Make ‘Em Laugh

Click through to find out more about this book I keep going on about :-)

Click through to find out more about this book I keep going on about :-)

I’m not quite sure what day of Beautiful You I’m supposed to be at today (it’s one of those chapter-per-day books, where there’s an exercise each day for a year), but I’ve only made it to Day 10. Which is absolutely fine, because today I’m supposed to be sharing positive thoughts about myself, and for most of my holiday break, it was difficult – nearing on impossible, in fact – to find a single one. Luckily, I’m feeling pretty happy today, so I’m sure I’ll be able to dredge something up.

First off, today’s the second day of the Iron Tribe (that’s my gym, btw) Transformation Challenge, and I’m loving it so far. There are two different divisions – performance and weight loss. I’m doing weight loss, since it’ll probably be a year or more until I’m as strong as some of the people are in the performance division. Yesterday I walked to and from work from my house (almost 7 miles, since I did a little extra walking during the day), and went to the gym. Today I did the same thing, but only clocked around 6 miles.

I also worked out both days – part of the challenge is to log 5 workouts a week, which is cool, because my plan only pays for 4 workouts, so for the remainder of the challenge I’m getting a free class every week (thanks Iron Tribe!). Yesterday’s workout was pretty easy, really – We had 25 minutes to do a 500m row, 200m run, 100 single-unders (that’s jump rope for the layman), then 36 burpees and 36 wall balls, which are a similar motion to thrusters if you lift weights, just with a medicine ball. Today’s was a little more intense – it was a timed workout where you started at 2 pull ups, 2 pistols (one-legged squats), and 2 burpees, then 4 of each, then 6 of each, then 8 of each, etc, adding 2 of each rep each round. At the 10 minute mark, whatever round you were on, you’d go back the other way – 8, 6, 4, 2. I ended up doing 50 pull ups (I’m not that much of a bad ass, I use a band for assistance), 40 pistols and 40 burpees. I know, I’m boring you. Hell, I’m boring myself. But I’m proud that I’m getting stronger. It’s nice.

Anyway, today is supposed to be about positivity, and since working out makes me feel great about myself, I guess that was as good a place as any to start. But let’s really get down to brass tacks here. Beautiful You asks me: What do you most appreciate about yourself? What are you most confident about? What is the first positive memory you have of yourself? Was anyone there to witness that moment? If so, who was there and how did he, she, or they react?

When I was in high school, I took classes on a block schedule. We had four or five long classes a day for a semester, and then at the end of the semester we had an entirely different set of classes. We got to choose two electives each semester. Since the only way my parents knew to pay for my college was to have me go into the military after school, I was put in Air Force JROTC from the beginning of freshman year on. It taught discipline and teamwork, but also sacrifice.

I wasn't just in JROTC - I was  on the JROTC color guard AND drill teams, a cadre, went to officer's training school in the summers, the whole 9 yards. Even so, I was so relieved to not have to go into the Air Force in the end.

That’s me with the American flag, marching in a parade. I wasn’t just in JROTC – I was on the JROTC color guard AND drill teams, a cadre, went to officer’s training school in the summers, the whole 9 yards. Even so, I was so relieved to not have to go into the Air Force in the end.


One of the biggest sacrifices for me was having to give up one elective each semester to be in JROTC. I really wanted to take art, and drama, and dance, but with JROTC eating up half of my electives, and the other electives needing to be things that my parents deemed “useful,” I had to be really careful about selecting the rest of my fun classes. I never got to take drama or art – two things that I still love, and have a sneaking suspicion I would have excelled at had I started early – but I did get to take one semester of dance.

Let’s just get this out of the way early – I’m not a great dancer. I’m coordinated enough to pick up line dances and couples dances with a little practice on the floor, and can flub my way through a tango social if needs be, but when it comes to jazz, ballet, or modern (basically anything where I have to be on my own), I’m hopeless. I had a ballet teacher call me an elephant once. I’m just kind of hopelessly white – nothing shakes the way I’d like it to, lol. Anyway, at the end of the semester we had a dance show, where all the girls taking dance got to perform a couple of routines. My class did three dances, but I only remember one. It was the best one, so that’s OK.

