A Bit of a Rebrand

So I hadn’t posted here for most of 2018, and I realized recently that I needed/wanted a space to just natter, and that I wanted to return to this one – I’ve left a lot of blogs abandoned over the years and I didn’t want this to be one of them; I’m fond of this place. Something just wasn’t feeling quite right, though. I realized, after thinking about it for a while, that it was simply the name. If you hadn’t visited here before now, the domain used to be jjdoestoday.com (that url still points here, of course) and the logo said “JJ Does Today” – it was a name that suited my mood really well during a particular time in my life when I was feeling very … grrrraaaarrrrrrr about Getting Shit Done.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel grrrrraaarrrr and I still want to Get the Shit Done. I still feel strongly about showing up, learning, participating, All the Things – but I’ve had a rough year, and it doesn’t necessarily feel like I’m doing the hell out of every single day. Some days I’m just making it through. And that’s okay. But coming and posting on a blog that was branded in an AAAAUUGGGHHH LET’S DO THE HELL OUT OF EVERY SINGLE DAY manner (at least that’s how it seemed to me) just didn’t seem quite right.

So I’ve just rebranded to be … me. This is my boring blog about my life. And that, also, is okay. I’ve never had a problem with having a boring blog. Lately I’ve been missing having a boring blog that I post to regularly, so here we are.

In case anyone is interested in the main issue I’ve been dealing with in the last few months, I’ve set up a separate blog about it. This is probably the last time I’ll mention it here, because I really wanted to keep it to its own dedicated space, but my mom took her own life in early September. My blog for talking about that is set up at imeanttodothis.com. It’s a rough topic, feel free to give it a miss, I just wanted to throw it out there.

But this blog will continue to be for the nattering, the adventures both big and small, the geek squeeing, the book reviews, etc. And there will be days I do the hell out of, and days I don’t manage quite that much. I got derailed, but I’m still here, doing shit where I can, taking it one day at a time – whether I’m managing to grab them by the tits or not.

Redefining Self-Care

A friend shared this video recently and it does such a beautiful and funny job of talking about something that I’ve been thinking about for a while now – the balance between self-care and showing up.

This is a relatively new thing for me to have to think about, because up until the end of 2016, I just wasn’t showing up, so there was no need to think about balancing what I need to replenish vs. what I want to give and do. And then, of course, the election happened, and I made the decision to start, as I put it, “putting my time where my mouth was.” I didn’t have a problem putting my money where my mouth was – I’ve been budgeting for donations out of every paycheck for most of my adult life – but, for me, because I have the privilege to be able to afford it, money was far, far easier to give than time.

But my life has changed pretty significantly since November 2016. And one thing that I didn’t really anticipate but should have was the gradual realization that showing up also is self-care. A different kind of self-care, but self-care nonetheless. I should have anticipated it because the same transition happened when I started getting daily exercise years ago. It started as “this is something I should do, so I’ll give up some of my ‘me time’ to do it” – but once I got past the initial transition and it became just a regular part of my life and I started reaping the benefits in how I felt, it stopped being something I had to give up ‘me time’ for and it became ‘me time.’ Now I know that if I don’t get out for runs and walks that I don’t feel as good or sleep as well. I feel restless and groggy. Physical activity has become self-care for me, in more than just the “I do this because I should” sense.

I knew that once I found a good fit for me as a volunteer that I would enjoy giving my time, I never looked at it like “sigh, time to take my medicine.” In the last year, though, it’s become a part of my life in the same way that exercise has – I can’t imagine going back to a life where just about all of my free time is spent on entertainment. And there are so many factors to that – as I’m writing this I’m seeing more and more parallels to my transition from non-physically-active to physically-active. A big part of it is just the enjoyment of doing the thing itself – I enjoy the time I spend running and walking, it energizes and replenishes me. Am I enthusiastic about getting out there and doing it every single weekday morning when the alarm goes off at 5am? Of course not, but once I get out there I’m glad I didn’t let myself off the hook, and I’ve never once said “I wish I hadn’t gone out for that run this morning.”

