Why Grieving Is The Hardest Work I’ll Ever Do

I’m unemployed, but don’t let that fool you: I’ve been doing the hardest work I’ll ever do.

On January 6th, my father died. I don’t want to talk about how it happened. But I do want to talk about the after, because it is not what I thought it would be. I consider myself an advocate for mental health and therapy in general. I thought the death would be sad, and awful, but I had seen it coming, and at 76, my father was older. I took a leave of absence from nursing school to come home and spend time with him. I tried to live without regrets. I read a lot about anticipatory grief. I signed up for online therapy. I had a great support system. I thought I could handle it.

Boy, I was so wrong. I’ve never been so wrong in my life! No amount of therapy beforehand prepared me for the incredible pain and loss I feel in my bones when I think about the fact that my dad is never going to speak to me again. My chest aches when it hits me that he won’t be present for my graduation and all the future life milestones that have yet to come.

I used to be someone who jumped out of bed. The snooze button was not a function I utilized. Nowadays, I linger under the covers, clinging to the belief that if I don’t get out of bed, my life will be as it was before. I am not the same person as before. I feel ten years older, and a little more lonely, because he was the person who “got me” without explanation. And I’m loving harder than ever before, because life is precious, damn it! My priorities are clearly defined. I’m spending a lot of time with the people I love (hi, Mom, one of the few people who will always read my blog!) and trying to find some good in every week. I will be forever grateful to the people who have offered me love and support during one of the worst times in my life.

I still force myself to go out; life doesn’t stop. I turned 24 the day after we buried my father. (Then I caught the flu, so the immediate aftermath of his death was also accompanied by fever-induced hallucinations of my dad…fun!) My mom and I went on a trip, one we normally do as a family. My mom’s birthday still came, a few months later. I did my taxes. I got a haircut. Although mundane, I lived. I kept going, even when I really, really did not want to, when the easiest thing would be to bury myself under my comforter and shut out the world.

I am a lady of action. I confront my problems head-on. I have thrown everything at my grief in an attempt to handle it, to fix it, to make it go away. As I’ve blogged about before, I like being in control, and death is obviously one of those things that you have absolutely no control over. But grief, I thought – surely I can control it? Surely I can have it not consume my life? So began the journey to control my grief.

I wrote in my journal. I ran. I did yoga. I signed myself up for grief counseling. I tried EMDR. I went to a support group for young adults who have lost a parent. I went to a church grief group. I let myself cry. I sat in the room where he died, and looked at photos, and just bawled. But you know what? I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t suppress it. Grief, like love, just is. I’m learning to be okay with just letting it be there.

I do control its presence online. I don’t show how badly I hurt publicly. I debated about whether or not I should even write this post. Social media shows none of this pain. By all accounts, I have “moved on” online. I smile in pictures. I go to parties. I laugh at cat videos. I am functioning. But just because I’m functioning, doesn’t mean I don’t hurt every damn day. At almost four months, the pain is no longer so raw, but it still stings. And I think it’s important to talk about that, not to hide behind only the good things in my life. The ramifications of glorification of life on social media are real, and can be tragic for those struggling with their own lives. Social media only shows part of the story.

I’m learning to live with grief. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. Talking to people, slowly doing the day-to-day life things that need to be done, running errands (or “erranding,” as my dad called it): they’re all incredibly taxing. These tasks sap away at the “extrovert battery” that powers me. In the back of my mind, the grief is there, just lurking in the background, underneath the surface of emotions. I shove it back down, because otherwise, how would I function? But when it comes out, with no warning on occasion, I’m suddenly crying at a restaurant. Or sitting in the hallway of my house, next to his study, cursing up a storm. I feel every emotion so strongly, and the wave of emotions take over just long enough to wreak havoc. And then I lean back, exhausted, trying to breathe deeply and catch a little bit of normalcy before it comes again.

I’ve read over and over that grief comes in waves, and I find that to be true. Most days, now, I feel the waves of grief lapping at my body, soft, but always-present. And every so often, especially at night, a giant wave swells and knocks me down. Most days I just feel like I’m treading water. But I don’t feel like I’m drowning, anymore.

 

NOTE: If you or someone you know is thinking of hurting themselves, please call National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. They also have an online crisis chat.

