Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... A Single Woman

The experiment that was eHarmony ended back in May, and I was so very happy to see it end. I learned a great deal through the process about myself, who I am, who I'm looking for, and how truly great this period of my life is. (I also learned that dating in your mid/late 20s is a completely different game than dating in college or right after college, but I'll get into that another time).
If I'm honest, I stopped caring around December 2015 and stopped putting any real effort in at that point. It got to be so tedious having to check every day and figure out from a bunch of words on a profile if I was interested or not. You pick up on what's between the lines, you get a feel for who the more sane ones are after a little while, but that doesn't mean one or two won't get through the screening process you come up with. I got tired of having the same conversation over and over and over again, and the game I was trying to avoid was still there just in a different form. I tried Coffee Meets Bagel for a couple months until work got crazy. It worked a little better for me, but I still hated it. I won't be giving online dating another try in the near future. I had been thinking about giving a different site a try, but the whole process is tiring and I like my life as it is now so, at this point in my life, I'm done with online dating. I do not enjoy it and it does not work for me, so I'm going to enjoy this phase of my life that I'm in. I'm not swearing off dating, just the online part of it for now. I enjoy getting to know people, finding out what makes them tick, and developing friendships without any pressure.
I guess this means you can bring on the set ups (and if anyone wants to give speed dating a go, I'm in)!

I feel like people expect me to be seeing someone, recently I've been getting a lot more of the "I thought you had a boyfriend?" comments. I don't know if it's my age, how long I've been single, or what that's prompting them. I get asked on occasion if I've tried online dating... I just smile (laugh to myself) and say I've tried it and it didn't work for me. Usually this is shocking and unheard of news because it worked so well for so-and-so. Which usually leads to them telling the story of so-and-so and how well online dating worked for them and how happy that couple is. I'm just standing there thinking to myself, "That's so awesome for so-and-so, I'm glad it worked work for them. It's just so not my thing.", or (if I'm in a really bad mood) "So you want me to be with someone for the sake of not being single at my age?" The conversation often ends with something along the lines of "When I stopped looking..." which brings me to the heart of this post.

I know I've touched on this before, but please stop with the "stop looking" cliche. I don't think I know anyone who has found that advice helpful, and I know all you're trying to do is help. When you tell me about how you found love when you "stopped looking for it" all you're doing is giving me a chance to practice my eye roll, and, quite honestly, I stop listening to anything said after that. When you use that cliche it sounds like you're saying because I'm "looking", going on dates, putting myself out there, or being hopeful about finding someone that I won't find what I'm hoping for. It almost sounds like you're telling me there's a punishment for looking and I'm wrong to be putting myself out there. I love my life as it is, and yes it would it be fantastic to share it with someone. Until I meet the person that makes me feel like being in a relationship had more pros than being single does I'll keep living my life as it is, and that includes dates. I've actually done the whole "stop looking" thing, all it did was make me feel hopeless and miserable, or the relationship that came from me "not looking" wasn't so great.

Really, let's all avoid all the cliche dating/relationship advice that's out there. It's impersonal and (for me) it makes me feel like you aren't actually listening to what I'm saying, that there isn't an attempt to understand how I'm feeling, and that you just want me to stop talking about it. Instead of the cliches, let's listen to each other. If you don't understand what someone who is single is feeling, that's ok; just say that you don't understand and do your best to empathize. When you say you don't understand it says to me that you aren't discounting my feelings, you also open the door for clarification and better communication. Try to put yourself in the position of having a relationship status of single, and ask whatever questions you need to in an attempt to understand. The questions and attempting to understand is far less frustrating than the cliches are.

Single folks, I've noticed most of the people who use the cliches as dating advice have never experienced being single for a prolonged period of time. They don't know what to say or how to react, so the clichés are an attempt to help. They haven't been there, they haven't experienced it, so they don't know what it's like. They don't understand the depth of loneliness that comes with knowing there's no one to hold you while you cry after yet another crappy day at work, no one to pop open a bottle of your favorite wine and celebrate with you, no one to explore a new city with, etc. Yes, we all have friends who do these things with us, and we understand how it's just not the same but they may not. We have to be patient, listen, and find the right words to explain.

