Master Bedroom Design

Before I start, I just want to say that all I wanted to do was paint the bedroom and spread out the expense of the design I had pictured in my head. I have always been able to picture interior design ideas, I guess it’s an artsy thing. The first step was painting three of the four walls in our master, navy. Dark, yes I know. But navy is very “in” right now and I wanted to create the feel of a relaxing bedroom where I could retreat after a long day at work.

Eventually, I wanted to add a ceiling fan, painted ship-lap on that fourth wall, a remote controlled shade on the sliding glass doors, and some curtains. I can see the result clearly in my brain, Jake had a more difficult time picturing it.

THE BEFORE

img_4787Jake wasn’t down with the navy, so I met him halfway and we decided on a lighter blue. I painted one of the walls (with the TV) and it looked alright. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t the look I was going for, and thankfully Jake didn’t like how it looked either. Plus we went with a semi-gloss and the streaking (not the fun kind) was absolutely awful, no matter how many coats were applied. But I tried to deal.

The next weekend, Jake convinced me to go to Harley Davidson with him by bribing me with a new ceiling fan for the master. Score! After we picked out the fan, Jake told me he wanted to go with a darker color because he didn’t like the blue that we had picked. Excellent! Navy, in eggshell (no streaks) it is. While I was getting the paint, Jake disappeared to somewhere in the store. I finally found him talking (go figure) to one of the guys in the construction department, asking about how to install ship-lap correctly. I hit the jackpot! New paint, a ceiling fan, and a ship-lap wall all in one day!!! After spending a few hours in two different Lowes, we headed home with a truck full of supplies.

img_4797I started painting the navy on one of the walls that wasn’t the lighter blue and it looked AMAZING! So much better! I spent the rest of the weekend painting the other two walls while Jake worked on the ship-lap. I helped when I was needed, but the measuring and cutting was all Jake.

Before he started, he removed the molding around the windows, as well on the crown molding on the floor. For the ship-lap to go from wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Jake also had to cut into the crown molding of the side walls on the floor in the corners. Then, we used “chalk lines” to mark where the studs were in the wall where we would be nailing the ship-lap into place.

After all the measuring and logistics were complete, Jake began cutting wood and placing/nailing each piece into place on the wall; we were told to start at the floor because it is more level than the ceiling. We used paint sticks as the gap measurement, which was just slightly bigger than the suggested nickels. He needed to cut pieces around the two windows as well as the one outlet (which we bought an extender for). He finished the wall in about a day.

Once the ship-lap was in place, we filled the nail holes with wood filler, let it dry (for a day), then sanded it the next day. I actually thought at one point about not painting at all because it looked like a ski lodge. When the sanding was done, we painted it a light gray color. I had wanted to paint the sides before the ship-lap went on the wall, but somehow that didn’t happen. I attempted to use a small paint brush to get between the gaps, but it was going too slow and it wasn’t reaching the back. So we ventured to Michael’s to see what would help. We looked at more paint brushes and even paint guns before deciding on pipe cleaners. Pipe cleaners are small enough to get in the cracks as well as hold paint pretty well; they were also less expensive than a $130 paint gun at $1.

And they worked pretty well! We were able to paint between all the cracks in an eighth of the time it wouldn’t have taken using a paint brush.

880986cb-865d-4a7c-b6e7-d2fde4c7681cNext, it was time to add the molding back to the windows, side walls, and ceiling. We used small, square rods of wood the same depth as the ship-lap to extend the window sill to meet the ship-lap. Once the ship-lap and the window were flush all the way around, Jake added the molding and began wood filing where the nail holes were. We also used wood filler to make the window sill, the small piece of wood, and the molding all look flush on the interior before painting it white.

img_4823Once the wood filer dried (between two and six hours) we sanded each spot, as well as the space we filled between the window sill, the wood rods, and the molding so that they all felt flush together. Because there is a lot of dust from sanding, we have a special vacuum so that the dust doesn’t get everywhere when we sand (it is bad for regular vacuums fyi). After the sanding was done, I wiped down the window to remove any extra dust to have a clean surface to paint.

Obviously, the next step is to paint. Jake had the left over molding paint from when the house was built, so we found the same paint, by the same manufacturer, online and went to our local Home Depot where they were able to match it a few days before. We tested the paint on two spots of the floor molding in the room where we removed door stops, filled them with wood filler, then sanded them down to be painted. Perfect match!

So we painted the windows. It took a few coats, and I ended up filling a few more spots with wood filler where it wasn’t as flush as it should have been, but the result was great!

Next we filled the side and ceiling molding with wood filler and let dry. Once it was dry we sanded and painted them white as well.

To finish, Jake added caulk to the side and ceiling molding to finish the room off.

We did a deep clean of the room when we were done but before we put the room back together; cleaned all the blinds, steam cleaned the carpet, dusted and cleaned the wood furniture with wood cleaner, washed the sheets and Reagan’s bed, and even cleaned out the night stands (mainly Jake’s).

Once the carpets were dry, we moved the furniture back into place and made the finishing touches. Our next purchase will be the remote blinds on the sliding glass door to replace the terrible looking vertical blinds, and some curtains to go over all the windows.

But here is the result; only took us a couple weeks to complete:

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Five Years

Today marks five years since Daddy passed away. I never stop thinking about him, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t question or think to myself, “Daddy really would have liked that,” or, “That’s so corny, Daddy would have chuckled.” I also find myself thinking how much he would have liked Jake; they are very similar, except Jake tends to be more of an extrovert, but their minds churn just the same. He would have liked him. Daddy also has a sweet little granddaughter now, and I am so excited to watch her grow and see what genes she inherited from her grandfather.

Nearing this five year anniversary, I often think back on what happened.

“It will never happen to me.” I said that so many times growing up as friends of mine and family members lost parents at an early age. In college, a friend of mine’s father passed away early in our freshman year and the only two things that sat in my mind were pain for her loss and that I couldn’t image losing my Daddy. He will be around for a very long time, I had no doubts. He is healthy. He takes care of himself. He even does his taxes months before they are due. The man had never done a single bad thing in his 54 years of life. He was the type of person you looked up to, he was strong, and he cared more for those around him that he did himself. I’ve had many people tell me, “Your dad was one of the nicest people I have ever met.” And it was more true than anything else I had even been told. He was simply wonderful, and so very humble.

Four years later, in October 2010, Daddy was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. My heart broke. I will never forget the day my parents called to tell me the biopsy results came back positive. I was away at college. It was about 10 AM in the morning and I was on my way to my Journalism Portfolio class. Once I was off the phone, I walked into class and asked my professor for a word. I told him I wasn’t sure I should be in class today and I told him the news I had just been told. He sent me home.

I don’t remember much of the rest of that day, only that my roommates contacted my professors for me, and I cried on the floor in my room for hours; my roommates checked on me periodically to make sure I was okay. I wasn’t, but I don’t think they knew what else to do.

I went to my classes the next day, not because I wanted to but because I needed to. Getting out of my room and engaging in something was the only way I could keep my mind from thinking of all the possibilities. And there were many. I made the mistake of researching and learning that the survival rate of Pancreatic Cancer patients is only five to 11 percent two years after diagnosis; two percent five years after diagnosis. And in all of the patients in remission, it always came back.

Daddy stayed positive. He continued to go to work, which he loved. I think it kept his mind off things and he knew he could beat it. Momma pushed for the best doctors, and when given an opinion she didn’t like by one doctor, she was on the internet and phone to find another who would not give up on Daddy. That’s when she found the team at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

Of course they told us the outcomes of most patients with Pancreatic cancer and those devastating percentages of survival, but they were not going to give up. They truly believed that Daddy could be that two percent, as he was in the early stages (which is rare for pancreatic cancer), he was strong, and he was healthy; a perfect concoction for survival.

They started him on chemotherapy to shrink the tumors as best as they could before they would consider him for the Whipple Procedure to remove the cancerous cells. The tumors shrank, and they continued shrinking.

I graduated from college in May 2011, got a job in my home town, and moved back home with my parents to help when and where I could. But Daddy stayed strong and continued his daily routine (aside from the treatments). He even helped me buy my very first car on my very own.

In June 2011, he underwent the Whipple Procedure, also known as pancreaticoduodenectomy. It is used to treat cancer that is contained to the pancreas (stage 1). The procedure basically removes the head of the pancreas, the duodenum, part of the bile duct, the gallbladder, and a majority of the stomach. After the surgery is complete, what is left of the intestine, bile duct, and pancreas are connected to allow food to be digested and to expel waste. Anyone who goes through this surgery will be on medication the rest of their life, as the procedure completely reconstructs the digestive system.

A very small percentage of Pancreatic cancer patients are eligible for this procedure, as the cancer must be contained in the pancreas and the patient much be strong. Daddy was very strong, stronger than anyone I have ever known. His will and determination to beat the monster that lived inside him was apparent in everything that he did. He was beating this.

After he recovered from the Whipple Procedure, Daddy went through a few rounds of radiation. According to Daddy’s doctors, it is common to give chemoradiation treatments after the Whipple to assist in survival.

