The Trouble With Having an Even Vaguely Unusual Name

When I was growing up, I thought my name was fairly manageable and easy to pronounce. Lillian didn’t seem all that hard, and my last name, a good Irish surname, isn’t common — but it is phoenetic. It’s pretty straightforward, or so I thought. But, as it turns out, this assumption was completely untrue. Apparently my name is not unlike this train station in Wales!

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch-railway-station-sign-2011-09-21-GR2_1837a

This has taken many hilarious forms over the years; when I was little, Lillian was a sufficiently old-school name that receptionists in doctor’s offices would routinely remark that they’d expected an old woman when they called the name Lillian, but look at me, I was just a child! (THE SHOCK.)

As I’ve gotten older, people have become less shocked by the fact that someone named Lillian could be younger than 90, and have instead been totally unable to wrap their minds around the name Lillian at all. I’ve been called Lorraine, Luann, Lauren…basically, if it involves an L at the beginning and an N somewhere near the end, people have thought it might just be my first name.

And, for some real fun, sometimes the L or the N don’t even make the cut. Behold the following examples:

IMG_0113          IMG_0023

Sillion and Nalin. There’s broad consensus among my friends and family that Sillion is the most apropos mangling imaginable, since I have been known to be silly. (But this has only happened, like, maybe twice in my life. I’m otherwise extremely serious. I don’t even like smiling!) Nalin, though? I don’t know what to do with that.

And if you think that’s bad, things get particularly gnarly when my last name is involved. When I was in undergrad, I was looking for off-campus housing and calling around to leasing companies near campus. I’d leave my name and number, as requested — and when people called back, there was usually a long pause in there message before they sputtered out some bastardized version of my name. My favorite, though, was thus:

“Hi, I’m calling for…um…Luann McFireman?”

Yes, friends: Luann McFireman. Because obviously there’s a whole batch of last names that involve the title of first responders, preceded by a “Mc” prefix. Did you know that I’m a distant relative of the McParamedics? And I definitely shouldn’t marry into the McPolice family, because we’re third cousins twice removed. SMH.

More recently, when I had a birthday party a few years ago at a restaurant in DC, I called a week in advance to make the reservation, since I knew it was going to be a fairly sizable group. The restaurant called me a few days before to confirm that it was still on, and I called the night before to make sure everything was still good.

So you can imagine my shock when, in a cab on my way to the restaurant, one of my friends called and said “Dude, they don’t have your reservation.”

Um, no. This was patently false. I’d spoken to them three times about my reservation. There was no way they didn’t have it. Sure enough, when I got there I looked through their reservation book for my phone number. I found it, and when I looked at the name next to it, I had to try exceedingly hard to contain my laughter: Gloria Necternan.

I mean, I can totally imagine misunderstanding my last name, even though I’d spelled it out for them — background noise can make it hard to hear well over the phone. But Gloria? Where did they even get that?

Gloria Necternan has become my go-to nickname among my friends in DC; occasionally I’ll roll up to meet people for dinner and be greeted by a rousing “Gloria Necternan! Good to see you!” The worst part is, Brandon once decided to see if his phone’s voice command function would do anything with this — and it worked. “Call Gloria Necternan,” he said into his phone while grinning like the Cheshire cat…and moments later, my phone started ringing. Sigh.

Clearly this is just something I have to live with, since the name confusion won’t likely be clearing up anytime soon. I can, however, go back to my old tactic of using a pseudonym whenever I’m getting carry-out or hitting up Starbucks: nobody messes up when I say that my name is Elizabeth.

Cool Things Are *Happening,* People!

I have a long history of being easily amused. Okay, so it’s actually to a ridiculous degree – as in, I’ve been known to bound out of bed on a Monday morning because I have a new kind of coffee or tea to try out. (And, considering my general enmity towards Monday mornings, this is saying a lot.)

So, considering this particular quirk, last week involved two discoveries that made things pretty awesome.

