December 31, 2017

Top 17 of 2017


This post has become somewhat of a tradition. I've done one each year since 2011. It's a nice way of looking back on the year, and focusing on the highlights--the things that I may have forgotten if not for writing this post.

Some of the items on the list are obvious, but others are subtle things that had an impact on me in some way. Here are links to my past years' lists:

My Top 11 of 2011
My Top 12 of 2012
My Top 13 of 2013
My Top 14 of 2014
My Top 15 of 2015
My Top 16 of 2016

And here we go... my Top 17 of 2017...

1. Becoming an aunt

This was definitely my most favorite part of 2017! Lucas Charles was born on March 8, 2017. Seeing him grow this year, and seeing my brother as a dad, has warmed my heart in ways I can't even describe. I fell in love with Luke the moment I saw him, and I am able to cherish and enjoy every moment I spend with him, because he grows too fast.

There is something different about being an aunt than a mom. I love both, but there is just something so special about being an aunt! Becky, my sister-in-law, absolutely amazes me as well--with Brian being a pilot, he's gone quite a bit, and Becky has been the best mom to Luke. I think Brian and Becky's parenting style (totally relaxed!) has helped Luke become very chill and happy.



2. Spending some quality time with Noah during the nightmare that was his "splinter"

What we thought was a simple splinter at first seemed to be no big deal. But once we realized just how serious everything was, and we had the whole fiasco with the emergency room experiences, this whole thing was a living nightmare. And when my doctor insisted that we take Noah to yet another ER (in Ann Arbor, a good 45 minutes away), during the biggest snow storm of the year, I was stressed to the max over all of it.

The drive to Ann Arbor with Noah took forever, because we were crawling at 25-35 mph on the expressway due to the snow. There were times where I couldn't see even 10 feet in front of the car. At one point, my car ran out of wiper fluid, and with all the salt from the roads winding up on my windshield, I couldn't see. We had to pull off the expressway to a gas station and buy some wiper fluid.

When we finally got to the ER, we spent all day in an exam room with doctors and nurses popping in and out. This is an odd choice for one item of my "Top 17" list, but the drive to and from the hospital, as well as sitting in the exam room for so long, meant I got to spend alone time with Noah (which is rare--he's "too cool" to hang out with his mom much). I have good feelings with thinking back on that day.



3. Hosting a meet-up for local From Fat to Finish Line members

After meeting some of the FFTFL members in San Diego earlier in the year, I really wanted to get more involved. So, I organized a meet-up to go for a 5K walk at the State Park, followed by breakfast at Cracker Barrel. These people were so kind, and I really enjoyed meeting them!



4. Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder

This is a very odd choice as one of the "top" moments of 2017, but this diagnosis changed my life for the better in so many ways. I finally learned why I am the way I am; and best of all, I learned that there is a medication that can help me to be a stable version of myself. After starting the medication, I felt a million times better. I had just gone through the worst depressive episode of my life, and the change was huge.

While having bipolar disorder is embarrassing sometimes, and there is a huge stigma attached to it, I hope to bring more awareness to it. I have not only accepted the diagnosis, but I've embraced it. There are certain "bipolar parts" of me that I like, and now I know that there is a reason for my quirks. I've chosen to use humor to embrace the diagnosis, and that has made all the difference in how I've handled it.



5. Hosting a blog reader meet-up in Indy

Having decided to do the Indy Mini again this year, I invited readers to come share the weekend with me. I wasn't sure if anyone would be interested, but there was a huge turnout. Some of these women even traveled quite a distance for the meet-up, and I felt honored that they did that. The women I spent the day or weekend with were fantastic--everybody was SO nice!

Jerry came with me, and he enjoyed getting to know some of the other husbands. We both had a very fun weekend getting to know and spend time with new friends.



6. Hiking in several places in Oregon

This was one of my most favorite trips of all time. I went to Oregon to visit my BFF, Thomas, in Portland (which has basically become my "home away from home"). I absolutely LOVE the Pacific Northwest! Considering this was my fifth(?) trip out there in the past few years, Thomas showed me some of Oregon that was very different from Portland. The places we hiked were very dry and desert-like, which was the polar opposite of lush green Portland.

While I definitely prefer the green (the trees are my favorite part of the PNW), it was very cool to see the side of Oregon that I didn't even know existed. The views were stunning.



7. Having the Detroit Zoo to ourselves after closing

Well, not necessarily to "ourselves", but to the company that Jerry works for. We got to have a catered dinner, and then walk around the zoo in the evening hours after they closed. It was so nice not to have to maneuver through crowds of people, and to spend time with the Jerry and the kids.



8. Family vacation over the Fourth of July at my sister's "Camp Fireside"

The whole family went up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to my sister's property for the Fourth of July. We spent several days riding four wheelers, sitting around the campfire, playing Cornhole, and other fun things. I spent about 75% of my time hanging out with Luke ;)



9. Teaching Eli to cook while Noah was at camp

Noah went to church camp in the summer, and Eli chose not to go. I looked at day camp options, and he was interested in a cooking camp. I looked into it, but he would have been one of the oldest kids there, and I thought maybe it would be too easy for him. So, I told him that we would do our own little cooking class at home.

I let him choose several different things to make, each using a different technique so that he could learn a variety of skills. He loved it! And so did I. It was a great way to spend quality time with him, and we had some really yummy food. His favorite was this steak with sautéed summer squash and zucchini. It was probably the most delicious steak I've ever eaten. And I'm not even a fan of steak!



10. Digging out hostas with Jerry

Again, an odd choice for this list. But I have literally never laughed so hard in my entire life. We sucked at splitting the hostas (our first time trying to do it), and we couldn't stop laughing at what a terrible job we were doing. I couldn't even catch my breath, and I thought I was going to pass out. It was one of the funnest moments I've ever had with Jerry.



11. Going to the airshow with the family

Our next door neighbor gave us tickets to the airshow, so we thought it would be a fun family thing to do. While the airshow was just okay, we did share a lot of laughs. Particularly at the hideously ugly sunglasses we bought, because we'd forgotten our own.



12. Finally feeling free from the anxiety caused by social media/blog comments

I wrote a whole post about it (link above), but this was one of the very best parts of the last several years--not just 2017. Worrying about what other people think, and the comments that they make to me or about me was the source of a ton of anxiety that I carried around constantly. Once I had a breakthrough in therapy, as well as started my new bipolar meds, I was finally able to get rid of that anxiety. I no longer care at all what other people think of me, as long as I feel good about myself. This has opened up so many opportunities that I would have missed out on otherwise.



