Friday, July 10, 2020

100 Things About Me (Version 4.0)

Every now and then I update my "about me" page. As an ever-evolving person (always reforming! *Calvinist joke*) the 100 Things About Me inevitably become obsolete after a period of time.

So. If you want to know way too much about me, pour yourself some coffee, get comfortable and meet Lori Arnold, 2020 version.

Hint: If you want to REALLY get to know me, you can read the past 300 things about me listed in the "about me" page. 

*BONUS! You get to choose how to digest this highly important information: watch the video, or read below.

100 Things About Me - 2020 Version from superlori on Vimeo.

100 Things About Me - 4.0

1. As I've stated before, I was born and raised in Arkansas. That has not changed.

2. It has also not changed that I went to college at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and majored in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing.

3. Okay, several things haven't changed, but they will soon. After graduating the U of A, I married a Scotsman named Scott and moved to Scotland, where I lived for the next 9 years of my life.

4. After, you know, several years, I ended up with three children, who shall be referred to here as Fifi, Lolly and Jaguar/Cub. (He didn't like being called Jaguar, so a couple of years ago I acquiesced to his wishes and changed him to Cub.)

5. I have had a lot of pets, mostly cats, which is weird because I kind of hate cats AND I'm allergic to cats. But I have a soft spot for kittens, and that's how they get you.

6. Besides the many cats, I've also had pet rabbits, dogs, and a long succession of fish who refuse to stay alive. I've also had plants that I got attached to only to watch them die as well. Oh and in high school, I had a pet rat.   

7. Right now I'm totally fantasizing about a pet bird. I know this is a bad idea, especially because of said cats, but wouldn't a birdie be cute??

8. Wouldn't a puppy be cute too??

9. Okay, so maybe I just like naming pets. In order, my pets have been named: Squirt, Remedios the Beauty and Clementine, Kate and Wills, Dora and Boots, Chewbacca and Zelda, Gracie, Kitty Whiskers (to present), Sassy, Isobel, Pumpkin Spice, Butterbeer, Panda (to present), the OneRedCrossBetta, Sushi, Betta O'Rourke, and Cookie (to present).

10. Enough about pets. I also like cake. No, I take that back. I LOVE cake.

11. Yeah, so back to the timeline. I moved back to Arkansas in 2013 with Scott and our three kids.

12. Scott and I split up a few years later though. But we remain good friends and great co-parents.

13. Then I met Neil and a few years later, we married. So now I'm married to Neil. 

14. Since he has four daughters, I now have seven children I call mine. Seven children and three cats.

15. I still live in Arkansas, but Neil lives in Mississippi. So that's an interesting dynamic. 

16. Neil and I are both writers. He writes for a blog called Godless in Dixie. I *ahem* used to write for a blog called *this one* and I've also written a book called The Last Petal Falling.

17. A cursory glance at either and you will correctly surmise we both used to be Christians and we are not anymore.

18. Just to rip off the rest of the band-aid all at once, I'm a humanist who believes in Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ equality, feminism, a woman's right to choose, humanitarianism, impartiality, and that free or affordable healthcare is a right, immigrants and asylum seekers are people who deserve to be treated with humanity and dignity, and the earth is round. Oh, and COVID-19 is real. #virtuesignaling

19. Social Justice Warrior points aside, I also believe in open and compassionate conversations with a wide range of people and view points, keeping an open mind, being willing to accept when I am wrong, confronting my unconscious bias, and not jumping to conclusions about people based on preconceived notions. I am against cancel culture, which I do not think is helpful for encouraging anyone's individual growth or consensus. 

20. I may be an atheist, but I support the rights and beliefs of people of all religions, and as long as one's religious practices don't hurt or harm others, I take no issues with people practicing and standing by their faith.

21. I love chocolate.

22. I also love cheese.

23. I'm a shopaholic. 

24. I love hiking, camping, and backpacking. 

25. I am a pluviophile

26. I hate sports, except soccer (to watch) and tennis (to play).

27. My favorite cuisines are Thai food, Mexican food and pizza.

28. I love to sleep.

29. I enjoy reading, though with my busy schedule, I tend to do more audiobooks than paperbacks these days. 

30. I have a slough of hobbies that I go in and out of, depending on the seasons of my life, like sewing, painting, writing, crafting, and baking. (But not cooking. I hate cooking.)

