HALLOWEEN!

When I was a kid, Christmas was my favorite holiday. But as an adult, it seems like there is so much pressure to have the perfect Martha Stewart-like Christmas that if your family isn’t in a meticulously decorated cabin with snow gently falling outside, singing Silent Night in German around an antique piano, perfectly color coordinated while drinking homemade mulled wine, eating the greatest sugar cookies known to mankind and can’t stop smiling from the sheer overwhelming joy and togetherness, then you think you’ve failed. Christmas has such a mandatory feel about it. You have to see those relatives you hate because it’s Christmas. Halloween has none of that pressure. Everything about it is optional!

If you’ve been reading here for any length of time you know that I am scared of everything. I guess it’s a little weird that my favorite holiday would be the one where the whole point is to be scared. But then again, it’s like a celebration of my natural state of being. I should start demanding gifts. Anyway, maybe since I am like this Amazonian Minnie Mouse on a daily basis (*side story: I was going to buy this skirt until I realized I would wear it with a black top and actually LOOK like a giant Minnie Mouse, too), Halloween is my chance to indulge in being a little dark instead of a giggly mess. Although, my being “a little dark” is probably about as terrifying as Casper.

It seems like every channel has some kind of paranormal show now, but I prefer a good classic scary movie. Not the Jason slasher type, but a good creepy movie that seeps into your system and messes you up for life. These are my three favorite scary movies in no particular order. Oh and there will be spoilers, but, come one, the newest movie is 30 years old.

First, Rosemary’s Baby. Devil worshipping old people living in the Dakota conspire to make Mia Farrow have a devil baby. This is one of those movies that doesn’t seem scary at the time, but then you wake up at 2 AM to go to the bathroom, you find yourself weighing the pros and cons of wetting the bed instead of walking into the dark hallway where Rosemary’s devil baby can get you. Every time I watch this movie, I find some new subtle element that I haven’t noticed before (forget for a minute that I am about as observant as a rock). The scariest part is when Rosemary screams, “His eyes! What have you done to his eyes?!?” They never actually show his eyes and your imagination fills in something more horrifying then any movie could possibly come up with.

Next is Carrie. This one is so scary, because we all went to school with a Carrie White. Someone who just didn’t fit in, had a horrible home life, and was always somehow the butt of the joke. That seems to be the scariest part of the best Stephen King books and movies- they make a slight left turn from reality and show us what could be if things were just a teeny bit different. I had a friend in school, Brandy, who looked so much like Sissy Spacek and even had the long long hair parted in the middle. She and I would laugh so hard in the library (one time I laughed so hard I started choking on a Lifesaver and the teacher yelled at me because she thought I was faking. Yeah, that turning bright red, wheezing, and no oxygen to the brain gag gets them every time) we eventually weren’t allowed to sit together anymore. I’d beg her, “Do the Carrie face!” Then she’d bug out her eyes and look like she was going to set the gym on fire. I’d say, “Okay, stop. That’s really freaking me out.” Then I’d ask her to do it again. We were weird kids.

Finally, Poltergeist. Because he’s the master, Steven Spielberg managed to get everything your scared of into one movie and not make it corny. Ghosts, clowns, Indian burial ground, creepy little girls, bugs, ripping off your face, closet monsters. This movie is best when it’s not hitting you over the head with the special effects (which seem charmingly old-timey by today’s standards), but uses those things we all seem to be afraid of like a monster under the bed or a tree banging on the window to scare us.


It’s scary because we all know clowns are the devil’s minions.

Hopefully these movies will not scar you for life like they did me. Have a great week and happy Halloween!

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The Aftermath!

Working on my photoshop skills (AKA avoiding work)

I survived the 5K! But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a couple of stories to share. I crossed the finish line at 43:25 and change. BUT I guess they round up because my “official” time is 43:26. Yes, I am that competitive that I will argue over 1 second. Now, for the funny stuff.

