The following is my editor’s letter from the December 2019 issue of Lake Norman CURRENTS, the magazine I work for, and I wanted to share with you all here. ‘Tis the Season!
This is a time of year I dread–when the days are shorter, colder and there is less sunlight to go around. I never really realized how much it affected me until the last few years. Before, I would acknowledge that yes, I tended to stay indoors more November through March and reach for the carbs, and it became more of a chore to take my dogs on our daily walks.
Now, there’s no denying it. Being in my early 40s, I’ve also struggled with insomnia the past two years. I will be perfectly fine, and then once in bed, I can’t shut my mind off. I start thinking of social situations where I said the wrong thing, friendships I’ve lost, mistakes I’ve made with my kids, arguments with family members, work deadlines that never seem to end . . .
Symptoms of Seasonal affective disorder include difficulty concentrating (yes), having problems with sleeping (yes), low energy (yes), feeling hopeless or guilty (yes) and changes in appetite.
I’m at that point in the season now where I’ve gained a few pounds because of all the starches and sweets I’ve been craving, and the weather has prevented me from participating in my preferred forms of exercise, walking and running outdoors. Last night I had another night of no sleep, and I’m at my wits end. I found a therapist about six months ago so at least I’m able to discuss my worries, exhaustion and general anxiety once a week, and I’m determined to get back on track with logging in all my food on my WW app and get back to exercising. (I have a gym membership. I just have to make the commitment to make the ten-minute drive over there on the days when the wind is bitterly cold outside). Struggling with Seasonal affective disorder is also not conducive to creating, so I’m hoping once I battle this out I’ll be able to get back to my writing projects that also bring me joy. I keep joking that I need to plan a tropical vacation in the middle of the winter to combat the SAD, and one of these days I’m going to finally follow through with that plan.
I’m wondering who else here gets a hefty dose of the wintertime blues. How do you get through it?
These days, I listen to podcasts more than I listen to music while I’m working out, doing chores around the house or driving. I find my podcasts through word of mouth from friends, social media ads and from other podcasts. If you’re looking for new podcasts to binge, here are a few of my recommendations!
For the Person Looking to Pivot.
Second Life. Hosted by Hillary Kerr, this podcast features weekly interviews with women “who’ve made major career changes and fearlessly mastered the pivot.” The first episode I listened to featured musician/actress Mandy Moore, and after that, I was hooked. I love hearing all these stories of how women paved their own way and found the ultimate joy and happiness in their careers. From nutritionist and celebrity health coach Kelly LeVeque to journalist and former CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin, these interviews are full of inspiration and encouragement.
For the True Crime Junkie
Cold. If you’re obsessed with true crime, chances are you’ve heard of the Susan Cox Powell story. Unfortunately, you also know her body has never been found, and all of the key players in the case are no longer with us. This in-depth look at the case, from the beginning of Susan’s relationship with her eccentric husband Josh Powell to the day she disappeared, takes the listener all the way to present day. I binged all 18 episodes in about a week, if that tells you anything about how addictive it is. This podcast features never-before heard audio with both Josh and Susan Powell and Josh’s father, Steve, who had an unhealthy obsession with Susan. This podcast is stunning and riveting all at once.
For the Budding Entrepreneur
Goal Digger Podcast. I started listening to Jenna Kutcher’s podcast as a way to get tips on personal development in my marketing day job. What I got was so much more. From interviews with movers and shakers in the business world (again, mostly women), to tangible podcasts like “Launch Your Dream Biz in Just 90 Minutes Per Day,” I come back to this one again and again while I’m exercising because it’s so full of motivation and enthusiasm.
For the Person Obsessed with Eating Healthy
I love, love, love The Hungry Girl, and her podcast “Chew the Right Thing,” is just as practical and delightful as Lisa Lillian, the woman behind the brand. Each week she and her team members Jamie and Mike tackle topics like “The Top 8 Ways to Overcome a Weight-Loss Plateau” and “The Breakfast Awards Episode,” which are full of great product reviews and tips. Warning though, they have a taste-testing section in each episode that might make you ready to head to the grocery store and have a snack after you listen.
For the Seeker of Great Storytelling
Imagined Life. This is storytelling at its finest. Co-hosted by Robbie Daymond and Virginia Madsen, each episode walks you through an immersive journey of a world-famous person. The hook? You don’t get to find out who the person is until the very end—unless of course, you guess the person first! So many of these episodes surprised me and even had me shedding a tear or two! My personal favorite: “The Handler.”
