Monday, November 23, 2015

A Letter to the Young Girl Staring in the Bathroom Mirror

To the Young Girl Staring in the Bathroom Mirror

There you were in your black skinny jeans, your grey t-shirt hanging off of your thin frame, your beanie placed precariously at the edge of your head, your black-rimmed glasses perched on your nose.

I came out of the restroom stall, and was washing my hands when I noticed you.  Or, rather, heard you.  You stood in front of the mirror, something you'd obviously practiced in your 16 years, and said to your friend "My tummy looks flabby."

I, with my hands under the hot water, turned to look at you.  You were young, and small, and I stood there, watching you out of the corner of my eye. Your friend went to the restroom, and you stood in front of the mirror, turning from side to side, standing up straighter, smoothing your shirt down over your stomach.

I know that look.  I have done it nearly every single day for much of my life, I have pushed my shoulders back, held my breath, looked at my stomach in the mirror, thinking the same thoughts as you.

I, who had spent the day eating only fruit so I could partake in popcorn tonight, pursed my lips together, as I rinsed the soap from my hands.  You made your way over to the counter behind the sinks, and leaned up against it, your eyes on the mirror as you pulled your t-shirt away from your body.  I glanced at you again, but you didn't notice me--you were so intent on the mirror. Behind me now, I watched in the mirror as you shrugged your shoulders back, your eyes on the mirror to the side of you, and I pinched my lips harder. I wanted to say something to you.  I wanted to be that annoying older person you roll your eyes at--I thought about telling you this: "You're beautiful just the way you are." I wanted to say that to you because it's true--I didn't want to say "your tummy is not flabby," even though that was true, too.  I wanted to tell you that even if your tummy is flabby, you're beautiful.  No matter what, as you are, in your skin right this very moment, you're beautiful.  But I didn't. I didn't say anything to you, I just held my tongue as I walked out of the bathroom, and joined my husband in the concessions line, waiting for that popcorn I'd spent all day planning for, all day restricting for.

I looked around for you then, hoping you'd walk by, and maybe I'd get the courage to tell you. But you didn't.  And anyway, I didn't.

So, here is what I would like to tell you, at 16.  Here is what I am only just now learning, at 29:

Stop.  Stop obsessing over your body--over every single thing that's wrong with it. Over an extra five pounds, ten pounds, 1 pound. It's not worth it.  You will spend every waking moment thinking you're fat--trying to turn yourself this way or that in pictures. Shoulders back, stomach in, arm away from your side so it doesn't smoosh down and look fat, leaning your weight away from the camera, one leg behind the other, hip pushed back, stomach sucked in, chin down. You will look at these pictures in the moment and think 'I'm fat. I still look fat, despite all of this.' 

You will see every picture of yourself in the present and think 'I look fat,' and then in few years, you will pull those pictures out for nostalgia, and realize that no, you were not fat. You did not look fat. 'But,' you will think, 'Now I am fat. I wish I could go back to how I looked then.' And it will make it so you are never happy with how you look.

If you allow it, if you start down this road, I'm not sure you can ever come back.  It will cloud every single thing that you do--your prom, your high school graduation, your first day of college, parties at college, your scholarship awards ceremony, your college graduation, your wedding day, your random Thursday night at the movies.  It will always be there, in the back of your mind, this little voice that lies to you and says, 'It doesn't matter.  No matter what you do, you're going to look terrible because you're so fat.' After awhile, there will come a point where you can't remember not at least thinking about watching your weight, or actively dieting, or eating the cheeseburger without guilt.  You might develop an eating disorder--you might practice severe restriction, or develop anorexia or bulimia.  Sometimes, you might even avoid seeing old friends, so they don't see how "fat" you've become.

Those imaginary rolls on your tummy?  They're a ripple effect that will color the rest of your life.  They are an impediment to your happiness that will feel impossible to shake.

I don't want that to happen to you.  I want you to feel beautiful in every single moment you have, because this is it.  This is all we get. Standing in the bathroom at the movies, your graduation, your wedding day, I want you to feel beautiful. I don't want you to be worried about what other people think of your body--only what you think of your body, and I want you to love your body no matter what shape it's in.

Be healthy. Whatever that means to you--have a healthy lifestyle, but understand you may not be as skinny as you want to be, as the world wants you to be, as other girls you see--but your health is what matters, both physical and mental.

These are the things I want to tell you, 16 year old.  These are the things I want to tell myself.  That I want to believe myself.

I can't remember ever feeling happy about my weight.  At least, not since about the 7th grade.  I can't remember ever seeing a picture of myself and not picking it apart, usually in reference to my weight. I can't remember waking up, looking in the mirror, and thinking I looked skinny, even when I was.

I don't want that for you.  I don't want that for me.  I don't want that for us.

These are the things I wish I had said to you in that bathroom. These are the things that I want to say to myself-- it's not too late, I want to say.  It's not too late for you, and you know? It might not be too late for me, either.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Social Media Infiltration

I've been getting annoyed with myself lately.  Every time I have a moment of spare time, I find myself picking up my phone.  I find myself absent-mindedly scrolling through Facebook, refreshing the feed, and scrolling some more.  After that, I check Instagram, then maybe Twitter, then maybe Timehop to see what my activity on social media was this year, then back to Facebook again.  

This wouldn't be so bad if I only did it once a day--if I only picked up my phone at the end of the day to see what went on, and then put it down.  But, I don't.  I grab my phone repeatedly throughout the day, night, and it's the first thing I do when I get up in the morning. If I'm watching Hulu, and there's an ad break? Check Facebook.  Boring part of a show I'm watching on Netflix? Facebook.  Waiting in line at Chipotle? Check Facebook.  Waiting in line anywhere? Check Facebook. And the funny thing? I'm not even really sure what I'm checking for! Ah, Social Media (read my other post on social media here).

In college, social media like Facebook and MySpace (I loved MySpace, and was one of the last holdouts on the MySpace front), was super fun! I would sit down at my computer (I had a desktop back then) after class or after dinner at the commons, and check to see what was going on. Maybe I'd post a few bulletins, do a couple of surveys, and then I'd relax on my bed--read, do homework, go out with friends to Target or for frozen yogurt.  It was fun back then to be connected via social media.

