A Happy Healthy Challenge

Even at first glance, there are two things about me that are quite obvious.

  1. I enjoy eating
  2. I don’t particularly enjoy that I enjoy eating

My Pail List and mental wish list and list taped to my wall and to-do list have long held the goal of me losing weight. Throughout my childhood and for many years I was under the impression that I needed to lose weight to conform to a certain ideal, and while I still have the desire to lose some of my puppy fat (though my puppy may have grown into a fully sized dog by now), I’ve come to recognize that I should focus first and foremost on fitness and health.

But when my unnatural love of peanut butter coincides with cold months and a lack of willpower, I find myself suddenly starring down at the Papa John’s menu more often than at my Zumba DVDs.

30 day challengeMy other blog (yes, I’m openly cheating), Happiness Through Health, is going to see me attempt to create a 30 Day Challenge revolving around losing weight, logging exercise hours, and blogging out our feelings for fabulous gifts and prizes (well, two averagely exciting prizes for the winner and runner up).

If you’re interested in joining me as I find a way to still enjoy pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce and stuffing in the midst of this challenge, just head over to the original post and mention that you’re interested. Bonus points if you provide a guilt-free pumpkin pie recipe or talk me out of this idea and just let me turn myself orange from pumpkin consumption.

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The Horror! The Horror!…The ROCKY Horror

I’ve been familiar with The Rocky Horror Picture Show since my early high school days. I’d puzzled over the movie, remained confusedly captivated over the Sweet Transvestite lyrics, and generally enjoyed the idea that such an absurd film could have such a devoted following. Yet, until recently, I’d never seen a cast performing the movie on stage while it simultaneously played on film (though I did attend a delightful shadow cast of The Princess Bride).

Despite my apparent interest, I had never attended a production partly due to my excessive time spent with my cat, partly for fear of how they would treat the inexperienced-in-all-that-is-Rocky virgins. No one seemed willing to discuss the hi-jinks that the cast would play on the newbies for fear that it would deter them from participating in the spectacle that is The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and after my first show and participation in the Virgin Games at the behest of my former friend Eric, I think I get why.

247135_10151678616010695_1545180286_nWhile it may be fun for the audience to laugh and point as Rocky Virgins are sent onstage to switch clothes with someone they’re standing next to, or scream out in the ecstasy of an imagined intimacy, or parade around with lipstick letter “V”s on their forehead, I can say from personal experience that it is nerve wracking as heck and my face has been permanently marked by a blush so deeply red that others are continually offering me sunscreen. But boy was it an experience! I may have just had my most embarrassing moment(s) of my life witnessed by a theater’s worth of people, but I can truly say that I’m glad that I went through with something that put me outside of my comfort zone while remaining within the point where my line is drawn.

Yes, I imagine a good many people in my life would judge my participation.

Yes, some of the subjects and themes broached were a tad risque.

Yes, there were scantily clad individuals parading around throughout the night.

No, there was not an empty seat in the house.

rocky image

Everyone who showed up to the show was so involved in their choice of costumes, props, verbal insults, strange and secretive greetings, and the actual movie itself. In a world where everyone needs constant entertainment and five iProducts constantly shoved in front of their face, it was just so sweet and rewarding to watch a room full of people staring unblinkingly at a film that they’d seen hundreds of times. The concentration on their faces as they would boogie to the Time Warp conveyed a sense of purpose and devotion that is rarely found in this generation. Though this angelic contemplation was occasionally interrupted by vulgar shouts towards the cast, characters, and general audience, I felt grateful to be a part of such a devoted group of people who were simply interested in having a good time according to their standards.

I truly have nothing particular to say about the movie itself, because there truly isn’t too much I could say to make sense of  what went down on that night of Horror. But really, when you’re in such a joyful setting with good friends, free candy, and that guy from your Shakespeare: The Later Works class that you didn’t expect to be wearing a midnight blue sequined dress, singing sexually ambitious aliens don’t really matter.

Veep Veep!

