Friday, November 30, 2012

This Above All: To Thine Own Self Be True

Good morning, and TGIF!

While listening to this week's IIN module, I heard phenomenal quote from Iyanla Vanzant: 

You're not tested where you're strong - you're tested where you're weak. 

Shortly thereafter, I stumbled upon the  #beTRUEtoYOU challenge hosted by Powercakes' bloggess, Casey -- so I figure this combination of events was meant to tell me something.


Why? Well, my weak points have always been trusting myself and being true to myself.  

First, the issue of trusting myself and my instincts: I spent years convinced that "listen to your heart" was actually code for "Be impulsive, be reckless, and feel free to do stupid stuff that you'll regret for the rest of your life because you didn't bother to think it through." I'd seen so many people do life-alteringly harebrained, ridiculous stuff under the guise of allegedly "following their heart" that as far as I was concerned, the heart was an agent of poor decision making and self-destruction. And I had no intention of going down that path. 

I decided that I shouldn't listen to my heart, ever, under any circumstance. If my instincts or heart ever spoke up, I planned to at least relentlessly question them, if not ignore them entirely. In either case, my plan was to totally disregard their messages. My brain and critical thinking skills were to rule above all. 

As it turns out, this approach has actually made me miserable on more than one occasion.  

In each of those cases, my gut and my intuition knew that something was off and that I was getting myself into a bad situation, but I always came up with logical explanations for why that feeling was wrong.  Reasons why I could disregard my instincts and carry on.  Reasons why I shouldn't trust my gut.  Reasons why it was totally fine to explain away the "This isn't a good idea" voice in the back of my head.

Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.

This, of course, has never worked out in my favor.  Not even once.

It also leads directly to weak point numero dos: the fact that I've struggled mightily to be true to myself.  Being true to myself requires trusting myself, trusting my instincts, and listening to my heart. Without having that foundation in place, nothing built on top of it will stand.


It took some exquisitely painful experiences for me to learn that I can, and must, trust my instincts and listen to my heart. In each of those experiences, my heart had known all along what was right, but my brain had shut it down in favor of a supposedly logical explanation.

Those experiences were miserable, but they've taught me the importance of trusting myself and being true to myself -- and the areas of my life where I've done that have improved dramatically.  I'm now able to do this much more readily and easily than ever before, but I realized today that I haven't applied that principle across the board.  

The piecemeal approach hasn't been deliberate, but rather by default.
Trust your instinct

I'm a big believer in the importance of being fully engaged in an effort to overcome a default behavior, so I'm publicly committing to applying the whole-of-life approach to trusting my instincts and being true to myself.

To help with this effort, I'm doing two things: first, I'm creating what is, for me at least, the ultimate rebuttal against my brain's efforts to discredit and undermine my instincts.  

It's based on the two pictures below - it's powerful evidence to know that two of the most brilliant people who have ever lived believe firmly in the importance of honoring and trusting one's instincts. 
Always trust your instinct! 

... trust your instincts ...

The other thing I'm doing is finding quotes that really resonate with me and adding them to my art journal, since I like being able to keep everything in there as a one-stop shop for inspiration and encouragement. Some of the keepers are scattered throughout this post, and I love them - here's to the wise folks who spoke/wrote these words!
lao tzu

And, of course, there's always this gem (one of my favorite parts of Clueless):

Snooty girl: It's just as Hamlet said, "To thine own self be true!"
Cher: Hamlet didn't say that. 
Snooty girl: Um, I think I remember Shakespeare accurately.
Cher: Um, I think I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and he didn't say that. That Polonius guy did.

If prior experience is any indication, trusting myself, listening to my instincts and my heart, and being true to myself -- across every area of my life, not just a handful of situations -- will be a tremendous change for the better.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Warmth and Inspiration

Happy Thursday, everyone!  As always, I'm super excited about the impending weekend.  We've got some good plans on tap for Saturday and Sunday, including a buddy run with one of my dear amigas, a party on Saturday night, an art journaling get-together on Sunday, and, hopefully...Christmas decorating!  (Insert happy dance here.)

I have a big ol' list of gratitude for this week's Thankful Thursday, hosted by the always-lovely Jessie from Jessie Loves to Run:

1) I met with the friend of a friend who used to work in an office that deals with global women's issues, and it was both incredibly helpful and incredibly encouraging to talk with her. I know my transition into that line of work isn't going to happen immediately, but I feel great about moving forward and learning about new ways to get involved.

2) Speaking of new ways to get involved, I'm incredibly excited to have applied to be a community ambassador for the Half the Sky Movement. Half the Sky, by Nick Kristof and his wife Cheryl WuDunn, is hands-down one of the best books I've ever read. They followed up the national best-seller book (it's amazing, and I highly recommend reading it) with a documentary that was aired last month on PBS, and they recently launched the community ambassador program to help spread the word about global women's issues.  I have ideas for this that I'm really, really excited about, and I'm happy to have found a way to contribute to their work!

3) I know I wrote about this yesterday (and I apologize for beating a dead horse here), but I'm ridiculously thankful for my new coat. Every morning when I walk to work, I find myself positively brimming with happiness over how awesome it is - no joke. I normally don't like winter because I'm cold all the time anyways (whenever I'm at home I can usually be found in heavy sweats and thick socks, wrapped up in a comforter, and generally looking like a Siberian refugee), but this makes the plummeting temperatures much easier to bear.

4) I'm thankful that I'm getting rolling with my idea for an interview series - I sent out emails to a few friends this week, and my lifelong bestie, Susie, has kindly agreed to be my first interviewee.  Wahoo!  Stay tuned for the first installment of the Women who Inspire interview series!

