February 24, 2020

Eli's First Rubik's Cube Tournament

(I love that Eli chose to wear the squirrel shirt he got for Christmas!)

Eli has something very much in common with me--we both tend to get interested in something and then basically make it our life's calling, and then we lose interest and move on to something else.

I thought that the Rubik's Cube was going to be another of those things with Eli--he'd get super into it, spend all of his money on new cubes, and then quit doing it after a couple of months. However, he's held the interest for a while now, and other than baseball, it's his very favorite activity.

A few months ago, he asked me if he could sign up for a tournament at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I knew absolutely nothing about these tournaments. I said sure, but I really didn't think he'd still be interested by the time it came around. It was only $10 to sign up, though, and they capped it at 150 people; so, I signed him up.

He was looking forward to it for weeks--and yesterday was the big day. The competition actually started Saturday, but he wasn't signed up for any of those events (there are events for all sorts of different cube varieties as well as things like solving it blindfolded or one-handed). Eli signed up for four of Sunday's events: the 3x3x3, 2x2x2, Pyraminx, and Skewb. Jerry and I went with him.

His best times are with the 2x2x2 cube (which is much harder than you would think it is!). He averages about 4 seconds at home, with a personal best of 1.8 seconds.

The first event was for the 3x3x3 cube, which he's good at. Well, *I* consider it good, but "good" is all relative when it comes to cubing. (It's like running; a 10-minute mile might be a personal best for one runner, but another runner might be super disappointed with that if they are used to getting 7-minute miles.)

Eli solves the 3x3x3 (that's the original cube that became uber popular in the 80's) in about 25 seconds. In my eyes, that's "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!"-amazing, but in a competition, it's on the slower side.

Anyway, Eli wasn't expecting to win--he was just going for the experience of it.

I don't know what I expected of the competition, but it was much more relaxed than I imagined. I thought it would be dead silent and all eyes on a group of competitors. It was nothing like that, however!

Jerry went up on the balcony to take a panoramic picture from above:

Here's how the competition works:

There are three groups of tables set up, and each participant has an assigned number to represent the group of tables they'll need to go to for each event (the order is completely random--they just do it to keep everything organized into waves).

When their wave is called, the competitor brings their cube to a table and sets it on a card with their name on it. Then they sit in a little waiting area and wait to be called to a table.

At the table, there are four chairs--two for judges and two for the competitors (so there is one judge for each competitor). There is a timing mat and timer display for each competitor. The competitor sits down at the table next to their judge, and in front of them is their cube, which has been scrambled by a "scrambler" (a person who uses randomized algorithms on a computer in order to scramble the cubes fairly). The cube is covered with a box so that the competitor can't see it yet.

When they are ready, the judge removes the box and the competitor has 15 seconds to inspect the cube and then start solving. (The timing mats have little sensor buttons for your hands--you set the cube on the mat, then place your hands on the buttons. When you're ready to start, you remove your hands, which starts the timer. When you're finished, you set the cube on the mat and then touch the buttons again to stop the timer.) Eli got a mat for Christmas, so he's been using it to practice.

After the solve, the competitor has to sign their slip of paper after the judge writes their time on it. Then their cube is taken away in the little box to have it scrambled again. The competitor is called back to a table, maybe with the same judge or maybe with another) and they repeat the whole thing. They get five attempts for each event.

Out of the five attempts, the best time and the worst time are thrown out. Then, the middle three are averaged together, and that is the number that is used for competition.

Don't worry, I won't recap all 20 of Eli's solves ;)  We got there about 45 minutes before his first event, so he spent the whole time practicing (as were all of the other competitors).

His first event was the 3x3x3. I was super excited and nervous for him. I could see he was nervous, but I don't think he wanted to show it. Everything happened so fast once his name was called. I took a video of each of his solves, so every time I heard his name, I had to rush over to his table before he started.

Here is a video of his first ever solve for competition:

His finish time was good! (Relatively, of course)

It wasn't good enough to make the second round, though. The top 64 competitors move to Round 2; the person in 64th place had an average solve time of 18.62 seconds--so the competition was tough! Eli's average ended up being 25.62, with a best time of 21.62.

The day moved so quickly! After the 3x3x3 was the Pyraminx (shaped like a pyramid). And then we headed outside for lunch. We walked a few blocks to Chipotle (Eli's favorite) for lunch and then went back to the competition.

