Friday, December 27, 2013

You, Me, and Depression Make Three.

On a Saturday in December a 19 year old kid hanged himself in his a garage.  By all accounts, he was a happy teenager, with a sparkling personality, loving parents and siblings, and tons of friends.  I didn't know him, but I do know his struggle...

Recently, on social media, I have come across some rather disheartening opinions and comments about depression and suicide.

And it's made me want to reach out in any way that I can-- so here is this blog.  It won't reach many people, but it may reach some.

There's a video circulating--a TED talk that's pretty insightful, and I'd definitely suggest you watch it if you have a minute.  (Find it here).  It's got some great insight about the way in which depression is taboo in our society-- many people don't understand it, are scared of it, or are embarrassed by it.

The embarrassment, I think, comes from a lack of knowledge or understanding about depression-- those who don't have it don't understand it (why can't this person just cheer up and make him or herself feel better like I do when I'm sad?), and those who do have it don't understand it (why can't I just feel better?), and the lack of understanding and sympathy/compassion just goes from there.

WebMD lists several causes of depression-- 
  • Abuse. Past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can cause depression later in life.
  • Certain medications. For example, some drugs used to treat high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers or reserpine, can increase your risk of depression.
  • Conflict. Depression may result from personal conflicts or disputes with family members or friends.
  • Death or a loss. Sadness or grief from the death or loss of a loved one, though natural, can also increase the risk of depression.
  • Genetics. A family history of depression may increase the risk. It's thought that depression is passed genetically from one generation to the next. The exact way this happens, though, is not known.
  • Major events. Even good events such as starting a new job, graduating, or getting married can lead to depression. So can moving, losing a job or income, getting divorced, or retiring.
  • Other personal problems. Problems such as social isolation due to other mental illnesses or being cast out of a family or social group can lead to depression.
  • Serious illnesses. Sometimes depression co-exists with a major illness or is a reaction to the illness.
  • Substance abuse. Nearly 30% of people with substance abuse problems also have major or clinical depression.

For the most part, I think most of us can understand many of these types of depression.  It doesn't seem abnormal for someone who is ill or who has experienced a major life event or conflict to be depressed.  It's certainly not unusual for someone who has lost a loved one to become depressed.

But, the cause I'd like to focus on is Genetics-- how depression can be passed from generation to generation, though no one really knows how or why.  This is the type of depression I want to talk about-- why?  Well, because it's the type of depression from which I suffer.

In his TED talk, Kevin Breel talks about the kind of depression that isn't "normal" to those who have never lived with depression.  To society, it's normal to be depressed when someone dies, or if we don't get a promotion at work, or when we perform poorly on an exam in school. But, there's another type of depression that is completely stigmatized in society: the "I'm depressed for no reason," depression.  This is the type of depression where everything in your life is fine-- or good, or fantastic--and you're still depressed.

So many times people will ask 'Why?  Why are you depressed?'  And a lot of times?  There is no 'reason.'  I just am.

This is the type of depression I have struggled with my entire life. Or, at least, for a very, very long time.  Even when there has been nothing wrong in my life, I have gone through times where it has been really hard for me to even get out of bed.

In face-to-face conversation, on Facebook, on Twitter, on blogs, I have seen so many people belittle depression-- they say it's for the weak, for people who just don't know how to move on, that they could get over it if they really wanted.  

People have expressed to me on numerous occasions that they don't really get depression.  

And, now, it's time for me to tell you that you're talking about me when you say these things-- and you always have been.

I'm not weak, I know how to move on, and let me tell you that there is nothing I'd rather do than "just get over it" when I'm depressive. And, yeah, I don't really get depression, either.  

Or, there's the question: how did his/her family and friends not know that this person was depressed enough to take his/her own life?

We always think we know what depression looks like.  It's the sad person, standing off from the crowd.  It's the person who never smiles, who never quite looks you in the eye.  Yes, sometimes, this is what depression looks like.  But, also, and often, depression also looks like the person who is always cracking jokes, who seems to be fairly comfortable in his or her own skin, the one smiling genuinely and looking you straight in the eye.  So, there's the question: how did you not know?

And the answer goes something like this:  When you're a depressed person, you often become very adept at hiding it.  A lot of this probably has to do with the way depression is treated in this society--as something only for the weak, as weakness in general.

And when I hear this--when I hear that people question how no one saw that someone who committed suicide was depressed--I think of myself.  I think of myself in high school (particularly around my senior year), and of myself in college (end of my junior year), and how no one really knew just how depressed I was.  

In college, my poetry teacher gave me a nickname-- "Happy."  And sometimes, I thought about killing myself.

Depression isn't weakness.  It's another way of being-- and until we stop perpetuating these stereotypes, people are going to be too scared and too embarrassed to seek the help that they actually need, or just talk about it in general.

So many times in my life I've been told what a bright personality I have, or how funny I am, or that I bring a sense of light to a situation-- and so many of those times I've been depressive, thinking about suicide, or not really caring whether I lived or died. And no one knew.  

And, as long as you go around perpetuating the stereotype that there is something wrong with being depressed, or with depressed people, I hate to break it to you, but you're part of the problem.

Yes, I am lucky, I am bound to amazing people in my life (my parents) who have always [sometimes unbeknownst even to them] pulled me back from those dark thoughts--and how thankful I am for them.