5) On a more mundane note, I'm thankful for tea. This isn't exactly ground-shaking, I know, but still: I love the taste of a good cup of chai or a freshly-brewed mug of pomegranate green tea, and I love the comforting feel of a warm mug in my paws.

I hope everyone has a fabulous Thursday, and thanks to Jessie for hosting this lovely little gratitude get-together!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WIAW: Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Happy Wednesday!

It was a chilly day here in DC, but I have a new acquisition that helps me fear no cold front:

Behold the puffy awesomeness

This jacket is the bomb diggity, y'all.  Whenever I've worn it, I've been incredibly impressed by how warm and cozy it is - so basically, it's the best $70 investment ever (thank you, Burlington Coat Factory).  Imagine one of those sub-zero, all weather sleeping bags...and now imagine wrapping yourself up in one of those while venturing out into the cold.  Yeah, it's like that. 


While it'd obviously be a bad idea to wear this to the gym in the mornings, I at least have my trusty hoodies to keep me warm during my first few minutes of cardio.  Speaking of which, today's workout consisted of 35 minutes on the elliptical (I have an IIN lecture by Iyanla Vanzant to finish, and I've loved every second of it) followed by 10 minutes of lifting, plus my daily plank and lunges for Girls Gone Sporty's LungeForLeftovers.

I love my morning workouts, even though there are days (like today) when I'm slow to wake up. I love how I feel after a good workout: it sets the tone for my day, and work is a lot easier to handle when my brain is awash in exercise-induced endorphins!

Speaking of work, I'm fairly stoked for the fact that it's Wednesday - this means the weekend is approaching fast!  (*Does happy dance*)  It also means it's time for What I Ate Wednesday - the loveliest cyber-potluck on the 'webz, it's hosted by the equally lovely Jenn from Peas & Crayons.

Peas and Crayons

Upon rolling out of bed, I had my beloved cup of java - but this time, I drank it out of the super cute holiday-ish mug I just picked up from Crate & Barrell (I get inordinately excited about stuff like this, and I freaking LOVE this mug):

I had my usual post-workout kale, Greek yogurt, and fruit smoothie:

Lunch and snacks consisted of salad (not pictured here) with chickpeas and turkey, another Larabar Uber (add it to the "stuff I effing adore" list) and, basically, a metric ton of fruit:

Dinner was Italian herb and balsamic vinegar roasted chicken with steamed broccoli (and a bit of low-fat cheddar on top -- deliciousness ensues!).

Hope everyone had a fabulous Wednesday, and here's to the rest of the week going by as quickly as possible!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Can Haz Idea?

Good morning! I'm working on my second cup of java (thank you, Newman's organic vanilla caramel deliciousness) and getting ready for my morning date with the gym on this cold, rainy, and generally gross Tuesday morning.
The word of the day is "Ewwwwwwww."
After my strength sessions on Sunday and Monday, the ol' muscles need a bit of a break -- so I have 45 minutes of cardio on tap for today. Depending on how many people are in the gym and which machines are taken, my plan is to hit up the elliptical for 25 minutes, the treadmill for 10 (I'm now busting out 8.5 minute miles, which is a HUGE PR for me -- they're hard, but I can do 'em!), and the bike for another 10.

My iPad filled with IIN material is all fired up and ready to go (I listen to my IIN lectures while I'm at the gym, and I love it), and I'm just waiting for the caffeine to do its job so I can no longer feel like an extra on The Walking Dead.
Get! In! Mah! Bloodstream!

While I'm waiting, though, I'm going to flesh out an idea that I had recently -- an idea that I'm really, really excited about.

You see, I find that inspiration strikes at incredibly random times: mid-shampoo, at the end of a boring meeting, while stuck on the name it, and if it's totally random, chances are good that it's a situation in which I've had flashes of inspiration.

The other day while at the gym, I suddenly thought of a passage from a book I just read, and...shazam! Inspiration!
Fact: this book is awesome.
There's a portion of Dare, Dream, Do by Whitney Johnson in which she talks about interviewing people we admire, and it really struck a chord with me for two reasons: first, when I think back to the job I loved most in the last 15 years, it was unquestionably the two summers I spent as a writer for a college alumni magazine.  I remember thinking to myself (at least once a day, if not more) "This is amazing! I get to talk to cool people, interview them, and then write about it. I can't believe I get paid to do this!" As it turns out, socializing and writing are two of my favorite things.

Secondly, I realized a few months ago that I've tended to internalize the messages and ideas that I'm exposed to -- so when I'm surrounded by pessimistic and negative messages, my inner monologue mirrors those concepts. Once I realized this, I decided to take concrete steps to surround myself with positive ideas, people, and messages.  I shamelessly subscribed to happy, inspirational podcasts, and I brazenly bought books that focus on staying positive throughout major life changes.

 Positive attracts Positive ...

When I read the passage of Dare, Dream, Do that talks about interviews, I realized: in an effort to surround myself with positive things, I want to interview people I know who've taken risks in order to follow their dreams, pursue their passions, or be relentlessly true to themselves.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that the interviewees don't have to be big-name, famous people -- to the contrary, they can be regular people just like the rest of us.

Then I realized that I already have a substantial list of friends who would fit perfectly into these categories. I have friends who've left secure but unfulfilling careers in order to pursue career paths they love, friends who've worked well into the wee hours of the night writing the book they'd always dreamed of, friends who've left safe but unhappy relationships because they valued their health and happiness too much to stay with a guy who brings them down.

Naturally, these are folks who're perfect candidates!

