Friday, September 11, 2015

Did we just become best friends?

Sometimes I write here, but more often I'm melted into my sofa on my 6th hour of Netflix making my life sound interesting on social media. So, let's be friends all over the place. You can see my cats.

Send me a friend request/follow me to keep up with my daily whatnot:

Instagram: @kellyvmorgan
Twitter: @kellyvmorgan

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hold on to Your Butts

I once went to this attraction in Pennsylvania called Living Waters. The internet is trying to tell me that I'm making all of this up and that this place never existed as I remember it, but I assure you that this was for real. My mom will corroborate the story.

Living Waters was a freebie experience for those with tickets to a show at the far-more-spectacular Sight and Sound Theater. It was a tiny theater that had equally tiny fountains lit by colored spotlights. These fountains danced to religious music for 30 minutes or so, and that was the show. It was less than impressive.

Much like Living Waters, the Dinosaurs Come Alive(!) show at the Dulles Expo Center underwhelmed but astonished with the sheer ballsiness of the producers' ability to call it an attraction. The last time I went to the expo center, I had a stomach flu that I refused to let stop me, and I threw up in multiple places inside and outside the center. So, we could assume that Dinosaurs Come Alive(!) would be a better expo center experience. Or could we?

Dinosaurs Come Alive(!) was a self-guided tour through displays of animatronic dinosaurs with canned roaring set at a volume just below "jet engine." The displays were educational and moderately informative, even if the production value gave you the giggles like it did for us. Following the animatronics was a display of honest-to-goodness fossils of dinosaurs, birds, and plants. Definitely cool.

But then it got weird. In fact, there was so much WTFery that we decided we should start taking pictures in order for people to believe the experience.

 The website (that I obviously didn't read before yelling, "OMG, dinosaurs!" and dragging Eric all the way to Chantilly) describes the event as "a million dollar dinosaur and fantasy character spectacular." Further, they invite us to suspend logic to "walk though the Enchanted Fairy Garden, guarded by the Magical Talking Tree! Meet our family of Enchanted Fairies including the Fairy of Happy Dreams, the Fairy Godmother, and see the Tooth Fairy Garden. A life-long question will be answered - What happens to all the teeth? Come to the show to find out." Weren't we here for a prehistoric-tastic afternoon with dinosaurs coming alive(!)?

Amidst the roars echoing through the expo center, we were guided into the Enchanted Fairy Garden, which was a Living-Waters-esque spotlit section with mannequins in bargain bin lingerie. If one could take her eyes off of the fairies, there was a dragon looming at about six feet tall. I'm sorry to say that I didn't find out "what happens to all the teeth" as promised by the website. I did, however, progress through the expo to the gift shop.

You'd expect there to be t-shirts with dinosaurs/dragons or fairies, maybe some figurines of those too. Nope, not really. What the gift shop did have was tickets to a "gem mine," turtle picture frames, race car toys, Spongebob t-shirts, Hello Kitty, Mickey Mouse, and cowboy themed candies, some lady sleeping up against an inflatable dragon, educational videos about butterflies, and socks. Not dinosaur socks, not little fairy socks, but plain grey and black ankle socks.

After the gift shop, there was an area that clearly showed the expo producers were like, "This place is bigger than we thought." The space was consequently filled with animal moon bounces and slides, only one of which related to the already-flimsy theme. There was also an area that looked to be getting set up for a mechanical bull, a coloring station where kids could learn how to draw dogs, a free Zumba class, and a cafe where you could buy lattes and beer to go with your disappointment.

This experience cost a total of $40 for the two of us, not including the gas to get there and opportunity cost of being there instead of doing something more productive or logical. It's hard to get the full impact, but Eric's face in this picture illustrates his feelings about the expo. Mine shows that I'm way more fun at dinosaur expos than Eric.

Bears of a Feather Flock Together

Apparently I talk about crayons, like, a lot. I've mentioned here how I had my 2nd grade social status raised by a sweet Crayola 72er, but Eric seemed to think it was time to elevate my status again for the 33rd birthday, and he got me the new 152er. This guy knows me well, because apparently I also talk about bears all the time and like to discuss how cool they are.

So, my "real" present was chainsaw art from Montana. Mostly because I told Eric that if he returned from his trip there without chainsaw art, something in jerky form, or meth, he'd failed as a husband and souvenir picker. I mean, those are Montana's major exports, right? For the record, he brought back two out of three.

Because Eric can't handle waiting until the actual day of an occasion, he always gives presents early. When he's especially good, you'll get your present the night before your birthday or anniversary. When he's free to be E, he'll give you the present the second he buys it, or in the case of the chainsaw art, when he arrives home, weeks before your birthday. Without further ado, this is Bailey the Chainsaw Art Bear. He lives in our bedroom because of course he does.
Just laying here, thinking about bear stuff.
Eric coming home with something likely Bailey is actually a pattern for him. He also came home from Wegmans with Rory the Lawn Ornament Bear last year.
Oh, hey, bro.
Further, a year before, we were wandering around the Kmart near us that was closing. Eric was enamored with a bear on a motorcycle (not a real one - bear or motorcycle). I talked him out of buying it and we moved on. A year later, I felt like a super-jerk and went looking for the motorcycle bear. Lucky for Eric and our neighbors, I found Gus the Motorcycle Bear and brought him home. Even better for the neighbors, we discovered that Gus's bike has a solar-powered, 30,000 watt LED headlight.
Every week is Bike Week.
In conclusion, I had a great birthday, and I've clearly married the one person who anticipates my art and bear needs.

