Let’s Be Morbid

I was pleased to see that there had finally been an arrest in a murder case out of New York that I have been following for the last 6 months.

karina-vetrano
Karina Vetrano

Karina Vetrano was a 30-year old woman who had gone out for a late afternoon jog on August 2, 2016 near her home in Queens, New York. When she hadn’t gotten back by a certain time, her family got worried and started looking for her. Hours later they found her body in a weedy park area where she regularly ran (usually with her father). She had been beaten, raped, and strangled.

This case unsettled me more than the average murder partly because she reminded me of my general milieu (30-ish, attractive, fit), but more so because I think random murders that come about from innocuous activities are the most disturbing.

She wasn’t buying drugs or prostituting herself or doing any other thing that’s inherently risky, she just wanted to go for a run outside by herself in her own neighborhood while it was daylight outside. It was around the time where people are starting to commute home from work in New York City of all places – I guess that just goes to show that you’re never really safe anywhere.

And as someone who does the exact same thing from time to time, it certainly opened my eyes up a bit to how vulnerable I make myself in certain situations.

Particularly, a scenario comes to mind from several years ago in one of my old neighborhoods where I used to run regularly along a sidewalk path which formed a perfect 1.5 mile loop. There was about a 5-minute walk from out of my apartment of the time to get to said loop.

One day I was nearing the end of my run and starting to slow down as I approached the turn to get back to my apartment. Walking in the opposite direction was a guy around my age who was pretty unremarkable. We may or may not have made eye contact as we passed and I thought nothing else of him.

I slowed to a walk right after I passed him and soon after turned off the loop onto the street that leads back to my complex. Music helps me greatly in my running endeavors, so I had my iPod blasting away in my ear still as I cooled down. 5 minutes later I had just unlocked the the main door to my building and prepared to spring up the first flight of steps to get to my apartment on the second floor when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

I turned to see the guy I had passed on the tail end of my run not long before. He wanted to know if I had a boyfriend. I didn’t, but I wasn’t interested so I told him I did. He shied away and left after that and it was no harm, no foul.

However, a couple of things did occur to me after the fact that were unsettling:

  1. He had followed me home and I was completely unaware he was behind me during the whole 5 or so minutes it took for me to get there.
  2. He wasn’t just behind me, he was RIGHT behind me. I know this because the main door to my building was one of those that closed on its own and locked behind you after you were inside. As he was able to catch the door before it closed and locked,  he had to have been REALLY close behind me.

Luckily, this turned out to be an innocuous encounter, but if he had had nefarious intentions I would’ve been at a severe disadvantage. I do keep a firearm or two within reach in my house but I would’ve had to get to it first which would’ve been quite the challenge maybe.

Even still, there have been many more occasions that I have run outside with music in my ears, sometimes in the pre-dawn hours when it’s dark out and it feels like I’m the only one in the world awake at that hour. If I think of it, I put a pocketknife in my sports bra just in case, but I’m not sure how much that would help if someone were to roll up behind me really quickly and snatch me up into a van or to hit me over the head with something. I wouldn’t even hear them coming.

In any case, R.I.P. Karina. I just think that’s really sad.

 

Quitbit

I guess I’ve been blessed to have always been pretty lean. I’ve never been grossly overweight or had any weight struggles. I’d always been used to being able to eat pretty much as I pleased without consequence. But there was a period starting maybe around 2010, as I delved deeper into my 20s, where my weight started to creep up without me realizing it. My metabolism started being a little less enthusiastic than it used to be, yet since I didn’t adjust my eating habits accordingly, little by little I ended up somewhat pudgy before I even knew it.

It was around late 2013 when I realized that my weight was unacceptable and enacted a series of general lifestyle changes that, without me really even trying, melted off 20 pounds pretty quickly. For instance, my alcoholic beverage preference used to be a madras, which is vodka and cranberry juice with a splash of orange juice. Very tasty, but sugary and probably somewhere in the 150 calorie range in a tall glass. On some nights out where I might have 4 to 6 of those over as many hours…that’s 600 to 900 calories for alcohol alone on TOP of food and other beverages over the course of the day. Yikes.

So I ditched those and adjusted my taste buds to regular vodka and club soda which research told me was pretty much the cleanest kind of cocktail you can drink. Unflavored vodka has minimal calories (maybe about 70 – 90 for 1.5 oz depending on the brand) and club soda has 0 calories. Essentially, it’s diluted vodka masked by carbonation. I had to acquire the taste for it, but I eventually did and it’s still my go-to today.

Other things like, you know, not crushing whole bottles of wine while watching movies at home and weaning myself off McDonald’s and other assorted fast foods helped a lot as well. Over a series of months, the weight came off pretty easily.

