When Things are Crappy…

This is me- yup, I eat while I sob.

Today was one of those days. I woke up feeling like garbage, falling off the wrong side of the bed.  After a morning staff meeting, I became overwhelmed with all the things I have to accomplish in a short amount of time. A weekend at the lake I was really looking forward to was canceled. I embarrassed myself in class later in the afternoon and after a chat with my advisor and even though I’m in my last class of my college career, my GPA isn’t high enough to graduate this Spring and won’t be unless I ace an additional two classes.

I have a lot of days like today, days that feel like the world is ending even though I know it isn’t. My depression and anxiety intensify everything and I will admit- most things in life get me down. But then I remember that I’m just having a moment. I give myself a few minutes to cry (and call my mom) and I pick myself back up. I remind myself that I’m okay and then, try to come up with solutions or tasks that make me feel better- how do I flip that switch?

So… Today was one of those days. I woke up feeling like garbage, falling off the wrong side of the bed. But I still got ready for the day. I curled my hair, giving it cute beach waves and felt pretty. After a morning staff meeting, I became overwhelmed with all the things I have to accomplish in a short amount of time. I took a deep breath, cranked up some Becky G and got to work, pumping myself up with thoughts of accomplishment. A weekend at the lake I was really looking forward to was canceled. Now, I have more time for myself. I’m going to make myself a lasagna and curl up in bed with lots of  blankets and the fourth season of “Buffy.” I embarrassed myself in class later in the afternoon and after a chat with my advisor and even though I’m in my last class of my college career, my GPA isn’t high enough to graduate this spring and won’t be unless I ace an additional two classes. I made an appointment with the General Studies advisor about switching my major/degree so I can graduate with a GS degree in May (not every big editor has a journalism degree). And I’m going to end this shitty day on a high note- I’m going to go to the  gym to kickbox my problems away (yay endorphins!) and grab Pho for dinner with a good friend. And then, I’ll shake it out to Pharrell in the comfort of my bedroom… sans pants.

I hope YOU had a good day, dear reader… And remembered to boogie.

Things sometimes suck- you just have to dance it out!

Things sometimes suck- you just have to dance it out!

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Girlfriends, Husbands, BFFs, Whatever… Relationships and Important Questions

My handsome Steve and I

My handsome Steve and I

I’m going to brag for a moment: I have the best boyfriend in the world. While others may disagree, my fellow is a multifaceted, all-encompassing hunk, filled with kindness, adventure, hilarious jokes and intellect. I am incredibly lucky and grateful to have him in my life, not just for his delightful company but because he teaches me a lot of things. Not only have I learned a lot of Black culture from Steve, I also learned more about my feelings and how to connect them with being not just a better girlfriend, but being a better person. We work together as a team and we communicate well with each other.

Last week, I made this list of things I wanted to talk about with him. It was a list of questions that was eating at me for a while and it asked the both of us questions I believe every couple needs to think about every couple of month. Think of this as a kind of check up list. The questions will all have different answers per person, of course, but it’s a good tool to have. It doesn’t matter if you have the “perfect” relationship- these questions and answers matter. Even good things could be better.

Ask your partner and yourself…

1) What do you need in our relationship? A person’s needs are constantly changing and its important to recognize them in each and every state. These needs can range from spending enough time together to adding some fun into the mix. Its important to address them every once in a while.

2) Am I giving you what you need? With those needs, if your partner isn’t giving the things you want, speak up! A good relationship is a little bit of give, a little bit of take. It’s all about the compromise and negotiation. Be willing to work through the tough stuff (a positive attitude helps here- no hard feelings). If you need time alone, say that you do and come up with a better day to hang out. Just make sure to support and respect all decisions made.

3) What feelings and concerns do you have? I have to admit- my relationships are usually the Andrea Show, where I’m the star and no else is. I’m still learning that the world doesn’t revolve around me and that other’s feelings get hurt all the time. So with Steve, I’m asking myself more what he feels. I try my best to listen and respond appropriately. I also take a look at my own feelings and concerns and address them. I do still feel awkward talking about certain things with Steve but I know that I’m being heard and feel better after we chat.

4) Are you truly happy with me? I read an interview with Channing Tatum and how he and his wife developed a number system to measure the happiness in their marriage. They rate their happiness on a 1-to10 scale, with one being horrible and sad and 10 being perfectly blissful. They ask each other during random times what their happiness number is and when things dip below good, they work on it. I think happiness is one of the most important characteristics of a good relationship- duh, of course you want to have and be a happy partner. So, if one of you isn’t happy, what can you do to make things better? Remember, happiness is the key and is the thing both of you deserve.