But, that all changed when you could start carrying social media around in your pocket--at least, I think that's when it all changed for most people.  Sure, some people were addicted to the internet back in the day--but how many people could just NOT log out of the "Bored" chatroom on AOL? Probably not many. Social media was a fun thing you did to pass maybe a few minutes a day--sometimes an hour on the weekend. But, now? It's turned into this ravenous monster that apparently just won't stop eating things--eating time with friends, family, pets. I see car commercials that have features where you can check Facebook while you're driving. And it's insane--and if I had that car, I would probably use it. (Let's keep it real, I'm not on a high horse here about social media, I use it too much, which is what sparked this post--but at least I realize it).

Awhile ago, a video was going around about how Social Media takes from our lives, and it urged people to put the phone down. I saw tons of people sharing this on my newsfeed, and I just had to laugh at the irony. Thousands of people watched a video on how we should STOP posting on social media constantly and live our lives, and the FIRST THING these people who watched the video did was what? Go on a hike, bike ride, walk, run? No. Posted to social media. So, I was a bit of a troll in that regard when that video came out. And I still am--the people I saw post that are the people that I see updating social media the most. Maybe it really spoke to them, I'm not sure.

The fact of the matter remains: I have become increasingly disgusted with myself over my use of social media. It's to the point where, if I'm eating dinner with Tom, and he gets up to use the restroom, I pull out my phone. Heaven forbid I just sit there enjoying the ambiance/experience of life. 

I always say that I feel really lucky to have grown up when I did--the internet was a thing, but it wasn't THE thing. I went outside and played (when I wasn't in my room reading, of course), and when the internet came around, I played on that too--AIMing with people, going into chat-rooms, but logging off at the end of the day. And I still feel that way--I still feel lucky that I grew up that way, but I feel mad at myself that I can't sit in a restaurant by myself for a few minutes. And I think to myself (as I'm doing it): what would I do if I didn't have a phone? Like back in the day, when we didn't have them (at least, not to the extent that we do now)? Sure, maybe I would have been a little bored for a few minutes--but I would also have been engaged in the world around me instead of scrolling like a mindless idiot looking at things that just don't matter.

I remember when I was little, a friend and I went to Disneyland--we were waiting in line for Space Mountain (my mom was waiting on a bench at the end), and all through the line we were playing patty-cake games (not sure if that's the correct term)--but you know "Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack... All dressed in black, black, black..." THE WHOLE TIME. Different songs, but literally the entire time. And it was a long wait. And we annoyed everyone around us. In fact, we were so annoying that these two older teenage girls got mad at us and we were convinced they wanted to beat us up after the ride, so we ran through the exit to my mom on the bench. They probably wouldn't have beaten us up, but still. Not really the point, I guess.  

The point is that when I go to Disneyland now, and I'm waiting in line, I'm scrolling on my phone. And I see kids my age scrolling on their phones, or playing with their iPads, and it kind of makes me sad--like how we can't just be together anymore without this *thing* between us. If I were standing behind 2 little girls who sang songs throughout the entire wait of a line for a ride, I'd want to smack them by the end, I'm sure--but, I'd also secretly be happy. Because I can't help but think that's how it should be--that's how we should be.

Social media is a game changer, that's for sure--but it isn't THE game. It's just A game. It should be a very small part of our lives, but it's increasingly becoming the largest part of our lives. At least, I know this is true for me. And I don't want it to be.

I don't know why I need to take a picture of everything (Pics or it didn't happen! I guess?), but I pull my phone out a lot for pictures. Brunch! Traffic! Disneyland! It becomes more about getting pictures to document that it happened than actually enjoying the experience. So, when Tom and I had the opportunity to go to 2 concerts a couple of weeks ago, I made a conscious effort to be on my phone minimally. I could see people in the front holding their phones up the entire time, videoing the experience. To watch later? To post on the internet? Not really sure. But, I was determined to not be like them. I took a few pictures, a few selfies with Tom, and one small video per concert. For Mumford & Sons, the chorus of the song that made me adore them.  For Incubus, the chorus of the song that Tom listened to over and over again. And that was it. For the rest, I put my phone away, and had the experience.  Tom and I were also pretty good at this on our Honeymoon--a few pictures to say "we were here!" but not a picture of every single thing we did.

And that's how I want to live my life--a few pictures to look back on later, but focusing on enjoying the experience instead of documenting it. I want to make memories, not social media updates/posts.*

*Sentiment does not apply to the line for my DMV appointment on Friday.

It has not escaped me that this post is being advanced through and hosted on Social Media, but oh well. Nobody does chain letters anymore, and there's less of a hand cramp involved.  Well, I suppose there are newfangled chain letters: Like this post if you agree, share if you agree, comment if you agree--go outside and live your life without your phone if you agree. That's where I'll be. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rituals, Plans, and Lists, Oh my!

I was sitting on a red couch in front of a Vegas nightclub, chatting with random people, and managing to score my friends and I free drinks. I was already slightly tipsy, and reeling from a breakup, and excited to be in Vegas for the very first time with friends.  I had just bummed a cigarette from a guy at a bar, even though I don't smoke (I just like the smell of the cigarette before it's been lit), when a guy I had been talking to said "You're a free spirit, I can tell." I beamed at him. Now that I thought about it, I *was* a free spirit! How had I never noticed this about myself before?!

The answer to that question is very, very simple: I am not now, was not then, nor have I ever been what anyone could ever possibly even begin to remotely describe as a "free spirit."  There is absolutely a reason this was the one and only time that anyone has EVER used the term "free spirit" about me.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that most people who know me at all would describe me in exactly the OPPOSITE way.  My aunt Sherry always told a story about when I was very young, a toddler maybe, and I would get my hands dirty.  I would scrunch up my nose, and wipe my hands together trying to remove said dirt whilst saying 'ICK.' I'm sure free spirits come in all shapes and sizes, and I'm sure not all of them like to roll around in dirt--but I'm sure that they don't obsess/freak out over dirt.  As free spirits, I don't think it's allowed.