Similarly, I love the time I spend at Centro, which is my most regular showing-up activity, though what with it being 2018 (lordy) I’ve been getting into doing some phone banking too. Anyway – Centro has been so very good for me. I’ve made incredible new friends, among the staff, other volunteers and the students – fun and brilliant people who never fail to inspire me. Even after rough days at work when part of me just wants to go home to the couch, as soon as I get to Centro I’m grateful to be there. Whenever any of my students thank me for my time and help I try to make sure that they know that I appreciate them just as much, and that they’re giving just as much to me. For many of them – with trickier work schedules and, in many cases, kids to care for – coming out to class is more of a challenge for them than it is for me, and their dedication to learning and community never fails to inspire me. Not to mention they’re just wicked fun to be around. I’ve never once said “I should have just gone home to the couch tonight.”

And just like with physical exercise, I feel the benefits in the rest of my life, too. It’s changed the way I look at myself. In some ways I look at myself more critically and hold myself to higher standards than I used to – which is a good thing, I needed to start holding myself to higher standards – but I also look at myself and think, “I’m trying – I’m showing up – I’m grabbing an oar” (a Jason Kander-ism from Majority 54 – he’s speaking here in town in a couple weeks and we’ve got tickets, I’m really excited). And I’ve got no shame about admitting that wanting to feel better about myself is a source of motivation for me. I know it’s a selfish motivation and I’m fine with that. I say go with whatever combination of motivations gets you off your ass and out there grabbing an oar. At the end of each week I don’t just say “well, I made it through another week” – that’s not enough for me anymore.

Just before the Virginia election there was a live episode of Pod Save America where Jon Lovett did a bit he called “Your Tweets Are Not Enough,” where he went into the audience and asked people what they were actually doing to help Northam’s campaign. And that bit stuck with me. It’s part of what motivated me to commit to doing some volunteering with Swing Left Knoxville this year. Centro is my main volunteering time commitment so I can’t do every Swing Left event, but I can do some – I’ve phone banked with them twice now and I’m going again next week; I’m trying to give them an evening every other week. Because I completely believe that everyone should find the work that’s the best fit for them and there are so many kinds of work to be done, not everyone is suited to directly political work, but my political beliefs are, um, pretty damned strong, and I’m not going to end 2018 without being able to say that I did at least something to contribute to political change. Also, I would very much love to go to a live Crooked Media show at some point and if I’m ever in a position for Lovett to ask me what I’m doing, I’mma have an answer.

Motivations are so personal, and complicated, and sometimes weird. Whatever combination of “I want to help people/be better/have an answer should I one day meet Jon Lovett” I’ve got going on, it’s working for me, so I’m good with it.

But back to self-care. So yes, showing up and oar-grabbing are, in fact, self-care. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t also need the kind of self care that involves pajamas and wine and video games. Because I do, and that’s okay. That’s not something I would ever give up, I’ve just been finding a more appropriate balance. And how I view that time has changed – I used to see coming home every evening and playing video games as a right. Something I’d earned the right to do by going to work that day. And you know, in an ideal world that would be true. In an ideal world, once you’d accomplished your day’s work, it would be your right to do whatever you chose with the rest of your time – and that would be true for everybody. But it’s not true for everybody – and spending time curled up in my pjs playing video games requires a major amount of privilege. Like I said, that doesn’t mean I’m going to give it up – recognizing privilege doesn’t mean rejecting it – it’s just something I’m far more mindful of. Like Jay says in the video, I try to be kind to myself about needing replenishment time, and use that time to make sure I’m soon ready to jump back in with my oar.

