Freestylin’ in the Pool

Step one: Overcome fear of going to the pool.
Step two: Actually get in the pool.
Step three: Become a freestylin’ baller in the pool!

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Yesterday I graduated from my adult beginner swim lessons! The class was super basic (and I don’t mean that in the basic bitch sort of way). For instance, there were some people who’d never been in the pool before. I’m sure it was way below my level, but it was also nice to start from scratch. I got to review all the basics. We covered kick board, freestyle, breast stroke, back stroke, and tonight we learned flip turns! The two instructors both commented that I’d made a lot of improvement on my form and I’ve learned everything that I could. I’m pretty sure if this was the YMCA I would have earned the flying fish patch.

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Although getting myself to the pool in the first place seemed like a huge hurdle, the challenge now becomes establishing a regular swimming routine. I need to commit myself to going at least two-three times a week. I actually really enjoy the workout and I find it very challenging in a satisfying sort of way. My entire body ends up exhausted and at the end of the workout I really feel like I pushed myself. My endurance has already improved a lot since I started. When I first started the lessons I was startled by the fact that I was so winded after just one lap, but now I am less winded and can do more laps before I need to take a break.

Also, I’ve discovered that swimming turns out to be a great workout for weight loss and toning muscles, both things my fitness routine desperately needs!

I decided that I’m going to reward myself with a new swimsuit if I swim two days a week for a month. There’s rumors that doing something for a month establishes it as a habit, so I figure if I can swim twice a week for a month it’ll become a habit. And then I’ll let myself get a new swimsuit!

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At this point, I’d say that I’m halfway to establishing my goal of learning how to swim and making swimming a part of my fitness routine. So what now?

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My next goal: I want to be able to do freestyle non-stop for 200 yards while incorporating the flip turn.

Right now that seems like a huge challenge, but I’m hoping in a few weeks or months it will be easy-peasy.

How Owning a Dog Improved My Health and Sanity

When I asked my friends and family if I should adopt a rescue dog, they looked at me sideways. Didn’t I recently say that I wasn’t a dog person? Aren’t I afraid of dogs? Didn’t I know that being a dog owner meant having to take it out, rain or shine and in the cold? Yes, all those thoughts occurred to me, but I also knew that this puppy needed a home and I could provide a good home for him. His story’s a little hazy, but the rescue thinks that he was a stray roaming the streets before he was picked up. He had heart worms, wasn’t neutered, and didn’t have a microchip — all signs that even if he’d once had an owner they weren’t a responsible one. I’d also joked that Charlie needed a new friend and I thought they’d be a good pair, since they were of similar sizes.

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I also selfish wanted to adopt a dog for reasons beyond just having a dog. Owning a dog meant that I would be forced to leave the house and go for walks on a daily basis. A lot of times I feel too stressed or under pressure to take care of myself through exercise or giving myself a mental break. Becoming a dog owner meant that another creature would become dependent on me to care for them. I could justify needing to go for walks if it was for Sirius, but not if it was just for me.

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So after five and a half months of adding Sirius to the family, I feel sure that adopting him was one of the best decisions I’ve made recently.

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I can confidently say that Sirius helps me get my 10,000 daily steps and forces me to take a break and get outside of the house. For example, the other day I felt overcome with stress and anxiety. I decided to go talk Sirius for a walk and when I got back to the house I felt so much better! Sirius got his walk and I got a fresh perspective on the day. It’s a win-win!

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Sirius encourages me (metaphorically) to stop and smell the roses, as well as enjoy the scenery.

And in the past few months Charlie and Sirius have become fast-friends and partners in crime. It makes my heart full to watch them play and take care of each other.

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Perhaps this is one more instance where I needed to think less and act more. Instead of being talked out of adopting him by all the logical reasons why it didn’t make sense, I followed my gut and knew it was the right thing to do. I might not have needed a dog, but Sirius need a home.

