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.

 

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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:

Photo on 4-21-14 at 12.09 PM #2I apologize for the intensity in the above photo. I was struggling with the lighting. I can go from zero to ghost pretty quickly in Photo Booth in direct sunlight.

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.

The Purge.

I love seeing movies in theaters.  Love it.  I love the ritual of going to the movies in the same way some people love drinking their morning coffee – the product doesn’t even have to be good for me to enjoy it.  If I’ve got popcorn and an ICEE and a giant screen in my face, I will have a great time.  My brothers and my dad and I saw Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, to date the worst movie I have ever seen in my entire life, in a theater, and the shock of how horrible the movie was and that it had still made it to theaters made the experience better, not worse.  Oh my God, it was terrible – and oh so good.

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My husband, on the other hand, has no appreciation for such joys.  He does not suffer shitty movies quietly.  If he’s paying $12 to sit in a dark room with a bunch of loud strangers, he better be watching the best movie he’s ever seen.  Unfortunately, that happens very rarely for him.  He went with me to see Before Midnight because we knew it was going to be amazing.

He refused to see Ethan Hawke’s other current box office success, The Purge, because we knew it was going to be awful.

I enlisted the company of my friend J, who had already endured both Side Effects and Disconnect, two supremely depressing and upsetting movies, with me this year.  We gleefully skipped off to see The Purge, expecting the worst.

And we got it.  Holy canoli.

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The premise: it’s 2022, and all crime in the United States has been eradicated, except for during the annual twelve-hour Purge, when all crime is legal and all emergency services are suspended.  Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey are the Sandins, a wealthy, white couple who have made a fortune selling sleek, modern security systems to their neighbors to protect them during this one night of mayhem.  The Sandins fully support the mission of the Purge, which purportedly helps cleanse the nation’s criminal impulses, until The Purge bleeds out of the poverty-stricken inner city streets and comes to them.

The movie is an obvious indictment of white privilege.  It’s main characters are, for the most part, rich white people who blindly support unchecked violence as long as it is happening to other people (and because it has helped them build an addition on their already massive McMansion in a gorgeous gated community).  They become remarkably less supportive of The Purge after their son, the movie’s only actual human being and therefore its moral compass, allows an injured black man into their house after he screams for help while being pursued by a pack of rabid, psychopathic RKOI, who believe it is their right to murder this man, because he is homeless and “filthy.”  While this theme is played out with zero subtlety whatsoever (see: the homeless black man is wearing dog tags and an Army green coat), it could have made for a compelling story about basic humanity.  However, that’s not the way this cookie crumbled.

My husband didn’t want to see the movie because he thought the “annual Purge” conceit was ridiculous, which is admittedly is.  However, for me, the most upsetting thing about The Purge isn’t its ludicrous plot – it’s the fact that the premise is founded on an unsettling, false “universal” that given the chance, we’d all really love to kill someone.  Instead of maybe exploring why we tend to see certain people as fundamentally “other” (and therefore less deserving of happiness, safety, and ultimately, life), the movie chose to focus its attention on its belief that the only thing keeping most people from murdering their neighbors is the fact that murder is against the law.  The removal of this prohibition, The Purge wants you to believe, would mean that everyone everywhere would enjoy a good ol’ murder.  Your mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers would put on their camo and “go hunting” – for people.  Or, if they weren’t feeling particularly rage-y that year, they’d just pull up a chair and watch live feeds of crimes happening around the world.  So gross.

I know it’s unrealistic to expect a horror movie to make intelligent commentary on human nature or class warfare.  However, it is so obvious that this is what The Purge is trying to do that it is so aggravating that is hasn’t done it well (or really all that thoughtfully at all).  The movie is at once both self-obsessed and totally missing the point.

The Purge‘s one high note?  This dude is pretty terrifying:

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However, even he is a giant caricature, wearing a tartan tie and a prep school jacket as he waxes poetic about his right as a trust-funder to kill whoever he wants.

Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight.

