Random Nonsense

Inkbox Tattoos, An Updated Review

[Before we get started, I gave Armed an overhaul. Hope you like the new layout.]

Inkbox recently launched an updated application method to their temporary tattoo product. Necessary, im my opinion, as when I first reviewed their product I found the original application method to be a finicky. A bit fussy.

I concluded with a 2-part recommendation that you can read here.

*This article is not sponsored. The following product “Goddess” was purchased by me and reviewed by me. All experiences documented are my own.*

For more on Inkbox and their products, click here: Inbox’s Info Video.

Get to the point, would I recommend Inkbox?

Answer: No. Clarity of the product declined sharply after the 3rd day, costing an average of $6.70 per day (for 3 days worth of viable product) or $3.33 a day for the 6 days I could technically see it. “Goddess” is a 5×2 temporary tattoo product that cost $20 ($23 in total with shipping).

The experience really speaks for itself. I was generous with the photo proofs and they pretty much capture the experience. In all, I find the older – more finnickier – application method to have a higher payout. To compare the product experience, click here.

What I purchased:

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“Goddess” a 5×2 product that cost $20.

The Materials:

 Application Method:

 The First 48 Hours:

Days 3 to 7:

Conclusion: 

Like last time, Inkbox products (and similar products) give you the idea of what to visually expect from a permanent tattoo. However, you can achieve the same idea from any temporary tattoo. I cannot see recommending Inkbox (at the prices they charge) for something that fades incredibly fast. Honestly, you could buy something a lot cheaper elsewhere because – in the end – be it Inkbox’s “semi-permanent” (arguable) ink, or the cheap self-adhesive stuff we all grew up with, THEY ALL FADE. It’s just a matter of how much you’re willing to pay for the fade. Unless Inkbox is offering a design that you specifically want to see on your body, I just don’t see the point.

Disappointed by the smeary transfer. Given the sealing process (excellent) I’m surprised there were any issues with the ink transferring incorrectly.

As to the new application, well that is an appropriate boast. Compared to the original application method, this new method is A LOT faster. The guess work was reduced considerably so there’s that.

To appease any doubt, yes I’m careful to reduce friction from clothing and contact, and generally being cognizant of the ink while showering, etc.

Working on a college campus as I do, I see Inkbox products everywhere. And that got me thinking…the designs are becoming so common place that I can spot an Inbox product. Kind of justifies a real tattoo, knowing a real one is a unique piece of art and not a prepackaged concept of art that anyone, anywhere can put on their body at anytime. Something to think about.

Cheers,
Christina Schmidt, MA
armedwithcoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

The Gym Diaries: Headspace

Peace, transcendence, a mild ecstacy. Headspace.

People who practice meditation, yoga, or intensive cardio (during the warm up and cool down phases) likely experience headspace.

What is headspace? I don’t know that the strict definition will be all that helpful but for your reference: 1. The unfilled space left above the contents in a sealed container, and 2. A person’s state of mind or mindset.

Obviously, I’m speaking to the latter. Even then, that second definition isn’t terribly helpful. Loosely, headspace refers to one’s mental state, as in, ‘Sorry, I’m in my own headspace right now and I can’t focus on much else.’ That’s how we typically interpret headspace, something that is personal in experience and totally occupying to one’s current state of thinking. This common usage is not incorrect but there is more to headspace.

Headspace can also be the absence of thought, not just the excess of it. Headspace can be a void, a freedom from thinking, a letting go, a giving in. It’s a place of quiet appreciation for the moment and nothing else.

Think of an orgasm and subtract the physical and emotional components and that is headspace: A floating, unburdened, tension-relieving, peace.

Here’s why I’m bringing it up.

It’s common for me to hit headspace pre or post workout. I practice deep core stretching as my abdomen and shoulders (where I carry my stress) get very tight. And, unless I want to be wound up and edgy the next day, I have to work that tension out before leaving the gym. Because I’ve practiced serious yoga in the past (I don’t anymore) I utilize deep stretching pre-workout, and I make use of yoga stillness techniques to cool down.

Recently, I was in pose and headspace hits me like a soft and subtle high. Mentally, I’m elsewhere. I have happily checked out from planet Earth and pondering nothing. Do you have any idea how often I ponder nothing? And then I feel it, somebody’s well-intended but interrupting hand touching my shoulder, asking me if I’m ok.

Gaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwdddddddddddd.

I am slammed back to planet Earth, brick-like thoughts following in quick succession. Bam, bam, bam. I would rather be interrupted while I’m writing…while I’m writing.

The well-intended stranger quickly backed off and excused himself. I’m guessing the look on my face might have had something to do with it.

I was in pigeon pose, which looks like this:
pigeon-pose-yoga

Now, I can see where this pose, from an unfamiliar perspective, looks like I may have collapsed on myself. I don’t stretch in a studio or a designated classroom space, I warm-up on the mats which are open to everyone. It’s hard for me to believe that this person is entirely unaware of these movements as I’m not the only one who uses yoga poses to stretch out in the common areas, but whatever. I’ll give this guy the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant well when he approached me.

I want to make people aware of that fact that A) unless someone is convulsing, clutching their chest, has fainted, is foaming at the mouth, or snoring do not interrupt – nevermind touch – people at the gym. You have NO IDEA what someone else’s capabilities in physical fitness are or what activities he or she can accomplish. The things you can learn just through observation are amazing. On that point, B) don’t be a creep by staring either. There is a difference between observation and creeping out on someone. If you have questions and want to learn about something you saw, wait until the other person has reached a stopping point. Your curiosity can wait.

Very rarely does one need to impose. A lady flew off a treadmill once and I helped her up. That’s the only instance I can think of where I interjected myself into a situation.

I see people go into headspace all the time and will stay there for awhile too. For your visual reference, here is a shortlist of very common poses that you will see as a regular gym attendee:

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The Forward-Fold. I get into headspace all the time with this one.
low-back-stretch
The Cobra. Excellent for stretching out the lower abdomen and relieving lower back tension.
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Folded-Pose, Twist. Commonly used to relieve tension in the hips and back.
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My favorite, Extended Child’s Pose. To recoup one’s breath and relieve upper body tension.
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Butterfly Pose. Stretches out the hips while relieving tension there too. As much as I exercise my hips, this is a critical pose for me.
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Dead Man’s Pose. I never use this one but a lot of people do. If you see someone with their wrists up and legs splayed, they are in Dead Man’s Pose, not actually dead. Leave them alone.

Yes, I have strong expectations for the gym. If you attend often enough, you will too. Do you know what it’s like to be bluntly interrupted mid-sentence? Someone failing to appropriately observe a situation and interjecting into one’s personal, physical endeavors is exactly like that but, you know, bigger, and more irritating.

Use those powers of observation and take care of yourselves out there.

Cheers,
Christina Schmidt, MA
www.ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

Christina’s Soundtrack: Volume II

* This blog contains adult language.

The first Christina’s Soundtrack got a ton of hits so here we are folks, Volume II. Truly, you should try this for yourself if you have not done so already. Discovering your personal soundtrack can be incredibly entertaining and even insightful.

1. Malaguena Salerosa by Chingon

[Besar tus labios quisiera / Malagueña salerosa / Y decirte niña hermosa / Eres linda y hechicera]

There are scores of versions of Malaguena Salerosa, Spanish and English. The English version does not compare, not by a long shot. While I’ve heard many Spanish versions of Malaguena Salerosa my favorite can be found on the Kill Bill 2 soundtrack. This version gets my blood going. Chingon made an incredibly passionate cover. I’m not much of a dancer but this song would tempt out onto the dance floor. I would love to write passion in the manner in which it was expressed in this song.

FYI – Avenged Sevenfold does a decent version; more sound than vocals but that’s my opinion.

2. Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus

[And you say, “All things pass into the night” / And I say, “Oh no sir, I must say you’re wrong / I must disagree, oh no sir, I must say you’re wrong” / Won’t you listen to me / Good-bye horses I’m flying over you]

Oh. I know. Your first thought is Silence of the Lambs and THAT scene. That’s the problem. As a song, Goodbye Horses was ahead of its time and it was paired with a hit movie during an unforgettable scene. If you can get that scene out of your head while listening to Goodbye Horses you might experience something wondrous like I do. It has a blissful quality to it. Ethereal, even. I often hear this song in my head when I’m feeling myself: A glass of wine and I’m chill and just enjoying the moment. #noapologies

3. If I Had Heart by Fever Ray

[If I had a heart I could love you / If I had a voice I would sing / After the night when I wake up / I’ll see what tomorrow brings]

That makeshift pulse just in the first few seconds of song, though. Thanks to the show Vikings, I took to this song almost immediately at first hearing it. I know what it is to have an absence of feeling, and when I’m in those moments this song rings true with a hollow quality that is frightening.

4. Moving in Stereo by The Cars

[It’s so easy to blow up your problems / It’s so easy to play up your breakdown]

This is one of those rare songs wherein I truly enjoy the sound more than the lyrics. It is decidedly a feeling that is elicited, like Peter Gabriel’s Red Rain that I mentioned in my previous blog. I can’t explain the feeling but then again I don’t think I need to either. The song speaks for itself, no?

5. (Don’t Fear) the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult

[Come on baby, and she had no fear / And she ran to him, then they started to fly / They looked backward and said goodbye, she had become like they are]

First of all, #morecowbell! You either get that magical reference or you don’t.
I adore this song because I remember the sense of freedom I could feel in being my own agent of change. I used to welcome change, or at the very least knew when it was time to initiate change and I didn’t shy away from it. I’d like to be that person again, someone who welcomed endings and looked forward to beginnings. This song has a way of making me feel full of potential, and oddly wistful.

6. Back to Black (uncensored) by Amy Winehouse

[He left no time to regret / Kept his dick wet / With his same old safe bet / Me and my head high / And my tears dry / Get on without my guy]

The very depths of my defeat made into song.

7. Truth Hurts by Lizzo

[Why men great til they gotta be great? / I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch / Even when I’m crying crazy / Yeah, I got boy problems, that’s the human in me / Bling bling, then I solve ’em, that’s the goddess in me]

I became a Lizzo fan in all of three minutes and two seconds. That’s how long Truth Hurts is. It was love at first sound. In a rush, I backlogged all of Lizzo’s work. I am particularly fond of Tempo [Come eat some of this cake / He look like he could gain a little weight / Lick the icing off, put the rest in your face] but Truth Hurts was my starter. I love her attitude. I love her brazenness. I love her female-centered positivity. I love her sex-positivity. I love her body-positivity. I adore Lizzo.

Also, I’d like to think Truth Hurts is what a healthy ‘Fuck You’ sounds like.

8. I Miss You by Adele

[Bring the floor up to my knees / Let me fall into your gravity / And kiss me back to life to see / Your body standing over me]

This song perfectly captures sensualism and seduction. If my sexual self had a sound it’s, I Miss You.

9. Thunderstruck by AC/DC

[I was caught / In the middle of a railroad track / I looked round / And I knew there was no turning back]

I am a high energy person. When I hear Thunderstruck I hear my energy, which I think is quite funny given the context of the song. But really, though. The sound of Thunderstruck is the sound of my natural, day-to-day energy and I love it.

10. Immigrant Song (Remix) by Trent Reznor and Karen O.

[W’ell drive our ships to new lands / To fight the horde, and sing and cry / Valhalla, I am coming!]

This is what my adrenaline sounds like, this version of Immigrant Song remixed by Trent Reznor. What’s the difference between my energy sound and my adrenaline sound? One is natural, the other is a high. I still get runner’s high, just not from running. When I’m in my cardio – I’m gone, I’m somewhere else. Not gonna lie, I’ve gotten looks when I’m in my zone. This version of Immigrant Song is like a representation of my mental zone.

A similar vibe is Metallica’s, Enter Sandman.

11. Thunder by Imagine Dragons

[Just a young gun with the quick fuse / I was uptight, wanna let loose / I was dreaming of bigger things / And wanna leave my own life behind]

I truly appreciate the ambition and the self-perseverance that so strongly comes through in this song. I know what it is to be met with doubt, to be told repeatedly that I am not right, I am not anyone’s chosen one, to be rejected. I learned to choose myself instead. I saw my own potential where others could not. “I was lightning before the thunder,” damn right.

12. Think About You by Guns N’ Roses

[Say baby you been lookin’ real good / I remember when we met / Funny how it never felt so good / It’s a feelin’ that I know / I know I’ll never forget]

Think About You is a charming rock n’ roll love song that isn’t a power ballad (not that there’s anything wrong with that and GN’R definitely wrote a few of those too). Think About You is just sweet and honest and simple and let’s be real, what woman doesn’t want to hear that? To know that you’re the total occupier of another’s thoughts? Nothing gets to me more than sincerity because you can’t fake it. And, Think About You has just enough edge on it to keep it rock-real.

Cheers Y’all
Christina Schmidt, MA
www.ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

Miles for a Mission 5K

Running. The freedom. The rush.

Well, not really a rush. I am unable to go full-tilt as I addressed in The Gym Diaries. I damaged my knee at a young age and cartilage generally gets worse over time, not better. Still, I was happy to be out in the sun, participating in a light 5K, Miles for a Mission at St. Edward’s University campus.

Miles for a Mission is a single-day fundraiser that benefits the Service Break Experience (SBE) program. Specifically, Miles for a Mission helps lower the costs of travel for students who would like to participate in service opportunities, domestic and abroad. I wish this program was available in my time as a student. There is a lot to be said about being in service to others, more so beyond one’s front door. To learn more about SBE, click here. To direct donate, click here.

The SBE program began in 2008 and as of 2019 has helped students obtain access to service-oriented opportunities in 17 unique locations. That’s a lot of students and a lot of service areas.

Oh and no joke, I was asked repeatedly where I got my Hill Yeah shirt (see below). I mean literally stopped a few times while I was running. Wouldn’t you know it – the Bookstore sells them! If you know me in real life, come find me. I’m onsite in the mornings to early afternoons. The Nike “Hill Yeah” dri-fit shirt is currently not sold on our online store (they move fast), but I’ll update with links should that change.

You can also call and I’ll be happy to ship our merch to you! The Bookstore: www.stedwardsbookstore.com / 512-448-8575.

Yes, I just plugged my store’s gear. #myblog #gohilltoppers #seubookstore

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Cheers,
Christina Schmidt, MA
www.ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

Intense

I am struggling with this post.

This will be a personal piece so I shan’t be offended by anyone who clicks away from my blog. Many of my regulars come for the writing and poetry aspects, some of you genuinely enjoy my randomness. Regardless, I am grateful for your patronage and ongoing support. I am writing this piece because it’s something I need to do.

I am currently undergoing changes. Not with work. Not with writing.

When contemplating separation from a partner or spouse, it is perfectly normal to look to the past for answers. Trying to understand how one went from a balanced union to an imbalanced union can lead to many discoveries. In trying to understand my current state of union, I ended up being hit with some knowledge bombs.

I keep all my professional materials. While I no longer counsel, I still have material dating back to 2007 when I was a fledgling intern. When you’re an intern you are evaluated – constantly. All your work is monitored and by more than one person. You receive a mountain of material, most of it notes from supervisors. I had the added benefit of receiving feedback from the very students I worked with.

The word “intense” came up several times in my first semester of practice. In present day, I recall being frustrated by that feedback as an intern because I didn’t know what “intense” meant. It seemed to be positive but could just as easily swing in the other direction too. There was a borderline hint of intimidation in that feedback and I’m not down for that. Intimidation is not who I am. I have laser-like focus when something or someone has my attention but I don’t mean it be anything other than thoughtful.

When you have my attention, you have my attention.

My supervisor, who did not interpret the feedback as negative, did suggest I try breaking eye contact more often…just in case. So I got in the habit of breaking eye contact when I speak with people one-on-one…just in case. [One of the hottest things I have never heard but have fantasized hearing, “Christina, keep your eyes on me.” In other words, they like my intensity. Sorry y’all, I live in my head. More to the point, if I didn’t laugh I’d cry.]

Still, that word “intense” would crop up again and again over the years.

I spoke with a friend recently and I had described my decision-making process as something akin to total carnage. Whatever decision is the last standing, or is the least bloody, is usually declared the victor. It may be crude but it’s my process and it works  for me. Once a decision is made and a victor declared, I clear the battlefield and move on.

As I walked away from that conversation, I was floored with sudden exhaustion by a simple realization. I can’t recall the last time I’ve been able to clear my mind and move forward. My current battle has been with me for so long now I don’t even recognize my own exhaustion.

In present day, I have found myself pouring through old documents and memorabilia, trying to figure out what the fuck happened and why. My style, my essence as a person was captured repeatedly by others, black and white, clear as fucking crystal. I, who could clearly outline the issues in others, am currently clueless as to how the solve my own problems. The simplest explanation is usually the correct one: I am incapable of fixing this. This thought, at least, I can stop fighting.

Something many counselors know: Endings are as probable as beginnings and in many cases are one in the same.

But what I can’t stop fighting is the comparison. I cannot let it go. While it frustrated me back then, what I wouldn’t give to be thought of as “intense” now. I ask myself how others would see me now and I can’t imagine being described as intense. Not anymore.

Distracted, maybe. Dull. Distant. Not on point. A kind of far away sad.

Observations that would not be out of tune with my reality. In reality, I feel bound, defensive, single when I should feel partnership, and if I could just rest my mind I could begin healing my heart.

My energy, thankfully, is still in place and it’s probably for this reason that I can present a decent front in my day-to-day. But for how long?

I’m writing in a new coffee house today, Radio Coffee. This place is perpetually slammed, so much life rotating in and out if its doors. In my corner, I sit, my thoughts like those people – a constant flow, each seeking their turn for attention, some patient, others not. It brings to mind a new thought: I’ll know I’m healing when I can return my observations to their rightful place, others. I find this internal focus to be uncomfortable and selfish, even if it is necessary. I want my energy to go back into being of service to others, that’s my lane. Be it writing, counseling, or customer service, I am in service to others. But this is my current state and will be until I can clear the battlefield once more. I’m doing my best to be patient with myself. I don’t know why I struggle to show myself the same latitude as I would anyone else. Pride, probably. Always my Achilles’ heel.

I am releasing these thoughts in what I believe to be a calculated risk in clearing that battlefield; I’m working on it.

This will not be a post that engages many, it is more for me than anyone else. However, if you are so inclined to share your thoughts, comments are, as always, welcome.

Christina Schmidt, MA
www.ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

“I can’t tell you what it really is
I can only tell you what it feels like
And right now there’s a steel knife, in my windpipe
I can’t breathe, but I still fight, while I can fight” – Love the Way You Lie by Eminem

No Makeup Challenge

First, this isn’t a proper blog post. Second, this isn’t a proper challenge.

I was dared (hardly a dare in my opinion) to post pictures of myself sans makeup on my blog, not just my Facebook page which is reserved for family and friends. I argued that I have. I’ve posted gym pics with no makeup. She countered that I still looked like I was wearing makeup. Well thank you, D.T. I’m flattered that my skin looks so flawless after a hard sweat. Lol.

D.T. pointed out that she’s never seen me without makeup. That’s just happenstance. I often don’t wear makeup: the gym, running errands, when I’m riddled with allergies and my eyes are leaking involuntarily…

I like makeup. I like being able to change the contours of my face. I like enhancing features or detracting from the occasional skin flaw (thank you pms).

I like changing the color of my lips. I’m particularly fond of my ruby red lipstick. I wear makeup as it pleases me to do so. What is life without a little color? The palettes are endless and I would dive into them all.

Anyway, here you are D.T. Challenge or “dare” complete. Remind me to tell you about some real dares. I’ve got stories.

Photo 1: Just out of the bath, face scrubbed. Pink cheeks and freckles.

Photo 2: Christina, au naturel.

No filters. No enhancements. No lighting changes.

a64rr
Haha.

Cheers,
Christina Schmidt, MA
www.ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

Christina’s Soundtrack

[I’m putting out a blog early this week. I will be up to my eyeballs in coffee and edits on Sunday. SPRING SUBMISSIONS ARE COMING.]

I went down a Reddit rabbithole. You know how it is. You search for one thing, you end up somewhere else…life in a nutshell.

I was researching qualitative thought on musical preferences and potential for influence as it pertains to life choices (it’s a character development thing, i.e. writing stuff) and I ended up in multiple threads about making a soundtrack for one’s life.

I thought, ‘That’s cool. What would my soundtrack look like?’ I was surprised by how complex the answers were. Most songs had an explanation, others simply did not.

I decided my “life soundtrack” was worth exploring in a blog.

1. Life on Mars? by David Bowie.

[Oh man, wonder if he’ll ever know / He’s in the best selling show / Is there life on Mars?]

When I’m feeling my most core self. Resigned to the state of humanity and yet I would still look for hope; outwards, not within.

2. Red Rain by Peter Gabriel.

[Putting the pressure on much harder now / To return again and again / Just let the red rain splash you]

This is a song that resonates and I don’t know why. Red Rain is a feeling.

3. Estranged by Guns N’ Roses.

[When you’re talkin’ to yourself / And nobody’s home / You can fool yourself / You came in this world alone]

I was a fan since Appetite for Destruction but it’s the opening lyrics to Estranged that gets me. You either know what it is to be that alone or you don’t. I do.

4. Nightcall by Kavinsky.

[There something inside you / It’s hard to explain / They’re talking about you boy / But you’re still the same]

A song for when I’m in serious contemplation. Try driving in the night to Nightcall. It’s an experience.

5. I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons

[But I’ll kneel down / Wait for now / And I’ll kneel down / Know my ground]

I’m a decided person and my actions reflect in kind. I also acknowledge that some things are worth waiting for. Not everyone moves at the same pace. This song has that presence of mind. Some people are worth waiting for.

PS – I adore Mumford & Sons’ version of the The Boxer. Check it out.

6. Killing Me Softly (as sung by Lauryn Hill of the Fugees)

[I felt he’d found my letters and read each one out loud / I prayed that he would finish, but he just kept right on]

To me, this is what pure vulnerability sounds like. I keep my feelings close to my chest. I’m at my most comfortable when writing my truths and, strangely enough, direct confrontation. I respect directness as I can only be as real with my feelings as I believe others to be with me. Killing Me Softly is a desire for that realness. To be so confronted.

7. Surrender by Suicide

[Love isn’t easy / Easy to find / I’ll stay for you / I’m trying hard, baby / Too tired to fight / For you / I surrender / To you]

The idea of surrendering to another (or being surrendered to) is overwhelming. I don’t know what it is to surrender to someone and it captivates my feelings (and imagination) for that reason. I can feel the longing in this song, the desire to give in. It challenges me without trying. Very powerful. As simple as the song is, Surrender ensnares me.

8. Someone That I Used to Know by Goyte

[But you didn’t have to cut me off / Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing / And I don’t even need your love / But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough]

I HAD NEVER THOUGHT OF IT LIKE THAT. A breakup, I mean. I remember an ex asking me once why I acted like we didn’t have something together, as though I was denying the relationship. I hadn’t denied anything, I simply went on with my life and assumed he had as well. I didn’t understand his being hurt by my moving on – he broke up with me. I was confused to say the least. Apparently, there’s a difference between separation and total cut-off. I never understood that until I heard this song. It’s a reminder why communication is so critical.

9. Bullet with Butterfly Wings & Zero by Smashing Pumpkins

[Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage / Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved / Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage]

[I’m your lover I’m your zero / I’m the face in your dreams of glass]

When I’m pissed off…or exercising at the gym.

10. I Wanna Be Adored by The Stone Roses

[I don’t need to sell my soul / He’s already in me / I want to be adored / I want to be adored]

I have a lot to give. I could even surrender. I only ask for one thing in return.

11. Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads

[We’re on a ride to nowhere / Come on inside / Taking that ride to nowhere / We’ll take that ride]

We are all on a road to nowhere. May as well take the ride while you can.

12. Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie

[Pushing down on me / Pushing down on you, no man ask for / Under pressure / That burns a building down / Splits a family in two / Puts people on streets]

Under Pressure aligns me with my own sense of humanity. I can’t think of another song where I could say the same.

13. Take Me Home Tonight by Eddie Money

[With all the power you’re releasing / It isn’t safe to walk the city streets alone / Anticipation runs through me / Let’s find the keys and turn this engine on]

I’m a sucker for any song that showcases anticipation and tension (not easy to capture as a sound), and I love the 80s. Take Me Home Tonight is the embodiment of both. I just feel good when I hear it. Upbeat even. I could have a bad day, nothing’s going right, I’m tired and pissed off, Take Me Home Tonight could come on and I would think, ‘Well, today wasn’t that bad.’ It’s a natural mood lifter.

14. Here I Am (Come and Take Me) by Al Green

[A burning deep down inside / A love that I cannot hide / I know it’s you and me baby / That makes this world go round]

Here I Am stands out to me because I feel it more than I hear it. It’s a slow, seductive movement captured in song. It’s beautiful, sexy, and has staypower.

15. Hey Jude by The Beatles

[For well you know that it’s a fool / Who plays it cool / By making his world a little colder]

When I need to feel restored, Hey Jude.

It’s a mix I know, but that’s the idea. I love the critically acclaimed music, the fun music, the serious music, all of it…these songs have stood up over a period of time when it comes to my feelings and experiences. That’s all. It was fun to explore them. I could talk music all night but I think 15 songs is sufficient for a soundtrack…I am contemplating a re-mix version of this blog so TBC.

Cheers,
Christina Schmidt, MA
www.ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

The Gym Diaries (because I keep getting asked for it, lol)

“Thick thighs saves lives” Tempo, by Lizzo

So as a blogger I’m learning the more popular posts receive the most comments OFFLINE and not in the comments section.

Please know that if you have a specific question, someone else probably does too. Your direct questions to me could be asked openly on this blog. It takes a lot to embarrass me. If you’re feeling shy about your questions, cool. No worries. I would never divulge my reader’s private questions or comments. I received a multitude of questions requesting specifics based on this blog, Health Goals and thought it best to create a more detailed account of my gym activities. I will do my best to log the majority of my activities including machines used, reps, duration and so on.

Shoutout to 24 Hour Fitness my longest held gym residency. 24 Hour Fitness has everything I want and nothing I don’t. All pictures feature equipment from my gym that I use several days a week. Additional thanks to Ryan, manager at the William Cannon location, for being cool with that! Check them out: YouTubeFacebookTwitter

***I am not a health and fitness expert!!! I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, these are the activities that work for me and my body.***

Attendance: 3 days a week, usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I like a break in-between sessions.