Greasers in NYC, 1950

Greasers in NYC, 1950

The routine was a 50’s number. Half of the girls were dressed as greaser boys (there were no boys in our dance program), and half of the girls were in poodle skirts, with ponytails and cute sparkly neck scarves. We were mostly dancing solo, but would interact and do some swing dance types of moves with our “partners”. I was dancing with an older girl named April, who passed away under dark circumstances a few years ago. She was a sweetheart, but normally tried to appear really tough. That really worked for the greaser costume. For one of the moves, the greaser would swing the poodle skirt girl through “his” legs, leave the poodle skirt girl lying there, and then walk around her. It’s hard to explain, but it was a cute/funny scene. The poodle skirt girl was supposed to be in love with the greaser, and looking up at “him” adoringly.

Poodle skirts sans poodles, 1956.

Poodle skirts sans poodles, 1956


April and I were at the front of the performance, right in center stage. The theater was packed (I’m from a small town – there’s not much else to do). Everything was going off without a hitch. We danced. She swung me, then started walking around me. I pretended I was over the moon in love with her, stuck on a dopey grin, and batted my eyes. As tough as she was, she couldn’t help but crack a grin back at me. The crowd loved it, and we got a laugh. It was one of the best moments for me. It was the precise moment that I realized I could be someone different onstage if I wanted to. It also made me feel special because even though I wasn’t the best dancer, I still had a talent. I love to make people laugh. It’s a great feeling. Making a crowd laugh? Wow. I was on cloud 9 after that show.

But that’s only part of the answer, I guess. Though I love to make people laugh, my real gift is caring about people, and genuinely wanting them to be happy and well. I love that about me. Sometimes I still have to remind myself that when people don’t treat you with utmost respect, it doesn’t mean that they’re awful people, it just means that they don’t understand the degree of everything’s interconnectedness yet. I also have to remind myself that maybe they never will get it, and that’s OK. That’s their journey.

My journey, my biggest need right now, is to be OK with me, and that means finding small things to love or accept (hopefully both) about other people, without letting them bog me down in their darkness. Hopefully I can offer a little light to help them on their way. I can still remember April as she cracked that grin at me. She had a tough life. It was too short. But she had a pretty smile. That spark can never die.

New Year’s Eve 2015

For the last five or six years, my New Year’s Eve celebration has been pretty low key. This one wasn’t all that different, but it was a lot more fun than I’ve tended to have for the last few years. I got dolled up and hung out with a small, tight-knit group of geeks at our favorite pub. The most exciting part of the evening was when I accidentally got my heel caught in my bar stool when I was trying to get up, and ended up falling down (oops). I’d only had half a glass of wine, so I couldn’t even blame it on being drunk – just my general and all-encompassing clumsiness. Luckily, nothing was broken and I didn’t damage my shoe or my dress, but I did bruise my shin, which is now wearing an ugly purple and black mark for the trouble. The pub was bustling enough that no one outside my group even noticed. I know this because in typical mortified-Anna style, I took an informal poll of strangers on my next trip to the ladies room just to make sure that was true.

Here are the few snapshots I have of the night. Sorry, was having too much fun to take photos!

3 friends

Angie, Anna & Alex


pretty dress

My beautiful dress, as seen in the bathroom mirror. Kind of a crappy photo. Really should have asked someone to take a photo of me for posterity…


stealing a kiss

Stealing a kiss before midnight.





Ladies: Measure Your Tits

I know it’s a risque title, but it says exactly what it needs to: women, get to know your girls better! Mostly, this is just a cautionary tale from one clueless woman to the rest of you (much more in-the-know) ladies out there, about how easy it is to misjudge just about anything, including your bra size.

The story goes a little something like this…

On New Year’s Eve, I decided that nothing in my closet was going to work for going out that night, and I deserved a new party dress. So I took the bus downtown in search of my dream gown, and remarkably, found the perfect thing a couple of hours later. Side note: I found the dress at Saks 5th Avenue, which is normally WAY out of my price range, but they had a 70%+ off rack, plus a 20% off sale on sale items. I ended up walking out with a gorgeous $600 dollar dress for just around $100 – total score.

Anyway, once I had the dress, I realized that nothing in my existing lingerie collection would really be pretty enough to wear with it. I wanted something retro and lacy, so I went to Trashy Diva, which is this amazing New Orleans-based boutique that sells vintage-inspired dresses, shoes, jewelry and lingerie. They actually have two shops just for dresses and a small selection of underthings, and then two shops that sell nothing but shoes and small accessories, and another two shops just for lingerie. I don’t live that far from one of the lingerie locations, so I walked in there in the hope that something would pop out at me to go with the dress.