So, instead of attacking the depressed, or people who commit suicide, and their families for "not knowing," why don't we actively try to create a discourse?  To find ways of talking about depression in language that isn't hurtful or minimizing?  Don't judge-- instead, do your part to create a safe space, and a safe society so that people who suffer from depression (and believe me, we do suffer) can maybe take steps to get better without feeling embarrassed.

Friday, December 13, 2013

My Blog is Better Than Yours

What is with this [seemingly] new trend on social media with everyone claiming that they have the BEST of something?

It can be anything--  
"I have the BEST iPad case!"  
"I have the BEST coffee mug!"
"I have the BEST job!"
"I have the BEST fruit stand by my work!"

But, it's often people--
"I have the BEST friend!"
"I have the BEST dog/cat/rat/turtle!"
"I have the BEST husband!"
"I have the BEST mom!"
"I have the BEST dad!"

And so on, and on, and on, and on.  I've been seeing this a LOT lately... and the former stuff (worldly possessions, etc.) just makes me roll my eyes.  Although, honestly, I'm pretty sure that you do not have the BEST job because I saw this guy, and he creates ice cream flavors for Ben & Jerry's.  Like, that's his job-- so I'm pretty sure HIS is the best, but whatever.  You're happy, and you love your job, that's so great!

It's the second category that really, really irks me.  Chances are, if your parents were around, weren't abusive, and were generally good to you, and you have a good relationship with them, you think that they're the best parents ever.  Same with husbands, wives, friends, pets, etc.  We probably all think this (or, at least, we should).  I do, too.  

But, there's a difference between thinking it, or even telling the people you love that they are the BEST x, y, or z, and using it as a form of leverage or bragging to your friends.  From the time I was little, I've told my mom she was the best mommy in the entire world.  There was a point in my life where I said it to her every single night before I went to bed. But, I didn't go to school and tell all my friends, "Guys, I have the BEST mom in the whole world!" which is what people are doing on social media these days.

And there's a reason I never did that-- why I haven't done that, not in those words, and it is this:  By saying you have best mom in the entire world, you're saying that your mom is better than everyone else's-- better than mine, better than your boyfriend's, better than EVERYONE'S MOTHER.  By saying you have the best husband in the world, you're saying he is better than EVERY OTHER HUSBAND in the entire world-- including your own father (who I know, I know, is better than mine, you posted about it last week).

Which brings me to the actual heart of this blog.  I suppose the whole 'best' thing can be overlooked-- people are excited about each other, that's fabulous.  The following, however, cannot be overlooked.  It's the "my ____ is better/hotter/cuter/sweeter/more amazing than yours!"  To which I reply a resounding "REALLY?!??!?"

Sometimes, there's a reason the poster needs to tell me that whatever he/she has is better than what I have.
"My mom is better than yours because _______"
"My mom is cooler than yours because _______"

Sometimes, they're just stating it as a fact.
"My dad is better than yours."
"My best friend is better than yours."
"My mom is better than yours."

Yeah, well, my manners are better than yours.

No, but really, WHAT IS THIS?  Seriously? This trend really gets to me.  Why do we need the people in our lives to be BETTER than the people in everyone else's?  Why can't we just be thankful that we have a wonderful brother, sister, mother, father, husband, wife, friend, niece, nephew?  Why are we comparing ourselves (in a way that is unkind, by the way) to everyone else like this, and making sure that they know 'Hey, mine is better!'?  (Worldly possessions I could take, but people? That's just crossing the proverbial line).

Maybe I'm just overly sensitive-- okay, I know I am, but it upsets me when people do this, and I have some pretty wonderful people in my life.  So, I can't even begin to imagine how people who do not have these things might feel when they read this.  It basically just rubs everyone else's face in it (particularly those who do not have a wonderful mother, father, etc. present in their lives).  

Is this just an American thing?  Is it related to the ways in which society tells us time and time again that we must compete with each other for the best job, car, house, spouse, kid, boat, etc.?  I'm not sure, because pretty much all of my friends on Facebook are American, and people on Twitter (at least those with whom I associate) don't use Twitter for these sorts of things, so I have no idea if this phenomenon is strictly American, or if other nationalities engage in the age-old "My X is better than yours." And, it doesn't really matter (I know what you're thinking: My country is better than yours!... yeah, yeah, move along...)

Whatever it is, this really upsets me, and on more than one occasion I've had to restrain myself from saying something rude to the poster.  It's this inherent sense of defensiveness I feel for those I love-- especially my parents.  Now, I've started saying something like "I'm glad you got the best dad for you!"  And I am, I'm really glad you have this amazing paternal presence in your life-- that's amazing for you!  But, you don't need to go around telling everyone that your paternal presence is better than theirs-- he may be, but that's not really the point.  The point is: you're being a jerk.  And you should stop.

So, what to say, instead?  I've started saying things like "I couldn't ask for a better mom," or "If I could choose, I'd choose her." [when speaking about my amazing mother].  This way, the sentiment gets across: I love my mom, and she's absolutely fabulous, but I also respect that you probably feel the same about your mother.

