Coming soon

Katherine Swims as we know it is coming to an end. I’ve been brainstorming (hard) for the past few days, and in strange spaces of mental quietude a new project and blog idea came to me. It’s a better reflection of who I am now, where I am in life, and what I want to focus my writing on.

This is a happy change, not even a teaspoon bittersweet. I’m looking forward to sharing my new direction with you in the weeks to come. Thanks to all of you who have stuck around and have been reading for the past five years. I share my life and my thoughts partly because I love knowing I’m connecting with many of you.

What’s going on

So much has changed since I last wrote. There have been milestones, like turning 30 in March. That month, I also started a new job—one in which I get to write every single day!—and have quietly put my blogging on the back burner as I focus on a big professional transition.

A woman I greatly admire and respect told me that I should expect to feel out of sorts for a while, that any major life change—new job, marriage, new baby, a move—requires a complete reboot of the way we approach every minute of our lives. Even though the change didn’t feel like a huge one, it has been monumental, and I’ve forgotten my lunch at home on the counter enough times to know that her advice was good. I’m still adjusting to a new schedule, workflow, balance, all of that, and I’m sure I will be for some time. The funny thing about life right now is that I look forward and I can see nothing but more (great!) change in life coming my way.

Behind the scenes, there’s been more going on than most of you know. You can probably guess, but I reached a sort of breaking point in December over what was supposed to be my Christmas vacation. My stress level was simply too high. I couldn’t check out of work, not because I don’t know how, but because I couldn’t do so and keep my head above water at the time. January began with me feeling like I was at absolute rock bottom emotionally, although I didn’t quite know how to express it at the time or even understand how to move forward. I felt like I was left with two paths: pick a new career entirely or find a new job. Luckily, a new opportunity that had been brewing for a couple months came to fruition and I snagged the position.

I’m happy to report that things have turned around in a huge way. I’m feeling much better about my workload and my work itself. While it’s nearly impossible to completely leave work behind at the end of each day, my job no longer bleeds into my life in ways that leave me feeling helpless or overwhelmed. I’m also learning to define and defend that line and balance in order to protect my sensitive self, as I now know I absolutely must.

I’ve also been getting back in the gym somewhat regularly and have focused again on cooking for myself and eating in a way that makes me feel great. Above all else, feeling recommitted to my mental and physical health has left me feeling a sense of renewal that I’ve been craving for a very, very long time.

Other than the great changes happening in my life these days, I’ve also begun to reevaluate my blog in terms of what I share, how much of it I share, and what my focus will be. I’ve written out so many lists of ideas, only to trash them, unsure of what direction I was going in. I even have an idea for a completely different, new blog, that’s more project-focused than this one has been. I still don’t know which direction this blog will head, or if I will pursue that other project, but I hope to be around quite a bit more.

On the other hand, as much as I am eager to share through writing, I find myself more protective of my personal life than ever before, even though I feel more liberated to write as I please and be more direct about my feelings and experiences. Years ago, an ex would routinely ask me to delete things I’d posted on social media or even in my blog, controlling my words to an extent that I continued to censor myself long after the breakup. I spent my early to mid-twenties walking on eggshells, always anticipating a reaction or an outburst to not only my writing, but my words, my actions, anything, really. It has taken me a very long time to get to the point where I no longer feel threatened by what anyone else thinks of me; interestingly enough, I no longer feel the need to share so much.

Maybe this is an older, wiser me protecting the life I’ve built, especially a much happier relationship, but I’m not sure. I will continue to reevaluate this blog and I will continue to write and share in a way that makes me feel more, not less. It’s been cathartic to write all this down and share with you the undercurrent of what’s been driving me lately as well as for the past several months.

In closing this long post, I want to extend a sincere thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of me. You have all encouraged me to take big, terrifying leaps that have resulted in great things, and I’m getting better at recognizing that I deserve happiness and have earned success. From the first big jump where I moved to New Orleans at 18 to attend college, my journey has been one about learning to trust myself, something I will continue to work on in the years to come, and will likely continue to share pieces of here.

