"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, January 17, 2019

2018: The Year of Growth & Redemption, Final Part: Redemption, Continued

Favorite riding photo of this quarter.
Continued from here.


Sofi Tukker's Drinkee
You'll see why it's my favorite. :)

Favorite photo this month.

I continued riding Gracie.

She went from strung out, heavy on the forehand, unbalanced and trotting more than gaiting...
...to a much more balanced gait...
...and a higher quality trot when she told me she needed to break gait.
These trot moments would become more and more infrequent though.

I love this photo and the following one, and they never made it onto social media.

This was my pictorial ode to Gracie's ears. <3
Foggy morning arriving at the barn.
I wrote a filler post about the influence of other bloggers here, as part of a blog hop.

The Hybrid Performance deadlift protocol started to produce results.

The first time I pulled 190 lbs for reps.
The deadlift protocol forced me to wait appropriately between sets, which was often up to two minutes. I am not a patient person: I used to love circuits for strength training (such as with bodybuilding during the final stages of prep) because it allowed me to work opposite muscle groups without resting in between exercises while still keeping my heart rate up. This had the additional benefit of giving my strength training a cardio component.
With powerlifting-type and pure strength-building training however, the focus is to lift heavier so you want those longer rest periods between sets so you can fully recover before repeating the exercise. One of the perks of working with Trainer was that he would force me to wait the appropriate length of time between sets during strength blocks. Remembering those lessons with him, I started setting a timer on my phone and putzing on the internet while I waited for my two minutes to be up before my next set. This photo was taken during one of those rest times. :)
My snow leopard Chucks continue to be my favorites for deads.
Crossfit continued to be amazing.

Early morning run warm-up in the fog during Open Gym at the box before work.
I wrote a love letter to Coach A and her training that I published on social media:

Thursdays are my favorites because they are my long training days. I start them out with a private lesson on the Olympic lifts, and then jump into our box's strength class and the day's WOD right after. I go ride and then return to the gym in the late afternoon to do legwork (squats or deads or both.) The lessons are the highlight of my week though. Coach teaches in that highly detailed, form-focused style that I've loved since my showjumping days. Warm-ups incorporate technique and mobility work that will add flexibility to improve the movements. We discuss biomechanics, my work in the group classes, and what I'm practicing on my own as well. Progress in these lessons is determined by how well I'm doing the lift: going up in weight is the biggest reward, and you know you've truly earned it when it's allowed. Just like the fences didn't go up in height until I was nailing the distances with perfect equitation, which is as it should be.

The best part is always coming away having learned something new...about lifting, but often also about myself.

So which lifts are my favorite? Heck, all of them. If there's a barbell involved, I love it.

The photos that accompanied said love letter. <3
This was the month where I truly realized the huge linear progression in the events that led to this moment: Trainer walked out of my life in order to allow this to happen. I was now working with someone whom I admired just as much as I had him, and who had a training style that could build upon the foundation that he had created. I had advanced to my own personal Next Level.

One of Coach A's mantras during our lessons was, "STOP THINKING!" I had this Problem where I would start to overthink everything about the snatch and get in my own way. It is exactly what used to happen when Ron would shout, "WAIT FOR THE JUMP!" Because that's what would happen: I'd start to overthink my approach and in the process rush the fences because I wanted to just. get. there. already!

Can't do that with jumping. Can't do it with snatches either. Nor deadlifts, for that matter.

The title of my blog still applies. ;)

I mention this because it comes into play again in November.

Me with the PVC pipe during snatch class warmup.
That's Coach A in front of me, and Coach D approaching on the left to give input.
With the junior Olympic bar and Coach explaining what we would be doing next.
(Also, check out the double ridge of muscle in my back. That's through two layers of clothes. O_o)
Coach A took this photo of Carlos and I in class and featured it on the box website.
(Full disclosure: I suck at rope climbs. I'm still practicing the pulling-myself-up-with-my-upper-body-with-feet-still-on-the-floor part, whereas Carlos has since then made it all the way to the ceiling rafters! <3)

I kicked butt in squats and posted about it here. We had a bench press session in class shortly after that where I realized my strength for bench had not really progressed the way I would have liked...no kidding: it's the one lift I never practiced! I started working chest 1-2 x/week and in the process realized that I wanted the same kind of progression in bench that I had found with the deadlift protocol. After my new squat 1RM of 185 lbs, I decided I wanted that progression in my squats too. I started seriously debating switching over to Hybrid Performance's powerlifting program...which has the purpose of prepping you to eventually compete in the sport if you so choose.

I crossed paths with PL again at the globo gym one afternoon when I was working on deadlifts. He started to pay attention to what I was doing when he realized I was pulling 185 lbs for reps. I was struggling a bit with initiating my lifts with sumo and had just filmed myself so I could troubleshoot it. I was looking back at the video frame-by-frame so I could critique myself, when PL wandered over. He circled slowly around me silently in a shark-like fashion, looking at the barbell and then at me, until I looked up from my phone.

"What?" I asked with a grin. I had previously watched him do a similar thing with Trainer when he wanted to speak his mind but was holding back.

"Nothing, just observing."

I studied him seriously for a moment, then laughed. He wanted me to prod. Men and their body language.

"TELL ME. Critique me. I wanna hear it. I want to get better." I meant it. The guy is a competitive powerlifter and he taught my former trainer. In a way, I had already learned from him. I wanted direct feedback now from the master.

"Your deadlifts are good," he said. "You just need to sit back more and get your shoulders above the bar. You're getting in front of the barbell when initiating the lift. I would practice at this weight a little longer before trying to go heavier." I loved it because these were exactly the things I had noticed and thought while reviewing my video. He basically confirmed that my own observations were spot-on when it came to evaluating myself.

"That's 185 lbs there...you're doing well," he said, raising his eyebrows. (Remember I'm pretty small: 5'4" and 135ish lbs.) And then he added gruffly, "He taught you well." He was referring to Trainer.

I would have loved to have given Trainer full credit. But the truth is that CrossFit, Coach A and Coach D were the ones that had taught me sumo and helped me refine my deadlifts. Well, and me putting in the damn time to get better at them too.

This is why I like to remember how far I've come every. single. day.
It's how you learn to appreciate when you get what you want.
I thanked PL for his feedback. We talked a bit more about lifting and he wandered back to his squat rack to continue doing his own thing.

Back during my time with Trainer, I had developed outright trepidation when it came to deadlifts, but had grown to love this specific lift after being reintroduced to it at the box. I fell in love with deadlifts even more on this day because PL helped me see that I was on the right track.

I did my second monthly deload and loved it as much as the first. Some people hate doing deloads but I really started enjoying having one week a month of not having tentative goals or numbers I wanted to hit. It's my "I do what I want" week.

Like two WODs in one day because I liked that particular WOD so much. Or practicing every single squat variant in one afternoon for funsies:

Overhead squats with the junior Olympic barbell and an on-point RBF.
Yes, this is what I look like in the gym: like I'm ready to murder someone. Yes, it's 100% deliberate and no, it is not indicative of an angry mental state. It just means I'm super focused and I don't want anyone to talk to me. #willbite
Practicing lightweight high-rep front and back squats on that same day.
I wish we could do life deloads: one week once a month where you don't have to adult a single time if you don't want to. :)

The illustration below is SO TRUE!!!! Women have built-in superpowers beyond what this shows:

You are a goddess in more ways than you think.
In other news, I lifted in yoga pants because I can, and deliberately did a poor imitation of fitspos on IG because #notafitspo.
(I am sticking my tongue out in the photo on the right. Lol)


On the nutrition front, I was bumped up to 325 g of carbs on my high-volume training days (which were still at least 3/5 days of the week) and 2400 calories. Calorie-wise I was literally eating double what I'd been eating back in March during the final stages of my prep, and over 300 g of carbs more.

Jilda had slowly been increasing me 5 g of carbs at a time up every week until then. It had been interesting because I had observed that even with tiny 5 g bumps of carbs at a time, my appetite would increase during the first week of a carb increase. I mentioned it to Jilda and she was fascinated: this was due to insulin spikes, which proved that I was a little more sensitive than average to carbs. She started manipulating my fats more as well to help prevent these insulin spikes.

Remember when I said I was sensitive to carbs and I did well on a higher fat diet? I had been noticing this since my time with Trainer! BOOM! There it is! Didn't meant that I was supposed to eat low carb, just that my diet needs to be a little higher in fat than the average high carb diet would be. That's all.

The jump to 325 g of carbs was still the biggest since starting with BIN and it coincided with the transition between my deload week and my period, which is when I naturally tend to retain more water due to hormone changes. I did balloon enough to freak out about it, but I was reassured that this was most likely temporary (which I knew in my head but I still needed to hear at the time): just hang tight and give it two weeks. I realized then that I was still thinking in terms of needing to look a certain way in the short-term. It was really awesome to have the reminder that body recomposition is a long-term process and progress is not always linear.

Less than a week later, my abs were pretty bomb-ass visible again, which is when I took the October photo below.

Transformation from March to October despite/thanks to dramatic changes in caloric intake.
Most of the time, carbs are good for you guys, and if you're an athlete you need them. ***Unless of course you have a medical condition that requires you to eat low carb.

Ground beef with apples, butternut squash and Brussel sprouts.
I make a variation of this for breakfast that involves eggs.
I discovered these in October and became addicted: Perfect Bars. They are high calorie and high in protein, carbs and fat but they make a really awesome mid-afternoon snack when you're training as hard as I was here: I could go on these for hours without bonking. They are made with real food (they should be kept refrigerated though they will keep out of the fridge for a week) and nut butters are one of the main ingredients. Wegmans, Costco and Amazon carry them. My favorite is the dark chocolate almond.
Meal prep for the work week: roasted chicken with cherry tomatoes, butternut squash with veggie rice.

I loved running in October.

This photo makes me think of the Florida Keys this past summer, but it was taken in downtown on a chilly October morning.
Do you see the horse head hitching post? :D
Blue windows and a purple door.
One of the many downtown quirks that I love is the fact that no two houses are alike.