29 Pounds by 30!

One of my bigger goals for #Project29 involves losing 29 pounds by the end of July 2015. Although I do want to lose the weight, I know that ultimately weight is just a number. I’m more interested in the larger picture. I want to be healthy inside and out as I enter into my 30s. I want healthy eating practices to be so ingrained into my life that I don’t need to think twice about them.

Beyond that, in the future I want to practice (what I assume) I preaching to any future kids of mine. It’s so easy to turn to processed food or fast food, but I know that eating fruits and vegetables and unprocessed foods makes me feel better and it’s what I will want for my kids.

I know that from here on out losing weight is only going to get harder and harder, so getting to a happy weight where my body functions at a maximum is key. Maintaining my weight in it’s happy place is the biggest thing I can do to keep my hormones and body chemistry in check, which is an issue I’ve struggled with since my teens.

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When I was in Washington I went vegetarian and that decision has really helped me to be very conscious of what I’m eating. I’m constantly looking at my meals to make sure they’re balanced and most importantly that I’m getting enough protein. I genuinely love fruits and vegetables, so those are always a big staple of my diet. My downfall tends to be sugar. I have a serious sugar addiction and I tend to turn to sugar when I’m stressed, which is a constant state of operation in grad school. I’ve heard stories about people who gain weight during their comps or dissertation writing and I am proactively working to do the opposite. While the sugar or diet coke taste good in the moment, ultimately they make me feel like crap.

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In an effort to help myself lose the weight, I’ve decided to (re)join Weight Watchers. Following the Weight Watchers program helps me to be ever more vigilant of my daily food choices. I have to track all of my meals and snacks, so it helps stop me from mindlessly eating. It’s also a reality check when I eat out. The other day I grabbed a multigrain bagel from Dunkin Donuts. I’d run out of the house and knew I should eat breakfast. I thought I was making a smart choice, but in reality that bagel and cream cheese was about a 1/3 of my daily points allowance.

As opposed to tracking calories, Weight Watchers uses points as a way of tracking food intake. Each point is figured out by looking at the fat grams, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. I think it’s a more well-rounded way of looking at a food’s nutritional value. Also in Weight Watchers, fruits and vegetables are considered zero points. So when my sugar craving hits, it encourages me to each for a banana or an apple and skip the ice cream. I know that a four point ice cream isn’t going to satisfy me and more likely it’s only going to perpetuate the sugar craving.

Another big motivation for doing WW is that being more vigilant about portions is important for me. It helps me really evaluate whether I need as much food as I might typically lay out for myself. It forces me to really stop and think about how hungry I am and to listen to my body’s hunger signals.

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Finally, based on my mom’s suggestion, I’ve decided to set some rewards for myself as I make certain goals for the weight loss. I’m hoping that this will motivate me to stay on track with my efforts. It’s so easy to get discouraged after a minimal loss or even a gain. It’s also easy to let one day snowball into a week of bad days or even just give up. I know that this is more about the process and the journey, so I’m accepting that this might a very slow process and that’s okay. It took me years to gain the weight, so it’s not going to come off in weeks.

Anyway, the rewards will be for a 5% loss, 10% loss, and then my goal.

When I reach my 5% loss, I’m going to get acrylic nails. I’ve never been one to take good care of my nails, but when I did them for Ashley’s wedding I really liked the way they looked. It also made me feel a bit more put together. So I’m going to try out the acrylic nail thing.

Then at 10% I’m going to get these TOMs.

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How perfect are they for #Project29? They say “live your dream,” which I LOVE.

Finally, at goal I am going to try out the Stitch Fix service. It’s an online personal shopper service. I suck at dressing myself and tend to choose the safe options when I go shopping, so having someone pick out clothes that I normally wouldn’t choose for myself might be fun.

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I’m really excited to start this journey and to blog about it.

Motivational Monday

I saw this quote on Instagram the other day and I really liked it. Not only am I a big fan of Brené Brown, but I feel like this quote perfectly syncs with #Project29.

