On My Mind

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I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the line I became my friends’ “friend who blogs.”

I’ve always been mildly amused by this because, clearly, this is not my full-time job. There are several-month-long stretches where I feel like the worst, most lackadaisical blogger in all the land. Blogging, for me, is solidly a fun little side project and not much more.

But, be that as it may, I still apparently blog more (or at least more publicly) than most of the other people in my circle of pals. Who knew?

As a result, I often find myself as the go-to for “I want to start a blog; what should I do?” advice. I could write a very specific, very brief self-help book.

I certainly don’t mind sharing my (limited) wisdom in this field, but I’ve noticed that I tend to tell people basically the same thing. So, for what it’s worth, here is my advice for starting a blog should you so desire:

1. Don’t make a huge investment.
Listen. I’m sure your blog is going to be a roaring success and that you are never, ever going to lose interest. But JUST IN CASE, I don’t recommend spending a zillion dollars on a designer and fancy hosting just yet. Give it three months. Get a free WordPress blog and see if you actually like baring your soul to the internet a couple of times a week. If you find that you love it and want to get more seriously into advertising or partnerships or whatever, then go for the fully hosted shebang.

But if a couple months go by and you start to feel uncomfortable or like you’re struggling, you are allowed to give up and you won’t feel like you wasted a small fortune. (For the record, a fully hosted blog will probably run you around $150 a year. It’s not a huge amount, but it COULD have been a really nice dress or a pair of shoes or two. Just things to consider.)

2. Maybe think twice before you bare your soul.
Blogging about your life is weirdly addicting. When I first launched mine, I was bursting at the seams with topics and I started to think about everything that happened to me in a narrative voice. This is good because it means you haven’t run out of ideas yet. This is not good because sometimes you can get a bit carried away and share something you’ll wish you wouldn’t have.

I’ve been fortunate. I have always been extremely cautious about what I share, rarely revealing any details about my marriage, job, or issues with friends or family members. That is a personal choice I made. Other bloggers share these things freely, and it works for them. You should deeply assess what you are willing to risk. Because that’s exactly what you are doing when you make something personal very, VERY public. You are risking it. Just keep that in mind (and maybe save your opinion on your latest fight with your spouse for your next best friend chat over a glass of wine).

3. The blogging world is surprisingly tight-knit.
I have actual friends that I have made through blogging. Some of them, I only know through our blogs’ comment sections and social media. Others I have actually become friends with in real life. These relationships are always kind of magical to me because they represent what I liked about blogging from the beginning — it connects like-minded people across all other boundaries.

It’s also just smart to have these friends. They will be the ones who inspire you out of blogging ruts. They’re the ones who will partner with you on fun initiatives that will help you grow your online presence. And they’re the ones who will cheer the loudest when you share your personal successes online. There are a lot of awful bloggers out there, but there are a lot of wonderful folks out there too. Find them. Follow them. Comment on their blogs. And TELL them that you love them. People always like hearing that.

In general, though, my main advice would be to not take it too seriously in the beginning. If this is meant to be your career, it will happen. First, make sure it’s something you truly enjoy. (Because you cannot fake it as a blogger. Passion is literally the crux of any kind of success on here.) Be yourself, carve out your niche, and enjoy the ride.

Blogger pals, what advice would you give to would-be bloggers?

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When I first got married, I’m going to be totally honest, I was a little bit sad to be giving up that feeling of potential that you could meet someone.

You know the one I mean: The one that makes you put a little bit more time into your hair before going out to dinner with a new group of people. The one that floods your body when you first walk into a party where you know you won’t know everyone. The one that says, “You could meet the one tonight.”

Of course, I saw the irony in this: I was sad to be losing something because…I had found it? Brains are weird.

But the point is, a very small part of me realized I was forever losing something that had been defined by excitement and hope, and that made me a little sad.

For the record, this is not the same as regret. I did not and do not regret getting married when I did. I’m just sayin’, it’s one of those funny life transitions that you don’t really consider until after the fact.

