Friday, December 1, 2017

How to Start Meditating

Hey everyone, thank you so much for your kindness after my last post!  I got a lot of nice comments and messages from people, and it made me feel very loved and supported.  I am so fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of amazing friends and family, and to also live in a progressive area where self care and mental health are not taboo or shameful.  I am very privileged in that sense, and also very grateful.

I got a couple of questions on meditation as well, so I thought I would just do a quick post about what I've been using and just talk a little bit about how the process has been for me.  So I was very skeptical of meditation for the same reason I suspect many are, and that's because I had this perception of it being very...I don't know, granola or something?  Crystals and patchouli?  I don't even know what I thought.  But really, it's just taking time to sit, breathe and train your brain to be quiet for a bit.  No tantric chanting, no woo, it's just training your mind to calm down.  My brain is constantly racing and can get on very anxious or negative loops to the point where I wish I could physically grab it and yell at it to stop.  Meditation is just that, it's just shushing your brain, or at least that's what it's been for me.  I do guided meditations because I'm not at a place yet where I can just sit quietly and zone out on my own, and that's where I recommend starting with if you're new to it.  It does take practice at first to get to a place where you sort of shove your thoughts to the side, but once you do, it is such a welcome relief every day.  It's my 10-15 minutes to absolutely zone out and be at peace.  My brain stops going in what I affectionately call the "cyclone of despair", which is exactly what it feels like.  You can pretty much do it any time, but I love doing it before bed.  It's been a godsend for better sleep, which had been an issue for me for several months.

I got started with the Stop, Breathe & Think app, which is free and what my therapist recommend to me as a starting point.  If you are feeling like I was, which was both skeptical and unsure of how to even begin, I definitely recommend starting with this.  Basically you tell the app how you feel physically, then it asks you to pick 5 emotions you're feeling at that moment.  Once you do that, it spits out 3 or 4 guided meditations to choose from, all ranging from 2 to 10 minutes.  They are all very basic and straightforward and were very helpful in helping me practice how to actually meditate.  Like I said, at first it was very difficult to quiet my mind and the thoughts I had racing constantly.  I really had to work at it, but once I did I was amazed about how it kind of does put you in this weird trance.  It's not a negative experience at all, you just kind of feel like you're in a dark, quiet room a million miles away from it all.  It feels like my negative/anxious thoughts are an object that I am setting down.

Once I kind of got the hang of it, and once I sort of exhausted the list of meditations the app has (I'm too cheap to buy their extra ones), I sought out guided meditations on Youtube.  I just searched "guided meditations" and explored all of the ones in the 10-15 minute range.  This opened up a lot of options and it's been fun kind of exploring different videos and coming up with a list of ones I like and can rotate between depending on my needs that day.  This Guided Meditation: Deep Relaxation & Bliss video is my absolute favorite one and I feel is probably the most approachable one even for beginners.  The lady has a very soothing voice, and really guides you through some deep breathing, and then asks you to picture being in a place where you're happy.  This is probably personal, but the image I use is from this summer when Eric and I were in Bend with Molly.  We would go out every day and read on the front porch for a few hours, which is a luxury that I haven't really afforded myself much this year.  We would drag Molly's bed out so she could be with us, and she absolutely loved sitting and watching all the birds/squirrels and being outside with us.  I just think of that time, just both of us sitting quietly and reading, the dog sleeping peacefully next to us, the smell of the juniper trees in front of the house we rented, and how quiet it was other than the sounds of the birds around the house.  That was such a peaceful, happy time this year, so that's what I think of.  :)  It's prompted me throughout the day to think about that image when I am feeling stressed, which was a benefit I wasn't expecting, but has been very effective.

Another great, approachable type of meditation is progressive muscle relaxation, which is basically the process of contracting your muscles very hard, then releasing them.  You typically start at the top of your body, then work your way down to your feet.  By the time you are done, you feel very relaxed.  I listened to this Squeeze Away Tension video at work this week and liked what I heard, so I will be trying it out in earnest this weekend.

I have also really been utilizing calming music while I'm at work (and sometimes at home if I'm up doing laundry or something), and it's made a huge difference in both my work productivity and my stress levels.  There are times I really like to get riled up and listen to Tupac, Black Flag or the Ramones, but lately I've just needed to try to calm myself rather than escalate my agro ways!  I just started looking up "zen music" on Youtube and have a playlist of the type of music that they play when you're in a spa, that's honestly the best way to describe it.  I've gravitated the most towards the videos from Yellow Brick Cinema, there's a wide variety and they are all super long, so typically one video lasts me a whole work day!  This one with the Native American flutes and thunderstorm is my absolute favorite though.  I love storms and we don't really get heavy ones here in Oregon, so to me the thunder is very relaxing.  I can't play this one around Molly because the thunder in it makes her nervous, that's how high quality the sound is!  I just save it for work.

Anyway, I hope that was all helpful.  I highly encourage anyone, even if you're just feeling a little anxious, angry or stressed, or you're having trouble sleeping, to give meditation a try!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When You Can't Think of a Title

Oh boy.  I know.

I've been dreading writing this post, truly. 

It was pretty clear from my posts over the summer, but I was struggling then.  I thought it was just normal struggling, but by late August it was pretty clear to me that it was something different and bigger.  By early October, the wave of depression that's been building for months and months suddenly knocked me on my ass and knocked the breath out of me.  The gravity of everything that's happened in two years hit all at once:  the situation with my dad, some work stuff, the flood my family went through, the destruction of my grandmother's house, the election, the Eagle Creek fire, a million little minor things, and a million major things that I'd rather not get into on the internet.  It just suddenly felt like the world was 100% darkness, that something bad was going to happen any second and that I was in a place I couldn't crawl out of.  I was constantly on edge and convinced something negative was waiting around the corner.  Even the most minor thing felt exhausting, and I lost all interest in anything I cared about.  I was insanely anxious while constantly tired at the same time.  This went on for months until one Sunday after a bad shift at the dog shelter, I came home and honestly just snapped.  Not like a dramatic psych hold snap thankfully, but just utterly dissolving while my husband held me and listened to me admit that most days I felt mildly disappointed when I woke up.  I don't like thinking about that day or recalling it really, but there it is.

So that's kind of where I've been.  I've been figuring a lot of shit out, and I needed a break.  I know I don't need to justify it to anyone, but I did want to eventually write a post to anyone who reads this blog just so you don't think I went off and died or abandoned the blog. 

The good news is, it made me reach a point to where I realized that navigating these feelings without a professional just wasn't an option anymore.  I'm about to be 38 years old, and I don't want to white knuckle my way through life anymore.  I want to enjoy it and be present for it.  I want to be thankful for each day.  I want to be stronger and better.  So I've been seeing a very wonderful therapist since the end of September, and I can honestly say it's already made a huge difference in my life.  I was terrified to do it at first, and I'm not saying that spending an hour each week delving into my psyche is always pleasant, but it's been immensely helpful.  It's made me start meditating in the evenings, which I know many might think is a bunch of pansy liberal woo, but I can't sing the praises of it enough.  It's made me feel remarkably calmer, and I'm sleeping better than I have in months.  I don't feel the same level of dread or jumpiness.

I'm definitely picking my way back to a normal life and enjoying myself.  I've been cooking again, which I really missed, and making healthy meals.  I'm kind of doing a half calorie counting/half intuitive eating approach to my nutrition.  Basically I shoot for 1600 calories a day, and if I'm below that but don't feel hungry, I stop eating.  If I hit that and am still a little hungry, I have a snack.  I am finally back on the workout train for the last month or so.  Going back to eating whole foods and working out has of course helped matters.  I haven't weighed because honestly, who cares?  At some point I'll focus on and get to my weight goal, but my priorities are doing things that make me feel good right now.  And I am starting to feel good finally.  And I'm lucky.  I have good insurance, I have a husband who loves me and encourages me no matter what, and I have a lot of support from my friends and family.  A lot of people don't have that, and I couldn't have muddled through this without them.