It’s funny how weight works going both ways – gaining and losing both occur in subtle increments that are hard to notice in the mirror every day. It really only occurred to me that I was bigger than I wanted to be when I started noticing in stores that I had to delve deeper into piles of pants to get to bigger sizes. I only realized I was losing when those same pants started getting looser on my waist and people started asking me “how I did it” and commenting on my figure favorably.

So since 2014, I’ve been maintaining a tolerable weight range that I guess still keeps me on the lean side (although I’ve been wanting to lose another 10 or so pounds, like, forever). It was then that my roommate recommended MyFitnessPal to me. I immediately took to it, finding it helpful  to track what I ate because I think one of the biggest problems people have with food and diets and weight these days is that they probably don’t realize how much they are actually eating, calorie- and portion-wise.

MyFitnessPal put a lot of things in perspective. I realized in trying to limit myself to a mere 1,200 calories a day that I had previously been in the habit of eating half of that allowance for just breakfast alone on some days. That worked fine in my teens and early 20s…not so much now. Calories became a kind of currency: if I “spend” (eat) more now, then I have less for later. It helped me to really think about what I was putting in my body and if it was really worth the satisfaction (or regret).

Shortly after I started using MyFitnessPal, I was introduced to the concept of the Fitbit and thought it would be the most excellent thing in the world to be able to track steps and sync it to MyFitnessPal so I can get the total picture of what I am eating and burning daily. I went out and bought one immediately and was thus indoctrinated into the world of micromanaging steps and miles and goals all day, every day. I became obsessed with consulting it many times throughout the day to see what I had burned so far, and would feel a sense of genuine sense of accomplishment when I felt it buzzing on my wrist to announce that my goal had been met for the day. I had been an avid disciple for over 2 years.

That is, until a month ago. It was actually an inadvertent hiatus at first: I woke up one Sunday morning from a Saturday night out to find that my tracker chip was missing from the wristband. Oh no! I assumed it had slipped out somewhere during my drunken wanderings the night before. Darn.

Now, this wasn’t the first time I’d gone without my Fitbit for a small period of time. Any time I went away for vacation I didn’t bother wearing it because I already knew lots of drinking and eating of things not easily quantifiable would occur and vacations are supposed to be a break away from real life, to include dieting as well as work, drama, stress, etc. Even still, after I was done with these vacations I’d return home and eagerly restore my Fitbit to my wrist.

But this was my first real break from Fitbit in the midst of my normal routine. I’d worn it faithfully up until then.And if I hadn’t lost it, I probably would’ve kept wearing it. But I found myself for some reason not that enthusiastic about the prospect of buying another one. I’d long since felt like I should upgrade (I have the same Fitbit Flex from 2014), so it wasn’t so much the price. It was more so that I’d been wearing it for so long that I didn’t know what life was without it and wasn’t sure if it was really still beneficial to me or if I was just attached to it due to longevity. To find out, I decided to give things a whirl without it for a few days to see how much it still mattered.

And wouldn’t you know it…I survived. I didn’t binge eat. I didn’t gain 100 pounds. I worked out as normal. I moved as normal. And I found that I didn’t particularly miss it.

I ended up finding it under my bed maybe a week later. My initial instinct was to charge it up and to put it right back on, but having it back really only emphasized how much I hadn’t missed it while I thought it was lost. When it was new and novel, it was neat to see how many steps I’d taken in a day and how many calories I’d burned, but when I thought about some things, it no longer seemed really pertinent. For instance…

A) I burned “X” amount of calories today…and so what?

I already know that I could be in a coma and still burn somewhere around 1,400 calories for the day  because that’s my approximate Basal Metabolic Rate. The Fitbit has been useful in demonstrating to me that on any day that I’m not in a coma or strictly lazing away in bed, I’m going to end up burning somewhere in the 1,900 – 2,000 calorie range. I’ll hit 2,000 – 2,200 if I’m on the upper end of the activity spectrum. And if I actually work out or do an extraordinary amount of walking for some reason, I’ll end up in the 2,200 – 2,300 calorie range. It’s going to be different every day (and even Fitbit numbers are only an estimate), but the exact amount is really inconsequential, because…

B) Activity is only 20% of the battle…diet is 80%.

I know that for myself, it’s not my activity that I need to monitor so closely, it’s my diet. I lose and gain weight by eating better or eating poorly; actual activity level is not really germane because that’s always going to vary. Some days I will be more active, some days I will be less active. My activity level will always be a moving target, but setting limits on my actual eating is something I can control to a tee. I have to limit myself to a certain amount of calories whether I want to lose or maintain my weight; my actual expenditure level doesn’t really matter.

C) I don’t need the encouragement.