Monday, September 08, 2014

So, Anyway, About My Cat

Look at my cat.
Tons of you are posting pictures of your kids' first day of school and abstract crayon art or are sitting around discussing exploded diapers, or whatever you parents do with your time. Me? I'm using my spare time to wax poetic on how pointless unscented Mr. Sketch markers are and to tell my cat she's a good girl. And she is a good girl - when she's not burping cat food in my face or eating cords.

I was a reluctant cat guardian. I love animals, but not really free-range ones in my home. Same with the idea of free-range children and house guests. Something that can touch my stuff? I'm hardly used to Eric doing that after almost six years of marriage.

Okay, fine, so I'm a little behind on the baby-having; most people my age are having children and passing on their traits and genetic code. You're all learning to be responsible adults and to drive the speed limit and to teach your baby Cantonese sign language. Cool. So, anyway, about my cat.

Despite her being a total monster who barfs at will and opens closed doors, she's become a part of our weird little family. Sure, she's missing a tail and she occasionally attacks the darkness, but she fits right in.

You guys, look at my cat.
I'm missing things too, like spacial skills, the ability fathom the concept of torque, and the biological girl-ness that allows women to love Dirty Dancing and Grease. But, like Smudgie, I make up for my shortcomings in hairballs and jammed vacuums. Frankly, Smudgie Morgan is absolutely Morgan.

Being Smudgie's owner makes me feel like I'm important and worthwhile - even if it's just because she can't get her own food. She can repeat back words like "yeah" and "anus," which makes me proud. So proud, in fact, that all I want to do is talk about my cat. Your baby is walking now? Well, my cat can ingest 4,200 hair ties AND a FitBit. Little Landon was accepted to the Montosorri school? My cat just made a 9-foot scoot on the carpet.

We play together, I sing her songs, we share snuggles, I feed her, and I brush her fur into a little cat mohawk. I'm almost a mother. And it's not bad. Not bad at all.

If you want to discuss my cat further, send me an email.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

You Would

You guys, Netflix is sentient and judging me.  Check out what has been a "Top Pick for Kelly" over the last few weeks.  Every time I open up the app, it's like Netflix says, "You would, Kelly Morgan. You would."  And Netflix is right.  I would.


Yeah, I know..."Marge! Marge, look! The doll's trying to kill me and the toaster been laughing at me!"

Sunday, December 15, 2013

When You Have Nothing Left to Lose, Eat the Grilled Cheese

Day in and day out, I’m rushing around, doing something and worrying about everything. Clean this, don’t eat that, finish up those, email them. Life is a set of rules and boundaries, socially and mentally. While frantically trying to flat iron my hair and review a document for work at the same time, I thought about the yoga teacher training essay I'd forgotten to write on what I'd do if I were to die tomorrow.  It became disturbing as I thought about if I only had 24 hours left of life (or that is, life as I know it), what would become important? Would it matter that I have one troublesome patch of hair no matter what I do? Would I care that my husband doesn’t use the correct packing algorithm for loading the dishwasher? Maybe. I don’t know. Probably.

People like to say that there’s freedom when you have nothing left to lose, which is true to an extent.  I’d like to think that with all of the rules and boundaries released, I’d go spend time with my family and friends and get my final wishes in order.  Maybe come up with some awesome last words.  But honestly, I think I’d be so overcome with the feeling of freedom that I’d be reckless and ram slow cars on 66, eat that Denny’s grilled cheese with fried mozzarella sticks in the middle of it, and make more of a spectacle of myself in a public place than I usually would.  Also, I'd probably just quote Dumb and Dumber or Mean Girls for my last words, so that's pointless to worry about as well. 

For our yoga teacher training graduation ceremony today, we all went around the circle telling everyone what we'd written about for our last 24 hours assignment.  Everyone had these profound things to say, like spending time with their children, changing the world, and meditating high on a mountain, and I was all, "Guys, I'd eat that grilled cheese." 

But you know what?  For me, not being beholden to my own ridiculous rules would be as miraculous as being able to know you only have 24 hours left.  Now, the challenge is to live like that everyday, not just that last one.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lil' Jon, My Novel, and the Creative Process

Back in kindergarten, I told my mom that, "There aren't enough sheets of manila paper in the whole world for all of my ideas!"  Two important thoughts arise from this: (1) my school was too cheap for construction paper and too far back in time for nice white copy paper, and (2) there are now more than enough pieces of manila paper in the world for my few-and-far-between ideas.

My parents gave me lots of artistic freedom as a kid, whether it was letting me draw on every paper surface, giving me "really good" crafting scissors in early elementary school (with which I cut the same pointer finger open in the same place and got the same stitches twice), and giving me the most advanced electronic publishing tools to be had on a 1987 home PC to create the Bear Facts newsletter (circulation: 2).  I ice skated, danced, tumbled, played piano, sang, made every possible genre of art, blew up multiple experiments, built things, studied things through my Fisher Price microscope, accessorized, theorized, and terrorized.  I was a free, creative, curious spirit, and my parents let nothing stand in my way.

I squished so many gross things into these slides, you guys...
Now, it's all I can do to choke out a blog post.  I used to have a whole creative process that made writing, art, studying, and - fine, still blowing things up - ritual.  Maybe I've skimped on the ritual?  Maybe I would stop staring idealess at the screen/notebook if I set the mood a little better?