The Skewb was next, and finally, the 2x2x2 (which Eli was most looking forward to, because his 4-second average at home would certainly get him to the next round in competition). Unfortunately, it didn't go so well. He was most nervous for that event, probably because he was expecting it to be his best. His times were slower than he was used to, and then on his fourth attempt, he got a two-second penalty.

He had the cube solved, but when he dropped it to the mat to finish, the layer turned enough to cause a penalty. I had no idea that the two seconds would end up being such a big deal, but if he hadn't gotten that penalty, he likely would have made it to the second round. He finished in 61st place out of 119, so basically right in the middle.

I was disappointed about the 2x2x2 because I knew he was hoping to do really well and he said he was disappointed. However, he said the day was one of the "funnest days of his life", so he obviously enjoyed the whole experience!

He started looking up other upcoming competitions so he can do another. (Again, it's like running... once you do your first race, you start signing up for all sorts of them.) I told him that, like running, he can just focus on competing with himself and bettering his own times.

I loved getting to spend the day with him, watching him do something he loves to do. And honestly, the competition itself was really interesting! Watching people solve the cubes super fast or one-handed was fun.

February 23, 2020

A Day With Eli

I am too exhausted to write a whole post for today, so I'll save it for tomorrow. But today was really nice to spend time with Eli at his Rubik's Cube tournament--I was so proud of him! I will write about it tomorrow. I'm pretty spent today. It was a LONG day...

...I'm just so happy to be his mom! What a special kid.

February 22, 2020

Build-A-Bear With Luke for His Birthday

It's so hard to believe it's been almost three years since I became an aunt! I have loved every second of the moments I've spent with Luke and Riley (and now baby Shelby). Luke's third birthday is next month, and Becky requested that, instead of a gift, we could take him out somewhere or do something with him for memories instead. I loved that idea!

The kids have a trillion toys anyways, so the idea of doing something fun with him instead of buying something sounded much better. I wish I'd have thought of that when my kids were little!

Anyway, when Noah was two years old, my brother's first wife, Danielle, took Noah to Build-A-Bear. It was SO cute! I think Build-A-Bear was still pretty new then, but we were in Minnesota to visit Brian and Danielle, and we went to the Mall of America. We rode on some of the rides at the theme park inside (I actually have a memory of getting on a ride with Noah where I was too fat for the lap bar to lock!) and Danielle took Noah to Build-A-Bear.

I'd been thinking for a while that I'd like to take Luke and Riley there when they were a good age for it, so I thought this would be a good time to take Luke. Jerry was off work today, and obviously the kids didn't have school, so the four of us were able to go pick up Luke and take him to the mall in Toledo.

Luke is a total chatterbox, and I love it! His carseat was in the back of my (tiny) Jeep Renegade, and I was in the middle seat with Eli on my other side. We were squished! But Luke asked me more questions in that 45 minute ride than I've ever been asked in a lifetime, hahaha. He's at such a fun age!

At the mall, we went into the Build-A-Bear store and Luke was hoping that they had elephants (he has a stuffed elephant at home and said he wanted a friend for it). They had unicorns and warthogs, but no elephants!

At first, he was going to choose a bear that was covered completely in sequins--and I was totally fine letting him choose anything he wanted--but he ended up choosing a soft teddy bear instead. I have to admit I was kind of relieved. The sequins were a bit much!

We brought it over to the stuffing machine, where Luke had to step on a pedal to make the stuffing come out and into the bear.

Then, he had to do a little routine to add a heart inside the bear--which was super adorable.

Then we went looking for clothing/accessories. I didn't make any suggestions, because I wanted to see what his (almost) three-year old mind came up with. And it was hilarious! The first thing he chose was a pair of boxer briefs. I had a hard time getting him to look for a shirt and pants, because he wanted things like a skateboard, a bed, butterfly wings, etc.

Finally, he chose a shirt--it was a Tigers shirt, but not the Detroit Tigers. It was a random team I'd never heard of (I didn't even know what sport it was!) so I thought that was funny. And he chose a pair of jeans that had holes in the knees, just like the jeans he was wearing. (In the car, he told me that he didn't like the holes in his jeans and he was pulling the white threads off, hahaha.)

