Freckles in April: 2018

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It Isn't Supposed to be Comfortable


My last morning at my old gym


Some time last year I outgrew my small gym. That gym had been part of my morning routine for almost 2 years and I couldn't fathom going anywhere else so, when my membership came up, I renewed for six more months. When that six months ended I knew I couldn't renew again. I needed different equipment, some coaching, more options. It was past time to move on.

There's a super affordable full gym in my old neighborhood where a ton of my friends go and I seriously considered it but, when I was honest with myself, I knew I wanted to try CrossFit. I got a recommendation for a box near my house and signed up for a two week trial.

The day before I started at the new place I went for a run. I'm not much of a runner but I was crazy terrified of starting CrossFit and I needed to run off my antsy nerves. After less than half a mile I was huffing and puffing and thought, "What am I doing?? I can't even run a mile without wanting to die, what makes me think I can handle a CrossFit workout?" And then I had a thought.

This is normal. 

It isn't supposed to be comfortable.

The shortness of breath. The tightness in my chest. It's normal. Sure, if I ran regularly it might not be quite as much of an issue but it's still an expected side effect. Running isn't comfortable. Exercise isn't comfortable.

As soon as I had that thought I decided to be ok with being uncomfortable. I turned up my music and ran until I got bored. I ran 4 miles. I can't tell you the last time I ran that far. I think it was 2009.

A few days later I was getting ready to release the first episode of my podcast and I had the thought that it wasn't too late to back out. I could just keep that one finished episode and my handful of drafts to myself and no one ever needed to hear them. I was uncomfortable imagining what people would think when they heard it, how I would explain it when I ran into old friends at the grocery store and they inevitably asked, "What have you been up to lately?"

And then I remembered:

This is normal. 

It isn't supposed to be comfortable.

New projects are fun but they also come with a certain amount of discomfort as you grow and stretch and learn. Putting yourself out there isn't comfortable. Letting people see vulnerable parts of you isn't comfortable.

I reminded myself that I am ok with being uncomfortable. I published the episode.

Over the past couple weeks I've noticed that life is not comfortable.

Talking to people I disagree with. Going to the lady doctor. Calling someone out on an inappropriate joke. Trying new foods. Sharing a deeply held belief. Driving in unfamiliar areas. These things make me wildly uncomfortable and that's normal. But I can choose to be ok with the discomfort, to do the thing anyway. Comfort zones are, well, comfortable. But good things happen outside them. Growing. Strengthening. Stretching. Learning. Expansion. Joy. Once I dropped the expectation of comfort I felt limitless.

Today at CrossFit my coach was teaching me a new skill involving a wonky hand grip. As I was trying to wiggle my fingers into position she said, "I know, it's not comfortable." I honestly almost laughed. I stretched my hands a little further and said, "That's ok!" and in my head I added,

I'm not here to be comfortable.



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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Scared of Everything

If you read my post about my resolutions for 2018 you may recall that I wanted to take time to be creative. Normally I try to make my goals a lot more specific than that but, when it comes to creativity, you kind of just have to leave it open and see what happens.

I've had the itch for a while. Blogging regularly used to scratch it for me (I love to write- especially in short, snippety form) but now that I'm not doing it very often it's like the creative part of my brain found itself a sharp stick and has been jabbing at me in a very annoyed fashion almost any time I have a down moment. Every time I hopped on Pinterest or found a particularly lovely Instagram account or saw a gorgeous sunrise, I'd feel that poke poke poke and think, "I have GOT to make or do something."

When I made my resolution I had a mental list of options: take an art class of some sort, practice hand lettering more often, take more pictures with my nice camera, start a podcast, write a novel, find something new to blog about.

Honestly, I thought the podcast option was the absolute least likely thing to happen but then, one night a few weeks ago, I had crazy insomnia and spent hours thinking through all the things I'm afraid of and their associated emergency plans. I am scared of a LOT of things. Normal things, dumb things, legitimate things, irrational things. And I thought, "I'd like to talk about the things I'm scared of. I want to hear what other people are scared of. I SHOULD DO A PODCAST ABOUT THIS."

And thus Scared of Everything: A Podcast About Dumb, Weird and Irrational Fears was born.

I don't want to get your hopes up- this is entirely something I am doing for myself, to scratch my itch and stretch myself. It might be boring. It might be lame. But it's something that, so far, I have really enjoyed doing. It combines something I really love (short, snippety writing) with things that are entirely new to me (audio recording and editing and a lot of other tech stuff that has kicked my butt).

I spent a week and a half slowly sketching out the logo I had in my head only to run into technical issues when it came to digitizing it. So it's not my current logo and it may never be, but the finished product was never the point, was it? For that week and a half I'd periodically go, "OH! An umbrella!" and then run to find my pencil and add to my sketch or remove something that wasn't working and the sad, neglected, creative part of my brain laid down its stick and was happy.

