September 21, 2019

How to Breathe While Running (Nerd Alert!)

How to Breathe While Running

One of the girls on my cross country team didn't have a very good race on Tuesday. I thought she did great, but she refused to talk to me after the race, so I wasn't sure what the problem was. Her mom later told me that she was upset because she said she had a cramp in her side during the race. Her mom said that she thinks it may have to do with her breathing, and asked if she should be breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth.

I haven't done an informative post on my blog about running in a long time, so I thought it'd be fun to write about this! (I may have written about it before, but if I did, it was a long time ago; so here it is again).

Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is actually a very common misconception (for running, anyway--I think there are reasons to use it in other situations). There is a super nerdy explanation for it (seriously--breathing, something that is literally as old as time, has a "right way" and a--well, let's call it an "inefficient" way when running (I don't want to call it wrong, but it's definitely not the best way). I'll write more about the nose vs mouth part at the bottom of the post.

In 2014, I was invited to the Runner's World Headquarters in Pennsylvania (along with several other running bloggers). We had a weekend of seminars all about running and I met some of the coolest people known to the sport. I was so geeked out! It was fantastic, and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to learn everything I did.

Anyway, one of the seminars was given by Budd Coates. If you're not familiar, he is pretty much one of the most amazing runners in the sport. I'd never heard of him at the time, but I discovered that I was learning from a major running LEGEND... all about how to breathe while running.

Budd Coates describing how to breathe while running

First, a short bio: Budd's marathon personal record is 2:13:02. That's not a "half" marathon--I'm talking a full 26.2 miles. He ran TWENTY SIX POINT TWO miles in 2 hours and 13 minutes. Insane!

Also, he has run a sub-3:00 marathon in each of FIVE decades. Imagine that... every 10 years older and running sub-3:00? For five decades? Unbelievable.

Oh, and not to mention that he qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials in the marathon not once... but FOUR times. No biggie!

So, here is what I learned about How to Breathe While Running. Who better to learn from than Budd Coates?

When it comes to injuries, most runners will have problems with just one side, whether it's a stress fracture or runner's knee or hip flexor, etc. The possible reason for this is that we may be exhaling exclusively on that side. (I discovered that I was a 2:2 runner--meaning that I would inhale for two counts and then exhale for two counts. You'll see below why that's a problem.)

There was a study done by some very smart doctors at the University of Utah who discovered that the most stress to your body occurs when you begin to exhale. This is because when you exhale, your diaphragm relaxes, making your core (abdominal muscles) less stable. The impact of your foot strike (equal to 2-3 times your body weight) plus less stability in your core is basically a recipe for injury.

So, when you are exhaling on the same foot (left or right) for every breath while running, you are putting significantly more stress on that side of your body.

And that is how Budd came up with the brilliant idea of rhythmic breathing. He wondered if he could develop a rhythm that would allow him to exhale on each foot alternately throughout the whole run. It worked perfectly for him--no injuries and running his fastest marathon times.

The rhythmic breathing is done by an odd/even pattern to alternate the foot that absorbs impact on the exhale. You also must make sure you're using your diaphragm to take deep breaths and maximize oxygen intake rather than short shallow breaths.

To do that, you need to make sure that when you inhale, your diaphragm engages and moves downward, which makes your chest puff out a little (because there is more room for air in your lungs). Because it's impossible to run (or even live, duh) without oxygen, more = better when you're challenging your cardio system during a run.

Rhythmic breathing works like this:

Inhale for an odd number of steps and then exhale for an even number (one less than the odd number). For most runners, this is a 3:2 ratio (inhale for three steps, exhale for two steps) because we do most of our running at an easy pace--or at least we should be! (Read this post about the easy run. It totally changed my running for the better when I finally practiced what I preached.)

When you spend more time inhaling than exhaling, you're minimizing the amount of time exhaling (where your body absorbs the most stress). That way, you are getting the most oxygen out of the least amount of stress.

So, for a 3:2 ratio, inhale for three counts and then exhale for two counts. I always count it in my head like, "1-2-3-1-2"... but you can do whatever you'd like. "In-two-three-out-two". I would practice it while sitting or lying down before trying it during running. But I found that when I did it while running, it felt very natural. I had to concentrate on it for a few runs, but once I got the hang of it, I do it all the time now. I don't have to think about it--it just comes naturally.

Now, when you are running faster, your breathing is going to get faster. So, you can change the ratio to 2:1... inhale for two counts (steps) and exhale for 1 count. When I do my super slow runs to keep my heart rate low, I even do a ratio of 4:3 (inhale for four, exhale for three). It takes some experimenting to find out what works best for you; but like I said, most runners will use a 3:2 ratio.

There is another rhythm that is slightly more complicated, but I'll throw it out here just in case you want to try it. This is for very hard work (sprinting to the finish line, etc). The rhythm is 2-1-1-1. You would inhale for two steps, exhale for one, inhale for one, exhale for one. And repeat. I haven't even tried that, but it was one of the rhythms that Budd suggested.

And to answer the question about breathing through your mouth or nose? The best answer is both! We will maximize our oxygen intake by inhaling and exhaling through both mouth and nose. But if you have to choose one or the other, the mouth is the way to go. You can experiment with this to feel the difference:

1) Close your mouth and keep it closed. Then breathe in through your nose. Notice that you aren't getting very much air? (While holding still or sleeping, it's comfortable; but when running, it feels like you're suffocating.)

2) Pinch your nose shut and then breathe through just your mouth. Much easier than breathing through your nose, but I think it feels like my nose is stuffy or something.

3) Now, relax your mouth in an open position, and breathe regularly. You'll probably notice that you breathe in and out through both your nose and mouth most of the time anyway without even thinking about it! But you'll definitely notice that you get the most air this way.

Also, is this not the coolest race shirt?! I did a half-marathon for cystic fibrosis, and this was the race shirt we were given. It's my favorite race shirt I've ever gotten!

September 20, 2019

Summer Goals Follow-Up (Should I even bother?! Haha)

Let's see how I did on my summer goals, shall we? ;)

With summer ending in just a couple of days, I thought this might be a funny post to write--because if it isn't obvious, I definitely didn't nail the goals I set for the summer. And I write that in jest. I'm not being (too) self-critical, I promise.

But I actually was curious when I went back to read my summer goals, because I forget what my plans/goals were. I just know that I most likely haven't been doing them. I'll write my thoughts as I go through the list. Here is my list:

Physical Health

To be at peace with my body exactly the way it looks (whether that's at this weight or if I should gain or lose weight).

