Spring Clean… up your life

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I’ve been having a lot of issues getting a new post written, I even had half of a post drafted for the past two days and just decided to delete it entirely. The post was largely passive aggressive towards my husband (full disclosure because I’m trying to remain honest on this blog) and our little mini kitchen makeover. Going into the details would be tedious (as tedious as painting cabinets) and very involved for a very basic cautionary tale.

Here’s the short of it: don’t paint your cabinets (without doing TONS of research first).

Here’s a little longer version: wood tannin and wood stain have oil which is not conducive to latex based anything EVEN if you sand everything first. You need to prime with an oil based, enamel or stain blocking primer first and then carry on with the appropriate paint for your primer. The oh-shit-I-already-sanded-primed-and-painted-two-coats-of-paint-on-everything-and-it-took-me-an-aggregate-10+-hours solution would likely be to clean the stained spots, dry them, use a water-based stain blocking primer and then paint over that. I bet you can guess what experience we had. Stay tuned to see if that solution actually works.

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So anyways, after hating how boring my cabinets story was and how unnecessary it was to complain to everyone about how my husband doesn’t listen to me, I deleted everything and started anew and now here we are.

Speaking of starting anew, we’re on the precipice of spring and not to sound cliche, but I think it’s time to clean. But I don’t really mean clean, I’m pretty good at that in any season. My life, like most other young adults these days, is very busy and also full of ups and downs. When you have a mental disorder there seem to be a lot more downs and they’re normally pretty deep but something everyone can relate to is a little bit of seasonal affective disorder which I think is where this whole concept of spring cleaning comes from. Our motivation picks up when we’re happier (or contented) and so the big deep cleans that happen in the spring would presumably be prompted by a little extra motivation that comes from the end of our winter “blues”.

I would argue that the worst part about being depressed isn’t the crying spells or the constant feelings of hopelessness but rather the lack of motivation. I think the lack of motivation is why so many people STAY depressed or live with their depression instead of working on it. When I was younger, I “tried” to get by with the least amount of effort. This was partially by rebellion’s fault but so much depression played into it as well. With my adult depression, my motivation has remained low but I’m a little better at forcing it. I can force myself to be selectively motivated. I can hyper-focus on keeping up with something that’s easy for me to keep up. I can keep up the friendships that are steadfast. I can keep up the house. I can even keep up the house projects. I can keep my dog alive. These probably sound like really lame accomplishments in life maintenance but this is what I can do and this is what I can force myself to do.

I SHOULD be working on my marriage, learning how to be more affectionate, exercising more, creating better spending habits, hell, just creating normal healthy habits like making the bed every day. I should be eating more consciously and figuring out how to grow in my career and maybe even pivot into something I actually enjoy and not just something I’m good at. Coincidentally all of these “shoulds” are things that generally help people with depression to function better, sleep better, be better. But here they are, all in the “should” bucket.

Some (my husband especially) would say I’m in love with being outside. This is relevant, just stay with me. I like to eat outside, sit outside, hike, bike, camp, kayak, work, walk, whatever gets me outside, I like doing it. Nature (or just regular old outside) is what fuels me, I don’t even remember when the switch was flipped. Maybe it had something to do with a camping trip I went on in high school where we had “class” outside in the wilderness of Michigan and northern Wisconsin. We discussed bio-ethics, religion, philosophy, writing, and self discovery after long coursed out bike rides or kayak trips. Something about this trip really resonated with me and has constantly reminded me how nurturing and necessary nature is in our lives. Like all good things, my mental disorder has managed to taint this love of being outside by making it a constant source of anxiety. I actually get ANXIOUS if it’s nice out and I cannot be outside. I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes at this but whatever, I wish I were exaggerating. I feel panic and disappointment if I “miss” a nice day. If someone were to ask me what I think life would feel like without depression, I would say it probably feels something like the way a sunny, 70+ degree day feels when I get to spend it outside.

So now that we know this, let’s remember that it’s the beginning of spring in St. Louis. My weeks are dotted (sporadically) with sunny, life-giving, 70 degree days. I’m being teased with this phony feeling of happiness mixed with the anxiety that comes with the turning forecast. This is my opportunity to skate off the ramp of fabricated motivation! It’s time to clean my life up.

If you were thinking I had some wonderful plan as to how I will be doing that – I don’t. My plan is mainly the idea of being prepared for this “surge” in motivation and trying to direct it towards more than just the easy things. This blog is arguably part of this plan. This is like mild accountability. The 5 people that read this are aware now that I’m trying to clean my life up and that involves a lot of things. That involves getting back into shape, eating better, focusing on my career trajectory, and spending and saving money more prudently. This is an incredibly daunting list but I have learned to set the bar very low. I’m okay with how terribly deadbeat that sounds, I just know it’s what I need to do. At this point, going to the gym 3 times a week is a win. Drinking a green smoothie for breakfast even on a day where I know I’m going to be eating bar food for dinner is also a win. Saying “no” to plans that would quickly lead to big bar tabs and dinners out is a win. Looking at my phone less – win! Changing my cardio at least once in a week – win!

