I Call Bullsh*t: Fear Mongering and Pushing Perfectionism in Health Articles

I’ve spent a long time being a voracious consumer of health research. My interest began after my Celiac diagnosis and continued unabated for years. I (metaphorically, and with pun intended) gobbled up anything I could find on nutrition, disease prevention, and healthy living. But, as I found recently, the more I read, the more I became…scared sh*tless.

I didn’t even realize it until my health-panic reached critical mass a few weeks ago — but prior to this epiphany, I’ve spent untold amounts of time vigilantly avoiding everything that I’d read was harming me: canned food, tap water, non-stick pans, plastics, household cleaners (hence the article I wrote about it last spring/summer, when I realized that a lot of products are seriously no bueno), grilled meat, non-organic foods…the list goes on.

While all those habits are definitely good, I didn’t realize until recently that they’ve fed into a growing reservoir of “holy crap you guys everything is poison and I’m going to die an early and painful death because THE ENTIRE WORLD IS MADE OF TOXINS AND DOOM.”

 

DoomThen, a few weeks ago, the reservoir breached its banks. I was reading yet another article about the horrors of drinking water, even though this is a generally venerable habit: tap water is horrible for you, and bottled water is apparently no better. The proposed solution is to buy some sort of reverse osmosis uber-filter and install it in your sink, but since we live in a rented apartment and can’t exactly take apart the plumbing without getting into a heap o’ trouble with the property management office, the alleged “only solution” isn’t viable for non-homeowners like us.

Cue the panic: “Omigod. The bottled water is toxic. The tap water is toxic. I can’t install the filters they say will keep the water from being toxic. I DRINK A LOT OF WATER AND IT’S ALL TOXIC AND IS GOING TO KILL ME OMIGOD.”

Then, a few seconds later, just as I was about to weep and curl up in fetal position beneath my desk, I had another thought: “I do the best I can with the resources I have and the circumstances I’m in. Why do I feel so scared that I’m not doing enough? Why do I feel that despite all my effort, I’m totally doomed?”

A few more seconds later: “Wait a minute. This is bullshit.”

EpiphanyThen I took a brief tour through some of the articles I’d read in recent months, and you know what? According to pretty much everything I read, THE WORLD IS MADE OF TOXINS AND EVERYTHING IS GOING TO KILL YOU.

Here’s a small recap of all the things that are going to lead to you being sick, miserable, and probably dead: being tall, your bottled water, your tap water, your tea, your food, the air in your home, your air freshener, anything plastic, getting angry, taking vitamins, flying, insomnia, your antiperspirant, and, wait for it, pretty much everything you own.

Oh, and BTW: being stressed or anxious about the fact that everything is going to kill you is, in fact, also going to kill you. However, be forewarned that using modern medicine to treat your anxiety is going to kill you even more.

Now, I’m prone to freaking out about, well, everything — but these articles had the collective effect of making me nearly crap my pants in sheer panic. The fear-mongering, as I realized with my highly scientific (cough, cough — sarcasm — cough, cough) meta-analysis, actually looks pretty epic. “Scary,” “could kill you,” and “is killing you” are some of the most common themes that cropped up, over and over and over.

Now, there’s a definite difference between actual scientific studies saying that X (for example, height) is correlated with Y (in the case above, cancer) and the outright fear-mongering pieces that tell you to be afraid, very afraid, of everything. But even in those legitimate study results, I realized that no one ever brings up the fact that correlation doesn’t imply causation. Just because two things are linked, it doesn’t mean that one causes the other. But no one ever says that when writing about studies linking X and Y, which then leads the reader to draw the conclusion that X actually causes Y. And let’s be honest: these studies usually correlate everyday things, like your height, with really scary, life-altering/ending sh*t like cancer. Which is terrifying.

Brandon — AKA The Rational One — has occasionally called me on my panic-induced BS, noting that our water is fluoridated (ergo, my fit of freak-out, which happened after I read some terrifying article about the dangers of fluoride in toothpaste, was really just an exercise in futility), and that the whole antiperspirant-breast cancer link has been resoundingly debunked. (Which is good, because my brief foray into all-natural deodorant sans antiperspirant led to me schvitzing right through my sweaters, thus yielding sweat stains the size of watermelons. I despised it.)

Deodorant without antiperspirantI also noticed that along with these prophecies of doom, there are ample recommendations on what you can do to prevent horrible health outcomes from befalling you. What’s the best way to prevent being killed by everything you own, touch, or ingest?

According to all the health literature I’ve read over the years, it’s simple: adopt this easy 80-step, time-sucking process to propel yourself into vibrant health!