Duration: 80-90 minutes per session. I prefer a longer workout than going to the gym several days a week at shorter times. I find this pattern better suited to developing my stamina and endurance.

Top two questions: What are you doing for your glutes? What are you doing for cardio?

The glutes. What I do is not meant to target just the glutes. I make it a point to exercise my hips as the hips are the center of individual gravity. The stronger your hip mobility the greater your achievements in your physical competence. The butt, thighs, and lower back all tag along for the ride.

Not pictured: banded clamshells and banded donkey-kicks, I perform about 60 each. Sorry guys, I got two hands and one camera.

1. Banded & Weighted Hip Thrust (35 lb weight, 100 reps)

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I use the Gladiator band. Purchased on Amazon.

– Put on resistance band. I prefer mine above the knee and below mid-thigh.

– Starting position:

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35 lb weight resting directly across the hips.

– Thrust up. Feet further out or further in provide different levels of resistance. Sorry y’all. I’ve told you I’m a writer not a photographer, right?

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2. Hip Abduction (225 lbs, 100 reps)

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Push outwards with thighs and knees.
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Push outwards. I’ve worked my way up to 225 lbs. Do not start at that weight.

3. Hip Adduction (225 lbs, 100 reps)

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Push inwards with thighs.
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Push inwards. I’ve worked my way up to 225 lbs. Do not start at this weight.

Cardio. Say hello to the grownup version of the elliptical, Open Stride AMT (Adaptive Motion Trainer) by Precor. I’m 5’9 female with an old knee injury. An elliptical never suited my height (longer stride) and running is out of the question. The AMT is perfect and provides for nearly all of my cardio needs. My average session is 50 minutes 2x a week, and 30 minutes 1x a week.

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I worked my way up to an incline of 5 and an intensity of 11. Do not start out at those levels. You’ve been warned.

Calf structure. My legs developed their current definition largely in part due to my cardio efforts but also banded squats (not pictured) and…

1. Calf Raises (105 lbs and no set reps, I stop when I can’t take it anymore)

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2. Leg Curls (85 lb for both legs and 40 lb per individual leg, 80 reps total)

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I didn’t receive any questions about arms. Considering my arms are not my strength area it’s probably for the best.

I believe I did get a question regarding my shoe preference. Support and stability are key features in any athletic wear and for me there is no better fit than Hoka One One. I switched to Brooks for a few months and while they are light and agile, the Brooks line proved less than stable and I paid for it with shin splints and general foreleg discomfort.

Okay, I hope this helps. Please keep in mind, I’ve been with my gym for two years now…I did not jump into these duration and intensity patterns, I developed them overtime. I used to have very different routines, some I’ve kept, others I’ve discarded. Something either benefits you or it doesn’t. These things work for me and may not work for you. You are the best judge of your body, and its limits. Always.

Cheers,
Christina Schmidt, MA
www.ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

What is Attraction? Survey Says…

Okay, so I have a fun story to share. Well…I should qualify, funny if you (like me) tend to overthink everything.

A bit of background, I work for a university and I am sometimes stopped to participate in surveys. Surveys are a staple in daily campus life. I get it though, as a psych major and counseling graduate myself, I’ve peddled many a survey. Surveys can be fun and I get to see where the current thinking is in human behavior, at least on my campus.

The survey I recently participated in was straight out of Cosmo magazine, or perhaps I’m stereotyping. I understand Cosmo is well reputed for their love surveys.

Anyway, I was greeted by a bright-eyed 20-something and this is more or less how that exchange went down…

Her: Excuse me, ma’am? Could I ask you to take a survey?

Me: Sure, what’s the topic?

Her: *excited* What is attraction!? It’s all about what you find attractive in a partner. Just tick the boxes, it’s really easy!

Me: *briefly scans the questions* It’s all about demographics.

Her: Huh?

Me: I only see demographics listed; age, height, eye color, job…

Her: Yeah, you know, the important stuff.

Me: Oh. No. This isn’t attraction.

Her: *hesitant* What?

Me: Demographics are an accessory to attraction. Finding physical characteristics and hobbies and interests attractive in another person is essentially defacto to attraction already having taken place.

Her: I’m sorry, I don’t…

Me: I don’t particularly find any one physical characteristic to be mutually exclusive to attraction in a potential partner.

Her: *excited* Oh my god, are you aesuxal? If you are that’s totally cool, I would love to know more.

Me: *humored* No, I’m not aesuxal. What I mean is, attraction, real attraction, happens without us knowing it and when it does occur, you are more likely to appreciate the other person’s eyes, height, hair color, etc because it’s them as a whole person, and not because he or she just happen to possess those traits. Don’t get me wrong, physical attraction in human evolution evolved as a way of moving the mating process forward but as the human race stands now, determining lasting attraction is much more intricate. For example, let’s say your ideal mate…are you hetero or homosexual, by the way?

Her: Hetero.

Me: Right, let’s say a man walked up to you right now who embodied all those physical traits that you are most attracted to. Which would be…

Her: *excited* Green eyes, blonde hair, good build, strong hands.

Me: Great, very specific. Now let’s say Mr. Green Eyes Blond Hair walked up to you right now and you’re excited. You’ve been waiting for this guy. He opens his mouth to speak to you and then…he says something so stupid to you, you can’t help but wonder how he was admitted to any college.

Her: *laughs*

Me: I bet you’re “attraction” to him would dissolve almost instantly.

Her: Yeah, okay. I see your point.

Me: Attraction is more than what we see…I mean, it has to be. Green eyes and blonde hair don’t cut it when life gets hard, and believe me, life gets hard. True attraction is developed outside these parameters, and your appreciation for their physical traits and interests and hobbies and work raise as you in turn appreciate them more. And vice versa.

Her: *looking intent* Okay, so what is real attraction then? Because, like, I get what your saying but how do you know it’s, like, “real” attraction.

Me: Well, it’s in the actions. It’s in the voice. It’s in the eyes, not the color or size or shape, but the expression in them. It’s in the movement, how they walk and hold themselves. Thousands of signals being fired off for others to pick up, like breadcrumbs to a trail. The experienced and perceptive are more likely to pick up the trail and understand what he or she is pursuing, and should they bother pursuing it.

Her: *frustrated* Okay, just like, tell me how would I make a survey for this kind of attraction. Then maybe I can understand what I should be asking? Like, what are people supposed to be looking for?

My Brain:
[Attraction is…a movement. It’s a gesture. It’s in a pair of eyes that do not waver despite the many distractions of life. It’s stubborn persistence despite the size of the goal, or perhaps in spite of the goal. Attraction is knowing that the right thing to do is often the hardest thing to do. It’s the wisdom of knowing when to defy the norms; eschewing custom when it no longer serves you. It’s the balance of pursuit and restraint. It’s shutting up to listen and knowing when to speak. Attraction is being told, ‘no, you can’t do that,’ and proving everyone wrong. It’s not succumbing to the petty bullshit of others who would gladly see you mired in their own inanity. It’s recognizing when an apology is needed and having the strength to make good on it too. Attraction is being generous with one’s time, making it when there is none. Understanding that most attraction people experience is a lot like encountering napkins; napkins are everywhere: flimsy and disposable (helpful, but disposable). Attraction is what essentially defines a boy and a man; a girl and a woman. Attraction is being forced into the forge, hammered repeatedly by life and made the stronger for it. It’s an appreciation for things you don’t understand but would like to given the chance. It’s admitting ignorance and expressing a willingness to learn. It’s painting the picture you want to see. Attraction is both an ocean of differences and likenesses, but never indifference. Attraction is making a mistake and learning from it. Attraction is the silence in-between the words. Attraction is…].

Her: *looking at me expectantly*

Me:…

Me: *sighs inwardly* Fuck it, just put me down for dark eyes.

🤷

For people who overthink, this kind of internal dialogue probably reads normally to you. In fact, your brain has likely picked up the ball and has more to say on the subject. Please sound off in the comments with your thoughts on attraction. I would love to read them.

PS – Yes, I swear in front of students. Real respects real. At the very least, I get a laugh from someone who didn’t expect the librarian-looking lady to drop the f-bomb.

Cheers,
Christina Schmidt, MA
www.ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

Health Goals (Updated Pics)

Okay. Without fanfare, trumpets, confetti and champagne, I met my health goals. I shan’t go into all the work of it. If you are so inclined, please feel free to review my prior blogs on hypothyroidism and intermittent fasting.

As of today, 9/15/19:

For comparison, 6/29/19:

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June 29 2019

My body is a reflection of my goals. To recap from prior blogs, my goals do not include “thin.” I strive for personal competence and thrive on physical discipline. Exercise is a place of refuge as it’s all about me – something I cannot say to be true in nearly any other aspect of my life so I selfishly guard my gym time and outdoor walks. It’s the only time I truly get to work on myself…in a literal sense.

Making time for exercise is making time for me.

My vital health stats are phenomenal (my doctor’s eyes popped when I visited last month) and more importantly I feel like me again. Job done.

I’ll go ahead and address some of the anticipated questions I typically get:

  • No, I don’t have a gym partner or gym buddy. Not that I don’t want a gym partner, I just don’t seem to know anyone who’s interested *shrugs shoulders* but that’s okay, I’m still happy to do what I do on my own because I ultimately hold myself accountable.
  • I do not run, I used to, however, the constant strain wreaked havoc on an old knee injury and I had to give it up. The discipline I developed from running did allow me to take to Arc training almost instantly. Arc training knee impact is minimal to zero and has largely contributed to the leg muscle that is so prominent. I love an outdoor walk too, city or nature, it’s all good.
  • Glute exercises. Ladies often ask me what I’m doing there. I think I have a modest curvature but it seems to be my number one question: 1. Squats (a lot) 2. Hip adduction machine (a lot) 3. Hip abductor machine (a lot). 4. Banded hip thrust (weighted). 5. Banded kick-backs and side-kicks.
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    Dirty mirror! Yikes!
  • Arm strength. Not great. My arms remain the hardest part to get fully exercised and are slow to build.
  • Core strength. Pretty darned good I think. I achieve that with weekly crunches, lower body lifts, and deep core stretching.
  • Muscle recovery. Muscle rollout (the foam roller). Post workout sauna 10-15 min per gym routine. Nightly magnesium. I also use a heating pad for overly stimulated, twitchy muscles.

Let me know how it goes in your world of personal health goals! And now I’m off to make copious amounts of bake sale goodies. Yes, I still love to bake and eat good food. Who doesn’t?

My heart will always be at the bottom of a box of white chocolates.

To your health, ladies and gentlemen!

Cheers,
Christina Schmidt, MA
www.ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

ISO Book Recommendations, ASAP

I don’t know what’s going on with my book selects lately, but man, I’ve been cracking open some duds lately.

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Waiting on a good read like…

My reading habits are simple, I make a reading list of two to five novels. After reading those, I make another list and so on. Of those read, I will choose one to review.

I vet novels before purchasing. I casually glance at reviews via Amazon and Goodreads because I avoid wasting money, time, and imagination whenever possible.

Much to my frustration, I’ve vetted and purchased two novels this past month that I cannot bring myself to finish, they are just so damned boring. One is a straight up murder novel and is still dull as dirt.

I genuinely believe that authors are not writing better so much as they’ve learned (or their editors / publishers have learned) to write really good queries and book jacket summaries.

Think about it. Where is the advice in writing aimed these days – the book or the query? It’s all about the sell.

Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe I’m tired of feeling duped for what is yet another mediocre adventure.

I AM OPEN TO ALL RECOMMENDATIONS. I ask you to consider: Did you think about the book when you weren’t otherwise reading it? Did it stay with you after you completed it? What’s the novel you remember not being able to put down? THAT’s the recommendation I want.

Help me out y’all, my brain is slipping into atrophy.

Cheers,
Christina Schmidt
www.ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

Intermittent Fasting (from a Hypothyroid Perspective)

You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting (generally referred to as IF) and decided to click on this blog. I don’t blame you. When in “hearing” of things regarding health it’s hard to determine what is legit versus what proves to be a diet fad with limited appeal.

IF is not a gimmick. There’s nothing to buy. There’s nothing to subscribe to. IF comes down to the time you give it.

IF means you practice a controlled cycle of eating and fasting. In this regard, IF is an actual diet (what, when, and how much one eats as a matter of habit) and not “diet” as in Weight Watchers, the Carnivore Diet, Keto Diet, etc. In other words, IF is a habitual diet method of eating and fasting. Nothing to buy, nothing to sign up to, no beliefs to adopt. IF works with the body’s natural process of cellular reduction and elimination, i.e. Autophagy (simple definition and extended definition). Human evolution gave us this lovely process of natural fat storage (for the lean times, when food is scarce) and elimination (when cells are damaged or fat needs to be burned for fuel) but our modern processed and glucose-enriched foods have all but drowned out or blocked the autophagy process. IF allows you to access the autophagic processes.

[Real Talk: Weight loss benefits aside, the biggest advantage to practicing IF is the AUTOPHAGY process. Autophagy is your body’s real “detox” process that cannot be manufactured and distributed in pill form. Autophagy cannot take place when glucose is present in the body. Autophagy cleans out fat-burdened cells, and more importantly, DAMAGED CELLS. The more damaged cells that are allowed to cluster and “hangout” in the body greatly increases the risk of disease. The top two diseases in the US are 1. Heart Disease and 2. Cancer.]

IF is typically managed in a 24-hour protocol. Some people extend beyond the 24-hour cycle and work within a 36 to 72-hour cycle, but it’s not common and definitely NOT for beginners. This blog will reference a 24-hour intermittent fasting protocol.

Also, this IF experience will be from the perspective of someone who is Hypothyroid (HT). The HT aspect in particular is driving this blog more than anything else as IF can quickly be looked into online. When I first started practicing IF, I got the basics easily enough but what I couldn’t find was IF effectiveness and persons with HT. I found some articles on IF and persons with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and successes were noted. PCOS reeks similar symptomatic havoc as HT (quick weight gain, slow weight loss, digestive issues, etc.) but nothing specific to IF effectiveness while being HT. This blog then, if anything, is an obligation for anyone with HT looking into IF for possible assistance.

BASIC INTERMITTENT FASTING STRUCTURE

Protocols

16:8 (16 hrs fasting, 8 hr eating window)

17:7 (17 hrs fasting, 7 hr eating window)

18:6 (18 hrs fasting, 6 hr eating window)

19:5 (19 hrs fasting, 5 hr eating window)

20:4 (20 hrs fasting, 4 hr eating window)

OMAD “one meal a day” (within a 24-hour cycle)

  1. 16-hour fasts are considered the minimum. This is based on the fact that most bodies take 12-hours to complete the metabolic process from whenever it is you last ate. If the last thing you ate was a sandwich at 7pm, it is estimated the metabolic process for that sandwich won’t be complete until 7am the next day. In other words, glucose is still present in the bloodstream within 12 hours from your last meal, and fat burning won’t take place when glucose is still present. The additional 4-hours is considered the basic starter for triggering and benefitting from fasting. The longer, the better.
  2. The fasting hours must be CONSECUTIVE. There are people who think they are fasting so long as they complete 16, 18, 20 hours here and there, and that it doesn’t matter if the hours are back to back. That’s just regular eating, then. Reread point 1. Fat burning CANNOT take place if glucose is still present in the bloodstream. Again, it takes an average of 12 CONSECUTIVE hours to complete the metabolic process from the last meal and the additional 4 hours of real fasting is barely enough to reap benefits. That’s why the 16:8 protocol is considered the bare minimum.

Calories

IF is not permission to eat however much you want when you’re in the eating window. You still need to understand how many calories you can eat to lose weight, maintain or gain weight. You still need to understand how many calories your body burns daily (use a TDEE calculator) and then subtract 500 calories to lose weight or eat the same amount to maintain. The point is, you must consume the right amount of calories during your eating window.

Consumables (during the fast)

— Water will be your best friend. I average nearly 4 liters during my fasting window with at least 1 liter that has 1/8 of an tspn of Himalayan salt for my electrolytes.

— Black coffee (unsweetened). Although this is increasingly contested as the scientific community will point out that while plain, black coffee has no calories, it does contain caffeine and caffeine triggers the metabolic process…then again so does standing in the sun for 5 minutes. The conclusion: an average cup of black coffee should be fine, just don’t drink cup after cup of it throughout your fasting window. Personally, I have one cup of black coffee first thing in the morning before I switch to water and I still see results so I’m sure a cup is fine.

— Tea (unsweetened). Same info as coffee.

— Herbal tea (no artificial flavors or sweeteners).

— Raw Apple Cider Vinegar or ACV. I talk more about this later but ACV is an amazing digestive supplement that reduces inflammation and reduces water weight. I take 2 tablespoons in the morning during my fasting window, and 2 tablespoons with dinner. Many report taking ACV to help with unexpected appetite.

— Mineral water (no artificial sweeteners, no artificial flavors).

— When in doubt – look it up.

MY INTERMITTENT FASTING EXPERIENCE

Here’s my deal, I got stuck at the 190s on the scale since my last check-in, November 2018 (via my Facebook):

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No matter how cleanly I ate, or how little, or how much I exercised, I was seemingly stuck in the 190s. I had plateaued. Come New Years 2019, nothing changed. I started researching this fresh hell and came across insulin resistance, non-diabetic type. Because of my HT, I have a slew of chronological blood work I can access at any time. Sure enough, my glucose levels were always in the “slightly elevated” category. I recall my doctor telling me that the more weight I lost, the more that number would come down. The things is, it hadn’t. I had gone from 280 lbs (again, the HT weight I was trying to recover from) to 190 and my glucose levels were still a little high, never alarmingly high – just a little bit.

In the past, I always felt the most comfortable and energetic in the 160s, in my mind I had 25 lbs more to go. Damn it.

I got further into my understanding of insulin resistance (non-diabetic type – I can’t stress that enough) and intermittent fasting cropped up like a rash. I tumbled down the IF rabbit hole…and I’m so glad I did.

IF broke the plateau. The weight loss started slow and the more I learned about autophagy and glucose and HT combined, the more I learned to tweak my IF protocol. I’m still dialing it in but after 4 months there’s no denying, I’m doing something right.

IF Started: 2/25/19, 16:8 Protocol
Weight – 193 lbs
Hips – 41
Small Waist – 35
Under Bust – 36
Average gym attendance – 4x weekly
Average calories daily – 1700

First Check-in: 4/20/19, 16:8 Protocol
Weight – 190.4 lbs
Hips – 40.5
Small Waist – 34
Under Bust – 35

Okay, I’m not blown away. Since I’m not a newb to weight loss, I know inches lost is the first sign of REAL weight loss and not just water lossso inches lost is something. But from what I’ve read about IF, people are talking about weight loss in the pounds by the week. Two things, people with HT have notoriously slow digestive systems and the odds of my holding onto excess waste are high. Autophagy is all about sloughing off the excess (damaged cells and fat stores are excreted from the body). I looked into it and found simple methods I could incorporate to increase the digestive function (see below). Second, I reasoned my 16:8 protocol wasn’t enough, not for someone who is insulin resistant.

Adjustments: 4/21/19, 18:6 Protocol
Average gym attendance – 4x weekly
Average calories daily – 1600
Digestive supplements adopted: raw Apple Cider Vinegar or ACV (taken during fast or eating window, there are benefits to both) and a digestive enzyme supplement (taken with meal)

Second Check-in: 5/25/19, 18:6 Protocol
Weight – 183 lbs
Hips – 40
Small Waist – 33
Under Bust – 34.5

7 lbs down in a month, now we’re cookin’. The old shin splints are back though and bad too. I’ve always been susceptible to them but it’s more wide spread now. I looked into it, apparently all-over muscle pain is common in people who practice IF as regular, non-caloric tap water is consumed during the fasting period creating common electrolyte deficiencies. Most tap water is stripped of all impurities and purities (natural minerals) creating space for electrolyte imbalances in the absence of eating and drinking whatever you want, whenever you want. Good news, that’s easily fixed (see below). Also, I decided to tweak my protocol again because I found 18:6 to be easy.

Adjustments: 4/22/19, 19:5 Protocol
Average gym attendance – 4x weekly
Average calories daily – 1500
Supplements adopted:
— continued: ACV / digestive enzyme
— added (fasting window): 1/8 tspn Pink Himalayan Salt to 40 oz water (daily) and powdered magnesium taken with water every other evening before bed.
— added (eating window): Vitamin A, B-complex, E, and C (juice form only)

Third Check-in: 6/29/19, 19:5 Protocol
Weight – 177 lbs
Hips – 39
Small Waist – 32
Under Bust – 33.75

The overall muscle discomfort stopped immediately since incorporating natural electrolyte sources. My physical and mental energy is through the roof. I have so much more day-to-day freedom as I don’t have to plan my day around meals. Since I consume my daily calories in a 5-hour window my activities are not planned or centered around food. My time is freed up. My mind is freed up. My hair and nails are growing faster than they ever have, although I’m guessing that’s down to the large increase of vitamins, however, there are far-reaching processes of IF and autophagy so I can’t say that doesn’t play a part either. When you’re HT, hair and nails grow slowly. My typical hair growth is less than an inch a year. Since my last hair cut in February of this year, I’ve already grown out two inches.

My appetite is way down. In comparison to a standard low-calorie diet, I always felt hungry at the end of the day. Practicing IF, I’m strangely never hungry. I’m fuller, faster and can go for longer periods without food. That’s the difference between your body burning glucose and your body burning your stored fat. Glucose is short-burning fuel. Fat is fuel that burns longer.

Additionally, I exercise in a fasted state. Some people cannot handle that and exercise within their eating window. It depends on the individual. I feel great exercising while fasting so I see no reason to do otherwise.

Adjustments: 6/30/19, 20:4 sometimes 21:3 Protocol
Average gym attendance – 3x weekly (I combined 2 days into 1)
Average calories – varies, but rarely exceeds 1,400. The smaller the window, the less you eat. I feel fuller, faster.
Supplements: same

Current Pics:

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June 29 2019
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June 29 2019
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June 29 2019
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My calf muscle when flexed. With weight loss, I can see the muscle definition I’ve been working so hard on.

TTD: Weight loss = 16 lbs / Inches lost (avg) = 2.7

CONS

  1. The first two weeks were a bit of a drudge. The body has to (ironically) get used to its own natural process of burning fat instead of the readily available glucose it got used to. This switch is not an instant process. The body is designed to burn its own fat stores but not when it’s been conditioned to live on refined carbs, sugars, etc. There’s an adjustment period, but it is temporary. When your physical energy starts to pick up and you begin to get fuller faster, you will know the switch has begun.
  2. Social constraints. I don’t practice IF from Saturday 1pm until Sunday 7pm. That 30-hour window is mine to do with as I like. I go out to dinner, I have snacks, and I eat pancakes nearly every Sunday morning. This open window works for me as these times are when I’m most likely to have social occasions that involve food. You have to figure out what works best for you. For me, I practice IF nearly 6 days a week, others 4 days a weeks, some practice IF 3 weeks and break for 1 week. The combinations are endless so long as your fasting hours are consecutive and a minimum of 16 hours. Exceptions: people who are blessed with naturally high metabolisms and/or are conditioned athletes, or are professional runners. Their bodies are likely already familiar with burning fat over glucose and while these folks would benefit from IF, they would, in all likelihood, need to “practice” IF less.
  3. When I do break my fast, I feel groggy and sluggish immediately afterwards. My body went from burning its own fuel to being invaded by glucose. It’s a very abrupt feeling.

CONCLUSION

IF is a win and unlike most fad and low-calorie diets, intermittent fasting is sustainable. I’m now reaching a point where a 20-hour fast is downright easy. I hardly think about food. Gone are the days of having to carefully calculate calories per meal to last throughout the day, starving by the time I get to bed. Many days have gone where I couldn’t reach my minimum caloric goals, I get so full so fast.

As a HT, I can tell you it’s a slower process. There are weeks where no progress was made, and then the next week I’m 3 lbs down. *shrugs* But I do know IF is working and it’s easy. Given all the benefits, there’s no reason not to keep at it.

There’s so much more to IF than what I’ve listed here; largely reduced discripters to an in-depth process. Please feel free to share your knowledge, your success, your questions. We learn by sharing.

I will check-in again with a part II to this blog around the holidays, this year. I can’t wait to see what else will be achieved.

Cheers,
Christina
ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

Hypothyroidism (HT)

There is a plethora of information on the subject of a malfunctioning thyroid. At first, I could not discern what new information (if any) I could actually contribute. It took a lot of digging when comparing my story to others and then I saw what was missing.

What you can expect from this blog.
My specific experience (history, symptomology, and treatment), generalized characteristics and information regarding hypothyroidism (HT for simplicity), and my hard-learned advice that I do not see related anywhere when in discussion of HT.

This blog does not address the specifics of: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, thyroid cancer, Iodine deficiency type, Subacute Thyroiditis (inflamed thyroid), or Congenital Thyroiditis (partial gland). My account is strictly from the POV of having hypothyroidism, caused by genetics and environment.

WHAT A HEALTHY THYROID IS RESPONSIBLE FOR IN THE HUMAN BODY
The thyroid’s purpose is a major one. The thyroid produces the hormones responsible for regulating the METABOLIC RATE. What does that include?

– Heart rate
– Body temperature
– Weight
– Digestive function
– Muscle control
– Energy
– Mood
– Bone maintenance
– Cholesterol levels
– Menstrual cycles in women

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland, located just under the Larynx, and wraps around the windpipe. I see the thyroid as an alarmingly delicate gland for it’s location:

glandlocation

HOW IT WORKS (SIMPLIFIED)

  1. Hypothalamus – releases TRH (Thyroid Releasing Hormone)
  2. TRH goes to the Pituitary gland. The Pituitary gland releases TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone).
  3. TSH (measurable) is sent to the Thyroid, signaling the release of T4 (measurable) which converts into T3 (measurable).
  4. T4 and T3 (the principal hormone) are released into the body, absorbed and power the bodily functions.

WHAT CONTRIBUTES TO TRIGGERING HYPOTHYROIDISM 
It is possible for an otherwise healthy person to become hypo. Between genetics, lifestyle choices (including pregnancy), nutritional deficiencies, and life stress it is entirely possible to develop a “temperamental thyroid” to full-on “lifelong dysfunction.” There are degrees. Some people recover and do not require long-term treatment. Others, like myself, will need medical intervention indefinitely.

