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!

Don’t Call It a Comeback*

*Nah, it’s actually fine to call it a comeback.  That’s pretty legit, actually.

Welp, it looks like I pulled a disappearing act again. I’m like Houdini, but with less magic!

Truth be told, after all the messiness of 2013, in 2014 I found that my creative mojo decided to take a prolonged leave of absence. (I think it didn’t like the extreme stress and decided to move to Aruba. I can’t say blame the poor thing.)

Being in survival mode led to very little in the way of creative output, so even after my last couple posts, I struggled to come up with something — anything, really — to write about. I’d sit down at the computer and basically drool on myself, then give up and go watch TV. Basically, writer’s block has been following my around like a puppy with the world’s worst case of separation anxiety. I wish it were an actual puppy, because at least then it would be cute. So, I guess it’s better to say that it’s been more like a barnacle with separation anxiety: scratchy and uncomfortable, and seemingly permanently affixed.

During that time, though, I’ve been desperately missing creative work generally and writing specifically. Writing has been like an old, dear friend throughout my life, and this persistent case of writer’s block has been like having that dear friend disappear into thin air.

So, reviving the blog signals the beginning of my effort to lure that dear friend – aka my creative mojo – back from its sojourn in Aruba.

I’ve put together a long list of writing prompts, and my plan is to post my responses to those prompts here a couple times per week. A public creative writing exercise, if you will. Those responses will likely be interspersed with random thoughts, somewhat coherent musings, and updates on life — but by and large, my goal is to help myself get back into the groove of writing, if only to prove to myself that my writer’s block isn’t permanent. I need to know that my creative mojo is still in here somewhere, at least in some small measure, and that it didn’t permanently relocate to a gorgeous beach where it’s now sitting in a hammock while drinking a piña colada from a coconut. (Yes, friends: in my mind’s eye, this is exactly what it’s been up to.) This cowgirl needs to get back in the saddle.

Before I do that, though, I have some updates:

– I had my most recent biopsy in September, and – drumroll, please – everything’s back to normal! This was cause for serious celebration, as you can imagine. With apologies for the impending TMI, the next task is for me to get knocked up as soon as possible, since a successful pregnancy is protective against recurrence. (There’s also that whole “I’ll be 34 in a few weeks and am quickly approaching that magical ‘advanced maternal age'” thing too. So, y’know, time is of the essence.) Think happy pregnancy thoughts for us/send baby dust/allow me to hug any super-fertile women out there.

– My dad got a great new job in Texas, so my parents have relocated to the State With Which No One Should Mess. I never in eleventy billion years would’ve thought my parents would leave Colorado, but they did – and lo and behold, their new setup is pretty fantastic. We went to visit them earlier this month, and it was lovely. Not to mention the fact that having my parents live 3 hours from Brandon’s is awfully convenient!

So, those are the big-ticket items going on in my world.  I’m excited about this new writing project (we need to come up with a formal Operation name for this…hmmmm) and, hopefully, the triumphant return of my creative mojo!

With that in mind, tell me: what’s new and exciting in your world? What have I missed out on while I was away from the blogosphere?
 

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!

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!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? (Or, Why I’ve Been AWOL from the Blogosphere for Three Months)

So, as y’all may or may not have noticed, I’ve been on an extended hiatus from blogging lately. And by “extended,” I mean three months. Which, in the blogging world, is basically an eternity. (I don’t know if I even have readers anymore. Is anyone out there? Please come back?)

This wasn’t a hiatus that I’d expected or wanted to take; to the contrary, on the day of my last post, I had every intention of blogging merrily along. Life, however, had some other plans.

As you might recall, starting in late May I had some fairly serious, shall we say, lady-troubles. I wound up having a uterine polyp removed in early July, which solved the Flaming Lady-Troubles of Death problem – but as it turns out, the story didn’t end there.

On July 11, my OB/GYN called to give me the results of the pathology report on the polyp. Fact: when your doctor starts the conversation by saying “The results of your path report were really, really surprising,” you know that things are about to go in an unpleasant direction.