I'd be willing to bet all successful creatives have a ritual for when they do their thing, and that's the root of the problem.  Like, can't you just imagine Lil' Jon sitting around in his fuzzy socks with a cuppa ginger tea twirling his gold chain absent-mindedly coming up with more lyrics like,
Shortie crunk - so fresh, so clean; 
'Can she f***?' - that question been harassing me.
In the mind, this bitch is fine -
I done came to the club about fifty-eleven times.
Or sitting cross-legged in one of the puffy chairs at Starbucks with a Pumpkin Spice Latte scrawling out lyrics in his moleskin notebook?

I've tried everything this month (and about three past Novembers) to produce a novel for National Novel Writing Month. I've got nothing.  Well, a title, but otherwise nothing.  Maybe I just need to get crunk.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Matter of Who Matters

The Velveteen Rabbit completely f'ed up my worldview when I was 4.  Before having it read to me, I was pretty sure my each one of my stuffed animals was important and autonomous, but after hearing the story, I knew that those who were loved the most (all of them in my case, as not to discriminate) came alive at night and did important stuff.  I grew to have respect for them and treated them as creatures who mattered to me - and considering I sheltered, clothed, and snuggled them, I assume I mattered to them.

This is Teddy Vandersluis-Morgan.  He's my reminder from childhood that love should know no bounds, human or furry. You'll notice he's dressed to the nines because that's just the kind of teddy-bear-handler I am. Also, because he may come alive at night and need to be ready to party in the woods or catch salmon or whatever.  I don't judge him.  He's a grown bear.

Teddy Vandersluis-Morgan, Age 31
The love I invested in Teddy as a little girl comes back tenfold when I need a reminder of how simple love can be and how a hug can make you feel like you matter - that you're "real."  To quote the Skin Horse (gross name, right?) from The Velveteen Rabbit, 

"Real isn’t how you are made. . . .It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

I believe that you can love others into a state of mattering.  People suffer from loneliness and feelings of invisibility because they aren't noticed and loved into mattering.  Failure-to-thrive babies who get all of their physical needs met, but not love and hugs, are sad examples of this.  We all matter - person, animal, or teddy bear - and we all deserve to be loved into a great state of mattering.

Thursday, October 03, 2013


When I was 5, I wanted to work at T.J. Maxx - mostly because I thought cashiers kept the money. Since then, I’ve wanted to be an Olympic gymnast, “computer person,” teddy bear trainer, Hallmark card creator, librarian, lady of the manor, writer, fitness instructor, Ph.D., personal trainer, health coach, yoga teacher, and brontosaurus (in no particular order). Since the dawn of Kelly time, my career and life goals have been a moving target. Just as I hit one of those targets, I’m all, “I think I’ll train to be an astronaut today,” and everything resets to make that the newest life’s goal.

I knew a guy who passionately wished to be a hot dog when he grew up. I’m not sure if he made it, but that passion and dedication is what I feel is the essence of being sentient beings. We have a purpose, an aim, a goal – anything that keeps us moving forward and continuing to be more. More of what? Well, that depends on the day, if you’re me. But the important thing is that there is something more every time that keeps us excited and engaged and keeps life zesty.

Now, I know it’s not very Zen of me to always live in the future, especially considering that my new life’s mission is to be a yoga teacher. In fact, that’s likely to be my biggest challenge in this endeavor. It’s easy to say, “Live in the present, grasshopper,” but that leaves me…itchy. I can be 100% focused on whatever I’m working on, but progress will halt if I don’t know what comes after what I’m focusing on. It makes me feel lost…plastic-bag-in-the-windish.

Using a yoga word is almost as fun as a good SAT word, so I’m looking for upekkha in myself, where there are equal parts of me focused on now and later. I hope to someday consider myself to be a jawbreaker, where I’m forced to enjoy the current layer, but can look forward to what’s coming next.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Being Hangdog in Down Dog

Like just about everything I do, I woke up one day and said, "I think I'll be a yoga instructor."  Luckily, the Yoga Powers that Be require you to put the brakes on a little before just jumping in; so, I enrolled in the Life Power Yoga Teacher Training program at my gym.  How scary could it be?  I've taught group fitness classes for-ev-er. 


Compared to the other future-teachers in our training, yoga is brand new to me. I mean, sure, I’ve done a few down dogs in my time, but certainly not enough to ever be good at them or to get my heels to touch the ground in one. After our first weekend of training, I was a mixed bag of feelings. First, I was proud to have made it through the first 15 hours. Also, I came home the first night elated that I’d actually taught a few yoga poses well. It was new to me to teach people without yelling for them to go faster! Do more! Push through the burn! Unfortunately, I ended our first weekend feeling silly while trying to hold one foot out in front of me only by my big toe.

I’m full of “I used to be’s.” I used to be gloriously skinny. I used to be a flexible, pliable, admirable athlete. I also used to be anorexic, miserable, and in chronic pain. I also used to be 20 when all of this was so. In her article, Measuring Up, Donna Farhi writes that we need to “reevaluate our measuring devices” for success – especially when your body can no longer do the physical feats you once based your success on. Or, let’s say, you’re now a 31-year-old woman. So, that becomes a question of not only how you determine success, but if you’re a ball of anxiety like me, also how you determine failure. Of course failure still exists, but I think now it’s going to mean a lack of trying instead of a lack of contorting.

