It’s Almost Gift Giving Time! (or Excited To Finally Give A Present)

My immediate family does the standard gift giving with buying gifts for people for their birthdays and Hanukkah. Since we don’t see each other that often, it’s become easiest for us to exchange gifts during Thanksgiving when we are all together. I’m so glad that it is only a week away because the gift I got for my family is something I planned a year ago!

I only get presents for my parents, my brother, and my sister-in-law. For birthdays, obviously they all get their own gifts. But for Hanukkah, I usually combine them (so my parents get a gift and my brother and sister-in-law get a gift). It makes things a little easier for me when it comes to planning, but also it allows me to get something a bit nicer since I am combining the money I would have split for different gifts. But I know that it doesn’t always take money to find the best and most creative gifts, and I usually work hard to find the best thing I can get someone.

I take a lot of pride in finding the best gifts I can. I try to take notes throughout the year and remember them when it is time for me to buy a gift for someone. And there are some gifts that I know are remembered as some of the best. My dad is always excited to see what I get him. I got him a new gym bag a very long time ago and because the company has a lifetime warranty we joke that the bag keeps reincarnating. I think he’s had 2 or 3 different gym bags from that one gift and he likes to remind me that I got it for him. I guess there has been a theme with luggage with my dad because I’ve also gotten him a new backpack and ski bag over the years. But more recently I got my parents a sign for the house in Tahoe and other fun things like that.

And the day after I gave my family their presents last year, I found the perfect present for them! Of course, it was too late to order it then for them, but I bookmarked the website and saved it for the next time. I can’t believe this idea has been one I have had for a year, but I can’t wait to give them their gifts because I’m ready for it to not be a secret. It won’t be a complete secret because my dad does know what they are getting. I needed him to do some spy work for me to help with some of the planning, but I think hearing his reaction when I told him what the gift would be when he helped me was enough to make me happy that he is surprised.

I hate being so vague and cryptic about this all, but I haven’t given people their gifts yet. But I did finally see the final product 2 days ago and it made me even more excited to finally be able to give a gift that I planned so long ago! I can’t wait to see everyone’s reactions (even my dad’s) and I really hope that they will all love the gifts as much as I do.

I really get so much happiness out of finding the perfect present for people. If I had unlimited funds, I would probably buy my family more presents and buy gifts for more people in my life. I always see random things that I know would be good for one person or another, but I don’t have the money or they are someone who I don’t usually exchange gifts with. I don’t want to buy a gift for someone who doesn’t usually get gifts from me because I don’t want them to feel like they need to get me something in return. But my gift idea bookmark tab on my computer just keeps growing in case one day I will be getting them a present.

It does feel a bit weird to be done with all my gift purchasing before the holiday season really feels like it has started, but it’s also nice to know that I’m all done and can just enjoy holiday decorations around LA without needing to rush from store to store to try to find gifts for people. My gift giving season is almost here and over at the same time. But then I also get to spend the next year planning out the perfect gift again!

A Tasting And Theater Night (or Enjoying A Fun Night Out)

The current season for the Pantages has officially begun! Our first show of this current season was actually an add-on show, so this past weekend was the first show of the main season. And since this season is so close to the end of the last season, it does just feel like one long season. And that’s perfectly fine with me.

And just last the past few seasons, we are going to try to have dinner before the show to make it a full night out. And even before we started to plan what we would do for dinner before this show, I got an email from the manager at Wood & Vine. They have a new chef there and they wanted to see if we wanted to come in for a tasting! We all love Wood & Vine so there was no question that we would be coming in!

I had taken a look at the menu before we went in, and everything looked delicious! I knew it would be tough for us to decide what we wanted to get, but I had a feeling that anything we picked would be amazing.

When we got there, my friends ordered cocktails and we knew we wanted the French onion dip with chips so we got that ordered right away. Then we checked out the menu and I think we got a pretty good variety and selection of things to try.

For starters/side dishes we had the dip with chips, wedge salad, and asparagus.

For entrees we had the shrimp and grits, the 50/50 burger (we got it without a bun as one of my friends has a gluten allergy, scotch eggs, and pork shanks.

We also tried the pasta dishes. We got the mac and cheese and the vegan spaghetti and meatballs.

And we got 3 of the 4 desserts they had (one of them was already sold out so we couldn’t try the cobbler).

It really was a ton of food, but the portions aren’t ridiculously huge and almost everything was split among the 4 of us. So while we were all full, it wasn’t that bad. And everything was so good so it was so worth it!

There was nothing we tried that I wouldn’t get again. But there were a few standouts to me. We all loved the French onion dip and even asked for more chips so we could keep on eating it. Then when we got our burger we discovered that dipping the fries in the dip was even better! The pork shank was a favorite among the entire group and I know that I will be getting that every time I’m there and it’s on the menu! The shrimp and grits was a hit with my friends, but since I’m very sensitive to spicy foods I had to only have a little taste. But what I tried was delicious! And I think the mac and cheese was the best variation of it that we’ve had from all of the times we’ve ordered it at Wood & Vine (yes, even better than the lobster mac!).

All the desserts were delicious and we were happy to see they kept the butterscotch on the menu. This version was a bit lighter and had more air whipped into it, but I liked that. And the ice cream was the perfect thing to have with the butterscotch. But I think if we had to pick a favorite dessert, the donut holes were the winner! It came with a chocolate bacon sauce and a raspberry sauce, and they were both great dipping options.

We also got a chance to meet the new chef, Rick Sipovic. He has been the chef at restaurants all over the country, but he grew up in the south so a lot of his dishes are inspired by that. He was so friendly and fun to talk to! We enjoyed hearing about how he decided on certain things on the menu and how the crowds that come in for dinner before the show can be very different from show to show. We were enjoying talking with him so much that we were there until about 5 minutes before showtime! We quickly said goodbye and thank you to Rick and everyone else at Wood & Vine to go across the street to the Pantages.

