How do you react to things that are beautiful?

pray.

I’ve been listening to a couple podcasts recently that I LOVE. It’s nice to have people talking in the background while cooking and driving so I don’t feel as alone.

One of them is called the Poco a Poco Podcast (by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal) and the other is the What God is Not Podcast (by Fr. Michael O’Loughlin and Sr. Natalia — two Byzantine Catholics). Obviously they are both centered around Catholic things, but I genuinely think that they are relevant to anyone’s life and point towards universally good things like peace, joy, freedom, and beauty. Highly recommend!

In an episode of What God is Not, Fr. Michael talked about how one reacts to things that are awesome (in the truest sense of it evoking a deep sense of awe). He said that one time when he was overlooking a valley in Joshua Tree National Park, he realized that something so beautiful demands some sort of reaction. It seems impossible to just say, “Oh nice,” and then move on.

He goes on to talk about how his reaction, due to his faith and family upbringing, is to say, “Thank you,” because the awesomeness of nature’s beauty is a gift from God. This stood out to me because that is exactly how I react when I see a sunrise, sunset, stars, or any amazing view; I whisper, “thank You,” to God.

Florida 2017

His question and my question for all of you (whether you are religious or not) is: How do you react to things that are awesomely beautiful? Do you say something? Are you physically or emotionally moved in one way or another? Do you relish the moment in silence?

No one reaction is better than another; I would just love to hear what other people say!

eat.

I felt like a bottomless pit yesterday, so I ate many different snacks, including these Jif Power Ups (pb chocolate chip creamy clusters) that I found randomly in our pantry. And they were GOOD. I never know what to expect with odd snacks like those, but they were perfectly sweet and there was a niiiiice dollop of peanut butter in the middle of each granola cluster. Mmm mm mm.

move.

Rest day yesterday! I walked a bit and stretched at night. My appetite was like that of a growing boy though, so that’s how I ate.

groove.

I got tested for COVID antibodies because there were free tests nearby, so I thought it would be beneficial just to see if I’ve ever been exposed. The poor nurses had quite the trip trying to find my brachial artery, so they stuck me twice in my right arm and once in my left.

I was negative for the antibodies. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Results were supposed to come back within 7 days, but I was surprised to be texted about the results at 9pm!

Happy Friday!

So tell me:

How do you react to beautiful things?

What is your favorite processed snack as of late?

Have you ever gotten tested for COVID antibodies?

Patience, young Padawan.

Tropical Storm Isaias (how do you say this name? eye-ZAY-uhs or ee-sah-EE-ahs?) showed mercy on my area in New York, and I hope that’s the case for you too, wherever you are!

pray.

Definitely praying for healing, restoration, and peace in Beirut after the massive explosion that left dozens dead and thousands injured.

On a personal level, I am praying for a lot of patience as I try to open doors of opportunity and then see many of them close after the attempt… or at least close temporarily due to circumstances. In no way is my situation dire or hopeless, and I for that I consider myself very blessed, but my trust in the process and God’s plan during this time is being tested for sure.

As Yoda would say: “Patience, young Padawan.”

eat.

My favorite way to eat is with my hands. It’s a big part of Laotian (my mom’s ethnicity) food culture to eat things with your hands while sitting on the floor. The rice is so sticky that you HAVE to eat it with your hands. *heart eyes*

So yesterday, my lunch and dinner included things I could eat with my hands (at least partially).

Lunch/Snack: lettuce cups / crackers with tuna salad + a nectarine + dried pineapple + pistachios

Dinner: leftover roasted broccoli (yeah I eat that with my fingers cold and right out of the tupperware) + turkey cheese and spinach rollups + lots of roasted fries with mayo-ketchup sauce

Disclaimer: This particular day sounds kinda like a rabbit food type of day, but I ate a hefty amount of everything and also ate more than just this 🙂

move.

My legs were a little tired and sore, so my moves yesterday included a couple walks (before and after the storm) and some upper body training.

  • 3×2-3 pull-up negatives (8-10 seconds lowering)
  • 3 sets:
    • 12 lateral delt raises
    • 15 KB chest press + leg raise
  • 3×5 pushup negatives (4 seconds lower + 1 second hold)
  • a few sets of an exercise that I got from @daniellegertner

These were all fun and challenging to do!

groove.