Maybe what it comes down to is better communication, better listening, and building a community of people that want to understand and are there for you even if they don't get it.
Maybe it's about getting vulnerable and being honest about how you're feeling at whatever stage of life you're in, and learning to reach out when you need help.

I can't help but think sometimes if we all learned to be vulnerable, listened to understand rather than respond, and showed grace to others (and ourselves) conversations and relationships would be different for the better.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... Getting Fit

Getting fit isn't just about the physical aspects of getting to the gym, workouts (strength and cardio), and eating healthy. Getting fit is a whole body thing, it's also mental and emotional. My workout regime and diet had to change (physical), my attitude towards food and life had to change (mental), and I also had to start taking better care of myself (emotional). The mental and emotional part has been the hardest part for me to change. It's been easy to make changes for my physical health through incorporating working out as a part of my week and cleaning my diet up, but taking care of my mental and emotional health has been my challenge.

This fitness path is not easy... You can feel great one day and like crap the next, you can miss a workout and it ruins your day, you can have every intention of taking an hour to spend on yourself but then traffic throws everything off, etc. I love that those I look up to and who motivate me are honest about their fitness set backs, it was nice to know I wasn't alone over the last few months.

I had a couple high stress months where I did not follow my usual fitness regime fully, and I could feel it, especially towards the end of that timeframe. The worst of it being I missed a few weeks of yoga because I was just too tired (in bed, asleep at 9pm tired), so now my hamstrings want to die and my mental and emotional health took a hit from that lack of me time and reflection. My diet was not what it should have been (way too much sugar and crap was consumed, I was not sleeping well (still not sleeping great), and my mental abilities were depleted. All of this meant I couldn't handle being around people, I napped when I got home from work only to go to bed early, and my body took a beating in every way possible (the more tired I am the more of a klutz I am). I got through it though, and I'm doing everything necessary to take care of my body so I can get back to my "normal" life. I'm working on getting my diet back on track, I've started planning workouts during the week, autumn is coming which means long walks, I'm trying to get back in the habit of journaling/writing, and I'm resting when I need to with no guilt.

I'm almost back to where I was, but there's still a long way to do. I'm adding some new tools to help me keep going on this path.

I got a new yoga app for my phone and tried it for the first time this past week. I skipped my usual yoga class, I had a case of the "blahs" and didn't feel like leaving the house so I tested out the app instead. Since my hamstrings hate me I went with a 30 minute beginner practice rather than a 60 minute intermediate that might make my hamstrings feel like they're on fire. As the 30 minutes came to an end I realized I needed more time to clear my mind, and I tried guided meditation for the first time. I LOVED it! It was all the things I love about shavasana (the final resting pose in my yoga practice, also known as corpse pose), but so much more. My head was fully clear, my body was fully relaxed, and I can only imagine how much more amazing it will be once I get another diffuser so I can defuse some lavender, add some candles, and get a different color paint on the wall to make the space even more welcoming and relaxing.