The show we saw this time was “A Bronx Tale” and none of us knew really anything about the show. A few of us knew it was based on a movie which was based on real life, but we hadn’t seen the movie. But I’ve heard that sometimes when seeing a show based on another thing, it’s best to go in with limited knowledge. We didn’t have the movie to compare the musical to and that’s usually a good thing.

We enjoyed the show. It was an interesting journey about the life of the main character when he was a kid and as a teenager and the story was easy to follow (a worry I have when I don’t know anything about the story). There were several very catchy songs and a bunch of them reminded us of other musicals which was a fun surprise. I think it was a nice musical to have to officially start off the season and it’s one of the only shows this season I had no familiarity with before going in. I’ve said it before but it will be interesting this season when I know a majority of the shows we are seeing, since usually I only know one or two of them.

This really was the perfect night out! The show was fun and we had a truly incredible dinner! There was never a question before that we would keep going to Wood & Vine before several of our shows, but now I’m looking forward to it even more to try the other things on the menu and see how it changes as the menu is based on what is available that season. I’m sure the winter, spring, and summer menus will be just as good as this fall one is. And I am so excited to keep having the best dinners before seeing some of the best musicals!

Auditioning For Class (or When Rejection Is Really A Win)

It has been a while since I’ve been in an acting class. And it’s been even longer since I’ve been in an ongoing regular acting class. I’ve struggled to find a new acting class that I wanted to be in for a long time. Part of it is financial and part of it is finding someone I connect with as much as my acting coach who passed away. But I know that I should be in class because it’s always a good thing to work on your skills. So I have looked into a few different classes to see if there are any that seem to be a good match for me.

A friend of mine told me about an acting class that she is in (I’m not saying the name just to keep things a bit discrete). It’s an ongoing class that meets once a week to work on scripts. You can bring in a script you need to prepare for an audition or work on random material in class. But what is so special about the class is that there is no teacher or coach. It is a group of 12 actors that work together supporting each other. Everyone is a teacher and a student at the same time.

When she told me about this class originally, it sounded really amazing to me. I love the idea of a collaborative class where everyone is an equal. And not only did the class sound great, it was one of the cheaper classes out there because they only had to pay for the rental of the space they used. They hold auditions to join the group once or twice a year, whenever one of the 12 members is leaving the class. Sometimes they have 1 space, sometimes they have more than one. But it’s always a very limited number of spaces open when they have auditions.

My friend told me about the auditions about a month ago so I could check my schedule, and the actual audition was last week. We were given a script to work on and present to the group. Then after we did our scene there was an interview portion where the current members of the group could ask me questions. It’s so important with a small collaborative group like this that everyone gets along, so I understood why they had to do an interview along with the audition.

I don’t want to make excuses for myself, but I did not have my best audition. I was dealing with some nausea and cramps that evening. I’ve been lucky over the past 2 years because I haven’t really had any auditions on my bad days. But this time, I did have that. And because I wasn’t feeling myself, I was struggling with keeping the lines memorized. Again, I don’t want to make excuses for myself because I now know I need to work harder at being extra memorized to be prepared in case I have to audition on a bad day. But it still was unfortunate that I felt pretty bad after I finished my audition.

I felt much more confident during the interview. The questions were things that I was expecting like if I could commit to the time the class was held, if I was ok with how much the class cost, and what I would bring to a group like this. I tried to answer as openly and honestly as I could without rambling too much. I was very conscious about making my answers solid and quick so I didn’t seem unsure of my answers. I was actually much more prepared for the interview part and was expecting much harder questions, so when it was done I was almost shocked that it was over.

When I left, I told my friend I was sorry that my audition was bad. I knew it wasn’t great, but she let me know that it was good and that I did a great job. But she also let me know the next day that I didn’t get accepted into the group. It wasn’t a surprise to me (I would have been surprised if I did get into the group) and she gave me some notes about what the others thought. The main thing was that because I wasn’t as memorized as other people, I didn’t appear to be as prepared. It was actually good to hear that because I knew that was an issue. I was happy it wasn’t an issue I wasn’t already aware of.

Although I would have loved to have gotten into the class, I know that I can audition again the next time there is an opening. And I plan on doing just that and making sure I work even harder on my audition. I now know what to expect when I go into the room so I will be more prepared than I was last week. And hopefully I won’t have the audition on a bad day.

But even with being rejected from the class, I had the best time at this audition! Any time I get to act is an amazing day and brings me so much joy! This is how I know I’m on the right career path right now. Being rejected from an acting class is still better than my best day at my day job. And I have gotten good at rejection from auditions and other acting related experiences. It’s a part of this career and I am glad that I don’t let rejection affect me or make me question if I’m not supposed to do this.

Not Exactly A Recovery Week (or Working With Different Challenges)

After making it through Hell Week, I was thinking maybe the workouts would be a bit easier this past week. Even if they weren’t necessarily easier, I thought they’d feel easier than the Hell Week ones did. I don’t know if it was because I had some challenges this week or because the workouts weren’t as easy as I thought they would be, but this past week really had some tough workouts!

Monday’s workout was similar to a run/row format but it was more like run/do floor work/row if you have time. I didn’t make it to the rower each time, but I did get at least a little bit of rowing in to add to my total for the month.

On the treadmill we had 3 blocks. Each one had a run for distance, medicine ball squats to press, run for distance, more medicine ball squats to press, and then row until the block was done. Each block the distance on the treadmill went down which is why I made it to the rower for the second and third block. I power walked all the distances since I didn’t want to be too tired from running if I made it to the rower. Plus, since power walkers only do half the distance, I knew I’d have a better chance making it to the rower if I power walked half the distance over running the full distance. I didn’t get a lot of rowing done for those last 2 blocks, but it was at least a little something.

