The Feels

My lower back hurts.

Right above my right buttcheek it’s clenched like a first.

I am sitting up staring into the abyss that is my computer screen. Locked into it with my headphones on and other voices pouring into my ears but I can still hear people around me. I can still hear my long nails tap the keyboard and my neighbor in the cube across from me sneeze.

This computer screen is my job. It is my 9-5. The deep, blue sea of lights and pixels.

My throat is dry so I keep drinking water.

Then at least I can get up to pee.

I hate the sound of my own finger clicking the mouse to lock my computer, so what? No one comes and takes my abyss from me? Because theirs isn’t enough for them.

I go pee and I shimmy on the pants that were not tight a year ago but now feel like they are screaming to be unbuttoned.

Before that would make me want to cry. That would make me want to not eat. That would make me want to work myself to death.

Today, it just makes me sure.

My tight pants. My sore back. My tired eyes. My ears annoyed from the clicking and the tapping of my fingers on the keys.

The lights hanging over my head are slowly stealing the souls of everyone in here just to stay lit.

This is not for me. 

Eating like I Love Myself

It is a weird season. A lot of people are still battling the bulge from the holidays AND trying to get in shape for summer. That means people around me, online and in person, are discussing dieting and exercise. My coworkers are tracking their food on myfitnesspal. But then they discuss cheating on the program by leaving things out of their logs. This is a dangerous pattern that I know so well.

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How you get when you obsess over food!

For the last 5 ½ years, diet and exercise have been a huge part of my life. But like all things, I have evolved. And like all good hobbies, my interest in the subject has grown and shifted to focus on different things.

When I started counting calories, I was hardcore. I still look back sometimes and think, “Wow, I was badass”. But I have to remind myself I was also “sick”. I was malnourished and uninformed. I was looking for the quick and dirty way out of this body I did not love. I was convinced that I would get there by hating myself thin.

Over the year, I have cried in restaurants, turned down parties and outings with food, and punished myself with exercise. Then suddenly, in fall of 2016, I just stopped. I just got to the end of the rollercoaster and told the gal working the ride (aka myself) that I wanted to get off.

I got off the ride.

I got involved with people who were food positive. That means I hang out with all types of people with all types of diets. That means I don’t decline invitations because I fear unhealthy food or being the ‘fat friend’. That also means, loving myself now. And loving myself healthy.

I am not at my smallest weight anymore but I am hands down at my healthiest weight. Everything that I eat, is something I want to eat. I am not eating it because a magazine said it was a fat burner or a trainer instagrammed a picture of their meal prep. I am eating it because it is real food that has a purpose in my body. That is it.

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Daily reminder to love myself with food.

That may seem crazy, but it is true. Every time I think of binging on junk, which is multiple times a week, I think about myself as a baby. I think “What would you feed your baby self?’ If I would not feed my baby self a bag of M&M’s at 10:30 AM….then I don’t eat it.

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Happy and healthy gym selfie 🙂

The most important shift has been mental. I will never “hate” myself thin and I could never “love” myself into an unhealthy state. It is just not possible. Loving myself means balancing wants and needs. It means caring for my body like I would care for a sick friend or a child. It means talking about myself, in my head and out loud to friends, with respect and positivity.

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More desk motivation!

I am not 100% well. I am not perfect. But I am healing.

With love,

Lauren

She who hesitates…

I grew up an extreme introvert. In grade school, I started pretending that I was a bad speller because I was sick to my stomach at the thought of competing in another spelling bee. My best friend ran for class treasurer and president. He won both years.

In high school, I was full of angst but most of it was to try to cover the heavy aroma of my fear.I was so afraid. Afraid of being smart. Afraid of sounding dumb. Constantly monitoring other people’s reactions to me. Even when I knew the answer, I would hesitate to raise my hand. I couldn’t do it.

In college, I met a guy online. We talked for hours and hours. We knew each other for a week but it seemed like years. I was fun online. I was strong and brave and mysterious and lovely. At least that is what he thought. But he was all the way across the United States. What did he know?