A Slice of Courage: StoryCorps

I couldn’t get through work without NPR podcasts and one of my favorites to listen to is StoryCorps. StoryCorps collects personal accounts of those who highlight certain events and people in their lives- a man fondly recollected on how he met his father for the first time; other about how he was robbed and then took his attacker out to dinner. The website started in 2003 and has collected over 50,000 interviews from more than 80,000 participants. The stories are archived in the Library of Congress and are shared all over the globe.

I once heard that stories made up the universe, not atoms and molecules. Without the tales we share, we don’t have much. Stories are how we pass down history and learn lessons. Those told in StoryCorps inspire us, make us cry and give us something to cheer on.

What’s your story, dear reader?

Loving Your Body Just the Way It Is

Since the middle of last year, I’ve been hitting the gym. It has taken a long time to like that I see in the mirror but I’m just about there. So when I was asked why I go to the gym so often, I say that I just want to be stronger. No need to tone- I like being curvy with soft hips. It’d just be cool to lift really heavy stuff with ease, like a 200 barbell.

Even though I feel better about my body and self image every day, I still get down on myself sometimes for not looking “ideal.” In trying to morph this negative thinking into something positive, I’ve been reading other women’s tips on how to reverse their thoughts. Spark People asked a group of women of all shapes and ages, ”What is one body part you can feel grateful for, love and appreciate, no matter what size and shape it is right now, and why?” This got me thinking about appreciation rather obessession. What if we were thankful for what we have rather than obsessed over what we wanted and didn’t have. Below are some comments from Sparks People women about what they love most about their bodies…

1. ”I love my legs because although they don’t look like anything special, they carry me through my days without fail.”

2. ”I love my smile. People tell me I light up a room with it, and it makes others feel welcome and cared for.”

3. “I love and am grateful for my ears because they allow me to enjoy my greatest passion, which is music and sound!”

4. “I love my stomach. It kept my twin babies warm and secure until they were ready to enter this world.”

5. ”I love my arms. Even at 65 years old, I still wear sleeveless shirts without feeling self-conscious.”

As for me, I’m particularity fond of my nose (it looks especially cute with a stud it in) and smile (I finally like my jagged rows of teeth), my breasts (because boobs are just AWESOME) and fingers (they allow me to type and grip my bicycle handlebars), and my small waist (Sir Mix-A-Lot wrote a song about me) and muscular calves (even though I can’t fit them into tall boots, my legs look damn good in heels and low top Chuck Taylors). I know I don’t look perfect but hey, I’m healthy and pretty happy. And that’s something to be grateful for.

What do you love about your body, dear reader, and how to you celebrate it?

A Slice of Courage: Anthony Bourdain

“People are telling you a story when they serve you food.” -Anthony Bourdain

Food, traveling, an over abundance of curse words… Man, do I love Anthony Bourdain. What do you say about a man who will always be far cooler than you’ll ever be, a person that you desperately want as your dining and adventure companion (seriously, how do you sign up to be his assistant?)? Over the long weekend, I binged on his CNN show, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, and savored the images and sound clips of the places he explored and the meals he ate. From the Congo to Myanmar to downtown LA, Bourdain shows his audiences that the world is really connected by food and the adoration people have for those who prepare it.

What is YOUR Dawn Wall?

A few couple days ago, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson completed what some say is the most difficult climb in the world. They were the first people to free climb the 3,000 feet Dawn Wall, a side of the El Capitan monolith in Yosemite National Park (free climbing is when one uses only their hands and feet to pull themselves up. Ropes are only used to break a fall). The climb took three weeks and the men’s hands were worn and bloody as they clung on the stone. But when they reached the top, their families and the feeling of accomplishment were there waiting for them- what a reward.

Their climb got me thinking about the things I’m climbing over in my life. What is my Dawn Wall? With the start of school this week, my schedule is going to be overloaded with commitments. I freak out when I have more than a lot to do and I usually set important things like studying aside, until the last minute. So, how am I going to conquer this challenge? I don’t need shoes and climbing powder- I just need a planner and patience. I look at last semester and how much I dreaded studying and how I rather hang out with friends instead. This time, I’m holding myself accountable and letting everyone know it- everyone said it was fine if they saw me less this semester (plus, it helps that most of my friends are taking classes, too). I’m blocking out time to studying during the week and am leaving my weekends for fun. And I will be letting that feeling of accomplishment be my motivation- that and maybe some graduation presents in May (hint, hint).