Some standard factors include:

  • Genetic/Family Hx (that’s a big one)
  • Weight (under and over)
  • Nutrient deficiency (iodine, selenium, zinc, vitamins E, B2, B3, B6 and C, all support the thyroid throughout its functions)
  • Calorie deficiency
  • Chronic stress (suppresses thyroid function)
  • Chronic infection (suppresses thyroid function)
  • Pregnancy

STANDARD SYMPTOMS OF HYPOTHYROIDISM
The longer HT goes untreated, the worse the symptoms become and can eventually lead to coma and possibly death.

With these specifics, you can see how crucial your metabolic rate is.

  • Fatigue. Casual at first and then becomes a constant.
  • Weight gain. Casual at first then accelerates.
  • Mood, often reported (and even misdiagnosed) as a low-level depression. The symptoms of fatigue and weight gain also contribute to the misdiagnosis.
  • Cold. You feel cold constantly, mostly in the extremities.
  • Cognitive problems such as brain fog, memory problems, and reduced attention span.
  • Slow heart rate. Unless you exercise regularly, or are an athlete, a low resting heart rate of 40-55 beats per minute is not the norm. 60-80 beats per minute is the norm for most adults when at rest.
  • Decreased sweat secretion.
  • Shortness of breath with little exertion.
  • Water retention. The face (particularly around the eyes and cheeks) and appendages will become visibly puffy with excess water. (see example pics)
  • Infrequent, to greatly reduced, bowel movements. Without the necessary hormone signals, your body will not be able to evacuate excess water and waste, also contributing to the weight gain.
  • Muscle weakness. Without sufficient thyroid hormone, muscles feel weak.
  • Excessive dry skin.
  • Regular headaches.
  • Specific to women, periods become inconsistent in timing and duration.

MY FAMILY HISTORY

I was well into my 30s when I discovered that both my maternal and paternal grandmother’s have HT. Not only my grandmothers, my father and little brother (more than 15 years my junior) also received treatment for HT. It wasn’t until I started informing my family of my condition that I was informed about the faulty thyroids running rampant in my genetic line.

When I asked WHY I wasn’t informed about this sooner (as this information could have influenced many of my life choices that also lead to my thyroid crashing) my father simply shrugged. My grandmothers came from that mindset that anything that makes you seem “different” in society is best kept to the self. You don’t share. Period. My dad followed suit, as did my younger brother. I’m not going to indulge in this sentiment,  simply put: TELL YOUR STORIES. Do not support passive ignorance.

MY LIFE CHOICES

I’ve addressed this over a few blogs now so I will summarize, I was an overweight child, turned into an obese young adult. Being overweight or obese does not automatically set you up for HT but it doesn’t help either, especially if your genetic background is peppered with thyroid issues.

Being overweight or underweight means the the body is having to work harder in order to function, especially when it comes to the metabolic rate. I put my body under extreme stress when I was overweight, and when I was briefly underweight. My thyroid had a lot to cope with over a period of decades. I didn’t notice the early symptoms because putting on a few pounds and looking puffy were norms throughout my life. With anxiety disorder, it is inevitable that I feel down for always being high-strung. Feeling a little tired, not being able to focus…those were just my “down days.”

I learned I was HT the hard way, I was nearly hospitalized for it.

The specific choices I made (and life circumstances) that contributed to my HT:

  • Overweight. I didn’t address my weight problem until I was 26.
  • Underweight. When I did address my weight, I did it wrong. I was influenced by The Biggest Loser and decided to go on a VLCD (very low calorie diet) coupled with intensive exercise, and it worked. I went from 310 lbs to 145 lbs in roughly 18 months. This is when I first experienced being perpetually cold. BTW, I am a wide-framed 5’9 female. I had no business being 145 lbs (despite what the BMI states, which is a faulty form of measurement, but that’s a different topic). I did not consume enough calories and this is when my thyroid, already stressed from years of being overweight, started to wear down further.
  • Life stresses. By ages 28-29, I graduated from my master’s degree program, transplanted cities for career reasons, met, engaged, and got married to my husband, and left one employer for another. That’s a lot achieved in less than 24 months. The weight started sliding back on. Slow at first and then rapidly. I couldn’t lose it no matter how hard I tried. I assumed it was stress. By my wedding, the swelling in my face was visible (see pic).
    2008- Edited (1)
    2008, age 27, before thyroid break down
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    2010, age 29, thyroid actively breaking down
  • Pregnancy, age 31. From start to finish, the thyroid works overtime to sustain a pregnancy. My obstetrician told me nearly 9% of women (likely with predisposed HT problems) who successfully become pregnant and carried to term find that their thyroid crashed. The underlying HT can be a delayed as a diagnosis since emotionally, mentally, and physically HT mimics depression, and so a woman who has recently given birth can be perceived as postpartum. I was initially told what I was experiencing (extreme weight gain, lethargy, and an inability to concentrate) was “baby blues,” not as serious as postpartum, just a fluctuation of hormones. I was told – repeatedly – that my body would go back to normal. I believed this for nearly a year.  
  • At age 32, I move cities again, this time with a 6 month old. I’m not sleeping at night, but I’m tired all day. I find it difficult to respond to my baby. I can’t seem to keep my thoughts together. I’m barely eating, still exercising, but I’m not losing weight, in fact, I’m gaining. During this later stage, I once put on 7 lbs in one week. My bowel movements came down to once a week, if that. One day, it was a temperature of 107 outside and I was inside my apartment, on my couch, wearing two layers of sweat clothes, teeth chattering. The headaches had become daily.
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Christmas Day, 2013, age 33. My baby is 11 months old. I was miserable.

In 5 years, I went from 145 lbs to 280 lbs, obese once more. That day on the couch, while the city was being scorched, my insides felt ice cold.

I crawled into a nearby doctor’s office and the internist knew something was very wrong. She later told me she contemplated having me admitted to a hospital the same day, my presentation was so poor. She put in a same day order for blood work. My T4 and T3 hormones were in the unsafe levels. To her credit, she got my blood work done and my prescription going all in the same day.

ADVICE & TREATMENT

I’ve earned this advice the hard way. If you suspect HT in yourself, get your blood work done MORE THAN ONCE. The best day to do blood work is the day you least feel like getting out of bed. When you’re having one of your “bad days” is the best day to get blood work done.

Let me tell you why.

I was tested for HT three times in my life. The first time, I was in college. My numbers came back “within range.” The second time I was tested, my numbers came back “within range.” By the time my numbers reflected the disorder, I was so far gone I was on the verge of hospitalization, according to my doctor. I could have had this nonsense stopped while I was in college, before I pursued the disastrous VLCD and made things a lot worse.

Why didn’t the TSH, T4, and T3 reflect accurately in the prior blood tests?

On those two prior tests, my thyroid was doing its job within its cycle of activity and thus my numbers reflected “within range.” After years of having too many non-functioning days, or poorly functioning days, without medical support, my thyroid gave up. My thyroid will not be the kind that recovers. In fact, I will likely have to have it surgically removed at some point in my life. With treatment, my thyroid is like a car battery that needs to be “jumped” daily and for the rest of my life. The longer you go untreated, the more difficult the long-term consequences.

So, again, do your best to get blood work done on a “bad day” and do it more than once so you can rest your mind on the subject.

There are several forms of prescription-based treatments. I went through several types and doses before I found a treatment I, as a whole person, responded positively to. Some of the medications amplified my headaches, others caused intense stomach pains, others weren’t working with efficiency, others were too efficient and triggered hyper reactions. It took years to sort out. I’ve changed doctors several times too as so many are only willing to try medications they’ve worked with in the past. It took a long time to adjust me but we got there. I’m now down to once-a-year blood tests. If you’re first starting out treatment, expect blood work every 6 weeks.

Current Meds (daily):
Synthroid, 125mcg
Cytomel, 5mcgs

Current Supplements (daily):
Vitamin D (if you have HT, you likely have a vitamin D deficiency)
Vitamin E (supports thyroid function)

I’m down 90 pounds, ideally I will lose another 20 but I’m not in a rush. In the past, I felt my best at 170 lbs, but in the meantime, I’m happy building healthy muscle and building that mind-body connection I neglected in my 20s.

I’m alive and able to raise my child in good health, that’s what counts.

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2018, age 37.

That’s my experience with hypothyroidism.

Any hard earned advice you’d like to share?

Cheers,
ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

The (Uncommon) Gym Personalities

Contains adult language.

I’ve had several gym memberships over the years: Planet Fitness, YMCA, campus gyms (my career is based in higher education) and my current, and longest held gym residency – 24 Hour Fitness. I’ve noticed a lot of consistent nonsense over the years and I’d like to share those observations with you today. I go to the gym 4 days a week for about 90 to 120 minutes per session. I see a lot.

Please note, the cardio machines I favor overlook the weightlifting area so I get a good view of everyday behaviors, and when not in cardio, I use free weights and resistance machines. I can’t speak to classes. I’ve experienced the below personally as well as being an avid observer. My background is in counseling and psychology; I find this stuff equally fascinating and annoying.

The people I’m about to describe are outside the norm for members but occur often enough that they are noticeable. And just to let you know, there is nothing listed below that men and women aren’t equally guilty of. 

1. The Sitting Texter
Fuck you and whatever text or Tweet you rode in on. You are taking up space. You are not using the machine for which your ass is currently parked. Go take that nonsense to the locker room until you’re done, or, at the very least, stand up and get out of the way. You sit there for whole minutes to quarter hours, texting, chatting, posting, doing anything but exercising. You occasionally engage in one or two reps to justify the machine you’ve occupied, and that’s it. Meantime, people are standing nearby, eyeballing you, wondering when the hell you are going to give up the pretense of exercise so they can actually get to work.

2. The Socialite
You like to relate, I can tell. You are extremely extroverted and want to make friends so you will find ANY pretext to talk to someone who is trying to get their sweat on. You, yourself, are not exercising but you think you’ll make friends at the gym b/c it’s clearly full of people who want to better themselves so they must be relatively happy people. Right? No. I go to the gym to be a less grumpy human being and I can’t do that when someone is trying to have a full-on conversation with me. A scenario I’ve actually experienced: Earbuds in and music on full blast, a perfect stranger touches my arm to get my attention. I think it’s important (why I else would I be interrupted?) and no, it’s a ridiculous questions like, ‘How often do you come here? What’s your favorite exercise? How’s your day going?’ How’s my day going? Are you serious? You just interrupted my dead lift to ask me how my day is going? STFU.

Talk to people if you need help with a machine or a move, or you need a spotter. Please reach out for help about something that needs immediate attention, by all means, but do not engage a person who is in focus with their work for casual conversation. It’s weird not to mention dangerous to the person whose concentration you’re breaking.

MAYBE make friends in a class, at least you will have that in common and you can actually justify the cost of your membership. Men (yes, men) and women are equally guilty of this.

3. The Multiple Machine Occupier
Rotating between machine sets is a legitimate form of exercise for many. I don’t rotate machines in-between sets b/c I don’t like losing momentum, and personally, I’ve never seen or felt the benefit. I use one machine until my sets are complete and then I move on to the next one, but that’s me. The problem comes in when someone is rotating in-between sets and they think they can leave a machine and it should remain unoccupied until they return to it. He or she leaves a water bottle or a towel or a pair of gloves on the seat as if to say, ‘I’ll be back in a few minutes, nobody use this.’

No, you entitled shit. The gym is packed and you don’t get to claim any machine as “in use” unless your body is actually strapped into it.

This happened to me – again – yesterday. A guy left his gloves on the seat of a particular machine (that there is only one of) and I needed it, meanwhile he’s rotating and for how long I did not know. It was my last set of reps for the day and then I was out. I’m not conducting an investigation. I’m not going to flag the guy down and ask his permission to use a machine he currently is not using (how fucked up would that be), nor am I going to take a poll about his exercise intentions. The machine is unoccupied therefore open for business. I picked his gloves up and moved them to a place of visibility on the machine itself and I did my thing. He looked confused when he came back to find the machine occupied. I did not apologize, nor should I. I did offer a friendly smile. I understand his workout goals and I don’t begrudge them. Expectations should be better managed, though.

4. Eats Full Meals in the Locker Room, Person
Why am I seeing and smelling your Taco Bell in the locker room? Are you powering up before your big workout? On Taco Bell? On any food for that matter? I can’t even begin to express why you shouldn’t carb-load before a workout (that isn’t full throttle cardio for an hour, and even then I wouldn’t recommend it until your food settled) aside from which you may vomit at worst, or cramp and become nauseous at the least, but in the locker room? The locker room, that small space filled with the aromas of sweat, chlorine, body odors, and urine and feces because the toilets are always nearby? Dude, you bought or brought that crap on the way to the gym, eat it in your car.

5. Checking You Out, Person
I’ve seen women do this too, but yes, it’s primarily men. Newsflash – gyms are full of mirrors. When you check someone out, you are checking them out several times. You think it’s about not letting THAT person catch you out but, guess what? Everyone sees you and from several angles too. Idiot.

6. The Flirt
He or she is into you and they want you to know it.

a. They interrupt you to talk bullshit (like stated above but painfully obvious they are trying to flirt, it’s not about having someone to talk to).

b. They hover in the same workout space, trying to get you to notice that they’ve noticed you, hoping you’ll start the conversation first.

c. Have the sheer fucking nerve to stand there and stare at you, waiting for you to stop so they can tell you ALL ABOUT your exercise, how you’re doing it wrong, and how they (usually a he) can show you how to do it correctly. It’s an excuse for them to make conversation and physically interact at the same time.

I’m here for me. I’m not here for you. GFY.

7. The Showoff
Unlike The Flirt, The Showoff goes to the gym intentionally on the prowl. The Flirt is more incidental to a person or situation.

You’ve seen these stereotypes. The male and female version of The Showoff have several shared attributes. The first thing that makes The Showoff stand out is the pacing. When your average person goes to the gym, they have their areas of exercise more or less known and walk to that area with purpose. The Showoff walks the gym first. Gets the lay of the land. They’re trying to figure out where their audience is. So you see them, bodies sculpted and divine, wearing the least amount of clothing allowed by law, wandering the gym LIKE THEY’VE NEVER BEEN IN ONE BEFORE, scoping out either a sexual interest or a competitor with which to compare themselves to.

Also, I never really see The Showoff seriously workout. He or she may lift a weight here and there but eventually their head turns, trying to check out what attention they are generating. I believe they save their real exercise for a later time.

What are some gym personalities you’ve encountered? Maybe gym foibles in general? Please share below.

Cheers,
ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

511af2c296b45b7b639a2b6e01239acc

*Don’t be.

Inkbox Tattoos, A Review

*This blog is not sponsored. All products reviewed were self-purchased.*

I got a tattoo in my early 20s. Loved it for about 10 years then got tired of it. It was a Guns N’ Roses tribute tat (don’t judge).

What meant a lot to me, then, grew tiresome over the years as – shocker – my feelings for the band changed. In a previous blog, I detail my experience in lasering the tattoo to lighten it and then proceed to get a cover-up tat. You see, I enjoy having a piece of art on my body. I never intended going back to a blank canvas as I underwent 5 laser sessions to get my old ink light enough for a cover tat. A tattoo was always in my life’s deck of cards.

Although, a little more insight in my 20s would have been helpful. A company like Inkbox Tattoos comes along and you think, ‘that’s it, that’s what I needed in my 20s.’ And helpful in the present day too as I’ve been toying with the idea of an inner wrist or inner forearm tattoo.

Inkbox advertises semi-permanent tattoos that last 8-18 days.

inkbox tattoos look authentic and last long because our ink sinks into the top layer of your skin (called the epidermis, if you wanna get technical) where it reacts with organic compounds to change your skin’s color. Our ink is skin-safe, painless and made from all natural ingredients…The active compounds in inkbox are naturally derived from the Genipa Americana plant. Tribes in South America have used this plant as body ornamentation for thousands of years. inkbox tattoo applicators are made from FDA approved materials.”

screenshot 2019-01-15 at 8.16.56 am

Inkbox boasts over a 1,000 designs with an option to design your own. You can also purchase freehand ink if you’ve a steady hand and are artistically inclined.

I bought two designs (one reviewed) and I detailed my experience for you, the curious. I bought them on a Black Friday special as, not gonna lie, these temporary tattoos cost a fair amount.

Case in point, the tattoo I’m reviewing (below) is apporx. 1.1 x 1.1 inches and costs $16 – prior to my 30% off on Black Friday. That’s a lot for something that may or may not last a week. Something else to keep in mind, the larger the design, the higher the cost. Also, larger designs are much more obvious when the ink begins to break down.

screenshot 2019-01-15 at 8.34.24 am
The Triquetra, $16. 1.1×1.1 inches.

Get to the point: Would I recommend Inkbox Tattoos?

That has a two-part answer:

YES – If your goal is to get an idea of what a permanent tattoo might look like on your skin. It’s an entirely different experience to go out into the world with no tattoo and then one day you have one. It’s there – all the time. Placement is a big deal. A tattoo, and it’s location, will change how people see you and interact with you. Even if a tattoo is hidden, it will change how you see yourself. Worth it.

NO – Let’s say you really like a design from the website and you’re hoping it will last 2 weeks so you’re willing to pay full price – then definitely “no.” From my experience, the Triquetra design was visibly breaking down by day 8 and gone by day 10. Even with 30% off (a discount of $4.80) that’s saying I paid for a temporary tattoo that had a value $1.40 a day – at 8 days. Not worth it. Maybe at a $1 a day. At full price, it would have come down to $2 a day for 8 days worth. Don’t forget shipping/handling and state tax. Not worth it.

Application – Zero hours.
A straightforward process assuming you follow the directions.

12 Hours
Developing well.

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18 and 24 Hours
Fully developed.

6th Day
First signs of ink breaking down.

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8th Day
Breakdown accelerating.

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10th Day

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Inkbox has tips to delay the tattoo’s breakdown: follow the directions for application, avoid scrubbing the area or using harsh exfoliates, pick a place on the body that experiences the least amount of friction from clothes and general day-to-day use like hands, arms, and feet (this tip is to the contrary if you’re trying to figure out placement for your permanent tattoo), and using excessive amounts of hot water.

This is an honest review with an honest two-part answer. The more important takeaway, if you are considering a permanent tattoo, Inkbox Tattoos is worth trying out as a temporary audition to a long-term and costly performance that is a permanent tattoo. The combined cost of my first tattoo, plus 5 laser treatments, plus the cost of a cover-up tattoo, and don’t forget tipping your artist, was a little over $900.

So…yeah. If you are considering a permanent tattoo, Inkbox should be on your radar.

ArmedWithCoffee.com
@gnrmuggle

(Updated) Varicose Vein Surgery – Post Surgery Photos Included

UPDATE PHOTOS – November 2018 – 3 months later.

Here it is! My right leg is completely smooth. There is, however, a slight recess in the inner leg, mid-calf. A lot of tissue was extracted (click on the link to the original blog below to see the extracted vein) so I’m not terribly surprised by the recess. The pain from the faulty vein was gone within the first week of the first procedure and has stayed gone. I would do this again.

via Varicose Vein Surgery

Varicose Vein Surgery

So this post is NFTFOF (not-for-the-faint-of-heart).

Varicose veins, in the doctor’s office, are put into two categories: cosmetic and medical. Cosmetic veins means that while bulging veins may be present typical, non-threatening vein function is still occurring. Medical varicose veins means that atypical functions are occurring and have negative potential for the person who has them. I had the latter. An ultrasound of the vein in question can confirm the vein to be performing typically or atypically. A typical vein has blood flowing in one direction. An atypical vein has dual blood flow – not good.

Varicose veins have the potential to form in any part of the body but are more likely to form in the areas that have the greatest length or room to expand i.e. legs and arms.

SYMPTOMS

The standard symptoms for varicose veins includes excess fluid or swelling (also causing a “heavy” sensation in the appendage), a throbbing sensation where the problem vein is located, a generalized and localized discomfort, skin discoloration, itchy patches of skin on and around the problem vein, and of course, the number one concern: blood clots. Interesting fact, varisoce veins do not necessarily mirror in dysfunction. I had damaged veins in my right leg but none in my left.

HOW DO THEY FORM?

There are lots of ways that varicose veins can form.
1. Genetics – can’t think of a person over the age of 40 in my family that doesn’t have them.

2. Standing too much and sitting too much – exactly the kind of lifestyle modern society has us engaged in.

3. Pregnancy.

4. Being a woman – I’m not even making that up. Being a woman is an actual reason listed. Rapid hormone fluctuation, or having a healthy female body that’s undergone puberty and general aging, can trigger varicose veins.

5. Being born with defective valves.

6. And the number one: being grossly overweight.

MY BACKGROUND
As I’ve noted in previous blogs, I know what it is to be grossly overweight. Not once in my lifetime, but twice!

The first  time was simply to do with being raised to eat through my emotions. Feelings were never encouraged in my family, more like actively discouraged. As a kid, whenever I was anxious (always) or feeling bad about school (often – I was the weird kid that was always reading and never playing) I was encouraged to eat a treat and then I would feel better. I wasn’t allowed to feel, but I was allowed to eat. It was my only known coping mechanism as a kid. I take full responsibility for my weight, though. I don’t blame my parents. They may have provided the foundation, but I knowingly built the house on which the foundation stood. As some point in my childhood, I learned what I wasn’t meant to eat, or the quantities in which I was eating, but I did not change my habits. I kept at being overweight until at some point I reached my zenith of 310lbs.

I was 26 years old when I was given my a pre-diabetes diagnosis. I decided right there and then, leaving the doctor’s office, that I was done with the weight. I spent the next 18 months shedding the fat and dropped down to 150 lbs. It was relatively easy as I recall. I loved running and core training. I was a broke college student so I could only afford vegetables and cheap cuts of chicken. No flour-based carbs. I exercised five days a week and stayed active as I worked, interned, and went to classes for my masters degree. That was my life for 18 months. At 150lbs I saw the first of what was the very tiny bumps on the back of my right leg, barely visible so no big deal.

Fast forward four years later, age 32, my thyroid (already temperamental) breaks completely under the stress of pregnancy, and I shoot back up to 280lbs. It takes nearly two years to adjust my thyroid medications and the weight loss, this time, is painfully sloooooowwwwww. All that precious 20-something energy is gone. Slowly but surely, I shed the weight.

The veins aren’t small bumps on the back of my leg anymore. They are gnarly, unsightly monsters but I’m used to it. The veins are gross but I figure they don’t hurt so who cares? It just means I gained a lot of weight, then lost a lot of weight. They’re a testament to my hard work. I figure I’m okay. Come November 2017, my right leg starts throbbing.

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My varicose veins on a good day. Started at the upper back thigh and ended at the inner ankle. On a busier day, the veins would be twice that size. You can see the swelling in my feet from the extra fluid.

Day – night – there’s no rhyme or reason to the throbbing, it just happens erratically. Then the itching started. As it turns out, the atypical blood flow was agitating the surrounding tissue causing the itching sensation. On a few occasions, I scratched so hard I bled. I had also joined 24Hour Fitness around November and while I always loved running and cardio in general, my right leg just seemed to take extra effort to move. I bought athletic compression socks and that seemed to help for awhile, but eventually the socks have to come off.

The sensations got worse as the real Texas heat rolled out. Around late June, I had contacted my insurance company and was advised to get an ultrasound. If the vein was determined to be medical and not cosmetic, then any surgical procedures should be covered. I got checked out by Dr. Friedmann of Westlake Dermatology.

At the appointment, I was ready to assume the worst when it came to insurance coverage so I asked Dr. Friendmann straightaway, not yet having an ultrasound done, what his opinion was of the vein – did it look medical or cosmetic? I remember his eyebrows popping up when he took in the extent of the vein and said, “I can tell you right now it’s medical – not at all cosmetic. We just need an ultrasound to prove it for insurance reasons.”

I got approved!

THE PROCEDURES

1. Ablation – lasering the vein to shut it down. It took about 45 minutes. My leg was numbed locally and I didn’t feel a thing. There was recovery pain as the aesthetic wore off. I could feel the post-procedure burning effect for about two hours but nothing an Aleve tablet and a glass of wine couldn’t cure. I wore a medical compression stocking day and night for exactly seven days and resumed all normal activities during that week except for running.

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Exactly one week post-ablation. The vein was shut down at its extreme ends to stop all functions. It was now dead tissue. I was surprised. I expected to see lumps for weeks afterwards but my skin smoothed down almost completely.

2. Phlebectomy – sometimes referred to as “hook and pull”. Crocheting is one of my many hobbies so I was familiar with the idea of the procedure from the beginning. The now dead vein was pulled up and out at several incision points throughout my leg and then cut out. Dr. Friedmann was at my leg, extracting the vein longer than planned. My procedure was slated for an hour but it took a little over 90 minutes. He said I had some of the strongest connective tissue he’s ever encountered. I was swearing at several points as time went on, so was Dr. Friendmann and I don’t blame him. It felt like we were on the same team trying to get this massive vein out. Numbed up or not, you know when your leg is taking a beating. My leg felt like a big piece of rubber that was just getting pummeled.

 

The picture below is of my leg 24 hours after the phlebectomy. I was back in the medical stocking for another 72 hours, but I took the stocking off long enough to remove the dried, bloody bandages.

 

And finally, here is my right leg exactly nine days after the phlebectomy procedure.

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The bruising is already in the “yellowing” phase. Dr. Friedmann told me I was a fast healer. Still some post-procedural swelling present.

To say I’m pleased is an understatement. The pain is 100% gone. No throbbing. No itching. No heavy-with-excess-fluid sensation. The general varicose vein pain stopped immediately after the ablation, removing the dead vein was just tidying things up.

There is a possibility for a third procedure called, “foam sclero”  (a foam injection that kills off any smaller, remaining veins that the laser can’t get to) that I was approved for but Dr. Friedmann decided to hold off as the main problem vein was so large that removing it may in turn kill off the smaller veins.

I will update this blog later with full recovery pics. I can’t wait – August 2018.

UPDATE PHOTOS – November 2018 – 3 months later.

Here it is! My right leg is completely smooth. There is, however, a slight recess in the inner leg, mid-calf. A lot of tissue was extracted (see above photo) so I’m not terribly surprised by the recess. The pain from the faulty vein was gone within the first week of the first procedure and has stayed gone. I would do this again.

