Life Skills.

Things I would be really good at:

1) Naming candy bars

2) Voicing cartoon characters

3) Designing hygienic public restrooms

In this fantasy land, I’d be making lots of money naming actual products things like “Nutty Razzles!” and creating silly monster characters for Nickelodeon and making sure that every public bathroom had door handles on the outside of the entry instead of the inside.

No more grabbing onto filthy door handles on the way out of the bathroom! In addition, all locks, faucets, and hand drying implements could be operated by elbows, because no one should have to touch anything with their fingers in a public toilet. (And yes, I know how that sounds, pervs.)

A girl can dream.

 

Dr. Drew and Garbage.

I knew that I wanted to write about Teen Mom 2 today. Do you ever just wake up and know that you want to talk about Teen Mom? I mean, I can’t be the only one.

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Examine the bottom left and then tell me this is not entertainment.

While on my totally tragic run this morning, during which I could only run three miles before legitimately almost throwing up and going home to spare myself the humiliation of vomiting in public,  through the pain and nausea and massive side cramp and along with drafting my “I’m sorry, I’m quitting” email to the friend I’ve agreed to run the half marathon with, I thought about Teen Mom. And how sad the whole endeavor really is. And how no one has any real agency in their lives. How they all get boyfriends, husbands, pregnancies, abortions, jail time, arrests, domestic abuse charges, new cars, different houses, and tattoos with as much monotone indifference as I select what color socks I’m going to wear in the morning. It’s like watching a show in which hugely traumatic things keep happening to Eeyore and he just takes it, because that’s the way it is. There was one scene recently in which a three-month pregnant Jenelle is discussing her boyfriend’s impending court appearance for his third DUI arrest, and when he mentions that he may be going to jail for a year, she says, to paraphrase, “Yeah, well.” Jenelle, who just episodes earlier had an abortion after getting pregnant with her abusive ex-husband and who currently lives with her mother and the five-year-old son she doesn’t have custody of, is pregnant again by a different abusive idiot who may be going to jail for a full year and her reaction is literally this:

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I can’t. It makes me too frustrated and sad. I know the rate of teen pregnancy has dropped considerably in the last several years – MTV just loves to take credit for that. I wouldn’t be surprised if witnessing what total nightmares the lives on this show are deters girls from getting pregnant in their teens. However, there is something basically awful about a show in which teenage girls ping pong their way through major life decisions, putting up with outrageous abuse because they’re desperate for help and aren’t mature enough to say enough already.

Which brings me to my next point, handed to me so thoughtfully by the interwebs this morning. Dr. Drew, America’s most obnoxious celebrity doctor (which is really saying something, because we boast a lot of those), is in hot water for calling endometriosis a “garbage bag diagnosis.” He responded to a male caller’s description of his fiancee’s pelvic disorders by effectively dismissing them as valid concerns rooted in reality and suggesting to the caller that he take his fiancee to a therapist, because her symptoms pointed more to the psychosomatic effects of previous sexual abuse than to actual physical problems.

Ladies with endometriosis, which is a very real, very painful, condition that can cause debilitating periods and infertility, are understandably very upset by this.

I am also very upset by this, because I think it speaks to a bigger issue with how Dr. Drew, with his inexplicably huge media presence, treats the women in his “care.” I’ve found him unpalatable and gross from the very first season of my good friend Teen Mom, when he led the Finale Special and began his reign of patronizing and manipulating the teenage girls sitting in front of him on stage. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that in all the Finale Specials I’ve watched, Dr. Drew has been an inexcusable jerk to 100% of the girls he’s spoken to. These girls are, for the most part, young, stressed, immature victims of abuse, and in addition to never addressing in any real sense how the girls may feel about their situations, Dr. Drew makes them feel responsible for the insane actions of the idiots around them. Every single time.

The vast majority of the girls are dealing with ex- (or current) boyfriends who are horrible, absent, and verbally abusive. These boys call the teen moms terrible names, refuse to see their children, and are just generally despicable. Every time this situation is presented to Dr. Drew (which is all the time), I hope that he will say, “So, why do you stay with him? Why are you putting up with that? Why are you in love with someone who calls you a bitch and a whore? Who is there to help you remove yourself from this downward spiral of guilt and drug use and abuse and anxiety? Do you need help?”