I passed the National Physical Therapy Exam! Which means I am now a licensed physical therapist who can practice, baby!

What. a. relief. Now to secure a job 😀

So tell me:

What are some things you need extra patience for these days?

Do you like eating with your hands? Or are you a “use utensils whenever possible” type of person?

Potato is my favorite word in the English language.

Apparently there’s a tropical storm coming today??

My brother texted me yesterday, saying, “Make you sure you have a flashlight, dry foods, and bottled water ready.” So this blog post hopefully is up before any power outage occurs.

I stated in my last post that I want to focus my blog on the founding principles/actions/pillars(?) of this blog — “pray, eat, move, groove.” I am hoping to share more edifying, positive content that is still aware of and honest about current events.

Let’s try it out.

pray.

My friend from Boston University, Denis Father Denis, just got ordained a PRIEST this weekend!!

My uncle is a priest, but Denis is my first close friend who has been ordained a priest, and there are many more to be ordained in the coming years. A lot of my prayers this weekend were for Denis and his family, and also just in gratitude for the gift of good and holy priests.

Despite the horrendous acts of many priests in the Catholic Church (which I responded to a while ago), the role of priests in allowing people to access God in such a real, tangible, and healing way makes me want to internally combust because it’s so amazing. To have young, diverse, intelligent, fun, kind, loving men of great integrity willfully becoming priests today — when they could be doing literally anything else with their lives — is really a miracle, and a much-needed one.

To have people witness with their lives that God is enough is so stunning to me, in the best way. I had happy tears all weekend!

Also praying for my new baby cousin, Luke Sebastian, new baby brother to these cutie patooties, and their rockstar parents!

eat.

Late last week, I made impromptu tuna burgers with what I had on hand. I wish I could tell you the ratios / measurements, but you don’t want to know them anyway, because they were a little too loose… BUT THEY WERE TASTY.

  • canned chunk light tuna (I hate that it’s called chunk light)
  • shredded zucchini (squeezed and drained within paper towels)
  • minced / grated onion
  • an egg
  • mayo (regular or light)
  • sweet relish
  • bread crumbs / cornmeal
  • salt and pepper
  • Philip’s seafood seasoning (can use Old Bay or just omit)

Mix those together, shape them into burger type shapes, slap ’em on a hot pan with olive oil, and cook until golden brown on each side.

I served mine on a toasted potato bun with light mayo, sweet relish, spinach, and melted pepperjack cheese.

It tasted like a poor girl’s crab cake, so I call that a win.

I randomly received a free large bag of russet potatoes (and other fresh vegetables) from the community health center where I got a free COVID test in Boston. I’m not sure why (maybe a farm share??), but I’m not complaining because I have baked loads of steak fries with them!

  • Slice russet potatoes into 1/5-1/4 inch wedges. Lie them flat on a paper towel to absorb some of the natural moisture.
  • Toss wedges in a large bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese (or just salt and pepper if that’s all you have).
  • Lay out seasoned potato wedges in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 40 minutes at 450° F (flipping halfway through).
  • Serve immediately and dip in your fave sauce (I did a mayo-ketchup-garlic salt combo).
  • Leftovers can be reheated via oven at 350° F for 5-10 minutes or a toaster oven if you have one.

I love potatoes. Also, fun fact: potato is my favorite word in the English language (hence the title of this post).

Fun fact #2: This instagram page exists.

move.

I’ve been posting most of my workouts on my Instagram stories (and highlights) the past couple of months if you want to see the video demos! Yesterday was a really fun and quick workout that I did at the park:

3 Rounds:

  • 100-80-60 double unders (100 on the first round, 80 on the second round, 60 on the third round)
  • 10 side shuffle burpees
  • 15 bulgarian split squat hops each leg
  • 10 decline cross knee pushups
  • 12 squat hops to a low step

I ate a lot of cake on Sunday, so this was a little challenging the day after, but I had fun!

groove.

This category will just be my miscellaneous category — dancing, life, work, whatever the groove of life is.

