Challenge Update: Diamonds Out, Trekking Supplies & Workout Leggings In!

Despite my inner child’s excitement over the potential of owning another pretty, shiny thing if I hit my weight loss goal by April 3rd, I think I’m going to have to change my direction re: prizes for meeting my goals. I know, I know, it’s a disappointment – so much less sparkle involved in hiking gear than diamond jewelry!

But seriously, I’ve been thinking about it over the last few days, and it would be a much better use of funds if I focused on getting my supplies for the Camino, instead of a new belly button ring. I’ll have to buy things (a pack, hiking poles, new socks, and all manner of other fun odds and ends) to go on pilgrimage, anyway. It makes more sense to reward my good behavior with supplies that will only encourage more good behavior. Also, it would be a lot less wasteful of me. Maybe I can save the bling for my next milestone.

No matter what, I’m also thinking that some new fun workout clothes are in order, whether or not I hit that 170 lb mark. Some of the ladies at my gym have been wearing these amazing workout leggings, and I’ve been coveting pretty hard for the last month or so (Sad, right? Totally going to hell over spandex. Oh well.). It wasn’t that long ago that it was hard for me to even find decent workout pants and leggings, and back then it seemed they were all gray and black and uber boring. Now I’m seeing awesome ones in a plethora of colorful patterns. I dig loud, crazy designs, so incorporating them into my gym life is definitely a big plus. Something like these…

Onzie Low Rise Leggings

Onzie Low Rise Leggings in “Copa Cabana”, at Nordstrom. (Click image to visit site.)

Onzie Capri Leggings in Prism Print from Bloomingdales. (Click through image to visit site.)

Onzie Capri Leggings in Prism Print from Bloomingdales. (Click image to visit site.)

Onzie Track Leggings in Teal Chevron at YogaOutlet.com. (Click image to visit site.)

Onzie Track Leggings in Teal Chevron at YogaOutlet.com. (Click image to visit site.)

What do you think? Do you dig going loud and crazy at the gym? If you’re a lady (or happen to know a lot about women’s gym clothes), any good workout leggings to suggest?

Music Monday: Start Wearing Purple by Gogol Bordello

You might know this, and you might not: I love purple. I’m drawn to it like a ghoul to a fresh corpse. (Also like bees to honey, lawyers to ambulances, or idiom seekers to Google search for more interesting options than insects and cake enthusiasts.)

I love purple so much that from 15 to 22 or so, I only wrote in purple ink. I’d still be doing it, but I’m also a mite obsessive about pens, and found a pen that I can’t live without that doesn’t have a purple version. I still try out purple pens from time to time, though. I even found one a few years ago that had sparkles in the ink (*squee!*), but it dried out too quickly.

I love purple so much that I have a hard time telling if something (a dress, a building, a design, an extraterrestrial) is attractive or not if it’s wearing purple. I’ll automatically adore it, and have to remind myself to be more objective, though sometimes I can’t help but love it for being purple, anyway. As a result, I don’t wear a lot of purple, for fear of choosing terrible styles and being none the wiser.

I love purple so much that I even have a tumblr blog devoted to my obsession, where I just collect pictures of beautiful purple things. It helps mitigate the symptoms a little. I’m kind of afraid that if I don’t let off a little steam now and then, I’ll eventually end up like this in the end:

Vintage 60s Interior. Prototype of "Visiona 1 Futuristic Habitat", Central Living Block. Designed by Joe Colombo.

Vintage 60s Interior. Prototype of “Visiona 1 Futuristic Habitat”, Central Living Block. Designed by Joe Colombo.

I even love purple so much that for a couple of years, I was quite convinced that Gogol Bordello’s “Start Wearing Purple” was the best song I’d ever heard.

Now don’t get me wrong – I adore Gogol Bordello. They’re pretty rare in that I love all of their songs, and can listen to an album from beginning to end, no skipping around. Lyrically, I’ve always been impressed by the social messages in most of their songs, and it’s hard not to love the sound if you’re into that kind of thing. I tend to dig the Gypsy Punk mix of punk rock sound with the Romani-inspired accordions and violin (and in the case of other Gypsy Punk bands, a brass section).