So…last week I officially became a superstar as an extra on HBO’s Veep.

vee[As typical with any college student, I’ve long suffered from a decisive lack of disposable income and have been forced to survive without HBO for these many years. However, thanks to the generosity of the human spirit, I have been known to bum off of my neighbor’s account and watch delightful shows such as Veep and The Newsroom from the discomfort of their couch with a weird metal bar that continuously makes my butt ache no matter which way I arrange myself. As a creature of comfort, the fact that I put up with a sore butt for an hour or a half per episode should attest to my devotion of these shows. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, and Gary Cole all starring in one well done and intriguing comedy of governmental proportions? I’m so there. In fact, the show could literally only have Tony Hale and I would consistently tune in to stare upon the goofy visage of a man who will forever be Baby Buster Blooth.

So when I heard that Veep would be filming at the ever beautiful and camera-ready University of Maryland, I controlled my gut-reaction to scream and did a little hopping happy dance. The dance was immediately followed up with a Facebook, texting, Twitter, and face-to-face confrontation to any and all friends/acquaintances/strangers/enemies/frenemies/vaguely familiar faces/vaguely familiar friendly faces asking for information on how to be a part of the production. The Veep-crazy shout out was then followed by the heavenly instructions to send information to a mysterious email address in the dead of night under a full moon on the side of an abandoned hair salon after spilling root beer on a tree stump and reciting the parting lines from the 5th Harry Potter movie. Well, it was only required to send a phone number, age, and headshot, but I was prepared for whatever task they would throw at me.

And then I waited. First, by devoting an unhealthy amount of time and glances at my phone. Next, by developing a very real and problematic addition to checking my email. Then, by constantly staying on the lookout to hear from others if they had been selected for the honor of this and any other lifetime.

California hipster fall? Or Maryland trendy winter? You decide.

California hipster fall? Or Maryland trendy winter? You decide.

A week and a half later, I got the call and half-had the conversation of a lifetime, as I was too excited to focus on words and could only make out such things as “California fall” and “hipster employable”. I was promised to be sent an email link with not much more information, but that hardly mattered. That same day I ran out to go shopping for an outfit that just screamed the random descriptors that I could recall from the phone conversation. That same night I could hardly sleep for excitement. That next morning I embarked on what would begin my film career!

I woke up at 5 in the morning. I walked in the rain to the building they filmed in. I waited around with some friendly people. I continued to wait around with some now less talkative people. I wasn’t even close to a camera for the vast majority of the day. I began to realize that being an extra was an extra boring process. And then, by the grace of God, I got chosen to partake in a scene where it was finally my time to shine.

Well, I walked in the background about 50 feet away from the actors and will most likely never be noticed due to the two glass walls that also separated us from the real action. About 5 hours later, I did just about the same thing. About 2 hours after that, I sat in an audience hidden away in a corner.

IMG_2764I loved it! I could actually see celebrities while “working” and they were actually quite decent people, as I had a conversation with Nelson Cole (who kept falling asleep as this was the fifth day in a row of filming) and smiled at Julia Louis-Dreyfus who stood 8 inches away from me at one point. I made some great friends in the holding area, I dined on a lunch salmon so heavenly that it must have been blessed by Poseidon himself, I got to tour the gorgeous new building on campus, I bought a beautiful outfit which the casting director called “perfect”, I got paid enough money to afford that beautiful outfit which the casting director called “perfect”, and I ended up getting a reoccurring role in the series! Well, my imagination took over at some points during the shoot, but I swear that the salmon was as delicious as I claimed. Oh, and I introduced myself to Tony Hale, called him by his first name, took a picture with him, and even shook his gosh-darn hand!

We weren't really allowed to take photos, but I needed proof gosh darn it!

We weren’t really allowed to take photos, but I needed proof gosh darn it!

So while you probably most definitely won’t be seeing me in the third episode of season 3, it probably wouldn’t hurt to look for the spunky, overjoyed extra with the look that just screams “California fall” and a tummy protruding from ingesting an inappropriate amount of salmon.

