Benefits of a 5-minute run

Thursday, July 31, 2014

An interesting tidbit.  A major study recently concluded that running as little as five minutes per day has long-lasting benefits.  I've had several people tell me that they just aren't a runner.  Unless you have some kind of hip injury or medical issue, you are a runner, the only question is just what your distance is.  This study supports the suggestion that no amount is too small.  I've personally found with running that you build up ability quickly.  According to this recent study, you may not even really need to build up ability.  I still think that as long as I've got my running shoes on, I'd like to knock out at least 30 minutes before I conk out.  I don't believe that five minutes is just as good as 30, at least, it certainly isn't, for me, in terms of de-stressing.  But, it might be good enough to do a lot.

Wellness Wednesday: Pro-probiotics? In my case, the jury is still out.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The process of digestion begins when you eat food.  The food travels through your digestive system, which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.  The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder aid the process.  The hollow organs that food travels through contains juices and bacteria that aid in the digestive process.

You'll read over and over that there are "good" bacteria and "bad" bacteria in your gut.  The "good" bacteria supposedly helps keep the "bad" in check and has a variety of different health benefits.  There are three different terms related to the production of this "good" bacteria.
  • Prebiotics are nondigestible carbs that stimulate growth of beneficial micro-organisms.  They are found in various foods--oats, wheat, bananas, etc.  
  • Probiotics are micro-organisms in the gut that are beneficial to digestion.  They have been touted to benefit digestion and help prevent a variety of infections.  It is difficult to take probiotics and expect the bacteria to make it into your stomach without being killed along the way.  Different types of supplements make different types of claims about their ability to keep the bacteria alive until it reaches the stomach.
  • Synbiotics are a combo of pre & probiotics.  
The benefits of this "good" bacteria and highly touted, but I was struggling to find out and understand what it really does.  How do I know if I need more of this bacteria?  What health benefits could I expect to reap by improving my bacteria balance?  If I should increase this bacteria, will supplements actually work or is a dietary focus more helpful?

These questions are actually a bit tricky to research and the answers aren't readily available.  Here are some things I was able to glean:

  • Studies have only confirmed that certain strains of probiotics have benefits.  Thus, to be sure you're actually reaping a benefit, you should look on the label for a product to advise what strain it contains and research the scientific benefits of the particular strain.  The probiotic I take contains strand BC 30, which is supposed to health immune health.  If you're looking for an overview, rather than researching a specific strain, my best advice is to start with this WebMD article or  this chart on wikipedia (yes, I know) that shows the different studies related to different probiotics and then read the linked study and conduct follow-up research on any strains with benefits you're interested in.
  • The FDA has not endorsed any claims about probiotics and does not regulate supplements.  This doesn't persuade me either way but is interesting to know.
  • The potential health benefits rum the gamut.  Studies tout improved immune system functioning, improved digestion, relief from common digestive complaints, such as IBS, and today, the NYTimes is reporting that consuming probiotics reduces your blood pressure.
  • I did not find studies testing specific supplements.  I learned that studies have tested Dannon yogurt and determined it has beneficial effects, but did not find anything testing the gummies or pills you see at Target.  Many articles talked about foods containing probiotics such as yogurt and various types of cheese.  This was interesting to me, though, because it reinforces the core principle of eating a balanced diet that includes things like dairy and cheese, which are often high of my list of things to reduce.
  • I was not able to determine any way to test whether you need to increase the good bacteria in your gut.  I found articles making unsupported claims that most Americans need to increase the good bacteria and articles suggesting to increase your probiotics if you have a weak immune system.  In short, I could not discover any scientific test.
My conclusions are basically that probiotics might be helpful and they might not be.  I'm not sure whether I specifically need them or not.  For now, I'll probably keep them around and take them when I'm feel like my digestive system is having a rough time.  I'll also probably make more of an effort to eat yogurt because yogurt is awesome and a good thing to be eating anyway.

Has anyone else researched this/have any thoughts??

A1c 6.3: my journey downward

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Would you let me know my A1c result before the doctor comes in?"  I looked up at the nurse, pleading with my eyes.  I like to have a moment with it alone.  It's emotional.  I need some recovery time before I have to talk with anyone.  Doesn't matter what it is.  She gave me an odd look, but tracked down the paper and handed it to me.  "6.3" she said.  "What?!"  I was shocked, glancing down at the paper, looking up at the nurse.  "Are you sure?"  "Is this mine?!"  "Yep, looks like you're doing a great job."

It turns out I had not recovered before my doc entered the room.  "How are you?"  "What's new?"  "How's the legal field?"  "HAVE YOU SEEN MY A1C YET?!"  "Now, Jill, remember, the A1c is not a number.  It doesn't define you.  The important thing is that you're making improvements and working hard."  He has this speech down after encountering my emotionally fragile post-test states...I guess I never really have enough time to fully recover.  "IT IS 6.3," I interrupted.  "Wait?  Really?" he asked glancing down at his chart.  "Get out.  High-five."

I was still high-fiving myself hours later, jumping around our apartment and singing out to A "6.3! 6.3!"  Yes, it's just a number.  It's an imperfect measurement of my control over this disease.  But, number that reflects improvements in conquering what has been the most difficult, continual evasive task of my life.  Big improvements.

What is an A1c?  This test reflects your average bloodsugar for the past few months by measuring the percentage of your hemoglobin coated in sugar.  The test dates back because each red blood cell can live about 120 days.  A non-diabetic individual's A1c will fall somewhere between 4.0%-6.0%.  Theses numbers reflecting an average blood-glucose range between 70 and 120.

Historically, I have done okayish.  I didn't necessarily meet target A1c goals, but I wasn't too far off.  And 72% of diabetics under age 25 do not meet the A1c goals for their specific age group.  As a child and teenager, my A1c scores ranged between 7.5% and 8.5%, reflecting an average blood glucose range between ~170 and 200.  As I became an adult, technology advanced, and I became more disciplined, I managed to get my A1c between 7.0% and 7.5%.  Generally, an A1c below 7 is identified as a goal for adults.  Certain patients may be able to set a goal below 6.5, including those who have a short-duration diabetes, long life expectancy, and no cardiovascular disease.  I don't really fall into that intensive group because I was diagnosed at such a young age and have had the disease so long.  But, since I'm hopeful for a cure, I have always set personal goals as if I were in that group.

This past spring, I finally dropped my A1c below 7.0% with a number at 6.9%.  And yesterday, for the first time in my entire life, I clocked in at 6.3%, which equates to an average blood glucose of around 134.  I honestly did not think an A1c that low was a real thing for a diabetic.  I had heard of people who claimed they had A1cs in that range, but I attributed that to a superhuman vigilance.  "Those people probably don't do anything other than measure their disease," I'd always think.

