Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January 2018 Reflections

As I mentioned in my last blog, I do not have the resources to do much blogging at this moment in my life.  However, I do not want to abandon it completely.  Here is my attempt to keep some activity without having to expend a lot of time and energy on it.  For 2018, I will try to do a monthly reflections blog posted on the last day of the month.  If my schedule opens up later, or I feel inspired to post something extra, then I will do so.  This however will give at least 12 blogs for the year if I can stick to it.

I am borrowing and adapting a format that I read on someone else’s blog.  I wish I could remember who it was, because I would definitely give her credit.  The other blogger did this format for a daily reflection to end her days.  I am going to do it as a monthly reflection to review how my life is going.  It is broken down into three sections:  The Good, The Challenges, and the Future.  The Good focuses on gratitudes, special events, accomplishments, and other things that make me happy.  The Challenges reflect on problems, disappointments, struggles, and other things that did not go so well.  The Future looks forward to things I am excited for in the future or perhaps challenges I know are coming my way.

The Good

The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh – This was an awesome book to kick off the year.  It is a complicated story full of interesting twists and moral dilemmas.  It was entertaining while also making me think.

The Desire Map Daily Planner by Danielle LaPorte – I read the book The Desire Map last year, and I am using the planner this year.  So far, I really like the layout.  It includes the time schedule and the to do list that other planners always incorporate, but it adds little sections to help remind yourself what is most important.

CPA Studying – I have done much better with studying for the CPA this month.  Towards the end of this month, I determined all the sections of the Wiley software for REG that I had not completed yet.  I scheduled them out, taking into considerations obligations already made, through my testing date March 3.  So far I have stuck to the new schedule.

Ballet Burn – Pilates class at work had a two week hiatus, so I tried a new class at my gym called Ballet Burn.  It is a combination of ballet and Pilates done at a pretty fast pace.  I really loved it.  I was going to use it as an alternative to Pilates when there was no class.  However, work is apparently changing Pilates to Wednesday going forward, so I should be able to do both now.

Less Soda – I outlined some healthy eating goals for myself for the year, adding changes one month at a time.  I tried to keep it light in January, because I knew changes during a quarter close are difficult.  My goal was 1-2 sodas per week, and I actually managed about 2 sodas per week.  For reference, I was more like a 1-2 sodas per day type of girl.

The Challenges

Work – It was the quarter so that is always hard.  I am so unmotivated by my job right now, that I really struggle getting through all the extra hours.  I feel frustrated with all the weird transactions that they do last minute and the lack of communication that surrounds them.  I get impatient with my staff who are great workers but not so great at the little details.  I just know it is time to move on to another position, but I feel so guilty.  I know there are challenging things in the future (like the updated Lease Accounting Standard implementation) where they are probably counting on me to contribute.

Sick – I had some kind of virus during the month.  Lately I feel like I get sick every quarter.  I assume I had a virus this time (though I do not think it the flu that is going around), but sometimes I wonder if I just work myself into the ground and my body gives up.

Husband – My husband is extremely unhappy in his job right now.  It is making him a miserable person to be around at home.  I am trying to be supportive but it is hard.  I am going through my own job burnout, and I do not always feel I have the patience and energy to deal with his too.  I also think he is sometimes unreasonable about what he thinks the company owes him.  It is hard to be supportive when I think he is being a bit obnoxious at times.  He has put in his notice with his last day during the end of February.  They supposedly have been trying to convince him to stay, but at this point I hope he really does walk away.

The Future

CPA Studying – Studying is going to dominate my February.  The schedule plan that I created has about 1-2 hours per week night (except Wednesday which is a hubby night) and about 7-8 hours both weekend days.  There some changes to the schedule based on obligations I had already made, but otherwise February is study month.  I waited too long to get serious, and now I really have to focus if I have any chance of passing March 3rd.

Book Club – My book club meets about every other month, rotating houses as meeting places.  I volunteered for February, before I realized how crazy my schedule was going to be.  None the less, I am looking forward to it.

Staycation – The last few years I have tried to take a week off at the end of February, and I am doing it again this year.  I need some space away from work before we get into the fiscal year end craziness.  I use this time to relax, read, watch movies, eat good food, and do some projects around the house.  This year of course I will be studying too.