My Year in Review

I’ve gotten behind on my book reviews – since my last book post I read La Belle Sauvage (which no one I know has read yet and it’s driving me crazy) and Parable of the Talents, both of which I have lots of thoughts about. Right now I’m getting close to the end of The Poisonwood Bible, which I love, and I know I’ll have a lot to say about that, too. After that I plan to read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. 2017 was a great reading year for me – I was really inspired to go outside my usual sphere and read books that I wouldn’t have picked up before. Book Riot’s Read Harder 2017 challenge was a big help in choosing books, and I plan to use their 2018 list to help me keep widening my horizons this year.

I think “widening my horizons” was my running theme in 2017, along with my goal of “learn more, do more” – and in 2018 I plan to just keep trucking down that path.

One thing I’m determined to do in 2018 is to get at least a little more politically involved. Actually involved, rather than just reading/learning/talking-with-people-I-know/voting. This is going to be a huge freaking year politically, and I don’t want to let it go by without doing at least something to help out. To that end, I signed up to go to a phone bank training session next week. We’ll see what other opportunities 2018 will bring for political volunteering, but phone banking is definitely something I can do – I’ve worked in call centers, so while calling and talking to people isn’t exactly my idea of a good time, I’ve got the skillset. I’ve phone banked once before and it was scary at first but got steadily less so as I kept doing it – kind of like most new, outside-my-comfort-zone things. I was calling people to encourage them to contact their state senator about a statewide reproductive rights issue, and I figure if I can call people about reproductive rights, I can call them about anything. If that’s something I can do to help get out the vote, count me in. I’ll also say that the Crooked Media folks have been extremely inspiring on that front, too – their encouragement for everyone to pitch in and stop letting democracy be a spectator sport has been a factor in my determination to come out of the stands, even if I’m just carrying water.

Of course I’ll be continuing to teach ESL twice a week, too – that’s in my permanent plan at this point. It’s hard to believe that I started in March; before long I’ll have been doing it for a year. Of all the changes I’ve made in the last year, starting to volunteer with Centro Hispano is the one that I’m proudest of and that has been the most fulfilling and inspiring. I sometimes wish I could go back in time and tell my former self “No seriously, you don’t have to give up sitting around and playing video games, but you sure as hell can do less of it and give some time to help people, IT WILL BE WORTH IT.” But there are a lot of things I wish I could tell my former self, and life just doesn’t work that way. I’m sure in the future there will be things I wish I could tell my now-self. I’ll just keep working on doing better and hope to end each year with the ability to say “I did work that I’m proud of.”

It’s getting to be close to a year that I’ve been studying Spanish. My Duolingo streak is 312 days now; at this point Duolingo is just a quick daily refresher and not one of my main learning tools, but the streak marks when I first decided that I needed to make a serious commitment to learn Spanish, even if it took me forever. (It’s actually been a bit longer than 312 days – I try not to use Streak Freeze too often but I’ve used it a handful of times, maybe 4 or 5.) And it is going to take a long time for me to really get comfortable speaking Spanish, but I’ve come so far since I started. My reading comprehension is way further along than my speaking – I can regularly skim articles in Spanish and understand enough to know what’s going on. I love practicing on Facebook memes that my Spanish-speaking friends post. And I can – slowly, awkwardly – engage in basic conversation. I understand a lot more than I can call up in my brain to say at this point, but I’ll get there. A year ago I didn’t speak any Spanish – now I can say I speak a little. This time next year I’ll be able to speak more.

I’m also pleased with how consistent I’ve been with my fitness goals this year. This has been possibly the busiest year I’ve ever had – the most involved and active I’ve ever been – and I didn’t use that as an excuse to slack on my fitness goals. I’m not saying that my exercise level didn’t change – last year I had more time and energy to focus on running, last year I hadn’t yet started the superfun hormonal fluctuations that my body has decided I get to start experiencing at a relatively early age, and last year I wasn’t drinking quite as much wine. I’m starting 2018 with a little more weight, less free time and shifted priorities. My fitness is, and always will be, extremely important to me, though – 2017 was also the year that I upped my Fitbit daily step goal to 15k steps (from the default/recommended 10k) and in the entire year there were only five days that I didn’t meet that goal. Four of those five days I still got over 10k, I just didn’t make it to 15k. Bodies change. Lives change. Goals and priorities change. How I focus on my fitness may continue to change, but I don’t intend to ever lose my focus on it, or my commitment to it. The fact that I devote time to it and make it a goal every single day has served me very, very well.

