Summertime

One thing I really appreciate about living here is the beautiful plant life. Flowers here are so tropical and exotic, and half of them look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Almost every house on my street has a lush garden, overflowing with hummingbirds and succulents and blissful indifference to the California drought crisis. Not the most eco-friendly, but at least it makes my neighborhood walks more pleasant.

June Favorites

A roundup of what I’ve been up to this month:

Today I went up to Muir Woods  to go see the Redwoods, which was SO amazing. I don’t spend enough time in nature, so I’m glad I went up there. I also don’t take advantage of the beautiful spots in the Bay Area enough, and this was just a reminder of what a cool and unique place I live in. We also stopped by the Golden Gate bridge to take pictures and take in the gorgeous views. All in all a great day!

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I had a fantastic time at a Kris Allen concert in San Francisco a few weeks ago. I’ve seen him live one time before, and he was just as amazing as he was on his American Idol days. One of my new favorites he performed was “In Time” (also love the glasses he’s rocking in that video).

God only knows how I got into rewatching Seth Meyers’s speech from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but what a gem. Even though it’s from 2011 it’s more relevant than ever, including my favorite line: “Donald Trump has been saying he will run for President as a Republican, which is surprising since I just assumed he was running as a joke.”

I saw the new Andy Samberg/Lonely Island movie Popstar, and it’s in the top 10 funniest movies I’ve ever seen. I assumed it would be silly and mildly entertaining, and 20 minutes in I was crying from laughter. It’s such a witty take on celebrity culture, but also straight-up hilarious. The song above got cut from the movie but it might be one of my favorites on the soundtrack (and the only one appropriate enough to post on my blog). The movie bombed at the box office but I’m hoping people come to recognize it’s greatness once it inevitably comes to Netflix.

 

 

Springtime in SV

It’s been a while since my last post. April was a pretty exhausting month. Not only did I move to a new house, but I took a trip with some friends, had my parents come visit, and had some intense personal things going on that I ended up flying back to Maryland for.

When I got back to California at 11pm after a full day of flying, I opened the door, dropped my bags, fell on the floor and bawled my eyes out from emotional exhaustion. I’ve never been in a sorrier state.

Now I’m feeling much more calm, but it’s been a process. More than once, I’ve had to lay on my bed with outstretched arms and say “Universe/God/Whatever spiritual entity is out there, please help me get through this.” And you know what? I know I’m going to be okay. I truly, in my heart of hearts, believe that my life is going to turn out the way it’s meant to be, and it will be fine.

There are so many things I can’t control, be they other people’s actions or things that happen to family and friends.  I’ve been trying to focus on a few things that are well within my control, and how I can actually improve myself. A couple things on my plate right now:

1. My health and fitness. In 2013, I lost 40 lbs. I’ve managed to keep off a significant amount, although I definitely lost some motivation and persistence over the past few years. For the past 2 weeks I’ve weighed myself every day and tracked it in MyFitnessPal, recorded everything I ate in MFP, and started going to fitness classes regularly. I have a new goal weight and some overall fitness goals that are keeping me motivated. I definitely feel like my mindset has shifted back to how it was in 2013 – it’s not IF I get in shape and lose weight, it’s WHEN. I’m ready to do the hard work now.

2. Letting go of things that don’t concern me. The other day I heard the phrase “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” I can’t remember who said it, but I’ve adopted it as my new mantra. Whenever I start to get opinionated about the drama that’s befalling others, I just repeat “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” I can only focus on myself – no need to get dragged into other people’s messes that I didn’t create. Also, when I start to feel the judgmental troll who lives deep inside my cold heart come to surface, I say “Who am I to judge them?” I have so many flaws, and I truly am no better than any other human being. We’re all just trying our best.

3. Creating my own learning & development plan. I’m working on trying to transition to some sort of Learning & Development career (my dream job is a life coach), so naturally I need to do my own L&D. I’m planning on signing up for a coaching workshop this summer, and I’m researching getting MBTI-certified and long-term coaching courses.

Some other things – I’ve reignited my love for The Amazing Race, and have started pretending that my errands/chores are “Race” tasks (I’m a freak, I know). I’ve been jamming to Fifth Harmony non-stop. I’ve discovered the pure bliss of acai bowls with peanut butter (I’ve eaten three this week). And I am absolutely ready for summer.