And if this is a problem, I am glad it is this problem-- I am glad that people are rejoicing about the wonderful things and people they have in their lives.  I just wish they would rejoice differently.  More respectfully.  Because things that are said off-the-cuff can cause pain, or anger, or hurt, or jealousy--and why would you want to use your joys for that?

And, you may be right, person on Facebook who said "My life is better than yours" to all of your 800 friends-- you may be right!  Your life may be 1,000 times better than mine, or 10,000 times better than mine!  Or, maybe mine is better than yours by that much, or only 5 times-- the point is: we don't know.  We cannot sit here and measure this stuff.  It's the only stuff in life, it seems, we CAN'T measure.  It is literally unquantifiable--so, why try?  We can measure salaries, and the equity in a house or a car or a boat, but we can't measure whose life, family, and friendships are better... it's impossible.  And, rather than trying, don't you think we should just all be grateful?

I'm grateful for my amazing family, dog, boyfriend, friends--even YOU, o boastful one--and I'm grateful that you're thankful for things in your life, too.  But stop trying to rub it in my face, it takes some of the value and beauty away.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Holiday Gift Buying Guide

If the stores are any indication, the Holiday Season is definitely upon us! Although, if the stores are the rulers by which we measure, the Holidays have been upon us since the beginning of October, which is when I began seeing that Christmas pig Target has for sale this season.  (I want it!)

If you're like me, you made your shopping list in October, and have been steadily picking up gifts throughout the season to avoid stress on your mind and on your wallet.  If you're like me in past seasons, you haven't even started shopping yet, and only have a vague idea of what you'd like to get your loved ones this holiday season.

I really do love shopping for other people--if I had more money, I would buy really elaborate/fancy gifts.  Unfortunately for all my family and close friends, I do not.  For me, gifts are a way I can show someone I care about that I understand or know them--that I think about them, and value that person as an individual in my life.  Sure, I do pick up gift cards for Christmas presents, too, but that also says something--more along the lines of "I wanted to get you something you really like."

I know many people are very anti-gift card, but truthfully, when it comes right down to it, I'd rather get you a gift card that you can use to buy or eat something you actually like or enjoy, as opposed to stabbing in the dark and getting you something you end up tossing or re-gifting this or next holiday season.

And many others say 'it's the thought that counts,' which is true.  I'm always touched when I receive a gift form someone, even if it's not something I actually like or will use.  It's nice that they thought of me and went through the trouble of getting me a present.

But, truth be told, I absolutely LOVE finding gifts that people will actually use or enjoy, or gifts that people need.  That is much more preferable to me than someone getting a gift that he or she doesn't really like.

With that in mind, I've comprised a list of cool, unique gifts that you or your loved ones might be interested in this holiday season!  They're all from the same online website, so look now, and take into account the shipping delay!

I've included inexpensive gifts, as well as moderately priced and expensive gifts, in the hopes that I will have included a little something for everyone (after all, what you get your mom isn't likely going to be comparable price-wise to what you get your coworker). Most of the things I've found were for women, but some can definitely be used for the right male in your life as well!

Each selection has a description, price, and link to where to buy it in the caption underneath the photograph!

Happy Holidays, and Happy Shopping!


Table Topics Dinner Party
$25
Get it here!

The Tea Towel
$14
Get it here!

Family Glassware
$12/each
Get them here!
DJ Cat Scratching Pad
$35
Get one here!
Wooden Six Pack Drink Tote
$39.99
Get it here!
Stitch the Stars Calendar
$25
Get one here!
Write On Watch
$18/set of 3
Get them here!

What Dogs Love Throw
$40
Get it here!



Recycled Glass Tree Globes
$45 each
Get them here!
Shark Socks
$9
Get a pair here!
Personalized Love Birch Cuff
$100
Personalize one here!
Cat and Dog Bottle Toppers
$12/each
Get one here!
New Dog Kit
$25
Get it here!
Winnie the Pooh Quote Pillows
$56/ea.
Choose one here!
Unzipped Glass Zipper Bag
$16.25
Get it here!
Fortune Keeper Key Chains
$24/ea
Choose one here!
Bad Dog Tumblers
$35 for set of 4
Get them here!
Latitude Longitude Pendant
$150
Get it here!
She Believed She Could Ring
$78
Get it here!
Ninja Umbrella
$24
Get it here!
Story of the Earth (set of 7)
$32 for set
Get them here!
Live Well Earrings
$36
Get a pair here!
Toast Costers
$10 (set of 8)
Get them here!


Caterpillar Bud Vase
$18
Get one here!
Reclaimed T-Shirt Scarf
$24
Get one here!
Upcycled Mail Sack Pouches
$14/ea.
Get it here!
Traveler's Soap
$8
Get it here!
DIY Lip Balm Set
$40
Get it here!
DIY Bath Salt Kit
$40
Get one here!
Upcycled Cotton Sari Robe
$58
Get it here!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

November


Ah, November.  You have arrived with your blustery winds, your falling leaves, your lovely crisp scent.  And, yes, I can experience all of these things even though I live in California, with its mild temperament and nearly non-existent seasons.  I love it.

Thanksgiving will soon be upon us, and I will gladly stuff my face with turkey, stuffing, mac and cheese, and a various assortment of pies and other desserts.