There's still other stuff I've been avoiding and am not back to normal on.  I've been terrible about my music project and have pretty much abandoned it, which makes me feel like an awful person.  I don't know why I have such a mental block about it, and I'm trying to psyche myself to get back into working on those accounts.  There are times to be honest, I wish I could just drop it entirely, but I feel like that's the depression talking.  And there's this blog.  Admittedly there are times where I don't even know who I'm doing this blog for anymore.  Like is it for me?  Is it for the tiny handful of people who read this?  I don't even know at this point.  When the email came through like a month ago to renew my domain I was kind of like "hmmm".  Maybe it's time to let go.  But then again, I don't want to be hasty.  There's a lot of history and personal growth (and a lot of cringe too, my God I was so whiny) that I'd hate to lose.  So I'll keep it for now.  I may not write often, but there's no harm in keeping it.  And maybe at some point I will feel like blogging a lot more.

So there it all is.  Things are pretty good now and I'm feeling hopeful.  I am mildly anxious of putting my business out there, but at the same time, I hope if someone else is reading this and feeling what I was feeling, that it will encourage you to go talk to someone and that you're not alone. 

Since I'd like to leave off on a happy note, and since I've been abysmal about putting photos in my last few posts, I wanted to show some post therapy photos/activities where I was feeling happy and doing small, positive things to put myself in a better head space. 

In October we went hiking on the Washington side of the Gorge since the Eagle Creek fire pretty much destroyed where we had planned to go.  We had a pretty awesome little adventure/hike to Falls Creek Falls, which was absolutely gorgeous.  Being outside and active definitely helps the happiness levels.

I'm about to out myself as a giant dork, but in November we drove to North Bend so that we could see all of the sites where Twin Peaks was filmed.  I was a huge fan of the original run back in the 90's, and really loved the Season 3 that Showtime just did.  Anyways, it was a pretty amazing and fun trip and I'd like to backtrack and some point and write a post on it.  We both had a blast.  That's me at Twede's Cafe, AKA the Double R Diner.  It was also like 30 degrees, so that's why I'm grin wincing, lol.

  On the same trip we drove to see Snoqualmie Falls, which is something everyone needs to see because it's absolutely incredible.  While we were there, there was a surprise snowfall.  We were utterly unprepared for it, hiked the 2 miles round trip to the falls and back in it anyway and laughed our asses off the entire time at the absurdity of it all.  I also love snow, so I was pretty excited!

Anyway friends, thanks for listening.  I'll definitely be touching base more, even if it's for me.  I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Short Reprieve, Taking Steps

You guys, it's seriously the weather.

This weekend we had a really, really beautiful weekend.  On Saturday it stayed cloudy until well after lunchtime, then it rained for literally like 55 seconds late in the evening.  It was such that Eric yelled at me to come outside, and we were both cackling with joy.  Sunday it was sunny and in the 70's all day with a soft breeze.

It's like a switch got flipped, but back in the good direction.  I can't even explain it, but I got up Sunday feeling rested for the first time in a really long time.  I was able to spend extra time out in the yard with the shelter dogs, and found myself feeling antsy at the thought of spending time inside.  When I got home I told Eric that I didn't want to waste the day, and he was totally on the same page, so we went and walked for probably 45 minutes or so at the nature park by our house.  As soon as we got home I went straight upstairs and did my upper body lifting routine I had planned.  I felt like I had endless energy all day.  I made a normal dinner, with my oven no less, and was so excited to cook.  I also prepped all the meals and snacks for the next day.  It was the first time in a really long time that I was enthusiastic about cooking.  Just overall, I felt like myself.  No anxiety, no worrying, just living.  Things felt easy again and I didn't feel that hopeless feeling that I've just come to accept over the last couple of months.

Yesterday it was hot as blazes again (above 90 degrees if you can believe it), and I felt my energy tank and felt anxious for most of the day.  Again, switch flip.  I did power through a workout and made dinner/prepped for the next day, but it felt a lot more forced and difficult.  At this point I don't know if it's 100% mental or if my body is really having a reverse SAD type reaction, but either way it's clear that the weather is having a horrible effect on me.  I just need to ovary up and talk to my doctor about it, because I don't exactly fancy going through this again next time we have a heat wave.

Regardless, I have been sticking to my plan for the week and getting back on track.  It's felt really good, my stomach already feels so much better physically, and my pants are just the tiniest bit more comfortable.  I haven't weighed yet, I just really don't want to be concerned about the number on the scale, and would rather make feeling good and getting back into good habits the priority.  I'm just going meal by meal, day by day and trying to not stress too hard about things.  Just to give you guys a peek at the workouts for this week, this is my workout schedule (links are not autoplay videos):

Saturday:  Lower Body HIIT and Strength Training  (done)
Sunday:  Upper Body Strength & Cardio  (done)
Monday:  Abs & Lower Back  (done)
Tuesday:  Lower Body Strength Training & Pilates (done)
Wednesday:  Upper Body Strength Training
Thursday:  Dynamic & Static Stretching Challenges
Friday:  Rest Day
Saturday:  Lower Body HIIT, Hike at Hagg Lake
Sunday:  Upper Body Cardio & Strength

Honestly, I don't like HIIT or cardio very much, but acknowledge that I need to mix it up and also focus on burning fat, so I've been trying to make it a point to mix it in.  The workouts are going well so far, I've definitely lost some strength, but not a terrible amount.

As you can see by the schedule, we're going for a hike at Hagg Lake, which is this really beautiful park close to the house.  The wildfire made me really take a hard look at the fact that I don't appreciate the beautiful areas around us nearly as much as they deserve, and I don't take advantage of the amazing hiking opportunities we have either.  I'd really like to start going for hikes more and making sure that I get more time outside.  Hagg Lake is a pretty easy one and fairly flat, so I'm looking forward to it.

The forecast going forward looks like it's going to be in the 70s and we're supposedly getting rain on Sunday and Monday.!!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Awful, No Good Summer

I'm sorry guys, truly.  I feel like all I do is not post for awhile, then when I do it's a bitch sesh.  In fact there is no "feel like", that's 100% what I'm doing.  I know I shouldn't say sorry for posting my feelings/experiences on my own blog.  Honestly like 10 people read it, I don't know why I freak out so much.  I get stuck between hoping I'm not annoying someone, but also hoping me being real helps people?  Like, I hate when you read a profile on someone who has lost weight and it sounds like, "I just started eating chicken salads overnight like the easy switch went on and lost 40 pounds.  No big!" I think we all know it ain't that easy and linear.

This summer has truly been the worst.  I preface this by saying that I have total white girl problems, and acknowledge that.  But yeah, I've struggled and it feels like one hit after another.  The weather, some personal family stuff, work, and a million other little things that I worry about and feel down about.  My list is vague just because some things are private, some things are topics I don't like to discuss on the blog like politics and some things are just difficult to explain in general.  But I feel anxious as a baseline anymore.  And the big hit this week has been the big Eagle Creek fire that's been raging in Oregon.  There hasn't been much national news about it, but we've had this horrible wildfire happening started by snot nosed teenagers with fireworks.  And just oh my GOD don't get me started on how much I despise fireworks as it is but...anyway, it's been so difficult.  It's burned down 30,000+ acres of the Columbia River Gorge, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world and nature's version of church.  I think all of Oregon is in a state of grief right now.

On a health note, it ties in because the smoke has been so bad that not only have we not seen the sun for a week, but you can't breathe basically.  Even in the house and office we've struggled to breathe, and my throat has been killing me.  The sneezing and coughing we've all been doing at work would be comical under any other circumstance.  We had a team meeting yesterday and when any one of us would speak, we'd start losing our voice or coughing.  It's insane and I've never experienced anything like it.  We've skipped our work walk for 2 days because of the air quality, and I haven't worked out at all.