I truly believe that life is about embracing the process and constantly working to improve ourselves. I am a radically different person than I was in my early 20s. While I don’t particularly like the person I was in my early 20s, it was also part of the process of getting myself to the person I am today. If I hadn’t been that person, then I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’m sure in another 5 years or so, I’ll look back and think something similar. I need to own the process of growing up and the constant evolution of myself. We need to own who we are and our previous experiences and that’s a scary thing to do. For me, #Project29 is also about the process of turning 30 and wrapping up my 20s.

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If you haven’t seen Brené Brown’s TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” I highly recommend it. It’s very much worth watching.

Fall Zen

Yesterday I tried a new yoga class — flow + meditation. It turned out to be exactly what I needed and the perfect way to wrap up my day.

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When I got into the class the instructor told us that she’d been thinking about the idea of fall. She talked about how fall or falling is about giving in, letting go, and trusting.

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Falling also means accepting vulnerability and trusting in others.

I love that idea and think it’s very applicable to #Project29. In the next 10 months I’m working on pushing myself, accepting any failures or stumbles, and most importantly trusting in myself and my own capabilities. It’s also a new start in many ways. It’s my way of changing my perspective and outlook on life and myself.

Anyway, after doing 45 minutes of pretty vigorous flow (boy my triceps and core are sore today!) we transitioned to 30 minutes of guided meditation and self-reflection. Numbers 5 and 6 of #Project29 focus on developing a regular practice of yoga and meditation, so this really is the perfect class for me. I think having someone guide me through the meditation will help a lot in the beginning. Also, the instructor encouraged people to bring note pads, journals, or sketch books and take the last 15 minutes of the class for reflection. In the future I want to bring a journal of some sort to write and reflect on her prompt during that time.

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But even without the yoga class, the day felt like the perfect fall day. Everything fell into sync and I accomplished tons in all facets of my life. So overall, it was a really great day. I ended up taking Sirius on a short walk in both the morning and afternoon. I also read a chapter of comp reading as I walked on the treadmill, which felt like a double accomplishment. I managed to squeeze in my Weight Watchers meeting before office hours and then some hammock+reading time in the afternoon. A perfect fall day.

Question: what does fall mean to you?

#Project29

Recently I’ve been feeling restless and so I’ve decided to do something about it. It’s time I leave my comfort zone. I’m turning 30 in July of 2015 and I want to start 30 as the best possible version of myself. To do that, I came up with #Project29. I’ve thought of 29 tasks, both big and small, mundane and exciting, that I want to accomplish in the remaining months before I’m 30.

To give a little bit of background, I would say that I took lots of leaps outside of my comfort zone between the ages of 22 and 26, but since then thing have feel pretty stabile.

The summer of my 22nd birthday meant lots of big and scary changes in my life. I’d just graduated college and for the first time in my life I wouldn’t be going back to school in August. That summer and into the fall I went through a mini-crisis as I tried to figure out who I was and what I was going to do with my life now that I didn’t have the comfort of school to keep me on track.

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(http://www.pinterest.com/pin/456271005972754186/)

After struggling for a bit, I took a chance and decided to move back home to my parents. While the decision felt like a huge step backward, it really meant a step forward. Being at home meant I could take an internship at a local theatre and figure out my plans for grad school. Then I took a big risk and moved to Washington state to pursue my masters degree. When I was in Washington I discovered a love of British theatre that inspired me to travel by myself to London where I spent 10 days exploring the city and doing research for my thesis. In addition to the craziness of grad school and adjusting to life in Washington, I trained for a marathon that I ran with my sister in between my first and second year of grad school. And then finally, after my masters program I made the decision to give Tallahassee another shot and move back to Florida to do my PhD.

My mid-twenties were filled with life changes and leaps outside of my comfort zone. But since I’ve been back in Tallahassee, I haven’t really stepped that far outside of my comfort zone. Sure, a PhD program is challenging. I’ve pushed myself to submit to academic conferences and made advances with my teaching and scholarship. I’m definitely not discounting the hard work and mental strength it takes to be in a PhD program. And aside from grad school, I’ve had to figure out how to navigate lots of ups and downs when it comes to relationships, friendships, and family. Yet, as an individual I don’t feel like I’ve pushed myself enough in the past few years.

