Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Things I Would Tell My Teenage Self

I was at a conference this Monday, and during it I started thinking about all the things I would tell my past self, which is what you do when you're at a conference for teenagers and young people. Over the years, I've read a lot of these, but I've never made my list. So, here's what I'd tell teenage Laura, if she would just pick up the phone for once.

Teenage me, on a parade float, dressed in a borrowed poodle skirt.

Reading is awesome. Making excuses to people who hate reading for why you LIKE reading sucks up too much time and is a bummer. Tell the losers who ask you incessantly why you're reading that smart people read, and you feel sorry for them if they don't. Then tell them not to interrupt you while you're reading. You're practicing for your future career.

Don't spend time with people who make you feel awful. You spend time with a few people, some of whom are related to you, that make an effort to tell you terrible things about yourself, punish you for being who you are, and otherwise are horrible. You don't have to talk to them. There are really cool people who love you in the world, and only by dropping the awful people will you find the cool ones.

Don't let your passport expire. It will get too expensive for you to want to renew it. And then you will watch it get even more expensive and never bother to renew it. Not that you travel, but you CAN'T travel if you don't renew that sucker. Mental note: renew passport.

Find a doctor that listens to you.You are not supposed to feel sick all the time. I know your doctor keeps telling you there's nothing wrong, but he's the wrong one. You actually are sick. You have three different chronic illnesses. Three. So, there's a reason you feel like crap.

Fitness shouldn't hurt. It does. I know, but it won't always hurt to run and play like you used to as a kid. Go to the doctor again. Find a better one. See above. Soon you will have lots of fun playing outside or at the Y, and it will help your brain work better.

Buy better foundation. It will match. Drugstore foundations never do. It is worth the extra money, because you won't buy five foundations that you throw away or give away when they don't match, you'll just buy one.

Go places by yourself. People underestimate you and make you doubt yourself. You can totally drive up to see your aunt or grandparents alone. Why are people stopping you? Ask that question more.

Dental Checkups: Go to them. Schedule more. It will save you money in the long run. Basically half your teeth are made of tooth and half of them are made of filling now. You could have probably prevented some of these fillings, if you'd gone to the dentist during college.

Shoes. Get good ones. Vegan leather is plastic. Plastic causes blisters. You aren't vegan. Get good shoes. You walk weird and it destroys your body. You need arch support and narrow shoes, not normal shoes. You especially need these for running. You'll thank me later when you don't have shin splints.

You will figure out your hair. Eventually. Most days. Just don't print the pictures, it will be like that haircut you have right now never happened. And DON'T let your mother color your hair. She has no idea what she's doing. She will look at you and cry, and then you will cry, and then you'll spend too much trying to fix what happened and will look like a zebra for six months. Just go to a stylist like a real adult. And stop cutting out pictures of people who look cute with their hair and instead ask that stylist what she (spoiler alert: your favorite hair stylist in the world will be a woman) thinks will work best for you.

There's more, but you probably stopped listening after I told you to go to the dentist. I get it. I have to find ANOTHER new one. Stop laughing. I'm you. My suffering should make you feel bad.

What would you tell your teenage self? Let me know in the comments. I'm curious.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Best Thing Ever

I am a hairy girl. Like, not gorilla-level hairy, but I am very pale with extremely dark hair, so I FEEL very hairy, because the hair stands out more on my skin. I remember being a kid at the dunes outside of Chicago and thinking, "Wow, no one else has arm hair as thick as mine," because no one in my family did, except my dad, and he is a man. So yeah. That's fun for you to realize when you're eleven and want to be pretty.

For years I have tried everything to diminish the appearance of hair (bleach, anyone?). I shave my legs, but it does me no good because the root is so dark under my translucent skin, it looks like I didn't bother. I even experimented with at-home mustache waxing, because I thought, "I can do this!" And, "The Internet says shaving makes the hair darker!" But my hands aren't warm enough to melt the wax strip, leading me to put the wax strip under my sports bra, leading my to fall asleep trying to melt the wax, leading to me waking up and wondering how this wax strip ended up in my bra all night.

I am a feminist, and if you don't want to shave, good for you. I wish I could be that kind of person. I really would love to be, but my skin is so sensitive, when my hair (or a piece of grass, or a bit of splinter, or a pine needle) pricks it, I have an allergic reaction. If I grow my hair out, it literally gives me hives. This is loads of fun, I might add. Really. so much fun. You should try it.

Enter my new favorite thing, the epilator.

I got the Braun Silk-epil 9. It has been in my Amazon cart for over a year. I finally clicked "order" when a friend bought one, and ironically, she didn't end up loving it. But the week I have spent ripping all my hair out with the epilator has been the happiest of my life.