Heavy things

My brain has been all over the place lately, and the last thing I want to do when life gets heavy is head to the gym. I’m definitely one of those people who experiences exercise as a form of therapy, but actually getting to the point where I’m lacing up my running shoes can be a completely different story.

Despite my feelings, I pushed through the desire to hibernate until June and logged three really solid lifting sessions last week. I feel great and (is it kind of sad to say this, because it’s like a non-accomplishment?) proud of myself for getting my programming back on track.

Each time I walked into the gym, I felt fatigued and drained, which doesn’t exactly set the stage for greatness. But there’s something almost magical about the way a barbell can lift your mood and transform your outlook. Forgive me for getting deep about lifting weights, here, but it’s absolutely true. When I face heavy things in my everyday life, experiencing a sense of power and control through strength training is the ultimate fix.

The absolute icing on the cake last week was last Thursday, when I’d had a particularly great day in life and was feeling like the queen of the world, and attempted a 300-lb deadlift for fun. I thought I might be able to lift the weight, and my boyfriend, who has an eye for coaching and is an excellent motivator, encouraged me to go for it.

An official 50-lb deadlift PR later, I’m thinking about aiming much higher for my next deadlift PR goal, since my 2014 goal of lifting two plates (315 lbs) is well within reach.

The real world

Oh, New Orleans, you treat me so right.

The past several weeks leading up to Carnival have been nothing short of incredible. I feel so lucky to live in a city with such a vibrant culture and top-notch food, and even luckier to share it with the kind of friends who make my life in New Orleans that much sweeter. It’s almost difficult to express just how magical this city is around Mardi Gras.

Today’s Ash Wednesday, and the season of excess is officially over (until festival season begins, I guess). It’s a good time to get back to work and refocus on resolutions and goals for the new year. Lent really whips me back to that January 1 mentality in the best way possible. Even though the focus of the season is cutting back, returning to basics, and focusing on what matters, there’s a lot of yes involved in the process.

I’m feeling particularly energized, craving more time for myself in the form of runs, swims, and lifting sessions at the gym. I’ve been dreaming nearly every night about swimming—practices, races, swim meets—and have this deeply-rooted need to get back in the pool very soon. The days are longer, too, and the weather has been nearly perfect for post-work runs in a park or at the lakefront. I’m even thinking about signing up for the Crescent City Classic and some smaller races around town. I can’t wait to get back in the kitchen after weeks of eating out, eating out, and indulging in the occasional piece of king cake.

On another note, I’m happy to share with you that I was recently featured in Louisiana’s Health & Fitness Magazine in an article about NOLA bloggers, along with my friends Fred and Jennifer. Talk about motivation to post more frequently!

You have one job

As I’ve mentioned in recent posts, I’ve spent some time recently with books and websites about personality type and happiness. Some things I’ve read, particularly Susan Cain’s magnificent Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, have taught me a great deal about myself.

I also took a legit Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. Over chips and queso, of course.


The greatest takeaway from my reading and research is perhaps this: it’s most important to own who you are one hundred percent. Rubin talks about her own struggles with feeling as if she should read certain types of books, listen to certain types of music, or enjoy things that she feels pressured to like or do.

It turns out she’s not a huge fan of some books that she feels like she should read. Hey, Gretchen, I’ve totally felt that way, too. Taking in her words made me realize that it’s okay for me to be a huge fan of books written by not Shakespeare and that I’m a perfectly fine human being/writer if nonfiction is my jam. No more apologies for liking what I like.

Longtime readers of this blog are familiar with my desire to share things I’ve learned after stumbling upon something novel or cool. I’m not too different in real life, and I’ve been sharing what I’ve learned about introversion, sensitive personality types, and factors driving happiness with anyone who’ll listen.

I recently shared some personality insights with a person I respect and admire, and this person took the opportunity to twist my words around and tell me, bluntly, that my own feelings are (somehow) wrong, and that what I want instead of X is actually Y… that sort of thing.

Um, no.

It was a baffling display of a lack of compassion multiplied by I-know-better-than-you. I wanted to scream. How could you possibly know who I really am? I’m trying to help you understand what I want and need from you!

