Learning to Be Alone

I love scrolling through articles on Psychology Today because almost daily I find an article that I find thought-provoking and especially applicable to my life.

This morning I stumbled upon When You Can’t Stand Being Alone with Yourself. This article caught my eye since I had just been discussing this topic with a friend of mine. She and her husband recently entered couples counseling, and one of the issues they’re working through with their therapist is her inability to be alone. She avoids being alone by keeping a busy social calendar and alone time is actually painful.

I think this is an issue a lot of women can relate to, and this article discusses how women are socialized to hate being alone. We’re not only wired for empathy, but as we’re growing up we’re encouraged to care for others. While this has its benefits in adult life, it can also have a detrimental effect when we become so committed to keeping a connection with others that we lose our sense of self.

Our self-esteem begins to stem from feedback from others, and when we find ourselves in a situation where we’re alone (i.e. we usually have a packed social calendar, but one weekend remains empty), we feel a sense of failure and the alone time can be downright painful.

We come up with strategies to avoid alone time, by working overtime or packing our social calendars with activities but inevitably, we all have alone time at some point.

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Growing up and throughout college, I was constantly surrounded by people. I’ve always been social and thrived off connecting with others. I also had a tendency to base approval of myself off feedback from others, and in relationships have not carved out time to be comfortable with myself.

In the year before I met Brandon, I learned to be comfortable with myself and to embrace alone time. I even came to love spending time alone, and having someone around all the time when we started dating was an adjustment.

While I still don’t shy away from alone time, I’ve noticed that since I’m used to having someone around all the time, when Brandon’s gone I tend to feel lonely and don’t 100% embrace the time spent with myself. My goal for coming months is to spend the 10 minutes a day that article suggests alone, with no distractions, to learn how to love being alone again.

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I’ll be sure to track my progress and write on how it goes.

Do you love alone time or avoid it? What strategies do you use to love your alone time?

A Productive Weekend

Happy Monday! I had a great weekend, and have to admit that I was a little sad when Monday crept up again.

The silver lining is that next week is Thanksgiving and we’re going to Arizona to see family and friends. Brandon will be visiting my hometown for the first time, and I couldn’t be more excited to show him around! I also can’t wait to see my three best friends from home (two of them live outside of Arizona now, but they’ll all be home for the holiday).

We kicked off the weekend with a party for a friend’s birthday at Boathouse Sushi in Rohnert Park. I didn’t take any pictures since we were both starving by the time the sushi arrived. The rolls were delicious, but I thought it was a little pricey for what we ordered ($70 for four rolls and one drink each).

Saturday morning I got in a killer cardio and legs workout by following the routine my personal trainer created for me. I used the foam roller at the end of my workout, which definitely helped my legs recover. I left the gym feeling very accomplished. Weekend workouts are my favorite since I don’t feel rushed at all!

After my workout I met a few girlfriends in Petaluma to each lunch and walk around. We had fun chatting a checking out a few stores. I’m so thankful for my girlfriends! They’re so supportive and help me feel balanced.

Sunday morning Brandon and I spent the day doing errands…we finally planned meals and went grocery shopping and stopped to get my oil changed.

A few of the errands were more fun than the others! We stopped at a few jewelry stores to hunt for wedding bands. I have a unique engagement ring which makes it hard to match, but I did find a few options. Brandon ordered some samples to look at ceramic rings (he wants a black band) and we’re excited to look at them when they come in. Making progress!

Our really fun errand of the day was stopping at the Marin Humane Society to make a few new, cuddly friends.

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Axel and Abby, quite possibly the cutest kitties on the planet. We’re considering expanding our fur family, but we want to make a very careful choice since adding a cat to our household will be quite an adjustment for Harrison. We visited the shelter to get an idea of what age would be ideal for introducing a cat to a home with a dog. While it was tempting to take both of these sweet babies home immediately, we want to be 100% in our decision so we decided to wait and think it over.