 

 

Cheers,
ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas
@gnrmuggle

CBD Oil, In Praise Of

I want to start this blog by saying, I’m tired of the hushed conversations people have about CBD oil. It is a legal substance in Texas [each state is different] and has done a great deal more for my health, and my mental health, in a few short months than any FDA regulated, anti-anxiety prescription drug has in the past 20 years. Let’s get this out of the way now: In Texas, as long as a CBD product is derived from legally-grown ‘industrial’ hemp and contains less than 0.3% THC, then it is legal. If you live in Texas, you can buy legitimate CBD oil via AmazonPeople’s Pharmacy (Austin), and my favorite Veggimins.com.

I began taking CBD oil regularly in August 2018 and in two weeks I knew, with perfect confidence (I can’t stress that enough), that I could begin the weaning process from my prescription of sertraline (a generic for Zoloft).

I have anxiety. And when things are really bad, I have panic attacks. While the anxiety I’m used to, and lived side-by-side with since childhood, the panic attacks were relatively new for me. I only began experiencing them in relation to my health scare during the summer of 2017.

Since experiencing my first panic attack, I’ve had several since, and much to my humiliation, ambulances and first-responders were involved during three major episodes, two in public and one at home.

The summer of 2017 marked the 3rd time of my life where I would, out of necessity, go to my doctor and plead for help.

XANAX, My First Anti-Anxiety Drug

When I was 17, my right knee-cap dislocated. My anxiety spiked as I was still a high school student who had a part-time job and no car. My then shit boss said, you can either get to work or not have a job. I needed this shitty job as I was saving for a group trip with my theater class to New York. I had already paid out two-thirds of the cost of the non-refundable trip, so yeah, I hobbled around town via crutches and a full-length leg restraint to hold down that shitty job that was not convenient to replace. I had no rides, my mother wasn’t interested in helping me, and everyone I knew was as car-less as I was. The doctor took a look at me on a follow-up exam, teeth grinding and sleep deprived, and wrote a generous prescription for Xanax.

This doctor provided no expectation about being on the drug or how to come down from it. No plan was made regarding weaning. This doctor gave a 17-year old a high dose, starting out prescription of Xanax, and a ‘this will sort out your nerves’ sort of pep-talk.

A month later, I’m out of the prescription and falling over my own legs (one in a full-length restraint) as the ground seems to be moving. The room is literally spinning as I come down hard from this drug. This sensation lasted roughly 48 hours. By the time it was done, I was spun out. Exhausted. Coming down from Xanax abruptly was harder than walking to-and-from work, and school, in a full-length leg-brace.

ZOLOFT, Part I

This part is a bit blurry in my memory as I was seeing different doctors over a 2-year  period of time and for different reasons (pre/post pregnancy, thyroid, anxiety). Between 2013 and 2015, I experienced several life stressing events that would see me on and off Zoloft and in varying amounts over two years.  But the problem essentially starts the same…

I stopped sleeping.

In January 2013, I give birth and six months after E is born, I leave my job and move from San Antonio to Austin. My husband had already partially transitioned. He rented an apartment in Austin while I stayed in San Antonio to use up all my sick and vacation leave accumulated just for the purpose of maternity leave, and I might add, when your employer doesn’t offer maternity leave, you have to earn every damn hour of it.

I was stressed. My husband was offered an excellent opportunity in Austin, and the long-term plan was to move back home (Austin is not my hometown but having lived here for nearly two decades, I think I’m a legit Austinite now) so I figure we can live apart for six months. It was a short-term sacrifice for a long-term goal. I handled it well. But after E was born, and my husband only coming home on the weekends, I started to unravel. Sleeping became erratic. The post-natal doctor told me this was normal as the brain now recognizes the need for change in sleep with a new baby. While this information is correct, it was not correct for me. It was anxiety. Additionally, there was no way I could have known, or the post-natal doctor could have known, that my thyroid was in the early stages of shutting down. The thyroid plays a role in sleep regulation.

Quickly, I get us moved (I arranged the move and did all the packing, with a 6-month old) and after I get us unpacked, and I have a full-time partner again, I can’t settle. I’m not sleeping more than two or three hours a night.

I find a doctor and she says, “Anxiety,” and “let’s try Zoloft.” Okay. I admit, I’m good at coping with anxiety, but these past several months have been a bit more than I can deal with. My sleep “improves” to about four hours a night, and even then, unlike Xanax, you have to build the Zoloft up. This is not an overnight process. I was into the fourth, maybe fifth week before my sleeping hours increased. But the general anxiety reduced dramatically.

However, the cons far outweighed the pros of Zoloft. Which is why I, and millions of others like me, have a love and hate (mostly hate, for me at least) relationship with Zoloft.

Pros:
1. Sleep improved (a bit for me, not much)
2. Anxiety reduced

Cons:
1. Constant tweaking with the doctor to find the right dosage – with a four week test range in-between visits. It’s time-consuming and costly to get the dosage right.

a. Dosage too low (for me, this is at the 25 mg mark): ineffective.

b. Dosage too high (for me, this is at 100 mg mark): loss of feelings (I’m mean this in the literal sense, there is a reduction in anxiety and pretty much any feelings) loss of libido (for nearly six months I was dead below the waist), mental dullness, an inability to think quickly, an inability to react quickly, and a general sense of disinterest

2. Long introduction period. As noted earlier, Zoloft is not an insta-drug. It takes weeks of build-up before it begins to work. The average is six weeks.

3. Long weaning period. When you and your doctor decide it’s time to come off the drug, you have to come down by degrees. Completely exiting the drug can take months as stopping all together can shock the body and brain.

a. This means new prescriptions for lower levels of the drug, i.e. lots of doctor visits.

b. Exiting the drug too fast and you risk withdrawal symptoms and can possibly induce an overwhelming amount anxiety and even panic attacks.

In 2014, we buy a house, our first house, and I’m more confident now. I’m comfortable with being a full-time parent to a baby. My hypothyroidism is discovered and I’m medicated for it. I’m feeling better. My quality of sleep has definitely improved now that I know it was my malfunctioning thyroid that was causing so many problems. I begin the drawn-out weaning method and eventually, I successfully exit Zoloft.

ZOLOFT, Part II

Last summer, I had a health scare that induced several panic attacks. They ripped through me like nothing I had experienced before. Any pain I was familiar with, up until that point, felt like child’s play. Every second that goes by is essentially the second your brain tells you that you’re going to die. That means a 60-second panic attack is 60-seconds of understanding that you are dying and there is nothing you can do about it. And that’s the mental pain. I’ve recounted the physical pain before in previous blogs.

I really hate it this time. For the first six weeks, while the Zoloft builds in my system, I’m prone to panic attacks and the anxious thoughts are compounded daily. Since I’m not a rookie, my doctor starts me out at 100 mg to jump start the process and then plans to taper me down to 75 mg in roughly two months after the reintroduction period.

It does the job I’m familiar with. After about 8 months, and down to 50 mg daily, I have a casual across-the-yard talk with my neighbor. She’s a great woman and had her own medical scare, diagnosed with cervical cancer earlier in the year. She experienced anxiety to the point of sleeplessness, never mind the debilitating, garbage-thoughts anxiety induces. We shared experiences. She was prescribed Zoloft too but was immediately unhappy with it. By chance she went to People’s Pharmacy looking for something to help with sleep and anxiety as six weeks is a lot to ask someone to wait for relief. They sold her on CBD oil, praising its properties for reducing the effects of anxiety and enhancing sleep.

She told me all about it and how it saved her mind and improved her health. She could sleep again. She advocated it so strongly but did more than that, she ran back to her house and gave me one of her bottles that was nearly done but had enough that I could try it over several days. I felt the positive effects on the first try.

CBD OIL

Pros:

1. Works within 20 minutes. I felt calmer. I felt like me. Like I was myself without being choked by the mental and physical anxiety. Not a “druggy” calm (prescribed or otherwise). Not a “doped” calm. Not a “high” calm. Just calm. As in, Christina is just calm. This is a Christina without anxiety. After a few days use, I nearly cried at the wonder of it. I’ve never known mental relief like this. Not through therapy. Not through prescriptions.

2. I sleep more and with less restlessness. I went from four hours to seven hours of sleep.

a. Now that I’m sleeping properly through the night, I’m not tired at all during the day like I was while on Zoloft.

3. No weaning period. This is not an addictive substance. This is not a build-up substance. There is no withdrawal. Don’t like it? Don’t take it.

4. Doses can change by next use. No long waiting periods in-between new doses, trying to find a leveled out plateau, costing you time and money on doctors and prescriptions. Not enough positive effect based on your experience with CBD oil? Take it up by 20 mg on the next try. 200 mg feel like too much? Reduce it by 20 mg on the next try. And you will know by your first use if it is either doing something positive for you or not. Doses of CBD oil, and it’s effectiveness, can vary by an individual’s metabolism, body weight, etc.

Cons:

1. Cost. CBD oil ain’t cheap, but then neither is its regulation. The liquid version, which I take, costs more but works the best. I don’t need much either, I take approximately 6 drops on the tongue, not even close to the 1 fluid oz technical serving. 1 bottle of CBD oil lasts me a long time.

2. Taste. It’s a plant-based, oil extract. As delicious as it sounds.

I’ve tried the pill form as well as the oil, and oil is hands down the more productive of the two. This is currently my favorite CBD oil:

I wanted to put this blog out there because CBD oil is blowing up for people who need an alternative to prescription drugs for their anxiety and depression, sleeplessness, and for pain relief too. And yet, are ashamed or fearful of the perception of using CBD oil despite its overwhelming benefits. We’d rather discuss our ineffective, big-pharma drugs and keep our fingers crossed regarding unwanted properties like addiction, withdrawal, and whether or not, you know, it’s actually useful.

After taking the CBD oil consistently for two months, I confidently tapered down my Zoloft from 50 mg daily, to 25 mg daily, to 25 mg every other day until I emptied my last refill. This took about two months. No hiccups, no freak-outs, no panic attacks, no withdrawal symptoms. For the first time since 2015, I strongly believe I may never have to get on another anti-anxiety drug the next time life throws a wrench in my works. And there will be a next time – I’m a realist. But now I’m a realist with real help.

Take the stigma away. Talk about your experiences. Please comment. Please share.

Cheers,
ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas
@gnrumuggle

37 Lessons In 37 Years

I’ll be turning 38 in November. I thought it appropriate to share some of those bits I’ve learned. I often think about E (my daughter) and what I would want to impress upon her as she grows up. Why not share?

Some of these lessons are practical in nature, others are more complex. It’s a mixed list to be sure. Please do share some of your own life lessons in the comment section below.

  1. Strive for balance. Living in extremes is never healthy. Too much rigidity, or a lack thereof, lessens the quality of life.
  2.  Show an appreciation for punctuality. You needn’t always be early but there is no excuse for always being late. Be the person others can depend on.
  3. Know your limits. It’s tempting to push yourself into someone else’s idea of what you should be doing, how often, and how well you should be doing it. Do what’s right by you and stick to it. My favorite example of this was how so many people I knew wanted me to get pregnant right after E’s birth. ‘It’s better,’ they said, ‘the second gives the first one someone to play with.’ I don’t believe children should be viewed as book-ends, more to the point, one was enough for me. The pressure, though, was phenomenal. Know your limits.
  4. If you find yourself in the position of constantly seeking someone’s approval or affection, you will likely never get it. I learned this the hard way, several times and over the course of many years. Let them go, and in turn, you will know freedom.
  5. In this life, you will make mistakes, some big, some small, but they will be made. Don’t repeat the mistake and you will have learned something. Repeat the mistake, you’ve learned nothing.
  6. When you make a mistake, bounce back and you will learn resilience. You will not fold every time when confronted with a challenge or an obstacle.
  7. You do not have to be happy all the time. Most days are unremarkable and easily forgotten as not everyday is meant to stand out in your memory as either terribly good or terribly bad. Sometimes a feeling of contentedness or “alrightness” is enough when looking back on a week, a month, or a year.
  8. The need to be around others is perfectly normal.
  9. The need to be alone is perfectly normal.
  10. Know when to walk away, or refuse to engage.
  11. Know when to stay your ground.
  12. Know when to listen.
  13. Know when to speak up.
  14. Criticism is a natural part of life and a necessity. If you don’t expect it then you’re a fool and will likely be angered by this comment. By the way, being on the receiving end of criticism is when it pays to know when to listen and to when to speak up.
  15. Adopting a neutral stance in a situation that calls for a side, in the end, almost always sides you with the wrong. Being neutral is a choice and not a very good one. Declaring yourself as a neutral party (such as in cases of war, human oppression, political discord, etc.) cannot essentially be true as neutrality gives power to those who are clearly on the wrong side of history; they go unopposed.
  16. Adding a 1/2 cup of clear, distilled vinegar to your load of dark-colored clothing brings back their vibrancy. Ironically, things like detergent and softeners often build layers of residue over time creating a dulled look. This also works for light-colored clothing and is an excellent alternative to bleach.
  17. Never mix up or lose your matching sheet sets again. After washing and drying, put one pillow case aside, fold the rest. Fold the fitted sheet. Fold the flat sheet. Stack the flat sheet on the folded fitted sheet. Stack the remaining folded pillow cases on top of the folded flat sheet. Open the pillow case that you set aside and insert the stack of folded linens. Voila! No more misplaced sets or falling linen stacks on your shelves.
  18. It does not matter if you rent or own; a clean living space says you take pride in how you live and that you take pride in yourself. Your living habits speak volumes about you, no differently than your personal hygiene habits would. If not your address, then take pride in yourself. And you may not have the best address (when I started out on my own, I rented a 425 sq ft studio apartment at $500 a month in the hardest part of town because it’s what I could afford as a broke college student) but that doesn’t mean you automatically abdicate any sense of self-care. And make no mistake, an orderly and clean environment is a form of self-care. Don’t believe me? Watch any episode of any hoarders-style show and look at how well those folks are doing.
  19. Pay your bills the same day(s) of the month, on time, no exceptions.
  20. Monitor all three of your credit reports (for free) annually via Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It’s not an easy read, granted, but it’s worth it. A few mistakes (sometimes big, sometimes small – all damaging) caught and you can avoid years of confusion and disrepair.
  21. ‘Do what makes you happy’ is common career advice but isn’t terribly helpful if what you love is not practical. Be prepared in this life to have a job that pays the bills and to do what you love as a hobby, or as work-done-on-the-side. My husband is fortunate in that his hobby is his work and his work is his hobby. Most of us aren’t so fortunate – I made a career out of helping others while practicing writing as a hobby. This is normal. Expect it.
  22. A college degree does not set you up to navigate life outside of school. By age 22 or so, you might be an expert student, but you will likely not be well-versed in being a full-time employee, or an average citizen who can pay rent and bills independently of any assistance, or someone who can clean up after themselves and take care of their living space, or can feed themselves by purchasing their own food from a grocery store, etc. Get experience. As a career counselor of nearly decade, I can tell you the students who launched their lives post-graduation successfully were those students who got exposure to real world experiences. Volunteer, intern, hold down a part-time job, but do not expect your degree to guarantee you anything.
  23. Saying, ‘That’s how I was raised,” is a cop-out from having to think for yourself. Such fallback phrases do not excuse ignorance. Question your upbringing. Are you acting on autopilot or are you living intentionally?
  24. Ignorance is not an excuse. It’s harsh, I know, but it’s also true.
  25. Family is a choice. It took me years to sort this out. I am, by choice, estranged from both my parents. My life has been made healthier and happier for it. In their own ways, they have pushed me away through substance abuse, physical and verbal rejection too. I finally listened.
  26. Keep a journal. Scribble down any old thought, just do it daily or even weekly. You’ll be surprised about what you discover when looking back.
  27. Sage advice that holds true to today: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
  28. Learn how to cook the basics. Unless your finances are well off, it is unwise to rely on frozen meals, restaurants, and takeaway as your sources for food. Learn how to make eggs, a few chicken and beef recipes, how to prepare a few vegetables and you’ll never starve, or feel helpless when your just not up to another bowl of cereal or a microwaveable mac n’ cheese.
  29. Anyone who leaves you guessing as to what your position is in a relationship isn’t really in a relationship with you. To be sure, they are getting something from you, or else they wouldn’t be hanging around, or asking you to hang around, but it isn’t legit either. If you have to guess whether you are a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a friend, then you aren’t any of those things. Whether the other person knows it or not, they are keeping you confused to keep you around, but not giving you enough to make you feel committed to either. Thus, the confusion and insecurity. I took this ridiculous trip around the confusion-carousel twice. I understand it’s a popular ride for many so I take comfort in knowing it’s not just me.
  30. The person who is into you let’s you know. They have no trouble using defining terms like girlfriend, boyfriend, or friend and want to spend real time with you. There is no guessing or questioning motives. You are secure in this relationship because this other person wants you to know how they feel about you and hopes you feel the same way.
  31. A lot of people walk around with their problems in hand and are more than happy to project them onto you. Be in control of your actions. Your feelings, in response to a negative situation, are normal, but it’s your actions that you will be held accountable for.
  32. First, find and establish a regular GP. Second, see your GP at least once a year. Your health is your everything. Most days you have it until one day you don’t. Do not take your body or your health for granted.
  33. Find time for you. The more time you commit to your job or your family, the less personal time you have. And that’s fine. You know what you signed up for and you knew that particular sacrifice was a necessity. But do carve out some personal time for yourself, it’s part of keeping yourself healthy.
  34. Understand the triad: body, mind, emotions. You affect one, you affect all.
  35. There are no such things as ghosts, boogeymen, or psychics. Don’t get me wrong. I used to believe in these things, I even wanted to believe in them after I stopped believing in them because life would seem incredibly boring without them, but there you are. Let me ask you this: Heard of anyone claiming to have seen a caveman ghost?
  36. Practically speaking, a stitch in time saves nine.
  37. Creatively speaking, deadlines and procrastination can induce some seriously creative content.

PS – Apologies for grammatical errors, etc. I’m doing a type and launch as it’s a full schedule today. Feel free to criticize in the comments below 😉

Cheers,
ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas
@gnrmuggle

Professionals Ghosting On You?

I see the articles all the time, “10 Funniest Resumé Blunders” or “Cringe-Worthy Answers to Interview Questions” and “The Craziest Things Candidates Have Done During Interviews.”

As a former career counselor, and part-time resumé writer, I’ve often extracted material from such articles in order to demonstrate what-not-to-do points to both my students and clients.

Recently I have been scouring my local universities here in Austin looking for that elusive unicorn called “part-time” work. Finding a professional part-time position, in my field, is all but unheard of – not impossible but not common either.

For the first time in my career, I am being met with unprofessional, professionals. I have no idea what’s going on but I am seeing a few articles (with more to come in future I’m sure) tackling the subject like this one by: Julie Bort.

This faux-titled article is what I’d like to read though, “Ghosting, The New Trend for Employers and References.”

Image-Source

To be fair, I was trained, and subsequently trained others, to adhere to a strong standard as either a candidate or hiring party. Aside from my years in bookstore retail, I worked almost exclusively as a university professional. The hiring process is typically multilayered and requires time to complete, but I’ve always experienced a cohesive, professional hiring experience. Kudos to: St. Edward’s University, Texas A&M University-San Antonio (TAMUSA), and Trinity University.

COMPANY X

My first unprofessional interviewing experience occurred late last spring. Company X specializes in college coaching services to students here in Austin. Austin is a university town: UT Austin, St. Edward’s University, Austin Community College, Huston-Tillotson University, and Concordia University are all located here (never mind the great institutions that are located in nearby San Marcos, Round Rock, San Antonio, etc.) With all the college-bound demand here in central Texas, it is no surprise that a startup company comes along to help students navigate those tricky application waters. High school counselors can only meet so many needs.

I understood from a former colleague that this company, Company X, was looking for career and college advising professionals on a part-time basis. I research the company and it looks promising as well as a good fit. There’s one catch, they want someone who can work with students in the afternoons and on weekends. I am available in the mornings, full-stop. I make contact via email with Company X’s rep. I relate who I am, my background, etc. I also relate that I understand what Company X is looking for in regards to availability, and I also it make it clear what hours I would be available for. I also stated that I understand if my availability would not make me a good fit for Company X but, as I always told my students, you miss 100% of the opportunities you don’t apply for, especially when your skills match what the employer is looking for.

I receive a reply, requesting from Company X’s rep an informal interview. We schedule a 10 minute interview via Skype in two weeks time. Good, right?

With roughly five minutes to go before the interview, I get a request cancellation email from the rep saying a student just came in and needed immediate assistance. I was then asked to reschedule in another two weeks. Students requiring last-minute or emergency services with their career work does happen. Things can move rather quickly when a prospective university or employer suddenly shows you interest and students may need same-day help. That wasn’t an issue. What caused the “ping” to go off in my brain was the two week reschedule bit. A two week reschedule for just a 10 minute, preliminary interview? Basically, the first interview would take place a month after the initial contact.

But what else can you do? The rep and I settle on a day and time over Skype to talk. The day and time comes. Skype is open and I’m ready to go. Five minutes past our scheduled time and nothing. I shoot off a quick message via Skype letting the rep know I’m ready when he is and…nothing. Perhaps 20 minutes after our scheduled time I receive an email from the rep saying he was there waiting for me on a conferencing and videoing app…that wasn’t Skype. What?

He invited me (rather insincerely) to reschedule in another two weeks. That’s when I knew this was going no where. I forwarded our previous email clearly stating our agreed upon date, time and our agreed use of Skype, more or less stating, “I apologize for any misunderstanding but didn’t we agree upon Skype?” I also (equally insincerely) invited the rep to contact me over the summer for a possible reschedule when his calendar cleared up.

I gave him an out because he clearly wasn’t interested, and he took it too as I got no response.

My question was, why bother? I gave the rep an out from the very beginning in my initial contact email. I clearly stated my availability, understanding full well that Company X needed someone who could fulfill different hours. At best, I was making myself an option should they need a morning person in future. He didn’t have to go through this pretext of scheduling an interview then cancelling, rescheduling, and then this nonsense about using a different conferencing app – with the added audacity to let me know he was waiting on me. Who does this?

In case you have doubt about my exiting this situation, I’ll impress upon you: If an employer wants you, they let you know. Interview scheduling is done right the first time. Even if a scenario comes up where rescheduling is necessary, it is done in a timely manner and all parties are on board.

UNIVERSITY Y

Two months ago, I came across THE unicorn of positions. So rare, so exquisite, and a perfect match to my skill set. Part-time work with student profiles, and a work-from-home position. I applied the same day.

I received a response two days later with a request to fill out a job survey attachment (preliminary questions asked prospective candidates en lieu of a preliminary interview). I’m thrilled. Not long afterwards I’m contacted by the hiring party via email to set up a formal interview.

The interview goes very well, smashing even. I share stories of my student experiences, the laughs and the groans, and we’re not having an interview so much as a conversation. It’s going great. I’m told that she, the rep, will follow up with me in one week, two at the most, regarding the position. She even gives me her direct work landline should I have questions. Awesome.

Two weeks go by and I receive word from a reference that she was contacted and it sounded very positive from the hiring party. Hurrah!

Three weeks and no word from the hiring party but we we are approaching a three day weekend and I figured that was factoring in to the wait time. Four weeks are coming up and still no word. I put a feeler out to another reference of mine and she said she played phone tag with the hiring party for a few days before settling on leaving the rep a message, and of course, inviting her to call back. Okay, not ideal I admit. These are both busy people but I figure they’ll make contact soon. My third and final reference I had not heard from at all (more on that later, see Reference Z).

Here’s the dilemma, training for this position with University Y takes place over a weekend. My husband gets word from his company that he needs to fly out the same weekend training would take place if I was hired. These things are not a problem, I just need to know the hours for training so I can coordinate childcare. The training weekend in question is coming up and I need to coordinate care. I’m already nervous as we are going on week five and I still haven’t heard from the hiring party from University Y.

I write an email to the rep (you are allowed one follow-up communication post-interview in case you didn’t know, email is best, but phone is still allowable) and I politely ask, ‘Dear Rep, I am currently coordinating schedules for Sept ___. If I am asked to attend, please let me know what the training hours are for Sept ___. Thank you very much and I look forward to hearing from you, etc etc.’

Five days go by and no response. This is ridiculous.

After running my situation off to a former colleague, I was advised to call. There were too many things in the air. As I know, and was reminded, you don’t call references unless you are serious about making the offer, and you especially don’t ask candidates to make themselves available for training days without letting them know if they’ve got the job or not. As the hiring party, you’ve got to follow-up.

So I call. The phone rings twice and then goes to voicemail. That’s when I knew.

I leave a message, reiterating my email from five days prior, and an hour or so later I receive an email rejection from the rep. It was as though the rep was forced to make the rejection official instead of just ghosting, which was clearly where this was headed.

No explanation was given in the rejection email. I wrote back, ‘Thanks for following up, is there anything I could have done better in my application or in the interview to have been considered for the position?’

I received no reply. I was perplexed by the outcome, dumb-founded.

What really gets my goat was one of my interview questions, ‘Do you have experience delivering hard news, like rejection, to students? Are you comfortable with it?’ Of course I do and yes I am. Because when I’ve delivered hard news in the past it was done with respect as well as directness, and that’s the only way you can build competency with difficult conversations. Rejection doesn’t feel good for either person involved, but you don’t make it worse by avoiding it. Because I am a professional, I know these things.

REFERENCE Z

I had to figure out what happened. I know I would never get the full story that led to the outcome with University Y, but this was just downright weird. More to the point, I didn’t want this outcome happening again. Also, I couldn’t let the silence of Reference Z go, it was bothering me.

I send out an email asking my references what their experiences with University Y were like. I wanted to learn anything I could so as to prevent possible future occurrences of a similar type.

Immediately after hitting the send button, I received a bounce-back from Reference Z’s work email stating, “I no longer work for ABC University.” Well now, that’s interesting.

There was no alternative email or number listed in the bounce-back.

I contacted Reference Z months ago, as I do with all my references, when I’m filling out applications so nobody is surprised should they start getting phone calls about me. This reference had agreed to be a reference some time before that. At no time did I receive communication from Reference Z that she was leaving her current job and that I should update her contact information that I was submitting all over town.

