Friday, March 9, 2018

This is 39 (Month 4, Check-In 2)

I purposefully skipped one of my goals last month (updating this blog for a second time) because the end of the month was just Too Bananas. Between finalizing everything for Cycle for Survival and then getting ready for a six-day fun/work trip to Miami, I thought I could squeeze in one more update, but then I just had too much on my plate. And instead of stressing myself out, I figured who the F cares if I do one update in month four, and three updates in month five? (The answer to that question is "no one."). So here we are.

Here are a few updates from the end of month four:

Attend a yoga class: Okay guys. I went to a hot yoga class. I thought it'd be "interesting" to try it out. So I got a free week at Hot 8 Yoga and had reallllly hoped that I would like it. Unfortunately the yoga studio smelled gross, which put me off right from the start. I thought for sure there'd be a diffuser or something (anything!) to make sure it didn't smell of sweat, but, not so much. I also didn't love the instructor or the flow of the class. I made it through without dying (bonus!), but I knew I wouldn't go back. Would I try hot yoga again? For sure. Just not at that studio.

Nurture my marriage: I don't mean to be all new flashy, but MARRIAGE IS F'N HARD (said Captain Obvious). Like really hard. Steve and I have had our fair share of ups and downs over the years and the last year has been particularly challenging. Steve doesn't do well with me traveling and we tend to go through a cycle where the first half of the year is great and the second half of the year (which coincides with my work travel and when Summer Steve turns into School Steve) isn't. And there have been some other challenges that I won't go into, but they've been hard and pushed both of us into some not so fun places of discomfort. When I added the goal to nurture my marriage in the fall, I didn't know exactly what that would entail. I just knew that I had to put more care and attention and love into my relationship with my husband.

A lot of our challenges have had to do with the energy each of us were bringing home and adding to our relationship. We've both been paying more attention to that, and I've been responding positively to the ways in which I've seen Steve work on this. It's made a big difference for both of us.

I'm no expert on nurturing a marriage, but here are a few things that I've done that has made both of us smile and brought a warmth to our relationship that I'm really digging:

Heart-shaped lemon ricotta pancakes for breakfast on Valentine's Day! I got up early so I could make Steve's favorite pancakes. (And then documented the whole thing, which almost ruined Steve's mood. Note to self!)

Soaking up knowledge from those around you is also super helpful. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by people whose marriages inspires me and teaches me about ways in which I can do this differently (and sometimes, how to be better, too). One great example of this is the podcast I listened to of Dax Shephard interviewing his wife, Kristen Bell. Dax just started a new podcast called the Armchair Expert and Kristen was his first interview. Their bickering, their honesty, their clear love and admiration for one another- all of it shines through in this. And there is such a realness to how they show up for each other, what challenges them in their relationship and I found myself nodding along and in some instances, 100% getting it. It's a long interview, but I totally recommend listening to it- here you go!

I found these really great blank cards from Paper Source and have left two little notes for Steve to find:

Get a Ligthbox! We've had one for a while and just got around to using it for more fun/loving purposes. Steve even added his own message that I got when I came back from my trip to Miami last week and it made me laugh and smile. 

It's such a small thing, but can make a big difference and add a little bit of fun to your home and love to your relationship.

I learn every day about being a better wife and a better partner for Steve. I'm not always the best at it, but I am always trying. And so is he. And as far as marriage goes- it IS hard work. But if you're with the right person, it's always worth it. Even the bad times. But especially for the good ones (duh).

I've got a lot on my mind right now in terms of nurturing my marriage because I have to really weigh and consider this against my annual solo trip to Ireland that I take every June. If I put nurturing my marriage first, I wouldn't go. But that also seems like a really big personal sacrifice that I'm not willing to give up. Eeek. My hope is that Steve and I can plan a trip together for the two of us so that I can still do this trip which fills up my soul and sustains me all year long. (Full disclosure, I'm going to Ireland in October for my 40th. But that's going to be, like, a big thing with a group of people. So it won't be the Molly-centric trip where she gets to do whatever she wants whenever she wants without having to worry about anyone but herself.)

All that side- I'm smiling more, I'm spending more time with Steve, I'm listening more and I'm feeling supported, loved and taken care of by my husband. And I'd like to think that this goal is helping to accomplishing that. Screw that. I know this goal is helping to accomplish that.

Track each day's food in the Weight Watchers app: Yeah...I'm still not doing it. I'm following Weight Watchers for the most part (my trip to Miami threw me off and I haven't quite gotten back on track yet). But even when I'm making good food decisions, I haven't been tracking the food.

Here's the thing. I have to work on my relationship with food. I have to do more work on improving my all or nothing tendencies when it comes to food. And maybe Weight Watchers isn't the way to go. But I have to find something that's a better match. I was very conscious about not putting weight-specific goals on my This is 39 list because I'm So Sick Of All of That. I'm 4+ months into this year and I feel like I'm getting further away from the food/weight/body goals that I've set for myself.

While I'm not promising that I'm going to start tracking and following the program 100%, I am going to spend some time this upcoming month on making some positive changes to my relationship with food. Scouts honor (does it matter that I'm not a Scout?).

Use my real camera 1x/month: I took a glorious day off from work on February 16th and was gifted with a gorgeous sunny and clear day in Santa Monica. I took my camera and went off exploring and lunching. Santa Monica was sparkling and shining:

I'm in love with that second photo of the sailboat. I love the shimmery water and the simplicity of the photo. And the other two photos perfectly showcase how lucky I am to live some place so freaking beautiful.

Volunteer 1x/month: I loved my experience volunteering with Food Forward. This organization "fights hunger and prevents food waste by rescuing fresh surplus produce, connecting this abundance with people in need, and inspiring others to do the same."

I met up with a small group of volunteers at the (Wednesday) Santa Monica's Farmer's Market so we could collect fresh fruits and vegetables (which would normally go to waste) so we could then donate them to hunger relief agencies in the area. The process was quite simple- we split up and went up to each farmer asking if they wanted any boxes for donations. If they said yes, we put the boxes together, wrote their name on the box, handed it over and made note of how many boxes they took. Once all farmer's had been approached and all boxes had been handed out, we took a break until 15 minutes after the market closed.

