A Routine Life

So, those of you who have been longtime readers or followers of mine have gleaned at least a little bit about my job. I work for Yelp as a Community Manager right here on the ground in Northern VA.

While it generally speaking falls under the umbrella of “marketing”, this role is pretty unique, even amongst jobs at Yelp. It’s a full-time job (sometimes more than full-time, if I’m being honest), but I work remotely (even with the recent opening of Yelp’s DC office since I only go in once a week…ish, hehe) which means I have the incredible luxury of making my work situation pretty much whatever I want it to be.

Am I going into the office? Do I want to squat in a coffee shop all day? Put my desk at home to actual use? Or work from my couch with Parks & Rec playing through in the background for the 40th time? (YES, NETFLIX, I AM STILL WATCHING.) This freedom also extends to my schedule — I am not beholden to the same 9-5 situation to which many others have to adhere. And every day looks very different.

I might pop open my laptop first thing in the morning, head out for an in-person meeting, meet a friend for lunch, have back-to-back conference calls, and then have to go prep for an evening event. Maybe it is a day when I need to go into the actual office. Or I might sleep in, go out for coffee, run some errands, and then settle back in at my computer and work until late into the evening.

Anyway, I say all this not to brag about my job (which is admittedly awesome and I know I am very lucky to have it), nor did I intend for this post to be a deep-dive into what my daily life looks like (though this does remind me that I’ve been promising to write up another Day in the Life post for a long while now, lol.) I just thought that explaining what I do in a little more detail would help illustrate the point that I am trying to get at, which is this:

Because my life has so much flexibility, it also lacks any semblance of routine.

For over five years, I have rarely had to set an alarm clock. I don’t have a specific bedtime. I don’t eat meals at the same time each day. I don’t have a laundry day, or a meal prep day, or a date night. Save for a few rare regularly scheduled calls, my calendar never looks the same from one week to the next.

And for the better part of five years, it’s been pretty great. There have been tons of benefits that I have heartily taken advantage of — taking care of errands and appointments during the day, sleeping in, regularly getting to see my friends, and, of course, getting to be around my daughter so much more than the typical full-time working mom.

But it’s a double-edged sword, right? Because with all of those perks also comes the burden of not being able to predict how a given day might go, not being able to slide into the familiarity or comfort of “your old routine.” Which, granted, hasn’t really been an issue until lately.

But lately, I’ve been feeling pretty down, and thanks to the prodding of some of friends, I finally took the initiative to find a therapist to talk to — something I honestly should have been doing for a long time now. I have only just started therapy, but already in our short time together she has helped me realize how frazzled and frantic and overwhelmed I am. And while I’m sure it’s really, really common, especially for new moms, it’s still not something I like to admit. I mean, who loves admitting that they no longer know how to handle just like, life? Especially given all of the advantages that I have — a perfect baby, a husband, close family, a decent salary, all that aforementioned flexibility… I know I have a really good situation overall. Which is why it was kind of hard for me to admit that I’ve been feeling depressed & overwhelmed in the first place — because it’s like, with all the privileges I am afforded, I should have no reason not to be happy.

(Sidenote: My therapist did tell me to stop “shoulding on myself” (heh.) Like, to stop saying things like “I feel like I shouldn’t even feel this way because I have it so good!”or “I should just be happy because there are other people who have it so much worse,” since my struggles are my struggles and my feelings are still valid. This is actually a rather difficult concept for me to digest, and one I think I’m going to need to let percolate a little more before I really try and dig into it, but I digress.)

I know I’m not the first woman to feel like she is being pulled in a thousand different directions and finding it hard to cope. I think we’re all trying to find some way to balance all of the various roles we have to play: mother, wife, homemaker, daughter, sister, friend, coworker, manager, employee — and that doesn’t even touch the roles we form around our hobbies and interests: writer, blogger, photographer, advocate, bookworm, crafter, gamer… and ten zillion more.

I’ve been able to identify that the loosey-goosey, whatever, whenever approach I’ve had towards work (and towards my life in general) is currently adding to my feelings of overwhelm…ed…ness? And that I’m actually craving some structure, predictability, and routine.

