The Verbal Thing has moved!

text logoThat’s right. From now on, all of my content will be hosted at theverbalthing.com! Finally having a real domain is a very exciting change and I look forward to posting there. You’ll notice that all of my old content has been moved, including my posts, photos, tags, and categories. The site also rocks the same theme, so this transition should be very smooth.

If you choose to migrate with me from the old site to the new, thank you for sticking around. If this is your first time reading my posts, thank you for checking out The Verbal Thing and I hope you’ll migrate and stick around, too.

The Verbal Thing has moved!

Product Review Update: The Mooncup

Warning: This post explicitly discusses menstrual products, menstruation, and the vagina.

It’s been nearly three years since I ordered my first Mooncup. Unfortunately, for the last six months, I’ve reverted back to using tampons (and even pads!) because I misplaced my first cup and couldn’t afford to replace it. Over the course of the last six months, my periods have become increasingly uncomfortable; my cramps have returned full-force, my flow has gotten heavier, and my vagina has been sore throughout each menstruation period because of all of the irritation. Last month, after experiencing my first bike-riding period, I sat down and ordered a replacement Mooncup.

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The difference between the period I just ended and the periods I’ve had for the last six months was massive. The very first time I used a menstrual cup, it was uncomfortable and weird and messy and I couldn’t quite figure out how to make it work for me. I stuck with it, though, and eventually fell in love with the comfort of it. Menstrual cups are not only safer and healthier for your body than tampons, they’re also cheaper, more durable, and significantly more environmentally friendly. Plus, they fit so snug inside and prevent leaks so well that you almost forget you’re even using them.

There are many, many brands of menstrual cups and I won’t say that the Mooncup is inherently better than others because I haven’t tried others. The reason I opted to order another Mooncup this time around is because I know I like and can trust the product. I think that menstrual cups in general — regardless who manufactures them — are incredible. I’ve recommended them to multiple friends who suffered from terrible periods and have received nothing but glowing thanks in response.

I ordered my first menstrual cup on a recommendation from a friend, as well, and I will forever be in that person’s debt for suggesting the product to me after I complained about being outrageously uncomfortable during my periods. Now that I’m cycling rather than driving everywhere, comfort is key: cycling helps eliminate any cramps or bloating I feel, which is awesome, but tampons and pads make my vagina and outer lips feel so dry and raw and awful that riding induces tears. Riding with a menstrual cup feels as good as riding when I’m not on my period. It’s an awesome thing.

Since I first used my first Mooncup in 2012, I’ve learned a few things about how to customize the product for individual use. Each cup comes with a plastic stem that can be trimmed depending on how long the user likes it to be; allowing the stem to sit outside the vagina can cause irritation and inflammation, so the user guide recommends trimming until it sits just inside. The stem is meant to make removal of the menstrual cup easier. I, personally, don’t like having the stem on the cup at all. As you can see in the photo above, the first thing I did after boiling my Mooncup to sanitize it was remove the stem completely. For me, pinching the base of the cup and pulling out is more comfortable and easier to maneuver. It’s also not as messy and doesn’t “pull” on my insides as much. There are several videos on YouTube that teach different ways of folding menstrual cups for insertion, as well as different ways of grasping them for removal. I had to do a bit of research and then undergo a lot of trial and error before I found what works for me.

Repeated periods have also taught me how to use the cup without making a mess every time. Again, this takes some trial and error, but the biggest thing I’ve found is that removing the cup, emptying it into the toilet bowl, and then cupping my other hand by the toilet seat to catch any spare drops of blood or tissue as I pull the cup up and away helps massively. I rinse after every usage and scrub the cup twice a day with unscented antibacterial soap (usually in the shower and then before bed). In public restrooms, I wipe the cup out with toilet paper, leave the stall to quickly rinse it in the sink, and then return to the stall to re-insert it.

Lots of people have expressed concern over how messy it is to transition to a menstrual cup. In my experience, once you and your body get used to the cup and vice versa, it’s no messier than trying to change a tampon or a pad.