After making some new fur friends, we stopped at Dempsey’s in Petaluma for lunch. I think I’ve mentioned this restaurant before, and it’s definitely a favorite. Dempsey’s is known for creating dishes with unique flavor combinations and their menu changes frequently.

Brandon ordered the Chinese Chicken Salad.

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He gets this every time we eat here, since it’s delicious and relatively light.

I decided to try something new and ordered an appetizer as my entrée, the Polenta Trio.

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It was difficult to get an appetizing photo of this meal, but I can assure you it was delicious! The three toppings included blue cheese and caramelized onions, butternut squash and sage, and mushroom ragu all topped in a balsamic glaze. I loved the unique flavors of this dish. Delicious!

We ended the evening relaxing at home. It was a fantastic weekend!

Last Personal Training Session

Earlier this week I completed my final free session with my personal trainer. I left the last session feeling like I had a solid background for weight training on my own.

Our last session involved chest and back exercises (with a little core work mixed in).

Resistance Training Exercises
Chest Press
Chest Fly
Incline Chest Press
Incline Chest Fly
Lat Pull
Seated Row
Back Extensions

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Core/Balance/Stability Exercises
Exercise Ball Crunches
Exercise Ball Twists
Hanging Leg Lifts

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My personal trainer supplied all the basics, and thinks these will help get me started for the first month or so of weight training. I made a follow-up appointment for a month out so I can pick up some new techniques and check to make sure I’m on track.

I was excited to apply my knowledge yesterday morning and went through my roster of leg exercises. After I did legs day with my personal trainer last week it was difficult to walk for two days. However, after my workout my legs weren’t really sore at all so I need to make sure I’m doing the exercises correctly or up my weight. Good thing I scheduled a check-in!

Hiking and Hunting (for Arrowheads)

Last Sunday I was itching to get out of the house and go on an adventure. Initially, I suggested we hike Mt. St. Helena, but after hearing it was a 5-6 hour round trip hike, Brandon suggested something a little more low-key.

We headed out to Petaluma because I’ve been dying to take him to Wild Goat Bistro. Since we arrived before the restaurant opened for lunch, we walked around downtown Petaluma.

I absolutely love Petaluma…it is one of the few cities in Northern California whose buildings survived the 1906 earthquake so the downtown riverfront area looks very similar to how it did at the turn of the century (lots of great Victorian architecture!).

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We walked downtown and wandered through a few stores before heading over to my favorite downtown area, the waterfront.

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We’ve had some great evenings sitting on the dock watching the boats pass by on the river. There are also a lot of great riverfront restaurants. I saw this little guy hanging out in front of one of my favorites, Dempsey’s:

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After grabbing lunch, we headed up to Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa. Brandon remembered a great hiking spot from when he was a kid that is covered in Obsidian. He’s found a few arrowheads there and wanted to see if we could find one. I was definitely intrigued!

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The hike was beautiful, but though we searched for nearly an hour through the mounds of obsidian, we didn’t find any arrowheads. A few that looked close, but none that were the real thing. Brandon suggested we stop by his Grandma’s house to check out the collection of arrowheads he found when he was a kid.

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It was so cool to look through the collection of arrowheads! Some were tiny, and all of them were amazingly precise. So cool to think of people using these tools many years ago!

After looking through the arrowheads, we headed out to hike at Brandon’s favorite “secret” hiking spot.

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The path is overgrown, so it was really more like bouldering than hiking. There’s a beautiful creek running through though, and we had a great time climbing over rocks until we reached a point where they were too big to scale.

I loved every bit of our “adventure” day! I used to go hiking every weekend, and have gotten out of the habit. Sunday reminded me why I love it so much!

First Session with a Personal Trainer

This past Monday I had my first session with a personal trainer.