New York, New York!

For the past three weeks, this has been my life:

IMG_2087The rack of mags at the office of the American Society of Magazine Editors

I made a promise to myself when I was five years old. I knew that I would live in Manhattan one day. I dreamed about it.

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The view from one of the apartments.

And now it’s finally a reality. This is my city.

IMG_2068Living the dream on move-in day!

But still, I can’t believe this is my third week (three and a half?!) living  in New York City. I’ve cycled through excitement, awe, culture shock, cynicism and enthusiasm. Every day teaches me something new about myself – as a person and as a journalist.

I am in love with the city. I’m in love with being a New Yorker. Even though I’m from Staten Island, living in the epicenter of it all is  completely different. My job is incredible – I get to write, pitch and research all about health, fitness and nutrition – and my Woman’s Day staff has quickly become family.

I’m in love with my roomies. They’re exceptional, talented, kind and inspiring ladies from all over the country.

IMG_2117       Only half the crew! We need a photo of everybody!

And eating a lot of food. I love this fry shop, Pommes Frites.

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Mango dipping sauce!

I feel like I’ve found my kin. We sweat up a storm with Kristen’s killer 15-minute workout. Then we ran to 16 Handles because we thought it closed at 11:30 and it was already 11:00. The thought of ending the night without froyo was unthinkable.

Thankfully, it was open till 1! I love New York.

IMG_2339Love the mango. Love.

My froyo addiction is a little ridic, so I’m trying to rein it in a little. $3.93 for this little beauty (mango, graham cracker, marshmallow froyo with cookie dough bites, chocolate-covered pretzels and M&M’s.

So what have I been up to (besides working my butt off)?

The other night, I walked through Little Italy for the first time! It was crowded, but cozy.

IMG_2327 I love the lights.

And of course, we got awesome gelato (maple ginger)!

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We continued walking all the way over the Williamsburg Bridge with my boyfriend and a few of our friends. Look at the gorgeous view! It was my first time walking over that bridge and now I can finally say I’ve walked over all the pedestrian bridges. I think the view of the city from Williamsburg is one of the most romantic spots in the world.

IMG_2214The perfect view.

It was a long night, but in the best way. I was sleepy and grateful.

IMG_2247The boys are tired but happy while waiting for the train.

Last week, I went to a work event and met Maggie Gyllenhal! She’s the spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson’s Everyday Care Campaign.

IMG_2191She was incredibly nice and incredibly stunning.

I’ve done a lot of exploring. The roomies and I went to The Brooklyn Flea. It had funky jewelry and awesome art.

IMG_2103Dinosaurs were hipster before there were hipsters.

IMG_2102Can you imagine walking into a living room and finding a pink elephant?!

We also went to this mystical place I’d dreamed about:

IMG_2113Oh, Yogurtland. Now I understand the obsession.

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And now I want more….

Yogurtland (which was HUGE for me because there are only two in New York and I always drool over Yogurtland pics from bloggers across the country) was fab. Oh, and it was super close to Prospect Park, where everyone was barbecuing and dogs were bounding around. It was a nice chance to hide in the shade a little.

IMG_2119I loved just hanging out by the water.

Among other things, I’ve been on the hunt for fun things to do that don’t involve drinking. We went to the Bowery to see San Fermine and the Villagers. They were amazing live!

IMG_2203The lead singer of the Villagers.

We also went to see the Upright Citizens Brigade at their East Village theater.

IMG_2124Almost-front-row seats!

I even went to a street fair and ate the best doughnuts ever from a place called Dough. The passionfruit was seriously mindblowing. I’m not even kidding. Time to trek to Brooklyn!

IMG_2249Katie, Em and I are ecstatic over our foodie find.

I’ve also been so lucky to be spending more time with my boyfriend. It’s wonderful to just explore and hang out together.

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Max and I at the High Line. I’d never been!

I feel like I’ve done so much, and yet, I haven’t explored nearly enough. Even though I’m exhausted at the end of the work day, I always want to do more. For once, I’m living in the hubbub of it all and I want to soak up every second.

I love the daytime.

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7 a.m. run along the East River before work.

And the night.