The more I try to live a sustainable, healthy lifestyle, the more products like a reusable menstrual cup make sense to me. When I first started using a cup two and a half years ago, it completely changed the chemistry of my periods. Having to revert to man-made, disposable products for the last several months has been downright horrible. I’m so glad to be back to using a cup. I won’t let this one out of my sight (or at least, I won’t let it out of my bag), because I don’t want to suffer through another period without a cup ever again.

Product Review Update: The Mooncup

Recipe Post: Zesty lemon, garlic and dill dressing

All summer, I’ve been experimenting with lemon in dishes ranging from roasted potatoes to stir fry. The sharp, citrus tang of lemon is unparalleled (except maybe by lime, but that’s neither here nor there). It offers an amazing boost of flavor to pretty much anything, savory or sweet, and it’s super easy to add to any recipe for that extra kick.

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I’ve discovered that one of the easiest ways to add lemon to savory dishes — including kale salad, crispy tofu, fried rice, roasted potatoes, and zucchini pasta, to name a few — is to whip up a batch of the homemade dressing I first made a few months ago by throwing together some spices in my pantry and hoping for the best.

This dressing has a sharp, tangy flavor to it that will make your mouth water. It’s become one of my favorite toppings and my partner requests it regularly, to the point that we now have to buy full bags of lemons almost every week so that we always have some on hand for when we want lemon dressing on our meals.

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I’ve tried making batches of this dressing to last for a while, but we end up going through it in just days. It’s just so good. I often end up making single or double servings for individual meals in order to keep us from just dousing everything in this dressing. When we have it around, it ends up in every dish. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but mouth sores from too much citrus are very real and very painful, so limiting our intake a little is probably a good idea.

The proportions for this recipe vary a little depending on the size of the lemons and whether you’re making a jar or just a serving of dressing. You may have to adjust accordingly. Ideally, you just want the flavors to marry in way that’s appetizing to you. For us, that means lots of lemon for a ton of zest. For you, that might mean a little more oil to temper the tang. Regardless, everything you need to make this incredible condiment can be found in the recipe below.

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Zesty Lemon, Garlic and Dill Dressing
Prep time: 10 minutes | Total time: 10 minutes
Makes about one jar

What you’ll need:

  • 3 large lemons
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp. dill seeds
  • 3-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

What you’ll do:

  1. QUICK METHOD: Juice the lemons (preferably by hand, to get every last bit of delicious lemony goodness). Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend for 1 minute. Serve and enjoy!
  2. SLIGHTLY SLOWER METHOD: Juice the lemons (preferably by hand, to get every last bit of delicious lemony goodness). Mince the garlic. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and whisk rapidly for 2-3 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
  3. Store extra dressing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. It will stay good for 1-2 weeks (if you can hold onto it for that long)!
Recipe Post: Zesty lemon, garlic and dill dressing

Adventures in bicycling: Introducing Bee

The summer after I graduated from college, I bought my first car. I’ve written a handful of posts about him; in August of 2012, when I drove Hazza off the lot, I assumed I would always need a car to commute to work. Last year when I moved to Rhode Island, I realized that if I ever wanted to live in a proper city, having a car wouldn’t be practical at all. It’s expensive, for one, and difficult, for two. It’s hard to find parking that isn’t on the street or outrageously overpriced. Driving in the city is Not Fun.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I had a quarter-life crisis in the spring and ended up selling my car, among making other major changes. Once we moved into the city, I started walking to work. It’s not a bad walk: 45 minutes one way, give or take, and a little less than that if I hustle. Since I sold Hazza, though, I’ve repeatedly said that I want to try bicycling again.

A few weeks ago, my partner acquired a new-vintage bike, rebuilt it, and turned over their five year-old Trek bike to me. Its name was Blue Steel and it was a little too short for me, had a quick-release seat that liked to fall as I rode (not necessarily because I’m heavy, as AR explained to me after a crying jag where I nearly convinced myself I’m too fat to ride bikes, but because quick-release seats just do that), and had a very, very heavy steel, step-through frame. I didn’t mind riding Blue Steel, though. Biking cut my commute time down, made me feel like I was accomplishing something with my under-exercised body, and re-introduced me to biking after over a decade of not touching a bike at all.