Exercise is one area in which I’ve shied away from putting myself in situations where people push me to work harder. I usually prefer to work out alone for this very reason. When I ran my first 5K last weekend, I realized why having people to push you can be really helpful. Running is an activity that I have always disliked and I tend to give up easily. But as we were running the 5K my friends pushed me when I wanted to walk, and when I had a second wind I pushed them. I realized that avoiding situations where I’d have to work harder was holding me back from reaching my fitness goals.

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My gym offers three free sessions and after signing up I was really nervous to meet with the personal trainer. My first two sessions were on Monday and Thursday, and both were fantastic! In the first session, we took my measurements, worked on shoulders and arms, and I met the foam roller for the first time.

Below are the shoulders and arms exercises we went through:

Shoulder Front Raise
Shoulder Side Raise
Shoulder Rear Delt Fly
Shoulder Press
Biceps Curls
Hammer Curls
Triceps Kickbacks
Triceps Press Downs
Reverse Grip Triceps Press Downs

In the second session we went through several legs and core exercises:

Decline Bench Crunches/Twists/Leg Lifts
Lunges/Crab Walks
Leg Press
Calf Raises
Leg Curls
Leg Extensions

I can’t wait to incorporate these exercises into my regular routine!

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Meeting with the personal trainer was just what I needed to gain the confidence to step up my workouts to the next level.

Wine Tasting in Sonoma and New-to-Me Foods

Sunday afternoon, Brandon and I had the best “day date” in Sonoma. I woke up still a bit sore from the race and decided to forego a morning gym trip. I always get excited when Brandon has a weekend day off with me, and we decided to go all out on Sunday to make the most of it.

After getting ready we headed grabbed coffee at Dr. Insomniac in downtown Novato. We also grabbed a pastry for the road, a blueberry cream cheese scuffin (scone/muffin) which was amazing. I can’t believe I’ve never had a scuffin until now! Genius.

Next, we headed to Toast for breakfast. Brandon got the Huevos Rancheros, which is delicious, and the dish I usually get when we eat there. I decided to branch out and ordered a Lasagna Frittata, which was basically an egg frittata covered in mozzarella which gave it a lasagna taste. I mentioned to Brandon this might be a good alternative to lasagna (since he has Type 1 diabetes, we try to limit carbs for home meals), but I’m not sure it would become a breakfast staple for me.

For our daytime activity, we visited a few wineries in Sonoma. Since they’re less than 20 minutes from our house, it’s really convenient for us to visit these wineries and they have incredible views. Our first stop was at Gloria Ferrer, a winery that specializes in sparkling wines. A visit to the winery is worth it for the view from the patio alone. Check out this view:

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Amazing, right? We felt very fancy sitting on the patio gazing out on the vineyards.

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Always classy! Next, we visited Jacuzzi Family Vineyards which is our favorite winery in the Sonoma area. They give free tastings (most tastings are at least $5 per flight), and the wines are incredible. They have a great family history, and a great Italian-style patio in the back.

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Standing in the vineyard.

We had to cut our visit short because Brandon’s sister, who lives in Tennessee, was in town briefly and wanted to see us.

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It was my first time meeting her since she doesn’t visit often, and I was happy she had a chance to stop by and say hello!

We ended the night with another new-to-me food at a sushi restaurant in San Rafael.

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This was a vegetarian roll that was featured as a special called the ABCG roll. In it is avocado, basil, cream cheese, and garlic and it’s covered in pesto. Brandon was really skeptical, but I was intrigued and insisted we order it. It was delicious! A nice variation from our standard Spicy Tuna Roll.

Our day of delicious eats and wine tasting in Sonoma was incredible, and Sundays are quickly becoming my favorite day of the week. Can’t wait for this Sunday!

Run or Dye 5K Recap

Over the weekend I ran Run or Dye so my first 5K is now done and in the books!

I woke up at the crack of dawn to get ready, drink coffee and meet up with four of my friends to carpool to the race. We arrived at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds around 7:30 a.m. to make sure we had enough time for race prep and packet pickup. We didn’t really need to get there that early, and it was freezing cold so we waited in the car until the start of the race.

