30 Days of Lists Days 1-10. A Sampling

So far I’ve been loving the 30 Days of Lists challenge. It’s forced me to sit down each night to be a little creative and write. I check my email every morning for the day’s prompt, and then spend the day thinking about (and, yes, almost making lists of) what I’m going to put on my list that night. I’ve also branched out in my craftiness, which doesn’t often extend past the kitchen. I’ll just say that after spending significant time in the scrapbooking aisle at Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric, I can understand how this whole creative journaling thing can be come an addiction. So much colored paper. So many stamps! All the pens and markers.

day 2

day 5

day 7

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I’ve been posting some of my lists on my Instagram and Flickr if you’d like to sort of follow along. Yesterday’s prompt got me thinking, and I wanted to write more than just my two page list.

Day 9: A Letter to My Younger Self

day 9

Dear all of my younger selves,

At 31, I hardly know it all, but I’ve learned some things that I wish I could have shared with you. Listen up. Thirty-one-year-old, self, remember this advice. Sometimes I think you forget these things. You’re not old enough to blame it on age.

1. Take good care of your hair. Find a hair stylist you like who knows how to handle curls. You go through weird phases with your hair. It only got curly in sixth or seventh grade (perhaps we call that a side effect of puberty), and you had a hard time handling it. Hair product is OK. Tying your bangs into a weird, stubby ponytail in the front of your forehead, maybe not the best hairstyle choice. Don’t let someone cut your hair into a mullet for years and years. Don’t let someone tell you that you don’t have the forehead for bangs. Please, please cut your hair more than once a year. Use nice, chemical-free products on your hair. And chop it off. It feels liberating!

2. Have more confidence in yourself. Love yourself. You are pretty amazing. You’ll go through periods where you don’t want to walk with your head high, where you don’t want to speak up for fear of sounding stupid, where you compare yourself to others. Know that you have an important opinion, that you are a fast learner, and are better at lots of things than you think. Be proud of yourself! Look at yourself in the mirror and feel good about what you see. You’ll also go through times where you wish you looked different, had straight hair, thinner thighs, a different profile, a flatter stomach. Know that your body does and will do the most amazing things for you looking just the way it does. Please, please stop wishing you looked different. Have your moments of doubt and bloatedness, but look in the mirror and be proud.

3. Heartbreak sucks. Bake bread and be patient. It’ll be worth it. All those hours you spend crying on the couch, your face buried in your dog’s fur, they’ll hurt like hell and feel like the end of the world. Know that those moments will help you to paint a clearer picture of what you truly want and deserve. They’ll make the right guy, the one who makes your heart whole, that much more special. Power through and look back and laugh.

4. Avoid the drama. Avoid it at work, in your personal life, in your family life. You still need to work on this, 31-year-old Julia. The drama will bring on panic attacks and depression, will end some relationships, which probably needed to end, and will hurt some relationships so much that you worry they’ll never recover (they will, by the way). The drama will make you say ugly things. You are not an ugly person. Avoid it.

5. Your brother may seem very different from you, but you have more in common than you think. You spend a lot of your life telling people that you and your brother are very different. He’s athletic, you’re not. He was popular in school and in a frat, you were a weird honors class kid. You will disagree with him a lot. You will even spend time not speaking. Be grateful for the chances to repair your relationship and to get to know him all over again. Cherish that. You aren’t that different in the end. There are things only a brother gets.

6. Don’t worry, your best friendships will survive distance and lots of other weird shit. Your friends live far away. They move far away. They won’t always be around to watch Dawson’s Creek, make late night Hot Pockets, and talk about nothing and everything on your couch. It’ll feel really hard, but they’ll always be a phone call or a drive or plane ride away. Talking to them will become more special and seeing them will become the highlight of your month or year. Your regularly scheduled get togethers will be much-needed breaks in crazy weeks.