Now that I’m home, I drink cold water from a Brita in the fridge, which I have not had in so long. Usually it’s cool-ish tap water (which is totally fine by me). Nor AC. My body is not used to having external regulators of my temperature (I would just sweat profusely every second of the day in Boston to stay cool). Cold water + cold air means that I sometimes get too cold in a 75° house and need to go outside to warm up LOL.

I hope you all have an excellent Tuesday. Let me know if you enjoy this format of blog post!

So tell me:

Are you in the path of Hurricane / Tropical Storm Isaias? Stay safe if you are!

Have you cried happy tears recently?

What do you dip your french fries in?

What else is new in your life?

To the ladies (and gents) out there trying to get a “summer body”

It’s SWEATING SEASON.

Boston is finally starting to heat up and I am looooooving it. As if I don’t go through laundry quickly enough, I am wearing multiple outfits a day now to accommodate my perpetual sweatiness. Actually, I am perpetually sweaty no matter what season it is, but now it’s profuse perpetual sweatiness.

Not that you care.

Someone on Instagram asked me last week to talk about my fitness journey a little bit, to which I agreed. I have talked about it a few times here on the blog, but I am always happy to share my story (which is ever evolving anyway) with any new friends (hi!).

For those who are returning readers (ily) familiar with my fitness journey, perhaps you can appreciate this post’s current perspective, which is in light of “summer body” season.

I made a little collage comparing pre-college and graduate school Alison. This will serve as a bit of context for the rest of my story.

D i s c l a i m e r: Please understand that every BODY is so uniquely different. There are some of you who currently look more like “pre-college” Alison who are perfectly healthy (i.e., no disordered thoughts around food or exercise, regular menstrual cycle, happy gal). There are some of you who look more like “grad school” Alison but may struggle with disordered eating and exercise, etc. And then there’s every type of body in between and beyond. Please do your best to know thyself. ♥︎

I won’t dive too deeply into how my fitness journey started, because I recently wrote a post about how it started very humbly with a Beyonce dance video and 15 minutes per day on the elliptical. Essentially, I am a naturally lazy person who was motivated to start working out by the will to lose weight in my high school years.

My story follows a relatively common narrative seen in many young women’s lives. She starts having an obsessive eating/exercise disorder because of sports or an innocent (or not) desire to get “toned”/less fat/whatever ➔ she has a deeply cutting revelation of her health state and embarks a long but beautiful push-pull journey of recovering (e.g., needing to take breaks from intense exercise in order to get menstrual cycle back) ➔ sometimes revisits old habits in times of stress and insecurity ➔ overall remains 99.9% recovered.

In no way do I mean to minimize anyone’s unique story, nor my own, but I am simplifying the narrative as a testament to how easy and common it is to fall into the trap of disordered eating and exercise.

(Here is a post about when I felt I truly stopped becoming obsessed with exercise and here is a peek into my undergrad workout routine, which is kind of similar to my routine now, except I am currently more lax.)

In all transparency, I do still go through phases during which I struggle with my body image and wonder if X, Y, or Z will help me feel better about myself. I attribute this to being a human who uses social media. However, fitness has slowly but surely become something that is first and foremost FOR function, mental health, and happiness. It is NOT FOR (or I avoid at all costs to make it for) a certain physique, weight, or “summer body.”

Back to the photo above. I had ripped abs in high school. You could perhaps say I had a nice “summer body.” True, I did a lot of core work, but the main reason my abs were so prominent is that I had very little body fat due to restriction of calories and overexercising.

I was chronically tired and unhappy.

I would like to draw your attention to my wrists in the first photo. I have genetically tiny wrists in the first place, but at that time, even I would think they were on the brink of snapping at some point. I don’t look incredibly unhealthy in the rest of the photo; some would say I look great. I remember people commenting on how fit and strong I looked (again, just because you could SEE my abs). But recalling how skeletal my hands looked, and, above all, recalling how unhappy I felt within, I know now that no external appearance made summer any better for me.

My workouts at that point had to make me want to die or else it wasn’t really worth it. I must admit that I did grow a lot in my general fitness and strength this time, because I pushed myself more than I ever did in my life (remember, I am a naturally lazy person). However, I could only improve to a certain point. There was very little rest and very little fuel to keep me going.

Refer to some of the above posts if you are interested in the interim between pre-college Alison and grad school (current) Alison. It’s been a long journey!