2017 was challenging in a lot of ways. The news has frequently been enraging and terrifying, and I’ve been determined to not look away, to not go back to hiding in my pillow fort of entertainment (at least not full-time; I’m not saying the pillow fort isn’t necessary for a retreat sometimes, it just doesn’t need to be a full-time residence). And I haven’t – I’ve taken my concern and anger and directed them towards learning and helping.

Yes, I’m totally giving myself props for this year. Yes, I’ve also made missteps and yes there’s still a lot that I’ve got to work on. But the world turned upside-down and I’m proud of how I’ve stepped up. Currently we’re spending the week of New Year’s at our favorite beach, which is beautiful and odd in the cold weather, and a great place for both rest and introspection. And then it will be home, back to real life, time to start 2018 in earnest, and time to get to work. Onward and upward.

Thoughts As I Start the Last Year of my Thirties

Friday was my thirty-ninth birthday, and it’s been an excellent birthday weekend. I took Friday off so that Matthew and I could spend the day together – we went to the zoo, to a wine bar and out for a fancy dinner. Then on Saturday we had a nice lazy day and in the evening went to a summer bash at an awesome local winery. Today I’ve been keeping it low key; some running, some walking, some studying Spanish, some chores, some cooking, some lying around – mostly recharging my batteries after an especially active week.

Unsurprisingly, my birthday has had me thinking about how my life has changed in the last year and how I see it continuing to change as I approach forty. Forty is a big round number, one I’m actually looking forward to reaching, and I’m already in a time of change.

I’m so different from the person that I was when I was thirty. I take much better care of my health and am in general far kinder to my body – that’s a sea change that came about in my early thirties.

I’m more cynical – which is, I think, inevitable to some extent with aging. I’ve tried not to let it get out of control; I try to retain a baseline of hopefulness, even if it is in a hope-for-the-best-expect-the-worst context. I also try to maintain that even if the world is fucked, that doesn’t mean we get to stop working to help people and make things better. I do, however, have a misanthropic streak that’s probably always been there, but the fact that, although my career has grown and improved vastly over the years, I’ve never managed to get away from working with customers or clients in some form has only continued to increase the extent to which people make me want to bang my head against something. (The state of the world has a pretty generous hand in this, too, but direct dealings with people on a regular basis tends to make it less theoretical.)

Side by side with that, I have more of a tendency to be judgey, which is something I wrestle with and work on keeping in check. It’s an odd contrast to growing desire to help people and be kind to people, which I think I often succeed at, but there are definitely times when people frustrate the shit out of me and I have to work on that. There are times when my judgey cynicism is warranted and there are times when it creeps into places that would be far better served with kindness and understanding. Being snarky is part of who I am, it’s not something I’m going to be able to (or would even really want to) quash entirely, but I’m working on a better balance.

I think I was a lot less judgey when I was in my twenties because at that time I really had no ambitions to improve myself at all. It took me until my early thirties to decide that maybe I needed to take better physical care of myself, a little longer than that to decide that maybe I needed to take better mental health care of myself, even longer to decide that maybe I needed to take better intellectual care of myself and longer than that to decide that maybe I needed to start helping people other than just myself. I’m equal parts proud of the path I’ve taken and frustrated with myself that it’s taken me so long to get there, and when I judge myself (which, Lordy, do I ever do) it’s sometimes hard for that not to bleed into the lens when I look at other people too.