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At 9 a.m. we lined up with all the other runners. They sent around 500 runners off at 9 a.m. and then waves of runners every 5 to 10 minutes after that. They had fun music playing and were throwing out goodies to the waiting runners so the wait didn’t feel too long. We were sent off in the 5th or 6th wave, and my only regret for the race is that I didn’t look at our starting time.

Our plans had been to take the race easy but we ended up settling into a relatively quick jogging pace and ran the entire race! I took about 3 20 second walking breaks, but other than that ran steadily the entire time. I was surprised at how easy the race was (I guess all the time at the gym is paying off!) and I really wasn’t even winded. We finished strong and I was really excited that we ran the entire 3 miles.

Along the race route were four stations with volunteers throwing dye. We all got hit with color at every station so by the time we crossed the finish line we were well saturated with purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and pink dye.

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There was a stage setup and people pumping the crowd up to get us ready to several dye tosses. I caught one of the dye tosses from afar:

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So much fun! We made sure to join one of the tosses and came out completely covered in color.

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After the race we were all starving so we went to The Redwood Café in Cotati for breakfast, which specializes in healthy meals. I had the Huevos Rancheros and either due to the fact that the food was really good or that I was starving, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.

By the time I got home, dye was everywhere (in my car, all over my phone etc.).

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The aftermath.

I ended up jumping in the shower fully clothed to wash everything off and I still had color coming off everywhere until I took a second shower the next day.

I’ve never considered myself a runner, but finishing the race strong really made me want to run more and look into other races. With the added fun component of the dye, this race was absolutely perfect for my first 5K!

Upcoming Fitness Events

This weekend I will be running my first 5K! I’m joining a big group of friends to run the color run Saturday morning in Santa Rosa. Since it’s a color run, the atmosphere will be relaxed and most of the members of my group are treating it as a fun run rather than running for a great time. I’m so relieved the pressure will be low for my first race!

I’m also a little terrified I’ll never be able to get rid of the color as most of the pictures I’ve seen of the event look like this:

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Another concern is that I’ve put zero thought into what I’ll be wearing. I met up with a few girlfriends last night who are running the event and they had their outfits completely planned. They’re both wearing tutus and brightly colored clothes and told me if I showed up without flare I would be in big trouble.

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I’ve seen a lot of pictures of people wearing tutus to the race, so this seems like a pretty common thing, but I’m not sure I’m brave enough to wear a tutu while running! I think a trip to the Halloween store is in order to see what I can find.

In other fitness news, I made my first appointment with a personal trainer for next Monday. I’ve been delaying meeting with a personal trainer since for some reason it intimidates me but I finally bit the bullet. I feel like I’ve reached the max of what I can do on cardio and strength machines and need some help to really get to the next level.

In the future I’d like to run a few races, get involved in some more serious weight lifting and maybe even try Cross Fit. Even though I feel much healthier and in better shape than I was before joining a gym 6 months ago, I know that my fitness journey has just begun.

All About Fall

This past weekend was filled with fun fall activities. I’m usually not someone who is super into holidays or celebrating the passing seasons, but this year I’m definitely in the spirit.

Brandon and I spent last week pulling together our costumes for a Halloween party on Saturday. Usually I’m a total grouch about Halloween and declare I don’t want to dress up until the day off and then scramble to find a costume. Brandon was really excited about dressing up this year though, so he got me in the spirit.

We had some fun at our local Halloween store:

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I was tempted to go as a peacock, but decided to make my costume because putting the pieces of the peacock costume together was over $60! I mean, really now. Costumes have gotten expensive these days.

Friday night I spent the night at home, relaxing on the couch. Someone was happy to have me home for the weekend…

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That’s Harrison’s TGIF face. ;)

We made stuffed bell peppers for dinner Friday night and they turned out absolutely amazing.