A few days ago, I confessed that I don’t have favorites, but that might have been a little bit of an exaggeration.  I have some favorites, and they include Before Sunrise

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and Before Sunset:

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These movies, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, focus on the relationship between Jesse and Celine, two 23-year-old strangers who meet on a train to Vienna in Before Sunrise, which was released in 1995.  Then, nine years later in 2004, Before Sunset catches up with them, when they are both 32.  Before Midnight, which came out in theaters on Friday, finds them in 2013, at age 41.  And it is fantastic.  Beautiful, bittersweet, emotional, universal.  I’ve loved this series since I was in high school and I was nervous that a third movie wouldn’t live up to the beauty of the first two.

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(I’ve been known to be wrong.  Occasionally.)

You should all watch these three movies immediately.  I am crying just thinking about them.  They are that good.

Sharp Objects.

My family is full of super weirdos. My father loves Halloween and from September 1 until the middle of November every year, my parents’ house is filled with the life-size monsters he’s built, using PVC pipe and rubber costume masks and the oscillating motors from fans. Something gruesome greets you on the porch and in the entryway and on the stairs and by the bathroom. My mother has a soft spot for the Day of The Dead, and I grew up amidst a fairly sizable collection of small colorful clay skeletons, like for instance, the ashtray shaped like a bathtub with a lady skeleton reclining in it that she uses as a candy dish. My aunt wrote and self-published a book with a first chapter so upsetting it made me want to unread it (and I’ve actually participated in things more disgusting than what she wrote about). It’s really no wonder I turned out to be a failed forensic anthropologist. I never had a chance.

With this history in mind, in December, I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, after having it recommended to me by coworkers and parents of students and friends and essentially everyone in my life. It was a dizzying novel that held me prisoner – I finished it in a day. It was the definition of a page-turner. It was also, however, really aggravating and despite the fact that it was dark and twisted and full of crazy people (read: all the things I am genetically programmed to enjoy), after reading the last pages, I knew I hadn’t liked the book.

So imagine my surprise when the other day, I left a store with two more Gillian Flynn novels in my hands, Sharp Objects and Dark Places. I’m not sure what compelled me to pick the others up, considering I had a pretty visceral, angry reaction to Gone Girl. Regardless of why, they came home with me and, yet again, the moment I picked up Sharp Objects, I could not put it down.

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Sharp Objects tells the story of a troubled reporter at a small Chicago newspaper, who is sent back to her hometown by her editor after two young girls go missing from the tiny southern Missouri town. This book, like Gone Girl, has a lot going on. It is like a plausible psychological thriller, only wearing clown makeup and blinking neon lights. All of the horrors in this story are bigger and worse and more horrible than anything could ever possibly be, and in reading this book, I’ve realized that that’s why I really disliked Gone Girl. I feel like they are great, compelling, terrifying, creative stories that suffer from being overblown. I love how gross and upsetting and weird and bizarre Gillian Flynn is willing to go. However, at a certain point (like maybe all the time), her plots are enough. When you’ve got childhood trauma and Southern wealth and missing children and festering old friends and newspaper editors and personal mental illness, do you also need adults having sex with teenagers during murder investigations and doing drugs with thirteen-year-old girls? There is such a thing as TOO MUCH.

Having said all that, I liked Sharp Objects. I would recommend it. I don’t want to give anything else away, because I think in books like these, part of the experience is the shock of whatever grotesque thing happens next, but I will say that there is (some) resolution in the ending and some hope for the future, in spite of all the craziness that brings the story to a close, and in that way, it’s different from Gone Girl.

Apparently, I can forgive anything if it is tied up (kinda) nicely with a little bow at the end.

Wild.

Recently, just before my husband went off on his April wilderness trek, I found myself at a local Target, trolling for a cheap bottle of white wine, like any self-respecting adult woman who is always right would after arguing with her husband over the merits of completing graduate school.  I was trying to convince him (and really, myself) that staying on and finishing was worth it, despite the fact that I have hated every moment of being in the program and it has made me a complete terror to be around.  I am a primo student and was thrilled to pieces to go back to school, and yet I have been unhappy every single second of this experience.  It has been so bad.  I was crying to my husband about hemorrhaging money every quarter to take phantom classes just to stay enrolled until my thesis project was green-lit, and he was calmly telling me not to worry about the loans I’ve already accumulated, and to quit and start another program in something else, something that makes me less psychotically miserable.  He was telling me to think of my emotional health above all else (all else being: familial pressure, the shame of quitting, the guilt of being thousands of dollars in the hole for a degree I’d never get).