You can listen to my very first episode right here or you can find it on iTunes!

And if you have a dumb, weird or irrational fear I'd LOVE to hear about it. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to handle outside submissions (read them myself? Have people come on and chat with me?) but you can email me at scaredofeverythingpod@gmail.com. I've also set up an IG account to share pictures related to episodes (because fears really need visuals, you know?).


(PS Happy Valentine's Day!)
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Monday, January 29, 2018

Love is Art (Excuse Me While I Blush to Death)

I feel a bit awkward writing this post BUT I keep reminding myself that I'm an adult and I'm allowed to write about adult-type topics so *takes deep breath, hikes up britches* onward!



In 2015 I ran across Love is Art and thought, "Well that would be a pretty great anniversary gift." Unfortunately our anniversary had been, I kid you not, exactly one week prior. So I kept it open in a tab on my phone's browser for almost an entire year, during which time it just kept sounding better and better in my mind until I was congratulating myself on finding the greatest anniversary gift of all time. I finally bought it for him for our 11th wedding anniversary and presented it with great fanfare.

He was totally confused.

I explained.

He was excited!

But...we were tired.

I put the package under my side of the bed thinking we'd get around to it soon and then...another year went by. Occasionally I'd see it and go, "Oh yeah! We need to do that." Back under the bed it would go.

When I set up the sitting area in our room that we've always wanted I realized I needed some large, vertical art over the couch. Due to our spending fast I knew I couldn't buy any art for that area for another 5+ months and I was kind of bummed that it would take that long to finish off the area.

BUT THEN I REMEMBERED.

So yes, it took a home decorating project to make us actually use our kit. I pulled it out from under the bed one Friday afternoon and told Aaron it was his lucky night. We had dinner, put the kids to bed, and we made us some art!

In case you haven't figured it out by now...it's sex art. Yes, really. And I'm sorry. But also I'm not sorry because A. it was really fun and B. I freaking love how our canvas turned out.



Here's how it works:

The kit includes a giant piece of plastic sheeting, a canvas, non-toxic paint, two pairs of disposable booties and a loofah.

You spread out the giant piece of plastic to protect your floor, place the canvas in the middle of the plastic, set the booties up on the side closest to the bathroom and stick the loofah in the shower. Then you just kind of drip the paint all over the canvas, strip down and...do whatever you want to do on that canvas. When you're done you slip on the booties to walk to the shower and scrub off.

The whole thing was really fun and strangely empowering. Afterward I looked at myself in the mirror all covered in paint and though, *I* am the work of art. I kind of didn't want to wash it off.

Afterward we let the canvas dry and stretched it on homemade stretcher bars (cheap resawn trim from Home Depot with edges cut at 45* angles and screwed together with corner braces). Then I stained some pieces of poplar and we made a simple frame and hung the whole thing on our bedroom wall.

Sticker on the wood I used for the stretcher bars- it was under $5 per piece and I needed 2.

My angles weren't perfect but the stretcher bars get hidden under the canvas.

Basically held together with staples and a prayer

The canvas really completes that side of the room. I love the size, I love the look, I love the memory.



Valentine's Day is kind of a junk holiday for us- we don't go out, we rarely do gifts. But I think most significant others would appreciate something like this for Vday or an anniversary. It's a fun *adult* activity to do together and you get a cool piece of art to boot. There are lots of different canvas and paint color options and there's a 20% off coupon if you follow them on Instagram.

And here endeth the most awkward post I've ever written.

(P.S. Lady Gaga has done it!)

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

5 Things I Love Right Now

A short list in no particular order:

1. Nairn Oat Grahams

Last October I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. I've been on thyroid medication for 6+ years but for the past while I just couldn't get to a point where I felt good. I felt tired and headachey a lot of the time. My stomach often hurt and by night time I was often so bloated I looked 5 months pregnant. Sometimes my joints would hurt. I tried a new doctor (my 4th in 4 years because they'd just test my thyroid levels, tell me I was fine and send me on my way) and she promptly diagnosed me with Hashimoto's and told me I probably needed to change my diet since Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease with related food sensitivities.


On her recommendation, I cut out gluten, dairy, corn, soy and sugar for 6 weeks then slowly added them each back in one at a time to gauge how my body reacted to each. As it turns out, I'm sensitive to everything on that list but corn. My diet looks really different these days- mostly meat, veggies, fruit and rice. On one hand, it totally stinks. But on the other hand, I feel SO MUCH BETTER.

It's been a few months now and I don't really crave sugar the way I used to but most days I still just need a little something small and sweet in the afternoon to get me through. These oat grahams have a super clean ingredient list and are so so good with a square of really dark chocolate.

