Saturday, August 19, 2017

Fed up!

Quite literally, actually.

It was exactly eight years ago that I was completely fed up with being obese and miserable in my own body.

I hated waking up every day with a plan to lose the weight, and then caving before I even made it through dinner (or lunch... or breakfast...).

I hated feeling out of breath all the time, even when I was just talking on the phone or blow drying my hair.

I hated shopping, because it just reminded me of how big I was and that I would never be able to wear cute clothes.

I hated getting on the scale when I went to the doctor's office, knowing that the doctor would give me the same talk that I'd heard a thousand times before.

I hated that I couldn't be active with my boys.

I hated going to bed so full after a binge that I was in pain and swore I would never do it again.

I hated that I never felt worthy of doing my hair or make-up, and that I felt like there was no point to try to make myself look nice.

I hated that every single food decision was a battle.

I hated that I always lost the battle.

I hated that I could never get comfortable and that I would have to shift positions every minute to keep my limbs from falling asleep.

I hated that I avoided the camera at all costs and that there are so few pictures of me from that time.

I hated that I thought about food more than I thought about anything else.

I hated weighing more than my husband.

I hated that I couldn't cross my legs.

I hated struggling to tie my shoes, and eventually asking Jerry to help me.

I hated feeling like people were judging me for my weight every time I went in public.

I hated overhearing fat jokes about me, especially from a cousin at a family Christmas party.

Most of all, I hated myself for not having control of my own body and taking the initiative to lose the weight and be healthy.

All of these things finally reached a peak on August 19, 2009, and I was just done. Fed up! I made a very simple plan--to measure out and keep track of portions so that I didn't eat too much. That was it-- I didn't vow to change the foods I ate, or exercise (something I also hated), or anything else. The only change I was going to make was one I could live with: eat less food. I tried to make it as easy as possible.

It ended up being far from easy, but it worked. I dropped weight every week, and I was still eating my favorite foods. I made up my own rules as I went, modifying things to fit into my lifestyle.

Eight years ago, if you had asked me what I thought my life would be like in eight years, I would have said that it would be very much like it was that day, and all the days leading up to it. I never would have guessed that I would be where I am today!

It's kind of overwhelming to think of all the things that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't lost the weight. I wrote a list of the highlights since losing the weight, and it's just a small fraction of the impact my weight loss has had on my life. I also wrote a list of 100 things that changed after I lost 100 pounds. In addition to the all of the things that have happened, my weight loss played a part in meeting some of my very best friends.

One day, I tried to think of the actual magnitude of my weight loss. In just a small example: I lost the weight; I started writing Runs for Cookies; I formed a Ragnar Relay team made up of several of my blog readers who had lost an average of 100 pounds each; one of them was a filmmaker; she and her partner made a documentary about our team; the documentary and the team inspired people to start their own weight loss/running journeys; the Facebook group now has over 25,000 people; if any of those people inspired others (they certainly have!) then those people were affected as well. It's basically this huge snowball effect, and it's kind of mind-blowing.

All because I was fed up one day.

I was fed up enough that I made a small change by eating less food. And that change turned into more changes, which then had enormous impacts on myself and others.

I love that I am confident in myself.

I love not worrying about finding cute clothes in my size.

I love that I don't think about food all day.

I love that I feel sexy for my husband.

I love that I set a good example for my kids.

I love being able to run, bike, hike, swim, play, jump, stretch, and bend over.

I love not worrying about whether I will fit on an amusement park ride.

I love that I know what it feels like to be obese, and I have empathy for others.

I love being in photographs and not deleting them if they aren't flattering.

I love that my size doesn't hold me back from doing things I want to do.

I love that I am physically comfortable in my body.

I love not worrying about people judging me for my weight.

I love that my weight no longer stops me from being myself.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Leaving food on the plate

Thank you all for the anniversary wishes! It's hard to believe it's been 14 years; but on the other hand, I can't really remember what life was like before Jerry. It feels like we've always been together.

Runs for Cookies

Yesterday, we had our first cross country practice. There are only two weeks until school starts! Renee and I are coaching third through sixth grade again. The sixth graders can choose to be on our team or on the more competitive middle school team (sixth through eighth grade). Eli wanted to be on our team again, which makes me happy.

I've been curious how Eli's running would go since he completed physical therapy and started wearing orthotics. The reason we even brought him to the orthopedist was because his ankles were always hurting him when he did physical activity (especially running). I also noticed that his gait was odd when running.

He went to physical therapy twice a week for about six weeks, and the measurements that the PT took improved quite a bit in that time. He has been feeling much better, but hadn't tried running yet. I was really hoping that he would be able to run without any difficulty; last year, he wanted to run more, but his ankles hurt all the time.

Anyway, we met at the high school track yesterday instead of the place that we have always had practice before. At the first practice, we always do a time trial--a one-mile run as fast as they are able. We like to see how fast they can complete a mile on Day 1 so that we can compare it to the end of the season when we'll do another time trial. Our goal is for everyone to improve their own times.

We have a great group of kids again this year--a lot of kids returned from last year, but we had several new faces, too. I blew the whistle to start the time trial, and the kids were off. My biggest concern was actually Eli--I was just hoping more than anything that he didn't have problems with his ankles after all he'd been through to correct the problem. He seemed to be doing really well!

I was super impressed with the kids' times. Usually, there are a lot of 11-12:00 minute milers on the first day; but yesterday, they all ran under 10:00! They are going to get pretty speedy throughout the season.

I was mostly shocked by Eli--he finished in 8:40! That was his fastest mile EVER, and he hasn't run at all since our last cross country season. He didn't have any pain at all, and I noticed his gait is much better. I can't believe what a huge difference the physical therapy made.

One of the dads of the kids on my team was actually a high school teacher of mine, as well as the DJ at Jerry's and my wedding. I chatted with him yesterday, and reminded him that the weekend of the blackout was when he DJ'ed for our wedding. Like me, he cannot believe it's been 14 years.

I did remember to do my Wednesday Weigh-in, even though I could have sworn all day long that it was Friday.

Another week of successfully maintaining my weight. It seems my body really likes this weight range of 131-134. I'm thinking that this is my body's "set point" (basically the weight that my body wants to be and functions best at). I'm excited that maintenance is going so well right now! I'm still very cautious about getting too excited, because I've been here before, and I know how easy it is to gain it back.

Somehow, I feel like this time is different. I'm finally not bouncing between mania and depression, so my emotional eating has stopped. I have energy and I've been staying busy, so I'm not eating out of boredom. The strangest thing to me is that I'm maintaining without counting calories or points, or anything else. I'm just developing good habits (which I'll write an example of below).

