Friday, June 27, 2014

A Better Me

I've been trying to write this blog post for days. It's been sitting in my head, coming together, slowly but surely. I really want to get this all down, not just for my sake, but for the sake of anybody reading this. I feel so inspired these days to be "a better me." A better version of myself in every way. This year has been really tough for me, and my routines are something I've tried to re-establish out of a need to maintain order amid chaos. Now that my life is so different, though, I've found myself wanting to blaze new trails, set new goals, and recommit to a healthy lifestyle in new ways, or ways I gave up over the years.

I'm taking steps toward that now, and I want to write down where I'm at in my everyday journey. I'm not perfect, nor should I be, and that's something really important for me (and anyone reading this!) to remember. I am not a robot, and I don't want to be. I want to live life to the fullest. So here are some of the ways I've been working on my personal health lately. It is possible to look skinny, but not feel your best, you know -- I've been dealing with anxiety/mood swings, a lifelong drama I'd rather not be taking medication for again in the future, and working on feeling my best is important to me right now.

Here are some of the things I've been doing/am excited about:


1. Running — I'm proud of myself for keeping up with running during this period of emotional upheaval. I feel like many people would have stopped. I did, for a couple of months (January and February, when things were the absolute worst) but was back at it starting in March. It's become something so natural to me, and that's something I never, ever thought I would be able to say. Now, I'm not saying I've become great at it, or that I'm fast or that I always want to go running. Sometimes I still have to kick my own butt out the door. Sometimes I make excuses, but I try not to. I feel so much better when I'm running regularly, and that goes for physical, mental and emotional health.

Today marks 30 days until the SF Marathon, where I'll be running my 2nd half. Like most things you do a second time, I haven't been stressing out about it, though I do worry I'm not stressing out enough about it. The longest distance I've run this year -- 9 miles -- ended in a really painful knee for a few days. I admit to pulling back on training since then (sticking to 7-8 miles on the weekends) because I'm afraid of experiencing that awful "peg leg" thing again. I'm probably (hopefully) worrying about nothing. I've also been experiencing some painful burning in the bunions on my feet, so I'm trying to take care of them more, too. So far in my running career I've been lucky to avoid injury, and I'd like it to stay that way.

Running has become more than a hobby at this point -- it's a lifestyle. And protecting my ability to keep doing it is really important to me. That's just a small reason why I love yoga, but it's helping me a lot right now with my mission to keep my muscles/ligaments/bones happy. Speaking of yoga...

yoga + beer = a winning workout

2. Yoga — It's no secret that I love yoga. But the price of a class is ridiculous, and my favorite donation based studio (Yoga to the People) is no longer convenient for me (sadface!). I had resisted doing yoga at home, even though I have my own mat, for years ... probably because I'm stubborn. I had decided that it wasn't for me even though I had no idea what it was even like. I scoffed at people who said they did yoga at home. I really felt the class environment was for me, end of story.

But this week I decided to try the YogaGlo app on my Roku, and I discovered that I was totally wrong about everything I thought before. It's so easy to do a yoga class from my bedroom, in front of my TV. I actually still feel like I'm in a class, because the classes include people on the screen, and we're all doing the best we can and failing and facing the same directions, so there's less of a real impact that way than I thought. I still build heat. I still sweat. I still get in the zone. It's not quite the same, but it will do. And the price is so right, you guys: $18/month. I pay at least $18 for one class at a studio. One class! I've used my subscription twice and it's already more than paid for itself. I can't wait to go home tonight and do another class. And lest you think I was compensated in any way for saying all this, all I have to say is HAHAHAH -- like anybody would sponsor content for me, I'm not a big time mommyblogger!

3. Weights — I've done some minor weight lifting in the past, but nothing regularly. That is about to change. I can't even carry my 29 lb bicycle up the stairs at the BART station because my spindly little arms are so weak. My upper arm strength has always been an issue for me. Even when I was doing gymnastics as a child, it was my weak point. Anyway, I just bought some 5 lb weights from Amazon, the exact same weights I used to have when I lived in the loft, and I'm excited to have them again. I am not looking to bulk up, just to get a big stronger. Being able to carry my bike up the stairs would be awesome.

