The /k/ Sound.

The /k/ sound is a consonant sound that is spelled with a ‘c,’ ‘k,’ ‘cc,’ ‘ck,’ and very rarely, ‘ch.’

I teach this to my first graders pretty early on in our school year. Now let’s analyze the /k/ sound outside of my classroom and in my personal life. It might be fairly easy to look at 2018 so far and say it’s been…well, rather /k/rappy.

But I wouldn’t say it’s all been crappy. Okay, laying it out, I caught a flu bug, fell down a staircase, and now have some kind of new cold that feels like strep throat. These physical challenges have threatened my training for the half marathon I’m running at the end of April, has messed up my work schedule, and even gotten in the way of starting rehearsals for a new theatre project for me. They’ve been annoying, and frustrating, and I’ve certainly spent a lot of nights so far this year think about how “crappy” 2018 has been.

However. Per my last post, I have an innate, almost obnoxiously unavoidable positive attitude, and I tend to find the good despite the bad. So, allow me to focus on the GOOD /k/ sounds so far this year.

Collagen Peptides

I had brunch a couple weeks ago with fellow blogger and all-around delightful and perfect angel person, Gurl Jonez. And guys…she was GLOWING. I found out she had discovered Collagen Peptides and was putting them in her coffee each morning. So, on her recommendation, I followed suit and ordered Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides.

I’ve been adding two scoops to my morning coffee for a couple weeks now, and let me just say: YASSS. My skin is currently glowing, and also clearing up! My nails appear to be growing and healthier than usual in the winter. And my skin feels soft and smooth. You could say it’s the placebo effect, but regardless, I’m super into this supplement, and totally recommend!!

Keto Diet

I’ve been trying out the Keto Diet for about two and a half weeks, and so far, I’m really enjoying it! For research, I picked up Leanne Vogel’s book:

I love her “real talk” attitude, because it is really scary to think of food in terms of “high fat.” Yeah, it’s awesome eating bacon and eggs for breakfast every day, and I remarked last week that “sour cream is my favorite food,” but it’s still scary and feels very counterintuitive to everything I thought I knew about dieting and weight loss. Her book has really helped me make sense of how your body works in ketosis, and though I haven’t dropped the 20 pounds everyone says you lose on Keto yet, I have noticed an overall feeling of clarity, like a cloud lifted from my mind. I am not hungry in between meals and feel zero cravings. My skin is clearer, either due to the new diet or the collagen, I’m not sure. But, overall, I’m feeling good and excited to continue trying this out! The recipes in this book are also really delicious.

A warning though: the “Keto flu” is real and completely sucks. I thought my head was going to split open one morning. Also, MEAL PREP and PLAN. You go through WAY more meat and veggies than I normally buy in a week’s worth of groceries, and my fridge emptied out rather quickly. Unless you enjoy going to the grocery 3 times a week, follow a Keto shopping plan!!

Not all is crappy. Not all is lost. Training has actually been going really well! My back gets sore, and I still have nights on the heating pad. Yoga feels amazing, and strength training my abs has really improved my running form so that my back isn’t hurting while running. So far, I’m technically a week off from my plan because of the accident, but I’m not worried at all. I’m feeling strong and very capable. Between running and singing, I definitely feel like I have things going on outside of the stress of my job, and it has given me a much more upbeat outlook at life. This was my goal for this year, and so, despite my crappiness, I feel successful.

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Not a runner? I am currently in an ad for a run! Better keep at that training!

Positive.

I get compared to Ellie Kemper often. Nay, not just Ellie Kemper. Very specifically Kimmy Schmidt. I hear it a lot. I have heard it from the closest of friends, from family members, from colleagues, even from strangers.

One time, my principal at the school where I work called me over to speak with me. I nervously approached, not sure what error I had made and nervous of the impending lecture.

“Ms. Gordon,” she began, “My husband and I started watching Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix this weekend, and THAT. IS. JUST. YOU!!!”

