July 18, 2018

A guest post update from Sarah, who'd lost 101 pounds

You may remember several years ago, when I did my 100th Motivational Monday post--it was a short Q&A with 20 different people who had lost 100+ pounds! Well, it's been a few years now, and I wanted to check in and see how things were going for them. One of them was Sarah:
Sarah's before and after
(You can read her original Q&A here)

Sarah has a great update to share! So here it is, in her own words...



Three years ago, when Katie sent out a request for folks to share their stories if you had lost 100+ pounds, I had just hit that mark of losing 100 pounds. I was living in Kenya with my husband and two young children.

After the birth of our second child in Nairobi (just a year prior), something just "snapped" within me and I desired to get healthy. I'd realized that the "snapped" feeling was that I was finally feeling safe and loved. Not like anything was ever not safe or that I wasn't loved--but that I was finally able to breathe and had the space to work on me.

I felt like I could be me. I worked with a long-time friend who is a nutritionist and personal trainer and she taught me to how eat well and work out. I am forever grateful for Stephanie and how she worked with me (virtually) for a year. When I got to see her for the first time since returning from Kenya (131 pounds lighter)--it was all tears.

Sarah and Stephanie

The past three years have been full of adventure and increased learning while maintaining my weight loss. We made the decision to leave Kenya after many years there, and while stateside we got pregnant with our third child.

During that time, I stayed active and maintained a healthy weight during my pregnancy. It was the best pregnancy, and I thoroughly enjoyed "looking pregnant"--unlike my other two. It was nice to sport a cute "baby bump"!

Sarah while pregnant

Nine weeks after my daughter was born, we moved our family to Southeast Asia. Even with another new adventure and transition, this healthy lifestyle had already been deeply rooted in me and there was nothing to change it. It's in my bones now.

After only seven months in Southeast Asia, we moved back to the States. We have been here for a year now and are enjoying our community and life here very much. Life is just sweet.

The process of becoming healthy has been liberating for me.  In some ways, I feel like I truly came alive for the first time three years ago.

I've learned that eating well is a lifestyle. Some days, you just need something sweet. And some days, your body is craving more veggies. I've learned to listen to my body. Give it good stuff.

I adore cooking. I could spend a great portion of my day researching recipes and tweaking them to make them healthy and cooking.

For the past three years, I've been learning what I love to do for exercise and staying active. I do love a good sweat from a run, but I enjoy weights and strength exercises so much more. There's a thrill from being able to lift heavy.

Above all this, what makes my heart happy is being able to play and be active with my family. Run with my kids. Go bike riding. Rock climb. Not be scared to go jump with them on the trampoline for fear that it might break. Go down waterslides without worrying what the weight limit might be.

Sarah rock climbing

So many of those types of worries, sadnesses, and fears are removed.

I'm not sure what the next three years will hold. I have so much loose skin from weight loss. I keep wondering if I should have it removed or just live with it, like a "badge of honor" of sorts.

Ideas of how can I challenge myself? Any goals I want to have before I turn 40? Those things I am thinking through. But, really, I'm just enjoying right now and the fact that all this is a gift from God--it's just been such a sweet gift.

Sarah and her husband


July 16, 2018

How valid is YOUR stress?

I came across a really good documentary series last night called My Last Days (on The CW channel). It's about people who have terminal illnesses, and how they want to make the most of their remaining time in life. I only watched the first episode of the second season, but it was so heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. (I'll include some links at the end of this post--you can watch the whole thing on their website)

It made me think of a comment someone left on my last post. Normally, when I get not-so-nice comments on my blog, I just ignore them and don't think about them again. (I've come a LONG way with that--I used to spend days losing sleep and feeling horrible about myself from a stupid blog comment! In therapy last year, I finally had an "aha!" moment, and ever since then, the comments don't bother me at all. I would certainly never draw attention to them, as I'm about to...)

Anyway, so here is what the comment said: "If the biggest stressor in your life right now is your weight, you really need to get a job or go do some volunteer work and stop focusing on yourself so much. I am sure just feeling like you are contributing to the world would make a world a difference.
I would give anything for the biggest stressor in my life to be 30ish pounds overweight."

My first thought was, "Well, I'm *actually* only 10-15 pounds overweight, but okay." BAHAHA!

The comment is right, of course--I have so much good in my life, I have no reason to stress over things as stupid as weight, and all of that. Yeah, I know that.

BUT--if everyone thought that way, then there would only be one person on this planet who could say, "Well, you don't have it as bad as I do, so you have no reason to worry about anything." There are ALWAYS going to be people who are worse off. Does that mean that we are unable feel stressed by what's going on in our own lives? Maybe for some people, but I can't control feeling stressed about things--even things that some people find completely insignificant (like my weight).

My obesity kept me from being the mom I wanted to be to my kids--there were so many things I physically couldn't do with them because I was too big. I even had to hold my breath in order to tie my shoes, because I couldn't bend over and breathe at the same time! I eventually resorted to wearing slip-on shoes.

Every time I felt a slight pain in my chest, I wondered if I was having a heart attack. Knowing I was so overweight made me question a heart attack... in my 20's! My eating habits were setting my kids up to be overweight as well, if I kept up the way I was living.

Are there worse things than being overweight? Of course! But knowing how my life felt when I was 253 pounds makes a small weight gain now feel like a pretty big deal. I don't ever want to get to that point again, and it always starts at 10-15 pounds (or 30! haha). So, maybe outsiders looking at me would think that I have nothing to stress about, and I understand that; but for me, the weight gain equates to my not being able to do the things that I want to do with my family, to setting a bad example for my kids, to fearing for my health almost constantly.

Basically, what I'm getting at is, I don't think it's fair of us to judge what feels stressful to each other. There are always going to be people who have bigger problems than we do, but that doesn't mean that we aren't allowed to feel sad or stressed out over things that we have going on.

Look at Joey. This poor dog feels stressed out every time I leave the house without him. Dogs don't have much to stress about, because we give them everything they need. But Joey worries about things that I imagine normal dogs worry about... "Is she going for a walk without me? Eating treats with another dog? And FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, is she ever coming home?!?!"


If I was being judgmental, I would say that yes--those are ridiculous things to stress about. But I'm not judging, because it's something that dogs in general stress out about. (At least that's what we humans assume based on their behavior)

Whenever I find myself complaining about the heat, I try to remember my brother, Nathan, who spent a few years in Iraq when he was in the Army, and how hot it was there (especially wearing all of his equipment). He said that he once drank over 30 liters of water (I picture 15 of the 2-liter bottles of pop) and he didn't pee for the entire day. THAT'S how dehydrated he got from sweating so much.

Do I have any legit reason to bitch about the heat? Nope. Do I do it anyways, when it's 100 degrees and I'm drenched in sweat? Yup.

Using that same line of thought... I could say, "Wow, he has every reason to complain about the heat! I need to keep my mouth shut." But then someone else could say to Nathan, "Well, you have no reason to complain, because at least you had clean water to drink!"

My point is that this train of thought could go on forever, until you truly get to the one person on earth that has it worse than EVERYBODY else. And even then, who is to judge that? That person could probably say, "Hey, at least I'm still alive. I have no reason to complain."

I could say to the person who left the comment on my blog, "I'm so sorry for what you have going on in your life right now, because it must be very stressful to have caused you to leave that comment. But, at least you have access to the internet. And a device to use it. And the time to read blogs and post comments on them. There are a lot of people who don't have those things!" Does that mean that the commenter shouldn't feel stressed out by whatever is going on? I don't think so. I think that the commenter feels like his/her problems are worse than my own, and therefore, my stress isn't valid. And if leaving a comment to let me know about it makes him or her feel better, then I accept that. Whatever floats your boat!

In my opinion, I think that whatever feels stressful to people is all relative to their way of living. It might look superficial and ridiculous to others, but if it causes them stress, then it's just as valid as the stress of someone who has what other people would call a "bigger problem".