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Photo credit: AR.

Last week, AR acquired another new-vintage bike, this one a 1970s Motobécane with all original parts. It had sat in a shed in Connecticut for two decades and needed some serious love and attention, so AR took it to a local nonprofit where they had rebuilt their own bike and took parts from Blue Steel to replace parts on the Motobécane. (They called the process “Frankenbiking”, which is both appropriate and horrifying.) Last Tuesday, I rode the Motobécane for the first time and crashed thrice. Because I wasn’t there for the rebuilding process, AR had to guess on what height to set the seat at, and it was about an inch too high. You wouldn’t think that would make a huge difference, but I could barely touch the ground. It made riding really difficult and I reacted really poorly. I said I didn’t think I could get used to a bike with drop handlebars, that I didn’t want to seem ungrateful but I didn’t know if this was a good choice for me, and some other pretty rude things. Basically, I totally flipped out because I couldn’t immediately fix the seat height. Yikes. (I’m a drama queen. It’s a thing I’ve been trying to work on.)

The next day, I took the Motobécane — which I’ve affectionately named Bee — to a local bike shop and asked one of the employees if he’d mind lowering the seat. He did, at no cost, and also sold me a tea kettle-shaped bell to put on the handlebars so I can make noise at parked cars with drivers who try to open their doors as I’m about to ride past. When I rode Bee home from the bike shop, the difference was like night and day. I was no longer afraid of crashing, felt significantly more comfortable using the brakes on the drop handlebars, and had a whole new level of excitement. It was the first time I’d ever felt genuinely thrilled to be riding a bicycle. That feeling hasn’t gone away. Over the last week, I’ve grown more and more comfortable riding Bee around Providence, learning how to balance and speed up and slow down and react to high-traffic situations. I’ve ridden up major hills! It’s been one adventure after another.

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Today I took Bee back to the bike shop and had brand new yellow handlebar tape put on. For those wondering, I chose Deda Elementi padded foam tape for extra comfort (it’s so comfy); the tape that was on the bike when I received it was thin and black and falling off, and it hurt my hands to ride. I’ll admit some of that pain came from the first few days when I didn’t know how to grip the drop bars and still feel safe. That’s changed now; I’m making it a personal goal to get comfortable enough riding this bike to be able to actually get down and use the bottom parts of the drops and the front brake levers by the end of the summer. So far, I’ve just gotten comfortable resting my hands on top of the bars and using the inside brake levers. We’ll see how long it takes for me to move beyond that.

Riding this bike is a totally different experience from riding a modern bike, not only because of the drop handle bars but because of the gear shift. At AR’s advice, I’ve left the bike’s stem shifters alone for the last week. AR put the bike in third gear for me — a gear that’s comfortable for me almost all of the time — and I’ve just been pretending it’s a single-speed. But today, the stem shifters were jostled while handlebar tape was put on the bike. I was forced to balance enough to shift on my ride home and actually managed to do so successfully without panicking, stopping, wobbling, or crashing. I feel incredible.

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Transitioning from a driving commuter to a walking commuter to a cycling commuter has been really, really hard. I have a hard time adapting to new situations and until even a few days ago, riding a bicycle terrified me. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable, but there are still things I need to learn and situations I haven’t yet encountered. I’ve learned that the main thing is that I just have to get on the bike and go. It’s okay to take breaks and to have doubts and to be worried and to react. But then I have to put my feet on the pedals and ride. It’s a very liberating thing, cycling. Now that I’ve learned how fun it can be, I’ve started to develop a passion for cycling and its history that I never would have expected to have. I feel like a new person. It’s awesome.

 

Adventures in bicycling: Introducing Bee

Organization, or something like it

I have a confession to make: if I don’t have an aesthetically pleasing space in which to create, it causes me to become really, really stagnant. I don’t think I’m alone in that. I think there are plenty of people in the world who struggle with feeling inspired by their surroundings when it comes to producing creative works. I’ve discovered in the last several weeks, since turning my life upside-down and essentially starting fresh, that I work best when I have a space to call mine.

