My Two Favorite Videos

Most of my social media posts are inspirational and lighthearted. Life’s hard enough as it is; I’m not interested in getting into arguments on Facebook about things that I don’t really have a say in. While I might share an inspirational saying from my favorite presidential candidate now and then, or uplifting advice from authors and personalities that I feel might do my friends some good, I generally go out of my way to only share positive things that could be of service. Over time, I’ve found myself returning to the same couple of videos over and over again when I need a feel-good moment, so I thought I’d just post them here for future reference (and in case you need a reason to smile, too). Enjoy!

Orangutan sees a magic trick! I love that she laughs after she sees the nut “disappear”.

It’s hard to stay mad with squeaky shoes on…

Shifting Into Gear

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A tiny, glowing part of the Chewbacchus parade, my favorite thing about Mardi Gras. Image via NOLA.com.

It’s Mardi Gras weekend here in the Big Easy, and most people are out at the parades or attending various parties. I’ll be heading to a couple of grand events later in the weekend, but for the moment I’m enjoying one last dose of quiet before diving headfirst into the celebration.

For the last week or so, I’ve been gathering up everything I have that’s worth anything and posting it on Amazon or Ebay. My goal is really to pare down my belongings to the point where my house doesn’t feel full of stuff, but rather full of possibility. As the piles of junk start to disappear and the surfaces clear off, I’ve found that my creativity is returning bit by bit. I’ve been able to come up with some creative storage solutions that managed to elude me for almost two years, and I figured out how to afford the new computer I so desperately need without putting myself in further debt. Several sewing projects have been attempted and completed successfully, I learned a new origami pattern, and I had a cool idea about how to make my closet work better for me last night that I intend to work on as soon as Mardi Gras has passed.

Another thing that’s going to change with the season is my health. I’ve actually been taking good care of myself. I’m on medication for my anxiety and depression, am attending therapy regularly, and walk/work out daily. After much thought, however, I made the hard decision to quit my gym for the year to save money. I realized that though I love lifting weights and hanging out with the people at the gym, my finances (and emotional state) are never going to improve if I keep spending that obscene amount of money on working out each month. In fact, after doing the math, I realized that I could easily afford to enroll in a Fitocracy program online, WITH my boyfriend, and still save enough money to buy a month’s worth of healthy groceries. I loved that gym, and maybe I’ll make enough money in the future to return, but for now it’s more important to focus my attention on my financial fitness. I’m actually very excited about the Fitocracy program – it’s called Hormonal Fat Loss. If you’re interested in checking out any of the training programs at Fitocracy, here’s a COUPON CODE FOR $20 OFF. Even better for me, when you use the code, I get $20 off, too!

Maybe most exciting of all is that I recently made the decision to start dressing like the me that’s been inside, hiding, all this time. Tomorrow I’m headed to get a new haircut that’s sure to give my parents a heart attack. I want it to look something like this:

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Not sure if the stylist is going to have the time for the color, but I know the cut is going to look amazing. Really looking forward to making a splash at the Orpheus Ball on Monday night. I found this beautiful dress on Rent the Runway that’s right up my alley – a little more tech while still being glam:

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Image via Nordstrom.com, because I’m too lazy to find it on Rent the Runway right now.

And I got the most beautiful vintage earrings on Ebay to complete the ensemble:

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Check out these bad boys…

Welcome to 2016. It’s going to be my year, but I’m happy to share it if you’re nice:-)

Every Encounter

Camino de Santiago Donkey

Just one of the many animal friends I met along the Camino de Santiago. He was so soft!

Today’s Daily Post prompt asks us to share a quote that we return to again and again. Mine is “Every encounter is an encounter with yourself.” To me, that means that every creature you meet in life is a reflection of you. How you see them is a direct result of how you see yourself, and how you treat them says a lot about you.

I left to walk the Camino last October right after I’d been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I’d known for some time that things weren’t “right” with me, but I’d had trouble expressing it to others. I was locked inside myself in a way that I’d never been before. Walking in Spain was not a luxury – it was a necessity. I needed those long days in nature to help untangle my thoughts, and to start finding a way to love myself again. I needed the exercise to learn how strong I could be, and had always been. I needed the people that I met to learn how small the world really is, and how much love is available if we just open our hearts and minds to it.

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I met this sweet dog after a particularly sad encounter earlier that morning with a litter of sick kittens. We hung out for about a half an hour, and he kissed me the entire time. Definitely made my day better.