As it turned out, the polyp was playing hostess to a party-crashing group of cancer cells. Um, WTF?

The bad news: Multiple pathologists had confirmed the presence of cancer in the polyp.

The good news: The cancer cells were very early-stage, low-grade, and non-aggressive. In other words, it’s highly treatable.

 

You are stronger than you think.

 

Endometrial cancer usually shows up in post-menopausal women, so the normal course of treatment is a hysterectomy. Being 32 and still wanting to have children, however, is a game-changer.  In the interest of preserving my fertility, my OB/GYN and gynecologic oncologist opted for three months of high-dose hormone treatment, followed by another round of tests to see if the hormones had knocked out any remaining cancer cells.

The hormone treatment does the trick 80% of the time – so as you can imagine, my fingers are crossed that I’m part of that 80% and can thus hold off on yanking my baby-making bits (for now, at least, since it’ll all need to go once my child-bearing days have passed).

When I first got the news, though, I was in complete shock. I was at work when I got the call, and I very nearly vomited on my desk. My whole body shook like mad as I wrote down everything my doctor said. My handwriting looked like that of a six-year-old.

I mean, I’m young, I eat well, I exercise – how could my body just go rogue like that? (Side bar for a brief public service announcement: ladies and gents [if the dudes haven’t gotten grossed out and stopped reading, that is], if anything seems off or just generally out of whack with your body, go to the doctor. Get it checked. It’s never, ever a waste of time to make sure that nothing sinister is going on.)

My doctor, luckily, was and is incredibly compassionate. Over and over, she gently told me that I’d done nothing wrong, and that there was nothing I could’ve done differently to keep this from happening. It was a case of a hereditary genetic mutation gone awry and plain bad luck.

I started the hormone treatment that night – endometrial cancer feeds on estrogen, so I take uber-high doses of progesterone twice a day – and began to wrap my head around the fact that this really was happening.

 

Look forward with hope quote via Alanna Chasin (AKA the Dog Buddha)

 

The process of wrapping my head around the situation took a while, and the fact that it took me a long time to feel up to writing about this came as a bit of a surprise. Writing and exercise have always been my go-to forms of DIY therapy. Writing is my catharsis, my release, and my home. And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

A bit part of why I didn’t write until now is the fact that I don’t want to be forever branded as a cancer patient. I was torn between wanting to let people know what’s going on and my deep desire not to be labeled as “Lillian, that chick who has cancer.”

Now, I also want to note that there’s no right or wrong way to deal with the Big C. There are people who take great comfort in being part of a community of current patients and survivors, and those communities are often wonderful sources of support. There are also a lot of people who find tremendous purpose, meaning, and hope through activism and other activities. More power to all these folks! Many of them are doing amazing and inspiring work, and they deserve a ton of credit for what they do.

For me, though, my visceral reaction was – and is – that I want to get through this, get better, and put it all behind me. I don’t want cancer to be the focal point of my life or my writing.

So, while the issue of the rogue elements in my baby-making parts will certainly show up here from time to time (especially since I have my next  round of tests coming up next week), it isn’t going to be the sole focus of this little slice of the blogosphere.  I continue to love – and will continue to write about – normal things like food and fitness, as well as generally inane things like celeb gossip, cosmetics, and flavored coffee. It’s all good.

And, most of all, it’s good to be back.

Gettin’ My Goal-Setting On: Goals for June, the Summer, and the Big Picture

Ok, so I know I’ve mentioned this before, but…seriously, how can it possibly be June already?!

I’m flabbergasted, y’all. Bewildered. Thunderstruck. How did this happen? Didn’t Brandon and I move into our new place, like, a month ago? Insert sigh of astonishment here.

Astonishment aside, now that it’s June and summer is finally upon us, I started thinking about the things I’d like to accomplish during this month and beyond.