Today, to celebrate our anniversary, we decided to take the kids out to dinner. We planned all month for it, in order to stick to our budget, and we ate cheap meals for the last two weeks to be able to squeeze in a restaurant meal this month. I literally hadn't eaten a restaurant meal (even fast food) since May. I don't know if I've ever gone that long in my life without dining out (or at least ordering pizza)!

We went to Amigos, a Mexican restaurant that Jerry and I used to go to all the time when we were dating. I ordered flautas, which is what I've always gotten there, and they were absolutely delicious--the best they've ever tasted.

Amigos Flautas

I noticed something during dinner that I thought was worth mentioning here. There are three flautas, and after eating two and a half, I realized that the last one just didn't taste as good as the first. The first bite that I took was AMAZING. The second flauta was still very good. And halfway through the third, I realized that I was just eating it because it was there, but it didn't really taste like much.

It hit me that it's that same feeling I get when I eat at home and I stop midway through. It's not that I feel "full"; but when I've had enough, the food stops tasting as good. So, I stop eating it. In the past, I would have finished it just because it was there and leaving a few bites wasn't going to make a big difference in calories anyway.

When I was in Oregon, I ate out at least twice a day, but I didn't gain weight. I stopped eating when the food stopped tasting as good as the first few bites. I always wondered how people could leave food on their plates and not obsess over eating more. Now that I've realized that the food doesn't taste as good, it's so much easier to leave some on my plate. (I'd read about this in books about intuitive eating, but it has finally clicked for me.)

Later, when we got home, my stomach was not happy with me. Ugh, after not eating restaurant food for so long, my body just wasn't tolerating it. I had a stomachache all evening, and it kind of turned me off to wanting to eat out instead of cooking. My hands feel very puffy, too, from all the sodium I'm sure I consumed. It was worth it for a once-in-a-while meal, though--well, at least the first flauta was! ;)

I'm going to try to start paying attention to some other changes that I've made or habits that I've formed and write about it next week. I'm actually curious myself!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Favorite Happy/Sad/Funny Moments of Marriage

Today, Jerry and I have been married for 14 years. It feels like it just flew by; but on the other hand, I can't really remember what it was like before. We've been together for over 18 years now--more than half my life! When I was young, and even a teen, I remember some of my cousins celebrating 10-year wedding anniversaries, and I thought that was such a long time.

On August 16, 2003, I couldn't even imagine what Jerry and I would be like 10 years down the road; but I never worried about it. On the day of our wedding, I was terrified of the wedding itself; but there was never a question in my mind that I was doing the right thing. While the wedding was an introvert's nightmare, the marriage didn't scare me at all.

As corny as it is, I thought I'd write 14 of my favorite memories of Jerry and me in honor of our 14th wedding anniversary. Jerry is the master of corniness, so he will actually really love this post ;)  (For our anniversary this year, he wrote me a list of 52 reasons why he loves me--good thing I didn't do a "14 Reasons Why I Love You" list.)

Here goes... 14 Favorite Memories of Us

1. When I was pregnant with Noah--not far along, just a couple of months--I went to the bathroom and noticed that I was spotting a little. My mom had a miscarriage with her first pregnancy, and I was so upset that the same was happening to me. The doctor's office was closed, and there wasn't anything they would have been able to do anyway, since I was just a couple of months along.

I was really worried and upset, and just didn't want to do anything. Jerry had no idea what to do either, and to make me feel better, he decided to make dinner. Jerry is FAR from being a chef--he is the type that can somehow manage to burn water. He didn't even ask me any questions; he just picked a recipe from one of the three cookbooks we had at the time, and tried to follow it.

It was a casserole of chicken, egg noodles, and a creamy, cheesy sauce. He dished each of us up a bowl of it, and told me it was "Jerry's Chicken Casserole Surprise". I asked him what the surprise part was, and he responded, "I don't know, I thought that all casseroles are called 'something-something-surprise.'"

At the time, I couldn't really eat it. I was just too worried about the baby, and I picked at the casserole. I can remember it so well, sitting at the table with Jerry after having cried for a couple of hours, and feeling the love from him. He had no idea how to help me, but he tried by making a casserole.

Thankfully, nothing was wrong with my pregnancy, and Noah was born the following July, very healthy. A couple of times since then, when my depression was at its worst, Jerry pulled that recipe out and cooked dinner. It is the ultimate comfort food to me.  

2. When we brought Noah home from the hospital, Jerry had a week off of work. He had been working the night shift, so he was used to staying up all night; which was very convenient for me, because he could take care of Noah during the night and I could actually get some sleep. Anyway, when it was time for Jerry to go back to work, we realized at the same time that Noah had slept in our arms the entire week! Since one of us was always awake, we were always holding him. We exchanged a look that basically said, "What now?" Thankfully, Noah was able to sleep in a crib ;) 

3. One October after we'd had a stupid argument over something I don't remember, we were driving in silence when we came to an intersection where you could either turn right or turn left. There was a sign directly ahead of us that said, "Pumpkins" with an arrow on it to show which way to turn. But the sign was hung upside-down (when it was right side up, the arrow pointed right; upside down, the arrow pointed left. We didn't know if it being upside down was deliberate). I said, "Which way do you think the pumpkins are?" and we both burst out laughing. We laughed so hard that we were wheezing and gasping for breath. Ever since then, whenever we get to that intersection, one of us asks which way to the pumpkins.

4. We used to play a game in college using Post-It notes, and we called it the "Forehead Game". We would secretly write a famous/infamous/celebrity person's name down on a Post-It, and then stick it on someone else's forehead (after having a few drinks, of course!). Once we all had names on our foreheads, we took turns asking yes or no questions to figure out who we were.

I was always terrible at that game, because I don't know anything about celebrities. I am the absolute worst with names, too--I can watch an entire series of a show and not be able to name the main characters, let alone the actors. One time, I was asking questions for what felt like a hundred years, and everyone else had already guessed theirs. I was getting impatient and mad at Jerry for picking something so hard for me to guess; and finally, I just grabbed the Post-It off of my forehead and looked... "Eric Estrada". Then, I shouted some words at the top of my lungs that my friends still tease me about to this day:


Hahaha, I still think Jerry purposely picked someone that he knew I wouldn't know. He wasn't allowed to write my Post-It for the forehead game after that ;) 

5. When I was pregnant with Eli, I craved milkshakes like crazy (in other words, I was my normal self). Jerry and I were on our way home from the movies, and drove though McDonald's to get milkshakes. We each ordered a large, and they were enormous. When we got close to home, Jerry set his shake down in the cup holder and said, "Man! How fat does someone have to be to finish an entire large milkshake from McDonald's?!" And right as he said that, my straw started making that loud gurgling noise at the bottom of my cup as I finished off the shake. My kids love this story ;) What can I say? My stomach is bottomless when it comes to ice cream.