Penny has actually already helped in this arena, quite a lot. I mean, sure, in the beginning, she made things even more frantic and crazy and unpredictable. But both Sean and I recognize that we are supremely lucky to have such a good baby. She sleeps well, she eats well, and she has a strong internal clock that has given me at least a modicum of a routine when it comes to her.

But I have a lot further to go. I need to create boundaries — my work & home & social lives all kind of blend and bleed together, and even though I have what’s considered a “lifestyle job,” I need to realize that it’s okay for those things to be a little more separate. I need to figure out how to focus on one thing at a time, be mindful of my current task, and then allow myself to move onto the next one. When it’s time to work, I want to be able to focus on work. When I’m catching up with a friend, I want to be able to focus on my friend. When it’s time to be with Penny, I really want to be able to focus on feeding/snuggling/playing with Penny.

Basically, I just want to do less of what I currently do, which is hard to even articulate properly but is a little more like… this:

*opens laptop* Okay, time to answer these emails about the event I have happening tomorrow, and then I’ll do the ones having to do with next week’s event, oh, next week I’m also going back to Atlanta, I need to call Southwest and add Penny as a lap infant to my ticket *opens tab to Southwest.com* Hmm, do I have time to get a pedicure before I go, oh crap, by the time I come back my car registration will have expired, I need to get my emissions test done *opens tab to Google gas station’s inspection hours* okay, scrap the pedicure, I don’t need to spend the money on that anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve checked Mint, better see where we’re at with this month’s budget *opens tab to Mint.com* oh man, there’s the tab to my Nordstrom cart, the Anniversary Sale is ending soon and this is SUCH good deal on Baby Bling Bows, maybe I should check out — no! I told myself no more baby bows *closes out of tab* *finally sends one email*

Ahem. So, you know, that’s not great.

Anyway, my “homework” from my initial therapy session is a two-parter: 1) to start thinking of ways that I can create structure and routine for my daily life, and 2) to try (tryyyyyy) to be more mindful, focused, and in-the-moment as I go through the day. I definitely have my work cut out for me with the latter part, but I feel like I’ve already been laying the groundwork for the former. Especially as my recent health initiative has me embracing a kind of morning to-do list, made up of things I should have been doing ALL ALONG FOR MY ENTIRE LIFE like eating breakfast & taking vitamins.

 
Plus, like I mentioned, Penny has me following at least some kind of loose structure at the beginning of each day — it’s just get a smidgen more complicated because while we have a steady childcare schedule, it’s not consistent from day to day. So the mornings when she goes to daycare are different than the mornings when she’s with my parents or mother-in-law.

My idea to help overcome this is to officially integrate fitness into my routine (I almost said “back into my routine” but who are we kidding? I’ve never had a true fitness routine hahaha.) For like, the first time in my entire life, I’m actually feeling a kind of… dare I say… desire to exercise. (Ew.) I don’t know if it’s coming from my weight loss, or because my therapist suggested or out of my postulations that I want to get healthy for Penny (I’m particularly concerned about my longterm heart health right now — but mayhaps I’ll delve into that at another time), but whatever the exact reason, I figure I need to capitalize on this rare, completely-out-of-character motivation.

So I went online and signed up for a free pass to a nearby gym this morning, and am doing the same at another one on Friday. Both facilities have kid’s clubs and are close by, so my hope is that I’ll be able to create a morning routine where I go to the gym at around the same time every morning — on the days when Penny is in daycare, I’ll drop her off first, and on the days when she isn’t, I’ll bring her with me. The rest of my day might still end up looking like a trash panda straight-up ripped into the garbage bag of my life, but at least I’ll be starting each off day with consistency and on the right foot.

This sounds great in theory, of course, but my visit to the first gym today (Gold’s) unfortunately didn’t leave me with a great impression. Partly because their kid’s club was insane — there was 1 adult and like 25 kids in there — and partly because of my own insecurities and discomfort over a) working out at all, and b) working out in public. But while that gym would have been my first choice based on location (it’s suuuuuper close to Penny’s daycare), I have high hopes for the second one. And I’m also looking into non-gym alternatives like boutique fitness places that offer childcare and Fit4Mom Stroller Strides. As long as I can hodgepodge them together into some kind of cohesive, regular routine.