The conflict-avoiding lady I am, I let it slide. Of course, it’s been bothering me since. It’s had a measurable effect on that relationship; I’ve retreated and will probably never trust that person enough to share my thoughts and feelings again. (Highly sensitive people bruise easily and can take a long time to heal, and that’s okay.)

When someone opens up to you, whether it’s in a business meeting or on a first date or even in unexpected moments of margarita-fueled tenderness, your job is to listen.

Your job is never to judge or to correct, or to offer unsolicited advice.

Maybe I notice this and am bothered by it because I am a person who truly listens rather than talks, but few people actually listen in a way that matters.

Whether I am your client, your friend, or your sister doesn’t matter—what does is that you listen to my words. It’s pretty simple. I think we can all do a better job of this. It’s something I plan to work on this year, because being a better listener makes me a better friend, partner, daughter, writer… the list goes on and on. It’s something that directly contributes to my happiness and yours.


Every year, around this time in January, I like to devote my energy and focus to evaluation. What happened last year, what was good, what was bad, what needs to change, what doesn’t? January offers us a pause between the nonstop pace of the holiday season and anything that’s yet to come in the new year. It’s a blank slate. Life feels new again, and full of possibility. It’s refreshing to think about, isn’t it?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the past year of my life. One quirk of adulthood no one ever talks about is that there always seems to be one part of your life that reduces you to a pile of emotions, no matter how well everything else is going. On the other hand, there’s always one thing in life that’s so great and wonderful, it makes the terrible/painful/blah worth it. Luckily, I’m in the former boat. For the first time in my adult life, things are going the way they should be. I am more confident in my skills, my relationships, and myself than I have ever been, and finally the things that have burdened me so in the past seem to be less weighty or not problems at all.

Vague enough for you?

Anyway, there are so many things I want to improve upon in the coming year, which should be no surprise to you if you’ve been reading my blog for some time. Self-improvement is pretty much the name of my game.

My 2014 goals focused on specific things I wanted to get better at, or things I feel like I needed to fix in a larger sense in my life. Some of those goals came naturally and easily, and are still things I like to work on to this day. Be More Fancy is still one of my favorite projects that’s come from a resolution. I’m also happy to report that I continue to venture into the world of salmon, because it’s delicious and it’s good for me, too. But some other goals, like setting a new powerlifting total, made me think once I’d gotten there or was struggling to get there (see: get fit, in general). I lacked the energy and resolve to continue on the path for longer than a few weeks or months. The drive just wasn’t there. In short, I know now that this is due to some of my personality traits, but also has a lot to do with the fact that I haven’t been considering the why part of my goals.

In addition to the great amounts of research I’ve been doing on personality, motivation, and goal-setting, I’m about to delve into The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. The premise of the book is that we should focus not on what we want to accomplish, but how we want to feel. If the process sucks, why bother with the goal? If the end result isn’t the feeling we wanted, why push?

I love this concept. Love.

While I have yet to map out my core desired feelings and work through Danielle’s book, I do know the main thing I need to focus on for 2015. It’s simple, almost laughably so. It’s my very own happiness.

I’ll detail more about this to come, but I plan to undertake some projects and focus on some things that, quite simply, make me feel happier. It’s not that I am unhappy—not by any means—but that I want to shift my focus from things I don’t truly enjoy, activities that drain me, and habits that are a waste of my time to things that make me feel good.

Greetings from the sideline

In what seems to be a remarkably predictable twist of fate, my January half marathon plans have been set aside. Crushed, actually.

I had a feeling that when I proclaimed how I hadn’t been seriously sick in the fall for the first year in many, many years, I was tempting the universe to slice me a piece of reality. Surely enough, I felt a strange sensation through my respiratory system the week before Thanksgiving that morphed into a head cold, a chest cold, and then a sinus infection, 102-degree fever and all.

After two and a half weeks had passed where I hadn’t logged a single mile, I knew my plans for a January half marathon were off. It was a shaky goal to begin with, but completely missing such a critical chunk of time before a race like that sealed the deal. It’s not going to happen.

Then I had an emotional implosion over the holidays that’s made me question nearly everything, from who am I, really? to what do I want to be or become? and what truly makes me happy? 

Some aspects of my life are so out of whack I can feel the nausea coming on just thinking about them, and some are so ridiculously perfect that I feel guilty about my first-world non-problems.

