So I Went to Israel. Again.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

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I had the good fortune of returning to Israel this month. Sadly, I took a dead camera for that I couldn't locate the charger for, which meant that I had to take any & all photos on my trusty iPhone. Which meant that I didn't take very many at all. I did, however, snap a few solid pics of amusing things from across the Land because, hey, priorities.

Without further ado...

This is my new favorite word.

While wandering through the sleepy town of Tiberias on a night off, a few of my new friends & I encountered this year-round haunted-house-slash-horror-cinema. I have a lot of questions about why that exists, period, but more importantly, what is 7D? That's more real than real life!

Even the religious appreciate pop culture & have a sense of humor! Nevermind that their references are a few months dated. But, like, Man on a Ledge is playing in Israeli theaters right now, so I'll give them a pass. (No pun intended...)

 I found Aladdin! In a shawarma shop on Ben Yehuda Street!*

This fancy little piece of crushed-skeleton artwork, which is not at all morbid, is just hanging out at the front of a lovely little cafe in the quaint city of Tzfat. It's quite reminiscent of that crushed-Muggle fountain statue in the Deathly Hallows Part I, no? MAGIC IS MIGHT!

Is there anything creepier than a good old-fashioned doll museum? I say no - except for good old-fashioned doll museums advertised upon rusted signs from the 1970s.

Sometimes things get lost in translation, yanno? Just please don't wet on the mosaic.

A picture of a person taking a picture of a person taking a picture of a girl taking a picture. Most meta! (Love me some well-done urban art.)

A number of common brands sold in the U.S. are also sold in Israel, but with slightly different tastes & sometimes, slightly different names. Diet Coke, for example, is a little bit less carbonated, & Doritos taste a little bit more like tortilla chips. But this gum, which tastes just like its American cousin, threw me for a loop. Is it for professionals? Is it made professionally? Tell me more, Orbit.

I'll have the Pleasure Salad, please - with a little bit of extra pleasure, if you don't mind?

*The worst part? This guy was America. For shame, buddy.
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Notes on New York from a n00b

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

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My general feelings about free coffee
& good hair days, but not about 5:15am
It's 8:40am as I begin this post, & already, I've been awake for 3.5 hours. If you've ever woken up in my general vicinity (I'm also talking crashing on your couch & traveling together, pervs, not just sexytimes), you know that I am not exaaaaactly what anyone would call a "morning person." I see 8am only when I absolutely need to, & my work-from-home lifestyle means this isn't very often (but shut up about it, please).

Today, though, I had to catch a train into the city, & because I'm slightly lazy and/or cold-averse, I caught a ride with Nathan to the train station... at 6:20. I was thus on a train by 6:35 & arrived at Penn Station just before 8:00. Now, it's still shy of workin' time, & I'm sitting at my desk, avoiding work for 15 more minutes because why would I start work early?

It's been awhile since I've been to my office - three & a half months, to be precise. When I first moved to Jersey, I was doing a great job of coming into the city for a few days a month, crashing with a friend & working from an actual office building with actual coworkers who I can see in 3D instead of via GoTo Meeting (whaddup, GTM, you rock, though). But then Hurricane Sandy hit, & the train was out for more than a month, & then it was the holidays, & then I went to Israel... & now it's now. I had to come in for 48 hours for a really long meeting, so here I am.

I fancy myself pretty good at the city for a non city-dweller. I have a terrible sense of direction, but I have an iPhone & common sense, so I can usually make it work for me. This morning, though, I felt like a total new kid, messing up all the little things I usually pride myself on. I also came away with a few fresh observations, which I shall impart upon you at this time:
  • This is how to not get robbed when you intend to sleep on a train:

    Although to be fair, I don't know that a lot of robbers are active in the wee hours of the morn. And speaking of the wee hours of the morn...
  • There's a special place in hell for people who carry on loud, bellowing conversations - or conversations of any volume, frankly - on public transit prior to sunrise. Everyone around you is trying to sleep for the next 70 minutes, bro. I know you're from Jersey, but tone it down.
  • Waking up on the train upon reaching your final destination (not like that) is among the most disorienting situations, much like waking up on an airplane is. WHERE AM I & WHAT TIME IS IT & DID I ACCIDENTALLY JUST GET OFF THE TRAIN AT NEWARK INSTEAD OF THE CITY? No? Oh, good. Carry on.
  • Subway turnstiles & revolving doors are particularly hostile to luggage-wielding pedestrians, & of course, the city is lousy with both of them. Can't a girl get an old-fashioned hinged door up in here?
  • I am incapable of assembling weather-appropriate attire in advance. To be fair, I also didn't check the forecast, but I just assumed it would be, like, four degrees out today, so I sported my thickest winter coat, the one with the faux-fur hood trim. But because I am the world's sweatiest individual & because subway cars in no way approximate outdoor temperatures & because the outdoor temperature is actually sort of balmy for January, I arrived at my office looking like I'd just run an early-morning marathon.
  • But my hair stayed good! And good hair days get you things. Or they got me things today, at least, when I walked into Starbucks, all awkward & sweaty & heavy-coat-wearing, & the barista told me my hair looked "bangin'" & then rang me up for a tall coffee instead of a tall latte, which is approximately a million times cheaper. And then winked at me. 
I didn't even know my brain could formulate so many complete sentences prior to 9am. I'm so proud! And whaddaya know? It's 9am now, which means work beckons. Happy Tuesday!

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On Fat, Friends, Family, & Above All, Self-Love

Thursday, January 24, 2013

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Do you remember the post I wrote last fall about my friend Lindsey's & my 100-day self-love challenge? Probably not, because if you blinked, you missed it – & I never mentioned it again. I was on a real roll for awhile – I even lost about 12 lbs.! I was tracking my caloric intake, trying to make healthy eating choices, exercising a bit more regularly than usual (which means exercising at all). Lindsey & I texted & emailed each other every night to give one another a rundown on what we'd eaten that day, providing one another with encouragement, support, & friendly reminders not to fall off the wagon.

But fall off the wagon I have, & I've been too ashamed of myself to mention it here. I've spent literally months debating: "Should I remind my readers of this? Should I say something? Should I publicly admit failure?" I guess this is a public shaming of sorts, because I ultimately decided that these struggles are worth writing about. I know I can't be the only one who has them.

I've gained all that weight back, plus some more; I've lost any hint of the motivation I briefly had. I've returned to feeling disgusting & lumpy & uncomfortable in my own body, embarrassed of the way my clothes cling to my body & the creeping numbers on the scale. I look at photos & videos of myself & feel physically ill; how can that really be what I look like? And somehow, despite this loathing for the body I've built for myself, I seem unable to make the mental connection between what I put into my mouth & how it negatively affects my appearance & my health. I find myself engaged in dangerous thinking & behavior, like sneaking fast food in my car, or eating a regular meal around others but then waiting until they're gone so that I can eat more, or zoning out & somehow consuming 10 Oreos without even realizing I've done it – & then still wanting more, despite feeling like I could throw up.

This? Is not normal.

In April while with my family in Ohio for my grandmother's funeral – which was already so long ago – I felt particularly conscious of my body, of the fact that I am the least healthy of my relatives. My uncle, who is a tennis instructor & soccer coach, occasionally makes casual comments about strangers' bodies that I can't help but internalize. My mother, who has lost 30 lbs. over the last year thanks to a newfound love of bicycling, more frequently expresses her concern about my weight. My cousin, who has always been slim & athletic, is a marathoner who runs miles a day just for fun & chooses frozen vegetables over carbs just because she likes them. Hyper-aware of their habits in comparison to my own, I spent that week together agonizing over everything I ate in front of them – & somehow still sneaking mini Snickers bars out of my grandmother's pantry.

In October, on the way back from lunch with a friend, the course of our conversation turned to the fact that I've gained nearly 20 lbs. since I began working from home in early 2011. I snack more & I move less, especially because it seems that the only time I ever leave my apartment is to go to places that have food – whether it's working from a coffee shop during the day or going out to eat with Nathan at night to explore our new town. My friend casually mentioned that my Instagram pictures give her the impression that I "don't hold back" when it comes to food, & regardless of her good intentions, that comment stung more than any others before it have. It's stuck with me, both encouraging me to work harder & making me hate my body even more than I already did – a real mixed bag. After that conversation, I joined a gym, & I've been doing a decent but not necessarily good job of working out every two or three days, running/walking two miles or riding 10. I've been trying to eat better, to eat less, to drink more tea & less Diet Coke. To do all the things I'd become so proud of myself for doing last fall, & to encourage myself to stick with it this time. When Sandy kept us homebound in the fall, though, I found myself snacking like mad, just because I could, because I was bored, because things tasted good & I couldn't be bothered to consider how they affected me beyond my taste buds. Each time I took a bite of something terrible, that comment haunted me: "It seems like you don't hold back." In any other aspect of life, this might be a good thing – but not when it comes to overeating.