It comes with a bunch of stuff. And it is beautiful.

I epilated my legs. They looked hairless. Actually looked hairless. I have never shaved and look like I'd bothered to shave. I have smooth legs for the first time ever. I had a 5 o'clock leg hair shadow by 10:00 AM. Seriously. It is why I stopped wearing shorts. Because the prickly leg thing was so annoying, and then hives would appear. Good times. Really, try being allergic to life sometime.

I said, "What the heck, let's just commit." So I epilated my arms. Oh my goodness. I am planning on installing a shrine to this thing. I haven't had hives in days, except for where the hair on my head hits my shoulders (time for a haircut).

This is amazing. It's like no-benadryl Christmas here.

Epilator review, 13/10. Buy at once.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

On My Wishlist This Month

Transitional Clothes

I am not in massive need for any clothing, unlike at the start of summer. This is because, on November 9th, when I was in mourning for humanity, I purged only the summer/spring section of my wardrobe, not the fall/winter, which I had in my closet and not in storage. Still, there are a few bits that I'm loving that I may treat myself to, should they go on sale in the near future.

One, Two

Yeah, I cannot afford the Gucci loafers, nor would I spend that kind of money on shoes if I COULD afford the Gucci loafers. You walk on shoes. They fall apart after a while, no matter how nice you are to them, and eventually, no cobbler or shoe expert can rescue them. I had a pair of boots I wore all through junior high, high school, and college, but when I got in a car accident, they got a scratch in the leather that no one can fix. Bad stuff happens to shoes. Why spend crazy money on them? Instead, buy yourself a plane ticket to somewhere cool. Or buy five pairs of more reasonably priced shoes. Or 20 pairs of cheap shoes. I am Richard Gilmore.

But I like the look, so I've been hunting for shoes that are similar enough to satisfy my shoe-craving without putting me into the poorhouse.

One, Two, Three

I'm leaning toward number one, which has gold hardware, but really I'm spoiled for choice. Loads of brands have done loafers in this style. These are just the first few results I saw on Zappos. Right now you can get them in any color, any pattern, with or without embroidery, vegan or leather, cheap or pricey. It's actually a nice time to shop for loafers. if you're in the market.


Andy Weir has a new book, Artemis coming out in November. John Le Carré's new book comes out September 5th. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, which is either book five in Stieg Larsson's Millennium series or book two in the spin off series by David Lagercrantz, depending on how you look at it, is coming out on September 12th. (Unpopular opinion: I actually like the spin off better. I like how Lagercrantz writes a more believable Blomkvist who does not automatically seduce women just by breathing in the same room as them, but that's just me.)

Other Bits

I'm dying for one of these pencils. This notebook is arriving in the mail for me on Monday and has the perfect weight of paper for writing with fountain pens, like this one.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Books on My Radar: August

I'm making you a handy list of things to read, if you want to, because I'm about to. Read them. You know. With my eyes. It's a thing. You should try the reading thing. This is a monthly deal now.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Yes, I've read this before, dozens of times. But I've only read the US version, never the original UK version. AND my mother ordered me a fancy anniversary copy for my birthday that's in Ravenclaw colors, because she gets me. I'm waiting for it to come from across the pond. When it does, expect me to sleep curled up next to it for the rest of my life because it is just that precious.
Magpie Murders: A Novel by Anthony Horowitz. I asked for this book for my birthday, and happily, it is in the mail. Thanks, Auntie Jeanne! Quickie description, famous crime writer Alan Conway's editor, Susan Ryeland, receives Conway's newest manuscript. As she reads about his detective, Atticus Pünd, she begins to recognize another story concealed in the pages. It's an homage to vintage crime fiction, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. Is it okay and healthy to check tracking 16 times a day? Okay, good.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. I have this checked out from the library and need to quickly read it before I get angry notes telling me other people want it and I need to return it. (That happens to librarians, too.) After the death of her husband, happily widowed Cora Seaborne heads off to Essex to enjoy the country air, only to encounter a panic. The locals have seen a giant serpent, which may have caused a death. And, in a historical sort of X-File, Cora the scientist meets the vicar, William Ransome, and the two investigate. Cora thinks they're about to discover a new species. William thinks the town is in a religious panic. Gosh, I need to read this. It sounds so good.