This leads me to believe:

  1. Reference Z was abruptly dispatched from ABC University.
  2. Reference Z knew she was leaving, but it was a quick exit and didn’t have time to update me.
  3. Reference Z knew she was leaving and didn’t care to update me.

Well guess what – I have Reference Z’s personal email address so I send my outreach email again. No reply.

Reference Z ghosted me. I think that’s the mystery solved regarding the position with University Y. However, it would have been nice had the hiring rep from University Y contacted me and said, ‘Hey I’m not getting a hold of Reference Z, do you have an alternate contact for this person, or another reference altogether you could list?’

‘Yes! Yes, yes, yes! No problem! Thank you for letting me know that! I can help you solve that problem!’ That would have been ideal but there you are. I suppose the hiring rep just wanted to move on to a path of lesser resistance.

I take responsibility for listing Reference Z, though. I was hesitant in the first place given our work history. We had very different work and communication styles, with each other and with our students. We were like oil and water but got our work done regardless. Also, I needed to account for my time at that particular university as so many people I once knew there had left and moved on to different things. I took a risk, but I asked Reference Z to be a reference and she happily (or so I thought) agreed.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The standards are high for candidates. These mistakes, were they made by the candidate, would be viewed as incompetency at its best and end up in someone’s idea for a funny article. But where is the accountability when such mistakes are made by the hiring party? The candidate is always put in the position of best practices and the smallest mistake can lead to nowhere, fast. But what happens when the hiring manager is late, uncoordinated, unresponsive, and a no-show? Nothing. They’ve already got their job.

And to the references who ghost, or don’t bother representing well on behalf of the candidate, why? Why did you agree to be a reference in the first place? Do you have any idea the trust a former colleague or employee has placed in you? Do you not get that? You may very well may have cost someone a job opportunity.

If you are in a position of hiring, you should know the privilege and the responsibility that comes with it. There’s a person behind that carefully crafted thing called a resumé, I would know, I’ve crafted thousands of them. I’ve had the pleasure of working with those persons whose hopes lie in those scraps of paper.

Something to think about.

ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas
@gnrmuggle

BookPeople, Austin, Texas

I wanted to dedicate a blog to a much appreciated business, BookPeople. As a city, Austin has an old and true-to-life motto: Keep Austin Weird. BookPeople must be a cornerstone to that weirdness.

Founded in November 1970, BookPeople was originally named Grok Books, a joint effort in business among a few UT Austin students.

Today, BookPeople is THE largest independent bookstore in the state of Texas.

From their website:
“Located in the heart of downtown, BookPeople has been voted best bookstore in Austin for over 15 years. BookPeople was voted Bookstore of the Year by Publisher’s Weekly in 2005. With visits from some of the most interesting and important authors of the past 43 years, as well as by Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, BookPeople is the destination bookstore in Texas.”

This is not a sponsored blog. I’m not that important…yet. But, I am a fan of the place. I’m the kind of person who would write a review on Yelp for even the most average of dinners. Why not show some love to a business that has meant a lot to me over the years?

I’ve frequented BookPeople since the 1990s. Before I had a license, I took the city’s vast network of bus routes, a 90 minute venture, in order to spend perhaps an hour in the comfort of this bookstore. That’s how much this place meant to me, and I was a teenager then. The feeling has not changed now that I’m in my 30s.

I spoke with BookPeople’s CEO, Steve Bercu, briefly over the phone. I wanted to know what else I could highlight about the business that many people may not know.

Mr. Bercu was quick to emphasize community involvement. BookPeople is a business, and yes, it is the largest independent bookstore in the state, but there’s more to BookPeople than it’s success. BookPeople hosts summer literary camps that include the participation of more than a 1,000 kids each summer. BookPeople also participates in school book fairs and book drives, helping elementary and middle schools raise funds. They are also involved in the Texas Teen Book Festival and the Texas Book Festival.

BookPeople hosts more than a dozen book clubs and hosts a specialized branch of books and activities for mystery enthusiasts called, MysteryPeople. They provide story time three times a week, open to the community.

In addition to all this, BookPeople brings in authors regularly for signings and lectures. To find out who’s coming, or to learn about BookPeople’s current events, visit their calendar.

Then there’s the atmosphere: cozy and interesting. There are stacks upon stacks of books and in between those stacks are shelves crammed with objects. BookPeople carries local artisan jewelry, art, incense, soaps, stuffed animals, costumes for kids, toys, paper products, clothing, and so much more. You could spend hours looking at everything for sale and you still wouldn’t have made a dent in the inventory. BookPeople also has an in-house cafe called, CafePeople and they make the most delicious lavender and lemon infused refresher I’ve ever had.

I tried taking pictures of it all and failed. Still, I captured some visual proof to the sheer awesomeness of the place.

BookPeople
603 N. Lamar Blvd Austin, TX 78703
512-472-5050
Open 9AM – 11PM

ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas
@gnrmuggle

ASMR

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)

“Is a term used for an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine…ASMR signifies the subjective experience of “low-grade euphoria” characterised by “a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin”. It is most commonly triggered by specific acoustic, visual and digital media stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attentional control.” Wikipedia

I thought it might be nice to dedicate a blog to one of my favorite past times, indulging in ASMR videos.

ASMR has definitely assisted in bringing my mental and physical energy down at the end of the day. I’m not a good sleeper. I’m not entirely sure when I became a poor sleeper but I believe it started in childhood.

It was in these past 10 years or so that I began to investigate different ways to better my overall sleep experience.

YouTube has contributed vastly to communication, the visual arts, and just plain old nonsense. Some of the larger cornerstones of YouTube include DIY / how-to videos, makeup gurus, legit and not legit movies, music, and television shows, homegrown YouTube shows for children, and my personal favorite, ASMR videos.

If you’re still in doubt of what ASMR is, do you recall tingles running up and down your back? Your arms? Perhaps a tickling in the scalp? Have your clothes ever rippled in the breeze fluttering against your skin and gave you the shivers as a result? Ever have someone draw on your back causing ripples of sensations? Perhaps you’ve had your hair washed, brushed and cut causing a cascade of tingles? Ever have someone whisper in your ear? Perhaps the sounds of tapping on wood or crinkly plastic gave you the shivers? Perhaps you’ve seen shadows or hand movements that caused ripples on your scalp? That’s ASMR.

The ASMR effect can be induced via touch, sound, and sight.

My earliest memories of ASMR go back to elementary school when it was common for boys and girls to play the game, ‘what am I drawing’ or ‘what am I spelling.’ With one finger, a classmate would draw or spell on another kid’s back and they had to guess what it was. I got shivers every single time. Most people do.

ASMR is a wonderful sensation and if experienced for several minutes at a time, can induce potent relaxation in the body and mind. I’ve fallen asleep to a fare share of ASMR videos. While ASMR can be done on podcasts and other audio devices, I strongly recommend the visual aspect too. The visual plus the audio gives you two of the three avenues for ASMR exposure. Although some people are satisfied with just audio. Some folks mute the videos and prefer to just watch. What induces an individual’s ASMR is actually very personal. While I have several favorite YouTube ASMR artists, other people I know don’t respond to their voices or movements whatsoever.

There are a slew of artists and styles. I prefer ASMR artists who are vocal and make the videos personal to the audience. I dislike artists that don’t show their face, don’t speak, and use technique only; i.e. tapping, crinkling, general interactive movements that produce low volume sounds. It’s incredibly impersonal to me, but a lot of people don’t like it when artists are personable. These folks come for the ASMR inducing techniques only.

FOR THE BEST ASMR EXPERIENCE – WHERE HEADPHONES.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite YouTube ASMR artists:

Olivia’s Kissper ASMR (YouTube handle)
Olivia is one of the first artists I listened to and liked immediately.

  • Voice technique (soft spoken and whisper) is on point.
  • Speech technique (perfect lip smack, not too much, not too little)
  • Accent. For me, this is a bonus. Olivia is from the Czech Republic and her accent adds to the experience.
  • Very personable. Often, I made to feel that each video is made just for me and that’s a treat.
  • Unique approach. Olivia, unlike other artists, has an aim. She produces videos that come from a healing and existential point of view. Very few artists have consistent themes. While that may not be a point of interest for many, I find it distinguishes Olivia immensely. Especially as I associate the benefits of ASMR with healing and not just a trick to help me sleep.

Some of my favorite videos include her sketching here and here, discussing lucid dreaming, and a video that covers comprehensive ASMR triggers.

Whispers Red ASMR (YouTube handle)
Red is another artist I picked up early.

  • Excellent soft voice.
  • Accent. Red lives in the UK and her accent is just lovely.
  • Personable. She’s not afraid to smile and it’s genuine. Very connective.
  • Red covers a variety of topics in her videos. I’m particularly fond of her tea making videos, and hair treatments.

Gentle Whispering ASMR (YouTube handle), Masha (first name)
I discovered Masha much later but I’m glad I did.

  • Perfect voice. Soft or whisper, Masha nails it. It’s like her little voice dances in the ear.
  • Excellent lip smack use.
  • Accent. Masha is from Russia, and again, an accent just adds to the experience.
  • Masha covers a wide variety of topics. She’s made some videos that I thought would never produce tingles, and boy was I wrong. She’s made towel folding videos that cause tingles. Towel folding – I’m not kidding. I really enjoy her cooking videos and when she eats. Here’s a favorite video of Masha eating.
  • Masha is on and off personable. She’s not always the star of the show, sometimes she focuses on just technique.

Goodnight Moon (YouTube handle)
I’ve recently discovered this artist and I’m already a fan.

  • Excellent soft voice.
  • Superb visual artist. This young lady has a future in professional stage setting and more.
  • Like Olivia, GM has a theme to her work. I think it’s best summarized as story telling. Sometimes a witch is giving you the tingles, a barmaid, or a hat maker. GM also makes ASMR videos without story lines, covering a variety of things.
  • Personable. No matter which character is on display, you get the feeling of one-on-one connection to the character.

ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas
@gnrmuggle

Boeuf en Daube

Sometimes you come across food descriptions in literature written so well, so powerfully, you can’t help but wonder does it taste good cause it sounds delicious, quickly followed by the thought, could I make that?

There are many variations of the French dish Boeuf en Daube, highlighted and brought to popularity by Virginia Woolf’s To The LighthouseI am by no means a French cuisine expert, but I did find a recipe that I could work with. I will share that with you today. For more sophisticated versions of the recipe, search “boeuf en daube à la Provençal,” or try one of these two links from The Guardian and Food.com.

I made this dish last night as it was Labor Day and I had a few luxurious hours to myself. My home is still infused with the smells of red wine and herbes de provence, and it is a truly glorious smell.

Beef Stew with Red Wine (a simpler take on boeuf en daube)

Servings: 3 people (this recipe is easily doubled for 6 servings)
Total time: 2 1/2 hours

INGREDIENTS:
1.5lbs boneless beef chuck roast
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 slices of thick cut bacon, diced
shallots (4 small or 3 medium) sliced thin or diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
1c red wine
7.5 ounces (1/2 can) canned tomatoes, peeled and seeded
3 slices of orange zest (2in long)
1/2lb carrot, peeled and cut to small chunks
1/4c coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
beef broth, as needed
salt and pepper to taste

ALSO:
This is a one pot dish that requires a Dutch Oven. A dutch oven is simply a heavy cooking pot with a lid that is compatible to oven temperatures. You can find them inexpensively at places like Ross, Walmart, Home Goods, etc.
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DIRECTIONS:
1. Position a rack to the lower third of the oven, preheat to 325*.
2. Prep the beef. Cut the beef apart into 1.5-2in chunks, working along the natural seems of the beef. Trim off any thick layers of fat. Salt and pepper and set aside.
3. Heat the oil in the dutch oven pot. Cook the diced bacon to a crisp, 5-6 minutes. Remove the cooked bacon from the pot and set aside. Do not remove the oil.
4. In a single layer, add the beef and brown both sides, 5 minutes each side.
5. Remove the beef from the pot and set on a container that will also hold the juices of the beef as it rests.
6. Drain off all but 1 tbsp worth of oil from the dutch oven.
7. Add shallots and cook for 1 minute.
8. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbes de provence, saute for 1 minute.
9. Add the wine, stirring and scraping to dislodge any caramelized drippings, also called de-glazing the pan. Do not remove the drippings – this is added flavor. Bring to a simmer or low boil.
10. Poor in the liquid from the canned tomatoes and using your hand, crush the tomatoes (if they aren’t pre-diced) to pieces and add to the pot.
11. Add the orange zest.
12. Add the beef (and any accumulated juices from the resting beef), the bacon, and the carrots to the pot.
13. Place the lid on the pot and transfer the dutch oven to the oven.
14. Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, depending on the softness of the meat. STIR every 45 minutes and add beef stock as needed. If the beef stew is too thick, add beef stock 1/4c at a time. It should not be a soup, nor should it be without liquid.
15. Stir in parsley before serving.
16. Consider serving with rice, a coarse bread, or mashed potato.

The flavors are amazing…but there was something about the aroma of the house that guaranteed I would be making this dish again. The smell put me in mind of winter, a cozy wrapped-up-in-a-blanket-with-a-fire-going feeling.

My husband had two servings and asked when I would be making it again.

ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas
@gnrmuggle

PreK and Other New-to-School Adventures

welcome rainbow

I had been building E up to the idea of PreK for months, quite possibly since last year. “Soon you’ll be going to big girl school! With other big boys and girls! You’ll have so much to do and learn, and you’ll get to play everyday!”

Since last spring, I drove E around her PreK / elementary school campus so she could see it for herself. E was fascinated by all the older boys and girls running down the soccer fields and the manic little bodies running all over the playgrounds. E was eager to join and repeatedly pleaded over the summer to go to PreK as soon as possible.

Yes! I had successfully established a desire to begin her education. E was fearless and all but jumped out of bed on the first day of class.

Signing up to PreK – now that was interesting. I had contacted the school in March (thinking I was ahead of the curve) asking when the PreK program would be available for sign up. Nonchalantly, I was told the PreK program was already full (for the 2017-2018 year) and had been since January. WTF? Online, the program still had information posted from the previous school year, nothing whatsoever indicating signups for the program were then available. When I related this simple, technical fact over the phone (irritated too) the staff member, sounding flustered and caught-out, poorly related that PreK tends to fill quickly so they don’t need to advertise it, families with older kids in the school already know about the program. In other words, families already in the system are the first to know and get spots. Excuse me while I call bullshit on that.

E was put on a waiting list and in the meantime I frantically scoured other PreK programs of equally good standing and of reasonable cost for the next several days. I’d be damned if my kid was missing out. I had her signed up to another PreK program within a week and I thought all was settled…until May. I was called by that initial campus and was told, “Congratulations! E has been taken off the waiting list and can join our program.” What?

It took several layers of papers to transfer E from being officially enrolled in one campus to another. I switched her enrollment b/c it would mean E attending school at one campus for 7 years rather than switching schools right after PreK. I wanted E to have the stability I never had as a kid. Growing up, we moved often and so switched schools often. I want E to grow up with the confidence of seeing the same kids everyday, the same teachers and all at the same school.

I called the school about a week from the anticipated start date, just to clarify when I would be hearing from the PreK teacher. That was an interesting conversation. The staff member spoke to me as though I were a temperamental five year old. She referred to E by every sickly-sweet nickname on the planet without actually using her real name once, “Your darling angel…” “Your precious one…” “Your little baby-face…” and she continued on in that kid’s glove voice for the entirety of the conversation. Actually, I had only called with the one question and was given a 10 minute spiel. I had gathered that she was trying to answer questions she expected me to have as goodness knows how many more parents before me had asked. All I had was the one question, but understood immediately that the admin staff must be used to harassing parents and probably defaulted to a placating and child-glorifying tone. I felt sympathetic for the staff. While in my work profession as a university counselor, I had occasionally interacted with harassing parents but as their child was 18 or older, the call was always short-lived.

At long last, we hear from E’s PreK teacher and we schedule a meet-and-greet. I was also emailed the school supply list. That was another shock. I anticipated paper, crayons, and markers, but:

1 backpack
1 school box
2 bottles Elmer’s glue
12 glue sticks (yes, 12 sticks)
2 boxes 24 count Crayola crayons
2 boxes 10 count Crayola washable markers
2 spiral notebooks, 70 page count
1 pair blunt scissors
1 watercolor set
1 plastic pocket folder
1 package sanitizing wipes
1 box Kleenex
1 set computer headphones
1 box Ziplock sandwich bags
1 package of large white paper plates
1 pump bottle of hand soap

I have no idea how families with multiple children do this. Tuition is just under $5000 and with supplies, new clothes and shoes…it adds up and how.

At drop-off times, it’s sheer chaos. We are blocks from the school but it’s equal parts personal vehicles and kids walking, running, and bike riding to school. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have enough heads to look in any one direction for clearance. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to navigating the madness at 7:30am. Maybe that’s a good thing.

E doesn’t register any of this, nor is it her responsibility to do so. I’m thrilled that E’s thrilled as she looks up to me with a grin on her face, happy to be a big girl.

ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas
@gnrmuggle

Panic Attack / Thyroid Storm

This past week, I’ve experienced a slew of medicinally induced panic attacks (PAs).

I’ve written a blog addressing my generalized anxiety disorder. I did not discuss my experience with panic attacks simply b/c the two are not mutually exclusive. Having anxiety disorder does not guarantee regular PAs. People who experience PAs do not necessarily have issues with anxiety. There are literally two criteria needed in order to have a PA: panic (thought) and hyperventilation (physical). I’ve known persons with differing disorders, to addicts, to garden variety life-stress types who have had a PA.

On June 25th, on a 1-10 scale, I had a 6.5 PA.

I am a non-trigger type. Every PA I’ve ever had was non-trigger specific. In the past my PAs were a result of anxiety build-up, concerns I was not addressing. So…it was much to my surprise when it out of no where, at age 36 and perfectly capable of addressing my problems before they get the better of me, I ripped into a PA without warning.

I examine it, I think on it, but I can’t understand why I had a PA. It had been years since my last one and just could not understand the origin of this one.

July 1st, I had a scale 9 PA. EMS had to be called out. It was the first time I had a PA in public too. I always had that reassurance in the past, in my college and teen years when my PAs were more common, that the attacks occurred in private. I was out that Saturday morning, having breakfast with my family at our favorite place, Kerbey Lane, and not long after placing our order, I went into full PA.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

  • Racing thoughts of panic – increased by the fact that you know you’re panicking.
  • Shortness of breath – this is more severe than it sounds. “Shortness of breath” sounds easy but it’s essentially what triggers hyperventilating as shallow breathing causes you to only take in carbon dioxide.
  • Hyperventilation.
  • Lightness of being – this is a feeling of disconnectedness. It’s as though you aren’t tethered or grounded. For me, it feels like an absence of mass, as though I’m not a solid person and I’ll fall if I stand up. This is due to the lack of oxygen.
  • Tightening of the chest.
  • Shakes.
  • Involuntary muscle spasms.
  • Sweat.
  • Hot or cold sensations in the extremities.

Countering Panic Attacks

First, and this is priority, correct your breathing. You can counter and even lessen the severity of an oncoming PA just by correcting your breathing. REMEMBER – panic is the thought, but it’s shallow breathing that triggers hyperventilation. Hyperventilation causes nearly all the psychical symptoms of a PA.

  • 5-3-7. That’s the trick. Inhale through your nose by the count of 5, then, hold that breath by the count of 3, and finally exhale through the mouth (through a pursed whistle shape) by the count of 7. The count will keep the panic thoughts in check (mental occupation) and this breathing rhythm will keep you appropriately oxygenated.

Stand up. It may seem contrary to the feeling, especially if you’ve been hyperventilating, but standing up and forcing yourself to concentrate on standing and staying upright is actually helpful.

  • I was recommended to take it a step further and jog in place. Let me tell you, I do jog in place and it works. The extra movement forces a more correct breathing pattern – it’s all about the breath, I’m telling you.

Gripping. Get something in one or both hands and grip it. This helps counter the lightness feeling. A strong grip grounds you and brings you to the present.

  • If it’s available, try gripping an ice cube. The discomfort a piece of ice causes is both grounding as it is mentally occupying.

Keep telling yourself the panic is in the mind, all else is a matter of breathing. You can get the physical manifestations under control if you can get your breathing under control.

It’s hard to believe that so much comes down to breath. But then, think about it, in an emergency, nearly the first question asked by anyone is, ‘are they breathing?’

Don’t you wish it was this simple:

Panic+attack_d638df_5296555

Things to Keep in Mind

  • THE WORST, and I mean THE WORST that can possibly happen to you, is you pass out from the lack of oxygen. Once you are unconscious, the body self-corrects for you. You will not die. You will wake up.
  • The severity of the PA can be lessened, even completely countered.
  • After the PA, you will be tired. Your fight/flight response was triggered and now your brain and body have been flooded with adrenaline. Your PA may last 5 minutes or half an hour, but you will feel as though you’ve run a marathon after the fact.
  • Your brain goes jelly. It may be difficult to keep your thoughts in order immediately after the PA.
  • If you experience PAs regularly, you should strongly consider taking up cardio. You learn to breathe better while managing stress at the same time.

Thyroid Storm

But here’s the thing. After July 1st, my body was shaking regularly. My chest felt flighty, like I could go into a PA at any moment. For the next several days, I was a twitching, nervous wreck. I stopped driving, I stopped exercising. This wasn’t about a panic attack anymore.

Thankfully, I had my sister on the phone relaying all my non-regular reactions to these current PAs. She said, no Christina, get your meds checked.

Oh shit. My thyroid medication.

I had lost a lot of my hypothyroid weight and my prescription for treatment was very high. High for someone with a higher weight.

And the penny dropped.

I put in an emergency call to my thyroid manager and told her what was going on. She ordered a blood draw to be done the same day. With uncontrollable hands, I somehow managed to download the Uber app (recently back in business here in Austin, thankfully) and in less than 5 minutes, I and my 4-year old were loaded into the car and on our way the nearest blood pathology clinic.

The next morning, my provider told me I was experiencing “thyroid storm,” a lethal reaction to excess hormone in my system. My most recent weight loss had tipped me into the danger zone. I nearly fainted onto the sweat soaked examination bed.  My hands and feet were shaking, I was drenched in sweat, and I could barely keep two thoughts together.

Thyroid storm is usually associated with people who have hyperthyroid. But it is possible to be medicinally induced via prescription meant to counter hypothyroid.  No matter how it occurs, thyroid storm is very lethal. I narrowly avoided hospitalization or worse.

If there’s anyone out there who has hypothyroid disorder, assuming you are receiving a Rx that contains the T3 AND T4 hormone, and you begin to feel something like a PA as I’ve described, you need to see your thyroid manager.

Currently, I’m 3 days off my Rx and then I will resume a half dose regime…and I’m tired as hell. My body is exhausted. My brain has been repeatedly washed in panic and fear for nearly a week. But I’m here and a little more knowledgeable. You think you got your disorder in control and then come to find, there is still yet more to experience on the roller coaster you thought you knew so well.

Protein Powders

As I related in my “Big Mama” blog, I thoroughly enjoy exercise. While my weight is often a mystery wrapped in an enigma, some things are consistent: cardio, weights, sweat, aches and pains, and nutritional supplements.

I’ve gone through a lot of protein powders over the years. Some I used and repurchased, others I stopped using almost immediately. With each brand I’ve tried, I became a little more savvy in finding my optimal, supplemental requirements. Not all protein powders are created equally. Not by a long shot. It’s shocking how many are sold at top dollar and are little more than fillers.

You have to do the research. Narrowing down the protein madness means understanding what you are trying to get from your powder.

I find it surprising though, my opinion on the subject is almost always sought out by women. For instance, my sister once expressed confusion, stating she only understood men to use protein powders and, “doesn’t that stuff jack you up?” No. No it does not. I mean it can, if I were to consume 4 to 6 times – daily – the amount of protein my body actually needs, and I worked out about 6 hours a day.

Regardless of sex, the human body needs protein, more so if you make physical demands on your body (i.e. exercise, daily hard labor, etc). Protein is needed to repair muscles as well as keep them going –  just in the general sense. The more you demand from them, the more you should consider supplemental nutrition. It seems obvious, but it’s not and for a lot of people.

*General “good” qualities of a superior protein powder:

High Yield (protein) vs Filler (fillers may be good or bad)

  • Very few powders are %100 protein, 96% at most. For better, and sometimes worse, components are added to either enhance the product (amino acids and fiber) or to cheapen the product and for a variety reasons (reducing consumer costs and flavoring are the two big reasons). You need to know what additives are actually beneficial vs the filler crap. That requires research your part…
  • Ex: One serving may breakdown as 75% protein and 25% filler. Filler may be BCAAs / EAAs, or some percentage of fiber (very good stuff) OR that 25% may be sugar fillers, additives and worse, added to make the product more tasty, but ultimately less than nutritious (not good stuff).

The inclusion of BCAAs and EAAs

  • Branch Chain Amino Acids and Essential Amino Acids. These are very important. Higher quality protein powders will include these. You can read up on amino acids and how they benefit the body by clicking on the links above.

Wide range of protein sources offered by one company line

  • The most well known and used source for protein nutrition is Whey, Whey is the protein king simply because it is more readily available. The better companies will offer a range of protein supplements outside of Whey, such as Egg, Soy, and plant-based protein powders. Obviously, Whey and Egg protein powders are not vegan friendly.
  • Here is an excellent list of best animal-based and best plant-based protein powders. They also include a list of the worst.

Digestibility.

  • Some Whey products are better than others. This is the difference between WPI and WPC. Whey Protein Isolate is faster acting and is generally considered superior to Whey Protein Concentrate, which is a larger molecule and slower to digest or burn. The smaller the molecule, the faster the protein is digested and is not a burden on the gut. The larger the molecule, the longer it takes to break down and feels like it’s “sitting” on the stomach. Some bodybuilders prefer the slower acting as their powder works longer, throughout the day, but most people prefer a faster acting protein.
  • Here is an article that breaks down the different source types of Whey.

*General “bad” qualities found in inferior protein powders:

Common Fillers

  • The most common include: SUGAR, flavor additives, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, all of which are counter to the point of being healthy.
  • HOWEVER, small amounts of sugar substitutes are generally okay (truvia, stevia, and the like) The odds of you finding some sugar substitute, even in the highest quality protein powder, is very likely.

Toxic Fillers (people don’t know or aren’t paying attention)

  • Cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and more. These have actually existed in some top selling protein powders.

