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Five by Five

Ten years! Oh my god, you guys.

Honestly, the 5-year mark felt much bigger. That was probably when this thing peaked. (It’s also back when people were still blogging.) 5 years ago, I really lived in this thing because I didn’t have much else.

I mean, I had a circle of friends, but they were all in relationships, planning weddings, going on double dates, etc. I had dates, or guys who flirted with me, but they all ended up treating me like crap.

I had a job, but aside from friendships, it was the worst and I hated it. The management was unbelievably abusive and it drove me to therapy, repeatedly. (My old job is where I ended up doing the most of my blogging, just to give me one part of the day I could look forward to.)

I didn’t sleep. At all. And I didn’t know why. I took drugs that were not meant for me (at a dosage that the FDA has finally realized was too much) for a very long time and they made me depressed and insane.

 

Just after the 5-year mark, I was so incredibly lonely and miserable that I made a vow to go out and meet new people. And almost immediately, though we unknowingly circled each other for 10 years, I met Justin. I knew my love of TV would get me somewhere.

I finally decided to take a stand and find a job that made me happy and fulfilled (or at least didn’t make me cry on a daily basis and send me to therapy). And I didn’t just find a new job—I found my dream job. I’m still a little in shock.

Someone finally figured out what was wrong with me, and now I can sleep! There are still restless nights every now and then, but for the most part I get the sleep I need. Sleeping on Justin’s shoulder helps immensely. And I haven’t taken Ambien in 4 years!

I got a niece, who made my heart grow in a way I didn’t know it could. By Halloween, I’ll have 4 nieces and nephews total. And in 5 years, maybe I’ll have a kid of my own, and my heart can grow in an even weirder, more wonderful way.

All of those friends I made, plus the old ones that I love more than anything? They all came together to help me through the scariest, most painful time of my life. That concert was one of the few bright spots that year for my entire family, and we’ll be forever grateful to all of you.

I moved four times in the last 5 years! But nothing was harder than packing up the house where I grew up, where my dad died, on Father’s Day. I drove by there the other day, just to see what it looks like, and it still hurts. Even though taking care of my dad was so hard and heartbreaking, I’m forever thankful that I got to move back home and see him every day, and to appreciate my childhood home with adult eyes.

I lost some things, too … my dad most of all. And my very best friend, my Grandma. I think about them every single day and I don’t think that will ever change. But I think it’s just one of those pains you get used to, like a bad back or a sore knee. It’s just a part of getting older.

But again, the biggest thing I’ve gained in the last 5 years—what made these years so different, and so much better, than the last 5—is Justin. From all of our weird adventures and roadtrips to our wedding to Iceland and beyond, I can’t imagine my life without him and I’m so lucky that I get to wake up next to him every day.

I came across this post on Humans of New York the other day and immediately fell in love:

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This, I think, is the biggest difference between the way I am now and the way I was when I started this blog. Back then, I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to get writing gigs. I wanted the cool people on the internet as friends. I wanted my ex to want me back. I wanted to be special. I wanted to be extraordinary. And you know what? In the first 5 years, back when this was called Shortcake, all of that happened!

But these days, that isn’t important to me. In fact, these days the internet is such a nightmare that the last thing in the world that I want is tons of attention online. More importantly, I don’t want to hang out there. I just want to hang out with my friends in person, travel places, do things, make things, write things that matter.

I mean, I get to go to my dream job every day, come home to my dream loft and spend time with my dream man, or some of the coolest friends (with the biggest hearts) in the world. Once again, I’ve hit my goal. And for now, it’s perfect. I don’t need to be extraordinary to other people. I’m content. I’m amazed by my life every single day. And that’s enough for me.

Thanks for being a part of it.

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Should Resolutions Be Forgot …

I’m in the middle of moving, which is a month-long process for someone with a Mad Scientist Husband, so obviously my Resolutions are going bad so far. However, I don’t look at these things with an all-or-nothing mentality, so as soon as the new place is rebuilt (not “unpacked” – literally “rebuilt”), I’ll get going.

