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Happy Halloweenie

It’s my favorite holiday — aside from my birthday, which is an actual holiday — but I digress. So, it’s only fitting I share this year’s costumes.

Yes, you read that right. I had both a personal and “professional” costume this year — not profesh like “Look at that boss lady,” but rather joining my team’s idea instead of doing my own thing for once.

I think that’s called personal growth.

Courtesy of me!
A real-life fidget spinner in the wild. I hate the trend but couldn’t ignore it.

Courtesy of me!Part of my SF team appearing as the “Stranger Things” kids!

However you’re celebrating tonight, have fun and be safe! #Boo!

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On Being Sober for a Month

My last sip of alcohol was at the stroke of midnight on January 1. I drank the champagne, thanked my hosts and summoned a car faster than you can say “Cinderella.”

I knew going into this year, I wanted to challenge myself to what I lovingly call “No Fun January”: no caffeine, no artificial/added sugar, no alcohol. For a month. “Maybe more?,” people asked. “HA!,” I’d reply. Let’s get through a few days before we start talking crazy.

I was fortunate to have a support group in my mom, my sister-in-law and one of her aunts. The accountability of having others go through the same thing was a huge help for me personally. I also have a handful of friends who are sober and my guardian angel of a grandfather — who led countless AA mentees and meetings — to lift up my spirit without the use of spirits.

mynewfave

Protein shakes = my new happy hour.

The first few days were, admittedly, much easier than expected because I was sick with a nasty sinus infection. I couldn’t taste anything anyway, and the last thing I wanted was a cocktail. (OK, maaaybe a hot toddy sounded amazing, but I wasn’t giving in that easy.)

Then I returned to work. A co-worker’s farewell lunch was my first real test. Could I sit through an entire hour with 20 others enjoying drinks while I just sipped water like a poor sad, sap? The answer is: Yes. And TMI, but “treating” myself to a grilled chicken sandwich with bacon was a terrible mistake, given my new clean eating plan.

I started realizing that first week just how much alcohol is a topic of interest: in TV shows, in movies, in music, in conversation. I sometimes wanted to scream and shake people: Didn’t we have anything else to discuss?! But I also knew I was hyper aware (and sensitive) because of my challenge.

The second week — mostly recovered from being sick — I realized how much time there is in a day. I found myself taking on freelance for the first time in a while, working on my killer digital portfolio and cooking with more excitement than ever. If I come home from work without hitting happy hour first, I have about SIX hours to do what I want! Can I get an “Amen!”?

I also got back into a workout routine that week and tried some new activities, too. Barry’s Boot Camp kicked my ass (and abs) the first time back. Reformer Pilates was my first-ever attempt, and I fell in love. I left classes excited about how hard I worked and didn’t feel the need to celebrate with a drink.

Going into the third week, I was nervous. Not only was it a long weekend, but Inauguration Day loomed large. Would I be able to stomach it all without a cocktail in hand — or at least my boyfriend, Mark West, by my side?

I faced the third week, which was also particularly painful at work, like any normal person would: I hid. I holed up in my apartment as much as possible, canceling plans and staying away from social media. I binge-watched shows I swore I’d never see, read some books and avoided all forms of reality as much as I could. #healthy

After emerging from a cocoon, I felt a little rejuvenated but a LOT proud for making it through emotionally and mentally draining scenarios without needing a drink. I coped while staying sober, something I will perfect over time without having to be a complete recluse.

After such roller-coaster weeks, I didn’t think it could get any tougher. But the fourth week brought two very big tests: a girls’ getaway to Santa Barbara and my Gasparilla Invades SF party.

I made sure my traveling companion didn’t “feel weird” if she wanted to enjoy drinks at dinner or on the beach or from 9–5 if she so wished. I was learning, after all, how uncomfortable other people can get when you’re sober. My friend was great, though, and indulged as she wanted without feeling guilty.

As for Gasparilla, I had a great time dressed as a pirate on the streets of SF. We got funny looks, unfunny comments and had a whole lot of seafaring fun, and I did it all without the aid of alcohol. I was tempted, as friends offered to buy drinks and shots and “just one” wouldn’t hurt me. But I’d already made it through 27 full days and wasn’t about to ruin it.

gasparilla

Yo-ho, yo-ho, a sober pirate’s life for me.