  • Spend 20 minutes per day doing oil pulling. And no, it doesn’t matter if you usually barely have 2 minutes to spend brushing your teeth.
  • Make your own toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, lotion, and all personal care products, only using fresh spring water that you retrieved yourself and carried on your head in a fair-trade, non-GMO, certified organic clay jug.
  • Similarly, craft your own non-toxic stone ware out of fresh clay that was found in a sacred clay deposit after the rainy season in Sedona.
  • Cut gluten, dairy, meat, vegetables, sugar, fruit, grains, and beans out of your diet, because they’re all toxic. Subsisting on air is the way of the righteous.
  • If you do choose to consume food (because you don’t love Mother Earth), don’t buy almond or coconut milks from the store — they have carrageenan, which will kill you! Instead, make your own from scratch. Please note, though, that it must be infused with unicorn saliva, or else it will be unhealthy and still likely to kill you.
  • You must cook solely from scratch, using only organic produce that you foraged from your local forest/city park/vaguely terrifying remote wilderness populated only by militiamen and aspiring Unabombers/whatever.
  • Get at least one hour of exercise per day. And, as one of my track coaches used to say, if you’re not on the brink of barfing or passing out, you’re not working hard enough.
  • Meditate whenever you’re not actively oil pulling, foraging, exercising, cooking, making toothpaste using your artisanal mortar and pestle, or hunting down unicorn saliva.
  • Never allow yourself to experience stress. Always be filled with serenity, gratitude, happiness, and positivity. Horrific tragedy is no match for the power of positive thinking!!!1!
  • Make every effort to be the perfect parent. Not doing so will irrevocably screw up your kids for the rest of their lives. Having screwed up kids will stress you out, which will kill you.
  • Sleep at least 8-9 hours per night.

 

Unicorn SalivaBasically, it comes down to this: 1) at the end of the day, most people are just doing the best they can with what they have, and 2) scaring everyone into doing 80 kajillion more things to keep our lives from killing us probably isn’t going to help.

Yeah, I get that “scary” and “this everyday thing could kill you” make great click-bait – it appears that in the health world, fear seems to sell far more than sex ever could – but after my “this is bullsh*t” epiphany, I’ve become acutely aware, and exceedingly tired, of fear-mongering headlines and articles.

But look: we can’t all take the time to make a bajillion DIY products, 8-9 hours of sleep is sometimes outright impossible (shout-out to all those with newborns or, hey, any children under age 12), and there are plenty of times when people really do need anti-anxiety/depression medication. Ain’t no shame in any of it, folks. You play the cards you’re dealt.

So, in calling bullsh*t on a lot of the aforementioned fear mongering in a lot of health literature, I’ve decided that I’ll continue doing the best I can with what I have. Buying mostly organic, using glass food storage, and using non-toxic household products and cosmetics wherever possible? I’m on it.

However, I’ve decided to quit freaking out about drinking the bottled water at work (plastic bottles > lead pipes), the occasional serving of canned soup, my store-bought shampoo and body wash (Pantene and Dove 4-EVAH, yo), the absolutely necessary antiperspirant, my beloved almond milk, and the fact that it saps all my personal willpower and discipline just to make myself floss regularly. (To my dentist: Sorry, dude. But it really is onerous.)

After all, trying to add oil pulling, detoxing, and DIY almond milk-making to my schedule would make me totally lose it.

And that would probably kill me.

Updates Galore

Since it’s been a while (cue Aaliyah! “It’s been a long time/we shouldn’t have left you/without a dope beat to step to”), I figure I owe y’all a an update on the various goings-on over the last few months.

In my last post before my long hiatus, I was waxing poetic about how much I miss Colorado. Thankfully, Brandon and I were able to head out there a desperately needed two-week vacay in February, which was awesome. What wasn’t awesome was the weather, which was predicted to be in the 40’s and 50’s and gorgeous, only to be revised (on the day we arrived, no less) as highs of 3 and wind chills of -20.  So, while we didn’t get to hike much, we did get to watch a lot of movies — and we got to see some of my favorite people, which made me sublimely happy. I did get one very brief hike in, juuuuuust as the weather improved before we flew back to DC — and of course, I had to take pictures for posterity. This is from one of my favorite local trails:

 

Bear Creek Trail

Oh, and the Broncos lost the Super Bowl. Guys, I knew it was doomed from the moment I saw that first fumbled snap. I’m not a big drinker under normal circumstances, but I made a considerable dent in my dad’s GF beer supply during the course of that game. As soon as the snap was fumbled, my dad and I exchanged one of those “oh, sh*t” glances and helped ourselves to a few adult beverages. (In case anyone is wondering, Colorado has some awesome GF beer.) To illustrate how much I love my Broncos, on the Friday before game day, I wore this shirt to work:

 

Broncos Country

I think this solidifies my candidacy for upper management, does it not?

 

While Seattle obviously played a great game and Seahawks fans have every right to be thrilled about the outcome of that particular massacre, I’m not going to want to talk to any Seattle fans about that game for a very, very long time. In fact, probably not ever. As the game concluded, I put up a PSA on Facebook to let everyone know that if any Seattle fans talk any trash to me, ever, about this game, I will summarily de-friend them. Because my devotion to the Broncos obviously comes before human relationships. I’m nothing if not logical, folks. (As an example of my irrational sports fanaticism, I still loathe the University of Michigan after they beat my beloved Colorado College hockey team, in double overtime, for the NCAA national championship…in 1995. Now I rabidly root for them to lose in all sports, all the time. But I don’t carry grudges, I swear!)