6. Run/walking the Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon with Jerry in 2015 was one of the funnest times we've ever had together. We took it very easy, running and walking whenever we wanted (no set intervals). We people-watched, read funny signs, talked and laughed, and even took a shot of bourbon on the course together. It was so much fun!

7. Driving up to Cadillac, Michigan for a short weekend trip in July 2016 was one of the best times we've had as a couple. I made a fun playlist for the car, and we sang along loudly to old school music. We'd left at around 8:00 pm (I was going through a very rough period with my depression, and we had decided to cancel the trip the day before. Then, the following evening, I changed my mind and we headed up there. We arrived at 11:00 pm, and then we had a blast the following day. One of my favorite trips!

8. When I was barely pregnant with Noah (actually, I think it was a follow up after the spotting I'd had), I went to my OB's office for an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay. Jerry came with me, and the doctor turned on the ultrasound. He said everything looked fine. Jerry was looking at the screen, and said, "Ohmygod, I can see it! Look! There's it's eye! It's blinking!" My doctor turned his head a little because he was clearly trying not to laugh--the only thing on the ultrasound that was visible was a small black area that was shaped like a grape. The doctor said it was the "egg sac" and you couldn't see the baby yet. Jerry thought the sac was the baby's eye. It was adorable and hilarious at the same time!

9. When my kids were little, I went to a splash fountain with a friend so that our kids could play in the water. Jerry stopped by there after work to say hi, and the kids were excited to see him. Without hesitation, he jumped into the fountain, fully clothed, and laid down on his back. He got totally soaked! The kids thought it was hilarious. In that moment, I remember thinking how lucky the kids are to have such a fun, carefree dad.

10. A couple of years after we moved into our house, we needed a cable guy to come fix some problem we were having with the TV. When he walked into the living room, he gestured toward the TV and said, "Is that your TV?" We thought that was such a funny questions--obviously it was our TV. Now, whenever one of us asks the other an obvious question, we reply, "Is that your TV?" sarcastically.

11. After I broke my jaw, Jerry took a couple of weeks off work to take care of me. I was on so many medications that I couldn't do much other than lie around. And I was not an easy patient! I couldn't have solid foods, so he would make smoothies for me several times a day. He kept a chart of my medications and made sure I took them on time (even my meds had to be crushed up and mixed with water, because I couldn't get a single solid thing past my teeth!). I loved being taken care of--I'm usually the worrier and the one doing everything for others, so it was nice not to have to worry about anything at all.

12. Just recently, Jerry and I tried splitting the hostas in our landscaping--something we'd never done before. I posted a video about it when it happened. That morning was the hardest I've ever laughed in my entire life. I'm not exaggerating. Both of us lost our breath several times from laughing.

13. Jerry went to the store to get some biscuits so that we could make a bubble-up casserole for dinner. I was very specific about what to buy, because he's notorious for coming home with the wrong thing. He didn't see them on the shelf, so he had to ask an employee. The brand that I'd told him to get was Kroger's "Pssst!" brand. That is the most awkward word to say! He asked, "Do you have any Pssst biscuits?" Only he pronounced it, "pissed", hahaha. Now we ask each other for the "pissed" biscuits.

14. We went to the Metropark one day to go for a walk, and Jerry had the idea to take photos that looked like the really corny senior pictures poses. It was hilarious! We were belly laughing the whole time, and we got some really fun pictures. 

So, there you have it. Fourteen of my favorite memories with Jerry to celebrate 14 years of marriage :)

Monday, August 14, 2017

My Wedding Weekend (The Blackout of 2003)

Recently, when I was going through a big box full of mementos, I came across some stuff from Jerry's and my wedding. I know I've written about this before, but I think about it every year on this day.

On the afternoon of Thursday, August 14, 2003, I was at home working on the centerpieces for the wedding reception. It was a nice day outside, so I was very surprised when the power went out. I didn't think much of it, though, because that tends to happen now and then, and it comes back in within 10 minutes.

Well, we waited all afternoon, and still, there was no power. Jerry called and said that he and Lance, his best man, picked up their tuxes; and then on the way home, the power went out. All of the traffic lights on their way home (about 40 minutes) were out. That's when we knew it was kind of a big deal. But I still had no idea just how big it was.

Eventually, we learned that it was actually a HUGE deal--50 million people had no power! If you lived in the northeast area of the United States, you likely didn't have electricity that weekend 14 years ago. I can't even imagine what NYC would have been like, or any of the major cities. I was just in little old Newport, Michigan, and it was a very big deal.

Blackout of 2003
I saved the newspapers from that Friday

I started to worry a little about the wedding. What was a wedding with no DJ, no food, no air conditioning in August, no lights in the chapel or reception hall... the list goes on. Our rehearsal was Thursday evening, the day that the power went out. The wedding party and my family went to the chapel, and it was so humid in there without air conditioning! We went through the rehearsal quickly, because everyone was ready to get out of there.

We were supposed to go to a nice restaurant for our rehearsal dinner, but since everything shut down, we had to come up with an alternative. My mom ended up inviting everyone to her house for hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on the grill. We ate by candlelight and sat outside. I still wasn't that nervous about not having power, because I was so sure it would come back on Friday.

This is actually the only picture I have from the rehearsal dinner!
This is my childhood friend Lance, who was the best man in our wedding.

But it didn't.

Friday evening, I was really starting to panic. My caterer was trying to think of an alternate plan, and I don't even remember what the DJ said. I think everyone (especially me) was just hoping that the power would come back on. I cried before I went to sleep that night, thinking that it was going to be a disaster. Everyone tried convincing me that it would be a beautiful candlelit ceremony, and that it would make a great story to tell my grandkids one day.

On Saturday morning, the power came back on! I was thrilled. The wedding went smoothly, and the reception was fantastic. Jerry spent the entire evening on the dance floor, while I did the responsible thing and made my rounds to mingle with the guests ;)  That is definitely our opposite personalities at work!

