March 26, 2018

Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 10 of Half-Marathon Training

Thank you so much for the kind comments on my last post. My mood has been all over the place, and it sounds like a "mixed state" of bipolar--having symptoms of depression and hypomania at the same time (of course, it's only the bad hypomanic symptoms that I'm experiencing right now). Mine is depression dominant right now, which is basically meeting the criteria for depression while having some hypomanic symptoms as well.

It's not been fun! It's been difficult for me, but also difficult for those around me--not sure what my mood is going to be like. The hardest part right now is the insomnia. When I'm depressed, I have terrible insomnia. But when I'm hypomanic, I have no need for sleep. And there is a big difference! Insomnia makes me SO SO tired, but I cannot fall asleep for anything. And I'm constantly exhausted from the lack of sleep. To the contrary, having "no need" for sleep due to hypomania means I am wide awake and perky with just a few hours of sleep, and I don't feel the effects of not sleeping.

Over the past couple of days, I've started feeling a little better as far as the depression goes. I'm hoping that once we get home from vacation, I'll be able to relax because I'll stop worrying about everything having to do with the trip. (It seems like vacation is relaxing for everyone except the person who does all the planning!)

The weather is looking pretty "eh" for Boston. No snow, but lots of rain... it has rained EVERY single time I've gone to Boston! I've been to Portland, which is known for being rainy, five (six? five?) times in the last three years, and it has rained just ONCE. But for each of the three times I've gone to Boston, it has rained significantly. So, the rain part doesn't surprise me. Thursday looks decent--55 and cloudy--for the whale watching. That's the one thing that I really hope we'll have good weather for.

The kids and Jerry are very excited about going, and that's all that matters. Maybe once we get there, I'll relax a bit and enjoy it!

The kids are doing sports for school (Eli is running track and Noah is playing baseball) and I've had a trillion forms to get done with tomorrow as a deadline. I only received these papers on Wednesday! They had to have a physical (thankfully, my doctor was willing to see them on such short notice), and today I have to go get some forms notarized. Isn't that crazy? I have to sign a "consent to play" paper (saying that I give consent for my child to participate in that sport) in front of a notary public! So, it has been stressful trying to get all this done before we leave, on top of getting ready for vacation.

But, like I said, I am starting to feel better. I have some cool things to look forward to over the next couple of months, and I'm going to be staying super busy with the boys' sports schedules. They've never really done schools sports before (cross country is with a running club), and I was so surprised when I saw the schedule for their sports this spring. Practice or games/meets every single day. It's going to be a big change of pace for the whole household. Fun, though!

I've had an exhausting weekend, so I put off writing this until today. We are officially done with 10 weeks of half-marathon training! 

Like I mentioned before, I ran into a little trouble with my IT band. It wasn't terrible--just a little nag that I noticed and was concerned with. The last thing I wanted was to get injured this far into training. I had been working on it with a foam roller, and Jerry "massaged" it (I put that in quotes because it was NOT a nice massage--it hurt like a bitch). I think the massage helped the most, actually.

I was worried all week about whether I'd be able to get in my 11 mile long run before going on vacation. I worked out our schedule so that we wouldn't have to do a long run on vacation (trying to run 12 miles while on a family vacation is crazy).

I knew if I could just get through the 11 miler, I would be able to get through the half-marathon, even if I don't get in another long run. It wouldn't be fun, but I could do it. (I do have a 12-miler scheduled for when we get back, though.) I was just very worried that I'd have to quit training altogether and/or drop out of the race.


Our training week looked like this:

Tuesday - Tempo Run (25 minutes + 5 min warm up and 5 min cool down)
Wednesday - 3 miles easy
Friday - 4.5 miles easy
Sunday - Long Run (11 miles)

Here is how it actually went...

Tuesday - Rest

My knee had been bothering me after our long run on Sunday, and then again on Monday. I decided to push this run to Wednesday, and hopefully squeeze in the rest during the week. I would rather be cautious than worry about getting it in on Tuesday.

Wednesday - 30 minute easy run

This run was the planned tempo from Tuesday, but once I started running, I just wanted to make sure I got through it without having any problems with my IT band. So, instead of doing the scheduled tempo run, I decided to run for 30 minutes. Toward the last few minutes, I started getting that nagging feeling in my knee. *Cue catastrophic thinking*

Thursday - 4.5 mile easy run

I ran outside. It was nice running weather, and I just couldn't stand the thought of the treadmill. I was supposed to do 4.5 miles, and I just hoped I could do it without IT band issues. I didn't pay any attention to my heart rate or pace (I didn't even look at my watch, actually) and I just ran easy. I couldn't stop focusing on my knee, but I didn't have any issues with it. I was so glad!

I managed to finish the run, and I was very surprised to see my pace under 11:00. My heart rate was high, though, because I hadn't been paying attention to it. Anyway, I was happy to have finished.

The next day, my knee was bothering me again. It was so frustrating! Jerry spent a long time massaging it, and I just hoped it would help me to be able to run on Saturday for our long run. (Jerry had to work on Sunday, so we decided to do our long run Saturday instead, in order to run together).

Friday - Rest

Because of the IT band irritation from Thursday, and the impending long run on Saturday, I decided to rest on Friday instead of trying to squeeze in a fourth run this week.

Saturday - Long run (11 miles)

This was the moment of truth. If I could get through this run, my confidence would be very high that I would be able to finish training and run the half next month. My knee felt okay while I was getting ready to go, but I was still completely pessimistic.

I decided to park near the Metropark and we could do two out and back routes from the car--one through the park (7 miles) and one the opposite direction (4 miles). That way, if my knee started acting up, I would have a chance to quit. We chose the 4-miler first, because the 7-miler through the Metropark would have bathrooms and water at the turnaround point--when we'd likely need it most.

Again, I didn't watch my heart rate, but whenever Jerry noticed we were running too fast (under 11:00), I told him to slow us down. I wanted to make sure I got through this run!

I made it through the first out and back (four miles) no problem. We stopped at the car for a second to drink a little water, and then we headed toward the Metropark. This is where it got cool for me. I had run this route so many times with Jessica while marathon training, and I knew all the landmarks that were significant.

So, instead of focusing on running seven more miles, I just focused on the next landmark. (From the car to the traffic light; going from the woods to the fields; the random grassy hill; the wooden bridge (which was exactly one mile from the turnaround point); the marina (bathrooms/turnaround); then, all of it again in reverse).