Once we got back to DC, we were met with equally frigid and snowy weather as what we’d experienced in Colorado. The good part of this was that we had a bunch of snow days off from work – yay! – but the bad news was that once we did return to the office, my bus stop looked like this:

 

Bus Stop with Snow

To give you a sense of scale here, the ice was up to my knees. It was fun times.

 

I mean, who doesn’t like a treacherous, icy schlep to work in the mornings?! They’re beloved by everyone, obviously. Thankfully, winter fiiiinnnaaaalllly seems to be releasing its vise-grip on DC, since today is supposed to be gorgeous and warm. Despite the incoming pollen-bomb, my inhaler and I are totally going to take advantage of the sunshine by going for a run outside this afternoon. I may be a wheezy, sneezing mess by the time I get back, but I think it’ll probably be worth it. (Albuterol, don’t fail me now.)

Lastly, and most exciting, two weeks ago I had a re-biopsy to see where things stand with my endometrial cancer treatment, and the results look good! Things aren’t totally back to normal, since the cells have regressed into a pre-cancerous stage — but this means that a) the cancer itself is gone, and b) the meds are working. HAPPY DANCE!

 

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Colbert + Kermie = best happy dance ever

 

The state they’re in right now is basically a half-way point: when endometrial cancer develops, cells go from being normal to pre-cancerous to cancerous — so in treating it, the meds are supposed to make it go in the opposite direction. Since the meds are doing exactly that, my doctors are really encouraged that a bit more time will hopefully knock this out for good. I’ll remain on the progesterone treatment for another six months before we re-biopsy, and hopefully by then things will have returned to normal. My fingers are crossed — but, should you feel compelled, please feel free to light a candle/say a prayer/sacrifice a goat to add some oomph to my cause.

So, that’s a recap of the most notable goings-on during my blogging hiatus. I hope all you lovely people have been doing well!

Oh, Hai!

Oh hai!

Well, after swearing that I’d never go AWOL from blogging again, I totally did exactly that. (We all know what they say about the road to hell and good intentions and yadda yadda yadda.) Forgive me, por favor?

In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t blogging for a handful of reasons – the most notable being that I felt like my brain had been drained of any and all creative mojo. I think the last year, which involved more trauma and upheaval than I imagined possible, caught up with me over the last few months. Whenever I tried to sit down and write, nothing – zip, zilch, nada – would happen. Much like my skin during the winter (am I the only one who feels like a parched iguana from December through March?), my creative juices had dried the hell up. My brain was *so* not having it. Writing about normal, everyday topics felt trivial when I’d spent so long in survival mode, and so anything I managed to eke out was basically drivel.

And I don’t want to publish drivel. Soooo…I just didn’t publish anything.

Adding to the whole “I have nothing but drivel” motif that kept me from blogging, I also have often felt overwhelmed by all the things blogging entails — but mostly replying to comments here and leaving comments elsewhere. Guys, it’s muy time consuming. My schedule already feels like it’s at max capacity when I incorporate writing a post into my daily routine, and adding to that fragile balance leads to a sense of overwhelm that quickly snowballs into, like, an abominable snowman of Sh*t I Have to Do.

Lastly, I’ve generally put a lot of pressure on myself to make my posts perfect before putting them up on the internets. I’m a recovering perfectionist in, um, pretty much every facet of my life. (I’ve been late for work because I’m determined to flat-iron into submission the one section of my hair, in the very back of my head, which insists on being wavy. No lie. Because priorities.) I’m gradually getting better at it, but since writing feels like the closest thing I have to a baby at this point in my life, I’m prone to spending waaaaaaay too much time fine-tuning my words, finding the perfect graphics to break up the blocks of text, making sure the formatting is exactly how I want it to look, and so forth. But really, that needs to come to a screeching halt, because…

 

 

So, I’m going to test-drive a new policy:

First, I’ll write what I can, when I can, and I’m going to work on being ok with a less than perfect post. That last bit is going to be a big – nay, colossal – challenge, but, being that perfectionism and obsessively worrying about random crap I can’t control are my biggest strengths (and by strengths, I mean weaknesses), I feel like it’s probably something I’d benefit from.

Second, I’ll comment and reply to comments when I can, but please know that even if I don’t get to it, I love all you guys and I love your posts. Hearing about what you’re up to, even if I’m just lurking in the proverbial shadows (and I mean that in the most non-creepy way possible), makes me smile and send loads of mental hugs and warm fuzzies out to each of you. So, even if you don’t hear from me often and I become the Lame Lurking Blogger, I still love all the awesome things you guys have to say.

So, with that, here’s to imperfect posts and Lame Lurking Blogger tendencies!

Homesick

One of the things that really sucks about having a career-driven life is having to live in DC. There are a lot of genuinely awesome people here, and there are also genuinely awesome people who like it here (DC isn’t inhabited entirely by Congressional reps who’ve taken leave of their senses, I promise!) – but sweet fancy Moses, I’m not one of them.

Long before this summer and its health crises (and the attendant fear, sadness, and general misery), I was seriously homesick. I miss the mountains, the sunsets, and the 300 days of sunshine per year. I even miss the smell of Colorado. But most of all, I miss the people. I miss my parents, our extended family, the family friends who’ve known me since I was 3 feet tall, and old friends from when I was growing up. Colorado is where my soul feels centered, safe, and happy.