I used my break time to pick up a few things and was pleasantly surprised when I was given things for free or severely discounted (I was wearing a Food Forward apron). I tried to pay, but I got a variation of this comment "No no. Thank you for what you're doing." I really wasn't expecting that, but it was very much appreciated.

When the time came, we started walking back around and picking up the boxes from the farmers. And I gotta tell ya, I walked away feeling even more appreciative of and impressed with each farmer. I love that they were willing to donate their produce to people who truly needed it.

The boxes filled with produce was brought back to the middle of the market where we organized, weighed and then dispatched the goods to the organizations who were receiving everything. It was great. And two hours later, I was on my way back home to work.

A few days later I got this great email: Thank you for joining us at the Santa Monica Wednesday Farmer's Market on February 21. We really appreciate your time and support for Food Forward. Thanks to your help, we were able to collect 1,295 pounds of fresh, local produce and donate 100% to Groceryships, Mother's Kitchen, PATH Villas at Del Rey, SMC Students Feeding Students, Step Up on Second and St. Joseph Center.

I loved the experience and I'm already signed up for another shift!

How yummy do those veggies look? All from the farmer's market!

So that's how the second half of month four went! I can't believe I'm already 1/4 of the way through This is 39!


Friday, February 16, 2018

This is 39 (Month 4, Check-In 1)

Well month four has blown by quickly! I just updated my tracker and I'm sort of overwhelmed by how far into this year I already am. It's almost a quarter of the way over. Which seems bananas.

There are a few big things I've accomplished this month that I want to call attention to:

Exceed last year's Cycle for Survival fundraising ($18,476)- CHECK! I started fundraising on January 31st and set my goal to $25k in 25 days. I took on this challenge because my friend George was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma in December and this is a rare cancer that Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center allocates funding to. And when you raise $25,000 for this event, you can choose where you want your funds allocated. While I always had it in the back of my mind that I'd do this (and direct funding towards the type of rare cancer my father passed away from- esophageal), I realized that this would make a bigger difference for George now. And so my 2018 fundraising challenge was born!

Only 10 days into my fundraising, I surpassed last year's fundraising total. And as of today, I have raised more than $26k. With another $1k promised (and not in my account yet), I know that I'll be able to get to my updated goal of $28k and hopefully beyond. I'd really love to get to $30k, but we'll just see where this all shakes out. Another cool thing is that last year I had 220 donors. And as of today, my donations have been made possible by 219 donors. So I think it's safe to assume that I'll also exceed the number of donors that I had in 2017 as well.

I am unbelievably proud of this accomplishment. And I am overwhelmingly grateful for all the support I've received from my amazing network of family, friends and co-workers. And I'm very fortunate that Paula has been encouraging her personal network to support my fundraiser as well. I knew that I would work as hard as I possibly could to make my goal, but I didn't think I'd be in the place I'm in- that I'd meet my fundraising goal with eight days to go! It's a wonderful feeling, but after doing all my fundraising in a short period of time, it's weird and unsettling to have this much time to do my fundraising.

I am so happy to be able to do something that offers Paula & George hope and can sort of take their mind off of all the sad and scary elements of George's diagnosis and treatment. At the same time, I have been on the receiving end of some of the nicest notes from those who are supporting my ride. Here's one that totally made me cry: Hey Molly...I can't even begin to say how proud I am of you for the work that you do to help others. You are a true altruist. You know, when we grow up with people, you don't ever think of how you may impact each other later on in life. We spend most of our time going to classes, joking around in between, eating lunch and going to recess. Life goes by so fast. I mean seriously, I'm 40 this year and I feel like it was yesterday that I was walking the halls at Lancaster Elementary, picking on you and Katie, calling you Little Moo. I don't think I've actually seen you in person for more than 20 years (crazy, right?), yet I feel like you are a dear friend and that if I ever needed to talk or place to crash, you'd be one of the first people I call. You've brought me comfort in times where I had lost almost all hope. You've made me cry with your kind words of love and encouragement. You are a kind soul Molly. Please don't ever change. You impact lives in ways you may never know. Thank you.

I mean how overwhelmingly nice is that comment? Shoot...I just feel like doing this, while it's ridiculously hard work, is something that brings so much love into my life. And I'm so grateful.

The ride is next Saturday and I know it'll be fine. Although I am slightly scared that I haven't been on a spin bike since last year's event. Oops.

Finish the remaining stair walks from the Secret Stairs of Los Angeles book-
 I knocked two more stair walks this past month (so far). Steve and I did one boring walk and then the next day my friend Cathy & I did an unbelievably cool walk.

The walk Steve and I did had some pretty elements, but there were some long, boring stretches. And we were both wanting it to be over sooner than it was. Here's what it looked like:

One of my new favorite photos of Steve-o which was taken at lunch post-stairs
The very next day, Cathy and I went on another stair walk and I loved it! It was shorter than the day before and my favorite part was that we ended up getting dropped into the middle of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy parkland, specifically Elyria Canyon Park. It's one of the things I love the most about Los Angeles- even in the middle of the city, you can find yourself submerged in nature and surrounded by quiet and unbelievable beauty that makes this New Hampshire girl very happy! See for yourself:

Get four facials and four massages- You guys. I got my first real massage tonight. Like all deep tissue and stuff. And I actually didn't hate it! I can count on two hands (and maybe even one) how many times I've gotten a massage. Historically it just hasn't been my thing. But as I get older, I'm realizing how important this aspect of self-care is. While I make great efforts to get up frequently during the day, I'm not always successful at it. And although I'd say I lead a fairly active lifestyle, I can still go long periods of time through any given day of doing nothing. All that to say, I can feel my body aching differently than ever before. And I can see how massages (and yoga) can play a big role in making sure my body isn't so stiff and achey.