I’m not a sedentary person. I hit the gym several times a week and while my career role does involve computer work for a lot of the day, I have to do a bit of roaming sometimes as well. When I’m off, I’m social and like to be out and about more often than not, so I’m a pretty active person as it is and thus I don’t need a Fitbit or anything else to tell me to move. I’ll either take so many steps or I won’t, but I don’t feel that I’m in such a position as to “have” to move more or to take a certain amount of steps in a day. Most times when I have not burned as much as I had hoped at any given point in the day, my solution was hardly ever to move more so much as it was to eat less. Because again, I’m a firm believer that diet > exercise.

And thus, adios to Fitbit for me. It is now tucked safely away in a drawer and has been for several weeks. It was definitely helpful in a lot of ways, but I realized I didn’t want to spend my whole life tethered to it. I feel like the Fitbit, or any activity tracker, should be like a set of training wheels – a temporary aid to help you get on track. You use them for a while to help encourage you to engage in healthier habits, but there should come a point eventually when these practiced habits become second nature and you don’t need them anymore. I reached that point.

In the past several weeks, since I made a more active commitment toward getting these final 10 or so pounds off once and for all, I’ve lost 5, sans Fitbit. And I’ve barely even been tracking in MyFitnessPal these days either. That’s not to say that I don’t still find the latter kind of helpful, but my day-to-day dietary patterns don’t vary much and so I don’t really need to specifically track each specimen of food to know around about how much I’ve ingested for a day. But that habit will finally fade away one day too.

Motion in the Ocean

The weekend before this past one I met Carly down at the beach. She and her mom had rented a condo for the week and she mentioned a little while ago that I could come down if I wanted, so I did. She and her mom rented the condo for Saturday to Saturday; I ended up going down a day early since my Friday was free and staying with them until Tuesday night.

Friday night was tricky because trying to find last-minute lodging for just the one night in an area that already demonstrates an impressive penchant for price-gouging  was not fiscally optimal. I was not keen on spending $200.00 for what would essentially amount to dropping my bag off, going out for the evening, coming back home drunk to crash and then leaving the next morning to meet Carly and her mom.

And thus, this was my first adventure with Airbnb. I had signed up to explore my options once in the past, but I had never actually patronized it before. It didn’t take me long to find a satisfactorily priced room a mere 20 minutes from town which was fine for my purposes. Just a quick Uber ride away to the bars. The room was $85.00 plus a $10.00 fee which put me at under $100.00, so that worked. Even with the cost of Ubering, it was still cheaper than a hotel overall.

The host was a single girl and her invalid dog (recent ACL surgery) who was very communicative in the days beforehand to welcome me and to make sure I found it okay. And I did. It was an older house, but well-kept and clean and suitable for my needs. The host was friendly and inviting. The room worked well for its purpose and there were no issues, but it did feel a bit uncomfortable being a guest in a stranger’s house while they are there. I interacted with her for a total of less than 10 minutes overall – when I got there, when I was headed out for the night, and then in the morning – and she was definitely nice, but it was just the slightest bit awkward. I’m generally a pretty fastidious person when it comes to neatness and cleanliness, but I felt an extra bit of obligation and pressure to leave as little mess and to make my presence as unnoticeable as possible. But all-in-all, it was good in a pinch. It’s probably better when you’re renting a spot that the owner doesn’t occupy. And what’s even better than all of that is not being the person who rents his/her space out to strangers – there’s no way in hell I could ever do that.

In any case, I went out to a couple of seaside bars for the night, got inebriated, and came home and slept until the mid-morning as planned. I explored the downtown area of the host’s town for a little while and then made my way to Carly’s condo.

As it happened, Scout was in town as well. He and his family had come down to a nearby city the day before to visit a son at college, and then on Saturday he would be sending his family home and staying over to hang out with some military buddies. We were in sporadic contact throughout the day and then once Carly, her mom, and I headed out for the evening, I told him where we were and he eventually came and met us with one of his buddies, Jake.

A glorious night of drinking and general camaraderie ensued. I’d met Carly’s mom before but had never drank with her – she’s pretty young-spirited and fun to hang out with. She got her drink on like the rest of us and really meshed with Scout and Jake. Carly had only hung out with Scout with me once, and that was WAAAAY back in 2014 when he and I first met, so it was great for us to all be able to interact together. At one point Scout asked me to ask Carly if she was feeling Jake or not. She said she wasn’t and I told Scout so but something changed at some point because when it started getting late we put her mom in a cab back to the condo and we went to chill with Jake and Scout in their hotel room.

Sooner or later Carly passed out with Jake in his bed, and thus Scout and I took the opportunity to have college-style sex (you know…the kind when other people are in the room) and then we followed suit with the sleep. We all woke up pretty early the next morning and spent a couple of hours fluctuating between conversations, sleep, and more sex (at least on Scout and I’s part). Before we left, Jake and Carly exchanged numbers and I hugged and kissed Scout goodbye thinking that he would be on his way back home after he spent some of the day with his son. Commence the Uber of shame.