I found them at Sprouts (which is my new Mecca, bless them for all their GF/DF options!) but they're also available on Amazon.



2. Desert Essence Restorative Face Oil

My face is way struggling this winter- it's red, dry, irritated, and breakout prone. I finally decided my moisturizer wasn't cutting it and found this little guy at Sprouts (I live there now). It's been about a week and my skin is so. much. happier. The oil has a nice light scent and is so moisturizing.


I started by wearing it only at night because it left me a little too shiny for daytime but I gave up on that and have been putting it on in the morning too because my skin needs it. I've even been mixing it in with a little of my my redness reducer before I put on makeup to make everything glide on more nicely. I'm a little more glowy than usual (I prefer a matte face) but I don't look greasy. I suspect my whole body could benefit. I should just bathe in it.

Looks like the brand is on Amazon- they've got so much amazing sounding stuff!



3. Having a bedroom seating area

I was kind of over our front room so I dragged almost all of it piece by piece upstairs and made the bedroom sitting area we've been wanting for AGES. It needs art (we have a canvas to hang, just need to get some stretcher bars) and hardware to hang the light properly but we love it SO MUCH.




I'll steal away during the day to read under the blanket. At night Aaron will sit on the couch and do his end of day Netflix watching on the couch so we're at least in the same room while I'm trying to sleep. The afternoon light in our bedroom is fantastic and it's such a great place for me to rest and regroup after I put the Caboose down and before the boys get off the bus in the afternoon.



4. My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

This is a true crime/comedy podcast. Yes, you read that right. In each episode Karen and Georgia tell stories of murder and mayhem while somehow injecting both humor and compassion. There have been times where I have been laughing my head off and then crying within a 30 second span.





Both women are gifted storytellers and also very funny and the combination is just perfect. They do love them a good f-bomb so if you're super sensitive to that you may want to pass. I went to see them live on Sunday and it was just THE BEST. I want to hug them.



5. Marco Polo

The best way to describe Marco Polo is "text messaging but with video". Or maybe "SnapChat but it doesn't disappear and you don't have a public feed." You choose the person you want to send a video to, press start and it immediately starts sending them the video. They can watch it live OR whenever they get around to it. There are a few filters (including voice filters) but they're not really the point.





I downloaded this when I finally got an iPhone with some storage space and now I use it all. the. time. My sister just bought a house in Oregon so we Marco Polo all day about wall color options and decor. You can also draw so when I was trying to explain a new fireplace surround for her I just drew straight on my video so she could wrap her mind around what I was very badly explaining. You can also do group chats- I have a couple of those with local friends who I wish I could see more often but life gets in the way. It's a fun way to check in- "Look at these cupcakes I made for my kids class this morning! What are you guys up to?" or "I'm at Target and look what I found! I knew you guys would appreciate it."

It just helps me feel a little more connected to the people I love.


What are some things you love right now?
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Monday, January 15, 2018

Less But Better | Brand Recommendations for Quality Clothing

I'm two weeks into a six month spending fast which has made compiling this list a very real test of my fortitude.

Not buying things (and even the prospect of not buying things, since I started thinking about this in November and December) has made me think a lot harder about what I really want to make space for in my home and in my life.

I'm at the point where I want a smaller wardrobe of nicer, well-fitted clothing that will last through years of regular wear. I'm done having babies so I don't expect my size and shape to change much like it did over the past decade of childbearing. I have a little more disposable income so I can shell out for something a little higher quality than your average Forever 21 top. I'm solidly comfortable in my sense of style and have worn essentially the same colors and shapes for several years now.

I want less but better.

(side note: how do you tell if clothing is higher quality? Go through this list! Or this one.)

With this in mind I asked on Instagram what brands people would recommend for higher quality items that were worth a higher price point. I got a lot of really great suggestions as well as requests that I share the list so here we are:


Everlane

I went hard on Everlane when they first opened and then kind of stopped wearing tees for a while and I guess forgot about them? I give my brother-in-law a gift card to Everlane for Christmas and birthdays but never browsed much for myself.

HOWEVER. Everlane is a rockstar combination of quality and good labor practices and they've waaay expanded their offerings. Their small collection of t-shirts has grown to include jeans, dresses, cashmere, shoes, bags and more. They carry solid, classic basics that you can get years of wear out of. There's a LOT of good stuff and I'd really like to try some of their newer options.

Making my credit card fingers itch: this wine colored silk v-neck tank



AG Jeans

Many years ago Reachel Bagley recommended AG Jeans on her blog and I made a mental note. When they showed up on Hautelook (a flash deal site associated with Nordstrom) a few months later I snagged a pair for $74. It was the most I'd ever spent on a pair of jeans and I felt slightly sick about it (I couldn't fathom paying the full $130 price tag) but they have been the best pair of jeans I've ever owned. They were my only pair of jeans for a while and I wore them almost daily. I bought them in April of 2012 and they finally developed a hole in one knee late last year. I added a few more holes to make it look intentional and I'm still wearing them. They haven't stretched out or lost their perfect fit- they still make my backside look fantastic and they look amazing with everything. Quality denim matters.