But, do you know what else is upon us?  The dreaded 'Post One Thing You're Thankful For Every Single Day on Facebook Challenge.'  Or, as I like to call it, the 'Annoy the Ever-Living Hell Out of Your Facebook Friends Extravaganza.'

It's not that I begrudge people their thankfulness, not at all.  On the contrary, I am glad people are thankful for things...you might even say that I'm thankful that they are thankful.

But, we are ever-increasingly doing our best (or worst) to blend the public and the private, until the two are virtually indistinguishable. I love Facebook--it allows me to keep in touch (phone-phobe that I am) with so many people that I probably would never have spoken to again if it weren't for this little invention.  (That, by the way, is no reflection on said individuals, merely a reflection upon myself and the ways in which I do not particularly enjoy communicating). That being said, I don't think that I should have to read about what each and every one of them is thankful for without actively choosing to do so.

Basically, I think that instead of reading the 30 things Hannah is thankful for (I don't actually have any friends named Hannah, so don't bother looking), which clogs up my news feed along with everything Prue, Phoebe, and Piper are thankful for, I should have to actively choose to do so (more than likely, I sometimes would choose this, by the way).

In other words, I think Hannah should get a blog.  And every day, she should write what she is thankful for in that blog, and every week, she should post a link to that blog.  That way, I get to choose whether or not I want to read the latest 7 things Hannah is thankful for, or whether I'd rather skip that and scroll through my news feed to see what everyone is having for lunch, or what their super cute kids are up to for the day/week/month.

I've never taken part in this "challenge," largely because I find it arbitrary, but also because for some reason, I find it annoying (perhaps because I find it arbitrary?).  I even hid one person who did it last year (don't worry, I un-hid you as soon as December hit!).

Well, I take part of that back--one year, I posted on November 30th, that I was thankful that I wouldn't have to read about everyone else's thankfulness anymore.

I don't mean to be a scrooge or a grinch, I just mean to say: I like staying in touch with you!  Truly, I do.  I like seeing what you're up to, looking at your pets, your kids, and debating with you.  I just don't like 8 million posts every day about how you're thankful for your juicer. :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Survey

Hey, guys!  I found this over at my good friend Mindy's blog (www.mindytrue.wordpress.com), and thought I'd go ahead and do it too, book-lover that I am!
Author you’ve read the most books from: I think this would honestly probably be Anne M. Martin.  I was obsessed with the Baby Sitter's Club Little Sister books when I was 8 & 9.  That, or Lurlene McDaniel (Sixteen and Dying, etc.) as a pre-teen. 
Best Sequel Ever: You know, I'm not really one that's into series that much--I guess Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
Currently Reading: Insurgent by Veronica Roth.
Drink of Choice While Reading: Same as my drink of choice whilst doing anything: Diet Coke.
E-reader or Physical Book? Physical book.  Though, I do love my Nook and its convenience.
Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Gonna stick with Mindy on this one and say a male Nicholas Sparks character.
Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  I haven't read all of the HP books, but I did like this one, and I'm sure I'll read them all someday.
Hidden Gem Book: Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman. 
Important Moment in your Reading Life: The House of Mirth.  I finished it in the bathtub my Freshman year of high school, and I just started sobbing.  I would go on to write a 60 page honors thesis about the novel.
Just Finished: Divergent by Veronica Roth.
Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: Don't really care for non-fiction that much, unless it's something I'm already interested in.  Not really a fan of mysteries or science fiction, either.
Longest Book You’ve Read: Not including poetry: Seven Types of Ambiguity (640 pages).
Major book hangover because of: Seven Types of Ambiguity.  It took me so long to read this book (I mean, years) because it kept getting to me--it was too poignant and powerful.  So, when I finally finished, I was taken aback.
Number of Bookcases You Own: One giant one, and one little one.  We also need more.
One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: The House of Mirth.
Preferred Place To Read: In the bathtub.
Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feelings from a book you’ve read: "We either forgive one another who we really are / or not."
Reading Regret: Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski I hated, hated, haaaated this book.  I didn't actually finish it, but I hated the fact I even bought it and attempted to read it.
Series You Started And Need To Finish(all books are out in series): Matched series, I guess.  Though... I don't know if I need to finish.
Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: Seven Types of Ambiguity (I'm sure you saw that one coming) by Elliot Perlman, The House of Mirth (and that one) by Edith Wharton, and Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.
Unapologetic Fangirl For: Cinna in The Hunger Games.
Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others: The next Elliot Perlman release, I guess.
Worst Bookish Habit: I stockpile books. I currently have about 15 books waiting to be read. Might be a bit obsessive. Or prepared, depending on how you look at it. (Going to keep Mindy's answer here, as I also do this).
X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: Why We Broke Up by Mark Handler.
Your latest book purchase: I Could Chew On This (and other poems by dogs).
ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Art of Moderation...

The Art of Moderation, or Why I Do Not Deprive Myself Too Much or Push Myself Too Hard

Hi, my name is Natalie, and I have high blood pressure.

Whew.  Felt good to get that off my chest.

I'm 27, so this whole high blood pressure thing is not good, to say the absolute least.  It runs in my family on both sides--my mom and dad both have high blood pressure.  I'm sure the fact that I've gained a little weight doesn't help, either, but even before that happened, I had high blood pressure every time I went to the doctor.