I’ve started to think about life, happiness, work, hobbies, and personality so differently (more on that soon), all from this place where my emotions and energy have crashed and there’s nothing to do but reflect and rebuild myself from the ground up.

So for now, there will be no plans. I’ll be fine on the morning of January 18, likely buried beneath warm layers in my bed while my planned half carries on in Baton Rouge. It’s not in line with my original intentions, but it’s not bad.

From the beginning

It should come as no surprise to you that I enjoy ritual. The familiarity and structure of a schedule is something I deeply need, almost at a level I feel is required for survival. Each day begins and ends with motions I’ve repeated so many times before, from mascara on my eyelashes in the morning to hand cream soaking into my palms at night.

It was during tonight’s get-ready-for-bed routine that I began to think about routine itself. I thought about blogging. I thought about how I haven’t written anything—not even something non-blog—for a month.

Then I logged in to my WordPress app and discovered it’s actually been more like two months.

What can I say; life gets busy. It’s true. For about the past year I’ve been working harder than I ever have, longer hours and more intense days just to get everything done. It takes a lot of energy. Sometimes it takes most of what I can give in a day.

I like the challenge. Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it.

All that being said, I’ve been stewing on some ideas for blog projects and some frivolous side project-type stuff that could be fun. Whether or not I take the plunge remains to be seen.

I’ve also thought a lot about my goals for this year, and I’m not very forgiving of myself when I realize I’m not doing so well in a few areas. I think it’s time for more structure there, too.

For starters, I’m going to use my deferred registration from last year’s Louisiana Marathon half in January 2015.

I don’t think I’m in need of any specific challenges or goals to feel like I’m back on track. I just need to step back and actually pay more attention to the things that matter to me that I’ve written so much about over the years. I need to resharpen my focus.

Be More Fancy basics: skincare

Disclaimer: Block Island Organics sent me a bottle of their sunscreen to test in exchange for this review.

If you’re a longtime reader or someone who follows me on Pinterest or Twitter, you’ve likely seen me mention Be More Fancy, which is sort of a code name for the operation I started in January 2013 to thoroughly educate myself about all things makeup, hair, skincare, and fashion. It was an attempt to have some fun with all those things and I can honestly say it’s turned into a passion.

One of my main sources of information, inspiration, and trends that I haven’t discussed much is Reddit. Makeupaddiction and skincareaddiction are both excellent places to find tutorials, product reviews, and more from like-minded and often highly experienced and knowledgeable users. The journey into better skincare has been especially rewarding, since at 29 I still struggle with acne (which I’ve been able to pin down as a result of normal hormonal cycles) and have combination skin that can be extremely dry in places and oily in others. And despite my upbringing on the surface of the sun in the southwest, I’ve never really given a second thought to wearing daily sunscreen. Yes, I KNOW how bad this is and how irresponsible it is, especially since I need more than one hand to count the number of people I’ve known who have battled skin cancer, some also having lost that fight.

So I decided to try some new things this summer. Based on some skincareaddiction recommendations, I decided to try out a sheer-finish sunscreen on our first trip to Pensacola of the summer. I was so glad that I opted not to wear contacts to the beach that day, since the sunscreen irritated my eyes beyond words. It was simply awful.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I received an email from Block Island Organics, asking if I’d like to try out their products. I did some research on their website and read about their products and decided to give it a go. I was already in sunscreen no-man’s land and was also looking for something I could wear successfully in the sun without irritating my eyes as well as for everyday wear under makeup. I have primarily worn this sunscreen as an everyday skincare product, since SPF 15, which I received, is too low SPF for fair-skinned me to wear at the beach without having to constantly reapply.

I have been using the Block Island Organics SPF 15 as part of my normal skincare routine for several weeks. Before reviewing this product, I wanted to use it for an ample amount of time to ensure that it wasn’t causing breakouts or negatively affecting my skin in any way.