Firebrand by A.J. Hartley. The sequel to one of my favorites from last year, Steeplejack. If you haven't read that one, go back and do it. It's a complex mystery set in an alternate 19th century South Africa. Anglet, fresh from solving the murder of her assistant steeplejack in the first book, is now assisting behind the scenes in Parliament, using her particular set of skills. Great for fans of mysteries and historical fantasy. I bought this over my vacation because I needed it in my life.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie. This memoir has already broken me. I'm nearly finished and can't recommend it enough. If you're a fan of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian or Alexie's other works, this is a must-read. If you love memoirs, this is a must-read. If you are human, this is a must-read. Seriously. Read this. It's complex and beautiful, and heartbreaking and wonderful.

What's on your bookish radar for this month? Do any of these strike your fancy? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

What I'm Loving Right Now

Glossier--This is my new favorite skincare brand. When summer came along, I quickly became sick of foundation. To be honest, I was sick of it for a while. My skin, thanks in part to the glory of my endometriosis medication, has completely cleared up. It looks pretty, not spotty, so I wanted to stop hiding it. Enter Glossier. If you want a high-coverage foundation, their skin tint is not it, but it will blur your skin and even out the tone. Their Priming Moisturizer is wonderful. I use Boy Brow everyday. Cloud Paint is gorgeous in every color. Oh--and I finally found an SPF I wasn't allergic to--Invisible Shield. 10/10, would recommend. If you're thinking about trying them out, here's a link you can use for money off!

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Madwell Transport Tote--I've wanted this thing for years. I finally used some store credit and a coupon code to buy one. It is everything I've ever wanted in a bag. I love it for work. I can load up with books to take out to preschools, carry all my knitting at once, and all while looking a whole lot less like a Civil War-Era carpetbagger, laden with all my earthly possessions.

Kindle Fire--Prime Day rolled around and I finally replaced my aged Kindle 2. Oh my goodness. They really made these awesome! My old Kindle could do books, wasn't backlit at all, barely had a battery to speak of, and weighed a ton. This Kindle is light, easy to read in many different lights, and so useful. I've been reading up a storm, and it's brilliant for referencing recipes while you cook. If you don't have a tablet, this is a great (and affordable) option!

My Fitness Pal--Who was getting 1000+ calories from sugar (drinks especially) per day? Not me, no. Couldn't have been me. This app helps you see what foods are killing you. Also I'm never having soda again. Unless I'm under my calorie goal. By a LOT.

Like today. I could have a Coke today.

The only weakness I see with My Fitness Pal is with recorded calories burned by exercise. This app seems to be confused. I use both Nike apps and the app that comes with the gym equipment at the Y , and both list calories burned as the same number. My Fitness Pal either massively overshoots that number (with walking or biking, for example) or undershoots it (with running). It's odd. No idea why. No idea which is right, either, but I tend to side with the other apps, as they agree. Want an accurate calorie count? Try Nike Run Club--Fit Club, if you aren't running.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fitness--with a Chronic Illness

To begin, here's the rundown. This is not a whinging post or an "I wish I had a different life" post. I do not want you to feel sorry for me. I do not need solutions or supplements given to me; I have doctors and experts doing that. Keep your pyramid schemes and juice cleanses on Facebook. I'm good.

Today I'm going to write the blog post I wish I could have read as a preteen, a teen, when I started trying to become fit, and now. I keep randomly Googling, looking for this kind of post, and it just doesn't exist in the form I want it to. So I'm writing it.

Here's to being active and having a chronic illness.

No, that's not a sunburn or bad white balance, I'm that red after a run.

I have asthma and allergies and endometriosis and some other bonus diseases. My body mostly hates me. I'm on hormone therapy to shut my reproductive system down, and it still doesn't manage to do that, my hormones are so messed up. I try to work out three times a week. Here's why: I always feel healthier when I'm active.

But the bottom line is, I can't always do it. And that doesn't make me a bad runner, or a bad athlete, or a bad person. It doesn't undo what I've done and how fast I ran my last mile. It doesn't mean I'm not serious about being fit.

When I was in junior high, I approached my gym teacher and my doctor to ask why, when I ran even a lap of the gym, I felt like I was going to black out in pain. I was told it was a stitch in my side and to breathe through it. I ran slower because it hurt so much. Sometimes I walked. Later, I discovered that "breathing through it" could have killed me. I had a 17 inch cyst on my left ovary that could have ruptured at any time.

In high school, I was still in agony. I really wanted to be athletic, because that was the cool thing. I wanted long hair in a high ponytail, and to run down the street looking fit and healthy. I was neither fit nor healthy. I managed a fourteen minute mile my senior year and was proud. That summer, I had major surgery to remove the cyst I'd never known was there, the same cyst that caused the chronic pain I'd felt since junior high. I lost 15 pounds and part of an ovary during several hours of surgery.

