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A letter for Pride

Today’s post is a bit different than usual. I’d hoped to have it ready earlier in the week, but it does seem fitting in some ways to post it today, the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, which was a watershed moment in LGBTQ+* history, and the remembrance of which served as the spark for the first Pride marches and parades 50 years ago.

There are so many wonderful resources out there for learning about LGBTQ+ history, stories, and perspectives, but because I’m still digging into them myself I’m not going to share any here just yet. Keep an eye out for that in a future post.

Instead, I offer a letter. You may see yourself in one of the passages, or several, and if you do, then I hope you are met with the affirmation and gratitude that was poured into it.

 

My dear friend,

To you who are queer and out… Wow, you’re amazing. The vibrancy and joy you bring to this world is so needed. Knowing you is life-giving, and I for one, am better for it. Thank you for being you.

To you who are queer and not yet out… You matter, just as you are. Who you are is wonderful regardless of who knows. Wading through the unknown is a brave thing, and can be a difficult one. You’re not alone, and your path is up to you.

To you who are still figuring things out… There is still so much time. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You are certainly not alone. No matter what, you are loved.

To you who are an ally… I hope you know how important you are. How much it means to so many to have someone in their corner, a shoulder to lean on, someone to turn to. Thank you for lending strength when it’s needed.

To you who are wanting to learn… There are so, so many stories. I’m so glad you’re here with us. So many folks have done and are doing excellent work on the topic; dig in deep.

To you who are not sure what to think… I’ve been there, and learned how important it is to challenge what you think you know. Just remember that in the end, as with all things, what matters above all else is love is love is love is love.

The world is better when we can each be ourselves, and can love each other as we are.

 

With all my love, and happy Pride, y’all.

 

 

* I use LGBTQ+ in this post as a way to be more inclusive than the common LGBT term, but also want to acknowledge that the full term is LGBTQIAP+, with the last three letters representing those who are intersex, asexual/aromantic, and pansexual, respectively. These identities have long been overlooked and often marginalized by those both within and outside of the queer community, and are every bit as valid.

(Photo is a free stock photo, and a lovely reminder.)

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For the long haul

One set of parents reached a milestone anniversary this week, and after sheltering in place with my husband for more than 2 months, it seemed like time for a relationship post. I am of course not an expert in anyone’s relationship but my own, so take all advice with the appropriate grain of salt, but we have been together almost 7 years and I’ve been fortunate to observe successful relationships that have lasted even longer.

Invest in the other person’s interests. I am not a video games person, but can keep up in conversation about way more games than I would ever be willing to play because I talk to my significant other about their interests, and actually listen and ask questions. If it’s a hobby you’re not interested in doing, it still means a lot that you listen and engage when they want to talk about it or show you something. And this can extend beyond conversation as well. For example, I’ve found a couple of video games that I like, so sometimes we’ll just sit next to each other and talk while we each play our own game. Jump into a TV show the other person enjoys, find a sport you can play together, get super into puzzles. Whatever floats your boat together!

Keep your own interests, and set aside time to not be together. I don’t love guitar the way my spouse does, and he isn’t super into crocheting like I am. We make time most days to do things that we individually want to do and make an effort to make room for each person to have individual plans. This is especially important with friends! It’s awesome if you have a lot of mutual friends, but it’s important that you each have friends you can hang out with without your significant other. Be consistent with other people in your life too.

Find ways to surprise each other. We’ve been together for almost 7 years, and friends for almost a decade, so often it feels like we know almost everything there is to know about the other. But to his credit, this guy still manages to surprise me. The best part is that surprises don’t have to be big to be special; getting off work a little early or picking up a treat they love at the grocery store can be super meaningful simply because it reflects that you’re thinking about each other and wanting to put in effort to show that you care.

Learn how to be mad, and how to make up. Quarantine is challenging even for folks who get along great, and some tension is both inevitable and — depending on how you respond to it — healthy. Like most people, we’ve had a few spats when cooped up in the house for long stretches, and then we talk it through and figure out how to do better next time. I cannot stress how important it has been for us to articulate why we’re upset and how we feel without picking a fight or going after the other person. It doesn’t make conflict magically go away, it just means we can take down our defenses for long enough to work out a solution together. And then when we figure out what we can do better in the future, actually detailing how we intend to do that helps us stick to the plan instead of falling back into the same cycle.

Be affectionate! It’s great when folks in long-term relationships are super comfortable and don’t need to be touchy-feely all the time (especially if you’re around other people), but super simple stuff like holding hands or a smile from across the room can make things feel so much sweeter. It helps the other person feel seen and loved, and especially in a time when a bunch of us are isolated, positive* physical touch is really beneficial for our emotional and mental health.

