January 12, 2019

Bipolar Decision Making (and My Plan to Get Back to Running)

Before I get into this post, I just have to tell you about the nightmare that happened a few days ago. One of my readers/friends notified me about a pin on Pinterest that was my before and after photo, and it was linked not to my blog, but to another website. I went onto Pinterest to find the post and report it.

I was nothing less than shocked at what I discovered. There is a person who created an EXACT duplicate of my blog. Then, they pinned EVERY SINGLE PHOTO that I've ever posted to my blog--there were well over 4,000 pictures that they pinned. And every single one of those 4,000+ pins led to their website.

I was so irritated! To file a complaint with Pinterest to have it removed, they want you to give them the url to each an every pin that you are complaining about. There was no way that I could do that with 4,000 pins, so I ended up emailing them and they said to give them the url for each board that contained my photos. This person's Pinterest account was made up of SOLELY photos from my blog. Nothing else!

Long story short, after a lot of emails and copying and pasting urls, I finally got Pinterest to remove everything and the website shut down. But it was the biggest waste of my time.

Anyway, I'm trying to take more measures against this happening. You may notice that if you try to right-click something on my blog, you won't be able to. Also, you will not be able to highlight the writing on my blog (that person had copied all of my blog posts). It's not much in the way of preventing this from happening again, but I'm hoping to make it a little more challenging.

Okay, on to the real post...

I haven't written much about mental health/illness lately, and this particular topic wasn't something I gave much thought to--until I learned that it's another trait of a person with bipolar disorder. I'm talking about decision making. (If you're new here, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2017--you can read about my coming to terms with it on this post: A Crazy New Chapter)

Sometimes, I have the hardest time making the most basic of decisions, and it's super frustrating for me. A lot of times, it will even bring me to tears. It's not just a hem-hawing process... I get so mad at myself for not being able to just MAKE A CHOICE. ANY CHOICE.

I'm not talking about big decisions such as which house to buy, or when the time is right to have children, or even as small as selecting a mattress. I'm talking about decisions like whether I want cream in my coffee or where to go out to eat, or whether to read, watch TV, or write before I go to bed. And it's not just a thoughtful, "Hmm, which do I want?" My brain literally cannot make a decision--it's like the part of my brain that is responsible for decision-making is paralyzed.

This happens around other people sometimes, too, which is embarrassing. When I was visiting Caitlin in Boston, for example, we went to Mike's Pastry shop (normally my favorite!!) and I simply couldn't decide what to get. It was agonizing, and not in a "fun" way. It was actually upsetting to me. Most people would just pick something, even if they were unsure.

I, however, cannot even verbalize a choice. I try so hard to just make a simple decision, but it becomes too much for me and I end up not making any choice at all. I'll ask someone to choose for me. Thankfully, Jerry understands this; when he can see me struggling, he'll say, "Let's do this!" and just choose.

Jerry took this photo of me staring into the pantry, trying to decide what to eat for a snack. Sounds silly, but I stood there for probably 20 minutes, and I was so frustrated that I couldn't just make a choice. Jerry took the photo because he thought it was "cute" that I was so indecisive. (This was in 2013, years before I was diagnosed with bipolar, so he thought my inability to make decisions was just a quirk.) Clearly, I did not find it "cute".

In Boston, I ended up not buying anything at Mike's. Then, after walking to the corner outside, Caitlin said I should just go get something because I would want it later. I finally just bought something (I don't even remember what, probably carrot cake) but you would have thought I was trying to decide whether to keep $10,000 or flip a coin for double or nothing.

That was just an example off the top of my head, but I run into this pretty frequently, about twice a week. My kids don't understand why I can't decide things, but thankfully, I can use it as a lesson to explain to them that it's one of the traits about bipolar that affects me. My kids have learned SO much about bipolar, depression, anxiety, and even suicide because I want them to be educated about mental illness and I talk about it openly with them.

Anyway, that is one problem when it comes to decision making as far as my bipolar is concerned. There is another one that is a problem as well, especially sharing my life on the internet as a blogger.

When I am hypomanic, or even in a mixed state (having symptoms of depression and hypomania at the same time), I tend to rush into decisions without thinking them through. In other words, I'm very impulsive. This has gotten me into trouble lots of times (hello, $14,000 of debt). Since starting my bipolar meds, though, it's gotten much better. (I was able to stick with a budget for the long term and pay off all of my debt!)

I bring all of this up because I've been so up in the air lately about several decisions. I try not to post about things unless I'm absolutely certain about it because I hate failing at goals or changing my mind about what/how to do things. It's embarrassing to renege on 80% of what I've committed to.

You may be thinking that I'm talking about my decision to stop drinking for all of 2019--but I'm not. I'm still 100% committed to that decision, and I'm doing well with it. One thing that I blog about a lot (or at least I used to) is running; ironically (or not), it's also one thing that I tend to renege on. Haha!

"I'm going to follow this running plan!"
Two weeks later: "I got bored with it, so I'll do this instead!"
A week later: "I just read this book about a running method, so I want to give it a try!"
Three days later: "I don't like the way that made me feel, so I think I'll do this one."
A month later: "I'm just going to run when I feel like it, so I don't feel pressured."
Two weeks later: "Well, I haven't gone for a single run, so I need to follow a schedule. I know! I will make the strictest schedule imaginable, announce it on my blog, and then plan to write all about my training."
A month later: "Still haven't written about it. Or even done it. Maybe I'll try something else."