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The above photo was taken two weeks ago, after an initial afternoon spent dedicated to making my new desk space as inspirational and friendly as possible. The vintage desk was gifted to me by my partner’s mother, and it snuggled quite happily into the wall space between the door of the office and the closet (which will eventually be organized to hold office and studio supplies). I spent hours arranging photos and mementos that inspire and energize me to hang above the desk; I’ve since added a secular saints Shakespeare candle to the mix, as well as my college graduation tassels (hung well above cat-eye level, since Tommen quite likes to jump up and play with anything dangling on the walls).

I love this space. It feels welcoming and cozy and inviting and it’s the first real work space I’ve had since I was in college. I feel inspired to create in this space. I’ve suffered from writers block in almost every area for a long, long time, but sitting at this desk makes me feel like I can focus on the various writing projects that I’ve taken on. It makes me feel like I can focus on writing this blog! I want to make The Verbal Thing into a more active blogging space with more consistent posts and a larger variety of topics. I say that all the time, and to be honest, I don’t know how much of that I’ll be able to accomplish given that I now work two jobs. But the changes I’m making in my life all feel positive, and I feel energetic and inspired and like I’m finally re-learning how to manage my time well outside of work. I can only hope that trend continues.

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A major focus of the wall above my desk is being kind to myself. Setting goals is important and meeting those goals is especially important, but I am attempting to be more realistic about my expectations (of myself and of others) and I am also attempting to be less hard on myself when I don’t succeed as much as I might want to at any given thing. For example: I’m working on learning more recipes and developing my own to share with you all; sometimes, those recipes turn out beautifully. Sometimes, they don’t and we have to order out for pizza or eat toast. I’m aiming to be less downtrodden over the attempts that don’t work out, because that puts me in a foul mood that’s not good for me or my partner or my cats. The majority of the wall above my desk is made up of cork boards; the one that’s directly at eye-level features some important words of wisdom and some fond memories to keep me on track when I get distracted or distressed.

The ability to look up at some of the things on this wall as I’m working on projects, paying bills, or even just browsing the Internet has proven really therapeutic. I firmly believe that the time spent laying out these cork boards was time well-spent. (Although I discovered yesterday that the cork boards are crooked. I don’t know how I managed that, but I’m not willing to take everything down in order to shift them less than a quarter of an inch to the right in order to fix the issue. Crooked they shall be. See? I’m getting better at not being so hard on myself! I am!)

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In addition to organizing my work space, I also broke down and bought a paper planner for myself. At the start of the year, I said I would use my iPhone for scheduling, list-making, and due date minding. I failed miserably. I’ve gotten so used to using a planner (Moleskine brand planners, to be specific) that trying to make the switch to my phone just didn’t fly. Luckily, I found an 18-month Moleskine planner (in my beloved red) that begins in July 2015 and runs all the way through December 2016, which means I’m not wasting money and I’m not stuck buying academic planners year after year! Hell yeah!

Writing things down again has made a huge difference in my focus and my time management. On Saturday, I woke up and had enough time to clean my entire apartment and wash/dry/fold laundry all before I had to leave for work. That may not seem like a huge accomplishment, but for me it felt monumental.

Getting organized plays such a major role in every part of a person’s life. I’m pumped to be at this point and feel like things can only move up from here, which is a far cry from where I was even a few weeks ago. I’m sharing these developments on The Verbal Thing as a kick-off point for where I want the blog to go in the near and far future. I’m dedicating myself to a number of things right now, but for once it doesn’t feel completely overwhelming. I like that. I like that a lot. Here’s to an organized future!

Organization, or something like it

Recipe post: Oreo Dream Pies

The one sweet snack that gas station gods have granted us vegans is Oreo chocolate cookie sandwiches. Whenever my partner or I crave chocolate, it’s super easy to walk to a convenience store and pick up a package of these delicious morsels and then gorge ourselves until we don’t want to even look at an Oreo cookie for at least a week. Co-workers and friends are usually pretty shocked to discover that Oreos are vegan, but then I point them to this list on PETA’s website and they realize vegan food is everywhere. (That makes veganism sound like a cult thing. It’s not. I swear.)