IMG_2144Outside The Boat Basin on the UWS at sunset.

The day I moved in, I went with my parents to the Time Warner building to see the temporary exhibit promoting Behind the Candelabra. My New York life may not be this glitzy, but I think it’s absolutely perfect.

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The Return of the Run

It’s been a really long time since I last posted. This semester was one of the toughest of my life, with a family crisis and one of the most challenging academic semesters in college. Despite all the hectic times and crazy stress, as things are winding down, I’m realizing I have never been so happy or so fortunate before in my life.

Quick Recap:

-I ran a half-marathon in 2:35

-I fell in love with my work and with my staff at The New Paltz Oracle and pulled my first all-nighter at the paper

-I was elected and promoted to features editor at The Oracle for fall 2013

-I spent many, many hours in the J-school dungeon labs

-I threw myself into my production classes and pushed myself to become a better producer and a better journalist

-I ate a ridiculous amount of chocolate and developed an addiction strong affinity for coffee

It’s good to be back, though. I’ve missed the writing, the connection to people and the blogging community.

The semester is winding down and I’m looking forward to the summer. I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to have been selected as one of the 2013 ASME interns (American Society of Magazine Editors) this summer. I’ll be working at one of my dream magazines in the city and I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity.

Additionally, I finally splurged and bought one of my favorite running books: Run Less, Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Run-a-Week Training Program.

I did formal speedwork for the first time ever this week! I hate speedwork in theory, but I adore it in practice. I’m aiming for a faster 5k and hopefully this plan can finally help me break that elusive 30:00 mark in a 5k. I admit it, I’m a turtle. But maybe I won’t always be.

So onward and upward, friends. This blog is about to hit the city streets and things could get pretty amazing.

Quality Over Quantity

I’m so excited to be finishing off the first week of 2013 on a positive note. I’m finally feeling healthy again, I’m soaking up tons of vitamin D while I’m with my family, and I’m keeping up with my resolutions!

I finished the first week of the hundred push ups challenge successfully. 152 push ups done so far! Hurrah. However, I’m thinking of bumping back to column two to improve upon my form.

I’m all about quality over quantity! If I’ve got a choice between a large amount of milk chocolate or a small amount of dark chocolate, I’d much rather enjoy the bitter, rich taste of dark chocolate. I think that with push ups, If I’m more focused on great form, they’ll be more effective.

Pushing through push ups simply because of pride doesn’t make sense. I’m doing this for me — so there’s no shame in stepping back and assessing what’s right for me at the moment. If it means scaling back my push ups so I can focus on form, I’m completely okay with that.

Here’s to quality experiences for the rest of 2013!

How to Beat Fear in the Human Race and Get a Shiny Medal

Okay, so maybe, if you beat fear out of your life, you won’t get a shiny gold medal.

But you should.

Living in fear is something so many people do every day.  And for some, fear is a legitimate reaction to preserve the human race.  If you live in Syria, for example.  If I lived in Syria, I am all in favor of my nervous system telling to get the hell outta somewhere dangerous.

But in the modern world, I’m not encountering real danger very often.  When was the last time the threat of death or even physical harm stopped you from doing anything?  Has fear stopped you from getting your eyebrows threaded/giving a speech/joining a circus?

I, being in lovely suburban, middle-class America, decided to go to get my eyebrows threaded one sunny afternoon.

And yet, despite the sun shining (er, rainclouds storming), birds chirping (I mean, the sound of construction workers tearing up the roads), I was wracked with anxiety.  I was literally shaking as I drove to the Place Where They Extract My Eyebrow Hairs.  I wanted to cry.  I was so overwhelmed with fear.

This is something I have done for several years.  (Ah, the power of the threader over my upkeep.)

But why?  I have, on occasion, ended up with manly eyebrows, and the world has not ended.   The process itself is quick and painless, too.

So.

In lieu of an actual medal, I give you a mneumonic to go through.  MEDAL: Meditate, Excavate, Detonate, Allocate, Lactate  (just kidding…the actual last word is Live, but I really wanted an -ate to finish off the list…ah, well, c’est la vie). 