And so on and so on. This particularly happens when I'm hypomanic, even if it's only mild hypomania. I get all gung-ho about something, and then it loses its luster shortly afterward.

So, I realize it's probably annoying to read about my constant mind-changing; but hopefully by explaining it here, it'll be more understandable. I've been trying to be more careful about making impulsive decisions and I've been able to focus more since I started my bipolar medication.

I can only say THANK GOD that I didn't start my whole home makeover project on a whim and then lose interest halfway through. Can you imagine?!

A lot of times, I have trouble deciding what plans/goals to post here, for fear of it being a rash decision. For example, I had been thinking about giving up alcohol for all of 2019 for months ahead of time. I told Jerry about it and I thought long and hard before I decided that I was going to do it. It was only then that I felt confident enough to post it here. I didn't even feel like just posting it on my blog was good enough, so I also shared it with my friends on Facebook!

When I wrote my goals for 2019, I included exercise--I want to get back to exercising regularly. I'd prefer that to be running, but even if I just walk, that's better than nothing. Three times a week for 30 minutes. Not much to ask!

However, I think that was too vague. I seem to always go to one extreme or another (train for a marathon or not run at all), and it's a hard thought process to break.

At this moment, my thoughts about this are:

I want to do something specific and that's a bit of a challenge.
I want to follow an actual schedule.
I want to push myself to get back into shape, but I also want to be happy and not feel so much pressure--so I need to find a balance.

Like I explained, having bipolar makes me impulsive sometimes, so tomorrow, I could be feeling the exact opposite as right now. However, as human beings, we are free to change our minds any time we like. While I hope to be able to stick to whatever plan I come up with, I recognize that I may need to change things up in order to fit into my life better.

Soooo, you can quote me on this, but that quote may change at a moment's notice. Just a forewarning, haha. Since my exercise plan was pretty vague for 2019, I'd like to make it more specific so that it's as black and white as the drinking/non-drinking. I want a measurable goal.

I'm very, very out of shape right now, because I've only run about 500 miles in the last TWO YEARS combined. Which brings me to a goal that I'd like to set--a goal that I've not tried before.

I know, I know... I said that I didn't want to follow a training plan or be very specific in my exercise goals. But, surprise, surprise, I changed my mind ;)

I want to make a goal to run 700 miles this year.

That's roughly 1.9 miles per day, if I was going to run every single day (I'm not). I feel like this is ambitious, but doable. I will feel very accomplished if I'm able to do it; and if I fall short, even if I "only" hit 300 miles run, it'll still be more than the last two years.

I'll make a tracker and somehow check off each mile that I run. I'd like to do a reward system, too--for each milestone I hit (10 miles, 25 miles, 50, 100, etc.) I will reward myself with something. (I haven't decided on those yet.)

I don't care about my running pace at ALL, so I'm not going to worry about it. I really, really just want to get back to running a few times a week to help with my anxiety (and for several other reasons, but the anxiety is a big one now that I can't use alcohol to make me feel less anxious).

I've chosen to follow my "Base Building for Beginners" running plan. I think this is a great plan not only for beginners, but for people who are getting back to running after a hiatus. It starts with just 30 minutes, three times per week. The plan is 16 weeks long, which will bring me into May. The longest run (in the final weeks) tops out at 60 minutes--definitely doable!

In following the plan, I feel like I will have guidance as to exactly what I'm supposed to do and when. Another key bipolar trait that I have is that I am my best self when I have a set schedule and routine. A change in my routine can throw me off quite a bit; and when I don't have a schedule, I tend to procrastinate. By having a plan telling me what to do and when, it takes any decision making off the table.

And since I have such a hard time with decisions sometimes, I think this will likely help my mood as well. It's a win-win!

My first run, per the schedule, will be on Tuesday morning. A simple 30-minute run at an easy pace. After writing all this out, I'm looking forward to doing it!

Are all of you that made New Year's Resolutions doing well so far? I wrote a Facebook post to discuss not drinking, and it's very interesting and motivating to read others' thoughts on it. Feel free to chime in there, if you'd like!

January 08, 2019

Completing the Epoxy Countertop!

Today starts the second week of January, and I'm still doing good with my goals. Giving up the alcohol is still challenging, but I haven't had any. Yesterday, we went out to dinner for Eli's birthday, and it was hard not to order a beer, especially when other people do. I had a tonic with lime, and focused on conversation.

Eli turned 13 years old yesterday, can you believe it? When I started this blog, he was only five. And when I started losing weight, he was only three! It blows my mind that I have two teenagers now. I really don't feel old enough to have two teens. Who are both taller than I am now.

Jerry and I bought a couple of balloons and made a happy birthday sign, then we went to the school and decorated Eli's locker while he was in class. I remember my mom doing that for me one time in junior high, and I thought it was so cool. When he got home, he was carrying the balloons, and he said that he knew it was from us because he recognized my handwriting.

Jerry was off work yesterday, so we used the day to finally work on finishing the island countertop. I can't believe I hadn't thought of it sooner, but the bathroom off of our bedroom is big enough to fit the countertop in there--so it made an easy way to control the temperature by using a space heater. The air temp MUST be at LEAST 75 degrees for 72 hours to cure the epoxy. This was stressed enormously on the instructions for the epoxy.

