(Less Than!) Three Months to Go!

Happy 2017! I am SO glad to be ringing in a new year. I spent my New Year’s Eve with friends, enjoying good company, food, drinks, and some unexpected snow!

The countdown is on for Bill and I – less than three months to go until our wedding! March is going to be here unbelievably fast, and we still have a lot to do to get ready! We’ve got the “big stuff” figured out: we have our venue, I’ve got my wedding dress and am taking it to my alteration appointment next weekend, and we’ve selected our cake and cupcakes (dessert is very important to me).

Bill described 2016 as a “bad year to be planning a wedding”, and I think that sums things up perfectly. A year ago, I felt like I had all the time in the world to figure out every detail, and was excited to jump in and make some wedding magic happen. I quickly learned that life will get in the way and it’s easy to go from having plenty of time to being dangerously behind in planning, and that when it comes to planning weddings everything will cost more than you wanted it to. It was starting to feel impossible to think of everything we would need for the big day, without completely blowing our budget (shout-out to our wonderful parents for helping us out with the costs!).

Not going to lie, I was feeling pretty stressed out and afraid that things weren’t going to come together. Enter The Invisible Hostess, aka the Best Thing to Happen to Wedding Planning. Bill and I met with our coordinator, Jocelyn, and I was immediately comfortable with her and excited to work with her. Her cozy Capitol Hill office is more like an inviting living room, and even my darkest concerns about planning the wedding seemed so simple and easily managed once I talked them over with her. With her help, I feel like every question has an answer and every problem a solution, and for the first time since we started planning I feel like this wedding can go off without a hitch. We love you, Jocelyn!

I’m so excited for our wedding day. I know that time is going to fly by, which is fine by me!

 

 

 

 

7 Good Things in 2016

I know I’m not alone when I say that 2016 sucked. I honestly can’t remember another year that was so very difficult and full of heartache. I lost people I loved, and I am still dealing with those losses. Several well-loved celebrities passed away. Donald Trump was elected president. My beloved Zumba instructor moved away. Yes, 2016 feels like a big middle finger to all that is good.

My friend Kate sent me her most recent blog post to look over, and while she concurred that 2016 was far from the best year ever, she did find some good things about it and inspired me to do the same. I decided to challenge myself to find things about this year that I really liked and was happily surprised that I was able to do it.

Since seven is my favorite number, here are the top seven moments of my 2016:

 

The Cubs won the World Series. My fiancee Bill is a huge Cubs fan, and cheering with him as his team finally broke the curse and won the World Series was definitely a highlight of 2016 for me.

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We went to Hawaii. My birthday present to Bill for his 40th birthday was a trip to Maui. That trip was one of the best parts of the whole year for us. We relaxed, enjoyed the island, and ate too much good food.

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I changed jobs. After a collective five years working high-level complaints, I transitioned into an analyst position with my company in October. It has been such a welcome change in so many ways. My work-related stress levels are way down, I have a fantastic new boss and a team of coworkers that I love, and I’m learning new things every day.

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Less stress = more smiles!

We climbed a mountain. Ever since Bill and I started dating, he’s been talking about hiking Mt. Pilchuck. While it sounded fun, it also sounded incredibly intimidating, but last summer I took the plunge and agreed to go. It was hard, probably even harder than I thought it would be, but it was SO beautiful and I felt so accomplished when we finally reached the car at the end of the hike.

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I bought a bike and rode the heck out of it. I did not get my first bike until I was ten, and even once I had one, there was really nowhere to ride it. When I bought my Trek bike last May and started riding trails every weekend, I knew how to pedal and not fall over…but that was about it. I passed the summer blissfully logging miles and improving my speed and endurance. Admittedly, my bike hasn’t seen the light of day since the temperatures turned cold (I am officially a fair-weather rider), but as soon as spring is here I’ll be back to it!

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I became a Subaru person. Yep, I traded in my sports car for a Subaru Impreza and I couldn’t be happier with the decision. Now I have a car that I can put bikes on, drive to trailheads, go camping with, and take on road trips. Oh, and it’s nice to have a car with four doors so I can actually pick up other people when I’m going places! Now that I’ve owned my first one, I’m definitely on Team Subaru.

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We got the gang back together.….Meaning that I got to spend time with both my family and Bill’s in 2016. Since everyone but my brother lives out of state, coordinating visits is hard! Bill and I flew to Indiana for an extended weekend in August, and my whole family got together for a long weekend in December. Now that my brother and I both live in Edmonds and my sister’s in San Diego, it’s hard to get everyone together at my parents’ house at the same time. We managed to pull it off though, and we had a blast!