There was a night when I sat in my best friend’s living room. When he came home to visit for college, we were attached at the hip. There were seasons of shows we needed to binge on and family gossip we needed to share in person. After a night of gossiping with him and blushing over text messages from the mystery man, he looked at me plainly and told me, “Buy a ticket, come visit me in Boston, and we will go meet this guy in person.” I looked up at him like he was crazy. He was crazy. He still IS crazy. The same boy who put up campaign signs rhyming Garrett with Carrot in the 5th grade is now my adult best friend trying to drag me onto a dramatic catfish adventure like Nev Schulman himself! “Come on, we could take the bus from Boston to Philadelphia. Buy the ticket.” And this wave of confidence rose over me, like the internet me was the actual me. Like the actual me was dead. I pulled up kayak and booked the ticket without hesitation.

There were so many moments that followed that could be just as important. The plane to Boston. The shitty trip to New York that ended with me taking a bus to Philadelphia alone to meet a man I met on the internet. The train that took me to the suburbs of Philadelphia and not knowing if I should even get off.

There are so many moments that I had to fake the confidence that I desperately wanted. I had to raise my hand and volunteer for my own life. But now every morning I wake up in Philadelphia next to the mystery man from the internet. Every morning he asks me if I want breakfast and I answer “yes” without hesitation.

via Daily Prompt: Hesitate

Fat Tuesday is Every Tuesday

If you know the history of this day, you know it means it is the last day to “go wild” before Ash Wednesday and 40 days of Lent. During the time of Lent, you typically give up something you really love to strengthen your relationship with your faith. When I was little it was little things. It could have been television or a favorite toy. For adults, there is a wide variety of choices. They can range from buying new clothes to alcohol to sex.

This year, although I am not an very religious person, I am choosing to reverse the dialog around Lent. People often make it sound like they are “losing” something they love and equate it to an act of suffering. That makes it seem like the entire thing is negative when it is actually supposed to be pushing you closer to your faith and yourself. I am telling people that I am “freeing” myself.The act of freeing myself from things that I typically take for granted seems to be more in line with what the actual process is supposed to be about.

My diet is not that crappy. But just typing that feels weird. It should not be crappy at all. I notice more and more that I can eat…a lot. I enjoy food, I love cooking but food should not be use like a drug. For instance, I could sit and eat 12 Hershey’s kisses and feel nothing. Back to back chocolate doses and I wouldn’t even register the sugar spike. That sounds like an addiction. The same goes for pizza, or ice cream. It seems like I have been consuming these things in excess.

Tomorrow, I will be freeing myself from a crappy diet. (I have actually started making changes but it just officially starts tomorrow.) And I have been on diets before. And I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I don’t want this to seem like an excuse to make drastic changes or be the catalyst for a downward spiral into dieting. I am DONE with dieting. But I am not done with reflecting on my body and my health. I am not done with feeling good about what I eat, when I eat it. Even if that is pizza. I thought this was worth mentioning because some people do struggle with food addiction. And I am still trying to find that balance. I feel like taking advantage of a time where you are encouraged to grow closer to your faith, look into yourself and why you have these emotions around food, and celebrate your vibrant lifewas a positive thing for me.

And that is what Fat Tuesday is about. It is about excess before the calm, reflective time of Lent.

I would venture to say that most people living on the Standard American Diet, eat and drink to excess daily. It seems like every Tuesday is Fat Tuesday in the United States. Every week a fast food chain has a new deal or creates a new franken-food that is some hybrid of other Franken-food that hardly resembles a natural food.

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It would also seem, the average person has depression, anxiety, stress, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart issue….the list goes on and on. So while it seems like most people focus on their waistlines, I am trying to focus on my MIND. When I am healthier and free from the yo-yo of junk food and restriction, I feel happy. My mind feels clear. And that is what I am seeking.

In 2017, is Fat Tuesday still a thing? Should it be replaced with Triple Cheese Fat Tuesday or Super-Sized Tuesday? I am definitely not the one to ask, but it may be worth noting.

So, are you freeing yourself from anything this year? Even if you don’t follow any religion, could you take the time to examine your crutches and excuses? Can you take this time to find what truly makes you a happy and healthy person? I hope so.

