Body

Love or Hate? Adjustments

November 30
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Imagine that you’re in a yoga class where you know nothing. You’re surrounded by students who seem like professionals, and somehow you managed to get the front and center spot. The class starts, and you feel like everyone else is moving through the movements with ease and grace while you stumble and struggle to keep pace. The instructor keeps calling adjustments and directing some at you, name included. How do you feel?

I have a love-hate relationship with adjustments.

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I don’t get adjustments, I feel proud. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling good for a certain level of understanding or body consciousness, but pride is a different monster. One that we try to calm with humility in yoga and in life.

I also hate it when I don’t get adjustments. Because after that initial burst of pride, I sometimes feel self-doubt and wonder if I actually AM doing something wrong, and the instructor just didn’t notice. Or worse, she thought, “This girl’s hopeless. Why bother?”!?!? Why bother??

So really, I love them.

Adjustments make a safe and effective practice. Proper alignment and movement can make or break your practice, literally. Moving incorrectly will not only limit your benefits, it can actually cause injuries.

After being corrected or adjusted, you know that you’re positioned or moving the right way, and you can make a mental note for the future. The next time you move into that position or sequence, self correct. That will give you the confidence to know that you’re safe, and you’re getting the most out of my practice.

Feedback is part of learning. It’s especially important when you’re trying something new. Without feedback, I feel completely in the dark. I just started taking Pilates classes, and I frequently look around the room to see how everyone else moves. I’m learning to trust that the instructors WILL correct me when I am doing something wrong, but I’m always self-conscious without some sort of feedback. Am I aligned right? Should my hip be stacked? Are my shoulders moving? Am I even doing the right exercise?!?! So enjoy the adjustments as part of the learning process.

Adjustments are important, even for the experienced. As you gain a level of body consciousness, you can self-adjust, but even that can be a challenge.

A random example… after traveling or sitting for long periods of time, your alignment can get messed up. Driving a car across the state, cramming yourself into a crowded airplane with no leg room or sleeping on an uncomfortable bed can all affect your alignment. Then you find yourself back in class and completely clueless of the fact that your left hip is popping up. And your instructor has to keep correcting you. The right position just feels weird so you find yourself making funny faces while trying to figure out if you’re maintain the alignment she just fixed. Oh wait, that was me.

Even though I feel good when I’m doing something correctly, I am always grateful for adjustments or constructive criticism. Sometimes it can be hard to stomach that you weren’t right or embarrassing to be repeatedly corrected, but it’s good. Good for your body, your mind and your soul.

How do you feel about constructive criticism or adjustments? In yoga or Pilates class, school or work?

Photo by Lena Bell via Unsplash

Body

9 Tips for Staying Healthy through the Holidays

November 22
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My grandma likes to feed people. She plans every meal, and a bowl of cereal or a sandwich won’t do. Every meal must be hearty, filling and beautiful. Egg casseroles and cinnamon rolls for breakfast and meat, potatoes and veggies for lunch and dinner!

Two years ago when I was going through a major health cleanse, I headed into Thanksgiving with my traditional-style farming family unable to eat gluten, dairy, eggs or sugar. I knew it would be a challenge, but I prepped by packing a lot of my own food: smoothies for breakfast, homemade gluten free breads, homemade chocolate and lots of almonds and raisins for snacking. I made it through but with lots of protesting from my grandma 😉

This year I’m going into Thanksgiving with the same grandma, but this time, I’m excited to indulge a little! Thankfully, I won’t be ignoring any food, but I still want to be healthy and feel good at the end of the week.

Whether you practice a super healthy lifestyle all year or are just trying to not to overdo it, the holidays are tricky. The key is finding the balance between overdoing it and depriving yourself.

I curated a list of the best-of-the-best advice I found from across the internet and sprinkled in some of my own tips. This list focuses on celebrating in a healthy way, and encourages balance without perfection. I hope it helps make your Thanksgiving enjoyable while still letting you slide into your favorite skinny jeans.