31. I am an ENFJ, an Orange/Blue, a Three/Eight and an Expressor/Controller. (Any other personality tests out there I'm missing?)

32. I don't believe in horoscopes, but I'm an Aries.

33. My main love languages are words of affirmation and gifts.

34. I donate blood every 56 days (or so).

35. I work for the American Red Cross (and so as a disclaimer: all my opinions are completely my own and do not always necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer). I love the mission, values and fundamental principles of the Red Cross. <-- That link is worth following!

36. I'm afraid of spiders, heights, enclosed spaces, and failure.

37. I love bright colors. The colors that I'm most attracted to are bold and bright like red, yellow or turquoise.

38. I hate my feet.

39. I like my hair. 

40. My hair has been a variety of colors and shades, lengths and styles. Some of these were good choices, others were not. Currently my hair is dark brown and long, though I'm slowly going redder with every root touch-up.

41. As cliche as it sounds, I like a wide variety of music, but I get the most out of indie music. I get the least out of country. 

42. I like indie movies too, especially ones that make me cry. 

43. I'm an empath. 

44. I like for people to like me, and I put too much stock into what other people think of me.

45. I'm a perfectionist, an overachiever, and an overthinker.

46. I live too much in the future. Neil is more of an in-the-moment guy, which makes us a good match for each other. He is teaching me to enjoy the present.

47. I keep a gratitude journal. *Almost* every day, I write three things I'm grateful for and one thing I'm looking forward to for tomorrow. I've just added a third category too - something I like about myself. I call that my "worthiness" column, because it occurred to me the other day that I don't often believe I'm all that worthy of anything special. 

48. I love to travel. My job keeps me on the road a lot (at least when we're not in a pandemic). I've traveled all over the world, mostly on mission trips when I was a young person. I've been to Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Israel, Jordan, and Pakistan. I've visited 19 states (not counting states I've merely driven through) and Washington D.C. I want to travel more. Visiting every continent is on my bucket list; I still have Africa, Australia and Antarctica to go.

49. Riding in a hot air balloon is another item on my bucket list. I'm afraid of heights though. (See #36)

50. I'm a neat freak. I hate disorder.

51. I pride myself on my ability to perfectly fold a fitted sheet. 

52. I have ADHD, and I deal with anxiety and depression.

53. I'm kind of a hippie, crunchy mom who practiced co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, baby-led weaning, baby-wearing, baby signing, gentle parenting and cloth diapering. My kids are older now, and I have yet to determine how my kids will turn out.

54. I have awesome kids though. Just for the record. 

55. I love Bernie Sanders. 

56. I am in support of an independent Scotland.

57. I met my new husband on the internet (sort of - via his blog). My previous husband actually introduced me to his website years ago when I was first deconverting. (But there was zero funny business or even contact with him until well AFTER we split up, just in case your mind went there.)  We have, shall we say, a very "non-traditional" marriage. And it's the happiest I've ever been. *Insert heart emoji.

58. I used to write poetry. I will eventually get my poems into a book so I can say I've published TWO books and be an even more authentic author.

59. I like alliteration. Technically, actually, it is consonance that I like more.

60. I like to start projects with alliterative or consonant titles. I'm more likely to stick with something if it has a catchy project name. 

61. I'm a bit of a diva, and I love singing on stage, acting on stage, and public speaking. Pass me a mic, I'll find something to do with it. 

62. I wish I were funny enough to write like David Sedaris. 

63. I love thunderstorms - just not the damage they can cause. 

64. I'm both an adrenaline junkie and risk adverse. Figure that one out.

65. My current favorite TV show is The Good Place on Netflix. My all time favorite TV shows are Gilmore Girls and Scrubs.