I don’t believe I need to celebrate these very small victories, but I do believe in recognizing them. Skipping the gym and taking a walk instead is better than skipping the gym and cracking open a beer at 4pm. Being incredibly aware of small successes can help create habits out of these successes. When small habits yield growing success, you get more ambitious with them.

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(this is old, don’t congratulate me)

When my husband and I were getting “wedding ready”, we had two very different experiences. There are a lot of things that contributed to these differences like the fact that he’s 6’4″ and I’m 5’4″ (and a half!). Or the fact that we were both trying to get into running but he’s naturally inclined to be good at running and I’m just not made to run. These differences had huge impact on our respective weight loss success and therefore impacted our individual ambition. Matt excelled at running and the weight fell off, I struggled to feel good about any of my workouts and the weight loss was slow and unsatisfying. You get the picture. This is why I’m trying to focus on good changes that make me feel successful and allowing myself to deviate from my natural inclination to compete (even with my husband) and compare.

In the interest of finally posting this entry and getting past my blogging block… I will wrap this up. For all of my fellow depressed friends, I hope you get to experience some sort of motivation from the impending spring. I hope we will take what little push we can get and do something difficult with it. Don’t forget that not everything has to be a victory. Right now I’m about to go spend 4 hours at a beer fest but not before drinking a green smoothie and mentally planning on going to the gym tomorrow. And if I do, in fact, go to the gym tomorrow – WIN!

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You didn’t marry your best friend (and that’s okay)

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I love social media, I hate it too. I love the internet but it’s also a terrible place where I can feed my depression and anxiety monster. Social media has made that binge especially easy now that I can experience adult peer pressure even without speaking to or being around anyone. Adult peer pressure is so different from the peer pressure we were warned about as kids. The threat of being “uncool” because I didn’t do something wasn’t a threat at all to me. I loved being different and “non-traditional”; I especially loved being identified as such. My dad always used the word “subculture” on me… I loved it even though that was not the feeling he was trying to elicit.

Adult peer pressure is like CO2, you don’t even notice it poisoning you but if it’s concentrated enough you can feel “lightheadedness, confusion, headache, feeling like the world is spinning” (thanks wikipedia). Most adult peer pressure (besides parenting stuff) lives passively on social media. I’d like to blame it largely on the concept that people only present their “best” or “ideal” selves on social media but my anxiety tells me to ignore that phenomenon and compare myself constantly to other people’s lives or at least the ones they put online. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of candid posts about infertility, divorce, abuse, miscarriages, etc. but they’re all generally in the wake of someone seemingly overcoming the issue. Now that my feed is almost exclusively people over the age of 30, I’m no longer seeing any desperate, sad song lyric statuses that follow a public break up. Besides all of the terrible political posts and articles I’m trying to avoid these days, I’m mostly seeing people getting married, having kids, buying houses, establishing careers, showing off healthy hobbies, eating good food. If you looked at my own SM profiles, you’d see similar posts. But I know that on the other side of that post is the intention of attention. I want people to think I’m well and happy and have things going for me because that’s all I see from them. It’s not about looking uncool, it’s about looking unaccomplished.

Everything we see online can be researched and given a general dollar value (my default measure of success and happiness). I’ve looked up everything from salaries for specific titles, to home values on Zillow, to wedding gown brands to assess what kind of success my social media “friends” are experiencing. It’s almost a compulsion at this point. Oh, they bought a brown stone in Tower Grove… BUT THEY RENOVATED IT BEFORE MOVING IN!? Quick, see if they have before after pictures. That’s her engagement ring?! Let’s see what her fiance(e) does. These tendencies are totally vain and may seem like normal reactions but they’re mostly so I can feel bad about myself and what I have, even though I have a lot to be proud of and thankful for.

One thing my social media hasn’t been short on in the last 10 years is PDA for my best friend. I mean that in the most platonic (although this was constantly up for debate by our families and friends) way. I knew since the day I met her that our friendship was incredibly special and worth bragging about on social media. We always think (know) that ours is more special than most. We’re like sister, mother, friends – many people would (and did) fear that we are too similar to be successful friends but they’d be (were) wrong. Allie summed it up perfectly in her best lady speech at my wedding:

“…it was understood through the mutual friend who introduced us that we probably wouldn’t like each other. Maybe it was because we both have loud, outlandish tendencies and can perhaps be a little too vocal about things we don’t like or people that annoy us or maybe because she was afraid I would steal you away from her (spoiler alert: this actually happened). I was nervous to meet you because of this but we were both in Nashville – a new city that we did not know well nor did we have many friends there. On our first friend date, we ate fried cookie dough together and I knew that she was right – I didn’t like you, I loved you.”

This sentiment gorgeously captures my experience as well (I tear up every time I read the last line).