So, why, then, has that completely wrong observation stuck with me for so long?  Maybe it's because it's something I've always wanted to identify with--something I've been unable to identify with.

I've always been slightly obsessive--if I start thinking about something, I can't stop. I can't stop thinking about it until I talk to everyone in the universe asking for their opinion/consideration to the point where they get frustrated by how obsessive I'm being.  I've always known this about myself--I think it's one reason I tend to be so indecisive. And, I, like the rest of the world, have joked about being OCD because I do things a certain way, or have obsessive thoughts.  But, I never really took it seriously--until a few months ago.  When I was talking to a coworker, he explained that he had OCD, and explained a few repetitive actions, which of course made me think about my life.  Until then, I hadn't really thought much about the possibility that I might actually have some form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder beyond those stupid tests people post on Facebook that ask if gummi bears separated into their colors makes you feel better (which, of course it does--is there anyone for whom this is not true?  Anyway.  When this coworker brought this up, I began to think about my life in a different way.

It made me think about how I have a pattern I must perform before I fall asleep--I start on my right side, then move to my stomach with my head to the right, stomach with my head to the left, stomach with my head to the right, and then I can fall asleep. Which, sure, might be a bit OCD, but I've been doing this as long as I can remember.  But, it also made me thing of a couple other things that happened in my life.

Once, in high school, like many high school girls, I was obsessed with using chapstick.  But it was different--instead of putting it just on my lips, I had to put it slightly above and below my lips as well. That's because I developed this thing where, instead of simply licking my lips to moisten them, I would tuck my top lip under my bottom lip, and my bottom lip under my top lip (which is kind of hard to explain), but which resulted in a chapped/red area around my entire mouth. I remember my mom telling me to stop doing that. And I wanted to--but, I couldn't.  I didn't know why, but I couldn't stop doing it. Until, finally, I guess I did. Luckily, because the habit was getting bad.

It also made me think about another habit I used to have.  For about a year during my Freshman year of high school, I developed another ritual.  I used to use the fingers on my right hand (the pointer and middle) to write in cursive any words anyone said or I saw displayed.  I would 'write' these on desks as teachers were talking, or in the air by my side if I was walking or didn't have a surface upon which to "write."  One of my distinct memories of this involves my mom, Dad, and I walking around the Swap Meet where my Grandy used to sell--I kept seeing sign after sign, and I would write the words, my fingers working through the air discreetly at my side "T-Shirts sold here" or "Churros." Each sign was immediately replaced by another sign that I had to transcribe into the air--I remember walking around exhausted, trying to not look at signs or read any words, because if I did, I had to write it in the air.  I remember wanting to stop--but being unable to stop.  Until, finally, thankfully, I did.  I don't know how, why, or even when I was able to stop these behaviors--but, I was.  There are other things--other habits or rituals that I pick up and then put down, or that I hold on to, but the writing incident is the one that sticks out most in my mind. It's the one I pointed to immediately when this coworker described to me some of his OCD rituals.

It makes so much sense when I think about it in the context of my life--why I've always had these little habits or rituals. Why I am not a "Free Spirit."  I'm not a Free Spirit--but, I think that's okay. I'm not a "Bound Spirits," I have my moments. And, I have my fun--laughing is one of my favorite activities.  So I have to plan my adventures?  Who cares! The point is that I have adventures--even with the inability to be spontaneous, to have to plan every single thing, with rituals and habits and things that are probably connected to some type of OCD, I have my fun.

No, random guy in Vegas, I'm not a Free Spirit.  I don't think you could have been more wrong if you'd tried.  But, I don't think I want to be a free spirit--at least, I don't anymore.  It's never been my style, and I don't think it ever will be.  My style is riddled with plans and itineraries and rituals and lists and that's okay.  It has to be--because it's mine. And, while I would like to stop being obsessive, and be able to stop rituals at-will (or, hey, better yet: never develop rituals in the first place), I've learned that it's my way--and for whatever shortcomings my way has (and it certainly does have some), it's gotten me here--it's given me purpose and the ability to plan for the future, which is something you wouldn't find in the alternate universe Free Spirit Natalie.

So, I'm afraid that all of you in this universe are stuck with OCD Natalie--though she may frustrate you at times when she repeats information over and over again when she is worried or upset, she's all you have.

Monday, August 17, 2015

As We Sailed Into the Mystic

Some people have been asking me (or asked me at the wedding) about the song I walked down the aisle to. I've been giving a short answer--but I decided to give a longer one here, more for myself than for anyone else.  

The full story starts when I was a teenager--my parents and I were driving home from somewhere, and I was curled up in the backseat trying to sleep.  When we went on road trips, they usually played "my" music, or radio stations that I wanted to listen to.  But, this time, they were playing 'their' music. Bob Dylan came first, and I tried to sleep in the backseat, not really a Dylan fan (though now I definitely am). I would be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated--not only was I not listening to MY music, I was trying to sleep!  After the Dylan CD finished, they put in some guy I'd never heard of--I heard him singing, his semi-raspy voice filling the car. I'm sure I did more than my share of sighing and eye-rolling, until one song came on.  I remember hearing "Into the Mystic" for the first time with my eyes closed, the latch of the seat belt digging into my side. Something about this song just spoke to me--and I don't really know why or how that song connected with my teen-aged soul, I just know that it did.  Since then, I have always loved "Into the Mystic."

Flash forward to New Year's Eve 2009--I met my aunt Sherry and some of her friends in Solvang. She had been going through breast cancer treatment, and she had a few wigs to choose from.  As we were standing in the hotel room getting ready, music in the background, I heard the familiar sounds of "Into the Mystic" begin playing.  I immediately yelled "Turn it up, I LOVE this song!" Sherry turned and looked at me, her mouth slightly open, "Oh my god, Natalie! I love this song too!" Sherry and I were a lot alike in some ways--we looked so similar that when she put my school pictures on her desk, people asked if I was her daughter.  We were also very different in a lot of ways--she the extrovert, me the introvert.  But, every time we discovered another way in which we were alike, I could always count on an "Oh my god, Natalie!" from Sherry.  That night, on New Year's Eve, was one of my favorite moments-- and one I'll always treasure.