If you think something nice about the other person, say it. This seems silly, but can make a big difference. If you catch yourself thinking something complimentary, tell them that instead of tucking it away. As well as you might know each other, no one is a mind reader. Out-of-the-blue compliments can make someone’s day, which is obviously even better when it’s someone you care about.

For more relationships info, check out this post on relationships or this post on being long distance. Obviously nothing I covered here is fully comprehensive, but I hope there was something you found helpful. And if you’re not in a romantic relationship, honestly most of this applies to friendships too!

Anything I missed? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

* Positive physical touch meaning touch that is wanted in that moment, welcome, and pleasant rather than painful. Consent is obviously important, but also good to remember that giving your partner a tight hug if they’ve got an injury might not be the way to go.

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Mental Health Awareness

May is mental health awareness month, so I’m going to keep this simple with a list of resources that can help us all take care of our mental (and relatedly, emotional and physical) health a bit better.

(Content warning for this post that there is mention of mental health conditions, as well as self-harm and suicide, with information on where to get help.)

Quick tips

  • Just going for a walk is often a huge mood booster for me when I’m in a funk. If going for a walk is a challenge, then any change of scenery or time I can spend outside still helps.
  • Square breathing. There are a few versions of this technique, but when I’m starting to feel panicky, the one I’ve used most often is the following:
    • Breathe in for a 4-count (slowly)
    • Hold that breath for a 4-count (holding the breath in your belly or toward the base of your chest will feel better than trying to hold it in your mouth or throat)
    • Breathe out for a 4-count (even more slowly)
    • Hold without breath for a 4-count
  • Check in on your physical health. Are you super exhausted? Have you eaten within the last few hours? Had a glass of water? I’ve found that not taking care of myself physically is the fastest way to exacerbate any mental struggles I’m facing, and that once I address those things I usually start to feel better quickly. It doesn’t fix everything by any means, but it’s a necessary part of the process.

To relax

  • Apps like Headspace and Breethe offer meditations and mindfulness exercises that can be a great occasional reset or help build a consistent practice (there are lots of these, but the two listed are ones I’ve used and enjoy*).
    • Note that a lot of the content with both of these apps is paid. If cost is prohibitive, look into whether you can access them for free or a discount (I access Headspace for free through my local library) or you can check out one of the many free options also available online and through apps.
  • I do virtual yoga classes once or twice a week, and have found that the commitment of signing up for an actual class (often with a friend) helps me stick to the plan of taking time to slow down and pay attention to my body for a bit.
  • Find a simple hobby. I’ve been doing a ton of crocheting lately, but also know folks who paint, play an instrument, or have something else that offers a bit of challenge and a bit of comfort, and gives them a way to wind down at the end of the day.
  • It’s hard to hold a candle to listening to music in terms of how much it can take the edge out of negative feelings. Find a playlist or album that’s reliable for you, turn it on, and take a deep breath.

To keep your brain busy

  • Books! I admit that I’ve had a difficult time focusing on reading as much as I would like to, but there is nothing quite like digging into an interesting book. The key here is reading what you want to read, not what you feel like you should be reading.
  • Podcasts are a great alternative to watching something, or if reading a book isn’t quite doing it. There are so many options to choose from out there, so find one that makes you feel good and dive in.
  • Also, movies and TV are not a bad thing! Sometimes it’s good for us to just let our brain follow something else for a while and not fixate on things that might be bothering us. I’ve been watching a lot of sitcoms lately while I crochet, and it’s a nice way to chill after dinner.

To work through it

  • Write it down. I’ve journaled off and on for a long time, and have found that it’s always easier for me to process — and often let go of — something when I put it on paper (or the notes app on my phone). It’s a good way to articulate how you’re feeling with really low risk, and gives those feelings or thoughts an outlet that doesn’t require too much.
  • Talk to a loved one. If you’re just having a rough stretch or an off day, talking to a close friend or family member can be a nice way to process what you’re going through. Just do keep in mind that it should be someone you trust, who listens well, and know that at the end of the day it’s a personal relationship not a strictly therapeutic one.
  • Talk to a counselor/therapist/psychiatrist. Friends and family are awesome, but they’re not trained professionals. If what you’re dealing with is more significant than a couple of weeks (or even if it’s just a really awful few weeks!), talking to a mental health professional is a valid, safe option to help you work through what you’re facing. Mental health professionals can help with seasons of difficulty like grief or high levels of stress, and can help with longer-term mental health struggles like anxiety or depression.
    • Note here that mental health conditions are common, and not something to be ashamed of. 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental health condition each year, and almost half of Americans will deal with one at some point in their life, according to Mental Health America. If you’re concerned about your mental health, the screenings on their website can be a good place to start, followed by contacting your health provider.
  • Content warning (see note above): Of course if you are considering self-harm or suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 or chat the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 911, or go to a nearby hospital. If there is a friend or family member you trust, you can also reach out to that person. You matter, and you are not a burden, and you are worth every tomorrow.

