Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The right dose of Self-Denial

Saying no is hard, until it becomes too easy.

When I was a teenager, I had no problems with denying myself food. Food wasn't appealing to me, skinny was. What's interesting is I don't remember not eating on purpose to be skinny, I just remember not wanting to eat. Dinner suggestions never sounded appealing, most food never tasted good, and if I ate more than a few bites I felt sick to my stomach. I was what you might call "an appetizer-eater." I could be completely satisfied by a small order of queso and some tortillas, or the free bread rolls at Italian restaurants, or an order of fries. It was stupid for me to ever order a meal out, because I barely ate any of it. I always needed to go halvsies - or even quartersies - with someone else. I survived on Dr. Pepper, Sour Skittles, and chips and crackers.

What I would as an adult now identify as a mild form of an eating disorder, was then just seen as bad habits and poor choices by my parents. My mother was baffled by the fact I was never hungry. I fully maintain that I was emotionally and psychologically innocent of purposefully starving myself. I ate when I was truly hungry; it was just rare that I was hungry. I didn't make myself go without food for long periods of time as punishment, or throw up what I did manage to eat, but my dietary habits were certainly disorderly. It was wonderful feeling light, but not lightheaded. It felt good to feel empty inside. It was something I had control over, in my desired to be an independent teenager.

Like many other people, my story changed when I went to college. Over the course of those 4 years, food started becoming my comforter, rather than my enemy. I was still making seriously bad choices, but I was eating more regularly and sometimes stuffing myself, on a bad day. A broken heart, lots of late nights, and stress do terrible things to your relationship with food. And your relationships with people - but that's another story for another day. We ate whatever we wanted, because we were young and invincible, and it was cheap. When I graduated, I immediately entered into a long-term serious relationship. I felt comfortable with that relationship and therefore my body image, and I stopped being so self-conscious about things like weight. That long-term, serious relationship ended in marriage, and an extra 20 lbs later, and I'm back to denying myself food... yet again. This time, the bad stuff.

This week I've been contemplating Self-Denial quite a bit. It is that time... Lent is approaching and soon Facebook will be flooded with everyone announcing what they plan to "give up" for six weeks, whether it's a part of their organized religion or not. What martyrs we are: giving up TV, makeup,  porn, sugar, carbs, etc; pats on the back everyone! (I'll just drop the bomb now: I will be "giving up" Facebook like a true repentant, personal usage - not business, probably a few weeks early just so I can avoid everyone else's announcements. It's time we took a little break, Facebook and me, especially because Facebook is all selfishness and self-promotion.)

I think Self-Denial in itself can become a fixation (see eating disorders), and can lead to unhealthy priorities. At first, it's rough saying no to cheese or soda, but little by little you feel empowered. It's interesting that we feel empowered by saying "no" to ourselves, when really we have complete control over what we do all the time to begin with. Still, we see each act of willpower as a little victory. It's like we win a little war every time we resist an Oreo cookie. I feel the need to brag to someone when all I had for lunch was raw green peppers and celery. Yes, I feel part rabbit, but also part superhero. But my fear is always that I will end up like the Comte from Chocolat, who fasts for weeks because his wife has left him, and then becomes embittered, angry, and vengeful, and ends up like this:

(oh, ignore the Russian dialogue at the end, this was the only clip I could find)

(Yep, if I'm not careful, chocolate will be my downfall.)

In all seriousness, what I'm trying to do differently this year is find the balance. I want to eat healthily, but not feel like I'm "missing out" every time we order at a restaurant with friends. I want to grow to where I appreciate and enjoy healthier choices, rather than selecting them just because I know they are right for me. I want to be able to have a little candy here and there, or bake some cookies, or (gasp!) drink a soda when the mood strikes me, all in moderation. But before we get to that point, I do have to reestablish willpower and control over my choices: mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

I'm searching for the right dose of self-denial in my life. The one I can maintain long-term, without negative affects. And not just until Lent has passed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Greek Yogurt Memoirs

You can never really be sure what small details of foreign travels will stick with you for years to come. For me, our trip to Greece will always be specially marked by the creamiest, freshest-tasting yogurt.