Making goals can be a tricky business. If they’re huge or unrealistic, it can feel like abject failure if they’re not achieved (especially if you’d have to be Superwoman on steroids to even come close to achieving them). Similarly, sometimes goals can change as we get more information/learn more/have more experiences – and, despite the good intentions of so many motivational speakers out there who carry on about never giving up, pushing harder, and doing more, all those messages can make a change of course feel like a failure.

Personally, I had that particular motif going on for a long time last year: I felt like a total failure for having worked so hard for so long, only to find out that the career I’d always wanted isn’t the right thing for me.

But then I realized: I had a change of heart because I have more information now than I did when I started out down this road, not because I’m a waste of resources who didn’t try hard enough. My old goals were informed by what I knew at the time, and what I learned over the course of the next 10 years led me to a very different conclusion than the one I’d reached when I was 22. This isn’t a personal failing on my part – instead, it’s simply due to the collection of many more data points that hadn’t been available to me before.

In any event, all that is to say that it’s important to remain flexible in goal setting. By staying flexible, we can amend our goals to account for new data – new information, new experiences, and new circumstances that we hadn’t been aware of before.

As for my own shiny new goals (jazz hands!), I broke them out into June goals, summer goals, and long-term goals, simply because putting them into one big list would make me feel overwhelmed like woah. I don’t know about y’all, but for me, overwhelm quickly leads to total paralysis, which means I accomplish a whole lot of nada, which makes me feel even more overwhelmed, which leads to me accomplishing even less. It’s a vicious cycle.

Ergo: lists upon lists, broken out by time frame!

 

June goals:

  • Plant an herb garden on the porch
  • Find some good GF granola recipes that I can reliably use each week (this is part of an effort to save some dolla dolla billz on groceries, because my beloved Udi’s GF granola costs a pretty penny)

 

Summer goals:

  • Form two new habits:
    • Lift 3x per week
    • Planning out and drafting blog posts on the weekend so I can have more time during the week; we do this with our meal plans, so I’d like to do the same with blog posts
  • Make GF everything bagels — I miss everything bagels like mad, but I have yet to see them sold anywhere. So, I’m going to have to take on this task myself!
  • Hike the Manitou Incline when I’m in Colorado on vacation
  • Figure out a cost-effective way to promote the blog (if any of you lovely people have any suggestions/ideas/guidance, I’m all ears!)

 

Long-term goals:

  • Continue saving money – we’ve been working on this, and it’s going well so far. I’d eventually like to open a CD or high-yield savings account too.
  • Write, write, write…with the objective of eventually being able to make it my job:
    • Continually build readership on the blog
    • Eventually get to the point where I have enough readers to warrant sponsorships, ad revenue, etc.
    • Pick up freelance writing jobs
  • Start a family
  • Explore the idea of setting up an Etsy page in order to sell some of the collages I love so much. I don’t think of myself as an artist, because I can’t draw/paint to save my life — but I do love these collages. I don’t think I’d make much (or any) moolah off of this little venture, but it’d be a fun creative outlet.
  • Learn how to do my own graphic design in Photoshop

 

What are your goals – for this month, the summer, and the big picture?

Which ones excite you the most/make you the happiest?

Do you break your goals out into short-, mid-, and long-term lists?

MIMM: One Lovely Blog Award

Monday has returned…replete with wintery slop.

Gross Weather
THIS IS NOT OKAY.

WTF, Monday? What’s next? Are you planning to commemorate the beginning of Passover by bringing your Biblical plague homies (frogs, pestilence, locusts, etc.) to DC for the day? I mean, wintery slop is fairly miserable on its own, but it’d be a lot more amusing if it were accompanied by a downpour of frogs. At least then maybe work would get cancelled?

Biblical plagues aside, though, there are two things making my Monday look brighter: Marvelous in My Monday, hosted by Katie at Healthy Diva Eats, and the fact that I was nominated for my first blog award, thanks to the amazing Meghan of After the Ivy League!

In true DC fashion, I’ll say this: a pajama-clad happy dance may or may not have taken place when I saw that she’d nominated me. Further, I can neither confirm nor deny any allegations of said happy dance.