Making my credit card fingers itch: The Farrah Skinny Ankle




Lucky Jeans

Several people mentioned how devoted they are to Lucky brand jeans. I've never tried them but there are stories in my DMs of jeans worn for a decade that still look basically new. Definitely worth giving a try.

Making my credit card fingers itch: The Ava Legging



Patagonia

When we were in Tahoe last year we poked our heads into a Patagonia store, choked at the price tags and quickly walked back out. Then Aaron listened to an episode of the podcast "How I Built This" featuring Patagonia's founder and he was so impressed with the company's ethos that we started looking at Patagonia with fresh eyes. They strive to make higher quality products and then they stand by them- they even resell secondhand Patagonia stuff because they want to be environmentally friendly. Their style is pretty different from mine (I only wish I was that outdoorsy) but I'm keeping my eye on their site anyway- at some point I'd really like to pick up one of their fleeces.

Making my credit card fingers itch: The Bottom Turn Bikini Top



Boden

There was a woman at church a couple years ago who always wore THE best dresses. One week I finally stopped her in the hall and said, "Ok, all of your dresses are fantastic...where do you shop??" She told me she's addicted to the Boden sale section. I'd heard of Boden but had zero experience with them. Their stuff leans toward the professional but I think there's a little something for everyone. Their dresses are particularly good.

Making my credit card fingers itch: the Jordana Jersey Dress



eShakti

I did some research for this post and eShakti showed up several times as a higher quality brand with good labor practices. I love eShakti- I've worked with them in the past as a blogger and I've also spent my own money on their dresses. Their stuff really is just so so good. I have like 10 of their dresses in my closet and they all look brand new despite a lot of wear. I think their jersey and pima cotton are particularly good, but I've never had a dud from them. Plus: almost everything they make has pockets and you can customize the sleeves, neckline, length, etc. You do have to do some digging to find the good pieces but there's gold in there.

Making my credit card fingers itch: Trapeze Hem Cotton Knit Dress (with 4 neckline, 6 sleeve and 5 length options)




Michael Stars

This was an IG recommendation and one that I'm not personally familiar with but it looks like they carry solid basics. No crazy prints or cuts here, just well-cut pieces that won't go out of style for a good long while.

Making my credit card fingers itch: Short sleeve soft v-neck with pocket



Ann Taylor

I've actually never shopped at Ann Taylor and know very little about it but a handful of people recommended it. In the past they've carried more professional pieces and I haven't worked in an environment that required anything fancy from me wardrobe-wise in....ever. But looking at their website it appears they've branched out a bit and there's more variety in their offerings.

Making my credit card fingers itch: Knit Pencil Skirt



J. Crew

I think J. Crew technically counts as fast fashion, which makes me hesitant to include them but honestly their quality is generally pretty great, even if they're not the most ethical or sustainable brand. J. Crew is really accessible and has product reviews on their site, which I always appreciate. If I'm going to spend $100+ on something then I'd really like to know if other people thought it was worth the money!

Making my credit card fingers itch: Striped short sleeve button-up shirt



Amour Vert

Another brand I have no personal experience with but the fabrics sound divine. I like quite a lot of their tops and I'm dying over most of their jewelry.

Making my credit card fingers itch: the Ariel Top and Gold Bar Necklace





Bead & Reel

A little boutique that carries pieces from 60+ independent designers and focuses on eco-friendly, cruelty free, and sweatshop free styles.

Making my credit card fingers itch: dark blue midi skirt




Banana Republic

Like J. Crew, the Old Navy/Gap/Banana Republic empire is definitely more in the fast fashion category. But BR is generally pretty decent quality- their button downs and trenches are particularly good.

Making my credit card fingers itch: Satin Ballerina Criss-Cross Flat



...and sometimes Gap

Quite a few people recommended Gap and every single one did so with a caveat. The Gap is hit or miss- some stuff is really great and some is more along the lines of Old Navy quality. I have a jacket from Gap that I paid full price(!) for almost eight years ago. I wear it constantly and it's still in fantastic shape.

Paris, 2013. It was a couple years old at the time and I still wear it regularly now.

However, in the time I've owned it I've burned through a LOT of other crummy things from Gap. So just be really discerning when you pick up anything from Gap- go through the quality checklist and be picky.

Making my credit card fingers itch: Softspun open-front cardigan





This is obviously by no means a comprehensive list but it's a start if you, like me, want to start accumulating "less but better" clothing. If you have a favorite brand I missed, please share in the comments or through email!
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