The thing that makes yoga practice different from any other fitness practice is that the goal is to open your heart, not just your hips, as the yogis say. Farhi states what will surely be my new motto for all clients in my behavior change program: “Remarkable changes can go unnoticed and unacknowledged.” Changes may not show up in how deeply you can move into a pose or how long you can hold your leg up behind your head. In yoga specifically, the change is, to use an old yoga cliché, both on and off the mat. Change can be seen when you are able to focus on a task at hand; when you find compassion for someone who is a little difficult; and, most importantly, when you accept that you’re always a work in progress and that everyone else out there is too.

(Image Credit)

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Fat Demon

The best and most useful thing a friend has ever said to me flew out of her mouth a few months ago:

"We do not have time for your body issues."

At first glance, and without further context, this may sound harsh.  It was, a little, but it was also the best thing a friend has ever had the nerve to say to me.  Here's a little context.  My best friend and I have been working together to launch a beauty retail company, and we were meeting to discuss our trip to Korea to meet and recruit suppliers.  I was giving my usual wahhh-wahhhh speech about how I'm too fat to function and can't possibly be seen by anyone in the beauty industry.  

If you know me in real life, or just through this blog, you're aware that I'm neurotic and high-maintenance.  It's part of my charm.  But, you know, sometimes it takes a good friend to call me out on my theatrics and ridiculousness to get my focus back on what's real and not some crazy imagined demon

But here's the thing: my Fat Demon (her name is Ana and she can be a real biatch) keeps holding me back.  Good things can come along and then - wham - there's the demon.

There are lots of demons out there besides her.  Maybe it's the Rejection Demon, or his cousins Anxiety, Perfectionism, or Shyness that live alongside you.  Maybe it's another type of demon entirely.  Regardless of what is holding you back from being your ultimate self (or whatever) is often completely imagined.  Sure, it seems pretty darn real when you and that demon are thick as delusional thieves, but it's all an illusion.  Just like I'm not walking around shaking the earth or having a single person look at me and think I'm fat, no one can see your demon either. 

So, I'm declaring today as the day that the Fat Demon and I stop hanging out.  I suggest that you and your demon do the same.  Or, if that's too big of a step for now, take some advice from The Simpsons and "just don't look." - just don't look

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Cooperation Sweater

When I was in preschool, there was this cream-colored wool sweater that I hated with every fiber in me.  It wasn't particularly itchy.  It wasn't ugly.  It fit...mostly.  In the Vandersluis house, this sweater was called the Cooperation Sweater because it took a team of at least two or three to get it over my head.  You'd think that this sweater was something special, like a handmade Grandma gift or Dolce & Gabbana Kids, but no. It was just some sweater from a normal children's department that my mom happened to like.  That sweater probably should have been sold as a factory second, because the only person who could get his or her head into that would have to resemble Bert of Bert 'n Ernie.

I didn't often put up a fight at that age, but when I did, you knew I thought your actions were unacceptable.  I fought the Cooperation Sweater hard each time Mom tried to shove me into it.  Clearly, even at 5, I knew that jamming yourself into something you hate because someone else thinks it's perfect for you isn't right.  And it hurts your head.  My 5-year-old self was pretty smart, and if I'd continued to think that way into my adult life, I wouldn't have continued to squeeze myself into relationships, jobs, and lifestyles that just didn't fit.

I finally get it.  Fit really is a factor when determining what's right and wrong for yourself.  Trying to make a relationship work because, you know, "a bird in the hand" and all, isn't doing you any good.  The same goes for a job that pays well, but you wish each day during your commute that something major would happen to prevent you from having to go in to the office.  If you've really let things get out of control, the entire lifestyle that you'll living could be a poor fit.

In the last semester or so (6-8 months for the non-academics out there), I've made some drastic life changes that stemmed from realizing that my lifestyle and career plan were like the Cooperation Sweater.  Like the sweater, my life looked good superficially - on my resume - but I just wasn't comfortable.  Even in the ideal work situation, where I worked at a company I love with people I love, I was still feeling like that proverbial square peg.  I started to feel trapped by my own lifestyle, which led to a minor freak out.  After that, I began to insist that my life progressed on my own terms.  Now, months later, I've never been happier.

It's scary when you realize that you need to demand the correct fit for your life.  But, believe me, it's far worse to continually work yourself into your own personal Cooperation Sweater.  The fit doesn't get better with time, so be brave and get a new sweater, boyfriend/girlfriend, job, or life.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Tinkerbell, Bonne Bell, and Other Influencers

When I was in preschool, there was a girl named Cindy who I was insanely jealous of because she was allowed to wear bright red lipstick when we played together.  As in, big girl lipstick that her mom got at Merle Norman.  Around that time, my little world began to revolve around cosmetics and how I could get as much of them as possible on me at once.

Mom gave in to my need...sort of.  I collected Bonne Bell Lip Smackers and Tinkerbell perfume, brush-on/peel-off nail polish, and banana cream lip gloss (I spent more time eating and reapplying that one than looking glossy, though) like it was my job.  You wouldn't catch me without my beauty supplies from the Bells, both Bonne and Tinker, in my sequined purse or Rainbow Brite bag.  It was the mid-to-late 80s, y'all.  Back then, things were wild and colorful, and we allowed children to wear cosmetics.

Then the 90s came along with grunge music and dark eyeliner which were both tempered by nail polish colors to match the rubber bands on my braces.  There were also a few years following that of bronzer, frosted lipstick, and roll-on glitter that we won't discuss further.