A few months after the chemoradiation treatments were complete, and given time to heal, Daddy had the scan to show if the procedure and treatments were working. And they were. November 2011, Daddy was officially in remission. My brother and I were so proud of him for fighting and staying strong. We were proud of our mom for pushing to get Daddy the best care possible and the right doctors who would not give up on him.

In February 2012, I quit my job and spent time with Daddy almost every day. We went to the gym and we worked on rebuilding his muscle strength, he had gotten so skinny from the surgery and the chemo and radiation treatments. We would sit on the back deck every day and eat lunch, and enjoy the spring air. My brother graduated from Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in May, and I accepted a job as an intern in Northern Virginia and moved two hours away to start my career.

My first week went great! And to top it off, my parents were stopping by on their way back from Johns Hopkins after Daddy had his six month CT scan. We went to my favorite restaurant, Los Toltecos, where they dropped the bomb.

The cancer was back, stage 4, and other than radiation and chemotherapy, there was nothing the doctors could do, it was inoperable. They hadn’t told my brother yet, they wanted to wait until he was done with The Basic School (TBS) (training for newly commissioned and appointed Marine Corps officers). I immediately wanted to move back home, but Daddy wouldn’t let me. Daddy wanted us to continue on with our lives as if nothing was happening, he did not want us to put our lives on hold. And besides, he beat it once, he will do it again.

My brother completed TBS and moved to Blacksburg to live with my sister-in-law (SIL) while she finished school, and in August 2012 he proposed to her on the Virginia Tech campus in his uniform. They set a date for March 9th, 2013. Daddy’s health started to decline, mostly due to the chemotherapy he had started again, but this time his body could not endure the treatments.

On September 10th, my brother and SIL decided to move their wedding up five months to September 29th, 2012. Yes 19 days away. They were worried with Daddy’s declining health that five months was too long, and we were all afraid he would be too weak to attend the wedding.

The week of the wedding, Daddy spent four days in the hospital. He received some injections to help boost his immune system and give him some much needed energy; my mom called it the “Gatorade Concoction.” The day before the wedding Daddy came home from the hospital, it was the best we had seen him in months! He gave an incredible speech at the rehearsal dinner, and even stayed up late talking to the wedding party that were crashing at the house. I don’t think he went to bed until after midnight, which for those of us who know him is very rare, even when he isn’t sick.

The wedding went off without a hitch! My brother was so handsome in his uniform and my SIL was absolutely breathtaking in her wedding gown. Daddy walked me down the aisle, and my brother and SIL dedicated a song to us that we danced too, it was my very own father / daughter dance. He was in such good spirits and had so much energy. My SIL’s parents had an ambulance on hand just in case Daddy felt ill, and a recliner for him to sit in, but never did. I do believe one of my uncles passed out in the recliner at one point! Wish I had a picture of that.

The Wedding

The next few months Daddy was strong, and he continued to go to work while taking a break from the chemotherapy. Thanksgiving we were all so thankful for how strong and determined Daddy was to beat this monster.

Thanksgiving 2012

In December, the CT scans showed that there was an increase in the size and number of lesions (tumors) and his doctors suggested to restart chemotherapy. Daddy also began to experience tummy pain as well as swelling in his feet and ankles.

He decided to start chemo again after Christmas, his favorite holiday. Man does than man love Christmas; the decorations, seeing family, and especially the food. At a young age he turned my brother and I on to corn pudding, and even though most of the ingredients were out of a can, it has always been our favorite dish that Daddy makes.

Christmas 2012

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On January 3rd, 2013, Daddy began chemotherapy once more. He was dreading it, it made him appear sicker than he was, and we had to remind ourselves that the chemotherapy was what was making him look so sick. He continued to work, but usually came home early, it was always encouraging when he made it through an entire day!

On January 28th, 2013, Daddy went in for another chemotherapy treatment, but threw up when he got there. After giving him some fluids and calling his doctor, a CT scan was done, which showed a possible bowel obstruction, and Daddy was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond. On February 1st, Daddy had laparoscopic surgery to remove the obstructions, but was unsuccessful, so the doctors had to remove the obstruction surgically with abdominal surgery.

He felt much better, and after 11 days he was released to go home. Sadly, another CT scan showed more cancer tumors in Daddy’s abdominal cavity, so chemotherapy was now no longer an option. We were told by the doctor (who is also a family friend) that it was a good idea to start looking in to Hospice Care. Our focus was now on helping Daddy get stronger and feeling better.

On Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, Daddy was feeling nauseous again. He noticed that his clothes were wet. There was liquid coming from his incision, so Momma took him straight to the surgeon’s office where they directly admitted him back into St. Mary’s. Daddy needed another surgery. What was thought to be a simple repair to internal stitches from the first surgery, was another blockage in the smaller intestine which had abscessed and gone septic. Daddy was transferred to the Post Bariatric Surgery ICU. He was able to survive the next 48 hours, but he was very weak.

Through it all, Daddy remained positive and even talked about going back to work once he was recovered.

On Friday, February 22nd, 2013, Daddy had his third surgery to remove yet another blockage which the doctor was able to bypass, as well as repair a nick in the small intestine. As the doctor replaced and re-positioned Daddy’s G-tube (which allowed him to eat), he found another abscess. Luckily, this abscess had not gone septic. We weren’t sure when or if Daddy would go home again.

On Tuesday, February 26th, 2013, Daddy made the decision to be removed from all life prolonging treatments.

The doctors and nurses kept him comfortable on anti-nausea drugs and a pain pump. My mom called their priest, Father Steve, and he came in to plan out the memorial service with Daddy; in Daddy’s words, “I don’t want a big fuss now, no food. Just come cookies and juice.”

I came home that Friday, March 1st, 2013. He was in a good mood, and we even talked about getting him a new cell phone once he was out of the hospital. Saturday was a good day too. He was quirky and playful, but not Daddy anymore. Lots of family came to visit those two days; friends, family, work friends, church friends, etc. He was loved by so many it made my heart ache, it was as if they were all saying their goodbyes, which they were.

A little after noon he fell asleep. I was going to stay the night, I didn’t want to leave him by himself, but my brother and SIL told me I needed to go home and rest, I had been there since 8am.

My brother and I said our goodbyes around 9 PM, and although he did not open his eyes he nodded and said, “yes,” when we asked if he could hear us. We told him we, “loved him very much,” as was the common phrase we always said to each other. I was the last to leave the room, in silence and in tears. It was the last time we would see Daddy alive.

The next morning, the hospital called around 4:15 AM and told my mom that Daddy had passed away at about 4 AM. Everything from that moment forward was a blur. After calling Daddy’s sister, and his best friend, we left for the hospital.

Entering his room was a much different feeling, one I do not want to experience again. The sorrow and emptiness filled every corner as we gave Daddy a kiss, say our farewells, and the hospital’s priest came in to say a prayer with us.

Once we were back home, sleep was not an option. Family and friends rushed to be with us, but I do not remember much. Brian and I were emotionally gone. The next few days were also a blur as we prepared photo boards of his life and a scrapbook filled with birthday cards for his 61st birthday. Friends brought us food and our living room was filled with more flowers and plants than a flower shop.

We had his memorial service a week later on his 61st birthday where we were able to celebrate his life with more cookies and juice than I have ever seen! Standing room only. For a man of few words he sure did have an impact on a great number of people. His kindness, love, and loyalty showed through in many ways that day.

He fought a hard and courageous battle for two and a half years. He never, for a minute, thought he couldn’t beat it. In a way, I believe he did, even if in the end it took his life. He lived a life full of happiness. He was able to love so many things…

PrintHe loved his coworkers and his job. He worked hard and itva-power.gif showed. 35 years he worked for Virginia Power / Dominion; I heard recently that it now takes three people to do the job he did so well. Many people do not know that my grandmother actually helped my dad get that job; loyalty runs in the family.

He enjoyed his time spent with the Boy Scouts, and continued to lead even after my brother earned his Eagle Scout and left the troop. You could always see this small grin on his face when you knew he enjoyed doing something, and an ever so slight twinkle in his eyes.

He loved to go camping and hiking. He loved fishing. As kids he always took Brian and me camping and hiking, we always like the camping more. In the summers, after church on Sundays, he would take us fishing out in Amelia County. Both Brian and I still enjoy fishing to this day, even if we could never sit still long enough as kids to enjoy it. Pretty sure we got into trouble a few times for talking too much. I definitely remember having to write, “I will not talk while fishing,” 500 times as a punishment one time, haha.

He loved going to church, and he went every Sunday (unless there was something going on of course). He would volunteer as an usher, or a “husher” as he would often joke; he volunteered in the tree lot, and donated to the church religiously. He had his favorite spot too, about seven rows from the back, oh the right side, the aisle seat. A few people have told me that it is odd seeing someone else sit in that seat now. I think he liked that seat so much because it was a good vantage point of the alter and it was almost smack dab in the center of the church, a perfect seat to hear all the acoustics of the organ.

He loved food. Growing up with Daddy, we learned to like many “unique” foods, like fish sticks, chicken pot pies, poor man’s salads, and ice cream. Oh the ice cream, that man could down some ice cream; Neapolitan was his favorite for sure. And I cannot forget the hot dogs. Pretty sure we had hot dogs for dinner at least once a week. I think by far, his favorite meal was once a year with his dad, when they had oyster stew, fresh from our cousins on the eastern shores of Virginia.

