Friday, May 14, 2010

Go me!

As I get ready to pack up my stuff here in the UK and head back home to Los Angeles, a few things occurred to me. This whole experience, as challenging as it was at times, was a "big f*cking deal," to quote VP Biden. Why? Let's see...

I moved to a foreign country by myself. Not just visiting or in transit. Up and MOVED. I wasn't moving with my family, fiance, or friends. By. My. Self. I was born in England and had been to the UK quite a few times up until I moved. But visiting a place and moving there to live are two very different things, and boy, was I in for a surprise, and it was also scary. I didn't know anyone in Newcastle, so really I was pretty much on my own.

I survived living in a foreign country by myself. I figured because I was pretty familiar with the UK, it wouldn't be too hard to live here. Um...yeah, not so much. It's only when I started living here that I noticed how many little things that I took for granted in the US are different here. Looking back, whining about these differences does seem kind of petty, but when you're far from home, it all adds up to missing home more. The biggest shock was having to drive in the UK: on the other side of the road in a stickshift - talk about trial by fire. Thankfully, my dad taught me to drive a manual car about 10 years ago, but that was also the last time I drove a stick. Then I had to deal with roundabouts, motorways, different traffic rules, narrow streets and tight parking spaces....but guess what? I DID IT. I didn't get into a crash or injure myself or someone else (well maybe the car got injured when I scraped a pillar in a parking garage, but that's it). I can definitively say that I know how to drive on both sides of the road, automatic or manual transmission, in two countries.

I didn't go broke or (God forbid) die living in a foreign country by myself. With the exchange rate between the dollar and pound fluctuating and me getting paid in dollars, this was a real concern. However, I lucked out by finding a room in a house where all utilities (including internet) were included in the rent, which was a lot cheaper than what I would've been paying for my own apartment. With the room in the house came amazing roommates, Charlotte and Ben, who, despite not knowing me before I landed at their doorstep, were always ready, with cup of tea in hand, to comfort me in the depths of my homesickness or physical sickness. I did get hit with some nasty cold viruses in February, one right after the other, and Ben even offered to go to the clinic with me when I became worried about not getting better. Their warmth, humor, and care is something I will always be grateful for...oh, Charlotte would randomly bake us cake or cookies! I also was here during the coldest winter in 30 years, which was a shock to someone who had lived in California for the past 20+ years, but I made it through the snow, slush, and storms.

I realized that I am a very capable adult living in a foreign country. Up until I turned 30, I was always plagued with this feeling that my adulthood was...delayed? I mean I had a job, bills to pay, a social life etc., but I was still living at home with my parents while my friends slowly got married, bought houses, became pregnant, etc. While I know that each of us has our own time and place for stuff like that to happen, you can't help but compare yourself a little. Sure, I missed my parents terribly and the places and people I knew. But I think I did come into my adulthood fully by living here and reminded myself that I am quite capable of taking care of myself. There were a lot of times when I questioned my decision to move to the UK because I felt so lonely and miserable, yet I think I gained a strength and confidence by persevering. I also realized my capabilities in professional and personal capacities, which I hope will translate into new and improved career opportunities and a fulfilling personal life. Also? I'm probably the only out of my friends who got to live abroad, and not as a student. Cross that off the life list :)

I am thrilled and ecstatic to be returning home, but grateful for this experience. Even though I joke that if I don't come back to the UK or hear a British accent for a while that would be fine with me, this place was sort of my desert walk part two. For that reason, it will hold a significant place in my memory.

That said, I am SO ready to wear t-shirts and sandals for the next five months.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I found him...

“Find a guy who calls you beautiful instead of hot, who calls you back when you hang up on him, who will lie under the stars and listen to your heartbeat, or will stay awake just to watch you sleep ... Wait for the boy who kisses your forehead, who wants to show you off to the world when you are in sweats, who holds your hand in front of his friends, who thinks you’re just as pretty without makeup on. One who is constantly reminding you of how much he cares and how lucky his is to have you ... The one who turns to his friends and says, ‘That’s her.’”—Unknown

Stumbling Blocks

If you've read a few previous posts on my blog, it's clear I've been trying to lose weight for a while. I've been successful to some extent, losing about 30 pounds from my heaviest weight, which I will never ever let myself get back to. However, it still feels like there's something that's holding me back, so I've been trying to figure out what may be keeping me from achieving my weight loss goal. What is my block? Fear? Lack of control and self-discipline? Rebellion? An inability to visualize the end result? A self-defeatist attitude? What is it?