How to Assemble a Grill

Firstly, let me offer you my sincerest congratulations for getting to this point. After days of searching online and creating what is sure to be a permanent indentation in the couch cushions, after hours of checking shipping updates until you could recite your order confirmation number from memory, after countless time spent wiping drool off of your lower lip at the mere thought of this heavenly gift, it has arrived. The Weber 22 ½ -inch One Touch Silver Grill.

weber grill

Standing in the doorway of your home, looking at your bundle of joy sitting neatly wrapped up at the end of the driveway, it’s understandable that your eyes begin to tear up as if the grill could already be creating a smoky atmosphere from within the confines of its box. There is nothing separating you from untold happiness besides some feeble packaging and a bit of assembly.

And yet, there seems to be a purity that the white cardboard box seems to convey. A sense of delicacy that dictates this box be opened with the gentleness and caressing care of a lover. More than willing to oblige, it seems natural to run your hands over the One Touch description, shivering as you read of its porcelain enameled bowl and lid. However, your hands dare not touch the Weber logo; there are still things in this world too sacred to suffer such defilement from mere common folk.

But now, it is time. Gently picking up the sides of the box, you shuffle to the backyard as to allow yourself a more intimate setting when bringing life into this world. Instinctively, it seems quite obvious to grasp the top of the lid and slide your fingers underneath the binding tape (tape which you may want to save for scrapbooking purposes). The lid opens effortlessly. Styrofoam packaging next greets your sight, but its job is no longer needed; you are now the guardian of the grill. There seems to be more tape placed onto the actual grill itself, containing certain parts and pieces for later assembly. The secret to life, the universe, and everything is not as heavily defended as this grill, and rightfully so.

The directions are placed neatly on top. But this process is your birthright. No instructions necessary. The only decision you have to make is whether to trash or recycle this worthless pile of paper. And seeing as the recycling bin is much longer of a walk, and therefore would mean much longer time spent away from your Precious, it is perfectly acceptable to carelessly chuck that once great beauty of a tree into the garbage can.

I’m aware that by now you’re starting to worry about how much effort and energy you’ve sunk into this project. You’ve already missed your 11 o’clock showing of The Price is Right; what if they were playing Plinko today?! But you just need to keep going, because I know you can do this, I know you’ve been working your whole life to arrive at this point, I know that you can give it at the very least, 80%. I understand that your desire may be beginning to wane just a tad, but I can assure you that the Southern Smokehouse Burger, as shown in the complimentary Weber cookbook, is indeed as mouthwatering as it appears.

southern smokehouse burger

Enthusiasm sufficiently renewed? I thought so.

Already removed the nuts and bolts from the box? That’s 80% worth of effort if I’ve ever seen it! Now look how they’re all scattered throughout the grass; look how in tune with nature we are today. Finally seeing the light of sun, the promise of greasy goodness to come, and now we’ve taken a comfortable seat on the ground to search for those screws, our hard work is most definitely paying off and soon we’ll be enjoying the finer things in life.

But as you prod and poke at the metal frame, the aluminum vents and ash catcher, the glass reinforced nylon handles, you may begin to notice the distinct change of sunlight. Despite the copious amounts of free time in your possession, you now reach the cardio section of the program, as with renewed vigor, bolts are beaten in and screws and screwed into place before the light disappears (Note: It may be more effective, in the retelling of this harrowing feat if you were to search the Internet for some real construction phrases). Despite the time taken to puzzle over the involvement of extra bolts and question why any sane human being would design a black grill with black screws, you come to the conclusion that good things are worth waiting and working for. And the memory of that Southern Smokehouse Burger sure is a good thing. With hunger and a gluttonous desire to drive you forward, the grill will begin to resemble something that you could actually use while cooking.