And his family. Daddy loved his family. Whenever the holidays would start to get near he would start planning. He loved putting Christmas decorations up, it meant he would see family soon. We would decorate the trees, wrap the gifts, eat way too much Thanksgiving food, and play Christmas music starting the day after Thanksgiving. But the best part was always seeing family. I am pretty sure I get my love of Christmas from him. It still feels like every time I decorate the trees he is right there with me, we always did that together.

He is in a better place now, and is happy and healthy, and eating an endless amount of hot dogs, ice cream, and oyster stew. There is not one day that we do not think about him. We carry him in everything that we do, everywhere that we go, and forever in our hearts. My brother and SIL just had their first child, Harper Elisabeth Pool, in September, and I so wish Daddy could be here to meet her. He would have been the best grandfather! Harper sleeps with her mouth open sometimes and I can see a little bit of Daddy shinning through then.

He lives on in Brian, Harper, and me every day. Brian and I do our best to live up to his legacy, but in reality there is no one who could ever compare to how great of a father, brother, uncle, son, cousin, husband, friend, or man he was. He is our hero. I love you Daddy, very much!

Daily Cleaning Tips & Tricks

As many of my friends and family (but mainly Jake, the boyfriend) know, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is no fun for anyone that is in my life, especially if they live with me (sorry Jake, Frank, and sometimes Reagan). I use to be on medication for my ADHD which in turn helped my OCD calm down a bit. But since stopping, my OCD is probably the worse it has ever been. Poor Jake. He gets to hear my wrath of keeping the house clean probably once a week.

It is so bad, in fact, I hired a maid service (The Maids) to come every four weeks just to vacuum and mop the floors, as well as clean all the bathrooms. We have a Roomba knockoff (named bObi) that we set loose every once in a while, but it can’t clean the three flights of stairs that we have, and it doesn’t do a very “deep clean.” Also, my time is limited, and it usually takes both Jake and I about three to four hours to vacuum and steam just the stairs; the maids can vacuum all levels and the stairs, and clean the bathroom in 50 minutes or less (we still have to steam ourselves). Additionally, toilets are the one thing I REFUSE to clean.

I think the biggest thing is not putting things away. If the dishwasher is clean, empty it. If the trash/recycling is full take it out. If you get something out, put it back when you’re done with it. And so on and so fourth. So, here are some tips and tricks that I use when trying to keep our house clean; they are the most common issues that I have on a daily basis.

1) The Dishes

  • Empty the Dishwasher. In the morning, or right when you get home from work/school, empty the dishwasher and put away any hand washed dishes. That way, after you make and eat dinner you can put all the dirty dishes right into the dishwasher and start it if it is full enough. We usually wash ours every other night.Dishes
  • Clean as You Go. When making dinner, clean as you finish using an item. Don’t just put the dishes in the sink so they pile up. Rinse them and put them in the dishwasher (hand washed items can wait to be cleaned until after dinner or when/if your meal goes into the oven).
  • Wash Pet Bowls. If you have pets, this is a great time to wash their bowls as well. I hand wash Reagan’s food/water bowl every night when doing the dishes to make sure she has a clean bowl to eat/drink out of every day. You wouldn’t eat off a dirty plate would you? Don’t let your pets either.
  • EXTRA TIP: Soap Dispensers. Keep two soap dispensers on your kitchen sick, one for hand soap and the other for dish soap. This makes it simple to just pump some dish soap while you are washing dishes, rather than rummaging through the kitchen cabinet to find the dish soap.

2) Pick Up After Yourself

  • Don’t Create Piles. This is so hard for some people to not do. Sadly, I do this with Jake’s and Frank’s things. They usually leave them lying around and don’t pick up, so I put their things in tidy piles to make the mess look more confined. Just put things away, it will make life so much easier on everyone.
  • Give Everything it’s Own Place/Spot. I’m big on organization, so everything that I own has its own place. I even had Jake build me dividers for my desk drawers. I don’t believe in junk drawers because I think it’s just a catch all for things you don’t feel like putting away, also called clutter.
  • 60 Second Rule. If it takes 60 second or less to put something away, do it. You will thank yourself later when you don’t have a list a mile long of small tasks to do, or piles of things that need to be put away.
  • EXTRA TIP: Just Do It. If something needs to get done, just do it. If you let the trash over flow, the laundry pile up, and your refrigerator become unruly, you’re going to become overwhelmed and spend hours, rather than minutes, just cleaning up what could have already been done in a few minutes.

3) Replace the Toilet Paper

  • Replace the Roll. This one is the easiest task to do in your home, yet people make it seem like it is such an inconvenience; if you use it and finish the roll, just replace it. Karma will come back around if you’re home alone and the roll is empty. Make sure you recycle the cardboard roll if you recycle.
  • Have a TP Reserve. We keep small baskets on the floor next to the toilet with extra  toilet paper (about three rolls) in them so it’s easy to replace the roll right then and Emptry TP Rollthere; the basket creates a look of organization. I also keep a basket in the laundry room filled with toilet paper, so when the small baskets run out, I just go grab three more to put back in the bathroom baskets. Easy peasy.

4) Put Your Laundry Away

  • Get Organized. Instead of having one hamper to throw all your clothes in, we have an organizer for Jake’s clothes, two baskets for mine, and one extra for towels. Jake used to throw his clothes on the floor in a pile if his baskets were full (he waits until he has no more clean clothes to do his laundry). So I bought him a laundryLaundry Organizer organizer; it has four separate compartments, one for whites/delicates, the second for t-shirts/sweats/pajama bottoms, the third for jeans (he has A LOT), and the fourth for work shirts and pants. I promised him I would do his laundry if he kept it organized in the baskets, which has helped tremendously.
  • Don’t Let it Sit. One thing I have noticed with myself, and Jake, is that if you don’t put your laundry away right after it comes out of the dryer, it will sit for days. Jake likes for his to sit in a big pile on the floor, I usually keep mine in a basket in the closet out of sight. To encourage myself to put away our laundry, I try to do only medium sized loads (as opposed to the large, washer packed loads that Jake does when he runs out of clothes). The smaller loads are easier to put away and less time consuming than the large loads.
  • Wash Your Dedicates Separately. Wash all of your underwear separately from your clothes, and with hot water. I usually wash just my underwear completely separate from the rest of my dedicates (like socks, bras, and undershirts) to make sure the germs/bacteria are not washed into the rest of the clothes. My machine has three wash load sizes (small, regular, and large), so I can wash my underwear without using too much water. I also keep everything in a mesh bag so nothing will get snagged.
  • Save Water and Energy. Jake makes fun of me all the time because I try to recycle and save energy as much as I can. I know that doing so doesn’t make that big of an impact, but I like to think it does. So when washing laundry, I always use cold water, except for underwear to kill the germs, I use hot then. I also don’t over pack the washer and use only medium, or regular, sized loads. Over-sized loads will sometimes not get completely clean and you end up washing almost everything a second time, which means you use more water.
  • EXTRA TIP: Label Your Laundry Sorter. Sometimes Jake will just throw his clothes in a compartment rather than sort the clothes, so to make sure clothes go in the right compartment I labeled each so he knows exactly which one to put each item.

5) Take the Trash Out

  • Don’t Let it Pile Up. One of the biggest issues in my house is the trash/recycling. WeSimplehuman have a can with two compartments, one for trash and the other for recycling. Since there are three adults living in our house, it is easy to fill up at least one a day. The best thing to do here is not to let it sit. If it sits, then you start to play an unhealthy game of Tetras. However, it is simple, once it’s full, empty it.
  • Take It Out. I’m usually the only one to take out the trash (I live with lazies), unless I ask. If I don’t do it, or I don’t ask, the trash bags will pile up and just sit there. So when I leave the house, I take as much out with me as I can. I remember to do so by placing the bags (and/or larger trash/recycling) right next to our steps that lead to the garage (where our cans are), so that every time I go down I take something with me.
  • Replace the Bag. When you empty the cans, replace the bags. We keep our trash bags under the sink which is near our trashcan so it’s easy to replace the bag right way. I know some people keep their bags in the bottom of the trashcan so as they are within arms reach. Nothing is worse than going to toss something with your hands covered in food or water and there is no bag in the can.

6) Recycling

  • Sort It. I am big fan of recycling. We have two trashcans, one for recyclables and one for trash. If it is paper, plastic, cardboard, electronics, etc., it can be recycled. Depending on where you live will determine what your local recycling plant will take. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a lot of information online on what you can and can’t recycle. You can also look at you local recycling center website to see what they do and don’t take (some centers will/won’t take certain items).
  • Use the Symbols. This helps you determine items are accepted by your local recycling center. Some centers don’t take certain items, so this system is super handy.