After things got rough, though, I became acutely, painfully homesick. A few weeks ago when I was on the Metro, I saw a woman carrying a bag from the exact yoga studio in Denver where I used to sweat out my grad school stress with one of my closest friends. I nearly burst into tears, so I distracted myself for a bit (there was another passenger with truly fabulous shoes, so I focused on those for a few minutes). I started to feel better, only to look up again and see a bag, no more than a few inches from my face, with a big COLORADO written on it. At that point, it took everything in me not to weep openly on public transportation.

 

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That’s right friends: I nearly had an ugly cry of Kim Kardashian proportions.

 

A similar moment happened the next day, when I was reading my hometown newspaper online and saw an ad for the library system there. Now, I looooooove the library and spent the better part of my youth at the branch near our house.  That place holds more fond memories than I can even count. In a fit of nostalgia, I went to their website and poked around a bit. Lo and behold, I found the activity calendar for the branch where I grew up – and as it turns out, they have tons of awesome free classes: Reiki 101, how to grow a vegetable garden in your back yard…the list goes on.

At that point I nearly cried again, so I decided to see what sorts of classes/talks are available at the Arlington public library. I was hopeful! I was optimistic! Maybe there’d be similarly cool offerings here!

Well. Let’s just say I live in a place where people have a different set of interests than those of people back home. Here in DC, the library offers Mandarin conversation groups, nanny groups, and stock trading talks. To put it mildly, I’d much rather learn about Reiki and gardening than Mandarin grammar and stock trading.

That’s when it really sunk in: there are so, so many ways in which I don’t fit in here. I’d known this on an intellectual level for quite some time – after all, I spent years going along with the whole “shut down your emotions, be super ambitious, learn to be a bureaucrat, and only wear gray or black pant suits” motif, only to realize that I’m creative, emotive, and independent, and that I absolutely hate pant suits – but suddenly, the fact that I don’t fit DC’s demographic hit me on a whole new level.

It’s funny: when I was younger, I wanted nothing more than stability and permanence in one location. We moved across the country when I was 16, and then my parents moved to the Midwest just after I’d started college – so I started my adult years with a profound sense of dislocation. (They wound up moving back to Colorado when I was 24, which was also when I returned to Colorado for grad school.)

When I was in my 20’s, I figured that the solution to that sense of dislocation was to find a job, settle down, and stay in one place. I figured I could bloom wherever I was planted, provided that I stayed long enough to put down roots.

As it turns out, though, spending a long time in one place isn’t enough for me. I’ve been in DC for almost five years – this is the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I was 16 – and yet the more time passes, it the less it feels like home. And, when things got incredibly stressful and scary over the summer and early fall, I found that I need that sense of being at home more and more.

I miss the mountains.... the feeling of something bigger than me.  My silent guardians.  >Sigh<  #homesick.

It’s kind of an odd lesson to learn amidst everything else that’s going on: that what I really need in order to feel at home is, in fact, completely different from what I always thought. I can’t just make a place my home – being there for a long time just doesn’t work, nor does my trying with all my might.

We’ll hopefully be able to visit Colorado sometime in early 2014, and there’s a good chance that I’ll be tempted to 1) kiss the ground when we arrive, even if it’s the icky airport floor, and 2) chain myself to a tree in my parents’ backyard to keep from having to leave. (Moi? Exaggerate? Mais non!) I’m sure everyone will totally appreciate both of those things.

For now, though, I have a small piece of home sitting on my dresser: some rocks that my parents picked up and my mom brought out for me when she visited earlier this month. By way of explanation, since I was a baby, I’ve been fascinated by rocks. Growing up in Colorado, where there were rocks all over the place, I amassed an impressive collection.

Like most childhood things, though, my rock collection has long since disappeared. However! My parents, knowing how homesick I’ve been, decided that I needed a piece of home to keep with me. While they were out hiking along one of our favorite trails, they picked up pieces of quartz and pink granite – the main things you see in Colorado Springs – and sent them along to their displaced daughter.

 

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So, while I can’t go home anytime soon, I at least have a small piece of Colorado that I can look at each morning. It’s not the same as being there, but it’s better than nothing.

And, with that, let it be known: someone needs to invent a teleportation device ASAP. If any of y’all happen to have jobs in science and technology, please get on that project. :)

If you don’t live in or near the place you call home, do you ever get homesick?

If so, how do you deal with it when homesickness strikes? (I’m open to suggestions!)

WTF, WordPress?

Well. I had a post all ready to go for this morning, but WordPress keeps deleting it whenever I try to publish it. (Luckily I wrote it in Word, which I learned to do after WordPress pulled this nonsense a few times last spring.) And I must say: even though I didn’t lose the content of the post, having WordPress delete it three times is effing infuriating.

It doesn’t help that I didn’t get enough sleep again last night (insomnia is my nemesis), which means I’m uber-cranky this morning.

So, WordPress, you’re on my sh*t list this morning. You’re on there along with the wind chill (which is very, very cold), the bus (which has been very, very inconsistent), the fact that the aforementioned WordPress nonsense means I’m now going to be late to work, and a handful of other things.