Look at us--we were just children! hahaha

Our opposite personalities have actually been really perfect for our marriage. We balance each other out very well. And on Wednesday, we'll celebrate 14 (mostly great) years of marriage!

runs for cookies
Now we're old, but we still act like the children we were when we got married ;)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Restitution and an underwear score

I'm just going to write this as a catch-up post. I spent so much time last week working on my blog (updating and organizing) that I just didn't feel like writing the last couple of days! I'm really happy with the changes, though--it's something that I've been procrastinating doing for a long time. If you want to check out the changes, you can just look through the tabs above each post on my blog. I basically answered all of the questions that I get via email by linking to the posts where I had written in-depth about each topic. I wanted it to be easier to find everything on my blog.

Anyway, this week wasn't too eventful, but I will try and catch up without dragging on like I usually do ;)

I left off when I wrote about Noah going for a bike ride with the neighbor boy, and the boy crashed his bike. His handlebar punctured his abdomen, and Noah called 911. I had no idea just how bad the injury was going to be!

It turned out that the handlebar went all the way through his skin and muscle, into his abdominal cavity; and on top of that serious injury, he broke his elbow. He had to have surgery to repair his abdomen. The whole thing is just so crazy! I'm thankful that Noah's phone was charged and that he actually made the call to 911 instead of waiting for an adult to do it. The neighbor boy is doing great!

Jerry was off work on Monday, so we had a "family day" and went to Elizabeth Park for a picnic (and so that Eli could fish--he's obsessed). Jerry and I went to Elizabeth Park frequently when we were dating. There is a bridge there that we especially loved (they have since built a new one because the old one was falling apart, unfortunately); I later found out that my mom had her wedding photos taken on that bridge!

We usually take the kids there a couple of times a year. This week, we had a picnic--Noah wanted to bring his new grill and cook hot dogs for us. I love just lying on a blanket and people watching at the park. It was pretty overcast, too, which is my favorite kind of weather. It was brighter than it looks in this picture, but I was glad not to be roasting in the sun.

Elizabeth Park Wyandotte Michigan

There was a family of six down by the water, all of them with fishing poles. Eli went down to fish as soon as we got there, and literally the second he dropped his line in the water, he got a fish. He's taking after my dad so much! My dad is a master fisherman--he's been fishing since he was very young, and he knows the lake like the back of his hand. He doesn't use gadgets or coordinates when fishing; it's just become so ingrained in him that he knows exactly where to go and how to catch what he wants. When people want to catch fish, they go with my dad. Eli has been going out with him probably four times a week all summer! He said he wants to be a charter fisherman one day.

fishing from paddle boat
Noah and Eli fishing in front of my parents' house

Anyway, I was up on the hill, watching Eli and the family in front of us, and I was amazed--Eli caught 30 fish in the short time we were there, reeling them in one after the other. The family caught about eight out of all six of them fishing! I told Eli he has good karma, because he's compassionate. He loves to fish, but he takes great care when removing the hook and letting them go. He doesn't even kill gobies, which all the fishermen do. (They are considered an invasive species.)

At the park last week

Also last week...

The boys were outside playing catch and I was drinking tea while sitting on the deck watching them, when we saw a little black kitten playing behind our house. I told the boys to get in the house, we are not going to pet that cat(!) knowing that I'm a sucker when it comes to stray cats. But naturally, the kids called him over, and started playing with him. He was soooo skinny; and being the sucker that I am, I brought him some food. He wolfed it down, and was purring like crazy.

kitten playing with string

The kids asked if we could keep him, and I said absolutely not. I am not willing to take in another cat, especially not a kitten--a kitten is a 15- to 20-year commitment! We went in the house and I closed the blinds so the kids would stop looking to see if he was still out there. Of course, he was back in the morning for more food; and of course, I gave it to him.

I don't think he belongs to anyone. If he does, they are clearly not taking care of him. He's loaded with fleas, and he feels like skin and bones.

kitten playing with feather

Update: (I actually started writing this post several days ago, so the above part about the cat needs to be updated). Remember the little boy who came to my house asking for water when he was locked out of his house? Well, I am pretty sure the cat belongs to his family.

There was a little girl who came over when I was feeding Chip Matthews the stray kitten, and she said that "it" was hers. Only she didn't know if it was a boy or girl (he's a boy) and she didn't have a name--she just kept calling him "kitty". I told her that he needs to go to a vet, because he's covered in fleas and he needs to get vaccinated; I said he needs food, because he is starving; and I said he needs to go inside the house, because there are coyotes and foxes right across the street that would love to get a hold of him.

She was quick to lie and said that they were taking him to the vet "today or tomorrow". I had just opened a can of food, so I told her that he really needed to eat now, and she left. While he was eating, I went to the store and bought some flea treatment, and put that him; then, I combed him with a flea comb to get rid of as many as I could.

He looked much better after I did that. Even if he does belong to that family, at least now he won't have fleas for about six weeks! We haven't seen him around for three days now. I just hope he's okay.

Remember the time, about two years ago, that I posted about someone breaking into our garage and stealing some random odd things--my iPod nano out of my car; a weed wacker; a gas can full of gas; and a hammer. A couple of days later, I posted that we discovered who did it (a bunch of teens who were having a bonfire--they stole things from several people's garages, and they threw everything into their fire!).

We filed a police report, and they said we may get a restitution check in the mail. The teens were all 17-18 years old, and I believe they went to jail for it (a few of the houses had attached garages, so the breaking in was a felony, because it's considered part of the house).

Anyway, we never did get the check in the mail, but we never really expected anything to come of it anyways. Then on Friday, lo and behold, a restitution check was in our mailbox! Two years and three months after the break in, the check was for $150, paid to the court by one of the teens. I was surprised, but the timing was great--because we need to get some things for the boys before school starts (school supplies, new socks and underwear, and a few other things). Since we're doing so well on our budget, I just thought of this check as extra money that we could use for the kids' school needs.

Yesterday, I went out to buy Noah and Eli new socks and underwear (one of the few things I won't buy at Salvation Army, hahaha). I hate buying these things because they are SO expensive! Even the cheapest boxer briefs work out to about $3 each, and I hate the fabric of them--it gets stretched out and saggy. I spent forever trying to figure out what to buy.

Finally, I picked some that were slightly better quality than the ones I hate. They were $14 for 3 pairs; I picked up three packages. On my way to the register, I noticed an end cap that had several packages of underwear on clearance. There were 10 packages, and all were a size small--exactly what I was looking for (thankfully, that's easy to find because most men aren't a size small).

They were originally marked $18 for three pairs, and they were much better quality than the ones I'd put in the cart--made of a soft, moisture-wicking fabric. They were marked down to $9! I was thrilled, and I ended up putting back the others and putting five of the clearanced packages in my cart.