Once the grill comes together in a manner not entirely unlike the diagram in the instructions booklet, with a faint marking on the side that is slightly resembles Jesus Christ, comes the most important part of assembly: the test phase. I know you’ve really worked up an appetite by moving that arm back and forth while screwing in some of those pieces. And the fact that you had to miss lunch is now probably starting to catch up with you. Believe me, I understand the effort required in sitting down in the lukewarm sunlight while debating which cut of beef you’d like to allow to first grace the fruits of your labor (not that a fruit would get within 10 yards of your Precious). You’ve really worked up quite an appetite, and it’s time that that appetite was rewarded with what your doctor has frequently and loving referred to as “heart attack inducing bundles of grease and fats yet unbeknownst to man”.

As you hurry back into the house to grab that classic hamburger patty (an old favorite deserving this ceremony of honor), be careful not to trip over that Groupon-bought elliptical that’s still lurking in its battered box in the hallway. You’ll really need to open that box on a day when you have enough free time to find that pair of scissors…

battered elliptical

Vanity, Thy Name is Katy (Pt. 2)

One week ago, I decided to reject my reflection for a solid 7 days so as to break my horrid habit of a vanity so great that I do indeed think that song is about me.

so vain

I was fed up with constantly feeling the need to look at myself in the numerous and various reflection surfaces placed around my life in an effort to keep me continuously obsessing over the state of my hair. I had come to the conclusion that since looks were of such little importance the acknowledgement of those looks mattered just as little. I was already well aware of the struggles I would undoubtedly face while trying to use my phone without catching a glimpse of my technology-tinted profile.

Even then, I was not ready.

The week of this challenge was one of the longest weeks of my life. I actually believe that someone may have snuck in a good extra bit of hours, and this week was comprised of 9 or 10 equally unsatisfying days.

Throughout the challenge I felt nervous and agitated and upset at not being able to look in the mirror. I constantly felt the need to confirm my existence by looking at myself and being reassured that I hadn’t turned into a ghostly creature no longer capable of sustaining a physical form, I actually chose this limiting lifestyle. I even felt none of the love towards my body or my self that I assumed would come by denying my image, if anything it made me feel a bit worse, like I was so ugly that if I walked into a bank they’d turn off the cameras (ba dum tish). And even though I actively tried to avoid my reflection, I still caught glances of myself throughout the day which only fueled my anger; I would tease myself with a brief glimpse and then immediately turn away before my eyes could drink in that sorry sight of a crazy person (as only loons would attempt a challenge so ridiculous).

Here are my reasons why I will never attempt this challenge never ever never again:

  • It was frustrating and a tad painful not to be able to use the mirror to put my contacts in.
  • Hiding behind other people in Bodypump made exercising quite the chore. I want results after a workout, not to be denied looking at my awesome and newly fit body!
  • My neck hurt from looking down so much to avoid mirrors. Truthfully, I had to hide my eyes so often that it hurt.
  • No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t help but catch accidental glimpses of myself which was quite obnoxious.
  • Looking at my shadow was often the highlight of my day.
  • On the third day I had such a struggle putting in an earring that it took me an extra few minutes and a red ear before being ready for class.
  • I didn’t care as much about myself, and consequently ended up eating more and exercising a bit less.

Why I’m somewhat kind of maybe barely glad that I completed this challenge:

  • When Skyping I actually spent more time looking at the person I was having a conversation with than looking at myself in the little vanity cam they provide.
  • Getting ready in the morning was a breeze and I never really worried about outfits or jewelry choices (though I’m sure other people worried over the sake of my mental health; red shorts with a blue top, really?).
  • I look in the mirror less now, or at least think twice before I look.
  • Ummm, that’s it.

IMG_2728Honestly, I barely want to talk about this experience because I had such a negative time with it. One important thing I’ve learned is that vanity is perfectly healthy in small doses, and denying such self devotion only serves to turn you into an angry and grumpy person with funky looking hair. While it may not be so good as to pander to all of your vices, I’ve come to feel that vanity, while annoying in excess, is actually quite harmless.

From Bucket List to Daily Gift

One day I got it in my head that I would like to run an official race before I eventually and inevitably kicked the bucket. While I had always had a rocky roady relationship with running, I was unsure where this decision would lead me and was faced with the real possibility that my Pail List would contain an item that I may never cross off.