I wish I could say that I'm at peace with it, but I'm most definitely not. In fact, I think I feel worse about it. Surprisingly, I haven't gained weight(!) but I haven't been eating well (see "Diet" below) and I haven't been exercising (see further below) so I just feel like a blob. Here is a photo from our meet on Tuesday. I cringed when I saw it.

Diet - My plan was to really listen to my body and pay attention to what foods make me feel good and what foods make me feel bad. And then do what feels best as far as food goes. I also wanted to drink more water--aim for 3 quarts a day.

I have been terrible with this. I haven't gotten in much water at all (I drink tea in the mornings, and then I chew ice all day long, and occasionally have an alcohol-free Heineken or a Diet Squirt in the evening. I used to suck down water all day long! This is something that I want to make a priority; even if I change nothing else, I need to drink more water.

Taking vitamins

I haven't been doing this, either. I get SO nauseous when I take a multivitamin (even half a vitamin makes me feel like I'm going to vomit). I may buy some Flintstones vitamins, and see if those are better. If they are made for kids, maybe they won't be as rough on my stomach.


My plan was to follow my Summer Challenge List (running or walking, whatever I felt like). I wanted to try to hit all of them this year, because I've never done that before. I did great for a few weeks and got a lot of them checked off, but something happened to throw me off and then I just never got back into it.

Wearing sunscreen, always

I actually have been VERY good about doing this. I bought some SPF 110 for my face and SPF 50 for the other exposed parts of my body. Any time I'm going to be outside, I wear it.

Flossing my teeth daily (I have no problems with brushing, but flossing is something that I have always had a hard time making a daily habit).

Well, I certainly haven't done it daily, but I've been working on it and do it more frequently than before.

Living a more active lifestyle in general the way that I used to

I'm not really sure how to count this. I have been doing lots of "projects" (woodworking, painting, etc). Since I spend a lot of time in the garage moving around, I sweat a LOT. And I am frequently super sore from using muscles I'm not used to using.

Here is an example--I can't tell you how physically demanding it was to scrape all the paint off this door! (This was our front exterior door--somehow, the paint blistered and peeled the vinyl off underneath and it looked horrible. I scraped it all off and then repainted it (with a paint that is meant to withstand high temperatures). And THEN, I did the same thing with the side door! Before and after:

Continuing to stay sober of alcohol

Yes! Going strong--not a single sip in 262 days.

Get a check-up with my doctor and have bloodwork to see my health numbers, including vitamins.

Haven't done this yet. I keep telling myself that I want to drop some weight first (if my numbers aren't good, then my health insurance may add a premium on for high cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, weight, BMI, etc. I haven't gotten everything tested in over a year now, so I'm nervous!).

Mental Health

Taking my meds on a regular schedule (I'm very good about this already).

This is no problem for me. I have a little container that holds my pills for the week, so I take them first thing in the morning.

Cutting out caffeine, with the exception of a modest amount of tea.

I've done good with this. I had coffee a couple of times and my anxiety was sky high, so I've learned that I just can't have it. I've been enjoying the tea in the mornings, though.

Writing in a journal daily, even if it's just one or two sentences.

I've done really great with this one! When I lie down in bed at night, I write in my One Line A Day journal, and then read a chapter in the Bible.

Do a few brain puzzles each week.

I love the Lumosity app, so I'll use that as well as the old-fashioned logic puzzles in a book. I've really gotten into this lately. I tend to go through phases with it, but I've learned that playing the mind games is a great way to control my anxiety.

Read more books

I've definitely done this--I read several books, including the extremely long Pillars of the Earth trilogy.

Do some crafts that make me happy (crochet or knit, wood work, bullet journal, sew)

I have done a few wood work projects, which I love doing (I wish the materials weren't so hard to get to my house--buying plywood and getting it to my house is a huge pain. I can't do bigger projects, because I have to have the plywood cut down small enough to fit in my car. I've used up almost all of my leftover materials, so if I want to do more, I'll have to buy more.

Live my life the way that makes me happy, and screw what anyone else thinks

I think I've done well with this. Mentally, I've been very stable all summer. I haven't had many (if any) conflicts, so I haven't had to worry about what others think.

Read a chapter a day from my Bible

Doing great with this! Like I mentioned before, I really find it disturbing, but I want to continue to read it and hope that it gets better.

Continue to feed the birds and squirrels (I look forward to feeding them every day and it makes me feel happy)

This is probably my biggest joy of the day. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but the squirrels have become like pets to me. I've named several of them and I can tell them apart by subtly different markings and by their personalities.

Tuck, for example, is super bold--he runs right up to me when I go outside, and he's even climbed up my pant leg to get a walnut. I definitely spoil the squirrels, but I adore them. (Sadly, squirrel hunting season started last weekend, and there are hunters in the woods across from my house. I try to keep "my" squirrels in my backyard as much as possible so they don't venture into the woods.)

I did, however, quit feeding the birds. When I got the bird feeder, all the birds around the house attracted hawks. When I saw a hawk nearly take off with a squirrel, I did some reading a discovered that having bird feeders can attract hawks because they prey on the birds. Now that I got rid of the feeder, I haven't seen the hawks around!

Find new ways to relieve anxiety

I have a no-fail relief of a specific game on Lumosity--it's super fast-paced and it's impossible to think about anything other than the game, so I forget my anxiety while playing. My anxiety hasn't been too horrible lately (and maybe it's thanks to Lumosity). It works really well to take my mind off of things because I am so focused on the game.

Relationship Health

Spend more quality time with Jerry and my kids--family game night, family movie night, walks in the evenings, etc.

I wish I could say we've been doing great with this, but we've been so busy! With my cross country and the kids playing baseball, our evenings are kind of crazy. We did go see Toy Story 4, though. The picture isn't good, but there's Eli, Noah, Noah's girlfriend Ashely, Jerry, and me.

Get in touch with a few old friends and make plans to get together and catch up

I think the only people I've gotten in touch with and saw were Lance (my childhood friend) and his brother Spencer. I got together with Lance for lunch one day, and I went to visit Spencer after he went home from the hospital in hospice care. His cancer has made his health decline since then, but he's still hanging on. Just today, I bought the ingredients to make dinner to bring to him and his parents this weekend. I did get to see my younger cousins recently, and that was really fun getting to catch up with them!

Work on being more affectionate with Jerry (hugs, kisses, cuddles, etc). His "love language" is Physical Touch, which was last on my own list of The 5 Love Languages, so it's hard for me. It's not that I'm repulsed by affection, it's just that it never occurs to me to give him random hugs and kisses. We each took the Love Languages test and read the book, and you can read about our results here.