 

Notes from a Know-It-All

Yesterday I finished Sheila Weller’s book The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour – and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News. As you can guess by the lengthy title, the book narrates the careers of three different news women. I picked it up because Katie Couric has long been one of my favorite news personalities. While I knew I’d be enthralled with Katie’s section, I was surprisingly drawn to the chapters on Diane Sawyer as well. One early passage detailing her college years particularly resonated:

Diane Sawyer, who’d come to Wellesley insecure about her provincialism, would actually prove to be ahead of her times, quickly making a “male” career her goal, not marrying until she was forty-two, forgoing motherhood without regret or apology. – pg. 39

Against the backdrop of the 60’s, it’s clear what a feminist leader Diane was, as she graduated university and quickly moved up the ranks in male-dominated broadcast. However, the phrase “forgoing motherhood without regret or apology” really stuck with me.

I’ve known I don’t want kids since I was about 11 years old. I have a journal from 6th grade saying as much. And just as there are “mommy wars” about car seats and swaddling styles, there are unspoken (and sometimes spoken) divisions over parents vs. those who are childfree. As I hit my mid-twenties, with many people in my personal and professional lives having kids, I have never felt this more acutely than right now.

I’m lucky that most of my friends and family are respectful of my choice, and don’t pressure me in any way to have children. However, I did have a friend this week say The Dreaded Phrase: “You will change your mind.” Having heard this for the past decade, you’d think I would have a good comeback by now. But I don’t. And really I don’t need one, because nothing I could say would change their mind, and vice versa.

I’ve wondered why the insistence that I will change my mind about having kids is so frustrating. And I think it comes down to this:

As women, we never have complete agency over our bodies. The media dictates what measurements will best attract a man (actual headline from Shape: “The Perfect Body, According to Men: Long Legs and Kim Kardashian’s Curves“). Social media trolls tell us we should look as perfect wearing makeup as going bare-faced. Politicians say that we are not allowed to make a decision to terminate a pregnancy without enduring false information and invasive procedures. Being a woman is a constant “Goldilocks” struggle – not too big of hips, not too small of lips. Look natural but seductive. Wear clothes that show off your figure, but not too much. We can never win.

It makes sense, then, that a woman’s decision whether or not to bear children is not really her own. But it still bothers me. Especially when that decision is the biggest possible decision you could ever make in your life. A decision like that should never be dictated by someone other than the parents-to-be. This means no co-workers, friends, siblings, parents, in-laws, waiters, Uber drivers, magazine writers – no matter how “well-intentioned.” This strong belief I’ve held for 15 years should be respected, even if it goes against what someone else thinks is right.

But it goes beyond parenthood. I saw this passionate criticism of a woman making her own choices full-blown in the vlogging world recently. Last week, I watched a video by my favorite beauty vlogger, Casey Holmes, recap her daily eating and fitness habits. While I’m not a big fan of these fitness videos, I respect Casey’s decision to make them. So I was appalled by the blowback she got from a popular vegan blogger, who made a video trashing Casey and whose fans bombarded Casey with negative comments.

I watched this critical reaction video, and I kept thinking,  “Why attack her? She was just saying what worked for her. She didn’t say being vegan was bad.” Maybe it sounds weird to be so engrossed in a vlogging feud. But it made me think about our current culture, where so many people, especially women, are eager to criticize other people’s personal choices as “wrong,” just because they are different.

As social networks have created niche communities, it’s easy to find yourself surrounded by likeminded people. Which is awesome – it’s empowering to know there are other people like you, which in turn brings comfort and confidence in your choices.

And obviously, we all think our choices are right – otherwise we wouldn’t make them! And we all want validation for those choices. Who really wants to hear that their lifestyle is somehow inferior to another?

But this validation we seek shouldn’t come at the cost of putting someone else down. As I’ve recently been learning, other people’s choices have nothing to do with me. Whether it’s Hillary vs. Bernie, buying vs. renting, or having kids vs. being childfree, we should all have the respect to make our own choices, without criticism from others. We should operate under the assumption that I know what’s right for me, and you know what’s right for you.