Once I had breathed a sigh of relief, I internally rolled my eyes. Only because I have heard the comparison for years now. On my third date with my now boyfriend, he even brought it up. Let me state, though, that it is not offensive. In fact, I find it far more flattering than I deserve. Physically? I can sort of see it, sure:

After years of comparison, why not just go all out for Halloween??

And Ellie Kemper is amazing! Stunningly beautiful, hilarious, and so intelligent. Have you watched her Ted Talk? I highly recommend!

I do feel, though, that people are more often comparing my personality and demeanor to that of the character of Kimmy Schmidt. The reason I roll my eyes is because I do not, and perhaps never will, see myself as a ‘Kimmy.’ For, at her root, Kimmy is the survivor. The person who faced insurmountable odds and overcame them with unwavering positivity and grace.

Faced insurmountable odds? A little. Okay, a lot. I have had some shitty stuff happen. The sheer amount of traumatic bullshit that occurred over a 3-4 year period of my life honestly sounds fake, so I rarely write it down in detail. But I lived it, and it all happened, and it all changed and effected me. So, my hang-up is on the unwavering positivity and grace.

One of the greatest parts of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the way the show openly discusses trauma and pain. Veiled by satire and some good old-fashioned hi-jinks, in its core, the show is about overcoming hardship and moving through pain to find out who you really are, and what it is you need and want in life to feel complete. Kimmy was kidnapped and stored in a bunker for 15 years. It is implied that within that time, she and the other Mole Women were enslaved and forced into non-consensual sex and marriage. Kimmy was stripped of her rights, her voice, her talent, her freedom, and her safety. She had no control over her circumstance, and no position to fight. Until, you know, one day the women were discovered by some Indiana cops, she moves to NYC, buys a Lisa Frank-inspired wardrobe, and begins discovering how to live as an adult in the modern world.

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The show has never been a vapid comedy that just picks up there and is all about how Kimmy still wears scrunchies (GASP!) or how ridiculously flamboyant Titus is. In fact, it’s truly clever how seamlessly Kimmy’s recovery is woven into the plot lines. Throughout the show’s run, we have witnessed her night terrors, her revulsion and trauma response to physical contact, her embracing the idea of therapy, her working to find her passion and career – all the while holding fast to her core values that we, the audience, have seen she carried with her even during her time in the bunker:

Stay positive, stay kind, and stand by what you believe.

Kimmy is a character learning to heal gracefully, and with eternal optimism.

Julia is a woman who is learning to heal, and sometimes has angry outbursts and feels lost or hopeless.

But the show inspires me to note not what I am not, but what I would like to be. I am a primarily optimistic person, but hear me now: depression, anxiety, and trauma are a bear. It is extremely difficult to go through the day-to-day perfectly and with a smile on my face, but I’d like to try. I’d like to be like Kimmy. I’d like to meet difficult situations or triggering experiences with maintained, consistent optimism instead of crumbling into a worry pile. And, so, I will continue trying. I will breathe, get the smile on my face, and raise the roof like the dork I am.

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I like who I am, and if I remind people of a heroine like Kimmy Schmidt, than I am truly flattered. I am trying, day in and day out, to be as strong and steadily positive. I would like to earn the compliments.

Swift Changes

Sometimes, things do not go according to plan.

Sometimes, you are mentally and physically ready (and excited!) to begin your half marathon training. You are riding high on your first big weight loss movement, and feeling completely up to the challenge of beginning your training.

You spend a Saturday afternoon at Target, picking up new socks, and Gatorade, and Honey Stingers for your first week of training. You put on the new socks, and crack open a beer, excited to spend a Saturday evening with your handsome boyfriend.

You think excitedly about the next 24 hours, waking up to make coffee and breakfast, getting your first run in, and capping the evening off at a meeting for a new theatre company you’ve been invited to be a part of. Sunday, February 4th was all set up to be the pinnacle of my New Year goal: things to make me healthy, happy, and fulfilled.