Meditate:  Why are you so afraid?  Some thought, not much, needs to occur.  Be careful not to get too deep into your thoughts, which can lead to melancholy, over-analysis, and some serious Google-searching anxiety cropping up at three am over fears deeply rooted in your childhood.  Meditation is not the most important here.  Find a reason, settle upon it, and move on!  Most anything will do.  Realizing that there is a reason, however trite or important, and acknowledging it, is important.  In my case, I realized that it was because going to the Place Where They Extract My Eyebrow Hairs reminded me of my younger self, when I hated running into my peers there.  It was like going to the Place was openly admitting that I was an ape of hair.   An APE!

I was so convinced. This was the me the world saw.

Excavate:  Take those memories out of your head and put them in your current situation.  I have hair.  So does everyone else.  I take pride in taking care of myself, and if I feel great after the process, shouldn’t I feel great before and during the threading as well?

Detonate:  Imagine those memories, sticking them in a box, and exploding all the negative feelings and insecurities that (possibly) accompany them.  BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM.

Allocate:  Yes, that time in your life was bad.  Instead of ruminating on this, allocate those emotions to a better, more charitable use.  Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, donate that pity to a cause like  girls who can’t afford an education or perhaps contributing to the fund for fallen rangers who have died protecting apes.

Live: Finally, go get your eyebrows threaded/finish that speech/join a circus.  You’ve earned your medal.

 

Running Conversions

I enjoy running alone when I just want to wake up and go for a quick run, no fussing, or if I need some alone time.  I like to think life decisions out on long runs.  I always come back with a clear head, endorphins, and an idea of what I want to do.  (Or, if it’s a situation where I can’t do anything, at least some peace of mind that I need to leave it up to the universe, and it’s out of my control.)

Flow.  I like being on that running flow, when all your thoughts just swirl around and you can focus on your breathing, and the air, and the sunshine (if you’re lucky), the breeze, or that delightful, slightly obnoxious hum of lawnmowers.

But yesterday, during my shopping trip, my friend Deanna and I made a pact: running today!

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Awwyeah, ready to run!  We were shooting for three miles.  We took a little detour to the beach, parks, and a quaint residential area I never knew existed!  We ended up running 3.18 in ~38.  Woo!

After all, we ate a lot of cheesecake yesterday:

The Cheesecake Factory’s 30th Anniversary cake.  Yuuuuuuuuuum.  Sugar coma

Deanna got the oreo cheesecake.  I’ve never tried it, but I don’t think you can go wrong with any flavor there!

I also had the gigantic (lunch portion!) barbeque chicken salad from The Cheesecake Factory that lasted for three meals (seriously, I just ate some more of it for lunch).  Craaaziness, what a deal, they really give you a lot!

Well, it’s off to pack for my upcoming trip to Vancouver/Alaska/San Francisco! Woohoo!

Have you been to any of these places? Are you going on a vacation soon, or did you have one already?

Favorite type of cheesecake?

 

Disney Princess Half-Marathon: Part II

A princess race…but there was no line for the race car drivers of the Richard Petty Driving Experience!  So of course, I jumped on it!  At this point in the race, I wasn’t feeling very well, and I was determined to pace myself (one of my strengths as a runner is I’m very, very good at determining my pace and sticking with it, I run very even splits most of the time), walk as needed, and make it to the Magic Kingdom at all costs.  I remember walking quite a bit around the Speedway, and it was really discouraging that I was only a bit over a 5k at this point.  I was coughing a lot.

I had a long way to go, and I doubted I could make it.  I was coughing a lot at this point, (I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again…the night before the race, I was sneezing my brains out and coughing up hairballs.  It was just so, so awful, and as an incredibly optimistic person, it had been a long time since I felt so low and so hopeless.  I thought there was no way I could run in just a few hours.)  I had to just keep moving forward.  I kept a smile on my face because it’s DISNEY WORLD and I had been dreaming about this for so long.

I loved seeing all the strong, evil Disney villains–I’d never seen ANY of these in the parks before!  I was especially excited to see Cinderella’s step-sisters and step-mother, who were hamming it up and were absolutely evil.  This whole line-up made my day completely amazing.  I began looking forward to ditching my sweater (here, I ditched it in line before the photos every time), because carrying it was getting really annoying.  I began to have a little hope that I would make it past the Magic Kingdom, and more people in costume cheered me up. I blasted my music and focused on enjoying as much as I could.  My coughing, for the most part, got a little better, and I settled into a regular walk-run pattern.

