Life

I’m back!

FINALLY! The blog has been down for a couple of months, but after multiple support calls and breathing exercises, I finally got MM back up and running!

I missed you guys. And I want to catch up! So I thought I would just give an update of what’s going on and what I’ve been up to lately…

First off, Anthony got a job! Yay. We were pretty concerned like, a week before he got it – we were hoping we wouldn’t have to move to where there were more opportunities. But luckily, we are staying put. And after the idea of leaving was a real thing, I’ve been so into Santa Barbara – I’m falling in love with our place and our city all over again.

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I am re-watching my favorite show, Buffy. This is amazing for a few reasons – one, I haven’t rewatched the series since I was probably in high school, so I have a less black-and-white view of the whole thing, and can appreciate some of the nuances a bit more – plus catch on to the obvious metaphors a lot quicker. Second, it keeps me totally entertained while Anthony is gone at work in the evenings. And the best part – 90s and early 2000s fashion. Which is now… now fashion. This article pretty much sums up the hilarity and fascination.

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I’m getting pumped for Halloween! Here’s what I’m thinking for my costume:

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(P.S. I don’t get this double image thing… I’m not hip.)

So basically I’m going to be a 90s robber………

Still need ideas for a costume? Check out this post or my Halloween Pinterest board.

If you already have your costume picked out, what are you gonna be??? I would love to hear in the comments!

I hope everyone is having a fantastic fall season so far, and I’m so glad to be back on your phones and computers, chattin it up again! <3

Summer of Chill 2016

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I hope everyone is enjoying their summer! It seems the blogosphere is determined to cut mine short by posting about shopping for fall already… Stahp it! I have summer weather until Halloween in California, let me live in denial that it will ever be over, just a little longer!

I have had a great summer so far. Nothing crazy, no elaborate travel plans or long getaways – just a mellow summer mostly at home. But this summer is different. I needed this summer to be something special. I have decided that this summer is….

Stephanie’s Summer of Chill, 2016.

Imagine that in lights on a marquee, announced by a guy with a moustache over a loudspeaker or something. Because that’s how baller it is.

I went into this summer needing a break. Just in general. Anthony finished his PhD in March, then graduated in June when we threw a big party, and it the midst of it all he was trying to find jobs. It was pretty stressful. Really stressful, actually. The months leading up to summer were just intense.

So intense things were happening, but also I had gotten into this intense productive mode where I was doing all this shit to like, become a put-together person. It was probably a coping thing – trying to make sure I crossed all my t’s and dotted all i’s so I could feel better about what felt to me like a pretty chaotic couple of months. Here are some examples:

  • I was tracking how many drinks I had, how I ate, how much I exercised, etc. – every day, using this app
  • I was feeling guilty for not blogging enough
  • I was posting things like this, and trying to find magic ways to get my shit together around the house
  • I was posting things like this, feeling like I needed to lose weight but also resenting that idea (and trying to laugh about it while I figured it out)
  • I was feeling guilty about not working out enough
  • I was feeling guilty that I wasn’t saving enough money, and that I was spending too much

So there was a lot that I felt like I needed to improve, or tackle, or manage, or advance about myself. And I had a day where I realized how insane my brain was getting – it would go round and round, trying to find something to fix, trying to find something wrong, so I could pounce on it and fix it. It was like this Pinterest mentality of hyper vigilance I had established over my life. I finally realized what a weirdo I was being – Why, Steph?! Fucking chill. out.

That’s when I decided – we are taking a break. A BREAK. From all of it. Here are all the things I decided to get rid of for the summer:

  • Guilt, about anything
  • Self-improvement projects
  • Exercise routines that aren’t fun
  • Tracking of anything not fun or that produces guilt (see above)
  • Negative thoughts about my body

And I just, let go. I focused on doing things that were fun. We made a summer bucket list (which I am shooting to post about soon, but if not, no guilt). I did more stuff outside after work. I didn’t think about how much beer I had that week, or if I was getting enough cardio. I stopped caring how clean my house was, or how my belly looked in that top.

I don’t know, my head was just in the right place to just stop fucking caring about that shit. And it worked.

