Finding Peace

It’s a chilly, gray Tuesday morning. I’m running late as usual, fueled only by caffeine and my desire to not miss my train for the second morning in a row.

As I walk quickly to the train platform, my hair is tossed by the wind. Although I would like to imagine that this is sexy – tousled hair, confident walk – the grim reality is that I probably look more like this:

Lovely photo, n’jes?

I like commuting via train. I started taking public transit in October, after driving back and forth from Edmonds to Bellevue for the first month at my new job and finding myself feeling slightly homicidal. To get from my house to my office, I catch the Sounder train in Edmonds, which takes me to Seattle. I then walk a block and catch a bus that goes across the I90 bridge and into downtown Bellevue.

The bus is okay, convenient but also incredibly crowded most mornings. The train, on the other hand, is bliss. I have no idea why, but most morning commuters prefer aisle seats and will make me climb over them to sit by the window before they will ever entertain the idea of simply scooting over. Although I am anything but graceful and half the time I stumble over the person grudgingly letting me sit next to them (you do NOT get two seats to yourself on a crowded commuter train, you jerks, so just get over it and share), I’m happy to have the window seat and the view of Puget Sound.

Even mornings like this rather dreary one are strikingly beautiful to me. In nearly eight years living in the Northwest, I’ve never failed to find myself overcome by how breathtaking it is here. Looking out at the Sound brings me a feeling of peace and tranquility that I find myself desperately needing these days.

Am I the only one feeling the strain of a lot of digital animosity lately? Last week there was yet another school shooting, but this time the survivors are speaking out and demanding action. It’s so refreshing, and it fills me with so much hope. But for as good as it makes me feel that maybe this time something will actually be done, the fact that people are talking about the shooting also means that people are arguing about how to stop shootings. And because these arguments are taking place online, people are cruel and ruthless.

I don’t mind a healthy debate, you guys…I actually love acquiring new information. I have changed my mind about pretty nearly every view I’ve held in my life – my politics, my (lack of) religion, my dreams for what my own life will be. And I changed my mind on these things because I received new information that swayed me.

Notice that I didn’t say I changed my mind because someone argued with me on social media or insulted me? That’s because arguing with people on social media and insulting them isn’t going to change their minds. What it IS going to do is make them defensive. It’ll make them tune out. It’ll make them dig in their heels.

I’m aware that my view of the world isn’t traditional and that my views are typically in the minority. I’m used to that, and because of it I don’t really put much effort into trying to persuade people to adopt my ideas as their own. Short of when I see someone causing harm, I don’t make a habit of calling people out.

Sometimes I need a reminder that the world isn’t really this angry, volatile place. And so this morning I put on some soothing music, turn to the window, and look out at the beauty of Puget Sound. I cannot really describe how soothing this is for me.

My focus now is to add as much kindness to this world as I can, and to use productive tools such as my vote, my participation, and my dollars to support the things I believe in.

Being a Grandma Doesn’t Mean You Were a Good Mom

The other night on my way home, I found myself behind a minivan with a license plate frame that read ‘Only the Best Moms Get Promoted to Grandma’. The implication that my choice to be child-free would reflect badly on my mom or her parenting skills really made me angry, and sad too.

Now really, the statement that only the best moms become grandmothers is ridiculous. I have plenty of friends with children whose moms were an absolute nightmare. There are plenty of parents out there who were raised by a single father, no mother around whatsoever. You can be a shitty mom and still end up having grandchildren. A narcissistic, controlling, angry, or crazy mom does not rise to sainthood just because her children decide to have kids of their own.

I had a great childhood. My parents loved my siblings and I fiercely and did everything they could to give us a good life. They gave up a lot for us and I have mad respect for them for it. I do know that just as I am interrogated about when my husband and I are having kids, my mom is asked on the regular when her kids are going to give her some grandbabies. Mom takes it in stride and replies that she has furry grandchildren, but I know she gets as tired of the questions as I do.