I do try with this, but it's so hard to keep it in mind. Like I said, I'm not repulsed at the thought; it's just not something that I think about.

Write a letter to each of the kids and share how proud I am of them

I haven't done this yet. I don't know what I'm waiting for! I want it to be meaningful, so maybe I'm just putting too much pressure on myself to make sure it's perfect.

Use the phone more and texting a little less Talking on the phone is hard for me for some reason, so I'd like to call up my friend Sarah in Arizona to chat, or some other friends that live around the country.

I've talked to one or two people, but that's it. I always feel like I don't have anything to talk about. Still, it's something I'd like to do.

Make it a point to spend more time with my parents, siblings, in-laws, and especially my niece and nephew

Where did the time go?! I've seen everyone here and there, but not nearly as often as I'd planned. I did have Luke and Riley come stay the night, which was super fun and I'm glad I got to spend time with them. I just need to do it more regularly!

Take Eli fishing in a new place, and take Noah somewhere pretty where he can take photos.

I took Eli fishing a couple of times--I even drove him all the way up to Lake St. Claire and I sat on a boat for eight or so hours while he fished for muskie with Shawn's friend, Andy. I hate fishing and I hate boating, but I wanted to be there if he caught one.

A muskie is considered "the fish of 10,000 casts" because that's about how many it takes to catch one.  Interestingly, Lake St. Claire in Michigan is one of the best places in the U.S. to find them. It was Eli's dream to catch one, and Andy (who didn't even know us--he was just doing it because Shawn told him about Eli) invited us out on his boat to help Eli catch one. Andy ended up hooking two, and Eli reeled them in. He was thrilled to have gotten one, but he won't consider it "catching a muskie" until he hooks it himself and reels it in.

As far as Noah and photography, I haven't done that yet. He's going through a phase (I hope it's just a phase, anyway) where he wants pretty much nothing to do with me unless he needs money or a ride somewhere. 

Financial Health

Continue to live on our budget that got us out of debt

I've done well with this. It's getting REALLY tough now that we have extra expenses, though. Having to cut back again is a challenge. However, we are still debt-free.

Build our savings account (I'm aiming to add another $1,500 to it during the summer)

I haven't built it up--after making a $1,000 down payment for Eli's braces, our savings is down to just $300.

Plan our meals and grocery shop accordingly to stay under our grocery budget

I did so-so with this. I didn't cook as much as I should have, but on the nights I have cross country, it's really challenging to cook dinner. However, I did stay conscious of our budget and we didn't go over it TOO horribly.

Dine out very rarely (maybe once a month)

We didn't do much dining out (ordering pizza is another story). We went out a couple of times as a family, and I felt that was legit. We weren't doing it out of convenience.

Cut out unnecessary costs again (I did this when we first started our budget, but I'd like to take another look)

I haven't cut back on anything yet. I feel guilty! Jerry and Noah love Apple Music, Eli gets a mystery fishing box once a month, we all enjoy Netflix, and I love doing projects around the house. There are definitely places to cut back (like what I mentioned above) and I am going to have to do it soon.

Save up for a new front porch
Like I mentioned above, we didn't even get to save any money this summer after paying for Eli's braces. I also had to pay for some other expensive things--car registration renewal ($250), Noah's driver's ed classes ($300), fixing Noah's Macbook ($250). Ugh. I'll never get a new porch at this rate!

Job Health

Create a regular "chore chart" rather than just winging it. I'd like to make a weekly list of things that need to be done regularly and assign the tasks for particular days.

I created the chart, and follow it here and there, but definitely not like I'd planned. Maybe when cross country is over!

Write more frequently on my blog, and try to start a schedule to post on particular days

I did terrible for most of the summer, but this month, I've gotten in a LOT of posts. More than I have in over a year, probably. I've found that I really enjoy posting frequently again.

Reply to emails more frequently. Right now, my inbox dates back to April (!) and I feel bad about it. Seeing emails that I haven't replied to yet causes me anxiety, and that can be solved very easily by taking time to reply to a few each day. For now, my plan is to reply to 2+ per day.

Well, I did not do the 2+ emails per day schedule. In fact, I ignored my inbox for the most part until last week, when I spent nearly a whole day catching up and replying to old emails. I always feel terrible that it takes so long to reply. Now that the inbox is caught up, though, I can work on keeping it that way. Reply within a day or two.

Write out a schedule for ALL of these plans I've written about above so that I don't get overwhelmed. Take it one day at a time.

I wrote out the schedule. A lot of good it did ;)  (Actually, the schedule was part of the problem. I wanted to make a cutesy little bullet journal just for these summer goals, but it was taking so long just to set it up that I became overwhelmed and quit. Having a simple planner is much easier.)

If I have some free time, I'd like to go back and optimize photos on past posts

I've done this, but only to a few posts that I was linking to and happened upon the photos. This is something I'll need to take several hours at a time to work on.

Find a new place to host photos for my blog where I can edit them without deleting them and re-uploading them

Nope. Haven't even started looking.

Create a plan for the cross country kids this year. Renee is not going to be coaching with me (she took a job as the middle school cross country coach) so I want to be as organized and prepared as possible to do it on my own.

I have done awesome at this! I really do way more than is necessary. It's a volunteer position, so I don't get paid, but I spend probably 10 hours a week (including practices) working on cross country. It's fun, though! And I am still eternally grateful to those of you that sent the items from the Amazon Wish List to my team! It has made coaching this year even more fun.

So, clearly I wasn't the greatest at hitting my goals this summer. But after typing all this out, it certainly wasn't a total fail! The biggest thing I need to work on is diet and exercise. I think if I can just get that on a good routine, the other things will be easier to focus on.

The summer was rather uneventful, which is actually a good thing. No depression, no hypomania. Stayed very busy! And enjoyed it, for the most part :)

But I am SO looking forward to fall. My favorite time of year!

September 18, 2019

The First XC Race of the Season (a Nail Biter!)

I wanted to get this posted last night, but I was physically and mentally exhausted when I got home from the race and I just wanted to not move a muscle. I know I wasn't racing it myself, but I totally felt like I was--I'm sure I take it way too seriously, haha!

(Before I write about this, I'm just going to explain the way I write about the kids on the team. I have always used first initials and I blur faces for privacy. It never occurred to me to ask parents if I could post names/pictures, but from now on, if I do post a child's first name and/or photo, it means that I've gotten permission from his or her parent(s). In the future, I'll just ask the parents at the beginning of the season on the waiver they sign.)

