Gratitude

Standing at the sink in the kitchen of our new home, I can gaze out across the living room as I wash dishes. One weekend morning not long ago I did so as usual, cleaning up the dishes after enjoying the breakfast my sweet husband cooked for us. As I began cleaning up he had moved to the couch and the sight of him relaxing on a sunny weekend morning made me smile.

As I looked out at our living room, my husband on the couch and my cats stretched out in patches of morning sun, I felt so much gratitude for everything I was seeing. Life is short and ever-changing; my view from the kitchen won’t always look this way. The cats are getting older – hell, Bill and I are getting older – and with growing older I understand so much more that every moment is one to be cherished because it won’t be like this forever.

I don’t say this to be ominous. Life is the best it’s ever been and I am so incredibly grateful for these quiet and happy moments. I’ve had so many of them, especially since moving into our new home in April. We are both so in love with our new place and we spend more time at home now than we ever did when we lived in our rental. Our old apartment didn’t have a place for a table, so we never owned one, and the living room was only big enough for a love seat and an armchair. The apartment complex was on a major street, so it was nearly always loud when we ventured onto our back patio. Now, in our new home, we can do things that we couldn’t  before. We enjoy meals together sitting at the dining room table, we relax on our back deck on nice days, and we stretch out together on our giant, cozy new couch and watch movies together.

The happiness we feel doesn’t come from just the possession of the house itself, but from what it represents: an accomplishment we achieved together and can now enjoy together. Bill and I have shared so many adventures over the last four years, and home ownership is the newest but by no means the last one we’ll have together. There is no single item I have ever owned in my life that has given me the kind of peace and happiness that this life together brings me.

I admit that at times I lose sight of that feeling of gratitude and fall into the rut of just going through the motions of everyday life. Even though I generally can find joy in most things, there are definitely moments when I can’t find my shoes and leave late for work, or spill my coffee all over my car, and I catch myself getting way too riled up by these annoyances. Of course once that moment of self-awareness hits and I see how silly I’m being, then I regret allowing such small problems to make me fall short of being the person I want to be. Usually the things that frustrate me the most are the ones that I feel are rooted in my own shortcomings: running late makes me worry that I am not truly dependable, spilling things shows that I’m disorganized and klutzy.

In those moments where I’m falling short of my own standards, I’m learning to take a step back and imagine myself standing at the kitchen sink, looking out at my beautiful living room at my wonderful family. This image in my mind is soothing and grounding; it puts it in perspective to me how truly rich I am in this life and reminds me that small frustrations are such small and insignificant parts of such a great existence.

 

A Change in Absolutes

Remember at the beginning of the year when I set new health and fitness goals?

Yeah….those didn’t pan out. And I could tell you that this happened because I got sick in February (which I did, and was sicker than I have been in years…awful!), or that I lost momentum when I traveled for work, or that I derailed while we were in the process of moving into our new condo a few weeks ago. These things all did in fact happen, but they are not responsible for the fact that I stalled before I had even really started with a new set of goals for myself. No, the reason I crashed and burned on my 2018 goals is because they weren’t realistic. 

Life is a lot of things, but it is most definitely NOT predictable. Using absolutes like I tried to do in January, declaring that I would bring my lunch EVER day or that I would NEVER have a glass of wine on a work night, are just not set rules that I’m willing to follow. And that’s really the crux of it: if I’m not willing to make a change for the rest of my life, it isn’t going to stick and I’m not going to benefit from it in the long run.

I’ve been reading an amazing blog called Runs for Cookies. The author, Katie, repeatedly explains that the reason she was able to lose weight and keep it off is because she only implemented changes she was willing to keep up for life. Over time, what she’s been willing to do for life has changed….at first, she wasn’t willing to exercise, but over time she found that she wanted to. As her body felt different, what she wanted changed.

Ever since I started gaining weight in  2014, after successfully maintaining my goal weight for two years, I’ve been obsessing about what diet or mindset might get me back to feeling good. Of course, nothing I tried worked (and, spoiler alert – no diet is EVER going to work long term) and my weight has continually fluctuated.