I’m always on the hunt for a great podcast. What are some of your favorites?
Normally I try to reserve Mondays for book reviews and I’ve read a lot of great ones in recent months! Of course I snatched up The Perfect Couple from one of my favorite authors Elin Hilderbrand when it became available in June. I read it over vacation and it was the perfect escape. I also finally finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed (it had been on my Kindle forever) and checked out the motivational book Girl, Wash Your Face by one of my new favorite motivational speakers/entrepreneurs, Rachel Hollis. I’ll try to get some of these reviews put up in the next few weeks.
But for today, I’ll try to provide an overview of what I’ve been writing about the past several months. I’m working on revising my contemporary young adult manuscript, Under My Skin, and am putting the final tweaks on another manuscript, Between, before I finally start shopping it around to agents! A few months ago I entered a short story I wrote, “The Name You’re Not Supposed to Call Women,” in the 2018 Women’s National Book Association Writing Contest in the Young Adult Category. Imagine my surprise when I received notification that it won an Honorable Mention (fourth place). I am so proud of this story, as I wrote it to help process an experience I went through in my late teens. You can read the final version here.
I had a wonderful family vacation in July on the gorgeous Anna Maria Island off the Gulf Coast of Florida.
I’m still dreaming about that place, and grateful that a visit to the The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Fla. inspired yet another short story, “The First and Last Time I Ever Saw a Clown Cry.” I entered it in a flash fiction contest and anxiously await the results. Here is a snippet from it:
I don’t remember exactly when the first hints of smoke hit us, or when Mother and Father realized we were in trouble. Father scanned the crowd until he spotted the grotesque orange and red flames shooting up one wall of the tent. Soon, screams of “FIRE” were reverberating throughout the crowd. The band stopped playing. Throngs of people began thundering up and down the rows of metal bleachers while trying to figure out the quickest exit. I clutched Mother’s arm as she tried to talk to Father over the mayhem. We couldn’t get down the stairs of the bleachers fast enough and were crushed from behind by the people trying to force their way through the crowd.
Tomorrow, I’ll be at WOW! Women on Writing blogging about the importance of seeking out professional development in your career. Be sure to stop by and check it out!
For me, there are certain things that have always helped me curate my identity as a writer. A warm cup of coffee, maybe a muffin with little dab of butter or a bagel, more coffee in the afternoon (if I really need a pick-me-up, Starbucks), etc., etc. Part of my writing life is visiting great restaurants and coffee shops and snapping photos of indulgent foods and drinks to share on social media. But then my clothes started getting tighter and the photos that had my face in them disappointed me. Why did my face look so swollen? Why did my tops look so tight on me? Why were there so many pairs of pants in my closet that I was having to set aside in favor of stretchy leggings?
My relationship with food had gotten out of hand. Although I make it a point to get my “butt out of the chair” as often as possible and exercise 4-5 days a week, I still wasn’t happy with the person I was seeing in the mirror. I tried to figure out what I wanted to do about it as the holidays rolled to an end.
I’ve tried MyFitnessPal in the past, and had success with it. The app is easy to use but tracking each and every single calorie I put in my mouth (as well as exercise minutes) grew tedious and I fell off the wagon after a few years. I considered the Whole 30 program. I know so many people who have done it and had great results, so I stocked my pantry with a few Whole 30-approved items like coconut oil and ghee and ordered a cookbook full of recipes that looked tempting. But then I thought longer and harder. I wasn’t really having any health issues like food allergies, inflammation (besides persistent reflux) to prompt me to take a bunch of foods out of my diet. I didn’t want to lose 15 pounds in a month and then gain it all back after I reintroduced foods.
I explored my options, and then saw an ad for the new Weight Watchers Freestyle program (yes, the one Oprah has been raving about). I liked the idea of all the Zero points foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, eggs, Greek yogurt, skinless chicken breasts, shrimp, beans, etc. I also liked that I didn’t have to track every single calorie. If you eat a Zero point food you can track it but it isn’t mandatory like it would be on MyFitnessPal. Plus, I didn’t have to radically cut things out of my diet like alcohol, sugar, flour, dairy, etc. Plus, you can eat out if you want, since Weight Watches has a great database of restaurant foods and how many points they equal.
Without giving it too much thought, I dove in, signing up for the online version. The bonus is that I can get two-months worth of membership back if I lose 10 pounds. That’s an incentive!