Luckily, I'm more of a Caudalie and Benefit girl these days, but my love and enthusiasm for cosmetics is still going strong.  I have a graveyard of partially-used beauty products under my sink to prove it, including every anti-aging product ever made because I got paranoid at 27 and thought I had wrinkles.  I'm so bad that I've moved through American, British, and French products and am now mesmerized by Korean skin care loot. In fact, my BFF Jess and I have decided to put our beauty obsession to good use and have launched a health and beauty conglomerate that encompasses our shared beauty interests, Jess' mad scientist chemist skills, and my health and wellness background as well.  We're off to Korea in a week or so to attend the Osong Cosmetics and Beauty Expo to start meeting with Korean beauty companies and get our foreign partnerships going for the beauty retail side of our business. More to come on all of that stuff when we're back from Korea.  

Sometimes when you need to figure out the next step in your adult life, it helps to reflect on what you loved as a kid.  Okay, so maybe not all things I loved translate, such as roller skating and setting fires; however, Tinkerbell and Bonne Bell contributed to the beginning of a life-long love, and I can't thank them enough.

(Image Credit)

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Fat Fitness Instructor: After Week 2

It’s the end of week 2 of my return to health, and I’m dropping weight, feeling energized, and am making the little adjustments needed to make clean eating work for me.  I still hate eggs.  The smell, taste, texture, ugh.  So I’ve modified lunchtime to not only get out of my egg rut, but to also avoid feeling overly full and like crashing after lunch.  Now, I make lunch an extended experience where I start with a piece of fruit (usually an apple) at 12:00ish.  Between 1:00 and 2:00, I’ll have light string cheese for some protein.  Between 3:00 and 4:00, also known as The Crunching Hour, it’s a bowl of dry Cheerios.  Finally, between 4:00 and dinner, I’ll have 1 ounce of raw almonds.  This way, I’m satisfied all afternoon but never over-full, and I’m getting in fruit, whole grain, and two sources of protein – dairy and nuts.

I’m an all or nothing kind of girl, so cheating isn’t really an issue for me when I’m eating healthy all the time; however, I wanted a little taste of something sweet Tuesday night – but not filling or too cheaty.  It was then that Eric tried to kill me with sugar free “candy” that’s main ingredient is sugar alcohol.  For the uninitiated, sugar alcohol is a terrible, horrible ingredient created solely to make people gassy and unfit for social contact.  He was just being nice, but he’s learned a valuable lesson.  In most cases, it’s not worth it to me to have some fake “diet” food version of a treat. When everyone talks about diet food not tasting good, they’re talking about this fake kind.  There’s no way someone could hate all fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and lean proteins.  Actually, productive diet food is real food that comes from nature and not a lab.  I preach this all the time, but this is the first time that I’m actually following my own professional advice and not falling into the fake food trap.

In addition to spreading out lunch and eating real food, I’ve started drinking more tea.  It’s warm, comforting, and satisfying in the way that often food can be.  Sometime eating is about comfort, so tea does the same thing for zero calories.  I’ve always been a tea person, but now I’m going through it like a champ.

I know it’s clichéd to say that this isn’t a diet, it’s just a different way of doing – but it’s true.  Whether you’re making a drastic change in your weight, or you’re just trying to find your way back to being healthy, it’s pretty hard to change your behaviors.  We all know what’s good for us – there are no secrets there.  We don’t have to change beliefs and our attitudes toward healthy food.  It’s about actually putting what we know into action.  And that’s the key to wellness.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Teacher, Mother, Secret Lover

So, I’m just sitting here, eating Cheerios from a baggie, toddler-style, and completing two year’s worth of online education in a few hours to renew my fitness instructor certification before it expires tonight.  I prefer to call it efficiency rather than procrastination.  The only other choice for renewal is retaking the initial certification test on physiology, biology, body parts, and whatnot.  I think we all know that’s not happening when I can just sit here with Cheerios and read PDFs of nonsense and take online quizzes set at a 3rd grade reading level.  Will it really make me a more qualified instructor if I read three pages on obese fitness participants and their potential to drop out of exercise programs?  Did you know that being sedentary leads to weight gain which leads to disease and morbidity? Of course you did.  We all do. 

Forced education - like K-12, continuing education, professional training, and the safety demonstration before a flight – serves a purpose by getting us all on the same common sense page.  But what about education on the things that really matter to us? Things like ancient aliens, gypsy weddings, hillbillies, Amish people, and dealing with not knowing we’re pregnant.  Nothing sparks discussion in our household like TV shows that take the pulse of America.  We were watching TV last night, and a commercial came on for Abby and Brittany.  I heard Eric whisper, “So many questions,” as his eyes glazed over in deep thought. 

This information we learn from TV sticks with us better than anything from school.  I have been proven not to be smarter than a 5th grader too many times for my liking. But, thanks to TV, I can consider myself essentially an expert on the paranormal because I’ve watched Ghost Hunters - domestic and international versions, Paranormal State, Ghost Bros, and Haunted Collector.  Without this televised education, I’d never be able to haughtily point out that entities feed on electromagnetic energy, like from air purifiers.  I can also put together information now, like gypsy brides are really just grown up glitz pageant girls and ancient aliens could have put the whole Amish faith system in effect when they landed during ancient times.