But whatevs, the happy dance totally happened.

So ok, the One Lovely Blog rules are to share seven random things about yourself and then nominate seven other bloggers. And, um, I think I’m pretty well equipped to rise to the challenge of being random.

…Because I’ve never been random on here before. Once. Ever. In just the same way that I’m never, ever sarcastic.

One-Lovely-Blog

Ok, so…random facts:

1) Brandon and I had a Borat-themed wedding. I’m not kidding. When we were wedding planning, prospective vendors would want to know what our wedding’s theme was. They’d throw out suggestions like princesses, fairy tales, Romeo & Juliet (ok, why do people choose this as a wedding theme? Romeo & Juliet is a tragedy. They both wind up dead.), and the rest of the conversation would usually go like this:

Me: Um, our theme is Borat.

Vendor: *Stunned silence*

Me: You know, Borat? The movie? Sacha Baron Cohen? Yekshimesh? High five?

Vendor: *Crickets*

Me: Hello? Are you still there?

Vendor: *Sputters in horrified disbelief*

We even had a wedding sack so we could re-enact the scene where Borat tries to bag and marry Pamela Anderson:

IMG_9041
That’s me, getting bagged and carried out of our wedding reception by my beloved.

2) I absolutely loathe fish. I mean, I can’t even handle the smell of it, or anything else that comes from the ocean. I want to like fish, because I know it’s really good for you — in the same way that I want to like tomatoes and cucumbers, which are super nutritious but also high on my “I’ll barf before I eat this” list (which is a big deal, considering that I’m mortally terrified of barfing and will do anything to avoid it) — but every time I try fish, I’m unspeakably grossed out. Even the smell of it makes me want to run away. So, my apologies to my brain cells for all the omega-3s I won’t be consuming through fish.

3) I’m incredibly OCD-like in my cleaning and organizational habits. I can’t sleep when I know the apartment is messy, unmade beds drive me to the brink of insanity, and I get all twitchy and agitated if my stuff is disorganized. It’s all a coping mechanism, though: when left to my own devices, I’m absent-minded, forgetful, and generally a hot mess. So, my rigid stance on cleanliness and organization is basically the only thing standing between me and total dysfunction.

4) I miss the West like woah. Every time I see a picture of the Colorado, Texas, or the Rocky Mountains, I get that “Why is someone trying to rip my beating heart out of my chest?” feeling before realizing that, no, it’s just crushing homesickness.

This is where I grew up, and I can confirm that DC ain’t got nuthin’ compared to the Rocky Mountains. (Image source: http://www.cheyennemountain.com)

5) I cannot — CANNOT — handle horror movies in any form. Scream, the movie that most of my friends thought was so campy as to be considered comedy instead of horror, made me terrified to answer the phone for weeks. Legit horror films aren’t even a vague possibility for me, as they’ll instill unspeakable terror in me for way too long. A colleague once told me the plot line for Paranormal Activity, and yours truly had to sleep with multiple nightlights on for at least the next four days. No lie. It’s a really good thing Brandon and I hadn’t started dating yet, because that almost certainly would’ve sent him running for the hills.

Couldn’t have said it better myself, my furry compatriot in horror movie avoidance.

6) When I was in London last fall for work, I took a few hours to go to Westminster Abbey. While walking around, I happened to see a plaque listing the names of various barons and other types who were buried there…only to find the name of one of my ancestors staring up at me. I wigged out, insofar as one can very quietly and respectfully wig out in Westminster Abbey.

7) I love doing accent impersonations. I can mimic Russian, Middle Eastern, French, British, Southern, Upper Midwest, and Jersey accents, and I wish I had time to take an improv comedy class so I could put this random skill to use. Since I don’t have time now, let’s just assume that I’ll be yukking it up in a retirement community circa 2046.

And now, to nominate seven other bloggers! All these are blogs that I’ve recently discovered but really enjoy — so to all those I’m nominating, I apologize if this is the blogging equivalent of a creepy blind date where the guy calls you 5 minutes after you get home.

