Wednesday, April 08, 2015


I did a difficult thing this evening and threw out what may have been over ten years of handwritten journals.

Since I discovered The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (affiliate link), I have been undertaking a project of decluttering my life from unneeded or unwanted items. Some of this has been clothing, such as things that don't fit, will never fit again, or I wasn't wearing because I really didn't like it or who knows why. Some of it was books. Actually, a lot of it was books. Most were my husbands, but we have about 130 ready in boxes, waiting to be donated. I tidied up my jewelry, getting rid of pieces that I stopped wearing a long time ago. The basic principal of the method is: keep what sparks joy. Unless the object doesn't "spark joy", but is functional to you, then you find joy in its purpose. You may not love your blender, but you can't afford a new one and it's damn helpful in the mornings.

I've mostly finished with my belongings at the new apartment. It was difficult to go by category, according to the method, because so much of my life was in boxes and bags. I ended up addressing things as I came across them and as I found homes for everything. We're still figuring out storage options and could really use some shelving. I decided to move on to a completely different category of "things I left at my parents house when I moved out several years ago". That was for my first apartment with Hulky.

A couple of weeks ago, I dragged some boxes out of the attic eaves and discovered schoolwork from middle school through college. Straight to the trash! I found a lot of knick-knacks that I had cherished during those times, but didn't hold much memory for me now. Only sentiment, and to be honest, I'm finding that somewhat detrimental for my well-being. I can't keep living my life dragging around memories that I don't need. So I threw a lot out and recycled what I could. Most of it was easy to part with.

This week's task was peeking into my old bedroom's closet, now my brother's closet. On the top shelf, I'd left several shoeboxes full of journals, shown above, and notes from high school friends. I also found two tutus, a pair of tap shoes, and the 35mm analog camera I used in my college photography courses. The camera stayed, but everything else went out. Yes, even the tap shoes. I am making a lot of swift decisions in this process, like weighing the effort of trying to sell something over the ease of simply throwing it in the trash barrel.

The journals were not so easy for me. I was tempted to read them, but I made a promise to myself a long time ago that I would never re-read my journals. I peeked at the dates on the first page of a few of them. I know that the black ones with the spiral spines were from middle school. I know that there are many memories recorded in those books, things that I have mostly forgotten, and I know that it's time to leave them behind.

Picking them up to throw them away, I nearly cried. I'm not sure if I can really articulate why this was such a difficult and necessary task for me. I have let my past and my depression hold me back for a very long time and most of those journals were a symbol of that. Many of those journals hold the record of my darkest times. I need them to be gone so I can know it's okay to move on. Depression may still be a struggle for me, but I am not the same person I was ten years ago, or eight years ago, or six years ago.

Here's to the future.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The mental benefits of CrossFit?

I've been doing CrossFit for over two and a half months now and I still love it.

Just a little bit longer until I will allow myself to buy some more workout clothes :). It was recommended to me that I stick with it for at least three months before investing in gear.

Well, I already bought new shoes, but that was necessary. My previous pair was pretty disgusting, despite washing, and got pretty foul at the end of each class. I couldn't get by washing my shoes several times a week.
My new kicks!
My attendance schedule has shifted a bit. Initially, I went twice during the week (often Monday and Wednesday) and then again Friday or Saturday. On Saturday mornings, they have a team workout, in which you often partner up with someone else. I have learned the names of a few people that way. This month, there's a strength program on Mondays and Thursdays, working on back squat and deadlift. Since one of my first goals is to deadlift my pre-CrossFit body weight, I have been attending these classes. I am also going on Sundays to open gym, mostly to practice push-ups and pull-ups (kneeling and with bands, respectively).

I want to go more often, but I don't think I want to sacrifice my evenings just yet. I also don't get enough sleep. I always wake up from the cats moving around or scratching the litter box or playing with a plastic bag...

CrossFit has become an amazing way for me to tackle anxiety. It's not just feeling ecstatic at the end of a class, thanks to the endorphins. It's knowing that I worked hard and did everything, with whatever weights or reps I was capable of. It's knowing that there are improvements all the time, like using a 20 lb kettlebell to warm-up instead of 15. Or not needing to stop and breathe after 3 burpees. I introduce myself often. I can't remember other people's names that well, especially when I might only see them once every three weeks if our schedules don't match up. Sometimes, I have to share a barbell with someone else in the class. All of it helps me push the anxiety aside and just feel functional instead of floundering. It's very empowering.