Even better, their live shows are amazing. The whole crew goes balls-to-the-wall, with so much energy it’s exhausting just watching them go batshit on stage. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them in concert twice in the past few years, once in a pretty big theater, and once in a tiny bar that had about 150 people. I was so close to the stage that Eugene could have sweated on me were I that interested in getting close to a stranger’s bodily fluids.

Despite the beauty of my past memories of Gogol Bordello, and the fact that I’m currently wrestling with whether I can afford to buy tickets to their show this Friday, I’m coming to terms with the fact that this just isn’t my alltime favorite song anymore. I think that they’ve been replaced in my heart by my current favorite band, scheduled for a #MusicMonday mention in two weeks’ time.

For tonight, though, let’s just listen to the song that probably still does describe me to a tee. One day I’ll most likely be that purple little lady

A Rough Sketch

The other day I thought of the term “sloth-like intensity” and it made me giggle. When I was in high school, I was Quiz Bowl team captain (both JV and Varsity teams, though we never won, so it doesn’t really say much for my leadership abilities). Though our school’s mascot was a panther, being a crew of nerdy non-athletes, we decided to pick our own mascot for our academic team. The panther just wouldn’t do. Sure, it was fast and graceful, but not at all like us. So we picked the sloth: slow, deliberate, awkward, and more cute than threatening. Our faculty advisor also had a stuffed sloth in her classroom that she’d let us take to meets, so it all worked out perfectly.

Last night I dreamt of that faculty advisor, my favorite high school teacher, Mrs. Cutler. She passed away a few years ago, but I still remember her very fondly. When I was younger, she was kind of an ideal for me: intelligent, well-traveled, well-read, sarcastic, open-minded, and always challenging those around her to come up to her level. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to meet up with her today, were she still alive. Would we be similar? Would we get along? I’ll never know, so it’s pointless to ruminate. But that dream had me wondering.

Today’s Beautiful You prompt (I know! Two in one week – what kind of madwoman am I?) is to describe myself as completely as I can. Since this entire blog is an exercise in just that, I’m changing that to “completely and somewhat concisely”. The point of the exercise is to see that there’s more here than just a body, but I knew that already. Maybe writing it out will make the knowing mean something more than it does at the moment.

Name: Anna
Sex: Female
Age: 33
Height: 5’7″
Skin tone: Fair tending to very pale in winter months, burns easily in summer
Hair: Dark brown, a few grays
Body type: Pear
Introvert or Extrovert: Decidedly Introverted
Meyers Briggs: ISFJ
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio

Greatest issues: stress, money, work/life balance, wondering if there’s any purpose to life if everything in our government is being run by rich old white people who couldn’t give two shits about everyday folks or our environment, knowing that we’ll kill off most of the animals and run out of potable water before I die, and if that doesn’t happen, surely North Korea is going to luck their way into some useful biological weaponry and usher in a zombie apocalypse or something of the sort, and knowing that if none of these other worries come to pass, there’s still no way to possibly dig myself out of the crippling student loan debt I dug myself into ten years ago short of winning the lottery.

Greatest fears: home invasion, getting captured by a terrorist organization and gang raped before being beheaded, the government getting taken over completely by conservative Christians who strip away all women’s rights and force us to become baby-making machines, getting stuck in a smaller-than my hips cave (the kind you have to wiggle through) so that I’m stuck there and slowly go mad in the darkness before starving to death and/or asphyxiating.

Greatest dreams: to be a writer, dedicate the majority of my time to spiritual study and social projects, have time to spend a portion of each day helping animals, and see the world before I’m too old to travel

Greatest strengths: I’m kind, fair, empathetic, and logical. Great listener. I genuinely care about people – not just friends, but people I meet. I’m capable of assessing others’ emotional states and general tendencies within a short period of interaction, and I’m a good bridge between two people that are having trouble seeing eye to eye, but want to.

