What’s your word?

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This photo hangs in my home as a reminder of everything I want to be in life.

Two years ago, I asked my grandma how she would describe her childhood. We were in the car on the way back to my parents’ house after our extended family Christmas celebration.

Grandma thought for a second and then said, “It was happy.”

She posed the same question to me.

Without hesitation, my word was, “playful.”

I grew up with half a dozen cousins around my age in the same town as me. Until I was 7, my family’s house was walkable to 6 of my cousins’ houses. We all went to the same elementary school. Plus, I had a brother and sister in my house. We were always playing together.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the reason my childhood was so playful points right back to Grandma. Who was the one who always instigated going sledding, ice-skating, swimming, or playing a board game? Grandma!

I was about 10 when my grandparents bought a house on a lake with a huge backyard. They called it their retirement house, but let’s get real. It was their playground. Why else was the shed filled with sleds, water guns, and watercraft — by this I mean inner tubes and air mattresses?

Tonight I called my grandma on the way to the gym — because if I want to be as spry as her when I’m 89, I need to train for it — and wasn’t the least bit surprised when she started recounting to me her epic sledding experience from 18 years ago. She got all the way down the hill and onto the (frozen over) lake.

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Too much, too fast, too competitive

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Maybe it was the bench tricep dips?

I recently hurt my shoulder. I knew it was bad because chaturanga hurt so badly I wanted to cry out in the middle of an otherwise calm yoga class.

It’s the second time in two years that I found myself going to the sports medicine clinic for help.

My doctor felt my shoulder and diagnosed it inflamed with a restricted range of motion. It’s a common injury for yogis and anyone competing with their neighbor to do more pushups in bootcamp — something I admitted doing that last time I saw Dr. Paul.

The Rx was easing up on shoulder workouts while strengthening and working on shoulder flexibility.

I figured that wasn’t so bad. Pushups are far from my favorite anyway, so the silver lining of being injured was that I could focus cardio. So I logged extra miles trail and treadmill running.

Until I hurt my hip.

Again, it was a case of doing too much, too fast, too much incline. The Rx: More strengthening and flexibility work now on my hip. And throw in some anti-inflammatories.

My new go-to is home yoga videos. My favorite is Yoga With Adriene. I love it because I just go to YouTube and pick whatever I want to focus on that day. Yoga for hips. Yoga for booty and core. Anything! As an added bonus, there’s no one to compete with.

Sleeping with anxiety

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Sleep inspiration

I’m an anxious person. You might not always see it. In fact lately I’ve been described as calm. I’m also a good sleeper, but I know those two things don’t always go together, and that millions of people out there struggle to get their 8 hours.

If you struggle to sleep, please allow me to share with you what works for me. Keep in mind I’m no expert.

  1. Talk about it. Tell your partner. Tell your mom. Call me. Let’s talk about it.
  2. Go about your day. Being alone is the worst for my anxiety. Being at the office or going out with friends helps me see that we’re O.K. I often tell myself, “right now I have everything I need.”
  3. Do what you can do. Call your lawmakers, stock an emergency bag. Tell someone you love them. Whatever will help you feel a little better, do that.
  4. Ask God to take it for you. This is a tool my mom gave me just after college graduation when I was alone and lonely in a new city. She advised me to have a glass of wine and ask God to worry about it for me for that night. It was so calming to feel like someone else was on it, and I could have the night off.
  5. Get lost in a story.

Let’s explore that last one more because that’s my secret weapon. When I was a kid and struggled to fall asleep, my dad gave me some advice. He told me to create a go-to story in my head that I could tell myself.

I think that’s why I’m a writer today. Thanks, Dad! I love telling myself stories. I’ve even started writing them down in book form to share with others. I’ll give them to you when they get to that point. 

I know most experts say it’s bad to watch TV or use a device before bed, but that actually helps me sleep, too. I usually save this for an especially rough time or if I’m at a hotel or somewhere unfamiliar.

I also love to read before bed. For me, a memoir, fiction, or magazine is best. I make sure it’s something calming and not the newspaper, something for work, or a class. Listening to a podcast or book on tape could also work. I find it hard to succumb to sleep, though, because I know I have to turn it off.

If your mind is racing with the what-ifs, I have a few more ideas that have been passed on to me over the years. See if any of them work for you.