The best things about our friendship would actually be impossible to list so I’ll use our first friend date as an example of most of them. Prior to our date, I had already stalked the hell out of Allie. Most of her life was available on myspace so I knew what she looked like, what bands she liked, her nicknames for her (stupid) boyfriend, the many ways she was hooked up and plugged into the emo music scene… you know, the usual stuff you know about a potential new friend before you meet them… I was terrified. She seemed so cool and aloof and funny and pretty and way out of my friend league, add to that the fact that our mutual friend told me we probably wouldn’t like each other — and I was basically as nervous to meet her as I would be to go on a blind craigslist date.

With all of her cool music connections (or maybe just with her own money, I don’t even remember), she had two tickets to the Paramore show at Rocketown (I recently looked it up so I would know our actual anniversary date: June 15, 2007). I didn’t know much Paramore but I knew they were cool and she was cool and I had something cool to do during an otherwise super lame freshman orientation week. Allie picked me up from campus in her boyfriend’s car and then drove like a bat out of hell (as she does) to the venue because we were likely running late (as we do). I’m pretty sure we were talking from the moment my butt hit the seat to the moment she dropped me off like 6 hours later. We talked about music and the fact that we basically liked all the same stuff. We talked about her relationship and my weird up-in-the-air relationship(s?). We talked about fashion and joked about hating our bodies (so healthy). We ate an absurd dessert that was probably like 4000 calories because we wanted a sweet and didn’t want to say goodbye to each other yet after the show ended.

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Cookie dough egg rolls: chocolate chip cookie dough flash fried in pastry and topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce

Allie’s friendship to me is so many things. She’s the only person I can confide in who knows exactly how I’m feeling in any given scenario and why I feel that way. I would attribute this to the fact that we share most of the same emotions and reactions to things. We differ just enough to give each other perspective in our most outlandish, anxiety-ridden nightmares or unfounded anger with our partners. Allie is the only person I can silently surf the net with for hours only to break the silence by “Oh my God!” -turns laptop around- “look at this”. She’s the only person I can shop with who won’t allow me to talk myself out of buying something. I can tell her any gross thing I’ve discovered about my body without hesitation or warning. She shares with me the tendency to be overcome with emotion by the most mundane experiences. We will hate someone we’ve never met just because the other person hates them. We’ve seen each other through so many seasons of life: through terrible boyfriends and weird hookups, through new friends and friend divorces, through school, through jobs, through world travel (unfortunately not together… YET), through death and new life, through health scares, through big moves (3 for me, 2 for her). She has seen or heard about every mental breakdown of mine in the last decade and vice versa. And because of all of this, we KNOW each other. That cannot be said of any other person on the face of the planet. So when I see people on social media (and at their weddings) gush on and on about marrying their best friend, my eyes roll so far back into my head I might lose them.

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I’m not discounting anyone’s love for their spouse or significant other… I’m challenging the meaning of their declarations. Maybe it’s semantics but maybe there’s something more important in recognizing the difference between a partner and a best friend. I’ve spent tons of time in regular and couples counseling and I’ve learned that one of the best things for your relationship-relationship (not necessarily friendships) is to identify and share whatever it is that you need from your partner. If you’re silently not getting your needs met, you’re unhappy and resentful.

Considering how absolutely needy I am, it would be ABSURD for me to ask my husband to provide all of the things my friendship with Allie provides. Not only that, but my husband is just not equipped to provide for those needs. An overly simplified example of this would be clothes shopping. My husband and I both have a healthy distaste for shopping but somehow end up doing a lot of it. If I shop for a specific item, my husband simply cannot hang. I’m maybe the worst person in the world to shop with and I’m lucky to leave a store with even a pair of socks — luckier still if I don’t end up returning them. Validation that something looks good and doesn’t make me look fat from Matt is literally meaningless. As my husband, it’s mandatory that he thinks I’m hot all the time (right?). He also gets frustrated when he suggests something that he thinks meet my (very specific) criteria and I hate it. Allie also hates that but will power through… He’s just not designed to fight me into buying something and that’s O-K.

Matt also isn’t designed to understand all my feelings or the gravity of what they mean. If he did, I suppose we would never fight (what fun would that be?). Like most people, I need my feelings validated and they tend to be very complex and nuanced. Matt gets the general idea (which is what he needs to get) but he’s not an empath (the real kind, not the mind readers) and therefore, he’s likely to never have felt those feelings. Understanding someone’s side of things is important to reaching compromise and resolution but it’s just not the same as validation.

As my husband, Matt fulfills so many other needs that a best friend cannot. A life partner is just that – a partner. They balance you out, their strengths are your flaws and together you make one high functioning adult (sort of). Partnership involves sharing everything: debt, equity, life experience, every bad day, every good day, every decision, most meals, responsibilities, chores. It doesn’t sound very glamorous or torrid when I put it that way but to me that sharing is the deepest root of eros+agape (I honestly don’t think marriages can just be eros) love.