Recycling Symbols

  • Plastic Bags. I hate plastic bags, but yet I somehow always need one. I am terrible at remembering to bring my reusable bags with me anywhere, so I usually end up with a collection of plastic bags that you CANNOT recycle with your normal recycling. Some countries, including many in Africa, have banned plastic bags; they are a danger to our wildlife and do not biodegrade. The end result is I collect them, then take them to my local grocery store (Harris Teeter) where you can recycle them; Walmart also recycles them if your grocery store doesn’t. They also recycle paper bags, but those are much easier to recycle. Click here to find a local store where you can recycle your bags. You can also check out A Bag’s Life or Earth911 to find out more on the impact of plastic bags in your community and around the world.
  • Recycling/Trash Collection. Check with the county you live in to find out when trash and recycling is picked up in your community. You can also take trash/recycling to community dumps and recycling centers. Our trash is picked up on Tuesdays and Fridays, and our recycling is picked up on Wednesdays. We always have way more recycling than trash every week, which shows how much can really be recycled if you are consistent with your sorting.
  • Recycling Household Items. I am a stickler for making sure that household items aren’t just tossed out. If I can’t sell it, I will give it away. I will also give items to Vietnam Veterans of America (before anyone else), The Lupus Foundation, The Salvation Army, Goodwill, and other foundations. I prefer giving to foundations before Salvation Army or Goodwill, because the foundations will usually not charge the recipients for your used items. Also, make sure the items that you are donating can be taken by the organizations and foundations, sometimes they do not take items like pet items or car parts.

7) Go Through Your Mail

  • Sort It. Sort your mail into recycling, file, and shred. I do this every day when I get home. As a result I do not have any mail sitting around creating clutter. Many people have mail sorters hanging in their homes, but I believe this creates what I like to call “Controlled Chaos.” These sorters allow you to sort your mail but not go through it. Therefore, the sorted mail becomes full and will overflow.
  • Shred It. When I go through and sort any documents (every day) that show money, account numbers, addresses, or personal information, these items go straight to the shredder.
  • Recycle It. Pretty much all mail is in paper form, therefore it can be recycled. As I Recyclego through and open mail, I put all items that do not need to be shredded into a recycle pile. Once I am done going through the mail, it’s just one more step to toss the sorted recyclable mail into the recycling.
  • File It. Luckily, these days almost all bills are electronic so we don’t have the need for filing cabinets or “paperwork.” However, every once in a while we get mail that needs our immediate attention, so I file it. I take it to our “office” and put it into a paper filer that is labeled “need to address.” Once a week I go through this file and address each item, then either file it in the filing cabinet or shred it.
  • EXTRA TIP: Filing Cabinets. If you have a filing cabinet, A Bowl of Lemons has a great organizing blog on organizing your filing cabinet (I use this site for everything when I need inspiration on organizing). The only thing that I do instead of her is when labeling a folder, do it in pencil so I can reuse the tab later and not waste labeling paper (if you don’t care then by all means use a label maker). Also, here is her filing system organization, I follow this pretty closely as well. The different colored folders really do help. (BTW, I also own both of her books which are AMAZING: The Complete Book of Clean and The Complete Book of Home Organization) Toni Hammersley is seriously my spirit animal.

8) Cleaning Out the Refrigerator

  • Monthly Shelf Wipe Down. I usually try to do this one a month, but sometimes it gets pushed to the bottom of my “To Do” list. I do this right before I go to the grocery store to pick up my groceries.Clean Refrigerator
  • Once a Week Clean Out. I pick up our groceries on a Sunday, so before I leave (and when I’m cleaning the shelves one a month) I start tossing anything that has gone bad or dump any Tupperware containers/leftovers that have been in the refrigerator since the week before. Tossing old items helps keeps the refrigerator clean and bad smells away. I also check the expiration dates on the condiments to make sure they are still good. This helps me determine what I need to buy at the store.
  • Buy Arm & Hammer Fridge N Freezer. I buy these suckers once a month and replace the old ones, one in the fridge and one on the freezer (obviously). They really do help keep the refrigerator odor free, especially since we buy a lot of fish products. They have a place for you to write in the date which helps me stay on top of when I need to replace them.
  • EXTRA TIP: Order Groceries Online. I added this one as an extra tip because it saves me so much time! On Sunday mornings, while making breakfast or right after, I start making my grocery list of what we need for the week. We go to Harris Teeter, so I use my laptop to pick my items on their EXPRESSlane Online Shopping site (for $5, well worth it), then I pick my time for pickup, add any comments (like substitutions if they are out of something), and hit order. They call me when my order is complete and let me know of any items they were out of. Then I go to the store. I pull up to the EXPRESSlane, call them on the box, and they bring the items out; I don’t even have to get out of my car if I don’t want to. Then pay right there. If you don’t have a Harris Teeter, there are other grocery stores that offer this service as well, just do some research. Huge time saver though; I usually spend about an hour at the store, so having someone else do it for me for $5 is money well spent.

There you have it. Some of my tips and tricks for the most commonly known cleaning issues in my house. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if you have another problem that I didn’t mention and you need some advice.

My Sugar Addiction

Ah sugar. That oh so good feeling of when sugar hits your tongue and your brain does a dopamine happy dance. After a study done a few years back, it is commonly known that sugar is more addicting than some of the hardest of drugs, like cocaine. Yet, sugar is still a regularly used ingredient is almost everything (processed) that we eat, like ketchup, spaghetti sauce, granola, and even protein bars. Many foods that we think are healthy, really aren’t, like low fat yogurt, vitaminwater, and bottled smoothies. Loaded with, you guessed it, sugar.

It has only been recently that I have realized I have a sugar addiction. The cravings can be intense and I can usually hold off by eating an apple, which contains natural sugar, but I always give in. When I have made it a few days without sugar I start going through somewhat of a withdrawal, I get super cranky and mean, and my cravings intensify. It also doesn’t help that over the holidays sugar is a main ingredient in pretty much everything, and candy fills our stockings, adding to the sugar craving fuel.

Christmas DinnerHere are some sugary filled foods that I was either given or that was apart our Christmas meals: peanut M&M’s and Reeses’ minis cups in my stocking, wine, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pie and whipped cream, rolls, ham, etc. Most people think that by using artificial sweeteners or gluten free options are healthier, but can be just as addicting. For example, Rice Krispies’ treats are gluten free, but contain sugar. Artificial sweeteners are also in many foods that we don’t realize, and if we do know we think they are a healthier option. Not true.

A list of some artificial sweeteners to be on the lookout for:

Artificial Sweeteners

So what’s the best way to eat healthy without including sugars or artificial sugars? Lately I have been hearing to eat foods that have previously had a life (similar to the Paleo Diet), like meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, vegetables, and seeds. But instead of calling it a diet, just learn to eat in moderation (or portion control) and try to watch your calories. Some people even use the “counting macros” methods.

(<IIFYM pictured left; Paleo pictured right>)

 

As of late, I have been trying to introduce a combination of Paleo and IIFYM (macros) methods into my meal planning. I pick foods that are more Paleo, but I try and make them fit the macros. I have done an “okay” job of sticking to it, but I still crave sugar and end up giving in by the end of the day. I want to lose weight in my thighs to be able to run faster and increase my endurance, but it can be tricky as I need calories to weight train (mainly clean protein like chicken and fish) and carbs for cardio training (mainly clean carbs like vegetables and pasta). Trying to balance these two is where I am having trouble because I tend to start craving sugar halfway through my day and give in before the day is done.

So, I am going to do a Sugar Detox. Cutting sugar completely from my daily meals (not including natural sugar which is found in many fruits and vegetables). I would say diet, but it really isn’t a diet, I just want to cut out a drug that can lead to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, gout, liver disease, and Type II Diabetes.

Mamavation has written a great article on sugar addiction and “How & Why to do a Sugar Detox” and is going to be my “consultant” for getting through the next three (3) weeks:

  1. Set a Goal: already done, three (3) weeks (21 days)
  2. Read Labels: I added this one myself because if you still plan on eating processed foods, you should be on the lookout for added sugar with other names:Added Sugar Names
  3. Eat Breakfast with Protein within 90 Minutes of Waking: I am terrible at this. I do not like getting up in the mornings, and usually eat when I get to the office, which means protein is out. So my goal is to pre-make a protein shake the night before, then pop it in the blender in the morning, only taking a few minutes.
  4. Making Lunch and Dinner with Healthy Fats filled with Omega-3’s: This is where sticking to the “if it had a previous life it is good for you” mantra comes in. So these two meals are going to be filled with fish and chicken, and vegetables. Lots of vegetables. This should satisfy the protein that I need for weight training, and the carbs I need for running.
  5. Healthy SnacksSnacks: Non-starchy vegetables, so I am going to stick to tomatoes and celery. I’m not a huge fan of much others as a snack. Absolutely no potatoes though, including sweet potatoes.
  6. Fiber: Fiber helps to curb cravings and reduce hunger; bananas are one of my favorite fruits, so I’ll be having at least one a day, as well as an apple.
  7. No Sauces: Instead of sauces (like dressings and BBQ sauce) adding herbs and spices is much healthier. Luckily I do not add many sauces on my foods, so this one will be easy to follow.
  8. Drink Lots of Water: Another rule that I am working on, but have been doing pretty well with lately, I’ve been setting a timer to remind me at work. Many people actually think they are hungry when their body is just thirsty, so they fill that void with food. You should be drinking plenty of water every single day so your body is not dehydrated. The recommended amount of water to consume on a daily basis is water.jpgeight 8-ounce glasses a day, or 64 ounces. Another recommendation says this depends on each person individually: multiply your weight by .67 (2/3 or 67%), and the result is how much water you should be drinking daily. For example: you weigh is 150 pounds, so you multiply 150 by .67 and that equals 100.5 ounces of water per day. If you workout, you should add 12 ounces for every 30 minutes you workout or six (6) ounces for every 15 minutes. In short, you should be drinking two thirds your body weight in water every day, plus how ever many ounces you require to workout.
  9. Exercise: Everyone already knows that, “Exercise gives you endorphinsEndorphins make you happyHappy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Endorphins also happen to fight the craving for dopamine and help brighten the crappy detox mood. Luckily, I also already workout at least five days a week, so I’m already moving in the right direction with this step. A combination of weight training, HIIT, and LISS help me tremendously when is comes to craving sugar. Usually, when I am done with a workout I go straight for the water and a protein filled snack / light meal, which is normally two eggs. I don’t even think about sugar after a good workout to be honest.
    giphy
  10. And finally, Sleep: You don’t want to “overtax” your body. This is where I struggle, Sleepand sometimes I have to take a sleep aid to help me fall asleep before 10 PM, which is the goal, but I hardly ever am able to. If you are exercising on a daily basis, sleep is important so you can recharge your body and rest. Getting enough sleep also helps you stay awake during the day and to avoid that afternoon crash.

