As You May Have Noticed…

…that nice little plan I had for keeping a blog, to catalog my exercising and (hopefully) weight-loss program, didn’t exactly pan out. I suppose I’m not the most disciplined writer, that’s for damn sure, but in my defense I had a lot going on back then. In addition to the weight-loss program, I was also a full-time student (on the brink of graduation, no less), and I was working part-time up until March. Since my last post, I have officially graduated from Georgia Southern University, and boy is it strange. I now have a Bachelor’s degree in both English as well as Writing & Linguistics. Before you ask, I do not have a job yet (the reasons why are a very long story), nor do I have even the slightest clue as to what the hell I want to do next! I can’t even decide if I want/need to attend graduate school, and while I am damn tired of being asked (by both myself and others) “what’s next?” I am so relieved to have my TWO Bachelor’s degrees under my belt. I still don’t think it has really hit me yet, but that’s a whole other story.

These days I am working on a few other things. Mostly, I am trying to catch up on my reading. As the proud holder of a Bachelor’s degree in English, I feel like there are certain texts that I ought to have read along the way, but, for whatever reason, I have not. So I’m attempting to correct that, but progress is quite slow. I’ve also started cooking a bit in the past couple of months. Since my husband is still in school and does not get home until 6PM some nights, I figured the least I could do was have a hot meal ready for him when he gets here. Now, that hasn’t exactly panned out yet because my timing is WAY off. For some reason I always think I can get the chicken prepped MUCH faster than I can in reality, resulting in a very late dinner, sometimes as late as 8 or 9! I am getting better though…slowly but surely.

Once I began cooking, it only made sense for me to also begin cleaning. That’s right, I said BEGIN cleaning. The truth is, up until fairly recently, Troy is the one who took care of most (or all) of the household cooking and cleaning! I have no idea what the heck made him marry me, but we can rule out those two. Now, I’m still not doing as much as I’d like to, but that is largely due to being incapacitated by the surgery I had at the end of last month, and the side effects that followed said surgery. Any who, as I began cleaning, I was really bothered by the harsh chemicals (and their overpowering odors) that are commonly used for various purposes around our home. I remembered a friend of mine who makes her own laundry detergent for way cheaper than buying it from the store, and, after a little internet research, I had recipes for all kinds of useful stuff! Everything from homemade disinfectant for my kitchen and bathroom, to ear cleaning solution and oatmeal shampoo for the dogs! Not only is it much cheaper to make it at home, but it is also SUSTAINABLE! Unbelievable, I know! Most of what I’ve found calls for the same 5-ish ingredients or less, and the resulting cleaning solution is an all natural (and therefore pet/child safe) alternative. AND, if that isn’t Earth-friendly enough for you, I’m also reusing the old containers we accumulate over time whenever we run out of one thing or another. For instance, right now I have an empty ketchup, shampoo, hand soap refill, and spray Goo-Off bottle in my arsenal. After a thorough rinse to remove any leftover chemicals, these containers will be ready to begin their new, Earth-friendly life! I am so excited to try out all the great, natural cleaning recipes I’ve collected, and I’m expecting a delivery today containing some of my key ingredients: baking soda, borax, and Castile Soap. Vinegar is another MAJOR component to many homemade cleaning solutions. 

When I was looking into all this great stuff that you can make at home with ingredients most people already have around the house, I began researching how to make all natural soap at home. Unfortunately, a closer look at that made me realize how impractical that would be for me, and that Troy would never agree to it lol, so I abandoned that, but in exchange I am looking into essential oils—specifically, their applications in aromatherapy. It seems random, I know, but it’s not. A couple of the cleaners I found recipes for call for an essential oil, so I bought a bottle of it, and that is what led me to the soap making thing, which in turn took me to the aromatherapy aspect of essential oils. Any who, aromatherapy promises to remedy all kinds of common problems, everything from insomnia to acne! Since I now have these bottles of essential oils sitting around the house, I figured I might as well put them to good use, right? The problem is that aromatherapy—as far as I can tell thus far—is not exactly cheap. At the very least, I have to buy a small machine that dissipates the oils into the air (once I figure out which kind is the best and what makes it different from the other, cheaper ones), and more oils so I can mix them up to try more remedies. They have to be the THERAPEUTIC GRADE essential oils, which are more expensive than the food-grade ones, and telling the difference when purchasing them online isn’t always as simple as you may think. Hopefully I’ll find someone who is into this stuff and can help me figure out what I need to get started, and how it all works.