Matt is everything that I am not. He’s patient, he is even keeled, he is goofy, he is affectionate, he is kind(er than me), he is good at relaxing, he’s introverted, he’s a musician, he’s a cook… I could go on and on but you get the idea. Without Matt, my day to day life would be… empty and exhausting. I need him to balance me out, to force compromise, to pick up the slack sometimes (and vice versa). I need Matt to slow me down and soften me up (he’s softened my exterior too thanks to all the good food). I need Matt to place the delivery orders on the phone because I freak out. “UH DO YOU GUYS HAVE FOOD!?” I need Matt to work the drill because I’m afraid of power tools. I need Matt to calm me down when a rant is going on too long. I need him for all of the things I can’t trust myself to do for myself and for other people.

I would never dilute a best friendship or a spouse/partnership, I believe they’re both beautiful and necessary relationships but they serve VERY different purposes in a person’s life. Don’t let someone’s facebook hyperbole dictate how you think you should feel in your marriage or partnership. Also, I sincerely hope, more than anything, that everyone finds their Allie and Matt. I’d be so lost without them.

 

Every calorie is a war…

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I am Italian by association and proximity and probably also by my relationship with food. My best friend comes from a hardcore New York Italian-American lineage and therefore, after nearly a decade of friendship and slowly making her family my family, my soul has become Italian and my heart has become a meatball.

Long before I became an Italian, I kind of already had a lot of the attributes. I’m loud and pretty argumentative. I love hard. I gesture a lot with my hands when I talk. I’m sorry these are mostly stereotypes but from what I’ve seen and experienced, they’re pretty accurate. My most nuanced attribute though is my relationship with food. For me food is community, love, entertainment, socialization, reward, comfort, and a pastime. The same can be said for alcohol but I can blame my upbringing for that. I have always and will always have food at the center of my life. I don’t even feel bad for saying that considering the fact that my greatest sense of community and love comes from experiencing food with others.

The best and most luxurious part about my love (obsession?) and connection with food is that I can’t cook it. Growing up my mother cooked but not often and definitely preferred to go out to eat. Many nights she would announce we were having a “whatever night” and my brother and I were left to pick and make whatever we wanted. This meant cereal for me. So as I transitioned into an adult, I had no cooking experience and I still haven’t been interested enough to gain any.

I met my best friend at 18 and given her familial background, she lovingly cooked (delicious but terrible) food for me. Every weekend when we lived in Nashville I would stay with her at her apartment and we would gorge ourselves on sloppy joes, french bread pizzas, hot dogs, steamed broccoli… wait for it… with cheese sauce, and other unspeakable delights. The tricky part about Nashville was that was the long and short of my food experience there (that and big chain restaurants, 3AM eggie sandwiches, and fried cookie dough). It’s not that I didn’t have the opportunity for more food experience, it’s that I didn’t allow myself to have any outside of my time with Allie. The other five days of the week were spent meticulously tracking and eating only 800-1000 calories of junk (snickers bars, easy mac, peanut butter, bagels) a day. More on this later…

One of my earliest negative memories was being 4 and incredibly embarrassed if anyone outside of my dance class saw me in my ballet tights and leotard. I definitely thought I was fat (I have since seen photos from this time and I actually looked malnourished). I don’t know who or what to blame for this mindset (certainly not my mother); maybe it was doing ballet so young, being told to “suck your happy meals in”… Whatever it was, it stuck with me – my whole life – and the reality I’ve come to accept is that it will always stick with me.

Soon, by the age of 8 or 9, my self fulfilling prophecy came to fruition. I went from average to chubby and thus began my plight: yo-yo-ing. I had a terrible pediatrician who was not so gentle about my movement into the 90th percentile. She spoke freely in front of me about how my mother should put me on a diet and take me to a nutritionist and how it was not normal for me to be the size that I was. I already knew all of these things, so having a doctor slap me around with them was pretty overwhelming. These incidents would become frequent. I had a classmate tell me that his mother (who was a nurse) said I was overweight (3rd grade). My grandfather suggested I start drinking diet sprite instead of regular sprite and said it was because I was getting chubby (4th grade). Everyone seemed to have an opinion and it definitely validated my own.

My mother desperately wanted to rescue me from the throes of self-loathing and insecurity. Her incredibly painful experience as a child (not weight related) seemed to be seeping back into her life by way of her daughter. She didn’t want to force me to fix anything but she did want to provide me with the option to fix things I didn’t like. We went to a nutritionist, we followed the rules. Nothing happened. I continued ballet (and was actually pretty good at it). Nothing happened. I played tennis. Nothing. I joined Weight Watchers. I had a small (read: temporary) success with WW but nothing to write home about. When I quit dance, we joined a gym. Nothing happened. My mom began to try less traditional outlets: Chinese medicine with a holistic “doctor”. We journaled my food, nothing seemed to add up. So finally we went to a real doctor and “why”ed me into all sorts of blood work. No thyroid issue was uncovered. They put me on BC (WHY!?). I gained weight. They took me off BC. I kept the weight. By senior year of high school I was approaching 200 lbs and my period started to go rogue. A few months would go by with no period (and no sex life, don’t worry) and then it would sort of come. We went to a special OBGYN with “out of the box” treatments and a program known for weight loss and asked her “WHY!?”. Her ass-hat nurse decided I had to have PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome). Without confirming this (I’m not even sure how doctors confirm this), I was given a script and shooed off. Metformin is traditionally used for people with type II diabetes but in some cases it can help women with PCOS to have a more regular period. And… AND! Most importantly. It could possibly help you shed a few lbs.

