Welcome 2023 and Goals for January

After spending a fun and relaxing New Year’s Eve with wonderful friends, I woke up this morning excited to start my first day in 2023. The weather was sunny and just under fifty degrees, so Bill and I bundled up and took a long walk and had lunch together. It felt great to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and to spend time together. Now we’re relaxing and watching the Kraken game on TV, while also enjoying the Christmas tree for one last night before we de-Christmas the house tomorrow.

January should be a really great month for Bill and I – we’re headed to Cabo at the end of the month for a much-needed vacation, and I’m wrapping up a huge project at work and my days should start to feel a lot less hectic. Knowing that we’re going to be on vacation, I tailored my January goals so that I don’t feel like I have to follow any sort of plan while we’re away and I can just focus on relaxing, while working up until we leave on establishing new healthy habits.

Hit my calorie goal 65% of the month. I’ve decided to start counting calories, which is the only method of weight loss that has ever worked sustainably for me. To start, I’m setting myself a goal of 1,450 calories per day. By setting a percentage goal, I’m giving myself some wiggle room both for our vacation (when I intend to indulge and not stress about tracking or calorie counting) as well as some days to go over while I’m home so that I don’t feel like I have to be perfect all month.

Work out five days per week (except during vacation week). In December, I set a goal of doing ‘Daily December’ and said that I was going to try and work out every day except for Christmas Day. Work got extremely hectic right before Christmas and I didn’t accomplish my goal of daily workouts, but I did work out on 22 days of December and having that goal motivated me to work out on many days when I otherwise would have made excuses not to do it. Now that I’ve built that momentum, I really don’t want to lose it, but I also know that realistically working out seven days per week is a bit too much and that I do need rest days.

Average 7,500 steps per day. Since this is my annual goal, I’m making it my monthly goal as well so that I can get off to a strong start.

Add $500 to my emergency fund. I get paid once a month, so when I get paid in January I plan to transfer money directly into the personal savings account that I use for my emergency fund.

Read three books. Reading more should be easy since we’ll be on vacation, and this should give me a nice head start to achieving my 2023 reading goal.

Resolutions for 2023

I am absolutely blown away by how fast 2022 went by. Overall, it was a good year, but I dearly love a fresh start so I’m happy to be bidding it farewell.

I want to make 2023 a year to work on getting back to my best self. I’ll be turning 39 this year – it’s hard to believe I’m almost out of my 30’s! – and I want to set myself up for health and happiness as I approach the next decade of my life. My resolutions for this year are all in the theme of focusing on my mental, physical, and financial health.

Write in my gratitude journal daily. Years ago I got into the habit of keeping a journal to jot down things I’m grateful for. I’ve fallen out of the habit but I’d like to get back to it in 2023. I think it really helps me keep a positive mindset!

Read 30 books. I’ve gotten back into reading as a hobby and I love it. I think having this as a goal will help me reach for a book instead of mindlessly scrolling social media when I have free time.

Average 7,500 steps for the year. I want to prioritize walking in 2023. I even bought myself a walking pad for days when it’s too dark or rainy out for walking.

Lose 25lbs. I’m beginning 2023 at the heaviest weight I’ve ever been in my life. I accept that I’ll never have my 29-year-old body again, but I also don’t feel great at this size and I want to get healthier physically. Cleaning up my eating habits will make me feel a lot better.

Add $5,000 to my personal savings. I had some unexpected expenses in 2022 that really ate into my emergency fund and I want to replenish it.

Write monthly goals for myself. I think that one of the key ways to achieve my 2023 resolutions will be to create monthly goals to keep myself on track. It’s easier to achieve things when I make myself a road map!

Happy 2023!

Health Scare

On Sunday, my phone rang at around 5:15am. It woke me up; I was in Portland for the weekend with Bill and my good friend Jamie and didn’t need to be up until around 7:30 to start packing to head home. As I rushed to answer, my not-yet-awake brain was slowly processing that what I was hearing was my ringtone and not my alarm and that it was too early in the morning for anyone to be calling me with anything but bad news. The Caller ID display showed it was a call from my dad and briefly I hoped that he was simply up early (as he often is) and had somehow dialed my number by accident as he walked the dog. But as soon as I answered, he was there on the line, telling me first that everyone was okay but then going on to share that my mom had suffered a heart attack.

When I think of the things that I might have worried about happening to my mom, a heart attack wasn’t really on it. She’s in her seventies and up until now has never experienced any sort of issues with her heart. My grandfather and uncle both had heart problems, so it isn’t completely shocking – but they both experienced those problems when they were much younger so I always figured Mom had dodged any potential genetic bullets.