But I didn’t figure this out while I was walking. In fact, my mind was strangely blank for most of 30+ days I spent hoofing it through Spain. At times I despaired, in fear that I wasn’t “figuring IT out” – whatever IT was supposed to be. No matter what, though, every day on the trail I met at least one animal (sometimes more), and every time that happened I felt compelled to slow down, take a break, and shower that cat, dog, horse, etc. with love. I was lucky to be walking with people who understood that I needed this, and that they shouldn’t try to hurry me along when my animal encounter of the day happened along. It was moments like this that I most felt in tune with my favorite saint, St. Francis of Assisi. It started to dawn on me that his deep love for all creatures wasn’t just a symbol of his faith, but of mental health, and an understanding of our interconnectedness with all beings.

Camino Dog

There were so many starving and abused animals on the Camino, and it broke my heart. I saw this sweet lady looking in the window of a cafe, so my friend Jakob and I stopped to feed her our lunch rations. She was scared of Jakob, so we surmised she’d not been treated kindly by men. However, she let me pet her after a bit, and I made sure she ate until she was full. I worry about her still.

It was only after I’d gotten to Santiago de Compostela that I read the quote “Every encounter is an encounter with yourself” and it suddenly hit me that I’d been showering animals with the love I needed to feel. I needed that kind of unconditional caring, and I’d shown myself that I was capable of giving it to to my fellow creatures – so what was stopping me from doing the same for myself? It was a huge moment in my life, for many reasons. I suddenly felt such deep respect and love for my walking buddies who had intuitively known that I was in deep need of these love lessons, and helping me nurture that time each day. I felt an even greater love for the animals that I met along The Way, and for the lessons in acceptance that they’d taught me. Most of all, I could finally connect my ability to love others with what it should feel like to love myself. It’s a really big life lesson, and I’ll be working on it for the rest of my time here on the planet, but I’m so happy that it finally got through.

My current endeavor, The Hobbit Walk, is an extension of the lessons I learned on the Camino. Click through to find out how you can help.

Camino Cat

Pablo was one of the last Camino cats I met. He ran right up to us on the trail, so I sat down and cuddled him for awhile.

My Tribe

In answer to a question from The Great Work: Self-Knowledge and Healing Through the Wheel of the Year.

It wasn’t that long ago that I considered myself friendless, or nearly so. I was locked into an unhealthy long term relationship, and starting to feel the effects of a descent into serious anxiety issues. It was a really lonely time for me, as I struggled to understand how I’d gotten myself into this mess. I’d always been rather introverted (not really the life of the party), but never without a friend to talk to. In high school I was surrounded by dear friends, and in college I had two of the very best friends a girl could ask for. After college, I worked in the service industry and always had people around to hang out with or ask for advice. Plus, all of my friends from home were always just a phone call away.

When I moved to Chicago, I found myself surrounded by a large, close-knit group of people that I absolutely adored. So coming back to New Orleans and finding my social life dwindling down to nothing as my relationship fell apart was a shock. Especially once I started having anxiety attacks whenever the phone rang, no matter who was calling.

Fast forward a few years, and here I am, feeling pretty good about life. I don’t feel alone. I feel loved and supported, and while I do miss being near my best girlfriends (especially the best of the best), there’s a strong feeling that everything’s going to be OK. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I’m relatively sure my upswing is the result of seeking help for my anxiety and depression, as well as miraculously stumbling into a healthy, supportive relationship. I also started to take care of my health, and in doing so ended up finding a gym family whose support has definitely helped me see myself in a better light.

There are times when I’m jealous of the women I know who live close to their best girlfriends. They’ll always have someone to shop and gossip with, who will share DIY tips and never judge you for deciding to live in your yoga pants until summer (and maybe during summer, as well). I have a circle of women I love like sisters, and I am so lucky. But none of them live in New Orleans. There are other women here that I love and think highly of, but besties are just on a different tier. They’re my tribe. They’re the ones who didn’t raise an eyebrow when I told them I needed meds to even out while I tried to stop the all-day crying spells, and the ones that will be as psyched as I am about every new endeavor on my list. They’re the ones who call me when exciting things happen to them, and I love how my heart lights up when I hear their adventures. They’re the ones that I wanted to share my thoughts with as I walked the Camino, and the ones that I can instantly pick up with after years of only a quick “I love you” text every few months.

Things I Read Last Year

I don’t know if anyone’s keeping up with the reading list that I post each year, but just in case you’re interested in following strangers’ reading habits, I thought I’d make a record of last year’s reads. It’s mostly trade paperbacks and romance novels, but there are some surprises thrown in.