Sure enough, despite all of the house parties and cranberry vodkas and cheetos (to soak up the booze and my fat sorrows), by the time I was leaving for college I was down 15 lbs. 15! I was pretty happy about that but knew the weight loss side effect would only be initial and I was on my own for the rest. I hated myself and definitely found comfort in self-loathing comedy about my weight. Oddly enough, it was this open, harsh, somewhat funny approach to my weight and my love of food that helped me click with my soulmate (Allie). She had a similar sense of humor and most definitely loved food the way I did (but it certainly didn’t look like we shared this).

After I moved into my dorm, I decided to surrender to the fact that drugs would ever be the only thing to assist in any meaningful weight loss for me. I ate whatever but “whatever” began to dwindle into nothing. I don’t even know how. I think at first it was an accident, the Metformin made me nauseous most of the time and tore my stomach apart for the first few months of college. I hated the cafeteria food and I didn’t have much spending money so I squirreled away cheap food that could pass as a meal. My clothes started to loosen but I didn’t really notice until I went home for fall break. Everyone was dumbfounded by the change. I hopped on the scale (with some confidence for once) and discovered I was down 40 lbs since the beginning of summer. My clothes barely stayed on my body and everyone was giving me positive feedback. It felt good. It felt foreign. The idiot I wasted my feelings on for 2 and a half years was astonished but also seemed kind of happy about it so I decided I needed to keep it up.

I returned to school wanting to pay more attention to how I was eating and what I was eating to maintain this weird phenomenon. My (ex? recovering?) anorexic roommate showed me a calorie tracking website and told me tricks to adding tons of fiber to your food without tons of calories. I also noticed she weighed herself daily so I began to track my calories obsessively and weighed myself EVERY. DAMN. DAY. Most adult women should be (probably are) groaning at this concept. Women’s weight on a day-to-day basis can fluctuate pretty wildly. In my life I’ve experienced up to a 6 lb difference between days. This is emotionally grating on someone who is desperately trying to be thin. But it worked, so I stuck with it. I ate terrible nothing during the week and binged on anything and everything I wanted on the weekend. After one year and 50 lbs, I moved home. I didn’t like the school and added bonus: I had a new asshole to hang myself up on who lived closer to St. Louis than Nashville.

Allie and I parted geographical ways but stayed in touch and visited each other frequently. She (correctly) hated my new boyfriend but he cooked for me and that’s what I need in a companion. That is love to me (plus I didn’t want to learn to cook for myself). The weight stayed off but my emotions nosedived and so did my relationship. It ended as abruptly as it started and I crashed and burned. I lost another 11 pounds in the weeks after my break up. So single and skinny (skinnier), I set out for attention and someone else to cook for me. I got drunk every night and eventually started to gain some of my trusty weight back.

I’ve found that most periods of my life are defined by either loss of weight or gain of weight. It’s easy for me to pick out a period of my life and know exactly what my weight was doing during that period. Unsurprisingly, most weight changes are marked by some emotional hurdle but there’s no telling if I’ll go down or up or how temporary the down will be (the gain is never short). My most recent loss period was in preparation for my wedding (duh) and the slow gain was marked by the newfound stress of marriage and the lack of urgency. I’m trying to incite a down as I write this. Or rather I’ve been trying to incite a loss but with much difficulty. I’m juggling so many new obstacles and realities that I wasn’t dealing with before.HALP.

It’s important to recognize two things about my marriage. One is that my husband is an incredible cook who never tires of being the only cook in the house. The other is that all of our best and most sensational shared experiences are food related. We fiercely love food. I would even go so far as to say it’s a hobby. We love finding new restaurants to try and eating and drinking things worth discussing. If you’re an out of town guest, you bet your bippy we’ll be eating the whole time.

We both have an intense sense of bonding when we’re enjoying good food so it’s unsurprising that we willingly spend all (most) of our money on good food and wine. Our honeymoon in Croatia was almost entirely dictated by the food we wanted to eat there. We intentionally visited two of the wineries that Anthony Bourdain visited in No Reservations and we have NO regrets. Both wineries required rental cars and the biggest price tags of the trip but I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

This is a Skradin Arancini coated in 24 carat gold flake from the Bibich Winery‘s tasting menu. This is without a doubt the best dish I have ever eaten in my entire life. The risotto is cooked for up to 12 hours so that the decadent and salty local meat completely dissolves. A labor of love.