There you have it, my month in review.  See you next month!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

In The Tradition 2017

It is time for the third annual In The Tradition letter.  Continuing the format from last year, I start with the five things from the past year that stand out in my mind.  I followed that with my Top Ten recommendations from the books, movies, and TV shows I consumed over the year.  At the end, I talked about a goal for the upcoming year that I am excited to pursue.

Five 2017 Highlights

Road Trip:  When I think back across the year, the number one best thing that stands out to me is the Road Trip I took in August.  It was the longest, most intense vacation I have ever taken, and I did it all on my own.  I started on a Thursday morning and drove to Asheville, NC.  I spent two nights in Asheville, eating at some awesome restaurants, shopping downtown, and visiting the North Carolina Arboretum.  Saturday I drove to Spring City, TN where I had dinner at this great little hometown pizza joint called Winsteads American Grill.  Sunday morning saw me head to Fall Creek Falls Tennessee State Park for a hike to the waterfalls.  From there, I drove across Tennessee for a quick overnight in Memphis.  Monday morning I continued on my way to Collinsville, OK to spend some time with my cousin and her two little baby girls.  After two great family days in OK, I dipped down to Arkansas for a night in Hot Springs.  Thursday morning I hit Garvan Woodland Gardens before driving all the way to Nashville, TN.  I spent two nights in the Gaylord Opryland Resort, where I relaxed in my hotel room, roamed the garden conservatories, went to the Grand Ole Opry, and had a massage.  The last night of the trip saw me in a restored 1920s hotel in Marion, VA eating at a speakeasy for dinner.  Sunday morning I hiked at Hungry Mother State Park before heading home.  I had so much fun, though I have to admit all the driving was a bit much for me.

Work:  Work always has a place in my highlights of the year, because good or bad, it always stands out.  This year has been bad, at least on a personal level.  It continues to be a volatile environment with staffing changes, new companies being purchased, enormous strange transactions done last minute, and a software testing project that never seems to go anywhere.  I have had enough, and I just cannot do it anymore.  This job is just not for me.  While I have become much more comfortable in my managerial role and I have actually delegated many of the tasks that were bogging me down, I realize that I still do not enjoy the time I spend there.  In August, I gave myself a year to find a new job or quit without one.  So hopefully, August 2018 should find me either in a new job going a new direction or relaxed at home looking for one.

Blog:  I kept the blog going for almost two years, but I had to take a step back from it.  I maintained the weekly schedule for the first three months of 2017.  Then, I took an intentional hiatus during the April yearend close schedule at work.  Upon my return, my intent was to keep posting on a more relaxed schedule for the rest of the year, but I only managed five more posts including this one.  I doubt this is going to change much for 2018.  I am in a period of personal struggle at the moment.  I have major doubts on my career path.  I have been pushing (quite unsuccessfully) to study for the CPA exam.  I have been fighting increased periods of anxiety and depression this year.  I am weakened by a general state of not feeling well physically.  The blog is really more than I can handle right now.  However, it is not my intent to abandon it forever, so hopefully in the future there will be a comeback.

Hiking:  Last year I set a goal to do more hiking, specifically to make eight trips over the course of the year.  I did increase my number, but I only managed seven trips for the year.  In March, my husband, stepson, and I took advantage of an early warm weekend to go to Shenandoah National Park.  In May, I took my solo birthday hiking trip, also in Shenandoah.  Over the summer, I went with my husband to hike on what I think was the Bear’s Den Trail, but we were kind of confused about finding trailheads.  The end of August, I did the two hikes mentioned above in the road trip, Fall Creek Falls and Hungry Mother State Park.  In September, my husband & I did the trail out at Hemlock Overlook Park.  Then, November saw us back at Wintergreen Resort where we did part of the Old Appalachian Trail.  I really enjoyed myself on all of these, but my favorites were Fall Creek Falls and Old Appalachian Trail at Wintergreen.

