Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Perfect Wardrobe!

I admit that I'm a total girly girl (at times), and shopping is indeed one of my favorite "sports!" Recently, I've been thinking about my wardrobe and what I might like to update, change, get rid of, etc as I do from time to time. I'm always onto the next thing, especially when it comes to fashion.

Well, I took some time to take a good, long look in my closet (pictured). Most of the time I stand in front of all my clothes and whine, I have nothing to wear! And wow, what a lie that is! You know you do it too: the same old song and dance when we women are merely bored with what we have because nothing is new anymore. We oogle over Pinterest perfected outfits that we can neither put together or afford (but Pin anyway, as if we have the intention of wearing that exact outfit someday, if we had an unlimited credit card, a fashion designer at our disposal, and if all the stars aligned...yeah, right!).

A look inside my closet
I also admit that I'm not that fashion savvy. I love, love, love to shop, but shopping a lot doesn't make any better dressed than the next gal. Don't get me wrong, I don't think I'm fashion challenged, but I like to be pretty comfortable most of the time. I'm not the kind of girl to wear heels ever, except on a date or maybe to a party or church once in a while. I'm pretty stuck in my comfort zone, though - so much that I get afraid to experiment with what I already have.

The Perfect Wardrobe 

Do you know where the perfect wardrobe is? No where, because it doesn't exist! Sure, celebs may have some pretty hot stuff, but their wardrobe isn't meant for me. And even if I could throw away all my clothes and start over, I could probably look back on it after a while and be just as unhappy with what I had before as with what I have now. The perfect wardrobe is always unattainable since fashion is always changing, since clothes always wear out, and since the pursuit of material goods is not permanently fulfilling. Not exactly the answer you were looking for, huh?

I truthfully believe that the actual "perfect wardrobe" is already within reach - not on Pinterest, at the mall, or in someone else's closet - but in your own closet. Yup, that's right. You already have the perfect wardrobe (okay, assuming you don't need to go on What Not to Wear or anything). But how can you already have the perfect wardrobe? First, you have to go have a little date with your closet.

How to Revisit Your Closet 

Okay, I'm not going to say I've come up with any new or grand idea. But this concept was pretty grand to me the other day. As I said, I often look in my closet and complain of having nothing to wear. Nope, not a single pair of my jeans will do. They all just don't "fit right" today. And all my shirts - they're so old, so I can't possibly wear them! Well, here are a few simple tips to woo your closet on your little closet date as discussed above.

1. Organization is key. 

When's the last time you really went through everything? Are things stored properly and in ways you can access? Closet organization could be an entire blog for me, but actually wearing your clothes starts with organization. If you can't get to those super cute ankle boots you  bought last winter, well, no wonder you haven't worn them yet! Obviously not everything can be within reach, but if you can't decipher through your own stuff, chances are, you're not wearing a lot of it for that reason.

Take some time to organize your closet. It may take a while to even find a system that works for you. Ever since I was in my teens, my closet was like a little personal make over zone for me, so I always kept it was organized and even decorated it (yeah, I was one of those girls). Since I've always had organization, it's pretty simple to me now. But even if you've been Ms. Mess your whole life, you can still start today. :) Just organize it already so that you and your closet are at peace!

2. New does not equal good. 

My husband is a smart cookie. He has heard my I-have-nothing-to-wear complaint many, many times, so he knows better. One time when I was complaining about having "nothing to wear," he told me something that blew my mind away. Are you ready? He told me, No one knows if your clothes are new or not. I had to really soak this up. Really? People don't look at this skirt and know I had in high school? No, they certainly don't. And thank God!

Somehow I always get into the mindset that new equals better. I always wear newer clothes more often. All my old clothes get pushed to the back and my new clothes remain in the front because I access them often. Because it's new, it's like I feel I owe it to myself to get good use out of that new t-shirt. New clothes give us that feeling of importance because it's still new to us; we're still excited and pleased by the item. While new clothes are fun and necessary, the reason I often say I have nothing to wear is because it all seems old to me. But it's not old to anyone else (unless they know you pretty well). And even then, does anyone really care? Realizing that I have the freedom to wear whatever I want in my closet without people judging me for how old it may be or that it's not brand spankin' new is awesome!

3. Fall in love again.  

When is the last time you even tried on half the stuff in your closet? I know I've gone years without trying some things on that don't get much wear, like a fancy dress I have for special occasions. Have a date with your closet and try it all on! On a rainy day or whenever you have some time, be prepared to get messy. And also be prepared to be surprised! I did this exact thing recently, and it, again, blew my mind. I tried on a dress that I never wear and in my head always think it would be good for date night or the holidays (yet, I never wear it for either?). I fell back in love with it so much that I decided to wear the dress that night. So much for having nothing to wear! Trying on your own clothes forces you not only to think about wearing it, but actually wearing it to see what it looks and feels like again. This kind of feeling can reignite the first time you fell in love with those sparkly heels you just had to have (yes, I'm talking about myself here).

