One half.

Well, my plan was to be more on top of things this year, and while I mostly am, I definitely neglected to recognize that half of this year is already down! My goal when I even began this blog was to chart my personal successes and attempts at living a happier, healthier, more fulfilled life. I promised to do one big thing a month that was just for me. In April, I recapped the first three months of the year and how it had been going so far. My plan was to do quarterly blog check-ins. Aaaaand here we are now, almost through July before I realized I had dropped the ball on my second check-in. Oh well, better late than never!

April

April was a really good month for me, creatively, personally, athletically, and professionally. The month began with me helping my old friend Theo out and shooting a short film with him. Theo is an amazing artist, and I was so excited to get to contribute a little bit to his work! We filmed over the course of one Thursday evening, and it was so fun to flex my acting muscles, particularly in film, where I have less experience. We created a really fun, creepy, exciting little piece, and I was really proud of it!

April also included a lot of time with two of my favorite people, Tom and Serena. These two attended a fundraiser for my school’s 8th graders to get to go on a graduation trip, something that would have been impossible without the generosity of strangers. The fundraiser was a huge success, and contributions from Tom, Serena, my friend Brett, my mom, Kurt, my coworkers and their friends and families ensured that the entire 8th grade class got to go to St. Louis. It was a really momentous occasion for my school, which is in no position to financially aid these students and their families on its own.

Tom and Serena also became our travel partners in April. First, we went to Milwaukee for a weekend. Kurt and I had tickets to see Jack White at The Rave/Eagles Club, and The Blondes decided to tag along. Here is a really cool pic I got of the Jack White show:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh. That’s right. Jack White does this thing where upon entering the venue, your phone gets locked inside a little pouch that cannot be opened until the end of his set. While this at first promoted a little bit of anxiety (like when I had to pee and had no clue where Kurt was when I re-entered the crowd), it was honestly such a cool little touch. Kurt and I could focus on the music and actually experience a live show without watching it through everyone else’s phone screens. Great concert, and he even came back for an unscheduled encore simply due to the Milwaukee crowd’s crazy demands.

Milwaukee is a great city, and I always enjoy it there. Serena and I had to fit in a training run on that Saturday morning, and we did a cool 5 miles along the lake front and through downtown, ending at Harp for Bloody Mary’s. The folks in Milwaukee are absolute party animals – every time I am in that city, I see a whole new form of drunkenness. However, spending Saturday afternoon and evening bar hopping, asking Random Questions, eating some of the greatest tacos ever, and just being with friends in such a laid back town was well worth the short trip up there.

Closing out April was the half marathon in Louisville. Kurt, Tom, Serena, and I drove down for a weekend trip, and Serena and I ran the Kentucky Derby Festival Half Marathon. My feelings and experiences of that weekend are laid out pretty extensively in my blog post about it, but finishing that race was a huge feat for me and was a very emotional victory. After my accident in February, I honestly thought my active lifestyle may have to change, and that’s not something I ever even want to consider. While I am still dealing with some residual pain and stiffness from my fall, and reconsidering new forms of treatment, I hold dearly to the fact that I finished that race in April. Be it from sheer will, or the kind and supportive nature of someone like Serena keeping me going, that race was a huge celebration for me, and I can safely say, will be one of the highlights of this year.

May

Ohhhhh highlights of the year…what about highlights of my LIFE? May brought about what will forever be one of the best evenings I’ve ever experienced: the night Kurt asked me to marry him. Again, I blogged all about this, but let me just say – I am so happily giddy about being engaged to Kurt that I don’t think I will ever come down off this high. Planning our wedding is so exciting, and I am so looking forward to sharing that day with the people we love. I love this man with all my heart, and the idea that I am sharing my life with him forever just makes me so beyond happy.

Okay, gushy gushy. May also included the end of my Chicago Run coaching season and year, which could potentially be my last due to some other professional promotions that will be taking up my after school time. I love that crazy team, and have loved getting closer to the middle schoolers, whom I really do not have much exposure to. Additionally, we had yet another successful school field trip to Maggie Daley Park, which is so good for our kids. My students often cannot play outside due to the crime in their neighborhood, and rarely get to see downtown Chicago at all, and so bringing them to a place where they can safely be kids without anxiety or fear of their surroundings is not something to be taken for granted. I am so thankful for our school and the administrators who recognize what our kiddos truly need: to feel young, playful, and innocent.

