I'd buy a series (way less of a deal) and chalk it up to the fact that the universe did not deem me ready.

The owner was actually working the desk when I arrived, and I introduced myself.  I asked about the deal, and he said there was just a few spots left.  I immediately signed up, and we began talking about the studio.  I mentioned that financials are all relative, but $75 a month is definitely an investment on my end, but I felt really good about it, and I was committing.  He gave me a high five and said, "you are going to see a return on this investment throughout everything in your life."  And it is 100% true.  It may not be instantaneous, and it may take practice (after all, that's what yoga is) but it will certainly come back to me in ways I probably can't even imagine.  That's what an investment is after all, right?  Something you will see results from weeks, months or years down the road.

For $75 I'm on board to see just what those returns are.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The 'a-ha!' moment. Or, why yoga is kind of amazing.

I've always been a true believer that the universe works its magic in mysterious ways. I wouldn't say I'm new-age crazy, but I have asked the universe for things and it has given them to me, so I can at least say that personally, that crazy stuff works.  I also think that, in times of need, whether we are aware or not, the universe gives us signs or perhaps lessons that'll help us out.

This past weekend's two yoga classes were very, very clear examples of this.

Saturday morning, I went to an early hatha class, which may very well be my new favorite kind of yoga (next to restorative, or as my yogi called it, 'creative naptime').  As I've mentioned before, the instructor is a big fan of having the class ask questions, and trying to relate whatever the answers are to our practice for the day.  I don't remember the question that was asked, but Saturday's class was all about change.

Here is the basic explanation: the only constant, from the time we are born until the time we die, is breathing.  Everything else is changing, and changing constantly.  When you go to bed at night, you are one person, and when you wake up, you are a different person.  You could look at it biologically - your cells are getting older as each second goes past.  You could look at it logically - I was tired last night, I went to sleep, and now I am not tired, therefore, change!  Whether we're aware of it or not, we are always changing, and if we fight the change, if we try to walk against the tide, we're just causing ourselves suffering, and the whole point of yoga (and the meaning of life) is to find and sustain joy.  See the circle here?  I'm not doing a great job of explaining it, but just go with me on this one.

I very much try to take the lessons I learn in yoga and incorporate them on a day to day basis, as they are important and truly have given me a lot of perspective, but sometimes... sometimes it is easy to forget them.  But this lesson I haven't forgotten.  I mean, look!  It's Thursday, and I'm still yammering on about breathing being a constant and I'm a different person today and yada yada yada, right?  Obviously it hit home.

This lesson was brought back up during my Sunday morning vinyasa class, and I wondered if the instructors had some sort of pow-wow where they were like, "here's this week's theme!"  Perhaps.  Either way, keeping that mentality has helped me cope with a lot of things this week, and I'm very grateful for the universe for bringing me this lesson.

What is the best lesson the map has taught you?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The meaning of life!

I managed to make it to yoga again last night, this time for an all-levels hatha class.  (Two days in a row? Holla!) I had no idea what to expect, so I went into it ready to just dive into whatever we were doing, despite still being super sore from Sunday.

It was a great class that was slow moving with more focus on finding your breathing rhythm.  The instructor, David, had an approach that I thought was really interesting - he wanted us to ask questions.  Not just metaphysical "what's the meaning of life" type stuff (although he did answer that, spoiler alert, its sustained joy!) but also things like "why does my back hurt?" and "is it normal that my knee makes that weird popping sound?"  The girl on the mat next to me mentioned she was having some neck pain from acupuncture, and the other two classmates echoed similar pains in the neck and shoulders, so he adjusted the class to really work on those places and alleviate whatever pains we were having, which was great.

The one thing he said that I really thought about for quite some time after was in regards to headstands.  I have very little upper body strength.  I can do one push up, maybe two if you forced me.  Because of this, I actually struggle with downward facing dog, which is used in every yoga class I do and always becomes a frustration.  One person in class echoed a similar sentiment when discussing headstands, saying that her neck always bothered her afterwards, and he very genuinely responded with "don't do them, then."

Say what?!

In my experience, whenever someone complains or struggles with a certain pose, the instructor teaches them variations to build up to that pose.  Yet, in this case, David very much supported the idea of not doing headstands.  His explanation was pretty simple - yoga is supposed to lengthen, stretch and strengthen.  If you're doing something that is doing the opposite of those things, and/or is causing you pain, and repeatedly, then you probably aren't meant to do that thing.  He mentioned that although he could do a headstand over and over again, it really bothered his back, and the whole point of yoga is to find a path to joy, not pain. 