Cheers!

How to “Treat Yo Self” and Stick to the Budget

My husband and I have a budget. And sometimes it feels like a curse word between us. Most times, it is a benign , all knowing and all seeing guide to the universe. That may seem extreme, but so is paying off $35,000 in one year…and we did it anyway!

The budget is simple. Pay the essentials, plan for what is coming and whatever left can be allocated to small pleasures. So we do that. My birthday was in December. We set aside some “Birthday money”. Then we did not really do anything. I am not really a birthday gal and my grandmother was coming so I figured we would celebrate then. Grandma came for a visit during Christmas and we worked with our “Christmas money”. Except, Hubby and I did not exchange gift. We exchanged kind words and promises that if we saw anything we really, really WANTED, we could get it.

The last day of January was my husband’s 29th birthday. I go to look at our accounts and our budget. I run the numbers over and over. And Over. I check all the accounts. I want to make sure everyone has been paid. I even called my partner at work. Just to make sure what I was seeing was correct.

Folks, we had about 500 dollars of unclaimed money.

All that money from birthdays and Christmas and dinners we chose to ditch…added up.

I am a reasonable woman. I am NOT going to spend 500 on my husband’s 29th birthday just because I could. I immediately paid some towards the loans. But what SHOULD we do with the money?

We could save some towards a summer trip home to visit my family. But I honestly do not like them enough to drop the cash these days. I know that sounds horrible, but I have goals. And they are not all that supportive.

We could go out and party. But we did not even do that BEFORE we were on a budget, why would we do it now?

Buy a game system or a computer? Don’t need it.

Shopping spree? Remember I am trying to be minimal! I am not going to go out and add more clothes to the pile

So we decided to go out to dinner. The week of his birthday was “Restaurant Week” in our city. This means the best and most expensive restaurants around town are showing out with some of their most popular menu items…for $35! It is the best time to get samples of food, test out a new place, or feel like you are ballin.

The rest of the money went to our debt. And I feel great about it.

 

What is your greatest budget win this year? Tell me about it!

 

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day

Standing in the shower with my husband last night, I jokingly brought up Valentine’s gifts. I asked if he was planning on getting me anything. He said no. That is the best answer he could have given. In our almost 5 years together, he has learned that I am no good at receiving gifts. I love to give people things that they want, but I get anxious when I am given a gift. No strings attached? I don’t believe it. He laughed at the idea of our friends exchanging romantic, material tokens of love. And I felt like I was standing in the steamy (shower steam) presence of MY PERSON.

My coworker left her desk and returned with a bouquet of flowers from her boyfriend. They are lovely and she is happy. I cannot help thinking that giving someone a clipped flower, dead on arrival, is such a strange gesture of love. Chocolate is meant to be given and consumed any day one feels the urge to do so, at least in my world. I can get behind the kind gesture of a card. A card to remind someone that they are loved. Even when little kids exchange small, cheap cards, it is a big deal.

If no one told you they love you today, I love you. I may not know you, but I appreciate you. I hope your day goes well. I hope if you hate your job it is a good day. I hope if you are jobless you get a lead. I hope if you are ill, you feel better. I hope that if you are unhappy, you see a light at the end of the tunnel that gives you hope. I hope if your loved one buys you a gift, you are graceful and grateful. I hope if you give a gift, you do not expect anthing in return and that giving was the gift. I hope that if you feel distanced from your loved ones, someone will embrace you physically or emotionally. And I hope that for today, and tomorrow, and always.

Love,

Lauren

When are You Two Buying a House? The Reality of Beating House Fever

I love house hunting. In the summer, it is one of my favorite free pass times. It also serves as exercise because we typically walk to the Open Houses around our apartment. I like to see what my partner and I can agree on and things we differ on style wise. I cannot get enough of peering into someone else’s home and seeing how they live. But I also love imagining myself in the home. Some of the places around us are over a hundred years old. The character is outstanding. For some reason, I immediately see myself as a more refined, lady-like woman, who tends to a proper home. Trust me, no home is going to help me get there! 