It is custom in Greece for a complimentary dish of yogurt topped with honey to be served after your meal. They believe it helps "settle" your meal in your stomach - which, of course, we would refer to as avoiding indigestion. Whatever you wanna call it, I'm on board. First, it's complimentary. That means free. Who doesn't like free? Second, it's tasty. In fact, it's the best yogurt I've ever had in my entire life.

I'm sure it's partially the best yogurt I've ever had because I enjoyed it most mornings at this table...

With this view...

This morning I finally opened a container of FAGE 2% - it was recommended to us as the closest thing this side of the pond to "real" Greek yogurt. Man, for a few seconds I was right back at that table enjoying the view.

Go Greek!

Monday, January 28, 2013

January Book Review: Beautiful Ruins

Book Review: Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
My rating:    

Not only did I finish Beautiful Ruins over two weeks ago, but I've also read two "bonus books" for January since then. Brag, brag, brag. In addition, my March selection of J.K. Rowling's A Casual Vacancy was just brought home from the library and I can't wait to start it! (Sadly, Sweet Tooth is on hold by like 49,573 people at the library, so as I predicted we will be flip-flopping February and March selections. No biggie.) A Casual Vacancy is actually serving as my motivation to write this book review. I've decided I won't allow myself to move on to next month's book without putting some thoughts on paper. Otherwise, it will end up like my journal entries from our trip to Greece in October... forever procrastinated about and unfinished.

So - on to the book and a few general reflections. Beautiful Ruins was hailed -- on its front cover -- by NPR as "a literary miracle." I don't know the exact context of that comment, or exactly what "a literary miracle"entails to that reviewer. I do not think this book is a literary miracle. What it is, however, is a pretty creative plot idea, delivered in a mildly distracting manner. If you'd like a very good summary of this plot, please see the Sunday NY Times Review. Be warned -- that review made me like the book more than I did when I set out to write my own review. But seriously -- go read it, because nothing I say below will really make sense other wise.

Here we have to step off topic for one second, before I rant about particulars. I have always had significantly less love for books told from multiple -- and in this case I do mean multiple -- perspectives. For my linear brain, it truly interrupts the flow of the story. Two perspectives I can handle well, and I accept that some stories really need more than one voice to perform adequately. The more voices you add, however, and the more distracted I become. When I compare this style to that of my favorite John Irving, who can weave an intense and complex "literary miracle" all narrated by one consistent character, I struggle to understand why someone would write any other way. I realize this is a completely subjective and personal issue I take with novels, but it's my blog, my review, and my opinion. I happen to like starting out on a journey, and sticking with the same "friend" the whole way. Otherwise, I'm not sure who to trust or believe, and why.

Noting the above paragraph, it is no surprise that this book DROVE ME CRAZY at times. With no less than seven different narrating characters (I think I counted all of them), four more consistent than the other three who really just made cameos, I got so irritated about the lack of progression in the story, as it felt like we were always detouring to introduce a new character voice. This irritation was compounded by the fact that while the plot basis is really quite creative, the ending is really quite predictable. There weren't a lot of surprises once the book got going, just a lot of "bravado," if you will. With all the creative styling (see below) stripped away, the plot had real potential to be mind-blowing if the author had fleshed out the characters a bit more.

In addition to the multiple narrators, the time frame begins in the 1960's, jumps to present day, and then back and forth to the 1960's, 70's, 80's -- well, you get my drift -- in no particular order. This also didn't help me stay on the rollercoaster very well. I spent some time wondering if the bits surrounding Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor were even feasible, and had to stop and look it up on Wikipedia to make sure it worked out theoretically. Finally, the "narrators" don't just narrate and their perspectives aren't delivered in first person, and here is where what I both love and hate about this book comes into play. Walters has a lot of fun inserting chapters of fictional books, screenplay scenes, journal entries, etc, in place of actual narrative chapters. One of the chapters is devoted entirely to a screen play pitch about "Donner!" -- a Hollywood version of The Donner Party. Another, to a playwright's "Part IV" of a play in three acts. Yet another, to the first chapter of a memoir that was never published. It's really a fascinating undertaking, and I applaud the effort and imagination it must have taken. I was impressed. I also made me sort of tired trying to keep up and "hang in there."

I liked the idea a lot. I wanted to really love the book. I'll settle for three out of five stars.