Click the photo for more info on Trashy Diva's lingerie selection!

Click the photo for more info on Trashy Diva’s lingerie selection!

The shop is like a lacy candy store. Everything is so pretty and soft and silky and sexy, and you can’t help but feel a bit naughty just being in there. There are garter belts and beautiful silk stockings, and all manner of designer underpinnings at prices to match. As you might imagine, I was overwhelmed with my options and just sort of stood there, looking stupid, until the customer service person came to ask if I needed any help. I nodded, and confessed that since my weight gain, my boobs had grown and I was unsure of my size.

Now, even though I was telling the woman that, I was pretty sure I knew my size. After all, I was wearing a bra that fit me. I’d originally been a 34B, but once they became too uncomfortable to wear, I’d moved up to a 36B, then eventually a 38B, which seemed OK. But still, it never hurts to check, I thought. Besides, I hadn’t had a bra fitting in at least five years or more. So bring on the tape measure!

The tape measure came out, and the circumference of my rib cage just under my breasts was measured. I was surprised to see that the customer service person had the tape marked at 36 when she pulled it away. Then she measured my breasts at their widest. I saw her mark the number on the tape, but didn’t know what it meant. “So I’m a 36B? Am I just wearing my bras wrong or something?” I asked. She chuckled gently, then informed me that I wasn’t a 36B, or even a 36C – I was now a D cup.

If you’ve got big knockers, congratulations. If D sounds small to you, again, all the best. But for me, after years of barely being a B, the idea that I could one day fill out a “ginormous” D cup sounded like the thing of utter fantasy. As the customer service person started to lead me around, pointing out bras in my size that fit my other criteria – lacy, black, cleavage-creating – I remained incredulous. The obvious answer to all of this was that she’d screwed up. There was no way in hell I could fill out a D cup.

Except that I did. The first bra she had me try on went home with me that afternoon. It was absolutely gorgeous, and a perfect fit. Suddenly, that odd bit of underarm fat that always squished outside of the bra seemed less noticeable. The bands, just a tad wider than those on my B-cupped bra, didn’t press into my shoulders as much. My breasts still looked exactly the same size to me, and fit into the bra in the same way that they’d fit into my other bra, but seemed more secure, like they were held in place a bit better. Apparently the difference between a B and a D is not as much as I’d always thought.

I went out that night with a bit more confidence. It was like I’d gotten an instant boob job – no pain, just the same old lovely rack, presented in a spiffier getup. Before leaving the shop, I talked to the customer service person a little more about how I could have been so wrong about my breast size, and she said that it was something she saw multiple times a day at the shop. We’ve all seen women who are obviously wearing the wrong sized bras – you can always see telltale signs like overhanging back fat, or that interesting double boob effect where there’s extra breast tissue trying to pop out of the top of the cup. In the past, I always thought I’d never be one of those girls. But now I know that it’s ridiculously easy to get your numbers wrong. The wrong bra might not even look or feel that bad, if you don’t know what signs to look for.

If you have no clue where to start, you can get measured at any lingerie shop. If you’d prefer to do it yourself, Brittany Herself has an EXCELLENT how-to on her blog. She also includes a super in-depth video in her post by Caty135, which I’ve also included at the top of my post to make it easier. Make sure to give both a glance, as they contain some great information on why you should be careful when getting fitted at a chain lingerie store like Victoria’s Secret, and how to make sure your bras are fitting correctly.

Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky like me, and end up getting bigger knockers in the process!




Cold Hands, Warm Heart

My paternal grandmother (I call her Nana) has poor circulation, just like me. Our hands and feet are always cold. When I was little, she used to take my tiny hand between her own much larger ones and try to bring some warmth back to my chilly digits. While doing it, she’d typically intone, “Cold hands, warm heart.” I still say it to myself quite often.

My apartment is cold. It’s only in the upper 60’s, but there’s a chill in the air, and my fingers and toes feel like fledgling ice cubes. I’m sitting on my couch, where I’ve been mulling over what to write for a couple of hours now. Actually, that’s a lie. I’ve started and stopped multiple times. In all, I’ve probably already written 700 words or so, then backspaced them all into the aether.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. It will be 2015 soon. I wonder how things have changed since last year, and how they’ve stayed the same. It’s harder to think it over this year, since my concentration isn’t what it used to be. My thoughts scatter like the wind as I reach for them. I’m exhausted with the process.


The negatives of this year have been:

Working myself ragged to make ends meet.