He found a rocket backpack from Paw Patrol that he wanted to get instead of the butterfly wings. And he wanted red boots and sunglasses. And a winter hat. It was SO cute to watch him pick everything out! And, being his aunt, of course I didn't give him a budget ;)

After we (I) got the bear dressed, he got to name him on a birth certificate (Luke's first choice was "Dad", but he settled on "Barry", hahaha). We took his picture with Barry:

After we paid a small fortune for his bear, he was able to take his bear out of the store inside of a little backpack. He was so cute I almost couldn't stand it. (People at the mall were literally pointing and saying how cute he was!)

We got Chick-fil-A for lunch. For some reason, Chick-fil-A is a huge deal around here--people love it--but we don't have one close by. Toledo is the closest, as far as I know, so when in Toledo, chicken it is!

After lunch, we squished back into the car and drove him home. Tomorrow, Brian, Becky, and the kids are going to Hilton Head to visit my parents, so Becky was packing for the trip. Luke gave Jerry the royal tour of the new house (Jerry hadn't seen it yet) and then we came home. I was SO EXHAUSTED for some reason (so was Jerry). I just watched a movie called "After" on Netflix, and loved it. It's a teen drama--if any of you were into Twilight, then definitely watch "After"!

Tomorrow, Eli is going to be in a Rubik's Cube competition in Ann Arbor at U of M. I'm so excited/nervous for him! He's super fast (he can solve the 3x3x3 in under 20 seconds now, although his average is about 25 seconds). He's going to be in four different competitions (different for each cube--the 2x2, 3x3, Pyraminx, and Skewb). It'll be a long day--about 8:00-5:30, if he makes it to the final round on the 2x2 and 3x3. He's just hoping to make it to the second round. Wish him luck, please!

February 21, 2020

Removing My Brother's Popcorn Ceiling

Well, I'm at it again... this time I'm removing my brother's popcorn ceiling.

My brother, Nathan, has an amazing house with a TON of potential! He's had it for a long time, but he works so much that he doesn't have the time to do the cosmetic things he could to update it. After I finished his bathroom, I couldn't stop thinking about the other things I could do.

The first thing was his popcorn ceiling. Since I believe we should work from top to bottom, I thought that'd be a great project to tackle. He didn't ask me to do it, but I told him I'd do whatever he'd like me to do to the house--even if it was just organizing a closet or something. I love doing that kind of stuff!

He gave me the go-ahead to remove the popcorn ceiling, so I actually did start it yesterday. He has the popcorn ceiling everywhere except for the kitchen and the bathroom that he already remodeled.

I decided to start with the hallway. It's a long hallway, and since there wasn't furniture or anything in there, I figure it'd be the best place to start. He just got new carpeting, so I was really worried about getting the drywall compound on his carpet. I bought lots of plastic sheeting to tape across the floor.

I dropped Noah off at school, then went home and grabbed the stuff I needed (drywall knives, water sprayer, my Bose speaker for my podcasts (a necessity when scraping ceiling texture), Joey (to play with Nathan's black lab, Bailey), and a few other things.

Instead of bringing spray bottles, like I used in my house, I saw a sprayer in my garage that I thought would be so much easier--it's one of those pump sprayers that you pump a handle on the top and then you just press a button and the water comes out for a long time before having to pump again. I knew this would help save my hands from the horrible carpal tunnel syndrome.

I sprayed the ceiling with water, waited about 10 minutes, then started scraping. I was surprised to see it was coming off fairly easily! I noticed that the texture was painted white. The "stomped" texture in my house wasn't painted, so it came off in small clumps; since Nathan's was painted, it came off in strips.

For some reason, though, it required much more water than mine did. I was sliding around the plastic in my bare feet, absolutely sure that the mud was soaking through the plastic somehow and embedding itself in the carpet.

I'd bought a heavy duty scraper from Lowe's, but it wasn't working nearly as well as my 10" drywall knife. The heavy duty scraper kept nicking the drywall paper, so I quit trying to use that and just worked with the drywall knife.

I'm thrilled that he doesn't have crown moulding to cover up seams, like in my house, because I really didn't want to have to tape and mud the seams. Instead, he has a really nice rounded moulding that I think will look fantastic when it's done.

I managed to get the ceiling scraped and I started to sand it when I realized it was 1:50 PM. I had to leave by 2:00 to stop and get some raffle tickets from Eli's baseball coach and then get to Noah's school on time to pick him up.