The philosophy made perfect sense, but it was something I had never really thought about logically.  But it makes sense - why force yourself to do something that continually causes you pain?  I suppose that sort of mentality could be used in so many ways in our lives.  Definitely something to think about.

I'm taking a break tonight and possibly doing something I've never done before (more on that later) but am planning on getting back into the swing of things tomorrow night with some restorative.  Which is all just in preparation for the 4 hours of binge eating I'll be partaking in at the LA Street Food Fest on Saturday.  Hell, yes.

Monday, June 24, 2013

WTFasana Update: opening chakra's can really screw with you.

Part of the reason why I was so eager to give this challenge a shot was knowing that I could try different kinds of yoga.  I will admit that I am pretty much the lamest half-yogi ever - I stick with basics or beginners classes because I feel that my breathing needs serious work and I know very few poses.  Because of this, the classes are never challenging necessarily, and I never break a sweat.  Ever.

Since I had been putting off starting this darn challenge for so long, a 10 am vinyasa and meditation class on Sunday morning was the first class I could take.  C joined me, wanting to check out the studio, and we were greeted with a wonderfully warm welcome.  It also doesn't hurt that it is bright and airy, has changing rooms, and a shower.  Plus plus plus!

We were in this class with 2 others, and the instructor, Rebecca, spent the beginning discussing how she focuses on the Tibetan teachings (and how thrilled she is for the Dalai Lama to visit LA next summer!) and drew a super simple diagram that explained what yoga practice is supposed to do.  She was also very grounded and not precious at all, which was fantastic.

She began to lead us through a few different flows, and I immediately started sweating.  Over the course of the next hour and a half, I could not believe how sweaty I was.  At one point, she brought over a strap to my mat and laid it where my hands would go, letting me know that her hands get super sweaty during yoga and this helps keep them stable.  She also assisted me through half moon (I couldn't get my legs straight, so she helped guide and stabilize me) AND my first shoulder stand.  I know that when practicing yoga you should check your ego at the door, but I couldn't help but beam (at least, internally) when she congratulated me on being able to extend my feet up during my shoulder stand.

Afterwards, we headed home, both eagerly anticipating an afternoon nap, and I got hit with this crazy, gut-wrenching emotional feeling.  I couldn't shake it.  I tried taking a shower, taking deep breaths, whatever, but it was just awful.  It was tear inducing.  C had to calm me down and remind me that the flows we were doing were geared towards opening chakras, and sometimes, when you bottle up certain emotions, they come raging back in this fashion.  I remembered the instruction explaining how each of our flows was focusing on certain chakras, but I didn't think I'd have this kind of reaction!

I've always been a little skeptical of anyone who says they have some sort of crazy release like this post-yoga, but I realize that's because my yoga practice has been so minute and conservative.  Clearly I needed this release, and felt much, MUCH better after my nap and a glass of wine with some good friends, and I'm definitely going to be going back to this class this coming weekend, with hopefully a more positive reaction to the chakra opening.  Maybe this time I'll leave class skipping with joy...?


For a very easy and brief explanation on chakras, look here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

WTFasana Challenge Update: I haven't gone to yoga.

Since Jillian checked in and expressed how her challenge was going 3,000 miles away, I thought that it was only fair I did the same.  However, for every class Jillian has taken, I have taken... zero.  That's right.  Look at me, I come up with this whole challenge and make a big deal out of it and still have yet to take a yoga class.  I could sit here and list all the excuses (most valid, a few questionable) but at the end of the day, that's what they are - excuses.  I can acknowledge them, and move onwards, and that is what I'm going to do.  (In case anyone was curious, some of the excuses are, but not limited to, being at my boss' house all day while construction is happening, having a weekend chock full of plans with no wiggle room, etc.)

I will say that even though I have yet to make it to a class (I have one on the books for tonight, one on Saturday and TWO on Sunday, I hope) I have still maintained a level of consistent exercise.  C and I have tried each night to walk a brisk 2 miles, and have done so for about a little over a month now, and let me tell you - I can feel a difference in my energy level, even if it's a slight one.  Even on Saturday at Disneyland, we lasted way longer on our feet before needing a break than ever before, and I chalk all of that up to the consistent walking we're doing.  If my energy is improving just for walking 2 miles a night, I can only imagine how much it'll improve after doing yoga 5 times a week!  (I may also alternatively find myself crazy tired and in bed at 9 pm.  Which oddly sounds really nice right now.)