As it turns out, I did not become superhuman.  I was shocked that I'd made such drastic improvements.  I'd improved some technical aspects of my diabetes care, but as I think back, most of my changes were general health changes that made caring my diabetes easier.  This post is getting super long, so I'll sum my changes reflections in another post soon.  In the meantime: HAPPY!

Saturday @ the farm

Sunday, July 27, 2014


I love going out to my grandpa's farm.  It's one of those things we don't take the time to do often enough.  But, I'm always happy whenever we spend the day out there.  Yesterday, we went into town (Sealy, TX) for what is currently my favorite bbq.  The little joint is right off 1-10, marked by a yellow and black sign that just says bbq.  The make the best bbq baked potato.

I probably need a better camera.  It was really hot out and super sunny-- the colors on my iphone look a little odd.  My cousin had been out on the farm working for my grandpa, so we got to hang out with my grandpa and Ninon, my mom, my cousin, and the puppy.

A & Ender.  A boy & his dog.

My cowboy are on the right.
After the day at the farm, we headed home into the city where we had dinner with my mom.  She departed and went to my grandma's house in Spring while we headed downtown for a friend's 30th birthday.  We actually ran into a different set of friends at the same bar.  Everyone says Houston is the biggest small-town.  Too much fun in one day.

Bar with an outdoor patio and view of the skyline.

Org Series #4: Pantry-shelf-expansion increases small kitchen space

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I love, love, love our apartment, but our kitchen is tiny and our cooking supplies ample.  We have not fully solved our space issue, but we did get a big assist from a shelf-expansion set found at The Container Store.  The pictures speak for themselves on this one.

Yikes.  Our pantry was such a nightmare.  A daily nightmare.  A nightmare so tangled that I couldn't reach anything without knocking over something else by accident.

We were in such desperate straights that we stored our spices on top of the fridge.  No, not because I am super tall and can see up there.  I'm 5'3" on a good day and can't even see what spice I'm grabbing standing on my tip-toes!  Things were getting ridiculous.

When I told A I wanted to install more shelving on the door, he got nervous.  "We can't drill into the door," he told me, so I dragged him along to The Container Store.  "Help me find something!" I pleaded.  Off we went, in the middle of a thunderstorm, actually.  Look, some things are priorities.  I think I picked a good day where A was feeling super generous.  He dropped me off in front of the door while he went to park.  We walked in together, and then...unexpectedly, he started to have the exact same reaction I had to The Container Store.  True love.  "What do you think about this wine rack?"  "Aren't these magnetic spice containers neat?"  Yeah, we both had to take a break to regain focus and get our heads in the game.

We found a shelving unit that hooked onto both the top and bottom of the door, picked out some baskets to add and forced ourselves to run out of the store without walking down another aisle.  Deep inner strength.

A installed the shelves really easily and things started to immediately look better.  Another organizing victory-purchase.

Sooner or later I am going to get my grandma to yoga

Friday, July 25, 2014

It's Friday!  I am ready.  My mom has been in Houston with my grandma for awhile and I haven't been able to see her because Houston is massive and with traffic it's really impossible to get out there on weeknights.  I've been planning a fun weekend that will hopefully culminate in me being able to convince both my mom and grandma to check out a yin yoga class.  I suggested the idea to my grandma a few days ago and she said she needed to let that idea settle for a bit.  My thought is, if I can get them into a yoga studio for a gentle class, maybe they'll be less afraid of trying an active class.  Also, I really feel like if I have any future as an attorney, litigator, advocate, I should be able to convince my grandmother to do yoga, right?  Don't worry, I am not ever going to make my grandmother do hot yoga power flow, but maybe a basic beginner class somewhere.  My mom, on the other hand...

Anyway, have to get through the workday first before I get to see them.  Things have started off low bloodsugar this morning means I put two packs of sugar in my coffee guilt-free.  Sometimes being diabetic has its advantages!

Our civil marriage

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A, me, & Judge Kopf just after he married us.  - November 21, 2012

She wore white.  He wore a suit.  Their mothers were smiling and talking to each other.  They were standing on our courthouse steps, our umbrellas protruding into their pictures as we departed for a morning coffee break.

I wanted to hug them and love them.  To tell them I noticed their wedding and that it was special.  I wanted them to know it had been noted by me.  That their crowd was small, but I cared.  I cared so deeply.  They took me back to the day that I married A in the federal courthouse in the District of Nebraska.  It was the most meaningful day of my life, and yet, there was a certain reality to it.

A and I got engaged on a beautiful day in September 2012.  He planned a huge scavenger hunt.  It was adorable.  I was so excited I didn't even manage to get a good picture.  Our parents were happy.  People were shocked.  It was our little moment.  It was perfect.  Except, he had this lingering cough, sickness.  We put down a deposit for a venue for September 7, 2013.

A few weeks later, the answer came swirling in like a tornado that took my understanding of life upside down and shattered everything steady into shards.  Cancer.  We started treatment.  The beginning of cancer treatment reminds me of the beginning of my first Bikram class or running the first truly hot day of summer.  You finish five minutes, think you can't possibly do anymore and realize you have another hour to go before you even get a rest.  You eek by it by forgetting about the hour and intensely focusing on the moment only.

I asked the doctor once about the wedding date and the deposit.  I asked A about canceling, postponing.  I asked these questions once.  I never asked them again.  They weren't important.

The beginning of chemo wasn't easy.  A had a blood clot from the first PICC line.  A fever here and there.  Then pulmonary embolisms.  There were nights when I called the 24-hour number and we lost no time getting to the cancer-ER.  The hospital locked, I knew to pick up the phone at the back door for an escort in.  I would look at the clock and slip into a plastic chair while the nurses ran the labs.  I would pour A a glass of water with ice from the machine.  I would walk around the treatment center and explore the empty wings.  Occasionally, I was afraid and I called my mother crying.  Sometimes I was just exhausted.  Other times I did cartwheels through the hospital corridors because why the hell not.  Rules didn't apply.

There was one night when I was alone with A.  It was the middle of the night and he was finally into a room up on the usual floor after a traumatic admission.  His heart-beats were...staccato. I was doing what I could to try to relax him to get that machine to stop alarming, when I heard the machine next door overpowering ours.  I watched everyone move quickly into the room.  I stepped out into the hallway and watched the electronic screens on the wall that have a constant image of the vital signs for all the patients on the floor.  A eventually stabilized, his hadn't really been that bad.  The room next door to ours flat-lined.  And I realized people died on that floor.  It happened without warning.  That was a thing.

September seemed eons away and I knew that if the worst happened, I would have wanted to have been married.  He is and was my person, after all.  But, I left the decision to him.  About a week before Thanksgiving, he decided that he wanted to go ahead and get married.  I contacted a Judge Kopf.  I had interned in his chambers.  He and his clerks had been very supportive in helping me establish a legal career and they were particularly supportive during A's cancer.  He immediately agreed to perform our ceremony and took care of everything.  He had flowers and champagne in the courtroom and even performed the marriage on the record so that we had a video.
Judge Kopf tells us some important things about marriage and we exchange vows. 