13. Jerry and I visiting Dan and Laurel in Seattle

On my trips to Portland, I've gone up to Seattle a couple of times now. Dan and Laurel are one of the most fun couples I know, and I was so excited for Jerry to meet them. We had a fantastic couple of days (starting with Laurel announcing that she's pregnant!). I'm already looking forward to visiting next year so that I can meet the baby :)



14. Visiting Thomas in Portland

From Seattle, Jerry and I drove back down to Portland to meet up with Thomas for a few days. Thomas planned lots of fun things for us to do, and he managed to choose things that would interest both Jerry and me (not an easy task). I was thrilled that Jerry finally got to see all the things I love about the Pacific Northwest.



15. A visit from Caitlin

I went to Boston in April to visit Caitlin (a blog reader who eventually turned into one of my best friends), which was tough not to include on this list (I had to narrow my list down from 52(!!) to 17.) I had so much fun with her while she was here, and the trip went by way too fast. One of the best parts was that I convinced her to do a boudoir photoshoot, and despite being very nervous and expecting to hate every minute of it, she LOVED it. She loved it so much that she wrote a guest post about it, which I will share soon.



16. Family photos with Santa

My kids had never gotten pictures with Santa before, and Jerry needed some cheering up, so I planned a surprise visit to Somerset Collection (an upscale mall) to have a photo session with Santa. We all had so much fun! We got some great photos out of it, too. We went to dinner afterward, and the whole afternoon/evening was a very fun way to spend time with the family.



17. Getting together with my childhood friends for the holidays

I have been friends with this group for well over 30 years. We try to get together every Christmas, but we missed the last two years. On Friday, they came to my house, and it was so fun getting to catch up with them. I even had photos printed of us from childhood, and it was fun looking through those and reminiscing.

The youngest of the group, Spence (Lance's younger brother--I've mentioned Lance several times on my blog), was diagnosed last month with stage 4 glioblastoma (brain cancer). I don't want to write about that now, because it was one of the biggest punches in the stomach I've ever felt; but spending time with these friends a few days ago meant more to me than ever before. I'm going to his house tonight for a New Year's Eve get together.




Considering the fact that I had to narrow down this list from 52 to 17, this year was clearly a very good year. Although it was off to a rocky start, this year ended up being one of the best ever!

Some fun facts for 2017:

I ran 146.85 miles this year. My lowest ever--by far. In September 2013, I actually ran 205 miles in a MONTH. There were two months this year that I didn't run a single mile. I don't regret any of it, though. I did what felt right for me at the time.

The food I consumed the most of was probably Mott's fruit snacks. I can't get enough of them, and I've been eating them every day for probably 10 months.

My most memorable meal was the Corn in a Cup I had in Indy. Not necessarily my very favorite meal, but certainly the most memorable. I saw a stand at the mall advertising "Corn in a Cup" and they were giving out samples. I was blown away at how good it was (corn with some seasonings). I was craving it all day, and when everyone else had pizza, I got Corn in a Cup, hahahaha.

My current favorite breakfast is some sort of sugar cereal (Cap'n Crunch is my favorite)
My current favorite TV Show is probably "The Good Doctor" or "This Is Us"
My current favorite evening treat is Mott's fruit snacks

What I am most looking forward to in 2018? Our family vacation to Boston!

Tomorrow, I'll write a post about my goals for 2018.


December 28, 2017

A Creative Christmas Gift for the Kids

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas! Ours was great :)

This year, I got creative with my kids' gifts. I didn't want to spoil them with "stuff" that was just going to sit around in their closets. I wanted instead to give them fun memories--and Jerry and I decided that a family vacation for their spring break would be perfect.

I knew I wanted to take them to a city (wasn't sure exactly which one). When I was growing up, I always had to go along with whatever my family wanted to do; and since my interests are very different from theirs, I never really got to have "my type" of vacation. After declaring this year my year of doing what I enjoy (unapologetically), I decided I wanted to take the kids on my type of vacation.

And after much deliberation, I settled on Boston.

My kids have obviously never been there, but it will be Jerry's first time as well. I know that Jerry will love Boston, and I'm pretty sure my kids will, too. So, the plan was to surprise the kids on Christmas with the Boston vacation plans in a creative way.

I bought them each a nice suitcase, as well as some travel stuff to go along with it (a travel pillow, toiletries bag, portable batteries for their phones, etc.). Then, I wrote clues to describe different places we are going or things we are doing while on vacation. Along with each clue was a little item (some were useless, others were a real gift, like Legos) to further describe the clue.

Hard to describe, so here are several of them...

This first one is the suitcase (wrapped in a gift bag). I wrote a little clue on the tag:

"You may think your first gift is lame,
But let me give you a tip:
You will be glad you have this come March
When we leave for an adventurous trip!"



So, they opened up the gift bag and there was a suitcase inside. The tag read,

"Inside this luggage,
You'll find the things you'll need
To travel in an airplane
And explore a city you've never seen."


And then inside the suitcase was a bunch of little travel things:



Following those, we wanted them to know where we were going, so they got this:

"We'll leave in the morning
For a TON of fun sights;
You don't need to be a BOSS
To sit through the two-hour flight!"


I thought that clue was going to be super obvious, considering I capitalized "TON" and "BOSS". They didn't get it, so they had to open the little bag and see the postcard and Boston Baked Beans before figuring it out. After that one, I figured they wouldn't be able to guess anything! Haha.


Next, we gave them little items in the order that we'd be experiencing them on our trip...

"You may hear a spell cast,
Or make friends with a black cat;
But can you tell me in what city
You could find this witch's hat?"


And the answer is Salem. We are going to take a drive to Salem to check out the sights there (something I wanted to do on the last two visits out there, but wasn't able to).


After that, they were given this clue:

"Our next adventure
Will take place as we set sail
And keep our eyes peeled
For a large spout or tail!"


The answer to that one is that we are going whale watching. Eli was crazy excited about this.


Followed by that, they were given this clue:

"The next place on our list
May make you want to dive right in;
But you'd better think twice,
Because you don't have any fins!"