So, remember I said we decided not to use the nickels for the countertop, because it would have taken a few hundred dollars worth of nickels to cover it? I came up with the another solution when I was sitting in the living room, and I set my water down on one of the funny coasters that I'd bought when I was in Kansas City:

They always get a laugh when people come over and use them, and I thought, "Those would be so cool to put in epoxy on the countertop!" I searched online, and it would have been crazy expensive as well--the coasters are $5 each. And magnets (2x3 inches) weren't much cheaper. Since we didn't really need them to be coasters or magnets (they were just going to be covered with epoxy anyway), I simply printed out a TON of them onto card stock--well, 86, anyway. It felt like a ton.

After printing, I had to cut each one out carefully. The most tedious part was that I then coated each side of them with Mod Podge to seal them (so that the epoxy wouldn't make the ink bleed). With 86 of them, and hand painting each front and back with the Mod Podge, it took me the length of two and a half Lifetime movies to get them prepared, haha.

The epoxy was the scary part. The instructions were so specific, and had to be followed right to the letter--and we only had one shot, so I didn't want to screw it up. We brought the countertop into our bathroom, and set it on some 2x4's (to protect the trim on the sides).

Finally, I glued each of the cards down to the countertop. We made sure it was level, and then we got our supplies ready.

We turned on the space heater, and the bathroom got very warm very quickly. I don't know the temp in there, but I would guess about 85. As long as it's over 75, then we're good. I stripped down to almost nothing, because I didn't want to have any pet hair get carried in on my clothes and get on the countertop (forever sealed in the epoxy).

First, I had to mix up a small batch of epoxy to use as a "seal" coat--you paint it on with a paint brush to seal the surface and make sure there aren't air bubbles. The epoxy comes in two separate containers (two quarts per container, for a total for one gallon when mixed). One container contains the "hardener" and the other contains the "resin".

To mix it, you pour one part hardener into a plastic measuring container and then add one part resin. Then, I had to mix it really well with a stir stick for exactly four minutes (too little and it won't be mixed enough, too much and it will start to cure in the container). If making a whole gallon batch at once, you have to use a specific stirring bit on a drill.

Each time you mix a batch, it has to be in a brand new measuring container with a brand new stick. Like I said, this is so specific! I was so worried I was going to screw it up. Meanwhile, I was dripping with sweat in the sauna bathroom as I mixed the epoxy. As soon as I started painting on the seal coat, I felt a little panicked. It didn't feel the way I thought it would--it was much stickier--but I did the best I could, and it started looking really cool!

After the seal coat, you pour on a "flood coat", which automatically levels itself to 1/8 of an inch. Our countertop edge goes 1/4 inch over the countertop itself, so we would need to do two separate flood coats, 4-6 hours between them. After pouring on the first flood coat, I was really worried that we wouldn't have enough epoxy to fill the entire area with the second.

The edges of the cards that I'd glued down kept wanting to float to the top, and it was hard to keep pushing them down long enough for the epoxy's weight to hold them in place. Meanwhile, as soon as you finish pouring a flood coat, you have to use a blow torch to sweep across the whole thing--this pops any bubbles that form. It was so satisfying to watch!

Then, we just had to wait 4-6 hours and pour on another flood coat. After four hours, I mixed up the rest of the epoxy, and carefully poured it as evenly as I could over the entire countertop. Just as I suspected, we were short by a very small amount (maybe a quart) to make the top flush with the edges.

I immediately ordered another gallon of epoxy, which will arrive as soon as this one is done curing--which means this will take six days instead of three! But the epoxy is expensive ($80 per gallon) so I didn't want to order too much. Since the paper takes up less space than the nickels would have, we were short by just a touch. To add more epoxy to what we have done, we'll have to lightly sand the top with very fine sandpaper, wipe off the dust, and then pour another flood coat.

BUT... I love love love how it's turning out! Thankfully, I didn't screw up the epoxy process, and I really like how it looks. I can't wait until it's totally finished so that I can put it back on the island.

That is what it looks like now. It needs to sit and cure in the heated bathroom until we get the final gallon of epoxy on Thursday.

Anyway, I like this so much more than the nickels! The epoxy was stressful and definitely a pain to use (especially considering the 72-hour cure time), but I think it's completely worth it. Next, it's time to work on replacing our flooring. I'm pretty sure we'll have the money this month to buy the materials. I'm excited to get working on it :)

January 04, 2019

Starting the New Year with Bronchitis and a Biopsy

Well, 2019 is off to a rocky start for me!

But first, I have been doing really well with my goals (granted, it's only Day 4). The first week is always the hardest when making any changes, and I've managed to get through the first three days with ease. It's so interesting--when I switch from being "motivated" to being "determined", I can actually feel it. I don't even remember the last time I felt like this! Maybe 2016, when I was training for the 10K?

Anyway, to recap my three main goals for this year: 1) No alcohol for the entire year, 2) Get back down to a comfortable weight (about 140 or less), and 3) To get back in the habit of exercising at least 3 days a week for 30 minutes each time.