1) Stephanie @ Riverside Baking
2) Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie
3) Kate @ Quarter Century Southern Living
4) Sara @ The Life Effect
5) The awesome, hilarious women @ A Confederacy of Spinsters
6) Caitlin @ The Siren’s Tale
7) Jorie @ The Midwest Maven

Anyways, it’s now time for me to hit the gym – and here’s a hint as to today’s entertainment while sweating it out on the elliptical:

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=6f94ded14d&view=att&th=13da113e4127d87a&attid=0.1&disp=inline&realattid=760f0cf529cf9d8e_0.1&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P-TYtb2Y1y1ya4X0X6A7vFj&sadet=1364207099159&sads=N9Qf3Dhds1kELTtotVQx9HC4EuM
I REGRET NOTHING.

Hope you all have an awesome Monday!

WIAW: Spring Chicken

Ok, so: I woke up this morning thinking it was Tuesday. For about 30 seconds, I was seriously bummed out and was all “Omigod, it can’t only be Tuesday. It seriously feels like Wednesday.” Then, as I groggily stumbled around the kitchen getting my coffee ready, I realized: it is Wednesday!

Insert huuuuuuge sigh of relief here.

Since it’s Wednesday (thank God), it’s time for What I Ate Wednesday, hosted by the lovely Jenn of Peas & Crayons. Oh, and because I’m inordinately excited about the arrival of spring (despite the persistently wintery weather that’s all up in our grill in DC), I have a few spring flower pictures to throw into the mix. Rest assured, though: I didn’t eat said flowers, despite their presence in a post dedicated to showcasing what I ate.

But I digress.

Like last week, this is a bit of a mash-up of my meals of late — and you’ll notice a theme here: chicken. I love, love, love chicken. My mom said she was once at a baby shower where they played a game of identifying baby foods based solely on smell, and that she was immediately able to identify anything involving chicken. Apparently I chowed down on insane amounts of it when I was a wee lass. As she tells it, I’d eat almost anything — as long as it involved chicken. As you see from these meals, that trend continues today.

wiawgoesgreenBreakfasts:

As always, I begin my day with coffee (aka: nectar of the gods). I looove nut-flavored coffees, and either amaretto or hazelnut flavored coffee will have me drooling like one of Pavlov’s dogs in a matter of seconds.

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Almond Joy coffee with amaretto creamer: basically the only thing that keeps me sane at 5 a.m.

I normally have my beloved green smoothie, but yesterday I tried using organic baby kale from Earthbound Organics instead of my usual full-leaf kale. EPIC FAIL! It tasted awful. I mean, it was so bad that I made a face and violently shook my head in disgust each time I took a sip. I tried to fix it, but it was truly a lipstick-on-a-dying-pig situation: no amount of fruit, yogurt, or honey could redeem it. I tried holding my nose when I drank it, but the then aftertaste lingered in a truly heinous way.

At that point, I realized it was time to throw in the towel on the failed smoothie and just eat something else. Sooooo, I had some Cinnamon Chex with almond milk. If there’s one place where I can always find solace, it’s in a box of Cinnamon Chex.

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Oh, and we had no clean cereal bowls, so I went slightly ghetto-fabulous and had it in a glass instead. I figure this either looks super-classy and stylish or super-ridiculous and lame. I can’t decide which one it is.

Other breaky offerings have included egg whites with GF toast, and, prior to the baby kale fail, the usual green smoothie:

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Never again, baby kale. Never again.

Oh hai, here’s a random picture of some pretty flowers!

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So purdy!

Lunches:

I’ve been on a soup kick lately, which has included chicken and rice soup with added spinach.

WIAW: 6 Days Until Christmas!
This is a low-maintenance dish: I took pre-made GF chicken and rice soup and added some frozen chopped spinach. Et voila: lunch.