So, my plan for this week is to start reaching out to those friends to see if they'd be willing to chat with me about the process of pursuing their dreams -- the challenges, the high points, the whole enchilada.  I'm really excited about the possibility of doing this, so keep your fingers crossed that people say yes! :)

With all that being said, I hope everyone has a fabulous Tuesday!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Musings

Side note before I even begin: I'd like to acknowledge that I brazenly stole the title for this post from the lovely Caitlin over at ChasingChels.  If you haven't read her blog, I highly recommend it - homegirl is whip-smart and wise beyond her years! But anyways, I digress before I've even started...

It's Monday night, which means...the hardest part of the week is now over! I have to admit: Mondays are tough business around here. Getting up and going to work after a long weekend is always a bajillion times harder than normal.

Our Thanksgiving was a huge success: we cooked up a storm (no joke, I was up at 0530 to start cooking so that the oven would be free later for the bird), and although we wound up with waaaaaaay more food than we needed, it was all delicious.  All our guests went home with goodie bags full of leftovers, but we still spent the weekend drowning in leftover madness.

As it turns out, all that rich food didn't fare so well with the estomago. I didn't eat much rich food, but I think my stomach has gotten used to all the fresh, low-fat foods that have become the mainstay of my diet since joining Weight Watchers -- and the combination of a little bit of dark meat plus a bit of butter-laden pie was enough to send it careening into serious misery.

I wound up spending the better part of Friday and Saturday convalescing on the couch, sipping kombucha and chicken broth in an attempt to placate my very angry insides. Lesson learned: high-fat foods and I don't mix. At all.

Once I recovered my ability to tolerate solid foods, I hit the ground running on my grand Thanksgiving recovery plans: lots of veggies and quality time in the gym.  This was my view this morning while getting my sweat on:


I followed it up with a green smoothie:


Having exercised and had myself some kale, I'm happy to report that I'm doing much better and am back to feeling like myself again. :)

And, with that, a quick November Challenge update: my challenges for the bulk of the weekend focused on reaching out to friends who I haven't talked to in a while.  I tend to have paroxysms of guilt over my awful communication skills, and I usually spend months beating myself up before reluctantly calling my friends to confess my sins.

This time, though, I decided I was going to a) stop punishing myself, and b) get over the "Omigod, they're totally going to hate me for failing to stay in touch" fear and just do it already.

So, I first called one of my dearest friends whom I haven't spoken to in ages.  And whaddya know, she wasn't upset at all -- to the contrary, she was really happy to hear from me, and it was wonderful to chat with her.

I also sent a long-overdue note of congratulations to my old college boyfriend, who got engaged earlier this year.  He and I dated 10 years ago (which now seems like a different lifetime) but we've periodically stayed in touch since we broke up.  

I felt awful about having taken such a ridiculously long time to congratulate him, especially since he was pretty quick to congratulate me when Brandon and I got engaged.  So I wrote him an email, apologized for being absurdly late in sending my well-wishes, and let him know that I wish him and his fiancee all the best -- and now I feel much better.
I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving and that any lingering case of the Mondays has abated!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WIAW: Wednesday is the New Friday, Y'all!

Happy de-facto Friday!  In case you couldn't tell, I'm just a smudge excited about the impending 4-day weekend.  I have a busy day at work to get through before the fun can begin, but as my dad used to tell me  whenever I was halfway through final exams and starting to run out of steam, you gotta keep your eyes on the prize.

(Side note: speaking of final exams, can we please talk about the HUGE relief of never having to deal with those heinous things ever again?  I've been out of grad school for over 4 years now, but I still breathe a behemoth sigh of relief whenever I think about the lack of final exams in my life.)

But I digress.

Anyways, Wednesday may be the new Friday (for this week, at least...although I really think all weeks should be like this), but it's still, y'know, Wednesday -- which means it's time for What I Ate Wednesday!  WIAW is a happy little cyber-potluck hosted by Jenn over at Peas & Crayons, and it's always fabulous.

We're hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a bunch of our DC-area friends tomorrow, so I spent the better part of last night in a cleaning frenzy.  This meant I didn't get to bed until later than I'd hoped, so I was extra sleepy this morning.  That is, until I had a huge cup of coffee.  There's going to be a moment of spastic, rapturous, caffeine-induced euphoria in 5...4...3...2...

Caffeine is my shepherd; I shall not want. It keepeth me from lying down in green pastures and sleeping through the day: it leadeth me beside the coffee machine. It restoreth my soul: it leadeth me in the paths of wakefulness for its name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of fatigue, I will fear no faceplanting into my breakfast: for thou art with me; thy coffee and thy tea they comfort me.
Capitalizing on the caffeine high, I hit the gym and did 30 minutes of cardio plus 15 minutes of circuit training that covered lower body, abs, and upper body exercises.  I also did my LungeforLeftovers for the awesome folks at Girls Gone Sporty, and a 1-minute plank for Plank-a-Day.

I followed this up with my usual fruit n' kale smoothie (I know, I know: my breakfasts have no variety whatsoever):

Snacks for the day included a Larabar Uber, which I freaking adore, a banana, a pear, an apple, and some celery and hummus.

Lunch consisted of a huge salad topped with balsamic-herb chicken, red onion, grapes, and some Italian vinaigrette:

Dinner was a bit of an improvisation: I'd intended to make crock pot chicken tacos, but I'd apparently added too much broth to the ol' crock pot while the chicken was cooking.  D'oh!  Upon realizing that I'd inadvertently made crock pot chicken taco soup, I decided to just roll with it and turn it into a legit soup dish.  I added black beans and sauteed peppers and onions, and I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be delish!

I hope everyone has a fabulous Wednesday -- have a safe and happy almost-Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday is the new Wednesday

Happy de-facto Wednesday for all those who are working this week!  I tell you what, I really like this motif of a three-day workweek.  I vote that we amend the workweek and carry on like this indefinitely.

Who's with me?