Carroll Creek.
Fall leaves. I had way too much fun creating interesting compositions with leaves and pavers on my routes.
More water lilies. <3
A blanket of yellow leaves.
I loved how the red of the treetop blended into the red of the distressed brick wall behind it.
Another tree whose changing leaves blended into the wall behind it.
Halloween decorations!
The Baker Park bell tower in the distance.
Band shell seats at sunset.
This is actually the same path that crosses in front of the public gym (the castle.)
Sunset through the trees.
Pretty leaves against prickly green grass.
Magoo's!! I've always loved the astronaut in the kilt! He's a permanent part of the decor.
The fading light highlighted the orange in the treetops.
This sunset was so gorgeous.
Dusk through Baker Park.
The fountain of Culler Lake in Baker Park.
I liked the contrasts here.
It was not this dark in person, but I chose to focus on the sky instead of the water.
The view from the other side of the Baker Park waterfalls. You can see the bridge from where I always take the photos above and below this one.

My waterfalls.
All the pretty leaves.
Tiny lights in the trees lit at dusk.
Baker Park.
One colored leaf.
Running outfit of the day.
I like the textures of this hallway. The town hangs flower baskets down the length of it in the warm months.
I love the orange shutters on that building on the right.
More Halloween!
These people went all out.
The sign in the window made me smile.
This was a pretty random window.
Again: this town's residents have the most wonderful freak flags that they have no fear of flying.
The leaves they were a-turnin.'
I liked the light shining through these.
Remember all of these are things that catch my eye while I'm going at speed! #powersofobservation
First truly cold weather run in the books. It was 50 degrees.
I was cracking up over the fact that 50 degrees in the spring = tank top weather, whereas 50 degrees in the fall = layers.
I was intrigued. I followed the arrow. There was no place to vote for donuts. Future donut shop? It's been 3 months and still nothing at this location so I have no idea.
More Halloween.
One of the things in that window is not like the others. :)
The photo below was from an interesting run. It's a pretty funny story because it's proof that I'm not always this put-together graceful gazelle when it comes to working out. Lol

It was late afternoon and I was rushing to get 3 miles in before having to head to the box for the evening WOD. I was starting the last half mile of my route and sprinting past a familiar section of store fronts. I crossed a small side street and leaped onto the sidewalk on the other side...and then tripped on something unseen and went flying. Literally flying. There was air involved. People only fall like that in cartoons.

It was pretty much like this, except my phone hit the ground instead of my face.
From stupidfox.net
I landed on my right knee and hands with palms down, with my phone (which I'd been holding in my hand while running (I usually just hold it throughout the run so I can switch songs and track my mileage)) taking the full brunt of the fall...which probably saved me from spraining my left wrist. I promptly popped up again to my feet hoping that no one had seen me...and in the process almost head-butted the jaw of this guy that had materialized out of thin air to help me. 

He caught my arm to steady me, bright blue eyes searching mine with concern. "Are you okay???" he asked. 

Other than the color of his eyes, the guy was the spitting image of Hugh Jackman. 

Yepppp...right down to the shoulders and plaid shirt.
"Yes, I'm fine," I blurted. I suddenly really, really wanted to crawl into a hole and hide. Pretty sure my face was 50 shades of red.

"You sure?"

"Yes. Thank you!" My gratitude was genuine. I'm not used to that kind of behavior from strangers and it was very sweet of him. 

He grinned. I grinned back and then turned around and promptly kept right on running, basically to prove that I really do know how to put one foot in front of the other at speed. 

I was almost back at Baker Park when I decided to sit down on a bench and check my knee, where a nice hematoma was already forming.

Other than the bruise, the knee was fine. Still sitting on the bench, I started laughing and laughing and laughing. Of all the people to fall in front of in downtown, of course it would have to be in front of the stranger I'd never seen before that looked exactly like one of my favorite actors. Life can be a little ridiculous sometimes.

My phone screen was very, very cracked after breaking my fall, but still functional so at least there was that. 

I made it uneventfully and on time to CrossFit an hour later.

This view. <3
Yes, that's a giraffe in the window. Yes it is real: it's taxidermied. And yes, it is wearing giraffe-sized glasses.
This reflection was so perfect.
So many pretty colors and textures.

Every season. :)
Near the falls. I liked the light through the red and orange leaves of this tree.
Far side of Baker Park.
Carroll Creek.
October is my favorite month, so the personal section is going to be huge here.

On the island, October meant that the end of hurricane season was within sight and nights were maybe 5 degrees cooler (so, like 80 degrees...) In South Florida it marked the beginning of pumpkin spice season. (Because the 2-week break from the heat wasn't coming until January...) Here in Maryland it means that it is Fall with all the beauty and wonder that comes along with it: changing leaves, cooler days, chilly nights, horses growing fuzzy for the winter. Halloween decorations finally mean something now that we live in a place with seasons!

For the first time since moving north, we weren't financially depleted from having to renew Lily's M&M insurance, liability insurance, and paying for the last big round of vaccines for two horses before winter. So we actually October'ed the way we had always wanted to October! It was AMAZEBALLS. And as usual, I barely wrote about it here.

It was Carlos's birthday on the 21st. Of course it fell on a Sunday when we both worked but we made up for it later.

I posted this on Facebook on his birthday:

I normally keep the mush off of Facebook but today I'm going all out with it.
A lot of people choose their life partners based on the stability that that relationship provides them. The first time I laid eyes on you as young adults, my first thought was, “Life with him would be an adventure.” 14 years into this journey with you, I can confirm that my gut feeling was true: every moment has been, and continues to be, an adventure.
We got stuck on a deserted island together and were the only ones that DIDN'T want to leave. We've camped together, hiked together, surfed together, ridden thousands of miles on horseback together. We've traveled together, started over from scratch together, studied together, danced together, laughed together, celebrated together, cried together. You brought me out of my shell, inspired me to switch careers to become a veterinary nurse, and sparked to life every crazy idea and notion I've ever had because you believe in me. Because you believe that when I put my mind to something, I can make it come true. Well, yes. But it happens because of you. This awesome journey that we share together is what it is because of you.
Happy Birthday Carlos❤️❤️❤️

We went out to the White Rabbit for his birthday dinner later that week and...since his birthday and our anniversary are only 10 days apart, we turned it into 10 days of celebrating us.

Halloween-themed potted plants on the White Rabbit's first floor windows. <3
Dessert was this incredible butternut squash cheesecake that was to DIE for!
And yes, I was able to make it fit my macros! #flexibledieting I wish I'd taken photos of dinner...it was 8 oz of lean boneless pork chop over a bed of sauteed kale, onions, butternut squash and cranberries.
It might be my new favorite thing.

On the 31st (Halloween) was our 10-year wedding anniversary and our 14-year togetherversary. We had both requested it off from work and had the next day off as well.


We started the day with breakfast shots at home!

We then went to the box for the morning's Halloween WOD. I do not recommend having whiskey shots with breakfast prior to doing a hero WOD. Just saying. It was...an interesting experience!

The workout was Fran.
I especially do not recommend alcohol before Fran...
That was followed by brunch at Nola's.

It is impossible to get a good photo of him. Impossible. He's even worse than his tripod cat.
We went to the barn, where I rode (Carlos wasn't in the mood to ride himself; he just wanted to take photos.)

I took selfies before releasing G-Mare in the field because she was being a love bug.

Outtake. Our expressions matched. Lol!

This one was my favorite though.
We then went to Target to get a couple of things for our costumes that night.

Target in riding gear whut

We dressed up.

Our hair matches neither one. Who cares. We were just being our own superheroes. ;)
And then we went to dinner at the White Rabbit.

Trying to get ONE. GOOD. PHOTO!
(Yes, they were playing horror movies in the background because Halloween. :D)
Of course.
We're made for each other?
After that, we walked around downtown....

We weren't the only people dressed up.
Typical Frederick: no one looked twice over the fact that I had a bow and arrows slung across my back.

Boots and dry leaves. <3
"Don't worry: 'bee' happy!"
....and finished the evening by dancing under the bridge for the first time in a year.

This tree was not-so-subtly watching us when we parked near the bridge.
Carlos had me stand under the light so he could set the camera on his cell while I looked for the song I wanted to dance to on my phone.

It was hands-down the best anniversary we've ever had. We had even more fun than on our wedding day, and that's saying a lot!


National Veterinary Technicians Week is in October, and this pretty much nails what we are:

Work was good. Enough that I wrote another Tails from The Trenches post here.

One of the techs started hiding this T-Rex in odd spots around the ICU. If you found it, you were supposed to hide it in a new spot for someone else to find. I loved so much that it had been placed with the T-sets (that really is what they're called) that I had to leave it there!

That time the T-Rex was in the induction tank...
We do not like luer slip syringes like this one for small animals. (They are popular on the equine side.) We keep them around for giving patients liquid oral medications but not for injections. For injections we prefer luer lock syringes. Someone kept accidentally re-stocking our 35 ml syringe drawers with luer slips, which made all of us Type-As wig out every time we would reach into the drawer and pull one of these out.
Someone else finally did the above in response. I reached into the 35 ml syringe bin in the drawer one day and found it...and snorted with laughter over the Buddha picture.
"Y tho? No please."
We still don't know who was re-stocking the wrong syringes nor who came up with this gem, but it worked: there have only been luer lock syringes in the drawers since then.

I also got stuck in horrible traffic on 495 two Sundays in a row after work, where I was re-routed by GPS into yet more traffic. My one hour commute home took almost two hours. It made me question my life choices.

I started feeling a shift occurring in Surgeryland: doctor schedules changed and full-timers started to get shifted around between the different offices in a different way. I had one of those gut feelings again...which prompted me to casually start looking for a different second job.