On the way to the checkout, I saw a price scanner, and decided to scan them just to see if they might have been discounted any more. They scanned at $4.50! I was shocked. (I even looked them up on Amazon, and they were $18.)

So, I went back and bought the rest. Yes, that's a lot of underwear--but the kids just now went up a size, so I imagine they will be this size for a while. It was too good of a deal to pass up. Little things like that totally make my day! ;)

Today, Jerry is off work, and we made plans to have a fun day with the boys. Eli wants to fish (of course) so we're going to another nearby park where he can fish in a river.

When I went through a big cleaning and organizing phase a couple of months ago (which I'm still maintaining, by the way!), I came across Eli's birthday cards from about three years ago. When I was going to put them away, a $20 bill and a Toys R Us gift card fell out! I checked the rest of the cards and found more money. Haha! We had apparently forgotten about it being in there, and Eli never noticed. So, we are going to Toys R Us today as well to let him spend his gift card (finally!).

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A surprising journal entry by the 2007-Katie

I haven't been keeping up to date lately on the blog. Every time I sit to work on my blog, I've been updating all of the pages and organizing things, but I haven't been writing anything new!

A picture of Jerry and me from the weekend. We took the kids on a picnic.

I remembered to do Wednesday Weigh-In... on Wednesday. Finally! It's been a few weeks since I actually did one on time. Today's weigh in:

I think that's about the same as last week. It tends to blend together now, because it's been staying so steady between 131 and 134 for weeks now. I feel like I'm really on a roll with maintenance. I don't even think much about it anymore. I am in such a routine that I just eat out of habit each day and it never really occurs to me to think about food otherwise. It's been great!

Being on our budget has helped SO much, too. I buy groceries on Fridays, and we don't run to the store for things during the week like we used to. We also don't eat out anymore, which has saved us a fortune in money and calories. We also just don't have lots of snacks lying around, because everything is budgeted out. I haven't binged in months, but it would be difficult (because of the budget), even if I wanted to!

While I've been organizing my blog, I've been going through some of my old journal posts from "Open Diary"--where I blogged from 2000-2011. I occasionally post snippets here and there from my old blog (it's no longer online, but I have a hard copy). A few days ago, I was looking for my Wednesday Weigh-ins from 2006-2009, and I came across a post that shocked me.

It's a little long, but I just have to share it. The date was July 5, 2007...
As I've mentioned, I've been seeing a therapist and psychiatrist for my depression (it has gotten pretty bad lately). Today, the psychiatrist gave me a diagnosis that shocked me--she said that she believes I'm bipolar. Just the word "bipolar" scares me. It never really crossed my mind before, but now that I've thought about it, it really makes perfect sense. I'm embarrassed about it though, so I don't really plan on telling anyone.
I remember when I was a kid, my next-door neighbor (a mid-50s man) was bipolar (or, "manic depressive" as it was called back then), and that was all the whole neighborhood knew about him. That was the explanation for him being "weird" and his grass never being cut, and him hating kids, and everything else. Which is stupid, I know that now, but that's why this diagnosis embarrasses me I guess. Anyways, it's not like I've changed--I'm the same today as I was yesterday. It's weird what hearing one little word does to you. 
My husband was pretty relieved to have an answer to this too--now at least we know what's wrong and maybe with the meds it'll get better. I have to go back in 2 weeks to follow-up and see how the medication is working. 
One of the things about this that occurred to me was my "dieting mojo"--that's what I always call it here, for lack of a better word. I've tried to describe it, and how you either have the mojo or you don't, etc etc. But I realize now that I was actually talking about a 'manic' phase (which makes me feel kind of stupid now, because I assumed everyone had 'mojo' phases for months at a time, haha). 
I go through these periods for months at a time where I feel like I'm on top of the world, including when it comes to losing weight. This last time (in Nov) I joined Curves, started Weight Watchers, flew through the holidays with no problem, and losing weight seemed so easy. Then in April, I went into depression, and I lost my "mojo"--not only was I not able to stay on track dieting, but I didn't even really have the desire to. I just didn't care. I'm speaking in past tense, but that's actually how I feel right now. 
So hopefully, with the help of the medication (which is supposed to regulate my moods), I'll be able to get in the swing of things and not crash at the end. I've had these phases (for what I now know is bipolar) for years--ever since I was a kid. So much more of my life is starting to make sense."

Isn't that crazy?! I mentioned that I was diagnosed before, but I don't remember anything about it. Actually, I thought that the psychiatrist I saw was a man, so my memory is terrible. That's one of the reasons I love blogging--it helps me out when my memory just isn't working.

Anyway, it sounds like I accepted that diagnosis. I do remember why I stopped those meds rather quickly, and I really regret it now. But someone who is pretty close to me (I don't want to mention names, because I don't want them to feel bad) said some things about the diagnosis that made me feel invalid. The person convinced me that the diagnosis was wrong, and I let that get to me. So, I quit the mood stabilizer before it even had a chance to work, and I went back on antidepressants. And I forgot all about it!

That was TEN YEARS AGO. I can't help but wonder about what my life would have been like if I'd stuck with the medication. Things might have been completely different. I'm not going to dwell on it, but it's still hard not to wonder. I just thought it was interesting that I happened to come across that journal entry now, at this point in my life.

Things are going very well with my current medication. I have been having some issues with anxiety, but my depression hasn't even been a minor issue since I started the new meds. I talked with my psychiatrist about my anxiety, but I don't want to start another medication if I can help it, so I'm going to wait longer and try some things I learned in therapy to help.

Aside from the anxiety, my mood has been great. I've been nervous that it's only temporary, and I really hope not! I feel good :)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Lose Weight Eating Only the Foods You Love

I've been doing a ton of updating on my blog recently (reorganizing everything) and I've come across some old posts that I'd forgotten about. This one from December 2011 in particular struck me--I thought, "Wow, that's a good post--why have I not shared that more?". I started it by answering the frequently asked question, "How many calories did you eat to lose the weight?"; but it explained so well the point I always try to make when giving advice to someone who asks about how I lost the weight: you don't have to eat foods you hate in order to lose weight.

The biggest change I made when I was successful at finally dropping the excess 100+ pounds in 2009-2010 was that I didn't force myself to eat salads, yogurt, and grilled fish every day. I chose to eat the foods I love and just eat smaller portions. When I first started, I had no idea if it was going to work in the grand scheme of things; but now I know.

So, I thought I'd revive this old post from 2011 :) Hopefully it's useful!