The alcohol goal is simple to track--it's very black and white. Either I drink alcohol or I don't. And I haven't had any, so I am on track with that. Only 361 more days, hahaha. Yesterday was actually a little tough--I wanted a glass of wine so badly! I had just finished cleaning up the house, and was ready to chill in my pajamas. Our TV died yesterday morning, so I sat down with a book. The idea of getting cozy on my couch, reading my book in my pajamas while sipping a glass of wine sounded romantic.

I realized that romanticizing the thought of drinking situations is the allure; it's not the drink itself, but more of the thought of the scenario. For example, thinking about having a happy hour drink with Jerry while we chat about what we want to do for vacation next year; or getting together with girlfriends for margaritas and Mexican food; or having mimosas on Christmas morning. Those ideas make it seem so inviting!

But the reality is never as good, and then I just wind up puffy and tired with a headache, having eaten more than I wanted because the alcohol makes my stomach a bottomless pit. I never think that far ahead, though. So, with this year of not drinking, I'm going to have to remind myself to think further ahead than happy hour. And that's what I did yesterday; I wanted the wine, and I was questioning why I even made this goal, but then I went over the reasons in my head. And it helped so much.

I happen to love tart cherry juice (I buy this concentrate and mix two tablespoons into about 6-7 ounces of water). When mixed, it looks identical to red wine. So, I mixed some in a wine glass and enjoyed that instead of wine. Once I was reading, the wine was out of my mind anyways.

I've also done really well with calorie counting. I'd tried to get back into it several times last year, but it was almost like I was spiteful about it. The last few days, it's been pretty automatic, which is what happens when my mind makes that switch from motivation to determination. It's like there isn't even a question about whether I'm going to do it or not--I just do.

I had been hoping to put together a grocery shopping list before I started, but I didn't even leave the house the first couple of days of January. I very rarely get sick, and I think the last time I had a cold was a few years ago. When I do get sick, though, it's usually pretty bad. It almost always ends in bronchitis.

And, that's where I am now--bronchitis. Aside from the coughing, I'm still blowing my nose a hundred times a day, and my sinuses are congested, but I think the virus has pretty much run its course. Hopefully in a few days, my symptoms will be nil.

I had been hoping to start the new year with a run in this gorgeous weather we've had (it's been over 40 degrees every day!), but there was just no way I could do it while sick. My friend Audrey's dad died and I couldn't even go to the funeral because it was at the peak of this cold and I was coughing constantly.

Shortly before Christmas, I noticed a spot on my forearm that looked like a patch of scaly skin--it was odd. It was directly over a tiny lump under the skin that had been there for a long time. I never really thought anything of it, but when the skin started looking weird, I consulted Google, and realized that I should probably get it checked out. It actually had the appearance of a non-melanoma skin cancer.

A few inches away from it was another lump, but it didn't have indication on the skin itself like the first one. I always associate skin cancer with moles or dark spots, and didn't realize that it can look like a scar or like a shiny patch of skin (which is what my spot looked like).

Because it was the holiday season, I put off an appointment until Wednesday. I thought for sure the dermatologist would take a glance, tell me that it's nothing to worry about and to try some hydrocortisone cream.

Instead, she said she can't know what it is unless she takes it out for a biopsy. Jerry was with me, and had been much more worried than I was. The doctor said that she would go in to the office early the next morning (yesterday) at 7:30 if I wanted to have it removed then. I made arrangements to get the kids to school, and then I went in yesterday morning.

It was super nice of her to go in early--there wasn't even a receptionist there, because it was before they opened. She injected a local anesthetic around both areas and then made a of tiny incision over each lump.

As soon as she took it out, she said, "Oh, it's a lipoma". I'd read about them, so I knew it was nothing to worry about. A lipoma is a benign tumor made of fatty tissue and they are very common. From the top of my skin, the lump felt like the size of a BB, but when she pulled it out, it was about the size of a pea. Lipomas usually don't cause tenderness or problems on top of the skin, like mine did, but they can. (She still sent them to the lab to verify, but she was certain they were just lipomas.)

She stitched up the incisions with a few absorbable sutures, and that was that. Jerry was relieved, but he's still nervous because he wants the lab results. I'm confident that the doctor knows her stuff ;)

January 01, 2019

My Goals for 2019

I know that a lot of people think that New Year's resolutions are cliché, and like I recently wrote in my post about my weight loss plans for 2019, I happen to love the fresh start of a new year. Setting goals is exciting! Sometimes I get a little too ambitious, but I think it's better to aim high than to just tell myself I probably won't reach my goal anyway, so why bother trying?

I hate to make a "resolution" to lose weight this year, but I really want to get back to a comfortable weight for me. I feel my very best in the low 130's, but anything under 140-ish is comfortable. It's so frustrating to me that I let my weight climb into the 160's in 2018, bringing me to my highest weight since 2010.

I'm not nearly as focused on the numbers as I used to be, but I want to get to a weight where I don't feel self-conscious of the gain. I think that would be about 140. My "goal weight" has been 133 for years, but I don't necessarily want to aim for that particular number anymore. I just want to feel comfortable and fit into my clothes. If I can get down to that weight, I'd be thrilled--but I'm no longer training for races or anything, so it might be too challenging. And I'm okay with that.

Anyway, my first goal for 2019 is to get my weight down to about 140, if not 133. I wrote about my plans for how I'm going to be doing this in a previous post.

My second goal is a big one, and I'm kind of excited about it. I'd like to do a year-long experiment: no alcohol.

