Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Brick by brick

We're into the final push towards the Oregon Outlaw Open, and I can definitely say that I'm feeling anxious and amped up while at the same time feeling completely exhausted.

It's been a while since I've trained THIS much and this hard. I'm the first to admit that one of my flaws is lack of discipline and consistency, and that's something I've worked particularly hard at this time around--just showing up and doing the entire workout. (I also have no special love for accessory work, you should know.) Like, I know it doesn't look like much on the surface, but for me, internally, it's been hard making sure that I prioritize my training so that no matter what, I'm going in and giving my best effort three days a week.

When I initially signed up for this meet in December, I recall very specifically telling Jeron (my coach) not to let me bail, because last year I signed up for a meet and just couldn't stick to training, and I didn't want that to happen this time. I know myself--I'm great at making plans, but not as good at seeing them through. And because he's, like, the best coach ever, he didn't let me bail, and called me out (in a supportive, encouraging way!) when I really needed it, and that talk made a big difference to me, because from that point on, I showed up and did everything.

Ergo, the weekly grind of lifting. Putting in the work. Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes it really IS a grind (but the people I lift with are awesome and I enjoy their company, so it doesn't feel so bad). In between workouts, I'm trying to sleep enough, eat better, hydrate more. Day by day. Brick by brick.

It's not any one day of training that will make or break my meet performance. It's the foundation I create, the habits I build, that will determine success or failure. That's my major take-away from this training cycle--a PR would be nice; a record would be great; a WIN would be spectacular. But the small victories count too--in the last week or so, I've had bad physical health days, and I've had bad mental health days, and I think it really means something that I showed up anyway. In the past, I would let myself off the hook and stay home for the slightest discomfort, instead of finding a way to make it work. Last week, I was sitting around feeling really sad and unmotivated and tired, and it would've been so easy for me just to stay home and wallow, but I got up and went anyway. I didn't even give myself the option to stay; I just went.

Yesterday, I had a wicked sinus headache going on and off throughout the day, and all I wanted to do was take a nap, but Mondays are my busiest work day, and I had barely any time to breathe before I had to pack up and head to the gym. I was feeling pretty rotten, but I went anyway. NO QUESTION. And I did this:

And yeah, in between singles, I was sitting there massaging the bridge of my nose. My lifts felt great, but in between, I was trying not to hurl. But seeing some payoff for the work I've been putting in really helped a lot. I'm still nervous and anxious, but dammit, I'm EXCITED. And I'm proud, not just because I hit a really big number, but because I know all the exhaustion and time spent is paying off in a very tangible way and because if I can get through all this training, then I think I will come out of this mentally stronger too.

Two and a half more weeks to go. No rest for the weary.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

In a world of my own

I keep wishing it could be that way
Because my world would be a wonderland
When Jolie was much younger, and devouring every Disney movie she could, I used to sing the White Rabbit's song from Alice in Wonderland to her to make her laugh. You know, "I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date!"? That one.

Unfortunately, the White Rabbit's refrain has ended up being more like my life story at times--I feel like I am constantly rushing from one thing to the next (usually late), without a moment to "say hello, GOODBYE!" because I just have too much to do. I mean, adulting sucks.

I recently mused on Facebook that I wish I didn't have to work, not because I want to just sit around and do nothing (although, there are definitely times when that's a great idea), but because there's so much that I want to do and learn in my life. Unfortunately, time and money are always constraints--I have to work to make money, but then I don't have time to really pursue the things that excite my curiosity, because I have to prioritize work. I mean, the closest I get is my summer vacation, when I at least have some time to recharge, but what teacher ever really turns off teacher mode? I always ended up spending at least half my summer lesson planning, attending seminars, and just generally keeping an eye out for ideas and resources I could share with my students. It's never REALLY a break, you have to understand.