I plan to write posts on here every so often, to keep track of my progress, but more importantly to document my experiences with these homemade, all natural household cleaners/remedies. However, we all know how well I’m able to stick to my own plans, assuming I don’t forget that I’ve made them! Wish me luck!

P.S.

If you’re interested in finding out more about homemade, Earth-friendly products that you can make at home, leave me a comment that says specifically what you’d like more info on, and I’ll post some links that I’ve found helpful.

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Weight-Loss Edudcation Begins!

So this past Monday, Feb 4th, I had my first work out with the Weight-Loss education program! We meet up for exercise and exercise education every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for one hour. Monday’s we are tested to see how much of the material we remember from the previous week. At the first session we went over basic stuff like the correct form for squats, lunges, and planks. We even did a bit of running. I must say, I didn’t expect to be as sore as I was from stuff that simple, but it’s just one more reminder to myself why and how badly I need this program! I’m still finding new things that I used to be able to do but that are now either impossible, or
unbelievably difficult. One example is restocking the milk fridge at work, oh boy did it feel like I was gonna pass out! And yes, I was sweating my butt off! It’s embarrassing to get so exhausted from small stuff like that, and it still weirds me out how winded I get after climbing even one flight of stairs. I blame that on my having been a heavy smoker up until about a year and a half ago. But yeah, we also met up last night for a nutrition info session, which I believe will be held once every other week. We’ll also be meeting with a psychologist, I think in the weeks that we don’t meet with the nutritionist, but we haven’t done so yet.

As if I didn’t already have enough motivation–which I do–I also found out that my friend Mark is going to guide a birding trip to Papua New Guinea in July-August of 2015!!!!!!!! It’s gonna cost several thousand dollars, but I figure with 2 years to come up with the money it might actually be possible for me to go too! In case you don’t already know, Papua New Guinea has some of the most amazing birds on the planet! Just Google “birds of paradise” and you’ll see what I mean.

That’s all I have for now, I’ll post again soon to complain about how sore I am, BYE!

What I Expect to be the Hardest Part

Well, tomorrow is the first day of my last normal semester as an undergrad, so that’s pretty cool (and terrifying). I’ll still have two classes to finish in June, but I still get to walk at the May commencement. There were time when it felt like that day would never come, and now that it’s (sort of) almost here, I’m surprised to find myself paralyzed with fear. This is silly since I’m planning on staying in school to at least get my master’s degree, but I’ll probably get my doctorate, I’ve always wanted to be “Dr.” I expected to be Dr. Daunt, but life had other plans, so Dr. Elliott it is!

But any who, with the start of the new semester comes the start of a new routine. I’m in class for twelve hours a week, and according to the current schedule I’ll be at work about fourteen hours a week, so that leaves me plenty of time to fit in a workout. Ultimately, I’d really like to become a runner. This goes against all my instincts since I have always felt as though I’m on the brink of death after some P.E. teacher makes me run. But still, I want to be one of those old people you see power walking in the mall with their fanny packs and swishing jogging suits of elaborate, loud color combinations. But before I get there, I want to be healthy! And running is something you can do pretty much anywhere, and the only cost is the footwear. I feel obligated to become a runner too since I am now addicted to Vibram Fivefingers (SO COMFY!). I feel like a D-bag wearing them around masquerading as a runner, but since I got that first pair I can’t go back to regular shoes! I’m trying to convert Troy so we can learn to use them together. There is this big long explanation about it but basically, when you run in Vibrams you have to run in a way that causes the front of your foot to strike the ground first. Then the arch absorbs the impact and so on and so forth. This requires muscles that tend to remain dormant when walking or running the other (wrong) way. Essentially, I’m paranoid that I’m gonna look stupid, and/or severely injure myself. I feel like my inexperience with running is sort of an advantage, but still.

These are the ones I have: Treksport

This may sound like an excuse, but if you know me then you know how legitimately paranoid I am about…well, everything. And once, I saw a guy in Vibrams at the RAC on a treadmill and he was running the wrong way and he looked and sounded ridiculous!

I truly believe that getting over that voice in my head telling me that everyone is watching me, and judging me, and laughing at me is going to be the hardest part. It sucks, but the power it has is very real. I think it has something to do with why I let myself get this big; I was afraid to attempt to exercise (sounds stupid—I know), so I never did.