Cheap

  • On that note, read the first and second points of Simple Truths below.

Ion Exchange

  • It’s garbage. Pick up any container that states it’s a protein powder was made using the Ion Exchange method, do yourself a favor and put it back down and walk away. It will be cheap! But an inferior product. The Ion method basically strips many of the essential sub-components of a quality protein powder.

*There are many factors to take into consideration when investing in a protein powder. YOU HAVE TO DO YOUR RESEARCH. I simply cannot cover all the factors.*

Simple Truths:
1. Higher quality protein will cost you more. The cheaper, the less effective. High quality protein undergoes rigorous treatment in order to maximize – per serving – the amount of protein yielded balanced with necessary sub-benefits like BCAAs and EAAs.

2. On that same note, companies are more than happy to charge you a great deal more for a crap product b/c it is understood by consumers that “the good stuff” costs more. That’s why it is imperative that you know how to read the label. Don’t just buy the first expensive thing you see on the shelf, READ THE F*CKING LABEL. Remember, the labels can be pretty, and slick, and modern but that doesn’t mean that 5-gallon protein bucket has much nutritional benefit to it.

3. So why all that sugar and flavor additives? I’ll tell you – taste. For some reason, people will base their expensive, nutritionally-based decisions on taste. People essentially would like to drink a protein product that tastes like a dessert and are surprised when a month later, they end up questioning the usefulness of their product. A lot of articles on “best” protein powders will factor in flavor as a pro or con – I don’t. It’s non-sense. Taste does not determine the product’s effectiveness. 

  • A good quality protein powder will likely taste awful, or at best, not-that-bad. The more it tastes like a tasty treat, the higher the bad kind of fillers. Get over the flavor factor, people. You’re looking for a healthy, nutritional supplement, not a drinkable dessert.
  • To refer to the ‘bad list‘ again, 3 of the 5 mentioned as “worst” are actually top sellers if for no other reason than brand recognition, and people raving about the “taste.”
  • With a little work, a little trial and error, you can craft some very tasty smoothies. If you’re thinking ‘milkshakes’ you’ve already lost. You need a blender and willingness to blend fruits and vegetables and healthy, base-line fluids to make your protein drink. I’ll tell you later what my current favorite recipes are.

PROTEIN POWDERS I’VE TRIED

Everything I’m about to discuss is strictly my opinion, based on the impression of the product as I’ve experienced it.

I had two goals when I first started purchasing protein powder: to reduce muscle stress as I exercise regularly, and reduce water retention, a lifelong issue for me. I started out completely ignorant on the subject and I made very rookie mistakes from the start.

All products have been consumed at a rate of one serving per day of exercise, not daily.

The first protein powders I’ve used: Now Sports Whey Protein Concentrate and Isolate

now WPC

Let me tell you, I was miserable. That stuff sat on my stomach for hours. I looked it up to see if this reaction was normal and that’s when I learned about Concentrate vs Isolate.

Which led to:

now WPI

Obviously, this was significantly less stressful on my stomach. I bought this label a few times, and the extra protein did reduce my water weight, by nearly 10 lbs as I recall. But, my body was still overly sore between exercise days. I decided to keep looking. By this time I added a third goal: meal replacement.

My next venture was Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard:

on gold

This guy is a top seller on Amazon, it’s in nearly every store that sells Whey products too. It’s good but there’s better. In my experience, it kept my water weight down, and at the start, did act as a meal replacement. Over time, as my body got used to it, I was still hungry after consuming a serving. Muscle recovery was similar. There was improvement in experiencing less general achiness, but that didn’t last.

I found this guy by accident at my local Central Market (H-E-B):

cm protein

By this time I had learned about the importance of BCAAs and this powder was the first product I found that was all organic, non-gmo, and with a robust amino acid profile. I repurchased this particular powder the most and it worked well with me for a long while. It did not meet the meal replacement goal but it did reduce the general feeling of bodily stress from intense exercising. I was happy with this one for a long time.

I tried this one b/c my favorite was out and wouldn’t be restocked at my local store for awhile. I still regret this purchase. The guy who was in the health supplement aisle sold me on it b/c he said all his customers raved about the taste. I wished I had known better, but I did not: BSN Syntha-6

bsn powder

This is powdered dessert in a jar. It did nothing for me and I ended up throwing the remainder away. After basic research, this is a classic “junk” powder. It’s slick packaging, and sells like hotcakes (tastes like em’ too) but the nutritional payoff is not substantial. There’s a reason they offer 9 or so flavors like: cookies and cream, chocolate and peanut butter, chocolate cake, etc.

By this time, I had added a new goal into what I wanted from my protein powder: fiber. My appetite has changed drastically over the past year as my doctor fine tunes my medications for hypothyroid and high blood sugar (non-diabetic type, just a little high). I eat less now, and I had seen for myself how liquids are an excellent way of consuming calories while not feeling overburdened. I needed more fiber, but didn’t want what appetite I had to be strictly dominated by eating greens.

My requirements for a protein powder (today) include: muscle nutrition support, water weight management, meal replacement, and fiber inclusion.

Only this guy fits the bill and to date is my favorite protein powder as it takes care of all four of my requirements: Vega All-in-One

vega

The nutritional profile on this bad boy is breathtaking. Also, I know it’s the best b/c it tastes like sh*t, lol. No, but really though, be prepared to mix this with something…the taste is just…it’s just bad.

I am not a vegan, plant-based protein had never even entered my mind until I started researching protein powders with a fiber component. I am so GLAD I did. I saw real reviewers who were tired of trying to decipher all the sugar-laden monstrosities out there and went plant-based instead. This powder is ALL ORGANIC, NON-GMO, NO SUGAR ADDED, GLUTEN FREE (if that’s a concern for you). But man! Just look at the nutritional profile! And a decent serving of protein per scoop (I wouldn’t want less than 20 grams).

This powder actually inspired a fifth factor in my preferred powders: energy boost. I’ve never experienced “energy boosting” qualities in any powder I’ve ever tried. It never occurred to me look for it either. Vega One, b/c it’s all plant-based, green nutrition, I actually get a little, gentle energy boost from it. It’s mild, but it’s there and it’s awesome, especially before a workout.

To date, I have tried all the flavors of Vega’s All-in-One powders and the ones that are easiest to manipulate via fruits, vegetables, and fluids are the chocolate version and the coconut almond version (my favorite).

A simple recipe for the chocolate version

  • 4 oz water and 8 oz of Silk’s Unsweetened Coconut & Almond (or combination milk, water, or milk alternative) – Vega One is a vegan product, naturally, they are not going to recommend the use of animal milk on their label – and they don’t – but that doesn’t mean you can’t.
  • 1 whole banana
  • 1-2 tablespoons of PB2. You can find this with the protein powders, made for them actually. PB2 is an easy way to offset the less than pleasant taste of some powders. Unless you’re allergic to peanuts.
  • 1 scoop of the protein powder
  • Blend until smooth.

My favorite recipe for my favorite powder, the Vega’s All-in-One Coconut, Almond:

  • 4 oz water and 8 oz Silk’s Unsweetened Coconut & Almond (my favorite milk alternative, very tasty)
  • 1 scoop of the protein powder
  • Shake until smooth. The end. It’s actually very good with just the unsweetened coconut and almond milk.

I can’t stress enough the importance of two things when considering a protein powder:

1) Your willingness to research ahead of time. Understanding the different types and what they do. Knowing what a powder should include vs what it should not include.

2) Understanding what you want from a powder based on that research, and your own personal goals.

Some people do want to bulk up. Others just want to stay lean. Others want to reduce their muscle stress b/c they exercise often. Others might want a little more protein in their diet. There are so many reasons.

I hope this was helpful.

Tattoo Cover-Up

This is a picture of my first tattoo, a Guns N’ Roses tribute tatt. I’m afraid this is a poor representation. This picture was taken about 5 laser treatments into the process of fading it. The greens, the reds, the black were all once strongly defined. And that image is not out of focus either. Lasers busted up the ink and made the image faded as well as fuzzy.

GN'R Tatt Laser Treated

I got my band tattoo at age 21 and I took care of it. I got it done right the first time so I never needed touch-ups; I used Aquaphor and other lotions meticulously to keep my ink fresh. Tattooed skin needs moisturizer, I cannot stress this enough. A tattoo is an investment, not to mention a visual representation of you, so it’s in your best interest to take care of it.

A cover-up is a testament to my having learned a few things since my first tattoo. The music of Guns N’ Roses helped me through some of the worst times of my life, it made sense to me to declare to the world that I was a fan – to show my immense appreciation for their influence in my life. I learned that as time went by, my once heart-felt tattoo didn’t hold the same meaning. However, there was no way I could foresee that at age 21. And that’s fine.

I have come to understand, the best kind of tattoo is a display that you would like to see on your body everyday, and not something that is so specific it runs the jeopardy of losing its meaning over time.
Here’s a short list of specific tattoo concepts people often regret:
– Anyone’s name
– Dates
– Tribute names / concepts (bands, musicians, actors, etc.)
– Negative ideologies (racist tatts, gang tatts, etc.)

There are more, as you might imagine, but those listed above are what tattoo artists and laser clinicians alike agree come up the most in terms of client regrets. Artists are often paid to cover them up, or the laser clinicians are often paid to erase them.

As I got older, I felt less of a need to tell the world of my dedication to a band. It’s such a strange and personal thing. To feel something so strongly that one day you sit down and literally pay someone to “stitch” your skin. Then so many years later you look at you tattoo and think, ‘Gee, I just don’t need that anymore.’ The most important aspect to the band is the music and I have that. There is no love lost where the music is concerned. My Twitter handle is a combination of my favorite influences FFS. I know what GN’R’s music did for me, I’m not trying to erase the memories or the influence, I just don’t need the physical representation anymore. The thanks is there, tattoo or no, just like for any fan.

And by the way, this isn’t an opinion piece. I’m not looking for your approval or otherwise in my taste of music. I am trying to impress upon readers that familiar feeling of kinship to something you could only be the recipient of. You’re a fan at most, an audience member at best. Despite the lack of proximity to what inspires you, you develop a strong feeling even so, and beyond all comprehension, you dedicate a piece of skin to it. It’s a strange thing, man. It’s a strange fuckin’ thing. And deeply personal. I recall in my college years people rudely demanding that I explain myself and my tattoo. I only humored those with an explanation who bothered to ask nicely, all else got a head shake and a “fuck off.”

I did seriously consider complete removal for there is a genuine concern that no matter how much I may like a new tattoo piece, there is always that chance I will tire of it so many years down the road too. But my inner self detested the thought of a blank page. I want something there. I want a form of expression. I like the idea of something being there more than the idea of totally blank skin. I’ll take the chance as I generally enjoy looking down and seeing something that’s completely and totally mine, and not like anybody else.

This led me to covering up my old tattoo. I would choose a new tatt and this time work with the principal of stitching permanent art rather than a “dedication” concept, although in total honesty, I seriously thought about a David Bowie tribute tatt. But no! Stay the course woman! Because I kept my GN’R tattoo in excellent condition, I was advised to lift it via laser treatments.

LASER TREATMENTS
I can only speak of the laser treatments provided by Eraser Clinic, here in Austin, Texas. I chose them because they use the most advanced laser technology. They can remove all colors – ALL – and in half as many session (or less) than other laser treatment facilities that use older laser tech. With only 5 treatments, Eraser Clinic managed to lift a lot. My sessions cost $125 per treatment, at a pace of 10-12 weeks apart.

What it was like

  • Ever thwack yourself with a line trimmer doing yard work? That’s exactly what a laser sensation is like but I would say the pain is several degrees less and is very specific to the spot that’s being treated.
  • It’s quick. Laser treatments for my tatt took all of 10 minutes per session.
  • Because it is a laser, the effect produces heat, so every few seconds the technician will use a rapid cooling hose to cool down and numb the area.
  • For 3 days post treatment, you wear a basic bandage that requires changing once a day. You gently clean the area, reapply the gel, or Aquaphor, and apply a fresh bandage.
  • After 3 days, you can take the bandage off and watch the tattoo fade.
  • Depending on the skin, there may be reactionary bumping and scabbing. That’s normal. If you’ve ever had a bug bite you can handle it.

TATTOO PROCESS
So…I’m guessing there are folks out there who’ve never had the experience before and are thinking, ‘It’s pain isn’t it!? It’s all pain!?’ No. It’s really not all that. True, it does depend on the location of the tattoo, but the general rule is wherever the skin receives the least day-to-day exposure is the most sensitive. I don’t recommend your first tattoo to be on your inner thigh or top of your foot. My rose cover-up cost $150.

I received my first tattoo from Atomic Tattoo, Austin, Texas.
My cover-up was done by Mom’s Tattoo (Austin), specifically by artist Jordan, cover-up extraordinaire. Thanks, Jordan.

Here is the outline of the new tattoo over the old.20170528_132013

What it was like
*The rose cover-up tatt felt exactly like my GN’R tatt so I’m generalizing from both experiences.*

  • You feel the needle, at first. Visually, I think of a sewing machine. A needle moves up and down quickly, but with less power. This is also why I call the process “stitching.”
  • After seconds to a few minutes, I, personally, stop feeling the very specific needle penetrating movements. Instead, the vibrations of the needling gun take over. I feel a series of minor vibrations – that’s it. This sensation goes on for a while until…
  • Your skin starts getting fed up. Depending on the time your tatt takes (many people get their designs broken up into multiple sessions depending on the size, cost, and level of pain endurance) eventually your skin gets tired. There will be blood. And THAT is when you actually feel the needle. The skin isn’t bouncing back and begins to tear a bit. Tearing is normal, especially as the artist has to go back into places for shading or coloring.
  • Both tatts took about 90-110 minutes. For me, that 90 minute mark is when I really start feeling the needle. Here’s a pic of the bandage where you can see some standard bleeding. (Yes, I am aware of what it looks like. Don’t be a little bitch.)
    20170528_194847

And here is the rose cover-up. This is only 3 days after the actual stitching. There is still redness that will continue to reduce over the next week. It is a black and flesh tattoo, with just traces of white for highlighting purposes. Again, the red will fade out (the skin is still healing) and is not part of the finished tatt.

20170531_091023

What I really appreciate about my cover-up, and the level of skill behind it, is that Jordan, my artist, was able to give me a black and flesh tatt despite it being a cover-up. I thought I was going to have use color, but no. When the redness is completely gone, I’ll be left with an image that looks natural to my body, like it had always been there, and that’s the goal.

I’ll update with another image in a couple of weeks.

I hope you enjoyed this piece.

Big Mama

My 4-year-old, let’s call her “E”, asked me some time ago if I was a “big mama.” I had just picked her up from daycare, which she attends maybe once a week. Once a week and for a few hours is more than enough for kids to pick up all sorts of things. One thing all kids seem to do is compare parents. I already imagined the scenario, another kid, seeing me dropping E off and picking her up again, saw my size and was curious. This kid must have said something.

In fairness, I do tend to make an impression on others. It’s not unusual that I get second looks when I’m out. First, I’m a 5’9 female with wide shoulders and long arms. I’ve also developed a modest muscular presentation in my arms and legs from years of running and weight lifting. But what the kid was most likely referring to when they asked E if I was her “big mama” was my overall size.

I have hypothyroid (hypoT) disease. It’s pretty severe in that the gland, for me, is non-functioning. The thing about the thyroid gland is that it can be temperamental. Some days it works, other days it doesn’t. I have always been on the side of overweight. Gaining weight was always easy for me and I never understood why. I was overweight since childhood. My weight was always assumed by others to be a fault in myself.

For years, my thyroid functioned erratically. Unfortunately, unless you’re working with a thyroid specialist straight out of the gate, most medical professionals will dismiss hypothyroidism as the problem as soon as your blood work comes back fine. LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING: I’ve had 3 thyroid tests in my lifetime and only ONE came back as being defective. My thyroid had to completely cease function before I was given the diagnosis of hypothyroid. By then, I had nearly lapsed into a coma. A MOTHERFUCKING COMA.

I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH – WHEN YOU HAVE A TEMPERAMENTAL THYROID [SOMETIMES THE GLAND WORKS, SOMETIMES IT DOESN’T] YOUR BLOOD RESULTS COMING BACK AS DEFICIENT BECOMES LESS LIKELY EVEN IF YOU MATCH THE SYMPTOMS PERFECTLY. Before that 3rd test, I had to deal with years of inexplicable weight gain, sensitivity to temperature, and generally just feeling like shit. The best advice I can give you if you suspect hypoT in yourself, get blood work done on a BAD day, that is when the deficiency is more likely to show up in your blood work. A bad day with hypoT, and I’ve had a lot of them, feels a lot like: lethargy or tiredness with little to no exertion to explain it, a feeling of internal coldness (feeling cold regardless of environmental temperature), a general achiness (again, without cause for the feeling), no appetite, recent weight gain, reduced or no bowel movement. And this kind of bad day, by the way, seems to happen every now and again when you have an on-and-off thyroid. By the time my thyroid completely broke (post-pregnancy), I felt the above everyday, all day. I was putting on as much as 7 pounds a week. My body was shutting down as it was no longer shifting liquids and solids as it was meant too.

I didn’t realize my weight problems, my temperature problems, my on-and-off again lethargy all came down to a temperamental thyroid gland that eventually gave out under the demands of pregnancy. My doctor once told me that roughly 7% of women with a tricky gland, their thyroid completely shuts down during or immediately after pregnancy. Pregnancy is a demanding process and it’s taxing on the thyroid. Many medical professionals told me I was just experiencing the baby blues, a mild form of postpartum depression. I hated them for that. Post-pregnancy finds a new mom at her most vulnerable and now I had guilt instead of joy. Baby blues, like postpartum, is completely faultless in the mom, but it still had me feeling that my natural reaction to pregnancy was a sense of incapability. I’ve only ever known myself to be a capable person.

I survived my parents and their bullshit (drugs, alcohol, neglect, abuse), I survived lifelong, borderline crushing anxiety. I put myself through school, twice, on my own financially and in every other regard. I launched my career. I became a professional whose opinion was trusted and respected. I had a successful adult relationship and marriage. I didn’t trust this idea of “baby blues” but what could I do? I kept at trying to break through this bad, horrid everyday feeling, thinking that any day I would begin to enjoy, at last, my newborn daughter and experience all the joys new moms are meant too.

Some time after E’s first birthday, I found myself huddled on the couch in two sweatshirts, two sweatpants, two pairs of socks, shivering, incapable of being warm while it raged 104 degrees outside in the hot Texas sun. I recall drifting out of conscience and coming-to a few hours later, E screaming for her bottle.

I made an appointment with a nearby internist and made it clear over the phone that I wanted thorough blood work done, and if the doctor I saw mentioned “baby blues” once, or any variation thereof, I would walk out and refuse to pay the bill. I recall the look of express concern on the doctor’s face when she got my blood results back…

Since my diagnosis, I switched from an internist to a women’s health / hormone specialist (I wanted the cross-cover). Unfortunately, hypothyroid treatment isn’t a one-size-fits-all. I did not react well on the initial medication Levothyroxine, also called Synthroid. The internist I was seeing either didn’t want to try anything else or didn’t know too so I got a second opinion – ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA. My new specialist changed up my Rx and now I am on the effective medication called Nature-Thyroid. Love that stuff.

Three years later, my meds have been slowly but surely upped to a high dosage and I feel great. It’s the kind of great I remember when I was my most athletic self during college. I ran, I swam, I did yoga and weightlifting.

No mater my size throughout my life, I always kept up with my running and exercising – always. It didn’t matter what size I was, I always put the work in, even on my bad days, especially on my bad days. Perhaps that was foolish, but I really thought that I could “shake” this thing I understood to be the baby blues. I could never explain my weight gains in the past, swift and easy as they were. I think I just assumed I put on weight easily as I had nothing else to go on. Now I know, I’ve always had a shitty thyroid. When I put on weight in the past, I also knew I had to work twice as hard to take it off. Where most people either cut back their calories a bit or exercise a little more, I had to do both and in extreme measures to get results.

I’m so thankful for my discipline, that same discipline that got me through the hardest years of my life, got me through this too. I knew my body, strange as it was in it’s expression, I still knew it. I knew something was wrong despite what the medical world was telling me. And I’m thankful I kept up with my exercising. The weight is pretty much flying off now, and the muscles I took pains to develop and maintain for years are showing through once more. But there was enough weight around my middle that one of E’s daycare friends asked her if I was E’s “big mama.”

So when E’s little upturned face looked into mine, not sure if she should be concerned or not about some other kid’s potential judgement of me, I said, “Heck yes I’m your Big Mama. I’m the biggest and strongest mama there is,” and playfully flexed my muscular arm. E lights up, understanding my size is a good thing, and that the other kid who asked her was admiring me and not dissing her mama. That other kid and their observation, whether it was admiring, neutral or a negative, doesn’t matter. I took control of the question and its meaning, because I am the big mama. I wouldn’t be any other kind of mama, I told E.

That was about 6 months ago. Since then, E likes to run up to me and squeeze my ever shrinking middle and say, “I love my big mama! I have the strongest mama!”

Kid, you’re damn right you do.

My aim in these pics are to show what muscular development looks like in a plus-size body; I’m currently hovering at size 12. The more weight I lose, the more I “unearth” my muscles. I’ve been athletic since college, regardless of my weight.  Also, I want to impress upon people size AND athletic competence are not mutually exclusive. I can hold my own very well compared to someone half my size, and all because I never lost my discipline for exercise. Currently, I exercise 4 days a week at 60-70 minutes per session. I practice a combination of cardio, weights, and endurance.

PS – I can’t keep a straight face when flexing, I’m physically incapable of it.

20170531_090446

Runner’s legs. When I flex, my calf muscles bunch and define. Sorry, the lighting’s crap.

20170531_090959

ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas
@gnrmuggle

Anxiety: About Me

My brain is the bone, anxiety is the dog.

Anxiety has been with me, my constant companion, since childhood. Kids aren’t generally diagnosed in childhood when it comes to known disorders like anxiety, depression, etc. and for good reason, it’s just not a safe idea. Children can and will “qualify” for a variety of disorders just as the laws of being a child and growing up dictate. But some children do legitimately experience real issues and from a young age too. I was one of them. Had I not been a child of the 80s, things might have been markedly different than growing up in today’s more knowledgeable and aware society.

Back then, I was just Christina, and “Christina’s wound up a little tight.” As I was often described by family and teachers. I never denied it, I knew what they meant because I was far from unaware. Anxiety allows that superpower, hyper-sensitivity. This sensitivity is often misunderstood to mean easily triggered feelings or spontaneously emotive and the like. Not for me and not for most anxiety-riddled individuals. We keep a strong grip on our feelings for fear of losing control, for it seems we can’t control much else. We cannot control the demanding pace of our thoughts, nor the amount of information that we are bombarded with. Hyper-sensitivity means being aware of all things at all times. I saw every facial expression, heard every tone of voice, saw every minute bodily movement when adults spoke of, but never actually addressed, me. Things didn’t change much as an adult.

I always heard more than was said. I always saw more than was visible. I was always thinking while never sharing. Teachers often suspected that I was a daydreamer simply because I gave that impression of having the ‘lights on but no one was home,’ look. Sometimes I did daydream, but not in the scribble-in-my-notebook kind of way. No. I took lessons and began to mentally apply them before the lecture was over. While in one lesson, I was often working out the homework from another subject. Everything seemed to have a natural course of thought, I simply followed it to its end, by which time, the instructor wasn’t actually needed. This process was the only way I could keep my always anxious mind occupied. If left to its own devices, my anxiety would be allowed to build until I worked myself into a sweat over things I could not control.

This blog is more for me than anyone else, I know that. What prompted it was a brief but telling visit to my daughter’s pediatrician. My kid is not an easy patient. When she’s overwhelmed, she screams. Shots do it every time. Her scream is brief but piercing. And I’m not at all phased when it happens. The thing about anxious people, we dwell on every possible outcome, every plausible horrid scenario until we are exhausted with our own thoughts. By the time some disaster comes along, or better still something just generally “uncomfortable” does happen, we aren’t phased. In fact, I would go so far as to say a person of anxiety might be one of the calmest people in the room. I know I am. I’ve seen whatever is happening already in my head, a hundred times or so, and a hundred times worse. In this, I have another superpower. I’m very rarely surprised. I find most movies, television shows, even novels to be predictable. I find most day-to-day interactions tedious as I know what someone is going to more or less say or do before they say or do it. I may sound like an asshole, but that doesn’t make what I said any less true. It’s just what I experience everyday.

When the nurses look like they might run from the room by my daughter’s ear shattering pitch, when the doctor is incapable of maintaining an impartial face, in fact, the doctor is looking at my kid in disgust, I take over. I know what to say, I know what to do, and my child is a willing participant once more. I make a mental note to research new pediatricians in my area. If I’m calmer and more capable than a pediatrician…I mean come on.

There’s a good chance my kid will grow up with her own anxious companion. Where I kept what alarmed and overwhelmed me to myself, she lets her discomfort be known. She’s wonderfully verbal like that. So that’s something. It is the responsibility of each new generation of parents to be better than those before. If that’s true – and it is – I’m much relieved. If my kid can express herself when she feels overwhelmed then she’s already doing better than me by miles. As a kid, my normal day started with someone telling me not to be weird, and just be like other kids. “Relax,” I was told. “Just have fun,” I heard a lot. “Just be normal.”

I suppose if my child is ever inclined to read these blogs when she’s older, I would want her to know that being yourself is the new normal. As you grow up, your need to scream when overwhelmed will lessen and eventually stop. You will develop your own tricks to divert your worrisome mind. You will have bad days, and you will have brilliant days – just like everyone else. You will see the advantages to anxiety where others can only see the obvious disadvantages. You will leave many behind who cannot understand you, or just won’t take the time to. I know I did, and those folks I’ve dropped along the path to growing up aren’t missed.

I’ve envisioned the scenarios as to what life might have been like had I not had anxiety disorder. I have to say I’m not impressed. Those lives – they all look predictable to me.

ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas
@gnrmuggle

Personality: The 16 Types (Blog 5 of 5)

According to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT), the USA population percentage breakdown of each type is as follows:
(I) = 47-55%    (E) = 45-53%
(S) = 66-74%   (N) = 26-34%
(T) = 40-50%   (F) = 50-60%
(J) = 54-60%    (P) = 40-46%*

*Depending on the statistical averages of other test providers, the numbers can be very specific, down to an exacting number, however, I believe in making room for variance. I find variance to better reflect averages when dealing with large scale population numbers, and the simple fact that people do sometimes change.*

And here we are, the 16 personality types of the MBTI.**
**Some of the following observations have been provided by Truity.**


ISTJ “The Inspector”
(11-14% of the US population)

Quiet and serious, ISTJs are practical, orderly, matter-of-fact, logical, realistic, and dependable. They are naturally inclined to take responsibility for everything they understand to have a stake in. ISTJs make up their own minds as to what should be accomplished and work towards that goal steadily, regardless of protests or distractions.

“Although they are Introverted, ISTJs are rarely isolated; typical ISTJs know just where they belong in life, and want to understand how they can participate in established organizations and systems. They concern themselves with maintaining the social order and making sure that standards are met.” – Truity

Popular ISTJ Careers


ISFJ “The Protector”
(9-14% of the US population)

Quiet, friendly, responsible and conscientious. ISFJs work devotedly to meet their obligations. ISFJs are known to lend stability to any group or project. They are thorough, painstaking, and accurate. ISFJs are loyal, considerate and very perceptive, even preoccupied with how others are feeling.

“They are steady and committed workers with a deep sense of responsibility to others. They focus on fulfilling their duties, particularly when they are taking care of the needs of other people. They want others to know that they are reliable and can be trusted to do what is expected of them. They are conscientious and methodical, and persist until the job is done.” – Truity

Popular ISFJ Careers


INFJ “The Counselor”
(1-3% of the US population)

INFJs succeed by perseverance, originality, and a desire to do whatever is needed or wanted. INFJs are respected for their firm principles. They are likely to be honored for their ideals, and followed for their clear visions of how to do the most good for the common good.

“INFJs are guided by a deeply considered set of personal values. They are intensely idealistic, and can clearly imagine a happier and more perfect future. They can become discouraged by the harsh realities of the present, but they are typically motivated and persistent in taking positive action nonetheless. The INFJ feels an intrinsic drive to do what they can to make the world a better place.” – Truity

Popular INFJ Careers


INTJ “The Mastermind”
(2-4% of the US population)

INTJs have original mindsets; they are driven and energized by their own ideas and purposes. They have long-range vision and find meaningful patterns in external happenings. INTJs are naturally skeptical, critical, independent, and determined. They have very high standards for competence and performance.

“Often intellectual, INTJs enjoy logical reasoning and complex problem-solving. They approach life by analyzing the theory behind what they see, and are typically focused inward, on their own thoughtful study of the world around them. INTJs are drawn to logical systems and are much less comfortable with the unpredictable nature of other people and their emotions. They are typically independent and selective about their relationships, preferring to associate with people who they find intellectually stimulating.” – Truity

Popular INTJ Careers


ISTP “The Craftsman”
(4-6% of the US population)

ISTPs could easily be described as cool onlookers; cool, reserved, observant, and analyze with a detached curiosity. They are also known for their unexpected flashes of odd and original humor. ISTPs are interested in cause and effect relationships, how and why mechanical things work, and have an appreciation for organizing facts. ISTPs excel at finding the core of a problem and finding a solution.

“Because of their astute sense of their environment, they are good at moving quickly and responding to emergencies. ISTPs are reserved, but not withdrawn: the ISTP enjoys taking action, and approaches the world with a keen appreciation for the physical and sensory experiences it has to offer.” – Truity

Popular ISTP Careers


ISFP “The Composer”
(5-9% of the US population)

ISFPs are friendly, sensitive, kind and modest about their abilities. They do not engage in disagreements, and do not force their opinions or values on others. ISFPs are not typically leaders but are often loyal followers. They are often relaxed about getting things done because they enjoy the moment do not want to spoil the moment by undue haste or exertion.

“ISFPs are gentle caretakers who live in the present moment and enjoy their surroundings with cheerful, low-key enthusiasm. They are flexible and spontaneous, and like to go with the flow to enjoy what life has to offer. ISFPs are quiet and unassuming, and may be hard to get to know. However, to those who know them well, the ISFP is warm and friendly, eager to share in life’s many experiences.” – Truity

Popular ISFP Careers


INFP “The Healer”
(4-5% of the US population)

INFPs are quiet observers, idealistic, and loyal. Their outer lives must be congruent with their inner values. INFPs are curious and quick to see possibilities, and often serve as a catalyst to implement ideas. They are adaptable, flexible, and accepting unless a personal value is threatened. INFPs want to understand people and ways to help others reach their potential. They hold little value with possessions or surroundings.

“They are often concerned with a search for meaning and truth within themselves. Following tradition holds little appeal for the INFP; they prefer to do their own exploration of values and ideas, and decide for themselves what seems right. INFPs are often offbeat and unconventional, but they feel no desire to conform. The INFP would rather be true to themselves than try to fit in with the crowd.” – Truity

Popular INFP Careers


INTP “The Architect”
(3-5% of the US population)

INTPs enjoy theoretical or scientific pursuits. They tend to be quiet and reserved. INTPs like solving problems using logic and analysis.  They are most interested in exploring ideas and problems as opposed to general discussion or “small talk.” INTPs tend to have narrowed or sharply defined interests. They need employment or involvement that allows them to pursue their interests professionally.

“INTPs are detached, analytical observers who can seem oblivious to the world around them because they are so deeply absorbed in thought. They spend much of their time focused internally: exploring concepts, making connections, and seeking understanding. To the Architect, life is an ongoing inquiry into the mysteries of the universe.” – Truity

Popular INTP Careers


ESTP “The Dynamo”
(4-5% of the US population)

ESTPs are excellent at on the spot problem solving. ESTPs like action and enjoy whatever comes up in the moment. They tend to like mechanical things, sports, and general goings-on with friends. They are adaptable, tolerant, pragmatic and results-driven. ESTPs dislike long explanations and like hands-on work or activities.

“ESTPs are often natural athletes; they easily navigate their physical environment and are typically highly coordinated. They like to use this physical aptitude in the pursuit of excitement and adventure, and they often enjoy putting their skills to the test in risky or even dangerous activities.” – Truity

Popular ESTP Careers


ESFP “The Performer”
(4-9% of the US population)

ESFPs are outgoing, accepting, and enjoy everything; an ESFP’s enjoyment is infectious and heightens the enjoyment of others. They like to take action and make things happen. ESFPs naturally catch on to situations or the group feeling. They join groups, and are accepted by groups, easily for this reason. ESFPs are best in situations and groups that require sound, common sense.

“Although they are characteristically fun-loving, ESFPs are also typically practical and down-to-earth. They are grounded in reality and are usually keenly aware of the facts and details in their environment, especially as they pertain to people. They are observant of others and their needs, and responsive in offering assistance. ESFPs enjoy helping other people, especially in practical, tangible ways.” – Truity

Popular ESFP Careers


ENFP “The Champion”
(6-8% of the US population)

Enthusiastic, high-spirited, ingenious and imaginative. Able to do almost anything that holds their interest. Quick with solutions to problems, ENFPs are also ready to help others with their solutions. ENFPs often rely on their ability to improvise as opposed to preparing in advance. Can usually supply compelling reasons to justify their pursuits or interests.

“ENFPs love to talk about people: not just the facts, but what motivates them, what inspires them, and what they envision achieving in life. They’ll often share their own aspirations freely, and want to hear others’ in return. The ENFP is unlikely to judge anyone’s dream, and will discuss the most imaginative and outlandish of fantasies with warm, enthusiastic intensity. They love to explore creative possibilities, and nothing deflates them faster than talking about dry facts or harsh reality.” – Truity

Popular ENFP Careers


ENTP “The Visionary”
(2-5% of the US population)

Ingenious and good at many things, ENTPs are stimulating company, alert and outspoken. ENTPs may argue for fun and tend to question what’s established. ENTPs are resourceful in solving new and challenging problems, but may neglect routine assignments. Apt to turn to one new interest after another. Skillful in finding logical arguments in order to achieve what they want.

“ENTPs enjoy playing with ideas and especially like to banter with others. They use their quick wit and command of language to keep the upper hand with other people, often cheerfully poking fun at their habits and eccentricities. While the ENTP enjoys challenging others, in the end they are usually happy to live and let live. They are rarely judgmental, but they may have little patience for people who can’t keep up.” – Truity

Popular ENTP Careers


ESTJ “The Supervisor”
(8-12% of the US population)

ESTJs are practical, realistic, matter of fact, and have a natural head for business and mechanics. ESTJs are not interested in abstract theories, and desire to learn those things that have a direct and immediate application. ESTJs like to organize and run activities. They often make good administrators; are decisive and quickly move on their decisions. ESTJs are good with overseeing routine details.

“They value evidence over conjecture, and trust their personal experience. ESTJs look for rules to follow and standards to meet, and often take a leadership role in helping other people meet expectations as well. They concern themselves with maintaining the social order and keeping others in line.” – Truity

Popular ESTJ Careers


ESFJ “The Provider”
(9-13% of the US population)

ESFJs are warm-hearted, talkative, and generally perceived as popular. They are conscientious, born cooperators, and active committee members. ESFJs thrive in harmony and will often strive to create that harmony. They often work with others in mind. ESFJs require personal encouragement and praise, or give what they tend to others. ESFJs are often preoccupied in those activities and professions that deal directly with the well-being of others.

“ESFJs act according to a strict moral code, and look for others to do the same. They often see things in terms of black and white, right and wrong, and they are typically not shy about sharing their evaluations of others’ behavior. ESFJs seek harmony and cooperation, and feel this is best accomplished when everyone follows the same set of rules. They have a sense of order in the way people relate to one another, and often take on roles that allow them to help enforce that social order.” – Truity

Popular ESFJ Careers


ENFJ “The Teacher”
(2-5% of the US population)

ENFJs are responsive and responsible. They feel real concern for what others think or want, and as a result an ENFJ will handle situations and decisions in deference to someone else thoughts or feelings. An ENFJ can lead a group with ease and tact. They are responsive to praise and criticism. ENFJs can comfortably facilitate others and enable people to achieve their potential.

“ENFJs are typically energetic and driven, and often have a lot on their plates. They are tuned into the needs of others and acutely aware of human suffering; however, they also tend to be optimistic and forward-thinking, intuitively seeing opportunity for improvement. The ENFJ is ambitious, but their ambition is not self-serving: rather, they feel personally responsible for making the world a better place.” – Truity

Popular ENFJ Careers


ENTJ “The Commander”
(2-5% of the US population)

ENTJs are frank, decisive, and are generally good leaders in activities and professions. They are naturally good at developing and implementing comprehensive systems to solve organizational problems. ENTJs are good at anything that requires reasoning and intelligent conversation. They are usually well-informed and enjoy adding to their knowledge base.

“ENTJs are analytical and objective, and like bringing order to the world around them. When there are flaws in a system, the ENTJ sees them, and enjoys the process of discovering and implementing a better way. ENTJs are assertive and enjoy taking charge; they see their role as that of leader and manager, organizing people and processes to achieve their goals.” – Truity

Popular ENTJ Careers

*****************************************************************************

Care to share your 4-letter code? Do you have any examples of your personality at work that you’d like to share? Comment below.

Phew! Well, personality stuff is always fun but I look forward to getting back to writing topics. Oh boy, do I have a whopper to share regarding a very recent editing experience.

Personality: Judging & Perceiving (Blog 4 of 5)

In this fourth blog of determining Personality (using the MBTI standard) we discuss the next portion of personality, Judging and Perceiving. This round will determine the fourth and final letter of your 4-letter personality type.

To briefly recap, the MBTI measures across four categories (two possible personality factors per category) resulting in a four letter combination, or personality type, per person. There is a total of 16 personality types. The 16 personality types will be reviewed in the 5th Personality blog.

Category Four: Judging vs Perceiving*
(J) for Judging and (P) for Perceiving

*This last category for personality is very interesting as (J) and (P) are all about an individual’s preferred environment. Environment is not limited to an idea like “home” but rather how we prefer our day-to-day structure, within and without the home, work environment, task and leisure orientation, and even time awareness. (J) and (P) are quite substantial to the personality matrix.*

JUDGING
The name alone gives J’s a poor first impression. The name is a misnomer and does NOT allude to a “judgemental personality.” The name could do with a relabeling. Judging people like order, organization and tend to think sequentially. J’s like to have a plan in order and agreed upon. If there is room for doubt, a (J) will take time to address doubts and issues before moving forward in the decision-making process. This is part of a J’s planning process, to see potential hazards and pitfalls before taking an action.

QUICK (J) FAQs:
– J’s prefer a predictable environment. The more predictable, the better the J’s experience. Efficiency in home or work can only be achieved in an optimal environment. How that environment is deemed “optimal” is strictly up to each (J) but once that level of efficiency is established, it is enacted nearly every time. (e.g. leaving your car keys in the bowl by the entryway each and every time you come home so you never lose your keys or have to dig for them)

– Because J’s set up predictable environments (home and work), J’s are known for making decisions easily. When your day is planned and you are a relatively organized person, making decisions easily as you are the one most familiar with your own systematization. You can easily see where the pieces can fit, and what can be maneuvered.

– J’s like to have things settled. Done and dusted as they say. Lingering decisions and plans will make a (J) uneasy. This is usually the case when more than one person is involved in the decision making process. If there is a lack of agreement, a (J) will want to figure out the problem in order to move on.

– Because of a J’s natural inclination towards a structured environment, a (J) will often be perceived as serious, conventional, punctual, prompt, a little up tight about the plan and its execution.

– Interestingly, J’s prefer to FINISH projects, not start them. The idea is that a solid project is easier to wind down seeing a predictable ending in sight whereas starting a project requires more upfront creativity and flexibility.

– Unsurprisingly, J’s have a work first, play later attitude.

– J’s see the need for rules, standards, and schedules. J’s would even say they take comfort in them.

– Because a (J) naturally prefers an organized environment, they are productive as a result. What can threaten productivity are last minute stresses. J’s like a solid schedule, an unexpected event or added inclusion can throw a (J) off their game as they are forced to stop and adjust.

– In the workplace, J’s are productive, punctual, and on-point with their work.

PERCEIVING
Another odd name but Perceiving is a little more accurately named than Judging. Perceiving is called as such for this personality type’s tendency to perceive via the senses (as we all do) but a (P) is much impressed by what they are experiencing. A (P) desires to experience the world and that means having an open environment, not a scheduled one. Make room for experiences. How can you make room for anything by scheduling your life by the hour? A (P) does not pretend to know what will happen a year from now, never mind tomorrow.

QUICK (P) FAQs:
– If a (P) wants to experience as much of the world, and of theirs lives as possible, that means being flexible, open-minded, casual, and spontaneous. This is how P’s are often perceived by others. In this way, on the surface, a (P) may look like an (E) who also shares some of these values but they are not mutually exclusive. An (I) has as much potential to be a (P) as an (E) does.

– P’s are known to postpone decisions as they desire to leave their options open until the very last minute. (e.g. A (J) friend will decide to go to a movie and purchase tickets for the day, the time, down to the row and seat in the theater, the (P) friend will get the invite with all the necessary information. The (P) does not confirm. In fact, the (J) friend may not even know of the (P) friend is coming until 3 minutes after the movie starts. The (P) friend might just show up.)

– Because of a P’s unstructured nature, they come across as being playful and unconventional.

– Because of a P’s open-ended nature, they are much less aware of time. It is considered normal that a (P) runs late. These are the folks that are least likely to own a watch although they would most benefit from one. Time, for a (P), is flexible.

– Unlike J’s, P’s prefer to start projects where the most creativity and newness of an idea is needed. Finishing a project, for a (P), is tedious and predictable.

– P’s prefer to play first and work when they feel like it. For this reason, P’s prefer last minute interruptions and disruptions. The spontaneity is energizing.

– P’s are known to question the need for rules, and question traditions, or anything that’s established. Perhaps there is a newer and better way to tackle a problem, perhaps something problematic has been approached incorrectly all this time and no one bothered to question it. P’s are good at seeing things differently.

– In the workplace, P’s are flexible, adaptable, curious, and despise conformity. P’s will find their own way to do things.

CONCLUSION
I was surprised during my years as a counselor how often this category came up in conversation as being the most “split” for my students. But then again, my clients were, in fact, students. There is no other time in life than in college where you walk a precarious line between constant obligations and mayhem. A tightly regimented day followed by the call for spontaneity, because hey, you’re still young. I’m not so old that I can’t recall the weird, demanding, fun, hyperactivity that was my undergrad and graduate years.

Today, I am a moderate (J) but while I was a student, I was a high-level (J). Age, personal feelings, and circumstance can alter the strengths of your MBTI factors. When I left the insanity that is a college campus, the workplace was easy by comparison. A 40-hour a week schedule? Easy-freakin-peasy. And so my need for a crystal-clear, perfectly structured, work-a-day schedule became much more lax. I was able to incorporate more flexibility and not be immediately stressed out by unscheduled arrivals or occurrences.

When I gained professional (P) colleagues, I realized my new “relaxed” state was no where near comparable but then again, I didn’t want it to be either. My default state, as a (J), is knowing what I am doing in a given day as opposed to just going with the flow. And that’s just fine. A (P) wouldn’t be a (P) if they were in possession of a fully loaded, color-coordinated calendars. Hours and hours of their lives already accounted for.

Knowing I am a (J), you should be not at all surprised to find such a calendar in my desk, on my computer, on my bulletin board, on my wall…

You should now have your 4-letter MBTI code. For example, mine is ISTJ. For those letters you are unsure about, where you feel you might land somewhere in-between, mark those letters too. If you are confident you are an (E), (N), (T) but are unsure about (J) and (P), then note for yourself ENTJ-P and you can look up the 4-letter code for both in the fifth and final Personality blog.

See ya’ll soon.

Personality: Thinker & Feeler (Blog 3 of 5)

In this third blog of determining personality (using the MBTI standard) we discuss the next portion of personality, Thinker and Feeler. This round will determine the third letter of your 4-letter personality type.

To briefly recap, the MBTI measures across four categories (two possible personality factors per category) resulting in a four letter combination, or personality type, per person. There is a total of 16 personality types. The 16 personality types will be reviewed in the 5th Personality blog.

Category Three: Thinker vs Feeler*
(T) for Thinker and (F) for Feeler

*First, it is a common misunderstanding that the categories of Thinker and Feeler somehow have anything to do with gender assignments. They do not. Men and women alike have the potential to be a Thinker or a Feeler. (T) and (F) determination, however, is pretty straightforward so this will be a briefer blog. Second, (T) and (F) IS all about how an individual makes decisions and draws conclusions. In the second blog, we examined what kind of information a person naturally notices as an (S) or (N). Now we will see how the brain works with that information once it’s collected. How do we approach decision-making.*

THINKER
More often than not, a (T) makes decisions objectively. A (T) can be susceptible to decision-making based on their present feeling or circumstance, but a T’s default method for decision-making will likely be based objectively, and on a set list of impersonal criteria. A (T) will often make conclusions based on an internal set of objective standards by which they operate.

QUICK (T) FAQs:
– A (T) will make decisions on what is perceived as “making sense,” and impersonal criteria. A logical solution based objective observations. The decision-making process is not personal, it’s logical.

– As a result of this emotionally detached approach, T’s are often perceived as being cold, analytical, and reserved as their personal selves do not influence the decision-making process.

– T’s are often convinced of their own logical reasoning. All personality types have their pros and cons, as I’ve stated before, so while a (T) generally perceives themselves as confident in their approach to problem-solving, it can be done at the expense of input from others. A (T) is not as likely too see the value of personal perception to problem-solving.

– T’s value honesty, directness, and fairness. Feelings and personal opinions, by definition, cannot be fair or experienced by everyone at the same time. This also dampens a T’s view of an F’s ability to be honest as feelings are always subject to change. T’s want to be valued on a set list of criteria that everyone can qualify for.

– A (T) is less likely to take things personally. Critiques and feedback (including the negative as well as the positive) are welcome. How can you improve without it? A (T) is also comfortable providing critiques and feedback, and expects the receiving party not to take it personally just as (T) does not.

– T’s are comfortable arguing and debating for fun. Since a (T) does not take feedback and observations personally, T’s find value in a good debate. T’s are not going to get upset when confronted with conflict, but rather are likely to willingly engage in a verbal debate in order to practice their skills of argument and observation.

– T’s are motivated by achievement and reward.

– T’s are prone to overlook people in favor of completing a task or a job.

FEELER
F’s will base their decisions on values and feelings. An (F) can incorporate data, facts, and objective observations into their decision-making process, but an F’s default method for drawing conclusions is to consult their feelings and values first, and the potential feelings and values of others, second. F’s are much more likely to consult others in their process for decision-making, more so if an (F) believes that another person or persons may be affected by the decision. In this way, F’s resemble an (E) as an (F) is much more likely than a (T) to air their thoughts aloud. But an (F) is not necessarily Extravert, it is simply a commonality.

QUICK (F) FAQs:
– An F’s personal values and feelings on a subject will be consulted before making a decision. Also, an (F) is much more prone to make impulse decisions just by an immediate feeling: grumpy, sad, happy, ecstatic.

– Because F’s take into consideration the feelings, beliefs, and opinions of others, F’s are very much seen as open, warm, friendly, empathetic, and caring.

– F’s are much more likely to be convinced by extenuating circumstances rather than logical deduction. A quick example: An (F) would consider the reasons why a someone stole a loaf of bread and draw conclusions about the actions based on that person’s motivation for doing so. Perhaps this person is poor? Are they starving? Did they steal the loaf for someone else? Someone of need? A (T) would think that while the motivation may be sad, the actions of the theft doesn’t change the facts at hand, the law was broken and a conclusion is made.

– F’s are diplomatic and tactful, they do their best to take into consideration everyone’s point of view before reaching a decision. In this way, an (F) maintains harmony within a group context.

– Because F’s take into consideration the beliefs, feelings, and opinions of others, they expect the same in return, and therefore are much more likely to take critique and feedback personally. Critique is not a form of improvement, as a (T) is likely to see it, but an act of personal hurt. F’s are much more likely to compliment while excusing flaws and so expect the same in kind. T’s dislike this approach, and F’s dislike a T’s approach. This incompatibility is never so apparent as in the work place.

– Feelers are motivated by personal acknowledgement and appreciation.

– Where T’s enjoy debate, F’s are allergic to it. Debate and argument run counter to an F’s need to keep the peace and harmony. An (F) takes no pleasure in debate, it often causes anxiety.

– Overlooks tasks or a job in favor of people.

CONCLUSION
(T) and (F) is never so obvious in how they play out in reality than in the work place. I am a high-level (T) and I once had a boss who was a high-level (F). What I admired about this boss was her ability navigate a table of staff. She would give everyone time to speak about their current work, ideas, opinions, feelings about departmental activities and direction. She was amazing. But, one on one, my (F) boss was less cool in presentation. Making individual decisions with a staff member outside of a group meeting was difficult for her as she felt it necessary to consult with everyone in order to make a decision. Seeing as how staff meetings were held once a week, making decisions and gathering staff observations meant a great undertaking at any other time. She was not comfortable making a decided, independent decision as the consequence meant the potential to affect everyone. So that took some time, but no one really seemed to mind as she was a great boss who took the time to listen to everyone and compromised a lot without sacrificing the job.

I can only recall a few times our personalities clashed. As a starting out counselor (and a high-level T) I sought information daily regarding my performance. A comfortable (T) will ask for the good, the bad, and the ugly for the sake of improvement and I was no different. As it turns out, I was doing something consistently wrong in my reports that my boss never brought up. I had to find via other colleagues who showed me the correct way that the boss liked it. I later told my boss that I learned how to correctly report something in my report. Being the (T) I am, I asked her why she didn’t just correct me. It was important to me to get things right. Being the high-level (F) she was, she winced at my directness, as if I was reproving her. She said she didn’t want to shake my confidence, that I was new and all and doing so well. I said, “being corrected on how to do things the right way cannot shake my confidence, in fact it’s the opposite. Knowing I’m doing something right because my boss told me how to do it, or corrected me when I didn’t, is what gives me confidence. I can’t change what I don’t know to change.” She gave me a thoughtful look at that, and agreed.

I like being a (T) because I do feel confident in my decision-making process, I find the (F) style exhausting, just by description alone. And yet an (F) would be mortified by how people like me execute decisions. I’ve worked for T’s too and I can say I definitely prefer working for F’s. I like being a (T) but if I must have a boss or supervisor, I always keep my fingers crossed for an (F). My opposite helps me to see what I miss, especially in such a precarious place like the office. It’s a good balance when you can see the advantages of both sides. (T) bosses, from my experience, don’t check in so much as bark orders regarding expectations and why are they not being met. Anything personal should not come into that feedback. From my experience, it’s not healthy to ignore the human experience when humans are in fact present – office place or no. Real life spills into the office and vice versa. F’s have to know when to reign in it like T’s need to understand when to turn it down.

Make note of your letter. Are you a (T) or an (F)? You have one more letter to work out before you have your 4-letter code.

Personality: Sensor & Intuitive (Blog 2 of 5)

In this second blog of determining personality, using the MBTI standard, we discuss the next portion of personality, Sensor and Intuitive. This round will determine the next letter of your four letter personality type.

To briefly recap, the MBTI measures across four categories (two possible personality factors per category) resulting in a four letter combination, or personality type, per person. There is a total of 16 personality types.

Category Two: Sensor vs Intuitive*
(S) for Sensor and (N) for Intuitive

*This area of personality examines how a person’s mind tends to notice information and remember it. Not everyone experiences information the same way. This is how an individual or several individuals can witness the same event and recall it differently. Sometimes the variations are small, others can vary wildly. (S) and (N) personality types plays a role in how we process incoming information and later on recall it. Other factors will come into play such as an individual’s health, personal feeling, and memory ability. Yes, recall, and how well you can do it is an actual skill. S’s and N’s alike have the potential for strong memory.*

SENSOR
The information an (S) notices tends to be in the present, collecting information as the data itself is occurring. The information is concrete and usually free from an individual’s personal projection. S’s put less of their personal feeling or personal memories onto the information they are currently receiving. It does happen, but not as a matter of course.