Yoga has done wonders for my fitness journey, as has writing. Finding new ways to mix up my workouts has been great, but I think the real trick has been finding what worked for me and sticking to it.
1) Proper Hydration- I drink water, lots of water. Water out of the tap can get boring when you're drinking multiple water bottles of it each day, so I jazz it up with some fruit, citrus and/or herbs. A handful of frozen or fresh cherries or strawberries and the juice from one lemon is my favorite! I've done lemon and cucumber, lemon and mint, cherry and lime juice, and so many more I don't even remember. I make a big jug for the week and pour it over ice. Herbal teas are great too. When I'm hydrated I feel less sluggish, less grumpy, and less blah
2) Do what you have to do to stay on track- I stopped keeping junk food in the house and started keeping healthy snack options around instead (nuts, fruit, veggies, etc.). I started leaving one of my yoga mats out as a reminder to practice, and I've decided to create a more welcoming yoga space in my house that will help me want to practice more. I stick to my Saturday morning trainings too, sleeping in would be nice, but if it wasn't for the gym I would probably never get out of bed on Saturday.
3) Find what works for you- I have to mix up my workouts, or I get bored and I don't do them. I can't run on pavement, my ankles and knees can't handle the impact. I can get to the gym for strength training and a short jog on the treadmill. Zumba, definitely not my thing. Ballet/barre/belly dance workouts, yes please! I'm still figuring out what works best for me mentally and emotionally, I do know lavender bubble bath is amazing, and coloring helps me distress. There's something about creating art that calms my mind...
4) Schedule your workouts and time for yourself, and DON'T SKIP IT- I used to put workouts in my calendar ahead of time so when I looked at my schedule for the day I would remember. I stopped doing that and I stopped working out... I need to start doing that again. I also schedule me time, whether I use that time to go to Old EC (pre-flood) and grab a latte while I wandered, curled up with a cup of tea or a glass of wine while reading a book, napped, took a bubble bath, or tried to catch up on the ever growing list of movies and tv shows I'm trying to get caught up on. If I don't take care of myself I can't take care of the people I care about.
5) Forgive yourself- If you miss a workout, that's ok. If you go for the burger and fries rather than the salad, that's ok. Forgive the person you were yesterday, forgive the person you were last year, forgive your teenage self who didn't know. If you are going to love yourself as you are you have to forgive the person that you were. Commit to trying to do better the next day even if it's just one small thing you do better. This has been the hardest thing for me to learn to do, I'm very hard on myself and I push myself harder than I probably need to. Learning to say it's ok, I'll try again tomorrow has made a difference to my mental health. It's changed my attitude towards work, and lessened the stress I feel from it on a daily basis.

I've still got a long way to go with all of this, but I'm better than I was last year. That means I've made progress, and as long as I've got forward motion I'll take it and keep on working to get better and more fit.

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... A Cook (Jalapeño Cheddar Grits with Poached Eggs)

I love grits, especially cheese grits, and I love spicy food, so when I stumbled upon this recipe for Jalapeño Cheddar Grits with Poached Eggs on The Little Spice Jar it went to the top of my list of things to make. It's officially in the menu rotation now!

I didn't do much differently with this recipe. The biggest change was using quick grits rather than following the recipe since that's what I had on hand in my pantry. They worked just as well, and were faster. To make this change I added the milk after adding the grits to the boiling water, and swapped the heat to low to keep them warm once fully cooked.

Before I start I prep as many of the ingredients as I can, I chop onions, cut up veggies, prep meat, etc. and I line them up in the order I'll need them. It makes things easier for me when I'm trying a new recipe and want to read the directions as I go.

For this one start by melting the butter. Once melted and heated add the shallot and garlic and sauté until translucent. (It made my house smell lovely).

Once the shallot is translucent the jalapeño goes in. (I cleaned out all the seeds and membrane from the jalapeños I used, so the grits weren't spicy at all this time. Each jalapeño is different, so taste before you add the full amount and adjust according to your taste preferences).

While everything sautéed I prepped for my very first attempt at poaching eggs, slotted spoon, cracked eggs, and plate for finished eggs. (DO NOT use a paper towel like I did, your egg will stick to it badly and make a mess).

Once the grits are cooked whisk in the cheese. (I got busy poaching eggs and forgot to stir my quick cook grits. This meant my cooked grits clumped on the bottom of the pan. If this happens to you, it's fixable! Just carefully whisk them and they'll be great). Cover and set the burner to low to keep them warm while you poach eggs.

Egg poaching was not as difficult a task as I anticipated it would be. I went with the water swirling method since my eggs weren't fresh (I did not need the pan that full of water). All you do is get the water swirling really good, and plop the egg right in the middle. The idea is the egg whites fold over the yolk. (Fun fact, I watched about a dozen different  Youtube videos before I actually attempted this).

It took a little practice, but my final one was perfect! (Bottom right corner). To keep my eggs warm I placed the plate in the microwave between eggs (I DID NOT turn it on, just put the plate in and close the door).

If you don't like runny yolks, feel free to fry an egg or two, cut up hard boiled eggs, or any other prepare your eggs any style you like!