First, I found out that Starbucks is now offering coconut milk as an option for the dairy-free crowd. I’m trying to avoid dairy when I can, and soy and I just don’t jive – so I’ve been hoping and praying for aaaaaaaages that Starbies would get on board and find another non-dairy, non-soy option.

(A quick disclaimer/caveat: I know chai lattes aren’t the healthiest things in the world, so they’re not on heavy rotation in my life. However, I like to try and get them on Fridays – it’s a “Yay, self, you made it through the week!” self-care thing. I’ve also been known to do this if I’m having an exceptionally crappy day, since a chai will keep me from merely slogging through until close of business while being tired and cranky. In these circumstances, I figure the less-than-super-healthy chai latte is absolutely worth it.)

Anyways, they started offering coconut milk on February 17th, but since we had Tuesday off work on account of the snow (yaaaaaaay!) I wasn’t able to take part in the coconut milk revolution until the end of the week. But when I did? Sweet fancy Moses. In case anyone is wondering, coconut milk chai lattes are fantastic.

IMG_0021-001

As for my second awesome discovery, I was perusing this month’s InStyle magazine – which is slightly ironic, in the sense that I love fashion but a) wear really basic clothes in real life, b) more or less live in yoga pants during the weekend, and c) pretty much refuse to shop anywhere other than Marshall’s and Target – when I saw that The Limited is offering a whole line of clothes based on Olivia Pope.

YOU GUYS.

As anyone who watches Scandal knows, Liv’s wardrobe is to die for. (Side note: is anyone else sick of the Liv-n-Fitz Eternal Angst and Drama motif? Sh*t or get off the pot, you two.)

Granted, I can’t afford these threads (like I said: Target and Marshall’s 4-EVAH) – but if any of you are in the market for some new clothes and spend as much time admiring Kerry Washington’s Scandal wardrobe as I do, this is like a goldmine of awesomeness. I mean, this dress?

Scandal Dress

If I were 30 pounds thinner and psychologically able to handle the idea of spending $170 on a dress, I’d buy two of this. Not even kidding.

So, all this is to say that between the snow day, coconut milk chai, and the mere existence of an Olivia Pope line at The Limited, it was a fairly exciting week. What’s happening in your world?

Finally, Useful Snow!

Upon moving back to DC a few years ago, I came up with a new way to describe snow. I’d love to say that it’s something lovely and heart-warming, like poetically describing the difference between light, fluffy snow and dense, heavy snow that creates amazing snow forts/people/balls.

But it’s not. Rather, I’ve come to classify snow as being either useful or useless.

And there is but one simple criterion for this: whether or not the snow causes a delay or cancellation of work. Useful snow enables sleeping in and lollygagging around the apartment, whereas useless snow is dead to me. I don’t even want to look at you, useless snow.

Now, I know this makes no sense, but allow me to explain: I’m from Colorado, where the snow is a source of fantastic outdoor, mountainous recreation — and where the extreme cold never lasts for long. Snowstorms and ski days interspersed between multi-day stretches of sunny 50 degree weather is a fantastic way to do winter. If you’re going to live in a place where it snows, this is the way to do things.

In DC, though, it’s flat. And miserably cold. So, if it’s going to snow, I want it to be enough to call off (or, at a minimum, delay) work. Instead, this winter has been a combination of my all-time least favorite weather patterns: bitter cold, powerful winds, and a total lack of useful snow. This means that we all venture out into the bone-chilling cold of the early morning commute, walking diagonally into the window-rattling wind, so we’re able to get to work on time; around 10:30 some start to contemplate a Starbucks run but quickly abandon the idea, because even non-cafeteria coffee isn’t enough to lure them into the elements for the 4-minute walk to Starbies; and then, in the evening, trudge home in the same cold and wind that cut you to the bone. Our struggle is real, you guys.

Milton cold

But! I started having hope last week when local meteorologists began talking about a possible Presidents’ Day snowstorm. I held my breath (metaphorically, obviously) and crossed my fingers: could it be legit? Might we wind up with a four-day weekend? To quote Talladega Nights, please, sweet 6 lb. 8 oz. newborn baby Jesus, let us get a snow day.