I hope some of the info above offers resources or encouragement for you to take care of your mental health (or support someone else’s), especially in the midst of, well, everything.

Are there any other resources you’ve found helpful? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

 

 

* This post is not sponsored, and I don’t receive any compensation for mentioning any of the resources in this post. They’re just things myself or others I know have genuinely found helpful.

(Photo is a free stock photo, because the lighting was perfect.)

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Recipes: The Great Sourdough Journey

For those of you who know me personally and have already had to deal with me spamming your feed about this, sorry in advance (well, only a little). For those of you who haven’t been privy to this saga, you’re in for a treat. Warning that this is a looooong post, but it’s the easiest method I’ve come across that still has enough info for noobs.

Here’s the tl;dr: I embraced peak quarantine Millennial and made sourdough bread from scratch. It took a while, but it was awesome.

Background

(aka the part to skip if you actually just want the recipe)

On Easter weekend, since we weren’t seeing family, I wanted to make a special meal to have at home. I was planning on making this delicious garden herb loaf that I’ve been making since I was a teenager, but thanks to everyone stress and boredom baking during the pandemic, the store had no yeast. Luckily, they did have bread flour.

I improvised for Easter dinner and made Irish soda bread (a no-rise, dense, very yummy bread that I used to make with my grandpa). But the lack of yeast at the store planted a little seed of well-I’ll-prove-I-don’t-need-you in my head, and I decided to make sourdough starter so that the next weekend I could make my very own bread, store-bought yeast be damned.

Sourdough starter is literally just home-grown yeast in a jar, and once it’s mature can be used to make sourdough bread. It is super simple and not super easy (but also not too hard). Once it’s ready, you can store it a number of ways, and then revive it anytime you want a fresh loaf of homemade bread! Some folks have apparently had their starters for generations.

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon* distilled water**
  • ~5lb.* of bread flour***
  • Salt

* These estimates are super rough and likely slightly more than what you will need, but because the process is so lengthy and I didn’t keep a pristine log of feedings

** You can also use filtered water, boiled water, or leave tap water out overnight if truly necessary. But don’t use straight tap water, as the chlorine and other stuff in the water can kill those good lil yeasties.

** All-purpose, whole wheat, or rye can also be used. Literally whatever you have, though many say a “heartier” flour — aka not all-purpose or baking — is best for getting sourdough starter going.

The Journey

Disclaimers:

  • Costs about $5, makes 1 round loaf of bread 10″-12″ in diameter.
  • I’m not labeling this part instructions like I typically do because there are not only a ton of opinions out there about what methods are ideal, but yeast is a living thing and your setting may affect the details of this process. Throughout, I’ll offer ways that I addressed some of those challenges as they cropped up.
  • As always, Google is your friend and I’m not any sort of magical sourdough expert. This is literally my first time, but it was fun and kept my brain occupied during so much time inside.

Day 1

(Sunday evening)

  1. I did a bunch of research, and settled on this starter recipe.
  2. Found a decent-sized jar with clear sides.
    1. In my case, it was a cleaned out macadamia-nut container, but later I upgraded to a 1-gallon glass jar that I ordered just for my new starter. As long as it can hold 4 cups or so, you’ll have enough room.
  3. Mixed 3/4 cup warm distilled water with 1 cup bread flour until fully incorporated.
    1. Pro tip: Add the water in first whenever you feed so you’ll be less likely to have unincorporated chunks of flour, or flour stuck to the bottom of the container.
  4. Covered jar and left it overnight. The lid should not be airtight, and most folks will tell you to just cover it loosely, but I found that if I *mostly* tightened it but not all the way, that encouraged the most growth. Play around with it and see what work for you.