In college, I discovered yoga, and I loved it. For once, my body wasn't fighting me. I stuck to yoga until I met a friend in a lit class and discovered she, now calmly taking notes, had run 23 miles right before coming to class. And I wanted to do that too.

I couldn't.

The face you make after being attacked by biting flies.

I'd hoped the surgery would have done away with what was keeping me still. But I kept getting dizzy and lightheaded. I still had joint pain almost every day, even when I did next to nothing. The longer I stood, the more my diaphragm HURT. I can't explain how that feels, but it sucks. I managed a three mile run with my friend. I spent the rest of the weekend coughing and gasping for air. Eventually, we found out that was asthma, which I'd been walking around with for years. I'd lucked out and never had a massive attack that landed me in the hospital, so I was never diagnosed. I got inhalers and steroids and medicines to make my sinuses work and my lungs work and I felt...well.

When I get steroids now, I wake up in the morning, roll out of bed, and have a full day of activity. I get more done at work and home than I thought possible. I can go outside and sit in the fresh air. I feel healthy. This is because at long last, my body works the way it was designed to work. That will never be my everyday.

My everyday is taking a handful of pills, steroid nasal spray, and inhalers. I feel ill for about an hour, which is why I wake up an hour earlier than I really need to, so I can spend that hour eating breakfast and watching YouTube waiting to feel human. On a good day, I feel better at about 6:50 AM. Then I start getting ready. On a good day, I can make it through work and then head to the gym. On a bad day, my joint and/or sinus pain is so bad I can't consider running or lifting weights, so I go home and spend my evening prone, watching TV or reading. That's okay.

It's taken me years--since the days of the 30 Day Shred on this blog--to learn to be okay with bad days. But they're fine.

I might never be a marathon runner. In fact, I almost certainly won't be. I'm still a runner. I'm still athletic. I'm physically fit, even with my "endo-belly." Even with all the times I have to stop at the side of the road and gasp. I'm a runner. I spent the spring recovering from a nasty case of bronchitis. I didn't run for two months. I'm still a runner.

Look at me, outside! Only slightly red-faced!

If you're like me, Couch to 5K won't work the way it says it will. I'm sorry that there's no training plan for us. We have to make our own. Count your spoons. Do you have enough?  Tie on your shoes, go outside or to the gym. Maybe you'll walk or ride a bike, maybe you'll feel well enough to run. Maybe tomorrow you'll do more, or maybe you'll spend the day lying down. It's fine. That happens to me too. We are enough.

I used to joke when someone asked if I was a runner. I would reply, "Yes, the world's suckiest!" Then I realized how cruel that was to myself. Spoonies, let's stop stomping on our accomplishments. Let's be proud of all the things we can do instead

Friday, July 7, 2017

Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

I've been obsessively listening to podcasts lately. Here is a countdown of my top five:

5. Levar Burton Reads


This one is new! Ever watch Reading Rainbow as a kid? Like getting stories read to you by the chief engineer of the Enterprise? Like stories in general? This podcast is for you. Levar Burton is the best ever and as a child I wanted to marry him. I still would if he showed up and knocked on my door and asked me. But he has a lovely family and should stay with them. I'll just enjoy the podcast.

4. Lore


Lore is new-to-me, and I've quickly downloaded all the episodes so I can catch up. It comes out twice a week and has an Unsolved Mysteries kind of vibe, with freaky creatures, mysterious places, and some truly awful historical stories. The last episode I listened to involved an axe murderer. I will never sleep again.

3. Welcome to Night Vale

 Welcome to Night Vale

I started listening to podcasts after dozens of friends told me to listen to Welcome to Night Vale. Since then, they've released three books (another is on the way), been on countless tours, and reached 110 episodes of great storytelling. It's fantastic and if you haven't listened yet, you should start now. They're on haitus in July (they have to sleep sometime), but will be back for episode 111 in August.

2. Stuff You Should Know

 Stuff You Should Know

Listening to Stuff You Should Know makes me feel smarter. I put this podcast on whenever I'm working or cleaning and want company. When I spent two months house-sitting, I listened to more episodes than I want to count. Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant cover all kinds of topics from super-volcanoes to stoicism and I always learn something new when I listen. I THINK they're coming to Indianapolis soon--and if that's true, I'm getting tickets.

1. My Favorite Murder


I missed their tour stop in Indianapolis, so let's hope Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff come back soon. These ladies are HILARIOUS. Also they make me afraid to go into the forest ever, which is bad because I live in one. While the idea of listening to stories about murder seems a bit...not normal, turns out it totally is so stop staring at me. I would take a bullet for this podcast. Give Elvis all the cookies. (Subscribe and that will make sense)