What I'm Loving | 6/17/2018

I've reached that point in my life where I wake up fairly early no matter the day of the week, and I don't hate it. Things feel so interesting on weekend mornings when the world is quiet, especially during the summer. It's a feeling that's equal parts nostalgia and hope, with a bittersweet twinge that's inexplicable. It's sort of like the part in The Perks of Being a Wallflower when they're driving over the bridge at the end — it's quiet and loud and beautiful and hard all at once. Stephen Chbosky does a much better job at illustrating feelings than I do, but maybe one day when I write an incredible coming-of-age novel (lol), other people will reference it the same way we reference his. 

One thing that no one tells you about being an adult is that you have to learn to deal with having conflicting emotions about everything. Things might be enjoyable but expensive (grocery shopping), calm but boring (admittedly, some weekend mornings), or inconvenient but necessary (everything in life, basically). Life is just a continuation of Goldilocks' dilemma — we can only hope that we find ourselves in the modernized narrative instead of the original.

All of that aside, here's what I'm loving lately: 

Reading :: I'm working on The Great Alone as I mentioned in my reading tips post, and I've moved past the slow parts and into the interesting things! I still am rather unsure of where the story is going, but now I can't wait to find out.

Listening :: NPR Politics Podcast is now on Spotify! It's such a modern-era problem, but having to switch between Spotify for music and iTunes for podcasts is annoying, so I'm glad they're expanding their library.

Spare Time :: Queer Eye is back! I haven't finished the season yet, but I have watched the first few episodes. It just warms my heart every time!

Style :: I've found a new store called Everlane, which is apparently rather popular and I'm just out of touch. It fits the bill for everything I need — reasonable price point, ethical standards, and classic pieces. I got a free shipping/free returns deal so I ordered quite a variety to test out quality and fit — we'll see what happens!

Reading Tips + 2018 Recommendations

If you've followed along with any of my What I'm Loving series, you know I read quite a bit. I didn't realize just how uncommon that was until I started talking about it online — now "how do you read so much" seems to be the number one question I get!

I've always been a reader — I was never a very social child, so that combined with a Little House on the Prairie obsession destined me for literary endeavors for life. As I've gotten older and busier it's taken more effort to keep up with, but reading is similar to any other hobby. Just like flossing or a workout routine, the more you do it, the easier it is to want to do it. Some people just don't find reading for them — which I totally get — but if you've made it a goal to read more I hope this list helps you out! At the bottom, I've included commentary on the three books pictured, as well.

Bring a book, always. A la Rory Gilmore, this is my favorite life tip. Anywhere I go where there might be downtime — riding BART, doctor's appointments, etc. — I always pack a book in my bag. It's pretty natural for us to pull out our phones out of boredom (which I still do often!), but replace that time with a book instead and you'll be surprised at how many pages you burn through.

Keep track. Every time I've moved, getting Bird settled has been first priority and getting my bookshelf settled has been second. Sure, starting a personal book collection in your 20's might seem impractical when there are probably a lot of moves left in life, but having a physical record of all the books I've enjoyed makes me so happy that I can't imagine it another way. I also started keeping a digital list of what I've read so far this year — after having to manually count up all the books I read for 2017 I knew I needed a more efficient system.

Be picky. I have the hardest time putting down books I'm not enjoying, but this is such an important tip! As much as I love to read, the wrong book can totally zap my motivation. I do pretty heavy research into reviews from Amazon and Goodreads before I buy anything, but that's not to say that there aren't still duds. While the first hundred pages are almost always slower, after that remember to be protective of your time; if you're not feeling it, don't be afraid to put it down.

Mix it up. There are so many great books in the world it's almost overwhelming. I've read nonfiction that's more interesting than novels, and fantasy books that are more intelligently-written than literary "classics". A good book will bring you in regardless of what the genre is, so read a lot of different things to see what strikes your fancy! This will keep books from running together, and also give you a great basis for what you want to read in the future.

2018 Recommendations So Far:

- This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage. I love Ann Patchett, and relate to her journey in a lot of ways. This book is a collection of short stories, some unique and some that she's published in a variety of magazines. They're funny, serious, and thought-provoking, while getting to the heart of how all your life experiences shape your present day. I don't like short-story collections usually, but Ioved this. If you have trouble committing to novels because you can't stay focused on one storyline, this one is for you — and if you are looking for a novel, Ann Patchett has plenty of amazing ones, too!