There are a lot of reasons why, including keeping a stable mood, reducing anxiety, helping with weight loss, and lots of other things that I am curious about. I've read quite a bit lately about the benefits people feel when abstaining from alcohol, and it inspired me to give it a try. I think that a 30-day challenge or even a 90-day challenge might not be enough time. And since today is the start of a new year, I thought, "Why not aim for 365 days?"

I wasn't going to announce it here, because of all the times I've stated a goal here and then NOT followed through. However, I figure that by making it very public, I'll be more likely to stick with it.

It's going to be super challenging, mostly because of the social aspect of it. In 2017, though, I only drank on a small handful of occasions--I skipped out on alcohol during several social situations, so I know what to expect. I'd like to keep a very simple journal to document any changes I might notice, too--reduced anxiety, for example, or more energy.

My final big goal is to get back in the habit of exercising regularly. I would love for that to include running, but on the days I really just don't want to, I will go for a walk or bike ride, or anything deliberately active.

When I first started exercising in 2010, I said I was going to do 30 minutes three times per week, no matter what. I think that is completely doable, so that will be my plan for this year: walk, run, bike, or whatever for at least 30 minutes, three days per week.

The whole purpose of it, for me, is to get back in the habit of exercise. It's not about burning calories or anything like that. I just really want to get back to the point where exercise wasn't even a question. I just had a running schedule and I followed it, no matter what. After taking so much time off, it's very difficult to make it a habit again.

Those are my three big goals for 2019. I still have little things to work on for my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old list, but what I've listed here are the biggest changes I'd like to make for the new year. I'm looking forward to the challenge!

December 31, 2018

Top 18 of 2018

Top 18 of 2018

When I started this blog, I wrote the "Top 11 of 2011". I had been planning to write a Top 10 list, but since it was 2011, I figured one more wouldn't be hard. Each year, I add one more item, and each year, I think it's going to be impossible to come up with that many things.

I wish that my weight didn't affect how good or bad my experiences were--but because I'm always self-conscious of it, I can't help but categorize my experiences by how I felt about my body. (This is definitely something I'd love to change for 2019. Let the number on the scale simply be a number on the scale that doesn't haunt me!)

Anyway, this is going to be a very long post, if I'm going to fit in 18 of my favorite moments of 2018. So, here goes (in no particular order)...

1. I made a list of 40 goals to achieve by the time I'm 40 years old. 

Several of them are goals that I will continuously work on over the next three years, and some of them can be done in a day. It's been fun to focus on goals that don't have anything to do with weight!

Bullet journal goals

2. Jerry and I went on a super fun date night.

We spent an evening in Detroit to see Bill Burr's stand-up comedy at the Fox Theatre. We stopped in a nice little bar for drinks before we went to the show, and had great conversation. Then we walked to the Fox and we both agreed that Bill Burr was hilarious. We don't do things like that often, and it was super fun.

Fox Theatre Detroit

3. I shared a Vermonster with the family!

When the kids were younger, we used to watch random shows on the Food Network, and when we learned about this giant ice cream sundae that is served at Ben & Jerry's in Vermont, well, we decided that one day we would go there and get one. Last Christmas, we surprised the kids with our vacation plans. We were all super excited for this Vermonster!


4. I visited Portland, Maine.

When we left Ben & Jerry's, we drove to Portland, Maine. Portland was AMAZING and definitely on my list of favorite places I've visited. We went on a mailboat tour of the islands, and the scenery was so pretty! Especially when it started snowing very lightly.

Mail boat in Portland, ME

5. I showed the family my favorite things to do in Boston.

The first stop on our trip was actually in Boston. I planned for this trip for so long, and I was excited to finally get to take the kids to a relatively busy city. They loved walking the Freedom Trail, and I loved getting to spend time with the family, uninterrupted.

Freedom Trail in Boston

6. I took Eli to get his ears pierced.

Eli wanted to get his ears pierced, and I didn't want him to get it done at the mall. He needed the full piercing/tattoo shop experience! Haha. So, we made a mother-son date of it, and he got his ear lobes pierced while I got the tragus on my ear pierced.

My favorite part about this whole thing was that Eli is totally his own person. He knew that he'd get teased at school for the earrings, just like he was teased when he dyed his hair blue; but he knew what he wanted, and he did it anyway. I wish that I had been that brave when I was his age!

Ear piercings

7. I did an escape room challenge.

Doing my first escape room challenge! This was on a girls' trip to Kansas City to visit my friend Andrea. Caitlin came in from Boston, and Bonnie from Virginia, and we stayed at Andreas for a long weekend. We had so much fun, especially doing the escape room. We had 60 minutes to complete it, and we managed to get out in 59:59! It was a huge adrenaline rush.

Escape Room Kansas City

8. I learned lots of new skills while making over our house.

One of my favorite parts of 2018 was working on our house and giving it a really dramatic makeover. We aren't totally done, but it won't be too much longer. I can't wait to post all of the before and after photos! I feel so proud when I see how much better everything looks. And I did it myself!