Despite it being a short week, I'm dragging like woah today.  I slept like the dead last night, and yet I was still totally wiped out this morning.  Not even a big cup of coffee was able to fully revive me.  

I dragged myself to the gym, and I felt like someone had attached lead weights to all my limbs.  I had originally planned to run after my usual stint on the elliptical, but after 30 minutes I knew that running wasn't in the cards for me.  I opted for the bike instead, but after about 10 minutes I started to feel queasy -- so at that point, I knew I needed to call it quits.

Breakfast and a hot shower helped the queasy feeling go away, but I still feel totally exhausted.  This is the only thing standing between me and a George Kostanza-esque nap underneath my desk at work:


When I get really tired, I also tend to feel like I'm in a bit of a funk.  I don't like giving in to the bad mood, though, since I know that once I do that I start to wallow -- and then the sneaky hate spiral starts.  And I don't want to go there!

So instead, I decided to come up with a list of things I'm excited about.  By focusing on the things that are going well and the things that make me happy, I'll hopefully be able to re-route my thought pattern and circumvent that snarly, surly feeling that usually acts as fatigue's partner in crime.

1) PVBody: I have a weakness for workout clothes.  I routinely salivate over Lululemon clothes (and probably look more than a bit creepy when I practically break my neck staring in their store window whenever I walk by), but they're waaaaaaay outside my price range.  I can only afford the options available at Target or Marshall's, and gawd help the other customers when I roll up in either of their sportswear sections.  

Yesterday, though, I got an email about PVBody - a service that sells high-end workout merchandise for 60% off the normal price.  Basically, you take a style profile quiz that helps the good people at PuraVit get a sense of your style preferences and clothing needs -- and then you get a personalized outfit (including a top and a bottom) delivered each month for $40.  $40 for Lululemon stuff?  Yes, please.  I signed up faster than a 12-year-old girl buying a ticket for the latest Twilight movie, and I'm eagerly awaiting my first outfit.

2) Lunch with an old friend: I ran into a friend from my years as a Presidential Manangement Fellow on my way in to work today, and we're going to have lunch this afternoon in order to catch up.  She's awesome, and I'm excited to hang out with her!

3) This week's module for my Integrative Nutrition course looks awesome!  It's all about women's health, which is something I'm really interested in, and I'm excited to learn more about it.  As a side note, I can't believe my year at IIN is drawing to a close.  This year has been amazing, inspiring, and life-changing in so many ways, and I'm incredibly glad that I signed up for this course.

4) We heard back about the apartment, and we're in!  Hooray for our new place!  Now we just have to figure out what our move-in date will be, and then we're set. :)

Hope everyone has a fabulous Tuesday!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Musings + Staying on Track Through the Holidays

Happy first day of a short week!  I find that Mondays are a lot easier to manage when I know that, 48 hours from now, we'll be counting down to a long weekend.  

I think we can all agree that there should be a lot more 3-day work weeks, yes? :)

I'm especially excited because Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  When a holiday combines food and football, I'm guaranteed to be a happy cowgirl!

 +    = 

We have a tradition of hosting Thanksgiving dinner for all our friends in DC who can't go home to our families for Turkey Day, and we love it. If we can't be with our families, we can at least have an awesome time with our friends!  Preparations for the big day are in full swing: I've pre-made the homemade cranberry sauce, Brandon is getting the turkey ready for its luxurious brine bath, and I'm ready to cook up a storm.

The only difficulty with Thanksgiving and the holidays is the same difficulty that most people face: staying on track with healthy eating and fitness.

This will be my first Thanksgiving and Christmas since I lost 20 pounds, and I want to be sure I don't gain any of it back. I didn't work hard to lose it just to have all my effort be blown over the course of 6 weeks, so this morning I decided to create a game plan for staying on track throughout the holidays.

My plan of attack hinges on paying close attention to what I eat and adhering to my workout schedule. 

First and foremost, I need to be vigilant about tracking my daily points in my Weight Watchers app. Since I really hit my stride with WW, I was able to relax a bit on point tracking, since I knew the points value of almost all my food choices.  

The holidays, however, are a whole different ballgame: I'm not normally presented with a glut of candy, pie, or desserts, and I don't know how to fit them into my points allocation. So, I'm going to be really careful. 

By tracking all my points, I'll know how to make room for a slice of pie or a glass of eggnog.  And if I don't have room for it, then I simply don't have room for it: while I'm all in favor of an indulgence now and then, I need to plan for it in advance (as opposed to just going for broke and trying to make up for it later).

We can still hang out this year, gorgeous. I just have to plan ahead.
Secondly, between holiday parties, Christmas prep, and general merriment, it can be easy to slack off on my morning dates with the gym. I normally do whatever workout I feel like going for in the morning: whether it's cardio, running, strength training, or some combination thereof, I usually just wing it. 

For the next 6 weeks, though, I need to strategize my workouts in order to maximize the amount of time I have in the gym.  

For this week, my workout schedule is as follows:

Monday: 45 minutes of cardio (elliptical + bike)
Tuesday: 30 minutes of cardio (elliptical) + 15 minutes running (9 min/mile pace)
Wednesday: 25 minutes of cardio (elliptical) + 20 minutes strength circuit training
Thursday: Outdoor run - 4 miles
Friday: 45 minutes of cardio (elliptical + bike)
Saturday: 25 minutes of cardio + 20 minutes of strength circuit training

If all goes according to plan, I'll avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain and be in just as good of shape on January 1 as I am now!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Oy, What a Weekend!

That just about sums it up: oy, what a weekend! 

It all started with a flat tire on Friday night.  When we got out of the car in our building's garage, we both noticed a loud hissing sound. 

It was coming from the front left tire.

Which, as we soon discovered, had a huge hole in it.