My parents have never pressured me to have kids or expressed anything but support for the kind of life I want to have. I am incredibly grateful to them for respecting my decision and not pushing me to make a different choice. My dad has even gone so far as to tell me that if he had known the world would be the way that it is today, he might have reconsidered having children himself. It is so much harder to make a decent living and build a comfortable life now than it was thirty years ago. When he said it, it made me feel so validated in my own choice to remain child-free. My mom has told me “I don’t like kids anymore!”, usually after being subjected to misbehaving kids in stores.

It does make me sad to think of my parents being put on the spot about my decision not to have children, a choice that has absolutely nothing to do with my relationship with them but that ultimately I realize does impact them. When an adult makes virtually any other decision in life, it falls on them and it’s generally considered unacceptable to ask their parents for justification – why is procreating an “open season” topic then?

I like to think that my parents are living a happy and fulfilled life, blissfully retired and free to enjoy their days. They worked hard for that. If there’s a hole in their lives because my siblings and I don’t have kids, they’ve never said as much.

I just hope the driver of that minivan was actually a good parent, and that her grandchildren are also being raised by good parents who wanted the responsibility rather than people who were pushed into parenthood by the woman now celebrating her life as grandma with bumper stickers.

Week 1 Check-in

It’s been a week since I made new health and fitness goals for myself, and to be honest the first week didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I met some of my goals but fell short of others,

Work out at least three days a week, including two dance classes. I had unexpected appointments which kept me from making it to dance last week, so I didn’t hit that goal. BUT I logged four workouts, so I’m proud of myself for being more active! Hopefully this week will be a little easier to navigate and I’ll be able to get to my dance classes.

Bring my lunch to work every day. I was able to succeed at this one, without much trouble. I do feel like I should admit that I only worked three days last week, so this goal wasn’t exactly challenging.

Make dinner at home at least five nights a week. I did have home-cooked meals five nights last week, and so far this is my favorite new habit. I’m surprised at just how much I enjoy planning out and preparing meals at home.

No drinking alcohol on school nights. I achieved this one too, but again I only worked three days last week so there were only three “school nights” to contend with.

Track all my meals and snacks. Eh, I mostly did this. There were a couple of meals I missed; I’ll do better this week!

Log an average of 10,000 steps per day. To my surprise, this one was HARD! My average was 5,835 steps last week.

Overall I lost a pound, which made me happy even though I have a long way to go. Slow and steady, right?

2018 Health and Fitness Goals

It’s the second day of a brand new year, and like so many others I’m setting goals for myself. I have decided to use the word goal rather than resolution this year, because a goal to me seems more tangible and allows me to make a specific plan to achieve what I want.

And what I want is to fit into my favorite blue dress.

I bought The Dress back in 2012 to wear to a friend’s birthday dinner. It’s dark blue, figure-hugging, and perfect for a nice evening out. I love that dress and would love to wear it out for my first wedding anniversary. But if I’m going to make that dream come true, I have to be able to zip the thing up – which is currently not happening.

I need to lose weight so that I can realize my dream of wearing that dress again, but I’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t make me crazy or lead to re-gaining any pounds later on. When I bought my dress, I hadn’t been on a diet in over a year. I was managing my weight with a (mostly) sensible diet and an exercise routine that I was quite happy to stick to.

I know that I will need specific guidelines to help me reach my goal. I’ve worked out five habits that I want to stick to in 2018, that I think will help get me where I want to be.

1. Work out at least three days a week, including two dance classes per week. There are dance classes I can attend on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, so even if I miss one during the week, I can make it up on the weekend. I also have at-home workouts I can do to get in that third workout, and hopefully I’ll find the motivation to do more than three workouts a week!

2. Bring my lunch to work every day. Working in downtown Bellevue means that there is easy access to a ton of delicious food and restaurants, but both my wallet and my waistline will be happier if I bring my food from home.

3. Make dinner at home at least five nights a week. My husband and I love to go out to eat, and we both work long hours. Making food at home instead of eating out or picking up takeout may be a challenge at first, but I know that home cooked meals contributed to my lower weight years ago. Over the weekend, we planned out what we would have for dinner each night and bought everything we’ll need, so there’s no reason not to prepare what we already have.