4. Mix and match. 

Honestly, this is a tough one for me, which is why I recommend it. I wear the same outfit combos all the time! Once I get comfortable and realize this t-shirt looks good with those jeans, I tend to wear the items together exclusively. I get stuck into pairings easily because I think one "look" looks good, but I fail to consider other options. This whole process requires a lot of thought and trial and error. If you don't have a lot of time to get dressed in the morning, another date with your closet (or the same date where you try everything on) may be in order. That skirt and sweater combo? Cute, but what else can be done with it? Does another sweater look good with it too? How about a different pair of shoes? Mix it up! Take some risks! What you already have can be crafted into some really cool outfits if you venture to think outside of your current outfit pairings.

5. Buy less; wear what you already have. 

This is kind of the whole point of this blog. I am guilty (daily, maybe?) of thinking that I can buy my way to a new wardrobe or one that I will be happy with. But as I said before, it's just not going to happen. There is always another pair of jeans to be had! Instead of becoming bored or dissatisfied with what you have available, actually wear what you have. Novel concept, I know. How do you do that? Do laundry less. Vow to only wear your favorite shirt once a month instead of every week. Wear that one item in your closet (or more) that you've still never worn yet (I'm sorry ankle boots, I'll wear you next week). Turn all your hangers backwards and try to wear everything once before repeating. Just don't settle for shopping for more when you already have so much in front of you!

Obviously, revisiting your wardrobe isn't a one-and-done thing, but a continually renewing process. If you take the time to rework your mindset so as not to be owned by what you own, you can harness the perfect wardrobe for yourself, using what you have. Polyvore and Pinterest are great places for inspiration and to understand new ways to put outfits together, just as long as you aren't pining after actually wearing a pair of $6,000 Louboutins. ;)

I hope this guide helps put some of your clothing woes at bay. How do you revisit your wardrobe without visiting the mall?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Unlinking Blogger from Google+

Normally, I wouldn't opt for posting about blogging stuff, but this is a big deal for me. When I signed up for Blogger, I apparently already had a Google+ account set up because of my Gmail account (which I never use, so I had no idea how to use Google+). When you sign up for Google+ or Gmail, you need your full name. Since my Blogger account was opened with a Google+ account, my Blogger profile showed my full name and thus, my posts on the blog showed my full name too, which I seriously did not like!

I was able to figure out how to get my posts not to show my full name, but if I wanted to comment on the blog or other blogs using my Blogger profile, my full name was shown. So that wasn't really that helpful! Anyway, today I finally figured out how to remove my full name from Blogger! It was really really simple. I just didn't know where to look.

To remove your full name from your Blogger posts and unlink your Google+ account from Blogger:

1. Go to your Blogger Dashboard Homepage.

2. On the left hand side, click the little wheel at the top of the screen (Blogger Options).

3. Click "Revert to Blogger Profile." (as shown in picture)

4. On the following screen, click "Switch to a limited Blogger profile."

5. Confirm your profile and set your new username. This will be the display name for your blog posts and comments across Blogger. I set mine to "Melissa (Freeing Iperfections)."

6. Voila! Enjoy blogging without your last name!

This is obviously not rocket science, but I had been stumped by this annoyance for weeks now. I searched and nothing came up. But now I know. Hope this helps someone out there!

Daily Imperfection: No Run for Me!

Well, here I am, sitting at my computer in my workout clothes - not working out (somehow this is happens too often). I was mentally dreading the run I was planning on going on all morning. I haven't run in a few days and I've been feeling super lazy and blob-like. You know, like when you dread wearing anything but the biggest pair of shorts or sweatpants you own because you are so blobby. Yeah, that. I knew I should run today, but I just kept putting it off. I finally decided to don the running clothes when I realized, Uh, I can't go on a run. I don't have my car! The hubs car is in the shop and he took my car today. Duh.

Can I say that I am disappointed? Well, yeah because there are only 41 days until the half marathon and last week was a pretty pathetic week of training for me. I skipped my long run and just didn't have a single "really good run" last week. So I am "slacking" in my head (or just being really hard on myself, but that's how I justify my mindset).

Could I run down the street instead of dream about running at the peaceful pond I normally venture to? Sure, I could, but at this time of day (late morning) there are a lot of cars driving by and it's hotter than running at the pond, which is mostly covered by trees. I don't like the thought of running next to traffic because of the danger of it and because of car exhaust/pollution. Running down the street is a lot less motivating and more distracting for me too. I also have to dodge trash cans and light poles. Super fun! Not. (Photo from here.)