Part of it, I'm sure, is the cuff they put around my arm--how tightly it has to squeeze definitely stresses me out.  Plus, being in a doctor's office for any reason is definitely not fun--I can feel myself start to get so nervous that I begin to feel sick to my stomach, though I'm not even really sure why.  Nothing THAT bad has ever even happened to me at the doctor's office.  I'm just a weirdo, I guess.

When they take it manually, it's lower--but, still high.  Just not AS high.

Anyway, for months now, I've been saying I'm going to do this and that, but let's be real for a second: it's hard.  It's really, really hard to eat healthier, exercise more, and generally be healthier.  And it's ESPECIALLY hard when you work night shift, like I do.  Most people can go home after work and cook a nice meal (even though they're tired).  I can't do that.  I don't get home until 1am, sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little later, and the last thing I want to do is cook.  On top of that, you're not even really supposed to eat after 7, 8, or 9 or whatever the rule is anymore.

So, a few months ago, I found myself eating out a lot--it's convenient, and although it's not cheaper, it's definitely a time-saver.  I've definitely cut back on that in the last two months, though, and instead I've been turning more to frozen meals which are cheaper and also more convenient.

But, I've not deluded myself into thinking that these packaged meals are healthy.  Not by a long shot.  I'm well aware that they are terrible for you--the overly processed food from a box that sits in the freezer for months can't be good for your body, not to mention that most of these frozen meals pack in the sodium to make up for a lack of taste.

So, despite the fact that I've only been (usually) eating a frozen meal a day, and a few snacks or sandwiches for lunch (also packed with sodium in the form of lunch meat), I haven't really committed to a low-sodium lifestyle, which I think I really need to do if I want to get healthier and be able to have a child someday.

But, that is gradually changing.  Last week, when looking through Ye Olde Internet for some low-sodium snack options, I came across this blog (www.SodiumGirl.com) with which I was totally unfamiliar.  I spent a bit browsing the page, looking at some recipes, and then decided to order her cook book through Barnes and Noble.

Then, I decided to try and take this a little more seriously.  I went to the gym Friday - Sunday, and am planning on making that a regular thing that I do.  It's weird because by Sunday, my stamina running was already improving.  I was able to run a 12:43 mile, which isn't very impressive, but the previous two days, I was hovering around 14 minutes, closer to 15.

The cookbook arrived yesterday, and I went through and wrote down some ingredients I'll need, and am planning on getting them this Sunday, then making a meal plan.

Sodium Girl's story is actually pretty incredible (not to mention inspiring!)-- she went into complete renal failure, she was on a transplant list and everything, and then she decided to really make a change for the better, and she was taken off the transplant list, and her kidneys pretty much revived themselves.  She studied low-sodium diets, made a habit of reading labels in the store, and has really turned things around.

When I ordered her cookbook, I didn't know this story-- I didn't know that she completely changed her life like that.  I find this feat pretty amazing, actually, and I hope it continues to serve as an inspiration to me to do better, to be healthier.

My first step is to try to stop the excuses-- I've been giving myself them for months (Oh, I can't go to the gym because I'll be too tired, or Cash will be sad, or I'm too sore from going yesterday).  Or, the excuses for why I can't cook (I work night shift, I don't have time, heating stuff up in the microwave causes the nutrients to be destroyed) etc., etc., etc.  I'm gradually giving myself fewer excuses, and one day I hope to not have any.

I'm going to have cheat days-- at least right now.  I have to.  Hence the title of this blog-- the short explanation of the blog title is this: I know Me.  

The long answer is that pushing myself too hard at the gym, or depriving myself completely of things I love (In-N-Out, movie theater popcorn) won't work. It just won't.  Not for me right now.  So, I have to start small.  I have to make healthier choices when I feel I can-- I have to deprive myself when I feel I can, and not when I feel that I can't.  And, so, that's what I've been trying to do this week.  I'm snacking on almonds (raw, unsalted) and craisins (0mg of sodium) as I write this, and when my boyfriend and I went to the movies on Sunday, we shared a medium popcorn instead of a large.  

Doesn't sound like much, but it adds up-- and, I'm confident I'll get there someday, and hopefully soon.

Until then, I will continue to make healthier choices when I can, and to not deprive myself of too much, too soon.  I will continue going to the gym, and trying to be more active, but I won't kill myself when I go--I'll do what I can, and push myself to do a little more than that, but not tons more.  At least, not right now.  

Truthfully, my will to do this is still a little fragile--but, the good news is that I get that, understand it, and am not ashamed of it! Which means that I might really be able to do it this time.

If you're doing any diet restrictions/exercise plans, leave me a comment and let me know! I could use some moral support. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

All Hallow's Eve... One of my favorite days of the year-- the chill in the air, the cool breeze, the smell...

I LOVE the smell of Halloween.  I don't even know how to put it into words to accurately describe it, but there is something so personal about it for me--the smell of Halloween just lingering in the air tugs at my heartstrings.

I have always been fascinated by how scent is so very much tied to our memories.  I'm sure I'll write a post about it in the future, in fact.  But, for Halloween especially, scent is tied to my memory.  I don't know if it's the smell of fire in the air as it mingles with the dampness that is usually present in the evenings on Halloween in California, but it just makes me feel happy--and very, very nostalgic.