A note about temperature: I didn’t discover this until day 2, but the ideal ambient temperature for yeast to grow is in the mid-to-high 70s (Fahrenheit). My apartment tends to be quite a bit cooler this time of year (high 60s), so I helped keep the little yeast babies warm by putting them on a microwaved heating pack, and then re-warming that every few hours when I remembered. You can also put it in a warmer spot of the house or in the (turned off!) oven with the light on, but it should stay out of direct sunlight. If you can’t keep it warmer that’s okay, just know it might take longer for your starter to mature and it you may not see as much rising.IMG-1565

Day 2

(Monday morning)

  1. I discovered the temperature thing (see above), and ordered a more conducive jar.
  2. “Fed” the starter:
    1. Stirred the starter and removed about half from the jar.*
    2. Added in 3/4 cup warm distilled water and 1 cup bread flour.
    3. Stirred until fully incorporated, and covered jar.
  3. Left for ~24 hours.

* You don’t have to throw away what you take out of the starter! This is called discard, and can be composted or used in other recipes (though you may not want to cook with your discard from the first 1-2 days). My favorite recipe to make with starter discard are these biscuits — solely because they are easy and use the most discard for the least flour.

Day 3

(Tuesday morning)

My starter rose and bubbled on day 2, but most of that had receded by day 3. Often initial rising is due to bacteria and not yeast, so just let it be and stick to the schedule. No need to worry.

  1. Fed the starter (see details above).
  2. Left for ~24 hours.IMG-1566

Day 4

(Wednesday morning)

  1. Fed the starter.
  2. Left for ~24 hours.
    1. Pro tip: I used a dry-erase marker to start marking the starter’s level on the outside of the jar when I fed it, so then I could more accurately note any rising throughout the day.IMG-1601

Day 5

(Thursday morning)

  1. Fed the starter.
  2. Left for ~12 hours.
    1. Pro tip: I discovered that if you stir it at about the 12-hour mark (or halfway between feedings), this encourages rising and yeast growth. I didn’t need to continue doing it the whole time, but it really seemed to help on days 5-6.
  3. Left for ~12 hours.

Day 6

(Friday morning)

  1. Fed the starter.
  2. Left for ~24 hours, with occasional stirring.

Day 7

(Saturday morning)

  1. The starter had been foaming and bubbling nicely, and sort of passed the float test*, so I knew it was almost ready.
  2. Here is where I got risky folks. Instead of discarding half like usual, I stirred the starter a bunch and fed it double (1.5 cups water, 2 cups flour). Honestly I would not recommend this step unless you want a whole lot of starter on your hands, but for what it’s worth, it did work.
    1. Pro tip: You only need 1/4 cup of starter to make a loaf of bread, so you really don’t need a ton of starter on hand unless you want to either give some away or make a crap ton of bread.
  3. Left for ~12 hours, with no stirring. My starter rose exponentially during this time, so I just let it do its thing and tried not to mess with it (hence no stirring).

* The float test is just to take a spoonful of starter and drop it in some water. If it floats, that means your starter is mature and ready to use. Mine floated for a minute or two before sinking.IMG-1615

(Saturday evening)

  1. Reserved 1/4 cup starter in a large bowl.
  2. Fed the starter.
  3. Let it rise for ~45 minutes, then popped it in the fridge to go into hibernation mode.
    1. For more details on starter storage, skip to “Day 9 & Beyond” below.
  4. This is where the BREADMAKING begins! I settled on this recipe because it was easy, and used the most starter for the least flour (it’s a trend with me haha).
  5. Made the bread dough (steps 1-2 in the recipe linked above):
    1. Mixed 1.5 cups plus 1tbsp warm distilled water into the 1/4 cup of starter I had set aside.
    2. Gently mixed in 1.5tsp salt and 4 cups plus 2tbsp flour until formed a decent dough, then gently packed together.
    3. Covered with a damp cloth and let rest for 1 hour.
    4. Gently worked dough into a ball, and placed back into bowl. Covered with (newly dampened) cloth and let rest overnight.IMG-1617

Day 8

(Sunday morning)

  1. Kneaded the dough and did a second rise (steps 3-4 in the recipe above):
    1. Gently put the dough onto a floured cutting board, then folded down the top and turned it 90 degrees, repeating for all four sides
      1. Pro tip: The recipe I used has great pictures and a video for this bit.
    2. Let rest for 10 minutes while put a clean dishcloth into a bowl and dusted it with flour.
    3. Gently flipped over the dough and repeat the fold-and-turn process from Step 1a.
    4. Compressed and shaped into a ball (a bench knife/bench scraper really comes in handy here).
    5. Placed into lined bowl with the recently folded side facing up, then covered (I just folded over the dishcloth because it was pretty large) and refrigerated for a few hours (anywhere between 1 and 6 hours is fine).IMG-1618