Trying New Things:  I made a commitment to try new things this year.  I get stuck in ruts where I do certain things, or I only allow activities during certain times of day/week/year, or I only will join if I know the people involved.  Being more open to doing things has let me to some great experiences this year.  I joined a book club where I only knew two of the members (one of which was not even there the first time I went).  This has been a great activity for me because not only does it open me up to new reading experiences, but it has helped me socialize with new people who I really like.  I also signed up for the Pilates class my company started offering once a week.  I was a bit nervous about working out with my coworkers but it again turned out to be a really good experience.  I do an intense workout once a week, and in the process share a lot of laughs with coworkers I did not know well before.  Although there is some speculation as to whether the company is going to continue to offer the class in 2018, the success of joining a fitness class has made me more confident in perhaps giving some of the group classes at my gym a try.  Finally, I allowed my husband to take me to several non-theater type shows at venues other than the Kennedy Center this year.  The result was some wonderful shows that I would encourage anyone to see given a chance.  We saw Brain Candy Live in March at the Warner Theater which was a lot of fun. It is an educational, humorous, family friendly option.  We saw Mike Birbiglia at the Warner in October, who is as great live as he is in his Netflix specials.  Finally, I we saw Brent Smith and Zach Myers from Shinedown in their acoustic tour at the Fillmore, which I think is hands down one of the best concerts I have ever seen.

Top Ten Favorite Entertainment Items of 2017 (no particular order)
Note:  These were consumed by me this year, not necessarily released this year.

TV Series:  The Following (only watched Season 1 so far)
TV Series:  Anne with an E (Season 1 released)
Movie:  La La Land
Movie:  Logan
Movie:  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
Movie:  The Accountant
Book:  The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Book:  The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Book:  Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Book:  A Million Junes by Emily Henry

One Upcoming 2018 Goal

More Hiking:  My goal again is to increase my hiking.  I made it on seven hikes this year, which have all just reinforced my interest in this hobby.  For 2018, my goal is twelve hikes.  This is roughly one per month, but it unlikely I will do many in the winter months.  Along with increasing the number of trips I take, I want to increase the length and difficulty of the hikes.  I have been sticking with ones that will not take more than an hour or so, and staying in easy/moderate difficulty ratings.  The Wintergreen hike was more challenging this year but it was so much fun.  It has encouraged me to be more adventurous in the future.  Although I am sure there will be some staple hikes (Shenandoah, Wintergreen), I am hoping to expand out more for different adventures in the general mid-Atlantic region.  The ultimate goal is by the end of the year to do at least one full day hike.  Maybe by 2019, I will be ready to do an overnight.

There you have it, my third annual In The Tradition letter.  I hope 2017 was a good year for all of you, and I hope 2018 is even better.

I am unsure how often I will be posting in 2018, but hopefully I will not disappear completely.  So I will end 2017 by saying ‘Until next time’ to you all.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Movies 2017

It has been quite a while since I blogged.  While I wish I could say I was going to pick up the pace in the new year, I think it unlikely.  I have been busy being an adult, working a demanding job, attempting to keep my house in one piece, trying to eke out time to study for the CPA exam (recently rescheduled to March from January because I cannot get it together), and fighting waves of depression.

I started an annual post for Christmas movies two years ago though, and I decided it would be an easy one to do again.  Somehow I managed to watch seven movies even though I should have been putting that time to other uses.  Here are my mini reviews, ranking them from least favorite to favorite.  (Caution:  Although I tried not to give too many details, there are some spoilers below.)

The Night Before (2015)
Synopsis:  Ethan spends Christmas Eve every year with his best friends, Isaac and Chris.  It is a mishmash of immature antics, traditional activities, and searching for tickets to the fabled Nutcracker Ball.  Chris and Isaac have declared this will be the last year, so Ethan is determined to make it the best.  Nothing goes according to Ethan’s plan though.  Things get stolen, an ex-girlfriend shows up, Isaac takes too many drugs, Chris is side-tracked by his new famous friends.  Ethan quickly finds himself on his own and feeling unimportant to everyone.  He is also bummed because his life is quickly going nowhere, while Isaac and Chris are swiftly moving into true adulthood (thus the reason this is the last Christmas Eve blast).