As far as monthly resolutions go, I haven’t had many chances to do crunches. Every floor I have is covered in sawdust, screws, road salt, or Lord knows what. So instead, I’ve been getting a jumpstart on one of next month’s resolutions. I will kick off the crunches as soon as we unroll our new rugs this weekend. I AM SO TIRED.

Despite all of the exhaustion at home, work, and other insane drama, I haven’t had a drop to drink. This may end tonight due to the most terrifying, heartbreaking day I’ve had since my Grandma got sick. I can’t detail it here but fearing for someone’s life is pretty nerve-wracking and I’m trying to wean off of my Ativan. We’ll see.

The new place is looking incredible. I’ll post pictures when we get closer to completion, though you can see a lot of the progress on my Instagram.

I had my first Scriptwriting class and I almost cried from happiness afterward. I love school so much! I think one key to my ongoing quest for happiness is to always have a class to attend. There are so many more I want to take. I want Justin to get a new job, but I also want like 5 more Master’s degrees for free? What do I do?

Anyway, life is hopefully close to being back to normal. Though, I say that every time.

 

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New Year’s Resolutions

2014 is a year I’m really looking forward to. I know I’m a girl so the year of my wedding was supposed to be the big thing that I shit my pants about, but aside from Iceland, I’m so glad that crap is over. Besides, the whole year was just … intense. Incredible highs and unbelievable lows. I’m ready for a steady year of taking care of myself, enjoying my new husband, and positive changes. It’s going to be a good.

Things to Look Forward To

  • New Office – I have a massive office with a wall of windows, a giant monitor, space for tons of plants, and it will be far away from distractions. The first day I moved into it, campus closed early for Christmas vacation and I didn’t want to leave.
  • New Apartment – Justin and I are moving in a week or two. It’s still in our building, but it will be so much bigger and hopefully far less cluttered. My pack-rat, mad scientist husband hasn’t moved in 10 years. This will be interesting. Plus: another massive wall of windows! Next year is looking much brighter!
  • Grown-Up Furniture – While we’re financially ready for a house, we don’t want one yet … but we can finally buy some things we’ve never had: a bedroom set, an actual table for eating, a non-shitty coffee table, a giant quality couch, and a mattress that costs more than $299. We plan on finishing these purchases in the next couple of weeks.
  • No Debt! – It only took 3 years, but I finally paid off my twenties … at least in terms of credit cards, medical loans and other fun stuff. I still have a student loan, but my payments are so small and my interest is so low that it doesn’t weigh on me. (I am 70% done with my student loans, though!)
  • Scriptwriting – This would have been my major at Webster if I had known these classes exist. However, they were offered through the Media department instead of Creative Writing, so no one bothered to tell me about them until it was too late. It has been my 10-year regret, but I currently get free tuition and I’m going to milk it while I can. I can’t wait!
  • Free Time – Jesus Christ, I miss free time.
  • Grilled Cheese Party 2: Back in The Habit – That’s right, y’all. Grilled Cheese/Birthday/Housewarming Party, coming soon.
  • Seattle – Justin and I are going to visit Erin, Graham, Courtney, Mike, Dan, Kerri and Charlie in a few months. We even have a night booked at The Great Northern from Twin Peaks, Justin’s Christmas gift to me. I’m so excited!
  • Washington D.C. – Visiting my brother and fam for his big ceremony. I hate politics but for some reason I can’t wait to see all of the sights.
  • Justin’s New Job – I don’t know where or when this will happen, but hopefully this is the year that all of his incredibly hard work pays off. No matter what happens, I’m so proud of him!
  • Baby? – Growing up adopted has made me very conscious of the fact that some people can’t make babies. So I’m trying to be very realistic about family planning. I don’t know when we will start trying (I think we’re going to write a few months on the Brolette wheel and spin; clearly this means we’re ready), but this could be the year!
  • My Promotion – I don’t know if this will happen, either, but let’s just put it here and see what sticks.

