Unzipped

Boone Hall Butterfly Pavilion, South Carolina

Hi.

Hi, hi.

Last time we spoke I was in this strange, but not-entirely-unusual-for-me place of feeling totally and completely paralyzed. Not, like, technically (but, I certainly wasn’t getting my steps in every day), but this overwhelming feeling of being…stuck. I know perfectly well how to run, it just feels like my feet are stuck in cement.

Well, turns out, perhaps the most efficient way for me to get un-stuck is to have my legs kicked out from under me with a not-at-all graceful face plant. And with that, I unzipped my paralyzed suit, stepped out, and my mind and body quickly remembered how to fly, how to run.

Like anyone who hasn’t been working out regularly, it will take a little while for me to fight back the atrophied muscles and build up my endurance, but soon I’ll be running a 6-minute mile again.

Uh, that’s a big huge lie. I have never once run a 6-minute mile, nor do I intend to. I’m more of a 12-minute mile kind of girl.

Also, I’m not really talking about running here. That’s a life metaphor. But it’s also kind of factual. In the last week I’ve been to the gym 4 times and that is 4 times more than I have shown up in the previous three months. I’m making lists and plans like a madwoman and finally feel like I can breathe a little better.

I know that kind of vaguely talking about feeling stuck, and then bringing up a kind of horrible running metaphor for being un-stuck is not exactly blog du jour, but this is me, the good and the bad and the ugly and the broken, all just trying to make it through.

Paralyzed

Firstly, I’m not actually paralyzed, all fingers and toes work perfectly fine, but thank you for your concern.

Secondly, I am totally paralyzed, but I’m not 100% sure the cause. I’m not sure if it’s a weird case of writer’s block, or just a super normal droll case of writer’s block. I can write in my journal just fine, I can write lengthy emails to friends just fine, but when it comes to this space I am…stuck? Afraid? Both? Something else? All of the above?

You know that quote “A rolling stone gathers no moss” which basically means that an object at motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest (thanks, Einstein), and it takes a significant amount of energy to get that rock rolling, or to stop it completely, but much less energy to keep it going along at whatever level of kinetic energy it is currently assigned…? Yeah, Einstein probably said it much better, but I’m not Einstein, so you get stuck with my paraphrasing.

I had all these goals and plans, and then Things Happened and I lost my mojo; I haven’t been going to the gym, I haven’t been writing here, I haven’t been doing many of the things that I love…and I’m starting to feel a literal strain, or tangible atrophy, that I’m not exercising those physical and mental muscles. I often have said that the hardest part of working out for me is just getting out the door, if I can do that I’m fine, but it is SO HARD for me to lace up my shoes and get my butt out the door. My mental lack of willpower is strong, yo. It’s tragic I can’t always harness it for positive forward movement. The hardest part of writing is that first paragraph on a blank page. As soon as I get my stone rolling I’m off like lightning, but that start? Ooouff. It’s a toughie for me.

Caye Caulker, Belize

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Want to hear my version of paradise? You better belize that it involves a tiny little island in the Caribbean, one so small that there are literally only three named roads: Front Street, Middle Street, and Back Street. Those roads aren’t really “streets” at all, but white sand packed hard from years of bare feet and beach cruiser bicycles taking residents and visitors from beach to bar and back to the beach. There are fresh fish tacos and shrimp ceviche and whole white fish with fins and eyes and everything still attached for sale at every restaurant, most food has some kind of Mexican-Central American flavor, or maybe a Chinsee-Arab-Kriole infusion that is both familiar and completely out of this world. The pace of life in this paradise is much, much slower than anywhere you’ve been before; the island motto is, literally, Go Slow. Also, this particular paradise is located in a country with an advertising campaign focused on how many ways you can use Belize as a pun for believe. Frankly, it is unbelizeable how much this word-nerd (points at self with both thumbs) swooned over ridiculous puns in paradise.

Caye Caulker (pronounced Key Caw-ker) is a tiny island off the northern coast of Belize and located just inside the barrier reef that runs along the Yucatan south towards Panama, it’s the second longest barrier reef in the world (and not to be confused with the Australian Great Barrier Reef, capitalized because that is it’s proper name). Caye Caulker is famous for being perfect for backpackers, a little rough around the edges with an unpolished tourism scene, and overall ridiculously low-key. Honestly, it was a perfect place to start our trip and I would go back in a heartbeat.

