Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Earworm Wednesday: Mockingjay and Other Stuff

Last weekend, I went to see part one of Mockingjay and I absolutely loved it. I've been a huge fan of the Hunger Games series since it first came out because 1) Katniss is an awesome protagonist, SO MUCH BETTER than Bella Swan and 2) Suzanne Collins throws our materialist society back in our faces and is all like, "This is how it could be someday, people. Think about it." 
The Lorde song from the credits is awesome-- it starts slow and then the drop comes and BAM! It makes your adrenaline spike-- but not too much. It mostly made me think about spin class and how this song would be a great one for a hill climb. Sometimes I think about getting certified as a spin instructor if only for the chance to play DJ for an hour. 

I spent last Saturday in Chicago at one of my favorite annual events, the Teacher's for Social Justice Curriculum Fair. I wanted to know if the information I'm trying to put into a book proposal is worth anything to people who matter the most to me-- educators and people who work with youth. It is and knowing that people want it was all the validation I needed. I would love to say that I'm above validation, but I'm not. C'est la vie.
I'm ready to spend Thanksgiving with my family and to take a break from social media. I unfriended and unfollowed a lot of people on Facebook yesterday in the aftermath of the Ferguson decision. There is too much work to be done, too many deep-rooted issues in our society to address, too much healing that has to be done-- no use getting angry at acquaintances and having arguments over a status update. If you want to talk about how I feel, let's talk on the phone or over coffee. 

Now, on a less (emotionally) heavy note, I must continue baking and cooking for tomorrow's fat pants extravaganza, er, I mean, Thanksgiving. Last night I made a Pinterest recipe and it is AH-MAH-ZING:
Click here for the recipe for Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes from 58 Day Dreams. This picture is from the original poster, but mine look like this!
I also made a cranberry and walnut coffee cake from my staple recipe book, Simply in Season (the cupcakes minus the whipped cream are in the picture too):

Here is the bottom of the coffee cake-- just sugar, cranberries, and walnuts:
There's something about a sugar coated cranberry. It's just so pretty. 
Today's cooking mission is this slow cooker apple sausage stuffing from Number 2 Pencil:
I'm a little wary of slow cooker stuffing because I'm worried it will be too dry tomorrow. Hopefully the grease from the sausage keeps it nice and moist, amiright? 

Have a great holiday. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Earworm Wednesday: Snow Days and Jenny Lewis

A great benefit I got to keep from my teaching days is that my office is on a college campus so I still have snow days!

Yesterday, I had to work from home, but the first snow day of the year still gave me that celebratory feeling. Plus, I had to figure out holiday games and crafts for the kids we work with which meant I got to be on Pinterest looking up fun holiday ideas to do with young people in grades 3-5. These are a few gems from my search:
We're making these wish list ornaments, but on the wish list kids will have to write things they wish for their community, family, and THEN themselves-- anything we can do to get a hold of the crazy consumerism of the season.  

We're also playing this reindeer antler relay game because I think it looks hilarious:
I might be getting into the Christmas spirit this year. Maybe we'll put the tree up. 

The soundtrack of my snow day was not Christmas music. It's too soon. My Spotify was rockin' Jenny Lewis' The Voyager. I've liked Jenny Lewis since I first heard her in Rilo Kiley and I absolutely love this album. Here is one of my favorite songs, although I would highly recommend listening to the whole thing from beginning to end:

Okay, here's one more, just because I can't help it:
Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stitch Fix Numero Dos: I'm Addicted. And Fluffy.

Like last month, I'm still feeling a little fluffy, but I'm working on it. The Holiday Pounds Pool at my gym starts this week. It usually starts the week after Thanksgiving, which gives everyone "permission" to GORGE. Holiday weight gain is the WORST:
I applaud the person organizing the Pounds Pool this season. They are making sure we all stay honest and I can get down with that. This is how the Pounds Pool works:
1. You pay $10 cash and weigh-in the week before Thanksgiving.
2. Other people pay $10 and weigh-in. All of the money goes into a pool.
3. You weigh-in the week after New Year's. If you stayed the same weight or lost it you get your $10 back PLUS you split the cash of anyone who gained weight.

