9. Running Machine

In between my attempts at craftiness, I've begun training for my next 5K run {Hey there, right sidebar list: I'm coming for you!}. I'm running this at Cantigny, a beautiful park/mansion/gold course in early November. It should be an absolutely beautiful run. I'm running it with my cousin, her fiance and my husband {affectionately referred to as The Bromance, because they pretty much love each other more than they love us girls}.

Training is going really well {knock on wood}. I've busted out my Nike+ running chip, and have figured out how to use that in addition to the C25K app on my iPhone. It's pretty sweet. The C25K app times me, and audibly announces when it's time to run, walk, jog, or cool down. With the Nike+ app running in the background, it tracks my pace, distance, and calories burned. I'm trying to see if I can get it to track my splits, too. They're pretty phenomenal combined.

I have high hopes for the race, and am hoping to run it under 40 minutes. I know that's not really a fantastic time for a lot of people, but for a girl who always struggled to run a single mile, even when I was swimming for 3 hours a day and in the best shape of my life, it seems like a reasonable but tough goal. I've also made a really, really hard choice to aid in my training: No Fast Food. Dabbling in veganism has certainly reduced the amount of fast food I eat, but I've gotten lax with this lately {mmm...Taco Bell!}. This new rule means anything with a drive-thru is a no-go. The hardest part? I had to say Sayonara to my fall favorites: Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin coffee and Sbux Pumpkin Spice Lattes {which sadly, sans milk and whip, are not vegan}. It's a pretty terrible image, but when I'm out running, all I picture is my skinnier self, in my post-race gear sipping a pumpkin latte. {whatever works, right?}

I'm now accepting volunteer applications for someone at the finish line holding a poster and a latte.


8. Crafty.

So I consider myself to be of the crafty sort. Ever since I was little, I can remember having some sort of crafty project ongoing, whether in my head or strewn across the kitchen table. I taught myself to sew by hand before Home Ec, where I gloriously learned how to work a machine. I learned how to make a lockstitch in that class, and that was the end of my formal training. Since then, I've taught myself to quilt, knit, make a french seam, crochet, blanket stitch by hand, make wreathes, scrapbook, and other similar crafts. I love a good project, and have really been slacking in the creative department. The back injury {healing quickly, thanks to lots of stretching, a physical therapy plan, and a packed schedule of constant movement} really sidelined me, and then I took on a few freelance writing projects. Major time sucks.

But now, I feel renewed, especially now that I've given in to the wonder that is Pinterest. Below are two pins on my DIY board, and hopefully two projects I plan to start and finish in a timely manner.

I think this is a super cute goth-type wreath for Halloween. It's still pretty, which I dig.

This is crazy, right? It's melted crayons and a hot glue gun on canvas. I know it looks crazy, but I have spectacular plans for this. I'll update with pictures when the project is complete!


7. Crunch Time

Do you know how many muscles in your back it takes to sneeze?

Pretty much all of them.

Last week, I "threw out" my back. Not sure why that's the term...should be more like I was going about my day and my back decided to go on strike. For the past 9 days, I've spent more time than I'd like to admit popping handfuls of Advil, laying on heating pads and ice packs while watching trashing TV, and devising various tricks to prevent me from having to bend down to pick things up. {One more week of this and I might have my dogs trained to hand me things!}

Let's get kinda deep for a Tuesday. Spiritually, I believe in a mix of Karma, fate, and controlling your own destiny. Strange combo, but I basically believe that good and behavior will reflect upon an individual, and even though fate plays a role in our lives, we do control our attitudes and behavior. Do I believe my back issues are a result of me gossiping about someone? Not likely. They're a result of a car accident back in December {thanks gold minivan driver that shall remain nameless} and poor core strength. However, I do believe this is the universe's way of {not so} politely knocking on my door and telling me to get up off my lazy ass and fix myself.

I recently read a surprisingly great book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care by Cheryl Richardson. I don't know what I was expecting, but that was not it. But I loved it. The premise is to live a happy, fulfilling life, one needs to take extreme measures to protect and care for one's body, mind, spirit, and life. This means cutting toxic people out of your life, finding time to exercise and eat right, avoiding negative, desensitizing news stories, and only accepting commitments that you are happy to honor.

This experience has really helped me to tune into Richardson's message. Once I've started healing, I'm embarking on a journey to get healthy for one reason: myself. I've been putting up all sorts of psychological road barriers when trying to lose weight, and I'm sick and tired of myself. It's time to do this for myself and myself only. I deserve better and I can't possibly live life to the fullest from the couch anymore.