66. I am always starting and failing diets.

67. I am always starting and failing exercise plans.

68. I love real mail. I enjoy writing letters and sending cards. I love receiving real mail too, so ... hint hint.

69. I don't enjoy conflict or fighting, but I appreciate and value direct communication, even if it's uncomfortable. I just don't like when people get defensive or reactionary about it. I will always point out the elephant in the room, because I can't stand awkwardness or inauthenticity. 

70. I also can't stand passive aggressiveness. I don't like aggressive aggressiveness either though. Just be an adult about it! (Unless you're a kid. But even then, be an adult about it!)

71. I often talk to my kids like they are my co-workers. I can't understand why they can't just be collaborative and work together more?

72. I enjoy event planning. When I was a stay-at-home-mom, this was expressed in throwing killer birthday parties. As a professional, this looks like organizing creative fundraisers and special events. If I can include a theme too? Oh man. 

73. I'm a Rotarian.

74. I serve on the board of the Arkansas State Independent Living Council as the board secretary.

75. I love to deploy to disasters with the Red Cross. Being on the ground during a large scale disaster response and physically touching the mission is what keeps me going when the day-to-day going gets tough.

76. I value honesty and compassion above pretty much all other values in life. 

77. I prefer everything to be clear and unambiguous. When ambiguity is inevitable, I do not like it. That makes 2020 a really tough year for me.

78. I have ten tattoos and ten piercings. I think it's ten for both... I haven't counted in a while.

79. I have an affinity for cute shoes.

80. I live by my day planner. Not my digital Outlook calendar - my 18-month spiral-bound paper planner. 

81. I use color-coded erasable pens in my day planner, and I reward myself for accomplishments with stickers.

82. My birthday is April Fools Day.

83.  I know it's cheesy, but I love Valentine's Day. It's kind of my favorite. I love all holidays really though. Any reason to celebrate and I'm on it. Shall we plan a themed party? I'll hit up Party City.

84. I have Imposter Syndrome. 

85. I'm a bit of a hypochondriac.

86. My favorite dessert (besides cake) is homemade banana pudding. I make it from scratch using my great-grandmother's recipe. I want some now. 

87. I also love pies. All pies. All Pies Matter.

88. I was briefly in a fake band in college called Heart Union. We didn't actually play instruments or perform gigs, but we sold merch.

89. I was briefly in a real band in college called Sharkie. I was briefly in a band in high school too called Oswald's Pool. 

90. I was a DJ on our college radio station, KXUA 88.3.

91. I like all of my dishes to match and put away in a very specific layout. However, I like all of my coffee mugs to be mismatched and different, so no one gets their cups mixed up. 

92. My clothes are arranged by color in my closet. (Consonance!)

93. I make my bed *almost* every day when I get up. 

94. I listen to NPR.

95. I don't believe in ghosts, but I kind of do.

96. I don't care how old I am, I love stuffed animals.

97. I like to problem solve.

98. I take my tea with milk, no sugar.

99. I love musicals. 

100. I love lists.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Jump Into July: Embrace the Budget

In my last post, I talked about diving back into the Love My Body Project, but I've got several grandiose plans for July besides caring for (and loving) my body. I also desperately need to care for and love my bank account!

I thought quarantine life would do wonders for my budget. I'm getting, like, 3 weeks to the gallon in gas, I'm not eating out for lunch, and I'm not buying new work clothes. I figured I'd be swimming in spare cash.

I forgot about Amazon.

I didn't realize how many home improvement projects I'd suddenly be compelled to undertake.

And I certainly didn't factor in just how much food my kids would consume by being home 24/7.

I recently moved into a new home, and the move alone comes with costs. Neil also recently moved into a new place. Making two houses a home(s) can be costly. We've spent more than we really should have on decorating our new homes and making them perfect for our needs. I'll confess that I've used the fake money (credit card) more often than I should've, telling myself that Future Lori can deal with it.

Hello, I am Future Lori. And I'm dealing with it.