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Such a good-looking bunch

When I look back on this year, I’m going to do my best to remember the good things that happened instead of the bad…choose to be happy, right? Dwelling on the bad won’t make it better, so I’m going to try and move on in my own way and put my energy into making 2017 my best year yet.

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye

He was smart and adventurous, funny and kind. We worked together for over three years, during which time we grew as close as brother and sister. We had many thoughtful conversations about everything that popped into our heads. We leaned on each other when things were difficult, we laughed together during many good times.

He left the company we worked for, gave away most of his belongings and hopped on a plane to travel the world. How I envied his impulsiveness as he moved from country to country, and how I missed being able to see him nearly every day. When he came back the following summer, he took me out for Mexican food and talked animatedly about everything he had seen and done. For hours we sat outside on the deck in the evening sunshine, as he told me about his travels and adventures. Our friendship was as strong as ever, even though we didn’t see each other nearly so often. We still made a point of getting together, usually to watch a football game. No matter how long it had been since we’d seen each other, it would instantly feel as if we’d never been apart. He would wrap me in a warm hug and exclaim, “Sunshine! I’ve missed you!”, using his special nickname for me. And then we would laugh and catch up on whatever had been going on in our lives.

In November, we met up to watch a Seahawks game. He was in a cheerful mood. He ordered a huge cheeseburger as he told me stories about his new job in between football plays. When I hugged him goodbye I had no idea it would be the last time I would ever be able to do so. A couple of weeks later, on his birthday, I texted with him, wishing him a happy day. He seemed to be in good spirits.

The next thing I heard was about him, not from him. It was the first weekend in December and he was gone forever.

Losing a loved one to suicide is so much different than any other kind of loss. On top of the grief, there’s the ever-present struggle with not being able to understand why. Although knowing why he felt he could not go on would not change the outcome, I feel like it would give me some closure on things. I have to accept that there will be no understanding, that his reasons were his own and I will never know them. What I do know is that I thnk of him every day, and I miss him.

The day of his funeral was bright and sunny, bitterly cold. It’s brisk, my dad would always joke on a freezing cold morning like that one. The six of us that had worked with him sat neatly in a pew, joined by Bill, and surrounded by some people we knew and others we had never met. His mother and his best friend each spoke to all of us in the room, telling stories of his life and reading things he had written (he was a wonderful writer). After that a lengthy slideshow was played, all photos of him, of his life, with his usual big smile (and, in more recent photos, the various stages of his beard) on his face.

Since then, life has been a bit of a blur. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe. I’ve broken down a few times and really cried, but for the most part I try to keep myself quiet and calm. I’m torn between desperately wanting to spend time with people I love, in case I never again have the chance, and at the same time desperately needing to be alone.

The happiest memories of him can bring tears to my eyes now that he’s gone. I was forever changed by knowing him and changed further by losing him.

My promise to myself is to try to live my life the way he lived his, seeking adventure and laughing hard and hugging people in such a warm and comfortable way that those hugs will be part of a legacy.

 

December Birchbox Review

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Birchbox review! Since Birchbox went away from awarding points to its subscribers for each review, I haven’t been doing online reviews of products on the site anymore unless I really love a particular one.

I felt like December’s haul was particularly fantastic, so instead of just leaving quick reviews of a single product on their site, here’s a complete review of the contents of the entire box for your enjoyment.

Ardency Inn Modster Smooth Ride Supercharged Eyeliner 
As I’m usually more of a liquid eyeliner girl, I was skeptical of this eyeliner pencil. However, I’d just run out of my regular eyeliner, so I was excited to try it out. I was pleasantly surprised by how nicely it glides on, and it’s a lot easier to remove at night than liquid liner. While $16 doesn’t seem like a lot, this is a travel-size eyeliner, and I’ve seen comparable ones at drugstores so I probably won’t be purchasing one.

Marcelle Hydra-C 24H Energizing Hydrating Gel 
This is a lightweight gel moisturizer Okay, you had me at energizing, as I’ve been noticing that I just look tired in the mornings. I gave this sample a try and I love it. It’s lightweight and doesn’t make my face look shiny or greasy. I just wish it had an SPF in it, I prefer moisturizers with sunscreen to help protect my sensitive skin.

amika Bombshell Blowout Spray
I absolutely love amika products and this one is definitely no exception. It helps add volume to my hair while protecting it from the damaging heat of my hair dryer and flatiron. It leaves my hair feeling soft and smelling pretty. Since I do a LOT of heat styling, $26 is a bargain for a bottle of this, especially since it doubles as a volumizer!