I think part of the lesson here is that I also need to be gentler to myself, and that that will help me be gentler in general. It’s always been hard for me to find a balance between pushing myself to do better but also not being too hard on myself. I think that’s a hard balance for everyone; I know I wrestle with it. I want to be kind to myself but I don’t want to let myself off the hook all the damned time, because I do very well with accomplishing things when I keep myself on the hook. That’s a worthy goal – to keep the drive and ambition and momentum of my thirties while trying to regain some of the take-it-as-it-comes Dudeness of my twenties. To find a better balance. I’m saying that word a lot, aren’t I?

It’s a crazy time out there in so many ways, and I really have become aware and involved in ways I’ve never been before. My mind is more active than it’s been in years – maybe even since I was in college. Feeding my intellectual curiosity has only caused it to grow, which is a good thing – but sometimes between being more active both in what I’m doing and in what I’m learning, I have more trouble quieting it down. I don’t fall asleep as quickly as I used to – I’ve always been lucky with sleep, I’ve never had much trouble getting plenty of it, and I’m still very fortunate, it’s just not quite as simple as it was before.

It was a lot easier for me to fall right to sleep at the end of a day where my audio content was a romance novel and my evening’s activity was a video game – if it’s a day when I teach ESL after work and I come home and chatter with Matthew about what’s going on in the world (because lately it’s ALWAYS SOMETHING GOOD LORD) it takes me longer to wind down. A glass of wine helps, which is one of those areas where I can be kinder to myself – a while back I decided to cut down on drinking, which was a healthy move, but for a long time I was only drinking wine on Fridays, on our date night. Now I’m working on finding another balance – I can have a glass of wine in the evening to help me settle without going overboard.

I think aging is a factor too – I’ve heard plenty of people talk about how it gets harder to sleep as you get older, and that wouldn’t be the only physical sign of aging I’ve noticed. I’m definitely experiencing a few symptoms of perimenopause lately; nothing extreme, and it’s intermittent – sometimes I go a few weeks without a symptom – but it’s happening. Thirty-nine is a bit young for it but hardly unheard of, and given that I started menstruating at ten it would make sense that I’d start going through this part of the process on the young side, too.

It somehow seems fitting that I would see the very first early warning signs of “the change” at a time when I’m going through so much change. Also it was excellent timing that I read Parable of the Sower last month, because “God is change. Shape god.” just keeps resonating with me.

I don’t have any specific goals set to reach by my fortieth birthday, other than to keep moving forward. I want to still be doing everything I’m doing now, to be continuing to progress with my Spanish, to be continuing to learn where this path of change is taking me.

To be doing my best to shape god.

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Birthday zoo trip! #zooknoxville #birthday #goat

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Birthday wine flight! #wine #wineflight #birthday

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I’ve been noticing lately that my goals for my physical diet and my mental diet have had a lot of parallels.

I’ve been eating healthfully for years now – I ate terribly throughout my twenties, but in my early thirties I made significant changes in my life and I’ve been taking far better care of myself ever since. What I eat shifts and changes over time, as it probably does with most people, and I go through periods where I’m more or less strict with myself, but I’ve consistently done a pretty good job of maintaining a basic “real food, no garbage” diet for a good long time.

One of my coworkers gave up added sugars for Lent this year and it inspired me to revisit being more vigilant about added sugars in my own diet. I do like snacking on cereal and granola bars, and even the Kashi stuff, which is lower sugar than most of the big brands, still has a decent amount of it. So I’ve been changing my snacking habits. I’ve gotten obsessed with Cheerios, which only have 1g sugar per serving. I’ve been eating more nuts, seedy Dr. Kracker flatbreads, Ezekiel English muffins with natural almond butter … there are so many good snack options out there with little to no added sugar. And I’m a big fan of fruit, so if I really need something sweet I go for something fruit-based – Larabar Minis are another new favorite.

There are exceptions, of course. On Friday nights when Matthew and I have Date Night we typically go out for dinner and drinks and then somewhere to get dessert, frequently a nice gooey sundae. I’m a firm believer that the Friday Night Sundae (or whatever your version may be) is an important part of a typically healthy diet, at least one that’s sustainable long-term.