Greatest weaknesses: procrastination, needing a lot more sleep than most people seem to (at least 9 to 10 hours a day or I’m useless), self-control re: food, not being a great conversationalist, not much interest in extensively studying/talking about big picture topics like the economy/politics/trends, horrible at math, being introverted enough that going to social engagements for work is terrifying, so it’s hard to network

By day I’m a marketer, and by night, well, I’m still a marketer. I generally sleep about 9 hours a day, commute for 2, work out for 1, spend about 1.5 to 2 cleaning and caring for myself and my cats, and about 10 hours working. I work through the weekend often (though I took much of this weekend off because I needed a mental health break). I am not happy with my life/work balance, but if I didn’t work that much I wouldn’t make enough money to pay my back taxes and student loans, or save up to go to Spain. I kind of hate my life. I’m not miserable, but then again I’m also not happy very often. I’d like for life to be simpler. I dream of owning a tiny house one day. Nothing too extravagant. Maybe I could even tow it to a new town whenever I got tired of the old one. If I didn’t have any outstanding debts and I owned my own home, I could do whatever I wanted with my life. I hate that lives are all about money, and that money, like time, is a completely fictional concept. We are much stupider than the other apes.

Wow, this was depressing. No wonder I spend so much time obsessing about my body. At least it’s within my control. Thinking about the rest of this shit for any amount of time would drive me out of my mind. Back to worrying about shaving a couple of inches off of my waist…

Photography Friday: Rewards

Today’s photo challenge at the Daily Post is to show what “reward” means to us. It turns out that I’ve taken a few photos over the course of the last few weeks that exemplify the term in various ways. Looking back through them has made me realize how easily I forget the simple pleasures encountered every day. I tend to notice details, and love the little scenes captured on my walks through New Orleans (and elsewhere), but it would be nice to hold on to the feeling of discovering these vignettes in my heart, rather than having to be reminded by looking back over my Instagram page.

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I walk through the French Quarter every day, and often pass a little art gallery full of really cool/creepy art. Every now and then there’s a cat sitting in the window, along with the artwork. Each time I pass, I look for the cat, and when I see her I’m always happy. It feels like a privilege, somehow; she’s so regal.

The other part of the story that makes this an even better reward is that you can’t see it in this photo, but the cat’s other ear is docked at the tip. In New Orleans, when feral cats are part of the catch and release program (where they’re caught, spayed/neutered, then released), they get one ear docked. This tells me that this gorgeous girl was once living on the streets, but has since become the queen of her own art gallery. Pretty sweet rags to riches story.

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I love looking for good new graffiti, no matter what city I’m in. Thus far, my all-time favorite street art has been in Venice, but New Orleans’ scene isn’t too shabby. Our city attracts a lot of outside artists, including WRDSMTH, a Los Angeles-based writer/painter who’s been posting awesome stuff like this typewriter and message around town for awhile. This popped up in my neighborhood, and every time I look at it I end up laughing. So I guess that the reward is two-fold for this photo, as well. First finding it, then getting to laugh over and over.

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This shot was taken on Lundi Gras night (the night before Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday), down by the Mississippi River. I was with friends, just hanging out, and we didn’t know that there were going to be fireworks. This was a great reward for me because I really hadn’t felt like leaving my house that day, despite (or maybe because of) the celebration that was going on. I adore fireworks, so getting to see them was like a little “thank you” from the Universe for just pushing myself to lighten up a bit and go have fun.

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While in Chicago last week, I decided (quite stupidly) to walk from the restaurant where I’d just had dinner, all the way to the nearest movie theater. A distance of about a mile and a half isn’t bad in decent weather, but when it’s 10 degrees out and you’re not at all accustomed to that kind of cold, it’s just a crappy idea to try to do it on foot. But I did, and it all worked out just fine. Still got all of my digits. Bonus: it was beautiful and quiet out, didn’t meet very many people on the way, and every now and then a scene like this would present itself.

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This is the least exciting photo, but my favorite. I took it last night; it’s the parking garage that sits behind my gym. I had a good workout, then left the gym to see that the parking garage was looking really nice with the contrast of streetlights and night sky. Sometimes I feel like being allowed to notice and appreciate beauty in such mundane things is its own reward. The fact that it showed up after a particularly good night of working out was just that much sweeter.