Why just the summer, you may ask? Why isn’t this just your new life?

Well, telling myself that it was just for the summer to start was a way to really let go of the guilt completely, because things like finding ways to save money are things I will need to get around to eventually, but not necessarily now. So I thought, okay – I can really just forget about it for a while, and I’ll pick it up in the fall, if I want to. But the idea was, if I could just get in the right mindset, hopefully this will be the new state of things.

And it has been an amazing, stress-free summer. It really was so great, you guys. I just lived my life. Now it’s August, and I still have so many fun things I still want to do while the weather is still warm – but I am also learning to prioritize fun things all year round. I established great healthy habits while I was in my intense phase over the winter months, that have stuck throughout the summer, but without the guilt and fastidious tracking. And some new productive habits have just naturally emerged – Anthony and I have worked on cooking at home a lot more, which is saving us money and allowing us to eat healthier. I realized I didn’t have to have the intense attitude to make improvements like that – and, more imortantly, guilt doesn’t have to be a part of it.

As I mentioned, the rest of the world is getting ready for fall, and work is starting to get busy again (work has been so slow for the summer, which helped a lot with the carefree attitude) – so I can feel some of the old ways creeping back in. I’m extra tired and stressed this week, so I have less energy to go do fun stuff after I get home – but I’ll adjust. I just need to keep the spirit of chill alive through fall, too.

What has helped center me back to that mindset is asking myself this question, that I kept thinking when our friend was visiting a few weeks back…

What would I do today if I were on vacation?

I love playing tourist in my own city, and just because I worked that day doesn’t mean I can’t take dinner up to the mission and have a picnic, or grab a beer at a new restaurant in town, or walk down to thrift shop after I get home. Sometimes I save all the fun for the weekend, and do all the boring stuff after work – working out, cleaning, catching up on shows. I realized I need more balance, so i don’t get so bummed when Monday rolls around. My life can happen in between Fridays! I need to get off the couch more and treat my life like one big summer vacation, work or no work.

 

I’m into it, guys. I’ll let you know if I can keep the spirit alive as we get closer to fall! What have you done to de-stress lately and enjoy summer?

 

 

 

Weight on my shoulders

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Devil: What happened to us? We were being so good! We lost a good amount of weight – remember how hot we felt that one weekend where everything looked good on us? Now all of a sudden we never work out anymore, we bite our nails within an inch or their lives again, we never shave our legs… We were so put together for a while there. WHAT HAPPENED

Angel: Um, life happened? A ton of people were in town, and there wasn’t any time to work out, then we got our period and hated life for like a week, and now we just want to have a couple beers and not worry about how our body looks for one. second. Did you see that awesome blogger’s post today? She has a body type just like ours and she is BEAUTIFUL. We are beautiful too! I bet if we put on that same amazing dress she was wearing, we would look amazing too, but we wouldn’t think so – we would beat ourselves up about it. Maybe we should read that article about loving your belly again…

Devil: We are going to Vegas in two weeks. TWO WEEKS. We were ready last week to look and feel hot AF – but we lost it. Now we have two weeks to get back to that amazing place where all of our clothes are magical and we don’t want to burn them all in a trash can. Why did we have a soda today with lunch? WHY? WE NEVER DRINK SODA. We’re slipping. Maybe if we eat a salad for lunch AND dinner every day before Vegas…

Angel: But Anthony is graduating this weekend! We have to have beer! Life is too fun and short to worry about this shit! Gawd how much time do we seriously spend arguing about how we look? IT’S SO DUMB. We should make room in our brain for things that are actually helpful! Remember college? We never beat our self up this way back then!

Devil: Because we were hot.

Angel: I mean, ya, but we’re hot now too!

Devil: *unconvinced look*

Angel: In a different way! Like, a grown up, grown-ass woman way. Like who the fuck cares? Let’s move ON. We are so much more evolved than this.

Devil: Say what you want, but everyone is going to be PISSED we didn’t do something sooner when we’re in Vegas and we have a hormonal meltdown because nothing we packed looks good and we’re in FUCKING VEGAS and we’re 27 and we should feel hot as fuck.