January Bonus Books:
Bossypants, by Tina Fey (   ) 
Wildwood, by Colin Meloy (  ☆)

★ - Hated it.  ★ - Didn't like it.  ★ - Liked it.  ★ - Really liked it.  ★ - Absolutely loved it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Small Things v.3

The Things We Own

Sometimes I walk through our home at night and I look at all our possessions. I really love to do this right after I've deep-cleaned, which typically means guests are on their way. I find myself standing in each room, assessing the plumpness of the pillows, or the arrangement on top of the dresser. I look for things out of place: a frame that needs to be tweaked because it's slightly cock-eyed, a stray thread in the carpet, a hand towel that's uneven. I find a reason to pick things up, touch them, dust them, straighten them, and put them back. This behavior sounds mental, but I love these moments. I'm critical of the home I have prepared for my little family. I want it to resemble us, to show our best parts, to be pretty. But, most of all, I want it full of love.

I don't like to have a lot of possessions. I don't think I'm very materialistic, unless we're referring to clothing. (!) There are a lot of things I want, but most of them are more practical: an additional bedroom or proper landscaping. Everything we own must have a use or a purpose, or hold very specific sentimental value. I do not like to collect useless crap or save things for "one day." Every couple of months I donate clothing and home goods we no longer need. I've donated clothing that (shamefully) still had the tags on it. I'm in a constant state of "purging" and reorganization. I'm pretty much the opposite of a hoarder. I hate clutter. 

When it comes to the things we own, I want to be able to walk through our house and know that each one is in its place, and be able to remember what it stands for. Like the little old man and woman salt & pepper shakers, which were our cake toppers at our wedding, or the framed maps of places we've been, and the shelves of books and scripts we've read.

These belongings, they are really nothing. They are meaningless objects, except to us. To us they are little mirrors, reflecting our lives back to us. They remind us of who we were as children: like the framed baby photo on his dresser of me at age 2, holding wooden blocks. They remind us of who we were in college: like the philosophy textbooks and plays that line the bookshelves. They remind us of who we were when we met: like the painting of the Golden Gate Bridge my sister made for us. They remind us of who were were when we became "one": like the potted succulents from our wedding.

Really, our home isn't made of walls and doors and floors. Our home is built from the things we own. We could live in a tent, and still make it a home by carefully placing these little mirrors around us. These things we own, we could live without them, but they make our home a happier little place.

Friday, January 25, 2013

GreenTea-Lemonade Season

Aaaaaah, it's here. April weather. 

Wait! What? It's only January, you might say.

But, yes, it's near 80 degrees here in Austin on January 25th. That's right. It's not even February and I'm in shorts, a t-shirt, and sweating while I clean the house. This calls for a GreenTea-Lemonade.

GreenTea-Lemonade (GTL) began for me my senior year in college. My sister was working at the only Starbucks that had just opened in my alma mater's teeny-tiny town, and all the cool kids went there to "study" and hang out. It was seriously a novelty, except that I didn't like or drink coffee of any kind. In my mind, if there was soda to be had, what other form of caffeine was needed? Needing to fit in and have a signature drink to order, my sister suggested I try their new iced tea drink: GreenTea-Lemonade. And thus GTL shattered my soda-only world. 

It became my go-to drink during warmer months, in desperate attempts to be able to share in the coolness of Starbucks. It became my substitute for those numerous (failed) attempts at giving up soda. It became my sanity when I was caring for two little rascals the year I spent as a Nanny in D.C. It became my one source of comfort during the last two summers in ATX, with temperatures of 100+ degrees most days.

I can drink my weight in GTL.

Last March my friend Anne came to play, and I got her temporarily hooked on GTL. So hooked that as we were wandering the strip in ATX, our shopping was constantly interrupted by a desperate need for the potty. We kept running back in to the nearest Starbucks to get $.59 refills and use the free restroom. It sort of backfired, but somehow we still ended up buying plenty of clothes. Somehow.