This one was referring to the aquarium. All four of us love aquariums, so we're looking forward to that.


Next up:

"When you get dressed for this park, make sure you wear your sox--
Any color you like--blue, green, purple, black, or tan;
But if you choose red,
It'll show you're a true Boston fan!"


The answer, of course, is Fenway Park. The Red Sox aren't playing a game, but we are going to do the park tour that I did with Caitlin and John. Jerry is super excited about it.


After three nights in Boston, we are actually going on a little road trip. This next part is what I'm most looking forward to on this trip--and you'll laugh (or maybe roll your eyes) when you see what it is!

"When you go to bed at night,
You may imagine a monster at your feet;
But no need to worry,
This monster is sweet!"

And the clue was a Ben & Jerry's container with a little "monster" inside of it.


The answer to this one is "Vermonster". Years ago, we saw a show on the Food Network that featured "The Vermonster" at the Ben & Jerry's headquarters in Waterbury, Vermont. The Vermonster is an enormous ice cream sundae: 20 scoops of ice cream, 4 bananas, 3 cookies, 1 brownie, hot fudge, caramel, 10 spoonfuls of nuts, 2 spoonfuls of other toppings, and whipped cream.

After seeing that on the show, we all vowed that someday, we'd make the trip to Vermont and get one of these sundaes. Once in a while, one of us brings it up and we say, "Someday, we need to go there and get one!"

And "someday" is finally happening... we're going to Vermont to get a Vermonster. Definitely my kind of vacation, hahaha.


We'll spend one night in Vermont, and then:

"You may envision the west coast
When you hear this city's name;
But we're not going to the one in Oregon--
We're going to the one in Maine!"


From Waterbury, we'll drive to Portland, Maine. I've always thought it would be a cool place to see, and I've never been to Maine, so I think it'll be fun.

Our next adventure:

"Our next adventure takes place on a ferry,
Where we'll check traps and look inside with awe,
At the critter we'll call dinner
When we eat his two big claws!"


We're going on a "lobstering" tour, where we can buy the lobsters we catch and then have a restaurant cook them for us. It feels kind of morbid, but the kids have never tried lobster before, and when in Maine... well, what better place to eat lobster?!

There are a couple of other things we're doing on the trip, and I forgot to get pictures of the clues, but you get the idea ;)



When I was planning out our trip, I had originally been looking at Delta flights for my next trip to Portland (Oregon). I had just under 50,000 SkyMiles saved up, which is definitely enough for a round trip flight to Portland. Sometimes, I get lucky and find a ticket for 30-35,000; but usually, it costs more like 40-45,000.

On a whim, I checked the tickets to Boston as well. After plugging in different dates, I found a deal that seemed too good to be true--tickets for 12,000 SkyMiles roundtrip. So, for four roundtrip tickets, the total was only 48,000 SkyMiles! I had enough SkyMiles to buy ALL FOUR of our tickets to Boston, so I just had to pay the tax of $11 per person. I couldn't believe it. (Here is an explanation of how I earn SkyMiles for traveling. I LOVE Delta SkyMiles! If you are considering getting a Delta SkyMiles American Express, I would be so thrilled if you would use my referral link. We each get a bonus for it). Exciting stuff :)



I got a couple of fun shirts for Christmas. Noah and Eli gave me a hoodie with a cat pouch in it! The hoodie itself is really cute--the hood has cat ears on it, it has thumbholes, and paw prints embroidered on the front.

It also has a large pouch in front, just for the cats to chillax ;)


I absolutely did not believe that either of my cats would stay in there (and it would be hell trying to get them in). However, Estelle actually loved it! She sat in there for the longest time (I watched a two-hour movie, and didn't move--she was totally content in there). I, on the other hand, felt like I was pregnant. Haha, it was hard to move around with her weight pulling me down.

Becky drew my name for our family gift exchange, and I cracked up when I opened this shirt from her:


She clearly knows me well ;)

And speaking of bipolar, on my last post I mentioned a depressive episode that I'd been having. Well, that seems to have turned around. I'm feeling much better now. The mild sadness lasted for about 3 weeks, and then feeling depressed (mild, nothing too serious) lasted for about a week. I am SO GLAD that it didn't turn into more than that. I'm still getting used to all this (my diagnosis and medications), so I don't know exactly what to expect. I'm learning as I'm going.



This week has been crazy, considering the holidays and get-togethers, so I will get back to the regular stuff next week!


December 24, 2017

A First Timer's Half-Marathon Training Plan (for new runners)

I've written a few different half-marathon training plans--one for walkers who want to walk a half-marathon; one for the very beginner, a non-runner who wants to run a half-marathon in six months; and one for experienced runners who want to finish feeling strong.

It's about time I wrote one for the average novice runner who perhaps wants to step up their game and run a half-marathon. Maybe you just finished your first 5K, and you're feeling that runner's high that gets ahold of all of us at some point--you get a little crazy and sign up for several more races after having a couple glasses of wine and announcing it all over Facebook.

(Oh, is that just me?)

This plan is for you. If you can run 3-4 miles at a time, 3-4 days per week, then you can complete this plan and run 13.1 miles 13 weeks from now.


First Timer's Half-Marathon Training Plan PDF

Or maybe you're not a beginner, but you just want a simple, minimal training plan.

This is not an intense, rigorous training schedule. It has four runs per week--two very easy runs, one speed work run (either intervals or tempo), and one long run. The speed work is optional--if you don't care about your speed at all, then you could simply run 30-45 minutes at an easy pace instead.

There are three "step-back" weeks--weeks where the mileage and/or intensity is decreased to allow your body a chance to recover a bit before picking it up again the following week.

The long run builds up to 12 miles before the taper, and then you'll be ready to run 13.1!

I am always stressing the importance of running the easy runs at a truly EASY pace, so I highly recommend--no, I insist--that you read my post called The Importance of the Easy Run. Easy runs are what build up endurance, and the endurance is what will keep you going for 13.1 miles. If you run your easy runs too fast, you will not be conditioning your body in the ideal way necessary to run long distances. So please read it!

In addition to that post, here are a few more that may be helpful for first timers:

50 Tips for Running
All About Fueling for Runs
Tips for Running (and Training for) Your First Half-Marathon
My Favorite Running Stuff (clothes, gear, etc.)