I want to be strong. There are plenty of physical benefits coming along with my new CrossFit endeavor, but those seem so minor when compared to the mental benefits.

I feel like I can focus better.

I feel like I approach conflicts a little more calmly, thinking things out before I act/move.

I partnered up with someone brand new to CrossFit last night for the WOD (workout of the day). I hope she had a great time. I think my enthusiasm spilled over. She asked me if it was doable to go three times a week. I realized that with my response (that's what I've been doing since I started a bit over two months ago), I became one of the people I spoke to during my first couple of weeks. My ice breaker? "How long have you been doing CrossFit? How often do you come?"

I'm so excited to continue on this journey.

Pssst! You can sign up for a free Intro class on Saturdays!  You can also join me for Bring a Friend on Saturday mornings :).

Friday, December 05, 2014

No more numbers for health

Content warning: discussion of body weight, weight loss, fat loss, and use of scales.

In June of 2013, I decided to stop weighing myself. At that time, I was not particularly looking to lose weight. I think I wanted to drop a couple of pounds, maybe, to get closer to what seemed to me like a respectable number. Looking back, it was a pretty arbitrary number. It was higher than my average weight in college, but being a bit older and done growing at that point, I was able to accept that my body was probably ready to support some more body fat. I was still uncomfortable with the fact that it was "higher than ever before."

As someone who has always been relatively slim, seeking a particular weight goal is a bit stupid. If I wanted to trim a little fat, working out would probably be very effective for me. In fact, that's what happened when I started bicycling to work a few times a week. My thighs got bigger and stronger from muscle growth, but the rest of me slimmed down. I was pretty happy with those changes, but it took an entire six months of not weighing myself and not knowing how much I weighed to be able to embrace other concepts of measurable health and fitness. Throughout those six months, if I had to be weighed at the doctor's office, I would step on the scale backwards and ask that they not read the number aloud. A few nurses even commented that my project was one they might try themselves. I think it's a worthy experiment for a lot of people who find their moods tied to the scale results, but obviously if you do try and find it too distressing, it might be a good idea to reassess the project and change the goal (maybe weigh less or hey, keep weighing if that works for you). I personally just needed to detach my health from a number.

Measuring weight can be a very useful tracking tool for some people, but it is not definitive and it is not the only option. I think it is more useful to take those numbers for tracking change than it is to strive for a particular numeric goal. Doctors may disagree. They may tell you, specifically, to "lose X pounds". You are always free to tell them to shove it. While they are educated for years in many forms of health and medicine, they do not make your decisions for you and it is ultimately your choice what you decide is healthy for yourself.

If weight/fat loss is your goal, I wish you luck. I will not ask you about it, I will not comment on it, but I am happy to listen if you want to share your journey with me. If you are happy the way you are, then I am happy for you too. If you are unhappy, then I hope you can find a way to be happy, regardless of your resolution.

Over the past year, since I ended my no-scales experiment, I've weighed myself only a handful of times. My weight doesn't change much these days as far as I can tell and I don't really care to know what it is. I don't want to invite an obsession into my life because I know it's easy for my brain to latch onto something like that. I know my clothes are larger than they have been in the past and that's probably due to muscle, mostly. Since fitness is a goal of mine, I'm definitely happy about that change! These days, the only numbers I'm using to measure are weights on the barbell.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Starting CrossFit

I started CrossFit last week and I am amazed at how much I love it. The dynamic exercises in each class are fun and rewarding. I feel accomplished after every class and find myself smiling in the midst of brutal workouts. It barely bothers me that I'm the weakest person in the class because everyone, trainers and other people in the class, is so encouraging and supportive. The trainers are great at what they do. The owner of the CrossFit box, Rob, is passionate, but values form and safety first. I was afraid I'd be too weak to do it, but everything is scaled or modified to your abilities so you can learn safely and progress when you're able.

The stupidest thing that I love about it is I'm apparently flexible. I had no idea that I could be considered flexible. I'm used to flexible meaning yogis who can touch their head to their knees with legs straight. My whole life I've felt like everyone around me is naturally good at something, at least one thing, and I had nothing. I'm sure most people feel this way, but I've finally found something that's innate to my person that I get to be proud of. Like I said, it's stupid. What I work hardest at is what I should be most proud.