*Side note: Jillian is currently spending 3 days at the rockin' Wanderlust festival in Vermont.  Jealous?  Yes.  Go cheer her on!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mary Poppins is NOT practically perfect in every way... fact, she was a bit of a disappointment.  But Disneyland, overall, was not.

Last week, one of C's friends asked him why I loved Disneyland so much, and his half joking response was "the magic."  I say half joking because, although it sounds cliche and funny, it is actually true.

There are, I think, three types of people in this world: those who love Disney and allow it's magic to take over while they're there, those who can appreciate it for the most part but are also acutely aware of reality, and then those who vehemently keep a strong distance from getting wrapped up in it.  I am of the first type, and have been asked why I would want to keep going back to do the same thing often.  The best way I can answer that is by saying that each time is a different experience, and that is what I love most about visiting the Disney parks.

This time around was no exception to that rule.  We compromised on an arrival time of 9 am - C normally likes to arrive around 10ish, and I really wanted to get there at 8 (I now worry that the park will hit capacity before we get there - hasn't happened yet but I still freak out about it) so 9 am was a fair compromise.  Since we got up earlier than expected, made it through breakfast quickly, and hit zero traffic on the way there, we actually got to the park around 8:15.  C really didn't understand the appeal to arriving so early, and as we walked to Main Street, I tried pointing out how quiet it was.  We began walking towards the restroom around the same time that the Mad Hatter and Alice were heading backstage, and the Mad Hatter asked where we were going.  I quietly mentioned the restroom, and he grabbed my hand and began to rush me down the path, telling me I wasn't moving fast enough.  It was nothing I could have planned and therefore that much more of a "moment," and something we laughed about throughout the day.

My other favorite moment was our trip on the Mark Twain Riverboat.  In all the times I've been, and the times we've been together, we've never had an interest in taking a ride on the riverboat, but the lack of crowds on Saturday (seriously, the park was pretty quiet for a Saturday in June!) got us in the mindset of trying things we hadn't done before.  We walked right on to the boat, and I really wanted to grab a seat and relax, but C wanted to sit on the top deck, so up we went.  As we approached the top deck, I passed two cast members, both in captains gear, and one pointed at me and said "maybe she'll want to help you."  Knowing from experience that a cast member asking you to do something always leads to something awesome, I volunteered, even though I hadn't a clue what I was volunteering for.  The captain then asked if we wanted to help him "drive" the boat.  Uh, yes!

Even though you aren't actually driving the boat (its on a track under water and is propelled by a cast member who controls its speed in a totally different room) you do get to blow the whistle and ring the bell.  We also got to sign the guest book (awesome!) and learn about old attractions and some park history from the captain, Ryan.  Ryan mentioned he'd been working for Disney for 7 years - say what you will about the House of Mouse being an "evil empire" but its employees truly do love what they do.  Seeing the park from this vantage point was very cool, and although we found out that you can always ask to ride in the wheelhouse, we decided to keep this a "once in a lifetime" sort of thing.

Just to make sure I get in a little fitness mention, C wore his FitBit the whole day to see just how many miles we walked.  Want to guess how many?  We were there for 14 hours and we walked... 12.5 miles.  Almost a half marathon!  I'm also of the mindset that calories you consume at a theme park don't actually count, and the FitBit actually proved us right - C entered in everything he had eaten that day (popcorn, ice cream, meatloaf, ice cream, etc.) and because of the mileage we walked, he had burned 3,000+ calories, so even after entering in all that food, he had tons of calories to spare.

I'm sad that the day is over (and it goes by so quickly) but am glad that we had another great experience.  I think I'm finally turning C into a fan. :)

(To briefly reference my post title, the only disappointing thing during our day was Mary Poppins' lack of personality.  She was too consumed with trying to find Bert (I'm not making this up) and by the time I got to take my picture with her, she only asked where I was from.  Yawn.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WTFasana - a yoga-a-day type challenge. Sort of.