I welcome feedback about my training plans--good or bad--so please let me know how it goes for you! Best wishes as you train for your first half :)


December 23, 2017

How to Build a Base (A Training Plan for Beginner Runners)

I could have sworn I wrote a post about this before, but when I was looking for it a few days ago, I realized that I actually didn't write it. I just wrote the running plan, but not the post. 


When people first start running, their legs obviously aren't as conditioned as someone who has been running for years. And, surprise surprise, the only way to condition our legs to run is to run--a lot. 

It's important not to do too much too soon, though--going from couch potato to running 20 miles a week, for example--so we need to spend some time steadily building our way up to where we need to be to hit our goals. 

If you think of it in terms of a body builder, you know that you can't go from lifting 50 pounds to lifting 200 pounds overnight. It takes a long time and a lot of small increases in weight to get to that point. 

So, in runners terms, we can't go from running 0 miles per week to running 40 miles per week overnight. We have to do a little here and a little there, until our legs build up the conditioning that we need in order to run that kind of mileage. 

In order to build up that "base", as it's called, we have to run frequently--but only increase our distance (or time) spent running by a small amount at a time. Each and every run is important to building a base.

As a certified RRCA coach, the guideline we follow that constitutes a solid base is to run a total of 300-500 miles. The length of base training is 6-16 weeks, and is done entirely at an easy pace (make sure you read this post about the importance of an easy pace!). Building a base is very important, even though it seems overwhelming at first. 

One of my favorite phrases is "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." 

And likewise, how do you build a solid running base? One mile at a time.

I've written this base building plan for novice runners who want to get in their mileage and condition their bodies to handle training for a race. It also builds discipline by following a training schedule. 


This plan may not work you up to that 300-500 mile marker, but it does establish a solid foundation and routine. It's a way to develop consistency and discipline. It's a 16-week plan and ALL of it is done at an easy pace. The easy pace is crucial in building a base.  

This plan assumes that you can run 30 minutes, 3 days per week. You should also get permission from your doctor to make sure that your health is good enough to follow the plan. 

You can switch the days around each week however you'd like. Just make sure to run them all at an easy pace

I welcome all feedback, good or bad, so please let me know how it goes for you!


December 22, 2017

"When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny"

I wanted to share this on Wednesday, but I have been feeling sad recently and just wasn't feeling up to writing a blog post; so I'll just post this now. Better late than never. (Seems to be my motto lately!)


See how happy Joey is that I made him cuddle with me? Hahaha.

Ever since I saw the performance of "OCD", a poem by Neil Hilborn, I have been really into watching videos of slam poetry from Button Poetry. They post all sorts of performance poetry, and the OCD one just blew my mind. (I shared that on this Mental Health Monday post--definitely watch it!)

This one came across my Facebook feed a few days ago, and I was just completely floored. It needs to be seen by every woman who has ever dieted, or felt inferior because of her weight, or had any sort of eating disorder, or who is tired of all the stress that comes from weight--losing, gaining, maintaining, etc.

This particular video is by Blythe Baird, a recovering anorexic. She describes the pressure to be thin, and how society makes us feel like we have to be thin to be worth something. Also, the lengths that we will go to in order to be small.

Isn't that powerful? My favorite line is, "I only feel pretty when I'm hungry". It's so sad, but I have felt that way so many times in my life. 
Also, "the calculator in my head finally stopped". I have FINALLY gotten to that point after years of thinking about food in terms of how many calories or points it has. The numbers don't really cross my mind anymore. Someday, I hope I will get to the point where the number on the scale or the number on my clothing tags don't cross my mind, either--but I'm not quite there yet. 
Speaking of which, the scale has been creeping up for the last month or so--and on Wednesday, I was at 137.2. I've written before about the thought process that happens when gaining weight, and how a two pound gain turns into a thirty pound gain. Basically, it goes like this (for me, anyway):
Starting at 133, my goal weight.
At 135: Oh, it's just two pounds, I can take that off in a day or two of eating well. It's just water weight.
At 138: Well, I'm still under 140, so it's not that bad! I just need a week or two of being back on track.
At 141: I'm only a little over 140, so getting back under 140 won't take much effort at all. 
At 145: I'm still far below 150, and I'll never let myself get back to 150.
At 149: Yeesh, I'd better get back on track. Thankfully, I'm not in the 150's, though.
At 151: Okay, Katie, get with it! You're over 150 now. But at least you're in the very low 150's, so it won't take long to get back in the 140's. 
And that's the way it goes. I can easily see how people gain back all of the weight they've lost. I know how quickly and easily it comes on, especially when thinking of it like I wrote above! 
So, while I'm not panicked at 137 right now, I do know I need to be careful not to get into that mentality. "Well, at least I'm not at 140..." and then "I'm only at 141, it'll be easy to get back in the 130's..." etc. 
My appetite is starting to decrease a little since I decided to stop drinking. This year has given me a lot of insight--I'm sure that alcohol causes an increase in my appetite for days after drinking. 
I was wondering why my appetite was so low during the summer, when usually it's pretty high; I wasn't drinking at all during the summer, and I bet that has a lot to do with it. Normally, summertime means margaritas, shandy, and summery cocktails... and I never paid enough attention to notice that my increase in appetite coincides with alcohol consumption. 
I'm curious to see if not drinking will continue to decrease my appetite and help me get my weight back down to my comfortable range of 131-134. 
I have really loved learning so much about my body and my mind this year! 

December 21, 2017

A Depressive Episode

Writing when I'm feeling good is easy.

Writing when I'm depressed is really, really difficult.

Unfortunately, I'm going through the latter right now. When I started my bipolar meds, I promised myself that I'd write about how I'm feeling, whether it's good or bad. I didn't want to make my happiness seem like a miracle--"I'm great, fantastic, never to feel sad again!" I expected to have hypomanic and depressive episodes in the future; I just hope that they aren't as bad as before.

My mood has not been great for about a month or so, but the last couple of days have been especially bad. There is no cause for it; but that's how my depression has always been. It just seems to come out of nowhere. Yesterday, I was crying for no reason, and I told Jerry how scared I am of returning to the old me.

Usually, the depression happens during the spring and summer; but I felt fantastic this year. I think maybe this depressive episode was triggered by a big change in my routine this past week. Jerry had a week off of work, which was great to get to spend so much time with him, but my routine was thrown off--and I thrive on routine.