And for that wonderful, supportive, sage advice, I rewarded him by snapping at him that I couldn’t talk about it anymore and then politely telling him I was going out.  For my entire life, I have been a reasonable, even-keeled, logical person when faced with crises.  And yet, graduate school and all its ensuing insanity can absolutely level me.  At the risk of sounding (as embarrassingly) dramatic (as I sometimes am), I left the house feeling like my life was in shambles – like I was stuck in the middle of a shit swamp, too deep in to quit and too far from finishing something I despise to know what direction to head in.

It was in this admittedly ridiculous state of mind that I wandered from the wine aisle, cradling a $5 bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, into the paperback section, because my favorite thing to do is buy books on impulse, especially when I’m upset (and even more especially when they are $11 at Target).  My eyes glazed over at all the titles I’d seen hundreds of times already, before landing on a memoir called Wild, written by a woman named Cheryl Strayed.

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I was drawn to it simply because I liked the cover art.  (Yes.  I judge books by their covers.)  And then I read the synopsis.  The book follows the author on her quest to hike over 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail by herself, in an effort to pick up (and ultimately understand) the pieces of her broken life.  I usually steer clear of non-fiction books about personal journeys because they can reek of entitlement (read: Eat Pray Love), but after flipping to a page at random and reading this:

“We stood close together, face-to-face, my hands gripping the front of his coat.  I could feel the dumb ferocity of the building on one side of me; the gray sky and the white streets like a giant slumbering beast on the other; and us between them, alone together.  Snowflakes were melting onto his hair and I wanted to reach up and touch them, but I didn’t.  We stood there without saying anything, looking into each other’s eyes as if it would be the last time,”

I bought it and took it home, waiting for the perfect moment to crack it open.

I’ve had the book kicking around the house for a while.  My husband has gone on his adventure and returned.  We have moved on and away from our argument about school (the resolution: I’ve decided to finish, while making a concerted effort not to let it rule/ruin my life in the meantime).  I’ve gotten busy with work and with life and with best friends getting married and having babies and there just hasn’t been time.

Today at 2 pm, after having a fairly productive morning, I sat down with Wild.  It’s 10 pm and I just finished it.  I’ve read a lot of tomes in my day and this book is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever devoured.  It is gorgeous without being affected and genius without being pretentious.  It is all at once devastating and wonderful.  It is a love letter to California and Oregon and relationships and exploration and loss, and I can’t even say enough great things about it.  It is really amazing.

I loved it, even though it broke my heart and made me feel like a completely unbearable asshole for thinking my grad school angst and “life in shambles” were at all comparable to the real agony people experience simply as a fact of life.

Despite making humiliating and humbling me and making me cry, Wild also inspired a lot of hope.  If Cheryl Strayed could hike over one thousand miles solo at 26 years old, I, at 26 years old, can muster up the strength to write a thesis of my own construction and spend a month abroad doing bioarchaeology.  I mean, really.

9 1/2 Weeks.

I watched 9 1/2 Weeks for the first time the other day.  Because I was curious.  (I KNOW.)

That movie is pretty intense(ly sexy).  I’d encourage you to watch it if you:

1) Are a living human attracted to other living humans.

2) Love blue eyeshadow and don’t like bras.

3) Do like 1980s decor.

4) Are curious what New York was like way back when it looked like a seething pile of trash.

5) Want to know what Mickey Rourke’s face used to look like.

6) Are not easily upset by being confronted with the harsh realities of the passage of time.

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Wordless Wednesday: Holy Haircut!

Remember that time (on Monday of this week, just one full day ago), when I said that I think cell phone self-portraits are embarrassing and awful?

I still think that.  But I got an awesome haircut yesterday – perhaps the best of my adult life thus far – and am so happy to look like a grown up that I had to share.

As luck would have it, I’d scheduled my haircut at a time when my husband was having dinner with a friend, so I bounded home to see him afterward, super proud of my Kate Middleton head, eager to show him what a huge difference getting long layers made (HUGE!  So bouncy and light and healthy!), and he said, and I quote,

“Oh my God, Sarah!  It…looks exactly the same!”