  1. Drink plenty of water. You should be drinking half your body weight in ounces of water every day (if you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces of water), but it’s especially important on a day that’s all about eating. We often mistake thirst for hunger so if you’re plenty hydrated, you’ll be less likely to overeat because you just feel staaarving.
  2. Switch up your exercise routine for the week. Depending on your schedule this could mean doubling up your work outs like my friend and Beach Body Coach, Stephanie, or breaking up your normal 45 minutes into more manageable 15 minute chunks. If you’ll be with family or friends you don’t get to see often, exercise together! Take a hike, cross country ski or help with the farm work.
  3. Limit yourself to one helping. Chose your portion sizes wisely and only fill your plate once. This becomes a lot easier if you…
  4. Eat mindfully. One bite at a time. Put your fork down after each bite, chew and enjoy your food. Make sure you mix your bites with chatting or watching the Lions game too. Whatever you do, don’t shovel food into your mouth without thinking about it.
  5. “Eat what you love, leave what you like.” Practice Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” philosophy, and skip over the foods that don’t get you really excited. Fill your plates with the foods that bring you joy. (Lindsey Joe on Greatist)
  6. “Alternate your bubbly (or beer) with sparkling water.” This lets you indulge a little bit but keeps the holiday hangover away. (Teresa LaMasters on Greatist)
  7. Don’t stand where you can reach snack bowls. Oh boy, do I struggle with this. I love hanging out by the chips and guacamole, and I will eat it all if I’m not careful. (Real Simple)
  8. Cut yourself some slack. Follow the 80-20 rule, and let this day be your 20. If you practice your healthy eating habits the rest of the week, you can worry less about this day’s indulgence.
  9. Make the day about having fun with family and friends, not eating. Several different articles mentioned this tip, probably because it’s super smart!

What tips would you add to this list? How do you balance yourself during the holidays and especially on Thanksgiving?

Image by Kevin Curtis on Unsplash

Body

Real Life Benefits of Drinking Water in the Morning

November 21
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When you start paying attention to the health world, you’ll see lots of great advice repeating: avoid sugar, eat real food, live an active lifestyle. I wonder if these tips get repeated so frequently because people don’t listen. Maybe doctors, health coaches and bloggers keep saying these things in the hopes of actually igniting change.

One of my favorite tips: drink water first thing in the morning.

Everyone says its great for you, but how many of us actually take the advice?

I’m here to add another voice to the healthy masses, and maybe give a few new reasons. Here’s why I personally love drinking water first thing in the morning:

  1. It gives me a head start on my water intake for that day. I aim to drink 70 ounces per day, and that can become a challenge once my day starts. Whether I leave my water bottle at home, forget to pull it out of my bag or ignore it for an extra cup of coffee, I know I’m already a third of the way through my daily intake.
  2. It wakes me up. Every once in a while, I’ll skip the water because I’m extra tired. When I’m extra tired, I skip things that make me feel good out of spite. And I regret it. Every time.
  3. It gives me a reason to sit in bed for an extra few minutes. This is great! Especially when I’m extra tired. I can wake up, sit up half way and sip my water until I have the energy to put my feet on the floor. It’s an extra few minutes under the warm covers when I let myself slowly wake up. Lovely. 🙂

If that’s not enough to convince you 😉 I’ll give you five scientific reasons:

  1. It rehydrates you. You just slept for 8 hours (in an ideal world, maybe), and your body’s supply of fluids is low. You’re thirsty, and coffee is not the way to quench that thirst.
  2. It kick starts your metabolism. Your metabolism has been sleeping for the last 8 hours too. A big glass of water, preferably cold, has been proven to increase your metabolism by about 24% for an hour and a half. Plus, drinking water fills you up so you’ll be less inclined to grab that bagel at work.
  3. It flushes out toxins. This happens all day, but when you do it in the morning it helps to clear out your colon allowing for nutrients to be more easily absorbed. And water helps your kidneys (your garbage collectors) function better!
  4. It fuels your brain. Did you know that your brain is about 75% water? That’s crazy! When you drink enough water, you feel the difference. You’re more sharp and you think more clearly. Starting first thing in the morning means you leave behind that early morning drag.
  5. It keeps you regular. Yep, we’re going there. Hydrating first thing in the morning will prevent constipation and promote your morning bowel movement.