But what would I know? I'm just a blogger who contributes nothing to anyone but herself 😉

Anyway, after that very long tangent... the documentary series ("My Last Days") is very inspiring! It will certainly make you feel grateful for all that you have (especially your health). But I learned quite a bit about two major health conditions in just the one episode. I had heard of ALS, for example, but I really didn't know anything about it until seeing a glimpse into the life of someone who has it. It was very eye-opening.

In looking for a link, I just discovered that the whole series is available on the CW website, which is pretty awesome! Here is a link to the episode that I watched (I especially loved Anthony's story): Season 2, Episode 1. Here is the general link to the show's page. I was hoping to be able to watch season one, but I don't see where it's available, so I'm not sure if it is.

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Noah is away at church camp all week, so it'll just be Eli and me hanging out together this week! :)


July 12, 2018

Weight Gain Through Emotional Eating

I can't really pinpoint when my mood started going downhill, but I feel like a big mess right now. Remember that post in April I wrote, called "The Big Fat Mess That Is My Life Right Now"? I just re-read it, and everything that I wrote is still very true. I could basically slap today's date on it and call it a new post!

I have tried to get my life back on track by setting new goals and posting them here for accountability (by being public with goals, I hoped it would make me embarrassed not to accomplish them)--that didn't work (well, it IS embarrassing, so I guess that part worked--haha!). I have tried setting goals and keeping them to myself, hoping that having less pressure would be the trick--that didn't work.

I've tried easy goals, I've tried challenging goals, I've tried having no goals at all, I've tried taking everything one day at a time. I've tried everything I've ever done in the past that has worked for me, and nothing is working right now.

I found this four leaf clover a couple of days ago, and I thought it was funny because it looks very symbolic of my luck--four leaves, but one of them is chewed almost completely off, so does it really count? 😂Two steps forward, one step back.

four leaf clover

In the past, I've always had pretty clear depressive episodes. I was either hypomanic or depressed, and neither of those was very mild. Since starting my bipolar meds, though, the mood stabilizer has definitely put those in the "mild" category. I still have episodes of each, but they are nothing like before.

Currently, I only have very mild depression, and I think even those symptoms would probably go away if I could just get my life back on track. By that, I just mean feeling in control and motivated to do the things I need to do. Get rid of some stress.

My biggest stressor is my weight (or what I imagine it to be, because I am actually too afraid to look at the scale). I can feel it in my clothes and see it when I look in the mirror--I'm SURE I've gained even more since the last time I weighed in. I feel like I've gained 30 pounds in the last two weeks, but I know that's probably an exaggeration. Realistically, I'm thinking maybe I've hit the high 150's. I know that I should just face the number, but without having a real plan to lose the weight, I think it'll just discourage me even more.

Speaking of, remember when I posted about my plan to get back to my goal weight? Yeah, I haven't been doing it. I didn't make my plan very difficult, but I (obviously) haven't made any progress. I'd planned to count calories again, because that always works well for me; but after not counting all last year, and doing SO well with intuitive eating, I keep telling myself that I'll just eat intuitively like I did last year.

Except it doesn't work that way. I wasn't sure why I'm having such a hard time with it now after it felt so natural before. The whole concept of intuitive eating had finally clicked for me, and I was so excited about it! And then when I started having symptoms of depression, I began to eat for comfort. Now, I'm just stuck wanting to lose the weight I've gained, and to do it like I did last year.

I've been thinking hard about it, and the biggest difference between now and then, as far as my diet goes, is that I was very happy last year and I didn't feel any urges to eat for comfort. When I was happy, I only thought about food when I was really hungry. There were times where I would completely forget to eat a meal because I was busy with something and I just wasn't thinking about food at all.

When my mood is down, eating becomes something that I actually look forward to--something that makes me feel better. Obviously, that affects my weight!

So, I don't think that the weight gain or loss comes from whether I'm counting calories or not; rather, it comes from my frame of mind and happiness level. If I can feel happy, I shouldn't have a problem with eating better (whether it's counting calories or intuitive eating or something else). My mood is what makes it easier (or harder) to stick with whatever plan I am following.

Last year, when my life felt like it was finally on the right track, going so smoothly, it was because I was 100% focused on doing what makes me happy. And because I felt chronically happy, I didn't feel the need to try to make myself happy with food.

I saw my psychiatrist a couple of days ago, and it ended up being a long appointment because of my mood being all over the place lately. There was a lot to go over. He ended up changing up my meds a little bit--decreasing the dosage of two, and adding a third. He told me to give it a few weeks and see if that helps; if not, we can try something else. So, I'm hopeful that I'll start seeing some (positive) changes. Mainly, I want some of my focus and motivation back.

The most difficult emotion for me is feeling overwhelmed. When I have a ton of stuff to do, and I fall behind on things, I get overwhelmed; and then, because that feels so uncomfortable, I try to put it out of my mind (i.e. procrastinate); procrastinating just makes me more overwhelmed. So, it's a constant cycle until I get caught up. And then with my weight going up and my not running regularly, it just escalates. I guess I just get this feeling of being "too far gone" to get back to that good place I was in before falling behind.

The solution, of course, is obvious. Don't take on too much. Don't procrastinate. Just do what I can. GET IT OVER WITH.

It sounds so simple in my mind. But when trying to practice that mindset, it's a big challenge for me.

As far as running goes, I just haven't been. I started doing my Cookies Summer Challenge, with plans to get in every single run on the list. It's not too late, so I am REALLY hoping I can make myself get back to it ASAP (I'm banking on the medication switch helping me). My last run was the Independence Run (on the 4th of July, wearing red, white, and blue).

red white and blue running clothes

Ha! I was trying to take a photo to prove I was wearing my red, white, and blue, but it was pretty difficult to get my socks in it, and they are the best part!

Right now, I'm going to try to just focus on one thing at a time. I managed to clear out my inbox over the last few days, which felt great to catch up on. I haven't figured out what to do with my eating habits, so I'm going to leave that alone for the moment. But right now, I'm committing to going for a run tomorrow. That's it! It might be on my treadmill, and it might only be one mile, but I'm going to state right now: I am going to run tomorrow.

Anyway, this whole post is basically to say that I am a mess right now and I'm trying to get myself back together and functioning normally ;) I hope to see some progress soon!


July 8, 2018

Inspiration


After writing so much last month, not posting the last few days feels like I haven't written in weeks! Despite not posting, I did do a ton of work on my blog, and I'm really excited about it.

I've written before that I love hearing/reading personal stories from people. My favorite book genre is memoirs, and almost all of the podcasts I listen to are of people telling true stories about their lives or things that have happened to them. It's no wonder, then, why I enjoy reading guest blog posts.

So, I created a blog page called "Inspiration" (you can find it on the navigation bar below my header, or you can click here to go to it). It contains a clickable photo gallery of almost all of the guest posts I've shared on my blog (I say "almost" because I am still working on doing the rest). 

There are nearly 50 stories from people (some share just a few paragraphs, others share long posts) in order by post date. Almost all of them are about weight loss, because that was the primary focus of my blog for so long--so the gallery mostly consists of before and after photos right now. When you click on the photo, it'll take you to that person's guest post. 

It's a page that I am hoping to keep growing, and expanding the topics of the posts as well. I'd love to share inspirational stories from people who have overcome obstacles (not just weight loss)--stories about mental health, paying off financial debts (like Jerry and I have been doing), overcoming addictions, getting over fears, and other hurdles people have dealt with. 