I learned through reading Katie’s posts that weight fluctuation is normal and it’s going to happen. To me. To everyone. I’ve said this before, but I seriously wonder if, had I simply adjusted my food and exercise slightly when I gained a little weight in 2014 instead of going on a crash diet, if my weight would have self-regulated. It’s completely possible that I wouldn’t be here now, 25 pounds above goal, if I had just left my body alone to do what it had already been doing. I started to see a glimpse of this in late 2016, when I swore off dieting and got back to working out regularly. My weight started dropping. And then after I gained some weight on my honeymoon, I fell back into old habits…not doing the workouts I liked, going on seriously low-calorie diets to drop weight. It should be no surprise that I’m now heavier for it.

So here’s what I know: when I was at my lowest weight, I wasn’t dieting. There were no foods that were off-limits and there were no rules. I was exercising because I loved my exercise classes and because I loved feeling fit. I didn’t want to be skinny; I danced because I loved it and I lifted weights because I delighted in having muscle tone. I kept doing those things because I felt good. My self-confidence soared, because I felt like I could do anything.

On Saturday morning, I woke up and all I wanted to do was go to the gym and take a dance class. I went, and it was absolutely amazing. I left feeling accomplished and strong, so much so that later in the day I suggested to Bill that we walk a mile and a half to Rory’s for lunch. Yesterday, I thought I would be exhausted, but I woke up craving a workout. I did Training Camp with Bill and was even able to do the push-ups from my toes! Normally I have to drop to my knees for push-ups.

Today, I am definitely sore in places, but I’m also excited knowing that it’s Monday and I get to go to dance this evening! It’s also absolutely gorgeous outside today and wonderfully warm, and I treated myself to a walk on the trail near my office as an afternoon  break from work. I love walking and will definitely still be doing plenty of that!

Right now I’m all about doing what makes me feel good, both physically and mentally,  and what gives me energy. The only thing I’m going to declare that I absolutely WON’T do is diet – it doesn’t do any good anyway.

 

Finding Peace

It’s a chilly, gray Tuesday morning. I’m running late as usual, fueled only by caffeine and my desire to not miss my train for the second morning in a row.

As I walk quickly to the train platform, my hair is tossed by the wind. Although I would like to imagine that this is sexy – tousled hair, confident walk – the grim reality is that I probably look more like this:

Lovely photo, n’jes?

I like commuting via train. I started taking public transit in October, after driving back and forth from Edmonds to Bellevue for the first month at my new job and finding myself feeling slightly homicidal. To get from my house to my office, I catch the Sounder train in Edmonds, which takes me to Seattle. I then walk a block and catch a bus that goes across the I90 bridge and into downtown Bellevue.

The bus is okay, convenient but also incredibly crowded most mornings. The train, on the other hand, is bliss. I have no idea why, but most morning commuters prefer aisle seats and will make me climb over them to sit by the window before they will ever entertain the idea of simply scooting over. Although I am anything but graceful and half the time I stumble over the person grudgingly letting me sit next to them (you do NOT get two seats to yourself on a crowded commuter train, you jerks, so just get over it and share), I’m happy to have the window seat and the view of Puget Sound.

Even mornings like this rather dreary one are strikingly beautiful to me. In nearly eight years living in the Northwest, I’ve never failed to find myself overcome by how breathtaking it is here. Looking out at the Sound brings me a feeling of peace and tranquility that I find myself desperately needing these days.

Am I the only one feeling the strain of a lot of digital animosity lately? Last week there was yet another school shooting, but this time the survivors are speaking out and demanding action. It’s so refreshing, and it fills me with so much hope. But for as good as it makes me feel that maybe this time something will actually be done, the fact that people are talking about the shooting also means that people are arguing about how to stop shootings. And because these arguments are taking place online, people are cruel and ruthless.

I don’t mind a healthy debate, you guys…I actually love acquiring new information. I have changed my mind about pretty nearly every view I’ve held in my life – my politics, my (lack of) religion, my dreams for what my own life will be. And I changed my mind on these things because I received new information that swayed me.