So, here we go. Below is my 21 Day Sugar Addiction Detox, day by day journal of kicking sugar to the curb.

SUGAR ADDICTION DETOX JOURNAL

The Beginning 

11 AM: I was going to start the detox yesterday, but before I even wrote this blog I already had a banana muffin with a glaze on top because I skipped out on a normal breakfast. So I decided to start today instead, a Wednesday…and so far I am doing alright. Fruit definitely makes it easier and I am glad I have fruit three times a day for sure, the natural sugar helps ignore the added sugar cravings. I also wanted to mention that Luke Milton, from Revenge Body, responded to a comment I made on his Instagram yesterday, and I am super excited about it!!! He is one of my favorite celebrity trainers, and I wish I lived in Cali so I could train at his gym, Training Mate. So please please please open a location here in Northern Virginia, preferably Ashburn!!!
3 PM: One thing I have noticed today is that towards the end of my workday, after 2 PM, is when I start to crave sugar. Maybe I haven’t drank enough water today, which could be encouraging the cravings. I added some humus to my foods to eat as well. I was having a hard time just eating celery alone, and peanut butter is not only sugary but has a lot of ingredients that aren’t so natural. I was able to have two (2) tablespoons to accompany my cup of celery, and will be including it in my everyday snacks. Hummus is mainly made up of chickpeas (which we all know) which is a legume (or seed), so it fits well into my “if it once had a life, it is good for you” mantra. It does have Salt, Citric Acid, and Potassium Sorbate (to maintain freshness) added in, but it is a healthy option to include when you’re cutting out added sugar and need to add some taste.
7 PM: After dinner, I was still super hungry and craving something sweet, and I think I owe that to not having enough to eat at breakfast. I made a terrible protein shake and just dumped it, then only ate string cheese and a tangerine. I told Jake I was still hungry and he made me a much better shake which made my food cravings go away and now I feel more full.

Half Way

11 AM: Had a rough night last night. Ended up having an allergic reaction to scallops and everything I had eaten for dinner ended up in the toilet over a matter of five hours or so. Adding to my list of lobster allergies, is now scallops. We had thought I might be allergic last year, but after seeing an allergist showed I wasn’t. So this morning, I am very weak and tired, and trying to make up for some calories today. No sugar cravings so that’s good.
3 PM: Since my lunch today was supposed to be leftovers of my scallops last night, I had to go buy my lunch. Now, going out to buy lunch at a restaurant or even Harris Teeter can be challenging. Everything, and I do mean everything, has sugar in it. So, naturally, I headed to Teeter in search of a good meal, with no added sugar and hopefully somewhat paleo. I couldn’t find a damn thing. All the chicken has some sort of sauce on it, the vegetables were also covered in sauce, and the frozen meals were loaded with preservatives. Off to the salad bar I went. I got baby spinach lettuce, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls (to make up for some of the calories I lost, and they are a decent cheese to eat because they aren’t loaded with fat and sugar), some dried cranberries, chickpeas, and cucumbers. Awesome! It looks pretty good, now dressing. And this is where I hit the wall. Every single packet of dressing has added sugar. Ok, no problem, I’ll just head over to the dressing isle. All of it. Sugar. Yes, yes I know you’re going to say get the low fat no sugar options. Well guess what, those have sugar too, even img_4657if it says no sugar on the Nutrition Facts label. I bet it says 0g sugar too. Well check out the ingredients list. Remember those two lists above with other names of sugar and artificial sugar? Well, that’s where you going to find those names, and every single one I picked up had added sugar or artificial sweeteners, except one. So I got it. Even those just two tablespoons have 170 calories, all from fat, because why? No sugar added. This entire wall of dressing, and not a one didn’t contain sugar. That’s pretty freaking sad.

Sugar Addiction Detox Conclusion

Cutting out added sugar and artificial sweeteners is HARD! Everything, and I mean everything, has some form of sugar or artificial sweetener in it. Take the dressings for example, I only found one that had no forms of sugar. Sticking mainly to a Paleo way of eating was the best thing I could have done for myself. I felt so much better eating clean, and I even wanted to go to the gym more. When I had sugar, I felt much more lazy and unhealthy, I also tended to reach for more unhealthy foods when I did eat suagar. Also, I didn’t have any bread, because most breaded options are loaded with sugar. My body went into this Ketosis state. I definitely lost some body mass, as I noticed my pants a little looser. So my conclusion to this detox is don’t eat sugar. You will feel, sleep, and live so much better and healthier when you cut out added sugar. Stick to your fruits and vegetables and you will feel just as fulfilled as you would eating Girl Scout cookies or ice cream, but with more full and with more energy.

 

My Life is One Big Migraine

And I mean that literally. Since I was about eight years old I have had migraines. The older I got the worst they got. At one point I think I was getting them two or three times per week. And what’s worse is I never know when one is coming, unless I get an aura of course, which doesn’t happen every time. There are of course triggers, but I have yet to pinpoint one specifically.

Some triggers include, but are certainly not limited to: stress, sleep patterns, caffeine or lack there of, hormonal changes, dehydration, lack of food, computer screens, food additives, cheese, alcohol, teeth grinding or clenching, weather and barometric pressure changes, neck tension, etc. The list goes on, those are just some of the more common triggers.

I have found that if you don’t experience them or never have experienced a migraine, then you don’t understand the toll they take and the pain they can cause. Migraines usually go through phases, but not always.

Phases of a Migraine

Most of the time I skip over Phase 1 and 2, and go straight to the pain. If I am lucky I get an aura about 30 minutes before I start feeling the pain. I usually experience an aura with one out of every five migraines I have, other than that pain is the only symptom to let me know one has been triggered.

For instance, this past Saturday I had a great day with my boyfriend, his parents, and our roommate out on the bikes riding through Maryland and West Virginia. It was about two or three hours into the day when that little twinge behind my eyes started pulsing; yes like a heart beat. Except this heart beat hurts.

Usually I do not know what triggers my migraines, but we were supposed to get some storms that day, and the closer they got, the worse it hurt. There was no way I could make it home on the bike, so I rode back in the truck with Jake’s mom. The entire ride home it seemed to be going away, until I got out of the truck. It was like someone had a knife to my head and was pounding it in with a sledge hammer.

Once we were inside I tried to lay down and block out the light and sound, but it kept getting worse. It hurt so bad that I was in tears and almost yelling out in pain. I went into the bathroom and turned out the lights while I hovered over the toilet, as the pain was making me nauseous. I finally stopped throwing up and went back to lay on the couch. The pain would not subside. I went upstairs a little while later, hoping laying in bed with the covers over my face would help. Nothing helped.

At this point I had tried all my little remedies to make the pain stop: drinking plenty of water, eating, caffeine, my prescription that my neurologist gave me. Nothing. Jake heated up one of those homemade rice bags and put it on my forehead (cold makes my head hurt more). Nothing. I told Jake that if I cannot get this migraine to go away he may have to take me to the Emergency Room.

After seven hours and throwing up everything in my stomach, I finally fell asleep from exhaustion caused by the pain. Two hours later, a little after 9 PM, I woke up. The pain was gone. What lingered were symptoms similar to a hangover and fatigue.

Migraine Pouch - BagSadly, I deal with a debilitating migraine like this once or twice a month, but it use to be more. I can usually catch the pain or see an aura early enough that I can stop the migraine in its tracks, which greatly reduces the number ofMigraine Pouch - Work migraines I have. But in order to do this I have to stay alert 24/7 (minus when I’m sleeping) and I carry around a little pink pouch filled with medications, essential oils, and caffeine tablets. This goes with me everywhere; I will not be found without it, ever. I also keep one at work, just in case I somehow forget the other one.

I have had numerous medications, seen many doctors, had MRIs and X-Rays, and have explored various other extremes to help cure me of this habitual pain, but so far the pain continues.