- This Is How It Always Is. This book was a pure joy. I could not put it down towards the end, and the omniscient point of view helped keep monotony at bay. You really feel what the characters are feeling and understand what they're thinking — it feels very human and poignantly real. It's a serious subject matter with lightness interwoven throughout, so if you're looking for a book that entertains you while broadening your point of view, I'd recommend this one. I really can't describe what a delight it was to read, and I have a feeling it'll be included in my year-end favorites as well.

- The Great Alone. I just started this 2 days ago so it may seem like a weird one to include, but I promise it's not just because it went with the color scheme. This book has rave reviews (over four stars on Amazon is near-impossible), and Kristen Hannah's book The Nightingale is one of my favorites. I have a feeling that I'll end up loving this one (and I promise to report back!), so I wanted to include it to illustrate that it's okay to kind of hate a book at the beginning — it might even become one of your favorites later on!


In The Wake Of Sadness

What a devastating week of news. I know there have been so many resources posted and anecdotes about the importance of mental health shared, but I couldn't avoid addressing it with a clear conscience. 

There have been many shares of the suicide prevention hotline, which is wonderful (1-800-273-825), but I do think it's important to note that calling a hotline is NOT for everyone. As someone who gets nervous to talk on the phone, I could never imagine calling a random number to ask for help. Additionally, oftentimes the suicide hotline will immediately refer someone to a local crisis center — something that can be terrifying if you're already in a place of fear. So while sharing any and every resource is good and should absolutely continue, remember there are things we can do every day to help those who are struggling.

Remember to check on your friends. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health ailments are so hard to battle because of the way they change your thinking. If you've convinced yourself that no one wants to hear from you, that you're not worthy of friendship, and/or that no one cares, of course you're going to have a hard time reaching out to someone — even your family or the closest of friends — if you're struggling. For many people, it's difficult to understand this way of thinking because it's so foreign if you've never experienced it. However, if you have been trapped in this mindset, you know just how powerful it can be.

And reaching out doesn't have to be a huge, scary conversation, either! You may not feel qualified to talk to a friend about mental health in depth, and that's ok! I can only speak for myself, but I know that when I've been in unhealthy mental places it's been hard to confront the issue head-on. However, I will always remember the friends who invited me to tag along to a party, randomly said hey after a long lull in communication, or drew me out even a little as I was feeling my lowest. These sweet, seemingly random little touchpoints can mean so much to someone who is struggling...especially when an inherent part of their struggle is feeling that no one cares.

I can't recall a time in my life where I haven't struggled with anxiety. From being terrified to leave my mom to having a constant fear the rapture would leave me “left behind” (that's southern baptists for ya), that feeling has always seemed inherent to my personality. As I got older, it manifested itself more in social anxiety and totally irrational fears about my pets’ health, but it’s still something that affects every thought I have. Even at 22, I’m still learning about all the things that are a result of it, and doing what I can to be better. And having people in my life along the way who are understanding and receptive to this has made all the difference.

While tragedies are something we cannot control, we can control how we behave in their wake. It's so essential that those who can share do, and those who listen to show empathy. While this is a multi-faceted, societal problem, people feeling comfortable sharing is the first step in changing the status quo. Storytelling is the basis of human connection; if those who are brave enough to share their stories can do so without being labeled selfish, attention seeking or crazy, maybe more people will be brave enough to speak up. And when some speak up and others listen with the intent to understand, beautiful things can happen. So to paraphrase my one of my favorite quotes, let us not listen with the intent to reply, and instead listen with the intent to hear.

Finally, I urge you that if you’re in a good mental space, check on your friends and family today. Being a generally good, compassionate, empathetic human could quite literally save a life.

Everyday Activity Goals

It's been awhile since I've talked about my daily activity regimen (about half a year, in fact!) and since moving and getting a pup it has changed a lot.

Our old apartment was SO dark, I felt like I needed to go on walks just so I didn't become a recluse. After moving somewhere with floor-to-ceiling windows, I feel that urge a lot less because I'm already getting exposed to natural light. Between some not great weather and already having sunshine exposure, I was honestly in an activity rut for our first few weeks here. Now that the weather is perfect again and we've adopted a dog, everything has changed!

