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.

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... Enjoying The Moment

"At some point you have to let go of what you thought should happen and live in what is happening."

Life has not gone how I thought it would...
I'm 27 and I'm single, I have a 65lb lapdog, I own a house, I have a job that has nothing to do with marketing, a dream job that is full of risks that I never thought I would take because I'm not a risk taker, the beginning of a plan to move out of Maryland someday, and I couldn't be more ok with all of it exactly how it is right now. (Ok, maybe not my job situation but I'm working on that so I'm alright for the time being).

It took a long time to reconcile the way my life is at 27 to how I thought it would be at 27 and how I thought I wanted it to be by the time I turned 27.

Way too long.

I spent too much time and energy on wishing my life was how I wanted it to be when I was 24, 25, 26 and looking ahead to 27. I was 21/22/23 when I created those dreams; I'm not the same person I was then, and I hadn't updated my expectations of myself because I wanted to do "the right thing." I had a hard time accepting and vocalizing that my life is exactly how I want it to be right now. I spent too much time worrying what people would think of someone my age being happily single and not really dating, I worried about finding the perfect job at a company where I could spend my whole career, I wasted too much time not taking care of myself, and I didn't take the time to enjoy my life in the season I am in right now.

Maybe it's engrained in our culture, to always be moving on to the next thing/the next step and forgetting to enjoy what we've accomplished so far. I've always had a goal I was working towards for as long as I can remember. This is the first year that there isn't a goal, there isn't a part of a dream I'm working towards accomplishing. It's weird, I feel like I'm just drifting along right now like you do on a lazy river. No real direction, no real effort, moving forward, just enjoying the pace and relaxing.  I'm not used to that. I'm used to going as quickly as possible, moving on to the next step, and going towards whatever the current goal is as fast as I can.

I've been busting my butt since the day I started college... Studying (like I never did in high school) to get good grades so I could transfer to a 4 year program, working really hard to finish my degree in 4 years, working to find a job after graduating, busting my butt there for year, moving on to the next job, and busting my butt there for the last 3 years. It's because I busted my butt and focused that I was able to payoff my college loans within a year of graduating, and save enough for a down payment on a house. It got me to thinking, I've been tired almost constantly since I graduated, I push myself quite a bit, maybe my goal for this year should be to enjoy what I've accomplished in the last 9 years, to be proud of who I am, enjoy my success, and take it easy.

Someday I won't be able to grab drinks/coffee with a friend on a moments notice, take a couple days off work to clean my house and window shop/run errands, someday I won't be able to run errands by myself, someday there won't be a couple hours on a Saturday to spend reading or watching a movie with my dog, my Friday nights curled up with a book and sipping a glass (or two) of good wine will become more scarce, and I look forward to that someday. It's not here yet though, so for now I'm going to enjoy the moments no matter how small they are because someday they'll be gone and there's no getting them back.
"Live in the moment and make it beautiful."

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

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

I've started to sense a theme to the music I've been listening to lately. Lately it's been all about finding who I am, where I'm going, and reminding me that the best days are still ahead of me.

"Tomorrow Never Comes", Zac Brown Band
"I've been climbing my way through the sky/ Searching for answers that I'll never find/ Losing my breath as I fall/ Learning to fly letting go of it all/ Learning to fly letting go of it all."
The acoustic version of this song is even better than the one I have linked here. I bought the whole Jekyll & Hyde album on a whim (thank you iTunes sale where I could get the rest of the album for $3), and this was the first song on it I listened to that wasn't a single. I was drawn to the title, then I saw there was an acoustic version of it, and I was hooked! (I'm a sucker for the acoustic version of songs). It's been on repeat pretty much constantly at some point everyday, the lyrics are everything I'm feeling right now.

"The Best Is Yet To Come", Sheppard
"Help me understand the best is yet to come/Take me by the hand before I come undone/ 'Cause all this emptiness has left me feeling numb/But it's darkest right before the sun."
I had this song on repeat for hours at a time last March/April as I worked through the death of a friend. Her passing came as a complete surprise, and left questions we won't get answers to. I spent a lot of time coloring while I listened to this song as I tried to work through it all. It was a reminder that we would see her again, that better days were ahead, and that she would be so unhappy if we weren't making the most of our time here. The best days of our lives are still ahead of us, and I don't want to waste a single minute.

"Dashes", Tyler Ward
"So let me go, give me dashes on the road/ Maybe I'll walk into a place I don't know/ I gotta see how things they turn out cause dreams in this town get cold/ You'll miss your chances if you're marching in time/Even if I go alone, the least you can give me are dashes on the road."
I have such a hard time picking a favorite song of Tyler's because all his original music is awesome, and different songs are my favorites depending on what's going on in my life. This one though, every time I hear it strikes a chord in me no matter what's happening in my life. Right now I'm embracing the path I'm walking in life without having a clue where it leads, I'm just following the dashes on the road and seeing what happens.

"Only Tennessee", Clare Bowen (Nashville Cast)
"Never thought I would give in/ Now you're underneath my skin/Only Tennessee, only Tennessee can save me now."
I love the music that is coming out of ABC's "Nashville." This song though struck a chord with me the minute I heard it because Nashville left such an impression on me when I was there last year. I always thought Maryland was my home, and that it would always be my home. After my visit to Nashville, Tennessee though, I'm questioning how long I will stay here. There was something about Nashville and the surrounding areas I visited that just spoke to my soul. 5 days was all it took for it to feel like home, and I didn't want to come back to Maryland. My great grandmother was from Tennessee, so it's in my blood as well as my soul and someday it will be my home rather than just my heart home.