The day of our ceremony, A went into the hospital for labs and they asked to keep him for hours of blood transfusions.  He told them to hold off and met me for the ceremony.  He was sick--I'll spare you the details, except to say that I think he barely made it through the event.  We skipped dinner and went straight back to the hospital.

Our story is a happy one -- we got the September wedding that had been predicted unlikely.  A dislikes remembering our November ceremony because it isn't what he wanted.  But, my heart melts the most thinking about the cold Nebraska day and our commitment.  A lot of people went out of their way to make it something that is special to me.  I felt like our commitment had been noted and I felt like it mattered.

The rest is just icing on the cake.

Wellness Wednesday: Reflections on Diabetes

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

This is not a normal "Wellness Wednesday" entry.  This one is about me.  And so many others.

It's hard for me to really describe type-one diabetes.  I guess it's always been something that I've sought to minimize in my friendships and conversations with others.  Because of that, I haven't really developed the vocabulary to really describe what it's like to live with it.  When I sat down to think about it for this post, I had to allow myself to be conscious of certain realities that I generally try to ignore.  I put my head in my hands and I cried.  I tried to let myself imagine what it would be like to have the disease cured in my lifetime.  I stopped myself.

Some of the things I considered when I thought about the disease included my future.  In particular I considered the following:

  • Almost all type-one diabetics will develop complications as an inevitable result of having extra sugar running around in the blood.  The leading complications are cardiovascular arrest, blindness, kidney failure, and neuropathy leading to foot/leg amputation.
  • After 18 years of the disease, I some neuropathy in my feet although it is not currently a dangerous level.  The blood vessels in my ankles have problems and I do cannot flex my ankles properly.
  • 1 in 20 otherwise healthy, well-controlled type-one diabetics under the age of 40 will die suddenly in their sleep from unknown causes.  This "dead-in-bed syndrome" is suspected to be associated with a delayed drop in bloodsugar, possibly due to exercise. 
  • I will die from this, which is kind of miserable since I've been trying to beat it longer than I can remember.  It reminds me of running in the heat just for as long as you can keep going, but knowing that you won't ever get out of it unless there's a miracle. 

I thought about the present:
  • Every now and then, I have stable, perfect bloodsugars for my entire run and I run more than twice my normal amount.  I feel amazing.  Is this how everyone else feels all the time?
  • My insulin pump was alarming in the middle of a conversation with a senior attorney today at work.  I awkwardly asked him if I could have a moment.  He said, "sure" but didn't leave my office.  I couldn't figure out how to explain it, so I turned around in my chair and reached into my bra for my insulin pump before he finally got it.  I have had so many experiences where I've had to reach into my bra for my pump at horrible times and I do not have a good solution for this.  I have no idea what people think.
Insulin pump on wedding day

  • I feel like I spent my life fighting with insurance companies and primary care physicians and referrals and drug companies.  At no point in my adult life have I ever fully checked this stuff off my to-do for even a day.
  • My bloodsugar is constantly on my mind and I'm constantly evaluating it no matter what I'm doing.  Should I try to take insulin before the appellate lunch?  What if I miscalculate and it takes them awhile to serve?  I'm dropping.  Oh god, I'm dropping, what if the judge walks in and asks me something difficult?  What do I even have in this office drawer?  Where's the nearest Sprite machine?  I'm dropping, will I make it through oral argument?  Is my bloodsugar going to spike when I give that presentation and cause my pump to alarm?  Ugh.
  • Every time I exercise, I either spike or drop.  I risk dying in bed the following night.
  • I wake up with low bloodsugar every single morning.  The only thing harder than getting out of bed in the morning is getting out of bed with low bloodsugar.
  • A lot of people think that this is my fault.  
  • Almost everyone seems to know someone who died young from diabetes and they always feel the need to tell me about it.  This is one situation where reality just doesn't help.
  • I can feel my bloodsugar shifting.  I feel my heart start pounding.  I feel myself start to get sick.
  • I don't eat pizza anymore.  I miss it occasionally. 
  • My stomach is full of needles and tape.  Right now, the tape really isn't working, everything stings.
My stomach today. 
  • It's not cancer.
  • It's not AIDS.
  • It's not cystic fibrosis.
  • It actually isn't the worst thing.
  • Without a cure, I'll still never be free.
  • I'm not really sure that anyone absolutely should care.  It is selfish of me to make this my cause. I have this disease.  I benefit from the research.  It is selfish.  And yet, I do it anyway.  I want a cure so badly.  Part of me really thinks I might get one someday.  I think about what that day would be like.  The day that it ends.  It's an understatement to say it would be the best day of my life.  I don't want to die without seeing that day happen.  It's the invention/improvement I've been hoping for my entire life.  
I think about the past:
  • I hate thinking about the kids.  This is a kid-disease and in a lot of ways it robs these kids of their childhood.  When I hear parents of newly diagnosed kids fighting for a cure, their goal is to have the cure in time for their child to experience some facet of a normal childhood.  Honestly, that goal is naive.  But, it would be my goal if I were a parent.
  • My memory of the day I was diagnosed is very clipped.  I remember it was the day of the Valentine's party at school.  I didn't eat any of my candy because I had this plan to save it and eat it slowly day by day so that I had enough to last all year.  I was starting to walk home from school when my mother intercepted me and reminded me that I had a doctor appointment.  I parted ways with my friends and got into the car.  I don't remember much from the doctor except that my mother was very scared.  She took me the hospital.  On the way she said that the doctor said there was a 99.9% chance I had this disease but that she was sure it was a mistake and I was in the .01% that didn't.  I asked her if I would die if I had the disease and she said not to worry because I didn't.  After labs at the hospital, she decided I did have the disease.  I remember standing in the elevator as we rode down to hospital admissions feeling like I was going to drop through the floor of the elevator.  My mother advised that my father was on his way from work and he would handle things.  That day might be the only day I ever saw my father cry.
  • "It's not your fault," my parents told me, "it's our fault for giving you bad genes."  Except, I wouldn't be here if you had given your child good genes.
  • I hate thinking about the parents of the kids even more than the kids.

This disease is overwhelming and I can't do big things, just little ones.  That's really all any of us can do.  A and I are making our little thing riding in Tour de Cure.  See his tour page here/add another little small thing onto our little small thing.

Yoga pants, camp chairs & wedding presents/registries

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

As I was ploughing through my e-mail this week, I saw two things that I love in the end/mid-summer deals.  (By the way, I do not have any sponsorships or anything like that, honestly these were just some things I loved.)

First, these 20%-off yoga pants from Sports Authority are kind of awesome.  I love yoga pants that are black-patterned, especially black and gray because it means I can wear a black top.  Black tops are slimming and I always seem to have a few hanging around.  These pants also come in a purple that I love, though.