Notice that I didn’t say I changed my mind because someone argued with me on social media or insulted me? That’s because arguing with people on social media and insulting them isn’t going to change their minds. What it IS going to do is make them defensive. It’ll make them tune out. It’ll make them dig in their heels.

I’m aware that my view of the world isn’t traditional and that my views are typically in the minority. I’m used to that, and because of it I don’t really put much effort into trying to persuade people to adopt my ideas as their own. Short of when I see someone causing harm, I don’t make a habit of calling people out.

Sometimes I need a reminder that the world isn’t really this angry, volatile place. And so this morning I put on some soothing music, turn to the window, and look out at the beauty of Puget Sound. I cannot really describe how soothing this is for me.

My focus now is to add as much kindness to this world as I can, and to use productive tools such as my vote, my participation, and my dollars to support the things I believe in.

Being a Grandma Doesn’t Mean You Were a Good Mom

The other night on my way home, I found myself behind a minivan with a license plate frame that read ‘Only the Best Moms Get Promoted to Grandma’. The implication that my choice to be child-free would reflect badly on my mom or her parenting skills really made me angry, and sad too.

Now really, the statement that only the best moms become grandmothers is ridiculous. I have plenty of friends with children whose moms were an absolute nightmare. There are plenty of parents out there who were raised by a single father, no mother around whatsoever. You can be a shitty mom and still end up having grandchildren. A narcissistic, controlling, angry, or crazy mom does not rise to sainthood just because her children decide to have kids of their own.

I had a great childhood. My parents loved my siblings and I fiercely and did everything they could to give us a good life. They gave up a lot for us and I have mad respect for them for it. I do know that just as I am interrogated about when my husband and I are having kids, my mom is asked on the regular when her kids are going to give her some grandbabies. Mom takes it in stride and replies that she has furry grandchildren, but I know she gets as tired of the questions as I do.

My parents have never pressured me to have kids or expressed anything but support for the kind of life I want to have. I am incredibly grateful to them for respecting my decision and not pushing me to make a different choice. My dad has even gone so far as to tell me that if he had known the world would be the way that it is today, he might have reconsidered having children himself. It is so much harder to make a decent living and build a comfortable life now than it was thirty years ago. When he said it, it made me feel so validated in my own choice to remain child-free. My mom has told me “I don’t like kids anymore!”, usually after being subjected to misbehaving kids in stores.

It does make me sad to think of my parents being put on the spot about my decision not to have children, a choice that has absolutely nothing to do with my relationship with them but that ultimately I realize does impact them. When an adult makes virtually any other decision in life, it falls on them and it’s generally considered unacceptable to ask their parents for justification – why is procreating an “open season” topic then?

I like to think that my parents are living a happy and fulfilled life, blissfully retired and free to enjoy their days. They worked hard for that. If there’s a hole in their lives because my siblings and I don’t have kids, they’ve never said as much.

I just hope the driver of that minivan was actually a good parent, and that her grandchildren are also being raised by good parents who wanted the responsibility rather than people who were pushed into parenthood by the woman now celebrating her life as grandma with bumper stickers.

Week 1 Check-in

It’s been a week since I made new health and fitness goals for myself, and to be honest the first week didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I met some of my goals but fell short of others,

Work out at least three days a week, including two dance classes. I had unexpected appointments which kept me from making it to dance last week, so I didn’t hit that goal. BUT I logged four workouts, so I’m proud of myself for being more active! Hopefully this week will be a little easier to navigate and I’ll be able to get to my dance classes.

Bring my lunch to work every day. I was able to succeed at this one, without much trouble. I do feel like I should admit that I only worked three days last week, so this goal wasn’t exactly challenging.

Make dinner at home at least five nights a week. I did have home-cooked meals five nights last week, and so far this is my favorite new habit. I’m surprised at just how much I enjoy planning out and preparing meals at home.