Now, though, I have such a different feeling about it.

The thing is, there is quite a bit of power in realizing that you don’t really care if you impress. In knowing that it doesn’t matter one tiny bit if that good-looking guy at the bar finds you attractive or annoying or what. I can be totally, 100 percent honest and myself because, when the conversation is over, I get to go back to the person I love who loves me more than anything.

Nowadays, if a guy tries to chat me up or flirt or whatever, I respond in exactly the way I always wanted to (but for whatever reason felt like I couldn’t because, well, “maybe” is a powerful thing). And that’s pretty cool. The idea of being exactly who I am without caveat is so freeing to me.

And the really funny part? I find I have much more meaningful conversations, even with total strangers, the quicker I can clear up that nothing beyond a friendly chat is going to happen here. I’ve actually had guys who at one point were hitting on me end up sincerely asking me for relationship advice just a few minutes after finding out I was unavailable. It might help that I’m just a friendly gal, but I like to think that removing the tension of “could something happen between us” allows people to just be themselves on both sides and make an actual connection with another human being. Neat, huh?

So, I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re still in that phase of somewhat lamenting what you’ve lost, take heart. You probably never really loved the unknown all that much anyway.

Hi hi hi hi HI!

Have you missed me? I’ve missed you all.

You probably already noticed, but I took a bit of a break from the interwebs over the last two weeks. (Except what I needed to do for work.) Instead, I really threw myself into organizing our apartment and updating a few decor things.

We decided last year that this would be our final year in our current place, meaning we’ll be ready to move come April. Before then, though, I wanted to get rid of as much as I could to make packing and moving less of a headache.

Meaning it was time to tackle the really messy areas of our apartment.

Here were my main goals:

1. Organize the linen closet.
2. Organize the file cabinet.
3. Rearrange the desk area.
4. Replace our (seriously beat UP) living room rug.
5. Sell and replace our green upholstered chair in the living room.
6. Organize the kitchen cabinets and pantry.
7. Rearrange our picture frames.
8. Organize under the bathroom sink.

I had also hoped to get some organizing done in the bedroom, but that’s a task for another day. It’s mostly Joey’s stuff that needs a more efficient storage system. (Sorry, babe. I promise, you’ll like it better when everything has a place!)

Here are a few before-and-afters…because who doesn’t love a makeover story?

Let’s start in the kitchen. Here is the pantry before:

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And here is the pantry after:

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I don’t know about you, but those sweetly labeled food containers just warm my heart.

Up next, the linen closet before:

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And now the linen closet currently:

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Yup, more chalkboard label goodness.

Next up, I rearranged some furniture around our desk. Here’s what it looked like before:

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And here’s what we’re looking at now:

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For the living room itself, here’s where we started:

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And here’s the updated version:

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A little lighter, brighter, and a lot more colorful, non?

I also did organize the kitchen cabinets, under the bathroom sink, our file cabinet, and I even threw in the tupperware and baking sheet cabinets for kicks. (It was a very busy couple of weeks.) I’m still waiting for our new upholstered chair to arrive, but then I’ll be sure to post an update.

So there you have it! How did everyone else spend their break?

 

There is simply no non-cliche way to say, “golly, can you believe the year is almost over?!” So I’m just going to avoid it all together. But you get the sentiment.

2014 was a really good year for me. As my Facebook feed starts to fill with the social network’s latest look-back campaign, I paused to actually think about all I had accomplished this year.

I started the year in the cold, training for my first ever full marathon. It wasn’t always great, but in the end I accomplished my goal.

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Besides the race itself, Joey and I also took our second trip to Paris, which, like the race, was full of terrible and wonderful moments. I like the think the wonderful (mostly) outweighed the bad, though.

Monet's garden.

Monet’s garden.

2014 was also the year of weddings. And weddings. And more weddings. After watching five of our dear friends tie the knot, I was reminded of two things: 1) It’s a good thing I really love weddings. 2) I am so glad Joey and I got that out of the way years ago. Turns out there’s less stress about scheduling when you get hitched young.