But then sometimes your new socks are too slippery for the hardwood stairs in your house, and you slip from your second floor living room and fall a full story into your first floor living room. Sometimes your Saturday night is not spent out for dinner and drinks with your handsome boyfriend, but rather at the ER.

Nothing is broken, save for my spirit. So, I’m very lucky.

I also spent over 24 hours incapable of walking or sitting up independently. I missed work, something I will never be okay with. I cannot stretch, or turn, or cook, or really do anything but watch TV.

I will be going in to work tomorrow, but training is momentarily derailed. I’ll update once I can. Once I can…walk comfortably, and bend, and bear enough weight to run.

Long story short…wear your grippy socks.

Successes

Well, I’m now a few weeks into my commitment to be healthier. I was not feeling great last weekend, when, at my routine annual, I had somehow gained two pounds.

I was also on my period. I’m thinking bloating is real and not all in my head, but am welcoming any concrete evidence anyone has on the matter.

As I have stated, I am by no means fat. The only time I could possibly be described as “chunky” was when I was a baby.

However, at my doctor’s office, they did give me my BMI, which was a true wake up call. I am only one number away from being medically classified as “overweight.” This leads me back to my health initiative.

This journey is not about me being stick-thin, but about me setting myself up for a healthy lifestyle as I age. I am an active, healthy 31-year-old woman. I refuse to fall under a category of medically overweight.

This week was wrought with some kind of flu or virus, and so I was highly inactive. The gym was swapped for long periods in bed and on the couch. I still attempted to eat, but take-out replaced home-cooking once or twice. I did my best, and continued to track my water and calorie intake.

Thursday morning, I weighed in and discovered I’ve lost four pounds. I don’t know if I should attribute this to illness, lack of alcohol consumption, loss of muscle, or my period ending, but it happened. And it was inspirational AF.

Per my last post, frustration comes from lack of seeing quick results. I am actively training my brain to understand that weight loss will not happen overnight. And it hasn’t. I’m on week 3 of really committing myself to change.

That four pounds made me feel incredible, and inspired me to keep working at this.

My Friday night was spent chugging water on my couch instead of beer at the brewery, and that was needed and felt completely okay. And tomorrow, my training schedule for my first half marathon this year begins. I am hoping to take all these positive changes, as well as the changes that occur when training, and keep that four pounds going.

I’d love to hear some comments from anyone who understands weight loss and can speak to the highs and lows of commitments such as mine.

Also, any runners out there – talk to me about your cross-training! I want to make sure I am really utilizing my two days of cross each week!

Immediacy

I have discussed with a friend multiple times how obnoxious the need for immediate results is. Most people, self-included, want to see some kind of progress right away when they set goals. Often, when that progress is not immediately evident, frustration takes over, and we throw in the towel on the goals, casting them into a pile labeled “impossible.”

It makes a lot of sense. Immediacy is pretty easy to come by. I have lamented many times socially that I hate when a random question is asked or piece of trivia challenged and rather than talk about it until the answer is realized or remembered, everyone just whips out their phones and Googles it. Pre-smart phone, my father and I once spent a nine hour road trip to Canada trying to come up with the name of the fortune telling machine in the movie “Big.”

(It was Zoltar. We remembered around Windsor.)Anyway, with smartphones putting the World Wide Web at our fingertips and the success of many businesses being based around their quickness (to deliver, to perform, to respond, to fix, to serve, to do ANYTHING as long as its fast), I suppose I can be understanding of the current mental need for immediate results.

But we can’t forget that any goal you set should be difficult, for, in my opinion, you should work for it. I like to earn my successes.

That being said, stepping on a scale two weeks after starting to change my eating habits and not seeing the number budge at all doesn’t feel great. Had I wanted the number to move down, a pound, two pounds (okay – 5-10)? Yeah. But should that have happened? Honestly, no.