So, if you have a story that you think is inspiring, I'd be happy to consider it! A few guidelines:
  • The post must be a PERSONAL story about a topic that would fit in with the basic tone of my blog (weight loss, fitness, mental health, financial freedom, addiction, facing fears, hurdles you've overcome, etc). I am not looking for "how to" posts, preachy stories, or persuasive/controversial articles.
  • The post may not contain any affiliate or sales links, nor links to any promotional, business, or product websites. 
  • Photos (about 2-5) must be your own (no stock photos), and by submitting them, you are giving permission to share them on my blog. Please make sure that if there is someone else in the photos, they are cool with you sharing it.
  • I will likely edit the post for length, clarity, and/or format. If you'd like, I can send it back for your approval before posting. 
  • I do not pay for (or accept payment for) guest posts.
  • The whole purpose behind guest posts is for my blog readers to share their stories to inspire others. The more personal the story is, the better, and a conversational tone is the most engaging. Basically, just tell your story as if you are chatting with a friend! 
I cannot guarantee that I will share your story, but you are welcome to email me an inquiry. Please do not send me an entire post--just a paragraph explaining what you'd like to write about will be all that I need. I'll contact you for more info if it sounds like something that would be a good fit! It would be great to post some fresh content--because there are already so many weight loss stories, I would love to share some stories about the other topics I mentioned.

All of that said, if you have an inspirational story to share, you can email your idea to me at: inspiration (at) runsforcookies (dot) com

This guest post that I shared in 2013, titled "I Kept Running", was written by a woman named Katie Wiggins. It's a great example of what I love to read! It made me feel all of the feels--anger, empathy, humor, sadness, and, of course, inspiration. All in the same post! It's great. 

Back in March of 2015, for the 100th Motivational Monday post, I shared bio's of 20 people who had lost 100+ pounds each. It was so fun to read how they'd lost the weight and the advice they had. I reached out to them a couple of days ago to ask if they'd like to share an update on the blog, and several of them are interested in doing that--so I'm looking forward to reading about how maintenance has gone for the last three years! 


July 2, 2018

The Craziest of the Crazy (a review of the running documentary "3100: Run & Become")

It's not uncommon for non-runners to think that runners are just crazy people. Run for fun? Really? Crazy.

I used to think the same thing until I became a runner. THEN, I learned that sure--we're a little crazy. I ran, I trained, and I paid money to run 5K, 10K, a half-marathon. Who does that?! Crazy people.

When I trained for and ran my first marathon, the non-runners who I told about it couldn't even fathom the thought of running 26.2 miles. Crazy.

And now, as a three-time marathoner, I learned that there is another level of crazy runners--they are the batshit crazy runners. These are runners who run even farther than marathon distance--ultramarathons! More than 26.2 miles? I'm out.

But it gets even crazier.

My mind was totally blown when I learned about the Badwater 135, a race of 135 miles through Death Valley in the middle of July, when temperatures are roughly 130 degrees F. Oh, did I mention the 13,000 FEET OF ELEVATION GAIN?

Batshit crazy!

But why do that race, when you can choose the Barkley Marathons? The Barkley Marathons is a race of more than 100 miles that must be completed in less than 60 hours--it's a five-loop course of 20+ miles per loop (the distance varies a bit because the course changes every year--and none of the runners know the course in advance). This race commonly ends without a single finisher.

WHY, on God's green earth, would anyone choose to do this? Because they are batshit crazy, that's why.

And recently, Friends, I learned that there are runners who put "batshit crazy" to shame. They make that level of crazy go way down to the bottom rung of the whole crazy ladder.

I was invited to watch an advance screening of a documentary about a race that I'd never heard of, and when I read about the race, I legitimately thought that the mileage was a typo. It had to be. Or meant to be an ironic title. Or a joke. It couldn't possibly be a real race!

I'm talking about the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race.

After you pick your jaw up off the floor, envision this: A road race where the runners must complete at least 59 miles per day for 52 straight days to finish. The entire race is on a 1/2-mile loop of a block in Queens, NYC. And it's done in the summer heat!

Is there even a word that describes that level of crazy?!

I'm going to NYC in September, and after I watched the documentary about this race, I said to Jerry, "Oh, I wonder what day the race is? I'd love to go spectate!" And I looked it up online. It read "17 June - 7 August". For a moment, I thought, "Well, which is it?" HAHAHA, my brain couldn't even grasp the concept of the race taking place from June 17 TO August 7!

The documentary that I was kindly invited to screen is called "3100: Run & Become". It is fantastic, and it made me so interested in learning more about the role that running plays in different cultures. Different "levels of crazy", so to speak.


The film is not just about the Self-Transcendence 3100, however. While that is fascinating in and of itself, my favorite parts were about how running fits in to other cultures--the Navajo, Bushmen, and Japanese Marathon Monks.

Here is a quote from the producers regarding these:
"Cameras in hand, we set off on a global exploration of running.  
We hunted on the run with the Bushmen of Botswana. Hunting was recently banned by the Botswana Government as one step in their attempt to destroy this ancient culture. We met a group of Bushmen hunters defying that ban who wanted us to film their ancestral way of hunting. 
We ran with champion Navajo runners versed by their Elders in the spiritual traditions of running. Shaun Martin, a Navajo educator, was attempting to retrace the footsteps of his father, who like many Native American kids was forced into government boarding school. Shaun's dad would routinely escape and walk the 100 miles back to his family's homesite. Shaun was attempting to do that distance in one shot. 
And we embedded with the Japanese Marathon Monks to document their epic 1,000 day running journey where the stakes are literally life or death. Once a generation they pick an Aspirant to do 1000 days over 7 years, in 100 day chunks - up to 56 miles per day. If the Aspirant fails to complete his/her daily mileage requirement, he/she must commit suicide (!). Thankfully this hasn't happened in 100s of years."
Jerry and I both loved the film. My only complaint is that it wasn't longer and more in-depth! Here is the trailer:


The film will soon be available to the public at several screenings around the country. Here is the film's website, where you can see the dates/locations of some of the upcoming screenings. Even if you're not a "crazy runner", I encourage you to watch the film--it's informative, inspirational, and very interesting!


(Photos courtesy of 3100: Run & Become)


June 30, 2018

Day 30: How I Did On My Goals for June (and Setting My Goals for July!)

On May 31st, I wrote a post that included a bunch of goals for June--just things to focus on, to give myself something to think about other than the fact that my weight hadn't budged in weeks and I wasn't running much at all.

To recap, here is a list of the goals that I'd set for June:
  • 30 days of blogs (various topics)
  • Run 30+ minutes per day, 4+ times per week
  • Read 30+ minutes per day
  • Read one chapter of the Bible every day (by June 30, I should be done with Leviticus, chapter 2)
  • Keep spending to a bare minimum
  • Write and start doing a specific cleaning routine
  • Plan out groceries and dinners every Friday
  • Complete 5 more 40x40 bullet journal pages
  • Complete at least one more item from my 40x40 list
The first... 30 days of blogging. My goal was to write a blog post every day in June. While you already know that I didn't do that, I did manage to write 12 MORE posts in June than I did in May! So, I wrote 20 posts (including this one) in June. (It felt like more than that! I could have sworn I only missed two or three.) So, I'm considering this goal a success--I wanted to blog more frequently, and I did!


Run 30+ minutes, 4 days per week. Nope! I did run the first week, but then for the next two weeks I didn't run at all. When my Summer Challenge started on the 21st, though, I was fired up to run for that. And since then, I've actually been consistent (you know, for all nine days since it started, haha). I've planned out four runs per week to be able to check off all 51 items on the list by the fall equinox. 

Read 30+ minutes per day. I didn't log this, but I think I have read every single day. I actually finished a book a few days ago! Unfortunately, I didn't love the book, so it was very hard for me to continue to read it. I had started and quit a few books prior to it, so I was determined to just finish it! I was very happy to get through it, though, and then start on a new on that I am completely fascinated with. 

Prior reading (i.e. the book I wasn't crazy about): "Running: A Love Story"
Current reading (love it!): "Coreyography" (a cringe-worthy-but oh-so-clever title for a memoir by Corey Feldman)

Read one chapter of the Bible every day. I actually did make it up to Leviticus, Chapter 3 (which was the goal). However, I didn't read a little every day, as planned. Instead, I would read 8-10 chapters at a time to catch up. I thought the first half of Exodus was really fascinating (in a horrible way) but the second half was extremely boring (it listed SO many dimensions, fabrics, materials, and placements for building things). 