Anyways, it’s going to be a “try really hard to a) be productive, and b) not be grouchy” sort of day. When days like this strike, I try to focus on the good things, no matter how small. So, knowing that, the things not on my sh*t list today are: caffeine, the trashy celeb gossip mags I’ll read this afternoon when I’m at the gym, and the Icy Hot soothing my sore left hip after yesterday’s run along around the monuments. Oh, and Whole Foods’ curried pumpkin soup. That stuff is delish.

Soooo…soup, Icy Hot, Us Weekly, and caffeine: here’s to you, my friends.

Snow and WIAW

Happy Wednesday, friends!

This week has been fairly glorious so far: we had a snow delay on Monday, and then got all of Tuesday off due to a snowstorm that was forecasted to totally paralyze the DC area. (Of course, the reality was that it snowed but didn’t stick — but the call to shut things down had already been made, so we got a full day off. I know I should be all up in arms about lost taxpayer money and whatnot, but…nope. I’m not even a teeny bit outraged. #SorryI’mNotSorry.)

Today is supposed to be sunny but cold — so, IMHO, it’s the perfect weather for an afternoon run around DC during my “lunch” break. (On days like that, I eat lunch at my desk and then take the mandatory 45 minute break to go run outside. It’s fabulous, and it makes the day go a bajillion times faster.)

I love how relatively empty all the monuments are during the winter, so the running conditions are amazeballs. During the summer, hot as hell and crowded as all get-out, so I wind up having to dodge packs of sweaty middle-school students and tourist groups who walk painfully slowly. As you can imagine, it gets old fast. In the winter, though, it’s a) not 80 million degrees out with 2000% humidity, and b) noticeably lacking in tourists. There are a few here and there, but most of the people are other runners. It’s blissful.

 

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Aaaaaanyways, with that out of the way, it’s  time for What I Ate Wednesday, hosted by the lovely Jenn from Peas & Crayons! Jenn is both hilarious and a fantastic source of foodie inspiration, so I highly recommend checking out her blog.

Peas and Crayons

Per the usual lately, I’ve been a slacker in terms of taking pictures of my food — there’s so much going on in the evenings that I often totally forget to pause for some photography. Blogger fail! Sooo, these descriptions will be short and sweet.

Breakfasts and snacks: If I hit the gym in the morning, I usually crave a green smoothie afterwards (something cold and packed with spinach sounds delicious after a hard workout — which my husband, parents, and pretty much all my nearest and dearest have taken as proof of my abject insanity). However, if I run in the afternoon instead, I tend to want oatmeal (and lots of it — I love the stuff). Lately I’ve been really diggin’ GF oatmeal with hemp seeds, blackstrap molasses, and almond milk; it’s deliciously Christmas-y, and it’s packed with iron. Win.

As for snacks, I usually default to fruit, or bell peppers (look, they’re so seasonally colorful!) with hummus. Oh, and as I might’ve mentioned last week, pickles with hummus. Confession: while normal people stocked up on bread, milk, etc. before the predicted snowstorm, I stocked up on pickles and hummus. I’m not even kidding. I walked out of the store with a party-sized (read: Lillian-sized) tub of hummus and four jars of pickles. The cashier at Whole Foods probably thought I’d taken leave of my senses, but whatever — I can’t be left with a dwindling supply of my favorite snack!

 

WIAW 12-4-134

Lunches: I have exactly zero pictures of my lunches, y’all. I can tell you, though, that I’ve been chowing down on soup: either Curried Pumpkin from Whole Foods (with added lentils for protein) or Dr. McDougall’s Black Bean and Rice (with added spinach for veggie power).

Dinners: We’ve had a wide range of foodstuffs for dinner lately, including spinach-feta turkey burgers, turkey-veggie chili, and Thai lemongrass stir-fry with brown rice, chicken, and veggies galore.

 

WIAW 12-4-133

…And that’s all, folks! Hope your Wednesdays are all off to a good start!

What’s your favorite thing to have for breakfast?

Do you have a favorite (or least favorite) meal of the day?

Do you mix things up with your dinner menu, or are you pretty consistent?

All Mondays Should Involve a Two-Hour Delay {MIMM}

It finally snowed here! Well, ok, it snowed for a couple of hours (we picked up a whopping .5″, which is better than nothing) before transitioning to freezing rain.

I’d normally complain about freezing rain, because I feel like it’s the worst possible combination of weather patterns (if it’s going to be frickin’ freezing and there’s going to be precipitation, I want snow) but today it has brought us the next best thing to a snow day: a two-hour delay. I woke up at my normal time to see this beaut on the website of the office that makes the call on weather-related closures/delays:

Snow & Dismissal Procedures Current Status

Washington, DC, Area

Applies to: December 9, 2013

Status: Open – 2 hours Delayed Arrival – With Option for Unscheduled Leave or Unscheduled Telework

Huzzah! Mondays should always start with a delay, in my opinion. I’m adding it to the list of policies I’ll implement once I’m a benevolent overlord. It’ll be part of the “ease back into the workweek” plan I’d mentioned last week. All in favor, say “Aye”!