There have been two things I've been wanting to do lately - one, try the yoga studio that is 2 blocks from my apartment, and two, a new challenge.  It's kind of ridiculous that I kept looking for an excuse to try the yoga studio, but I find that I am the kind of person who feels amazing after a work out, and then the next day, forgets about how much I loved it.  So, yes, sometimes I need an excuse.

After a good friend of mine had done a 30 day yoga challenge at her local bikram studio (and looked fantastic) I had toyed with the idea of doing my own.  Could I really go to a yoga class every day for 30 days?  Experts say it takes 21 days to start a habit, and getting serious about my yoga practice would be a great habit to have.  Yet, I struggling with commitment.  After musing about this on Monday's post, my friend Jillian responded that she'd happily join me in this challenge, but we just needed a witty name.  We also decided to taper it back a bit to something a little bit more reasonable, but not necessarily easy - 5 classes a week.  Challenge invented!  (I must add that this comes on the heels of the yoga studio releasing a Groupon which had a one-month unlimited option.  When I went to buy it earlier today, I had been the only person thus far to purchase one, which I feel pretty cool about.)

Then I woke up to this post this morning, with Jillian already a class AHEAD of me, and now it. is. ON, my friends.  (I also have to thank Jillian for coming up with the title of our challenge, WTFasana - said like double-you, tee, fasana.  Pretty great, no?)

Now that it is officially started, I'm already preparing to be behind.  Despite Jillian getting in a class ahead of me, I have plans with a girlfriend tonight (which include shopping and wine, aka a different kind of yoga) and plans with a work colleague tomorrow night.  If tomorrow night's plans reschedule, I'll easily squeeze in the 7:15 pm Restorative (and boy, do I need it) but if that isn't possible, I may have to hit up the 7 pm Gentle Stretch and Flow Friday evening.  Which, now that I think of it, would be a really great way to kick off the weekend and get in some calm before we head to DISNEYLAND SATURDAY! (Can you feel my excitement?)

Last night, my friend Kim joined me for another tap-robics class (and probably my last one for a while) and I actually found it getting easier.  I was still crazy-sweaty, but I wasn't as out of breath.  Of course, whenever I start to feel like something is getting easier, a wrench gets thrown in - my left calf totally started to cramp, and I knew the shin splints would be following today.  (The same thing happened during the Lone Gull 10k - I started to really hit my stride, and then a cramp came surging on.)  I actually had to dial it back during one of the combinations last night, which really annoyed me.  When I mentioned it to our instructor, she kindly reminded me that on the plus side, I'm building muscle, and then recommended a masseuse around the corner from my apartment that specializes in this kind of thing.  She's pretty awesome.

It's really motivating to see an improvement in my endurance, even if its mild at best.  These 2 mile powerwalks we've been going on have helped exponentially, and I already feel my energy level getting better day to day.  I'm really interested to see how adding in a yoga-intensive schedule will affect not only just my body, but also my mind and my mood.  I'm not saying I'm going to get all Eat, Pray, Love on everyone, but I can only see it being something really positive.

But for now, I'm counting down the hours until its time to hit the Semi-annual Sale and grab a glass of Riesling.  Is it 7 pm yet?

Monday, June 10, 2013

I'm in love with my fitness belt.

At least, that's what I'm calling it.  C keeps reminding me, politely, that its really just a fitness-oriented fanny pack.  I don't care.  It is AWESOME.  I'm also in love with my fitness app, but more on that later.

This is how not fitness-oriented I am; when I signed up to run my first (and again, I stress, only) 10k a few years ago, I had to then go out that evening an buy a sports bra because I did not own one that fit me.  I also had to buy shirts made of wicking fabric (since I had long learned the dangers of running in straight up cotton) and shorts of reasonable length.  I mean, my Soffee shorts from high school are comfy and all, but I really don't think they're made for you to ACTUALLY work out in.  Maybe I'm wrong.

Because of this, I don't really own any of the "proper" gear for regular exercise, other than running shoes.  When I signed up for a trial period at a local yoga studio last year, I had to go out and buy a mat.  I had to buy an armband for my iPod, and a water bottle with the type of lid I could pop open easily, for hiking or (maybe) running.  I'm just not naturally inclined to own the things I'd need for these sorts of occasions.  Having unexpected guests over? I have a bottle of red and white ready to go.  Going on a 2 hour hike?  Now I need to go to Marshall's.