I wrote a post on Monday about goal setting, and I think that will help me to get focused on something. I'm having a hard time thinking of a goal, however, so I need to give that some more time and thought. I haven't been wanting to make plans, out of fear of being too ambitious, but being ambitious is what gives me focus.

One thing I've noticed since starting my bipolar meds is that my moods have been more mild and that they change more quickly. Most of the time, I feel "normal". When I am hypomanic, though, it doesn't last long. I haven't experienced real depression while on the meds until now, but I am hoping that it doesn't last long. And that it stays milder than it was before my meds.

Today is my kids' last day of school before Christmas break, so I will still be out of my normal routine while they are home from school. I'm going to make plans to take them to the rec center a few times to swim, and hopefully I can push myself to run on the indoor track. Running always makes me feel better, but getting myself to do it when I'm feeling this way is tough.

I borrowed a few books from the library, so I'm going to try to read at least one of them during Christmas break. I am a very slow reader, and reading one book over a couple of weeks is a decent goal for me. I also started playing my favorite solitaire game again. (I would love to work on puzzles like I used to, but it's too hard on my back; and having just finished physical therapy, I don't want to regress to where I was before.)

When I was feeling happy during the summer, I wrote a list of things that make me happy; and now I can refer to that when I need something to pick me up. My friend Sarah is going to be in town from Arizona for the week after Christmas, and I'm excited about seeing her; I only get to see her twice a year. I've also been thinking about going out to Arizona this winter to get out of the cold and visit her.

I'm really nervous to even write this post, because I feel guilty for feeling sad when I have nothing to feel sad about. I wish I could turn off my feelings with a switch, but it just doesn't work that way.

So anyway, I am just writing this to say that I may not be posting much lately. Or maybe this episode will only last a few days, and I'll be over it. Maybe I'll suddenly be hypomanic tomorrow. I have no idea what to expect!

I don't have any photos for this post, so I'll just share Luke's Christmas card :)


December 19, 2017

RECIPE: Creamy Italian Sausage Tortellini

I threw this together one day when I had a package of hot Italian turkey sausage that I needed to use before the "use by" date. I pulled some ingredients that I thought would go well with it, and made what turned out to be a really good one pot meal. (I love one pot meals!)



Click here for a printer-friendly PDF of the recipe

Creamy Italian Sausage Tortellini

Ingredients:

2 tsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
16-20 oz. hot Italian sausage (I use turkey sausage and remove it from the casings)
2-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 package frozen cheese tortellini (I use a 19 oz bag)
1 (15 oz.) can of diced tomatoes
8 oz. cream cheese
10 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach (fresh is fine, too)
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large pot over med-high heat, and add the onions. Cook a couple of minutes. Add the sausage and garlic. Break up the sausage as it cooks (as big or little as you like), and drain when it’s done cooking. Add the broth and bring to a boil. (Meanwhile, thaw the spinach in the microwave—I throw the whole brick in a bowl and nuke for about 4 minutes on high)

Add the frozen tortellini and cook until the tortellini is done (I let it go about 5-6 minutes, even though the package says 2. Most of the water should be absorbed). Stir in the can of tomatoes. Add the cream cheese and stir gently until the cream cheese is melted.

Squeeze all the water out of the spinach, and then add it to the pot. Finally, stir in enough parmesan cheese to make the sauce as thick as you’d like.


Notes:

You may need to use more or less broth, depending on the size of the package of tortellini. You want to use enough to cook the tortellini, but not so much that it doesn't get absorbed. I would start with less and add more if needed.

You can use fresh spinach if you'd like--just add handfuls of it before adding the parmesan cheese, and stir until it's wilted.

The parmesan cheese will thicken up the sauce, so use however much you'd like to get the sauce as thick as you want it.


December 18, 2017

Setting Goals to Feel Happy and Focused

In the late summer of 2015, I was complaining talking to my friend Thomas about how tired I was of being "fat and slow". After a really rough year with a stress fracture, I had gained weight (reaching nearly 160 pounds) and my running speed (for a 10K) had slowed to 11:00/mi.

That was quite the change from 2013, when I was on top of my game at 133 pounds and running a 7:57 pace for a 10K PR.

Thomas is a pretty fantastic friend when I need some tough love. He told me to quit complaining and DO something about it. Half-jokingly, I made a super bold statement:

"Okay, next year, I will be back down to my goal weight and run a PR in the 10K."

I think I heard Thomas start to choke and spit out his drink before replying, "Okay. That's an ambitious goal." I had expected that we would both burst out laughing about it, and then I would go back to complaining about being fat and slow. But apparently, he thought I was totally serious.

If I had said, "I'm going to try to..." or "I think I'd like to try to..." or "Maybe I'll try..." I wouldn't have even started to work on it. But because I was so bold in saying that I'm GOING TO do it, I would have felt kind of stupid if I made that declaration and didn't follow through.

I was still injured, so I started with my diet. I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app on my phone and began to count calories. It was refreshing from doing Weight Watchers for so long, and I really liked it! I ate whatever I wanted, and I counted the calories in my food. (I wrote a post with all the details of how I counted calories to lose weight.)

By the end of the six-week break I took from running (to heal my stress fracture) was back down to a "normal" BMI, weighing about 144. I started running again, and continued to lose weight.

I wrote a training plan, trying something I'd never done before: Running slower to get faster. I read the book "80/20 Running" by Matt Fitzgerald, and I started using that training method. I couldn't believe how well it worked!

I trained five days a week, pushing myself SO hard on my speed days, and then running at a very easy pace the other 80% of the time. By February, my weight had dropped down to the low 120's, and I PR'ed my 5K--running 24:51. I continued to train my best, following my plan.



Since Thomas was the one who gave me the push I needed to get my ass in gear, I thought it would be fitting for him to pace me during my 10K goal race. Like I said, he is a "tough love" kind of friend, which is exactly what I needed--someone to tell me to shut up and keep moving if when I wanted to quit during the race.

In April, I flew to Portland, and mentally prepared myself to run my best at the race. I had done the work, so I knew I was ready; but I was SO nervous! You can read all the details on my race report, but I had a rough race. I was desperate to quit at mile four, and I told Thomas to go on without me. I was done.

