Monday, November 9, 2015

... lately the weather has been so bi-polar and consequently so have I ...

As Katie and I have mentioned in our own ways, this calendar year has been a bit of a battle for both of us. My personal story has been riddled with body image issues (including weight gain/loss/over- and under- exercising and binge eating), job difficulty (there is a reason that my profession has the highest rate of burnout), feelings of failure, fear of missing out, doctor's visits, emotional labor, and loss. McHandsome has been undergoing professional certification and I have been enrolled in an intensive grad program. I've held teenager's hands as they've wept over their broken families, hugged parents as they have lost their children (who were my age, both murdered for no reason), hugged people my age as they discover they are losing (or have lost) their parents, and watched my aunt's family lose their business and livelihood in a freak flood. I've watched Alzheimer's take my maternal grandmother, slowly and surely.  McHandsome has buried multiple grandparents. Add in the typical late 20-something feelings of marital and reproductive inadequacy ... Yahtzee.

Things were heavy, my friends. Winter was rolling in and the sun hadn't been seen in weeks - literally or figuratively. Forget choosing joy - or looking for happiness - I was struggling to breathe. I was hiding in my car with my phone at 2am just to be in a spot where I could be alone and there were no expectations on me.

I've had periods where I was able to redirect myself to choose to find the positive - I have previously completed 100 Days of Happiness ... so my cynical little self decided that when Katie issued the challenge to #FindJoyinNovember I was jumping in with two feet and buying stuff for the goshdarned giftbasket.

Because you, my friends, are the real gift.

Moments like early Tuscon mornings, quiet country back-roads, perfect fall-leaf ferns, and fuzzy socks have reminded me that warmth can be found in November, and joy can be found in troubling times. 

Thank you for letting me tag along - and thank you for bearing with me as I start writing something other than legal documents again.

Thank you for reminding me to look for joy, even when I don't feel like it.

 You are slowly, yet surely, re-awakening my inner Penelope Garcia. 

And get tagging with #FindJoyinNovember on your social media outlet of choice!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Find Joy in November - Day 1

Did you see my post yesterday about #FindJoyinNovember, the project I'm doing with Katie from Stress and Stars? Interested in being included or participating?

I think we can handle that!

We're starting today, officially. The rules, from Katie's blog, with slight edits from me:

1. Comment here today or through the next week, letting me know where you'll be posting (Twitter, Instagram, your blog, Facebook - you could even TEXT me photos!). Leave me your username so I can follow along! 

2. Take a photo of a moment of real happiness, whether a big moment or a little one. Think - a moment with your children, a good cup of coffee, the perfect dinner, a pretty sky. I will be posting on my Instagram daily through the whole month (and my personal goal is to write more), but your posts can be as often as you like - daily, twice a week, weekly, three moments a month... whatever, it's all good

3. Write a line, or two, or ten - it's up to you - about the moment and why you found such happiness in it. End with the hashtag #FindJoyinNovember.

4. Post the photo and text into your chosen medium.

5. I will be looking through everything tagged #FindJoyinNovember (and everything linked here in the comments!) If you've blogged on the topic, please leave a comment with a link to the blog post itself. 

6. Once a week on Sunday, I'll post a "weekly recap" of our moments of joy. I'll pick 3 favorite posts or photos per week to share but of course will encourage everyone to look through the hashtag photos.

7. Share that you are participating around! Get friends involved! I like people!

8. Watch next Sunday for a giveaway! Katie and I are going in together to make a great giveaway prize. It'll be open to anyone who participates in the challenge or shares information about it around the internet. Check back next Sunday to see what the giveaway will be!
Formalities aside - time to begin!

My (first) moment of joy today:

The dogs I'm dog-sitting, enjoying the fall colors while I web-surf and nap.  They are such sweeties - and great cuddlers!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Find Joy in November (collaboration with StressandStars)

 Wow, I've been missing for a bit.

And man, have things gotten HEAVY around here lately. I overdid it this summer (four grad classes), work is ... work, and October has been renamed by myself and my little circle of folk as 'Sucktober'.

I feel like you don't need three guesses to figure that nickname out.

I, usually at least a sarcastically positive soul, have found myself transforming into the absolute QUEEN of the stick-in-the-muds. Anxiety is at a all time high, frustration is at its peak, and I am literally terrified of doing anything because everything is going wrong. Sitting around in a state if terror, anxiety, and being convinced that I am an absolute failure is getting me nowhere. And it is making me an absolute bummer to be around.

Quite the negative spin cycle. 

My friend, Katie and I were discussing ending that cycle. To achieve that end, a challenge has been issued for ourselves (and anyone who'd like to sign up!) for the next month. Read below to see the rules - taken from her blog Stress and Stars - Find Joy in November

#FindJoyinNovember Rules:
1. Comment on the introductory post on November 1st. Let me know where you'll be posting (Instagram, Twitter, Blog, etc) & your username or a link if it's a blog.

