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!


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.

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.

Lovable Things

Because I couldn’t sleep last night (fie upon you, insomnia), I decided to counteract my inevitably surly mood — said surly mood always rolls up like a Panzer tank on PCP when I don’t get enough sleep — with my daily trip to the gym and a list of things that are eminently lovable, or at least enjoyable. Besides, it’s a de-facto Monday for those of us who had yesterday off, so we all need something to smile about. So without further ado…happy things!


1)      Rooibos Chai. (Side note: my spell check tried to correct “rooibos” into “Boo-Boo.” You fail, spell check. Please do not redneckognize America’s #1 TV star.) Cooler weather has arrived, which means it’s time to bust out the chai! There are times when my stomach doesn’t do well with traditional black tea chai, so I was thrilled when a friend sent me a box of Numi Rooibos Chai as part of a care package. (Emma, you rock!) This stuff is amazing. It’s delicious, warming, and caffeine free – which, of course, makes it the perfect option for a late afternoon tea hankering in autumn. I’d tell you to imagine me sipping a mug of it while sitting in an overstuffed chair and watching gorgeous leaves fall from trees outside my window, but the reality is that I usually sip it while sitting in my windowless office and staring at my computer. Close enough though, right?



2)      Listening to awesome podcasts while running or at the gym. I often get tired of my workout playlist, even though I add new songs to it pretty frequently. I mean, I love all the songs on there, but this playlist goes back over 10 years – so there are times when I just. Can’t. Listen. Any. More. Knowing that my playlist was driving me slowly insane, I decided to rekindle my relationship with podcasts. Egads, people, is there ever some awesome stuff out there. I’ve been laughing my way through workouts with NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me and have been getting all edumakated and inspired by the Creative Wellness podcast by Melanie St. Ours and The Good Life Project podcast by Jonathan Brown. It’s amazing how much faster the minutes go by when I’m not saying “Uuuuuuuugh, you again?” at whatever song has started playing for the bajillionth time.


3)      Nature’s Path Gluten-Free Granola. I have an abiding, deep love of granola, and while I’ve successfully made my own from time to time, the fact remains that I’m a) pressed for time, and b) lazy. Between grocery shopping, cleaning, washing clothes, and pre-chopping piles of veggies during the weekend, it just doesn’t leave much time for much else. There are a few other kinds of GF granola on the market, but Nature’s Path is, thus far at least, hands down the best one I’ve tasted. To quote Fat Bastard (one of the best characters of all time, IMHO — he gets quoted a lot in our house), “Get in mah belly!”



4)      Mind Over Medicine, by Lissa Rankin. I picked this up a couple of months ago, and I love it. She discusses some of the key issues we covered during the course of my training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, one of which is the idea that health is more than just diet and exercise. Career, relationships, a sense of community, and a sense of meaning or purpose are critical factors in health and wellness; similarly, the lack of those things can also contribute to illness. Considering all the time we spend being careful about eating veggies and hitting the gym, it’s worth taking the time to look at health from a holistic perspective – and I mean holistic in the sense of looking at the whole of our lives, not just the sum of its parts. I love how Dr. Rankin presents these ideas!


5)      Random Interwebz humor. This Tumblr page, Brides Throwing Cats, has had me in stitches more than once. (I want to put a disclaimer on this before I’m accused of finding humor in animal cruelty: THE WHOLE THING IS PHOTOSHOPPED. No cats were actually thrown!) Also, Hyperbole and a Half has a new post up, and basically everything she does makes me laugh so hard I pull a muscle.

 An uninterested audience waits for this tabby cat to drop to the floor. Awkward.


So, with that, I’m going to drag my sorry self to the office. Tell me, though: what kind of stuff have you guys been lovin’ on lately? 

Here Comes the Sun

Good morning, y’all!

Yesterday’s storms wound up being a total bust, which was good in terms of not getting snatched up by a sneaky Hamburgler-like tornado (see yesterday’s post to understand what I’m referencing with that — it’s weird, I know!), but still kind of disappointing, because I was hoping to see some hardcore thunderstorms. Alas, we had 15 minutes of wind and torrential rain, and in my neck of the woods, none of the storms lived up to their hype. I’m pretty sure this should be the official motto for DC weather, especially after this winter’s epic snowstorm that never happened:




Speaking of all things meteorological, though, here’s a random fact: did you know that today is the earliest sunrise of the year? (I had no idea, but I read it today as part of the weather report. Whoda thunk it?)