Keep extra spending to a bare minimum. I did pretty well with this one! I will have to look at our final tally tomorrow to see how much we can pay down our debt for this month--but I believe we're going to be able to pay around $600--which is $594 more than last month, hahaha! We definitely had extra expenses, but they weren't random "Oh, I want this!" type things. Every month, there are things we don't plan for, and this was no exception. However, I am happy with my own spending habits this month. 

Write and start doing a specific cleaning routine. Fail on this one. I really would like to get back to the routine I did last year--I loved cleaning! But lately, it feels like a chore again--so, I have been procrastinating things like laundry, dusting, and vacuuming. I'm going to try to make this a priority for July. 

Plan out groceries and dinners on Fridays. I did great with this one! I despise meal planning and writing out grocery lists (I used to love it--but that was when I didn't care about our debt and I wasn't trying to match up sales with coupons, etc. 

Complete five more 40x40 bullet journal pages. I can't remember which page I left off on in May! But I do have some new ones... I think only four. Regardless, it's four more than I had before! ;) 







Complete at least one more item from my 40x40 list. I did this! I went strawberry picking with my friend Emily and we made homemade jam with our berries. It was so fun! I'd like to go berry picking every year.


Overall, I'm very happy with how my June goals went! The only one I didn't make progress on is the cleaning routine; otherwise, I did much better than I would have if I hadn't made those goals.

That said, I'm going to set a few goals for July...
  • I want to write and maintain a cleaning schedule, even if it's minimum (just to get the habit down). 
  • Continue with the Bible reading.
  • Continue with reading another book for 30+ minutes per day. 
  • I know that I won't be writing a blog post every single day in July, but I'm going to aim for 4 days per week. I think that will be a good compromise.
  • Run four days a week.
  • Take you-know-who for a you-know-what every night. (That's code for "Take Joey for a walk every night.) I used to do this with the kids--the kids and I (and Jerry, if he wasn't working) would go for a late-night walk with Joey. We would bring flashlights and just enjoy the summer night. 
  • Keep spending to a minimum again (We are SO close to having all of our credit debt paid off, and I don't want to compromise that at all!)
June was a good month! I can't believe that in less than 3 minutes, it's going to be July already. 

June 28, 2018

8 Things That Happened When I Quit Running


The year 2017 was a big game changer for me. In January and February, I was at the peak of a 10-month episode of depression, and it was worse than any I'd experienced before (although I didn't write much about it, and I certainly downplayed the severity). I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and my psychiatrist prescribed me a mood stabilizer. The diagnosis, medication, and a big breakthrough in therapy made me feel like I was starting a whole new life.

I stopped worrying about what others thought of me, and I decided that I was going to do what made me happy. I wanted to become the happiest person I could be.

One of the biggest changes I made was that I stopped running.

I had dreaded each and every run for about a year, or maybe more, and I just didn't want to do it anymore. I was tired of it! I would spend my rest days dreading my next run day. When I was actually running, I was doing whatever I could to just get through it, and I hated every minute of it.

So, I quit. Indefinitely.

I had no idea if I'd ever run again, and I really didn't care. I had a bit of an identity crisis confusion, considering I'd been known as "Runs for Cookies" for six years. Who would I be, if not a runner? Would I still blog? Would I have to change the name of my blog? Would I gain weight?

I had a thousand questions with answers unknown, and I dove right in to discover them. From the moment I made that decision to quit running, I felt better. I didn't dread the following day, or the day after. I didn't ever have to run again, unless I wanted to, and it was okay!

Unexpectedly, I started to miss it sometime late in 2017--not the act of running itself, but just the way it made me feel afterward. My body had started to feel "soft", and even though I was back down to my goal weight of 133, I felt fat. There were some things that I hadn't expected to happen in my time off of running.

I am now back at it, although nothing like before. I'm not training for PRs, or any race at all; I'm not building up my distance; I'm not even "training"--I'm just running a few times a week to feel good about myself and exercise my body.

Anyways, all of that said... I've been thinking about the things that hadn't occurred to me when I first decided to quit running over a year ago. And if you find yourself in my (running) shoes, dreading each run and feeling burnt out, maybe it'll give you something to think about, too!

So, here goes: 8 Things That Happened When I Quit Running...

1) I discovered that I am a lazy person by nature. When I quit running, I had every intention to do other forms of exercise--daily walks, bike rides, and just live a very active lifestyle (minus the running). Instead, I turned into a version of my "fat self" (i.e. before I lost 125 pounds).

My activity came in the form of cleaning--I cleaned my house like a crazy person, because my depression had lifted and I finally had the time and energy to do so. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing--my house looked fantastic--but other than the cleaning, I still didn't want to "exercise".

2) I realized that I didn't need running in order to lose or maintain my weight. In fact, I lost quite a bit of weight once I quit running! I was about 160 pounds when I was diagnosed with bipolar, and when I decided to start doing what makes me happy (and NOT doing the things that didn't make me happy), I realized that excess food wasn't making me happy (more about this in an upcoming post). My weight naturally dropped down to a comfortable 130-135 pounds.


3) I learned that food isn't a "reward" for exercise. My blog title, Runs for Cookies, suggests that I earn my sweets by running (and that's exactly what I intended when I chose the title). However, when I quit running, I still loved sweets. And, in the aspiration of making myself happy, I wasn't about to quit eating something I love just because I quit running.

And you know what? I learned that two cookies taste just as good as a dozen. I also didn't need to feel the urge "to run it off" after indulging in those two cookies (or any indulgence, for that matter). I knew that I wasn't OVER-indulging, and that I was making my body (and my soul!) happy.


4) About eight months after I quit running, I started to miss it. Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with my weight. I was at my goal weight, but I felt fat. I wasn't pushing my muscles or my lungs and heart to a level where I felt like I was really working.

When I first quit running, I wouldn't have cared about this. I would have been thrilled to just be at my goal weight and not have to run to get there! But I found that I missed feeling sweaty and a little achy after running. I missed setting goals and making plans to reach those goals.

5) I found that I actually enjoyed the regression in my fitness level... to an extent. When I first went for a run after my hiatus, I couldn't believe how challenging it was. What felt like a 9:00/mile pace was actually approaching a 12:00/mile pace. My body had definitely lost its cardiovascular shape. BUT. This regression made me excited! I realized that it would be a challenge to run a sub-30 5K (where before, it was a typical easy run).

I realized that running "just" three miles was a really big deal--prior to my hiatus, three miles was practically a waste of my time! I felt like a beginner again, which made it exciting to me. Every little improvement was something to celebrate, versus before, when I was mad at myself for not being able to run a consistent sub-8:00 mile as I had for my 2016 10K.



6) I said "to an extent" in #5 because there are certainly drawbacks to the regression of fitness. Runs take more time than they used to, and they certainly feel more difficult. I can't keep up with friends who want a buddy to run with (unless they are slower than me, and, currently, I don't know anyone that fits the bill! haha). I do wonder if my days of shooting for PRs are gone (I don't worry about it, though--I am just genuinely curious). Other than that, the regression hasn't bothered me.

7) I don't care about the running numbers AT ALL anymore. One mile is the same as three miles; a 12:00/mile pace is the same as a 7:00/mile pace--it truly doesn't make any difference to me. When I run now, I don't care in the slightest sense of the word what my pace is! I'm not embarrassed to run slowly, or to be a 35:00-ish 5K'er instead of a 24:00-ish 5K'er like before. Last night, I ran just one mile, and I felt as good logging that mile as I would have if I'd logged 10.


8) Most importantly, running is not my identity. I thought of changing my blog title because, soon after I'd quit running, I felt like it was a dishonest title. But running was a huge part of my life (and I guess it still is, in a way) for such a long time, and I feel like it'll always be a part of who I am.