  1. From my aunt: Say your prayers. It’s repetitive and fills your mind, plus you feel like you’re doing something.
  2. From a co-worker/friend: Go through the alphabet. Try to name all the vegetables, trees, exercises, or whatever that start with A. When you run out, try B, C, and so on. Pro tip: Don’t try something with a finite number, like states. You might keep yourself up trying to name all 50.
  3. From my sister: Count your breaths. Breathe in and out: 1. In and out: 2. If you get to 100, start counting back down. In, out: 99. In, out 98.

How do you get to sleep at night? Please share your tips in the comments.

Shake it off

Feelings have a way of sneaking up on us in the most inopportune of moments. Like when you’re going to lunch with your co-workers and realize it’s a restaurant you used to frequent with your aunt and you start crying in your car. Then you get there and consider texting that you can’t make it because you just need a <expletive> minute. But they’re all waiting for you. You’re already late, so you rally and go in.

My nephew has this move that I love. His parents taught him to shake it off when he would fall or whatever as a toddler. To ward off tears when he was fine, they’d tell him to shake it off. He’d literally shake his little body and move on with his day. He’s big now. He’s 5 and he still does it. Only now he often adds an, “I’m OK.” Which reminds me of this minion video that you should watch 5,000 times because it’s hilarious and will make you happy.

I keep trying to shake it off and say, “I’m OK,” but things just keep coming up for me lately. I’m talking emotionally. I’m not constantly falling down.

I think most weeks I could handle driving to Applebee’s without crying. Not all, but most. But the last couple of weeks have left me feeling emotional and vulnerable.

It’s been impossible for me to shake off the endless recounts of sexual misconduct that have been filling the airwaves, our Twitter feeds, and our lunch conversations. Even harder is listening to people justify actions that hurt others.

After lunch, my team went shopping. We were putting together gift bags for women in homeless shelters this Christmas. Walking down the toiletries aisle and trying to imagine what I would want if I were in that situation totally got me out of my own head. I thought about how luxurious some nice face wash and warm socks would feel if my whole life was turned upside down.

On this week when all the feelings seem extra powerful, doing that one nice thing for someone who could really use it felt that much more impactful to me.

Why I hate self-care, except I don’t really

Watching TV on my iPad because that big TV in front of the bed isn’t plugged in.
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So convenient we might just leave it like this.
Looks better without the cabinet doors.

I hate the phrase, “self care,” but I do love self care.

If you’ve talked to me in the last six months or so, you probably know that Nick and I are renovating the kitchen and refacing the fireplace. We’re not talented enough to do this ourselves, so we did the logical thing and spent months interviewing contractors and getting on waiting lists.

One Monday, the chosen contractor called and said, “I can start tomorrow.”

Shiiiiiiiit!

Of course we were at work and starting tomorrow means clear everything out of your kitchen tonight. I didn’t think it would be that hard until I started doing it. Do you know how much stuff you can shove in those cabinets?

So everything from the kitchen, dining, and living room had to get moved upstairs. Believe me when I tell you there is stuff shoved in every possible spot. The alcohol is on the counter above the toilet in one bathroom. The other bathroom (yeah, we’re ridiculously fortunate to have three bathrooms in our house) has become a storage room/makeshift kitchen. The bathtub is storage. The coffeemaker sits on the counter. I even have wine glasses on my nightstand for lack of a safer (or more convenient?) place to keep them.

Can I just tell you that the clutter is stressful. Here you go. Here’s proof. 

We’re now three weeks into having stuff piled up all around us upstairs and the downstairs torn apart. I went into this knowing it would be stressful.

Now the reason I hate the term “self care.” To me, it conjures up images of well-to-do women spending the whole day at a spa. Now there’s nothing wrong with that. I just think there are plenty of women with neither the time nor cash to run off to the spa when life gets uncomfortable. Heck, spending two hours and $5 to rent a movie on Amazon Now isn’t accessible to many people.

So I am grateful that we have the time and the funds to show ourselves a little grace while we give ourselves the kitchen of (condo-living) dreams. I’m thankful to Whole Foods, which has a hot bar of delicious, healthy foods to choose from. I’m thankful to Comcast and their Stream TV app, so I can watch the Seahawks and This Is Now on my iPad. I’m also appreciative of the Goodwill, which happily took five bags and a box of donations from us this weekend when we just couldn’t take the clutter any longer.