And lo, my prayers were answered! The snow started yesterday afternoon, and it started sticking right away. It was forecast to continue throughout the night, and as Brandon and I ate dinner last night, my phone was buzzing with notices about all the local school districts being closed today. I was obsessively looking at my phone, waiting for The Big One (aka: the federal government’s operating status) when finally it arrived: CLOSED ON TUESDAY! Happy dance!

So, I’m happy to say that I’ve spent my morning drinking tea while reading InStyle, and I’m about to hit up the gym for a long workout. Thank you, useful snow, for this glorious extra day off!

A New Look + Some Updates

This weekend was busier than I’d anticipated, so I didn’t get a chance to do much in the way of writing. I did, however, update the template for the site — it’s a bit cleaner than the old one, and it’s cheaper to boot. A win-win, in my book.

So! Since I spent more time managing the aesthetics of the blog than I did with a writing exercise or even just dumping my random thoughts into WordPress, here’s a compilation of things happening lately.

I made these amazing Thai sweet potato veggie burgers from Oh She Glows. They’re gluten-free when made with GF oat flour, and they’re incredible. I amended the recipe a bit, so they don’t hold together as well as hers — but that’s ok in my book, actually, because I wound up combining them with sauteed kale and mixing it all up into a bowl full of steaming deliciousness. Sweet fancy Moses, they’re amazing.  By way of further endorsement, every time I warmed them up for my lunch at work, random people would walk by my office and go “Ohhhhhh my God, that smells amazing. What is that?!” If you’re looking for something to keep you warm and full, I highly recommend them.

Also, this almost happened last week. I was thwarted by some logistics (namely that I can’t bring dogs past the security guards outside my building, and there was no enclosed park to play in), but for a brief, shining moment in time, I was crawling out of my skin with excitement over the mere idea of seeing a pack of puppies. Since it didn’t, I’m back to being a total creeper around other peoples’ dogs. This is how I look every time I’m in the elevator with a random person’s dog:

let-me-love-you

Over the weekend we had one glorious day of warm weather and sunshine before winter came roaring back. It was 65 and sunny on Sunday, so I abandoned all my other plans in favor of a lumber in the great outdoors. You guys, I *so* want to be able to run outdoors all the time. Weather in DC isn’t conducive to it at all, since it’s God-awful hot in the summer, equally God-awful cold and rainy in the winter. Clearly I need to move to SoCal, or someplace where the weather is equally magical. Anyways, I loooooooved my 3 1/2 10-minute miles. (Side note: when I got back, Brandon noted that I had, in the words of Magic Johnson’s basketball commentary, “worked up a good lather.” Despite doing just over a 5K at a pace nowhere near race-worthy, I  still managed to schvitz like a wildebeest.)

I also just discovered a website that I already adore: Trying to be Good, which is hysterically funny, poignant, and an awesome dose of real talk. Anyone who feels feelings and appreciates humor should read it.

Anyways, that’s a brief update — I’ll be back later this week with real writing!

Tikkun Olam (Hopefully Without Feeling Like a Creeper)

In the lead-up to my birthday last week, I found myself thinking about what I want to achieve this year. This wasn’t like making new year’s resolutions, since I loathe those with the fire of a thousand suns, and for various reasons: my illustrious history of sacrificing my well-being in pursuit of a goal (please refer to exhibit A: high school and the college admissions process), the fact that most resolutions are things you could choose to do at any point in the year, the fact that the whole idea of new year’s resolutions is a weird, fabricated, and artificially-imposed social construct that people seem to do because they feel obligated to participate…well. Suffice it to say, new year’s resolutions — to quote Austin Powers — aren’t my bag, baby.

Given that my stance on new year’s resolutions falls somewhere between “how I feel about migraines” and “how I feel about Nazis,” it’s probably surprising that I was thinking about what I want to achieve during the next year — but, as it turns out, I do really like finding an over-arching goal or purpose for my next trip around the sun.