One of the best things that happened to me this year? This fuzzy face.

Sleep on alllll the pillows...

Sleep on alllll the pillows…

Yes, after years of dreaming, hoping, wishing, and all the other verbs you can pack into a ’50s doo-wop song, we finally got a dog of our own. Anyone who spends even a few minutes with me knows how much I love that little dog — Joey and I say all the time we can’t imagine not having him. He has certainly been a highlight of the year.

I didn’t make it back to the Midwest this year (le siiiiigh), but I did get to see my family for my parents’ 30th anniversary. The planning was a bit stressful, but the part itself turned out exactly how I had hoped it would. (And, honestly, how often can you say that?)

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The most exciting thing that happened this fall was our trip to California, when I finally did the drive down the West Coast I’ve always wanted to do.

That's a happy girl right there.

That’s a happy girl right there.

After months spent planning that trip, it also went off without a hitch. Which, if you know me, NEVER happens to me. But it was so lovely getting to see my brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and a bunch of friends as we made our way south. And, you guys? That weather? I honestly don’t understand why people live anywhere else.

Other than the California trip, our fall/winter has been pretty quiet so far as we’ve gotten more serious about paying off debts and saving money. #adulthood, dude. Besides a long weekend in Vermont in January, we don’t really have any other trips planned for a while. (Besides Iowa next summer…it has been way too long.) Fortunately, my parents are visiting in February to temper some of my Midwest homesickness.

Like I said, a pretty good year all around. For old time’s sake, here is my sixth annual Year-End Sum-Uppance. (Here’s last year’s, for reference.)

Age: 27, but I still need to wear makeup to get taken seriously in meetings. And I finally grew out the little-girl bangs, which helped.

Location: New York City

Occupation: Social Media Strategy Manager.

New favorite food: Some of you may remember that last year I adjust this to be a shout-out to a food I realized I loved in the last year. The winner for 2014? Grilled octopus. Those Astoria Greeks know what they’re doing.

TV shows I’m watching: This year I got SUPER into Parks & Rec (I’m not emotionally ready for the series finale in 2015), and I’ve started rewatching Gilmore Girls. Up next, I think I want to get into The West Wing. (Obviously these sentences brought to you by Netflix.)

Book I’m reading: Life of Pi

What’s my hair doing right now: Sort of a joke, but also sort of serious since I talk about it often enough on this blog. Still blonde and super long at the moment. Getting a haircut the first week of January. But I think I’m done with bangs. (FOR NOW.)

How I did on my goals from last year: Just to remind you, these were last year’s goals, along with how I did:

1. Travel more.
Check! One international trip and one cross-country vacation definitely qualify.

2. Run a marathon.
Another check!

3. Finally get a dog.
You guys. I killed it this year.

4. Pick up at least 20 freelance assignments.
I think it was actually closer to 15, but I still feel good about that. I have a pretty regular gig at a local magazine, which has been a nice creative outlet.

5. Get closer to figuring out where we want to settle.
We’ll be in New York for at least another year, but I think our California trip narrowed things down for me. Guess we’ll see!

Goals for next year: Completely pay off our debts, build up a savings account, pioneer at least five times, and find a new apartment in April (still in Queens).

In general, I feel like 2014 was a semi-pivotal year for me. I feel so much more secure with who I am and my relationship with so many people in my life than I ever have before. I feel like maybe I’m getting better at this whole life thing.

How was your year?

I like to believe I have a lot of control over my own happiness. Sometimes I think this is good. Other times, I think it is naive.

It’s good because I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of gal. I also think truly believing that I can pull myself through the dark times is instrumental in actually making it happen.

It’s naive because…well…sometimes I can’t.

Because obviously there are a lot of things that happen to a person that are outside of our control. And there are a lot of things that happen inside of a person’s head that can negatively affect happiness beyond the limits of our control.

And when I fail at controlling and activating my own happiness, then there’s an added layer of, “Well, why can’t you just fix it?”