Somewhere along the way, I started making my own GTL. I had to; I couldn't support that kind of habit long-term. A venti GTL at Starbucks is about $5, and remember - I can drink my weight. I don't know how many ounces I weigh, but I'm pretty sure that would cost a lot on a daily basis. Now I buy organic green tea in bulk from Sam's, and organic lemonade from HEB and Central Market. Then I mix it fresh for every drink, and sometimes add in some mint leaves. Plus, I use the same cup every time, so I'm being environmentally friendly. I used to mix half tea & half lemonade, but after a while that became too sweetly acidic for me. In light of making healthier choices I now view the lemonade as a sweetener, rather than a main component. 

Today I decided to compare the "nutritional" facts about my two favorite drinks: GTL and Dr. Pepper. In sugar alone, I think it's pretty clear who the winner is here, and that's without mentioning all the good antioxidants and other properties that are known to be in Green Tea. Anything good in Dr. Pepper besides it's 23 artificial flavors, including High Fructose Corn Syrup? Nope.

If you order GTL in the store, request it as unsweetened and with light ice. 
The syrup they add makes it too sweet and too much ice just means you end up with a watery drink.
Remember if you make this at home, you can make it with even LESS sugar.

I just wanted to share a summertime favorite with you, in honor of summertime's super early arrival today... in January.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book-It 2013


Did any of you do Book-It when you were in elementary school? Today as I was agreeing to give up processed foods, soda, and most dairy products - think cheese - yet again for the remainder of the month my mind drifted to Pizza Hut's Personal Pan Pizzas, and I ended up at Book-It. Book-It is a reading rewards program sponsored by Pizza Hut wherein you set a goal for reading and, if you achieve it, you are given a free personal pan pizza to celebrate. It still exists, although when I was a child we were given buttons and applied star stickers for each book we completed. Now it appears they are tracking number of minutes read, versus number of books. I suppose this is the politically correct thing to do. Some readers are slower than others, and we wouldn't want anyone to be shorted their own pizza at the end of the month now, would we?

For my own adult Book-It, I had so much fun researching and putting together my 2013 reading list the past few days, and I am excited to get some feedback! Furthermore, I'm excited and nervous about all the monthly book reviews I will have to write. Since I'm sharing the list on my blog, and with whoever reads it, I feel somewhat accountable to actually read the books and finish each one on time. I can't imagine why I didn't think of this before. Somehow, free pizza sounds more fun, but I suppose a review will have to do as my reward. Unless you have any other suggestions?

I do have a prepared disclaimer, of course:
Enjoyment Disclaimer: I have to be flexible a tiny bit to what is going on in my life, and what I need to be reading. For any of you who have a strong emotional connection to books, you probably understand my meaning. The rest of you are probably laughing. Some of these are heavy hitters, and if I'm going through a low spot my pleasurable reading shouldn't be lowering me even further. Further, I reserve the right to discard a book that I am really, really, really not enjoying or for which I have no appreciation. My research and familiarity with 90% of these authors leads me to believe that won't take place, but the ultimate point of this 2013 goal was to help me rekindle a love of reading. There is a time and a place to plow through a tome to make a point. This is neither.

Now... on to the literature! I have - in my opinion - rustled up a marvelous selection here. I am not going to summarize each one, you can follow the link to the Amazon reviews and read for yourself, but I will let you know why they made the cut. I tried to throw in a bit of everything, and plotted each book for a particular month, based on topic and writing style, and what I'm usually in the mood for (ex: lighter summer reading).

2013 Proposed Reading List

As I said before, this book was a Christmas gift from my mother. She knows my taste, and so far her guess was spot on. It has been a pretty light read so far, and I'm zooming through! In the middle of "winter," it is rather nice to escape both to sunny California and picturesque Cinque Terre all inside the same cover. I'm excited to add Jess Walter to my list of authors who are readable. It makes picking out future books so much easier if you know you like a particular author. In this case, I think I do.

I always wanted to read Atonement, but I really, tragically hate reading books when I've already seen the movie. It utterly inhibits my ability to detach from the images already fixed in my mind and invest in the story. So, for my first shot at McEwan, I opted to read his newest novel, and form my own opinions. As February is considered a month where we focus on affection and relationships, I thought this unique love story would be a good fit. Plus, anything set in any British war-time era, is usually going to peak my interest.