This weekend, though, we had rotisserie chicken from Costco (seriously, they have some of the best rotisserie chickens ever) with organic baby greens, raspberries, and avocado. It was soooooo effin’ delicious!

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SO MUCH DELICIOUS.

Dinners:

Dinners have run a wide gamut lately, since Brandon and I are trying a bunch of new recipes. We’ve had Moroccan-spiced chicken with a carrot and chickpea tagine, chicken crusted with za’atar and served with Greek salad (both of which come from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Fresh cookbook — she’s one of my favorite chefs, and her cookbooks are the bomb diggity), and tacos al carbon from a new Tex-Mex cookbook that we bought in an effort to soothe Brandon’s homesickness for Texas and our shared longing for good Mexican-ish food.

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Moroccan chicken with carrot-chickpea tagine
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Za’atar-crusted chicken with Greek salad

Oh hai, here’s another random picture of pretty flowers!

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Can I just say what a relief it is to see some pretty colors after months of dreary winter blah-ness?

Anywho, I hope you’re all having a lovely week — and, of course, happy Wednesday!

Have you ever had a smoothie go seriously wrong?  What’s your favorite kind of coffee?

Inspirational Women: Rebecca Yarros

Good morning, and happy it’s-not-Monday-anymore! After yesterday’s dreary weather, I’m looking forward to the impending return of the sun.

Adding to the general awesomeness is today’s Inspirational Women interview with the lovely Rebecca Yarros. Rebecca and I met in sixth grade, and we went to school together for three years. During that time, it became clear that she loved to write — her passion, drive, and ability were all blossoming into a real talent. I remember being impressed by her writing when we were in honors English together during our freshman year of high school; however, in all my teen angsty/insecure glory, instead of being proud of her, I was jealous. (Hey, adolescence is the seventh ring of hell. I’d like to be absolved of responsibility for all ridiculous behavior from 1993-1999 on the grounds of hormonal/angst-induced insanity.)

We lost touch after I moved away, but we reconnected on Facebook when I was in grad school. Rebecca is now a devoted Army wife (and her husband is a helicopter pilot, which is seriously badass) and the superhero mom of four boys.

She has also taken her gift — that tremendous talent for writing — and used it to pursue her dream of writing a book. After a ton of hard work, many late nights, and lots of proverbial blood, sweat, and tears, he’s now the proud author of a Young Adult novel, Aeolian. It hasn’t been an easy process, but she’s been incredibly determined in pursuing her dream. (You can read more about Rebecca, her blog, and her book on her website.)

Here’s her story.

Interview Questions

Q: What inspired you to take action towards your dream of writing a book?

A:  LILLIAN!!!!  First, I love you, so thank you for asking me to answer your interview.  You’ve always been one of the smartest, ambitious people I know, and I’m delighted to still be able to call you a friend 13 years after our sleep-over days.  The fact that you think I’m inspirational blows me away.

I’ve always loved writing.  I can remember taking short stories to slumber parties and jotting down plot ideas and characters in whatever notebook I had space in.  Books have always been my favorite place to spend my time.  Where else can you experience someone else’s perspective or life?  On my bucket list, which I rewrite every New Years, “Publish a book” has always been in my top 10. But as to when I finally said, “Yes, I’m going to write a book,” it actually came down to the Army.  When my husband deployed his first two times to Iraq, I read about a book a night, trying to keep myself distracted.  I can’t sleep when I know he’s on mission; it’s the most hellacious form of insomnia.  The third-go around, this time to Afghanistan, I decided to write instead of read.  I lost myself in the world I created and wrote until my eyes crossed from exhaustion.  By the time he came home from deployment, I nearly had “Aeolian” finished.

I finally went for it because I realized that if I wrote a page a day while he was gone, by the time he came home, I’d have a book.  Once I looked at it as a manageable goal, and not some Titan-like feat, it became a reachable possibility.  Plus, I have a kick-butt husband who told me to go for it.

 

Q: What have been the high points and the low points?

