Thursday, February 02, 2017

Join me on the LadyBrains Podcast!

Major life update!

Five of my closest girlfriends and I finally decided to take our relationship to the next level.

No we're not doing some weird Sister Wives thing—get your mind right.

We just launched a podcast with the Ricochet audio network - the LadyBrains Podcast. Every week three of us rotate to discuss the biggest issues of the day and how it impacts our lives.

We're on our 10th episode and we've already had a ton of fun together and are building a great audience of listeners.

If you've already got FOMO, go hit subscribe—and follow us on Twitter to get our updates.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


It's been a very silent year for me.

Instead of updating or chronicling my progress with autoimmune disease I really went into myself and stopped sharing any of my personal struggles with even my closest friends—let alone the internet.

Over a year ago I discovered life didn't magically get put on hold when I got sick. I still had to find a way to go to work everyday, balance projects, see friends, and have a normal social life—even when I was unable to trust that my body would work normally. Not showing up wasn't an option—so I did what I could.

It was a false life—and it was really difficult for me to pretend I was my normal happy, silly self when I was in so much pain.

After my first major update I realized I didn't know nearly enough about Humira to write about about its efficacy with any authority. I had only been on the drug for a few months when I wrote my post and I was so happy to be pain-free for the first time in half a year I couldn't see the forest through the trees.

I thought Humira was a magical unicorn drug sent from Santa and delivered by fairies.

Being pain-free, I didn't care that I was also really low energy and foggy-headed—despite all that, I could attend meetings without being driven to distraction by pain shooting up my arms. I could go to parties and see friends and smile sincerely instead of gritting my teeth and wincing. I could lift more than 10 pounds without crying. It was heaven.

At my second check up, I asked my doctor when I could stop taking Humira. He seemed confused by the question: Why would I want to stop taking a medication that was finally relieving my suffering? 

I thought about it.

Every night when I trudged along on the treadmill at the gym, Humira ads would play on the TV overhead and a lady in a sundress would spin in a wheat field while a soothing voice detailed all the many horrific ways Humira could cause my early death.

I was homeschooled so here's what I know about the immune system: The immune system is a network in your body that protects it from infection and disease. Right now as we speak your body is killing cancer-causing cells trying to develop. Pretty cool, huh?

Now imagine that your immune system GOES CUCKOO BANANAS and starts attacking healthy cells as well as the bad cells. "WHOA, CALM DOWN, IMMUNE SYSTEM—YOU'RE HURTING ME," you say. You throw some turmeric at it. It laughs in your face. You throw some NSAIDs at it. It crushes their skulls and bathes in their blood, chuckling maniacally as it starts attacking even MORE healthy cells than ever before...

So then you finally say, OK, that's it, I'm going to jab myself with a needle and turn my immune system off and give my healthy cells a respite from all this nonsense. 

That's Humira.

So here's what I wasn't thinking about during my blissful, pain-free Humira days: My immune system wasn't fighting the bad cells anymore. It wasn't working with all the cells and tissues and organs to do its job: Killing off the bad guys.

So I did what any modern, empowered woman does when faced with a crisis: I Googled the hell out of it.

I researched autoimmune diseases (specifically PsA) and wrote a big red X on my calendar—the day I was supposed to take my next Humira injection... and the first time I would skip it.

I stripped my diet of all nightshades, gluten (omgiknowshutup), dairy, and meat. I ate only whole plant foods, mostly raw. It's been a year. Want to know what happened?

I'm completely medication-free (not so much as an aspirin) and totally in remission.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Who'd Want to Live in a Vacuum?

I realized this morning that I've been blogging for almost 15 years.

When I created my first blog, my audience was exclusively strangers on the Internet—my writing purposefully kept secret from anyone I knew in real life.

That must sound odd to an Internet culture that now values individuals who have branded themselves with their real, full names and whole life on display as a cohesive package—but that was just the opposite of early Internet culture.

There was comfort and safety in keeping all identifying private information concealed—and excitement in the mystery of it all. While I was a homeschooled teenaged girl growing up on a nursery in Alabama in real life—on the Internet I could anonymously explore and discover a voice I might otherwise have never thought to look for.

Blogging back then wasn't self-involved. Nobody took pictures of themselves or tried to make their lives look glamorous. There was no need to put on make up or create a vivid character for an online audience. There was no risk of over-sharing or faking anything—because we were just writing about our lives in a self-examining, thoughtful way—trying to make sense of the world around us and connect with people completely different from ourselves who we knew we'd never meet in real life.

You could be yourself, unvarnished.

When I started learning to code (awfully) and building blogs for my friends, that's when the trouble started.

When people in my personal life knew where to find my blog, they were suddenly able to go through the archives and access posts I'd written about fights with friends, conflicts over boys, and secret crushes. A friend of mine was suspended from high school for writing a blog post complaining about a teacher—and I was punished because I made the blog for her (justice is in short supply for teenagers, Amen?).

It was then that my audience changed and with it, my writing style. I worried about what my family members would say—and I would edit myself accordingly. I "admitted" things I wanted to tell certain people, knowing they would read it and I could avoid the unpleasant exercise of advocating for myself. My tone and content changed. And then, gradually, the Internet changed.

In college I would ride my bike to the library to spend an hour a day (maybe) on the Internet—and now I'm only off the Internet when I'm sleeping.

And what a different Internet it is.

I learned a valuable lesson when my audience expanded to include people I cared about:

Words don't live in a vacuum. 

With rare exception, you can't tell the unvarnished truth without hurting someone along the way.

And wouldn't it be nice to return to a world where the Internet is a place we visit for a few hours each evening after a long day spent in reality?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Part One: Put Some Ice On It


Of all the responses I thought I would receive about yesterday's post, I'm astonished by how many of my friends also suffer from AI diseases and have never talked about it. I didn't think my post would resonate with so many people and I'm also overwhelmed by all the support I've received. Thank you.

I feel like I need to put up a disclaimer that this post will be a little sad, but I promise it's the only one that will really be like this—because since my diagnosis, things have only got better.

A lot of people have asked me how long I've suffered with PA and my response is: I don't know.

I waited for a really, really long time to finally seek medical help—even though my pain was often unbearable.

Since college I've frequently awoken with pain coursing through my arms, unable to move them until after a few minutes of walking around doing shoulder rolls. I always thought it was a normal part of getting older or maybe soreness from a work out or sleeping the wrong way. "Waking my arms up" was just another part of my morning routine.

It sounds insane to me now, but I never once mentioned it to a doctor.

About four months ago I went to my Crossfit coach, frustrated that I wasn't seeing results from classes despite trying my hardest. I didn't mention my pain because I didn't want to sound like someone who makes excuses or whines—the "rub some dirt on it and suck it up" aspect of Crossfit is part of the appeal - it's very American, very "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" and "if you work hard and don't quit you'll get there." I was sold.

I wanted to talk solutions/goals/troubleshooting. My fitness background is varied - I played sports through high school and college and have always been very active; before converting to Crossfit I took boot camp and spin classes 5-6 days a week for years... so I was surprised after a few months of CF that my strength and endurance overall were getting worse, not better.