You Are What You Pay Attention To

There’s this stupid photo of a dress that just went viral, and my Facebook news feed is blowing up with people arguing over whether the dress is white and gold or blue and black. The top trending topic worldwide on Twitter right now is #whiteandgold. If you listen hard enough, I’m pretty sure you can literally hear civilization coming to an end around us as billions of brains grind to a halt. I’m going to write this blog post, then log off of the computer for the rest of the night to escape the bread and circus atmosphere for at least a few good hours.

This is appropriate, according to today’s Beautiful You prompt. I’m slowly moving along, and am now at Day 23: Realize That You Are What You Pay Attention To. This chapter asks us to think about what we focus on and give our energy to. If we are what we pay attention to, am I comfortable with that reflection of me? If not, what would I change to better represent who I am?

I focus on a few major things these days: working out/getting in shape, working, and going on pilgrimage this fall. If “focus” also means “waste time” then I also spend way too much time focusing on my looks (mostly hating them), watching TV, and playing around on social media. I’ve been working on trying to take the pressure off of myself when it comes to hating my body, and have found that working out, eating well, and reading this book (albeit slowly) has helped a lot. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m getting there. But the internet addiction is real and scary. The best thing for me is going to be sticking to a schedule and planning in lots of time to be offline.

When I think about how people see me, I want them to think of me as a reader, writer, animal lover, and world traveler. I want them to think that I’m friendly and kind, and though a little awkward, actually quite interested in who they are as human beings. I’d love to be considered a great marketer, but given the amount of internet addiction I’d need to encourage to keep up to speed with every single change we’ve got going, I’m just not ready to put that much strain on my mental health.

And that’s that for the day. I’m going to go read a book. I’ll be back tomorrow with some great photographs. Hope you’ll come back to see.

Starting My Own Transformation Challenge

This isn’t so much a post as a reminder to myself. If you’ve been reading along since the new year, you’ll know that from January 5th to February 13th, I was doing a transformation challenge with my gym, Iron Tribe. Long story short, I didn’t win the challenge (bummer – would have really liked that top prize!), but I’m not that upset about it. One of my nicest classmates lost over 5% body fat and ended up with the top prize. Since he has a family, that gift certificate to Whole Foods is really going to come in handy.

As for me, I ended up losing about 13 pounds and 3% body fat, and getting a lot stronger. Plus, the gym does two challenges a year, so there’s always next time. But since I don’t want to wait 6 months to work on seriously getting into shape, I figured that maybe I should take the format of the official challenge and create my own challenge to keep me motivated over the next 40 day cycle.

My actions: work out 5 times a week at Iron Tribe, walk at least 15,000 steps a day, stick to my paleo diet, take PAGG and vitamins/supplements, avoid alcohol and pointless snacking, and keep a detailed daily nutrition/exercise diary.

My goal: Get to 170 pounds, and cut body fat by another 3%

My incentive: A diamond belly button ring that I’ve been eyeing for years now. If I get to 170, I get the ring. If I don’t get to 170, I don’t. If I somehow magically get to the 160’s, I’ll reconsider my decision – maybe I deserve something even nicer, who knows :-D

Starting point(s): The challenge started on Monday, February 23rd, and will last until Friday, April 3rd. My weight has been fluctuating a little bit based on eating everything that came within arm’s reach all last week, but as of today I was 185.7 pounds. I’m thinking I’ll be back to around 182 or so by the weekend, putting me back to where I ended up with the last challenge. Then it’s just staying focused from there!

The Norwegian Blues

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At the end of yesterday’s post, I snuck in a quote from Birdman: “A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.” In the film, it’s written on a notecard and stuck to the main character’s mirror. It also shows up later in the film as he tries to explain his life – and usefulness – to a notoriously negative theater critic. It’s one of those vague self-help quotes that I’m never quite sure is deep or just posturing, but for today’s post, we’ll assume the former.

On my way to work this morning, I was mulling over various things, and briefly considered the fact that were I to die today, my parents wouldn’t know what songs to play at my funeral. I thought of how little anyone can really know a person, but how much less my family knows about me than pretty much anyone else I interact with on a regular basis. I live roughly 1,000 miles from the town of my birth, and try to avoid returning as much as possible. On top of that, my family doesn’t travel, and we don’t talk or email that often (forget texting – my parents’ cell phones only get turned on in case of emergencies).