Having a parent in the hospital when you’re far away from them is incredibly stressful, or at least it is for me. As I am not a heart surgeon and quite frankly get a little squicked out by just being in a hospital, I don’t entertain any sort of fantasies that my being there would help her recovery in any way, but it’s still hard knowing that she’s going through something pretty traumatic for her and that there’s nothing I can do to comfort her or make things better. As someone who likes to plan and problem-solve, feeling helpless is extremely difficult for me.

Heart attacks sound very scary, but in reality medical advances have made them a lot less so and heart attack survivors can recover very quickly. As long as there are no unexpected setbacks, Mom should be able to go home from the hospital by the end of the week, and with some time to rest she’ll be as good as new. She’ll have to make some diet and lifestyle changes, but it seems like there’s also the possibility that she’ll ultimately feel better than she has in a long time.

Heart attacks present differently in women than they do in men and I feel like that’s as widely known as it should be. It’s important to know the common symptoms:

1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.

2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness, or heartburn.

5. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

I trust that my mom is getting the best care possible and I’m excited for her to be able to go home from the hospital to get back to living her life.

West Coast Road Trip, Pt. 3

Friday morning dawned sunny and beautiful and it was time for us to leave Monterey behind for the next leg of our adventure. Bill and I both really wanted to see the Redwoods, and there were plenty to look at as we wound our way north toward Eureka. That stretch of highway has plenty of twists and turns, along with beautiful scenery.

I had told Bill that I wanted to find the stretch of road that runs right through a Redwood, but he was skeptical and said he was pretty sure that the tree I had been thinking of had fallen down. So I got super excited as we drove through Leggett and I spotted a sign announcing “Drive Thru Tree”.

Sure enough, we found out that there was indeed the Chandelier Tree, a giant Redwood that cars could be driven through. It’s a private attraction and it was $10 cash, which I happily paid. We bumped along a back road for a bit before coming to the tree. The sheer size of it took my breath away.

It’s actually kind of amazing that I was able to navigate my car through the tree – I get nervous driving into the car wash! But I managed it with no scrapes or incidents.

On the other side of Leggett, we followed the Avenue of the Giants detour and stopped at the Founders Grove trailhead to wander through the giant Redwoods, completely at a loss for words. I knew Redwoods would be tall, of course, but it was impossible to imagine just how overwhelming it would be to see the 346-foot Founders Tree. At the Founders Grove, we were also able to see the Dyerville Giant, a Redwood tree that is approximately 2,000 years old. It was considered the tallest tree in the area before it fell in 1991.

After staying the night in Eureka, we headed back out onto 101 for the last bit of sightseeing before we turned the car toward home. We found the turnoff for the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway and followed it. Almost immediately we drove by a meadow filled with grazing elk. I could have stayed there all day watching them!

Beyond the elk, we found grove after grove of Redwoods. We stopped at a trailhead and took a short hike into the forest to see the Corkscrew Tree, which got its name because of its unique intertwined trunk pattern. It’s difficult to get a good photo of such a giant tree but I did my best.

I could spend an entire day at least just taking all of the hikes along the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. For this trip, we drove through slowly and enjoyed the views of the forest before eventually getting back on Highway 101 toward Crescent City. From there we took Highway 199 into Grant’s Pass, stopped for a quick lunch at In N Out, and then made our way home.

West Coast Road Trip, Pt. 2

Bill and I left Hermosa Beach on Thursday morning, after one more amazing breakfast at Martha’s. Our plan was to take Highway 101 on our drive north, which is decidedly more scenic than I5. Our first stop was in Venice, to see the iconic apartment building that was home to Romy White and Michele Weinberger in the movie Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion – one of my all-time favorite movies. It still looks pretty close to the way it did in the film!

Traffic was slow through Malibu but we were able to pick up the pace a bit and got to Solvang for a late lunch. It’s a Danish-style town in the Santa Ynez valley that’s known for its architecture and shops. The afternoon was sunny and warm so we took advantage of the weather and decided to take a walk through town. After stopping at Mortensen’s bakery to pick up some Danish treats, we split a sausage sandwich and enjoyed a pretzel with mustard and beer cheese at Solvang Brewing.

Our next stop was in Pismo Beach. Bill had read about a place called Dinosaur Caves Park and with a name like that we couldn’t resist checking it out. The day had turned cloudy, which suited me fine because I love a moody coastline.