So, I suppose I am left with good old Jillian Michaels DVDs (Killer Buns & Thighs, anyone?) and my apartment gym. Yes, I could run on a treadmill there, but that is about as effective as eating a candy bar on a diet. Yeah, my "perfect morning run" dreams are long out the window. May I convince the hubs to go on an evening run with me tonight? I can only hope! Wish my training stems some luck this week!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Perfecting Time Spent

At the beginning of this month, I just finished my last college class and am no longer working. I allowed myself to have an entire month off to do what I pleased without worrying about a job yet. I promised myself that I wouldn't start looking for jobs until September 1st, just so I had time to enjoy an obligation-free lifestyle for just a bit.

Well, doesn't that sound heavenly, if it ever were to happen! Doesn't it always seem like what you have isn't good enough? This whole time that I have had "time off" I have actually spent worrying about how to spend my time. The way I saw it at the beginning of the month was that, if I had all this time - a month! - obligation free, work free, school and homework free - I had better use all the time to the best of my ability. What this translated into was wanting uber productivity every single day (aka unrealistic expectations!).

I'm training for the half marathon. I've had several items on my to do list for what seem like months. I have a stack of books begging to be read. And I have an 8 month old puppy to entertain and keep track of! In my eyes, there was so much I wanted to accomplish this month. This is a good thing except that it turned into a bad thing because of the pressure I put on myself. Pressure to extend my to do list, do more, read more, run more - just plain more period. And because of this mindset, I realized something important about myself: I am addicted to action. In the back of my mind somewhere, I believe the lie that I must always be doing something or I am useless. I certainly can't sit and write in a journal for an hour because it's just sitting there. I certainly can't go on a walk for fun. I also can't go take a nap because it feels good (and I need it). I am so addicted to action and productivity at times that I am unable to relax, enjoy life, and just take it easy like I wanted to this month. What a way to spend a precious month off!

I dreamed of having so much time that I could do so many things. I dreamed of filling my time with all this meaningful, interesting stuff so that when I do get a job, I wouldn't regret not utilizing that time. When I get a job, will I have time to read, run whenever I want, meal plan, play with Beans, sit on Pinterest for hours, organize stuff? Probably not, or at least not as much. So I feel as if I've guilted myself into thinking that I must use this time off to get things done so I'm "on top of it all" when I do have a job. But when are we ever on top of life?!

But you know what? I have done a lot! I've been plenty productive, but because I am apparently my own personal slave driver, I failed to see it until now. I was talking to my mom yesterday, explaining this to her, and she said I should make an "accomplished list" instead of a to do list. I started to give this list some thought, and I realized all that I have done. Yesterday, my day didn't go quite as planned and I didn't get done "nearly what I should have," so I felt disappointed with how I'd spent my time. But when I reflected on how I had spent my day versus how I hadn't, I felt really accomplished. Yesterday I vacuumed and deep cleaned my whole car, I met with a friend for coffee and we had great conversation, and then I went on a run in the evening. There's three pretty cool things I did. Yet so often my mind focuses on the ten things I didn't do.

Why this is, I can only assume because I am a perfectionist. I believe more is better, and I demand more from myself daily. While a lot of this month was spent in anxious anticipation for what I was going to do next, I have understood that I've actually been productive, but also that I haven't spent every waking minute of this month in unhappiness or anxiety. The more I demand from myself, the more time I need to de-stress. A couple of ways I de-stress or aim to reduce stress in my life are...

  • Let something go unfinished. Last night, I was knee deep in my meal planning at midnight. Why on earth I was meal planning at midnight is beyond me, but I realized it was late and I was exhausted. I just had to stop. I closed my laptop without hesitation and put myself before my work, letting the project go unfinished until later. Sometimes you just have to leave something, even if you desire to finish it right then. Leaving work is a good thing because it puts you in charge of what you do instead of letting the work rule you. 
  • Just do what you love. So often I think, "Oh, I'd love to take a bath this week." But in the back of my head, I know I won't let myself or ever get around to it. Sometimes I just have to wake up and let myself do something I deserve. I don't have to work on projects and to do lists forever. I am allowed a break, whether that means a bath or a trip to Starbucks. You deserve it. 
  • Set lower expectations. This is a hard one for me. Sometimes, I get a little nuts with my to do lists, thinking if I merely write something down that it ensures that I will do it. Often, I make daily schedules the night before for everything I'm going to do the next day. But I also often make this schedule without any regards to the 24 hours that are allotted to one day! I often have to remind myself to be realistic. If getting two big tasks done in one day and resting for the rest is realistic, that's what I should aim for (not aiming getting two day's worth of to do lists done in one day). 
  • Mono-task. I've seen and read this everywhere lately, but it's true. Don't aim for multitasking. Aim for doing one thing at a time. This is close to impossible with my multiple tabs in Google Chrome, music playing, phone going off next to me, to do list staring at me, and the dog vying for my attention all at the same time! But it's much more rewarding to just sit and do one thing, complete it, and move on than come back to it twenty times. 