7. More butter. More running. Both make you happy. You won’t remember exactly how you started cooking and baking, but once you start, don’t stop. Even when you’re tired, bake. Even when you don’t want to, chop. It’ll feel good and right. You may not think you’re a runner now, and you won’t think you’re a runner even when you start running. You are. You have really bad runs, but you have amazing ones, too. You’ll make friends through running and friendships you already have will get stronger. Don’t give up. Not even when you’ve sprained your ankle for the fifth time.

Love,
Julia

30 Days of Lists: Day 1

Thirty days of writing lists. One list a day for the month of March. I love lists. I like making them at work, keeping them on my phone for millions of different things (books, groceries, music, restaurants, places to travel). I really like reading lists, especially on blogs. 30 Days of Lists is a journaling challenge of sorts organized by two bloggers, one of whom I follow (Kam at Campfire Chic). Kam’s Twitter is filled with excited and enthusiastic tweets around 30 Days of Lists, and curiosity finally got the best of me. I signed up. The challenge seemed like a great way to make writing and journaling every day less intimidating. Each day during March, Kam and Amy of Lemon and Raspberry post a topic for listers to write about. We have the option to share our lists via Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, and Twitter, too, so there’s this whole unexpected aspect of community, as well. I signed up mid-February and spent two weeks excitedly waiting for March.

My first task was to get myself a rad journal to list in. I looked to the challenge’s Facebook group for inspiration. These listers are amazingly creative. They’ve painted journals, created mini scrapbooks, filled albums with beautiful paper. I tried not to be intimidated and decided that I would go simple. I found a little Moleskin notebook and some pretty washi tape at Target. The challenge provides some printables, and so I glammed them up with some color in Photoshop and printed them out. Today (talk about last minute) I picked up some really awesome Scrabble tile stickers to fancy up the cover a little bit. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out! And while I was at Michael’s browsing the scrapbooking section, I got all inspired by the pretty papers, stickers, and stamps. It took a lot not to go crazy and revamp my whole journal plan. I totally get why so many of these listers created such awesome albums and journals now!

My journal cover for my first 30 Days of Lists

Last night was a little like Christmas Eve. I had trouble falling asleep because I couldn’t wait for the first prompt and to start writing. Funny that a silly thing like making a list got me so excited. So here’s day 1: Why I Make Lists.

Day 1

I’ve had the most fun today browsing the #30lists hashtag on Instagram. We’re a group of forgetful listers who like to try to stay organized and get our thoughts on paper and who find serious satisfaction in crossing things of a list.

A Love Story. A Hairy Story.

This story is about a girl, mean boys, summer camp, expectations, and one very nice boy. It’s a love story, one that’s still changing and growing. God knows that even though I love my body and I’m comfortable with who I am, I don’t wake up and walk out the door every morning feeling like that. This is a story about my body hair.

Karl came across a website called Woman in the Raw about a month ago through Instagram. It’s a photography project that emphasizes the beauty of the natural female expression. The two women who started the site write, “our femininity is defined by our natural existence rather than having to acquire it through means of alterations.” They’re trying to create conversation about female body hair and the idea of femininity. Karl immediately thought of my hairy armpits, and next thing I know, he’s taking photos of me baring my armpits in the frigid winter temps and we’re writing our stories about hairy women (being one and thinking they’re cool).

You can read what Karl and I wrote here on my blog, but it appeared first on Woman in the Raw. I really hope you take a look at their site and read what others have written there. It’s important.

Besides the, “I will only wear a dress”phase I went through as a very young girl, I wasn’t a very girly kid.The thought of shaving and body hair never really occurred to me. When I was 11years old I spent my first summer at an amazing girls summer camp in NorthCarolina called Green Cove. I remember other girls in my cabin pulling out supplies to shave their legs before dances with boys. I put the shaving cream on my face as a joke. Shaving was the farthest thing from my mind.