I foresee a long-ish roadtrip this month, and that is why I casually placed Rowling's newest novel for adults here: my mom has it on audiobook. Not sure that's the way I want to experience it firsthand, but just in case I'll reserve it for March. Besides, it's not as if I could wait until some far off date to see what it's all about! Of course I loved the Harry Potter series, but I also have a fondness for J.K. Rowling, her storytelling, and her imagination. I am going to try very, very hard to see this as a stand alone work, and not with "but there was no quidditch!" goggles on.

Life After Death, by Damien Echols
I caught an interview on NPR with this death-row prisoner turned author about his autobiographical work and was instantly fascinated. After being convicted for the murder of three 8 year old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, and serving 18 years in solitary confinement, Echols and two co-defendants were released in August 2011 on a plea agreement. The three maintain their innocence, and their controversially mishandled case received the publicized support of celebrities like Johnny Depp. For the month when many people contemplate salvation, redemption, and forgiveness, I couldn't think of a better book to be reading.

I read Pamuk's Snow when I was in college. I don't remember loving it, but I do remember appreciating it, largely for its middle-eastern influences. However, this plot is much more appealing to me: "It is 1975, a perfect spring in Istanbul. Kemal and Sibel, children of two prominent families, are about to become engaged. But when Kemal encounters F├╝sun, a beautiful shopgirl and a distant relation, he becomes enthralled. And once they violate the code of virginity, a rift begins to open between Kemal and the world of the Westernized Istanbul bourgeoisie." Since I wanted to read books by authors of varying cultures and ethnicities, this Nobel Prize-winning author seemed a good place to start.

Apparently this thriller has been topping bestseller charts, but I hadn't heard about it until I started my search. It was a totally random choice, but I wanted some "fluff" for summer reading and this seems to be that. June is also shaping up to be a busy month with weddings, I needed to pick something easy and fast, so I wouldn't just automatically fail. I found it ironic that this murder mystery is a husband and wife whodunnit. During the day I'll help happy people say I dos, and in the evenings I'll read about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong: till death did them part.

One thing Tim and I have in common is our love of conspiracy theories and a good political thriller. I think we solidified this by living in our nation's capital of Washington, D.C. for two years, but the common ground in political fiction (ha, is that even a term?) was established by watching all seven seasons of The West Wing together when we lived in Kentucky. I'm hoping that I can give this bestseller to him for his 30th (gasp) birthday in June, and maybe he'll be done with it by July so that I can read it. I've never read any Stephen King before, either. Oh boy, oh boy.

Mystery Book Month!
Just for shits and grins, I left one novel TBD.
I'm taking suggestions of course, and I might be specifically interested in a novel to pair with our possible summer vacation destination: Edinburgh, Scotland! We're going to try to make it across the pond to see my sister and brother-in-law while they are still living there. So keep in mind this is a) for summer, b) for vacation reading, and d) for Dreadfully hot in Texas. I am going to need to escape in more ways than one. Now, send me your very best.

I am fairly certain that come September, any healthy-eating resolve I have right now could be suffering from summer gluttony and vacation "exceptions to the rule" mentality. I placed Pollan's eater's manifesto, which has been on my must-read list for years, strategically to help reboot and redirect my attention to healthy food, good choices, and environmental awareness. It might also go nicely with plotting our "winter" garden, which I would reeeeeeally like to fiiiiiiinally get around to doing this fall. I just hope I don't end up in the fetal position with each chapter, like I did after watching Food, Inc.

I have had hits and misses with T.C. Boyle. I loved Drop City, but failed to ever finish The Women. However, his narrative style is different from many of his contemporaries, and I'm always curious about male authors who insist on repeatedly writing female protagonists. Sometimes I'm just not "in the mood" for his irony, but his newest book interested me enough to have it kick off my fall season reading: "On a tiny, desolate, windswept island off the coast of Southern California, two families, one in the 1880s and one in the 1930s, come to start new lives and pursue dreams of self-reliance and freedom." October marks the beginning of fall, and it's time to change the tone.

Farewell, My Queen, by Chantal Thomas 
November is one of my favorite months. In Texas, it is the first month we are usually justified curling up under a blanket with a hot cup of tea and a good read. I wanted a delicious story for this month, one with a bit of intrigue, but not too heavy. I actually discovered this novel when I heard about the movie, which was released earlier this year. It is a subtitled film, and I'm not positive it was widely released in the U.S. I can't recall how I stumbled upon it, but being that I like most things period and all things royal, I added the film to my watch list. When I realized the movie was a book adaptation, I decided to read it first.

