Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Tale of Two Lemons

For years I've quietly refused to shop at two places: Haymarket and lululemon. They don't have anything to do with each other and I didn't swear them off on the exact same day, I've just had them both on my "nope" list for 3+ years. I have no idea why this happened, but they both returned to my "okay" list this weekend within 14 hours of each other. I thought I'd write a little review of each since my feelings have changed towards both.

Haymarket. Sigh. One night several years ago, some girl who was part of a group of individuals I was only socializing with because they were friends of my then boyfriend was going on and on about being thrifty and responsible and saving money. On. And on. And on. And on. Grocery stores were so overpriced and blah blah blah Haymarket Haymarket, yay Haymarket. I didn't like her. (I didn't like my boyfriend either, ha!) Anyway, regardless of the fact that I didn't like a single person who was influencing my behavior and decisions at the time,  I was desperate to fit in and be thrifty and responsible, so I tried to make myself shop at Haymarket. Long story short, the last time I tried this one of the vendors screamed at me and told me to go to Whole Foods and pay four times the price if I wanted to choose my own peppers. I just sort of looked at him and said, "You're right." End of story. Off to Whole Foods. Fast forward to this morning. I needed a lemon. I needed limes. I didn't feel like leaving the neighborhood today. I was sitting on the Greenway. I slipped some dollar bills into my fist and casually and cautiously meandered towards Haymarket. Well well well, look at you, jerk face. I mean, I have refused for years to even walk through it. I walked around it. Full on shunning. But the lemons looked pretty good. And they were six for $1. Last week in this same situation I paid $1.29 for a creepy looking lemon at 7-11. Nope. So I shyly approached the vendor with the good lemons. Get this. He took my dollar and I jumped backwards figuring he had to pick the (shittiest possible) lemons and give them to me. He smiled, handed me a bag and said, "Go ahead, honey." Seriously?! Psh. Okay....? Same deal at the lime guy a few vendors down. $2 for six. #goaheadhoney Maybe I was going to the wrong vendors before. Maybe everyone at Haymarket just got nicer. Maybe I got nicer. I have no idea what changed. But my bowl of citrus looks tremendous on my table and for $3? I'll go ahead, honey.

lululemon. I mean. Do I own items from lululemon? Yes. Five. (Well, six after last night.) Do I like them? I try not to. Did I buy them between three and six years ago and are they all still in pretty great shape after being pulled and stretched and sweated on and hurriedly rolled up into balls and shoved into bags multiple times a week? Yes. DAMN them. But I hit a point with that place three or four years ago where I couldn't do it anymore. Too much. Too expensive. Too fake. Too in-my-face in the store. Then the pants were rumored to be sheer. The CEO apparently didn't like anyone over a size 0. Screw you. Goodbye forever. Fast forward again. I started taking yoga regularly seven months ago. I really REALLY enjoy it. I also teach multiple fitness classes each week. I've tried to love my Old Navy leggings, but this week in class I spotted another hole in another pair. (I still love you, Old Navy. For $15 the fact that your leggings last as long as they do is a miracle and you should be proud of yourselves.) Last night I was leaving the Prudential and passed lululemon and thought I'd just take a look. The experience of the store was largely the same. "HI I'M AMY ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH OUR PANT WALL?!!?!?! WHAT KIND OF EXERCISE DO YOU DO?!?!?!" Various. Can you stop yelling? Thanks. "DO YOU WANT TO TRY THOSE ON?!?!?!?! WHAT'S YOUR NAME??????????????????????" Ugh. Simmer down. So annoying, but I have to hand it to them, the Wunder Under Hi-Rise Tight was everything I'd ever wanted. Perfect length. Zero chance of the waistband rolling, that thing is locked in way up high. Soft but SUPER compression-y. These tights literally make you feel like you're naked AND you have no fat on your body. That is the only way I can describe them. I had to get them. I walked to the register and told the girl that I was an instructor and that I'd been part of their discount program several years ago and I'd like to re-enroll. Thunderclap. Scream. Carmina Burana plays. So many personalities at lululemon. She glared at me and demanded to know where I worked as an instructor as if to say, "They let YOU teach?" Well yes they do, sweetheart. Come to Brookline on Monday night, oh wait you won't be able to get a ticket. I regained focus and suffered through the speech she gave me, "The PROGRAM has changed. And it's not just for anyone who considers themselves an athlete anymore. It's way more serious now. Way more serious. And the discount............ is now 25%." She paused for my reaction. Stone face. Paid. Left. Those pants were one hundred dollars. One hundred. Dollars. And yes, the discount helped and I love them and literally could not wait to wear them to class this afternoon but, damn. Get it together, lululemon. Your products are ridiculously high quality and over the years have gotten better and better and I will begin to buy them more regularly again, but your stores are completely psychotic. Take a page from the kinder, gentler vendors at Haymarket.