Now I’m going to change all that! Even just thinking about and planning this list, I’ve started to feel better. I have goals in mind and projects to work on. I’m back in motion and it feels great. The items I’ve selected are measurable tasks, allowing me to see actual progress or check them off my to-do list. Some of them are just life skills or habits that I’ve been wanting to incorporate into my life for a while. While others are things that scare me, which is why I know I want to do them — like swimming, completing a triathlon, backpacking, or even singing karaoke. I’m still solidifying the list and I’m definitely open to suggestions or input, but I do want it to be set by November 1st.

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(http://www.pinterest.com/pin/456271005972754179/)

So without further ado…

The List:

Mental Balance

1. Establish a morning routine — No more haphazardly running out the door.
2. Establish a bedtime routine — Tea, reading before bed, and a normal bedtime.
3. Work on disconnecting more often. Less Facebook, less checking of my cellphone, less mindlessly surfing the internet.
4. Work on improving my communication with friends and family through regular phone calls and e-mails.
5. Add meditation into my life. Aim to meditate daily.
6. Make yoga a regular part of my life. Go two to three times a week.

Physical Balance

7. Get 10,000 steps a day.
8. Take up rock climbing/bouldering.
9. Complete a triathlon.
10. Swimming — get comfortable swimming laps and open swims.
11. Biking — get comfortable biking.
12. Running — get back into running. Maybe even train for a half marathon.
13. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
14. Break my sugar addiction by cutting out refined sugar.
15. Go on a multi-day hiking adventure.
16. Lose 29 pounds.

Intellectual Balance

17. Write daily — just 10 minutes a day of both personal and scholarly writing.

18. Read daily — read before bed and make sure I do at least 30 minutes a day of scholarly reading.


Financial Balance

19. Start budgeting.

20. Put $50 every paycheck into savings.


Life Balance


21. Learn to play the accordion — I would have said relearn the piano, but I don’t have the space for one and the accordion has a family connection.

22. Build a kitchen table and a flower box.

23. Learn to drive a stick shift.

24. Sing karaoke.

25. Watch 29 of the AFI’s greatest american movies of all time.

26. Move all my stuff from my parents house to my house and do a massive clothes/things purge.

27. Actively start planning my Asian/European backpacking adventure — make plans, save money, make it happen during 30.

28. Spend an hour a week cleaning the house to stay on top of things.

29. To be determined!


The Plan:

My goal is to tackle these a few at a time over the course of the next 9-10 months. I might do 30-day challenges for some of the things on the list, like meditating or reading and writing, since if I did those for 30 straight days it will help them become a habit. I’ve also started working on some item already, like the weight loss, swimming, and budgeting. I plan to update the blog on a weekly basis to track my progress or document the completion of certain goals. My mom also suggested that I set up a reward system for myself to keep me motivated. I’ve got ideas about possible rewards, such as acrylic nails, a new swimsuit, a massage, a stitch fix subscription, new books, etc. I haven’t figured out how/when to reward myself.

Other than that, I’m open to suggestions or ideas as I tweak the list and details. Regardless, I’m looking forward to celebrating the last few months of my twenties by preparing to start 30 off as the best possible version of myself.

So let the adventure begin!

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Recap and Reboot!

What a crazy two years it’s been! I haven’t updated the blog in such a long time and that’s mainly it’s because I’ve been out living life. But I’m about to resume blogging. I’m rebooting the blog because I’ve been brainstorming a project that I want to document on here. I’ll explain it more about the project in a separate post.