When we sat down and I started to tell her about it, I felt like I was talking to a wall. I was interrupted or had my sentences finished for me the whole time and was basically told I just needed to increase my cardio and "lean out" (actual words used) then check back in a few months later (Translation: You're just fat and it's not Crossfit's fault). 

As someone who is actually motivated by tough love I walked away motivated.

It was like that scene in The Devil Wears Prada when Annie is crying that she's doing the best she can and it's not good enough and Nigel tells her no, you're not trying hard enough and you need to suck it up and then she realizes he's right and gets a make over with Chanel boots and finally gets to work.

So I did. I upped my cardio, getting on an Airdyne or a rower before classes and adding extra runs in throughout the week. I did what everyone told me to do: I pushed through the pain.

But instead of getting better, it only increased—and I finally noticed it wasn't related to how hard my workouts had been the day before (my shoulders and arms would be sore even if I'd only done back squats, for example). It also wasn't soreness that could feel better with foam rolling. It was pain.

The pain didn't go away after a shower and stretching—in fact I couldn't even get into a plank position without tearing up in pain. I took a rest day. The next morning I tried to do inch worms to warm myself up and after walking myself out I ended up on the floor unable to get up.

I thought, "that's weird."

I took otc anti-inflammatory pills and slept on 3-4 packs of peas and ice wrapped in towels—I even set an alarm for midnight so I could wake up and get new frozen packs. I did that for weeks like it was completely normal.

It got to the point that the only thing that wasn't excruciating was standing upright, so sometimes I would pace around my apartment or walk on the treadmill in the basement holding ice packs to my back until I could finally bear the idea of laying down again.

As you can imagine, it was really challenging to perform well at work - I couldn't focus on anything but the pain and it made me angry and short-tempered. If you know me, you know that's not like me at all.

I was constantly exhausted from being awake all night. Everything frustrated me—from crowded sidewalks to long lines at Whole Foods (well okay that's normal). I would lose focus in meetings if a fresh jolt of pain washed over my arms. I skipped all social events. I couldn't walk my dog for fear she would pull on her leash. I definitely couldn't work out.

But even at the worst I just knew with rest from the gym for a few days, a healthy diet, and a massage I'd eventually feel better on my own.

Because I'm a moron.

One day in January my boyfriend and I got back to my apartment after grocery shopping and I had to ask him to carry all the groceries in because I couldn't even lift a single bag from the trunk to the ground.

That's when I thought to myself: What is the point of lifting weights to be a strong, healthy person if I'm in too much pain to perform basic tasks?

That was my lightbulb "something is really wrong here" moment (yes, I know, I ignored A LOT of other red flags to get to that moment).

I finally went to my doctor and described the pain I was feeling. After being sent to a few different specialists I saw a rheumatologist and after some tests and x rays I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.

I was prescribed new anti-inflammatory pills that I quickly discovered were hardly stronger than the otc stuff I'd been taking.

After a month of taking pills constantly I went back to my rheumatologist to show him my "progress." When I sat down and began to answer his questions I realized he had no idea that the person he was talking to wasn't the real me. I wished I could play him a video of myself from six months earlier—bubbly, silly, active, and happy. Not scared of moving her arms. Not on the verge of tears fearing the next crippling wave of pain. I didn't even sound like myself.

So I stopped and told him: This isn't the quality of life I want. I can't keep living with this pain and the pills aren't working.

We talked about Humira and he gave me all the information I needed about it and said it was a big decision and that I could call the office when I decided how I wanted to continue my treatment.

A few days later, while I was still researching the side effects and waiting for my pain to magically disappear on its own, my grandfather passed away. I quickly had to make plans to go home and I thought to myself, I don't want to go home to my family like this. I need to be pain-free. Now.

So I went back to the doctor and thought I was going to get an injection...


They taught me how to give myself the injections.

Spoiler alert for tomorrow's post (which might include a video of me giving it to myself): It sucks.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Let's Talk About Pain!

"You don't look like you're in pain!"

For months I've walked around trying to figure out how to share this story, mulling if I really wanted to share it, and thinking about how to put it out there in a way that will be helpful and empowering—not depressing or whiny—and most importantly honest without oversharing.

Tonight after seeing Allison tweet about her daily blogging challenge I realized why I've had such horrible writers block for so long: I've stuck myself with this idea that I have to write it ALL out at once in one big long dramatic post. Then I get defeated just thinking about it and put it off for another day.

So, I'm going to write out a list of things I want to talk about, then every day for the next few weeks I'm going to tackle one at a time:

I want to talk about getting diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis at 29.

I want to talk about how long I ignored my symptoms and how hard it was to find a doctor to diagnose me.

I want to talk about learning to inject myself with Humira and all the weird side effects from being on an immunosuppressant.

I want to talk about how humiliating it was to walk up to the gym and plant myself on a treadmill going 3.5-4mph every night in searing pain while my former Crossfit "family" stared in silent judgment as I passed, only a very small handful bothering to ask why I'd stopped coming or check to see if I was okay (and how every single one of my boot camp friends has reached out to be supportive and understanding).

I want to talk about how being in a lot of pain changes your mood and outlook on life... but I want to talk about it in a not-sad and depressing way.

I want to talk about how my coach seemed to think I was making excuses when I explained my diagnosis and cancelled my membership... and hasn't reached out once to check on me.

I want to talk about how I've finally learned our value as humans shouldn't be measured by how fit we are—that staying active is something I do because I love it, because I want to stay healthy and happy and enjoy life—not define who I am or determine my worth.

I want to talk about how I will never, ever judge anyone in the gym again for not appearing to push themselves to the limit or for using lighter weights—there is no way for any of us to know what pain they might be in or what their story is.

Hell let's praise people for having the courage to listen to their bodies in a fitness culture that SCREAMS keep going, don't listen to those legs, you'll pass out before you die, ignore that pain and WHISPERS but uh, like, listen to your body as an after-thought/legal requirement.

Let's admire the guy who says nope, I'm not going to power through these deadlifts even though a bunch of people are screaming at me to keep going—this is actual pain, not soreness, not weakness leaving the body: PAIN.

I want to talk about bio-hacking, the Bulletproof diet, avoiding nightshades, fighting inflammation naturally, and how quitting Crossfit and starting to walk 10-15 miles a day has made me a whole different kind of fit (and Fitbit addict).

I want to talk about how even with EVERYTHING I just said above—I STILL struggle with feelings of guilt and shame because my body is in pain that I can't prevent and that it's humiliating not being able to train and run and lift and jump around like a rabbit.

I want to talk about how I'm jealous of people with boring fitness stories. I want to be one of those people who come to class 6 days a week and never have injuries, never have an off-day, never get sick, and never plateau—year after year. But when I stop to think about it... I only know like two people like that.

Strike that, I want to talk about how comparison is the thief of joy.