Anyway, so that’s the latest in Gretchen’s Journey to Self-Improvement & Sanity™. I’m still feeling pretty positive and optimistic about being able to make lasting changes, but I’m trying to remain relatively guarded about it as well. Knowing my tendency to jump headfirst into things, only to abandon them later, I want to make sure I’m making manageable changes, and for the right reasons this time. That way, I hopefully really will be able to say I’m making positive changes to last me a lifetime.

Go forth!

Georgia on my Mind

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Where to begin? I definitely didn’t mean to take such a long hiatus so soon after making my triumphant blogging return, but, hey, what can I say? Life happens, yo. And has it ever been happening over the past couple of weeks!

For a large chunk of the time I’ve been away from you guys, I was back in Georgia for a dual-purposed trip. The main purpose was work-related, as my duties with Yelp called me back to beautiful Savannah (my life is so hard, I know.) I was there for an event organized by the Community Ambassador there (whom I advise as part of my role here in Northern VA.)

The other purpose, as you can see, was to see my sister, brother-in-law and super cute nieces, who all currently live in Macon (but who are moving north of Atlanta in just a few weeks.) Macon is essentially on the way from Atlanta to Savannah, so it really works out that my job sends me that way a few times each year. It was particularly great fun that this event was family-friendly, so I got to drag the whole family along, hehe.

Mia was our unofficial Yelp brand ambassador for the day. 😉

We got to see the Savannah sights as part of the event, which involved a pedicab (rickshaw) tour around the historic downtown area, and then lunch at an awesome local restaurant. Actually, the trip in generally involved not a small amount of food at various awesome local restaurants. Savannah really is a food-lover’s paradise… though, granted, it does make a pesky thing like losing weight just a tad challenging, heh.

Okay, so I didn’t eat “well” while I was there, but damn did I eat gooooooood. Alas, I feared this did not bold well for my return to the scale upon my, er, return to my house. So imagine my shock when said scale revealed I did not gain any weight during my trip! Miracle!

Sure, I also didn’t lose any weight, but hey, when there are waffle fry nachos in the mix, you can bet your sweet bippy I’ll take what I can get.

I pretty much credit this to Jenny’s healthy influence whenever I visit her. We may have all indulged a bit while in Savannah, but during the Macon-portion of the trip, I was relatively self-controlled AND my fitness instructor sister also dragged my lazy butt to the gym 3 out of the 4 days I was there.

 
Alas, if only Jenny lived up here and could physically force me to sweat on the daily. I’d be hitting my goals like ka-POW! Oh well, guess I’ll just have to keep whining about how much I hate working out to you guys instead. 😉

Anyway, along with all the eating and sweating and plotting to kidnap cuddling with my nieces, I also got just enough pool time in to take my new ‘kini for a test drive (it’s from Swimsuits For All), as well as get a nice light dusting of sunburn.

  
Sadly, no matter how much sunscreen I apply nor how religiously I reapply it, I always seem to get at least a little bit burnt. I guess I’m just that white, sigh. Luckily (?), my burn always fades into a tan, so I look slightly less ghost-like than I did before I headed to Georgia. This is important, since I’m headed to Mexicooooooo on Friday! And I don’t know about you, but I’d really prefer not to get burnt to a total lobster-like crisp on my first day.

Although, given what the weather report is indicating right now, I might not end up getting much sun at all! Current forecasts are calling for a lot of rain in Cancun this weekend, which would be no bueno… mostly for my wonderful friend who is getting married in Playa Mujeres on Sunday, but also, you know, for my selfish, vacationing self.

I’ve never been to Cancun/Playa Mujeres before, but those of you who may be more familiar with it — what does rain tend to be like there? Do the storms tend to be short, or are we likely to be relegated to indoor activities for the whole day? I know it’s still early, so things could change, but after my recent experience with Mother Nature putting a damper on things… well, can you blame me for being anxious?

Well, c’est la vie, right? You can’t control the weather, and I’m just super excited to have some time away with Sean, to celebrate my two wonderful friends getting married, and spend some time chillin’ with my brother and sister-in-law (Ben & Taylor are photographing the wedding). It’s not Friday yet, though! After a super chill, laid-back Memorial Day weekend (we didn’t go anywhere or do, like, anything… hahaha), I’ve got a full docket for the rest of this week — meetings, calls, and appointments galore! So with that, I bid you adieu for now. Adios!

Make Me Over

Happy Monday, folks!