Clean-up was the worst!! I had drywall compound stuck to my feet, and I obviously had to keep walking along the plastic to clean up (pulling the plastic from the walls).

The mess doesn't look so bad in this picture, but that mud on the plastic is soaking wet and is like walking through a mud pit! See the path through the center that looks like there isn't so much mud? That's because it was stuck to my feet after walking through.

I used SO many rags! I didn't need nearly that many with my house (but with my house, we weren't worried so much about the carpet, since we knew we'd be replacing it). I managed to get the plastic all rolled up and into the trash (with all the heavy drywall compound), and then I vacuumed the floor of the extra little bits. Thankfully, his carpet still looked brand new.

I noticed that I had a TON of compound in my hair and all over my clothes. I took this selfie before I was even halfway done... my hair was MUCH worse later on:

Eli's baseball coach owns a very nice furniture store, so I was horribly embarrassed to stop in there looking like I did. I hurriedly stuck my head under Nathan's bathroom sink and rinsed my hair the best I could, and then I threw a sweatshirt over my drywall-compound-coated t-shirt. My black yoga pants were just hopeless.

Anyway, I didn't make a ton of progress (I scraped off all the texture in the hallway and sanded the spots that were pretty bad). On Monday, I plan to go over there again and apply a skim coat of drywall compound to the spots that need it. I think I may prime and paint the hallway ceiling before scraping the ceiling in the living room. I'd hate for his house to be as big of a mess as mine was when I was doing three rooms at the same time!

I loved working on it, and I actually asked Nathan if he'd be interested in selling his house as-is, right now. I'd love to buy it and flip it or live in it; however, he said he wants to wait a few years before he sells it. Regardless, I'm going to have fun updating it!

February 20, 2020

RECIPE: One Pot Goulash

To be honest, I have no idea what "real" goulash is, but I'm pretty sure this isn't it, haha. However, this is what I know of "goulash"--it's what my mom used to make when I was a kid. I've always loved it, and it's a serious comfort food.

This is SO fast and easy to make and I love that it's all done in one pot. There are few ingredients, and everyone in the family loves it. It's a go-to recipe when I just don't know what to make, because I usually have the ingredients on hand. I'm surprised I haven't posted it here yet!

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe!

One Pot Goulash


2 tsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 pound ground beef (or turkey—I like turkey)
4 cups water
16 oz. pasta (I use whatever shape I have in the panty—even spaghetti that I break in half)*
1 (15 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp. white sugar**


Heat a large skillet over med-high heat and add the olive oil. Add onions, and cook for a minute or two and then add the ground beef or turkey. Cook until the meat is cooked through, and then drain any excess fat.

Add the tomatoes, water, pasta, and sugar (yes, you add the pasta at this time, before it starts boiling).

Bring to a boil, and then cook until pasta is tender and water is absorbed (you may need to add more water—just stir occasionally and test the noodles so you know when it’s done). Makes 6 servings (roughly 1-1/3 cup each).

*It seems odd to add the pasta to the water before it's boiling, but for some reason, that's what makes this dish distinct. It makes the pasta a little gummy (not as bad as that sounds, honest!).

**The sugar is a must in this recipe, too. It makes the sauce just a little sweeter than a typical pasta sauce. And again, it's what makes this "goulash" and not just "pasta with meat sauce" haha.

February 19, 2020

Weight Fluctuations: Comparison Photos of All My Gains and Losses Through the Years

weight fluctuations

As almost anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight will tell you, weight loss is not linear.

There are certainly people who drop a large amount of weight and keep it off (to within a few pounds) for years--even decades (I hate those people!)--but I am not one of them. 

I started losing weight 10-1/2 years ago (can you believe it's been that long?). And in that amount of time, my weight has gone from 253 pounds at my highest to 121 pounds at my lowest, and lots of places in between. Here is a photo of the most drastic difference--I've seen it a million times, but it still kind of blows my mind. The left photo was from 2009 and the right was in 2016.

132 pound weight loss comparison photo

Anyway, I've given a lot of thought over why the ups and downs in weight happens, and for me, it's due to all sorts of different things--mostly different points in my life and what's going on at the time. I'm a stress eater, and when I have a lot of stress in my life, well, I gain weight. I also have bipolar disorder, and when I have periods of hypomania, I have an easier time losing the weight. Depression causes me to gain weight.