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This? This is the busiest street on the island, Front Street, at 2:00 in the afternoon. This sleepy island did so much to help me chill out, relax, and just go with the very laid-back flow.

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On the days we weren’t diving along the reef, we spent a lot of time riding bicycles around the island, lounging in the shade, and trying to decide where I’d get my next burrito and pina colada. It was REAL rough, ya’ll.

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The only downside to Caye Caulker was the humidity, I mean, it’s a sub-tropical island in the Caribbean, OF COURSE it will have humidity. I actually didn’t mind it too much until it was time to go to sleep, despite an AC unit in our AirBnB it was always a little muggy and too warm for my taste. But hey, if that’s your only real complaint? Frankly, sounds like a lovely way to spend a week, right? (Answer: you better belize it!) (Sorry/NotSorry)

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I think our two favorite restaurants were the Rainbow Bar & Grill, and Habanero’s, which had the most amazing Caye Lime Pie of my entire life (see? More puns! I love Belize!)

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I’m still sorting through my pictures of our SCUBA diving adventures, which I’ll post soon! Caye Caulker was amazing, you should definitely go visit at the next possible chance!

Vacation re-entry would be easier with more fish tacos

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A few weeks ago Mr. Blue Eyes and I took the most lovely, long-planned and saved for vacation, we spent most of our time on a tiny Caribbean island, lots of hammocks and fish tacos and scuba diving; and then we hopped inland to visit some Mayan ruins before the sad-to-be-leaving-but-looking-forward-to-proper-AC-and-Diet-Dr-Pepper flight home.

And while I am not lounging beach-side or feasting on ridiculously cheap fresh-caught fish, I still kind of feel like I’m on vacation. The weeks leading up to our adventure were crazy stressful for both of us, mostly in a general Life Is Stressful way, but also with trying to make sure to have everything we needed taken care of for this big adventure. Life is still a little stressful, but not NEARLY what it was, and we are both literally glowing from spending a week in the Caribbean. Well, Blue Eyes is glowing and golden; I’m mostly just covered in sand fly bites that make me look like I have some kind of pox.

This may be surprising (but it totally shouldn’t be), but I can be super Type A, and I planned this vacation out like crazy. We don’t have the luxury of extra time, but do have the luxury of a little extra money, so we planned to spend our money in ways to maximize our time (meaning all travel was pre-booked, even down to the golf-cart taxi to take us and our luggage from the ferry to our Caribbean AirBnB). I spent the two or three weeks before we left finalizing all those little travel details on top of making sure our technology was all in order (cameras charged, memory cards emptied, details on phone use while abroad notated), ordering foreign currency for two countries, trying to memorize the exchange rates (2:$1 / 7.333:$1), making sure our credit and debit cards wouldn’t get flagged for fraud if we needed to use them, finalizing travel insurance, printing out every. single. confirmation. in triplicate, just in case, having the post office hold our mail while we were gone, asking a kind neighbor to come babysit my plants and make sure they didn’t shrivel and die, packing my suitcase and then re-packing my suitcase several times, having lengthy conversations with my sister on what shorts or cover ups I could leave home without missing (she was right on every single one) and what would be essential to my happiness, buying waterproof mascara and stocking up on sunscreen (I went through 3 full size tubes in one week, SPF 85, SPF 45, and SPF 30, and that is a post all by itself)…you know, the usual.

Or, maybe that is 100% not The Usual when people go on a big vacation, and maybe it was part of the reason why the weeks leading up to our trip were kind of stressful? Whatever, that pre-planning made our week away SO much more relaxed and we ended up coming in significantly under budget because I had a 15 oz bottle of SPF 85 IN MY SUITCASE and didn’t have to spend $20 dollars for a 4 oz tube, or, maybe $80 dollars for four 4 oz tubes (and $80 more for SPF 45, and $80 more for SPF 30, and, and, and…).

We’ve been back for a week or two and life is mostly back to normal…kind of. I mean, I still honestly feel like I’m on a part-time vacation. Let me explain: I still go to work, I still take care of my garden, I still make dinner and do the washing up and on Saturday I had the tremendously glamorous job of shampooing the family room rug and furniture, which is the epitome of Not A Vacation-y Experience. However, for the most part, life is easy-breezy. I’m not going to the gym every night in anticipation (uh, dread) of spending a week in a swimming suit; I’m not cutting out all sugar and carbs and happiness anymore; my To Do list is short and mostly unimportant… I spend my evenings reading…and slowly am going through and editing my photos…and, uh, hanging out on the patio and enjoying the last of the semi-pleasant weather…? I mean, I honestly feel like I’m still on vacation a little bit. And I’m afraid if I start writing about it here it will break the spell.