I’m still working on feeling confident enough in my decision to be childfree to not feel defensive about it. Anytime you are in the minority on something, it’s a struggle to exist in a world so clearly not made for you. But that’s life! Anytime you go outside the norms of what’s expected, you’re bound to get pushback. Be it entrepreneurship vs. the 9-5 work life, pursuing a minimalist lifestyle vs. consumerism, or being LGBT in a very straight society – you have to have the confidence to know, “my choices are 100% right for me and valid.” And you know what? As long as you are not infringing on other people’s health, physical/psychological well-being, or basic human rights, people should be respectful of the choices you make.

Not to say we can’t have healthy debates when people want to (See Cabinet Battle #1 from Hamilton for a prime example). Or that people won’t naturally congregate with others who share common interests, and let friendships fade where divisions are clear. But why do we have so much hostility about other people’s choices that have no impact on our own?

As a very low-stakes example: I’ve had people “lovingly” tease me about my Survivor fandom. I detest teasing, as it creates a very negative atmosphere and ultimately serves no purpose other than to put people down. And I’ve always wondered “Why do they even care?” It never feels good to have someone devalue what you hold dear. Why not just accept that we have different tastes, and celebrate that we are not all the same. For what a boring world that would be (although it would definitely improve Survivor’s ratings).

I’m writing this not because I am judgment-free, but because I have so much work to do. I am definitely a know-it-all (cue Bethenny Frankel’s “maybe I know it all”). But I’m trying to have a little more compassion for other people who do things differently than me, and to realize that their personal choices have no impact on my choices. And being a know-it-all is not endearing. Nobody ever thinks, “That person told me everything I’m doing is wrong – I want to be friends with them!” I’m trying to go into more conversations with the purpose of seeing things from another perspective. For instance, I’m sure gluten-free people would love to hear “That’s interesting – how did you decide that was best for you?” rather than, “You should definitely do Paleo” or “That’s so bad for you – try a juice cleanse instead.” Curiosity versus judgment.

As Diane did, I’d like to make my personal decisions with no apologies and no regrets. Not only will it make me less defensive, but it will probably make me better understand other people’s decisions, and not rush to judge them or defend my own. Now the media just needs to get on board. And as Casey Holmes often says in response to the haters, “Girl, let me live!”

 

 

Surviving LA

I flew to LA this past week to see a live podcast hosted by former Survivor players Rob Cesternino and Stephen Fishbach. I could spend hours discussing Rob and his podcast (appropriately titled Rob Has a Podcast) and the many joys it brings to my life. To briefly summarize, Rob interviews different Survivor contestants and breaks down the strategy behind the show. He also has an audiobook diving into each season, which is why I listened to a 17-hour Heroes vs. Villains retrospective with no regrets. I met Rob at another live podcast event this past October in San Francisco. Meeting him started off smoothly, as we posed for a picture and I told him how much I loved his podcast. Suddenly it took a turn, as I started a stream-of-consciousness speech about how he “shouldn’t let the haters get him down.” It was complete with oversized hand movements that I often use when I’m passionately trying to explain something. If you’ve ever seen Sims interact, you know what I’m talking about. God help me if I ever meet an A-list celebrity.

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Right before I started wildly gesticulating to Rob about his “haters.”

With this experience in mind, I was determined not to embarrass myself in front of another Survivor, and most importantly, to have a fun and relaxing vacation.

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I stayed in Beverly Hills, which definitely lived up to the image in my head. Plastic surgeons roamed the streets during lunch hour, toast doesn’t automatically come with brunch, and I saw more Juvederm-injected lips than a Kylie Jenner Instagram feed.

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I had the best night ever seeing the live show. First we screened that night’s Survivor episode, which was so fun to watch with a bunch of ecstatic fans in one room. Then Stephen and Rob bantered on stage, a few more Survivors joined them, and a magical time was had by all. (Link to video from the show.)

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After the show, everyone headed over to a nearby bar in WeHo. Not only did I get to hang out with the nicest and funniest Survivor fans, but I got to meet Stephen! He was just as genuine and kind as I imagined, and I didn’t ramble. Success.