Sherry passed away in January of 2010, losing her fight with breast cancer as it metastasized in her brain.

In Grad School that year, I wrote this line in a poem I wrote about Sherry:

I think that every prayer I uttered into the mystic
went to the dark night sky
into the pocket of a thief

It was one of the first pieces of writing I sent Tom when we began talking-- and it was a poem he said he connected with.

Flash forward to our first date, and Tom and I are sitting in a darkened movie theater watching the movie "The 5 Year Engagement." During one of the scenes, a song begins to play--it's a cover, but it's instantly recognizable.  It's "Into the Mystic."  I can't control myself-- I start bawling in the theater, more than I should for the scene in the movie, and soon I'm crying so hard I can't stop.  I try to look away/conceal it, but I'm sobbing, and so of course Tom notices it, and he looks at me with concern, and I assure him that I'll explain it to him later. As we walk out of the movie theater, I do--telling him how much it reminded me of my aunt, and telling him the story of how that came to be.

But there is something I didn't explain: I considered it a sign.  Now, those who know me will know that aside from finding dimes and the occasional animal visitor (crow in my path, ladybug on my windshield), I'm not much for signs.  But I thought that this was one--that she saw me, that she was happy for me, that she was proud of me.

She always did say that she thought I would meet the person I'd marry at work (funnily enough, I always thought that too).

So, when it came time to pick a song to walk down an aisle at the end of which would stand Tom, the same boy from that first date, I looked at tradition.  The bridal march, Canon, and I considered them all.  But none of them felt right--so I searched harder.  I happened upon 2 instrumental versions of "Into the Mystic," and I thought I would use one of those.  When I played them for my mom, she liked them, but she suggested that I use the actual Van Morrison song--I instantly agreed. After all, it was my wedding, and I could choose whichever version of whichever song I wanted.

Now I will forever associate that song with my Aunt, my wedding day, and my dad singing along to the words "I wanna rock your gypsy soul" as we approached the end of the aisle.  I'll keep making memories with my aunt, even if she is no longer here--and everyone else I love who has passed for that matter.

Anyway, there it is-- the story of how I came to walk down the aisle on my one and only wedding day to Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic."

Monday, July 20, 2015

My Weight Loss Journey is Over

Losing weight for a wedding is easy.  Losing weight is never easy. 

This isn't my first blog post on weight (read the other one here). Who knows, maybe it'll end up being my last.  That'd sure be great. Weight is something I've struggled with since high school.  My weight would go up and down (usually based on how much soccer I was playing at the time).

To recap, I lost a ton of weight in college, and managed to keep it off throughout grad school.  But, then I hit 26 and my metabolism decided to lay down and die.  And I started dating a guy, and we ate out a lot, I suppose.  But, I'd kind of always done that.  I was essentially addicted to fast food for a very long time-- starting in probably middle school.

It was pretty much all I ate--even through grad school.  Even when I moved to LA and lived on my own-- it is so easy (no cooking, no dishes), and honestly it's pretty delicious.  But, study after study has shown that it's terrible for you.  It seemed I didn't care.  And then...I got engaged.  

And I set about the business of losing weight.  Which certainly wasn't easy.  In fact, it was pretty hard.  It wasn't until January that I really started getting serious about my weight loss. I joined weight watchers (which made me feel like an old woman), and that really helped! I lost like 15 pounds, and then hit a plateua for like a month where I wasn't losing anything.  So, I switched to low carb-- and I ended up losing a grand total of 23lbs.  I was 2lbs shy of my goal, but I would take it!

It was funny how easy small things were-- even walking around Disneyland in the heat minus 10lbs made things easier, which I found kind of fascinating.  Seeing myself every day, I didn't really think I had lost that much weight/it made that much of a difference.  But, then I showed an old picture of myself to a coworker (that was taken about a year ago, actually), and she was shocked at how much weight I'd lost.  Then, Tom found a picture of us going through the venue, and it became extremely clear how much weight I had actually lost. It was pretty apparent!  It's absolutely not necessary for women to lose weight for their wedding days, and I don't want it to seem like that's what I'm suggesting.  But it was imperative for ME to lose weight for my wedding day--and I'm so glad that I did. It enabled me to be confident in my gown on the wedding day, and I didn't even really spend that much time thinking about my arms. If you read one of my posts last month, you know how unusual that actually is.

Then the wedding came and went, and I munched down on burgers and fries that day, along with a few bites of some pretty delicious cupcakes. It tasted fantastic! After months of depriving myself, I was so happy to bite into that burger.  Then, on my honeymoon, I ate whatever I wanted as well-- in fact, one day all we ate were buffets!  We were treated to a buffet breakfast at our hotel each morning (thanks Costco Travel!), and we took full advantage of that.  

Long story short: I've been eating pretty much whatever I want for about 3 weeks now, and I am absolutely shocked to learn something...

I am absolutely ready to go back to eating healthy stuff.  I never thought I'd be in that place! I never thought I would crave NOT FAST FOOD.  And yet, here I am.  Planning a trip to the store to make sure I STOP eating fast food because... well, I just don't want it every day. Fast food, I think, is fine in moderation--it's okay to eat the occasional McDonald's or Taco Bell. But I have finally outgrown the desire/craving to have it every single day. It's actually funny how, when you stop eating it and start eating healthy, you essentially stop craving it.  I'm sure I'll always treat myself now and again (hello, weekends!), but I don't want to go back to the life of eating it every single day--even if I could still do it and remain skinny/fit.  It's time to look to the future for other things, and prepare myself. I can't eat like a teenager anymore--and I spent way more time eating like that than I should have to begin with.