Making my own countertops

9. I took Jerry on a surprise date.

In April, I took Jerry on a surprise date. He had NO CLUE where we were going, or even that we were going overnight. I gave him clues along the way, and when we got to the border to Canada, I didn't want to spoil the surprise--so I handed the border patrol guard this note to answer the questions they always ask (where you're going, why, for how long). We went to see Kevin Hart and we stayed overnight. Again, another super fun date! (And yes, we later went to see Kevin Hart again... a double date with friends)


10. I saw Noah go to his first homecoming dance. 

He's growing up so fast! He looked amazing in his suit (and he actually let me pick it out). He met up with his friends (including his girlfriend) where they took some group photos and then went out to dinner. Jerry and I drove him and his girlfriend to the dance and dropped them off. Noah was very nervous, especially about wearing the Converse that I pushed him into, but he had so much fun!

Suit with purple Converse

11. We paid off all of our credit debt!

This was SUPER exciting. We'd had credit card debt for as long as I can remember. Once I started taking medication for bipolar, my mood stabilized enough for me to stop being so impulsive. I made a budget plan and we stuck to it. We paid off $14,500 in 14 months, and it felt SO freeing! We have continued with our budget so that we can pay for our home makeover as we go, instead of charging it all and paying it off later.

Debt free!

12. Cashing in several years' worth of change.

Jerry, the kids, and I saved up all of our (by "our" I mean 95% mine) change in the piggy bank and finally cashed it in. I told the kids about a year ago that if they put all of their change in it, they would get to split it all with us when we cashed it in. We finally filled the entire bank (it weighed about 40 pounds!) and then cashed it in. We had $490 in change!

Piggy Bank full of change

13. I played in the snow with the family.

Sadly, I hadn't done this in years (I hate snow!) but I put on some snow pants and boots, and played like a child. We made snow angels, had a snowball fight, pulled each other around in a sled, and chased Joey. Some Hallmark commercial worthy family stuff. (Or the "after" part of an antidepressant commercial, hahaha!)

Snow fight

14. The kids and I rode our bikes to Subway. 

This may not sound like a big deal, but it was about 11 miles round trip, and included some busy roads. I was scared to death letting the kids ride on those roads, but they were very proud that they rode so far (and thrilled to eat Subway for dinner).

Riding bikes

15. I became an aunt again!

Miss Riley Jo was born in August, and just like that, I had a niece :) She has the biggest, most contagious smile I've ever seen on a baby. I've LOVED being an aunt to Luke, and now it's going to be super fun to do girl things with a niece!

My new niece!

16. I trained for a half-marathon with Jerry.

While we didn't end up running the race, we did train all the way up through an 11 mile long run. I'm not sure why I enjoyed it so much, but we had a great time on our long runs. We ran nice and slow, not caring at all about our pace, and chatted the whole time. Training with a partner made the time go by faster, and it felt less like work and more like enjoyment.

Slow runners

17. I went strawberry picking with Emily.

Then we made strawberry jam and strawberry margaritas afterward! Emily is a blog-reader-turned-dear-friend. I had never gone berry picking before (maybe I did when I was a kid, but I don't remember) and it was a goal on my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old list. Picking the berries was relaxing in a way--we just talked and made our way down the row, staining our fingers and taste-testing a few berries. I definitely want to do it again next year!

Strawberry picking

18. Jerry and I took the kids to a Tigers game in May. 

It was MISERABLY hot (over 90 degrees and so humid), which is always the case when I go to Tigers games. I have no idea why it always happens that way. Regardless, we had fun--and we even randomly bumped into my brother (Nathan) while we were there!

Detroit Tigers game

And there it is! My favorite moments of 2018. I feel like 2018 was a year of accomplishments--mainly paying off our credit debt and making over our house. I worked SO hard on both of those things, and I'm very proud of the outcome.

I have some ideas for 2019, which I'll probably write about tomorrow. But I definitely want to keep it simple; I'd like to pick 2-3 goals to focus on instead of a whole bunch of things at one time.

I like to do the same "fun facts" every year on this post, so here goes:

I ran 279.16 miles this year. Almost as low as last year, if not for the half-marathon training. In September of 2013, I actually ran 205 miles in a MONTH. I don't know if I'll ever get my running mojo back, but I'd like to keep trying. I felt really good when I was running regularly. Now, it's so hard to get back in that habit!

The food I consumed the most of this year was definitely crushed ice from Sonic (technically not really food, but I eat it like it is). I've always been an ice chewer (yes, it's a bad habit, and no, it's not due to anemia or anything like that). My friend Sarah told me that you can buy bags of ice from Sonic (they have the best ice!) and once I learned that, I always have it with me.

My most memorable meal was OBVIOUSLY the Vermonster at Ben & Jerry's ;)  Other than that, though, I would say it was probably having Kansas City BBQ when I went on my girls' trip.

My current favorite breakfast is sourdough toast with coconut oil.
My current favorite TV Show is "The Good Doctor"
My current favorite evening treat is potato chips (cheddar sour cream Ruffles)

What I am most looking forward to in 2018? Finishing our home makeover!

December 30, 2018

Holiday Happenings

It's been so long since I've posted! The time goes by so fast over the holidays. Only two more days left of 2018--I cannot believe it.

We haven't really been up to anything super exciting, so I'll just recap a few highlights over the last week or so.

On Christmas Eve, Jerry and I took the kids to Jerry's parents' house to exchange gifts with them. Jerry's parents gave us a gift card to Lowe's (which is much appreciated, considering how much time/money I've spent there in the last four months!).