4. No drinking alcohol on school nights. I have fallen into the habit of enjoying a glass of red wine after dinner, telling myself that it’s healthier than dessert. The truth is that, although I may be saving calories, I’m still having more sugar than I need to. There nothing stopping me from enjoying a nice cocktail or two on Friday and Saturday evenings, but on nights when I have to be up for work in the morning I’m going to opt for a LaCroix water instead.

4. Track all of my meals and snacks in MyFitnessPal. When I was maintaining a lower weight before, I used an app called Lose It to track what I ate. While I still like the app, I’ve found I prefer MyFitnessPal. Most of the time, entering a food into a tracker before I eat it will make me more aware of what I’m putting in my mouth, and this habit helps me avoid mindless snacking.

5. Log an average of 10,000 steps per day. Fitness trackers are super popular right now. I decided I wanted one a couple of years ago, and after researching different options I selected a Garmin vivofit. Most days I’m good about remembering to wear it, and it really does help me remember to get up and move around during the day.

These goals should be enough to get me started; if I add or change them later, I’ll update them here too. Hopefully I’ll find that these guidelines to be flexible enough that I can follow them consistently.

2018: The Year of No Bullsh*t

Last week, my friend Marie declared that 2018 shall be the Year of No Bullshit. I love this fierce mentality for going into a new year and adopted this new mantra immediately.

Of course, the YONBS will mean not feeling obligated to tolerate others’ BS, but for me it will also mean not allowing myself to fall into the same old BS either.

I confess, I am not where I would have liked to be at the end of 2017. I fell short of my health and fitness goals, and I’m not as far along in my degree plan for college as I would like to be. I can make a choice now: cut the BS and get back to working for what I want, or wallow in my failures and continue to disappoint myself. The former seems a lot more productive.

After flying through my first four college classes this semester, I enrolled in a fifth. I was so confident that I would complete it and maybe even finish a sixth class by the end of the semester. Fast-forward to two weeks ago, when I was panicking because I had put off studying and was now in a bind. I really don’t know why I let myself procrastinate so much; I suspect it was because I felt like I had all the time in the world to study, until all of a sudden I didn’t.

I wanted to drop the class and pick it back up next semester, but my mentor pushed me to try and finish it. I thought she was smoking something when she said it was achievable, but ultimately I (grudgingly) agreed to try. I drew up a rigorous study plan that had me covering all the course material and taking the final exam by December 30th. I wasn’t at all confident that I could pass the test, but as my husband pointed out, better to fail than quit.

I stuck to my study plan and devoted more hours to this class than I probably have to any schoolwork ever in life. And today, just a few days before I take the final, I’m able to pass the practice test with a score of 98%. I proved myself wrong. I actually CAN pass this test and finish my class this semester. I feel extremely confident that I’m going to do well on my final exam.

I learned so much from this near-miss. Now I know that I need to make myself a study plan so that I have structured due dates to keep myself on track. The experience also reaffirmed to me that I am smarter and more capable than I give myself credit for, and that I can achieve the things I want if I really put my mind to it. Once I cut out all my BS reasons for not doing what I needed to and just focused on doing the damn thing, I started succeeding.

Sound familiar?

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with my weight for the last few years. It’s also no secret, to anyone paying attention, that a big reason for this is because I wasn’t putting in the work to get what I wanted. When the scale showed me numbers that scared me, I went on crash diets that guaranteed me fast results, but that did nothing to help me build better habits. Not shockingly, repeating this BS cycle just left me heavier than I was when I started dieting. Earlier in the year, I was very dedicated to my exercise plan, but after Bill and I got back from Cabo I fell off the wagon and kinda just let it roll right on out of town without me. I let starting school be an excuse for skipping workouts.

Excuses are BS. Diets are BS. They are no substitute for just plain old putting in the work. And they have no place in my life, starting now (because really, why do I need to wait until 2018 to banish the BS from my life?).

Last night, Bill and I got home from work and immediately changed clothes and worked out. After we exercised, he made dinner while I studied. And at the end of the night, I went to bed feeling AMAZING, because I had dedicated time to achieving goals that matter to me.