There is a positive note as there always is to these things, but it has been awe inspiring to see the community come together to provide aid to those who had to evacuate.  It's been even more inspiring to watch firefighters go above and beyond to save the Gorge.  I'm sure even outsiders know of Multnomah Falls, which is truly one of the most breathtaking places in Oregon.  At the foot of it there is a historic almost 100 year old lodge, which seemed inevitable to succumb to the fire since the falls were surrounded.  Instead, firefighters stayed overnight with their backs literally against the lodge, fighting off the fire.  They did indeed manage to save it, and even thinking about it makes me emotional all over again.  They saved something beautiful and old that we all enjoyed as children, and now many more generations will be able to fall in love with it too.  It's the little things sometimes.

But anyway, that's kind of been my deal.  It's summer, there's been a parade of depressing stuff and it's miserable.

I don't know if anyone watched the revival of Twin Peaks (it feels like basically Eric and I are the only two people who watched it), but there is a character on there who rants constantly about "shoveling yourself out of the shit".  I was annoyed by the character at first but as the season went on I must of drunk the kool-aid because that phrase has been on repeat in my head.  I just feel stuck.  My pants feel so uncomfortable.  I don't feel good about my body.  My stomach feels utterly awful.  I have zero energy and honestly don't care.  I just find myself going through these cycles.  I know that I need to shovel myself out of the shit but I really don't know how.

For me, the most miserable and difficult part of weight loss and sticking to a healthy lifestyle has never been portion control, exercising or making healthy choices.  It's always, always, always that initial push to get back and stay on track.  I don't know why it's so hard for me.  I know what being healthy feels like.  I know how good it feels.  There is literally NOTHING good that comes out of backsliding into eating like shit and not being active.  I felt on top of the world at the end of spring, and now I look in the mirror and feel disgust, which I haven't really felt about myself in a long time.  The bitch of it is, this isn't even coming from a place of enjoying eating poorly.  Every meal I just feel eh about.  I don't even feel that hungry at meals, I just eat easy, crappy food out of sheer apathy.  

And of course the simple answer is, well bitch, get it together then.  It's not rocket science.  I get and acknowledge that.  Yet here I sit.  I just honestly feel like this summer has broken my brain and my spirit.  I know I need to care.  I know that only I can do that for myself.  I keep clinging to the fact that it's September, and summer officially ends on the 22nd.  I don't know why that seems like the be all end all, other than the fact that summer is just representing misery to me.  I don't mean to be dramatic, it's just what it is.

It is reaching a crisis point though.  My jeans are at a stage where a choice needs to be made.  Either I buy bigger pairs or shovel myself out of the shit and go back down a better path.  As tired and as apathetic as I feel, I brought in one of the weeks I liked the most on our Fitness Blender meal plan and set it up in my calendar.  I'm going to go shopping on Saturday and start trying to white knuckle my way back to where I was.  I've got to at this point, because admitting defeat and buying bigger pants isn't really an option.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Space Oddity

Unless you live under a rock, you know that yesterday was the big fancy solar eclipse!  I hope that you were able to get out and see it in some way, shape or form.  We were incredibly lucky, because Oregon was in the path of totality.  Where I live got about 99% totality as opposed to places like Madras (central Oregon) and the coast, which both got 100%.  Regardless of the 1% difference, it was an incredible, amazing day and I'm so thankful we got to see it!

We requested to work from home since the traffic was predicted to be pretty much apocalyptic, and I'm so glad that we did.  I originally was like 'whatever' about the eclipse, mainly because I just had major fatigue from hearing about it on the news for months on end (as you can imagine, the coverage here was nonstop since last year).  As things drew closer, we both became pretty pumped about it and decided to go whole hog yesterday to celebrate.  I started the day by making us some Eclipse pancakes with Kodiak chocolate pancake mix and Bisquick.

We did have the correct viewing glasses ahead of time, Eric thankfully prompted me over a month ago with some links to the fancy ISO approved glasses so I ordered them from Amazon and we had them ready to go.  Good thing I did, because everywhere around here either sold out of glasses or had to recall faulty glasses.  Yikes!  No one likes a burned eyeball.  The smallest pack I could get was a three pack, so I gave the 3rd pair to my boss.  They are...not fashionable exactly, but eyesight is better than looking cute.

On Saturday we went out around the time the eclipse was supposed to happen so that we could see where the sun was at and if we could view the eclipse from our yard, or if we'd have to move down the street to view it.  We were stoked to see that we'd have a perfect view in our own backyard, so yesterday morning Eric got our chairs all set up and ready for prime time.  And because we are horrible people, we cracked the two eclipse themed beers we bought just for the occasion.  It was really good!

I love making playlists for things, so I set up a really good one for the eclipse viewing.  The track list went as follows:

1.  "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden
2.  "Brain Damage/Eclipse" by Pink Floyd
3.  "The Moonbeam Song" by Harry Nilsson
4.  "Moonbeam Levels" by Prince
5.  "Space Oddity" by David Bowie

We got all set up...

And we got a hell of a show.  I seriously have never experienced anything like that in my life, and I can see why people become eclipse chasers.  It was weird, eerie, beautiful and completely surreal.  Since we didn't get 100% totality it didn't go fully dark, but was this weird dusky vibe, as though we were looking at our yard through a greyish blue film or something.  I didn't bother trying to take pictures of the actual eclipse since I wanted to be truly present for it, and since no one wants to see my crappy Android pics of it, lol.  Eric and I held hands and just experienced it for the 20 minutes or so that it took to get to 99%.  It was truly special and something I'll never forget.

The rest of the day was pretty anticlimactic since I had to go back upstairs to my office and work.  For her part, my "coworker" didn't understand the fuss, slept through the eclipse, and was very happy when it was all over so we could go back upstairs and she could supervise me again.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Getting Better

I know that I'm well overdue for an update, especially after my last post!  Things are looking up a little, I know I was really glum last time, but it was just how I was (and somewhat still am) feeling.  I'm kind of starting to pull out of it though thankfully.

I know one should never self diagnose really, but I can pretty much say with confidence after the last month that I think I have reverse seasonal affective disorder.  It's something I've joked about over the years and I've always, always hated heat/summer, but this year really kind of brought home that 1) it's serious and 2) it's a pattern.  I realized that historically during the summer I get depressed, have difficulty coping with the most minor of stuff and experience a lot of lethargy and a feeling of hopelessness.  We had a heatwave the last two weeks that just about did me in (one day it got to 108).  Nothing got done.  I didn't cook, I didn't sleep well, and felt like an utter zombie at work.  The least little thing made me feel overwhelmed and tearful, and the sound of the AC and fans running constantly was beginning to really grate on me.  I could barely pull my shit together to prep for my SIL's visit last week.  (And if I wasn't depressed before, I definitely was after I got my electric bill for July, ouch.)  Inwardly I was screaming at myself to get it together and was so frustrated that I went from being so organized and on top of my health to being whiny bitch Mary from 2007.  And 2008.  And 2009.  You get the picture.

This week the heat broke, and it's like a switch got flipped back again.  I made a weekly menu for us the way I always do, I set up my workout calendar, I've been prepping meals, eating right, I'm sleeping well and feel a bit more like myself.  I've worked out every day and have felt great afterwards. Things haven't felt like such a struggle this week and I feel more level.  Knowing that fall is around the corner is making life bearable again.  It's made me realize the difference in my attitude and that clearly I am affected deeply by the weather.  It's been a bit of a mind f**k and made me have the "maybe this isn't funny" kind of epiphany.