First, we line up and as a group of 300+ strong….we all lined up facing the wrong direction. It’s freeing to be in such a large group that that does something stupid, because there is always someone else to blame. Time was ticking down and I started my carefully planned playlist. Adele starts singing and we are off. Then The Black Keys come on, then Mumford and Sons and that’s when I realized I left it on “shuffle”. Oh well, there were more pressing issues at that moment, like the fact that my pants were slowly sliding off. I anticipated a lot of things with this race- tripping, embarrassing sweat patterns, rogue bands of teenagers, snake bites- but I did not anticipate my pants falling off in front of the grandstand. So, I’m trying to keep my pants on and maintain a casual, “Oh, this is no big deal. I run every where!” nonchalance. I finally just gave up and hoped they’d stop when they reached my underwear and thanked God that I wore 2 very long shirts. Once I got out of the football stadium I hiked those badboys up to my armpits and, thankfully, I mooned no one- intentionally or otherwise.

My cheering section (both of them) had ran around to meet me at along the course. Just as they did, House of Pain “Jump Around” started. I looked at my husband and said, “I’ve got more rhymes then the Bible’s got psalms!” He laughed and later asked, “What was that about?” I was like, “It’s from Jump Around.”  He thought for a second and said, “Ooooooh. Okay. Yeah, we were pretty confused.” So, I think it’s safe to say I was not punked in to marrying anyone from House of Pain, but my cheering section may have thought I was having a stroke.

It was very windy and about 50-55 degrees outside. I trained on the treadmill in my gym where it’s consistently about 75 with 80000% humidity, so this was a change. No matter which way I turned it seemed like the wind was in my face. Sucking in that cool, dry air made me pick up this raspy cough and now I sound like Muttley when I laugh. It’s even funnier when you know that, a lot of the time, when I laugh I cover my mouth. For the unfamiliar…

From the moment I decided to do this race, I knew that even if I had to walk the entire thing, I was going to run across the finish line…and that’s not far from what happened. There was much walking, but I ran off and on to make up time. Even though I left my playlist on shuffle, “Superman” by REM came on second to last like it was supposed to and gave me a boost. Carefully chosen, “The Cave”, with it’s gorgeous lyrics and surging guitars did not play as I crossed the finish line. So what did? “Jump Around.” Sigh. Never heard “Booty City” once, but my phone decided I needed to hear “Jump Around” twice…and as I crossed the finish line, no less.

Pay no attention to the messy coffee table in the background or that the bag is now half as full as when it was presented to me.

My friends who have done races always show off their nice participation medals and I was really looking forward to that part. But only people who finished first through third in their age group got medals. HOWEVER, I did get something that no one else got. One member of my cheering section gave me my own bag of nuts! One day we were sitting in class and she whipped out this huge freezer size bag full of nuts. It was quiet and dark (this class is awesome, we spend at least a half hour every class watching commercials. It’s research!) and for some reason the bag of nuts struck me as hilarious. I told my husband about it and he had like 4000 questions about the bag of nuts. “What kind of nuts?” “How big was the bag?” “How did she get the bag to class?” “Was it just nuts or was there fruit or M&Ms in there, too?” So now, all bag of nuts questions are answered because I have my own!

Afterwards, I did get my promised booze in too many Manhattans. They come with a maraschino cherry, so it’s like a drink and dessert in one!

Even though I didn’t start seriously training until a few weeks ago, it feels kind of weird to go back to working out for the sake of working out and not to be working towards something. Yeah, I know I’m working towards fitness, but that’s lame. But the Color Run is just a short 12 months away….

Till next time when, I promise, I will talk about something else!

The Countdown Begins!

This has nothing to do with anything in the post, but isn’t it cool?

Well friends,  you’re probably sick of hearing about it, but we are less then 30 hours away from the 5K. Yesterday I picked up my race packet with my bib (I’m #31), a super ugly t-shirt, and a bunch of free snacks- one of which I can actually eat. But, hey, I still love them, because free is awesome. The plan for today was to relax, maybe take a nap, possibly a short workout. But when I woke up, it was grey and rainy out. I thought, “Hey, I think I’ll watch back episodes of Paranormal Witness.” That show is so scary! So I guess that nap is off the table.