So part of my Jump Into July self-improvement plan is to Embrace the Budget. Of course it needed a title. I thought of several catchy project names - Balance the Bank, Curb the Cashflow, Manage My Money - but "Embrace the Budget" fit the best for what I'm trying to do. Rather than fight against the total of income vs expenses, I want to embrace what I have. I want to live within my means and learn to be happy with spending less and shopping more carefully.

Oddly enough, our topic of conversation in this morning's Women of Rotary Coffee Chat was smart shopping strategies, and they shared this quote:

Buy less, choose well, make it last. - Vivienne Westwood

This is my goal. I have SO MUCH. I couldn't even fit all my clothes in my new closet; I sent all my winter clothes to Neil's house to keep in his closet for me. I have more books than I could ever read (and so many of them I haven't yet read, but they are on my forever-long reading list). I have all the things I need. There's likely very little on Amazon that I can't live without. The problem I have is that I'm a total SHOPAHOLIC.

I love to shop. LOVE IT.

Grocery shopping, clothes shopping, home improvement shopping, gift shopping, card shopping - hell, put me inside a tractor supply store, and I'll find all kinds of things I didn't know I needed. ("A chicken coop!! Let's buy a chicken coop and raise chickens!!")

It's an addiction, and it's not a healthy one. I truly do use retail as a therapy. If I feel down, I shop. I don't have to even be shopping for myself. I love shopping for other people too. I'll see some random object in a random shop and think, "Oh man, that would be perfect for Sally, that woman I met three weeks ago at the tractor supply store, and what a great way to keep in touch with her!" Giving gifts is one of my love languages, which is generous and all, but not exactly inexpensive.

I'm fairly good at budgeting. I've kept a personal budget for almost a decade, so my bills always get paid. I put money into savings every paycheck. I contribute to my 401k. On paper, Dave Ramsey would be proud. It's all the other things that I'm bad about. I have no impulse control when it comes to shopping. I have no concept of delayed gratification when it comes to things. I used to be good at keeping track of my grocery spending, but I've gotten lazy. I love comfort food and I love comfort things. So I buy them.

That's gotta staaahhp. 

So, my Embrace the Budget goal for July is to not just stick to my budget, but be kind to my budget. I am lucky and blessed that I make enough money to cover my bills and groceries and still have some to spare. Having some leftover to spare doesn't have to mean leftover to spend. I'm tracking all my purchases in a notebook and totaling them all up by category. Anything that doesn't fall within an already budgeted category shouldn't get purchased. I've given myself a set budget for those extras, like getting takeout or buying my son's birthday presents, so it's not like I'm going to force myself to have no fun. I just won't be allowed to buy every book that gets reviewed on Fresh Air or a new dress every time I have a new event to attend. (I'm not attending events right now anyway! Coronavirus!)

It takes a month to form a habit. (Actually, I have no idea how many days it takes to make a habit.) If I can curb my cashflow, manage my money, and embrace my budget for the month of July, maybe I can do it in August too. And maybe I can do it again in September. I think it's possible! But it starts with baby steps, just like my health plan. A book was mentioned in the Rotary meeting this morning that I immediately looked up on Amazon. But I didn't buy it. I wanted to. I really wanted to. But I didn't. Because I have so many books to read already. I can live without it.

Just as I need to learn to love my body, I need to learn to embrace my budget. So bring it on, July! I can take it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Jump Into July: Love My Body Project

While at the beach this weekend, I asked my husband to take some "pretty pictures" of me in my sundress because I was feeling cute and the sunrise was doing great things to my skin. I told him to take a picture of me that *I* would like, so get those angles right, buddy!

Here's what I got. 

Waveland, MS, June 2020

After seeing this and a dozen other photos that looked roughly the same, I couldn't believe how ugly I looked. I asked for a PRETTY picture, man! His response was that these pictures were gorgeous and he loved this and that about them. All I could see was my fat arms, my protruding belly, my chubby cheeks, my flabby shoulders and my saggy boobs. What on earth was HE seeing? The pink clouds and the calm ocean in the background?

I've had a lifelong problem with my body image. (Surprise! I must be the only human on earth with this issue, right?) I've also had a lifelong issue with food. (Again, 100 points to me for being so unique, right?) I am either starving myself for days on end or gorging myself with goodies. Sometimes I eat healthy and sometimes (most times) I eat garbage. But delicious, tasty, mood-satisfying garbage!