Of course that brings up, what the hell should I do about this long term since I shouldn't just suffer for 3-4 months of the year.  I know the logical answer is "go to the doctor", but I have an almost pathological resistance to this on many levels.  I fought harder than I've ever fought for myself medically over my stomach issues, and no telling how many co-pays, elimination diets and wasted hours away from work later, the doctors never took me seriously and my stomach is still as ridiculous as ever.  And that's something in my mind that's serious, so the thought of walking into a doctor's office and saying that summer makes me sad and having them take me seriously?  Yeah, that'll happen.  I know that's a shitty attitude, but I've been burned by so many doctors over the years that the thought of having to go through some round of trying to get diagnosed with something makes me feel tired and drained.  And then what?  Do I go on medication?  It just all seems crazy and overwhelming to me.

Anyway, I guess that's down the road stuff that I need to figure out.  For the present, I definitely feel like I'm crawling out of a hole.  Between my sporadic workouts and crappy eating, I've lost some of my strength gains, so I've been taking it slow this week and ramping up again.  Instead of doing workouts that are 45 minutes of one thing, I've been doing combinations of short workouts.  For instance on Monday I did 15 minutes of HIIT followed by 10 minutes of lower body strength training.  Yesterday I started with 10 minutes of upper body strength training and ended with 20 minutes of ab work.  Yesterday was 10 minutes of lower body strength training and finishing off with 20 minutes of Pilates.  I've been striking the right balance it seems, because I've been sore after, but not painfully so.  As odd as this sounds, it feels good to be sore.  It just means muscle tears, and when those repair, I'll be stronger.  Rinse and repeat.  I've also found that doing several shorter workouts has somehow been less overwhelming, even though cumulatively I'm still working out the same amount.  It's easy to get through a set of strength training and push yourself when you know it's only 10 minutes.  Then I click the next video and say to myself "Oh this is only 15 minutes, I can get through that."  Cue the song "Head Games" by Foreigner.

I haven't really set a goal for next month (though my ladies and I are talking about a new challenge for September) and I'm not really stressing too hard with  my weight for the moment.  When I weighed this morning I was 182, which is thankfully down from a couple weeks ago.  That's the thing, if I get back into what I know works I don't have to worry about my weight because it will start coming off again.

Anyway, that's kind of the deal with all of that.  I actually have a lot more positive stuff to update with, including my SIL's visit, but this post is already so long!  Will write more soon!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


I've been trying to write this post (or any post really) on and off for two solid weeks.  I've been quietly riding the struggle bus for all of July, and it's been hard to find the motivation for much of anything, much less writing a post.  I'm forcing myself to do it today anyway though.

I don't really know what's up with me this month.  It's not like things are entirely off the rails and I'm binging or laying on the couch in the dark all day, but my spirit and a positive attitude really haven't been there at all.  It's hard to talk about and hard to explain, but things that usually are so easy for me feel like an absolute ordeal lately.  Putting together a simple salad for lunch feels like the equivalent of making a 6 course meal.  My 30 minute workouts that normally fly by and leave me feeling on top of the world have felt like never ending torture.  I wake up from a full 8 hours sleep and feel utterly exhausted.  I have zero interest in the blog, my music project or anything else that normally I'm all about.  It's been so frustrating, because at the end of the day I've got a great life and should be thankful.  But here I am, somehow mentally struggling.  Some days I constantly have a feeling of dread all day long, like something bad is going to happen at any second.  That's probably been the hardest because I feel like I have good instincts and intuition, so in my mind feeling like something bad will happen = 100% something bad will happen.  It's put me on edge and makes me feel like I'm in fight or flight a lot of the time, waiting for a shoe to drop that never does.  Other days its just been the exhaustion thing.  It's frustrating because it's felt so sudden.  Last month I felt like the love child of Wonder Woman and Arya Stark, this month I'm all Eeyore with a major tack in my ass.

It's not like there's some big bombshell horrible thing going on.  I mean, I've got stuff I'm dealing with, but it's things that normal people deal with like annoying work stuff, family stuff etc.  I'm not a special snowflake, it's all standard normal adult bs.  Yet I've just found myself kind of dragged down and feeling a bit defeated about tons a little things, death by a thousand cuts as it were.  I really hate it.  I don't even want to talk to anyone because I just feel like I'm not adding anything to the conversation other than crop dusting my shitty negativity all over the place.  It's why I haven't blogged either.  I did a gross amount of whining when I first started this thing.  Who wants to hear that nonsense?  No one, that's who.

I have tried my best to stay on track, and as I said, I'm not completely off the rails.  I'm like 80% staying with clean eating, so thankfully there's no junk in the house.  If binge eating happened, it would literally have to be with spinach, berries or rice cakes.  Honestly, I haven't even been that hungry and kind of have had to force myself to eat meals, so the danger for a binge hasn't really been there.  But I've gone from working out 6 days a week to maybe managing 2 days.  Too many treat meals, drinking and sweets are creeping back into our life.  None of it is to a crisis point, my weight is stable and maintaining, but I hate the feeling of not caring.  I really do.  Everything I do to stay on track is more out of obligation or faking it until I make it, not out of any enthusiasm or "Yay for health!"  I hate that too, because getting myself together with my workouts and eating was such a source of pride and happiness for me.  I've felt so good about my body the last few months.  I want to be genuinely happy and enthusiastic about it all again and put effort into it.

Anyway, I'm here.  I'm sure it will pass.  I'm still trucking along and doing my thing.  I promise the next post will be more positive!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

June Results, Plans for July

So June is almost over and my final weigh in for the month was this morning.  I forgot to take measurements and will do that tomorrow.  Anyway as of today, I am 180.2 pounds!!  This is my lowest yet, and I lost 5.8 pounds total in the month of June.

So some of the stuff I did differently:

1)  The eating plan:  No question that the clean eating plan really bumped things into high gear for me.  It's taken me years and years to get to this place, but I finally feel like I've kind of reached the point of enjoying nutritious food over really caloric food.  The plan ended last week, but I've still carried the recipes/principles into this week and am feeling amazing.

2)  I stopped tracking exercise calories:  So, I know a lot of people might disagree with this, but I decided to only track my intake this month and not attempt to track my calories burned at all.  For starters, I don't wear a FitBit or anything like that, so I really have no way of knowing even a rough estimate of what I burn.  And also, when I do make those rough estimates, I feel like I'm giving myself permission to overeat.  I decided to just roll with the 1600ish calories a day thing and see what happens, and what I found was that while I'm hungry when meal time comes, I didn't get insanely hungry or feel weak at any point.  I feel energetic during my workouts, and finally the scale is moving again.  I think when I was "eating back" calories, I was just honestly still eating too much because I was overestimating what I burn.  I'm just going to keep rolling with that, but keep things flexible.  If I'm shaky or about to gnaw my arm off, then I'll obviously have a little extra.

3)  My Powerblock weights:  Being able to easily go up on my lifting amounts has been a game changer.  I just simply wasn't lifting heavily enough to get the results I wanted before.  Steadily bumping my weights ever higher is really amping up the calorie burn for me as well as my muscle definition.  I'm already dipping a toe into the 60 pound deadlift world (I started at 20)!

4)  I cut way back on drinking.  It's really no secret, alcohol has tons of calories, and besides that I make poor food choices when I'm drinking.  I tend to throw caution to the wind and eat way more than I should, and also not pay attention to the "I'm full" signals.  And y'all know how crazy my stomach is, when I drink it tends to make my stomach feel swollen and crappy.  Cutting it out for the most part this month has resulted in my feeling physically SO much better.  The few times I have had some wine or beer have just been kinda meh for me.  It's made my head hurt and my stomach feel lousy.  I've noticed that now when I have a bad day, I'm thinking "God I need to go home and sling some weights around" as opposed to "God I need a glass of wine."  Definitely a healthier way of dealing with stress!

I just feel really happy.  It's been awhile since I felt like I've had my head screwed on 100% when it comes to my weight loss.  I've really just been maintaining and dicking around for several months, so it feels pretty wonderful to be losing again and feeling good.  I owe a lot of it to my ladies group since we all decided to reboot for the summer and issue some nutrition and workout challenges to each other.  It's been so motivating and encouraging having us all in it together.  We all do different workouts and eat different stuff, but the core values are the same.  Everyone had a great month of weight loss and I am so proud of all of them!