Men!  Right, ladies?

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The orange glow is the bathroom lighting, not my actual skin. I’m rocking my natural Translucent Freckled Vampire at the moment/for the rest of my life.

(Side bar: if any of you 1) are in Los Angeles or its surrounding 50 mile radius and 2) are in need of your first haircut in one calendar year, like I was because I am disgusting, let me know.  I have someone I am now obsessed with and would love to recommend.)

Wait a Second.

Myrtle, did I do an okay job obscuring her identity?  I drew and re-drew that mustache, like, a lot of times.  Then I gave up.

Myrtle, did I do an okay job obscuring her identity? I drew and re-drew that mustache, like, a lot of times. Then I gave up.

Saturday was the Fiece’s second birthday party, which was, as expected, the cutest.  The Fiece was in top form, guilting me into giving her fistfuls of M&Ms, promptly counting all of them and naming their colors, and then running around the house with her most favorite gift, a doctor’s bag full of tools, saying in a satisfied voice, “I have a diagnosis!”  (For real.  That happened.)

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Things the Fiece has trouble saying:

1) Chips.  She says, “SHips.”

2) Chocolate.  “SHocolate.”

3) Sarah.  “Sawah.”

4) Green.  “Geen.”

Things the Fiece has no trouble saying:

1) “I have a diagnosis!”

Just so we’re clear.

Anyway.  Fertile Myrtle used some Pinterest ideas to spice up the party.  She entertained the toddlers with a fun project

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and put cupcakes in glasses filled with chocolate, which is pretty much the way to my heart:

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I was impressed with her use of Pinterest “pins” in real life, as when I was really into Pinterest, I spent all my time pinning shit and very little (read: zero) time actually doing any of the things.  (If you are interested in checking out some more things I haven’t done with my life, you may follow me here.)  She inspired me to log back in after weeks and weeks and start poking around in the internet bulletin board again.  I was about two minutes into culling through pins when I stumbled across this.  THIS, the most amazing “craft” I have ever seen in my entire life.  (I know I’m prone to exaggeration, but I mean it this time.  It is the best.)  The fact that someone had this idea and implemented it and posted it online, and then someone else liked it enough to share it with everyone she knows, is just too much.  I immediately left Pinterest and came here to tell all of you about it.

Thank you, Pinterest, for showing me that there are people more terrible at home improvement projects than I am.  Even I know that a stencil and spray paint do not a stone walkway make.

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If you haven’t already, you should check out Pintester.  I am jealous every day of my life that I did not create that blog first.

Adventures in Reheating.

My favorite meal in all the world is one my mother used to make when I lived at home.  It is, you might say, my mother’s recipe, although it isn’t a concoction ripped from the pages of my great-grandmother’s cookbook.  (I don’t eat meatballs or chicken soup or brisket, so I’m essentially a pox on the family).  My favorite meal in all the world is made almost entirely from items sold in packages at California grocery stores.  I consider this processed nightmare of Mexican chefs and dietitians everywhere a recipe because I’ve tried it with other boxes and cans and with homemade components and nothing, nothing compares to the culinary victory that is my mother’s combination of products.  Nothing.

It is as follows:

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Prepare as directed.

Prepare as directed.

Prepare as directed.

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Fry corn tortillas in vegetable oil. Shape into taco shells.

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This is an avocado. It is a fruit. Do not fear it’s natural skin and large seed. It will not hurt you.

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If I ever find myself requesting a last meal, it will be a feast made in twenty minutes from this collection of store-bought delights.

My mother, who is actually a fantastic cook and an excellent baker and an extraordinary cake decorator, hates me for referring to this as a one of her “homecooked meals.”  In my defense, she once fed this to someone who prides himself on gourmet cooking and he told her it was the most delicious Mexican food he’d ever had, so as far as I’m concerned she is a genius.

Job well done.

Job well done.

(P.S. Yesterday, Fertile Myrtle told me that when she gets email alerts that I’ve published new posts, she feels compelled to stop whatever she’s doing and read them immediately.  That makes me feel really powerful.  Dear friend, what were you doing just now?)