Second, I saw an ad for camping chairs.  I didn't actually love the camping chairs in the ad, but I wanted to mention that nice, comfortable camping chairs were one of the best items we registered for when we got married.  We use them all the time and I always remember A's aunt, uncle, and cousins buying them for us because it was one of the "different" items.  Registering for them was almost by mistake, I just saw them in the BB&B's summer items section and thought they looked nice.  That move was brilliant.  We use them camping, at summer concerts, symphony, the beach, and they are so comfortable that we often just sit in them out on our patio (although, getting some real, cute furniture out there is on my goals list.)

I mention the camping chairs just because I registered for way too many platters and dishes (they are all super cute though, and yes, we use them all).  Relatedly, I go back and forth on our decision to register for China.  A actually picked out our China pattern and he loves it.  And I love it.  For those reasons, I am happy that we have our own set even though we'll probably inherit some extras from our parents as they tire of them.  We registered for China, intending to use it when we have kids and host holiday meals, so we always intended to have it sitting in a closet the way it is now at this point in our lives.  The thing is, we got only four place-settings at our wedding.  A's mom generously gave us two settings at Christmas, so now we have six.  We aren't really in a position to buy the other six settings, so I could see it taking us five or six years to acquire the full set.  Now, we won't need the full set for longer than that, so maybe it was good planning.  At the same time, did we really want to invest a decade in acquiring a China set that everyone will complain about cleaning over the holidays?  For me, the jury is out.

The verdict is an overwhelming yes on the chairs, though.  I didn't see our particular chairs at BB&B.  I thought this chair, from REI ($39), might be a good option, though.  If you're engaged, just register for these chairs.  If you hate your friend's registry and want to do something outside-the-box, I give camping chairs my full recommendation.  Instead of doing the really nice chairs, there are also some pretty good ones that are fairly cheap--you could combine them with a filled picnic basket for probably the cutest wedding present ever (something I am absolutely keeping in mind).

Sunday-evening get-together

Sunday, July 20, 2014

In law school, my friends and I used to trade off cooking Sunday-night dinners.  It was the perfect, relaxing way to ease into a new week.  This dinner became a Sunday-night dinner by accident, but it was the perfect, peaceful end to the week.


S & E put together a beautiful authentic Mexican-dinner.  Tacos with tomatillo sauce and a pineapple/peach/goat cheese mix & pineapple jalapeno (amazing) margaritas.

Saturday surprise

My hot-tub, roof-pool plans came up a little short yesterday due to the gloomy weather.  I woke up, made pancakes (Saturday treat), and headed off to hot yoga.  When I returned home, A had left me a note saying that he was out running an errand.

He was trying to stutter: "So, I'd been meaning to tell you that Iiii...I have a crush on you," he said, handing the flowers forward.

 Problem is, he was absolutely confident.  He knew the whole thing was melting my heart and he was clearly pretty pleased with himself for thinking it all up.

Of course, in the real world, none of the execution flaws were a problem.  My arms were squeezed around him and the side of my face squished against him chest way before he had the sentence out.

I let him finish the sentence of course, but our eyes had a different communication as we looked at each other shining.  "Thanks," I said quietly when I ready to do something other than beam.

I was mostly in the moment, but I did notice one little interesting thing about the whole exchange.  It came in my slight observation of our smiles.  You know how you think you have a full smile?  I'm pretty sure that even your cheek/mouth muscles can get stronger and deeper the longer you "hold the pose" and sink into it.  Ours did.  As if we were mirroring each other, our full-smiles widened.  This observation merits reflection, later.

Org Series #3: Organize your mental life with a filing system

Saturday, July 19, 2014

It took me far too long in my adult life to admit that I really needed to establish a filing system and file things away.  Maybe this is because I didn't realize I could do it in a cute way.  Or maybe it's because it just seemed too overwhelming or not worth the time.  Or I didn't have the time.  I don't know.  I finally did it this summer, though, and I am so glad.

 I had all my student loan docs, the marriage license, and some random tax receipts in piles in various places to pull out before April 15 and every so often when I would think to ask for a reimbursement from my FSA health account, but we definitely missed some charitable deductions and everything was way more of a hassle because I didn't immediately know where all my documents were.  But, the biggest downside to not having a filing system is all the days those bills sit on my desk waiting for me to finally go through them and whip out the checkbook.  That entire time, they are cluttering my desk and staring at my face.

I finally spent a few hours sorting through my years of papers, throwing away the ones I don't need anymore, and organizing everything into filing folders.  My folders are heavily weighted toward healthcare folders because healthcare is such a big part of our lives.  I have our basic insurance folder, our bills folder, our referrals folder, our prescription folder, bills waiting to submit to my FSA account folder, and so on.  Then, I have a charitable donations folder, other tax docs folder, a folder of records, a folder for Texas Bar Association documents, etc. etc. Basically, I made a folder for every type of document that ever crosses my desk that I want to save.

The most important folder, is my "deal with this" folder, which houses everything I need to handle this week.  Just having created these folders is a huge weight off of my mind.  I know where everything is and every time I get something new in the mail, it has a place.

(These folders are so cute!)

If you haven't taken the time to put together a filing system, start small.  Get a box that can house some hanging file folders, get some hanging folders with tabs,  (You can even buy erasable tabs!  I resisted.  Barely), grab a sharpie and go to town.  If the task seems too big, just start small.  I did not finish all my filing organization in one day.  It becomes so much easier once you start though and it is such a load off your mind knowing where everything is and having an immediate, organized place to put new mail that you can't deal with "right this second," but know you need to save or deal with later.

One p.s. type-tip: Just get a paper shredder that shreds credit cards.  I am blessed with a husband who is security-oriented as I am not.  He insisted we get a paper shredder and I thought it was kind of extravagant.  It's not.  Put it on your savings list, birthday list, Christmas list.  Now that we have the shredder and I can easily shred things, I realize how many things really contain sensitive information and should be shredder.  In this day and age, we need to do everything we can to protect our identity and credit.  You want to get those credit card applications and old credit cards shredded.  Having a good shredder is the fastest way to safely remove that pile of junk mail.  Btw: turns out we have an extra shredder, so if you'd like one and live in Houston or are willing to help us pay to ship it to you...

Relax, replenish, restore

This weekend, I'm going to try setting an intention for the weekend, the same way I set an intention at the beginning of my yoga class.  My intention for this weekend is to relax, restore, and replenish.

Today, I resisted the urge to schedule seeing a free play at the outdoor theater and instead opted to schedule a videochat with my sister-in-law and her boyfriend.  This worked much better with A's schedule and made for a calm transition into the weekend.  Even though the play would have been fun, my goal is to avoid over-scheduling this weekend.

Tomorrow, I am hoping to pick up a yoga class in the morning and then to spend some time just relaxing out by our apartment pool before heading off to a social engagement with A's co-workers.  Maybe during my relaxation time, I'll even think enough to actually plan blogging topics for next week.