The more I thought about it, the more the answer became clear as that still, small voice in my head repeated: tikkun olam. To explain what this is, here’s what I posted to Facebook that day:

A Jewish philosophy translated as “repairing the world,” tikkun olam is a long-standing love of mine. Human history is littered with astonishing levels of cruelty and destruction, and although I believe we’re moving in the right direction, we have a long way to go.

So, my hope is this: that we can all work towards building empathy instead of judgment, compassion instead of intolerance, creativity and repair instead of destruction, and patience instead of anger. Let’s give more hugs. Let’s do more charitable work, whether through donations or volunteering. Let’s make each other laugh. Let’s cut each other some slack, because everyone, whether you know it or not, is fighting a hard battle.

Let’s contribute to repairing the world, in whatever way we can — because each contribution, each random act of kindness, and each moment of empathy is important.

As it turns out, my efforts  to do this are a bit more awkward than I’d hoped. (I’ll pause here and express my amusement about the fact that I’m continually surprised by my own awkwardness. This should’ve stopped being surprising to me a looooooooong time ago, but somehow it always pops up and leaves me going “Wait, WHAT? Awkward? Me? Well…yeah. That’s actually quite plausible. Ok, it’s highly likely. Upon further inspection, it’s basically inevitable.”)

On my birthday, I’d planned to use the free birthday drink loaded onto my Starbucks card to purchase a drink for a random stranger. But, as it turns out, the random stranger has to be there, in the flesh, and ordering their drink in order for you to use the free drink on someone else. This has potential to be spectacularly awkward and tremendously creepy. There was a dude behind me in line, and when I looked over in his direction to see if I could get away with doing this in a non-awkward, non-creepy way, the look of apprehension on his face quickly answered that question for me.

So I bought myself a marshmallow dream bar. (For those who may be wondering, they’re both gluten-free and delicious. It didn’t do anything to help repair the world, but it did make my taste buds happy.)

marshmallow_dream_Bar_starbucks
Not my photo – via misterbelly.com

Then a few days ago, I was getting a cup of tea from a coffee vendor near my office. The two women in line behind me were having a long conversation; one had apparently just broken up with her live-in boyfriend, and she was understandably upset. Just as I was paying for my chai, the newly-single woman broke down into tears.

Y’all. I think most of us have been through wretched break-ups. I think most of us can agree that they’re abjectly miserable, and that having an acutely broken heart makes you feel like you may never breathe normally — let alone laugh — ever again.

Before I could think about whether or not this, like my Starbucks attempt, would make me look slightly insane, I turned around and offered to buy her a coffee. “I’ve been through bad breakups too,” I said, “and I know how much it sucks. Please let me buy you a coffee.” I told her that it’s awful now, but that it gets better — and then I felt like I was probably being weird, so I decided it was time to walk away.

As I walked back to my office, I started to reflect on the situation. At first, I worried that I might have come across as a hideously weird old lady. But then I realized: who cares if I did? I’d rather do something nice and look like an idiot than not do something nice at all. Random acts of kindness towards strangers are precisely that: interactions with people I’m probably never going to see again. If they think I’m weird for doing something nice, then so be it.

That also led me to wonder: what is it about modern culture that makes niceness so suspect? Why am I even in a position of feeling like people might think I’m creepy or mildly insane for offering to do something nice? It’s not like I’m standing there, wild-eyed and desperate for human interaction, while I offer to tell them about my latest surgery and 27 cats. If that were the case, apprehension would be totally understandable. But it’s not (to the best of my knowledge, at least) — and yet, I got really self-conscious about it.

So, I’ve decided not to worry about whether I look like a complete fool in my tikkun olam efforts, because the fact is, this is something that needs to be done.

So, tell me: have you ever been in a similar situation? Do you feel like strangers doing random nice things for others are greeted with suspicion or gratitude? Or is this just a DC thing?

Feels Like Home

This post got me thinking about the idea of home — and the idea that while I’ve lived a great many places, very few have felt like my own. We moved around a few times when I was growing up, so the concept of home became very (ok, incredibly) important to me. Home wasn’t just where I slept; it had to feel like home in addition to being a structure that I happened to live in.