Since this is my first year coaching solo, I felt a little pressure to make sure that the kids did well (in comparison to their own times, I mean). If they were to run and not improve at all from our first practice, I would feel like I was definitely doing something wrong in their training.

I think I've written about this before, but there is a boy on my team named Aaron. This is his fourth (and, sadly, final) year on my team because he'll be moving up to the middle school team next year. When he was in first grade, too young for the team, he would still come to practice with his older brother and do a little running. I could tell he was going to be fast, just like his brother.

When Aaron started running on our team, I began to notice at the races that there was a boy from another school who always seemed to finish very shortly before Aaron. Each race, the two of them got closer and closer to the top finishers. For the last couple of years, Aaron was regularly making the top 10, with this other kid (we'll call him Ferris) just seconds ahead of him.

At the beginning of the season, I like to give each kid a goal to work on for the season--it may be a certain mile time, or running a particular distance without stopping, or running their longest distance to date, etc.

For the last two years, I've given Aaron the goal to "Beat Ferris" in a race. At practices, during speed work, I yell at him that Ferris is right in front of him or right on his heels to get him to go faster. Aaron is competitive, and at races, he really gives it everything he has. Once, he even lost a shoe during a race and still finished in the top 10!

Last year, when he was in fourth grade, I was thrilled to see him run his first sub-7:00 mile (6:58). And then a PR of 6:50. It's interesting to see the difference between the first day of the season and the kids' best races. Aaron's time trial at the first day of the season this year was 7:52 (pretty slow for him, but all the kids are relatively slow after taking time off).

I usually give Aaron more or tougher work than the other kids because I know he can handle it (and he is competitive enough that he wants to put in the work to win). With this being his last season with me, I told him that this is the year he HAS to beat Ferris, or I'm retiring (kidding).

I was nervous for yesterday's race, considering it was the first of the season, and I wanted all the kids to do well. The kids who have never raced before are always a bundle of nerves, too, because they aren't sure what to expect.

I put tags on all the kids (like bibs used to keep track of timing) and we did a warm-up. Then we sat in a circle so I could quickly go over the details of the course and explain race strategy. (I also told Aaron and Harper, our fastest runners, to try to get toward the front of the pack immediately because this is such a large race).

After the kids lined up, the announcer fired the starter pistol, and the kids were off. There were 140 kids in the race, so the beginning is a little chaotic when you're trying to see what is happening.

About a quarter mile in, I saw that Aaron was in about fourth place. With a 1.5 mile race, I was curious to see how he'd do--he tends to do great for a mile, and then starts to slowly break down on longer distances (he really pushes himself to the limit). This year, as his coach, it was my goal to get his endurance built up--more long, easy runs. I hoped it would pay off.

I was standing about half a mile into the race to cheer the kids on as they went by, and as they made the turn toward me, I saw that Aaron was in the lead! There was a kid (Ferris) RIGHT on his heels. I was used to it being the opposite--Ferris in the lead with Aaron just a second or two behind him. I hoped Aaron could hold the lead, but I honestly expected Ferris to pass him before the mile mark.

Since I was cheering on the rest of the team at the half-mile point, I couldn't see anything that was happening. Finally, I ran to the finish line before the kids started to come through. There is a building about 0.15 miles from the finish line, and it blocked my vision of the lead. Seconds later, I saw a white shirt come around the building--it was Aaron! And I was shocked to see that he had a fairly large lead. I thought maybe I missed Ferris going by, but a few seconds later, Ferris rounded the corner.

I was STILL worried that Ferris was going to fly past Aaron at the end (a lot of action happens in that final push to the finish line). I was just praying that Aaron wasn't going to try to turn around to see how close he was or anything like that--I just wanted him to focus on the finish line and run faster than he ever had.

And HE DID IT!! He crossed the finish line in 9:12, and Ferris came across at 9:18. Aaron's finish time of 9:12 meant a mile pace of 6:08--faster than he's ever run. I will be so psyched to see if he can hit sub-6:00 soon. Since this was 1.5 miles, a 5:59 finish for a mile is certainly possible.

This is Aaron with his place card (as they finish, they are given a finish number).

One contribution to his great time was because he mistakenly thought that he was finishing the race about half a mile before the actual finish line. The kids have to run past the finish line once and do a loop and THEN they get to finish. When he saw the finish line, he ran like hell only to realize he wasn't done. He just held on to the lead for dear life, and managed to keep his pace.

I felt SO excited when I saw him win the race--this is my fifth year coaching, and I think we've only come in first at one race before.

Aside from that, all of the kids did really well! I was super impressed with a lot of their times and improvements. Harper (the girl who demonstrated the running parachute in a video a few posts back) placed 4th of 64 girls and 9th overall. She ran 10:08, which is a 6:45/mile pace. Her (self-proclaimed) goal is to beat Aaron this season ;) She is super determined, so she just might do it, too!

One of the boys, who I think has the potential to end up being one the best cross country runners all through school, ran a pace that was FIVE MINUTES faster than his time trial just two months ago. As a whole, I think our team is faster than any previous year. The average pace of the whole team yesterday (there are 11 kids now--one of the girls dropped out several weeks ago) was 8:08/mile. And that was for a mile and a half race! I'm hoping they can keep that up for our next race... this Saturday :)

September 16, 2019

Chicken Fajita Bowls (with homemade fajita seasoning)

Chicken Fajita Bowls (with homemade fajita seasoning)

I LOVE fajitas. It's kind of funny, actually--I hated bell peppers until I was pregnant with Eli, and then craved them all the time. And now they are one of my favorite vegetables. I could eat a ton of onions and bell peppers with this fajita seasoning on its own--it doesn't even need chicken or rice.

But of course, to make a complete meal of it, the chicken and rice with the fajita toppings are amazing. I'm not a huge fan of the flavor of tortillas (I like them, but I like the filling of fajitas the most). So, I like to serve this as a "fajita bowl"--rice topped with chicken, bell peppers, onions, and a delicious homemade fajita seasoning.

Chicken Fajita Bowl

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe!

For the seasoning

3 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 crushed chicken bouillon cubes (or the equivalent of bouillon paste)
1-1/2 tsp. table salt (you may need to add a little more, but taste it first)
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

In a mason jar or Ziploc baggie, combine all ingredients very well. Set aside for now. (This seasoning makes enough for about 3 pounds of meat OR enough to make the fajita bowl recipe twice.)