From a very early age I remember loving Halloween.  I would get so excited for days in advance--perhaps even weeks (months? Mom, help me out?).  Then, the day would finally (finally!) arrive.  The family would come over, my mom would make chili (which as The World's Pickiest Eater I would not eat, but no matter), and cornbread (which I would eat) and my cousin and I would go trick-or-treating after we took pictures in front of the fireplace showcasing our adorableness-- (see below evidence of cousin Chad as a baseball player, and me as a bunny).  I just remember being... happy.  So happy that everyone was together, that we would all walk around the neighborhood, and I'd get free candy, and people would tell me what a cute bunny or bumblebee I was.


Cousin Chad and Little Me circa 1989(?)

It was just happy-- so much so that thinking about it now makes me sort of sad.  I guess I feel sad in the way that only nostalgia can make us sad. In a way that makes me want to go back to those days, when everything was simpler and the problems I faced were so small, the heartbreaks so little ("I got Smarties again?! I HATE Smarties!")

It's funny how often some of our memories do that-- take the good, and leave the bad.  I know my family fought sometimes on Halloween, but I don't remember that--not really.  I just remember the smell of fall in the air, fireplaces burning, and holding my Mom's hand as we walked from house to house.

Fast forward to Halloween 2013.  I still love Halloween, for different reasons--for the memories I have of all those years as a child.  I asked for day shift, went in as early as this night shifter could bear, and have the chili warming in the crockpot, cornbread in the oven (carrying on the tradition from my Mom--after all, I'll eat it now), and a bowl of candy waiting by the door (no Smarties).  And I will wait for the trick-or-treaters to come, and I will tell them what a wonderful cowgirl, witch, ballerina, sheriff they make--and maybe in some of their faces I'll be able to see my cousin--and in some, maybe I will see myself, and for a moment I'll regain all that feels so much like loss.

I know (I hope) someday I will hold the hand of my own little ones, gathering candy and smiles;  until then, I take solace and comfort in warmth of the memories that make me realize how much I had, how lucky I was, and how very much I was loved.

Happy All Hallow's Eve from Natalie and Cash:
Cash & Natalie 2013

Hot Dog, I hope you had a Happy Halloween!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is nearly upon us.

Or, the almost easier way to type it: National Novel Writing Month! That's right, it's November.  

You may or may not know that I have signed up for this for the past two years.  For those unfamiliar (though, it's kind of a fad/trend, so you may all be familiar), it's where you sign up to write a novel during the month of November.  50,000 words.  You don't have to edit, proofread, etc. (all that comes after), you just write.  Which sounds easy.  But which is not.

The first year I entered, 2011, I was on track!  The first week, I was ahead of my goal with something like 12,000 words.  And then, I hit a wall.  A wall that I never got through, over, or around. Those 12,000 words were it for me.  Recently I came across them, and I still couldn't see a way out of the hole into which I'd written myself.  Oh well.  Failed attempt #1.

The second year was 2012, and I was motivated in October.  This was going to be the year.  THE YEAR, my friends.  And... I didn't even start.  Not one word flowed from my fingers to the virtual paper.  Oh well.  Failed attempt #2.

This year, 2013 is my third attempt.  And I'm excited-- I'm fully planning on at least starting something.  I already have ideas in my head (you can't start work on the actual novel until November 1st).  I'm not saying it's definitely going to happen this year, but they have always said that the third time is the charm.

I've got a story in mind that includes ghosts, paranormal investigators, a dog, a young woman, a young man, and romance.  So.  We'll see how that all goes.  If you see me around in November ask me how the novel is coming!  But, don't push it if I shoot you an evil look, it means I'm not doing well.  And don't be offended if I don't want to tell you about it-- a true writer, I hate talking about my own work! ;)

If you're attempting NaNoWriMo, leave me a comment and let me know!  Maybe we can be writing buddies.

Anyway, NaNoWriMo (that really IS annoying/difficult to type), I'm [hopefully] coming for you!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Theron Julius Brison

"You know anything can happen anywhere at any time, right?"

These words were said to me by an African American man, hitching a U-Haul trailer to the back of my SUV.  It was in response to my comment that the trailer likely wouldn't get tagged with graffiti (for which I would be liable) since it was in Burbank.

The beads of sweat glistened on his forehead, as he looked up at me, knelt down on the asphalt, his denim clad knee bearing his burly weight, keeping his flesh protected from the tiny bits of rocks and gravel-- "You know anything can happen anywhere at anytime, right?"

The words were simple, concise, and he was friendly but stern as he said them.

"Yes," I agreed, rather stunned, as his words were quite unexpected, "I know that."

And, I do.  But, sometimes, I forget.  Not for long, but still. Sometimes I feel safe-- but, underneath, deep down, I know that I'm never really safe.

I've known that for 2 years now. [I can scarcely believe it's been 2 years]

2 years ago, I was like most people--or, how I imagine most people are, anyway.  I was vaguely aware of true evil in the world, of bad and violent things occurring on a daily basis.  I would see them on the news, or hear them on the radio and think, "Oh, how sad.  How absolutely tragic."  And I meant it.  These things WERE sad, they WERE tragic-- but, they were also happening to someone else.  So, I was aware of it, but only in the periphery; I like to think I was genuinely upset about these things--as upset as someone on the outside looking in could be, anyway,

Until October 14th, 2011.  When a very close family friend was murdered.  It was the first time I felt actually touched by violence--when "Oh, how sad.  How absolutely tragic," was screamed and cried into my pillow in fits of rage and despair, instead of with a slight shake of the head and a somber expression as it had been all those times before.  I was beside myself with grief.  I felt hate for the first time in my entire life--true and utter hate, like I could flip the switch on those who had done this to him myself.