Spend a buck for better health

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Latte art from Fremont Coffee House

Some things I just know:

If I eat a cookie after lunch, I’ll be sleepy an hour later.

If I eat yogurt, my stomach will be in uncomfortable knots.

If I drink two glasses of wine in an evening, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with weird dreams.

If I eat processed meat, my arteries will narrow. It’s like I can feel my arteries narrowing with each bite and yet I still grab a sausage biscuit for breakfast some mornings.

I’m good at passing on the yogurt, but I’m still going to eat the occasional, maybe even daily, cookie. I’m a reasonable human being!

Every Monday and for some meetings, my company offers complimentary coffee with those no-refrigeration-needed liquid coffee whitener things. They taste fresh from the chemistry lab. They make a delicious cup of coffee taste like something not fit for human consumption.

Yet, I often use them anyway because I like coffee and it’s hard to pass up free coffee. But saving $1 (the cost of coffee with real milk in my office’s cafe) is not worth the damage whitener does to my body.

Did you know that coffee creamers are made up of artificial preservatives and trans fats and have been linked to heart disease, stroke, nausea, liver dysfunction, inflammation, renal failure, and diabetes?

I did! So why would I put that in my body? No more!

Disappointed

On Sunday, a friend tweeted:

I was born & raised in South Georgia and can tell you that the anti-Democratic brain rot is so strong in the Deep South that voters would rather support a child molester — alleged or confirmed.

And I was immediately outraged. How could these voters continue to support someone with this history?

Then my own personal hero Senator Al Franken was accused of sexual misconduct. I’m a total fangirl of his. I’ve given him money. I’ve tweeted and emailed him begging him to consider a presidential run. I told Nick that if we have a Warren-Franken or Franken-Warren ticket in 2020, I’ll quit my job and campaign for them.

Al Franken is my homeboy because he works hard to champion all the causes I care about in the senate. He is nothing if not masterful at questioning witnesses and nominees. He cares about mental health and global climate change perhaps even more than I do. He finds Ted Cruz to be a despicable human being. So do I.

So I was heartbroken when Nick slid his phone over to me this morning to show me the news. My disappointment loomed over my day, but it also led me to ponder, can a person change? Can the good they’ve done make up for the bad? Can I forgive?

I wasn’t sure until I thought about that guy I wrote about in my last post. If he spent the last decade passionately championing all the issues important to me and stopped harassing women, and genuinely felt bad about the pain he caused, could I forgive him and vote for him for United States Senator?

I barely even had to think about it. I had my answer: Absolutely. I think the good deeds would outshine a one-time lapse in judgment. Would the good deeds outshine continued or chronic misconduct? There I’m going to go with not a snowflake’s chance in a Minnesota summer (read: hot. Minnesota is not always covered in snow).

Al Franken’s victim reported today that she accepted his apology and would leave any further action to voters in my home state of Minnesota to decide.

I’m not saying this to condone anyone’s behavior. I think it’s appalling what Sen. Franken apologized for doing. And I decline to decide today whether this changes things for me.

#MeToo

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Me in eighth and ninth grades (I think). Experimenting with the part in my hair was my main hobby.

I was in junior high the first time a guy masturbated in front of me.

There were 5 or 6 of us students waiting in classroom. I don’t remember the circumstances of why we were waiting there, but I remember the classroom. We had tables, arranged in 3 rows facing the whiteboard. I was sitting in the middle of the second row. At least one other student was to my left. A couple more were in the first row.

One classmate was being silly, singing, dancing, and jumping up on the tables. The rest of us laughed at first, then lost interest and stopped paying attention to him. That’s when he danced over and stopped in right in front of me. While singing softly, he pleasured himself.

My memory is a bit fuzzy. I admit. This happened more than 20 years ago. I was in 8th or 9th grade. I was about 14. I never told anyone about this until yesterday when I told Nick. We talking about Louis C.K.’s admission of sexual misconduct and the allegations against Rep. Ray Moore.