What is your Dawn Wall, dear reader? What difficulties do you need to climb and how will you conquer them?

20 Journalists Have Died This Year

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I’m walking in Sub-Saharan Africa, sweating and carrying a reporter’s notebook in my hand and a large pack on my back. I have a digital camera around my neck and a tape recorder in my back pocket. I just interviewed a family who sent their little girls to school for the first time. I felt welcomed in their home, in their village. Welcomed and safe. That image I just described is the kind of journalist I want to be. Trekking through Africa is one thing, but being safe is another.

Journalism and safety have been on my mind this past week, thinking about the shooting at the French satirical, Charlie Hebdo. According to Reporters Without Borders, 20 journalists were killed this year, only 15 days into 2015. Last year, 61 journalists were killed around the globe. These journalists covered everything from politics and policies to war to human rights watches. The countries, Syria and the Ukraine, are the top two deadliest countries for reporters. In the United States, reporters may not be dying, but they are constantly harassed by police and other individuals. When the riots in Ferguson first began, and the media started to cover the protesting, many reporters were seriously injured and wrongfully arrested. “Just cuffed and searched as we said we were leaving,” tweeted out Niel Munshi of the Chicago Financial Times. Robert Klemko with Sports Illustrated tweeted, “About 25 minutes after the gas attack, with the smoke cleared and the area secure, we attempted to go back down the street to report. When they cut cuffs off minutes later, I held onto it. Missouri Highway State Patrol captain, Ron Johnson, tried to take it…”

Reporters get a lot of hate from the public. People don’t like what they read and see on the media. While I agree that a lot of reporting is sensationalized and filled with unwanted opinions, there are genuine reporters who want to get the truth out there and they work hard to do so. If we didn’t have good journalists like that, we would never know what is going on in the far corners of the world, or even in our own country. We wouldn’t know about the Ebola epidemic, who is dating who in Hollywood nor let alone, the shooting in Paris. We need to protect the writers, photographers and editors of the world and show them respect- or we will lose our sources of information and entertainment.

Being Financially Responsible

Note: If you know me, you know that I have a bad Ebay habit (I just love bidding). I’m not a banker nor a financial wiz kid. I just know what I know and have done my research.

moneyroll

I have a lot I need to save for this year. There’s Burning Man, a rental deposit for the new place my boyfriend and I haven’t picked out yet, my graduation party, wedding gifts and an autumn trip to NYC. For the longest time, I was that person living from paycheck to paycheck- I love buying new clothes and eating out often. But I do know the costs of not minding your money- you run out of it quick.

I started cooking at home (making a shopping list before I go to the SaveMart, not Whole Foods) and learned to not care about wearing the same pants twice a week. But that still doesn’t make a complete dent into the amount of saving that I wish to achieve. So, I came up with a small list to help me along my being financially smart and responsible journey. Below are some steps I took into to save money and get some funds into my savings account…

1.) I highly recommend meeting with a banker at your local bank. This is definitely the first step to saving. Your banker can explain your options and suggest new ones. I met with Wells Fargo financial planner who suggested a Roth IRA to my closed savings account and also recommended that I finally get a credit card in order to build credit (love her- my banker is a genius!). Also research, research, RESEARCH! There are a lot of great websites out there that will break down complicated banking options into manageable pieces that you can understand. I had no idea what an IRA- but now, I do. Once you explore, you can narrow down your options to fit what is best for you.

2.) Prioritizing your needs. Do you need this? Do you need that? I think about how chilly it has been this winter and how much I love heat. So, I have dedicated some of my paycheck towards that versus a new pair of heels.

3.) Picking cheap hobbies. Doing stuff can be expensive and as much as I love having an adventure or two every week, I know that I need to scale back and not spend a $100 on skydiving every weekend (wouldn’t that be great, though)? Instead, I read a lot- I still check out books from the library- and I sew. I’ve been working on a quilt for the last year made from worn shirts. It’s something cheap to do on nights where I’m especially bored and I have something beautiful when I’m done.

4.) Budget. Budget. Budget. Budgeting is something I’m still working on. I hate looking at my account on the Wells Fargo website every day but it is helpful, especially when you’re trying to figure out trends in your spending.

