Practicing Gratitude on a 16-Degree Day

My friend Brianne over at BS in the Midwest just published a gratitude list, and I thought I’d borrow her idea. It’s been a rough past few months and this is a good exercise to focus on what I’m thankful for instead of the woe-is-me stuff.

One-on-one yoga classes

My work brings in a yoga teacher once a week. It’s one of the most amazing perks. The class is open to all staff, but I was the only one who showed last week. So I got a private yoga session, 100% tailored to the stuff I needed to work on. It was super great.

New skeeson

After months of hearing my friend Jess go on and on about how much she loved The Chicago Skeeball League, I finally signed up last skeeson. Iit was a lot of fun (even though I was pretty bad.) The next skeeson starts up this week, and I am starting to see why Jess is so into this. About half the teams that participate on our night are friends or friends of friends. As an adult, it’s rare that you get to see so many friends all in one place so regularly. Plus, I’m getting better and hope to actually compete this time instead of consistently scoring low.

Cooking at home

Jake and I started cooking together a lot more thanks to Blue Apron, a meal-delivery service. Every week they deliver us a box of ingredients for 3 dinners. We chop everything up, follow the recipes and enjoy a (usually) delicious we-made-it-ourselves dinner. As my freelance network has been slowly but surely building, I’ve been looking for ways to streamline life tasks since there are only so many hours in the day. Not only do Jake and I cook together more, I’ve been able to completely cut out the meal planning, grocery list making, and grocery shopping that previously sucked up a significant amount of time each week.

New freelance clients

Though it’s taken some self-discipline, I’ve gotten to the point where I will not accept just any client, but only clients that are a good fit for my interests or professional goals.

I started writing for a website that covers news about women in tech. I’m huge into women’s career equality and totally drank the Sheryl Sandberg Lean In Kool-Aid, so I’m happy to lend my skills to a site that champions women.

I’ll also occasionally be reviewing Chicago hotels. Travel writing has always been one of my passions, so I’m glad I get to pick that back up and experience my own city like a local.

Good hair

As a low-maintenance kind of girl, I’m not really “into” hair. But thanks to the recommendation of a friend, I found a stylist who truly understands both my personality and distaste for spending more than 3 minutes on my hair each morning, then gave me a hairstyle to match.

It’s the easiest, breeziest haircut I’ve ever had, and I always get compliments on my hair— even though all I do is go to Magen every seven weeks and she does all the work.

Running water and a warm apartment

This Chicago winter has been one of the worst. A water pipe in our building froze and burst on Christmas Eve, so they had to shut off the water for two days until it was repaired. This happened again a few days ago. Being without water for a few days or hours made me appreciate that I had it at all. I’m also thankful that our heat works just fine, especially on those -40 degree windchill days.

Libby the cat

I can’t believe that my cat is 20 years old. Every day I’m thankful that this little furball is still around to cuddle with or try to sneakily steal my cheese (she loves dairy just as much as I do.) I’m so lucky to have a pet that has lived this long.

You have pets. You get it. She’s a good friend.

Good snow boots

Never have I appreciated my Sorrel boots more than during this long, icky winter of endless snow and below-zero temps.

Why Juice Is Not My Religion

Every time I see a Groupon for a juice cleanse, I pause. “Hmm…” I think to myself, “Seems like a good deal. Should I do it? Maybe just the three-day one?”

I never commit.

Because there’s something about juicing that I just can’t get behind.

Image: Various juices, fruits, and veggies

A recent New York Magazine article Juice Heads: How the Newest Liquid-Nutrition Cultists Are Mastering Their Intestines unfolds many of the layers in these beet-ginger-carrot-lemon-parsley elixirs. Mostly, author Vanessa Grigoriadis describes juicing as a religion, right down to part where you deny yourself indulgences that could derail you from your spiritual path:

Read more at Chicago Athletic Clubs

I Quit Something This Week, and It Felt Awesome

I recently had an epiphany when I came across this post on The Rule Breaker’s Club. I need to quit. Just one thing.

It’s time to stop getting wrapped up in my own silly stress over nothing.

It’s time to stop trying to convince myself I enjoy something that I really despise.

It’s time to quit something I hate once and for good!

Writing in Red Marker: I QUIT!!

This sounds really easy, right?

Well, not really. I am really bad at quitting. Part of me thinks it builds character. Sometimes not quitting is good, like in the case of running a marathon. But other times, refusing to quit just totally gets in the way of my goals.

I have a lot of things I want to do, but so little time to do all of them. For example, I’ve already mentioned that this month I’d like to add one more hour of yoga to my week. But for me to do that, I gotta get rid of something else. Because I don’t really have an extra unused hour floating around each week — does anyone?

I don’t need to create another hour though. I can take back an hour. I probably do spend an hour each week on something I don’t need to be doing. I’m not talking about washing dishes, paying bills, or doing the other normal life stuff you gotta do regardless of if you don’t feel like it or not. I’m talking about the stuff you choose to do, but then turn around and pretend those things are obligations, not choices.