"Airstream Song", Miranda Lambert
"Unbridled or tethered in tide/The safety of the fence or the danger of the ride/I'll always be unsatisfied/Sometimes I wish I lived by a pier/In a lighthouse with a chandelier/I'd watch everybody's ships come in/And then I'd sail away with them/Unanchored in a storm/Or the safety of the shore/If this is all I need/Why do I want more?"
This song fits the urge I have to go, to explore and wander, but also the feeling of staying where I am. I want to go explore, see what's out there while I have the physical ability to travel and sleep less so I can experience more. At the same time, I have a home here and I love my house. I get restless when I don't travel enough, and I think that's what's kicking in right now and the urge to run and not be tethered is growing stronger.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

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

This post ended up going a very different direction than I thought it would when I started writing it. I changed my attitude over the last couple months, and shifted my outlook on somethings.
As a single gal, I get some questions on a fairly regular basis; usually along the lines of,
"Where's your husband/boyfriend tonight?
How do you do it?
Do people look at you differently because you're single?
How are you not married yet? You're a catch!"

I probably get asked most frequently why I'm not married yet. It's typically asked in a kind/curious manner along the lines of of "you're an intelligent woman, a great cook/baker, you own a house, you're attractive, you're a catch, so how has this not happened yet?" Honestly, it doesn't make much sense to me either when I think about it that way. When I look back though it wasn't until a couple years ago I was ready to be "caught", and only in the last year that I finally got to the point that I would be able to handle marriage from a selflessness standpoint. I had to learn to be vulnerable, to be ok with not being ok and admitting it, I had to learn to admit when I'm wrong, to be ok with not always being right, to be able to vocalize when I need alone time, and I needed to admit that I don't want to do life on my own.

Quite simply, it hasn't been the right time yet and it hasn't been the right man yet. I also had some growing to do. (If I'm being honest, I probably have some more growing to do).

I've noticed that since I bought a house people assume that I'm married or have a boyfriend more often, and that assumption used to really frustrate me. I would get a little riled up because why couldn't a successful, driven, single woman buy a house on her own, what wasn't ok with that? I changed my attitude about this not too long ago. I've chosen to see it differently, to try and see it as a compliment that people assume someone "caught" me. Honestly, I never expected to buy a house on my own either. I didn't realize that until I spent my first night in my house all alone, so it's a valid assumption.

Through my experiment with eHarmony (which I have strong feelings of dislike towards and look forward to the end of in May), I've discovered finding a guy who is as intelligent/smart as I'm looking for, funny/has a sense of humor that doesn't clash with my sarcastic/dry humor, someone I find attractive, wants a family, is a Christian, and I have chemistry with isn't as easy as I thought it would be. Actually, I might have to be a little more picky than that which means I have to figure out what type of man I'm looking for. I'm not the same person I was the last time I was in the dating game, so I have to figure it out again. Somehow I've always seemed to know when it hasn't been right, so I figure I'll know when it is right and maybe make a few friends along the way.

On the other side of things, I am not everyone's cup of tea. (I'm probably more like a shot of tequila or whiskey). I'm loud, very opinionated and very ok with voicing that opinion, highly sarcastic, I've got an independent streak, I'm actually low maintenance (I have references if you doubt that), I can be way too serious at times, I like working (though I'm not fond of my current job situation), and I'm not in a rush to get married. I think that last one might be why eHarmony isn't working for me. eHarmony seems to be filled with people ready to "settle down" in oh say 6 months to a year. I'm not saying it wouldn't happen for me if it was right, it's just highly unlikely and out of character for me. The nice way of putting it is I'm unique. I know who I am and knowing who I am has helped me figure out what I'm looking for in someone I'll be spending the next 60+ years of my life with.

I get asked how I manage it, how I do it, if people look at me differently because of my relationship status. I think these are the harder questions to answer and have more of an emotional pull because I'm not quite sure how I do it. I manage the only way I know how; I live my life and I live it how I see best for me. I've spent a majority of the last few years single, so singleness is comfortable for me, like slipping into your favorite hoodie and sweatpants at the end of a long day kind of comfortable. It's kind of nice to do what I want to do when I want to do it, go where I want to go when I want to, not be tied to a phone, and to be able to decorate my house without male input. There are nights where I cry because the loneliness hits me, there are times when I quietly sidestep questions about my husband/boyfriend because it's just easier to let them slide and not have to explain or answer questions about why I'm single, and I try to remember my situation isn't what some would consider to be the norm.
Some people do look at me differently. Some look at me and I can feel the judgement that a "good Christian girl" like me at my age should be "settling down", and some look at me and say "good for you, don't you ever settle because it's worth the wait." You just go with it, and kill the judgers with kindness. They haven't been there, they walked a different path in life, and they may not understand.

I think the best answer to most of these questions is that I haven't met anyone I think it's worth making the trade for yet. I'm ok with being single, I like my life how it is so until I meet someone that makes me feel differently I'll keep being single. Singleness isn't something to be afraid or ashamed of, it's something that should be embraced for however long the period lasts. It's not easy, but neither is being in a relationship; each has their pros and cons and one isn't worse than the other. I won't be fulfilled or completed by being in a relationship, I am a complete person looking for another complete person to live life with. 
"My alone feels so good I'll only have you if you're sweeter than my solitude."