I tried jogging on a treadmill once and it made my chest and gut jiggle like nothing I’d ever felt before! Not only was is uncomfortable and humiliating and all that, but the next thing I did, to try to stop it, was shopping for one of those body suits that compresses the jiggly parts. I couldn’t do it though. So I gave up. Well, I tried!

Until I get an idea of how much time I’ll need to devote to homework each night, and the Weight-Loss Education Program is underway, my schedule will be somewhat flexible. I’m gonna see about going to the RAC on my days off of work, at the time I normally get ready for work, really early in the morning hopefully—when no one else is there. Then I can try running in my Vibrams without feeling like I’m being laughed at. When that is done, I’ll go inside and work out some more. My classes don’t start until noon, which gives me plenty of time to shower and all that, so it looks like I’m all set. I’ve just got to face my demons head on. Troy, as always, is being wonderful. He encourages me and guides me to make better decisions, and it’s so great to know that I have him there beside me no matter what. At this point there is really nothing to stop me from achieving my goal, and my God is it about time! I’m ready. Let’s do this.

 

P.S.

Anyone interested in coming along (Bur) is more than welcome. I promise not to judge and it’ll be nice to have some company. (Troy doesn’t run with me in that he doesn’t stay with me because I don’t want to slow him down, so someone more on my level [way, way brand new] would be cool).

New Year, New Me!

Okay so I know it’s been a while since my last post, but nonetheless I thought it would be a good idea for me to make another attempt at keeping up with a blog. Especially since I am about to make some major changes in my life. This way I can keep track of my thoughts and feelings as I begin the journey of self-improvement.

It all started last semester, in August 2012. I have been steadily gaining weight for a year or so and I decided to work out at the RAC 3-4 times per week. I started out really well, with the help of my wonderful husband, but as soon as midterms hit…forget about it! In my defense, I was taking 18 hours of classes then, so I reluctantly and gradually cut exercise back out of my routine, which resulted in regaining the 5 or 6 pounds I’d lost, and then some, for good measure.

I have been completely miserable and ashamed of my size all on my own, but then something inexplicable and hurtful started to happen to me: within four weeks I was asked at least four times something along the lines of “how far along are you?” “When are you due?” or “are you having a boy or a girl?”

I tried to brush it off and make a joke out of the misunderstanding, but boy did it hurt. It was awkward for them too, so I tried to laugh it off. Everyone from family to classmates to co-workers were so confident that I was pregnant that they asked me about it. And this was after I’d been exercising regularly and eating slightly better for at least a month. Talk about discouragement!

Any who, I pretty much gave up exercising after midterm hit and I spent every waking moment writing research papers. But the last time I went to the RAC I saw an advertisement for a weight-loss EDUCATION program. I got more info on it and applied. According to the description, this program is not aimed at shedding the most pounds in the shortest amount of time. Instead it’s goal is to teach me the tools I need to live a healthier life from now on! It’s exactly what I’ve wanted to learn for at least a year now, and the timing just might enable me to get into better shape in time for my graduation in May! I know I can’t lose all 50 pounds I’d eventually like to get rid of in just 4 months, but I think I can get a pretty good jump on it so that by the time I get my master’s degree I’ll be pretty smokin’.

Veggies Before   Veggies After

So far I have been accepted into the program and I have my physical scheduled for Monday morning. After I get my medical clearance, the next step is orientation before I begin my 10 week journey to a healthier, happier me. Up to now I have already made some healthier changes in my life. The end of June this summer will mark the 2 year anniversary of my becoming a non-smoker. This month marks the 1 year anniversary of my cutting soda from my diet (almost entirely, but I have faltered from time to time. Even so I can count the number of sodas I’ve had in the past year on my fingers). My new years resolution this year is to cut the Starbucks out of my diet, which will be extremely difficult considering the fact that I work there and I get a free 16oz drink every day that I work! But holy cow am I sick of being fat! I am more motivated than ever and with this weight loss education program helping me I feel like nothing can stop me from getting into shape! Also, I’m only taking 12 credit hours this semester, which is a million times more manageable than 18!

I’m not sure if I’ll post my “before” picture simply because I’m still way too ashamed of my body right now, but perhaps once I’ve made some progress (and grown a pair) I might post it. Reluctantly, I will admit that my weight has reached a staggering 170 (+/-)lbs. I have worn a size 5 in pants my entire adult life, but I now require at least a 12-14 depending on the brand. I’m not proud of this and I’m not really even sure how it happened, but by God I’m putting an end to it!

So wish me luck, words of encouragement are more than welcome, and so are some good juicing recipes (we just got a juicer and we plan on putting it to good use!). Thanks for taking an interest in me!