Happy Saturday, all.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Off The Bench

Sunday started out so well. I slept late. I went to yoga and worked really hard. I came home and made scrambled eggs and homefries and coffee. I got on the couch and read this book for a couple hours, and then I decided to take a walk. I headed over to the waterfront. I love being near the water. I was on a little dirt path when I turned a corner, stopped DEAD in my tracks, and gasped like someone had slapped me. It was a bench. A bench I'd totally totally forgotten about that I sat on on a day I'd almost totally forgotten about. I'm not going to get into the details of what actually happened on the bench, let's just say I sat there one afternoon a couple years ago with someone who was very unkind to me and it made me feel dreadful to see it again. So naturally I walked over and sat down on it and settled in for a good wallow. I'm a wallower, I've mentioned this. I need to work on that. I sat. I wallowed. I got choked up. I shed a few tears. I thought I'd feel better. I didn't. I felt worse.

I decided to get up and keep walking. Walking always helps. Movement always helps. Nope. Still felt shitty. Put some loud music on and walked faster. Nope. Turned around to head back to civilization. Stopped at the grocery store and got ice cream and whipped cream and hot fudge, came home and fixed myself a sundae. Nope. Ate one bite and knew it wasn't for me. Walked to The Thinking Cup with my laptop, got a coffee in a big mug, got the window seat, tried to do some writing. Still nope. Nope nope nope.

As I sat there trying to write and continuing to feel like crap, I finally typed out the words, "What do you need right now?" I'm trying really hard lately to get better at coping with stress, sadness, anger, etcetera. I've tended in the past to do things that weren't all that healthy or productive when the going got tough. I think a lot of people do that. You get to a point where you feel lousy, and you just want to numb it any way you can as quickly as possible. With alcohol. With shopping. With food. Whatever. I'm realizing that doesn't really work. It doesn't work and it can make things worse in the long run. So, I decided to sit with my awful bench feelings and ask myself what I needed to process them and move on. My answer came as a huge shock. I needed to sing. Sing? Sing. Like at the top of my lungs into a microphone. I'm not a singer. At all. But I wanted to sing. I then remembered that there was a very nice establishment (sarcasm) only a 10-minute walk from The Thinking Cup that had karaoke on Sunday nights. I decided to shut my laptop and walk over and see. Maybe I'd just sit there and watch, maybe I'd give it a shot.

I got there and RAN to a seat in the corner to hide. I looked like hell. I mean, HELL. No makeup. Flip flops I bought for $3. Jeans. Ratty old striped top. Bun on top of my head leftover from that morning's yoga class. Puffy eyes. But I immediately liked it there and felt a tiny bit better. The other patrons seemed happy and nice enough. No one seemed out of control drunk or belligerent. I really enjoyed listening to people sing and I noticed that there was a vibe within the crowd of everyone wanting everyone else to do well. One girl did SUCH a good job that I felt compelled to tell her. She was very friendly and we ended up tackling a song together. I loved it. But it was more of a rap song and I still wanted to do something on my own and really WAIL. I'd never sung anything by myself before so I still have no idea where this came from. I'd done karaoke, but I always rapped like I did with my new friend. Finally I signed up and when my name got called I crossed my fingers and went for it.

I cannot even TELL you how much I enjoyed this. I sang So What by Pink. I didn't even know I liked that song? For some reason it was exactly what I needed. I belted it and people seemed to think I did okay. I couldn't believe how loud I was. At one point someone even leaned in sang one really really loud line with me. I got three high fives on my way back to my corner. And most importantly, I felt 100% better. I couldn't stop smiling. I sat for a few more minutes and listened to the next song, walked home, hugged my cat, and went to bed. I still haven't stopped smiling.

Maybe I sound like a crazy person, but I think there is something to the karaoke community. Yes, I just called it a community. You are putting yourself out there, you're doing your best, it's cathartic in some way, it's loud, and people cheer for you even if you're terrible. Sometimes they cheer even louder if you're terrible. How great is that?

The thing that makes me happiest about this, though, is that I didn't crawl into an emotional hole for three days when I got upset. I didn't drink too much, shop too much, or eat too much to temporarily numb things, I just figured out how to feel better. It was totally ridiculous, sure, but I don't care. It worked.  Off the bench. Onward and upward.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday Five @ 5

1. Hi. Yeah. I never write these anymore. Oh well. I looked at a few other blogs this morning and noticed that I'm not alone in struggling to find time to pursue this hobby, so I'm not going to beat myself up about it. This is my first real day off in a while. I cannot tell you how nice it is to sit down at my kitchen table, listen to Matty in the Morning, and drink coffee made in my Chemex instead of caterer coffee in a paper cup. Thought I'd get up and throw some words out onto the internet while I'm in such a good mood.