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I’m not a religious person, but I do believe that on this trip, God intervened in my life in a very profound way. At the end of my two-day vacation I was wandering around Beverly Hills, looking for a place to grab an Uber to head to the airport. I noticed a TMZ Tour bus stopped at a corner and passengers taking pictures. It pulled away and I glanced at the building they were photographing – it was Villa Blanca. If you’re not a Vanderpump Rules fan, then this entire paragraph will mean nothing to you. If you are a fan, then you can understand my pure ecstasy at seeing Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurant. Especially because that same day I had considered walking to Sur, but didn’t have enough time. But God had other plans for me. I crossed the street to take a picture of Villa Blanca, when suddenly I see none other than Lisa herself being filmed getting into her car. I walked by to survey the scene and hope for a cameo on Bravo, when I hear the distinct voice of Scheana Shay. Sure enough, Scheana, Jax and Brittany are dining about five feet away from me. I stared for a second (or maybe 5) and then strolled past, smiling in disbelief at my luck. I had seen four Bravolebrities. My trip to LA was complete.

Other highlights included asking my Uber driver if we were on the same highway that OJ’s Bronco was on (we were), eating a cupcake at the original Sprinkles store, and all the amazing Survivor fans I got to meet. Plus the pride at taking my first solo vacation felt great. While I wouldn’t ever want to live in LA (too much traffic and not enough carbs), I definitely can’t wait to visit again soon!

 

 

Mindfulness & Meditation

Last month, I participated in a three day mindfulness and meditation class that’s offered at work. My class of about 60 students was led by two facilitators who showed us different mindfulness techniques to use in our professional and personal lives. About one third of the class was lecture, describing the science behind these ideas, but most of the class was practical exercises that we did with partners or by ourselves.

I’m pleasantly surprised that several weeks later, I’m still using the tools that I learned in the class. A couple key practices that I’ve been working on:

1.)  Meditation: I know that meditation is extremely trendy, especially in the Bay Area. And practically every health and wellness article touts its benefits. I’ve tried for several years to get into meditation, but never could find a regular cadence. After engaging in meditation exercises throughout the class, I’m hooked! Fortunately there’s a dedicated meditation room at work, so I’ve been practicing there for about 20 minutes a day 3x/week. I like to plug in my headphones and fire up my “Meditation” Spotify playlist that sounds like I’m at the beach and/or a nice spa.

For me, meditation is not really about clearing my mind. When I think of meditation from that lens, it loses its appeal. Instead, I will let the thoughts that are causing me anxiety or worry just enter my mind, and just sit with them for a bit and just breathe in and out. I don’t try to swat them immediately out of my mind so I can keep this idealized blank mind. It looks more like: “[THOUGHT POPS INTO HEAD] — that’s an interesting thought, it’s causing me to feel [EMOTION] — Breathe in and out — [NEXT THOUGHT POPS UP]..” and so on.

It helps me destress and realize that whatever I’m worrying about is most likely not that important, and has actually helped me think through some problems. Maybe it’s not the most conventional meditation technique, but it’s been working for me!

2.) Journaling: I love journaling but am not very consistent. We did several journaling exercises during the class based on prompts, which were really fun (I especially love future-oriented exercises, like writing about where you want to be in 5 years). I’ve definitely been journaling more over the past few weeks, and I’d like to stick with it. My problem is that I tend to journal only when I’m having a really bad day, rather than journaling during my more positive moments. But it’s helpful to have a record of all these times in my life, and makes me feel grateful to write down when I’m feeling happy, rather than solely the down times.

3.) Active listening: This was the most novel thing I learned over the three days. We did a couple exercises in pairs, where we had to sit and listen to our partners talk for five minutes without saying anything. It sounds really simple, but go try it. Seriously, go find someone right now and listen to them without saying a word. It is HARD. Obviously it’s helpful to give the speaker affirmative cues (“Mhm”, etc), and saying nothing could make them feel like they’re talking to a brick wall. But so often in conversations we have the impulse to jump in with our own thought, or finish the speaker’s sentence, or simply not listen because we’re thinking of what to say next. When you just sit and listen, you realize you actually hear what they’re saying. Novel, right?