One of the many reasons why I love the month of June is the fact that there’s just so much sunlight. I’ve always been a sunshine junkie — I don’t lie out and tan, but I love going outside and getting a bit of photosynthesis. (I realize that I’m not a plant, but hey, a girl’s gotta get her Vitamin D. That windowless office of mine is almost certainly going to give me Rickets.)

Anyways, I’d originally planned to do a big ol’ nerdy, quasi-scientific post about The Autoimmune Epidemic by Susan Nakazawa, but things have been really hectic this week — which means I didn’t have time to sit down and write what will be a more time-intensive post.

With that in mind, instead I’m going to do one in a similar vein as yesterday’s post. It’s random, it has virtually no substance whatsoever, and…that seems about right for a Friday. 🙂 (Does anybody else feel like their brain is fried?)  So without further ado, here’s a series of random reasons why I looooooooove the sunshine:


  • One of the many things I love about this time of year is the fact that it’s light out when I wake up. The fact that it’s not pitch black out when my alarm goes off makes it approximately eleventy thousand times easier to crawl out of bed. In the depths of winter, it looks like this:



But during the summer, when it’s getting light out before six, it looks more like this:



  • When it’s sunny out, it automatically puts me in a substantially better mood than when it’s all gloomy and gray. When it’s rainy and gray, I’m all:


But when it’s sunny and warm out, I’m all:



  • Growing up in Colorado means that I was raised on a steady diet of sunshine; Colorado gets over 300 days of sunlight per year, and we never went more than a day or two without sun. The East Coast, by contrast, gets — and this is a hard, scientific number, backed up by loads of empirical data — at least 80 million fewer days of sunshine per year than they do out West. Living here has made me become really hardcore about going outside on the days when it is nice out. I could be sick, incapacitated, or generally on the brink of death, but as soon as the sun appears, I’m ready to run outside.



Brandon and I have talked about how much we miss the West and how much we’d like to someday move back there. If we ever do, I can guarantee that this is what I’ll do almost every day:



With all that in mind, I want to know:

What type of weather do you like most?
(I may be a sunshine junkie, but lots of people love rain!)

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Article Round-Up: May 19-25

Y’all. I slept in until 9:45. Considering that I’m usually up and at ’em around 7 on weekends, this is unheard of!

It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep can do. Now that I’m comfortably settled into my 30s (and thus no longer trying to be cool by going out and partying on the weekends), I find that I get really excited about the idea of going to sleep. There have been many, many times when I find myself thinking — usually sometime around 7 p.m. — “Man, I can’t wait to go to bed. Sleeping is going to be awesome.”

Sho ’nuff, it is. Sleeping FTW.

Anyways, all that is meant to explain why I’m late in posting this — but hey, better late than never, right?

I hope everyone is having a fantastic weekend, and that some R&R is in everybody’s future. Happy reading!


Health & Fitness:

NYT: For a Better Smoothie, Just Add Chia Seed

Time: Mediterranean Diet Better Than Low-Fat Diet in Keeping Aging Brains Sharp

NPR: Fifteen Years After Vaccine Scare, a Measles Epidemic

Guardian: Walking Works – So Why Are We So Sedentary?

Huff Po: Breakfast Around the World – Healthy Ideas from Abroad


Stress Relief, Happiness, & Life Management:

Psychology Today: Find Your Passion, Find Your Strengths

Blisstree: Morning Time-Savers: Get Ready for Work Post-Gym in 15 Minutes or Less

Greatist: 10 Unexpected Ways to Meditate Every Day

Mind, Body, Green: 10 Fun Ways to Reduce Your Cortisol Levels

Huff Po: Happiness Tips – 9 Simple Steps to Joy


Gender Issues:

Atlantic: Towards a More Expansive Definition of ‘Princess’

Huff Po: Honoring America’s Women in the Military

Slate: Meteor Employee Shoots Bulls-Eye Against Sexism, With Help from the Hawkeye Initiative

Atlantic: You Don’t Have to Have Kids to Be a Great Mother


Humor & Warm Fuzzies:

Huff Po: Dogs and Babies Sleeping Are What The World Needs Now

Huff Po: This Memorial Day, a Simple Act of Kindness

Buzzfeed: 25 Signs You’re Addicted to Reading

Buzzfeed: One Team Has Perfected the Post-Game Photobomb (*this one made me laugh so hard I cried)

MIMM: One Lovely Blog Award

Monday has returned…replete with wintery slop.

Gross Weather

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.


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:

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:

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:

Hope you all have an awesome Monday!