I want to talk about how hard it is not to annoy the hell out of your boyfriend when this is all you ever want to talk about all the time.

I also want to answer any questions people have—especially if you're struggling with an auto immune disease—so ask me on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Meet Daisy Mae

"Did I just step in wee or did she just drip water all over the floor from her water bowl...?"

"Is she quietly sitting in the corner chewing a toy or another one of my favorite bras or shoes?"

These are thoughts I think now.

I've never been so comfortable reflexively handling poo in my life.

I grew up in Alabama with lots of dogs (mostly golden retrievers) and after leaving my dog Brinkley with my parents when I moved to DC close to 5 years ago, I really missed having dogs in my life.

Every time I see a dog on the sidewalk, I just have to say hello. Whenever friends go out of town, I am always the first to volunteer to dog sit. Last year I even started dog walking to get my dog fix and make extra money.

I just didn't think I could own a dog—election season was coming and my friends with dogs always talked about how expensive it was. I live in a studio apartment near Logan Circle and I don't own a car... I'd be crazy to get a dog, right?

Walking was a great way to spend quality time with lots of different dogs and make extra cash. Bonus: I lost close to ten pounds biking all over NW and up the 16th Street hill to walk dogs every day.

It also innocuously introduced me to DC dog culture which, like DC fitness culture, is insane. More on that below.

But then along came Daisy Mae.

My mom lives in Florida near Ocala National Forest where sometimes folks abandon dogs they can't afford to take care of (you have to pay to drop off dogs at the shelters—which makes absolutely no sense but that's another post for another time). One day in December while she was walking around, mom was approached by a stray dog covered in mange and ticks with bloody paws—she was clearly starving but very sweet and naturally knew my mom was the right human to go up to.

Smart move.

After a bath and some food, my mom posted this picture to Facebook and my heart just melted.

It was hard to tell at the time how old she was because of the rough shape she was in—she had apparently survived by eating the hard corn some hunters spread out to attract deer, so her tummy was bloated (let's get this girl on a Whole 30, amen church?) and she needed a lot of help. The vet put her on lots of meds for her mange and my mom put her on a chicken and rice diet with pumpkin and carrots and yogurt (which she still eats). They put her age at around 9 months and I named her Daisy Mae because she looks just like our golden retriever Daisy I grew up with.

I drove down to Alabama for Christmas and picked her up. We instantly fell madly in love.

Here I am about a month later thinking I know so many people who, like me, think they can't adopt a dog or it's not right for them. If I'd known then what I know now, I would have taken the plunge long ago. That said, I'm also glad I waited because Daisy is literally the dog for me—I don't think I would have bonded this much with any other dog.

We're both strong, Southern women who have been through a lot and are ready to live our happiest, healthiest lives in the city.

10 things YOU should know about adopting a dog in the city.

1. If you wait for the "right time" to adopt a dog you will never adopt a dog. The biggest hurdle for me was the mental one. The whole drive to pick up Daisy Mae I kept telling myself I would regret it—that I would be too busy with work, she would destroy my apartment, she'd take all my extra money, that I couldn't do it. As soon as she melted into my arms I realized I was dead wrong about all of it and that no matter what, I'd make it work.

2. Poop is like emotional wreckage—you can't just walk away from it, you have to address it right there, pick up the pieces, and move on. If you don't, expect a whole lot of public shame and a life full of regret. Like I said, I grew up with dogs... in Alabama. Having a dog in the city is a whole different thing. In the South, you let your dog out and they run into the woods behind your house and you never see or smell or deal with their poop—ever. In the city, if you forget to bring a bag with you—or, Daisy's FAVORITE—if you bring one bag with you and your dog poops twice, you can expect a whole hell of a lot of dirty looks from people. Last week Daisy decided to poop on a crowded sidewalk minutes after she already had her first poop and I was bagless. I don't know that I'll ever live the shame down. I immediately bought a bag roll holder and clipped it to her leash so I will never face such a nightmare again.

I never realized I would have so many completely candid conversations about poop with my boyfriend. "I just took Daisy for a walk—she pooped!" "Oh good girl!" Truly, the more you deal with poop or wipe wee off the floor the more normal it becomes.

3. Look out for chicken bones. One of the first and most important things I was told during my dog walking training is that you have to be constantly vigilant when walking. You can't text and walk or look around too much because trash (specifically chicken bones—the most prevalent litter from Thomas Circle to the U Street corridor) is everywhere—in planters, next to trash cans (seriously, it was too hard to walk an extra foot and throw it in?), in gutters—and your dog will want to eat it no matter how many times you say NO. See also: birds, squirrels, other dogs.

Sorry to paint a morbid picture, but if you're looking down at your phone as a bird lands in the street and your puppy lunges for it, well, you can see how dangerous that would be.

4. Get ready for a whole lot of social interaction with strangers. In DC, if you smile at people on the sidewalk and chat them up when they're walking somewhere, there's a chance your picture will end up on a street harassment blog. It's weird and you shouldn't do it. Sidewalks are not for eye contact and smiling amongst strangers... unless you have a dog. When you have a dog you instantly become 100% more popular and everyone will smile at you and say hi and want to be your friend. It rules.

Dog walkers have to avoid letting the dogs they walk socialize with other dogs they encounter* because if something happens to either dog, they're responsible. So I never learned the etiquette of meeting other people with dogs on the sidewalk. I constantly ask "is it okay if we say hi?" or "I'm trying to socialize her as much as I can do you mind letting them meet?" and am almost always met with a yes. Then, while they sniff each other out and play, you'll have the ritual "what's your dog's name?" and "how old is she?" conversation I could now have in my sleep.

*It's easy to tell owners from dog walkers: Walkers usually have huge sets of keys, the leash is secured to a bungee cord to their belt or bag, and their body language says "nope." They're not being rude, they're just doing their jobs. Likewise, if an owner is pulling his leash taut and skirting the edge of the sidewalk away from you, it's a pretty clear sign you should keep walking.

5. Be kind to Uber and Uber will be kind to you. If you're like me and committed to a car-free life of walking, biking, and ubering everywhere, you might think it's a reason not to get a dog. It's not. On the very rare occasion that you need to take your dog to the vet and you're too far to walk, call your Uber and immediately hit contact driver > call. I'm talkin the SECOND you have a confirmed driver. Don't let some poor guy make a U-turn on 14th and get half way to your building before you call to ask if it's cool that you have a dog. Last week when I took Daisy to the vet I called and gave a very quick ramble "I have a small dog and we need to go to the vet—I have a blanket, lint roller, and wipes and she'll be fine sitting on the floor or in my lap and we'll make sure it's 100% spotless when we get out" and he said it was fine. He told me that once someone had surprised him with a dog when he arrived and that it was really upsetting and thanked me for doing the right thing. These people work really hard all day—and keeping their cars clean is crucial to their ratings, so communicate well and bring supplies to clean up any hair or dirt from your dog.

You can't lint roll away my love.