And every time he has the opportunity to redeem himself, like clockwork, instead he says, “Have you ever considered how your actions impact Your Boyfriend? How does he feel? What can you do to make him want to be with you?”

It is the definition of disgusting, watching a grown man parading around as a doctor on television eviscerate a teenage girl because she hasn’t been more understanding of her loathsome boyfriend. Instead of trying to help her escape the cycle of abuse, he perpetuates it, by making her feel guilty about not giving him enough chances or enough attention or enough time. He blames the teen mom, every time. He makes teenage girls cry in shame and frustration on TV for not being able to make their boyfriends love them.

So, with regards to EndometriosisGate 2014: Dr. Drew implied that a woman’s legitimate problems were simply figments of her hysterical imagination?

I’m shocked.

Half Marathon Training Day 4: Why Me.

The most impressive thing about my training run yesterday was that it was pouring rain and I still did it. I am basically the bravest person on Earth.

My goal was to get up to four miles, but I was a big quitter and stopped after three and a bit. I’ve been told that the first two weeks of any new habit (cutting sugar, waking up earlier, running progressively more miles every other day for the next five weeks, etc.) are the most difficult, most especially when that new habit is physically punishing, because all your body wants to do is stop and cry and take a bath and go back to sleep. I am currently right in the middle of my first two weeks, so things continue to be rough. My knee hurts, my ankle hurts, I’m getting cramps, my lungs are on fire, I tried to pace myself by running just behind a random stranger trotting along with his elderly dog and even he was going too fast. You know, all hallmarks of an excellent start.

I know a guy here who is in such good shape (from regularly running in a gas mask to limit his oxygen intake – as you do) that he once ran a marathon on a whim. I made him some of my now world famous soft pretzels and he offered to help me train. “You will run distance,” he said. I politely declined, out of both terror and shame.

However, it’s not all bad news. I’m becoming a font of silver linings, so I must say that despite the fact that the running hasn’t gotten easier – I still hate 98% of it and it continues to make me feel like an out of shape, winded loser – I am beginning to experience brief moments of glory, like when I decided to run myself all the way back to my house, as opposed to taking the opportunity to “cool down” (read: walk) for a little while.

It’s the little things.

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Let’s see: karate, ballet, various art classes, Hebrew school, country line dancing, Girl Scouts. And that’s just ages 4-12.

Long Hair, Totally Care Too Much.

My hair currently looks like this:

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Please forgive the cheetah duvet. It was initially a super cheap joke and then eventually just too awesome.

It’s long, it’s tangly, it’s heavy, it takes forever to dry. I admit that I love having the length (it can be very pretty), but a lot of the time, it just feels like I’m carrying a thick curtain around on my dome.

So, I’ve been debating chopping it all off, and have been inspired by the bravery of close friends and by cuts I’ve seen online.

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Super cute and perfect for spring/summer. Light, polished, adorable.

I have these delusions of grandeur until I remember that I’m not Katie Holmes and I live in a damp, rainy place and that if I were to cut off all this weighty hair, I’d look less like a magazine cover and more like this:

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This, I can only assume, is a still from Jennifer Aniston’s new movie about how she goes from tragic dorkus to stunning professional business woman by taking off her glasses and highlighting her hair.

I’m shelving the haircut – at least for now. I do not need any more help in the “tragic dorkus” department.

One Year.

Sometimes, I am in awe of how I’ve managed to change my life in less than one year. Two days ago, it was Baby Fiece’s first birthday. One year and two days ago, I visited Fertile Myrtle in the hospital and held that hours-old precious little craze for the first time. On that day one year ago, I’d also just gotten access to records vital for my MA thesis research, and could finally start my project.

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(Photos used simply for illustrative purposes and not because I miss them desperately and am sad all the time. OKAY? I AM NOT SAD ALL THE TIME.)

Now, one year and two days later, Baby Fiece is growing up, walking and talking and getting painfully more adorable every day. (Again, why I am not there?) I’ve only been gone for three months, and she is already a different kid. I can’t wait to see her and Fiece and Fertile Myrtle again, hopefully before the babies start to drive.