Friday night R&R fail.

Fact: on a monstrous SUV, a tire change isn't a small process.  It's actually really hard to do.  It involves me wedging myself in the small space between the ground and the truck's undercarriage in order to get the jack in the right place.  It involves Brandon fighting with the tire wrench.  It involves lots of swearing.

90 minutes later, it was 10 p.m., the truck had a new and functional tire, and we were both wiped out.

Saturday morning featured an ill-fated attempt to make toast, which wound up with me slicing through my finger with a butter knife while trying to pry apart two pieces of frozen GF bread.  A butter knife!  It bled like crazy, which was actually kind of comical: when I saw that there was blood all over the kitchen sink, my first thought was Ooooh, this looks like it could be the set of a Food Network Halloween special gone horribly awry.

What can I say?  I have a demented sense of humor.

Who knew this thing could do so much damage?

I then spent the day helping a friend move into her new and fabulous bachelorette pad -- so by the time Saturday night rolled around, I was toast.  I fell asleep before 10 and slept until 7:30, and still had to take a nap this afternoon.

The good news?  We're 90% of the way towards getting the apartment we want!

After a long, drawn out, and fraught process of apartment hunting, the perfect place fell into our lap on Thursday morning.  I'm so, so effing excited about this place!  It's in a building we love, in a nice neighborhood (which, thankfully, is in a much less frat-tastic part of town), it's super nice, and -- get this -- it's cheaper than the place we live in now.  This is what happens when you leave the uber-trendy part of town: apparently your money goes a lot further.

And it has a fantastic kitchen.  I'm talking uh-maay-zing (especially compared to the kitchen in the apartment we're living in now, which basically looks like the 1970's threw up all over it).  I can't wait to cook in this glorious space:

It has an island! Squee!
We just have to wait for our application to be formally approved, and then we're golden.  Once that's done, the only task will be waiting the 2 months until we move in -- not that I'll be counting the days or anything (I'll totally be counting the days).

I figure we have Christmas season to look forward to, followed by our vacation to Texas for the New Year, so hopefully that'll make time move a bit faster.

A brief November Challenge update before I return to the land of nod: over the course of the last three days, I applied to be an ambassador for three different organizations that I really, really like: Girls Gone Sporty, Sweat Pink, and Greatist. They all take different, yet in my mind, totally complimentary, approaches to fitness, healthy living, and wellness -- and they're all awesome.

It was kind of intimidating for me to apply to these ambassadorships, simply because whenever I apply to, well, anything at all, I assume I'm going to get rejected.  Then I get all nervous and start talking myself out of applying, only to wish I'd taken the risk once the opportunity has passed.

So I decided that when it comes to these organizations, I want to be part of the work they're doing -- and it's worth taking the risk to apply.  Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed and wait!

Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend -- now for some rest before starting the (mercifully short) workweek. :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful Thursday + November Challenge Update

Happy Thursday!  I hope everyone's day is going well - can you believe it's exactly one week until Thanksgiving?  I, for one, am totally amazed by this - I think time really does go faster with each passing year.

My November Challenge update goes hand-in-hand with Thankful Thursday, which is hosted by the lovely Jessie from Jessie Loves to Run - so this might be a bit convoluted, but bear with me.

My most recent November Challenge task was to have an honest conversation with my boss about my career plans. I've long been interested in transitioning out of the national security field and into global women's issues, and last week I decided that it's time to take action on trying to make that switch.

The thing that really compelled me to take action was the realization that my job stress is negatively affecting my health -- and it can only get worse from here.  

I have Celiac disease, which in and of itself isn't a huge problem.  However, Celiac patients are automatically at high risk for other autoimmune diseases like Chron's, colitis, MS, and lupus...all of which are things I'd rather never experience.

My health has been on the slide during the last year or so: my stomachaches are more severe and more frequent (despite having identified and eliminated my food allergies), I get more migraines than I ever have before, and I often wake up feeling like I got run over by a truck in my sleep.  There are days when my whole body inexplicably aches -- bones, muscles, and even my internal organs hurt.  And that ain't good.

I know the cause of all this has been job stress. I also know that chronic stress further increases my risk of getting other autoimmune diseases.  And I don't want to go there.

I realized while visiting my old roommate last weekend that if I'm going to be healthy, I need to reduce my chronic stress.  

And if I'm going to reduce my overall stress levels, I need to make the switch from the high-stress, uber-urgent, hair-on-fire-all-the-time field of national security into a realm of international relations that I feel excited about and edified by: global women's issues.

Before sending out feelers for job opportunities, though, I felt that I needed to tell my boss what's going on. While I know this would normally be career suicide, I feel my boss deserves better than to have me sneaking around behind his back and trying to make a covert career change, only to blindside him once it's a done deal.

But, as you can imagine, such honest conversations with one's supervisor are more than a little bit intimidating, especially since people routinely get fired for being so transparent.

I decided it was worth the risk, though. I went into my boss's office, shut the door, took a deep breath, and dove in.

I explained the whole situation with my health, my long-standing interest in global women's issues, and my desire to work towards making this transition.  I explained that I don't anticipate anything happening soon, but that I wanted to be honest and above-board with him so that he wouldn't be blindsided when I do make this change.  I told him that I felt he deserves better than to have me furtively sneaking around and that I respect him too much to start doing all this behind his back.

He obviously wasn't pleased (I'd be seriously freaked out if he were happy at the thought of me leaving), but he understood my logic and was really, really nice about the whole thing. Although it was unnerving to be so honest, I'm really glad I did it.

That said, I think you could probably hear my sigh of relief in Timbuktu when I left his office.