On the floor we also had 3 blocks. The first block was chest presses, lunges, and knee tucks. The second block was hip swings with weights, mountain climbers, and single arm chest presses. And the last block was push ups, running men, and rollouts using the straps. We didn’t have a ton of weight work, but I did go heavier than normal on my single arm chest press. I actually used the same weight that I did for the regular chest press which not what I normally do. But I think that is proof that my core is stronger since I wasn’t feeling off-balance.

Wednesday’s workout was all about rowing! I know this was done to help us get a lot of meters to add to our total for Orange Voyage, but it was more rowing that I feel like I have had in a long time! It was great to get to work on my rowing endurance, but I know that because we did so much that I wasn’t doing that great with my form. And this was a partner workout so I really worked hard to keep working so my partner wasn’t waiting on me for too long.

The first half of class was like a run/row. One partner was on the treadmill waiting for their partner to finish on the rower. On the rower, the first time we were on it we had a 1,000 meter row. The second time we were on the rower we had a 750 meter row. And the third time we were on the rower we had a 500 meter row. My partner was doing the 500 meter row (I had already done mine) when that block was done. When I was on the treadmill I was doing a power walk at my push incline to not go too easy on myself. But when I was on the rower I really tried to go hard so we could switch as quickly as possible.

The second half of class was a floor work/row block. The person on the floor controlled the switch while the person on the rower rowed until they were tagged out. On the floor we had single arm snatches, hip hinge single arm rows, knee tucks to push ups using the Ab Dolly, and crunches. I wasn’t going too heavy on the weight work since I had so much more rowing to do. My partner and I were pretty equally matched as far as timing goes on the floor work, so we were both on the rower for about the same time each round. In the end, I did just over 4,000 meters on the rower during the class!

Friday’s workout was a challenging one for me. First, I was dealing with nausea and that always affects my workouts. I wasn’t as nauseous as I have been before, but it was definitely making me off during most of the workout. But the second challenge we had was that we had to deal with a fire alarm going off! It was a false alarm so we were safe in the building, but for a couple of minutes we were working out to the sounds of the alarm. And after it stopped, the PA system in the studio was down for the first 20 minutes so we didn’t have any music and the coach had to yell so we could hear what to do. We were lucky that the fire alarm didn’t last that long and that the music eventually came back, but it really did make the workout feel different.

On the bike, we had 2 blocks. The first block started with a 1 minute push, 1 minute base, and 30 second all out. Then after we had recovery time we took out the base so we just had the push and all out. After another recovery we just had a 1 minute all out. The second block was the same but in reverse order (so starting with just the 1 minute push). I did use my normal resistance levels on the bike, but I was taking a lot of breaks and moving very slowly the entire time.

On the rower, the first block started with a 300 meter row and then 12 lunges. Then we did a 250 meter row and the lunges again. I was doing the 200 meter row when the time was called on that first block. The second block had the lunges between each row again but we started with a 100 meter row and went up 50 meters each time. Since I hadn’t done a lot of cardio work by going easy on the bike, I only did 2 rounds of the lunges and then stayed on the rower to finish out the block. I was still taking breaks, but I think I did more cardio work doing that than I would have if I did the lunges.

And on the floor, I had to make some modifications since I couldn’t do some of the work. The first block I did lunges (which were modified from the bench jump lunges we were supposed to do), weighted seated rotations on the bench, and rollouts on the straps (we were supposed to do Supermans but I know being on the ground like that makes me feel worse). The second block I did lunges (instead of step ups on the bench), plank shoulder taps using the bench so I wasn’t on the ground (we were supposed to do plank pull throughs with weights), and leg lifts on the bench. When I was switching from being on the bench to standing I had a lot of waves of nausea, so I just took my time and didn’t stress about how many rounds I was going to get done.

Saturday was another day with multiple challenges for me. Not only did I have the nausea to deal with, but Friday night to Saturday morning I didn’t really sleep at all. I rarely have insomnia, but when I do it’s pretty much not sleeping at all. I think maybe that entire night I slept 10-20 minutes. I was exhausted, but I was hoping a workout might wake me up a bit.

It was a strength based class and I was on the bike since it was incline work plus I had my nausea issues. We had 3 blocks and they all had a similar pattern. We had a 90 second push pace, 1 minute base pace, high incline work where all treadmill people were power walkers, 1 minute base pace, and each block ended with a push to all out pace. For the high incline work, the first block was 1 minute and each block added on 30 seconds. I did my normal resistance levels for the regular base/push/all out segments and went to one of the higher levels I have used when there was the high incline work. I have done a higher resistance level, but I really wanted to be able to do the base pace after the resistance and not need a full break. I feel like I did a good job considering the circumstances and was very happy with the work I did on the bike.

On the floor the first 2 blocks both had 2 exercises and a 400 meter row. The first block was shoulder presses and high rows using the weights and the second block was squats to upright rows and deadlifts. I used 15 lb weights for everything except the deadlifts. That’s not a super heavy weight, but the weight I usually use for some of those exercises isn’t a weight they have at the Culver City studio. And for the deadlifts, I started at 30 lbs but it was just a bit too much for me and I went down to 25 lbs. For both 400 meter rows, I was able to finish it in under 2 minutes and managed to be faster on the second row. And the last block on the floor was just the exercises without the row. I was definitely exhausted and ready for a nap after this workout, but I made it through even with no sleep.