Funnily enough, the ~7 years of ballet training I have done throughout my life (from age ~5-10 and then 14-15) seems to have ingrained some default foot positions for me. Turning my feet out wide is actually not so good for some of the lifting movements :D. There are a lot of little reminders I make to myself during a class, to keep all the parts of my body going in the right ways, but a lot of it is "just doing it". As intimidating as it is to be shown a move, told about the important parts, and then told to do it, it's really the most effective way to learn something physical. You just have to do it (safely) and keep adjusting until you get it right. Every little adjustment that sticks feels like a reward, like learning that I should throw my left leg back for a Split Jerk (my right foot turns out too easily).

CrossFit pushes me outside of my safety zone, physically and mentally. I push my body to be better, to be stronger, to be faster. The soreness that sticks with me for days afterwards makes me feel happy. I fight anxiety on a daily basis, but when I'm in the middle of a workout, most of it fades away and I just invest myself in what my body can do. I worry about learning quickly enough, but every time I get something right and I can feel that it's right, I get such a thrill. It's still a struggle to get myself to each class and ride down the anxiety, but as soon as I start rolling out on a foam roller before class, I know I am there to stay for the hour. I even went to a morning class yesterday, at 6:30 AM. It was just 5 of us in the class, plus the trainer, and I felt so accomplished for the rest of the day.

I never thought I'd like this as much as I am so far. I have shied away from regular exercise my whole life. I never felt like my dance classes or soccer in middle school was a real work-out, I never felt like I got better at those. I think the problems were: not enough individualized attention from the instructor, not enough self-confidence, not enough praise or even critique/instruction in some cases (mostly soccer). I am still not very self-confident, but I feel like I get thorough instruction from the trainers at this box and I always feel comfortable asking for clarification. This is not the kind of box that will push you until you injure yourself, which is what scared me about CrossFit in the first place. I've read horror stories about people working so hard that they puke, and then keep going. Rob told me the first time that I met him that CrossFit Watch City is not that kind of place. Going to CrossFit makes me feel like I can learn to do anything. Fearing being bad at something is the biggest obstacle I've had in sticking with some form of exercise.

Will my enthusiasm falter? Maybe. I've promised myself a month of this, at least. I want to stay active over the winter. I would love to stick with this beyond the winter, as the idea of being fast and strong has been appealing to me for a long time. I think this might be a really great community with which to work towards those goals.

If you want to learn more about CrossFit, please check out the official CrossFit website.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Getting tattooed at a convention

As a treat for myself, for all my hard work being me basically, I went to the Boston Tattoo Convention last Saturday. I had hoped to meet an online friend there, but it didn't work out so I was flying solo.

I knew ahead of time that I was going to get a tattoo from Elize. She's done two other pieces for me and I like knowing there's an artist I can always go back to for quality work. She's also very easy to talk to and I need that kind of comfort from such a big commitment! A week before the convention, she uploaded a few pictures of sketches she had drawn just for the convention. It was mostly flowers and a tulip in particular caught my eye. I decided that my initial attraction to the drawing was enough: I was going to get that tulip. In purple, of course (my favorite color).

When I arrived at the convention, I bought my ticket with cash and headed in. I was immediately overwhelmed by the noise and people. I suffer from sensory overload in busy environments, even just out shopping, so it was a bit difficult for me to think. I decided to just walk around. I felt so nervous and didn't like feeling so clueless. The convention was occupying several conjoined meeting rooms in the Boston Back Bay Sheraton hotel, lined with many booths of tattooists, piercers, and tattoo/piercing supply companies, not to mention clothing and jewelry as well. I found a stage and stopped to watch a side show performance. Someone was in a box, contorting themself around knives and swords being inserted into it. Stopping there gave me a moment to recuperate and realize that I had to "fake it till I made it," pretending like I knew what I was doing.

Of course, just down an aisle from the stage, I found Elize's tattoo shop booth. I spoke to Elize about the tattoo I wanted and she started prepping her equipment. I scanned her other available convention flash (tattoo "flash" is a pre-drawn piece of art that you pick out to have done with minimal modification, rather than a custom drawing) and the other artists' books while I was waiting. A nice person gave me their map, which I hadn't seen when I'd entered the convention after getting my ticket. Brilliance Tattoo had a box of Dum Dums (small lollipops) on the table so I grabbed one to suck on while I was getting tattooed. This ended up being a nice though short-lived distraction.

