Summer Stress

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I love summer, but I don’t think it could ever be my favorite season. Mostly because, while it is packed with loads of fun things to do, it always comes with a certain amount of stress.

A side effect of being a planner is that, often times, I tend to overplan my life. Besides social engagements, I also plan my workouts, when I clean my apartment, when I run errands, and virtually all of my recreation. (Yes, I have actually set aside time in my calendar for “chilling out.” I have a problem, I know.)

Lately, I feel like my calendar is stuffed to the brim, and when a friend asks if I can hang, I’m wracked with guilt when I can’t find a time slot. This only ever seems to happen to me in the summer time.

Plus, everything feels more stressful when you’re sweating out an 85-degree day, amiright?

When I started writing this post, I had the idea that I was going to commit to more relaxation — less planning. But there’s a part of me that resists that reasoning. After all, I’m young and only have a few serious obligations in life (AKA, no children yet). Shouldn’t this be the time that I cram my schedule with the things I enjoy doing? Because I do enjoy all of my plans when they’re happening. And if everything is getting done, is there really any harm in feeling busy?

Maybe it’s the previously mentioned guilt that is throwing a wrench in the machinery. It’s probably not possible to do everything for everyone, no matter how much I wish I could.

So basically, this is a story of me being a good little Midwestern girl who wants to please everyone.

Sigh. I’m such a cliche.

I heard a quote on a show one time that was basically: “You need to change your dialogue. Instead of ‘I’m so overwhelmed,’ say, ‘My cup runneth over.'” So essentially, I need to think positively about the fact that I’m busy to make it easier to handle.

And wait patiently for fall.

Is there a season where you feel like you’re just barely keeping it together? Would you rather overfill your life with happy things or risk missing out but keep your sanity?

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Spruced Up Study Hall

Our computer desk has been a bit of a trial for me.

In our first apartment, I never really loved how it looked (apologies for that atrocious photo), and in our new apartment, it’s the first space to start looking cluttered after I’ve given the apartment a deep clean. And because organizing the desk area is on the simplification list anyway, I figured now would also be a good time to figure out an organization system that actually works.

And it wouldn’t hurt if it was also pretty, right?

Here’s what I’m thinking of adding:

Desk Details in Gold

Cute, right? Y’all know I love anything white and gold.

I also need to spend a little time styling our bulletin board. I really like these inspirational ideas from Pinterest (click images for sources):

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Just because our bulletin board is functional doesn’t mean it can’t also be pretty, right? And now that I’m working from home a couple of times a month, it helps to have an organized, aesthetically pleasing place to work.

Do you have a home office? Is it more utilitarian or more stylish?

Pretty little liar

I am a terrible liar.

I’ve said this before. Even when my deception is for a good cause (like planning my parents’ surprise 25th anniversary party, for instance), I’m still unable to fib with any conviction.

In a way, this strongly affects my stance on beauty.

Am I the only one who often finds herself doubting a certain beauty decision because she views it as a lie? I’m not talking about covering a pimple or two — I mean flat out turning yourself into something you’re not. (A la this.)

We all know I fully own to being a medium-maintenance gal, but my motto when it comes to any style enhancements is always that I want to be the best version of myself. I highlight my hair, but the first words out of my mouth to my stylist are, “I want it to look natural.” I’ve spent hours of my life seeking the perfect foundation, concealer, and nude lip colors. Even so, I rarely wear much makeup unless it’s a special occasion. It took me years to feel comfortable with manicures because I used to hate the look of colors on my finger nails. (Total disclosure: I still get painfully self-conscious about bright shades after a day or two.)

The line gets blurred when my best version deviates sharply from what I might currently have, like those pretty blonde locks currently inhabiting my noggin.

When you pride yourself on being a genuine human being, it can feel like a betrayal of self to adopt any disingenuous beauty habit.

I dread the question, “Is that your real…?” when I know the honest answer is “nope!” It’s a big part of why, as much as I wouldn’t be mad if parts of my body woke up different sizes or shapes tomorrow, I don’t think I would ever take surgical action to make them change — I’d still be the person I am, and being anything else feels a little bit like cheating.

Fortunately, in most cases, I’m not embarrassed when someone “catches” me faking it. When it comes to my hair, I actually like discussing the myriad things we find to do to those poor strands of dead protein on our heads. And, honestly, I’m not really ashamed to admit that at some point in my life I’ve had fake nails, a fake tan, fake eyelashes, fake eye color (this one is on my mom — she wanted to see what my eyes would look like really green), and even fake hair (anyone else remember those faux hair scrunchies you used to be able to buy at Claire’s to create a messy bun in a snap? …anyone?).