I hope you all had a stellar weekend. Mine was wonderful but busy!

It started with Sean and I taking engagement photos with Ben and Taylor:

This is a preview photo, and I am SO excited to see the rest of the shots! We went down to DC and took some pictures by the Botanical Gardens and then some in another part of DC that I can’t waaaaaait for you to see.

And the weekend ended with a seriously baller workout as part of my Yelp Elite Event yesterday:

The event was at The Worx by Maia, and it was a bootcamp-style workout that had us doing everything from battle ropes (pictured above) to tire flips to wall sits to box jumps to… whoosh!

Suffice it to say, it was cray, and I can already feel my muscles hating me (which admittedly doesn’t make me super excited for how I’m gonna feel TOMORROW, haha.)

Anyway, in between those two bookending weekend events, I did some bridal makeup for blog reader Ashley’s big day!

 
Her wedding looked so beautiful! I feel like I have so much appreciation for all the little things that go into weddings now that I’m planning one of my own. And the whole time we were helping her and her bridal party get ready, I just kept thinking how much fun it’s going to be when it’s my turn, hehe!

Of course, while I was there doing makeup for Ashley and her bridesmaids, the inevitable question came up as to whether or not I was going to do my own makeup for my wedding. In the beginning, I thought it would be a no-brainer that, yes, I would definitely want to do my own makeup, but now I’m actually a little torn!

See, the dilemma comes from this: I love makeup, doing makeup, prettifying myself, and prettifying others. I own a lot of makeup (a LOT, hahahaha), and I’ve done makeup for quite a few bridesmaids and a couple of brides at this point.

But, that being said, I feel like most women want their wedding day to feel special and different. And having someone else do your makeup most definitely gives you that pampered feeling. Plus, this way I would definitely have someone there to do the makeup for my bridesmaids who might not want or know how to do it themselves (since I probably won’t really have time to do everyone else’s makeup on my own wedding day, haha.)

Plus, face makeup is not really my specialty (I’d say eye makeup is where I’m strongest), and I especially like the idea of getting airbrushed foundation, especially since I get red-faced suuuuper easily.

But! On the other hand, it obviously costs money to hire someone to do makeup, so there are budgetary concerns. Plus, you hear these stories about women who get their makeup done professional and don’t like it, so they end up redoing it all themselves anyway. I mean, I’d do a trial to make sure I was happy, of course, but there’s still that risk.

Anyway, so this is my current dilemma. I know it’s probably nothing I need to decide RIGHT now, but since I just did bridal makeup this weekend, what can I say? It’s on my mind. I’ll let it percolate a little bit more, but I’d love to hear from you guys on what you did or didn’t do with regard to your wedding day makeup!

Did you get your makeup done on your wedding day? Or did you do your own?

Yelp’s Fit Club Wrapup

It’s March! Which not only means that we can (hopefully) look forward to some of this ice and snow melting, but it means that Yelp’s Fit Club is officially finito! For those of you who don’t know, all last month I was working on a fitness promotion for Yelp that included a ton of different fitness and nutrition events.

It ended up being a lot of work to fit in 8 different events myself, plus squeeze in a trip to Savannah, AND have my annual Regional Summit for work all within the same (very, very short) month, but I gotta say, coming out on the other side of things makes me feel like 2015 has already been a pretty rockin’ year. After all, it’s only Day 2 of Month 3, and I already feel like I’ve accomplished A LOT.

Plus, I’m not gonna lie, it was kinda nice shifting my focus from the foodie side of Yelp to the fitness side of Yelp, at least for a little while. Of course, as soon as I got together with my Yelp coworkers from my regional team, things reverted back to normal, hehe. But more on that in a second. First, let me tell you a little bit about two of the super interesting workouts that I got to try through Fitclub!

[solidcore]

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[solidcore] isn’t lying on their website when they say that this is the hardest workout you’ll ever do in your life. I did this workout LAST Saturday and I’m pretty sure my abs are STILL sore from it. It is 50 straight minutes of core work on megareformer pilates machines, and duuuuuuuude. It was SO intense. But CLEARLY a great workout — it’s all about working your muscles to failure and letting the calories keep burning long after the class is over.