It's funny--a few days prior, my mom called my house to talk to me and Eli told her I wasn't home. She asked where I was, and he said, "Probably at Lowe's." Hahaha! When I'm not at home or driving the kids to/from school and activities, I can usually be found at Lowe's.

We went from Jerry's parents' house to Jerry's grandparents' house for his family Christmas party. Jerry was really happy to get to chat with his grandma and to see his aunts, uncles, and cousins. I love this photo of him with his grandma:

On Christmas morning, my parents, Nathan, Brian, Becky, Luke and Riley came over. When my kids were the only ones in the family, I always invited everyone over to watch them open gifts. I was so happy when Becky said they wanted to come again this year.

I always keep it super low-key (Christmas should be stress-free, in my opinion... although that's a bit of an oxymoron). I made coffee cake and my mom brought over a couple of other things for breakfast. Then we had a lazy morning watching the kids open presents.

My kids are at the ages where watching them open gifts isn't quite as exciting as it used to be, but watching Luke was SO entertaining! He'll be two years old in March, and this age is so funny. He asks what everything is and repeats words constantly. He loves to watch us do something and then try to do it himself.

We bought him a little recliner--my kids had one when they were little (although theirs didn't have a cup holder!) and they loved it.

Nathan gave Luke a little battery operated four-wheeler, and he spent some time putting that together. Luke was super interested in watching him, so I ended up digging out the gift I'd put away for his birthday and giving it to him then. It was a tool belt with a bunch of toy tools. He immediately got out the hammer and started "fixing" his four-wheeler.

Riley is obviously too young to enjoy opening gifts, but she was super smiley. She and Luke wore matching pajamas--so cute. Riley has this smile that is SO big and contagious--and it's much easier to make her smile than it was to get Luke to smile at that age! Of course, I can never manage to get a picture of it, but Becky gets great ones, like this:

My kids were probably just humoring me when I asked what their favorite gift was, but each of them said it was the shirt I designed for them. (I love to design shirts and then get them printed at a local shop--I can buy shirts for cheap at the craft store and then get the design printed for $4-7.) I use the word "design" loosely--it usually involves browsing through Google images for inspiration once I have an idea of what I want to do.

My family LOVES the show Psych (it went off the air several years ago, but we watch episodes on Amazon Prime), and I designed a Psych shirt for each of the kids. (A little tidbit from the show is that there is a pineapple somewhere in every episode.)

This one is Noah's:

Psych pineapple shirt

On Eli's shirt, I included part of the lyrics for the show's theme song--it's super catchy and we all sing along when watching.

Psych pineapple lyrics

Jerry and I agreed on a $15 gift limit for each other (we don't typically exchange gifts, but we wanted to do a little something for fun). For his gift, I designed a shirt with his favorite quote from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation:

Clark Griswold quote

Since we had my family over on Christmas, and I knew we'd be having my childhood friends over on the 28th, I was really hoping to find a loveseat or small couch to finish off the living room furniture. Without it, we didn't have much seating. I'd been looking at Facebook Marketplace every day waiting for the perfect one to come along. I wanted a good quality couch that wasn't going to fall apart. And on Christmas Eve, we got one!

It was a sofa I'd seen several times while browsing, and I was interested, but one thing that bothered me was that the cushions on the back looked a little deflated. I really liked the shape of the couch, though (a crescent shaped front) and the size, so when I saw that they'd lowered the price to only $50, I inquired about it. When I asked about the fabric, they sent a picture of the label, and I saw that it was a Sherrill sofa! Sherrill is a high-quality brand, and when I learned this sofa was Sherrill, I was sold.

Jerry and Noah picked it up on Christmas Eve morning. When they were bringing it inside, I wasn't thrilled with the color--it wasn't as gray as I thought--but once they set it in the living room, it actually looked pretty perfect.

It fit where I wanted it, and when I sat on it, I announced it was the most comfortable couch I'd ever owned. And I discovered that the reason the cushions on the back didn't look very full is because they are filled with some sort of synthetic down or a down blend--SO squishy and comfortable. Everything about the couch was in fantastic shape and I couldn't stop exclaiming how comfy it was. My kids and Jerry agreed.

Sherrill sofa

I've been worried about the cats scratching up the new (used) furniture we have, so I bought them a scratcher on Amazon. They LOVE this one. They are always scratching it, but they also like to sleep on it. And the best part is, they have not touched the furniture at all. I felt stupid paying so much for a scratching pad, but it was worth every penny.

On Friday, some of my childhood friends came over. We get together every Christmas, which is a fun tradition. We all grew up on the same block and have been friends for over 30 years, so we love to reminisce about our childhood days.

It was SO much fun to see everyone. I made a list of Jeopardy-like questions about people and places from our old neighborhood, and reading those out loud prompted some memories that I'd completely forgotten about.

Jerry was off work yesterday, and I declared that I wanted a day for us to just completely veg on our super comfy sofa and watch movies all day. We hardly ever have days that we literally don't have anything going on, so it was really nice to do nothing.

Tonight, Dave and Renee and their boys are coming over. They haven't been here since we started the remodel, so I'm excited for Renee to see what I'd been working so hard on during cross country season. (I would frequently show up to practice with paint or drywall dust in my hair.)