Dammit, I probably ruined it; it’s 1:24 am and my body is not at all interested in sleeping despite work as usually in the morning, and maybe that means the vacation spell is broken now anyway? I don’t know, but it is nice to stretch my write-y muscles here again, fish tacos or not, I’ve missed this little corner of my world.

So, what’s been up with you? Fill me in on everything.

Meals Plans, Grocery Shopping, and Other Adulty Things

Let’s talk about meal planning for a minute, shall we? I know, I know, super adulty, blah blah blah. Imma talk about it anyway because figuring out a system that works has been REVOLUTIONARY for my health, my wallet, my evening time management, and my sanity/anxiety about all three of those things.

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Once a week I make a meal plan and corresponding grocery list and then 100% stick to both. My super fancy format? I have a legal pad that is stuck to the side of the fridge with a couple of heavy duty magnets. I tried keeping notes on my phone/Google drive in various methods, but ultimately a legal pad with an attached pen has worked the best for me.The top page of my legal pad is a fairly detailed list of what is happening for meal time at my house for the next week. The second page of my meal planning notepad is always a running grocery list, so when I run out of sour cream or am getting low on quinoa or toilet paper I write it down and then pick it up on my next trip. When it’s time to go to the grocery store I have a list started and I never run out of toilet paper. Win-win. The third page is probably my best secret, honestly. It’s another meal plan for another week, Monday thru Sunday, which I fill out as I get inspired or as I have leftovers I know I need to use up, adding ingredients to the grocery list as I go.

Easy peasy. Well, kind of. It took me months to figure out my system and then train myself to stick to it. Lucky you, I’ve typed it all out here. I know. You didn’t realize Thursday could be so good, did you.

The first time you do this you’ll want to make a meal plan and grocery list at the same time so you know that you’ll have everything you need for dinner (and/or lunch and breakfast). On each week’s meal plan I make notes about what days we have Blue Eyes’ kids, and any commitments that may alter dinner plans. I also block out date night, and write down any work responsibilities or meetings that will preclude the need for leftover lunches. I also make little notes of day-before tasks like thawing meat or prepping something in advance; for example, if we are having taco salad on Tuesday there is a note on Monday to take the ground turkey out of the freezer to thaw overnight. When I get home from work and it’s time to make dinner I always know what I am making, I know the meat is ready to go, and I know that all the other ingredients are in the fridge/pantry. You’ve written out a meal plan and your grocery list, you take the list to the store and stick the meal plan to the fridge.

Viola! Adulty meal plan complete!

As the week goes on you start working on next week’s grocery list on page two; you are almost out of cumin, the bottle of salsa is running low, and the string cheese has been inhaled or abducted by mysterious fridge elves. You also decide you really want steak and asparagus next week, or you want to use up that ziploc in the freezer full of pesto you made last summer, or you are craving breakfast for dinner because omelets on Friday night is always a good idea. Write down these ideas as you get them throughout the week and page three starts shaping up nicely. The week goes on, your grocery list and next week’s meal plan are fleshed out. At the end of the week take a few minutes to finalize everything; rip off the first page (last week’s now complete plan) of your notepad, finish filling in next week’s meal plan and your grocery list, rip out the grocery list page and head to the store. And now, your new top page is your current meal plan and you can start all over again with grocery lists (page two) and next week’s plan (page three).

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Taaa-daaah! You did it! Not so hard, right!? The peace of mind that comes from knowing exactly what I need to do when I get home from work in order to get dinner on the table is glorious. Knowing I have everything I need to make that has been a game changer. And being able to plan out in advance for healthy meals made at home has really helped keep my grocery spending in check (another post for another day) and stick to my health goals (more veggies, less sugar, plenty of cheese).

 

 

 

 

P.S. I keep a list on the very last page of my legal pad with a bunch of our favorite meals that I can make without even thinking about it, so if I am struggling to finalize a meal plan I just flip to the back page and pick one or two of those to fill in any remaining gaps so I can finish my grocery list and just go to the store already.

P.P.S. A note on grocery lists: I write mine in the order I go through the grocery store; all the produce is together, all the meat is together, so are all non-food necessities like shampoo and soap and ziploc bags. When I go to the grocery I always follow the same route which conveniently mirrors my grocery list.