Something that a lot of people ask me is how many calories I ate while I was losing weight. I don't like answering this concretely, because what worked for me may be (and probably will be) different from other people. So please keep that in mind!

I decreased the calories a little as I lost, but it ROUGHLY breaks down to this: when I first started, I was eating probably about 1800 calories per day (I was counting Weight Watchers Points, not calories, so I can't say for sure). Then I cut back a little at a time, and when I reached a "normal" BMI, I was probably eating 1400-1600 per day.

On days that I ran, I would usually eat more--if I ran 6 miles, for example, I would eat about half of the calories I burned on top of my daily calories. So burning 600 calories would allow me to eat 300 + my daily calorie intake. (In Weight Watchers terms, this equated to eating all of the Activity Points I earned, on top of my daily Points target.)

SparkPeople suggested that I eat 1200-1550 calories per day, and I tried that; but I was starving and bitchy, and it led to binges. So I experimented for a while with different amounts until I found an amount that allowed me to be satisfied and not feel like I was totally deprived, but still allowed me to lose weight. You just have to experiment to see what is right for you. I was not willing to live on 1200 calories per day forever, so I didn't do it then. That's not much food, and doesn't allow for any indulgences; nobody wants to live that way!

A mistake that I think a lot of people make is to try eating 1200 calories a day, realize that it totally sucks, and then they quit. Instead of quitting, try eating 1600 calories a day and see if you lose weight; or 1800, or 1500...etc. I learned that the all-or-nothing mentality is what made me fail so many times in the past. I followed the plan 100% or not at all--and I would always fail. Once I started to make my own "rules", I learned what I could live with and be happy with.

I feel the same way about Weight Watchers Points. A lot of people think that they shouldn't eat their weekly points or their activity points, in hopes of losing weight faster. But usually what happens is they feel so deprived that they quit instead of just using their extra points (I did that many times in the past!). I would suggest using all the Points you're allowed and see how it works; at least then you won't feel like you're starving. Even if Weight Watchers recommends that you eat 29 points per day, there is nothing wrong with trying 35 points a day at first and see if you lose weight. You can adjust as needed.

If there is one thing that I learned while losing weight this time around, it's that there isn't a single plan out there that works for everybody. We have to pick and choose from our plan what we are willing to do--not just what we can do to lose the weight, but what we are willing to do forever.

There is no way that I am willing to commit to working out for an hour six days a week for the rest of my life--so I chose a number that worked for me. I committed to 30 minutes, three days per week (occasionally I do more, when I'm training for a race, but I've only committed to three days). Three is do-able for me. Six is not. We don't have to answer to anybody but ourselves.

As far as calories go, and what I ate to lose weight... I didn't eat anything that I didn't want to. There are so many different foods out there to choose from that there is no reason that you should force yourself to eat celery sticks and broiled fish (unless you really enjoy those foods, of course!). Even people who have dietary restrictions for medical reasons can choose the foods they love that fit into their guidelines.

For example, I don't like salad; but I do like roasted cauliflower. So I ate what I enjoyed (the cauliflower) and skipped the salad. I was still getting healthy vegetables; but it was food I liked, and not what I felt I "should" be eating.

Something else that I did as part of my daily routine (and still do) is to eat a dessert every single day. Not just fruit, or sugar-free Jello or something like that. I picked an indulgent dessert for about 300 calories, and I set aside those calories at the beginning of the day to make room for them. I ate fairly healthy all day long, trying to get a good variety of foods--only things I enjoyed--and then at night, I would indulge in my dessert that I had planned out ahead of time.

That dessert gave me something to look forward to all day while staying on track. That dessert made it so much easier to say 'no' to tempting foods during the day when I knew I was going to have an awesome treat that night. We don't have to eat only health foods to lose weight. We can work some junk food into our diets. Chances are, if you're anything like the obese me, you're eating a lot of junk food now as it is; so planning on one dessert would actually be cutting back. It was cutting back for me, anyway! ;)

Finally, in order to be successful while counting calories, it's important to be honest with ourselves. I highly recommend measuring or weighing out portions (I prefer to weigh). I can't stress this enough. It's so easy to guesstimate the amount of oatmeal or cereal or something we're going to eat; but when we take the time to measure/weigh it out, we are getting the exact amount that we are counting the calories for. As much of a pain in the ass as it sounds, I actually weighed out, on a food scale, everything that I ate.

Some people, however, aren't willing to weigh/measure food--and that's fine! Remember, I said we should only make changes that we're willing to make. Just try to make your best guess and be honest with yourself. You might lose weight a little slower than if you weighed/measured your food, but you'll still be making a conscious effort to eat less calories, and the weight will come off.

Losing weight is a ton of work. If someone expects it to be easy, they're going to have a much harder time. It takes a lot of time and dedication to weigh out portions, plan meals, and keep track of calories. Most people are so disappointed to hear that THIS is how I lost the weight--by putting in a lot of work! But if you're willing to do the work, then you'll definitely see the results.

For the past year, I've been experimenting with "intuitive eating" or "mindful eating" or "normal eating" in order to not have to count calories forever. It's been extremely difficult, but I'm learning a lot about myself and why I eat. I still believe that counting calories is the best way to lose weight at first--for at least 6 months to a year--to get used to smaller portions, having accountability, having structure, getting into a routine, etc.

Ultimately, I would love to be able to eat intuitively and maintain my goal weight though! However, I've accepted that this may not happen, and I'm okay with that.

I hope this is helpful for anyone who is thinking about counting calories. The most important things to remember are: 1) Only eat foods you truly like; 2) You don't have to follow someone else's guidelines--make up your own plan that works for you; and 3) You'll probably have to do some experimenting to see what works and what you can stick with for the long haul--but don't quit!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Updated Photos

It's 1:30 AM(!) so I'm not going to take the time to write a whole post... but I just wanted to share that I updated the Photos page on my blog. I (clearly) had a lot of fun putting together collages! ;)

There is one photo that I didn't put on there, because strangers to my blog will have no idea what the significance is... but if you've been reading for a while, then you may know that Jerry and I have always taken photos with those public binoculars you see here and there (they are at the zoo, which is where we mostly see them).

Anyway, on one of our first dates, we went to the zoo, and I put my face up to the binoculars. Jerry jokingly looked through the other end. And ever since then, it became a photo op that we always do when we see those binoculars.

The original binoculars photo (I'm pretty sure I'm looking through the wrong end, haha)
Anyways, I was looking at all of our photos today when I was updating the page, and I had the idea to Photoshop myself looking into the binoculars at... myself.