I know this week of workouts will probably be a bit challenging for me since I will still be dealing with nausea. But I’m not too upset about it because I really didn’t want to have my nausea time to be during Thanksgiving. Not only will I be with family then, but I have my workout with my family on Thanksgiving morning and I want to do one of my best workouts then! Hopefully I’ll be ready to do some amazing work when I get to work out with them!

We Are All Tired Of This (or When Will Someone Try To Stop These Shootings)

I do not want to always write about sad things on here, but sometimes I have to because I am not willing to be a voice that doesn’t speak up. I have spoken up about many different issues on here, but one I have written about a few times is mass shootings. This is something that happens often enough that I haven’t written about many of them on here. But on social media I usually do and I really am so tired of the same news repeating over and over again and politicians saying there is nothing they can do.

I know the statistics show that we’ve had over 300 mass shootings in 2018, but not everyone likes to use that because a mass shooting is any time at least 3 people are shot and it’s not always what people think of when they hear mass shooting. If a man shoots his wife, kids, and neighbor some people might want to think of it as a domestic issue and not a mass shooting. Technically it is a mass shooting, but because some people have a very specific idea of what a mass shooting looks like I’m not doing to debate how many we have had this year.

All I know is that we have had too many.

And in past 3 weeks we have had a major shooting each week that has gotten the attention of the country. Even if you don’t believe we have had as many mass shootings as statistics show, I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t think that one a week is not an issue.

First we had the shooting in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue that targeted Jewish worshippers. We have had shootings at churches before and I know many politicians said that it was an attack on the Christian faith and they were very harsh in criticizing those who attack people in a place of worship. When this shooting happened, many people did cry out about how this was an attack on the Jewish faith and that this was an act of anti-Semitism. But not all politicians wanted to say that and I know they got a lot of backlash about it. They still aren’t all as upset about this attack on Judaism and they were about previous attacks on Christianity, but at least the public is not letting them get away with it.

As many times in the aftermath of the shooting, some politicians (the President included) were saying how this wouldn’t have happened if people had guns with them. However the security guard at the synagogue was shot so being armed didn’t help. There have been attacks on temples and synagogues in the past so they typically do have a lot of security. I remember years ago when I interviewed for a job at a Jewish school and I had to go through a metal detector, my car was searched including a mirror underneath to make sure there was nothing there, and there were multiple levels of secure spaces inside that I had to go through. I can’t imagine having more security nor do I think that people should be terrified to worship where they choose to do so. It is so wrong to blame people for wanting to go to a place to practice their religion but not want to have a gun with them in case someone decides to attack them.

Last week, there was the shooting at the yoga studio in Tallahassee. This was a man who had shared online on various forms of social media about how he blames women for not dating or sleeping with him. This is a story we have heard before with other mass shootings. He felt like he had the right to have the women he wanted and was not ok with them rejecting him. I haven’t seen in the news that he targeted that yoga studio because a particular woman there rejected him or he just picked it because he knew a lot of women would be there. Either way, this was a man who targeted that studio for a reason and he injured many and killed 2 people. And again, to suggest that these women are to blame by not being armed is disgusting. Yoga is a place to be peaceful and nobody should have to be carrying a weapon to feel safe to do so.

And then yesterday (or technically I guess since it happened before midnight it was 2 days ago), there was the shooting at the Borderline bar in Thousand Oaks. This is a bar that many of my friends go to but I personally have not been there. It was college night at the bar so you didn’t have to be 21 to go in and there were many college freshmen and sophomores enjoying a night out. They were having fun when a man decided to go inside and start shooting. This is all very new news so there isn’t much known about the shooter. They have said that he is a veteran and that he served overseas. But they haven’t said anything about a motive, if he had made threats in the past, if he had a connect to the bar, or anything.

I woke up yesterday and since I had gone to be early the night before I didn’t know the news until I got up. I usually listen to an NPR podcast each morning as I get up that gives a quick recap of the news from the day before. But yesterday morning, there were 2 episodes of the podcast. One was the regular one and the other had the title “Thousand Oaks Shooting Update”. I immediately looked at the news online and read the horrific story of what happened. I watched a lot of news yesterday but had to turn it off after several hours because I was getting too upset about it.

While I never went to Borderline, I remember lots of bars like it that I went to in college before I was 21. They were always fun places to go out and be with awesome people. I can’t say that I always felt safe, but it had nothing to do with gun violence. I was worried that someone would slip something into my drink or that I would have something similar happen to me. But I never thought about a gunman coming into the bar and shooting.

The news is saying that many people survived the shooting last night because they have been raised in a world where these mass shootings are a common occurrence. They have heard stories about how to survive and instinctually did that when the shooting started. They knew places to look to hide or how to play dead. They broke windows to escape and teamed up to make sure that their friends and people they just met got out safely. While I am so grateful that so many people got out safe and alive, I am heartbroken that they knew so much about mass shootings that they had plans on how to live even before the shooting started.

While some people are scared of people coming from other countries to terrorize citizens, all of these shootings were done by citizens and not some outsider. There are a lot of other things I could say about the shooters, but I’m not going to. We all know that this is an issue. We all know that mental health care in this country isn’t doing enough to help those who need it and might be stopped from doing something like this if they were able to think clearly. We all know that guns are very easy for people to access even if they don’t have a legal right to own them. These are all things that could be fixed but I don’t know what it is going to take to finally have some action made on the steps to fix it.

I don’t want to have to live in fear that someone will shoot me in a place of worship, a fitness studio, a bar, a school, a business, or anywhere else. I want to feel safe being in public and not feel like I need to carry a weapon just in case. I’m so tired of reading about these stories without change. But I’m going to keep writing about them because I am not going to stand by and feel like nothing will happen because it never has before.

One day there will be a change. I just really hope it will be sooner rather than later.