The difference is, I'm not JUST a runner (or, "hobby jogger" might be more appropriate now). There are so many other things that make up ME, and I wouldn't have discovered many of those if not for taking an indefinite hiatus from running.



Over the last several months, I've been discovering a nice middle ground for running. I make time for it, but it's not a very important part of my life anymore. I don't really have any desire to race (although, I did train with my husband for a half-marathon, and learned many things about myself as a runner along the way).

Maybe I will want to race again someday, but for now, I'm good with just running here and there as I see fit. I don't place "rules" on myself as far as distance or days of the week, or anything like that; I run just enough to feel like I'm doing my body some good without forcing it.

My body is not as "tight" as it was when I was running a consistent five days a week and training hard for a race. I'm not fast, and I don't run long distances; but, I no longer work my life around my training schedule. I just fit in a few runs when it's convenient for me, and if I miss one, I know that life goes on. I enjoy dessert without "earning" it, and it tastes just as good.

And my weight? It's followed the same pattern it always has. I hit a depressive episode of bipolar in December (thankfully, a "mild" depression, and nothing like it was before I was taking the correct medication), and I gained 15 pounds (I always gain weight when going through depression.) I was running throughout the entire springtime, and my weight held on to those 15 pounds, so the running wasn't a factor.

I am sure that as my mood improves, the extra pounds will come off, just as they have in the past. (Here is a post that shows the interesting up and down pattern of my weight and how it coincides with my bipolar disorder.)

Right now, I am having fun working on my Cookies Summer Challenge--a checklist of runs (or walks!) that are done for enjoyment and not "training". Last night, I ran at 12:53 AM (so, it was technically this morning) to run at the peak of the strawberry moon!


June 25, 2018

Day 25: Grown-up Nightmares

Well, if my blog doesn't look any different... that's because it's not. Haha!

I tried SO hard to make the switch to Wordpress, but after many cups of coffee, an equivalent volume of tears, and nearly tearing all of my hair out, I've decided that Blogger is just meant to be my permanent blogging home. And you know what? I'm good with that.

Having a self-hosted blog on Wordpress seems to be the "cool" thing to do in the blogging world. I wanted to be in that cool kids club, too! But in the 36 years of my life, I've never been one of the cool kids. I'm an outsider--and I think it suits me just fine. (Maybe I should call myself a "rebel" instead of "outsider" because it sounds a little more badass. Hahaha!)

It's not to say I didn't try, though. I watched a ridiculous number of YouTube videos and read through countless tutorials on how to make the switch to Wordpress. I filled half of a notebook with pages of notes. I was ready. I blocked all of my time yesterday out of my schedule so that I could focus and just get it done.

I barely got through the third of about two dozen steps before I just couldn't take it anymore. Tech support might as well have been speaking Japanese to me, because I couldn't understand a word of it. And I was surprised at how expensive it is! Blogger only costs me $15 per year--$10 for my domain, and $5 for extra photo storage.

So, I quit. And then I drowned my sorrows in ice cream and wine.

Anyway, enough of that. Now I remember why I swore I'd never try it again after the last attempt! ;)



Sometime around 3:30 this morning, I had a nightmare. I actually kind of enjoy nightmares--it's the same kind of thrill I get when I watch scary movies. The nightmare I had this morning was pretty funny when I woke up, though. I called Jerry at work at 4:00 AM so I could tell him about it before I forgot.

In my dream, Jerry had found a huge amount of marijuana (about 1 pound) in the parking lot at work on the way to his car. He couldn't believe it was just sitting there, and he stuffed it into his glovebox. He forgot about, and then we were driving somewhere the next day (he was driving, I was in the passenger seat of his car). I spotted a police car, and then I remembered the marijuana that was in his glovebox.

My heart just dropped into my stomach, and I was so terrified the cop would pull us over. Sure enough, his lights went on and he pulled us over. I was trying to think of any way at all to get out of having to get Jerry's proof of insurance and registration out of the glovebox. As soon as he came up to the window, he started to talk to Jerry; I interrupted by saying something like, "He didn't realize he was speeding, please don't give him a ticket!"

And then the cop said, "Don't take away his man-card by speaking for him, geez!" (So random, but so funny). Then I started with the tears, hoping that would make the cop feel sorry for us. I told him we were broke, and couldn't afford a speeding ticket. I said anything I could think of to keep him from asking for the proof of insurance and registration.

After a few minutes of sheer panic (meanwhile, Jerry seemed totally calm) he just gave us a warning and didn't ask to see the papers. When we drove away, Jerry thought it was funny how freaked out I was, so he started swerving the car a little in front of the cop on purpose and laughing at me. I was yelling at him that if I'd opened that glovebox, he would be on his way to PRISON--but he still just seemed to laugh it off.

That's when I woke up. My heart was racing, and then I realized it was just a dream. A nightmare! Not like a monster-in-the-closet nightmare, but a "grown-up" nightmare--a fear-of-getting-caught-with-drugs-and-going-to-prison, hahaha.

That dream was totally random, and I have no idea how one would interpret that, but it was funny enough that I called Jerry to tell him about it!



Anyway, I've done three runs from my Cookies Summer Challenge list. I ran on the 21st for the Solstice Run (I didn't run at the time of the solstice, like I planned, because I just couldn't get up that early!); then I ran the Night Owl Run, which is more my style (finishing a run after 9pm); and today, I set out for my RUNch (lunchtime run, which was to start between 12 and 2), but I found a penny about a quarter mile into it, so I counted that as my Penny Pincher Run instead.


Below is a photo of all of the change I've found while running over the last two years. Which is pretty impressive, considering I didn't run much at all last year!


I have to say, I enjoy setting out for runs with goals that have nothing to do with my speed (which is a speedy 11:45-ish per mile) or distance (a whopping 1-3 miles). On Thursday, there is a Strawberry Full Moon at 12:53 AM, so I'm going to run from about 12:45-1:15 AM. Since I've become a night owl, that will be much easier for me to do than the solstice, which was at 6:07 AM!



Jerry is off work tomorrow, and we're going to take the kids to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. I love the Jurassic Park movies, so I'm super excited to see it!


June 23, 2018

Day 23: Here goes nothing!

Well, I've been reading tutorials and watching a trillion videos on YouTube about it, and I think I am finally ready to switch from Blogger to WordPress.

This. Is. Terrifying.

(This picture was actually from when Jerry and I were in Canada, and we discovered that Canada basically closes at 11PM. We wanted to go out for a drink, or at least get something to eat, but nothing was open!)

I have about 2,100 posts on Runs for Cookies, and I can't even guess how many photos uploaded to it. My biggest fear is that I'm going to lose everything.

I tried doing this switch once before, several years ago, but it just left me a sobbing mess and gave me nightmares for days.

Anyway, I'm just writing this to say that my blog may get a little wonky soon. It may disappear. I have no idea what is going to happen! If all goes well, I'll make a smooth transition to WordPress and you won't even notice (ha!).

I've made SOOO many changes to this blogger template that I'm afraid of what will happen when I try to make the switch. But that is precisely why I'd like to switch over. Because of all these changes I've made on Blogger, I think I've totally slowed down the blog's loading time, and I can't figure out how to undo a lot of the things I did. The html and css stuff is a big old mess. And I don't have the first clue how to clean it up!

I am hoping that by switching to WordPress, I can get a fresh start. I'd like to keep the basic look that I have on my blog now, but that may not be possible. I guess I'll see once I get to the other side ;)

Soooo.... I will try and write tomorrow if I can! Let's hope all goes smoothly. Or maybe I'll chicken out.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


June 21, 2018

Day 21: Getting to Know You Questions, Answered

I started this post as a oh-crap-I-only-have-an-hour-to-write-a-blog-post post, thinking it would just take me a few minutes to write. But it took much longer! Oh, well, it was fun to work on. This is just one of those random questionnaires with dumb questions that we answer just for the fun of it.