2. I went to have my annual physical yesterday. For part of the appointment my doctor was reviewing my notes from last year's visit to see if anything had changed. Where do I work, what do I do for exercise, do I still teach, do I still like it, do I smoke, how much do I drink, what's my diet like, what's my home like, my sleep, etc. All of my answers sounded positive, nothing had changed. She moved onto the physical exam and that was fine, too. Again, nothing had changed. I could consider taking Vitamin D, hit the dermatologist again this year because I'm pale and freckled and she'll see me in a year unless anything comes up. I was horrified. How is this possible? I'm fine? No I'm not. Look at the year I just had. Check me again, Johns Hopkins-educated MD. I left feeling really uneasy. I wandered around the Back Bay pouting for a while. It started to rain so I took my pouting into Marshall's and tried on 6 million tops. It was in the Marshall's dressing room that I realized I was being a real asshole. I'm healthy. My doctor just told me I'm healthy. How many people don't get that news when they go to the doctor? Someday I won't get that news. I need to stop being such a wallowing hypochondriac and appreciate the fact that things are good right now, things are stable. Yes, it was a shitty year, but I survived it. I'm unscathed. Stop wallowing, Ann. Ugh.  

3. In more serious news, I've decided that I'm done with Spanx. DONE. Goodbye forever. They are in the trash. If I put something on in the fitting room at the store and look in the mirror and think it would only look good if I wore Spanx with it, then I'm not buying it. That means it doesn't fit me. I'm not buying shit that doesn't fit me anymore. I like feeling good. The only time people ever tell me I look nice is when I feel good. When I'm physically comfortable. Spanx make me feel awful. I could have the most gorgeous dress in the world on, but I'm walking around feeling like I'm wearing bike shorts. Bike shorts. I don't feel good in bike shorts. Maybe you cyclists do, but I don't. A few years back I decided that anytime I went shopping for clothes I'd get in the fitting room, put the items on with my back to the mirror, and only turn around and look in the mirror if they felt good. I'm going back to that.

4. I love taking myself out to eat. I enjoy going out with people, of course, but I really enjoy having a meal at a bar by myself. One of my favorite things to do. The first time I did this I was 17 years old. It was the middle of the day at school and I decided I really needed to buy opera length gloves for my prom. It needed to happen right now. Sorry, education. I told one of the Deans who seemed to think I was an okay kid that I didn't feel well and he signed me out for the day. I kind of can't believe that was okay? Anyway, I went across the street and hopped on the train and went into Boston to buy my gloves. I went to Saks Fifth Avenue in the Prudential and bought them. A woman named Nathalie sold them to me, I still have her business card. They were $80. Why not? I was making $5.50/hour at Walgreens at that point. Anyway, after my shopping success I realized I was really hungry and had earned a good feed. I took myself out for an elegant lunch at the Chili's in Copley Place. I sat at the bar and had a huge Coke and an Old Timer burger and, of course, the free chips and salsa. Best day ever. I fell in love with the solo bar meal that day, and 20 years later it's still one of my favorite things. Also still on my list of favorite things is the salsa from Chili's. OMG. How delicious is that? I was talking about it with a friend last Saturday and proceeded to crave it for the next five days. There are no Chili's near me so I needed to take matters into my own hands. Last night I attempted a new salsa recipe that I thought could yield a salsa similar to the amazingness of Chili's and it WORKED. You should all try it. It makes a thinner, restaurant style, tangy, somewhat spicy salsa. Try this: 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, one jalapeño roughly chopped, 1/2 a red onion roughly chopped, handful of fresh cilantro, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, the juice of half a lime. Throw all of that into a food processor and pulse. Dump into a jar or container and cover. Refrigerate as long as you can stand to not be eating the salsa. Open it up. Prepare for your life to change.

5. A very close friend of mine had a baby boy a little over a month ago. She sent me a video of her little man this week since she knew I was having a stressful few days and it was just precious, calmed me down right away. This friend is the closest person to me to ever give birth. I'm so happy for her. But also? It's crazy to me that she MADE A HUMAN BEING WITH HER BODY. I realize this sounds insane. This is literally, actually THE tale as old as time. But it's like, wow. You made that nose. You made those legs. You made them. You made legs. With your... you. You made them. Mind BLOWN. Does this make sense? I'm late to the party, I know. But wow. I felt the same way at her wedding last year. I was standing up there in my bridesmaid dress half choked up and overwhelmed with love and happiness, half in shock thinking, "you're going to literally tell this guy how you feel about him in front of all these other people? It's possible to like someone enough to do THAT?!" I'm so thankful for this friend. She is the closest thing to a sister I've ever had. We've laughed and cried and danced and fought and talked too much and talked not at all and from the day we first met to today I am always learning what's possible from her. V^V^V^V

Happy Friday, all.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Five @ 5

The ocean. Provincetown. Fall 2016.
1. Smitten Kitchen re-posted this glorious recipe yesterday and I'm SO jazzed because I'm headed to a place this morning where I can buy really good choriço. The name of that magical place? Fall River, Massachusetts. I love working for the state. I've lived in Massachusetts my entire life (minus one year) and I'd only seen a fraction of it before I started my state job. Looking forward to meeting you, Fall River. Looking forward to a (hopefully) great event with the best crew of co-workers I've ever had.