Anyway, as always, I’m trying to figure out how to balance life as a grad student and celebrate the last years of my twenties. When I started the PhD program I vowed not to let myself become so wrapped up in school that I put all the other aspects of my life on hold for the duration of grad school. It hasn’t always been easy and I still don’t do the best job of balancing everything, but in general I’m proud that my life feels pretty well-rounded. I continue to be a work in progress. I’ve noticed that the pattern is usually one area becomes the priority as the others slip onto the back burner. It turns out that whatever is on the front burner is constantly changing based on what I need most in my life, whether it be friends, family, school, or mental and physical balance.

Since August 2012 I’ve finished my coursework and I’m in the process of working on my comprehensive exams. Beyond that, here’s an idea of how I’ve been spending the past two years.

There have been many hours spent at Black Dog reading and writing.

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There’s been two football seasons, including Florida State winning the National Championship.

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Several birthdays including Hilary’s 21st birthday spent in New Orleans on Thanksgiving with the family.

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Many trips home and to North Carolina to spend time with the family.

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And trips to North Carolina with friends new and old.

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Lots of parties and social events!

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and plenty of adventures on planes and sailboats! šŸ™‚

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Two major road trips to help a friend and my sister start new lives in other states.


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Tallahassee —> Wisconsin

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St. Pete —> Salt Lake City

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And finally one major loss and one major addition…

Nana died on October 8th 2012.

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And this past summer I adopted a rescue dog, Sirius.

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And now you’re all caught up. šŸ™‚

First Day of Summer

It’s the first day of summer and I spent most of my day curled up on the couch engrossed in finishing (and being quite the weepy mess) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

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This is not what I was supposed to be doing, but with only a few chapters left, I was sucked into the reading till the end. I think the book was even better the second (full) time reading it. I’ve even decided that I really do like Snape. I think JKR is brilliant for making her characters so rich and complex, especially those that we instinctively want to despise like the Malfoy’s and Snape.

Now back to reality and the long list of things I need to do before classes start on the 2nd!

All was well.

Wrestling Ferns

I must have been delusional after my workout today, because right after my painful arms and shoulders set I made a trip to Home Depot to pick up some gardening supplies.

When I was home the other day, my mom sent me home with a huge bag of ferns. Since the bromeliads weren’t doing well in the shady and dry area under my front windows, my mom thought the ferns might be a bit happier. Thus, I made another attempt at landscaping.

After the gym, I went straight to Home Depot where I picked up a new short hose and nozzle for the front.

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Then I came home and spent the afternoon wrestling with ferns.

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Sadly, this is the after picture and you can’t see much improvement. I think it’ll take a bit of time to see if the ferns are happy and will establish themselves in the ground. If they are happy here, I think it could look a lot better than the bromeliads, which I left where they were.

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Between the gym and the gardening, I was tuckered out. The rest of the day was spent on the couch watching FSU in the College World Series and catching up with a long-lost friend.

Goodnight, Moon!

My Own Version of Microblogging

Seeing as how it’s been a month between posts, clearly I’ve been slacking on my blogging routine. As a result, I’ve decided to combine my “Snapshots of Summer” project with my goal of blogging more consistently by microblogging.

This will be the fourth year of my “Snapshots of Summer” project, where I take a picture a day and documenting my summer activities. Although, I traditionally post the pictures in an album on Facebook (and when I get around to it I sometimes make them into a picture book), I’m going to start posting them on the blog with a short caption. When I feel inclined I may expand them into detailed posts, but for now something will be better than nothing.

So for today’s snapshots!

Tonight my group of friends went to play trivia, as per our usual Monday night routine, except tonight we said goodbye to two of our friends. This pair will be leaving Tallahassee to continue their research at two different universities.

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In addition to trivia, we played Bingo and ALMOST won blackout. We were close, but no cigar.

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The rest of my day, prior to trivia and bingo, was spent camped out at a local coffee shop. I had high hopes of finishing my summer syllabus AND working on research AND doing some fun reading, but I only managed to work on the syllabus. It looks like tomorrow will be spent doing more of the same.

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And that’s all the news from Lake Wobegon.