2. Take a photo of a moment of real joy or happiness, no matter how big or small. This can be daily, twice a week, weekly, whatever. Write a line, or two, or ten - it's up to you - about the moment and why you found such happiness in it. End with the hashtag #FindJoyinNovember

3. Post the photo and text into your chosen medium - blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook posts, whatever.

4. I will post a "roundup" once per week. If you've blogged on the topic, comment with your link. I'll pick 3 favorite posts or photos per week to share but of course will encourage everyone to look through the hashtag photos.

5. Share that you are participating around! Get friends involved! I like people!

6. Watch for a giveaway! I will post about it within the first two weeks of November, and it will be open to participants in the challenge.

Katie and I will be getting a box of goodies together for the giveaway - so get posting!

Monday, April 6, 2015

... just that something so good just can't function no more ...

(or - why I broke up with running for a month)

You guys, I love running. I hate it a little bit sometimes, but running really brings a lot of balance to my life.

Pencil on paper drawing. Inspired after a tired run, falling over and getting a bloody knee. :) I love running but....some days it hurts.

Running brings structure. Running is an outlet for all of the anxiety and feelings and worry I carry with me daily. Running helps me feel confident in what my body can do, and in what I can do in other areas in my life. Running squashes anger. Running eases the blues. Running gives me time to process. Running helps with adult ADD. Running makes my stressful teacher/grad student/landlord/mom to chronically ill cat/secret perfectionist life more manageable. Running, frankly, helps me feel proud of myself. Which is a huge thing for someone who almost never feels proud of themselves. It's cheaper than therapy and better for you than wine and doesn't put you at risk of tipsy texting.

But alas, running started letting me down in late February/early March. I got the flu (eased somewhat by having the vaccine) at a critical point in my training cycle. I tried to train (and taper) while sick. The weather was horrible. Work piled up, Grad school got harder. I wasn't making the gains I wanted in pace/strength. I didn't 'look' like a runner in my mind's eye. I ran my marathon - my first ever - on a day when I had been fever-free for about 72 hours and took DayQuil the morning of. I probably should not have run, but I did anyway. My time was crappy. And sometime between crossing the finish line and eating pizza I had a moment when I thought running and I should see other people. After a moderately good 5K time just a week after my marathon, I felt it in my bones - it was time to take a break.


Some of my issue was due to poor coping after a bad race. To be fair, this was my first BAD race experience. Other complicating factors included me being a perfectionist, and what happens to your body in the last leg of training for such a long race. The taper crazies are real, and include weight gain that I find to be mentally derailing. And there is such a thing as PMS - post-marathon syndrome. You think I would have read about this earlier on. Symptoms include the following - 

  • Sudden, unexplained feeling of sadness - CHECK.
  • Feeling of a lack of aim/purpose in the immediate future - CHECK
  • Negative thoughts accompanied by low energy levels and loss of appetite - CHECK
  • Extended sleep hours where you sometimes sleep for hours at a stretch - CHECK
  • Feelings of anxiety, irritability and hopelessness - CHECK
  • Difficulty in concentrating on day-to-day tasks - CHECK
  • Yikes. But when you use running to deal with ADD/anxiety/whatever-the-hell-else time off can be difficult. And when running and I broke up, my post-marathon blues turned into unbalanced craziness and sleeping for what felt like days.

    It was not a good look. And it took a while to recover.

    I think I am finally back in a good place and willing to admit that while I could have done better, I am pretty darn proud of myself. I am proud of my body. And I am glad that I was able to learn more about how my body works and the role exercise plays in my mental health. I learned who helps in my training, when to stop, and when to keep going. I finished a marathon. I didn't poop myself, die, or get picked up by the struggle bus. One more thing I can cross off the list of things I never thought possible for me to accomplish.

    Did @fabletics #positivitypinsweeps

    One of these days I want to run another marathon, I actually have one kinda picked out. And I also have another I dream of finishing. But those are goals I am putting on the back burner as I ease myself into a more mindful training cycle for summer races - and I'm setting goals that will help me stay on track and away from PMS - for good! Right now I am training up for a half marathon in Asheville, another in Greenville, and possible races in Savannah and a possible birthday half. I want to train well and give my body what it needs to recover and bounce back from training. I also want to keep up with my 2015 in 2015 challenge.

    So true....this is how I felt with my first half-marathon in 2013. Hoping for a full marathon in 2014.

    Running is an essential part of my self-care, and a big part of my life right now. Taking some time off and seeing the (drastically) sucky effects on my day to day lead me to believe it is a habit I will continue to indulge in. 

    Excuse me - gotta put out my tights for tomorrow morning!

    QotD - What makes you better/stronger? What happens when you don't 'indulge' in that for a while?

    Monday, March 30, 2015

    ... the door is locked, I turned off the coffee pot, running late as I back out of the drive - I feel like I'm forgettin' somethin' ...

    This month, really, this whole  new year, has been hectic and full and packed to the brim with things to do and people to see. I have been working on pausing to think, and sometimes thinking a little too much.

    But trust me, I haven't forgotten to blog - I just haven't!

    I actually had a few draft posts up and ready to go - but hadn't approved them to post because something just felt wrong, so I let stuff slip and focused on other things.