While in Israel for the last 10 days, I tried to make good – or at least not bad – food choices. I ate breakfast, lunch, & dinner, & I almost never snacked. I ate cucumbers for breakfast, drank fresh pomegranates & grapefruit juice during the day, consumed literally gallons of water, tried never to eat more than one bureka at a time. With our intense itinerary, I did a lot of walking, too, & I felt great about it. And yet when I returned home, the scale told me I'd actually gained a pound – & worst of all, the few photos of me taken during the trip were just awful, me looking happy but horrifying, with three chins & big cheeks & eyes all squished into my face. I had a great time, felt wonderful about the whole experience, & came home to photos that showed me looking like an inflated, 'roided out version of the person I actually imagine myself to be. How can I ever look back on those photos & feel good about myself or that experience?

And perhaps that's part of the problem: that I don't necessarily see myself as being the size that I am. Sometime I think I must suffer from some sort of body dysmorphia. When I look in the mirror, I don't think I'm big – or not too big, at least, just a normal sort of big. I don't feel like a fat person! But when I see photos of myself looking horrible, when I have to order XLs or XXLs, when I don't fit into the clothes at Target or Macy's, when I compare myself to the smaller women around me, it's then that I realize that my perception of myself is skewed, off, that I am big. Because I don't see myself that way, though, I have trouble motivating myself to do anything about it; if I look in the mirror & feel pretty, why bother changing? When these things jar me back to reality, I want so badly to change, but on an everyday basis, I've found it nearly impossible to convince myself that I need to.

In the meantime, I try to love myself anyway. I try to remain cognizant of the fact that I am more than my body, that I am more than what I eat or how my clothes fit or the way I look in photographs or even what other people think of my body. I know that there is much, much more to me than being fat or thin. I try to be body-positive, to read blogs written by women who own their sizes & look good doing it. I try to remind myself that if any other person in my life said the mean things to me about my body that I say to myself, I would immediately stop being friendly with that person; I try to remind myself that I literally never judge other fat women the same way I do myself, that I think they look just as beautiful as smaller women. I try to tell myself that I am still beautiful, too – but I'm so tired of feeling that I could be more beautiful if only I lost all this extra weight. I try to remind myself that this is a manageable problem, a common problem, & that if I just commit to change, I will see success – & I'll be so enamored of the results that I'll stick with it.

I deserve better than this. Mentally, physically, emotionally, I know I deserve more – so why can't I find it within me to treat my body the way it deserves to be treated? Or, if I can't do that, just suck it up & love myself anyway?!

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On Life in New Jersey, Honestly (Pt. II)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

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I wrote "On Life in New Jersey, Honestly" in September, when I was having a really difficult time adjusting to living here. But somewhere along the way, in the last few months, something changed. It was subtle, at first, but it happened.

As I drove to D.C. at the end of November, I found myself running low on gas. As I approached the Delaware state line, I thought to myself, "It sure is cold out. I should get gas before I leave New Jersey so I don't have to get out of my car." And that's exactly what I did.

Here in New Jersey, my car's brakes are getting a workout (because the drivers here are still crazy & I'm still not), & my left turn signal is atrophying from lack of use. I occasionally still miss my jughandle, which sends me a mile or so out of my way before I can turn around, but on the streets I frequent most, I know exactly where to turn right so that I may then turn left.

Nathan & I recently tried out the Bagel Station, a Red Bank "bagelry & java house" that a local recommended as being the best in town. We went early on a weekday on a day he had off, before I started work. Faced with a looming menu board full of breakfast options, I made my decision: "Can I get pork roll & cheese on a sesame bagel?" Not bacon, not sausage, but pork roll. Not for a blog experiment but just because I wanted it.

Little things, but they add up to something big: I'm getting used to life in New Jersey. I sometimes say, "The worst part about living in New Jersey is telling people you live in New Jersey" - which means that the place itself isn't as bad as the reputation it has.

It's OK here. I'm OK here. And life is good.
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