(Sunday afternoon)

  1. Prepped and baked the bread (steps 4-7 in the recipe above):
    1. Preheated oven to 500˚F, and took dough out of fridge.
    2. Cut a large sheet of parchment paper and placed it over the bowl holding the dough, then flipped it upside down to plop the dough out.
    3. Gently floured the dough, then used a paring knife to score it.
      1. Pro tip: This is the cool part where you cut the bread so it can expand as it bakes. You can cut any design you want, but be sure your incisions are about 1/4” deep so that it cuts into the dough far enough to expand properly (only some of mine were right).
    4. Picked up the loaf using the parchment, and placed inside a Dutch oven. I think you can use other pots, but this is what the recipe asked for and I have one, so not totally sure!IMG-1624
    5. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and placed in the oven, immediately reducing the heat to 450˚F.
    6. Baked covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
    7. Removed from pot and placed the parchment (with the loaf on it obviously) directly on the rack, and baked for 10 more minutes.
      1. Pro tip: My oven runs a little warm and I wish I’d only baked it for 5 here. The bottom of the loaf was a little crispier than I would have preferred.
    8. Removed from oven and let cool for about 1 hour (don’t worry, it will still be warm at this point!)
    9. Took photos, of course.IMG-1627IMG-1635
    10. Sliced into that bad boy, put some butter on it, and ate significantly more than necessary.
      1. Pro tip: Just store what you haven’t used yet in a plastic bag, and squeeze the air out of it. This keeps it fresh and avoids it drying out.

Day 9 & Beyond

  1. Enjoyed daily bread (for 2 people, this lasted us about 4 days including Sunday)!
  2. Left the starter in the fridge just chilling, until
    1. I want to make more bread! Which means it’s time to revive the starter.
    2. Day 12 (Thursday evening), I pulled the jar out of the fridge and let it warm up (on a heating pack like before) for a few hours, marking its levels when I first pulled it out of the fridge and as it rose.
    3. It rose, then started receding within about 4 hours, so I split it and fed it.
      1. I also put it into a clean jar here because I had an extra, but that isn’t strictly necessary.
    4. I’ll continue to feed for 1-2 days until the starter seems happy and ready, then repeat the recipe to make another loaf of bread!
  3. When leaving the starter in the fridge, it only needs to be fed about once per week. You should be able to take it out, let it come to room temp for 45 minutes or an hour, feed, let it rise for 45 minutes to an hour again, then pop it back in the fridge.
  4. My starter is pretty new and I plan to bake about 1 loaf per week so I’ll be feeding more often, but there are also long-term storage options like drying and crumbling it.

Misc. Tips

  • Here is the link to the starter recipe I used again, and to the bread recipe.
  • This site also has a butt ton of info and is good for learning about sourdough/troubleshooting, though it’s a little too precise for my patience level. Also check out this page and this page.
  • If you’re saving discard, mark the container with what day it’s from so you know what’s fresh and what’s maybe not so much.
  • If your starter isn’t really rising, no worries. Give it up to 24 hours, then split and feed it anyways
  • If your starter is rising, sweet! Keep an eye on that bad boy and once it starts to recede (sink back down), that’s when you know it’s hungry. Time to feed (even if it’s been less than 24 hours).
  • If you’re concerned about any other aspects of your starter, just google it. There are lots of helpful sites, forums, etc. including r/sourdough on Reddit.

I know that was an insanely long post, so thank you and props if you actually read the whole thing.

What new recipes have you been trying out lately? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and stay safe!

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A different kind of winter

Last weekend I spent a lot of time thinking. Specifically, I was thinking about Easter and spring and all of the ideas that come with those events. The meanings we’ve tied to them are a lot to reckon with.

A lot of it gets painted over with cartoon bunnies and pastel everything, but the roots go much deeper. Spring, and for those who celebrate, Easter, are times of rebirth and new things. But that newness necessarily comes from death and cold and darkness.

And so many of us have spent too long trying to gloss over that bit instead of greeting it face to face. There is a certain grief, in winter.

Now, as we’re in a time of year where new growth is supposed to emerge, the whole world has been thrust into an unforeseen grief of a different sort. Lives lost, loved ones missed, loneliness and anxiety often settling in. It’s quiet, and it’s brutal. And we don’t really know when the spring will come.