Lying to everyone that I was fine when I clearly wasn’t, then worrying about all of the lies so much that I was even more depressed.

Promising more to everyone else than I had to give.

Not promising enough to myself.

Constantly berating myself for not “achieving” at writing, weight, health, money, womanhood, etc.

Shutting out my family because I don’t want them to see how much I’m struggling trying to be someone they’ll be proud of.

Not handling my money as intelligently as originally planned.

Listening too much to other people’s advice. It’s well-meaning, but we are not one-size-fits-all, and other people need to understand that “helpful” advice for how to build a great life can often come across as a condemnation of someone’s shortcomings. Don’t tell people what to do unless they ask you, and even then, be gentle with your phrasing.



The positives of this year have been:

Making up my mind to leave my relationship – then actually doing it.

Falling madly in love when – and with whom – I least expected it.

Holding down two full time jobs, and using the money more wisely than I would have a couple of years ago (yeah, this is on both lists).

Making a home for myself in a desirable neighborhood.

Rolling with the punches in a new relationship with pre-existing issues on both sides that many would have run from, making the bond stronger and sweeter than anything I’ve ever known.

Finally feeling completely at home with being a geek. Nothing to hide, no one to laugh at my interests – just other people who want to play board games, read fantasy novels, and love to dress up in costume as much as I do.

Reaffirming friendships with some of my most beloved friends.

Creating new friendships with a generous helping of new faces.

Coming to terms with the fact that I’m depressed, and need help.

Having the courage to join a really great gym – AND go to classes, even when I was scared.

Beating the back and hip pain that’s been a constant in my life for the last five years (!!!)

happy ending

I think that overall I’ve done a good job. I’d love to look back over this year from a place of perfection, but I’m never going to have that. We’ll never be perfect, any of us, and it’s ridiculous to try. What I can have is love, and friendship, and a decent selection of people who not only get what I’m going through, but are humble enough to know that sometimes they can serve best by just being there.

I’ve been sad and confused and worn out for the last few years, and I had somehow gotten used to it. I was treating it with plenty of wine and potato chips, and lots of sleeping late and trying to avoid conversation as much as possible. But this year I’ve been slowly but surely coming to terms with how much of my behavior has been a coping mechanism for depression. Whether it’s something brought on by my as-yet untreated thyroid issue, the constant back and hip pain, or if I just need therapy (or all of the above), I get it now. Being in a great spot with my love life, and having lots of opportunity to talk about emotions and mental state in person and here on the blog helped me to start to wrap my head around the fact that something’s not normal in my chemistry at the moment.

So that’s what I’m going to work on in 2015. I want to be OK again. I want my warm heart back. I want to put it to work again, and shine for other people. But before I can do that, before I can be bigger for everyone else, I need to get better for myself.

Happy New Year, my beautiful, mysterious internet friends. May you have health and happiness in the coming turn around the sun.


Constructing A Perfect Day (Part 1)

Netley Abbey, via Countryside Tales. Weird, but this looks extremely similar to my daydream structure.

Netley Abbey, via Countryside Tales

A friend of mine suggested that in order to help guide myself toward my ideal life, I should first visualize what one perfect day in my ideal life would look/feel like. I’ve been thinking of it for awhile now, and I don’t have much. But I figured that maybe I’d take notes as things come to me. Perhaps all of the pieces will eventually fit together.

For at least 15 years or so, I’ve had this daydream of me as a “grownup”. I guess I’m roughly the same age as the me I’ve been picturing for so long.

In the daydream, I’m wearing comfortable clothes – work boots, fatigue pants or something like them (durable, lots of pockets, easy to move around in), a long-sleeved t-shirt and a scarf. My hair is long again. It’s morning, just after sunrise. There’s a chill in the air, and dew is fresh on the grass. My tent is next to a field, just at a row of trees, and I’m walking away from it, across the field, through the grass. There’s a medieval structure just across the field, and past that, down the hill, a town. I’m headed in that general direction. The air smells sweet. I’m excited about having breakfast with my colleagues, then getting to work.

I’m not sure if the dream is about archaeology or mural conservation (my two earliest loves), and I’m not sure what kind of building it is. I’m not sure if I’m actually doing either of those things for a living, or if I’m just on holiday and helping out with a dig. I do know that I feel like I’m actively researching, and that there’s a mystery I might be able to solve.