2. I am newly obsessed with Veep. I started maybe a month ago and, WOW. WOW. This is a good show. I think it's making me more vulgar, but it's a great show. I only have one more episode and then I'm fully caught up and I'm so sad about this. HBO is a gift to us all. Truly.

3. It's Mother's Day this Sunday. I'm very close with my mother. I'm in touch with her before noon pretty much every single day. Sometimes I even run into her on the street on my way to work or in line at the coffee shop - this happened just yesterday and it was the best. She is the sharpest, kindest, most resilient, most loving, nastiest nasty woman I know. There is literally no one on the planet I'd rather spend time with if I had the choice. I'm very, very, very, very, very fortunate to have her as my mother and to have her so close-by, and I'm more conscious of that this year than I ever have been before. Love you, mama. 123.

4. I've started teaching on Friday nights. Last week was my first week. I think I'm going to love it. I never thought I would. I always sort of assumed I was too tired by the end of the day on Friday to stand up in front of a room full of people for two hours and pour my whole self out onto the floor in the name of fitness. But then I realized that I work harder on Friday in my day job than I do any other day of the week. My friend, Carmen, always comments on how I walk (stomp) around the office on Fridays when I'm in my zone. I LOVE Friday. I love that the clock is running out and I absolutely have to get things done because the weekend is looming. If you give me 5 days to do something, I might get it done. If you give my 5 minutes and 5 other things to do on top of the thing you need me to do, I will get all six things done. I will get 10 things done. The later it gets on Friday the harder I go. 3pm on Friday makes my head explode. So teaching at 5:30pm and 6:30pm is going to be good I think. I'm into it.

5. Switching gears, but sort of staying with fitness: I LOVE yoga. This isn't a flash in the pan like that phase I had with spinning or my last few (all but one of my) romantic relationships, this is LOVE. I'm not totally new to it, but I'm new to doing it regularly. For years I liked it. I'd dabble. I'd go every few months. I'd leave feeling nice-ish but wishing I loved it more and knowing I wouldn't be back for a long time. Well, the day has come. I love it. I think I love it now because I really need to. Several years ago I was drowning (metaphorically), and adding movement back into my life by way of taking dance classes at the gym was the thing that, at least for a while, yanked me out of the ocean. A little over a year ago, something crappy happened and I started to drown again. I now teach the dance classes at the gym that had previously brought me "back to shore," so I had to find something else. I'm not out of the water yet, but yoga is the thing that seems to be giving me the motivation and clarity to at least try and tread water. I can't fully explain why I love it, but there is something about movement paired with stillness, something about the really unique heat it generates, something about the "try and touch the floor/try and grab your other wrist while twisted around yourself and feeling unsure if you're even standing up or lying down anymore/try and balance and not bash your face into the floor" aspects of it that are making me feel brave and like I could potentially roll the dice and consider fully rejoining the world again. I took my 50th class of 2017 yesterday. Not a flash in the pan.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Five @ 5

1. Oof. Been a while. I think I'll just accept that this is going to be an occasional thing for me. I've missed posting here, but have just been too scattered. What a weird year 2017 is turning out to be. I can't say that I dislike it as much as I disliked 2016, but I can't say it's been a good year so far either. Some sad news. Some weird news. Some strange vibes. And Trump. Meh.

2. At least there is food to cheer us up, right? I'm making this Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup tonight, and these Marinated White Beans for lunch this week.

3. Speaking of food, if you're not following the Food of Elan on Instagram you should get that going.

4. Has everyone been shopping at LOFT except me? For some reason I got it into my head that I didn't love that store but it turns out I LOVE THAT STORE. I got this and this. Not bad. I felt swishy and pretty in both of them, and both were 40% off.

5.  Rosé season is upon us. I don't love the warmer weather but I do love rosé and the smell of tomato stems and having a lower electric bill because I don't need to turn my heat on. We can't all afford Whispering Angel all the time, at least I can't. I found a super cheap rosé at Trader Joe's on Friday that I loved almost as much. It's the "Les Portes de Bordeaux Rosé" and it's $6.99. Six ninety nine! I love Trader Joe's.