Of course I feel a twinge of regret. I’m an only child, and was quite close to my parents before moving away 15 years ago. But to be honest, though I miss them from time to time, they have their lives and I have mine. If our life stories are told by our family connections, I guess mine will end up being sad. I’m under no illusion that my life, as structured at this moment, will somehow end up being magically full of the love and laughter of family members in my golden years. So let’s cross our fingers that I get married before I keel over, and my husband (poor, unlucky mystery man) and friends get the body (or what’s left of it) so as not to completely muck up my funeral.

Anyway, before I got carried away thinking of funeral plans, I was thinking of the fact that I am a thing, and while I know myself to be a thing of some specificity, with a defined list of likes, dislikes, habits and mannerisms, from the outside I am constantly being mis-defined as another thing entirely by the people who know me least, be they family members or innocent bystanders. Maybe it’s being a Scorpio? People accuse me of holding secrets and not conveying information well enough, which I’ve heard is a habit of the sign. Or maybe it’s that very few people pay attention to other people, and no matter how much we care and how much time we spend studying our friends to learn their quirks, we’ll never really be able to pin down the entire personality.

I dunno. But in case I do get run over by a bus on my way home tonight, or fall off of a cliff while I’m in Spain this October, here’s some vital info for those of you who know me IRL:

Disposal Method: the most ecologically sensitive method available at the time of my passing. See Be A Tree for ideas. I was holding out for a mushroom death shroud, but I don’t think they’ve been perfected yet. One of those bio urn things would be nice, but DEFINITELY NOT A PINE TREE. I’m serious, guys. If my choice is to fuck up the environment or support the life of a pine tree, just let me do my goopy, chemical-laden worst. Pine trees are an abomination. I’d be fine with being a maple or a beech, though.

Funeral: Pointless for me, as I’ll be dead and disinterested in celebratory acts. If you want to have one, just meet up at the bar or something. If you’re in New Orleans, go to Holy Ground. Have Cheryl pour you a Jameson on the rocks. Try to remember a time when I said something funny or nice or something. Give other people hugs. Have funeral sex if your standards are that low and your whiskey goggles are working. I won’t judge you. If you’re in North Carolina, go hang out with my dad. He’ll be crushed, and he’ll need you to check in on him from time to time (though he’ll never say that).

Music: All of my crappiest favorites, and make it a karaoke night, why don’t ya? Start with Donovan (not Mellow Yellow, please) and early Chicago, move on to KISS, and finish up the night with a couple of hours of 90’s alt rock and 60’s pop. Don’t forget to throw in some Dry the River, Joan Armatrading, 2 Skinnee J’s, and of course Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Important Facts: If you’ve got to add religion into the mix, DO NOT under any circumstances quote the bible or talk about Jesus. I definitely do not want that man’s name mentioned. He was a nice guy and all, but he’s not my team captain. Also, it’s my goddamn funeral, and it’s too late to convert me. Feel free to quote St. Francis of Assisi all you’d like. He’s fantastic. You can also talk about the concept of a divine power if you’d like. Burn some sage, too. Burn lots of sage. If my spirit is still hanging around, I’d like to go ahead and move on. Gee, I hope I’m not hanging around. It would be hard to see some of your faces and not want to stay and make sure you’re OK.

There should be a photo booth, so people who don’t see each other often can get some good shots together. You never know when you’re going to see each other again, guys.

Oh, and there should most definitely be food. Clam chowder, an assortment of cured meats and cheeses (don’t skimp on the brie), GOOD bread (seriously, not just any old shitty bread, I’m talking properly chewy baguettes with a crusty exterior, fresh from the oven, and maybe some loaves of sweet black bread with honey butter), and plenty of mashed potatoes and spicy chicken wings from Popeye’s. And maybe some mini Cornish pasties and Scotch eggs. They’ll really help with all of the whiskey that I intend for people to consume.

So there you have it. Folks who know me, it’s up to you to share this with the right people if you find out I’ve shuffled off my mortal coil. Folks who don’t know me, try not to be too jealous of how fat and happy my funeral’s attendees are going to be.

Do you have funeral plans? I’d love to hear them. Might as well have some fun planning our parties while we can, right?