The point is, I try not to take beauty too seriously. At it’s most intense, it’s meant to be a form of expression and experimentation. (And these under-eye circles that seem to have taken up residence on my face aren’t going to hide themselves.) But I never want to become someone who feels like she needs to look like something or someone else to be happy.

So spill: Am I the only one who stresses about turning into a big, ol’ phony? I mean, I’m not exactly getting Real Housewife casting calls yes, so I’m probably fine, but y’all know I love when we share neuroses.

3 Things I’m Really Bad At

If we’re friends on Facebook, yes the idea for this post did come from my status yesterday. Apologies for what could arguably be called leftovers.

Yesterday, I was thinking about strengths and weaknesses in a joke-y sort of way. (I’m such a card.) Like, what if the next time a job interviewer asked you what your weaknesses were, you were really honest?

Not like, “I check Facebook a lot during work and get hammered every weekend” honest. Like, what are you actually kind of terrible at?

I’ll start. Here are my three biggest real life weaknesses.

1. Making spontaneous dinner plans.
You guys. I am so annoying to make plans with. Turns out the biggest downside to being SUPER organized and having a very up-to-date calendar is that I get very stressed out if I don’t have things planned out in advance. Sometimes this means my calendar is booked up for up to two months at a time.

THIS IS NOT ME HUMBLEBRAGGING THAT I’M POPULAR. I’m not. Not even close. I just get plans with my little circle of friends down in the books tout de suite rather than wait to see what the weekend holds.

I’m pretty sure this has something to do with a particular scarring Saturday in middle school when literally EVERYONE had plans except me and I spent the afternoon holding back tears and eating string cheese while watching a marathon of Even Stevens. It was a dark time.

The point is, I am a master plan-maker. Which is helpful if you want the next two months booked solid at a time. Not so much if you just wanted to see if anyone was free to try the new sushi place in the east village? Hmm? Anyone?

Spoiler alert: Rarely me. I am rarely free. If I have a free night, it’s because I did it on purpose so I could hang curtains and clean my kitchen. Sorry for asking if you have August 23rd open instead.

2. Parallel parking.
YES, I know I can’t really be an adult if I can’t do this. And, yes, it is hard living in Queens if you can’t do this. And, actually, I’m only really bad at this 95 percent of the time. (The other 5? I nail it, you guys. It’s like a driver’s ed video example of how to correctly parallel park.)

The problem is that other 95 percent, also known as most of the time.

You guys. I have literally attempted to parallel park, then messed it up SO badly I just drove away because I was so embarrassed. I’ve abandoned spots, the cardinal sin of city living. But if people start honking and staring and piling up behind me, I can’t deal with it and bail out.

I am being totally sincere when I tell you that if I take the car out, I will double-park in front of the building and wait for Joey to come out and park the car.

To answer the question on your mind, yes, it is embarrassing and pathetic. AND YET HERE WE ARE.

3. Judging character.
I sometimes fool myself into thinking that I am a great judge of character. I definitely pick up on people’s vibes right away.

But you know what? There have been at least five times in my life when I was convinced that someone was just the coolest for months at a time, when suddenly something happened that their true colors reared their ugly heads and I was dealt a very rude awakening that I had been totally wrong.

And I’m just sitting there like, how did I not see that? At all? Not even an inkling!

So, I’m throwing in the “good judge of character” card. Because the times I was off I was that far off. Apparently I can’t trust anyone, least of all my own judgment.

Ok, now YOU go. What are your three biggest real life weaknesses?

Pretty uncomfortable.

Today, while walking back to work from lunch, a man on the street tried to stop me to talk to me. He was one of those guys hawking bus tours around the city. His attempt was simple. He basically got in my way while shouting, “Hi, pretty! Excuse me, pretty! Excuse me, pretty!”

I swerved around him as I said, “No thank you” because I assumed he was trying to sell me a bus tour.

This is normally enough of a maneuver to get someone to stop trying to talk to me on the street.

Undeterred, the man continued to follow me shouting, “Excuse me, pretty! One minute, pretty!” I replied forcefully, “I live here.” But he didn’t stop. A bit unnerved, I ducked into the next deli and he finally went away.

Here’s the thing: I live in New York City. People are constantly talking to you in the streets, whether they’re selling you something or just asking you to take a picture of them (“with the building in the background!”). But for some reason, this encounter made me uncomfortable.

There’s no way to say this without sounding like a douche bag, but I struggle sometimes with how to respond to stranger compliments. On one hand, sure, some people are probably genuinely just trying to be nice. But on the other, I kind of just want to walk to work without being appraised. I especially want to walk to work without being accosted.