Okay, time for resolutions. I’m a big sucker for this stuff. I don’t care if you’re sick of this! I know you know I’ll fail! Here we go!

Stretch Goals

  • Lose 40 pounds*
  • Run 5 miles in 50 minutes*
  • Cook at least one new recipe a week
  • Write here at least once a week
  • Have (and complete) 2 monthly mini resolutions, and try to maintain at least some of those habits long-term

*I don’t know if this is the year I will get pregnant (if I can even get pregnant) but obviously these will have to be put on hold when that happens. I AM determined to tone up and lose weight beforehand, because I am basically okay with how tubby I am right now. If this is what I look like when I’m 9 months pregnant then I will be stoked!

I reeeeally missed my monthly goals this last year. Between wedding planning, the honeymoon, packing up my parents’ house, losing my grandma, crippling depression, two flus and about 600 work/family trips, there was just no time or motivation. So this time around, I want to try to do two at once. Let’s see how long that lasts!

January’s Monthly Goals:

1. Do Crunches Every Day: I basically look like the Kool-Aid Man right now. Yes, I know I need to do other things besides crunches.

2. No Drinking: I did this last January. It was insanely easy and I lost 10 pounds. Pretty sure my belly is 99% wine. This is a good goal.

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Obstruction

Heh heh heh.

I feel bad that I left that last post up for so long without explaining: Justin has nothing to do with my depression. In fact, he’s one of the few things that consistently makes me happy. He’s my best friend and my favorite person, and I’ll never stop being amazed that I’m the one who got to marry him.

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However, he’s working full time, going to school full time, working at an internship and he’s the layout editor for his school paper. And while his schedule is, shockingly, not as crazy as it has been in recent semesters, he’s gone during weekend days and sometimes three weeknights in a row. When I’m coping with stuff (and don’t consider drinking “coping”), it makes things hard. But I’m so proud of him and I’m always amazed by the work he’s doing.

I could name about 1,000 reasons why I was sad, but not a specific reason, and that’s when you know it’s depression. It started creeping up about a month before my Grandma got sick. I think it started with selling my family home. There was one day where I woke up happy, walked to work in gorgeous weather, and was excited to see all of my friends that night, but then I got a call that my Grandma was in the emergency room. Moral of story: always stay depressed?

It really was the perfect storm of stuff: bad project at work, feeling left out, missing my Grandma and my dad and my house, gaining weight, not sleeping at all. And you know, when you’re getting married, you get used to an insane amount of attention… and then it all goes away. So the sad, lonely, empty times felt a million times worse thanks to that extra deprivation.

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Anyway, I’m slowly but surely getting back to normal. Here’s some ways I kicked myself in the ass:

1. Quit Facebook

I don’t like broadcasting shit on Facebook like I do here, so I took the temptation away by deactivating my account. (Also, at the time, tons of my friends were on this road trip together and thanks to a seating limit I wasn’t invited, so it was nice to not look at their 8 million posts and pictures. I wasn’t mad, but that timing could not have been worse. I was literally like, “I need help; today I’ll make an effort to spend time with friends,” and then NO YOU CAN’T BECAUSE THEY’RE ALL HAVING FUN WITHOUT YOU HAHAHA)

I did not miss Facebook. At all. I liked being forced to call/text my friends and develop real friendships. I LOVED not hearing about politics or worrying about how to please everyone I know all at once. My day felt cleaner and easier when it wasn’t clogged up with the lamest, stupidest details about everyone’s day. (I know people say this is a Twitter thing, but I only follow clever people there.)

Not feeling the urge to check a website 6,000 times a day? Freedom. Pure freedom.

Of course, I’m back for now… there are cancer updates, trial news, and long-distance bffs I need to keep track of. I missed some friends’ jokes. BUT I don’t have the app on my phone anymore, I delete/unfollow people every day, and I know that when I deactivate it again, I’ll be able to go even longer. I know it’s like the most dramatic thing you can do in this day and age, but it’s worth it every now and then.