He told me to shut up and keep going, and what would my haters say if I didn't hit my goal? Those were the words I needed to hear in that moment, so I kept going. My legs felt like rubber and my lungs burned, but I pushed myself--and finished in 49:03. A 20-second PR!

I was beyond thrilled. In about 7 months, I had gone from nearly 160 pounds and a 10K pace of 11:00/mile to 121 pounds and a 7:54/mile pace. I had set (what I thought was) an impossible goal, and I crushed it. Best feeling ever!

Before and after setting and crushing my goal

By now, you may know what happened next. I had NO idea what to do with myself as far as goals go. I couldn't come up with any goals that excited me.

And I became depressed. For the next 10 months.

I had just started seeing a therapist before I went to Portland, and when I told her about my 10K PR, how I trained so hard for it, and how I was having a hard time figuring out what was next. She then gave me some advice that I never should have listened to--she told me that I shouldn't make any more goals, and that I should just be content with how things are.

Something I have learned this year about bipolar disorder is that I need a focus. Without something to focus on (a goal) I feel lost and I have no drive. Which easily sends me into a depressive episode. I quit seeing that therapist soon after, and found another (my current one) who I adore. She said that I am a very goal-driven person, and that she understands how good it is to be content as things are, but if setting goals gives me something to work toward (somewhere to channel my energy) then it's a good thing.

This year, I have been very focused on my mental health. The diagnosis of bipolar disorder was completely unexpected and felt like a punch in the stomach. I felt disbelief, then embarrassment, and then acceptance, and finally--finally--I embraced it.

I've spent this year re-discovering myself, and I've been getting happier about who I am. I stopped feeling bad about who I am, apologizing for it, hiding it; and I started living how I want to, saying the things I want to say, doing the things I want to do. I stopped trying to please everybody else, and started respecting my own wishes.

Just ask Jerry and Thomas, who had to wait in line with me for 45 minutes so that I could get ice cream! ;)


All of this has been fantastic. However, I haven't set any real goals, and I'm starting to feel like it's time to do that. I miss the feeling of working toward something measurable, a metaphorical finish line. I'd announced that I was ready to start running again, and I did--but I didn't set any goals to reach for. And because of that, I have only been running sporadically, without any real purpose.

One of the first things I tell people when they ask how to get started running is that they should pick a race and sign up for it--before they even start training. Training is hard enough, but when we don't have a goal in sight, it's very hard to push ourselves to do it. By signing up for a race, we know that we have to train for it.

We also spend money (sometimes a lot of money) to register, and it would be a waste to forfeit that. I also suggest announcing our goals on social media, so that it will be embarrassing if we just decide to quit. I wrote about my 10K training so often on my blog that there was no way I was going to quit! Even if I failed to reach my goal, at least I didn't quit and I know I tried my best.

One more suggestion I have is to have a friend sign up with you. If our friends count on us to train and prepare for a race with them, we would feel really bad about disappointing them. Another assurance that we won't quit.


These steps have been part of almost all of the goals I've accomplished over the last decade or so. It doesn't just have to be for running.

1) Choose a goal. A friend of mine gave me a whole new perspective on goal setting, and I want to share that as well. You may remember Dean from my blog--the first time I heard of Dean was when he submitted a Motivational Monday post. We all watched his progress as he lost 144 pounds and went from couch potato to a sub-4:00 marathoner. My SoleMate friends and I affectionately call him "Dean the Machine".



Dean shared a very interesting idea with me about goal setting, and it made a world of difference. It was actually this that caused me to set my sights on a 10K PR when it was so far out of reach. I'll try and explain it as best as I can:

When setting goals, we tend to choose goals that we believe are within our reach. When Dean was mid-journey, he ran a 2:15 half-marathon. Afterward, he told me that his next goal was going to be sub-2:00, and he asked if I (as a running coach) thought that would be a good goal for him. I told him that he should probably aim for something like 2:10, because 2:00 is a far cry from 2:15.

He politely said that he was going to aim for sub-2:00 anyway. And you know what? Four months later, at his goal race, he ran 1:57! I was shocked. Now, Dean wanted to run a full marathon. I told him that was great, and that his only goal should be to finish--running a marathon is HARD, and I never recommend having a time goal for a first-timer. But Dean aimed for sub-4:00.

Dean the Machine finished his first marathon in 3:53:42, beating his (very hard) goal by more than 6 minutes! At that point, I stopped doubting anything Dean set his mind to. But I wanted to know his secret--why in the hell would he aim so high? Isn't that a lot of pressure to put on himself?

And he explained it like this: If you aim for what you think you can do, then you will do what you can to hit that goal. And if you do hit the goal, you'll be happy with it! Nothing wrong with that. BUT. If you aim for a goal that is much harder, seemingly impossible, you will have to work much harder. And you know the chances of hitting that goal are ridiculous, but you do your best anyway.

If you hit the goal, awesome! Congrats! But if you don't hit the goal, there is a good chance that you'll have done better than you would have if you had aimed for the "safe" goal. In Dean's case: He could set a goal to run a 2:10 half-marathon, and he would likely make it if he trained well for it. Say he finishes in 2:09--woo hoo! He finished a minute faster than he thought.

But if he had chosen to aim for 1:59, he would have to work much harder to hit that goal. And come race day, let's say he finishes in 2:05--a full 6 minutes slower than his goal time. Instead of feeling bummed about missing his goal, he would feel thrilled that he finished a full 5 minutes faster than his "safe" goal! He would never know what he was truly capable of if he didn't aim higher than he thought he could do.

Does that make sense? I love the whole concept, and I've applied it to other goals in my life. After seeing Dean crush goal after goal, I am a believer that setting goals that feel impossible will help us to do even better than we ever thought we could.

So, the first step for me is to set a goal.

2) The second stop that I take is to make it public. I tell my friends, family, and maybe even share it on my blog.

Now, having bipolar disorder, I have set many very lofty goals and/or had some pretty crazy ideas; only to quit before I even start, or to change my goal, or to come up with a "better" idea. This makes it kind of difficult to focus on anything. Since starting my mood stabilizer, I've had a much easier time with it. If I start to have a grandiose idea, I'm able to recognize that and take a step back to think about it. Especially before making it public, hahahaha.



3) Recruit someone who has a like-minded goal to do it with me. If someone is relying on me to help them reach a goal, then I would be a jerk to quit on them.

4) Come up with a plan to work on the goal.