Until I bought this sweet, neon orange, elastic-banded wonderful thing, I was hiking with a mini-travel case to hold my phone, key and emergency Benadryl - super annoying.  I very briefly considered shorts with pockets, but didn't trust that my things wouldn't fall out.  I also wasn't in the mood to stick stuff into my sports bra (like so many fellow female hikers I see) and have my phone get all sweaty - no, thank you.  This solves so many problems, I don't even care if it looks stupid!

For his birthday, C got a FitBit, and has been wearing it ever since.  I found myself wanting one, especially to figure out how many steps I'm taking and therefore how many calories I'm burning during the day, but didn't have the money to swing it just yet.  Then I realized that MapMyRun has an entire fitness devoted app called MapMyFitness, which allows you to record and/or log pretty much any workout ever.  I downloaded it immediately and took it on our next hike, and not only did I know how far we went, how many calories I burned, what my pace was, but also how much of a gain we made (we had been wondering just how high up we were at the peak) and it was incredible.

The combination of these two things has seriously changed the way I look at any sort of workout.  Before I never really understood the want or need to keep track of how many calories your burning, or what your splits may be (unless, of course, you're trying to PR a race), but I find myself really taking all of these things into consideration.  We go for a 2 mileish evening constitutional many nights of the week, and I've noticed that each time we go, we shave a bit more time off than the previous walk.  The one night I walked the majority of it alone (as C ran the neighborhood instead) I managed to shave a whole 2 minutes off my previous time (since I wasn't as distracted, I guess) and when I used it at the park, I was a minute faster.  (I think part of what slows us down is the uneven sidewalks that we have to be aware of - at the park, you're just walking/running on flat dirt paths.)  I even use it when we go for our bike rides down the bike path.  We noticed the first time that on the way out, we're definitely heading downhill for part of it, although its just barely noticeable.  On the way back, however, you really feel that tiny, slow incline in your calves.  After using the app on Sunday, I realized that over the span of 2ish miles, the incline is about 30ish feet - pretty steady!

In fact, I'm becoming so enamored with this app, I'm considering signing up for a month unlimited at the local yoga studio... and trying to do a yoga class a day.  A lofty goal?  Maybe.  But it would be cool to track my progress!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pintester Movement: DIY ribbon tank

Many a night I've spent repinning things I love on Pinterest - recipes that look amazing, tutorials on how to do pretty much anything, places I'd love to go but probably never will, etc. - but never really get around to doing or trying any of these things.  In the past few months, I've at least tried some of the recipes - I will say that for about every 2 or 3 that are successful, there is one that is an absolute total failure (the Buffalo Chicken Meatball Massacre will haunt me for years, I tell you) and I always think, "why the hell would someone pin this?!"

The lovely and hilarious Sonja at Pintester has been taking the guesswork (and grueling hours, and tears, and ultimate failures) out of some of our favorite pins for trying them for us.  Her experiences are hysterical, and make me feel like less of a loser when I try a pin and it ultimately sucks.  Recently, she proposed The Pintester Movement, where the blog world attempts a pin they've been staring at for months, and writes about it.  Originally, I had wanted to do something food related, but trying to find the time this week has been difficult, so I went with something else - DIY t-shirts.

 My shirt is an XL and has been previously washed and dryed, so I know it's done shrinking. (I hope.)

The instructions were simple and visual (my favorite) and showed me exactly where to cut on my oversized t-shirt.  (I also realized, doing this, that I own a LOT of oversized t-shirts.  Will this pass the test?  Will I suddenly have a closet of DIY ribbon tanks?  Time will tell.)

Pretty easy - cut arms, making sure to cut inwards and also further down, and cut a deep neck.  Also cut bottom.

The final result?

Pretty cute, eh?
I tried it on and it fits great.  I may have to cut the arms a little deeper and the neck a little deeper, as it bunches more and isn't as loose as I would like it, but this is one of those DIY's where its really up to your preference, and how large a shirt you're working with.  I will definitely be doing this to a few more of my insanely oversized t-shirts, especially with the summer heat creeping up.  I may rock this to the beach this weekend!

I'd say this one is Pinner approved.

5 songs.