  1. Hollow City, by Ransom Riggs (1/3/15)
  2. Saga Volume #1, by Brian Vaughan & Fiona Staples (1/18/15)
  3. Saga Volume #2, by Brian Vaughan & Fiona Staples (1/18/15)
  4. Saga Volume #3, by Brian Vaughan & Fiona Staples (1/18/15)
  5. Saga Volume #4, by Brian Vaughan & Fiona Staples (1/20/15)
  6. 10% Happier, by Dan Harris (4/5/15)
  7. The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro (4/15/15)
  8. Mistress, by Amanda Quick (4/23/15)
  9. The Paid Companion, by Amanda Quick (4/24/15)
  10. Reckless, by Amanda Quick (4/25/15)
  11. Desire, by Amanda Quick (4/26/15)
  12. Midnight in Europe, by Alan Furst (4/29/15)
  13. The Angel Knight, by Susan King (5/2/15)
  14. The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami (5/7/15)
  15. The Avengers Mythos, by Paul Jenkins et al. (5/9/15)
  16. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon (5/10/15)
  17. Everything I Ever Wanted, by Jo Goodman (5/15/15)
  18. Natural Born Charmer, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (5/19/15)
  19. Hidden Things, by Doyce Testerman (5/26/15)
  20. The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion (5/27/15)
  21. A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness (6/5/15)
  22. Shadow of Night, by Deborah Harkness (6/9/15)
  23. The Book of Life, by Deborah Harkness (6/11/15)
  24. The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa (6/28/15)
  25. Library of Souls, by Ransom Riggs (10/5/15)
  26. The Dalai Lama’s Cat, by David Michie (11/18/15)
  27. Redshirts, by John Scalzi (11/18/15)
  28. The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin (11/18/15)
  29. How Miss Rutherford Got Her Groove Back, by Sophie Barnes (11/18/15)
  30. Rat Queens Volume 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth, by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc J. Upchurch, Stjepan Sejic (11/27/15)
  31. Sex Criminals Volume 2: Two Worlds, One Cop, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (11/27/15)
  32. The New Deadwardians, by Dan Abnett (11/29/15)
  33. Saga Volume #5, by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan (11/30/15)
  34. The Mister Trophy (The Markhat Files Book 1), by Frank Tuttle (12/1/15)
  35. Lost in Temptation, by Lauren Royal *17 behind

And because I’m such a big nerd, here’s a breakdown of the reading categories that took up most of my time last year:

2015ReadingList

I’m actually a little shocked to see that I only managed to read one historical fiction in 2015. Definitely need to work on that. I’m already reading a few different books on spiritual matters, so that’s going to be upped in 2016. What’s funny to me is that I still managed to read more sci fi and fantasy titles than romantic books (my category includes more than just romance novels, btw – it’s also books that are more serious but also revolve around a romantic premise, like The Rosie Project, an excellent book about an Australian college professor with Aspergers, and his search for love).

This new year is already shaping up to be the year of the trade paperback, if my current list predicates a continuing pattern. However, I’d really like to get a few new WWII books under my belt, as well as some Bernard Cornwell, and some more hefty fantasy and sci fi titles, like The Martian and The Magicians. Wish me luck!

 

Sauteed Kale & Carrots

Just cooked kale tonight, and miracle of miracles, the boyfriend actually went back for seconds! This was the first time in two years that he’s actually enjoyed a vegetable that I’ve prepared, so I definitely don’t want to lose this recipe. I should note that I was kind of winging it as I threw it all together. The carrots end up adding a little sweetness, and the crunchiness of the bacon slices adds a really nice texture to the otherwise wilted veggies.

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 2 carrots, julienned (I just used a peeler to make slivers, since I’m lazy)
  • 2 to 3 cups of kale, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Bragg’s Amino Acids
  • crushed red pepper

Steps

Heat large saute pan on high. Chop bacon, and when pan is hot, toss the bacon in. Let it fry for a bit. Once the bacon starts to turn a little brown and the fat is starting to cover the bottom of the pan, add the carrots. Toss a few times, then add the kale. Toss the kale, bacon, and carrots to get the bacon fat distributed evenly, then put a lid on the pot to allow the kale to wilt. I like to keep the pan hot and just keep an eye on it as the kale wilts, using a spatula or wooden spoon to turn the kale mixture a couple of times. As the kale wilts, the volume of ingredients in the pan will start to decrease. Add the Bragg’s Amino Acids and as much crushed red pepper as you like (or none if you don’t like spicy). Turn the heat down and let simmer for a few more minutes, then you’re ready to eat!

Disclaimer: I am not a chef. In fact, I can barely cook. If you like this recipe, great! If you think it could use improvements, and decide to use it to make your own recipe, also great! If you don’t like it and want to complain, or ask why yours didn’t turn out tasty, please don’t bother. I won’t be able to help you. Good luck in your kitchen endeavors, and remember to keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case you end up catching things on fire as often as I do😀