    What was I focusing on? The parts of my life I actually can put my hands on and work with right now. I felt overwhelmed, and when I feel that way I typically I may pretend like I'm pretty carefree and willing to go with the flow, but really I want to get stuff DONE so it stops piling up when I am overwhelmed. So, lately I have -

    1. Gotten new furniture (I got the white sofa, and I still love it) for the living room, I own a TV again, and I'm working on framing some art I picked up in Asheville to go with the new paint (and by stars, it's a neutral wall color!). I still need to assemble a shelf from IKEA and mount it, as well as getting some new curtains/window treatments and toss pillows. But hey, it's progress.

    2. This week I am putting down new wood floor in my third floor bedroom so that I can add a new renter in May. At this point only 'old floor' in the condo is in the kitchen, bathrooms, and my bedroom - BECAUSE I GOT NEW CARPET. That ordeal took about a month, ya'll. But I am SO happy with it.

    3. I am in my second class of my second M.Ed. and trying not to be a terrible student - I got a little hung up at work last week and turned in an assignment just barely on time ... I forgot how stressful that can be to other group members, Ooops. I spent many a day in undergrad bewailing the slackness of fellow groupies and need to shape up. In better news, I made a 4.0 in my finance class - which I didn't expect!

    4. I'm teaching a class where I get to design the curriculum more - and I am trying to be as engaged a teacher as I know I should be.

    5. McEngineer and I built a doghouse! Although, really, it is large enough to be a child's playhouse (due to the size of the dog). The dog is very proud of it. And we both fit it it!

    6. I finished a marathon. It was a thing. Blog entry to follow - no worries.

    7. I stopped running for a bit. Partially due to how much Daylight Savings time messes me up in the springtime (loads!) and partially because I got slammed at work just as my training cycle was over. So this week will be getting-back-into-running-week, if all goes according to plan. I have to be a morning runner, and mornings are starting to get easier. Hopefully I can start getting the miles back in.

    8. I did some traveling and some racing (and have planned some travels and some races). Prepare to get your ears yapped off about them.

    9. Quit coffee/caffeine temporarily, partially to fight Daylight Savings nonsense and partially because I felt like it.

    10. Tracking and minimizing my cellphone use! It has helped with SO many parts of my life. It began as a part of NPR's Bored and Brilliant challenge, but I kept the Break Free app on my phone and have been loving how it helps me unplug a little more every day!

    There's a long list of things I *need* to do, and another list of things that I *want* to do, and then another list of things that I *need to want to do* ... but at the moment I am happy that I have completed what I have, and I and gaining momentum to do more things.

    And now that the frost has killed my first round of plants ... I think I may plant some more -

    QotD: What have you been doing lately? What are you planning to do next?

    Wednesday, January 7, 2015

    ... where's the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds ...

    Almost Wordless Wednesday ...

    Wishing you a - 

    Happy New Year
     or a
    Happy Do-over
    or a
    Happy Blank Page
     but most of all I wish you 

    Saturday, November 29, 2014

    ... if I knew you were comin', I'd've baked a cake ...

    I am a closeted holiday fiend. I love holidays - I love the opportunities to show people I love them and usually do that through baking way too many things.

    Pies are my favorite.

    I become slightly obsessed around this time of year and plot the kinds of pies I will make. My co-workers just sigh or giggle, depending on how many times I've talked about it that day.

    And now that I am ALL UP ON the Pinterest, inspiration abounds.

    Like the crust from this pie from Momofuku Milk Bar. As usual, can't follow a recipe all the way through and get to plotting alternate versions.

    Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie | #recipe
    I ended up with a peanut butter chess pie with oatmeal cookie crust, a cranberry sage pie I made previously and loved, and one that the New York Times apparently thinks all South Carolinians eat at Thanksgiving. I am from SC, and no one that I discussed this pie with, including the people at the three gatherings I attended, had ever heard of this pie.

    Overall, I made 6 pies (two of each) in as many hours and had two folks show up to pour me wine and moonshine  partake in the creative process that helps ease my stress by trying nibbles and making me laugh at myself. The cranberry sage was my favorite (I've been making it for three years now, so even if no one else likes it, it's getting made) and most adults liked the tartness. The oatmeal/PB monstrosity was a hit with the non-fruity pie crowd. Sadly, the NYT reviewed and raved pie was the least popular and was also the biggest pain to make. Not likely to try that one again.

    In other news, the boots that I ordered from Target (even though I probably shouldn't have) came in and I am SO in love with them. Seriously. They fit my wide calves, support my arches during long school days, survived a muddy Lake Hartwell shoreline hike, kept my feet dry and warm in the rain, and accommodate skinny jeans and/or legwarmers. Is it wrong for me to consider getting the tan ones in addition to the black and brown pairs I just bought? They are on SALE, ya'll!


    An important picture, and some fun links below -

    If you're feeling like entering to win a little bling and some fitness gear, feel free to click here!

    Looking for gifts for a teacher? Here is a great place to start.