The Photoshop job is terrible, but Photoshop is not my forte (actually, I don't even use Photoshop--I use Gimp, which is a free version of Photoshop). I just liked the idea of the photo! So I did my best. And I think it's pretty cool :)

Anyways, I really need to go to bed, even though I'm feeling wired; but, if you want to check out some updated comparison photos, you can see them on my Photos page. G'night!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Happy to be blogging

Well, thank you for not booing me off the stage with that last post, hahaha. As boring as it is to some people, I really enjoy talking about budgets and creative ideas for being thrifty.

I used to think we were living semi-frugally... until we started on our budget. Now I realize that there were so many places we could have cut expenses! (And we have since.) There are still more changes we could make, but since this is going to be a new lifestyle for us, we don't want to make it a miserable one ;)

In a way, it's like my weight loss in 2009. I knew that my changes were going to be for the long haul, so I didn't do or change anything I wasn't willing to do or change forever. I love dessert, so rather than cut it out of my diet completely, I just changed my portion sizes to be much smaller. I made small changes that added up to a large weight loss.

So, I'm hoping this is how our budget will work out. We've made lots of small changes that are livable and that we are content with. We didn't give up the things we really wanted and that we felt were worth the splurge money (like Netflix--it's obviously not a necessity, but we really like it, so we are choosing to spend the $9.99 per month on it).

Anyway, I spent a lot of time today working on my blog. I'm (slowly but surely) updating my pages. It won't be noticeable just yet, but hopefully soon. I'm going to be turning the page tabs (above my posts) into a drop down menu. Since I'm branching out a bit from focusing on weight loss, I would like to get everything more organized.

When I was going through depression for almost a year, I didn't enjoy blogging anymore. I didn't want to just up and quit, but I dreaded writing. I didn't want the things I said to be all doom and gloom; but that's how I was feeling, so trying to think of positive things to write was exhausting for me.

I've always been pretty candid when writing about tough stuff (gaining weight, anxiety, depression, etc.); but honestly, I always feel guilty for being depressed. I have a great life--a super supportive husband, fantastic kids, a loving family, a roof over my head, food on the table--so it's hard to accept that I could possibly be depressed. While I know that it's out of my control, but there are still a lot of people who believe that depression can be cured by positive thinking (even some people who love and care about me).

But I'm getting way off track... the point I'm getting to is that rather than writing about my depression day after day, and risk sounding like a spoiled housewife, I just chose to share much less (if anything) on my blog. Even I was tired of talking about it with my therapist and people I'm close to.

I know I keep writing about "before my bipolar diagnosis" and "after my bipolar diagnosis", but it really is one of the biggest turning points in my life thus far. As Rik said in the From Fat to Finish Line film, "People divide their lives into before they got married, and after they got married; before their child was born, and after their child was born...", etc. I think all of us have some moments like that--moments that become markers for comparison in the future.

I have a few of those markers, and my diagnosis is definitely one of those turning points. Eventually, I will stop bringing it up, I promise! haha. Now, I will finally get to my point(!) by saying that I have gotten excited about blogging again. Like I was in the beginning. I made over the look of my blog, and now I'm working on the organization of it. Even if it makes no difference to anybody but me, working on it makes me feel good!

Jerry has noticed and has been encouraging me. He said he misses how I used to be so excited about blogging. I've missed it, too! The excitement is back now, and I'm glad :)

Speaking of organization, I ought to just change my Wednesday Weigh-in to Thursday Weigh-in, because I haven't been keeping up with posting it on Wednesdays! I did take a picture when I got on the scale yesterday, but Jerry was off work, and I spent the day with him. Then, Renee and Dave came over last night, so I never really had the chance to sit and write.

So, yesterday's weight was 132.4. I can't remember how that compares to last week (I think maybe up a pound?), but I'm not really thinking of the week-to-week comparison anymore.

As long as my weight stays under 145, I'll be happy! And no, that number is not a typo ;)  My "healthy weight range" is 110-145 pounds (I put that in quotes because the BMI scale is kind of controversial as far as how accurate it is at measuring health).

I think it's quite obvious I'm never going to reach (or even aim for!) the low end of the range, so I'll be happy just to stay under the high end.

One more thing, and then I'm going to try to get to bed early tonight...

I'm proud of Noah for his reaction to a scary moment today, and just wanted to share. He was at my parents' house (less than a mile from my house) and he was playing with the boys who live next door to my parents (those boys are close to the same ages of Noah and Eli, so they play together often). Eli was at home with me.

The three boys were riding their bikes around the neighborhood (it's a small neighborhood) when one of the neighbor boys crashed his bike somehow (I'm not sure of the details yet). But when he went down, the handle bars of his bike became stuck, so that when he fell, his abdomen went right onto the handle bars, and punctured it pretty deeply.

He was lying on the ground, and when he lifted up his shirt, Noah could see it was very bad--Noah told me he could see "intestines", but I'm thinking it was probably muscle, if anything. Regardless, he needed medical attention right away. His brother rode home quickly to tell his parents what happened while Noah stayed and called 911.

The ambulance arrived, and they took him (along with his mom) to the hospital (where he was then transferred to children's hospital because of the severity of it). I haven't gotten an update yet about whether he needs surgery or what exactly his injuries were--but thankfully, he is going to be fine!

I'm just so proud of Noah (and honestly a little surprised) that he reacted so calmly and quickly called 911. I underestimated his reaction in a stressful situation like that. He waited there for the ambulance to come. All three of the boys did great!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Budgeting to Pay Off Debt (on a varied income)

I've been wanting to write about this for the past couple of months, but I haven't taken the time to sit down and put together a post about it. Let me forewarn you that this may be completely boring if you're not into budgeting and numbers, but this topic has actually been so exciting for me! hahaha

So, Jerry and I are on a budget right now in order to pay off some credit card debt. First, the back story:

For much of my life, I've been pretty good with handling money. My parents have always been thrifty, and taught me not to spend more than I can afford. My mom loves garage sales, and I used to go with her all the time. Once you see things at garage sales for a tiny fraction of the cost they are at a retail store, it's so hard to spend the money in a store when you can get it dirt cheap.

In high school, I bought clothes from the thrift store, too. My style was--well, let's just say it was "unique". I was basically a hipster before being a hipster was a thing. I love anything retro, and I probably bought clothes that used to belong to someone's grandmother.

1998. I still remember the feel of those polyester pants and velour shirt.

I didn't get a credit card until I was in college; and even then, I was very responsible with it. I asked for a $500 limit so that I wouldn't go overboard. My mom had ingrained in me that I should never get in over my head with debt. I didn't really learn about credit scores until Jerry and I applied for a loan to buy our house, but I was happy to see that my credit score was good--from the credit card and from paying on my student loan.