What would I do, if I had all my time to myself and money were no object? Besides improving upon my current hobbies (powerlifting, knitting, brush lettering, reading, etc.):

  • I've always really wanted to learn how to sew my own clothes. Sure, I knew how to use a sewing machine once, but it was such a learning curve for me that I'm not sure when I'd be ready to jump into it again. And as any artist or crafter knows, building up your stash of supplies and materials is important.
  • I'm not literate in Vietnamese. In fact, I can barely even speak much of it now, since my chances to use it are few and far between. I want to fully become bi-literate. (Is that a word?) 
  • And once I've reached some sort of fluency in my home language, I want to learn other languages too. (Can you imagine how exponentially my library would increase once I start getting into foreign-language books???? *hearteyes*)
  • I've started getting really into drawing and painting (and general mixed media art) lately, and I want to get better at it. I would love to take classes. I would love to just spend more time making art, no matter how bad it is. I've started keeping an art journal, and the time that I spend sketching and painting just makes me super happy. PS--I've also really gotten into fountain pens, so I've been hand-writing like, basically everything. 
  • I don't know if I will ever be able to run again, but I'd like to at least get back to walking. And it's not like I can't do that now, but again, other things always seem to take priority, and before I know it, another day has passed without me even touching my treadmill.
  • There are so many places in Portland alone, let alone the entire Pacific Northwest, let alone the entire WORLD, that I've never visited. I mean, god, the various places to eat, just by themselves, would take days and days :)
  • Speaking of food, I would love to do cooking and baking classes. There's a place called Collective Kitchen near me that has awesome classes (including a knife skills class) that I am looking into, but again... time. And money.
  • I would actually like to see my friends! I have a hard enough time as it is, handling person-to-person interaction (because I am horribly awkward), but that's why I need more of it, right? 
  • I have recently gotten into archery (I've gone shooting a couple times), and I really enjoy it! 
  • Also, just... blogging more. Not going for months between blog posts :)
So yeah, this is just a short list of whatever I could come up with off the top of my head at the moment, but wouldn't it be great if we could use our time to pursue our passions and push ourselves to our full intellectual, creative, and physical potentials, instead of being stressed out to the max by our jobs and worrying about how we'll survive? Wouldn't it be great not to need an alarm clock in the morning? Wouldn't it be wonderful to wield the full force of our own time and our own choices to try to put some good back into this world instead of having to push that off because we have to handle our own needs first? 

What would YOU do?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Resolutions: Getting healthy

Usually when people talk about getting healthy as a new year's resolution, they're talking about picking up some healthy habits and (most especially) losing weight. I mean, why not? New year, new you, right? It's the ultimate time to start fresh.

I too am trying to "get healthy" this year, though my plans come from a slightly different source of motivation.

Looking back on the first half of my 30s, I can really only describe my health as "unpredictable." I mean, on the one hand, in the last five years I've had my gallbladder removed; I've injured my knee and developed osteoarthritis; I've lost a pregnancy and, as a result, a fallopian tube; and most recently, I had a surprise anaphylactic reaction that brought me to the emergency room. Not to mention all the times I've just been sick for weeks with a sore throat or a bad cold, as in, just a couple weeks ago, for New Year's. Talk about failing your resolution right out the gate :P

On the other hand, I ran a faster marathon at age 32 than I did at 29; I am within spitting distance of deadlifting 500 pounds; and I am more comfortable in my old, saggy, fatty, stretch-marked body now than I ever was when I was a spry and 30 pounds lighter in my early-20s.

I am stronger inside and out, but I don't know if I would call myself healthy. I constantly feel unwell--certain foods make my mouth and throat itchy, my eyes irritated, and my nose runny; other foods make my stomach hurt so badly that I am either curled up in fetal position or I'm running to the restroom over and over; and a sudden change in weather conditions (in any season) wreaks havoc on my sinuses and leaves my head feeling so hurty and dizzy that it's all I can do to swallow a handful of Tylenol and then sleep the afternoon away.

I am tired of feeling unwell. Hence, my new year's resolution.

While I don't fault anyone for wanting to lose weight (well, that's a discussion for another time... I have opinions about that), I really, truly would give up the possibility of never being skinny EVER if it meant that I could feel well. Like, I would give up that dream (which stopped being a dream years ago, honestly) as well as my entire lipstick collection if it meant that I could live out my days not feeling sick. If I could change anything about my body, it would not be to lose 50 pounds, but to just NOT. Be. Sick.

And while, no, I don't think my health problems are weight-related, I do think some of them are diet-related, and therefore, I'm trying to be more careful and selective about what I eat. The foods that I think are making me sick? I avoid them most of the time. (No, I still haven't been to see an allergist, and that's another thing on my list of things to do--go do ALL my various medical appointments soon.) I'm logging my meals not to count calories, but so that I have a record of what I've eaten in case I experience any symptoms. I'm trying to hydrate more, sleep more. I'm taking a multi-vitamin. I will at some point look into joint supplements and Vitamin D pills and stuff like that. All while still training and trying to make gainz.