G.I. Joe once advised that knowing is half the battle.  Thanks to “The Learning Channel” and other cable classrooms, I’m full of knowledge and armed for whatever battle may come up.  Like trivia night at the bar. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Fat Fitness Instructor: After Week 1

Eggs. Eggs as far as my hungry mind’s eye can see.  High protein/low carb as a vegetarian is even more of a challenge than it is for the average Meaty Joe.  I’m a champ with fruits and vegetables - even beans and soy.  But beans have carbs, and tofu isn’t something you just throw in a pan and heat up for a snack.  In fact, tofu without any effort tastes like mucus.  Right about now, my mom would say, “Ugh, why can’t you just eat meat like a normal person? How about fish?” Eating meat “like a normal person” isn’t happening, so by day 3, I got a gigantic jug of whey protein powder and a thing of soy milk to put into smoothies.  Much better.

I’ve eaten lots of good food, and it’s been eye-opening to actually cook food.  I feel more of a connection to and responsibility for the food I’m putting in my mouth when I take the time to make it instead of getting prepared food from Wegmans.  I don’t love to cook, but I’m learning.  Also, following Jackie Warner’s advice, I’ve added nutritional supplements.

Yep, that’s a lot of pills.  And that’s only the morning ones. The supplements for the whole day are:
  • Plant-Omega (Omega-3 Fish Oil substitute)
  • Creatine Ethyl Ester HCL
  • BCAA
  • Multi-Vitamin-Mineral supplement
  • CLA
  • Ester-C (Vitamin C)
  • Lifetime Fitness’ Lean Source
The supplements seem to be worth the effort, I feel more energetic with a higher protein diet, and working out is going just swimmingly.  I’m a fat fitness instructor, after all. 
While I’ve made progress and feel great, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.  Eric has practically had to chain me up around Cake O’clock when all I want is a slice of red velvet.  Now, I’m like an addict in detox, and it’s comforting to know that the crazy sugar cravings will continue to lessen, and I’ll be able to find other, smarter, choices than convenient junk.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Small Rebellions

My life is defined by order.  Everything has a place, a schedule, and a packing algorithm.  Without this level of control, I would never be able to accomplish the many things that I can in a short about of time.  However, as will all efficient machines, I’ve got to let off a little steam sometimes.  This is done by way of small rebellions.  For example, I have three of Eric’s dress shirts and a pair of his pants hanging in my office closet, waiting to have buttons and a hem repaired.  Eric isn’t aware that I have absolutely no idea how to repair buttons or hems.  I considered taking them to my dear tailor Miss Joy and then not telling Eric I outsourced the job.  But that seemed dishonest.  Then I thought I’d look up tutorials online and do it myself.  Then I realized I didn’t particularly care if 3/17 of his dress shirts were out of commission for another week, and I grabbed a kombucha and watched Toddlers & Tiaras on demand.

Not only are those shirts and pants probably never going to be repaired (by me), but we’re also intentionally in violation of the homeowners association for the second year in a row.  This is, by far, the lamest form of badassery.  The first year of violations was mostly because the HOA used fancy architectural terms like “widow’s walk” that we didn’t understand.  So, we threw away the warning letter.  This year, though, it was more like, “We could fix that widows walk or…go to Norway.”  I think it’s obvious which we did. To be clear, our house isn’t falling apart and there are no cars parked on our lawn or anything.  This is the widow’s walk in question there over the front porch – apparently the ornamental balls are not regulation size and shape (It’s okay, I laughed at that sentence too). 

Sometimes, however, I rebel against my own good judgment and end up hurting myself to the point where I swear I’ll just be a rule follower and fall back in line with all the other good citizens.  I have a rather cavalier attitude toward contacts and eye care.  I wear monthly contacts for a few months, I use minimal contact solution, and I nap and often sleep with my contacts in.  A few weeks ago, I slept in my contacts. My eyes got redder and harder to see out of throughout the day.  Long story short, I damaged my left cornea.  When the eye doctor said not to wear contacts for a few weeks, I rolled my (damaged) eyes and got caught.  She threatened me with never wearing contacts again.  I have obeyed so far, but not pleasantly.  I wear my glasses when absolutely necessary, but I’m really vain.  Most of the time, I’m Mr. Magoo-ing around town without my glasses on, trying to look normal despite not being able to see a thing.  So, while I learned my lesson about eye care for now, I hope not to be taught another lesson for rebelling against glasses.

These small, mostly inconsequential, rebellions keep me (mostly) sane in my world of order and process.  Even the tamest of us need a little dose of defiance from time to time. 

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Fat Fitness Instructor

I’ve gone soft.  Not personality wise, of course - I’m ruthless.  I’m talking physically. Between work, school, social obligations, and everything in between, I’ve managed to gain weight in the last year.  You don’t have to feel sorry for me, though.  I’m naturally smaller than the average human, so I’m really saying I went from a 0-2 to a 4.  But this gain has been particularly hard for me.

I make no secret of my past with anorexia, disordered eating, EDNOS, and just abut anything in between except for bulimia, because I’m not here to ruin my teeth.  I’m more of a body image masochist than someone who makes a social statement, so I’m not trying to prove a point about feminine beauty either.  As much as I hate it, I’m a slave to that common view of feminine beauty.  Beyond all that social stuff, I’m being a terrible example to others who come to me for my fitness instruction and fitness expertise.  Not only am I studying health communication – with a focus on fitness – but I’m a certified fitness instructor as well.  After I started gaining weight, I gave up my fitness instructor position at a gym and I took a break from fitness advocacy and education.  Who wants to take advice from someone who’s going to go home and eat a piece of cake, Goldfish, and half a case of Diet Coke for dinner?

