Upgrading My Fitbit

This post has been sponsored by Amazon, but all opinions expressed here are my own.

I joined the Fitbit family over two years ago in an effort to get more active and hold myself more accountable. I got a Fitbit Flex after the Force was recalled, and I’ve liked it for the most part. The biggest issue I had with the Flex was that it didn’t have the display that the Force had. This band takes up some prime real estate, but doesn’t actually have a watch face, and wearing both can sometimes feel inconvenient (but it feels weird to wear the Fitbit on my non-watch wrist).

Though the Charge, the Blaze, and the Surge are all out, none of them had me excited enough to replace my Flex. Enter Fitbit Alta.

This Fitbit newbie will be available mid-March, and will be sold in four colors (black, blue, plum or teal) and two sizes. The wristband is said to be slightly slimmer than the Flex, but similar to the Flex, the Alta features changeable wristbands. Most notably, there will now be leather and sleek metal options.

Beyond the simple face of the Flex, the Alta can has call, text, and calendar notifications. There are different clock faces to choose from, and this one has more reminders to move throughout the day. This is just far more functional, without being so bulky. The sleep tracker is still there, as are the silent alarms, and you can still use the app to your heart’s desire.

I found myself envying a friend that has an Apple watch, because her lovely device automatically recognized her various activities without her having to track different types of exercise. Even if you’re used to doing that with the Fitbit app, you would do it a lot less with the Alta. The Alta has a new SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition, which excites me to no end, because now I can take a spinning class without moving my FitBit to my shoe. Have you ever done that? Well, now you can run, spin, bike or use the elliptical, and your Fitbit knows (this is available on the Charge, Surge, and Blaze as well, but not the Flex).

Needless to say, you can order the Alta now. I have.

Small Victories

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.” —Enid Bagnold

I’ve blogged more this month than I have in years, since my Xanga days, and I already have a few more posts planned. Feeling pretty accomplished right now, and feeling even better that I have this outlet back. Steps closer to meeting my goals, and feeling more motivated to get this book finished and off to be published.

As I continue to do my research, I continue to learn the right and wrong ways to move forward. I set up a disclosure page to make sure that I’m in compliance as an affiliate, and I’m reading up on all things writing. ALL things. It’s overwhelming, but I’m enjoying the process.

Flu Season and Reference Blogs

I’m feverish and achy, and I barely moved at all today. I’ve gotten tons of sleep, and I have been drinking fluids, but I just want the dull aches across my back and flushed face/neck to cease. Now is not the time to get sick.

Since I stayed home today, I’ve been reading tons of reference blogs through Pinterest between naps. Blogs on writing novels, on monetizing blogs, on word counts, on motivation, and on burnout. Many thanks to shesnovel.com, thewritepractice.com, and nownovel.com for their insights. I feel encouraged, though I know that I’m going to have to push myself and be more disciplined with my craft.

I suppose this discipline isn’t far off from the discipline needed to lose weight. Starting a new practice, eating right, making time for exercise, and being patient with self. For writing, making time to write, making time to read, scheduling out the time to make writing a daily practice, and being patient with self. Not all days can go as planned, but without any plan, what will we successfully achieve?

Frankly, I could use more discipline in each of these areas, so I decided to create a schedule for the week that incorporates activity, writing, and  a chance at a good night’s rest. I’ve started really utilizing my WP editorial calendar, and I’ve created two writing calendars through Google Calendar (one for book, one for blog). I’m going to see if I can impress upon myself some good habits.

Keep calm and keep writing, friends.

Work Sweet Home

I worked a twelve hour day today, but I would have stayed longer. In my quest to prove to myself that I am not a workaholic, and to feel a little more settled at my new job, working a long day doesn’t exactly help me feel like I have an appropriate work/life balance.

I had every intention of leaving at the close of business, but meetings ran long, and then students and colleagues kept popping in to say hello. My boss stopped by on her way out. People just kept coming, but it felt good. I’m slowly working my way into normalcy; I’m no longer just occupying someone else’s chair. Folks seem to be adjusting to me being there, and I’m finding that I’m breathing a little easier.