I laid out on a folding massage table while Elize tattooed the side of my calf. To pass the time, I ate the lollipop, played a Bubble Shooter game on my smartphone, listened to the sideshow/burlesque performances on the stage behind me, and watched people walk by. I got the sense that people-watching and ogling was totally acceptable and expected at the convention. There were a lot of scantily clad women there, perhaps just to show off their tattoos, but maybe also for some of the beauty/tattoo contests going on. The time passed pretty quickly like that. This was my second tattoo where I had the outline and color completed in one session (about one hour) and I definitely prefer that to outline and color separately. By the time she got around to doing the color, my skin was working hard to dull the pain so it hardly hurt anymore. She took a picture (though I'll visit her at the shop once it's healed so she can get a better one), wrapped it up in plastic wrap (for temporary protection, until I could get home and wash it), I paid, and that was it!

Terribly and not color-accurate smartphone picture. The tulip is a light purple, but my skin is still very red from the process!
Getting tattooed first thing really calmed my nerves. Having something fairly intense to focus on gave my brain a chance to process everything around me. I think some of that tendency to get overwhelmed comes from the Executive Functioning Disorder, or maybe Generalized Anxiety Disorder (or both). When I left Elize's booth, I used the map to navigate towards an artist's booth whose work I have been wanting to check out. I flipped through her book of finished tattoo pictures and grabbed a business card and sticker. I hope to get in touch with her by January about a piece I have in mind. Just across from Holly's booth was Precision Body Arts, who are based in Nashua. The piercing apprentice knows my sister and her fiancé, so I said hi and asked some questions about jewelry and piercings to the main piercer there, Ryan. They were both very nice and obviously well-educated in their work. I'm not a fan of the fancy Anatometal jewelry that seems very popular these days, with all the extra stones and gems, so I didn't get any new jewelry for my existing piercings. I will definitely visit that shop in person sometime though.

I had to wait a while at Precision's booth, so once I was done there, I felt ready to head out. My leg was pretty sore from the tattoo anyway and my phone was about to die from playing a game on it for so long. I bought a poster on my way out and headed home.

Overall, 10/10, would do again. I would love to get tattooed at next year's convention (or another convention). Next time, I might scan the booths more to see if there's a different artist I'd want to get something from, if something Elize has doesn't strike my fancy immediately. It was awesome having so much distracting me during the tattooing and I think I would recommend it for anyone who already has at least one tattoo. Dare I say it was even fun?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Adventures at a car dealership

After some belated car maintenance, we came to the decision that it was time to get a new car. Hulky's 2009 Honda Civic (EX? not sure) coupe was still driving pretty well at just over 90k miles, but it was time for a change.

Autotrader.com was my search site. Our needs were pretty specific: 2011-2013, Honda, Civic, sedan, under 50k miles, with a manual transmission. I got 5 results in our area. Several were eliminated immediately due to price. We started to follow-up on some and managed to arrange an after-work appointment at Honda Village. We met with Dave there to see a black 2011 Honda Civic sedan, with around 30k miles, manual transmission, and a nice price. The first things we learned upon arrival: they valet park your car (we didn't know and parked in the Walgreens' parking lot next door) and they offer you coffee, water, hot cocoa, and/or popcorn when you get inside. I enjoyed the special treatment :).

First things first, we went to the parking lot out back to check out the car. Immediately, we noticed car-length scratch marks on both sides of the car. As we inspected further, we found From this, we deduced: the last owner must have been bad at parking and someone else had some bad anger management issues. Dave immediately texted the used car manager to make sure the scratches would be fixed. It turns out that the car was scheduled to go to the body shop the next day anyway, so nothing to worry about there. We inspected for anything else that we'd want touched up and I found a tiny rust spot by a door handle (best to fix those before they grow) and it looks like the last owner wasn't a good driver either, based on some scrapes on the corners of the bumper. After that, it was time for the test drive!

Anyone that drives with me learns quickly that I am nervous driving with people I don't know. Probably because I tell them immediately. I drove pretty well, though I did stall the car twice. On the second time, Dave said he could tell I was experienced because I didn't panic when I stalled, I just turned the car off and then started it again to continue going. I got to drive on some 35 mph roads and then we hopped on the Mass Pike quickly so I got up to about 65 mph. The car felt great and the road noise is so much less than in the '05 Civic. When we got off the Pike, Hulky drove us the rest of the way back to the dealership.

Back inside, we gave information on our car, which we were interested in trading in. The service folks checked it out fairly quickly and Dave came back to us with an estimated value and what they'd give us. We told them how much we hoped to get, plus our down-payment, indicating that if we got that, we'd buy the car. Dave brought the offer back to the manager, who wrote a counter-offer without even looking. Maybe we could've negotiated something more, but it was within our previously discussed range of a good offer for the old Civic, so we went for it. Queue more paperwork for finances!