Atelier Cologne’s Vanille Insensée Cologne Absolue
I have been a fiercely loyal wearer of Dior J’adore for years, and I don’t really venture out of that fragrance comfort zone. That said, I do really enjoy getting little perfume samples. If I like them, I throw them in my travel bag when I’m going out of town so that I don’t take my beloved J’adore along and risk breaking it. This scent was surprisingly light for a vanilla scent, which is usually a lot heavier than I care for. I asked Bill what he thought of it and he liked it as well. Truthfully, I don’t see myself straying from J’adore anytime soon, but it was nice to have the opportunity to try a new scent!

Hey Honey Walk the Walk Propolis Foot Cream
Our weather here in Seattle this December has been unusually cold and clear,  which has resulted in my skin feeling dry and alligator-ish. This foot cream was just what I needed to make my feet feel soft and smooth. The cream is lightly scented, but very pleasantly so, and didn’t feel heavy or thick when I put it on. This sample definitely made me a fan of the Hey Honey line, and I hope I receive more of their products to try in future boxes!

 

 

It’s Election Day and We’re All Right

Well, it’s finally here, kids…election day.

If you’re like me, the days leading up to this one were filled with anxiety. This is the fourth time I’ve voted in a presidential election – I’ve voted every single time I’ve been old enough to – and it’s the first time that I felt more dread than hope for the outcome. It’s a stark contrast to the pride and excitement I felt voting during the previous two elections.

Today is an absolutely gorgeous day in the Northwest. It’s sunny and over 70 degrees out, the kind of late fall day that is more rare around here than a unicorn. November in Seattle is typically gray, drizzly, and a little depressing. I basked in the beautiful weather today. I took walks with friends to soak up the sunshine. I listened to this song because I knew it would make my Northwest-loving soul happy. Truly, today is the kind of day that is far too nice for anything unpleasant to happen.

And so, I choose to believe that although it is election day, it is also far too nice a day for bad things to happen. I am choosing to believe that when the rain returns tomorrow, so will the calm contentment that I always feel when the drizzle returns to us after the sunshine, and that the anxiety I’ve felt this year will be gone for good. While 2016 has been a good year, it’s been filled with some very difficult things too, and I am so ready to move on to the lovely fresh start of 2017 (you know how I love a new beginning!). I am hopeful that the end of this election season will bring about relief from the anxiety we’ve all been feeling over it.  Because I know I’m not the only one who is just ready to take whatever happens and move forward.

Addressing the Nagging Thoughts

Last week I joined Weight Watchers, and it was like a light switched on in my brain. In the last six days, I’ve found myself cooking healthy dinners, swapping out unhealthy snacks for fruits and veggies, and feeling a lot more in control of what I was putting in my mouth without feeling restricted. I have my first meeting tomorrow during my lunch hour and am looking forward to it.

So far, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive….but there’s something that’s been nagging at the back of my mind, and that something is the fact that I know not everyone has had a positive WW experience – self included. I remember laughing as I read an excerpt from Jen Lancaster’s Such a Pretty Fat when she attended a WW meeting and detailed how crazy the group leader was and how WW meeting attendees seemed to have a vendetta against office birthday cake. Of course, I figured that some of that was embellished for comedic affect in the book…until I attended a WW meeting with my friend Angela six years ago. One of the women in the meeting candidly told us about how she couldn’t control herself with food and that she would not only put unhealthy treats directly into the garbage, but that she would also spray them down with hairspray so that she wouldn’t be tempted to fish them back out of the trash and eat them later. To me, that just screamed “I need counseling!”, but others at the meeting were quick to sympathize with her and to share their own tales of ruining food so that they wouldn’t return to munch out of the garbage in a moment of weakness.

Looking back, I’m really surprised that WW meeting leaders condoned this kind of behavior. Surely they should be pulling these poor people aside after meetings and recommending a good therapist? The fact that no one voiced a concern that this was unhealthy was a huge turn-off for me, and I didn’t feel any pull to go back.

I gave WW another shot last spring, after a glowing endorsement from my friend Sarah about how great her experience with the program had been. I went, and was instantly drawn to the group. These people were positive, upbeat, and endlessly supportive of one another. Nobody griped about birthday cake or talked about covering leftovers in Aqua Net before tossing them out. Maybe the program has turned itself around, or maybe Jen Lancaster and I just happened upon some messed-up meetings. I really hope my new group at work will be more like Sarah’s was, because that’s exactly the kind of upbeat support system I feel I need right now.