6. Big Brother is watching you... r dog. When you adopt a dog in the District of Columbia, you have to register him or her. Until they have their rabies and distemper vaccinations, they cannot/should not be admitted to any kennels or enter dog parks and really shouldn't socialize with other dogs. I'm waiting until after she's spayed in a few weeks because it's $50 for a non-spayed dog and $15 for a spayed dog. Daisy is two weeks, one form, and $15 from being a legitimate resident of DC. We're both very excited.

7. You won't be a bad dog mom... (or dad) you'll just think you are about 39482058 times a day. Daisy's paw went into a pot hole as we crossed the street. She got a big hunk off the end of a nylabone and started choking on it seconds after I read the fine print and made SURE it was age and breed appropriate. You hug them and kiss them and give them treats and tell them you're so sorry and move on—they will always forgive you.

8. You're not alone. This is such a dog-friendly city and fellow dog owners have a sort of we're all in this together camaraderie I love. They'll give you great advice about what vets to see and what dog walkers to use. Also, since I've built up a good amount of dog-watching karma, I feel totally comfortable calling up my neighbors to ask if they'll walk Daisy if I have a busy day planned and can't get home to walk her on time. Don't limit yourself to people who have dogs—ask your dog-less friends if they can help. God knows they want to.

9. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. A lot of shops around the city allow dogs inside. So, yes, you can take your puppy to Lululemon... but do you really want to wander around with a leash wrapping around sales racks when you're on a mission for new crops? No. I'm definitely looking forward to patio weather and taking Daisy along to coffee and brunch dates, but until then I really try to keep dog walking and errand running separate.

A lot of people have strong opinions about whether or not dogs should be leashed up outside of coffee shops or stores. I'm testing out the water—I think as long as I'm gone under 5 minutes and I can see her the entire time, it's OK. I would never go into a store and shop around with her leashed up outside. Mostly because she's so sweet and precious I'm worried someone would snatch her up. Also I make sure the leash is secured to something that won't reach the street/gutter and (duh) I do a quick scan around for litter...

... not that she ever takes her eyes off the door for even a second.

10. You will need gear... but you won't need ALL the gear. It's easy to go nuts and buy way more stuff than you need. I put Daisy in a coat when it's below freezing and a rain vest when it's raining and even that is probably excessive. I use her harness for long walks and just a leash to her collar when we're going on quick wee walks. I don't really know that she needs more than that. Dog vest sizing is all over the place depending on the brand. You're a 4 at Anthropologie and a 6 at J. Crew—you know the drill. Look at size charts, measure, and use Amazon Prime so you can return stuff for free.

Other must-haves:

- I've been using Musher's Secret on her paws instead of mitts to protect from the ice and salt but I'm ordering mitts for the next snow because the city goes NUTS piling salt on the sidewalks. Apply before walks—if you apply if after a walk on already chapped/burned paws you're going to be looking at one sad puppy.
- Nature's Miracle will keep your apartment from smelling like a kennel.
- We already covered the crucial poo bag leash clip. No brainer.
- An assortment of things to chew on and small, healthy treats for training.
- Training pads. But NOT for "training" because I don't want her to think it's cool to wee on the floor inside—I use them by flipping them upside down over her occasional accidents because then I don't have to touch pee and use a half-roll of paper towels. Yes, I'm a genius I know.

Most Importantly: Everything always comes together in the end. I thought having a dog would distract me from work—but if anything it's made me more productive because I have to be so much more organized and structured with how I approach each day. Sure I've had nights when I've been up every two hours taking her to wee and days when I can't get out of the office on time to walk her during the day, but as Hannibal Buress says, take it one day at a time: That's how time works.

Want to adopt a dog in DC? Here are some great places to start:

City Dogs 
Rural Dogs DC 
DC Humane Society

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Whole $30

Let me preface this by saying I'm not a food blogger or a fitness blogger—let alone an actual expert. 

I've blogged a lot about food and culture and I've done a few Whole 30s—and I've had a lot of conversations with folks about our experiences and struggles throughout. Some people can't quit dairy, others crave cookies. Personally, I would have stolen pizza from a homeless person by the 30th day of my first Whole 30.

If that sounds like an oddly specific example it's because it happened - I was walking down the street and a mission group was passing out pizza. A girl cheerfully asked "would you like some pizza?" and my very soul cried out "YES MA'AM!" As I reached for it I realized she was talking to a hungry homeless man over my shoulder.


Anyway, all that to say we all have different struggles and cravings.

The most common complaint I hear is how hard it is to afford the food, followed closely by how hard it is to stay on track with small children—or spouses who aren't following it as well.

Excuses make me sad. Chiefly because I'm one of those crazy people who think if you want something badly enough you will find a way to make it work.

That said, during my second Whole 30 I cheated at least four times—not because I didn't want "it" badly enough but because my "it" at the time wasn't "fitting into size 4 jeans." My lifestyle was extremely active at the time and if I didn't plan ahead properly my body would eventually rebel and tell me "give me that Starbucks snack box right now and don't you DARE even THINK about giving the cracker packet to the birds, you moron." (My inner, hungry monologue is really mean). 

I spent that month running around outside, riding my bike all over town, running trails, carrying heavy things—never wearing heels or sitting at a desk.

It was heaven.

I was the sort of endorphin-drunk, hyper-enlightened freak everyone edges away from at parties.

And I didn't think after such a short period of time that adapting back to an office lifestyle would be so hard... or that my conditioning would go into free fall.

I thought I could just increase my workouts and intensity, stand at my desk a lot, walk around... but I was wrong. While I'm still incredibly happy and doing work I love, there is nothing like spending a majority of your day doing physical work and collapsing into bed at the end of it.

I'm still working out how I can fit that into my life, but in the mean time I've decided to do another Whole 30 and figure out a new plan. Very welcome to advice from anyone who has been in my shoes.

Most people ask "why don't you just follow Whole 30 all the time?" and that's a great question. I find it's a lot easier for me to stay on track if I feel like I'm counting down days. I'm much less likely to eat a burger with a bun if I can tell myself "you can have a burger with a bun in 18 days" vs. "no, you can NEVER have a burger with a bun EVER AGAIN."

So I wanted to address some of the above complaints about Whole 30 and how people can tackle their grievances.

1. It Costs Too Much: As I said yesterday, I don't edit my shopping list much to cut costs - I buy as much produce and whatever types of produce I want, but I do try to find deals on fish because it really adds up. Whole Foods shockingly has the best deals on fish so I'll buy up their sale section and keep it in my freezer. I recommend stocking up on a sale item even it means spending $50 on salmon because it'll last you a month. Also, I don't know how people can say Whole 30 is "cost prohibitive" when Trader Joe's is a thing that exists. I'd love to see what your not-whole-30 grocery receipts look like.

2. I have kids: Okay, so I don't have kids so I can't relate to this complaint—especially considering one of my second Whole 30 cheats was a piece of cheddar cheese while I was babysitting for a friend and their fridge was stocked with the requisite dairy kept for small humans who still have the digestive enzymes needed to process lactose (lucky brats). AAAAAAANYWAY: If you have older children, they should be following Whole 30 right along with you. No cereals, no dairy, no sugar. I don't believe children should eat different meals than their parents. Period. Also, older kids can be really mean and will help hold you accountable.