Long before I had an iPod (but everyone else did) I would make mix CD's for my discman.  Usually it was some sort of mash-up of songs I had heard recently and liked, mixed with some older songs I had rediscovered.  Since I hated writing the titles of the songs on the discs themselves, I would label them based on when I made them or what the occasion was surrounding it, or, when I got real creative, a lyric from the first song on the CD.  It was a terrible organization system - many a person has flipped through my giant CD book, pulled out a random mix, and stated something like "What's on 'Florida Mix '03'?" (S Club 7, Whitney Houston, Disney covers and a little JC Chasez.)  But it was a system that worked for me, and, ultimately, attached lots of memories to a random playlist that I can recall the second I listen to it.

Because of this, choosing just five songs was really tough.  There are probably thousands of songs that I have a memory attached to.  Charlie will comment that, quite often, while we are driving, a song will come on and my immediate response is "oh, man, this song reminds me of _________" and then I go into a 20 minute story that means absolutely nothing to anyone else but me.  Sometimes, those memories aren't great ones, and I'd ignore a song for a long time because it was instant heartache.  (It took me a very long time to recover from "We Might As Well Be Strangers" by Keane, "Cautioners" by Jimmy Eat World, and "Dreaming With a Broken Heart" by John Mayer.)  But for the most part, one of my favorite things about music is how much it can transport you.  To instantly listen to a song and be sucked back to a point in your life you haven't visited in a while?  That's pretty cool.

"Springsteen" - Eric Church
This is one of those songs that not only has a memory attached to it, but also brings back a certain feeling.  Its that kind of song that you hear and you're like "whoa, this reminds me so much of being 17/18 and yet I just heard it for the first time at 24."  When driving cross country with my dad almost a year ago (crazy!) we listened to a lot of local radio stations through the midwest, and it was mostly country.  This song was very, very popular on the airwaves at the time, so we heard it often, but the one thing it reminds me of the most is Kansas.  Wide, flat, goes-on-forever Kansas, with its sweeping plains and the random gas station or farm you would pass every 20 miles or so.  While this song was playing, I watched a crazy thunderstorm literally roll in from the south, and knew I was approaching it miles before I was in it.  It was beautiful, awesome and a little bit haunting.

"Nothing Left to Lose" - Mat Kearney

I spent my first semester of college at Arizona State, in a single dorm room on the south end of campus, settled up right against a railway.  I also discovered this song right around the time I got there, and I took my iPod with me everywhere.  This song was on the Top 25 rotation for a very long time, and there's a line where he says "I can still hear the train outside my window" which always reminds me of the nights I'd fall asleep in that dorm room, hearing the train.  It brings me right back to that campus the second I hear it.

"Dreamgirl" - Dave Matthews Band

I was never a fan of this video but loved this song.  This was on heavy rotation the summer after my junior year of high school and makes me think of long, hot summers.

"Waiting in Vain" - Annie Lennox

This is one of my absolute favorite covers, from one of my favorite movies, Serendipity.  It also reminds me of my semester at ASU - I had my iTunes set to alphabetize by artist, so this was one of the first songs that would come up, and it was a great way to start the morning.

"Boston" - Kenny Chesney

Last but not least.  I've seen Kenny in concert twice, and being from Massachusetts and a little biased, I have always loved this song.  My favorite memory, though, is the last time I saw him at Gillette Stadium.  It had been drizzling all day, on and off, which made for a not-so-great tailgate.  By the time his set was half over, it was full on raining, yet when he started this song, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Bostonians, the vibe totally changed.  I will never forget how amazing it was to be surrounded by great friends, singing along to this.

Friday, May 24, 2013

3 worst traits for a 3 day weekend.

IT IS FINALLY FRIDAY!  This hasn't been a tough week - its actually been quiet, work wise - but for whatever reason, my brain is struggling to keep up.  I mean, I almost left the house without shoes on yesterday.  I think that says enough.

Day 24 of this challenge calls for me to list my top three worst traits.  I think there are way more than three, but I singled out the three that I'm trying my hardest to improve on and/or having the hardest time with.

I struggle with finding myself valuable.  Whether its work, or relationships, I have trouble confidently saying "I am valuable."  Work, especially, is the hardest.  I will find all sorts of excuses as to why I'm "just doing my job" and not necessarily recognize when I am going the extra mile, or am a positive asset to a company.

I can not take compliments.  I really can't.  Never have been able to, whether its a compliment about my outfit, or a job I did, or how I am as a person.  I mean, when we first started dating, I spent three whole days texting with C about whether or not I was beautiful.  (I'm also stubborn, but I don't necessarily consider that a bad trait. :) )  I will say thank you when getting a compliment, but then brush it off like its NBD.  This goes a little hand in hand with trait number one.

