Tuesday, July 10, 2012

And Summer On My Mind

Summer is a time of watermelon juice dripping down your arms, off your elbows, and onto the grass. It is a time for cold beer in the warmth of the sun and the familiar balm of lazy evenings with friends. A time for outdoor music festivals, afternoons by the water, and a pervasive sense of ease in the city. A time that moves a little more slowly as the days stretch and the glow of sunlight lingers almost until bedtime. And, of course, it is a time of skin, skin everywhere.

Bikinis abound right now, with legs and torsos and shoulders out in force playing catch-up in Seattle's rediscovered sun. The pale bodies on display are, on the whole, lithe and lean. Typically, this means my tendency to compare myself to every other female in my vicinity kicks into overdrive, but this year, I've been (mostly) able to stay in the lower gears and actually be a little proud of my body. For some reason, I can accept what I've got, and what I've got is good.

Well, actually, for two reasons.

Katrina and Karena of Tone It Up

Karena and Katrina of Tone It Up popped up on my radar a few months ago when I was stumbling around on Youtube looking for... I'm not quite sure. Maybe motivation. Inspiration. Something different than what I had been doing, which was a hodgepodge of Jillian Michaels videos and a smattering of cardio, usually running, throughout the week. I had no concrete idea of what I wanted or where I was trying go with all of it - wanting to be fit, sure, but I didn't really know what "fit" looked like for me.

Now, Jillian Michaels is still my girl and she'll always have a special place in my heart. I fell in love with her years ago during college in Santa Barbara (land of the beaches and the accompanying babes), when Stacy, Barbara, Alex, and I would watch The Biggest Loser while stuffing ourselves with Freebirds nachos, ice cream and Indian food. We longed to have her body, her strength, to have her scream at our lazy asses, as surely she could scare us into fitness unlike anyone else. We enjoyed kickboxing classes through the university and we walked everywhere (and also at times I was unhealthily thin, at times unhealthily sedentary), but Jillian's drill-instructor-style verbal abuse was the kind of psychological beating that got me to push myself in my workouts. But after a few years of worship in the Church of Jillian, I gradually grew immune to her yelled dogma and my eye began to wander.

Thus, the Tone It Up girls. They are quite different from Jillian - incredibly feminine, endearingly silly, and all about having fun in fitness (and in life in general). I won't lie - I kind of hated them at first. They're gorgeous and seem to live on the beach in cute clothes and glorious hair. They're sweet and giggly and genuinely seem to enjoy doing what they do, and sometimes, on particularly crap days, it can be hard for me to handle their perpetual perkiness. Basically, they're perfect and I couldn't stand it, because I couldn't possibly ever be like them, and that's exactly what I wanted in full blown envy rage.

Katrina's hair is so beautiful it makes me stupid.

As I poured over their blog, I saw that they indeed hadn't always been so perfect, and that they had been a lot like me: slenderish and healthy enough, but not quite as "fit" in terms of muscle tone and overall lifestyle. I learned that what they do is achievable, and their food motto is smart and simple: "Lean, Clean, and Green," emphasizing lean proteins, foods as organic and as unprocessed as possible, and as many greens as you want - and as they say, a piece of fruit never hurt anyone. Most importantly, they still like their wine, cocktails, and chocolate, and they know it's okay to indulge sometimes (again, cold beer in the sun is just part of summer). Like I've written before, it's all about balance, and no one can, nor should, be perfect all the time - I'm certainly not. It's just common sense, elevated.

True to their name, toning is the major focus of their exercise approach; sure, you can be thin without muscle, but muscle strength and tone is what helps define a thin, healthy body. All of their videos (seriously, there are tons and tons on their YouTube channel) are rather short - no longer than 20ish minutes and sometimes as short as 8 or less. Cardio is, of course, an important part of fitness that they really emphasize, but their toning videos steal the spotlight. I love them - especially some from their first "Bikini Series," like the ab-focused Itty Bitty Bikini workout, the Beach Bum which kills my butt, and the all-over toners: the Bikini Strap and the Sandcastle Workout. They combine basic individual moves (like dead lifts with a row, or squats with side leg lifts) to make the circuits as effective and efficient as possible, and the girls' personalities are so engaging - they do the routines like sane, normal people with senses of humor, not tireless machines. They don't make it look deceptively easy all the time (push ups are hard), but because they're so laid-back - sometimes even goofy - when demonstrating the moves, it's easy to forget about the whole "work" part of working out. Again, I'm not usually one for flowers and rainbows and bunny giggles when it comes to exercise, but these girls are all inspiration without the intimidation, and it makes me want to be their friend and meet them for brunch on Sundays. Plus, their beachy sets and California style encourages the Santa Barbara blonde in me to resurface just a bit, and that's not so terrible a thing.

Karena, those shoulders. Katrina, those abs ...and that hair.