If this is how my body is going to be, then I need to take better care of it. And that starts now.

I hope your journey to health is going well too <3

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

So you're interested in bullet journalling...

From my 2017 BuJo
I've mentioned bullet journalling on my blog before, but never really went in-depth into what I do, so I'm taking the time to talk about it now, since I've seen some of my friends express interest :) 2018 is rapidly approaching, and the new year is always a good time to refocus and get organized again.

Bullet journalling (or BuJoing for short) is basically an organizational system. It is highly customizable, and you can tweak it to suit your own needs, but the very core of it is the use of bulleted lists to plan and log your life.

Bullet journalling mainly consists of two parts (that can be separate, or totally meshed together): the calendar/planner part, and the "collections" part. The planner part is pretty self-explanatory--this is where you write down your appointments and To Do lists--but collections, if you're not sure what they are, are really just lists of anything you want to keep lists of. People will keep lists of books they want to read, books they HAVE read, meal planning lists, bucket lists, gratitude lists, shopping lists, etc... Your bullet journal essentially becomes part planner, part journal, depending on how you want to use it.

Usually when people ask me about bullet journalling, I like to first point them to Ryder Carroll's video. (Ryder Carroll is basically the creator of bullet journalling, but I mean, I'm sure people have been using bulleted lists forever and ever.)

Bullet journalling is awesome because, again, it's highly customizable, and you can do it in anything--you can shell out for a $20 Leuchtturm or Moleskine, or you can use a composition notebook from the dollar store. You can even use a premade planner (if you're less interested in customizing the spreads), and you can decorate it as much or as little as you want.

But of course, if you're brand new to bullet journalling, it probably doesn't help much to just tell you, "Hey, it can be whatever you want it to be!" You probably want some ideas, right? So here's a glimpse into what I do.

I should note that I am highly fickle and easily distracted by pretty things, so I've switched back and forth a LOT between a Leuchtturm dot grid notebook and a Happy Planner, depending on my mood. The advantages of using an actual notebook are that you can customize it however you want to and you can change your format whenever you feel like it, while the advantages of using a pre-made planner are that you don't have to spend time drawing layouts (because they're already printed for you), and if you're not so good at artsy stuff like I am, you can usually find ones that are already pretty and cute (like Happy Planners or Erin Condren planners).

Nonetheless, regardless of what I'm using, this is my basic bullet system:

This is a horizontal-format Happy Planner
- Triangles for events/appointments (basically, anything with a time attached to it)
- Squares for tasks that can be done at any point during the day
- Dots for notes
- I color in the triangles/squares when the item is completed
- I cross out the item if it is cancelled/no longer needed
- I put a > sign if I'm procrastinating postponing the item until another time.

That's all. Three signifiers to remember, and easy to remember. I used to color-code my items, but it started to be a bit too much to carry so many pens around all the time, and I missed just being able to use color however I wanted to (artistically), so now I just reach for whatever pen is handy and I just use that. Sometimes (as you can see above) I separate out my timely items from my non-timely items, or sometimes I will separate out work items from personal items, but I always use these bullets.

Also worth noting: I like to write out my plans day-by-day. I have a Future Log (where I write down all my upcoming stuff), but other than that, I like to sit down at the end of every day to write out my plans for tomorrow, and I try not to go beyond a couple days ahead. I find it soothing and creative, and it's a good way to check in with my calendar to see what I've got going on.

So, for 2018, I do in fact have a bullet journal set up (as well as a Happy Planner that will stay on my desk... I'm incorrigible), so here is a glimpse at some of the other things I have set up in my Leuchtturm:

I decided that having a Future Log AND a Monthly Spread was redundant (for me), so I set up a two-page spread for every month of 2018 at the very beginning of my notebook. Obviously, if I use up this entire notebook before the end of the year, I will have some re-copying to do, but at least this way, I can see my entire year, in case I need to make grand plans :)

(Narrator: She did NOT need to make grand plans.)

