July 30, 2015

Trauma

New York City, September 11, 2001

Trauma is weird. You can experience something, never deal with it and find yourself 15-20 years later having feelings you don't understand, feelings you think should have expired by now.

I saw my therapist last week, and didn't know why, but felt a lot of agitation and emotion on my way to her office. She asked how things are going - everything is fine, great, nothing is wrong. I told her how I hadn't been able to meditate and when I went to yoga, I was pissed off the whole time. She looked at me and asked me what's going on. Until that moment, I truly didn't know, but when she asked me, I knew. It took me a minute to compose myself, but when I could talk, I told her the sky that week was the same color of blue that it was on September 11.

This is always a hard time for me, the 4-6 weeks leading up to the anniversary of the event. And it always catches me by surprise. I've learned that I have an efficient filing system for feelings, especially pain. Everything I felt on that day was put in a mental trunk, padlocked and pushed to the end of a long, dark hallway in my brain. I've opened it once in 14 years.

Last year, around this time, a man suffering from schizophrenia, took his life in front of me.  Seeing that triggered the part of my brain that's hurt. There is no trauma rating scale in my brain. There's no yellow or orange threat levels; I go straight to red. When I saw him die, I went to red. You know that saying about fear, 'the only way out is through'? To help me when I saw that man die, my therapist had me open the trunk.

I have obviously talked about 9/11 plenty of times. Shit, I've talked about it here. But I've only told my story once, and it was last year in therapy. The thing about mental health is that you kind of have to be one person. You have to take all the different versions of yourself and integrate them. Or maybe it's just me; I've had to do a lot of integrating. I've now got to try to live my life with that trunk open, which is really hard and scary. I've got to take that 25 year old girl who, every day, thought she could die at any moment, and connect her to this 39 year old woman who is okay and safe.

I am supposed to do three things. I am supposed to start talking about 9/11 and asking friends if I can tell them a little bit about what happened to me that day. The next two things are about honoring, or paying my respects, to the events. To honor the man who died, I can write a check to a mental health organization, volunteer at a crisis hot line, or put some friends in my car, drive to where he died and raise a glass in his honor. The next part I haven't been able to say out loud yet and am crying now typing it, so I don't know how I'll pull it off, but I am supposed to bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies and deliver them to a *fire station. I can either say nothing, or I can tell them I was in 9/11, I'm having a hard time, and I need them to take these cookies, please.

*A huge portion of my emotion around 9/11 is related to firemen. In the days following 9/11, people lined the streets and cheered as the fire trucks both went to and came out of downtown Manhattan. To this day, I cry almost every time a fire truck with its lights and siren on drives past me.

I'm supposed to do these things now, not in September. I don't feel ready yet, but I can see myself doing them, so I know I will. I need a little more time.

July 24, 2015

Thoughts On Insta-Shaming


One of my favorite people online, Sarah Von Bargen, posted this to Twitter and I read and re-read it a few times this week. The post is about Instagram - how we use it for good, for bad and how we need to click "Unfollow" more often.

Laura, the author of the post, sites her own insecurities for why she unfollows people. She's not blaming anyone for making her feel bad about being single or gaining weight, she's unfollowing you if your pictures of your boyfriend, or new skinny body make her feel bad about herself.

How simple is that? Instagram is where I go to get inspired - by art, by creativity, by beauty. If I want to get pissed off, I'll go to Facebook (which, by the way, I'm on another hiatus from. Three weeks strong, baby!)

I love Instagram. I love posting and I love following. I follow over 500 people. Y'all, I have no idea who follows or unfollows me. I'm never going to know - don't need to know; don't care.

For me, Instagram is a way to express and connect. I hope the people following me like seeing pictures of Truffle Butter in and around Nashville (I named my bike Truffle Butter) and all the crazy shit I find in thrift stores. If anything I post ever makes you feel bad about yourself, or you find yourself getting mad at me for what you perceive as a life of leisure (which I assure you, it is not), please unfollow me:  A) I am never going to know, and B) I don't want any part of making you feel bad about yourself.

Let's make a deal, I won't feel guilty for unfollowing you, and you won't feel guilty for unfollowing me. Deal? Good.

Now, without further ado, here is the post about Insta-Shaming by Laura Jane Williams.

Insta-Shaming by Superlatively Rude
http://www.superlativelyrude.com/2015/07/laura-jane-williams-instagram-selfie.html?m=1

July 16, 2015

Birchbox Review: May


Another good haul from Birchbox! Here's what I got.

Juliette Has A Gun Not A Perfume, $90

This 'not a perfume' is terrible. And it's the second time I've received it. Enough, Birchbox. Enough.