Angel: We are hot as fuck! We got LEATHER PANTS. They looked great, even when we felt SO fat trying them on. Nothing can go wrong with leather pants.

Devil: Okay, that’s one night’s outfit covered. WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER NIGHT. You can’t just wear leather pants two nights in a row. I dare you to find another outfit that we feel hot in when our beer belly makes a triumphant return with this new carefree attitude we have going. We need to go shopping again… But we don’t have the money and nothing fits us.

Angel: We need to get. over. it. It’s a belly. When we’re 60 and wrinkly, all we’ll think is, “Gawd, I wasted so much time beating myself up about my stupid (and adorable) belly, which was just full of good times, and the whole time I was young, and had beautiful skin, and my boobs were perky, and my ass was out of this world…” We need to appreciate all we have going for us right now and shut up about it.

Devil: But that’s the point! We’re young! We should be working out and reaching our full potential! Those girls with the ripped arms for no reason on Facebook look like they’re seriously taking advantage of their strong, young bodies. We want to be like that!

Angel: Do we though? Are we settings goals that aren’t even ours again? We just need to go on a walk, not eat out as much the next couple of days, and we’ll feel fine.

Devil: Until Vegas. VEGAS.

 

 

 

 

5 ways to instantly become more organized

 

I am addicted to get-organized-quick schemes. When I’m not busy at work, my favorite thing to do is watch webinars on how to best use my iPhone, Outlook, and other tools to be the most productive and organized person in the world that I can be.

After a couple of these webinars, advice from other people, and trying out different things, I found some really helpful tricks that have improved how I do things in my professional and personal life. Now I feel like things don’t fall through the cracks and I can keep up on all my random to-dos – the only thing left is finding the energy to do them….

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1.Turn off email notifications.

This was a huge one for me. I use Outlook at work, and the majority of the time I’m not so busy that I can’t stop for a second to answer an email, or even just scan the subject line of a new email that would pop up at the corner of my screen. I never thought the notifications were a big deal or that they interrupted anything.

Then I was listening to a webinar and they said to shut it off, and cited studies and all sorts of convincing shit that made me do it. I honestly didn’t think it would make that much of a difference, but it has.

Here’s why: even if the email is not in any way important, I will stop whatever (actually important) thing I’m doing to read it. It was so distracting, and I didn’t even realize it until it was gone. Now, when I start working on a project, I can actually get something done. Even if a super important email comes in while I’m working, can’t it wait 30 minutes to an hour? If it is that urgent, the person in need can just pick up the phone and call me. I’m telling you, it is so much nicer to go into my inbox after completely focusing on a project and seeing 5 emails, rather than checking each one as they come in and feeling like my brain is in 5 places at once.

I never turned my email notifications on on my phone, but it sounds like an awful idea, for the record. I have been hanging out with friends, drinking beers, when their phone makes a noise and all of a sudden they’re depressed because they got a stressful or drama-inducing email and now we’re all bummed.

I say, turn it off! You’ll start spending actual focused time on what you are doing right now, and your time will start to feel like your time, not someone else’s to do what they want with.

2. Set up email folders.

I mean, duh. But – I learned a system from a webinar distributed at work that has saved me from stressing out or losing track of important things during days when I felt like I had 324,785 things to do. I wish I could credit the correct person for this system, but it was months ago! If anyone thinks this looks familiar and knows the origin, please let me know – but it is too good not to share.

Here is how I have it set up:

 

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Seems a little complicated, but I promise it’s not! Let’s start at the top.

  • Inbox

This is only for incoming messages. Weird concept, right? I used to just work out of my inbox entirely and only put things in folders that I was saving for the future. But using this system, the inbox only shows you things you haven’t dealt with yet. Then, once you’ve dealt with everything (not finished everything, but allocated everything to its appropriate place in your folders) your inbox will be empty. It’s a marvelous feeling.

  • Today

These are things you need to deal with today. This is great for when you come in in the morning to a shit ton of emails in your inbox and you just need to go through everything to figure out what is urgent, what isn’t, if any fires are burning the place down, etc. If something needs to be done today, you put it in that folder and make sure everything in there is finished by the time you leave. Simple.