So I started wondering: What can I quit?

Maybe something that was fun when I started doing it, but has grown to be a pain. Maybe something I know I don’t get joy from, but I’ve invested so much time in it that I feel obligated to stick with it. Maybe something I come home and whine about, then I hear, “Well then why are you still doing it?” Seriously. Good point.

Yes, there’s definitely a thing or two that I could quit. More yoga, less of that thing I don’t even like doing! What a brilliant idea!


Monthly Check-In: Goodbye October, Hello November

I was recently introduced to Jessica Lawlor, who writes the Get Gutsy blog. I love her Monthly Check-In posts, so I’ve decided to be a copycat and do the same myself. Each month, she shares three things she’s accomplished in the previous month and three things she is excited about or hoping to accomplish in the month ahead.

So here it goes!

In October I…

1. Finally succeeded at (kinda) nailing an unassisted handstand

I’ve been halfheartedly trying — and failing — to get my legs over my head and stand on my hands for way too long. Over the last month, I became a lot more determined.

It’s not like one day I couldn’t do a handstand, then the next day I could. It was an extremely gradual process. Each time I set my yoga mat and mind up for this, I’d inch my feet a bit closer to the wall. And one week, that one inch away happened to be the wall. And that was that.

What’s funny about this accomplishment is that it doesn’t feel like one. In true Betsy form, I’m not satisfied with my progress. My work is not yet done for me to feel proud.

Even though I couldn’t do this a month ago, and even though standing upside down while leaning against a wall still requires tons of strength, my handstands need a lot of improvement — like doing one without the help of a wall, for example. So that’s the next step.

First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.

2. Went on a guilt-free vacation

I’m pretty frugal. And I’m pretty healthy. I bike to work and usually bring my own lunch, cook at home a lot, and hit the gym quite a bit.

When Jake and I visited San Francisco at the end of last month, I vowed that I’d not be too cheap and that I’d eat everything and anything.

I did a great job at this. I took cabs. I paid full-price for a shirt. I ate every cheese board in site. I ordered extra sushi rolls because they were just so tasty and I wanted to. By the end of the trip, I felt pretty gross. And I definitely spent more money in that week than I would at home.

But I felt happy. For once, I wasn’t too overly concerned with cutting costs and eating vegetables. It was nice to treat my vacation like a vacation and let some of those things go.

But I’m also glad to be back to my old routine. It’s nice to be back in the bike saddle.

3. Tried to focus on friend things

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a pretty scheduled life. Most of that involves work, volunteer obligations, or some class at the gym. I enjoy all these things, and I don’t plan on cutting my dedication to any of these activities.

But what I’ve been working on lately is dedicating just as much time to friends as these other obligations. That’s why I joined my friend Jess’ skeeball league, made a date to can pickles and jams with some friends in October, and have been trying to add more lunch dates and coffee dates to my busy schedule. Friendships are important! And nurturing those friendships is just as important as nurturing my career or physical health.

In November I will…

1. Calm down my brain more

I suffer from not being able to turn off my brain. My thoughts are constantly running a million miles a minute.

For example, my writerly self analyzes the grammar and clarity on every single bus ad and restaurant menu that crosses my path. I simply want to make every sentence I see better. Meanwhile, I listen to a gazillion podcasts. And I’m always churning through ideas of blog posts I want to write or projects I want to try.

So to protect myself from my go-getter and driven self, I need to turn this brain of mine off more. An hour a week or so more. That’s why I plan to add one more yoga class to my schedule each week.

I think my brain will thank me!

2. Declutter my apartment and live with less

I’m committing November to getting rid of unnecessary stuff that’s physically cluttering my apartment and making me feel cramped. A clothing and shoe purge is in order and our back storage space could use some organizing. I’ve put off doing this for awhile because it’s such a huge task. But I figure if I do a little bit here and a little bit there this month, I can finish November strong with a less cluttered life!

3. Finally type like an adult

This one’s pretty embarrassing. I never learned to type properly. I think what may have happened is that I liked writing typing words so much that I couldn’t be bothered with the slow, mechanical process of learning proper finger placement.

Considering how many hours my fingers spend over a keyboard each day and how many words I crank out each week, this is certainly slowing me down.

In my down time, I’ve started to take online tutorials and my typing is getting a bit better (that is, when I remember to focus on it). I am going to keep up with it and try my very hardest to be patient and I hope that by the end of this month, my poor typing will be a thing of the past.

The Zombies Don’t Care About Your Numbers

Woman Running from Zombies Illustration

Apps that track your daily nutritional intake down to the very calorie. Scales that spit out your weight to the tenth of a pound, plus your body fat and BMI. The running app that generates your exact pace and distance covered, then speaks it to you every five minutes. Every day you strive to be faster, stronger, and fitter than the day before.

And when the zombie apocalypse beings, none of your numbers will matter.

Read more at Chicago Athletic Clubs