I'm easily excitable.  This comes in handy when I'm ramping up for a full day of excitement at Disneyland - it does not when I'm treading on the edge of an argument.  I've been working on trying to take deep breaths before instantly going into crazy-defense mode, which is made worse by my voice getting louder, and its been a challenge.  I have learned that sometimes I do need to close my eyes, take a deep breath, or even, briefly, walk away, just so I can gather my thoughts and try to continue the conversation in a mature fashion.

It's been challenging on working on all three, especially when they come hand-in-hand quite often, but it is nice to feel like I'm making some growth, you know?


This weekend is getting kicked off by taking in a Dodger game tonight, where we're treated with fireworks afterwards.  Although I enjoy baseball, I will wholeheartedly admit that the major reason why I go is for the food.  Big Kid Dog, anyone?

(I realize that this comes on the heels of reports that hot dogs cause disease, but I've eaten so many hot dogs in my life, I'm already playing that hand anyway.  Plus, MAC AND CHEESE.  Helloooo.)

Tomorrow we're celebrating C's birthday at a new BBQ joint with friends.  Good BBQ is hard to come by in Los Angeles, so I'm hoping this one will win me over.  I judge my BBQ joints by their cornbread and coleslaw.

Sunday we're taking round 3 on our new hike at Griffith, and bringing some friends along.  I just found my Camelbak (buried deep in my trunk for goodness knows how long) and between that, my new fitness belt (that's right, I said it, FITNESS BELT), a bottle of water and a bottle of Vitamin Water, I'm hoping this will be the one-two-three punch to keep the headaches at bay.  The hike will be a nice challenge, but we all know I'm just in it for the post-hike meal of burgers or tacos.  I'm already itching for some solid pico de gallo.

Monday is a clean slate for now, although, after everything else, it'll probably be a day hanging by the pool, and possibly followed by a bike ride.  I'm sorry to my loved ones in New England who'll be dealing with rainrainrain, but its supposed to be in the mid-70s all weekend.

But for now, there is a Law & Order: SVU marathon that is calling my name.  Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A little life schooling...

Do you ever a moment where you think something and you immediately follow with the thought,

"ohmygoodness, my parents/guardians/adult figures in life were RIGHT."

My dad has always been the school/career/cooking advice giver, while my mom has always been the person to encourage me to brush my hair/wear clean undies and let me know that "those shoes don't match that outfit."  It took me a long time to admit it, but they were (and are!) pretty spot on about a lot of things.  That took a lot of getting used to... and admitting.  Phew.  I feel better.

I remember being a kid, and my dad trying to get me to watch the original Star Wars movies, telling me how much I'd love them.  I was totally not into it.  Not even a little bit.  And yet, there that 3 VHS tape set sat on our TV stand, staring at me every day.  Not sure when, or how it happened, but I stumbled upon "Return of the Jedi" first, and the immediately needed to see the other two... and "Return of the Jedi" again.  I loved them.  And he was right.

Another time, he had been trying to encourage me to listen to a lot of bands from "his generation" including The Beatles.  Again, so not into it, I'd rather listen to my Britney Spears CD.  But then, one day, while driving around, "Come Together" came on the radio, and I admitted it was a really cool song.  Dad wins another one.

But Star Wars/Beatles love aside, the biggest life lesson my dad ever tried to impart on me was "it's not what you know, its who you know" and its true.  Its 100% true.

Education is important and by no means am I implying that it isn't.  I'm a huge supporter of a college education because you not only learn things in the field of your choosing but (guess what) you also learn a lot of life lessons.  And one of those life lessons, a lesson my dad had tried to teach me years and years before, is that establishing and maintaining relationships with a lot of people will help you out.  A lot.  I'm not talking romantic relationships, or even close friendships, but just meeting people and keeping in touch with them will eventually come in handy.