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream, $39

The first thing to know about this is it has a weird scent. The shade is a tad dark for me, but every time I wear it, I get compliments on my skin and makeup. I don't think I'll buy it, but this sample should get me through the rest of the summer. Below is a picture of me wearing wearing this CC cream.


Marcelle Hydra-C 24H Energizing Hydrating Gel, $24

I like this fine, but it doesn't seem to do anything. I do like the Marcelle brand overall though. Heads-up, there is no SPF in this, so sunscreen up before you head outside for the day.

Harvey Prince Sea Salt Texturizing Mist, $22

I haven't used this yet. I'll try and remember to use it and report back in next month's review. For what it's worth, all the Birchbox reviewers love it.

Mally Evercolor Waterproof Automatic Eyeliner, $18

I like this! This makeup line is by Beyonce's makeup artist, so, duh. The eyeliner is waterproof, smudge-resistant and automatic, so it doesn't need a sharpener. I got the Black Cherry color, which is good for my green eyes. It glides on easily and stays on all day. I could stand for the color to be a little bolder, but this eyeliner is legit.

July 9, 2015

Meditating and Shit

I'm not really going to talk about meditation because I don't think I can talk about it in a way that does justice to how much it has helped me. But... I tried meditation a year ago, had a bad experience and decided it wasn't for me. I've had a lot of trouble understanding the point of meditation, as well as how to do it. I like to do things that have instructions and a reward at the end. Meditation is neither of those things.

After a lot of discussions with smart people, I started to understand meditation. I've been doing it every day for about six weeks now. While it is helping me tremendously, some days, you just feel like shit. This week has been crap, and yesterday in particular was a doozy. I went to sleep in a bad mood and woke up in a bad mood.

I meditate in the morning before my brain turns on and before I get online. This morning I was too agitated to meditate, so I checked my email. John had sent this hilarious video in the middle of the night. I normally wouldn't have seen it until later, but I checked my email this morning instead of meditating.

It was exactly what I needed to see/hear. I laughed until I cried. And now I feel totally fine. Maybe I just needed to laugh. Or cry. Either way, I feel better. Also, if I ever become a yoga instructor or shaman, you bet your ass this is how I'll roll.

Enjoy (NSFW):

July 2, 2015

2015 Reading Round Up, Part One


Women be reading! Full disclosure, I count cookbooks and coffee table books. Hey, if it has words, it's a book. Before we jump into the first half of 2015, feel free to take a gander at the last half of 2014. Now, here's what I've been reading!


Wild:  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

I've been meaning to read this book for two years, but just got around to it. I'm actually glad I waited. This book wouldn't have resonated with me two years ago like it does now. I devoured this book, reading it in a few days, unable to put it down. I cried through so much of it. I even underlined passages and dog-eared pages to go back and reread. I would like to think that this book will touch anyone who has felt tremendous grief, but I've heard so many people disparage it, and the author, that I wonder. I loved it, and I applaud both the writing and the author herself. Great book.

The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club by Laurie Notaro

This book was probably hilarious in 2002 when it came out. I like Laurie's writing style and sense of humor. The jokes in this book are just out-dated. I would be willing to read a more recent book by her. I've heard her speak at an author signing and she seems like someone who writes books I would like.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

This book BLEW MY MIND. So good! Not a typical Stephen King book - not scary, not gory. It's just a great book. A really, really great book. I'm currently making John read it.

Tiny Beautiful Things:  Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

I LOVED this book, which is a strange thing to say about a book I cried all the way through. If you don't know what Dear Sugar is, Google it and then come back and read the rest of this review. The truths in this book are uncomfortable, raw and tremendously helpful. There's a lot of pain in these pages, but it's pain shrouded in beauty and compassion. As someone who has done a lot of internal heavy lifting this year, reading these stories healed me in a way I didn't expect. I didn't realize how much I needed to know I'm not the only one.

*Also, this is one of Ann Patchett's favorite books. Read her review here.


Collected:  Living with the Things You Love by Fritz Karsh, Rebecca Robertson

I LOVED this book. It's a fascinating read on why people collect what they collect and how they display it. The authors used to work for Martha Stewart, so visually, it's a beautiful book. 

Just Mercy:  A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

One of the best, probably most important, books I've ever read. Proper review forthcoming, once I quit crying. Everyone should read this book. 

--

I have a solid base of knowledge on this subject, but this book still blew me away. First of all, the writing. Bryan's legal, matter-of-fact writing style suits this book well. His story is compelling enough without narrative flourishes. I feel like this book could be easily picked over because of the title, the cover, and who wants to read a book on the death penalty? But everyone should read this book. All of the things that feed into why this is a book on the death penalty need to be read about, talked about, explored, etc. This is a conversation we should be having. Read this book.