First thing you wash in the shower?
My face

Are you more of a coffee or alcohol drinker?
Alcohol

Do you plan outfits?
No--I just grab some jeans and a t-shirt or sweatshirt, and I'm good to go

Turn ons?
Guys that play the piano. Swoon! And chivalry is nice, too.

Turn offs?
Guys that are really into superficial things like cars, abs, social status, etc. Especially when they brag about it.

What comes to mind when I say cabbage?
Cabbage casserole--a recipe from my grandma. (You can find it on my blog here)

Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick it?
I don't really "bite" it, but I don't just lick it either. I put a spoonful in my mouth and let it melt, while kind of chewing it softly.


Favorite movie ever?
Forrest Gump

Have you ever met a celebrity?
I think a "celebrity" is in the eye of the beholder. So, the people that I've met that I consider celebrities are: Dr. Oz, Ted Gibson from What Not to Wear, Bart Yasso from Runner's World, Justin Verlander (baseball player), The Hardy Boys (pro wrestlers that I met in the airport when I was in high school), Shalane Flanagan (elite runner), Kerry Sanders from NBC,  and maybe a couple of others. I'm not one to get all googly-eyed for celebrities.

Would you go sky diving?
That's a big, fat, hell-to-the-no.

Have you ever had a near death experience?
Yes, when I was little--I think I was four?--I choked on a piece of cheese for a very long time. I passed out after a couple of minutes, and my babysitter took me next door to get help. My cousin, Kim, ended up saving me.

Best/worst experience on drugs or alcohol?
One time, my friend and I ate pot cookies. We had three of them, but instead of just eating one each, we split the third and ate one and a half each. I had no experience with edibles, and I learned an hour later that one and a half cookies was too much! I started laughing so hard that I couldn't stop, but it wasn't a fun kind of laughter. It was purely physical laughter (my mind was not laughing), and on the inside, I was so frustrated that I couldn't get it to stop. Trying to have a conversation was pretty funny, though... I kept forgetting what I was going to say midway through the sentence, and the same thing happened with my friend. We couldn't follow what each other was trying to say at all. It was ridiculous! That was my first and last experience with edibles, hahaha.

Do you believe in ghosts, werewolves or vampires?
Nope, nope, and nope.

If you could spend one day in someone else's shoes, who would it be and why?
I think it would just be someone who doesn't have bipolar disorder or anxiety. Since I've had these my whole life, I am very curious what a "normal" brain is like. It would be like going on a nice vacation! 

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I went through several phases, but a few of them were veterinarian, writer ("author"), and forensic pathologist.

If you could have dinner with three people (dead or alive), who would they be and why?
Alton Brown (I would love for him to cook!; and I'm sure the conversation wouldn't be shallow, either); Mark (because I really wish I'd gotten to know him on a deeper level before he became sick); and Tom Hanks (no real reason other than that I really like him). 

What sorts of things make you laugh?
Sarcasm; quick wit; seeing other people laugh, especially babies; sharing old stories with friends; stand up comedy (I'm going to see Bill Burr in 10 more days!)



Do you have any pet peeves?
Probably more than I should. But two of the biggest ones are: 1) When people add an 's' onto the name of a store. For example, "I'm going to Kroger's, do you want anything?" The name of the store is Kroger, so there is no reason to add an 's'. Same with Walmart. And Aldi. 2) When people call Chipotle "Chipolte"... inverting the letters l and t. It should be pronounced chip-oat-lay and not chip-olt-ay. I never correct people (because that's another pet peeve of mine--grammar police!) but I always cringe inside my mind.

What was your favorite TV show when you were growing up?
MacGuyver! I was a HUGE MacGuyver fan, and, unfortunately, none of my friends were. It came on at the same time as Alf, and everyone else watched that. Bummer, because MacGuyver was an awesome show! 

What are your favorite TV shows now?
I love Shameless, The Handmaid's Tale, The Good Doctor, This Is Us, 9-1-1, The Resident... and I'll stop there, because that's way too much TV.

What are your favorite movies?
Forrest Gump, The Green Mile, 

Tell me one thing that would surprise me about you.
I really like hip hop music. I look like a middle-aged straight-laced mom, but I love jamming to hip hop! Also, I LOVE scary movies--I like the good old-fashioned slasher films. 

What were you like as a kid?
I was very shy and sensitive. Never fit in with anyone--not girly enough to fit in with the girls, not tomboy enough to fit in with the guys. Total book nerd--I was always reading (I loved Sweet Valley Twins!). Talked on the phone ALL THE TIME when I was a preteen. Boy crazy in 6th grade, but was always seen as a friend--so I was friends with mostly guys. Even now, I get along better with guys than I do with girls. I'm very similar as an adult--I'm not sure where I fit in!

Do you have any pets? Tell me about them.
We used to have so many! Now we are down to three: two cats and one dog.

Joey is our dog. He's a black lab/chow chow mix that we adopted from the animal shelter when he was about a year and a half old. He is SUCH a great dog! Super well-behaved, and the kids adore him. Jerry and I are admittedly cat people and just not dog people, but we are very lucky to have gotten Joey.


Phoebe is our orange tabby cat. She is a female, which is very rare for orange tabbies. We got her when a friend of a friend was looking for a home for a stray cat that she had been taking care of. Phoebe was a bit of a mess--she was missing half of her tail (which I suspect was slammed in a door, because of the way the bones are crimped at the end); and she has a BB from a BB gun stuck under her skin, so she was obviously shot at one point.

She was extremely skittish for a LONG time. But now she is my most favorite pet I've ever owned. She has a special sense that I can't explain, but she knows when someone (usually me) is feeling sad and she comes running. She cuddles and rubs all over me when I'm sad. She's been so helpful when I've been going through bad depressive episodes.


Estelle is our tortie. And let me tell you, she is ALL tortitude (something tortoiseshell cat owners say when referring to the attitude of a tortie cat). She's extremely vocal, so she meows a lot. And she's as dramatic as they come. She likes to play the victim so she gets attention, and poor Joey is the scapegoat. But Estelle is hilarious--we love watching (and listening to) her, because she cracks us up with her antics. (And yes, she always looks pissed off--that's just the way she looks)


If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Pizza! No question about it. I could never, ever get sick of pizza.

What is your favorite commercial you've ever seen and why?
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this commercial for Siri with Cookie Monster. He and I are peas in a pod. 


If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don't care what other people think of you! Do what YOU want to do, dress how YOU want to dress, say what YOU want to say, and don't pay one iota of attention to the people who try to make you feel bad for it. 

Who is your favorite music artist?
Eminem

What is your favorite color?
orange

What is your favorite book?
The Hunger Games. Or World Without End.

What is your favorite drink?
A margarita! On the rocks with a salted rim :)


What is your favorite restaurant?
Not sure if I have a very favorite, but the Mexican restaurant pictured above is definitely one of my favorites! It's El Camino Real in Toledo, and they have the BEST margaritas. The good is excellent, too!

If you had to describe yourself using only three words, what would they be?
Creative, Caring, Empathetic

If you knew today was the last day of your life, how would you spend it?
I would play board games with my family while eating pizza and ice cream

If you could bring back one toy from your childhood, what would it be?
Hmmm, probably the game Dream Phone. I'm sure I could come up with something better, but that's the first thing that popped into my head. I loved bored games when I was growing up!

Okay, I really need to get this posted. Even though it's 1:15 in the morning, I'm counting it as June 21st's post. Happy Summer, everyone!!


June 20, 2018

Day 20: Cookies' Summer Challenge Starts Tomorrow!

I posted a while ago about my Cookies Summer Challenge--a checklist of different sorts of runs OR walks that you can do throughout the summer to make exercise a little more interesting. Today is the last day of spring, and summer officially begins at 6:07 AM (Eastern Time) tomorrow morning!


The first run on the list is a Summer Solstice run--where you run (or walk) from spring into summer. So, tomorrow morning, I'll set my alarm very early and head out for a run. I'll start my run at around 6:00 and finish it some time after 6:07, so that I can say that I ran from spring into summer.