Early morning walk with a Pitbull patient that had had bilateral TPLOs. You would never have known that she was at less than 12 hours post-op. (I walked her in and out with a sling; when she indicated that she was ready to urinate I removed the sling so as to not interfere.) She was so fit and muscular that she was able to compensate without issue. We used the sling for assistance but she would have done fine by herself.
This client-made E-collar (Elizabethan collar or "cone of shame") using a bucket is one of the most ingenious things I've ever seen since starting to work in vet med.
They cut the bottom out of the bucket and punched holes in the remaining bottom rim.
The bucket cone attached to the dog's collar with this lacing like so.
The bucket was long enough that the dog couldn't reach his incision.
This led to my discovering that a veterinary practice VERY close to home was hiring. They had a questionable reputation management-wise among the region's veterinary community, but I decided to apply just out of sheer curiosity to get a feel for the place myself. The first catch was that it was a full-time position, which meant I'd have to leave both of my current jobs...and I had pretty strong feelings about having to leave the ICU job especially: I wanted to stay.

As it would turn out, I got called in for an interview. I liked the department I would be working for and the techs. But there were some minor things that didn't feel right. I was given an offer that anyone else would have accepted without batting an eye, except for the fact that I am one of those people that reads every word of a contract before signing it. And there was one thing that really, really bothered me about it. I talked it over with Carlos, I talked it over with my mom. I talked it over with a couple of close friends. The general consensus was that I should accept the job. It was a great offer. And it was so close to home! And I'd have weekends off, so Carlos could move into the schedule that they wanted him to take at his job.

But I still had this horrible bad feeling that I just could. not. shake.

This was an interesting morning. I always used GPS for both work drives because both commutes involved traveling out of state. On this particular day I was going to Surgeryland...and the GPS re-routed me to Whites Ferry. I didn't realize that's where I was headed until it was too late to do something about it. Though granted, the times GPS has rerouted me have been because there has been major traffic on my regular route that needed to be avoided.
But that's how I ended up crossing the Potomac River in the truck on a historic ferry.
It was quite the unexpected mini adventure, and the kind of thing that I would have missed out on if we didn't live in this region.

I had until a specific day at a specific time to say yes to the contract. The night before this specific day, I kept waking up agitated over this position. So every time I woke up, I'd lie in bed and analyze my emotions:
"Ok. Tell me: why does this worry you so much? There is one thing about this that is really getting to you."
"It's because of that thing in the contract."
"But what if it all goes well? Then that won't be an issue."
"But what if it doesn't? Then it will be a huge issue."
"You'll be fine! Just think: you'll only have to drive 5 minutes to get home instead of 50 miles!"
"But what if the work-life balance sucks and I end up living there? I still want to have a life! Plus: I don't want to give ICU-Land notice! I love them! I want to stay with them!"
I'd eventually give up and shove it all aside and fall asleep again, only to wake up again two hours later with the same things spinning around in my head.

The next day, my last day for sending the contract back, I went for a run because I knew it would help clear my mind. I got lost in the music playing through my headphones, my mind just flowing along freely. At the end of my run, I asked myself,
"So, how do you feel now about this job?"
"Like maybe I might be okay?"
I felt better about it, but I was also high on endorphins from the run.

I went home, changed into riding clothes and headed to the barn with Carlos. Riding at its best also tends to clear my mind.

I had a lovely ride on Gracie where I was 100% present. I dismounted with just an hour left before I was out of time to send the signed contract. I had uploaded it beforehand to my email and had it ready to go. I felt more confident about the decision after the ride...so now with a clear head, I hit "send" on the contract.

And then spent the next couple of days sweating over my notice letters to both jobs. I have never stressed so much over letters of resignation. Why? Because I didn't want to write them. The ICU letter especially felt all sorts of wrong to be writing. This feeling stuck with me long after I hit "send" on those letters too.

I finished my time at both jobs over the course of the following two weeks; my original start date was set for the first week of November.

Among all of the other things we fit in on Halloween for our anniversary, I also managed to go out for a run in downtown while Carlos window shopped. This snippet is relevant to the rest of this story; you'll see why in a little bit:

I was following the water of Carroll Creek like I usually do during the warm months. As an islander, I find peace running alongside water so I just go with the flow (pun intended) when I can. You can choose to follow Carroll Creek all the way to the end, but that involves crossing a main road and continuing past a fairly isolated area of old buildings being turned into new businesses that butts up to a sketchy part of town.

The area past the main road crossing. It's really pretty in the summer, but most of the buildings alongside its length are empty. Hence why it can feel very isolated. 
I can't really explain what I do here...but I often pause at the road and look across it towards the end of the creek to get a "reading" on the environment down there. On some days, it feels welcoming and I proceed.

There is this big geyser-like fountain at the very far end of the Creek here.
Gorgeous, no? I think you can understand why I choose to go down this way when everything feels right. It also allows me to add a full mile alongside water to my run.
Same section. Photo taken at dusk on an overcast day. It looks foreboding in this photo because of the light but it didn't feel foreboding at all in person on this particular day.
On some days it doesn't feel welcoming...there have been times where it's neutral and others where it's been downright unwelcoming. Sometimes the unwelcome sensation is triggered by something I see: a person, a potential situation. Sometimes there is nothing visibly noticeable as a trigger, just the feeling that I shouldn't go on. On those days I don't question it. I simply don't cross the road: I turn around and loop back up the Creek.

The turnaround point is especially beautiful in the summer.
On this particular day though, I wasn't even close to the area where I would have turned around when I suddenly lost all desire to proceed. It was bizarre, as I had been really into my run at that moment and looking forward to following the water for as long as I could. It was like a vacuum had sucked up all of my enthusiasm over this route. My desire to run was still there, but not the desire to continue. It was strong enough that I came to a stop.

"Why? What am I perceiving here that is subconsciously telling me that I shouldn't continue?"

I looked around. There weren't many people walking along the Creek, which was typical for this time of day in this area. A couple walking along, talking happily. An older man with his dog, a Doodle of some sort with his tail flagged high.  It was a mildly overcast but still overall sunny day so no dark storm clouds rolling in. The Creek and the still-green vegetation around it were especially beautiful.

I was right here when I got that feeling.
I shrugged and picked up a run again, intending to stubbornly ignore the feeling and at least make it to my usual turnaround point.

But there it was again, much clearer this time, "Turn around. Turn around now."

It was strong enough that I got goosebumps.

I slammed to a stop and turned around, choosing a completely alternate route away from the water, which is what that same gut feeling was telling me to do. I still have no idea what I was picking up on subconsciously. But I realized, as I moved away from the water, that there was a sense of relief that grew greater the farther away I got from the Creek. I never figured out what it was, and I have since gone back and run that route without issue.

A dear friend posted that same day about a similar experience while she was hiking on trail and every hair on my body stood on end reading her recount because it was so very like what I had experienced. She too, had turned around, prompted by something invisible that she couldn't put a finger on. It was a confirmation: TRUST. YOUR. INSTINCTS. Especially if you're a woman.

So back to my job misadventure.

With less than a week left to start, my start date at the new place got changed in a way that meant I could have prolonged my work time at both of my old jobs if I'd known sooner. Which was annoying but not so annoying to make me change my mind yet. There continued to be an undercurrent of tension for me but I was fairly calm for the rest of that week. It was a pretty normal combo of sensation for beginning a new job...until I woke up the day before I was scheduled to start an inexplicable trainwreck of sudden anxiety.

This was so out of the norm for me that it was stressing me out even more: I'm usually excited about learning the ropes of a new hospital and the way they do medicine. I had never been this worked up about starting at a new hospital ever.

"Why do you trust your gut over something as simple as the destination of a run. but not over something that can be career-altering, like a job?"

When it comes to pure anxiety, I can usually differentiate it from premonition: if I sit down and analyze it, I can recognize when I am overreacting. This time around I was not getting that impression, that I was overreacting, no matter from what angle I studied my emotions. I was in full-blown fight or flight mode over this job and could not shake the feeling that something really bad was going to happen if I proceeded.

It was a premonition.

And then, at the very last minute my start date got changed again.

My psyche took it as a sign and screamed, "RUN! Now is your chance. Run, run, RUN!!!"

I talked to both Carlos and my mom and explained everything from every angle because I wanted to make sure I didn't sound like a crazy person. Now that I had given myself permission to think in this way, the more I thought about running away from this situation, the more I wanted to do it. As usual, Mom's and Carlos's response was, "Your instincts are always right. Trust your gut."

And so I sat down at the computer at home and wrote a letter to the new job turning down the position. The second I hit "send," relief poured over me with so much force that it was like someone had dumped a bucket of cool water over my head on a hot summer day. I felt like I could suddenly breathe again. The feeling of impending doom with the ensuing panic instantly vanished.

You want to know why I'm telling you this story?

Because within that same week, three different sources that I trusted randomly confirmed out of the blue that it would have been an enormous mistake to have proceeded with that job. My gut feeling had been spot-on. Not only was it spot-on, there had been some big changes at exactly the time my stress over the position had turned for the worse at the very end. The accuracy of my premonition at that time is still eerie to think about. So I'mma slap this one on here again:

And IME, the more you trust those gut feelings, the stronger and more accurate they become.

So now I found myself in this weird jobless limbo where I felt like every single door had suddenly flown opened. I could do anything I wanted. I walked down this illuminated hallway full of open doors and looked into each one:  "If you could be or do anything in the world, what would it be? Where would you work? What would you do? Where would you go?"

I thought about it. I wandered down that hallway back and forth, peering through each door. But I kept coming back to one specific door that opened into a very specific world. It was a world where IV pumps beeped in the background, and I performed CPR on a dog, and I sat in cages with patients who placed their heads on my lap while I did their treatments, and formerly untouchable cats decided I was an okay human that could work with them by myself. It was a door where I sometimes cried but where I laughed so much more, where I ended the day feeling like I had Made a Difference for an animal, but especially for the human that loved that animal.

 "You know what? Right now, at this moment in time, I just want to be a veterinary ICU nurse."

"Then you need to tell them."

I was welcomed back with open arms, which seemed an even greater sign that I was where I was supposed to be right then. I did not return to Surgeryland because my gut feeling about the changes over there had also been correct: they currently did not need a part-timer because of the office changes I had sensed.