5) Do my very best to reach every STEP of the goal--not just the end result. When I was training for the 10K, I focused on one run at a time. "Today, my goal is to keep my heart rate less than 146 bpm"; or "Today, my goal is to hit my speed work sprints at a pace of 6:30 per mile". I trusted that each step would lead me to the end result that I was looking for.

I apologize for this very long post. The whole point is that I am ready to set some new goals. Nothing overwhelming, but I'd like to set my sights high and work hard. I'm going to give it some thought before I declare anything, but I'm looking forward to focusing on something specific!


December 14, 2017

Budget Update and New (Thrift) Running Clothes

It's been a while since I've written a Thrifty Thursday post!

Jerry and I are still following our budget plan, and it feels really easy now. We've gotten so used to it that it's not even on my mind much. It feels very automatic.

Last month, we weren't able to pay ANY extra onto the credit card. In other circumstances, I would not be happy with the fact that we couldn't pay anything extra--but the reason for it wasn't due to frivolous spending.

We had to pay $600 onto Eli's orthodontic treatment (starting in January, the payments will only be $130 per month, thank God). I also got 90% of the kids' Christmas shopping done last month! I was done shopping before Thanksgiving, which is the first time I've ever gotten done before the week of Christmas.

We didn't go overboard for Christmas this year, but I had been warning the kids of that all year. Last Christmas, they each got a very expensive gift (Noah got a MacBook and Eli got an iPhone). This year is simple and practical, but I'm really excited about it.

I can't wait to write about it, but I will have to until after Christmas (I just don't want my kids to find out yet). The best part is that Christmas is paid for already--every other year, we would wind up charging a ton of stuff to the credit card, and then paying for it for a long time. By staying within our budget, we will not acquire any debt for Christmas, and that's awesome.

So, last month wasn't great for debt repayment, but I expected that because of Christmas. This month will definitely make up for it, though. (There are five paydays this month! Always a nice bonus.) We've kept our extra spending to a bare minimum. There is always something that we need that we don't plan for (this month, Jerry needed new tires for his car), but barring anything else happening, we should be able to make a nice payment onto the credit card at the end of the month.

We'll also be saving a lot of money on co-pays from now on. I only have two more physical therapy sessions. I had my last appointment with the spine center. I reduced my therapy sessions to once a month (I don't feel the need to go as frequently anymore, so that's a good thing). And I'm well established with my psychiatrist, so I only need to see him every 3-4 months. I'm not even sure what I'll do with myself now that I don't have appointments all the time! Haha. (Run. The correct answer is "run", Katie.)

Speaking of running, I went to Salvation Army a few days ago to hopefully get a couple of sweatshirts; and while I didn't find any sweatshirts, I did find some nice running clothes. I didn't necessarily need running clothes, but now that I'm basically a new runner again, I thought some new (to me) things might motivate me.

I really did need a fleece, or something extra warm, to wear on top of another layer. I found this one, and it's very warm and cozy. I like the color, too. It was marked at $5, but it was half off, so I only paid $2.50.


I got a pair of Nike running pants that are super warm, and they're big enough to wear over my running tights. I'm super excited about these, because running in the cold is so unappealing lately; and I didn't have any pants to wear as a top layer, so these are perfect. I only paid $3 for them!


I also got the black and white top that I'm wearing--it's very thin fabric but surprisingly warm. The fabric feels like a pair of tights--I've never had a shirt like this before. I spent forever trying to figure out the brand by searching phrases online, and then when I was putting the shirt away, I noticed that it says "Climawear" on the sleeve. Hahaha! This design isn't on their site, but this is the closest I can find. I only paid $1.50 for it, and I love it.

And a few others:

This FILA half-zip is great for spring weather. It's light weight and the sides are mesh. Nothing special, but I like the look of it and it's comfy! $3.


This orange-ish color jacket is actually my favorite, and it happens to be a fairly cheap brand--Xersion, which I believe is exclusive to JCPenney. This is a little heavier than the FILA one, but still a good top for spring. $2.


This gray one below is definitely too big, so it looks a little boxy, but it's very comfortable and a high-quality, thick fabric. I like that I can wear the collar high on my neck, but it lays pretty flat when I unsnap it. The brand is MPG Sports, which I'd never heard of. I looked it up online, and apparently this brand is pretty expensive (I always like to look up my thrift clothes to see if I got a good deal!). From the other run jackets on their site, it looks like it was $98.00 new--and I paid $3.50, so I'd say it was an awesome deal.


Now that I have the new fleece and the warm top-layer running pants, I have zero excuses not to brave the cold and run outside! ;) We had a big snow storm yesterday. I really miss having a treadmill! I can go to the Rec center to run on the indoor track if I can get there during certain hours, but the track is SO BORING. At least on a treadmill, I can watch Netflix or something.

So, without the treadmill, my options are to run outside on the snow and ice; or to run on the indoor track. It's hard to get motivated to do either of those! I'm hoping the snow and ice melt quickly. The temp is supposed to be 34 on Saturday, so hopefully that will be warm enough to melt the snow.

One last thing for Thrifty Thursday... just a funny story. Yesterday, Jerry and I went to Hobby Lobby to get the last few things we needed for the boys' Christmas gifts. Hobby Lobby has online coupons for 40% off any regular priced item, so I always look it up while I'm standing in line and then use the code when I check out.

We thought all of the items we bought were on sale, so we didn't use the coupon. When we got out to the car, however, we noticed there were two items that were actually the regular price. One of them was $16, and the other was $10. So, it wasn't a piddly amount of money to get back if we'd used the coupon.

You can only use one coupon per customer per day, but since there were two of us, we could each buy one item with a coupon in separate transactions. We brought the two regular priced items back inside with our receipt. We planned to basically just "return" them and then re-buy them with the coupons. Makes sense, and simple enough, right?

Well, when I told the cashier what we were doing, she said she had to ask her manager. I thought that was odd, because I was literally just going to return something and then buy it again with a coupon. But, she asked the manager, and then came back to say that we weren't allowed to use the coupon, because it must be used at the time of purchase. Jerry and I looked at each other, thinking "What in the world--?" The cashier (a young girl, probably 20 years old) didn't seem to think there was anything odd about it.

I said, "Okay... then I'd like to return these, please." She said, "Sure!" and started the return transaction. Jerry and I kept looking at each other, humored by the situation; then Jerry said, "Okay, I guess I'll go get the same items off the shelves then." And the cashier again acted like that was perfectly normal.