The end product is yummy, and with practice I have a feeling this will be a quick meal!


Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... A Music Lover

My stress level has been through the roof lately, so I've been in more of a mellow, slower, sadder songs mood. Not my favorite place to be for a prolonged period of time, but some of these lyrics are absolutely beautiful in their accuracy with how I'm feeling right now.

"Strong Tonight", Nashville Cast
"I don't want to be strong tonight/ Don't want to hear it'll be ok/ Don't want to look on the bright side/ Don't want to learn from my mistakes/ Don't want to cheer up/ Don't feel like smiling/ To hell with lookin' for that silver linin'/ I just want to have a breakdown/ I just wanna let my heart ache/ Fall apart and get it all out/ Leave proof of the pain/ Tears stains on my pillow case/ I don't want to be strong tonight."
I've been so tired lately, and I'm so tired of being strong right now. I just want a break, a week off to sleep and get back to the things I love doing. I need a chance to fall apart so I can pick myself back up. I don't want to be positive, I don't want to be optimistic, I don't want to cheer up. I just feel numb right now, I just want to feel something... That means falling apart, feeling it all, and picking myself back up.

"I Could Use A Love Song", Maren Morris
"I could use a love song/ That takes me back just like that/ When it comes on/ To a time when I wouldn't roll my eyes/ At a guy and girl/ Who make it work in a world/ That for me so far just seems to go so wrong,/ Yeah I could use a love song."
This song makes me cry, in some ways I think I've been single long enough that I'm cynical about things I didn't used to be cynical about (like love songs). Being single for awhile has given me perspective on somethings that I will carry with me even when I'm no longer single, and I appreciate the small/simple gestures that much more. 
"Record Year", Eric Church
"I'm counting on a needle to save me/ I drop it in the groove/ And we go round and round/ And down in a spiral..."
A song about how music speaks to us in the hard times and can even save us, how appropriate... Music has been one of the things getting me through the last few months as things at work have increased my stress level and crept into other aspects of my life as my body grew weary. It's been a rough year, but music has been there for me through it all. There's always a song that fits what I'm going through, whether it's new music or rediscovering an old favorite.

"Second Wind", Maren Morris
"Yeah, maybe I've been down, down, down, down/ But I always come back around, round, round, round/ You can't forget about me/ While you weren't lookin' I was gettin' even higher/ Say what you want about me/ Your words are gasoline on my fire/ You can hate my, underestimate me/ Do what you do 'cause what you do don't phase me/ Just when you think I'm at the end/ Any second I'ma catch my second wind."
Life is tough right now, but it will only make me stronger; it's already made me stronger. I'm getting my second wind and I will come back and I will be a force to be reckoned with when I'm at 100%. 

"Pioneer", The Band Perry
"Let your heart not be troubled/ I won't run when bullets chase me/ I won't rest where arms embrace me/ I will love when people hate me/ I won't hush, no you can't make me/ Send the dark, but it won't break me/ You can try, but you can't change me/ Take my life, they will replace me/ I won't hush, no you can't make me/ I won't hush, no we will sing/ Where are we going'/ Oh I don't know, but still I gotta go."
I love this song; it's hard to really explain why, but this bridge just speaks to me. "You can try, but you can't change me." I am who I am, you don't have to like me. I will fight, I will love, I will live life with those who will walk with me like I walk with them. I know who I am, I'm just not sure where I'm going. The last couple months have made me really think about what the next year or two of my life will look like, but even though I don't know, I'll keep moving forward.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... Making A Home

Something this month finally triggered this place finally feeling like it's mine, like it's home. Maybe it's because for the first time in 4/5 years I'm not planning out my housing situation for the next year.

This place feels more like home since I brought Randy home in December. He's a Rottweiler/Lab/Hound mix, is 65+lbs, 2 years old, thinks he's a lapdog, hates the cold but loves the snow, does not seem to be a fan of summer weather, is obsessed with anything peanut butter flavored or scented, is a cuddle bug, chases his tail, carries his stuffed squirrel toy from room to room (it's cute until he starts violently shaking it), and wants nothing more than to be right next to you (unless you're vacuuming, that's about the only time he runs away).