A Mini Photo Shoot (or Enjoying A Voter Freebie)

I know that on Election Day there were quite a few freebie or discount offers for anyone who voted. Busses and trains in LA were free, ride share companies were offering free or discounted rides to polling places, and there were a couple of fast food or chain restaurants that offered things like free coffee or dessert if you were wearing your voter sticker. I usually don’t do any of the voter freebie offers since they aren’t things I need or want, but this year I did take advantage of one.

One of my headshot photographers, Adam Emperor Southard, posted on social media last month that he was offering free mini shoots for anyone who voted. These would be 10 minute shoots and done quickly and efficiently. This doesn’t mean they wouldn’t look as good as normal headshots do, but it would be done in studio with a single background and with a single look. It’s been a while since I’ve done headshots (right now I don’t have the money for new ones but I look like my current ones enough so it’s ok), so I immediately signed up for a mini shoot!

I was going through my clothes to pick out what I wanted to wear for my shoot. Even though I knew it was just a single look, I was hoping that maybe I could do 2 very similar looks if I made it quick. So I had a black tank top on and brought a sweater and scarf with me. I was hoping that maybe I could do photos in each, but I also knew that I might have to just pick one and that would be ok with me.

For regular headshot shoots, I have someone do my hair and makeup. I timed my hair being done so it was done the day before the shoot. I knew that would make it still look nice and not as frizzy as it can be when I do my hair. And for my makeup, I really just tried my best to do my makeup. I’m getting better about doing it and realizing that I have to almost look overdone when I look in a mirror to actually look good. I think that’s because I don’t wear makeup that often, but it’s still a tough thing to remember that I don’t look like I’m wearing too much to everyone else.

I went to the shoot right after I was done with work on Election Day. Traffic wasn’t as crazy as it could be so I got there much earlier than my appointment time. I figured it would be fine if I had to wait but maybe Adam would be ready to take my photo if there wasn’t someone right before me. He was just finishing a shoot when I arrived so it ended up being perfect timing! And I asked if I could do both looks since it was such a minor change and he said that I could!

I did the look with the sweater first and tried to not think too much about how I look. It was tough because I know that normally the makeup artist is checking to make sure my hair looks good and nothing else is off. I asked to see a preview of a photo and fixed my hair a bit (even though it can be fixed in retouching too) and tried to relax. While I was doing my photos someone else showed up for their shoot, and I let them go after I was done with the photos in my sweater and would do the photos in my scarf after they were done.

When I did my second half of the shoot, I tried to do a variety of faces and looks. But since it was so quick I know that I probably didn’t do as much as I would have loved to. And to finish off the shoot, I decided to do some fun pictures with my voter sticker (which I love that I get since I do a mail in ballot) and those ended up looking very fun when Adam showed me a quick preview of how they looked.

Adam just sent me the photos from the shoot and I will spend some time going over them and seeing which ones I like. With this free shoot he is also including a free retouch, but I can pay for more to be retouched if I want them to. So far, from what I have looked at, they look amazing! My hair isn’t quite what I thought it would look like because there was a weird piece out of place but my makeup is much better than I thought it would be! And of course, since Adam is an amazing photographer the photos are all incredible!

I love that Adam did this shoot as an incentive to get people to vote. I would have voted with or without this shoot, but it was fun to have something awesome as a bonus for voting in this midterm election. And it is a bonus that really is something I needed and will be very helpful with my acting career. This was really just an amazing gift that Adam offered us all and I am so grateful I was able to be a part of it.

Doing Some Beautification (or Feeling Better From The Outside In)

This isn’t a recap of my current monthly challenge (I’m only a few days into it), but it is related to it. I’ve been working on finding myself again and getting back to me. And I really thought a lot of that was going to be stuff about my emotions and feelings and that I needed to reconnect to myself that way. But over the past few days I did a few things for my outside that really did help me feel so much better.

I’ve been getting better about doing self-care and taking care of myself, including things like skincare and beauty. I have noticed that I have looked better on the outside since I’ve been making more of an effort on those things. I don’t know if weekly sheet masks are really making my skin better or if doing those sheet masks is bringing down my stress which is helping my skin look better, but either way it’s working. I know that physical beauty isn’t everything, but when you don’t feel at your best it can be a hit on your self-esteem and how you feel about yourself.

Since I have been doing all these new self-care things, I really didn’t think that doing some more beauty stuff was going to make a difference. But there were some beauty things that I have been slacking on for a bit that I finally got a chance to do. A lot of this slacking has to do with not having the money to do it, but it also has to do with timing.

The first thing I did for myself was getting my eyebrows done. I know this is a luxury thing to do, but for me it almost feels like a necessity. My eyebrows are pretty crazy to begin with, but I cannot trust myself to do the work on my own. I don’t even try to use tweezers because I will overdo things and pluck way more than I should. I don’t want to do any damage to my eyebrows so I try to get them done professionally on a regular basis. When I went to cheap places, I would try to go once a month or every other month. But those cheap places were not worth it as I would get burns from wax and other issues from them. So I go to a slightly more expensive place (but still on the cheap end of things) and I can’t go as often.

My eyebrows weren’t the worst they have been, but they weren’t great. And I have something happening this week that I want to look my best for so I wanted to get them done. Even though this wasn’t the most dramatic eyebrow makeover I’ve had from getting them done, just having them look clean and professional really helped. Since I don’t wear a lot of makeup on a regular basis, having my eyebrows look good makes a big difference in my appearance.