I preach wellness, strength, and inner peace through physical activity and clean eating, but I beat myself up over not following my own gospel. I’m the Dalai Drama of fitness these days, and I’m tired of being conflicted. But, now, also I’m a woman of action, and there’s no crying in weight loss.  I’m sharing my plan to get back to being a good example and back to teaching fitness classes again to help others in this situation and to have some kind of accountability to the great, vast Internet.  I’ve combined my own knowledge of fitness and nutrition with the incomparable Jackie Warner’s advice and my personal trainer’s advice to create a plan that I feel is actionable and not torture. 

Here are the basics:

Sugar bad; real food good.  If that’s not enough for you, read on.

A balanced diet fit for someone who is active must include lots of protein, a variety of produce, and complex carbs.  In between those elements come 80-100 ounces of water (100 for active people, 80 for inactive), herbal and green teas, and no more than two cups of coffee.  Every meal has a (1) protein, (2) quality carb (whole grain, for example), and a (3) fruit/vegetable.  So, breakfast would be something like eggs (protein), plain oatmeal (good carb), and blueberries (fruit). 

You’re looking to at least supplement (if not making replacements) your diet with whole, clean, real foods that haven’t been processed or had any chemicals or hormones added.  The protein situation gets a little more difficult if you’re a vegetarian like me, but there are tons of protein sources.  Same goes for the vivacious vegans out there.  Luckily, nutritious, whole foods are available to just about everyone, regardless of diet or disposable income.  You don’t have to go fancy, exotic, or organic. Just eat things that are found in nature.

I’m also a believer in juicing vegetables for a boost anytime throughout the day.  I love Blueprint Cleanse juices too, ladies, but while they are high-quality and delicious, they have a ton of sugar in each one.  I have a juicer, and it was a wonderful investment.  I make a simple green juice with romaine, cucumber, lemon, and ginger.  If you’re not into juices or things like kale smoothies, you’ll have to get used to the taste. It's worth it.

Eating throughout the day keeps your metabolism up, and it keeps your hunger at bay.  I’ve always felt my best when I’ve eaten a little bit every few hours.  The key with that strategy is eating a little bit.

For exercise, there’s nothing complicated here.  You need to get in at least 30 minutes of cardio 5 days a week, and 1-2 sessions of strength training.  The quickest and most interesting way to make cardio progress is with interval training.  This is where you vary your workout intensity.  For example, walk 1 minute, run 1:30 and repeat for the workout duration.  Strength training can be with free weights, resistance bands, on machines, using your own body weight, or with foam weights in the pool.  Strength training is important for two good reasons: (1) you get lean and lovely and (2) more muscle leads to a better metabolism.

Now, tomorrow morning begins my practicing what I preach.  Form a prayer circle for me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Day I Was a Mental Patient

Have you ever just needed a break? Some time to get rid of the stress and anxiety that makes you feel like you’re slowly losing your mind? I did. And I did it in the most extreme way possible, because I’m just that kind of girl.

I won’t bore you with the details of why my anxiety got out of control, mostly because they just sound like White Girl Problems when I say them out loud.  Regardless of the source of one’s anxiety, the important part is that there are psychological, physiological, and social ramifications of allowing anxiety to spiral out of control like I did.  I was gradually ruining my life and I was taking those closest to me down the rabbit hole as well. 

I’m genetically predisposed to panic attacks, but they tend to only rear their ugly heads about twice a year, and usually for a good reason.  My panic attacks began to increase in frequency a few months ago, and they were happening for no apparent reason.  I frantically told my therapist that I needed help.  I talked myself into thinking I was going crazy and that I was having a psychotic break.  My therapist encouraged me to make my own decisions about what needed to be done about getting back to feeling like myself – and I decided that what I needed was a trip to outpatient therapy at a local mental hospital.

When I imagined outpatient therapy, I saw a pool, spa food, and a lot of talking about my feelings.  Basically, I pictured celebrity-caliber drug rehab.  Outpatient therapy is nothing like that.  In fact, the other name for outpatient therapy is “partial hospitalization.”  My first day of treatment, I showed up to a decrepit old mental hospital that was clearly haunted. I sat in the waiting area before our day was supposed to begin, and others slowly filed in.  One woman stretched herself out across a plastic couch and proceeded to yip and yell things out.  Another woman mumbled to herself in the corner.  I sat there reading, trying to look like I was just waiting for a crazy friend.

When a nurse called me, we went up to the floor where we would be for the day.  We passed through a large room with people coloring and a woman dancing like Richard Simmons to the oldies radio station.  I was told to turn in my cell phone until “phone time,” and off we went for the in-processing interview.  Most of the interview consisted of the nurse asking behavioral questions and me saying, “What? People do that?”  She asked about impulsive behavior, and it made me think.  I started a Ph.D. program on a whim and I tend to be all like, “Let’s go to Norway tomorrow!” (that actually happened) – but apparently none of that counts.  It seems that impulsive behavior, no matter how weird and how much your parents and friends give you the side-eye, only counts if you can’t afford it.  Apparently socioeconomic status always reigns supreme.