This weekend the hubs and I are spending away at a marriage retreat. I'm planning on using this weekend to totally unplug from the world and just enjoy some time away. As for the rest of August, I think I need to give myself a little break before the job searching starts!

What ways do you de-stress? Do you ever feel "addicted to action?"

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Half-Marathon Training Update

This is week 5 of my 12 week training program before the half-marathon! I can't believe it's already been five weeks. I'm so glad I still have 7 weeks until the half, though! Over the course of the last five weeks, here are some things I've learned:

- I can get better at running! When I started, I was running at about an 11 and a half minute mile pace (yes, I am dreadfully slow). Yesterday, I (almost) ran my first under ten minute mile pace. Woohoo! My pace actually is improving!

- I've started to understand the concept of a mile or just the concept of distance better. I currently run around a pond that is two miles around. Now that I run that route often, I understand what it feels like to run two miles. Now I know where the half mile and mile points are, so I can think to myself "I'm a quarter of the way there!" It's just starting to make sense to me, whereas before I was thinking "Two miles? That sounds so long!"

- Running makes me feel strong. I have the strength to carry and propel myself for miles. It's just an awesome and empowering concept to run.

- Running definitely chills me out. I do still think on my runs, but sometimes I feel like because my body is working so hard, my mind can't work as hard. The harder I think, the less my body seems to move. I less I think, the better my body works. And sometimes when I run, I just get this feeling like, Wow, I'm just happy to be alive. Maybe that sounds kind of corny to you, but to me, running has been really freeing of anxiety and self-induced stresses.

- It's still really hard. I would say I'm at the point where I definitely don't hate running like I used to, but I don't really love it either. I like it after I get going, but I'm still trying to fall in love with running (will I ever? Who knows).

New Shoes! 
Love my new shoes!

Since I've run almost 50 miles in the last 5 weeks (whoa!), the hubs and I decided it was time for new shoes for the both of us. I had been using some decent shoes, but they were probably close to two years old. They looked fine, but all the cushion was gone and it was starting to become painful to run in them. We went shoe shopping and - of course - hubs finds his shoes in the first hour we are shopping. It seems he can always decide quickly and find something whenever he needs to! I on the other hand took three different shopping trips to find the perfect pair. I am pretty picky when it comes to shoes (and everything?), and since I want good shoes for the half, I definitely didn't want to settle for just anything.

I had to completely un-train myself to think in terms of style and instead think in terms of comfort while I was shopping. I tried on some of the ugliest shoes I've ever seen just to see if they were the right ones! But obviously, I will sacrifice looks for comfort on a run any day. Thankfully, the ones that happened to be really comfortable weren't super ugly, and they even came in pink and black, which go with my running clothes. I got the Saucony Grid Cohesion 5's. So far, so good, but I'm still breaking them in.


The best part of training so far has been actually seeing progress. I try to track all my runs with a running app so I can keep tabs on my pace and mileage. For me, it's so easy to feel like I'm not making any progress if I have one bad run or if I'm just in a bad mood. But when I look back and see how much I've run and how far I've come, I start to realize that I actually am progressing. It's a cool feeling to start being less intimidated by distance runs and instead think Yeah, I can go an extra mile today. Running really is becoming empowering for me. In just five weeks, I've proven to myself that I can go longer and faster than I think. It's definitely a slow progression, but progress is progress!

I'm still a newbie runner in all aspects, but I'm starting to actually feel convinced that I not only will physically make it to 13.1 miles, but that I will mentally make it there too. Running is not perfect, though. The last five weeks have left me sore, cranky, and super tired sometimes. I've had a few bad runs due to weather or being under-prepared (dehydrated, not eating enough beforehand). But right now, at five weeks, I can say that I see my progress and I'm happy with where I am now. I can only hope my next 5 weeks deliver just as much progress as the first five weeks have.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Daily Devotional Changes

Earlier this year, I treated myself to a new Bible. I had desperately been wanting to replace my loved but outgrown New Living Translation (NLT) Teen Study Bible. A good friend gave me that Bible as a gift when I was in 5th grade! I loved and treasured it, but I felt the need to move on to a more standard translation (that my church uses) and to a Bible that was suited for me: a married twenty-something woman.

To no surprise, my hunt began for the perfect Bible. I searched high and low in book stores, I read all the reviews on Amazon, but it took me months to actually settle on a Bible to buy. Why? Because I was so concerned about what translation to buy or what kind. There are tons of Bibles out there, so my search was only made harder by the dozens of choices there are. There are women's study Bibles, daily devotional Bibles, Bibles with the date on the top for what to read every day to read the whole Bible in a year, leather Bibles, paperback and hardback, purple and pink Bibles, ones with book marks and ones without - the options are endless! But I finally did decide to get a new Bible, the NIV New Women's Devotional Bible (by Zondervan).