I've been gifted several massage gift certificates, so I have no excuse to go. Tonight while I was getting squished and pressed and having all the knots and kinks worked out, I kept thinking that the phrase "hurts so good" really applies to massages. My hope is that it won't be as painful in the future, especially if I keep up a regular schedule. But for now, I'm sore from my massage and can't wait to go back soon!

Tomorrow morning I'm using another gift certificate to Burke-Williams and getting a facial. Which I'm pretty excited about. Also because I get to use their amenities, which for me will include the steam room, the sauna and the hot tub.

Hike 1x/month- Four days into the month, I got my hike in. My friends Maril, Carrot (Maril's adorable Frenchie), Elise and I went on a hike in Fryman Canyon on a gorgeous LA day. It was a wonderful way to catch up with friends and be active and outdoor. I was struggling more on the hike than I had hoped. But not having been fully recovered from my stupid cold, meant that breathing was a little difficult (and I think some of that had to do with how much crap I ate in December and most of January too). At any rate, we had a lovely time!

Alright- that's it for now! I will update on the second half of the list before 2/23!


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

This is 39 (Month 3, Check-In 2)

Wow. I'm already three full months into this 39th year and it's going by so quickly. I just got done updating my tracker and I'm glad that I'll have as a reminder of all I've done.

Similar to my first update of the month, I don't plan on doing a play-by-play, but want to hit on a few updates that have transpired in the second part of the month.

I'm noticing a pattern and it's not making a few of my monthly goals enjoyable- especially when I wait until the end of the month. Volunteering, going to yoga and getting a hike in don't seem to happen until the month's nearly over, and then I'm in a bit of a panic getting those things accomplished. I've had the best of intentions in month two and three to not do that to myself but we're three months in and I haven't changed that pattern. The good news is I've already lined up my next yoga class (next Sunday) and volunteer gig (February 7th). So month four will already be better in that regard!

Volunteer 1x/month- Because I waited so long, none of the leads I had for volunteering worked out. Instead of letting this goal get by me, I grabbed my wombmate, a pair of work gloves and a reusable shopping bag and headed down to the beach for a two-person sunset beach clean-up. It was beautiful. And in the end, what I loved most about this volunteer opportunity is that it taught me that you don't need a sign-up sheet, a shift or an organization in order to donate your time and make a difference in the world around you. Katie and I had a really nice time cleaning up the Santa Monica beachfront area and it was really sweet when two people stopped to thank us for doing it. Here's the beautiful sunset we were treated to and the trash we recovered from the beach:

Attend a yoga class 1x/month- Taking advantage of a free week of yoga classes (and strategizing so it falls at the end of month three and the beginning of month four), I found myself at a 2:15 p.m. yoga class this afternoon. I thought for sure I'd be one of a handful of people in the class. Turns out I could not have been more wrong. I got there a good five minutes early thinking that'd be more than enough time to line up a prime spot in the back of the room. Instead the studio was completely full. Like more full than any other yoga class I'd been in before (seriously, I'm not being dramatic). Like so full that the instructor had to ask people in THE FRONT ROW to scoot over and make room for me all front and center (nightmare). I'd say the average age in the room was 68 and honestly, I just had to laugh at the absurdity of being placed in the front row so close to the women on either side of me that we touched several times during the class and had to negotiate during some interesting poses. It was a realllllly good yoga class though- all space and location issues aside. The "gentle yoga" class felt really great and was just what I needed.

Hike 1x/month- My friend Terri accompanied me on a Sunday morning hike at Will Rogers State Park, which is conveniently located a few minutes from my place. I've done this hike a bunch of times and while I hope to explore new hikes in future months, this was a perfect hike with perfect company.

Apart from these three tricky goals that tend to sneak up on me, here are a few other things I've done since my last post:

Use my real camera 1x/month- I used it on New Year's Eve and took it out again for a spectacular sunset on 1/19 and I'm so very glad I did. 

Read 20 books- Thanks to my friend and an advanced copy, I was able to get my hands on a copy of a book I've been waiting to read- Still Me from JoJo Moyes. The book doesn't come out for another week, so it felt extra special to get to read it before most people. I've read the two books that came out before this one (Me Before You and After You) and this one was just as good. I plowed through it in a matter of days, staying up until 1:00 a.m. on a work night even!

I have three books out from the library that I need to make my way through- I've started two and still have to crack open another one. I don't usually like to have multiple books going at at time, but it is what it is. More than anything, I'm grateful that I'm doing so much more reading than I have been in quite some time.

So there you have it! Three months in and I'm feeling really great. Although food stuff and tracking is still in the toilet, I'm back into a good workout routine, and I'm feeling confident that at the end of month four, I will have made significant progress in pulling myself together when it comes to my food choices. I also know this time next month I will be in the thick of one of my most important goals- to exceed last year's Cycle for Survival fundraising ($18,476)- and Steve and I will be super close to paying off all credit card debt! Woo Hoo!

So much to look forward to and so much to be proud of already! Hooray for This is 39!


Monday, January 15, 2018

This is 39 (Month 3, Check-In 1)

I can't believe I'm already in month three of my year-long quest to accomplish 39 goals. As usual, my tracker is super helpful in the accountability department, as is this blog. The first part of this month has been really interesting. While I've made significant progress on my goals and have added lots to the accomplishments column, I've also gone backwards on some things. Partly due to being super f'n sick and partly due to be super f'n negligent in treating my body with respect and eating well. I'm an all-or-nothing kinda gal, and the past few weeks have highlighted that in lots of ways. I'm workin' on it. I really am.

Because I was so sick (ugh- I landed in urgent care on Christmas Day with, what turned out to be, a sinus infection), I didn't stick to my three days a week of resistance training (which I'm okay with), but I did get some serious reading in and made major headway on the insane-o task of organizing and backing up all my photos. But I also stopped tracking my food and that's basically gone off the rails. I haven't beat myself up over all of this. I'm just moving on from the point I'm at now.