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There is this expectation that my husband and I should “buy a house” and “settle down”. I resent both of them but let’s break it down a bit further.

Our Profile:

  • My credit score is in the range of ‘excellent’
  • His credit score is ‘great’
  • We both make above average for our age
  • We are both college educated
  • He has a Masters Degree
  • He qualifies for a Teacher Mortgage (barely anything down)
  • We have been married for two years

Great. We are perfect candidates!

NOO!

We are still drowning in student loans and have very little financial support to fall back on should something happen. That sounds like the perfect combination for waking up “middle class and homeless”.

So , while I am no expert, I would like to set up a couple of “Reality Checks” for anyone who has been recently tempted or pressured to purchase a home.

The Pitch: You should buy a house! You are wasting your money renting

This person obviously feels some need to comment on your financial well-being. They may mean well. They don’t want you to waste your money. 

Ask yourself:Is this person going to pay my bills? Are they currently paying my bills?

If the person encouraging you to buy a home is not currently paying your bills, do they need to worry about where your money goes? No. Even if the person is a family member, they should not feel the need to pressure you into buying a home.

The Pitch: You/I can afford it!

Ask Yourself: Can you really afford it?

I look at my paycheck and the cost of a flight to Greece or Thailand and I think, “I can afford it!” I look at a cute car, purse, outfit and think “I can afford this.” But the reality is, there are a lot of unexpected expenses that come up when you own a home. I could totally afford a house, but if the water heater went out in the same month as a leak occurred in the basement, I would be screwed. People always laugh at me when I say that, but it is true. Sometimes, an extra couple hundred dollars can be padding you from homelessness. And if that is the case, do you really want to stretch yourself that thin just to say you are a homeowner?

This may seem like a silly, self directed rant. In some ways, it totally is. However, I know that in your mid-twenties , sometimes the walls feel like they are closing in around you. And this feeling isn’t reserved for the 20-somethings. People of all ages can experience this pressure and feel like they are underperforming in their bracket. Your friends can ‘buy’ houses and have babies. And you can be happy for them. But it is important to take a moment to look at your goals.

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My goal is to have a home that I can afford to decorate. I don’t want to live in constant fear. I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes that means clenching your jaw and sweating out house fever, one Open House at a time.

 

 

The Continued Struggle of Being Minimal: Check in!

Are you struggling to be minimal?

I have talked about being a not-so-great-but-aspiring Minimalist before. I am still working at it. I thought I would circle back to it an discuss how it is working out.

I still have too much stuff.

There…that is how it is going. I will go into greater detail and talk about my next moves.

I packed up three bags of donation clothes. I am talking HEFTY bags. BODY BAGS full of stuff. And I felt great about it. My partner dropped them off at our local donation place and I did not even feel a tinge of regret. I also listed a bin of clothes on Poshmark. I have made a little cash and it also makes me feel good to slowly but surely be downsizing. However, I still feel like I have too much stuff.

Things I need to start downsizing:

Hair Products– I have a lot of hair. And at one point, I had all this time and motivation to do my hair. I was trying new styles and products. I was on YouTube watching hair videos. These days, I am lucky to get the rat’s nest into a bun on my head. So it is time to start using img_0975or losing some of these products

Kitchen Crap: The receipts from IKEA. The hook for the one thing. The seven glass bottles that I am going to reuse. That can of something that I know damn well I am not going to eat!They all gotta go!

Makeup: I subscribed to Birchbox because I had a friend get a bunch of cute stuff from them. BIGGEST. MISTAKE. EVER. Stay tuned for an entire post on how much I have hated my birchbox experience, but for now know that I have multiple lip colors and concealers that are about 3 shades too light for my brown self!

Odd Socks: Be honest, do you have odd socks? I think I have more unpartnered socks than actual pairs. It is like an epidemic. I am not sure how to fix it. But regardless, the odd sock section of my life needs to go.

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So, as you can see, I have some goals. And now that I have written them down, I will do my best to conquer them. Tell me, what is on your MUST GO list?