I also have a smattering of collections: monthly bills/expenses, meal lists, a spice rack inventory (because I often forget to check my spice cabinet before I go grocery shopping), etc. This page is my "What books are coming out this year, and did I preorder them yet, and in what format?" spread. When I get closer to the fall, I usually make spreads for planning out holiday dinners, Christmas knitting, etc. When I'm traveling, I have a page dedicated to my packing list. Stuff like that.

And I really like having a tracker set up for the month, even if I'm terrible at sticking with it. I really want to keep trying to build good habits, and filling out my tracker at the end of each day gives me a chance to reflect, and it also shows me in a very obvious and easily-readable way when I'm not sticking to my goals.

In addition to all of the above, I like using my pages for random notes, quotes I like, lettering practice, journalling, etc.

So, if you're a beginning bullet journaller, I hope this gives you some ideas and helps you out a little? Here is some advice, from me to you, if you're just starting out (or thinking about it):

  • Make a list of what you actually need/want in your BuJo. That Instagrammer may have a really cool spread that tracks the daily weather, but if you really don't care about tracking the daily weather, then why do it, no matter how cool it looks? 
  • That said, other BuJoers are doing really cool things, and it's great to get ideas by checking out other people's posts. My favorites are Boho Berry (IG/Youtube/blog) and Minimalist Bujo
  • Only shell out for supplies if you want to. You don't NEED to. It is suuuuuper easy to find yourself suddenly drowning in pens, stickers, and washi tape, and it's very fun to decorate your BuJo, but just know that you don't HAVE to, and try not to feel pressured to.
  • Come up with your own bullet system, one that is easy to remember and that actually makes sense to you so you don't have to refer to a key every time you write stuff down.
  • Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Don't be afraid to just cross things out or even start over on a new page if you DO make mistakes. I have so many notebooks where I haven't written a damn thing in them because I'm too afraid of being not-perfect (oh, the possibilities of a blank page!) but in my bullet journal, it just is what it is. Especially since I'm not trying to be an Instagrammer.
Above all, do what works for you. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. 

I hope this helps! However you decide to get organized for the new year, good luck to you, and I hope you accomplish all your goals in 2018 :)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

"The plan is to fan this SPARK into a FLAME": Deadlifts for Doernbecher recap, health scares, and looking ahead

photo by my brother, Khoa
IG @ngophotobiz
Hire him, he's cool. And he's my brother.
Now that I am done with catching up on grading and winter break has officially begun, I can now take some time to reflect on recent events! (Literally... I just finished my grading about half an hour ago and walked around the house, arms up "Rocky" style in triumph, before sitting back down at my computer to start this entry.)

This weekend was QUITE A TRIP.

Saturday was Deadlifts for Doernbecher. This was my second time competing in D4D, and I have to say, this year was so, so, so much bigger than last year. Which is not to say that it was small last year, but this year D4D was held at Ancestry Brewing and featured pro lifters (men and women) coming in from all over the country. Standing in the warm-up area in the back, I was shaking in my Chucks just being around them and watching them get ready.

Because I'm not going to lie, I kinda want to BE one of them someday. I know I have forever and a ways to go, but if I think about all the sports I've ever done, powerlifting is probably the only sport I have even a remote chance of being good at. (It was definitely never going to be swimming, running, or roller derby. Is napping a sport? I'm probably not even good at that.)

So, IT WAS GREAT. Despite my nerves, despite my doubts, I hit all three of my attempts: 405, a nervous 455 that didn't feel great, and a triumphant 470 which is essentially a match to my previous PR from March 2016:

I was happy enough to even celebrate on the platform a little. :) Because you know what? I wasn't sure it was going to happen. Even though I've hit that number before, the fact that I haven't gotten remotely close to that in the almost-two years since definitely has had me wondering if it was a fluke. Maybe I got lucky that day. Or maybe I just didn't have it in me anymore. I don't know. My brain is SO not nice to me. I am constantly plagued with impostor syndrome in nearly all aspects of my life, so I've spent all this time wondering if maybe I've "lost" it or if I never really "had" it to begin with.

Thus, it was extremely gratifying to know that yes, I still have it in me, and that actually, I might have more. The 500lb pull that I started wishing for so long ago, that I had started to give up on mentally, suddenly returns into my line of vision, and now that I am BACK to being so close to it, I want it.