Thankfully, the change happens at a decent hour for me! I feel for the west coasters whose solstice is at 3:07 AM ;)  (This challenge is "unofficial", so you can interpret the runs however you'd like; make up your own rules! If you want to run later, there is nobody that is going to police you.)

Anyway, I'm going to share the list here again--it's a downloadable PDF. You can save it to your computer or print it out to keep track of everything. (The lists are essentially the same, but one is worded for running and one is worded for walking).



Here is the link for the list of RUNS
Here is the link for the list of WALKS


I also created a calendar that you can print out and fill in with your planned runs. It's blank except for the runs/walks that occur on a specific day (National Ice Cream Day, for example).



Fill-in calendar for RUNS
Fill-in calendar for WALKS

There is a closed Facebook group for anyone who would like to share (not lurk!) about their runs/walks with others who are doing the challenge. This is about support and encouragement (and bragging rights when you finish each one!).

If you want to share your runs/walks on social media, you can use the hashtag #CookiesSummerChallenge (and if you'd like to tag me, I'm @runsforcookies on Instagram and Twitter, and my Facebook page is Facebook.com/RunsforCookies).

I planned out my calendar last night, and with four days of running per week, it's going to take the whole summer to check everything off the list! I had been hoping to do most of my running on the treadmill this summer to avoid the heat, but this list should keep me busy enough that I won't notice the heat. I've been going to bed at around 3AM lately, so tomorrow should be a real treat getting up at 6AM, haha--but I am looking forward to working on this challenge!

I've decided to host a meet-up in Detroit for any locals, too--we can knock the group run off the list at the riverwalk, while ALSO knocking the beer run off the list by doing it on International Beer Day  :)  (We can celebrate with a beer after we're done with the run). Anyway, that is scheduled for Friday, August 3rd at 7:30 PM. (There is an event page in the Facebook group)

If you join the Facebook group, feel free to create your own event near you to meet up with other runners or walkers who are doing the challenge as well.

By the way, here is a post that I wrote a couple of years ago about running in the summer heat (it applies for walking, too). Hopefully some of those tips will help.

I look forward to seeing/reading about the challenges! Good luck to everyone participating :)


June 19, 2018

RECIPE: Broccoli Cheese Soup

I realize that tomorrow is the last day of spring, and it's about as far from "soup weather" as it can get; but Eli ordered broccoli cheese soup when we went out to dinner a few weeks ago, and I've been craving it ever since! So, I made this for dinner today.

I made this using a roux, which is super fast and easy. It's not quite as fast as opening a can of soup, but it doesn't take much more time or effort and it tastes absolutely delicious--totally worth it. (See notes at bottom of post)



Click here for a printer-friendly PDF

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
1-3/4 cups chicken broth
4 cups finely chopped broccoli
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Melt butter over medium-high heat in a soup pot, and add the chopped onion. Cook until onion is soft, just a few minutes. Add the flour and stir it into a thick paste.

Stirring constantly, add the milk a little at a time. Stir until uniform after each addition of milk to avoid clumps of flour. After all the milk is stirred in, add the chicken broth and bring just to a boil. Add the broccoli and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the broccoli is soft, about 7-10 minutes (depending on how small you chop it).

When broccoli is soft, add the cheese and stir until the cheese is melted. Stir in the heavy cream, and heat through until soup is hot.


Notes:

I like the broccoli to be chopped really, really fine (you could run it through a food processor for 10 seconds or so; I just run my knife through it over and over until it's as small as I like it). You can always leave larger pieces of broccoli--just allow for more cooking time to let it get soft.

I use whole milk and heavy cream in this recipe, because it makes the soup really creamy and rich. I haven't tried it with low fat milk, so I can't tell you if it will work as well. (I am always able to eat less and be satisfied with a smaller portion when I use full-fat, rich ingredients).

To get four cups of finely chopped broccoli, I used three small crowns (I removed most of the stems).


Hope you like it! :)

June 17, 2018

Day 17: A Date Night with the Kids

I don't have much time to write a post, but I'll at least share some photos from last night. Jerry and I took the kids out for a fun evening to celebrate Father's Day a little early. First, we met up with Jerry's parents at our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner. Then, Jerry and I took the kids to a park that we used to go to when we were dating. And after that, we went to an escape room.

Ever since I did the escape room in Kansas City, I am hooked. They are so much fun! I did another a few weeks ago, and then yesterday was my third. I was excited to take the kids to one, because I knew they would really like it. We had leftover money from last month's "family allowance" (money for us to use as a family each month for something fun), so I thought we could combine it with this month's family allowance and it would be perfect to go to dinner and an escape room.

After we ate dinner, we had some time to kill before our escape room reservation, so we walked a loop of the park, which was just down the road from the escape room building. It was nice walking around the park with the family; I can't even remember the last time we all went for a walk together before yesterday.


Jerry used the timer on his phone to take a picture of the four of us. We were all laughing by the time it finally took the picture--a countdown of 10 seconds feels like forever when you're posing for a photo!

The name of the escape room we went to was Escape the Post in Flat Rock. It's inside of the old state police post (hence the jail theme). They actually have six different escape rooms in that building, and the one we did yesterday was the jail cell. It's made for 2-4 people.

(The one I did a few weeks ago was the Sheriff's Office, and I liked that one a lot! It's for 4-6 people. We did not escape that one in time, but we made it to the last clue and had fun trying.)

The escape room was fun, but we finished it really quickly--we were out in 36 minutes! It wasn't easy, and we certainly wouldn't have gotten through it without using our three clues, but I wish it had been longer.


When we were done, we were told to pose in certain ways for photos--I'm not exactly sure what the purpose behind them was, but it was fun! Here, we were told to look bummed that we were stuck in jail.


And in the next photo, we were told to look mad at each other (I think because we were locked in a cell together?). Noah and I fought for the phone, while Jerry and Eli strangled each other. Typical Saturday night for the Foster family.


This next picture cracks me up. I have NO idea what Jerry was looking at! He's off in his own little world, I guess...


It was a fun way to celebrate Father's Day (a day early). If you haven't done an escape room, I highly recommend it--they are super fun and a great way to work as a team!


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June 16, 2018

Day 16: Jerry's 9-Week Insanity Results


Nine weeks ago, I wrote about Jerry's and my plans for fitness after we had trained for the half-marathon. That was the day that the half-marathon didn't happen because of the torrential downpour we had. We'd trained together for 12 weeks to run the half, but never actually ran it.

My plan going forward from there was to run for fitness and fun, without any pressure. I wasn't interested in doing races, and I wanted to keep my distance down under 10K. I didn't want to get burnt out on running again. I wish I could say that I've being running regularly ever since then, but that would be a big fat lie.

Jerry's plan after the half-marathon was to work on his fitness by doing a full round of Insanity workouts (Amazon affiliate link). The program is nine weeks long, and the only way I can describe it is insane. Insanity is the perfect name for it (and not only because it's insanely expensive!).

Unlike his wife, Jerry finishes what he starts (most of the time, anyway). And I can't even describe how impressed by (and how proud I am of) his dedication to this exercise plan over the last couple of months! It's unreal, and super inspiring.

The Insanity program is part of Beachbody, but I want to stress that Jerry is NOT affiliated with them and he did NOT do any other part of their program. He didn't do their diet or supplements or shakes or whatever it is they push. He actually didn't follow a diet at all; the only thing he did was start the Insanity workout program.

(Insanity is a nine-week program of videos that are done at home, using just body weight--you don't need dumbbells or bands or anything like that. And having watched him do some of these videos, I can't describe them as anything other than insane. They are SO challenging. Running seems like a stroll in the park compared to the Insanity videos.)

The program is six days per week, with Sunday being the only rest day. The workouts start at about 45 minutes each, and then, halfway through the program, increase to about 65 minutes.