Focusing on getting to the next landmark instead of on mileage and/or time made the run go by so much faster! We had good conversation, too, especially the last four miles or so. We made it back to the car, and I couldn't believe I'd actually done it--11 miles!

I didn't have any trouble with my knee (I'd worn a brace, just in case). It was a huge confidence booster as far as the race goes. That was definitely my favorite of our long runs together. Again, I was kind of shocked at our pace--sub 11:00! I had been planning on 11:15-11:30.

We each got a long run treat on the way home, and I picked out tiramisu. It was SO good!

So, I only got in three out of four runs this week, but I'm glad I skipped the one I did; if I hadn't, maybe I wouldn't have been able to finish the 11-miler. Yesterday, I woke up feeling slightly sore from the run, but no issues with my IT band at all. We're going to be doing a lot of walking in Boston, so I'm grateful that I won't be limping!

I penciled in a few short runs for our trip, so that we can use the hotel treadmills to run 3-4 miles on a few days. But even if we don't run at all while we're gone, we'll still have 11 days left of training before the race.

We went to visit my nephew, Luke, yesterday, and he LOVES playing with Noah and Eli. Eli especially adores Luke, so he spent the whole afternoon letting Luke chase him around the house. (Luke is walking now!! It seems like just yesterday that he was born.) He is the cutest baby! I love watching him laugh with my boys.

March 21, 2018

Best week ever!

Just kidding. It's been a terrible week, which is why I haven't been writing. I always have a hard time writing when I'm feeling down.

My depression and anxiety have been pretty bad over the last week. Usually, it's one or the other that dominates my mood; but this week, I was blessed with sky-high anxiety and a sadness funk that I just can't shake (not that I was able to "just shake it off" before).

My meds haven't changed recently or anything, so it could just be a "normal" bipolar episode. I'm just really hoping that I get back to the "other" normal soon. This past week, I've been feeling super overwhelmed with stuff to do, but I can't get the motivation to just DO it. We leave for vacation next week, and I would love to feel better before we go.

I wish I could say I was looking forward to vacation, but I made a bad choice of destination for an early-spring trip (Boston). There have been Nor'easter storms hitting pretty much every week, so the weather is up in the air (ha ha). I spent SO much time planning this trip, and I just hope that we get good weather to enjoy the things I planned.

However, I do keep reminding myself of when we went to Virginia Beach a couple of years ago and were hit with a tropical storm. We ended up having a blast! The kids loved that vacation, despite the weather (or maybe because of the weather), so hopefully Boston will be fun regardless.

Right now, I'm just having such a hard time thinking positively.

My knee, for example. I mentioned that I was having some IT band soreness after my 10-miler. I was very careful about rolling it out and stretching it for two days (I pushed yesterday's run to today to give myself an extra day before I tried running on it). I felt good for the run today, but afterward, this afternoon, I keep feeling twinges here and there.

Ordinarily, I probably wouldn't think anything of it. But I tend to have catastrophic thinking (one of the cognitive distortions I mentioned recently), so right now, every little thing feels like a really big thing. And so my mind immediately started going to, "I'm injured. I can't run. I can't finish this training. I can't run the half-marathon next month. I'll never run again."

Dramatic, much?

Even though I haven't been feeling great mentally, I've been proud of myself for getting my training in. I haven't missed a single run in nine weeks. I only have three weeks to go until the half-marathon.

I would like to write more here, but like I said, I find it hard to write when I'm feeling like this. So, I just popped in to say that I'm trying. And hopefully I'll be back to the "good normal" soon.

March 18, 2018

Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 9 of Half-Marathon Training

Nine weeks of training... done!

When I started this training for the Martian Invasion Half, I honestly didn't really have much confidence that I'd stick with it. I'd had a hard time getting back into running after taking so much time off, and considering that running was much more difficult than it was a year ago, I was a little worried that I'd bitten off more than I could chew.

However, I knew that I had to make a bold, public statement of my goal, and write/talk about it frequently so that I would feel embarrassed if I chose to quit. If I hadn't been so public about my goal, I can honestly tell you that I would have quit the first week. The power of saving one's pride is strong! haha

The training continues to get better and better, and the running has gotten easier. I still have good runs and bad runs, but that is true whether I'm in the best shape of my life or the worst.

Today was a big milestone--double digit miles! Jerry and I had our first 10-miler together. But, I'll write about that later. Here is the recap for the week of training...

Our schedule for the week looked like this:

Tuesday - Speed work (intervals)
Wednesday - Easy run (3 miles)
Friday - Easy run (4 miles)
Sunday - Long run (10 miles!)

Tuesday - Intervals
5 minutes easy
5 x (3 minutes hard, 3 minutes walk)
5 minutes easy

I always dread intervals; and then afterward, I feel fantastic and I'm glad I did them. The last time I did intervals was February 20th, and I had 6 x 2 minutes hard. I had run the hard parts at 7.2 mph on the treadmill, and when I was done with that workout, I was COMPLETELY spent. I honestly felt like I couldn't have done anything more.

So, this workout was similar, but the hard intervals were 3 minutes each instead of 2. That's a pretty big difference when you're running really hard. But, I decided to try and do the intervals at the same speed as the 2-minute ones a few weeks ago. That meant 3 minutes at 7.2 mph, and repeat that for a total of 5 times.

Somehow, I managed to do it! It was very tough, but I stuck it out. And honestly, when I was done, I didn't feel as "spent" as I was last time. I don't think I couldn't have done it much faster, but I definitely had a little left in the tank. So, I'm certainly improving.

Here are the intervals stats. I completely forgot about this app on my phone, and I like it better than Garmin Connect. It shows my heart rate along with all the other stuff, which I liked a lot during heart rate training.

Wednesday - Easy Run (3 miles)

This run was not as planned. I did not run 3 miles on Wednesday. Hell, I didn't even run on Wednesday at all! I had a rough day as far as my anxiety and even depression goes, and I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I knew that I couldn't skip it altogether (when I started my training plan, Thomas said that if I didn't skip any of my training runs, he would come visit--a huge incentive).

So, in the 11th hour, I decided that I'd just run on Thursday instead (which is usually a rest day).

On Thursday, I was feeling much better. The weather was gorgeous, and I really do enjoy running in the evenings (which I've been doing a lot lately). Almost as soon as I started running, I decided to do my 4-miler instead of my 3-miler. When I'm feeling good, I try to take advantage of it!

This was one of the best runs I've had in a long time. I ran at what felt to be a super easy pace, keeping my heart rate under 150 (ideally, it would be 144 or less, but recently, I'm happy to keep it under 150). I felt really happy to be outside and doing a nice, easy exercise.