Carlos and I made Date Night official in October: one day a week where we go out, set technology aside, have dinner and drinks and yak away about work and life and whatever else we haven't been able to talk about during the work week.
I felt hawt because I looked hawt. ;)
Carlos being cute with Zeus. He's starting to understand why I love Pitbulls so much.

My cats continued to be professionally irresistible.

The king of cat naps.
"You have too many feet. I want dis one. I'll also take these pants while I'm at it."
Zombie is very malleable.

These two and their bromance. <3 It's the most adorable thing I've ever seen.
This dude. <3 <3 <3
He made writing interesting.
Case in point. I mean seriously, how can you not?


Some thoughts on the rest of the month:

"Some people come into your life as a blessing. Others come into your life as a lesson." - Mother Teresa
I sent this to every other person I know that both loves cats and spends too much time on the internet. Seeing it now, it still makes me laugh just as hard as the first time I saw it.
I have a weird sense of humor, mkay? Don't judge. ;)

This made me so freaking happy. Roberto Clemente was a great Puerto Rican baseball player and Google remembered him on October 11 of 2018: they celebrated 46 years since his last game in 1972.

And if you don't trust the current process, find one that you do trust. <3

This also made me inexplicably giggle when I first found it.
It still does, so I'm dumping it here in case some other weirdo gets as much enjoyment out of it as I did.  ;)

I started taking this to heart this month.
Also: be fucking proud of your achievements and stop being afraid to shout it out. Humility is medieval. Tell me: do you know of any men that have ever been told to downplay their achievements? Think about it. No? Didn't think so. So why do women have to bow down and be humble? Seriously: what the actual fuck. It's yet another way of diminishing us into nothing. We're supposed to be prim and proper and skinny and humble, and not take up any kind of space in (American) society because women should be (barely) seen and definitely not heard. 
You know what? Fuck that. Also: who cares if someone does something better than you. It's YOUR story:  stop comparing yourself to other people. You're allowed to be the best you've ever been at whatever it is that you're trying to achieve. The world would be a better place if we'd stop freaking comparing ourselves to everyone else and just do the very best we can do and were PROUD of it! <3 
This is when I stopped worrying about my fitness posts being interpreted as bragging. Humble bragging, outright bragging, WHAT. EVER. I'm going to keep celebrating my achievements here, whether it's interpreted as bragging or not, and set an example for others to hopefully do the same.


Daddy's Groove & Jaxx Da Fishworks I Stay True

I'm starting this month with this section, as the month took off with the powerlifting meet that I worked and my decision to switch my training to full-blown powerlifting as well. For once I actually wrote about all of that! If you missed it, it's this post.

Going the powerlifting route changed the way I trained: I started going to the globo gym in the mornings for my heavy lifting programming and then heading to the box in the evening for CrossFit.

Killing time between warm-up squat sets by making faces in the mirror. :)
This was at the globo gym's "good squat rack" very early one morning, as noted by the empty gym behind me.
I had gone to bed before 10:00 pm one evening despite being off work the next day because I wanted to get to the gym early so I could snag this squat rack for my programming. Carlos had commented in awe, "It's amazing to me how you decide you want to do something and you just go out and start putting in the work in order to get there. You just do it. It's incredibly admirable and so very inspiring."
His words left me speechless in a good way.
More squats, this time during Open Gym. That was 141 lbs for my top sets at that time...it's crazy to think that now I'm squatting 160 lbs for that same rep scheme.
The first time I pulled 205 lbs for singles!!!
I happy danced all over the box because I finally broke 200 lbs with my deadlifts!
For the non-lifters: chalk is popular in both CrossFit and powerlifting for extra grip on the barbell.

Bench press was my biggest frustration of the powerlifts...in the beginning it was hard to set up the bar with just teensy little 10 lb plates in the middle of the gym surrounded by men (you very, very rarely see women bench pressing.) To my relief, I was left alone. Granted, I also did everything in my power to avoid eye contact.

As my numbers slowly went up, so did my confidence. I would eventually stop caring about how many baby plates I was putting on the barbell. At least I wasn't struggling with the empty bar anymore! :D

My lessons with Coach A continued.

Coach A didn't like how she looked in this photo but I love it because it was the first time my snatch finally truly came together...and she was so proud! You can see it in her expression here. <3 Like Trainer, she is not one to freely give out praise: when she praises you, it's because you've earned it. She actually gave me a hug at the end of the lesson.
"How did that feel?" she asked, regarding my perfect snatches.
We both laughed and laughed.

This was a fun evening the night before the powerlifting meet. I had done the WOD in the morning and returned in the evening to do my powerlifting programming in Open Gym while Carlos did the WOD (he had been at work during the day.) I finished before his class was over and sat down on the couch to read on my phone. To my surprise, Coach A brought out a selection of beer and ciders for me to choose from. (They had stocked up for after the meet the following day.) I chose this one, McKenzie's Pumpkin Jack hard cider, and giggled over the irony of being handed alcohol by your coach after a workout, and getting to drink it while watching your poor husband suffer through his own workout. ;)
I was thrilled with how I was feeling, performing and looking. I wrote this short post on the subject. And took a lot of selfies...which says something, given how much I normally hate them. :)

I loved how my upper back looked here. It's changed even more since then.
If you like what you see, take a picture. XP
Left: "before," taken during March before the bodybuilding show while goofing off during posing practice.
Right: "after", taken while goofing off during my check-in photos for BIN after an especially successful week of lifting.
It wasn't just a before & after in appearances, it was also an enormous before & after in attitude: I felt so insecure when that photo on the left was taken.
I flexed my back in the photo on the right because I was so proud of this body and everything it was doing for me at the time. That my back looked that amazing, which I didn't realize until after I saw the photo, was just the icing on the cake.

Mandatory bathroom progress photo this month. Once I started adding bench press with powerlifting + chest day workouts 1-2 times/week, I started to get a Real Pec Line. :D Also: my body is living proof that a 6-pack does not always necessarily equate a flat lower belly. I fought that lower belly for most of my life. It is officially mostly muscle now and it still has the same shape. #genetics #notaflaw
Running started to become a little less frequent as the temperatures began to drop. I invested in more wool base layers and Virus thermal pants to counter that. My goal was to continue running outdoors during winter for as long as I could, and not because of the cardio: I like what running does for my brain. It is the same effect as riding. The difference is that the barn involves a good hour of feeding, grooming, tacking up, untacking, and grooming in addition to the actual riding, all in the cold. With running, I just drive 5-10 minutes, get out of the car, go for 30 minutes, then come back to the car.

I've been struggling with this for years, but I still cannot figure out what to do with keeping my hands warm while riding in the wintertime. No matter how cold it is, my hands always start to sweat in gloves which then chills my fingers. Halfway into a ride it turns into an 8/10 on the pain scale. I have a high tolerance for pain, as we all know by now. I am not a pansy. So for me to say that the pain in my hands while riding is unbearable means that it is truly unbearable. It becomes all I can think about. I start to just want to get off the horse and get back in the car so I can warm up my hands.

I have tried:
1. Thermal insulated riding gloves with a water-repellant outer layer, hoping the water repellant layer would retain heat. Nope.
2. Regular thermal gloves. Fingers still got chilled.
3. BoT glove liners + both #1 and #2. They made no difference.
4. I'll slide toe or hand warmers into the gloves. It helps to a degree but the end result is that they make my hands sweat more and my fingertips still get cold. I swear I don't have circulation problems like Raynaud's nor problems with excessive sweating. (I actually sweat less overall in the winter, even in the gym.) This is the best fix I've found so far, but I have to wear bulkier gloves in order to accommodate the warmers which then means that I have to remove them for stuff like bridling or girthing up, which defeats the entire purpose of keeping my hands warm. Having to remove gloves for that kind of stuff makes me want to cry.
5. I've mostly given up and have been known to ride sans gloves. My hands freeze, but at least they aren't wet + freezing like they tend to get in gloves. It still involves excruciating amounts of pain that runs up to my knuckles, and it then means that my hands get horrifically chapped from the cold. I use high quality hand-specific moisturizer in the winter, but there is only so much that can do.

Bloggers: if you have found something that worked for you in this regard, I want to know. :)

All of these have summed up to my simply not really riding in the winter if it's below 45 degrees because it means burning hands from the cold for 2 hours. Whereas with running I only have to deal with it for 30 minutes.

Wool cap, Icebreaker wool long-sleeved base layer, Doughnuts & Deadlifts cropped hoodie (it's been discontinued), Virus compression pants, tall compression socks (for extra warmth), and my Altra sneakers.
I finally accepted that I was officially a runner. I had contemplated it during September when I found myself running in the rain outdoors for the first time, but it solidified further as I continued pounding the pavement as the mercury dropped.

This was hands-down my favorite fitness meme of the year.
One of these is legit what got me to continue running, another I try to avoid at all costs, and the other...well, I try to choose my battles. ;)
Still a runner though. 
I think these were my most spectacular running photos of the year, thanks to the beautiful fall light and the changing foliage colors.

There was an election. I participated. These were my feelings about it:

I was obviously thrilled with this:

Photo from here.
Also, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not only the youngest woman ever to be elected for Congress. She is also a Puerto Rican woman raised in the Bronx. Wanna know what Puerto Rican women are capable of? Just watch. :) She's already started to make waves.

Again: WOMEN: STOP TRYING TO DISAPPEAR. Don't let others talk you into it either.


I started back in ICU-Land. I was received with this. I cried.