As time has gone on, the pain has lessened-- but the memory of that day still haunts me.  And a beautiful light--one of the brightest I've ever known, truly-- in this world was extinguished forever.

Over 700 people came to his funeral to say goodbye, to reminisce about how much he meant to them, or how he had helped change their lives, how he was responsible for their recovery, for their living instead of dying.  I was just one of them, but he was very important to me.  I'd known him for basically my entire life, and I would sometimes call him 'uncle.'  He was one of the kindest, gentlest, funniest people I've ever known--and I'm not just saying that because of the ways in which death sometimes makes us forget a person's true self; I'm saying it because it's true.  It's absolutely true.  I miss his smile, his amazingly contagious laughter, and the way he always called me "Master Natalie," after I got my degree. I miss his music--he was a bass player for Bootsy Collins, and I made everyone listen to his band's CD to and from my birthday party in the 7th grade.  Mostly, I miss him, and the incredible positivity he brought into this world. Theron "Thee-Ram Jam" Brison, you will forever be loved and missed more than words can ever possibly say.

And I hope, more than anything, for justice to be served.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Crawling Back to Apple

Alright, so... first things first.  There has been a blog name change!  I am horrible at naming things (except pets and electronic devices), so I'm not even really in love with this one, but meh.  A rose by any other name, and all that.

How the name came about is that I kept thinking of things I could write a blog about-- like, Cash (my dog), but noooo, no one would want to read that.  I should start running! And make a blog about that!  But no one would read that either.  Or a cooking blog... or a blog about books, or... you get the picture.  Basically, with each topic, I concluded that no one would want to read it.  So, here we have the new title.  Because, honestly, no one's going to read it anyway, so I might as well write about whatever my mind is drawn to.

Recently, I switched from an iPhone 4 to a shiny new Galaxy S4.  And at the beginning, I loved it!  I really, really loved not having to squint to look at my phone!  As someone who's worn glasses since the 1st grade (see pictorial proof below), and needed them since she was a baby, I'm all for things that are easy on my eyes, since my eyesight isn't the greatest.  I really loved that about the Galaxy S4!  It was so pretty, and big, and my eyes weren't strained... ever.

Little Natalie gets her first pair of glasses, circa 1992.


But, as the 2 week trial period began to near (I could return my phone through Verizon for only a $35 restocking fee for 2 weeks, after that, I was stuck with it for 2 years!), I began to miss my iPhone.  Terribly. When I got the Galaxy, I was excited!  I have been a mac based person since grad school, when I got my first mac book.  Prior to that, let me say that I was for SURE one of those people who would sit around and talk about how there was absolutely no difference between a mac and a PC... until I got a mac, and realized how wrong I had been.

Anyway, since then, I've been into Apple.  And since the OS is pretty similar across all devices (computer, iPad, iPhone, what have you), I was super excited to get into the Galaxy and give it a try-- a NEW gadget!  Yay!  However, I quickly became lost-- there was SO much going on.  SO MUCH.  And I felt lost half the time I was using my phone.  Save the pretty screen and the ease with which I adjusted to using SWYPE, I was missing the simplicity of my iPhone like nobody's business.

So, eventually I decided to switch back.  I went back to Verizon and turned in my Galaxy S4 with my tail between my legs (I did it on iPhone 5s launch weekend, too, so I had to wait over an hour to do it), got my refund (less $35), and went home and ordered my shiny new iPhone 5s (in gold, you judgmental bastards), and it's set to arrive from China next Wednesday.  I'm super excited!

I will miss the screen size immensely--and SWYPE.  I still sometimes try to SWYPE on my iPhone 4, and get incredibly frustrated when I realize it won't work.  But, in the end, simplicity, and knowing what the hell I'm doing won out.  Everyone kept saying that there was a learning curve--I'd get used to it, etc.  But, truth be told, it wasn't a $200 and some odd dollar chance I'd be willing to take.

Another thing I came across when trying to figure out my new phone (and another thing which led me back into the comforting Apple embrace) was a ton of people saying "There's an app for that."  Which... is awesome, I guess!  But, I'm not used to needing an app for everything.  I'm used to my phone just doing nearly everything it needs to do.  So, iPhone it is.

Through this process, I've learned that there IS a major difference between Android users and iPhone users. For years now, I've heard tons of Android users complain about iPhone users-- how they are all condescending, etc.  But, this hasn't been my experience.  Being the avid indecisive person that I am, I did research-- a LOT of research before turning my S4 in.  And this research led me to various Android blogs, and just blogs in general (people really blog a lot, huh?), and personal experiences when I'd ask for advice on my social media, and I came to the conclusion that Android users are usually very aggressively Android.