I have been finding solace in little places, like the hummingbird feeders outside my windows, and the feeling of tiredness in my hands after physical work. But the difficult times seep in when sometimes I don’t expect it. Like last night when, after trying for a while to scoot it outside, my husband killed a wasp that got stuck between our sliding glass doors. I don’t much care for wasps and wasn’t the one who killed it, but I still grieved its death when freedom seemed so close.

Lyz Lenz wrote an exceptionally poignant article about Holy Saturday and “sitting with the broken pieces.” And in this weird time where the world is hurting, we are all grieving, and the weather marching toward spring seems so deeply incongruous, I am trying to just sit with pain and the worry and let it be instead of forcing it away, knowing that in time it may grow into something new.

I wrote the piece below on Saturday, trying to let all of these ideas just be in my head and in my body, without insisting on any resolution.

Today I spend hours on my patio, on my knees. I am repotting all my plants. Some are root-bound and placed in larger pots. Some have soil that has become too densely packed from watering, or have even rotted. Some do not like being forced from their homes and their steady little lives, and will take time to recover. I fill an empty planter bed with soil. I mix in fertilizer, and I water. It is slow work even on a small garden. It is clean, fresh air and rich, heavy earth.

It is mourning, and it is hope. It is all I can offer today in a universe of mysteries, that when we are suffering and when nothing has gone as we expected, we are still here. That the echoes of death and life are all around us, whether tomorrow turns the tide or not. And it starts to make sense that we plant flowers each year, knowing they will fade and eventually need to be planted again.

So to simply be, today, in everything that means, is enough.

I hope this offered something helpful in the midst of a very strange time. Feel free to leave a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and may peace settle in a little deeper for you today.

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Making it

We’re less than halfway through March and I feel like I’ve lived half a year over the last couple months. Work is still slammed (though I’m daring to hope I’m almost at the end of it), and things are starting to slip through the cracks.

Healthy eating has been difficult to keep up with, I keep forgetting what day it is, and it’s difficult to get up in the morning. I’m burnt out. And to top it all off, as of about 6 p.m. yesterday I will be working from home at least through Monday (which I personally do not enjoy), and I was up and online at 6:30 a.m. today because there is *that much* to do.

I’ve been working very hard to take care of my mental health amidst all this. One of the little joys that helps me do that is making things. This is, of course, a very broad hobby concept *but* that’s part of what I like about it!

Things I have enjoyed making recently:

  • Let’s be real, I always enjoy making food. But it’s a great joint activity for my husband and I to do together, and one we can still fit in on occasion even when we’re both busy. We’ve made a number of new recipes in the last few weeks, and I busted out my favorite crepes recipe this last weekend. Plus, y’know, you get to eat whatever you made at the end!
  • Notice how there’s a post this week? (jk, sort of) I have been trying to write a little more, because it helps me process how I’m feeling. That comes in a few forms for me, and I’ve been making sure to submit some of my older work for publication as well.
  • Okay, so you don’t really make crochet, but you do make things by crocheting. And I realize I sound like an old lady with these hobbies, but I am the kind of person whose hands need to be doing something practically at all times, so a little flurry of motion with a hook and some yarn is right up my alley. (Before you ask, I tried knitting and entirely lack the coordination.) I just finished the blanket I’d been working on for — I kid you not — more than a year, and am starting a new basket pattern because, well, I love baskets.
  • I have also been “making” time to sleep and relax, time to exercise, and making myself get off social media when it’s stopped being helpful. I’ve admittedly enjoyed some of these ones a bit less, but also know they’re good for me.

That’s my spiel for today. Make something! Memories, a new craft, an old hobby. The world is a more than a little out of whack right now, and it’s important to find pockets of something you enjoy doing. Specifically, creating something new is a great way to counter all the pain we can’t always avoid.

What do you enjoy making? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

P.S. See my mini thread on some tips for staying healthy and clean during this, well, pandemic.

(Photo is a free stock photo because my hobbies are not that aesthetic haha.)

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Hi again

So, um, I didn’t mean to take a month-long hiatus. (My overachieving self actually feels very guilty about letting that happen.) But life has really knocked my legs out from under me lately. My job has been grueling and chaotic, time for rest has been limited, and preserving that has further limited time for other things I enjoy. Last week I intended to write a post and then got horribly sick instead. (Apparently after too long of pushing my body beyond reasonable levels it revolts.)

I don’t have a grand lesson out of all of this. I’m still just trying to make it through to tomorrow, and then the next day. I’m trying to take care of my body the way it takes care of me. I’m trying not to measure my worth by how much I achieve or whether it’s A+ work. I’m trying to be honest without drowning in negativity. I’m trying to notice my fears and worries, and to hold them with an open hand. I’m trying to find peace in whatever brief moments I can.