This isn't "just a job," guys. Vet tech is hard. The job all by itself is, by definition, emotionally draining and mentally & physically demanding, especially at the critical care level.
On top of that, it's hard to find a job with a healthy work environment, that pays you what you're worth, that sees you and your efforts and shows you how much you're appreciated, that promotes a work-life balance, that is appropriately staffed, where management understand the challenges of the job and adjusts their expectations accordingly. All of those things at once are really hard to find.
These flowers and this note were one of the most touching things anyone has ever done for me in my career.
It meant the world and it was the biggest highlight of this month.
I had been gone for less than two weeks and I had already missed it with a vengeance. It was good to be back and experiencing things like this:

This was on a really busy Saturday. Those are random blood spots. The patient had been a copperhead snake bite victim that had fortunately been immediately brought in by his owners for treatment so he did great.
But we had a good laugh afterwards when we realized the blood spots on the floor incidentally formed a sad face.
Yup. I try not to text coworkers during the week to find out if a patient made it home because I try to leave work at work. Doesn't mean I don't think about patients though. It means I rush into work first thing Saturday morning to look up that patient's record to see how they did.
Me on my commute. :D
#puertoricandriver #puertoricandrivingskills #puertoricandrivingschool
Our hospital has tons of pet-themed artwork on display throughout its hallways and exam rooms.
This is one of my favorites:
"Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea."
Not even joking. There were weekend days in November where the on-call surgery team just hung out because we were lining up the foreign body surgeries for them.

Zombie was very focused on quietly and gently reaching for my toes one morning while lounging on the carpet. I snagged this photo of the moment, which inspired the diptych below. I was so amused by it that I decided to post it to Facebook. The artwork is famous enough that I knew the general population would get the reference:

Tripod Cat With Foot as Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam.

My awesome friends did get it. And to my surprise, it started something. 

A friend shared the photo of her cat stretching in the sun, "What painting would he be?"

I gave her Matisse's Icarus.
Other people shared photos of their pets and I commented back with the artwork that they resembled. It was SO MUCH FUN. It really put my art history knowledge to the test. With most of the photos I immediately knew what art I was looking for...I didn't always remember the specific artist or painting, but I knew the style or the era and I actually surprised myself by often being able to find the exact painting I wanted within minutes of the photo being submitted. (Yay for Google!) I think it's been my favorite day on Facebook ever, if there is such a thing. I posted it in My Story on IG that same day. 

Ro's Dude and Ozzy were Van Dyck's Jesus and the Children.
Karen's Lily was Alexandre Cabanel's Birth of Venus.

Hannah's Titus was Edvard Munch's Self- Portrait.
I still can't decide who has the better side-eye here!

Yoga cat is Picasso's Acrobat.(I had a pretty good laugh over my own cleverness with this one! ;) And so did the kitty's owner.)

Reclining kitty is Eugene Delacroix's Odalisque.

Aengus's rendition of Flaming November is comparable to my all-time famous painting, Frederic Leighton's Flaming June. Like most famous artwork, the 1895 painting has a fascinating story. It was ultimately saved by Luis A. Ferre, governor of Puerto Rico and an avid art collector who founded the Museo de Arte (Art Museum) in Ponce. He bought the painting for $8,000 to put on display in his museum...and in the process put it right up there with some of the most well-recognized paintings in art history.
My mom taught art workshops at the Museo de Arte de Ponce on Sundays when I was in my late teens. I'd go find this painting and just stand in front of it, staring at it and absorbing the peacefulness of it until I lost all sense of time. The light on the water is metallic in real life and almost seems to move and shimmer in the background. It is truly mesmerizing.

The in-laws came to visit the week before Thanksgiving and they brought snow with them. The forecast had said flurries with no accumulation.

Remember that.

They were staying in D.C. for an educator's conference my MIL was attending. (She is a university professor. Both Carlos and I come from families of educators. #nerdsfrombirth) We decided to meet in the Rockville/Gaithersburg area of Maryland because it's the halfway point between Frederick and D.C. The only day that we could meet with them due to conference and work commitments was on this one specific day: the one where "light snow" was on the forecast.

Carlos and I went to CrossFit in the morning that day as the flurries started to come down.

You can see the white flecks coming down in this photo.
I did Open Gym while Carlos did the WOD and we then did the Strength class together.

In the meantime, this was happening outside.

Believe it or not, the forecasts (yes, plural) STILL said "no accumulation." 
We showered and got into the truck to make the 30-mile drive to Rockville.

So the irony of this entire story is this: the truck needed new tires. We had been planning on getting them this month before snow/ice season started. Carlos's dad is a wonderful generous man and he loves to gift us with car maintenance when he can. (That might seem odd but it is so him: he loves cars and works in the auto industry.) When he got wind of the truck needing tires, he asked that we not schedule it: he would gift us with the new tires as our early Christmas present when they came to visit for my MIL's conference.

And that is how we found ourselves driving in heavy icy snowy sludge on the unsalted highway in a 1/4 ton truck with smooth tires.

This was not fun.
Carlos drove while I called around on speaker phone so we could figure out where to take the truck for new tires...him and his dad had tried during the week to make an appointment with various shops and had been unsuccessful. Apparently most big box auto service places (Costco, Walmart, AutoZone)  don't do tire change appointments? It was an unexpected problem. Our best bet now ended up being Walmart...they had a day-long wait (apparently everyone and their brother decided that unexpected snow = Must Get New Tires Nao.) The woman that answered the phone in the tire center was Latina, and was absolutely awesome once we got her to switch to talking to us in Spanish. She signed up Carlos to be in line from the moment we called so the truck would get done today (as opposed to tomorrow...) Why Walmart? This particular one was next to a mall which meant we could go grab lunch and window shop while waiting for the truck to be ready.

Okay, so this whole thing ended up being a mission of epic proportions.

First off, the 30 minute drive took us an hour and a half, which was not surprising given the conditions. We personally don't have issues driving in the snow. Puerto Ricans don't learn how to drive in the white stuff, but we get exposed to an enormous variety of situations the average law-abiding city-raised American never will: having to dodge potholes while driving 70 mph on the highway; people changing lanes with no blinkers or the blinkers indicating a change in the opposite direction, 5 ton cargo trucks (they are ubiquitous on an island that is forever developing) charging at you at 60 mph on a road that is only a lane and a half wide with hair-pin turns and a cliff drop-off on one side (if you don't have a pair of cojones then, you most certainly grow them!); people who use yellow traffic lights as an indicator that they should FLOOR THAT GAS PEDAL DO NOT SLOW DOWN NEVER EVER EVER; where stop signs are a mere suggestion to maybe de-accelerate a titch; where you often dodge stray dogs or the 4' long green iguana sunbathing in the middle of the road and chickens really do play chicken on the street; where rain = slippery asphalt and roads flood at the drop of the hat (flooding prevails when urban developments haphazardly chop down all trees), so you may find yourself driving through water as deep as the bottom edge of your car door frame in order to get home because you can't turn around...No brakes afterwards? No problem. That's what your e-brake is for.

Sometimes you stop for horses. This is on a back country road. This has been known to happen on big city streets too.
I can go on. You think I'm joking. I am not.

Driving over a thin layer of snow and ice is not unlike driving over slick damp fine moss, which I had to do every single day during the rainy season just to get in and out of our house. This was thanks to our heavily shaded long steep driveway and how fast vegetation grows in the tropics when you pour a shit ton of water over it for weeks on end. It was extra fun with my brother's rear-wheel drive truck.

Carlos had similar experiences from his intra-island explorations.

My point: islanders driving in the white stuff isn't the problem. We got this.

It's everyone else that believes snow = lava and loses every driving capability + shred of common sense they've ever had, despite growing up in this region with this climate.

We had an idiot change lanes in front of us and then let his car slow down to 20 mph without touching his brakes. You shouldn't use your brakes in snow, but don't fucking slow down to 20 mph on the goddamn highway because you're endangering both yourself and everyone else behind you who's struggling to just see through their windshield because the snow is coming down so hard! If you feel so unsafe that you need to slow down that much, then at least put your hazards on so others know you're not driving like a normal person. (Yes, you shouldn't use your hazards for driving. When you can't use your brakes to alert others that you're slowing down, hazards are better than nothing. Please please please. For your own safety and others'!)

We didn't realize this dude was going so slow until we were 5 car lengths behind him. Which was plenty of time for Carlos to downshift gears in order to de-accelerate the truck without having to slam on the brakes. Except the smooth tires of the truck lifted off of the road and the truck continued coasting forward and ever so slightly sideways for about 4 car lengths at about 25 mph.

We both held our breaths in unison as Carlos simply tried to keep the truck steady without sudden movements.

And yes, our truck has 4WD.

The tires regained traction a few feet before we would have hit the 20 mph idiot.

We eventually changed lanes (because otherwise it would have then been us in danger of getting hit from behind by someone else unable to brake in time) so we could accelerate to a more reasonable speed (35-40 mph) while I cursed under my breath.

"That was SO MUCH FUN!" Carlos exclaimed.

I stared at him in disbelief and then burst into laughter when I saw the excited puppy-dog expression on his face. I think this should give you an idea of what my husband truly is like. He really meant it.

"OH MY GOD DOES HE HAVE A DEATH WISH WHAT THE FUCK!!!" I finally blurted, because I'd been biting my tongue so hard through this little adventure. But I was still laughing at Carlos's face.

"I wanna do it again!" Carlos said, bouncing up and down in the seat.

"Shut the fuck up! You'll invoke it! That was enough adrenaline for the next two months!"

He continued. "Remember when I used to say, 'What's the worst that could happen?' on road trips?"

"AAAAAAHHHHH STAHHP! SHUT UP! I'll duct tape your mouth shut if I have to!" I didn't smack him because he was driving.

He found this all hysterically funny. Such is life with a Carlos.

We laughed and laughed and laughed as we safely made our way down 270. I have never been happier to see a highway exit in my life.

***In translating this to English for the blog, I realized just how much we curse in Spanish. Oh well. Puerto Ricans are potty mouths.***

We picked up Carlos's dad at the Metro station. His mom would be joining us later in the afternoon when she got out of the conference. It was 1:00 pm and we needed to be able to get back to the Metro station by around 5:00 pm in order to do this.

The three of us then went over to Walmart to drop off the truck. We met the kind lady that had answered the phone when we called. She estimated they would be getting to the truck at about 5:00 pm: they only had two employees because everyone else had called out due to the snow. They were seriously backed up. After checking that this was okay and we wouldn't lose our spot if we did this, we drove the truck over to the nearest car rental place to get something that we could drive around for the rest of the day while the truck was in the shop.