I love it. Two years ago, I lost my $10. Last year, I got it back plus $8. It wasn't much, but it was enough to make me excited for this year's pound pool. I'd be more than willing to do a $5 Pounds Pool on the side with any of you, if you're interested! It's the little things.

Onto my Stitch Fix! My second Stitch Fix has got me totally hooked on this service even though I've sent back almost everything. I just love getting packages and knowing there is somewhere out there in the world listening to me even though we're not talking-- I can tell that someone read my feedback from my first fix. I can also tell my stylist paid attention to my Pinterest. I've been pinning slouchy cardigans and almost everything is grey or black. 

Plus, sometimes I get too distracted when I'm shopping and end up spending/buying more than I should. Stich Fix is keeping me honest. Do I really love what's in the box? Because if I only sort of like it, I shouldn't be buying it. There are only five things to look at compared to RACKS. It's nice. 

My first pieces were these grey cords (butt shot!) from Kut From The Kloth and this black sweatshirt with lace on the back from Threads 4 Thought:
Cost: Pants- $68.00, top- $44.00
Likes: Pants- Material (so soft), length, cords; top- sweatshirt material, the lace
Dislikes: The pants were too loose on the thighs, but these are skinny pants I can wear. I'm looking into this brand on the good old' Internets. They will be perfect for this cold winter. Ugh, it's snowing right now. 
The black top had a weird and loose neck. I loved the lace on the back because it kicked a simple black shirt up a notch, but the neck turned me off. It looked like some of my shirts do after I hang out with my niece and nephew for the day and they pull me to them by the neck of my shirt. 
Status: Sent it back.

Side Note: When I saw the brand name "Threads for Thought" I thought, "Oh, that's cool. I wonder what's thoughtful about their clothing." Then I saw the tag: Made in China. I Googled the company because my brow was furrowed and I didn't understand how that could be thoughtful. This is what I saw:

I'm intrigued, but I want to know more, like what is an ethical wage in China? I will follow this company and look for other clothing companies that use the phrase "Ethical Manufacturing" to see what that's all about. 


The third piece was this pretty lil' number from Skies are Blue:
Cost: $54.00
Likes: The lace, the pattern, the sleeves. This top is so pretty. I saw it in the box and thought, "Ooooo, so pretty! Just my style! I hope it fits my boobs!" Tops with no stretch that aren't specifically tailored for me don't usually fit the ladies. 
Dislikes: GUESS WHAT? It fit everywhere but...
...the boobs. The no-stretch fabric flattened my precious boobs down. One sigh or deep breath after running up the stairs and this top would probably split open on the back zipper. Yes, this top even had a back zipper, which is a detail that I always love. DAMN. I'm going to look for something similar for the holiday season-- this top screamed Christmas Eve to me. 
Status: Sent it back.

The fourth piece was this TERRIBLE grey shirt:
Cost: $48.00
Dislikes: HELLLLLLO BOOBIES. Do your co-workers want boobs in yer face? If so, wear this top. Do you want to look completely unprofessional at work? If so, wear this top. Would you like to look like a sausage? Yes? Wear this top. Do you want a mom-lookin' neckline? Wear this top. I enlarged this picture so you could see 1) my commentary and 2) the way this top made my ladies look like one was GROSSLY bigger than the other. Not cool. 
Status: Sent it back. Obviously. 

The last piece was a simple cardigan that I absolutely loved from Pixley. Don't mind the HORRIBLE grey shirt underneath:
Cost: $54.00
Likes: Color, fit, sleeve length, feel of the material and my favorite part-- HIDDEN POCKETS!
Dislikes: Nothin'. I love this cardigan. I'm wearing it right now. 
Status: Kept!

Next month, I asked for a fancy top for New Year's along with some more classic pieces to build my wardrobe. If you want to try Stitch Fix, you definitely should! Just use my referral code, mkay?

Also, I want to talk about the Big Boob-ed Struggle with those of you who get what it's like.
The struggle is real. First World Problems: I can't wear bikini tops that are just cloth triangles and it's sad.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Slow it Down.

One of my friends posted this on her website in June:
When I first saw this, I thought, "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, crazy lady?! You gotta speed up and live! Shove as much as you can into a day!"