To palette cleanse, I organized my race day playlist. Last week, I talked about some of my anxiety coping strategies. Another one is to get very organized and to control what I can. But, oddly, this whole thing isn’t causing me too much stress. Don’t get me wrong, there is stress there, but it’s like a 2 on a scale of 10. There might be a hint of excitement in there, too.

Anyway, back to the playlist. As you may know, music motivates me like nothing else. So I had to find the perfect set of songs, in the perfect order (see? VERY organized) to keep me moving the entire course. I sort of live in fear of someone stumbling on my music downloads, because any hip lady points I may have accumulated would fly out the window (like they just did when I used the word hip) and people would think at least 5 people with very different musical tastes share the same account. But let me tell you something about those 5 people- they all HATE reggae.

Here is the playlist, with a You Tube link:

Adele, Rolling in the Deep: I’m pretty sure they would kick me out of the suburbs if I didn’t listen to Adele. But the first lines are so perfect for the start of the race. “There’s a fire starting in my heart. Reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark.”

Fat Boy Slim, Right Here, Right Now: Maybe because this one is played at sporting events all the time, but this one always boosts me up and makes me want to move.

Muse, Uprising: Who doesn’t love this one?

The Black Keys, Howling For You: This song has the perfect tempo to workout to!

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Booty City: Your life will be measured in two halves- the time before you heard this song and the time after you heard it. It’s another great song to workout to, because it reminds you that like 75% of your workout goal is butt related. Oh yeah, silently protest, but you know it’s true.

House of Pain, Jump Around: Don’t judge! This is by far my most embarrassing download.  Rewatching the video for the first time in 100 years, I realized my husband looks like the main House of Pain guy if he moved to the suburbs, let his hair grow out, and starting wearing his glasses instead of squinting all the time.

If I start finding Mickey’s Big Mouth bottles around the house, I’ll know I’ve been punked by House of Pain!

Plus, this gives me an excuse to post this clip from Swingers with Vince Vaughn (Tip: if you google, “Swingers”, for the love of God, leave the safe search on!).

Kevin Rudolf, Let It Rock: Really, if this song  and the last one don’t prove I will listen to anything except reggae, then I don’t know what will.

Kelly Clarkson, Stronger: I put this one here, because I figure at this point, I’m going to be tired and I need someone to remind me that th 5K will not kill me.

U2, Veritgo: I love U2, but I can’t hear this song without thinking of South Park Bono and that makes me laugh. Lord knows at this point I will need a laugh, too.

Trampled By Turtles, Walt Whitman: I have no idea what Walt Whitman has to do with a bluegrass song, but I love this one. I love Trampled by Turtles anyway, but they sent me a free tshirt, so I love them that much more. Take note other bands! My fandom can be bought with free goods.

U2, Desire: Do I have to explain this one?

REM, Superman: Or this one? The very first line is, “I am superman and I can do anything.”

Mumford and Sons, The Cave: I just want this to be the song I hear as I cross the finish line.

So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

So that’s my playlist. Hopefully I won’t need the whole thing. Or maybe I can listen to it in the triage area of the hospital while they revive me.

Just a reminder that you can follow me on Twitter. Lately I’ve been live tweeting during Boardwalk Empire. I’m also on Tumblr.

High Anxiety

Final Postage stamp project. The upper left was created based on a tutorial from Computer Arts magazine and I used the same techniques in the other 3 stamps. WordPress make the images a little fuzzy, so click the image for a higher res version.