For the Chicken Fajita Bowl:

1 Tbsp. cooking oil
1-1/2 pounds of raw chicken breasts, trimmed and sliced thin
3-4 medium bell peppers, sliced thin (I use 4--green, red, orange, and yellow when they are on sale)
2 medium onions, sliced thin
Cooked white rice (I like to use Jasmine rice, but plain long grain rice will be just fine) --about 4 cups for 6 servings.
Optional: sour cream, cheese, guacamole, etc.


In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the chicken and stir while it browns. When it is just barely cooked through, add all of the veggies and stir well. Lower the heat to medium and put a lid on the skillet. If the skillet is too dry, add a little water--about 1/4 cup--to create steam (try to avoid having the vegetables stick to the bottom so they don't burn).

The vegetables won't take long to cook (I don't like them to be mushy, but you can cook them until the texture is how you like it.)

When the vegetables and meat are done, add 4-5 Tbsp of the fajita seasoning and 3/4 cup of water. Stir over heat until the sauce thickens from the cornstarch (just a minute or two). Stir well so that it's all coated with the sauce, and serve over rice. If you'd like, top with cheese, guacamole, sour cream, etc.

This makes about 6 servings, depending on how big your appetite is ;)  I hope you like it! It's one of my very favorite dinners.

*Note: The seasoning has a little kick to it, but it's not much spicier than store-bought seasoning. Noah's not crazy about spicy food, but he doesn't complain about this.

September 15, 2019

An Update on my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old List (Part 1 of 2)

This is Part 1 of 2. This post was WAY too long with all 40 items. It's still really long, even divided in two! haha.

A little over a year ago, at the ripe old age of 36, I decided to write a list of goals that I wanted to accomplish by the time I'm 40. And naturally, choosing 40 goals seemed appropriate.

At the time, I had nearly four whole years to check them off, and it seemed like it would be no problem at all. Some of the goals are things that I have to work on for a long period of time and others are just a "one-off"--something that I do once and it's done.

Lately, I've been working more toward the goals that are going to take a while, because I now only have two and a half years until I'm 40. WHAT.

Now, I did not say that these are very meaningful goals--some of them are silly and some of them I just wrote on a whim. Some are very important to me. (When you have to come up with 40 goals, you lower your standards, let's face it.)

So, here is my original list. I've crossed off the ones that are completed:
  1. Watch all of Tom Hanks' movies
  2. Read 40 books
  3. Pay off debt (including car and house)
  4. Visit the 48 contiguous United States
  5. Read the Bible cover to cover
  6. Get back to goal weight (133)
  7. Go to a concert (I've never been to one!)
  8. Learn a new skill
  9. Watch Star Wars with Jerry
  10. Handwrite a letter to each of 10 friends
  11. Write letters to Noah and Eli
  12. Watch a documentary to understand something I don't know much about
  13. See a movie at a drive-in movie theater
  14. Complete a saved project on Pinterest
  15. Have my dad teach me to change the oil in my car
  16. Knit something
  17. Crochet something
  18. Leave a very large tip for a server having a bad day
  19. Create a vision board
  20. Build a bat house
  21. Write Jerry a love letter
  22. Read a classic novel
  23. Cook a recipe with ingredients I've never heard of
  24. Make a time capsule with the family
  25. Go fruit picking
  26. Attend a murder mystery dinner
  27. Take a class of any sort
  28. Take each of the kids on a "date"--just the two of us
  29. Do an "Escape the Room" challenge
  30. Try Thai food
  31. Read a book out loud with the family
  32. Grow a vegetable or herb
  33. Learn about (and start) and investment account
  34. Go on a road trip
  35. Go camping
  36. Go to a state fair
  37. Develop one life-changing habit
  38. Commit to a 30-day challenge
  39. Travel abroad
  40. See an orca in its natural habitat

#1. Watch all of Tom Hanks' movies

As far as the first goal, watching all of Tom Hanks' movies, the rule was that I had to start fresh--rewatching the ones I've already seen. (I adore Tom Hanks, which is why I made this goal.) I've colored in the ones that I've watched since starting this goal in April 2018. (I was going to write the date underneath each one, but I gave up on that because I forgot to do it right away.)

bullet journal page

#2. Read 40 books
I've read more books in the past year than I have in over a decade, and that includes three books that were 1,000 pages each! I started this list in January 2018, when I decided to start reading more. I just recently wrote a full post of all these books and my thoughts on them, which you can find here. But here is the list:

  1. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  2. The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
  3. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
  4. Running: A Love Story by Jen A. Miller
  5. Coreyography by Corey Feldman
  6. Chasing the Merry Go Round by Kelly Bargabos
  7. The Gender Game (book one) by Bella Forrest
  8. The Gender Secret (book two) by Bella Forrest
  9. Working Stiff by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
  10. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  11. This Naked Mind by Annie Grace
  12. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  13. Vox by Christina Dalcher
  14. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
  15. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
  16. An Ember in the Ashes (book one) by Sabaa Tahir
  17. A Torch Against the Night (book two) by Sabaa Tahir
  18. Contaminated by Em Garner
  19. Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Z. Scoblic
  20. Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp
  21. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  22. Call Me Tuesday by Leigh Byrne
  23. Keri: The Early Years by Kat Ward
  24. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
  25. Mindhunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
  26. The Pillars of the Earth (book one) by Ken Follett
  27. World Without End (book two) by Ken Follett
  28. A Column of Fire (book three) by Ken Follett
  29. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (I just finished this last night, so I haven't written my thoughts on it yet, but I will write a review soon)

#3: Pay off debt

When I wrote this goal, I was including my car and house. It's very unlikely we will get the house paid off in the next two year, but we paid off our credit card debt and we are starting to pay more onto the Jeep to get it paid off faster. I will be happy to get this paid off, and then the house will be all that's left! (Here is a post about how my family paid off our credit card debt using a zero-sum budgeting system)

Zero balance statement

#4: Visit the 48 contiguous United States

I've currently been to 34 of the Lower 48. I love the idea of taking a train trip to hit up a lot of the ones I've not been to, but Amtrak doesn't have routes that are ideal for the states I need to go to. I might have to do a couple of long road trips in order to get them in. I'm scared of driving through the mountains, though, so I may have to find a train in the west to get some of those states done. Also, there is the problem of Delaware. It's the only state in the east I haven't been to, and it would be such a random trip. I wish I'd gone through there on one of my trips east, but I never had a reason to. (You can read about my traveling on this page.)