Example:
(S) Sally works in an office. (S) Sally has an errand to run in the office and requires that she get up from her desk, walk down the length of a hall, and stop into several co-worker’s offices. (S) Sally gets up to begin her task. She takes exactly ten steps before she reaches the first office. (S) Sally knows it is exactly ten steps as she has walked the length between her office and the next office several times and noted the distance the first time. (S) Sally also knows the exact steps between this office and the next several that (S) Sally will need to stop in at. This first office belongs to (N) Neville. (S) Sally takes note of (N) Neville’s dress, gray suit, blue tie, one class ring on Neville’s opposite ring finger. (S) Sally noticed this ring the first time she met (N) Neville and associates class rings with (N) Neville as no other male in the office wears one. (S) Sally, now knowing what (N) Neville is wearing this day, will be able to visually spot him for the rest of the day no matter where he is in the office or the building in case she needs to follow up with him later. The same will be true for of all her co-workers that (S) Sally must interact with in order to complete her inter-office errand.

(S) Sally also recalls it’s Friday. (S) Sally is briefly joyed by that fact and recalled it simply b/c she walked near another co-worker who tends to wear a little too much perfume, and only on a Friday. (S) Sally has never asked this particular co-worker why she wears a little too much perfume, only on Fridays. (S) Sally only knows that this colleague does so and has come to think of Fridays as a scent.

Sally takes note of her co-workers reactions as she disseminates her errands, often resulting in more work for people to do, and on a Friday too. (S) Sally hates giving out fresh assignments at the end of a work week, but (S) Sally’s feelings have nothing to do it. It’s work, end of story.

Some colleagues show no reaction, it’s work as usual, and (S) Sally knows she will receive follow-up on the work promptly and without complaint. Others barely suppress rolling their eyes, (S) Sally makes no comment other than to note to herself to personally follow-up with him or her regarding progress. Others wave the work off with a shrug and a, ‘I’ll get to it,’ demeanor. Sally knows she will need to follow-up directly with these folks too in case their version of “getting to it,” is a little too untimely.

QUICK (S) FAQs:
– S’s notice concrete information, or ‘just the facts ma’am.’ Because S’s are grounded in the specifics, they often describe themselves as practical and literal. They are often perceived by others as being the same. Friends of an (S) usually have no hesitation using adjectives like detail-oriented, grounded, practical, sensible, factual.

– Because an (S) has an appreciation for the facts, they are much more likely to trust past experiences than to invent a new modality for dealing with something. This also means an (S) prefers practical solutions, and not wildly inventive ones. If there must be a new solution to a new problem, then a practical, trial and error solution is sought after.

– S’s will see, and often accept, what a person, an object, or a situation is at face value. If an (S) were to meet a loud stranger for the first time, the (S) is not likely to explore reasons to as to why they are loud. An (S) is going to accept the information they’ve been given unless there is obvious proof available to explain it. If the person is elderly and is inclining their head while listening, there is a good chance the stranger in question is just hard of hearing, in which case, the loudness of speech is perfectly acceptable.

– S’s like step-by-step instructions and will follow them to the letter. An (S) will not become inventive with a way of doing things until they have nailed the original way of doing things. By then, an (S) is an expert and trusting their past experiences of building on knowledge will then begin to modify things, usually considered a more personally efficient way of doing things.

– An (S) likes to work at a steady pace. S’s can portion their energy well and work consistently throughout a given time period. How an (S) is feeling about the job at hand can play a part in how long they work and how well, but an (S) is pretty good about staying the course and getting the thing done once the task has started.

INTUITIVE
The information an (N) notices tends to be big, impressionable, evocative of thought or feeling. Any information that makes an impression, an (N) is more likely to notice it. N’s are more likely to use their past memories and feelings in order to form new memories. Which is why when an (N) recalls something, it tends to be a little more personal b/c of the impression it made in the first place. An (N) will likely self-perceive, and be described as, a good story-teller, a big picture thinker, a creative solution person. B/c N’s take in more of the new, the different, the impressionable, they are more likely to offer input and solutions that are based on the same.

Example:
(N) Neville does not know how many steps it took for (S) Sally to reach his office door, although he himself has frequented her office. (N) Neville does not recall what (S) Sally was wearing when she handed out new assignments on this Friday. What (N) Neville does recall was the rapidity of her steps as the way in which (S) Sally walks has always left an impression on (N) Neville. (N) Neville perceives (S) Sally to be punctual to a fault and usually rushing to and fro. (S) Sally’s walk reflects her day-to-day impression, busy, professional, rushing, and a little impersonal. Not that (S) Sally is difficult to work with or indifferent to her colleagues. (N) Neville thinks and feels, it’s only that (S) Sally’s busy and professional demeanor makes it hard to get to know her as a person and so doesn’t leave much of an impression on (N) Neville. He recalls less of what (S) Sally says compared to other colleagues who are more open and amiable. These colleagues leave impressions on (N) Neville and so he is able to recall personal details about them, unlike (S) Sally whom he sees nearly every day.

(N) Neville grimly takes a new assignment, briefly dampening his feelings on the fact that it’s Friday and acknowledges that while he is not motivated o begin his new assignment today, he will make up for studiously on Monday. He also knows this not in favor of (S) Sally’s preference of beginning work right away, but (N) Neville just isn’t feeling it. The company meeting is on Tuesday, (N) Neville is confident he can develop and deliver an adequate assignment report on Monday. (N) Neville likes working under the gun, in fact, (N) Neville believes his best ideas are developed under pressure, as spontaneous feeling takes over. As much as (N) Neville has tried (and failed) to tackle assignments in advance, he feels no inspiration. (N) Neville insists his work lacks creativity when he tries to plan and portion out his work.

(N) Neville also passes that same colleague who wears a little too much perfume on Fridays and is cheered once more. While (N) Neville dislikes the cloying smell, (N) Neville perceives the perfume as a personal cheer for a Friday. (N) Neville feels this co-worker is quietly celebrating the end of the week and that is something he can relate to.

Not to (N) Neville’s surprise, (S) Sally checks in with him towards the close of the day. He has made note of this habit that (S) Sally has to check in on those days when less popular assignments come through. (N) Neville knows this part of (S) Sally’s efficiency and does not take it personally. He notices the slight frown she nearly concealed when (N) Neville said he had not begun the assignment, but gave his sincere reassurances that all would be well by Tuesday’s meeting.

QUICK (N) FAQs:
– N’s notice the different, the outstanding, the impressionable. They notice what evokes thoughts and feelings, not only in themselves but in others. N’s also notice what isn’t present such as what is deliberately left out in a piece of music, an artwork, or in a speech. N’s make memories more easily when feelings and past memories are evoked by a person or situation or object. Thereby through no one’s deliberate doing, a person might be remembered and/or associated with nothing to do with themselves, it is completely at an N’s discretion. An (N) may not remember what you were wearing (unless it made an impression), they may not remember your name the first several times they hear it, but they can have full recall of you by what you said, or did, by a simple gesture you made with your hands, or by the look on your face or the sound of your voice.

– N’s are imaginative and theoretical. In this regard, an (N) could be confused with an (E) or Extravert. N’s tend to think aloud and usually at length. The difference is no one need be present.

– Unlike S’s who trust tried and true methods for problem-solving or “established methods,” N’s trust their own instinct, and would rather build a solution for themselves than do what everyone else has done. N’s trust themselves to come up with something, and value creative solutions. S’s tend to see what could be, not what already is. This is where we get the big-picture image of certain people. They are likely an (N).

– N’s like to figure things out alone, this does not automatically make an (N) an (I). Because N’s value creative solutions, the implication is the skill or solution is self-taught. For this, N’s don’t need outside influence; to think aloud, perhaps, but for default work, an (N) usually likes to work alone.

– N’s, unlike S’s, like to work in bursts of energy as opposed to steady-paced, planned work. N’s are creative, and they may be big picture thinkers, but the delivery of their work is often dependent upon how they feel. An (N) may have hours and hours of uninterrupted energy in which to work on something or all of ten minutes, but the point is, that work will be of quality and to their liking.

CONCLUSION
Some of you will know absolutely if you are an (S) or an (N). Others will struggle. There is a scale and you would need the full version of the MBTI to understand where you fall, particularly if you are unsure.

Personally, I am a high-level S. Case in point, I’m writing this on a Sunday. Despite the fact that I am a moderate (I), I wanted to be around people today so I decided to pack up my laptop and head to Starbucks. regret that. It’s busy in here today and my sensitive (S) is taking in EVERYTHING, even with my earbuds in place. My (S) exacerbates my (I) and all the sensory data I’m picking up is draining my (I) energy faster. I am painfully aware of how long this blog was and would continue to be about two hours ago. I was tempted to pack up perhaps an hour after arriving, but because I was determined to start what I finished, I shove my feelings aside to get the work done. I think what about what I promised myself I would do – write a minimum of two blogs a week. I tell myself I need to meet that. I think about how I can portion out the rest of my mental energy so I can finish writing this thing and publish it.

Being a high-level (S) is exhausting. I notice all things, that doesn’t mean the information is useful or in any way intelligent. I am aware of bodily movements, conversations, smells, light, temperature, background noises. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the frother (frother is not a legit word and yet I do not care) at the Starbucks counter since I’ve been here – no wait, yes I can – 22 times! You may not believe any one person could be aware of all those things, but you would be wrong. (S) people are legit when we say we notice a lot. I’m telling you, if I witness an accident you were the cause of, you and I will not be friends. I will have seen and noticed all that went down including what you were wearing and the stunned look on your face, and the license plate? That’s child play memory stuff for me, my friend.

My husband is a moderate (N). You might imagine the hilarity of our marriage as we notice, and determine importance to, wildly different things. My husband is full of creative ideas, all the time, day in and day out. He will often interject ideas into a conversation that had no bearing whatsoever to what was being discussed, but it was an idea that impressed upon so much he had say it out loud. Ideas, ideas, ideas galore, many of them wonderful and I am amazed by. His creativity is already well exercised as a software architect and I know he has the creative power to come up with something independently of his job. It takes discipline to start and maintain something of value. That’s where S’s like me come into play, we can override our feelings of exhaustion and boredom if it means getting the job done. Idea people and the get-it-done people work well together in this regard.

I’m a fiction writer, as an (I) I am comfortable living in my head and I can take my time flexing my creative muscles. I put all my sensory data full of odd human behaviors over the years to work in fiction and at my own comfortable pace. In my own way, I get to appreciate both worlds as the creative in me meets the practical.

Still two more MBTI letters to suss out. Until then, are you an (S) or an (N)? And make note, I know the S’s will. Haha.

Personality: Introvert & Extravert (Blog I of 5)

I thought it might be nice to take a break and blog on the lighter side. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a trained counselor (formerly licensed) and part of working with my student-clients involved the occasional personality test. There are many tests, so many, but the tried and true has always been the MBTI or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The MBTI is not an in-depth personality test, but it does measure those personality factors that we know to be true for nearly every living person on the planet, which is to say, the MBTI is applicable to many people regardless of country, culture, economic status, age, and sex. The MBTI measures the broadest of predictable personality factors. While it is not in-depth, the MBTI is helpful in narrowing down an individual who could do with some assistance in personal insight.

The MBTI measures across four categories (two possible personality factors per category) resulting in a four letter combination, or personality type, per person. There is a total of 16 personality types.

By the way, I use the original and scientific spelling, ExtrAvert, and not the currently popular spelling, ExtrOvert.

Category One: Introvert vs Extravert*
(I) for Introvert and (E) for Extravert

*First – and this is very important – Introvert does not = shy. Extravert does not = attention seeker. These are surface impressions that, to this day, are perpetuated about each type. Whether you are an (I) or an (E) is strictly defined by ENERGY. Energy that is measurable in your day-to-day existence. I am not talking about the sort of vague references to a spiritually-styled energy that your yoga instructor is really into. I am talking about energy that is measurable in the triad: mental, emotional, and physical. Also, I’s and E’s fall on a scale. Some I’s are very Introverted, others less so. The same for E’s. Where everyone falls on the scale of (I) and (E) can also be measured by the MBTI.*

INTROVERTS
Energy comes from within. I’s are a lot like a cell phone, their energy (mental, emotional, physical) is charged inwardly, or alone. As soon as an introvert is in company with another person, they are essentially taken off their charger and begin to slowly but surely lose their charge until they are alone once more. People are draining. You will have met I’s in your life that you had no idea are I’s simply because your understanding of them is wrong. It’s not that I’s can’t socialize or be part of a group, it is only that they have so much energy to spare to any one person, or situation, before they require alone time. I’s are perfectly capable of conversation, of partying, going out to dinner, you name it. Activities with others usually require a foreseeable ending, or a planned exit. The more taxing or stressful a person or situation, the faster an I’s mental, emotional, and physical energies are drained.

QUICK (I) FAQs:
– I’s are more likely to LISTEN than to talk. This is where the shyness assumption comes from, and why I’s tend to have a few but really close friends. I’s prefer quality over quantity and quality friendship means zeroing in on your friend; listening requires paying attention to the speaker’s facial movements, tone of voice, registering bodily posture and more. So when an Introvert is listening, they are all in. I’s have a harder time in groups for this reason. The ability to provide everyone the same quality of their attention becomes saturated and harder to keep up with. E’s have very few issues with this, as you will see. If you have a friend and you’ve thought, ‘So-and-so only seems to hang out with me and a few other people. What’s up with that?’ You have yourself an Introverted friend. Do well by his or her because they are all about the quality, and will take the time to be present with you when they are with you. Remember, they are taking themselves off their charger just to hang out when they could just as easily be comfortable at home, ready for a night of Netflix and snuggling the cat.

– Introverts think before they act. I’s live inside their heads, which means they are a great deal more likely to ponder over a thought of potential action well before they do it. It might take days or hours, minutes or seconds, but a thought process must take place before engaging in an action. This is in line with that quality of attention you can expect from an Introverted friend. Thought must proceed speaking aloud or moving toward an action.

– B/c I’s live inside their minds, comfortably so, you might well expect them to have excellent concentration skills, and they do.

– Introverts prefer to work behind the scenes. They prefer to work alone, once given a set of instructions, I’s pretty much prefer to be left alone with minimal supervision. Group meetings are nice because you can check in with what everyone else is doing but for the most part, it seems those E’s are really just thinking aloud. Whereas I’s don’t need to think aloud. This is where in corporate culture, those rock solid I’s take up zero time because they don’t need to contribute ideas about their work – they already know what they’re doing. Or, I’s don’t contribute their thoughts in a meeting until the have a quality-driven, fleshed-out idea to offer. There also those rock solid E’s whom, when they speak up, their ideas seem to be all over the place – the content may or may not be valid. They are the same individuals at every meeting and are as predictable as their quieter counterparts.

– Until I’s get to know you, they themselves are very reserved. They don’t dish the dish, gab, or chat unnecessarily. You will need to be a proper friend before any real sharing takes place, and even then the information shared is always parceled out and never a package bomb of info. I’s will not verbally vomit all over you in an effort to get to know you.

– B/c I’s are comfortable in their minds, they are quite good at written communication. They can say what they mean to say, thoughtfully, in the written word more so than in speech which is a lot more immediate and spontaneous. Spontaneous speech with I’s is more likely to happen with people they are close to. Anyone else is subject to a less jam-packed conversation as an Introvert tries to formulate an articulated response.

EXTRAVERTS
Energy comes from without. An E’s energy is charged from being around others. Nor is the (E) charge limited to just people, an (E) can experience mental, emotional, and physical energy just by being present in public. Not all E’s are talkative attention seekers, however, some E’s are exactly that. Just like some I’s are terrified at the idea of speaking up or being noticed. There are high-level versions of I’s and E’s, but there are also very mellow versions of I’s and E’s too. E’s are perfectly capable of being alone or engaging in meaningful conversation with just one person, like an (I). It’s a matter of energy. An (E) that is having a quiet day is likely to feel a little more drained than having a day filled with people and activities, which is more energizing to them. Spontaneity is a key strength to an (E). If you’ve ever thought, ‘So-and-so always seems to have something going on, they’re so busy. I wonder if they ever go home and just chill?’ You’ve got yourself an Extraverted friend. Treat them well. The encounter with your (E) friend might be brief, and may not be chalk full of quality, but they are there for you even so. No matter how busy they are, an (E) is more likely to make time for their friends than an (I) who struggles with out-of-the-blue invitations. This is not a diss, it simply is a common factor (not a given) to the existence of I’s. Every personality type has its pros and cons.

QUICK (E) FAQs:
– E’s are naturally active and as a result, tend to TALK more than, listen. Talking rapidly, and seemingly without a particular direction, is an outward trade mark to an (E). What’s actually happening here is an E’s thought process. Where an (I) has an INTERNAL thought process, and (E) has an EXTERNAL thought process. E’s often work out their thoughts and feelings by using other people as sounding boards. They throw thoughts out, and in so doing, will hopefully get viable feedback. This why those E’s are always the first to speak up in meetings, they are likely tossing around ideas so their own finished thoughts and courses of actions can take shape. Don’t get me wrong, E’s are perfectly capable of making up their own minds, and ultimately all E’s make up their own minds, but preferably with input from others first.

– This first trade mark of E’s leads to the second, an ability to come together and connect with people and with very little effort. Groups that seem to form quickly and work together towards a common goal are more easily created by E’s; they just seem to naturally sort out their puzzle-like pieces. This is hard for I’s to comprehend as I’s tend to focus their energies on the individual. I’s are more likely to feel “lost” in a group setting b/c there seems to be no apparent anchor, whereas, for E’s, the group itself is the anchor.

– B/c E’s need others to sort out their thoughts and feelings, it is safe to say, distraction comes quite naturally. Exploring one’s thoughts, behaviors and feelings can be an undertaking, never mind all the incoming data from other people and situations. The cost to this hive of outward processing is attention span. E’s can and will get distracted easily.

– All that incoming data, however, also grants E’s the uncanny ability to tackle several things at one time. E’s can pick up one action while pursuing another or switch gears all-together, several times throughout the day. Hour by hour, an (E) has the potential for fluidity. I’s prefer to work out one thing (start and finish) at a time, regardless of feelings about the task at hand; a ‘I started this thing and now I’m going to finish it,’ mentality. E’s, however, don’t miss a beat when they start something and decide to finish it much later.

– B/c open dialogue is fast and has the potential to change rapidly, E’s prefer oral communication over written. Written communication requires thoughtful structure, and thus, slows the whole concept of communication down for an (E).

CONCLUSION
Some of you will know absolutely if you are an (I) or an (E). Others will struggle. There is a scale and you would need the full version of the MBTI to understand where you fall, particularly if you are unsure. Personally, I am a moderate (I), my husband is a mild (E). There are many ways in which he feels like an (I) but his DEFAULT method, as a living, breathing, human being, requires EXTERNAL energy to get through the day. (E) energy is his default. He needs to be around people a little more often than not. Not a whole lot, like a high-level (E) would, but just a little more often than not, he needs to be around people.

As a moderate (I), I need more alone time than a little, but not so much as a high-level (I) would. There are times my (E) kicks in and I need to be out and about in the world, and once I get my fix, I’m good. But for the most part, I hate crowds, I hate socializing, and I’ve always believed I’ve never needed more than two or three good friends. Because I’m an internal thinker, when I am with friends, I never need to run my thoughts or feelings by anyone because I’m already a decided person. I can spend quality time with my friends as myself and not someone who needs to sort things out. My husband, on the other hand, part of his friendship experience is running things by others in order to figure something out that’s been on his mind, because, hey, what are friends for? As a moderate (I) I have to be hard pressed on a difficult topic before I run my thoughts by anyone, be it my husband or a friend. Many people have accused me of not knowing when to ask for help – as an (I), that is a valid observation, and I find it to be true more often than not. Like I said, everyone’s personality package has its pros and cons.

Are you an (I) or an (E)?

Make note, you still have three more letters to work out. By the fifth part of this Personality blog, I’ll tell you what your four-letter MBTI personality type means.

Life on Mars? – A Song of Influence

I would be remiss if I did not discuss those musical influences of my life and of my work. Of course, fictional novels and music are two entirely different mediums. However, I doubt much you can claim to have an appreciation of one without an appreciation of the other. While I was writing my novel, Ruth, I was surprised how often lyrics would come to mind. Situations, background, dialogue – all of it at some point – would have a soundtrack lightly treading its way around my thoughts.

Anyone who says they know me immediately screams, ‘Guns N’ Roses! It’s GN’R, I now her and it’s GN’fucking-R! Well, you wouldn’t be wrong. GN’R has definitely made its presence known here and there while I was writing, usually when I was hammering out the angry bits. That particular band got me through my teen years, rather, helped me survive my teen years so I shall always be grateful.

It’s David Bowie’s, “Life on Mars?” that I can hear perfectly, without taking it for granted, every time and without fail. While I have always valued the health and wealth of society over the health and wealth of the few, I am not without my fair share of disdain for society either. As I addressed in my previous blog, I saw too much in too few years and I know all too well what society is capable of. As an adult, not much has changed this opinion, in fact, every day only serves to confirm it. Regardless of socio-economic status, sex, age, religion, or political views – all humans are capable of garbage. Of contributing to the garbage, of being like garbage. Myself included, I learned that early as well. I often wondered what life on other planets might be like, are we all like this?

And Bowie asked:
Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man, look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show
Take a look at the lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man, wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?

When you first hear a song that sympathizes with your harder known point-of-view, you’re not likely to forget it.

I wonder just how many of us know we are all part of the freakiest show and make no mistake, the way we tune in, we are part of a bestselling show. Eventually, there will be another story of the lawman beating up the wrong guy. Oh boy, look at us caveman go.

What I found also unique to “Life on Mars?” was Bowie’s perspective of a young woman and her troubles. To say this is not common, for a male musician, in any way, to acknowledge women in a song that does not have to do with love, sex, and relationships (and vice versa) is something of an understatement. And Bowie did ponder other people, well into his career, the troubles of many demographics.

The day Bowie died, I felt a part of myself shrink for having lost someone who knew how to express what most of would take a lifetime to work out.

I’m always interested to know what influences people when they’re working their craft. Share yours.

ArmedWithCoffee.com

Trailer Trash: About Me, Part I

I grew up in a trailer or mobile home, the terms are used interchangeably. But such technicalities make no difference when you’re a kid, and every other kid who didn’t grow up in a trailer or mobile home had the benefit of dubbing you “white trash,” and “trailer trash.” Humans are no never so human as when we take comfort in hierarchies, even as children.

Everyone in school knew me and my family were poor. We didn’t live in poverty, but we were poor. My sister and I had to look after ourselves since our father worked 12 hours a day.

When you live close to the edge of poverty, you learn things early. You cram too much in too few years. You are surrounded by people who are economically similar to yourself and for wildly varying reasons, all of those reasons you are likely to learn at some point, for better or worse.

As I related in a previous blog, I suffered from childhood anxiety disorder, I found relief in the library. That meant traversing my mixed bunch, trailer park community, crossing roads and unsavory neighborhood elements in order to get to my local library. Liquor stores, check cashiers, pawn shops, strip clubs, questionable dwellings with questionable persons hanging around. Every trip was frightening. In my young mind, the payoff was worth it. I knew the books I would soon delve into would erase the worst of anything I may have just seen, heard, and even smelled. The same would be true when I made the trip back to my mobile home, mind lost in books once more.

I grew up in Irving, a city adjacent to Dallas. Irving was much smaller then and called a suburb of Dallas. The poor who had to find work in Dallas lived in Irving. Today, I sit from the comfort of my two story home in a high demand neighborhood of the ever booming Austin, Texas. Today, it is not unusual that I am treated as someone who grew up from an affluent home. I am often approached by others who assume to know my background. The implication of a comfortable childhood is apparent in the language used and the attitude assumed when I am spoken to. Having worked in the higher education system for nearly a decade, and the fact that I have two degrees, often put me in the position of being passively-aggressively challenged about a wealth and upbringing I didn’t have. I don’t bother to correct the projection others put on me, but I don’t engage with people who assume to know me either. It seems a waste of my time. I let my work speak for me.

As it turns out, my childhood background would lend itself to my style of writing. Had I earned degrees in writing, I might have learned of my actual genre much sooner. I had always labeled my work as a women’s fiction-slash-drama. I recently discovered that my style of writing is a sub-genre of Gothic, called Southern Gothic. I write with “dark elements” (better known to me as “the truth”), while set in the geographic location of Texas, a big ol’ chunk of the south. That makes Southern Gothic, apparently. The gritty and glaring real life depictions, plus fiction, coupled with location. Southern Gothic, like all of Gothic, can incorporate fantastical elements too. One day I may write a piece that includes magic and other worldliness, but for now, real life serves up more than enough to work with.

I once wrote a short story for my high school’s creative writing course inspired by a resident of my trailer park. A severely obese woman who spent her days divided between residing in her trailer to hobbling her way out to her attached deck, surrounded by her 10 dogs. In life, I never learned her name, in my story, I called her Edna. Edna, from her place on the deck, folds of her body spilling out from all directions on her distressed bench, stared boldly at any and all residents who passed by. Edna never spoke, but still managed to quietly challenge by site alone. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Edna was angry, but no one knew why. In my work, I gave Edna a backstory that explained her current disparity, taking comfort in the company of her dogs. Claiming her untrained, no-collared, badly groomed furry companions were all that she needed. They were loyal, Edna’s character claimed. Edna’s backstory didn’t matter, the ending did. Edna died alone in her trailer from a massive heart attack. The residents suspected something was wrong as several days had gone by without Edna presiding over her usual place on the deck, glaring down all passersby. But hey, who cares? If anything Edna’s absence was an improvement so why rock the boat, was the general consensus of the trailer park residents.

What caused the first of many double-takes to come from my teachers over the years was Edna’s ending. She was found a week later, eaten by her beloved dogs. In life, the woman who inspired Edna did die alone from a massive heart attack. And she was discovered several days later, but not eaten by her dogs. Her dogs had disbanded and sought food elsewhere from other residents. That’s when people thought to look for the heavy set resident who rudely liked to stare from her deck. I didn’t realize it then, but such writing would become the basis of my work – the truth, with more steps. The world, as it is, is infinitely strange, my mind decided to make use of what was already there.

Examples of Gothic fiction includes:
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, by Victor Hugo
Almost everything by Edgar Allan Poe
And so many more. Here’s a full-bodied list from Goodreads

Examples of Southern Gothic fiction includes:
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt
A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Here’s an excellent Southern Gothic list from Goodreads. I hope to make it here one day.

 

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