Jerry maintains his weight loss much better than I do--he started 253 pounds on January 1, 2010, then dropped to 175, and has stayed roughly in a 10-pound range for the last 8 years. However, early this year, his weight was creeping up. He was inching toward 200 pounds again, and that was a big wake up call to him. So, he wanted to get back in shape and bring his weight back down.

His weight on the day he started Insanity (April 15th) was 198 pounds. I took some "before" photos of him. And then his insane workouts started.

Jerry works a swing shift, which means sometimes he works nights and sometimes he works days. Sometimes he works weekends, sometimes he doesn't. He works anywhere from 3-7 days a week, depending on the overtime schedule. Needless to say, his schedule is erratic. Which makes following any sort of plan very challenging!

I can't even begin to tell you how impressed I am at his dedication to these workouts. On days that he would normally get up at a super early 4:15 in the morning for work, he voluntarily started setting his alarm for 3:15 AM in order to get his Insanity workout in before getting ready to go to work.

And over the last nine weeks, he didn't miss a single workout. Not one!

He wasn't dropping much weight, which made him feel discouraged; but he said he was noticing that his body was changing. He said he felt less jiggling when he was doing the workouts, and he was starting to see some muscle definition. Until the last few weeks, he'd only dropped about six pounds, but you could really see a change in his body. (I see him every day, and even I could see a big difference.) Then, over the last few weeks, the weight started dropping off quickly.

Today was his final workout of the program! I was really excited to take an "after" photo to show him the comparison. He had started 198 pounds, and today, he was 176 pounds--so he lost 22 pounds total. And I am amazed at the change in his body (not just his farmer's tan, either)...

Insanity results

I've been bragging about him to everyone, because I'm just so impressed that he finished all nine weeks without missing a single workout--getting up at 3:15 AM, fitting in his exercise while working 12-hour swing shifts, making zero excuses when he just wanted to sleep in a little (or stay up late), listening to the guys at work rag on him for wanting to get in shape.

He says all of that was worth it. He feels much more confident in how he looks now, but he said he also feels much better mentally. The dedication it took to follow through with the nine week plan was huge, and completing it made him feel really good about himself.

When I asked what he's going to do now, he said he wants to continue the workouts, but on a lesser schedule. He thinks that four days a week would be good for maintaining fitness while still giving him a few days off.

I am feeling super inspired by him, and it makes me want to get in shape, too! (Not enough to want to try Insanity, but maybe just to follow a running schedule without making excuses. That would be an improvement.)

Anyway, if you can't tell, I'm super proud of my husband, and I just had to share his results :)


June 15, 2018

Day 15: Strawberry picking!

Well, I didn't end up writing yesterday after all. I was planning to write in the evening, but Jerry and I watched a movie together instead. I'll probably write more about my thoughts and (hopeful) plans on weight maintenance soon.

But first... I knocked a goal off of my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old list today!

My friend Emily (a blog reader that I met up with in person a couple of years ago and who has turned into a close friend) came over and we went strawberry picking. I had never gone berry picking before (at least not that I remember), and it's something I really wanted to do.

This is an odd thing to bring up, but strawberry picking is one of the things that my weight held me back from doing when my kids were little. Whenever I think of stay-at-home moms, one of the things that always pops into my head is taking the kids to go berry picking.

Around here, it's a very common thing to do in the summer. I always used to see other moms posting pictures at the berry farm with their kids, and the MOMS Club that I was in would organize an outing there each year. Going berry picking as a stay-at-home mom is pretty much a given.

Except for me. I hadn't gone before today, but in my mind, I pictured bending over in the hot sun for hours with my clothes sticking to me while I was sweaty and tired and trying to keep the kids on task. There were a lot of things that I hated about being obese, but one of the worst was sitting on the ground in the sun (the only thing that sounded worse to me was sitting on the beach!).

I always felt guilty for not taking the kids berry picking. And I certainly have had plenty of opportunities to take them over the last several years after having lost the weight, but I just couldn't get that image of it out of my head. So, that's why I included "Go fruit picking" on my 40x40 list. Basically, I wanted to get over that negative image in my head of what it would be like.

When Emily said she was going to be in town for the weekend, and wanted to get together Friday morning/afternoon, I wanted to think of something for us to do--I looked at my 40x40 list to see if there was something on there to inspire an idea, and I thought berry picking would be perfect. I looked up nearby farms, and I discovered that strawberry season is super short (less than three weeks)--but that the berries were ripe and ready for picking just a few days ago! The timing couldn't have been more perfect.

Emily had never been berry picking either, and she was really excited to go. We decided to pick the strawberries and then come back to my house and make jam (something else neither of us had done before). I asked my kids if they wanted to go, but they actually weren't interested(!). I think that ship has sailed, and I wish I had just done this years ago.

I still hate sitting in the sun, even at a normal weight, but I was actually really looking forward to this. Thankfully, it wasn't a super hot day--it was 74 degrees, so it was pretty nice out! (I even wore a cardigan). We got to the berry farm at around 10:30, and were given a whole row of berries to ourselves.


Emily sat on one side and I sat on the other so we were facing each other and able to chat while we picked strawberries (and eat one here and there, of course!). As we picked each plant free of the ripe berries, we moved down the row. I couldn't believe how many strawberries were in each plant--it doesn't look like it at first, but once you start picking, there are strawberries everywhere!


I wanted to make sure to get enough to make jam, but also to make a strawberry rhubarb pie and just have berries to eat. Fresh strawberries are the BEST! We were each given a box that holds about 10 pounds of berries--and at $2.09 per pound, I decided to fill it!


We were satisfied with our pickings at around noon, so we headed out. On the way out, they weigh your strawberries. I had picked almost exactly 10 pounds--it cost about $21 for my box.


On the way back to my house, we stopped to get the stuff for jam making--mason jars, pectin, and sugar. We got to work hulling the strawberries, mashing them, sterilizing the jars, and prepping everything to make the jam.

When I read the recipe, I saw that it listed how much of each ingredient you need for each jar of jam; since we were making a large batch, I did the math and we needed 13-1/3 cups of mashed strawberries. It took a while, but we finally got all we needed.

And then when I looked at the recipe again, I discovered that it actually listed the ingredients per TWO jars, not for each jar... so we'd accidentally prepped twice as many strawberries as we needed, bahahaha! If I'd had more jars, I would have just made twice as many (I put the extra prepped berries in the fridge, and I'll go get more jars tomorrow).

I was surprised at how much easier jam-making was than I expected! I followed the recipe that was included with the container of pectin, and it wasn't hard at all. The most difficult part was moving the jars (both empty and full) to and from the boiling water without a good pair of tongs (I'm going to buy better ones before making more jam tomorrow). Emily and I were holding several utensils each to move the jars without getting burned, haha.

BUT, we managed to get everything done without incident, and we were so excited when we heard the jar lids popping as they sealed. The recipe says to let them sit for 24 hours before checking to make sure they are sealed, but right now, the lids seem to have sealed just fine. I'll be thrilled if it actually worked and we were successful at our first jam-making session.

We had a little leftover jam after pouring it into the jars, so we each ate a spoonful and it was delicious! Tomorrow, I want to make a loaf of homemade bread to eat with it. (I'm bummed that I forgot to get a picture of Emily and me with our jam.)

While we were processing the jam, we decided to make good use of some of our strawberries by making strawberry margaritas! Some tequila, triple sec, lime juice, sugar, and fresh strawberries in a blender, and then poured over ice. It was amazing :)


I still have a lot of berries left over (I didn't know how much I'd need, so I picked way too many). Tomorrow, I'll probably have strawberries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And probably the next day, too ;)

I loved strawberry picking, and I am going to make this a yearly thing for sure! It was so fun, and not nearly as uncomfortable as I had pictured it to be all these years. Thankfully, it wasn't very hot or humid.

OH, and later on, I saw that Becky had posted photos of Luke at a strawberry farm. It turns out that she and Luke were at the SAME farm at the SAME time as us--and I didn't even see them! It was her first time berry picking as well. Quite the coincidence that we were both there at the same time. What a fun day!



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