I ate like a champ last week: clean eating, I had prepped breakfast and lunch every day, dinners were smart choices, and I tracked my calories on my Fitbit diligently. Then the weekend hit, and I went to Disney World. I didn’t go overboard I’d say: my breakfast the first morning was pretty much the same as it had been all week, but my lunches and dinners were larger and semi-shittier (Caprese panini and salad for lunch Day 1, and a Chicken Parmesan sandwich and fries for dinner. No snacking in between). We also walked 33,000+ steps that day, so I figured it would even out. Day 2 didn’t go quite as well (breakfast calzone, beef pasties and salad for lunch, and chicken Mac n cheese for dinner). By day 3, I pretty much sucked: soft pretzel and cheese for “breakfast,” chicken tenders and fries for lunch, beer and wine for dinner. Ummm. Not good.

While we were active all weekend and I was drinking mostly water, I did something I haven’t done in months: guzzled a few Diet Cokes. And my nightcaps of 2-3 glasses of wine weren’t great. So it, overall, wasn’t that healthy of a weekend.

Additionally, I didn’t go to the gym except for one day last week. I got in some cycling workouts on my bike at home, but I wasn’t lifting and overall, was not pushing my body.

And so, no weight dropped. I am back in town, and therefore back in control, though. I hit the ground running this week with clean eating and tracking calories. I am snacking a bit more between meals than I was last week, but really trying to keep it healthy and low-cal. I’ll check back in next week, and hopefully there’ll be some form of an update!

In the beginning…

Can one begin at 31 years of age?

I have spent the past 17 days – New Years and now over two weeks into January – determining that, no. Not exactly. I began when I began. Duh. Game over.

But, I have also determined that one CAN begin again. So, that’s why we are here.

I am 31 years old. I am beautiful, and I am flawed. I am a bundle of good and bad. Most importantly, I am constantly driven to be better than I am. It may be the perfectionist in me, or it may be the diagnosed Social Anxiety and Situational OCD in me, but I am someone who spend loads of my time and mental energy thinking about what more I can do, what more I can be, and what more I should do and be. So, instead of torturing myself with low-self-esteemy thoughts or nitpicking my every move, I am led to…blogging. Blogging. Yes, blogging. This feels a little 2004. And I have lousy luck with blogs. However, a wise friend has pointed out, I will want to remember these times and who I am. The good and the bad.

So, allow me to outline where I am and what positive changes I want to commit to this year.

Physical

I am committed to losing weight in a healthy way, and knowing my body better. I am in no way, shape, or form fat, and this will not be a “poor me” blog consisting of me whining about that. However, as I have aged, my body has changed. My metabolism, what I had so long considered to be my personal “Old Faithful,” has slowed down. And slowly, over the course of two years, I have gained about 20 pounds. I honestly don’t think I look it, but scales tend to be a fail-safe manner of proof. I want to lose that weight not for vain reasons, so much as health. For my frame and body type, I should not weigh what I currently do. I’d like to shed the fat as well so my running can improve. Finally, I want to make sure I am setting myself up for future health. If I do not hit this head-on, before I have a family and other commitments taking up my free time, I worry that it will get away from me.

My method for losing the weight is to slowly track my diet and eat whole, real, healthy foods. Despite considering myself a healthy individual, I do tend toward a lot of processed foods. The added sugar and preservatives just isn’t good. I am going to go for a high protein diet, and am currently researching Keto. I gave up all soda last summer, so I am good there, and have limited my dairy intake over the past three months. (Save for the holidays. Cuz…cheese.) I am already a highly active person, who works out with integrity 5-6 days a week. I alternate between running, yoga, cycling, and strength training. I am excited for my races I am currently dedicated to (yay Kentucky Derby Festival Half! Yay Rock n’ Roll Half!), but also excited to try some new activities. I am interested in rock climbing, and more aerial work, maybe even a trapeze class.

My final physical goal is to continue taking care of my complexion. I have battled acne much of my adult life. In fact, at my theatre school’s senior showcase, the only callback I had booked was for a national Proactiv commercial. I didn’t book it, because I am not Olivia Munn, and also, because my acne, while persistent, isn’t all that bad. It does bug me though, and I have taken a lot of positive steps toward improvement! Through limiting my dairy intake and using good, wholesome products, I am seeing some awesome results already. I want to keep on this path to better my complexion!