All that aside, let's jump in:

Finish the remaining stairs walks from the Secret Stairs of Los Angeles book: I had grand plans over the holidays to get a lot of these walks in. I was looking forward to being able to drive all over the city when so many people are out of town and it's actually possible to get almost anywhere in 20 minutes. But my body had other plans for me. I did get in one walk, yesterday, with Steve-o. We did walk #2, which found us in Eagle Rock on a gorgeous 80° day. Highlights included super cute houses, like the one below, a Tai Chi mural that Steve-o loved and (not pictured) running into a 92-year old WWII veteran, Larry, whom we met because his dog's leash was stuck to the wheel of his wheelchair and Steve stopped to help him.

Get 4 facials and 4 massages: Thanks to the insane generosity of one of my best friends, Penny, days before Christmas found me relaxing and indulging in some major self-care at Burke-Williams. I spent a few glorious hours in a hot tub, a steam room, a sauna, getting a massage and then a facial. It. Was. Amazing. And thanks to Christmas, I have enough gift certificates to more than fulfill my goal of getting three more facials and three more massages during my 39th year. Spending the day taking care of me in a relaxing and luxurious environment was completely restorative and I'm looking forward to doing more of this in the year ahead.

Organize and back-up my photos: Because I was bed and couch ridden for most of the time between Christmas and the New Year, I deleted thousands and thousands and thousands of photos and videos. I also went through my work computer (I try really hard to keep personal things off there, but it's been a good place to back-up some photos) and TWO different external hard drives. I also purchased Lightroom and have been using that to help me easily go through photos as well.

When I first started this project, I had nearly 22,000 photos/videos on my laptop. I kept getting messages that I was running out of room on my computer. Today my laptop has 1,771 photos and 79 videos on it. I'm no longer getting stressful messages that my computer is running out of space and I feel so much better knowing the photos I have are ones that I really and truly want. The task is nowhere near complete, but I'm getting there and looking forward to a few months from now when it's all organized and I can start a better process of organizing and backing-up my photos on a regular basis- not just once every 39 years!

Read 20 books: In just the past few weeks I've read:

  • Murder at the Monks Table- a quick and easy read that was just the thing I needed to get me back into reading. Thanks to my friend's mother for passing the book along over Christmas cookie decorating!
  • Promise Me, Dad: A Year of of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose- This wasn't as quick and easy at the first book I read, but it was a really beautiful book about a father's love for his son(s) and a peek into the Obama Administration from Joe Biden's perspective. I really enjoyed the book- and the rabbit hole I went down on YouTube afterwards. 
  • A Dog's Purpose- Given the Clancy-size hole that still exists in my heart, I wasn't so sure this was the smartest book for me to read. But I really loved it and it didn't break me apart like other books about dogs and loss that are out there. It was really nice to think about Clancy's purpose and the happier times we had with him. I mean, of course I cried. How could you not? But it was a good cry. So, if you're a dog person, I highly recommend this book. 
  • Dying: A Memoir- I read this list of music and book recommendations from President Obama and this book stood out to me. (I tend to gravitate towards books like this because I learned early on that we don't talk about death enough and it has the potential to be a really beautiful experience if you deal with it openly and honestly.) It was a pretty quick read (especially since I went all Type-A on the book and decided I wanted to finish it in five days, so determined the number of pages I'd need to read each day in order to do that). I enjoyed the book, partly because it didn't go into excruciating detail about the author's illness and death. It was a beautiful, simple and real account of her life against the backdrop of knowing that she was dying. 
While being so sick really sucked, I'm grateful that it helped me kickstart this particular goal and has gotten me back into reading. I have a handful of books that I'm currently reading now and am very much hoping that as I ease back into a more balanced life this month, that I set aside time each day to read, even if it's just a little bit. The fact that I take books out from the library and am on a deadline helps too!

Resistance training 3x/week: I had to be okay with not accomplishing this goal when I got sick. I thought about powering through, but on certain days, I knew that just was not an option as I truly could not get up off the couch. So I missed two weeks of resistance training. Instead of letting this get in the way of doing it for the other 49 weeks of the year (assuming I don't get that sick again), I'm just moving forward and getting back into it. This past week I did my three days of resistance training. And while it was humbling to be so out of shape, it felt really good to move my body that way.

Stay on top of BRCA2 gene appointments:
Last month I had my breast MRI and everything was fine. Phew and hooray. And on January 10th I went to USC for my 1/2 day of appointments. It's a really intense experience because you get blood drawn, see the breast oncologist and the gynecological oncologist, get more invasive testing and by the time you're done, you have been poked, prodded and touched A LOT. But one of the major benefits of The Lynne Cohen Clinic through USC is that I have all my tests in one day, I see all my doctors in one day and, most importantly, I walk out with all the results from my tests. I'm happy to report that all is fine- all tests came back clean and clear.

Having said that, the appointment was pretty intense. Because of my age, there's a lot more focus on when/if I'm having children (short answer- I don't know). With the breast cancer gene, my risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer goes up significantly. So if a person doesn't plan on having children, the recommendation is to go the surgical (vs. surveillance) route, earlier rather than later, to pretty much eliminate your risk of getting cancer. For all these years, I've been living under the (as it turns out false) assumption that because of my family history, I didn't have to entertain the idea of getting a hysterectomy. No one in my family has had ovarian cancer and only my mom has had breast cancer. So I was really kinda planning on just continuing with surveillance for the foreseeable future. Turns out I was wrong. My gynecological oncologist suggested that I start thinking of freezing eggs if I wasn't sure where I stood on the having children side of things and eliminating the stress of not knowing and consider a cutoff age of when I'll have a hysterectomy. Ooof. Ovarian cancer is very hard to detect and when a woman does get it, it's usually advanced and has spread. In an effort to prevent all of that from happening, she recommends considering surgery. By the age of 50, you're sort of playing with fire. But apparently 45 is a good age to aim for. I don't know why I thought for all these years that I wouldn't have to take such permanent action, but I did. And now my head is swirling and my mind is reeling. I don't know what I'll do. But I know my timeline for making decisions has shifted considerably. 