The other beauty thing I did recently was getting my hair done. I used to be much better about getting my hair done on a regular schedule. Since I color my hair, when I don’t get it done it’s usually very noticeable. It used to be bad because I went lighter with my color, but since I’ve been going darker my roots don’t show as much. But since I’ve been getting more and more gray hair, now it’s really bad! When I was getting it done, my friend who does my hair said I’m about 30% gray now. I started going gray around 20, but it got drastically worse in the past 2 years. Now, my gray hair is all over and there’s no way to pretend it’s not there. I do have powder I can use to cover them, but it still needed to be done.

I was going to have my hair done around my birthday, but I put that off because I didn’t do a big birthday thing. Then I was thinking about doing it in September, but because I can’t afford to get it done as often as I like I didn’t want to do it then and have my hair look bad for Thanksgiving. I put it off longer than I would have liked to, but I finally got it done this week when it was looking really bad.

I like to take before and after photos of my hair, and the before ones are always much worse than I look on a normal basis. I always remember to take them right before my appointment, but that’s when I haven’t done anything to my hair. I just wash and condition it and let it air dry. Normally, I put product in my hair after it’s washed and I blow dry it. So my before picture has much more frizz and random curls than I do on normal days. But you can still tell a big difference between the before and after photo when you ignore the style of my hair.

The color is back to what I like it to be and you don’t see any gray or weird color changes from the top to the bottom of my hair. My hair was also super long and looking stringy so it was cut and shaped. It looks like a lot of length was taken off, but it’s actually not that much. In my after photo my hair is curled a bit so it looks shorter. I still had about 2 inches taken off to make it look healthier, but it’s still long. I have toyed with the idea of going short again, but I still love it long right now.

Before getting my eyebrows and hair done I didn’t think it was going to make that much of a difference, but it really did. I feel so much better about myself and just much calmer about things. It’s so weird how working on how I look on the outside made that much of a difference about the uneasy feeling I’ve been having. I still need to do more work on myself and I’ll recap that at the end of the month. But for now, I’m just so glad that doing something that seemed so frivolous really ended up being a big deal.

Please Vote (or Seriously, Please Vote)

I can’t imagine that there is anyone in this country that doesn’t know we have midterm elections today. I feel like the midterms have been happening since the last election, and that’s kind of the truth. There are many people (myself included) who aren’t happy with some of the things happening in politics right now. And we have been active in seeing what we can do to fix that since the last election.

I’ve written a few different posts about politics and each time I feel like I mention how I try to not write about politics too much on here. And I do try to not write too much about it because I know that not everyone has the same viewpoint or opinions as myself and I don’t want to alienate people. But with how things have been going in our country lately, I can’t help but be political and share my thoughts.

There are so many things right now that I disagree with. I’m upset that there was a tax bill that was approved that mainly benefits people with higher incomes. Because of that tax bill, the deficit went up and some politicians are saying that things like Medicare and social security need to be reduced in order to cover that. Everyone I know, Republican and Democrat, is very upset by this. We pay into Medicare and social security and to call them entitlements and use them to fund a tax bill that most of us don’t benefit from is frustrating.

I do agree that we need to have more control over our borders, but to call the refugees heading north through Mexico an invasion is not right. These caravans have happened several times in the past and a majority of those walking in them do not come to the United States. And those who do make it to our border file for asylum which is a right they have to do.

And I can’t believe that the president has suggested that he should make it so that if you are born in the US you aren’t guaranteed citizenship. I know that some people think that it’s only going to apply to non-citizens who have babies in this country, but removing that right allows anyone to decide that anyone can be denied citizenship because they are born here. Based on the way things have been going and how some politicians call the people on the other side of the political spectrum their enemies, I could see how this could become a situation where anyone who isn’t of the same political party isn’t allowed to make their child a citizen.

Or how LGBTQ rights are being chipped away and maybe some politicians would prefer their children not be citizens. They already are trying to make it legal to allow adoption agencies to automatically deny someone the ability to adopt if they are not in a heterosexual relationship. There are so many kids out there that need homes, but they would prefer that only husband/wife families get those kids and the rest stay in foster care or group homes.

And one of the biggest issues for me is the healthcare debate. For next year my healthcare costs aren’t going to go up too much, but I’m worried about what they will be like in 2020 when fewer healthy people are in the exchanges to help bring the average per patient cost down. I would love to see politicians in office that support the healthcare system instead of trying to destroy it. Right now, there are several politicians trying to sue because of the things that the ACA requires healthcare coverage to include. I can’t see how you support those who need healthcare when you sue to try to make sure insurance companies can skip out on important coverage that most people need.

I know that not everyone agrees with me on all of these things. I have some friends happy that the requirement for healthcare insurance is gone because they don’t like the idea that they must have it if they don’t use it. Those people also haven’t dealt with health issues like I have so if they needed care it was always something minor or if they wanted insurance they could get it without an issue. I know other people who believe that anyone trying to come into this country, legally or illegally, needs to be turned away until we have the FBI investigate them. I also know other people who think that if the Republicans are no longer in power of every branch of government that all of their rights will be taken from them and given to others.

And everyone has the right to think what they want. I don’t believe that thinking hateful things about other groups is right, but you have the right to do that. But if you take actions to ruin the lives of someone you don’t like or agree with, that’s when I have an issue. When people are killed because of their religion, sexual orientation, lifestyle, gender, or any other reason; that is wrong and I will never agree with it. And yes, we do have freedom of speech in this country, but that protects you from the government punishing you for what you say. If you say something on social media (which is a private company) that they don’t like, they have the right to remove it since you do not have a legal right to participate in private companies. It’s a privilege that they have the right to revoke at any time.

And since this is my personal blog, I can say what I want. You don’t have to agree with me and if my blog hosting company feels it’s inappropriate, they have the right to remove it. But I will not be silenced. I will share what I feel is right as long as I can. And today, the way I’m going to do that is by voting. I will vote for what I believe in and I hope that you will all do the same. If you do not vote, you are giving up your right to have a say in what happens and are giving others the power to decide for you.