I won’t always eat healthy. I won’t work out every single day, and I’m not going to study every day either. I’m not going to tell myself that I will. Going to extremes is also BS, as it isn’t satisfying or sustainable. But what I am going to do is put in the work to get what I want.

Finding the Fisher & Diaz Funeral Home

Back in 2009, I became obsessed with the show Six Feet Under. I was late to the party (the show first aired in 2005), which was a good thing for me because I was able to binge-watch the entire series on DVD and wasn’t forced to wait between seasons.

For those unfamiliar, Six Feet Under followed the Fisher family, who owned a funeral home in LA (originally called Fisher & Sons and later changed to Fisher & Diaz). The funeral home also served as the family home, which may seem a bit disturbing to anyone who HASN’T lived directly above a steady parade of dead bodies and funerals, but is something the family and their friends are totally used to.

Although I lived in Southern California at the time, I never thought to find out if the house used in the series as the Fisher funeral home was a real place. When I discovered that it was indeed real and actually was located in LA, I had already moved to Washington and didn’t think I would ever get a chance to see the house in person.

Last September, Bill and I ended up in LA while on our road trip, and I knew I had a chance to finally see the house. As we drove toward the beach one afternoon, we made a detour and found it.

Thanks to the Internet, I was able to find out that the 6,324sf house is located at 2302 W. 25th St. in LA. It was built in 1905 (according to Zillow) and is currently owned by the Filipino Federation of America.

There was no one around when Bill and I arrived at the house (another benefit of being behind the masses in discovering the show was that people weren’t exactly lined up to take photos of the house). We snapped several shots from the sidewalk before I decided I was going to go perch on the front porch for a photo.

Writing Again 

I think blogging comes in waves for me. There are times when I feel like I have so much to say and that I need to write, and then other times I can go months without even logging into this site. It’s not that my blog isn’t on my mind, it’s just that I don’t feel like I have anything meaningful to say. I’ve thought more than once about stopping, but that idea just makes me so sad. Writing is a huge part of who I am. From my spiral notebooks filled with journals and stories in high school, to my first blog (on MySpace, of all places) and now to this one, I’ve always had some writing project going. 

Sometimes it’s not about writing something mind blowing and powerful. Sometimes it’s just about getting back into the habit of writing at all. So here I go; here’s what I’ve been up to in the last few weeks. 

In September, Bill and I took a long road trip from Seattle to Las Vegas to attend my sister’s wedding. It was a small ceremony and (in my opinion) rather perfect. Vegas weddings don’t really get enough credit; there are several beautiful venues that definitely don’t fit the stereotype of shotgun weddings performed by Elvis. 

With the Newlyweds


After the wedding, Bill and I spent some time in California before heading home. My parents hosted us for a night, and we spent two nights in Hermosa Beach. 

I never really did tourist-y things when I lived in California, but on this trip I really wanted to find the house that was used for the Fisher Funeral Home in the show Six Feet Under. Bill humored me, and we tracked down the house (it’s located in LA). I thoroughly geeked out and took a ton of pictures (geeked out face on display in the photo below), and even went so far as to queue up “Breathe Me” by Sia as we drove away. 

“You can’t take a picture of this, it’s already gone.”

Back in Washington, I started a new position at work and finished up my fourth college class. Technically, I’ve completed my semester, but I want to keep pushing forward so I enrolled in another class. 

It’s crazy to think that it’s almost November, that soon the holidays will come and go and 2017 will be over. I’m hoping the rest of the year is just as pleasant as the first ten months have been, and that I’ll regain my inspiration to write more often as we finish out the year. 

Why I Stopped Eating Meat

I have always loved animals. My mom has a photo of me as a baby, sitting in the backyard with our cat, dog, and goat. As an adult, I’ve had up to five rescue cats at one time, and they are spoiled and pampered felines. When I still lived in California, I spent nearly every weekend volunteering for a Humane Society. 

A few months ago, a friend introduced me to a charity goat rescue called Goats of Anarchy. Through GOA’s Instagram posts, I fell in love with the goats rescued and cared for. When they got too sick and didn’t make it, I would feel sad (I was particularly attached to one goat, Lawson, and cried at work when I found out he died suddenly). I love the animals at GOA, even though I have never met them. 