That being said, I haven't stepped on the scale since the day of the wedding--and I'm not going to.  Not for a few weeks, anyway.  It's not about the scale, and I know if I step on that little device it will become about the scale.  I don't want that.  At the end of the day (and at the end of a life), it's simply not the number on that scale that matters.  I'm glad I lost the weight for my wedding, but I'm also tired of stepping on it with dread, and giving it the power to ruin my day, weekend, week, or month.  Nothing (and no one) should have that power over you.

My weight loss journey was rough--it took a long time to lose those 23lbs, and I don't want them back on.  But, my weight loss journey ends here.  It's time to start a new journey, instead. It's no longer a journey about weight--it's now a health/happiness journey.  Which, I think, is better.  And more sustainable.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Adventure 1: Wedding


I got married! 

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Here's a video of the nuptials-- part of them, anyway (Click the link if it won't play below):

Everyone kept saying what a whirlwind it would be, and that I wouldn't remember anything-- they were mostly right.

But, I also remember quite a bit.  I remember the nerves kicking in while I was getting my hair and makeup done.  I would go through waves of calm followed by intense bouts of nausea.  I remember checking the weather because it was overcast and seeing "0% chance of rain" in La Canada, and hearing news approximately 10 minutes later that it was, in fact, raining in La Canada.  I remember everyone telling me it was good luck if it rains on your wedding, to which I promptly responded 'that's just what they say because it's raining on your wedding day!' I remember thinking 'oh well, there's nothing I can do about it.' and letting it go (but also pushing for a backup plan--thank you Deb, for finding those clear umbrellas just in case!).  I remember the drive to the venue, listening to rap music to calm me down. I remember sitting in the bride's room with my dad trying to keep from crying because I was nervous, scared, happy, and sad.  I remember telling him that I don't want to grow up, but also knowing that was an impossibility.  I remember getting ready to walk down the aisle and realizing that I'd forgotten my bouquet and RUNNING through the venue to grab it.

I remember walking down the aisle, and my dad singing along.  I remember Katie, my maid of honor, reaching into her dress to pull out my vows.  I remember some of our vows, though I was so nervous, I have trouble remembering that part.  I remember walking down the aisle and stopping at the end to take a picture. I remember taking pictures and getting grumpy because it was pretty humid.  I remember our grand entrance, our first dance (which morphed from a slow love song into a group rick-roll featuring some fabulous dance moves).  I remember sitting at the sweetheart's table, and everyone coming up to us congratulating us--I remember biting in to the In N Out burger (after months of dieting and abstaining from In N Out, I have an especially vivid memory of this).  I remember the toasts from my parents--my mom trying not to cry during hers.  I remember the father daughter dance and how that's the hardest I cried the whole day.  I remember cutting the cake, and instead of feeding the first bite to Tom, I ate a bite myself, before proceeding with the tradition.  I remember jumping in and out of the photo booth all night.  I remember dancing, and having the time of my life.  I remember being too full to eat our delicious cupcakes (but having a few bites anyway).  I remember the impromptu send off, and the silly chants from everyone.  I remember the limo ride, which was supposed to stop at In N Out for milkshakes, but which we bypassed because we were so exhausted we just wanted to go home and see Cash.  I remember how excited Cash was to see me, and how sad I was to give him to my parents.

I remember, I'd say, quite a bit.  When I was first planning this wedding, I was concerned with the details-- with custom painted, hand stamped (each individual letter), laminated, bookmark escort cards.  With how to display those--with DIY centerpieces.  As time went on, I got less concerned with the DIY aspect, and was just struggling to finish everything.  During all of that, I never really stopped to think about what the wedding would actually be like.  I don't think the thought ever crossed my mind--but, even if it had crossed my mind, I don't think I could have predicted how much fun I would have.  People kept coming up to us telling us that it was the best wedding they'd ever been to--and maybe they were just being nice, looking for something to say--but I had so much fun at my wedding, it was more than I ever could have anticipated, ever could have expected.  When the day came, I was surprisingly calm about all of the little details--somehow recognizing (which is in-congruent with my personality) that it wasn't the little things-- the book placement for the centerpieces that would make the day special.  Instead, it was being surrounded by family and friends, and dancing like no one was watching (even though everyone was) that made the day special.

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Advice for Brides:
1) Listen to other brides.  Seriously.  I heard the same thing from so many people/so many blogs, and I kind of ignored some of it.  Do not do this.  They are right.

2) Easy on the DIY.  It sounds like a really good idea when you fill your Pinterest board with stuff, or even when you think of your own ideas--and I'm sure they're all great ideas.  But decide on a few that are really important to you, and go with those.  Forget everything else.

3) DIY is not cheaper.  In fact, it's possibly more expensive if you consider your time.  There's the cost of supplies to make the stuff, and then the cost of making extra because you know you're going to mess at least one or 2 up.

4) If you ignore this (which you will), don't wait until the last minute.  Unless you craft often, this stuff will take a LOT of time.  Decide what's worth it.  (for me, it was the custom bookmarks).

5) Don't sweat the small stuff.  Seriously.  There's no point-- it will all get done, and if it doesn't it honestly won't matter on the big day.  Checklists, for me, became pretty obsolete.  Just make sure you have everything you need for the day of (dress accessories, jewlery, wedding rings, lipstick, deodorant--then you're good).

6) Find good vendors.  Use sites like weddingbee and yelp, and look for bad reviews.  On Weddingbee and Weddingwire you have to go to the end of the reviews to see the bad ones.  This can be helpful for giant companies that have thousands of reviews.  At first it seems like they have great reviews, and then you go to the end and you see nightmare stories.  Don't book anyone with nightmare stories.  If possible, use my vendors. (Tanori Photo, DJ Keelez, Light Up Video, TheBooth by NealPost Photography).  I can't sing the praises of my vendors enough-- everyone was fabulous from beginning to end (not just of the day, but of the whole process, and I cannot recommend them highly enough).

7) Go on a honeymoon.  Do not skip this-- I repeat, do not skip this.  You've spent so much time and effort planning, and getting away for awhile is important--and getting away together as husband and wife is important as well.