Please don’t do that.

Please vote.

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Hell Week To Orange Voyage (or One Challenge To Another)

This past week of workouts was split into 2 different Orangetheory challenges. The first 2 workouts were the last 2 workouts for Hell Week. And the last 2 workouts were the first workouts of a new challenge that is lasting all month: The Orange Voyage. It is similar to the idea of Marathon Month where we are tracking the distance we get in all workouts for November. This time, we track all meters rowed and there are different locations we can try to reach.

Monday’s workout was all about inclines and abs. And it was fitting that the name of this Hell Week workout was The House Of The Incline Devil. There was a bit of a mix-up with me getting into class, but fortunately it all worked out in the end for me. I did have to use the bike because there were no more treadmills, but that was perfect because I had already decided that I wanted to do the bike for the workout. I can do so much more with resistance levels than I can do with inclines and I want to take advantage of that!

On the cardio side, we had all incline/resistance work. The first block was 6 minutes of increasing inclines/resistance every minute. I started at my normal push resistance on the bike and went up 1 level every minute. Since I have done some higher resistance levels lately, this wasn’t too bad but it did feel tough. The next both was all power walking work for the treadmills because it was super high inclines. And for the bike, I used all resistance levels higher than I normally would do. Even when I do the high resistance levels, I rarely go above 13. But this time I was going up to 18 and my legs were barely moving while I was working. It was so hard to keep going but I really tried to not take a break during that block since it was only about 3 minutes long. Then those blocks repeated themselves and I tried to match what I had done the first time. But I was glad to get off the bike when it was the halfway mark in class.

On the floor, we had 2 long ab workout blocks and 1 rowing block. For the rowing block, we had a 6 minute row for distance. I didn’t actually look at my distance when I was done, but I’m pretty sure it was under the goal we were supposed to hit. My legs were so tired from the bike earlier in the workout and I had to take breaks during the row. For the ab blocks, they both had the same exercises. We had static crunch scissors, leg raises, Spiderman planks, swimmers, heel touch crunches, regular crunches, and sprinter sit ups. In the first block the sprinter sit ups were at the end of the workout and we had 90 seconds of those (everything else was 60 reps). Then when we did the ab block again we started with the 90 seconds of the sprinter sit ups and then the other exercises were in the reverse order of what we did the first time.

Wednesday was the final day of Hell Week and my 5th Hell Week workout overall! So I earned my Hell Week survivor shirt which is something I strive to do each year. And since it was Halloween, I also wanted to dress up a bit for class. Some of my friends and I were trying to think of a fun group costume for us to do that would be easy enough to work out in, and I had a moment of inspiration during the workout the Friday prior. Since there were 4 of us and there are 4 types of workouts at Orangetheory (endurance, strength, power, and ESP) we could go as the 4 workouts! I had lots of leftover photo paper and lamination sheets from my Halloween costume, so I made us all little signs to wear on our shirts. Not everyone got it right away, but once they did they loved it!

This workout was called The Nightmare From Hell Weeks Past and it took elements from the past few Hell Weeks and put them into one workout. Most of the workouts this one was inspired by were workouts I had done before so that was pretty cool. We had 3 blocks on each side plus a mini tornado workout at the halfway point and at the end of class.

On the treadmill, the first block was 5 minutes of decreasing inclines. I started at 10% and we went down 1% each minute. Even though this was an incline workout, I decided to stick with the treadmill since not everything was inclined based and I wanted to see what I could do when compared to my bike workouts. I wasn’t able to get my inclines as high as we were supposed to do, but I was close. The second block was rounds of 30 seconds at inclines with 30 seconds to recovery in between. I started at 12% and went down 1% each round. We also had a 1 minute all out at the end, but I walked it. And the last block on the treadmill was rounds of increasing all outs (starting at 30 seconds and ending at 75 seconds) with 30 seconds to recover in between. I walked all of these.

The tornado that we had was the same in the middle of class as well as at the end of class. On the treadmill it was a 1 minute all out, on the rower it was a 1 minute row, and on the floor it was 1 minute of sumo squats using weights. For the treadmill, I walked the all out in the middle of class but ran the one that ended class since I had been on the floor prior to that minute.

On the floor, the first block was a 5 minute row for distance. I struggled a bit because my ESP sign on my shirt was bunching up weird (I probably should have just taken it off for the workout but I wanted to keep it on) so my rowing wasn’t as far as it should have been. The next block was doing continuous exercises without stopping between different elements. We had upright rows to front squats to shoulder presses to lunges; and all of these were done holding weights. The idea was to not drop the weights until you finish an entire round. I had to go much lighter than I normally go for rows, squats, or lunges because I needed it to be at a lower weight for the shoulder presses. But because there was no break between what we did it really felt heavier. And the last block on the floor was all burpee work. We had burpees to bicep curls, burpees with plank jacks, and full burpees. I tried my best for the first round because I didn’t have the bench out like I normally do for my hands. It was much harder to do them going to the ground so I had to go slow and use modifications. After that round I decided to just do some elements from the burpees as their own exercises so I could get through them. So I did bicep curls, plank jacks, and push ups until the block was over and we did the last tornado of the workout. It was a really tough day, but the perfect way to end Hell Week!

Friday’s workout was another strength based day and I was on the bike again. I’m really feeling more like the bike is a choice versus something I have to do when I’m not feeling great, so that’s a very positive change for me. We had 3 blocks on cardio where the first block was a progressive push that for treadmills was increasing speed, the second was a progressive push with inclines, and the last was us picking which we wanted to do. What I did was increase my resistance by 2 levels each minute for the first and third block and increased my resistance by 1 level each minute for the middle block. That ended up being a pretty good plan for me and I was using some really hard resistance levels.