If you have smaller children, you should be mindful that they have different dietary needs than you do. They might need dairy, but they definitely don't need sugar or bread - sorry, kiddos.

3. My spouse isn't following along: Well this one makes no sense to me but maybe that's why I'm not married. You should use this as an opportunity to hold each other accountable and share the experience. If you and your spouse have different dietary needs, recognize that and carry on.

4. I miss [enter delicious food habit here]. The struggle is real. Dolmas, lattes, pho, tacos... we all have different foods we just love. And life is short, right? And you work out a ton and you deserve that pizza, right? As much as you tell yourself "only X more days until I can have fries" sometimes it just sucks. But I promise you, you'll be shocked how much your food cravings change after 30 days. I thought I would want to dive head first into a big bowl of pho, but when presented with the opportunity the thought of being full of noodles grossed me out. I also thought I'd fall back into my daily latte habit, but knowing how much better I feel without them, I don't even want them anymore.

You owe yourself the opportunity to see what your body can feel like and how much you can change in 30 days.

Did I miss any grievances? Tell me on Twitter.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

That Food Prep Lyfe

There are definitely plenty of blogs out there that detail the best ways to food prep for your nutrition/fitness needs - and I am not here to even try to break that down for anyone.

It's taken me years to figure out what works best for my body and activity level and it's still constantly changing.

All of that aside, my friend watched me food prep a few weeks ago and said I needed to make a tutorial about how I get everything done efficiently. After prepping today I realize I do a lot of things out of good habits that really help me save time and energy. Now I feel like I'm depriving the world of knowledge and I can't justify that any longer.

It takes me about one hour to completely food prep for a whole week of meals—and that includes clean up. Here's how:

1. Think about the time. I know this sounds simple, but as someone who can let an hour blow by while just looking at Youtube tutorials for bike cleaning at home, this is crucial. Know what time you're starting, know what time you'd like to be finished, and use your phone's timer to keep you on track from start to finish. This will bring a sense of intention and urgency to what you do. I also do this in my work life and it's the only way I know to live. It might sound like it would create anxiety, but it actually relaxes me because I know I'm not going to forget anything or get behind.

2. Start with a totally clean house—not just a clean kitchen. Most people can't cook in a dirty kitchen and I'm definitely one of those people, but I've also figured out cleaning my entire house (now, apartment) from top to bottom before going grocery shopping keeps me organized and cuts my time in half when I get home. It's also just a really great way to set the tone for my week and minimize distractions. If you meal prep on the weekend (highly recommended) this is a must. It takes me an hour and a half to clean - which I do as soon as I come home from my Saturday workout while I'm still sweaty and gross. Super details: During the 38 minute wash cycle (I use two washers - thanks laundry room), I clean my bathroom, kitchen, floors, and counters; during the hour drying cycle I line dry all my delicates, take a shower, pick out a cute grocery shopping outfit, plan my gym and office outfits for the week, set my dry cleaning and grocery bags by my door, make my lists, then change into gym clothes because who are we kidding have you met me?

*I wait to take my trash out until it's full of all my scraps after meal prep.

3. Make your grocery lists—and a plan. I make four grocery lists. Yes, four. One list is just menu items—a zoomed out look at everything I'll be cooking later so I can visualize what veggies can be substituted if I'm standing at the farmer's market and zucchini looks better than broccoli. The other three are for Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Dupont Farmer's Market. Each have things I can't find at the other. I ride my bike to Dupont and Whole Foods because I can strap everything to my bike rack and because they have the most interchangeable items (like kim chi and non-corn fed eggs - micro rant: WHY are these SO HARD to find?), but Trader Joe's requires walking... or, especially if I'm cooking for friends, an uber ride home.

4. Don't try to prep everything at once. I have a two-burner-max rule—I hardly ever turn on more than two of my stove burners at the same time. I know you think cooking 4 things at once will save you time, but it won't because...

5. Use the same skillet and large pot and you'll only have to wash one when it's time to clean up. I have a large skillet that I use to brown all my meat which I then section into waiting tupperwares - then it goes right back on the stove and I fill it up with a ton of whatever green vegetable of the week, and repeat with peppers or onions or mushrooms or whatever until I'm done. I chop veggies while I'm waiting for whatever's in the skillet to cook, so everything always looks like a conveyor belt and time isn't being wasted. While all of that is going on, I cook up a few baking sheets of veggies and hardboil a pot of eggs. As soon as they're done, I make a huge batch of quinoa in the same pot. I finish cooking everything in between waiting for the eggs or waiting for the quinoa. I finish peeling all the eggs, prepping my green monster and snack ziplocks, and washing all the dishes before the quinoa is even finished. Because I'm amazing. Boom, done.

6. Tupperware is stupid - so never store it. I hated storing tupperware and constantly searching for lost lids, so I just... stopped doing it. Now almost none of my tupperware ever finds itself in my cabinets. How? I bring home my week-worth of tupperware on Friday when I come home from work and throw it in the dishwasher that night—Saturday morning they're all clean and ready to go straight from the drying rack to the counter to be filled up before being stocked in the fridge. No stupid lids falling out of your cabinets at you ever again.

7. Pick something new every week. While a lot of the bases of my meals stay the same (hardboiled eggs, ground turkey, tuna steaks), you've got to switch it up. I don't care how much willpower you've got, if you get into a food rut, you won't eat the prepped meal you take to work with you. Trust me, when everyone asks you to join them for lunch and they're talking about hitting up a burger place, you're going to need to be able to convince yourself that even if your lunch won't be as delicious as a burger, it's still awesome and it'll be healthier. If you can't make that case for yourself (plus ignoring the added peer pressure of "come with us!" that I frequently cave to), you're setting yourself up for failure. So switch up your menu, figure out what sauces and proteins you love and which you don't.

8. You're right, I didn't prep dinner. While the above prep details breakfast (green monster and an egg), snacks (fruits and veggies ziplocks), lunch (big bowl of meat and veggies), I didn't mention dinner. That's because I enjoy cooking through the week AND I usually eat fish at night (you can't cook fish and store it for a week), so every morning I pop a steak from my freezer to my fridge so it thaws while I'm at work and cook it at night with veggies when I get home from the gym.

9. What about when I travel? If I get home from a trip on a Sunday night I can still get through my whole cleaning and food prepping routine in about 3 hours. If it's too late and I'm exhausted, I'll wing it on Monday. If you want something badly enough, etc.

10. How much do I spend? $60/week for one person. This seems like a lot but I get a ton of really great food and I think I'm worth it. Also I don't take time to look for sales so I'm sure I could be saving if I was trying a little harder.