My current favorite products I am using on my skin are:

  • Beautycounter Cleansing Balm: an actual miracle product. This balm removes make up, serves as a gentle cleaner, a moisturizer, and a salve for any cuts, abrasions, blemishes, or dry spots. It reduces the appearance of dark spots and any redness, and you will literally see results within a night’s sleep. I could not recommend this stuff enough. I have used it on everything from my face, to cuts, to chapped lips. ($80)
  • Beautycounter Charcoal Cleansing Bar: I use this once a day to remove impurities. It isn’t too drying, and really sucks all the junk out of my pores and blackheads. I had raised, flesh colored bumps on my forehead for YEARS I could not remove, despite exfoliation, masks, and a horrible picking habit. Through using this bar, they are all but gone. ($24)
  • Curology Customized Skincare Superbottle: a close friend turned me onto this company, that essentially is an online dermatologist. All you have to do is create an account, send some INCREDIBLY unflattering pictures of your skin from all angles, and answer some questions from your assigned derm. They mix you up a personalized bottle, and voila! My dermatologist rules, and checks in regularly via email and live chat to see how I am doing. I love this company, and their formula for me is really wonderful! (Pricing varies depending on plan, but starts as low as $19.95/month).

Those are my main three products right now. I stand behind them and recommend thoroughly. A few times a week, I also use Beautycounter’s No. 3 Balancing Facial Mask ($48) and in a hurry to remove make-up at the gym, I use Garnier’s Micellar Cleansing Water ($8.99). I am happy with these products’ results so far, working in conjunction with limited dairy.

As for my make-up, I will bore you with that another day. Onto other commitments for the year!

Mental

I was not in a great place emotionally in December. I felt taken advantage of within my job, held to unfair standards comparatively. I am a proud teacher, but this is a job that is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining enough within the classroom. Add in icky feelings outside of the classroom, and you’re done for.

I worked my ass off to get through grad school and earn my Masters (and was the granny of my program!). I am incredibly passionate about teaching in a low-income, urban area. I have an amazing community at my school, with teachers and administrators who teach with love and logic and put everything into their work for their students every single day. We teach in an area of Chicago that is crime-ridden and full of gang activity. Last year, I had someone open fire while my students were playing on the playground for recess. Sure, they weren’t aiming for us, but who they were aiming for was by us, and so 25 six-year-olds had to run in terror to the nearest door we could find and hope it was unlocked.

Gunfire is a norm. A murder in our parking lot, or the house across the street? Part of the job. Our students are from impoverished homes, many are homeless. They’re hungry, and do not receive proper care. Many are abused physically, emotionally, mentally, sexually. We are a team of fighters, and we fight for our students every day. It does, however, take a toll. Surprise. I am not a robot. I am incredibly empathetic, and I take on the pains and frustrations of those around me far easier than I even recognize or deal with my own. I am a strong person, and I will continue to be strong for my students.

BUT.

When all I did was sleep, come to school for 12+ hours, go home, walk my dog, and sleep…I was not feeding my soul. I am fiercely passionate about my job and my students, but no person is just one thing. It took me a year and a half of teaching to realize, I am not just a teacher. I can be more. I am allowed to work my 9 hour day and then go to concerts, or see my friends, or reintroduce theatre into my life. I am at a point where I have spent too long not feeding my soul, and it is time for me to prioritize myself. I can assure anyone that I will be a better teacher when I am balanced and feeding my sense of self in multiple ways.

As I said, I am 31 years old. I am beautiful, and I am flawed. I am a bundle of good and bad. Most importantly, I am constantly driven to be better than I am. I am not just a teacher. I was not just an actor. I will spend this year being who I am: teacher. Actor. Friend. Girlfriend. Sister. Daughter. Clown. Athlete. Adventurer. Risk-taker. Nerd. Patient. Colleague. Teammate. Me.

Julia Gordon.

Jewel-ee-uh Gourd-on.