The Kitchn Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, Faith Durand

This book is short on recipes and long on Pinterest-esque tips. This is a great book for someone just starting out, who knows next to nothing about setting up a kitchen, what to buy, how to host dinner parties, etc. I didn't have much use for it, but I can see where someone at another stage in their life might.

It's What I Do:  A Photographer's Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

After hearing the author on NPR and seeing her on The Daily Show, I added this book to my library list. I'm so glad I read it! This book is riveting. Her first-hand accounts of Iraq and Afghanistan are like nothing I've ever read. It's such an interesting look into the life of not only a photojournalist, but a conflict photographer. Her life is fascinating and terrifying. I wish this book had existed in my late teens and early twenties. It's so inspiring. A must read!


The Soul of a Chef:  The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman

My friend Amanda recommended this book and I'm glad she did because I wouldn't have heard about it otherwise. It's not a new book. It was published in 2000, but it doesn't feel outdated. It's the follow-up book to The Making of a Chef, which was a book about the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) process of becoming a chef. This second book is divided into three parts, the first of which is an inside account of the competition to become a Certified Master Chef at the CIA. This part is fascinating and very clearly the inspiration for the Bravo show Top Chef.

The second and third parts of the book are spotlights on chefs who own and run their own restaurants. One from CIA and one self-taught. The first is Michael Symon. A CIA graduate who owns Lola Bistro in Ohio. I have no idea who he is, but his section of the book is interesting because it shows the behind the scenes of how Food & Wine picks it's top ten best chefs every year.

The second, self-taught chef, is Thomas Keller of French Laundry. This section is reason enough to read the book. It's 112 pages on how Keller's brain works, how he runs his kitchen, and very detailed descriptions of his food over the years (plus recipes). I already knew a lot about Keller, but I learned new things by reading this book.

I only gave the book three stars because it's a slow read and hard to pay attention to at times. There are a lot of food and recipe details that I glazed over. But on the whole, it's an interesting book that I'd recommend to all my foodie friends and lovers of Top Chef. It's worth it for the Thomas Keller chapter alone.

Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant

This is a cute cookbook. If you like her blog, like I do, I recommend reading this book. I'm glad I checked it out at the library as opposed to buying it, because while it was fun to read, I don't feel I need to add it to my collection. Honestly, her personality shines just a tad brighter than her recipes in this book. Definitely worth checking out though.

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Eh, this book isn't great. It started out strong, which gave me hope, but it lost me by the end. Not because of the topic, but because of the writing style. The title ceases to be relevant after the first chapter.

It's hard to keep your focus while reading, again, especially in the last chapters. It feels like a book that needs a lecture series to go along with it; it's not powerful enough on its own. The topic is a conversation I'm interested in, but this book didn't do it for me.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

Great book, couldn't put it down. It does have a Gone Girl-esque feel, but with two differences:  it's set in London, and the ending doesn't piss you off. I plowed through this book while stuck at home in an ice storm for a few days. It reads fast with short chapters divided by character and time of day. It doesn't go very deep into the character's psyches, and I figured out whodunit early on, but I still thoroughly enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it.


Heritage by Sean Brock

This is a great book. The photos and stories are amazing. But... it's more of a show piece than a cookbook. The few recipes that I would be interested to make require two days and ingredients I can't get. I flagged the things I like from Husk, like the fried chicken and the cheeseburger, but the recipes are way above my pay-grade. All of that being said, this is a beautiful book, that I will display on my coffee table, untouched and unused.

Bad Feminist:  Essays by Roxane Gay

I knew of this book, but don't know that I ever would have read it had it not been recommended to me. The book is divided into sections:

Me
Gender & Sexuality
Race & Entertainment
Politics, Gender & Race
Back To Me.

The first section, Me, was so bad, I put the book down and almost returned it. I recommend skipping that section and going straight into Gender & Sexuality.

I liked this book. Her perspective isn't always my perspective, and she goes a little further than I'm comfortable with on some issues, but she makes strong points. A lot of these essays made me think, and some re-framed things for me, and made me madder (rightfully so) than I have been. It's a cliche, but this book woke me up.

It's a good book. You won't love it, but I recommend you read it. Just skip that first section.

Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson

I love this book! I read a library copy and immediately returned it and bought a hardcopy for myself. It's my new favorite cookbook. I love Joy's writing style, and I love her recipes. I read every recipe and feel like I can probably make all of them. Her descriptions make me want to try all of them. Awesome book!!