Then I stare at my naked body in the mirror and loathe what I see. My husband can come behind me and see something totally opposite from what I see, and sometimes I believe him, sometimes I don't. I tell him he's biased. I tell him he's looking at me with rose-colored glasses because he loves me. Sometimes I can tell by the hunger in his eyes that he really DOES think I'm a legit snack, but honestly, what is wrong with his eyeballs?

More importantly - what is wrong with ME?

Why am I so obsessed with thinness? Why do I still, after all these years, have this belief that I'm supposed to be bone-thin and stretch-mark free to be beautiful? Indeed, there are beautiful women who are bone-thin and stretch-mark free. But there are also beautiful woman who are full-bodied and soft all around. In fact, I myself am really attracted to women with those sexy curves, just as much as to women who could model for Vogue. If I can see the beauty of others in a variety of bodies, why am I so mean to myself?

Let me also say for the record, that I'm not fishing for compliments here. I'm also not knocking any other body types. There will be people thinner than me that I don't want to insult and there will be people bigger than me that I don't want to insult. I genuinely look at other people and think how beautiful they all are, in every shape and size. I see beauty in so many other bodies. I just can't seem to apply the same principles to my own body. Again, I'm not unique in this; I'm willing to bet 90% or more of you readers (all 6 of you!) have the same issue. Please don't get mad at me if you are bigger or smaller than me for anything I say. Body image is such a sticky subject. It's hard to hit the right tone! I'm just speaking from my own perspective.

A few years ago, I started the Love My Body Project. Along with some very practical disciplines like getting more exercise and eating better, every day I would stand in front of the mirror and tell myself  "I am beautiful." I'd find some feature to praise, however small. And I'd repeat it over and over until I believed it. 

This year has been, well, it's been 2020. What else can I say? I've been working from home for three and a half months. I started out wearing work clothes to keep myself in work mode but soon resorted to jeans and t-shirts. If I have a video conference, I might where a nicer shirt. Today, as I prepare for a day-long virtual meeting, I've put on a dressy blouse paired with shorts. Who's going to see my lower half anyway? 

And makeup? What's makeup? Hair? Why, a dirty bun looks fine through a pixelated screen.

Plus, this working five steps from the kitchen hasn't been good either. I have LEGITIMATELY gained the COVID 15. Like, I weigh exactly 15 lbs more than I did in March when I left the office for the last time. When we do return to office life, I am afraid none of my work clothes will fit anymore. I've been reticent to try them on because the longer I don't know, the longer I can keep eating Spaghettios With Meatballs (mmm) for lunch without guilt. 

So here's where I'm going with all of this.

It's time to kickstart the Love My Body Project again. It's time to take some practical steps to care for the body I'm in but also to love the body I'm in. I'm starting with a small goal of waking up early enough every day this week to walk at least a mile. Maybe I'll even run! But baby steps. Along with that goal, I would like to watch what I eat. I'm still working on what a food plan would look like, but the baby step is being more aware and deliberate about what and when I eat. The third part of that goal is to look at myself every day in the mirror and say "I am beautiful." And repeat it over and over. Not "my husband thinks I'm beautiful" or "my mom thinks I'm beautiful" but "I AM beautiful." 

And in typical Lori fashion, every project I start has to have a name, so the Love My Body Project is just one step in my Jump Into July Project which also includes working on my financial health and my mental health, which I'll dive further into in the next couple of days.

(Getting back into writing, by the way, is part of my mental health improvement. I have missed writing so, so much.)

To kickstart July (though it's technically still June), I woke up this morning and took a walk. I walked 1.8 miles while listening to an audiobook. Granted, when I got home, I was really hungry and did NOT think deliberately before heating up a slice of leftover pizza for my breakfast. Baby steps, y'all! I'll do better at lunch. 

Or maybe since it's still June, I'll finish off that last can of Spaghettios so it's not tempting me tomorrow on July 1st.