A:  Low points… oh geeze.  Writing means rejections, and a lot of them.  During the query process, trying to find an agent, it seemed like I was getting rejected every day.  There were lots of “Sorry this isn’t for me,” or “while well-written, it doesn’t fit my list” emails.  It got to the point where I would start hyperventilating when my email dinged.  Honestly, about a month before I was signed by my agent, I debating shelving Aeolian for a while and concentrating on my second book. It’s hard to get back up after each rejection and put yourself back out there again.  I sent out 32 queries over 11 months and received two full requests from awesome agents, one of whom I am blessed to have signed with. Looking back, I was on the smaller end of the spectrum, since I know lovely authors who query hundreds of agents over multiple years looking for representation.  It’s definitely an industry that demands thick skin.

The high points?  Hearing that my husband loved the book rocked my world.  Then again, I think he’s contractually obligated to say that.  Two of my first high points were when I received my first full request from an agent, and later that day, a Hollywood producer.  It happened in person, so I didn’t get to squeal and jump up and down, but man, I wanted to!  It happened again when my agent, Jamie Bodnar Drowley, requested the full about a month later.  I may have broken into a 30-second happy dance while in my pajamas, but my kids will never tell.  Another HUGE high point was when Jamie called, offering me representation.  To know that an industry professional believes in you and is ready to back you, validate your work and go out on every limb for you is humbling.  But my favorite high point definitely came when Jamie told me that she was ready to submit Aeolian without any changes, and we received two full requests from major publishing houses on the first day of pitching.  Jason had to bring home dinner because I couldn’t concentrate on bringing my feet down from cloud nine long enough to contemplate cooking.

The highs have been worth every single moment of the lows and then some.

 

Q: What obstacles have you encountered, and how did you push past them?

A:  Finishing a book can be pretty daunting, especially since I was cake-decorating full time and raising our four boys while Jason was gone.  I pushed myself through at least a page a night, whether that was editing or writing.  Once I formed the habit, it was easier to keep.

Another obstacle might sound silly, but it was telling people that I was writing a book.  It seemed like admitting what I was doing with my time would open me up to fail.  If everyone knew I was writing it, then everyone would know if I couldn’t manage to finish it, or find an agent.  It was the public aspect of admitting my dream aloud that caused me to stumble a bit at first.  I pushed through this by telling my husband I was writing “Aeolian” once I was about half way through the first draft.  Once I had his support, it was easier to be vocal about it, especially to my parents.  They had just finished putting me through college and I didn’t want to admit to them that instead of getting a job with that History and English degree, I was going to write.  Luckily, my parents rock and never once doubted me.

 

Q: Do you have a support network and/or personal cheerleaders who have helped you in this process? What have they done to encourage you and help you move forward?

A:  I’d like to thank the academy…  No, but seriously.  My husband.  He’s read the book over and over by now, checking out my rewrites, looking for typos.  He’s read every version of my query letter, and the poor man could play memory with what agent works for which agency.  He gets up with the kids when I’m up writing past two a.m., and he’s there to supply rejection brownies or dance with me in the kitchen when the big moments happen.

There have been so many of my friends who have taken the time to Beta read Aeolian for me, who have watched it shape up from the first draft and who listened to me talk-through my plot hole insanity.  My sister, Katie, and my good friends, Thea, Andrea, Emily, and Kate Davis, these women were instrumental.  Melissa Seligman, Molly Lee, and Nola Sarina (who’s my full-time critique partner and general shenanery expert), all gave me wonderful professional feedback that I so desperately needed.

I also have a fantastic critique group that came out of the Backspace Writer’s conference and without cheering each other on and giving condolences on rejections, it would be such a lonely process.  Plus, sometimes you just need someone to tell you that paragraph sucked, and that’s not something you want to hear from your mother.  Sean, Monika, Michael, Lauren, Malia, and Alicia, you guys keep me sane.

 

Q: If you could give advice to women who are either trying to find the courage to pursue their dreams or are at the beginning of their own journey, what would it be?