Calling me “pretty” does not give you the right to otherwise treat me however you please. Compliments do not make it okay for you to make me feel uncomfortable or ignore my polite request to keep moving.

These thoughts were all coursing around in my head as I sat back at my desk, and then I saw this article. The author articulately captured the frustration of being a female (fat, thin, whatever –simply being some kind of woman opens you up to these kinds of annoyances and threats) and simply trying to get around.

I think the most frustrating part is that there’s nothing we womenfolk can do to make this go away completely on our own. We can start the conversations, we can bring the problem to light, but we need the people shouting at us from cars and whistling from outside of bodegas to get on board. The people cat-calling need to decide they don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable before it will ever stop.

Because, as the author of that article points out, sticking up for ourselves can often put us in worse danger.

I like to give some people the benefit of the doubt. I know men who call women “sweetie” because they genuinely view it as a term of endearment. I’ve had men comment on my appearance in a way that I know they weren’t trying to pressure me into reacting any particular way or to make me feel uncomfortable. When it comes to defining harassment, sometimes I don’t even know if I can accurately point out where the line is.

But it’s there. And the more and more we talk about it, the better I think we’ll get at defining it.

Spring Simplification Update

In case you were wondering, I do see the irony of writing about how I’m going to simplify my life and then getting a dog. But he’s little, you guys. And so cute. I mean, have you seen the face?

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Anyway.

The point is, despite adding something major to our lives, I have still managed to complete a few of my simplification tasks. Let’s run through the list, shallll we?

BEDROOM
Move bed back
Hooks for hats and bags
Move trunk into bedroom
Hang curtains
Fix pictures over drawers

LIVING ROOM
New coffee table or TV dinner trays
Clean up corners
Map for over couch (ordered)
Organize desk area

CLOSETS
Straighten linen closet
Clean out front closet
Reorganize crawl space

KITCHEN
Get Norden IKEA table
Sell dinner table
Clean out pantry

That’s six things. That’s over a third of the list, people. All whilst housetraining (and snuggling) a very adorable dog. I am proud of myself.

While simplifying our apartment continues to chug along, I also want to refocus and get better about managing our time and responsibilities. One big step in that is getting more organized about our meals for the week.

I have never been someone who plans meals. When I was single, I knew what I liked to eat (a lot of vegetables, whole wheat pasta, salads, egg sandwiches, etc.) so I just made sure to have those things on-hand and whipped them up as desired. Now that Joey does most of the cooking, it’s helpful for him to have an idea what to make so he can do the grocery shopping all at once (instead of going every single day, a process that takes more time and stress).

My plan is to put together meal ideas and shopping lists twice a month, planning out meals two weeks at a time. Ideally, this will not only mean less stress, but also healthier and less expensive meals each week.

Healthier? Less expensive? Less stress? Sounds pretty good to me.

What are your simplifying secrets?

Spring Simplification

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Now that the marathon is over, I’ve started my new job, and my schedule is settling back to what I consider normal, I’ve become a bit obsessed with the idea of simplification, primarily as it relates to our apartment.

Count on me to turn the idea of simplifying into something more complicated, right?

We decided to renew our lease in April, meaning we’ll spend at least another year in our current digs. That was a fairly simple decision, but lately I’ve noticed that I’m stressed out when I’m home.

The fact is, things have gotten rull cluttered, especially since our vacation (what is it about unpacking that tends to destroy your entire home?), and I think I’ll be a significantly happier person if I can carve out some more space.

In typical me fashion, I made a list of everything I want to accomplish in the next month. And I get bonus points because there are only four things on this list that cost any money — also helpful after our Parisien adventure. I’m calling it our Spring Simplification (because “spring cleaning” is kind of played out by now, right?).

Here’s the list, broken down by room:

BEDROOM
Move bed back
Hooks for hats and bags
Move trunk into bedroom
Hang curtains
Fix pictures over drawers

LIVING ROOM
New coffee table or TV dinner trays
Clean up corners
Map for over couch
Organize desk area

CLOSETS
Straighten linen closet
Clean out front closet
Reorganize crawl space

KITCHEN
Get Norden IKEA table
Sell dinner table
Clean out pantry

It’s only 15 things, many of which I could probably knock out in a day. (See? Even my list is simple.) Most of the items involve organizing/cleaning out, which, if you don’t know, are two of my favorite things in the whole wide world.

Once I check off every to-do, I honestly believe my life will be better. And then I can, you know, have people over again. Or something.

For those of you interested in this kind of thing, I’ll obviously be sharing before-and-afters. For the rest of you…I offer you this instead.

Here’s to a simplified spring!