A blurry photo as I ran past the Contemporary and under a tunnel.  Here was a DJ, and I really liked waving to him.  There were also acrobats on trampolines!  Whoa!

As we ran toward Space Mountain and the Magic Kingdom, I began to feel like utter crap.  I mean, the race was mostly flat, and I trained on hills, but I was still sick.  I could not stop coughing.  I dug out my inhaler (I can only use it twice in a four-hour period, so I knew I had to use it sparingly) and…

it made a WORLD of difference.  Here I am at the next mile marker, happy and upbeat, right before entering the TTC.

At this point, I knew I was going to make it through the race.  I was so, so happy and I felt SO much better.  I also ditched my sweater, giving it to a Cast Member (not even sure if they were on duty…oops), and I felt FREE!

I also saw my parents as I ran through the TTC!  They shouted my name and I almost tripped because I ran past them.  I wasn’t expecting to see them till Mile 8, and it made me INCREDIBLY happy and gave me a huge boost.  As excited as I was to race, running such a huge race, and my first race in another state, alone can be a little intimidating.  I told them I was running strong and I’d see ’em later.  I could only hope that they’d make it to Mile 8 with plenty of time, because I knew that although I ran strong now, I would need a pick-me-up later.  I’d heard traveling from viewpoints could be difficult.  I ran past the drummers from Epcot and all I could think about was running down Main Street.

I had dreamed of this moment for so long.

After asking a CM where the nearest bathroom was (a real bathroom! Not a port-a-potty!), I used a precious four minutes to duck out of the race and it was SO worth it.  My favorite parts were smiling at the little girls in the bathroom (who were wide-eyed that I had a tutu on!), and re-ducking under the line to run back onto Main Street! Hehe.

Everything was all lit up, and it was truly breathtaking to be running down this street.  It was over far too quickly.

I grabbed another photo in front of Cinderella’s Castle (after all, when else is there going to be an unobstructed view?!):

You can see my running shorts peeking out from under the tutu here…it may be silly, but I actually loved wearing it throughout the race.  It made me feel like a true princess for the day.

It was in the MK that I began to feel unstoppable.  I was on such a Disney high–and there were even more characters!

I was excited to see tons of characters I’ve never taken photos with.

I ran through Tomorrowland and Fantasyland (under construction for the extension), where I *just* missed the line closing for Cinderella & Prince Charming.  I’d NEVER seen them in the parks, so I was super bummed, but the sight of the carousel quickly cheered me up.  And at this point, I had stopped at every character available…one of my goals for the race (okay, besides finishing, it was my only goal!)  I was determined to make the most of my race!  Even when I registered for the race, I knew I wanted it to be my first one so I wouldn’t be shooting for a time goal.  As long as I continued feeling great and not coughing, I knew I’d be good.

I kept about a 12-min-per-mile pace through the MK, and then I heard trumpets:

Aaaah!  I was so excited to run through the castle!

Up Next:

In Which I Meet Two Princesses, Get Passed by Orange Bikers, and Run Like Mad: Disney Princess Half-Marathon: Part III

Okay With It

Janae over at Hungry Runner Girl recently posted about perfectionism.

It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. On February 26th, I’ll be running the Disney Princess 1/2 Marathon.
And you know what? Nearly everything has strayed from my plans.
-I barely trained for my 10k (but I finished with flying colors).
-I was really sick from mid-December to mid-January and I jumped into my half-marathon training plan with some two-mile runs and a six-mile long run the first week.
Oops.
-I got sick AGAIN and it looks like my longest run before the race will be 8 miles.
Only 8 miles.
(Did I ever think I would say “only” 8 miles? 8 miles was an impossible distance once upon a time.)
I realized, training or not, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Life gets in the way of plans sometimes. I’ve learned to accept this lately, but sometimes it’s hard to take a scary plunge when I’ve been looking forward to this for so long.
So, I’m leaving for the trip just about a week from now.
I’m okay with whatever happens.
I will finish, even if I’m walking across that finish line.
And I’m okay with it.
I know this race will be tons of fun and a great photo opportunity. After, I’m looking forward to cross-training (conquering my fear of spinning once and for all?!) and running shorter, speedier distances. It’ll be nice to run for the sake of running again.
Would you rather train with a purpose (a race, or for charity, or an event) or just for your own benefit?
I love planning, so I like training with a purpose. I think I’ll appreciate cross-training a lot more now, though, especially because in college I can really take advantage of a great gym.
What makes you decide to venture out when you have other responsibilities? Friends? Family? A midnight run…or a midnight run to get ice cream?
Tonight I decided, heck, it’s open mic night and my boyfriend is playing a set. I’m going to go. I’m glad I did-I had a great time and it was nice to hang out with friends. I’ve worked hard lately and I deserved it.