No drinking alcohol on school nights. I achieved this one too, but again I only worked three days last week so there were only three “school nights” to contend with.

Track all my meals and snacks. Eh, I mostly did this. There were a couple of meals I missed; I’ll do better this week!

Log an average of 10,000 steps per day. To my surprise, this one was HARD! My average was 5,835 steps last week.

Overall I lost a pound, which made me happy even though I have a long way to go. Slow and steady, right?

2018 Health and Fitness Goals

It’s the second day of a brand new year, and like so many others I’m setting goals for myself. I have decided to use the word goal rather than resolution this year, because a goal to me seems more tangible and allows me to make a specific plan to achieve what I want.

And what I want is to fit into my favorite blue dress.

I bought The Dress back in 2012 to wear to a friend’s birthday dinner. It’s dark blue, figure-hugging, and perfect for a nice evening out. I love that dress and would love to wear it out for my first wedding anniversary. But if I’m going to make that dream come true, I have to be able to zip the thing up – which is currently not happening.

I need to lose weight so that I can realize my dream of wearing that dress again, but I’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t make me crazy or lead to re-gaining any pounds later on. When I bought my dress, I hadn’t been on a diet in over a year. I was managing my weight with a (mostly) sensible diet and an exercise routine that I was quite happy to stick to.

I know that I will need specific guidelines to help me reach my goal. I’ve worked out five habits that I want to stick to in 2018, that I think will help get me where I want to be.

1. Work out at least three days a week, including two dance classes per week. There are dance classes I can attend on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, so even if I miss one during the week, I can make it up on the weekend. I also have at-home workouts I can do to get in that third workout, and hopefully I’ll find the motivation to do more than three workouts a week!

2. Bring my lunch to work every day. Working in downtown Bellevue means that there is easy access to a ton of delicious food and restaurants, but both my wallet and my waistline will be happier if I bring my food from home.

3. Make dinner at home at least five nights a week. My husband and I love to go out to eat, and we both work long hours. Making food at home instead of eating out or picking up takeout may be a challenge at first, but I know that home cooked meals contributed to my lower weight years ago. Over the weekend, we planned out what we would have for dinner each night and bought everything we’ll need, so there’s no reason not to prepare what we already have.

4. No drinking alcohol on school nights. I have fallen into the habit of enjoying a glass of red wine after dinner, telling myself that it’s healthier than dessert. The truth is that, although I may be saving calories, I’m still having more sugar than I need to. There nothing stopping me from enjoying a nice cocktail or two on Friday and Saturday evenings, but on nights when I have to be up for work in the morning I’m going to opt for a LaCroix water instead.

4. Track all of my meals and snacks in MyFitnessPal. When I was maintaining a lower weight before, I used an app called Lose It to track what I ate. While I still like the app, I’ve found I prefer MyFitnessPal. Most of the time, entering a food into a tracker before I eat it will make me more aware of what I’m putting in my mouth, and this habit helps me avoid mindless snacking.

5. Log an average of 10,000 steps per day. Fitness trackers are super popular right now. I decided I wanted one a couple of years ago, and after researching different options I selected a Garmin vivofit. Most days I’m good about remembering to wear it, and it really does help me remember to get up and move around during the day.

These goals should be enough to get me started; if I add or change them later, I’ll update them here too. Hopefully I’ll find that these guidelines to be flexible enough that I can follow them consistently.

2018: The Year of No Bullsh*t

Last week, my friend Marie declared that 2018 shall be the Year of No Bullshit. I love this fierce mentality for going into a new year and adopted this new mantra immediately.

Of course, the YONBS will mean not feeling obligated to tolerate others’ BS, but for me it will also mean not allowing myself to fall into the same old BS either.

I confess, I am not where I would have liked to be at the end of 2017. I fell short of my health and fitness goals, and I’m not as far along in my degree plan for college as I would like to be. I can make a choice now: cut the BS and get back to working for what I want, or wallow in my failures and continue to disappoint myself. The former seems a lot more productive.