Our morning group session was already in progress when I got out of the interview.  I grabbed a seat and a worksheet and tried to catch up.  The worksheet had questions about goals for the day, our feelings, and our “safety level.”  I figured that my goal was to figure out what this whole deal was about, and I guessed I was somewhat safe, making me a 5 on the scale of 0-10, 10 being safest.  Others around me talked with difficulty about their goals for the day – many of which were making psychiatry appointments and taking meds.  Group members tentatively rated themselves at moderate safety levels.  Everyone was kind and welcoming to me, and for that I was extremely grateful.  

The day continued with group sessions on various topics, and during the sessions, people were pulled out for social worker and psychiatrist appointments.  The group discussions were fascinating – these people were really hurting and they were scared for themselves and their own safety.  In one group session, we discussed anger.  I got to thinking that, sure, I get angry sometimes.  I had to take an online aggressive driving course a few years ago.  And I once threw a fit in a McDonalds when they were out of parfaits.  But by the time I focused back on the discussion, we were talking about punching through bulletproof glass, scaring family members away, and being arrested for angry outbursts.  They got to me and I had nothing interesting to add about my anger.  It was like that scene in Mean Girls when the girls are listing everything that’s wrong with their appearances and Cady says, “Um, I have really bad breath in the morning.”  While I was enjoying hearing people talk about their situations, I felt that I wasn’t really in the right place and that I shouldn’t have the privilege of hearing their stories.

Throughout the day, it because even clearer that I was not a candidate for “partial hospitalization.”  I felt like an imposter and almost like a field researcher as people yelled out, wandered the room, cried, danced, and discussed the breakdowns that had led them to the hospital.  I began to freak out all Girl, Interrupted style.  During phone time, I frantically texted my therapist to get me out of there.  I grabbed a nurse and pulled her aside telling her I needed to get out – these people were crazy.  In hindsight, I looked insane when I was telling the nurse how sane I was.  My panic escalated to its apex when we had our wrap-up meeting to plan for the weekend.  Most people’s goals were to stay safe and to have some form of social contact, like going to the grocery store.  I also learned that “safety level” didn’t mean something new-agey and warm and fuzzy; it was a scale indicating the likelihood that we would harm ourselves or others.  So, there I was, not knowing all day that those people around me with safety levels of a 2 or 3 were likely to hurt themselves or shank me with a color pencil.

I was so in over my head.  Being (partially) hospitalized is a new level.  Even the most calm, “normal” person would come out of a day of outpatient therapy having over-analyzed herself and thinking she may be crazy.  I left the hospital feeling shell-shocked.  However, I won’t lie about taking advantage of the mental patient status.  There is a sense of freedom and being able to do whatever I wanted because I was technically a mental patient. It was a license to be weird.  But, all good things must come to an end.  On Sunday, I notified the hospital that I wouldn’t be coming back. 

Though I skewed toward the dramatic by checking into an outpatient program for my anxiety, I learned valuable information from my day as a mental patient.  Most importantly, I learned that my anxiety – though sometimes emotionally and physiologically painful – is not in the realm of crazy. In fact, I’m not sure there’s really a solid definition for crazy.  For now, I’m going to go with neurotic and delightfully eccentric, or just Kelly.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Housewifing Gets Real

I’ve been given the wonderful gift of finishing up my last year in my Ph.D. by being a housewife-student.  Since school hasn’t started back up yet, I’ve only been the first part of the hyphenate…and it’s not quite what I imagined.  I thought being a housewife was going to be all watching TLC and being able to make microderm appointments for during the day.  I also thought that being a housewife meant wearing aprons and pearls and being afraid of being left alone with a serviceman. It turns out that it’s more like getting up sticky stuff and mystery crumbs while wearing yoga pants and a shirt from the 2009 National Book Festival, bear claw slippers, and hair that would make servicemen afraid to be alone with me.

I’ve made a pretty valiant effort at housewifing so far.  I get a bit of good karma each day for making Eric’s work lunches (including embarrassing notes so his friends will make fun of him).  Unfortunately, he sent me an email one day around noon to let me know his sandwich looked like this:

So maybe I should have coffee before making lunches.  I also tried couponing, thinking I could save our household some money, but the one I tried to use for $0.30 off Kashi bars wouldn’t scan, so I gave that up.

This has been pretty cool so far, but my worst fear is that staying at home and doing stuff around the house will lead me to become like the, ugh, other half of the Pinterest population.  Those are the pinners who, instead of swooning over shoes, vacation destinations, and interior design, are all like, “OMG, you can make your own laundry detergent?!” I d-o-n-apostrophe-t DIY.  In fact, I miss having an excuse not to cook or clean.  I also miss wearing real clothes and talking to humans.  All I get around here is conversation with Tater, and honestly, he’s either asleep or making this face:

He’s also very little help with research or dissertation planning.

Though my new workload is now a bit more physical –which is great because, you know, calories - it does allow me to watch Wendy Williams and be all “How you doin’” along with her to my 4th cup of coffee.  Also, being at home really appeals to my OCD, because everything is now under my jurisdiction.  The dishwasher shall be loaded using the correct algorithm.  Laundry is done in the approved manner.  And, most importantly, only the raw, vegan, juiced, gluten-free – or whatever I’m feeling that week - meals will be allowed, since I feel fat and, therefore, Eric should too. 

We’ll see how things go this week when school starts and I feel compelled to actually do school work too.  Perhaps I’ll feel less like a neurotic waste of space? Probably not. It's part of my charm.