Anyway, my eating habits were pretty healthy already, but I feel good about paying renewed attention to my sugar intake. This evening I baked flourless peanut butter banana oatmeal cookies – I added a chopped-up Lindt 90% chocolate bar but nothing else to sweeten them besides the bananas. They’re delicious – I’ll definitely be making them again.

I do find that the less sugar I eat, the less sugar I want. I always thoroughly enjoy our Friday night sundae but I wouldn’t want to have it more than once a week. On Saturday night I’m not thinking “man, I wish I could have a sundae again tonight.”

Over the years I’ve really shifted to wanting food that I know is actually nourishing my body. I want my food to be delicious, but I also want to know that what I’m putting into me is doing me good. Everyone needs to indulge from time to time, and special occasions are special occasions (hell yes I ate beignets in New Orleans) but the idea of regularly putting non-nourishing crap into my body is just not at all appealing. That’s as much of a mental shift as it is a physical one, and one that happened gradually, over an extended period of time.

I now seem to be in the middle of a similar shift of my mental diet. It’s been about a year and a half since I decided to start paying attention to the news and began my ongoing obsession with the BBC Global News Podcast (I have such a crush on Jackie Leonard) – before that I was pretty embarrassingly unaware of most things going on in the world. I’ve been a geek all of my life and for most of my life I’ve let my geek world of fandoms and video games consume my headspace in my free time. Almost all of the books I read were genre fiction or “guilty pleasure” romance novels. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with any of this – I’ve got the newest Black Dagger Brotherhood audiobook on my phone to listen to when I’m in need of a mental break and I really wish the newest Dresden Files book wasn’t taking so damned long and it’s inevitable that at some point a new RPG will rope me in – these are things that I enjoy.

What’s changed is that I’m not okay with letting fluffy entertainment consume all of my free time anymore. I’m not okay with letting my head spend so much time residing in imaginary worlds.

Starting to follow the news set off a domino effect that was already progressing gradually before the election but that has escalated majorly since. At some point last year I started adding more challenging books to my reading list; for a while I would read a lighter book and then a harder book and back and forth. This year I’m determined to complete the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and so every book I’ve read so far in 2017 has been challenging. As a result I’ve learned a lot and found several new favorites that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise (and one classic that I dislike much more strongly than I expected, but I’ll post about that when I actually finish it). There are a few challenges in the list that will be super easy for me – for example the one to read an LGBTQ+ romance novel and the one to read a fantasy novel, since those are two of my favorite brain candy genres. I’ve been saving those challenges for when I needed a bit of a break – I might indulge in one of them after I finish the book I’m working on now.

I’m not sure yet whether I’ll want to try the 2018 challenge – because I spend so much time listening to podcasts (at some point I’ll do a post to run down the list of podcasts I follow) I don’t tear through audiobooks as fast as I did before I became a pod junkie, so finishing all 24 items in the challenge is going to end up taking me the better part of the year. Of course, I also decided that I wanted to read 24 individual books and not double-count – if I decided to do the challenge next year but wanted a little more flexibility in my reading schedule I could always give myself permission to count books for more than one challenge. That’s an option. Point being, I’m enjoying doing it the hardcore way this year, and if nothing else I’ll continue to use the list as a way to challenge myself even if I don’t go so whole-hog with it every year.

I also haven’t been spending much time playing video games lately. Since I committed to learning Spanish I find I’d much rather spend some time doing Rosetta Stone lessons than zoning out on a video game. My Spanish is still very much at a beginner level but I’ve made it through four units of Rosetta Stone and I think my progress is pretty good for having started only a little over three months ago. I’m really enjoying the way the language is starting to gel in my mind – being able to go to BBC Mundo and understand at least the gist of most of the headlines is really gratifying – and I know that the better I get at Spanish the better I’ll do with teaching ESL, and the more versatile I’ll be as a volunteer. Right now that’s way more compelling to me than video games.