5.) Looking for sales. If I absolutely need to have a new outfit, I research and try to find a deal. Example: All season, I wanted a pair of suede booties but could never find an inexpensive pair that I liked. When I found a pair on H&M, I noticed that you could get 25% off when you signed up for their email list. BAM- I signed up for their list, got the discount (I just made sure that all my H&M emails are marked as spam now).

6.) Piggy banks. Yes, that’s right. Piggy Banks. I put all my change into one. When I was a sweet treat, I don’t pull out my debit card. Instead, I use all that spare change. If I don’t have the money, I don’t buy the candy. Saves me on both the charge and the calories.

How do you save your money, dear reader? Any tips and tricks?

A Slice of Courage: Brandon Stanton and “Humans of New York”

Brandon Stanton has an incredible job (that I’m incredibly envious of). He walks around New York City, taking photographs and collecting life stories from anyone he meets. He organizes this collection on his website, Humans of New York. Stanton started his project five years ago and somehow, he manages to get the most intimate secrets out of strangers.

I check Humans of New York daily. Not only does it fulfill my love (and slight homesickness) for NYC but it also makes me feel closer to humanity. Stanton shows that we all are more alike than we think and how we all have a story to share. Below are some of my recent favorite entries from Stanton’s site:

“She helps me with my math homework. When I run out of fingers to count on, she lets me use her fingers too.”

“My wife and I were both on the six figure plan. I was thinking that if I could get to $100,000 a year, I’d be all right. I studied information systems and economics in college. I had a decent paying job at the 311 call center. Every morning I’d wake up early then fall back asleep on the subway. It was like that Groundhog’s Day movie. The ‘deferred life plan’ wasn’t working for me. Everyone kept telling me that all I needed was another master’s degree, or another certification, but I was done with it. So I quit my job and decided to be a musician. I turned off the TV. I turned off the radio. I devoted myself full time to music. I’d never played an instrument before, so I found some YouTube videos that taught me basic chord progressions on guitar and keyboard. I was really bad for a long time. I wondered if I’d made a mistake. But when I listened to the early work of famous musicians like Dr. Dre, they weren’t that good either. I thought: ‘I’m just as smart as them. And they were like me once. So if they got there, so can I.’ I started driving a cab so I could control my own hours. I’d get off at 2 AM and make music until 5 AM, but I’d still wake up happy because life had a purpose now. I called my first album ‘Better Than Fantastic,’ because that’s how it felt. I’ve handed out 10,000 of them. I give one to everyone who rides in the cab.”

“Today’s the due date. I gained more weight during the pregnancy than she did. Seriously, I gained 40 pounds.”

Hate and Free Speech

By Tome Toles, The Washington Post

By Tome Toles, The Washington Post

On Wednesday, gunmen entered the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and shot 12 dead. Four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor-in-chief, were among those killed. Paris and the rest of the world are shocked and in mourning. The journalism community is completely flabbergasted- yes, plenty of newspapers and magazines have received death threats before but no one has stormed into a publication office with guns, killing people who are only expressing their right to free speech.

By Rob Tornoe, The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Rob Tornoe, The Philadelphia Inquirer

A little less than a month ago, the film company, Sony, pulled the theatrical release of its movie, “The Interview” starring James Franco and Seth Rogen as a television crew assigned to kill the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. After the North Korean government threatened theatre goers who watched the film and hacked the movie company, Sony made the pull. Fans roared. Hollywood tweeted (my favorite tweet was written by Steve Carrell: Sad day for creative expression. #feareatsthesoul). Sony released the movie anyway, on YouTube (I paid for it and watched it- the movie is hilarious. That James Franco…), and has reported that it has nearly made all its money back (good job, Sony).

By Dave Brown, The Independent

By Dave Brown, The Independent

We, Americans (as well as the French), have the right of free speech. But what happened when that right is threatened? Are we supposed to keep our mouths closed? Online today, I’ve seen cartoonists from all over the world pay their respects to the staff of Charlie Hebdo. It’s comforting to see people who are giving their middle finger to the gunman- they are doing what they love to do and they’re not letting the negative bring them down. I hope that more cartoonists contribute their respects to Charlie Hebdo and the gunman will see that their hate is counteracted with messages of love and recognition.

Long live to Charlie Hebdo and I look forward to reading you in the future.