Not another cliche New Year post

A friend of mine, someone I’ve known basically since birth – we used to “perform” very elaborate imagined productions in our neighbor’s backyard, and then we got to actually perform together in high school drama club productions of varying quality, and now we volunteer together and also habitually eat delicious food and drink delicious cocktails while gabbing about anything and everything, and really, how rare is it that someone you’ve known for multiple decades persists into your adult life and you still somehow have shared interests and passions after all this time? Anyway, I digress. The point is, he’s a friend I’ve known forever and whose ideas I respect, and he recently pointed out that years are these totally random things that someone decided on a really long time ago, and so why do we invest so much meaning in them?

brian-facebook

I didn’t tell Brian I was stealing this screencap, so, sorry, Brian. If you like this particular brand of irreverent witticism, you can follow him over on Twitter at @brianmdudley.

I definitely feel where Brian’s coming from with that. I joined everyone else in bemoaning just how truly and completely terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad 2016 turned out to be, and I’m cautiously optimistic that 2017 could be a year of positive growth in my life, but I’m also not jumping into January 2017 declaring all the new resolutions and life-changing decisions I’ll be making to turn this year around.

Two songs have been playing in my brain these past few days: “What a Year for a New Year,” by Dan Wilson (I first heard this when it was included on Maybe This Christmas compilation released in 2002, which apparently does not legally exist anywhere on the internet, and I’m opposed to embedding YouTube videos that are 100% not authorized to be sharing the song, so you guys can go ahead and google this one), and “Lights and Buzz,” by Jack’s Mannequin (thanks for coming in clutch here, Spotify – give it a listen).

Dan Wilson may have had a premonition about what life would feel like, come 2016, when he wrote this song, though I suppose the early ’00s had their fair share of problems. The song opens, “What a year for a new year / We need it like we needed life, I guess / The last one left us lying in a mess / What a year for a new year.” It’s the bridge, however, that really rings true for me this year: “Hope we’ll forget about this place /  Let it go without a trace /  Wipe the teardrops from our faces.” I cried a lot in 2016. I cried too much. I don’t want to cry as much in 2017. Let’s work on that.

The Jack’s Mannequin track is gorgeous, melancholy, honest. Andrew McMahon wrote this song while battling cancer – specifically, it was the first track he wrote after receiving a stem cell transplant from his sister, which saved his life. The song opens, “I’m coming home from my hardest year / I’m making plans not to make plans while I’m here.” 2016 wasn’t my all-time hardest year, but it’s certainly worthy of an honorable mention. If nothing else, this year felt relentless, like I could never quite catch my breath before the next universal bitch slap descended.

That second line of “Lights and Buzz,” though, that’s the attitude I’m taking into 2017. I’m making plans not to make plans. I’m trying to free up space in my life for life to happen to me, in the hopes that perhaps the tides will change. I can’t get into specifics here, but there have been some positive developments that I hope will come to fruition in the next few weeks, and they’d bring about major shifts in my life.

The biggest change is one that I can share – I’m moving next week. While my cousin is in India for the next two years, I’ll be living in her condo, in a great neighborhood. I’m so excited about this change. I’ve been living at home and haven’t put myself first in a really long time – especially over the past year – so it will be really good to have some distance and space for myself. My family will still be only a 20 minute car ride away, but to not come home to that every night will be so freeing. I feel guilty saying things like that, but it’s the truth. I get to prioritize myself first, and I’ll have the room to do so.

So that’s the theme as we enter into this arbitrarily chosen span of time we call a new year – creating space, giving myself time, and not making plans. Letting things come as they may, and I’ll make the most of them. No expectations, either high or low – just openness and willingness to experience life as it happens.

Bring it on.

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Monday Motivation – Get It Done!

I have to say, I am loving New England weather this week. I woke up to chilly fall temps this morning, and I am so excited to get home tonight and go for a run in my new sneakers. I love running in the fall – it’s such a nice relief after the sweltering heat of the summer, and it doesn’t have the punishing wind aspect of winter running. I’m super grateful that the temps are hitting my sweet spot just as I’m ramping up my 10K training. Five weeks to go!

It’s nice to start off Monday feeling good about the week – but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t benefit from a little #MondayMotivation to keep my spirits high! Sharing a few quotes/images that jumped out at me over the past week.