Review:  I have no idea how this ended up on my Netflix list.  It is a holdover from last Christmas.  I can only assume I was captured by it starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  It is an average stoner movie set at Christmas time.  The humor is immature and predictable and accounts for 95% of the film.  However, it does have some touching moments in it, especially toward the end.  Plus, I do still like Joseph Gordon-Levitt even if this was not his strongest movie.  This was not the worst film in the world, but it relied too heavily on predictable and cheap laughs.  I would not waste my time on it again.

The Christmas Prince (2017)
Synopsis:  Wannabe journalist Amber gets the chance of a lifetime when her magazine editor sends her to Aldovia to cover the Prince’s coronation.  Once there, the Prince fails to show up for his scheduled press conference.  Amber refuses to let this chance pass by and manages to get invited into the castle under the mistaken identity of the Princess’s American tutor.  During the next few days, she makes friends with the Princess, captures the Prince’s heart, finds long-held secrets of the Queen and late King, and makes enemies with the Prince’s scheming cousin Simon and ex-girlfriend Sophia.  All the while, she fears being exposed before she can uncover the true story of Aldovia and secure her position as a journalist.

Review:  This was predictable in the extreme.  In fact, it is downright boring when it comes to the central love story.  There is not a lot of chemistry between the actors playing Amber and Prince Richard.  What saves this film from being in the last place on my list is the Princess.  Princess Emily is delightfully charming and sassy.  The interactions between her and Amber, and her and Richard are entertaining and heartwarming.  In addition to the forced love story, this movie highlights the importance of family and that family is more than just blood.  This is a take it or leave it made-for-TV movie, easy watching but nothing special.

Four Christmases (2008)
Synopsis:  Kate and Brad avoid their families on Christmas every year, instead taking exotic vacations just the two of them.  One Christmas, severe fog rolls into San Francisco and cancels their flight to Fiji.  Outed by the local news, they are forced to endure four Christmases with the various factions of their family.  First up is Brad’s Dad, brothers, and brothers’ families for a wild wrestling match of a Christmas.  Next is Kate’s mother, sister, and various relatives for a dose of aging cougars and Jesus praising.  Then, it is off to Brad’s Mom who has taken up with Brad’s former childhood friend.  Last is Kate’s Dad for a surprisingly normal end to the day.  The combined Christmas experience forces Kate and Brad to reevaluate their life together and face some uncomfortable truths about themselves.

Review:  I have watched this several times since it came out, and each time I expect it to be better than it really is.  It has an all-star cast that really delivers in the first half of the film.  I laugh so much through Brad’s Dad’s house and Kate’s Mom’s house.  Then, the rest of the film falls a bit flat.  The laughs dry out, and it attempts to be a more heartfelt family film for the second half.  Maybe if Brad and Kate were a bit more likable and they showed some true character maturation by the end, it might have worked.  The very last scene of the movie though shows that maybe they did not grow as much as all the heart-to-heart talks at Kate’s Dad’s house implied.  This is an easy watch if you just want to fill some time with a Christmas movie, but I think there is much better Christmas fare out there.

Christmas Inheritance (2017)
Synopsis:  Jim wants to pass on the reigns of his business to his daughter Ellen.  However, he is not sure she has what it takes to rise above her pampered upbringing and assume the responsibility of running a huge company.  As a test, he sends her to deliver a personal Christmas letter to his old business partner Zeke in his small hometown.  While there, she is not allowed to tell anyone who she is, and she must survive on $100 and no credit cards.  Ellen soon learns that small town life is much different than New York City.  The conveniences are minimal and the pleasures are simple, but the people are more kind and helpful.  While there, she of course begins a flirtation with the gruffly charming inn manager even though she is engaged to a suave city man already.

Review:  This movie is not particularly original, being a cliché fish-out-of-water tale complete with love triangle representing the old and new paths in life.  However, Eliza Taylor as Ellen and Jake Lacey as Jake the inn manager have good chemistry, and you cannot help rooting for them to be together despite her prior engagement.  It also helps that this movie knows it is a cheesy made-for-TV movie.  It does not take itself too seriously, and it makes sure the audience knows it knows.   It is everything a TV Christmas movie should be:  small town charm, learning lessons in selflessness, forgiveness, snowstorms, community parties, and romance.  This is cheesiness at its best.  While this movie will not go down in the awards book, it was fun.  I will probably watch it again.