June

June was an awesome month. It just was. Everything went really well and I had so many fun, good experiences. June began with my show opening, and I cannot even express what a blast I had performing with Chicago Red Line. This group is full of fantastic, sweet people who have welcomed me and allowed me to grow and play as a performer. They met me with support from the beginning, and performing “You Can’t Sit With Us,” our musical parody of Mean Girls, was so fun. Being back on stage, singing and dancing, was so empowering for me, and so much more full of heart than any of the last times I performed. I needed the hiatus, I suppose, to reconnect to who I truly am as a performer outside of just boobs in a corset (the majority of the roles I landed).

Kurt and I went to Louisville to look at wedding venues, and SURPRISE! His mom and my mom schemed up an in-law meeting without telling us. They knew we would have been nervous wrecks, and so they cooked up a plan to have Kurt’s parents arrive a few hours before us. Imagine my surprise when we got into my parents’ house and Kurt’s parents were sitting on the back porch! In any case, we had an awesome weekend showing them around Louisville, and even booked our venue! I feel incredibly lucky that my family is so supportive, and that I am also marrying into a family that puts time with each other first.

June ended with Serena and I going back to Louisville to see Taylor Swift. Honestly, I was a pretty mild T. Swift fan before, and yet now find myself absolutely obsessed. Whatever she is selling, I am buying it. The Reputation Arena tour is absolutely spectacular, and I have never had so much fun at a show. Find a way to see this show and go. And you know what? I realized exactly why I like Taylor Swift so much. This is a girl who gets incessantly dumped on. Maybe she does bring it on herself, I don’t know, but it’s just always something for her – some drama, some pain, some bullshit. And I do believe she handles it as classily as she can in the public eye. I think she writes her pain and her frustrations but gets pigeonholed as the girl who writes songs about her exes. What about all the bops about crappy ex-friends, betrayal, misunderstanding situations, and being in love? She is a survivor, and a fighter, and I play right into her world-domination game, okay???

Oh, also I bought my wedding dress. It’s stunning and beautiful, and I love it, but we are still working on the whole “loving myself in it” thing. Man, 20+ years of body image issues does not make wedding dress shopping fun, but it’s all about remembering that it isn’t about the dress, or the hair, or the venue. It’s that I am marrying Kurt, and all the incredible people I love, the people who are making this year so very good, will be there celebrating with us.

This year is halfway over, and I am absolutely stoked to see what the next 6 (okay, 5, I am late posting this) months brings!

One Fourth.

I am currently in shock that it is April. Not only just because we have an inch of snow on the ground and my teaching-stamina seems exceptionally low for having almost three more months of school, but also because so far, 2018 has flown by. To think we are already a quarter of the way through the year is just bonkers to me. It feels like time has sped up, and I am worried about all the things I am probably missing.

On Friday night, I stayed in, and in between eating Stromboli in bed and watching a Casey Anthony true crime documentary, I reflected on everything I have done so far this year. I started this blog in January and set out all these lofty goals about living a healthier, more fulfilled life, where my priority is me and my own self-care. Though it has not felt like it at times, and I’ve been downright cranky over some of the year’s setbacks, I realized that I have totally been keeping up with my goals this year so far. It feels really wonderful to sit down and think about everything that has happened so far this year. Let’s recap:

January

In January, I went to the Wisconsin Dells with Kurt’s family for a belated Christmas celebration. I am fairly obsessed with Kurt’s family: some of the nicest people I have ever encountered. It is also incredibly healing and reparative to spend time with his newest nephew, who was four months old at the time of the trip. Since the loss of my own nephew, I have been wary around babies. Yet, spending time with O has made me feel calmer, more comfortable, and more confident about the idea of babies again. It’s given me hope.

Now, Wisconsin Dells DID offer my own personal hell when I was weighed in a bathing suit in front of a line of people (including Kurt’s family). However, that instance also inspired me to change my eating habits and become healthier. Through that evil, evil water slide scale, I discovered Keto and am already down 8 pounds. So, yes. Water slide scales might be from the devil himself, but also inspired me.

Capping off January was my trip to Orlando with my best friend and his fiance. I cannot even begin to describe the joy I felt on this trip. I got to be a kid again, let my imagination explore, and just laugh with two wonderful people all weekend. Disney has upped its game, and the latest rides and attractions were so wonderful. We went to Universal Studios as well (Casey Anthony’s former employer…guys, that documentary was good…) and I had never visited that park before. I loved it, to put it simply, and want to spend way more time there next time I am in Orlando.