I actually didn't set out to have ten items, but look at that! I hope this is helpful - and if not, I hope it's helpful in letting everyone see a glimpse at just how borderline obsessive compulsive I am. Happy prepping, kids!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Seriously, Don't Read the Comments

Some mornings, for no reason whatsoever, prompted by nothing, I'll go to my Pat Barker trilogy and read the first page from Regeneration (which is actually the Soldier's Declaration written by Siegfried Sassoon).

It makes me think about what I want to do with my life—reflect on whether or not I'm heading in the right direction or living life with courage.

Some days I think, yes—I am. I put on my helmet and ride my bike to work with a smile on my face.

Tonight: no, I don't really think I am.

It's easy for me to get really self-involved at work and feel like I'm not being appreciated or that I'm being undervalued. It's a tone people take with me, perhaps not meaning to, or the number of times in meetings I let myself get interrupted.

But if I'm being completely honest that's probably my own insecurity showing—the reason I feel people aren't taking me seriously is that I know I could be doing so much more than I am.

Driving to the airport with someone on my team recently, we talked about how refreshing it is to work on a team where everyone—every single person—is giving 100%. Nobody is phoning it in, nobody is spinning their tires or doing the bare minimum. We're all passionate and motivated and we all uplift each other.

Coming from the political world, that's never the case. You find a few work horses here and there—a few bright, young folks eager to prove themselves and work their way up, but you also find a great deal of laziness and self-promotion—a lot of cheating.

I was told by a coworker years ago not to leave the office until after the partners had left—even though we were all done with our work and it wasn't an election season.

"Well what should I do?"

"Do what we do... play on Facebook, g chat your friends... just wait them out."

They did this night after night—leaving the office at 7, 8, 9 p.m. or later and I finally thought to myself "this is ridiculous, I have a life to live—I'm leaving."

And so I would leave—at 6:00 p.m. every night.

And when it came time for my review I was penalized for not staying in the office as late as everyone else. The boys were given promotions and raises.

There's a lot wrong with the consulting class in DC... but that's a whole other thing.

I guess I'm just one of those people who hates feeling like I've left something in the tank. There is nothing worse than that feeling after a workout like "I have so much left" or coming home after a bike ride and wishing I'd taken the long way.

Also, I've got to stop letting people discourage me—and I've got to stop discouraging myself.

Also when Instapundit links your blog—don't read the comments.

Monday, April 14, 2014

You Deserve Nothing

You're sensing a pattern, aren't you?

I blog about once a month (if that) and lately I've been blogging about fitness.

Because it beats the hell out of blogging about vulnerability, being a good person, or DC culture.

But... DC culture is fitness culture.

After years of going to different gyms and finally finding the Greatest Gym Ever, floating around to different classes until I found a rhythm that made sense, I've learned a lot about how obsessed people are with fitness here.

In fact... there are a LOT of similarities between fitness culture in DC and religious culture in The South.

Shall we?

In The South, the lady you meet at the gas pump (and yes you will talk to the lady at the gas pump) will not ask you if you go to church but where you go to church.

In DC, the people you meet at happy hour (and yes you will go to happy hour) will not ask you if you go to a gym but what gym you're a member of....

And just as with church in The South, your answer will say A LOT about you.

This isn't a perfect science, but there are really only about four kinds of people:
"I'm Episcopalian" = "I love yoga... no, you don't understand—I LOVE yoga." 
"I'm Church of Christ but I was raised Baptist" = "I might seem harmless, but in about 5 minutes I'm going to evangelically convert you from Boot Camp to Crossfit." 
"I'm Catholic but I really only go on Christmas and Easter" = "I go to Dance Trance on the weekends and will never understand why I don't have a hot body." 
"I'm Methodist" = "I'm addicted to spin—a great workout, great results... but if they switch up the playlist too much I get really upset."
Episcopalians and Catholics look the same on the surface—they're both wearing lululemon and have the glow of a person unconcerned about eternal hellfire or knee injuries. The Church of Christ folks and Baptists will always be warm and friendly no matter what your workout is—as long as you're active, that's all that matters!—but on the inside they know they're right and maybe one day they'll pull that Methodist off the spin bike and make her do an amrap of burpees and thrusters until she sees the light (and passes out in it).

And within all subsets when Episcopalians meet fellow Episcopalians, when Catholics meet Catholics, and especially when Baptists meet Baptists they will all announce what church (or gym or box) they belong to with the same mix of pride and smugness.

Do you want to know how many times I have had this conversation?
"I go to DC Crossfit."  
"Oh. Cool. I go to Balance." 
"Oh... Cool."
Tell me I'm wrong.

Okay maybe this is all coming out as a disaster—my brain is completely fried from tonight's workout.

Which, of course, I'm going to talk about because I'm doing Crossfit and the first rule of Crossfit is NEVER SHUT UP about Crossfit.

Like I said, evangelical.

Tonight I was talking to one of the trainers about my form and asked how much weight I should use and she asked "well what was your weight last time?" and I confessed, with horror, that I didn't know—because I didn't write it down.

And it was in that moment this whole disaster of a blog post came to mind. Because in that moment I was 12 years-old in Sunday school telling Mrs. Crabtree that I hadn't brought my Old Testament homework to church.


Unrelated: I'm reading a novel called You Deserve Nothing. I saw it in the bookstore and I thought it would be some sort of commentary on our entitlement culture or how we, as humans, deserve nothing... but instead it's a really poignant and beautifully written piece of fiction I'm becoming obsessed with. There is nothing more disappointing than picking up a novel you think will be amazing and then rolling your eyes at poor turns of phrase or, worse, bad dialogue. This is not disappointing.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Well that was dumb.

So here I am, post-Whole 30 and let me tell you: That was dumb.

30 days of green tea instead of lattes, water instead of wine, chicken salad instead of burgers, I don't ever want to look at zucchini again... and guess what?

My workouts were sluggish, my strength and energy levels hit the floor, and I lost four pounds.

Oh, strike that, I ate a burger at LAX waiting for my redeye to NYC because, damn it, I wanted a burger and didn't want to be that moron putting my bun to the side... so then when I got home and stepped on the scale, I was at my starting weight.

Oh, so, so many expletives.

I missed all my workouts this past week because of travel—I did burpees and push ups in my hotel room to try to get myself pumped up for all the events we had, but I was exhausted and had to push myself through every single one.

So this is what I've determined: Whole 30 works for people who drink diet coke and beer and eat pasta everyday. 

Oh my gosh what magic—you lost weight when you stopped eating cheeseburgers and ate broccoli and salmon for a month? SORCERY!

I base this not just on my experience—my friends who also did Whole 30 and are also 90% clean eaters had the same results (read: no results).

So I'm adding quinoa, lentils, red wine, and chocolate back in. I'm adding hot sauces back in (try finding a good hot sauce without sugar—I bloody dare you). I'm taking sweet potatoes and red meat out.

Live your lives, people. Figure out what your body needs to fuel your workouts and lifestyle and eat that.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

But Did You Die?

This weekend was perfect.

It was one of those almost warm pre-spring teasers perfect for walking around outside and riding a bike—so of course I did a lot of both.

After morning boot camp on the church stairs I went on a bike ride with my neighbor Gloria who is sort of like a roommate for grown ups.