I'm getting so much more activity in now, and it's barely felt like work. Even though he's no puppy and doesn't need a ton of exercise — I'm not even sure he even likes how much we've been exploring — we still go on a several block walk 3-4 times a day and we've been going on hikes every weekend. My Apple Watch just keeps bumping up my daily Move target up!

We also live in a much more walkable/bikeable location overall — the gym is a 5-minute bike and the local market is 6. So instead of having to drive literally everywhere to get anything done, there are a lot more options for what I can do on foot.

Although I am walking WAY more, I have been doing formal workouts less. I took a "Walking for Fitness" class in college so I know it has great benefits, but I do think it's important to keep variety in a fitness plan! I've still been keeping up with my climbing, but my home yoga practice has suffered tremendously. I did a quick, 10-minute practice the other day and it felt SO GOOD — I'm definitely going to make that a priority again moving forward. While I've been feeling good overall, I can tell my muscles are starting to get tighter again from not being stretched out!

I'm still in a place where I feel good, active and healthy (and I'm eating more veggies than ever!), but per usual, I feel like I could be doing more. I don't know if anyone ever feels like they're truly doing enough, but I certainly succumb to high self-expectations — especially when it comes to workouts! As my activity goals keep rising I'm just going to have to keep doing more, so I guess my never satisfied attitude is a good one to have!

What I'm Loving | 6/3/2018

We went on so many adventures last week, it was like heaven. We went hiking at a volcanic preserve, took Rusty to our favorite dog park, and visited a new restaurant that's only a block away. So needless to say, after a busy long weekend it was nice to take it easy this week.

It was the first time I've been able to get my camera out in awhile so I was jazzd when I realized how many great pictures I got! Here's what I've been loving:

Reading :: Beartown was a good book that I would recommend. While some of the writing frustrated me (it's a HUGE pet peeve of mine when authors reuse the same phrase at multiple points in a novel), the author did handle very sensitive and topical situations not only with grace but with accuracy. I moved on to This Is How It Always Is, which is easily one of the best books I've read in ages. Another example of a sensitive subject handled with care, and the prose is beautiful. I highly recommend this one! I just started American Lion, which comes highly recommended by my dad. Though I love history, I'm admittedly a bit hesitant to read literature on the topic because of how founding fathers tend to be romanticized/unfairly revered. However, based on the first few snippets I don't think this book will be like that.

Listening :: I put on the Poolside in Your Mind playlist while working this week and it was perfect. The only disadvantage to not living in an apartment complex is missing out on the pool, so this is exactly what I've been needing.

Spare Time :: I wrapped up Dear White People in record time. The weather has been beautiful, so most free time since has been spent adventuring with puppo. We have a dog park that's just a 10-minute walk away and we went on several hikes and adventures over the long weekend. We had a stint of not-great weather and not-fun to-do lists, so it's nice to be out adventuring again!

Style :: I just found ZippyPaws dog toys, and they are so cute. I just can't resist buying one of those tacos!

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Separating Art And Artist

It's the staple of mom-advice to take the high road, stay true to who you are, and stand up for what you believe in. When it comes to elementary school spats and teenage friend drama, the right vs. wrong actions are typically pretty clear (even if they don't seem to be at the time!).

However, as we get older, life gets harder — lol, but really. It gets harder in ways that involve bills and responsibilities and not-fun choices, but it also gets harder in more morally challenging ways as well. As you start to make choices about what you support with your dollars and who you support with your time, it's impossible to be completely objective about where your alliances lie.

Unfortunately, it's seemed that we've seen an uptick in celebrities and companies doing generally awful things. From allegations against Bill Cosby to Jason Bateman being a jerk to Morrissey's controversial stance on basically everything, even the world of family sitcoms and punk music aren't safe from controversy. That's not to say we should find ourselves irritated with those that call our celebrity faves out on their bad behavior — instead, we should put thought into why and how we support these people in the first place, and how we can reconcile that with our own personal morals.

Personally, I find some things to be rather cut and dry. I don't use cosmetics that test on animals and I try to buy clothes that don't employ sweatshop labor. While some things are fairly simple to navigate, some things are decidedly not so. Should I stop listening to The Smith's catalog because of Morrissey's racism? Should we continue to enjoy Graduation despite the fact that Kanye has undoubtedly gone off the rails? Can we still enjoy the wit of Arrested Development and console ourselves with the fact that Michael Bluth is far from the best character anyhow?