Researching for this article, I found out that we should drink 1.5 liters to get the most out of your morning hydration. I’ve been drinking about half of that and still experiencing results. I’m planning on upping my intake to see how that affects me, but start small. Even the littlest bit will be refreshing.

What about you? Do you drink water first thing in the morning? I’d love to hear what your experiences with it have been! Let me know in the comments 🙂

Body, Mind, Soul

Goals Can Feel Impossible

November 18
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Picture this. It’s a Saturday morning. I feel some nerves, but I’m eager to start the day. It’s a big day!

Today I have decided to get rid of my caffeine dependence and plan my life. (Hah!)

I make myself a pot of decaf and some green tea (c’mon, cut me some slack), I eat my smoothie like its an ice cream sundae, I pack my bag and I head to the library.

I walk inside and breath in the smell of books. This is the place to be inspired. I wander the rows of books to set my mind in the right place. Then, I walk the perimeter of the library to find my perfect spot. Close to the corner but so close that I’m cornered.

I find it. The perfect cubicle. The cubicles immediately surrounding me are empty as is the desk directly connected to mine. I pull out my laptop, plug it in and arrange my green tea, water bottle, book and pencil around my laptop.

Ahhh…

I start to read and write. Goals for relationships, friends, career, health and faith. I’m on a roll!

The lack of real caffeine kicks in. Fatigue. Headache. Focus!

Then a boy sits across from me, invading my space. He smiles. I smile back. Grr.

Then the heat kicks on and there’s a subtle rattling noise. Click. Click click. Click. Click click.

Ugh. I pull out my headphones and put on some music. The sounds of smooth jazz fills my ears, but…

Click. Click click. Click. Click click.

Then a hand reaches over the divider with a piece of paper. Uhhh…? In scratchy handwriting it reads, “Hey, how are you?” I look at it, smile at him and pass it back shaking my head.

Does this kid know I’m twice his age? Is it not obvious that I’m WORKING?

Full caffeine withdrawal has set in.

Click. Click click. Click. Click click.

I give up. I pack up my bag and head home to take a nap. Goals half written. Life half planned.

This was a few months ago, and I still haven’t finished those goals. Michael Hyatt was not kidding when he said you have to do this in one sitting.

I know goals are important. Don’t we all? But that doesn’t make setting them any easier. As things are becoming more and more clear now, I’m planning a time to plan before the start of the new year. I’m planning to dedicate a whole day with coffee.

I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Do you set goals? Do you stick with the goals you set? Do you have a formal system for setting, checking in and updating goals?

Mind, Soul

Why It Takes Me Months to Finish a Book

November 16
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I love to read. Really. I love to read all kinds of things! Thrillers, romance, creative nonfiction and straight-up nonfiction.

I always find myself drawn to nonfiction the most, but I’m the kind of person who reads four or five books at once so it takes me FOREVER to finish just one. I have them scattered around my house and office for every time of day.

In the mornings I read my Bible study and something inspirational. Right now:

  • Being Lutheran by A. Trevor Sutton: Our pastor recommended this book. Its an easy-to-read, relatable book full of quality material. Sutton covers history, doctrine, living faith and being Lutheran.
  • Wanderlust: A Modern Yogi’s Guide to Discovering Your Best Self by Jeff Krasno: A birthday gift from my thoughtful roommate. It’s beautiful and would look wonderful on a coffee table, but it’s also full of great information and sequences for yogis. I read it while I’m finishing my coffee and find myself wanting to get up and try out the moves, even in my work clothes.

At work during breaks I read work-related books. Business, marketing, planning. Right now:

  • Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath: This book is fantastic. I’m constantly finding applications in real life, and my boyfriend, mom, coworkers and friends hear about it all. Engaging, funny and educational.

When I come home and throughout the evening I either read a fiction book or — wait for the real geek in me — a book on anatomy.  Right now:

  • Pilates Anatomy by Rael Isacowitz and Karen Clippinger: This covers the nuts and bolts, and I love learning about how my body moves throughout the day. It’s also helpful to keep the concepts in mind when I’m in my Pilates and yoga classes. I’m learning that some basic knowledge of anatomy is essential in a mind-body connection.

It can take me a long time to read just one of these books, but generally one will find its way to the top of my pile. I’ll bring that one with me wherever I go, and I will favor it over all of the others. Whoops.