She lives in the studio next to me and moved in the same week I did. When she saw me in the hall way she casually asked if I wanted to split wifi.

It was then I fell deeply in love.

She's from New York City and uses really cool expressions like "that's so ratchet" and is just generally much, much cooler than me.


Let me tell you guys: biking downtown is a completely different animal from riding on the Hill.

And it's terrifying.

I'm getting much better at commuting to work and picking out my routes—as well as learning to dodge both traffic and potholes at the same time—but I haven't had a single ride yet that was without at least one heart-stopping near miss.

Gloria used to ride her bike in New York City (I mentioned she was cool, right?) and her biking advice for me was "be fearless."

Just be fearless.

I mean, okay sure—I can do that.

So I began approaching intersections with my usual heaping helping of caution (usually being passed by a few fellow cyclists blowing through red lights with TRUE fearlessness) but resolved to keep myself from acting like a frightened rabbit every time I passed a bus or made a left turn.

No more screaming like a ninny every time an SUV runs you off the road, Lyndsey.

Stop taking it so seriously. I mean it's just you, wild and free on a bicycle—moments from certain death at all times. NBD.

Yes, that is actually what my internal pep talks sound like.

I realized the other night, as I was riding home from Whole Foods with a big bunch of Dandelion greens poking out the top of my bag, that I've developed into the sort of cliche urban crusader who might start a neighborhood composting co-op and rebelliously paint my own bike lanes on 14th Street (don't say it hasn't crossed your mind, too).

When did that happen?

Oh, also, my gym did a spotlight on me. It was fun and I love promoting my gym because, if you can't tell, I really, really love that place.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A funny thing happened today.

As I walked out of my favorite salon in Dupont, I reflexively reached for a mint—something I've probably done dozens of times.

And in that moment it hit me: I've been lying to myself for years.

Should I back up?

Yeah I should probably back up.

A little over a month ago I committed to Ericka's challenge and just a few days later I finally went to see a physical therapist about back problems I'd been suffering through and ignoring for weeks (maybe months if I'm being honest).

It only hurt during work outs when I was doing sit ups, v-sits, Russian twists, or crunches—but I didn't stop doing those exercises during class because I didn't want to be the fat girl* with an excuse about why she couldn't perform an exercise. Nobody likes that girl.

So I got an evaluation from Karen at Balance and she armed me with PT homework and told me to (duh) stop doing sit ups, v-sits, Russian twists, or crunches and just hold a plank or do something else instead. Sweet.

After almost two weeks of doing the PT homework while still going to boot camp and barre classes most nights of the week, I had to finally crack and confess to her (via email) that the pain was bad and had started coming on even though I still wasn't doing anything that had originally triggered it.

There were so many times in class when I actually wanted to cry out in pain—but I thought I was making excuses and being weak and just needed to keep going and do more mobility even if it meant crying in an Epsom salt soak later.

Doesn't fitness sound awesome?

Anyway: That was stupid.

So after I finally made my confession, Karen gave me a really terrifying task: One week total rest.

I felt myself becoming whale-like just reading her email.

Since I was allowed to use the elliptical and keep doing the PT homework, I threw myself into that totally.

I used to think those girls in the gym on their headphones, texting on the elliptical were idiots.

And now I know they're idiots.

Okay, that's mean, but seriously—cardio bunnies: please, do yourselves a favor and go to an actual class that requires you to pick up heavy things and put them down. Please. Just do it.

Moving on...

Something else I decided I needed to do was start a Whole 30 challenge.

Because it looked totally easy and I thought to myself I eat 90% clean already anyway, how hard could it be to go 100% for one month?

Oh, cute little Lyndsey. You are so, so cute.

I read this post about what I should expect—and I thought to myself well I'm not going to have the hangover/food withdrawals/cravings because I don't eat junk food anyway. I hardly ever eat bread unless I'm at dinner with friends; I hardly ever eat dairy unless it's yogurt; and I don't eat candy.

TL;DR - I sat on a throne of LIES.

The truth:

I would eat a super healthy breakfast of a green monster smoothie or a bowl of spinach and eggs... but I drink lattes every single morning when I walk to work.

I drink tons of green tea and two liters of water every day... but I also drink a cup of hot chocolate from the Keurig-like-thing we have at work most days of the week. YES, ME.

I never buy candy from the store or add a cookie or a brownie to my lunch order... but if it's at work or a party, or in a bowl by a desk, I'll totally eat one... or four.

And we don't have to mention how many calories are in alcohol or how much of that I consume during a normal week.

My point to all of this is: I was never conscious of how much those choices added up until I had to face them every day.

And y'all - it's REALLY hard to remember.

It's easy to pack all your food and plan your meals and only eat the things you're supposed to (at least for me it is), but it's really hard to just remember not to order a latte (you want tea, Lyndsey—TEA), not to silently take a chocolate from a dish on a desk and eat it without even thinking about it.

So really, more than anything else, this challenge has woken me up to how many things I do without awareness. And it's scary.

The funny thing is, I remember vividly CRYING with a friend not too long ago because I was so frustrated with my fitness life—I work out hard five or six days a week, I said. I eat chicken and spinach and gallons of water, I said. I don't know why I'm on this plateau from hell. My friend basically told me to suck it up and make some hard changes if I wanted it badly enough.

It was like that scene in the Devil Wears Prada when Andy reaches a breaking point and cries to Nigel that she can't go on and he tells her she's hardly trying at all. After a moment of gasping indignantly she realizes he's right.

So, instead of Chanel boots—I'm just Shiite Paleo for 24 more days. See—I really was hardly trying at all.

*Yeah, I called myself a fat girl. You read it. And it probably made you as uncomfortable to read as it made me to write. I "know" I'm not fat - I'm a size six, I'm healthy, etc. but for whatever reason—and I don't know if this will ever go away—when I'm in a class full of people I always think I'm the biggest girl, the least in shape person there—even though a) it doesn't matter and b) it isn't true. Isn't being a woman awesome?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Prepare to be Annoyed

So my friend and favorite fitness blogger Ericka cooked up this awesome fitness challenge I couldn't pass up.

I'm really excited about this challenge because I love core work probably more than anything else... BUT I'm nervous because of the rules of the contest...

Every single day I have to Instagram/Tweet about the challenge using the hashtag #CoreCommit.

You're probably thinking "... so?"

The thing is... I don't want to fill all my friend's feeds with HAY LOOK AT MY ACTS OF FITNESS! like I'm some sort of athlete. It's self-important.

Of course I love seeing updates/reading posts from people like Ericka and Allison or my other gym friends - but for some reason I can only imagine nobody would really be interested in seeing mine.

But... for a chance to win Lululemon or Fabuletics... sorry guys, prepare to be annoyed.

CORE-ction (do you see what I did there???): I can IG or Tweet daily - not both - so that should make it waaaaay more bearable. Carry on.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Teaching Moment.

I don't know about your parents, but my parents LOVED teaching moments.