We stayed the night in Monterey and I was beyond excited that we drove into town and to Beach Point just in time for sunset! The sky had opened up and dumped rain on us for the last hour of our drive, but right as the sun began to set the skies cleared just enough to treat us to a spectacular color show.

West Coast Road Trip, Pt. 1

As I write this, I’m sitting on a balcony at the Grandview Inn, looking out at the ocean while I breathe in the scent of the salt air. Hermosa Beach is one of my favorite places to be, and today as usual it has me in a calm, relaxed mindset that I can really only achieve by being near the ocean. I’m definitely a beach girl!

Truth is, even though Seattle is home and hopefully always will be, LA is a very close second choice. I am a SoCal girl at heart and being back here always just feels right. This trip, we drove down instead of flying. I love a road trip. We made it to Bakersfield the first night, then drove into Victorville on Monday for lunch with my Cali BFF Keri and her two girls, my Nieces Big and Small. Keri and I met back in our 411 days, then later became neighbors when she got married and moved into the same apartment complex I lived in. We went from being neighbors to long-distance friends when she moved to Arizona, only to come back to Victorville just months after I moved to Washington. We’ve always made our friendship a priority though, and when we get together it’s like we were never apart.

Most people have few if any nice things to say about the High Desert, but I honestly don’t mind being there. It’ll always be my hometown, the place I spent half my life so far and where I did most of my growing up. While we were there I tried to drive past the house I once owned, but the neighborhood has been built up so much that initially I got lost and had to go around the block and start over. The house looks the same as I imagine it would if I still lived there. The rose bushes, trees, and sage we planted are all still there, although much much bigger now. It’s kind of strange to think that fourteen years have passed since I bought that place. It was a beautiful house, but the time in my life when I lived there wasn’t the happiest. Things are far better for me now.

After lunch, we headed down to Hermosa Beach, where we’ll be until tomorrow morning when we begin our drive north toward home. I love being here. We’ve had a fun time enjoying the beach, shopping, and eating at cool local restaurants. We found a great piece of art for our room that I’m really excited about, and Bill and I both found some great new clothes and each found a fun pair of shoes at Vans.

Our normal breakfast place when we’re here is Good Stuff, but it’s closed for renovations so we’ve been branching out. This morning we tried Martha’s, and we absolutely loved it. We might even go back tomorrow for one more meal before heading out of town! Although I’m sad that our normal spot isn’t open right now, it’s been great trying new places.

While I love traveling to new places and exploring, I’m happy that we keep coming back to Hermosa Beach. And I’m so grateful that we got through the last two years without having to struggle with our health or finances and that we’re able to take vacations and spend time together doing things we love.

Things That Make Me Happy

Last week I wrote a post about how I had been struggling with burnout. Truthfully this week started off even worse, due to a combination of terrible things happening in the world, but I’m trying to work on getting myself into a better headspace by finding little things that make me happy and treating myself to as many of them as possible.

I am a person who definitely enjoys simple pleasures. I don’t need anything grand or extravagant; little happinesses suit me perfectly. Since writing my burnout post I’ve been trying to pay particular attention and take note of the things that have been making me feel good and decided to write about them, so I can look back and have a handy go-to list when I’m feeling blah.

I typically start my workdays with exercise. I like getting my workout done at the beginning of the day and starting my morning with movement tends to put me in a better mood. Once I’m finished working out, I definitely need a shower desperately, but lately I’ve found myself having a lot of anxious and racing thoughts while I shower. Bill recently got a Bluetooth speaker and he helped me sync my phone to it so that I could listen to music while I get ready in the mornings. It’s helped so much with my anxious shower thoughts! Instead of overthinking while I shampoo my hair, I can focus on the music. I created a short “shower playlist” on Spotify for myself and am only putting songs on it that make me feel happy, calm, or energized. So far it’s doing the trick!

I also decided I needed a new evening ritual as I’ve been having trouble falling asleep at night, even though I feel tired. Since I’ve fallen a little bit behind on my 2021 goal to read 24 books by the end of the year, I decided that reading would be the perfect before-bed activity. Nearly every evening for the past week, I’ve brewed myself a cup of lavender chamomile tea and taken it, along with two Dove dark chocolates, to bed with me to read for the last hour before I go to sleep. I had just finished a Jen Lancaster memoir and needed a new book to read, so I chose to begin the Harry Potter series again. I’m halfway through the first book, and honestly even though I remember liking it I quite forgot just how much I love the series. Reading it again is making me SO happy, which is a nice feeling to end the day with.