Before we talk about the "guns", can I just tell you how stupid excited I was to be able to pull my hair up into a ponytail this morning?  (We will ignore the fact that roughly 50 bobby pins are holding the rest of it up).  I want to make an effort to not just throw my hair into a ponytail all the time now that I've finally gotten it healthy, but it's nice to do it before a workout since I hate it being in my face!

Anyway, I am so happy about my arms.  I mean I'm happy about all the progress I've made, but my upper body is something I've really worked hard at the last couple of months, so I'm definitely pretty proud.  I make Eric touch my biceps and watch me flex all of the time, because I'm obnoxious.

So what's next?  I was initially up in the air of what my fitness focus will be in July, but after some hemming and hawing I decided to just restart FB Mass.  I enjoyed it so much this time around that I decided to keep rolling with what was making me happy.  I did hesitate because I didn't want to get bored, but whenever I thought about starting one of their more cardio/HIIT based videos, I just didn't feel very enthusiastic.  I decided that if I'm enjoying primarily lifting, then that's what I need to keep doing. I really like having those mini goals for the amount of weight I'm lifting, and hitting them is very motivating!

As far as eating goes, I'm not restarting the FB meal plan per say, but I decided to continuing to eat clean (God, I need to come up with a less pretentious way of saying that).  I feel really good eating this way, and I have a lot of things down to a science at this point when it comes to meals and snacks, so it's pretty much a no brainer to keep it up.

We have a long vacation coming up for the 4th of July, basically we're fireworks fugitives.  Since Molly goes so insane over them, we booked a place out in Bend, OR in the hopes of being somewhere more remote and not having to deal with a hysterical dog.  I really hope it's quiet there!  It should be really beautiful at the very least.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June Update Part 2: Fitness Blender Meal Plan

Okay, the last post was about my fitness in June, this one is all about the nutritional challenge I gave myself for June.  I've really been in a food rut lately and have been feeling a bit uninspired when it comes to menu planning and cooking.  Nutrition, in my own personal experience, has been the key between being successful or failing when it comes to weight loss.  I didn't feel I was doing as well as I needed to be, so I wanted some help.

I decided to invest in one of the Fitness Blender 4 week meal plans and for us to challenge ourselves to do it throughout June.  (Before I continue, Fitness Blender didn't ask me to write this post about their meal plan.  It was something I bought of my own volition and felt the need to review.  I don't get any benefit from talking about it.)

I just really felt that I needed a reset on my eating and also needed to not "think" for a bit if that makes sense.  For the last few months I've been putting together menus each week for us, and I just wanted a month where someone else planned meals for me and put it into a calendar so that I didn't have to think about it.  This meal plan is exactly that, 4 weeks of mapped out breakfast, lunch, dinner and 3 snacks a day with a shopping list each week.  And you guys remember how mad I was at Kelli awhile back for being weird about calorie counting?   Well guess what this meal plan is based on?  CALORIE COUNTING.  I mean I'm glad, I think any fitness person worth their salt will tell you that calories matter, I just found it amusing honestly since they've borderline vilified calorie counting in the past.  Anyway, you choose a calorie level based on your needs and it gives you the ingredient portions you need per recipe.  This is 100% what I wanted on every level.

I suppose you would call it a "clean eating" meal plan, though I'm loathe to label it that since people have so many interpretation of what clean eating means.  My definition of what it SHOULD be is wholesome, nutritious food cooked simply, and that thankfully seems to be what Daniel and Kelli's definition is as well.  I know some clean eater people are very extreme about everything having to be organic or plucked that morning from a mountain top in Tibet, but thankfully this meal plan is more like a basic lean meats, plant based proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts kind of a thing.  There is also plenty of "fun" stuff like cheese, bread and full fat dairy.  You can customize the plan a bit according to your needs, likes or dietary restrictions.

Hummus and Vegetable Wrap with Clementines

Mango & pineapple smoothie bowl topped with blueberries, coconut and granola

We're actually about to finish up Week 4, and I have to say that barring a couple of adjustment period things, I have learned more from this meal plan than I expected and it changed me a bit more than I thought it would. Here are some of my observations as this thing is wrapping up:

1)  I wasn't eating as many vegetables as I thought I was

I love vegetables (other than water chestnuts, those can go to hell) and I considered myself someone who eats a decent amount of them, but the plan actually showed me that I don't eat nearly as many as I could be.  I tend to gravitate towards oatmeal for breakfast, but many of the breakfasts on this were egg and veggie creations, and of course lunches/dinners were pretty veggie heavy.  I realized just how often I was missing opportunities to add vegetables to my meals, and going forward I want to keep up the trend of getting my veggies in!

2)  I was being complacent about counting my calories

It's easy to get "comfortable" when you've been trying to lose weight for a million years and start slacking off on the little details that matter, which is exactly where I was at.  Yeah I was counting calories, but there were definitely times where I didn't measure or log a splash of oil while cooking, didn't level off a tablespoon of peanut butter, etc.  Those types of things do add up week to week.  I found that by using the measurements given and honestly tracking, the scale moved again pretty easily.

3)  It gave me cooking inspiration

Some of the meals were combinations of things I liked but wouldn't have necessarily put together, like a white bean and avocado wrap, or making a breakfast cereal with quinoa and apples but ended up really loving!  I also really loved some of the bean and vegetable salads on the menu and am excited to start incorporating more of those into my day to day.

One of the many filling, delicious chickpea salads
4)  I've come around on snacking

The biggest adjustment for me (besides eating a larger breakfast) was eating 3 snacks a day.  I am not really a snacker at all, and my attitude has always been that I'd rather have bigger meals than "waste" calories on snacks.  It was tough for me mentally to fit in all of these snacks initially, but at week 4 I have to say...I like having my snacks now!  It's not like they are mind-blowingly exciting, they are simple things like a clementine with string cheese, grapes and almonds or an apple with peanut butter.  But there is something about having that little something extra to tide you over that's really nice!  I'm finding that I'm less hungry between meals, stick to more reasonable at portions at meals and also eating a wider variety of foods as a result.

5)  My lifting performance is better

I've been amazed at the difference I've felt while being on this plan, which happened to run parallel to my FB Mass program.  I've had so much more energy during my lifting routines and have even hit some little PR type milestones.  Some of that is a result of me really committing to pushing myself, but I also believe the food I've been eating has really helped give me additional energy and dive.

Baked salmon with pineapple salsa, asparagus & quinoa
6)  It's made me smarter about "treat meals"

Our policy when beginning this plan was that we would designate one meal a week that would be a treat meal.  Not a day mind you, a meal.  That's worked out very well because it's kept us from feeling stressed about this plan, and also because it's realistic.  We go to concerts, we like checking out new places in Portland and caloric meals are just going to happen for us.  It's fun because these meals are a "to do" now and feel much more special since they only happen once a week.  But I've noticed that even with my treat meals, I've been gravitating towards things that are still on the healthy side.  Some recent treat meals have been a hummus and veggie wrap with a handful of fries, grilled fish tacos, and I *gasp* got a salad at happy hour the other night instead of a burger.  I've also strictly limited my drinks at these meals to two.  I can say that I 100% enjoyed myself just as much and didn't really feel sad about not picking the things I would normally have gotten.

7)  It's helped my nightly sugar cravings

It's no secret that I love my desserts.  If you commanded me to choose giving up alcohol or sugar, I would without hesitation never take a drink again, because chocolate is life.  I didn't realize how used I was to grabbing a small bit of ice cream or something every single night to the point of dependency until being on this plan.  Dessert isn't evil per say, but it's also not great to feel compulsive about "needing" a piece of cake at night or whatever.  It was really hard at first, but now I'm finding that I'm just as happy in the evenings with my evening snacks.  Some examples have been almonds and a piece of fruit, peanut butter on either a banana/apple or a rice cake and berries with yogurt.  It's not like I never want dessert ever again, trust me I do, but it's really good to not feel so compelled to have something like that every single night.  This ties in with treat meals, but when I've had dessert during our treat meals, it's felt a lot more special than when I was having it every single night!