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The harsh transition of me meticulously chronicling my issues with weight to raving about food is a pretty stark example of my struggle. Sitting here, staring at that fried ball of risotto is just making me want to describe every course of this meal. It’s making me hate that I drank a green smoothie for dinner. It’s making me question if it’s worth it to try a strike a balance. To try and sign a symbiotic contract with food.

PCOS may associate with my weight issues but I no longer think I get to use it as a scapegoat. Food moves me but every calorie is a war (thanks, Our Lady Peace). I’m being forced to recognize that my passion is also affecting the size of my bank account. This is a harsh reality I’ve refused to fully own up to until these last few weeks. These weeks where I realized I can no longer ignore my tightening jeans. I can’t keep lying to myself that a workout will make up for a weekend of restaurants and booze.

Sometimes the best part of a relationship is when it begins to shift from a passionate, blind, unyielding feeling to something that is healthy and makes you a better person. The healthy aspects of love and marriage don’t ALWAYS have to be devoid of that passion but it definitely can’t be passion and romance all the time especially not if you want it to be healthy. I hope to better approach my marriage with this thought but also my relationship with food. Food isn’t and cannot always be about the way it makes you feel in the moment but also the way it makes your body feel in the long run. I will never give up going out. I will never stop associating food with love and community and connection. I will strive to apply balance to my relationship with food and to respect my body. To reflect on the aftermath.

Tonight’s food reflection: I have my green smoothie to thank for banging this entry out.

(Green) smoothie recipes are dumb because everyone likes to experiment with a smoothie so I will leave you with my newfound strategy to getting the most out of my green smoothie.

1 cup of liquids – try to avoid anything with more than three ingredients and any added sugars. Juice is the enemy. Probiotics are your friend but only in their purest form. Think plain keifer

1 or 2 tablespoons of seeds – think chia, hemp, flaxseed, etc.

1 or 2 teaspoons of a good gut spice – grated ginger, cinnamon, other anti inflammatory spices

1.5 to 2 cups of greens – be sure to pack the greens in when measuring them. Too much green isn’t really possible. A great alternative to using curly kale, which can be very bitter and difficult to disguise, is baby kale.

Fresh or frozen fruits to help BALANCE out the flavor – you don’t want to go overboard with the fruits, they have a lot of good stuff but they also have a lot of sugar. Berries and citrus fruits tend to be lower in sugar and higher in nutrient benefits.

Try to stay away from bananas (it’s hard because everyone includes them in their recipes).

If you’re okay with a smoothie tasting a little more green than fruity, try using green apples and lemon or lime juice to cut the green flavor without sweetening too much.

Don’t obsess about how much protein is in your smoothie, believe it or not, your almond milk and keifer and seeds are all packed with great protein but if you feel the need to add more, try a non-peanut nut butter (one ingredient or two if you MUST have salt).

I’m looking forward to experimenting with cacao powder and matcha powder in the future.

What are you favorite smoothie recipes? What’s your best booster ingredient?

 

Constantly covered in Paint

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My formative years fit nicely into a boring, middle-class (WASPy & religious) narrative. When I was 11 or 12 I transitioned from quiet, cooperative follower to rebellious, moody, pseudo-intellectual teen. Unsurprisingly that was about the same time that I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder which would eventually be coupled with anxiety, a disorder people seem to be oddly comfortable self diagnosing.

While my family wasn’t incredibly unique, my mother introduced some not-so-common behaviors. One lucky one was her unabashed, on-going conversation and recognition of mental disorder. I still (in 2017!) feel that mental disorder remains a taboo topic, even among family. But lucky for me, I was regularly encouraged to be open about my disorder and to be comfortable seeking help for it.

As I mentioned before, I haven’t learned much throughout my life experience but I have picked up on a few things. One thing I know for sure is that changing circumstances almost always heavily disrupt my depression.Unfortunately, knowledge of this phenomenon has yet to prepare me for any of life’s curve balls or even life’s most organic changes. I handle change like an adult in theory but like a 7 year old in practice. If I’m mindful about impending change, I envision myself being fine with it. I approach it very pragmatically but my mental disorder is always waiting to disrupt the process. While I reasonably plan transition, depression pounces and then BAM! I’m suddenly executing my plan through tears, fights, screaming, emotionally driven decisions, and then total mental breakdown. This has happened at almost every juncture of my adult life. Interestingly and unfortunately enough, this reaction is basically guaranteed when it comes to changes I wanted or initiated. So considering all of the amazing, intense and self-initiated changes of the last 5 years, it’s safe to say I’ve done a lot of breaking down. Some people (especially Christians) believe that brokenness is a pretty perfect place start growing. I’m really hoping they’re right.

Buying a house has been the most intense experience of my life. This sounds like a gross overstatement but I’ve come to expect and accept that I experience everything a little more dramatically than most. I’ve definitely gone through the seemingly mandatory motions of mental breakdown (I even have a closet with no door to show for it). First time home ownership has affected way more than I thought it would. I was expecting it to do two things:

  • Allow me to feel like I’m not pissing away money on rent
  • Allow me to nest in a place that I make my own

I wasn’t prepared for the fact that it would:

  • Change my financial situation
  • Change the dynamics of my marriage
  • Introduce the concept of never ending needs
  • Turn me into a DIYer (sort of)
  • Teach me how much of a dissatisfied brat I am
  • Show me how little money I actually have
  • Force me to accept the importance of cleaning EVERYTHING

…and maybe most surprisingly: the power of paint.