This is my life. Waiting. Waiting for the pain to keep me from life. I have missed work, birthday parties, baby showers, and even wedding festivities. I cannot control the pain like most people think I can. I do not choose when to have a migraine, and I most certainly do not choose to be in unbearable pain. I have stopped telling people that the reason I couldn’t make it is, “because I had a migraine.” For a long time I thought that having kidney stones was some of the worst pain I have ever felt; I was wrong. I wish I could describe the pain, but I know of nothing that compares.

I have a neurologist, who I am pretty sure doesn’t believe me and most of the time the prescription he gave me doesn’t work. There is only so much of a medication I can take within a few hours before I risk an overdose. Sometimes I am afraid that one day I will have an aneurysm or a stroke, or go blind from the auras.

Migraines are not an excuse. They are a chronic disease and Neurological disorder that cause agonizing pain and disrupt everyday life. We do not choose when to have a migraine and the pain is often so excruciating that normal function is not possible. I wish I could be rid of them, but sadly this is my life and the life of 13 percent of adults in the U.S. alone.

If you do have migraines or chronic migraines, like me, here are some remedies (although I cannot guarantee they will work every time or at all):

Migraine Remedies

Update Since Original Post

I have been migraine free for 48 days. For anyone who has chronic migraines, you know what a relief that is. After seeing a neurologist for almost six months, nothing was really helping, just the medication for when a migraine would come on, and sometimes it wouldn’t help at all. One day, in late November 2017, my boyfriend mentioned trying some gaming glasses. Many gammers and people who spend a majority of their day in front of a screen (be it a TV or computer, etc.) wear gaming glasses to prevent their eyes from straining and causing damage. Since I sit in front of a computer screen for 40+ hours/week, it made sense to try them. So I ordered a pair from GUNNAR.

The glasses arrived on December 1, 2017, and I have not had a full blown migraine since. I have had one or two mild headaches, and I just took my medication and they were knocked out before they even started. These glasses, “are carefully formulated to filter and balance light while absorbing 65% of (HEV) blue light emitted from digital devices. By designing our lenses to shift the color spectrum for visual efficiency, the GUNNAR amber lens takes artificial light and precisely tunes it to the physiology of the eye.”

I was able to get mine without a prescription, since I wear contacts, but all of GUNNAR glasses are available with your own prescription as well. I will always use these glasses now. I take them everywhere too, even to the movies. They do have a yellow tint, but after wearing them a little while you don’t even notice.

Now I just need a visor or something to block the blue light from the office lights coming down from above and I’ll be set! But for real, if you sit behind a screen all day and get migraines, try these glasses, they will change your life. No more missing events, or parties, or work. My life (right now anyways) is no longer controlled by my chronic migraines.

The Marine Corps Marathon, October 22, 2017

Last year in 2016 I decided that I wanted to run a 5K every month for a year, and run a Half Marathon before I turned 30. And so I did.

Before the Half, I had decided I wanted to take on a marathon, so I entered the Marine Corps Marathon lottery, thinking it would take a miracle for me to get picked… but I did.DIVA 5K

So far it has been a huge challenge. I started running in August 2016, and competed in my first 5K, ever, the DIVA 5K, which took me almost 45 minutes to complete. It was tough; I could barely run for more then two minutes at a time, let alone a mile, and boy was I sucking wind. It took me a few months before I started taking it more seriously. I didn’t have that much faith in myself, and neither did my boyfriend. He even told me there was no way I was going to be able to run a half marathon (although I think he just said that to give me some motivation).

Celebrate Community 5KIn December 2016, I started running more regularly and following more of a training program for a 5K and 10K race. In January, I ran a 5K without stopping for the first time at about 33 minutes, my time had improved drastically. I may have been slow, but I did it, I ran the entire thing. Ukrops Monument Ave 10KThen on April 1, 2017, I ran the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond, Virginia, and also ran the entire thing; I was slow running here too, but it didn’t matter how fast I was, it matters than I ran the entire race and finished. I got to run it with my big from sorority too, so that made the experience so much more exciting! My time was 69 minutes!!! I was ecstatic!!!

Marine Corps Historic HalfOn May 21, 2017, I ran a very difficult 13.1 miles. I had been sick for almost two months, in and out of doctor’s offices, and was on several medications. I was very close to not participating and just doing it next year, but I didn’t want to give up. So I went, and I ran about half, but I finished. I wasn’t all that proud of myself, as being sick meant I wasn’t able to train for the last two months, but I ran it with a sorority sister I hadn’t seen in a few years, so it was worth it!

And then it began. Although I was still sick, I needed to start training again so I would have a chance to get through the entire marathon. I basically started my training over, only running one to two miles at a time four days a week.

22 Weeks until MCM: The first week of June I put my sneakers to the pavement, and basically started over from scratch with a light two mile jog. I logged only eight miles this week. I could tell my allergies were acting up because I was having a hard time breathing, so I ran on the treadmill for three of the four days. I was really hoping to get back outside for these runs.

21 Weeks until MCM: This week didn’t start out too badly, although I ended up running five days in a row due to some unforeseen work and training at my company. I was able to log 12.5 miles that week and upped my ante from two mile runs to two three mile runs, one two and half mile run, and two two mile runs. I was able to start lifting again this week, and boy was a sore for a few days afterward.

20 Weeks until MCM: This week started out pretty well, I got in a three mile run after a weekend off from running. I also started a strength/workout program to start building the muscle in my legs to get me through those 26.2 miles.

19 Weeks until MCM: This week started off a little rough. I ran 4.5 miles on Monday with shin splints pain the entire time, so I ended up having to walk about a half mile total hoping the pain would subside. It seems the faster I ran, however, the pain would be less. But I didn’t want to push it too much. Basically lots of icing and rolling this week for sure.

18 Weeks until MCM: I got a late start this week, I didn’t run until Wednesday. After my run on Saturday, I took a three day break as my shin splints were torturing me. On Wednesday I hit the pavement again; this run was very difficult. I had to stop almost a mile in, and ended up walking for a majority of the run. The shin splints were debilitating, so I only ran about a mile and a half total. I didn’t run the rest of the week mainly because I did not want to make it worse.

17 Weeks until MCM: Started on Tuesday this week and ran a very productive three miles, I even PRed at 32 minutes and 47 seconds. Hopefully I am able to get back on this train because at the rate I am going right now, I may have to defer until next year. So hopefully this is the last I have seen of these shin splints. Overall, this has been a very productive week with working out and watching what I eat. I need to “really” start lifting again though, especially with my legs to gain the muscle to get me through the miles. Overall this week has been very successful. I was able to run all four of my runs, and even did 6.5 without walking with a pace of 12:17.

8.5 Run16 Weeks until MCM: I am looking forward to this week, as on Sunday I will be attempting to run 8.5 miles. I think I can do it because when I did my 6.5 I felt like I could totally keep going. My run on Tuesday went well, but I was feeling the shin splints on Wednesday, so I figured I may need another rest day. Sunday was my long run, and it went really well!!! 8.5 miles. I have also figured out that I need to focus on eating more carbs to get me through these runs, not on protein; that was a mistake I made as I was thinking more in terms of lifting weights. So lesson learned. (picture is of my 8.5 run on the treadmill, it was too humid outside. And yes I know it is blurry, but you try running and taking a perfectly focused picture.

15 Weeks until MCM: I am excited for this week’s runs, they are short but I am focusing on speed a little bit. Since I have also been including some body weight exercises before my runs, I think they have been helping. The only thing I need to incorporate is some lifting once or twice a week, especially in my legs. I don’t know what it is about short distances either, but I always have a harder time with shin splints (must be my stride). They hurt more after short runs than they do long runs. I missed one run this week due to the worst migraine I have ever had, but I was able to get in a few good runs. Next week I start doing longer runs every week. So fingers crossed that my training continues to go well.

14 Weeks until MCM: So I have been able to plan out my runs a few months in advance since I have so much going on this fall. I’m having to plan my runs around six weddings, my birthday, Jake’s birthday, bridal showers, a trip to Baton Rouge, and life in general. This week it is important that I stay on task and complete my runs, as well as trying to lift a little bit and do a complete workout to make sure I’m gaining muscle and losing weight. I have four runs this week: 3 miles, two 4.5 miles, and an 8.5 miles to end the week. I was not able to run 8.5 miles on Sunday, I could barely make it to 6. I need to refocus and try again next Sunday while focusing on my water intake and meals.

13 Weeks until MCM: I started a strength training program this week to start gaining some muscle to help me through these miles. I am by no means lifting heavy, but just enough to help me gain some muscle to increase my endurance. With this program, I will be working out six days a week, four of those will be running, two will be cross training on the bike, and five days will consist of strength training (leg days are on cross training days so not to wear my legs out before my runs).

12 Weeks until MCM: Had to push my long run until Monday from last week since I was attending a wedding this past weekend. I’m worried about being able to keep up with the training with all the weddings I am attending this fall. But, I was able to run 8.5 miles without walking! I have 11 miles on the calendar for this coming Sunday, so fingers crossed. The cross training is also going well, although I think I could pick up the intensity a bit as long as it doesn’t affect my runs. Also, I turn 30 this week!