I'm also hoping to indulge some in hydrating, healthy snacks.  Lately, I've been on the biggest watermelon kick.  It is summer in Texas.  I love watermelon with salt, not sugar.  Absolutely amazing and absolutely summer.

Sunday, I need to meal-plan and grocery shop, clean, and either run of pick-up a spin class before heading off to restorative yoga.  After yoga, our friends are hosting a dinner-party.  I need to be all set up for the week before the dinner-party.

My intention is to move through the weekend slowly, in a stress-free way, but also accomplish enough tasks to replenish myself for next week.  Does anyone else set intentions or goals for the weekend?

Does cooling your bedroom improve your metabolism?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

At one family event in the throes of my dieting obsession in high-school, an aunt told me that her strategy had been to wear sleeveless shirts in the wintertime.  "That way, I could eat whatever I wanted, but I figured I would burn it all off by shivering."  I was not particularly impressed with her strategy.  (Her point actually wasn't to be impressive, but to point out how my efforts were unimpressive and unsustainable as well.)

Oddly, though, this article in the New York Times today gives some credence to her tendencies.  A National Institutes of Health study suggests that cooling the temperature in your bedroom can increase your metabolism by increasing your brown (metabolically active) fat and increasing your sensitivity to insulin.  (Take note all you diabetics out there struggling with nighttime bloodsugars...)  In the study, 75 degrees was a neutral bedroom temperature and 66 degrees was the chilled temperature necessary for metabolic shifts.

The shifts were not substantial enough for any participant to lose weight during the 4 weeks they slept in the 66-degree room although their measures of brown fat and bloodsugars improved.  The study described the changes as "slight, but meaningful."

A and I sleep with our thermostat set to 72 degrees.  For him, this is the perfect temperature to sleep with a light sheet.  For me, it's cold enough that I often bundle up in the comforter for portions of the night and then change things up (which makes sense given the way your body temperature changes while you're sleeping--for more on that, see my post and the linked resource here).  It seemed to me that to reap any benefits (take a look at the article/study and see what you think) I would need to turn the thermostat down even more and ditch the comforter.  This sounds kind of miserable (and expensive) for "slight, but meaningful" changes.

At the same time, what the heck, maybe I'll try to ditch the comforter tonight and just go for the sheet without moving the thermostat.

Wellness Wednesday: Yes, Exercise Headaches are a Thing

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I've been lucky to have rarely had experiences with real, sustained headaches that weren't obviously related to dehydration or some kind of sinus problem.  Given my luck, I have definitely noticed the repetitive throbbing pain across my forehead and pulsing at the base of my skull, always after a strenuous workout, always appearing for the first time as I was standing in the shower rinsing off.  It was a little bewildering and pounding water to try to ensure that I was definitely.not.dehydrated just meant that I ended up drinking so much water I felt sick.  Ignore the headache for a little while and it would go away.

Since I'm a little bit of a hypochondriac, I've been worrying a little bit about the headaches: is my brain going to explode?  What is causing this?  Is it something about the shower?

Turns out, it's probably something about the exercise.  I was relieved to read today that, yes, exercise headaches are a thing, even when you're hydrated.  The hypothesis, although unconfirmed, is that your blood flow to your brain is different during a sustained, intense workout.  Okay, so I'm not crazy and I'm not dying.  In my case, the headaches aren't bad enough or sustained enough, that I feel like I really need to make any type of change.  The experts, of course, recommend seeing a doctor, just to make sure it is exercise-induced.  Assuming the headache is, they suggest substituting a lighter workout some days of the week.

Being vulnerable

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I had grown impatient with slowly building friendships after the move to Houston and was complaining to an old friend via e-mail.  "I have lots of great dinners and lunches with interesting people.  I can find someone to do any activity.  But, I still don't feel like I have many true friends.  I don't know who I'd call in a medical emergency... or a wine-deprivation emergency."

She gave wise advice, but it wasn't easy to implement.  Be vulnerable, she suggested.  While my positive, upbeat attitude can be fun, nobody becomes invested in someone who is fully put-together and perfectly capable of handling everything on her own.  I'm absolutely not fully put-together or perfectly capable of handling everything on my own, but I do tend to try to hide those sides from others and allow A to be my sole support.

My life is also objectively pretty good, so I don't have the opportunity to just "be vulnerable" all of the time.  Today, though, I had an experience that gutted my professional self-confidence.  I wanted to hide at my desk today, but I forced myself to shoot a quick e-mail to two of my female co-workers.  It was short and to the point--I told them I was having a low-confidence day and asked for any quick-fix ideas/tips/advice.  They immediately suggested we take a quick work break to grab iced teas from the convenience store across the street, one offered to join for a run, one offered to be a dinner companion.  We took the quick iced tea break and I felt a little better.  Then I ended up meeting up for a run/walk.  A volunteered to cook dinner.

After it was all said and done, not only did I feel a lot better about the self-confidence-gutting experience, I felt better and more supported in those friendships all because I managed to get myself to jot two lines into an e-mail.  Be vulnerable, she suggested.

Unexpected clothing surprise

Monday, July 14, 2014

I ran down to pick up my packages yesterday and discovered a fabulous surprise.  Someone at Ann Taylor tossed a random silk shirt into my final-sale-no-returns bag.  How often does that happen?  Never.  And it's super cute!  Even though it's two sizes smaller than what I normally wear, and probably a little too tight across the bust for work, I fell in love pretty quickly and am keeping it around for the weekend.  No returns is no returns, right?

Dorking up my workout: the Black Light Run

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Every now and then, you have to throw a loop in your exercise routine.  Saturday night, my friend, L, and I did the Black Light Run.  Normally, a dorky 5k doesn't throw a loop in my exercise routine.  The past few summers in Omaha, I've done multiple dorky 5ks, obstacle-course mud runs, all kinds of things, etc.  But, summer in Houston is a completely different animal.  Because of the heat, I've been sticking to yoga and shying away from running.

This change-up was a great idea.  First, we did really well despite not training.  We completed the entire race and were happy with our time.  Second, even if we'd been running a lot and it wasn't an exercise change-up, adding silliness and fun to a work out is always worth it.

Every woman should run at least one 5k in a tutu.
We spent the day following pinterest tutorials on how to cut up tshirts to make them cute and using glow puff paint on our hairbands and bobby pines.  We spent the night glowing.

Org Series #2: Closet Shoe Organizer

Saturday, July 12, 2014

This is my second post in my organizational series and it's going to be a quick one!  It isn't always, but this is the way all organizing should be: quick and easy solutions with a big impact.

When I rediscovered the Container Store last week, I posted on facebook that sympathy cards for A could be directed to our home address in Houston.  But, it turned out he was more enthusiastic than me about my first organization buy: this over-the-door-shoe-organizer.  I did not think I needed one because we do have enough space and I could place myself shoes well on the bottom of the closet floor. It's just that, in reality, day-in and day-out, I don't.