It was exactly what I needed after the crappy day I'd had before!

Poor Phoebe loves being outside, but we don't let her wander. There are coyotes and foxes and eagles in the state land across the street that would love to get a hold of her. So, I bring her outside with me sometimes and let her sit on my lap. She (clearly) loves it.

Friday - Easy Run (4 miles)

This run, as I mentioned, wasn't what was planned. Since I ran 4 miles on Thursday, I only had to run 3 miles on Friday. On this run, I decided to consciously try to keep my heart rate at or under 144 bpm. I like having a focus that has nothing to do with pace. I only looked at my watch every quarter mile or so, though. I didn't want to constantly check it.

Also, I had to stop at my parents' house to feed their cat, so I chose the 3-mile route that includes going past their house a mile in. Again, I felt really good during this run--the evening runs are fantastic for my mentality!

Sunday - Long Run (10 miles!)

This was the big milestone--10 miles. Double digits!

I definitely wanted to do this run with Jerry. We've done all of our long runs together so far, and will continue to do so when we can. (Although, we only have a couple left before the race.) He slept until 12:30, and we planned on leaving at around 1:00. I was shocked when I looked at the weather--it was 62 degrees outside!!

I dressed in my Heat Gear capris and a performance t-shirt. With as cold as it's been, I was super skeptical that I wouldn't freeze to death, but I'm starting to learn to trust the weather app. I'm always so cold on a regular basis that it's hard to trust when it's supposed to be warmer.

We wanted to go to a park that is about 30 minutes away, but Noah had to be at his piano lesson at 4:45, so I wasn't sure we'd have enough time. Ultimately, we decided against it, and played it safe--we planned to do two of the 5-mile loops at the State Park, which is less than 10 minutes away. In retrospect, I really wish we'd chosen differently.

The State Park has some really gorgeous scenery, and it would be the perfect place to run--if not for the paved path itself. It REALLY needs to be repaved--there are tree roots that have pushed the asphalt up and caused it to crack and crumble. It has a slant throughout the entire path, which is not good when it comes to causing injuries. (That's actually how I developed a stress fracture in my fibula.)

We did our 7-mile run at the State Park a few weeks ago, but only 5 miles of it was on the rough path (2 miles were on the newly paved path), so I didn't have any problems then. Today, doing all 10 on the bad path was a different story.

Halfway through the run today, my ankles were really feeling all the bumps, cracks, and slopes of the path. I stopped and stretched twice in the last couple of miles. My left IT band was bothering me, too, especially on the very sloped parts of the path. I told Jerry that if it started to feel like it might be injured, I was going to walk the rest of the way to the car. The last thing I want is to get injured going into week 10 of training!

We finished the run, and our legs were definitely feeling it. We stretched, and we had to get home to take Noah to his lesson, so I planned to use the foam roller on my IT bands later. By the time I got home, I wasn't hurting, but I definitely feel like my legs will be sore tomorrow. My hamstrings feel tight, so I'm going to stretch those really well, too.

Anyway, we did it! We hit our 10-mile long run, and I kept my heart rate at 145 bpm (so close to the ideal 144!). My cardio felt great today--if not for the bad pavement causing problems with my legs, it would have been a near-perfect run.

The good company and conversation made the run go by pretty quickly. I've said it several times, and I'll say it again: training with a parter has made such a big difference in my attitude. It's so much nicer than running those long runs by myself!

And there we have it! Nine weeks of training. Now just four weeks until the race :)

I've been thinking quite a bit about what my next venture will be as far as running goes once the race is done, and I made a decision that I feel pretty excited about. I'll write about that soon!

March 15, 2018

Selling more stuff (and some sad family news)

Thank you for the support on my last post! My anxiety has still be sticking around the last few days, but on a scale of 1 to 10, it's probably only about a 5 right now. It's interesting--before I started my bipolar meds, my anxiety was either a 1-2 or a 9-10... it was never in the middle. While anxiety is NEVER fun, it's nice that it's not nearly as bad as it used to get.

I was debating whether I should call this a Weight Loss Wednesday post or not, because there isn't much to report in that department... but then Jerry reminded me it's actually THURSDAY today. I can't believe it! This week has been very whacky.

So, I'll just write a mishmash of what's been going on lately. Here are some Thrifty Thursday things...

On Friday, I cleaned out the boys' closets (to help relieve my anxiety) and I came across their Nintendo DS game systems (those little handheld games from around 2005-ish). We had two DS's, 8 games, both chargers, a couple of cases for the games, and a carrying pouch.

I asked Jerry if he thought I could sell it on the local Facebook garage sale site, and he said he doubted it, but I could give it a try. He suggested $20, but I decided to list it at $40 and see what happened.

Within seconds (literally) of posting it, I'd already sold it! And then I had about 12 other people within the hour asking if it was still available. I wish I'd asked more for it! I made plans to meet the buyer at Kroger for the sale in a couple of hours.

I'd also listed Noah's now-too-small The North Face down-filled puffer coat. It was in really nice condition, despite his wearing it for about three years. He LOVED that coat, and I finally insisted that he needed a new one (this one looked a bit ridiculous being so small on him).

So, I listed his coat at $25, and within minutes, someone offered $20 and I said sure (shortly after, I got a couple other offers for $25--but I was happy to get anything for it at all, and the man I sold it to was thrilled because he said his grandson would love it). I agreed to meet him at Kroger at the same time that I was meeting the woman to sell the DS's.

I was excited to have made a quick $65 on stuff that I would have just donated to Goodwill anyway. I'm definitely going to start using the site more often.

Noah really wanted to replace that coat with a new one of a bigger size, but they were SO expensive (the North Face one was bought at a garage sale).

That same day, Eli needed new shoes, and I had a gift card to Kohl's. I also had something to return there, so we went to find shoes for him. He ended up getting some Adidas ones that he really liked in the clearance section.

While we were there, I browsed the clearance racks of coats, and I found one almost identical to the North Face one that we'd just sold. I knew Noah would be thrilled with it, and it was on clearance for $40! I bought that for him, and I got one for Eli, too.

On the garage sale Facebook page right now, I have my wedding rings listed for sale. Jerry and I agreed to sell them because they've been sitting in my jewelry box collecting dust. I'm just not a "jewelry person", so they are wasted on me.

They're gorgeous rings (an solitaire diamond engagement ring and a wedding band), but I am more sentimentally attached to the cheap Fossil watch Jerry gave me than I am the rings, haha. I did have one man say he was going to buy them, and we arranged a time to meet for the sale--but he backed out the next day. Bummer! If they do sell, Jerry and I want to do something fun together with the money (I have them listed for $950).