One More Shot of the Ducklings

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Ducks on Campus

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So Troy and I were wandering around campus after I got off work yesterday, and we were feeding the ducks at Lakeside when we saw this! I think we counted 13 ducklings with this one nanny duck. SO CUTE! How come ducks and geese and chickens are adorable as babies but most other birds are alarmingly hideous!?!

Carolina Wren Hatchlings on My Porch

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Here you can only see three, but I’m pretty sure there are four.

What I’ve Been Doing Lately

Okay, okay, I’ll admit that I have definitely slacked in the weeks since classes ended, but in my defense I was quite busy with finals. As a writing and linguistics major (with an English minor) I had at least one essay to write/revise for all but one of my classes! AND I went out of town the weekend before finals week because—as you may recall—my cousin, Ally, graduated from Shorter University and I couldn’t miss that! I haven’t been doing all that much, mostly relaxing since I start school again tomorrow. Wednesday I went to the Center for Wildlife Education that we have here on the Georgia Southern University campus, with my wonderful husband. We spent a few hours there looking for the various animals that apply to our respective interests. He loves snakes and turtles, and lizards/“dragons.” I have fairly recently—i.e. within the past month—taken a real interest in birds. I know, it seems kinda lame, but it’s fairly cheap (much more so than herpetology!), and it’s potential is pretty much limitless. You can find birds damn near everywhere! Just the other day I noticed a rather huge gathering of (or “a banditry of chickadees”) what I believe to be Carolina Chickadees, living in the rafters of the outdoor portion of my local Lowe’s home improvement store! At first I thought they were House Sparrows or Black-Capped Chickadees, but I came home and did a bit of research before finally settling on Carolina Chickadees. Not that you probably care too much about all that, but it really is so exciting. Birding has made me pay closer attention to my surroundings. I hear birds all over the place and if I’m not familiar with that song, I’ll try to find the bird singing it so I can try to identify it later with the help of one or more birding websites. So simple, but really satisfying when you correctly identify a bird without looking it up. I’m not very good just yet, but I hope that I’ll find the time to improve. With my graduation coming up in December, I’m not so sure I’ll be an expert at it this time next year, but hopefully I’ll be able to take advantage of living in a state that has such a diverse range of ecoregions before life happens and I end up somewhere else. Even then, however, I’ll always be able to pursue birding because birds are EVERYWHERE!

This new hobby of mine has really got me thinking about the future and what the hell I’m going to do with myself and my (eventually multiple) college degree(s). I really enjoy birding so far, and I have always enjoyed writing as well as photography. Every time I see a bird I wish I had a good, quality, camera to capture an image of it. One of my best friends is a photographer for a living and she has volunteered to teach me the ropes. So I considered pursuing a career in wildlife photography, but (and that is a pretty big but) I’m not sure I’d be able to handle the conditions that job may entail. I think back to every nature show I’ve ever seen and how huge the bugs were. Or I think about that show about parasites found inside of people who traveled to tropical regions (where some of the most colorful, aesthetically pleasing birds are found!). That kind of stuff scares the crap out of me. I’ve spent my entire life in Georgia and I’ve never even found a tic on me, so going places where there is a new way to die everywhere I look (more or less) doesn’t sound like my cup of tea. On the other hand it is something Troy and I could basically do together. He could go off and play with snakes while I wander off and find some birds and we’ll both be happy as a lark (pun intended). Then again, I desperately want to become a mother. It has been hard to deny myself that experience long enough to get through my undergraduate years, so a career like that wouldn’t be very practical until the (future) kids are grown. And how can we actually make a living doing this kind of work? Not to mention healthcare. It’s enough to make my head spin. For now I’m just gonna focus on school and—when I have time—learning to identify birds by sight and sound. Until next time!

