Day 4–Investments

With the recession, talk of investments has dominated the media. For people who are further along in their careers than I am, I know that the recession has been devastating but being relatively young, I have yet to make any substantial investments in the stock market or in my retirement funds.

When I was in college, my little sister Susan (a savvy business major) gave me some advice I will never forget about making investments and going into debt. She told me that it’s never worth it to go into debt for a car; a car loses value the second it’s driven off the lot. The only worthwhile debts are in real estate and education. (Of course, we were having this conversation in 2005!)

I have yet to make any investment in real estate. I do not yet have the desire to commit myself to one specific place. In fact, in the past ten years (including college), I have lived in eleven different places. In my three years of working life, I moved every summer. Ugh. I have, however, made substantial investments in my education. I went to The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. It was an intense, wonderful place to study. I was surrounded by brilliant, passionate people (and clueless, bumbling tourists) and professors who took a real interest in my education. I went into debt to study at WM, but my investment in my education allowed me to study at the University of Heidelberg (in Germany) for free. In fact, based on my grades and accomplishments, the school awarded me a fellowship, and I got paid to earn my masters in one of the most beautiful cities in Germany (also incredibly tourist-populated–I might have to avoid that for my doctorate).

This summer, I have decided to invest in myself in other way.

I began Day 4 with a trip to the gym for Cardio Kickboxing. I like Kickboxing; I taught it myself in college when I worked as a fitness instructor. However, this was no ordinary kickboxing class–this was Val’s class. Val is like an urban legend in my family; she was working at the gym my mom attended when she lived in NJ over ten years ago, and even now my mom remembers the intensity of her classes.

Well, I ambled cluelessly into Kickboxing to be faced with VAL. We jump roped, we jogged, we punched while holding two pound weights, I kicked my heart out, sliding around in my own little puddle of sweat. I felt awesome. It was like working out with Jillian. I invested in this workout. I had an hour to really give myself something–a heart-pounding, muscle-building intense experience. Being in Val’s class yesterday allowed me to realize that I don’t always push myself. I get to the precipice and pull back. Yes, I have run a marathon and a bunch of half-marathons, but I don’t know if I have seen what I can do. I’ve just done these fitness activities; I don’t know if I’ve done them well. I’m not going to tackle something strenuous during these tumultuous months (or during New Jersey’s hottest summer in 108 years) but it’s something I am going to keep in mind as I move forward.

I made another investment yesterday. I went to see a Registered Dietician. One of my fave bloggers suggests this as an important step in gaining more understanding of our personal weight and nutrition issues. I will speak more about this in a later post, but the real lesson for me for the next two weeks is to make good choices and be in tune with my eating. I am not going to weigh myself or try to lose weight in the next two weeks; I am simply going to eat respectfully and responsibly. (Even minutes after leaving the nutritionist’s office this felt like a challenge when I glimpsed my reflection in a store window, but I think it will be worthwhile. I don’t want to fight for the rest of my life, and I would like to pass down a healthy attitude to my children.)

Type A-personality WIN: I got to check one of my goals off the list!

Actually, I got to check two items off my Spa “To Do List.”

I reunited with some people from my past yesterday.

First reunion: Mrs. Edmunds, my 9th and 12th grade English teacher

Mrs. Edmunds has a special place in my heart. She reached out to me when I was a nerdy, awkward 9th grader and involved me in all kinds of special English-related activities. She helped me to improve my repetitive sentence-structure my senior year of high school before jumping to the big world of college writing. She was a supportive, encouraging, and in many ways motherly presence during my time in high school.

I read Great Expectations the summer before 9th grade. I hated that book. I kept in my mind all through high school and most of my adult life how much I hated Great Expectations and Charles Dickens until last summer, when I picked up my 9th grade copy of the novel off my bookshelf. Out of its pages fell a clipping about Prince William, my high school crush. It had been awhile.

I brought Great Expectations to Grand Cayman last summer, and I devoured it. I was ready for it. I was ready to understand the pain of false hopes and unfulfilled dreams and the pain we experience and cause as we grow up. I was ready to empathize with a character who realizes that our expectations aren’t magically fulfilled, and it can be painful to watch them wither. I loved the book, and as a 9th-grade English teacher myself, I thought it would be fitting to thank my 9th grade English teacher for introducing me to the text and to tell her–after more than 10 years–that she was right. The book was pretty good.