Track each day's food in the Weight Watchers App: Nope. I stopped doing this on 12/22 and have been eating like garbage. I keep thinking "tomorrow's the day". And so far that hasn't happened. But the difference with today about tomorrow is I'm actively putting my food plan together for the week, going shopping and doing some major food prep. So I'm looking forward to resuming food tracking and getting this under control, like, soon.

Use my real camera at least 1x/month: On New Year's Eve I found myself watching the last sunset of the year. The ocean is completely hidden from sight and you need to set aside what you see right in front of you to know and believe that something so beautiful and filled with possibilities is right in front of you. And I thought this photo is very representative of the year as a whole. 2017 was a beautifully complicated year with so many ups and downs and filled with some really big losses for me. But it was also beautiful and filled with so much love and laughter and fun and hope and action and kindness. And that's what stands out most- the beauty of it all. 


Friday, December 22, 2017

This is 39 (Month 2, Check-In 2)

I didn't learn my lessons from last month and ended up waiting until the end of the month to get two of my big goals in: yoga and volunteering.

This morning, on my first day of winter vacation, I found myself up at 6:00 a.m. and shortly thereafter, at the gym (on the last day of my membership) for a 6:30 a.m. yoga class. Next month I'd really like to attempt to not wait until the last day because I quite enjoy yoga. And I think if I went earlier in the month, I'd go more than once. I'm going to explore different yoga studios now that my gym membership is up and see where I can get some free classes Good news- I remembered to turn my alarm off. So no dog barking alarms went off.

On Wednesday I volunteered at Venice Housing Community. I took this directly from their website: Founded by local community members in 1988, Venice Community Housing has been developing lasting, neighborhood-based solutions for low-income families and individuals for over 28 years. We own and manage 216 units of non-profit affordable housing, both transition and permanent throughout Venice, Mar Vista and Del Rey. We also provide comprehensive supportive programs including job training, youth development, life-skills coaching, and family services to help people regain or retain their self-reliance. Our non-profit, permanent affordable housing helps people whose wages haven't kept pace with rents in their own neighborhoods. And for the most vulnerable who can't make it without help, we provide permanent housing with supportive services that allows them to live with dignity. So the cool thing about this non-profit is that I've unknowingly walked by it many, many times over the years as it's located a couple doors down from my favorite Mexican restaurant in LA (La Cabana)

Thanks to Volunteer Match, I found this opportunity and showed up Wednesday afternoon to help set-up for their annual holiday party. It's always a humbling experience to give to those who aren't as fortunate as you are, especially around the holidays. I met a few lovely ladies who were also volunteering and had to laugh at how much being an event person makes me a turbo volunteer. To every five chairs I carried (at once!), another woman brought out one. This sight was pretty funny while we were placing chairs:

I'm still trying to find the right volunteer opportunity that helps flip the house (who am I?!) in 2018. I know there will be no shortage of opportunities, so until the right one comes above, I'm going to keep exploring options close to home that allow me to make an impact in my community.

One of the biggest goals that I made major headway on this past month, and since my first update earlier this month, was "stay on top of BRCA2 gene appointments." I had my breast MRI (my first bit of surveillance since August of 2016- not cool Molly) on Tuesday morning. It's not a fun experience at all. But, it's a necessary one. And I'm happy to share the results I got yesterday: Benign findings. No suspicious masses or areas of abnormal enhancement. I don't get too freaked out about my test results, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't get anxious at all. Of course my mind wanders to the worst case scenario. Which is why it's all the more important that I remain on top of my surveillance. That way if they do find something one day, it will be caught early because I will not have let more than six months pass between tests. Anyway- a huge sigh of relief.

Tomorrow I'm making headway on my four massages and four facials goals and I'm really, really, really excited about that.

I also reallllly need to get moving on my goal to read 20 books this year. I am currently reading three books: What Happened by Hillary Clinton, What Unites Us by Dan Rather and Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden. (Side note: if you had told me a year and a half ago that I'd be reading three politically slanted books, I would have laughed in your face.) I'm hoping my two week vacation will provide me with an opportunity to relax and read and make some headway here.

A few other goals I want to put some attention to during this break are:
  • Date night with Steve- since we're both off and don't have a ton of holiday-related obligations, I hope we can do some fun things so we can also nurture our marriage. 
  • Finish the remaining stair walks- I plan on getting a few of these crossed off my list in the next month and I'm excited to do more exploring at a time when Los Angeles isn't too busy.
  • Organize and back-up photos- I came out of the gate strong on this one, but I've stalled the past couple of weeks. So I need to pick this one back up and get my photo library down to a more manageable size. The good news is that I've made so much progress already that I can now sync my phone to my computer because I've freed up enough space on my Mac.
  • Write an article/short story about Clancy- I don't know exactly what this will look like, but I want to get this started.
Month two- check! And I'm feeling really good about everything I've set out to accomplish. It doesn't feel like I've bitten off more than I can chew and it's guiding me in having a really productive and focused year.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

This is 39 (Month 2, Check-In 1)

Month two of year 39 is going well. I'm writing this from my sister Meghan's couch in Brooklyn where I'm working and on Quinn-duty. I'm loving the extra family time but struggling with the cold weather (it's currently 22°).

I'm still charting my progress on my tracker and finding it helpful in the accountability department.

For this update, I want to focus on a handful of the goals that I've outlined

Call my grandparents 1x/week- I added this goal to my list because with grandparents who are in their 90's I recognized that time is limited and I needed- no wanted- to be intentional with connecting with them the best way I could when living on the other side of the country. My grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer about seven years ago and then about a year and a half ago, it had spread to his bones. Bone cancer is typically very painful, but he was very fortunate to never experience major pain related to it. However, about a month ago, he was admitted to the hospital, got pneumonia, felt better, left the hospital and then spent the past few weeks riding a bit of a health-related roller coaster filled with ups and downs.

I still made an effort to call at least once a week (and during most weeks called more than one time a week). Often times, I wasn't able to talk to my grandmother or my grandfather (who was having trouble speaking). But I wanted them to know I was thinking about them.