The Not-so-Perfect Bible 

Thanks to modern technology, after I ordered it I was able to track where it was until I received it in the mail. I was highly anticipating the new Bible. I had finally made a decision, and the perfect Bible will soon be here! I thought. When it arrived, I opened it as soon as I could. I was seriously never more excited in my life to open a package (hey, it's not often that you replace your Bible!). Upon opening it, I was immediately disappointed. My "perfect" Bible already had a dented-in corner of it's sturdy hardback cover. *Sigh* It was "tainted" from the start.
My old and new Bible

Then, upon opening it and checking it out, I realized that there were no side notes or extra footnotes like my previous Bible had. The book had no dazzling "extras" like my study Bible; it was the Word and one page daily devotionals. That's it?! I thought. Before I ordered it, I think I must have assumed that the new Bible would be everything my old Bible was and more, that it was the same but even "better." But it wasn't the same at all. The layout was different and it was "missing" all the handy explanations that I was used to. I was disappointed again for I felt that it lacked something it should have (and oh, how wrong I was!).

Furthermore, something that drove me absolutely bonkers when I first used this Bible is that it has days of the week printed on the bottom of the devotional pages. So it will say "Monday" on a certain devotional, and "Tuesday" on the next, and so on. This irritated me because, if you are to start in Genesis at the beginning, the first devotional is labeled Monday. But the beginning of every year does not start on a Monday! I seriously let this small imperfection (in my mind anyway) drive me crazy for a while. To me, the days of the week should have been left out so you could start anywhere and not be "off" on your days. And if I got "off" on my days of the week, I would do multiple devotionals or skip devotionals just to be on the "right" day of the week!

I once thought this Bible was so lacking mostly because it was just structured so differently than my previous Bible. My previous Bible is a study Bible meant for newer Christians with a lot of questions. The Bible had all kinds of explanations of verses, question and answer sections, a great subject index, end of book discussion questions, and more. This was the only Bible I had ever had, so I assumed that all Bibles had all this stuff in it. Unless you get a study Bible, most Bibles actually don't have any extras at all. My own expectations led me to believe that my new Bible wasn't "perfect" enough. I even went back to my old Bible for a while because I was so reluctant to change. I wanted to like the new Bible, but it was hard for me to adapt to a new way of doing my devotionals. 

The Perfect Bible 

Despite my feelings then, God has shown me that this Bible is so perfect for me in so many ways. All of the little things that I chose to let irritate me for the first day or week that I had the Bible have subsided. I don't mind the dents, and now there are even more dents from all the times I use it. I don't mind that there aren't little extras because now I actually focus on the Word of God instead of human explanation of what it "truly means." And I don't mind the days of the week on the pages anymore either - if I get "off" on my days, it'll work itself out sooner or later.

Because I've stuck with the devotional plan and have actually been experiencing what God intends for me to see, read, and feel - all of my previous feelings of doubt have dramatically changed in a matter of months. The start of the devotional plan started out rocky because I was reluctant to change, because I wanted "perfection" that only I could fathom, that I thought I was responsible for. I was fearing that the reading plan wasn't going to be right or enough. But it's more than enough - it's my daily bread that I can't wait to get to in the morning. Sometimes, that day's reading will be spot on with what I am feeling, needing, or praying about. And I just can't help but think that there is anything more perfect than God working in my life like that!

In the end, there should be no question about whether or not there is a "perfect" Bible waiting for you out there. The Bible is perfect. As Psalm 18 says, "The Lord's word is flawless." While I was foolish to believe that I could somehow deliver to myself a perfect kind and translation of Bible, the devotional Bible that I currently use is absolutely perfect for me for where I am now. God put it in my hands for a reason - to grow and change me! It's not always easy to say yes to change when He comes knocking, but He is always changing things for the better, despite what we feel or think. Now my devotional reading is my favorite time of the day.

What are your thoughts? Could your devotional time use a God-sized make-over like mine?

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Cleaning Perfectionist

Happy Monday! I usually love Monday, believe it or not, because it's my designated cleaning day. If there's one thing anyone should know about me, it's that I love to clean. I am the queen of cleaning. Right now, my schedule permits for me to dedicate a whole day to clean my entire apartment, which I'm so thankful for. I know some people who clean in rotations and what not, but I do it all in a day. And since my space is so small, there's really not a ton to clean anyway. So what do I mean by clean my whole apartment? I dust and wipe everything down, mop the floors, vacuum (okay, usually I get the hubs to do this one), do all the laundry, and tidy everything in sight. Might sound a little overkill to do all that every week for an apartment that just two people and a dog live in, but I go nuts if I don't have my cleaning day!

Why Cleaning?