I sent Mrs. Edmunds a postcard from Cayman (after some googling). She answered me via email, and finally a year later, we got together for lunch.

It was fantastic. She still had a project I did in 9th grade on her shelves. I told her how much I still think about her sentence structure advice when I am writing or grading. We talked about our hopes, dreams, and (dare I say it) great expectations as we face the next few years of our lives, though we are in very different places. It was such an honor to be able to say thank you to one of my teachers because I know how thankless teaching can be. Teachers spend hours helping students and then send them off and hope what we did meant something. Well, Mrs. Edmunds certainly meant something to me.

My other reunion was with my neighbors. I used to babysit their daughters when I was the gawky, awkward kid I referenced above. (This isn’t to say that I’m not still gawky and awkward, I just own it now.) Both of their daughters are now in college (one is a rising junior, the other a rising freshman), and I brought over a bottle of wine for some neighborly gossip in their brand new hot tub. Pretty sweet. I think that’s a pretty perfect spa ending for a day. :)

I am savoring being home.

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Day 2 & 3–The Trouble with Food

One of the most wonderful things about paying attention to your health and eating is that you are forced to pay more attention to your food.

I have never been big on organizing and planning meals. Ask Tara (my BFF from my first year in Germany) and Sasha (my BFF from year 2 in Deutschland). I was happy to chop the occasional vegetable, stir the occasional pot, and indulge in the more-than-occasional glass of wine or square of chocolate. Living alone, I didn’t mind pulling a Lean Cuisine from my freezer and popping it into the microwave after work. However, living like that is not satisfying. I think that those of us with weight issues especially should take the time to prepare something for ourselves–to chop, to smell, to savor, and to enjoy something that we have prepared. I am really enjoying cooking more now and being more involved in what I put into my body.

Last night, I prepared Lauren’s Risotto. Lauren is my oldest friend–we have been next-door neighbors since we were four years old, and we grew apart and together over the years that followed. I was always the more studious, academic friend. I never really cared about what I wore, how my hair looked, or where I fell in the pecking order. Lauren was the athletic, artistic friend. She pursued winterguard and photography with passion in high school and has since started her own business!

Even though I am the older friend (by almost a year–I was born at the beginning of our grade in school, she was born at the end), I have always admired Lauren for having such a clear sense of self. I think there was a minute where she doubted herself, right after we all graduated from high school, but she picked herself up, moved on, and went after what she wanted. How many people turn planning their own wedding into a successful business!? I also admire Lauren’s attitude on weight. She has pretty much always been slender and fit but still deals with the normal weight fluctations that all women do; however, for Lauren they aren’t weight struggles.

I struggle with my weight. It’s a near-constant issue for me, though I have come a long way. Lauren faces her weight. She is a few pounds heavier than she’d like to be right now, so she’ll lose it. She keeps track of calories as a challenge–can she come in under her target? Can she reach her goal weight by a certain point? Sometimes, I see goal calories and goal weights and all those things as punishment, so I find her healthy attitude inspiring.

Lauren is marrying a vegetarian, and this risotto is something they enjoy preparing together. She and I made it the other night, then I made it for my boyfriend, and I heated up the leftovers for myself last night.

I stuffed the leftovers into a tomato. Delish!

Plus, I sauted some spinach and mushrooms on the side.

I took some more trouble with food today for lunch. I sauteed some veggies again, prepped an egg white, and threw the deliciousness into a wrap!

Plus Kaffee!

My father is going to kill me. Notice those more blog-beautiful dishes? Aren’t they awesome. I bought the coffee cup and saucer because it reminds me of eating at hotels in Germany. Their breakfasts aren’t the toast, fruit cocktail, and waffle-maker breakfasts we know in America. They are fantastic feasts of Muesli, cold cuts, eggs, and constantly refilled coffee. I wanted to bring a sense of that luxury to my table. However, I am moving out of the country soon, so I’m not too sure how thrilled my dad is going to be with my accumulation of more stuff. All for the sake of the blog though, right?