This brings me to my Thankful Thursday list:

1) Obviously, I'm really, really, incredibly thankful that the conversation went as well as it did, and it's a huge weight off my shoulders.

2) My friend's baby is out of the hospital and is thriving at home -- what relief that is!  

3) I'm thankful for my little brother, Mike, whose 22nd birthday will be this Sunday. I can't believe he's turning 22 -- the day he was born was one of the best days of my life, and I remember it like it was yesterday. 

I'd wanted a sibling more than anything for years. In fact, when I was really little I used to carry my dolls around and pretend that I was helping take care of an imaginary younger sibling.  I was almost 10 years old when Mike was adopted at birth, and it was an amazing and wonderful experience.  

When we found out that his birth mother (whom we love and keep in touch with) had chosen us as his family, I jumped up and down, shrieked at the top of my lungs, and danced around the house for hours. I love that kid more than I can put into words, and I'm incredibly grateful that I get to be his sister!
Me and Mike at my college graduation, back when *I* was 22...oy, how time flies!
4) Hopefully I won't jinx it by being thankful in advance, but we're probably going to sign the lease for a new apartment tonight...and I'm absurdly excited about it. 

The hunt for a new apartment has been long, drawn out, and fraught. I was only able to find one building that meets our needs, and we loved it there when we visited.  The catch?  They didn't have anything available in the timeframe that we're looking to move.

I emailed them yesterday, and lo and behold, the perfect place for us had just opened up.  And, even better, it's slightly cheaper than we'd anticipated. We won't move until January, but this place basically fell into our laps, and I already love it.  Hooray!

With all that being said -- and oy vey, this was a long post -- I hope you're having a phenomenal Thursday!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WIAW + Reminiscing

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

I'm a bit late in getting online tonight - I had a fabulous dinner with an old friend from Israel, and I just got home a few minutes ago. 

She and I used to live a few doors away from each other in the graduate student dorm in Jerusalem, and we hung out all the time. Chatting with her made me think of how much things have changed since then (it's a really obvious realization, I know, but it still baffles me).  
The venerable grad student dorm at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, AKA: my 2005-06 home
Back then we were both 24-year-old, fresh-faced grad students who routinely went on random adventures around the Middle East (some would call these trips dangerous, but we'd beg to differ); now we're both working in stable office jobs.  We used to spend hours upon hours lamenting our love lives, and now I'm married.
Cavorting around the Middle East

It would stand to reason, of course, that a lot can change between the ages of 24 and 31 -- but when I actually stop to think about it, it smacks me over the head.

But anyways, I digress.

It's time for What I Ate Wednesday! This little cyber-potluck is organized and hosted by the lovely Jenn from Peas & Crayons.

After my morning chai, I hit the gym for some cardio (30 minutes on the elliptical) and strength training (15 minutes).  I also did 50 seconds of plank and 50 lunges for Girls Gone Sporty's LungeForLeftovers program.

Post-workout, I whipped up a smoothie with kale, nonfat Greek yogurt, a banana, a cup of berries, and honey, and then topped it with some Kind granola clusters.

I was dragging this morning, so Starbies was calling my name...

Lunch was a huge salad with grilled chicken, grapes, red onion, and olive oil.  Snacks were pretzels + hummus and an apple with almond butter. 

Dinner, which I didn't get a chance to take a picture of because I was gabbing away with my friend, was at my favorite Thai restaurant in DC - I had a salad with avocado and larb gai, and they were freaking delicious.

I'll write more tomorrow with an update on the November Challenge - but until then, I hope everyone has had a fabulous Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


As Homer Simpson would say, d'oh!

I had all these grand ambitions of blogging daily, and then we went on a mini-vacay for the long weekend. And I forgot to bring my laptop. And even if I'd remembered to bring it, I was having a fabulous time with some of my favorite people - and I suspect I wouldn't have written a single thing anyways.

And if I had, it would've consisted of "I'm having a glass of wine with Brandon, my old roommate (and bridesmaid), and her husband! They're awesome! I lurve them! Yay!"
My grad school roomie and me, after smearing cake icing on each others' noses at graduation.
So, to say the least, I fell off the bandwagon with all things normal life for a few days: with blogging, with food, and with exercise.

But, as with all things, the most important thing isn't being sure that you never fall off the bandwagon in the first place -- it's being able to get back on whenever the inevitable slip-up occurs. (And, because we're all human here, it definitely occurs.)

As a result, my fridge is stocked with my usual staples: veggies, nonfat Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and chicken. I hit the gym this morning for a 45 minute cardio session. And I'm back in front of my computer, writing away.

I do, however, have a November challenge update: on our way to visit our friends, Brandon was feeling a bit under the weather -- so I took the reins on our faithful chariot, which just happens to be a massive SUV. (Yes, I know it's not fuel efficient, but it is paid off in full.  In the interest of saving money, we'll keep it until it meets its untimely demise.)
I'm used to driving our behemoth car on normal roads, but driving it on highways makes me incredibly nervous. It's difficult to control, and I have to work a lot harder to drive it properly than I would with a sedan or mid-size SUV. Add that to weekend traffic on the I-95 corridor, and you have a very freaked out driver.

It scared the crap out of me to drive our beast of a car on a fast-moving, crowded highway (to give you a sense of scale, I keep a baseball cap from the tank brigade of the Israeli Defense Force perched on the dashboard, simply because tanks are what come to mind when riding in our truck).  
I had to concentrate to a degree that would make you think I was performing brain surgery, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't stressed out the whole time -- but I did it. 
Granted, I might have driven with a white-knuckle grip for a good three hours, but I got us to our destination safe and sound, and I proved to myself that I can handle the tank on one of the freak-nastiest highways in the US.  Not bad for a Saturday afternoon!
That evening, having arrived safely at our friends' house, I had a glass of wine. :)

Friday, November 9, 2012


Friday, Friday, everybody glad it's Friday...