Is it wrong? Inefficient? Unfocused? Maybe! But I like the flexibility it gives me. I like to have some Jesus, a little bit of emotional support and inspiration, a little business and a little body.

I’ll update you on which ones I finish and which ones I add to the list!

What are you reading right now? Do you like to read more than one book at a time? Do you have to finish every book you start?

Body, Mind

I’m sorry.

November 15
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I have to apologize. Last week I said that I would write every day this month, and I haven’t.

Life got away from me. It was a crazy week!

  • The election. Who wasn’t distracted by that? Who isn’t still distracted?? No matter what side you fall on, that threw some craziness into the news, social media and life.
  • One-year anniversary with my boyfriend! We’re pretty excited. We celebrated with a fancy dinner and a flight of beer. He even put on slacks and a dress shirt 😉
  • Big events at work. We have at least seven huge things over the course of two weeks in the middle of November. These are things that we spend all year thinking about. And they’re happening now. All of them.
  • Saying goodbye to my yoga instructor. She is a strong, inspiring, wonderful instructor, and she’s moving away. I’m sad to see her go and that I only got to practice with her for six months.

But really? I have no excuse. It just stopped being a priority. We make time for the things that are important to us.

I’m going to start again though. Grace.

The truth is that it’s always going to be something. Life will always get in the way of anything we’re working toward: reading, writing, running, practicing yoga, starting a business, painting a picture. Steven Pressfield calls the internal battle that results in those excuses “The Resistance.”

Its just life, and we have to find a way to work through the ups and downs. Both can be a distraction. We have to make the effort to stay focused and stick with our commitments.

So I’m back and I’m sorry.

What stops you from fulfilling the goals you set for yourself? Are you hard on yourself or do you give yourself grace? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments!

Body, Mind, Soul

An Open Letter to Kate with Adult Acne

November 8
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Dear Kate,

I stumbled on your article, “Why I’m Rejecting Alicia Keys’ No Makeup Movement” on The Skinny the other day. I understand, and I am on your side. I can relate to the embarrassment, discomfort and even pain, of adult acne.

I had adult acne. Most people said they didn’t notice, but I always felt that was because of all my makeup and their pure kindness. So I understand where you’re coming from, and it breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart that you started your article by saying you’re “obsessed with your own face.”

It breaks my heart that you take photos to track your progress.

It breaks my heart that it interferes in your life in so many ways.

I agree that the media could do better by representing more faces with blemishes just like they can do better by representing more body types. The media sets an unrealistic expectation for our physical appearances and warps the idea of beauty.

I agree: that isn’t helped by Alicia Keys “No Makeup” looks that take hours of prep and hundreds of dollars in skin care. When you think your skin has to be perfect to go make-up free, wearing makeup is the easier path, and you shouldn’t be shamed for that.

It breaks my heart that so many women feel that their value lies in their beauty.

But mostly, it breaks my heart that you and so many other women are looking to others to make you feel adequate.

The truth is, you can’t depend on others to make you feel valuable. More “facial freedom” in the media will not make you feel more empowered or adequate. You have to find that inside yourself. More importantly, you have it in your identity as a Christian.

Before I found the root cause of my acne, I had to stop obsessing over my skin. I had to get on with my life, ultimately trusting that those who matter love ME and not my skin.

I think that alone was a key part to healing. Getting rid of acne can be a physical and emotional process. Another story for another post.

It was only when I stopped looking outside of myself for validation — boyfriends, friends, the media — that I truly felt empowered and adequate, painted face or not.

You asked where the role models with acne, eczema, and rosacea are. I wonder why you can’t be a role model with acne?

Why is it that we view Alicia Keys as a role model? It’s because of her quiet confidence. It’s not really because she’s a pop star. She happens to have a career that puts her in the public’s attention, but that doesn’t mean that we, as “mere mortals,” can’t be role models too. What if you were the woman that young girls saw as a role model because of your joy and confidence. Blemishes would be irrelevant.