In retrospect, I'm pretty sure that my having bipolar disorder would cause me to spend money very impulsively. When hypomanic, I would get really excited about starting a project; then I'd use the credit card to pay for materials, telling myself I would pay it off at the end of the month (I usually didn't).

I would also get really excited about spending it on other people--giving gifts, taking people out to eat, hosting parties, and things like that--and again, I would just put it on the credit card and worry about it later.

Our income is SO varied, depending on whether Jerry works overtime and for how many hours (he is paid hourly). So, inevitably, there are weeks where his check is really low, and before budgeting, that would always throw us off on paying bills. We relied on the "big" weeks to get us through after a "small" week's check

Having a varied income has always made it really difficult to stick to a budget. When I don't know how much we are going to earn each week or month, how do I plan for it? Jerry and I had tried several times to budget our money, but it only lasted a few days because it was too hard to plan for things.

Anyway, debt didn't really become a problem until after we were married for a few years. Jerry's employer decided to cut all overtime hours, and our combined income (I was working for an OB/GYN at the time) was not enough to pay bills. So, we starting using the credit card more and more; and then about a year later, Jerry's employer reinstated the overtime. We were earning enough to pay our bills, but not enough to pay the debt we'd gotten into.

I won't write out the rest of the long story, but in 2014, when we built our garage, we had to take out a loan. And the credit card was still a problem. We were living paycheck to paycheck--whatever we earned in a week would be gone by the end of the week. I did set aside money for our house payment and car payment every month, but the rest was just paid on an as-needed basis every Friday.

As soon as we paid off the garage loan in December 2016, our furnace quit. To replace it was $5500, and we had to borrow money for that. I felt like we would never get ahead! When we decided to start this budget, our credit card/loan debt was about $14,500--a number that seemed totally overwhelming to try and pay off.

Our current income is definitely enough to live on, but we were still spending more than we were making, and we weren't sure where our money was going. Again, trying to stick to a budget each week or month was so difficult because of our unpredictable income.

I finally starting reading websites for ideas, and I found a way of budgeting that was perfect for us. For the life of me, I cannot remember what it's called or where I read about it. But here is how it works:

I calculated a "bare bones" figure of what our mandatory monthly bills are: house, car, insurance, property taxes, utilities, food, gas, medical co-pays, and the minimum payment on our credit cards. This would be the minimum amount that we would have to earn to be able to live on and pay our bills: $3300. Anything above that is extra.

Once I calculated that amount, I used Jerry's and my tax forms from the last several years to figure out what our average monthly income is. (Oh! I also applied for an 18-month 0% interest credit card and I transferred our balances from other cards to that one, to consolidate and obviously save on interest while paying it off. Thankfully, I have always had excellent credit, so there was no problem getting the card.)

Here is where the budget gets difficult to explain, but I'll try...

We now start each month (on the 1st) with $3300 in our checking account (money we earned the previous month). That amount is enough for us to live on for the whole month (if only paying the minimum on credit cards, and not spending on anything extra). We use this money to pay for everything for the month.

To use June and July for an example: In June, we started the month with $3300 in a checking account and $0 balance on my AmEx. During June, we paid for our bills, groceries, gas, etc., from that $3300 budget. Meanwhile, we set aside ALL of our income in June.

On June 30th, we made sure all of our June expenses were paid for (including necessary extras, like a couple of gardening tools we needed). Then, we looked at our income from June--let's just say it was $4300--and we move $3300 of it to our checking account to use for the month of July. Then we take the leftover income from June (in this example, it would be $1000) and pay down our debt.

(Side note: I use my beloved Delta American Express card (that we pay in full at the end of each month) to pay for as many bills as we can, as well as our food, gas, etc. Then I pay off the AmEx with the portion of the $3300 set aside for such. This way, I can earn a lot of SkyMiles without acquiring more debt.)

Does that make sense?

Since our bare bones budget doesn't allow for "fun stuff" that we may want (Jerry's craft beer, the kids' toys/games/whatever it is they want, my future travel expenses, etc.), the four of us each get a cash "allowance" on the first of the month to use however we want (or save it for later--I'm currently saving mine for when Jerry and I go to Portland).

I was looking for pics for this post, so I typed in "money" in my Photos app--
and this picture popped up! Hahaha, no memory of what this pic was about.

We also agreed that any bonus money we earn (if Jerry gets a bonus at work, or if I write a sponsored blog post, or something like that), we will divide it up as a family to add to our allowances. Or, we may decide to use it to do something together as a family.

Today starts our third month on the budget plan, and it's been great so far! I write out a weekly menu on Fridays, and then go grocery shopping (just once for the entire week). I make a list for the grocery store and I don't buy a single thing that isn't on the list. I'm kind of amazed at how many things I ordinarily would've put in the cart impulsively.

At Kroger, you get 2x the fuel points (discount on gas) by shopping Friday-Sunday, so by doing my grocery shopping on Fridays, I am also racking up fuel points--this month, we get $1.00 off per gallon!

Having a particular amount that we are "allowed" to spend on groceries and gas really makes me think twice about buying things or going places. I try to plan my errands around the time/place that I have to go anyways--like my therapy or doctor's appointments--in order to save on gas.

We haven't dined out even once since starting this budget, which is great! Looking back at last year, I'd bet the majority of our extra money went to dining out. Jerry's and my anniversary is on the 16th of this month, so we are going to try to fit a dinner out (with the kids) into our grocery budget.

It sounds like this whole thing would be miserable, but it's actually really fun--I like the challenge of it, and it feels fantastic to pay such a large sum onto our debt each month. Being a numbers person, of course I made a nerdy spreadsheet, and I love filling it in every Friday. Jerry said he really likes living on the budget, too. It has made us get creative with the way we do things and the things we spend money on.

The kids are loving it because they get an allowance now--before, we would just buy things they wanted (not always, but if it was something that they asked for, we might buy it for them). Now, they are learning the value of money and that spending $4 on an ice cream from the ice cream truck isn't worth it. We still pay for their necessities, of course, but other things have to be paid for with their allowances. (And they have chores they have to do in order to get the allowance.)

Most of all, this whole budget has made us realize what things are "necessities" and what things are just "wants". It's very helpful! And I'm much more aware of where our money goes. We used to spend it on impulsive buys, but now we are really putting thought into what we want/need. And if all goes as well as the last couple of months, we'll be credit card debt-free in about a year!

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