There are certainly some folks that I can see have their doubts, either given my age or their feelings about my office in general, but I’ve gained a lot of support. I’m still new enough to feel some level of trepidation and a need to prove myself, but I think that’s good for now. I’m not looking for a pat on the head; rather, I want to create a network of colleagues and resources that will help me achieve my goals.

Balancing work and personal life is certainly easier some days more than others, but I am making more time for myself. Getting out to SoulCycle or to take a yoga class, enjoying the local cigar lounge, meeting up with friends for wine and tapas, or even just having a nice glass of bourbon at home with my laptop on and a movie playing in the background. Dating, sure, that happens once in a while. I don’t see it as a high priority, but I think that’s primarily because I don’t want anything that feels forced. It will happen when the time is right.

People are always going to have their opinions and think that they could live your life, or do your job, better than you could. They think this without having your background, circumstances, vulnerabilities, or strengths. And they will come with criticisms, or wanting you to learn from their mistakes, or throw shade at whatever they perceive to be weakness. They meddle because they just can’t help themselves. They have control issues, they can’t handle whatever their own problems are so they project on you, or they see you as a threat.

At the end of the day, so what? No one can live your life but you.

Valentine’s Day

This post has been sponsored by Amazon and SiteGround, but all opinions expressed here are my own.

Such an interesting day. I get that Valentine’s Day is a manufactured holiday — one that benefits the card, candy, and floral companies — but I am enamored with any day specifically purposed for love.

I’ve never understood the folks who hate Valentine’s Day or the ones who celebrate “Singles Awareness Day.” Even if you don’t have a significant other to celebrate the day with, you have a special someone: you. Self-love is a real thing — a necessary thing — and I’ve never understood the amount of self-loathing that takes place on this day in particular.

Being single on Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you should hide under a rock for the next 24 hours. A little self-love goes a long way. Pamper yourself. Go get a massage, buy yourself your own flowers or chocolate (just don’t eat the whole box). I used to send myself my favorite chocolates on Valentine’s Day as a reminder that it’s not really a big deal. Don’t allow the only way for you to feel special about yourself to be controlled by someone else. You can (and should) do that for yourself.

How do I spend the day? This weekend, I’ve been curling up with some good books, watching movies, I’ve been cooking and organizing the apartment, hosted a dinner, went to the salon, and I’ve enjoyed the peace and quiet. I love long weekends, and I am enjoying making my apartment a home. This doesn’t sound like some adventure-filled weekend, but it has been everything I’ve needed it to be. I’m relaxed, in good spirits, and I’ve removed some of the chaos at home (by cleaning and organizing my storage room). This may not be romantic love, but self-love is abundant.

Recently, I finished a book by Adriana Trigiani, entitled Brava Valentine: A Novel. Though the title is appropriate for this weekend, it’s not actually about Valentine’s Day. Rather, the heroine (Valentine) navigates a trilogy in pursuit of professional success, family business stability, love, and (in my opinion) self-realization. Through her missteps, she learns about what she wants for herself. Though she’s taken great pride in her work, she has an ah-ha moment and discovers that she really does want to be loved. She didn’t trust that honest love or passion were really possible, primarily as a result of familial infidelities.

Through the novel, the beauty of Italian country, good food, and funny quips come through. Brava Valentine is the second book in the trilogy, so I’m excited to read the third installment, The Supreme Macaroni Company: A Novel. As a writer, nothing gets me more amped up to write than reading a good book.

I’ve also spent a lot of time this weekend trying to optimize this site; to make this site really work for me. I’m so glad that I decided to self-host my domain, and that Siteground has been the absolute best choice for me. Though WordPress recommended Bluehost, I thought their service was awful, the attempt at transferring my domain was rough, and that maybe the company doesn’t have enough staff to truly support such a huge WP constituency.

Moving over to Siteground came with more than really responsive service. It also opens up the world of plugins, which you cannot use if you’re hosted on WordPress.com. Opening up the worlds of Adsense, affiliate programs, the editorial calendar, and a ton of options makes this process a little overwhelming but a lot gratifying. Taking 100% onus of the site means that it can be done my way, can make me money, can have whatever content I need. This part of my writing journey is coming together, which frees up more time and focus for my books. Finally.