Why I love cleaning so much is still quite a mystery to me. I really don't know why some people are okay with never cleaning (and they're happy, too) but people like me are compulsive cleaners. Why such a difference? I think. But everyone is different, and I truly feel like I've always been obsessed with organizing and cleaning. When I try to pinpoint when it happened or why I am like this, but I just don't know. I just am! But I can think of a few reasons why I may love cleaning so much.

Control: Cleaning offers a sense of control for me. Sometimes I can't relax until things are clean (mostly just because I hate looking at the mess) but also because I feel like I should and can have control of my environment. When things are not clean and organized, I feel out of control and like things are chaotic.

Instant Gratification: Cleaning provides instant relief for me. I see a mess. I clean it up. It's done in a matter of seconds. There's no waiting. And voila! I am happy because I just made a difference in my environment that I can see.

Therapeutic: Cleaning is like cheap therapy for me. When things are clean, I feel accomplished and at ease. I can sit back and take in my clean apartment with a sense of relief instead of a sense of dread when it's messy. Cleaning also keeps me busy, and when my hands are busy, my mind lets go enough to find relief from all my busy thoughts. Whenever I have a bad day or I'm in a bad mood, I usually instinctively turn to cleaning to chill myself out. It's quite a de-stresser for me.

When Cleaning Gets Carried Away 

There could definitely be worse things to be obsessed with, but sometimes I feel pretty bogged down by loving cleaning so much. Sure, I get a sense of relief when I have a clean apartment, but how long does that last? Well, considering that I don't live by myself in a vacuum - not very long! Cleaning is something that doesn't actually provide lasting satisfaction because it has to be done over and over again. And sometimes I get so stuck in the mode of "I-just-cleaned-that!" that keeping things clean actually just annoys me to no end. The problem is when I place my happiness in cleaning, when I let the therapeutic aspects of cleaning become what I crave, and when I focus so much on whether things are clean or not as if life is so black and white, that's when the happiness is drained from me.

This is something that ebbs and flows with me. Sometimes I idolize cleaning. It does make me happy to have a clean house, and why shouldn't it? I just spent the whole day fixing up my place. But when I take that accomplished feeling too far, I am just setting myself up for disappointment. I have to continually remind myself that cleaning is temporary and fleeting. And I also have to remind myself to take things less seriously, to care less about the mess. This kind of thinking is like unlearning everything that I know, but I'd rather work toward unlearning my crazy thinking than continue thinking crazy!

I've tried to change my cleaning habits a few times, but it's pretty hard for the cleaning lady in me to resist a mess. Once I tried to limit myself to two or three times a day that I was "allowed" to pick up clutter. I did this in an attempt to free myself of feeling like I was a cleaning lady in my own home all day. I would end up wasting so much time just walking around picking stuff up. This was also when Beans was younger and it seemed like things were always a mess (oh, wait, that's still not over). But, just like when you go on a diet, the one thing you can't have, you want more than ever! So that plan didn't work out too well. Right now, I just try to keep in mind how much time I may be wasting picking up or cleaning. To me, there's nothing wrong with cleaning as long as it doesn't interfere with what I should be, want to be, or need to be doing. If there's nothing going on, sure, I can pick up for five minutes. If I've been trying to write a blog post all afternoon, I shouldn't keep getting up to fold the laundry in between! ;)

Are you a crazy cleaning lady too? Do you have any good cleaning tips that help you stay on top of things better?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Meal Planning Time!

Food/diet issues used to be one my biggest struggles. But now just a few hours a week of planning helps me work toward healthy eating without obsessing because I do the planning a head of time instead of in front of the fridge when I'm hungry. Now, one of my favorite times of the week is when I hunker down and plan my meals. I don't really need to reiterate that I am perfectionist in many respects, but meal planning is one of the things that I've tried to perfect. Food, diet, and how one chooses to view food are all, as I've learned, very different from person to person. For me, I've struggled with having too much food around ("bad" foods) that ruin my dieting goals and not knowing what to eat. The biggest problem in my diet before I made an effective meal planning system was not knowing what I was eating. If I just assumed there would be something for me to eat for lunch and I only planned dinners, I would open my fridge and start sampling things. Hmm, should I have this for lunch? *takes a few bites* Nah. Oh, how about this... *takes a few bites* And this would continue until I realized I had basically eaten a whole meal of snacks but was not even satisfied. As the old saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I truly believe in those words. Planning is everything!

However, even planning wasn't always a picnic. I feel that I have just recently found a system that works for me, and I'm so thankful. It makes my life a lot easier, less stressful, my diet is better, and my grocery trips are lighter (not necessarily cheaper, though!). My basic plan is to plot out each meal I will eat for the day - breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack - for an entire week (or 7 day period as my schedule spans two different weeks). I made a simple Word document template that I fill in each week the night before my shopping day. As I fill it in, I make my grocery list and try to include new meals. I also save all my old menus so that I can see what I have been eating or what hasn't worked well in the past.