I have been struggling for a long time now with the fact that I love animals and yet that I eat meat. Animal abuse makes me absolutely sick. I could never bring myself to harm a sweet creature just so I could eat it; and yet, I would eat animals killed by other people. I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t that bad, because I tried to get my meat from small local farms that treated their animals kindly for the duration of their lives. It was a flawed argument and I knew it, but something still held me back from formally cutting all meat from my diet. 

Over the last few months, I’ve been opting for vegetarian dishes more and more, trying different things to see what I like. Living in Seattle, this is incredibly easy to do: all of my favorite restaurants offer delicious veggie options that I am entirely happy to eat. I still ate meat, though, even though I increasingly felt like I was doing something I didn’t think was right. 

A lot of the time, people need that “Aha” moment to finally decide to make a major life change. For me, that moment was yesterday, when Leanne from GOA went to a local livestock auction in New Jersey to try and save some of the animals being sent to slaughter. The pictures she shared of that awful place sickened me: sick animals packed closely together, stepping over dead bodies and crying. They looked so afraid and defeated. It was hell, utter hell, and that any creature should suffer such torture before ultimately being killed for food just broke me. These were animals that came from small farms, they were living breathing feeling creatures. I cannot believe any human being could actually treat animals this way and still sleep at night. 

I can’t go along with this any longer. 

Yesterday I finally made the decision that I will never eat meat again. I will not support an industry capable of such cruelty. I will never again be the reason that an innocent animal was killed. 

I am not asking that anyone change with me. I am making a decision for myself based on what I believe is right. I just wish I hadn’t taken so long to decide to align my behavior with my beliefs. 

V Goes to College (Again)

This week is a big one for me, as I re-join the academic world as a full-time undergraduate student yet again. I’m no stranger to the full-time student/full-time employment combo, so it’s not new territory for me. I do remember how much work it is, but I’m ready for this new journey. Finishing my degree is something I’ve always wanted for myself, so here I go!

I dropped out of community college after only one full semester, and ultimately earned my Associate’s degree online while working full-time. It ended up being a good thing for me, because I was able to use my company’s tuition assistance program and graduated debt-free in 2010. Since then, I’ve stopped and started a few times as I worked toward my Bachelor’s degree. I tried University of Phoenix, but didn’t like the group-work format (why on earth an online school requires so much group collaboration is beyond me). After taking some time off I enrolled at Washington State University, only to find that it’s really difficult to be an online-only student at a school that is really designed for full-time students who can attend classes. At most, I was able to manage two classes at a time, and ultimately it just felt like I’d never graduate and I tabled the whole idea.

The idea of finishing my degree never really left my mind. Last year, after being with my current company for a year, I became eligible for their tuition assistance program. It would have probably been a good idea to jump back into school right away, but I was busy planning a wedding and taking classes was NOT in my plans. Now that the wedding is over, I feel like I can handle balancing work and school, and I’m ready to try yet again to finish college.

Since my real goal is to just be DONE already, I decided to enroll at Western Governor’s University. The courses are online, the classes are individual and completing them is based on a competency assessment, and there are no traditional class schedules. I can take as many courses as I’m able to per semester, and each semester’s tuition rate is flat – meaning that the more classes I complete, the less I pay (or my company pays) for school in the long run.

The enrollment process at WGU wasn’t a walk in the park, I admit. When I decided to move forward, I applied online and was accepted, but never heard anything further. I did some research online about next steps, and proactively ordered transcripts from my previous schools to be sent to WGU. I could see online that they’d been received, so when I still hadn’t been contacted I reached out and spoke with an enrollment counselor. Although he was very nice, he wasn’t a lot of help in the subsequent enrollment process; I did a lot of researching online until I figured out what I needed to do.