The family I have been babysitting for for 7 years or so happened to be in Orlando at the same time I was, and we got to meet up while at Universal Studios. The older boy just started reading Harry Potter, and I had been reading it out loud to both of the boys in the weeks leading up to the trip. It was incredibly special to share my love for the wizarding world with them, and also to experience the park with them for the first time. The older boy even went on his first roller coaster with me! I have a LOT of love for this family, and was so glad they got to be a part of my trip.

All in all, January was a pretty baller month.

February

February did not start off so great. I was very pumped at the start of the month. I was starting the Keto diet, had started taking Collagen Peptides for my skin, and was on the cusp of starting my half marathon training and rehearsals for The Chicago Red Line, a cabaret group I had been invited to join. Some new socks and a wooden staircase later, I ended up in the ER with a sprained back. I could not put any weight on my right side for almost four days, which led to Kurt dragging me around and waiting on me hand and foot.

It was frustrating as hell, but thank goodness I know so many kind people. Coworkers who drove me to school and offered to move my kids around the building. Friends who offered me kind words and kept me patient while I was laid out resting. Then I got impatient and started running again…which led to further injury. Mid-February found me with not only the sprained back, but also a sprained quad. This stress injury almost killed my spirit, as I then had doctor’s orders to take an additional two weeks off from any physical activity at all.

I am incredibly lucky to have such amazing people in my life who kept me going. Serena offered to run the half marathon with me no matter what pace I had to do it at. She sent me daily texts counting down how many more days til I could run again. My mom bolstered my confidence by saying she thinks of me as a runner, and knows I will succeed even without perfect training. Kurt packed me down with ice and heat every night, and took on all the household chores.

February could have been a total downer, but it just wasn’t. February proved to me how many incredible people I know, and how lucky I am for their support. Also, I finally did get to start rehearsals with Red Line, and it has been such a positive addition to my week. This group has invited me in with no questions asked, and is accepting of my quirks and talents. There is so much room for creativity and personality, and the show we are creating is the exact kind of artistic outlet I had been sorely missing over the past couple of years. It’s been truly an uplifting experience working with them.

March

March was an incredibly positive month. In March, I received clearance to run again once my quad sprain had properly healed. Despite the cold, it has been awesome running pain free. I have to make sure I take two days off between runs, and ice fairly regularly, but I seem to be (knock on wood) officially back on the mend. I am still doing physical therapy twice a week for my back, but it’s getting stronger and stronger!

The biggest event of March was getting Lasik done on my eyes. I have been legally blind since first or second grade, and had always assumed my astigmatism was so severe that my eyes were inoperable. Not so, said LasikPlus in Lincoln Park. Let me start by saying I was extremely nervous morning-of, and had zero sedatives. They did offer me Tylonel PM, which I took, but I was not NEARLY as relaxed as the guy in front of me who was high as a kite on Valium.

The procedure took less than 10 minutes (Kurt timed it) and then I was on my merry way. Though I did not feel any pain, the overall experience is a little alarming. You can feel pressure, there is a lot of noise, and it smells. There are a dozen people in the room, rushing about, muttering to each other, ushering you to different tables with different lasers, taking professional photos of you (??? see above), and it can feel overwhelming. An hour after we left, I wanted to be put out of my misery. My eyes burned so badly, and I couldn’t touch them or do anything to make myself comfortable. I mostly just cried until I eventually slept. Once I woke up though, I could see. I could just see. It’s pretty incredible.

“Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.” – Ralph Marston

So, the first quarter of the year is down, and I am feeling pretty accomplished. Obviously, I don’t always share the day to day on here, but let me just say, my job is still amazing. Spring Break was necessary, but I am feeling very positive about my kids and their growth right now. I love my school, and am just feeling like a strong team member right now at work.

I had a thought this morning: I have known some truly shitty people, and now I do not. And now, after a long reflection, allow me to add: I have known some truly shitty times, and now I do not. Things are just good right now. It frightens me to type that out, because historically, when things go well for me, they get taken away in some kind of large, traumatic fashion. However, living in fear of acknowledging what I have is disrespectful, for I want the world to know how thankful and content I am. So, with a deep exhale and crossed fingers, let me just say: 2018 is my year.

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!

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.