 

I think part of the reason I’m starting my week on such a positive note has to be the effort I put into preparing for the week over the past two days. I spent a good chunk of my weekend on food prep, so I have a tasty, healthy lunch to look forward to today, and I also listened to my body and made time for workouts on both Saturday and Sunday. I usually take Sunday as a rest day, but I signed up for Stretch & Tone yesterday morning because my body was crying out for some quality time on the mat. Starting the day off with that class set the tone for success, and I actually ended up going for a three mile run as well, and felt great the entire time!

I also tried a recipe for protein pancakes over the weekend, courtesy of Katrina and Gabrielle. They’ve been singing the praises of this recipe for some time now, and I finally got around to buying the ingredients. Not only is this recipe super easy to make, it’s also a blank slate that can be jazzed up however you desire. I’m posting the basic recipe below, and will share successful variations as I try them out!

Basic Protein Pancakes 
Makes three pancakes, approximately 330 calories total

1/2 cup oats (either old fashioned or quick cooking – whatever you have on hand)
1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup egg whites

Using your blender, combine the ingredients on high speed until it reaches a smooth, batter-like consistency. I use my Vitamix for about 15 seconds on a low speed to start the process of breaking down the oats, then increase to high speed for another 30-45 seconds total.

Heat up a pan or griddle – I’m lucky enough to have access to a well seasoned cast iron griddle that churns out perfect pancakes every time, but use whatever works for you! Spray with nonstick cooking spray and cook for about 2 minutes on the first side, flip, and cook for another 1-1.5 minutes.

Variations:

Blueberry: Add frozen blueberries to the batter after pouring onto the griddle. Serve with sugar free syrup.

Chocolate Peanut Butter: Add 1 tbsp PB2 to the blender when making the batter. After pouring the batter onto the griddle, add a sprinkling of chocolate chips to the pancake.

It’s not about the starting line.

I’ve been on a bit of a self-improvement kick lately. Physical wellness is only one aspect of overall health, so I’m trying to be more conscious of the mind/body/spirit connection. My professional life, in particular, is the area of my life that I feel needs the most work – it’s been a very rocky year in my division and I’m mindful that I should be continuing to learn and develop my professional skills in order to remain competitive in a challenging environment.

I stocked up on some personal development books to help reframe how I think about my career and my professional progress. Right now, I’m about a third of the way through John C. Maxwell’s Sometimes You Win–Sometimes You Learn: Life’s Greatest Lessons Are Gained from Our Losses. I highly recommend it to anyone who is going through a period of change and disruption in their professional lives, but that’s not my primary aim in mentioning it here. I’m finding the text is also very relevant on my weight loss journey. Maxwell’s insights on learning from failures are proving to be incredibly helpful in demonstrating how to put a positive spin on moments of weakness or stumbles along the path toward wellness.

In particular, I wanted to share the below quote.

Background image reused from Flickr user LindsayEnsing under the terms of the Creative Commons license.

Background image reused from Flickr user LindsayEnsing under the terms of the Creative Commons license.

Each of us started somewhere. If you haven’t yet begun your journey toward wellness, ask yourself – what’s holding me back? Today, right now, right where you are, can be your starting point. Keep your eye on where you want to be and always continue working toward the goal. The finish line may feel like it’s miles away, but every good choice you make brings you closer to your goal.

What goals are you currently working toward? How do you keep yourself motivated to continue working toward your personal finish line?

Blogland Tour

Last week, my friend Stephanie over at Sandpaper & Glue tagged me in a “get to know you” Blogland Tour.

Sandpaper & Glue

Sandpaper & Glue

Stephanie and I have been friends since high school – we bonded over an unhealthy love of gel pens and a mutual fondness for the varsity hockey players in freshman year history class, and stayed close through our shared theater kid and awkward emo music years. Stephanie blogs about her experiences DIY-ing on a budget; she and her amazing husband Matt are in their first home and learning as they go. She features a “House & Project Tour” that’s a great place to start to get to know her – it gives an overview of everything she’s tackled, and features some stunning before and afters. I remember the pictures she shared with friends when she first put an offer in on this house, and trust me, it’s crazy to see how far she’s come on a tight budget with minimal outside help!

Thanks for tagging me, Steph – and now let’s get down to it!

What are you working on right now? 

I’m still very new to this whole process. Right now, I’m two weeks into my Focus T25 Alpha challenge – you can read about it here! I am also going to be running a Facebook Challenge group for anyone who wants to tackle T25, so if you’re interested leave a comment or send me an email, and click below if you’re interested in picking up the DVDs for yourself.

GET IT DONE: IN  25 MINUTES A DAY!