There's a lot of waiting when you buy a car. I didn't realize we'd have to entertain ourselves for a while. Anytime there was paperwork, we'd fill it out, talk to the salesperson or finance guy, and then wait a bit. There were several new car models in the showroom so we climbed around in those whenever we had to wait. They have some really cool features! All of the new cars have push buttons to start, which is weirdly exciting. The automatics have an economy mode button, so the car will regulate things like heat and how the car shifts gears in order to improve gas consumption. It's basically a way to get the gas mileage you'd have if you drove smartly in a manual transmission car. No lie, if we could have gotten a car with that option, I think we'd get an automatic and use the economy mode a lot. Hulky and I made a pact that the next time we travel, if we get a rental car, we'd get a tricked out mini-van if it's not too expensive to upgrade. They have so many cool features! Not that we'd need all the folding seats and everything, but they're so comfy! Everyone working at the dealership got a kick out of our enthusiasm. Dave said a mini-van is like, "driving around in your living room."

We met with a finance person after that. He showed us some extra options we could use for the car (we passed on all of them), told us what he expected our loan rate would be (better than any pre-approvals I'd been getting online beforehand), and had me sign and initial in a million places. Since the car is certified pre-owned, that means we get comprehensive coverage for a year from purchase date (I think). That covers anything that's not disposable basically, so if something in the car malfunctions and it wasn't on us, they fix it on their dime. Yay! I am sure we won't have any issues.



Timeline:

  • Wednesday - saw the car, liked the car, signed paperwork and gave them the down-payment
  • Thursday - waited excitedly while car was in body shop, was told via phone that we need to bring in proof of income (copy of a recent pay stub) when we pick up the car, no news yet on when we get to pick it up, Hulky gets our insurance squared away with USAA (sets a date to start coverage on new car and end coverage on old car)
  • Friday - Do we get to pick it up yet????
  • Fast forward to the next Wednesday - car is finally clean, scratches buffed out, ready to go, but oh wait, a light is on where it shouldn't be. We don't get the inspection sticker yet, but the car comes home!
It's been a bit of a learning curve for me since the clutch pedal is so springy, but the car is fun to drive and I look forward to many years with it.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Unit #3

To say I have mixed feelings about moving into my parents' house with my husband and two cats would be an understatement.

Mostly cleaned up and almost ready for moving in.
At first, I didn't feel any shame about it, but now I kind of do. It's not my age that's a factor (twenty-six years old), it's that I'm married and have my own family unit now. When I moved out three years ago to our first apartment together, my parents' house was feeling too cramped for me. I felt too grown up to be in my old bedroom anymore, as much-loved and beautifully purple as it was. I never completely unpacked after college and more than a year after I graduated, I finally shoved some boxes into the attic crawl space and took the rest of my junk with me.

Last year, I moved us all on my own. That's not true though, I had a lot of help from both of my families. Even with three weeks to orchestrate the whole thing and move some things over bit by bit (just one block away made it SO much easier), it was incredibly stressful. It took me a few months to unpack and put away everything just because I couldn't stand to deal with boxes anymore.

Now, I don't have to do it alone, but it's so daunting. There's some relief in knowing the space that we're moving into so well. I was there when my dad finished the attic and made it a livable space out of storage land. I remember the skylights being put in. I remember having sleepovers up there before the carpet was put down. I remember the stairs when they were less deep and more creaky. I don't have a hard time envisioning our things in that room, but I do have a hard time seeing us living there.

How will the cats manage? Fae doesn't move around much, she could probably stay in the attic 24/7 and that might be best for her (not sure her arthritic hind-quarters can handle stairs now). Pumpkin, on the other hand, does laps around our apartment a few times a day. She's still pretty skittish, even after four months with us. Maybe she always will be. What happens if she gets outside? What if she doesn't get along with my parents' cat, Gallifrey, or the easy-going ancient-looking dog, Sasha? I know a lot of this worry is me latching onto something I can try to control, but this is a stupid choice. The cats will manage, they have to. We're moving either way.

It is weird to think that most of our kitchen will be packed in boxes and put in a still to be determined storage unit. My favorite chair might be in there too, staying safely away from wet basements. There's not enough room for it where we're going.

It was not until we'd come home after doing some cleaning & tidying in my parents' attic that I realized how much I'll miss this apartment. I am ready to move, but my heart is not ready yet for a new home to take its place.