  • Tomorrow

Same deal. Except when you come in the next day, or maybe right before you leave, you shift your tomorrow stuff to today. Sounds like something you’ll forget to do, right? But just try if it sounds like something that could help you – it is way more intuitive than I thought it would be.

  • This week

This is great for having a reminder email in there to just keep up with a project, stay in touch with someone, etc – but it doesn’t have to have a specific deadline.

  • Next week

Same deal. When you come in on Monday, or before you leave Friday, you update your folders. See below on how I never forget to do that with my Monday calendar event.

  • Waiting For

THIS IS HUGE. This, my friends, is how I become a magical sorceress who never – I mean, never – lets anything slip through the cracks. Here’s how it works – you reply to someone asking a question, or you email someone needing something in return. After you send it, go to your send folder, and plop that baby in Waiting For. Then, you can regularly check back and follow up with people if they don’t get back to you. When someone gets back to you, you delete it from the folder. (If you are in Outlook, make sure to sort your messages by conversation so everything stays together – that way, it’s easy to see that someone got back to you even when you’re only looking in the Waiting For folder – their reply will be right there with your request.) This is great for covering your ass – you have proof right there that you were waiting on someone else, and you can politely follow up with them in a reasonable time frame so things can get resolved. I am absolutely obsessed with this one – if you do nothing else that I say in this post, but you want to try one thing, do this.

Then I have just helpful folders below – that RANDY/KAREN folder is titled “RANDY/KAREN NO ACTION” (I put it in all caps so it stands out from the other system/default folders). Randy and Karen are colleagues I work with, and they cc me on a lot of stuff that I sometimes need to do nothing about. So I put them in here, so I have them on hand when they bring it up, but it isn’t clogging up my inbox or to-do folders.

The other ones are just helpful folders to save emails that describe processes I need to follow, or a place to put emails relating to the systems we use, etc. The only other one I want to touch on is the Yay Me folder. This is great for work emails – you throw in any email where someone is like, “Hey, you organized-as-hell sorceress, you are amazing at your job and I really appreciate that hard thing you did for me today via email” into this folder. Then when you’re having a bad day, or you are trying to get the nerve up to ask for a raise, or whatever, you look at this stuff and you’re like “How did I forget for one SECOND how amazing I am”. I love it.

3. Set up calendar appointments to start your week off right.

To be honest, I need to do this with my personal life – sit down every Sunday with Anthony and look at the week ahead – decide when we will go grocery shopping, when he has rehearsals, etc. The only headway I’ve made here is getting a joint Google calendar on our phones so we don’t double-book ourselves and nothing sneaks up on us (Anthony’s idea). But the last thing I want to do on a Sunday is sit down and talk about the upcoming week, so this is a work in progress.

But the system that I have grown to love and use consistently is the calendar appointment I make for myself on Monday mornings for work. I’ve actually stuck with this one, and it helps me feel more prepared for the week ahead, and less like I’m being shot out of a cannon.

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It gets those email folders taken care of and updated, plus if I have any early meetings that week I can make sure to pay attention and re-set my alarm so I don’t sleep through it.

4. Get Evernote (or something like it)

This just keeps everything in my brain in one place. Little notes, phone numbers, email responses I can copy/paste that I send a lot, blog post ideas, instructions, you name it. I use it on my phone and it syncs to my desktop. It’s simple but can hold a ton of information that doesn’t end up getting lost or forgotten – and everything is searchable. Thank god.

5. Get Wunderlist (or something like it)

I was using Todoist for a while, and then tried Wunderlist after hearing everyone highly recommending it. I just like it. I think I switched because Todoist didn’t have the capability to share lists, which was essential because I want Anthony and I to be able to both add things and check them off. Now I share a grocery list and chores list with Anthony, plus all my other lists are in the same place. There is a desktop and mobile version, and you can set up ongoing reminders for tasks, which I couldn’t figure out how to do in Todoist – that’s huge for me since I need weekly and daily reminders (mostly to not kill my plants).

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Alright ya’ll – you now have my secret weapons. Go forth into a more organized life – one with more time for beer and friends. :)

 

What are your secret weapons for staying organized?

 

 

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