The problems in the media may not ever be solved. Every time one complaint is addressed, another surfaces. We live in an imperfect, sinful world. The only relief can be found in Christ. Please Kate, stop looking to others to feel good about yourself. Find your value in you.

xx Margaret

Body, Mind, Soul

How My Passion Changed This Year

November 7
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When I was younger, I thought Poppy, my grandpa, had the coolest job in the world. He was a radiologist which meant he knew all about bones and breaks. He was a doctor who helped people without the blood and gore of surgery. I thought, That’s what I want to be when I grow up.

Poppy was so smart and kind, and he always encouraged us to get healthy naturally whenever it was possible.

I didn’t grow up to be a radiologist. I didn’t even grow up to be a doctor. I studied art and history, and I loved every bit of it! The quiet attraction to anatomy and the body never completely went away though.

Lately I’ve been hearing that our passions can change throughout our lives, and we don’t have to pick just one. What a relief. I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my life up to this point, and I don’t feel silly for wanting to pursue an interest that has nothing to do with art or history.

Hormones have always been a struggle for me — cramps, acne and mood swings. A few years ago when I was in grad school, everything came to a peak. As a 22-year-old student, the acne was embarrassing, the cramps were debilitating and the mood swings begged me to quit every month. I tried medicating and eliminating everything in its turn, but in the end it took cutting everything out, starting a careful regime of supplements and living as healthfully as possible so that my body could heal.

The changes and newly acquired self-knowledge have been empowering for me. My skin is clear, my cramps are more than manageable and my moods are stable. The best part is that I got here naturally. I am so excited about this, I’ll talk about it to anyone who will listen.

Twenty years after I let the dream of becoming a radiologist go, I can’t say I think it’s the coolest job in the world. I do think that anatomy is fascinating though, and I love the body’s ability to naturally heal itself. I’m shifting the focus of my blog to wellness so that we can create a community of women who work towards health by learning about and caring for their selves — body, mind and soul.

If you’ve been following me, you’ll notice some things changing:

  1. I will post more frequently and consistently. This month, I committed to blog everyday with BlogHer and NaBloPoMo (I’m still not sure if I am totally crazy for doing this).
  2. If you’re really perceptive, you might notice that the menu bar has changed. I’m simplifying things! I’ll be writing about different aspects of wellness — body, mind and soul — but you’ll find them all in one place for now. The home page.
  3. Finally, you’ll see the subject matter has changed. This blog started with a focus on creativity. I still think creativity is so important. In fact, it falls under the “mind” and “soul” parts of wellness. I just couldn’t limit myself to that facet of health anymore. The bones are calling ;).

Head over to my About page to learn more about this site and me!

xx Margaret

Body

Sugar-Free Smoothie of Gold

November 6
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I cut out all sugar for two weeks. Not only white sugar and high fructose corn syrup, but also natural sugars like honey, maple syrup, and even fruit. This was one of the more difficult steps on my journey to health (long, long ongoing journey).

I thought, It’s just two weeks. Two weeks and I can have fruit again. It can’t be that hard. But it was. It was really hard. This “smoothie” was one of the few food joys I clung to for sanity.

In fact I am grateful for the health problems I faced because they led me to this smoothie — it squeezed some culinary creativity out of me, and made me feel good.

Maybe that’s dramatic, but if I didn’t have gluten, dairy, and egg sensitivities, fruit and sugar free breakfasts would have been no problem. I could have easily had toast and eggs for breakfast for two weeks.

Instead I faced the challenge of designing a breakfast that was egg, grain, dairy and sugar free. What resulted was liquid gold.

This smoothie tastes uh-mazing. Like milkshake-for-breakfast amazing. As if that’s not enough, it has virtually no carbs and is full of good fats: a great way to start the day!

To create the smoothie, I combined inspiration from a smoothie I found online with my love of cinnamon-sugar and almonds. Of course sugar was out of the question, but wouldn’t almond butter be amazing with some cinnamon, vanilla, and ice-cold coconut milk? I had to try it.

Plain coconut milk worked as an ideal base: practically flavorless but the perfect milky consistency.

Next I added one teaspoon each of cinnamon and vanilla.

Then I sprinkled in a tablespoon of xylitol, a sugar-free sweetener (see below for more information on xylitol and why I don’t recommend you use it in your smoothie).

Then the magic ingredient: almond butter. Gooey, nutty, and a little sweet (yes, it is), I plopped two hearty tablespoons into the blender.