The fear I understand because what might happen after I lose all the weight I want to is a giant unknown. This body is what I've had my entire adult life -- I don't know anything different than this shape. How will my life change if -- no, when -- I lose the weight? Will I feel different? Will I be different? Will be treated differently by others? Will I get more attention from people? It seems like the fear has two facets: internally-based fear and externally-based fear. Part of me is terrified of the added attention I may get if I'm thinner and fitter...but is that attention bad? The other part of me is afraid that I'll somehow change as a person though, intellectually, I know I won't really change except for the better. I'll still be me, the same old Rabia, just in a nicer outer packaging. It probably links into my self-esteem issues, i.e., am I worthy of attention and feeling good about myself? Well, yes I am. I am awesome.

But where does my lack of control and self-discipline come from? Did that just never develop in me? I'm a terrible procrastinator and have been for a long time. If I don't like doing something, I won't do it, or I'll put it off for as long as I can. It's not like my parents were really enablers; certainly my dad isn't. Hmm...

That sort of brings me to rebellion. When I was younger, the rebellion aspect made sense -- parents tell me to watch what I eat, and I said, "To hell with that! I'll eat what I want. HA!" That only affected me, really, so that was a sucky way of rebelling. Now I don't have anything to rebel against. My relationship with my parents is great, and, for the most part, I'm happy with my life. So scratch rebellion off the list...unless it's rebellion against some societal definition of beauty? But no, that doesn't make sense either because why would I then pine for my body to become something like the beautiful female figures like those of Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, or Eva Mendes? Yeah, scratch rebellion off the list.

So that brings me to the inability to visualize my body at its ideal weight despite having Kim, Beyonce, Eva and other curvy ladies as paragons of beauty (kind of). They're healthy, not stick thin, and I definitely do not aspire to stick thin-ness. I even had a friend of mine Photoshop my face on to Kim Kardashian's body because she's my height and has a gorgeous body. The results were a bit hilarious, so even with that device, I couldn't visualize a fit, toned me. I do know that under my layers of extra fat is indeed a stunning body. I can sort of see its potential and strength, but I can't visualize the end result. What would really be awesome is getting my own body Photoshopped into a "final" version.

Even then, even after I get that great visual, will I still say to myself, "Oh that will never happen." Do I have a self-defeatist, I-give-up attitude? I like to think that I don't, and I have been quite successful in the past when I put my mind to and effort into eating healthily and working out regularly. What makes me fall off that wagon, and what makes it so hard to get back on when I know results are very possible?

Maybe it's laziness. Maybe it's physiological. Maybe my body is so used to being this way that it fights any process that wants to change it. Like I said, this body is all I can ever remember. But what's the reality of staying with what I know? A litany of possible afflictions -- heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver, depression, anxiety, reproductive system and fertility issues, bone frailty and depression as I get older...the list goes on with what can ail you if you're even slightly overweight. My body has been overweight since I was nine years old. All of my adult life, I've been overweight -- for 21 years I've been overweight. That is a really, really long time. It's time for that to change, face my fears, and visualize a healthier, fitter, and stronger me. In this, my 30th year of life, I made a promise to myself and vowed to become healthy. God willing, I've got another 2/3 of my life to live, and I want to live it well...

UPDATE: Shortly after writing this post, I saw a quote from someone I follow on Twitter, Omar Dhillon -- "If you want something in life that you never had before, then by simple rule of thumb you have to make an effort for it like you have never done before in life." So true.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I got news recently that I can go back home to LA at the end of May, a full three months earlier than originally scheduled. Total relief! But now that poses the teeny problem of lugging my stuff home.

I brought a good chunk of my wardrobe with me here, but even that chunk isn't really that big. Regardless, there are lots of pieces in there that I've worn the heck out of, so it's high time to retire them. There are a few donation bins around the area, plus a lot of charities leave notices that they are going to come around and collect items for donation. The added bonus of all this is that, hopefully, my suitcases will be manageable for the flight back to LA. Then when I get to LA, there's that big chunk of my wardrobe that needs culling. It's almost a bit ridiculous how overflowing some of my drawers are and how there are some things in my closet that are brand new (with tags attached!). The same goes for shoes, and it always happens that there are like three or four pairs of shoes you actually end up wearing to death while the rest you got because either they were super cute or super cheap (or both -- score!).

None of my clothes are seriously falling apart and only a few shoes are un-salvageable, so if someone who really needs the clothes and shoes can make use of them, why not? I truly feel fortunate to be able to go buy whatever I want (within reason and budget) and to have the luxury to get rid of clothes and shoes I'm tired of wearing. In donating my stuff, I really hope it goes through legitimate charities who will get it to truly deserving people.