At the last second I switched December novels. I had a novel here by a Danish author, which would have made my list a little less heavy in American writing. Then I remembered that this book was one that I'd been intending to read for quite a while, and I didn't want to put it off any longer. With the plot circling human trafficking in Indian and on a global scale, it's sorta heavy for a month of cheer and celebration. But maybe that's apropos: a reminder that my luxurious life as the white American, middle class housewife isn't the same card every female is dealt. Maybe I'll be a little more grateful during the season of thankfulness.

I would love for you to share your 2013 reading lists with me! 
I've also started using Goodreads to create book lists, and keep track of books I have read. Check it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Gap

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

This video has sat in my blog drafts for months. I haven't written anything in response to it, because I felt like anything I wrote would be a disappointment in the face of such brilliance. Then today, I had a "lightbulb" moment and realized: that is exactly what this video is about. DUH. Thank you, Ira Glass.

I have watched this video about 50 times, and each time feel beaten over the head with some of the most simple, yet extraordinary advice that any artist, designer, or creative person could ever receive. It's so obvious, and it's so good. It makes me want to pound my fist on the table, and shout "Amen, Ira! Amen!"

The bottom line is that anybody who creates anything has to be able to be both critical and nourishing of their work at the same time. Sometimes you have to make the wrong choice, before you are led to a better one. To make this even more vague, I don't believe there really is right and wrong in creation, only stronger and weaker choices. But if you aren't DOING ANY WORK, you can't be critical OR nourishing and you certainly aren't moving forward.

This year, as an artist, my resolution is to do as much creative work as possible. To write as much as possible. To attend creative conventions and craft fairs. To read inspiring works. To work on stronger choices. To fight my way through the crap, catch up and close the Gap.

I hope you'll join me in whatever way you can. Guess what? Your brain will get bigger if you do.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Healthy Steps in the Right Direction

So we're beginning the start of only the second week of the New Year and I've already LIED about my resolutions. I said in a previous New Year post I was set to start back with my trainer on the 3rd, but I canceled that session. There were several reasons, like being out of town, but one of them was I just wasn't mentally ready! So tomorrow is the day, and I'm not canceling this time. You heard it here.

As the most popular resolution each year, with billions of people falling in line, it's no wonder we get sick of hearing about everyone's renewed attempts to win back their bodies. I know I do. It's so easy to get jaded, and as the years drag on and you give up diet after diet or gym membership after gym membership, we just stop listening at all: to the commercials, the discounts, the new fads, and most importantly, to our bodies.

The scariest thing to me about now being in my late 20's is how I am already so willing to live with pain and discomfort. I know certain foods don't play nice with my intestines. But I eat them. I know sitting on my ass doesn't make it any smaller. But I'm apathetic. I know I'm dropping years off my life by bad sleep habits. But I'll still play on my iPhone until 2am. I am part of the lazy, uncommitted thousands that wish with their heart to have changed lifestyles and bodies, but don't actually ever fulfill the dream by getting up and doing it. My body is shouting at me, and I keep muting it. Well, that's getting harder and harder to do, so it's time to get serious about "healthy," all around. Not just my physical well-being, but the over-all balance in my life. 

What I love about our calendar - not the Mayan one - is that each new year we are given the chance to shrug off our failed attempts, and have at it once again. That's not to say you can't do this at any old time, but January just sticks as the month of "trying." So here I go again, with the trying. First, I am going to "try" to be realistic. I know myself. I know myself well enough to know that if my goal this year was to train for a marathon, I would surely fail. Why? I have pretty much zero desire to run a marathon. It really just sounds like a big ball of joint pain and terrifying chafing. In fact, I hate running. Well - I hate exercising completely, really, but running is the bane of my existence. What I do desire is to feel better, sleep better, and look better. I want to have more energy and less pain. I want to get smarter. I want to feel like my brain is working - not half-asleep. These desires were at the forefront of my mind when I revised my goal list for this year. These are actual desires, things that I really want, things that I need to be healthy, and they are attainable with just a little effort. So this year I will be making realistic and healthy (baby) steps in the right direction, in the hopes that - unlike some dietary change I can't get hooked on, or the running regimen I am doomed to drop out of - it will stick.