11 Weeks until MCM: Had to push my 11 miles run to Monday since I had people in town for my birthday and needed Sunday to rest. I ended up just switching my Sunday and Monday workouts, so I did my 11 mile long run after work on Monday, which I completed!!! I was absolutely exhausted after, so I am going to have to work out my meals a bit better and concentrate on having gels for the runs so I don’t completely crash into a vegetative state after running. Aside from my 11 mile run, and three on Sunday (which was supposed to be Monday’s), I have three more runs this week: 6.5 miles on Wednesday, three miles on Friday, and an attempt at 13 miles on Sunday to end the week. My shin splints have been getting better and my recovery has been a millions times better. Since this is my third week on the new strength training plan, I can definitely feel it helping me get through my runs. I know I have said it before, but I think it is time to up the weight on these workouts so I can really start to feel change happening. I have been really bad with eating too, and I know I have said this before as well, but I really need to focus and concentrate on my eating. Not eating too much sugar and fats (which is my weakness).

10 Weeks until MCM: I attempted 13 miles on Sunday but for some reason by body was not cooperating, so I am going to attempt it again on Wednesday. I will get it, I just need to figure out exactly what I need to get to keep my energy up without getting nauseous, or needing to use the bathroom. So far, however, I have done a pretty good job staying on schedule with working out. I have only missed one workout and it was on my birthday, and it was a leg workout, so I’m not too torn up about it. These next few weeks are where I might struggle a little bit, schedule wise, but I am going to do my hardest to stay on track. Oh! I also starting using my Fitbit again for steps and food. I am able to track my macros which is very nice, and hopefully it will help me learn to control my eating habits.

9 Weeks until MCM: Well my 13 mile run did not go as planned on Sunday. I only ended up doing 6.5 miles, so I am going to attempt again on Wednesday. And I did it! The 13.1 mile run was successful!!! Although I did have a small bathroom mishap, but that didn’t stop me from finishing. Two more runs this week, with a backpacking trip between them. We are backpacking 18 miles so that should definitely help with building more leg muscle.

8 Weeks until MCM: Had a great backpacking trip with Jake over the weekend for his birthday, and it really helped build some more leg muscle. So this week, I am running five times, as I didn’t get to run on Sunday, and my long run will be next week. We have a wedding to attend down in North Carolina, so I am planning to run twice down there.

7 Weeks until MCM: I was able to run both of my runs down in NC and the weather was perfect for them. However this week I am officially exhausted, so I only ran three days instead of four. I’m going to run my fourth day on Monday and run five days next week.

9.12.17 Post Run6 Weeks until MCM: We are getting so close to the day! This week I am running five days, which includes a 5K on Friday and a Half Marathon on Saturday. My goal is to run 13.1 miles in about two hours and 45 minutes. When I ran my first half in May, I had been sick for about five weeks, and finished with a time of 3:33:00 which was super embarrassing, but I finished. If I could finish under 2:30:00 I would be really happy, but that probably won’t happen. Guess we will see. So far training this week has been good though. I am on track and it feels good to be accomplishing something. I also PR’d twice this week on my three mile runs on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday I finished in 32:10 and Tuesday I pushed myself at a faster pace and finished at 30:32; almost 40 seconds faster!!! My goal for Wednesday is to reach a new PR for 6.5 miles. Right now my fastest is 1:07:32 at a 10:23 pace (proud picture left after run).

Mom and Me - After the DIVAS 5K5 Weeks until MCM: This week so far has been very productive! On Saturday I beat my half marathon time by over 40 minutes, at 2:41:47! Yay! I also got a new PR on Tuesday, which is the biggest accomplishment so far, running three miles in 29:45!!! I’ve been trying to get under 30 minutes for over a year, so a huge huge PR for me! I have about a month left before MCM so I’m really hoping I can do it. I am on call for when my sister-in-law goes into labor, so I have packed a few outfits so I can run while I’m down in Louisiana and stay on track. (Picture is after the DIVAS 5K with my mom)

Harper and Me - Four Hours Old4 Weeks until MCM: Last week, on September 21, 2017, I flew down to Baton Rouge to meet my little niece, Harper. I flew back on the 26th. I was able to go on four runs while there, but they were shorter than I would have liked. It is sooooo freaking humid down there, holy cow. I decided to take a little bit of a break this week as well, my shins have been killing me, but not when I run, only when I touch the right one. Thinking about going to the doctor after MCM.

3 Weeks until MCM: After taking six days off, I feel a little better. I attempted 15.5 miles on Monday, but that didn’t work, I made it all of eight miles. I think part of it was running at night on a full stomach, and I didn’t eat or hydrate properly. So I am going to attempt it again this Saturday, and if I can I’ll push to see if I can do 18. I think I will be alright on race day, I am told with all the people encouraging the run will be a bit easier. I just want to finish the entire race.

2 Weeks until MCM: So I only ran once this week. And didn’t get anywhere near 18 miles last weekend, so that’s frustrating. I’ve really been losing my motivation lately, and I am worried that I won’t be able to finish the race. At this point all I can really do is hydrate and carb load so I can make it through the entire race.

1 Week until MCM: I am hoping to get in three runs before race day this week. I have lost a lot of my motivation and I am having trouble staying focused. I still worry about being able to finish, but I am going to push as hard as possible to go as far as I can. I know I can run about 13 before I really start feeling it, so I’m hoping I can just push through and ignore the pain to finish the entire course.

Day Before MCM: Tomorrow is the day, and I am trying to stay positive. I am also trying not to think about it too much so I don’t make myself nervous. We did go to the Expo though which was excellent and very crowded.

Expo

Pre-Race Morning Jitters

Post Race with MedalOctober 22, 2017 – Post MCM: Well I’m done. Not the time I had planned for or wanted, but I finished all 26.2 miles. I made it to all of the time cutoffs with time to spare!!! I did pretty well until mile 20 when I could not run any further because of the pain in my foot. Seems I may have a stress or hairline fracture, so back to the doctor. But now I know how to plan for next year. I have an entire year to plan, train, and improve what I lacked this year. I have already started planning for next year (fingers crossed I get in again), and I know it’s a little early to be setting a goal for myself, but it would be awesome if I could finish in five and a half hours, doing about a 12 minute pace. If I could improve to an 11 minute pace, then I could see myself finishing in under five hours. But baby steps.

Here’s to setting goals and reaching them!!!

How I Became My Own Badass

BabyI’ve never been a big person, even as a baby I was slender, and I’ve never had body image issues, not until I was in my mid 20s anyways. I have always been athletic, playing soccer for about 15 years, running cross country, playing basketball, and even attempting field hockey (I wasn’t very good). I don’t think body image really mattered to me because I was never focused on it, and I guess I never really had to worry about it because I was always running somewhere.

However, over the course of almost two years, my state of mind was altered.

You see, there is this thing called BDD, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder. It’s a body image and mental disorder in which a person is preoccupied with an imagined physical defect or a minor defect that others often cannot see. Over some time and some pretty bad situations, I developed this disorder and it now affects me in on a daily basis. I am learning and teaching myself to ignore it.

soccer-as-a-kid.jpgI didn’t always have this disorder. Growing up I was lucky, since I played sports I was more interested in playing the game, hanging out with my friends, and just having fun. I never cared about my weight because I didn’t have to. In high school, a lot of girls started caring about what they looked like; they were also the ones who had cable and watched MTV. We didn’t have cable growing up, not until both my brother and I were out of the house and in college did my parents even entertain the idea. So I didn’t have the negative and unrealistic TV commercials or TV personalities / characters to even want to base what I looked like after.

Superficial things have never mattered to me. In fact, I was 16 when my cousin straightened my hair for the first time, and 17 or 18 when I started wearing “real” makeup. I just didn’t care about those things, and I was lucky I grew up being able to be a kid and focus on the things that did matter; family, friends, and being a decent human being.

It wasn’t until my senior year in college did I start wanting to work out, and it wasn’t because I thought I needed it, it was just because I wanted to. Well, that and I sucked wind any time I did any type of physical activity.

After I graduated in 2011, I took a job as an Assistant Store Manager for Abercrombie and Fitch, Co. I lost weight working there, but that was because I basically ran around the store for nine hours five days a week. But I still never had any body issues. I moved to Northern Virginia in May 2012 to start my career, then in March 2013 my dad passed away; my entire life began to change.

ADHDI developed Adult Onset Inattentive-Type Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but didn’t know it. It is pretty rare that adults develop ADHD, especially since I had no sign of ADD or ADHD growing up. However, it can be triggered by a significant life event, like losing a parent. I started having issues with staying on topic, paying attention at work, I became more obsessive compulsive, and the anger issues I had as a child surfaced and worsened.

In mid 2013, I decided I wanted to start running to get out of my funk and out of my head. And besides, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” (always have loved this quote from Legally Blonde). Sadly, I ended up stepping in a hole while I was running and tearing some ligaments in my ankle, pretty much the worst sprained ankle you could think of. No more running. Five month later I had surgery to correct the damage that had been done.

By late 2013 I had learned to deal with all of these new issues and my ankle. That’s when I was told that I was this thing called skinny fat. I had heard the definition before but had never considered myself to be such a thing. I have a big butt and wide hips (thanks to the genes on my mom’s side), but a small upper body; pear shaped somewhat. But I had never been called skinny fat, actually I had always thought I looked pretty decent and had excellent self-confidence.