In keeping with the giving spirit, I am anxiously awaiting the release of Tom's Shoes wedges! If you haven't heard of Tom's Shoes, they're an awesome company that makes very comfy and funky shoes and boots. For every pair or shoes bought, they donate a pair to needy kids all over the world. You might have seen their Chief Giving Officer, Blake Mycoskie, on AT&T ads a while ago in the US (isn't he cute??). Anyway, back to the wedges -- they will be available in three nautical-inspired colors: red stripe, blue stripe, and yellow stripe; and also in solid colors (shown below via Running with Heels). I love wedges anyway, and to get some from Tom's would kind of be like two-for-the-price-of-one plus helping some cutie kids.

I'll take one of each, thanks!

(Disclaimer: Tom's did not pay me or anything to write about their shoes - I just love their shoes and the social responsibility at the core of the company.)

Then there are projects that await me when I get home. I've got a list that's a page long in my little notebook, but I'll just point out a couple to do with wardrobe organization. I think I picked up some inspiration from a bunch of blogs I stumbled across via L.L. and Smitten Kitchen (excellent food and cooking blog with SO many yummie recipes to try, some of which are on my to-do list when I go home). From L.L.'s blog, I went to The Everyday Minimalist, who had some lovely examples of creative ways to store jewelry and makeup. As I mentioned earlier, some of my drawers are a mess, and that includes my makeup and jewelry drawers. Some of my makeup is ridiculously old (as in I have no idea when I bought it), so stuff needs tossing, and other products have just been tossed in to baskets or caddies but not really organized. My jewelry is sort of half-organized in those crafting boxes that have lots of compartments, but there are some big statement necklaces that defy compartmentalizing, so why not turn them into quasi-functional art? That way I can also see what I have instead of getting stuck in a rut of wearing like 1/5th of my jewelry.

Speaking of not getting stuck in ruts, I devised a strategy to try to go through as much of my wardrobe as I can so some poor shirt or sweater isn't left languishing wondering, "Is she ever going to wear me? :(" In my room here in the UK, I've got a blank wall that only had a temperamental clock on it that sometimes ticked but mostly didn't. I took it down and put up five sets of hooks, positioned so that the bottom hook was a little bit higher than waist level. Those hooks then serve as a staging area for planning out the week's outfits. Observe:

That was the first-ever attempt, and I also chose shoes and accessories for each outfit. Doing this on Sunday afternoon saves me a TON of time during the week in the mornings. No more agonizing for half an hour over what to wear - you know what you're going to wear! No more running out of the door hungry because you didn't have time to eat breakfast. Heck, spend an extra 10 minutes on your hair because you CAN! This is probably the physical manifestation of my list-making, and boy, do I loooove making lists...and pretending I'm organized ;)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fantastic Finds

Over the past month or so, I've found four products that have rocked my socks -- one literally did. I've been raving about them to my friends on an individual basis, so it made sense to write a blog post. Here we go!

1. Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation

Normally I'm a bit wary about drug store foundations because it's usually a case of hit or miss. In the US, there are never testers, and those transparent card things some companies came our with aren't too helpful because the lighting is usually terrible. Add to that a notoriously difficult skin tone to match, and drug store foundations are almost always a bad idea.

Enter Boots in the UK. The larger Boots stores are kind of like Ulta, Sephora, and a CVS all wrapped in one. They've got high end stuff as well as the usual L'Oreal, Maybelline, etc. A couple of weeks ago, while trying to kick a nasty virus, I went to Boots to get some medicine, but of course got distracted by the make-up. And am I glad I did. Since they have testers out for everything, I tried a bunch of different inexpensive foundations and happened upon the Bourjois stuff. By that point, there were multiple stripes on my face, but this one blended in seamlessly. Not believing my eyes at first sight, I walked away and just got the other stuff in hand, including a ridiculously cheap eyeliner, but that's a different post. On my way home, though, and out in natural light, I took a look, and I was floored. Perfect match! I went back the next day and bought it.

A little bit goes a long way with this stuff, and the key is to use a good foundation brush and then stipple a bit with a good sponge to further blend. It has a thicker consistency than a lot of foundations, so it seems like it's pretty concentrated in terms of pigment. It will look cakey if you use a heavy hand, so blend, blend, blend! I also got the Lilas d'Or blush from Bourjois, which is a very close match to Nars Orgasm. I love Nars, but I don't want to spend $25 on a blush. Funnily enough, it's actually cheaper to buy Bourjois stuff in the UK than in the US right now because of the exchange rate. I have the foundation and blush on in the self-portrait in the previous post.