DSCN0843Yet, earlier this summer, I did indeed get to cross off “run an official race” after completing the Baltimore Women’s Classic 5K in Maryland. Despite twisting my ankle a bit I came out of the race with the feeling of glowing accomplishment and a decent time of a bit after 36 minutes.

And then I kept running.

And I compiled a workout playlist

And I bought nice shoes.

And I printed more training schedules.

And I felt good about myself.

And I learned the words to Mambo No. 5

And I kept running.

Just today I ran a 5K at the University of Maryland. My time hovered between 29:30 and 32:30 minutes. I ran the whole entire way. I smiled throughout the hills. I laughed at the twists and turns. I high-fived the volunteers. I had a beautiful time.

IMG_2724

I am so grateful for having comprised a pail list. Had I not had the courage to acknowledge what I wanted to get out of life, I would never have pushed myself as hard as I did, and I never would have discovered my love of running. Yes running, I can say it now! I love you! And it all started back when I began my first training plan and discovered my love of the treadmill with a well timed episode of Say Yes to the Dress and the rolling and gentle hills of my neighborhood and the springy track at school which makes me feel as graceful as a gazelle despite looking like an awkward antelope.

Though singing karaoke will probably not lead to me becoming a world famous singing sensation, I am quite satisfied knowing that I’ve chosen to explore such different and fulfilling areas of life with the activities/events/circumstances that preside on my Pail List.

For me, life isn’t always about having momentary bouts of fun, it’s about living each day pleasurably with a contentment that provides a sustainable happiness. That’s why I have my Pail List, and that’s why I’m grateful for my list leading me to more of life’s pleasurable moments.

Busy as a Bee

With two jobs, four clubs and organizations, a mound of homework, a fitness regimen to keep, sports to cheer for, and friends to stay in touch with, you’d think I was done saying yes to life. And you’d be as wrong as my brother trying to talk with a British accent (just plain wrong).

winnie the pooh beeIn fact, just the other day I received an email asking me if I’d like to sign up for a tour of the apiary on campus. Once I confirmed with Wikipedia that apes were not actually involved and I would get the chance to visit my bumble bee buddies, I immediately signed right up! Though I’m no where near comfortable with creepy crawly buggy critters, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for bees (possibly stemming from my love of Winnie the Pooh). In my messed up and illogical mind, bees seem to be the one type of bug that I’m actually alright to be around.

But that didn’t stop me from being nervous as heck when the time came to actually visit the bees on the roof of UMD’s dining hall. In a group, we approached four white boxes housing hundreds of hundreds of bees. After spraying them with a gas (which is not as toxic as the film Bee Movie describes, but is a simple burning pine needle mix that makes the bees calmer and less likely to sting), the box was taken a part and columns and columns of bees and bees were removed to show exactly how the world of bees worked.

Hive Tour 5Honestly, I remember very little about the intricate workings of the bee hive. I learned that the queen bee can mate with around 10 males in order to populate the entire bee hive, I learned that bees called “drones” do not have the ability to sting, and I learned that I look pretty rockin’ in a beekeeper hat. Mostly, I was too busy standing around in awe of the bees buzzing happily by me, around me, and often, even on me. I think that’s why I like bees more than other bugs (ladybugs make me happy, but I’m just learning how to tolerate butterflies); bees just seem perfectly content to work, fly, and be cheerfully yellow. And how on earth could you hate something so kind as to make honey?!

If you ever get the opportunity to visit an apiary, do it! Though I was terrified for the first 20 minutes as I watched the bees circle around our group, it was actually quite beautiful and I never felt in danger despite wearing a t-shirt and short sleeves. And even if this opportunity doesn’t present itself to you, if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation that could lead to a grand adventure and some lovely memories, think of me and say, “well, if that scaredy cat of a girl can pal around with some bees for an hour, surely I can go hang gliding over an active volcano while learning French and writing the greatest book series since Harry Potter”, or whatever it is you’d like your adventure to entail…