There is one thing that remains constant, though. Whenever I eat less, I lose weight. Simple! I either count calories or Weight Watchers Points, but when I am actively measuring out my food and logging it, I lose weight. It's never failed me.

Over the last decade, I've tried eating a whole foods diet, intuitive eating, intermittent fasting, various challenges that I usually quit, and more, but I've never found those things sustainable for very long. I'm a big numbers person, and I need the accountability of measuring out my portions and logging them. Even if I just give an honest estimate on occasion, like when I go to a wedding or something, it works.

I'm super super bummed that all of my Weight Watchers journals/food logs are missing. I think they must have gotten thrown away somehow when I was remodeling or when I cleaned the house and got rid of a TON of stuff in 2017. I can't even being to tell you how upset I was not to be able to find them! They had so much information.

However, there is nothing I can do about it now. I've searched every square inch of my house and garage, and they are just gone. 

Without the books, it was hard to put together today's post. But I looked up everything I did have on apps and my blog and all that to try to put it together. Some of the numbers may be a little off, but I did my best to make it accurate! 

Anyway, here is a timeline (in photos and commentary) of the significant weight losses I've had over the last 10 years. I'm not saying I'm *proud* that my weight has gone up and down--I wish I could keep it steady!--but I just thought it would be fun to see. The times in between these periods were spent gaining weight, as you'll read in the commentary. To see my weight graphs, you can check out this post: Weight Timeline.

So, here are some comparison photos of the times I dropped some weight that I'd gained. I'm hoping this helps me to see that I can do it again. Today is Day 1 of counting Weight Watchers PointsPlus. I'm feeling really excited about it!

I started losing weight on August 19, 2003 using the Weight Watchers Winning Points plan. The further I went with it, the easier it got because I was seeing progress. I didn't go over my points during a single week for an entire year! No binges. And I lost weight every single week.

I continued to lose weight after this, but I was on and off again trying to count Points, and then binge eating, and emotional eating. I stayed around 143 until I broke my jaw in November. With my liquid diet and my jaw being wired shut, I dropped down to 128. But as soon as the wires came off, I gained it right back... plus some, as you can see below!

I challenged myself to consciously cut calories and get my weight down as low as I could before having skin removal surgery in November 2011. I got down to 143 before surgery, and then the doctor removed two pounds of skin. I continued with a lower calorie diet until I reached 133 pounds (it wasn't my goal weight at the time--128 was--but I changed it after realizing that 128 felt unattainable).

After this, I started marathon training, and compensated all the running with extra food. I ate too much during the training, and after the marathon in May, I continued to eat poorly except I wasn't exercising enough to keep from gaining.

After having a hard time at the half-marathon I ran in Minnesota with Renee, and then seeing my photos, I really wanted to drop the extra weight before the filming of From Fat to Finish Line.

I had shunned the Weight Watchers Flex plan when they rolled it out in 2010, because I really liked the Winning Points plan. However, because I felt like I needed a change, I decided to give the Flex (PointsPlus) plan a try for just six weeks--and if I hated it, then I'd at least be able to say I tried.

Much to my surprise, I actually really liked it! I still had the flexibility to eat whatever I wanted, just in smaller portions. It wasn't complicated with too many rules to follow. And Jerry's employer was paying for Weight Watchers at Work for employees and spouses! It was easy to follow once I got the hang of it.

I actually reached my (new) official goal weight of 133 on 12-12-12! I was thrilled. When I hit my Weight Watchers goal weight (different from my personal goal weight), I had to keep it off and then weigh in within two pounds six weeks later in order to make "Lifetime" status. The timing was horrible--I was in Miami/Key West for the week before I had to weigh in! I actually did it, though. I maintained my weight on a trip to Key West. I weighed in and made Lifetime!

Stephanie took a photoshoot of me (second photo above) and I couldn't believe it was me. Seeing my before and after photos was unbelievable.

Then again, life happened. I started training for the Chicago Marathon and was running a LOT--200 miles a month at one point--and maintained my weight within 10 pounds for the rest of the year. By April of 2014, however, I was back in the 150's. I had stopped counting PointsPlus (I can't remember why--maybe depression after the race, maybe stress, I'm not sure).