As the photo caption says, I have since gained 40-45 lbs in both fat and muscle (and maybe bone honestly; I was a late bloomer). You can no longer see a 6-pack. Who knows what you can even see; I don’t like posting my midriff on social media now (for modesty reasons, not due to any sort of shame for what my abs do or do not look like).

I am a pear-shaped, lower-body-heavy person who is consequently challenged by any sort of leg raise exercise. People (usually older Asian folks) have commented on how large and bulky I look. I have also gained weight pretty much every single year since I entered college (although my weight is probably at its happy point currently).

However, I am stronger, faster, happier, and healthier than I was in the first two photos, and I genuinely look forward to working out. And this freedom and joy in moving my body is worth so much more than a photo of ripped abs could ever capture.

Regarding my current fitness routine, quarantine has of course made me get creative. But even if the gyms were available, I like to think that my routine and mindset would be the same. 9/10 times I make up my workout the day of, and I frequently modify the workout as I’m doing it, whether it’s too easy or too difficult.

I could not report to you the number of workouts I do every week, because I don’t log them or premeditate the number (although I have been posting some of my workouts on my Instagram story recently to share ideas, so I guess you can check there to approximate).

I have learned a lot from physical therapy school, which helps me to think about different muscle groups and exercises that are for far more than an aesthetic.

I also have come to appreciate intentionality during workouts (thanks to the knowledge of some cool women like Natacha Oceane and Tanya Poppett). In other words, whatever you are doing, do. it. well. If it’s supposed to be explosive, explode for every rep. If it’s supposed to be slow and controlled working every tiny muscle you never knew you had, then do that. If you’re stretching, focus continually on the positioning of your joints. Adjust the reps and time as needed to make it quality > quantity. With this change, every movement session is an opportunity for improvement in fitness (note: not necessarily improvement in physique), because all my brain power is going into something particular, even if it is just the positioning of a stretch, for example.

More intention = better form = better motor patterns = better movement. And get sufficient rest in between! I guess this is how I always wished I approached fitness. If I could give advice to those trying to build up their fitness in a healthy way, this would be it.

So to all the ladies and gents out there tryin’ to get a summer body: I’m not here to tell you to stop your fitness or food regimen to get shredded for the summer. There are plenty of people who can do that happily and healthfully. I will just, as always, implore you to reflect honestly about the motivations, the goal, and how happy and healthy you are in the process.

A practical self-check is asking yourself how much time during the day you spend think about how you can achieve a certain physique goal. I can’t give you a certain percentage of the day, but if it’s “most of the day”, that could indicate the need for re-evaluation of your current habits.

You might not be “one of those people” who can get shredded without compromising mental/physical health. I am here to tell you that I understand the frustration of that deeply, and you are not alone. But the freeing happiness to which you are called is worth more than a “perfect” summer body.

My “summer bod” (whatever that means for 2020) is a short and stocky conglomerate of all the cells that are uniquely me. I’m enjoying fitness right now and I feel rested and well. I hope you feel rested and well, too. Ain’t no time for summer stressing.

(Disclaimer #2: All my recommendations are coming from my own anecdotal experience, as well as from others with whom I have spoken. However, I am not a medical doctor nor an eating disorder specialist. Please speak with other trusted healthcare professionals if you are seeking personalized help. As a resource, my friend Lauren Bickford, RD, aka the Food Fight RD, is a certified intuitive eating counselor.)

38 RANDOM facts about me.

Even those who know me really well probably don’t know a couple of these!

It’s a totally self-indulgent thing to make a video like this, because who cares about 38 facts about another person? But I personally love hearing quick, random tidbits about people’s lives because most of the time, we know a person on social media for who they are NOW, but what are some of the deeper, past and future things? #JUICY

This is the video that inspired this video. Ladies (and gents), I highly recommend Emily Wilson’s content.

*Note: The first fact is a lie though, because I remembered after I made the video that I also have Scrabble Go in addition to Words with Friends on my phone. But I lump them together as essentially the same thing.

Enjoy, if you so choose to watch! This is also an opportunity to see a little bit of Boston as I film many of these facts on my walk through BU’s campus 🙂

Here is the link in case the embedded video isn’t working.

So tell me:

What is 1 (or SEVERAL) random facts about yourself?!