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We stuffed a few large green bell peppers with lean ground turkey, diced tomatoes, onions, garlic with some sriracha mixed in and cheese baked on top. Delicious! My mom used to make these whenever the weather got colder while I was growing up so they seem like the perfect fall meal.

Saturday night we went to a Halloween party at a friend’s house and had a great time hanging out with everyone and seeing their costumes.

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Most of the costumes were completely inappropriate and hilarious. We’re definitely getting old because we left the party before midnight while everyone else was still going strong.

Sunday morning we had brunch and then headed over to the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch. I had read online that they occasionally have food vendors and I expected there to be a lot of activities, but besides a large playpen of corn for kids and the corn maze that you can pay to walk through, there aren’t many activities offered. We bought some kettle corn (yay!) and wandered through the pumpkin patch for a while.

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The pumpkin patch has been open for a few weeks so it’s slim pickin’s as far as pumpkins go! Gotta get there early, I guess!

When we got home, I finished off our weekend of fall festivities by baking pumpkin spice cookies.

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I didn’t use exact measurements, but threw some pumpkin, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla extract, butter, eggs and sugar into the mix until the consistency looked right. I made a cream cheese frosting from butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Then I proceeded to polish off 3 (or 7) cookies as soon as they came out of the oven. The perfect end to the weekend!

8 Messages About Happiness for Women

Something I think a lot about is the pressure our society places on women to look, act, and think a certain way. I really think the ideals society presents as the path to happiness are misleading. As a woman it can be difficult to go against the grain, disregard the strong messages we receive everyday, and find the true path to happiness.

I recently read an article on PsychologyToday entitled 8 Messages to Teach Young Women & Girls About Happiness. The article touches on societal misconceptions on what leads to happiness and ways we can educate women and girls to create happiness in their own lives.

Maxing out isn’t healthy.

“Having it all” and “leaning in” are phrases that have become increasingly popular lately. Women and girls feel pressure to get a degree, have great careers, the perfect marriages and be perfect moms. Having it all takes a lot of work and when women buckle under the pressure, they feel like they’re inadequate. But here’s the thing, working to your maximum capacity at all times isn’t good for your mind or body. It leads to burnout and unhappiness.

Buy more experiences and less stuff

We live in a materialistic culture where women and girls are encouraged to have the best clothes for a great style, nice furniture for a pinterest worthy home, the best shoes, the best cars and on and on. Every day we are inundated with marketing messages to buy more stuff. However, science has proven that spending money on experiences leaves the spender feeling more fulfilled than the spender who buys things.

Focus on self-efficacy rather than self-esteem

This is a distinction I’ve never really considered before. The difference between self-esteem and self-efficacy is feeling you are good enough vs. feeling you have power to create great results with your life. While I think feeling you are good enough is worthwhile and important, grasping the power of your own abilities to change the course of your life is empowering.

Take (good) risks

This one is based on the fact that girls are told from a young age that abilities are static, whereas boys are encouraged to grow and improve. Therefore, women grow up avoiding challenges and risks while men are more likely to take them. Women should be open to taking good risks to expand their careers and not shy away from new opportunities.

Don’t get stuck in your own faulty thinking.

So often women base decisions on ideas they believe to be true, which are really social constructs such as “I haven’t achieved enough” or “I need to be better.” In reality these are ideas that have been cemented as fact in our brains that only serve to make us unhappy.

Perfection really does not exist.

Really, it doesn’t. We can strive to be perfect, but there will always be something we can improve upon. If we put ourselves under constant pressure to attain perfection, we will only succeed in making ourselves miserable.

Vulnerability is Good

This goes hand in hand with taking good risks. We need to focus on perfect less and more on making ourselves vulnerable so we have the strength to take those good risks.

Avoid happiness traps

So many times women have the idea that happiness is in the future and will come after they receive this or accomplish that. They think “I’ll be happy when I’m in a relationship” or “I’ll be happy when I have X job.” I have definitely fallen victim to this line of thinking, and reality is that even when you achieve these things, happiness comes from being present in the moment.