One year and two days later, I’ve grown up too. I ended my marriage, completed my MA, landed a job in England, moved halfway across the world, and was accepted into a PhD program (with funding!). I have pushed myself in approximately ten billion different ways since I held that tiny new life one year ago, and none of it was easy. If I’m honest, it’s still not. I miss home and my people so much sometimes it physically hurts. I’m convinced I miss them more now than I would have if I wasn’t so indebted to all of them for keeping me bolstered and afloat during the epic chaos that was my life last fall. They’ve seen the worst of me and it brought out the very best in them and having experienced such total support from those around me, I am gutted by being so far away from them. To all of you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

One year ago, I was just beginning the soul searching that would lead me to now. Relationships are supposed to make you better, improve you and make you stronger, more capable, happy. I’d known for a long time that my marriage wasn’t doing any of that for either of us, but the thought of ending something that was so meaningful (because regardless of how right we were together, I loved my husband) was so foreign and awful and unthinkable that we kept trying to make it work. We’d have arguments for hours in which we’d both lay out the enormous ways in which we weren’t fulfilled, all the ways we were compromising our lives and our futures, each and every thing we’d come to resent and simply put up with about our life together. Every single time, there were pockets of dead air, total silence, when I thought, this is the time to say it. Just call it like it is. Just spare yourselves, you guys. It’s okay.

And yet, I never did. I didn’t have the strength or the courage to be the one to say it. And maybe I never would have. It wasn’t until I went far away from home and got some tremendous perspective on what my life could be, what kind of person I could be, and how happy I could be, that the crushing weight of not saying it became more powerful than the fear of what being honest meant.

In the end, being honest with the people I loved most, despite at times being brutal and horrible and devastating, freed me from myself. I was no longer in my own way. I have done a hard, terrible, awful thing and I have survived it. In my opinion, there is nothing in the world like choosing to divorce. It’s death, but you keep living. It’s grief, for everything that happened before and everything that could have happened later. It’s shame and anger and frustration and disgust and literally every other miserable feeling there is.

But ultimately, it’s a commitment to choosing happiness. I went to hell and back in the pursuit of happiness, and it freed me. There is nothing in world now that can stand in the way of my accomplishing my dreams and getting what I need.

Everything else is easy.

Happy birthday, little beast. The first year of your life was the first year of mine, too.

Half Marathon Training Day 3: Meh.

Two exciting things happened this morning: I ran 3 miles in 28 minutes (and only had to take three 30 second walking breaks), and I finally got my hair totally clean.

Let’s start with the biggest success, shall we? Which is, of course, my hair.

I am very cheap and because of this, I am also usually not particularly invested in one product over another. I’m not going to be paying $30 for eyeliner regardless, so most of the time, I use whatever I can get my hands on. However, there is one beauty product I cannot live happily without and it is Suave’s Daily Clarifying Shampoo.

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This inspires such beauty and hope.

Yes, Suave, which can be purchased in the States in Target for on or around $1 a bottle. This magical elixir is literally the only shampoo in the entire world (or at least the Western Hemisphere) that gets my hair clean, shiny, and manageable. I know this because I’ve tried pretty much every other brand available to me and this story always ends with tons of impenetrable product buildup that makes my hair sticky, tacky, and just generally disgusting. I brought two bottles of my dear Suave with me when I moved, and just recently ran out and could not find it anywhere in the UK. On Amazon, this $1 drugstore shampoo retails for about £8.00, which was just unreal to me. Apparently there is a niche market in US drugstore products. Instead of caving and giving the Amazon shampoo warlords what they wanted (which were, namely, outrageous shipping fees), I bought a natural clarifying shampoo and was so proud of myself for ridding all parts of my life of harsh chemicals. I’m eating so much better and drinking so much more water and using natural mineral makeup and washing my face with only water and exercising regularly – it only makes sense that I’d start washing my hair with less harsh shampoo, right?

Cut to yesterday, I washed my head thoroughly with that natural clarifying shampoo, dried and “styled” my hair, and only discovered that it was still filthy underneath at the roots near my ears when I absentmindedly ran my fingers through my hair at breakfast.  And I’ll tell you, nothing makes a girl feel better about taking on the day than knowing that she is going to work having effectively not washed her hair for weeks.

Thankfully, a friend offered to pick up any American product I wanted while she was in New York for Easter, and I’d had the forethought to ask for some Suave. She arrived bearing this nectar of the gods yesterday and I am now experiencing sweet, sweet relief. My scalp is clean! My hair is light and no longer feels coated with buildup! I took an effective shower!

Such a win.