  1. Alabama
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. California
  5. Colorado
  6. Connecticut
  7. Delaware
  8. Florida
  9. Georgia
  10. Idaho
  11. Illinois
  12. Indiana
  13. Iowa
  14. Kansas
  15. Kentucky
  16. Louisiana
  17. Maine
  18. Maryland
  19. Massachusetts
  20. Michigan
  21. Minnesota
  22. Mississippi
  23. Missouri
  24. Montana
  25. Nebraska
  26. Nevada
  27. New Hampshire
  28. New Jersey
  29. New Mexico
  30. New York
  31. North Carolina
  32. North Dakota
  33. Ohio
  34. Oklahoma
  35. Oregon
  36. Pennsylvania
  37. Rhode Island
  38. South Carolina
  39. South Dakota
  40. Tennessee
  41. Texas
  42. Utah
  43. Vermont
  44. Virginia
  45. Washington
  46. West Virginia
  47. Wisconsin
  48. Wyoming
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#5. Read the Bible cover-to-cover

This one has been... interesting? I had hoped that reading the Bible would give me more faith; but a lot of it is horrifying. Punishment to dozens of generations beyond one sinner, distinguishing what is clean and unclean (having sores, baldness, and a woman on her period are a few "unclean" examples), and the umpteenth sacrifices ("offerings") of animals without imperfections... I just don't understand it. How does slaughtering an animal make someone "clean"?

Anyway, I'm currently about 3/4 of the way through the book of Numbers (I haven't updated it in the bullet journal yet). I read one chapter a day, and I wish I could say I enjoy it, but I'm still waiting to feel... better? More faithful? I'm not sure what I'm looking for.

bullet journal page

This is an example of what made me question what the heck...?

Bible excerpts

#6. Get back to goal weight

I wrote my goal as 133 when I made the list, but I have since changed it to 144 (the top of my BMI range). I haven't made any progress, but I'm not giving up.

#7. Go to a concert

Well, I blew this one big time. I had bought tickets to see Korn with Jerry a couple of days before our anniversary last month. Korn was super popular when we were in high school, and whenever I listen to it, I think of our dating. It would be the perfect first concert for me!

However, I chickened out. On the day of the concert, I just decided I couldn't do it. I don't even know why I included this item on my list, because I don't think I'd enjoy a concert; I just felt like I should go to one to say I did. I just think I'd be extremely awkward at a concert. Maybe I'll try again.

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#8. Learn a new skill

While making over my house, I learned several new skills--my favorite is woodworking. I'm super proud of this island that I made from scratch!

DIY kitchen island

#9. Watch Star Wars with Jerry

I watched it with him on his birthday last year (and even dressed in a Princess Leia costume) but I hated the movie. At least I finally gave it a shot, though!

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star wars meme

#10. Handwrite a letter to each of 10 friends

Haven't started this one yet. I should make it a point to do one a week.

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#11. Write letters to Noah and Eli

I haven't done this yet, either. I want to really put thought and time into it, so I don't want to rush it. But it's not a difficult goal, so I can do this one soon.

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#12. Watch a documentary to understand something I don't know much about

I've watched lots of documentaries, but none that seem to fit the purpose here. I'm thinking about watching one about the Holocaust; I obviously know what it was, but I'd like to learn more about it.

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#13. See a movie at a drive-in movie theater

Currently, my town is building a drive-in! I'm super excited for it. That will be the one that I attend; I'm not sure when it will be done, but hopefully next summer.

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#14. Complete a saved project on Pinterest

I made a table skirt for a Cinco de Mayo party that I had last year. I love how it turned out!

Cinco de Mayo party

#15. Have my dad teach me to change the oil in my car

A very useful life skill that I still need to do. I currently need an oil change, so perhaps I will do this very soon. Or it may have to wait until next time, depending on my dad's availability.

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You can read the rest of the update in Part 2 (of 2). This post was just way too long!

September 15, 2019

An Update on my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old List (Part 2 of 2)

This is Part 2 of 2. I'm starting with the same intro as the first post, in case you read this and not the first part. Here is Part 1

A little over a year ago, at the ripe old age of 36, I decided to write a list of goals that I wanted to accomplish by the time I'm 40. And naturally, choosing 40 goals seemed appropriate.

At the time, I had nearly four whole years to check them off, and it seemed like it would be no problem at all. Some of the goals are things that I have to work on for a long period of time and others are just a "one-off"--something that I do once and it's done.

Lately, I've been working more toward the goals that are going to take a while, because I now only have two and a half years until I'm 40. WHAT.

Now, I did not say that these are very meaningful goals--some of them are silly and some of them I just wrote on a whim. Some are very important to me. (When you have to come up with 40 goals, you lower your standards, let's face it.)

So, here is my original list. I've crossed off the ones that are completed:
  1. Watch all of Tom Hanks' movies
  2. Read 40 books
  3. Pay off debt (including car and house)
  4. Visit the 48 contiguous United States
  5. Read the Bible cover to cover
  6. Get back to goal weight (133)
  7. Go to a concert (I've never been to one!)
  8. Learn a new skill
  9. Watch Star Wars with Jerry
  10. Handwrite a letter to each of 10 friends
  11. Write letters to Noah and Eli
  12. Watch a documentary to understand something I don't know much about
  13. See a movie at a drive-in movie theater
  14. Complete a saved project on Pinterest
  15. Have my dad teach me to change the oil in my car
  16. Knit something
  17. Crochet something
  18. Leave a very large tip for a server having a bad day
  19. Create a vision board
  20. Build a bat house
  21. Write Jerry a love letter
  22. Read a classic novel
  23. Cook a recipe with ingredients I've never heard of
  24. Make a time capsule with the family
  25. Go fruit picking
  26. Attend a murder mystery dinner
  27. Take a class of any sort
  28. Take each of the kids on a "date"--just the two of us
  29. Do an "Escape the Room" challenge
  30. Try Thai food
  31. Read a book out loud with the family
  32. Grow a vegetable or herb
  33. Learn about (and start) and investment account
  34. Go on a road trip
  35. Go camping
  36. Go to a state fair
  37. Develop one life-changing habit
  38. Commit to a 30-day challenge
  39. Travel abroad
  40. See an orca in its natural habitat

For the update on the first 15 goals, you can read Part 1 of these two posts. Here is the update on goals 16-40...