Room for Error 

My meal planner template
Okay, so you might be reading this thinking, great - you're a perfectionist with your diet. It may seem a little crazy-organized, but this organization actually frees me of being perfectionistic. Before I meal planned like this, in my head, I was thinking I would be successful. At the end of the day when I ate much differently than I wanted, I wondered why things went the way they did and beat myself up for it. The next day, I would follow suit, and continue to be frustrated with my lack of good eating habits and self control. Now, I have a perfectly planned meal menu on the top of my fridge where I can always see what meal is next. There's no guessing involved. There's no room for error - if I follow my plan. But this is just that, merely a plan. I do have to accept that my plan, although on paper, is not set in stone. I have to make changes according to the fact that life is not static. Some days, I go out for dinner improptu, so my meal plan changes. Some days I realize that I'm not the mood for veggies and hummus (again! I need to find some new snacks) so I opt for something else, but just as healthy. And yes, sometimes I just stray from it altogether because I am human and I make mistakes. But most of the time, this menu system is very effective for me. I print my menu in nice fonts and bright colors so I enjoy looking at it. I have it posted on my fridge hanging from a little clip, so I always see it. And after I eat a meal, I check off the box that the meal is typed in. If I ate all my meals accordingly that day, I put a check mark on the day's box to know that I stayed on track. Overall, my planning makes for a much more successful week and successful grocery shopping.

Some Changes 

As with every plan, changes are needed as new obstacles are approaching. Some things I'm finding that need to change are:

Variety: I need more variety. I've relied on the same few snacks for the past few weeks and I am so bored!

Dessert: I need to plan for what days I eat dessert. If I don't, it turns into eating dessert every day!

Special Treats: Along with that, I want to plan for at least one really good dessert every other week (hello, Pinterest dessert board!)

Proof reading: I need to thoroughly read through my plan before printing it. Too often I have found that one day, I will plan to have peanut butter twice in a row or Greek yogurt for every meal. Whoops!

Tips for Using this System
  • Plan meals you will actually eat. If you don't eat raw fish for breakfast or eat salad seven days a week, why put it on your menu planner? Obviously, incorporating new foods into your menu gradually is a good thing, but if you plans are unrealistic, you're more likely to fail. 
  • Give yourself room for error. Something will come up in your schedule or some day you just won't feel like having what you planned. No big deal. Switch out a meal with something else, and then get back on track for the next meal or next day. Don't beat yourself up about the ways that life may be different from your plan. 
  • I personally think that not listing calories on the menu is more effective. I usually know the calorie counts of all the meals I plan, but I don't list them so my mind is not focused on calories, but real food. 
  • Post the menu on your fridge. It will force you to recognize your plan every time you open your fridge or go in the kitchen. It will also make your plan known to anyone else who you may live with. 
  • As I mentioned before, save your old menus to look back on for that long lost meal that you loved. 
  • Don't over-plan or over-scrutinize your plan. Having a general guideline for what you are eating is good, but planning things down to the tablespoon of creamer you're having in your coffee may be a little overkill. 
Food is a topic that differs for everyone. What works for me may be horribly wrong for you. This is the way that my diet makes sense to me. It's not perfect all the time, or ever for that matter. 

What do you do to plan your meals? What works for you? 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Daily Imperfection: My Little Menace

Today's daily imperfection has been bubbling around in my mind for the past few weeks as I have watch my beloved puppy darling chew, bite, scratch, and eat everything he can lately. I'm going about this a little backwards as I was planning on have a profile entry for Beans, my 8 month old Italian Greyhound puppy. I'd love to paint him in a positive light, but he is officially what I call a teenager for dogs! The first few months of owning him were pure joy as he learned new commands well and was always a cuddly companion. Well, all of that has officially changed!

I'm not really sure where it all started, but his new nickname is now "my little menace." My little menace has managed to eat a five inch square patch of carpet, chew off the plastic ends of most my shoelaces, shred anything paper in sight that he can get to before me, chew the wall (paint coming off and metal exposed and all), and chew up his cute toy basket. He also loves to pull out anything he can grab from the laundry baskets (usually just socks) and chew pens or highlighters. The other day, he got a pen (that I have no idea where he got it from?) while I was out and apparently had a party with it on my bed, which left pen marks all over my new queen size fleece blanket. Oh, Beans.

The damage, which can barely be seen in this pic.
 But still! Poor glasses :( 
Today's offense? I go for a quick run and leave him for no more than 30 minutes. I see him sitting in the sun like usual when I get home. All his toys sit perfectly untouched in his toy basket like I left them. He seems peaceful, as if he was sleeping the whole time.  I greet him and say in my best puppy talk voice, "Were you a good puppy?!" and proceed to give him a treat for being good while I was gone. Then I sit down at my desk and at my feet, he's chewing on my reading glasses. For a second I hoped he has just found them. Oh, no. He found them 30 minutes ago to entertain himself while I was out. The entire left lens and right ear piece are chewed and scratched. So much for all those toys I buy him!