Today, I'm getting specific about two of my resolutions. Here's the full list, for a refresher:

1. Buy local, Cook more, Eat better.
2. Save money instead of Spending money: pay off debt.
3. Study a foreign language.
4. Watch less TV, Read more books, and Journal/Blog regularly.
5. Maintain active lifestyle and be dedicated about strength training.
6. Work hard at building my business, and plan for the future.
7. Visit Susanna & Nathan in Scotland (tour the UK).
8. Organize my life, my data storage, my business, get rid of everything we don't need!
9. Try new things instead of falling into habits.

4. Watch less TV, Read more books, and Journal/Blog regularly.

I was that little girl that could read a Nancy Drew novel in one sitting. What happened to that little girl? The same one stayed up until the wee hours reading in secret by the glow of a nightlight. No wonder I have terrible eyesight. Now I stay up blog-stalking by the glare of my phone, and I'm lucky if I finish a book over three months. What??? Put that shit down and turn some pages. I don't have to be told. I know without a doubt that I always sleep better if I read before bed. It helps me unwind, it lets my brain relax and travel somewhere else besides my worries, and if it's a bad book it puts me right to sleep. I've heard several people Facebook-mention their goal of reading one book per month. I think I can do that, even at my busiest. So I will be unoriginal and claim the same goal of reading a minimum of one book per month. But I'm going to work on my Blog regularly resolution at the same time, and write a monthly book review of each book I read. This month I'm reading: Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. The book was a christmas gift from my mom who, I suppose, recalled me complaining that in order to keep my attention these days, a book had to be a really good story and adventure. So far it is that. I am also taking recommendations.

I also want to commit to keeping technology to a minimum while in bed. I already work from home. I don't need to work/play/piddle around on my phone from my bed as well. I need to silence my phone before getting in bed, and leave it that way. Give my thumbs a little rest. I can't guarantee I will do this every night, but I'm committed to making a strong effort.

5. Maintain active lifestyle and be dedicated about strength training.

WALK! I feel like an old lady by saying this, but I know what a huge difference it would make in my life this year, and subsequent years, if I would just get outside for a simple walk everyday. Not to mention, it would be good for Mr Dog. He's just so cuddly, I just want to CUDDLE him all day, not bag his poop. But it would be tremendous for us both if we went for one or two short walks a day. Perhaps, we could build this into one or two long walks a day, and - dare I say - potentially a run here or there. It also gets me outside, which is important. So, a resolution nested under my larger "Maintain Active Lifestyle," is to simply walk more. Of course, once a week I'll go get my ass kicked by trainer Diana, but the other days of the week Mr Dog and I will be nosy (walking) neighbors.

Also a focus here, would be finding FUN ways of being active, so that I don't just hate it completely  For me, this means doing things with other people. It's one of the reasons having a trainer works so well for me. She's funny, she's distracting, and she keeps me on task and accountable. She makes me (sort of) forget that I'm gasping for breath and wanting to strangle her with the last clench of my flailing hands. In the same vein, I want the Hubs and I to do more active things together, but also with our friends. For example, some friends and I are registering for The Color Run in Austin this May. What's more fun than getting tie-dyed head to toe with a bunch of your friends? Wanna join our team? Leave me a comment.

A final point? Yoga more. I miss it.

I have a feeling just these two minor changes will really help me accomplish number 10.

Leave me a comment and link me to your own Resolutions so I can cheer you on! I love to read them and cheer, way more than I love to make them happen:)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It's A New Year 2013

I began this "A Year in Review" last year, thanks to a friend from college who posted this on her blog. I love this questionnaire, because it's sort of like a New-Yearbook, for grownups. Too bad it doesn't have all our pictures in it and there's nowhere to sign our names or leave messages. If you feel so inclined - leave me a yearbook message in the comments section below!

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?
Celebrated a year of marriage, hosted a baby shower, became an Auntie, turned 27, hosted family holiday celebrations, traveled to Greece, became a "small business owner," attended a Jewish wedding.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Here were the goals I made last year...