4. Eating — Well, this one is sort of a huge can of worms. Let me explain. I'm against calorie-counting, something I've talked about here before. I think it's a great thing for some people, I suppose, but if everybody were able to adopt a whole foods diet, and ate well every day, and kept very active, I think we'd all be doing pretty well. But since it seems to work well for some people, I won't really knock it. For me, calorie counting takes a lot of the fun out of life. It makes me a neurotic, very very neurotic, type of person. Yesterday I decided to keep a food diary, though, because now that I'm not able to cook (my current kitchen isn't really meant for cooking, and the irony of that is not lost on me), I think I'm consuming a lot of food that I'm not even aware of, and I'm definitely not eating as healthy as I used to.

Well, anyway. My food diary has so far turned me into a neurotic basket case -- after one day. I have no idea how much I weigh, and I really don't want to know, but suddenly I think I weigh too much, whatever that means, and I'm sitting in my bedroom crying my eyes out because I don't want to have a salad for dinner. Yeah, because that behavior isn't unhealthy or anything.

Not sure what the future of the food diary is for me, ultimately, but I'm going to soldier on for a bit and see where it carries me. I'll be sure to share any further observations here, of course. I have a feeling it won't last very long, though, because that's how it's gone in the past. This is more about learning lessons, and learning about myself and where I'm at right now, though, than it is about anything else. I honestly don't care how many calories I consume in a day as long as things balance well nutritionally.


Well, that's about it for now. I'm going to go have a good weekend now. It's Pride weekend in San Francisco and weekends here tend to rule in general, so have a good one.  ♥  ♥      ♥  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Snapshots from a happy life

I had a great weekend, but it was exhausting. From yoga, to seeing my first drum corps show, to getting back to SF and eating dinner at one in the morning, to waking up on Sunday and running 7 miles, to shooting a show last night ... it was action packed, and I am so tired. I know I have a free night tonight to relax and go to sleep early, but part of me just keeps screaming more! more! more! and wants to go do yoga after work and all these other amazing things. I have to remind myself to slow down occasionally.

That's irony, right? Do yoga to slow down, fail to slow down because I'm doing yoga? 

Oh, Monday. You are a beast. But anyway, here's a look at some of the last week's best moments: 

the day after my birthday, on bart 
pre-birthday travel reading + wine
World Cup watchin' from my bed
My guiltiest pleasure. 
Pigeon mask, found in Palo Alto last Saturday
Oh, bike time <3 
Friday night dinner at the food truck park
I absolutely agree. 
I went to FontShop for a party last week and met Hector. 
Berkeley, as seen from a run
self-explanatory, I think
The party I went to was part of SF design week. 
the ferry building, as seen from pier 14 on my run this weekend

Friday, June 20, 2014

Here // There

I feel like I say this every week, but I've only rarely been this excited for Friday. It's been a long week, and we're really busy at work, so I feel more worn out than usual. Do I always say that too, though? Probably. But there's going to be some fun things going on this weekend, and I love my weekends so much in general these days ... they are sacred.

Anyway, this week.

I had a really good birthday -- a coworker made me a carrot cake, everyone sang me happy birthday, then I left work after half a day. Once at home, I went on a run, spent the rest of the afternoon drinking beer in bed while watching a World Cup game, and went out to dinner with G -- after which, I decided, there would be nothing better than going home and watching Star Trek and going to bed early. How old am I again? I was exhausted, though, and it really was what I wanted, so I'm trying not to overthink everything.  After all, birthdays are the one day you get a pass to do whatever you want.

Since my birthday on Tuesday, I've been making an effort to achieve some life-work balance, and I've also tried really hard to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. I've been able to do that, and I'm feeling so much better today than I was at the beginning of the week -- a huge relief, because I thought I was on the verge of getting sick again by the time Wednesday rolled around. Since I'm running a lot, and taxing my body that way, it wouldn't necessarily surprise me if I got another bout of bronchitis, but I'd ... well, you know. I'd rather not. I've had it pretty much every month this year, on and off, and I'm done with it. Over it. Anyway, I feel a lot better than I did earlier this week, so fingers crossed that I was just feeling run down.