I am the worst with active listening. I often find myself cutting people off, then apologizing, and then cutting them off again 30 seconds later. I think it’s related to social anxiety/shyness; I don’t want to make a fool out of myself, so I spend the entire conversation thinking about what I will say and rushing to get my thought out so they think I’m smart/cool/whatever. The thing is, people like to be heard, and if you give them the space to do so, they’ll probably like you more. When it comes to how they feel about you,  what they say is more important than what you say.

I’ve been a bit more conscious of this in my work and personal conversations. It’s been a process, but I’m keeping with it. Progress, y’all!

 

Budgeting for 2016

Hello, January! It’s that time of year to start making and breaking resolutions. And to ring in 2016, I’ve recommitted myself to using You Need a Budget (YNAB). Because nothing says “Happy New Year!” like budgeting software, am I right??

But really, I love YNAB! I spend way too much time reading their forums and listening to their podcast. It’s made budgeting really easy to manage, and honestly it’s pretty fun. I get so excited when a paycheck comes in and I get to decide which category to send my money to. And even if you don’t specifically use YNAB to track your money, the 4 Rules behind it are incredibly helpful. My personal favorite is “Embrace Your True Expenses.” This means that you should be budgeting throughout the year for infrequent, major expenses that you know are coming. This could be anything from Christmas presents to car repairs to buying a new laptop. Maybe you don’t know the exact date that you’ll need the money, but you know you’ll need it at some point. This is much more helpful than just pooling all of your money into a single savings account, pulling from it every time you have a big expense, and then wondering why you have no savings left.

Side note: YNAB just converted to a new, web-based version that is $5 a month (nYNAB). I haven’t used the new version yet, and based on feedback from other users it still has some kinks to work out. The company says they’ll support YNAB4 (the version I use) through December 31st. You can still buy YNAB4 through their website for $60, and then download “YNAB Classic” in the app store (all YNAB4 stuff can be found here). Or, you can do a 34-day free trial of nYNAB here.

MY BUDGET 

For people wondering what the YNAB4 app looks like, or are curious to see someone else’s budget, I’ve added my own below. I blurred out actual numbers because this is a public blog, and I like my privacy y’all!

First you have to set up the desktop app by adding your current savings and creating categories. This info will then show up on the mobile app. The desktop app has way more features, but for simplicity’s sake I used screenshots of the mobile app for this post. You can find a detailed tutorial on setting up YNAB from this recorded webinar. Basically the desktop app is used for allocating money, and the mobile app is for recording transactions.

You need to set up categories to divide where your money is going. One major rule of YNAB is to “give every dollar a job.” That means you need to budget all of your money. That doesn’t mean you need to spend every dollar; you just need to designate what category it will go into, whether it’s paying rent this month or your vacation next June.

You can personalize categories to say whatever you want. What works for me is 4 master categories that house sub-categories within them: Savings, Fixed, Non-Fixed – Priority A, Non-Fixed – Priority B. The blurred out numbers in green shows how much has been budgeted to that category that you haven’t spent.

SAVINGS

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The first section of my categories are Savings. These are categories I am adding to and rolling over month-to-month. They can be long-term or short-term savings goals. The numbers in parentheses denote a specific number I’d like to reach by a certain date. My categories are:

  • E-fund, or Emergency fund: Experts say you’re supposed to save 3-6 months of living expenses in case of an emergency, like a medical crisis or job loss. Again, this is not for things you can anticipate and plan for (i.e. yearly property tax bill). Those should be a separate category that you save for all year. Your e-fund is for true emergencies.
  • Accountant: This is an example of a long-term goal you would save for each month. I know I need to get an accountant in February, so every month I budget some money to this, and won’t pull from it until I need to pay for that accountant.
  • Flight to MD: Another long-term savings goal. I’m going to Maryland in September and will likely buy my ticket in July, so I need to save $X amount by then
  • Vacation Fund: Any travel expenses, including flights/hotels/cabs, are pulled from this category
  • Clothing/Shoes: I consider this a long-term savings category because I’m trying to buy less frequently and buy higher quality clothing. I want to let this category balance build up for a few months and then splurge with a higher amount, rather than buy cheaper clothes every month with less money.
  • Holidays/Gifts: Based on how much I spent this past Christmas, I DEFINITELY need to prioritize saving for this category. This also includes gifts for weddings, baby showers, and housewarming parties (can you tell I’m in my mid-twenties?).