I really hope this experience remains positive for me. I’m feeling so optimistic and I really want to hang onto that. That said, I will make this pledge to myself right now: if this plan begins to affect me negatively, I will stop. If the food tracking leads to obsessive thoughts about food or urges to restrict food, I will move away from it (I don’t really anticipate this happening, as I tracked my food via the Lose It! app very religiously for years and had no problem with it). If the meeting at work is not the environment I need, I will go with Sarah to hers or I will change my WW membership to online only. I will do this only in a healthy way.

If you have a WW story, good or bad, feel free to share it with me!

Motivation Monday: Planning Ahead

Happy Monday and Happy Halloween! While it’s sort of a bummer that Halloween falls on a Monday this year, hopefully it will still be a fun day! I haven’t done a Motivation Monday post in a reeeeaaaaally long time, but since I’m trying to get myself back on track I thought I’d start it up again.

I was less in the spirit than usual this Halloween, I admit. Normally I like to come up with a cute costume to wear to work, and I have an entire bin of costumes to choose from. I vaguely thought about finding something for today, but I knew no one at work was very enthusiastic about dressing up and it’s just not as much fun if I’m the only one wearing a costume. So I opted to abstain from dressing up this year, much to the chagrin of one of my coworkers, who came dressed in full witch garb and armed with a plethora of extra costumes for those of us who failed to participate. I am now sporting a bright pink skirt speckled with musical notes and vinyl records that say ‘Rock’ and ‘Roll’, which I have paired with a tiara that I just happened to have on hand (shut up). When asked, I inform people that I am the Queen of Rock and Roll.

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Foreseeing that we would be a disappointment when it came to dressing up, my coworker planned ahead and brought extra outfits. Similarly, I planned ahead today with my food so I wouldn’t end up disappointed in myself. As is typical of Halloween, the office is full of junk food: fried chicken, candy, cookies, snack mix. It’s everywhere, and yet I’m surprisingly disinterested in it all. I packed my lunch today and filled it full of oranges, grapes, and apple slices to snack on. For lunch I made a sandwich with slices of turkey breast, shredded lettuce, and a bit of mustard on a Flatout Foldit artisan flatbread that I found at Safeway (here is the brand). Those flatbreads are only three points each! The points system is definitely making me more mindful of what I’m putting in my mouth.

I’m learning that it is FAR easier to stay under my daily WW points if I check point values on things BEFORE I buy them, hence the flatbread sandwich today. I went grocery shopping over the weekend armed with my app, and before I let anything into my cart I scanned its barcode to make sure it wasn’t going to put me over where I wanted to be. I’m also making good use of Pinterest and all the great recipes on there! Having lots of delicious food on hand to eat has helped me so much today – not only do I really not want to waste points on junk food, but I’m actually excited to eat what I brought for myself!

Recommitting to Health and Fitness

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I suppose the meme says it all, but the storm I was all geared up for in my last post never happened, at least in our area (sending love to Oregon and Canada, who really did experience the worst of it). All the storm hype had me pretty anxious, even though I was certainly prepared for it, and Sunday night I fell asleep early.

Even without having to work extra hours after a storm, the last couple of weeks have been extremely busy for me at work. I’m hoping things will be quieter this week, because I’m trying to make some healthy changes that are going to require me to do more than just go to work, come home, and sit on my couch.

Last week, I attended an informational Weight Watchers meeting at work. My office is trying to generate enough interest in the program to offer weekly lunchtime meetings, which would be fantastic for me. I know that I do better with eating healthy when I have support, and being able to attend a meeting right at my office instead of after work would be ideal. Work will cover half the cost of a WW membership, so I ultimately decided to go ahead and join the program. If we don’t end up having meetings at work, I have a friend who also belongs to WW who offered to go to an evening meeting with me.

To me, the appeal of WW is that there are no off-limits foods. I get a certain number of SMART points a day, and I can eat anything I like as long as I don’t go over my allotment. There are weekly points too, to give some cushion if need be. After I signed up last week, I downloaded the WW app on my phone so that I could track electronically. Once I had the hang of the app, I started entering all the things I had eaten so far that day….and was shocked at how many points I’d already consumed! While I had felt pretty good about my food choices from a calorie-counting standpoint, once I saw the more holistic view of what I’d eaten that the points offer, I realized that I could’ve made healthier choices.

The last few days have been a learning curve, as I try to modify my eating and select foods with lower point values. I created a Pinterest board for WW recipes and have been pinning like mad, because cooking meals at home seems to be the best way to keep my points low and my satisfaction with my food high. Last night I made a broccoli pasta dish, and tonight I’m planning on making a WW chicken chili recipe and baking a side of corn bread (the recipe I found is only 2 points per square!).