8)  It's made me happy with less

The measurements on this plan were originally a bummer and seemed so little, like only a teaspoon of olive oil to cook with, or a half tablespoon of peanut butter.  As time has gone on, I've sort of shifted into being just as happy with the smaller amounts.  This is probably the biggest thing I struggle with in life and in my weight loss, so it was good to challenge myself to still eat things I like, but to limit them.  In my head, if half a tablespoon of peanut butter is awesome, then 2 tablespoons is super extra awesome!  But in reality, cutting back that portion allows me to 1) still have the thing I want 2) save calories for other things so that I can have a bigger variety of food all day.

Obviously overall, I really loved the plan and got a lot of value out of it.  I've definitely lost weight (when FB Mass and the plan officially wrap up, I'll post a wider results update), feel really great and feel like I've gained new knowledge about myself and improvements I could make.  Right now I'm marking the meals and snacks I liked the most and plan to continue the trend of "cleaner" eating.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

June Update Part 1: Recommitting to Fitness

So now that May is over, it's time to get back to brass tacks when it comes to my health.  I gained about 5 - 7 pounds between the beginning of April until the end of May.  It's amazing how much that feels like now, I was convinced I'd gained like 20 pounds back based on how I felt and how uncomfortable my pants were getting.  It's not horrible I suppose, but obviously not great, so it's time to buckle down again and really get serious about getting closer to my goals.

I really slacked on my lifting starting in April, but especially in May.  I do have the traveling excuse to a certain extent, but basically my fitness was nonexist.  I knew that May wasn't going to be great for me, so before the month was out I committed to getting back on track and really pushing my strength goals again as soon as June began.

June has been going really good so far.  I decided to start up Fitness Blender's Mass Building program again and really try my best to push my strength limits.  I'm on day 17 at this point (I started right when I got back from Virginia), and I'm really happy with my progress!  My legs are starting to get nice and toned again, and my arm muscles are definitely getting more defined.  I have much less of a flying squirrel wing on my arms than before!  And I've been really proud of my strength progress.  I'm up to 50 pounds total on deadlifts and 40 pounds total on lunges.  My upper body strength is a frustrating work in progress since I'm really weak in this area, but I had an awesome moment the other day of being able to do 3 sets of 20 pound total chest flys.  I was very excited about it!  Any gain I get on upper body is a win, no matter how small.

I remember the first time I did FB Mass I was ambivalent about it and not impressed, but now that I have my fancy new weights, it's made really and truly pushing myself easier so I'm seeing way more of a difference in my body.  Being able to go higher on my lower body lifting amounts has definitely benefited my upper body as well.  There are times I still can't believe how much I've come to love strength training and how easy it feels compared to when I used to run.  It's not like it's a cakewalk, trust me, there are days I'm cussing, spitting and huffing during routines.  But it doesn't feel mentally like a struggle, and that's really nice.  It's nice to like what you do.

I was going to write about the nutrition piece in this post, but I am actually trying out a Fitness Blender meal plan, so once I got into talking about it, it was going to make the post 500 years long.  I decided to make this a 2 parter (June will be over basically by the time I tell you about June lol).  It's just that it's been an interesting ride on the nutrition front, so I wanted to make sure the whole post was devoted to that!

Monday, June 12, 2017

May Recap - Part 2

The back end of May and this recap is all about Eric and I celebrating the absolute hell out of our 10 year wedding anniversary!  After that, I promise we'll get back to the irregularly scheduled programming of health/exercise posts!  I apologize in advance because this post will be a bit of a whopper with a lot of vacation pictures, but I'll try to restrain myself!

So after my fantastic Cincinnati trip, I came home, was back here for roughly a week, then immediately flew back East with Eric for our anniversary trip in Chincoteague, Virginia!  Sadly not a lot of people know about Chincoteague, but it's been a bucket list trip for me since I was a little girl.  When I was young my grandmother gave me the "Misty" series of books by Marguerite Henry, which were all about the wild ponies of Chincoteague (really they live on the neighboring island, Assateague).  I was and am a very typical horse-crazy girl, so the concept of a tiny island with hundreds of wild ponies roaming around blew my young mind when I read those books.  I fell in love with Misty and the story of Chincoteague, and always imagined it as this amazing, quaint, horsey paradise.  It was one of those things that I thought about wistfully throughout the years, and mentioned a couple of times when Eric and I would get into travel bucket list discussions over a beer drinking session.  Not only was there the whole wild pony thing, but it was a little connection to my very beloved grandmother since she gave me the books that inspired my dreams of it.

Last year Eric surprised me by telling me he booked a trip for us to Chincoteague in advance of our wedding anniversary, and naturally I had a full blown heart attack about it.  It's been on the books for awhile, so we've been doing quite a bit of research and planning on Chincoteague and what we wanted to do on our trip.  (Most of the research and planning boiled down to, "how many times a day do you think we can stuff food down our maws" and agonizing over which nature cruise to take.)

I am so happy to say that the reality of Chincoteague even exceeded my childhood dreams of it.  It's a truly beautiful, unspoiled little place with friendly people, amazing food and gorgeous scenery.  And ponies!  So many ponies!  We did so many things and ate so many places that I will try to condense as best I can.  For starters, our hotel was a Hampton Inn and it was one of the best hotels I've ever stayed in.  This was the view from our balcony:

Waking up to that every day did NOT suck, let me tell you.  We loved having our coffee out there in the mornings, and we also iced down a couple cans of beer on hot days and just sat out there watching the world go by and listening to the sea birds.  One of the best nights entailed us treating ourselves to a little split of Veuve Clicquot champagne and sitting out there to watch a very intense heat lightning storm.

The greatest thing we did the whole trip was take a nature cruise on a small 6 person pontoon boat (Shout out to Daisey's Island Cruises and our guide Reggie!)  I know the word "epic" gets overused these days, but it was a really epic little cruise filled with so much wildlife.  It was supposed to be 2 hours and lasted for 3, it was on a gorgeous day, and our guide was super awesome.  Right off the bat, we saw 4 different herds of wild ponies.  I cannot attest to this, but Eric said the look on my face when I saw the ponies for the first time was pretty priceless.  I was honestly trying to not cry like an ass in front of strangers!

Please note the tiny, one day old baby on the left!
Seeing wild ponies is crazy y'all.  They are literally just roaming around like it ain't no thang, and so many of them had tiny little babies with them.  The stallions that led each herd (especially one named Riptide) we all stunning.  I really respected Reggie, our guide.  He was great about making sure we got good views of everything while also remaining respectful of the ponies and not making them nervous or encroaching on their space.  As a result we had several breathtaking minutes of watching these ponies graze and the stallions preen and keep everyone in their herds in line.  I wish we'd gotten a good shot of Riptide, the stallion leading the main herd of ponies we saw.  He was a complete stunner, a beefy chestnut with a Fabio level mane!  We obviously learned a lot of about the island, its history and all about the ponies.  Just so I don't torture you with 7 paragraphs of pony history, I'm going to link to the history of the ponies here.  I definitely came away really respecting how the people of the island care for the ponies, and throughout the trip felt that the locals truly love and dote on them.

In addition to the ponies, we saw tons of beautiful birds, including a pair of bald eagles and osprey.  I LOVE seeing eagles in the wild.  They are always so elegant and beautiful.  The top moment of the cruise after the ponies though was when we encountered 3 dolphins on our way back to the dock.  Reggie stopped the boat and for 30 minutes we watched these 3 dolphins play around the boat.  I swear that dolphins just love attention, because the more that we ooh'd, ahh'd and squealed, the more they would show off!  Reggie said he'd NEVER had this good of a wildlife day on one tour!