On a somber note (that feels odd sharing here), sometime during the night on Friday, my cousin Jeff passed away. This was an enormous shock to me. He was only 45 years old! He died in his sleep, and the cause of death is unknown--there was an autopsy performed on Saturday, but the results won't be ready for weeks or even months.

Jeff and I were not super close, especially as adults, but we saw each other frequently when we were young (we lived just two blocks from each other). He was my mom's brother's son, so he was my first cousin. I felt so terrible--not just for my aunt and uncle, but for Jeff's domestic partner of over 20 years, John. He was the one who found Jeff, and he is (understandably) completely devastated.

The whole thing was just so surprising--I think I'm still a little shocked by it all. My family is very lucky in that we haven't experienced much loss, especially considering all the people on this side. So, this was tough for the whole family.

The "celebration of life" for Jeff was on Tuesday, and as sad as the circumstances were, it was nice to have so many of my family members get together. When my grandma was alive, we had a Christmas party every year with all of the family, so it was awesome that we got to catch up. We haven't done that in a while, so I was able to see several of my cousins that I hadn't seen in years.

There were several cousins missing from the photo, unfortunately, but it was good to see everyone that was there. I am the second-youngest of this generation of my family. My brother, Nathan, is the youngest. We were never really allowed to hang out with the "cool cousins" back in the day because we were too young ;)

Also, in keeping with the Thrifty Thursday theme (again, it's a little awkward to post this here)--Jerry and the boys didn't have dress clothes for the funeral. No nice pants, shirts, or even shoes. I hadn't even thought of it until the morning of the funeral, so I took the kids to Salvation Army and we managed to get everything they needed. The dress shoes, pants, and shirts (and a tie for Noah) cost $40 total! We just never really have a reason to get dressed up--and the boys grow so fast anyway.

Noah is being inducted into Honor Society next week, and he needed dress clothes for that, so he can wear the same outfit. My mom wanted to get a family photo of us on Tuesday, because we were dressed up, and I was shocked when I saw it. My kids are almost the same height as me! When did that happen?!

Eli's hair still has a little blue-ish tint to it. When he first got it dyed, it was bluer than his shirt!

Finally, Salvation Army had a huge two-day sale. All of the clothes marked with a brown tag or yellow tag were 5/$5. I spent way too long browsing the clothes, and I ended up buying quite a few things. I didn't take photos, but I will try and take photos this week of some of my favorite finds and post them next Thursday.

Hope everyone has a great Friday!

March 12, 2018

The Top 5 Things That Help Relieve My Anxiety

How I Help Relieve My Anxiety

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been having a rough time with anxiety over the last week or so. Along with bipolar disorder, I have generalized anxiety disorder (again, diagnosed when I was very young). "Generalized" anxiety means that it's not one particular thing that I have anxiety over--it's just a general feeling of dread, or like something bad is going to happen.

In my case, when I'm feeling anxious, I have an overwhelming sense of guilt. For no particular reason at all, I feel like a bad person--bad wife, bad mom, bad daughter, bad sister, bad friend, bad person in general. Logically, I know this isn't true; but I just can't shake it by talking myself out of it.

It literally feels like it's strangling me--I get a "lump" in my throat that makes it hard to swallow. That's the biggest tell-tale symptom, and very bothersome. Also, I feel a "pit" in my stomach. It's that waiting-for-something-to-happen kind of feeling... something that is my fault, even if I didn't do anything wrong. 

I find it really difficult to concentrate on anything, because I go over and over in my head what could be wrong or what I need to get done. This past week, I was feeling so anxious about the thought of writing a blog post, but then NOT writing one made me feel even more anxious. 

Unfortunately, anxiety meds have never really worked for me. I've tried several, and all they do is make me so tired that I fall asleep. So, I try to find other ways to help relieve my anxiety. They don't always work, and they don't take it away completely, but they do help sometimes.

1. Memes. 

I browse memes about anxiety on Pinterest or on Google images. I search "anxiety cat memes" (these are the best!) or "funny anxiety memes" and get caught up for way too long reading and laughing. 

This is absolutely the most effective way that I relieve anxiety, believe it or not! Not only does it keep my mind occupied and make me laugh (literally out loud), it allows me to see that there are tons of other people out there who are experiencing the same things. Memes are the BEST. Except for the inspirational ones--I'm not a fan of those. I prefer funny. Bonus for dark humor.

2. Organizing. 

I find something that needs some serious cleaning or organizing, and I work on that until it's done--sometimes for an entire day. For some reason, the cleaning distracts me like nothing else can; and it helps that I feel productive. By getting a project done, I've been productive and I've occupied my mind in a way that distracts me from my anxiety.

3. To-Do Lists. 

I write out a "To Do" list. Feeling overwhelmed produces a lot of anxiety, and sometimes I just feel like I can't keep up. I love to write lists (any type of list!) but there is something about a "to do" list that makes things more manageable. I am able to stop worrying about what I have to do, because it's written out in front of me and I can work things off the list one by one. 

4. Goals. 

I write down a list of goals. Planning out positive things for the future makes it difficult to think about the current anxiety I feel. Writing goals always fills me with hope and motivation. Even if I never follow through with them, it helps me in the moment. This is a running checklist I made, and totally forgot about when I stopped running last year. I think I'll start working on it again! (I'll type it into a PDF soon, in case anyone else wants to join in.)

5. Photos.

I sort through photos on my computer. Looking at all the pictures (I have over 25,000 on my computer) brings back so many memories. I start to remember all sorts of good times and feel nostalgic. Once in a while, I'll come across a photo where I remember feeling very anxious when the pic was taken; and then I can see that there was no reason for the anxiety. Everything was fine! 

So, there you have it--the things I do to hopefully stop myself from feeling the awful dread of anxiety. Sometimes, if I'm out driving or in a situation where I can't do these things, I just try to remind myself that all the negative thoughts (i.e. my being a bad person) are just the anxiety talking. I try to think of examples of what makes me a bad person, and I can't come up with anything.

In therapy, I learned about "cognitive distortions", and I realized that several of those come into play when my anxiety is high. They are worth reading about, because once you are aware of them, it helps to realize that it's just your brain playing tricks on you when you are feeling certain ways. Here is a site that lists 10 of the most common distortions.