At first I was crabby, I’ll admit it. I was sad about giving up so much sugar and carbs. Then as the days went on, I realized how addicted I had been to sugar and carbs. The amount of cream and sugar I was dumping into my coffee daily (not to mention those loaded Starbucks drinks) had probably put 10 pounds on me alone. I started allowing myself one teaspoon of sugar in my coffee per day and using stevia for the rest. I began eating way more fruits and vegetables (and eggs) because they were zero points. In my first week alone, I lost 3.7 pounds. And I was eating great food–just much smaller portions and more lean protein and vegetables. It’s not rocket science, I know. You just have to be motivated and I finally am. The app is super easy to use and I can easily scan barcodes to see how many points that item is worth. The other day I was in the grocery store and got to the check-out line starving. I quickly scanned a LaraBar to see how many points it had–couldn’t be that bad, right? 11 points! Out of my daily 23? No thanks. I went home and ate some grapes for zero points and was just fine.
I have done so much more cooking at home and meal prep and my family keeps telling me that although they didn’t think I needed to lose weight, I look great and seem to have more energy. The weight watchers app has so many simple and tasty recipes I really don’t feel deprived at all.
In the past 11 days, I’ve had pizza, wine here and there, small amounts of dessert, and am still losing the weight. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me. It would be nice to reach my goal of 10-15 pounds by swimsuit season!
I missed posting for True Crime Wednesday this week due to an ear infection that has slowed me down, but I’ll be sure to report on a new case for that next week. Today I want to talk about a blog I started following this past spring that has helped me revamp my image somewhat, as I was in dire need of a mom makeover.
Over the years I’ve struggled with a style identity. In college, I worked at Express, so I looked a lot like the gals on the show “Friends” minus the Rachel hair. Then I went through a bit of a grunge phase (think denim overalls, flannel shirts, combat boots and magenta hair.) I mean, I did go to a liberal arts college. When I first started working professionally I didn’t have a ton of money to my name, so I relied on the sale racks at most of the mall stores like The Gap and New York and Company.
A few years later I ventured into Loft and Old Navy territory. After I became a mom and started freelancing from home more, I didn’t know what to wear. I still wanted to look stylish but it was hard to do when you spend your whole day trying to entice your toddlers to eat something besides yogurt and mac and cheese and hoping to hit the gym every once and a while. I went through a phase where I wore nothing but those velour jogging suits, which I finally retired this past year. I actually got excited whenever I had the chance to work on site in an office because it gave me a chance to dress more professionally.
Stuck in a rut, I gave Stitch Fix a try for a few months, but I felt like a lot of the clothes I liked were overpriced for the quality, especially blouses, so I stopped after three or four fixes. For example, I loved the blouse below but it shrunk like crazy after one wash and the buttons don’t always stay closed so I have to wear a shirt underneath it so I don’t flash anyone by accident.
I was lamenting to a friend and she asked me if I had checked out the Living in Yellow blog. I hadn’t, so I visited the page on Facebook. Blogger Erin Schrader started LIY several years ago while she had a full-time job, but when I started following her she had just decided to take the plunge and leave that position to focus solely on building up LIY. Erin and her team follow sales that happen at many stores I already shop at, such as Loft, Old Navy and Macy’s. The blazer and dress below? Both from Old Navy, courtesy of a LIY suggestion. Cute and affordable!
Erin also has a fondness for Nordstrom, and I’ve purchased several pairs of shoes from there in the past few months based on the LIY recommendations. I feel like I’ve stepped up my style game somewhat, and when I got a new job recently, I headed straight to LIY to figure out what kinds of pieces to invest in. I’ve become more schooled in accessories such as jewelry, handbags, shoes and layering pieces like jackets and cardigans, and there are price points suggested for all budgets.
They also mix things up with lifestyle blog posts with tips on home décor, recipes, products for pets, and other fun topics. One of my favorites that also resonated with a lot of LIY followers was this post on Outfits for Fall Family Photos. Yes, please!
Erin and team, I love what you’re doing over at Living in Yellow. Now I’m rocking Converses and fun vests and scarves and hopefully not looking as old as I really am. Thanks to your blog I’m finding fashion fun again and even get some great ideas for my 14-year-old daughter, who would live in athletic wear if she had a choice. Erin should be an inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere (she also has a very talented sister who creates gorgeous farmhouse-style signs at Joyfully Said Signs). So between the two sisters, I’m gonna be broke soon.
I can’t wait to spend more time with Erin and Co. this weekend, credit card in hand.