On a random Sunday when my grandfather was "visiting" his home (he was spending most of his time in the Care Center inside the senior living community he lives in), I happened to call while he was still there. Although he had a hard time speaking, I felt so fortunate to get to hear his voice. When I said hello, he very slowly said "It is always so good to hear from you." I teared up knowing it was likely the last time I'd hear his voice...and I was right. A few days later, on Tuesday, December 5th, my 93-year old grandfather died.

It's a major loss for our family and for anyone who knew him. He was a remarkable man who led an extraordinary life. (You can read more about him here.) And I will miss him so very much. I'm grateful to have 39 years of memories to draw upon and for this particular goal which helped me to be in regular contact with my grandparents. I know it'll help me play a more active role in my grandmother's life as she learns how to live life without her husband of 69 years (holy cow). I visited with her yesterday and she seemed...lost. How could she not be? I can't begin to imagine what it's like for a 92-year old woman to suddenly be without the man she's spent 75 years alongside. In time, I hope she'll be as okay as can be expected. But I know she can plan on hearing from me at least once a week to make this sad time in her life just a little easier on her heart.

Date night with Steve at least one night a week (when I'm not traveling)- Apart from this week, I've been home much more than I have the past several months and it's been great for me and Steve to get back into a routine and just hang out together. We're still mourning the loss of our beloved Clancy and both of us have had a hard time being inside the apartment where we're surrounded by memories of him. We actually got rid of our cable, but have been using some of our date nights for the simple things like sitting on the couch and watching a movie after making dinner together. I'm going to be off from work for two weeks over the holidays (Steve gets three weeks off) and I'm looking forward to doing more with Steve. But so far this month we've done things like gone to a wedding and celebrated the anniversary of when we met 16 years ago! (11/30) and went to a work Christmas party (the highlight was listening to Steve laugh uncontrollably- one of my very favorite sounds in this world- while his co-workers did karaoke). It's been really nice and here are some photos from these moments the past month:

Finish the remaining stair walks form the Secret Stairs of Los Angeles book- The day after Thanksgiving, Katie and I got up and went on a stair walk. I couldn't decide which one to do, and Katie smartly suggested that we just start at the beginning. So this walk found us on Stair Walk #1 on the Pasadena Eagle Rock border. It was a beautiful walk throughout some neighborhoods I never, ever would have found myself in. And bonus- it was a great way to work off some of our Thanksgiving dinner indulgences :)

Hike 1x/month- At the beginning of my second month, I went for a great (and short!) hike in Topanga Canyon with Katie and our friends Carrie and Jena. It was a belated birthday celebration for Carrie and it was such a lovely way to spend a couple of hours catching up with girlfriends. I also loved exploring a new (to me) hike. Here are some photos from that glorious day:

Resistance training 3x/week- On and off for the past year, but totally on for the past nine weeks, I've been using the app Sweat by Kayla Itsines for my resistance training. I do really well with other people telling me what to do and I don't actually need a gym membership for this. I've bought myself a workout bench and have weights, a jump rope, a medicine ball and keep adding to my home gym so I have no excuse to not get in my resistance training. This week while in Brooklyn, I impressed even myself by going to Crunch Fitness and getting a one-day free pass so I could get in my workout. Another night I worked out in Meghan and Rob's apartment while everyone else was long asleep. And then earlier today, my niece Lila and I worked out together in the basement of her house. Two of three workouts this week was about improvisation, but I like that I'm not letting not having all the equipment I need get in the way of accomplishing this goal.

Use my real camera at least 1x/month- Venice Beach is always an amazing place to take photos. After a Sunday morning breakfast date with my friend Cyrena and her mother, we walked over to the skate park and took some photos. Here are a couple of photos I snapped during that morning:

It's been a productive month so far, but yet again, I've left some of the big ones to the final week. (I tried to volunteer last week, but the organization cancelled because of the fires in southern California.

More next week!


Thursday, November 23, 2017

This is 39 (Month 1, Check-In 2)

Keeping myself accountable to my goals is so incredibly helpful in ensuring I accomplish them. I know that's a totally Captain Obvious statement. But for me, the goal setting and reporting back on them is making a huge difference.

For example, yesterday morning, knowing that I had two days left to accomplish some of my monthly goals, I found myself at a 7:00 a.m. yoga class and by 10:00 a.m., I was volunteering to help set up Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless. If these things were not on my This Is 39 goal list, I would not have done it.

The yoga class went well. (I mean apart from that moment at 7:02 a.m. when my alarm went off. Nothing like a dog barking alarm ringtone to disrupt the freaking energy in the room!) I can't remember the last time I attended one in person, but with one month left on my Equinox membership, I knew I'd be going there. I did things in that yoga class I'd never done before. And while there were some things I couldn't do perfectly, just the act of showing up and participating certainly made me feel better. I love yoga, but it's not something I make the time for often. So adding it to my monthly goal list is my way of hoping I start to incorporate it into my life more regularly. I know it'll make a difference in my overall well-being.

While some of my volunteering needs to be politically minded (I'm still getting used to the fact that politics is something I care about since I went the first 38 years without putting any energy towards it), I knew Thanksgiving would give me the perfect opportunity to give back and chose to do it with Westside Thanksgiving. I've wanted to do this for years, but of course never got around to it. I was there for a couple of hours and what made it even better was that I got to do it with my friend Carrie and her two children. I loved sharing the experience with them and we're already looking forward to ways in which we can volunteer together again in the future. While it was a little disorganized and included a little too much standing around for my liking, it felt really good to give back and help set-up the space for Thanksgiving dinner.

Another goal I crossed off my list since my first update of the month is my monthly hike. Before my final event of the year in San Diego and with my friend Tara and the wombmate, we went for a hike on another gorgeous Southern California day. While it wasn't a new hike, it was just what we needed. And, we almost died! Not really, but we did come across a freaking rattlesnake! Katie heard the suspicious noise and smartly took off, while Tara and I looked down only to see the thing slithering away. Needless to say, we picked up the pace and were Freaked Out!