 

An Open Letter to My Absent Father

This may be a futile attempt but it is more for my sake than anyone else’s. I contacted you as a different person when I was 19 years old and you basically spit in my face. At 25, that interaction doesn’t bother me as much. You said you would not be in contact with me because you questioned my paternity. I question your truth and your manhood, but you are allowed to reside in the false comforts that both of them provide for you. This is an opportunity that I am extending for the last time. I will not be surprised if you do nothing. That has been your pattern for 25 years. But this is an opportunity, if you have ever wanted one, to do something. My feelings are wrapped up in this letter so no matter what happens after this, I will be free.

I am a victim of really horrible decision making but I am choosing not to live there. If you knew me, you would know that I never leave well enough alone. I have been molded to strive for perfection. Not by either of my parents, but by the circumstances I was brought into. But I wanted to write this because I have been living in some bad habits as well. I frequently find myself checking my email or social media pages or even my mailbox. I am not sure why I am constantly anticipating that 25 years has just been missed connections rather than willful neglect. If you truly want a relationship if your paternity is proven, send me the information on whatever test you want. If that was an excuse to rattle a 19 year old and hope she never comes back, that is also ok. I am no longer 19, thank god, and I am not easily rattled. I just get anxious at the thought of not knowing. And if I never formally try, I will never know. I will consider this my formal attempt.

 

I haven’t sent this. I might never send it. 

3 Steps to a more Productive Weekend!

We all have those weekends that fly by and you have done nothing.

And by nothing I mean, binged on netflix or slept.

That is my special scenario. Maybe you have  a different non-productive weekend mode that you like to get into.

However, weekends are precious. So are weekdays but with the hustle and bustle of work, I just want to focus on the weekends.

So how do you squeeze the most out of those few hours that you have to do whatever you want?

I would start by saying DON’T fly by the seat of your pants. As tempting as it is to “chill” and “not make hard plans”, penciling in activities on the weekend could lead to a lot of wasted time. (I am an expert at this…I should pursue a degree in wasted time and broken plans)

Step 1: Plan of action

Going into the weekend with SOME solid plans is better than nothing. Writing those plans down in a planner or saving them to your devices calendar…practically adult of you. When you use your planner or phone to schedule things, it is more likely to stick with you. I do both these days. I look at the planner daily at work but my phone will alert me to the appropriate time to leave. Both are great for not losing track of time.

Step 2: Be on time

Running late is an amazing way to kill productivity and make weekend events (or any events) less fun. My partner likes to run late. I say “likes” because it feels impossible for him to dislike being late and still manage to be chronically late. Every time we are running late, it stresses me out. We get to wherever we are going late and I am usually annoyed.

If you are chronically late, there are ways to fix this. You can start getting ready (slowly) beforehand. If it is a birthday, buy the gift AND wrap it the day before. That way, it will probably look nicer and you will be way less panicked when you realize on the way to the event that you didn’t sign the card…because you didn’t buy one.

You can try my tip, saving the event in your phone at an earlier time to allow for wiggle room. I am on time but if I convince my husband the event is slightly earlier…he gets a move on. The last tip would be to relax. If you are the late person, evaluate why you are always late. If you are with the late person, cut them some slack. Sometimes lateness can be a small act of rebellion against the timely partner. I know, this is not a real solution but it is all I have figured out.

Step 3: GO TO SLEEP

This step is the hardest for me. I go to bed fairly early on the weekdays. I am also someone who seems to really need a solid chunk of time to sleep. It takes me a long time to fall asleep at night and I wake up quite easily. Sleep schedules are very important. By going to sleep really late on the weekends, you throw everything out of whack.

I know this step may seem like it is contradictory to having a fun weekend. You probably make later plans on the weekend because your schedule is more flexible. By going to sleep and waking up similar times on the weekend as you do during the week, you make Monday’s less mondayish and you make weekend mornings productive.

I know every weekend is not going to be an “early to bed, early to rise” situation. We all get busy with weddings and parties and even game nights that end up running until 1 AM (been there). The point is, when you want to have a productive weekend, there are ways.

That is it.

That’s all I got.