Web Hosting

Mindfulness

I’ve been chomping at the bit to blog the last two weeks, but (as you may have noticed), my site has been undergoing some changes. I’m officially self-hosting my domain (as opposed to having my blog hosted by WordPress. The transfer process took longer than I anticipated, but I’m finally master of my own site, and I’m excited to explore some of that potential.

I read a quote yesterday that stuck with me:

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nat Hanh

I’ve been thinking a lot about mindset lately, about making sure I’m in the right headspace when it comes to work, health, body. About being unapologetically, 100% me.

It’s not that I’m afraid to show who I am, insecurities and all. It’s more that I’m fighting with having these insecurities. I see some of them as silly, but here they are. They’re in my thoughts every day. And I’m working on many of them, but we are in this age and time now, where we want such instant results with everything. The truth is, none of these insecurities developed overnight.

There are things that I’ve found hard to accept over the last decade. Physical changes, professional challenges, loss, differences among friends. And I know that experiences help to shape who you are, circumstances can humbling, the people you cross paths with can influence you. But through all of this, I’ve been fighting with acceptance.

I let some really strong words from other people influence how I saw myself and my abilities, and I accepted for a long time that they were right. That all I amounted to were what they said. That they said what they did as some sort of “tough love” or “I’m your friend so I’ll tell you the real truth” kind of intention.

I never for a second questioned the people making the statements or their motives. Instead, I believed them. Blindly. Like a lost puppy. And I have to own that; it was my mistake to think their opinion mattered more than my own. That I could know better than others I held in such high esteem.

As I work on this novel, and I push her through some uncomfortable realities, I realize that I’m facing them myself. A part of my block is that I need to get to the other side of the tunnel as much as she does. I have to accept me for what I am now, and not who I can be, who I think I should be, or who anyone else believes me to be. I can strive to be more, try harder, and improve, but I can’t deny present time.

Sometimes, I think we worry so much about the future that we never really pay attention to right now. Where are we right now? Who are we right now? What can we be grateful for in this moment? When I saw “we,” I guess I’m talking about myself.

Anyway, one of my resolutions this year is to be more present, take more ownership, and really affect the change that I want to see in myself. If nothing else about me changes, and I’m in a vacuum exactly as I am now for the rest of my life, I am good with me right now. It’s taken a lot for me to be able to say that.

Do I see areas where I believe I can improve? Absolutely. But I’m accepting who I am, where I am, how I am. It’s all a testament of where I’ve been, what I’ve been through, and how I’ve handled myself. I can’t be mad at that, and I won’t apologize for being me.

I actually think I’m inherently good, kind, and generous to others, though often to a fault. I need to be more generous to myself, but I’m working on that. I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish so far, and I feel like there are some personal accomplishments that I’m not far from reaching. I’ll keep plugging along, but I’m going to stop and take breaths to enjoy moments as they happen.

Another Way of Life

I’ve been in Mexico for over a week, enjoying the sights and sounds of El Centro Historico de Puebla. It’s a gorgeous city with a slightly unnerving view of an active volcano. There’s no mistaking this thing for a mountain; the ribbon of smoke is clearly visible.

I’m here for a Spanish program, but I’m finding myself learning more than language. The culture here is palpable and embracing. The people are proud of their city, and they want to show it to you. The history, the churches, the art, the music, it resonates with me. Beautiful murals, graffiti art, and street vendors. The smells of grilled meat, car exhaust, and fresh crepes. Cobblestones, brick, slate, and marble; iron balconies with canvas awnings, and cabbies dodging in and out of traffic like they were trained in Manhattan.

But everyone is calm. No one is stressed about their jobs, their lives, or their circumstances. No one rushes down the street. People stroll. Couples walk around holding hands, or arm in arm, and they whisper while stealing kisses, unaware of anyone around them. Children tote balloons of their favorite cartoon characters, as they walk with their parents around the Zocalo.