Ok, now that I've referenced that heinous song and probably gotten it stuck in my head for the rest of the day (aaaack), on to better things!

This morning's workout is almost upon us, since I'm writing this while guzzling some tea before hitting the gym.  I tweaked my knee the other day while doing lunges (apparently it didn't appreciate the 20 pound weight I was holding) so I'm avoiding the treadmill for the time being.  I'm also going to avoid my beloved lunges for now, because it still hurts when I do anything squat or lunge-esque.  It's an improvement over yesterday, when it hurt to walk up stairs - but I don't want to push the envelope and risk further injury.

On tap for today, we have:

30 minutes on the elliptical
10 minutes on the bike
10 minutes upper-body strength circuit
Plank - at least 45 seconds, hopefully longer

And now, on to the November Challenge update: yesterday's challenge was, I admit, a total repeat from earlier in the week. 

You see, I've never been very good at listening to my body when it tells me to slow down.  I'm a go, go, go sort of gal, and the "Girl, you need to sit your butt down and rest" message has never been well-received.  I've been known to insist on powering though all manner of fatigue, illness, and injury, simply because I have this weird idea that everything and everyone depends on me getting everything done.

I'll let people down.
People are counting on me.
I'll start re-gaining all the weight I lost.
Everything will fall apart.

Last night, after two consecutive nights of insomnia, I was feeling awful.  My knee hurt, I was exhausted, and I had that headache-and-scratchy-throat feeling that usually portends the onset of a cold.  I'd been too tired to make it to the gym in the morning, and I felt like I really, really should go once I got home. 

But once I got home, I was a zombie.  My body was screaming out for rest, but my brain was having none of it.  "You're going to start re-gaining weight," I thought in the middle of a jaw-breaking yawn.  "You can't not work out!"

But I did.  And, as it turns out, I can skip a workout without the world ending.  It's a huge challenge for me, but I'm getting better about listening to my body and giving it the R&R it sometimes needs. 

Sure enough, I feel a lot better today - and although it might freak me out sometimes, listening to my body is always worth it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post-Election WIAW + November Challenge, Day 7

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

I'm really, really, ridiculously tired today: I made the poor choice to not stay up and watch election results, and instead I went to bed at 10:30...which then meant that I tossed and turned all night while stressing about it.  (Mental note to self: in 2016, I must stay up to monitor the results.)

Despite my night of lousy sleep, I hit the gym this morning for usual workout.  I knew I needed the exercise, but I didn't want to overdo it given the "I need an intravenous line of caffeine" levels of sleepiness -- so I shortened it up a bit: 
And now for What I Ate Wednesday -- the greatest cyber-potluck on the internets, hosted by the lovely Jenn from Peas&Crayons --  I'd like to present what I'm calling a bipartisan smoothie: it has some red (strawberries), some blue (blueberries), and some green (kale), so it represents a broad spectrum of the body politic.  Oh, and it's loaded with good-for-you nutrients - something we all need, regardless of political affiliation! 

This version has some plain nonfat Greek yogurt, since I've been craving the stuff like woah lately.  However, folks avoiding dairy can easily substitute soy, almond, or coconut-based yogurts.  (Side note: this picture was taken before I added the water!)

I was running late this morning and didn't get a picture of my lunch noms before leaving for work, but I had an apple with almond butter, lentil soup with broccoli, and a side of pineapple.

Oh, and coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.

Dinner consisted of a home-made, organic, lean-cut burger with organic baby greens. Yes, I totally added some this wasn't exactly a fancy-pants meal. :)

And now, on to an update for Day 7 of the November Challenge:

Day 7: With apologies in advance for the fact that this is going to be quite a downer, today's challenge is for me to acknowledge that some losses hurt more than you'd logically expect them to.

Last month for Brandon's birthday, I got him a foster parent sponsorship for an orphaned baby elephant in Africa.  The foster program is part of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which rescues elephant calves that have been abandoned or orphaned due to poaching.  The Trust rehabilitates and socializes the calves for life in the wild, and the adult elephants are eventually released back into their natural habitat.

Our little guy, named Rukinga, was the youngest calf in the program.  He was rescued in September and was estimated to be only a few weeks old when his mother was poached.  He looked like a sweet and happy calf in all his pictures, and I was excited to be involved, even if only by proxy, in the care of this little elephant.

This morning, though, we got an email saying that he passed away.  

Apparently the teething process is a dangerous time for baby elephants, as it can cause fevers and diarrhea.  In the wild, it's less dangerous for the calf -- my guess is that there's something in the mother's milk that provides the electrolytes that they need to weather the diarrhea -- but in captivity, it's a much trickier time.

Despite having excellent veterinary care, our little Rukinga didn't make it.

And I'm really effing sad about it.

I fully acknowledge that it doesn't make sense for me to be this broken up about the loss of an animal who I never once saw in real life, and who I've even been aware of for about a month.

But that doesn't make me any less sad about it.  He'd beaten the odds by surviving the poaching that killed his mother, and he'd apparently been tenacious and determined in the wake of her death.  The Trust described him as an exuberant, happy, loving elephant, and I loved him from afar.

I often try to impose a regime of strict logic on myself and my feelings, but it almost never works.  So, my challenge for today is to give up on trying to Dr. Spock-ify myself and go with my emotions instead: I might have only become aware of Rukinga a month ago, and I might have never seen him in real life, but his death makes me really sad. 

We'll miss you, little guy.

November Challenge, Day 6: R&R

Yesterday's challenge was a bit counterintuitive, but bear with me: my challenge was to allow myself to take it easy.  