In sixth grade my legs started to get hairy and for the first time I was explicitly told that hairy is not how a woman should be. One day I wore shorts to school, I walked up to the front of the room in Reading class to write an answer to a question on the board. I was nervous, a shy kid anyway who hated getting up in front of the class, and as I made my way between the rows of desks, one boy leaned over and whispered in a disgusted voice, “Look at her hairy legs!” I was mortified. Not soon after that I asked my mom if I could start shaving. The next year, in seventh grade, a boy in my Social Studies class made fun of how hairy my arms were. I had never considered my body hair, but suddenly there was too much of it.

So, I started shaving. I read beauty magazines with my friends as I got older, I listened to boys on my rowing team categorize my fellow female teammates’ thighs based on their size and I saw girls pile on make up in high school. My safe haven was that summer camp. Most summers, I headed off to the mountains of North Carolina where I was surrounded by strong, confident women. The hiking and climbing staff was notorious for not shaving. I saw them every day, sporting their hairy legs and arms, and I thought they were, well, just normal. Here, every girl was just herself, no fakeness, no make up, no cool kids, no weird kids. It didn’t matter how weird you were (and I was a weird kid in so many ways), at camp there were no standards for fitting in. Looking back, I know those summers as a camper influenced my decision to go natural today. My summers on staff there did, too. I’d go for days without a shower, I’d forget to shave all week, I’d rarely wear make up. But at the end of the summer, I’d always end up back in the real world, and find myself giving into the pressures of society and ideas of what feminine should be.

Fast forward to May of 2013, I met a guy named Karl. He was everything awesome. As the fall approached he decided to do No Shave November, and with a bit of convincing, I joined him. We were so excited to start not shaving that No Shave November began at the end of August. For me, the excitement was doing something out of the norm. How many women join their men in not shaving? When people asked why I wasn’t shaving, I responded with, “Why not?” November passed and eventually Karl’s beard took on epic proportions, and he had to trim it. But I kept on not shaving. As summer approached, I started to get nervous. My coworker and I frequent the pool at the gym connected to our office. Was I going to lay out by the pool all natural in my bikini? And what about when I wanted to wear t-shirts to work that didn’t cover up my pits entirely? My armpit hair was pretty long at this point and was starting to sprout out of certain shirts. I’m also an avid runner, and I wasn’t about to spend a hot Indiana summer wearing t-shirts, but what would other runners think?  Turns out I didn’t have much to worry about. No one in my office told me to cover up my pits and no one at the pool gave me more than a lingering glance. And runners? Please. It’s like I’d momentarily forgotten that we sweat, spit, and otherwise are disgusting in front of each other, so a little extra body hair wasn’t going to turn them off.

It’s been a little over a year. I’ve shaved my pits a handful of times, but they’ve mostly gone natural, and my legs more regularly. Legs get itchy! I like shaving when and if I feel like it, being hairy when and if I feel like it, not because I feel like I have to. And I somehow feel more like myself when I’m all natural. Maybe it goes back to those summers at camp and those “crunchy,” “granola,” confident counselors I looked up to so much. And some days I still get nervous about baring my natural hair. I recently trained for a sprint triathlon at my gym. Before the first swim practice I worried about what the coach and other people practicing would think about my unshaveness. But swimming was just about the swimming, and no one was looking at each other’s bodies and being critical.

All this time, there has been Karl. It turns out that Karl is really into an all natural lady. Maybe this story would be better if I had discovered on my own that going all natural felt beautiful, but in reality I needed a little push. I needed someone to tell me that my hairy legs and arms, the things that boys had mocked before, were sexy. Karl’s encouragement made me realize that I didn’t have to shave my way into a certain beauty standard to be beautiful for him and to feel beautiful for myself. We women are bombarded by how we should look, sound, every second of the day. We compare, we judge, we wish we were different. But shouldn’t we just want to be ourselves? Shouldn’t we take the time to figure out how we each individually feel beautiful? I feel certain that beauty is different for each woman, each person. I am lucky enough to be able to have someone who doesn’t prescribe to the normal beauty standard, who encourages me to be all natural if that’s what I want, and who is proud of me for displaying my hairiness. Every time I have a positive experience or get to shake up someone’s idea of femininity with something as silly and little as my arm pits, I feel surer and more confident in my choice. It’s a journey. This year, I’m looking forward to summer and to setting my all-natural pits free.