IMG_2897Recipe post: Oreo Dream Pies

Sometimes stuffing our faces with Oreos isn’t quite enough, though. Sometimes we need more chocolate, or a more filling sweet snack. Lucky for us, Oreos are excellent for baking. If you’re a fan of chocolate mud pies or any kind of chocolate cream, then I’ve got the perfect recipe for you.

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A few days ago, we had some friends over for dinner and I had the rare opportunity to cook a three-course meal. When it’s just my partner and I, going full stop on a massive meal and using tons of dishes isn’t always practical; although our new apartment does have a dishwasher (fondly named Steve), we prefer to dirty as few things as possible and then wash them by hand once we’ve eaten and digested. However, when we have friends over, it’s a perfect excuse to try new recipes and even revisit some old favorites, which we did the other night.

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For dessert, I whipped up some of these Oreo Dream Pies (so named because my phone autocorrected the word “cream” to “dream” when I posted about them on Instagram, but also because they are dreamy). They went over very well, but I’ve since tweaked the recipe just a little in order to perfect it. The raspberry topping not only make these pies look adorable, they add a tartness to the flavor that is absolutely incredible.

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The crust is spongey and rich, which marries it well to the light, creamy top layer. Altogether, these pies are a chocolate lover’s dream. I recommend having a glass of non-dairy milk handy to accompany the rich, decadent flavor. (After all, Oreo is “milk’s favorite cookie”.)

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This dessert is wicked easy, but it does need to be prepared ahead of time so that each component has time to set up. Both times that I made these pies, I gave myself at least four hours prior to when we planned to enjoy them. Keep that in mind! These pies are sweet and creamy, but they require a little extra love, space and time to reach their full potential.

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Oreo Dream Pies
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Chill Time: 3-4 hours | Total Time: 3-4 hours
Serves 4

What you’ll need:

Crust:

  • 10-12 Oreo cookies
  • 1 Egg Replacer egg or 1 flax seed egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream filling:

  • 1/4 block silken tofu, rinsed and patted dry
  • 3 tbsp. agave nectar or pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet vegan chocolate, melted
  • fresh raspberries for topping

What you’ll do:

  1. Add Oreo cookies to a food processor and blend until they create a fine dust. Then, add “egg” and vanilla extract and blend until smooth, about 1 minute.
  2. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, evenly divide mixture into four ramekins or small bowls, leveling until flat. Put ramekins in the freezer for at least 2 hours to chill. When removed, the crust should be spongey but firm.
  3. About five minutes prior to removing ramekins from the freezer, add your tofu, agave nectar, vanilla extract and salt to a food processor and blend until the mixture is smooth but still a little lumpy, about 30-45 seconds.
  4. Melt your semi-sweet chocolate using a double boiler (I have a set of metal bowls that are perfect for this: I heat water in my electric kettle and pour it into the biggest bowl, then add the unmelted chocolate to the medium-sized bowl and let it float in the water until the chocolate starts to melt). You will likely have to stir the chocolate for 2-3 minutes until it is all melted and creamy.
  5. Add the chocolate to the food processor and blend until mixed with the rest of the ingredients, usually 1-2 minutes.
  6. Remove ramekins from the freezer. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, evenly divide tofu mixture into the ramekins and level until flat. Top with raspberries (as many as you like!) and put in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.
  7. Serve and enjoy!
Recipe post: Oreo Dream Pies

Checking in: The many and varied forms of self care

No, really: selfies are a 100% necessary aspect of self care.
No, really: selfies are a 100% necessary aspect of self care.