2. Lush "Big" and "Jumping Juniper" shampoos

I'd passed by Lush stores a lot, especially in San Francisco, but I never actually went in. What piqued my interest were the frequent mentions of Lush products on BubbleGarm, a beauty blog I just started reading (fantastic reads, by the way). Having a bit of time to kill before meeting a friend for lunch on Saturday, I went in to the Newcastle Lush store. After standing bewildered in front of the shampoos for a few minutes, a very helpful associate came by to ask me if I needed help (customer service in the UK! oh my! Also another post...). I told him I was interested in the shampoos and that my hair gets greasy easily yet is also getting, shall we say, "flakey."

He said the Jumping Juniper would be perfect and showed me how to use the solid shampoo, which in and of itself is an interesting concept. You work up a bit of a lather as you would with a bar of soap, and as you work the lather into your hair, it gets sudsier. He also gave me a sample of Big to try and said it works wonders on scalp issues, to the point where it can even soothe eczema.

I tried Big first because my hair had decided to get really grungey, really quickly. It was a bit odd to work with this stuff because it's actually half coarse sea salt, so the bigger salt chunks take a while to dissolve. Also, I don't think I worked up a good lather, and upon reading later reviews realized that had I stuck my head under the water for a couple of seconds then rubbed, it would have been bubbly. Anyway, I washed, didn't use conditioner as per Lush associate's suggestion, and let it air dry for the most part. Even while my hair was wet, I felt a difference. My hair felt clean, scalp scrubbed, ends had their acts together. As it dried, the faint jasmine scent lingered, and my hair felt ridiculously soft. Again, floored. I was in love at first wash!

This morning I tried the Jumping Juniper solid shampoo, and similar, awe-inspiring results. I always thought I needed shampoo, conditioner, then a leave-in product of some sort to tame my mane. Add heat styling to that, and it seemed like my hair had a split personality -- greasy at the roots, a bit frazzled at the ends. I managed to work up a good lather with Jumping Juniper, and I let it sit in my hair for a couple of minutes while I washed the rest of me. This also washed out nicely, and hair behaved while I dried and straightened it.

I think I'll go back over the weekend and properly investigate Lush's other stuff. Lush definitely has a new fan.

Since I'm on Kenneth Cole's email list, I actually found out about these shoes when they were first introduced by the company. I was very intrigued because it always seemed like there was a mutual exclusivity between cuteness and comfort. Cute shoes would kill your feet, and comfortable shoes were mostly ugly. Finding cute + comfortable shoes was like trying to find a legendary creature. Lots of people would claim they'd found that elusive combination, but they were usually hoaxes. These, dear readers, are living legends, if we continue with that analogy. The diagram below is pretty impressive and outlines what went into the shoes -- memory foam, arch support, flexible soles, ultrasoft leather, cork padding in the sole, etc.

I happened to receive a coupon from Kenneth Cole while I was home in California for a visit -- $50 off a $150 purchase. That was definitely incentive enough to go to the store and check out the shoes. Ladies, do yourself a favor, and go try on a pair. You feel the difference just standing in these shoes, and once you start walking, fuggeddaboudit. For my feet, arch support is always an issue, and in fact, they tend to cramp randomly (foot issues seem to be genetic -- my mom and grandmother also get cramps in their feet). The shoes with 925 technology have definite, substantial arch support, which is a welcome innovation in high heels. After lengthy deliberation, I went with a pair with about 3 inch heels that were marked down with an additional 30% off. I've worn them about three times so far, and everytime I wear them, I'm amazed at how comfortable the shoes are. They run about a half size too big, so if, for example you usually wear a 9, try on an 8.5 to compare.

There are a number of heel heights, variations on the pump style, and textures with the 925 Technology at Kenneth Cole. Definitely great as work staples, though it would be great if there were a bit more variety in terms of color and more than pointy toe pumps. There are some open toe and sandal styles with the technology, which is good. In an ideal world, I'd like every shoe to have these kinds of insoles, but for now, Kenneth Cole says that all the women's shoes will have the 925 Technology. God bless you, sir, for saving our soles.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wow, it's been about 10 months since I last posted, which is no bueno. In my defense, I am much more active on Twitter, but still I left this blog to languish :( It just seems that whenever I sit down to write a post, I can't think of anything to write! Talk about a catch 22...