I particularly needed this delay after a busy weekend — a weekend that involved my plan to Christmas-ify the apartment. Operation: Holiday Spirit was a success, y’all.

I really wanted to get a tree, but our space for it is pretty darn small. I thought we’d have to go hunting far and wide for a small-ish tree that would fit in our apartment, but lo and behold, as we were en route to lunch on Saturday we drove right past a place that had a veritable cornucopia of small trees. Win! We picked one up yesterday, took him home, and dressed him up. I’ve named him Melvin.

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The folks at the tree stand also let me take some cast-off greens that had been cut away from other trees, so I also got my decorating on around the living room.

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And, for one of my favorite pictures, I’d like to introduce you to Wine Bottle Burqa. She was a wedding gift from a friend who’d been deployed to Afghanistan before our wedding, and she is exactly what her name implies: the exact same type of burqa approved by the Taliban, but designed to fit nicely over the necks of wine bottles. I’ve thought about doing a series of Wine Bottle Burqa still life shots throughout the year, which would depict her doing things like enjoying the springtime amidst the flowers. This is the first installment in that series: Wine Bottle Burqa gets in the holiday spirit.

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On a separate note, I slept like crap last night and am trying to gear myself up for a trip to the gym. I know I need to get ‘er done this morning, because shoddy sleep means I’ll be too wiped out this afternoon to drag myself to the gym. Oy. I clearly needed this weather delay.

And, as always, thanks to Katie for hosting MIMM – here’s to getting through Monday!

MiMM

TGIF, Holiday Gift Guides, and Other Fun Things

Good morning, and happy Friday!

It’s a rainy morning outside, but I’m excited because it’s about to get chilly up in here. Yesterday it got up to a whopping 66 degrees — which, while enjoyable for a day or so, feels kind of strange for December. I did, however, take advantage of it as much as possible with a walk to Whole Foods and a 4 mile run around the National Mall. It’s always wonderful to get outside and get some fresh air!

Speaking of Whole Foods, I picked up this grocery bag there, and I’m convinced it’s the cutest grocery bag ever. We have a ridiculous surplus of reusable bags, but I couldn’t resist this little guy. I mean, it’s a baby stegosaurus om nom noming an apple! (The tag says he’s a generic monster, but I beg to differ. He’s clearly a stegosaurus.)

 

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Anyways, today I’m sheltering myself from the rain by working from home. I don’t often get to do this, but I was given a project that has some flexibility — so, for the first time in the five years since I moved back to DC, I’m chillin’ in my home office. I had one other day of working from home a few weeks ago, and OMG. It was sublime.

I expect today to be similarly fabulous: I’ve got a warm cup of tea, and I fully intend to spend the day looking like a total schlub in my yoga pants and sweatshirt. (Yoga pants > work pants. In fact, yoga pants > work pants by a power of 10,000. Also, can we talk about how work shoes/heels are actually instruments of torture? Every single pair is giving me horrible blisters now. Even my old faithfuls have started tearing up my skin when I wear them for more than 10 minutes. And, because I have super narrow feet and struggle to find shoes that fit, I reeeaaaaalllly don’t want to have to go shoe shopping. Blergh.)

********

And, on a wholly separate topic (or, as the Monty Python boys say, “An now for something completely different!), when I had some downtime the other day I started scouring various holiday gift guides for some shopping inspiration.

I don’t know about you guys, but holiday shopping makes me want to crawl into a hole and hide. I haaaaate large crowds, and I especially hate large crowds filled with frantic holiday shoppers. This is made even worse by the fact that I often don’t know what to buy for people (why is everyone I love so hard to shop for?!), which means I’m forced to browse among the aforementioned awful crowds of frantic holiday shoppers.

 

 

Like I said, it makes me want to crawl into a hole and hide. Happily, though, I’ve been doing most of my holiday shopping online for the last few years (Amazon: you complete me), so that’s made things better.

However, coming up with gift ideas is still a challenge. Because I can’t deal with that whole hot mess of guesswork anymore, this year I sent my parents and brother an email saying that they were forbidden – absolutely, totally, unequivocally banned – from saying things like “Oh, I don’t know what I want” or “Oh, just get me something you think I’d like.” I told them that I need definitive ideas, or at least a list of places they’d like gift cards to, because I’m not taking shots in the dark on this anymore.

If that’s not the embodiment of holiday cheer, I don’t know what is.

Anyways, for those of us who aren’t heartless enough to give their nearest and dearest holiday ultimatums, a lot of awesome healthy living websites have been compiling some great holiday gift guides. If there’s a foodie, athlete, or health junkie in your life (or, possibly, someone in need of healing), these lists could help with gift-giving inspiration.

For foodies: Greatist has an awesome list of kitchen gadgets, edible goodies, and books that will light up the eyes of any foodie or kitchenista (yeah… I totally just made that word up) in your life.

For athletes: Girls Gone Sporty, one of my favorite online health and fitness resources, has a fantastic gift-finder. You can search gifts for men, women, and teens – and you can sort the options by price, gift type (relaxation, athletic tools, etc.), so it’s super user-friendly. FitSugar also has a list of Practical Stocking Stuffers for Fitness Fans, and it’s chock-full of great ideas.