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Synopsis:  The movie opens with the Smith family excitedly talking about the World Fair coming to St. Louis in the next year.  The rest of the movie showcases some of the pleasures and trials the Smith family faces during the ensuing year.  There are mischievous kids, new beaus, broken hearts, Christmas dances, and a potential move to New York.  In the end, the family is happy together as they witness the lighting of the exhibition space for the World Fair in St. Louis.

Review:  This came up on a list of best Christmas movies, but it is not really a Christmas movie at all.  The movie spans an entire year, though it does have a small portion set during Christmastime.  It also features the iconic Christmas classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.  This film is actually a wonderful classic Hollywood musical.  The story is a delightful tale of the importance of family, home, and the simple pleasures of life.  Judy Garland stars as the main character, Esther Smith.  Her acting is good, and her musical performances, including the aforementioned “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, are superb.  I wish it had been a true Christmas movie for purposes of my blog goals, but I loved this film anyway.

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
Synopsis:  The Bishop Henry wants to build a new cathedral.  His wife Julia just wants her husband and her life back to the way it was before he became a bishop.  When Henry prays to God for help in building his cathedral, heaven responds by sending the angel Dudley.  Dudley certainly shakes things up, but perhaps not in the way Henry had hoped.  Along the way, Dudley develops a crush on Julia, and Henry becomes quite jealous of Dudley.  In the end though, the angel puts things to right just in time for Christmas.

Review:  This is a Christmas classic and a Cary Grant film too, which automatically gave it a good start in my mind.  The Bishop’s Wife is a delightful example of the classic feel good Christmas film.  Cary Grant is one of my favorite film actors, and here he pulls off a wonderfully mischievous angel perfectly.  The story is light-hearted and playful with many characters getting a fresh start on their dreary old lives.  The story emphasizes the importance of family and friends over material matters, especially at Christmastime.  It also drives home the message that sometimes we do not get the things we want, instead we get the things we need.  The film does show its age with dated references and primitive special effects.  I recommend you look past all that and just enjoy the warm-hearted story.

Joyeux Noel/Merry Christmas (2005)
Synopsis:  For Christmas 1914, World War I was well underway.  However, Scottish, French, and German troops on one front find a way to move past the hostility to celebrate Christmas.  The lieutenants call a ceasefire.  A German tenor and his visiting soprano entertain the troops.  A Scottish Anglican priest says mass for everyone.  The men from all three troops leave their respective trenches to sing Christmas carols, share champagne, play soccer, and bury their dead.

Review:  Loosely based on true events, this movie is absolute magic.  War is declared by leaders and fought by common men.  This movie is a reminder that down in the trenches those men have more in common with each other than the leaders whose orders are being followed.  Though long and full of subtitles, this movie captivates me each time I watch it.  The journey is emotional as you see these men rise above the hostility and their differences to celebrate life and the holidays.  The film does a great job of balancing a war movie with a heartfelt drama.  It is visually beautiful with great acting from the main cast.

I hope you all were able to enjoy some wonderful Christmas movies this year.  I already have some new possibilities lined up for next year.  I hope you had a happy holiday season, however you may have celebrated it.  See you next week!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Birthday Hiking Trip

For the first time in a long time (and possibly ever), I took my birthday off work.  My birthday is May 3, which has always been a bit of a problem as an adult.  In college, it landed during finals.  As a working accountant, it tends to be during the month end close cycle.  In my most current company, it is during the fiscal yearend close which is the busiest time for our department.  This year, I have just had enough of work taking all the fun out of my life.  I politely requested that I be allowed the day off, and my boss agreed with the caveat that I cancel if a crisis came up before I left the day before.