The car rental place was another mission. My general impatience with the Universe is only superseded by Carlos's dad. Him and I get along so well because we could be blood relatives. Despite calling in advance for the rental, it took them forever to get the car for us because they were at shift change. Then they had to call both Carlos's and his dad's insurance companies for confirmation, which took yet another forever (fun fact: they did not do that when we rented the Jeep in Puerto Rico. *gasp* They simply took your word on it.)

By then Carlos's dad was grumbling and cursing under his breath in his awesome Cuban Spanish, "Me cago en la mierda con esta gente!" because he's rented cars in pretty much every major country in the world (including the Middle East and Australia...) and he had never run into so much trouble.

Meanwhile, I was leaning against the counter next to him trying really hard not to giggle because he made me feel so much better about my anxiety re: the whole situation with the weather, the truck and now the rental.

Carlos cracked jokes to get his dad to lighten up.

We were finally given the car keys. The whole ordeal had taken over an hour. We then dropped off the truck for real at Wally World and went to Panera to grab lunch.

The heavy wet snow had continued coming down through all of this. We hung out in Panera for a couple of hours catching up with Carlos's dad. As it would turn out, his mom got out early and we were able to pick her up at the Metro station in the fancy rental car (because boy was it fancy). We then returned to Walmart to see where they were at. The truck wouldn't be ready now until closer to 6:00 pm.

So we drove around to kill time. We drove right past the Gaithersburg Trader Joe's, where Carlos and I used to grocery shop when we lived in Rockville. I squealed in excitement (I am VERY much my mother's daughter when it comes to my happiness over groceries and food.) Because it was something to do, Carlos's dad obliged: he stopped at TJ's so I could run around like a little kid at Christmas, grabbing all sorts of goods off the shelves that we hadn't had in years because Frederick does not have a TJ's.

***I luff you Trader Joe's!***
Stop judging. ;)
The snow finally changed to rain, which was awesome because it meant driving conditions improved significantly as the snow got washed away.

We returned to Walmart. The truck would be done at 7:00 pm. We killed time in the store for an hour. We returned to the desk. The truck would be done before close at 8:00 pm. Wtf??? Carlos's dad tried to not have a cow. I actually stormed out into the auto shop by myself because I wanted to see what the hell they were doing. There was sepulchral silence and no one to be seen in the entire area. The truck was up on the lift with all of its tires still off. It had been that way since 5:00 pm. We understood that they were short-staffed but c'mon: don't lie to us about the status of the truck. We were all starving by then and could have had a relaxed dinner at a restaurant if we'd known it was going to take this long.

One of the mechanics saw me from wherever he was, and came over. "Can I help you?" he asked politely. I inquired about the truck. I indicated it was the Silverado on the lift. He said they had just replaced the tires and were going to get them balanced. I looked at the truck with all of its tires off and wondered, "Seriously, how stupid does he think I am?" There were no other trucks in the shed. You'd have to be blind to not see the giant blue-gray Silverado sans tires.

I tried to look innocent and dumb instead of furiously offended: I decided that this was not the time to pick an argument about misogyny with a mechanic I didn't know when we were in a time crunch.

Instead, I flashed him a megawatt smile and asked sweetly, "Ok...but will it really be ready before close? Or should we be worried about having to pick it up tomorrow?"

I had not realized his guard was up until now when it came down: he visibly relaxed. "Oh God yes. We have to finish before close. We will have your truck ready by then." His smile was genuine.

That was all I really needed. I thanked him and walked back into the waiting area, where I updated Carlos's family. We decided to grab a quick dinner and come back at 8:00 pm.

The mechanic did keep his word. When we returned, the truck was parked outside with brand spanking new all-terrain tires. We paid, then dropped Carlos's parents off at the Metro station, dropped the rental car off at the office, and made our way home in the truck on a wet snow-cleared unfrozen highway.

Not surprisingly, we slept like logs that night! We were exhausted.

I later reflected on the fact that a year and a half ago, I would not have dared boldly venture out into an auto shop's shed alone like that, risking getting yelled at or reprimanded by a group of men. I would not have been that confident when approached by one of them. I wouldn't have been able to redirect my emotions and manipulate my expressions and tone of voice in order to get what I wanted.

That change, the confidence to do all of that, was all thanks to strength training.


Carlos had changed his work schedule when I had accepted The Job That Wasn't, so he had been off on weekends for most of November. He'd switch back to Thursdays and Fridays off in December but it meant that we didn't see much of one another throughout most of November.

However, we both had Thanksgiving off from work so we spent it together.

Carlos had been on call the night before and CrossFit was closed for the holiday, so I let him sleep in while I went to the globo gym in the morning. It was a Back Day in the powerlifting program so I didn't do any of the Big Three on this day. I was close to the end of my workout when I ran into PL. He excitedly told me that his coach was coming and they were going to try to outlift one another: it should be quite the show. I would have loved to see it, but by that point I had been in the gym almost two hours and was starting to get hungry and his coach hadn't arrived yet: they still had to warm-up before starting to lift heavy shit.

I was working on kettlebell farmer's carries with a 50 lb kettlebell in each hand down the length of the gym when PL came over and said in a low voice, "You should alternate those with burpees and then try to do them with correct form." He just wanted to see what I would say.

I had laughed. "Nope: I save all of my burpees for CrossFit exclusively," I retorted with a grin.

He chuckled and walked away.

There is an older gentleman that goes to this gym at mid morning. He is one of the regulars and is the ring leader of the group of retirees that meets there to work out during the week. I have no idea how old he is...maybe upper 70's? But he has crows' feet around kind hazel eyes, a neatly trimmed gray beard, tattoos, muscles, and knows his way around a gym. He talks to pretty much all of the regulars that frequent the gym at that time while still getting an effective workout in. Me? I walk around the gym like a horse with blinders on: I don't really pay attention to people except to avoid them, and assume people do the same with me. During my first prep, I had been frequenting the gym at different hours. After the show I finally came back at my regular mid-morning time. This same gentleman had come up to me, "Are you okay? I had not seen you in forever!" He was genuinely concerned and I was touched: he had never spoken to me before then but there was something comforting in knowing that I was seen and someone cared. Ever since that moment, I had always made eye contact and grinned at him when our paths crossed.

On this Thanksgiving Day he was doing hanging leg raises on the machine next to me when PL had come over to challenge me to burpees. The gentleman had caught my eye afterwards: he was furious on my behalf. I knew it had to do with what PL had said, but I wasn't sure why it made him so angry. He was exercising and so was I so I didn't pursue it then.

Later as I was walking out into the parking lot, I realized that the gentleman was parked next to me and he was also leaving. "The nerve of some people!" he said to me. He was still bristling over the interaction with PL.


"'Correct form'? How dare he come talk to you about 'correct form'?!"

I suddenly realized why the gentleman had been so mad: he had thought PL was picking on me! I started laughing. "Oh no, no, that's not what he said!"

I explained, and the gentleman's hackles came down. He was not dismissive though. "If anyone ever bothers you, you let me know," he said.

"I will," I replied, and thanked him.

I returned home, where Carlos was finally awake. "I have more gym guardian angels," I announced, and told him the story I just told you guys. Carlos was amused. "You're surrounded by papa bears," he said. I am, and I'm fine with it. I don't mind male strangers being protective one bit, as long as they're not interfering with my lifts nor trying to mansplain things to me. Neither PL nor the gentleman nor any of the other guys that have come up to me at the gym since then have done either of those things.

No tattoos yet...but the rest? Yup.
We hung out at home for the rest of the day. I made ALL the meals from scratch, right down to the pumpkin pie.

Breakfast: Eggs over sweet potato, turkey bacon and kale hash.
Lunch: Acorn squash stuffed with ground turkey with celery, onion, almonds and cranberries.
Dinner: orange cranberry chicken skillet and oven-roasted butternut squash with turkey bacon.

Dessert: pumpkin pie. This was my first time making pie of any kind, ever. I was really happy with it.
All of it was healthy and all of it fit my macros. All of it was insanely filling and there were leftovers! :)


Have another cat photo dump. :D Basically: proof that cats are the most aloof, antisocial creatures. *snort*

Such a distinguished Zombie Ca-...!
...never mind.
"Ooooo pets! Here. On my head. Like dat."

"I was petted. I win. I can rest now."
So malleable.
He makes this super patient face of saintly tolerance that you see here,
and purrs the entire time you treat him like a three-legged undead muppet.
Aengus: *stares dreamily into my eyes* "I love blogging!"
Me: "Aengus, 'blogging' doesn't mean what you think it means."
Aengus: "You are wrong."
Aengus: "I said, 'STOP TYPING!'"
Me: "Remember what I said about the real meaning of 'blogging'?'"
See what I mean about him and yawning?
Or licking his lips. Seriously: he's like his dad when it comes to photos.

I rest my case.

"Whut? Why are you standing there giggling?"
Such a perfect stripey furry ball. <3
Moar naps
"I claim this box because it's the biggest!"
He claims all the boxes. All of them. He's the cat to the Amazon box meme.
This was my anniversary present for Carlos. The Mongoose bike, not the box. Lol
Carlos seriously did not open the box for TWO WEEKS because Aengus loved it so much. *face-palm*
It's impossible to keep a tidy desk around here.


And a few random thoughts on the month that I couldn't stick anywhere else.

He died in June but I stumbled upon this in November. It's so true.


Food for thought.
I had way too much fun with the memes about the Romaine recall.


As someone whose ability to perform my job revolves around empathy, who is married to another person whose job is also defined by empathy...I don't understand lack of empathy. In my case, it's like a sixth or seventh sense that is as powerful as sight or hearing: it's not optional for me. I have a hard time comprehending how a human being can completely lack the ability to put themselves in another's shoes. I really liked this illustration and caption because it explains my thoughts on it so well.
Henry James Garrett's Drawings of Dogs memes on social justice on IG are always on point.

Gracie was gaiting consistently and feeling more balanced at the canter. I was really happy with her progress.