After flying through my first four college classes this semester, I enrolled in a fifth. I was so confident that I would complete it and maybe even finish a sixth class by the end of the semester. Fast-forward to two weeks ago, when I was panicking because I had put off studying and was now in a bind. I really don’t know why I let myself procrastinate so much; I suspect it was because I felt like I had all the time in the world to study, until all of a sudden I didn’t.

I wanted to drop the class and pick it back up next semester, but my mentor pushed me to try and finish it. I thought she was smoking something when she said it was achievable, but ultimately I (grudgingly) agreed to try. I drew up a rigorous study plan that had me covering all the course material and taking the final exam by December 30th. I wasn’t at all confident that I could pass the test, but as my husband pointed out, better to fail than quit.

I stuck to my study plan and devoted more hours to this class than I probably have to any schoolwork ever in life. And today, just a few days before I take the final, I’m able to pass the practice test with a score of 98%. I proved myself wrong. I actually CAN pass this test and finish my class this semester. I feel extremely confident that I’m going to do well on my final exam.

I learned so much from this near-miss. Now I know that I need to make myself a study plan so that I have structured due dates to keep myself on track. The experience also reaffirmed to me that I am smarter and more capable than I give myself credit for, and that I can achieve the things I want if I really put my mind to it. Once I cut out all my BS reasons for not doing what I needed to and just focused on doing the damn thing, I started succeeding.

Sound familiar?

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with my weight for the last few years. It’s also no secret, to anyone paying attention, that a big reason for this is because I wasn’t putting in the work to get what I wanted. When the scale showed me numbers that scared me, I went on crash diets that guaranteed me fast results, but that did nothing to help me build better habits. Not shockingly, repeating this BS cycle just left me heavier than I was when I started dieting. Earlier in the year, I was very dedicated to my exercise plan, but after Bill and I got back from Cabo I fell off the wagon and kinda just let it roll right on out of town without me. I let starting school be an excuse for skipping workouts.

Excuses are BS. Diets are BS. They are no substitute for just plain old putting in the work. And they have no place in my life, starting now (because really, why do I need to wait until 2018 to banish the BS from my life?).

Last night, Bill and I got home from work and immediately changed clothes and worked out. After we exercised, he made dinner while I studied. And at the end of the night, I went to bed feeling AMAZING, because I had dedicated time to achieving goals that matter to me.

I won’t always eat healthy. I won’t work out every single day, and I’m not going to study every day either. I’m not going to tell myself that I will. Going to extremes is also BS, as it isn’t satisfying or sustainable. But what I am going to do is put in the work to get what I want.

Finding the Fisher & Diaz Funeral Home

Back in 2009, I became obsessed with the show Six Feet Under. I was late to the party (the show first aired in 2005), which was a good thing for me because I was able to binge-watch the entire series on DVD and wasn’t forced to wait between seasons.

For those unfamiliar, Six Feet Under followed the Fisher family, who owned a funeral home in LA (originally called Fisher & Sons and later changed to Fisher & Diaz). The funeral home also served as the family home, which may seem a bit disturbing to anyone who HASN’T lived directly above a steady parade of dead bodies and funerals, but is something the family and their friends are totally used to.

Although I lived in Southern California at the time, I never thought to find out if the house used in the series as the Fisher funeral home was a real place. When I discovered that it was indeed real and actually was located in LA, I had already moved to Washington and didn’t think I would ever get a chance to see the house in person.

Last September, Bill and I ended up in LA while on our road trip, and I knew I had a chance to finally see the house. As we drove toward the beach one afternoon, we made a detour and found it.

Thanks to the Internet, I was able to find out that the 6,324sf house is located at 2302 W. 25th St. in LA. It was built in 1905 (according to Zillow) and is currently owned by the Filipino Federation of America.

There was no one around when Bill and I arrived at the house (another benefit of being behind the masses in discovering the show was that people weren’t exactly lined up to take photos of the house). We snapped several shots from the sidewalk before I decided I was going to go perch on the front porch for a photo.

Today Might as Well Be the Day 

Last week, I got it all wrong in my blog post.