Along the way, I noted a few lessons I encountered while being sober for 31+ days:

  • I used alcohol as a coping mechanism and an excuse. From happy hours to post-workout dinners and everything in between, I didn’t realize how often I’d reach for a drink. And it wasn’t always a glass of wine for the night. I’d throw back three or four ($15) cocktails “just because” it was a hard day at work or I was stressed out with politics or it was a day ending in Y. Any excuse was good enough for me to indulge in the alcohol I so love. 
  • Clarity can be frightening. In razor-sharp focus, I started seeing how many hours I’d normally spend in a week, not doing much else besides socializing over drinks. I wouldn’t think twice about hanging with a group of friends and having a few rounds, because that’s the norm. What’s abnormal is being the one who’s not drinking, and then everyone wants to know why and how and “OMG I could never do that!” The truth is, people: You can. You just have to push yourself to understand it’s not a priority anymore. And if you have friends who enjoy socializing while working out or volunteering or doing other sober activities, well that’s just the bee’s knees.
  • I became THAT person, who often talked about being sober. To be fair, I’m now also that person about how much sugar is in everything… but I could hear myself in conversations, constantly talking about my challenge. Maybe it was a defense mechanism — people wanted to know why I wasn’t drinking, and it’d make them feel weird, and so I’d get on a soapbox to explain. And the more I talked about it, the less I wanted it.

So, that’s my story about how No Fun January taught me a whole lot more about myself than I ever imagined. I’ll likely indulge this weekend, for a friend’s birthday, but I don’t see myself ever returning to my old habits. Have you ever challenged yourself to something like this? What were your results?

friends

Real talk on February 1

Resolving 2016

2016 was a garbage dumpster year, start to finish. It began with my (now ex-) boyfriend being sick last-minute and unable to celebrate with me. He insisted I carry through our plans to attend a couples’ party. On New Year’s Eve. Alone.

He then dumped me 3 days before my birthday, but I still went on my scheduled 4th of July in Tahoe couples’ trip. For my 29th birthday. Alone.

I returned to SF and was spit on by a homeless man that day. And lost my 80-day meditation streak. Namaste.

All of this pales — of course — in comparison to the traumas and tragedies that shook our world this year. Terrorist attacks, hate crimes, unfathomable violence, ignorant and misinformed movements, Brexit and Trump’s election, more celebrity deaths than I can even recall.

I lost a friend to brain cancer. I lost another to kidney failure. But friends lost their spouses and siblings and parents and children. They experienced pain I can only imagine, pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I also gained a niece. I gained more vacation time than ever. I gained friends through various volunteer and social efforts. I gained understanding beyond the SF bubble about just how marginalized so many feel.

So in an effort to resolve the shitty-shit-shit of a year this was, I’m turning what I can into positive can-dos:

  • Understand the world: I traveled more than ever this year, but it was all domestic and I’m itching for stamps on my passport in 2017. If I can make it to Asia, South America or parts of Europe I haven’t been, I hope to gain a broader view of how millions of people live. What experiences are part of their everyday lives? What can I do to understand my privilege more, both at home and abroad?
  • Spend smarter: All of that travel left me in some tight financial spots, as I sometimes neglect to budget for living in the most expensive U.S. city. Rather than “Say Yes” to everything (which went full-force after my breakup), I need to be thoughtful about what each Yes costs me. I don’t ever want to be in a position where I can’t donate to my favorite causes or help those in need, so a finance fine-tooth comb is in order. First up: I’ll be the last person in SF to stop paying for cable!
  • Use my voice: I tend to shut down during heated discussion and debates, often because I feel most are set in their ways and not willing to listen — only shout their perspectives. I see, though, how damaging silence can be. I choose to approach 2017 thoughtfully: speaking up when I feel compelled, understanding I may be the only one listening in a dialogue, and removing myself when necessary. I don’t have to be vocal on every single thing I care about, but I can use my voice with conviction, knowing I’ve done my research and will remain respectful.
  • Take care of myself: The quintessential resolution is getting a makeover of its own from me at midnight. Yes, I’d love to finally hit my goal weight. But more important, I’d like to feel as good about myself as I do after a Toastmasters speech or a volunteer event. From continuing meditation streaks and therapy sessions, eating foods that nourish my body, challenging myself with new fitness goals and being cognizant of my needs in a relationship, I can take on any garbage dumpster 2017 throws at me.

What are your resolutions for 2017? As always, you’ll inspire me to be the best Wittyburg I can be.

And however you’re celebrating the New Year, please be safe out there. Here’s an actual rendering from the future, of me at midnight:

Image Courtesy of Bitmoji

Cheers!