Anyway, long story short: I love these girls, and I owe them a lot. Because of them, I'm developing the abs, the legs, those cut shoulder muscles I've always wanted and the strength that comes with them. They've helped reinforce the message of loving your body, even if there are some days I can't always hear it. I still do Jillian videos sometimes, and thanks to Barbara's fantastic new blog, I'm getting exposure to new challenges, but Karena and Katrina at Tone It Up have won my girl-crushing heart. Now that the weather has finally caught up to the season we're in, I am happy to oblige in proper bikini-clad form: sunscreen on my white Seattle skin, watermelon in hand, cold beer in the fridge, and summer on my mind.

Capitol Hill Block Party, the warm-up for Bumbershoot right in my neighborhood.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Something Borrowed, Something Blogged

Our view of the fireworks on the Fourth.

In lieu of an update in the typical style of this blog, I've borrowed the idea of "Five Things Friday" from my only-through-the-interwebs friend Lauren over at Filing Jointly...Finally (I interviewed her, did a little write-up of the thing that was the result of two awkward girls Skyping, and she posted it on her very real, very awesome, actually popular blog, a blog that lots of people actually read - yikes - and thus, my first official guest post for someone Internet-famous.)


Five Things Currently Happening in Kait's Apparently Uneventful Life:

1. A couple of weeks ago, I was hired to "teach"/wrangle/sing to* babies and their parents a handful of hours a week for slightly above minimum wage. Additionally, I spend many more unpaid hours at home memorizing songs and activities. I'm still figuring out how I feel about this, but luckily most of the kids are almost as cute as kittens or puppies. Almost.

2. After a second interview for another job opportunity and the requested submission of a writing sample a week and a half ago, I am still awaiting (read: agonizing over) contact regarding a decision. Especially agonizing is the fact that, at said second interview, it was mentioned that I should hear back, yea or nay, by the end of last week. I even did my due diligence by patiently watching week pass and sending a carefully-crafted follow-up email at the exact perfect hour and day. No response. I accept that I probably didn't score the position, but I would like - NEED - to know either way; I need to know I didn't imagine the interviews and that someone received and read my sample, and just one little emailed reply is all I crave. Is the midweek holiday interruption of work schedules to blame? Did I not scour my writing sample free of inappropriate words as I had thought? Am I ugly and worthless and failure personified (or, more accurately, does obsessing and lack of communication make me paranoid)?


3. In the months I've been agonizing over my future and scheming and planning for all of it to be practically thrown over for a semi-related course of action with TESOL, I've let my savings dwindle past the point I swore I would never reach. I am horrified and have recently been finding myself paralyzed with said financial horror in the middle of the night (and the quiet mornings free of distraction) more and more. I know I'm still better off than a lot of the world's population, but I am so beyond uneasy with my situation, and it's increasingly difficult not to regret decisions that were - and still are - right long-term, but would have kept me quite financially comfortable for the last several months. It's just one more source of fuel for the anxiety fire.

4. I've fallen into a creativity hole, and am scraping its sides trying to climb out onto solid, inspired ground. To be fair to the hole, it's probably more of a ditch with sloping walls into which I've gradually wandered, but I didn't notice until the ground flattened with my artistic faculties.

5. On a good note: I am rocking the TESOL course. Classes began last Tuesday, and any apprehensions I had immediately dissipated. You guys, I am such a good nerd student. My note-taking is flawless and I'm already brimming with full-fledged ideas for lesson plans. We had an intensive grammar study over the weekend and have been reviewing this week, and while the  vast sea of grammar is riddled with eddies in the undertow and has several Bermuda-like triangles, I'm a language aficionado and love playing navigator. (The second TESOL course in the Fall is solely focused on grammar. I am so excited.) We definitely have a leg up on a lot of the material we're learning with our combined backgrounds in writing, editing, and education, but regardless, Adam and I will sail through this class.

And there you have it. Adam is as wonderful as ever, probably more so as he's the star witness to my crazies and therefore wins Best Friend for Life award daily, Eliot is a cuddly muffin, and I am trying to stay grateful for the many ways I am lucky, to stay positive in the face of certain negativity and uncertain whatevers. We did take a short trip to D.C. - my first time visiting the East Coast! - and it was a fun challenge to cram as much stuff and as many monuments/memorials/historic documents as possible into essentially less than 72 hours of actually being there. Once we've finished vetting photos, I'm sure a few will surface here. (And maybe the same will be done for Belize soon! Remember how I went to Belize in November and it was magical and I promised I'd write about it? Yeah. I'm sure that will still happen sometime.) Anyway, despite the Adult Problems, I'm pretty content, good things outweigh the not-so-good, and life is still happening - just one day at a time.

Le sigh.

*I've had to push through my fear of singing for an audience, but I've compartmentalized it a bit; singing songs about bubbles and ducks to the tune of 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' for 15 people - most of whom don't have the developmental capability to understand/judge me anyway - is oddly less scary than singing acoustic covers of Bon Iver or Frightened Rabbit with my guitar in the apartment with Adam or anyone else present.