I thought it also might be worth mentioning the things that make me feel worse when I have anxiety:

1. Spending money. 

I'm not sure exactly why, but spending money on anything while I'm anxious just makes me more anxious. (Here is a post that explains how my family paid off $14,000 of credit debt in 14 months!)

2. Alcohol. 

This one is the worst. When I drink, I feel better for a short while; but then I feel the worst anxiety of my life for 24-36 hours afterward. I'm working on going alcohol-free, but haven't gotten there just yet. (Update: I decided to do a "Dry 2019" experiment, which you can read about in these posts)

3. Binge eating. 

Again, in the moment, it helps--it makes me stop thinking about anxiety for a while, and eating makes me feel better. But then afterward, I immediately feel terrible about myself and regret it. This causes me to think of all the other things that make me anxious as well. (I wrote a whole in-depth series about binge eating and how to stop doing it--I suggested reading it if you struggle with binge eating, too!)

4. Reading. 

This may seem like an odd one, because getting lost in a book sounds like it would be very helpful. But I find that when I try to read while I'm feeling anxious, my mind constantly wanders and all I can think about is the anxiety anyway. (Here is a list of my favorite books to read when you're NOT feeling anxious, haha)

5. Talking about it.

Again, this is odd. One would think that talking it over would make us feel better, but I find that I just get upset and worked up when I state my anxieties out loud. Especially to Jerry, because he wants to problem solve everything. When I have anxiety, there is nothing anyone can say to make it go away; so talking about it, for me, doesn't help. Instead, I find distraction to be more effective.

Anyone else deal with anxiety and have a unique way of battling it? Please share!

March 11, 2018

Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 8 of Half-Marathon Training

Hey, Friends! It's been a while. I have had a tough week mentally, and my anxiety has been kind of overwhelming. The thought of writing a blog post just made it worse, so I have been avoiding all blog things all week. But today, I wanted to do my weekly recap of my training. I'll write more about the mental stuff tomorrow.

This was week 8 of Martian Invasion half-marathon training. As you know, I'm following my "First-Timer's Half-Marathon Training Plan" (along with Jerry, because we are both running the race together).

This week was a step back week, meaning reduced mileage and intensity. There wasn't a huge difference compared with last week, but because this is a beginner plan, the "regular" weeks aren't very intense anyways. Here is what was on the schedule for the week:

Tuesday: Easy Run (35 minutes)
Wednesday: Easy Run (3 miles)
Friday: Easy Run (3 miles)
Sunday: Long Run (6 miles easy)

Tuesday - Easy Run (35 minutes)

Tuesday is usually speed work, but because it was a step-back week, it was just an easy run. The speed work is usually measured in time instead of miles, so that stayed consistent.

This run was odd. Like I said, my anxiety has been bad all week--and my mood has been sad. Tuesday was the worst of it. Because of my mood, I procrastinated my run all day. I just wanted to skip it so badly!

It started to sprinkle outside, and it wasn't exactly warm, so I planned to just do the treadmill. But then the thought of running in the cold rain made me feel better--I thought it seemed appropriate for my mood, and getting outside for a little bit sounded good. It was evening, and with the overcast sky, it was a little dark. I wore my reflective vest, even though the sun hadn't gone down or anything. Better safe than sorry.

I dressed really warm, and I listened to a mental health podcast. I was really enjoying it! And then halfway through, my phone died because of the cold. I have an iPhone 6, and when my phone gets really cold, the battery dies. But then later, when I plug it in, the battery is magically back up to 40-50%. I don't get it.

But I was bummed, because I was interested in listening. I was irritated with the drivers that day, too. People don't pay any fucking attention to the road! Everyone is texting on their phones or otherwise occupied, and I can't count the number of times I nearly had to jump into a ditch to avoid getting hit by a car.

Then, I started getting chased by a dog... an ENORMOUS Great Dane. Seriously?! I've gotten so much better about what to do when approached by a dog, which I'll write about tomorrow, but I yelled at it to go home, and finally it retreated. That's a busy road, and the people who live in the house don't watch their dog very well (obviously).

But, I ended up finishing the run and, despite everything, I felt so much better. I was soaked and cold, but it felt good on my body. I took a hot shower and dressed in my pajamas for the evening.

Wednesday - Easy Run (3 miles)

This time, I chose the treadmill. It was too late to go outside (unless I wanted to run in the dark, and after Tuesday's encounter with drivers and the dog, I just decided it'd be better on the treadmill). Instead of watching The Shield, I listened to the rest of the podcast I'd missed out the day before. I thought I'd miss having a screen in front of me for something to watch, but I enjoyed the podcast and the time went by kind of quickly.

I was super sweaty after this run! Some days, I barely break a sweat, and others, I'm just dripping--even when doing the same workout. This was one of those days where I was soaked.

I noted to myself that I really shouldn't run that late in the evenings (6:45 pm). My back was killing me (the pain gets worse throughout the day) and I felt achey during the run. I really should try to start before 5:00-ish.

Friday - Easy Run (3 miles)

This was basically the exact same run the day before; only this time, I did it in the morning. I had errands to get done in the late morning, and I wanted to shower beforehand, so I might as well get the run done and shower. I listened to a podcast again. I like doing that! On my long runs, I'll probably still watch a show on my iPad, but the shorter runs are nice for podcasts.

Sunday - Long Run (6 miles)

After running 9 miles last weekend, I was pretty excited that I "only" had 6 miles scheduled today. Even if I had to do them on the treadmill, I wouldn't have minded it so much. But, the day turned out to be gorgeous running weather!

I wanted to go somewhere away from home to run, and instead of one of the parks, Jerry and I decided to go park in downtown Monroe and run the path along the river. When we pulled up to the parking lot, I noticed a very interesting sight...

A dog, wearing snow goggles, standing on a fire hydrant.

Hahaha! When I got out of the car, I asked the owner if I could take a photo. Then Jerry and I chatted with him for a little bit, because I was so curious about--well, the dog standing on the fire hydrant. He explained that he's a dog trainer for Sit Means Sit, and he demonstrated with Shadow (his dog) lots of her amazing obedience training. I was in awe.

He gave me his business card, and I think we're going to check it out for Joey. Joey is a fantastic dog, and I really can't complain. But there are a couple of things he could improve on. For example, when someone comes to the door, I tell him to go lie down on his bed--and he does. I tell him to stay--and he does. But as soon as I turn my back to greet the person at the door, or if I get otherwise distracted, he sneaks off his bed and rushes the guests before I tell him he can get up.