One goal I want to call special attention to is my effort in organizing and backing-up my photos. I started out with over 22,000 in my iPhoto library. It's the blessing and the curse of having an iPhone which so easily captures all the moments of your life- even the ones you'll never go back and look at. My insanely large photo library is also the result of my seven months and eleven days of documenting the life of Clancy and four trips to Ireland. I've set aside a bit of time and a critical eye and am happy to say that my iPhoto library currently sits at 9,681 photos. This means I've deleted over 12,000 photos so far! I will be very happy once I have this beast under control and now that I've gone through so many photos, I absolutely know this is in sight!

While I already talked about my eye cream goal during my previous blog post, I have to give a shoutout to my friend Wags who brought me back some eye cream from Korea! While I have some eye cream already, I'm finding myself gravitate towards places like Sephora and Ulta to see what other products are out there to minimize the signs of aging and wrinkles (who am I?) so this was an incredibly sweet and thoughtful gift from Wags.

There's nothing else I need to call special attention to as far as my goals go. I'm tracking it on my tracker and absolutely have a good handle on what I've set out to do. I'm still enjoying the focus and the ways in which I'm stepping out of my routine and comfort zone. And I can't wait to see what I get up to in month two!

Thanks for following along.



Saturday, November 11, 2017

This is 39 (Month 1, Check-In 1)

Well. As promised during my This Is 39 blog post last month and as outlined in my goal list, I'm reporting in to share how I'm doing on my list of goals/things I want to accomplish in my 39th. Let's hit it:

  • I have been mindful of communication and trying not to say anything about someone I wouldn't want them overhearing. BUT. This is hard. Harder than I'd like to admit. But by being aware of it on a daily basis, it's helping me make careful and nicer word choices. I'm not always succeeding, but I am always thinking about it. And I know by the end of my 39th year, this will be easier. 
  • Eye cream- check! I've only missed one day of application so far. Thank you to my good friend Brooke (a wonderful esthetician whose new Glory! mask is now available online) she recommended this: (also I can't wait to report on the eye cream my friend Wags brought back from her recent work trip to Korea!)
  • For the past few weeks, I've spoken with my grandmother each week. Getting in touch with her is challenging because my grandfather isn't doing so well and is in a separate area of the senior living community where they live. I'm sad that I haven't spoken to him, but I'm glad that I'm keeping in closer contact with my grandmother during this sad and challenging time. 
  • Date night with Steve has been fun. Sometimes it's just making and eating dinner together at home. And other times it's been going out promenading and getting a bite to eat. But more than anything, and especially during event season, it's just about being protective with the time we do have together.
  • I was intentional about not making weight-loss goals. While I'd love to lose weight over the course of this year, I didn't want to set a specific number or make this about the scale. So instead of focusing on that side of things, I've made other goals that, if followed, will only help me make this a healthier year and one in which I lose weight. So I've been going to Weight Watchers meetings (three so far). For a really long time while I've still been attending meetings, it's really just been to weigh-in. Sometimes I stay, but most times I go, weigh-in and leave. At almost every meeting, however, I'm inspired by people in the meeting and walk away with a nugget of info to help me in my own weight-loss efforts. This past week at a new-to-me meeting, the leader shared a story about a woman who stretched out her birthday for days and then a week later was thinking of not going to a friend's birthday party because she didn't trust herself to make healthy decisions. The leader reminder her "it's not your birthday." It's amazing what that one response has done for my thinking. And I hope in moments of celebration, I can remember and consider if I need to be celebrating or just nourishing my body. 
  • Getting back into journaling is good for me. There's just so much going on between work, love, the world we live in, and everything in between. And life always works better for me when I'm writing things down. I think I've maybe missed a day, but so far I'm journaling far more consistently than I have in a long time. 
  • I've been successful in no McDonald's. There have been times since 10/23 where I have had a case of the Fuck Its as far as food or following any sort of healthy routine is concerned. And remaining on track with not turning to McDonald's (one of my go to binge/drunk food choices) is something I'm very proud of. It's not like it's that hard. But still. 
  • Nurturing my marriage is important this time of year. Especially when I'm traveling so much for work. Steve and I have to work hard to remain connected. He thinks the phone is an option and not an obligation and when I'm gone, it's my only way of being in touch with him. And when I'm home, we need to readjust to being back in each other's orbit. We're working hard on communication, quality time and making plans together. And I'm learning what it means to nurture my marriage. 
  • Thanks to my friend Nick, I have a bit of an accountability partner with my organizing and backing up of photos. I have over 21,000 in one of my iPhoto libraries. I can't really focus on backing anything up until I go through what I've got and do a serious purge of these photos. This very well may be a goal that I don't accomplish until the end of my 39th year. While it's daunting, I'm determined! (P.S. I've already trashed over 2,000 photos. So...progress.)
  • Resistance training 3x/week has been hard, but so so good to stay on top of. I love resistance training. I always feel better when I'm doing it and certainly afterwards. I also *love* to be sore! And this app, Sweat, is well worth the investment. I work out much better when someone tells me what to do. It hasn't necessarily been easy with all my travel. But I've made it happen three times each week. Even if it means stealing weights and bringing them up to my hotel room! 
  • I haven't been to the doctor in over a year for my BRCA2 gene appointments. Which really isn't cool at all. But. I have nearly all my doctor's appointments lined up. I'm going in December 5th to see the gynecological oncologist, December 13th to see the breast oncologist and then I just got my authorization for my breast MRI, which I think will happen on Monday November 20th. It feels good to be back on top of this and I won't let this much time lapse between appointments again either. 
  • It hasn't been pretty but I have tracked every single day's worth of food since 10/23. There have been days when I've gone wildly over my daily points allowance (and my weekly anytime points too), but I can honestly say that this is the first time since I've ever been on Weight Watchers that I've actually tracked every little thing. I can only imagine the positive ways in which this will benefit me this year and hopefully translate to much more awareness, action and weight loss. 
  • Yesterday I took my camera out for a morning of exploring. My friend Kristin, whom I haven't seen for 21 years since our senior year of high school, came to Los Angeles for a quick in-and-out trip and I couldn't let her pop into town without getting to see why LA is so freaking rad. We did a quick few hour tour of some of the highlights: The Hollywood Sign, Hollywood Boulevard, The Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, Marilyn Monroe's cemetery, Muscle Beach, Venice Beach, The Venice Boardwalk and a dip (of the toes) in the Pacific Ocean. I love, love, love seeing my city through someone else's eyes and here are a few of the photos I took:

It's been a productive month and I've really enjoyed having these goals/things to do to guide my actions. What I love the most, though, is that even though I haven't been 100% perfect, it's not derailing my commitment to see all of this through for my entire 39th year.