Takeaway: I’m excited to travel, work with my hands, write about my work, study history, wear rugged clothing, live minimally in close proximity to nature, and enjoy the company of like-minded people.

I’ll think about it more and get back to you.

A Reluctant Humbug


I’m not a fan of the holidays, and I’m not entirely sure why. You’d think I’d have some clue, but I don’t. I used to be really into this time of year – the decorations, the food, the presents. On paper, it all still seems kind of fun. Hanging out with family, laughing, maybe singing some stupid songs or playing cards, drinking egg nog by the fire, opening presents. But in reality, the last few years’ worth of holiday seasons have been bleak, at best.

Lately it seems like all everyone’s focused on is presents and money. I’m so tired of feeling like I’m being shamed into buying shitty plastic bullshit for all of my friends and family just to prove that I love them. I don’t want to feel shamed into writing out cards for everyone I know, just so they can be tossed in the garbage. I don’t expect for anyone to get me anything. Honestly, I don’t NEED anything. If you’re reading this and you think you should get me something, please donate to your local homeless shelter or consider adopting an older pet. (OK, you can donate to a pet shelter, too, but seriously – adopt!)

I do know that I really don’t want to get any more cards with pictures of smiling families and just a signature. Doesn’t anyone know me well enough by now to know how the combination of insult and wastefulness makes me disappointed every time I open my mailbox to find another generic greeting card during the holidays? You could just email me the picture, you know. It shows the same amount of care. It’s such a waste of paper. What am I going to do with it? You know it’s going straight in the bin, right?

This time of year I typically just avoid opening my mailbox for the week before the big day, lest one more crappy bit of pseudo-Christian propaganda put me right over the edge. Just one card with a heartfelt message – actual MESSAGE – direct from the sender’s heart. If that’s too much to expect, why write a card at all?

Krampus and the Yule Goat!  Now this is the kind of card I can get behind...

Krampus and the Yule Goat! Now this is the kind of card I can get behind…

I’d especially love it if any of the people who send Christmas cards (not holiday cards, straight-up Christmas ones) would take into account the fact that I’m not Christian, and maybe send me a Yule card one year. I’d love to get a Yule card. Adore it, in fact. They’re harder to find, and normally so funny and cute. But that’s beside the point. I do get one Hanukkah card each year, and it’s the only photo card that I always love, and keep up on my fridge for months after. Maybe because it’s different, the only breath of fresh air in this tired season?

More than anything this time of year, I always end up realizing how alone we are, and how much family can alleviate some of that darkness. Then I remember that once again I’m not in a place where I can afford to go home, and even if I could, I’d be one of three in a house that I outgrew long ago, and just haven’t been able to find my way back into. It reminds me that we all desperately want to be a family, but can’t quite figure out how we once fit together. It’s this time of year that makes me know I could never have just one child. It’s Yuletime that make it painfully clear what will happen when my parents pass on, and it’s just me as the wheel of the year turns us through the longest day. I’m not exactly jealous of my friends who have large families, but sometimes I feel a bit like Scrooge, feeling the chill outside the window of Mr. Fezziwig’s party. I grew up and moved away, and ended up screwing us all over somehow.

Then I remind myself that I’m not alone. I have friends who love me, whom I love. So many of them, actually, despite my being awkward and moody half the time (and even more so once December rolls around). I’m unbelievably lucky to be surrounded by people who care. And I don’t want to carry on the tradition of insulation and loneliness during the holiday season, but I’m not exactly sure how not to yet. So I will go to work, and to my gym, where there are people. And tomorrow I’ll see my love, and care and calm will roll off him in waves and I’ll feel much better, just by being in his presence. I’ll wrap his presents, and taunt him with them for the next couple of days. That should be fun.

Maybe we’ll watch The Muppet Christmas Carol and I’ll sing my way through the tears that always happen around the time “When Love Is Gone” comes around. Afterwards I’ll cheer back up with the outtakes from Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas. Maybe I’ll practice origami, or buy some paint and have a go at headless St. Francis, who’s been sitting in my corner for months now. On Thursday I’ll make that crispy orange duck recipe that I do so well, even though my entire tiny apartment will reek of duck fat after. I’ll call all of my grandparents and my parents, and I’ll write personal notes to everyone I care about too much to send shitty signature-only Christmas cards.

Whatever I do, it’ll have to get me through. Only a few more days until the string lights and plastic santas will be put away for another year and we can go back to being slightly less than holly jolly without feeling so out of place for it.