Here's an example, just to sort of explain my point further.  I can look at each one of my jobs, and in almost every one, point to the exact person who helped me get that job.  Here's the list:

- 15 years old, teller at a local bank; a family friend worked there and encouraged me to apply, and put in a good word for me.
- 16 years old, bear builder extraordinaire at Build-A-Bear (yes, seriously); my friend Amanda was already working there, and put in a good word for me.
- 18 years old, summer camp counselor in my hometown; my old tee-ball coach ran the program, remembered me (after years of running into him around town, and because I went to school with his son) and offered me the gig.
- 20 years old, selling books at Barnes & Noble; a friend of a friend is an author, and did a lot of signings at this store, and had established a relationship with their staff.  Say it with me - put in a good word for me.
- 21 years old, internship for a local television station; a professor had a friend who worked at said station and passed along my resume on my behalf.
- 22 years old, internship at a major movie studio; another friend had a connection at said studio, and reached out to see if I could meet with that connection while in LA, which then turned into the interview for the internship.
- 23 years old, first real big girl job at a non-profit; a friend from high school, Dana, had been interning there at the time, knew of the job, and again, put in a good word for me.
- 25 years old, current dream job; two different co-workers at studio knew I was looking for a job, heard about this one, and both recommended me for it.

See how that works?  Kind of crazy, right?

I certainly didn't get many of these jobs without having a skill set or some experience to back them up, BUT I can't say that I would have gotten any of them, had I not had a friend in the mix.  That is something no college class every prepared me for, but it has never steered me wrong.  Not once.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I've been waiting for this day since the Blog Every Day in May challenge has started.

There are plenty of things to complain about on a daily basis.  One of my resolutions this year was to complain/whine less, and I feel I've been doing a pretty good job.  (Plus, who wants to read post after post of me just kvetching about things, right?  Answer: no one.)  One of my biggest issues as a human being is that I'm naturally inclined to take everything personally.  It's something I'm working on, for sure, but it has not been easy, especially in a business where people are easily ramped up and excitable, both positively and negatively.

There is one thing, however, that really grinds my gears.

When people are not nice.

Most of my job is spent sending emails and handling phone calls, and the majority of the people I am emailing with and/or talking to are doing a similar job.  Some of us have higher-stress environments than others.  I get that.  But I also don't think it necessary to be an ass to me just because I'm asking a question.  We're all trying to do our jobs, right?

This really came to a pinnacle of "THIS IS DRIVING ME F'ING CRAZY" a few weeks ago when I was in the process of setting a meeting with another office.  Myself, and the other assistant (we'll call her Mary) had to set this meeting with a lot of people in a very short time frame.  She emailed me with a date, time, list of attendees, and I confirmed.  All good, right?

Well, a few days later (about 2 days before the meeting) I realized in her original email she forgot 2 people I knew were supposed to attend.  So I emailed her, apologizing for my oversight, and letting her know that they'd be attending.  She immediately called me and the conversation went something like this:

Mary: why wasn't I informed of this sooner? You didn't mention this last week.

(btw, she didn't even say hello, or anything of that sort.)

Me: I apologize, I knew it had been discussed on the call. I should have double checked your email and that was my fault.

Mary: no, it was NOT discussed on the call, this is the first I'm hearing of this!

(I'm using an exclamation point because she was snappy and loud, but unfortunately there is no real way I can convey that with punctuation.)

I won't go into the rest of the details (mostly because its boring) but she eventually accused me of lying, accused my boss of lying, and then hung up on me.  Yes, she HUNG UP ON ME.

Okay, I lied.  This is a rant about two things.  One, can't we all be nice? and two, IT IS SO DISRESPECTFUL TO HANG UP ON SOMEONE.

I have to admit, normally, in situations like this, I find myself getting all ramped up to meet that person at their crazy level.  In this case, I was calm cool and collected, and kept expressing to her my want to help solve the "problem" and hopefully come to a resolution.  In the end, there ended up being no problem at all, as she could have handled it internally (without involving me), we didn't have to move the meeting, and all was good.  But SHE HUNG UP ON ME.

I'm trying to be better about being less judgmental and therefore trying to justify others terrible behaviors, like, maybe she spilled hot soup on her lap this morning, or, maybe she just found out her health insurance premium is going up $50 a month (another story), but this one was tough.  Especially when I spent that afternoon asking all of my other assistant friends who all agreed that they'd never hang up on someone else.  Maybe I just happen to have friends who are nice.  I don't know.

The moral of the story is, I don't know why we just can't all be nice to each other.  I'm not even asking for you to say please or thank you necessarily (but that would be great!) but just not to scream at me for something that isn't my fault, especially when I'm trying to help.

oh, and lets not hang up on each other.  thanks.