Unfair

So I was able to go up to the ATL area this weekend. I went for a couple of reasons but mainly to attend my cousin’s graduation from Shorter University up in Rome, GA and to spend some time with my grandpa (“Papa”) because he has Dementia and he hasn’t been doing so well the past couple of months. I want to spend time with him while I can. It’s bad enough that he confuses me for my sister, but at least he kind of knows who I am. I want him to know how much I cherish him, he has been more like a father to me than by biological father could ever hope to be. I often wonder if I waited until it was too late to show him and tell him how much I love him and how much he means to me. He taught me how to drive and he came to save me when I got lost on the I-85/I-75 connector coming home from Georgia Southern for the first time. He’s the one I turn to when I have a question about God or how to be Catholic (I admit I’m not a very good one, but I’m a work in progress). I remember being awed by his infinite knowledge when I was growing up. He always knew everything about anything. He has two bachelor’s degrees, two master’s “one and a half Ph.D’s” and two “law degrees,” he was a professor (at Georgia State University I think) once upon a time, and now…now he can hardly utter an intelligible sentence; let alone carry on a conversation. It breaks my heart to see him this way. He’s a feeble representation of the superman of my childhood. I am so angry, but at whom I’m not entirely sure. They say everything happens for a reason, I myself look to that explanation whenever something appears shitty to me from every conceivable angle. He was a devout Catholic his entire life, goes to church every week. Why would God punish him and the rest of my family this way? What can anyone possibly learn from this? I know, I know; it’s not my place to know the answers to questions such as these, but it just seems so cruel. Hasn’t my Papa and the rest of the family suffered enough from the loss of my Aunt Angie back in July of 2004?

The other day, Papa told me that he is both my father and my brother. He has this look on his face that seems to be begging me for answers, answers that I don’t have. His eyes are vacant. He has been saying that his birthday is in a week for close to two months now. I don’t know if it would be worse for him to live or die, and I feel terrible for not automatically saying “of course I want him to live.” Not for my own sake, or his wife’s sake, but for his own sake. I just want him to feel better, what I really want is for him to get better, but that doesn’t appear to be an option. The really fucked up thing is that he started acting this way after having a simple cataract surgery on his eyes. But that doesn’t really matter now, what’s done is done. I want my Papa back.

Is it worse to correct him when he says something outlandish (like claiming to be my father and my brother), or to go along with whatever he says? He says that no one ever listens to him, and that people think he’s faking it. My grandma can only take so much. The last 10 years or so have been hell for her. I hope she doesn’t put him into “a home.” He’s already perpetually confused. Changing his surroundings and surrounding him with strangers couldn’t be good for him. But as it is now, he spends most of his time at home all alone. What can I do? I’m trying to get through college. I have accepted the fact that he won’t be able to see me graduate. Even if he is still alive in December, he can’t sit in a car for four hours, and he is not mobile enough to make it through the ceremony.

Whenever I let myself really ponder the situation, my only reaction is “WHAT THE FUCK?!?” How did my family get like this? Why? How much longer must this suffering continue?

Week 11 Response

The piece I chose to respond to this week is called “Any Good News?” by Carol Feiner. It was published on April 1, 2012 in Hippocampus magazine (http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/2012/04/any-good-news-by-carol-feiner/). I know I just posted on a piece from this magazine, but I couldn’t help myself. They set it up so that you get to read like the first line or two of the piece beside the title and I got sucked in. I have at least two more I plan to write about too lol. This essay is awesome though. Just read this:

“The old ladies sit and wait to die. While they are waiting they might play Bingo or have their hair done, but do not be fooled. What they really want to do is die. My mother is 98. She recently received a letter from the synagogue suggesting that she make a donation commemorating the fourth anniversary of my father’s death. This pitched her into despair and confusion, as she had forgotten that he had died. “No one told me,” she sobbed, “I’m all alone.” For a day she refused to eat. All she wanted to do was follow him. By the next day she had forgotten that she had remembered.”

Isn’t that some powerful stuff? And that’s just the opening! There are really sad parts in this essay, like when Feiner tells her reader that her mom says that she doesn’t have a home anymore since she has moved into an assisted living facility. This is full of beautiful sentences that really penetrate their reader. Here is another one of my favorite parts: “Isabelle is the other member of my mother’s dining group. She is a sweet lady with one eye permanently closed. When I look at her I have a strange compulsion to mirror her by closing one of my eyes, but I resist.” Feiner is telling a really sad, depressing story but she manages to do so with a sense of humor that I completely understand. If she had not written this so well, the humor may have made me want to judge her, but she is obviously skilled in her craft. Since I have a great grandmother who is now 102 years old, and currently living in an assisted living facility, I found this piece very insightful and relatable. The description she gives of her mother’s room reminded me of where my great-grandmother lives. It’s very ominous and depressing. Every time I visit her there is at least one door with cards and flowers around it signifying the death of it’s former occupant. I hate being in a building where so many have died, and it makes me sad to know that she will likely die there in that tiny room, all alone. Feiner makes some interesting commentary about death and the elderly forgetting catastrophic events in their lives. A sad, but enjoyable read.