I hadn't expected that feeling of home to come with a dog, but now that he's here I don't think this place would feel as much like home if I wasn't tripping over him, having him sit in my lap, being jumped on in the middle of the night, and snuggling with him every morning. (He doesn't seem to be a fond of mornings either). We still have training to do and things we're working on, but it's all worth it to see that goofy face watching over me.

The living/dining room is almost done! I am loving my coffee table, it was such a good choice and well worth the splurge. The addition of my Grandmom's magnolia flower drawing made me so happy. A close second to that happy feeling was finally getting rid of the hideous light fixture in the dining room. There are still a few more things I want to get (like floating shelves so I can get my collection of shot glasses out of the box they've been in for almost 11 months...), but I'm mostly just on to the fun part; picking up the little accents that help make it feel like home.

Nightstands and new table lamps in the bedroom have made me realize that the next thing I do should in my room should be replace my headboard, curtains, and bedspread. As much as I love the ones I currently have, I'm going for a different look that I did before, one the current headboard, bedspread, and curtains don't work with. (If my room had been cleaned in the last 3 weeks I'd have a picture, but it's a mess so I'll spare you.) I also made the decision that I definitely want to put an armchair in the loft for reading. I was going back and forth on that with spacing and the purpose I had for the loft, but I rearranged, and decided that the loft is my place to relax. It was going to be my office too, but I tend to work at the bar in the kitchen since it means 2 less flights of stairs to go up and down. My workout gear will be moving to the basement once I've got some more storage down there (there's also more space and it's cooler).

Speaking of the basement, it's a work in progress... I did finally reclaim my coffee table from it's temporary use as a tv stand! This weekend we also rearranged the furniture a tad, and it feels bigger. I think that's the space with the biggest list of projects too...

I've tried to collect things to have around my house that are authentic to me, that mean something, tell my story, and make it home. This means there is still a ton of blank wall space as I decide what I want, empty corners waiting for furniture, and walls that haven't been painted the right color yet. I'm still getting to the point of being ok with it. I'm not used to being in one spot for a period of longer than about 15 months, but I've got a few more years here. I'm sure by the time I move I'll be wishing I had blank wall space and empty corners because it would mean less to pack. This is home though, and it's finally starting to really feel like it the more I make it mine.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... A Cook (Spanish Chickpea and Spinach Stew)

When you make a meatless dish your carnivore of a brother enjoys, you know it's a good one!

I was a little skeptical of this when I first read the recipe, but figured what the heck. We both love chickpeas, and I love anything I can sneak a veggie (or two) into. This stew was a good balance of sweet and spicy, though next time I won't use as much brown sugar. (The preference in this house is spice over sweet).

I made a few changes to the wonderful original recipe over at Lazy Cat Kitchen mostly because I don't have time to cook chickpeas. (I also hate the mess crushing plum tomatoes inevitably makes (tomato splatter on my white cabinets, my walls and on me), so I swapped it out for canned diced tomatoes). Since I swapped cooking chickpeas for canned chickpeas I think I need to go with 2 cups of them next time around. I also made some changes here and there tweaking as I went as I noticed things I needed/wanted to do differently.

Spanish Chickpea and Spinach Stew

   3 Tablespoons Olive Oil (I used EVOO)
   3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I used my garlic press)
   1 medium red onion, finely chopped
   1 Tablespoon ground cumin
   1½ teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked)
   ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or hot chilli powder
   ½ tsp salt
   1 Tablespoon brown sugar
   Black pepper, to taste
   2 14 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
   1 Tablespoon of tomato paste
   1½ cups of cooked chickpeas
   2 or 3 large handfuls of spinach (or more if you love spinach like me)
   A handful of almond flakes, toasted
    Cooked brown rice to serve with