Android users are like this: APPLE SUCKS, IT IS TERRIBLE, AND EVIL, AND DESTROYING EVERYTHING IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.  IF YOU WANT A *REAL* PHONE, GET AN ANDROID BASED DEVICE, THEY'RE THE BEST FOR CUSTOMIZING EVERYTHING, AND TECH ORIENTED PEOPLE WILL LOVE THESE PHONES, AND IF YOU USE APPLE YOU'RE A SELL OUT.

And like this, when new iPhone features are released: MY ANDROID HAS BEEN ABLE TO DO THAT FOR YEARS.  Or, THAT'S NOT GOING TO WORK, THERE'S GOING TO BE SOOOO MANY BUGS.

iPhone users are like this: ZOMG I LOVE MY IPHONE IT IS SO COOL.  But, yeah, I totally understand why some people would like Android better, and there is a lot you can do with those phones, it's just honestly a matter of personal preference.

And like this, when new Android features are released: Oh, man, that's pretty cool.  I would love it if the iPhone did something similar to that... maybe it will someday.  Still lovin' my phone, though.

Capslock intentional, by the way.

Anyway, I can't WAIT for my phone to get here-- I'm excited for something moderately new, and functional, and right for me.

To all my Android users, I still love ya! (I'm an iPhone user, after all. ;) )

Natalie

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An Adoption Tail (Tale)


Hello, Internet, meet Cash.  Cash is, quite obviously, a dog.  My dog.

I adopted him on a rainy day this past November on a whim, and I can't think of a better decision I've made recently.  I was heading to Nordstrom to buy my mom's Christmas present, and on a leisurely stroll through the mall toward my destination, I happened to pass by a storefront that the West LA Animal Shelter uses to adopt out shelter dogs.  It's NOT a pet store, so no angry comments, please.

Anyway, I'm actually allergic to most dogs.  And cats.  And horses.  And tigers.  Basically, anything that has hair and sheds (and isn't human), I'm allergic to.  But, mix it with a poodle and I can have it (wow.  I just got an image of a tiger mixed with a poodle in my head-- and how cute, but ferocious!).  So, basically, I thought I would just go in and look at all the cute puppies that I couldn't adopt because of my mean ol' allergies.

Not the case.  I went in, and there were actually a few dogs I wasn't allergic to.  But, my eyes (and heart) went straight to Cash.  His name scrawled on a piece of paper at the front of the cage, he was a pup with sad eyes, quiet and in the corner by himself.  I asked to see him, and the volunteer brought him out, and I pet him for a few minutes, and then left, wanting to see if my allergies would kick in.  I went into the Nordstrom, browsed the shoes, and couldn't get my mind off of the dog.  I wasn't even ALLOWED to have dogs at the place I was currently living.  After a phone call to my mom (she said no, I shouldn't do it,) and one to my boyfriend (who said to do it), I went back to the storefront.

I spoke to the same volunteer, and she brought him out again, and though he seemed nervous, he curled up right in my lap.  The volunteer said she'd never seen him do anything like that before.  She was probably just trying to get him adopted, but I didn't care-- I was hooked.  So, some $200 and a lot of paperwork later, I left the mall without a present for my mom, but with a dog I wasn't even technically allowed to have.

I will always remember walking Cash out through the mall, and how he trotted along.  He seemed to know that he wouldn't be going back to the cold cement of the West LA Animal Shelter (a high kill shelter).  As he hopped into my car, scruffy and rather dirty, I took him to petco and got the essentials--food, dishes, toys, and treats.

I snuck him into my place, and was a nervous wreck.  If I'm completely honest, I did have a bit of 'buyer's remorse,' the next day and the following few weeks.  But, that faded away until all I was left with was what a gift this little guy is.  And I'm not just saying that because he was housebroken.  He's smart, sweet, and the biggest cuddlebug around, too.

He lived with me, undetected by the management of my tiny studio apartment, in a  large complex for two and a half months, until my boyfriend and I moved in together.  Apartment hunting in LA with a dog = always a good time (a different tale for a different day). But, in the end, we found a great place that allows dogs.

The paperwork said Cash was an 'owner surrender,'-- his old family "didn't have time for him anymore."  Sometimes, I think about how he must have felt when they left him there; how he was probably scared, cold, and sad when he realized he wouldn't see them again. But, then I think of how happy he was trotting through that mall, and the sadness dulls a little.  Sometimes, it turns to anger when I wonder how in the WORLD they could have given him up--and how they could have given him up to a high kill shelter, at that.

He's the first thing in my life I've been truly responsible for.  I had dogs as a kid, but it was my parents (mostly my mom) who fed them, bathed them, took care of them.  With Cash, it's me.  And that was SO scary at first--it's a lot of responsibility.  You don't just get to up and go for the whole weekend anymore.  You have to plan.  Find arrangements for the dog.  Which can be annoying and frustrating.  But, then he cuddles with me, and all is forgotten.

The only remnant of his old life is his name--which I kept because he knew it, and I didn't hate it.

Adopted dogs are the best dogs-- they KNOW you saved them; it creates a unique and powerful bond full of love and happiness.  If you get a dog, ADOPT (from a pound or a rescue, preferably a pound/shelter).  It's worth it to save a life.

I didn't actually set out to tell the tale of Cash's adoption; I set out to talk about how my comfort is secondary to his at bedtime, but there it is.  Maybe that's a post for a different day.

For this day, I am just so glad that we found each other, Cash and I.