I tried off and on all year to lose the weight, but I just couldn't stick with anything. Then in December, I got a stress fracture in my left fibula. It really messed up my running schedule. I'd been planning to run the Detroit Half Marathon in October 2015 with Jerry and Thomas, but after trying to continue to run (and constantly re-injuring it), I finally decided to give it the six weeks it needed to heal.

In the meantime, I decided to give calorie counting a good try so I could drop some weight. I also made the following declaration to Thomas while feeling stubborn one day: "I'm going to get back to my goal weight and run a PR in the 10K in the spring". At the time I said that, I was 160 pounds and my 10K pace was 11:00/mile. (For a PR, I'd need a 7:55/mile pace.) It was a crazy goal. But after that bold statement, I was determined to do it.

I started counting calories until my fracture healed, and then started training...

I couldn't BELIEVE the transformation from my calorie counting and 10K training. I tried training differently, and I think that helped me to drop to my lowest adult weight of 121. I wasn't even trying to keep losing weight after I hit my goal of 133--it just kept coming off. I kicked ass in the 10K, running 49:03 (a 17-second PR). 

After that race, it was like a ton of bricks fell right on top of me. I fell into a deep depression that lasted 10 months. I had to really push myself to do the necessary tasks of daily life. I think I had been very hypomanic during my training and then after the race, I felt burnt out and disappointed it was over, and I just melted into the depression.

In February, I saw my primary care doctor who highly recommended I see a psychiatrist. (I had been on a waiting list to see one for months--it's impossible to get mental health care!). My primary care doctor suspected I had bipolar, which I thought was ridiculous. The photo of me below is when I hit rock bottom mentally--you can't tell by my fake smile in the picture, but I felt worse than ever before. 

In fact, the reason I was wearing that shirt was because I'd called my friend John in San Diego just a few hours earlier and asked if I could get a flight to his house that day to stay a few days with him and his husband, Ric. They are two of the kindest people I know, and John helps so many people with mental health just by being aware and truly caring.

I felt like I just needed them. I felt like it was a choice between San Diego or the hospital to help my mental health. I decided to try San Diego first. I got on a plane that very day and went to stay with John and Ric. I came home feeling recharged, but still felt like I needed to see a psychiatrist.

In April, I was finally able to get in to a psychiatrist. I liked him so much right away. I wrote the whole story about it here, which explains everything. But ultimately, I was diagnosed with bipolar and I started medication for it. Four days later, I felt like a different person. A million times better. And most of 2017 was AMAZING. I think the meds put me into a hypomanic state for a little while while I got used to them, but I haven't had a significant hypomanic state since then. 

The name of the game in 2017 was to do what made me happy! I quit running and I started eating whatever I wanted to eat (and NOT eat when I wasn't hungry... I quit the emotional eating because I was happy!). I all-but stopped drinking alcohol--simply because I didn't feel the need to "relax" or "relieve anxiety". I was happy. The weight just came off easily, and I was back down to my goal weight within a few months.

I started to feel mildly depressed again at the end of the year (nothing at all like before, though!). Just not so "crazy" happy. The meds felt like they were doing their job--keeping me from being too low or too high with my moods. And they've been doing that ever since! I do have periods of depression and hypomania here and there, but they are like gentle waves rather than huge crashing ones. 

I stayed between 160-170 for over a year, usually in the mid-160's. However, the last month or so, I've been avoiding the scale because I'm sure it's up again, maybe even the mid-170's (in my mind, I feel like it's going to read 253 pounds again). I didn't look today--I had Jerry write it down for me--but I'll look at it when I weigh in next week. 

Today is Day 1 of Weight Watchers Flex Points. I feel very optimistic about it. It helps a lot that my friend Adam is being super supportive (he's not doing Weight Watchers, but we are both reading an inspiring book and we made plans to run the Detroit Half together in October. 

My sister is doing Weight Watchers as well, and she's doing awesome with it. She texts daily to see how things are going and to give me ideas of what she's eating, etc. Jerry is also doing Weight Watchers again.

This post is so much longer than I anticipated! Like I said, I didn't post these photos because I'm "proud" of all the times I lost weight--hahaha. I just wanted to show that weight loss (or MINE, anyway) doesn't have a finish line. I'm constantly having to work on it, and sometimes I just don't have the energy to put as much effort into it as other times. Last year was the worst yet! (I'm almost positive it was due to stress). 