For eco-mavens: Well + Good features a lovely list of five gifts for a healthy, stylish home.

For those who love healthy living or are looking to get healthier: Meghan Telpner, author of UnDiet and nutritionista extraordinaire, compiled a fantabulous gift list for just about anyone who’s interested in health and wellness. Truth be told, I’d gladly accept every single thing on her list. Especially the meal delivery. Sweet fancy Moses, the meal delivery. If I had a week off from cooking dinner, I’d be so excited I’d probably faint.

 

Anyways, with allllll that being said, happy Friday! And now, I want to hear from you…

Do you ever get to work from home?

Do you like cold weather around the holidays?

Do you love or loathe holiday shopping?

What’s the best gift you ever bought/made for someone?

What’s the best gift you ever received?

 

WIAW: Progress, Not Perfection

Happy Wednesday! Per the usual, this means the countdown to the weekend is officially on. T-Minus 56 hours and counting, my friends. :)

Also per the usual, Wednesdays are reserved for What I Ate Wednesday, hosted by the lovely Jenn from Peas & Crayons — I highly recommend her many delicious recipes, so do yourself a favor and go check her out.

Peas and Crayons

My food lately has been a bit of a study in learning curves. Last time I did Weight Watchers, I relied heavily on salads and raw fruits and veggies for snacks — but I’ve found that when it gets cold out, I want warm foods. I tried to do mostly cooked, warm foods for a few days, but I found that I was consistently exceeding my Points allocation. Frustration ensued,my friends — it ensued in a major way. I didn’t want to feel chilled to the bone while eating only raw produce, but I didn’t want to go over my Points value for the day either.

I’ve now settled on a 50/50 set-up, which seems to be working thus far: I eat hot oatmeal for breakfast, hot soup for lunch, and a hot meal for dinner, but I snack on things like fresh apples, bananas, the occasional post-workout green smoothie, and raw bell peppers (and pickles…more on this in a moment) with hummus.

Regarding the pickles bit, I should also probably ‘fess up to the fact that dill pickles with hummus is one of my favorite snacks ever. Most people find this disgusting. Now, I can happily put hummus on just about anything. Pretzels, crackers, carrots, peppers…it’s all good, and I will happily stuff my face with it.

If you’ve seen Don’t Mess With the Zohan, you might recall how they make fun of Israelis for putting hummus in/on everything. Let’s put it this way: when I was in Israel, even my Israeli friends were stunned by how many things I’d eat with hummus. Given how much Israelis love the stuff, this was a very big deal. It’s basically their national food, but even they were appalled when I started dipping dill pickles into tubs of hummus and proclaiming it delicious.

But y’all. It’s delicious. I’m serious.

So, every night when I come home, I head straight for the fridge and dig out a bag of sliced bell pepper slices, a jar of kosher baby dills, and a tub of hummus. No shame. Don’t judge.

Anyways, as I mentioned before, this round of WW involves a whole new learning curve than the one I climbed when I originally joined WW almost two years ago. One issue is that the medication I’m taking to clear out my endometrial cancer is also used as an appetite stimulant. I was all “BWWWWEH?! What the hell?!” when I learned this, because I was hungry all the time to begin with — but now it’s kind of ridiculous. So, I have to work extra hard to find uber-satisfying foods to keep me full.

Another hurdle is my recent discovery that I seem to have an intolerance to eggs. (*Headdesk*) I love eggs, and I ate them all the time during my first round in WW — but then I started noticing that I’d have some serious tummy troubles whenever I ate them. I didn’t want to believe that this could possibly be due to my beloved eggs, so I decided it must be something else. But, when I finally isolated the variable last week, it became clear: eggs are not my BFF. As Brandon so aptly noted, I’m running out of foods I can eat. Sadness ensues!

So, with eggs out, more cooked foods in, and my efforts to try and stay full, it’s been a bit of a challenge. I’m not losing weight as quickly as I’d like to, but I have a new motto when it comes to all my goals — weight loss, running, writing, the whole lot — of late: progress, not perfection.

The weight might not be melting right off, but that’s ok. I’m making progress, and I’m figuring out how to do this in a way that works for my body this time around. I’m working within a different set of parameters, and I’m learning the ropes slowly but surely. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress — and that’s what matters most.

I’ll reach my goal at a pace that works, and I’ll do it without feeling incredibly cold or having a daily egg-induced stomachache. 