Before I start on today’s topic, I wanted to give a 5K update. Monday I got a text from the person I was to run with saying she was in the ER and “don’t sign up for the 5k!!!!!” My first thought was, “You are in the ER! Why are you thinking about the 5K?” and, of course, I had already signed up. She’s doing much better and now my sideline cheerleaders have doubled…to two. I knew I would think, “Why did I think I could do a 5K??” but I thought I would actually be running the 5K at the time and not a week before the race. I’m going to walk the route Friday, so I can see what I am in for. I can do this. Right? (grabbing your lapel) RIGHT??!?!?! So yeah. If you see me,  talk to me, see a rodeo clown that reminds you of me- I’d appreciate it if you would let me know that I can do this (even if you are lying).

Anyway….on to the real post.

For the past two weeks, several people have randomly talked to me about their anxiety. In person I’m about as articulate as a drunk wombat (okay, a drunk wombat sounds super cute, much cuter then me) and my on-the-spot advice comes out like, “You should probably do….stuff….” So I thought I would write about what I do to cope with anxiety. None of my strategies are ground-breaking or even overly complicated, but for me they work.

I’ve been pretty open, probably too open, about my anxiety. But for years I was in total denial that I had anxiety. About anything. Ever. To people who know me in real life, I’m sure that is hilarious, because I’m wound pretty tight approximately 85% of the time (the other 15% I am sleeping). I thought I had to have this veneer of perfection and could not show any cracks in my surface. So, the first and biggest step for me was admitting it. Even now, when I feel anxiety creeping in and try to struggle against it or resist it, it gets worse. When I admit the anxiety is there, I can work with it and find out how to deal with it instead of blaming myself for not being this 24/7 happy robot gameshow hostess woman (did that last sentence make you think of Flo from the Progressive commercials like it did me?).

If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this- feelings are not factsImagine you are walking outside in the dark. You see something on your path, but it’s hard to make out what it is, so you keep walking towards it (why did you go out without a flashlight?? That is how horror movies start!). You get about 10 feet away and realize it’s a bear. You are suddenly flooded with adrenaline and panic sets in. What is bear confrontation protocol? Run? No, don’t run. Running makes them chase you or something. Punch it in the head? No, that’s sharks. I think. What the hell is a bear doing in Chicago anyway????  A car drives by. It’s headlights illuminate your path and you see the “bear” was a couple of garbage bags some slob left out. The “bear” was only real in your mind. The vast majority of the time, the reality of the situation usually is never as bad as we build up in our minds. If I catch myself creating bears where there are none, I stop, take 3 deep breathes and remind myself that I am not in real danger.

I examine what is happening in that moment. The sounds I am hearing, they way my clothes feel on my skin, any tension by body is holding, my breathe going in and out, and any other sensations. The Buddhists call it mindfulness and, for some reason, when ever someone says, “The Buddhists do it”, whatever it is sounds really wise. Anyway, non-Buddhists heard about the practice of mindfulness and realized that it is great for reducing stress. Best of all, you can do it anywhere at any time in a minute or two.  Most anxiety comes from projecting our fears into the future. “What if I do this and my legs fall off?” “What if I go in there and fall into an abandoned mine shaft?” “What if I forget to wear pants and everyone laughs at me???” By switching our focus into the present moment it’s nearly impossible to panic- even if you’ve fallen into an abandoned mine shaft.

Something I need to mention is that it’s important to not wallow in your fears. Experience the feelings to their fullest extent, but let them run their course and move on. Realize that whatever you are feeling, everyone feels at some point. Like I said last week, you are not a special snowflake. The world is not divided into people with unflappable confidence and you. It’s just that some have decided that the only way out is through and that voice in their head, that tells them the world is going to collapse if they do whatever, is full of crap.

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Think of that voice like an overprotective relative who you know has your best interests at heart, but is annoyingly free with the advice. You listen politely, thank them, roll your eyes behind their back, and do what you were going to do anyway. Even if you panic, remind yourself that no one has ever died from a panic attack (seriously). Your chances of passing out from a panic attack are also near zero (look it up, Mr/s. Skeptic). However, your chances of regretting opportunities lost forever because you let your anxiety and fear take your power are much, much greater.