I wanted to do something nice for my birthday that was just for me.  I chose to go hiking because it is one of my goals to do more hiking this year.  I went to Shenandoah National Park and hiked the Stoney Man Trail.  Stoney Man Trail is a relatively short trail, only 1.6 miles of fairly easy terrain.  There is a slight incline as you are hiking your way to the mountain summit, but most of the height is ascended with the drive to the starting point of the trail.  I wanted an easier hike though for two reasons.  One, I wanted to enjoy a pleasant stroll in beautiful weather, and not to wear myself out with a challenge.  Two, I had brand new hiking boots, so I did not want something too strenuous in case they started to rub (they did not).  The weather was gorgeous, sunny but not too hot, with a nice breeze.  The trail was fairly well traveled, and even mid-week during the school year I saw 5 or 6 groups of people while I was hiking.  Once I got to the top, I was rewarded with an absolutely gorgeous view of the valleys below.  In addition to my hike, I also stopped at all the overlooks between Thornton Gap Entrance and Skyland Lodge.

In all, it was an amazing birthday.  After my day to myself, I went home to my husband who made me a delicious dinner.  It is so hard in the rush of modern life to carve out those moments for ourselves, but days like this just reinforce how important it is.  In the future, I am going to try to take my birthday off again, if conditions are right at work.  I am also reinforcing my commitment to get in more hikes before the end of the year.  Being out there, surrounded by the nothing and everything of nature, just makes me feel at peace in a way I seldom do any more.

Of course, I took pictures of both the hike and the overlooks while I was out.  I have shared some of them below.

Jewel Hollow Overlook

On Stoney Man Trail

Stoney Man Summit

Hemlock Springs Overlook

Pinnacles Overlook

Hazel Mt Overlook

Tunnel Parking Overlook

Until next time, I hope you are out living the life you always dreamed you would have.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Misadventures in Health Take 1

Time Period Covered:  4/2/2017 – 4/29/2017 (4 weeks)

Like many of us, I struggle with maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  I constantly make plans to do better in the future.  I stop and start many routines over time.  Nothing really sticks for more than a few weeks.  Now I am trying yet again to lose some weight.  My doctor says it is a must to keep my blood pressure in check.  I was diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) about two years ago.  I am on a medication for it.  I am supposed to work on stress reduction (not my strong point).  I am also strongly encouraged to lose at least 10 pounds.  I can in fact attest that about a year ago when I was down approximately 10 pounds, my blood pressure was consistently in a much healthier range than it is now.  My blood pressure has recently shot up into the worry zone (higher than even my normal); I blame mounting pressures at work.  Anyway, all this has led me to try to get back down the needed 10 pounds.  If I can go further, bonus points to me.

For inspiration, I decided to buy the book The 28-Day Challenge:  Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Guide by Kayla Itsines.  I first heard of Kayla through an article in Bloomberg Business Week.  I have since followed her on Instagram and poked around her website.  I was hesitant to buy her Bikini Body Guides though as they seemed kind of pricey for a PDF file, and I am not really much of a phone app girl.  So when I discovered she was releasing a book, I figured that was the perfect option for me.  What can I say about the book?  In a word:  ambitious.  I think it would be really hard for your average unhealthy girl (like me) to pick this book up and follow it.  The book was beyond me, so instead I used it for inspiration and motivation rather than an actual plan to follow.  See below for my application of The 28 Day Challenge.

The majority of the book is dedicated to meal plans.  I like the fact that she includes a very nice section full of information about nutrition in food and meal preparation guidelines.  There are a boatload of recipes included, all nicely laid out in the 28 days that you need, plus extra ones that you can swap in if a substitute is required.  Many of them look very tasty.  Alas, I did not actually follow her 28 day plan, so I have no idea how those recipes turned out.  The only recipe I actually tried was the beetroot dip, which I really like.  Sadly, I do not find her plan very practical for the average working adult.  My three main complaints:  cost, time, and waste.  She has a lot of variety included in her meals, which from a nutritional standpoint I understand, but all those foods have to be bought.  Along with that, I found it rather wasteful when recipes called for things like half a banana, but the other half shows up in no other recipe near it.  I cannot spend so much money to throw unused pieces of it away.  Additionally, many of these meals require a lot of preparation with little of it seeming very make-ahead friendly.  Since I work full time, it just did not seem very doable.