I can't wait to tell you about the other things I'll be doing in the remaining 13 days of this first month in my next post.
Here's to 39!


Monday, October 23, 2017

This Is 39!

Today I turn 39. I've done a lot of thinking of what I want this last year of my fourth decade to look like. I've always been very motivated by goal setting and decided to come up with 39 things I want to do/goals I'd like to accomplish in the next 365 days. I actually came up with more than 39 and had to put some of them to the side (I'll still try to write a living will and securely store my internet passwords and all the other things that didn't make the cut). But here are the things I'm going to hold myself accountable to in the year ahead:

  1. Attend a yoga class at least 1x/month
  2. Be mindful of communication: try not to say anything about someone I wouldn't want them overhearing
  3. Blog at least 2x/month about my goals and progress
  4. Buy and use really good eye cream every day
  5. Call my grandparents 1x/week
  6. Camp at/near the beach
  7. Create a solid emergency savings fund
  8. Date night with Steve at least one night a week
  9. Denver trip with my twin to see the twins (and you too, Cari, obviously)
  10. Do a Segway tour. (Who's in???)
  11. Eliminate credit card debt
  12. Exceed last year's Cycle of Survival fundraising $18,476
  13. Finish the remaining stair walks from the Secret Stairs of Los Angeles book
  14. Get four facials and four massages
  15. Get a piece of my photography hanging up somewhere in public
  16. Go on a solo road trip that includes at least two nights away
  17. Go to Weight Watchers meetings every week (I'm in the country)
  18. Hike 1x/month
  19. Journal at least 4x/week
  20. Learn how to properly apply eye liner
  21. Milk a cow in Ireland
  22. No McDonald's for a year (it's my go to binge/hangover cure meal)
  23. Nurture my marriage
  24. Organize and back-up my photos (anyone have any online storage suggestions?)
  25. Plan a kick ass 40th birthday trip to Ireland & Lisbon (anyone is welcome to join. Our official birthday party will be on Wednesday, October 24th.
  26. Read 20 books
  27. Resistance training 3x/week
  28. Run a half marathon!!!
  29. Sisters-only trip (Kara, Meghan and Katie you've been warned. And if we could also make it for a place I've never been, that'd help me hit another goal I had to eliminate. New Orleans??)
  30. Ski in California (with Katie)
  31. Stay on top of BRCA2 gene appointments (I've let that slide of the past year and it's really not cool or smart)
  32. Track each day's food in the Weight Watchers app
  33. Travel some place new (possibly Vancouver and Banff with Steve)
  34. Try Ethiopian food
  35. Try mediating for 21 days in a row 
  36. Try surfing (with Steve)
  37. Use my real camera at least 1x/month
  38. Volunteer 1x/month (must include something to help flip the House in 2018)
  39. Write an article/short story about Clancy and try and get it published
And of course, because I'm me, I have an Excel document to track my progress and keep me honest.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to make so many positive changes. And excited by all the possibilities to have this be a healthy, happy and fulfilling year.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A month ago today I woke up and realized something was seriously wrong with Clancy because for the first time in months and months and months, he didn't wake me up throughout the night to go to the bathroom. At first I basked in the glory of being able to sleep for six hours without being interrupted, but then I got a really uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach when I realized that was. So I got up out of bed and went into the living room, only to find Clancy had dragged himself halfway across the living room (evident by the track marks left by his hiking sneakers), was bleeding under his chin, and couldn't get up on his own.

We were experiencing a heatwave and I hadn't made him sleep in the bedroom with me the night before. I wanted him to be comfortable. But I don't think he was that night- it was hot and he couldn't move. And I feel awful that I wasn't there to help him in the ways he likely needed. I crouched down in front of him, looked him in the eyes and said "What's going on bud?" And I just knew.

Everyone always says you know when you know. And I really didn't know until I knew. And in that moment I knew.

I knew that a life in which Clancy couldn't get up unassisted wasn't one I wanted for him. And it wasn't one I wanted for me. It wasn't realistic or kind. And so after conversations with Katie, Steve-o, my mom and our vet, we came to the conclusion that in two day's time, we'd be saying our goodbyes to Clancy. My heart quickly started breaking but I put all my time and energy and emotion into being with Clancy and making him feel nothing but love for every bit of time we had remaining.

So most of those three days was spent like this:

Last night as I went to bed, I marveled at how I went the whole day without crying. I couldn't believe it, but was also grateful that the intensity of my grief had shifted. And then I woke up this morning with a tightness in my throat and a heaviness in the pit of my stomach as I realized it had been just a month ago when I knew. And the tears came easily as I thought back to the difficulty of that day and making that decision.

I'm grateful that I've never once felt regret over making that decision. A very good friend shared her experience in having to say goodbye to her beloved dog with me. She talked about wanting to pass off the responsibility to someone who knew what she was doing. And I get that. It's an insane responsibility to be the one to determine when someone should no longer be alive. And if I were to dwell on that for too long, I do think I'd likely go a little bananas. More than anything, I did feel like I was giving Clancy the gift of not suffering for any longer than was necessary. If anything, I'd kinda wished we could have said our goodbyes on Monday instead of Tuesday. But we spent that extra day cuddling, loving, touching and being as present as possible (sometimes that was hard for me).

I miss Clancy. I will miss Clancy forever. I know that to be true. And while I know it won't always hurt like it does now when I think of him, I am honoring my feelings and this painful process. Because I deserve it. And most importantly, my love story with Clancy deserves it too.


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