I immediately thought of this saying today after I rolled my ankle while attempting to go for a cold weather run. Can I just quickly say that when you fall on your face in the summer, you are probably falling in dog pee, but in the winter you feel more disgusted by it because you can actually see the yellow snow everywhere after you fall. Gross.

I was hoping my Sunday would be full of laundry, organizing some paperwork, preparing for a presentation, weather-proofing all of my boots, and cooking. Then I couldn't do any of those things because I can't put any weight on my ankle. I usually hate being immobilized, but I just spent the last five hours icing my ankle on and off and watching Netflix and Hulu. It felt great.

Yes, the next few weeks are going to suck, especially since I was just getting back into an exercise routine, but hey-- that's how it goes. I'm going to stick to the pool and some strengthening exercises and try to keep it together until the ankle heals. That's how I roll. Get it?

Here's to trying to find the good in even the shittiest of things. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Earworm Wednesday: FKA twigs, Balance, and Strengths

Before I get into some of my random life updates, I need to talk about FKA twigs because I've been streaming the Pandora station for the last two weeks. Speaking of two weeks, Two Weeks is my JAM right now and is my most recent earworm:
Give it a listen.

The other day, I saw this quote on a friend's Facebook page and I can't stop thinking about it:
I've been so grossly busy with work and work and work that I'm having a hard time finding balance. Work is going to be demanding-- it's the nature of my job right now, hopefully not always. Plus, I love working and I LOVE my job. I can't imagine not working. But what I need to do is find a way to balance and live and just breathe. 

I've been trying some yoga at home since I don't want to wake up at 5:00am to make it to a class and I can't make the late classes because I want to hang with dogs and the Hubs. Also, budgeting has been kicking my ass and those classes are expensive! I found Yoga with Adrienne a few weeks ago and I love her. She's funny and real-- I don't feel like she's being fake in her humor and dorkiness. This is the morning practice I did today:
WHEW! I was definitely energized at the end of my practice. I was sweating. I'm going to stick with Adrienne and see if I can't find the balance I've been looking for. Plus, it'd be nice to be able to feel flexible and not stiff again. 

I'm part of a leadership program here in Kalamazoo and I'm so excited about connecting with leaders in Kalamazoo and growing my own skills. As you might have noticed in one of my last blog posts, I try to avoid confrontation. I want to work on that. Last night, I took the Clifton StrengthsFinder as part of the leadership program. It was my second time in two years taking it and I've switched careers and feel like a different person than I was two years ago. I was wondering-- will my strengths be the same or not? 

They were different than before. I'm still trying to figure out what it means. 
If you want to know more about me, here are my top five strengths two years ago:
1. Ideation
2. Positivity
3. Learner
4. Achiever
5. Woo

and now:

1. Learner
2. Communication
3. Positivity
4. Strategic
5. Input

What does it mean?!

Some people think doing the StrengthsFinder is like reading a horoscope-- you read it and say, "YEAH! That's totally me." Power of suggestion. I disagree. It gives you talking points for your strengths instead of your weaknesses-- something self-deprecating people like me need. 

On that note, have a happy Wednesday! I'll be out there looking for balance and trying to figure out my strengths while listening to FKA twigs. Muah. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

I'm a Quitter. Of Cigarettes.

This post is in honor of the Great American Smokeout and the Quit for Life movement. It's a long one, but I want to share the darker, more tar-stained side of myself with you, especially if you're a smoker who is trying to quit. It's possible.
Oh, heck no, you don't. Until you do... someday. [via]
I started smoking cigarettes when I was seventeen to be rebellious (even though my dad was dying from cancer and heart disease related to his 30+ years of smoking), to calm my ever-present anxieties, and to look cool and detached. Plus, I loved the feeling of lighting up a cigarette after a day in high school. It felt adult. At the time, I thought to myself, "I'll quit when I start college." 

Here's a timeline of my smoking from age seventeen to now, 'cuz I FER SURE didn't quit smoking when I started college. 