What did I do instead of following the lovely 28 Day Challenge meal plan?  Not a whole lot of anything.  On weeks 1 & 4, I was able to curb my soda consumption somewhat.  The other two weeks were full caffeine intake.  Unfortunately, I chose to start trying to be healthier during my yearend close, which is basically pointless.  I live on sugar and caffeine during those weeks.  Weeks 1 & 4 were less stressful than 2 & 3, which is why I was able to reign in the soda intake a little bit.  Otherwise, I consumed a lot of fast food and sweets.  This is pretty typical for me in high stress periods.

The exercise portion of the book is more of an afterthought than the meal plan.  However, it does have enough information to guide you through her exercise routines.  Each week has a 5/6 day workout plan, including 3 days of circuit training and 2 or 3 days of low-intensity cardio.  She also includes a 10 minute rehabilitation session, which can be tacked on anywhere in the schedule.  Each week includes one circuit training day for legs, one for arm/abs, and one full body, interspersed with the cardio days.  Each day’s workout includes 8 exercises broken into 2 sets of 4.  You are supposed to do 4 exercises for 7 minutes, short rest, the other 4 exercises for 7 minutes, a longer rest, repeat the whole thing, and stretch.  The light cardio days are walking, swimming, etc. for 30-45 minutes.  Again this is an ambitious plan for someone not in shape (me).  While the exercises themselves are basic enough, and she has nice step by step instructions and picture guides, if you are not used to exercising full time you probably are not going to be able to complete the whole program.  However, this plan is definitely something you can work up to, and overall I think much more useful to the average girl than the meal plan was.

So how did I fare on my first round of the 28 Day Challenge Circuit Training Program?  Here is a quick look at my schedule.  Week 1:  Mon Leg Day where I barely made it through each exercise one time (as in one set of recommended reps) and was a bit sore afterward, Tues 20 minute cardio session on the elliptical, and Thurs Arm Day where again I barely made it through each exercise one time and was so sore I could barely move them for 4 days.  Week 2:  Mon Leg Day where I did each exercise one time with minimal soreness afterward, Wed 20 minute cardio session on the elliptical, and Fri Arm Day where again I did each exercise one time and was quite sore afterward but at least I could move this time.  Week 3:  Tues Leg Day where I did each exercise one time with minimal soreness afterward, Wed 20 minute cardio on the elliptical, and Fri Arm Day where I did each exercise one time with soreness afterwards though not nearly as bad as the first week.  Week 4:  Tues Leg Day each exercise one time through with minimal soreness, and Wed 20 minute walk.  I did not do arms; I was out of energy, time, and motivation.

I know my version of the goals was not anywhere near what was outlined in the book, but really I think it inspired and motivated me to do a lot better than I normally would have done during the month of April.  I do not regret buying it at all, but I am not sure I would necessarily recommend it to others.  I think there are probably much more user-friendly guides out there, especially for beginners like me.  However, I intend to stick with the exercise plan because I assume I will keep improving if I keep trying.  I hope to use the meal plan as more of a recipe book where I pick and choose some of the things to include in my journey toward eating better.  However, I will probably never actually follow the 28 Day Challenge as provided in the book.

So here is a peek at where I stand now.


Current Weight:  167.7 (prior weight was 167.5 but I do not have pics to go with it)
Doctor Goal:  155 and blood pressure in the 110/70 range
Personal Goal:  140 and blood pressure in the 110/70 range
Can I Even Dream It Goal:  130 and a picture of perfect health

Until next time, I hope you are out living the life you always dreamed you would have.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Future of My Blog

As you know, I took all of April and some of May off from blog writing.  I did this because of my yearend close at work and to spend some time reevaluating the future of my blog.  My fiscal close is almost over now.  The company is still being audited and working on the final 10-K preparation, but really my team’s part is done except for answering questions as they arise.  Over the past month and a half, I have reevaluated the blog many times.  Sometimes I wanted to completely discontinue it.  Other times I thought I would just return to the prior posting schedule.  I even had one insane period where I considered transferring to a better platform and building it into something bigger.  In the end though, I have chosen to return to the blog under a more relaxed schedule.