Speaking of rituals, who washes their hands more often than they ever imagined possible now? Uh, that’d be me. Back at the beginning of the pandemic, hand soap became incredibly difficult to find and I tasked myself with placing orders with Bath & Body Works to stock up on soap and hand sanitizer. Since I was buying everything online, I had no idea what any of it smelled like and was ordering solely based on names of scents that I thought would be nice. Some of the choices I made turned out to be duds, but others are delightful. Over the weekend I needed to replace one of the soaps in our guest bathroom and randomly selected a Violet and Freesia scented one. I washed my hands with it just to try it out, and it was like the clouds parted and the heavens opened up and cascaded down the amazing scent. I liked it so much that I put it in my own bathroom instead and got a different soap for the guest bath. Something about the smell reminds me of when I was living alone in my Victorville apartment, back when I was 22, but I can’t recall what I was using at the time that smelled similar or why it’s triggering a pleasant feeling of memory. The Violet and Freesia soaps aren’t currently available at Bath & Body Works, but I hope they bring it back so I can buy more.

Another scent I’ve been obsessed with lately is the Malicious Women Co. candle I bought for myself on a whim. I have a bunch of different candles from the company, which is woman-owned and based here in Snohomish County, and I really didn’t need another one but I got upset when an anti-vaxxer group started trolling them online and I wanted to show them some support. The new candle is Anxiety Girl, and the scent is Lavender and Coconut Water. I love it and it helps me to be less of an anxiety girl myself.

Feel-good TV has been making me happy lately, too. I was inspired to start re-watching Friends after the reunion special aired earlier this summer, and just like the Harry Potter books, I knew I loved this show but I forgot just how much. Everything about it makes me happy. In addition to re-watching an old favorite, Bill and I discovered the show Ted Lasso on Apple TV, binge-watched the first season, and are now caught up in the second season and watching new episodes as they air. The show is not only funny, but it’s heartwarming and positive and just has a feel-good vibe.

I’m hoping that by focusing on things like this that make me happy, I’ll be able to battle my burnout and start feeling better.

Burnout

This morning, I got up a little earlier than usual so that I could work out before an 8am meeting. In between getting ready for work, I started a load of laundry, cleaned up the kitchen, and ran the dishwasher. I took a shower and had my breakfast, then sipped my first cup of coffee of the day during my meeting.

To an outsider, I’m sure this sounds like I’m doing okay. I’m being productive. But the truth is, seeing dishes in the sink sometimes makes tears well up in my eyes because I just can’t figure out how I’m going to have the energy to wash them. I’ll run a load of laundry in the dryer a second time, not because it’s still damp but because I just can’t make myself fold it yet.

Last week I was feeling anxious and out of sorts and by Tuesday I finally lost it and sobbed as I sat at the desk in my room that is also my workspace now. Sometimes I feel like I barely leave my bedroom, and I wish desperately for a different space to work from but there just isn’t any other place in the house that makes sense. I feel overwhelmed and frustrated and sad. Living through this pandemic for the last year and a half, pressing pause on pretty much every part of my life that I enjoy, and seeing just how little some of my loved ones care about other people has drained my very soul.

This week feels even more difficult, because the heat has returned along with smoke from nearby wildfires. Not only is it hard being cooped up inside because the air is too unhealthy outside to breathe, but I feel so depressed thinking of the fires and all of the loss of life and destruction that comes with them. I remember a time when wildfires were not part of Northwest summers and I hate that we as a species have hurt the very earth we live on so terribly that this is now a normal part of the year.

I know I’m fortunate to have a home and a stable job and that all of my basic needs are met. I am so grateful to all of the people who worked so hard to develop a vaccine so that I could have a little bit of my life back. I count my lucky stars every time I’m able to spend time with friends, because we got so very little of that for a year. I can’t imagine what it’s been like to be an essential worker for the last year and a half, being screamed at and talked down to and mistreated by people you’re trying to help, and it scares me to think that, as bad as I feel right now, that they must be feeling so much worse.

I wish I had something useful or positive to end this post on, but I have no helpful tips or advice for dealing with burnout. I’ve read a lot of articles on the subject and I honestly don’t know that there’s anything in particular that can help. So I guess for now all I can do is accept that I’m not feeling great and hope that writing about it will help purge it from my mind a little. And then I’ll brush away the tears, make another cup of coffee, and tackle my email inbox, because what else can I do but keep on going?

Riding the Wave

We’re in the middle of an historic heat wave in the Seattle area, with temperatures in some areas hitting (or breaking!) 100 degrees. Luckily it isn’t quite that bad in Edmonds, but we’re still seeing record heat and the high for today is supposed to be 97 (as I write this, it’s hit 90 and it’s just now noon).