I don't have the answers for myself — and I would love to hear yours! — but I do try to let my moral compass be my guide. I tend to feel okay about listening to old music from artists I no longer support...everyone changes and sometimes people change for the worst. However, I don't think that people who do awful things should still continue to have a career after their awful actions have come to light, therefore you probably won't catch me going to see a Weinstein movie or buying the new Grimes album when it hits shelves.

Ultimately, I wish that people could just be reasonable so we don't have to be conflicted every time a song comes on the radio, but I guess we aren't that lucky.

Memorial Day Weekend Updates

I hope everyone is having a wonderful long weekend! I know in most places the summer weather is already in full swing, but the Bay Area is quite behind. Even in the normally sunny and warm East Bay, we've been hitting mid-sixties and partly cloudy at most. We're still planning on getting out some today and tomorrow of course — dogs make that a non-negotiable, really. 😅

Instead of giving a traditional "What I'm Loving" post, I thought it might be fun to do a general life updates excerpt today. Just some random things that have been going on lately around my world!

- Crate training: ...has been a doozy. Despite the sweet boy being an angel and loving his crate for the first week, he's decided he's comfortable vocalizing about his hatred of it...at 5 AM. We're working very diligently to stop it ASAP, but boy is it exhausting.

- Costco membership: OMG. The deals! The hot dogs! It's slightly different than I thought it would be — we can't get all of our nonperishables there because we found quite a few things that ours didn't stock. However, for the things we were able to buy the savings were huge.

- In-N-Out Shirts: Since moving to California, I've always thought I'd like an In-N-Out shirt in an objective sense. They have one or two styles available at each restaurant, which I thought was neat. Yesterday I found out they have an entire online store, and it's rather reasonably priced. I don't understand it, but now I must have one.  

- Moviepass: Speaking of movies, I've felt like theaters are kind of in a lull right now. With Deadpool and Solo coming out and Black Panther and The Avengers still getting heavy showtimes, there hasn't been too many other things I've been interested in lately. I miss going to the movies every week, but hopefully, we'll have some summer hits out soon!

- Obedience classes: Rusty's obedience classes have started, and I'm so excited about it! His first class went really well, and we'll be going every Tuesday for the next 5 weeks. While I've been working with him extensively at home, getting him to listen in a distracted environment is our next goal, which I think classes will help with. 

Small Changes, Big Change

I'm not sure if it's just the fact that I've been in California for a year (A YEAR...can you believe?) or if it's just a general trend, but I'm seeing all kinds of people become more conscious of consumerism and waste lately, myself included.

One thing that's made me think about this is the Bay Area's plastic bag ban. If you don't bring your own bag to a store, you can pay 10¢ for a paper or multi-use plastic one. It takes a little bit to get used to (we've amassed quite a collection of reusable bags now!), but I can't imagine how much plastic we've saved in one short year.

Along the same lines, I'm trying to find small ways to make changes that aren't inconvenient but can lead to a big impact over time. When you stop and think about how much waste each individual generates, even doing the smallest things feel like they're making a big change. Here are some of the super simple, super small things I've been doing to reduce my own consumption of disposable goods:

Reusable straws: Unfortunately I found these straws right after buying a value pack of plastic ones, so I'm not quite sure what to do. However, instead of grabbing a straw when I go to the Starbucks on my block, I use these instead! I don't love the stainless steel (I've hit my teeth more times than I can count), but I chose these because they're dishwasher safe and will hopefully last longer than a similar silicon version.

E-cloth: My mom told me about the e-cloth when I last visited, and I just had to try it! Not only do I use fewer paper towels and fewer chemicals, but it cleans so well that our glass dining room table actually looks clean sometimes. I still have a value-pack of Swiffer pads to work through, but I plan on buying their mop head when those are through, too.

Secondhand furniture: This definitely isn't a practical strategy everywhere, but because Craigslist is so huge in this part of the world I've been fortunate to find some great deals. Some things you just want to get new (like rugs), but I try to shop secondhand when possible. Manufacturing is a big part of the world's carbon footprint, so I like to think that every little bit helps.

Reusable water bottles: I've been on the reusable water bottle trend for ages, mainly because it's a prime way to save money. I've loved (and lost) many a Nalgene and Camelbak, and my S'Well bottle is still one of my favorite gifts I've received. I also worked at a grocery store in high school and have seen how warm the disposable water bottles get on the stock trucks — which can lead to really scary things like chemicals releasing into the bottle. 😳

Buying in bulk: This is partially only possible because of my Instant Pot, but it has made a big difference. By buying things like beans and rice in bulk and cooking them myself, I'm saving money and waste from the single-serve packaging. Not everything is practical to buy in bulk, but by choosing bulk sizes and freezing unused portions or divvying up items into single servings yourself instead of buying convenience packs, there's a lot of packaging material that can be reduced this way.