Everybody on campus smoked. How was I going to meet people if I didn't smoke?! [via]
College started and smoking was part of my life. It was a way to get away for a few minutes when I was waiting tables or needed a break between classes. It was a way to look "cool and detached" when meeting new people. Cigarettes tasted great with coffee. When I was eighteen and starting to smoke more than I did when I was seventeen, I thought to myself, "I'll quit when I turn nineteen."

At nineteen, I started dating the future Hubs. He didn't like smoking, so I told him I didn't smoke. I was a bad liar. There aren't any pictures of me smoking from the time we started dating because I didn't want him to know I smoked. If I knew I was going to see him, I would smoke and then chew gum and spray myself with Bath and Body Works spray. I really thought it worked-- Bath and Body Works spray is strong. In reality, who was I kidding? You can smell smoke on someone the minute you come into contact with them. I didn't know-- my sense of smell was not so good because, duh, smoking. I thought to myself, "I'll quit if we get serious."

Twenty and Twenty-One:
Twenty came and I smoked for all of the same reasons as when I was eighteen and nineteen. As a someone who has always been a workaholic, the only way I would slow down and take a break was if I was taking a smoke break. At twenty, I moved in with the Future Hubs. After I moved in with Future Hubs, I tried to quit, but it was too hard. I was full of excuses. I just told myself I'd never smoke in front of him. He was, after all, playing with the band in smokey bars and everyone smelled bad when they got home. Like, smelled bad FOR DAYS. Twenty-one approached and I knew I couldn't quit yet-- beer tasted so good when accompanied by a cigarette. I thought to myself, "I'll quit when I get a real job."

Twenty-Two to Twenty-Four
I got my first teaching job at twenty-two. My first year teaching was terribly stressful. My teacher friends and I would leave the school during out plan period and smoke cigarette after cigarette while driving around the block in one of our cars. We'd smoke and laugh and vent-- it was my favorite time of the day. I thought to myself, "I'll just smoke for the first few years of teaching and quit when I'm twenty-five. Then teaching won't be so stressful."

The Angry Smoking Phase [via]
At twenty-five, I got married to the Hubs. It was beautiful. I was down to smoking one or two cigarettes at day-- did I mention I always enjoyed running for fun and had stuck to my habit of running three to five miles a few times a week this whole time? Running kept the cigarette number down. A few months after our wedding, I blew out my knee while training for a half marathon and settled in for a long year of surgery and recovery. Then the surgeon said no more running, never again. At twenty-five?! A piece of me died and I got really depressed. I smoked to relieve the stress of being injured. I thought to myself, "I'll quit when I'm up and walking and less depressed."

Twenty-Six to Twenty-Seven:
I lost almost fifty pounds by not eating. No exercise was involved-- just very obsessive not eating. I decided to not quit smoking because I didn't want to put any weight back on. I thought to myself, "I'll quit when I'm at my goal weight."

In the winter of 2010, I tried to quit because my best friend was quitting. I stuck to it for four months with lots of flavored gum and tins of mints, but I eventually quit quitting. I'd put on almost twenty pounds and I kept getting sick with sinus infections after I quit. It was too hard. In the spring of 2010, the Michigan Smoke-Free Air Law was passed. No more smoking in bars and restaurants meant I had to move myself outside during the Hub's shows and now everyone could smell it. I stopped smoking at bars and restaurants. One day, the Hubs pulled up next to me while I was smoking in my car. He called my cell. "Was that YOU smoking while I drove by?!" Busted. I quit smoking in my car. The real quitting had begun. Then it was erased when I went to Paris and everyone was smoking. I succumbed to peer pressure and smoked. It felt great. I thought to myself, "I'll quit when I get home. When in Rome..."