I was consistently told that I wasn’t skinny enough, I didn’t have enough muscle, and that I wasn’t attractive. Way to kill the self-confidence I had gained in myself over 26 years of life; it was stripped away over the course of a little more than a year. I began to poke and prod my body, squeezing the fat, sucking in my stomach to make it look more flat, starving myself, and pushing way too hard in the gym. I became depressed, my anxiety shot through the roof, and all those issues I had developed became much, much worse.

In Spring of 2014, I was accepted into grad school, and started classes that May. I thought that maybe this would help me focus and give me a purpose again, which it did in some ways. In others, it was worse. By August I was severely depressed; thoughts of suicide crossed my mind. The only comfort I had was my family and my dog, Reagan, who I had just rescued in March.

I joined the softball team at work, mainly to make new friends, but it ended up being one of the best things I could have done for myself. I was happy to get out of the apartment a couple times a week to be with like-minded people. Reagan and I moved into a house in Fairfax soon after, and I started to come out of my depression. I met Christmas Abbott, who I had always admired for her work ethic, self-confidence, and her appearance (including the tattoos). I started focusing on my eating habits (with Christmas’ help after taking her nutrition seminar and buying her book, The Badass Body Diet), working out in moderation and not over doing it. I started to see my body change, gaining muscle, and building my self-confidence again.

In early 2015 I started seeing a therapist, and I was officially diagnosed with Adult-Onset Inattentive ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Although I was put on medication to help control the ADHD (which in turn helped the OCD), just being able to talk to someone every other week and be given clinical advice, techniques, and treatment, pulled me out of the funk.

I continued seeing my therapist, watched what I was eating, and maintained my routine of working out five days a week without over doing it. I was unstoppable. I started training to compete in a few obstacle races as well (Spartan and Savage); I may not have been the fastest, but I killed those obstacles, and the confidence I had in myself continued to grow.

I started running again in August 2016. Back at square one. I could barely run two minutes without stopping, but I kept at it, and a year later I am now running 11 miles without walking. I’d say that’s one hell of an accomplishment in and of itself. My goal right now is to complete the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) this coming fall. I have hit a few speed bumps along the way, but I am pushing hard, but not over doing it, and recognizing when I need to pump the breaks as not to injure myself.

Today, I am happy. I don’t know many people who could go through what I went though, recognize that I needed help, and then be able to pull myself (with help of course) out of it, but I did. BDD still affects me every single day. I started a new training program to help prepare me for the MCM, which occupies a good majority of my time; it’s like having a second full-time job. My plan has me in the gym strength training five days a week, and out hitting the pavement four days a week (a total of six days a week since I run on three of the days I strength train and cross train).

I still have a hard time looking in mirrors. I constantly judge myself, but I do not starve myself anymore, and there is no more poking and prodding. The confidence I have in myself will never go away again, I won’t let it. I have come to love myself, despite all of my quirks.

It took some time for me to realize it, but I became my own Badass and my own role model. I know I can conquer everything put in my path!

The moral of my own story, is don’t let people dictate who you are. Words are just words, even though they may sting at times. But letting someone dictate who you are as a person is not okay. One thing I have learned is those people who are unhappy with who they are, will pick on others and tear them down. Those people are called bullies; and those bullies can not only do harm physically, but mentally. But don’t let them. Be strong. Be confident. And don’t let those bullies determine who you are.

Be Your Own Badass

Reagan

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Anyone who knows me knows who Reagan is. She is my overly excited and anxious five-year-old Pitbull mix, who is basically the love of my life…and I try to take her everywhere…that I’m allowed to anyways. I adopted her back in March 2014 from Houlagan’s Rest (a rescue near Richmond, Virginia). They are a pretty awesome rescue, so if you live in the area and would like to adopt a dog check them out.

This dog has been one of the most challenging things in my life, but at the same time one of the best things that has ever happened to me. She and I have had our ups and downs but she is my soul-dog.

When I rescued her she had been at the rescue for 15 months and was a year and a half old. She was completely untrained, not house broken, not potty trained, and utterly obnoxious. There were times that I wanted to take her back and would call my sister-in-law in tears asking for help (she grew up with dogs and is one of the best people you could ever ask for dog advice). However, my heart could not give up on her, and I refused to take her back after I made a commitment to be her “Forever Mom.”

File_000 (1)The list of destruction began when she and her bestie, Akira (pictured left), decided it was an excellent idea to drag in a potted strawberry plant from the balcony and dump wet potting soil all over my beige carpet (mind you I was renting an apartment at the time of the crime) and my micro-suede couch. It was a mess. I couldn’t even be mad because I was too impressed with how the hell they were able to bring it inside. Also, for anyone that knows, getting wet potting soil out of carpet is not an easy task at all.

From there the destruction continued:

  • Pulling up the carpet in my apartment
  • Eating through one of the doors in the same apartment
  • Chewing in half four leashes and three gentle leaders (pictured left below)
  • Permanently locking a bathroom door at my mom’s house (pictured middle below)
  • Pulling coat racks out of the walls
  • Eating through the bathroom floor at my brother’s place (pictured right below)
  • Destroying four crates, including the trays
  • Having explosive diarrhea in the back of my SUV… twice!
  • Chewing through my ottoman, while inside her crate
  • Eating the meat of a turkey beard, then rolling in the hair (dead animal smell, ugh)

The list goes on, but those are some of the more memorable events when I have wanted to pull my hair out. It has not been an easy ride with this ball of fur, not to mention the $$$$ it has cost to fix the damage she has caused. But somehow, I still love her and wouldn’t trade her for anything.

So here we are, three years later, and this crazy animal has me wrapped around her finger. She is now crate trained (mostly, still have some accidents), knows basic commands plus some, and is still just as obnoxious. File_000 (4)

She still has some pretty bad separation anxiety, but I have learned how to control it, for the most part. Having a sturdy, “Reagan Proof” crate has helped tremendously. It looks like a jail cell, but it does the job. For anyone who has a dog who eats through their crate or is an escape artist, the SmithBuilt Crate is the way to go; it collapses too so you can travel with it as well. I have two, one to keep in the house, and one that is ready to travel.

Her anxiety still goes way up when we get in the car to go anywhere, so I am still working on curing that. I have tried almost everything, from Benedryl and calming tablets/liquids to the ThunderShirt, but have yet to find something that really helps. File_000 (5)

Aside from her anxiety, the only problem I have is her getting too excited around people and jumping up on them. So I have been looking into a boot-camp class or some training classes with Off Leash K9 Training. It is owned and operated by Nick White who is a former U.S. Marine. My brother and sister-in-law are putting their two Pitbulls through the boot-camp in a few weeks, so I’m interested in hearing and seeing the improvements. I also bought Nick’s book “Raising the Perfect Dog” a couple years ago, which I found highly educational and helped me to train Reagan. Reagan was already an adult dog when I adopted her, so the book can definitely help with older dogs not just puppies.

(My brother and sister-in-law’s two Pits, Hazel and Tux, with Reagan; also, they are always in the same order)

I like to say that Reagan “LOVES LOVE” because she has always been a very sweet and loving dog, anyone who meets her will tell you that from the second they meet her. She kind of just warms your heart with her sweet face and charming personality. If you’re not a dog person, don’t judge the dog by the breed please, because you will be surprised how sweet and loving Pitbulls are. What’s that saying? “Don’t judge the breed, judge the deed.”

The past few years have been full of highs and lows, but after some training and shit load of patience, she has turned out to be a pretty incredible dog. She is smart as all get out, even though she likes to play dumb sometimes. I find myself having conversations with her, which I swear she can understand what I am saying. She loves belly rubs and I always find her in the most uncomfortable looking sleeping positions…File_000 (7)

And who ever said that your pets aren’t your kids, never truly had a soulmate in their pet. I swear I spend more money on this baby dog than I do on myself; her beds (yes beds, plural) are more comfortable than my own.

Did I mention that she has the cutest ears ever?!? They are kind of too big for her head, but she wears them well. This dog is definitely the way to my heart!!!

 

 

Free Snacks = Happy Millennials

The company that I work for is pretty awesome when it comes to catering to its employees. We have a fully stocked kitchen, including every drink you could ever want (sodas, sparkling water, Gatorade, milk, and a full array of coffee options); snacks ranging from NutriGrain bars, string cheese and yogurt, to Oreos, oatmeal, and Easy Mac individual cups. Basically, it’s a Millennial’s dream kitchen.

The Beverages:

The Snacks:

snackssnacks 2

I, as usual, didn’t have time to eat breakfast this morning. I woke up later than I had wanted to, needed to address the sunburn I received this past weekend, and had to walk my dog who takes an incredibly long time to do a #2 in the morning. So breakfast at the house was out. But have no fear, my company has a fully stocked kitchen with everything I knew I would need to meet my breakfast needs.

lunch

So here it is, my semi-healthy breakfast provided by my company: some Maple Brown Oatmeal, one strawberry Pop Tart, a few strawberries, and some milk (I also grabbed a banana for a snack later).

A full breakfast, costing me zero dollars.

According to USA Today, “food at work is the most important to Millennials, vs. other age groups.” Really isn’t all that surprising is it? I for one know that I am not the only money conscious Millennial at my company. In my office, roughly 75% of personnel are Millennials who work a typical 9-5 workday, and free food is a pretty much an essential part of the workday.