Financial aid is no picnic, either. In the past, I’ve always had company tuition assistance programs that issued Letters of Credit to the university I was attending, so I never had to pay. This time, the program is tuition reimbursement, so I have to pay upfront and then seek reimbursement after the semester ends and I pass my classes. Not wanting to drain my savings to pay upfront, I decided to apply for student loans, knowing that they will come due six months after I graduate and that I can simply use my tuition reimbursement money to pay them off. While this sounds simple enough, you can’t just apply for loans – you have to apply for financial aid first. I knew this was going to be a waste of time; my husband and I make far too much money for me to qualify for assistance. Still, the rules are the rules, so I filled out my required FAFSA and got my reply that I qualified for $0 assistance, then was finally able to move on and apply for my loans.

Once I got through all the admissions requirements, things got a lot easier. Yay! I was paired up with my Student Mentor, a former student who has successfully completed the program herself and who will check in with me weekly throughout this process. She got me set up with my orientation, and helped me with a road map for what my degree program is going to look like. She gave me a bit of an overview of what I could expect in the next year and a half (hopefully I can be done by then!). I completed the online orientation, and I’m all set to start my first class. Whew!

I really want to finish this time. Wish me luck!

 

My Tips for Great Hair

Ever since chopping off my long locks three years ago, I have become very particular about my hair care. Now that I’m currently in yet another phase of trying to grow out my pixie cut (I’ve made it to bob length twice, only to chop it again after seeing one too many perfect pixie cuts on Pinterest), I’m especially careful to be kind to my hair as I coax it to grow.

Whether you have the shortest of pixies or waist-length strands, there are things you can do to keep your hair looking great….and bad habits that can harm it. Here is my comprehensive list of tips to keep your hair looking amazing.

Do bring photos with you when you get your hair done. Anyone remember that episode of Friends when Monica asks for Demi Moore’s haircut, but Phoebe gives her Dudley Moore’s instead? Don’t let yourself fall victim to a mistake like that; bring photos of the haircut and color you want. Even better, bring photos of both styles you love AND hate…it’ll give your stylist a better idea of what will make you happy (and help them avoid what will make you cry).

Do invest in good styling tools and products. It blows my mind when someone spends upwards of $150 on getting their hair cut and colored, only to stop at the dollar store on the way home to buy shampoo. Even though high-end products are more expensive, the good news is that they’re also more concentrated, so you don’t need to use a ton of product every time you style your hair. I recently made the change from traditional shampoo and conditioner to New Wash by Hairstory. It doesn’t contain detergents and is much gentler on my hair, eliminating my need for conditioners, masks, and detanglers.  When my hair is wet, I protect it from heat styling with TGI Bed Head After Party, and I like to finish my style with Ion Styling Solutions Texture Spray Wax to give it a bit of a piece-y look.

Along with using quality product, I upgraded my heat styling tools so that they are easier on my hair when I do need to blow dry/flatiron it. I recently scored the Bio Ionic GoldPro Speed Dryer for 50% off at Ulta, and I like to style my bangs with my LumaBella Dual Touch straightener (I also use this great tool when I curl my pixie cut!).

Don’t lie to your stylist. When your stylist asks you questions about your hair care routine, ESPECIALLY when you’re getting your hair colored, be honest. It’s okay if you’ve only used box dyes up until now; a good stylist isn’t asking you these questions to judge you, they’re asking because different dyes and chemicals will react differently, and they don’t want to inadvertently turn your black hair green. Being upfront about your hair’s history will help you get the look you want, without having to endure any unpleasant hiccups along the way.

Don’t cheat on your stylist. Once you’ve found a stylist you love, who makes your hair dreams come true, don’t ditch them just because of scheduling issues. A good indication that your stylist rocks is that his or her calendar books up quickly. It’s always a good idea to schedule your next appointment as you’re leaving the salon to ensure that you can get in when you need to. Schedule changes definitely happen – I recently had to move a cut/color appointment so that I could attend a family gathering – but be prepared to wait a few weeks with some root grow-out if you do reschedule. Trust me, it’s always worth the wait. Going to a different salon just because your regular stylist can’t see you, like, yesterday, is probably going to end up with you getting a cut you’re not in love with. I would much rather veer into sheepdog territory for a week or two than have my hair butchered.

Do get regular trims. Even though I’m trying to grow my hair out currently, I still get my hair trimmed regularly. Your hair will look much healthier and will hold its shape much better if you go for regular cuts.