How Did We Get Here?

Courtesy of NewYork.CarpeDiem.cd

I knew it could happen. I just didn’t want to be right.

I can’t recall the last time I woke up feeling so uneasy and unsure, so desperate to talk but wanting to keep my mouth shut, so vulnerable and disgusted and helpless.

I didn’t care what the candidates wore or about their hair or if they sniffled or had a cold. I cared about what example the candidates set, as a standard, to hold the highest office in our country.

I couldn’t say I didn’t care who you vote for, because I did. I’ve largely stayed out of social media debate, because I believed minds were made up and there was no convincing people otherwise. Because I didn’t want to damage relationships or get into endless arguments or hurl articles back and forth to prove a point. I was proud to say #ImWithHer. I still am.

So how did we get here?

I read this essay about five months ago — before half of this circus even came to a head — and while it’s quite lengthy, I think many will find the time to try and understand how this could happen… and did.

2016 has seemingly become the year of the anti-, with droves of people, particularly in rural regions, being vocally anti-establishment, anti-government, and truly believing someone with no professional experience is better than someone with an imperfect 30 years of experience.

These people have felt marginalized, as minority voices have taken center stage and action toward the promise of equality for all.

Trump said last night he’ll be a president for all people. How are we to believe him when he’s openly bashed and berated nearly every human but the Christian, white male?

I check two of those three boxes and find it hard to go about my day today. How can I expect my fellow women, friends of other races and religions, LGBTQ allies, and all others who don’t fit this rhetoric to be OK?

I live in one of the most progressive and liberal cities in the US, yet I’m conservative compared to many of my fellow residents. And if I feel unsure, unsafe today — how does someone in my home state of Florida feel, who wears a hijab or who is not white, or who had the unfortunate circumstance of being born a woman?

The pains in my stomach could be blamed on period cramps or a woman’s intuition, but I know it’s the fear of what this means for my future; for my Muslim and black and Hispanic and Hindi co-workers and friends; for my nieces; for my LGBTQ peers; and countless others.

I’ve taken great pains to refrain from speaking in absolutes or extremes this entire election cycle, but I’m exhausted. I feared this could happen — this would happen — and the only thing I fear now is every day of the next four years. I hope to all that is holy, he proves me wrong. That we can have forward progress and make real changes with thoughtful debate, care and compassion.

We have to do better for our fellow humans. We cannot sit idly by and allow people of any race, religion, gender or economic status to be marginalized simply because of that checkbox on their identity. I’m prayerful the system of checks and balances will help keep policies and legislation from being extremist or exclusive, but it’s going to be a while before I can do so with both eyes closed.

Resources for those struggling today:

And while I’m all for healthy and productive debate, I kindly invite anyone with hateful commentary to please show my site the same respect I’ve shown yours by moving right along.

Happy Halloweenie

It’s one of the best days of the year, pumpkinheads!

I took a few years off from really celebrating, but I think this year’s costume may be my best yet. It wouldn’t have been possible without the craftsmanship of my dear friend Sarah, and the fine folks at Center Hardware in SF.

However you’re celebrating this year, have safe and fun festivities. Cheers!

Life Lessons on My Second San Franniversary

Today marks my second San Franniversary, so I thought I’d share some of the lessons I’ve learned since moving here. Bonus: It’s apparently (and arbitrarily) San Francisco Appreciation Week! If I’m missing anything, I’m sure you’ll all let me know 😉

1. Never, ever, EVER call it “San Fran.”
I realize I broke this cardinal rule in the very title of this post, but I believe a pun makes it OK. (I haven’t gotten an eye-roll yet in my empty apartment, at least.) For some reason, SF residents absolutely cannot stand calling their beloved city “San Fran.” It’s “SF” (pronounced “ess eff”) or “The City” (though I still save that for NYC). And I’m guilty of the hatred toward “Saaan Fraaan,” too. It strikes a nerve, sounds sooo country and feels like a betrayal to the Bay Area. Even worse: “Frisco.” *shudders*

Courtesy of Studentapan.se

2. There won’t be a heat wave in August.
It goes against everything you’ve ever been taught, but bring sweaters and jeans if you visit SF in August. With an average temperature this year of 58°F, you’ll thank me later. Easiest way to spot tourists here each August? They’re wearing overpriced Golden Gate Bridge sweatshirts from Fisherman’s Wharf, because they figured it’d be hot like everywhere else. On the flip side, September and October are our warmest months. I don’t make the rules; I’m just sharing them.