Here’s Karl’s perspective.

Another National Park under our belt! #gsmnp #nationalparkservice #northcarolina #rei1440project #bpmag #roadtrip

A photo posted by Karl Bolter (@karlos_mke) on

Hmmm…my perspective on women with hair…good question. In short, I think it’s great! It’s naturally beautiful. I wished more women would feel comfortable to be just how their bodies intended to be. I’m not really sure how I came upon such a perspective…I don’t remember one defining “aha” moment. I think it was just occasionally seeing a woman here or there lift their arms in public and I would catch sight of full tufts of hair. I found it to be so exotic! Or so alien…as if a hidden world was being uncovered piece by piece. I remember thinking, “women grow hair under their arms like a guy?!” And when you think about it, and remember middle school health class, you know that of course they do. But, being in such a visual/media society one tends to forget that.

I think that dovetails nicely into your question about a media/society disconnect in regards to what a “true” woman looks like. Society and the media have gotten to the point that women are pressured into stripping away very natural parts of their bodies to “fit in.” And then when you look more into the history of it and find out that women shaving their pits came about at the turn of the last century as a marketing ploy to sell more razors, it’s even more appalling. If a man is not shamed for letting his hair grow then why should a woman? There should be no shame whatsoever in how anyone truly is.

Another disconnect I see, and maybe this is me just being anal, is in historical films that pride themselves in their historical detail and accuracy. They put out a movie set hundreds or thousands of years in the past and all the women have silky smooth armpits and legs. Not very historically accurate at all. I see it as yet another attempt by the media to make women believe that their bodies must be “tamed.”

But, it’s nice to be with a woman, Julia, who embraces her natural beauty. I couldn’t be happier with that choice of hers. Years ago I had a friend at church who didn’t shave her pits and she was proud of it. I remember thinking to myself “I hope I end up with a woman who would be proud to be hairy too.” And, I did.

-Karl Bolter

I swam. I biked. I ran.

I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I needed to be. (Douglas Adams)

Triathlon? Me? Hah. No way. I don’t want to go there. I can’t go there.

Once I was all, “Runner? Me? Hah. No way. I don’t want to go there. I can’t go there.”

Once I was all, “Long distance relationships? Me? Hah. I’m done with that shit. It never ends well.”

Why not do something that scares you? Something you didn’t think you could do? Maybe it’ll end up being exactly what you were missing in your life. I can hardly imagine my life without running. I can’t imagine my life at all without Karl and the seven months of long-distance dating we went through before he moved down here. I may not have done the things I thought I would or taken the paths I imagined, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. How is it that facing your fears usually ends up being fun, empowering, amazing?

Love Wins in Indiana

Today love wins in Indiana for everyone. Maybe there will be appeals. People will probably kick and scream in anger. But today anyone, every one of my friends, can go to the clerk’s office and marry the person they love. Today that’s good.

“It is clear that the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love. In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as Plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as a marriage – not a[s] same-sex marriage. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”
– U.S. District Judge Richard Young

Ragnar Trail West Virginia. A Runner’s List.

You Know You’re a Runner If…

1. You’ll spend $30 on a technical fabric running tank top, but refuse to spend more than $15 on a regular tank top.

2. You run through injuries because you just can’t feel the pain while you run. It’s only after when you take off your shoes and peel off your clothes that you really notice them.

3. You know the pain of putting a body part in a bucket of ice (possibly while eating breakfast).

4. You always pack a pair of running shoes and shorts when you go on vacation.

5. You have friends who you’ve met exclusively through running, but who you count as your real life friends now, because you’ve sweated so often together.

6. You’ve limped around after hurting yourself at a race saying these words: So what’s our next race? Let’s sign up for another one! What half do you want to do this fall?