1. Start cooking your brown rice, this will take about as long to cook as it takes to get the stew together.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and sauté until almost translucent, stirring from time to time.
3. Add garlic, continue on stirring frequently until the onion is translucent and the garlic becomes fragrant.
4. Add the cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper to the onion and garlic mixture and stir for a minute or two.
5. Add the tomato paste to the pan and stir it into the onion and garlic mixture for a minute or so.
6. Add tomatoes to the pan, salt and half of the sugar. Let the sauce thicken by simmering it on a low heat with no lid on stirring occasionally.
7. Once the sauce thickens, taste and season with some black pepper and more sugar if needed.
8. Add the cooked chickpeas, stir, and let them get warm. Add the spinach and place the lid so the spinach wilts.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... Fighting an Eating Disorder

About a year and a half ago I hit publish on my first post specifically about my struggle with bulimia. I had no idea what to expect as I shared one of the biggest secrets in my life, hitting publish on that post was one of the more nerve wracking moments in my life. What I didn't see then was that it would also be one of the most freeing moments I've experienced.

I had already shared that I struggled with an eating disorder in a previous blog, but I decided 2015 would be about learning to be more vulnerable and that meant talking about my eating disordered brain. I didn't know it would be accepted, how people would react to it, or what would change, if anything, in how I was treated. Turns out nothing changed, not a thing. People treat me exactly the same as they did before I was honest about one of my biggest struggles. The past year is the most in control I have been when it comes to my struggle with bulimia.  I recognized when I was close to triggering last June, and for the first time I was able to stay in control without acting on the trigger. 

It's like talking about this secret part of my life freed me and in that freedom I found that my secret no longer had any control over me. I have good days where I barely think about it at all, and I have bad days where every minute is a fight to keep my focus on other things and avoid triggering. I'm having far more good days than bad now, and I know I'm one of the lucky ones with that.

I never expected that opening up about this would get me so fired up and passionate about the subject, or that I would end up wanting to get a tattoo incorporating this part of my story into the journal of sorts I keep with my tattoos. I'll go into that more in a future post, but here's a sneak peak,

You talk about eating disorders so briefly in health class in middle school and maybe high school, but there's no actual conversation. Anorexia and bulimia are introduced, they're explained a little, and then it's on to the next topic. No information about how to identify it in yourself, a friend, or family member, no information on where to go to get help or how to get it, and no information on where to find support. I don't know if any of those things would have made a difference for me, but if I had been better educated, if someone had come in and talked about their struggle with an eating disorder and made us feel less alone, would I have gotten control earlier?

That was the other part of sharing my secret, I didn't want people to feel alone in this like I did. As I shared it with those close to me I found out I wasn't the only one struggling, and that made me feel less alone in this fight.

As I've tried to learn more about my eating disordered brain I've also learned more about the different types of eating disorders, triggers, things that help with recovery, and that not everyone takes eating disorders seriously.

Orthorexia was in the news for a brief moment last year. Orthorexia is essentially an obsession with eating foods that are believed to be healthy. It's a lesser known eating disorder and not recognized in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). I don't know much about orthorexia, but I do know the obsessive behaviors found in anorexia and bulimia (which are recognized in the DSM as eating disorders) are the same, and the behaviors can even be ritualistic. There is a big difference between eating healthy and being obsessed with healthy eating, the food itself, and classifying it as good vs. bad. With the popularity of clean eating on the rise and social media attention, it wouldn't surprise me if the number of people with Orthorexia increases in the future. Here's the thing with Orthorexia, because it's not a recognized and approved disorder in the DSM by the APA, insurance won't help pay for treatment. I didn't know that prior to reading more about it. I also hadn't realized how many people seem to think orthorexia and other eating disorders are a joke (never read the comments on online articles).

I can't wrap my head around how anyone would think orthorexia and other body image disorders are a joke, that they aren't real, and that boys/men can't have an eating disorder because they've been branded as a female problem. It makes me wonder how many men with an ED go uncounted in the statistics and untreated because they don't want to be made fun of or aren't taken seriously? Maybe, just like orthorexia their disorder looks different on the outside, but at the heart it's the same issue.

I know I'm just one person sharing her story, and it probably won't make much of a difference or stomp out these disorders. Maybe though me telling my story creates a ripple effect with others sharing their stories, maybe it makes someone feel less alone, and maybe it helps someone keep fighting.