2. Excercise

I joined this app called Gym-Pact; you commit to a number of workouts and put up money for each one. For example, I commit to 6 days a week at $20 a workout. If I miss one of those workouts, I would have to pay. So far, I haven’t. I’ve made every workout, which means I make money, thanks to everyone who failed. Like my BodyBugg, it turns things into a game and forces me to get off my ass. I love it.

I’ve also joined other apps like DietBet and Luminosity, but I’ll talk about those some other day.

3. My basic formula

Sleep, exercise, Vitamin B and sunshine. Now that it’s cool outside, I can walk to work–and I’m definitely feeling the results.

4. Drugs

So, I thought I could ween off of Ativan to be ahead of the game when Baby Time happens, but this was not the time to have trouble sleeping. All it did was help create the Perfect Storm. Maybe when I get back up to running 6 miles every morning, I’ll try again.

5. Distractions

Since Justin is gone two or three weeknights in a row, I try to stay distracted during those times. Walking with Veronica. Evening trips to the Y. Visits with my shrink. TV time with Jen and Ron. I also go out more on the weekends: parties, dinners, girl’s nights with my work friends, “Friday Night Grown-Up Time!” with Jen. As long as I’m not here alone, thinking about my Grandma and my Dad, I seem to do fine.

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6. West Coast

I wasn’t broadcasting my depression on Facebook and I was trying to keep my crying at a minimum around BFFs like Jen and Vee, but I was very honest about it on Instagram and Twitter. And while I wasn’t trolling for attention, Erin and Janet both sent me out-of-the-blue Cheer Up presents. I literally burst into tears when I opened these–happy tears. It made me feel like someone heard me, that someone cared. And sometimes, that’s really all you need.

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I’m still feeling fat thanks to the Post-Wedding 15, but apparently women are happiest at Size 12? So maybe I should gain some weight and see how that body feels. Ha!

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You Know It’s Time For My Annual Nervous Breakdown When …

… I write an entry about how depressed and lonely I am and how I have no friends …

… and then I delete it …

… and then I post it again …

… and then I edit it to be like, “Except for Jen and Ron, as usual, obviously” …

… and then I delete it again …

… and then I cry in the bathroom and go run 5 miles and finish a book about Scientology and feel better.

I’m glad only like 20 people read my blog these days (and one is in India?) so only a few people get to witness the chaos (and thank you for loving me and/or hate-reading me). This is so much better than when I would write massive, epically embarrassing entries on Ambien and like 300 people would read it before I woke up and deleted it in a panic. There are people out there who still think I’m a psycho because of that.

Anyway, I’m still really sad about what happened a week ago and I will probably be sad about it forever, but I think I’m feeling better.

… well, I watched Breaking Bad last night, so “better” might not be the right word. “Feeling okay about real life but totally fucking sick to my stomach about fictional characters” might be a better description. Like, I feel hungover from the stress of that show. Yikes.

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Gluten-Free Stephie

Did you know that I stopped eating gluten? I stopped eating gluten about a month ago.

We’re not trying to have a baby right now, but we’re talking and planning … and for the first time, I realized that I would have to stop taking all of my daily meds. I don’t take a lot of medicine, but I take stuff for allergies, sleeping … and (in the summer) sweating. I have a friend who sweats even more than I do, and she told me that she found out that her sweating was because of a gluten intolerance. I read up on gluten intolerance symptoms, and so many of them are things that I suffer from (joint pain, anxiety, sleep issues, etc).

I have friends with serious, severe Celiac Disease and I’ve witnessed how hard it is for them. I also used to work in a health food store, where people with gluten allergies have always had to shop until recently, so I’ve been aware of this issue for a long time. I am very, very grateful that I do not have Celiac Disease, so let’s make it clear that I don’t just think of this as a fun experiment. But if there’s any time to try avoiding gluten and find out for myself if this is my problem, it’s now.