Beans on the Subway
Clearly, things could be worse. But now that it's to the point that I have to remove things from my coffee table (where the glasses were when I left), it's getting tedious. I already sweep through my entire apartment before I leave to check for tissues, things on the floor, etc. and I close off any areas he shouldn't get to. I don't keep him crated while I'm away though because I felt he had grown past that. He was doing really well with being left out because I have him puppy pad trained. So I never have to worry about getting back to let him out or accidents. He's been accident free for months now, unless I leave him in the crate too long (and then it's my fault). It's just so much easier to leave him out, and he is much happier and less hyper too. I may resort back to the crating though, if just for short trips...

Despite the glasses, I am still called to love him and my heart is so big for this little guy. He is my companion all day long. Somehow, I am able to look past the chewed glasses, carpet pieces all over, my chewed up Bible verse cards, and other lovely presents he leaves me and just look in his eyes and love him. There's just no sense in being mad at such a cute creature, right?

What has your dog done to your stuff? Did you still love him afterwards?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Run, run, and run some more...Right?

As I mentioned earlier, I'm going to get into detail about my training plan for the half. I got a training plan right away, as I only had 12 weeks from sign up to the half to get my butt in gear. I took Hal Higdon's training plan and adapted it to fit my schedule (as pictured). I'm currently using the RunKeeper app to log my runs and see my progress. Tracking things (food, exercise, etc.) are really helpful for me to see my progress. My training was going well, and I ran almost 12 miles in one week, which for me is unheard of! Keep in mind that I've never run more than 5 miles at once (although I will this weekend!) and I've probably never run more than twice a week every week until just a few weeks ago. Yes, I have no business running a half marathon! And that makes it all the more fun :)

So, training was going well for the first week. I had the urge to get out and run. I didn't waste time getting out the door. I just headed to a nearby pond every day and did it. I felt accomplished when I was done. I feel happy to see other runners running the same trail. It was all good. Then my shins said "what the heck are you doing every day to me?!" Yeah, shin splints like nobody's business. Sure, I've gotten them before, probably from walking, but not like this. One of my legs was actually in pain while I was sleeping. I ended up elevating my legs while sleeping and icing the sore areas a few times, and that worked wonders. The pain really got me down, but after a quick Pinterest sweep for running information (wait, quick Pinterest sweeps don't exist... oooh, chocolate covered marshmallow recipe... oh, sorry), I wasn't so down about the splints anymore.

I realized that the shoes I'm using are probably shot for running purposes anyway. I have a nice pair of Nike Airmax's, but I've had them for over a year and a half. I used them for gym training, so they are still in great condition, but they're not taking the impact of my stride. I also realized I was definitely not warming up enough. Confident to run even with the splints, I did a Jillian video (Yes, Jillian Michaels. I love it. There, I said it), and I felt so much more warmed up and ready to run. I was not a happy camper during the video, but my run went great afterwards. That was yesterday, but I'm still recovering from the splints so I took the day off of running today and spent it with good ole Jill again.

Side note: something else that's been bugging me is the overwhelming number of sites that show you shouldn't up your mileage by more than 10% each week. Okay, got it. Small increases. So why does every training program have you upping the mileage well over 10% each week? I feel like upping my mileage way too much too soon has definitely caused my splints. I don't really know how to avoid this though, because I need to keep my mileage up. I guess I've just got to see how my body does and try not to push it too hard. 

So, what's imperfect about running? Um, gee, about everything! Here's a list to humor you (but mostly me).

What's Imperfect about Running 

1. You get sweaty. Really freaking sweaty. I never sweat more in my life than when I run (except maybe when I did Insanity).

2. Then your clothes are super-must-wash-them-now-and-not-wear-again nasty.

3. Usually, your brain wanders into can-I-stop-yet mode after about two minutes. (At first. This has already started to go away...sometimes).

4. You bounce. All of you. Do I need to say more?

5. You have to pay attention to a million different things at once: your stride, your breathing, the dog about to run into you, the fire hydrant you're about to run into, making sure you don't trip, passing people, your iPod, when your shoe comes undone...

Okay, I could go on, but I won't. I just had to get that out there. Sometimes the pessimist in me comes out and takes over. I could choose to focus on all the imperfections about running, and trust me, I feel slightly frustrated by the things mentioned in my list every time I run. But the truth is, running is great. While I do feel bogged down by focusing on a lot at times (#5), sometimes I feel like my mind just clears and I am free when I'm running. Sometimes my run is the most perfect part of my day, where, no matter what happens, I had that time to myself to prove to myself once again that I can do it. Now I just need to re-read all that before I run 13.1 miles :)

What's your pet peeve about running? What do you love about running?

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