After throwing the organizer up over the door, which was super easy, it took me ~ 15 minutes to go from the before pic to the afters.


(After)                                  (After)                              (Before)

Notice that A now has space for his shoes in the closet.  This was so easy and things are so much better. This was such an improvement that A even agreed to go back to the Container Store with me to look at some kitchen solutions.  Complete victory!

Bone Marrow Be the Match Awareness

That fun life place, where you need people to make up flyers about you.

Today I learned that my philosophy advisor's partner was diagnosed last week with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Registrants from Duke Law drive

I tried to type something into my keyboard, but my hands went numb. I know exactly how that sounds.  She's super young.  Only a few years older than us as students, she was quickly becoming famous enough that the school didn't care she liked to put blue streaks in her hair.

She's running a race to support Be the Match and wanted donations.  I remember how that felt.  I typed in my credit card information, my face alternating between emotive contortions and hollowed-out ghost.

If you aren't already, consider adding your name to the bone-marrow registry.  You could be able to easily save someone's life.

Joining the registry is as easy as swabbing the inside of your cheek with a cotton ball.  And donating could be as simple as giving blood.  The folks on the cancer ward think a lot about their donors.  And their donors are their heroes.

We all get to make our own choices about these things.

But, you could be a co-sponsor of birthdays and moments like these.

The power of smiling

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tonight, I tried something different during my yoga practice.  I tried smiling every up-dog.  I couldn't keep the smile up the entire hour, but it completely transformed the first part of my practice.  Wobbling after plank?  Smiling about it made the difficulty seem like I had an inside-joke with myself.  Slipping out of lunge?  I'm grateful that I can even try this.  The entire flow portion of practice became easier.  You can trick yourself into loving it.

A quick dose of gratitude

Because there's no better way to start the day.

1. Yesterday, a friend posted on fb that one of her an old friend (maybe an ex?) who hadn't been in touch for years sent her a text just letting her know that he didn't approve of her going to a music festival and being a hippie and, btw, he couldn't see himself with anyone like that.  "No offense, it's not you, it's just there are some traits I can't handle," he writes.  Okay, obviously, given that you haven't been in touch for a year!  It gave her a laugh and it gave me a laugh.  As I was reflecting on her post, I started wondering who I would send a similar text to if I were going to be ridiculous.  I realized that there isn't really anyone that I know and dislike out there wandering around in the world.  That was really nice.

2. I made the decision to join a hot yoga studio again after several years of practicing on my own with DVDs or online websites.  I used to pick up yoga classes in college, and even a little in law school, before I'd fully grasped all of my longer-term financial responsibilities.  Of course it was something I missed, but it's kinda expensive.  I talked with A a lot before making the decision to spend the money to start up again.  A was, and is, completely supportive and encouraging.

3. I had four days in a row of almost perfect bloodsugars constantly.  I did get low a few times, but I never hit a number above 200.  I was over 160 only a few times.  I felt amazing.  I went for a run in the middle of that stretch and easily tripled what I had been doing normally.  Last night, things started breaking down in bloodsugar world for no apparent reason, my CGM couldn't handle the flip out and cal-errored, and that is all continuing now.  I can't seem to get it down this morning and I wonder if it's because I skipped yoga last night.  How much of an effect does exercise have?  But, I am so grateful for four perfect days.  So rare.

4. A is going to a dear friend's wedding this weekend.  We couldn't both go, but I am so grateful both that he is able to go and that his mother is going to drive down to meet him.  One-on-one quality time with parents seems to drop a lot when you get married.  When both spouses are visiting the parents/in-laws we have so little time together and we all want to maximize it, so it's lots of group interaction.  I'm grateful he'll have this quality time with his mom, and...selfishly, I'm grateful that it worked out so it won't be at a time when I'd have to sacrifice hanging out with her too in order for them to have it!

5. My family videochats every Monday night like clockwork.  It is so ingrained into our system that we all know it is time and if something else comes up during that time, we don't accept the other obligation without re-scheduling the chat.  I am grateful for that routine because it keeps me in touch with my parents, sisters, and brother-in-law.  My sister and brother-in-law recently got back from their honeymoon in Hawaii and I was grateful to be able to hear about it from them.  I'm grateful for that relationship.  And, also, I'm grateful my sister and brother-in-law got married.  I really like my brother-in-law.  And his family.  It doesn't always work out that way.

Wellness Wednesday: sleep

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

In law school, it seemed like lack of sleep was a badge of competence.  I've always wanted to be someone who was ultra productive, one of the folks who needed fewer hours of sleep.  But, the reality is that I'm not.  I recently read that if you always fall asleep within five minutes of hitting the pillow, it's likely a sign that you're sleep-deprived, not a sign that you're a great sleeper.  I'm in that category.

When I lived by myself, I had a lot of control and seemed to be able to get myself to sleep around 10 p.m. most of the time.  Now that I live with A, I aim for 11 p.m., but many nights, I'll wander into bed at 11, and he, on lucky days, take that as a cue to start getting ready for bed, walking the dog, turning off videogames, brushing teeth.  For some reason, I can't seem to get myself to go to sleep without a goodnight hug, so I hang out, waiting for him.  I get my hug and then clonk over.  The morning comes all too quickly.

What happens while we're sleeping?
Interestingly, sleep is not a passive state.  Our body goes through different phases while we sleep and the different phases have different purposes and effects.  For example, during REM sleep, our brain can be just as active as it is when we're awake and our many of our vital signs are variable as they are during waking hours.  During other periods of sleep, however, our temp, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and glucose (unless we're diabetic) tend to remain stable in a way they don't during the day.

Are you getting enough sleep?
Everyone knows on average, we need about 8 hours.  But, this varies some and our bodies are tricky!  Okay, they're impressive and adaptive.  We all have different ideal times to sleep and different ideal amounts.  Our body also adjusts to our schedule.  Our sleep history can actually change our sleep patterns and cause our body to redistribute our sleep stages.  This redistribution may allow us to keep living on less sleep, but it seems to me that given how important sleep is for the body, and the research showing long-term health consequences of less sleep, that even though we may feel as if we've adapted, our body isn't reaping all the benefits it should be from sleep.

And if I don't get enough sleep?
I'm not a perfect example of any of this, but the more I read up on sleep, the more I realize that I need to give myself the chance of a full 8-hours of rest.  According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, a lack of sleep slowly sneaks up on you in the form of serious medical consequences:

  •  Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Decreased immune system functioning, and even
  • Common cold
How can I improve my sleep?
Okay, so, you get it, sleep is important, but how do you get into a healthy sleep state?  Well, just like anything else, we get what we put into life.  The first requirement is that you have to make sleep a priority and make time for it.  After that, some basic tips are:
  • Maintain a consistent schedule
  • Exercise
  • Eat healthfully and finish 2-3 hours before sleeping
  • Sleep in a dark, cool (but not cold) place
  • Avoid the television, computer screen, or anything too stressful a few hours before sleeping
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol near bedtime
My biggest issue is prioritizing, so that will be my new goal for the next week!