I need to start working on stress reduction, and maybe that will help me continue on with Weight Watchers. Let's hope so! :)

And because I never post photos anymore, here is one from literally right now. I'm sitting in the waiting room at Noah's doctor's appointment as I type this post, so I took a quick selfie--no make-up, hair a complete mess, and looking totally unsure of myself (there is no one else in this room, otherwise I wouldn't have the nerve to take a selfie, haha)

February 18, 2020

My Simplified Eating and Training Plan to Drop the Extra Weight

Okay, this is a humiliating humbling post for me.

Before I get into that part, though, first I will write about my upcoming training plan. I mentioned a couple of days ago that my friend Adam and I are going to run the Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon together in October.

Obviously, I need to train for it. Right now, I'm capable of running about four miles at a pace that is slower than a walk, hahaha. I don't have a time goal for the race (my main reason for doing it is to get back to training for something--anything--and especially to run Adam's first race with him.

Since we have 33-1/2 weeks until the race, we have plenty of time to train. I definitely don't want to wait until it's 12 weeks out and then start a plan that I'll dread. I mentioned that I want to really SIMPLIFY my diet and exercise routines so that they feel doable and comfortable again. I don't want to overcomplicate anything at all.

So, I'm going to be doing one of my own half-marathon plans that I have posted on my blog: Six-Month "Beginner to Half-Marathon" Training Plan. This is to take someone from zero running to running a half-marathon in six months.

The plan begins with my "walk to run" plan--doing a 30 minute walk, but replacing walking with running for an increasing amount of time per walk until you're able to run the whole 30 minutes. I'm definitely capable of running for 30 minutes now, but I like the idea of following this plan from Day 1. So, I'll be starting completely from scratch, how I did in 2010 when I started running in the first place.

Since I am going to start the plan next week, I'll have 33 weeks (longer than 6 months) to train... so I added seven weeks to the beginning of the plan--with straight-up walking. I scheduled 30 minutes of walking four days a week for seven weeks. THEN I will begin the actual six-month training plan.

I realize this is probably a very slow way to make progress, but I have the time and I don't want to dread this. I want to enjoy it! Also, while I don't plan on following the MAF method (like I said, I want to keep it super simple and run by feel rather than numbers), walking at a decent pace should help strengthen my cardio system per the MAF method anyway. After seven weeks of walking, I should feel good adding in the running.

I'm actually really excited about doing it this way. It can't get much simpler, and the baby steps will ease me in.

When I first started running, I went from not running at all to running my first half-marathon a year later. I know that I can do this again if I really want to! I used to enjoy training much more when I didn't make it so complicated. When I was still learning by trial and error.

Now, about the dieting aspect for dropping this weight (and the reason for my embarrassment)...

I SWORE ON MY LIFE I'd never, ever do it again. But I have reasons that I'll explain below why I am choosing to do this: Weight Watchers.

The last Weight Watchers plan I did was Weight Watchers 360 (also called PointsPlus), which I started in 2012 and stopped in 2013 or 2014. I started counting calories in fall of 2015 after gaining weight back.

I liked the Weight Watchers Points Plus Plan. It got me back on track and I dropped weight that I'd gained--I even reached my WW goal weight for the first time in my life!

Here is a blog post I wrote about the basics of Weight Watchers--referring to the Points Plus plan: The Basics of Weight Watchers.

Here are some pictures from the day I hit my Weight Watchers goal weight in 2015 (I'd actually hit my personal goal weight of 133, I believe. I always weighed in "heavy" at WW on purpose--wearing shoes, heavy clothes, etc. Just as a buffer in case I needed it one week! haha).

I earned my maintenance charms when I reached goal, too:

Weight Watchers was refreshing and working great... until it wasn't.

Now... the reasons I quit Weight Watchers. Here is a blog post of my rant and (legit) reasons for quitting once they switched to the Smart Points plan: Calories vs. Weight Watchers Smart Points. (Keep in mind, it's my OPINION, so don't hate me for it)

Anyway, can you believe that I didn't have enough Smart Points on the new program for this little candy bar as a snack?! I mean, c'mon.

I found that switching from WW to calorie counting when I did was a great change of pace. It's nice to switch things up now and then, even if it's not a huge change. The newness of it helps keep it "exciting" enough to stick with it. I feel like I'm always using the word "refreshing", but it fits so well!