First place in my category <3
I left that day with a plaque, which is AWESOME, but even more importantly, I walked away with a rekindled belief in myself. I left with faith in my abilities and my strength again. I left with a strong sense of "Yes, I can do this!" and "I'm not a phony!" and "I still have more to give to this sport!" And those things are not easily won, for me.


And then on Sunday, eating a celebratory hamburger and fries for lunch, I had a severe allergic reaction that landed me in the ER.

It's a meal I've had before. I mean, I haven't eaten at Red Robin in months, but I have eaten there before. I have eaten this exact Black and Blue Burger and Sweet Potato Fries before. But never have they caused my throat to tighten severely, or for my lips to itch and get bumpy, or for my tongue to swell up in my mouth, or develop hives all over my body.

To be clear: I don't blame Red Robin or anything. I had zero idea that that would happen, because I've never had that reaction to anything before. Was it even the food? I don't know, but it was likely the culprit, because it started as I was eating.

The ER nurse told me that it's possible to develop allergies even in adulthood which makes me feel... not so great. Because now I have some potentially life-threatening allergy and I have no idea what it is, and now I get to experience the fun of trying to avoid it without actually knowing what it is. (Yes, I'll be contacting an allergist soon. Let's just say I won't be going back to RR for... ever.) I also now have to carry an Epi Pen in my purse at all times (JUST LETTING Y'ALL KNOW), and we have one in our house too. Just so I don't... you know... die.

So in the course of 24 hours, I went from feeling ultra powerful and strong to being totally felled by sweet potato fries :/

Yeah, IDK either gurl
I've been on a course of antihistamines and Prednisone all week. I'm tired because of last weekend,  and I'm tired because it's the last week of classes before Winter Break, and I'm tired because I have a TON of Christmas gift stuff to do, BUT... I was not too tired to sign myself up for my next competition.

I decided that I needed to ride this wave of motivation and empowerment and to set my sights on my next goal while I'm still feeling good about myself. I know it's not going to be easy, and it's going to require a lot of work and commitment, but after all this time, I am really feeling ready to make this happen. I WANT my name on an official USPA result sheet. Whatever numbers I end up putting up, whether they're good or bad or whatever, it's about time that I just COMMIT, because it's a step in a direction, rather than standing still, which I feel like I've been mostly doing. (And it's nobody's fault but mine--I've had a lot of changes happening in my life this year, and I just haven't been able to be consistent.)

I'm still trying to figure out exactly what my goals are, but yeah, my immediate goal is to show up. Record a squat. Record a bench. Record a deadlift. Have officially-recorded lifts at a sanctioned meet.

My next goal (not chronologically, but in terms of priority) is to go for that 500 pull. That's not to say that squat and bench aren't important to me, but you KNOW I've always been about the deadlift. I don't have a great bench, and I'm trying to rebuild confidence in my squat because of my bum knee, but deadlifting is my THING, and I want to hit that number. And I'm being told by people who know better than me that it's within my reach, so I should listen to those people and actually go for it. :)

And then tertiary to that is to go for a competitive total. An ELITE total.

Above my desk, where I'm literally sitting right now, I have this inspiration board--a real-life "Pinterest," if you will--that mainly just has pretty pictures of makeup postcards, since I keep my laptop at my makeup table. It's my vision board. But today I added this sheet that I made two years ago. (I mean, I printed it out today, but I've had it saved on my computer for two years.)

It's the USPA's spreadsheet of standards/classifications for women, and I have it narrowed down to RAW 198 and 198+ (because I don't know as of yet which weight class I'll end up in), with the standards for Elite, Master, and Class I highlighted, and my now-two-year-old PRs written in. (Well, now I can definitely say my deadlift number still stands.)

Even if I never beat my dismal bench, even if I only ever match my squat and deadlift PRs, I would at least record an elite total. And that's something. I would love to record that number officially (though, of course, I would love to BEAT that number officially). Maybe even break some records.

How's that for a vision board?

So yeah, I've got my work cut out for me, but I AM EXCITED. I HAVE PLANS. And I have a slew of people cheering me on and ready to help me go for it. So tired as I am, I am feeling STOKED, and I feel like I CAN DO THIS. I just need to find the strength within myself to stick with training so that I can make this happen. DON'T LET ME BAIL. I'm saying that to everyone right now. DON'T LET ME BAIL.

Also... don't let me go to Red Robin anymore either, please.