Burlap wreath

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I made this wreath in March to welcome spring, but I've kept it on the door all summer.  It had never occurred to me how easy it is to make your own wreath.  It is so easy and I love looking at it every time I come home.

I used a burlap base and spring flowers, but you could easily use a burlap base for flowers any time of the year.

1. Base wreath from craft store
2. Burlap ribbon
3. Fake flowers
4. Wooden letter
5. And I found a cute little burlap owl too, there are all kinds of little options at craft stores.

1. Wrap the burlap around the wreath and tie it.
2. Stick in the flowers.
3. Glue-gun the wooden letter and anything else you want to add.
4. Plop it up on a wreath hanger.

And, of course, it doesn't hurt to have a wonderful friend send you a perfect, engraved Pottery Barn wreath hanger for your birthday.

  Pottery Barn makes all kinds.  And they are fabulous present ideas!

Organization series: big impact moves & solutions to marital disagreements about cleaning

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Series Introduction & First Tip: "Don't be a basket-case, just get a basket"

I swear, baskets have done so much more to smooth out living together than any marriage advice book or column I've ever read.

When A and I moved in together, one of the first things I realized was, newsflash, we need different things out of our living space.  Organizing, cleaning, and decorating in a way we both love (or can live with) has been one of our biggest "everyday challenges" as a couple.  We both recognize that this is genuinely hard for us and, consequently, we have been able to step back from it, work with each other, tease each other, compromise a lot, and ultimately, we've found a way to actually have fun working on this challenge.

I'm going to write about some of the easiest, biggest impact things we've done.  But, since everything we've done has required us to make mental shifts and to think a lot, it just won't fit in one post.  I'm going to write in a series.  This is a series for everyone with any relationship conflict regarding shared living space, and just a few smart things I've learned on the continual journey toward a de-cluttered home.  Also, still learning, if anyone has anything they have done that's worked well, please let me know!

The first step toward creating a home we both love, was recognizing that A and I have different needs from space, and neither one of us is wrong.  We all need different things.  For some people, particularly women, clutter can add extra stress to your brain that prevents you from fully being able to let go.  I am in this category.  My husband is not.  In fact, to him, a completely de-cluttered spotless dwelling would not be a space, not a home.  Needless to say, we approach everything differently.  But, one thing that has helped us bridge our gaps is baskets.

One thing on which A and I initially agreed, was the appropriate function of a bedroom floor, particularly with respect to clothes.  I wanted a clear floor.  He wanted a functional floor.  Holding clothes is the function of a bedroom floor, he once advised.  For awhile, we just fought about it.  Then, finally, I had a break-through mental shift.

The first, and probably most important, step toward getting our home into a state I like was to recognize that neither A, nor his behaviors, nor any of my behaviors, are the problem.  The clothes, often clothes A wasn't quite ready to wash and planned to wear again soon, are the problem, not the behavior.  I wanted a solution that results in a clear floor.  A wanted a solution that pays tribute to the role of the bedroom floor in holding clothing.   We started looking at finding that solution as the challenge, not fixing the behavior.  We discovered baskets.  Everything changed after we discovered baskets.

Now, we have a large, pretty cute basket, that sits on the floor, and A tosses his clothes that aren't quite ready for the hamper into the basket.  It's amazing.  I'm happy.  A is happy.  The floor is mostly clear.  We never get upset about this.  If A forgets one day, or heck, if I'm lazy one day (yeah, I started using the basket too...) we can just toss the offending sweatshirt into the basket and it's over.

The basket solution was such a smashing success to the "clothes problem" that baskets have multiplied and migrated in our home.  We now have the newspaper basket, (pictured left, okay, so sometimes it overflows) which is the holding place for newspapers we haven't quite yet recycled, the bedroom dresser drawer basket (as you can see, things don't always quite make it in the basket, but it's still SO much better), and the kitchen-bar basket (mostly used by me for pieces of mail, keys, running pouch and headphones).

This is such an easy thing to implement--our baskets are all from Target--and it makes such a big difference.  Not only does our space look better, but we avoid so many of those little, tiny, "Did you really leave that out again?  Annoying," moments throughout the day.

Happy Birthday, America!

Friday, July 4, 2014

I hope y'all are having a wonderful 4th of July and that your hearts are swelling with patriotism.  I know that a lot of people are self-conscious about being overly patriotic because of the fear that it implies some kind of superiority.  But, you can love your country with your entire heart without being arrogant or thinking less of anyone else.  I know I do.

I'll keep this short since today is a day for being outside with family and friends celebrating.  Yesterday, some of the attorneys and some of the judges at our court took a little time out of our day to listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the Harris County Criminal Courthouse.  If you haven't read it in awhile, it's a pretty inspiring document--best first birthday card ever?--and it's worth taking the time to actually read sometime today in between everything else.

The men who signed that document really were backing those words up with their lives, which is pretty amazing.

I hope everyone has a wonderful day, with family and friends, and everything we love.  Happy Birthday America!

Quick update: Ann Taylor Semi-Annual Sale

Thursday, July 3, 2014

There are a host of holiday sales right now, but the Ann Taylor sale is a good one.  Items are going fast, but I was able to snag this khaki suit I'd had my eye on for a few months now -- pants, jacket, and skirt for < $150 over my lunch break.

Looking at the reviews, this suit looks like it's going to be great for summer in Texas.  I love the shirt they paired with it, but I'll have to wait for it to go on sale before purchasing it makes sense for me.

I noticed, though, that Jones New York has some great shells in their 4th of July sales.  The shells below are currently < $15 after the sale and, according to the reviews, really are high enough quality fabric to wear under suits.  My collection of basis is slim.  In fact, I have only white, interview shells at this point in my career.

Since I don't know yet whether I'll like them, I limited myself to two.  I grabbed one in mint, basically because I just love the color name, "mint," and one in navy.  I noticed there are some other cute shells, though, with gathering at the top that aren't much more expensive.

I was pretty shocked and pleasantly surprised by these sales.  I bought a few suits for my first law school internship, one suit when I was told I had to have a navy suit to interview for clerkships, and haven't actually pulled the trigger on purchasing another suit since.  

I'll keep my fingers crossed that this was the right call!

Ten simple things you can do right now to give yourself a little happiness boost

1. Pick a friend/parent/or relative to call just to say "hi."  They'll be happy you checked in randomly and you'll feel better about yourself for being a good child/relative/friend.

2. Strip your sheets, towels, comforter and toss them in the washer and dryer.  There's nothing like warm, clean sheets and towels and the feeling that you accomplished one of those chores that just never seems to get done.

3. Pull out your calendar, see which friend's birthday is next and put a card in the mail.  I know it's odd, but few things give us as much joy and surprising someone we love.