On the rower, we did progressive pushes for the first and third block. It’s not easy to increase the wattage on the rower every minute and I had to be very aware of everything I’m doing while rowing to keep the wattage where it is supposed to be. For the middle block, we had rounds of 30 second all out rows with squats between each row. We didn’t reset the rower the entire time we were on there so I was able to get quite a few meters for the Orange Voyage challenge.

And on the floor, we had 2 blocks. The first one was longer and we had single arm low rows, bench pullovers, plank work, and high rows on the straps. And in the second block we had plank single arm rows and Y-raises on the straps. I tried to go heavy with the weights, but I know that I’ve used heavier ones for those exercises in the past. I just was feeling tired and let that stop me from trying to use the ones I know I can do.

Saturday’s workout was an endurance day and it was also a switch day. So that allowed me to really work on some awesome running and I’m so glad I had that chance! Since it was a switch day, I could really push myself on the treadmill because I knew I’d have the floor in the middle to let me recover.

We had 2 10.5 minute blocks on the treadmill. The first block was 2 rounds of a 3 minute push pace with a 90 second base pace between and ending with a 90 second run for distance. For that block I took the 3 minute push pace and did it as 1 minute run/walk intervals (so 1 minute of running, 1 minute of walking, 1 minute of running). I walked the base paces and ran the final 90 seconds. The second block was 4 rounds of 90 second push paces with 45 second base paces between with a 90 second run for distance at the end. I ran all the push paces and walked all the base paces. It was a lot of running, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected it to be.

On the floor, we had 2 blocks that were pretty much the same. The first block started with an 800 meter row and then we had regular lunges, lateral lunges, bench tap squats, and bench sit up to stands. The second block started with the exercises and ended with the rowing. I was using medium heavy weights for the weighted work and I got both of my 800 meter rows done in under my goal time.

Because this month will be the Orange Voyage challenge, I know that there will be a lot of running through November. But with all Orangetheory challenges, I love to see what I can do and push myself. I successfully completed Hell Week, now it’s time to conquer the Orange Voyage!

NaNoWriMo Take 2 (or Still Working On The Same Book)

It’s November and just like last year I’m going to participate in National Novel Writing Month! Last year was the first year I did it and I used the month to work on my book on online dating. It was a great way for me to work on a project that seemed so overwhelming and scary. There is a goal to write a certain number of words over the course of the month, but I knew that I didn’t want to hold myself to that because this book is an ever-changing thing.

I got a lot done last year during NaNoWriMo and continued to work on my book every so often since then. I do try to add stories or at least notes after I have a date that I know needs to be in the book. I haven’t been working on it as seriously as I probably should have, but I also don’t feel a rush to finish it. I still wonder what the end or lesson of the book should be. I know it doesn’t need to end in something significant, but until I feel like I know what I want the reading to think at the end of the book I don’t know if it will ever be done.

Even though I haven’t been working on it that much, I know that I probably should have done more since many of my dates over the past 6 months haven’t really been written about beyond the notes I made. And for what feels like the millionth time, I have changed what I want the book to be like. I have gone back to my original plan to have each story a standalone story and to split the book up into good dates, bad dates (or just horrible guys online), and the cheaters I have encountered. I feel like it is a good way to organize things and makes the book more of a collection of stories versus something that needs a clear beginning, middle, and end.

I don’t know if NaNoWriMo is supposed to be for working on the same book year after year, but that’s what I’m using it for. When you sign up for the challenge each year, you are supposed to announce the book you are working on. I didn’t see an option to say that you are still working on the same book from the year before, so I named my book something that represents what’s happening for me.

I’m not planning on doing the different events that are happening during this month, so I’m not too concerned about if I am supposed to be working on the same book. And when I registered this year and it asked me to update my word count, I did put down how many words the book currently is at. So I look much more accomplished than I really am. But I am using this month as a tracking device for me. I love the idea of working with others to accomplish a goal, but I don’t think doing different challenges or trying to win swag for various reasons is right for me with what I’m trying to do. If I had a novel that I had an outline and grand idea for, maybe it would be different. But since this is the story of something that is currently happening to me, it’s not really fitting into getting it all done this month.

But even though my goals aren’t to challenge other people or to hit certain word counts, I do still have goals for this month. I do want to finish the stories of the guys I have gone out with that I know I will not be seeing again. Most of those are guys I went out with once or twice and I have no plans to communicate with them again. But there are still some stories that have not ended because things are still happening or changing, so with those stories I can’t really finish them. But I can make sure that those stories are as up to date as possible. I know that as things continue to change that I might have to edit my story, but I’d rather edit a story than have to write it all just because things aren’t over. And those changing stories are really just a small percentage. There are maybe 4 or 5 that I don’t think are totally over (not all of them are guys I’m still seeing, but their stories haven’t ended), and I have dozens of stories that are over. So those few can’t be an excuse for me to not work on the others.

I think the first time I did NaNoWriMo, I had much higher hopes for what I would be able to accomplish based on what other friends have done. But I’ve learned that my story isn’t the same as everyone else’s and I can’t stress to hit the targets that others are doing. I just need to be as consistent as possible and know that I am making progress. And maybe during this month I will find something out that makes me realize I have a way to end my story, but that’s not what I’m expecting to happen. But it would be nice to feel like this story is done and I can finish it.

But as long as I go out with guys that end up being super ridiculous stories, I’m going to write about them. Even if I never do anything with this book, I want to have these stories written down and saved. I might use them for a laugh in the future or inspiration for a script or another project. But I still think that one day turning this journey into a book would be a really fun thing to do and I’m keeping an open mind about it all!