Sofi Tukker's Hey Lion
The lyrics aren't relevant to anything in my personal life right now, but I still love them:
Hey lion you're not my king
And I don't want your worship
I'm already tall
Hey lion you keep your gifts
I've got many of them and I'm already full
Hey lion please save your breath
You've already spoken and I've heard it before
Hey lion here comes our death
It's time to silence your sermon
And to go back to war.

I love this photo.

December flew by so this recap should be shorter!

Carlos and I finally had Thursdays and Fridays off together. Finances were tight this month due to large bills so date nights were limited, but that was okay.

When we did go out, downtown was gorgeous.

This display on Carroll Creek is called "Sailing Through Winter Solstice." It was started last year; it goes up around Thanksgiving and gets taken down on February 2nd with the Fire in Ice Festival. We completely missed it last year! We've made up for that this year. The illuminated boats are lovely.
Walking through downtown.
The entire length of Market Street (our main street) is illuminated.
This is our favorite alley.
Grabbing coffee at Starbucks.
We prefer to support local coffee shops like Cafe Nola or the Frederick Coffee Co but we both received tons of Starbucks gift cards from our jobs, so we used them.
The new sign on the gender-neutral restroom at Cafe Nola. I love it!

Carlos had to work on Christmas Day so I signed up to work in the ICU: I preferred that to hanging out alone at home.

It was a full moon on a holiday...

But it was still a Very Good Day.

We opened our gifts on the 24th, since we both had to be up stupid early for work on the 25th. Carlos and I had gotten a couple of things for one another but my mom and the aunts went all out.

Those were all gifts from Puerto Rico.
New Year's Eve was also amazing but I'm saving that for the end of this post. :)

Obligatory cat photo dump:

Zombie: "I'm camouflaged!"
Me: "I see your white paws and whiskers, Zombie."
Zombie: "I don't know what you're talking about."
The laziest undead tripod
Snaggle-toothed squishiness.
Aengus plays the Christmas Cat role very well.
...well, sometimes.
The Aengus-proclaimed Kitchen Supervisor position has been an enormous success: every time he perches on the cat tree to observe us while we're cooking, he gets pets and kisses. It's a self-perpetuating cycle.
The dynamic duo not being dynamic. Lol
So sexy.
I love his perfect white toes.
He likes to lie like that, with his right front leg extended.
He only does this around me, this sleeping belly-up with a smile on his face and his front legs tucked against his chest.
Lots of pictures like this were taken. The real reason for him lounging under the tree was the gas fireplace. On chilly days when I was at home with the fireplace off, he'd come find me and insist on me following him. So I'd follow...and he'd lead me to the fireplace, where he'd look up at me and chirp,
"I'm cold. Can you turn it on please?"
And then people say animals don't communicate.
Zombie trying out for the Christmas Cat role.
He was hanging out on top of the Christmas decoration bins when we took them out of the closet to put up the tree.
They might be black plastic but they were still boxes.
"Are you going to come blog with me?"
"I will be at shoulder height now!"
"Why are you laughing?"
He was bumping my chin with his head so I'd keep kissing him.
As you can see, he absolutely hates it. ;)

I'm interested too. Where do we sign up?

My snatches got better in my private lessons.

Hang muscle snatches

Video of the above stills. You can barely hear when Coach A corrects me: I prematurely bent my right elbow ever so slightly during the first pull of the lift. I nodded because I had noticed. I used to do that ALL. THE. DAMN. TIME in the very beginning and not realize I was doing it, which made it SO hard to correct! The fact that, at the time this video was taken, I could feel the error and thus fix it was huge. I didn't realize Carlos had been filming. That's why I laughed at the end: it took me a second to register the phone in his hands. I like how Coach A walks into the frame: she knew what was up. :)

Power snatches, where you pull from the floor.
I was suuuuuuper stiff through my hips on this day, so Coach A had me work on squat therapy exercises.
I really liked these photos because you can see my lats are growing!
I reminisced about how much easier this was now that the movement was turning into muscle memory, which meant I didn't have to think so much while performing.

Oh heck yes. 
I continued to progress in powerlifting. The programming is pre-written but I drive the car: if I want extra rest days, I take them. If I want to sub an exercise or do extra ones, I can. The program suggests how much to go up in weight in the big lifts each week, but it's your choice whether you want to do that or not. It actually reminds you that if and how much you increase your weight should depend on how you feel this week. Nutrition, exhaustion, stress, sleep patterns, workouts will all affect how you physically feel  when you step up to the barbell.

I set new 1RMs for the deadlift at 215 lbs and for my squat at 195 lbs. I wrote about the squat here; the deadlift number was also set during class in CrossFit. The timing was perfect because my powerlifting programming had me doing a mock meet (a pretend competition) this month. The goal with a mock meet is to set new 1RMs for all Big Three. These numbers are then used as a baseline for the next strength peaking phase: the program will have you do 60%, 70%, 80%, etc. of your 1RM for these lifts, and then with each consecutive week you start adding a few pounds at a time to that baseline.

All the plates required for 215 lbs for deadlifts. :)
The mock meet week had me doing a deload leading up to the meet. This ended up being my second deload that month, which made me feel sort of disoriented with my training. We had our first real cold spell in December and my joints were feeling it (I turned 39 this year after all), especially my "bad" right knee. I didn't feel comfortable trying to set new 1RMs for both the squat and the deadlift so soon after setting new ones in CrossFit, especially with my knee acting up, so I decided to just keep my newest numbers and just figure out my 1RM for bench press.

I've only ever benched more than 100 lbs once. It was 115 lbs, and it was with Trainer and he assisted, so in my mind it didn't really count.

During my programming, I had worked up to 90 lbs, which I was consistently repping now.

90 lbs in baby plates.
The cool thing about hitting 90 was that I was only 5 lbs away from finally being able to start using the bigger 25 lb plates on the bar! I could then start really working on breaking the stereotype that women can't bench. Watching female powerlifters benching more than their body weight is such an amazing thing!

Very light bench during my deload week leading up to the mock meet. If it looks easy it's because it was supposed to. I filmed to check my bar path. It's a titch wobbly but starting to look like I know what I'm doing.
Belly is sticking out because that's how it looks when you arch for powerlifting bench: you can't tell that's what I'm doing because of my loose shirt. You should still be bracing your abs, which I am doing.
I had Carlos come with me to the gym for my 1RM bench session so I could have a spotter. I didn't want to attempt a super heavy (for me) bench without someone else there because getting pinned under the barbell isn't fun and it's also terribly embarrassing when you're the only woman in the bench press section of the gym. No thank you.

So what did my 1RM end up being? 100 lbs!!! I drew that bar to my chest and slowly, slowly, slooooowly pushed it back up to full extension, and re-racked it. I then got up and danced around the bench because I had FINALLY HIT TRIPLE DIGITS for bench!

Also I don't have pics that clearly show it, but the last two months of working bench + its corresponding accessory work had significantly changed the way my upper body looked: I definitely had a pec line now, and there was so much more definition across the top of my chest and the front of my shoulders. The strength gains were evident elsewhere: I went from not being able to eke out more than 3 push-ups to doing sets of 10 at a time in CrossFit, which was huge for me. Working bench also translated to back gains: if I had had muscle across my upper back before...I had a whole lot more now.

The muscle gains started to show on the scale as my weight slowly started to creep up. I had been ranging from 131-134 lbs (BIN encourages you to weigh yourself multiple times a week to track trends...but only if it doesn't stress you out.) In December it started to range from 133-135 lbs. My measurements started to change as well: for example, as my lats grew, my chest measurement started to increase by fractions of an inch. It was (and continues to be) a fascinating process.

Not quite as defined ab-wise when I took this photo but still awesome.
In late December I was having some anxiety issues. They were not premonitions and I knew the difference at the time...and I'mma admit it: the initial anxiety trigger was related to the first part of this review and having to re-hash that whole show prep + the negative things I had to say about Trainer in order to get the post across. It made me extremely agitated and Carlos couldn't wait until I just hit publish on the damn thing so I could get it over with. I spent most of December agonizing over that post. Even after publishing it, I had a really hard time not going back and taking the post down.
I try to come across as this brazen, bold woman on the blog because that's who I am on the inside and who I want to be on the outside. The truth is that anytime I write something negative on here, be it about life situations/experiences/people, I second-guess every word and fight with myself about softening it or simply not saying it at all. I do fear judgement just like everyone else. One of my biggest struggles as an empath is the ability to see every point of view: growing up, this meant that I would not have a solid opinion about anything because I could see all perspectives involved. In recent years I decided that no: I am entitled to have an opinion about something just like everyone else, and that it is okay to have firm beliefs about things and defend them. IRL I'm a lot gentler about expressing them, I think, but here I have the freedom to say exactly what I think because the reader has the freedom of not reading if they don't agree. You have the option of walking away and I won't know about it. *shrug*
The truth is that this blog isn't just casual recreational writing that I type up while at work to keep track of my life events. Ever since I stopped writing about horses, I started pouring my heart and soul into what I write in this space, which is why now it can take me a month or more to just get one post finished. I write every day on here. 
I'm always writing in my free time. It used to be drawing...it's now writing. But there is so much editing and re-reading, and then sometimes running it by Carlos (every opinion about politics, PR, gender, that I've posted on here has been run by him first: you aren't just hearing my thoughts on these things. You are hearing his too because we are in agreement. You are often hearing my family's as well: I discuss my meatier blog posts with them as well prior to publishing. My vision is NOT unilateral), that it can take a very long time to get a post published...and that's if I publish it. I have more drafts this year than actual published posts. 
Anyway, that initial anxiety fed into other situations and it started reflecting itself in my body this month. (That all happened after the photo above was taken.) My activity levels officially changed (WAY less cardio: WODs were shorter overall and I was running significantly less) which also put me at a caloric surplus with my macros at the time. This was all discussed with Jilda, both the nutrition aspect and strategies for managing stress. While nutrition coaches aren't psychologists, the BIN coaches are trained in helping guide you to choosing different coping methods or directing you to when real therapy is needed. Nutrition can make a significant difference in anxiety/stress levels, believe it or not. I changed the way I was dealing with stress which helped, and we made some more adjustments to my nutrition in January. It is so AWESOME to have someone that listens and emphasizes when it comes to things I'm seeing/feeling with my body: it now involves a conversation and a strategy, if it's truly required. It's a complete 180 from this time last year, as you guys now know.