Diligence, Dancing, and Dorkiness

Friday night, I went out for sushi and to a cozy venue for a singer-songwriter performance with Max. It was a lovely evening, but I was exhausted and turned in early. Is this what tons of running and homework does to me? I guess so!
On Saturday, I took a break from homework to go see The Vow with some girlfriends. Cheesy, as I expected, but with a satisfying ending. I liked it.
I hurried home to get ready for the Yule Ball…after a week of being fairly responsible and diligent, I was ready to dance!

(Me and Max before heading out…did I mention it was flurrying?! Freezing out!)

(Mel and me at the dance…we had a dancing pre-party and we were SO READY, including to our latest obsession, “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place”)
We all crashed in our room with some…unexpected guests…until the wee hours of the morning, telling stories and being goofy. The master storyteller had an omnipotence not pictured here, hehe.

(How many people can you fit in a room meant for two people? One, two…)

(Three, four…)
And two more on my bed!
I confess to skipping my 9-mile long run in favor of homework and laziness. I didn’t get much sleep. I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I need sleep and to keep my grades up, and I’l stick to my long run this weekend.
The next day, Mel and I were being goofy with packages from home. Our parents had shipped us dresses for the dance, and WHAT ELSE are you supposed to do with these except make a robot?

(The expert robot-designer, hard at work.)
(The finished product! I barely look human, right? 😉 )
Happy Monday!
On Mondays I look forward to pancakes from the dining hall. =D It’s also my favorite day of classes, so I really don’t mind Mondays. What’s your favorite day of the week?
I was soooo hungry the other night that I stuck pb on a spoon and dipped it into cereal. Do you have a go-to late night snack? (I try not to snack much at night, but sometimes you must.)
I really REALLY like chocolate milk. I mean, really. I think I consume enough chocolate milk for twenty people a day, late night or not.

Pastel de Nata and B19

So, this past Saturday, I ventured into town with my friend A and Mel to look for dresses. There’s going to be a Yule Ball this weekend (woohoo!), and it’s semi-formal, so we were on the hunt….

(Passing some cool shrubbery-people)

(We needed another goofy roomy photo. Stuffed dinosaur? Check.)

We stopped at a bakery and I treated myself to a pastel de nata, something I’d never heard of. It’s a Portuguese egg cream pastry…or so I read on the menu! Delish.

(So flaky and goooooood.)

Although shopping in town (and trying on elegant dresses in thrift stores!) was tons of fun, we turned up empty for something we could *actually* wear.

Home to the rescue! My mom mailed me a package, and I got it in the mail today. I love getting mail, it’s one of the coolest feelings in the world.


(Totally worth the long wait in line.)

After some cheese quesadillas and a salad with iceberg and shredded lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cheddar, refried beans, and lots of guacamole, we headed to bingo (sorry for the blurriness…cell phone camera). I had some oreo cheesecake that I devoured too quickly to photograph…oops. Custard-like, but deeelicious.


He’s hard at work on B19.


(Out of our entire table, none of us won. =( Bummer.)

And if you were wondering, it’s completely normal to wander by a first-floor dorm and peek inside to see what they’re watching (Food Network!) Not that we did it….

Good Tuesday. Time for some more homework and SLEEP!

I had so much work today that I’m skipping my run. Do you get workout guilt?

Oreo cheesecake! Yeeeaaah! Do you have a candy/dessert combo, or unusual favorite dessert?