There are also tamed ponies on the island that you can go visit and pet, which cue me fainting with happiness, if you couldn't tell from the picture below!

The little bay mare in this lower picture was the sweetest little thing, and I would have brought her back with me if I could have.  I visited her on our last morning there, and she laid her head against me, and when I scratched her ears she let out the biggest sigh.  Such a sweetheart.

The island also had ducks roaming around all over the place, as if it wasn't charming enough.  I had a little crew of duck friends I liked visiting in the mornings.

And the food you guys...the food.  I ate the most ungodly amount of soft shell crab when I was back there, which is something I really miss from back home and can't get in Oregon.  If you don't know what it is, it's basically a crab that has molted and hasn't grown a hard shell back, so when they're cooked you can eat the whole thing, legs and all.  That freaks a lot of people out, and they do admittedly look like facehuggers, but they are very delicious facehuggers.  We went to a really nice seafood place and I had the most delicious soft shell...basically it was stuffed with MORE crab, covered in Hollandaise sauce and broiled.  Yeah.  We also ate quite a few of the famous Chincoteague salt oysters, which were some of the best oysters I've ever had in my life.

There was also a really great taco stand called Pico Taqueria with some truly amazing stuff.  I had the top right and bottom left tacos, the fried oyster and grilled shrimp respectively.

There were two ice cream places on the island, and we had to sample both for science of course.  Apparently what I'm about to say is controversial, but we infinitely preferred Mr. Whippy (a soft serve place) over The Island Creamery that everyone seems to faint over.  People seemed aghast that we felt that way, but the texture of the IC's ice cream was super weird, like gummy.  The flavors were decent, but I couldn't get past the ice cream borderline having a pulled taffy texture.  What can I say, Portland's Salt and Straw has spoiled me for life.  Mr. Whippy was just good old fashioned soft serve ice cream.  I had a s'mores sundae that had hot fudge, marshmallow cream and graham crackers.  It was delightful.

The best treat find though was Sandy Pony Doughnuts...just y'all.  It was a little food truck that made hot cake doughnuts to order, and I'm not really a huge doughnut person, but I was made a convert with these.  They would be so hot when you'd get them that you couldn't pick them up, and if you got chocolate toppings, they were gooey and melted by the time they'd cooled for a bit.  My favorite one was that top middle one, the Misty Mint.  So good.

I promise that I did more than eat sugary treats and pet ponies, I did spend time with my sweet husband, who to my delight fell just as in love with Chincoteague as I did.  We were really able to let go of the last couple of stressful months and just enjoy having zero agenda.  We struck a really good balance of relaxing, especially on our balcony, with sightseeing.  We spent a lot of time just walking around, including a wonderful day of heading over to Assateague to check out the beach and the wildlife refuge.
Beach strolling on Assateague Island

We also had a good time just strolling around Chincoteague and checking out the various little shops, monuments and the Chincoteague museum.

Misty of Chincoteague

On our last night we were supposed to go on a sunset cruise in the same small pontoon boat with Daisey's as our first day there.  Unfortunately the weather made the water conditions a bit dicey, so they had to shift us to a bigger boat.  We were really glad that we had that first awesome, more intimate cruise experience, because sadly the big boat wasn't as fun of a time.  Besides the fact that it was freezing cold and we couldn't see as much, a million people brought their kids, all of which were screaming, miserable and cold.  I sometimes wonder about parents and their train of thought.  I personally feel it's foolish to bring a year old baby on a nature cruise that 1) it won't remember 2) is miserable as shit during because it's 30 degrees, we're on the open ocean and you didn't elect to put shoes or a hat on your SMALL BABY.  But maybe I'm an asshole who doesn't know anything. The other kids were all like 2-4 years old, which again really isn't that old enough to appreciate the stuff we were seeing.  They mostly seemed cold, miserable and over it about 15 minutes into the two hour cruise.

We did see some neat stuff, including a huge stallion fight.  If you've never seen a horse fight, they can actually get pretty intense, which this definitely was.  One was hardcore chasing the other one, and there was lots of kicking and pounding on one another!  We didn't see dolphins again, likely because it was late and even they are too smart to be out in that kind of cold!

The sunset of course was beautiful.

There were so many more little things, but this post is already monumental.  Suffice to say, this trip was a dream come true and was even better than I'd pictured in my mind.  I'm forever thankful for having a husband as thoughtful as Eric for booking this trip, and I was so happy to share the experience with him.  I think we both agree that we need to get back there ASAP!

Our actual anniversary is May 26th, and since we just got back from our trip days before that, we kept that day low key-ish and went out to our favorite restaurant, Kachka.  It's a Russian place and some of the best food you'll have in Portland.

And it seems fitting to end our anniversary story with something that relates both to fitness and my grandmother.  I've had a bit of a sad NSV because I've lost so much weight at this point that my wedding band no longer fits, and I've actually been wearing it on my middle finger (ha) for the last few months.  Since it's titanium, resizing it really isn't an option, so Eric and have have been talking about what to do.  I wanted to have some type of band, but also am trying to be more frugal these days, and jewelry really isn't something in our budget.  My aunt came to me before our Chincoteague trip and told me she wanted me to have some of the family rings, including my grandmother's.  Amazingly, despite my grandmother being a tiny little thing, her ring fit my hand perfectly.  I talked it over with Eric, and we decided that me wearing her ring as my new band made sense.

I've never had diamonds before (my engagement ring is a peridot, my grandmother's birthstone), so wearing it makes me so nervous, but I love it!  It's very beautiful but even more important, it's meaningful.  I loved my grandmother more than I can say.  She was truly one of my best friends and I miss her so much every day.  I often think how much my she really and truly would have loved Eric, and he would have really loved her.  Seriously, he would have made her laugh so hard, and vice versa.  It feels very fitting to have her ring.

Anyway, believe it or not, that saga is the Cliff's notes of May.  We're back to fitness now!  :)  I do have quite a bit to write on June and what I've been up to.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

May Recap - Part One!

Okay, so May.  She was a busy one, so I'm going to have to split this into two parts since the first half was about my job going bananas, and also the epic friendship meet of the century.  Yes I'm into hyperbole.

1.  My job has picked up, big time.

I've mentioned this before, and again it's a good thing, but I've picked up more responsibilities at my job.  It's definitely resulted in my day going from zero to twenty, which I guess is better than being overwhelmed, but I am definitely STILL adjusting.  I mean I'm serious, I went from surfing Reddit and dicking around chatting to friends on FB messenger to being very visible and not being able to complete everything that needs to be done day to day.  I'm having to make to do lists to keep organized people!  Eric is in the same boat because, not to toot our horns too much here, but we're pretty hard workers and responsible.  It's a good thing, but on the flip side we've noticed that once people recognize that at our jobs, they tend to pile work on us because they know it will get done.  I think we've definitely had some "Okay, if anyone wants to start sharing the love here, be our guest" moments the last couple of months.

As I mentioned in my "yep I'm alive" post yesterday, a lot of things in my life were put to the side to adjust to the new workload.  I was incredibly frustrated about that since I am a firm believer in work/life balance.  I was used to now having time for my hobbies for the first time in like 9 years, including even working on a long neglected book, so having that taken away for a bit made me salty.  It took some momentum out of my music project, this blog and my fitness stuff.  I basically ate at maintenance or above for all of May and barely worked out.

At the same time, I definitely am grateful to have the opportunities that have been put on my plate.  I hate to always bag on my old job because honestly, I'm mostly past the super bitter feelings I held even a year ago towards it.  But for the latter part of my time there, I was never, ever given special projects or any chance to prove what I was capable of.  I was just constantly beaten down and constantly given the corporate version of the "40 pieces of flair" speech despite working long hours and churning through a ton of work every single day.  It feels really, really amazing to have higher ups tell me what a good job I'm doing, recognizing me in meetings in front of the rest of the company and to basically be trusted with projects I'd never in a million years have gotten at my old job.  I haven't had to suck up or kiss a higher up's ass to get these opportunities and I haven't had to change who I am, I just got them for being myself and showing how hard I work.  So while it was annoying for my personal life to be put on hold for a bit, it's worth it to finally feel good about what I do in my day job.