You know how people with severe depression always comment on how pushy relatives or well-meaning folks will tell them to “just get over it,” but they really truly can’t and telling them to try just makes things worse? Sometimes I think I am my own pushy relative.

Anyway. That was a long way of saying that, while I feel fine now (promise!), recently I was in a low place. And in an effort to pull myself out of it, I started making a list of all the things I could do to make my life better.

BECAUSE OF COURSE I DID.

And, what LUCK, I also have about a week of working from home ahead of me, so I will have more time to tackle projects. Hooray! Here’s brief recap to keep me accountable:

1. Streamline!
We’re planning to move apartments in April. To help simplify the process, I want to start whittling down our belongings now. I’m planning to clean out (and properly organize):

– The linen closet
– The front closet
– The trunk at the foot of the bed
– The file cabinet

I truly believe that getting rid of tangible clutter helps me clear my mind. Is that weird?

2. Finish decor projects
A few weeks ago, I purchased a new rug for the living room (because my roommates have destroyed the cream and brown rug we have now). I’m also planning to sell our green accent chair and get a navy one, plus rearrange the frames on the walls. I might also rearrange some furniture. Who knows? Things are getting crazy!

3. SECRET SIDE PROJECT.
More on this later. Because I’m a terrible tease.

Anyone else planning on crossing a few things off the to-do list over the holidays? Am I the only one who derives deep personal satisfaction from crossing things off to-do lists?

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In general, I try to steer away from topics where I am basically giving you guys advice. Because, I mean honestly, I consider myself okay if I can get MYSELF through the day. I would never assume responsibility for your guys.

But, if you’ll indulge me, there’s been something on my mind lately that I’m curious to hear your perspective. And it has to do with DIETS.

Not like, Atkins. (Y’all know I hate a fad diet.) Diet as in the Webster version: food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health.

I’ve said before that I believe in all things in moderation, but lately I’ve been experimenting with removing certain elements from my diet and then analyzing their effect on my mood and emotions.

Before I get into it, I feel obligated to remind you all that I am not, in fact, a medical professional. This is not meant to serve as advice of any kind. This is purely an examination of my own experiences and a request to hear your own. Do you need me to include an asterisk disclaimer? Because I will. I am not a doctor.*

As I was saying.

For the last couple of months, I’ve removed a couple of things:

1. Diet soda
2. Alcohol
3. Caffeine
4. Dairy

I mean, I’ve had the occasional glass of wine here and there, but in general, I’ve been trying to limit the amount of excess sugar I consume, and alcohol is obviously a big source of sugar.

One of the things that prompted me to start playing around with what I eat was my gut itself. I noticed that I was getting stomach aches often, or just feeling general discomfort. (GLAMOROUS!) When I went a week without drinking and tried to avoid desserts, I noticed, almost magically, these problems seemed to go away. It was especially helpful when I was training for a race or just working out a lot in general.

Not surprisingly, an hour-long spin class is much easier without a tummy ache.

I had a similar response to dairy, and as a result I rarely consume anything that come’s from cow’s milk. (The occasional Greek yogurt or scoop of ice cream is the only real exception.)

Beyond the purely physical benefits, I’ve found it kind of fascinating to see how limiting sugar has affected my mood. When I’m limiting my sugar, I feel more even-keel in general, rarely feeling anxious or overly sensitive. When I’m not, I have more stressful days or moments when I feel like my anxiety is harder to control.

The changes I noticed when I cut out caffeine were more predictable: Sure, that first week sucked, but since then, I feel like I’m sleeping better and I don’t feel any more tired than I did when I was drinking several cups a day.

Again, I’m not sharing these observations in an attempt to guilt or pressure anyone to do the same, I’m just curious: Has anyone else tried something like this and noticed similar results? Are there certain foods you don’t eat because you notice they contribute negatively to your mental well-being?

Basically, I find the psychology of food really interesting, and I want to know your experiences. SHARE WITH ME! (If you want…)

*No, seriously. Not. A. Doctor.