This happens, because I am human. But I am here to own the fact that I got it all wrong, and to explain where I fell short.

I’ve had a week to re-read my post and mull it over. I so wish I had approached the topic completely differently. I admitted that I had lost my health and fitness passion, and that I had gained weight. I was incredibly negative about it, and I really wish I hadn’t been.

I wish I had said that it doesn’t matter if my old Halloween costumes don’t fit. It doesn’t matter if I’m a little heavier now, because I’m also way happier. I also failed to point out two important things: that while I was thinner, I was also in a spirit-draining and unfulfilling relationship and that I needed Zumba more for its family dynamic and the unconditional love of fellow class-goers than I ever did for weight loss, and that I was also my smallest when I was the least consumed with what I ate.

I’m not saying I don’t need to exercise now that I’ve found a loving and supportive relationship – far from it. What I am saying is that I mistakingly reverted to viewing exercise as a chore. It doesn’t have to be that way. Last week, I noticed myself feeling much more relaxed and energetic, and I know that’s because I started working out again.

I also wonder if I would still be heavier now if I hadn’t had a knee-jerk reaction to a little weight gain and so quickly gone on a diet. I had denounced diets, insisting they didn’t work, but I put on a few pounds and panicked. If I had continued to eat normally, would I have bounced back? I think it’s entirely possible that I started down this path again because I went against what I knew to be true all along and put my body back in diet hell.

I wish I had emphasized that gaining a little weight isn’t such a big deal after all. I’m not a failure because of my size. I’m not less worthy of love because of 15 extra pounds on my body.


The two girls above are both me. I am not less deserving of love now than I was in that photo on the left. That younger me is thinner, sure. Since that photo was taken, I’ve accomplished so many amazing things that you don’t see in photos. But the things that aren’t in the picture are what actually matter. The fact is that the woman on the left is SO much happier, so much braver, so much more in tune with what she wants and who she really is. Imagine what she could do if I quit being so mean to her all the time??

This isn’t the “aha, I’m cured, I love my body now!” post. Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy? The reality is though, that this is just the start of changing my thoughts about myself. But all great movements have to start somewhere, and today is just as good a day as any.

Starting Over Again 

I think most people who have succeeded at weight loss will agree that one of the scariest thoughts afterwards is “What if I gain it back?”.

For me, that scary thought became reality. I lost weight, felt great, and maintained my new size for a few years, and then put the weight back on. I’ve tried different diets, intuitive eating, programs like Weight Watchers…you name it. Every time I tried something new, I would have some success. And every time, life got in the way and I fell off whatever program I was on. Time and time again over the last four years, I’ve found myself right back in the same old spot, 15 pounds heavier than I was in 2013.

It’s frustrating. It’s heartbreaking.

I used to write about my health and fitness journey frequently. When I lost weight, I blogged about my routine and what worked for me. When I started to gain, I talked about my various diets and attempts to get back on track. Eventually I stopped writing about it altogether, because I was ashamed of my failures and grew tired of putting them out there on my blog.

On Friday night, I pulled out my bin of costumes to pick something to wear for Halloween. I love dressing up and have accumulated a pretty sizeable collection of fun costumes over the years. The problem, I quickly realized on Friday night, is that none of them fit anymore. The ones I CAN squeeze into, I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. I look just awful in them.

I let myself wallow in my self-pity that night, and then Saturday morning Bill and I got up and worked out. I planned out what I would eat in the coming week. I planned my workouts. By Sunday morning I was ridiculously sore, but I sucked it up and worked out again.

Yesterday I had a long day (not bad at all, just busy) and could have easily made that my excuse to skip working out. But I didn’t do it. I went to the gym after work and took a Zumba class.

I’m going to write about health and fitness again, because I need to rediscover my passion for it. Even if I never fit into my costumes again, I need to be healthier. The truth is that I don’t feel good when I don’t exercise, and when I eat junk. It messes me up both physically and mentally and I know I can do better for myself. And I know writing about it will make me feel more accountable for the choices I make.