My brothers and I always knew we were about to have a teaching moment when our mom would get an excited smile and nudge our dad, then make a facial expression that loosely translated to "come on—don't you remember? We read about this in that childhood development class 15 years ago and we've been waiting every day since then to finally use this! IT'S HAPPENING!"

One Sunday at the dinner table when I was around 13 I made some smart aleck remark about a girl from church—I don't remember what it was. My mom got the look on her face and went to find a ketchup packet from our junk drawer.

She squirted it out on to a plate and said "put it all back in the packet."

She and my dad were so damned pleased with themselves.

Being stubborn, I actually started trying to put it back in the packet. My brothers got in on it by taking it on as challenge, helping me figure out how we could open it wider and insert the ketchup.

A few minutes passed and my mom was clearly frustrated we were missing the point: YOU CAN'T PUT IT ALL BACK IN!

Once something is said, it's said. You can't take it back—it exists now, planted in the head of anyone who heard you (and then to whoever they repeat it to).

If I could get everyone in the conservative movement together in a room, with a smug look and a ketchup packet, I'd try to impart this wisdom upon them.

Because they need it.

If you've spoken badly about someone and damaged their reputation, a private apology isn't enough—no matter how sincere.

Yes, it helps, but it's not enough. Once you've spoken something into existence or repeated a story you heard about someone, you've carried on something that can never be taken back.

Is it really that hard?

If you're not speaking life into someone, what's the point of talking?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

This house has a part of my heart.

Most days of the week I'm fighting an impulse to leave DC forever and, I don't know, get a few goats and chickens and a little cabin in the woods.

But that's another blog post.

As with 90% of the wonderful things that have happened to me in my life, I wasn't looking for this—I just stumbled across it and said "oh, I'd never thought about that before..."

I hate that this is happening just before the end of the year because I know it's going to sound like an intentional New Year "Fresh start! New beginnings!" kind of blog post and that makes me a little nauseous. Let's carry on anyway.

This house has a part of my heart.

Some of my best memories in DC are from my backyard—lit with strings of baubley, romantic lights full of friends drinking too much wine and talking all night.

Or Saturday morning's waking up with roommates and walking to get coffee.

Instead of trying to tell stories that couldn't possibly do it justice, I'll leave you with a few pictures—the best way to remember the great times we had here.

Friday, November 22, 2013

that sky glowed all calico like phosphor in the sea

You haven't lived until you've had red wine from a tin cup by a campfire in an unseasonably warm November.

My favorite time on earth is the hour before everyone else wakes up on a camping trip.

I'm physically incapable of sleeping in, no matter what sort of night I had and camping trips are no exception. I tiptoe around, quietly hunting through bags to find coffee (usually waking people up in the process).

And then I sit. I know I'm not truly alone—surrounded by sleeping friends tucked into tents all around me—but I'm completely at peace, my mind finally at rest with no plans, no mental to do list prompting me to action.

A few days ago as I was standing on the metro escalator trying to finish a page, a woman barreled past me and knocked my gym bag off my shoulder. I balked at her silently as she turned—not to apologize, but to tell me I was taking up too much room with my bag (well, duh) and that she was in a hurry. I told her to have a good day as she flipped me off. My headphones were still in so I couldn't make out what she was saying anymore, but I could see she was angry and kept making a point to call back and shout things at me as she ran to the platform.

I put my nose back in my book and slowly reached the platform just as the train arrived... and we both got on.

How embarrassing for her. I thought to myself: What a horrible day she must be having. And how sad to walk around having outbursts at strangers.

I think the anonymity of cities makes these sorts of angry encounters acceptable and common—because we'd never talk that way to someone we actually knew.

But why does it seem everyone is walking around, seconds from exploding because the turnstile didn't open right away or Biden is going to the White House so we can't get to lunch on time.

I saw myself turning into that sort of person once and I didn't like it.

A lot of my time here is spent walking, surrounded by strangers (it's my primary mode of transportation) and it's so much happier when I make a point to be present for it and be kind.

Life isn't just the times with friends, the events, the holidays—it's those anonymous moments when you hold a door for a mom with a stroller or run after someone who dropped their Smarttrip. Life is a few hours spent alone, hunched over weeds in your front planter, not looking at your phone, letting dirt set in deep into your cuticles.

Pull out your earbuds. Enjoy those moments. They add up. And they matter.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Velveteen Lyndsey

A few things I can't share have happened in the past few weeks.

I hate announcing at the outset that I have secrets because it's sort of like saying to a friend "I need to tell you something... oh nevermind, I can't."

And everyone hates that girl.

So I'm sitting here drinking tea and trying to think of the best way to dance around what actually happened while still sharing what I've carried away from the wreckage.

Emily has christened me Velveteen Lyndsey. It's so funny to think of myself that way.

I've learned a lot from this.

Picture me falling apart while writing that sentence and taking a few minutes to compose myself and come back.

I think it's okay to lose your bearings every once in a while so long as you always work to get them back.

Because if you don't let the hurt and the fear in—if you don't cry or say the wrong thing to the wrong person—if you can really, truly, just put on your grown up suit every day and cheerfully carry on to work when bad things happen... you're a sociopath, right?

I can't believe I used to pride myself on how well I handled a crisis.

Like I deserved a red balloon for being able to cook meals while mourning a friend.

Sometimes everything falls apart. Sometimes dark things remind you that they exist and you learn that even though you thought you knew yourself and knew your limits and capacity for pain—you were absolutely wrong.

And that's okay.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Friendships are the best ships.

When I was a child it used to mortify me every time my mother and I would visit friends of hers and she would immediately set about cleaning their kitchens and straightening their living rooms.

No sooner than we'd knocked on the front door she'd quickly start pulling weeds out of the planters around their porch and henpecking me to pull their trash bins up from the street.

Once inside, instead of just sitting down and enjoying their company—or taking the temperature to see if they actually welcomed the help, she just assumed that's what they wanted.

She would dole out copious, well-intentioned advice on how to keep their plants alive and train their dogs to stop begging.

Because what busy mom wouldn't want someone to come help around the house?

My mom shows she cares about people by doing.

And I'm very much the same way. Which drives me insane.

It embarrassed me because while she was in a tornado of clearing mugs from coffee tables, I was quietly reading the subtle expressions on her friends' faces. Sometimes confusion, sometimes contempt—many times embarrassment, and very rarely gratefulness... even though they expressed sheepish, polite thanks.

My takeaway—apart from paying attention to people's needs, is that we can't love people the way we want to be loved. We have to figure out the way other people want to be loved and... you know, do that.

This is hard.

Figuring out how someone wants to be cared for (and how they communicate) is a challenge in every relationship.

At the end of the day, people want to spend time with and nurture relationships with people who make their lives better, who challenge them to be better and hold them accountable... but who are also actually enjoyable to be around and who are receptive to what they actually need.

Stop talking, stop doing, and pay attention.

Sometimes friends don't want advice when they come bearing life problems—they want to be heard.

And they want wine.

Always bring wine.