Reusable cups: I'm not great about this yet, but I'm making it my next goal. Whenever I go somewhere for a to-go beverage (i.e. the Starbucks on my block), I plan to start bringing my own cup instead of using one — so far, remembering has been hard, but I'll get there! 

These are just the small ways I've been implementing waste reduction in my day-to-day life — and these tips are simple enough that they honestly haven't felt like they've impacted me at all. But I know that my impact on the environment is big through these small changes, which is exciting to think about! Do you have any other simple tips for reducing waste?

What I'm Loving | 5/20/2018

Cat + dog unification is hard. Maybe I was naive, but I assumed that since Bird had previously lived with dogs that the transition would be easy-peasy. We've definitely made major progress and she's hanging out downstairs far more often, but it's hard to keep her from running away every time her brother moves.

Overall, everyone is doing quite well, though! Rusty's first vet visit went well, and the doctor estimates him to be as young as TWO. I am a bit proponent of rescuing animals vs. breeding them, but I wouldn't go into a shelter with any strong opinions on what you want. 😂

Here's what I'm loving lately:

Reading :: I finished up White Rage, and though it was hard to read, I wholeheartedly recommend it. With misinformation spreading faster than the truth, putting forth the effort to get an education — especially about racial relations — is more important now than ever. I know nonfiction isn't always the most engaging, but I feel that works like this should have a place on everyone's shelf. I try to balance it by ordering one serious book per batch of 3-4, and that system has worked well for me! I'm now working on Beartown — I wasn't super into A Man Called Ove (same author), but for whatever reason, I felt compelled to give this one a shot. The cover is SO aesthetically pleasing!

Listening :: Everyone has been talking about This is America, and for good reason. I think that artists should use their voices to amplify issues that are important to them, and Gambino (per usual) has done a perfect job. Not only are these statements important, but it's also a great song. I'll be seeing him in Oakland in September and I cannot wait!

Spare Time :: I've finally gotten started on Dear White People and I took way too long! It's a brilliant show that seamlessly bends real issues with easy watchability. The writers are fantastic. If you're not sure if nonfiction pieces about racial unease are for you but you still want to learn, this would be a good show to get your feet wet. 

Style :: I have ruined three pairs of pants this week. THREE. Rips and permanent stains almost never happen to me, but I guess they come in threes when they do. That being said, I'm looking forward to taking advantage of Madewell's denim recycling program and replace my three pairs of cheap pants with one durable pair that will last — still not looking forward to coughing up the cash, but at least my jeans will be one of the 287,000+ pairs that will help build houses!

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I feel like my San Francisco bucket list is a mile long and ever-growing. It's still so bizarre to me that I live in a place where there is SO much to do. I wasn't expecting to, but after a year I've found that I'm quite happy living in the East Bay — we floated the idea of moving to the city on our recent house hunt, but honestly, I like our little slice of the Bay Area right where we are. The only disadvantage is that we do tend to talk ourselves out of making the trek into the city quite a bit. There are quite a few sights in San Francisco worth seeing, but it's hard to know what's actually worth the trip.

That being said, I went to the recently remodeled SF MoMA two weeks ago, and I have to say it's absolutely worth it. I'm by no means an art expert or even enthusiast, but with 7 floors and even more styles, I'd say that there's something for everyone there.

I went in without knowing what to expect or how much time it would take, but we were basically there from open to close. They have styles ranging from sculptures to modern to product showcases, and they even have a few non-typical Warhols on display! They were featuring a "Made in California" exhibit which featured innovations of note from the state.

There are a few restaurants and cafes located throughout, so we had a lovely lunch outdoors to soak up some sunshine and revive ourselves for more art lookin'. It was definitely tiring, on my eyes more than anything else. We also walked a lot, but it was the slow art-perusing walk that wasn't exhaustive.

Overall, I left feeling more cultured than before, learned quite a bit about different art styles, and got inspired for more creative endeavors. Even without being an art expert, I highly recommend taking the trip — or at least going to one of there Thursday night adults-only events!