I wish that our floor was done, because that will really make the whole thing look put together, but aside from the floor (and the island countertop, which we are hoping to do tomorrow) it looks pretty good. I'm thrilled with the way it's all turning out.

Every New Year's Eve, I write a post about my top moments of the year. I haven't even started thinking about it yet, so I'm going to start working on it now. Hopefully, I'll have it ready to post tomorrow.

I hope everyone is having a great holiday season!

December 23, 2018

Weight Loss Plans for the New Year

Last year, I was so sure that I was done with ever making another "New Year's Resolution" to lose weight. I know it's cliché, but I really do love the idea of starting fresh in a new year--even though it's just another day on the calendar. (Throughout this post, I'm including a photo from January of each year that I started blogging here in 2011)

me in 2011

I've always loved setting goals, but they seem extra special when it's time for a new year to start. That said, it totally contradicts my post about "Waiting until the new year". If we make changes that we're willing to live with forever, then we shouldn't have to wait until January 1 to start. Regardless, there is something motivating about that first day of a new year.

me in January 2012, on my 30th birthday

And now, being the highest weight I've been in eight years, I am starting to feel a little panicked. I thought it would work itself out, like it usually does when I pick up some weight, but I am just having the hardest time getting the scale to budge.

Me in 2013, on my 31st birthday

Last year, I was doing great with my own little combination of intuitive eating and eating only at certain times of the day (8, 12, 4, and 8). It was a year ago that things started going downhill and my weight started going uphill. I was REALLY worried about Jerry, and I focused more on that than I did on anything else.

Me in 2014, during Runner's World photo shoot

Recently, I tried the experiment with intermittent fasting. While I really liked it (mentally, it really helped me to stop thinking about food all the time and it felt easy to do), I didn't lose a single pound. I may have been overeating, but I didn't want to count calories AND fast. I was hoping the fasting would be an alternative.

I've lost a lot of the intuition that I'd built last year, so intuitive eating (by itself) just isn't working anymore. I definitely don't want to do Weight Watchers, or Keto, or any of the other "diet" plans out there. So, I've decided to go back to what has worked so well for me in the past--counting calories, and nothing else.

Me in 2015, after Becky presented me with my race t-shirt quilt

When I dropped 40 pounds pretty quickly in 2015-2016, I was simply counting calories (along with training for the 10K). I made the calorie counting work in a way that fit into my lifestyle. I didn't worry about what food I was eating (I ate what I wanted most) and I ate four times a day (8, 12, 4, and 8). I kept my portions moderate. And I felt good!

Me at nearly my thinnest in 2016

Counting calories is something I know well, and I know that it works for me. I don't feel deprived while doing it, and there aren't any "rules". The biggest drawback (for me) is portioning out food, especially while cooking.

My solution for that is to relax a bit. I don't have to measure things right to the gram. If I don't know how something is prepared, then I just look up something similar and count that. As long as I'm eating moderate portions, my calories will be in check. (I wish I could do the moderate portions while NOT counting calories, but I haven't mastered that yet.)

Me in January 2017, hoping to appear thinner than I was

I'm going to use my Fat Secret app to keep track of my calories. (Funnily enough, as I was looking up that link, I found this post that I wrote in April about my plan to get back to my goal weight. We'll see if I'm any more successful this time! Haha). I also like a paper copy, so I'm going to do the old school tracking method, too.

I'm not going to make any claims just yet about running and if/how/when I'm going to get back to a routine. Each time I think I'm ready, something happens that I just stop doing it. Lately, it's been working on the home remodel. I've spent every spare minute working on that. Other than the island countertop and the flooring, we are pretty much done (aside from just a few minor things that aren't on a time crunch).

My sister's weight is up a bit, too, and she asked me if I'd want to start exchanging our food logs each day. It sounds simple enough--we've done this in the past for accountability--but it really does help. When thinking about my food choices, I remember that I'm going to have to write it down and send a picture to Jeanie. Not that she's judgmental, but there is something about sharing things like that that makes us feel vulnerable. And that can be helpful!

Me on treadmill in January 2018--starting to gain weight

I'm going to Phoenix on January 25th (my birthday!) and I'd love to drop some weight before then. Ambitiously, I think I could lose about 10 pounds (the first five will come off quickly due to water weight). But, I would be happy just to get back in the 150's.

I'm not going to wait until New Year's Day to start. I don't have much going on--my family is coming over on Christmas morning, and we're just having a simple brunch. And then on the 28th, I'm having my childhood friends over. I'm going to make Wendy's Chili for that, which is pretty healthy and SO good. I actually feel pretty good about getting started! I'm tired of thinking about it and not doing anything about it. I need to read Andrea's advice about "Just get it over with!" again ;)  (Seriously, check out that post--it makes so much sense!)

I don't have any current photos of me, because I've been avoiding the camera like the plague. (Just now, I took a selfie--see below--no make-up, gray roots, and all.) I am going to take some current photos this week because I need to quit avoiding it--avoiding it doesn't make it go away.

So, I will face the camera, pick out my first pair of "milestone jeans" and then get to work. (I've been debating whether to post Wednesday Weigh-ins again every week. I love the accountability, but it is a very vulnerable thing to post, especially when things aren't going well. So, I'll think about it some more. Regardless, I'll share my progress now and then.)

Merry Christmas, everyone! (Or Happy Holidays, if you don't celebrate Christmas!)

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