I'm a high-achieving, driven, goal-oriented sort of gal -- think Type A on steroids -- and I often refuse to give myself a break, even when I know I need one.  There are times when I know I need to rest, but I don't slow down. I work hard, sweat hard, and carry on as if I'm not hurting, exhausted, or struggling to stay awake.

There have been many times when I've been feeling under the weather, but I've pushed myself anyways and only gotten sicker as a result. I've been gradually learning that I have to focus on being good to myself as opposed to being as productive and achievement/results-oriented as I can be, but putting that theory into practice has been a challenge.

(Brandon, who has at many points tried to make a case for this logic, can attest to my thick skull when the rubber hits the road on this issue.)

On Tuesday night, I was exhausted.  I was yawning incessantly starting at about 6 p.m., I had no appetite for the food I'd cooked, and I was worn down by election stress.

I just wanted to have some tea, roll myself up in a comforter, and watch TV that in no way pertained to the election.

"But I need to write," I kept muttering to myself through my 11 million yawns.  "I committed to it!  I'll be a failure 5 days into my own self-initiated challenge if I don't!"

And then I realized: I was afraid that honoring my needs was going to make me an epic fail at my own game.  

Que the lightbulb going on over my head.

Once I realized that, I also realized that the challenge du jour was to face my fear of putting my needs first.  It made me uncomfortable, but I knew I needed to do it.  

And so I brewed a cup of my favorite tea (Bengal Spice, by Celestial Seasonings), grabbed a comforter, turned myself into a Lillian burrito, and watched Homeland with Brandon.  It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered!

Monday, November 5, 2012

November Challenge, Day 5: Own Up to the Fear

Today's November Challenge item falls into the category of "Things I'm Effing Terrified to Write About."


Here goes.

I used to love public speaking.  I loved giving presentations, and I loved speaking with authority on topics I knew a lot about.

Until one day when I didn't.  One day while giving a presentation during my last semester of grad school, I suddenly found myself totally crippled with fear that came out of absolutely nowhere.

My heart was pounding like a jackhammer, my hands started to shake, I couldn't get a full breath of air, and my voice started to warble.  

It had happened out of nowhere.  I hadn't been the least bit nervous about the presentation, I knew the topic well, and I'd been totally confident when I began.  The presentation had started off swimmingly.

And yet, one minute in, there I was: unable to breathe, barely able to speak, totally gobsmacked and confused by what was going on.  To say the least, I was also incredibly embarrassed by the fact that in 30 second flat, the confident speaker I once was had degenerated into a bewildered, panicked mess.

Since that day, I've been terrified of public speaking.  I mean, we're talking absolutely panicked and run-for-the-hills terrified.  I avoid it like the plague now.

Even then, it pops up at random times.  Take today, for example: I was in a totally innocuous staff meeting, and I had no reason to be worried.  It's about as non-hostile of an environment as you can get.

And yet.

My hands started shaking, my heart made a valiant effort to palpitate itself right out of my chest, and my voice started to shake.

Like I always do when this happens, I started to cough and asked if I could go get some water.  I always try to pass these things off as coughing fits and act like I'm totally fine, simply because it's embarrassing to admit that I'm undone by a thoroughly irrational fear of speaking to more than five people at a time.

It's particularly hard to admit in DC.  In DC, swagger is a form of currency.  It'll get you places.  And given how much grandstanding people do in this town, swagger in public speaking is a must.  

Admitting to fear of any sort, but particularly fear of something like public speaking, just isn't done here.  It's interpreted as a sign of weakness, and most people simply don't talk about anything that makes them look vulnerable, weak, or less than 100% in control.

I'm tired of that motif, however.  It doesn't work for me.  (And although it appears to work outwardly for some people, my guess is that doesn't fare so well internally.)

So today, I'm trying to own up to my fear.  After the staff meeting was over, I spoke with my colleagues and superiors and told them what was going on.  (They all knew I didn't like public speaking, but they'd never seen the full-on reaction happen before.)  I told them that this is what happens when the fear rears its ugly head, and that it wasn't just a coughing fit.

Was it embarrassing?  OMFG, yes.  But they all took it well, and they largely understood my problem.

The second step to owning up to this is, obviously, writing about it here.  Frankly, it's more than a little bit scary for me to not play my cards close to my chest -- and I'm more than a little bit wigged out to be writing this post.  But I know that if I'm going to tackle this problem, I need to be honest about it.

It's embarrassing as all get-out to go public, if you will, with my fear of public speaking. But still, hiding it sure isn't going to help.  If owning up to my fear helps me figure out a way to conquer it, then I'm all for it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

November Challenge, Day 4: NaBloPoMo

It's Sunday night,'s still the weekend!  It's amazing how much better life is when it's the weekend - I don't know how it is for everyone else, but for me it's like night and day. 

Just as life is easier on the weekends, the November Challenge seems easier too.  Today's task?  Sign up for BlogHer's National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), which is the blogging equivalent of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Now, I love this idea -- but, like most things with the November Challenge, it intimidates the bejesus out of me.  My hesitations about NaBloPoMo are similar to my hesitations about running races: these things are relegated to people who are way, way better at this stuff than I am.  

In my mind, NaBloPoMo is for people who've made names for themselves.  People whose blogs get thousands of hits a day.  People who have advertisers banging down their doors.  

I keep thinking that it's for legit writers, not posers like me who have harbored a consistent -- but never realized -- dream to write, and write all the effing time.

But as it turns out, I can't ignore that ever-present need to write, even if it basically terrifies me.

So, despite the re-appearance of that slightly barfy feeling, I signed up. NaBloPoMo, here I come -- I even have a little badge thingy, which I'm now pretty stoked about. :)
Indeed, I'll type my heart out this month.