4. Pick an easy, feel good pinterest recipe for something home-made and yummy.  Right now, I'm craving some all-American apple pie.

5. Pick one, small goal to accomplish and come up with a plan of action.

6. Grab a quick workout, maybe a run outside where you can grab some Vitamin D or hit a class at your gym.  Better yet, try a new type of workout you've never tried before.

7. Take a trip to your local library and grab a book.  Put it under your arm, find a park, and read under a tree.

8.  Engage in an act of self-care, whether it's touching up your pedicure with a spunky color or taking that overdue bubble bath with wine.

9. Give yourself an hour to dream.  What would you be doing right now in your perfect world?   Then, achieve.  How can you make your world more like that perfect world?

10. Practice gratitude.  Write out a list of things you're thankful for in your life.  If people around you have contributed to things on that list, write them thank you notes, e-mails, or texts.

(Wellness Wednesday) A reflection on facebook psyhology experiment: Should we "cut out" negative friends?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I'm sure you've heard by now, and probably have already formed an opinion about facebook's actions in manipulating newsfeeds of many of its users in order to conduct a psychological experiment.  Specifically, facebook's aim was to see how users moods were affected by seeing more negative statuses or more positive statuses.  Putting the controversy aside for a moment, this study does contain some interesting information.  The study concluded that moods are "contagious," in a sense, that the more an individual was exposed to negative messages, the more likely the person was to express negative messages and vice versa.

This study seems to confirm the old adage that you should cut negative people out of your life in order to be happy.  Is that true?  Anecdotally, I think it is true that you gain your understanding of the world from your peers.  Are your friends all ambitious and climbing the corporate ladder?  Have you watched your friends adopt exercise routines or train and complete half-marathons?  Have you seem them easily make new friends?  I absolutely think that we are more likely to believe we can achieve things that we've seen modeled by our friends.  I know that that's at least true for me.  I have relatively ambitious and happy friends and I have seen that make me more ambitious and happy.

I have watched my friends go from little running ability to running half-marathons.  I have watched them successfully transition to new cities and make friends with ease.  I have watched them network and procure their dream jobs.  I can't say that I have done all of those things beautifully, but because I've seen it modeled, I've made more of an effort to take steps to achieve those things and have certainly been more successful than I otherwise would have been in achieving my various goals.

Happiness is also something that gets modeled to us.  When we see our friends react to things positively, or react to the world positively, we are more likely to react positively as well.  That seems like a good thing, but I think it's actually complicated.  Bear with me through an example.  Cancer is the perfect society-wide model for the complicated nature of this type of learning.  Scores of cancer-survivors will tell you that they feel an immense pressure to be the person who sails through treatment and responds to each piece of negative news with a smile and the will to fight on.  Or they respond to the news that they will die with a smile and peace.  And that's because we see the person who responded this way idealized and we have a model for that type of response.

Is this fair to cancer patients?  No way.  Is this healthy?  I really don't know.  I think it's ridiculous that when something that devastating is happening, in addition to the devastation that's occurring, there is pressure to respond perfectly.  I think it leads to this dichotomy where you do one thing for the outside world and another thing inside.  I've heard several cancer survivors say that support groups were the only place they could let down their guards and tell others how they were feeling.  At the same time, maybe this model does actually make you smile more and maybe you respond to things with a little bit more fight than you would have otherwise, and maybe this does help people actually get through treatment and beat the disease.  It's an open question.

Now, think more broadly.  The same complications are true in responding to any challenge.  Are there negative implications to modeling happy and positive responses of others to situations that actually feel horrible?  Yes.  Of course there are.  Okay, so that's fine with respect to yourself, but what about in selecting who you spend your time with?

The fact that there are complicated and difficult situations in the world makes me wonder about the advice that you should "cut out" negative people.  There's a lot of value in long-lasting friendships and relationships, so how do you weigh history against the possibility that you're more likely to model someone's negative behavior and be less happy in the short-term.  Is there a threshold where the person just becomes a negative person as opposed to a positive person, or a neutral person, responding to a difficult life situation negatively?

Sadly, I don't have any answers to these questions.  My best takeaways, which have "no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience" are:
1. Yes, when you surround yourself with positive people, you are more positive.  And when you're more positive and happy, those around you are also more likely to be positive and happy.  You will be happier if the people around you are happy.

2. Life isn't completely happy.  A lot of times our true responses to difficult things are very mixed.  And there are times where the default positive response isn't really the most genuine.  If you feel pre-programmed to respond to things positively, as I often do, you run the risk that you'll automatically project that response but feel totally isolated in your dealing with any of your fear, sadness, and negative responses.  People do genuinely want to know how you're feeling and if they feel like you're not letting them in, then that itself creates distance.  It's a balance.

3. Friendships are complicated.  People are complicated.  I don't think a blanket response of cutting out negative people is actually a recipe for happiness.  It may be something more along the lines of taking complications into account and determining, over the long-run, whether relationships give or drain your energy and whether this is likely to be so over the years.

So, no concrete answers here.  A caveat, though:  It's an entirely different equation when other people are negative about you or your prospects of achieving what you want.

Anyone else with thoughts on this?  I'd love to hear what you think.

Fourth-of-July-themed-food: a creative moment for "the rest of us"

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I can't believe summer is halfway over, but I am so excited that it's only two short days before the 4th of July.  When I was a kid, this was the holiday where I decorated my bike in streamers and rode in the neighbor parade, as an adult, I seem to limited to decorating food.  For whatever reason, this week seems to be packed, so I won't get to fully express myself.  Luckily, there are plenty of easy ways to make July-4th-themed desserts and entrees.

A few years ago, I made this fruit flag to take to a party.  Please ignore the awkwardly intense instagram photo back from the days I was heavily experimenting with all the different instagram lightings and shades.

I was planning to do a huge fruit flag this year as well,  and had already acquired all the fruit, but, alas, my extended family in Texas does not know about my creative capabilities. (Okay, maybe I'm not that creative.) We have been assigned us the task of bringing Diet Coke, which is the least creative assignment ever.  Oh well, their loss!

Shortly after I got the soda-assignment notification, though, one of my co-workers e-mailed suggesting that we get together and bake something for the court.  Fruit does not make sense for a food item that you're planning to leave in the break-room all day.  Since we don't have lots of time to plan, we decided to organized cupcakes with red, white, and blue frost in an American flag shape.  Or, if we can find lots of tiny flags to stick in the cupcakes, we can skip the American flag formation.  So, it appears I'll get some kind of creative outlet.  We're planning to bake the cupcakes tomorrow.  I'll try to remember to take a picture.

What I love about this holiday is how easy it is to do themed food without much planning, work, skill, or general cooking insight.  This is not to say that the super creative folks out there don't go above and beyond on this holiday, but there is definitely room for all of us.

If you're looking for some inspiration, here are some healthy red, white, and blue recipes from PopSugar.