This weekend I have many plans. Other than getting to sleep in a bit, I am going to a yoga class tomorrow morning, my long run on Sunday morning (yay activity!) as well as a weekly waffle date with G. We're also going down to Stanford to see a drum & bugle corps competition, and on Sunday night we're seeing a couple of our favorite bands live (one of which has been a long time coming, at least for me!). And tonight I hope to eat a huge salad, because I really need to eat some more salads these days, this vegan has been pretty "junk food vegan" in the last few months, if you know what I'm saying....

Oh, and also. The yoga class, which is at my favorite yoga studio (Yoga Garden SF) is part of a very deliberate attempt to work through some really intense mood swings I've been having lately. This is absolutely nothing new for me, but it's really not fun, and I know some things I can try to even things out. I have a lifelong tendency to have unstable moods, and I know that yoga can really help, along with other types of exercise (which I am already doing), sleeping regularly (check!) and meditation/going to the weekly dharma talks at the SF Zen Center. Hopefully I can get myself back on more of an even keel.

And with that -- come on weekend, comeoncomeoncomeon.

The photo above is from the UC Berkeley Summerfest I attended this week, and the photo below is from the back patio of a really neat cafe in Hayes Valley called Arlequin. I know the first day of summer is this weekend (happy solstice, the most wonderful time of the year!) and the bay area has had really lovely weather so far. Summer is my favorite thing, and I feel so energized this time of year (mentally and physically) so here's to another season of breathing deeply, and living life to the fullest.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

gratuitous photos of my bicycle

One of my birthday gifts this year was a new bicycle. One I've had my eye on for years, and never thought I'd actually have for myself. But times change, and here she is, and no she doesn't have a name yet, and I am absolutely in love with her. She's a Public C1, a Dutch style one-speed city bike, and I am not a person who generally cares about material possessions but this is my vehicle, my transportation, an extension of myself, so I'm telling myself it's OK to swoon. After all, we do spend a lot of time together.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Edge of thirty-two

last weekend, 2:30am, las vegas
Warning: emo thoughts ahead

I can't believe tomorrow is my birthday. And that I'm going to be 32. That feels insane. It feels insane enough that it's been two years since I turned 30. I remember writing in my online journal (remember, this was pre-blogs) fifteen years ago today, about how I was about to turn seventeen, and I couldn't believe I was about to be "so old." Oh my gosh. This stuff is hilarious. A year after I wrote those entries ("edge of seventeen" -- a shout-out to my high school spirit animal, Stevie Nicks) I wrote some melancholic entries about turning eighteen -- at least they were more well-written?

As with most things in my life, it all seemed bottom out with this really sad and depressing nineteenth birthday post. I often say that being 19 is the worst thing ever, that nobody should really be allowed within several yards of a 19-year-old, and the sentence "no one but Tori understands what I mean when I say that I am lost, desolate, and broken" should explain everything you need to know about that! 

I can (sort of) laugh about that, and all of this, now, but the truth is, that was my life I was living. It was as real at the time as my life is now. And though I've changed and grown so much, my heart is still the same. 

I'm not going to lie: I feel really raw right now, having reminisced like that. 

Something about this birthday doesn't feel right. I don't feel right. Maybe I'll snap out of it later and I'll have a great birthday and everything will be lighthearted and fine, but I don't feel very lighthearted today. Even after all these years, I still overthink everything, I still take myself (probably) too seriously. 

What are we, but the sum of our memories?


OK! I just declared on Twitter that I'm done with being emo about this birthday. I have so much to be grateful for in this life, after this unexpectedly tumultuous year. One thing my father's death eleven years ago taught me is that no matter what is happening in your life, there is always something to be grateful for, some kind of silver lining, something about each day that you can enjoy. I'm actually proud of the way I've been able to utilize these skills during the last year in particular. A younger Amber would have completely crumbled, but this Amber -- she's struggled, but she's also continued to thrive. Somehow.

I could chalk it up to being older. To having some key friends and companions around me. I can't thank them enough for being here for me during the last year. I had no idea what would happen during my 31st year. There's no way I could have predicted it. But here I am, on the other side, of 31 at least, and all I want to do is embrace being 32 with a new outlook, less fear, less terror on a moment-to-moment basis.