Courtesy of FreeToursByFoot.com

3. NorCal is very different from SoCal.
I haven’t personally experienced Southern California yet, but I’ve heard enough comparisons to feel confident in this lesson. NorCal is bourgie and techy, chilly and pretentious — while SoCal is beachy and sprawling, warm and pretentious in a different way. Also: Don’t expect me to “pop down” to San Diego or LA while you’re there on a weekday, since they’re 400+ miles away. I still love you, though 🙂

Courtesy of TheOdysseyOnline.com

4. We work smarter, not harder.
Work/life balance is a constant topic of conversation here, almost to a fault. I haven’t worked in the smallest of startups — so there is some variation — but for the most part I believe SFers find efficiencies in their work, suggest changes to organizations’ processes and don’t have to prove their worth by how many hours they work. We value getting in, getting shit done and getting out to live life away from office walls.

Courtesy of Vermints.com

5. We take our wine and our sports seriously.
This should come as no surprise, given electric playoff seasons from the Golden State Warriors, San Francisco Giants,and San Jose Sharks — plus the recent resurgence of the Oakland Raiders. Even the 49ers and A’s fans are fiercely loyal. And while wine and sports don’t necessarily go hand in hand, you can’t be just south of Wine Country and not have a strong appreciation for vino. Cheers to that.

Courtesy of TheHometownFan.com

6. Oakland is SF’s cooler cousin — and kinda too cool for me.
I haven’t explored nearly as much of Oakland as I’d like to, but what I have seen has been mostly awesome. The Fox Theater is a phenomenal concert venue, there are awesome restaurants and bars to try all over Downtown, Lake Merritt and more. Get comfortable with the BART map first, though, as I’ve gotten turned around and spent way more time on the train than is ever necessary for one human.

Courtesy of PGHMurals.com

7. Trolleys are not the same as cable cars.
This is a lesson I’m still learning, as anyone within earshot is quick to correct me when I mistakenly identify a trolley (or streetcar) as a cable car. The key difference is how they’re propelled, which is exactly why I can’t seem to keep them straight. All I really know is, both types are adorable and strangely efficient forms of transportation — provided you avoid the stops at each end of the cable car lines.

Courtesy of GeraldBrimacombe.com

8. Public transportation is laughable.
Ask me two years ago, and I’d say I would never, ever miss the MTA. But being out here, I miss the subway nearly every damn day. MUNI is inefficient, dealing with traffic and breakdowns and shitty people who refuse to follow the rules. BART is a hot mess of its own. And while I understand this city wasn’t built for the massive influx of people, it’s frustrating to feel like there aren’t any major changes in sight for affordable, efficient, reliable public transportation.

Image Courtesy of Google

9. Uber, Lyft and Chariot are godsends… mostly.
It’s no wonder, then, we freaking love rideshare and shuttle services. Since Uber and Lyft were founded here, we’re often a test market for new features (and promos!) before they’re rolled out nationwide. I relied heavily on UberPool with my last job, since my 2.5-mile commute would take more than 50 minutes on MUNI. I’m now blessed with transportation reimbursement from my employer, so a shuttle service like Chariot (also founded in SF) makes commuting and getting around SF a breeze.

Courtesy of DerekWWyatt.com

10. SF is a fantastic place to live.
There are plenty of challenges living in a big city with rich history and recent gentrification. It’s easy to take it for granted, but it’s truly become my favorite home. Whether making jokes about Karl the Fog; braving tourists on Golden Gate Bridge; or enjoying the quirky, eclectic local vibes, SF will always have a special place in my heart.

Courtesy of VividScreen.info

 

Wittyburg Turns FIVE!

Courtesy of c.MI.com

Can you believe it? 5 years ago, I started this blog with a few posts in mind… and no idea where to go from there.

Things have changed a lot since then.

For example, I:

  • Started Weekly Obsessions, which have now had more than 220 posts
  • Picked up & moved from Florida to New York City
  • Made blogger connections & started following so many talented writers
  • Decided I love moving & relocated again, this time from NYC to San Francisco
  • Shared my greatest successes & deepest disappointments

Most importantly, this is all in large part thanks to reader like YOU! I’m consistently reminded through your views, shares, likes & comments that I’m fortunate to have a fantastic support system.

I’ve stumbled along the way, but I’ve grown & learned a lot, too.

From the bottom of my little Witty heart, thank you for being part of the journey. Here’s to many more milestones together!

Just for funsies: What was your favorite Wittyburg post?