But don’t take my word for it. Here are some resources written by people with lots of letters after their names giving practical advice on how to cope with anxiety and not let it overtake your life.

Articles:

Ways of Coping With Anxiety – About.com

Happiness V. Now-Ness- Psychology Today one minute mindfulness exercise

Books:

The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane– Don’t let the name fool you. The first several chapters of this book are dedicated to helping reduce stress and anxiety. It goes on to to give other practical advice on helping your self image. Really a great book.

Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers– The second half of this book is a little iffy, but the first half is definitely worth the price. But if you’re too cheap to buy the book, let me sum it up for you. 1- literally everyone gets afraid, 2- they do what they are afraid of anyway, 3- with practice this gets easier, but the fear will never go away completely. Saved you $9.

And I’ll find strength in pain. And I will change my ways. I’ll know my name as it’s called again – “The Cave”, Mumford and Sons

Have a great week!

Call 911 Because I’ve Clearly Lost My Damn Mind

Part of a work-in-progress school project

I don’t know about you, but I thought once I got out of high school peer pressure and pimples would be a thing of the past. But, apparently, they’re eternal. Lucky us. Anyway, I have succumbed to peer pressure and have signed up for my first 5K run. Everyone keeps charmingly calling it a “race” like there is some chance I will actually beat another person. As long as I finish under 3 hours, I will be happy. What? Is that a bad time for a 5K? I don’t even know. All I do know is that I’ve been assured there is booze afterwards.

But the deciding factor wasn’t the peer pressure (which really wasn’t much, but did involve a hilarious home made flyer). I realized the date of the “race” was right around my one year anniversary of the celiac disease diagnosis. I had been planning to celebrate by stuffing my pie hole with gluten-free baked goods, but I started thinking about the really amazing (non-celiac related) turn my life has taken in the last year and a half and how now I do things each day that, back then, I never would have thought possible.

The thing is, I didn’t discover a magical source of internal strength or suddenly acquire secret ancient knowledge to help get me moving. I just made the commitment to get off my ass. That was it. With school- it was metaphoric. With my fitness- it was literal. The only thing that has changed is that now I believe I can do it (well…most of the time). It took a certain set of circumstances for me to recognize it, but everything I needed to make these changes was always inside me. Like Glinda the Good Witch said, “You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power…”

Saw this in class yesterday and couldn’t stop laughing!

A while back I mentioned a motivational author I love, Steve Chandler. A few times each week he sends out inspirational e-mails and this was in Thursday’s:

Your potential is not serving you if it’s always thought of as being associated with your future. Bring it home. Recognize it’s true nature: it’s in you now. When people see your potential, they are seeing something that’s already in you. Otherwise they couldn’t see it. People can’t see into the future. But they can see something in you. 

Not to get all Fight Club on you, but you are not a special snowflake. You are not the one person “potential” forgot. That spark is in you, because it’s in everyone. All it takes is a willingness to push a little farther and then a little farther and a little farther after that. Pretty soon, you’re farther then you ever thought you could go. I know it’s true because I see it almost every day in not just me, but in my classmates as well. It’s not easy and takes commitment, but our time on Earth is so brief, do you really want to look back and wish “if only…”?

So while I’m pretty sure exactly 14 seconds into the 5K, I’ll wonder who the hell thought it was a good idea for me to run in public (the jiggling! The sweating! Dear God what have I unleashed on the world?!?), I’m going to cross the finish line. As corny as it sounds, I can’t think of a better way to mark how far I’ve come then with doing something I never thought I could do. And if, on 5K day, you see a tall, chubby lady in a Ray LaMontagne t-shirt passed out next to the road, I would really appreciate it if you drag me over the finish line.

On a personal note, this week went so incredibly fast! I forgot to mail my mom’s birthday card. But here is a picture of me as a little girl so she hopefully remembers how cute I was and isn’t too upset.

Have a great week and pray for my knees!