Anyway, that was fun. Jerry and I headed off on our run, and it felt really good for the first couple of miles. When we got to the park (the lollipop part of a lollipop route), the path was all mud. We kept going, running on the grass, hoping that the path would clear up. But we finally ended up turning around and doing a different route because the mud was just too bad. It was definitely our slowest mile.

My heart rate stayed pretty low overall (146 bpm--ideal would have been 144), and our pace was 11:11/mile. It was a good run!

Overall, this week was pretty decent. My favorite run was the one I ran in the freezing rain. It just felt "right", and I enjoyed it. None of the runs were terrible, so that's a win!

Next week is a big milestone for us--double digits for our long run. We are both pretty nervous, which is kind of ridiculous. But it'll be a fun one to knock off our schedule.

On to Week 9!

March 05, 2018

"I know how to lose weight, so why am I not doing it?"

This post is a combination of Weight Loss Wednesday and Mental Health Monday. I asked on Facebook recently for ideas for blog post topics--since I've had a bit of writer's block lately, I hoped that maybe people would have some fresh ideas.

One person wrote:
"My struggle is and continues to be.....
I’ve lost weight in the past, I know what to do, so why aren’t I doing it?
That on and off switch.
Thanks for asking. As I enjoy reading your words, your thoughts!!"
I believe this is mostly mental, which is why I chose to write about it today. It's a question I've asked myself God-only-knows how many times in my life. And I wish I had one solid, concrete answer... but if I did, then everyone would be thin ;)

While I was obese, and a doctor started telling (lecturing?) me one time about the things I needed to do to lose the weight, I cut her off and told her that I know how to lose weight. If you want to know how to lose weight, ask a fat person--we know better than anyone!

We've read all the magazine articles, self-help books, healthy cooking books; we've gone to Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig; we've tried Slim Fast and Whole 30 and the BeachBody programs. We can tell you exactly how many calories are in that doughnut you're eating, or the pasta that you ordered at the restaurant; how many fat grams are in that cookie or slice of pizza. We can tell you how many miles you need to walk to burn off that piece of cake.


So, the big question is, what stops us from actually doing it?

Jerry and I were goofing around recently and we started taking selfies of us doing all of the emoji faces... haha! I wasn't sure what other pics to use for this post, so this is what you get ;) 

I had to think hard about this question, because I spent 20 years of my life knowing how to lose weight but not actually doing it. Until one day, I did. So, I had to ask myself what was different? Why was I able to do it this time? I came up with three things that I think made the difference.


I've written it over and over and over, and I'll never stop saying it: I didn't make changes that I wasn't willing to live with forever. THAT is the big "secret" that helped me to actually lose the weight.

Before you stop reading (most people shut out the rest of what I have to say at this point, because that's not a "real" answer that they are looking for), let me explain the best I can.

To lose weight, we have to make sacrifices. That is a fact. If you don't change a single thing, you obviously aren't going to lose the weight. So, whether we are successful and can stick with it depends on the sacrifices we CHOOSE to make.

If we know what we need to do to lose the weight, we need to ask ourselves if those are things we're willing to do forever (key word is "willing"). If we only choose sacrifices that we're willing to make, then there really isn't a question of whether or not we can do it. We don't have to change everything! We just have to pick and choose the changes that we are willing to make.

Here is a post that explains more about how to do that.


We have to stop making the same old excuses:

"I have a birthday party tomorrow, so I'll wait and start after that."
"This weekend is busy for me, so I'm going to start on Monday."
"I am going to start tomorrow, so I need to eat all of these cookies and get them out of the house."
"I'm going to have my favorite meal one last time before I start my diet."
"The holidays are coming up, so I'm going to wait until after that. I always have so many parties and festivities going on, so I can't stick to a diet during the holidays."

And so on. We've all said them (or similar things) over and over again.

But here's the kicker: If we are TRULY willing to make the sacrifices that we came up with in my first point, then there is absolutely no reason to start later than literally RIGHT NOW. At this very moment. Because there are always going to be birthdays, anniversaries, junk food at home and work, and invitations to go out to dinner--these things won't stop!

Our surroundings, our relationships, our jobs, holidays, special occasions... those things don't change just because we go on a "diet". We are going to have to deal with those things forever, regardless of what we're eating.

So, if we choose to make the changes that we can live with, then why not start right this minute? We don't need "one last" anything, because if it's something we're not willing to give up, then we are going to have it again--no need to treat it like it's out of our lives forever.

Instead, we need to make a plan--starting right this minute. Which leads to...


We need a "life plan" if we're going to stick with the changes we make. We need to plan for the tough situations and know what we're going to do in them. For example, in the previous excuse of, "I have a birthday party tomorrow, so I'll just wait until after that to start," we need to plan for it in a way that will make us happy.

What is it about the birthday party that we feel will throw us "off our diet"? We want to eat all the food, which probably isn't healthy, and a piece of birthday cake? No problem! We just plan for it ahead of time. In my personal scenario, I would plan to eat only the foods that I desire (for example, I might choose to eat a heaping scoop of pasta salad because I love it, but then I would forgo the fried chicken, because I can really take it or leave it--it's not something that I care about.

I would eat all of the things that I want to eat, that sound good to me, and I would skip the things that don't matter so much. I know (from experience) that the first 4-5 bites of a particular food taste the best; after that, it kind of goes downhill, so when it stops tasting as good, I stop eating it. What's the point of continuing to eat it if it doesn't taste as good?

And I always save room for dessert. If I'm full from a meal, then I will have my dessert later (even asking to take a piece of cake home instead of eating it at the party).
(Note: When I was counting Points or calories, my dilemma at a party was that I didn't want to have to try to estimate the calories in everything, and it was just too much work. So I would either eat nothing at all or say "Screw it!" and eat everything. 
Eventually, my solution for that became to just pick a number and count it as that--say, 500 calories for my plate of food, regardless of what was on it. I didn't try to figure it all out; I just ate what I wanted, and counted it as 500 calories.  
Then, when I wrote it in my food journal, I didn't feel like I "screwed up" the entire day or week. When I felt like I blew it with a meal, then I would let that ruin the rest of the day or week. So, by counting it (even if I was off count by 1,000 calories!) I didn't let it ruin my attitude.)
As far as drinks go... one of the sacrifices I was willing to make from the very beginning of my weight loss was pop. I used to drink tons of Dr. Pepper, but I felt I could live without it. I certainly wasn't willing to give up my desserts, but Dr. Pepper was a sacrifice that I was cool with. If you are a pop person, and you don't want to give it up, then plan on having it--but not a whole two-liter. Having one glass of pop at a birthday party isn't the end of the world.