Behind the scenes, I’m working on some plans for where I hope to take this blog over the next 3-6 months. I am always working to educate myself about health and wellness, by following other bloggers, listening to podcasts, reading scientific research and generally being aware of current news and trends. I’m also always looking for new workouts to try and review for the site – leave a comment if you have a recommendation for something you’d like me to review! 

How does your work differ from others?

I decided to start blogging for two reasons. First, I didn’t see a lot of fitness bloggers out there who I could identify with. I try not to dwell on appearances, but I just didn’t see anyone who looked like me. In so many cases, the other bloggers out there are already at their “after” picture – and oftentimes, their “before” was a picture that I’d be proud to call my “after”! I wanted to start a blog for other women like me — women who are on a long process of changing their entire life, women who are very much still at the “during” stage of their journey and may be there for some time to come.

Second, I started hearing from many other women at the studio where I work out that they were inspired by me. One woman told me that she joined the studio after seeing my Before & During shots from August of 2013. She felt that I was a realistic portrayal of striving for a healthier lifestyle and gave her the confidence to believe that she could also make the change in her own life. I realized that I wasn’t the only woman who was desperate to see other women like myself out there making positive changes in their lives! The encouragement from the women around me helped to nudge me to start this blog, and I’m excited to see where it leads.

socrates change quote

Why do you write about what you do?

I had been working on improving my health and fitness for eighteen months before I started blogging. I’ve always been a very verbally driven person; I kept a journal throughout high school and college, and I realized that I was missing a written document of this process. I felt that I needed to add something to my existing routine, and blogging seemed like a great way to stimulate my creative desires while also holding myself accountable. I also wanted to be able to share my experiences with friends and family, and as this blog grows I hope to reach a broader audience of normal women looking for the inspiration to make a positive change in their lives.

little women quote

How does your writing/creative process work? 

I have a bit of a split personality when it comes to organizing my work. I use several apps that help to keep me on track. I use Pocket to save articles that I stumble across and want to read, or to flag interesting research that could inspire a future blog post. I rely on Pinterest to help me organize all of the amazing (and free!) online workouts that are available, and I’m slowly curating my pins to build up my Web Workouts page, which is still very much under construction. I use Evernote and Todoist to keep track of new ideas as they come to me, and to plan and schedule upcoming posts.

But there are also times when inspiration strikes and I just have to go with it. I try to be organized, but I would never want my creativity to be stifled by imposing unnecessary order on myself. If an idea hits me, I’ll go with it – no need to hold it up in draft form or let it languish on a To Do list. Other posts can always wait! I find that this is a balance that works for me.

I begin with the words. As I said before, I am very much a verbally driven individual. Once I have a solid draft, I’ll start looking at ways to incorporate images into my posts. I’m not a great photographer and don’t have a fantastic camera just yet, so I source photos from the web, relying on Creative Commons licenses (big credit to my real world publishing gig for helping me to understand the crazy complicated world of copyright law and attributions!) I love PicMonkey for photo editing and for adding embellishments both to my own photos and to those used under a CC-BY license.

Here’s the part where I’m supposed to tag other bloggers. Well… confession time… I am still working on building my blogging circle! I have lots of blogs that I follow and admire, but not too many that I know well enough to tag. That said, check out these folks, who I think are pretty fantastic.

Melissa Being Martha

Melissa was the instructress for my first ever class at Studio Poise, way back in late February, 2013. I was completely terrified when I walked into that studio, but she was warm and welcoming, and she made sure to help me with modifications when some moves were beyond me. Her support and cheerful demeanor helped to give me the courage to keep going back to class and to push myself further instead of giving up. Her blog captures her spirit and her creativity, as she documents her adventures in bringing Pinterest to life! She’s a new mom so she has to balance posting to her blog with her work life and her life with her (totally adorable) son, so be patient with her; I promise she’s worth it!

A Mighty Fine Life 

This is a personal blog written by one of my dearest friends, Brian. Brian grew up down the street from me so we’ve known each other since we were wee little things, and we reconnected as gigantic theater nerds and emo kids in high school. I haven’t carried many of my high school friends with me into adult life, but Brian’s one of the good ones. He doesn’t post often, but when he does, his voice is so unique and his stories so rich that they are well worth the wait. (He also has an Animorphs reread blog which is a nostalgic hoot, if that’s your kind of thing.).

 

What are some of your favorite blogs? I love getting recommendations for new people to follow – leave a comment if there’s someone you think I need to check out!