Anyway, I can at least update you on what's been going on in the past 10 months (assuming anyone is still reading!).
  • I took a work assignment in England and am now living in Newcastle upon Tyne, which is about 300 miles north of London. I had the, um, "fortune" of experiencing the coldest winter in the UK in 30 years. Before I moved, I asked people whether winter is bad, and universally everyone said "No, not really." Needless to say, I was not prepared for all that snow, and thought it was nowhere near what the East Coast in the US got, the UK is definitely not prepared to deal with snow. It was tough to leave everyone I know and love, but the good thing is that the assignment ends August 31st. Still, it doesn't get any easier to come back to England after I've been home, and I'm usually a wreck the day I fly out.
  • I lost a little bit more weight (about 10 pounds). I credit my trainer back in California and consistency. It helped to have an appointment to keep for four days of the week at 7:30 a.m. No, I'm not a morning person, but yes, I got my ass up and went to work out. Much better to get it done in the morning and not worry about it for the whole day. However, that whole routine inevitably went out the window when I got to England. I'm trying my hardest to get back into a consistent routine after working out off-and-on and then getting sick with two colds. Having my clothes look better on me and being able to fit into smaller sizes is a great feeling. I got rid of a whole bunch of old, now-too-big clothes and had to ask my mom to alter a couple of pants. Woo!
  • I met the love of my life, and we want to get married (iA)!! We met back in August a couple of months before I left for England. Talk about timing! However, we both vowed to do everything in our power to make it work, and it is. He's loving, sweet, genuine, hilarious, smart, a hard-worker...everything I'd want in a husband and babydaddy :) He met my parents on one of his visits prior to my departure, and he met the rest of my family when I was home last time in February. Everyone thinks he's great and approves. Yay!
  • Speaking of February, that's my birthday month, and I hit the big 3-o! Contrary to most people having mini-meltdowns upon turning 30, I, for one, was thrilled to enter my third decade of life. My twenties were hard and confusing and just generally blech. I feel like I have a much better sense of self and how to deal with life's challenges, which leads to a more mature presence. Twenty-something Robo was very prone to "Woe is me!" thinking, which doesn't do any good.
  • After having lived in the United States since I was five years old, I'm finally in the process of becoming an American citizen. My parents were naturalized when I was 13 or 14 years old, but I kept my British citizenship. Funnily enough, it took living in England again for me to realize that, really, America is home. I grew up there, went to school there, and have reaped the benefits of living in America, so I should become a part of its citizenry. This isn't to say I'll be a flag-waving, gung-ho patriot because I do have issues with a lot of American policies, but hey, at least I'll be able to vote!
Here's very recent photo of me for reference purposes:

I'll do my best to keep writing, even if they're short posts. Chat soon, lovelies!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Robo minus 10 pounds...

I've mentioned my struggle with my weight before in this blog, and Lord knows I've tried all sorts of stuff to lose weight. However, the scale never really moved definitively in the negative direction; I kind of just fluctuated between the same ten pounds (+/- five pounds in either direction from a base weight).

Lately, though, I tried a couple of new tactic in terms of eating: lots of portion control and not eating after 7 p.m. or so. Those little bowls from Ikea are great for doling out the actual serving sizes for a lot of stuff -- cereal, rice, pasta, etc. I know the not-eating-in-the-evening is a bit controversial in that some say it makes a difference whereas others say it doesn't matter when you eat, it's what you eat. Regardless, I gave it a shot. It takes a lot of discipline to not eat after a certain time because you inevitably get hungry, but I find that by the time I do get hungry, it's time to sleep anyway :)

Exercise-wise, I actually didn't do as much as I did in previous months just due to my work schedule and my trainer's availability. I did keep going to my fencing class twice a week, and it's actually quite demanding. Fencing is very much interval cardio because everything is in short bursts, but it also requires control, focus, and sharp reflexes. It's lots of fun, so try it if you get a chance.

I felt the difference in my clothes for sure because stuff that used to be tight or uncomfortable or needed Spanx underneath to look decent now fits or is loose. I started feeling this difference about a month ago, but my scale said otherwise, and the numbers were the same. To it I said, "F*** you, scale. You lie." Recently, I even went down a size in H&M stuff, and lots of you will know how wonky their sizing can be. I couldn't find my scale this morning, so after my workout with my trainer this morning (the first workout in a few weeks), I weighed myself in the gym.

Ten. Pounds. Lost. And confirmed.

My reaction? "SWEET!!" I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to see the scale definitively indicate I'd lost weight as opposed to me just relying on how my clothes fit. THRILLED!

Here's a picture I took for fun in my office yesterday, and I think there's a definite difference in my face from February when I last posted photos.

Right then, on to the next ten pounds :)