Alcohol is a tough one for me, as you know if you've been reading lately. I had a glass of wine just about every single day when I was losing weight. I measured it out and counted the calories in it. These days, I haven't been so good at stopping with a small glass of wine. And as I get older, it has affected me in a lot of negative ways, so I am choosing not to drink alcohol (I'm not ready to declare "forever" yet... but I'd like to keep it to very, very rarely).

It's not easy for me, though! Just like weight loss, I have to make sacrifices. Of course I want to drink like everybody else at a party, or share a bottle of wine with Jerry or a girlfriend. But I remind myself of the consequences--how bad it will make me feel later, in particular. And when I weigh that in my mind, being 100% honest with myself, I (usually) choose not to have any.

In another example: "I better eat all these cookies now so that I can start my diet tomorrow". I can't tell you how many times I've said this. And you want me to spoil the ending? It won't be the last time you have cookies in your house!

Eating all of the cookies right now isn't going to keep us from being around cookies forever. All it does is give us an excuse to eat all the cookies--it makes us feel like we're doing the "right" thing because now we can start losing weight tomorrow.

In this situation, I've learned that I can have cookies every single day if I want to. I am not willing to give up cookies from my life. So, I leave the cookies in the cupboard, and when I really, truly, honestly want a cookie, I'll eat one (or two--or until they just don't taste as good).

I discovered that there have been so many times where I thought I wanted things (junk food) just because it was "bad"... but way deep down, it didn't even sound good to me at the time. So what's the point of eating it if it doesn't even sound good? Why not save it for when it really does sound good?

I think that listening to our gut feeling (figuratively, not literally--ha) is very important when it comes to food choices. When I'm really struggling, I usually ask myself, "Do I REALLY want this? (Yes! Of course I do!) No, do I really, honest-to-God, want this? Does it really sound that good?" and sometimes the answer is yes; sometimes the answer is no. But I try to listen to that little voice way down in my gut.

Before I eat, I serve myself a small portion of food, even if I'm ravenous. I can always go back for seconds if I want. I eat slowly if I can, and then if I'm ready to get seconds, I'll take a moment to ask myself if I really am still hungry. I have found that my gut feeling (I guess we could call it intuition, although I hate the phrase "intuitional eating"), is the best answer. My head might tell me I want more, but deep down, I know that I don't actually want more.

Okay, that was a very long-winded answer to a simple question:

"I know how to lose weight, so why am I not doing it?"

I think it's because we tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. If we don't give up the things we enjoy, and we learn to listen to our gut feelings about what we REALLY want, it will probably help us to actually "do it".

I think we all know the infinite ways to lose weight, and many of us have tried dozens of them--but by making it complicated, it becomes overwhelming--and of course we would rather choose simple than overwhelming.

So, I guess the nutshell three word answer is: Keep it simple!

Here are some other posts that may be helpful (going into more detail) regarding this topic:

Lose Weight Eating Only the Foods You Love
Changing the Habits That Keep Us From Losing the Weight
Is It Worth the Points/Calories?
My Best Advice For Those With Weight Loss Goals
What I Wish I Knew When I Started Losing Weight
Get It Over With! (Stop Procrastinating and Just Do It)
What Made This Time Different

(I have to say, I do a way better job at making emoji faces than Jerry does!)

March 04, 2018

Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 7 of Half-Marathon Training

I could not be more exhausted right now. The whole week kind of wore me out, but today especially makes me feel like I could just fall asleep for hours and hours.

Jerry and I have officially finished our training for week 7--this was a big milestone, because now we only have 6 weeks to go! We are more than halfway done. Unless you count the actual mileage--haha, then we've got a long way to go.

Our schedule for the week looked like this:

Tuesday - Speed work (tempo run)
Wednesday - Easy run (3 miles)
Friday - Easy run (4 miles)
Sunday - Long run (9 miles)

Tuesday - Tempo run (30 minutes total)
(5 minutes easy running, 20 minutes at tempo pace, 5 minutes easy run)

This was the first speed work I'd been able to do outside. The streets were clear of ice and snow, and running outside sounded much more appealing than doing it on the treadmill. (Believe it or not, sometimes the treadmill sounds better to me.)

Usually, I get nervous for tempo runs. They're hard! And because I'm only doing speed work once a week, I wanted to try to have a good pace for the tempo portion--faster than what a tempo typically would feel like. On this day, however, I wasn't nervous. I was just curious as to what my actual hard pace would be.

I started with the five minute warm-up at a nice, slow pace; then I started running hard enough to where it was uncomfortable, but not so hard that I didn't think I'd be able to finish the run. I started to second guess myself after about five minutes of that pace, though, haha. I tried not to look at my pace too much, and just run by feel.

I couldn't wait to hit the 20 minute mark and then jog the rest of the way home. My Garmin was set so that each portion was a lap of its own, so I wasn't sure what my actual mile splits were. I just had to wait until I got home to check it out.

First, I had to let Joey come outside and check out my breath so he could see that I wasn't eating all sorts of good things while I was away (he's so weird--he's not a licker, but he likes to smell people's breath).

I was really surprised and excited to see my pace for the tempo portion!

My tempo pace was 9:17/mile for 2.15 miles. That may be nowhere near what I was running before, but now that I'm considering myself a "beginner" again, I'm pretty psyched about it! Remember my first run when I started to get back to running, and I had to push really hard to hit a sub-11:00 mile? So, this half-marathon training is definitely helping me get some fitness back. It feels good.

And I am super proud of the 9:17 pace I ran on Tuesday!

Wednesday - 3 miles easy

Again, I ran this one outside--the weather was perfect for a run! Jerry came with me. I decided to actually make this run about my heart rate--I wanted to keep it at or below 144 bpm (180 minus my age). The first mile felt really difficult for some reason, and I was having a hard time talking. But my heart rate was good, so I just hoped to tough it out.

I was very chatty, and I told Jerry a long story about something or another, and the run went by really quickly! I glanced at my heart rate every so often, and was surprised to see that it was staying low--especially with all the talking I was doing. It was a true "conversational" pace, which is what an easy run should be.

I felt great during the run, and very happy to see that I kept my heart rate low for the entire three miles. My average heart rate was 142 bpm (maximum of 148, which was when we had to dart across the street quickly). And my pace happened to be 11:14/mile at that heart rate. Very surprising!

Friday - Easy run (4 miles)

We had a terrible snow storm on Thursday night. It was just warm enough for the snow to be the heaviest, wettest snow possible. In other words, slush--everywhere. It was the texture of a Slurpee. And there was flooding all over the place.