While I am normally a person who loves summer and the warm weather that comes with it, we just aren’t prepared for this kind of heat in Western Washington. While more and more places are putting in central air conditioning, a lot of us still don’t have it and we have to rely on fans and window units to keep our condo as livable as possible. Even with that, it gets really hot in our house. Last night we went down to the beach, where it was breezy and a little cooler and where we could put our feet in the Sound and let the cold water cool us down somewhat.

Today is supposed to be the hottest, and thankfully temperatures will drop a little as the week goes on. But it’s not going to get “cool” by any means, with forecasted highs still in the high 70s to low 80s.

For me one of the hardest things about this weather is that not only is it next to impossible to keep our house cool, but I’m also stuck indoors because it’s just too hot to do things outside. My daily walks are just not a good idea in this heat and there’s no way I’m going to hit my June step goal. Bill and I did get up early this morning to do our workout before the day started warming up and I’m proud of us for that. It’s too hot to have the oven on so I didn’t get to make my normal breakfast of egg muffins, but I got the turkey bacon and egg white breakfast sandwich from Starbucks instead and I feel like overall it was a decent alternative. I have dinners planned for the week that are healthy but don’t require use of the oven, as I’m planning to run to the grocery store after work and pick up some premade chicken to put in my salads instead of having to cook.

I’m proud of myself for finding some healthy alternatives to stay on track, but I’m trying hard not to be really bummed about missing my step goal this month. I already knew that with my shifting focus on how I was going to count calories that the original goal I set at the beginning of the month wouldn’t work out, but I was okay with that because I felt like I was working toward a more sustainable and successful method of approaching my nutrition. But it’s hard not to feel a wave of emotion at what does feel like backsliding and missing multiple goals that I set.

I’m trying to be gentle with myself and also to remember that things like extreme weather do happen and that I didn’t gain all my progress in a week and I won’t lose it in a week either. I’m going to stay consistent with my workouts and focus on progress, not perfection.

Reopening Anxiety

Like most people we know, Bill and I are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. With the exception of flying to San Diego last month (something I never would have done prior to being vaccinated), not a lot has changed for us. We still don’t eat inside restaurants, we aren’t going to the movie theater, we wear our masks religiously inside stores even if it isn’t required anymore.

Truthfully, I still have a lot of anxiety about the prospect of getting sick. Even if I caught something other than COVID, I know being ill for the first time in almost two years would freak me out. And the truth is, I like not getting sick. I really like it. If wearing a little piece of cloth over my face means I never have to suffer a stupid head cold again, it’s well worth it.

While our closest friends seem to be on the same page as us and are remaining more cautious, I know plenty of other people, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, who have tossed aside their masks and are back to their pre-pandemic way of life. When a family member or friend texts me to gloat about how amazing it felt to go shopping sans mask, I don’t really know what to say. At this stage of things, I think they’re making a mistake, but it’s not really my place to tell them so. But I also don’t understand why these people feel the need to tell me about their behavior in the first place, since they are all people who know I think it’s too soon for that.

It’s okay to be anxious about the loosened restrictions and I am not going to be pressured into changing my behavior just because the option has presented itself. I have to do what I feel is right for me and what I’m comfortable with, and that extends into who I spend my time with. After a lot of anxious consideration, I regretfully turned down an invitation to a family gathering next month because it’s being held indoors and not all of the attendees will be vaccinated. Spending an extended period of time in close quarters with unvaccinated people is not something I’m ready to do and I finally came to the conclusion that the best way to handle these situations is to just be upfront about why I don’t want to go. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about my loved ones, but it does mean that I am prioritizing myself and my health right now.

I’ve had people tell me that I need to “just live my life”, to which I say, I am! I am not a shut-in. I have game nights with vaccinated family members and friends, and Bill and I have started dining out at restaurants that offer outdoor seating (and by that I mean true outdoor seating, not a fully enclosed tent which is now effectively just a new indoor space). When I flew for the first time, I was definitely a little nervous, but overall I handled it well and I am comfortable with the idea of doing it again.

I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to try indoor dining again, or go to a movie in a theater, or attend a party when I don’t know everyone’s vaccination status. I suppose I’ll watch and wait, and see if case numbers continue to fall or if we see another surge as a result of the loosened restrictions. As for masking up, I see that being a permanent staple in my life, at least in large crowds indoors and during cold and flu season. It’s such a small thing to do that yields such great benefits that I don’t see any reason to stop. After all, being sick sucks, no matter what I’m infected with!