These days, people tend to roll their eyes when someone mentions they’re avoiding gluten because they think it is just a fad diet. They bring up the low carb craze and try to mansplain to me that it’s not actually going to help me lose weight. I love telling those people that I wrote my master’s thesis ab0ut the low carb diet and the marketing and advertising behind it, so I fully understand how those diets and fads gain momentum.

However, while avoiding gluten is tied to one fad diet (paleo), it’s also an easy way for grocery stores to bring in an entire segment of people that couldn’t shop at their store before. And because of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, grocery stores need to compete with health food stores more than ever, so they are paying attention. This may stick for a while. I don’t think that stores will keep their giant gluten-free aisles for more than a couple years, but hopefully places will be permanently conscious of carrying gluten-free alternatives.

To be honest, I am eating more paleo than anything these days. Aside from gluten-free pizzas when I go out with friends and the occasional bowl of corn/rice cereal, I haven’t bought any products that are specifically gluten free. I don’t usually buy bread or baked goods anyway. So the only change I’ve really made is that I stopped buying fast food or pigging out on goodies at work. I don’t have to worry about cross-contamination or anything, so while this is by no means an easy lifestyle for people with Celiac, it has been relatively painless for me.

It’s been working, believe it or not. I still sweat in 90-degree weather, that is just science, but I’ve been more comfortable outside recently than most of my friends and I’m not afraid of going out at all. Justin is usually the one to turn on the air conditioning, not me. I don’t need a fan when I’m getting ready in our muggy bathroom. These are huge developments. And because the main reason I’m avoiding gluten is sweating, I’ll be able to slip up occasionally in the winter. I plan on avoiding gluten year-round, but I can still eat stuffing on Thanksgiving or an Easter casserole and suffer through the side effects with minimal discomfort.

I also feel amazing these days, but the fact that I do all of my shopping at the Farmers Market probably has something to do with it. This boost in my mood is much needed because I’m also cutting out sleeping pills and we all know how great that works for me. Shit’s been rough. At least I can take my old friend Benadryl.

My goal to sit up straight this month was serendipitous because work is nuts and I will be spending all month sitting at my desk. Anyway, that’s going well.

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Charlotte

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing…after all, what’s a life anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die…By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” ― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

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I’ve been trying all week to write some beautiful, elegant entry about the past 3 weeks, but then it feels like I’m too detailed, too intimate, too self-absorbed, too wordy. So I’ll just say it.

I watched my Grandma die last week. I sat with her for her last hour on earth. I watched each breath take longer and longer, I saw the panic in her eyes, I told her it was okay, I told her that I loved her, and I held her hand until I felt her let go.

A week earlier, exactly a week earlier, I had a great visit with her. I said goodbye, then popped back into her room – and she was sitting up, having a major stroke. I held her hand during that, too. There was nothing they could do to stop it, so I just sat with her. She cracked joke after joke with a half-frozen face, slurring her words. I was the only person who could understand her. I stayed until she fell asleep.

Part of me feels like this has profoundly changed me–that I’ll appreciate life more or magically become a wiser, better person. The other half can’t believe how natural it all feels, to the point where maybe it hasn’t changed me at all.

I mean, when I lost my dad, the grief was normal and manageable but what I witnessed during the year leading up to that moment messed me up beyond belief. So I have no idea what I’m like right now. I’m not drinking. I’m reading, sleeping and walking a lot. Every time she said goodbye to me, she would say, “Take care of yourself.” So I’m treading lightly.

She was my Dad’s mom. So going through all of her papers and pictures hasn’t just been a reminder about her–it’s been a reminder of my Dad and my Grandpa, too. My Dad’s 70th birthday is coming up, so he was already on my mind. It gets a little overwhelming.

A few days before she died, she hugged me and said, “Thank God he gave us to each other.” That’s all I can think about. I know it was her time; I know it was natural. But it hurts so much. She was so incredible, so funny, so talented, so brave. I could write about her forever. She was one of my best friends. I really just fucking miss her.

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