Overnight, it got really cold. Our power went out from 10 pm until 3 am, and the house was freezing! All the slush outside turned to ice, so there was no way I was going to run outside. I did my four miles on the treadmill while watching an episode of The Shield.

I was SO HOT running inside the house, even with a big fan blowing on me. I couldn't keep my heart rate down for anything, and I had to get done with my run in time to pick up the kids for school. So, I just ran the slowest I could while still having enough time to take a two-minute shower and head to the school.

Sunday - Long run (9 miles)

I can't believe our long runs are almost in the double digits! Today's long run was the final one before next week's "step back" week (less mileage). I was thrilled that Jerry was able to run it with me, and make the time go by faster.

We haven't run any long runs together until training for this half-marathon. Running today was certainly the longest run we've done together. Jerry had never done one of my favorite routes that starts in the city where I grew up, and it goes right past the neighborhood where Jerry lived in high school, so I wanted to show him that route. (Jessica and I did that route a lot when we were training for the Cleveland Marathon.)

Jerry was our "mule"--wearing the CamelBack and carrying all of our random stuff.

The time goes by so quickly when I run with Jerry! We talk the entire time. This particular route has several milestones that I look forward to hitting, which also makes it go by fast. I wasn't even going to bother with my heart rate today, because I just wanted to enjoy the run and chat. I just tried to keep the pace "conversational".

It was an out-and-back route, so we turned around at mile 4.5, and from there, it was just a matter of getting back to the car. That's one thing I love about out-and-back routes!

I glanced down at my watch at one point and saw that we were at mile 6.95, and our pace was 11:06. I asked Jerry, "Hey, do you want to make this one sub-11? We just have to sprint for a super short distance." And he said sure, so we took off for the last 0.05 of the mile. We hit the mile mark with a 10:57 pace. And then spent the next quarter mile catching our breaths, hahaha.

We were both so excited to get back to the car and stretch. I've gotten to the point where I really look forward to stretching after a run--it felt so good! Then, we were planning to take an "after" pic, and Jerry saw the perfect backdrop:

And yes, yes we are. But we have fun, and that's all we care about! :)

Our splits for our long run:

I was surprised to see we had a second sub-11 mile in there, because we weren't trying for it. But I always tend to start running faster as I get closer to the end, so I'm sure that's what I did; we also had a tailwind.

Overall, our week went great! I can't say that I was miserable during any of the runs. I was thrilled with Tuesday's tempo, the easy run with Jerry on Wednesday was fun, Thursday's wasn't much to speak of, but it wasn't bad; and today's run was a huge accomplishment in that we ran nine miles. The last time I ran this far was in March 2016!! Two full years ago.

Next week, we have a step back week, which is nice. Our long run will be six miles.

Today, I planned to get another cannoli from Monica's for my "long run treat"; but they closed before we got there :(  I forgot that they close early on Sundays. So, I ended up going to Kroger and getting a piece of lemon cake.

I took a tiny bite when I got home, and it's delicious. I'm actually kind of glad that I didn't get the cannoli, because lemon cake is my favorite kind of cake, and I don't get to eat it very often. I'm mentally and physically exhausted, and relaxing with a movie and my cake sounds amazing.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

March 01, 2018

Some Cool Clearance Finds

Good grief! I feel like the days and weeks are flying by. It's March 2018 already?!

Anyway, I don't have a whole lot for Thrifty Thursday, but I thought I'd share a couple of things I found on clearance. Also, I have to share how our new furnace has made a difference in our energy bill (so exciting, right?).

First, I needed to buy coasters for my living room and/or bedroom (I only have four good ones, and I kept moving two of them from living room to bedroom to living room...). I wanted some that were like the heavy coasters I had at home already, but I was always forgetting to look for a set when I'd go to the store.

When I was at the store recently, I was walking past all the end caps where clearance items usually are, and I spotted some coasters. They were gray and yellow, which matched my bedroom perfectly, and they were on clearance for $6.74 (regularly $8.99).

Several times at this particular store, I've scanned clearance items to check the price and found out they were actually even cheaper than the clearance sticker.

So, I found a scanner and checked the price. They were on clearance for 79 CENTS! Yes, that is less than a dollar for the pack of four coasters. When I got home, I saw that there were two that were just yellow and white, which match my living room. I couldn't have picked better ones for what I needed, and they were only 79 cents!

At the same store (different day), I was looking for some pajamas for the kids, and I was browsing a clearance rack of clothes. I saw a really cute, nice quality Detroit Lions jacket on clearance for 50% off. But it was regularly $75, so $37.50 was still way too much for me to impulsively spend on a jacket.

I brought it over to a price scanner, and it was marked down to $7.50!!

I couldn't believe it. So, needless to say, I bought it. (This is a terrible picture, but I only took it to send to my sister, not to post on my blog--and I'm too lazy to go take a better one right now).

In other news, we got our end-of-the-year statement from our electric company, and I normally wouldn't have paid much attention to it (we do a budget plan, which means we pay the same amount every month--calculated by our average use of the previous year). The "settlement month" is in January, where the new bill amount for the year is calculated.

When I saw the bill was drastically lower, I wondered why--and then I realized it had to be because of the new furnace we bought. Remember when our furnace died in 2016? I was completely shocked at how expensive it is to replace a furnace/air conditioning, even when saving quite a bit on labor fees due to knowing someone who installs them as a side job.

Anyway, after our furnace died, we had no choice but to replace it. I had NO idea just how much money it would save us on our electric bills! (We have a gas furnace, but also central air; so the summer months use more electricity than the winter months. Spring and fall are usually the lowest cost, because we don't run the furnace or the air for a little while).

I wish I had all of 2016's history, but the furthest back I can get from the website is September through December. The bills are from the previous month's usage, so the one dated in September was actually August's electrical usage.

Check this out!

I still cannot believe the difference. Seems the furnace dying wasn't such a terrible thing after all ;) Although, by the time the furnace pays for itself by way of energy savings, it'll probably be time for a new one anyway! ha.

As far as our credit card debt goes, we weren't able to pay down as much as I would have liked for February--we were able to pay just under $800. We had several extra expenses pop up--nothing like needing a new furnace, thank God, but just to register for the half-marathon that Jerry and I are doing (and the kids running the 5K) was over $200 (I paid for my brother's 5K as well, because he is only doing it to run with my kids). Running races as a family is not cheap!

So, I'm hoping that our final credit card payment will be in April. It's so exciting that we will soon be debt-free!

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