A: Don’t be afraid.  It’s not you against this huge mountain, it’s you against yourself.  If there’s something you’re reaching for, then it’s always a matter of how badly do you want it?  What are you willing to sacrifice to get it?  What’s holding you back and why?  If it’s in your heart, and taking up your soul, then it’s only a matter of conquering it one step at a time.  Don’t be afraid to admit that you have a dream that others might call foolish, or silly just because it’s not profitable, or what they would choose. It’s called a dream for a reason, and there’s no reason to go through life without striving for it.  A life not spent in pursuing what we dream of is a life wasted.  Go get ‘em girls.

Thursday By the Numbers

Good morning, and happy Thursday! Welcome to the home stretch before the weekend — which is unquestionably the best part of the workweek. As if that weren’t enough, I have an awesome evening planned: my friend Holly and I are having dinner at a restaurant that I’ve been wanting to try for ages, and then we’re going to see a talk by Sheryl Sandberg (of Facebook fame). I can’t wait!

I’ve been intrigued and amused by various bloggers’ By the Numbers posts, so Imma do one myself. Anyways, without further ado, this week by the numbers:

5 – scented candles purchased. My stockpile is growing! Muuuahahahahaha!

3 – Mediterranean countries/regions that have inspired this week’s dinner menu. Morocco, southern France, and Italy can really dish up the awesomeness, so this week’s menu has featured two chicken dishes (made with red wine and basil…insert excessive drooling here) from Provence, a Moroccan chicken tagine, and spinach and feta turkey burgers with loads of garlic and Italian herbs. Deliciousness has ensued.

2 – Days when I’ve looked at the weather forecast, seen that it’s calling for rain, and proceeded to say “Screw it, I’m not doing my hair.” Humidity wrecks my attempts to beat my hair into submission, and the lengthy process of drying and straightening it just isn’t worth it if I’m going to walk outside and have it get frizzy within minutes. So, I went for the sloppy bun approach:

Like this, only less model-y…by which I mean not the least bit model-y. (Image source: http://www.hairpediaclub.com

2 – Meals spent in the fabulous company of my junior high bestie, who was visiting DC from Colorado this weekend. I hadn’t seen her since 1999 (no joke), and it was beyond wonderful to reunite with her. I feel incredibly grateful to have people like her in my life!

1 – Pair of workout pants purchased. They’re super cute (pink waist band, flare leg), and I bought them at Costco for $20 — seriously, Costco FTW.

3 – Times when I’ve abandoned my usual two cups of coffee in favor of one giant, enormous, frickin’ huuuuuuuuge mug of coffee. Efficiency is key, right?!

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To give you a sense of scale, this mug is almost as big as my face. SO MUCH COFFEEZ.

1 – Brilliant design idea: I have a sari that I wore for a friend’s wedding a couple of years ago, but I know that a) I’m probably not going to have another occasion for which I need to wear a sari, and b) even if I did, I’d be totally flummoxed by how to wrap it. So, the probability of me wearing it again is just about nil — but it’s beautiful, and I absolutely love it. I’d been taking with my mother-in-law about ways to re-purpose it, and on Tuesday morning I had a revelation: we need a new bedspread for the bed in the guest room, so why not incorporate the sari into that? My MIL is impressively talented when it comes to all things design — including sewing. She’s made bedspreads, clothes, and all sorts of awesome stuff, so a new bedspread is totally doable. Not gonna lie: I’m seriously excited about this.

12 – Ideas for blog posts and articles that are bouncing around inside my head. I’ve written out the ideas and some key bullet points for each, but I haven’t had enough time to deal with any of them.

9 – Hours that I think I’d need in order to do intensive writing and get all these posts and articles written.

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Image source: Pinterest. Obvi.

1 – Realization that since I basically need a full work day to do all this, it’s time to finally take the day-long writing sabbatical I’ve been dreaming about for the last few months.

1 – Day of annual leave scheduled so I can focus on writing! Wahoo! March 25: here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

Hope everyone has a fantastic day!