I want to be happy. I want to grow. I want to understand and be understood.

I want to metamorphosize. I want to experience tough things so I can break through the ties that bind me. I want to be a different, and better, person at this time next year. I am so determined. I can do this.

After all, it's not like I don't have anything really fantastic in my life right now, anyway. Because ... I do.
friday night photo shooting / photo by geoffrey smith 


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Snapshots from a happy life

My mind is almost entirely on Vegas right now. I just want to get there, already! But yesterday I had a nice day and got to do some things I don't normally do. I took the day off to do some user research at ModCloth (having the opportunity to do this is one of my personal perks to living in San Francisco), spent some time hearing inspiring talks at AltConf, rode my bike home in the sunshine, went on a 3 mile run in my new workout shirt (see below), and even caught up on some Game of Thrones. I really appreciate days where I can make my own choices about what to do and where to go -- don't we all?

As I post some of my favorite Instagram photos from the last week, I have a feeling of unease. The entire idea of "personal blogging" continues to bother me. When I first started keeping an online journal, back in 1998, everything felt different. Now, it just feels indulgent to post photos, some of which include my face. And yet, if this is a space for me -- and it is -- then what's the problem? What am I so uneasy about? These are just visual representations of the life I go out and live, every day. There shouldn't be anything self-centered or indulgent about that. I'm not writing these stories elsewhere, so I write them here, and that's been the point of having a blog since the beginning, anyway. At least for me.

Sometimes I wonder: does this mean I have gotten too old to be a blogger? A personal blogger, anyway? I don't think it has to be that way. I really don't. But I guess I'm afraid it's true.

If I say it's not true, and I say it enough times, then maybe everything will be OK.  Maybe I'm doing what I usually do and overthinking everything. Maybe there's a little bit of pre-birthday jitters creeping in here, even though I've convinced myself that turning 32 in a couple of weeks is relatively harmless?

I guess I had some thoughts to put out there, after all.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite photos from the last week:

Market Street, yesterday afternoon
gearing up for summer travel <3
aforementioned workout shirt - can be purchased here 

German beer, need I say more? 
scene from a wonderful brunch at It's Tops
Friday night at the Cat Club
Braids = moar curls 


I have a few more photos I want to share, but since they are all food-related, I'm going to write a post about the great vegan noms I've been enjoying lately, and include/talk about them all there.

Monday, June 2, 2014

For the love of yoga

I feel really scattered these days. I wish I had more to say that was coherent. I'm just trying to get through all the days in my life and do them as well as I can. I'm not always feeling great -- this morning I woke up in a really challenging mood, and so far I've felt about .0001 seconds from losing it/flying off the handle all day. I hope that changes, but I don't know if it will. Tomorrow is another day. I'm trying to maintain focus, but as usual ... my brain is pulling me in so many directions.

After all, all I have to do this week is get through 3 days of work (tomorrow I'm taking off to do some user research for one of my favorite companies), and and then on Friday, we're flying to Vegas for 4 days. I have absolutely no idea what we're going to do for 4 days in Vegas, but I'm so excited to go again, and to get out of here for a few days. I love you, San Francisco, but I haven't left -- really left -- in a long time.

That said .. there are some great things I've been unable to stop thinking about recently, and stuff that's been making me feel happy and relaxed. The biggest one right now is:

I went to my first yoga class of 2014 two weeks ago. And it was a reminder of JUST how much I love yoga. I stopped because I didn't quite know how to re-integrate yoga into my life after my job/commute changed in October, and then my entire life fell apart over the holidays, and the first half of this year has been crazy. I still didn't know how to go back. But my new life motto (well, one of them) is to not feel bound by imagined rules and constraints on my everyday life. I can do whatever I want to. So why not go to yoga? Don't get bogged down thinking about how my day or schedule has to go. Enjoy it on a whim.

So, I did.

It was so amazing. Everything about it was a reminder. A reminder to be in the moment, a reminder of who I am, a reminder of how powerful it can be. And I emerged a better person than I went in.

That's why I love yoga.

Tomorrow I'm going to be home most of the day. 2pm vinyasa class in SF... you're mine. 
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