#16. Knit something

I haven't been knitting or crocheting much. I do have a hat that I started knitting about eight years ago, so maybe I'll finally finish that! (It's made with sock yarn and done on tiny needles, so it is taking forever. Also, I only work on it about once a year, haha.

knitting a hat

#17. Crochet something

I've made a few simple things. The most useful are these dish scrubbers that I started making years ago. When we redecorated, I wanted new ones to match the kitchen, so I ditched the old ones and made these instead. I need to make a few more.

crocheted dish scrubber

I also crocheted this Swiffer cover for my friend Emily...

swiffer cover

#18. Leave a very large tip for a server having a bad day

I've been waiting for a good opportunity to present itself for this one. I've left good tips here and there (even a couple of 100% tips) but those were on smaller tabs. When I say "large", I mean that I want it to be memorably large. And when the server really looks like he or she needs it.

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#19. Create a vision board

I have attempted this SO many times I've lost count. I think that I'm just being too perfectionist about it. I need to just start slapping some things on a poster board and stop worrying about making it perfect.

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#20. Build a bat house

I printed off the plans for this, and I'm excited to make it. I thought it would be rather small and cheap, but the plans that I printed are going to be more costly than I anticipated. I will do this soon, though. I'm looking forward to it!

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#21. Write Jerry a love letter

I can't remember the circumstances around this, but it wasn't that long ago. I handwrote a letter to Jerry telling him all the things he does that I am grateful for and why I love him. 

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#22. Read a classic novel

I read The Catcher in the Rye, and didn't love it. You can read my thoughts on this post. 

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#23. Cook a recipe with ingredients I've never heard of

I haven't done this yet, either. I'll need to scour Pinterest and find something appropriate.

#24. Make a time capsule with the family

This is something the whole family will have to set aside time for. We need time to think about what to bury and gather it all together. Also, we need to pick a good location. 

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#25. Go fruit picking

In May 2018, I went strawberry picking with my friend Emily. We had so much fun! We picked a ton of strawberries and then came to my house and made homemade jam and finished off with homemade strawberry margaritas. 

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strawberry picking

#26. Attend a murder mystery dinner

I know what one I want to go to (it takes place on a train). I'd like to go with another couple, and since it's pretty expensive, we may have a hard time finding someone to go with us. But we'll do it.

#27. Take a class of any sort

Haven't done this one yet, either. I'm not even sure what type of class I'd want to take. 

#28. Take each of the kids on a "date"--just the two of us

While I've gone out with the kids here and there, I haven't set aside time for a real "date" with them--to plan it out in advance, dress nicely, and spend some time together.

#29. Do an "Escape the Room" challenge

I did this in Kansas City with my girlfriends (Andrea, Caitlin, and Bonnie) and we had SO MUCH FUN. It was a huge rush! We finished in 59:59, with just one second to spare!

Escape Room in Kansas City

#30. Try Thai food

One day. Still haven't had the opportunity present itself.

#31. Read a book out loud with the family

My kids are SO not going to be excited about this, but hopefully they will secretly like it. Or, at least they'll be able to make fun of it when they are older. ("Remember when mom made us all sit down and read a book out loud together?" with an eye roll).

#32. Grow a vegetable or herb

I'm horrible at growing anything (just look at my bare fruit trees), but I think that next year I'll try a small raised garden with just a couple of things in it--maybe some bell peppers, or tomatoes and basil. 

#33. Learn about (and start) and investment account

I have every intention of doing this, and it's just one of those things that keeps getting put on the back burner. I need to make an appointment with our tax guy (who is also a financial advisor) to see what he thinks we should do. (I believe he and his wife read my blog, so hi guys!)

#34. Go on a road trip

I will definitely have to do this in order to get to all the states that I need to hit up. I will probably do this one down south (Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas). Time is running out! I need to plan this out.

#35. Go camping

I am NOT a camper. I hate bugs and not having a real shower and comfy bed. But, I want to have an authentic camping experience with the kids for memories. It'll probably only be for one night. Or maybe two ;)  Here is a picture from camping with my friend Shannon when I was a young teen. This was after my family went "fancy" and got a camper instead of this huge, heavy canvas tent that we used to use!

camping when I was a young teen

#36. Go to a state fair

I will have to look this up--I don't know anything about state fairs. The only one I had the opportunity to go to was in Minnesota when I was visiting my brother, but I was outvoted, haha. 

#37. Develop one life-changing habit
I'm not sure if this really "counts", because it was mainly a one-year challenge and I didn't intend for it to be a lifetime habit. But quitting drinking definitely feels like a life-changing habit. Even if I decide to drink again after the year is up, giving it up for this long has changed my life for sure.

Reading the book "Unwasted"

#38. Commit to a 30-day challenge

I'm always committing, but never following through. I will mark this complete when I follow through 100% on a challenge. 

#39. Travel abroad

This may not happen. I would have to do a lot of traveling in the next couple of years in order to get in all the places I plan on going. I will try to make it work out, but I'm not counting on it.

#40. See an orca in its natural habitat

When I go out to the Pacific Northwest again, I'm going to make it a point to go up to Seattle and go on a whale tour. The school bully in elementary school called me "Shamu" (the killer whale from Sea World) and of course it was mean back then. But I have since come to love orcas and they make me feel happy and not sad; it would be awesome to see one in the ocean.

This is when I was given the nickname "Shamu" by a mean boy named Richard. I don't remember disliking how I looked until he brought it to my attention. Interestingly, he apologized when I was 18 years old and a cashier at a grocery store. He came through my line, and I felt like I was choking. I was so nervous. And then he did the completely unexpected... he said something like, "I know that I was really mean to you when we were kids, and I just wanted to tell you that I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said the things I did."

It was then that my thoughts on orcas changed :)  Even bullies can change.

Fourth grade school photo

Please don't turn that horrible picture of me into a meme, hahahaha!

Anyway, here it is! A year and a half into my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old List, and I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. I've been doing the things that will take a while (like watching the Tom Hanks films, reading books, and reading the Bible). It's the travel ones that will be tough!

September 14, 2019

Adjusting to a New Fall Schedule (and a Cool New Planner)

Well, so much for blogging every day in September! But, I'm not giving up. I missed three days, so I'm going to try to do an additional three posts at some point (probably something simple like recipes or a short list or a running report or something).

I found that once I skipped one day, it was so easy to skip again and again. The first day was simply because I was completely exhausted after a long day. All I wanted to do was get in my pajamas and watch a show with Jerry.

This school year is the most difficult/stressful for me so far. Jerry's been working a straight day shift--he pushed for years for the plant that he works at to stop doing swing shift and to switch to straight shifts. They FINALLY agreed to do it on a trial basis this year. Unfortunately, Jerry wound up with a straight day shift. Since the shifts are 12 hours long, he leaves for work before any of us are awake and then he doesn't get home until 6:30 pm.