First things first: what’s the sunscreen like? The formula is thicker than most commercial sunscreens, but is creamy and not greasy. It goes on with a white sheen, indicative of the ingredients that make it work, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. If you plan to use this as an everyday product and are subject to flash photography at any point in your day, you little red carpet-going thing, you, take note. The active ingredients in this product are attributed to camera flashback (you’ve seen those photos of celebrities with what appears to be white powder around their noses, foreheads and eyes, which is setting powder that contains materials that reflect very bright flashes). Since there is approximately zero flash photography of my face on any given day, I was totally fine with this and it certainly wasn’t something I felt I should be concerned about.

So once the sunscreen was on my face, I was delighted to see that the white sheen disappeared pretty quickly and left a slightly tacky texture to my skin, which I was so glad about because it served as a wonderful primer for my foundation. Seriously, this was an excellent product to serve as a base for my makeup, even more so in the summer when I keep my product use to a minimum. Powder mineral foundation is my summertime go-to base, and the Neutrogena loose powder I use has worked incredibly well over the BIOS base.

Another thing I really liked about this product was the scent. While it’s technically unscented, there’s a little bit of a sweet but pleasant smell. It’s so faint that it disappears on your face, and my guess is it’s the aloe in the product, which naturally has a mildly sweet, fresh scent. There are also several other plant extracts that could be at work here. It’s really nice stuff and I’m glad it’s something I can wear to the office and not project I AM WEARING SUNSCREEN, CAN YOU SMELL IT all day.

As far as daily wear goes, I can also attest that this sunscreen did not melt off my face in situations when I was outside in the steamy New Orleans summer weather. There was no sunscreen-melt that irritated my eyes, and it was easy to wear this product with contacts. I was so relieved, especially after my beach day sunscreen disaster.

If you’re in the market for some new skincare products, I’d recommend Block Island Organics without reservation. Besides offering a great product, it’s a family-owned start-up business that’s concerned about the safety and integrity of their products. That’s something I can back. Through the end of this week, you can use the code kswims for 20% off your order.

You are my Liebster

One of my favorite things about the early days of email was those long lists of questions that you had to answer about yourself. Favorite candy bar? Who’s your crush? Least favorite subject in school? Years later, some friends and I found some of those old lists and provided some pretty ridiculous answers. I love a cry-laugh as much as the next girl, and there’s something really fun about answering questions about yourself and your life.

Naturally, I thought it would be fun to answer the questions Erin sent to me via awarding the Liebster Award for my blog. I think this has been on the internet for quite some time, and as such, I’ll leave it open to any of my readers who might want to answer my questions on their own blogs. Consider yourselves tagged (or answer one of my questions in the comments for fun).

The Liebster Award is simple: state 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions of the person who tagged you, and present some bloggers with 11 questions to answer on their own.

Here’s my Q&A, which I thought would be fun to post, since I haven’t done something like this in a very long time.

11 facts about me

  1. My favorite social networks are Pinterest and Instagram. I love social media that shares ideas, experiences, and art.
  2. There are more than 1,300 fonts on my computer. No, YOU have a problem.
  3. I will pick the cherry-flavored Skittles and Starburst out of packages and feed them to you, or throw them in the trash where they belong because they’re disgusting and unfit for human consumption.
  4. My current favorite color is blush pink. I want my entire house to be blush and white.
  5. I’m fascinated with social psychology as well as concepts like motivation and happiness.
  6. As a kid, I absolutely hated chocolate. As an adult, I’ve worked in a chocolate shop and know more about chocolate than I ever thought I would. I unintentionally became a chocolate snob. Current fave: pretty much any dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt.
  7. Lots of people like to say they’re organized, but they have never seen my Outlook folder tree for my work email. I’m also a proponent of inbox zero.
  8. I’m a lifelong journaler.
  9. Most of my college teammates call me Fern. Still.
  10. A good way to get on my bad side is to tell me how to do something. Anything. It doesn’t matter what! I’m pretty independent and do not like being given orders.
  11. My favorite flavor of ice cream at Baskin Robbins is Daiquiri Ice, and has been since I was a little girl. Not sure how my parents were ever like, “Sure, get the mock alcohol-flavored ice cream, young girl,” but they did and the rest is history.

Here are 5 bonus facts from a 2010 post, just for fun.