First time I did 155 lbs for 4 reps. I came out of the hole sloooowly because I was struggling. You can see me quiver with the effort on the last rep. This is a reference for a future video coming up in this post. :)

Once I had my new 1RMs to work with, I pulled out my lifting gear for the first time in over a year: belt, lifters, knee sleeves, and started using them. I had never put knee sleeves on before...I bought them last year towards the end of the powerlifting block and never got to use them, which had been upsetting at the time because in typical me fashion, I didn't just get any knee sleeves: I got the SBD brand ones, which are specifically for powerlifting and are competition-legal. They aren't exactly cheap.

My knee sleeves were the first to go on: the warmth from the neoprene really helped my right knee.

160 lbs x 3 reps x 3 sets for the first time ever. Same week as the previous video.
I was struggling with the last rep on each of these sets, which is why the video didn't go on Instagram, just this still.
You can't really tell but I was wearing my knee sleeves here. They are so firm and sturdy that they do give you some rebound at the bottom of the squat, which is pretty cool.
The weight I was lifting continued to steadily increase.

I don't remember exactly how it came about now, but at the end of December Carlos wanted to come to the gym with me for one of my powerlifting sessions. He had not used his globo gym membership in months, so he had cancelled it earlier this year. Drop-ins were $15/day at the globo gym...so on a whim I decided to just go to the public gym with him: as Frederick residents it was only $8 total for both of us to drop in. 

And that's how I returned to the castle of the public gym, this time on my own terms. (And no, we didn't run across Trainer: I chose to go during business hours to ensure that wouldn't happen.)

155 lbs x 5 reps x 3 sets. Compare to the previous video of 155 where I was squatting in yoga pants and note how much faster this was moving! This was a rep PR, and I did it with none of my lifting gear on. I was originally going to keep this light, at around 145-150. But 145 felt so smooth that I just did the full 10 lb jump. These were pretty: smooth, to depth, and with the little bounce at the top of each rep that indicated these could have been a lot heavier! I'd rather finish with some gas in the tank than feeling destroyed and demoralized.

Carlos did the full workout with me and had a blast. It was his first time doing powerlifting-type training. The fun part of it is that you work on the big lifts first, which can take a while when you're not in a time crunch, and then you move on to your accessory work. Accessory work, as I've explained before, is just strengthening the muscles you use with powerlifting (or CrossFit, or riding, or any other sport of your choice), but it is also a good time to correct imbalances in your lifting. Ex: unilateral exercises with dumbbells to make sure you're not initiating all of your lifts with your dominant side, which is more likely with barbell work. I tend to throw in quite a bit of bodybuilding with my accessory work as well, in addition to the prescribed exercises by the program: when done correctly, bodybuilding can also help correct imbalances. 

We had a lot of fun on this day. And Carlos took these photos, which were my fave gym photos of this month! I look like a powerhouse:

Those were 40 lb dumbbells in my hands, and if I look like I'm suffering it's because walking lunges are the thing I love to hate the most. But God doing them consistently makes SUCH a difference in everything else that you do! Squats and lunges also translate directly to increased strength in the saddle.
During my last lifting session of the year, I chose to do deadlifts. They weren't programmed but I wanted to finish the year with it, with this lift that had been my nemesis exactly a year ago. I wanted to do it because deadlifts were now my favorite thing, even more so than squats. 

Not only did I do them, I chose to do them as deficits: where you stand on an elevated platform and pull the barbell from the floor. It means you have to engage your posterior train all that harder in order to pull the barbell farther. 

So I did that, and set both a weight and rep PR with them: 175 lbs x 4 reps. Remember that not that long ago this year, 185 lbs was my 1RM for deadlifts with my feet on the floor. So this PR was pretty huge!

I do a little happy dance at the end. :)
These are with what we call "resets": you put the barbell on the floor and reset your position before pulling again. My resets here are honestly pretty ugly: when experienced powerlifters do reps with resets you can barely tell they're doing them. You'll just see an adjustment in their shoulders as they breathe in to brace again. But I'm happy with my lifts per se here: each rep is pretty much perfect from floor to lockout. My form in each rep is also consistent. I was thrilled with these.

Not only that...I repeated it. I did another set after this.

The other cool thing about returning occasionally to the public gym was confronting my reflection in the mirror for the first time since bodybuilding. 

I liked what I saw now.
I posted this in January and dated the photo on the right as January, but it was actually taken on 12/30/18. Still a year between these two photos. My quads are bigger now, I have slightly more hamstrings, my butt is rounder and smoother, my arms are more defined and also leaner. I had a bit of a lower belly going on because it was the week before my period + still working through my December stress so whatever. But my attitude is completely different in these photos.
In the first I was like, "Wtf I should look completely different at this stage in prep!"
In the second I was thinking, "I love every inch of what I see and what it can do for me."
I wish every female human out there could find that feeling within themselves. It's so amazing that I think everyone that identifies as non-binary or female should get to experience it. You should get to find that power within yourself.

I put this together for IG: from Peak Week in March to now.
Running was very sporadic in December and I actually wrote about it in a post deliberately so I could just link you guys to it! :D

This was my favorite running photo of the month.

These didn't make it onto that post, so here they are. I'm not describing them here though; if you're really intrigued about the stories behind them, they're all on IG. :)

I got you guys pictorially caught up on Gracie with this post. That was also on purpose so I wouldn't have to type so much here. ;)

New Year's Eve
The White Rabbit Gastropub was hosting their first true New Year's Eve bash. We have never gone to one of these Real Events but we were pretty excited about this one so Carlos bought the tickets. 

My outfit that evening.
It was amazing

There were 12 pairings of food and alcohol. It was all included in the price. There was also free beer and water.
Yes: despite meals being appetizer sizes and the alcohol served in 5 oz glasses, it was a LOT of both food and drink! The pub had made arrangements with Uber and a local driving service so people could get home afterwards if they couldn't drive. 
There was supposed to be dancing upstairs but that never quite took off, so we hung out downstairs and ate and drank, and had an absolute blast. Tickets had been limited and had sold out quickly so it was a fairly small crowd, which gave it a pretty intimate family feel. I think it's been my favorite New Year's Eve in the US to date.

Yes, he was imitating the elk behind him.
Like I said before: it is IMPOSSIBLE to get good photos of him!!! He's gotten WORSE about it with age! And then if I post the pics to social media anyway, he complains. Hence why he doesn't show up as much as he should on FB or IG. 
Here he gets no say in it. Wahahaha...
I don't even know. Don't ask.
(Also: I'm dying to get him contact lenses again.
He has leaned out with CrossFit and those glasses are too big on him now!)
I have pictorial evidence that the glasses need to go. He legit couldn't read the menu. Lol
This was the lobster fondue with Beaumont Chenin Blanc.
This was so little and SOOOOO GOOD.
A new dish was brought out every 30 minutes or so.
Sushi avocado with Gobelsburg Riesling.
This photo is terrible but it was the pork tostadas with mojito. It was one of our favorites.
This was a mac & cheese empanada with Firestone Walker Gen I IPA.
These were so good that we each had a second one when they went around offering more.
I stopped taking food photos after; it was too much to try to keep track of! Lol

Professional photo from Michael Mason Studios. 
These were also free of charge; the link to the pictures was e-mailed to us after the party. 
It was a great ending to a great year. 

A dear friend shared an interview with Keira Knightley with me, and I want to share it here because it was kind of transcendental: Knightley puts into words so much of what I think about women vs men and gender roles in society. I couldn't have said it better. You can read the article here

I could copy-paste the whole thing in here because I love it so much and could comment on every single paragraph, but it's easier if you just go read the article. I do want to select the quote below to comment on directly:

Knightley’s entire career, from ball-busting breakthrough in Bend it Like Beckham to cross-dressing, trans-romancing Colette in her new film, has been an attempt to have adventures her younger self would respect. To explore if not what it would be like to be a man, then certainly “the masculine side of the female, stuck in the dresses and makeup. Almost every character I’ve played has tried to break out of that image of femininity. That’s why I like period films, because it’s such an overt cage you put the woman in. That’s always something I’ve really identified with. I feel like I sit somewhere else.”

It struck a chord because I've always felt that way: like I'm willingly exploring the masculine side of being female, sometimes stuck in dresses and makeup. It's a cage, yes, but it's a cage that I choose to step in and out of because the door is always open. Except I do it with my own life, not with roles in movies. Like I've said before in this space: it's a duality that I legit enjoy, this being a woman while also having the ability of stepping outside of the female-associated stereotypes and limitations as much as I want. 

We are not the weaker sex by any means, not in will nor temperament nor spirit, and most certainly not physically either, and right now I'm proving it with every step I take deeper into the world of strength sports. 

I like thinking that the me that I am now would make this girl proud: 

This little girl that took so much pride in being strong, even when she was only 3 years old!
That if she could have looked into the future and seen what she would become, what her story would be, that she would be excited.

I will say good-bye to my 30s in July of this year. This has been my favorite decade, and it's been really cool to have been writing in this space for most of it, to be able to look back and see how I've changed and grown. Not just in my writing but also as a person. 

My favorite part of my 30s though has been this transformation. 


On January 2nd, I went to the grocery store and was walking through the produce section selecting fruit and veggies. They were playing some really cool 90s music overhead and I didn't realize I was involuntarily dancing to it until I suddenly twirled around with a bag of apples in my hand. 

In the middle of the produce section. At Wegmans. Whoops.

I looked around and nobody cared. I decided that even if everyone there had noticed what I was doing, I sincerely didn't give af. So I shrugged and continued right on dancing all the way across the produce section. 

It was so incredibly freeing. 

Yeah, dance as if no one is watching...even when they are! I thought to myself then, "'2019: The Year of No Fucks Given.' Wouldn't that be an amazing thing?"

I promise. ;)

Now you go be a badass too!