6. Things I'm Digging Right Now

If you lack the ability to resist purchasing cute things, turn away now. This post will entail pictures and links to some of my very favorite things right now.

1. Vera Bradley. Anything Vera Bradley.

Ceramic animals. I purchased a Gurgle Pot in Seattle {I guess that's the wrong kind of pot to purchase?} and want this elephant tea pot in the worst way.

Matroyshkas {or more commonly known, Russian Nesting Dolls.}

Talk about an odd combination. I can't help it --- I love what I love. {And I seem to be loving very strange, hippie-esque things right now. Don't even get my started on my obsession with TOMS.}


5. The Lazy Vegan {Or: A Successful Pasta Salad Recipe}

I'm a vegan. I'm also lazy. Therefore, I like simple recipes that adhere to clean eating principles: nutritious, filling, no crap/fake food. {Well, you know, when I'm not convincing myself that cheese should be included in the vegan food pyramid.}

So imagine my delight when I discovered this recipe: Wagon Wheel Taco Pasta Salad. Was I skeptical? Absolutely. But the result: utter deliciousness. I, for vegan-related purposes, did not add any cheese to the recipe, and also, just because I didn't have any on hand, omitted the cilantro. I also added about 1/4 cup of finely chopped red onion. I also try to avoid gluten, so I subbed in brown rice penne for the noodles.

This is the exact type of recipe I love: easy to make gluten-free and vegan, able to throw it together in less than 20 minutes, oodles of leftovers for lunches, and above all, super tasty. Even my carnivore husband liked it. I will say, however, that my version was not attractive at all, hence the absence of pictures in this post. We have renamed it "Ugly Taco Pasta Salad."


4. Whomp Whomp

I love me a good pity party. Generally, these affairs tend to fall on days after something's been done to me -- an email attack from a client or coworker, a bout of bad Karma from the universe, a medically necessary but painful procedure, etc. Yesterday I endured the latter. I'm not much of a ninny, and can generally handle physical pain and medical torture. What I have trouble coping with is the emotion behind the visits.

Without boring you to death, I'll give you the abridged version: Girl starts seeing spots, girl is diagnosed with blood clot in eye, no underlying cause determined. Girl develops unrelated but alarming inflammation in same eye, again, no underlying cause can be determined. Girl goes on low-dose chemo and steroids for four months, becomes walking nightmare. Girl goes into remission. Girl develops new treatable problem, endures eye injections, is given clean bill of health.

Fast forward to yesterday: girl has relapsed, only 3 short weeks from being told that "everything looks perfect."

Even though the injections are no walk in the park, they're not as terrible as they sound. {Needles in eyes are never pleasant, regardless of numbing drops.} The worst part for me is the anxiety of never knowing if/when this condition will reappear. Due to the magical ability for the body to continually regenerate cells, both good and bad, I will always be dealing with this problem and subsequent injections for the rest of my life. {Or until they start creating new eyes in test tubes.} Logically, I know this could be worse. In fact, it was much worse last year. Emotionally, however, there's still a big chasm I need to cross before I feel comfortable saying "I'm grateful for this." I really vacillate between handling the situation with strength and grace, or being a complete brat and complaining about such rotten luck. {Think Nancy Kerrigan.}

From what I can gather, I seem to get these "relapses" about every 4-5 months. My hope moving forward is that I can start to bridge my pity gap and move towards an outlook that is one of realism, positivity, and grace, because no one likes a Debbie Downer. I want to remove the anxiety of waiting "for the other shoe to drop" and live in the present, being grateful that my treatment is quick and effective, and that the problem is not more widespread and damaging. Does this mean that I can sit on the couch after my treatments with a pint of Haagen-Daaz coffee ice cream? {Shhhhh. I like to pretend that it's vegan.}


3. Analyze This

My brain never shuts off. I'm not the type that is constantly having brilliant, groundbreaking academic thoughts, nor am I inundated with witty one-liners. Instead, my brain is just always on, typically filled with worries, over-analysis, or negative thoughts. The problem is so pervasive that I have trouble falling asleep and concentrating on tasks, even of the most mundane nature.