Now, though, I just cannot seem to get into counting calories again for whatever reason. The "spark" isn't there and I can't find a momentum. I'm bored with it.

My sister texted me last week and begged me to do Weight Watchers with her again, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it--I said no. She's tracking with an app called iTrackBites, which is basically the WW program but much cheaper. I tried out the free version, just to get an idea of it, but I really disliked the database.

I hemmed and hawed all week about what to do as far as my diet goes, and today I finally decided: I'm going to go back to the old school way that I followed the plan--with a pen, a Weight Watchers journal, and a Weight Watchers calculator. I bought them on E-bay today, so I won't get them for a week or so, but I'm going to try to start tracking tomorrow.

Looking at the old 3-Month Tracker made me feel so nostalgic for those days!

I loved tracking in an actual book because I was easily able to flip through the book and see what I was eating when I had good weeks and bad weeks. Also, I love to journal so it was just another fun journal for me. (I have way too many journals of all sorts! I have a bad habit of collecting them. Those and water bottles.)

I'm SUPER bummed because I cannot, for the life of me, find my old Weight Watchers journals. I loved looking through them to see what I was eating and patterns in my weight loss and all that. I have turned the house upside down looking. I'm sure I wouldn't have thrown them away! But maybe I did when I was purging everything from the house during my extreme hypomania a couple of years ago.

Anyway, it's embarrassing to change my stubborn mind about ever doing Weight Watchers again, but I'm going back to the program that I enjoyed and I'm doing the simplified version of it--before everything went to phone apps! (I won't be attending meetings)

It's going to take some getting used to again--I forget the PointsPlus in my favorite foods, and none of my recipes have the PointsPlus values on them. So, I'm going to spend some time over the next couple of weeks doing the calculations which will hopefully make life easier when I cook.

The hardest part about it all will be having to measure out my food again. I never used to mind it until I got so used to NOT doing it. But I did it a couple of times before while losing weight, so I know I can get used to it again.

Right now I feel pretty confident that I can stick with this--I love the simple and refreshing ideas of an easy training plan and the very basic Weight Watchers plan that worked well for me before. Hopefully I'll see some progress, because I'd love to start posting it on my blog again!

February 17, 2020

The One Where Joey Gets His Own Blog Post

Jerry was off work today and the kids didn't have school; so, we decided to have a family day. I'm going to keep this post short because we are going to play a new board game.

Since I recently shared a bunch of pictures of the cats, I thought I'd let Joey have his turn in the limelight.

Joey is our black labrador/chow chow mix that we adopted from the local animal shelter in 2015, when he was about 18 months old. (Jerry and I are "cat people", but we both agree that Joey is the best dog we could ask for--he's amazing. We wanted the boys to grow up with a dog.)

Interesting fact: Black dogs are less likely to get adopted from shelters because they aren't as photogenic as other dogs.

It's true! Joey isn't as photogenic. When we had a dark brown couch, you could barely see anything but his two eyes while he was lying on it. But he's SUCH a sweet dog and has been a huge blessing in our lives. If you're thinking about getting a dog, PLEASE get one from a shelter... and consider getting a "less desirable" black dog. We couldn't ask for a better dog. Truly!

(Joey got his name from Joey Tribbiani from Friends, the TV show. Jerry and I are huge Friends fans, and we have named all of our pets after Friends characters. If you're not familiar with the show, all of the names of the episodes started with "The One Where..." which is why I named this post the way I did.)

And maybe you'll see from the pictures that he's more photogenic than he gets credit for ;)

First, here is a before and after photo of when we adopted him from the shelter. What a huge difference, right?!

Before telling him he's a "good boy"...

And after telling him he's a "good boy"...

Joey Tribbiani's "smell the fart" acting... (Friends reference)

These photos are ones that Noah took to practice his photography...

(Noah started an Instagram account for his photography if you'd like to support him--he'd be thrilled! He's @noahphotography.jpg on Instagram. I'm so happy that he found a good hobby, and I hope he continues with it!)

Well, that's our Joey! He's such a "people dog", always wanting to be doing whatever we are doing. He allows the cats to take charge of the household and he no longer goes after squirrels because he's learned that they are our friends, not food ;)  He loves walks and treats and going along in the car whenever we go somewhere!

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