1. Buy local, Cook more, Eat better.
2. Save money instead of Spending money.
3. Study a foreign language.
4. Watch less TV/movies and Read more books.
5. Regain active lifestyle and be dedicated about strength training.
6. Journal more.
7. Plan honeymoon trip to Greece and actually Go.

8. Finish furnishing our guest room and then keep it consistently full of guests!
9. Try new things instead of falling into habits.
10. Laugh more, Stay positive, Stop calling myself "old."

From the list above, the first five (probably the priorities, actually) really didn't get much attention. Numbers 1-4 will just stay on the list for 2013, because we really made zero changes. I did, from February-May meet with a personal trainer. I lost 10 lbs, and felt better than I have - maybe since high school. Then I quit my job, got a little broke, and had to downsize on my spending. Starting on January 3rd, I'm back at it with my trusty trainer! The items in bold, I did accomplish, but would like to keep on the list for the new year. They are basic standards that I feel I should always work on. Here's the revised list for 2013:

1. Buy local, Cook more, Eat better.
2. Save money instead of Spending money: pay off debt.
3. Study a foreign language.
4. Watch less TV, Read more books, and Journal/Blog regularly.
5. Maintain active lifestyle and be dedicated about strength training.
6. Work hard at building my business, and plan for the future.
7. Visit Susanna & Nathan in Scotland (tour the UK).
8. Organize my life, my data storage, my business, and get rid of everything we don't need!
9. Try new things instead of falling into habits.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister: I'm an Auntie!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Freedom from debt. More friends in Austin.

7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
May 17, 2012 - the birth of my nephew.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Quitting my job and becoming self-employed.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not trusting my husband completely. He has more faith in me, than I do.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Not really! Yay us!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our tickets to Greece, and three chickens.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
So many terrific 2012 Olympians who competed in the London Olympics - despite tremendous obstacles - and brought honor to their countries.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The shooter behind the Sandy Hook massacre.

14. Where did most of your money go?
To travel & food. Not surprised one bit by that.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Our trip to Greece, my new nephew Samson, Tim's promotion.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

Ho Hey, by the Lumineers.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

I. happier or sadder?

II. thinner or fatter?
About the same, but fatter than I should be.

III. richer or poorer?

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Spent time outside.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Worried, Whined, and Watched TV.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With both families spread out over a full week! Christmas in Gonzales with Linda, in New Braunfels with the Greens/Kingtons, and in Austin at Kelli's.

21. Who had the biggest influence on your life in 2012?
My Mentor! (who shall be nameless, but knows who she is.)

22. Did you fall in love in 2012?
Just a little more, every day....

23. How many one-night stands?

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Homeland & Downton Abbey.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Just more politicians....

26. What was the best book you read?
The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The Lumineers.

28. What did you want and get?
A trip to Greece. See here for trip details, and here and here for pictures.

29. What did you want and not get?
A book club.

30. Best movies this year?
The Hunger Games & Skyfall 007.
But there are so many we haven't seen this year that I know are going to be good when I finally do: Moonrise Kingdom, Life of Pi, Argo, Anna Karenina, Lincoln, Les Mix, Django Unchained.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
My birthday pretty much got skipped this year, but I got the best present ever! A nephew! It was pretty exciting. I turned 27, my sister made me a funfetti cake, Tim gave me a label-maker, and we sunned by the pool.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Not having such a long recovery period after LASIK surgery.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
Quality over quantity. Simple, sophisticated, with a hint of vintage-Western.

34. What kept you sane?
Lady-wife chats with Danielle.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Daniel Craig. uh huh, uh huh.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
It's hard for me to be stirred by politics, unless you mean Homeland. So I will just say - I was stirred by the fact that Tim voted for the first time in his life, and we got to go to the polls together.

37. Who did you miss?
Sooz and Nate in Scotland.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Can I say re-met? Christina Prentice-Starey. We were friends during our highschool years, lost contact during college years, and have become good friends since moving back to Austin. We have regular coffee dates! AND Christos, the owner of our Santorini Hotel.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. 
- Alexander Graham-Bell

40. One word or sentence to describe how you feel about 2012:
Doors were closed and doors were opened.

Happy 2013 from My Family to Yours,

Love, Laurel