I was talking to Matthew about this not long ago and I told him how I’m sure at some point the pendulum will settle back in the middle – when I make a change I tend to be a pendulum-swing person. I go extreme for a while, then settle into a steady rhythm. Right now I’m spending very little time on entertainment/brain candy – I just feel like I spent way, way too much time on it for so long and now that I’ve started feeding my brain more nutrition, that’s what I’m craving. The less sugar I eat, the less sugar I want.

At some point there will be a video game I’m dying to play, or there will be a year when all of my favorite fiction authors come out with new books – and that’ll be totally cool. Because now that I’ve turned this corner I’m pretty positive that I won’t ever go back to where I was. I don’t want to be back in that bubble again. I don’t want to feel like none of my free time pursuits are doing anything to either improve myself or help people (I also didn’t used to do any volunteering – that origin story is a topic for another post too). I’ll get into a video game and read some frivolous books but that won’t be all I’ll do. I won’t stop learning Spanish, I won’t stop volunteering (it’s my intention for the volunteering gig I’ve got to be permanent) and I won’t stop challenging myself to learn. Just like even when I’ve gone through periods of being less strict about my diet, in the 8ish years since I started taking good care of myself I’ve never even approached getting back to where I was in my 20s – no more sodas, no more fast food, no more hoovering candy, not ever; that’s not a place I want to be ever again.

And I’m pretty positive that I’ll never watch as much TV as I used to – at this point just thinking about marathon TV watching makes me twitchy. Right now my TV consumption is typically an hour a week and I’m totally okay with that. There will be times when it’s more, but I can’t imagine I’ll ever want to watch TV every day again, let alone multiple hours a day. It’s like the Friday sundae – I used to eat sweets every day without even thinking about what it was doing to my health; now not only do I not do that but I can’t imagine wanting to do that.

Less sugar. It was a real transformation for my body when I decided to start taking care of my health, and lately it really does feel like my brain is going through that same kind of transformation. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get there, just like when I made changes to my health I wished I hadn’t disregarded it for so long, but I’m here now, and I’ll keep moving forward. My goals for myself shift and change but my overall goal is to consistently work to keep doing a little better. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job of that, and in the midst of the insanity in the world right now, knowing that I’m making progress – making an effort to help people and also to improve myself both for my own sake and for the way those improvements can help me do better for others – is really helping me take things in stride. There are so many things that I can’t do anything about – but there are things that I can do, that I am doing. And that’s way more satisfying than sugar.

Lovett, You’re A Fine Pod(caster)

We just got home from a four-day trip to New Orleans – my first time there and Matthew’s first time since he was too young to have more than vague memories. I’ll post about the trip when I’ve got some time to gather thoughts; right now it’s all a big jumble of awesome, so for the moment I’mma just take a minute to talk about my marriage.

The opening scene of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has oddly-believably-cgi’d-to-look-young Kurt Russell and Laura Haddock cruising in a convertible down a quiet country road on a gorgeous day while she sings along to Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl) on the radio. Without getting into any detail of what’s going on in the relationship or where it goes (no spoilers/also it’s not the point for what I’m getting at), that scene succeeded very well in portraying a moment of carefree bliss and two people in love just thoroughly enjoying each other’s company.

Matthew and I have gone on a couple long road trips recently – to New Orleans this weekend and to Lancaster at the end of March – both are in the ten hour range. Road trips always make me think about how grateful I am to have a life partner that I am so thoroughly travel compatible with. At the end of ten hours in the car I’m still thoroughly enjoying his company; we were happily chatting about the last podcast we listened to as we unpacked the car at the end of the trip home today.

And as the new episode of Lovett or Leave It came on the Epic Podcast Playlist this morning and we both sang along with the wonderfully obnoxious theme song, sipping our coffees, the day’s drive ahead of us, I thought, this is our Brandy moment. And it’s every bit as blissful.

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