It’s important to me that this blog not just die out because I got busy (I’m always busy). But it’s also important for me that there be some flexibility and room to take breaks as needed. So posts might continue to be a bit inconsistent, and that’s okay. I’m still grateful for all of you that read them, and love being able to write them.

I would also love to hear any topics that y’all would like to hear more about — on my own, especially when tired/busy, I tend to run repetitive. Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

(Photo is a free stock photo because I’m not getting up quite early enough for these views anymore.)

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Why I don’t believe in diets

Shoot, I said it. Anyone who knows me well has heard me rant (likely on multiple occasions) about frustrations with societal beauty standards and the modern, largely Western, insistence that one’s attractiveness or even worth increase the lower the numbers on the scale go.

In some respects, things have been improving lately thanks to increasing numbers of people speaking out regarding body positivity and size inclusivity. For a lot of folks, curves are cool again.* But there’s still fine print there. Curves might be in, but only around a woman’s chest and butt, and waists should be artificially tiny. Stretch marks should be seen nowhere, and acne must never be allowed. Hair has to be glossy and voluminous, with copious time devoted to the “no makeup” makeup look, and effortless-looking but pricey attire.

And that simply doesn’t reflect the wide spectrum of normal, beautiful bodies.

I’ve been so impressed by how many of my friends have made it a point to push back against all these supposed standards and set a wonderful example of shining exactly as they are.

But… the holidays are approaching.

We’re still a full week out from Thanksgiving, and I have already heard far too many conversations about holiday diets (either prior to, planned for after, or both). And I’m already tired of it.

Admittedly, I have a low tolerance for that type of talk. I don’t diet. It’s a personal decision because of certain health predispositions in my family history, and an awareness that if I did, I would be likely to unhealthily fixate on wherever I placed the “goal.” I step on a scale maybe once every few months, and I’d prefer to do so less. While wedding planning, I kept a slightly closer eye on my weight with the sole purpose of staying around where I was and not letting stress do too much of a number on my body. If I overeat at one meal, I might have more conservative portions at the next. I stop eating when I’m full, and eat when I’m hungry. I don’t eat as many vegetables as I’d like to, and should exercise more, but I make sure to listen when my body is telling me that it needs more of those things.

This isn’t to say I’ve mastered body positivity or that I always like the way my clothes fit. Far from it. But I’m working on it, and hope that together, more of us can.

Let’s be clear: I’m not trying to say that all dieting by anyone ever is bad. It’s important to take care of your body, and a holistic diet — with adequate portions, a variety of nutrients, combined with exercise — can be an excellent way to improve one’s health, quality of life, and even lifespan. But when diets become all about the number on the scale, or certain measurements, or what other people think of you, or plain and simple control, that’s no longer promoting your health.

One of the most important, under-discussed aspects of adulting is identifying the messages we were told growing up, how they impacted us, and whether our reactions to them have benefited us or harmed us.

I’ve been on my no-diet soapbox since elementary school because I was taught that health was about way more than a number and people are beautiful no matter what they look like. But over the years, I also internalized a lot of negative messages about how I ought to look and they’ve taken a toll on my self-confidence. And that’s for someone who by and large fits a lot of those “standards.” Folks with especially small or large frames, who have disabilities, whose hair has a mind of its own, or who are considered too short or too whatever, get handed even more negative messages about the way they ought to look. And after a while, the boundary starts to blur between taking care of one’s body out of self-love and restricting ourselves because of others’ opinions.

If you are from or currently in an environment where people tend to place a high priority on needing to look a certain way, check in and see how you might have internalized unhealthy messages. If necessary, make adjustments to take care of yourself better. That can mean a more balanced meal and some exercise, or having a treat for dinner and giving yourself distance from people who aren’t building you up. And please, please don’t be afraid to talk to loved ones or a doctor if weight or food are interfering with your quality of life.

If most of the compliments you give people are focused on their appearance — especially things like “you look great!” to mean “you’ve lost weight” — it might be time to re-examine what sorts of messages you’re sending to other people. Appearance-based compliments aren’t bad, but they should be balanced by compliments about who a person is, or how happy they seem that day, and other positive elements that don’t reinforce false, constricting standards of what a person should look like.

And for goodness’ sake, it’s the holidays. Eat as much dessert as you want to.

Got something to add? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

 

* It is necessary to note here that people of color, especially Black women, have been at the forefront of this movement and that the dominant culture has historically profited by widely popularizing and capitalizing upon trends, traditions, and innovations within marginalized communities. We should be learning from other communities, not stealing from them.