FIXED

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My next category is for Fixed expenses. These are recurring, monthly expenses that don’t really change month-to-month. I would not let the balance on these roll over each month. For instance, say I budgeted $20 for Utilities in December but my bill was only $15. I would then balance that category to 0 and allocate those $5 to a different category. I also like to put the due date for the bill in parentheses. Since most of my bills are on auto-pay, I just check my bank statement and make sure they were paid on time. Other examples in this category would be your cable bill, Netflix account, or online subscriptions. And if you’re wondering what my RHAP Patreon fee is – check out Rob Has a Podcast!

NON-FIXED – PRIORITY A

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My next budget category is the awkwardly-named Non-Fixed – Priority A. These are expenses that do vary month-to-month, but are more or less essentials and would be hard to reduce. Basically, it’s my non-fun money.

  • Monthly RDF: This is YNAB lingo for “Rainy Day Fund.” Basically any small essential expense that I didn’t budget for. This includes things like a new phone charger if I lose mine, or a minor medical expense. Ideally I’d like to let this category build up over time, but I usually end up spending it each month.
  • Dining Out: I used to have this in one category with Groceries, but I’m trying to cut way back on my restaurant spending, so I want to track that individually. I’m actually considering moving “Dining Out” to the Priority B category since it’s more of a luxury, but we’ll see how this does for now.
  • Household/Toiletries: This is mostly for home cleaning supplies and things like shampoo, toothpaste, etc. I also add home decor purchases here, although at some point I need to separate that into a different category to track.
  • Health/Fitness: I put this here because I want to prioritize any health spending and not feel guilty. That’s one great thing about YNAB – it lets you really focus on what your priorities are. This category includes things like new running shoes, fitness class fees, and workout clothes.

NON-FIXED – PRIORITY B

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The last category I have is for variable expenses that are low priority. If I need to free up money from my budget because I overspent in one category, these are the first categories I pull from. Again these are pretty self-explanatory; “Personal Care” is beauty expenses.

SPECIFIC CATEGORIES

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When you click into a category, you will get this page. It shows you four main things:

  • Money rolled over from last month, if you underspent in that category
  • How much you funded for this month
  • How much money you’ve spent
  • How much money is remaining.

This is where you click to add a transaction (see button at bottom). Thank God I purchased season 1 of Vanderpump Rules in December and have yet to watch it. That’s really that’s all the entertainment I need.

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I hope this is helpful to anyone thinking of purchasing YNAB, or just looking for ideas to start budgeting. YNAB is based on the envelope system; you really can do this yourself with a spreadsheet on your computer or even physical envelopes. YNAB just makes it a lot easier!

December 2015 Rundown

Some thoughts from the past month…

Book I read: The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work by Christine Carter. Dr. Carter gives very specific and actionable advice on how to structure your time and environment to prevent stress and create better habits. One tip I adopted was disabling my phone’s text message notifications alerts. I can’t believe I never thought of it before, but it’s definitely decreased how often I check my phone. I also like her advice that the success of your morning routine is greatly impacted by your nighttime routine (laying out workout gear, turning off devices before bed, getting enough sleep).

Book I didn’t read: Saw this at the library today. Why are finance books for women so cringe-worthy? It’s mortifying.

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No thanks

App I love: Scannable, which is attached to Evernote. It functions as a scanner and it works really well. This month I used it to capture an infographic from a magazine, course descriptions from a huge catalog, and quotes from library books.

Movie that made me laugh:  I’ve been on a non-fiction book and documentary kick the past few years, and I realized that I miss funny shows and movies. So I spent my Friday night watching Trainwreck, which had me crying laughing. I’m so late to the Amy Schumer bandwagon, but I’m hopping on now!

Highly Sensitive People + Simplifying Media Consumption

I just cried over an article I shouldn’t have read. I knew I shouldn’t open the Washington Post article with the click-baity headline, “This man had the most touching response to seeing his wife’s body Photoshopped.” But I read it anyway.