I didn’t wait 20+ years to tell anyone for any reason other than that it happened when I was 14 — the same age as one of Moore’s accusers. I didn’t tell anyone then because I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what was happening or that it was a crime. I didn’t know that I didn’t have to just laugh off my classmate’s actions.

So when I hear that Moore said it was “unbelievable” that a “grown woman would come forward” about 40 later, my heart sinks because I don’t find that unbelievable at all. That doesn’t make her any less reputable. That doesn’t make his (alleged) actions any more acceptable.

My junior high memory has popped into my head a few times in my life, but it’s not something that haunts me every day. If I heard that guy was making a run for Congress now or in a future decade, would I speak up? I don’t know, maybe. I certainly would be enraged that he thinks he deserves to represent the state of Minnesota. I think the difference is he was also 14. Moore was 32. 

I wish I could say that was the only time in my life that I was subjected to sexual misconduct, but it wasn’t. And regrettably, I handled it about the same at age 30 as I did at age 14.

The problem was that I didn’t feel equipped or empowered at 14 or at 30 to handle it. It felt like some inconvenience I had to endure. I know many women — perhaps my former junior high classmates — have their own version of this story. I hope we keep talking about it, and telling our kids and one another that it’s not O.K.

Things didn’t go how I thought

I got into journalism hoping to change the world. I really believed I would. Until about a year ago when my dear friend Richie told me I can’t — even with a mass media job where I wrote for 23 million people a day.

Might sound harsh, but he was right. All I could hope to do is be the change I hope to see in the world and be an example to others. So that’s my mission. I practice tolerance and acceptance. I hope others do as well. I cheer for the Seahawks and hope others will as well.

And I listen to people like Richie who remind me to set my expectations accordingly. I mean, I might be able to convince Nolan to cheer for the Seahawks. But Richie would never sport a blue and green jersey.

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Falling back

Look who’s back!

After a couple of years on hiatus, I decided I have a new Living Life Big story to tell. This is the story of Candace getting healthier and living life to the fullest. It feels appropriate to start documenting my journey today. When daylight saving time ends and it feels dark all the time in Seattle.

I was having an especially difficult time saying goodbye to the summer months this year. No number of pumpkin muffins or cozy hoodies was going to be enough for me to be happy about 4:45 p.m. sunsets, piling on layers to leave the house, and the frizzy hair that comes with the chillier months. I was enjoying my summer dresses, paddleboarding after work, stepping outside without 10 minutes of prep work.

The culture in Seattle is that we don’t want to waste a minute of the precious summer sun. Sometimes that means feeling guilty for working out in the gym or binging on the latest Netflix offering when it’s lovely out. That’s what the dark months are for after all.

Well, in the spirit of optimism and embracing Pacific Standard Time, I’m documenting the healthy ways I’ll recover from the summer busyness.

  1. Writing. I’ve committed to my version of NaNoWriMo, which is to work on my book project(s) 4 days a week. (+ look at me, blogging again!)
  2. Taking the workout indoors. I have a gym membership, live-in workout buddy, and personal trainer. Let’s reach some goals!
  3. Taking a class or lots of classes. Have you guys used Coursera? I’m obsessed. You can take basically any class you want at actual, accredited universities. Do the assignments, take the tests and earn yourself a certificate, or don’t. Sometimes I just like to listen to the lectures. Either way is a win!
  4. Cooking. OK, I score myself a B in cooking. I do it regularly, but some nights it’s a frozen thing from Trader Joe’s or cheese and crackers for dinner. We can do better.
  5. Reading or listening to stories. I love stories. I crave a good story. I recently treated myself to a Texture subscription. For $10 per month, I can read pretty much any magazine I want. If you know me, you know I love magazines. When I moved in, Nick was surprised at how many glossies found their way into our mailbox. I’ve since switched to digital subscriptions I read on my iPad. I have books and podcasts on my reading list as well. Ahhh! I’m excited already.
  6. Knitting a blanket. Yeah, I do that sometimes. I’m working on my third.
  7. Doing for others. I’ll probably hit you up to contribute to a drive for gifts for teens. I’d also like to volunteer for a campaign. (Elizabeth Warren, what do you need? I’ll do anything for you! Readers, please follow that link and donate to her. Thanks!)
  8. Spending time with loved ones. Let’s go for coffee, talk about your hopes and dreams, see a movie, make soup together, or try curling.