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Luckily, all the ridiculous hard work paid off in the form of an exclusive breakfast at sweetgreen right afterwards! They prepped us special parfaits made with their yogurt, rolled oats, quinoa, nuts, honey, blackberries, and mint, as well as avocado and cashew butter toasts.

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So even though this was definitely one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done, it was also one of the most rewarding. Figuratively and realistically, heh.

Orangetheory Fitness

So after I finally recovered from [solidcore], I had the opportunity to work out at Orangetheory Fitness, which is a studio that utilizes heart rate monitoring to pump up our workout efficiency.

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Everyone gets a Polar heart rate monitor attached, and then your statistics are put up on a screen throughout the class so you can keep yourself in check. It’s also kind of fun, because it has you working like a team with your fellow workoutters — you get “badges” and stuff for everyone being in the right zone and whatnot.

The workout outself is a lot like a personal training session or CrossFit WOD — we would spend a certain amount of time/distance on the treadmill, then move over to the rowing machines, and did that cycle three times. Then we did weight training sets for the rest of the hour.

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In the end, they summarize your heartrate info on the monitors AND email you a summary from Polar afterwards! Pretty cool! I actually did a lot better than I thought I would — I was sure that my heartrate would be in the red zone like, 70% of the time, but I guess all that P90 has been a little bit useful after all! If anything, I could have been pushing myself harder, I guess? I dunno, I sure felt like I was working it!

There was also a couple of yoga classes, a dance workout, and a nutrition workshop tossed into the mix too, but these two were definitely the workouts that I found most interesting from a learning standpoint — I’d definitely go back to Orangetheory, although I’m not sure if I’m really cut out for [solidcore] juuust yet. But hey, it did make me feel just a little bit less guilty about all that insanely delicious food I ate during my Regional Summit.

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Errrrr, then again… there’s probably not enough [solidcore] in the world to offset the insanely delicious meals we had at Zaytinya, Tico, and Acadiana last week. I’m drooling just thinking about them! Plus, the company wasn’t too bad either, hehe. My coworkers are the best!

As part of our Regional Summit, we also had a team off-site at Escape Room DC, which is this CRAZY fun Clue-like mystery game. You get locked in a room that is rife with clues, and you have 45 minutes to escape. It was an insanely fun teambuilding activity (spoiler alert: we did NOT escape, but we sure had fun trying!) and I’m already thinking about going back for my birthday!

I heard they’re actually building an even bigger location in Alexandria set to open in the Spring, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that!

And that just about brings us up to speed! I’m off to Savannah AGAIN tomorrow (crazy!) which means I’ll get to spend a little more QT with my sister and niece on the way over. Hooray! So I’ll be back here in a few to update you guys on that, hopefully with some extra cute Mia pics in tow, hehe.

See you on the flipside!

Year of the Ram

Happy Chinese New Year, friends!

Yesterday marked the first day of the Year of the Ram (or Sheep or Goat, depending on who you ask!), so allow me to wish you all a year of prosperity, good health, and great times! As most of you know, I am half-Chinese, so Chinese New Year is usually a big deal in my household, but this year my parents are out of the country so I had to make due with my own mini-celebration.

 
And by mini-celebration, I mean that ate some hand-pulled noodles at Lotus Garden with friends. Heeeeee.

Speaking of celebrations, I have another exciting thing to celebrate this week:

I got my BRACES OFF!!!!!!!

 
I’ve had lingual braces for the past year-and-change, which means I had braces behind my top set of teeth. So while you couldn’t actually see them, I DEFINITELY knew they were there. And now they’re gone! Well, replaced with a permanent retainer, so there is still a little something behind my chompers, but nothing nearly as intrusive as those big metal brackets. So here’s to a new year of not getting food stuck in my braces anymore!

In other news, Yelp’s Fit Club is still chugging along, and this week has so far given me the chance to try out an Ayengar yoga class. And tomorrow I toy with fate by attending my very first [solidcore] class, which I hear is supposed to be the most difficult workout of your life. No big deal. And then, as if that weren’t enough, I have another fitness event on Sunday — a bootcamp-style workout at The Worx by Maia. WHEW.

Good thing I’ve been doing P90 for the past six weeks, otherwise I wouldn’t even be in good enough shape to make it through my own fitness classes, hahahaha.

So I guess you can look forward to hearing about all those various different workouts next week… if I survive, that is! And have a great weekend in the meantime, folks!