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The timeline is relative

Based on our current understandings of the universe and physics, time is relative. It does not pass exactly the same at different elevations, speeds, or levels of gravity. And that’s super cool if you’re a physicist. For the rest of us, it can seem like that has little impact on our everyday lives (fun fact: it’s actually a necessary element in GPS satellite calculations, but you get my point).

However, colloquial relativity is all around us. Kids grow and learn at different rates after all. Still, up until we graduate high school a lot of big steps tend to happen to us at about the same time as our peers: moving up grades, learning to drive, and so on.

Recently I was chatting with a friend about how we try so hard to remind ourselves that everyone does — and should — do things at their own pace.

Because after high school, all the structured timelines kind of go out the window. Some people don’t go to college, some people take longer for a bachelor’s, some people do graduate degrees. Some people climb the ladder quickly and some spend more time bouncing between jobs or careers. Some people settle into long-term relationships quickly, and every relationship moves at its own speed. Some people have kids, and those who do might have them soon or wait until they’re well-established adults.

There might be a timeline that’s best for you or for someone else, but there’s no guarantee that those will align. Nor is there any need for them to.

It’s easy to feel like you’re behind or you’re missing out if it seems like peers (or just people you see on social media) are doing all the things you haven’t done yet. But chances are you’ve reached milestones they haven’t yet. There’s no one right path, and there’s no rulebook. And as much as that can feel really intimidating when we’re new to the whole grown-up thing and would just like a little guidance, I’m coming to realize that it’s one of the most freeing things about being an adult.

So here’s to us, living life and learning, each in our own time.

Chime in below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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It only takes a word

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how soft skills, especially in terms of communication, are underappreciated and under-emphasized by so many people. Of course, this is coming from someone who majored in communication, but I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed from folks in fields from business to STEM.

Some people espouse that to get ahead — particularly in one’s career — you can’t be kind or agreeable, or at least not too agreeable. And of course there is an element of balance; if you only ever say positive things, it will be hard to make your own ideas known and to point out risks or issues in the ideas of others.

Especially when I’m busy, my default is to be fairly stressed and fairly serious. I’ve had to learn how to make time to build good professional relationships, even if it means a task takes a little longer. But on the flipside, it’s also hugely important to me that everyone be as content with a given situation as possible and that I take regularly opportunities to boost morale. Often that means bringing in treats for coworkers or saying “thank you” more times than perhaps necessary. And these are great, but they’re also a little shallow.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have some absolutely phenomenal bosses and mentors as I’ve gained work experience. I’ve also had the chance to be a boss or mentor to other folks, and to experiment with what comprises a successful leadership style.

Some of the elements are fairly standard: clear training and instruction, open communication channels, well-rounded feedback that includes praise for elements done well and actionable critiques on ways to improve.

The biggest thing that I’ve learned from my mentors, though, is how incredibly important it is to empower those who are learning from you — whether the setting be professional, familial, or otherwise. While “empower” has become a bit of a buzzword and lost some of the meaning it ought to possess, it captures exactly how we should be made to feel by those we’re learning from (and how we should be making those we’re teaching feel).

As an example, a brief anecdote: Yesterday was not a great day for me. I’m behind on a lot of at-home tasks (*ahem* cleaning) and my at work my number of tasks and the stakes are increasing. It was just one of those days I felt ill-equipped for all I was facing. During the course of separate conversations, both my boss and a former boss/mentor offered unsolicited, generous compliments on my competency and the impact of my work. They both absolutely made my day.

The comments meant so much because both of them conveyed that they actually believed in me. Which, for starters, is something we could all stand to hear a little more often. But it also made me want to prove them right, instead of trying to prove negative thoughts or voices wrong.

I’ve long held to the belief that small kindnesses can have radical impacts in people’s lives. For emerging adults in particular, it’s crucial that we not only embrace that idea in our personal lives, but also our professional ones. As we do so, we can foster and eventually create environments that encourage people’s growth through support or cooperation rather than relying on competition.

In the future, I’ll be looking for and taking more opportunities in which I can offer a word or gesture to help other folks feel as valued and full of potential as comments like the ones yesterday made me feel. I just hope we all do.

As always, comments, questions, and miscellaneous input welcome below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

P.S. I know it’s yet another sunset ocean pic, but this place was home for a long time and not only taught me a lot of what I covered in this post, but could use any extra love available as the community continues to heal from tragedy.