The story recounted in the article, about the man and his photoshopped wife, wasn’t what made me sad. It was reading through the sexist comments, plus this line toward the end:

Most women struggle with insecurity about their bodies. Dr. Carolyn Ross, who specializes in eating disorders, wrote in 2012 on Psych Central that ’80 percent of women in the U.S. are dissatisfied with their appearance.'”

This might sound weird, but I get pretty emotional when I think about how hard it is to be a woman. From how media images shame us into believing we’re not good enough, to how men disrespect women, to the horrible treatment of women in developing countries, there are so many reasons to think that we will never achieve equality anytime soon.

And that’s seriously overwhelming.

When I became fascinated with feminism in college, I tried to absorb as much new information as possible. Watch Miss Representation? Check. Read XOJane.com? Check. I followed every feminist social media account I could find, and loved learning about various viewpoints and struggles we face.

At a certain point though, I just got SO overwhelmed. I cried every time I read about another campus assault. Rather than seeking out these articles, I shunned them. Then came the guilt – shouldn’t I want to consume all I could about these issues? How can I call myself a feminist if I’m ignoring what matters most to the movement?

This summer, I learned the term “Highly Sensitive Person,” and immediately found comfort. According to Wikipedia, HSPs are known for:

  • Depth of processing.
  • Over aroused (easily compared to others)
  • Emotional reactivity and high empathy
  • Sensitivity to subtle stimuli.

If you avoid huge crowds, feel overwhelmed at loud concerts, or sob when you read about the pain of someone else – welcome to the world of HSPs!

With this new term, I realized that becoming engrossed in these issues was affecting me in a way that might not affect other people. And ultimately, that’s not helping anyone. In simplifying my life, I’ve tried to cut out media content that makes me feel bad. This includes both social media, and unfortunately, depressing news about the state of women.

I continue to struggle with staying aware of what’s happening in the world, while not consuming it to the point that it’s causing me great distress. It’s a balancing act between determining what’s educational and what’s just upsetting. I still subscribe to The Shriver Report and listen to Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour podcast. But when I see an article about campus rape, or even a sexist article about a female celebrity, I’m gonna avoid it.

This applies for the real world as well. This weekend, I was in a new store when I saw this “Man Cave” sign declaring “No Bitching” and “Whatever Man Says Makes Sense.” I walked straight back through the door. No sense supporting a business that thinks that sign is appropriate (or actually funny). My money can go elsewhere.

And on that note…

So what CAN we do?

Personally, I feel the most helpful and socially active when donating to causes that profoundly move me.

For instance, I make a regular donation to the Fistula Foundation, which pays for surgeries for women in developing countries. If you don’t know what a fistula is, you can read about it here – it’s horrible. Fixing this injury for women radically changes their whole lives. I feel so much satisfaction every time I get a notification that a paycheck deduction was made (I contribute out of my paycheck and my company matches my donation, which is super generous of them).

And this Giving Tuesday, I made a donation to Planned Parenthood. I couldn’t bring myself to read most of the articles about the attacks on a Colorado clinic last week, but at least I feel I did something to help.

I hope this doesn’t come off as self-congratulatory, because there are people who donate way more than I do, or who devote their careers to the nonprofit sector. But I’ve found that donating feels like I’m actively working toward a solution. And that’s much better than just reading an article, crying, and thinking there’s nothing I can do.

How do you stay informed without feeling overwhelmed? 

 

 

Morning + Nighttime Routine Reminders

I’ve been a big fan of professional office organizer Kacy Paide ever since I saw her speak at a Junior League event last year. Her weekly newsletter is filled with great insight on how to organize both your office and your digital life.

I read a post the other day on Kacy’s website about a neat little “Morning Routine” frame that she used with a client. I loved the idea, and made AM and PM versions for myself to sit on my desk and nightstand. The frames were about $4 at CVS, and I used 4×6 plain white scratch pad paper to fill them in.

I’m sure these will change as I continue to optimize the best schedule for myself. But I love the “daily visual reminder,” as Kacy calls it. Now I have no excuses to not stick to these routines!

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Wake up routine!
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Feel free to laugh at my sad-looking crescent moon.

What tools, either physical or digital, would help you better stick to your morning and nighttime routines?