8) Have fun.  This is a once in a lifetime thing.  After the honeymoon is over, the post-wedding blues will set in and you'll realize how much fun you had, even if you spent the whole time being stressed about the custom matchbooks you decided to DIY.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


As you can probably tell from this photo, this is my arm.  I think that seems pretty clear, as does the fact that I'm pretty pale, which I've definitely mentioned before.  What's not immediately clear from looking at this picture (at least, I don't think that it is), is the complicated relationship I have with my arm.  Well, actually, arms.  For as long as I can remember, I've had this love/hate relationship with my arms.

I love them because they're arms, and they allow me to do all sorts of cool things like grab stuff, do cartwheels (maybe? I think I can still do those), do handstands (especially in the pool), and just generally live a normal day-to-day life. My arms are pretty awesome when I look at them from that light.  But there is also another light that I tend to look at my arms (and indeed my whole body/person/being) in, and it's one that's not so healthy.

Even when I was very tiny, I saw my arms as these massive things hanging from my body.  They've always just looked so fat to me. And with the weight gain (and even subsequent weight loss), that certainly has not changed.  In fact, it's to the point where--for nearly as long as I can remember (so, say 7 years or so now), I have worn a cardigan or cover-up (lace or shrug or what-have-you) over every single article of clothing I wear without sleeves. Sometimes even over clothes WITH sleeves.  And I have done so for one express purpose: to cover up my meaty arms.  This practice knows no seasonal bounds.  Even at the company picnic a couple years back which was held in June on what was predicted (and which was, I believe) the HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR IN LOS ANGELES (where I live), I could be found wearing a cute little romper, strapless by nature... with a lace shrug (surprisingly warm) covering up the upper half of my body.  I was SO HOT. And, yet, that lace shrug stayed exactly where it was.  Why?  My arms! Heaven forbid anyone see them in their natural habitat, occupying space.

In pictures, I try everything in the book-- arching the arm away from the body so that the fat ever-present on my arm doesn't smoosh together.  And it rarely works, usually when I look at a picture, my gaze goes directly to my arms. And the lament starts 'WHYYYYY do I have to have such large arms?!' etc., etc., etc. 

So, I'm not really sure what possessed me to pick out a STRAPLESS wedding dress, back in November, but I did.  I suppose my thoughts were along the lines of: I'll be losing weight! My arms will be skinnier by then, I will TONE THEM.  Which, I have-- the first part of that, anyway.  I have lost weight.  I've lost nearly 20 pounds now. (not counting the 3 I gained in Vegas this past weekend for my bachelorette party because I fully plan to lose those). But, I have lost weight--and yet. Yet, the fact remains, that I still am annoyed at my arms.  But, the marriage is coming now... in just a couple days over 2 weeks, and I have nothing set to cover my arms.

Thus has begun my experiment--over the past few weeks I've been wearing things without cover-ups over my arms; a romper (different than the aforementioned), a tank top, and a strapless dress at my bachelorette party.  And I only took my cardigan off in LAS VEGAS when it became unbearable.  So, I guess you could say that it went moderately well, but I was still super self-conscious, especially in pictures.  

There are so many little things that we long to change about ourselves, that we wish were different-- and I wonder why?  I don't do that to or about other people (for the most part). I don't look at my friends and see what they should change about themselves--when I hear the same criticisms coming from their mouths, I tell them they're wrong.  That they're beautiful no matter what--no matter the circumference of their arms, their waist, their thighs, their necks.  And what's more? I believe it.  I'm not lying--it's true. So, why then can't I give the same courtesy to myself? Why, when I see the picture of me with the guys from Thunder from Down Under do I stare at my arms (which look SUPER PALE next to those tanned fellas, by the way) and lament that they, Natalie's arms, are the TRUE thunder?  Guess it's good I've started practicing...

But, even now, with all of my "practice" I'm still terrified I'll get the wedding pictures (that we are paying a pretty penny for) back and think 'wow, my arms look huge' in every single photo and be unable to enjoy them or display them because of this.  I hope not-- I hope I think nothing of the sort when we get them back.  But, I know myself.  And that thought process--the one that just spirals into negativity and out of control--is super hard to contain when it comes to my own self image.

But, it's too late now: the dress is strapless.  So, me and my arms will see you at the wedding, where we hope to be feeling more at peace with one another.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Revelations of a Newly Minted Day Shifter

I am writing this blog with the sun shining on my face, the soft trickle of a fountain playing in my ear, and the collective hum of chatter from surrounding people occasionally making its way into my mind.  And traffic, in the distance I can hear cars buzzing to and fro.

So, what is this revelation?  What is so special to warrant a blog post?  It’s Thursday. Once upon a time, Thursdays at this time of day (roughly 1:45pm) were reserved for finally starting to get ready for work, or snuggles with Cash after a laaaaaazy afternoon in bed.  Remember, I used to be night shift? (Read it here)

Well, the times have changed and approximately 2 months ago, I began the long, arduous process of transitioning from night shift to day shift. A process that turned out to not be so long or arduous after all.  I suppose humans are made to live during the days? Interesting.  My alarm now goes off at 7:30am, when usually I was just entering REM sleep for the night.  When I was transitioning (sounds like I was becoming a vampire, but actually the reverse is closer to the truth), the first week was really rough—but the second was slightly easier.  And so on.  I would feel pretty exhausted around 3-4 pm, and would be asleep by 11.

Everyone kept telling me it would take me awhile to adjust, but just 1 week in, my body had already started to rebel against me.  

A brief journal entry from my first weekend after switching to days:  "This weekend, I planned to sleep in until at least 10:30, no later than 11:00 (so as not to undo my work).  However, on Saturday morning, my eyes opened at 9:20am (despite having finally gone to sleep at around 3:30am, maybe even 4), and try as I might, I could not get back to sleep.  I gave up, and finally got out of bed at around 9:45 to start the day.  Asleep by 11:30pm (can’t remember the last time that happened), Sunday saw me waking up at 8am! Which I rebelled against and slept until 10am—not quite what I was hoping for, but good nonetheless.  Long story short, my body is already adjusting.  Which is good.  And also bad, because it hasn’t fully adjusted to the whole going to bed early thing, but it’s adjusted to the waking up early thing.  I kind of need it to adjust to both.