Walking into any of the 300 iglesias around Puebla, there’s a sense of quiet reverence. Lit candles, people having confessional, others taking pictures of the ornate and elaborate ceilings and fixtures, gorgeous chandeliers, and quiet mass services. I even walked right in and witnessed a wedding on a Friday afternoon. It was different than others I’d witnessed in a Catholic church, but it was gorgeous. I could feel the nervous joy of the bride and groom, the amusement of their families, and the excitement of the children trying their hardest to keep still.

The music, almost competing from the four corners of the Zocalo, is rhythmic and romantic. The mariachis play, and then a drum line appears, and crowds gather in appreciation. It’s hard to decide which one you want to listen to. Hearing the different bands play at the time still sounds like music, and not just a bunch of noise. I have no idea how that works, but it does.

Street vendors, performers, and people handing out flyers. People sitting at patio tables under big umbrellas eating ice cream cones. Folks standing in line for street tacos. The scents of chocolate and mole sauce as you pass the closest restaurant. Museums standing open, waiting for you to come in.

It’s a lovely place. If you haven’t visited, you should.

Hotel Palacio San Leonardo

Word Counts, Pages and Edits (Oh My!)

I really need to write a new blog post, but I’ve been back and forth between two novels lately.  As a quick update:

Definitely haven’t dated anyone since my last post… Not really looking, just letting time take its course.

A thought for a new novel came to me and interrupted what I was already working on… Thanks to friend, Derrick Jaxn, I’m plowing ahead on the newbie.  It just feels fresh so far.

I’ve been trying to set some count goals or page goals for myself, but I find it to be too much pressure.  Instead, I’m giving myself a certain amount of time each day, and focusing on adding to the body of the work (rather than editing — it’s so easy to keep going back to make adjustments without ever getting everything on the page).

Stay tuned, a proper post is on the way!

Resolve

2013.  The year we weren’t supposed to reach because the world was supposed to end.  So they say…

Looking back, I can confirm something that I hoped at this exact time last year — 2012 was a year of transition for me.  In the last 365 days, I moved 2,000 miles away from everything I knew, I turned 30, I started a new job, my dad retired, two of my best friends got married, I finally put another stamp in my passport, and I’ve been offered the opportunity to teach on a collegiate level — something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl.  I’m omitting that I found love, because I lost it too, but at least I got myself back to a place where I was open to love.

I made writing goals for myself, I bought my domain name after solidifying a pen name — the name I originally intended to give my first daughter.  With the prospect of children being rather remote, at least right now, the name I selected was one of such importance that I just had to know it would be used.  Simone Marrise.

And now, to look forward, I think 2013 will be another year of transition.  This one may have more growing pains, but I think that I’ll be a little more fearless this year.  A little more willing to do for myself what I would always do for others.  More travel, and not just all of the work trips.  More outings and opportunities.  More chances to meet the goals I’ve always had for myself that I was starting to believe weren’t feasible.  I moved 2,000 miles to a place where I had no friends or roots.  It may sound unwise, but it was the best thing that I could have done for myself, because I proved that I can go anywhere from here.

2013.  I’ll turn 31 in two weeks, and my thirties are already infinitely more promising that my 20’s were.  My 20’s were so littered with loss that I couldn’t see any of my major accomplishments, like finishing college or graduating law school.  Great accomplishments, but there was too much going on for me really appreciate what was happening.  By this day next year, I’ll have at least one book published, hopefully I’ll have also published a scholarly article, I’ll be slated to teach another college-level course, and I’ll be settled in a state that is almost the exact opposite of my native California.  Maybe I’ll find love again in the next year, but I’m not rushing that, nor am I scouring the earth in search of it.  Maybe I’ll get another stamp or two in my passport this year.  Maybe I’ll get serious about the prospect of buying a home, but I think that’s still a few years off.  Hell, maybe I’ll win the power ball.  Whatever happens, happens.

Goals I didn’t think I could attain are so close now.  I’m gaining a confidence I thought I’d lost, and it feels so good to be at peace with the past and have a positive outlook on the future.  I don’t intend to force any of my goals to happen prematurely, but I’m going to do my damnedest to check a few more off of the list in 2013.

No waiting until June to realize that time is passing by so quickly and nothing’s been achieved.  Time to get started.  Planning and intentions are great, but there’s no substitute for actual effort.