Beyond her openness about mental disorder, my mother displayed a lot of behaviors and preferences that collectively added to (or subtracted from) who I have become as an adult. I’m a neat freak, a clean freak, a pseudo interior designer, a woman with expensive taste, a frequent restaurant patron, a wino, a crier, and a replacer. My entire experience as a roommate of my mother’s has sneakily exposed me to her inclination to replace things instead of fixing or improving them. The moment our offer was accepted on this house, I started the lengthy and ever-growing list of things we need to replace: the storm doors, the front and back doors, the baseboards, the bathrooms, the kitchen, the light fixtures, the trim, pretty much the entire contents of the interior of the house. Furthermore, thanks to my calm-cool-collected reaction to change, I immediately felt VERY STRONGLY about all of these things. See, the last residence I moved into with my parents was a condo that my mom had completely gut renovated before we moved in. Every STICK, floor and all, was removed from the condo and then replaced with something hand picked by my mother. We didn’t even paint anything ourselves, I just picked my room color and the contractor took care of it. This is a terrible last impression because while I understood the timeline for renovations was going to be different with my house, I couldn’t wrap my head around HOW different it would actually be.

I’ve slowly learned with much resistance and through constant reading of Apartment Therapy articles and “how to ____ on a budget”s… and then finally through practice, that there are two annoying things you can do with little to no money that will vastly improve pretty much anything in your house: clean it. paint it. Cleaning is something I’ve always been stellar at and definitely don’t mind doing. I get extreme satisfaction from cleaning things so I was willing to accept that fate. What I wasn’t ready for was the extent to which I would have to clean something to accept it. I’ve always started out with a house or a space that was already relatively clean so most cleaning was just up-keep. I never had to look at an all pink, all tile, 1950s bathroom full of dirty grout, especially not one I would have to live with for at least a few years. I must say though, it is truly incredible how tolerable something can become when it is clean. I don’t love my pink bathroom but after 3 hours of grout scrubbing, I definitely don’t hate it.

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My best cleaning advice is not not spend a ton of money on cleaning products. All of the best, most effective cleaning products are the cheapest ones. I think my magic shopping list would be:

  • Bleach
  • Baking Soda
  • White Vinegar
  • Powdered Comet
  • Powdered Barkeepers Friend
  • Murphy’s Oil Soap
  • Windex (or ammonia)
  • Spray bottles
  • Scrub brushes
  • Scotch sponges
  • Microfiber rags
  • Rubber gloves

There is nothing you can’t clean with that list and those are all probably the cheapest items in the cleaning aisle. There are hundreds of recipes for grout cleaners, stink erasers, goo gone, and glass cleaners that only involve those products and I stand firmly by that.

After you’ve cleaned the hell out of something you hate… and I mean cleaned the HELL out of it – like if it’s a ceiling fan, you unscrewed the light kit and all of the blades and cleaned each little tiny part down to the screws – and you still hate it; paint it. My husband seems to have known about this little “secret” but didn’t let me in on it because I guess he thought I wouldn’t buy it. I will admit, it was a hard one for me to truly get behind but I’m now a believer. We’ve painted five rooms and two hallways so far and I wasn’t really a prophet of paint until now.

The trim of our house was presumably measured, cut, and GLUED on (nailed on in some places) by a blind 4 year old. When we moved in I started noticing how severely damaged and dingy it was, I found all of the little crevices full of dust and dirt and unpainted wood. It was making me crazy. How expensive would it be to have someone rip out all of our base boards and trim and replace them with shiny, pre-painted stuff? Probably more than we could afford. But then we started painting and I jammed the oh-so-magical bright white, high-gloss paint into every nook and cranny of our hideous trim and suddenly it didn’t make me want to rip all of my skin off. I’m not in love with it but I certainly don’t hate it, it’s way easier to clean and I’m likely the only person that looks at it closely enough to notice how damaged and ill-fitted it is. Bless paint.

As if trim restoration wasn’t enough, we found that painting the interior of our front door changed the entire tone of our foyer (along with painting the walls and trim, of course). I’m currently whitewashing the ugliest ceiling fan I’ve ever seen in my entire life and it’s costing me $0 (I mean, we already had the paint and brushes). All of that to say – I’m perfectly fine with the fact that my hands (and other random body parts) are constantly covered in paint along with my sleep shirts and now several pairs of leggings. Worth it.

I plan to soon embark on a mini kitchen makeover and much like every Apartment Therapy article that chronicles cheap kitchen “updates”, I too will be painting everything and replacing hardware. That may end up being a fun before/after entry.