And then, additionally but also less importantly, I managed to run a full three miles this morning a) without dying and b) within a half hour, even though I stopped a few times to walk briskly for thirty seconds. (I can’t deny that I needed those breaks, but I also did read somewhere that when you’re just beginning to run again, it’s advised to insert short rest periods into your training. So. That’s my excuse.) I’m happy to have gotten under thirty minutes simply because ten-minute half marathon miles seem totally doable, even to me now. If I’m able to keep up that pace, or improve it at all, I’m looking at around a two hour and fifteen minute race time, which I think would be respectable, given that I am going from zero to hero with this distance running shenanigans. I’m going to pretend I don’t know that people run half marathons in just over an hour. Because no.

 

Half Marathon Training Day 2: Ugh.

I went on my second run yesterday morning, and it was decidedly less cute than the first. Once, long, long ago, I was a sprinter, running for seven years for club and high school teams in my hometown. I was by no means a track star, but I consistently placed (sometimes even speeding across the finish line first!). My fastest 100m was 12.1 seconds (again – no track star) and I once ran a mile in 6 minutes, before then immediately wanting to get violently ill all over myself. Despite how miserable the entire experience was both during and after, my six-minute mile is still a moment of glory for me, because I’ve never been a distance runner and that will never happen again.

Which brings us back to yesterday morning at 7 am, when I laced up my new running shoes and hit the local park with the seemingly lax goal to run three miles in less than a half hour. And it was brutal. My biggest issue is, and always has been, pacing myself with distance, as I usually start at lightning speed and then forget to power down, which results in things like an accidental six-minute mile and lots of agony. In addition, I feel like I only have good form at faster paces, so going slower makes me feel like I’m a big lumbering mess. Also, jogging at a moderate speed reminds me of those nightmares when you are running your little heart out and yet moving in slow motion.

I’ve decided to “train” every other day, so tomorrow morning I’ll go out again. I am so looking forward to it.

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Healing Acne Naturally.

So, as promised, here are a few makeup-free photos of my face’s progress since the beginning of this journey into the hippie rabbit hole almost six weeks ago. I’ve taken all these photos either with cell phones or with Photo Booth on my computer, so the quality leaves something to be desired.

March 11, active, gross, unrelenting – pretty much what my face looked like from late January to March. These photos don’t do it justice, really, but suffice to say it was Not Good:

IMG_4055IMG_4054March 29, no active acne (just prior to The Great Red Wine Binge of 2014, which ended in total skin madness):

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Today, April 21, no active acne, just tons of hyperpigmentation:

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Guys. I think there’s something to this DIM/agnus castus/burdock root/zinc/vitamin A/omega-3 stuff. By being (mostly) mindful about what I put into my body, taking supplements to help regulate my hormones, and drinking tons of water to flush out my liver/remove toxins, I am keeping my acne at bay. Since getting home from Prague and clearing the latest major break out, I’ve gotten a few new pimples, but I’ve managed to treat them with small dabs of baking soda and water paste and they have been nothing near the caliber I’d been dealing with before. I went from waking up to new, deeply rooted pimples every morning to being able to pinpoint the causes of the one or two new spots I get occasionally. I’m even sort of grateful for being able to identify “break outs,” as for a while there, the acne was so constant, there were no waves, no breaks, no discernible changes. It may be difficult to tell from the above photos, but there has been major change in both the quality and the topography of my skin. All I’ve got at the moment is scarring.

I feel like this is handling several birds with one stone – I’m addressing the root of my lifelong skin problems, while also taking better care of my body and feeling better about myself. And all I’ve really had to do is eat more veggies, take extra vitamins, and get used to having to pee every hour. I am convinced that hydration is the key. Water, water, water – always. It has helped so much.

I’m not going to eschew all Western medicine, because I will be the first to admit I love Excedrin Migraine. However, it’s pretty remarkable that the answer to my acne, which has plagued me for my entire adult life, appears to be in making small changes to my lifestyle, and not in harsh chemical prescriptions or topical medications.

I will eat tons of broccoli and proudly fill my old lady pill divider with handfuls of supplements for the rest of time if it means I can have this control over what I look like and how I feel about myself. And I will recommend it highly to anyone else who is having similar issues.

New Balance.

There’s a lot happening in these parts, which is becoming the norm, I guess.