My food trouble comes in with being at home, and it’s something I’m going to tackle with a nutritionist tomorrow. I met with a nutritionist earlier in the year and did a great cleanse with her, but she’s in the Philly area, so since I’m home, I found a great (I think!) woman locally. I feel like this is my time to invest in myself. I spent some money traveling last summer, so I think it’s okay to spend some money investing in myself this summer.

Angela posted a great question yesterday inspired by Eat, Pray, Love. She asked What are the things you want to do but aren’t sure they have a practical purpose?

A lot of people want to travel before they settle down, but I think I’ve got that down! I guess my biggest want is creating a healthy life for myself. I think that’s pretty practical, but it’s not easy. Ialso think my “spa month” might seem indulgent, but I think it’s necessary. I want to spend the time creating my best life, and I am blessed to have some time to make that happen! I think (well, I’m learning to think) that investing in yourself is a wise investment.

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Day 2, part 1–Tour de John

Though I went to bed with a feeling of satisfaction and contentedness, I woke up feeling a bit desperate and crazy. I had eaten a crazy French meal!! I had obviously gained 4000 pounds! The world was ending!

Then I remembered, I was supposed to be at the Spa. I know it’s pretty corny for me to create a spa-in-my-head for my time at home, but it was also helpful. People who pay the big bucks to go to a nice spa shouldn’t spend their time feeling deperate and crazy and out of control, and neither should I. I took a deep breath and got ready to enjoy Day #2, which started with a nice long bike ride.

John took me on his long ride through Princeton. We biked for about an hour and 45 minutes and maintained an average speed of about 15 mph. Not too shabby. I had a quick cup of coffee before the ride for fuel, and I think it helped! (I’m not into exercise on a full stomach, especially in the heat.)

I killed the hills! Although our ride wasn’t especially hilly, whenever we came about a slope–gentle or ginormous–I took it down. I pushed harder, biked faster, and conquered those hills! I’m sure many of you have read self help books (guilty pleasure of mine) and many of the ones that discuss body image and healthy living are constantly asking readers to look into a mirror and compliment themselves. Notice beautiful eyes or a captivating smile or something. Many of us talk to ourselves in ways we couldn’t imagine ever talking to another person.

Well, here goes nothing. Though it’s a blog instead of a mirror, I’m going to compliment myself without qualifying or negating the statement.

I have strong legs. I love hills–on the bike, while running. I feel awesome knowing that I could power up those hills today, and I can’t wait to bike and run and work out more often and see what my body can do.

Well, a fairly hectic morning didn’t let me sit down and relax until about 2PM. I enjoyed a Starbucks favorite: the eggs florentine wheat English muffin and a small (tall?) soy latte. Ahhh…. time to get a move on–hoping to cross something off the list today!

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Day 1, It Starts–Life at “The Spa”

On Saturday, July 17th I woke up. It was the first of my 30-day “spa life.” How to begin?

I contemplated fasting. My eating habits had been a bit haywire this week, and I wanted to “detox.” Then I reconsidered. My first day at “the spa” should begin in a healthy manner–not a manner of deprivation or criticism.

I made my way downstairs and prepared a beautiful bowl of oatmeal with chia seeds, strawberries, a drizzle of agave syrup, and almond milk. So delicious! I’ve been thinking a bit about breakfast lately and wondering if it’s better for me to begin with oatmeal (a popular health blogger favorite) or something more savory like eggs. Will beginning my day with carbs lead to a day full of frenzied carb cramming? I guess I will have to experiment and listen to my body as the month goes on.

a delicious spa breakfast!

I watched the British Open with my dad for awhile before heading up to my “workout room” for some yoga. My “workout room” is actually my brother’s old room where I hooked up a tv and dvd player and piled up my workout equipment and DVDs. My dad’s house is hot. I don’t know what the deal is, but even with the air conditioning on, it never seems to get cool. I don’t know if the AC is just too old or something, but when I mentioned the temperature of the house to my dad, he got very defensive as though I had threatened his manhood or his abilities as a provider. I guess it’s a sensitive subject, so I’ll just sweat in silence!