Carly and I spent most of the day lying out by the pool during which she got several texts from Jake indicating that he wanted to hang out that night (even though he had to commute back home at some point to work the next morning). I would eventually discover through their conversation and then my own inquiries of Scout that Scout actually wasn’t leaving that day, but staying over until Monday. I hadn’t realized that before…I thought he was leaving after he spent the day with his son. I was happy to hear it though, because that meant another night with him.

Carly and I ventured out sans-mom in the early evening, not really sure when Jake and Scout would be showing up. We ended up hanging out with a nice group of guys who never let us pay for a sole drink the whole night no matter how much we tried. We actually left with them briefly to go to another bar, but we came back to the original one once one of their friends, who was a total dick, got kicked out of the second one somehow literally within 2 minutes of us getting there.

My memory starts fading as to exactly when Jake and Scout showed back up (this was vacation drinking we’re talking about, after all…not the run-of-the-mill sort). Per my texts, it was apparently close to 10:30 p.m., but I don’t really remember much about interacting with them at the bar. I vaguely remember us going our separate ways at some point – Jake and Carly back to the condo, me and Scout back to his hotel – and imploring Scout to order me a pizza, which I may or may not have eaten any of before passing out. The next thing I knew, it was 4 in the morning and I woke up in bed alone. I looked to the other bed, which had previously been Jake’s, and saw a figure there that I assumed to be him. But where was Scout? WTF! I found my phone and scribbled out a text: Where are you? Then I remembered the pizza and walked to the far side of the room to take a bite of a slice. When I was coming back over toward my bed, I looked to the shadowy figure in the other one and realized that it was, in fact, Scout. Oh. When I crawled into bed with him and asked why he slept apart from me, he said it was because I had passed out in the other bed diagonally with my limbs all askew, leaving him no room to get in. My bad.

We snuggled for the rest of the night, woke up the next morning and got some quick sex in, and then I texted Carly with my ETA and told her to prepare some sandwiches and liquor so that we could go to the beach. I helped Scout pack (or really, just oversaw it so that he was sure he didn’t leave anything behind), and then he drove me back to Carly’s and we hugged and kissed goodbye for real.

Carly and I did the beach thing for a little while, during which I had a visit from my old friend, Stallion, who works over that way now. I walked a little bit off the beach to meet him at his car on his way to a meeting. I hadn’t seen him in years. I’ve changed quite a bit physically since we last saw each other,which was obviously to his pleasant surprise. He didn’t look so bad himself. We had tentative plans to meet for lunch the next day, but that never came to fruition. If I had to take a gander, I’d say that was because he started sending me texts later that Monday night about how he was “thinking about me” and just generally flirty sentiments that made it obvious that he was hoping we’d hook up and I was so not even remotely into that with him. Ew.

Back to Monday: I noticed via Facebook that some acquaintances of ours were down at the beach too, so I got in contact with them and Carly and mom and I met them later in the evening for a grand drunken extravaganza. Carly ended up falling on the dance floor. I felt bad for laughing (then and still now when I think about it), but it was hilarious. And also our cue to exit. Poor thing…I keep telling that girl to stop with those high heels if she knows she’s going to get tipsy (she also fell Saturday night too in front of Jake and Scout).

We had a low-key Tuesday, as I had to hit the road at some point, which ended up being later rather than sooner. I didn’t make it home until after 10 p.m. but it was worth it. I feel bad because my aunt lives not far from the beach, on the way back to my house, and I told her I’d stop by to see her on my way back but I left too late to do that and didn’t call or anything. Ugh.

Not much to report for the rest of last week. I haven’t heard from or talked to anyone substantial. Friday night I was invited out to happy hour by a coworker. I hadn’t planned on going out but I decided to go for it since I knew I was staying in for most of the weekend. I went and saw some old friends and had a good time. Elliot ending up coming out and being quite friendly. Definitely not the way he is over text. But later as he got drunker he started talking about how in love he is with his girlfriend. *Vomit* Not that I care as I’m not hugely into him like that as it stands. Okay…I care a little. But not, like, significantly. Whatever.

The majority of my Saturday consisted of vodka and season 2 of Narcos on Netflix, which was another Grand Slam.

On Sunday, my friend Hannah and I met at the mall and I spent about $500.00 on clothes that I didn’t need and can barely fit in my closet. But it was retail therapy for Hannah’s benefit because she’s going through a tough situation concerning her husband and his evil ex-wife. So, I think that’s excusable although I really don’t need to buy any more clothes for the rest of the year.

Hannah is going with a group of girls back to the beach next weekend to HER condo, and I’ve been invited along. I wasn’t sure how in the mood I was for it, but she sounded disappointed when she sensed my hesitation about it, so I told her I would come. So first thing Friday after work, I’m heading down again. Just until Sunday this time. I’m sure more drunken antics will ensure.

In the meantime, I’m 5 pounds down at least.