Erin’s 11 questions

  1. If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
    Provence and the South of France. I’ve never really traveled outside the U.S., with the exception of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. I have ancestral roots in France and I’d love to experience the countryside, culture, and food of those regions and what lies beyond Paris. Plus who doesn’t want to go to the French Riviera?
  2. What is your favorite dish to make for yourself? What do you like to cook for company? Are they the same thing?
    It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I generally gravitate toward food that’s simple in both ingredients and preparation. Things like thick, toasted sourdough with very salty butter or room-temperature brie are favorites of mine. Or a perfectly medium steak with sliced avocado, sea salt, and lime. For guests, I like to show my skills a little more and serve something hearty and comforting. I believe in the power of food to bring us closer and make us feel loved because great food requires a lot of love and care. I’ve made risotto, meatballs and marinara, grits and grillades, bolognese, and other more involved dishes for guests, although I don’t entertain nearly as often as I used to. I also love to bake; I make apple pie for holidays and will always be happy to throw together a batch of cookies or bars.
  3. What is the most difficult dish you’ve ever cooked?
    It’s not the most difficult in the sense that it’s hard, but baking really great homemade bread and pizza is a science that requires patience, practice, and discipline. And for those reasons, I love working at it.
  4. When you’ve had a bad day, what’s the first thing you do when you get home?
    My bichon Pearl is the ultimate comfort. There’s nothing better to soothe my soul after a long day than cuddling with Pearl girl and and trying to avoid her sneaky ninja kisses. Step 2: wine.
  5. When you’re working, what kind of music do you listen to?
    Mostly Thievery Corporation, Beach House, or some other kind of dream-pop or loungey music. My latest guilty pleasure, though, is to turn up the Country Pop station on Pandora and sing along at the top of my lungs while I clean, cook, or paint. Judge away.
  6. Favorite mindless TV show… go!
    Revenge, Say Yes to the Dress, and So You Think You Can Dance probably all tie for first place. I think the hashtag to answer this question is #girl.
  7. If your life was turned into a movie, who would you want to play you?
    This is a tough one. Maybe Winona Ryder, because I’ve been told there’s a resemblance.
  8. If anyone in the world was going to bring you a dish they cooked specifically for you, who would you want? And what would you like for them to make?
    I’d want Ina Garten to cook me something that involves a ton of fresh produce straight from a farm. And cheese. Or a dessert. Or a roasted meat of some kind. Come to think of it, I don’t really care what it would be, because Ina’s food is the epitome of simple, classic, and comforting.
  9. What is the last book you read? Would you recommend it?
    I’ve been reading a lot, so out of everything I’ve read recently, I’d recommend The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The story kept me up past midnight more nights than I care to admit and was wonderfully told. I read it’s becoming a movie, which is unfortunate I think because there’s so much detail and imagery in the book that film won’t capture the same way words did.
  10. What is your favorite hobby?
    Writing is my creative backbone. I enjoy so many creative pursuits like knitting, painting, cooking, but writing is at the heart of who I am and how I best express myself. I’ve also been a huge fan of exercise for pretty much my entire life, and I don’t think that will ever change. I love feeling strong and powerful—that was the best part of being a swimmer, pushing myself as hard as I could and knowing I really excelled at it.
  11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
    Foremost, a wife and mother. I’ve always thought of life as a series of roles (athlete, friend, gracious upstairs neighbor) and these are the next two in line for me. I’ve wanted to experience life from both those perspectives for as long as I can remember. On the professional side, I think I could see myself working independently or with a small company in a marketing or management role. I’m kind of crazy about efficiency and doing things the best way they can possibly be done and I’d like to see where that takes me, along with my marketing education and experience, in the future.

My 11 questions

  1. What was the happiest moment of your life thus far?
  2. Pie or cake?
  3. Have you ever done something that absolutely terrified you?
  4. What’s something you never imagined would happen to you but did?
  5. What’s the best vacation you’ve ever been on?
  6. Where’d you go to high school? *Special New Orleans edition question!
  7. Is there a song that moves you to tears?
  8. Why did you start writing your blog?
  9. What keeps you inspired to continue posting?
  10. If you started another blog, what would the focus be?
  11. In your dream life, what’s the best part of your day?