I am going to continue writing blog posts, but I will not be using the once a week format that I was trying to maintain.  Instead, I am going to write as I have time and motivation.  If this ends up being once a week, so be it.  If this means the blog dwindles down to nothing, then that is fine too.  I hope it ends up being somewhere in the middle.  I am reluctant to give my blog up permanently, but my life is very overwhelming at the moment.  My position at work is too demanding, even if the yearend part is over.  My social schedule leaves me exhausted.  My family life is strained.  I need to take some time to figure out how to fix all of that.  This leaves me less time to dedicate to the blog.  However, I still have hopes of becoming more of a writer, and therefore I do not want discontinue it completely.  Thus, I am trying to strike a balance of some presence on my blog without it becoming too much for me.

I also anticipate the nature of my blog changing in the future.  Lately, I had been trying to structure my blog a bit more, including several regular features (Quick Hits, Front Room Project, Around Town, etc.).  None of these will be continuing because it puts a lot of pressure on me to do extra things to include in the features.  While I still might put some reviews or personal project updates in there, they will be isolated pieces and not part of any consistent series.  I also intend to make the blog a bit more personal and introspective than it has been in the past as I try to work through the things I mentioned above.  I know this is not the first time I have mentioned using my blog this way, but now I am more comfortable with the idea.  I no longer fear retribution because really no one reads my blog, and as far as I know no one close to me does at all.  While I still am reluctant to do the soul searching required, it needs to be done because my life is starting to take a physical toll on me and I am ready to feel better.

Where this will lead me and you, I do not know.  Hopefully, we will walk forward together into something that is helpful to me, maybe helpful to you, and perhaps even interesting here and there.  I do not know when the next post will be, but until then I hope you are out living the life you always dreamed you would have.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

April Hiatus

I am suspending my blog activities for the month of April.

The first reason I am taking a break from the blog is purely logistics.  My fiscal year end at work is during the month of April.  I always struggle to write blogs on time during my quarters, and year end is the worst quarter of them all.  When I look back at last April, my blogs were either “I do not have time for this” blogs or short postings just to get something up.  This year is likely be just as busy, if not worse, because of continuing staffing issues.  I have decided to just say now there will be no blogs during the month.  This way, I do not feel pressure to write some nonsense just to get a blog posted, and you do not feel disappointed if you were actually expecting a real blog.

The second reason I am taking some time away is to reevaluate having a blog.  I question whether I really want to continue to do it.  One of the reasons I started to write the blog was to practice my writing and to encourage a creative writing habit.  I have (mostly) kept up with the weekly posts, but I am not sure the blog really pushes me to do more than that.  Although I am proud of how long I have kept at it, I am not necessarily proud of some of my postings.  There are a number of hastily written posts that do not showcase my best quality.  Maybe if I stop the blog, I can redirect the energy into other writing.  Then again, I just might not write anything at all ever.  Since I struggle with the time commitment and quality performance though, maybe writing is not where I should focus my energies at this point in my life.

If I do decide to continue the blog, I think I need to refocus it.  It was never my intent to focus on a specific subject, because I really do not see myself as a subject matter expert on anything.  However, I think sometimes I have veered into topics that might not necessarily be the best fit for me.  It might help me to be a better blogger if I narrow my focus to a few areas that feel more natural to me.  In my offline life, I am learning to be more true to myself and to discover the things that are fun and exciting to me.  It would be a natural move for me let my blog reflect these areas of interest.  As such, I would probably be writing more about reading and hiking, and less about fashion and decorating.

Lastly, I have never created much of a blog following.  I have not picked up more than about 20 hits per post and I am pretty sure some, if not all, of that is search engine bots cataloging my work.  I am not complaining about the number of readers I have.  Gathering a huge readership was never one of my top priorities, and really I did little to try to market my blog to others.  Instead, I am indicating that ending my blog would probably have little effect on anyone other than myself.  If you do happen to read my blog, do you want me to continue?  Do you have any suggestions or tips on things you like or do not like about my postings?  If I do decide to continue, I am certainly open to advice on how to improve my work.

I will not see you next week, but maybe I will see you in a month.