This week I’m hoping to focus not only on getting better at eating according to my WW points, but also on getting back into exercising regularly. My work life has been so busy lately that I’m waking up at 5am to go into the office early, and then I’m staying late so that I can stay caught up. This week, the workload will hopefully be lighter (a coworker of mine has been on vacation so I’ve been covering her work and mine, but she comes back tomorrow) and my plan is to take advantage of being able to leave at a reasonable time by working out in the evenings. I don’t currently have a gym membership anywhere, and while I’d like to do my workouts from home to save money I’m beginning to seriously doubt that I’m disciplined enough to keep myself motivated. If I can’t step it up on my own, I’ll be on the hunt for a new gym to join.

Over the last few years I’ve made multiple attempts at re-losing the weight I’ve gained, and every one of those attempts has been a failure. I think that I’ve been going wrong by trying to follow fad diets like Dukan and Medifast. While the quick results I can get from those diets definitely make them appealing, I’m miserable when I’m on them and any success is short-lived once I go back to eating normally. I don’t want to do that again. I’ve lost seven pounds since August just by trying to be a little more mindful of what I’m eating, and for the first time I feel like it might actually be possible to lose some of this extra weight for good. I don’t have a set “goal weight”; rather, I just want my wedding dress to zip up and fit comfortably (it’s currently a bit more snug than I would like). Hopefully a combination of following WW and getting back to an exercise routine will get me there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for Stormageddon

It’s Saturday, and like a lot of people in the Northwest I’m spending the day prepping for Stormageddon, A huge weather front is supposed to be hitting the Seattle area any time now, bringing with it a good amount of rain and high winds. Rain is kind of our jam here, but heavy wind is a big problem as it has a tendency to knock down trees, making them fall down on power lines and take out the electricity. According to the forecast, tonight’s storm has the makings of the biggest in over a decade in our area, with the biggest saving grace being that it is supposed to move through fairly quickly.

I’ve spent the day doing all the power-dependent stuff that makes our household function: doing laundry, charging phones, cooking up food so it won’t go bad if our electricity goes out and stays out. Bill ran the vacuum and cleaned up the apartment so we won’t inadvertently trip over something and kill ourselves if we’re reduced to using flashlights and candles to see in the dark. I bought a bunch of non-perishable food so that we won’t starve if we can’t use our stove or microwave (I’m hoping we don’t need it and I can just donate it all to the food bank next week).  Since I work for the power company, I’m on call, and am really hoping we don’t lose our power here because as long as my lights (and my Internet) stay on I can remain in my cozy home and not venture out into the storm to help out at work. Depending on the severity of the power outages, the next few days could be long ones as we all band together and try to keep our customers in the know about our restoration efforts.

It makes me so happy to see all the nice comments on social media from people who thank the linemen for the work they do, and all the well-wishes as they encourage all employees to stay safe. I definitely know that going without power can be a huge inconvenience, and it’s reassuring to see so many people who are more concerned with the safety of their fellow humans than put out that they may not be able to watch Netflix for a day or so.

The good news is that so far, it’s relatively quiet outside and I’m feeling good about our level of preparedness in this situation. I’ll be happy to get through tonight so that one way or another, I know what the next few days are going to look like.

 

Good Choices on a Tough Day

I don’t say things like this too often on my blog, but yesterday was rough. I’m usually pretty good at shaking off a difficult day at the office, but after I left work last night it took phone calls to both Bill and my mom and an hour of Zumba to get me out of the negative head-space I left in. When I went to bed, I still felt very anxious about the day’s events, and even this morning I had a hard time motivating myself to get ready and come into work (it doesn’t help that it’s the time of year when it’s still dark outside as I’m driving into the office, making me feel like the day really hasn’t begun yet and I ought to be snuggled warm and cozy in my bed).

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Luckily, once I actually got to work the day has been a huge improvement over my bad Monday. I came in early so that I could get a jump start on the day’s work and have been pretty productive. Last night I made plans to go to a hot yoga class with a friend after work, which I think will be a huge help with any lingering anxiety. And I’m beyond proud of myself for getting through a hard day without turning to junk food. Instead, I talked about my feelings, exercised, and made plans with a friend to follow up with more self-care. I know that it was just one day, but I feel good about the choices I made. Hopefully I won’t have any more super-stressful days for awhile, but if I do, I feel more confident that I will be able to handle them in healthy ways.