I loved my yoga workout. For some reason, I had it in my head that I couldn’t do yoga. I had lost the ability with the additional five pounds (I KNOW! It’s a ridiculous thought). However, I was so thrilled to be proven wrong. I loved this video, and I stood up straighter and felt strong for the rest of the day. It was reinvigorating for my soul.

I met John for a trip into NYC to see The Kids are All Right. It’s not playing in our area, so we jumped at the chance to make a day of it in the city. For some reason, I don’t have any NYC items on my “spa plans,” so I can’t check anything off yet. No worries.

Any trip with my boyfriend is dotted with coffee stops. We had one stop before the movie (I had an iced soy latte) and one stop after (where I enjoyed a skinny chai to tide me over until we could find a dinner destination).

The Kids Are All Right is fantastic. It’s critically acclaimed, so I’m sure my accolades mean very little, but it was so interesting for me to see a long-term marriage and the family that grows out of it. My parents divorced when I was fairly young, so I didn’t get to see the natural shifts and changes married people experience throughout a long relationship, and I like learning about them. The movie was very real and uncomfortable at points but definitely worth the trip.

After the movie and Coffee Stop 2, we decided to walk around the city and find a place to eat. We decided to eat at L’Ecole, the restaurant for the French Culinary Institute. I had a two-second panic when I realized that the menu was a tasting menu. Who turns over a new leaf by indulging in a crazy French meal???

Well, luckily in my years of dieting, exercising, and reading all kinds of books about those subjects, I have managed to learn a thing or two. I took a deep breath and decided to follow the advice of one of my fave Housewives (yes, I know…)–”Taste Everything, Eat Nothing.” (Thanks, Bethenny!) Just because I was eating at a restaurant doesn’t mean that I had to suction the food off my plate.

My meal included tastes of a delicious tomato and goat cheese appetizer, a beautiful salmon course with spinach and spaghetti squash rosti, pork with risotto, and all of the berries and sorbet off a rice pudding dessert course along with a 1/2 glass of Gruner Vetliner. I savored every bite and left the restaurant feeling satisfied but not stuffed. It was a good exercise–I can go out, eat gourmet food, and feel completely at ease with my decisions.

After waiting for the subway forever (budget cuts), we got the train home and made it into bed around 2AM with plans to get up early for a bike ride. Spa Day 1: Success.

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The 30-Day Spa

I was out with friends last night–one of whom is a blog-reader–and she said she loves my blog, but my posts aren’t as upbeat. She’s right. Not that it’s wrong to go through struggles or write about them, but I don’t want my blog to drag me into the struggle. I want it to be a place where I can write and think out loud. I want to discover my authentic voice–the best blogs I read are those that really have a clear, strong voice. I want to focus on something besides my weight. I want to embrace my strengths and positive qualities and give myself a break because it has been a tough, hectic month. It’s okay to backslide, but it’s important to keep moving forward.

On that note, I have a ticket to the Healthy Living Summit. In thirty days, I will be hanging out and trading secrets and learning from some awesome fitness and lifestyle bloggers, and I am so pumped! I have decided to end my part-time job search and just enjoy the next thirty days. I work a lot. I worked every summer all through high school and college, and I’ve tutored during the summers while I’ve been working. I think what’s been making me extra-crazy this month is the unknown. Will I find a part-time job? When am I leaving to go abroad? What am I going to do today? AHHHH! So, overwhelmed, I do nothing… except veg in front of the tv and munch and munch and munch.

Well. Enough.

So many of us who work imagine all the things we would do if we only had the time. Well, I have the time! I am going to take the next thirty days to enjoy myself, my country, my town, my friends. I am going to eat healthy and exercise, and while that will be a big part of my day and my blog, it’s not going to be the focus. It will be a backdrop to the other things I’m doing.

I’m calling it The 30-Day Spa. I can’t afford a superfancy spa, but I can afford to treat myself and make my life at home as spa-like as possible. I’ve already bought some cool dishes that will come out on Monday. I’m going to snatch up a 30-day gym membership and make use of English-speaking fitness classes while I can. I am going to enjoy myself, enrich myself, empower myself.

I am also going to work up to the Healthy Living Summit and think about my Mind, Body, and Soul. I’m pumped for the next thirty days!

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