1) First and foremost: my face is getting much, much, much better. My skin was completely clear after about 10-12 days eating “clean” on the supplements, but then I spent an entire weekend drinking wine and dehydrating my body, which meant I had a massive break out just before Prague (which was delightful, as it lasted throughout the whole of the trip). In Prague, I relaxed some of the food restrictions (sugar and white flour mostly) because I wanted to be on vacation and didn’t want to spend time worrying about what I was eating. (Also, my face was already a mess, so I figured why not?) Even though I allowed pasta and bread and occasional sugar, I continued to drink massive amounts of green tea and water. As it turns out, my skin healed while I was away and by the time I was home, it was completely clear of active acne (there is still plenty of scarring). I’m still taking supplements and making sure to eat mostly whole foods, but I’ve also chilled out about white flour and have been eating teeny bits of sugary goodness when I feel like it. Most importantly, I think, I’m drinking water or tea all day long. I always have a mug or water bottle at hand and I really think it is the hydration, in addition to the supplements, that is making the difference. I’ve also successfully completed over a month without dairy, and now only miss ice cream for about 16 hours a day. Improvements all around!

I’ll post photos of my face sans makeup tomorrow. I just don’t feel like washing my face and reapplying at the moment. I have important Skype dates to attend to. (And yes, I dress up from the waist up to Skype with my Californian loves. Shut up about it.)

2) Since reuniting with my lifelong friend White Flour, I’ve gotten back into baking. In the last week, I’ve made soft pretzels, pizza dough, and Irish scones (much to the delight of an Irish houseguest we had over for this long weekend). I’m successfully changing recipes to suit my tastes, which in baking is like the equivalent of magic as far as I’m concerned. I’m starting to understand what this all means! I’m cooking and baking for other people and they actually enjoy it – apparently I had to leave my entire life behind in order to get domestic.

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I cannot even articulate how excited I am that I am now able to hand make my most favorite culinary delight in all the land. These were SO GOOD.

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My Irish scones, which look a little more done than they should be. In real life, they were delicious. These were a second batch I kinda forgot about because I was too busy inhaling scones from the first batch, which were snapped up and eaten before I could take a decent photo.

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You know you’re hosting an Irish person when they suggest you top your pizza with thinly sliced potato.

3) I’m running a half marathon. Six weeks from now. It just might be the most idiotic thing I’ve ever agreed to do, but I’m doing it. To be fair, it was totally my idea, but I pitched it as a bit of a joke to a friend who is too committed and honest and wonderful. There is no way I can flake on this. Last week, I bought my first pair of running shoes in several years, and this morning, I went on my first run in nearly half a decade. I did about two and a half miles and didn’t feel like falling into pieces or throwing up on everything, so I’m counting that as a win. The plan as of now is to follow a slightly modified six-week half marathon training guide I found online, using my forty-five minute round trip walk to work as my “cross training” on days when I don’t go out for a run. I’m hoping that by next weekend, I can comfortably run five to six miles, and then slowly gain mileage from there. (YES, I am aware that that is the whole purpose of training. I just have to write it out and publish it because then I will be shamed into following through.)

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My beautiful new shoes.

As much as I am not looking forward to running for two hours and covering 13.1 miles, I am so excited to face down and handle another challenge. It is so liberating to know you can do anything you set your mind to.

Hello, Confidence. Where were you my whole life?

Prague!

I originally posted this three days ago, when I was actually in Prague, but I was writing via the WordPress iPhone app on wifi in a hostel, so the result wasn’t great. The finished post was published and then somehow deleted and replaced with an earlier draft, and I just could not summon the strength to fight the app again and reload photos. So, here it is, again, days late. All the adorable sentiments still stand, though.

I am currently in Prague, which is yet another thing to be added to the list of “Things I Never Thought Were Possible.” This is a city of incredible architecture, awesome beer, and amazing sausage (or so I’ve been told – this vegetarian didn’t try any). And the pastry is my new best friend. (I’ve temporarily lifted the ban on sugar and white flour. I’m on vacation, dammit!)

Last summer, I spent 24 hours in Bordeaux, France, but other than that, I had never been to the continent of Europe. Oh, how much I was missing. This is all so different from all the rest of my life that my only frame of reference is Disneyland. As in, tall towers with spires and stained glass and beautiful hidden courtyards and cobblestone streets make me think of Fantasy Land instead of Real Life. This, my friends, is real life.

And it is gorgeous.

(Please forgive the Instagram filter abuse on some of these photos. I am using my phone as a camera and sometimes it needs a little help.)

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