“Self care” has become kind of a buzz term over the last several years. That isn’t a bad thing; in fact, I think self care is one of the most important commitments a person can make. Taking time to check in with yourself and do something that makes you feel good is really, really important, even if it’s just taking a ton of selfies because you feel good in what you’re wearing. For a long time, I’ve associated self care with the “treat yourself” mantra. I do think the two go hand-in-hand to a pretty significant extent, but I’ve also found over the last few months that for me, it’s also really important to pay attention to how I’m feeling at any given moment about any given thing. It’s important to know where my insecurities lie, and why, and how I can live my life without becoming paralyzed by those insecurities.

For me, self care isn’t just bubble baths and fancy pasta for dinner (though sometimes it is, at its core, a glass of wine in a hot tub after a hellish work week). It’s also taking risks to better myself, making terrifying phone calls, asking for advice on how to do adult things from people who make their living giving that kind of advice, and ultimately, taking care of things to seriously improve my situation. I don’t feel comfortable blasting specifics on the Internet about everything I’ve been doing over the last several weeks to get my life in order, but I will say this: in the last two months, I’ve changed full-time jobs, sold my primary form of transportation, moved into a new apartment, and sought out a second job to help with finances. I took a look at my life two months ago and said, “something has to change”. Then I opted to basically change it all.

To the casual observer, I appear to be a fairly impulsive, adventurous person. At the age of 18, I moved 3,000 miles across country to go to college after being born and raised in the same little tourist town, only traveling to neighboring states until jumping on a plane to visit my parents in New Hampshire right before my senior year in high school. My senior year in college, I traveled to the Philippines alone. Last year, I moved to Rhode Island to live with my partner. Last month, I turned my life upside-down once more.

These decisions are misleading. I’m not really an impulsive person at all. I’m very much a homebody with a deep commitment to commitment. I don’t like mass amounts of change. That being said, I’ve discovered that when I get too comfortable, I become paralyzed with fear of change. That’s not healthy. That’s not okay. So the question is, how do I accept change into my life in little pieces so that when the big changes come, they’re less scary? I think the key is going to be checking in with myself on a regular basis — if not daily (because I’ll be honest, I’m not that on top of things), then at the very least weekly.

Another key to this process of adjusting to change as it comes rather than refusing to acknowledge it until situations become super dire is going to be (you guessed it) self care. It’s going to be serious levels of self care in the form of doing things I love (reading books, baking, cooking, making blog posts, making mixtapes, listening to new music, occasionally binge-watching television shows, keeping up with friends). It’s going to be writing in a journal when I’m feeling overwhelmed and even just to chronicle experiences in my life. It’s going to be aggressively tackling debt so that I can someday go back to school and maybe, just maybe, open the business I’ve started to dream about. It’s going to be walking every day (partially because I have to, now that I don’t have a car, but partially because I’ve found that it makes me feel really good). It’s going to be cuddling with my cats when I’m not yet ready to get out of bed but also getting things done so that I don’t get stressed out about wasting time.

I’ve always been a very driven person, but some circumstances have caused me to drift a little bit for the last few years. I feel as if I’ve grown up significantly in the last two months, moreso than I have since before I graduated from college. I finally feel like I’m developing again, learning and growing and changing into someone I want to be (someone I’ve always been, maybe). I finally feel like I’m properly learning what adulthood means and how to navigate it. It’s a scary thing. Terrifying, actually. But I feel good about things in a way I haven’t for a very long time.

Today I’m attempting some new recipes and watching Netflix’s “Sense8” in my underwear. I’m snacking on a little chocolate and earlier I called my best friend of over a decade just to say hi, rather than to cry over the 3,000 miles separating us about how everything is falling apart. It isn’t falling apart, not anymore, and that feels… incredible. I don’t have it all figured out just yet. There is still a lot that I have to take care of. But I have a plan, and it’s a pretty solid one, and that’s better than I’ve had in a long while.

I wrote this post with the intention of talking about how self care, for me, has turned out to be more about being productive and taking care of business than soaking in a bathtub or indulging in extra calories for dinner on a bad day. I don’t know if I actually accomplished that, but… here I am, 25 years old and starting to properly integrate into the adult world, putting the past behind me and focusing on the present and the future. I guess that’s a decent thing to write a blog post about, too.

Checking in: The many and varied forms of self care