Anyway—it’s nice to be day shift.  It’s something I’d been wanting for awhile now, and when the opportunity arose, I just couldn’t pass it up.  It feels good to be on a normal schedule, where if I call someone on my lunch break the office won’t be closed or I could possibly be waking them up.  I’ve been on the Wedding Dress Diet, too (a different blog for a different day), and I’m hoping that this new schedule will help me with weight loss—and vitamin D absorption.

I was kind of scared to switch to Day Shift.  I kind of imagined myself walking around like a zombie the first month or so, looking like the undead amongst the living.  However, that hasn’t been the case—in fact, it seems like just the opposite is true.  Tom, who is still stuck on nights, doesn’t get to see me very much during the day, so on my first Friday as a day-shifter, we were walking to Chipotle for dinner, and he said that I already looked healthier—that I had a different glow.  Which other people have said, too; “You do have a different glow.” So, I guess it’s doing something to my body that’s manifesting in a positive way.  Hopefully that trend will keep.

Anyone else out there have any trouble shifting from nights to days? Or vice versa? (I’ve done both now).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Fear

I've been meaning to write this blog for about 2 weeks, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet-- tonight, I'm finally sitting down to write it and I feel like I've forgotten all the big things I wanted to say. No matter, though. I've got bits and pieces of what I want to say.

There's this great episode of Friends (maybe you've seen it recently now that they're all on Netflix) where Rachel is unhappy with her position in life (being a waitress & serving other people coffee), and the friends convince her that she has to quit in order to "get The Fear." That becomes her mantra-- "I've gotta get the fear, I've gotta get the fear!" And she quits-- and she gets the fear!

Now, I definitely know what kind of fear they're talking about--that 'holy crap, what am I going to do, I have to pay bills and survive, so I have to find a better position in life'! But, I kind of want to talk about a different kind of fear.  I've posted about fear before, but that was more tangible (if not irrational) fear (read it here) or phobia. Something more easily defined, at least. I see paper shreddings and I freak out. Pretty straightforward.

But fear in general-- this nebulous cloud hanging over me in a very Eeyore-esque way--I feel like I've been experiencing my whole life. I've always been scared-- I've been scared of people, places, things (especially new ones), of new experiences, of leaving my comfort zone. I've been like this for as long as I can remember-- I feel like I've always had The Fear.  I don't need to quit a job without a backup plan to get it.

...And that's not exactly what I did, but I did take a big step out of a comfort zone that I spent nearly three years creating.  I started a new job on Monday--and I am excited, nervous, happy, scared, sad--just a myriad of emotions have been washing over me since even before I made the decision.  And after I made the decision, I spent the time directly after wringing my hands and yammering about my myriad of emotions.  

There were so many reasons I didn't want to take this chance--but the biggest reason was fear, that little piggy that's been on my back for as long as I can remember.  Eventually, I decided that I didn't want to let The Fear make yet another decision for me.  As much as I like to deny it, or pretend it isn't true, the simple fact of the matter is that fear has ruled so many decisions in my life (I didn't go to law school because of fear; I didn't go to journalism school because of fear), and I finally took fear's power away-- at least for this particular decision.

I decided it's time to stop asking but what if it doesn't work out? And instead ask but what if it does?

So, that's where I am now.  I have had a big week--I started a new job, joined a soccer team, bought a new wardrobe.  I'll probably always have The Fear, if I'm totally honest with myself, but the decisions I made this past week have taught me that I can ignore The Fear.  I can relegate The Fear to the back of my mind--ignore the little voice that says you can't, and replace my decidedly Eeyore/Piglet like thoughts with a few Winnie the Pooh ones, instead.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

DIY Bridal Party Notebook Tutorial

DIY Wedding Party Notebook Tutorial

Okay, so, this is the easiest thing in the world.  So easy, in fact, that I do not think it should be called a Tutorial.  But, it's my blog, and I can do what I want.

Anyway, for those who don't know, I like to make lists.  I like to make grocery lists, packing lists, outfit lists, lists at work, etc., etc. They help me stay organized.  Also, for those who don't know, I'm getting married soon. In fact, it's in just a little over 5 months.

So, needless to say, I've been making a lot of lists lately. And, recently, I found these old used Moleskine notebooks I bought, and ripped the pages out, and decided to make my own little book! I had visions of writing my little lists in it, making the cover all cute, etc. But, the Becky Bloomwood in me (I've been reading the Shopaholic series lately) spoke up and said "Natalie, you can't use these old Moleskine notebooks, the color is slightly distorted on the front! You need to go out and get new Moleskine notebooks!' Well, within a half hour of having that conversation with myself, I found myself at Target, where I happened across the PERFECT find for such a thing: WHITE Moleskine notebooks. A 2 pack.  Perfect! Then I thought, "hey, there's an extra one! You could make one for your maid of honor!" Of course, that was a brilliant idea! So, then I decided to make one for each member of the bridal party! I found a little 3 pack of pastel ones, and snatched them up!

So. Here it is... the "Tutorial":

What you'll need:
1) 2 pack Moleskine Volant notebooks (white)
2) 3 pack Moleskine Cahier notebooks (pastels) 
             (note: actual number depends on size of your bridal party)
3) Cute letters! I used ones I already had from another little wedding party thing I did, plus bought a couple new ones. Obviously they have these at Target or Michaels or wherever.
4) An understanding bridal party, because these haven't been tried & tested yet, and honestly some of the puffy letters might fall off.

Anyway, you basically stick those bad boys on the notebook, and voila! You've got your cute little notebooks.  Some suggestions how your girls should use them are:

-How much they love/hate you depending on the day.
-Tossing in a drawer and never using, and finally throwing it out 3 years later.