I've grown up thinking this was normal. {Really, it's all I've ever known.} Even as a baby, my mother confirmed that I rarely slept, but instead, would just sit in my crib and stare. {Awesome, the freak genes started early.}

Part of my problem when preparing to attack a goal, be it something simple like "Clean out the front closet" or more intense, such as "Lose the body weight equivalent to two husky toddlers," I over-analyze the task beforehand, making it that much harder to begin. So on Sunday, I did something extraordinary. I stopped thinking. Another barrier to me attacking a problem {weight loss, for example} is not being prepared. So Sunday morning, I asked my husband to create an intense workout program for me. Directions were simple: write it down in a notebook where I had to check off workouts and make notes on progress, weights, etc., and bug the shit out of me if I'm not following it. And he did. Then the remarkable happened. I didn't think about the workout ahead of time, I didn't make excuses why I should instead just rest on the couch and zone out with crappy reality tv {Have they made a Real Housewives of Cook County, yet? Why not}. I just did the workout. And let me tell you: I did the workout like a boss.

Tom supervised, offering tips on my form, miscounting my reps, etc. He told me that he was so impressed by my squat form. Me! I have an impressive squat form. {Yes, I know there's a possibility he's complimenting me because we share a bed, but whatever. I'm taking it.} Last night, I took a look at the holy grail workout notebook, determined I could workout in our garage {weightlifting chamber of doom}, put my shoes on, and got it done.

Isn't it funny how our defense mechanisms can sometimes be our own worst enemy? Lesson learned.


2. Can You Dig It?

I hate exercising.

I do. I know it's a terrible thing to say and that I should be all "yay! exercise! my body is awesome!" but I'm not. I have {as diagnosed by Dr. Google} exercise lazyitis with a side case of boredom. If I'm on a treadmill, I can't wait to get off. If I'm in an exercise class, I can't wait to leave. I've been known to stop workout DVDs halfway through becausing I'm "not feeling it." I can't seem to find an activity or sport that holds my attention long enough to kick my ass.

Well, one exception: I've been doing Cross-fit workouts, as supervised by my husband, a personal trainer. {Record screech: Yes, my husband is a personal trainer. Yes, despite this I am still fat. No, it's not as convenient as you think.} Whether it's his eagle-eye ability to spot me being lazy, or just the fact that he practically shoves me to the gym, these workouts engage me, and dare I say it, make me feel strong. Who knew deadlifting could actually be fun? {Well, my husband, but he doesn't count.}

But here's my beef with Cross-fit. I don't always feel that the workouts are enough. Some days, they really do kill me. Some days, I feel like I could workout for another thirty minutes after I finish {no, of course I don't actually continue working out. I'm not crazy.}* I know that if I enrolled in a Cross-fit gym, I'd get more effective, kick my ass to Timbuktu and back workouts. {Cue the whine:} But I don't want to pay for it.

I feel like if I could find a type of cardio workout that I don't find to be so boring I'd rather pull my eyelashes out than continue doing, the Cross-fit workouts would be a perfect supplement. So, any suggestions?

*Yes, I realize that a major portion of my inability to commit to exercise is the negativity and excuses I've spent the last ten minutes writing about.


1. Oy Vey

Most people turn to the internet for distraction, affirmation, or porn. I'm turning to the blogosphere for some good old fashioned accountability, something that is completely lacking in my current life. {and I'm hoping in yours, too. Nothing like a little schadenfreude.}

What in the world is possessing me to turn to a blog to kick my ass? Knowing better should equal doing better, right? {Not exactly.} Somewhere in-between the knowing and the doing, I get lost. I could sit here and preach about how to lose weight, how to get rid of debt and save thousands of dollars, how to run a multi-million dollar empire, because I KNOW. But I've never DONE. {Name the book, I've read it; suggest the diet, I've tried it.}

In a last ditch effort to save my sanity, here I am. This is it, millions of {potential} anonymous readers. I am yours for the compliments, the crucifixions, the advertising revenue.

I'm sure we'll all get to be best friends sooner or later, but in the meantime, here's the Idiot's Guide to Facts About Beth:

  • I pink puffy heart polka-dots. {Why yes, I was in a sorority, why do you ask?}

  • Even though you least expect it, I practice veganism.

  • Burritos are my jam! {In a manner of speaking.}

  • I suck at running.

  • I'm Web 2.0 {follow me on Twitter! @BethSroka}

  • My memory is crap. I'm lucky I remember my own name.

  • I'm obsessed with matroshyka dolls, yet don't own a single one.

  • I'm waiting to just wake up one morning and have accomplished all of my goals on the right sidebar. {I think it's a foolproof strategy.}

  • My parents raised me in a house where "crap" and "fart" were swear words. This might explain my current penchant for the F word. {It's very versatile!}