Those five ingredients created the amazing flavor, but this is just a deliciously simple recipe asking to be transformed on occasion. There are endless possibilities including chocolate and coffee variations. One of my favorites trades the sweetener for half of a banana and creates what might as well be banana bread batter.

Full of fat and so delicious I swear I taste heaven, I will be keeping this on my breakfast menu long after I return to a semi-normal diet.


The Recipe:

1 cup of unflavored coconut milk OR whole milk

1 T plain yogurt (optional)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 T sweetener of choice (maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar) and/or half of a very ripe banana

1 T flax seed

1 T chia seeds

2 hearty tablespoons of almond butter

1 handful of spinach (optional — it doesn’t change the taste, but only add if you can stand the pea green color)

9 ice cubes (this is not a magic number, it’s just what seems to work)

1 T melted coconut oil

1. First pour your liquids into the blender.

2. Add cinnamon, vanilla, sweetener, flax and chia seeds, almond butter, and ice. Blend until it’s smooth and you don’t see chia seeds splattered across walls of your blender.

3. Put the blender on the slowest setting and slowly pour in the melted coconut oil.

4. Kick up the power a few notches for 10 seconds.

5. Serve with a straw and enjoy!


A note on xylitol. Xylitol isn’t sugar. It is a sugar alcohol. Many people (mostly gum companies) use it as a replacement for sugar. It is low calorie and low glycemic, and therefore considered acceptable for diabetics and those on the candida diet. The American Dietetic Association states that xylitol offers health benefits such as reduced glycemic response, increased absorption of B vitamins and calcium, and a reduction in dental caries risks.

However, based on this article and this article and the horrible stomach cramps I got after eating it several times, I decided that xylitol is not right for me. Probably, it’s not right for anyone. At least in large quantities. And so that is why I recommend you use maple syrup, honey, a banana, or even some stevia leaf if you’re feeling adventurous. I’d just limit the xylitol.

Live

Confession: I Like Crappy Rom Coms

May 8
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We all have insecurities, right? Things we hesitate to admit or let people see?

For me it’s the way the way my thumb wiggles when I write, it’s my ever-growing list of crushes around town: coffee guy, bike shop boy, band boy… and it’s the five minutes I spent this morning trying to wrap a hair tie around a quarter twisted in my skirt between my legs so I could wear a dress and ride a bike.

A lot of my insecurities take me back to moments that still make me cringe in embarrassment. For example, my college history class.

Some of you reading will remember one particular professor’s “question of the day.” (I hope he doesn’t read this…) At the beginning of every class, he would ask a pop-culture, not-class-related, opinion-based question often phrased like an objective answer existed.

I was always nervous about these questions because our history prof was cool, and, well, I’m not.

He would call names in different ways — alphabetical, reverse alphabetical, random, in swirls around the classroom… I would be panicking, trying to come up with a cool answer so he wouldn’t make fun of me.

Most of the time I gave a good-enough answer that earned me mild praise or at least spared me humiliation, but on two days I failed.

The topics: Best romantic comedy and Best summer band

My answers: Fever Pitch and Dave Matthews Band

He hated these answers so much that he threw his dry erase marker across the room.

I will admit that I don’t actually consider either of those the “best” of anything, but I do like them both.

I’d rather listen to George Ezra or St. Lucia or Small Black while cruising down the PCH, but I would also be happy to listen to some Dave Matthews. Sorry Dr. vV.

And given a few years to think about it… I still can’t pick the best romantic comedy of all time. I would list Crazy, Stupid Love, Pretty Woman, Sabrina and countless others before Fever Pitch though. Honestly, I think I said Fever Pitch because I had just watched it — I have a short term memory.

But you know what? I like Fever Pitch. I know it’s crappy, but I like it. It has a goofy male lead who gets the girl in an over-dramatic, unrealistic display of romance and they end up together. When it ends, I’m smiling.

And the fact that I gave those answers in those moments… it says a lot about me. I like crappy rom coms and feel-good music. I can’t think of movie, band or tv show titles under pressure. I don’t have strong pop-cultural preferences. I have short term memory.

None of those things are good or bad, they’re just me. And I like me.