Honestly, it's pretty versatile!  You can even put the date of the wedding on the back like I did! Though, be forewarned, there are surprisingly few numbers in a pack of letters, and since each date will be the same, you'll run out pretty quickly. So, buy a couple extra packs, or buy some all number packs. If you decide to do this, that's definitely the number one takeaway. Also, that puffy letters won't stick as well (especially to the Volant notebook) as flat sticky letters will.

Also, things that will not make a difference in whether your letters stay on/still look pretty: 

Gorilla Glue
Regular glue stick

Other than that, take a chance on these babies! They could be really cute, or your girls could end up with notebooks that eventually say 'DE M I D' - you never know until you try! Check out the pics, and maybe check back to see how they hold up. And keep an eye out for when I launch my new DIY blog "shit that's so easy, it might not work."

Backs of the Notebooks - date of the wedding!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

I went to the doctor today.  I sat in the waiting room feeling so nervous I thought I might actually throw up--when I got back there, I started sweaty and breathing quickly.  Turns out, I'm terrified of the doctor.  I've never had a particularly bad experience at the doctor, at least no specific event that I can pinpoint and say, 'yes, that is what led to this White Coat Syndrome.'  All I have is a series of frequent, frustrating doctor appointments in my past.

As I was discussing my apprehension with the doctor, I said to her "When I was younger, I had Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome," I added "I'm not sure if you know what that is," and she said that she did. I was amazed-- and immediately transported back to my show choir classroom when I was 16 years old.  A Junior in high school, I was sitting on the steps in the room clutching a piece of paper, feeling such utter elation that they finally knew what was wrong with me.

According to my mom, it started when I was about 2.  These bouts of severe nausea and vomiting that were pretty much unable to be explained.  This continued for several years, and I definitely have vivid memories of it when I was older.  I remember sitting in the nurse's office, after having had to run to the bathroom in the middle of class.  I remember the sheer suddenness of the onset.  I could be feeling fine one minute, and the next, I would begin feeling nauseated and in desperate need of a bathroom.

Doctor's visits proved fruitless--no one knew what was wrong with me.  When I was 8, one doctor basically suggested to my mom that I was bulimic. (He asked her 'do you actually see her throw up?). She knew this wasn't the case though--one time, on the way to school, we were almost to the campus, and I suddenly said "I don't feel well," and she started to protest, saying we were almost to school--until she saw my face.  The color had drained from it, and I ended up needing to roll down the window.

For many years, this unknown thing kept following me around, it could strike at any time.  My mom & dad received several calls from me in the nurse's office on various days, and they had to come pick me up because I couldn't stop vomiting.

One time, I was going to Science Camp on Catalina, and I was so excited! But, that morning, I started to feel an 'episode' coming on. Sure enough, it hit.  But, not wanting to let my partner for the Science trip down, I went anyway.  I spent the whole time on the boat sick.  Everyone thought it was sea sickness, and I tried to explain that it wasn't.  Nobody would listen to me.  When I finally got to the camp, the counselors (who thought I was sea sick) didn't really know what to do.  Eventually, I asked them to bring me a chair into the bathroom, where I proceeded to sit in front of a bathroom stall for the next 4 hours while all of my classmates went snorkeling.  I threw up about 17 times (yes, I used to keep count). After the episode was over, I crawled into the top bunk and sipped some ginger ale the counselors had brought for me and proceeded to sleep.  Luckily, the next day I felt better, and the trip ended up being great by then.

The sickness itself was terrible--nobody likes throwing up, and having done it so much as a kid, teen, and young adult, I like it even less.  But, what was even worse was the fact that no one knew what it was.  We went to see so many doctors, and nobody knew. Finally, my primary care physician sent us to go see a specialist. I remember feeling hopeless, though.  I knew that no matter what tests they did, they wouldn't know what it was.

Nevertheless, we went to the specialist.  I had to eat radioactive oatmeal for one test, and the other I had to drink a huge thing of barium.  The barium was the worst.  The oatmeal was kind of fun--just tasted like regular oatmeal.  But the Barium?  Awful.  To this day, that day remains one of the worst days I've ever had. Barium is chalky and gross and terrible all around.  I remember not being able to do it, crying to my mom-- she got mad at me (side-note: years later, she had to drink Barium, and immediately apologized to me for getting so angry), and I just cried 'They're not going to be able to figure it out anyway, so this will just be for nothing!' Finally, I got the barium down. They took a couple pictures of my insides--and then the barium wasn't digesting fast enough, so they made me drink something else that tasted exactly like bile.  More tears, more pictures, and finally a few days later we were called back into the specialist's office.

I was right. They hadn't found anything wrong with me from the radioactive oatmeal and barium.  But, the doctor handed me a printout and said "I think you have Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome." He explained that the diagnosis was new, and that not that many doctors were even aware of its existence.  As I read the printout, and read through the symptoms, I felt so happy.  I had all of those symptoms--and they finally knew what was wrong with me!

I told everyone who would listen at school (no one really got the gravity of the situation, or at least they did not appear to, but that didn't really matter).  For years I had suffered with this thing that didn't have a name, and now it did: I had Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome.  They don't really know what causes it--different theories are around, one of which says that a traumatic head injury can cause it, another says a traumatic birth can cause it--but it had a name for me, finally, after years of not knowing what was wrong with me.

I don't really suffer from episodes so much any more, though I always have a sensitive stomach, and seem to be more prone to nausea than most-- but I spent years with this nebulous thing hanging above me, and now I wonder if that has any sort of bearing on the severe "white coat syndrome" that I experience now.

Back when I was first diagnosed, there were few resources for me, which is probably why I clung so desperately to that little printed page from the specialist.  But, now, with the advancement of the internet, there is a community out there-- there is an association! There's a board of directors! There's fundraisers! The Mayo Clinic AND the CDC list the condition.  

Even though I'll probably have white coat syndrome for the rest of my life--I am so glad there's a community out there talking about cyclic vomiting syndrome.

To learn more about Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS), go here: CVSA

*also, probably the last thing you want to do after reading an entry about CVS-- however! New food on the food page! :D