She finished the return, and there was one person in line behind me. So, I got behind that person in line as Jerry came back to the front, holding the exact same items we'd just returned. We each had the coupons on our phones, and we purchased the items using the coupons. THE SAME ITEMS WE JUST RETURNED. With the same cashier.

Meanwhile, the manager picked up the returned items and walked away to put them back on the shelves. We left the store dumbfounded, but laughing about the whole situation!


December 13, 2017

Alcohol and Weight Loss

I have been at a total loss for words lately. I've drafted three posts over the last few days, but they were really just babbling about nothing. I'm hoping that today's will actually be worth posting ;)

I know I've written a little about this before, but this topic has actually been affecting me quite a bit this year as I'm learning more and more about myself and my body.

As you probably know, when I was losing the weight in 2009-2010, I drank a glass of wine just about every single day. I looked forward to having a glass of wine and a sweet of some sort (usually chocolate) every evening. And I lost weight for 52 weeks in a row.

I always measured out my wine, and I'd usually have 4-8 ounces, depending on how many Points/calories I wanted to spend. A 5-ounce glass has roughly 100 calories, so I wasn't consuming many calories from wine. And it worked out fine!

Early this year, when I stopped trying to count calories, I just tried to focus on not binge eating or eating for emotional reasons. Mostly, I was focused on my mental health, and my weight followed suit. For the first time ever, I dropped back down to my goal weight without counting calories.

I also wasn't drinking (much). I went about eight weeks without any alcohol during the summer, but even before that, I only had a handful of drinks over a several month period.

I suspected that limiting or eliminating alcohol played a role in my not binge eating, but I wasn't sure. Over the last month or so, I've really started to pay attention to my alcohol consumption and how it affects me (physically and mentally).

There have been several occasions where I've had alcohol recently, mainly because I've been getting together with friends frequently. I know I don't have to drink when I'm with friends, but it's hard not to. I got together with friends many times over the summer, and I was totally fine always volunteering to be the designated driver.

But then the "special occasions" got more frequent, and I've noticed that the alcohol really does affect my weight and mood in a lot of ways.

Delicious blackberry cider in Portland

To name a few ways that alcohol has affected me this year:

1) I get lazy. It doesn't matter if I have one drink or five the night before, I feel super lazy the next day, and sometimes even two days later. I was so excited about getting back to running, but over the last couple of weeks, I've found it very hard to get the energy to do it. Last week, I only ran twice, and I had planned to run three times. Three times is not too much to ask!

2) It makes me not care so much about doing what is best for me. Again, running is a good example. It's not just that I don't have the energy to run, it's that I don't care if I run or not.

3) I am hungry all the time. And not just "mental hunger" (appetite); legitimate hunger, where my stomach growls and feels like an empty pit. Because of this, I've been eating more than usual; and therefore, my weight is up. Last week, I was at 136, and this week, 136.4. In that way, alcohol does make me gain weight; the only reason I was able to lose weight before, in 2009-2010, was because I was measuring and counting the calories in the drinks. Now that I eat when I'm hungry, and the alcohol makes me hungry, I'm eating more. Result: weight gain.

4) Alcohol causes me a ton of anxiety. I might feel relaxed for a short time after having a drink, but then hours later, I am filled with generalized anxiety. And since I tend to eat when I'm anxious, it has been hard not to eat for emotional reasons. This wasn't an issue at all when I wasn't drinking for weeks (or months) at a time.

5) It makes my moods shift kind of drastically; and for someone with bipolar, that's a bad thing. The goal is to keep my mood stable, and alcohol makes that impossible.

So, it's kind of hard accepting the fact that I really need to abstain from drinking altogether, but I know it's what I need to do. I'm not even going to think too far ahead, because the thought of not enjoying margaritas (my very fave) is just sad. (I'm not saying I will never ever have a drink again--because that's highly unlikely--but I'd like to avoid it as much as I can.)

Good-bye margaritas. It's been real.

Right now, I'll just concentrate on the moment. When I wasn't drinking at all for a while, it was because I really hated the (almost) immediate physical effects on me: swollen hands (literally within 4-5 sips of a glass of wine, my hands feel warm and puffy); racing heartbeat; an uncomfortable hot/cold feeling (I can't tell whether I feel hot or cold, and it's really annoying); and insomnia. I don't sleep well at ALL if I've had even a single drink the night before.

Drinks with Caitlin a few weeks ago

My mental health is the most important task to me right now, and if that means not drinking when all my friends are, then I accept that. I have a Winers meeting (the wine club that Renee and I started in 2009) on Saturday, and it's the most fun one we do all year: Christmas! We bring a bottle of wine and an appetizer or dessert to share with everyone, and we have a white elephant gift exchange.

It's going to be so hard to be the only one not having wine at a "Winers" meeting! I've done it before, though, so I know I can handle it. I just wish I didn't like wine so much, haha ;)  Mostly, I just don't want anyone to think I'm being self-righteous or that I'm judging people for drinking. The reality is, I wish I could enjoy it with them! But my body has other ideas, so I just have to do what is best for me.

Out with friends at a brewery in Seattle, and drinking boring water. But I felt good!

When I was abstaining most of the time this year, I replaced a nightly glass of wine with a can of La Croix or flavored Perrier. I looked forward to that as much as I did my wine! I never used to buy it, because it's very expensive; but I justified the cost by not buying alcohol, so it ended up saving me money in the long run.

In the late summer, however, I decided to stop spending my "allowance" money on the water. It seemed like a waste of money to me. But I think that the water and snack routine every night helped me quite a bit. Like I said, I looked forward to it. So, I bought some La Croix today, and I'm going to go back to having one every night.

Sometimes I will have tart red cherry juice in a wine glass--it looks like a very deep red wine and the tartness tastes tannic. I can almost envision that it's actually wine ;)

Anyway, I'm very curious about any of you that may want to share... does alcohol affect your weight, either directly (the immediate calories) or indirectly (like eating for emotional reasons)? Does it affect your mood or emotions like it does for me? Make you unmotivated? I can't be the only one (at least I hope not) so I'd love to hear some other experiences.

I haven't written a Thrifty Thursday post in a while, so I am going to make sure to do that tomorrow!


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