One of the pitfalls of being a millennial who lives and works in an expensive city is that home ownership isn’t in the cards for me. Instead, I’m a serial renter: a few years here, a few years there. All told, I’ve lived in four different places in the DC area over the last ten years.

Apartments tend not to feel like home for most people, and generally speaking, that has been true for me too — with one huge exception. My apartment in Denver, which I rented while I was in grad school, was glorious.

When I moved back to Colorado (where I grew up) for school, I was basically on the brink of exploding with excitement. I was excited about my grad program, and I was doubly excited to be living in Denver. I began to look for apartments near campus, though, and my excitement started to wane a bit.

I didn’t need a big space; I wanted a studio apartment, but I couldn’t find anything smaller than a one-bedroom.

I wanted a controlled-access building, since this was going to be my first-ever solo apartment, but I couldn’t find one to save my life.

I didn’t need anything fancy, but every place within my price range had shag carpet that hadn’t been cleaned since the Nixon Administration.

My mom and I drove around for two days, finding nothing but places that didn’t fit my parameters. Just when I was thinking I might need to bite the bullet and compromise, I saw a Craigslist ad for a studio condo near my school. The price was right, so I decided to get more information.

An hour later, the landlord, Tony, gave me a tour of what would wind up being my home for the next two years: a gorgeous, newly renovated studio in a controlled-access building, replete with decorative finishes that I never would’ve thought were possible in a place I could afford on a grad school budget. I was sold. He even reduced the monthly rate if I was willing to sign a two-year lease. Done and done, my friends.

And oh, did I love that place. It had soft pink halogen lights spanning the ceiling and highlighting a brushed steel panel against one wall. The kitchen and bathroom fabulous. There were sliding glass doors that led to a wide, spacious balcony where I spent many hours doing yoga, working on presentations, or reading under the shade of the tree growing next to the building. It felt like my home from the moment I walked in.

The feeling of home wasn’t the only thing that made this apartment so awesome. It was there that, after living with other people for all of my 25 years, I finally had a place of my own. I lived there under my own rules, and I got to let my idiosyncracies run the show.

Did I want to watch Law & Order for 5 hours on a Saturday morning during spring break? Yes, I did. Did I turn up Madonna and Britney while cleaning or doing the dishes? Indeed. Did I want to cook random meals for no other reason than the fact that they sounded good? You betcha. Did I want to take a break from writing papers by either somersaulting across the room or having an impromptu dance party? Heck yeah. And I didn’t need to ask anyone for permission to do any of those things.

When I finished grad school two years later, I decided to move out to North Carolina to be with the guy I was dating while I waited for my job in DC to come through. (Side note: this turned out to be a disasterous decision.) I was verklempt while packing up my apartment, even though I knew it was time for me to go. The space was tiny, yes, but I had loved it dearly.

On the day I moved out, my parents arrived with a moving van to help gather up my stuff. As they drove up, dark and ominous clouds rolled in — and these were dark and ominous even by the standards of Colorado summer thunderstorms. We tried to beat the rain, but as soon as we walked towards the door with the first load of stuff to go into the truck, a flash of white light was immediately followed by a thunderclap so loud that it shook the building. And with that, the skies opened up into a a downpour so torrential we could barely see across the street.

I try not to read meaning into random events, but it absolutely felt like a sign. It was as if my ancestors, who were among Denver’s first inhabitants, were telling me not to go. “Stay here,” they seemed to say, “In this city you love and this apartment that feels like it was made for you.”

Two months later, I was back in Colorado (like I said, the North Carolina thing wound up being a complete disaster) and staying with my parents. I went to Denver every week or so to see friends, and every time I went, I’d go on autopilot and find myself parking in front of my old apartment building.

I once got as far as the building’s front door, perplexed by why my keys weren’t unlocking it, before I realized I didn’t live there anymore.

Even now, almost seven years after I moved out, I still think of that apartment, how much I loved it, and how lucky I was to have had it basically fall into my lap at exactly the right time.

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!

 

image
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!

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.  

 

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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!