This is stressful for me now that Noah is going to school at the community college. There is no busing which means I have to drive him there/back. I do carpool with another mom, which is helpful, but regardless of who is driving, I still have to drive him to the spot where we meet in the mornings.

After school, I either pick him and his friend up and drive them home or his friend's mom does if it's her turn. Three days a week, I coach cross country practice (and now it'll be four days most weeks because we have races starting Tuesday). I hold practices from 6-7 pm so that I'm home right after Jerry gets home and showered and we can at least spend a little time together.

Eli is playing fall baseball, so I have to drive him to practice. He has double header games on Sundays (and tomorrow, he may be playing three games!). Since Jerry is working, I'll be there an hour before the games start until the last game ends. Thankfully, I love watching baseball!

On the days that I drive Noah to school, I usually get home at about 8:15 AM and then I have to leave to pick him up at 1:45 PM. So, despite what it may sound like, I really don't have as much time to myself during the day as one would think.

I spend that time blogging (if I'm going to--sometimes I'll begin to write a post and then work on it a little each day because I don't have enough time to finish it), cleaning the house, meal planning and/or grocery shopping, running errands (which reminds me, my car needs an oil change), and if I have time, I like to do something I enjoy (lately, this has been working on home projects).

Sometime during the day, I cook dinner. It could be at 3:30 pm or 7:30 pm or anywhere in between. Just whenever it fits in.

In the evenings, I like to chill with Jerry, even if we're just sitting and talking (or feeding the squirrels, which has become a favorite pastime in our house, haha). So, anything that I need to get done will wait until the next day.

Things were much smoother when Jerry worked swing shift (and if he was to have a straight night shift, it would be even better); every four weeks, he switched from days to nights and vice versa. (There is a chance he could switch over in the future, but as of right now, he needs to stay on his shift)

Being on night shift is much more convenient for family life. He gets home in the morning with enough time to hang out with the kids before school (and drive them to school sometimes). Then he sleeps during the day and wakes up just as they are getting done with school (so he could pick up Noah sometimes, too).

Then he could spend time with us before going to work. Usually, the time when the kids and I are all here at the same time is between 3:30 and 5:00, so I would cook dinner at 4:00 and we could all eat together. Then it's baseball, cross country, work, and whatever else.

Jerry says that he got more sleep when he was on nights and he misses the nights when he had a day off work. He stayed on his same sleep schedule, so even though he wasn't working that day, he would say up all night at home. He used that time as fun time to himself--playing video games, watching movies, etc.--while the rest of us slept.

Anyway, I've had a really tough time adjusting to this school year. Consequently, I stopped my 3-3-3 running schedule after only three weeks--I was so sure I was going to stick with it. I'm not giving up, though! I bought a planner (not like a bullet journal--I needed something easy and fast so that it would keep my schedule organized but not take much time to work on).

I absolutely LOVE the one I ended up buying on Amazon. It's everything that I need it to be without taking much time to plan things. On Sunday nights, I can spent about 20 minutes filling in the schedule for the entire week. It literally only took me about 15 minutes to fill this weekly page in:

Here are some other pages. At the beginning of the book, there are some goal prompts, so I filled out what I wanted to. I still want to do the vision board pages, but I need to set aside some time for that. I've tried to make a vision board so many times but I get overwhelmed!

And there is a monthly spread (the one I made for September is a mess, so I'm not even going to share it, haha. I was a little too ambitious! I like on the far left, how it gives you a prompt for Habits to Adopt, Skills to Learn, Things to Avoid, Places to Go, and People to See.

I love that you fill in the month and year yourself rather than having it all filled in for you.

In the back, there are some regular dotted pages for notes or whatever. I listed the cleaning list I made (and haven't been following very well) and a page for blog post ideas.

This particular planner is the Clever Fox Planner, which I bought on Amazon (affiliate link). There are lots of different colors, but of course I chose orange--my favorite.

Anyway, this is MUCH easier for me to use than a blank bullet journal. While I love how a bullet journal looks, it takes up so much time in itself to use as a planner; I like that this is basically a fill-in-the-blank planner and that it focuses on goals (something I love to list out anyways).

I'm going to schedule my runs into my week just like I would any other appointment, and make it a non-negotiable part of my day. By the end of 2019, I should be back to running three days a week as a habit. And then maybe I can start to think about some goals to try next year (as far as running goes, I mean).

I also need to do better meal planning. I got really good at this when I first started our budget to get out of debt in 2017. It felt like it took forever, but I'd spend once a week planning out our meals and then I'd grocery shop on Friday for just that week. We saved a ton of money doing it that way. Somewhere along the way, I started rushing the planning part and then my grocery list wasn't accurate and I'd wind up having to go to the store a couple of times a week to get things I'd forgotten.

Now, again, I need to schedule in my meal planning and my grocery shopping. I'd also like to spend a couple of hours after grocery shopping to prep as much of the food as possible to make it easy to throw together when it's time. I used to love cooking, but now it's definitely a chore--so the more I can prep ahead of time, the better.

I also need to reconfigure our budget to continue to stay out of debt. Eli just got braces ($1,000 down payment and $200 per month for a really long time--grand total of about $5,500). The orthodontist said Noah can choose to get them now or wait a little while (a year or so) to see what happens as he grows. He doesn't have structural problems with his jaw like Eli does, so it's not urgent. Regardless, we will probably be getting his braces on next year ($5,500). Isn't it insane how much braces cost?!

Also, Eli is taking a class trip to Washington D.C. and Jerry is chaperoning. Those payments are $100 a month for Eli and $140 for Jerry until March.

Finally, with Noah driving, we are going to incur some big costs. Thankfully, we don't have to add him to our car insurance now (only when he gets his license next July) but to add a teenager to car insurance is insanely expensive.

So, all of this is to say that we need to re-budget everything to fit in the extra expenses (the amount of excess nearly adds up to a house payment!)

The positive in all of it is that we finished paying off our credit card debt ($14,000!) a year ago. I can't imagine trying to pay off debt AND come up with money for these extra expenses! I'm so grateful for my bipolar diagnosis which led me to the correct medication which helped me to become mentally stable enough to focus on and finish the important things.

Well, today is Jerry's birthday (he's at work now) so I'd like to figure out what to make for dinner tonight. See? Meal planning ahead of time would have been very handy today ;)

By the way, the winners of the mug giveaway are:

Laura W ("you say crazy cat lady like it's a bad thing" mug); and
Denise E ("dress for the job you want" mug)

I've sent each of you an email, so please respond with your shipping address.

I like doing giveaways--I'll have to think of some more fun things to give away!

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