 
 
Anyways, with all that being said, let’s move on to the quick and dirty tour of what I’ve been noshing on lately:
 
  • Breakfasts involve tea and oatmeal with home-made cashew butter (which, BTW, is teh awesomz – my MIL made it when she was visiting, and I love the stuff)
  • Snacks are composed of Greek yogurt with berries, apples, and the aforementioned peppers and pickles with hummus. 
  • Lunches have occasionally involved salads, but now that it’s getting chilly, they always involve my newly beloved veggie soups. I made this recipe for a vegan Seven Vegetable and “Cheese” soup from Oh She Glows, and it’s awesome — I also added some lentils for extra bulk and protein, so it’s the perfect lunch. The great thing about it is that the flavor of the soup is a great base/carrier for other, stronger flavors. I’ve jazzed this up about a bajillion different ways: depending on the day, I’ve used Moroccan spices, Chinese Five Spice, Italian spices, curry and ginger, or a sprinkle of bagel seasoning. Each one is delicious, so I’ve been a happy soup-slurping camper.
  • Dinners usually involve lean protein and veggies, so we’ve had things like chicken Marsala with sauteed asparagus, spaghetti squash with turkey and veggie Bolognese, turkey and veggie chili (with my other life partner, avocado), and other such offerings. 
  • I usually wrap things up with a cup of herbal tea and a cookie from Purely Elizabeth. If you haven’t tried these cookies yet, I hiiiiiiighly recommend them! They’re vegan and gluten-free, and they’re filled with all sorts of nutrient-dense ingredients — and despite all the qualifiers about how healthy they are, they’re freakin’ delicious. They’re only 2 WW Points per cookie, so I try to save room for them whenever possible.  

 

Image 
 
With all that being said, I hope everybody has/is having a fabulous Wednesday!
 
What’s your favorite dessert?
 
Have you ever discovered weird food intolerances as an adult that you didn’t know you had before?

A Slow Start

I’m back again! Things have calmed down a bit after a busy few weeks, and I’m happy as a clam to have time to write again. I missed you guys!

I do, however, think that the whole “busy as a bee on amphetamines” motif is catching up with me in the form of very, veeeerrrry slllllooooooooowww starts to, um, pretty much everything I do. Ever have one of those days/weeks/months/decades when everything you do — getting up, doing work, running, etc. — feels like the engine on a rusty old car in the cold weather, struggling to turn over and get going? That’s me these days. 

We had a wonderful holiday weekend, but upon waking up on Monday morning, my first thought was “Noooooooooooooo. NO WORK. I don’t wanna go. Noooooooooo.” I’m very good at fighting reality by whining about it — it’s one of my hidden talents. Reality always wins, though, in spite of my prodigious whining/goaning/kvetching. (Damn you, reality! Why must you be stronger than my complaints?!) I grouchily dragged myself out of bed and groggily got ready for the day, but I think my eyes were still half-closed when I left the apartment, and I’m pretty sure I looked like an extra on The Walking Dead as I made my way to the bus stop. I might’ve even made the weird labored breathing/gurgling noises the walkers make, but I can’t be sure. (I wasn’t awake enough.)

Once I got to work, my motivation — much like Elvis — had left the building. People, I was feeling unspeakably lazy. Left to my own devices, I probably would’ve sat there and drooled on myself while staring blankly at my computer screen. But alas, that wasn’t in the cards. Real work beckoned, and, being that one has to actually do work to get paid (again I say: damn you, reality!), I bucked up and slogged through my profound lack of motivation. (Someday when I’m a benevolent overlord, I’ll make the Monday after Thanksgiving a mandatory “ease back into work” day. This will involve being in the office, but only doing fun things like chatting with colleagues over eggnog or watching movies.) 
 
The big highlight of my day, though, was my afternoon run. My late afternoon runs along the National Mall have become one of my favorite things, and they’re usually the best part of my day. (Well, that and lunch. Meals and running make me happy.) Much like the rest of my day, I started out slow. At first I was tired and achy — but once I got in the groove, I felt awesome. I was listening to a fantastic podcast, I was going strong, and I felt so great that I decided to tack an extra mile on the end. By the time I was finished, I was one happy camper! 
 
The awesome feeling lasted the rest of the evening, but this morning saw me doing the same “Nooooooooooo, I don’t wanna get uuuuuuuuuuuup, I don’t wanna go to wooooorrrrrrrrrk, noooooooooooo” motif. I think there’s just something about winter that makes me want to channel my inner grizzly bear and hibernate — because each and every winter I wind up feeling like I could easily keep sleeping well after the appointed 7-8 hours of shut-eye have passed. The fact that it’s dark so much just makes my body want to zonk out for an extra four hours each night. (That’s the other thing I’ll do someday when I’m a benevolent overlord: amend winter business hours to accommodate the need for extra sleep. Y’all, I need to figure out how to become a benevolent overlord.) 
 
 
On a separate note, how was everyone’s Thanksgiving? Hopefully it involved quality time with family and friends — and, of course, good food. On our end, the good folks at Williams-Sonoma came through for us in a big way. Did you know they sell both gluten-free stuffing and a GF pumpkin bread mix?! Holy moly, y’all, I was in heaven. In years past, I’d dried out many a loaf of GF bread in order to dry out and make stuffing — but this year, Williams-Sonoma did it for me. I just added sauteed mushrooms, celery, and chicken stock, et voila! It was delicious, and absurdly easy. It also goes without saying that the GF pumpkin bread was freaking amazing. It didn’t even seem like it was GF, which was a huge accomplishment. Williams-Sonoma FTW! Seriously, whoever created their line of GF goods deserves a Medal of Honor.
 
Anyways, I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday and a great weekend. I’ll be back to blogging more regularly now that things are calming down a tad, so I’ll be seeing more of you wonderful, lovely people soon. Here’s hoping your week is off to a good start!
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