7. You are more in tune with your body than you ever thought was possible. Every ache, adrenaline rush, and noise that it makes.

8. You have a different and complicated relationship with food. You know exactly what foods will irritate your stomach, how long you have to wait for food to be digested enough to run, and what foods will give you the most energy.

9. You feel that itch, whether it’s strong or barely there, to lace up and hear the sound of your shoes rhythmically hitting the ground.

10. You take runcations, vacations that revolve only around running (but there’s usually beer and food involved somehow, too).

One day you start doing something, you try something out. Four years later, it’s a really big part of your life. You plan your days around it, you’ve made real friends through it and become closer to friends you already had because of it, and you do weird things you would’ve previously thought were crazy.

This is how running is for me. Four years ago I could barely run. Now I’ve got two half marathons, one full marathon, and three Ragnar relays under my belt. My life often revolves around my running schedule. I’ve gotten up ridiculously early to run, not race, just run. I’ve injured myself countless times. I’ve traveled to a few cool places for races. I’ve made running friends, real friends, who I never would have met otherwise, and a few of my friendships have become 10 times stronger because of running.

This past weekend I participated in my first Ragnar Trail race in West Virginia in the Appalachians. I’ve done the Madison, WI to Chicago Ragnar road relay twice before (here). The trail relay is an entirely different game. The camping aspect was great, soggy, and involved club music (not my team’s choice).

My teammates were incredible (four who I’ve done Ragnars with before, one who joined our team last minute), and picked up my slack when I badly sprained my ankle on my first trail.

The hot dogs and beer were plentiful. The wind, rain, lightening, and thunder were terrifying, but somehow brought us closer. (I mean we were all huddled nervously under our camping canopy.)

The mud on the trails was like brownie mix or fudge. There were times when we were freezing and wet and miserable, but looking back all I remember is the gorgeous scenery on the trails, the ridiculous nicknames we gave each other, the hot dogs and beer two of my teammates amazingly ate for breakfast, the really nice girl who I visited multiple times at the first aid tent, and how every one of us ran our hardest and pulled our weight.

Self Love. It’s Not Weird.

photo by Karl Bolter

In the past year I’ve started reading a few new blogs by a few pretty rad ladies (The Morning Fresh and Campfire Chic). One recently made a big move across the country to do what felt right for her. Uproot your life? Sounds like a great adventure, but is it practical? The other mentions this idea called self love a lot. She does some how to get yourself motivated to blog again things and one writing topic is self love. I would read those two words and  laugh. Self love? That sounds straight out of a psychologist’s office, something you need to focus on if you’re in a dark place. I love myself, I take care of myself, I’m a happy human being.

The past six months I’ve been struggling hardcore with back pain. My mid back and shoulders are crazy tight. The chiropractor and massage therapist I see tell me to work on my posture, to be conscious of how I sit at my desk, to add 10 measly minutes into my morning and evening routines to open my chest and stretch my back. And I do, but then I don’t, and then my body becomes a wretched mess of pain for a few days, disrupting sleep.

This is not self love. This is the exact opposite of self love. This is making myself hurt because I’m not paying attention, because I’m not treating my body as it deserves and needs, even though I know better.

Self love. Now I get it. I’m not laughing anymore. It’s about being caring and aware and in tune with yourself. And how, with my brain packed full of yoga and recycling and and not eating processed foods and barefootedness, did I miss this? LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! LISTEN TO YOUR BRAIN! Maybe self love is about making time for those things that you know are good for you, physically or emotionally, about readjusting your schedule for yourself, not for someone else. Maybe it’s about taking a big, earth-shattering event and making a big and equally earth-shattering positive change in your life. For me, I think I’ll start small in building some self love routines. I’ll add them in by little bits to my days.

Maybe all I really needed was a new perspective, a quick conversation, to make me see something that I’d be staring at and scoffing at for months in a new light. Maybe that’s where this whole self love business starts, with a new perspective, even if it’s only a tiny shift, a tiny ripple.