Revival by Stephen King

I really liked this book. I couldn't put it down and read it in 2-3 days. It's not "scary", but it's definitely disturbing. It's apparently in the same vein as his first five books, which maybe I should go back and reread. It's a weird, and sometimes slow-going book, but overall, I liked it. It is nuts though.

June 29, 2015

Baby's First Swim Meet!


About a year and a half ago, I joined NAC Masters. I had been not-drowning my whole life, but I had IM 70.3 Augusta coming up and my triathlon coach encouraged me to join a masters swim group to work on technique. My first masters swim was February 28, 2014. I remember not being able to do any of the drills, not understanding whatever those hieroglyphics on the big white board meant, and realizing how lucky I was to have never drown on account of I clearly had no idea how to swim.

That very first day, we did pull drills. Pull drills are when you swim with paddles on your hands and a pull buoy between your legs. I had never done this before. I placed the buoy between my legs, put the paddles on and started swimming. I immediately flipped over onto my back. Okay, that's probably normal, I thought. Let's try again. Nope, I still flipped over onto my back. I couldn't do it. I was like a turtle stuck upside down in its shell. I was mortified.


My swim coach that first day was Chris McPherson, and she is still my swim coach today. Literally, I just got home from her Monday morning swim practice. Coach Chris is a pro. She taught me how to swim. And for the record, I swam the 1.2 miles in IM 70.3 Augusta in 31 minutes.


So when, about a month ago, Coach Chris came to me and asked me to join the NAC Masters Spring Chicken Classic, I laughed in her pretty face and told her no. Swim meets are for swimmers. I'm just a triathlete who prefers not to drown during her races. But then everyone else signed up and Chris started teaching them how to dive off the starting blocks. I am nothing if not a joiner, so I signed up. But I only signed up for the 50m free because I can't flip-turn.


I had so much fun at this swim meet! My event was right in the middle, so I had plenty of time before and after to eat swim snacks and talk to my swim friends. Which, let's talk about that. I was never on a swim team, so standing around talking to people in your bathing suit is WEIRD. Here's me in every conversation that day, "I'm sorry, what were you saying? I zoned out when I re-remembered we're both standing here in our bathing suits."


I swam my event as fast I have ever swam in my life, and I still came in second to last place, ha ha. Hilariously, the only other swimmer in my age group was Ashley Whitney, who you may know from THE OLYMPICS. Ashley is a coach at NAC, so she just swam for fun, which meant I won by default because she wasn't a registered swimmer at the meet. You better believe I'm telling everyone I beat an Olympian in my first swim meet!

I swim with NAC twice a week, and I love it. I'm not only friends with Chris, my coach, but I've gotten to know so many of the people I swim with. I really look forward to my practices. If you've ever thought about joining a masters group, which I know some of you have, I can't recommend NAC enough. Come swim with me!

June 25, 2015

Birchbox Review: April


The April Birchbox was so cute! I've been a big fan of all things Rifle Paper Co. for a long time and was excited to get this cute little box in the mail. Here's what was inside!

Cargo Swimmables Water Resistant Blush, $26

Years ago, possibly even back when I lived in NYC, I remember Cargo blush being THE BLUSH. You could only buy it at Club Monaco, I think - ? Anyway. I don't typically use powder blush, preferring stain or cream, but this peach color is right-on. It's supposed to be sweat-proof, which will definitely come in handy during the sweltering, Tennessee summer.

WEI Manuka Bee Venom Mask, $60

I used this mask one night and loved it. It was super moisturizing and felt amazing on my skin. But then... I got up early the next morning and went for a run and my face caught on fire. Not really, but kind of. After the run, my friend Melanie looked up the ingredient list and reported it's 50% chemicals and 50% acid, thus explaining the stinging sensation on my sweat-drenched face. I don't care. I still love this mask. I take a real 'no pain, no gain' approach to skin care. Also, LOL the negative comments from people allergic to bees.

Beaver Professional Hydro Nutritive Moisturizing Shampoo, $15
Beaver Professional Hydro Nutritive Repairing Conditioner, $16

I'm reviewing this shampoo and conditioner together, because duh. These products are marketed as "restorative formulas that repair strands and strengthen dry hair".  I was real into it, and loved the scent, then I started seeing comments about how it has sodium laurel sulfate. So... not color-safe. Bye bye, Beaver.

Not Soap, Radio Body Wash - Bathing with sharks, $16

I didn't love this. It didn't lather up enough for my taste. The scent is fine, but it did remind me of old school, late 90s Bath & Body Works. Meh.

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