There’s no concise way to wrap up all of my thoughts this time around. All I can say is that patience is hard, change is even harder, and being a replacer is easy but maybe the satisfaction of improving something will save me from our throwaway mindset.

House –> Home

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2012

Move to New York

2014

Move back to St. Louis

Get engaged

2015

Get a dog

2016

Get married

Buy a house

2017

Spend the rest of your life working on said house

Over the past 5 years I’ve done plenty of relatively risky, stressful, and financially irresponsible things. I quit my job in St. Louis and moved to NY in the spring of 2012 and luckily managed to get a job that I hated. What’s more New York than that? I’ll tell you what: spending roughly $400 a month (thanks Metro North Rail!) to get to that awful job every day. I’d drive to the station, take the train to Grand Central, get on the 4/5,  get off at Fulton Street then walk to the office. And repeat: walk to Fulton Street station, take the 4/5, get off at Grand Central, take the train and drive home. Soul crushing.

On New York: Everything everyone says about NYC, both good and terrible, is true.

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I’ll spare you the boring “life’s so crazy and you never know the path you’re going to go down” details and consolidate. I met a dude. I got a job that was more rewarding. A nephew happened. My dude and I moved to St. Louis (my hometown). We got engaged. We got a dog. We got married. We bought a house. And now we’re (I’m) here blogging about this house and my life. I guess I’m digging for that cathartic writing experience I used to get when I was 15, crying at the computer in my bedroom.

These days the computer I cry at is in my home office, in my cute little house that is both my pride and the bane of my existence. It seems like most of my life is spent in my home office, it’s quickly becoming the non-kitchen heart of the house. It’s where my husband decompresses from his day. It’s my dog’s 1st floor safe-haven (she’s kind of needy so she has 3 safe-havens in the house). But most importantly and worst of all, it’s where I spend 8 hours of my day. Working from home has never been easy but it has taken on a new level of burden now that we own the home I’m working from. I know that sounds ridiculous considering I CHOSE this house. I badgered a real estate agent around for 2ish months only to finally land on THIS house. I picked the room. I picked the paint color. I picked the furniture. But alas, all of that personal connection is what makes it so difficult. I’m invested (on so many levels) in this stupid house and sitting around in it for 8 hours a day is driving me insane. I’m finding every little nook and cranny that needs to be cleaned or fixed or changed.

You’ll hear a lot of people say that people (read: family) make a house a home but as with most things in life, I’m going to have to disagree. At the risk of sounding incredibly materialistic, I’m going to say that making a house YOURS is the first step in making a home (this is probably more of an identity crisis on my part than a bit of advice so I guess just take it with a grain of salt). It’s not just  YOUR stuff that does it either. I wasn’t in St. Louis when all of our furniture got moved into the house and coming home to a house full of our shit didn’t really feel special or homey. Whatever the feeling was, it was obvious that it required a fight with my husband about where he put everything and then I got to begin the laborious process of obsessing about colors and arrangement and projects and updates. We did not buy a turnkey house and I honestly, despite the stress it would relieve, probably never will. For some reason, I love the character of old houses but will do just about everything to modernize them without tearing down every wall or squaring off every arched doorway.

South City St. Louis is littered with these little 1930s gingerbread craftsman houses. They all share some of the most gorgeous and interesting features I seek out in a house “with character”. First of all, they’re made of firebrick, something common yet sacred in St. Louis. I recently found out that most yellow firebrick in the area was actually mined from the ground beneath these neighborhoods, same with the limestone around our doorways and chimney bases. Secondly, the houses all have hardwood floors, sealed coal shoots, wood burning fireplaces, and, for better or worse, plaster walls.

The popular “knock-down” texture of these plaster walls was my biggest qualm with the house upon closing (it was a close call but a lot of the other things were tied for second). The texture is extremely polarizing, people either love it or they hate it and I LOATHE it. We walked through a few houses that decided to try bold, non-flesh tone colors on these textured walls and it was… ugly? Cheap looking? I can’t even pin down the description they elicit. I knew I couldn’t live with that color-limiting texture so I began pouring over the internet for solutions. I finally decided (with the green light from my husband who later regrets giving me the green light on this) that we would hire a plaster worker to come re-plaster the walls into a smooth texture. After receiving our quote, we decided we’d re-plaster ONE room in the house. It took about 5 guys and one full day to do it, but a couple weeks after we moved in, I finally had gorgeously flat walls in one room.

As lame and vain as it may sound, spending money to change something to my preference began growing my sense of “home”. We painted the room a bold navy and white washed the fireplace and trim… and suddenly it was my living room.

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I’m not discouraging or endorsing big expensive vanity jobs. I’m not even saying smooth walls are better than knock-down texture (that’s a lie, they are). I am saying that one of the joys of owning a home has to be the fact that it’s YOURS and you can make it yours.

I’m not going to try to pretend I know what this blog is going to be about or why I’m writing it or if there’s any longevity to it. I’ve learned very little from my 28 years on earth but I have found that my most rewarding life experiences come from short-sighted actions. So here we go…