2.  Pigs Flew and Friends Finally Meet!

So I've talked on and off about my ladies group on FB over the years, but if you're not up to speed this is the TL;DR.  Basically a group of us fitness bloggers connected roughly about 3 years ago, and a private FB group was created so that we could share fitness challenges and commiserate about our journeys.  It morphed into this thing that I can't really explain other than to call it the eyerolling millennial term "safe space."  But really, that's what it is.  The members of the group have hardcore bonded and we talk about EVERYTHING.  Nothing is off limits, be it serious or silly.  Boys, movies, books, politics, health advice, fitness, recipes, job searches, personal struggles, family name it, we've discussed it.  We also do a lot of challenges with each other and keep each other in check.  I can honestly say that I would continue to be a in a cycle of self pity and laziness towards my fitness had I not found these women.  They've really been my rock during some tough points in my life.  The most amazing part is that everyone is incredibly respectful of one another and we really, really jive well together.  It's a really amazing group of smart, talented, wonderful women.

We've long joked about having a "retreat" and finally meeting in person, but last year Meg threw down the gauntlet and told us she was signing up for the 2017 Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati, and we all basically decided that we were long overdue to meet in person.  Not everyone in the group was able to make it, but we did manage to get 6 of us ladies (and three husbands!) together.  I think we were all super nervous about finally meeting.  I mean we talk every day, but at the same time, going to a strange city to meet people you've never met is nerve wracking!

What actually happened was pretty amazing.  From the moment we all met in person, it was like we'd known each other all our lives and there was no awkwardness.  There was lots of screeching, hugging, tears, the whole 9 yards.  Everyone got on really well the entire weekend, and while it was a bit of a whirlwind, it was a total blast.  We all got in Friday and hung out for a bit, just catching up and getting acquainted.  On Saturday Tiina, Anna, Desiree and Desiree's husband all did the 5k, so Meg and Anna's husband (our marathoners) along with myself spectated their races.  I've never really spectated a race before, and let me tell you, it is definitely a lot easier than running a race, ha ha.

The Furious Five and group OGs. L to R:  Me, Anna, Des, Meg, Tiina
Once everyone got cleaned up, our sixth lady Brittany and her husband, Chris, met us at the race expo.  We walked around for a bit, and I didn't intend to buy anything but found amazing locally roasted coffee that was roasted just for the Flying Pig race!  Coffee is my life, so I had to get it.  It was pretty delicious!

Expo fun! L to R: Anna, me, Meg, Gary, Chris, Des, Brittany, Chris
After that we all had lunch at this very tasty waffle place (Taste of Belgium I think?), and then sadly Brittany had to leave and go back home.  The rest of the day was spent chilling at the hotel so Meg and Gary could get off their feet.  That night all of us squeezed into our room, ordered some pizzas and hung out.  I honestly feel sorry for anyone who was next to our room because we were probably being pretty obnoxious with our cackling, arguing about the proper way pizza is to be eaten (everyone knows you fold it!!) and general shenanigans.  I don't think I've laughed that hard in ages.  We were productive amidst the shenanigans at least and made race spectating signs and also plotted out where on the course we were going to be at what times.  That part was definitely important since Anna had Gary's fuel/supplies and I was carrying Meg's

Speaking of shenanigans, marathon morning was a bit of a cluster.  Meg's alarm didn't go off for some reason so we were slightly scrambling, I dropped my phone in the toilet (praise Samsung androids, which can apparently withstand a pee soak), and also had a moment where I thought my purse was stolen (it wasn't, I'm just an idiot and left it in our hotel room because I like giving myself heart attacks apparently).  We saw Meg and Gary off, and then scrambled to get over to the 5 mile point.

Looking back, I don't know how we were able to do so well with getting to the spots we agreed upon with our runners at the times we said we would.  Mile 5 was easy, but mile 14 required grabbing an Uber/Lyft and hoofing it to another part of town.  Due to all the crowds and road closures this was definitely a challenge, and I think our hearts sank when we realized we weren't going to be able to get an Uber XL.  We managed to coax a Lyft driver (Her name was Melissa, Patron Saint of Lyft and Crazy Spectators) with a Toyota Corolla into fitting all five of us into her car.  If you've ever wanted to know what 6 people in a Corolla looks like, well...

If we didn't bond after that, we were never going to!  (Thank you Des for being a good sport!)

We honestly had the best time spectating and again were probably pretty obnoxious to be around with our cackling and laughing.  I was doubled over wheezing at times I was laughing so hard.  Here's a few random shots from our spectating.

One of my other favorite pictures of the trip.  Poor Gary was just trying to stretch and had no idea Tiina was holding that.

Obviously I need to talk about the two people who are most important to this story, and that's Meg and Gary.  I was so, so proud of both of them and their strength during the race.  Both of them were strong, looked amazing and stayed steady with the pace goals both of them set.  We were impressed with both of them and how great they looked at the 5, 14 and (I think) 20 mile marks.  Once we got Gary over the 20 mark, Anna, Desiree and Chris took an Uber back to the finish line to see him finish, which Tiina and I stayed for Meg to see her over the 20.  (Actually now that I'm reflecting on it, maybe it was the 18 mile mark??  I'm a space case.)  After we saw her there, we took our own Uber back to the finish line.

There was craziness for a bit because unfortunately due to Uber messiness, Anna and that crew missed Gary at the finish line,  and then he was temporarily missing period.  After some scrambling we all got reunited, then hung out in the finisher party area to grab some food and wait for Meg.  I had 2 Skyline chili dogs, and I hate to bag on anyone's regional stuff, but I am just not a fan.  I ate it because I was starving (none of us really ate all day long), but cinnamon/clove in chili just ain't right.  As we were waiting, we grabbed some beers.  Can I just tell you that even for Portland beer snobs like myself, an ice cold Michelob is like the best beer ever when you've been running around like crazy people all day?  The best part was, the guys from the beer tent randomly just kept handing them to us for free, so I think I had 3-4 beers in probably an hour span.

Finally we made our way back to the finish line to see Meg cross.  We were tracking her progress, and between that/her texting, we knew she was having some tummy trouble and her pace was slowing.  We made an executive decision that Tiina, Gary and Anna should go to mile 25 to encourage her and give her a last minute boost to power over the finish.  Side note, I need to give a major shoutout to both Chris and Gary.  Not only did they go with the flow of insanity all weekend, but they fit right in with everyone and were both super cool dudes!  I was really touched that Gary walked back to the 25 mile to go cheer Meg after finishing a full marathon.  Both guys are pretty upstanding, lovely people, and that's the type of partner you want your friends to have.

To much beer induced screaming and fanfare, our Meg crossed the finish line, hitting the time goal she set for herself and finishing a freaking marathon!  I'm serious, we were and are so, so proud of her!!  I will embarrass her a little here, but Meg is a mom to twins, works full time, does theater, writes novels AND trained for this marathon all at the same time.  She is such an inspiration and one of the reasons I love our group of badass women!

Our marathoners!
We all rested up for a bit, then met up that night at a really great Irish place over on the Kentucky side of the river for dinner.  We then took Ubers back over to the Cincy side for ice cream, then went back to our room for more chatting.  Sadly we had to say goodbye to Desiree, Chris, Anna and Gary that night since they were both leaving out the next morning.  Tiina, Meg and I went out for breakfast, then had Meg drop us at the airport.  I was so sad for us all to part ways, but so happy that we all had the opportunity to spend a wonderful weekend together.

So...all of that happened during the first weekend in May, and I still have lots more to tell you, so I think you have a glimpse into how crazy things have been!  I will try to write up part two sometime in the next week!