Twenty-Nine: The Year of Becoming a Quitter
Thank you, swimming. 
In August of 2011, at the age of 29 and a few months before I articulated all of my athletic goals on my 30b430 list, I finally quit smoking for real. After returning from my second summer in Senegal, I was sitting around and feeling extremely out of shape. I went out and got a gym membership. With the membership came a free health assessment. My weight was back up-- WAY up. The health assessment did not give my a glowing review of my health. And I was still smoking. WTF.
Ran a 10k last April. Boo to you, mean surgeon-- and he was mean. I'm not just picking on him. 
So, I quit. It felt like my 1000th time quitting, although I'm unsure of what number the actual attempt was. I didn't do it with patches, gum, or e-cigarettes. I did it with swimming. I got into the pool and tried to swim one length. I couldn't. My chest was caving in. I thought I was having an asthma attack. I wanted to pass out. "OH, HELLS NO!!!!" I said as I finally reached the end of the pool lane. It sounded more like, "OH" sigh, breath, cough, phelm, "HE" breath, breath, "LLS," cough, wheeze, breath, "NO."
I can bike over twenty miles now. Without wheezing.
I quit cold turkey and started going to a water aerobics class with a feisty group of women over fifty until I could work out for an hour straight.
Not these feisty ladies. Healthier feisty ladies. [via]
Then I took swim lessons. Then I started swimming laps on my own. Then I decided to start biking, then I decided the rebellious thing to do as I approached thirty was to start running again (because EFF YOU surgeon), and then I decided that triathlons were for me.

What I Won (Besides My Age Division) by Quitting
August, 2014: Still tri-ing, still a quitter.
This list isn't from a quit smoking website. It's based on what I noticed about myself after I quit smoking:
1. I can breathe.
2. I can breathe.
3. I can breathe.
4. I smell nice.
5. My car smells nice and there are no burn holes in the seats.
6. I don't have to wash my jeans after each wear.
7. I don't have to brush my teeth to kiss the Hubs.
8. My teeth are merely stained from coffee, not tobacco.
9. I can swim almost two miles.
10. My body is healing itself from the years of abuse. I can feel it, I swear! It's awesome! Regeneration!
11. I don't sound hoarse after a night of non-stop smoking.
12. I get sinus infections a lot less than I did when I was smoking. I don't know if this is something that happens to all people who quit, but it happened to me!
13. If we have kids, our kid won't be the one whose worksheets smell like cigarettes when they turn their work in. It's a thing I noticed when I was teacher. Just go with it.

Check out the Great American Smokeout Tools and Resources if you're interested in quitting. It took me more than ten years, but I did it. So use the tools and resources. Or, just quit cold turkey. Or, get some gum. Or, get Chantix. I don't care how you do it, as long as you're doing it.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Too Non-Confrontational.

I suck at confrontation. 

I hate it. I hate it in all of its forms-- with The Hubs, at work, with rude strangers, with friends--I'd rather let things go and try to deal with it on my own than actually sit down with someone and hash it out. 

This is why: I cry during confrontation. Like, every time. 
Let me preface this by saying that I cry a lot-- I cry when I'm happy, sad, laughing too hard, angry... I cry during commercials or documentaries like Blackfish. Even when I'm talking about Blackfish I start crying. Even right now, as I type "Blackfish" I could start crying because it's on my mind. 


I claim my tears and overly sensitive nature. Crying can be a nice release. I've been making ugly cry face forever. 
My best confrontations are the ones with the Hubs because when I cry during those confrontations, I can just say (in between hiccups and sniffles), "I know I'm crying, but we really need to finish this, okay!?" He's okay with it. 

I really hate crying during confrontations in my professional life because I want to come off as sure of myself and not a pushover. I once had a colleague yell at me for being a biased liberal who tries to brainwash children into doing too much social justice and what did I do? I started to respond, but then my voice cracked. Sooooo, I walked away and cried in my classroom during my plan period with the door closed while thinking up really good responses for the rest of the day. 
How can you sound sure of yourself when your voice is cracking because your throat is SUPER tight and you're making an ugly cry face?
While a mean colleague could make me cry quite easily, I never cried in front of my students unless it was something really horrible, like death horrible. Why was it so easy for me to engage in confrontations with students without crying, but when I'm engaged in any adult-to-adult confrontation, it makes me cry?! 

This is what I do in the face of confrontation... nothing. I sit and tell myself that if I'm just positive enough or work hard enough that the confrontation will pass and then I won't have to worry about it. This could end badly. 
I need to work on this. But how? How do you work on not caring what other people think? How do you actually talk out what you think and feel without crying? Someone please give me confrontation lessons. I will pay you in baked goods. 
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